Archive for June, 2013

Birchbox: Top 4 In-Flight Beauty Tips

Friday, June 28th, 2013

These Birchbox videos offer fantastic advice and products that help to improve the overall travel experience. Meredith Stebbins, editor and content strategy manager for Birchbox, shares the best in-flight beauty tips to help you to be well-prepared for you next travel experience!

Check out the below video for the top four tips to help you to feel comfortable and looking great while flying.

What are some of your favorite tips to keep in mind during travel? Let us know in the comments below!

 
 

 

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City of the Month: THE JERSEY SHORE IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The charming Victorian homes in Avon-by-the-Sea are available for summer renters.

One of the Northeast’s most popular summertime destinations has bounced back after last year’s devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. So what are you waiting for? The Jersey Shore is open for business; and its area hotels, restaurants, and shops are eagerly awaiting your visit this summer.

Since the late 19th century New Jersey boardwalks have been popular gathering places offering something for everyone. From relaxation to amusement park thrills, the “shore” is where unforgettable memories are made. My husband holds tight to one, in particular, of getting up extra early with his Pop Pop to get eclairs at the local boardwalk diner in Point Pleasant.

So how have the seaside communities of the Jersey Shore recovered after Sandy? Here’s a breakdown:

  • The summer resort town of Seaside Heights is rebuilt and open for business.
  • Springsteen’s immortalized Asbury Park is mostly back to normal. The Empress Hotel, which had to replace 40% of its roof, is reporting more guests than a year ago. And the trailer housing Mogo Korean Fusion Taco (you’ve got to try it) is back on the boardwalk after taking a swim thanks to Sandy.
  • Still badly damaged are the towns of Mantoloking and Ortley and there’s still a lot of construction in Normandy Beach but the beach is back to business as usual.
  • Avon-by-the-Sea is ideal for a quite stroll along with beautiful Victorian homes lining this beachfront community. Many homes in this community are rentals large enough for extended families and friends to fill with memories.

The Boardwalks
The boardwalks of the Jersey Shore entertain their visitors year after year. Some are literally as good as new, while others are rich with history and memories that span generations.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk has the nightlife, the casinos, and luxury hotels. Ocean City Boardwalk is billed as “America’s greatest family resort” and Wildwoods Boardwalk has the thrilling rides. Others such as Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach (where my husband’s dad is from) and the Seaside Heights boardwalk, are popular for family entertainment and are packed with various rides, games and amusements.

Have you been to the Jersey Shore? What’s your favorite memory? Later this week, I’ll give you an itinerary for the “must-do”s when visiting The Jersey Shore.

 
 

 

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3 Ways to Save This Summer

Monday, June 24th, 2013

With summer ramping up, here are three quick & easy ways to save money while making your travel plans for the summer season!
SMART Poster 13

Get a deal on extras. Several airlines now offer bundle packages on airline extras.

  • Delta’s “Ascend” package includes in-flight Wi-Fi and priority boarding for only $21.
  • American Airlines offers a $68 “Choice Essential” package that includes a checked bag, a reservation change and Group 1 boarding.

Choose the bundle or deal that best caters to your travel needs; whether you may need to be more flexible with your plans or to just save some money on your purchase.

Save on your summer hotel booking. Hotels.com is offering 13% off on your summer hotel stay.

Utilize the Hotels.com “SUMMER13″ coupon code before July 4 and save 13% on your hotel booking. See more here.

Subscribe to e-mail alerts or follow on Twitter 

  • Get the first look at deals, sales and coupon codes by receiving them straight to your inbox.
  • Or follow airlines and or booking sites, such as Airfarewatchdog or Hotelsdotcom, on Twitter. Not only will you have first dibs on flash sales, but you’ll also familiarize yourself with the market and be able to recognize the truly great deals.

How do you save money when making your summer travel plans? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 
 

 

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Top 10 Movies That Will Make You Want to Travel

Friday, June 21st, 2013

How many times are you watching a movie when you think “I really want to go there some day!” So many movies are set in such beautiful destinations that the destination becomes as much of a character in the story as the people do.

