October 17, 2017

Keeping Your Travel Plans Ethical


When the wanderlust takes a hold of you, it’s almost impossible to resist the call. For those of us who place ethics of the forefront of everything we do - from the food we eat to the way in which we dispose of our trash - it’s important to know how to travel as ethically as possible with as little detriment to the environment and the rights of locals as possible. With so much conflicting information out there, it can be difficult to ascertain the best way to do this. While a sizeable portion of this will be dependent on where you intend to go and what you intend to do, there are some general principles to ensure that you don’t start off on the wrong foot wherever you go…

Pack light
The simple truth is that a lot of products marketed as travel products are not only unnecessary but packaged in environmentally damaging plastics. The fact is that you need way less than you think when you’re traveling -- just because a product is marketed as a travel product doesn’t make it indispensable. Another great tip is to bring your own water cantina. Drinking bottle after bottle of prepackaged water will be hugely detrimental to your carbon footprint.  

Consider your modes of transport
How you get to your destination and get around within it is the second most important facet of your trip. Firstly, an ethical traveler explores their own backyard before going further afield as local travel not only benefits the local economy but reduces the environmental cost of transportation.

Flying with one of the more eco friendly or ethical airlines is a great way to get to where you’re going. Once you arrive, traveling by public transport is a boon for both the environment and the local economy. Getting about by boat, however has a lower carbon footprint than traveling by plane so renting a boat from www.boat.me as preferable to taking an internal flight. If you plan on taking a tour, book through a local (preferrably family run, if available) tour operator.


Eating ethically
Believe it or not, most of the good that you can do for the local economy and environment is not done through the way in which we travel but through the food we eat. While many of us are aware of the environmental cost of our travel, we tend not to give the same degree of scrutiny to our food.

Animal agriculture contributes to more greenhouse emissions than the entire transportation sector so when traveling (as when staying at home) abstaining from animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs is a great way to protect not just the environment but the rights of local animals.

When traveling, imbibing the local cuisine is not just a great way of sampling the culture, but of sustaining the local farmers and restaurateurs. Thus, try to patronize smaller local restaurants and street vendors and eschew recognizable chains and brands (however much you may miss the familiarity). Locally grown crops utilize far fewer greenhouse gases to transport to your plate.

  *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

October 16, 2017

The Road to Adventure: Planning Your Road Trip Across America

A road trip across America is a bucket list item for so many of us and it’s no wonder- it’s the ultimate adventure. There's so much to see and do -- so many different landscapes and types of terrain, so many tourists attractions as well as so much to see off the beaten paths, you can really customize the trip and make it your own. Here are some things to bear in mind when you are planning your road trip across the US.

Vehicle and Accommodations
There are a couple of different options when it comes to your vehicle and accommodations. First, you could hire a camper van or RV, and combine the two together. Doing it this way, you have something to drive and somewhere to stay, plus there are many many campsites across the US where you could stop in at overnight, and lots of these will even offer RV hookups where you’re connected to power and water, sometimes even wifi. If you aren't near a campsite when it comes to the evening, you could park up and sleep just about anywhere - providing it’s in a safe and legal place. Alternatively, you could do your road trip by car, staying in travel hostels, motels and hotels along the way.

Which Route Will You Take?
One of the main things to plan on your journey is the route you will take, since this will shape your entire trip. Route 66 is a famous one that many have taken, otherwise you could go coast to coast, or the trip along the ocean highway. America’s landscape is extremely diverse, from snow topped mountains in Colorado to deserts in Texas to beaches in California. Decide on the places and states you’d most like to visit and build your journey from there.

What Attractions Will You Visit?
Once you have decided on the locations you will visit, the next thing you'll need to do work out what you want to do in each place. Some will be easy - attractions like the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Memorial and more are up there on many people’s lists of things to see in America. Don’t overlook some of the less obvious attractions too. You could look for hotels in Amish Country, PA. You could visit the Charleston street market in North Carolina, or the rodeos and ranches in Texas.

What Food Will You Eat?
America is the land of tasty food, so it makes sense that this will be a big part of your trip. If you have fancy or expensive restaurants you want to try, budget for these first. The rest of the time you could take advantage of all you can eat buffets, or even go to grocery stores and stock up on essentials and keep them in a cooler in your vehicle. Cereal bars, dried fruit, canned tuna, nuts and crackers will all sustain you and keep you going until your next proper meal. 

