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Travel Girl Tips

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Look for more tips from Travelgirl Stephanie Oswald at Travelgirl Magazine.

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I’ve given lots of advice on traveling with kids.

Today, I want to share a few tips for anyone taking off with a furry, four-legged travel partner

Pet travel requires some preparation, especially during the summer months.

Here’s a checklist to review before you head to the airport or hit the road with your pet.

First, be sure to confirm the pet policy with your airline, and/or hotel. Even if you’ve traveled with Fluffy or Fido on a certain airline or stayed in a specific hotel in the past, treat each journey as a new one and double check the rules. That way you won’t get stuck with a fine… or worse!

Next, update and pack your pet’s paperwork, including a vaccination report, a list of current medications, and your vet’s information.

Research online or call the hotel concierge to ask about a recommended veterinarian near where you’ll be staying.

Be sure to bring along a familiar toy or blanket from home to help your pet acclimate. And have them get used to any new travel crate well before your journey begins.

Don’t introduce any new foods during a trip; if you`re worried about what will be available once you arrive, pack or ship your pet`s food so that you can keep their diet consistent.

Finally, I turned to my favorite pet expert, Pet Trendologist Charlotte Reed, for her favorite summer travel tip–and it’s a good one.

She said treat your pet’s skin like you do your own and buy pet sunscreen. Don’t use human sunscreen.  Talk to your vet and find one that is FDA compliant.

For dogs, you’ll want to apply it to their ears, muzzle, and their belly every few hours that your pet is in the sun.

You can follow the petrendologist on Twitter @charlottereed for more advice. And of course, follow me @travelgirlsteph for all kinds of travel tips for pets… and for humans!

The obstacle course of getting from point A to point B can be trickier on a holiday weekend.  So this is when it’s really important to pack your patience!

AAA says that more than 40 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home this year to celebrate Independence Day, making it the busiest summer travel holiday.

More travel means more spending.  But, listen up, AAA says. We’re not making more money. We’re just willing to take on more credit card debt!

But, if you don’t want to load up your credit card, here are a few ways to cut costs and still get away this weekend:

First, parents spend a lot of money on souvenirs that they can get for a lot less by making a stop at the arts and crafts store. Pinwheels, balloons, glow-in-the-dark jewelry–these items are available at your local discount shop or craft store. Load up on the trinkets before you go to keep your kids happy and your budget on track.

Secondly, if you’re taking a road trip, or will be renting a car at your destination, remember to bring your discount gas card. I have my numbers typed into my phone.  Many grocery store chains that offer gas discounts have locations nationwide. So, you never know when those numbers might come in handy.

Finally, consider taking the bus! You won’t need to worry about gas prices or distracted driving if someone else is behind the wheel. We are lucky in New Orleans. Megabus.com goes to a dozen different destinations from here, including Memphis, San Antonio, Orlando and Atlanta with fares starting at one dollar, if you book far enough in advance.

You won’t get that rate for the 4th of July at this point. But there are still some deals out there.  And it’s a lot lower than a last-minute plane ticket.

If you plan now for a late summer vacation, keep in mind, just like with air travel, fares are cheaper on certain days. If you can take the bus on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, you’re more likely to get a deal.

Travel Girl Tips: Summer Travel

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Today I want to share some packing tips with you, not necessarily how to travel “light,” but how to travel “right!”

There are a few items you`ll always find in my suitcase or carry-on that have multiple uses. I call them my collection of  surprise travel tools. They are easy to pack and have come in handy more times than I can count!

First – for eating on the go, anywhere, anytime: chopsticks! You never know when you’ll need dining utensils, and these simple sticks can keep you from starving.

You could be waiting to board your plane at the gate, or riding a camel on a safari in the middle of the desert.

Wooden chopsticks hardly take up any room, they won`t be a problem at airport security, and they are sturdier than plastic forks and spoons.

So the next time you order Chinese take out, pick up a few extras and slide them in your carry-on.

Now, here’s one for every travelgirl – or guy – who brings along a little bling… plastic drinking straws!

Use them to keep your necklaces from being tangled. Cut them as needed, to fit your accessories, and then, tuck them into your jewelry bag or toiletry kit. It`s an easy, inexpensive way to keep your precious jewelry safe and sound.

Next, here’s an idea to help you see clearly when it comes to mini-storage: contact lens cases.

Most people who wear contacts have an endless supply of these plastic containers, normally used to store your lenses overnight. But when you`re traveling, you can use the extras to store small earrings, pills, or even a small supply of make-up for on-the-go application!

