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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Portland Coffee Tour - Part 9

The cold weather has returned in full force in Portland, which means everyone's cramming into cozy coffee houses to get warmed up and catch up with friends or get some work done. This month has been pretty busy, but I've also had the chance to get to bunch of coffee shops, which you'd know if you followed me on Instagram. Even if you do, you may be excited to know more about the shops I visited and see more scrumptious pics.

This month I've kind of lucked into hitting up new shops, because I found myself in a few new (for me) parts of town, which means more exploring and more cups of caffeine.

Blend Coffee

While working on Swan Island some days this past month for a project, my coworkers and I found ourselves heading home in the middle of the day and taking a lunch break at a very Portland coffee shop in the middle of a lovely neighborhood. Blend is all warm woods and full of bundled up Portlanders. They have a great list of drinks, but three signatures that all sounded fantastic, so you know I had to try one.

I got a toasted bagel with cream cheese to eat on our way back home. They are sourced from Henry Higgins Boiled Bagels and it was absolutely one of the best bagels I've had...and it was a plain one. Sorry, I have no pic of it, as I snarfed it in the car. It was so worth the $2.75 I paid for it.

Let's get to my drink though, shall we? Blend serves Coava and Stumptown coffees, but I found that my drink here was much better than the ones I got at each of those roasters. There are four signature drinks here: The Honey Badger - an espresso with locally-sourced honey and cinnamon, The Harvest Moon - an espresso with milk and Dragonfly chai, the Inspired by Horchata - a cold-pressed coffee with milk, hazelnut and cinnamon, and the Espresso Fizz - an espresso with Q Tonic and orange bitters. 

I have a hard time passing by any chai drink, so I went with the Harvest Moon and I was not disappointed. It had the smoothness of a fantastic espresso, with just the right amount of sweet and spicy from the chai. I was sad I didn't order a larger size. A 12oz set me back $5, but it was a great cup of coffee. Next time I'm in the neighborhood, I'll be hitting up this shop again to try their other three signature drinks.

Haven Coffee

This shop used to be called Poppa's Haven, but has since
 rebranded and is in the middle of remodeling, so you won't see a wide shot. The one wall is covered in coffee sacks like wallpaper and the rest is a mish mash of random tables and chairs. This is where people go to meet up with friends and enjoy a nice cup of coffee. The shop is very nice and comfortable, full of regulars, but can be difficult to get to if you don't know exactly where it is and you're driving. The neighborhood doesn't really allow left-hand turns, so you'll have to go up and turn around and then take a u-turn. (Ask me how I know.)

I went in asking for a suggestion and they had just started serving a pumpkin chai latte for the season ($4.50), which I was all into. I also got it topped with homemade pumpkin whipped cream. The pumpkin and the chai were both subtle enough to not overpower each other, but flavorful enough to be a favorite. I complemented my drink with a lemon poppyseed quick bread ($2.75). I could have eaten this thing every day, and I'd probably put on 50 lbs, but at least I'd be happy. 

This place is remarkably Portland, with Kombucha on tap, free WiFi, and doing a Kickstarter to help with their cafe remodel. I liked it and I'll be interested to see how their remodel turns out when I return.

Java Lounge Coffee

So, this place is probably two blocks away from Haven, which I wasn't expecting. I also wasn't expecting to have, basically, a second breakfast when I showed up, but his place is just so inviting, it was hard to say no, so I didn't. Located in a beautiful home, Java Lounge feels like a getaway from real life. The whole bottom floor has been cleared out and and tables and chairs have been added for a little European cafe feel.

I went in and immediately spotted something called a Million Dollar Latte ($4.75). This is their signature drink, made with cold brewed espresso that takes two days to make until it mellows out and it's much less acidic. Now, you all know my feelings on cold brew coffee. I hate it. I took a chance though, and it totally paid off. This drink tastes much closer to a cafe au lait, which I'm a fan of.

Not only that, but I decided to try a fresh made breakfast sandwich. They charge $5 for a meat, egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel or English muffin, but for an extra $1, you can get a croissant made by La Provence, which is one of my favorite French bistros. I opted for that and my sandwich was as big as my head. It had spinach, onions and tomatoes on it and was awesome. I had to take half of it home though, because I totally couldn't finish it after the two huge coffees I'd had. And to top it all off, there was an adorable and friendly pup making the rounds.

