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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

5 tips for stress-free holiday travel

Are you braving the airports this holiday season to visit family and friends? Then in addition to the busyness of the holiday season you’ll be adding travel plans – all of which can make for a very hectic and stressful time of year. A little planning will go a long way and Brian Altomare is here to offer some assistance.

You may have seen Brian featured on the television show “Shark Tank.” He’s the founder of Lugless, a luggage shipping service that sends your luggage ahead of time to wherever you’re going. This means you won’t have to pay airline baggage fees, you can avoid check-in lines and going through security will be a breeze. Then, when you land, there is no shuffling through other passengers waiting at baggage claim or worrying about lost luggage.

Here are Brian’s tips for stress-free holiday traveling:

Tip #1 – Roll instead of fold

It might seem simple and obvious, but most travelers still do not maximize luggage space when packing for a trip. If you roll all your clothes – from pants to jackets to shirts – you increase the extra space by about one-third. Bonus: Your clothes will be wrinkle free when you un-pack.

Tip #2Buy a $9 luggage scale on

We all love surprises during the holiday, but not at the check-in gate. Avoid extra baggage fees for overweight luggage by weighing it prior to arriving at the airport. This way you’ll avoid extra fees or worse, removing your clothing (and undergarments!) in front of everyone just to meet airline weight requirement.

Tip #3 – Bar belts, shun shoelaces & rock TSA-approved laptop bags

Brian says this is his favorite block of travel ideas for more sanity through security. Always wear slip on shoes, sneakers or sandals and pack your belt in a carry on so you don't have to take it off at the security checkpoint. Also, only use a TSA-approved laptop bag so you never have to worry about taking it out.

Tip #4 – Carry two small bags not one medium bag

If you want to take a bag onto the plane carry two smaller bags, if trying to avoid fees, and not one medium-sized bag that might be checked at the gate. At the last minute, a staggering percentage of bags that make it to the terminal gate are asked to be checked prior to boarding due to space issues. The other reason is because FAA fines airlines for late takeoffs and extra carry-on bags in the overhead compartment, which is a big issue preventing on-time arrivals and departures. Airlines even have staff to roam terminals and try to get travelers to pay or check bags if they think the bags are too large and should not have passed through initially.

Tip #5 – Ship your luggage

lugless screen shotThis post would not be complete without this tip. Brian recommends shipping your bags ahead of time. It is a much more enjoyable experience, he says. “I should know. I am the co-founder of, a door-to-door luggage shipping service for travelers who are tired of airline baggage fees, waiting in crowded check-in lines, tapping their feet at baggage claim, and dealing with the prospect of lost luggage. We provide on-time guaranteed service and rates that are less than FedEx, UPS and DHL for express and international shipping to more than 200 companies.”

He truly believes in Travel without the Baggage, which is the company’s tagline. In fact, Lugless is currently offering lowered holiday pricing so it’s an ideal time to give the service a try. Brian recommends you at least try the service once and experience “baggage-free” travel for a much more relaxing holiday trip.

Brian Altomare, Lugless founder, has also been featured on Bloomberg TV, FOX News Radio, ABC- San Francisco and CW- San Diego.


Monday, December 2, 2013

What's on your #baking friends’ wish list? {guest post}

By Josh Santos

Nothing is more rewarding during the holidays than opening up the oven to a toasty sheet of cookies decorated as snowmen or snowflakes. Whether you know a kitchen whiz or a professional baker, you can always find a few gadgets sure to be up a sweet tooth's alley. What can you wrap to put under a Christmas tree that will get a lot of mileage in the oven?

Write on

baking photoClear ingredient containers can confuse a baker when they cannot tell the difference between salt and sugar at first blush. The problem becomes worse when you slap a label on a container that you cannot remove, so that you cannot put any different ingredients in it when it runs dry. A $40 Memo Canister lets you put anything and everything, from green tea to brown sugar, into a container without needing to change labels or play a guessing game. Simply use a piece of chalk to record the name (and, if desired, the quantity) of an ingredient then wipe it off whenever you want to replace powdered sugar with cayenne pepper.

Cupcake trees: decoration included

Everyone gets a tree for Christmas, but how often is the tree made out of something besides wood and pine needles? Those looking to invent their own holiday classic can give someone a feast for their eyes and their taste buds. The $20 Martha Stewart Collection cupcake tree balances as many as two dozen cupcakes on three tiers so that anyone with a hankering for some frosting can pluck one off  the frame. It's also a good excuse to use that Kitchen-Aid mixer you got last year.

From digital ounces to pounds

Whether you need to make 120 cookies or get exact measurements for a specialty cake, precision goes a long way towards ensuring the final outcome tastes just right. Get the precise measurements for everything from orange rind to flour with a $30 Escali Primo multipurpose digital scale. With the ability to measure down to a tenth of an ounce, this scale helps the perfectionist on your shopping list to make the best possible batch of baked goodies. With nine colors it blends in with most kitchen décor.

A Mount Olympus-like gift

What do you get for the baker who has granite countertops, porcelain tea sets, real-silver silverware and gold filigree candles? Something practical and beautiful: a $40 marble pastry board with matching $25 marble dough roller. With the roller in hand, your baking friend will be sure to produce a pie crust so beautiful that you weep at the thought of actually eating it.

Josh, a cooking expert from the Southwest, has a penchant for cast iron and outdoor ovens.

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