Another plus – a thief looking to steal your diamond stud earrings probably won`t think to look there!

Finally – extra luggage tags, not to use for your luggage, but instead, for your kids.

This is especially useful for families traveling to big amusement parks or attending outdoor events.

I also recommend it for anyone traveling through busy airports with kids or even when you`re taking a road trip and you know you`ll be stopping at highway rest areas.

Make sure you choose a tag with a flap that has to be lifted in order to see the information, or one with an identification card that`s not blatantly obvious.

Why? You want to be sure that no shady characters can read your child`s name or other information from afar.

So there you have it – four easy to get items to help you travel more smoothly on your next journey.

 

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - Here’s a few tips on how to be a “frugal foodie.” In other words, how to make fine dining part of your vacation without totally disregarding your travel budget.

A trick I always recommend to anyone visiting me here in New Orleans, but it works for other cities too: if you have your heart set on a high end restaurant, see if you can reserve a table for lunch instead of dinner. You’ll find the same excellent service, with a lower price tag.

The next tip is for when you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, taking a cruise or using a tour operator: find out about any meal plan options that let you pay in advance for a discount. For example, some cruise lines offer programs that let you order bottles of wine to be served at dinner for the length of your cruise. You won’t get any money back if you don’t finish it all, but you receive a nice discount when you pre-order. The key is these deals usually need to be reserved and paid for ahead of time, and won’t be available once you board.  So ask about them when you are booking your trip.

Here’s a tip for anyone renting a vacation home: take advantage of the kitchen, even if you don’t want to prepare every meal. Just having breakfast on hand, snacks for the kids or coffee and wine for the adults, can lead to some major savings. Then you’ll have enough money to splurge for that special dinner without feeling guilty.

To get that same savings if you decide to go with a standard hotel, try to find one where breakfast is included – or see about getting a room that has a small kitchenette or at least a refrigerator. Even if it costs a few dollars more, you’ll come out ahead in the long run.

Last but not least, bring the fine dining home with you! I’m not talking about leftovers! Purchasing a cookbook from a destination known for its food can provide you with years of memories and edible adventures to create in your own home. And, if you make it to a famous dining establishment, there’s a good chance the chef has a cookbook for sale. Get it autographed to make the souvenir even more memorable.

That’s the recipe for traveling and treating your taste buds, without devouring your budget.

Whether you’re traveling for work, or for play, here are some ways to make any hotel stay a safer one.

 Bigger isn’t always better. Consider a boutique hotel with fewer than one hundred rooms. It makes it easier for the staff to pay personal attention to each guest, and even more important, recognize anyone who “doesn’t” belong there.

 Keep track of yourself! As soon as you arrive, take a business card from the front desk, or a piece of stationery from your room and tuck it into your purse or wallet. It will come in handy when you need to give the address to a taxi diver, or type it into your smart phone GPS.

 Another simple safety trick: once you have your key, separate it from the envelope listing the room number. That way, if someone gets their hands on it, they won’t have instant access to your room. If you’re worried you’ll forget the number, e-mail it to yourself.

 This next tip is especially important for women traveling solo: when it comes to room service, “don’t put it in writing!” Many hotels have room service forms that hang from the doorknob. They usually ask how many guests will be served. Don’t ever hang a form from your door with an order for “one.” Either list multiple guests, or better yet, call in your order.

 Out for the night? Travel light! Keep your purse small ladies. And guys, cut the excess baggage. When you’re miles away from home, there’s no need to have all the keys you normally carry or your garage door opener. You probably won’t need your checkbook or your passport either, if you have your drivers license. If you accidentally brought extra items along, store them in the hotel safe when you go out.

 One last safety tip, slice it for safety – I’m talking about your plastic room keys. The magnetic strip can hold valuable personal information, so do not leave them in the room or toss them in the trash. Either return them to the front desk, or if you find them later, cut them up so that your identity is protected. And remember, common sense is the most important item you can pack for any trip!

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) - I’m a big fan of small museums that might be overlooked by the average tourist. So, when I heard about the House of Dance and Feathers, I just had to check it out.

It’s in the Lower 9th Ward, behind a nondescript green house at 1317 Tupelo Street, the home of Ronald Lewis.

It looks like a giant shed decorated with local flags and artwork. But inside, there’s a constantly expanding treasure trove.

