May 2016 archive

My Groupon Travel Experience

DSC_5846(*Disclaimer: This is not an ad for Groupon.com, AffordableAsia.com, or any travel company, I was just super impressed and wanted to share :)).

I just finished a 12-day trip to Thailand, and I have to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the affordability, ease, and convenience of traveling with a tour group after booking with Groupon.

For the last year or so I’d found myself on Groupon looking through the travel packages, assuming there was a catch, extra fees I wasn’t seeing, or something else that would cause the trip to be less than ideal, so I didn’t let myself get too excited. However, after hearing some great reviews from a few people who have done it before, my sister and I decided to go for it.

We had wanted to book a trip abroad that was inexpensive, included our flight and hotels, and allowed us to see as many places as possible in the little time had. We didn’t realize the trip would also include perks such as an entire group of fun travelers to hang out with, transportation to and from each city, English-speaking tour guides, free tours, free meals, and incredibly nice hotels.

There was no catch, just an amazing opportunity.

Our tour guides were fun, entertaining, taught us so much about the culture and language when on long bus rides, and had great suggestions for optional entertainment, even going through the trouble of coordinating extra tours when people seemed interested in something different.

Understandably, depending on where it is you’re traveling, your tour will be with a different company. Our trip through Thailand was with Affordable Asia, and I’ve heard Gate 1 is a great company that does tours throughout South America. Based on one traveler’s opinion, their tour of Peru (which can be found on Groupon) is even more fun and more organized than what Affordable Asia offers.

Needless to say, I will probably never again go through the hassle of planning my own vacations knowing that travel companies through Groupon will do it better and more affordably than I could ever dream of.

For all you busy, budget-conscious  people who have been bitten by the travel bug, you have no more excuses- take the plunge with Groupon.

Happy travels!

 

8 Surprising Travel Essentials that Fit in the Palm of Your Hand

DSC_3868 copy

On my recent trips to LA and Thailand, I discovered a few essential travel items that I will never again vacation without.

I’ll skip telling you that an iPod, headphones, portable phone charger, and credit card are your essential items- that’s a given. I think the list below might surprise you, and also change the way you pack.

#1. Headphone splitter

I like to bring a small DVD player and some DVDs on long road trips or flights, but I’m not a fan of having to take items that are big and kind of unnecessary, which is why I love this tiny device. During my last grueling flight, I used my headphone splitter to plug into the movie my sister was watching, and discovered the awesomeness of mooching off the person you’re traveling with. Entertainment made very easy.

#2. Earplugs

Depending on who you’re staying with in your hotel, what part of town you’re staying in, or who happens to be on your flight (we’ve all shared the plane with a crying baby!), earplugs for sleeping, napping, getting work done, or just enjoying some quiet time are an absolute lifesaver.

#3. Laptop speaker

During my recent flight to LA I caught a bit of a cold and opted to stay in one evening. My handy laptop speaker allowed me to relax and comfortably watch Netflix on my laptop from bed.

#4. Wellness Formula pills

After getting sick and then quickly getting better on my recent trip (thanks to finding these pills at a local Whole Foods), I will never again take a trip without packing a bottle of Wellness Formula tablets in my carry-on. Not only do planes tend to be germy, but your trip might be fast-paced and potentially include some sleep deprivation. Taking one pill every hour or two when you start seeing the first signs of getting sick will knock it out of your system by the next day!

#5. Ginger pills

Maybe I’m on my own here, but I get nauseas more than usual when on a trip. Whether I’m on a boat, bus, or ate something unusual, I frequently feel a little ‘iffy.’ However, I’ve been able to nip my nausea in the bud during this time by keeping a bottle of ginger pills in my purse.

#6. Scarf

For some reason, I’ve never been creative in this area. I’ve never used a scarf for anything other than to keep my neck warm. However, in Thailand I’ve used my cotton scarf as a blanket on charter buses, as a picnic blanket (when needed unexpectedly), and to cover my shoulders when going into temples in Thailand. I even considered using it as a bathing suit cover during a recent outing on my trip. After this, I will never leave town without one.

