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 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]

coachella food

coachella food

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.


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

Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path

It's time to out the travel guides down, and skip the tourist trap attractions and experience a city like a local.

Off The Beaten (Tourist) Path travel tips

First thing firsts, if you want to experience local culture when traveling, stay away from tourist sites and tourist attractions. We all know that those experiences are far from truly experiencing local culture. Sure, you may want to explore the Colosseum in Rome  or visit Boca in Buenos Aires--but think about it this way...when you visit New York City, do you really get a New York experience by staying in Time Square? Do as the locals do. Travel with as few plans, commitments and reservations as possible. Be your most uninhibited self.

Easiest way to get the local knowledge is from the locals. This is true. Most people are proud of their home and love to tell you about it. One trick is to go to a restaurant early, like so you are the only customer - the staff will talk to you; sit at a bar and talk to the bartender, the always are in the know.

Ask your waiter.

Ask your cab drivers (use discretion here - cab drivers often get kickbacks for nightlife type activities).

Ask people you meet at the bar, or the cafe, or people you run into in the lobby of your hotel.  

Ask random people on the street.  

Rent places via AirBnB or Couchsurfing and ask your host.

As long as you are polite and use good judgment on when you are asking someone (i.e., don't interrupt people) usually people are happy to help and make recommendations.  Almost everyone wants visitors to enjoy their city/country and leave with a good impression.

Don't be intimidated by language barriers. Explore other forms of communications. Bring postcards from home to show and share. Draw pictures. Pantomime.

Be willing to try (nearly) anything. Food is a good example. Local "delicacies" may be intimidating, but you can pretty safely assume they aren't killing anyone.

Lastly, smile! People will respond best if you are approachable and polite. Well, at least this has worked for me!

Share your tips on Instagram!

My Health Journey: Learning To Live

Guys, I'm getting deep with you today. I have a secret to share with you.  It's taken about six months to publish this post, and I probably wouldn't have done it without the encouragement of my friend Jo (aka @GoFitJo) and a simple question of "why hide from your truth?" 

Portland, OR April 2015: Returning back to the U.S. a bit healthier at 110lb.

I am no longer going to hide my truth. Not with me, you, or anyone else.

My truth? It's a shocking confession you might not believe.

It's not to gain sympathy, but rather to share a part of me that I've kept secret for almost nearly 20 years from virtually everyone but a handful of people. Not even my parents knew until earlier this year.

It's been a little over two years since entering recovery for an eating disorder: bulimia nervosa.

Shockingly, this was my "normal" and something that had developed in middle school. It became my normal way of life. It would come and go in different phases of my life. And, it probably sounds ironic, because of this food-based health and wellness blog, right?

Two years ago my relationship with food was non-existent. Food was the enemy. It was not enjoyable; it was far from it. Social gatherings and even going out to dinner would cause a lot of stress and social anxiety. But my ED (eating disorder) was more than just about food. It was about control. Control that manifested in the many things I could not control: relationships, my environment, work, the feeling of belonging, happiness, the pressures of excelling in the crazy world of Silicon Valley. While I may not be a techie or some scrappy startup founder, when you grow up in the Bay Area where your peers are making an impact and innovating, the pressure is on. The pressure to succeed and be the best is intense. 

When I got married in August of 2010, I thought I had beat the odds and my bulimic past was in the past. Something that had been in and out of my life for so long was no longer there. I was thrilled. I was able to change and paint a new road for a healthy future. This shifted and changed in 2013 after a trip to Southeast Asia and Australia, it got noticeably worse and became a constant in my daily life. I cannot pin point what triggered the return. Stress? Owning a business at 20-something? Unhappiness? It's still unclear, and something I'm still working on, because this time instead of stopping "cold-turkey," I'm working with a therapist that specializes in eating disorder recovery.

Me (middle) in Costa Rica with friends in 2013 at my lowest weight
my story, my health journey ed recovery
The start of our travels in 2015 in NYC.

