Find Travel Bargains by Thinking Outside of the Travel Box

There are many bargains in travel for the person who knows where to look and how to take advantage of existing programs. Of course, I am not talking about taking a winter vacation to Galveston Texas and spending your weekend in a cardboard box on the beach. I am also not referring to a tree house on the shores of Lake Michigan in the dead of winter.

Where Do You Look For Travel Bargains?

Just a couple decades ago, travel shoppers would go to their local travel agency to find discount travel services and discount travel packages.

Many people have known for years that if you buy a plane ticket from the airline company, then chances are solid that you will always pay full price for that ticket. However, the average travel agency can acquire that same airplane fair at a discount – in essence so that the travel agency can profit from the difference, but many travel agencies will pass those savings to the consumer.

Travel agencies also offer another advantage to consumers in that they have the ability to look at airline fares from a number of different airlines. Often it can be much cheaper to fly to Chicago and change airplanes to catch another flight to New York City, than it would be to take the direct route to NYC. Travel agencies have the ability to see those discounts that others will not see.

Discount travel packages are often available by grouping a set of people into the same vacation plan. The elderly and retired most commonly take advantage of this option, but they are not the only ones. From Las Vegas, people will join together to fill a bus for the ride to Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon. All around the country, people will board a bus and ride it to a casino closer to home. Tour groups frequently catch a flight to Europe and share a bus trip tour around Europe.

By getting three-dozen distant strangers to share the costs of a particular tour schedule, travel costs can definitively be lowered. Costs are reduced because the tour can be priced according to the real costs of the journey, as opposed to the inflated costs designed into a package to pay for the empty seats. But, do you really want to build your next vacation around the strict schedule designed by the tour operator?

What If You Don’t Want To Share Your Vacation?

The truth is that there are plenty of travel savings out there for people who are a bit more independent than the people who fill tour buses.

To pose the question again as to where to get actual travel savings, many people in this day and age turn to the Internet travel companies for travel discounts.

The travel companies are in a grand advertising battle, fighting for your business. Expedia, Travelocity, Yahoo Travel, Travel.com, Orbitz, Priceline and others are fighting for your travel dollars. But, who really offers the best travel deals?

People have many opinions about who has the best travel deals available online. If you listen to William Shatner, you would look no further than Priceline for those travel deals. But, I am here to tell you that if you want the real travel deals, don’t stop at Priceline.

Big Dollar Advertising Requires Big Dollar Sales Markups

Consider this. In order for Expedia, Travelocity, Yahoo Travel, Travel.com, Orbitz, and Priceline to be household names, they have to spend millions on advertising to put their names into your subconscious mind.

How much of your travel package cost will be used to sell their services to the next person? In other words, how much are you overpaying for travel, in order to know who these companies are?

Cheaper Travel Can Be Found When You Escape The Beaten Path

If you know what to look for and where to look, you can find travel packages that are much less expensive than you can get with a tour operator or the top six travel companies shown above – and you will not have to share your trip with three dozen people you don’t even know and probably will not like.

To prove my point, let me give you a couple of examples.

On the Pacific side of Baja California Sur, in the town of Cabo San Lucas, Las Cabos, Mexico, there is a 5-Star Resort called Hacienda del Mar Vacation Club. At this resort, you can get a one-bedroom condo for 8 days and 7 nights, and you can spend your days and nights overlooking the Pacific Ocean. At Priceline, this package will cost $2088.38. At Travelocity, this same package will cost $1976.59. If you know where to shop, you can get the same one-bedroom condo for 8 days and 7 nights, for a mere $645.

Located on 600 acres in the greater San Diego, California area, Welk Resort San Diego offers unique accommodations in the form of vacation rentals with a variety of amenities and resort activities. You can get a one-bedroom villa suite in the most complete resort setting, which provides a golf course and a private theater. For an 8-day, 7-night package at Welk Resort, Expedia will charge $2064.43; Orbitz will charge you $2236.40, and Travelocity charges $2063. If you know where to shop, you can get this package for as little as $298.

In Conclusion

There is a little known secret that can literally save thousands of dollars on your next vacation, perhaps even step up the value you receive in exchange for your limited vacation dollars.

