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Even the most experienced traveller or long-term expat gets a little homesick during the holidays. It can be difficult to be away from family at the best of times, but the holiday season can make it even harder.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to make Christmas more enjoyable, so you’ll look back on your Christmas abroad with fond memories.

Here are some top tips for celebrating Christmas while travelling:

Create your own Christmas

Pack a mini tree and some Christmas stockings, and decorate your hotel room or apartment. One good thing about Christmas being such a consume-fest, is that regardless of where you are, you can usually find a small Christmas tree and some decorations (or substitutes).

Volunteer

While it can be sad to be alone on Christmas, imagine being alone and sick in hospital, or alone and in a homeless shelter. The true spirit of Christmas is about being selfless and generous. Instead of exchanging gifts, head to a local soup kitchen or shelter. See if any hospitals or living homes need volunteers to bring some Christmas spirit to those who need it most. The holidays are a hard time for many people, so even taking some time out of your day to buy lunch or a cup of coffee for someone in need may be a great way to spread some cheer when you’re away from your family.

Explore local traditions

When I was in Thailand for my first Christmas, I wasn’t expecting much of a Christmas celebration at all. And I was super surprised to see massive Christmas trees and decorations going up in early November.

Even if the country you’re visiting doesn’t celebrate Christmas, you could take this opportunity to celebrate a holiday that they do celebrate instead. Spend some time getting to know the locals and see what they’ll be doing around the holiday period.

Send some Christmas cards

Just as the holidays can be difficult for people who are away from home, they can also be difficult for those who are left behind. Luckily, you can create your own holiday greeting cards and even family Christmas cards online, and get them sent to your family and friends. Best of all, right now Basic Invite is offering 30% off with coupon code: holi30.

Do something different

Some travellers prefer to ignore the holiday season and go out of their way to do something completely unrelated to Christmas. This can actually be a great idea, particularly if you’re somewhere super hot and you’re used to a white Christmas- it may not even feel like Christmas anyway.

Go for a hike, take SCUBA lessons, grab a massage, or go souvenir shopping. This will take your mind off of any homesickness and allow you distract yourself with a new activity.

Are you travelling for the holidays? How will you celebrate Christmas this year? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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In the US, there is a particular type of visa available for investors seeking to pump capital into the economy to legally enter the country and obtain permanent residence. The immigrant visa for investors is referred to as the employment fifth preference or EB-5 and is available for foreigners with between $500,000 and $1m of capital to inject into the American economy.

Because the EB-5 visa grants a US green card immediately and there are significant amounts of capital involved, the application process is extremely complex. To get the full benefits of residency for yourself and your family with your EB-5 visa, it is important to hire a specialist lawyer to manage the process on your behalf.

Here are five very good reasons to hire a lawyer to handle your visa application:

  1. Foreign investors in the US economy are limited to 10,000 EB-5 visa applications each year from any one country and sometimes, competition for investor green cards is such that you might be placed on a waiting list. This is based on what is called your ‘priority date’, which is the day when your initial visa application was filed. If you hire an EB-5 lawyer, your initial application is guaranteed to provide all the required information, which is extensive in the case of EB-5 visas. Because this is one of the most difficult categories of visa to obtain, a lawyer will smooth the application process considerably. If you submit your application yourself and fail to obtain the visa, it can hamper your chances of success in the future.
  2. Investor green cards are only valid for two years during which time you have to maintain eligibility in order to have your visa successfully renewed. A lawyer will be able to advise you during this initial two year period to ensure you remain eligible to prevent your green card being cancelled. Again, cancelled visas may result in an exclusion period which means you face having to return to your native country.
  3. If you are applying for an EB-5 and you are married with children under the age of 21, your whole family are able to get green cards as accompanying relatives. However, this also makes the process more complicated as you will more than likely be required to demonstrate you have the means to support your family for the first two years as a resident. A lawyer will be able to negotiate on your behalf and ensure you get the full rights of residency for all parties on the application.
  4. Because the first two years of an EB-5 are subject to scrutiny in terms of maintaining eligibility, a lawyer can assist in ensuring you do not breach its terms during this time. Misusing a green card results in it being immediately revoked, making it crucial that you understand fully the terms of the arrangement. Staying outside of the US for too long, committing a crime or even failing to register a change of address, can result in losing your rights to residency which will also impact your family. Hiring a lawyer ensures you keep on the straight and narrow until such times as your residency becomes permanent.
  5. Perhaps the most solid reason for hiring a specialist lawyer for your EB-5 visa is that it will offer you peace of mind through what is likely to be a whirlwind 2-years adapting to life in the US. If you have children, you’ll want to secure their education and make sure you are located somewhere that is beneficial for you all. Your property and any business you have invested in has to meet EB-5 criteria and you’ll have to show authorities that you are actively engaged with your investment in the first 2 years. A lawyer can deal with all the paperwork – of which there is plenty – while you focus your attention on other aspects of your life in the US directly affecting you and your family.

