How to rediscover your backyard

As the summer winds down, some of us still have not been able to take a vacation. While for some, it might be a question of schedule; for most of us, it is usually due to financial reasons. Usually, when planning a vacation, the biggest expenses go to the transportation (plane ticket or car rental) and the lodging. We are so focused on leaving town for vacation that some of us probably have no clue about the many touristic places located right in our own backyard! So, if you have been putting off a vacation due to financial reasons, consider the following options:
Center for performing arts – how many people visit New York and have a Broadway play on their list? While your local performing arts center may not feature some of the A list names you may see on Broadway, you will still be able to catch some of the most famous acts playing there as many of these shows are always on tour. While you might not catch Hollywood’s heartthrob, you also will be saving lots of money!
Tour your city/town – depending on where you live, your tourist destinations will vary but one thing is certain: you will find some amazing facts about any city! So whether you live near the water or the mountains, schedule a city/town tour. Start with your local tourist information center for a list of your city/town’s most iconic locations and choose those that appeal to you. If you live in a larger city, contact one of the many companies specialized in city tours and join them.
Enjoy the natural sites – if you live in a coastal city, take a trip to the beach. If you live near mountains, go on a hike. Whichever one applies to you, just be sure to really take the time and enjoy being in nature: listen to the waves, bask in the sun (with proper sun protection!), take a deep breath at the top of a mountain and take in the beautiful view. You will find these sites to be quite relaxing, no matter which one you do, nature is a very effective source of peace.
Participate in events – if you have not done so, create an account with one of many websites promoting various deals throughout your area. They usually list all types of specials in your area ranging from concerts, shows, spa deals, or any special events that may be happening in your area. These are great money savers as they have events that are sometimes as low as $8!
There are still a few weeks left to enjoy summer, so I hope you will be able to take some time to yourself to ensure that you relax and take a break from your daily responsibilities. While you may not leave town as you were probably hoping to do, I guarantee you that you will definitely discover a lot of new places that you did not know existed in your city! Remember, it is imperative to your health (both mental and physical) that you take some time to recharge. Weekends and/or a day off are not enough, you need to take time to remove yourself from your daily activities and give yourself time to appreciate the simple things in life for a little while.

Enjoy!
Reese

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Summer Fashion Favorites

Summer is in full mode and if you live in a southern state like I do, you are now dealing with 85 degrees at 9am! Being from the Caribbean, it is naturally my favorite season and over the years, I’ve gotten the list of summer must have fashion items down to a science! While we all know that in the summer, the main idea is to have a closet that is “heat ready”, some of the items on the list below might surprise some of you!
– Sunglasses: especially if you are constantly outdoors, you will soon realize that a pair of sunglasses will no longer serve as a fashion statement but rather is a necessity. They will help shield your eyes from the bright rays of the sun and facilitate vision when walking towards it.
– SPF lotion: no, it’s not only for beach days! If you are going to be outdoors, you definitely will want to protect your skin. One should always be using SPF lotion throughout the year but in the summer time, we tend to be outdoors a little more as we travel and vacation, so be sure to put on the extra protection.
– Hair tie: if your hair reaches your neck, then you definitely will need a hair tie. You can quickly remove the hair from your face, neck and back when the heat starts to really strike midday. And if you are like me and your hair is sensitive to humidity, then you already know that leaving your house without a hair tie (year round lol) is a no no. I try to keep one in every purse along with some hair pins but if you find this to be too tedious, try keeping a couple in your glove compartment in your car or in a drawer at your desk in the office for easy access.
– Shorts: probably the biggest indicator for the warm months (if you live outside of Florida), shorts are a definite must for the summer. My suggestion to facilitate your summer wardrobe is to have the following three colors: neutral, denim, dark and you will be all set! To make sure that you have even more of a variety in your wardrobe options, be sure to select three different styles and length.
– Tank tops: can’t have shorts without the summer tanks! Lighter colors while they may be easier to get soiled, they help keep your temperature cooler. They are probably the easiest investment for the season (aside from flip flops) as there will be constant deals throughout the summer at retailers such as Old Navy, Target, Forever XXI to name a few.
– Comfortable flats: we tend to walk a lot more in the summer as most of us tend to go on vacation and travel. A pair of comfortable flats will come in handy. Be sure to select a neutral color so that you might match them with most of your wardrobe.
Overall, the idea is to be sure that you are comfortable as summer usually equals vacation for most of us. You want to be adequately prepared to face the heat and comfortable to explore any new destinations that you might decide to discover this summer!
Enjoy!

Reese

What is the goal of a vacation?

