My Top Tips For Booking Cheaper Travel Like Pro

Let’s face it, airfare can easily be the largest expense of your trip, leaving us picking a more affordable destination or spend less money at your vacation stop to stay within your spending limit. Since first publishing this blog post in 2013, times have changed and many of the tips offered don’t exactly apply to travel in 2019. I’ve also have added in other money-saving tips to help along with your travels.

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Visit During Shoulder Season

Peak-season rates on islands often reflect nearby countries' vacation schedules rather than the best time to visit. Bali's hotels, for instance, fill up with Japanese in early May and with Australians in January. In low season, many businesses shut down. Shoulder season--when crowds are thinner, but the weather is still good--is the solution.


Sign Up For Emails & Alerts

The best airfare and hotel sales are typically unannounced. Airlines and hotel companies target specific subsets of travelers, and notify them via email. This includes loyalty program members, holders of certain credit cards, and people who have registered on their website. To keep your in-box from getting bombarded, get a dedicated email address for such alerts; and check it when one is ready to start planning your next trip. One of my absolute favorites is Scott’s Cheap Flights for flash deals on flights.

By setting alerts for price drops, can help save on flights. Ticket prices can fluctuate on a daily basis, even a small drop can result in a large savings if you need to buy a ticket for each member of your family. Google Flights will even show you the different flight trends in a graph format.


Rewards Travel

Credit card miles are also amazing, and how I travel for the most part. I also LOVE the United Explorer Card. When you sign up up, you get earn 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in the first three months that your account is open. This card is great if you fly United or any of the Star Alliance airlines. Another card I highly recommend for any and all travel is the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card. The high-value Ultimate Rewards® points on every purchase, making them an ideal referral for most anyone who travels (or wants to do so). Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus you’ll also get $300 Annual Travel Credits as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. TSA Pre-check, Global Entry, Uber Rides… all covered by this travel credit!


Lounge Access

While you’re waiting out a long layover, nothing seems more enticing than the airport lounge, or even better, being able to freshen up after a long international flight. With amenities like free Wi-Fi, drinks, snacks, outlets to charge up, and glossy magazines, airport lounges feel like the answer to a lot of your travel annoyances. At the very least, they can give you sanctuary from the noise. A lot of credit card companies and airline loyalty programs offer lounge access. United Explorer Card offers two complimentary passes per year and the Reserve Cards and Amex offer lounge access through Priority Pass.


Get The Best Room For Your Dollar

At luxury properties, rates vary considerably according to occupancy. A room could be $450 one week because there is a large group, and $250 the next because nobody is coming. For top-end hotels that have on-site reservations desks, call and ask the manager when, during your travel window, the hotel will be emptiest and therefore have the lowest rates. Then ask something like, "If I come on that date, would there be a chance of an upgrade to ocean-view?"

Even better? Apps like HotelTonight offer same-day deals on hotels. This is one of my go-to’s when it comes to last minute hotel stays. I’ve gotten a chance to stay at really nice hotels for a fraction of the cost. If you use promo code VFIDAN you’ll get $25 your first booking!


Time it Right

Traveling off-peak days — and at off-peak times — means lower fares, a less crowded cabin, and a greater chance of snagging those elusive mileage award seats. It used to be that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturdays used to be the best days. But according to travel data from May-December in 2018, booking flights for domestic travel on Saturdays and international flights on Sunday for the cheapest day to book a flight. Want to play it safe? When looking at all destinations around the world, Sunday on average had the cheapest.


Hop Between Cities at Midday

When traveling through Europe or Asia, and want to get from one city to another; consider scheduling transportation for the middle of the day.

Why? Because if you are leaving at dawn, you might miss the sunrise--ideal for photography and observing locals. Sunrise is also a great time to get those amazing instagram shots with no one around. Plus, leaving at the wee hours of the morning, you’ll likely reach your destination at midday, when temperatures are the highest, the light is at its worst for photos, and it is too early to check into your hotel. You’ll also fight rush-hour commuters and miss a breakfast that is included in your hotel rate.


I hope you found these helpful! Do you have any travel tips? Share them with me on Insta! @valeriefidan


Published March 2013; Updated June 2019.

Insiders Guide To Ubud

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Insiders Guide to Ubud

Bali Travel Guide

Nothing inspires holistic wellbeing and healing more than a small peaceful island in Southeast Asia like Bali, with all its natural and cultural features. The island's wellness retreats have it all: beautiful nature, centuries-old tradition, and ancient wisdom to hoist travelers' physical and mental health.

