Ultimate Guide to Travelling with your dog.

Traveling with your dog is not something you should take lightly (there’s plenty that can go wrong and tons of stuff to remember), but sometimes you just want to take a trip with your best furry friend. That’s why we’re creating the ultimate guide to traveling with your dog – so you’ll know exactly what you need!  From the great people at HerePup.com comes an essential guide to travelling with your dog.

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THINGS TO PACK

Just as you have a list of essential items to pack when you leave town, Fido does too. With these things, success is all but guaranteed. Without them – well, let’s just say it’s better not to forget them. Fido certainly won’t let you live it down. Here’s a list to start with:

  • Medical records, including health certificates and proof of rabies vaccination
  • Any medications your dogs takes regularly
  • Contact info for your regular veterinarian
  • Comb or brush and flea control products
  • Pet wipes and other grooming products
  • Pet stain/odor remover and rag or paper towels
  • Dog food and dog treats for the entire trip
  • Bottled water (to help settle an upset stomach)
  • Food and water dishes
  • Leash, pooper scooper and waste bags
  • Spare collar with an ID tag
  • Your dog’s favorite toy and blanket
  • A list of dog-friendly attractions, accommodations and restaurants
  • A second ID tag that includes the address and phone number of where you’ll be staying
  • A first aid kit for your dog

TRAVELING BY PLANE

Traveling by plane is quick and easy for humans, so it’s natural to assume it works well for pets too. The truth is that air travel is not safe for pets, according to the Humane Society. They recommend that you only transport a pet by air as a last resort or if it’s necessary.

Air travel is especially dangerous for animals with “pushed in” faces such as bulldogs or pugs. Their short nasal passages leave them more vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke.

Advanced Arrangements

Call the airline directly to make your reservation if you want to bring your dog. Confirm there is space available for your furry friend before you book your seat – some airlines only allow a couple of pets per flight.

It also doesn’t hurt to call the airline again a day or two before departure to reconfirm you are bringing a pet.

Prepare your dog for his trip by putting him in his carrier as often as possible for trips around town – this will lessen the stress on your pet on the big travel day.

The Day of Your Flight

Our pup’s sage advice…

  • The USDA requires that your dog has been offered food and water within four hours before you check in. Aim for right at four hours so he doesn’t end up with an uncomfortably full stomach during the flight.
  •  Do give him water up to travel time and leave food and water dishes in the crate if you are checking your dog.
  • Exercise your pooch before you go to the airport and carry a leash so you can walk him while you wait for flights. Don’t arrive too early – you can’t check your dog in more than four hours before your flight.

Pet Carriers

Most pet carriers are made of hard plastic with holes for ventilation. The carrier must be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably.Make sure the carrier has a solid, leak-proof floor covered with some sort of absorbent lining. Carriers should be well ventilated, include a handle and contain empty food and water dishes so airline employees can feed your dog if necessary.

Mark the carrier with your pet’s name and an identification tag with your home address and phone number and the number of someone who can be reached at your destination. You should also mark “Live Animal” on the top and sides of the carrier, with arrows showing the right direction to orient the cake.

Kennels are allowed to contain one adult dog or two weaned puppies. The USDA requires that your pet be at least eight weeks old, fully weaned and in good health before traveling.

Airline Guidelines

Every airline has different policies about transporting dogs. Some allow dogs in the cabin as part of your carry-on luggage while others only allow dogs in the cargo era. Some have no fees, and some charge more than $500. Here are links to several individual airline policies on this topic:

 

Guidelines for Popular  Airlines
American Airlines Air Canada China Southern Airlines
Delta Airlines WestJet Air France
United Airlines Lufthansa Emirates
U.S. Airways Southwest Airlines

Safety Tips

A few more recommendations can make flying with your dog safer:

  • Do not give you dog a sedative or tranquilizer; this can affect their natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium
  • Make sure your dog’s nails have been clipped to keep them from getting caught anywhere.
  • Book direct flights if possible; you’ll reduce your risk of mishaps and make the experience less stressful for your pup overall.
  • When you board, notify the captain and a flight attendant than you have a pet in the cabin or the cargo area. They’ll sometimes take special precautions.
  • Most airlines will also not let your dog travel in the cargo area if outdoor temperatures are too high or too low. If you’re traveling during extreme temperatures, minimize risk by choosing early morning or late evening flights during the summer and afternoon flights during the winter.
  • Try not to fly with your dog during busy travel times, such as the holidays; flights are much more likely to be rough and bumpy with airline staff are hurried.
  • When you arrive at your destination, open your carrier as soon as possible to examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, contact a veterinarian immediately.

Don’t be afraid to speak up if you see your dog (or someone else’s) being mistreated by an airline employee. Ask to speak to a manager and report the incident both verbally and in writing.

