#SCBDTravels: VRBO is the Answer to Your Next Vacation

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I love staying in hotels when I travel. I often think of it as a glimpse into the world of luxury where I have a personal maid and a chef cooking for me each night when I go out. The only problem is it often comes with a steep price tag. The other downside is that in most instances hotel rooms do not provide any home-like essentials such as cooking areas and supplies or a living room to lounge in.

You may be surprised to know this BUT there is a way to combine the best of both worlds. You can have a getaway that not only provides that sense of “no-responsibility” but also allows you to feel right at home at the same time. I’m here to tell you how!

There is a website called VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). This webpage is dedicated to rental houses that are booked out by their owners. The site claims to have over 540,000 vacation rentals listed worldwide. Once you select your country you can start to search on more advanced settings to find particular city, region, or town you would like to stay in. Owners often post their availability calendars, house details, photos, and of course owner contact information for rental inquiries. Did I mention that in many instances these rentals (Which quite often are a whole house!) can be cheaper than a typical hotel stay??

I have used the site before with great success (A trip to Lake George, NY) and my latest trip was no exception. A group of friends and I decided to put together a relaxing ski getaway to the Poconos this winter. I combed through dozens of houses before settling on this rental in Lake Harmony, PA.

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The owner was both responsive and greatly informative leading up to our trip. I asked a dozen questions and I always received a timely and friendly response. The owner also went out of her way to send me little extras like information on upcoming events for the weekend of our stay, things to do in the area, and even a bit of background on her and the family and their stays at the house. I thought the personal touches were both thoughtful and also put the group at ease about staying in a ”stranger’s” house once we knew a little more about them!

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When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised. The house details explained that the house was slope side and overlooked the lit up trails of Big Boulder Mountain. The picture that paired with the description on the website did not truly capture what a view this was-just awesome! We were able to sit in the living room with the fireplace going and just look out onto the mountain and take in the view. The website pictures also did not provide justice for the cozy ski chalet that this was. The owners had perfectly decorated and you truly felt right at home. We brought our own food to cook for most meals to save some money and every cooking utensil and or/ pot and pan you could have needed were already on site. All we had to do was bring the actual food.

The best part about this type of rental is that the cleaning is included in the price. So similar to a hotel (With a few tiny exceptions like turning the heat up/down and locking up upon arrival and departure) you get to enjoy the luxury of someone cleaning up after you! I mentioned earlier that these houses can often times be less expensive than hotels. Well, my 3 day rental total came to less than what I would pay for 1 night in a mediocre hotel (3 Days!! and I had an entire house to lounge in). **Please note that I am referring to what I paid as an individual in the group that stayed, not for the entirety of the rental. But it is still an amazing deal!

If you have not used VRBO yet for a vacation or getaway I highly recommend you checking it out! They have every style and size house you can think of. If you are interested in a ski getaway I would definitely look into the house we stayed at which sleeps up to 10 people. It will not disappoint.

My next VRBO vacation is coming up in March in Cape May for a bachelorette party and I’m looking forward to what I hope will be another great stay using this service!

#SCBDReview: Bob Harper’s The Skinny Rules Workout #4: Abs

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Can you make time for 20 minutes in your day? Then you can get an amazing abdominals workout, no excuses! Bob Harper has released his workout DVD’s since the release of his book, The Skinny Rules. Each DVD works on a separate area whether it be cardio, strength, core, or abs. I have tried out the Ab Workout DVD and my abs can definitely tell you it works!

In case you don’t know who Bob Harper is, he is one of the trainers on The Biggest Loser television show. Since he started there he has written a book called The Skinny Rules focusing on diet and exercise and how to be healthy. You can find out more about him at his website, www.mytrainerbob.com.

Being an athlete, I have tried out different workout DVD’s throughout my college years. I have done workouts on Insanity and P90X. I was excited to try out the Bob Harper workout and I was not disappointed. The DVD itself is simple there is a warm up you can do and from there you have three separate daily workouts. These workouts are called WOD or Workout of the Day. You can either have the instruction first and then workout or if you know it well you can just do the workout itself. All of the exercises are explained well and Bob has a good mix of motivation as well as pushing you to your limit. He is assisted by three athletes who have the distinction of beginner, intermediate, and advanced workouts. Some DVD’s only do beginner and advanced it was nice to have that middle ground to push yourself to.

The greatest part about this DVD is that I had no excuse to not do it. Anyone can wake up just a little earlier and get in a 20 minute workout, it’s not asking for much! After the first day my abs were already feeling tight! Even spending a day or two resting resulted in some pain from lack of use. The workouts focus on the upper and lower abs, the latter being the more difficult to focus on and the usual problem area for the average person.

Another aspect to the DVD is that you don’t need anything else but your body! Everything is done using your own bodyweight with some assistance from free weights which he even substitutes with a book for some workouts. You don’t need anything fancy to get a great workout and you will feel it! Not only did my abs hurt after these workouts but so did my arms and my legs because you are using your whole body to get through the workouts. It is set up as circuit training moving from one movement to the next and continuing it in a routine-like pattern.

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If you are to purchase the Skinny Rules workouts including 1-3 you not only get a calendar of workouts for the first month but it continues online as well. I really like any program where you can go online and find a community of people who are doing exactly what you are which is trying to lose weight. There are monthly newsletters and more calendars to follow to get the best workout. This blog and information can be accessed at www.mytrainerbob.com/blog.

I definitely recommend this DVD it is a great workout and definitely targets your abs by using your own body. The workouts are easy to learn and you will feel the burn! If this is any inclination as to how the other ones are, I recommend the entire collection. I would definitely love to try out the other DVD’s to get a well-rounded workout.

