Planning a Volunteer Vacation

A volunteer vacation, also known as voluntourism, is an extremely meaningful and worthwhile way to spend your time, but, in order for your trip to really be productive and fulfilling, there are a number of aspects that you need to consider beforehand. From narrowing down a destination to picking a cause, here are some tips on how to plan a volunteer vacation.

Volunteers
Picking a Cause
Whether you plan on volunteering for a few days or a few months, picking a cause to help out with is the very first step. Since you will be working hard under most likely challenging conditions, you would be best off supporting a cause that is close to your heart, and means something to you personally, as this will provide you with endless motivation during your trip. There are so many possibilities out there, from wildlife conservation to education to economic development, so take the time to explore all of your options. You should also think about specific skills that you have to offer, and try to match these with volunteering opportunities. For example, if you are trained in first aid, you may be best off helping out at an underprivileged health clinic, whereas those that have craft-related talents may be most appreciated at a local school.

Choosing a Destination
Once you have chosen your cause, this will already narrow down your choice of destinations quite a bit, but you are still likely to have multiple options. Your volunteer vacation is likely to be so much more satisfying if you are able to visit one of your bucket list destinations at the same time, and you should have enough free time to be able to explore your surroundings on your days off.

Woman volunteering
Working With a Credible Charity
The high price tag that often comes along with volunteer vacation packages is enough to put many people off, but, the lower the cost, the less services and amenities are provided to the volunteer. If you are unsure about the price, ask the organization for a breakdown of how your money would be spent, so that you can make sure that it is being used in the right way. Alternatively, you could also team up with a credible charity that helps to arrange volunteer vacations, as they will be able to set up trips for you all over the world.

Ask the Right Questions
Before booking a volunteer vacation, it is important to first find out as much as you can about it. Asking plenty of questions is the best way to do so, from the amount of hours you will be expected to work each day to the meals that will be provided. You should also enquire about the sleeping arrangements, as well as the exact type of work that you will be expected to do. The more that you know about your trip beforehand, the better you will be able to prepare for it, and you will also end up making a much larger contribution in the end.

There is no denying the fulfilment that comes from a volunteer vacation, but you need to ensure that the work that you are doing is really benefiting the community that you are working for. Planning a credible volunteer vacation takes quite a bit of time and effort, so be sure to look into all aspects of this thoroughly before booking anything.

What to Tuck in Your Weekend Travel Bag

Packing for a weekend trip can be tricky, because while you do want to travel as light as possible, there are also likely to be many items that you want to bring along. No matter where you may be headed to for your weekend getaway, here are a few tips on what to tuck into your weekend travel bag.

Weekend bag
A Selection of Accessories
While the clothing that you pack does depend on the destination that you are going to be visiting, it is probable that you will still need to stick to the basics, bringing along only outfits that you know for a fact that you will wear. However, in order to jazz up what may have otherwise been a slightly lackluster outfit, you need to have a selection of accessories to choose from. These do not take up much space in a travel bag, and can quickly add a pop of color, or some sparkle, to any outfit.

Dry Shampoo
Instead of having to squeeze in a shampoo, conditioner and other hair styling products, a small dry shampoo can easily replace these. This will also mean that you will not need to wash your hair during your weekend away, saving yourself some extra time to make the most of your destination.

Foldable Flats
You are likely to be able to manage with just one pair of shoes over the weekend, but if you feel the need for a spare pair, some foldable flats are perfect. These will not only take up a minimum amount of space, but can also be worn with just about any outfit, making them extremely versatile.

An All-In-One Charger
If you are someone that tends to bring along a number of electronics when travelling, from your cellphone to your tablet to your digital camera, then investing in an all-in-one charger can really help to save space, as well as plenty of hassle. These are easily available and enable you to charge all of your electronics with a single device, meaning that you do not have to worry about packing cables for each one.

Sunscreen
Sun Protection
Sun protection is absolutely essential throughout the year, and unless you intend on spending your weekend in a dark, underground location, you need to pack a few sun protection items in your weekend bag. Not only should you bring along a small, travel-sized sunscreen, but a pair of sunglasses, as well as a sun hat, may also come in handy.

