Archive for Hannah Freedman

Everything you need to know about using Babbel, a fun and flexible language-learning platform

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Many of us are looking for new ways to stay entertained at home, from baking bread and mixing up cocktails to taking up knitting and challenging puzzles

Learning a new language has many benefits, like improving cognition and memory. We recently wrote about the best cheap and free online resources to learn a new language, and Babbel was one of our top picks for its affordable language lessons and easy-to-use app. Babbel courses are tailored to your native tongue and interests, building on the grammar and vocabulary you already know, with programs created by experts and voiced by native speakers.

Even better, there's currently a sale celebrating 2021, and you can save up to 60% on a subscription. But before you dive into class, there are some key factors you'll want to know about and consider before deciding if Babbel is the right language learning tool for your goals.

What is Babbel?

Babbel is a language learning app that was developed in 2007 and among the first to pioneer online language learning. It currently offers 13 languages English speakers can learn including:

  • Spanish 
  • French
  • German
  • Italian 
  • Portuguese (Brazilian) 
  • Polish 
  • Russian
  • Dutch
  • Turkish
  • Danish
  • Norwegian
  • Swedish
  • Indonesian

Babbel 1

Babbel prides itself on turning to experts to create high-quality content, working with more than 150 linguists, language teachers, polyglots, editors, researchers, and instructional designers. It works on a subscription-based model and leads users through short daily lessons. You can customize your experience by choosing the level you're at, why you're interested in learning a new language, how many minutes you want to learn per day, and more.

However, it's extremely important to note that not every language course is the same, and some are far superior to others as far as the quality of the learning materials. Spanish, German, and French have the most robust and engaging programs, while other languages don't feel as comprehensive.

How to access Babbel

While Babbel is primarily an app you can download and use on your Android and iPhone devices, and you can also access lessons on your desktop computer. The app itself is free to download, though you will have to pay for the monthly subscription once you've created an account to access all the classes. You can also access all of Babbel's content offline through the app. 

To use Babbel on your computer, just visit and log in or sign up in the top right corner. You don't have to download any additional software and all you need is a reliable internet connection. You can also switch between using the app and using a computer as long as you're logged into the same account.

How Babbel works

You can customize Babbel to fit your specific needs by choosing how many minutes per day you want to learn (ranging from five minutes to over an hour), as well as by the level you're at. However, the classes are really best for new learners or those who want to brush up on their skills. If you are already an intermediate or advanced speaker, this might not be the right app for you.

The classes use a mixture of techniques to teach vocabulary and sentence structure, including quizzes, matching games, repeating phrases, audio lessons, and review sessions. Babbel also smartly uses real native speakers for all recordings instead of awkward computer voices for more authentic pronunciations. Some lessons include speech recognition to test users' pronunciation, too.

Babbel helps jumpstart learning by diving into key phrases beginners would need right away. For example, in part one of the first lesson of the Spanish language class, you learn standard greetings, as well as phrases like "I'm learning Spanish," "I don't understand," and "Can you repeat that?"

Babbel 2

However, surprisingly, not all of 13 language classes follow the same format. Course one of lesson one in Spanish uses a great mix of games and audio conversations to teach the most necessary beginner phrases in an engaging way. But the exact same course and lesson in Portuguese, for example, relies more on fill in the blank learning that feels harder to grasp right off the bat. And the same lesson in Danish is extremely short and also asks odd questions that don't have much to do with learning actual phrases, like having users guess how many native Dutch speakers there are.

Many users have noted that they find Spanish, French, and German to be the best languages worth the money on Babbel. I suggest trying out the short first lesson of a language you're interested in learning (which you can do for free) before committing to purchasing a subscription.

How much does Babbel cost?

You can try Lesson One: Course One for any language for free. After that, it's a subscription model with pricing that varies based on how many months you sign up for at a time. The best deal is a one-year subscription that starts at $6.95 per month, while one month starts at $12.95. Babbel also offers a 20-day money-back guarantee, so if you aren't happy after trying it out for a couple of weeks, you can receive a full refund.

Each language requires its own subscription, so if you want to learn multiple languages you will have to pay for each one.

Does Babbel have any deals?

Yes! Babbel is currently running a sale to celebrate 2021. Save up to 60% on Babbel's 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month subscriptions. 

Sign up and get 60% off a Babbel subscription here

The bottom line

For beginners and those looking to brush up on language skills, Babbel offers an affordable way to access engaging lessons in 13 different languages. The ability to choose how long daily sessions are and go at your own pace is ideal for flexibility. Additionally, the use of native speakers for all spoken content and the pronunciation checks for learners makes for a more authentic experience than some other online language learning programs.

