Thursday, September 28, 2023

What To Do Before Going On A Winter Vacation This Year

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Winter is approaching, so it’s time to start putting your holiday vacation plan in place. Whether you intend to travel to join the family or spend your holiday in an exotic location, you must prepare for the cold weather. Experts predict that this year’s winter will start stormy with blizzard conditions. Of course, that’s no reason to stay locked up behind closed doors. But taking the necessary precautions is important if you plan to head out for an extended period. Here are some important tips before going on a winter vacation this year. 

  1. Don’t leave your moisturizers and skin care products behind

Going on any winter trip without packing effective moisturizers and skin care products is not advisable. Remember the frustrating itchiness you always have during winter? Your towel or bed sheets aren’t the cause. Itchy skin (especially after taking a shower during winter) is mostly a result of dry skin. Dry air and low temperatures can dry out your skin and cause cracks on your lips. That’s why moisturizing is super important for any winter trip. But don’t just pick any product on the shelf. Invest in top-quality moisturizers. Also, it’ll probably be freezing or dry wherever you’re heading, so it’s highly advisable to pack enough hand and body lotion. That will help your skin feel more comfortable. Please don’t forget about your sunscreen, too. Just because you can see the sun doesn’t mean your skin isn’t exposed to its rays. 

  1. Make preparations for the kids

If you plan to bring kids along, you must prepare them adequately for the trip. The right preparations will depend on your child’s age and health, but you can do some general things to ensure that your little ones experience a stress-free winter trip.

Start by dressing them in layers, and keep enough extra clothes available. Remember to pack their winter essentials, such as gloves, hats, scarves, heated blankets, and boots, and keep a first aid kit on hand. Children can be incredibly unpredictable, and you should plan for the worst. Let them stay hydrated by taking water regularly throughout the trip. As mentioned, packing moisturizers, lotions, and essential skin care products is important. But only buy kid-friendly skin care products for your kids. 

  1. Plan indoor activities

The last thing you want to do is plan outdoor activities, especially in inclement weather. Sure, you can go skiing and ice skating, but these should be as limited as possible to avoid over-exposing yourself to the weather. Wear protective clothing if you still want to enjoy outdoor activities during your winter trip. But consider adding many indoor activities to your itinerary so you don’t spend too much time outside. For example, you can consider touring museums, visiting art galleries, watching winter movie releases or stage performances in theaters, and spending cozy time in warm cafes. 

  1. Check road conditions 

The dangers of winter road conditions are well documented. Piling snow, ice, and poor visibility are common driving hazards during a winter trip. It’s even worse if you’re going on a road trip. It’s important to know the current state of each road network, street, and major highway you want to use before you set off. Listen to local weather channels or use Google Maps alerts to notify you about real-time traffic information and road conditions. Leave nothing to chance, even if you expect safe driving conditions. Equip your vehicle with snow tires and chains to help you negotiate the terrain with less hassle. Also, practice defensive driving and stay alert whenever on the road. Watch for unscrupulous or careless drivers and do your best not to stop to confront them or engage in any form of road rage. Should you be a victim of a road accident even after driving defensively, an injury lawyer can give you the legal assistance you need and ensure you receive the settlement you deserve.

  1. Research your preferred accommodations 

It’s always wise to take a second look at your preferred accommodation before you book in advance. But it’s twice as important and even critical during winter. You want more than a place to lay your head or spend the night. So, conduct thorough research before you book.

Take the time to double-check some of the most critical essentials. For example, determine if the facility will provide bedding and heating systems, especially when booking cabin accommodations. What about transportation, if you need to move around and shop? Find out if the hotel has vehicles or if you must rely on public transport. Also, will your hotel be close to what you must do or do you need to cover long distances? And what if you’re snowed in and can’t leave the hotel because of inclement weather? You must consider if you’ll have easy access to food and other essentials without leaving your hotel. These questions can guide your research when looking for accommodation to book. 

