A true Valentine's Day Gift should NEVER be cooking, cleaning, or exercise appliances that someone may read a hidden message behind - we all remember the 2019 Peloton Christmas gift commercial dumpster fire, do we not!? Valentine's gifts should spoil your loved one with a non-necessity, a splurge they wouldn't buy themselves, that shows you love them and really know them, their desires, and what brings them joy! Candy and jewelry are nice, but what about gifts that you, the giver, can also enjoy? This roundup features just that! Here are our 9 favorite picks for Valentine's gifts to spoil your loved one, and yourself!!
Watch my fun roundup video and read on for more details and to shop with my affiliate links (+ denotes items that were sent to us to review; * denotes an affiliate link - as a Share a Sale and Amazon associate, I receive commission from qualified purchases made after clicking affiliate links.)
Whether under your desk or in front of your sofa, a foot massager with heat, rolling, vibrating, and shiatsu squeezing is a luxury that I can never live without since getting our first a few years ago. I use mine under my desk literally 5+ times a day LOL! This foot massager from Mountrax is absolutely amazing - it heats up to 122*F, comes with a remote, fits feet up to men's US size 12, has 3 kneading functions, and 3 air compression intensities. Not only does it feel fabulous, it's beautiful too (coming in black, grey, or white), not an eye sore like some can be. This is an amazing Valentine's gift that no one would consider returning, and the whole family can enjoy!! Watch my full demo below and shop on Amazon for Mountrax Foot Massager+* (use 15% OFF Code: WBEC9WDH expires 4/1/2024)- while shopping, be sure to check out all of Mountrax's great products including a 3D black out heated eye mask+* and 5-in-1 scalp massager*!
COUPLES CONVO CARDS / GAME
âIt gets really easy to settle into couch potato mode when a relationship gets on in the years. But you don't have to shell out big bucks on fancy dates to stay connected. Sometimes whipping out a new game and a bottle of wine is the perfect evening!!! There are a TON of conversation card games out there, everything from Prompta's Conversation Cards for New Parents+* to Risky Couples: 150 Spicy Dares & Questions for Your Partner*.
Whether we're talking a FULL massage chair like the Molyex+* or a portable massage cushion+* that can be used in just about any chair or sofa, this is definitely one of those products we've all wanted for like, forever, but perhaps never thought we could justify splurging on. This is the PERFECT valentine's gift to spoil your loved one, and yourself, am I right!?
Whether it's a one-off curated variety box or a full year's subscription of monthly deliveries, these always make incredibly thoughtful and fun gifts!! From Tokyo Treat+* (Japanese snacks, drinks and candies) to D8te Box* (romantic activities for couples to build and connect) to Vinebox* (with monthly wines, suggested pairings, and tasting videos) - it's easy to find the PERFECT box for your loved one, or the both of you!
Whether your loved one suffers from migraines or you just want to pamper them with something nice, they will love a Renpho heated eye massager! Their OG Eyeris 1 eye massager+* is amazing, or go for the latest, the Eyeris 3+*, which comes with a cold compress insert!! Side note, this pairs REALLY well with a chair / cushion massager and foot massager!!
Are matching couples stuff super cheesy... or super cute?? If you think the latter, there's no better time to buy some matchy matchy clothes or bathing suits than Valentine's Day!! Check out these couples and family matching Valentine's clothes from Pat Pat+* (scroll around for other themes, beach wear, you. name it)! SO FUN!!! Or maybe you just wanna feel more connected while lounging around at home... then these oversized wearable blankets from Eheyciga+* are perfect!!â
I'm all about gifting experiences!!! So whether you snag tickets to the reunion tour of your loved ones favorite band from high school, or season's box seats at their beloved sports team, or book flights and a week at an all inclusive over water bungalo resort in the Maldives, experiences can be incredibly heartfelt. Knowing you took the time to research and plan, focusing on their interests or passion, it means as much to them as the actual gift!! Plus, I mean, you know you're going to have an amazing time joining them on that adventure, too!!! What memories!! So, yeah, tickets are the gift that keep on giving!!! If looking for some travel inspo, check out Kayak's vacation packages and their fun Explore page*!!
NO / LOW BUDGET GIFTS:
Because you don't have to spend money to say I love you! It really is the thought that counts!!
Putting together a photo collage can be more or less free - find your favorite photos of you two from the past year, or the past decade, print them out at home, and fill up an old cork board you have lying around! Spend a little more and you get make a custom calendar, framed photo gallery, etc. So thoughtful, and definitely something you will both enjoy!