  *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

October 4, 2017

Never Show Up To A Party Empty Handed

No matter the size of the guest list, planning a party is a challenging task to undertake.  You need to work around various dietary requirements and your decor should reflect your superior trendspotting skills. Throughout these moments of stress,  do your best to be charming, funny, and polite as well. If you’ve hosted a party recently, you must be aware of the obstacles faced by your hostess, and as such you cannot fail to show your appreciation. Although they will wave off the compliments, it’s nice for a hostess to know that their hard work hasn’t been taken for granted. Show your manners and admiration for the hostess with one of the following hostess gifts. 

A bottle of alcohol 
Everyone can appreciate a good bottle of fine wine, whiskey, or champagne. Even if your gift isn’t opened during the party, the hostess can save it for another special occasion, or they might offer to have you visit again for a more intimate gathering so you can sample a glass of your hostess gift. It’s best to do some research for this gift, not just for the hostess’ taste, but also for a high quality bottle. If you’ve heard the hostess is fond of whiskey, look up the Kikori whiskey price and reviews to see if it will go down well. Alternatively, you could read wine reviews and find something that suits your budget, yet can still impress the hostess. 

Drinking utensils
If you suspect almost everyone will bring a bottle for drinking, then you can give a stylish, yet practical gift, of decorative glasses, or personalized coasters. Classic wine glasses with a long stem will always be greatly appreciated at large gatherings, and stylish flutes can be used if anyone wants to pop some champagne. However, you can make your gift truly unique if you present the hostess with stemless glasses. Although they might traditionally be used for wine, the sturdy base might also make them appropriate for pouring scotch or after-dinner brandy. Pair the glasses with monogrammed coasters to make the gift more personal, and to protect their furniture from stains. 

Flower and vases
It’s traditionally a nice gesture to bring a bouquet of flowers for the hostess, but you can never be too sure if they have a spare vase to display your thoughtful gift. Take all the guesswork by giving the hostess a vase yourself; it’s thoughtful, useful, and they can keep using it in the future. You can get some beautiful ceramic vases with unique designs, but if you want to avoid clashing with her furniture, you’re better off getting a simple glass vase. 

Mixed herbs wreath
Flowers might be a thoughtful gift, but plants that double as functional decor is even better. You can now buy wreaths made from mixed herbs for the hostess to use in her cooking in the future. Some come woven with fresh bay leaf, sage, purple oregano, dill, lavender, and chile de arbol which are sure to be a treat for the eyes, nose, and taste buds. 

  *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

September 29, 2017

Go Big On Festivities This Christmas

Now that the summer is over, and we're well into Fall, it's likely that you've started to think about Christmas. Christmas is a wonderful time of year that millions of people around the world celebrate. It originated from the birth of Christ, but people from many other religions and walks of life now join in with the festivities, since the holiday has become more commercialized over the last century. Even if you’re not a fan of Christmas, I’m sure you can appreciate why it’s such a special time for people around the globe, and especially for children. Here’s some ideas on how you can make Christmas extra special this year.

Putting the Christmas tree up as a family generally marks the beginning of the festive holidays. The tradition of putting the tree up on Christmas eve has died a bit, as now many of us decide to put our tree up earlier on in the month (or year for some people).

If you’ve never had a real Christmas tree, then you should consider trying it at least once in your lifetime. It adds that little bit of extra magic to the look of the tree, and the smells that radiate from it will create a warm fuzzy feeling every time you enter the room.

If you can’t, or simply don’t want to, then why not buy yourself a bigger and better artificial tree for this years celebrations? There are so many available in stores these days that you will be spoiled by how many choices there are! You’re now able to buy different colored trees too so if you wanted to match it with the rooms' decor, then you now can!

Once you have got your tree sorted, now the magical part begins -- decorating the tree! If you’ve got small children, why not buy some make your own baubles for them to decorate accordingly? They’re super cheap to buy and will keep the children entertained while you tackle the job of untangling the Christmas lights, even though you know you put them back neatly last year.

If you don’t have children, and want to keep your tree looking as sophisticated as your decor does, head out to your nearest home store and check out their range of baubles and tinsel to see if you can find anything you like the look of. If you don’t, you could always make your own too!

Finally, the tree is decorated apart from one tiny detail - the star or angel that goes on top of the tree. If your tree-topper is looking a little outdated, why not make your own using some silver wire, a bit of glue and some glitter?
Outside of the house
You’ve seen the houses around town that put loads of effort into the exterior displays on their house right? If you’ve never tried it, you can easily achieve a festive and magical look on the exterior of your house, and without having to climb any ladders!

If you’ve got a shrub or tree outside of your home, consider buying some outside lights to wrap around it, so that at night your home will sparkle. Another great idea would be to wrap some lights around any hanging baskets you own, as well as any other interesting points of your garden that would make your home stand out from the crowd. Of course, the obligatory “Santa, please stop here” sign will need to be displayed too.