Top: Me (middle) in Costa Rica with friends in 2013 at my lowest weight; Bottom Left: Me (middle) in Costa Rica with friends in 2013 at my lowest weight; Bottom Right: At the start of our travels in 2014 in NYC; Bottom: October 2014 in Charleston, SC also at the start of our travels.


Recovery Is A Long Road

Recovery has been a long, hard, bumpy AF road. It's been a struggle on its own and mixed in with the various obstacles that life throws at you is even more difficult. At times it felt like scaling a mountain, and never being able to reach the summit. Through this journey, I've been learning a lot about myself and learning how to be compassionate with myself, and how to love myself.

I remember the moment that I stepped on the scale and it read 105lb. I thought I was seeing things. This was a significant number, because this was the number I had always wanted to see on the scale. I stepped off and then back on: 105lb. I couldn't believe it, partially because I thought I'd be happy once I reached this goal number and the girl looking back at me in the mirror was far from happy. I was "skinny-fat." I was thin, flabby and no muscle mass. Not what I thought 105lb would look like.

This was the morning before leaving on a trip to Costa Rica in 2013. My good friend whom I traveled with at one point made a comment along the lines of "you're skin and bones" I thought she was being insensitive and flat out mean. She wasn't. Even though her comment has a hint of malice, she was concerned but perhaps didn't know how to address what she was witnessing. 

I came back from Costa Rica 3lbs lighter. That day on the scale was eye-opening, 102lb the scale read. I couldn't believe I was 102lbs, yet I wasn't ready to get help. I was in some sort of denial that anything was wrong. I knew things were bad, but I didn't realize how bad. I would later discover the extremity to my deteriorating self on December 20, 2014. This is a day that I will never forget. That's the day I was rushed to the intensive care unit in Asheville, NC and almost died 2 months into our workcation 18-months of travel. Yes. Almost died. Sounds a bit dramatic but this is the truth. My electrolyte levels were dangerously low.  

For the first time in my life, I was fearful of dying. I thought I'd never see my parents, my brother, my family, my husband, my dogs... none of the people that mattered most in my life ever again.

The next day I thought about what had happened. Tears flooded my eyes thinking about what if I had died? That would be the most heartbreaking thing my parents could ever endure. How would my husband have handled it? And to put him in a position where he'd have to deliver such awful news to my parents? It was devastating.

Leaving ICU the following morning, I wasn't exactly in the clear and on the path to recovery just yet. I had to have the uncomfortable, embarrassing, sad conversation with my husband and come clean to him about what was going on. At this point, he obviously knew that was going on. I promised I'd get help, not because of him but because I wanted help. I needed help and I was ready to get help.

Left: 2014: Unhappy and unhealthy at 102lb and no muscle mass (aka "skinny fat."); Right: 2017: Much healthier, and building up lost muscle mass at 115-ish lb.

Left: 2014: Unhappy and unhealthy at 102lb and no muscle mass (aka "skinny fat."); Right: 2017: Much healthier, and building up lost muscle mass at 115-ish lb.

Progress Happens When You're Ready To Make Changes

I was in intense outpatient recovery for about a month before traveling back to Costa Rica for three months at the start of 2015. This might have been the riskiest move, but for me, it's what I needed. It was a twisted version of my favorite books by Elizabeth Gilbert, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Or, in my humble interpretation: eat everything, pray (yoga and meditate) often, and simply learn to love my life, every ounce of it.  

I needed to be somewhere away from everyday life. Away from the distraction and pressures of the Bay Area. Costa Rica was a time to reflect and focus on me. It was a time to fully focus on getting better. Plus, together with my therapist, we created a plan in case things took a turn for the worst or lack of progress being made. The plan was if things weren't getting better to fly back to the States and enter in-patient recovery. Gregg, my husband, was on board with this and was very supportive throughout the entire process, and continues to be supportive.