However, not all the languages offered have the same thoughtful level of programming and instruction, despite all costing the same amount. This app is at its best for Spanish, German, and French learners. While the other languages offered still have decent instruction and learning opportunities, users may not find them as engaging or worth the price.

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19 last-minute Christmas gifts that will arrive by Christmas day and still feel thoughtful

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last-minute christmas gifts

If you happen to be a chronic procrastinator who is now scrambling to find the best Christmas gifts for all your loved ones, don't dismay just yet. While Christmas is just a few days away, there are still plenty of thoughtful gift ideas that will arrive on time.

Gift cards always make for great last-minute gifts since they can be purchased at any time and delivered to your recipient's inbox immediately. However, you may also want to consider signing up for a service like Amazon Prime if you don't have it already so you can take advantage of two-day shipping options. We've rounded up a wide range of last-minute gift ideas sure to please everyone on your list - all of which can be delivered in time for Christmas.

Here are the best last-minute Christmas gifts: 

An Amazon gift card
amazon gift card

Amazon gift card, from $25

For the person that feels impossible to shop for, an Amazon gift card gives them nearly endless options to peruse on their own time. From high-end kitchen items and stylish clothing options to the latest tech must-haves, it can all be conveniently found in one place on Amazon. Plus, they can even shop small businesses and handmade products.

Gift cards are available starting from $25 and you can have them delivered immediately via text or email with a personalized gift message.  

A grill for indoor use

Bella Smokeless Electric Grill from Amazon for $49.99

The Bella Smokeless Electric Grill will come in handy for grill masters who don't want to stand out in the cold this winter. Thanks to an electric heating element, it warms up fast and, as the name suggests, is smokeless. However, you'll still get those classic grill lines, and, maybe best of all, it's super easy to clean up after. 

Choose the fastest delivery option to get this item by December 24.

A gift card for wine lovers digital Gift Card gift card, from $25

Whether your giftee is a wine aficionado or just enjoys an occasional glass, a gift card for is sure to please. They feature the world's largest online wine selection and orders can be delivered directly to your doorstep or picked up at nearby local stores. Amounts range from $25 to $500. 

A gift card for an iconic meal
Goldbelly review

Goldbelly gift card, from $25

Foodies will certainly appreciate a gift card redeemable for top-notch cuisine. Goldbelly lets you send food gifts from iconic restaurants around the country. Options include biscuits from a famed shop in Savannah, classic bagels from New York, and more. Read more about how Goldbelly works here.

An ice cream sampler
last minute gifts ice cream sampler

"Ice Cream My Love For You" Collection by Harry & David, $69.99

Say I love you in a sweet way — like with a tasty premium ice cream assortment. Flavors in the sampler include Mint Cookie Crunch Ice Cream with Fudge Swirls, Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream, Chocolate Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks, and Cookies and Cream Ice Cream. This item is available for fast, two-day shipping.

A Disney streaming subscription
GettyImages 1225877439

Buy a Disney Plus gift subscription, $69.99

For the Disney fan in your life, there's perhaps no better gift than a year of Disney Plus. Whether they want to sing along to "Hamilton," indulge in some nostalgia and watch old Disney Channel original movies, or catch up on "The Mandalorian," they'll find it all on Disney Plus. They can access thousands of titles from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and 20th Century Fox. Here's everything to know about the streaming platform. 

Festive mini cupcakes
baked by melissa holiday cheer

Classic Merry Christmas Gift Box and Card from Baked by Melissa, $45

These bite-size delights come in festive flavors like Caramel Hot Cocoa and Snowcap. Plus, the cute box and included holiday card add to the overall presentation. Order today and pay $15 shipping for the cupcakes to arrive by December 24, or opt for expedited shipping at $25 and receive within two days.

A subscription for freshly roasted whole bean, single-origin coffees

Driftaway Coffee Subscription, 3-Months, from $44

For the person in your life who's on their third cup of the day by mid-morning, a subscription to Brooklyn startup's beans makes for a thoughtful and personal last-minute gift. Driftaway sends freshly roasted, single-origin coffees from around the world right to their doorstep. You can choose from whole bean, ground, cold brew bags, or a mystery kit.

A gift card to add a little greenery
the sill store
An employee working at The Sill in New York City before the pandemic.

The Sill gift card, from $25

Know someone with a green thumb? Brighten up their home this season with a gift card that allows them to pick out plants delivered to their door. The Sill offers a wide range of options from easy-to-care-for succulents to decorative orchids in chic pots to large fiddle leaf figs.

