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The 1 Thing You MUST Do Before Going on Vacation

I just got back from a two-week trip to Europe, and there was one huge factor to our months of planning that made the trip a success . . .

We asked our friends for advice.

Friends, family, co-workers – basically, we reached out to anyone we knew and trusted for recommendations on food, transportation, and activities. A couple of my co-workers even sent me a very helpful Google doc they had created for their past trips to Europe that I piggybacked on, swapping in my info for theirs and adding all the other recs so we had them in one, organized spot. Not to mention the trip itself was made possible thanks to a co-worker’s tip on the best credit card rewards program. Our flights were almost completely paid for with miles.

Sure, we used Google, review sites like TripAdvisor, and POPSUGAR for some of our prep – like most of the places on my Harry Potter travel bucket list – but many of our favorite restaurants and destinations we wouldn’t have experienced without those firsthand tips.

There was a hard-to-get-into restaurant in London we made reservations for ahead of time that was a highlight from the trip. Our hotel in Paris was in a stylish, convenient neighborhood close to public transit and the best crepe stand. There were lines we waited in because we were told it was worth it and it WAS. We bought tickets for tours and trains ahead of time online because we were advised they’d sell out. There was the Indian restaurant we went to twice, it was that good. All of these things contributed to a smooth trip with minimal posttrip regrets.

Not to say there aren’t great articles out there for travelers – from packing tips to money-saving advice and destination ideas, we have loads of them right here! – but sometimes you need a trusted friend, who shares your same interests, taste, and priorities, to help find those gems in an unfamiliar place with countless options to choose from. When there’s a bar on every corner, how do you know where the best cocktail is? What’s the cutest, walkable neighborhood to stay in? Should you buy a bus pass or rent a car? Is the hop-on-hop-off bus tour worth it?

You don’t want to unknowingly eat at their overpriced version of Denny’s when there’s an equally delicious spot off the beaten path. Or miss out on a must-see attraction because you didn’t know it was closed on Sunday. So if you’re going on a big trip, phone a friend; you’ll be glad you did.

Here’s What It Takes to Remodel a Home Like Former Bachelorette JoJo Fletcher

When Joelle “JoJo” Fletcher picked Jordan Rodgers on her season of The Bachelorette, her life changed forever. In Jordan she found a partner and true love. Now, a couple of years since she said “yes,” it’s not just wedding planning that’s keeping her busy.

JoJo is working with Marcus by Goldman Sachs, which offers fixed-rate loans up to $40,000 with no fees, and she is passionate about home remodeling. “I got into home renovation at an early age,” JoJo told POPSUGAR. “My mom is in the industry and remodeled an apartment complex. When I was younger, I was always kind of around it. It really wasn’t until college that I got a little more hands-on, and I helped design the house I was living in. Once I did that, it was just something about being creative in a space that means so much to people, like their home, that I think really continues to draw me toward it.”

As an experienced real-estate developer, JoJo sat down with POPSUGAR to talk about her experience remodeling homes, combining decor style with your partner, and DIY tips that will save you some serious money.

Consider Your Finances

Before beginning any remodeling project, it’s best first to have a budget and be honest about what to expect. “Always create a budget,” JoJo advises. “I always tell people who are planning their budget to account for an additional 15 to 20 percent for unexpected situations to arise. I feel like, for me, there hasn’t been one house that I haven’t gone over budget on. You just run into problems you don’t know even exist.”

Prioritize What Fits Your Budget and Your Needs

Once you have your finances in order, it’s time to consider what is most important. “After budgeting, it’s just deciding what area you want to tackle in your home. Depending on whether you’re doing a kitchen renovation or a bathroom renovation, there are always ways you can renovate on a budget. I tell people to keep plumbing and electrical stuff in their relative place that they’re in and work the space around it. When you start to go into moving plumbing and electrical, things do add up,” she says.

Additionally, JoJo urges people to think about their own personal needs when designing a home. What works for some people might not work for you. “Think about how you use your space. If you’re not a big chef and you’re not going to be cooking all the time and don’t need that much storage, maybe you opt for floating shelves instead of full cabinetry. Those are ways you can cut costs that lets you renovate your space in a really beautiful way,” JoJo says.

