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Archive of ‘Travel’ category

7 Life Lessons I Learned at the #MTYRetreat

Last weekend I experienced one of the most transformative trips of my life. I’ve traveled quite a bit in my lifetime, but never quite like this. I was chosen to attend the very first My Taught You Retreat in Cancun, Mexico. This experience was curated by Myleik Teele – brilliant brand builder behind Curlbox and the MyTaughtYou podcast – and it was the best way to kickoff my 31st year of life. Not only was I surrounded by nearly 100 of the most powerful black girl changemakers in the country, but for the first time in a long time I felt like I was truly being poured into.

When you craft your life’s work around being purpose-driven and pouring into others, it can leave you feeling empty and drained. Also, as an entrepreneur, I often work in a bubble with very little interaction from people who truly understand what I’m going through as a sole proprietor with children and bills and unpaid invoices and STRESS. It’s a struggle. I left Mexico last weekend with so much inspiration and priceless gems. Here are the top 7 life lessons I learned at the MTYRetreat:

1. Be INTENTIONAL About The Life You Want. (Kahlana Barfield-Brown)

Most of us who are highly successful in one area of our lives (like career, for example) neglect to realize that if we crave success in other areas, we have to work at it. You want a family some day? Ok. Why haven’t you actively tried to find a suitable candidate to create one with? You make more of what you focus your time on. If you’re constantly focused on work then, guess what? You’ll just get more work.

Kahlana Barfield-Brown, Editor at Large at InStyle Magazine, spoke to us about her wake-up call and how she had to literally get herself out of the office and into places and spaces where she would meet and eventually fall in love with her husband. It’s nice knowing that some women who seem to “have it all”, didn’t get it all at once. It takes intention and proactivity for you to develop the life you want. Don’t complain about not having what you want if you haven’t tried your best to get it.

2. If It Don’t Make Dollars, It Don’t Make Sense. (Karleen Roy)

What I love about being a creative is that I’m never bored. I always have a vision, a new idea, an amazing way to put the icing on my entrepreneurial cake. When it isn’t fun is when I’m over budget and I can’t pay my rent. Every creative entrepreneur has been here. Do I launch my next product or do I pay my insurance? The struggle is REAL.

So when Karleen Roy of The Vanity Group gave her chat and said that pulling together the vision for the MTYRetreat was actually the biggest lesson for her to date, I FELT THAT. Myleik pushed her out of her comfort zone by challenging her on doing things that didn’t provide real monetary value. She talked about being a creative and how creativity can sometimes push you WAY over budget. And that’s truly what I’m learning each day and where I have to challenge myself more. Is this thing going to create wealth for me? If not, then why am I doing it? That’s a question I have to start asking myself more in 2018.

3. You Can’t Move Forward Until You Learn To LET GO. (Zim Ugochukwu)

One of the hardest things to do is to let go of something you love. Whether it’s a business or a long-term relationship, letting go is TOUGH but necessary. In order for you to grow, and move into new fruitful chapters in your life – you have to be pruned. Zim, founder of Travel Noire recently sold her company to Blavity. And during her chat she mentioned John 15. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…”

Travel Noire was her baby. And she sold it because she was being called into a new chapter in her life. If you want a life that bears “fruit”, one that makes you happy, serves your life purpose, brings others joy and grows you in ways unimaginable – you have to LOSE to gain.

4. You Teach People How To Treat You. (Luvvie Ajayi)

A lot of the time, especially as women, we accept behavior that we don’t like or appreciate. We allow people to do, say and act in a way that makes us uncomfortable and we don’t speak up about it. Why come?

Everybody’s favorite Nigerian cousin – Luvvie Ajayi – opened our eyes to an important fact this weekend. You teach people how to treat you. Silence around your discomfort is actually saying a lot. If someone does something to you that you don’t like and you say nothing, you’re essentially telling them it’s ok to keep doing it. Another gem – ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. Luvvie is unapologetic about asking for pay that is commiserate with her experience. She’s a New York Times Bestseller and that comes with a premium price tag. More than that, she’s comfortable and ASSURED that she is worth it. How much money are YOU leaving on the table because you’re not comfortable asking for what you’re truly worth?