TRAVELING BY CAR

Traveling with your canine companion by car instead of a plane offers much more flexibility over shorter distances, but you must also be aware of several concerns as well. There are many details to think through as you prepare.

Prepare For the Trip

Consider microchipping your dog before you leave home. During this painless process, a veterinarian inserts a chip containing all identification information under your dog’s skin. Also make sure your dog collar includes an ID tag with your cell phone number.

Our pup’s sage advice…

Pack a spill-proof water bowl, your dog’s normal food and any medications she takes. Don’t forget her favorite toys to play with, and think about long-lasting edible chews and good chew toys for the car ride. Check out hollow toys that you can stuff with your pooch’s favorite food – these can be lifesavers!

Have your vet do a checkup on your dog before you head out of town. Take a copy of a certificate verifying that the dog is healthy, able to travel and up-to-date on all vaccinations.

Safety Tips

Make sure your dog is securely confined or fastened during a car trip. An unrestrained dog that can travel freely around the car could easily cause an accident by distracting you or even by getting tangled in the pedals.

Never put your pooch in the front seat – if the airbags deploy, they could seriously injure your friend. Seat belts alone may restrain your dog, but they have never been reliably shown to protect your dog if you should have an accident. The safest and best method of transport is to place your dog in a roomy carrier which you can secure with a seat belt or some other means.

 

Stop frequently to allow your dog to exercise and go to the bathroom. Keep him on a leash at all times. If your dog does not eliminate on command, take some time before you leave to teach him to respond to a verbal cue to eliminate.

Dogs Who Don’t Like Car Rides

Whether your dog just plain doesn’t like being in the car, gets too excited at the thought of a car ride or can’t keep from getting sick at the motion of the car, a few strategies can help. Take advantage of these ideas; it’s no fun to have a barking, shaking, vomiting dog in the backseat during your “relaxing” vacation!

When you take your pup to the vet for a pre-trip checkup, ask about carsickness.Even if your dog doesn’t vomit, he may feel nauseated. Trembling, drooling or a hunched-over posture can be signs of this. Ask your vet about medications that can help relieve carsickness.

As precaution to prevent sickness, feed your dog early so she doesn’t eat in the few hours just before you leave. Make sure to exercise your dog early too, so she isn’t hot and thirsty in the car.

Our pup’s sage advice…

​If your dog is afraid of car rides, start with small doses a few weeks ahead of time. Feed your dog one meal a day in the car, with the car turned off. Gradually work up to short rides. Try ending your ride at a fun spot for dogs, like a dog park or a trail where they can run.

If your pooch gets too excited and barks or whines incessantly in the car, try a chew toy or some sort of snack. Also think about crate training your dog so she can rest comfortably in her crate, which will reduce the whining and barking.

Dogs and Car Rentals

If you need to rent a car to travel to your destination with your dog (or if you flew there and need transportation while you’re visiting), most major car rental companies do allow pets. Their policies usually say the vehicles must be returned clean and free of pet hair. Excessive pet hair or any soiling caused by your dog will result in an extra cleaning fee, so make sure you clean the car well before taking it back to the rental agency. You can find a list of major car rental company’s pet policies here.

FINDING DOG-FRIENDLY HOTELS

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The number of lodgings accepting companion animals is growing as hotels realize just how much many dogs mean to their owners.

There are many great resources to help you find pet-friendly hotels where you will be traveling, although you’ll have to do your research ahead of time. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the night looking for a hotel that will finally take your furry friend.

Some hotels just allow dogs to stay, while others really roll out the red carpet as they welcome furry guests. Again, do your research to find out what kind of experience your pooch will have at the hotel you’re considering.

Hotel Policies

A greater number of hotels are going to a no-extra-charge for pets approach, and most of these hotels include dogs in that policy.

Many hotels, however, still do charge. These fees can vary widely depending on number of pets, size, weight limit and more, so call ahead to find out exactly what you’ll be expected to pay.

Fees range from a nominal daily charge to large damage deposits to flat fees. Once you have a figure, it never hurts to double check before you leave on your trip.

Where to Stay

Kimpton Hotels. 12 of their properties have a Director of Pet Relations (a canine ambassador). No fees or weight limits. Includes gourmet room and service and doga (doggy yoga). More info here.

Loews Hotels. A welcome package and special pet services are included. They have partnered with a vet service to offer free exams. Pets cost $25 per stay, no weight limit.More info here.

Ritz Carlton. The traditional luxury hotel isn’t just for humans anymore. Pet pampering includes Burberry raincoats, certified canine massage therapists and canine room service. Not all hotels accept pets, but those that do charge between $125 and $250. (Dogs should be between 10 and 25 pounds.) More info here (as one example).

Four Seasons. Not all of their hotels accept pets, but those that do usually don’t charge while offering a luxury experience, including doggie beds. Concierges will help you out as well. More info here.

