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.

Best of Tamarindo: Health Foods That Make You Feel Good (and Where To Find Them)

There is no denying that Costa Rica is a country of unrivalled beauty, friendly people, a high standard of living, and a fascinating blend of local and foreign cultures, making it the jewel of Central America. This gorgeous country enjoys a high standard of health, drawing many people come here to reduce their daily stress, live in a clean environment, or benefit from the affordable, quality medical care. If you are ready for a change to a healthy diet, Costa Rica is the perfect place.

I’ll be very honest with you, living in Costa Rica at first was a bit of a challenge in adjusting to the day-to-day life. There is those comfort of home that I miss, like being able to drive to Whole Foods or Rainbow Grocery and pick up items like hemp seeds and chia seeds, protein powders, and kombucha. The fact of knowing where I can easily find items is a comfort I miss.

Luckily, Tamarindo’s flourishing international community made the hunt for superfoods and healthy finds easy - it just took some searching and getting acquainted.

The foods that fall into this exclusive category are those with the highest density or presence of nutrients. Just about every brightly colored fruit and vegetable fits the category of a superfood. So do nuts, beans, seeds and aromatic and brightly colored herbs and spices. The beneficial properties of each one of these superfoods could fill an entire book. Vegetables should ideally be organic, for even more benefit. (In Costa Rica, the food taste so much better.)

If you're a health nut like me, you’ll appreciate this post. I’ve been gathering a list of places where one can find superfoods and health products.

Best of Tamarindo: Health Foods That Make You Feel Good (and Where To Find Them)


Superfood Shortlist

The Tamarindo Feria (Farmer’s Market) each Saturday morning, from 8am - 1pm, for fresh, organic veggies and fruits, superfoods like Moringa, Hemp Seeds, Chia Seeds, Spirulina, gluten-free baked goods, natural soaps, oils and lotions, and a fun hippie beach vibe. The produce stand, Huerta Organica, located towards the front carry leafy greens like Tuscan Kale, Curley Kale, Rainbow Swiss Chard, and Spinach. Arrive early, they tend to sell out, primarily by me! I'm joking. (I’m the girl with 6-7 bundles of kale each Saturday.) The Fruit Truck guy, Frutas Amistad, for juicy watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe and papaya. Pick-up handcrafted artisan cheeses at Cheese Collections and Rancho Avellanas. Both,  Rancho Avellanas and Cheese Collection also sell greek yoghurt and cheese made from Goat's milk. Walk a few steps for cashew butter and almond butter at F&B Nut Butters. Feeling a bit granola? They also sell darn good bag of Tamarindo Granola - uber delicious, life changing granola. (Yea, it’s that good.)

Other fantastic finds are locally grown and dried, never heated, spices like turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin from the Organic Spice stand. Fresh fish, caught in the waters of Costa Rica’s Pacific Ocean, is available at good prices. (Try a cup of a cool ceviche with hot sauce from the fish guy). Beach Chocolate for bean-to-bar dark chocolate what's packed with antioxidants.

A walk through this farmers market, you’ll quickly see that this market is just like any other American farmers market - minimal produce vendors and lots of handcrafted, artisan items, and delicious food. It reminds me a lot of home; much like the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco. One can find baked goods including breads, sweets and everything in between at a number of tables throughout the market. One them even offers gluten-free baked goods from Mandy's Candy. (Well, okay, cupcakes may not a superfood, but it's good to know for the gluten intolerant.)

Cafe Tico for unique blends of coffee. Also available is a good variety of natural pantry staples such as coffee, honey, nuts, and jams. La Bodega is known for their delicious organic, local sandwiches and salads. (More on the food in a later post.) But, they also sell local artisans products and superfoods, including Moringa, Chia Seeds, Coconut oil, Flor de Jamaica tea leaves, and Kombucha. If you’re looking for hemp seeds and raw almonds, Super 2001 next to Tico Cafe carries them. And, speaking of hemp seeds, you can also find them at ReFLEXion Yoga Tamarindo is as well as Navita SuperBlend and Trail Mix. Coco Spa Store is the go to for all natural, organic, health and wellness products. Located right next door to Coco Spa in downtown Tamarindo, this wellness shop recently opened; it’s the Whole Food’s whole body section of Tamarindo. You’ll find Sun Warrior proteins, Sun Is Shining Superblends, cacao, maca powder, spirulina, hemp seeds, chia seeds, Dehydrated Kale Chips and Broccoli, single origin dark chocolate, Tierra Linda Kombucha and so much more. Coco also carries an array of natural beauty and skin products, as well as, Fair Trade coffee and tea.

On Friday’s and Monday’s head to Villarreal for the Villarreal Feria (Farmers Market.) Getting there is a $5 cab ride ($10 round trip). Leaving Tamarindo, at the intersection in Villarreal take a right. It’s located next to the field in the center of town. Expect to find super cheap fruit and veggies. They don’t take credit cards though. Plan to bring some cash. $25-$30 should fill your fridge. (Friday's market has a larger selection than Monday.)

