My Secret To Getting Quality Luggage Way Cheap

Walking past luggage in a store gets me dreaming.  You can’t help but be seduced by the bright colors, 360 degree spinners and infinitely expandable suitcases.  There is so much promise in those cases and so much cost too.

I actually would never recommend cheaping out when buying luggage. Having lived through wheels that won’t roll and handles that won’t pop up, I now will only buy quality luggage – it really is worth it (and you’ll thank me when your running to catch that flight or trying to juggle everything after security checks).  The quality of the luggage you purchase has a direct effect on how you experience the travel portions of your vacation.

So what is one to do if they are not so lucky to have the budget to buy that awesome set of fancy luggage that’s making them drool as they try not to look at it one more time?  I will let you in on my secret to finding high quality luggage at next to nothing prices.

The Secret to Getting High Quality Luggage For Low Prices

Next time you purchase luggage, buy it from an estate sale.  Estate sales are an awesome way to get so many things for low prices and if you do your research it’s easy to find higher end sales that are held by people who have traveled extensively.

I’ve paid anywhere from 50 cents to 20 dollars for luggage – yes those are real prices and in store they would have cost me 100s of dollars.

Tips For Purchasing Luggage From Estate Sales

  1. Do your research ahead of time.
    Estate Sales can be found online and typically have pictures of all the items available.  I personally like to find my estate sales on They have great photo galleries that really allow you to look at the items available easily.  (Warning – this part can be addictive).
  2. Shop estate sales in the richer areas of your city.
    I love to go to estate sales all over the place, but if I’m looking for luggage I shop at estate sales that are being held in the richer areas.  People in these areas are more likely to have traveled, to have extra luggage they haven’t used much and to have high quality items.
  3. Don’t be put off by the age of the luggage.
    Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad.  In fact, sometimes the older luggage is more durable then what they make today.  I would stick with items from the 80s or newer unless your into retro styles.
  4. If you really want a deal shop on the last day of the estate sale.
    Most estate sales heavily discount items (usually around 50%) the last day of the sale.  If your looking to really save money, this is the ideal time to shop.  One issue with waiting is that someone else may buy the luggage first, but if your a true deal hunter, you can stand that risk!
  5. If you REALLY want a set of luggage you found get to the sale early and on the first day.
    If you really found something special head to the sale early.  People get to estate sales early just to stand in line and make a bee line to their wanted item when the doors open.  If you are worried about loosing out on something go early!

If you really love estate sales and want to buy more then just luggage you can create a user account on and follow sales and companies.  It’s an awesome way to shop!

Have you purchased any travel accessories from an estate sale?  What did you get?

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An Open Letter to the U.S. Travel Association – Please Stop Supporting Unethical Entertainment #IPW15

Dear U.S. Travel Association,
I am a travel blogger & a travel lover. I am writing this to ask you to reconsider holding your IPW party on 6/1 at Sea World.

Not long ago I watched Blackfish and the Cove. These two movies opened my eyes to the fact that all entertainment is not ethical and it also opened my eyes to the enormous responsibility people in the travel industry have to not support or recommend travel experiences that in any way diminish the lives of people or animals.

It is my belief that Sea World does both of these things and by holding your event there you are supporting the continuation of their cruelty. I can point to legal cases against them for discrimination and fines for pollution of Mission Bay as two things that stand out for me, but what is even closer to my heart is the continued breeding of Orcas for lives of captivity and how acceptance of practices that treat animals as our playthings create situations like what is happening in Taiji, Japan.

For one second think of an Orca. What words come to mind? Majestic? Wild? Amazing? Free? Or do you see them as Sea World would want us to? Caged? Dominated? Angry? Drugged?

To me they are awe inspiring. Orcas are highly intelligent animals that form life long family bonds. In captivity they are often separated from their children and they are forced to breed unnaturally often. In the wild they can dive over 1,000 feet down, Sea Worlds deepest tank is only 40 feet deep. In the wild they have never killed a person. In captivity Orcas have attacked humans many times and sadly have killed a number of people.

We do not know what we take away from them when we take away their oceans. We do not know the harm we do to all of us when we show them a lack of basic kindness.

