Hipmunk: Tips for the Ultimate (and Drama-Free) EDM Vacation

This post was originally published on Tailwind by Hipmunk on March 30, 2016.

So you’ve decided to spend your precious vacation time at raves and EDM festivals. You are undoubtedly in for a blast of epic proportions. Still, it’ll be helpful to employ a few strategies in advance of your trip in order to ensure that things go smoothly—i.e. sans epic meltdowns, lost friends, or bodily discomfort. Whether you’re heading to Electric Daisy Carnival in Tokyo or Electric Zoo in NYC, here’s how to prep for the ultimate EDM vacation so that you can enjoy it drama-free.

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1. Read up on the venue in advance.

Once you’ve purchased tickets to a festival or rave, check out the venue’s website to learn if any items are prohibited from the grounds as well as what amenities will be on offer. (For example, some festivals have started going “cashless”—meaning festival goers can load money onto a wristband and leave the credit cards at home.) While you’re at it, print out the show lineup and a map of the festival grounds so you canplan your route in advance.

2. Pack layers.

EDM festivals involve lots of dancing and require being on your feet all day. Do your body a favor and pack layers that are comfortable, breathable, and appropriate for the weather. Even if the day starts out warm, it’s a good idea to bring along a hoodie or light jacket in case the night turns cool. If you have room in your backpack or fanny pack, it’s also a good idea to bring an extra pair of socks in case yours get wet or dirty during the show. Perhaps most importantly? Remember to wear comfortable footwear.

3. Eat and drink well.

Dancing for hours under the beating sun—it’s a blast, but it’s also tough on your body. Give your body the best chance at feeling okay by the end of the night by eating a nutritious meal before raves, packing healthy snacks, and staying hydrated while you dance the night away.

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4. Bring the right toiletries.

While you simply won’t be able to maintain everyday hygiene at a show or festival, you can approximate cleanliness with a few key toiletries. Consider packing baby wipes for tackling grime on your neck, armpits, arms, and feet in addition to dry shampoo, sunblock (an absolute must for summer shows), and hand sanitizer for post-porta-potty cleanup.

If you’ll be camping at a festival, pay-per-use showers may be available—bring along flip flops, a bathing suit, and cash if you want to take advantage of these facilities. Also be sure to bring your standard toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, deodorant, etc. And don’t forget to pack a basic first aid kit—stashing one of these in your pack can save many a headache (literally) in the event of minor cuts and bruises.

5. Accessorize smartly.

A few items tossed into a backpack or fanny pack can make a huge difference in your rave-going experience:

  • Once night falls, a headlamp is tremendously useful if you drop something on the grass or need to review a festival map in the dark.
  • Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from summer rays or the flashing lights that are common during nighttime raves.
  • Ear plugs will help protect your hearing so you can enjoy EDM for years into the future.
  • Plastic trash bags can serve as a poncho, a seat, or protection for your belongings in the case of rain.
  • A waterproof phone case will help spare you from the devastation of ruining your phone
6. Make sure your phone has juice.

Before heading to a rave, make sure your phone is fully charged so you can take pictures and stay in touch with your group in case you get separated. It’s a good idea to put your phone on airplane mode while you’re at the show in order to conserve its battery. If the venue offers a charging station, then bring along your charger. You could also opt to bring an extra battery.

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7. Secure your belongings.

Although it’s impossible to guarantee with 100% certainty that your stuff won’t get lost or stolen at a rave, a little vigilance can go a long way. Some festivals offer rental lockers, which can be a great idea if you’re willing to pony up the cash. If you want to keep your belongings with you, you can help secure your things by hiding valuables in unappealing packaging (such as a cleaned-out sunscreen bottle), keeping your items on your body at all times (i.e. dancing while wearing your backpack, fanny pack, or Camelbak), and making a pact with your friends to help look out for each other’s stuff.

8. Coordinate with your group.

Communicating in advance of a rave can do a lot to keep everyone in your friend group safe and in the loop. Before arriving:

  • Select a designated driver when applicable.
  • If you’re going to a festival where multiple artists will be performing, reach a consensus regarding which shows you’ll all see together and when you might split up.
  • Write your friends’ numbers down on a piece of paper and keep it with you at all times (in case your phone dies).
  • If you’re up for it, choose an identifier that can help you all spot each other in a large crowd—for example, you could all wear matching T-shirts or bring along a flag or a balloon tied to a pole so that people can find the group again when returning from food or bathroom runs.

