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Beach-bound? Head to these best beaches on the west coast

Hanging 10 in Hawaii? Settling along the California coast? If the West is your destination this summer, don't miss a day at one of these fabulous west coast beaches. Not only are they free, they offer plenty to do if a day in the sand gets dull (although, we can't imagine it would)!

Kaanapali Beach - Maui – West Maui's Ka'anapali Beach is undoubtedly is easily accessible by a concrete path. Here you'll find Black Rock, along with some of the best snorkeling on the island. Entering right from the wide stretch of golden sand, you will be transported into an underwater world teeming with tropical fishes, a turtle or two, and if you are lucky you'll spot a few eagle rays. At sunset, you are treated to a free torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony right off Black Rock.

Makena Beach (Big Beach) – Maui – South Maui's Makena Beach is a State Park, meaning there is no man-made development. Visitors concentrate on body surfing, snorkeling, or enjoying a picnic with the views of islet, Molokini, in the distance. There are no resorts nearby so there is often ample parking.

Poipu Beach – Kauai – Unlike most beaches in Maui which can get quite rough for timid swimmers, Poipu Beach's protected area is a great option for beginner swimmers and snorkelers. With lifeguards on duty everyday and a relatively calm environment, it is considered one of the safest beaches in Hawaii.

Lanikai Beach – Oahu – Bypass the more famous Waikiki Beach for the more secluded and postcard-perfect Lanikai Beach. Divers and snorkelers alike will find delight in the reefs. As the sun sets, you could almost swear that Don Ho is strumming his ukulele in the distance.

Collect hotel toiletries - Souvenir tip

It may seem strange, but something as simple as some hotel toiletries can be the best souvenir.

I still have my Mickey Mouse soap from the Old Key West Resort in Disney World, monoi oil from the Sheraton at Tahiti, and love using the spa quality Honey Mango Body Lotion from the Grand Wailea in Maui.

You don't have to feel like you're stealing as hotels want you to take those toiletries in your room, so you'll remember the great time you had at their hotel. Plus, you paid for it in your room rate.

Carry cash for the country you're going TO - International travel tip

When traveling abroad, get at least a small amount of foreign currency for tips and other unexpected cash expenses before leaving the airport or crossing the border. Although many countries in Europe are now using the Euro, there are still some that are not.

Imagine our panic when we drove across the border from Switzerland -- where we had been using Francs -- and hit a toll in Italy before we got a chance to find an ATM for Euros. Luckily, there was an option to charge our 1 Euro toll, but other countries may not have that option.

[Ed's note: this is a great way for train conductors on cross-border trains in Africa to earn extra money. The second you cross the border, the currency of the old country is no longer valid, and the trains will only accept currency from the new country. Changing money right at the border offers very poor exchange rates. Therefore, it's wise to try to have currency for the destination country before boarding the train.]

Load your car the night before - Road trip tip

How many times have we planned on leaving at 7 in the morning for a road trip only to find that we're running two hours late before it's even started?

With the exception of the cooler and (maybe) the kids, everything that's needed -- from luggage to GPS to toll transponder -- can all be put into the car the night before.

If you cannot do this because you park your car in the street and not the garage, have everything you need right by the door so you can just grab and go the next morning. Remember: the fun part of the road trip start right after all the work finishes.

Take pictures of your food - Dining out tip

Dining out during vacation is an experience you want to remember -- just like sightseeing! after all, with only a little work, you'll get to try something that's a specialty for that region.

My mouth still waters when I review the pictures of the ahi poke I had from Hawaii, barramundi fish in Australia, and the poisson cru in Tahiti. So go ahead and take a photo (or two... or ten!) of the lovely presentation. No need to be embarrassed as taking a picture of the food is a high compliment to the chef.

Collect take-out menus when dining out - Souvenir tip

One of the best parts of traveling is the different types of food you get the chance to try.

When dining out, consider photographing the restaurant and your meal. If the meal was memorable, request a copy of the menu and make a note while it's still fresh in your mind what you ate -- to go with your corresponding picture. Upon your return home, your menus may help you seek out restaurants in your area that serve the same dishes... or even allow you to give them ideas for new ones.

Bonus: if you have friends visiting the same destination, you can share your menus with them and help them to have a wonderful meal. Consider giving them a travel debit card before they leave town, so they can enjoy dinner out on you.

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