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Beer Here! Craft Breweries Las Vegas

When you think of adult beverages in Las Vegas you probably think of those large souvenir glasses full of blended fruity margaritas. Those are delicious, believe me, but don’t neglect the chance to try some of the homegrown product: beer! There are six craft breweries that call Sin City home and four more in the adjacent town of Henderson.  Mum and I didn’t get a chance to try all them, but we did sample  few.
Banger Brewing  – is a much needed oasis from overstimulating Freemont Street.  Set off behind the Slotzilla (giant slot machine where people fly out regularly on zip-lines), you might miss it if you didn’t know to look. They had the best variety and tastes of all the places we got to sample. My personal favorite was the “Wet Hop” IPA and mum’s was the “Unforgiven Bourbon Barrel” Stout.  With the added bonus of having a Groupon, we took a growler of “Gary D’Weet” Hefe back to the condo for the next day.
Sin City Brewing Co – has four locations on the strip (the Venetian, Bally’s, Planet Hollywood, and Harmon Corner) so you’re never far from a fresh pint.  They have five signature brews that cover all preferences from weiss to stout. My personal choice was the “Ale with a Tale” IPA.  A big bonus is that Sin City also has cans and bottles from other local breweries available like Crafthaus Brewery (Henderson) and Lovelady Brewing (Henderson). Mum greatly enjoyed the Lovelady “Paleo Porter”

If you don’t want to venture too far from a slot machine two casinos have their own in-house microbreweries:  Ellis Island Casino’s brewery of the same name and Mainstreet Station Casino’s Triple 7 Restaurant and Brewery.  We didn’t make it here, but do let us know if you get to sample their wares!

 
Ok, its not a brewery, but beer fans can’t miss the happy hour deal at Margaritaville. Every day from 5pm to 6pm the “5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar” offers 5¢ Miller Lite and $5 drafts of Landshark Lager. Fins up, Parrot heads!
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Saving Money in Las Vegas with Groupon

The cost of travel can add up fast and Mum and I are always on the lookout for ways to save money on the road. In Las Vegas we used Groupon* (combined with Ebates*cash back) for food, drinks, and activities we would never had known about. In no particular order, here’s how our experience broke down:

Big Bus Hop-on Hop-off $28 for one full day, $47 value (2x bought): This was probably the most touristy thing we did the whole week. The buses picked up and dropped off at locations ranging from northern Fremont Street to the welcome sign in the south. The guides on each bus offered their own commentary and color (shout out to Big Bus Bruce!) to the open-top double-decker photo-rich experience.

Sangria Festival $100 value for $30, admission and sangria tastings for two: This ended up being one of the top highlights of our trip.  The festival in nearby Henderson was full of local residents with proceeds going to local charities. There were generous samples of a variety of sangria flavors, beer, and some cocktails along with live music and flamenco dancing.

Hexx Chocolate bean-to-bar education for 2 people, $44 value for $22 : located in front of the Paris hotel and casino, this candy shop is more than meets the eye. The education was a short talk about their own chocolate making process and a tasting of 12 samples by country of cocoa bean origin. In the end we were excited to learn that the cost included 4 bars of chocolate to take home, with a discount on additional purchases.

Banger Brewing $26 for $50 value, beer experience for two : on upper Freemont Street, this brewery was a relaxing treat to the over-stimulus outside. The tasting included a flight of 4 tastes, two full pints, and a 32oz filled growler to take home. The growler was a nice treat a few days later when we had a day relaxing at the condo.

 

 

Hexx kitchen + bar $35 for bottle of wine and cheese plate for 2, $69 value : next to the chocolate shop of the same name at the Paris hotel, we enjoyed this wine and cheese plate as dinner before a show across the street at Ceaser’s Palace. There were three choices for the wine, and we opted for the house red. The cheese plate was quite large and included three varieties plus three meats, fruit, and toasted baguette.

 

SEA: Thai Experience  $46 dinner for two, up to $78 value : located inside Bally’s Casino, we would never have known this restaurant existed. Two appetizers and two dinners were included in the price, with drinks and other ala carte items additional. The food was fresh and flavorful and the setting peaceful and friendly.