HONEY DO COUPON BOOK
This one can be a stand alone gift for someone on a super tight budget, or free add-on with another gift!! But be careful, don't include anything you *should* be doing as a decent human being and loving partner... You want to put in EXTRAS here. 30 minute shoulder massage. Vacuuming out and washing your car. Breakfast in bed. Taking the kids out of the house for the day. Stuff you know they would love for you to do, but they would never ask you for, and they can just claim it whenever they need to!
So, what do you think!?? What would YOU love to receive most? Have you been inspired to gift any of these to your loved one? Did I miss some other great ideas?? Leave a comment below and... have a wonderful Valentine's Day!!!
At home IPL hair removal devices are all the rage these days. But do IPL devices actually work, permanently?? Does IPL hurt? Isn't IPL expensive?? I've got all those questions, too, which is why I'm so excited to be collaborating with Ulike (backed with 10 years of research and 4 million users!) , who has sent me their incredibly popular Air3 IPL Hair Removal Device to test out for you guys...
What's more?? Enter to WIN ONE in my giveaway below (TWO winners!!), or just go ahead and buy one on Amazon** or get $80 off one with code UGCULIKE on ulike.com** with code UGCULIKE (disclaimer: as a Share a Sale and Amazon Affiliate, I receive commission after clicking my affiliate links, noted with **)
WHAT IS IPL?
IPL (Intense Pulse Light) devices basically shoot out a targeted pulse of hot multi spectrum light - it travels down the shaft of the hair and damages the root so hair can no longer grow there. But it only damages follicles of hair in the active growth (anagen) phase. Roots/Hair in the transition (catagen), resting (telegen), or shedding (exogen) phases will be unbothered by the IPL, which is why you have to keep up with the treatments for many weeks before all of the follicles have had a chance to get zapped. Ulike says you should notice visible results within 2 weeks and 90% hair reduction within 4 weeks.
DOES IPL HURT?
The short answer is, it can... I had it done professionally on my armpits in Japan over a decade ago and it HURT!! Like rubber bands snapping on my skin. But, it worked!! I haven't shaved my arm pits in over 10 years, there were maybe 5 hairs that remained in each pit after my several treatments spaced out over a few months. And over the decade and 3 pregnancies and now perimenopause (yes, hormones can trigger hair follicles to do crazy things), maybe 5 more grew back? But I just plucked them out and haven't dealt with a single ingrown hair or anything since my IPL treatment. It has been amazing!!! But... it hurt... so I was really not believing all the influencers out there reviewing Ulike, saying it doesn't hurt. but... keep reading...
DOES Ulike IPL Hurt?
NO! I could NOT believe it. Shock, utter shock, grateful shock!!! Utilizing a Sapphire Ice Cooling technology (you can hear the fan running), it retains a cool 65°F contact temperature and has an ice cold kind of feeling so it stays cool, there's no heat or zapping feeling, it's just amazing!!! This cooling tech, together with a UV filter, helps protect your skin and makes treatment completely painless!
Is IPL Expensive?
Well, it's not cheap... going to a medspa / treatment center will certainly be the most expensive. Not to mention time consuming. Buying an IPL device will be more affordable, not to mention you have it to use for the long haul, so if some hair grows back after a pregnancy, or you develop chin hairs after menopause, well, grab that IPL device and get to work LOL! And don't forget, you can enter to win one from Ulike below or get $80 off with code UGCULIKE on ulike.com**!!
Does Ulike IPL work??
Time will tell in regard to my personal experience... I just started treating my armpits, bikini line, and lower legs so I'll check back in regularly with any results and will do a final long form video with the final before and after!! But my sister's dermatologist actually recommended Ulike to her, saying it's just as good as what they use in their office! WHAT!?? So, I am feeling really good about the results being amazing!!
ENTER TO WIN
the Ulike Air 3 IPL Hair Removal Device:
Giveaway open to US residents ages 18+. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on Thursday, January 25. TWO winners will be randomly selected and contacted via email and/or social media and given 48 hours to confirm. REQUIRED: leaving a blog comment and telling the Rafflecopter app that you did so. More entry points may be earned with additional actions :) Good luck!!
With the first snow of the season upon us, I find myself fantasizing about leaving the shovel and brown street slush behind. But instead of hopping a flight to the Caribbean, what if we embrace the cold and actually seek it out!?
In case you're intrigued, or need some convincing, I've put together my list of the 7 best family friendly winter wonderland weekend getaways from NYC and New Jersey. My requirements include that the hotel has kid-friendly outdoor activities (ex. ice skating and snow tubing), water activities (heated indoor or outdoor pools and hot tubs), and is within a 4.5 hour drive of Newark NJ. With bonus points going to those with kids club! So... LET'S SNOW! I mean GO!!!