Gold Rings for Women – A Sentimental Gift Item

Gold is perhaps the most precious metal that is available today. It is a luxurious metal that only few can afford nowadays owing to the very high gold prices. Even though gold is such an expensive metal that only few people can afford, it really hasn’t been replaced by any other metal. People still seems to save up as much as they can when it comes to buying gold jewelry for themselves. Jewelry is very popular among ladies and it serves as a very good gift item as well. In this article we will be discussing the suitability of gold rings to be given as gifts to someone close to you and to someone who you feel is really special and important in your life.

When you have decided that you want to give gold ring as a gift, there are a few things you need to understand. First of all, there is not just the simple yellow gold from which gold rings are made. There is white gold and rose gold which can be chosen as well. Rose gold, we think, is a good choice for the ladies because it has a pinkish touch to it. It couldn’t be more suitable for any woman since the color pink is also associated with women. White gold on the other hand, is a metal that is commonly known as platinum as well. It has a very glossy shine and looks somewhat like silver, although both the metals are worlds apart.

Keeping in mind the purity of the gold rings for women is also important when selecting one as a gift to give away. Never choose a ring that has been gold-plated because once the plating comes off, the ring loses its shine and its glamour. If you cannot afford a gold ring, you could give away an older one or have a new one made from an older gold ring. Gold rings for women or any kind of gold jewelry for that matter, are never made out of pure 100% gold. Some other metal is always mixed with the gold to make its stronger. The carats that are mentioned on the ring give you an idea of how much gold has gone into making the ring. If you’re gifting a ring something above the 15 carat mark would do because the higher the carats, the more gold has been used in making the ring.

When you’re giving away gold rings for women, make sure you keep a check about the allergies that the lady you are giving the ring to, has. If they suffer from any allergies of gold, it’s best not to give them a gold ring. Perhaps something else would be more suitable. If you’re looking to make the ring more sentimental, you can also have the rings for women, custom-made. You can have a ring made according to your own design and have something of sentimental value engraved on the ring. It could be a date, a name or even a quote; whatever you think is suitable. If you want to spend extra dollars on the ring, you could even have stones fitted into or onto the ring. This will cost you more, but it will definitely add to the look of the ring. A beautiful ring, placed in a nice ring box is sure to lighten up any lady’s mood. Gold rings for women are the perfect gifts to give away if you can afford to give it.

Fast and Efficient Ways To Finding An Apartment In New York City

Searching for an apartment in the biggest City in the country is a daunting task; whether you are new to NYC or a 12 year veteran like me, you will need thick skin to navigate this concrete jungle! Let me start with my personal experience.

I am originally from Portland, OR, I moved to the Big Apple back in 1998. My first 5 months living in New York were spent living out of a hotel because I had a hard time finding a place. My original intentions were to stay at my hotel for 2 weeks, but I had to extend my stay since I grossly underestimated the difficulty of finding a decent apartment in New York. Now after 12 years and 7 moves I consider myself an expert in New York City apartment hunting and now I will share the knowledge I have accumulated over the years of searching for apartments by myself or using a broker.

This article is a guide that will help make the process of finding an apartment in this “crazy city” easier, more efficient and less confusing (it might even save you a couple of dollars in the process). It is all laid out in an easy to follow 6-step process.

Step 1: Figure Out What Neighborhood You Want To Live In!

This may seem like the easy part because you obviously want to be in an area that is convenient, trendy and safe, however you will soon figure out nothing is that easy in New York City. You need to determine what neighborhood fits your personality/life style and at the same time determine what kind of space/amenities you will need. For example you may work in the East Village and love the energy there but are you willing to pay the steep price tag for a “shoe box”(and by “shoe box” I mean a tiny apartment) in a run down building that is a 4th floor walk-up. Do you feel comfortable living in an area where it’s a constant party scene every night?

A book that is an amazing source of info for the ins & outs of every neighborhood is the NFT (Not For Tourist) guide of New York City. You can buy this in any Barns & Noble and make sure it is the most up to date version because there is a new version every year. Another great way of getting to know a neighborhood is by Googling it. With an endless source of information in cyber space why not take advantage of it. If you prefer doing it the old fashion way, taking a stroll through the neighborhood, go for it! But make sure you have your trusty NFT guide with you so you can spot the important things.

Step 2: Determine What You Are Willing To Sacrifice

In your apartment search you are going to have to sacrifice something whether it be size, location or amenities. You are going to have to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally because the grim reality is the perfect apartment doesn’t exist (unless you have an unlimited budget) The general rule of thumb in New York is the further uptown you go the bigger and cheaper the apartments will be. The further downtown you go the smaller and more expensive it will be.