In my opinion, these are the top 10 movies (not based on the merits of the movies) that make you want to get up and go experience someplace new. And as much as I like them, I had to leave off movies such as Life of Pi, Titanic, Castaway, Into the Wild, and Thelma and Louise. Because let’s face it; I don’t think any of us want our adventures to end the same way.

Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013)
Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, span 20 years and share the story of what happens if you are willing to take a chance to do new things and meet new people. The first film features one night in Vienna, the second is one afternoon in Paris and the third film was shot in Messenia, Greece.

Eat Pray Love (2010)
Even though I preferred the book to the movie, the movie did inspire me to travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia. The destinations definitely earned their “best supporting actor” credits in this film.

Endless Summer (1966), Blue Crush (2002), 180° South (2010), Chasing Mavericks (2012)
Nothing says travel like these quintessential surf flicks. Endless Summer pioneered the big wave dream. 180° South is a documentary that follows a young adventurer from Southern Califonia to Patagonia. It quietly delivers a powerful message hidden by beautiful scenery.

Eurotrip (2004)
This one may just inspire the under 25 crowd to buy a ticket to Europe. When a guy buys a plane ticket to go meet his online pal, his buddies join him and together they have the trip of a lifetime.

Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest Gump takes us places. From Alabama to Washington, D.C. to Vietnam, Forrest just keeps on running in this critically-acclaimed film. Much of the film was shot in Savannah, Georgia, a small town with a big film resume.

Leap Year (2010)
Wales and Ireland captivate the screen in this romantic comedy starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. The quaint villages and awe-inspiring cliff views in this film certainly made me want to see these Emerald Isles before the next leap year.

Mamma Mia (2008)
The British musical comedy featuring the songs of ABBA features a standout cast and some small islands of Greece. The undeniable beauty of the Greek Islands should make you want to hop a plane and a boat to help this beautiful country’s struggling economy.

The Sound of Music (1964)
I just wanted to run to the hills of Austria after watching The Sound of Music for the first time. And I did, eventually. In fact, The Sound of Music Tour in Salzberg was one of my favorite memories from one of my European adventures with my mom. I may have to watch it again after writing this post!

Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
A woman flees to Tuscany to find her new beginning. As she stops in Rome, learns to cook real Italian, picks grapes on her neighbor’s vineyard, and visits nearby Positano, she makes buying a crumbling villa in Italy seem like the best decision anyone’s ever made.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Penelope Cruz won an Oscar for her performance in this Woody Allen’s romantic comedy set in Spain. It will make you want to listen to acoustic Spanish guitar on repeat. The film takes you on a wild tour of relationships featuring the beauty of the gothic city of Barcelona.

What are your favorite travel movies? Share in the comments below!

 
 

 

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How to Babymoon Like a Celebrity

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

With the recent birth of “Baby Kimye” and the anticipated arrival of the “Royal Baby,” Kim and Kate have been setting mommy trends on everything from maternity fashion to babymoons. Parents-to-be looking to plan their own babymoons can recreate and emulate these celebrity travel styles, without the hefty price tags.

BabymoonKimye “City Chic” Babymoon
Kim and Kanye prepped for their new arrival by shopping at high-end boutiques and nesting in the luxury hotels of chic metropolitan capitals Paris and Rio de Janeiro. Expectant parents looking to take one last stroller-less stroll through a city street can steal a page from Kimye’s “city chic” babymoon style by checking out Montréal, Canada or San Diego, Calif.

Montréal, much like Paris, is full of gorgeous architecture and stained glass churches. Shopping is also abundant, whether splurging on some designer duds on rue Sherbrooke or taking a few days to explore the subterranean metropolis of the famous Underground City. A number of hotels connect to the Underground City and are within walking distance of the breath-taking Mont-Royal Park and famous Notre-Dame Basilica, like the 4-star Le Westin Montréal (currently starting at only $200 a night).

