Tag: travel

Travel Tuesday: a glimpse of our Vegas trip

October 16
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If you follow on Instagram you probably saw that we just got back from a few days in Las Vegas. We were in town for a friends’ wedding, but took time to enjoy both the downtown/ strip area as well as the outdoors. I’ll be sharing more about the trip in the future but here are a few highlights.img_2319

By far, my favorite stop on the trip was Red Rock Canyon. We were able to explore the desert and this amazing canyon.


The Hoover Dam was pretty cool as well. This was a little further away from the city but worth the drive. Also, you get to call everything “dam” while you are there.


Did I mention there are  like caves? Dam caves!


We grabbed donuts from Donut Bar and mine was bigger than my hand.


In-N-Out burger was of course on the list. We opted for a location off the strip which was not as crazy as the strip location.


Although we stayed off the strip (more on that later.) We did take the time to drive the strip and visit some of the hotels and casinos.

Next week I will be sharing more about our trip including why we stayed off-strip and how that helped us save money.



Travel Tuesday: Packing a budget airline personal item

August 28
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I am a sucker for a deal. Like, I will go out of my way to save a few bucks no matter what. It is one of my best and worst traits. So of course, I have flown budget airlines. I just can’t resist $30 flights, can you blame me? But of course, that $30 fare does not include a checked bag or even a carry on. They always allow you to add one on, but for starting at $25 each way you know I’m not buying it.

Anyways, I have become a bit of an expert at packing for a long weekend in a free “personal item.” A personal item is defined as a purse, briefcase, or small backpack.  Below are the size rules on three popular budget airlines at of August 27, 2018.

16 x 15 x 7 inches
18 x 14 x 8 inches
18 x 14 x 8 inches

For the last few years I have been using an old bag that I was given at at work conference as my carry on. It was smaller than the requirements but it got the job done and was something I had around the house. With a few trips in the works I decided it was time to bite the bullet and pick out a bag that would last and be the exact perfect size so I could maximize my packing. I landed on this bag from Madewell. The dimensions are just right so I can stuff the bag and still fit it on Frontier and Spirit flights. I will want to pack a little lighter on Allegiant, but it will still be fine.


Below is what I pack for a long weekend in my free personal item. This includes four summer outfits, pajamas, makeup, shampoo, and other personal items. In this trip I brought my large black water bottle to fill up past security, but I could skip that and buy a bottle of water at the gate if I needed the space.


Note that I have a smaller purse in my bag. When you carry a personal item as your bag you do not get an additional purse. Because of this I throw one in my bag and pull it out later. This is another item I could skip depending on the trip, or I could find a smaller purse for these uses. I also utilized gallon sized zip bag to hold my clothes. I am starting to do this with the personal item bag to help keep things organized. I usually end up searching for something at the bottom of the bag at the airport and making everything in to a mess. This just makes it a little easier. Also please note I am on the small side so my clothes take up less room.

In this scenario the bag is packed for summer with simple outfits. I would wear jeans to the airport and carry a sweater as I always like to bring one when I travel. I’d also wear my larger shoes. If it was winter I’d fly in jeans and boots, carry my jacket, and pack extra sweaters and maybe jeans if I have to.


I like to be as prepared as I can when I travel, but I also like to think of it as a time to practice working with what I have. I only bring the staples for makeup and often skip simple toiletries such as shampoo if I know it will be available where I am staying. I don’t like to spend a bunch of money on travel size stuff, but I do always have travel sized hairspray. That is one item that I have to have. Your list might be different depending on your needs.

Do you use a personal item as your suitcase when you travel? What are your favorite ways to maximize space in it?

Traveling Spirit Airlines? Read about my favorite tips.


Travel Tuesday: Spirit Airlines tips

July 3
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Last week for our trip to Maryland we flew Sprit Airlines. We have used this airline in the past, but this time I did a little more research to ensure we got the most bang for our buck on the flight.

After searching the internet and reading other blogs, I found out that you can get the best deal on Sprit Airlines by booking at the ticket counter at the airport. You can save up to $20 a person a flight by using this method. For us, that meant saving $80 on our weekend flight. Totally worth a quick stop at the airport!