Travel-Sized Toiletries
Rather than packing your standard toiletries in your weekend bag, swap these for travel-sized versions, as they will take up far less space. Whether this be your toothpaste, moisturizer, serum or shaving gel, travel-sized products are always useful for a weekend getaway.

It can be all-too-tempting to try to squeeze in as much as you can for a weekend trip away, but having to carry around a heavy and bulky bag is never enjoyable. Instead, try to downsize as much as possible, from your toiletries to your chargers, so that you only need to take the bare essentials with you.

Do’s and Don’ts on Broadway

Attending a Broadway show is an iconic New York experience that everybody should do at least once in their lifetime. However, for those planning to see a performance for the very first time, make sure that you are aware of all of the important Broadway do’s and don’ts beforehand.

Don’t Bring Food With You
Most theaters sport a concession stand at the entrance, allowing theater-goers to buy beverages and candy to bring to the show with them. While it may be tempting to sneak in a larger meal, this is not only considered to be rude to the rest of the audience, but also disrespectful to those performing, as the sounds and smells of your meal will be incredibly distracting. For those that missed the pre-theater special at their favorite restaurant, wait until the intermission, as you will be able to purchase a few snacks to tide you over until the end.

Broadway Show Signs

Kotsovolos Panagiotis / Shutterstock.com

Do Arrive on Time
Arriving late to a Broadway performance will likely mean that you will not be able to access your seat until the second act, meaning that you will miss the entire first act. Theater doors usually open around 30 minutes before curtain, and if you are sitting in a center seat, it is vital that you arrive at this time, in order to avoid having to climb over everybody else. For those that have an aisle seat, it would be best to wait until about 15 minutes before curtain to make your way to your seat, otherwise you may have to repeatedly stand in order to let those with the center seats pass through.

Don’t Talk During the Show
While a quick whisper to the person sitting next to you is perfectly acceptable during a performance, having a louder conversation is definitely not. While you may be desperate to share your theories on upcoming plot twists, the rest of the audience around you most likely does not want to hear this, and would much rather watch the show in peace, making it important that you refrain from talking.

Broadway show line

Kamira / Shutterstock.com

Do Dress Comfortably
Many choose to dress up when attending a Broadway show, but there is actually no strict dress code, meaning that you can wear anything that you want, although this is often different for opening night performances. While this is not an invitation to turn up in some tiny shorts and a pair of flip flops, it is important that you dress comfortably, so that you can focus on enjoying the show. You must also keep in mind that many theaters also turn up the air conditioning during performances, so you may want to bring a warmer garment with you for the show.

No matter what type of Broadway show you choose to attend, these guidelines will still apply. From using your seat number to work out when to arrive, to knowing what to wear, these tips will help you to make the most of your next Broadway performance, and give you an idea of the Broadway etiquette that is required of you.

New York Luxury Shopping Guide

With sprawling iconic department stores and extravagant high-end flagship shops, it is no surprise that New York is known for being a shopper’s paradise. From the old-school decadence of Fifth Avenue to the big-name designers on Madison Avenue, this luxury shopping guide highlights the very best retail therapy that New York City has to offer.

Jack Rogers sandals store on Madison Avenue

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Madison Avenue
Considered by many to be the most lavish shopping area in all of New York, Madison Avenue is lined with flagship stores from the biggest designers, with names ranging from Vera Wang’s Bridal House to Ralph Lauren to Prada to Jimmy Choo. In addition to being filled with the most tempting of goods, each boutique here also boasts extraordinary architecture, such as the Ralph Lauren store that is located in a stunning renovated mansion.

The Meatpacking District
The Meatpacking District earned itself the status of being quite the edgy neighborhood a few years ago, and it did not take long for a number of big-name designers to open their doors in the area’s renovated butcher shops. From Stella McCartney to Alexander McQueen to Christian Louboutin, there are some luxury boutiques here that are definitely worth exploring.