 

 

 

La Bella Napoli Pizzaria $15 for $25 worth of food and drinks : tucked away in a shopping center south of the airport, this was definitely a non-tourist establishment. The pizza was cooked to order in their wood fire oven and the scallop gnocchi with saffron sauce was something mum will remember and try to re-create at home.

Vince Niel’s Tatuado $26 for two 44oz Margaritas worth $50 : because a large alcoholic drink in a souvenir cup is a necessity in Las Vegas, we went to this restaurant inside Circus Circus. The drinks were large but contained proportionally little tequila. While we hadn’t originally planned on it, we ended up eating an underwhelming meal here. All in all, this was the one Groupon flop of the trip.

 

Total savings value:  $254

There were a couple of things we learned: in Vegas you still pay sales tax on the item after the Groupon cost has been deducted and as a general rule we ended up spending additional money at a location. Overall we will definitely check Groupon again for possible savings on future travel and for discovering things we might not have known we could do.

*Note: We were not paid by Groupon, Ebates, or any other entity for this post. It is entirely our opinions and experiences.

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Beer Here! Craft Breweries in Decatur, GA

If it isn’t already, the city of Decatur should be on your list of places to visit in Georgia. Within the perimeter of Interstate 285 and along the MARTA subway line, its as easy to get to as it is charming. Enjoy the restaurants and maybe a stroll around the square before trying  one of the three local craft breweries.

Three Taverns Brewery – the largest in the immediate area with an intimate tasting room and outside picnic space. They specialize in sours, so get ready to pucker on any available Sour Asylum option and calm it down with the ubiquitous Night on Ponce IPA. They’re quite popular, so be prepared to wait in line for your next taster.

BlueTarp Brewing Co – small brewery with local distribution. The tap room is open for tasting and tours with a dog-friendly outdoor space. They specialize in IPAs and we definitely recommend the Tropic Thunder. (Pro-Tip: check Groupon for their regularly available special)

Wild Heaven Beer – technically located in next-door Avondale, this brewery is a low-key hangout. Mum’s favorite is the Funkenrach smoked wild ale and I go for the White Blackbird Saison. There are special events every weekend and dogs are always welcome both inside and on the large outdoor patio.

Also check out…

Independent Distilling – ok, they don’t do beer, but they do have some sweet southern corn whiskey that’s worth a stop. They also make a delicious bourbon and rum, so make a tiny detour, enjoy the short tour and get ready to take a bottle home!

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Beer Here! Craft Breweries in Harrisonburg, VA

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is known for both the beauty of the mountains and its many wineries.

Fans of hops don’t despair, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail runs along nearly the same route and offers a variety of craft breweries for any palate. One spot along the way with a concentration of stops is the city of Harrisonburg, VA. There are four breweries within walking distance of each other, allowing for a full day of touring the tastes in the historic downtown area. The big bonus for my visit was that all of these options had outdoor dog-friendly patios!

Three Notch’d Brewingone of three tap room locations of the Charlottesville based brewery. The Minute Man IPA was smooth and citrusy and the Watermelon Gose was refreshing, salty, and sweet. They also had dog biscuits available for purchase made from the grain left after the brewing process!

Brothers Craft Brewing – probably the most well known brewery in the area. The seasonal Hallelujah IPA has a mid-level bitterness and citrus note, but my personal favorite is the Hoptimization. If you can’t make it to the tap room, a number of local restaurants offer their brews on draft.

Pale Fire Brewing Co. – known for their IPAs, they also have a good variety of other styles. I personally loved the Salad Days Saison and the Electric Sheep Belgian Amber.

Wolfe Street Brewing – located in an old garage, this is the smallest and most intimate tap room location. They tend toward more ambers and stouts, but definitely try the Citra Tonic Pale.

 

If you’re more of a cider person, try nearby Old Hill Hard Cider in Timberville. Located at the Showalter Orchard, Old Hill offers tastings made from 10 varieties of apples grown specifically for cider making. Try their special mead blend and whisky barrel aged options for unique flavors (I bought a bottle for home).