As an example, here is a round trip flight from Orlando to Baltimore for two. Both flights are non-stop.

usage charge

The total includes a “Passenger Usage Charge” or $79.96 which you can avoid by booking at the airport.  Spirit does request that you purchase during “Preferred Ticketing Hours,” but does not state that you can’t get a ticket at other times. See the times here. Our airport’s preferred hours are between noon and 4pm so we went on a Saturday around 2pm. We did have to wait for a few travelers to check bags, but it was a pretty easy process. I could have gone alone and parked, or to save $2 and some steps I could have had Charlie drop me off at the ticket counter and make a loop around the airport and come back. The timing would have been just about perfect. At the counter the clerk seemed familiar with customers buying at the gate and showed us the flights available. I had checked the flights at home beforehand and knew what flights we wanted but we looked with her as well. The total cost at the gate can differ a little bit from what you see at home, but it seemed much lower and we were not charged the passenger usage fee.

For this trip we did not book seats. On all three flights Spirt seated us together and unless it is a long haul flight I am fine with being stuck wherever. Because this was a long weekend trip we just took the free personal item and packed everything we needed in that. For short trips that is all we really need. Both of us had extra space in our bags both coming and going.  I’ll talk more in a few weeks on how to get the most out of that bag.

Unfortunately  the one area we did not plan ahead well in is food. We did take smoothies to go as we left the house, but were both hungry as we were boarding the plane. Charlie bought a sandwich for which I do not even want to know what he paid. I need to start planning out snacks and meals to take as it helps cut costs and gives you one more healthy meal before you get to your destination. If you have great plane meal tips, send them my way! We usually just take granola bars, but I’ve seen people on planes eating entire meals from home.

The one food item I do like to buy at the airport is a coffee. I usually grab an iced coffee after we go through security and then drink it while we wait. Before we board I rise it out and refill it with water to help keep us hydrated during the flight. If you’re local to Orlando I highly recommend Zaza’s Cuban Cafe if you’re flying from Terminal A. The coffee is great and a great price.

Do you have any great tips for Sprit Airlines? I’d love to hear them.

Budget tips for spirit airlines flights.Save money and time with spirit.


Travel Favorites

June 5
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This week for Travel Tuesday I wanted to share a few of my favorite travel products. These are little things we have that really make our trips better. While we don’t buy tons of “travel stuff” we do have  a few items we love.


First off is this travel pillow.  Before our trip to Europe earlier this year I bought a cheap little travel pillow. It was useless. Charlie bought this one in the airport and it was perfect. It packs down small and really makes sleeping on the plane possible. If you travel often and want to sleep on the plane this pillow is for you. It is a little expensive, but worth it.

We it comes to travel accessories, I like to stick to things that are still part of my usual wardrobe. I love over the shoulder bags, but when traveling, a crossbody feels much safer and is less likely to be grabbed off you. I also always travel with a zippered bag. Although pick pockets  can aways unzip it, it, it just feels like one more line of defense. I carry a bag similar to this one when traveling in unknown places.

Charlie owns a wallet with a removable mini wallet. When we travel we only take the mini wallet with just a few cards, ID and cash. This wallet is nice and small and fits comfortably and safely in his front pocket. We generally keep most cards and cash in this wallet and I only carry a small amount personally just in case we get separated.

When traveling overseas you of course need a travel adapter. I use this one and am happy with it. It has USB charging as well as the others needed.  Please note these travel adapters do not convert voltage, just the shape of the plug. This means that it is fine to charge any device that can accept the given current. In the US our power comes out at 110 volts, but in Europe they are usually 220 volts. Almost all phone and computer chargers are fine accepting 220, but this voltage can ruin many hair appliances that are not made for it. Before traveling check any hair irons or blow dryers you are brining to ensure they will work. (Remember, even if they accept the voltage you will still need an adapter to use them.) As you can see from the photos, I did not take my hair dryer. Some of the places we stayed had one and if they did not I just air dried. Have a great travel dryer? Let me know, I am in the market for one.