I believe that this issue is one about all of humanity. It is about how we choose to treat one another and how we teach our children to respect what is wild and to honor the freedom of others.We are creating a legacy, don’t we want it to be one we are proud of?

US Travel’s support of Sea World is supporting unnecessary cruelty, lives lost to glass cages, an absolute lack of respect for nature and a failure for the human race. What people will witness when they attend your party is creatures who show more compassion to us then we show to them. It is educational but not in the way Sea World claims it to be. It educates us about human greed and the lengths we will go to for money.

It is a place that is not even close to celebratory. It is a place that should inspire great sadness. The travel industry has got to start taking a stand against businesses that profit off of the misery of others. We should educate people, offer alternatives, be a force for good. We must look past the profit and the pride, see our failings and look forward to a future where no one is allowed to suffer for our entertainment.

I hope that something I have said today touches you in some way. That you might reconsider holding your party at Sea World and instead become a voice for the voiceless Orcas and countless dolphins around the world that spend their lives in unnatural environments. We pay our money and watch them for a short moment, but we must remember, unlike us, they do not have the privilege to leave, that long after we have left, they are still there, swimming in circles perhaps dreaming of the sound of waves. We do not know what we take when we steal their oceans from them.

Thank you for your consideration.

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44 Reasons to #FreeLolita -1 For Every Year She Has Been Held Captive in North America’s Smallest Orca Tank

In the Miami Seaquarium lives an Orca name Lolita.  Once upon a time she swam free in Puget Sound, Washington.  She was captured and sold to Miami Seaquarium and has been there ever since. This August will be her 44th year in captivity.  She is living in the smallest Orca tank in North America with no other Orca for company.  This is enough.  This is enough to say enough.

But there is more.  Lolita’s pod still exists.  There is a well thought out release plan that would at the very least allow her to return to her birth waters and could progress to her eventually rejoining the pod.  But how can we make this happen and why.

As travelers we make choices about what we support by where we go.  When we buy tickets to establishments, we are basically voting with our dollars.  I have put together this list of 44 reasons why Lolita should be freed.  I hope that if they speak to you, that you will support the movement to free Lolita, tweet and share messages to bring attention to Lolita’s plight and that you will not buy a ticket to the Miami Seaquarium or any other establishment, including Sea World that supports the captivity of Orcas.

After the list are a number of action steps that you can do to start helping today.