Couples looking to get a taste of the laid-back beach lifestyle that Kim and Kanye experienced on their Rio babymoon, need not look any further than sunny, surfs-up San Diego. Rising in popularity over the last few years according to the Hotel Price Index, San Diego will provide the same blend of casual beach-side relaxation and exciting nighttime adventure as Rio, but for a fraction of the price. The Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina is a great choice, featuring panoramic views of the bay, this property is approximately two miles from the active city center and less than five miles from the fun-filled Mission Beach.

Royal Island Babymoon
Couples can take a different approach, like William and Kate, who went to the ultra-exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique, located in the West Indies. While William and Kate’s $25,000-a-week getaway consisted of a five-bedroom villa complete with an infinity pool, several private verandahs and a six-person staff, the Caribbean region offers comparable luxuries for far less at destinations such as Vieques, Puerto Rico and Samara, Costa Rica.

According to the latest HPI, rates in Vieques are down a whopping 21% from $407 per night in 2011 to $323 in 2012. Winning numerous industry accolades in recent years for its quiet, virtually untouched beaches, Vieques exudes a certain exclusivity that is akin to the elite island of Mustique. Most of its land is undeveloped due to the presence of the U.S. Navy for over 60 years, so its beaches are pristine masterpieces, surrounded by nature, not commercial development. The island is also home to the largest national refuge in the Caribbean, making for excellent snorkeling. A stay at the W Retreat & Spa might be just what expectant parents need to feel like royalty with its tranquil décor, world class cuisine, and rejuvenating spa – and yes, they offer a prenatal massage.

Samara, Costa Rica is another outstanding choice for soon-to-be-parents taking a cue from the Royal Couple. It is a small, local favorite, rich with Costa Rican culture and well-known for its down-to-earth and friendly atmosphere. Like, Vieques, prices in Samara are also down significantly; a babymoon in this coral reef paradise will cost couples on average 19% less than it did just a year ago. For those who truly want to live it up prince and princess style, private villas like  the Villa de Sol are available starting as low as $143 a night and offer everything from full kitchens and spa tubs to pillow top bedding, private balconies, and more.

Even better, all of the highlighted properties qualify for Welcome Rewards, the loyalty program where members can earn one free night for every 10 nights stayed.

Where would you plan to take your babymoon?

 
 

 

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Best Hotel Pools for Summer Fun!

Monday, June 17th, 2013

pools

What’s summer without a dip in the pool? ‘Pools are the new Spas’ as hotels vie for guests enticing pool-side fun and services made for cooling off, relaxing, people watching, and oh yeah, swimming.

Check out these hotels and their notable swimming pools:

5. Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & SpaSan Antonio
This resort should really change its name to “Oasis of Fun” because that is exactly what you will find when you stay at the San Antonio hotel. This summer, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa becomes the first Texas hotel and one of only three in the US to have a FlowRider® wave machine that lets guests choose bodyboarding, kneeboarding or stand-up boarding. The resort also features a new, 22-foot-tall tower slide, a 950-foot Ramblin’ River, an activity pool equipped with water volleyball and basketball, an adults-only Texas-shaped pool, 2 hot tubs and a zero-entry kiddie wading pool.

4. Golden NuggetLas Vegas
Card sharks aren’t the only sharks swimming around Las Vegas. At the Golden Nugget Hotel you’ll find a 200,000-gallon, shark-filled aquarium in the middle of an amazing swimming pool. You’ll feel like you are swimming with the sharks, and you can even slide down the Shark Chute, a three-story waterslide that shoots you straight through the tank.

3. Grand Wailea, Maui
As if Maui isn’t reason enough to visit the Grand Wailea, the pools may just be the lei on the hula dancer! This 40 acre resort features Wailea Canyon, a water park that connects 9 pools includes four jungle pools, four intertwining slides, a whitewater rapids slide, a Tarzan pool with rope swing, a sand beach, six waterfalls, caves, three Jacuzzis, an infant pool. And that’s not even the best part. Grand Wailea has the world’s first water elevator; it’s built into a volcano.

2. Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, St. Lucia
If you are looking for a romantic getaway with an equally special pool then plan a visit to the luxurious Viceroy Sugar Beach in St. Lucia. The luxury cottages and villas feature private plunge pools. At the resorts main pool, you’ll be pampered poolside with water bottles and popsicles to fresh fruit to canapés to wine.

1. Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles
The “Pink Palace” aka The Beverly Hills Hotel should not be left only to be experienced in feature films. This legendary hotel and its famous pool have appeared in countless movies and TV shows. The pool features more than 20 cabanas; the pool plays underwater music; and the pool crew offer frozen towels, sunglass cleaning, full dining, and pretty much anything else you want taken care of.

Have a favorite hotel pool? Tell us about here on Travel Smart Blog!

 
 

 

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The Hotels.com Club Sandwich Index

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Last year, Hotels.com launched the Club Sandwich Index (CSI), which reports on real prices paid by travelers for a Club Sandwich in major tourist destinations worldwide. The CSI, much like the Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com, is a helpful resource for travelers looking to gauge the price of everyday items like food and drink in an unfamiliar city they plan to visit.

By monitoring prices year over year, travelers can become more aware of factors that can affect their travel spend, such as changes in the local price of food or currency fluctuations.

This year, Paris was bumped from its top spot as most expensive Club Sandwich by Geneva. In the States, California Clubs showed the highest price increases over last year. Check out how each city compares below!

hotel_clubsandwichindex_art_US2013

 
 

 

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Affordable Three-Day Weekends

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Royalty Free stockSummertime is the perfect time for a little vacation. Thankfully,  you don’t need to take off a week of work or save money for months to enjoy a fun getaway. Check out these great destinations and make plans for an affordable three-day weekend with the Hotels.com Hotel Price Index. Steal a deal at any of these locations with Hotels.com and you’ll have extra cash to spend exploring and enjoying your interests!

What are you interested in doing with your long weekend? Here are three fun options to consider:

For the Active Traveler
Denver, Colorado – $118 (average daily rate according to the HPI)

Stay: A short walk from the 16th Street Mall and trendy Lo-Do, the Marriott Denver City Center offers breath-taking views of the Rocky Mountains for rooms facing west.

Activities:  With miles of bike paths starting in the heart of Denver and spreading over the greater metropolitan area, travelers can walk, run, bike or rollerblade around to explore the city. Skirting just west of downtown Denver, the South Platte River gives travelers the opportunity to rent a tube and float through the river or try a new sport such as river kayaking or river paddle boarding.  Rent a car and take a quick 30 minute drive west to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Chautauqua Park or Lookout Mountain to get some exercise and see a sweeping view across Denver looking west.

For the “Shop Until You Eat” Traveler
Houston, Texas -$118 (average daily rate according to the HPI)

Stay: Nestled in the heart of the nation’s fourth largest city, travelers can stay inside the “loop” at Inn at the Ballpark.

Activities:  For foodies, the city harbors an eclectic mix of chefs and cuisine including restaurants specializing in southern soul food, mouthwatering cocktails, fresh seafood dishes, up-and-coming Mexican and Vietnamese gems. Scour the various outdoor farmers’ markets for local goods and fresh snacks. Shoppers will love Houston. With a dozen distinct shopping hubs, the city has stores for all tastes and interests from vintage and bargain goods to high-end designers and luxury commodities. Spend an afternoon wandering 19th Street in the historic The Heights neighborhood. Dive into bargain hunting on Harwin Drive. Need to find something for the man in your life? Houston prides itself on having a host of shops catering specifically to men.

For the Entertainment Lover
Las Vegas, Nevada – $105 (average daily rate according to the HPI)

Stay: The opulent Caesars Palace supplies enough amusement you’ll never want to leave. Enjoy two dozen restaurants, gaming, entertainment, shopping, spas and a pool.