This curling iron is fine, it is rated 120-240 V


This dryer is only rated 125 V. I did not bring it to Europe.


This flat iron is rated to 240 V and was fine.


Travel Tuesday: Road Trips

April 24
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I love a good road trip. There is nothing like the feeling of the day in front of you with the music playing and your favorite person or people with you. Living in Orlando we are geographically limited on where we can go, but I wanted to share a few places we drove to and enjoyed. Depending on where you live they may or may not be feasible.


Savannah is one of my favorite old cities. Filled with tons of history, it also is easy to access and affordable to stay in. I’d suggest Airbnb to get the best rates on room or to rent a home in the historic district. I haven’t had the chance to Airbnb in Savannah yet but cannot wait to. I love staying in old historic homes right in the heart of the communities. While in Savannah be sure to walk the riverfront and check out the squares. This is a great city to just stroll and relax. If you’re looking to get inside check out the Telfair Museum or a nice bookstore. My favorite time to visit is in the fall or spring.


If a day on the beach is your idea of a good time, consider checking out St. Pete Beach. With beautiful white sand, beaches, for days, and lovely sunsets, it is the prefect place to relax, have a drink, or a book. Get a room on the beach and have access to the pool, ocean, and food all at once place. If you want to get out of the sun check out the Dali Museum or catch a game at Tropicana Field. If you’re thirsty check out the Florida Orange Grove Winery and take a free tour.


For our mini honeymoon Charlie and I ventured to New Orleans. It is a bit of a drive from Orlando, but was totally worth it. Like Savannah, it is an old city with tons of culture. We spent time walking the old neighborhoods and learning about the french influence at the museums. Also, the food is pretty darn good. Check your favorite reviews site for the current best picks, but know the town is full of great options including tons of seafood.





March 13
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For today’s Travel Tuesday I am talking about using AirBnB instead of hotels. We started using AirBnB about four years ago for a trip to Chicago on a budget. In Chicago there are tons of amazing hotels in the Loop area, but they are pricey. Sadly, $200 a night just wasn’t in the budget for us. Also, although the loop is nice, we didn’t really want to stay there with all the hustle and bustle of the city.  The other hotel options I found that were in our price range were out by the airport which was too far away from the city for us. After looking around I remembered that a friend had used AirBnB and loved it. After doing some research about which neighborhoods were best for us I was able to find a nice room to rent in the Wicker Park area of Chicago.

Our Airbnb in Notting Hill

Now you will notice I said room. Yes, the first few times we used Airbnb we just rented a room with a private bath from our host. When searching with Airbnb you have the option of finding a shared space (couch), private room, or the entire home. This saved us around $30-$50 a night which at the time really helped out. When renting a room via Airbnb there are a few things to look out for.

Who else is in the home?

Some hosts will divide up and rent an entire home to travelers and will never be on site. Although this sounds okay in theory, I did not feel that this would be the safest bet for us. In my opinion the host/guest relationship is based on mutual trust and respect for each other’s space and things. When this relationship is just with another guest you lose that respect as the other guest is not responsible to you and vice versa. We only rented from hosts who also lived in the home, however for the three times we did this we barely saw the hosts at all. One was not there the entire time of our stay.

What is the bathroom situation?

Even if I am renting a room I still wanted my own bathroom. This was just so that I did not have to worry about being late for something because the host needed to take an hour shower or something of the like. It also made the idea of a shared space more comfortable for me.

What is included?

Depending on the host, you may have full or limited access to the kitchen, washing machine, and other amenities the home has to offer. Some hosts even include breakfast supplies to help with your stay.

Once you have found answers to these questions you can see if a room is a good choice for you. When renting a room, or any Airbnb home, I always read TONS of reviews and always stay with a host with tons of experience and positive reviews.

For our trip to Europe we decided that we wanted to use Airbnb again and rent studios in the cities we were visiting.  Compared to US cities we felt there were many great affordable studio options in London, Brussels, and Paris. We were able to rent studios and apartments for around $100 USD in each city. In Brussels that $100 got us an entire one bedroom apartment.

