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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Getting Ready for the Travel Goods Show

The Travel Goods Show is coming up, which means I'm all packed and ready to go. It's a bit tricky to pack for, because I tend to come back with much more than I left with (samples and whatnot), and I don't like to check a bag unless I absolutely have to. 
tips on packing light

There seems to be a rule that every other year they send you home with a full-size wheeled carry-on. This is an off year, so I'm bringing a wheelie bag that unzips to become full-size, plus a personal size carry-on that I stuffed inside and will use on the plane. This way, when I come back, I'll have a full bag to stuff with goodies, and all my clothes and toiletries will fit in the smaller one.

I'll only be in New Orleans for two full days and half of a Saturday, so I don't need much, but I  will be meeting with travel industry peeps for two days and might need to dress nicely for at least one dinner. I'm packing the following:
  • 4 tops
  • 1 dress
  • 1 pair of lightweight black pants
  • a pair of sandals
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 pair of joggers to wear for bed (which I will pair with the tee I'm wearing on the plane)
  • necessary undergarments
Travelon World Travel Essentials 3-in-1 Crossbody
Conair travel-sized flat iron

On the plane I'll be wearing a pair of black denim jeggings, a gray tee, and a lightweight jacket. I'm wearing my Arcopedico Vegas Mary Janes, since they are closed-toe and heavier than my sandals. I picked black as a neutral, so everything I take will go together. (I'll take photos of each outfit while on my trip.)

Lewis N Clark compression packing cube

The key to packing light is choosing a small mix-and-match wardrobe. Black is good for pants, because unless something terrible happens, you can wear them multiple days in a row without washing. My lightweight pants are Columbia and moisture-wicking, plus don't appear to hold odor. They are quick drying, so if I do need to wash them, they will be ready to wear the next morning from just hanging them up.

I also am making use of two packing cubes: one for my clothing, and one for my undergarments that actually can be used as a purse when I arrive. Since I won't have to share my bag with anyone, I'm going old school and was able to get everything I needed for toiletries in a simple zippered bag (which has a waterproof lining). 

They all fit perfectly into the back of the bag, then my personal size bag easily scrunches on top, and it has my Airplane Pockets, charging cords, snacks, rain jacket, Barrier Method scarf, and my iPad. My small purse will be able to fit inside too. As always, I'll be bringing a reusable water bottle.

Hopefully, this helps you pack a bit lighter. I'll follow up with some more in-depth photos, so you can see how each outfit comes together, what toiletries I decided were absolutely necessary, and if I can recommend this wheelie bag at all. LOL! I, honestly, bought it for just this purpose. I can already tell you the Timbuk2 bag that's a personal item size is definitely a winner. 

What are your favorite items to help you pack light?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may be financially compensated and you'll also be helping to keep this blog running, so thanks!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Who's Ready for Summer Travel?

I know, some of us have finally just gotten out of winter, and some of you are still getting snow. Summer is the most expensive time to travel, with 75% of travelers going somewhere away from home June, July and August. This isn't always conducive to being a budget-traveler, especially if it's the only time you have to travel with the kids. 

summer vacation on a budget

Well, you're in luck! With my Summer ebook, you can learn all the tricks to getting cheaper deals on flights, food, fun and lodgings. How can you get the best rates on airfare? When should you travel to save more? How do you get the most from your dollars on accommodations? Can you get theme park tickets for less? The answer to all of these and more are in my Secrets to Summer Savings ebook, so you can do more for less on your summer vacation and still have money in your pocket when you get home for bills, food and a winter road trip. 

If you want to travel more without spending a fortune, this is the place to start. Not only will you have a great summer trip that you won't be paying off for years, but you may still be able to sneak in another getaway another time of year. In fact, using my own tips, I take a week-long trip in the middle of summer then also take two weeks in the fall. If you need some help figuring out where to come up with the money in the first place, find some of my top tips here. You can get my ebook on Kindle, which you can read on the Kindle app on your phone, tablet, laptop or your Kindle. It's free to download, making it super easy. Start saving and learning how to save more now with just a few clicks. 

What are your favorite summer savings tips?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

5 Ways to Travel Well with Children

Now, I don't have children, but I have traveled with them, so I know a thing or two on how to do it without losing your mind. As a parent, you already know that it can be difficult to make everyone happy. You can do your best to make your trip as enjoyable as possible for all involved, it just may take a bit more planning.

how to travel well with kids

Here are 5 ways to travel well with children, and not declare you're never taking another family vacation as long as you live.