Hotel Indigo. All hotels are pet-friendly. Fees and weight limits vary, but expect amenities like treats and water bowls. More info here.

Best Western. More than 1,600 hotels accommodate pets. They allow two dogs in each room. Maximum charge of $20 per day, with a maximum weekly charge of $100. More info here.

Red Roof Inn. 360 pet-friendly hotels, with no nightly fee or deposit. There’s no fancy room service, but they will welcome you with open arms. More info here.

Here’s a great roundup of policies from still more hotel chains by Trips With Pets.

GENERAL HOTEL AND SAFETY TIPS

Check the hotel’s surroundings before you book. Many chain hotels are located in busy areas with lots of streets and concrete around and not much green space for your dog to stretch his legs.

Call the hotel’s front desk to ask if your dog will have room to roam. Also, ask about the safety and the noise level of the area.

Ask about extra pet services, especially if you’re likely to leave your dog in the hotel during some of your excursions. Some hotels offer special beds and treats, dog-sitting, and even a doggie spa. Ask around before you decide where to stay.

Ask for a ground-floor room. This makes potty breaks easier, especially in the middle of the night. Also beware of so-called “pet rooms.” These are often just smoking rooms or older, run-down rooms. Make sure to ask about this when you book your room.

All-suite hotels are great options for dog owners, especially if you’ll be there for longer than a couple of days. The extra space will make it feel that much more like home, especially for Fido.

Put your dog in a crate or carrier if you have to leave her in the room alone. This is for her safety as well as the safety of the hotel employees. If you cannot use a carrier, hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your doorknob to discourage anyone from entering. Some hotels may not let you leave your dog alone even in a crate.

Deal immediately with any damage your dog causes. Call the manager right away to explain what happened – don’t wait until checkout.

Where to Find Pooch-Friendly Hotels

Plenty of options exist to find the best dog-friendly hotels in the area where you’ll be traveling. Below are a few of the easiest to use:

Bringfido.com. Info on dog-friendly lodging, restaurants, events and more. You can speak with a pet-friendly travel expert.

Fidofriendly.com. Includes a nationwide database of hotels, bed and breakfasts, rentals, inns, daycare, boutiques, pet sitters and more.

Petfriendlytravel.com. Includes pet-friendly vacation rentals, hotels, beaches, campgrounds, restaurants and bars, airports, shopping malls, dog parks and more.

OfficialPetHotels.com. Search more than 10,000 hotels in 35 cities.

PetsWelcome.com. Search by larger dog-friendly hotels, or by route. Includes international options.

DogFriendly.com. Includes lists to help you plan, including the best off-leash parks.

GENERAL TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS

 

If you’re staying at a hotel, check your hotel room for anything that might pose a danger to your dog. Hide away any loose wires, ensure all windows and doors are closed and locked, and make sure everything is in its place. It’s a good idea to make your dog sit by the door while you check all these things and move around the room. Leaving your scent all over the room will help your dog settle in more quickly.

One tip if you’re traveling internationally: research the culture of the country you will be visiting. Learn how they view dogs, where your dog will be welcome and resources if your dog needs help.

ALTERNATIVES: SHELTERS, SITTERS & DOGGY HOTELS

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Before you decide to take your dog on a trip with you, think about whether or not it’s the best option. Will your furry friend stay with you most of the time or will he mostly stay in a crate in a hotel room while you’re out seeing the sights? If so, you may want to leave him home.

Or, if your dog is prone to motion sickness or gets emotionally or mentally upset when her routine is changed, she might be better off to stay home. If your dog is sick, injured or pregnant, the decision is even more obvious – leave your dog at home.

If you decide to leave her home, she obviously can’t stay by herself. Here’s a look at a few alternatives:

Temporary Shelters

You may be able to find a temporary boarding situation for your dog while you are gone. These shelters range from basic accommodations to upscale luxury suites for your dog.

Do your research, get recommendations from friends and make preliminary visits to any options you find. Trust your senses when you’re there and make sure the areas where your dog will be are secure and well-kept.

The pet store PetSmart also offers boarding options with their PetsHotel program. Just visit their website to find a facility near you and determine the level of care you desire for your dog.

Dog Sitters

Dog Sitters offer a great alternative for dog care that is likely cheaper than boarding your dog. If a trusted neighbor, friend or relative is willing to come to your house to check on your dog each day, provide fresh food and water, and take him for a walk, it can offer a nice peace of mind.

If a sitter would rather keep your dog at their home, make sure you’re comfortable with the situation and take your pooch for a few visits before dropping him off while you’re gone.

If you like the idea of a dog sitter, but don’t have any good options, try dogvacay.com. This professional service will locate a pre-screened sitter near you. You’re guaranteed personal attention, no cages, and daily photo updates.

Doggy Spa/Hotel

If you want nothing but the best for your canine companion while you’re away – and you can pay for it – consider a luxury dog spa or dog hotel. Again, your vet may be able to direct you to any options like this in your area.