Upon arriving at the venue:

  • Note where you all parked, where the bus station is, or where your taxi will pick you up (depending on your chosen mode of transportation). This is especially important for festivals that are held in remote areas where it’s easy to get lost.
  • Select a meet-up spot for the group so that if anyone gets separated, you all know where to find each other at the end of the night.

A little advance planning, packing some key toiletries and accessories, and coordinating with your group both ahead of time and at the rave will help ensure that your EDM vacation goes off without a hitch.

Hipmunk: How to Visit Cuba on a Budget

This post was originally published on Tailwind by Hipmunk on April 12, 2016.

Now that Cuba’s tourism industry is up and running, we’re doing everything we can to educate our readers about how to make the most of their Cuban vacations. From knowing which cities to visit to learning how the country has changed and prepping for your trip, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re ready to visit but worried about finances, we’ve still got your back. Simply implement the following strategies in order to enjoy a budget-friendly trip to Cuba.

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It helps to know Spanish.

Overwhelmingly, travelers to Cuba report that you’ll be more accepted if you speak Spanish—and that means you’re more likely to be offered lower prices and to haggle successfully. Even if you don’t have time to become fluent before your visit, learning a few key Spanish phrases will surely make the trip a little easier.

Don’t withdraw or exchange cash in Cuba.

Cuba currently uses two types of currency: the CUC, which is designated primarily for tourists, and the CUP (the peso national), which is civilians’ primary currency. (The government has announced plans to eliminate the dual currency system, but has yet to do so.) For the most part, tourists will be dealing in CUCs, but budget-friendly travelers may want to keep a few CUPs on hand (more on that later). In either case, it’s smart to exchange your money before arriving in Cuba—otherwise you’ll incur a 10% penalty to exchange dollars to CUCs. Similarly, avoid using credit cards whenever possible, as fees are quite steep.

Search Havana Hotels

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Plan for exit and entry.

You’ll be charged $25 CUC to enter Cuba, and another $25 CUC when you fly out of the airport. Go ahead and set aside $50 CUC before your trip so you aren’t caught by surprise on the way in or out of the country. While you’re at it, set aside another $20-$25 CUC for the taxi ride from the airport.

Take advantage of cheap eats.

Want to save money on food? Then seek out local establishments that operate on pesos (namely, street food vendors and peso restaurants). This can be a serious money saver—think the difference between paying $0.80 or $8.00 for a sandwich. If you’re staying in a casa particular (aka a private homestay), this is also a good place to eat cheaply—meals tend to be huge (meaning you can split one dish between two people) and less expensive than meals at touristy restaurants. Or hit up hotel buffets for a meal that will fill you up for around $8 CUC.

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Pack your own snacks and toiletries.

Basic toiletries and medical supplies—think sunscreen, Aspirin, and contact lens solution—are either very expensive or totally unavailable in Cuba, so don’t assume that you can pick up supplies once you’ve arrived. Instead, bring along any toiletries that you can’t go without. Same goes for your favorite snack foods.

Get mobile like a local.

Cuba has designated tourist buses, and (not surprisingly) they can  be a bit of a money trap. You’ll save on transportation by taking public buses, camiones (i.e open-backed trucks), or shared taxis. As an added bonus, local transportation tends to operate on a more flexible timetable than the tourist buses.

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Entertain thyself.

Cuba has a vibrant nightlife scene, and you can drink for change if you stick to local establishments. (A good rule of thumb: Avoid any club that charges an entrance fee.) If you’re not sure where to go, ask your casa hosts or local street vendors for suggestions. If the club scene isn’t your thing, you can still find cheap entertainment in the form of museums, which typically charge only $1-2 CUC for entry. Just be aware that many museums charge an additional fee for anyone who wants to take photos.

While Cuba may not be the cheapest destination around, there are plenty of deals to be had for the frugal traveler. Just remember: When in doubt, act like a local.

Hipmunk Hotels: The Best California Destinations Along The Pacific Ocean

This post was originally published on Go 4 Travel Blog by Lauren Davidson on April 15, 2016.

Let’s face it. There’s no denying the warmth, beauty, and good weather in California, especially the parts of this awesome state that overlook the Pacific Ocean. What draws so many eager tourists to California each year is that it’s fantastic as a vacation destination, simply because there is so much to see and do. Whether you’re planning your trip to Cali or you’ve just got the travel bug and want to know more, here are the best California destinations to visit along the Pacific Ocean. 