If you prefer to send them an actual plant in lieu of a gift card, it won't arrive in time for Christmas, but you can opt to add an instant gift message that will be sent via email letting them know their plant is on the way.

A candle that smells like a favorite place
homesick 9584_0006_ny_2000x

Homesick Candle from Uncommon Goods, $34

Bring back the aroma of a favorite place with a candle that smells of a specific state. For example, Florida has notes of citrus, bergamot, and vanilla, while Michigan will send sweet scents of baked apples, puff pastry, cypress, cinnamon, and nutmeg wafting through the air. Opt for two-day shipping at check-out to get it by Christmas.

A subscription for bookworms
Book of the Month subscription

Book of the Month, Three Months, $49.99

For the bibliophile on your list, give them the gift of surprising and engaging reads with a subscription to Book of the Month. It's been in existence since 1926 and gets extra points  for being credited with the discovery of famous titles like "Gone with the Wind." A team of experts curate new releases, hot topics, debut authors, and more and send them to the subscriber's home.

Their favorite spirit delivered

Drizly, from $8.99

Gift them a favorite bottle of wine, a premium alcohol, or even a pack of White Claws. Drizly offers same-day delivery and is available in most major cities and areas nationwide. You can sort by price range or look through suggested gift options by type of recipient to find the best option.

A handy portable battery pack
last-minute gifts Eleject

Elecjet PowerPie, available at Amazon, $49

Give friends and loved ones the ability to always be connected and charged up, even on-the-go. A portable battery pack will certainly come in handy on their next work trip, or even just for keeping in their purse to have at the ready. We even ranked this the best battery pack you can buy because of its capacity, charging speed, and affordability.

Order today and choose the fastest delivery option to receive by December 24.

A gift card for easy, healthy meals
Daily Harvest 1 (1)

Daily Harvest gift card, from $50

Daily Harvest is a newer meal delivery startup that makes healthy fast food. And when we say fast, we mean meals that take as little as 30 seconds to prepare. As an added bonus, meals are under $10 each, and designed by a chef and nutritionist team so they're both tasty and nutritious. You can read more about Daily Harvest here

A subscription for freshly delivered flowers
bouqs flowers

The Bouqs Co. flower subscription, from $36 per shipment

Up your gift-giving game this holiday season by giving not just one bouquet, but recurring blooms sent to their home on a regular basis at the rate of your choosing — weekly, every two weeks, monthly, or every two months. Choose from fresh stems from farmers' markets, classic rose arrangements, and more. 

A new set of mixing bowls
Oxo Good Grips Bowls

OXO Good Grips Mixing Set, $27.99, available at Amazon

For your favorite home chef, a set of dishwasher-safe mixing bowls is a must-have item. With non-skid bottoms, rubber grip handles, and pouring spots, these colorful bowls are great for whipping up meals. Opt for fastest delivery at check-out to receive by December 24.

A gift card for endless tunes
Spotify Gift Card

Send a gift card or subscription to SpotifyAmazon Music Unlimited, or Apple Music

Who doesn't love rocking out at home, listening to motivational jams at the gym, cranking tunes in the car, or having some backup for shower karaoke? Whether they already have a go-to music streaming service or are just getting started, a free month of on-demand music makes for a thoughtful last-minute option.

A subscription for anyone who loves their pooch

BarkBox subscription, starting at $35

Dog parents will love a BarkBox subscription to receive treats and toys for their four-legged family members. To give it as a gift, quickly enter the name of their pup and its general size (small, medium, or large), and select options of one-, three-, six-, or 12-month subscriptions. You can send a box to their house or purchase a digital gift card to be delivered via email right away.

A speaker to get them started on a smart home
Amazon Echo Dot 2020

Amazon Echo Dot, available at Best Buy $29.99

The new Echo Dot is an ideal last-minute gift that feels high-end but is actually relatively affordable. Recipients will love talking to Alexa and playing games, music, or getting basic questions answered. In many areas, this item is available from Best Buy for same-day or one-day delivery. Or, you can opt to curbside pick-up if your local store has it. 

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19 stores that offer gift-wrapping services during the 2020 holiday season for free or a low fee

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Wrapping Paper

Christmas is next week and, this year, the holidays will likely be a little different for many people due to the ongoing pandemic. Because of safety concerns, some families and friends may be spending the holidays apart. That means more gifts will probably be shipped to recipients instead of being given in person. But that doesn't mean you can't still make the season and the gifts you exchange extra special. 

One way to do so is to consider the packaging when gift-giving. Thanks to stores that will gift wrap orders for you, you don't have to spend hours cutting yards of sparkly paper or trying to get the ribbon to curl just so. Getting an order professionally gift wrapped with a beautiful box or a shiny bow is an easy way to up your gifting game. 