5. Work To Leave A Legacy. (Necole Kane)

What would people say at your funeral if you dropped dead today? Sounds harsh and incredibly morbid to think about, but for some this is a reality every day. During our last night of MTYRetreat, man, so many gems were dropped. One of which came from Necole Kane, founder of xoNecole.com – formerly of NecoleBitchie.

She talked about the fact that both her parents passed away while they were young and that the glaring reality of life’s end is what drove her to switch from gossip blogging to inspiration and empowerment. She didn’t want her life’s work to be something she wouldn’t be proud of at her funeral. If that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will. Live a life that makes you proud and leaves a positive impact on the lives of others. We literally only have one life to live.

6. Choose Collaboration Over Competition. (MTY Retreat Attendees)

The MTYRetreat weekend was like a love fest of black girl magic and power. I have never seen that many women of color, of that stature and presence, come together as the strong forces we individually are. These women came with no other agenda but to build community, share, laugh, cry and grow together. It was absolutely beautiful.

Many of us are in similar lanes, doing similar things, but each powerful in our own respective areas. Each of us unique, but so very much the same. What this weekend reinforced in me, more than anything, is the importance of collaborating and not competing. We are SO much stronger together. We HAVE to stick together – we all we got! We need to be open to sharing knowledge, encouraging each other, bonding and building sisterhood so we can win. If not for ourselves, our families and communities, do it for the culture.

7. The Person You Need The Most is YOU. (Myleik)

I talked about this a little in my “Letter To My Younger Self”. No business partner, best friend or bae can replace what you need the most. Yourself. I feel like I spent so much of my adult life thus far searching and searching for people, places and things to “complete” me. It’s been a long road but I’m starting to realize, with the help of inspirational women like Myleik, how important it is to love yourself first. Myleik shared a story about being terrified of flying to Europe all by herself. Instead, she turned that fear into action, booked herself a first class flight so she’d be comfortable, dove into an amazing book (DVF’s “The Woman I Wanted To Be”) and she grew closer to herself through just this one experience. It doesn’t take a whole lifetime to figure out how to treat yourself right. You can be your own best friend right here, where you are, right now.

Major thanks to the entire My Taught You team for pulling together such an amazing and enlightening experience for all of us. Out of 1,000 applicants, I am honored to have been chosen among the first 95 women to be in the MTYRetreat Class of 2018. Interested in attending the next one? Sign up for updates here: https://www.mtyretreat.com/

A Letter To My Younger Self: Reflections on My 31st Birthday

Last Sunday I officially made three decades and a year. It’s hard to believe I entered my 30’s an entire year ago. 2017 feels like a blur. I spent my birthday weekend on a retreat in Cancun, Mexico and while I was there I had some time to really reflect.

I decided that I feel really good about where I am and who I’ve become.

It’s taken all of my 20’s, two babies, three full time jobs, a lot of unpaid invoices, one failed business, 3 failed relationships,much heartache and countless hours of therapy for me to finally be happy. With, just me.

Unconsciously when we become aware that “things” and “titles” and “accolades” can validate us among others, we begin a quiet obsession with them. We set out on a quest to get things like cars, houses and fancy shoes. We set up our lives to acquire titles like girlfriend, wife, employee, mommy or CEO. And we become addicted to the high that comes with accolades. It’s an eternal cycle of acquiring things to make ourselves happy and to make others proud, envious or in awe of us.

The pursuit of everyone else’s happiness.

Well folks, today, just one week into my 31st year – I’m grateful.  Because I’ve learned not to give a damn. I have learned that the person whose happiness I should be most concerned with is my own. And I’m devoting year 31 to loving myself unapologetically. My only regret is that it took so long for me to get here. Oh, how much my life would have been different had I known then what I know now. I wrote a letter to my younger self. She deserves to hear from me. I hope she receives this with open arms.