You need to determine what is most important to you within your unique budget and find that middle ground. My advice, is if you find an apartment that is 70-80% ideal, take it, because the pickier you are the harder the search will be! I learned this the hard way a longtime ago and you do not want to get stuck chasing around that “magical apartment”. Yes, it is possible you might get lucky and find that perfect apartment but so is hitting the jackpot in the lottery!

Step 3: Determine What You Can Afford And If Your Budget Is Realistic

Once you have an idea of which neighborhoods you prefer to live in, now you have to determine if your a budget is realistic. Determine what is the average price for an apartment for those neighborhoods. How? I recommend going to a website called apartmenthero. This website will provide current market averages for every size apartment rental in every neighborhood in the city. Results are usually pretty accurate but sometimes they can be a little off, about plus or minus $300. When you first enter the site you will be prompted to enter information to compare your current apartment to the current market rate. If you’re a “newbie” and do not have an apartment yet, go to the right column of the website, click on “average rents in Manhattan”. Another great way is to do your own research on nytimes. I find that nytimes rental listings are much more accurate and up to date, as opposed to Craigslist and other sites where there are tons of bait & switch scams.

Next, determine what you can afford, landlord’s make this part easy because to qualify for most apartments in the Big Apple, you need to have a good credit standing (650 or above), earn a yearly household income of 40-50 times your monthly rent and if you don’t, then you need a guarantor. He or she needs to earn 80-100 times the monthly rent. For example the average one bedroom apartment in East Village is about $2,300 -$2,600 per month; you will need annual household income of $92,000 to qualify and a guarantor, would need a yearly income of $184,000 minimum.

Step 4: Timing Is EVERYTHING

I have a good friend whose ex-wife worked as a real estate agent for eight years. When they were still together, I had the unique opportunity of getting some great tips on how to look for an apartment in New York. The most impacting tip she gave me was that timing is everything. New York is unlike any city in the country when it comes to this, in most cities you generally start your apartment search two or sometimes three months before your move out date. In New York the market moves so fast that most landlords want to sign leases immediately after your application is accepted. At the very most, you have a month to search, the best deals generally come out the first week of the month or the third week of the month. Approximately 70% of the listings in the first week of the month are for movers moving on the 15th, 30% are meant for movers moving at the beginning of the next month.

Make sure you secure an apartment at least 1 1/2 week prior to when you want keys! My advice is you only need 5 days (sometimes less) to find an apartment. The first 2 days should be getting to know what’s out there, the 3rd and 4th day should be narrowing down your search and 5th day should be getting your paperwork together & submitting your application. With every rule there are exceptions, if you find an amazing place that is 95% ideal on your 3rd or 2nd day do not hesitate, take it! What is great to you is more then likely great to most apartment hunters. The vacancy rate in Manhattan is usually around 1-2% so there will be always more people looking for apartments then there are availability.

Step 5: Determine What Strategy You Will Use To Find Your “New Home”

This decision can make or break you depending on your situation. There are two ways to go about finding an apartment in New York City, you can do it the easy/expensive way and hire a broker to find you a place or you can do it the hard/affordable way by doing it yourself. I personally have done it both ways and it all depends on what you are looking for and what is your situation. Here are the benefits of both methods:

Benefits of doing it yourself

1) You will save MONEY!!!

-Broker fees are expensive; they range from 1-month rent to 15% of the annual rent. If the broker has an exclusive on the listing, you will likely have to pay 15%

2) You avoid shady money hungry brokers

-Lets face it in every industry there are bad apples and the real estate industry is no exception.

3) You will learn the City

-With all the walking you will be doing you will get to know the city better then you ever have before.

4) You’ll be in better shape when your done

-You will be in better cardiovascular shape because you will be walking a ton! So you better have on some comfortable sneakers.

Benefits of using a Broker

1) Faster and more efficient

-Your apartment search will be less time consuming and more efficient because brokers have access to thousands of listings you will never have access to and can show you a bunch in one shot.

2) Avoid outdated listings

-Websites like Craigslist, Renthop & Apartments.com are flawed and poorly regulated and most of their listings are barely updated. Brokers listings are updated daily because they have direct contact with the landlord

3) Brokers know what a landlord wants

-Each landlord in the city has their own preferences and application requirements. Brokers know what each landlord is looking for in a tenant; this can save you time, heartache and expensive application fees.