My outpatient recovery consisted of intense weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) sessions with my therapist over video chat. The sessions were emotional, tough and at most times uncomfortable. There were days that my therapist was the most annoying person ever because of the "digging deeper" questions and opening up about something that I had hidden for so long. Other times I found her to be the most insightful person, a guru of sorts.

During these three months, I made a ton of progress in my recovery. It was an elated feeling. I was proud of myself for being able to stay committed to better health. Now, I'm not going to say that there weren't any slip-up because there were and there have been. This is normal. It's a normal part of recovery. 

Through all of this, these last two years have brought many high's and low's. It hasn't been an easy road. Recovery has been a struggle, partially because every day is a battle. A fight to make the right choices, to not listen to the voice inside to binge and purge, to make decisions for better health. Good days feel like I'm on top of the world, and bad days are so bad I just want to hide and cry.

2017 and a much happier, healthier human.

2017 and a much happier, healthier human.

Admitting My Truth Has Been Tough

It's taken me this long to tell my parents because of the various family events that my mother has had to endure. Like the passing of her father in the Spring of 2015 and the passing of her mother exactly a year later. It was never the right time. I didn't want to add more worry to my mom as she mourned her dad and cared for her ailing mom, along with the various stresses of family dynamics that came along with this all. She had too much on her plate to worry about another huge issue. Her heart could not fit any more heartache.

This is something my therapist and I have disagreed on time and time again. And, to this day, we still don't see eye-to-eye on this.

She didn't understand the matters at hand. She didn't understand the dynamics with in my family. She didn't understand the stress that my mother was under. She didn't understand the family drama. The way that I saw it was that it would have been selfish of me to bring upon another worry to her. Plus, it wasn't like I was alone, I had the support of my husband.

Photo credit: Jenn Byrne Creative

Photo credit: Jenn Byrne Creative

Two years later here I am...

I'm learning to love me, flaws and all. Building back muscle mass that I had lost has been a challenge. Two years later I am still working hard at building it back up, and am now starting to notice a difference.

Emotionally and mentally, I have good days and bad days.  Bad days are filled with the negative thoughts, a deep depression, and anxiety; but I'm much stronger mentally to acknowledge these feelings and let them be without acting on them. The small stresses in life, the deep depression that comes in waves can be debilitating. I now know that it's how you pick yourself up that helps. Going outside, being in nature, yoga, or sometimes even a good cry to just let it all out helps.

I now see food as nourishment. It's the medicine your body needs to perform at its most optimal level. It's what keeps us healthy. I was able to fully understand this by studying up on nutrition though NASM's Fitness Nutrition Specialist certification program, through therapy, and seeing a nutritionist.

One of the biggest challenges that I've been dealing with is the public opinion of those that are quick to judge. Those that have a hurtful opinion, that takes my medically diagnosed intolerances as a form of distorted eating. IT'S NOT! Egg, Gluten, Soy... These are actual intolerances that make me extremely ill. Trust me, if I could eat a loaf of bread, dunk sushi in soy sauce, and have a sunny side egg without getting sick, I would. There is nothing more that I want than to have a slice of pizza with ranch dressing. These intolerances make eating f'ing harder.

It's not fun.

So, don't judge. 

Don't judge my journey.

Don't judge others, because I'm sure your life isn't all rainbows and butterlies. 

So I leave you with this, to have compassion for others. You don't know their struggle, and the hardships they are dealing with. Life isn't always as rosy as it may seem. 

This is all part of the eat, pray, love journey. Being present. Being vulnerable. Learning to live. Learning to love. The act of celebrating and really truly enjoying your life and accepting who you are, flaws and all. This is my story on my journey for better health. It is part of my healing process, and part of recovery. It's a big chapter in my life, and one that I hope helps you to understand who I am a bit more. 


A special thanks to my therapist, Allison Puryear; To Jo Encarnacion, Amanda Gist, and Ayten for giving me the courage and support to share my story.