  1. Pack thermal undergarments

Remember to dress in layers and cover as much of your skin as possible during a winter trip. But you can do more than that. Pack thermal underwear. A good pair of thermal underwear will keep you warm and wick away moisture. That means you’ll avoid getting cold without worrying about unhealthy moisture buildup in certain body parts. Thanks to their moisture-wicking and insulating abilities, thermal underwear will keep your body dry (but not dehydrated) and prevent the uncomfortable chill associated with wetness or dampness. That is particularly important if you have outdoor activities planned during your trip. Most thermal undergarments have a base layer that creates a warm microclimate by trapping heat in your body. It improves your body’s ability to resist the winter cold and enjoy activities without worrying about catching a cold. The most important thing is that you choose a style that fits your body and isn’t too tight. Also, look for a breathable and quick-drying fabric. 

  1. Have an additional four to eight hours of buffer time

Even after booking early, airports can be very busy during winter holidays. Flight schedules may be delayed for hours due to unforeseen or unexpected changes in weather patterns, and you may have to stay in your location longer than expected. A similar issue can also happen when driving, and you may be caught up in lengthy delays on the road. These can easily destroy your travel plans, especially if you’re time-bound. So, create an additional buffer time to cover such unexpected delays. Ideally, it would help if you created a buffer of about 4 to 8 hours for your plane and ground travel schedules. But try not to plan over or extra to give your schedule better flexibility. Your buffer time will cover you if you need to spend as much as an extra day in your location because of bad weather. 

  1. Make smart financial arrangements

Winter holiday trips usually cost more because of the extra preparations you need to make. Abandoning your vacation plan mid-way because you’ve run out of funds is a nightmare, but this is very common. Thankfully, some smart financial moves can help you see your trip through without spending more than you can afford. For example, if your flight charges more for extra travel equipment, leave them at home and rent them at your destination instead. Also, take the time to research the extra airline charges on ski and snowboard gear. Next, compare those prices to the cost of renting them at your destination before deciding which option makes better financial sense. Also, booking earlier may be a financially wiser move, as you may avoid additional charges, especially if you’re planning your trip during Christmas or Thanksgiving when accommodation prices skyrocket.

  1. Fly non-stop whenever possible

This option may not always be available, depending on your travel destination. But consider flying non-stop instead of going through connecting airports. You may have noticed that the weather always seems to worsen when you’re halfway through your trip at a connecting airport. Minimize your chances of being stuck in the middle of your route by flying non-stop. If your hometime flight is canceled, you simply have to head back home and wait it out. And if a flight cancellation happens on your return trip, there’s a good chance your rented accommodation will allow a few days of extended stay. But just to be certain, learn about their cancellation and delay policies, which leads to the next point. 

  1. Have a plan B

The heightened risks of winter trips mean you should expect the unexpected. Sometimes, the unexpected can derail your travel plans, and you may have to cancel everything. As painful as that sounds, that’s the reality. So, have a backup in place, just in case. 

Sudden weather changes, flight cancellations, extended delays, accidents, and other unforeseen setbacks beyond your control can ruin your plans. Check the cancellation rules and refund policies when booking your accommodation or making other travel arrangements. Also, identify an alternative activity or make backup travel plans. 

If you plan to drive to your destination, identify your potential backup routes, ideal spots to pause your trip, or any side trip you can make. Road closures and time constraints can force you to find alternative routes. So, start working on them before your trip. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

How to Explore Baltimore Without Breaking the Bank

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If you’re trying to save money, the chances are that vacations and traveling are all pretty far down the list of priorities. They cost money, it’s as simple as that.

But we all need a break now and then. Burnout can be more costly on your mental, physical, and yes, financial health, than anything else. So, how can you go on vacation without spending too much money?

Plan Ahead

You guessed it, you need to plan. 

If you don’t have a plan, including a budget, you can’t predict how you’ll end up spending your money. City breaks can be especially pricey if you don’t know what you’re doing. So, always research your chosen city, such as wonderful Baltimore, and get your itinerary pencilled in so you don’t have to rely on impulse.

Finding a Place to Stay

If you live nearby Baltimore, you immediately have a leg-up in your plans. You can simply travel into the city and spend your day there without worrying about accommodation.

