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I have two friends traveling to Paris next month and after giving them both tips on places to stay and eat (of course), I also offered them some tips to save money on credit card usage, cell phones/data usage overseas, and cautionary advice to keep their possessions safe. I’m passing on the information here because I think anyone who reads this blog probably loves to travel (as well as eat) so keep these links and info handy for your next trip:)

Before you leave, you may want to get a chip & PIN credit card (I got one from Bank of America) because many places like train stations and gas stations will not accept a US credit card for payment without a chip. If you are carrying enough cash to cover most transactions and want to only use a credit card for bigger purchases, then get a credit card which doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees before you leave. The fees could amount to 3% OVER the purchase price! Make sure your cards (and passport) are always carried in an RFID safe wallet or simply wrap some foil around them.

Before you can use any of the SIM card options, you must have an unlocked phone, so either go to your cell provider and have them unlock it or buy/borrow an unlocked phone for travel. For cell phones and data, there are two providers of international phones/SIM cards/data plans which I would recommend if traveling to France (or several other countries). Le French Mobile was created in UK for students studying in France so their rates are substantially lower (starting at 20 Euros) than regular retail and their entire website is in English (recommended for longer stays). For most tourists from the US, Telestial has higher rates (about $50 USD) but easy options. If you are able or willing to translate the website info, the local French provider SFR has options for calls, texts, and data on prepaid plans and Simyo has deeply discounted rates (although I can’t vouch for their service).

Since many people are taking their phones and tablets/laptops with them, it’s helpful to have some applications installed in case they get stolen. I recently received a Nexus 7 for Christmas from the generous @John8600 and installed AVG which protects against viruses and theft for free on Android devices. If you have an iPad or iPhone, and plan on taking it with you on a trip, you might want to install an application like gadgettrak.com for $19.95 a year (for phones) or lojackforlaptops.com $19.99 year (for laptops). It gave me peace of mind to know I could remotely lock, erase, track my device, and give the location of my stolen device to local law enforcement!

No matter where you travel, keep copies of your passport, tickets and credit cards somewhere (I have scanned mine and emailed them to myself) because it is always better to be prepared for the worst while expecting the best 🙂

Good deals don’t last very long, and today is your last day to book a trip to Mammoth Mountain from LAX through Horizon Air for only $39 for a flight (each way) and $39 for a room (based on double occupancy)! The small print says that you must book your flight first to get the room rate, you need to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday with a 14 day advance purchase and these prices are not available November 20-30, October 4-10, or October 14-17. But those are all the rules and you can book at this rate through December 15, so take a trip and say cheers (beer and wine on Horizon Air is free)!

If snow and mountains aren’t your idea of a vacation, then you might want to book at Club Med. They have September and October departures (including Labor Day Week-end) starting at $399 for 3-7 nights with no single supplement fee, a reduced upgrade fee on room categories, and free excursion and massage when you book a suite or deluxe room. All these extras are based on availability and today is the last day to book, so get online or on the phone and say “WOW” (that is what they are calling the sale)!

Now that flights are going in and out of Europe again, Air Tahiti Nui is having a sale to get people to travel to Paris again.

Springtime in Paris is nice, but if you can’t make travel short notice or prefer to go in the Fall, you can use code FLYATN1 to save $100 for Economy class tickets or save $400 by using code FLYATN2 for Business class tickets. The codes are only valid for online bookings made through June 6 for travel between May 15th to July 15 or October 1 to November 15, 2010.

If you want to cruise the South Pacific, Paul Gauguin Cruises through the islands of Tahiti, then on to Rarotonga and Auckland. This cruise line was named one of the top three small luxury cruise ships by Conde Nast travelers in 2009, so getting this kind of quality for up to 45% off plus 2 for 1 airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete, makes this even more tempting. Just book by June 30, 2010.

Bon voyage no matter how or where you are going.

So many of us are addicted to being online that when we either lose access or must pay some exorbitant fee to get access, we react as if we can’t get our daily drug fix. One of my friends figured out she spent several hundred dollars a month in access fees in airports and hotels, so she bought a USB WiFi card. Unfortunately, she soon found that it only works intermittently with a weak signal in far too many places.

Since I will be traveling overseas, the USB card solution does not work for me, instead I am signing up for Boingo which allows me to access multiple strong connections worldwide for as little as $7.95 a month (for mobile phones) or $9.95 (for laptops) in the Americas. With over 125,000 hotspots, there is bound to be one nearby.

A subscription to Boingo allows you to use the airport or hotel connections you would probably end up paying for, but for a flat one time fee. One example is that you get access to the Marriott Wifi (and other international hotel chains) for the subscription, but instead of paying $20 a DAY for using it, you pay $9.95 a MONTH. And the monthly subscription allows you to use it in any of the hotspot locations they have in their system, including Starbucks cafes.

I checked and they have several locations even in tiny villages in France and in Athens, so their coverage will fit my needs perfectly for a great low price. You may cancel the subscription at any time, so there is no contract to tie you in at the low rate, unlike the USB WiFi cards. My friend is going to Boingo as soon as her contract expires and she will save $50 a month when she does; she is chalking up her expensive contract as the cost of learning a life lesson.

If you still haven’t planned a summer vacation yet, you might want to consider this deal from Travel Zoo which gives you 6 nights in a 1 bedroom suite in Aruba for $629 including airfare from LAX! Price does not include airfare taxes, fees or transfers, but it is still about 40% off the regular price for the three star Aruban Resort.

Just travel between May 1- June 7, or for $60 more, from June 8 – August 30, 2010. The units all include a patio or balcony, dining area, and a kitchenette with a stove, microwave and refrigerator. the resort is across from Eagle Beach, a top rated Travel & Leisure beach destination, and the resort sports two lagoon pools, poolside grill, water slides, and a fitness facility.