Know What You’re Getting Yourself Into

Remodeling can be tricky and a big project, so JoJo warns that it’s best to discover large damage before beginning a full-scale remodel. “I think that first and foremost when I’m looking at a home to do a remodel, I look at the location. I’ll drive around every day, in all different sorts of neighborhoods, looking for houses,” she says. “Then, if I find a house in a location that I like, then I will look at the bones of the house, seeing if there is a lot of structural damage or if there are big underlying issues. You definitely need to know what you’re getting yourself into before tackling a project like that.”

Find a Focal Point

“For me, personally, I like to tie in color. I always try to have a focal point in the room, whether it’s the sofa, fireplace, or a mantel. I try to pick a wallpaper design that ties in somehow, whether it’s based on the same colors or the theme of the room,” she details. However, choosing wallpaper is about knowing your own abilities and your own personal needs. “I love wallpaper, but I don’t think it’s something you should tackle on your own if you’ve never done it before. In part because it’s very hard, so that’s something I would definitely hire. There are wallpapers that are easily removable, so if you’re worried about damage, there are definitely options for that as well,” JoJo says.

DIY Is Great, but Be Realistic

If you want big changes in your home, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and work. “I’m a big do-it-yourself person. If I don’t know how to do something, I’ll look on YouTube and I’ll learn it, and I’ll practice it. If you have the patience and willingness to learn, there are so many things that you can do. But big things like plumbing and electrical – I would not try tackling that on your own. Things like tile or painting, or even things like refurbishing pieces in your home, I think those are all things people can do if they have the willingness to learn and the time to do it,” JoJo details.

Relationships and Remodeling Are About Compromise

Relationships are an important factor when planning a home remodel or designing a room. “I got very lucky to have someone that sees my vision and agrees with me on style. Jordan has been great. We do have similar styles, but he thinks differently than me. It’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off of him, and he has been amazing. For couples who don’t see eye to eye, there will always be compromising in every part of your relationship,” JoJo explains. If a couple can’t get on the same page when it comes to design, then she advises that people be given their own space to implement their own creative vision.

Big Changes Don’t Have to Be Costly

While the concept of a big home remodel sounds appealing, it can be hard for some people to put that kind of time in. Thankfully, JoJo explains that you don’t have to do a lot to really transform a space. “If your kitchen is outdated, I personally love a clean, fresh kitchen. If your cabinets are in good shape and not falling off or broken down, just refinish them. Paint them a fresh, bright white, clean up the space – and little things like replacing the hardware makes a big impact, and it’s inexpensive,” she advises.

Draw Inspiration From Important Moments in Your Life

While her days as a bachelorette are firmly behind her, don’t be surprised if some inspiration from that time in her life seeps into her decor. “I’m so thankful for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette because it gave me this platform to share doing something that I love and am passionate about. I always pull inspiration from different places that I’ve been or homes that I’ve lived in. When I was on the show, we traveled all across the country and the world. You see things where you think in the back of your head, ‘Oh, I can incorporate [that].’ I think in life you’re pulling inspiration from the places that you’ve been and places you go,” she explained. However, don’t expect to see any red roses in her decor. “No, I think I’m done with red roses for a while.”

You Know You Need Waterproof Speakers This Summer – These Are on Amazon!

Between beach days and pool parties, Summer is the season to be by the water. And is there anything better than relaxing with your friends, listening to music, and enjoying the weather? In order to have a worry-free get-together, you need waterproof speakers. That way, an errant splash, spilled drink, or extra-large cannonball won’t kill the party. Plus, all of these options are available on Amazon, so you can start dancing ASAP. Just keep reading to shop!

This Spectacular 4-Night Train Trip Across Canada Only Costs $431!

We’re seeing a resurgence in train travel, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s an amazing way to take in the views of the place you’re exploring. Sure, we’ve all seen the viral post about traveling across America by train for $213, but there’s a new travel opportunity that’s catching our eye.

Via Rail Canada offers a four-night, three-day trip on a train called the Canadian. The journey from Toronto to Vancouver, British Columbia, costs only $431, which is a great deal for the amount of time you get on the train. Keep in mind that the trip may fluctuate in price as it grows in popularity. The scenic route shows you all the beauty the country has to offer. “Leave the city centre behind and glide through gentle prairie fields, rugged lake country and picturesque towns to the snowy peaks of the majestic Rockies,” Via Rail states on its site.

