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Saturday, February 16, 2019

Cheap, Awesome Eats in Vegas

There used to be a time when you went to Vegas, gambled all day and could eat at a buffet for $8. Now, everything is $30pp and that counts as budget for Sin City. Well, not for me. I do indulge a bit in an expensive restaurant or buffet, but I try to use a coupon if I can. There are still ways to at for cheap in Vegas and feel like you're eating well. Here are some of my favorites:

On the Strip

District Donuts

I just found out that New Orleans' delicious doughnuts and sliders have made a new home in Las Vegas. The Cosmopolitan opened a new food hall with two Portland staples, Pok Pok and Lardo, and District Donuts has also arrived. Now, I haven't been there yet, but it's on the top of my list for my next trip. Not only do they have dozens of amazing doughnut flavor combos, but fried chicken, sliders and breakfast sandwiches. I'm also dying for their Vietnamese coffee. 

Bruxie Waffles

Are you a lover of chicken and waffles or just waffles or just chicken? This is the place to get any and all of those things. They also have homemade soda and Irish nachos (waffle fries covered in cheese, sour cream and green onions) and desserts I've never been hungry enough to eat. Follow them on Instagram and watch for the $5 Wednesday special. You'll have to show them on your phone to get it, but it's worth it for the savings. Avoid a huge mistake and skip ordering a bottled water, which will end up costing more than your whole meal. You can get free ice water there...or bring your own.

Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips

If you love a good fried fish (or chicken or shrimp), This walk-in counter restaurant in the Linq Promenade is for you. Ramsay knows fish and knows that Vegas was missing a huge opportunity by not catering to the budget crowd. A box of fish and chips costs under $20 and can feed two, plus your order comes with your choice of two dipping sauces. It's not everyday you can eat food from a Michelin-starred chef for less than the cost of a pair of shoes.

Northside Cafe + Chinese Kitchen

This 24-hour restaurant inside the SLS serves up the tastiest, freshest breakfast (the banana pancakes are a personal favorite) all day, comfort favorites, and Chinese food. The monorail stops just steps away, so it's super easy to get to even without a car and you'll be dreaming about your meal until your next visit. 

House of Blues

Not only are there usually live musicians, but if you go during Happy Hour you can get a taste of all the awesome sounding things on the menu for way less than entrees from the main menu. Some of my faves were the BBQ chicken flatbread, gator bites and the brisket nachos. With all the money you save, you can also imbibe a little. If you like bourbon, the Beast of Bourbon is DE-li-cious. The sangria also comes in a pretty large size wine glass.

Off the Strip

Crown and Anchor Pub

It's difficult to find a good English pub in America, but this one does it and has delicious menu choices that will satisfy everyone in your party, and also satisfy your wallet. Crown & Anchor is in a cute little white building off The Strip on Tropicana Blvd. It's really easy to get to and the service is wonderful as well. You can find all your British favorites, done really well. The plates here are also large, so you may end up taking leftovers with you if you don't share. If you do share, it gives you an excuse to have one of their awesome desserts.

Bad Owl Coffee

You may remember other posts about this Harry Potter themed coffee shop. The coffee is phenomenal, but the food is just as good, with names like the Siriusly Proscuitto Sandwich, The Tonks Turkey Italian and Overknight Bus Oatmeal, the menu is really pun-derful. This is another place I like to share food at, espeically the really filling waffle breakfasts. While not super cheap, but the ambiance and quality is worth it. They just opened a second location in South Las Vegas, so now it's even easier to indulge in your Potterhead coffee dreams.

