Walking In a Winter Wonderland

Magic has arrived in Edmonton, where Hawrelak Park has been transformed into a scene straight out of Disney’s Frozen. Our very own ice castle has appeared, bringing even the most avid winter hibernators out into the wild. Icicles form an enchanting archway as you step into the castle, welcomed by the instrumental sounds of the Frozen theme song. People eagerly wait for their chance at sliding down the ice slide or to take a seat on the ice throne while the rest of us wander in and out of the paths, tall walls of ice on either side.

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Everywhere you look is another mind blowing display of artistry – hundreds upon hundreds of hand-crafted icicles put together to form the entire castle.

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Don’t forget to dress warm – it is an ice castle after all. Luckily, there’s a little spot for you to warm up your hands.

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… before exploring some more!

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I am SO happy that I turned around after walking out of the castle or else I might have missed this heart that had been carved into the ice.

If you’re in the area or ever have an opportunity to visit an ice castle, I highly recommend it! In the daytime, the ice, snow and winter sky creates a white on white on white appearance that is beautiful. But when darkness hits, the ice castle is flooded in beautiful lights – so a visit in the evening would be just as magical.

 

5 Packing Tips for the Over-Packer

My first trip of the year is coming up in exactly one week so you can bet I’ve been itching to pack for the last month! Unfortunately, I think there is such a thing as packing too early and have had to practice restraint. I made it until this past Thursday and couldn’t take it anymore – in a heart-racing frenzy I pulled out my summer clothes and the packing began!

If you’ve ever gone on a long trip or even a one week holiday, you’ll understand me when I say that packing is a skill that is best when practiced to perfection. While there is a huge difference in packing for a vacation and a six month backpacking trip through various climates, the following packing tips I’m about to share with you will be beneficial for either one:

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1. It all starts with LUGGAGE. You can’t begin to pack until you’ve decided on your luggage of choice. Backpack or suitcase? Hard case or soft? Wheels or no wheels? Dark, neutral colors are popular as they hide wear and tear and your case looking dirty – but have you ever been standing at the carousel watching dozens of the same black suitcase go ’round and ’round? It’s not fun. One trick from the trade is to purchase a unique color or pattern – especially if you’re going with a suitcase. If you just can’t let go of that black beauty you love, attach something bright to help you identify it when you need to.

2. COORDINATE your clothing. I can’t stress this enough! I never used to think up outfits prior to leaving and would just throw in random tops and bottoms. Sure, it’s faster, but more often than not you will end up with a bunch of clothes that never leave your suitcase. You end up wasting space and being upset that you can’t wear your favorite top because you haven’t any bottoms to match. Before tossing clothes in your luggage, create your outfits for your trip. Try them on and try to pick basics that can be worn with more than one item.

3. Roll, Baby, Roll. Rolling your clothes is the best way to create more space and helps reduce wrinkles. Lay your pieces flat and then roll ’em up nice and tight before placing them in your bag.

4. Bring the Basics. When it comes to toiletries, bring the basics. Solid shampoos and conditioners save a ton of space and weight in your bag, coconut oil can be multi-purpose lotion, makeup remover, cooking oil, etc., and you really don’t need your entire eye shadow collection. Embrace the minimalist look and stick to the necessities.

5. Like with Like. This can go two ways: you can either keep each type of clothing together (bottoms with bottoms, tops with tops, dresses with dresses, you get the idea) or you can pack according to outfit, keeping each outfit packed together. You can do this by laying out all the pants in one part of your bag, tops in another, or just by laying out each piece of an outfit together, then another, etc. OR you can opt for clothing organizers that will keep your things separated and allow you to grab what you need without your entire bag exploding in a heap of clothes.

Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

One of the trickiest places to start when wanting to travel on a budget is to figure out where to stay.  If you’re not careful, accommodation can become the most expensive part of your trip – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Tried and tested by generations of travelers, the following resources cater to every travel personality and have proven to be excellent options for both short and long-term travel.

Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

 

Hostels 

Easily the most common way to go for many first-time travelers, hostels are plentiful in most parts of the world. From as low as a couple of dollars a night in places like South America and Asia to a still reasonable thirty dollars a night in more expensive areas such as Europe, hostels provide many options for the budget traveler. From the family-friendly hostel to the hostels known for being a constant party, dorm rooms to private rooms, you will likely stumble upon one that suits your needs.

Many hostels are geared towards students and budget travelers, offering budget friendly packages for those that are pinching their pennies. For long-term travelers, many hostels are willing to work out a work-for-rent deal with you – where you spend a few days a week volunteering in the hostel, whether at the desk or cleaning rooms – for free accommodation and even a free meal each day.

Check out www.hostelbookers.com and www.hostelworld.com for a wide range of hostels anywhere in the world.

Hostel in Chiang Mai. From Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

 

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing can be an intimidating accommodation option to try out and, if you are nervous about it, it doesn’t hurt to go on your first couch surfing experiences with a travel buddy. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, couch surfing involves staying in a local’s home wherever your destination may be – usually on the couch, a cot, or a spare bedroom.

Hosts are typically individuals who have traveled and couch surfed themselves, enjoy the camaraderie of the travel community, and like to meet new people and show off their city. Couchsurfing is great for when you are only at your destination for a couple of nights, although some hosts have been known to allow their guests an extended stay of a week or more.

Signing up at www.couchsurfing.com is free and allows you to pick your destination and browse hosts who are currently accepting guests. A great aspect about couchsurfing.com is the ability for hosts to be verified and for travelers to review their stay, so you are not going in blind.

Air BnB 

No matter your destination or your budget, Air BnB has a number of options for the budget savvy traveler. Air BnB allows you to search based on location, price range and room type, resulting in enormous variety – from unique treehouse experiences, privately owned Bed and Breakfasts, or a local family offering a spare room in their home.

Some hosts have been known to offer travelers their place even if they won’t be in the country – giving you an entirely private home for the duration of your stay.

Signing up at www.airbnb.com is free and allows you to search, read reviews, view photos, and chat with your host before making any final decisions.

Air BnB Stay. From Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

 

WWOOF

WWOOFING – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – is an ideal opportunity for those interested in a long-term stay in their destination of choice if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. WWOOFING typically involves staying with a local host and helping out with routine chores each day that revolve around maintaining your host’s farm. In exchange, hosts provide you with free accommodation and meals for the duration of your stay.

Details are discussed between you and your host regarding your length of stay – whether it’s a week or a few months – and how many hours of work they expect of you each day. Some WWOOFING hosts are also happy to accommodate your children.

You can find out more about this budget travel option at www.wwoof.net or www.wwoofinternational.org

House Sit

The dream: to live in another country for free. House sitting allows you to stay in someone else’s home while they’re away for anywhere from a couple of days to long term stays of six months (or more!) Typically you are only asked to maintain the home and property during your stay although may be asked to pay for a portion of the utilities.

For animal lovers, a combination of house and pet sitting opportunities are widely available. Not so fond of furry creatures? No need to fret, there are plenty of homes that do not have pets.

Signing up for a good house sitting website is not free – there is a yearly fee that differs for each website – but the money you’ll save is more than worth the fee. Check out www.mindmyhouse.com, www.housecarers.com and www.trusteshousesitters.com to find your next house sit experience.

 

Chiang Mai hostel. From Find Budget (or FREE!) Accommodation Anywhere

 

If accommodation prices have been stopping you from following your travel dreams, these resources are a great place to start to cut back, or completely eliminate, hefty accommodation fees. Whether you plan to go away for a weekend or for an undetermined amount of time, these options can give you a unique and memorable experience.

 

Original post can be found here.

Sunday Snapshot: Maracas Bay, Trinidad

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Trinidad has blown me away with its beautiful landscapes. Maracas Bay is just one of the jaw-dropping backgrounds that can be found on this island.