1. Choose a travel goal

It's not always the destination you go to, but what you do there and what you want to accomplish. Talk to everyone and find out what they want out of vacation. Maybe they want to try all the new foods or see a bunch of museums or learn all the history. Find that one goal that everyone can agree on and plan your trip around that.  

2. Include kids in the planning

Nobody's going to be happy if you plan a whole trip without asking for feedback. Everyone has their own wants and needs. Make the planning more fun and the idea of vacation exciting by getting everyone's input. What are a couple things they can't miss? Fit in as many as you can, so everyone is happy and has something to look forward to on the trip.

3. Manage expectations

What happens on the plane? What happens on the train? Howl long will we have to sit in the car? How many souvenirs can we buy? Honestly, these are not the times when you want to just wing it and hope for the best. There's nothing worse than a meltdown because you won't buy them another churro or pair of Mickey ears. If you're going somewhere expensive, like Disney, consider buying affordable souvenirs ahead of time that you pack and can dole out throughout your trip. If that seems unmanageable, then let your kid(s) know the limits. Perhaps they can purchase one souvenir per day or can only spend a certain amount overall. 

4. Plan downtime

As an adult, I need downtime. Without it, I can get cranky, or even sick. Your kids are no different. They probably aren't go-go-go all day at home, so don't try to pack in a billion things each day. Yes, you're on vacation, and yes, you may not get back for a long time (if ever), but you can't expect them to feel any different on vacation than at home. If they normally get a nap, then plan one. If they go to bed at a certain time, it may behoove you to stick as close to that as possible. 

Nobody wants to try to have a good time with a child who's having a full-blown meltdown. I see these families at theme parks all the time. You can't expect your 4 year old to last from 6am-11pm and not be crabby. It doesn't matter how much fun you're having, they are tired. Also, just think: if you go back to your hotel/Airbnb for them to nap, that gives you some quiet time as well. Maybe it's a time for you to just chill or get some time in with your partner or for one of you to go have a little me time. I also use this time to do laundry and check emails or play a game on my phone.  

Looney Labs Fluxx (Special Edition)

5. Bring extras

Let's face it. There's a lot of points in a trip that can be super boring: sitting at the gate at the airport, sitting on the plane, standing in line, waiting for food, walking 45x more than you usually do. Bring things to keep your kids occupied. I'm talking games, even if they're just on your phone or tablet. I'm also talking about snacks. As a snacker myself, my purse always has some goodies in it. I can get hangry and mean when I'm hungry. Nobody wants to be around that. Hit the ground running by taking a quick trip to the grocery store when you arrive. Grab some easy snacks, and possibly some fixings for breakfasts or lunch while you're at it. Also, bring a variety of snacks on the plane. If they don't eat them, you have them for other times. 

One of my favorite games to travel with is Fluxx. There are a ton of different versions and it's a game of ever-changing rules, so no two games are the same. I also find that kids pick this up much quicker than adults, which makes it perfect for families.

Need ideas for snacks that are good to bring along? Here are some of my go-to foods:
  • Granola bars
  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Banana bread
  • Carrot sticks
  • Grapes
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Chocolate covered blueberries
  • Meat sticks - I'm a huge fan of the Vermont Smoke & Cure, specifically the beef and pork sticks
  • Mini muffins
  • Salami and cheese
These are all things that are filling, but aren't too heavy or salty or sweet. You can bring a little bit of everything or 2-3 of your favorites. Goldfish crackers are also a great standby, as well as Wheat Thins with or without a cheese or meat option.

Aside from snacks, I find that a notebook and pen + crayons or colored pencils can also go a long way. Or even an old-fashioned puzzle book. These are good for all ages. Maybe get them a cheap camera to chronicle their trip their way. It will give them something to focus on. And if you're bringing an electronic of any kind, don't forget extra batteries or a battery back-up.

So, those are my top 5 ways to make your whole family excited by taking a trip instead of dreading it. I'd love to hear about some of your tips, too. What things have made your trips with kids (of any age) more bearable?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

How To Travel-fy Your Haircare Routine

When you travel, if you want to travel light, there are some things you have to change. While it can be easy to get caught up in routines, and it's important to keep some of them intact wherever you go, sometimes you need to switch things up to fit your travel lifestyle. We don't compromise on our strict carry-on only policy unless it's coming back from vacation and checking a bag with our too-many-purchases is less expensive than shipping back the spill over. That being said, we are always looking for ways to pack less and lighter. 

How to take care of your hair on vacation

Now, I'm not willing to have a bad hair day in exchange for more packing space if that's my option, so I'm betting I'm hardly the only one. Want to look your best while still keeping everything in your small bag?