Dear Younger Self,

I’m sorry for not loving you the way I should. You deserve better. Your curves are a gift. Your hair is beautiful whether it’s in an Afro, in box braids or sewn up under a straight haired wig. All of it is flawless, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

The fact that you give so much of yourself to others will come in handy when you become a mom. You will be an incredible mom. You will love and lose. You will cry many tears. But through it all, God will be right by your side. Listen to His Voice and believe Him when He says everything will be ok. Because it will.

At age 31, you will not have it all figured out but you will believe in yourself more than you ever have. You will have two beautiful children, a thriving business and a whole lot of experience in this thing called life. And guess what? You will feel unstoppable. You will BE unstoppable.

Always do your best. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t take things personally. Be impeccable with your word. These are four basic agreements you will learn in your coming years that will change your life.

You are awesome. I need that to sink in. Nobody and nothing “makes” you awesome. You just already are.

I love you, and I’m rooting for you.

Sincerely,

Your Future Self

Photography: Maricarmen Arcos

5 Travel Essentials for Overnight Trips & Staycations

With Labor Day just around the corner, I’m sure many of us are planning our final summer excursions, staycations and overnight trips. When it comes to convenience while overnight traveling, I usually opt for very compact luggage and small overnight bags to save space and time. That typically means I can only bring the essentials with me, so I get super selective about which items I pack. I always opt for items that serve double duty – whether clothing or beauty. Below are my top 5 travel essentials for overnight trips. These will save you time and space when packing:

1. Overnight Backpack

There are a plethora of options for carrying your overnight must-haves. I’ve traveled with everything from duffel bags to rolling mini suitcases. My favorite of overnight travel options is a great sized and stylish backpack. If I’m traveling by air, it keeps me hands free to carry other items or to hold my little one’s hand. It’s usually spacious enough to fit all of my essentials and it has tons of side pockets for little things like chargers, wallets and hand sanitizer that I need to grab quickly on-the-go without digging deep to find them. The one pictured here is from Mina Kay Bags.

2. Dove Beauty Bar

This one is a no-brainer for me. I have to confess – I don’t trust hotel soaps & cleansers. I don’t always know the brands carried by the hotel, or have a full breakdown of the ingredients in those products, or how my skin will react to them. When it comes to cleansers, I have to go with a brand I trust so there are no surprises. Who wants to worry about allergic reactions or dry skin on vacay? So I always bring a Dove Beauty Bar along with me on my travels.

Because I can use it on both face and body, it’s an easy choice for overnight trips as it cuts down on the number of toiletries I have to fit in my bag. When I simply don’t have the space to pack a face AND body cleanser, the Dove Beauty Bar works double duty perfectly in one small bar. Formulated with ¼ moisturizing cream, it provides superior care that other premium cleansing soap bars do not. I often find hotel soaps strip my skin and leave them feeling dry and tight. I don’t have to worry about that with my Dove Beauty Bar. I found that out during my 7 Day Challenge where I used the beauty bar as my facial cleanser for a week. This one always goes into my overnight travel bag.

3. Red Lipstick

I come from the school of “Red Lipstick Fixes Everything”. When I can only bring a pared down makeup collection on my travels, red lipstick is the first thing I pack. Even if I only have tinted moisturizer and mascara, I can throw on a red lip and be ready for anything. It’s my number one makeup must-have for travel. My favorites include The Lip Bar “Bawse Lady”, MAC Lipstick in “Ruby Woo” and Lip A.R.T “SLAYbelles”.