Nolita
The quieter counterpart of SoHo, Nolita boasts a range of up and coming designers that produce the most exquisite products. These one-of-a-kind boutiques make for quite a thrilling shopping experience, as each store focuses on high fashion garments, but with an emphasis on individuality. Designer names that you will find here include Jil Sander and Derek Lam, while some boutiques worth stopping off at include Saja, Vince, Poppy and Sigerson Morrison. You will also find several boutiques here that stock some exquisite homeware pieces, from ceramics to luxury textiles.

Saks Fifth Avenue

DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com

Fifth Avenue
Running north to south all the way through Manhattan, the most luxurious section of Fifth Avenue, which is considered to be the very heart of Manhattan retail, can be found from 14th Street to 59th Street. There are a number of iconic mainstays to be found here, from the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store, which is considered to be somewhat of a New York institution, to the world-famous Tiffany & Co, to the massive Louis Vuitton flagship store to Versace, Chanel and Dior. In addition to Saks Fifth Avenue, there are a couple of other high-end department stores here, including Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel.

Lafayette Street – SoHo to NoHo
Lafayette Street is quite distinct from the rest of SoHo, and this section of it is known for being the best place in the city to find the finest of antiques, especially when it comes to furniture. Gallery 440 is where you will find furniture from high end European designers, while Alan Moss Studios, as well as Elan Antiques, boasts one-of-a-kind antique pieces, both domestic as well as international.

When it comes to luxury shopping, there is no better city to turn to than New York. From the opulent flagship stores that line Madison Avenue to the one-of-a-kind antique finds at Lafayette Street, New York is a retail haven that offers the ultimate shopping experience.

Traditional Foods to Enjoy in Spain

Spain is known for its vibrant culinary scene, and there are many spots around the country that are considered to be top foodie destinations. From the sweet to the spicy, these traditional dishes should all make it onto your must-try list the next time you are in Spain.

gazpacho

Gazpacho
Spain grows the sweetest of tomatoes, and it is this very ingredient that is the star of gazpacho – a chilled tomato soup made with ultra-ripe tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, bread, peppers and cucumber. Blitzed until silky smooth, this tangy and refreshing soup is always popular during the summer months, and you will usually find a fresh jar of gazpacho on every tapas bar counter top.

Paella
Paella was born in Valencia in the mid-19th century, and Valencians today proudly claim that it is possible to eat a different version of this dish every day of the year, as there are so many varieties out there. While this may be the case, the most important element to a paella is the rice used, with bomba or calasaparra rice being two varieties that are grown on the east coast of Spain, and are known for being particularly effective at absorbing all of the other flavors in the dish.

chorizo

Chorizo
A flavorful pork sausage with plenty of garlic and Spanish smoked paprika, chorizo comes in many different forms, and is one of the most versatile foods in the country. From sweet to spicy to smoked to cured, chorizo is used in a number of different dishes, sometimes just for flavor but often as the star ingredient. While there are many different types of chorizo to be found in Spain, Chorizo Zamorano and Chorizo Riojano are both protected varieties, and most definitely worth trying.

Cochinillo
Known in English as suckling pig, cochinillo features a pig that has been slaughtered when it is under a month old, meaning that it weighs just six or seven kilograms, and, when slow-roasted, the meat is unbelievably tender. Roasted in huge wood-fired ovens, the meat is usually cut with the edge of an earthenware plate to showcase its tenderness, and, if you want to ensure that you are tasting an authentic variety, be sure that the pork that you are eating has come from a registered farm in the Segovia province, which is where the dish originated.

crema catalana

Crema Catalana
While many cannot tell the difference between the Spanish crema catalana and the French crème brulee, there are a few subtle aspects that set them apart. While the French version is served warm, the Catalan version is eaten cold, and features a custard that has been infused with cinnamon and lemon rather than vanilla. This makes it beautifully refreshing, and the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth on a hot Spanish day.

