Saturday, 22 February 2014 00:30

Travel | Chic Travel on a Budget

Lifestyle // February 23, 2014

So, you want to plan a trip with friends and family but no one in your entourage is ‘rolling’ yet? If you add up the cost of flights, resort fees, food, activities, and rental cars, trips can get pretty costly.  Oh, and then there are all these destination weddings you are getting invited to this year… I mean come on. The invitation is flattering but, when you get down to it, you have to figure out where you’re going to get $1,000 of disposable income.  If you wait until you’ve stacked up cash, you may never get to spend a fun, relaxing weekend with loved ones. Life is made up of a series of wonderful moments - here are tips to plan a memorable getaway without breaking the aqua bank.

1. Pick a vacation destination central to the majority of your party. Consider where your friends and family are coming from. If you’re lucky, they’re all in the same general area, so picking somewhere convenient to travel to together will be easy. But if you’re like me, they’ll all be spread out. In this case, try selecting a location convenient for the most folks, or for those whose budgets are less flexible. It’s the nice thing to do…

2. Pack light! With the exorbitant fees for checked baggage these days, you can save yourself upwards of $100 by only taking a carry-on. If you are going away for just a weekend you should be able to pull this off… Just say no to that third pair of stilettos!  

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3. Keep an eye on flash deals! One of the keys to cheap and chic travel will be to remain flexible. You never know when deals will become available. I have found fantastic opportunities via resources like Gilt City, Jetsetter, Groupon, Travelzoo and Vacationist. The one caveat is, you have to be ready to pull the trigger. So, if you want to welcome adventure, flash deals could be the right move!

4. Take advantage of the off-season. Some of my best vacations have been during the off-season. Prices are way more reasonable and there are crazy deals. No snow on the slopes? Try Lake Tahoe. A little warmer than usual, check out Miami. This past Fourth of July, some friends and I visited Palm Springs. Sure, it was 107 degrees at its peak, but we spent the majority of the time in the pool or inside our wonderfully air-conditioned house, which brings me to suggestion #5…

5. Find home and vacation rentals. I wanted to get a big group of friends and family together for the 4th of July. We were all on a budget, so it was important that this be a quick, cheap, and easy getaway. Given that we had eight people, I searched for home rentals via: www.homeaway.com, www.vrbo.com, www.airbnb.com. Eight people contributing to the rental widened our net. Suddenly, we were able to afford a three bedroom three bathroom house, with a pool and gourmet kitchen (see picture above). I was really nervous about renting through a website. I worried that someone might run away with my money, or that the home wouldn’t be as advertised.* Fortunately, it turned out better than expected! Having a kitchen allowed us to cook for ourselves and save money on dining out. In preparation, I planned out our meals for the two-day stay and got just the right amount of supplies from Costco and Whole Foods. Once there, we happily chilled at the house, swimming, cooking, drinking, talking, and playing games. Our two-day Palm Springs vacay worked out to under $140 per person!

*TIP: Read reviews and customer advice before purchasing. Obviously, the more positive reviews the better, but don’t just look at the number of stars, be sure to read the text. Other vacationers will help you determine if the house will fit your vacation needs.


If you’re jonesing for time away with friends, try something a little non-traditional. Even if it doesn’t turn out like one of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s fabulous vacations, at least it will be an adventure.

Published in Travel
Sunday, 29 December 2013 01:55

Travel | Five Travel Destinations For 2014

Travel // December 28, 2013

After the festivities of Christmas and New Year have come and gone, you might be looking for another reason to celebrate. The good news is, there are plenty of fabulous festivals taking place around the world in spring. By conducting an online holiday comparison, you should be able to find the ideal trip for you.  For example, from February 14th until March 4th, Nice in southern France will come alive to the sights and sounds of the Nice Carnival. Centered on the Place Masséna, this spectacle presents a procession of huge floats while musicians and street artists strut their stuff before excited crowds. This is one of the largest carnivals in the world and it takes place day and night.

On the other hand, if it’s unbridled sun and sand you’re after, perhaps a vacation to the Caribbean would suit. While the cost of trips to this part of the world tend to soar over the winter period, they start to fall again in springtime. Barbados is a great option. This island has something to offer everyone regardless of their budget. On its west coast, Barbados features luxurious resorts that are the perfect place to enjoy some pampering. Alternatively, its east coast offers wild waves that make superb surfing conditions. Its lush interior, meanwhile, features impressive plantation homes complete with museums that document the island’s fascinating and complex history.

In the Indian Ocean, the Maldives provides excellent holiday conditions year-round, and can be especially appealing during the spring. These coral isles boast beautiful beaches, clear waters and plenty of sunshine. It’s no wonder then that they have become something of a mecca for holidaymakers who are keen to relax and unwind. This is the perfect spot to enjoy some diving and to top up your tan.

Costa Rica is also well worth considering
. Its tourist high season runs from December to April. While in the country, you can get close to nature, spotting howler monkeys, tropical birds and iguanas, among other species. You can also surf, hike and snorkel, meaning you won’t run out of activities to keep you busy. Given the natural beauty of this Central American land, it is no wonder it attracts 1.5 million visitors each year.

