How to Pinpoint What Makes You Happy for Future Reference

By on July 17, 2017
ghent, happy

^(Walking around cities make me happy, in Ghent.)

Sometimes it seems that life is against you. Everything is going wrong and you feel trapped, stressed, saddened, and generally heartbroken by all of the bad luck and negatives. However, to combat these feelings in the future, you need to have a go-to pinpoint of what makes you happy.

Reflect on Your Life to This Point

There are always pros to go with cons, so for every bad thing that has occurred, there is a counterbalance of good things too. Reflect on your life to this point, remember the good times, and take solace in the fact that life is a series of ups and downs. Live for the ups and learn from the downs.

santorini, happy
(Seeing cities that were once on my bucketlist makes me happy…Oia, Santorini.)

Compile a Mental List of Your Hobbies, Past and Present

Do you love to paint murals? Do you love spending time with your kids? Hosting summertime pool parties for the neighbors in your backyard? Or, simply vegging out in front of the television? Whatever you love to do, or have loved to do in the past, remember it now and use it when you feel sad in the future. Consider this list a go-to of hobbies to help lift your spirits, zen your mind, and make you feel better.

Compile Another List of Things You’d Love to Do

Sure, you have your lists of passions and hobbies, but you also have a mental list of things you would love to do one day—a bucket list, if you will. But instead of calling it “things to do before I die,” consider calling it, “things to make myself happy and satisfied in life.” See the world, do things that scare you, tell people you love them, etc. Don’t be afraid to take those plunges NOW. You could even throw in an impulse or two. For example, do you want to take a day trip to the ocean to jump the waves for a few hours? Hop in the car, slather on some reef friendly sunscreen when you get there, and go for it.

venice, happy
(Me in Venice…doing what I love best: taking photos)

Rifle Through Your Best Memories

Everyone has a memory bank of their best memories, be it from their childhoods, or the dinner they enjoyed hours ago. When you feel stressed, lost, or generally upset, go through those memories and pick out the moments that you love to relive the most. Think of these, over and over again, until you feel happier and more complete. Create a go-to bank of memories for those challenging times in your life.

The aforementioned coping methods are meant to help you deal with the negatives of everyday life. No matter what put you in a bad mood, or what upset your day, you can look to these methods and use them as tools to make the proverbial lemonade out of life’s lemons.

leon tail
Our cats make me happy and relaxed, too. meow….


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Travel Essentials

How my Travel Backpack Made My Trip Around Europe Perfect

By on July 14, 2017
europe backpack, salzburg mountain side
Me wondering what’s there, Salzburg, Austria…


I, like many others, have dreamed about backpacking around Europe for many years. Finally, the time came for me to fulfil my dream. But, there was a snag. A few days before I left on my 6-month adventure, I found I had a major problem with my bag. It didn’t hold all my things and felt a little insecure. So I quickly asked for some advice from a friend and had the recommendation of using a Travel backpack. I quickly bought one and went on my adventure. As I was to find out later, this was probably one of the best decisions I could have made. Here’s why.

What’s a Travel Backpack?

A travel backpack is similar to a normal backpack but it’s easier to carry, more versatile, and generally more convenient to travel with. Inside, there are large compartments and a specific place to keep laptops and important documents. You can also secure the zips making it less likely for people to try to take advantage and steal something.

travel backpack

The best feature for me is that it has been designed by travelers for travelers. So, it fits perfectly in the overhead compartment on an airplane. And it can be stored under your legs on the bus or train. The first will save you money, especially when you’re using budget airlines from one place to the next in Europe – the ticket is cheap, but the add-ons make it super expensive. And the second point keeps your things safe at all times.

What Makes this Bag Great to Travel With?

The first is that the bag is versatile. You can carry in on your back, over your shoulder, or even using the handles. This gives you the freedom to travel on your terms in style. Sometimes it’s better to put the bag on your back whereas other times it’s more convenient to sling it over your shoulder. And if one of the straps breaks, you have an alternative way to carry in, unlike with conventional backpacks. The next is that it’s waterproof. Most backpacks keep your things dry to some degree, but nowhere near as much as this one. I found all my clothes and electronics stayed bone dry when I was caught out in the summer storms.