Decant your fave products into smaller containers

This seems like a no-brainer, but some people are still trying to pack full-size products and checking their bags because of it. I'm not going to pay an extra $35 for my shampoo to fly, especially when I'm not going to need a giant bottle of it for a week or two. Washing your hair everyday isn't good for it, unless you're spending all your time in the pool or ocean and need to get the chemicals out. Either way, a 3oz bottle should last you more than two weeks, even with everyday shampooing. Make a run to Target, pick up a selection of travel bottles and jars if your fave products don't come in smaller sizes and decant, decant, decant. Only need a smidge? Use contact cases for things like moisturizer that you need very little of.

Make use of dry shampoo

If you don't know how to break out of the shampoo everyday rut, try a dry shampoo. You can find small spray bottles at your salon or in the hair care aisle of your favorite drugstore. Make your own at home and save money. it's easy. Here's how.

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Switch to shampoo bars

This is a favorite in my travel bag. I save room in my 3-1-1 for more important stuff, like contact solution and moisturizer, by packing a solid shampoo and conditioner. I buy mine from Lush, but they have them at Basin and several other places. They work like soap, but come in a variety of ingredients for different types of hair, just like regular shampoo. A bonus is that they last for a really long time, so you won't have to refill your shampoo after every trip like you might now. Another bonus: no spillage. I hate that.

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Downsize to travel-size hair appliances

Bringing your hair appliances from home is a good idea, since you know how they work and will make you feel better about yourself if you're used to using them all the time. I travel with a straightener by Conair, but not the same one I use everyday. It's large and bulky. Instead, I've opted for the smaller, travel-size one. It actually works better and takes up a heck of a lot less space in my carry-on. I have one that has a rounded edge, so I can use it to straighten or curl. I love a multi-purpose tool. More and more companies are making mini versions of their popular hair care appliances, and it's smart to invest in them, plus you can always keep it packed in your bag, so you don't forget it.

Don't bother taking a blow dryer

I know this is a controversial one. I tend to take showers at night and let my hair air dry, or spritz in some beach spray (see below), so I can scrunch and go, but I know there are people who swear by blow drying. I'm not one of them, because I'm lazy, but sometimes I use one. That said, almost all hotels and even many vacation rentals supply hair dryers for their guests. Save room in your bag and leave yours at home. If you must bring one though, try to find a travel version, so you aren't taking up half your carry-on with an unnecessarily large device.

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Instead of a curling iron, use sea salt spray for beach curls

I've discovered the beauty of beach curls/waves. I like it, because I can jump out of the shower, spray this in, scrunch it up and get on with my day. So much easier than taking out the curler, waiting for it to heat up and meticulously curling strand after strand. It saves me time, which I am grateful for. It can also work on dry hair, but I've been less successful with that. I'd say to just spray your hair with water first and then add the sea salt spray for best results.

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Use sunscreen

Don't forget that your hair is just as susceptible to sun damage as your skin. Rub some sunscreen in your palms and run your hands through your hair to avoid leeching your color. This also adds a bit more needed moisture too. If you're worried about it not blending in, dilute it with a little water. If you wear a part in your hair, make sure to dab some sunscreen there as well. There's nothing worse than a burnt (and eventually peeling) scalp. 

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Go au naturale

Put your clothes back on, because I'm still talking about your hair. If you're okay with saving time in the morning with tools and unneeded products, feel free by leaving your hair as it naturally is. Don't curl your straight hair or straighten your curly hair. You might find you don't hate it. If all else fails, make it easier to deal with by putting it in a braid or messy bun.

Do you have travel hair care tips that save time or luggage space?

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Eating Cheaper on Your Vacation

One of the most exciting parts of traveling, besides going somewhere new, is trying new food. Are you always thinking about when and where you’re going to eat next? Do you want to eat your way through the city? With all the fresh air and walking one gets while out sightseeing, it might be the thrill of being in a new city or because all the extra exercise, but it feels like you just ate and are hungry again! 
eating cheaper while on vacation

Unfortunately, it’s impractical to eat all day. Not just because it’s unhealthy, but also because it’s totally unaffordable. Plus, how would you get any sightseeing done? Even if you eat just three times a day, you’re going to need some tips on how to do it inexpensively, so at least you don’t go broke doing it. Here are just a few of the rules to follow to get the best bargains and keep your wallet from emptying out by the end of the first day.

Bring snacks!

Trick your stomach by bringing snacks with you in your bag each day. This way, if you’re tempted to nibble on something, you know you have them on you and are less likely to spend money on food you don’t really need.