However, if you’re making a vacation out of it, try to find cheaper accommodations outside of the city center. You still want to find somewhere that’s safe and nice, but a hotel or rented apartment outside of the prime real estate can save you thousands of dollars.

You can then travel in and around Baltimore and explore it properly.

Eating in Baltimore

Food in any city is usually great, especially if you know where to look. This is especially true in Baltimore, otherwise known as the Charm City. If you love seafood, you’re absolutely in the right place. But there’s a lot of variety on offer and you can explore different cuisines.

The key to eating well in Baltimore is to eat where the locals eat. The chances are, they know the best places for good value for money. Explore restaurants, diners, and street food vans alike for a well-rounded experience.

Look for the best cheap eats in Baltimore and live like kings on a pauper’s budget.

Exploring the Seascape

Baltimore is especially famous for its beautiful waterfront, which you can wander around without spending a cent. You can explore the harbour, as well as other gardens and parks dotted throughout the city. 

You can find walking tours to really soak in the Baltimore waterfront and the city itself. 

While you’re enjoying the waterfront, why not visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore? 

In the Aquarium, you can learn all about different sea life and even make a day of it.

Museums and Galleries

The Charm City also has plenty to offer in terms of culture and learning. The Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art are both free and open to the public. There, you can appreciate a huge collection of art.

You can also visit the absolutely stunning Peabody Library, complete with incredible architecture and an even more impressive book collection. 

Baltimore is teeming with history and culture, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy. All you need is a little research under your belt and you’re ready to go.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Three ways to make a side income


Photo by Maggie Isley: 

Many people strive for a side income for many reasons. It allows you to increase your savings, and improve your financial security, it gives you more flexibility in life as well as options - whatever your reasons, there are very few negatives to making a side income. But the question is, how do you make a side income? 

Side incomes can be done in many ways and very much depend on the amount of money you have available to invest in your side income. For example, you could create a property website and earn money from people staying in your apartments. You could create your own blog and write about something you are passionate about or you could become a freelancer in the evenings. 

Below we dive into three ways to make a side income. 

Invest in property 

To start with, let's look into a way to make money if you have a lot of money available to invest. Property is a great way to make a side income, with many people owning a few properties as part of their portfolio. By investing in a property you will make an income from the monthly rent your tenants will pay (as long as you have a big enough yield) as well as the money you will make in the long term when you sell the property. 

Start up your own blog 

Blogs are great for making a side income. You can make an income from ad revenue, affiliate links, sponsored posts, sponsored competitions, social media collaborations, and more. Initially, it will take time to make an income as the income is generated by the amount of views you get. This is why it's important you write about a subject that you are interested in - such as a marketing blog, a health blog on living a healthy lifestyle, or a blog on food and drink. If you are unsure of how to make a blog, it’s never been easier. There are many affordable WordPress designers out there who can make you one at an affordable price. If you feel confident enough, there are also drag-and-drop builders that you can use with pre-made templates.  

Freelance in your spare time 

Have you considered freelancing in your evenings after work or on the weekend? Many career skills are transferable and can be done in your spare time to help other businesses. If you enjoy web design, you could create other websites, graphic designers can help with branding, whilst accountants could support payroll or a marketing expert help with paid ads - have a think about your skills and see if there is a market there to help others as a freelancer in the evening. Freelancing can be one of the most profitable ways to make money and help get out of debt (if this is a situation you are in) 

Have you got a side income you would like to share with our readers? Which of the above tips did you find most useful? Let us know in the comment box below.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Pump Up Your Sabbatical with a Dash of Eccentricity

 Are you searching for ways to add some flair and eccentricity into your sabbatical experience? This piece should satisfy any desire for something extraordinary if the everyday is boring you - so buckle up and dive right in!

Photo by Andreea Petruti on Unsplash

Become an Artisanal Cheese Connoisseur in France

France, known for love, la vie bohème, and... cheese? Roll up your sleeves, don a beret, and dive headfirst into the world of artisanal cheese! From creamy Camembert in Normandy to potency Roquefort from Southern France - embark on an artisanal cheese journey! Cheese-making workshops, local farm visits, and culminating with an unforgettable cheese-tasting session at a Parisian fromagerie are just the start - your tastebuds won't ever be the same again after participating in such experiences! When you return home, your stories of cheesy adventures will surely make the room buzz with laughter!