Lewis created this living time capsule pre-Katrina. It links New Orleans’ past with New Orleans’ present.  The name House of Dance and Feathers refers to the culture of Mardi Gras Indians, social aid and pleasure clubs, skull and bone gangs, and parade krewes.  It’s a funky place to spend an hour or two and remind yourself of how much African and Caribbean influence we have right here in New Orleans.

Lewis is a former council chief of the Choctaw Hunters Mardi Gras Indian tribe and the current president of the Big Nine Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Some of his amazing beadwork is on display along with Indian headdresses, second line umbrellas and all kinds of symbols from the rich dance culture of New Orleans.

But the beyond the colorful plumes and the beautiful beadwork, there’s a history lesson on life in the lower 9th and how this community weathered the storm. A couple of tables hold newspaper clippings and NOLA-themed books, but Lewis himself is the ultimate storyteller.  The collector-turned-curator survived both Betsy and Katrina, but prefers to talk about the spirit of New Orleans today. He’s happy to answer any questions about his collection of eye-catching paraphernalia.

Visits are by appointment.  The number to call is: 957-2678.

There’s no admission fee, but donations are gladly accepted.

Stretching your vacation dollars as far as possible can be tricky. But, I’m going to let you in on a little secret — one of the best ways to put yourself on the fast track to smarter, cheaper travel is to embrace technology!

Here are four easy ways to make the internet your new, frugal, travel partner.

First, create a brand new e-mail account and reserve it only for travel-related information.  From now on, this is the e-mail address you’ll use for airline frequent flyer clubs, hotel frequent stay clubs, and rental car loyalty programs. You don’t need to review this account every day. But when it comes time to start planning a trip, this key information will all be in one place.

Second, use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to your travel advantage by following and liking your favorite places or bucket list destinations.  These days, it’s not only hotels and airlines that thrive on social media, but also attractions, theme parks, cities and tourism boards. Mickey Mouse has a Facebook page, and chances are, your next destination does too! Connecting online is the best way to stay “in the know” and be among the first to know when a flash sale is happening.

Third, sign up for alerts from online travel programs such as Groupon getaways, living social “escapes” and travelzoo.com — which has national, international and local travel deals.  These internet bargains can save you big bucks. But, be sure to read the fine print, because they often require some devilish details regarding timing. And, once you’ve made a purchase, changes are usually forbidden.

One last tip: always visit the tourism board website for wherever you’re headed next. You might find printable coupons, hotel deals or information on how to buy discounted advance tickets for local transportation, or special events.
Bottom line: become an internet-savvy globetrotter, and soon your wallet will keep up with your wanderlust!

As the editor-in-chief of Travelgirl Magazine, I often get asked about how to plan the perfect girlfriend getaway. I don’t want to start a battle of the sexes–but the truth is women do need some TLC when it come to trip planning. So here are six ways to do it right.

It all starts with a strategy session – an official planning meeting where you and your gal pals brainstorm and narrow down your desires. This includes destination, dates of travel and budget.

To avoid distractions, do it at someone’s home, not at the bar. But, you can pour the drinks, gather around the computer or iPad, and let the ideas flow.
Rule number two: Share the fun, share the burden. Everyone gets a “vacation job.” Someone researches restaurants. Someone else looks up the best spas in town. And someone finds out where to go for late night fun. Share ideas via social media and regroup to finalize plans. If you don’t all live in the same city, use Skype to stay in touch.

Number three, and this might be the most important: Don’t over-plan! You’re traveling together, but the BFF bonding doesn’t have to be 24-7. “Cate” might want to stick to her workout routine while “Amy” does yoga and “Rachel” goes to church on Sunday. Allow for some down time so that everyone can experience a little “me” time.

Number four: Push your limits. Girlfriend getaways are an ideal time to try new things. Whether your group heads for the casino, the rodeo or the karaoke bar, let your collective hair down a little. There’s power in numbers – maybe it’s time for a group hang-gliding lesson.

The fifth tip is definitely in the “girly” category: Cherish the memories, and not just on Facebook and Twitter. Create meaningful souvenirs, such as personalized t-shirts or drinking glasses to use during the trip – or, afterwards, note cards with some of the best photos from your adventure.

Finally: Advice on what not to pack. There’s no guilt allowed on a girlfriend getaway! Moms or pet owners who must stay in touch with those left behind should plan an easy schedule to do so. And, if your job requires a daily e-mail check or two, so be it. But, as much as possible, unplug your electronic leashes, and leave those worries behind.

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