Type: All-Inclusive Resort (160 guest rooms and 70 privately owned vacation rental homes)
Location: Poconos (2hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: on-property snow tubing & lake ice skating (and synthetic skating)
Other Family Fun: Nightly entertainment and shows, indoor pool + water slide / climbing gym playground / bumper cars / toddler room / arts & crafts room, tons of outdoor activities, go carts, archery, and 30 scheduled activities a day!
Noteworthy: AH-may-zing (not buffet) food! Like, SO good, and included in your meal plan (can choose 2 or 3 meals a day). Voted #1 Family Resort in the US in 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023! My family has been to Woodloch 3 times (summer, winter, and fall - read about these stays here!), I cannot recommend it highly enough! Always SO much fun!!! Watch my winter getaway video below (but do note, it's from 6 years ago, we obviously need to go back for an updated video ASAP!)
Type: AAA Diamond Luxury Condo Hotel
Location: NW New Jersey (1.5 hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: on-site glice (synthetic ice) skating; just 2.5 miles from Moutain Creek for Skiing and Snow Tubing; hot cocoa, fire pits, and marshmallow roasting
Other Family Fun: Indoor pools (1 has a slide), swim out heated outdoor pool & hot tub, lots of organized activities for kids and adults (some free, some fee based); on site cafes and restaurants; great fitness club with fun classes guests can take for free.
Noteworthy: I've stayed at Crystal Springs 4 times, it's one of my favorite resorts of all time! I've been with my family in summer and winter, and gone on a "moms getaway" in winter as well. We always get a suite at Grand Cascade Lodge - with a full kitchen, fireplace, balcony - so much fun for adults and kids. Just paradise!! Watch our family winter getaway at Crystal Springs video below, or read through all of my Crystal Springs blog posts here!
Type: All Inclusive Resort
Location: Hudson Valley New York (1hr 40min drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: On site skiing (rentals and instructions included!), snow tubing, and ice skating - all included in your stay!
Other Family Fun: Indoor pool with water slide and swim out heated outdoor pool and hot tub, organized activities, live shows and entertainment.
Noteworthy: Meals, activities and horseback riding are all included with your stay!!! We went back in 2018 in the fall and had a blast - check out our video below or read about it here! At the time they had a free drop off kids club, but I can't find it on the site anymore so I'm not 100% sure they still have it.
Type: Mountain Lodge Resort with 105 suites
Location: Cortland NY (3.5 hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: take a shuttle to nearby Greek Peak Mountain Resort for skiing, snow tubing, Mountain Coaster, cross country skiing, and more.
Other Family Fun: on-site Cascades Indoor Water Park is amazing with a wave pool and water slides! You can get a hotel package that includes water park admission, skiing, or whatever extras you like! Kids arts & crafts room open (not for drop off) Fri-Sun.
Noteworthy: we had a mini family reunion here in 2019 that was so much fun!! We got adjoining rooms with a full kitchen and really enjoyed the water park and mountain coaster - fun for the whole family!! Watch our highlights video below or read about it on the blog here!
Type: Mountain Resort with Luxury Suites
Location: Lake Placid / Upstate NY (5hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: On site ice skating, campfires and s'mores. Nearby: skiing, XC skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, dog sledding, 30' high toboggan chute that spits you 1000 feet over frozen Lake Placid.
Other Family Fun: Heated indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, movie theater, family game room, ice cream parlor, bowling alley. Free summer camp; $25/hr babysitting.
Type: 5,500 Acre Mountain Resort
Location: Poconos (2.5 hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: On site (fee based) ice skating, snow tubing, skiing, show shoeing, treetop adventure course, ice fishing and more.
Other Family Fun: Lots of indoor and outdoor organized activities.
Type: All Inclusive Resort
Location: Hudson Valley New York (2hr drive from Newark NJ)
Winter Festivities: On site ice skating, snow tubing, XC skiing, and snow shoeing - all complimentary to overnight guests.
Other Family Fun: Nestled in 40,000 acres of forest with 85 miles of hiking trails. Indoor heated pool. Meals are included, as well as organized activities, live entertainment, indoor archery, yoga and fitness classes, and drop off KIDS CLUB for kids ages 4-11 (daily in summer, only weekends/holidays otherwise).
Noteworthy: Voted #1 Resort in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Region by CondÃ© Nast Traveler in 2023 and #2 Best All-Inclusive Resort by USA Today 10Best in 2023.
So what do you think!?? Have you been to any of these? Ready to book one!? Did we miss an amazing one? Let us know in a comment below!!!