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Eating Around the World in Atlanta

Atlanta tends to be associated with zombies, southern belles, and pig-on-a-spit but the city is so much more. As headquarters for a number of international companies, people from around the world have moved here to start a new life, bringing with them their culture and cuisine. No matter what you have a taste for, you can find it somewhere in Atlanta area.

For a taste of Ethiopia, we go to Desta Kitchen. Their authentic dishes are served in a modern presentation and there’s live music on weekend evenings. You can order everything ala carte, but I always get the vegetarian plate with plenty of injera.

Thai is available throughout the city, but our favorite is Panita Thai Kitchen in the Virginia Highlands neighborhood. The converted house is primarily open air and has an eclectic design which comes from 20 years of perfection. The food is layered, flavorful, and served in a presentation fit for a king.

If you’re craving authentic Italian pizza, Varuni Napoli is the only place to go. Classic combinations with no gimmicks are  prepared to-order in their wood fire ovens. Be sure to save room for a cannoli – trust me.

Buford Highway runs in the north east part of the city and is the place to go for authentic Mexican or South Korean food. El Taco Veloz has no-nonsense authentic tacos that take us right back to our trip to Cabo San Lucas. Sokongdong Tofu House offers classics with plenty of heat and even a few vegetarian options. Also, be sure to make a stop at the Buford Highway Farmers Market. The former shopping center is now one large grocery story with hard to find products from every  part of the world and a rather tasty tiny food court.

In the city of Decatur, a community of immigrants from India has brought flavors from all parts of the country. There are specialized markets, shops, and restaurants with unique dishes, but our favorite is Zyka. Order your dishes at the front counter, listen for your number to be called, then dig in to addicting veggie and halal dishes.

Of course there’s more, and each new trip in the city a chance to try something new!

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Riding in Cars with Dogs

There’s nothing like a good road trip. Add a dog and you’ve got a recipe for a great weekend escape.  I travel with my dog Hondo as often as I’m able to, now 6 different US states in our 4 years together.  I feel that its easier to travel with him by car than airplane and always try to bring him along. While it does add more prep work (and planning stress) it’s totally worth it.

5 Tips for Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip

Safety First – When you’re driving down the road, your little beast should be as safely secured as you are. Keep your dog in a crate or seat belted in. Hondo’s harness is attached to a seatbelt in a car, assuring that he doesn’t go sliding if I need to hit the brakes fast. You can find a seatbelt attachment at pet stores.

Take Breaks – When you’re on a good stretch it can be tempting to keep driving for hour after hour. Try and break that habit and make regular stops along your route for rest breaks, snacks, and a little walk. everyone will be much happier (trust me)

Keep to a Routine – Dogs like routines. They seem to instinctively know when dinner time rolls around. While it’s not always 100% possible, I try to stay to our established routines on the road. It makes the change in scenery a little less stressful for Hondo.

Be Aware of Temperature – The heat and sun are amplified inside of a car and can easily become dangerous to all living beings. When you’re road tripping make every attempt to NOT leave your dog unattended in the car.  If you absolutely have to leave them, make sure to limit the time and take steps to regulate the temperate and airflow. On solo trips in the summer when I need to make an emergency relief stop where dogs aren’t allowed, I’ll  leave the car running with the air conditioner on and doors locked.

Be Well Supplied – There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to buy what you need for your dog when you’re away from home. Make sure that you being everything you might need with you

  • food & treats
  • dog poo bags
  • leash, harness, etc
  • crate & blanket
  • favorite toys
  • bowls for food & water

 

Do you have a tip for car trips with Dogs? Tell us in the comments!

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Navigating Your Travel Treasure Hunt

The very first stamp, on my very first passport, was earned in 1994 as I passed through Customs in London’s Heathrow Airport. I had ventured beyond the U.S. alone, on a three week long business trip and felt compelled to find a small, yet meaningful memento to take home. Although I do confess to owning a Milton Glaser I LOVE NY t-shirt, I prefer to find something more lasting. Today, regardless of their monetary value, my travel treasures are among my favorite things.  What do I look for? And where do I search for cool stuff?

International thrift stores contain unusual things. I discovered a fabulous vintage vase at a charity shop in England, wrapped it in layers of clothing, and prayed it would make the trip home. It did. But I learned a valuable lesson about my travel treasure-hunt habits. Today, bubble pack is on my Top Ten Must-Pack List.