And finally, the bag is designed to help both leisure and business travelers. For this reason, there’s a special compartment where you can store your documents. This is inside the bag and is perfect for A4 sized pieces of paper, which keeps them flat. It doesn’t matter if the bag is on your back or over your shoulder, everything will look neat and tidy when you take it out. This can be a major advantage to you if you need to carry important documents or visa application letters. After all, first impressions and appearance can make a big difference.

Important Things to Remember:

Using the travel backpack is a perfect way to travel around Europe.

1. The bag is convenient. You can carry it as a backpack or a shoulder bag.

2. It’s waterproof. So you don’t have to worry about your stuff getting wet during an unexpected  downpour.

3. It’s easy to carry around, which for me makes it a perfect bag for a long trip. (notice #1 again please)

4. It holds a lot. So you can put in all that you need for your trip.

5. It has a lifetime warranty. Period.


backpack europe

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Travel Tips

Planning a Safari Tour

By on June 20, 2017


Have you ever dreamed of seeing exotic animals up close and in their natural habitat? If this is the case, you should plan a vacation where you will take a safari tour. There are a wide variety of companies that organize safari trips in countries all over the world. It will be an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. However, you need to be very careful about which company you entrust with the responsibility of planning the safari tour that you will take. Not all of the safari companies will offer you the same level of service. Here are a few of the things that you need to think about when you are in the process of finding the right company to plan your safari tour.

1. How experienced are the guides who will be giving you the safari tour?

The experience, knowledge and competence of your safari guide will be a critical factor that will determine if your safari is enjoyable or not. Ideally, you need to find a guide who is friendly and speaks very good English. Your guide should also know the terrain very well. This will enable him to show you many areas where the wildlife are the most active. You are paying to see wild animals. Therefore, it is critical that your guide knows the best places to find them. Your guide should also make the safety of the people on the tour a top priority. He should not put the tourists in risky situations just to get a closer look at the animals. Make sure that you verify that the guide is properly licensed and has been working as a full-time safari guide for at least three years. Your life will be in the hands of your safari guide during your tour. Therefore, you need to find out as much as you can about the person who will be guiding you.

2. Has the tour company been around for a long time?

You need to be certain that you are dealing with a reputable safari tour company. There are many companies in this industry that are just trying to make a quick buck. These are the companies you need to avoid. This is why you need to be sure that the safari tour company you hire has been involved in the industry for a long time. This means that the company has been doing a great job for their clients. They would not be able to stay in business for many years if they were not providing their customers with high quality tours that are well planned and have experienced guides. You can visit to learn about a company that can plan a safari that you will never forget.

safari, giraffe

3. Can the company customize the trip to your exact specifications?

You might have certain things that you want to see and do during your safari tour. This is why you need to find a safari tour company that is able to take your requests and create a trip that is made especially for you. Some safari tour companies simply offer the same standard trip to all of their clients. However, people have different tastes. The animals that you want to see might differ from another customer. Therefore, you should only hire a company will be able to give you the exact safari experience that you are looking for. You need to be sure that you will only be spending time looking for the exact species of animals that you are interested in. Basically, you need to know exactly what you will be getting for your money.

4. What is the safety record of the safari tour company?

There are many things that can go wrong during a safari tour. It is very important that the company you are doing business with always makes the safety of their clients their top priority. The guides must know first aid and have very good track records. You will need to look into the backgrounds of the companies that you deal with just to make sure that their safety record is spotless. You should never assume that a company has a good safety record.

safari park
Zebras and Giraffes

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How to Spend a Long Weekend in Raleigh

By on June 18, 2017


Tucked into the center of North Carolina is Raleigh, the capital city and one of the state’s top destinations for tourists. The sheer number of universities and research institutions in the area put Raleigh in the center of the Research Triangle, while the young college students pump the city full of art, culture, and nightlife.

While you could spend a week in Raleigh and barely scratch the surface of what this city has to offer, it’s possible to enjoy the area comfortably over a three day weekend. Here’s how you can maximize your time in this vibrant city.