The stops on your journey include Sudbury Junction, Sioux Lookout, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Kamloops, and Jasper. Via Rail says it offers an amazing dining experience and huge picture windows while on your ride. Take a look at the video that will give you a taste of what this Canadian adventure is like!

Nobody Ever Believes I Bought This Expensive-Looking Rug For $65 on Amazon

Last week, when my sister walked into my bedroom, she gasped. “Where did you get that rug?” she asked. “And how did you afford it?” I laughed at her commentary because I was also in complete shock when I unboxed my new purchase. I discovered this Nuloom Traditional Vintage-Inspired Overdyed Rug ($64) on Amazon and couldn’t believe how affordable it was. I was looking to add more color to my space, and this was the perfect option.

I was hesitant to purchase the five-by-eight-foot rug because the price seemed too good to be true. Fortunately, there were several customer reviews and 100 percent of buyers give the product five stars. That left me convinced. I ordered the rug on Amazon Prime and it arrived just two days later. I rolled it out and was in total shock. It was perfect!

Not only is the rug beautiful, but it’s also a great quality. The 100 percent nylon material means it doesn’t absorb stains easily, so I’ll definitely be able to keep it for a long time. I might go as far as saying that this is the best purchase I have ever made on Amazon (and I shop a lot). If you need a new rug, you need to give this one a try. I like it so much, I need to get it in another color!

Fly Through the Forest on This Mountain Coaster With Spectacular Views in Tahoe

Tahoe is known as Northern California’s playground for skiing and swimming, but there’s a new activity in town that’s garnering attention. Heavenly Mountain Resort created a mountain roller coaster that will catapult you through the forest and around boulders. You will vertically descend 300 feet and accelerate around two lateral loops. You just have to be 5’4″ to ride the coaster on your own. Looks pretty fun, right?

We bet the views of Lake Tahoe from the ride are so incredible. The resort offers even more activities for visitors craving adventure, including “zip line tours, ropes courses, rock climbing wall, mountain coaster, summer tubing and more.” This looks like an awesome Summer getaway. Check out the video below to see what it’s like to coast through the mountains!

The History (and Mystery) Behind Disney World’s Abandoned Discovery Island

From the beach at Walt Disney World Resort’s Wilderness Lodge, guests can look out over Bay Lake and spy something a bit mysterious. Discovery Island, now abandoned, was once a part of the resort and now lies empty despite its proximity to the park. So what’s the history of the island, and why did it fall into disrepair?

Before it became a part of Disney’s theme park, the island had an interesting history. According to Abandoned Florida, a family once owned the island and used the land for farming until the 1930s. A man named Delmar “Radio Nick” Nicholson then bought the land for $800 and renamed it Isles Bay Island. “He lived on the island with his wife and pet crane for 20 years before selling the property, which would be used as a hunting retreat and again renamed Riles Island,” says Abandoned Florida. “The property was finally purchased by Disney in 1965.”

In the 1960s, when Walt Disney was in the process of acquiring land for what would eventually be Walt Disney World in Florida, he noticed the secluded island. Disney knew he wanted this to be part of the Disney World puzzle, so he purchased it. This piece of secluded land would undergo many changes over the years, the first of which came in the beginning stages. It was originally slated to be called “Blackbeard’s Island” with a full-on pirate theme, but this exact vision never truly came to be.

It wasn’t until 1974, eight years after Walt Disney died, that the island was finally opened up to the public under the name Treasure Island, after the Robert Louis Stevenson book and film. It featured exotic birds, lagoons, beaches, vegetation, animal demonstrations and attractions, and more. Guests could access the island from a Disney World resort dock or, even more exciting, take a cruise that gave them a tour of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake with a pit stop at Treasure Island.

Treasure Island was renamed Discovery Island in 1978, ditching the pirate theme and embracing the focus on nature and the animal life that the island boasted. Despite the name change, the island remained intact, with occasional upgrades for another 20-plus years. In 1998, Disney World’s Animal Kingdom opened and a new era of the park began. Animal Kingdom sought to bring in more patrons with new animals, demonstrations, and other attractions. Many of the animals living on Discovery Island were relocated to the new Animal Kingdom while others found new homes at various zoos across the US.