Bali is a place where I'd dreamt of visiting for many years. I'd close my eyes and envision a tropical paradise, a place to "find" yourself filled with rejuvenating, sun-drenched days.

So why did I pick Bali now?

The question is, what took me this long to get there?

It had been a destination that I had always wanted to visit, yet never got to it. When I was given the opportunity to go through a Portland yoga studio's retreat, Namaste On Williams, I felt like I needed to just go...

Go where I felt most alive.

As clique as it might seem to visit Bali, practice yoga and especially "finding yourself," this was a part of Bali I had always envisioned.

It was just about everything. From a soul-centering, blissful week in Ubud, to daily yoga, to the most postcard-picture-perfect beach of the Virgin Beach and jaw-dropping views of the rice terraces, Bali did not disappoint.

So this city guide -- and really more of a visual diary -- is really 84a all about Ubud guide… for healthy food lovers and wellness travel seekers.

Are you ready? Let's dive in!

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EAT

Ubud is a perfect destination for anyone with a dietary restriction, especially for vegetarians. The Balinese weather supports the growth of delicious veggies and juicy tropical fruits. Most restaurants have vegetarian options and try to locally source organic products, some of them even have their own permaculture garden. The results are mouthwatering vegetarian dishes: you'll be spoiled for choice.

While most of my meals centered around the fantastic menu at Soulshine Hotel, there were plenty of places that are worth checking out.

Whatever you do, visit Clear Cafe! Recommended by Melissa Suzuno, a writer and content market whom I met on this trip, had recommended the dessert -- specifically, the raw food includes a chocolate cream pie. It was amazing! But, Clear Café offers locally sourced ingredient dishes that mostly vegetarian and plenty of dairy- and gluten-free dishes. Raw food includes a chocolate cream pie that's riveting. Drinks are equally sensational; nut mylk (from local cashews) is made in-house and substitutes dairy in beverages such as the chocolate matrix, mixed with mint, gingko, and spirulina.

For more healthy eats, smoothies, and gluten-free soups, Atman Kafe also offers organic coffee, cold brew, and kombucha. I've heard the grilled tuna steak salad, and butternut squash salad are pretty darn amazing! The Garden Kafe (at The Yoga Barn) for gf pandan crepes! For a 100% raw vegan cafe and juice bar with a mini organic health food store tucked inside of Alchemy Bali.

Soma Cafe, Sari Organik, and Earth Cafe for plenty of gluten-free dishes. There are also Bali Buda, Seeds of Life, Seniman Coffee Studio, and Dayu's Warung that were highly recommended. For nice Dinners Bridges Bali, Locavore and Mozai.

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SLEEP

Soulshine Bali is the work of musician, filmmaker, and humanitarian Michael Franti. This boutique hotel and yoga retreat oasis is in the heart of Ubud, and the setting of the week-long retreat is a great place to unwind.

Another of the websites that I use the most to book accommodation is Airbnb. If you like to stay in cool places that aren't just vacation rentals, but unique boutique hotels, you won't be disappointed.  It is a closer and personal way to stay.

For the luxe experience or even just a spa day experience, there are, Four Seasons (FS) Sayan, Kamandalu, Padma Resort Ubud and Hanging Gardens of Bali -- think infinity pools, pouring water down the jungle and a perfect place for refreshing both body and soul.

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DO

Ubud's various palaces and temples attest to the neighborhood's significance and dynamics as a destination. Ubud Royal Palace or Puri Saren Agung is easily one of the neighborhood's most highlighted landmarks. With ornate carvings and a magnificent structure, it reverberates a genuinely regal feel but with a calming ambiance amid lush, manicured gardens. Among the must-visit temples in Ubud are the stone-carved Goa Gajah, Tirta Empul Water Temple, and Pura Taman Saraswati with the beautiful lotus ponds.

Nothing says Bali like the sweeping, scenic stretch of Rice Terraces, that has become one of the most iconic sights in Bali. Clear blue sky, tall palm trees, and lush tropical greeneries surrounding different levels of rice fields are surely a breathtaking sight to behold, but Ubud's rice terraces are more than just a postcard-worthy view.

It’s a manifestation of an ancient Balinese Hindu philosophy organized by a local social unit called subak. Tourists can also explore the villages nearby to hear fascinating local stories and observe the customs and lifestyles of people who built and now maintain the beautiful rice terraces.

Ubud Monkey Forest is more than just a natural attraction within a lush forest with hundreds of monkey's roaming around. The 12.5-hectare (30.8-acre) land does offer a serene atmosphere, from the towering trees to traditional stone-carved statues. Built as a manifestation of an ancient traditional philosophy called Tri Hita Karana, the 'three causes of wellbeing,' that include the harmony with God, with other people, and with nature; so it also houses temples and social halls to observe.