I've got even more shops that won't fit in this post, but you can look forward to them in the coming months. If you want to follow along on my tour, as well as other Portland fun and travels afar, follow me on Instagram.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Huge Cash Back deals during the Swagbucks Cyber Monday Sale!

You can earn money while saving it on all your big Cyber Monday purchases. The Cashback Shopping site Swagbucks is offering big cash back - 3x or more - at over 120 different stores today only. They're also offering big payouts on a varieties of different deals and offers from companies that would make great gift ideas. Get great deals without waiting in lines or even leaving your home!

If you're not familiar with Swagbucks, they offer cash back in the form of points when you shop. Then you can turn those points into gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Target, or PayPal cash. You can also earn points for discovering deals, watching videos, answering surveys and more! 

Click here to take advantage of the cash back, just create your Swagbucks account when prompted (it takes less than 30 seconds) and then you're all set! 

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me you get a 300 SB ($3) bonus when you earn your first 300 SB before December 1st! This site's a great way to extend your shopping budget, especially around the holidays! 

It also helps to earn cash back that you can use for gift cards toward future travel. I use them for restaurants, Paypal and more to make my trips more affordable.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Planning for Your 2018 Vacations

If you're like me, you start planning your next trip the second you get back from one. Of course, maybe you aren't like me. I tend to have my destinations picked out years in advance, because there are so many places I want to go and I have a life plan. I know there are lots of people not like me, but if you want a head start on planning an amazing, and budget friendly, 2018 vacation, I've got some ideas for you.

Now, I'm still planning on my ultimate Harry Potter trip to Philadelphia in 2018, but I'm a nerd and also am saving up for Europe and another trip to Disney World. Here's where you might want to go instead:


Stay in a beachfront hotel for $20 or under, or choose an upscale one for around $75. You'd pay four times as much (at least) in the States. Spend your days lazing in the sun on the beach, chowing down on delicious local dishes - you must try Belizean chicken - and exploring Mayan ruins. Definitely pack shorts and definitely bring your camera. If you love to dive, Belize has some of the best diving spots in the world. And if you like to drink, cocktails will only set you back $1-2.

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How many places can you go and spend only $20 for a room? La Paz offers that to travelers as well as historical culture everywhere you look. Street vendors sell traditional foods that you can nosh on for cheap while exploring the city. Save your money to make purchases in the open-air markets and to splurge on a fancy dinner out.

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Czech Republic

Prague is totally walkable and steeped in so much culture and history that free walking tours are the way to go. Tip your guide well and learn more than you ever expected. You'll find beauty around every corner and amazing photo ops. Go out early in the morning to avoid most of the crowds, then head outside of Old Town to save on delicious dishes as well. Try the street food while you're out sightseeing, just be sure when you're out and about seeing all the awesome stuff that you keep an eye on your wallet.

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Do a bit of prep before going on your trip, so you know how to get around and don't look too lost, as locals will try to get your money for "guiding" you through the city. Get a comfy and lovely room in a riad (a hotel) for around $40, including breakfast, or opt for something a little less fancy for closer to $10 per night. A meal for two will cost you about the same, which means you can spend your time and money elsewhere, like the markets and museums. Take an affordable day trip out to the desert or to nearby waterfalls.

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One dollar here will buy you over 8,000 kips (the local currency), and everything is dirt cheap. You won't have to look far if you want to relax and a bungalow overlooking the Mekong River may only cost you $5 a night. Food is even cheaper, meaning the most you'll spend is on the airfare to get there. And possibly on sunscreen. Head over to Cambodia for a somewhat different vibe. They take American dollars, unlike Laos, but it stretches pretty far as well.

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It's easy to travel cheaply in Spain, especially if you head to the Southern side, where the sun is in abundance, and bars serve amazing tapas for quite a bit less than you'd expect. Take self-guided walking tours (or search for free ones online that only cost a tip to your guide). The government sponsored free concerts and fairs, plus many museums offer free admission.