Pan for Gold in Canada's Wild West 

Bring out your wide-brimmed hat; we are headed north into Yukon - Canada's own Wild West. Did you ever think your sabbatical could turn you into an avid gold digger? No? Why not! Spend your days knee-deep in sparkling rivers, swirling your pan through rocks and silt to pan for gold - who knows, maybe one or more shiny nuggets await discovery? Once the sun goes down, gather around a campfire with fellow prospectors to share tales of gold panning - you may leave with more than just memories but an Alaskan tan, vial of dust, and stories to tell. Remember: all that glitters isn't necessarily gold; it could also be part of your memorable sabbatical experience!

Explore the Underworld: Caving in New Zealand

Let's travel across the Pacific and experience New Zealand, which boasts beautiful landscapes like its land of the Long White Cloud. Let's move underneath these idyllic sights for a moment to go caving underground! Waitomo Glowworm Caves provide an enthralling journey into an illuminated underwater realm reminiscent of something out of a science fiction novel. Explore dark caverns illuminated only by thousands of tiny glowworms lighting the ceilings - an experience like no other! Waitomo offers something to satisfy every adventurer - from peacefully floating along underground rivers to an adrenaline rush with black water rafting! Whatever your preference, Waitomo offers something suitable. As soon as you emerge from the depths, with clothes soaked and heart racing, memories of an unforgettable underground galaxy will flood back. Kiwi landers refer to this momentous occasion as your "sweet as" moment! No trip to New Zealand would be complete without meeting one or more of these unique glow-in-the-dark creatures!

Join a Monastic Community in Bhutan

Step away from everyday stressors and immerse yourself in Bhutan's peaceful mountains for an inspiring Buddhist monastic community experience - Land of the Thunder Dragon. At our forth eccentric adventure, we introduce you to a world of introspective solitude - joining a Bhutanese monastic community. Devoid of the incessant demands and noisy distractions of modern life, this experience provides you with a chance to engage in mindfulness practices, consider life's profound questions and potentially discover your own form of Zen. Time can often seem fleeting in our world of constant distraction, yet here you will be encouraged to stop, breathe and simply be. Perhaps this could even be your 'Eat, Pray, Love' moment without all of the pasta pounds! Not everyone may appreciate a visit to Bhutan's peaceful monasteries; but those willing to embrace the experience may find a stay there could provide just the spiritual boost you were searching for. So are you ready to exchange your smartphone for a prayer wheel?

Conclusion: Welcome the Eccentric

So there you have it, courageous souls! The world is your oyster when it comes to exotic experiences that can make your sabbatical truly extraordinary. Remember that life is too short to settle for mundane adventures; embrace eccentric experiences - because why not?

Thursday, September 14, 2023

4 Things To Consider When Choosing Your Next Building Contractor

 4 Things To Consider When Choosing Your Next Building Contractor

Revamping your home can be rewarding but involves several factors to ensure success. That includes getting a professional building contractor on board. They bring safety, ensure quality, and help you to significantly save time. But in a sea of contractors, how do you know which one’s your best option? It’s a question that every soon-to-be homeowner grapples with. So, this article highlights four things that will steer you toward the ultimate building contractor for your dream project. 

  1. On-time delivery is a must

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Time is precious, and delays can be a real buzzkill, not to mention costly. You cannot afford to play the waiting game when you have a deadline to beat. So, when your contractor outlines the start and finish dates, you want them to stick to their word like glue. Do thorough research on their track record to determine if they usually miss deadlines or drag their feet during projects. You can also look out for an on-time guarantee, indicating that the contractors you’re considering can deliver on time

  1. Choose skilled pros who know their stuff 

When you’re gearing up for your home project, you want the A-team. That means having experienced folks on the job - whether they’re wielding hammers, laying tiles, or fixing wires. Some crews have specialists for every job, while others might zero in on a select few. Having a one-stop shop can be useful - think about cost savings, top-notch communication, and a safer worksite with fewer faces in the crowd. But here’s the catch - you don’t want a “jack of all trades, master of none” situation. Go for the real deal, the experts with the skills to give you value for money. 