North African nations can also make fabulous holiday destinations in spring and Morocco is no exception. This country boasts myriad landscapes, ranging from arid deserts to the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains. No vacation to this part of the world is complete without a trip to the ancient medinas that can be found in its towns and cities. These bustling centers, complete with their souks, are truly mesmerizing.  

There are so many destinations to choose from if you fancy a springtime holiday. With a little imagination, you should be able to find something that fulfills all of your vacation needs.

Published in Travel
Monday, 07 October 2013 04:22

Destination Coupledom: Travel for Lovers

January 30, 2012

In a relationship there are many milestones to cherish: the first kiss, meeting the parents, saying “I love you” … and of course that first vacation together. Here are some tips and destination suggestions to help you plan a fun holiday in Blissville.

For Travel Newbies: San Diego


For those of us who live in and around L.A., a trip to this beach city is a toned-down home away from home. You can stay on the beach or in the Gaslamp District; go shopping at Fashion Valley or go to a baseball or football game. From Coronado Island to Balboa Park, there’s more than enough sights to see, museums to tour, and cool eateries to try out. This day trip is ideal for couples who are sports fanatics, those who want to get away without emptying a savings account, or those who don’t want to do too much traveling.

Blame It On the Alcohol: Wine Country

Think Napa, Temecula, or maybe even Bordeaux. These locales are frequented by people who love the sensuality of the senses. Wine tasting is a skill and activity you two can indulge in together. Think about it: most other romantic getaways include cocktail hours and snazzy dinners, so why not learn something in the process? These wine regions are secluded and country-like which means you can stay at a bed and breakfast, and enjoy activities like horseback riding or golfing. Plus, when it comes to wine, pairing is everything, so this getaway ensures lots of romantic meals (think swanky restaurants and cozy picnics). Not to mention, you have a chance to score primo souvenirs…That’s right, more bottles of wine! Who knows, you two may become such connoisseurs you end up joining a wine club or taking classes back at home. Wine tasting will provide you with a new way to enjoy each other’s company at the table, become a more knowledgeable dinner party hosts, and be that cool couple who all your friends look to for recommendations on a good Merlot.

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Bathing Suits Only: Hawaii

My parents went to Hawaii on their honeymoon, and while it is a bit cliché, there’s a reason for it. Hawaii and its many islands are a romantic paradise right in our own backyard. If you are a history buff, you may want to travel to Oahu; if you love hiking you may want to journey to Kauai; if you love cruises and beaching it, you may want to consider a cruise around all of the islands. With romantic sunsets, breathtaking scenery, and mai tais galore, Hawaii is as relaxing as it gets.

The On the Go Couple: San Francisco


If you’re a Made (City) Woman like me, gazing at a beautiful skyline is the epitome of a fabulous vacation. A cityscape is an especially appealing vacation if your home is in suburbia or in the country.  San Fran would also be a good stepping stone getaway for those who want to get out of town, but aren’t ready to ditch civilization yet. San Francisco is full of history, shopping, and many landmarks. It’s also extremely populated, and that means lots of socializing.  If you’re a pair of social butterflies, this city could suit you perfectly. If you’re an active couple, maybe a run across the Golden Gate Bridge is in store. Do you both love to shop? Then treat yourself to the stores at Union Square. Next, take in tourist attractions with a visit to Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, or Alcatraz. You can walk around the city for exercise, take BART, or drive down Lombard Street (if you dare). Get in touch with 60’s San Fran at Haight-Ashbury, or simply enjoy the night life of this contemporary city that has so much to offer. From Little Italy to Ghirardelli Square, there’s something for everyone.

Lovers Abroad: Italy


This destination has always been a bit of a fantasy getaway for me. I just don’t think you can go wrong with a trip to Europe, and to one of its most romantic countries no less. Take in food, art, wine, and culture. You can backpack across the country and stay in hostels if you both are adventurous (read: low on funds). Or you can stay at fancy hotels and shop in exclusive boutiques, the choice is yours. Askmen.com rated the top 10 couple’s destinations, and Italy was on the list twice (Tuscany and Venice). This proves men want to go to Italy too!

No matter the destination, a good relationship is made better by agreeing on and planning a trip. The best advice I could give you is that you make sure the timing is right for a vacation together. Believe me, I’ve gone away on trips with boyfriends who I had problems with, and it never turned out well. Take your carry-on with you, not your emotional baggage. Time alone can give you a chance to get to know each other better, learn from one another, and allow you to make memories and decisions together. Strengthen your relationship and see the world? Sign me up!  

Published in Relationships

August 15, 2011

If every time you hear that famous airline commercial ask, “Want to get away?” you answer “yes!,” it may be time to jump online and book yourself a ticket. The problem is, sometimes we are in such a hurry to get away that we don’t think rationally enough.  Planning is everything when it comes to a fabulous vacay. Here are some tips to improve your traveling experience and make it memorable enough to forget that embarrassing scene at last weekend’s party/fight with your bff/meeting with your boss….