Facebook and Google can also provide you with area recommendations. If you happen to live near any of these luxury pet resorts, you’re in luck and your pets will thank you forever.

MORE INFOMATION

Here are a few more miscellaneous things to remember as you bring your furry friend along on your next family vacation.

Keep a Routine

Dogs thrive when they are settled in a comfortable routine. This is difficult when traveling, but try to give your dog regular walks and playtime. Make sure he always has fresh water and food. Try to keep the food the same as he gets at home – if you have to change it, do so gradually. Don’t forget to wash his bowls daily.

Emergencies

It’s a good idea to look ahead of time for emergency animal clinics close to wherever you’ll be during your trip. If an incident does occur, you’ll be a step closer (and quicker) to getting your dog the help she needs if you already have an idea where to go.

Towels

Yes, towels. If your dog likes activity and will be outdoors quite a bit, bring plenty of towels. Dogs usually need some help wiping their feet off, and the ability to keep them from tracking mud and dirt into your hotel room or rental car could save you a hefty cleaning fee.

Be Responsible

If you’re going on an outdoorsy adventure, here’s a great guide for minimizing your environmental impact and being respectful of the place you’re staying.

Have Fun!

For many Americans, their dog is a vital part of their family and they cannot imagine leaving their canine companion at home during a fun, relaxing family vacation. While it might require a little extra preparation and work, it’s entirely possible to bring your dog along to join in on the fun. Many hotels and businesses have intentionally made their facilities pet-friendly to provide great customer service, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of their offers. Your dog will appreciate the effort you make, and you’ll enjoy having one of your favorite friends along.

Happy Travels!

To see this original post, and for more click HERE!

 

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Journaling & Mindfulness while Travelling

 

Journaling. Some find it a scary word.  It might reminds you of those boring classes in high school when you were asked to journal your thoughts while reading a novel. Eek!  It may sound like self-help nonsense, but research actually suggests the effects are real in creating a happier, more mindful you! Not to mention when every single person asks you at work how your trip was, you can elaborate more than “it was great. saw this, this, and this”, because you will actually remember what you did, saw, and how you felt about it!

There’s a strong connection between happiness and mindfulness. Writing in a journal brings you into that state of mindfulness; past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge in the present moment.  It calls a wandering mind to attention, from passivity to actively engaging with your thoughts. There’s also a unique relationship between the hand and brain, sparked by the composition of thoughts and ideas. Words are representations of ideas;  writing these ideas out causes the mind to compose or re-compose ideas while journaling. This strengthens previously covered information and forces you to engage in the material you’re writing about and aids in cognitive recall.*

While traveling, I try to journal every day as I find that reflecting on my past day makes me appreciate each moment just that much more. Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Take 2-5 minutes to reflect and do a step by step through your day. Find a quiet area, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and run through your whole day. All of it.  The good, the bad, the weird, & the fun.

Date:
City:
Travelling with: (this one is awesome when you’re busy meeting a ton of new people. Get their name, and contact info!!!! Believe me, you’ll thank me for it in the future – I’ve met people while travelling and have stayed with them in their home country. Visiting a country and having a home-stay is the best way to experience a new culture!)

Things to think of while reflecting on your day:

General
– What did I see today?
– What was my favorite thing I saw today?
–>Why was it my favorite?
– What was my least favorite thing I saw today(if any)?
–>Why didn’t I enjoy this part of my day?
– If I were to wake up again today, what would I have done differently?
– 1 thing I’m thankful for today:
–> If this has something to do with another person, have I told them?
– I made an impact on someone else’s today by:

Finances (it’s nice to write this down as it gives you a visual of what you’re actually spending. Doesn’t need to be down to the cent, but a general idea of how much you’re spending every day is always a good idea).
– How much did I spend today?
–> on what?
– Am I over/under my daily budget? By how much?
– Am I over/under my trip budget? By how much?

Tomorrow
– Things to remember tomorrow:
– Plans for tomorrow:
– Goal for tomorrow:

Personal/Goals (will obviously be different for everyone.. these are mine!)
– Did I meet someone new today?
–> Who? How? Anything interesting I learned? Contact info!
– Did I give gratitude to someone today?
– Did I achieve my goal I had set yesterday?

These questions are meant to make you introspect your day, feelings, thoughts, and aid in writing your journal. You don’t need to spend an hour writing, however taking 15 min/night reflecting on your day will help you become happier, more mindful and will help you recall your travels.  No matter how amazing your day was today, your goal should always be to go make tomorrow even better.