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From gorgeous coastal drives to quaint seaside villages and cute pubs, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Isle of Wight. You may have noticed that the classic British seaside holidays have been making a comeback, but if decaying theme parks and arcades aren’t quite your favourite thing, you need to get to the Isle of Wight.

For Londoners who are time-poor, the Isle of Wight is just a 30 minutes by ferry over the Solent Straight. That means that if you’re leaving London Waterloo, you could be enjoying a cup of tea at a cute beach-side cafe within just three hours.

Here are just a few reasons why you should check out Blue Chip Holidays and visit the Isle of Wight:

Beaches

Let’s face it, most beaches in the UK are somewhat underwhelming. If you’re not dodging pebbles, you’re looking at sludge-coloured sand. This isn’t a problem in the Isle of Wight. You may just think you’re in the Mediterranean. And there’s plenty to do here for the whole family, with Brook Chine perfect for sand castles, Alum Bay for paddling, and pods of dolphins occasionally swimming up the coast.

Restaurants

If you haven’t yet heard of the restaurant in Hambrough Hotel, it’s probably because the locals are trying to keep it under wraps. This was a Michelin-starred restaurant up until 2013, and it’s still widely loved by visitors and locals. If you like the idea of spending the night, check in to one of the boutique bedrooms in the hotel, crack open a bottle of wine, and get stuck into the chef’s signature Ventnor crab.

The Needles

The chalky stacks of this natural attraction are arguably the island’s most recognisable sight. The Needles are named for the fourth rock, which is shaped like a needle and likened to a Bible story where a woman was turned into a pillar of salt. While that rock collapsed in 1764, the name didn’t, and you can visit this attraction by grabbing a scenic boat tour.

Villages

The villages in this area are picture perfect. Check out Shanklin, which looks exactly like a fairytale town. Stroll amongst zig-zag streets, thatched cottages, and tea rooms. Brose craft shops, and grab a drink at the Crab Inn.

Creativity

Fancy yourself as a writer? Tennyson described the fresh sea air on the island as worth “sixpence a pint.” You’ll be able to stroll along his footsteps, and check out his granite monument. If you love ceramics, or would like to make some your own, head to Chessell Pottery where you can paint your own plates and pots. They’ll glaze them for you and you can take home a personalized souvenir.

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If you’re planning to take a trip but also want to make sure your pet is cared for and happy while you’re away, we’ve got some tips to help. Here are the top 5 tips to make sure your pet is cared for while you’re traveling:

1. Keep them somewhere familiar

Most vets agree that pets are happier staying at home and tend to respond better to a new carer than a new environment. For this reason, one of the best things you can do is find a trusted at-home solution like a pet sitter who can look after your pet while you’re away.

One of the great things about pet sitting services? If you love pets and you’re looking for a little extra money, you can even become a pet sitter yourself. Check out this sitter sign-up page to learn more.

2. Keep their routine the same

Another great way to keep your pets happy while you’re travelling? Make sure their daily routine is the same. Pets are interested in the little things. They want to know that when their pet sitter wakes up, they’ll be given breakfast and they can then lay on their favorite rug all morning.

Most importantly, they need to know that they have someone to give them the affection and love they’re used to. Give your pet carer a loose schedule for your pet so that their routine can stay as uninterrupted as possible.

3. Leave quietly

It can be difficult to say goodbye to your pet before travelling, and it’s common to give lots of love and affection. You may think that this reassures your pet that you’ll be home soon. But since this isn’t your usual behavior, it can make your pet confused and anxious.

Try to stay calm and not fuss too much. This will help your pets stay relaxed as you leave.

4. Leave your scent

Leaving a few items of used clothing, like your favorite jersey or dressing gown close to where your pet likes to hang out can reassure them while you’re away from home. IN fact, studies have shown that dogs process their owner’s smell in the reward center of their brains.

5. Keep them busy

Playing will stimulate mental and physical health, encourage bonding and teach social skills for both cats and dogs. Make sure your pet has enough toys to keep them occupied, and a playmate to have fun with while you’re travelling.

If you’re using a pet sitter, leave a list of their favorite treats, toys, and tricks.

With the above tips, you can ensure that you can have an amazing time traveling, without worrying about your pet.

Have you got a pet? What are your top tips for traveling? Leave a comment below to let us know!