Additionally, since choosing the perfect item or size for someone else can be a challenge, consider shopping at stores that offer free returns or browsing through the 200+ stores with holiday sales going on now. Here's a list of stores that offer gift wrap options, listed in alphabetical order.   

Get gift-wrapping services for free or a small fee at these stores: 

  1. Amazon: While not available for every single item, gift wrapping is an option for most products found on Amazon. Gift wrapping includes a box, decorative ribbon, and a printed card with a gift message. Prices vary depending on the nature of the item.
  2. Apple: Gift wrapping is available for select orders placed online either for delivery or pickup. When an eligible product is added to your bag, a checkbox comes up automatically with the option to select "This is a gift." Apple Gift Package includes a signature gift box with a red ribbon and a greeting card with your personal message. Costs for full gift wrapping vary, but adding a gift message is free.
  3. Barnes & Noble: Nearly all in-store and online purchases from Barnes & Noble can be gift wrapped. A gift message is free to add, while full wrapping with a box and ribbon costs $4.99.  
  4. Bed Bath & Beyond: Many Bed Bath & Beyond stores have a station where you can gift wrap a package for free, complete with wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon. Online orders can be gift wrapped starting at $5.99 per order.
  5. Best Buy: Best Buy doesn't offer any true gift wrapping options. However, they will email the gift recipient a personalized message once the gift has been delivered for free. Additionally, Best Buy branded gift boxes can be purchased for $4.99.
  6. Buy Buy Baby: Most Buy Buy Baby stores have a free gift wrapping station in stores with all the essentials like tape, wrapping paper, and ribbon. However, they do not have a gift wrap option for online orders. 
  7. Crate & Barrel: Gifts can be placed in simple black and white boxes with branded ribbons for $5.50 per box. Certain items do not qualify for gift boxing, including Outlet, oversized and heavy items. A gift message can be included for all items for free.
  8. Lands' End: Most online Lands' End purchases can come in cute branded boxes with ribbons by simply selecting the "Gift Box" option at checkout. Personalized gift messages can also be added.
  9. L'Occitane: While L'Occitane won't do all the work for you, you can choose to add a Signature Gift Box Kit with your purchase at checkout so you can easily wrap the gift yourself at your convenience. The kit includes a gift box, tissue paper, and a ribbon for $4.99.
  10. MAC Cosmetics: MAC provides branded gift boxes starting at $4.95. They also have what they call "digitally wrapped gifts" that makes gifting makeup and skincare products especially easy. The recipient will receive a notification about the gift via text or email. They can then easily accept the gift, swap the shade, or even choose a different product of the same price and decide when it will be delivered to their doorstep.
  11. Macy's: A free gift message can be included with any purchase for free. Most purchases can also be sent in a gift box for $6.00 per order, though oversized items may not be eligible.
  12. Neiman Marcus: You can select a gift wrap option during online checkout for $7.50. Gifts come in a pretty silver box with a bow, a personalized gift message, and a gift-tag ornament. 
  13. Nordstrom: In addition to free standard shipping and free returns, Nordstrom also offers free gift wrapping on orders, making holiday gifting extra easy.
  14. Pottery Barn: Both in-person and online orders can be gift wrapped by Pottery Barn. However, the fee for the service is higher than at many other stores, costing $8.50 per item. As an added personal touch, you can also get many of their products personalized with a monogram for $12.00 per item.
  15. Sephora: At checkout, Sephora shoppers can opt for gift wrapping services. A simple black bag with a red drawstring costs $3.00, while a Sephora-branded gift box runs $5.00. You can also add a gift message for free. 
  16. Sur la Table: Gift wrapping is available for most items at Sur la Table. During the online checkout process, you can designate the items that you want gift wrapped or choose to add a free gift message. Gift wrapping costs $5.99 per item.
  17. Target: Gift wrap is available for most Target items for a flat rate of $5.99. If you buy multiple quantities of the same item, the items will be wrapped together for the same flat rate. Gift wrap styles and colors change often, but the styles generally include gift boxes or bags of various sizes in the classic red and white Target colors with the bullseye design. 
  18. Ulta: The beauty giant offers special holiday gift boxes for orders during December. Choose a gift option during checkout for $3.95.
  19. Williams-Sonoma: For online orders, gift wrap is available that includes the brand's signature white paper and a black ribbon. The service is rather pricey at $8.50 per item, and each line item in your shopping cart is wrapped separately, with the exception of multiples of products. A gift message can be included for free.