Cycling will not only set a more relaxed pace to immerse in the sublime nature atmosphere, but it'll also be an enjoyable exercise to help burn some of that holiday weight from overeating satay or Balinese grilled pork with beer. You can rent a bicycle and figure your own route through the rice fields and villages or sign up for an organized cycling tour in Ubud. Now, my experience cycling was far from a “peaceful ride” due to a miscommunication. But, if Mountain Biking is your thing, that is that as well!

One way to embrace Ubud's tranquil surroundings and the quirky vibe is to get on the yoga mat and hit some poses. The fresh air, warm sunshine, chirping of birds, and shady trees will definitely create a remarkable and unforgettable Zen experience. There are numerous reputable yoga studios in Ubud, many of which offer an all-around wellness rejuvenation, such as Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive. But if you're feeling adventurous, head to Ambar Ashram and try their intriguing laughter yoga.

For a full on Indonesian experience, a cultural dinner is worth checking out. Dances happen every night of the week, and most performances offer a dinner. Balinese Dance Galore (pictured above), Uluwata Temple, and Devdan Show at Nusa Dua Theater are worth checking out.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links where I earn a commission from. Your support helps keep this blog running! Thanks in advance :)

Insiders Guide to Oaxaca

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I am often asked about my favorite places in the world, and often a conversation occurs where it doesn't cross my mind to mention my beloved Mexico; the motherland, my parents home country.

Although my parents home state is vastly different, the culture and food, the people and varied landscapes remain the same and make it a favored destination of mine year after year. Yet of all the spots I claim to conocer oh so well, Oaxaca. However, a place I have only made a small dent of all the thrills and frills of this amazingly vibrant, colonial city with rich indigenous roots.

There is no doubt that Oaxaca will always hold a near and dear place to my heart. It's the significance of a closing chapter in my life, yet welcoming a new horizon, a new chapter if you will. This charming town with Mexican hospitality and endless corazon is also the heart of Mexican cuisine.

After falling in love with its storied and cobbled streets, the vibrant culture, colors, sounds, tastes, and the amazingly hospitable climate. It’s a place with bustling marketplaces, lively fiestas, and beautiful folk art traditions and fascinating history.

It is time to teeter into the unknown, this way by way of Oaxaca. Ready to discover some of the hidden (and not so hidden) gems?

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DORMIR [to sleep]

Casa Oaxaca is the charming little hotel with a quirky heart-shaped pool, stands on its own two feet, with its mixture of colonial architecture with modern touches. Be sure to eat at the restaurant here, it’s been touted as one of the best. Taking up residence in this architecturally stunning and historically fascinating 19th century Oaxacan mansion is Casa de Sierra Azul. This is also a place my group stayed, and enjoyed the 17 high-ceilinged rooms to choose from, each one decorated in a classy yet simple style, with colorful accents. Casa de las Bugambilias is just one of three guest houses that they run in Oaxaca and is well located only one block from the famed Santa Domingo temple. It's personal touches and traditional Mexican artesanías within each of the 8 rooms.

COMER [to eat]

When it comes to food and drink, Oaxaca will not disappoint because this is one of Mexico's best foodie destinations, and many of the regional dishes date back to pre-Hispanic times. Its culinary offerings include a wide variety of corn-based dishes, and the local gastronomy also makes good use of the vast array of chiles grown in the state. Mole sauces are a specialty; you'll hear about seven different moles, but there are in fact more. Oaxaca is a significant mezcal producing center, and tasting the endless varieties is a favorite pastime.

Don’t miss out on the street food in Oaxaca. You’ll find many street foods stands throughout the city. Forget about gourmet restaurants: these stands are where some of the city’s best food is served, and the friendly banter of your dining companions will be hard to beat. From Elotes y Esquites (Mexican Street Corn) to Chapulines to fresh mango with chili, there’s plenty to pick from.

Origen Oaxacan herbs and chiles, ceviches and risottos converge on the menu of Origen, the restaurant of Top Chef Mexico winner, Castellanos Reyes. The creation of their dishes is based on tradition; it is enough to try the unforgettable language in Mole Chichilo to realize the office of the cradle of chef Castellanos.