Having a wreath is another popular trend which people like displaying on their doors. Why not have a go at making your own, using holly and spray paint? Getting the children involved (be careful with the holly) will certainly give you a personalized touch to your home.

Instead of trying to fit lights onto your home, why not try lights that you can put up for display on the inside of your windows so that it gives your home a really festive look? Plus, when all the lights and lamps are off at night, being inside of that room will really give you a festive feeling as you watch the Christmas lights twinkle.

Over the coming months you will begin to see an array of Christmas-like attire fill the shelves of all of the clothing stores in town, so why not join in with the fun? Having a Christmas top especially for that day somehow makes the day even more special. If none of the shirts in the stores take your fancy, you could always find shirts online, or even sweaters too!

In the mood to go all out on attire this year? Consider buying yourself a Santa suit so that you can make the experience even more special for any children that you’re celebrating Christmas with.
If your parents brought you up to believe in Santa, think back to how magical the night before Christmas day was. Making the effort with little details will not only make you feel more festive, but it will make the experience for your children that little bit more magical. Here are some ideas on how you can do this:
  • Snowy footprint using flour and a big boot.
  • Reindeer tracks and footprints outside (depending on if it snows, this could be really exciting).
  • Milk, cookies, and carrot eaten by the time the children wake in the morning.
  • A left behind Santa hat by the chimney.

Anything that can give them the impression that Santa was in their home will make the day even more special. Even though Christmas is a time for spending quality time with your family and other loved ones, it’s really about making it extra special for children, so go all out and make these precious years count.

A fantastic way of adding extra magic for children is to have Santa ‘revisit’ your home while they are happily playing. Keep some of their presents back and hide them until you can safely ‘deliver’ them for the children.
Wrapping paper
Wrapping paper is widely available in pretty much all stores around the Christmas period, but why stick to the designs that the shops are offering to us? You’re now able to design and print your own wrapping paper. Imagine the possibilities with being able to personalize the wrapping paper for each of the gifts you’re wrapping. You’re even able to print the faces of the people the gift is for to add a little bit of comedy to the day too.
When you think of the smell of Christmas, it’s likely that you imagine the smell of dinner cooking, alongside any new scents that you have been gifted for Christmas. There are now reed diffusers, candles, wax melts and room sprays that you can buy with a Christmas-like scent such as cinnamon or aromatic spices. Adding a festive scent to the air will be sure to get you all excited for the big day.
Remember the days when you were younger, where the only thing that could distract you from the fact that Santa was coming were the Christmas movies shown on the TV? We are at an advantage these days, with watching movies much more easily than before through the use of Netflix, DVD players, sky movies, and other streaming programs. There are hundreds of movies that you can choose from to help keep you in the Christmas spirit, and here are a few examples:
  • The Grinch
  • Home Alone (any of them)
  • Elf
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • The Santa Clause (any of them)
  • White Christmas
  • The Snowman
  • It’s A Wonderful Life

There are loads of other ideas that you could watch, so don't forget to add your favorites to this list! Some people choose to watch their favorite films, regardless if they’re related to Christmas or not!

Christmas Eve Box
Even though on Christmas Eve, your children are likely to be in bed earlier than they have ever been, a great way to entertain them the night before is to create a Christmas Eve box for them. These consist of pretty much anything you like, but many parents choose to put some new pajamas in, a movie for them to watch, and some snacks to have in their bedrooms so that the night before they have a way of occupying themselves.

The boxes are really easily made, and you can make one at home simply by covering an old shoe box in wrapping paper, and filling it with goodies for the children to open the night before.

So there we have it, nine fantastic ways of making Christmas even more special this year. Remember, it’s not about how much you’re buying for people. Christmas is a time of year that should be spent on togetherness, and not turned into a competition on how much you can spend. Make sure that no one you know is alone this Christmas, and spend the day with everybody you love. Happy holidays!

 *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

September 26, 2017

How To Enjoy Christmas... Even If You Hate It


Many people associate New Year’s Eve with the relentless pressure from all sides to enjoy yourself, but for me, that uncomfortable brand of enforced joviality hits hardest of all at Christmas time. Unlike most religious celebrations like Eid, Hanukkah or Passover, Christmas has become a ubiquitous celebration that transcends faith and has become virtually inescapable with people from all denominations (and even none at all) embracing the holiday to at least some extent. Many Jewish people, for example, give presents on Christmas day without celebrating Christmas proper.