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Summer has been and gone, and we are nearly at the end of Autumn too which only means one thing – here comes winter…and the dark nights. As the clocks go back at the end of October, nights quickly start to roll in earlier and earlier, while morning sunrises seem to get later. Join Grange Motors Land Rover specialists, in this guide, they give you their top tips to driving safely in the dark this winter.

Winter goes hand in hand with harsh weather conditions that can affect road conditions when driving, and lead to decreased visibility on the roads. According to the Department of Transport, in the winter of 2014, 2,274 people were injured in reported road accidents. 251 were also seriously injured and 29 people were killed. Add that to the fact that of all fatal car accidents, 49 percent occur at night, despite there being fewer drivers on the road, as well as that night driving has a fatality rate per mile nearly triple that of daytime driving, and it’s vital that you are prepared for your journeys as the dark, colder mornings and nights arrive.

Lights

Whilst it is essential that you have your headlights on before sunrise and after sunset, in the winter, it is advised that you keep your lights on for an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset to ensure other drivers on the road can clearly see you during twilight. You should do regular checks to make sure that all your lights are operating properly throughout the winter too – failure to switch on your lights could mean that other drivers do not see you approaching and accidents could occur.

You can drive with your full beam switched on in rural areas whenever you see it safe to do so, to improve your road visibility. However, you must ensure you dip your lights back down when you encounter another driver to avoid dazzling them and affecting their visibility.

Have your eyes checked

The dark nights are a trigger for drivers to realise that their sight isn’t great. You should therefore have your eyes checked before it’s too late. Be aware that some drivers struggle with the glare from headlights and street lamps in the dark – fortunately, most opticians offer anti-glare lenses to help improve night time driving.

This also helps for reading road signs in the dark, where they might not be as clear to make out – or affected by the weather conditions. If you don’t feel comfortable driving without your glasses, don’t! Make sure you always keep a pair in your car too, so that you can clearly see when driving in the dark.

Ensure that you regularly clean your windows and mirrors as well – having a dirty windscreen can catch the glare of oncoming vehicles, or compromise your vision.

Allow more time for your journey

When driving in the dark, it’s important to take your time as it’s sometimes not as easy to see hazards on the road. By allowing more time for your journey, you can schedule regular breaks when driving long distances to give your eyes a rest. Driving in the dark can be a strain on your eyes, and it’s easy to start to feel fatigue – so, give your eyes a rest and then allow time for them adjust.

Be prepared to be patient and cautious of other drivers around you who might not be as comfortable as you are driving in the dark too, or who may have been drinking. Stay alert! 77% of alcohol-related car accidents occur between 6pm and 6am.

 

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Florida is known for its warm weather and miles of beaches. But there’s a lot more to this state, and if you haven’t visited for a while (or ever), you should consider taking your next vacation in Florida.

Florida has warm temperatures year-round, and plenty of diverse activities to keep the whole family happy. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider florida for your next vacation:

Great Weather

Does it feel like winter is getting longer and colder every year? A trip to Florida is just what you need. While you’re freezing in the North, locals in Florida enjoy comfortable temperatures year-round. The coldest it will get is around 60 degrees, making it the perfect place to escape the cold.

Incredible Attractions

Think of Florida, and you probably think of Disney and Universal. There’s a reason why Orlando has more visitors each year than any other amusement park destination.

Whether you’re taking the kids, or you’re a kid at heart, you’re guaranteed to find an amusement park that suits you and your family. From Legoland to DisneyWorld, to Universal Studios, you can spend days enjoying the incredible ride and experiences waiting for you in Orlando. If you’re planning to see some of the attractions, be sure to buy tickets early, so you can avoid the long lines at the entrance gates.

Amazing Wildlife

Florida is jam-packed with wildlife. Of course you’ll see plenty of incredible animals at places like SeaWorld, but you can also find some of the Western Hemisphere’s most diverse ecosystems in the Everglades. Keep an eye out for alligators sunning themselves or splashing in the water, and check out the wading birds.

Delicious Food

If you’re heading to Florida, don’t forget to take your fat pants. The food is delicious here, with some of the best seafood in the country. Try the Cuban sandwiches, and don’t miss the Key Lime pie, which is on the menu at almost every restaurant.

You’ll also find grits, pit barbecues, and food with both Creole and Cajun influences. As you head further south, you’ll get to try Floribbean food- cuisine strongly influenced from the Bahamas and Cuba.

Gorgeous Beaches

If you’re ready for fun in the sun, Florida knows how to deliver. Most of the state is lined with more than 210 miles of sandy beaches, and it’s easy to see why visitors are drawn to the state year-round.