Get inspiration from these great holiday gift guides:

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31 travel gifts for the jet-setter that can be used now or for future vacations

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best gifts for travelers

  • Due to the ongoing pandemic, many travel plans continue to be upended or postponed.
  • However, we still found plenty of gifts the jet-setter in your life will appreciate, whether they plan to use them right away or for future vacations.
  • We curated a range of travel gifts to suit all budgets and tastes, from totes and carry-ons to camera lens kits and national park passes.
  • Find more great gift ideas for everyone on your list here.

The holiday season is just around the corner, and if you're still wondering what to get the wanderlusting adventurer in your life, we have options. 

Due to the ongoing pandemic, many travel plans have been put on hold or rescheduled, while some have sought closer-to-home road trips for now. With that in mind, many of the gifts on our list can be used now for quick domestic getaways, or used on future far-flung adventures when the time feels right. Plus, giving a travel-inspired gift can help give recipients something exciting to look forward to after what has been a very tough year.

Additionally, we've considered a variety of budgets and curated a list that ranges from an RFID wallet to protect valuables while out and about for under $10 to an easy-to-pack Nikon camera to capture travel memories for those looking to splurge.  

Here are 31 of the best gifts for travelers:

See all of the best hotel gift cards available here

See all the best language-learning services you can gift here

Read our guide to all the best carry-on options here

See more great hotel-branded products for the home here

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Lululemon’s Cyber Monday sale includes big discounts on popular items like Wunder Under leggings, running shorts, sports bras, and more

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Cyber Monday 2020 is here, and Lululemon is among the brands currently offering huge discounts. Lululemon has accrued a cult-like following over the years for its truly excellent workout and athleisure clothing, and I happen to be one of its devoted fans.

I have yet to buy something from the brand that I haven't ended up wearing for years. The leggings, in particular, have stood the test of time. I have pairs that I've been wearing for upwards of 10 years now, and despite countless workouts and numerous cycles through the washing machine, they haven't pilled, become see-through, or lost their stretch or hold, which makes them well worth the initial investment in my book. I've tried numerous other brands over the years, but continue to return to Lululemon for the quality and durability of its styles.

Still, even for me, it can be hard to pull the trigger on a new workout set that costs upwards of $100. While Lululemon does occasionally have sales, it's not often that its most popular products are offered at a significant discount, making its Cyber Monday sale the ideal time to get its gear at a much more affordable price (especially if you're shopping for gifts). 

Find the best Cyber Monday deals currently happening on Lululemon products below, or check out more curated style deals from our roundup of the best things to buy during Nordstrom's Cyber Monday sale. You can also check out the best Cyber Monday deals right now.

The best Lululemon Cyber Monday 2020 deals:

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Cole Haan’s Cyber Monday sale has discounts up to 70% — we found sneakers, pumps, oxfords, and more for under $50

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Cole Haan

As part of Cyber Monday 2020, Cole Haan is already offering big savings on shoes from classic white sneakers to elegant oxfords and boots for both men and women. The brand itself currently has a sale on its website, and you can find additional deals at big retailers like Macy's and Nordstrom.  

Known for high-quality and durable footwear, I've personally owned a pair of white Cole Haan sneakers for two years (which is a lifetime in the white sneaker world), and my fiance has the sturdy ZERØGRAND Hiker Boots found below, which he adores and has worn everywhere from his office in New York City to the snowy streets of Germany on vacation.

You can find styles for up to 70% off, with many pairs even coming in under $50, offering serious value. Plus, right now you can get an extra 10% off most shoes on the Cole Haan website using code THEBEST. And while Cole Haan is best known for shoes, the brand also makes clothes and there are good deals to be found on outerwear right now, too. Shop our favorite Cole Haan deals below and find more great Cyber Monday style deals here.

The best Cole Haan Cyber Monday 2020 deals currently happening:

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The best Black Friday luggage deals, including up to 60% off Tumi, Briggs & Riley, Travelpro, and Away

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best black friday luggage deals

Black Friday 2020 is in full swing, and with it comes steep discounts on luggage. Some brands, like the popular travel startup Away, are offering their own sales, while other suitcases can be found at huge discounts through retailers like Nordstrom and Macy's

While you can score a high-quality suitcase for under $100 right now, including our pick for the best overall hard-sided carry-on, some of the best savings can be found on high-end brands like Tumi and Briggs & Riley. These bags are no doubt a pricey upfront cost, but their premium materials ensure they'll likely last a lifetime. And at over 50% off, they offer serious value right now. 

While you may not be jetting off right now due to COVID-19, snagging top-notch luggage at a low price is still a worthy investment for future travels. Plus, these luggage staples also make for excellent gifts. 