The Early Bird Catches the Best Deal…
First things first: don’t just jump on a website and buy a ticket for the next flight out. Plan as far in advance as you can stand. The later you start planning, the more money it will end up costing you. This will also lead to you settling for whatever’s leftover when it comes to rental cars, hotel rooms, etc. We know, you want to leave ASA-Now, but good things come to those who wait. You will also want to plan a bit in advance so you can get that precious vacation time approved and make sure loose ends are tied up in the office.  By planning efficiently, you prove to your superiors that you are reliable enough to go on vacation again without falling behind at the office.

Bargain Hunt Your Way to the Bahamas
When you’re ready to purchase your flight, there are a few ways to save. If you are traveling domestically and your schedule is flexible, consider flying Southwest (www.iflyswa.com).   They offer one-way rates for as low as $69 and don’t charge baggage fees for up to 2 checked bags!

By signing up with travel sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Kayak, Jetsetter and Travelzoo, you get weekly offers for combined rooms and airfare. Keep in mind that although you may find a great deal on one site, there could be better ones out there. I recommend opening multiple tabs on your browser and comparing window to window. I’ve saved a lot of money by comparison shopping on each site rather than trusting the advertised compared rates.

There are more ways to book than just online. If you are open to a grander destination or perhaps a cruise, you can always look into deals offered through grocery club memberships. Costco offers great deals to their members on cruises and international getaways.

Another option for discounted airfare is Craigslist. It is possible to find sellers for airline tickets at amazing rates; just make sure you obtain a confirmation number and exercise caution. While there are lots of scammers on Craigslist, there are also reliable leads. I purchased airfare to Kauai for half off during peak travel season. However, I made sure to check out the seller’s reputation, ask them for a flight confirmation number, and paid for the tickets through PayPal.  Remember, the more money you save on your ticket purchase, the more money you will have to burn when you reach your destination.

Do you travel a lot for work?  You should be earning travel points through a credit card or airline rewards program.  While doing your research, check and see how many points you have accumulated.  This is the perfect time to consider cashing them in to knock some money off of your trip, or maybe even cover it entirely!

Lodging Around
When it’s time to start looking into lodging, some good places to start are Hotels.com and AAA. It is also good to put the word out amongst friends and family when considering a destination.  You might discover that Great Aunt Sofia lives in San Francisco or your old college roommate moved to New York and has a guest room with your name on it. By staying with someone rather than paying for a hotel, you get the perks of feeling more at home, being with someone you know and trust and having a person to show you around. It might even be best to think of who you know in an area then planning your trip around their location once they’ve agreed to let you stay.

For international traveling, hostels are an appealing option. They are cheap and full of tourists, just like you. If you are willing to camp out, go backpacking, have a strict budget, want to meet people from all over, and/or simply need a place to rest your head, then these are a great bet. Travel guides offer up all sorts of hostel listings; all you have to do is get to Googling or check out your local bookstore.  It’s important to note that if you want a more relaxing getaway with some pampering and minimal noise, hostels are not the way to go.  In this case you should cough up the extra money and opt for a hotel.  

Regardless of where you stay, be sure to read up on reviews on travel websites, such as tripadvisor.com. These reviews are left by guests who have actually stayed at the places you’re considering and it’s better to get the inside scoop before you commit to anywhere.  And if your friends, family or coworkers have any suggestions for where to stay, look into it. It is always best and safest to stay somewhere reputable, where you know what to expect.

Guest List to Greece
It is just as important to choose the right travel buddy as it is to pick the best trip. Make sure you are asking reliable friends and family members who will be financially responsible. Sure, everyone wants to go away with you at first, but when the credit cards have been billed, you will want to make sure the people who signed on are going to pay you back. If a friend of a friend is being invited, don’t hesitate to suggest a group outing prior to traveling together to make sure everyone gets along and is on the same page when it comes to money and travel arrangements.

Editing is Key
Chances are you will be tempted to raid your closet and bring outfits for every possible weather situation you can imagine.  After all, you are a Made Woman and you want to be prepared for anything and everything.  While you may want to pack your Louboutins in the event that you will be invited to a gala in the middle of your family vacation to Ohio, think twice. Is it really important to pack such an expensive item that would bog you down and be hard to replace if lost or damaged? Probably not. Check with your travel companions to see who is bringing what that can be shared or borrowed, so not everyone is wasting precious suitcase room on a blow dryer.

Lastly, don’t bring things that can easily be purchased at the airport or found in a host’s home. Remember, airline restrictions are firm and fully enforced. No use wasting your money and minutes in the TSA line just to have your items thrown out. Visit www.tsa.gov to find out what you can and can’t bring on your trip. Check the weather forecast and make sure you are packing correctly.

When that tropical vacation starts calling your name, figuring out how to make it all happen does not have to cause your next migraine.  There are a lot of things to consider when you get into plotting mode, but if you keep yourself organized and give yourself time to work out all the details, you will be flying your Made self into a new area code in no time.  Keep these tips in mind the next time you want to get away and get ready for smooth sailing…or cruising…or flying… or skiing…   You get the idea.  No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, be sure to remember the most important tip of all: Have fun!



Published in Travel