  1. Think about safety 

As the client, you also have a crucial role in site safety. You can ensure safety by letting your building contractors bring all the right papers and certifications. It’s all about ensuring they conform to the rules and regulations so you don't get caught in a sticky situation. 

Meanwhile, if you’re concerned about financial security and assurance during your building project, you can consider a surety bond to guarantee your contractor delivers as specified in the agreement. Safety’s the name of the game, and you want a partner who knows the ropes and keeps everything on the up and up. 

  1. Remember that customer satisfaction counts

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Ultimately, what truly matters is how happy you are with the project’s management and the final result. Pick a contractor who values customer service above everything else. Ensure they listen, appreciate your needs, and fulfill their promises. After all, decisions will be made and further details communicated from start to completion date and within a specified timeline. It would help if you were to discuss any concerns you have at every project. Also, determine if your contractor relies on an independent firm to gauge customer service performance. 

Considering the above factors when selecting your next building contractor will help you make the best choice and ensure a seamless building project.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

It's Not Just Inflation. Here Are The Other Reasons Your Finances Are Suffering

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While the rising cost of living is putting pressure on people’s pocketbooks, it isn’t the only cause of financial suffering. Many other factors are contributing to the fact that only a small subset of the population seems to have any money. 

The good news is that you can take this information and apply it to your life to prevent you from falling into the same traps that affect other people. Here’s what you need to know. 

Stagnating Income

Ideally, your income should rise over the course of your lifetime, in line with your productivity. That’s one of the reasons senior workers earn significantly more than junior ones – they have more experience, so can provide more value with the time available.

However, stagnating income is a risk in many professions. Not being able to earn beyond a certain threshold makes it more likely you will fall foul of the cost of living trap. 

For this reason, it is critical to engage in life-long learning. You need to keep your skills up to date to ensure you are in the best position possible to earn top salaries. 

Bad Financial Habits

Your income might also be stagnating because of poor financial habits. If you regularly splurge or buy things that are expensive to run, you could be depriving yourself of a better life in the future. 

The worst spending habits are those that cause you to go into debt. Not only do these deny you the opportunity to save, but they cost you more money than if you had simply purchased them out of income. 

High Healthcare Costs

Another problem many people encounter is high healthcare costs. The price of insurance is rising, and a lot of people don’t know how to manage it. 

One approach is to go to a health insurance broker. These professionals can check prices for you and introduce you to the best deals. 

The other approach is to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviors and communicate these to your insurer. Doing this can lower premiums significantly if they believe you are lower risk. 

Investment Losses

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You can also seriously damage your long-term finances by taking huge investment losses. Capital takes a significant time to accumulate, but when you lose it, you not only lose the principal but also all the interest it could accrue during the time you are building it back up. 

That’s why it is critical to make wise investment decisions. Don’t simply follow the crowd. 

Educational Expenses

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Another source of poor finances is educational expenses. Many people go to college, believing it will set them up for a prosperous life, only to find that suitable positions are unavailable when they enter the job market. This reduces the return on investment and saddles them with debt

If you are considering education, ensure you only choose options likely to result in financial returns. Avoid the myth that education is valuable for its own sake. Financially speaking, it is not. 

So there you have it: some of the reasons your finances are suffering that don’t have anything to do with inflation, and what you can do about it. 

Friday, September 8, 2023

How to Build a Custom Home the Right Way


Photo by Pixabay

Are you about to move out of your old home and are ready to experience the joy of having your own home? Before you can pack up all your furniture on a moving truck and head out on the roads with your belongings in tow, there's a lot you need to consider. 

If you are ready to put down roots somewhere and plant your feet firmly on the ground, then it's a good idea to consider a custom house. When you build  you can take everything that is in your imagination and make it reality. 