In 1999, Discovery Island closed, though speculation still remains today about what actually caused the island attraction to shut down. In the last 20 years since the official closing, there have been rumors about what Disney planned to do with the land – word was that at one point, honeymoon cottages might go there, or that it would become an interactive island based off of a video game (um, cool!), but nothing ever came of these.

Today, the land is undeveloped and closed to the public. In 2009, photographer Shane Perez visited the island and published photos of the attraction’s eerie remains. While the island remains empty, it still manages to capture the imaginations of fans who ponder about its potential.

7 Ways to Make $50 in a Day

If you’re thinking of adding some money to your rainy-day fund, then there are a few ways to make a quick buck. But making money isn’t always easy, and some of these tasks are time-consuming, so be sure to pick ones that you don’t mind doing. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Plan a vacation: There are people looking for help with vacation planning on TaskRabbit, an website that matches up task-doers with task-givers. One of the tasks that you can do from home is help out with vacation planning, which can mean hours of research. Some of the listings charge anywhere from $13 for help with finding plane tickets to about $62 for help with planning a two-week trip to Europe.
  2. Clean someone’s home: Cleaning a home is another way to make a quick buck, and there are a number of cleaning tasks available on TaskRabbit that can go for over $100, depending on how extensive the chore is.
  3. Deliver items: Have a car? Maybe you can earn $50 or more by helping someone move items. My friend recently paid a TaskRabbiter $50 to collect a cabinet for her. Check out the delivery tasks that are doable on the site. You can even earn money by helping people unpack their stuff.
  4. Sell used items: If there are items you need to get rid of, then try selling them on sites such as Craigslist, eBay, or Amazon. You can also bring them to thrift stores to see if you can get anything for them.
  5. Do 10 Fiverr tasks: Fiverr is a website where people can buy and sell services for $5. You can offer to do services like draw pictures, give advice, or perform silly acts on video.
  6. Rent out your couch: I’ve seen people renting out their couches on Airbnb, and for $50 a night in some cities.
  7. Participate in surveys: Participate in surveys to make extra money. Sometimes all you have to do is answer a few questions.There are plenty of legitimate opportunities that you can find through Craigslist. Of course, there are plenty of scams, as well, so be careful when responding to these listings.

Why Being an Introvert Is Actually the Biggest Blessing

Society doesn’t want you to be alone.

If you’re alone, that means you’re too shy. If you’re alone, that means you don’t have enough friends. If you’re alone, that means the rest of us should feel bad for you, because you have no one to talk to and you probably have, like, 29 cats and three bottles of hard alcohol in your house.

I, however, want you to be alone. Why? Because it’s good for you.

For a second, ignore all the memes implying how lame it is to stay in on Friday nights, the TV and wine jokes that invade casual conversation, the inquiries from your co-workers about your big plans for the weekend. Sometimes, no plans are the best plans. Sometimes, hanging out with yourself is the most gratifying way to pass a Saturday. As an introvert, this is something I can attest to.

Fundamentally, my natural introverted tendencies conflict with our culture’s idea of how we should carry ourselves outside of the working hour. My favorite thing to do after coming home from the office every day is read a book, peruse the Internet, or watch Netflix by myself in the living room. Here and there, I’ll head to the park a few blocks away from my place and just sit on the bench and enjoy the view of the city and the people and the dogs playing fetch. I think one of the greatest simple pleasures is sipping hot tea in a cafe, the two-person table empty save for my coffee cup and paperback – surrounded, yet totally alone. And for the most part, culture thinks this is all sort of pathetic, because the socially acceptable thing to do in life is, well, socialize.

Make no mistake – I fully understand the importance of maintaining human relations. I simply don’t think our entire existence should hinge on it.

Thought I may be introverted, I still actively keep in communication with loved ones. I have a serious live-in boyfriend (he works longer shifts, allowing for the “me” time I crave). Every other day, I chat on the phone with my parents, who live in the Midwest. My brother and I talk about politics on messenger frequently. Any given night, my best friend is texting me about some random topic. Occasionally, I’ll have a meal with friends in the city. And if I’m feeling particularly carefree, I may converse with a stranger at the bus stop.