Just as before we read reviews and did out research of the area before requesting to book. For safety reasons Airbnb does not tell you the address until you confirm the purchase but you do know the area. Generally the listing will give walking times to popular transit stops, stores, and restaurants which will help you understand the area. If you are still unsure I suggest going through a google street view of the area to get a better understanding of it and to ensure it feels safe.

One of the questions I often asked hosts before booking was the availability of a space to store luggage before check-in or after check-out. Many hosts are able to accommodate this request but I always ask first. Also check out the check-in and check-out times. They can vary greatly from host to host and many are flexible. Often hosts have a key box available so guests can check in at their leisure without having to meet in person.

Once we arrive in our room/home I always do a quick check of everything to ensure that everything that we need is available and that we feel safe in the space. When renting an entire home this includes checking out the kitchen and seeing if we have the supplies promised  such as pans and dishes.

One of the reasons we wanted entire homes while in Europe was so that we had a kitchen. This allowed us to cook one or two meals on our own which saved money and stay healthy. I will share more on that in a future post.

We have been very lucky and have never had problems with our rentals. If you find that you have a problem with your host or rental before, during, or after a stay please visit the Airbnb Trust Center. There you will find information as well as how to get more help. As with anything, if you for whatever reason do not feel safe feel free to leave. Also be aware of the emergency phone number regardless of if you are staying in an Airbnb or not.

As I’ve said, we have had amazing luck with Airbnb to the extent that they are were we start our lodging search. If you are interested in trying them out use this link for $40 in travel credits for new users. (Please note that I do receive a credit for every new users who completes travel via this link.)

If you’ve used Airbnb before let me know in the comments; I am super curious about the experiences of others.  Stay tuned, next Tuesday I’m going to be talking about our stay in London!


Travel Tuesdays: Airlines

February 27
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Hey guys, so if you follow me on Instagram you know my husband and I recently finished up a two week trip to Europe. I loved sharing while on my trip and asked if you guys were interested in blog posts and you said YES. As I said, the focus of these posts will be on how to travel simply and affordably. I will be sharing my favorite places from each of the cities we visited as well as tips on how to travel on a budget. In the future I will share about other places we have visited as well as hometown of Orlando.

Are you ready?

So first of all to start things out I wanted to talk about buying airlines tickets.

We flew Norwegian Airlines for this flight and loved it. We were able to find tickets super cheap. We traveled in February from Orlando and purchased tickets in August.  Our tickets we between $160 and $190 each way for the base ticket. We bought the LowFare+ tickets where where $90 more. (This can change, I saw flights with the add ons for only $70.) This includes a checked bag, meals, and you get to pick your seat. On their own these items are approximately $35 each.

We flew on a a Boing 787-9 which sits 9 across in coach. Because we booked super early we had lots of seats options. We chose row 27 because it had two seats available and from what I could find out had tons of legroom. Although neither Charlie or I are super tall, 10 hours in a plane is never fun. We lucked out and the row was great. We did not have anyone in front of us and there was an open space that was great. We were able to stand up if needed and get out of our seats without disturbing the other person in our row. This was an exit row so it is only open to willing adults but it worked great for us. These seats were close to the restroom but the smell was not bad; the only smell we noticed was a slight chemical smell and not actual… bathroom stuff.

For this Norwegian plane we found that rows six, nine, and twenty-seven were the best.  These rows also offer basinet options in the middle bulkhead seats. If you have a child under the age of two these are definitely worth looking into.  A couple on our return flight had a baby and once the flight was in air the flight attendants came in and attached a bassinet to the wall. The baby was able to sleep and hang out in there as long as the fasten seat belts sign was off. For more on how to reserve those check out this blog post I found.

As I mentioned, we purchased the the LowFare+ tickets which included a meal. The food kept us alive but was not great. Of course, it is airline food, so we didn’t have high expectations. Our dinners did come with a beverage and I was able to get wine which was nice to help wind down. We also received a brown bag sandwich with juice and yogurt before we landed. Next time we fly with Norwegian we may just buy the tickets and maybe a suitcase instead of the meals as I think we could have lived without them.