Pulpo a la Gallega
Pulpo a la Gallega is a dish that may not be as famous as paella and chorizo, but it is one that will truly excite each and every one of your taste buds. This dish originated in the picturesque Galicia region, which is known for their incredible seafood, and consists of Galician octopus that has been cooked with olive oil and paprika. While this may seem simple, it is the quality of the Galician octopus that makes this dish a stand-out, meaning that it cannot be authentically replicated with octopus from elsewhere.

Spain is home to a diverse and exciting culinary scene, especially in recent years as modern Spanish chefs have been taking traditional dishes to new levels. The way in which each Spanish dish has its own variety depending on the region in which you eat it is part of what makes Spanish cuisine so beautiful, so do take the time to enjoy the unique flavors that come with each dish.

The Real Spanish Tapeo

Tapas

Quintessentially Spanish, tapeo culture is at the heart of Spain’s heritage, and lively tapas bars can be found throughout the country. Rather than being a way of cooking, tapas is more about a way of eating, signifying socializing with friends and bonding with loved ones.

What is Tapas?
Tapas has made a name for itself all over the world, and is essentially a wide variety of small-portioned snacks that are traditionally served alongside alcoholic beverages. Tapas comes in all shapes and forms, from hot or cold to skewered or bubbling in clay pots to finger bites and sandwiches, and every region of Spain will have their own range of unique local tapas dishes.

The Best Time To Tapear
Tapas is such an important part of Spanish culture that there is even a verb, tapear, to describe the act of going for tapas. When it comes to the best time to tapear, this is usually in the early afternoon, between noon and 2pm, as this falls just before the Spanish lunchtime, and is when all of the local tapas bars compete with counters piled high with tempting fragrant bites. Each tapas bar will put their own unique spin on the dishes served, which is why visiting a few different tapas bars is always a popular activity in Spain.

Tapas Etiquette
Tapeo culture has its very own etiquette, and while a faux pas will not be frowned upon heavily, locals will appreciate your knowledge on this. It is usually customary for visitors to a tapas bar to not eat more than two tapas at one place, as the whole idea behind tapeo is it being a sort of gastronomic bar crawl. Since you are only going to be trying a couple of dishes at each place, you need to pay attention to how they complement each other, ordering dishes that work well together rather than those that feature opposing flavors. Tapas is usually eaten at the bar while standing, and, when it comes to paying the bill, Spaniards usually practice convida, which is where everybody pays for a round.

Popular Tapas Dishes
There are thousands of different tapas varieties out there, with the only limit being the chef’s imagination. Gambas are prawns that are sauteed in various sauces, from peppercorn to chopped chili peppers, while croquettes are a common fried dish that can be found in homes all across Spain. Patatas bravas are fried potato cubes that are usually served with a spicy salsa, and is another dish that is served up by the majority of tapas bars out there. Chorizo is another ingredient that is beautifully showcased in many tapas dishes, from chorizo al vino, in which it is slowly cooked in wine, to chorizo a la sidra, in which the chorizo is cooked in cider.

While tapas restaurants may be found all over the world, the only way to truly experience the tapeo culture is by visiting Spain. From the authenticity of the food served to the atmosphere of the bars, tapas culture is a Spanish tradition that is still thriving today.

What to Wear in Singapore

With a hot and humid climate throughout the year, warm weather clothing is always worn in Singapore, as the island does not really experience dramatic seasonal changes. From casual daytime outfits to dressier looks that would suit the country’s nightlife, this is your guide to what to wear in Singapore.

Woman wearing shorts

Lightweight and Comfortable
The fabrics that you choose to wear in Singapore should all be lightweight, comfortable and breathable. Fabrics such as cotton, silk and linen will help to regulate your body’s temperature, while absorbing any excess perspiration. Layers are not necessary here, and will only end up making you feel even hotter, so try to keep your outfits as simple as possible. You may end up needing to change part of your outfit a few times throughout the day, to ensure that you feel as fresh as possible, so keep this in mind when packing for your trip. You may also want to bring along a light cardigan or jumper, as this will keep you warm if you find yourself in any malls that blast their visitors with icy air conditioning.