The best Black Friday 2020 luggage deals:

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Away is offering luggage bundles for discounts of up to $125 as part of its first-ever Black Friday sale

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AWAY Luggage Brief Gear Patrol Lead Full

Away is a luggage and travel accessory brand popular with millennials thanks to its chic, hard-sided suitcases that feature removable, TSA-compliant battery packs for charging phones on the go. You've likely seen at least one of your favorite influencers sporting one of these bags in an eye-catching color like Cherry, Blush, or Nightfall Ombre.

I've personally owned an Away luggage set for over six years and found that, overall, the bags have held up remarkably well. With carry-ons typically starting at $225, an Away bag is certainly an investment.

Away has only ever had one sale in the company's history, so it's not often that you find its luggage discounted. However, for Black Friday 2020 the company has opted to offer luggage bundles up to $125 off full price. Sets range from offering multiple bags and packing cubes to simple travel accessory sets.  

The best Black Friday Away luggage deals:

Find more great early Black Friday deals by store:

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I used Tentrr to book a private, secluded glampsite for a remote getaway — here’s how the platform works and why I’ll gladly be using it again

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Tentrr Site

Due to the pandemic, camping has skyrocketed in popularity since it presents a relatively safe way to vacation. However, not everyone knows how to (or enjoys) pitching their own tent and sleeping on the ground. Additionally, as camping has increased in popularity, campsites have become increasingly booked up and crowded, which defeats the entire purpose of a secluded getaway in nature. 

Tentrr is a booking site that connects vacationers with private land owners for an upgraded camping experience. Campsites are generally on acres of private land for a truly immersive experience, and users can opt for campsites that come with canvas tents or cabins and true beds for a slightly more luxurious night's rest.  

What is Tentrr?

Most Tentrr campsites fall somewhere between camping and glamping. While the campsites aren't as luxurious as top glamping destinations, they're firmly a step up from pitching your own tent and sleeping on the ground.

Each spot comes with either a thick canvas tent that's already set up, or a small cabin. All sites have a Queen-size bed inside with the basics ready to go, and many have extras you can add on for a low fee, such as firewood and fire starters if you don't want to pack your own. But you'll still largely be roughing it in the outdoors and you'll need to pack and cook all your own food.

What truly sets Tentrr apart is the fact that it exclusively connects campers with private landowners and State Park grounds for a far more secluded stay than typical campgrounds. Forget parking your car amidst hundreds of other campers and pitching your tent within earshot of that other family's crying kids — most Tentrr sites are secluded on 10 acres of land or more, making them ideal both for social distancing and for truly immersing yourself in nature. 

tentrr veiw

The service also offers a smaller selection of backcountry sites that are closer to traditional camping. At these sites, campers bring all their own equipment, but can still enjoy a more secluded setup.

Tentrr is a four-season company and when searching for sites, they have an icon designating those that are "winter-ready" and that come with cozy winter extras to ensure you'll be nice and toasty even in the snow. Campsites specifically designated as winter sites include insulated tent flies and flooring, along with propane heaters and, generally, extra blankets.

How much is Tentrr?

The cost of Tentrr varies depending on the type of campsite you choose and the season. Backcountry campsites with no equipment start as low as $35, while signature sites with tents or cabins start from around $125. Generally, signature campsites start in the low to mid $100s.

The very best signature campsites can cost upwards of $300 on weekends in the summer high season but even these drop closer to $190 in the fall and winter. While that might sound pricey for a bed in a canvas tent, it does allow novice campers to avoid having to invest in their own equipment. For others, the price of total seclusion, especially amidst the pandemic, is more than worth it.

Where does Tentrr have campsites?

Tentrr currently includes listings in 41 states, plus Puerto Rico. You can filter campsites by Signature or Backcountry listings depending on whether you prefer roughing it or more of an upscale experience. Signature sites include canvas tents or cabins with simple beds set up inside. Backcountry sites are more traditional campsites where you bring your own equipment, but are still in a secluded area without other campers around.

My experience with Tentrr

Waterfall Paradise, Walking Distance to River Cabin

Like many travelers, my lofty vacation goals for the year were abruptly put on hold due to the pandemic. After several months spent self-isolating, I was longing for an outdoor escape but still had safety as a main priority. I grew up camping with my family in New Mexico, but haven't done as much of it since moving to the East Coast. However, camping felt like a relatively safe way to enjoy a short getaway.

My first venture out was to a campground near a beach on Long Island with rented camping equipment. However, when a nearby car alarm went off at 3 a.m. followed by someone accidentally turning on their headlights right into our tent, I knew crowded campgrounds were not the peaceful commune with nature I was dreaming of. 