Trying to book your spring break family vacation (or travels throughout the year) but feeling overwhelmed and nervous about your budget? You're not alone. Family of 5 here. Traveling can cost an arm and a leg but you're in luck cuz I work my butt off finding and reviewing the best family vacation spots, and am always looking for the best way to save money (and also featuring which things are worth splurging on!), so here are some of the hacks I use, wrapped up in one handy dandy "How to save money on your spring break family vacation" blog post!! Let's go!!!
Disclaimer: There are some affiliate links included below, noted with ** You don't pay more but I receive commission from qualified purchases or registration after clicking.
No Frills Budget Airlines
When I say no frills, I mean no frills. Which means if you pick the right day, you can get tickets for dirt cheap! You'll pay extra for everything other than a basic seat and small personal item (i.e. purse or small backpack). BYO food and drinks (or purchase in flight), don't expect in-seat TV or power outlet. If you need a carry on and a checked bag for every passenger, or need to guarantee family sits together, you're better off booking with a regular "full service" airline, because the price will be the same and they have more flights and partner airlines. The no frills airlines usually don't have partner airlines, so if you miss a flight or it gets cancelled, you can really run into trouble re-booking, especially if you have a large family. Having travel insurance here is key and worth the extra expense (we always use Allianz Travel Insurance), though it can't save the time and hassle of re-booking, it can save you having to pay out of pocket for same day flights with a different airline or couple nights hotel waiting for the original airline to find seats for you.
Some "no frills" budget airlines include Spirit, Breeze, Allegiant, Frontier (if you're single with a flexible schedule, look into their "Go Wild" annual pass - you pay $599 for unlimited domestic and international flights, or $149 for their monthly pass), and a newer international budget airline we just booked our upcoming spring break travels with is Play! I played around with the dates (this is key because you'll see one set of dates is 3x more than another set, so you really have to spend some time looking at all of the options), and I got us tickets from Stewart Airport in NY to Iceland for spring break in March for $280 round trip per person! CRAZY!!! It's $120 extra per 44lb checked bag round trip though, so we purchased ONE for our family of 5... packing will be interesting (or we may have to splurge for a 2nd bag at the last minute).
For 2022 spring break we got great priced tickets with Spirit to Cancun ($290 per person roundtrip from NYC), and in 2023 spring break we saved huge with Frontier flying to Phoenix. Had a really great experience with both of them - we were careful to pay for 1 checked bag (the five of us shared!) and made sure each of our "personal item" was a small backpack each well within their size limitation. You hear some horror stories on TikTok about getting charged a huge fee to check your "oversized" personal item at the gate, so you really REALLY have to be careful with that!!
When searching flights, not all travel websites include every no frills airline... Expedia** and Kayak do include Play, whereas Google Flights does not. So, check a few places and sometimes it ends up being on the airline's website where you can play around with dates to find the absolute best deal.
Miles & Points Hacking
If you're about to be applying for a mortgage or car lease, or if you are working hard to increase your credit score, you may not want to consider this... but for everyone else, I'll go on a (non-professional non-expert) limb and say that the benefits of "smartly" mile and/or point hacking with credit cards outweighs the risks of little short term credit score dings (consult a professional if concerned!!).
I generally go for the credit cards that are free for the first year, to get the huge sign on bonus - this year I got 60k miles and 2 lounge passes from United's Chase card** and 100k points with Hilton's AmEx card**. Then before they renew and charge me, I cancel and sign up for another program/card. You really have to set reminders so you don't miss the chance to cancel before you get charged, and there are limits to how many times you can sign up to a certain type of card in a specific time frame, so be careful and read all the fine print! People who travel a LOT may find that some of the platinum card benefits with huge annual fees (we're talking $695) more than pay for themselves with all of the "free" benefits they offer. It's not worth it for me or my family, but I have a lot of travel creator friends who find theme extremely worthwhile.
While we're talking about earning points, make sure however you're shopping, you're getting cash back or earning points or miles with your purchases through a great credit card AND cash back through Rakuten** (yes, double dipping FTW) - I have Rakuten installed as a Google extension and it activates every time I'm on a site they're partnered with. We're talking 10% cash back shopping on Hotels.com**, 8% back booking tours with Viator, up to 3% back on Walmart.com**, heck, I even got 2% cash back buying our new fridge on Lowes.com last month!! One of my credit cards gives me 3% cash back for groceries, and Rakuten gives me 1% back when I shop Aldi on Instacart - boom - 4% cash back!!