Locally produced goods are among my favorite finds. I’ve picked up small blown glass items in factories in Bermuda and in Mexico. These objets d’art transport me to the place and time where glassblowers created their work as we watched on.

A trip to the grocery store is a must. From unusual flavors of Tang, to salsas, sauces, herbs and oils, take the opportunity to come home and allow your vacation to linger in your home until you’ve shared your treats with others. Among my

all-time favorites were several pounds of Costa Rican coffee, and the treasured bottle of Garzón Olive Oil reminiscent of my trip to the Garzón winery/orchard.

 

 

 

 

 

Local wines and spirits are yours to discover. The local Costa Ricans introduced Li and I  to Guaro. They laughed. We later learned why. Guaro is, in fact, GRAIN alcohol! For fun, I still brought home a couple of small bottles. The local Ron Barceló rum and Mamajuana I carried home from the Dominican Republic are still favorites for sipping my way into daydreams of coconut-filled wagons, a quiet beach, and the fresh whole fish we ate at sunset, toes embedded in the silky sand.

Never understimate the value of FREE.  Wine corks are integrated into my décor. The Bouza cork in my plant pot is from a memorable dinner with my extended Uruguayan family.

Shells, coral, and sea glass pieces washed ashore have found their way into a display cabinet. Each glass container, filled with shells, and labeled by location, generates lasting tranquility in my home. I can almost HEAR the crashing waves!

Individual Ziplock bags contain a menagerie of tickets, receipts, menus, business cards and phone numbers from each trip. As I blog, it’s easy to track down names and dates, and match photos to exact places and times. These invaluable “pinch me” keepsakes serve as reminders to be grateful for my amazing travel experiences.

Bring home art! I find interesting work in small, local galleries, or at street fairs. I take the time to meet the artist and share my appreciation for their work.  I selected Carol Joy Shannon’s hand-painted guitar during a visit to Myrtle Beach, SC.  The golden-haired child hanging next to it is a find from Key West, FL. And the ballerina was acquired from a  gallery in Costa Rica. While all are paintings, I’ve chosen work of other mediums, like the pastel nude, the encaustic wax bottles of colour, and the watercolor/pen and ink drawing of New York City.  I have a backlog of framing to do – to showcase artwork collected in Uruguay and Argentina. And, each piece carries meaning, a story, and a flood of memories.

Jaco Beach, Costa Rica
Cooperstown, NY
Union Square, New York, NY
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10 Insider Tips Driving Luggage Choice

When I was embarrassed enough to want to keep my suitcase in the car, rather than bring it into my host’s home, I knew it was time to let go of old baggage – literally. But the plethora of options is so overwhelming, the experience had me procrastinating as badly as when I am forced into the market to buy a car.

With humiliation as my motivator, I engaged on the hunt for the perfect-for-now set of two bags. What makes a bag perfect for now? Just like car shopping, everyone has different preferences that drive their decision. Below are the top ten considerations that drove my selection process.

