Vacation

Pack Your Bags

So, we arrived in Seoul a couple days ago.  (For all my blog followers:  We’ll be living in Seoul for the next couple years due to Derrick’s job.)  The flight was brutal (6-hour delay–when you’re traveling with two toddlers, that feels like a lifetime!).  We’ve been living in hotels for the past two weeks (thankfully, we’re moving into our apartment tomorrow!) and these eBags packing cubes are fantastic.  

Up until this past trip, my usual method of packing has been rolling up all of our clothes and putting them into clear trash bags.  The reason I’ve done it this way is because I have a theory–the more TSA/luggage handlers can see (at arm’s length), the less likely they are to touch/manhandle your things (goodness knows where their disgusting gloves have been!).  And, being the germaphobe that I am, I refuse to use the dressers in hotels–we keep everything in our suitcases (with the exception of our toiletries).  The problem with this is that every time we grab something out of the suitcases, things get unrolled and jumbled up.  If you’re on a 2-day trip, that’s not a big deal.  But any longer than that (and if you’re a family of four), the disorganization becomes ridiculous. 

Well, color-coded packing cubes to the rescue.  With the four of us, each person was assigned a color.  And with the see-through mesh, it makes it easy to see the contents of each cube.  These things were a godsend–they helped keep us well-organized and, hopefully, will help you, too! 

The Final Frontier

finalfrontier

Forbes came out with an article on the top 15 countries to retire in this year and it included one that I’ve set my sights on for quite some time–Malaysia.  Unfortunately (and fortunately), hubby and I have a long way to go before retirement but if there is ever an opportunity for us to visit the country (for fun or work), we would jump at the chance.

Fantasizing about retirement isn’t all fun and games.  It also forces you to consider more serious matters such as finance, healthcare, and lifestyle.  It’s widely known that retiring in a developing country (especially one that is non-US dollar based) stretches your pocketbook.  That’s an easy one.  In terms of healthcare, that requires a bit more due diligence.  According to International Living, Malaysia is one of the top destinations for retiree healthcare.  And, in terms of lifestyle, it’s attractive to me because it offers a variety of choices in terms of food, shopping, sightseeing, and other activities.  In a nutshell, it offers the holy trinity of the best retirement destinations:

(1)  Choice of city or country living–City-living means having access to state-of-the-art medical facilities, shopping that is on par with that of developed countries, variety of culinary cuisines as diverse as most major cities in the world, and cultural institutions such as theaters, museums, and concert halls.  The beauty of living in a country like Malaysia (so I’ve read and been told) is that you have the best of both worlds.  In addition to having the choice of living in a sprawling city, you may also choose to live in a rural village or quiet corner by the beach.  Serenity at its best.

(2)  Stretching your dollar–Again, this part is widely known.  One of the primary goals of searching for the perfect retirement destination is to find a place where you can live like a king without spending like one.

(3)  Sunny daysStudies have shown that low barometric pressure can adversely affect our bodies (joints, sinuses, etc.).  Because of this, it’s not surprising that many retirement homes are located in warm and tropical locations.

And, as countries like Malaysia get more expats as residents, we’ll see that great minds do, indeed, think alike  :).

Wondrous World

las-vegas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Especially to be in Las Vegas.  I’ve been coming to Vegas every Christmas since my mother moved here about a decade ago.  The shows, the glitz, the glamour, the shops, the restaurants, the sights–there’s no place on earth that compares to this city.  Whether you’re a shopaholic, wine snob, casino player, restaurant connoisseur, show lover, or spa goer, this town has something for every one.

Hotels.  My favorites include the Flamingo (family and dog-friendly; great location), Rio (newer than many of the other hotels, has fantastic restaurants, and houses the Penn & Teller show), and Caesar’s (most convenient location overall for food/shopping/entertainment).

Shopping.  Where do I begin?  Other than the magnificent Fashion Show Mall on the Strip (which houses Neiman’s, Saks, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dillards, Louis Vuiton, and other familiar stores), there is a myriad of options.  My other favorites include the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian and Palazzo (which houses Barney’s, Christian Louboutin, DVF, Chloe, etc.) as well as the shops at the Wynn (Chanel, Bottega, Fendi, Manolo, etc.).  Did I mention that all the shops and boutiques in the hotels are open on Christmas Day?  Yes, you heard correctly, my friends.  Designer shopping (and discounts) on Christmas Day.  Happy holidays, indeed.  A shopper’s paradise, really, especially during Christmas time when many markdowns are up to 60% off.  Need I say more?

Entertainment.  Vegas gives New York a run for its money.  Jerry Seinfeld, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, among other big headliners have always come to Vegas this time of year (great minds think alike, you know).  All the shows, concerts, and other entertainment here are everything the Big Apple has to offer but on steroids.  This place is a well-oiled machine that knows how to please all the senses.  Every show I’ve seen here is ten times better than the same show in New York.  You have to see it to believe it.

Food.  This town is a mecca for foodies.  Whether you’re craving cheap eats or high-end dining, Vegas offers everything in the spectrum.  The diversity and variety of the city’s cuisines reflects that of its residents and visitors.  What ever you want, it’s there (on and off the Strip).

If you’re planning a trip to Vegas, Christmas time through New Year’s is the best time to be there.  Travel tip:  Book your flight early and (assuming you’re staying at one of the larger properties–Caesar’s, Flamingo, Bally’s, Planet Hollywood, etc.) your hotel room through a casino host.  Why?  The flight is self-explanatory.  Booking your hotel room through a casino host has several perks.  First of all, it’s a free service.  Secondly, a casino host is your “inside guide” on anything and everything going on in your hotel and its sister properties which means if you’re staying at Caesar’s and there’s a show you want to see at Planet Hollywood, he/she may be able to get you free tickets.  Loyalty pays off so find a casino host you like to work with and stick to him/her.  If you need help finding one, I’m happy to recommend one I’ve worked with for years (she is a professional and truly a veteran of the gaming industry).  Also, always sign up for the hotel’s rewards program/card (even if you don’t play in the casinos).  You receive points on your rewards card every time you play in the casinos and at many of the restaurants (just don’t forget to present your card before playing and/or dining).  The points are then redeemable for discounts and/or freebies (depending on the number of points you accumulate, you can earn anything from free hotel suites to free breakfasts).  And with the number of opportunities to spend money in Vegas, those points can add up.  Bottom line:  start booking your (first or next) trip to Vegas for Christmas time via a casino host now!