Explore Art and Science at One of the State’s Top Museums

Image via Flickr by unclibraries_commons

Raleigh has some of the best museums in North Carolina. The crown jewel is the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, the most popular museum in the state. This museum is free and has 25 permanent exhibitions, so you may have to return a few times during your weekend to see it all. Check out some of the upcoming temporary exhibits before you go so you can plan your trip around a specific showcase.

An additional must-see museum is the North Carolina Museum of Art, which boasts ancient Egyptian artifacts next to modern art and musical performances. The North Carolina Museum of History is ideal for American history buffs, and the Marbles Kids Museum is a good pick for children 10 and under.

Raleigh, North Carolina Museum
The North Carolina Museum of Art

Follow Your Nose to Some of the Best Local Eateries

Raleigh offers top-notch Southern cooking, but the city has also embraced other cultures. Whether you’re craving curry or you want some wasabi, you’re sure to find something that appeals to your taste buds. Consider signing up for a food tour once you arrive, where expert guides will take you to sample dishes from some of the premier chefs in the area.

Visitors can also enjoy a tour of the Videri Chocolate Factory and watch the entire chocolate-making process. You might want to pick up extra souvenirs on your way out in case you accidentally eat your chocolate gifts on the way home!

Look for Pet-Friendly Accommodations

Raleigh is a great vacation spot if you want to hit the road with your dog. Fido will love the vast hiking trails and nature reserves, while you’ll love the pet-friendly restaurants around town. Most local eateries will welcome your pooch with a treat and bowl of water to cool off.

A few hotels in the area are also dog-friendly and will either charge a small fee for pet cleanup or let your furry family member stay for free. Some travel sites like Hotel Planner allow you to filter your options by pet-friendly accommodations so you can easily find a place for your pet. The best long weekends are the ones when you don’t have to say goodbye to the pets you love!

The biggest challenge of visiting Raleigh is having to leave, which is why so many college students choose to stay after graduation. Once you return from your visit to the Research Triangle, you’re sure to start planning another trip.

raleigh videri

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A Little Bit of Everything in Los Angeles

By on May 10, 2017


If you’re a parent with young children like me, planning a vacation can be a complicated, tedious, albeit exciting task. Take this California-Seattle-Vancouver trip we had some time ago as an example, but let’s focus on California first…particularly Los Angeles and nearby attractions and sceneries.

Apart from thinking of places to visit that both us parents and children would enjoy in the city, deciding to stay in a hotel or availing vacation rentals in Los Angeles, or renting a smaller apartment was also on the to-do list. It was convenient to have relatives living there where we stayed for just a few days so as not to impose. 😉

Walking around Hollywood boulevard

Of course, a visit to California won’t be complete without planning a trip to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. Then you need to consider various things to do – other awesome places to visit, experience new adventures, food to taste, etc. Personally, I think there’s no other place that could offer all that and more but Los Angeles, a.k.a. “The Big Orange” and the “City of Angels”.

free walk
walking around the neighborhood


Vacationing in L.A. makes for a truly memorable experience especially since there are so many things to do and places to visit aside from Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. What’s more, the weather is just perfect for different activities – outdoor adventure trips, food trips, swimming, shopping, or just walking along and soaking up what downtown Los Angeles has to offer.

When we went there, there was no way I was leaving out Disneyland from the itinerary. The trick to enjoying a magical Disney sojourn is to plan. It can be overwhelming especially with all the attractions waiting to be explored and experienced by every visitor in the world-renowned tourist destinations. However, armed with determination, I was able to wrestle my way through planning the Los Angeles/Disneyland trip.

mickey and aurora
Happy place!


After booking, I browsed for helpful tools in planning the “Disney” vacation, as my children called it. The Disney website was especially helpful as I gathered information about the attractions and restaurants in the resort. I also looked for audio-visual materials with images and narratives about Disney parks. Believe it or not, there is a Disney Planning Spreadsheet, which is a worksheet and a calendar for organizing schedules. When you have kids, accomplishing this spreadsheet is a must. I particularly found the Disney Crowd Level Chart helpful in picking the right date for the trip. We were able to schedule the trip during off-season, so the crowd was light and we didn’t have to wrangle our way in. (Highlights to this trip was blogged separately.)

inner room

After our Disneyland sojourn, we went back to the hotel and recharged for next day’s adventures.  Because all of us in the family love to eat, we decided to try out the infamous food trucks of Los Angeles. There is a website especially dedicated to finding out which trucks are expected to park in specific locations.

