Tuesday, July 26, 2016

11 Essential Items to Pack on Your Next Trip

Welcome to my list of 10 Essential Items to Pack on Your Next Trip! While it's not always about technology, I'm definitely into anything that can help me be more organized and make my travel time easier.

1.Tile (Gen 2): Phone, Key & Item Finder

If you're wondering where your luggage is or where you left the rental car keys, this Tile (Gen 2) Phone Finder is the product for you. Your best bet is buying them in bulk so you can distribute them amongst your luggage and other items you'll be traveling with. And, as an alternative, I LOVE MY LUGLOC!! Check out the Travel Writer Review on LugLoc here!

2. TSA Master Lock/Cable Luggage Lock

After having been a Certified Travel Agent for many years, I was always surprised at the number of travelers who complained their luggage was open as it came down the airport baggage carousel. Really??! Lock your bags with a durable Master Lock TSA Accepted Cable Luggage Lock. They're good for lockers at hostels, too.

3. Packing Cubes

I cannot go on a trip without my Packing Cube Set! I absolutely LOVE the fact I can sort out my clothes in my suit case instead of having to rummage around looking for something. My t-shirts are in one cube, my underwear in another etc. etc. - and it's perfect for not over packing as you can easily see what you've packed as everything is grouped together! Amazing.

4. Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow

I've owned a Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow for several years now - and I absolutely LOVE it as much as the day I got it! It's the only pillow I've found that actually offers 360° support and comfort. And trust me, I've bought my fair share of crap travel pillows. Check out my complete Travel Writer: Cabeau Evolution Travel Pillow Review here. 

5. RFID Money Belt

Personally, I'm not a big money belt fan, but I am big fan of RFID blocking so this RFID Money Belt For Travel is a great idea! Plus this package comes with an RFID Passport Sleeve AND 6 RFID Credit Card Protector Sleeves in case you want to separate them from the money belt.

6. Silicone Travel Bottles

I always try to save money by buying beauty and hair products in larger sizes, if I can. But when it comes to traveling, those big, bulky containers are just not practical! And I hate those leaky dollar store-type containers, arghhh... Last fall when I went on the Norwegian Getaway, I decided to test out the Refillable Silicone Travel Bottles I'd heard so much about. Now they're my new fave essential travel items! I LOVE the fact that they're flexible and easy to squeeze, always a problem for someone like me who has neuropathy issues in my hands.

7. Clinique All-in-One Color Palette

I love being organized when I travel and this Clinique All In One Colour Palette works perfectly for me! I hate carrying around a huge assortment of make up (as I don't end up using half of it) so this is a great option and keeps everything all in one place. Done.

8. GoPro

If you're planning an adventure on your next trip - or even if one happens unexpectedly - you need to be prepared with a GoPro HERO4While cell phone cameras can be great in most cases, you can capture some pretty unique experiences with a GoPro.

9. Cell Phone Power Bank

Speaking of cell phones, I won't go anywhere without my mini portable charger! It such a lifesaver when my battery is running low and I'm not able to find a convenient outlet, sometimes no outlets at all! This particular charger is about the size of a large lip balm so it's easy to tuck into any bag. 

10.  TSA Reusable 3-1-1 Carry-On Pouch

This durable & flexible TSA Quart-Size Carry-On Toiletry Pouch is perfect for any traveler. It's great for the environment as it can reused time after time, plus the easy to close zipper stays closed.

11. FlipBelt

As an alternative to the RFID Money Belt, this FlipBelt is a great way to carry all of your important stuff (phone, passport, money, etc) and it clearly doesn't look like you're doing so! It's stretchy, comfortable, and comes in a variety of colors to compliment whatever you're wearing. The beauty of the FlipBelt is that once you've zipped your items inside, you simply flip the belt over and everything becomes even more safe and secure! Of course, you can always protect your passport and cards with 
RFID Blocking Sleeves

Be sure to check out: 6 Practical Travel Tips! and another one of My Favorite Things: LugLoc Luggage Locator!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Finding an Affordable Home Abroad

Whether you're looking to make a permanent move or to find that perfect vacation property, there are still destinations out there where can you find an affordable home abroad. 

Surprised, you say? Well, I'm the first to admit I never thought we'd ever be able to buy a condo in Costa Rica, but we did! And we got a bargain at that. I'm not talking about building a new home abroad (of course, that's certainly possible!), but more about 

finding an existing home that can become your forever home away from home, 

at a reasonable price.

Let's take a look at the best places for finding an affordable home abroad! And a few that are in the US as well...


Burgas, Bulgaria - Realtor.com
There are so many properties for sale in the beautiful and diverse country of Bulgaria, it's really hard to make a choice. Here's a great example in Burgas, on the edge of the Black Sea. There's a 4-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot flat with 2 baths and 2 terraces. It comes completely furnished, plus there's a shared pool and the beach is 5 minutes away. The price? USD $49,600. And even better? If you're looking for a studio apartment, there are 7 pages of properties listed that fall under $25,000!

Koi Samui Condo - Realtor.com


Here's a modern 1-bed/1-bath condo in a new housing complex located in gorgeous Koi Samui that's listed for USD $35,600! Not quite sure of the overall size but it's only 2 minutes from Choeng Mon beach. Crazy cheap pricing, right??!