F.F. ❤

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*Think Better, Live Better Thia Nguyen- TheUtopianLife.com

Guide to the beautiful island of Santorini

Where To Stay:

Greece

  • Fira – in the action. restaurants, shops, nightlife.
  • Oia – is your spot if your are seeking breath taking views and nice dinners overlooking the sunset. It is filled with many places to shop and tiny restaurants overlooking the water. Oia can get VERY crowded during high season. (*Remember most of Oia is accessible only by foot. If you have mobility issues, or pack 5 suitcases, this might be a challenge for you).
  • Imerovigli – quiet and romantic area. Less crowded the Oia, but with great views!
  • Perissa & Kamari Beach – Nice area for a beach getaway. Only about a 20 minute drive to both Fira and Oia. Lots of authentic family owned Greek hotels and restaurants.
  • My Choice: Depending on what you are going to Santorini for, I would highly recommend staying on the beach somewhere. The people and atmosphere are amazing, and there is always something to do. Rent a vehicle and head up to Thira or Oia for dinner. (Best of both worlds!!) Hotels on the beach are a little bit more cost effective, and who doesn’t like jumping out of bed onto a beautiful beach into the Mediterranean.

Views:

   Imerovigli

  • Known to have beautiful views of both the sunset and caldera (the volcano island across from Santorini)

  Fira

  • Firas views of the sunset are obstructed by smaller islands,however it has great views of the caldera and ocean. The sunset still glistens along the water, and it is a lively place to visit in the evenings.

  Oia

  • The views from Oia are generally the most sought after. If you head to the northwest side of Oia, here you will get the best view of an unobstructed sunset, however it is important to arrive about an hour early as the maze of walk ways get VERY crowded. You could opt for dinner here, however be aware this WILL cost you a more than average.

What to do in Santorini

  1. Go on a boat tour of the volcano and nearby islands..
  2. Do the hike from Fira to Oia along the caldera. (Bring good walking shoes)
  3. Visit the beach!
  4. Watch the sunset from Oia.

Beaches in Santorini 

Red Beach

The red beach is a beautiful beach that is made up of red and black pebbles. It is a little bit of a  hike from the parking lot, so I definitely recommend walking shoes.  It’s not accessible by bus only your own transportation or  by a water taxi from Kamari Beach.

Kamari Beach

Kamari Beach is the famous beach resort area of Santorini. Tons of small family owned hotels, restaurants, night clubs, and shops. It’s a black sand beach and has beach rentals for approx 6-20Euro (depending on low/high season). Because its such a busy beach, you’ll find all of your water sports, and diving shops here as well. You can also take a water taxi from Kamari Beach over to the red beach!

Perissa Beach

Perissa Beach is a busy beach in the high summer season with its beautiful black sand. It is well organized with restaurants and hotels lining the beach. Beach rentals are similar to Kamari (6-20Euro).

Agios Georgios Beach

Agios Georgios is a Tourist friendly and famous black sand beach that attracts large crowds in the summer. The beach is lined with restaurants and taverns and there are a ton of hotels in this area as well. (You can usually use the restaurant beach chairs if you eat lunch/dinner there!). There are also a ton of activities to do around here both in and out of the water. Shop, jet ski, scuba, book excursions. Great place to visit with the family.

Other tips for Santorini

  • Book early – hotels are small and therefor they fill up fast! Make sure to book well in advance.
  • Book excursions there.There are so many, and doing a little shopping will let you find the exact one you want at a good price.
  • Rent an ATV moped or car! The island is so small that almost everyone rents either an ATV or car.To get around from one side of the island to the other is only about 30 minutes, however Santorini has many hills/mountains. I saw a ton of moped and ATV accidents as people aren’t used to driving these types of vehicles.  If you are not comfortable on an ATV I would opt for a car. ATV’s run at about 30-40Euro a day(+gas), and cars are about 60Euro. (Much lower prices if you book consecutive days).

Travelling & Protein on the go

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Let’s face it, travelling and dieting is hard. Really hard. We’re not all sponsored, or have the cash flow to buy pre-made meals everywhere we go.  But when trying to get your protein in, the chance of cooking up a chicken breast on the go is nearly impossible. Snacks rich in protein can help curb hunger and ensure you get this essential nutrient into your daily diet. Protein is a slow digesting nutrient that keeps your blood sugar steady allowing you to feel full for a longer period of time.

 

Here are my top ways to make sure you eat enough protein while travelling!

The No-Brainers
1) Bring protein bars with. Quest bars and Cliff protein bars are simple to throw in ur bag ans eat in a hurry. (Or make them at home!)
2) Bring protein powder with you. Ask around at your favorite supplement store for packs of protein to try! You can also easily scoop your favorite protein (and other supplements if needed), into small plastic zipper bags like Ziplocks. I recommend putting them in a larger bag in case something punctures one of the Bags in your luggage and to keep them together. (I did this in Europe this past summer and it was so handy to have shakes on the go!)