Here’s a tip: most of the food trucks serve fusion cuisine at extremely affordable prices. I particularly enjoyed the truck that offered Korean menu – Japchae, Kimbab, and Kalbi. They even have kimchi quesadilla and kogi sliders!

Sandwiches, Filipino Food Truck


There was a truck serving a dish called Cheesy Mac and Rib Melt, combining grilled cheese with grilled fall-off-the-bone tender ribs with a choice of three types of bread. Can you guess who ordered it? Other delectable goodies served by the food trucks included potato hash with peanut and leek sauce, veggies grilled with parmesan and herbs, spicy sausage and kale with fried egg and aioli, and roasted pumpkin and egg with spinach, mint, cilantro and yogurt. Yum! Kids love potatoes mostly, so they never get hungry after hopping from one place to another.

Lake Tahoe
Serene, Lake Tahoe (photo by hubby)
lake tahoe beach
photo credit: hubby

Los Angeles is also just minutes away from places of natural beauty such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park. Hubby and I didn’t pass up on the chance of bringing the kids at Lake Tahoe.

Moreover, since it’s seldom that we get to enjoy frolicking in the beach, we made sure to visit some of the sizzling beaches and breathtaking coastline of California.

Outdoor pool
Outdoor pool

Oh, and did I mention we got to see how it’s like to live like a movie star when we toured around some of L.A.’s extravagant houses? Yes, we felt that one of the best ways to enjoy a truly lavish vacation is to go on the famed Hollywood tour. L.A.s’ lush green neighborhoods are a welcome view from all the busyness around. Palm tree, pine trees, and a handful more of them in rows until the end of streets, you’d forget how

LA beverly st
Beverly Drive
palm trees
LA property
Not sure who lives here but I love the greenery…


But you know what I looked forward to at the end of the day? It’s resting in a place we could call “ours” while we were away from home. Whether in a hotel room, a resort rental, or apartment, what matters is the family that we would come home to.


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Travel Essentials

Find Timeless and Versatile Style in Leather Bags

By on March 4, 2017



One of the most overlooked elements of style relates to the way we accessorize. All too often we ignore the fact that our accessories will have as much, and perhaps even more, impact as the clothes that we wear. In the case of accessories such as leather laptop bags, these items are carried around daily, even when travelling, constantly reflecting your sense of style to the world. When you carry around a leather satchel for men, you are making a statement about yourself, and like it or not, people will take note. This is why it is very important to consider carefully the items that you choose to reflect your unique sense of style. Why carry around something that is mass produced and seen on every corner when you can more accurately reflect your sense of self through a hand-crafted and quality-made leather accessory?

Classics Are Always in Style

When you are making any purchase, you should consider a number of factors before you make a commitment:

  • Is it well-made, and therefore durable?
  • It is stylish now, but will it remain so in the future?
  • Will it meet my specific needs?
  • Is it functional?
  • Will this ultimately be a wise investment?

It should be fairly obvious that as you look for a leather bag it is important to invest in a quality product. The key word here is “invest,” as most purchases should be made with considerations to the long- and short-term benefits. Since you are indeed making an investment, you should also consider if what you are buying will remain stylish in the future. In this instance, sticking with the classics is always a safe bet, as the classics rarely, if ever, go out of style.

Versatility Is a Key Factor

Though versatility could easily refer to the bag’s ability to function across a variety of circumstances, in this instance it refers to whether the bag will suit your style when you dress both formally and informally. The versatility of a leather bag generally lends itself to this capability since it possesses a sort of rugged class that works well in almost any instance.

The Role of Functionality

Since this is an accessory that you will need to carry with you wherever you go, you must consider its versatility. Will this bag be able to handle a number of different tasks and be able to handle the demands that are placed upon it? You want to make sure that this bag will work well for you wherever you go, regardless of the circumstance.

Consider the Value of Craftsmanship

When it comes to matters of leather products, it is incredibly important to ensure that the craftsmanship is second to none. If you decide to invest in a leather bag that is hand crafted by a master craftsman, you are likely to find that the bag that you have bought will last for generations to come. That is certainly a worthwhile investment.