You can create a home that visitors and friends will enter with eyes and mouths wide open in surprise and awe. Here's how to get this reaction.

Get the Right Lot

Finding the right spot to put your new abode is one of the biggest aspects of the entire process. 

You want to find a lot that makes you feel as if you are back from a long vacation. It should  literally make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. After all this is where you will be planting your dreams.   

In real estate it is often said that location is everything. It's important that you look at the neighborhood closely too, make sure that it has all those little perks that you're going to need to make your life a lot easier to sail through. 

You can try prefabricated homes as well as the cost-efficiency of prefabricated homes have been well documented.

Design the Right Way

Let's face it, designing is half of the fun of this type of project. 

It's time for you to go wild and bring out all the things in your imagination that you have thought about. Now is not the time to hold back, unleash everything and see if it still works once you take it out of your head. 

The bottom line is that you should let every thought you have ever entertained no matter how out of this world be put on the design table. 

It's a good idea to hire an architect to assist you with this stage of the process. You can make a rough sketch of your design but you should get someone to vet it for you, so that it is achievable.

Think of Your Budget

If building a custom home makes you fearful of breaking the bank, then you should know that there is reason to be concerned. Building a custom home can run way over budget if you're not careful and you need to make sure that your finances do not become a runaway train that you can't stop. 

This means that you should craft a budget from the very beginning and try to stick to it as much as possible. It's a given that unexpected expenses will arise but it shouldn't become so overwhelming that you don't know where your next meal is coming from. 

The bottom line is that you have to be careful when you are building this type of home as you don't want to put huge dents in your wallet.

Financial Mastery in Home Building

In building a custom home, managing finances effectively is paramount to ensure that your dream project stays within budget and on track. It's crucial to start with a clear financial plan, outlining all potential costs, including materials, labor, permits, and any unforeseen expenses. Regularly monitoring your spending against this budget is essential to avoid overspending.

Utilizing tools like DOKKA's accounting glossary can be invaluable in understanding financial terminology and processes, especially when dealing with invoices, contracts, and cost estimates from various contractors. Keeping meticulous financial records and possibly working with a financial advisor can help in navigating through the complex financial aspects of home building.

Select a Great Contractor

Choosing a great contractor is a necessity when you are building your dream home. You have to make sure that you choose the right person. The person you select should be someone who you are comfortable with at all times. 

There is a lot of teamwork that will go into making sure that the home looks and feels the way you want it to. This means you have to have a certain "vibe" with the person who is in charge of building your home. 

To get this level off of workmanship and compatibility you're going to have to make sure that you ask the right questions in the entire interview process.

Some questions you should be asking are: How much experience do you have? Are you licensed and certified to perform your job? Can you provide me with some references? 

How long do you estimate the project will take? Will I be able to make important contributions to the project and get regular updates?

Before you dive in headfirst with any contractor you must know the answer to these questions. If you get into a contract with someone who doesn't have the best qualities or your best interests at heart the entire project can be in for a bumpy ride.

Pay Attention to Minor Details

When you're building a custom home it is the smaller details that can make or break the project. This means that you should be paying attention to details such as the finishes on your cupboards, doors as well as light fixtures. 

Paying attention to these little details is the best way to ensure that your home gives off a specific energy and feel. The good thing about this is that picking out these little details is a lot of fun because there are so many different ones available. So that you can get your home looking amazing in no time.

Choose Colors Wisely

Another thing that will make your house sparkle and come alive is the use of colors that make your eyes pop. When the house is finished painting you want to stand back from it and truly say "wow" because of how great it looks.

Your curb appeal is something that you should never compromise. When people take a glance from the curb, a grin should go across their face as they recognize the beauty of the colors that were used to paint your home.

Use the color wheel to pull off this project without any setbacks. Don't try to select your colors with your naked eye. 

You will fall flat on your face in most cases. There's nothing worse than a hideous paint job on a beautiful house.

Choosing colors is a bit like setting out an adventure. In many cases you will have a hit and miss situation on your hand. The best thing you can do is to test the colors. This way you'll be able to see which one gets that jaw dropping, eye catching effect on a budget. 

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