4. Jeweled Flats

If I can only bring one pair of shoes with me on an overnight summer trip, I always aim for metallic or jewels flats. They add an extra “wow” factor to any outfit and you can easily take them from day to night, beach to bar-hopping, and everywhere in between. They can work with denim, linen or fancy dresses My favorite places to get jeweled, inexpensive flats are ASOS, Zara and Nasty Gal. It’s always best to buy inexpensive ones in case they get lost or you accidentally leave them. I leave my super expensive shoes at home when I’m traveling.

5. Day to Night Dress

Typically when I’m picking outfits for an overnight trip, I stick to pieces that can serve multiple purposes. The perfect little black romper or a printed kimono I can wear as a beach coverup and as a statement piece at dinner. My top pick among outfit choices for an overnight trip is a great day-to-night dress. I typically choose something solid colored, with breathable wrinkle-free fabric and a really beautiful silhouette that can be taken from day to night. A-line and maxi dresses are typically good for this. You want something simple enough to be worn with flats for day and dressed up with heels easily at night. Two outfits in one.

What do you all pack for your overnight trips and staycations? Leave a comment & share your must-haves.

I partnered with Dove to present this post. All opinions expressed above are my own and not those of the company.

3 Tips For Booking Accommodations On a Budget

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If you’re anything like me when I travel, both convenience and cost is really important to you. As a full-time blogger and creative entrepreneur, I have to go the extra mile when it comes to deciding on where I stay when I’m away. There are some key elements that make life easier and more cost-effective for me when I’m booking accommodations. I try to make sure I have great amenities but that I’m not breaking the bank, especially if it’s a business trip where expenses can add up quickly. Here are three tips for booking accommodations on a budget:

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1. Book With Free WiFi 

If you’re a creative like myself, or you simply have to be connected at all times, you want to opt for properties that provide you with complimentary WiFi service. You may think that small $9.99/night fee isn’t a big deal, but if you’re staying anywhere upwards of 3 days, those costs add up. One of the first things I look for when booking accommodations on a budget, is a property that will offer internet service for free. I like to update you guys every step of my trip, so being connected is a must-have for me. Pictured above I stayed at the Hyatt Place on a recent trip to Austin. Every Hyatt Place property offers free WiFi service for guests. Look for properties who offer this as a convenience with no hassle or crazy loopholes.

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2. Ask About Complimentary Breakfast

When you’re traveling, food can truly factor in as a hefty daily expense. Depending on the city you’re traveling to or what it’s known for, you may opt to eat out for most of your meals. I’m the type to look for local popular eateries for lunch and dinner but skimp on my breakfast. Every penny counts! When you’re searching for the best options on a budget, factor in properties that offer complimentary breakfast to start your day. Many properties provide free continental breakfast (like pastries, coffee, juice).

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If you’re lucky, you’ll find a property that offers free HOT breakfast which is rare but offered. I was provided with a full hot breakfast bar (I’m talking French Toast, eggs, sausage, the whole nine) at the Hyatt Place when I traveled to Austin. Not only did it help me start my day off with energy, but that was one less expense I had to factor in every day.

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3. Sign Up For Loyalty Programs

People underestimate how powerful loyalty and rewards programs can be when you opt into them. These can extend MAJOR discounts and sometimes free accommodations if you stay at some of the same properties often enough. Most loyalty programs are completely free to opt into, and many of them START you off with % discounts and perks. Do yourself a favor and sign up for loyalty programs for any of the properties you’re booking with. If you love one particular chain, stay with them for an entire year straight. Those savings will eventually rack up.

I hope this was helpful for you guys as spring travel season has officially begun! Any tips you can offer as a seasoned traveler? Leave a comment below!

Pictures were captured at the Hyatt Place property in Austin North Central. Special thanks to Hyatt for covering my travel and accommodations for this trip as part of their #WhySettle campaign. All opinions expressed above are my own and not those of the company.