Click on this link of call Travelzoo and give them code ARUBA100 by April 23, 2010.

Some days I have a hard time finding anything to write about, but today have have three deals too good to choose from, so I am going to post all three.

For those of you planning a vacation to the Caribbean, there is a 99 hour sale from Cheap Caribbean for up to 60% off all inclusive resorts like the four star NH Real Arena Punta Cana for $59 per person per night. The deals are good until midnight Monday EST and the first 99 reservations can use the promo codes to get an even better deal (I just checked on availability and there are 88 bookings left as of right now).

For those of you who want to buy new workout pants to replace your old ones, Lucy can help you do both and save you some money. This deal is good until the end of the month, so do your spring cleaning and replenish your closet with new clothes by bringing in your old work out pants to your local store and they will give you $10 off a new pair. I always donate my old clothes when I buy new ones so that my closets never overflow, so this deal allows you to do both in one stop.

And finally for those of you you love sushi, head to Zip Fusion Downtown. They are celebrating their eight year anniversary all month by offering all you can eat sushi for $14.95 per person is you order a drink and sit at the sushi bar. This is not your conveyor belt fast food sushi, Zip actually serves quality fish in a nice atmosphere, so rest assured that you will not regret taking advantage of this deal.

As airlines are charging more and more for checked baggage, and as security screenings get stricter and stricter, it would be nice to have an alternative for getting what you want to have to your destination. There are of course the services that will ship your bags and I mentioned in a previous post, and you always have options like Fedex and UPS, but if you don’t want the expense of shipping all your bags but still want to avoid the hassles of figuring out what size and quantity of toiletries are permissible, Suite Arrival has a solution for you.

Three days or more before your departure, pick out your favorite shampoo, toothpaste, contact solution, razor, suntan lotion, baby lotion, and even tampons or condoms. Suite arrival will ship your choices to your hotel so they will be waiting for you upon arrival when you need them, saving you the time and energy of shopping, packing, and getting stopped by airport security for taking a container that is over the limit size for liquids. Prices are very reasonable, you will pay less than at the hotel sundry shop, and you will get the brands you prefer. If you are traveling in a group, place your order total $50 or more and they will ship for free.

It’s nice to know that you can get a suite deal even if you are staying in a hotel room.

Got $5? For that fiver, people are willing to design a logo for you, Photoshop you into a location picture of your choice, say your name and play a song on a radio station in NM, or go clubbing with you in Copenhagen. Listings range from the practical, like migrating a blog or designing a business card, to offers for fun, like teaching you how to perform fixed gear bike tricks. If you have a talent, skill, or want to make $5, you can make your offer public at Fiverr, and you could use what you make to pay for someone to sing a song for you, or save your fivers and get some apples.

Got $599? Apple Vacations is having a sale on 7 night all inclusive vacations in Mexico including airfare for that amount, which works out to $85.57 per night, for airfare, accommodations, all meals, drinks, entertainment and tips. Even the top rated 5 golden apple resorts are only $1600 or $228.57 per person per day from Los Angeles, which is less than most 5 star hotels here cost just for a room for a night. It actually would be cheaper to go to Cancun for a week than to stay in town on in a nice hotel, so what are you waiting for?

Since my trip to visit my friend in NYC was canceled, I’m looking for somewhere else to go before the end of this year. One of my friends suggest Northern California and some wine tasting now that the crowds are leaving. The nice thing about going after the prime Fall season is the vineyards should be practically empty and there will be no wait for tours or tastings. Of course the other benefit is the drop in rates at places like the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country which has a rate of only $89 a night through Travelzoo from October 25-February 28, and this rate includes week-ends but excludes Oct 30-Nov 7, 1009. The rate includes coupons for free tastings, free parking at the hotel, and access to the hotel’s fitness and business centers.

Another option is going South to the Fairmont in Newport Beach with a Perfect Escapes deals starting at $96 a night if you book by October 22, 2009. This rate includes early check in and late check out and is good for stays through April 15, 2010. With courtesy shuttle to Fashion Island and Balboa Island, this is a great spot for shopping and eating not far from home, but far enough to live like a tourist.

And finally C & H International is having a sale to the Far East with round trip flights from LAX to Hong Kong for $370, Bangkok for $343, or Singapore for $460. The only fine print is that these rates don’t include taxes or fees, minimum stay is 6 days and maximum is 90 days, and Fri-Sun departures are slightly higher ($30-40). Fares are nonrefundable once travel starts and other cities and destinations are available, so contact them if you want to meet a friend in Asia for a vacation who lives in Atlanta, Boston, or Dallas.

So I ask again, North, South, or East?

The Marquis Los Cabos is one of those resorts that can boast about providing the double benefits of being both green and generous. Not only is this luxurious resort, with a 15,000 square foot holistic spa & fitness center, and three restaurants on site, offering discounts for a fourth or seventh night free, but it is conscious about energy use; they use candlelight instead of electricity at night! Their local economy consciousness extends to the uniforms being made in Mexico City, and since they opened in 2003, they have provided a free university (free includes all books as well as classes) to their employees. They give back 5% of their annual revenue to their employees in health and educational benefits. All this for about $240 a night.

If you would like to make your own green fuel with leftover waste at home, then check out the E-Fuel MicroFueler. All you do is feed it leftover beer, wine, or other waste like lawn clippings, dairy products, or rotten apples, and you can make your own ethanol for about $2 a gallon. The only by-product in the process is water. The fuel can also be used for a home generator, and with a $5,000 federal tax credit, Greenhouse estimates cost payback for a household is approximately 2 years.

As Kermit would say, “It’s good to be green.”

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