If you’re looking for some exclusive resorts, check out Naples, Cape Coral, Sarasota, and Bradenton- all of which have the atmosphere of a country club with the relaxed vibe of a resort in Cancun.

Have you been to Florida? Are you planning a trip soon? Where’s your favourite place to go in the state? Leave a comment below and let me know.

 

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When was the last time you took a vacation? Now think honestly about the experience. Did it involve a rush to the airport, long lines at check-in and security, and then competing for a cab at the other end? If you’re like most people, you and your family probably arrived tired and stressed out, and then had to repack a few days later if you were moving on to a new destination.

Cruising takes the stress out of travel. If you’ve been putting off your next trip away because you simply can’t deal with the exhaustion and anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with travel, cruising is the holiday for you. Here’s why:

Only the best parts of travel

With cruising, once you’re onboard, you only need to unpack once. From there, you’re taken to a new destination each day, without the constant need to repack your stuff and get from point A to point B. Instead, you’ll be travelling to a new, exciting destination while you’re sleeping or lying in front of the pool.

Stay on budget

How often have you arrived home, only to realise you completely blew your travel budget? Budgeting for a vacation can be tricky, especially when unexpected costs pop up out of nowhere.

With cruising, you’re paying for your accommodation, food, and transport in one go. Not to mention, you can also pre-pay for your gratuities and choose and pay for your day trips at the same time. The only time you need to put your hand in your pocket is if you decide you like the look of a souvenir or two on your travels.

See more in less time

These days, most of us don’t have much vacation time. Instead, we’re lucky if we get a week or two off each year. Not to mention, fewer of us are even taking vacation time, and are instead getting exhausted and burnt out.

When you don’t have much time to travel, you need to make the most of the time you do have. With cruising, you get to visit multiple cities or countries within a short time period. If you were to see the same places in the same time period yourself, you’d probably end up exhausted from continually travelling and checking in and out of hotels.

Visit the best destinations

One of the best things about cruising? You’re likely to find a cruise that leaves near you, and goes to some of the places you’ve always dreamed of visiting. Whether you want to see Dubrovnik or Dublin, you’ll find numerous cruises that leave from Southampton and stop by some of the top spots in Europe and around the world.

Have you been on a cruise recently? Which cruise line did you travel with? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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Mothers, wives, and daughters need a bit of retail therapy every now and again. While the web makes it easy to shop for the latest fashions online, there’s something missing from the experience. Some love the action related to shopping – the window displays, the girl talk, and sensation of seeing goods up close and personal. Here’s why Dubai has been named a shopper’s paradise and needs to be on your next retail therapy go-to list.

Get Back to the Mall

Remember what it was like to go to the mall in the 80s and 90s? The large structures were designed to be a paradise for shoppers. The retail dream gave way to a more convenient and economical online shopping experience, but many shoppers miss the physical sensation. Dubai has no shortage of shopping malls, which is a nice departure from its outdoor temperatures. Like the golden age of American shopping malls, Dubai shopping locales are places to socialize, eat food, and score big on sales.

Experience the Souqs

Dubai has always been famous for its bazaars. However, get unpolished images out of your head. The outdoor mini malls are where locals (not just tourists) go to get basic goods and to do a bit of bargain shopping. Unlike traditional retail stores you’ll find near the Marriott, you’ll meet shop owners who are open to negotiating the price of items of interest. It’s a different experience but one that is sure to please the avid shopper.

Realize the First Number Is Overpriced

As mentioned, the businesspeople of Dubai are no strangers to bargaining. Unlike conventional retail stores in the US or UK, the first number you see on an item is seldom the one paid by interested parties. Most things are up for negotiation and a bit of haggling. While it would be uncomfortable or beyond store policy in America, you should have no qualms balking at the listed price and negotiating a better price in Dubai.

DIY Fashionistas

Sites like Etsy have opened doors for those who have aspirations to both design and sell their own fashion goods. Those who make their own clothing and accessories are prominent in Dubai. In fact, the Pink Sushi label originated out of Dubai and is the creation of a native-born young woman. Sure, you can find name-brand labels here, but it would be a mistake to disregard the items offered by local fashionistas and designers.

Get Surprised by the Shopping Fest

The Dubai Shopping Festival, one of the best in the world, was so popular that it has become a season-long event. From the end of June to the end of August, you’ll have the opportunity to find sales all over the city. Keep in mind that temperatures can be somewhat unbearable at this time, so it may be wise to go on a reconnaissance mission first and then target the shops you want to go to for purchasing. The hot temperatures may be to your benefit, lessening the number of shoppers and increasing your chances of getting great deals.