I was surprised to find that even with the cheap tickets each traveler was allowed one carry on bag. This could be as large as a carry on rolling bag. There is a weight limit of 10 kilograms which is about 22 pounds. For this trip Charlie brought his carry on but checked it and I brought a slightly larger bag. In the future we’d both bring regular carry on bags and carry them on the flight. You also can bring one personal item such as a purse or briefcase.

Lets talk about seats. In my opinion seat selection for an overseas flight is worth if if you are traveling with a companion. Although we don’t interact a bunch on a flight, it is worth it to have that person next to you. Seat selection is $35 each but ensures you actually sit next to your companion. For short flights we have skipped the seat selection, but for more than two hours I think it is a good idea.

The in-flight entertainment was good. I watched Baby Driver on the way over which was something I had been meaning to watch for some time. The selection was good with lots of movies and TV shows and the touchscreens had games as well. As is the trend, we were able to order drinks and snacks via our screens as well; it even had a place to swipe your credit card.

Overall we enjoyed our flights and will most likely use the airline again. In the future we will rethink the LowFare+ tickets and maybe just pay for the seats  which would cost us $140 for two people on two flights compared to the $360 we paid for the seats/bags/meals. I suggest booking in advance and reviewing the far calendar to see when the best deals are.

In general, I like low cost “a la carte” airlines as long as you know what you are getting in to. I can’t count the times I’ve  seen people flying Spirit or Allegiant get upset because they have to pay for a bag or are not seated next to their loved one. Always review the baggage policy and check your bag size. When booking pay for additional luggage then and be creative. When we fly Allegiant together we can usually share one checked bag saving us some money, try options like that to see what works. And budget airlines don’t give you a free bag of pretzels and half a can of coke. But guess what? You will live or spend $3 on one there, it is worth it if you saved $100 on the flight.

So that is my experience with these airlines, if you have any questions or comments share them below!


10 Tips for visiting Chicago on a budget

October 23
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Earlier this month, my husband and I had the chance to spend a few days together in Chicago. I was excited to see a city I’d never been to and he was excited to enjoy their style of improv.  As an improvisor here in Florida, he has a few friends that way who had shows while we were there. We wanted to enjoy this trip, but at the same time we wanted to keep within our budget as we are planning a trip to Europe in the spring and didn’t want to go overspend in Chicago. Although I am by no means an expert on the city, I was able to pick up a few tips I’d like to share.



Due to the high cost of lodging in Chicago we chose to try out an Airbnb for this trip.  We ended up renting a bedroom and bathroom about a 20 minute train ride out of the city for less than the cost of a sketchy motel an hour outside.  The host and room were great, and even though we hit a snag before the trip the host was great and getting it figured out.  Interested in trying out Airbnb? Here’s $20 off your first trip.



2. City Pass

If you’re looking to do the big attractions in Chicago (Art Institute, Willis Tower, Sci and Tech Museum, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium) then go ahead and get yourself a city pass.  this $100 ticket gets you into all 5 attractions and has a fast pass feature at several of them.  They claim to have a 50% or so savings, which is a little high because you don’t necessarily need the most expensive ticket to each attraction, but in the end if you’re going to do them it really is the easy way to go.  We arrived in Chicago early on a Friday morning and I wanted to go to the Willis (Sears) tower that evening.  Being that it was a Friday evening the place was PACKED and had a 2+ hour wait just to get to the elevator.  We were able to skip both the ticket and elevator line and get up within a few minutes which  is usually $40 ticket itself.  Find out more about CityPass here.



We found someone to take a photo of us with our custom message

3. Willis Tower

Speaking of Willis Tower- I wanted to share a tip I picked up.  If you contact Willis Tower at least  2 days before your trip the will put up a custom welcome message up to 60 characters for free.  I gave them a two hour window of when I planned to arrive and then didn’t tell my husband about it.  He was so surprised to see that they knew we were coming!  To set this up simply send an email to sales@theskydeck.com.  For more information go to: here.


IO Chicago

4. Improv

Interested  in taking in a show while you’re in town? We enjoyed a few improv shows at iO Chicago. You can check out their schedule here.    While you’re in that part of town be sure to grab a bite and a craft beer at Burger Bar which is right outside the Clybourn subway station. Shows at iO vary in cost from $8 and up.