Other high protein ideas
3) Find a grocery store and load up on easy “on the go” high protein snacks like

  • Jerky (low sodium) or Sausage (Turkey or chicken for lower fat contents!)
  • Greek Yogurt (0℅ and plain if you’re trying to keep on diet. Add in a few berries for natural sugars).
  • Cottage cheese (or if your in Europe try Quark! In Asia try Tofu products!)
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, peanuts are the highest in protein)
  • Cheese (go easy on this though.. high in fat)
  • Pasteurized egg whites
  • Milk
  • Peanut Butter
  • Canned Tuna

4) Breakfast Buffets – most buffets offer eggs! Easy way to get a good amount of protein early in the morning. Try to grab soft/hard boiled or poached eggs to avoid extra oil and butter that are traditionally used in scrambled and fried eggs.

 

If you have any other great ideas, lets hear them!!! Comment below 🙂

The Ultimate Guide to Tax Free Shopping in Europe

 The Ultimate Guide to Tax Free Shopping in Europe! 

milano

Every day tourists visiting Europe leave behind millions of dollars of refundable sales tax. Some are unaware, some forget in the heat of those brand new shoes sitting on the register, and some find the headache of filing the forms to much for the return they’re getting.  In all those cases, the government is laughing as you’ve paid the upwards of 15-27% tax in a country where you don’t even reside in!! You wont get the full VAT back, but the majority will be returned to you if you take a little extra time to fill out a form.

What is VAT (Value Added tax) or also GST (General Sales Tax): 

In it’s simplest form, VAT or GST is a sales tax collected by the government that is applied to goods and/or services bought by a consumer.  The standard European-Union value added taxes range from 17-27%. Here are the exact %’s per country. (*Center for Retail research )

27% – Hungary

25% – Denmark/Sweden/Norway

24% – Finland

23% – Greece, Ireland, Poland, Portugal

22% – Italy

21% – Belgium, Czech Republic, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands

20% – Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Austria, UK

19% – Germany

17% – Luxembourg

Bring along your passport – You will likely be asked to present your passport to indicate that you live in a foreign country outside of the EU.

Check for minimums – Each country has a minimum amount that needs to be spent before retailers are able to issue you a tax free form. These vary between countries and it’s best to ask at the store. They usually range from a minimum of 25-75 Euro spent.

What stores can you shop in..

In store windows and on cash registers you will be able to find signs for “tax free shopping” or the Global Blue label. Most larger retailers take part in the VAT refund program as it draws in tourists dollars.  When paying for your purchase, ask the staff for a Tax Free form. They will print out the necessary receipt, possibly ask for your passport, and fill out the needed information on the form. Hold onto this form until you leave the country.

Redeem: At the Airport 

Before you check in for your flight, go to the customs desk and present your completed Tax Free Form, passport, receipts and purchases. These are often little offices that are tucked away. They sometimes need a little extra time to find, so account this into your pre-arrival timing. The customs agent there will ensure your forms are completed properly and will then put a stamp on your form. Please ensure all forms are filled out correctly BEFORE seeing the agent… they aren’t the happiest when you pull out 20 receipts and they are all done incorrectly. Forms from multiple countries are accepted.  Make sure the goods you purchased are unused and don’t pack them away in your check-in luggage as you may be asked to show the Customs Officers some of your purchases.

Once you have your forms stamped, check in for your flight, head through security, and find the tax free booth, or global Blue kiosk. There you will hand in your forms and they will issue you your refund right there in either cash (you can choose the currency), or back onto your visa.

Redeem: At the city Refund Point 

Present all forms, receipts, ID and Visa to agent. They will issue your refund here. *this is the best option if travelling between countries by driving or train.

Redeem: From Home 

If you’re in a rush you can send in the receipts once you get back to your home country, however forms will still need to be stamped by a customs agent in the country where you purchased them. This is a good option if once you get through airport security the refund line is to long and you might miss you flight. If it’s already all stamped, you can simply mail everything in once you’re home. (You will have to wait for the refund via mail if doing so this way). Photocopy the forms and receipts before mailing so you have a backup in case anything happens to them.

Seems like a bit of a hassle, but as someone who shops almost exclusively while overseas (why shop at home when you can find unique pieces at great prices worldwide!), I’ve never had any issues or felt like it took to much time to organize. An extra 2 minutes at the register saving you 15% of your purchase… YES PLEASE!

Need more resources?

– Premier Tax Free – http://premiertaxfree.com/ 

– Global Blue – http://www.globalblue.com/ 

RIU Santa Fe, Los Cabos, Mexico

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The RIU hotel chain does it right when it comes to an all inclusive experience. The RIU Santa Fe in Los Cabos has stunning ocean and arch views as well as a great beach, beautifully kept grounds, amazing service, and it’s only a short walk down the beach to the main harbour.