What To Get Before You Jet: Cuba

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Cuba is such a beautiful country. I celebrated my #Start30WithLove 30th Birthday trip there, but prior to traveling, it was a complete mystery to me. How does one get there from the US? What do I need to bring? What should I know before I go? There is so much information out there but I didn’t know who or what to trust on the world wide web. Luckily my friend Jessica Berry, who is a seasoned traveler and had flown to Cuba for a trip just a few weeks prior, gave me a lengthy but necessary list of things to sort out before leaving. Combined with her list and my own, here’s our top 5 list.

What To Get Before You Jet to Cuba:

1. Get Your Visa

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This is the question of the century. Do you need a travel visa for visiting Cuba? The answer is YES. You can get one for $50 during check-in with airlines like JetBlue, ($80 for Delta) and the process is fairly quick and easy.

Pay attention to your emails after you book your trip, because your airline may send you a questionnaire with questions about your trip ahead of your departure to choose the one of 12 allowed reasons for travel to Cuba. Jessica chose “family visit” because she visited a friend’s family during her stay. My group and I chose “educational activities” as we spent most of our time getting educated on Cuban culture. But seriously,  no one checks once you reach Cuba. You may also get your visa ahead of time from your embassy, but most people I’ve known have gotten theirs at the airport on the day of travel.

You’ll get your boarding pass, Visa and health insurance simultaneously from your airline (this was the case with JetBlue, at least). Keep both on you at all times, just in case. Your boarding pass doubles as health insurance!

Recommendation: You can check the US Embassy to Cuba website for more info. 

2. Get Cash (Lots of It)

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Cuba is primarily a cash economy. For Americans, US dollars are not used there. Your best course of action is to order Euros ahead of time from your bank in the US and exchange them for CUC (local Cuban currency) at the airport in Havana once you get there, for the best exchange rate. We arrived at Terminal 3, and the exchange counter is outside. If the line is long (which it typically is), you can take a cab to Terminal 2 where there’s less of a wait. You’ll need your passport to enter that Terminal. EUROS are preferred because Cubans get charged a surcharge for changing US dollars and they past that penalty onto you. So bring euros if you can for a 1:1 exchange.

How much you spend will depend on your tastes but beware YOU CANNOT WITHDRAW MONEY while in Cuba. ATMs there do not accept American debit/credit cards, so you’ll need to have all cash.

3. Get A Good Carryon

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Word to the wise – don’t check your bag. Your wait time to leave will depend on a few things. I’ve heard people spend up to two hours at the airport waiting for checked luggage. Ours only took about 30min, BUT the money exchange
line took at least an additional hour. Leaving Cuba took even longer because they’re not yet equipped to handle the influx of new tourism. Do yourself a favor and pack light so you don’t have to worry about checked luggage delaying your travel plans.

Recommendation: Away Travel has super cute and affordable carry-ons. They also have no-brainer accessories like chargers.

4. Get A Tour Guide

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There are so many amazing things to see in Cuba and it’s sometimes easier to see alot of things in a short amount of time if you book a Tour Guide to take you around. Popular areas you’ll want to explore include Old Havana – mainstays like the Plaza de la Revolucion, Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana and La Bodeguita del Medio. 

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The Viñales Tour (can be booked at Hotel El Presidente  in Vedado) includes a tobacco farm, lunch, a boat ride at the India caves and visiting the Mural de la Prehistoria. At the Mural de la Prehistoria, they have horse and bull rides, great piña coladas (pour your own UNLIMITED rum), and a restaurant. If you’re into lazy beach days, book a day tour in the beach town of Varadero (about 2 hours driving from Havana) where they have catamaran rides for large groups and more. 

Recommendation: Havana Journeys has a great list of day tours. They took great care of us in Havana.

5. Get Used To Being Offline

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You will be unplugged in Cuba! Savor it! It is so relaxing, and you won’t miss it after a while. If you really
need to scratch that itch, you have to buy WiFi cards to get on the networks there. They cost 2CUC/card and last up to 80min (depending on the card and where you’re using it). Some hotels run out and/or reserve some for their actual guests, so buy a few at a time. Wifi is not usually strong, so use your time wisely. The popular Wifi hotspots are hotels and “Wifi parks” (just look for the crowds of people on their phones).