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Sure, you could go splash out on a spendy trip to London, or even Ireland or Scotland, but Wales is like the Taco Bell of the UK, but without the guilt. Hotels can be cheap, but you can spend a little more and save elsewhere by doing free activities: hike along the coast, go on a few historic walks that include a castle (or two!), or just take an actual tour of a medieval castle, as many only charge $10 or so for admission. 

Now that you have a whole new list of budget travel destinations, where will you go next year?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Get exclusive Swagbuster Deals Through Dec 3

Running now through December 3rd, the cashback shopping site Swagbucks is running a series of exclusive "Swagbuster" deals that offer increased cash back (in the form of SB points) at stores, when buying gifts cards, and big SB payouts when you discover offers from different companies. You can take all of the points you earn from these deals and redeem them for gift cards from places like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, or PayPal cash, helping you extend your holiday budget further!

The deals change every few hours, and you can keep track of what's available by clicking here. You need a Swagbucks account to take advantage - fortunately it's free and takes less than 30 seconds to sign up. PLUS, if you sign up through me you'll get a bonus 300 SB ($3) if you earn 300 SB before December 1st!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Holiday Travel Gift List

If you're like me, probably 98% of your current emails have the words "Black Friday" in the title and you're just about done with life. I'm already over Christmas and it's not even Thanksgiving yet. Make shopping easier on yourself and sleep in tomorrow with these fun travel items for everyone on your gift list.

I don't know about you, but I've got a lot of people to buy for and not a lot of cash, so I've been looking for items in all price ranges that will suit just about everybody who likes to travel. 

Budget (under $40)

Phone Loops
I'll be receiving some of these fairly soon and doing a proper review (and possibly a giveaway), but these loops make it easier for you to hang onto your mobile and less likely to drop it, because you can use it as a way to hold your phone in your hand or carry it around your wrist. It's a fun way to stop shoving it in your back pocket and still have it available when you need it (and not just floating around in your bag). You can buy them for everyone on your list at this low, low price of $4.99. Get free shipping for the next 3 days, 15% off for 3 or more and 20% off if you buy 12 or more. 

Comfy pants
Headed somewhere warm? One Tribe Apparel's Aladdin pants are the perfect addition to a carry-on bag, and take up very little space inside, which means you have room for other necessities. Trust me when I say that your gift recipient will adore these lightweight pants. Plus, they are so affordable at $27! You can view my review of them here.
Pokemon Go Plus
Got a gamer on your list? Make those vacation steps count. You hook your Plus up to your phone via bluetooth, then catch Pokemon on the go, hit up PokeStops, walk your buddy and hatch eggs. These go through periods where you can get them everywhere and then nowhere, so if you have someone who would enjoy this, better get it now. Eric and I both have one, so we can catch new Pokemons everywhere we go! (Please don't judge us. We are fun.) Unlimited fun for $35

Stretch Strap
I don't know why walking so much makes you tense, but sometimes you just need to stretch out after (and before) all that exercise you're getting going from one landmark to the next. Luckily, you can get a stretch strap that works for everyone in your travel party and allows your muscles all that pull they need without having to hit the hotel gym. This little strap is just $15.95, on Prime, and packs into almost no space at all.
Collapsible food containers
Got a traveler who does a lot of road tripping, or just likes to bring their own snackies with them on the plane? I do this and usually bring a hard storage container for all my homemade goodies. Not only are these sweet to take on the plane, train, and in the car, but they are fantastic for work lunches and more. When empty, collapse them and they take up much less space, so you have room for souvenirs. I like the set above, which is $29.99, but I have something similar to this set that is only $20. 

Moderate ($40-99)

Lug Propeller Gym Bag
Lug has some excellent products, which are multipurpose and great to look at as well. This bag is technically a gym bag, with a zip front that holds your yoga mat, but I love it as a carry-on bag. It fits under the seat, has room for everything you need, and I use that zipper compartment to either hold my jacket that I don't want to wear, or put my travel docs in it and zip it closed. Boom! When not traveling, you can use it as a traditional gym bag or even a diaper bag. Purchase from Amazon starting at $72.99, choosing your favorite color/pattern.