10 Tips For Eating Street Food Without Getting Sick

Food is the best way to get to know a countries culture rather intimately. It is a way to to start conversations and understand it’s history. It is widely recognized that an inherent part of any travel is the street food experience. It’s fast, fresh (hopefully), and a great way to see how locals eat. But, when it comes to adventurous eating, everyone, even those who don’t travel, need to know how to eat street food safely. There are still some rules to eat street food safely to avoid an upset whether it’s at a dosa stall in Bombay or a dog cart in New York City. There are some tips such as eating at the most popular street vendors with the longest lines, and making sure the food has not been sitting around. Some other ideas are just common sense, like avoiding mayonnaise and eating more vegetable and fewer meat dishes.

By following these unspoken rules and using some common sense, you'll be able to enjoy street food (safely).

street food vietnam

1. Follow the local crowds

One of the best ways to eat street food safely is to take note of where the local crowds eat. If a vendor is extremely quiet, or seems to be avoided by the locals, chances are that the food is not overly good, or worst possible case, that the food is unsafe. In short, observing your surroundings and being extremely careful about where and what you eat is your best bet at circumventing any street food related health issues.

2. Ask the locals

Ask the locals such as a taxi or tuk tuk driver for a recommendation if you’re looking for somewhere to buy food. They will most likely recommend places that they frequent.

3. Watch your food being cooked

One of the best tips for eating street food safely is to observe how it’s prepared. If the food is stored out in the blazing sun and washed in tap water before being served raw, then run away. Not literally, but you’ll most likely want to eat elsewhere.

4.Learn to love spice

I have no scientific proof that chili sauce kills bacteria, but I’m inclined to believe that our copious use of hot sauces have served our stomachs well prophylactically.

5. Don’t eat anything that has been washed in tap water

Many seasoned travelers have long since learned how to enjoy street food, and tend not to make rookie mistakes like eating meat or drinking the tap water. Something that the majority of people don’t think about, however, is that a lot of fresh foods such as salads and fruits are often washed in unsafe tap water, making them unsafe to eat. You also need to be careful if you order soft drinks or alcohol from a street vendor, as any ice provided to go with your drink is most likely also made from tap water.

6. Observe your vendor’s hygiene

Observing a vendor’s hygiene practices is one of the most important tips for enjoying street food safely, as one can assume that the food is only as clean as the person cooking it. Making sure that the vendor is handling the food in a hygienic manner and not cross contaminating the vegetables with the raw meats is a great way to ensure that you don’t get sick. Also, make sure that the person handling food, just handles food; and the person handling money, just handles money.

7. Cleanliness counts, always wash your hands

You may also like to make sure that you wash your hands and follow proper hygienic practices before eating, however, or you may be making yourself sick!

8. Beware of tempting fruit shakes and drinks made with unpurified water

Sure, those stands may look so tempting, but don’t risk buying a fruit shake off the street unless you are sure the water (or ice!) has been purified. There’s no need to deny yourself completely this pleasure, but just ask first or order it from a tourist-oriented restaurant that has filtered water clearly marked on the menu.

9. Let your body adjust to local cuisine

Depending on where you’re traveling, it is sometimes important to let your body get used to the cuisine before ordering any outlandish street foods. In Thailand, for example, the locals tend to enjoy their food somewhat spicy, which can be too much for a foreigner’s stomach. One of the most practical tips for enjoying street food is therefore to give your stomach a little time to get with the program before you let the gastro good times roll.

10. Avoid foods made with mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is one of those food items that spoils quickly so, if you’ve never eaten from that street vendor before, avoid it.

Finally, if Anthony Bourdain has been to that city, make sure to look at his thoughts and finds too. Following in his food trail has never let me (or my tummy) down.

With all of this food talk, maybe you'll venture out next time you travel. Click below and share this with your friends!