4) You will have access to more Apartments

-Approximately 41% of available listings in New York are only accessible through brokers. These types of listings are called “broker protected listings”, the land lord will only take applications represented by a broker.

Step 6: Here Are Some Great Tips

1) Talk to a Doorman

-If you do decide to try doing it yourself talking to doormen is a great way to find an apartment. Doormen not only have info to the building they are working in but to other buildings the landlord may own.

2) More is not always better

-If you do decide to use a broker, more than one broker at a time is not always better. Brokers have almost all the same listings because most listing are open. For example if you call ten brokers and give them your detailed description of what you are looking for there is a distinct possibility you will be shown the same apartments. At the same time you should not limit yourself and work with one broker, you might be missing out, because some brokers have exclusive listings. My advice is, you should only use three brokers and if you find one that you feel is competent and trustworthy, stick with him/her.

3) Use NakedApartments

-This website gives you the ability to not only look for rental listings while discreetly contacting brokers/landlords but you can give them a review if you had a bad or good experience. You can also look at the reviews of other brokers or landlords before you decide to contact them.

4) Don’t be afraid to negotiate a broker fee

-Most brokers would rather negotiate and get the deal done then risk having the next broker showing the apartment and rent it before him/her. Do not get carried away, no broker will take less then a month. Remember if the apartment is an exclusive listing you will have no leverage for negotiations.

Top Travel Trends in 2010

The holidays next year will be to a great extent affected by the economic recession most countries suffered this year. That however does not mean that people will not go on holiday, but that instead they will be more careful with how and on what they spend their money. Holiday makers will spend more time searching for great deals, such as exploring new travel destinations to find the best bargains and joining Online Travel Agencies (OTA) to gain good discounts. Below are some of the predicted top travel trends for the year 2010.

1 – Looking for budget options

Economical holidays will the key deciding factor this year, with holiday makers searching out the best budget details and discounts. Make sure when you plan your holiday this year, not to just go for what looks like the best rate, but hunt deeper for complementary give-aways, such as a free night’s stay on a multiple night stay, gift cards, spa credits, coupons and free dining etc.

2 – Eco Travel

Humans are slowly but steadily becoming more aware of their impact on nature. Think ‘green’ is the trend these days, with its effects being felt even by the travel industry. Most travelers look for Eco friendly holiday options, holidays that cause minimum damage to nature. Eco travel was born out of this need and is a continuing trend for 2010.

3- Mixing business with pleasure

The world is always on the go, with most travelers finding it more economical and viable to mix business with pleasure. Nowadays business travelers look for accommodation options that cater to all their business needs while providing leisure activities as well, so they can enjoy the best of both worlds.

4 – Latin adventure

Latin America is finding itself growing more and more popular with travelers as a luxury travel destination.

5 – Train Travel

Rail travel in Europe has grown popular, as this is an economical way of traveling while enjoying the wonderful scenery on the way. This has become even more popular with the new high speed rail links into Spain and Italy.

6- Going Mobile

With the growth of mobile applications and capabilities, it is now even easier to plan your travels, such as tracking flight information and planning itineraries. Mobile phones now play a very important role for travelers in helping them with their travel planning. They are used to receive information from travel agents etc and are fast proving to be invaluable to travelers.

7 – One platform for travel plans

With the busy schedules most of us have, it is easier to have one central platform from which to plan your travel details. This way you can keep track of everything happening in the travel industry, be up to date on the latest happenings and not just make one off purchases. The Internet offers strong travel centrist sites where such central services are offered, so that people can plan every aspect of their travels, from creating the trip, to searching for accommodation, getting advice about the intended trip, finding the best deals down to updating profiles so as to keep friends and family informed.

8 – Adventure Travel

The year 2010 will find people looking for holidays with more action. Most now look beyond the standard and look for adventure such as jumping out helicopters, skiing, safaris, bungee jumping as well as more personalized holidays with private tours of museums and art galleries. For the more adventurous a growing trend is to take a high-speed car tour around major cities!

9 – Seeking out new hot-spots

As with everything in this world trends change. As travelers expand their travel horizons, China, India and the Gulf States find themselves growing into the latest hot-spots. This trend will grow more in 2010 as travel to the ever popular European destinations at the moment for most, is not economical. So traveling to China, India and the Gulf States gives the traveler an exotic holiday while being easy on the purse, with favorable exchange rates and low travel costs.