Footwear
As mentioned above, flip flops are usually the footwear of choice in Singapore, and this is mostly down to the sheer heat that the locals face each and every day. Comfortable shoes for taking in the sights are also necessary, as is a pair of more formal shoes for the evening.

Stylish woman wearing sunglasses

Sun Protection Accessories
In addition to sunblock, which is absolutely essential in Singapore, there are some sun protection accessories that you should always keep with you. The two main ones are a pair of sunglasses and a sun hat, as these will give your face some extra protection from the harsh rays of the sun.

Evening and NightLife
Singaporeans tend to dress up much more in the evenings, and the city is known for its thriving nightlife scene. While you may have spent the day in shorts and flip flops, the evenings are your chance to dress up, so be sure to bring some party dresses and high heels with you.

Poolside fashion

Beach and Pool Clothes
While Singapore may offer more of a city break, it is still home to a few good beaches, and it is also likely that your hotel will have its own outdoor swimming pool. For this reason, a swimsuit is always useful to have around, as is a cover-up and a pair of simple flip flops, which you can also wear around town.

Local Style
Most of the outfits that you will see in Singapore will be relatively mainstream, and the locals are not known for being very fashion forward. While some do take a few risks with their clothing choices, opting for bold statement outfits, be aware of the fact that this may end up attracting some unwanted attention from the more conventional locals.

The dressing style in Singapore is extremely laid back and casual, which, in a way, makes packing for a visit to the city quite easy. With a selection of simple casual clothes, and a few dressier pieces for the evening, you will be covered for just about any occasion or event in the city.

Kids’ Summer Camp Essentials

Summer camp

Every year, across the USA, millions of children head off to different summer camps, focussing on everything from tennis to space travel for a few weeks over the summer. No matter what sort of camp your children may be attending this year, these are some of the essentials that they should be bringing with them.

Sun Protection
Your kids are likely to be spending more time than usual outdoors while at summer camp, making it essential for them to have the best sun protection possible. From sunscreen to sun hats to sunglasses to after sun gel, be sure to make sun protection a priority when packing for camp.

Waterproof Coat and Boots
Even if the weather is forecast to be bright and sunny for the entire time that your child will be away, you need to ensure that they have some waterproof clothing for any spontaneous downpours. A waterproof coat and a pair of waterproof boots are sufficient, although you may want to include more waterproof items if they are going to be spending their time near water.

Clothing
Everyday clothing is essential at camp, with the type of clothing depending on the type of camp your kid is attending. If the camp has merchandised clothing for sale, it may be worth buying an item for your child, as this may help them settle in even faster.

Nightwear and Underwear
The amount of nightwear and underwear that your child needs to bring depends on how long they will be spending away from home. To help keep underwear organized, store it in a net bag, and pack your child a spare, empty net bag that they can then fill with used underwear.

Toiletries
Toiletries are another essential and are easy to pack in one smaller bag to keep them all organized. In addition to a toothbrush, toothpaste and shower products, include a few extras, such as lip balm, hair ties, a nail clipper, a razor and feminine hygiene products.

Others
There are plenty of other essentials that your child may need, such as insect repellent, a camera, a flashlight and a refillable water bottle. Do not forget to include some pre-stamped and addressed envelopes, as well as writing paper and pens, to encourage your children to write home about their adventures. When it comes to spending money, each camp will have their own policy, so be sure to check with them first. It is also a good idea to include a couple of mementos to remind your children of home, whether this may be a couple of toys from their room or some family photos as this will help them out if they ever start to feel homesick.

Summer camp is often considered to be a right of passage for American children, and with over 12,000 camps across the country, it is easy for kids to find one that offers something that they are passionate about. Each camp usually provides a list of items that children need to bring, as well as others that they should not, so be sure to follow this list carefully in order for your child to be well-prepared for the weeks ahead.