Activities: International music talent almost always stops on The Strip while touring, so travelers are guaranteed to find a show that interests them when visiting. Head downstairs from your room to enjoy a show at the Colosseum, which is currently headlining Shania Twain, the world’s best-selling female country artist of all time and Celine Dion, the best-selling female recording artist of all time, period. Afterwards go dance the night away to live DJs or rock out on the floating Cleopatra’s Barge. Want to venture out? The Cosmopolitan, Harrah’s and a plethora of other resorts are just minutes away on foot.

 
 

 

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How NOT to Look Like a Tourist… When You Are a Tourist.

Friday, June 7th, 2013

As exciting as it is to go on vacation and experience some place new and different, it’s important that you not stand out as an obvious tourist. Not only do you have a greater chance of getting sucked into tourist traps, but you’re also a clear target for petty crimes.

Whether you are visiting a new city in the US or traveling abroad, here are some tips to help you avoid the “tourist trap.”

@Glowimages gwn109053.Learn Before You Leave: Before you go anywhere that you’re not familiar with, do some research and get familiar with the city, country, people, and culture of your destination. Your trip will go much more smoothly if you have a plan for how you will get around, pay for things, and communicate with the locals.

Getting Around Town: If you are not familiar with taking public transportation and will be visiting a city where this is the most efficient and affordable option (think New York City, Berlin, Chicago, London, Washington DC) then here are a few tips:

  • Determine the distances between where you are staying and points of interest that you are going to visit.
  • Figure out the fastest and the most scenic routes to get to those destinations (if you are lucky, they’ll be the same).
  • Download to your smartphone public transit maps (there are hundreds) so that you be certain as to which train or bus to get on/off at which stop. Here’s an article from Gizmodo highlighting a few of the top public transit apps.

Blend In: Make sure your clothes are appropriate for the local culture and climate. Check travel forums and photos online to get a feel for what the locals wear at your destination. For example, if you are from a small rural town and are headed to New York City, be sure to read up on relevant attire so you don’t stand out like a sore thumb. The wrong footwear will give you away in almost any place. You almost never see a New York woman walking around in actual running shoes when she’s not running. Stylish yet functional footwear (think: ballet flats) or basic sneakers (Vans or Converse) are always acceptable when cruising around town.

Traveling abroad? Leave your baseball hats, backpack, fanny pack and water bottles at home. Baseball caps and fanny packs SCREAM “American!” And In SE Asia, any shirt with a collar is preferable to a T shirt.skd184990sdc

Do What Is Customary: Part of experiencing a new culture is also accepting the differences in their dining traditions. In many parts of the world, you will be served your drinks with little or no ice. And, don’t ask for tap water. Accept the fact that you are going to get mineral water, with or without gas (this means bubbles- carbonation). Also, requesting typical US condiments like Ketchup or Ranch Dressing is a sure giveaway that you are an American tourist. Try the typical condiments in your host country.

Keep the Map Out of Sight: Pulling out and looking at your map in a public space is a safety no-no and makes you a target. Be sure to plan your route before you leave your hotel. When I need to check a map, I typically step into a coffee shop and take the time to sit and reassess my plan.

Try to Speak the Language: If you’re going to a country that speaks a different language, why not try to make an effort to speak it? Learn a few basic words like “Hello”, “Please” and “Thank you.” While you are at it, learn the words for some foods that you like, and the ones that you don’t like. It makes eating out much less scary. There are some great language apps for your smart phones that make learning the local lingo a cinch!

Talk to the Locals: There’s no better way to immerse yourself into a new place than to do what the locals do. Talk to shopkeepers, museum docents, and hotel staff about where they like to eat, and what their favorite interests in the city are. Sometimes the best recommendations are not the ones that you find in a destination guide but the ones that come from the people who live there every day.

Following these tips will definitely help you blend in on vacation. But more importantly, they should help you get more out of your trip. Do you have a tip for NOT looking like a tourist on vacation? Share it here!

 
 

 

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How to Take Better Photos on Vacation

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Man Photographing His GirlfriendSo the ol’ saying goes: “The best camera to have is the one that’s with you all the time.”  And with the prevalence of smart phones, we almost always have a camera in our purses and pockets.