El Dorado Cantina

When you hear that a restaurant shares a parking lot with one of the largest strip clubs in the city, you do a bit of a double-take. I mean, why? But I'm open-minded and have been to my fair share of strip clubs, so I'm willing to check it out. The owner of El Dorado is lovely and the chef came out to give recommendations. He's from Mexico City and gives an upscale twist to classic street foods. Your guacamole is fresh made tableside. The cactus tacos and the lengua tacos are both to die for, and everything else I tried from other plates was delicious as well. Plates are huge, so you can easily share and order less, though you'll want to try everything once the first plate arrives, which I highly suggest should be bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Ninja Teriyaki & Sushi 2 Go

If you love sushi, then it's worth the drive into Vegas proper to visit this little hole in the wall location in a strip mall. It doesn't look like much, but the sushi is made to order, it's affordable and the rolls are monstrous. I was hungry when I ordered mine and got a rainbow roll (that's 8 pieces!) and salmon nigiri, plus an order of egg rolls on the side. It was less than $15 and I couldn't finish it all...though I tried hard to get through it. It was some of the freshest sushi I've ever had, and I go out for sushi at least twice a month. We've ordered their family meal as well that comes with a ton of sushi and teriyaki and eight of us didn't finish it all in one sitting. Look for Groupons, as they are pretty regular for this location.

Ellis Island

Not far off the Strip, Ellis Island is behind The Paris (I probably wouldn't walk though, since this area warrants there to be continuous cops up and down the street). You can grab breakfast here for a mere $7.99 and even get steak and shrimp for less than $14. Sign up for the players club and get a sirloin for just $8 You don't even have to leave to gamble, because they also have a casino. If that's not your thing, they have a karaoke lounge and an on-site brewery.

There are certainly a lot of options for dining in Vegas, but if you learn to mix cheap with expensive, you can have a pretty amazing trip. You might also find some hidden gems when you look for alternative dining. Everyone will point you to In 'N Out Burger or Whitecastle. I'd suggest trying one of the sushi burgers at the Linq Promenade instead. They're super filling and also easily shareable. 

What are your favorite cheap eats in Vegas?

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Packing for a Weekend Getaway

Most travelers aren’t content never taking a vacation or even slaving away all year to wait for their annual trip. In fact, aside from the usual two weeks, it’s hard to make it through day-to-day without getting away a few other times throughout the year. We tend to take a few days here and there a couple times a year. You might not think you have the funds to do it, but if you step back and take a look at your travel style you can find ways you can cut corners, meaning you’ll need a smaller budget to fund these long weekends. There are plenty of ways to save money, no matter where you go or how you get there. 
When you fly to your destination, one of the easiest ways to save – time and money – is by traveling carry-on only. You don’t need much for a few days, which means you can pack quickly, skip the airline counter check-in and ignore the baggage carousel upon arrival. I always have a packing list to help me keep the number of items down and also to make sure I don’t forget any of the essentials. I know when I get to my destination I can probably buy whatever I missed packing, since a weekend getaway isn’t going to take me that far from home (like, I probably am not going to Bali or Columbia), but I’m adamantly against spending money for things I already have. Here’s how to build your packing list:

Instead of even travel-size shampoo/conditioner, these samples can work for a weekend getaway
Normally, I take this 3oz hand cream, but these two sample packs are more than enough for 3 days
Save those samples
I know I’m not the only one that has a bag full of samples and trial-size health and beauty items. Every purchase I make from Sephora or other department store makeup counters comes with mini sizes of beauty products. I also sign up for many freebies online. When I travel, I go through and see what I can use and then pack it in my 3-1-1 or toiletry bag. I’m never going to use a full-size thing on a two-week trip, much less just a few days, so there’s no point bringing a whole container of anything, be it toothpaste, moisturizer or shampoo.

Pare down your beauty routine
Even with all your travel-size items, it still smart to take less. If you have an extensive morning routine at home, see what you can just get away with. I don’t load up on the makeup normally, so I figure there’s no point in taking a bunch of unnecessary items that I’ll probably not use. I know when I wake up I’m going to do the bare minimum so I can hurry up and get on with my day. Four or five products are all I need: moisturizer, foundation, powder, blush and mascara (optional). See what things you can do without. If you are an eye makeup kinda girl, look for makeup palettes that have everything you need in a neat little package, so you don’t have to pack everything separately.