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New York is beautiful, isn’t it? The huge buildings, the historic landscape, the broadway shows, and the streets just teeming with tourists. If you fancy somewhere a bit more authentically American, it might be worth a visit a little further south to New Jersey. Famous for the pier, Atlantic City, the Statue of Liberty, and a vibrant Italian American community, New Jersey is New York’s secret rival.

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Source: Pixabay

Start your trip with a ferry around the Statue of Liberty, and get all the tourist photos you fancy. Take in the sight which many immigrants will have been greeted with as they left war torn countries behind for the new hopes of America. Spend your afternoon on one of the many New Jersey beaches, eating at one of the many classic New Jersey restaurants along the boardwalk. The museum of art is worth a visit for a relaxing afternoon.

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Source: Pixabay

If you’re lucky enough to visit during NHL season, you might be able to catch a Devils game at the Prudential centre. The Devils are currently 50/1 to win the Eastern conference, and you might just catch a surprising game from the team. The Devils play the New York Rangers in the “Battle of the Hudson River”, a derby with a longstanding rivalry, and is often the main event of the season for many fans.

If you fancy some razzle dazzle, Atlantic City is New Jersey’s answer to Las Vegas. Dotted with high rise buildings an glitzy hotels, it’s a must for anyone who enjoys a bit of the high life. Whilst Vegas is known as the epicentre for gambling and large budget shows, Atlantic City gives it a run for its money, whilst retaining the vintage chic and good hospitality that New Jersey has become renowned for. You might want to visit soon however, because it is tipped as one of one of 31 cities in the USA which are likely to be underwater in the near future. Visit in early October for the Atlantic City comedy festival, which gives a shot to new comedians and welcomes established comedians alike.

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Source: Pixabay

Eating in New Jersey is about comfort food and utilising local produce. Take a trip to one of the many locally run restaurants to experience locally caught fresh swordfish, or munch on shellfish as you wander along the boardwalk. The melting pot of immigrant history in New Jersey ensures a variety of flavours and cuisines, and makes New Jersey a really special place to eat. If you’re visiting North Jersey, a hot dog is a must, and anywhere in New Jersey, you’ll want to try Tomato Pie, which unlike a traditional pizza is made with the cheese placed directly on the dough, with the toppings on top, and finally finished with the tomato sauce.

With a renowned art museum, a strong NHL tradition, lots of parks to walk in and great local food, New Jersey makes for an interesting alternative to New York, or maybe even a trip alongside. You could do a road trip around the state or visit particular places as part of your visit, and feel smug in the knowledge that you’ve visited an All American state.

 

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Traveling is fun, I mean for me personally there’s nothing more exciting than turning up to a new city or country and knowing that I will be discovering new foods, places and activities. I love it! But the truth is that there’s a few things about travel that are a little less glamorous. One of the things that I find most boring about traveling is the sheer amount of time spent in airports, especially if you have a long wait before flights. I prefer to go to the airport prepared so that time can go faster and I don’t get too bored! Here are my favourite boredom busters for long airport layovers:

1. A Book
I love reading, whether it’s fiction or self help books, I find myself getting lost between the pages and being carried off into my own world. It’s the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of an airport. I personally love paper books, but if you’re not sold, consider audiobooks or even an e-book, both of which are a little more portable than traditional books. While on holiday, according to a study by Opodo.co.uk, Brits read on average of two books! Using the boring wait time while in airports is a great way to boost your read count for your holiday.
2. A Game
These days games on your phone are pretty impressive, with numerous levels and challenges to keep you entertained for hours on end. Find a game that doesn’t need to be connected to wifi, as that will ensure you can play it no matter whether you have signal or not. This is a great way to ensure that the minutes fly by – just be careful you don’t miss your flight!

3. TV Show
Addicted to Game of Thrones? House of Cards? Whatever your kind of show, make sure you have some episodes loaded on your phone or iPad so that you can get into them while you’re waiting. Netflix now lets you download episodes, too, which makes it perfect for traveling. I personally prefer watching TV shows over movies when waiting as they’re a bit smaller and it’s easier to fit them into the wait time. If you don’t finish while you’re in the lounge, don’t worry – you can finish it off on the next flight.

4. Colouring In Book
Adult colouring in books have become quite trendy in the past few years. I love them because they’re relaxing. Some of them are quite large, but there’s even some cute travel sized books you can grab to take with you. It’s a cool way to pass the time as it’s distressing but also because you’re creating some beautiful art while you wait.

Waiting in airports can be a little boring but with these simple boredom busters the time will fly by!