So, when I first learned about Tentrr I lept at the chance to stay in a secluded spot. My fiance, who is a novice camper, was thrilled by the idea of not needing to pitch our own tent and having a slightly comfier stay. I did a quick search for fully-equipped campsites within easy driving distance of New York and was drawn to the checkbox that let me search by those by a river or stream. When I saw a site that was called "Waterfall Paradise, Walking Distance to River," I was sold. It came with a small cabin, a fire pit, and was set directly next to a peaceful stream.

We arrived in the afternoon after following the driving instructions we'd been sent and drove down a long dirt road past a small house and into a wooded clearing with a yellow sign marked "Tentrr" nailed to a tree. The cabin came into view and we parked right next to it. While the campsite was actually just a short drive from the small town of Port Jervis, it felt like we were a world away immediately.

Fresh air filled my lungs and the forest symphony of the stream and small waterfall was the only audible noise. The tiny wood cabin was minimalist but extremely cozy. The bed came with linens and a colorful blanket for added warmth. There was a tiny wood-burning stove in the corner (which proved very necessary once the sun went down), as well as two kerosene lanterns on either side of the bed. The ceiling was made of a thick, see-through plastic so I could gaze up at the trees or night sky from bed.

There was also a little porch with two Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, a picnic table, and a wooden platform built right over the waterfall with a table made out of a tree and an umbrella. A sink for washing up was just across the river and there was a simple shower set up right at the river for the ultimate outdoor bathing experience. The listing was not exaggerating when it called this spot "paradise."

Our hosts, who lived in the small house we passed on our way in, left us a nice note explaining where everything was, plus their phone number in case we needed anything. Cell service, however, was mostly non-existent, making that a challenge if we actually did need something.

Waterfall at tentrr Site

We followed a map our hosts left for us to a large waterfall just a short 10-minute walk away. The entire area was stunning and we had it all to ourselves — a serious treat for city dwellers. 

Because we were only staying for one night, we didn't do much cooking and instead brought on-the-go meals and snacks. However, we ate them at the picnic table while enjoying the scenery and even built a fire in the fire pit to keep warm and roast some marshmallows.

At sunset, I walked to a nearby field and found a family of deer nibbling on the tall grass, truly making for a fairytale experience. The night was perfectly capped off when solar-powered twinkle lights on a few of the trees slowly began to turn on, adding to the enchanting setting. 

Tentrr review inside cabin

We did run into a brief issue trying to light the kerosene lanterns, as neither of us had ever done this before and there were no instructions, but eventually we figured it out. The wood-burning stove and extra blanket proved extremely useful since it did get cold but when I woke up the next morning, all I wanted to do was stay longer. 

The bottom line

While Tentrr is certainly more expensive than traditional campgrounds, it's on par with or less expensive than many glamping sites. For those seeking secluded stays, an upgrade from a sleeping bag, or novice campers who just want to experience an outdoor escape without needing to bring major equipment, Tentrr is an ideal option. 

For those looking to save on costs or who already own all their own gear and prefer the typical camping experience, Tentrr's backcountry sites still provide an alluring and peaceful alternative to crowded campgrounds. For me, camping is really about reconnecting with nature, and the private campsites truly achieve this regardless of if you opt to stay in a traditional tent, a canvas tent, or a small cabin. 

However, I found the fully-equipped campsite to be well worth the cost during my stay. My waterfall campsite was nothing short of magical, and I'm already planning on booking another stay. In an undoubtedly taxing year, escaping for even one night with Tentrr was a true highlight.         

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I’ve been using the Samsonite Centric suitcase for several years, and it has all the qualities you need in a solid carry-on bag

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A solid and reliable carry-on is an essential piece of luggage for any traveler. Key factors that make a carry-on suitcase standout are size, weight, durability, and how easy it is to pack. As a travel editor, I've tested numerous carry-ons over the years, including for our guide to the best carry-on suitcases

The Samsonite Centric 20" Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels beat out the competition and is my top overall pick as the best hard-side carry-on bag you can buy. I've used this suitcase on trips ranging from lengthy international vacations to quick weekend getaways and found that it excels when it comes to function, durability, and ease of use. Plus, it comes in at an excellent price point for the quality. After several years of use, this suitcase continues to impress me.

Design and specs

The most important factor when it comes to a carry-on is that it fits in an airplane's overhead bin. After all, if you get to your seat and discover that your bag won't fit, the whole point of packing a carry-on has been defeated. 