What to Do When Planning a Charter Trip and Charter Bus Rental of a Motorcoach and/or School Bus

There are many things to consider when planning to rent a charter bus with a professional driver-whether it is a full-size motorcoach, a smaller coach bus, or a school bus. By the way, school bus charters are mostly rented out by the bus operators for strictly local charter trips. In any rate, I would like to outline a few important and essential things to consider and resolve before, during, and after renting a coach or a school bus from any bus rental company. These points to note come from the extensive experience working as a bus company operator and having made, as well as witness many clients make, many mistakes and blunders resulting in charter delays, bus/bus-driver scheduling errors, and other such inconveniences like having no-shows on the day of the charter trip. I realize along with our clients that any charter trip begins and ends with a functional and clean coach/school bus being driven by an enthused and punctual coach bus or school bus driver. There are, however, ways to ensure that all of the logistical fronts are covered for the clients to be satisfied with their chosen charter bus rental company and the bus operating company in turn to be happy with their clients. It all boils down to effective and efficient communication.

Firstly, the relationship between the client and the bus operator begins with the client requesting a charter trip quotation or a charter trip appraisal. There are many things that are taken into consideration before a bus rental company issues a quotation. For example, the season, month, day of the month, bus fleet availability, and the rates given by the 3 largest charter bus rental companies in the industry for a given date-just to name a few. At this stage, the client is strictly focused (like tunnel vision) on getting the best price for the best possible charter bus services. And they rightly should be; however, not at the cost of neglecting their focus on very simple but profound details. Such crucial, albeit simple, details include making sure to submit the exact and correct dates for the charter trip; provide the correct time of departure and arrival; and outline the itinerary details, like extra charter-trip destination stops. Once, these details are provided to the charter bus rental company, the bus operator issues a charter trip quotation with a trip-rate. The client is now at the stage of either accepting the charter bus rental company as their vendor or not. Once the charter bus company is chosen and the client confirms the booking of their respective charter bus (be it coach bus or school bus) a formal trip confirmation is issued by the charter bus rental company to the client.

At this stage, it is crucial to double-check all of the aforementioned “simple” charter trip details. Many times, clients get quoted for a different date than what the trip confirmation states. That is there is a discrepancy between the trip quotation and the trip confirmation. Any bus rental company ultimately goes by their trip confirmations when scheduling and finalizing their bus rentals and schedule. These trip confirmations are also signed by the client upon the finalization of their charter trip booking. In my personal experience, some clients end up not getting their charter bus arriving on the right date. This seems to be a ridiculous mishap and it is. But it all stems from neglecting to focus on the contracted details stated on the trip confirmation.

I plan to continue the series of articles focusing on such logistical details in order to help clients and operators to foresee and overcome such blunders and to ultimately provide a reliable and professional charter bus rental service to our community. Please stay tuned for future publications on how to rent a charter bus and, equally important, how to make sure that all the charter trip logistics are put in place.

Bus Travel Service – On the Rise After Decades of Decline

Brief History

After World War 2 the middle classes deserted bus travel in favor of travel by private automobile, and later by airliner. Just 10 years ago, affluent travelers saw buses as the last resort, a sign of desperation.

Rising Bus Travel 

Today most Americans travel by bus or plane when undertaking long distance travels. High gas prices have boosted bus travel after decades of decline. There are more, and more of briefcase carrying travelers venturing back to the bus, as other forms of travel are slumping. What does that tell us, traveling by bus is on the rise again

Travel Planning

The Bus systems often run on a schedule of some sort, which allow you to plan your travel agenda and book your tickets in advance. Popular routes have buses leaving every couple of hours, generally all day long plus at least two or three buses traveling overnight. Buses in route on long travel tend to make stops primarily in major cities and are very pleasant to travel in. If you’re traveling on weekends or during busy holiday times on popular routes, it is sensible to reserve tickets in advance.

Contribution Factors

The development of traveling by bus corresponds to increasing package tours that evolve every year. In 1983 the number of holiday travelers that participated in package tours was roughly 8.4 million, and has increased each year since then.

A bus requires less energy to operate per passenger mile than air travel, which allows very reasonable fares. No matter what bus route you end up on provides a mode of travel that allows you to view the countryside at leisure, not to mention many small towns between destinations you would otherwise not know existed.