Best California Destinations Along the Pacific Ocean

Glendale

Situated between Pasadena and Los Angeles, Glendale is a one-of-a-kind vacation destination without the year-round crowds of Los Angeles and San Francisco. In fact, there are several fun things to do for all sorts of travelers. Head to the Glendale Galleria, a 3-storey mall with plenty of well-known shops and boutiques, or learn something at the Autry Museum of the American West. If you’re traveling with children, the Universal Studios Hollywood Park provides a fun-filled day out. Book a room at the Hilton Los Angeles North/Glendale for an affordable stay.

LA Glendale Galleria Trolley TracksLA Glendale Galleria Trolley Tracks by Ed on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Napa Valley

Napa Valley, or Napa County, is located north of San Pablo Bay in Northern California. Renowned for its vineyards and wine tasting, Napa Valley welcomes visitors to attractions like the Castello di Amorosa and the Napa Valley Wine Train. If wine isn’t really your thing, catch a show at the Napa Valley Opera House. When you stay in Napa Valley, the Kenwood Inn and Spa is the perfect choice of accommodation. Here, guests can sample the local food at the popular restaurant or take a dip in the pool after a long day exploring.

Dusk, Napa Valley Dusk, Napa Valley by Deb Harkness / CC BY 2.0

Oakland

Although the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most expensive areas to visit in the U.S., it’s also one of the best. Without the hustle and bustle of nearby San Francisco, Oakland is a stunningly low-key destination that still offers plenty to see and do. Take the kids to the Oakland Zoo or Children’s Fairyland, and catch some live music at the Fox Theater. For accommodations in the center of the city, stay at the Oakland Marriott. If you’re traveling on a tight budget, the Rodeway Inn & Suites is a good option.

Oakland SkylineOakland Skyline by Jesse Richmond on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Roseville

It’s safe to say that Roseville is California’s hidden gem. Located 20 miles north of Sacramento, this small city offers numerous activities and attractions for visitors. Mix things up by visiting the eccentric Roseville Telephone Museum, or savor the area’s history at the fascinating Maidu Museum & Historic Site. The Courtyard by Marriott Roseville provides its guests with trendy rooms, a 24-hour fitness center, an indoor pool, and a convenient location in Roseville.

Trees in Roseville, CaliforniaTrees in Roseville, California by mitzume on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Sonoma

Also known as wine country, Sonoma attracts a steady number of tourists each year. Situated in Northern California, Sonoma not only has its own Museum of Art, but it also boasts beautiful Victorian architecture and a vast selection of vineyards. The El Dorado Hotel is just a 15-minute drive away from the stunning Quarryhill Botanical Garden.

 

Quarryhill Botanical GardenQuarryhill Botanical Garden by Jessica S on Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Writing Retreats in North Carolina

As a writer, I am always looking for the perfect place to write. Every year, I carve out a long weekend to escape the real world and get some uninterrupted wordsmith time in. A quality writing retreat must have three things. It must have an awe-inspiring setting. The place must have several options for sustenance, and if the words aren’t there, I need some activities to distract or sustain me until the creativity comes.

Resort in Asheville

When you think of a resort, you think of a one stop destination. Everything you want to do in one spot, but for a price. I typically look for resorts for my retreats, and the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville, North Carolina is every bit the resort, but with budget rates. The aesthetics of the place are natural and beautiful. Each room offers a full kitchen and separate living room. I don’t have to leave the room if the muse is speaking to me. And, if she isn’t, Asheville is a great little town with a fantastic music scene and entertaining venues. All are worth exploring for those rock star romances I love.

Image provided by Jason Kenagy via Trover.com.

Style in Greensboro

The O. Henry Hotel has all the in-room comfort I need in a writing retreat hotel. The decor in the rooms is stylish, clean and interesting. The beds are big and fluffy. The spacious bathrooms feature both a shower and a separate soaking tub — super important to get my mind right. The hotel is inspired by the ’20s and ’30s vacation spots. The locally owned hotel is a three diamond venue, which translates into impeccable service and style, the perfect mix of retro and modern romance.

Romance in Greensboro

This romantic retreat in Greensboro, North Carolina, is a modern and unique destination. The comfortable decor has a clean and stylish big-city flair. Outside, the hotel features several beautifully maintained gardens and outdoor areas that offer comfort and inspiration. The on-site restaurants offer award-winning, tasty, hip food. The Mussels, Wine and Music Wednesday’s are perfect for feeding those creative juices.