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Come for the fantastic breakfast 
in the leafy garden, stay for a conversation with Alejandro Ruiz, the amiable chef. of Casa Oaxaca Café. The sprawling food market of Central de Abastos Mercado is an excellent place for lunch, with dozens of vendors preparing meals on the spot. Between Juárez Maza and Calle de Victoria. Enrique Olvera’s new restaurant, 
Criollo, serves creative spin on classic Oaxacan dishes in a modern space with an outdoor dining room.
 Run by the talented Chef Pilar Cabrera, Restaurant la Olla is an unpretentious restaurant offering Oaxacan specialties. Head to the upper-level dining room, which is more spacious than the ground floor, with artwork by local artists. The moles are delicious, but to start, order the squash blossom soup.

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Los Danzantes has three restaurants scattered across Southern Mexico, but the one in Oaxaca is locally considered to be outstanding with equally impressive cocktails. Get out of the city and pay a visit to the distillery as well. For 
 education in Oaxaca’s signature spirit, book 
a tasting at this bar/classroom in the city center for Mezcaloteca. There 
are nearly 100 varieties on 
offer.. 
Graciela Ángeles Carreño’s distillery is a farm-to-glass operation at Mezcal Real Minero. Tour the agave crops before settling into the tasting room.

Mexico is perhaps not the most well-known coffee producing country, but in Veracruz, Chiapas and Guerrero in particular, there are quality beans being produced. However, what about colonial Oaxaca? Your coffee options are not limited in this historic, quaint and vibrant city. El Volador, Cofetarika, and Alma de Café are worth checking out.

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HACER [to do]

Wander through the Historic Center of Zócalo. Oaxaca City was built for the wanderer; winding streets take you high up above the center with views over the Oaxacan skyline, and cobbled paths lead you to cafés you wouldn’t ordinarily have found in a million years. The multi-colored façades of many of Oaxaca City’s houses and edifices only add to this charming town. You’d be hard-pressed to visit Oaxaca and not stop by the Museo de las Culturas at least once, given that it’s located next to the famed Templo de Santo Domingo in the 17th century converted monastery. Even if you’re not big on museums, this one does have some cool exhibits you should check it out for the location alone. The large open windows frame the surrounding Ethnobotanical Garden, creating some literally picture perfect views.

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Explore the art galleries throughout Oaxaca is a must. While Mexico City takes the title for the most museums, Oaxaca is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to art galleries. From smaller independent ones that you can dip in and out of as you wander the cobbled, winding streets of the city to the larger more famous ones that display pieces from renowned artists, the art scene in Oaxaca is absolutely one of the things you must see. Visit the mezcal distilleries. The spiky agave plants whose piñas (hearts) harvested to roast, mash and ferment, it became clear why this is one of the most excellent mezcal you’ll taste.
 Chef Pilar Cabrera of Restaurant la Olla, also offers cooking classes through Casa de los Sabores. For more fun experiences, check out Airbnb Experiences, where you’ll find unique cooking classes, tours, gallery walks and so much more.


Updated May 2019



Insiders Guide To Coachella Food and Staying Hydrated

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Ahhh Coachella, April, and Spring.

This means Summer will be here before we know it, but also it means that is the start of Festival season. If you're heading to the desert for Coachella Music and Art Festival, I'm sure you've started to prep... outfits, sunnies, and getting crop-top ready.

With the festival about four weeks out, I've decided to put together a relatively comprehensive guide to preparing yourself for Coachella in Indio, California. After getting yourself there and organizing a sweet place to stay, you'll also need to know what you're allowed to bring in and what to expect when you're there. Most of all, be prepared to have three days of excitement and fun!

The entire Food Lineup at Coachella is equally as impressive as the music itself. From many many years of heading to the festival, here’s my Insiders Guide To Coachella Food and Staying Hydrated.

Cassell’s cheeseburger with fries Cassell’s Burgers [Official photo]

Cassell’s cheeseburger with fries Cassell’s Burgers [Official photo]

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Eureka! Fresno Fig burger

Eureka! Fresno Fig burger

Nourish yourself prior to entry

First thing first, you have to make sure you nourish yourself, especially if you plan on staying for the entire day. Have a big, delicious breakfast to sustain you through a fair way of the day. Coachella has food but it has food at high prices, often accompanied by ridiculously long queues.

No Outside Food Permitted

While food is not permitted into the grounds, you might be able to hide small energy or granola bars, fruit leather chews or protein powder pouches in your bag but note that these items may be taken from you if found during a bag search.

Need Special Foods?

If you have a medical condition that requires special food or food at certain times, such as diabetes or anything else a doctor would recognize as acceptable, get a letter from your doctor to cover this and show it to security when waiting to enter the venue. They will help store any medication and food in a secure area for diabetics. The names on any medication must match your ID.