The proper investment in a leather bag can result in a lifetime and beyond of stylish functionality. High-quality and handmade leather bags often possess an everlasting style that is incredibly versatile. The investment in a hand-crafted leather bag is extremely likely to be a wise decision.

laptop bag
don’t lose your style


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Hotel Comforts for the Best Vacation

By on October 16, 2016


Whether you are staying overnight for a staycation or having a week-long vacation, you want to expect nothing less than the kind of accommodations that will make your stay truly worthwhile.  Your checklist of hotel must-haves would differ from one person to another.  It essentially depends on the kind of vacation you are planning to have.  If you do not want all the stuffiness of deluxe five-star hotels, you would no doubt find a smaller hotel in the countryside to be more comfortable.

 Novotel Bologna Fiera
our room at Novotel Bologna Fiera

Regardless of your preferences, here are some of the hotel amenities you might want to check out so you can have the vacation that you are looking for:

1. In-room amenities. The standard hotel room would have air conditioning, a comfy mattress with pillows and beddings, and a desk.  In most modern hotels, the standard rooms come with a phone, a television, and a bathroom with hot and cold water.  If you want extra pampering when you get back to your hotel room, you might want to choose one that has a bathroom with a bath tub or perhaps even a Jacuzzi.

2.  Services. Next to the rooms, the hotel staff and the kind of services that they offer are the ones that make your hotel stay more comfortable.  Room cleaning and wake-up call services are part of the standard package.  Other services like laundry, pressing, and shoe shine are also available in most full-staffed hotels.  For those who are out to explore, there are also tour services as well as transportation services in most hotels.   Food services are also important, although most people would simply look for a good breakfast buffet.  Room service and food delivery give vacationers the option to eat right in their own room if they are looking for some privacy or simply do not want to dress up to dine at the hotel’s restaurant.

3.  Facilities and activities. The advantage of staying in hotels is that there are already facilities and venues right in the hotel where you can have fun.  Among those that you can find in most hotels are gyms, swimming pools, and a souvenir shop.  The bigger resort hotels would also have recreation centers with various activities for vacationers of all ages.  Groups and families out to have quality bonding time would find these facilities comfortable and convenient to have all under one roof so they don’t have to spend time or money for transportation.


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Travel Tips

A Travel Experience that’s One for the Books

By on March 25, 2016


at Schloss Laxenburg

Have you ever come back from vacation more exhausted than you were when you left for vacation? That’s not what vacationing is about. Daily life can be hectic and stressful. Vacations should be a time when you can escape from all of the busyness. Ideally, a vacation should be a balance between adventure, fun, relaxation and restoration.

While that seems like a lot to expect from a vacation, if you carefully select your vacation destination with those aspects in mind, you can arrive back at home with renewed energy, a rested body and an absence of stress that you hope will last long after you return home. When you begin searching for a weekend get away location, a place to spend a week of vacation with the family or a romantic escape you should visit to see what they have to offer.

Vacationing in an area where you can enjoy the peace and tranquility of a natural setting is an experience unlike any other. That same natural setting can also provide you with some wonderful outdoor exercise. Nature hikes, a day of fishing, a kayak adventure, a canoe trip or possibly a day of horseback riding are wonderful outdoor adventures that are sure to make your hectic everyday life seem temporarily non-existent.

horseback-riding at the palace grounds

There’s nothing quite like ending a day of outdoor adventure lounging on the deck listening to the night sounds coming from the woods. If you’re lucky enough to vacation when there’s a chill in the evening air, snuggling in front of the fireplace in your cabin could be the perfect way to end the day.

If your family members live a distance apart, planning a vacation together could be a great way to reunite and make some wonderful memories. You’ll want to find a place such as Broken Arrow Cabins where there are activities for children, teens and seniors. Picnics, play areas and activities such as paddle boating and miniature golf are family-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy.

Sometimes, just getting away for a weekend can give you a new perspective on things and allow your body some much needed rest. It can also be a wonderful diversion from the stress you may be experiencing at work or as a family caregiver. There’s no reason to endure until you have time for an extended vacation. Make a quick escape and enjoy it to its fullest.