Cities are now involved around the world to improve the benefits of bus travel while they address the issues that have traditionally set back buses effectiveness. For example adding dedicated bus lanes on highways among other plans cities are involved in. This has been great for bus travel systems both locally, and long travel, as they have been able to modify to better promote & serve customers. It allows travel agency’s to offer fewer stops, and take additional efficiency measures to add time saving technologies that make bus travel reliable, fast, and effective.

Other factors mostly influencing tourists’ preferences for bus travel are the good opportunity’s it provides for social interaction and its entertainment value. While traveling by bus you will be surrounded by all different types of people.

There is also a new awareness of our carbon footprint, which has just about affected every industry, in fact if it has not affected a specific industry yet, it will very soon. To that end fuel costs, combined with interest in traveling “Green” have played a big role in the increased interest in bus travel. It is clear the bus is a much greener form of transportation, and as riders return to buses, the old stigma of bus travel is evaporating.

Bus Budget Travel

For a nation that really enjoys there private automobile, they are seeing bus ticket prices that are to attractive to pass up. If you’re traveling independently on a budget, the bus will certainly be a lower cost choice. Don’t worry cheap tickets can still mean high quality bus travel.

A growing number of budget travelers are taking a close look, and noticing buses are an viable alternatives to flying. There are several bus passes available that give you unlimited travel within a given area. Seems they are so cheap, busing around specific regions should be a serious consideration for the budget traveler.

Bus Travel Training

Did you know there are even self-paced bus travel training programs for people who are interested to learn to travel independently using the regular bus system.

As you can see there is a lot of value in traveling by bus both financially, and for the quality of a trip.

Ten Essential Steps to Building Your Custom Hillside Home

Envision your dream home, perched atop the perfect mountain overlooking the vast landscape below. Feel the warm sun against your skin as you sip your morning coffee and watch the sky turn brilliant colors of red, orange and pink. With each new hour the scenery outside your window changes, an evolving canvas of light and color. A magnificent painting lay before you, a private masterpiece view able only from the window of your custom home.

A home in the mountains offers more than just beautiful landscapes and stunning sunset views. Hillside construction provides a sense of privacy and seclusion that many homeowners desire when considering their dream home. Far away from the hustle and bustle of the city life, a mountainside home can transform daily living into an oasis of tranquility. However, hillside construction has its own set of unique challenges. Follow these 10 steps to ensure your mountainside construction project is built without a hitch.

1. Hire a Local Builder Who Specializes in Mountainside Construction

Before you decide to build your dream home in the mountains, make sure that the new home builder you hire is experienced in hillside construction in your town. Each municipality has its own set of zoning regulations. It is best to find a home remodeling contractor that can provide actual photos and references from previous home builds in your area. A local contractor will understand the soil, topography and hydrology that is involved in your construction project and can guide you throughout the design process.

2. Choose The Location for Your New Home

One of the most important aspects of your custom home build is choosing the location. Mountainside building is environmentally sensitive and follows strict building regulations and zoning ordinances. Many factors influence the choice of location for your home. This includes the type of soil, drainage patterns and boulder formations. All proposed building sites should undergo a thorough analysis, identifying both challenges and opportunities before moving forward with the home design process.

3. Plan Your Home Design With The Natural Landscape

As said by the Father of Arizona building, Frank Lloyd Wright, “No house should ever be on any hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belonging to it, so hill and house could live together, each much happier for the other.” When designing your custom home, the placement of the building should be a key consideration. Some important factors to discuss with your home designer are the surrounding views, location of mature vegetation, angle of the sun and prevailing winds. Multi-story buildings should be stepped into the natural contours of the site to establish harmony with the natural landscape.

4. Use Building Materials That Enhance The Mountain

A well-designed mountainside home is a blend of nature and design. Your custom home build should enhance the beauty of the mountain, using colors, textures and materials that coordinate with the natural landscapes. Focus on muted colors that match the desert tones. Shiny metals and other reflective colors should be used minimally. Textured patterns are recommended on the building facade to increase light absorption and tinted windows will help to decrease heat gain. Using desert varnish on exposed rock will enhance the stone’s natural appearance.