  1. Time to try a hard shell case. The soft case that served as a cat hammock under my bed is history. The hair is no longer 100% removable, and I’m done expending the energy attempting to get “most of it” off. How efficient is keeping my bag half-packed, if I have to use 50 sheets of a new lint roller refill each time I choose to grab and go?
  2. I’m thrifty, so price is important. I travel enough to justify new bags here and there, so investing a fortune in bags is not on my radar. Li and I constantly ask ourselves, “Would I rather buy this or relax with an umbrella drink on a tropical beach?” The lure of the umbrella drink protects our wallets long enough to savor “experiences” over “stuff.”
  3. Brand matters. When inspecting quality, off brands just don’t measure up to proven standard brands. Luxury brands catch my eye, but I just can’t go there. While leather Gucci bags are enticing, I have just purchased yet another Samsonite duo. While I didn’t set out to be brand loyal, I tend to lean toward Samsonite. For some reason, I have chosen Samsonite for nearly 40 years. (Mental note: Buy Samsonite stock.)
  4. Don’t risk a cheap zipper. Poor zipper quality and construction are instant deal-breakers. I’d be mortified to have my suitcase spill my secrets onto the floor of an airport.
  5. Inspect the gusset fabric. Most bags tend to have a zippered gusset that allows me to bring more home than I left with. Close inspection revels that the weave is not as tight on bargain bags, thus less durable. While I do pack clothing with the intention of leaving it behind for the maids and their families, I still somehow need to unzip and make room for more wine, coffee, and art on my return flight (Pack Rat, Will Travel). Cheap gusset fabric is simply risky.
  6. Test the height of the fully extended telescopic pull. I have long legs, and hunching over to pull my bag through an airport is agony. I learned this the hard way, traveling to Europe with a too short bag and no chiropractor to save me.
  7. The lighter the better. The best thing about ditching my old bags is knowing that I will never have to lift that carry-on into the overhead again in my life. While many times a male hero steps in to help, I have struggled with first hoisting the bag to my seat back (while still in an upright position), then transferring it to the to the top of my head to get it just one more “oomph” into the overhead.
  8. Find wheels that glide like a Hot Wheels car on a twisty track. I drag bags around the store to check wheel bearings. I inspect the way they are attached to the suitcase. Heavy duty rivets – check! My luggage gets dragged over some rocky terrain, and the wheels had better not fail my sense of adventure. 360° rotation is a must. It’s for this reason I chose not to order online; I opted to peruse every Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Ross and Burlington Coat Factory in a 30 mile radius. For the record, Burlington Coat Factory’s discounted prices were typically $10 less per bag on exact same brands and features. (Colors were different in every single store.)
  9. Interior dividers help keep me organized.  I keep my carry-on pre-packed, under my bed, awaiting our next escape. It helps me to have my smaller items like travel make-up and toiletries, a mini-curling iron, and a small first-aid kit ready to go. Check out my Top 10 Must Pack Items to learn more about packing.
  10. Color does count. Gone are the days I just want my suitcase to blend in. I just won’t buy black bags. I now prefer to spot my bags from a mile away, and know that any thief wouldn’t dare drag noticeably colorful bags off the carousel and out the door.  Yet, as I previously blogged about how much I want to outsmart thieves, I do not want to drag UGLY through the airport. And I am reasonably sure I would tire of a print – so a bright solid it is. My previous big bag for check-in, under the cat hair, was red. My carry-on was kinda purple. This time I struggled over blue and silver, before settling on the blue. It was not until I rolled my bags toward the cash register that I realized they are not just any blue; they are MeetUatGate.com blue!

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Long-Haul Flight Survival Tips

Nobody enjoys the dreaded long haul flight. They’re uncomfortable, awkward, and the bane of many a traveler. I’m used to 5 to 7 hour flights, but my 35+ hour economy class odyssey from Atlanta to Phnom Penh was an entirely different adventure. Below are a few tips for making your next long-haul flight as smooth as possible

Seat Selection – can make all the difference. As I planned on sleeping for at least half of the trans-pacific leg I picked a window seat on the side of the airplane that mirrored my preferred side of the bed so that I could lean into  the wall. This also meant that the other passengers in the row didn’t have to wake me when they needed to move.

Entertainment – is key. Check the airline rules carefully, because your US domestic preparations might not work. The electronics ban on flights from some countries to the US means that you can’t rely on your tablet or laptop for distraction. Additionally, Chinese regulations do not allow the use of “airplane mode” on your smart device, so all phones must by powered off for the entire flight. Two women were jailed recently for failure to comply, so no sneaking around. Many airplanes do have touch screen entertainment centers for each seat, like my Chinese Eastern Airlines flight, fully loaded with movies, music, and games. Your old mp3 player may be allowed, as long as it doesn’t have a cellular data option. I’m a knitter so I always bring some yarn and a pair of needles. Right now, most airlines allow knitting needles, but I’d recommend sticking to a wooden option.  Also, never underestimate the power of a good book. A few cheap paperbacks from a second-hand store are my weapon of choice, as they can be easily left behind for others to read and enjoy.