#7. Kindle

This one might be a little bigger than the palm of your hand, but it’s worth mentioning. I recently converted from paperbacks to eBook when taking trips, and I have to say, although I’m old-fashioned, I love the convenience of having nearly my entire library with me on the road.

#8. Chapstick with SPF

Forgot your sunscreen? No problem, in a pinch, use Chapstick with SPF to protect yourself from the sun.

I’m sure you could manage without any of these, but if you want to experience vacationing more comfortably, pack these 8 items the next time you leave town.

Happy travels!

3 Ways to Travel Cheap (and Comfortably)

DSC_4884 copyI don’t travel as much as I should, since I prefer to save money, don’t typically have the time to plan trips, and tend to enjoy the comforts and convenience of my own town. However, when preparing for my 4-week-long summer trip, I found a few ways to budget, travel more comfortably, and even plan more efficiently.

Below are my top 3 tricks:

#1. Stay at someone else’s home. I’m not necessarily talking about staying at a friend’s house, since that may not always be an option, or you may prefer to have your own space (though I do recommend it as a great way to save money and spend quality time with people you care about). However, for a more convenient and less intrusive option, you can also book private rooms or entire apartments/homes through Airbnb or VRBO; they’re typically less expensive than staying in a traditional hotel, you get more room to spread out, and you feel a little bit like a local, which is part of the fun.

#2. Buy some snacks at a grocery store when you get to your destination. One of the downsides of travel is that you don’t always have food handy when you’re hungry, and for a snacker like me, that can lead to blowing your budget (recently, I bought a tiny $6 bag of trail mix and a $4 bottle of water out of desperation at the airport- not my favorite moment). However, once you arrive at your destination, get some basic food items from a local grocery store. For me, this includes a huge case of water bottles, dark chocolate, peanut butter, crackers, trail mix, and Cheetos (not all healthy items, but they all hit the spot for me and don’t need to be refrigerated or microwaved if you don’t have that option available).

#3. Use Groupon to book your trip. There may be cheaper ways to travel than buying a package vacation deal through Groupon, but as I get older, I realize some of my previous budget-friendly choices may not have been the safest. Not only is Groupon affordable and safe, but it’ll save you the headache of having to plan every detail of your trip (depending on what type of package you buy). For my recent trip, I chose a package that included the flight, all hotels (with wifi and breakfast included- huge plus), transportation, an English-speaking tour guide, and daily activities and events already planned. While it was pretty simple to manage the parts of my trip taking place within the US, for the 12-day chunk that will take place outside the country, Groupon was absolutely my go-to travel plan.

So there you have it. For those of you that think you don’t have the money, patience, or time to book and plan your next vacation, consider changing your approach using my tricks.

Happy travels!

Thought-Provoking Quotes to Read Daily

DSC_3977 copyI love that something as short and fleeting as a quote can pack so much punch. I have a list of quotes in my phone that I’ve kept and added to for years, and I know I’m not the only person who does this.

There’s one quote in particular that I read at the beginning of my own daily 15 minute morning ritual (which includes some meditating, a vision board to contemplate, and some gratitude journaling, but we’ll get into that another time):

“I commit to being inspired by anything and everything.”

It’s kind of my own personal mantra that I’ve created. Some of my favorite quotes don’t always feel like the right fit, but this one is vague enough, yet powerful enough, that every day it gives me a little boost.

Having said that, here are a few thought-provoking quotes that would be the perfect addition to any morning ritual, and positively impact anyone’s day:

“Your mind is a powerful thing. When you fill it with positive thoughts, your life will start to change.”

“Life is about making an impact, not an income.”

“What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We can’t. We must not lose that sense of possibility because in the end it’s all we have.” ~Marina Keegan

“Everything you are learning is preparing you for something else.”

I love these! If you keep a list of quotes, have a morning ritual, or are thinking of starting one, consider adding some of these to get yourself in the right mindset before starting the day.

Happy living.