During the week keep an eye out for pop-up fruit stands. Any day, any time of year, in any location, you may find someone selling fruit. This is a priceless aspect of Costa Rican life: grab bags of seasonal fruit at low prices. These fruit stands are all over town. Parked near Super 2001, the Fruit Truck guy is there on Friday’s.

If you find the guy selling honey, buy some. Mr. Honey has a stand across from Carlos & Carlos. You will pay way more in the market, and it may be lesser quality. Usually, the honey guy is selling recycled rum bottles full for $8.00. Pick up fresh, extracted sugar cane juice from the Jugo de Caña truck. It may sound ridiculous at first, but the sugar cane juice is really good for you.The sugar cane juice is sugar in its basic form: raw. That sugar is naturally good for the body, as it contains nutrients and minerals. It is normally parked across the street from the Sno Shack. And, speaking of which... The Sno Shack offers made to order green smoothies for about 2000 colones for the large size. My favorite combination is spinach, kale, basil, pineapple and spirulina.

Worth mentioning is Automercado. The chain carries many dietary restricted items: gluten-free, dairy-free, and diabetic options. You will find most of it in the second to the last aisle before the cold beer. This isle also has chia seeds and raw nuts.

Did I miss any place? Let’s hear them in the comments below.

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The Healing Cuisine: Cooking With Intention


Santa Teresa is one of those iconic Costa Rica tourism spots. Paradise found for so many international and Costa Rican tourists who “discovered” Santa Teresa’s pristine beaches, world-class surf breaks and lushly forested coastline. The laid-back beach town sits near the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. The area incorporates the beach communities of Mal Pais, Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa and Playa Hermosa. Once a surfers’ and backpackers’ secret hideaway, the popular beaches now are filled with eco-lodges, beach bungalows, upscale luxury boutique hotels, yoga retreats, and multi-national restaurants serving healthy cuisine. This is what attracted me to this area and the desire to visit. In a search for a sliver of paradise and a health conscious community. In my search, I came across The Healing Cuisine, a whole organic food company that specializes in gourmet allergen and gluten free super foods. Their aim is to teach personal growth, vibrant health, and clarity of the mind, body and spirit.

Barbara Dewhurs and Joanne Gerrard Young

A Gastronomical Experience

During my recent stay in Santa Teresa, I was fortunate to participate in a two-hour cooking workshop led by Chef Barbara Dewhurs, the owner of Chop It Holy Cow Burger, and hosted by Joanne Gerrard Young, a Master Raw Food Chef and the brains behind The Healing Cuisine. These entrepreneurial women are honestly two of the most inspiring people I’ve met this past year since I entered the mostly raw health jungle. They are examples of individuals following and living their art and passion with an energy that's contagious.

The workshop was centered around an Indian theme to 'Heal Your Gut & Kick Candida's Butt,' an informative cooking workshop on "leaky gut," a condition in which cells in the gut react to foods, chemicals and toxins in such a way that cause the bonds in our intestinal lining to break apart. When this happens, particles of food slide into your bloodstream, triggering an immune response, causing food sensitivities and inflammation.

The menu included: Fresh Almond Golden Milk, Pureed Garbanzo Soup with Sea Bacon, Fresh Coconut milk Curried Veggies with Almond Flour Naan Bread, Sprouted Lentil Dahl with Cumin Roasted Cauliflower & Creamy Limon Creamsicle Dessert Smoothie.

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One can easily tell that Barb and Joanne had carefully planned and crafted each meal. The workshop began with creating Fresh Almond Golden Milk - a warm, slightly spicy, bold, and earthy flavor and when mixed with a hint of sweetness. We were explained that Turmeric is especially known for its benefits to digestion, immune function, liver health and even possible protection from cancer.

Pureed Garbanzo Soup with Sea Bacon Fresh Coconut milk Curried Veggies with Almond Flour Naan Bread

Next up was the Pureed Garbanzo Soup with Sea Bacon followed by Fresh Coconut Milk Curried Veggies with Almond Flour Naan Bread. The Naan was amazing. The flavour was to of this world and so simple to make.

The Healing Cuisine Workshop-02-06 01.05.23 Sprouted Lentil Dahl with Cumin Roasted Cauliflower

The workshop continued with preparing Sprouted Lentil Dahl with Cumin Roasted Cauliflower, which Joanne had sprouted four days prior. This recipe was full of flavor, just like all the other dishes. The cumin roasted cauliflower added a nice touch to the Dahl.

Concluding out Indian culinary adventure, Joanne created a Creamy Limon Creamsicle Dessert Smoothie - coconut meat blended to creamy perfection with limon and, a perfect ending for our palates.

The Healing CuisineThe Healing Cuisine

After class, I got a chance to sit down with Joanne and chat with her about her story on how she got started. She is one of the most genuine individuals I’ve ever met. Originally from Ontario, Canada, Joanne has been working in the Culinary Arts and Holistic Nutrition fields since 1991 when she moved to Whistler, British Columbia to pursue her passion for food. In Whistler, Joanne had the great pleasure of working with some of the top chef’s in the area and was first inspired by the healing properties of organic living foods and super-foods as the head chef of Vitality 4 U Juice and Salad Bar.