While this bag is specifically noted as being 20 inches in height, it's important to understand that measurement actually refers to interior packable space. The overall height of the exterior of the bag actually comes in at 22 inches, including the wheels, when I measured it. Luckily, this is still well within the FAA sizing regulations and, in my experience, this bag easily fits on nearly all international and domestic flights, with the exception of tiny jumper planes. 

The hard-side suitcase is made out of high-quality polycarbonate. The twill texture is scratch- and scuff-resistant with a slightly shiny finish. This bag weighs 7.5 pounds, which is pretty average in terms of carry-ons and it's easy enough to lift into overhead bins. Standout details also include rubberized grip under the top and side handles for extra comfort when lifting the bag, smooth silver zippers that are easy to grip and pull, and a TSA-approved lock.

The four multi-directional wheels are also excellent. They are quiet and the suitcase rolls in front of you, beside you, or behind you on almost any surface easily. However, they are not as functional on thick carpet as some of the best wheels I've tested on other bags. That said, I haven't come across too many instances during my travels when I actually needed to pull the bag on thick carpet, so that has not been a significant issue.  

The Samsonite Centric Hardside carry-on is available in three colors: black, orange, and teal.

samsonite centric hardside luggage review zipper

What it's like to use

I've been using the Samsonite Centric Hardside Carry-On for several years, and its best quality is how well it has held up over that time. While there are a few scuff marks visible if you really get up close to inspect the bag, they are minimal. There are no serious scratches or dents to speak of and from afar, the bag still looks practically new.

As previously mentioned, the wheels are a breeze on most surfaces and make the suitcase very easy to roll on and off the plane and through crowded airports. The adjustable handle is a good height, but it does wobble a decent amount and could be sturdier. 

While 20 inches of interior space may not sound like a lot, I've been able to easily pack a week's worth of clothes in this carry-on for longer trips. The interiors don't offer any fancy perks, but the mesh zipper pocket and strong buckles are sufficient for securing clothes, shoes, and packing cubes in place. The handle poles do take up some space on one side of the bag, which can make laying clothes totally flat a challenge. However, if you pack smartly you can build yourself a base with smaller items and lay additional clothes flat on top of that.  I like to pack shoes and items that need extra securing on the side with the mesh zipper, and bulkier items like sweaters on the opposite side so I can pull the buckles tight to help compress them.

This suitcase also has the option to expand by unzipping extra zippers on the outside. While I don't recommend using the expandable option if you know you'll be on smaller planes, I do like the versatility it allows. I've used the expandable option on longer international and cross-country flights when I know the overhead bins will easily accommodate the bag even at a slightly larger width. It is also a nice feature for travelers like me who tend to always pick up a souvenir or two and need extra room for them on the trip home.    

samsonite centric hardside luggage review interior

What makes the Samsonite Centric Hardside carry-on stand out

The value of this bag is what really sets it apart. The materials are of good quality and highly durable and will last for years. While many high-end suitcases easily come in closer to $300 or more, this suitcase starts around $150 and frequently can be found on sale for under $100, making it an excellent value.

While this suitcase doesn't come with many bells and whistles, it has everything you need for a good, sturdy carry-on and comes in at the right price.

The cons

The biggest downside of the Samsonite Centric is the adjustable handle. While it's held up fine over the past few years, it is very wobbly and much less sturdy when compared to the handles of other high-end suitcases.

This carry-on is also a pretty standard weight at 7.5 pounds. While it hasn't been an issue for me, if you have trouble lifting carry-ons or tend to overpack and worry about every last ounce for the weigh-in required on some flights, you may be better suited to a lightweight carry-on option. 

This suitcase is also fairly bare-bones and doesn't come with any extras like a USB port or extra interior organizers. 

The bottom line

There are seemingly endless options when it comes to carry-on suitcases, and undoubtedly there are other hard-side options on the market worth considering, including the Rimowa Essential Lite ($490), the Away Carry-On ($225), and the Tumi International Carry-On ($750). However, as you'll notice, nearly all of those will cost you significantly more. If you're looking for a suitcase that will last a lifetime or that comes with lots of extras, these suitcases might better suit your needs. 

But for a quality bag that is durable and will last you several years without breaking the bank, the Samsonite Centric 20" Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels is tough to beat. This suitcase has all the qualities you need in a solid carry-on, including plenty of packing space, a durable and scratch-resistant shell, excellent multi-directional wheels, an expansion option, and the right dimensions to fit in almost any overhead bin. 

Pros: Excellent price for the quality, durable, scratch-resistant, wheels easily, expandable

Cons: Handle wiggles a decent amount when fully extended, slightly heavier than other options available 

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