Travel flats
Oka-b has some of the best travel shoes you can ask for, especially if you're looking for stylish, packable and comfy kicks. The ballet flats are lovely and go with just about everything and the price is pretty sweet too. They average $46 a pair, plus they have flip flops, wedges and sandals. If they get grungy, you can wash them in the dishwasher or scrub them with regular dish soap too! And when you order through this weekend, get 15% or more off!

Help save the National Parks
Our National Parks, landmarks and monuments are not guaranteed. Buy your lover of the outdoors some sweet NP swag and let them know that your gift is going to support the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, so they can visit them for many trips to come. The awesome clothing is around $30-40, but you can also find other goods that are cheaper to fit into your budget.

Splurge ($99 and over)

Sunglasses from Visionworks
I always have 2-4 pair of sunglasses at home at any time. I love to show off my style through my shades. Visionworks partners with designer brands, like Guess, to bring you the best in stylish sunglasses. They aren't cheap, but think of how awesome these fantastic sunnies are going to look in vacation pics! Actually, you can find a pair for around $90, and right now they are all on sale. The ones I'll be reviewing for you retail for $180.

For the road tripper on your list, give them the gift of security. Whether they need a tow, a jump, or a tire change, AAA is always there for you...er them. We have it, and though I've not used it for much, it's always nice to know it's there as insurance, especially when roadtripping alone and driving through pretty desolate areas. There are several different memberships you can buy, but any of them will be appreciated. Sign up here.

For more ideas on what to buy for the traveler on your holiday list, check out my Dads & Grads list and my Mother's Day list

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Pre-Black Friday Holiday Sale!

In order to take advantage of the cash back, just create your Swagbucks account when prompted (it takes less than 30 seconds) and then you're all set! Your cash back comes in the form of SB points, which you can redeem for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, or get PayPal cash! 

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me you get a 300 SB ($3) bonus when you earn your first 300 SB before December 1st! This site's a great way to extend your shopping budget, especially around the holidays!

As a pre-Black Friday warm up, Swagbucks is offering big cash back for shopping online at several of your favorite retailers right now! Just go to this page to see all of the deals available and get the jump on your holiday shopping.

Use your Swagbucks towards gift cards to buy more holiday goodies or to save more on your next vacation. It's what I do!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Save Money By Cooking In Your Hotel Room

It's no secret that I'm a big advocate of vacation rentals, because having a kitchen can totally help you stretch your budget. But what if you don't have a kitchen, because you can only get a hotel room? Well, if you have a microwave, coffee maker and mini-fridge, you can still make actual food. You just have to be a bit more creative.

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Obviously, you can survive on microwaveable meals, but they can be packed with fat and sodium, so with a little ingenuity, you can make easy, healthy, and (mostly) fresh meals with minimal appliances.


Oatmeal: Not only can you make packet oatmeal in the microwave with just water, but you can make regular oatmeal in the coffee maker as well. Do as you would on the stove top. 

Cereal: This is pretty much the easiest breakfast ever.

Peanut butter and jelly: A good pb&j sandwich can be really filling and you can switch it up by adding sliced bananas instead of jelly and/or honey. Delicious!

Omelette: If you like a good hearty breakfast, then you can use a zip top bag to make an omelette in your microwave. You can add all your veggies and other ingredients, pop it in the microwave and zap for 2 1/2 minutes. Use Ziploc Zip 'n Steam bags for this. If you can't find them, you can make an omelette in a mug:
  • whisk eggs plus salt & pepper in your mug
  • microwave for 1 minute
  • add toppings and stir a bit
  • microwave for 1-2 minutes (done when all your liquid is gone and eggs are fluffy)
  • eat out of the mug or serve on a plate
Soft-boiled eggs: Add your eggs to the coffee carafe, brew (without coffee, obvs) so hot water drips over your eggs. Let them sit for several minutes and then they're ready to eat!

Bacon: You can make bacon in your microwave, as long as you have a real plate and some paper towels. Hit up a local dollar store for a plate and towels (and bacon, if you're lucky). Lay out two paper towels, one on top of each other, on the plate, place your bacon on them without overlapping, cover with two more layers of paper towels and microwave for 5 minutes.