Why It’s amazing:

  • Rooms: Rooms are newly renovated with liquor dispensers in every room (vodka, rum, gin and rye as well as a few beers stocked in your fridge). Beds are doubles, however are pushed together to form a large king size bed. *Add in a blanket between the beds, to buffer the break in the beds.
  • Pool & Pool Entertainment: Can’t really get any better than an infinity pool that reaches out towards the arches of Cabo. There are constantly games happening in the pool including tequila volleyball, water polo, aqua-aerobics, cooperative games. Never a dull moment with the entertainment there. They pump music all day at the main pool at a good level. Loud enough to still enjoy it, but you can easily have a conversation with those around. There is a quieter pool in the back of the property if music and activities aren’t your idea of a relaxing vacation.
  • Beach: The beach is nicely kept, and very clean. The beach angles down towards the water, as the waves are pretty big and make their way up the sand.  The waves tend to get smaller as you walk down the beach towards the Marina, so for kids I would recommend moving down the beach a bit before getting into the water. *Los Cabos has quiet an undertow when it comes to the water. Please watch kids carefully as it is very easy to get your feet wiped out from underneath you.
  • Food: In general, Riu’s food is amazing! This property has 4 themed restaurants, and 2 large buffets. The restaurants you need to book in advance usually the day before, however it’s not hard to do this, and there is always room somewhere. They have a set menu where you have your choice of appetizers, soups and salads, entrees, and desserts. The buffet food is great aswell. There is always a large array of food options including themed nights for dinners. Tons of healthy options like freshly squeezed juices, large salad and fruit bar (<- This is where I live in vaca… fresh fruit down here is to die for!).
  • Drinks: I was pleasantly surprised by the drinks at the RIU Santa Fe! For premium liquor always ask as they have it underneath the counter. Feel free to bring your own thermos to have larger and cooler drinks. Drinks were strong, and you could always ask for a double (which was more like a triple) if you needed a little extra kick. It’s hard to find real mint at all inclusives, and the RIU always had fresh mint for mojitos! Ask for a sugarless raspberry mojito at the pool bars… they were easily my favorite drink there.
  • Location: The resort is one of the closest all inclusive to Los Cabos. It’s only a 20 minute walk down the beach to the main marina. I suggest only walking the beach when it’s still light out… was told numerous times that it was dangerous once the sun went down, instead opt for a Taxi back to the resort which should only be $12US.
  • Should you leave tips?! – The answer is always yes! Everyone from the maids ($2/day is average), the servers clearing space for you at the buffet ($2-5/meal for your group), the servers in the restaurants ($5-10), and the bartenders($1/round of drinks, or bring a $5-10 by every once in a while and they will love you!). It always frustrates me to see people who don’t tip at all at these type of resorts. Yes the resort says “tips are included”, but really… you just paid $1000-$2000 to go on vacation for a week, and these people are making roughly $5/day to give you the best vacation possible. In my books, anyone who is busting their buns for me is getting a tip – & you’ll get better service.. always nice to walk up to a packed bar and have the bartender serve you first.

Dream Downtown, NYC

 

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Had the pleasure of staying at a Dreams property in NYC and loved it so much!

Why its amazing:

  • LOCATION! – Chelsey market and high line are right around the corner and it’s only a short 5 minute walk to the meatpacking district. This area has a ton of trendy restaurants and bars (1 Oak is right down the street, TAO is right beneath as well!!).
  • Rooms – Despite being on the small side (every accommodation in NYC is…), sleek and modern furniture left the room feeling open and bright. Bed’s were incredibly comfortable, and a mini fridge, iron, and blow dryer were provided. The beautiful glassed in shower was a nice touch as well.
  • Service – Everything from the doorman to the front desk staff were amazing. Always super friendly and ready to help.
  • Rooftop patio and Nightclub. – PHD is Dream’s luxury nightclub. Having an open air roof top patio in NY is a beautiful thing, not to mention the skyline view of NYC is beautiful. Celebrities are frequent, food is delicious, drinks are strong and wet; doesn’t get much better!
  • Pool – Dream has a fantastic open air pool. The pool sits above the lobby, and has glass cutouts that open up into the roof of the main lobby. In the summer, cabanas line the exterior of the pool deck, and the set up proves to make a party type of atmosphere.

Dream Hotels Website 

Top 10 things to see and do in New York City.

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Here’s a Blonde Beyond approved top 10 list for highlights in NYC!

1.) Empire State Building at dusk
2.) Central Park
3.) Time Square
4.) Statue of Liberty
5.) Broadway (so many great shows! Really can’t go wrong with any of them!)
6.) 5th Avenue for shopping
7.) Rockefeller center (Christmas tree was still up!)
8.) Chelsea high line (stop in to the Chelsea market for lunch. The tacos there are amazing!)
9.) Meatpacking District for amazing eats and beats!
10.) Katz’s Delicatessen (Kosher Sandwiches that are among the best in NYC!)

Now that you have my top 10 list of NYC, here’s some extra tips to keep in mind.