It seems like the days of the endless photo albums are gone and we now post a few select photos to share with our social networks.  And lately, I find myself post-trip, post great experience, feeling like I don’t have any photos that truly capture how great the vacation actually was.

So I went digging to find the best tips, from actual photography experts, to help us all make our photos match the greatness of our memories.  Take this advice for photo taking prowess:

Basic Photo Taking Tips
Visual interest… Most of the people who view our photographs are friends and family, and they’ll be much more interested in the places you visit if you include people they know in your photos. So, look for other friendly faces taking photos and offer to snap their memories in return for taking a photo for you.

Shoot from different angles… Try zooming in, zooming out and shooting vertical, as well as horizontal. This will help you take different types of images. If you don’t pay attention, all of your photographs will be taken from your eye level. If you squat down, lie down or perhaps gain a perspective from above, you might end up with images that have a better sense of space.

Avoid Auto-Exposure You can control the amount of light in your shot with your iPhone (I didn’t even know that – and have already been taking better photos!) When shooting, tap the areas of light on your screen to help define contrast and exposure.  You can even lock the exposure by tapping and holding for a few seconds to keep your iPhone from automatically readjusting.

Minneapolis and Denver photographer and owner of Bloom Portaits, David Schmidt, had this advice for us photo novices:

Point and Shoots… “One of my biggest frustrations while I travel is always having to lug around my big camera bag so on less “touristy” days I just bring along my point and shoot camera. I shoot with the Canon Powershot G12 but if you like Nikons go with the Nikon 1 V1. These are easy to use and easy to print a quality 8×10.”

Couple Taking a Picture of ThemselvesFlashes… People walk around a lot during the day, which tends to have the harshest sun. While photographing people I would suggest always having your flash on to help “fill” in your image. This helps balance out shadows created by the harsh daytime sun.

Spares…. Don’t forget extra batteries and memory cards and I would always suggest taking something to back up your photos. A laptop or iPad will help make sure you leave your vacation with your photos with you. There is nothing worse than coming home from a vacation and something happening to your memory card or it getting lost in the shuffle of traveling.

Get more great insights from David at www.bloomportraits.net/blog

New York photographer Dennis Kwan also provided some helpful tips:

High Quality… If you plan on printing and framing your pictures (which you should!) it’s great to invest in a decent SLR camera. Instagramming is fun for social media… but 20 years from now everyone’s going to wish they had actually captured their memories in much higher quality. If you’re spending the money to travel, it’s time to invest in a camera that will allow you to preserve your memories properly. You can buy professional-quality SLR kits at Costco these days for around $1000 or less.

Get there early, stay late… Beat the rush and visit places early in the morning when there aren’t hordes of goofy-looking tourists filling up your photos. Sunrise and sunset also provide much better natural light than harsh midday sun.

Use the Sun… Shoot with the sun behind your subjects. If you learn to use your camera to expose your images properly, having a back-lit subject will almost always look better than if sun is shining directly on it. MAKE SURE you are exposing correctly though (learn to use the manual settings on your camera, or to make auto-exposure work the way you want) otherwise your subject will appear totally dark.

1_59930362Overshoot! One of the advantages of digital photography is that you can take as many pictures as you want and try to get creative with different angles.

Learn more about Dennis and see his work at denniskwanweddings.com

Better Photo-Taking Apps
For $0.99, you can download TiltShift Generator by Art & Mobile to increase photo contrast and saturation.

With the FREE Adobe Photoshop Express, you can make so many fixes that your photos are destined to improve. I like that a copy of your original file is always saved, and you can undo and redo changes until you get just the look that you want.

Camera+ by tap tap tap let’s you “focus” on crisp photos and even has a burst-shooting mode that lets you shoot about five images per second.

Need a great spot for taking photos on your vacation? Look no further than your Picfari App. You can search for nearby places, or explore your vacation destination before you leave. There are tips, and the app will even tell you what camera settings to use to get the pictures you see in the app.

 
 

 

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