Schloss Laxenburg


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Take a Romantic Vacation in Florida

By on August 11, 2015


Stunning Florida Sunset

If you want to add some sizzle to your love life, travel with your beloved to Florida. There are few sights and sounds more romantic than ocean waves crashing on a sandy beach. The sunshine state has even more to offer than the beauty of the seashore, however. When you and your sweetheart travel to Florida, you two can stroll through art galleries, enjoy candlelit dinners, and play at amusement parks.

Experiencing art together during your vacation can be enriching and memorable. You two can view paintings in galleries, hear musicians play, and may even find some sculptures or paintings to bring back home as mementos of your trip. Bradenton is a vibrant artistic town and home to Village of the Arts, where you’ll find art walks and live music. Dining spots in Bradenton and other Florida cities range from formal to casual. You can find an array of menu choices ranging from lobster to Cuban and American dishes. You can picnic along the shore or eat by candlelight; the choice is yours depending on your mood. Laughter can get your endorphins pumping, which is always a great thing for stoking the flame of romance, so for some playtime, head to Disney World. You don’t have to be a kid to don Mickey Mouse ears and ride a roller coaster. For more ideas to help you plan your vacation, take a look at this infographic.

florida infographic

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Tips When Planning Your Trip to Dubai

By on April 1, 2015


Burj Khalifa, dubai
Burj Khalifa

Want to book a vacation to Dubai? Whether it’s a family trip or a romantic getaway, here are some tips to consider to make the best of your trip.

Make sure you have medical insurance

Before leaving, you need to get a traveler’s insurance policy that covers any medical issues you may have while in the United Arab Emirates. Although the UAE will cover an emergency visit to the hospital for a tourist, any other medical treatment that is needed, you are responsible for. However, traveler’s insurance is not expensive, and it will also cover such things as lost or stolen luggage as well as cancelled flights to and from your destination.

Consider staying at a western hotel

This type of a five star hotel is one that caters to westerners. They offer private beaches, so women can wear the same swimsuits they do in the United States. The staff at these western hotels is familiar with the customs of western people, and they are better able to assist you in having the most pleasant stay possible. If you find yourself confused about the rules and customs of the people of Dubai, staff members will be able to explain the differences between what you are accustomed to and the rules in Dubai.

If you enjoy drinking, understand the rules in Dubai

Alcohol is forbidden in Dubai except in licensed areas such as restaurants and hotels that cater to western tourists. Under no circumstances should you drink outside of these designated areas. You should also be prepared to stay in these areas if you have consumed alcohol. Public intoxication is not tolerated in Dubai.

Pack appropriate clothing

It is very hot is Dubai, so you will need to pack cool clothing. Keep in mind that although the UAE is a liberal country compared to other countries in the Middle East, they are still a Muslim country. If you are a woman, you will not be required to wear a scarf or cover up the way women are seen elsewhere in the region. You should, however, try not to wear any clothes that are too revealing. You will attract unwanted attention. Dubai is not Las Vegas.

Prepare for intense heat

Make sure that you have the necessary sunglasses and sunscreen to protect yourself. You also should consider a hat for your head. Unless you have spent a lot of time in the desert, you may not be prepared for the intense heat in this part of the world. Although the water is safe to drink, most westerners find themselves drinking bottled water. If you are not someone who normally drinks a lot of water, you need to prepare yourself ahead of time to become a water drinker. There is no substitute for water when keeping your body hydrated in the desert.

Get the best deal possible on your hotel

There are several outstanding hotels in Dubai. All of them are in direct competition to get as much of the tourist dollar as possible. The best way to make sure you are getting the best deal available is to compare prices side by side on a comparison website. This type of site will give you up-to-date information on the prices for each hotel, according to the size of the room you want and the dates you are planning to stay in Dubai. There are many good sites that provide this service. Hipmunk is one example of this type of price comparison website.

Dubai Miracle Garden


This article was contributed by Fiona Moriarty of Hipmunk, a complete travel platform that allows you to do everything from comparing charter flights and train rides, to finding the best resort hotels and Airbnb rentals.

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