Snacks – can be a lifesaver. Even if your flight includes a meal service you can never be sure of what you might get. This is doubly true if you have allergies or any diet restrictions. Pre-packaged snacks are a safe option which insures that you’ll always have something to eat when you need it. I do like fruit when I travel, but you’re not always allowed to bring fresh produce with you when you travel internationally – even in your carry-on. I opt for granola or protein bars, nuts, and raisins.

Sleep – is a necessity for changing time zones. I don’t sleep easily on flights, but even a short nap is invaluable for a clear head with international layovers and flight changes. This past trip was my first time using melatonin and now I’m a believer. This in combination with my eye mask and earplugs were a necessity. Travel pillows or neck style pillows aren’t just for heads. I like to place mine in my lower back area for comfort and mum enjoys hers under her knees for bit of an angle. There’s also a lot to be said for having a blanket or scarf you can use as a cover. I like to pull mind up over my head to help block out light and its a visual cue to the cabin crew not to bother me (just make sure the seatbelt is on the outside).

Cleaning Up – can make all the difference. Face wipes, lotion, and tooth-brush and toothpaste in my carry on gave me the option to impersonate my normal evening and morning routines.  Just being able to wipe the re-circulated air off my face and bush my teeth was more relaxing than I could have imagined. A post-nap cleaning was refreshing and I arrived at my destination feeling less dirty than I typically do.

Easy Carry-On List for a Smoother Long-Haul Flight

  • head phones/ear buds
  • paper books/magazines
  • snacks
  • melatonin
  • travel pillow/neck pillow
  • eye mask
  • blanket/pashmina/large scarf
  • tooth-brush & toothpaste
  • pre-moistened face wipes
  • lotion for face & hands

Do you have any tips for long flights? Share it with us!

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7 Tips for Visting Cambodia

If you’re planning a trip to Cambodia, here are a few things I learned during my visit that might help you!

Cash is King – and the US dollar is everywhere.  Apart from the airport or the Villa Paradiso, its hard to find anyone who will accept your card. Many hotels, restaurants, and shops will only accept payment in cash. While the official national currency is the riel, most prices are posted in US dollars and change will be given in both paper varieties. If you are running low, many ATMs will dispense US dollars. On islands like Koh Rong Sanloem, only cash is accepted and there are no banks or ATMs.

Remove Your Shoes – when you enter a private home, religious space, and some businesses. Even on the  islands I needed to take my shoes off before entering any of the huts or public spaces. My sandals had an ankle strap, and if I had it to do over, I’d get something that was easier to slip on and off.

English is Everywhere – but don’t assume everyone speaks it. The majority of people you come across seem to speak a few words in english (numbers, basic pleasantries, etc), but you quickly learn that doesn’t mean you can communicate. The very few words I learned in Khmer were invaluable for getting around and bargaining. If you can only remember one, make it thank you. An “Awe Koon” goes a long way.

Bring  your Northern European 2 prong plug adaptor – because the one marked for Asia region won’t work. As a former french colony, the European influence hasn’t completely disappeared. Besides architecture from years gone by, the electric system uses round 2 prong plugs and not the flat 3 prong plugs you’ll find in other neighboring countries.

overheated? coconut water is nature’s gatorade

Drink Water – even when you think you’re not thirsty. The heat and humidity in southeast Asia are no joke. Bottled water is easy to get and inexpensive. Alternately, go for what the locals drink: count water or sugar cane juice. You can find carts all over offering these specialties for $1 or less. I didn’t even realize until I got back that I spent the entire week at least partially dehydrated.

A Scarf or pashmina  – is the national accessory. You’ll see plenty of locals with scarfs around their necks or heads as blocking the sun actually helps you feel cooler. Both the pashmina I brought and the scarf I purchased at the Russian Market saw continuous use. They’re also good for visiting religious sites where you need to cover your shoulders.

Avoid KTV – (Karaoke Television) even if you adore karaoke. The name is deceptive, as these are largely fronts for sex tourism. They’re only open at night and I passed many on way to the airport. Girls dressed to sell were sitting in red plastic chairs in the entrance waiting to be chosen by an incoming customer. If you absolutely need to sing along to your favorite Styx song, do it in your hotel.

Did I miss something? Share your tips in the comments below!