V, VG, GF

Yes! Coachella has food vendors that sell gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan food. More available options has been growing in recent years. In 2008 when I first attended, there wasn’t many options. But this has changed. The annual music and arts festival that takes place in Indio has increasing improved its food and drink selections as an ideal complement to the top tier music acts. And thanks to its proximity to Los Angeles and Southern California, it’s mainly local restaurants and chefs that get to show off to the 250,000 some people who attend the festival over two weeks in April.

Stay hydrated

No one plans on going to an event and leaving with heat stroke, but it’s easier to do than you’d think. One minute you’re partying, and then the next you start to feel sick due to dehydration. Although you might be able to argue for a refund, due to having wound up in the hospital, why risk having to try when it’s so easy to avoid the problem in the first place. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, even if you do not feel thirsty. Coachella allows you to bring in empty water bottles to fill up. Bring one and keep it filled!

Are you heading to the desert?

Originally published 3/2016 - Updated 4/2019

The 6 Best Travel Gadgets That Are Too Cool To Resist in Spring 2019

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I always get questions about my favorite travel gear and photography equipment for foodie travel. I want to disclose that I am a content creator but by no means an expert on professional photography though I do love sharing my tips, tricks and favorite travel accessories for capturing those memorable experiences.

So, here is the best and newest travel accessories and travel photography gear that are the most useful, functional, and fun accessories that every traveler should have this Spring.


1. Video-taking sunglasses

Welcome to the future! Snap Inc. is going above and beyond when it comes to stylish techie wearable sunnies. These video-recording and picture-taking sunglasses allow users to capture 10-40 second video clips or a quick snap of precisely of what’s going on in the moment - with just the press of a button. Say good-bye to wrestling for your phone when you see something awesome going down. If you’ve got these glasses, all you need to do is hit “play.” And get this, the glasses sync with your phone and enable you to share your stream and pics right onto SnapChat. Don’t think for a minute you’re sacrificing video quality either, because the glasses record in HD and can capture video in full circle format. They come in 6 different colors and styles to keep you looking rad while you record and share memories in actual time.


2. Removable Smartphone Camera Lens

We use our phones for everything these days, including taking vacation and travel photos. New generation phones are so hi-tech that many brag their phone cameras are better than the traditional version. With different lens attachments, this brag just got tough to dismiss. We can already quickly edit like a pro on our phones. With clip-on lenses, like these from Xenvo Pro Lens Kit for iPhone and Android, we can now obtain wide angle and macro effect with LED Light and travel case. At just $40 for all four, you may think these lenses are too cheap to take quality photos. But with excellent reviews and a money back guarantee, there’s no risk. Get snapping!



3. Smartphone Tripod

Keeping a tripod around like this one from UBeesize will help you get the best shot, no matter how spur-of-the-moment it is. This cell phone tripod is made with durable material. Get the perfect angle with the adjustable octopus style legs for capturing clean shots from any angle even in the move. It's also very stable on any surface, and it works well with smartphones, digital cameras, GoPro and webcams up to 3.75 inches wide. You'll love that it comes with a control... perfect for solo travelers to snap a pic from a distance. The wireless remote serves a wireless range up to 30 ft. Ideal for taking individual, group photos & wide angle views. And for only $14, it's a perfect accessory to have on hand!


4. Underwater Video and Photos

With its 4K video, user-friendly touchscreen interface, and built-in waterproofing--up to 33 feet/10 meters without housing-- The latest GoPro HERO5 Black is no doubt one of the best underwater cameras out there. It's got tons of innovative features, including voice control, electronic image stabilization, and simple one-button control, making it ideal for your next snorkeling or scuba diving adventure.


5. Birds-Eye View Videos

A new 4K Hasselblad camera, intuitive smartphone control, and a huge 31 minutes of flying time, DJI’s upgraded Mavic Pro 2 is no doubt one of the best travel drones out there. This is perfect for travelers always excited to capture and share their adventures on the go. The sleek and silent high-tech flying camera comes with GPS, 10 optical sensors that help it avoid obstacles, as well as copious flight modes, including tripod and selfie settings. You'll love how compact and foldable it is. It can fly as far as 4.3 miles away, allowing you to capture the jaw-dropping beauty of your surroundings in perfect HD video at 4K/30fps or 1080p/120fps, as well as photographs in 20MP RAW or JPG format.


6. Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot & Power Bank

One of the best mobile Wi-Fi hotspots on the market, the Skyroam Solis' ingenious connectivity gadget offers unlimited 4G LTE service in over 130 countries around the world. Every device can support up to 5 connections and also serves as a portable charger for your phone or tablet while on the move, thanks to its integrated 6000 mAh power bank. A day pass is $9 and gives you unlimited internet access for 24 hours.

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