New Orleans - Realtor.com
With the natural beauty of the state, I've never thought of Louisiana as being an affordable place for finding a home abroad (I'm in Canada, so I'm counting this as abroad!), I thought it would be pricey. I've always loved the city of New Orleans and was surprised to find a great selection of properties available for sale ranging from $35,000 fixer uppers, to a 1-bedroom 750-square-foot condo with a balcony, 2 shared pools and a boat slip/dock included for $75k (just 20 minutes from New Orleans), and a 2,200-square-foot condo with 4 bedrooms and 2 baths for the same price.


Real Estate Vietnam
Wow, here's a brand new traditional-style 4-bedroom home, 30 minutes from Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), offered at $65,000 for 1,600-square-feet. Imagine being able to check out area's many museums, temples and pagodas at your leisure!


If you love going south to popular Puerto Vallarta, here's a 2-bed/2-bath condo, 1,000-square-feet, with a shared hot tub for USD $45,000. Think of all the money you could save every winter if you're a regular snow bird! Even if you take a taxi to the beach every day and back, you'll still be way ahead of the game money wise.

If you love the seashore, beaches and casino gambling in Biloxi, you'd be hard pressed to find a better deal than this contemporary 739-square-foot, 2-bed/1-bath condo with onsite laundry and a shared pool, for just, wait for it - $29,000. 

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador - Realtor.com
As the capital city of Ecuador, the Spanish Colonial city of Quito sits at an altitude of of 9,350 feet above sea level. The historic center of Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers a wealth of attractions to see including Parque Metropolitano Guanguiltagua, the largest urban park in all of South America, along with an abundance of churches, basilicas and cathedrals. Here's a deal on a 3-bedroom/1-bath apartment with 828-square-feet for the list price of $50,000 USD. 

Imagine wandering across the 17th-century Chain Bridge or taking the funicular to the Budapest History Museum in Old Town. Here's a 731-square-foot apartment in Budapest, 1-bed/1-bath with a balcony for just USD $25,400. 

Be sure to check out the 17th-century opulence found at 

Vaux le Vicomte just outside of Paris!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

6 Practical Travel Tips

"If your luggage is delayed by the airline, you don't want to end up on Miami Beach in a parka."
I know, I know - travel tips, really?? Just in case you might not have thought of it, I do have a few travel tips I'd like to share so bear with me on this one.

1. Take a scan of your passport and store it on a secure cloud for easy access in case you lose your passport or if it's stolen. When I was in Costa Rica, my backpack was stolen. Had it not been for the copy of my passport I had stored online, I don't know how I would've been able to apply for an emergency passport to get back home as all my ID was also in the pack. Live and learn.

2. Even though it's great to be organized, don't use one of those large passport/travel wallets as it screams 'Here I am, take me! All of my important documents are HERE!'. In a matter of seconds, a pickpocket could have your passport, your identification, credit cards etc. - as if you gift wrapped them like a present. Many times passport/travel wallets are offering in bright easy to see colors so they're easier for you to spot quickly. Easier for you, easier for a thief as well. And besides everything else that happens if your documents/information are stolen, do you really want to stay at the next hotel on your itinerary??

3. If 2 of you are travelling together, and you choose to book and pay for your seat selections upfront, I always recommend choosing a window and an aisle seat, leaving the middle seat open (on a 3-seat configuration). Chances are, if someone does end up sitting in the middle seat, you can easily offer to upgrade them to the aisle or even the window. But, there's also a good chance (if the flight isn't completely full) that no one will want that middle seat and so, voila, you've now scored extra room for the two of you!

Roach via Flickr
4. Once you've parked your car at the airport, be sure to take a few photos (covering all angles) so it's easier to report any parking lot damage if it occurs. Taking photos of your rental car before getting behind the wheel can help dispute any damage they may subsequently claim happened while you were driving. Trust me again, dated photos saved me a lot of trouble with one specific rental company who tried to claim I had scratched the paint on their car when I had received it that way to begin with.

5. Besides placing your cash in your front pocket (and I'm a big fan of skipping cash entirely by using my debit and credit cards - with RFID Blocking Sleeves, of course!), use a creative container to stash some emergency cash such - think like a small sun tan lotion-type container or maybe even an empty lip balm - something a pickpocket would never think of taking.

Twentymindsomething via Flickr
6. It always a great idea to pack a quick change of clothes in your carry-on (convertible rolling backpacks are my fave!), especially if you're heading to a warm weather destination. It's easy and doesn't take up much space to pack flip flops, a bathing suit, t-shirt and shorts. If your luggage is delayed by the airline, you don't want to end up on Miami Beach in a parka. I've also seen luggage lost on a cruise ship - the cruise line graciously provided free clothing from the gift shop for 4 days, but it quickly became a running joke as coordinating souvenir t-shirts and shorts can only go so far...

Want more? Visit 11 Essential Items to Pack on Your Next Trip!

Worried about losing your luggage? Check out the 

Travel Writer Review on LugLoc!

Be sure to read my article on the gorgeous Vaux le Vicomte chateau in France, or to check out What $25 a Night Buys You in Costa Rica!

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

5 Celebrity-Owned Hotels!

While most of us don't live a rich & famous lifestyle, we can enjoy a stay at one of these celebrity-owned hotels - let's take a look at some of these unique properties that are all about enjoying the natural beauty of their area!