Affordable Paris souvenir: glass yogurt containers as candle holders

Souvenir shopping can be a frustrating and expensive task, but sometimes, you know you’ve found the perfect souvenir as soon as you see it.

On a recent trip to Paris, I was pleased to find that my hotel breakfast included single-size servings of yogurt in adorable little glass containers, which I knew could easily double as candle holders once I rinsed them out.

Over the course of a week, I accumulated a stash of five glass containers, all of which survived the trip back in my checked luggage.

Once I got home and ran the glass containers through the dishwasher, tealights from IKEA ($3.99 for a 100-pack) completed the look. The candles now stand on my windowsill and remind me of my trip to the aptly named City of Light.

Even if your hotel doesn’t include breakfast, most grocery stores around France seem to carry several brands of yogurt in glass containers. For example, I found that the Monoprix supermarket chain sells a four-pack of yogurt for about €2 ($2.50). A snack and a souvenir all in one, imagine that.

[Image Credit: Amy Chen]

The 10 most-affordable ski spots in North America

Skiing, like polo and yachting, is a rich man’s(or woman’s) sport. The equipment is expensive, and in order to participate, you need to go to a specific place. In the case of skiing, this means paying ski lift fees and traveling to a pricey ski resort. The costs can add up and make it prohibitively expensive for less affluent ski enthusiasts.

But there are some less expensive ski resorts. has put together a list of the top ten affordable ski spots in North America.

Keystone, near Denver, makes the list because of the many extras it offers, such as night skiing included with a lift ticket on the day of arrival, plus access to nearby resorts like Vail and Breckenridge. Steamboat in Colorado is on the list thanks to affordable ski-in/ski-out lodging and convenient shuttle services. And Winter Park, also in Colorado, is praised as catering to a “moderate demographic, no luxury properties.”

Whistler-Blackcomb, near Vancouver, is normally a very pricey destination. But in an attempt to lure visitors before the Olympics, it is offering some fantastic deals right now. Airfare to Vancouver can be expensive, depending on where you fly from, but you can save money by flying into Seattle and taking a train to Vancouver.

Jackson Hole (Wyoming), Banff(Alberta, Canada), and Lake Tahoe round out the western top ten with plentiful deals, discounts, and special offers that help keep prices low. On the east coast, Stowe(Vermont) and Lake Placid in New York offer excellent mid-week prices.

India: $2500 car, boon or bane?

For a measly US$2,500, Tata Motors has launched “Nano”– the world’s cheapest car — making the 4-wheel mode of transport less of a luxury and more of an affordable means of transport for millions of Indians. The car is said to meet all safety norms and apparently emits less pollution than a two-wheeler. With India’s huge lower / middle class population that depends on its two-wheelers, a reliable car at this price would encourage the shift and begin a revolution in transport in the country.

Well, that’s what they are saying.

In India, other than the the issue of affordability, the reason why many people opt for a scooter or a motorcycle, is because of the ghastly state of traffic and driving in the country. I strongly believe that if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere in the world. It probably has the most undisciplined road traffic on the planet (absolutely out-of-control, actually!), and surely ranks high in the list of world’s worst roads; the most convenient way to get anywhere quickly is therefore a two-wheeler.

An Indian’s skill set to maneuver a motorbike around others, bulls, cars, bicycles, people and potholes is truly fascinating and practicality issues make me wonder whether the scooter-driving target audience will want to switch. When I lived in India, if four of us were to go out, we would always opt to go on our automatic scooters rather than AC cars. As for the Nano being a transport solution for young families, it’s not uncommon to see a nuclear family travel on a scooter — something they are so used to, it doesn’t have the word dangerous associated to it anymore. Also, I don’t think Indian roads can handle more cars! I don’t think the Nano can substitute two-wheelers in India and they will remain the fastest and cheapest mode of transport.

So, although I’m proud that India beat China in this endeavor, I wonder if it was really worth it.

Where Are The Most Expensive Hotels? Moscow Tops The List, For One …

Airfare might be getting more affordable, but even if you get to a destination, you might not be able to get a place to stay, especially if you find yourself in Moscow, Venice, New York, Amsterdam or London. In Moscow, for instance, four-star accommodations average 332 euros a night.

But all hope’s not lost — you just might have to change your vacation plans a bit. Cape Town, South Africa; Guangzhou, China and Orlando, Florida are among the most affordable places to stay. In addition, Cairo, Frankfurt, Budapest and Berlin have the best-priced four-star accomodations. So, if you’re looking into a European vacation, travelling Eastern Europe is your best bet — Poland and Hungary in particular. Sure, there’s no Big Ben, but you’ll beat the horrific crowds too.

For more handy travel stats, check out this article.

Traveling When the Dollar is Weak

When the dollar’s down, what’s a traveler to do? Stay home? Welcome to the life of a Canadian for the past decade and a half. We’ve been avoiding the US for the past few years because it was just too darn expensive. But now we’re about on par and I for one intend to take advantage of it.

But with the weakened US dollar, there’s bound to be less Americans at the Eiffel tower this year. As I know very well, Europe’s really expensive when you’re not at the top of the currency game, but just because it’s out, doesn’t mean there aren’t other affordable places to visit. Have you considered a trip to:

  • Canada? I can vouch for the fact that it’s beautiful here, for those who love both urban landscapes and rugged wilderness. My loyalties lie with Western Canada, but the east is ok too.
  • New Zealand? Sure, the airfare can be expensive, but the USD is stronger than the NZD so you’re bound to save some money. Plus, it’s absolutely gorgeous.
  • Thailand? Again, the airfare is a bit pricey, but Thailand is a bargain. You can easily live off of $30 a day.
  • Costa Rica? Although they boast beaches and rainforest and everything in between, this central American getaway is still one of the more affordable destinations.

Want some more advice for traveling when the dollar is down? Check out this link.