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Grilled sandwiches: Whether you're looking to make a grilled cheese or something a bit more substantial, make sure to get some foil when you buy your ingredients at the store, put together your sandwich, butter both sides, wrap in foil, and then iron away with the iron that comes in your room. You can also do quesadillas this way. 

Macaroni and cheese: Use the microwave to cook your pasta, then drain and add your milk, butter and cheese packet. Of course, you could buy those little just-add-water cups, but they are twice as expensive and are only good for one person (if that).

If boxed mac and cheese sounds horrible to you, you can actually make your own from scratch as well. TheKitchn has this easy recipe that you can do in your microwave using your favorite shredded cheese and noodles.

Wrap sandwich: You can purchase pre-grilled chicken, then add hummus, lettuce and feta to a pita, or caesar salad dressing and parmesan for a salad wrap. You can heat up the chicken in your microwave if you want a warm wrap.

Salad: This is pretty easy and only requires a fridge. Buy all the ingredients and put it together when you're ready. You can make it even easier buy buying a bag of ready to eat salad that includes all the ingredients in the bag. Get some rotisserie chicken and add as topping.

Hot dogs: If you don't have a microwave, but you do have a coffee maker, you can have hot dogs, in about half an hour. Fill your carafe with 6-8 cups worth of water, add your frozen hot dogs to the carafe and turn the machine on. They will slowly cook in around 30 minutes.

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Pasta: You can actually make pasta in your microwave, if you have a container large enough to cover it with water. Most pasta can be cooked in 8-10 minutes on high. Here's a handy website. I do this at home, too, because I'm not patient enough to wait for a whole pot of water to boil on the stove. You can heat up a jar of really flavorful sauce in the microwave as well, or you can heat it up in your coffee maker, so both are ready at the same time, but you may want to use the carafe to drain your noodles.

Rice: Use your coffee maker to cook rice as you would on  your stove top, then add something like Indian food pouches they sell at Trader Joe's and similar food sections in your typical grocery store. Purchase steam in the bag veggies to add. If you're into a vegetarian meal, mix in beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and some steamed corn. You can also do quinoa instead of rice. You'll add the rice to the carafe, put the amount of water for the amount of rice you're cooking in the top and hit brew. Then keep it warming until all your liquid is gone. If this freaks you out, there are those quick packs of microwaveable rice.

Baked potatoes: I love a good baked potato. You can bake them in the microwave with a bit of olive oil or butter. Prick them with a fork or knife, drizzle a little oil or slather some butter on the outside, cover with a paper towel and cook on high for around 8 minutes. Once done, you can top with anything you like. I enjoy baked sweet potatoes with chili, but also regular potatoes with ham and cheese, traditional toppings, or fajita toppings, which you can sometimes buy already cooked in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

Mashed potatoes: Knorr and other brands make a just-add-water mashed potato pack that come in different flavors and are easily made in the microwave. If you want fresh mashed potatoes, cook your potatoes like baked above, but for a bit longer, then mash with a fork with milk, butter, and salt & pepper.

Shrimp: Use a high quality zip top bag to cook your thawed (peeled) shrimp in the microwave. Add them to the bag with a bit of water or sauce and then cook for 3-5 minutes and use them over rice, pasta, or make your own easy shrimp tacos.

With a bit of smarts and a trip to the store, you can totally make a complete meal in your room for any time of the day. Don't forget about bringing back leftovers and repurposing them as new meals too, like meat and veggies that you can throw on top of potatoes or rice. 

If you bring some of your favorite spices from home (you can use empty Tic Tac containers), your meals will be even more flavorful. Just don't forget to get out and actually eat at some restaurants for a taste of your destination too. 

What's the best thing you've ever made in your hotel room?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Breezing Through Airport Security

I love the airport, even during the holidays. I’m a weirdo, but I like shopping/browsing and trying the different places to eat. I love the fact that I’m going to go somewhere. I like to people watch and I enjoy checking out the airport art and other cool things they have that other airports don’t. I’ll pay $3 to park so I can wander around. Sometimes I find awesome stuff there, plus Portland International is America’s Favorite Airport four years running. How can I resist that?

security travel tips

Anyway, if you want to make sure that you actually make it onto your flight to go somewhere fun (or at least to visit friends and family), then you’re going to want to be prepared for what TSA has in store for you.