’60s Inspiration in Blowing Rock

The Cliff Dwellers Inn is the perfect setting if I’m working on a period piece. Inspired by the ’60s, both in its decor and in the staff’s enthusiasm for serving their guests. Located in Blowing Rock North Carolina, Cliff Dweller’s Inn is small with only 21 rooms. It gives the place a bed-and-breakfast type feel. However, this hotel isn’t open in the winter months, so I’d save a visit for a great springtime retreat.

Serenity near Boone

Image provided by Gary-Heather Kobza via Trover.com.

Located just outside of Boone, North Carolina, The Inn at Crestwood offers a quiet and serene setting in the mountains. I love the outdoor terraces and patios with picturesque views of the mountains in the distance. A perfect inspirational setting for my next small-town romance novel. When I can’t write, it’s usually because I’m thinking too much and I need to relax. The Inn offers a full-service spa with massage, facials and body treatment.

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Anxious Love by Me- Release Day!!!

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AMAZON

Blurb:  Trauma, isolation, courage, love. . .  Anxious Love

Hopeful about his future after overcoming loss, Ryan Ware is living his dream life as a first round draft pick. He’s enjoying every crazy minute of fame, fortune, and gorgeous women.

Despite being the most sought-after writer in romance, severe anxiety keeps Leah Jones isolated. Having a regimented life keeps the triggers at bay that could put her back in the hospital, perhaps permanently.

A chance meeting in New Orleans, Leah’s brown eyes capture Ryan’s heart, and he vows to learn more about this reclusive beauty.

Can Leah’s anxieties withstand Ryan’s crazy life? Can Ryan learn enough about real love to be the right man for Leah?

Anxious Love contains explicit scenes of a sexual nature and is not suitable for readers under 18 years of age. 

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Excerpt:  Because of my anxiety, I perceived the world differently. The medicine helped, but when it wore off, it wasn’t like Cinderella’s carriage turning back into a pumpkin at precisely midnight.

It was more subtle, more gradual. It was a whole different way of reacting to the world, and it took a little more concentration. Something I couldn’t do with him studying me.

But then he rubbed his hand up my arm and he licked his lips and leaned into me and the world slowed down.

“Hey, you okay?”

I concentrated on his voice but couldn’t stop staring at his lips. I tried to pull my gaze away from them, from him, but I couldn’t. His facial expressions made me feel adored, and I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I leaned in further to get a better look, but my eyes closed and the next thing I knew, his lips touched mine. I pulled back a little and opened my eyes. The world caught up to whatever dimension we were in. It was much too abrupt for the moment, and I felt on the verge of a panic attack, but then I thought, maybe …

I closed my eyes, leaned in, and kissed him again. My lips parted and I licked them, but my tongue rubbed against his lips and retreated. We were so close. His lips shifted into a grin, and I parted my lips in surprise. He reached his hand behind my neck and pulled me closer as his tongue entered between mine.

A muffled giggled escaped, and I was surprised to find it came from me. It disappeared into his mouth, which made him grin and pull back. The world stayed calm as I thought about how his lips felt on mine. His tongue swiped against my tongue with confidence. I opened my eyes and peered into his. They were no longer light; they had a definite dark hue and the color swarmed as if wondering how to take in the person they saw before them.

Is it possible that I found something else to balance me?

I leaned back, but as his hand slipped away from my cheek, I placed my hand on it to keep him firmly in place. I looked off to my right and the streetcar clinked by and people were strolling down St. Charles Avenue. I turned to my left and watched a group of kids cut across the park on their way home from school.

I turned back to Ryan and smiled. He smiled back, and to thank him, I kissed him.

I removed my hand from his, satisfied it would stay where I wanted it. My hand reached out to touch his chest. I wanted to confirm it was as solid as I imagined. My brief hug a few nights before had only hinted at it.

I touched his skin peeking out the top of his t-shirt and ran my knuckle across the top. It was his turn to shiver, but it deepened the kiss as his tongue pressed into my mouth. I flatted my head on his chest and pressed back; he was solid, unmovable. He laid a soft little kiss on my mouth before pulling back and looking down at my hand splayed across his chest.

His face tilted and he stared with a sexy grin.

“Did you just kiss me?” he asked in a whispered tone.

The Reviews are in: 

“I seriously LOVE this story it was incredible.” – Karen Book Addiction

“The emotions were honest and so where the feelings.” – Kels

“This novel made me laugh and cry.” -Anakalia

Blank empty tablet computer on beach. Summer accessories  pool.