There is SO much more to chat about here but this is a quick list of What To Get Before You Jet To Cuba. Have you been to Cuba? Thinking of going? Leave us a comment below.

Photos by Augusta Sagnelli

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Special thanks to contributor Jessica Berry for adding to this post!

LBS Chic: What I Wore On My EuroTrip

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Earlier this month, I went on an 8-day excursion to Italy and Greece. Ever since I studied abroad during my Junior year in college, Italy has been one of my absolute favorite countries. Though I studied in France, Italy left such an incredible impression on me. I’ve always wanted to go back. This year I had that opportunity. I also had the chance to finally visit Greece! My only regret during my study abroad semester is that I didn’t take a trip there, so when my friend Gabi invited me to Santorini for her 30th birthday – I was all in. Here’s what I wore and loved on my Eurotrip. I chose pieces that fit my shape and made me feel like a goddess:

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LBS Concert Travel Guide: 10 Must-Pack Items You Probably Forgot to Grab

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Concert season is easily the most exciting time for music lovers (which is essentially everyone). It’s the perfect opportunity to road trip with friends and see all of your favorite artists in one place. Surely, it’s the atmosphere, the concertgoers and the memories you make during a string of 3-day weekends that make any summer one to mention. And this isn’t your first rodeo, you’ve skimmed over a few summer music festival packing lists and you have the basics down: Toothbrush, reservations, tickets, phone and cash in-hand. But here’s a concert travel guide with a few things that you’d want to be sure not forget:

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LBS Travel: 14 Destinations for Spring Break 2016

Whether you’re still hitting up sites like Groupon for last minute travel deals or patiently waiting with your bags packed for your next adventure, time is winding down and spring break 2016 is just around the corner. Traveling the world is one the best and most immersive ways to add to the richness of your life. If you haven’t made up your mind just yet, consider one of these offshore travel destinations for your spring break vacay.

Cuba

Vintage car passing modern bar nestled between dilapidated Art Nouveau buildings along the Av de Malecon.

For so long Cuba has been forbidden fruit. Americans were prohibited to venture there, to indulge in it’s emerging food culture or sigh in awe at the sight of The Malecón, Havana’s breathtaking 8km-long sea drive. No more. While traveling there still requires approval from the US Government and frequent flights to and from have yet to be established, it’s better to see the island now before it becomes a major tourist attraction.

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10 Things To Do in Martinique

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I’ve been to my fair share of Caribbean islands. From the Bahamas to Jamaica to Barbados, you name it and I’ve probably been there at least once. But visiting Martinique on my #24HourReset this past December was an experience unlike any other Caribbean island. Now that airlines like Norwegian are offering direct flights to Martinique at rock-bottom prices (I got my roundtrip airfare for $230 from NYC to Martinique!), there will definitely be a surge in tourism to the area, which is exciting.

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From the french-meets-Caribbean culture to the beautiful and quaint villages, here is a guide with 10 things to do in Martinique in case you’re planning a trip there:

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Dash on A Dime: How to Plan Your Winter Getaway

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One down and one more to go! New Year’s Eve is right on the heels of Christmas and soon we’ll be welcoming a new year. The clock ‘til 2016 is dwindling down. With each New Year, we reevaluate where we are in our lives, revisit our goals for the upcoming year and plans for the future we’ve already set in motion.

Related: WHAT TO PACK FOR THAILAND

What’s with all the work and no downtime? There are after Christmas sales, vacations to plan and a whole summer to prepare for (it’ll be here sooner than you think). But after all the spending for the holidays I bet your financial security is a priority as well. Don’t fret. You can get money back for splurging on winter getaway deals when you use Splender. Book your next vacation, baecation, or even staycation with the new, online cash back shopping site now through Dec. 31 and get the largest extra cash return of the holiday season.

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