5. Avoid Using Excessive Exterior Lighting

Preserve the beauty of the night skies by utilizing exterior lighting that accents and protects without eroding stargazing. Spotlights should be placed on timers or restricted to emergency situations only. Face accent lights towards the ground to decrease light pollution.

6. Protect the Natural Ecosystem in The Landscaping

Utilize native desert vegetation, boulders, and native rocks in your landscaping design. Native shrubs protect the soil surface from monsoon rains, promote water retention and infiltration and reduce erosion. The planting of mature trees will help to maintain the natural ecosystem functions, assisting in the establishment of seedlings, availability of nutrients and decomposition.

7. Choose a Driveway Location That Minimizes Grading

Driveway design should minimize mountainside scarring, and preserve the features of the landscape such as mature saguaros and boulder outcroppings. The slope of the driveway should be designed to meet local ordinances, using retainer walls and natural boulders to minimize the chance of erosion. Using pavers or exposed aggregate will reduce the disturbed area calculation for the driveway.

8. Strategically Place Windows Throughout Your Custom Home Design

Window placement is an important part of a mountainside home build. A properly designed home will utilize windows for natural light as well as beautiful scenery. During the architecture phase of your custom home remodel, make sure to notate the location of the trees, cacti or other interesting landscape elements. Windows are the perfect design accessories to bring the warmth of the mountain to the interior of the home.

9. Use Sustainable Building Designs in Your Construction

Solar power is recommended as a supplemental energy resource and for use in swimming pool systems. Rainwater harvesting systems can be integrated into the landscaping irrigation system, providing an environmentally friendly and sustainable water source for plants and trees.

10. Hire a Company Who Provides a Construction Warranty

Construction warranties provide more than just peace of mind. A warranty will protect you during your home remodeling or new home construction project, ensuring that your home is built to the specifications that were outlined in your contract. Choose a company that provides a minimum of a five-year warranty covering materials and labor.

Yellow Gold is So Last Year – Men's White Gold Rings Are All the Rage

White gold is produced when gold is alloyed with white metals like nickel or palladium. The purity of gold is measured in karats like the normal gold. The characteristics of white gold depend on the proportions of the metals used and their properties. When yellow gold is alloyed with nickel, the resulting white gold acquires the properties of nickel which is strong and hard. It is mostly used to make pins and rings. And when the yellow gold is alloyed with palladium then the resulting gold acquires the properties of palladium which is pliable and soft making it a better choice for setting gemstones.

Gold is used widely in making jewelry and ornaments ranging from rings, bracelets, chains etc. The men’s white gold rings are very rare and come in traditional designs. Most of the men’s rings are designed in yellow gold. But with good design and trendy models to white gold rings have picked up popularity. They are usually used in engagements and weddings. They are also available in combination’s with various birthstones. The yellow gold rings may be impressive but the rings have now come out to simplicity, sleekness and elegance. With broad and heavy designs and sturdy gems the rings are no longer a fashion for women but men too.

One must however be very careful in selecting the gems for the white gold rings, be it for women or if you are trying to buy the men’s white gold rings. The gems should match with the color and give a strong and contrasting look. Black, blue sapphires and green gemstones are the most demanded gemstones on white gold. The rings range from various models like flat wedding bands, sleeve rings, solitaire rings, trinity rings, cluster rings, eternity rings etc. an eternity ring usually symbolizes eternity with a partner, a promise ring is usually worn to remind oneself of the promises one has made, the engagement rings are worn to indicate that the person is engaged, a class ring is usually worn by the graduates of a class, a mothers ring is worn by mothers with the birthstone of each of her child. In this way the ring models come with huge significance and varieties.

The men’s gold rings are the preferred choice by women as the best gifts for their men. They could be gifted on valentines day, fathers day, graduation day, engagement day, marriage etc. but one must consider the style preference of the men being gifted. The ring that you like may not be liked by the man you selected for. So you must make note of the mans style and lifestyle. If a simple man is gifted a very stylish ring then it would not look much like a perfect gift. It is always wise that you see the simplicity and fashion tastes of the men. Gold reflects great simplicity and at the same time a contemporary style too.