44 Reasons to #FreeLolita

  1. It is wrong to keep Orcas in captivity
  2. Lolita lives her life in the smallest tank in North America. Her tank is as deep as she is long. She cannot dive. Its 20′ at its deepest point.
  3. There is no tank large enough.
  4. Her probable mother is still alive (select l-pod – she is l-25 Ocean Sun) & there is a possibility they could be reunited
  5. She has a beautiful spirit even after all these years of captivity
  6. She was kidnapped from Puget Sound Washington
  7. She is not anyone’s property
  8. In the wild orcas spend their entire lives with their mother and family (sometimes even great grandmothers) Captivity has stolen that bond from Lolita.
  9. She still recognizes her families calls – when Lolita was played a recording of her family’s calls she returned the distinct dialect of her family’s calls
  10. It’s morally wrong to hold an Orca captive
  11. Lolita has no protection from sun or tropical storms which violates Section 3.103(3)(b) of the Animal Welfare Act.
  12. A well thought out plan has been made for her return to  the waters of her birth
  13. Lolita is the only remaining survivor of the 40+ members of her community who were captured in Puget Sound. She can not die without ever knowing the feel of the Ocean again.
  14. Humans can ‘appreciate’ Orcas (more) in the wild.  We do not need to see them in cages.
  15. To make matters worse, Orcas in captivity typically die earlier then Orcas in the wild
  16. Captivity creates dangerous situations that do not occur in the wild
  17. Capturing wild Orcas is wrong.  Lolita was wild when captured and by keeping her in captivity we are basically giving our stamp of approval on this initial act.
  18. Lolita has been without any other Orca for over 30 years since her tank mate Hugo died after repeatedly smashing his head into the wall
  19. Exploiting another being for your own profit is unacceptable.
  20. In the wild orcas swim nearly 100 miles per day -In a typical tank Orcas would have to swim over 1400 laps a day and Lolita’s tank is not even typical.
  21. Lolita’s pod is protected under the endangered species actshouldn’t Lolita be? and now Lolita is also – why isn’t she truly protected from “harm and harassment”?
  22. Lolita is a sentient and sapient
  23. We should protect what is wild
  24. She is a “highly vocal and complex communicators are forced to live in a low-sensory environment, which is unable to fully meet the needs of …” her “…physical and emotional worlds.” (Jane Godall – speaking about captive Beluga’s but pertinent here)
  25. Lolita has a right to freedom
  26. She will be happier.
  27. Orcas have a culture
  28. Orcas respect us – even in captivity they show great restraint and in the wild they have shown great curiosity.  Shouldn’t we respect them?
  29. We do not learn about Orca’s natural behaviors when they are held captive only their imprisoned ones – it’s a type of mis-education.
  30. She is unable to act on her own behalf.
  31. Captive Orcas show similar behavioral patterns to captive humans  What looks like cooperation is not always that simple.
  32. The Miami Seaquarium receives an annual license to operate despite Animal Welfare Act violations. A lawsuit against the USDA for issuing the license to an unlawful facility was dismissed on the procedural grounds that the inspectors have the discretion to ignore the regulations.  Our laws must mean something.
  33. Lolita was born free.
  34. “There is no significant risk to Lolita in any stage of Orca Network’s proposal for Lolita’s retirement in her native waters.”
  35. Hundreds of thousands of people many different people from all over the world want this to happen.
  36. Lolita’s pool does not meet the perimeter fence requirements to keep animals and unauthorized people out, nor does it protect her from abuse and harassment by the public. (Sections 3.103(3)(c) and 3.101(2))
  37. “Remaining in captivity is likely to lead to real harm to Lolita”
  38. Lolita’s tank is 13 feet shorter than is required by the Animal Welfare Act (Section 3.104).
  39. It’s possible we could learn more about about Orcas communication patterns if Lolita is released & communicates with her pod
  40. She has given so much of her life to us. We owe her this.
  41. She is a nearly ideal match to the Navy criteria of attributes for a candidate for a reintroduction program.
  42. Lolitas’ Chinook name (prior to being captured) was Tokitae  meaning nice day, pretty colors – freedom would let her understand the meaning of those words.
  43. It’s a beautiful dream
  44. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you?

How You Can Help Lolita NOW

  1. Tweet for Lolita & share
  2. Learn more about Lolita’s plight
  3. Don’t buy a ticket to the Miami Seaquarium or any establishment that supports Orca captivity like SeaWorld
  4. Write a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service asking them to reconsider Lolita’s captivity at Miami Seaquarium. You can find the contact details and a sample letter here
  5. Send a letter to the owners of the seaquarium and ask them to release Lolita. Either post a letter to :Fernando Eiroa
    Palace Entertainment
    4590 MacArthur Blvd., Suite 400
    Newport Beach, CA 92660Or send an email to
  6. Send Letters to USDA & APHIS:Send a message to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). These U.S. regulatory agencies have oversight of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) which Miami Seaquarium is violating. Pre-written letters can be sent by visiting the Orca Network’s page “How to Fight for Lolita’s Retirement”.

Steps 4, 5 & 6 found in this wonderful article

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Passport Photos

Everything You Need to Know About U.S. Passport Photos

Getting a passport is a good thing! It means lot’s of fun in the future, but dealing with the technicalities of passport photos can be a little confusing. We’ve put together this guide to help answer all your passport photo related questions. If you are looking for a quick way to make sure your passport photo is okay check out the State Department’s examples of acceptable passport photos.

General Passport Photo Requirements and Information

How many passport photos do I need?
You only need to submit one passport photo with your application.

It’s a good idea to get extra passport photos taken to bring with you on your trip. If you lose your passport while traveling, you will need passport photos to apply for a replacement passport and having them on hand will simplify the process.

How old can my passport photo be?
You should take or have your photo taken within 6 months of your application submission. The reason for this is to ensure that your appearance in the photo reflects your current appearance.