Get to the airport early

This is a must! Security lines are longer than ever during the holidays, even on the slowest days. Just plan to wait in line twice as long as you usually do. You never know what’s going to happen and traffic sucks from November 1-January 2. Allow yourself time for all the inevitables and surprises and plan to get to the airport at two hours before your flight if you’re traveling domestic, and at least three hours if you’re traveling international. Bring a book, a battery back-up for your phone or tablet and a game. This way you’ll have something to amuse yourself in line and at the gate if you get there with plenty of time before you flight. Remember: flights generally board 30 minutes before take-off, so you’ll want to get there before that window opens.

Wear easy-on, easy-off shoes

Do you want to spend 20 minutes untying your hiking books to take off and put in the security bin? Probably not. Also, the people behind you do not want to wait for you either. Make sure you wear shoes that can easily be taken off and put back on, so you can make security procedures that much less painful for you and everyone else involved.

Do not wrap your gifts 

TSA is all about seeing everything in your bag. Even if you only have one gift in your bag, don’t wrap it. You will have spent all that time and energy making it look pretty and then getting it into your bag, only to have an agent rip your paper to shreds to find out what you packed. Bring small gifts that can be packed without boxes and wrapping paper. By all means, bring those staples with you to wrap at your destination if you have room in your bag.

Have your photo ID and boarding pass in-hand 

You can’t even get to the security conveyor belts and scanners if you don’t make it past the TSA agent in the line. Make sure to be prepared and keep the line moving, by having your photo ID (or passport) and boarding pass at the ready. Nobody wants to wait for you to dig around in your bag to find it and you will just make enemies of those people in line behind you. Even better, download the airline app and use the e-ticket to check in and get through security. You can use your phone to show the passes of everyone in your travel group, as long as they have their identification out.

Have your 3-1-1 bag out 

Don’t wait until you get to the airport to start rummaging around in your toiletry bag and finding all your liquids and gels. Buy a TSA-approved 3-1-1 bag online or at the store or pick up a box of 1-liter zip-top bags and fill it up before you leave home. It will make you less stressed and you’ll know that everything fits in there.

Make sure your laptop is easily accessible 

If you’re bringing a laptop, netbook or iPad, make sure you can quickly access it and slide it in and out of your carry-on. It will make the security line that much faster when you have to dump all your individual things into a bin: shoes, jacket, purse, pocket contents, laptop, 3-1-1 bag. The quicker these things can be put into a bin, the faster you can push them towards the X-Ray machine and make room for other travelers’ items and bins on the counter. (Another way to make this easier is to get a checkpoint-friendly bag, like this Travelon one.)

Don’t stuff your bag

Before I got Pre-Check (see below), I was always singled out for “random” bag checks and extra security. I don’t really care. I have nothing to hide and I don’t get embarrassed by my underwear being handled by strangers in front of a bunch of other strangers, but a lot of people do. Also, if you have Tetris-ed your bag so well that everything inside only fits in one way, it’s going to suck when you have to shove it all back in there (or are mortified when the agent tries unsuccessfully to do it) and it doesn’t fit again and you can’t zip it and half your stuff is hanging out on your way to your gate where you can try to get it all back in some order like before. Note: it never works. You’re going to end up shoving a pair of pants in your purse because they somehow no longer fit.

Go left

Most people head to the right after their ID or passport has been checked. Go left instead (if you have the choice) and you’ll likely get through the line faster. Another tip for choosing the best line is to look for one that has the fewest children. Nothing against them, but they are slow and their parents are basically trying to do the job of a cat wrangler while also doing all the security procedures. Don’t blame them. Parenting is hard. But that doesn’t mean you have to get stuck in the slow line behind them.

Get Pre-Check (or Global Entry)

If you travel a couple times a year, then this is a great investment. For $85, you can leave your shoes on and everything in your bag and just breeze past those other suckers waiting in line at security for 40 minutes. It’s like FastPASS for your travels. Read more on my post here.