Aside from providing hands-on workshops and cooking classes once a week, Joanne is known for her Cleanse Programs, Juice Cleanses and Personal Chef services. Her clients range from Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen to the visitor like you and I looking to for better health and well-being.

2015-02-06 00.19.52 Joanne's test kitchen

This workshop was very informative and the foods prepared was beyond delicious. What is most impressive is the method of teaching and how easy the preparation is. Both Joanne and Barb made it simple for all to understand the concepts behind eating and preparing all of your foods. I also very much enjoyed their gentle approach to eating healthy.

I walked away with a greater understanding of food as a whole. Eating healthy is one thing, but when you're eating with the right intentions and of foods made with love it makes a world of difference. Joanne and Barb show this first hand in the food they prepare. The food was outrageous - so fresh, vibrant and full of flavour. Joanne is so knowledgeable and passionate about clean, healthy living. I know that I'll have to return to Santa Teresa before I depart in April, and participate in one of Joanne’s retreats. My time here was a very special one.

A special thank you to Joanne, Barb, and Glenda and all at The Healing Cuisine for hosting us. As always, all opinions are my own.

Kale Banana Smoothie


I love LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto and the gluten-free menu--what I absolutely love is the Kale-Banana smoothie. I probably frequent LYFE about 2-3 times per week, specifically for this after a spin session or aerial yoga class. I had been trying to recreate this smoothie at home and after many attempts, I have finally found the recipe. gluten-free, gluten-free palo alto, palo alto gluten-free, gluten-free fare, gluten-free smooties, kale, banana, banana smoothies, kale-banana smoothies, lyfe kitchen, lyfe kitchen palo alto, lyfe kitchen kale-banana smoothies

I like that this recipe does not have milk (dairy, almond, coconut...). Sometimes, somethings are best kept simple. This smoothies proves just that. Plus, the bananas add the creaminess and smooth texture that milk would.

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Here it is...Enjoy!

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Follow @valeriefidan and tag your awesome food photos with #letsregale! As always, all opinions, as always, are my own. Photos taken with iPhone; edited in Camera+ and instagrammed.

7 Dishes You Shouldn’t Leave Coastal Ecuador Without Trying


Having visited the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador I was struck by the natural beauty and warm hospitality of the country. It shouldn’t have surprised me to see that simple, natural ingredients were the backbone of Ecuadorian cuisine, and naturally gluten-free. Each of the country’s three geographic regions, the Amazon, the Sierra, and the Pacific Coast features its own array of local delicacies. And, while being in on the coast, seafood was a no brainer. While in Ecuador you should take advantage of the large variety of fresh fruit that is available including the local naranjilla which has a flavor described as a cross between rhubarb and lime and also try the typical guanabana. With so many food options, here are 7 dishes you shouldn't leave coastal Ecuador without trying:

1. Ceviche

ceviche One of the dishes that stands out the most in Ecuador is the ceviche. Although ceviche is a favorite of coastal areas in Latin America, in Ecuador theres a twist to it. During my 10-day stay I enjoyed a copious amounts of ceviche from fish in a tomato lime sauce to shrimp and octopus ceviches.

2. Cancha

cancha Dry roasted Andean corn is sold as a snack food on the streets.

3. Arroz con Pollo (or Shrimps)

Arroz con Pollo Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken) and Arroz con Camarones (rice with shrimp) are both traditional dishes found throughout Latin America. There’s nothing special about the versions you’ll get in Ecuador. Both are good staple dishes you can always fall back on if nothing else on the menu catches your eye.

4. Langostinos

Langostinos Langostinos are one of the many fresh and delicious seafood options on offer in Ecuador. Because the country is so small, they can easily be sourced from the coast, so don’t be afraid to order them if you’re in the Sierra mountains.

5. Llapingachos

Llapingachos Llapingachos are one of Ecuador’s best known, and most beloved, dishes. They are potato patties made with cheese, and cooked on a griddle until golden brown. Llapingachos are often served as a side, along with pork, such as chorizo, a fried egg, avocado and salad.

6. Pan de Yuca

pan de yuca Like the Brazilian Pão de Queijo, Pan de Yuca is a soft bread made with flour from the yuca root, cheese, butter, and eggs. It’s common throughout Latin America, and often goes by different names depending on the country. Served warm, it makes a delightful appetizer or snack.

7. Empanadas

empanadas Empanadas – small baked or fried pastries with filling. Coastal empanadas are made of plantain and filled with cheese, beef or shrimp.

8. Humitas

humita Humitas are the Andian version of Mexican tamales. Sweet fresh corn is ground blended with milk, cooked in oil, then wrapped in the husks and steamed. Humitas are widely available throughout Ecuador.

Now, after all of this food talk, I'm hungry for Ecuadorian cuisine. Click below to share this post with others (they'll be hungry for more).