Decant, decant, decant
Sometimes you can't find samples of your fave products, but you don't need to waste space by bringing even a large travel-size container. In this case, I say decant. Eric has a fantastic shave cream from Kiehl's, but it takes very little for each use, so I put some in a travel pot and kept the actual container at home. This makes it doubly perfect for traveling.

Pack multipurpose items
I love it when things do more than one thing. Cheek tint that is also a lip stain. Tinted moisturizer with SPF instead of sunscreen, moisturizer and foundation. A maxi skirt that can also be worn as a dress. A tablet for games, books, email and internet. All these things are perfect companions for your carry-on bag, because they take up less space.

My previous summer Vegas attire: shorts, capris, dress, 3 tops, fancy sandals and a
pair of  ballet flats (to be worn on the plane)

Mix and match
As always, when you coordinate all your clothing, it’s super easy to pack in a carry-on. Two bottoms and three tops can mix and match to make SIX outfits. That’s way more than you’ll need for a long weekend. Don’t forget that what you wear in transit can also be rotated in as needed. And shoes! You should take two pair – max. Make sure they are both comfortable enough to walk in all day. I had a coworker who told me that she had 16 pairs of shoes she wanted to take with her to Mexico on a four day trip. Sixteen! I don’t even think that many shoes would fit in my carry-on and if they did, there would be no room for anything else, except maybe socks and underwear. Her trip was for a wedding, so aside from what she needed for the ceremony, she could have survived with a sun dress, a pair of shorts, her bathing suit and some flip flops. Learning to pack efficiently is important and can save you a ton.

That’s it. Think about what you truly need with you for three or four days and be realistic. Don’t play the “what if” game. What if I go out to a fancy dinner? What if it gets really cold? What if I want to go clubbin’? Did you plan for those things? Do you normally just change plans at the last minute? Sometimes it seems like it might be harder to pack for a short trip than a long one, but with some practice, it can be super simple. Just think, if you don’t bring something that you thought you could live without, by the time you miss it, you’ll probably already be back home.

Yup, that's my actual packing list!
My next trip will be a 4-night stay in Vegas to visit the Travel Goods Show and hang out with some friends. My bag is already packed and it consists of one pretty slim backpack that fits my clothes, toiletries, laptop and snacks. I've packed 4 tops, a pair of joggers and a t-shirt for pajamas, and a spare pair of shoes. 

Since the weather will be pretty mild during the day and chilly in the evening, I think one pair of jeans will do me. I'll be wearing a cardigan on my flight that will work for all the tops in my bag, so I'll be set for layering as well. I skipped my bathing suit, because I know me and I won't end up using it. There's no point in wasting space.

I even have a spare tote that I can use for any items that I pick up on my trip. That way I don't have to bring a bigger bag I don't want to carry and could overpack, plus it can be used as a shopping bag or laundry bag during my stay. I'll be carrying the smallest purse I can get away with, just so I don't have extra bulk.

What are some of your favorite ways to travel light?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Where Will You Be Spending Spring Break?

Generally, I stay home for Spring Break, because I'm an adult and I save my monies for better vacation times, like Fall and Winter, but this year the Travel Goods Show lands smack dab in the middle of Spring Break in Oregon, meaning I had to do some fancy planning to do it on a budget. Now, going to and staying in Vegas was fine, because of fare sales and our timeshare, but I guess everyone wants to spend their trip in Portland, because coming back was 3-4 times as much as going, so to save money, we are returning to Seattle and taking the train home...and spending the same as flying out. 

If you're looking to get out of town and do something for Spring Break, you've got plenty of options. May cheap ones even. Skyscanner has pulled together their list of popular destinations and their average cost. They pulled it all into a fun infographic to help you decide your best route based on your budget.  

Did you have your sights set on any of these popular destinations? Where will you be headed in the next month or so?
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