Budget Eats – One night we headed out to Morimottos for sushi. Of course it was amazing, butttt that doesn’t mean you need to spend $150 on a sushi meal. NYC has great eats for any budget! We randomly walked into Eatly and had an amazing prosciutto and Buffalo mozzarella panini. It’s those random finds that are memorable and delicious, and don’t break your budget!

Empire State Building – this one was shared by a friend, and it’s simple. BUY A TICKET IN ADVANCE ONLINE HERE! (http://www.esbnyc.com/buy-tickets)
Sure, you could wait 4 hours in line… Orrrrr by the advance no wait tickets (yes it’s a tiny bit more expensive, but is 4 hours in line worth saving an extra $20, I definitely think so). Just tell the doorman that you purchased tickets online and they kept waving you through until you hit a small computer where you can print them out. You then get waived  past every line and it’s definitely worth it!

– Cheap Broadway Tickets – Check out the TKTS booth in TimeSquare, or if you have a longer time in NYC and can chance getting into a show or not, you can try the lottery process.  These tickets are the most heavily discounted, and you can see some amazing shows for great prices. Check out Playbill for more info!

– NYC is huge and there are a ton of areas that are great for their own reasons. Have a few “must see’s” while there, but make sure to take time to explore the city and find your own hidden gems.

Thanks for such an amazing trip S.Z. ❤

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2015 Resolutions

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I sat down 5 years ago at a lulu lemon interview and was asked to write out my 5 year plan. As I look at where I am today I realize that so many things have changed in my life. I was a bright eyed young adult in university and had the whole world at my hands. I could accomplish anything that I wanted to… But did I?! I am happy to say I hit the majority of points on that list. Played varsity soccer, got a degree (I now have 2!), traveled Europe with my girl Stella, bought a car. But there were some that didn’t even come into sight for me. Some of those were out of my control, others not.

I’ve realized that in order for my goals in my next 5 year plan to become reality, that I need to make resolutions that slowly gear my daily actions towards those life events. I’ve divided them into 7 sections, and have them written out in my room, office, and journal to keep me motivated on a daily basis.

With a bit of hesitation… here you go!

Mental/Emotional

  • Challenge myself to never stop learning – read books about self improvement, business, the world.
  • Journal everyday – Reflect on my day, good parts, parts that could have been better, why, how can I change these things.
  • Give Gratitude & thanks to those people in my life who support me and make me a better person.

Physical

  • Stay active every single day – run, run, run.
  • Run a half marathon summer 2015.
  • Start eating healthier.

Social

  • Meet someone new every week.
  • Continue gaining skills to inspire and energize myself and those around me.
  • Give someone random a complement. Every. Single. Day.

Career

  • Get a permanent teaching certificate and position.
  • Create high energy, fun, and meaningful lessons to impact the lives of my students.
  • Work a second job at least once a week and put that $$$ into savings.

Blonde Beyond

  • Post at least once a week.
  • Network with other blogs, and companies to form partnerships and potential business opportunities.
  • Launch a book (or a few) – stay tuned 🙂

Philanthropic

  • Buy a meal for a family in need every month.
  • Take part in a charity run.
  • Head to my first Charity Gala.

Other 

  • Travel to at least one new place every 2-3 months.
  • Check off a minimum of 3 travel bucket list stops this year.
  • Begin looking at new investment properties to buy towards the end of this year.

A Reflection of 2014.

This past year has been one of life changing events. Everything from the people I let go of, the people I met, career changes, and most importantly the change in my lifestyle and attitude.

 Here’s all  how it started:

2014 Resolution: Put myself first. I’ve spent a whole lot of time people pleasing. I am an extremely loyal friend, girlfriend, employee and would do everything and anything to ensure those around me are, and stay happy.  After a while I was noticing that although I was trying to keep the people around me happy, I wasn’t.  I was 24 and I wasn’t having fun with my friends, I was stressing about money and relationships and wasn’t living my life to it’s fullest potential. A few things led to this change:

  • I had to say goodbye to one of my biggest role models, My Opa. I realized that life is short, and you need to spend it with people that love you as much as you love them.
  • I had personal relationships that were falling apart.  It was devastatingly heartbreaking but I eventually decided that It was time to be my own hero.  I’m so happy that we are both now in better situations, and I wish him all the best.
  • I had met a group of friends that challenged my way of thinking and encouraged me to make positive life changes.  This became an existential part of who I am today.

 

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I spent the end of 2014 doing the things that I wanted to do: travelling, getting my scuba certification, spending time with friends and family, striking a few fun things off my bucket list, and loving where I was at and who I was with. Just when I thought I ended on a high note… I also met an amazing guy S.Z.  <3. Despite it being a year of heartbreaks, death, and big changes, I am incredibly happy of where I am, who I am, and what I am going to achieve this next year…!