Religion aside, Christmas can be a difficult time for a lot of people. For a variety of reasons, there are some people who just dislike Christmas. Since everything from big box stores to supermarkets start stocking up with festive accoutrements as early as late August, many people begin to experience feelings of dread. If you're reading this and think, "This sounds like me.", then you can breathe a sigh of relief because there are ways to find something special in this contentious time, even if you hate Christmas.

Who could possibly hate Christmas?
Quite a lot of people, believe it or not. Christmas can be a source of anxiety and depression for a large range of people. Parents who wring their hands at their children’s long and expensive Christmas lists, people who’ve had traumatic experiences around that time, people who have depression, are feeling down, anxious and stressed or, of course, people who will be spending the day alone without family and friends that make it such a special day. It can be a wonderful time, but it can also put pressure on people to spend money they don’t have and celebrate when they don’t really feel like they have much to celebrate.

Nonetheless, even if you don’t have the highest regard for the festive season, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy it...

Be open and honest with your loved ones
There’s nothing more counterproductive than keeping your feelings bottled up inside. If you don’t tell your family about any anxiety you may be experiencing around the Christmas period, don’t be surprised if they try a little too hard to get you into the swing of things - and that may make you feel worse. If you tell your family how you feel in advance, then they’ll be better prepared and give you space and/or someone to lean on depending on what you need.

Participate as much or as little as you like
If you want a clean break from Christmas, go right ahead. Although, if this is what you’d rather do, it’s a good idea to give yourself at least something to look forward to (more on that later). If you want to escape altogether, though, be sure to tell someone where you'll be so your friends and family don't worry about your absence. If you’d just like to give gifts for a handful of people then go right ahead. If you’re feeling anxious about what to buy whom, you’re lucky enough to live in the digital age. 

Searching for Christmas gifts ideas 2017 can help you find something for just about anyone. And don’t sweat it if someone buys you a gift and you don’t reciprocate. People genuinely do give for the sake of giving, not because they expect something in return.

Give yourself something to enjoy
Whether you choose to participate or not, it’s important to have something to look forward to. Take a little break away for a few days or simply line up your favorite movies, grab some snacks and hunker down under some covers and relax. Even if you want to get yourself just a little something from you to you, you owe it to yourself to share the enjoyment of the festive period.

 *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

September 21, 2017

This Christmas, Vacation In Style


Vacationing in style is often hard to do. Many people have different tastes, and reconciling these different ideas & ambitions can be difficult between those planning as there are simply so many things to do in one place. One of the best ways to overcome this is to take a vacation in a season which you'd rarely do so. The season switch vacation option offers you the opportunity to change your approach completely. Winter is fast approaching, and that means winter vacations can soon become a reality. For those of you mostly interested in the summer vacation in the effort to grasp a tan, this may seem like something completely out of your comfort zone. However, winter weather can be the most rewarding to vacation in, especially when celebrating something as fantastic as Christmas Day.

Here are some tips for celebrating Christmas with family and friends in a way which can give you warm memories for some time.

Stay In Lapland
When people think Christmas, they think Santa Claus. Why not visit him with your family in a coveted Lapland getaway? Lapland has plenty of facilities and resorts where you can visit Santa and a cast of his helpful little elves, which can truly imbue Christmas with a sense of magic. Why not translate this feeling along to your accommodations by finding tree hotels in Lapland, which allow you to view the local landscape from a beautiful position which is sure to rest in your memory for a long time? Doing things differently in an already unfamiliar landscape can add to the fairytale magic of the entire experience.

Head To Disneyland
Many people vacation in Disneyland as part of the summer celebrations, because they often offer competitive ticket prices, sometimes even letting children in for free to drum up business. However, visiting solely in the summer, while wonderful, can deprive you of a whole other beautiful experience. Disneyland in both Paris and Florida simply come alive in the Winter time. Park decorations are given a facelift and as well as celebrations regarding certain films.

You can expect to see plenty of Frozen decor around this time which is never a bad thing. Disneyland also keeps the Christmas celebrations going, offering competitive rates on winter lodges. For a beautiful and memorable experience, heading to these parks and recounting the beauty of your favorite films could be your best step forward.

Winter Activities
For those who aren’t well versed in skiing or snowboarding, heading to Austria, the Alps, or Switzerland can afford you some adventures worthy of passing down through stories to your friends and family. Winter expeditions, mountaineering, skiing, cross country travel and husky mushing can all be offered in these environments and are absolutely worth your time. Simply experiencing these adventures once can be the introduction to a long lifetime hobby which proves to stimulate you even further the better you get at it.

These tips can help imbue your holiday schedule with the variety it might sorely need. There’s a big world out there, and as a result, it’s important to experience as much as possible during your time in it. Be sure to have fun, and never let your adventurous spirit be tempered.

 *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.