 

So the question is, do you have 20 minutes to spare?

 

*Disclaimer: The PR team sent me this product. I was not required to write about these experiences and my opinions are my own and unbiased.*

 

http://www.mytrainerbob.com/blog/

 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005OCYQR2/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=19662232044&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=16218459891115300715&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_eec6n74z_b

#SCBDFavorite: A Free Way to Lose Weight– MyFitnessPal

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Hey Everyone! It’s Kristen Lefkus, one of the new writers here at Small Chick Big Deals. I was an athlete most of my life and because of this fitness remains not only a way of life but a passion too. In the last year I lost a total of 18 pounds. What’s my secret? Prepare to be shocked. The answer is: diet and exercise! Now I know this sounds silly but if anyone has tried to lose weight you know it isn’t easy. Last year a friend of mine introduced me to an app (which can also be accessed online) called MyFitnessPal. It is a 100% free daily calorie counting app.

MyFitnessPal tracks what you eat and your exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The app works by taking in information such as height, weight, age, and how active your daily life is. With this it calculates your daily calorie goal depending on whether you want to maintain, lose, or even gain weight. Each day you add in what you eat, drink, and exercise which can be anything from cleaning the house to lifting weights. The app will add and subtract calories as needed informing you of how many you have left for the day and what you have used up. You can weigh in as often as you want or even go by measurement if you choose in order to track your progress.

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Using the app is both easy and simple. When something is entered in as a food or drink you can either search it or if possible scan the bar code. Most foods are available when searched for, especially at chain restaurants when you go out for dinner. Throughout the day you keep track of what you eat adding it to snacks or any of the meals during the day. While counting calories seems tedious, it is only that way when you have to do the math yourself. Being a Literature and Spanish major I was not about to do any math. The app makes it simple because you can use it on your phone or on your computer and it does everything for you. Overtime I learned great portion control and realized how much I was eating and how often I needed to go to the gym.

The great thing about this app is that you don’t need to change everything you eat; I didn’t. I did not buy different food or stop eating what I loved like chocolate. I ate different portions and I learned how to eat better whether I was at home or out to dinner. I started using the app in November (I know the worst time to try to diet is around the holidays) and in May of this year I reached my goal of losing 18 pounds. In no way was I unhealthy or ever felt like it was something I could not do. Self motivation isn’t easy and that is another great aspect of this app. You can connect with your friends and encourage each other as you reach your goals. Online there is an entire community you can be a part of to see what others have done in order to reach your potential. I was inspired by my friend and I hope that I have inspired some of you to start a healthy lifestyle!

Disclaimer: When starting any sort of diet or exercise plan please be healthy about it and consult a doctor if necessary.

#SCBD– A Concept that Started A Year Ago, Still A Work in Progress!

When I started this blog a year ago, well this week a year ago to be exact– I had no idea where it would take me, the opportunities it would bring me, etc. If you read my story you know I was just interning at The Rachael Ray Show in the field, post, & production departments and in the my 2nd to last semester of my Senior year at Fairleigh Dickinson University. On the Wednesday’s I interned I’d always tell my peers I interned with the best deals I found for lunch which would usually be Blarney Stone, or my craving for Potbelly. I was the deal finder of the gang and I took the title proudly. I’d also constantly look for deals on Twitter & Midtown Lunch. Thursday’s were also filled with great food experiences on set or just sharing a meal during the field department, never a dull moment.

As I mentioned in my story I was also involved with the Intern Queen Campus Ambassador program and would be blogging about food the next semester. I knew I could do it but I knew if I started a blog about food & deals it would be a head start. The idea sunk in my head more, so one Thursday when I was finished with my field work on the computer I decided to start the blog. As I mention above and in the title, this was just the manifestation of starting the blog and having the site. I wrote a little paragraph about my concept, etc. It was also written the day before my boyfriend Jason’s birthday last year. You can see my first post, here. As you may notice it’s not much but it’s something!

Like any good thing buying the domain didn’t happen until later. Since I wanted to be the best intern possible, I had to wait to share my eating adventures while I interned and went full on and haven’t stopped writing (except for maybe finals week) since January 11, 2012 and I plan on celebrating a year in 2013! I’m so happy that I can bring you all the information I have whether it be recipes, meeting you readers through Twitter, all of the interviews the last few months and of course my special deals and contest alerts! I also can’t forget where it all began with my restaurant reviews.

I want to end this on a happy note — I found this shirt at Forever 21 today at Garden State Plaza and had to buy it and share it with you all:

It screamed SCBD and was perfect timing with the one year concept anniversary!

I love the quote: Eat, Drink, Be Merry!

I love the colors of this banner with the saying also:

I promise I will have another reflection piece in January. I’d also love to have a happy hour or something to celebrate and would love invite fellow bloggers & readers to celebrate the one year anniversary of the launch so keep the week of January 11th open!

Make sure you are a fan and are following Small Chick Big Deals on Facebook & Twitter for the most ongoing updates! I am always posting deals, recipes, new posts, & more– so it’s the easiest way to get a hold of me also.

Before I get too carried away, I just want to emphasis once more how grateful I am for all you readers, the fellow bloggers I’ve met, businesses I’ve been fortunate to review & work with and all the people I’ve been able to interview & more! I’d also love to thank the staff of The Rachael Ray Show for bringing out my inner foodie last Fall!

I have tons of more posts on the way that you’ll love, but you’ll have to wait! I promise I won’t take too long, can’t wait to tell you all about my recent foodie experiences in the city.

Well on that note–Eat, Drink, and Be Merry! :D

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