If you are part of the working force, whether on a part-time basis or full-time, one of your favorite things about working is possibly when you go on vacation! Whether it is for an extended weekend or two weeks, you are focused on that last day before you leave the office for that extended period of time. If you are like me, on your last day, you are so happy that you let nothing deter your mood and your “out of office” message has already been programmed and is set to activate exactly at 5pm☺!

While we all know that we need to take a vacation once in a while and step away from the daily grind of the workplace, I found myself discovering during my vacation last week what it truly means to be on vacation! We have never truly asked ourselves what the real point of a vacation is and I’m sure that if 100 people were surveyed, the answers would differ one from another. However, most people would say that the point of a vacation is to have some time to relax away from their daily activities. While the intention is always to relax, in my past experience and from my conversations with friends I learned a long time ago that we usually return from vacation tired and sometimes more tired than when we left the office. There is a reason why the saying “I need a vacation to get over my vacation” is very common from those of us who are fortunate enough to take vacations. For the first time in my adult life, I can say that I truly experienced what the goal of a vacation is! It has now been 6 days since I’ve been back to my hectic life and I still have that huge smile on my face! You see, I’ve discovered that the goal of a vacation is not to visit 100 places (although that never hurts) but rather it is to recharge, recover, and overall reset your internal odometer! I went back home to Haiti for my vacation and for 7 days I allowed myself to let go and let flow. I did not let last minute changes to the schedule affect me, I did not worry about the time, and overall no matter what I was doing, I made sure to enjoy it to the fullest! From eating my first bowl of mango upon arrival at home to overlooking the whole northern side of Haiti from atop of the Citadelle fortress, I simply enjoyed each moment equally. The goal of a vacation is for you to stop the madness around you and just take in the beauty of your surroundings, enjoy the company you’re in, and appreciate it all.

It was not my first weeklong vacation, it was not the first time I went to Haiti however, this was the first time I actually stopped and truly appreciated being away from the computer, the phone, the meetings and all of the responsibilities. I was so into the moment that I forgot to capture many great events on film because my priority was to enjoy it! So my suggestion to you is this:

  1. TAKE SOME TIME OFF: you need this both physically and mentally! Even if you’re not going out of town, still take the time to decompress.
  2. Leave the work behind: I mean it! No emails, no phone calls, NOTHING! If you work for a company – trust me they can do without you for a week no matter the amount of missed calls you see on your phone! And if you are your own boss – this is the best thing you can do for your business because you will return with a fresh attitude and ready to move mountains!
  3. Take it all in: whether you are sleeping in at home on a staycation or enjoying the beach off of the coast of an exotic island – take it all in! We work so hard that we have made our jobs our lives and this is the main reason why our bodies are failing us more often these days. Take it in, breathe deeper, smile more, and if you’re unafraid like me: dance even when there is no music! Dance to the feeling of satisfaction that you feel inside when you finally take it in!

I hope you will all get to experience this Zen feeling that I’ve been on for the past week, it is truly priceless because even though my vacation has ended, it has truly changed my mindset and now anytime I feel some stress coming, I reflect back to that feeling and tell myself that this stressor is not worth me losing this feeling!

Take care,

Reese

P.S: The featured image in this article is of the Citadelle Laferrière in Milot, Haiti. For more information on this fortress, visit the following site: http://www.citadellelaferriere.com