Yet solo-shaming persists, because being alone – even for a little while – is perceived by some as unusual or, in lots of cases, wrong.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned to simply brush if it off when someone makes fun of me or looks down on me for my choice lack of companionship, but honestly? I shouldn’t have to. As a whole, society could learn to be a bit more accepting of the lone wolves, because not everyone needs a pack to feel content. Anyway, there are about a million other things we can shift our concerns to, no?

Becoming aware of the bountiful benefits of spending time by yourself is the first step in educating the public. Being alone clears your mind, increases creativity, makes you work harder, and can even aid in getting rid of depression, especially in teens.

The biggest misconception of all? That alone means lonely.

“Although alone and lonely are often thought of as being one in the same, alone doesn’t equal loneliness,” writes psychiatrist Abigail Brenner in a thoughtful piece for Psychologist Today. “Learning to be alone may be initially scary, but once mastered serves as the cornerstone for your development and growth as a human being. There’s so much to be gained from learning to rely, and more importantly, to trust your own inner voice as the best source for your own guidance.”

And that’s just it – I’m able to deal with my own thoughts, which I believe is something many people aren’t capable of. I’m able to cultivate my independence, count on myself for anything and everything (including a good time!), and consciously reflect on my emotions and mental state. When people pity me for the time I spend alone, I find myself feeling a little sorry for them, because they don’t understand what it takes to uphold a healthy relationship with the self. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most important connections to preserve.

In the end, I don’t need to defend my well-being when sipping tea in a cafe by the company of my book and my book alone. I’m happy.

9 Things Robbers Look at When Canvassing Your Home

You’ve put heart, soul, and a lot of bucks into turning your house into a home. The last thing you want is for someone to break in and rob you. A home intruder is scary to even think about, but spending a few minutes of time recognizing and fixing ways your home is vulnerable can pay off big down the road.

Here are nine ways you may be inadvertently making your home more attractive to thieves:

Rundown Front Door

Your front door is the first place burglars will look, and a dilapidated front door signals that your home is an easy target. A clean, painted front door gives the impression that the entire home is well-cared for and harder to breach.

Single Lock

Burglars look to see what kind of locks they’ll have to navigate to enter, and when they see only the standard cylinder lock, they’re more likely to have a go than if there’s also a padlock visible. In short: doubling up on locks makes your door physically more difficult to break into and your home less appealing to burglars.

Enticing Trash

The discarded boxes and bags from all your big-ticket purchases are like advertisements to burglars of the valuables inside your home. Prevent thieves from getting as excited over your new flat screen TV box as you are with your new TV by keeping this type of garbage inside until trash pickup day.

Dark Exteriors

Burglars don’t like to risk being seen, so when you create a barrier of light around your home using motion sensor activated and basic exterior lights, you’re creating a barrier around your home through which they’re not likely to penetrate. Pay special attention to vulnerable areas like front and back doors and walkways.

Welcoming Landscaping

When planted beneath windows, bushes and shrubs are not only pretty, but they’re also an obstacle to climbing into windows. Burglars are especially deterred by the kind of greenery that has thorns or makes loud snapping noises. For trees reaching up to second-story windows, be sure to clean up lower branches so they can’t function as a ladder.

Overflowing Mailbox

Piles of mail are a sign that you’re out of town and primed for a robbery. If you’re going away for a while, use the USPS’s Request Hold Mail service to stop delivery while you’re gone. For shorter periods, a neighbor will likely be glad to pick up your deliveries.

Visible Interiors

You don’t want burglars to get a peek at all the goodies you have inside your home, so shut the curtains, pull the shades, put a giant houseplant in front of a street-facing window – do whatever you have to do to keep unwanted eyes out. Be especially mindful at night when the dark sky and lit interior combine to create a fishbowl effect in your home.

Empty House

Encountering the resident is way more than most burglars are bargaining for. If they think you’re in the house, they’re staying out of it, so make it look like someone’s home by turning on a light or two and even leaving on a TV or radio to make some noise. For prolonged periods away, you can use electronic timers to turn them on and off automatically.

Nonexistent Alarm System

They take a bit of financial investment, but a quality alarm system is a huge burglar deterrent, and a necessary one if you live in a high-crime neighborhood. Do your research and pick a reputable alarm company – thieves know the bad and bogus alarm system signs – and consider high-tech options, such as alarms with a camera that allow you to monitor your home from anywhere.