Chicago CTA station

5. Mass Transit

Speaking of subway stations, we used mass transit for every single trip except one.  It was so simple getting on the train from the airport.  Both the airport and our Airbnb were situated off the same train so we had no problems getting into town.  The trains come very frequently and many lines run 24 hours a day so even on the late nights we had a ride home.  We chose an airbnb that was less than 5 minutes from a station because we knew we’d be using it alot.  This was a great decision.  We purchased the 7 Day Pass which was good on all CTA trains and busses for only $28 each.  Find more information on transit here.


6. Uber

The one car we rode in was an Uber.  This was our first time using Uber so we had a ride credit which made it free!  Using the app was super simple and our driver was friendly and professional.  Due to the mass transit available Uber isn’t a necessity in Chicago, but It was nice to have the app and credit ready in my phone if we needed it.  In case you’re wondering, we used used it to bar hop.  Classy, I know.  Want a free ride?  Click here for a free $20 credit for your first ride.  Also, Uber is so much cheaper than cabs so $20 actually goes a long way.



The view from Cindy’s

7. Chicago Athletic Association

While on our trip we met up with a friend who introduced us to the recently reopened Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.   This 125 year old building once was a popular athletic association full of famous faces but closed its doors in 2007.  It reopened this year as a hotel with several locally owned bars and restaurants inside.  Although we didn’t get to check out the rooms, the public spaces were lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed the view from Cindys, the rooftop bar and restaurant. The building faces Lake Michigan and Millennium Park and is a great place to grab a cocktail and enjoy the view. Although the drinks are pricy, it’s worth it for view, and is much cheaper than staying the night at the hotel.  We visited on a Sunday night and the place was busy, but not crazy and totally not a tourist trap. Eat dinner elsewhere and enjoy a drink and a view without breaking the bank.



The view from the door of our “chamber.”

8. Virgin Hotel

On the last night of our trip we stayed at new Virgin Hotel in Chicago.  This trendy new hotel is located on the loop right in the middle of everything.  The hotel is in a renovated bank building with 250 guest rooms or “Chambers.”  They tried to keep as many parts of the old architecture as possible while also adding tons of swanky new updates.  One of the awesome perks of staying at this hotel was the complimentary happy hour from 6-7pm.  We were offered free drinks during this time in their 2nd floor bar/restaurant. This was a great opportunity to try out some fun specialty cocktails which we usually pass on.  There was also a cute rooftop bar, but we didn’t get a chance to really try it out.  Overall, if your interested in a fun hotel in the city I would definitely  recommend this one.  Because they are new, their rates are fairly low for the area. Read more about them here.

Enjoying a free happy hour drink

Enjoying a free happy hour drink




9. Inside Chicago Walking Tours

Whenever we visit a new city we love to do a walking tour to get to know a little about the history of the city and really get a feel for where we our.  The small group settings and knowledgeable guides are great for learning more about a city. Often times they can be a little pricy for an hour or two, but we stumbled upon Inside Chicago Walking Tours via Livingsocial and tried it out.  We loved our tour with Hillary and it was totally worth her rates!  Although this is a new company the guide has done her research and only gives information she has verified as well as awesome notes she has come across during her research.  She is also an entertaining speaker so even if history isn’t your thing you will enjoy what she has to say.  Check her out,  you won’t be disappointed.  There is currently a deal on Livingsocial where new accounts get $10 off their first purchase of $20 or more.  Click here to get that deal and then here to get 2 tickets for $20!


10.  Lincoln Park Zoo

Although we didn’t get a chance to visit, the Lincoln Park zoo is worth mentioning in any post about cheap things in Chicago.  This FREE zoo is located north of the city, but is easily accessible via CTA busses.  Parking is expensive, so really consider taking the bus and not having to deal with the cost or traffic.  It’s a great place to spend the day.  Find out more here.


I hope you find these tips helpful.  Please let me know if you used any of them or, if you have suggestions of your own please add them in the comments.  We plan to return to the city at some point and will need new ideas!