Stop rushing the gate

You’re checked in, you have a seat. Nobody’s going to take that away from you. Unless you have a small child and you need extra time to get settled in, just chill out. While everyone else is freaking out and crowding the poor gate agent to get on the plane, you can skip the stress and just hang back until the crowd thins out. It might even help you get in the good graces of the crew to help you with this next tip:

Board last

This is one way to get a free upgrade, because when you’re the last passenger on the plane, you have a choice of any available seat, maybe even a first class seat if you’re really lucky. It helps if you only have a small carry-on with you that can fit under the seat. I’ll tell you why: there will likely be no overhead bin space left and having to wait longer for you to either find a place to put your bag or check it to go under the plane will not win you any friends and everyone will blame you when the plane leaves late.

Hopefully, these tips will allow you to get through security with minimal stress and get you on your trip faster.

What are your favorite security tips?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Budget-Friendly Travel for Families

Traveling is about adventure and independence. We are great at coming up with excuses why we can’t take time to explore new lands. When you start making travel a priority, you discover ways around the excuses. Many people think once they start a family, their wild days of globetrotting are over. This doesn’t have to be you. You can have a family and travel, too.

Travel Tips for Families

Don’t be daunted by the thought of family travel. It doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some tips for family travel on a budget.
  • Shop for flights. Do your research on airfares. Plane tickets can be the biggest expense of travel. This is especially true for trips abroad. Find ways to reduce costs. Many secondary booking agencies work directly with airlines and extend deals to customers. Search their websites for the Cheapest Flights available. Be flexible with your destination spots. When shopping for tickets, split your family up into groups if possible. It is easier to find two sets of two seats than it is to find four seats all together.
  • Rent an apartment. If you are staying in one area for an extended period of time, consider renting an apartment instead of a hotel room. Airbnb offers great ways to get in touch with locals. By renting a home, you get the benefits of a kitchen that allows you to cut costs more. Longer stays also give you the opportunity to negotiate prices. Avoid traveling during peak seasons and book accommodations in advance.
  • Be a tourist for cheap. Just because you are on vacation doesn’t mean you have to pay for all of the expensive tours. There is a misconception that you have to spend a lot of money to experience a new place. Most places have lots of free things to do. Some museums offer free admissions. You can do a walking tour. Where rates for monuments and museums are higher, purchase a city or museum pass. Take public transportation. Many activities give kids free or discounted admission. Talk to your host and learn what the locals like to do. Sometimes the touristy spots aren’t the best attractions anyway.
  • Do what the locals do. In every city, you have families living their full time on a budget. Go to local shops, markets, beaches, and parks. Although living like the locals when traveling is not the most traditional way to vacation, you might find you get a more culturally immersive experience. Having a picnic in the park allows you to shop at local and outdoor markets, and your kids have the opportunity to run off some energy with the local children.
  • Be flexible. When traveling, be flexible. Rigid schedules are harder to work around and you will usually pay higher prices for specific dates and times. Be ready to roll with the punches. Life happens. Enjoy the crazy nuances. It is part of the adventure. Figure out hacks that work best for your family. A tight connecting flight might work fine for you while others would find it not worth the savings.


Benefits of Traveling Light

Lighten your load as much as possible. Traveling with your family means more bags already. If everyone chooses a sensible flexible wardrobe, you can reduce your luggage. When you have few and smaller bags, you are more likely to be able to check them on flights. This means less lost luggage fiascoes.

Practice working with a capsule wardrobe at home. You will be surprised the different outfits you can come up with using just a couple of care pieces. Choose neutral colors for your base. You want every piece to have the ability to mix and match. Reduce your toiletries to the bare necessities. If you wear makeup, learn ways to feel pretty with fewer products.

Depend on your destinations to entertain you. Don’t bring a bunch of stuff you will never use. Invest in a kindle and have all the books you could ever desire on one device. Download audiobooks to your phone. Make a small bag of travel-friendly entertainment for the kids. They can bring it on the plane as a personal item.

Traveling with your family is more possible than you may think. Practice some budget-friendly methods like shopping for cheaper airfare, avoid peak seasons, and living like the locals. Take some of the stress out of travel by learning to pack less. You would be surprised at how flexible a small wardrobe can be.

With some creativity, you can make budget travel work, even for a large family. What are your favorite ways to save?
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