Barbados on a Budget

Barbados is known for its white sandy beaches and being the birthplace of Rihanna. What it’s not known for is it’s affordability. The Caribbean isn’t a popular place for those on a backpacker budget, as many are drawn to the extreme budget prices seen in Southeast Asia or South America, but the Caribbean is home to some of the most beautiful islands in the world and shouldn’t be missed just because it seems a little pricy. Here are some traveler tips to make the most of your time in Barbados without breaking the bank:

1. Shop Local

Food prices in the supermarkets can be extremely expensive. It’s best to shop locally as much as possible. Cheapside Market in Bridgetown is where I have found the most affordable local produce. Be sure to ask around about prices, as they will vary vendor to vendor. You’ll soon learn who sells at the cheapest price. You can also pick up cartons of fresh coconut water for $12 BBD, roughly $6 US. Saturday morning is the best time to go, with all the vendors out and piles and piled of produce for you to choose from.

2. Rent a House

All-inclusive resort prices in Barbados can be nearly double what you would pay for a week vacation in Mexico. Get the most for your money (and stay a little longer!) by renting a private residence with a couple of friends for a month. This can easily be done for $400 per person, making your stay just over $12 a night. Your place might even have a pool, gazebo, and mango trees! If you don’t have a month to stay, there are some hostels and budget guesthouses on the island, mostly on the South Coast and starting from $18US per night.

3. Barbados National Trust Hikes
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There’s plenty of over priced tours in Barbados, but not everything costs money! Barbados National Trust takes locals and tourists alike out to different parts of the island every Sunday. The hike is free of charge, although small donations are accepted. They say that if you go on the hike every Sunday for a year, you will have hiked the whole island. Barbados National Trust holds three hikes every Sunday, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening. Hikes last about 3 hours with an average of 7 – 10 miles covered.

4. Hit the Beach!

Barbados is full of beautiful beaches that stretch around the island. The West and South coast beaches are most popular due to the calm, swim friendly waters of the Caribbean Sea. Head to the North and East coast for the rugged beauty of the crashing waves of the Atlantic. Every beach in Barbados is public, free of charge, even if it backs off of the fancy hotels. Brownes Beach, Pebbles Beach, Accra, Batts Rock, Paynes Bay, Sandy Lane, Dover, the options are endless. You can find everything from nearly empty beaches with nothing but sand to beaches filled with people, sunbeds, umbrellas, etc.
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5. Take the Public Transportation

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If you plan to take a taxi everywhere, good luck. You can get anywhere on the island for as little as $2 BBD. You have three options when it comes to public transportation: the big, blue, government-regulated buses, the privately owned yellow bus, or the ZR vans. Each one is $2 one way, no matter how far of a ride you have ahead of you, so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Each option is an extremely different experience, with my personal favorite being the ZR. In a van that sits about 12 comfortably, the drivers will often squish in at least 18, with the most I’ve seen being 22 people, crammed in for a speedy ride with loud music. If personal space is your thing, this might not be the option for you, but it’s definitely an experience that should be had. And here’s a fun game for you: can you find the #3 ZR with the handcuffs and condoms hanging from the rear view mirror?

6. Drink Local

Forget the fancy drinks, Barbados is all about the rum, with the local rum being Mount Gay. Rum shacks can be spotted all over the island, with many selling rum by the shot or the glass for cheap prices. If you’re out on St. Lawrence Gap, the Old Jamm Inn offers 2-for-1 rums for $8 BDD. If you’re looking for something else, the local Banks beer can often be found for 4 for $10 BDD.

7. Eat out at Oistins Fish Fry

A Friday night at Oistins is a must for travelers experiencing the island. You can get a huge meal with a meat or seafood and two sides of your choice (often macaroni pie, rice and beans, breadfruit, salad, etc.). Loud music, good company and Bajan food makes for a good evening out that won’t leave your wallet hurting in the morning… unless you get carried away with the rum punch.

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