I love a good five star hotel or all-inclusive resort, absolutely LOVE them, but they're not always the best choice when it comes to finances and convenience. A rental home may be a better choice when vacationing as a larger family, with multiple families, or as a multigenerational travel group - plenty of separate rooms and bathrooms, a kitchen, you name it! VRBO** and AirBNB are the most popular sites for finding vacation homes, they have great features too in case you're looking for a more unique stay, like a tiny home, treehouse, house boat, ski-in, yurt, you name it!
If you feel comfortable having others stay in your home, you could even consider house swapping casually or through an agency like Home Exchange where it doesn't have to be a simple 2 house swap (that can be hard to coordinate regarding time and destination), instead you earn points when you rent your home and use those points to rent another home, can be at the same time or another time.
If you're up for roughing it, camping is always a very budget-friendly option, especially after the initial investment of tent and gear (or RV). We had a fabulous spring break staying in a cabin at Verde Ranch RV Resort last year (read about it and watch our video here)! KOA (Kampgrounds of America) is our favorite nationwide family-friendly chain of campgrounds, most have a pool, bounce pad, and even have cabins if you prefer being in a proper structure (with kitchen, tv, and mattresses!). Read about our experience at KOA Newburgh, just north of New York City, here!
When I say drive, I mean two things...
One is that driving to your destination, instead of flying or cruising, can really help you save a TON of money, especially for bigger families!! Bus and train are also options to consider. Back when we were a family of 3 living in Brooklyn without a car, we took the bus and train to a ton of places, as far as Montauk, Canada, and North Carolina! Now as a family of 5 with a car, driving is MUCH cheaper.
By driving, I also mean: consider further away airports and cruise terminals. This week I was researching cruises out of New Jersey and New York and I found one out of Boston that would save our family about $2k as opposed to the same cruise out of NJ!! Yes, it ads a 4 hour drive for us but TOTALLY worth the savings!!
When flying out of the NYC area, we generally look at Newark, La Guardia, and JFK. But did you know, there are a few other airports in the area we don't generally consider, but you can find some super cheap flights! For example:
Travel Writing, Content Creation & UGC:
My final "hack" is something anyone can do but not on a whim, per se. It's takes a lot of work to score free or even paid travel as a freelance travel writer, travel creator, or UGC (user generated content) creator. Outsiders sometimes belittle us "influencers" like we're just running around trying to get free stuff. But it's not like that at all. The value we offer (and hours we put in) is more than equal to the value of goods or services we receive (whether that's a comped week at an all-inclusive resort or a 2-hour glassbottom boat tour). It's always a very fair exchange of goods and service, or service and service. We spend hours filming, shooting, editing, and/or writing - spending much of our "vacation" behind the screen in order to deliver high quality content and "earn" our "freebies".
As travel creators, we provide a personal point of view, helping potential travelers feel better about booking their trip, giving our communities and followers inspiration about activities, hotels, you name it! We also help the destination have a more varied and relatable marketing approach. Having a photoshoot and running an ad in a magazine, filming and running a commercial on Netflix, and hosting an influencer or content creator for a few days at your hotel all have vastly different budgets and goals in mind, but they all have value and ROI (return on investment).
Whether you want to publish yourself or sell your content for someone else to publish, you have to spend a LOT of timing growing your skills, building a portfolio, building a following (if posting yourself), and be able to pitch yourself, your skills, and your content to people in the travel industry. When I'm planning a trip for my family, I sometimes end up pitching 20+ hotels, tourism boards, and activities.
I've worked with Discover Puerto Rico, Hilton, LEGOLAND Resort, Crystal Springs Resort, Woodloch Resort, just to name a few. Back in October, tagged along my husband's business trip to Hawaii and was on my own. I pitched and was able to get comped tickets to 3 luaus, and aquarium, and 2 boat tours! When we went to Arizona for Spring Break last year, we were provided 5 nights accommodation, comped a week long rental car, and several amazing activities!
But to get these amazing "free" activities, meals, or full on vacations, I spend HOURS and hours researching and pitching before the trip, spend a good portion of the trip behind the camera (and evenings editing and uploading daily coverage to Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube), and DAYS after the trip organizing everything in a blog post and 10+ minute youtube video. Furthermore, the days spent editing and publishing content after the trip are days I cannot be working earning actual money, which is its own cost to consider. This is a reason that selling your UGC for actual money in hand comes into play.
So... yeah... it's all WORK! But it's fun work, and work that can help my family (and yours, if interested) to travel for less, potentially get paid to travel, or even have some adventures that you might never have had the chance (or budget) to take otherwise.
Have any tips on saving money while traveling? Want to know more about how we save or anything mentioned in this blog post?? Leave a comment below!!!
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!