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Hotel Tipping

Hotel Tipping Etiquette – When & How Much to Tip For Hotel Services in the United States

Hotel tipping is something that can confuse even the most experienced travelers. While tipping at hotels is not mandatory In the United States,  it typically is a good idea to tip if you are happy with the quality of service.  So how do you know what to tip?

The amount you tip for services really depends on the level of the hotel. For self-service hotels where travelers typically bring their own suitcases up to their rooms tipping is less of an expectation.  At more upscale hotels, it is customary to tip for certain services. If you want great service it never hurts to be generous, especially if you plan on coming back and we are a big fan of including a tip budget when you are doing your travel planning. (more…)

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50 Essential Phrases and Words You Need to Know When Traveling Abroad

A few key words and phrases are all you need to learn in order to travel easily in a foreign country.  We’ve always thought that you could get by with just the words hello, this, and sorry, but that  would be taking the hard road and we don’t want that for you!

If you want to travel better, learn this list of 50 key words and phrases that will help you travel with ease in a foreign country.


  • Hello
  • Goodbye

Basic Phrases

  • Thank You
  • I’m Sorry
  • Excuse me
  • I need help
  • I do not speak (language)
  • My name is _________
  • I am looking for _________ (restaurant, building, landmark, etc)
  • I want to go to __________
  • The bill please
  • I don’t understand
  • I don’t know
  • I need a doctor


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How to Accurately Estimate the Weight of Your Luggage

Want to save money while traveling?  Make sure you don’t bring an overweight bag on your next trip!  Fees on airlines can be incredibly high if you go over the allowed weight limit for luggage.  As of writing this, your oversized bag could cost you between $100 to $200 dollars on an American or United flight and on Delta you are looking at $90 to $175.

So what is the best way to estimate the weight of your luggage?  Here are two options that can help:

1. The DIY Luggage Weighing Method

It might be tempting to just put your luggage on a scale, but depending on the size and structure of your luggage, you might end up with inaccurate results.  The best way to estimate the weight of your luggage using a personal scale is:

  1. Weigh yourself
  2. Weigh yourself holding your luggage
  3. Subtract your weight from your weight holding the luggage

The one con of this method is that it really only works before your trip.  Unless you have access to a scale while traveling, you will have to guess what your take home luggage weight is and depending on how much you bring back, this can vary a lot.


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The Man Who Loved Snowflakes & Places To Visit If You Love Them Too

Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.

– Wilson  Bentley

Magic. How could you describe snowflakes as anything else? Falling from winter skies they seem to bring a stillness and simplicity to the world.  Hush now, here they come, thousands upon thousands of little masterpieces, each wondrously unique and sublimely beautiful.





wbentleyIt is no wonder that a young Wilson Bentley, growing up in Jericho Vermont, where the annual snowfall is around 82 inches, became transfixed with snow crystals after receiving a microscope for his 15th birthday.  He tried drawing what he saw through the microscope but the snow always melted before he could finish.  This led to years of work trying to capture a snowflake through photography. Following many failed attempts, Wilson became the first person to successfully photograph snow crystals in 1885.

The day that I developed the first negative made by this method, and found it good, I felt almost like falling on my knees beside that apparatus and worshipping it! It was the greatest moment of my life. 

– Wilson  Bentley


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Relive the Magic of Christmas Past in Paradise Pennsylvania

Photo by Jim the Photographer:
Original Photo by Jim the Photographer:


Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale

In the small town of Paradise, Pennsylvania is a not so small museum that celebrates the spirit of Christmas. With over 20,000 square feet of indoor exhibits, the National Christmas Center allows visitors to step into a Christmas themed fantasy land.

Photo by Jim the Photographer:
Photo by Jim the Photographer:
Photo by Jim the Photographer
Photo by Jim the Photographer

While the Center celebrates both Christmas present and Christmas past, it really shines in it’s ability to transport visitors to holiday’s past. Exhibits include a replica Woolworth’s store all decked out for the holiday season with authentic merchandise, signage and fixtures, a life size recreation of a 1950’s Christmas morning (oh how I would love to go back in time), and a walkable “street” of shop windows designed to bring back memories of the 1940’s and 1950’s. (more…)

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