Duty Free Shopping

Shopping

An average of $40 million is spent at duty-free shops each year around the world, and this number is steadily on the rise. Duty-free shopping has always had a certain allure about it, with duty-free shops able to promise big bargains, as they are exempt from paying duty, otherwise known as local import tax, on the goods that they sell. The duty-free shops that you find in European airports are also VAT free, giving you even more savings. The reason that these shops are allowed to be exempt from paying tax is due to the fact that they are selling goods to shoppers who are leaving the country, which is why the majority of duty-free shops are found in airports and ports.

What To Purchase
With duty-free deals flashing at you from all angles, it can be difficult to know which products are actually providing good value for money. Generally, while alcohol and tobacco products may not do much for your health, they are among the best goods to purchase from duty-free shops. There are also a number of great bargains to be had with makeup and skin care, as well as some luxury goods.

What Not To Purchase
While there are many great deals to be found at duty-free shops, there are certain products that you would be better off purchasing elsewhere. Electronics are one of these, as often the marked down items at duty-free shops will be older models, and the latest models can usually be purchased for a similar price online. The same applies to clothing that has been imported, although clothing that has been made locally is usually a great item to buy from a duty-free shop.

Remember the Limit
Every country will have a limit on the value of duty-free goods that you are allowed to bring in, and it is important to check these before you travel. If you find yourself to be over the limit, you will have to pay tax on the excess, which could mean that your purchases become more expensive than they would have been if you had bought them elsewhere.

While it can sometimes be tricky to work out whether or not you are actually buying an item at a reduced price, duty-free shopping is always fun, with an incredible range of goods from all over the world available to browse through. This is made even better by the fact that most duty-free shops are at airports and ports, providing the ideal way to pass some time while waiting to travel. If there is a particular item that you are hoping to buy, it is always a good idea to do a quick bit of research beforehand, so that you know the average price before visiting a duty-free shop. If you make sure that you are a savvy shopper, then you will easily be able to pick out the very best deals at duty-free shopping, enjoying bargains that you would not be able to find elsewhere.

How to Have Your Best Vacation Ever

Woman in a yacht

When you think back to all the vacations that you have previously taken, it is likely that some of them brought you much more happiness and enjoyment than others, but have you ever stopped to wonder why? It turns out that there are a variety of factors that contribute to how happy your vacation makes you, and, once you understand exactly what these are, there is absolutely nothing to stop your next vacation from being the best one that you have ever had.

Planning
While spontaneous trips are often fun, a certain level of planning is essential if you want to make the most of your vacation. Not only does planning your vacation in advance allow your excitement to build up over the weeks or months, but, once you are actually there, it takes away some of the decisions that you may have otherwise needed to make on the spot, allowing you to simply relax and enjoy yourself.

Try Something New
For children, a vacation seems to last forever, and that is because of all of the new experiences that their brain takes time to process. The best way to replicate this as an adult is to make sure that you fill your vacation with as many new experiences as you can. Whether this may be trying new foods or trying a new type of activity, all of these new experiences will contribute to making your vacation your best one yet.

Manage Any Work
If you are able to completely take time off from work whilst on vacation, then you should most definitely do so, and this means staying away from your work emails and messages the entire time you are away. If, however, some work whilst on vacation is unavoidable, then you need to be sure to manage your working time properly. Set yourself some limitations, such as responding to emails in the morning but then putting your phone or computer away for the rest of the day.

Have Fun
It goes without saying that fun is absolutely necessary in order to have your best vacation ever. Be sure to make time every day to relax in between all of your vacation adventures, socializing with others and sharing your experiences, whilst reflecting back on the past day. Having fun also means leaving the mundane tasks behind. If you don’t want to worry about having to find a babysitter, arrange for one in advance, or you could even bring a family member along on the promise that they act as a babysitter when needed. If you are renting a vacation house rather than staying at a hotel, it may be worth finding someone to cook and clean whilst you are staying there, so that you won’t need to worry about those things yourself.

Once you have had your best vacation ever, don’t forget to sort through all of your photographs and memorabilia, displaying the ones with the most sentiments behind them. While it may be hard-hitting to immediately get back to your everyday routine, these tips will ensure that every vacation you take will be even better than the last!