Debts to Society and Crime Victims

In the twentieth century, the U.S. Supreme Court greatly developed criminal constitutional rights favoring the accused. A backlash ensued, and the campaign for victims’ rights followed. Advocates for crime victims supported increased incarceration by encouraging three-strikes habitual offender and mandatory sentence legislation. This was a good attempt to refocus upon people other than the offenders. Some believe victims’ rights went too far by putting too many people in prison. In actuality, victims’ rights did not go far enough. Prison labor to pay restitution is rarely allowed, required or encouraged by the laws, special interest groups and systems in place. The way to serve a determinate sentence (i.e. one for a set term of years) in prison is to wait. While prisoners kill time, prisons deprive most prisoners of a major part of life, namely work, while prisons also deprive victims and the state of the benefit of the prisoner’s labor. Convicts often walk out of prison with heavy debts for child support, court costs, legal representation and restitution, most of which they cannot discharge in bankruptcy. After release, restitution collection prospects turn dim. Most convicts never fully pay their debts to society, their victims or their own families.

The shallow statement we hear that ex-convicts have “paid their debt to society” is completely false and very misleading. All they’ve done is wait, age, sleep, eat, shower, obey, suffer, receive benefits and cost money. The words “paid their debt to society” are lip service to our failed correctional regimes. Prisoners have not worked for, honored or paid law-abiding folks. The “payment” they supposedly make does not help anyone, and in fact, it harms society. While in prison, prisoners are on expensive and comprehensive welfare that pays for everything they consume or need. Prisoners unfortunately believe they have “paid up” when their sentence is concluded. Prisoners deserve their punishment, but law-abiding citizens do not deserve the expense, collateral social costs, recidivism and weak deterrence value of prison. It’s time for law-abiding people to be paid in cash, not empty phrases. Part of a new movement should be the right of victims to receive the benefit of their guilty perpetrators’ labor.

To produce economically and generate a cash flow for their victims, prisoners must be allowed to work in private prison industries, operating freely in prison. Prisons made money in the 1800’s and sent their profits to the state legislatures. Over 100 years ago, free labor and businesses were afraid prisoners would put them out of work and business, so prison industries were suppressed with various laws. Under current laws, most prisoners can only make things for the state and there are not enough prison jobs to go around.

Today, most consumer goods are made overseas. Manufactured goods can now be made in the U.S.A. without harming, and actually helping, free American labor and businesses. If American laws were changed to permit vibrant prison industries, prisoners could earn money to compensate their victims and society. Then prisoners can truly pay their debts to society and to the victims of their crimes. Under equitable laws, crime victims should receive the benefit of their guilty perpetrators’ labor.

Five Reasons You'll Love Being a Traveling Nurse

In your wildest dreams, could you imagine a job where you get to practice your skills, travel the world, see exotic sites, explore distant cultures, and experience the thrill of adventure every single day? Maybe it sounds too good to be true, but this is the kind of lifestyle that a traveling nurse lives.

Obviously, the life of a travel nurse is not 24/7 tourism. There is work to be done, and difficult situations to face. Despite the challenges of the job, travel nurses experience a whole new level of intensity that a traditional nursing position could never offer. Here are the reasons you’ll love it.

You get to see the world. Is there really a job that lets you travel world? Yes, but there aren’t many of them. Travel caretakers may work in third-world countries, remote regions, or isolated mission hospitals. While many travel caretaker agencies only utilize nurses within the U.S. you may select an agency that sends nurses worldwide. Either way, you’re going to travel somewhere.

You get to experience new cultures. Each area of the country and each region of the world boast its own unique culture. When you move from point A to point B, you will be immersed in a new culture. Cross-cultural experiences are enriching opportunities, allowing you to increase both your personal and professional skills.

You experience variety. Are you the type of person that doesn’t like to be tied down to one place, one job, and one role? Becoming a travel caretaker will put you in a situation where variety is the name of the game.

You receive higher pay. Generally speaking, travel caretaker receive higher pay rates than traditional stationary nurses. There are, of course, a lot of variables that affect the salary issue, including experience, licensing level, area of service, etc. Usually, a travel nursing contract provides for your housing including utilities. In situations where the agency does not provide nursing housing, they usually provide a generous housing stipend.

You develop a strong resume. Employers love to see travel or international experience. You may remain a travel assistant for the remainder of your career, or you may wish to settle down and look for a stationary position. Whatever your choice, you are adding invaluable experience to your resume by traveling. Being a travel assistant is a wise career move in more ways than one.

Travel nursing isn’t for everyone. It comes with adventure. This is precisely the appeal of the job for many nurses. If you have a sense of adventure, being a traveling nurse is probably the right calling for you.