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Knowing what not to pack is important

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There are few things that can help reduce travel stress like learning how to pack less. I’ve watched screaming couples lug massive suitcases across the cobblestones of Sicily, and seen tiny travellers miserably dwarfed by massive backpacks in train stations, as often as I’ve marvelled at surly ones in the street frantically gathering up acres of clothes from a broken rolling bag. The tragedy of over-packing knows no bounds.

But before you can just “pack less,” you have to know what not to pack.

A voltage converter

Voltage converters are pretty much a thing of the past. The power adapter (also known as the “wall wart”) that comes with nearly every electronic product, be it a phone, tablet, e-reader, even many laptops, likely converts all incoming voltage into what it needs. Take a look at the side of the adapter; it should say something like “AC 100-240V 50/60Hz.” This means it can accept any voltage between 100 and 240 at either 50 or 60 cycle. So not only our 120V/60Hz, but everything from Tokyo’s 100V/50Hz to London’s 230V/50Hz and even St. John’s 220V/60Hz.

What you need instead are cheap travel outlet adapters. These change the two vertical prongs of U.S.-style plugs to whatever the local version is. Round in Europe, tilted in Australia, massive rectangles in the U.K., and so on. For about $10 you can get a few with one region/country’s plug style to fit all your power adapters. For about double that, a somewhat bulkier “universal” adapter with multiple prong styles built in should work just about everywhere.

The exceptions to this? Hair dryers, most things with motors, and older laptops with big power bricks. If it doesn’t have the voltage range listed above, or it has just a single cord direct from the wall to the device (as in, there’s no adapter) it might not work. For those devices you may need a voltage converter, but more than likely, it may not work even if you have one.

Hair dryers and most bathroom items

Even if I weren’t bald since I was a teenager, I’d still advise against bringing a hair dryer. As mentioned above, your hair dryer almost certainly isn’t going to work overseas. Don’t bring it. Pretty much every hotel and hostel, and most Airbnbs, are going to have one available for you.

The same is true for things like shampoo and soap. Hotels and Airbnbs will provide these to you for sure, although they’re somewhat less common in hostels. Unless you have specific products you can’t live without (and that’s fine, I do too), you can probably skip these. Bringing these also creates the possibility of their leaking in your bag, and now you’ve got soapy underwear.

You also don’t really need bottles of easily obtained medications like over-the-counter painkillers. These are readily available at virtually any destination. Just remember the drug name, not the brand name. “Advil” might be tough to find in some places, but “ibuprofen” is everywhere. (Google is also handy when trying to find the name of a specific medicine in the local language, like Imodium or Benadryl.) Oh, and what we call acetaminophen (Tylenol) everyone else calls paracetamol. Same drug.

However, some cold medicines, long-dose painkillers (such as Aleve) and just about anything you need a prescription for, are probably worth bringing. Just make sure you do it safely and legally.

A fist full of dollars

You don’t need to bring cash. ATMs are everywhere and usually cheaper compared to those in the U.S. Yes, you might get an ATM fee, but that will likely be less than the fee charged by retail currency converter shops like the ones at airports.

Unless you’re heading someplace particularly rural, you’ll should be able to find an ATM with ease. Besides, depending on the country, stores probably prefer credit cards anyway.

As far as credit cards go, outside the United States, American Express and Discover cards aren’t nearly as widely accepted. Visa and Mastercard are far safer bets. Ideally, bring a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Wirecutter, the New York Times company that reviews products, recommends a number of card that don’t charge those fees and offer other perks. If you’re not sure about your current card, call the company and ask — and always let them know before you travel so they won’t flag your foreign activity as fraud and freeze your account.

If you pay by card, some places will let you choose to pay in local or your home currency. Paying in your home currency will likely cost more as you’ll get a poor conversion rate and a transaction fee for the “privilege.” Unless you know your card charges big foreign fees, paying in local currency is cheaper.

Mobile payments, like Apple Pay and Google Pay, or apps like Venmo and Square where you’re able to use your phone to buy things, are growing in popularity at home and abroad. However, these aren’t widespread enough to rely on as a main form of payment. Their availability will depend on not just the country you’re visiting but also the specific shop you’re in.

Most of the clothes you’re thinking of bringing

You don’t need a different outfit for every day of your trip. In fact, unless you have to bring something bulky that’s specific to your destination — a winter parka to see the Northern Lights, custom fins to dive the Great Barrier Reef — you should be able to do any length of trip with carry-on luggage and a day pack/big purse. My longest trip so far was just under five months, and I brought a 40-liter (roughly carry-on sized) backpack, and a 15-liter day pack for my camera and other electronic gear.

If you’re gone for more than a week, just budget two hours sometime during your trip to do laundry. Pretty much every hotel, hostel and Airbnb will have laundry facilities in the building or nearby. (But avoid the exorbitant cost of having the hotel do your laundry for you.) Worst case, you can hand-wash in a sink. I’ve only had to do that a few times.

What to pack? I usually bring six shirts, underwear and pairs of socks, plus jeans and shorts. (You might consider adding a pair of khakis or dress pants for an evening out.) I’ve met people who bring less, but enough for one week seems pretty common for frequent travellers I’ve met.

Anything you “might” use

Maybe you’ll go on a night out, so you’ll need dress shoes. Or maybe you’ll go riding, so you’ll need that saddle. Maybe you will need a diving bell and a hang glider. But more than likely, you won’t. The most pervasive and insidious thought while packing is “Well, I might need this.” That train of thought, and even I get it right before any trip, just results in a lot of useless bulk and weight.

Examine what you’re packing closely. Do you really want to carry that across the narrow alleys of Europe or packed streets of Asia for two weeks on the off chance that maybe, for an hour, you’ll need it? Every person I’ve seen with too much luggage ends up not using the vast majority of what they packed. If you do change your plans and end up needing something special, like an unexpected hike on a glacier, there are almost certainly going to be options nearby to help you gear up.

So leave food (other than snacks for the plane), pillows, that third pair of shoes, that second belt, boots for city trips, oxfords or heels for jungle trips, and so on. Rain gear is fine, two umbrellas in case you lose the first one is excessive.

A safe rule of thumb: if you think you might need it, you won’t. Worst case, you can buy it there. Then you’ll have something new with a story attached, and what’s better than that?

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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