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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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LBS Beauty: My First Trip to Cosmoprof with love, Aunt Bonnie

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Hey guys! So I rarely do this because typically when I’m on a business trip I have absolutely no time to post or do updates because my schedule is packed, but I wanted to come to you guys with a quick update on what I’m doing this week.

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For the very first time I’m attending the Cosmoprof beauty tradeshow in Las Vegas. It’s a pretty awesome national beauty show that includes vendors from all over the country. Pretty much all your favorite beauty brands are represented here – everything from makeup to hair to skincare, fragrance and more.

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I was invited here by the love, Aunt Bonnie team as their digital influencer to cover their very first Tones of Beauty showcase. It’s pretty major.  It is literally the first time ever that they have had a special showcase specifically for brands that target multicultural customers like us. Think brown girl beauty all around. And chic – I mean superluxe.

Anyway I’m really honored to be here getting this experience and premiering all these new and amazing beauty brands for you guys as I see them for the first time.

Here’s where to follow me this week for the live-action:

SNAPCHAT 

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If you guys aren’t already on Snapchat, I highly suggest downloading it. When I first got it, I hated it because I couldn’t understand how to work it. Now I really love it and I’ve been using it all weekend to chronicle my journey at Cosmoprof. Follow username: christinasbrown on Snapchat to see my snaps and to interact with me!

INSTAGRAM

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I’ll be posting quick pics from the exhibition floor on my Insta so follow me @LoveBrownSugar for live posts there.

See you guys on the innanets.

LBS Travel: New Orleans Photo Diary

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Last weekend I had the time of my life in the “Big Easy” aka New Orleans. Though I typically attend Essence Fest and get bogged down with appointments, events and endless activities, this year I opted to come a day early so I could take some time and explore the city a bit. Among other delightful run-ins, this epic blue door (see more of it in my How To Rock Horizontal Stripes post on TheOutfit.com) made my entire day and so did the amazing food.

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