Eat where the locals eat

Just by avoiding touristy areas, you can save a lot on your meals. When you’re out, ask a few people where they recommend. They aren’t going to tell you they prefer a chain restaurant over their favorite local pub. The food is likely more authentic than those that you can find right near tourist attractions, making it cheaper, because it’s local and not shipped in from a different country.

Make lunch your main meal

If you really want to try one of the “hip” restaurants by a celebrity chef, make reservations for lunch. The food will be just as good, but it’s usually much cheaper at lunch than at dinner. 

Hit up the food carts
Food carts can have a huge variety of different local and international foods, but can be half the price of (or less) than dining at a sit-down restaurant. With this kind of savings, you can try fare from several carts with no regrets.

Rent a vacation home or stay in a hotel with a kitchen(ette)

This is a great way to stretch a food budget, because there are so many options. Renting can be a great value over hotel stays if you’ll be visiting for a week or more, plus it gives you the chance to check out the local grocery store. If you aren’t a big breakfast person, instead of eating out for that meal, shop for new cereals and pastries that you can’t get at home. There’s never a better time to try new foods!

Stay at a hotel that offers free breakfast

You don’t realize how much dining out can cost until you go on vacation. A reasonable breakfast can cost between $8-15 per person. If you multiply that by the number of people you’re traveling with and the number of days you’ll be staying, that number can be huge. If you find a hotel in your price range that offers free breakfast, you’ve hit a jackpot of savings.

Sign up for Groupon

Groupon is an amazing little site that offers daily deals on a wide assortment of things, not least of which is dining. Each day a new offer goes up at a big discount off the regular price. Dining certificates can be purchased quite often and many times you can grab a half-off gift certificate to a new local restaurant or one just trying to bring in new customers. It works! Sign up at Groupon for the destination of your next vacation (they cover many international locations as well as the United States) and eat for less!

Don’t order off the kids' menu

If you travel with children, you’ll notice that all kids' menus seem to have the same small rotation of foods. Obviously, little ones don’t just live on hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets and PB&J sandwiches. Not only do they charge an outrageous amount for these “staples” that cost hardly anything to make, but they offer hardly any nutritional value and your kids are likely to eat only half of it before declaring they’re full. Instead, order a meal that you both will eat and share. This saves you money and might get them to eat a vegetable or two.
This is just a small list of things you can do to help stretch your food budget on your future trips, but they can save you quite a bit. Remember, the more money you save on meals, the more money you can spend on doing something else!

How do you like to save money on your vacation meals?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Stop Packing These 5 Things

I used to pack a bunch of things when I traveled. Over the years, I've learned what is a must and what should stay home in order to get the most use out of it and allow me to carry-on my belongings and save baggage fees. Every time I travel, I get better and better at packing, especially when returning to places that I've been several times. 

Quit packing these 5 items and what to pack instead

Of course, I still make mistakes – like when I decided I didn't want to take a rain jacket to Orlando – but that's me being human. I'm willing to continue to learn. Fortunately, I've learned these five important lessons when traveling and it makes me a more efficient packer/traveler.
I’ll admit it. I live in Oregon, where it rains…a lot. I’m used to it and I couldn’t even tell you where any of the umbrellas I own are located. I either just walk around in it or put on my rain jacket, because if I didn’t, I’d never really go anywhere for a majority of the year. Umbrellas are impractical and take up space in my travel bag and can only be used in one situation. If it’s windy when it rains, they’re useless.

What to pack instead: Get a good, lightweight, packable rain jacket with hood. This will free up your hands, keep you drier and won’t poke out people’s eyes if you’re in a crowded area (like the theme park). If you’re traveling somewhere warm, it can also be thrown on when inside an air conditioned space or a cold snap happens. Multi-purpose.

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High Heels (impractical shoes)
If I can’t walk all day in a pair of shoes without wanting to cut off my feet, then they aren’t coming with me in my bag, with the exception of flip flops that I can wear to the pool, down to the lobby or to the grocery store. Uncomfortable shoes or high heels rarely get worn on vacation, because after walking all day, your feet already hurt and squeezing your feet into a pair of stilettos sounds like more torture than usual.

What to pack instead: A nice pair of sandals or ballet flats that work with your shorts, pants and dresses and have good support, so you can wear them out sightseeing and then to a nice dinner in the evening.

1 outfit per day
Okay, this is a complete no-no for those packing light to avoid checking a bag. You don’t need 14 tops and 14 bottoms and 9 pairs of shoes. You just don’t.