How to Plan an Amazing Trip on a Budget

March is here and soon this frigid weather (for some☺) will be nothing but a memory and bikini season will be upon us! Every year around this time, I plan a trip to get away from the all the daily stressors and usually plan it with my usual suspects: my sister and cousins! So far my get away trips have taken me to South Beach and Puerto Rico. Each time, I have so much fun that upon my return, I need a few days just to recover from the trip. I know that some believe that in order to have a great vacation, you must go with the flow; however, I believe that in order for a glam girl to enjoy her vacation to the maximum without breaking the bank or having obstacles, a certain amount of planning is required! Before you start planning that trip, here is my first advice to you: be sure that you are able to afford a trip financially and know your limit! Once you have determined these two factors, the fun part will commence. As a glam girl, I am always about having the best experience (whether it is shopping or adventure) at the best price. And to do so, you must know how to shop around! An amazing vacation does not have to include an airfare or a road trip, you simply need to plan some amazing activities that will help you reach your goal for your trip. So here are my tips to have the trip of a lifetime:
Have a budget! – When we took our trip to Puerto Rico last year, our budget was to spend a maximum of $500 per person including EVERYTHING: airfare, rental, lodging, and food.
Shop early! – Sometime you may be lucky and find a great ticket at the last minute however, it generally is not the case, especially if you want to travel during peak vacation times such as Spring Break or summer months.
Shop around! – We all have a favorite airline or hotel, however, sometimes they may not have the best deal on their sites. I always like to start shopping for my tickets on a renowned third party site such as CheapTickets, Expedia, Kayak or Priceline. Once you have an idea of the price tickets are going for, you always double check on your favorite airline’s website to see if they may have a better deal.
Third party lodging – I only suggest this option for a group vacation as one can never be too careful. However, I have used AirBnB for each of my trips and have had excellent experiences with my hosts. The key to using a third party site is to ensure that the information provided is verified by the company. From the host to the pictures posted on the site, you want to make sure that the company, where the lodging is advertised, has a strict verification process. If you are not comfortable with a third party lodging, my suggestion is then to use a third party site for a combo special. Be sure to check out my article on using third party services for more tips here: http://wp.me/p5DKT0-1N
Stock the kitchen! – Yes, it is fun to enjoy having great meals out when vacationing, however, you risk of running a hefty bill if you are having all meals at restaurants! Upon arrival, find the nearest grocery store and buy the essentials and just enough for your stay: bread, milk, cereal, juice, wine, etc. Just be sure to have something quick that you can eat prior to heading out on the town. I always suggest having breakfast items and condiments to make a quick sandwich. This reduces the amount spent eating out and you’re still able to have a fabulous lunch or dinner out.
Research the best activities in the area and plan ahead – For Puerto Rico, I looked for all of the events happening in the Condado (neighborhood where we stayed) area during the weekend that we would be in town and planned our time accordingly. Furthermore, to avoid spending our whole time driving, we dedicated each day to a different area and made sure that everything was nearby.
Whether you are planning on an exploration of your local town or the discovery of a new land with your closest pals, you must always do it in style and smart. You simply need to do your research and I guarantee you that it will be a vacation of a lifetime!

Safe Travels!
Reese

Using Third Party Services

We live in the age of third party sites who offer deals and services for less. While they offer a great way to save, there is also some risk that come with dealing with some of these sites. Certainly, the risks vary from low to high depending on what deal you are looking for. I want to share with you some of my tips on how to get the best experience when using a third party service.
Shop around and compare – Whether you faithfully use Groupon, LivingSocial, or TravelZoo to name a few, you must always be aware of the competition. Some deals are sometimes offered through more than one of these sites and a lot of times, the prices vary. My suggestion: do not be faithful to just one of these sites! Sign up for all of those that appeal to your needs most and compare them. Hey, the sign up is free, and if you are worried about your email inbox being flooded with daily emails, have one email address dedicated for your deals emails! The best part about this? These sites always have days of the week (or time of the month) where they will have an extra discount off of any deal purchased during a specific time frame!
Always do your research – No matter what deal you are looking to purchase, always research the product, the company, or the individual with whom you will be doing business with. Be aware of the fine print included in the deal such as “valid only on these days”, expiration dates, company or individual’s reviews. And lastly, trust your instinct! If you don’t feel comfortable with a company or with an individual, do NOT go into business with them! This is especially true if you are spending a high amount of money on the deal.
One of my favorite third party sites is AirBnB! However, if you follow the news, you have probably heard of some stories that may make you weary of using their services. This is probably one of the areas where research is crucial! Do not ever book a place without the following:
Having verified basic information for the host/owner of the place – name, phone number, and email contact. Prior to booking, you should be at least able to see whether or not the host is a verified user, a picture of them and a link to contact them. Once the place is booked, you will definitely be provided with a private email address and a telephone number from AirBnB.
Seeing verified pictures of the place – AirBnB sends employees that will take pictures of the place that is listed and is very good with taking all important rooms (bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom) along with a street view or neighborhood picture.
Having the complete address of the place – This will be helpful for you to then search it on google map. Don’t feel like you are being paranoid! I’d rather be viewed as “paranoid” than be viewed on a billboard with the words “have you seen me” above my picture! Be sure that your rental is located and ensure that it is safe and also near major hotels or major tourist attractions which means that there will be higher police and/or security presence. You should even be able to pull a neighborhood report on crime in the area.
Reading every single review of the owner – most AirBnB users are very good at leaving a review for their hosts and the company usually will send you reminders after your stay as it also helps them rate their hosts. These are very important! I normally would not suggest staying in any place that do not have at least 5 reviews with a paragraph or so detailing their stay.
Overall, as I mentioned before, always go with your instinct when in doubt. Also, I would not suggest to use this site for a stay if you will be alone in the apartment or home. In that case, bite the bullet and spend a little more for a hotel and look through third party sites such as Expedia or CheapTickets first so you can find better pricing. Lastly, always share your travel information with a friend or family member with whom you are in regular contact. You can never be too careful. However, once you have done your homework and it all checks out, be sure to enjoy your deal to the fullest!

Feel free to share some of your tips in the comment below!

Have fun saving!
Reese