What to pack instead: Be creative and pick a color scheme for your clothing, so that you can mix and match. All your tops should be able to go with all your bottoms and give you the maximum use of everything. I like to go with this equation: 5 tops + 3 bottoms = 15 unique outfits. Throw a dress into the mix and your travel outfit (that one you wore on the plane) and make your travel wardrobe even larger. Maybe you’ll have to do a little laundry. Suck it up.
All your makeup
Let’s face it. You probably have a crapload of cosmetics in your bathroom and you probably use only 5-10% of what you have on any given day. Leave that giant makeup bag at home and go a little more natural.

What to pack instead: Smaller sizes, the bare necessities and multi-use products. If you missed my last post on your summer beauty bag, check it out for more help on this.
Okay, I’m not telling you not to read, but books and magazines are bulky and take up valuable space you need for more important things, like pants.
What to pack instead: Take a magazine (or two) and load up your phone or tablet with your favorite books and mags. I will take a magazine just for the parts of my flight where I can’t have my electronics on, but I tend to read or play a game on my tablet or play a game with my husband the rest of the flight. My tablet packs a ton in a small package and saves me a lot of room. Just remember your backup battery. Leave your read magazine behind for someone else on the next flight, and voila! You've gotten rid of an extra thing.

I stick by all these tips for every trip I take, just so I don’t overpack and can pack as light as possible. Being able to carry all my own baggage is key. If you’ve ever tried to drag everything you own up three flights of stairs after a 12-hour – or even a 2-hour – flight, then you know the pain of packing more than you need.

What items do you make sure to leave at home and what do you pack instead?

Saturday, February 8, 2020

How Do You Hotel?

I don't stay in too many hotel rooms when I travel, because I like to feel at home wherever I go, but when I do, I have a lot of expectations. Apparently, I'm not the only one. The average guest going into this year want more. Expect more from their hotel stay experience. 

What are the most important things to have in a hotel room for you specifically?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Plan a Romantic Staycation for Valentine's Day

If you're like me, you've got plenty of things planned for the year, so you don't particularly have money (or motivation) to plan a Valentine's getaway for you and and your sweetie. That's okay. Instead of a gift they probably don't need or paying way too much for flowers or a dinner out, why not surprise them with a creative staycation?

plan a romantic valentine's day staycation

I love being a tourist in my own city, and I often just throw my camera in my bag and look at things as if I were a visitor. Here are some ways to get romantic for the holiday without breaking your bank:

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Go Glamping

Break out your tent, pitch it in the backyard, stock it with pillows and blankets, string up some battery-powered fairy lights, open a bottle of wine and get your favorite foods delivered. If you have a short table or something that can work as a table if you throw a tablecloth over it, use that and spin some tunes on your phone to create a romantic atmosphere. You don't have to spend the night out there, but you can spend some quality time together and pretend you're not at home...at least until you need to use the restroom, but at that point, you'll be happy that you aren't actually camping.

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Do Dinner and a Movie

Instead of a traditional dinner-movie date, cuddle up in the backyard (or in your car drive-in style) and eat dinner al fresco while watching a movie on a projection screen - or you can put up a sheet if you don't have one. 

Go On a Scavenger Hunt

Buy yourself a city hunt that you play on your phone and put your heads together to follow the clues and learn some new things about where you live. StrayBoots and Urban Adventure Quest are good ones. Bring your camera and take fun pics of the two of you while you're crushing it like the boss couple you are.

Take a City Tour

Pretend you just moved to where you live and you're on a first date and take a cool tour, whether it's a walking tour, a bus tour, a boat tour or a food tour. Do something new and that you've always wanted to try. It's a great chance to snuggle up with your significant other too. 

Try Unique Dining Experiences

Don't do the same old restaurant dining that you usually do. Sure, that Italian place you hit up every couple of weeks is probably good, but it's time to branch out...and save some money. Instead of dressing up and being the same as everyone else, why not bundle up (if it's cold where you are) and check out a new coffee shop for breakfast and then hit up those food trucks you've been meaning to try. 

Our city just got a new food cart pod with outdoor seating, a fire pit and at least a dozen (so far) different food trucks, so there's something for everyone. It also gives us a chance to try several different foods at once.

Take a Hike

If you're an outdoorsy couple, put on your walking shoes and pack some snacks and head to a hiking spot you've been meaning to make it to. If you're planner, put a picnic together too and have a nice secluded meal where you can connect with each other in a whole new way.

How will you make this Valentine's Day special? For more ideas, check out my staycation Pinterest board.
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