Let's Connect!


Wednesday, January 31, 2024

5 Affordable Valentine's Travel Destinations

Still looking for a great getaway for your Valentine? Travel is a great experience, and many times experiences are better than things. Candy and flowers last only so long, but memories last forever. If you can swing a trip in February with your sweetheart, I guarantee it'll be more exciting than one fancy dinner. 

Still looking for a great getaway for your Valentine? Travel is a great experience, and many times experiences are better than things.

Not sure where to go on a budget? Well, here are 5 destinations for you:


Bring your big coat and layers, because it will be cold, but you can easily escape the rough weather by heading inside and exploring places like the Chicago Cultural Center, with it's gorgeous Tiffany Dome, Harold Washington Library Center, and walk hand-in-hand through Garfield Park Conservatory. If you are brave enough to go outside, walk the Magnificent Mile, take photos in front of the Bean, see some outdoor art, and enjoy Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. All of these things are free, so you can spend money on dining out. Check out Eater's list of best heated patios in the city. I also love this list of covered patios and rooftop eateries.

San Francisco

Soak up a bit of sun in the Bay Area. While it'll still be foggy, which can trap the cold air, you can get some warm moments in the city. Mardi Gras will be happening on the 13th, which means free parades, live music, and a masquerade ball with (free) dinner! You can also check out the Cable Car Museum, take a tour of the dome in the City Hall building, hit up the Ferry Building for its year-round farmers market, and see a 360-degree view of the city at de Young's Harmon Observation Tower. All the money you saved can take you to the beautiful gardens of Golden Gate Park: the Conservatory of Flowers, Japanese Tea Garden, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Choose one or all.


You don't have to ski to enjoy Denver. There are tons of great museums, including the awesome interactive Convergence Station by Meow Wolf. If you're looking for freebies, you can tour the Denver Mint, hit up First Friday, a shuttled tour of art galleries, take a Hammond's Candy Factory tour, or head outside and wander the sculpture-laden City Park, where you can also get a wonderful view of the city. Book a table at one of Denver's best heated outdoor patios, like the cool af tents at Michelin-starred Wolf's Tailor. It'll cost you a pretty penny, but you just saved on all your sightseeing! For a cheaper option, book a private gazebo at Bar Dough.


Believe me, I know how right now it's really enticing to just get totally away and sunbathe for a few days. If that's more your speed, then you can take an easy flight to Cancun, where you can sit on the beach or you can indulge in some free things like a self-guided mural tour downtown, see some awesome live music at Parque Las Palapas, or view cool birds and iguanas at Kabah Urban Park. If you want to take your love out to a romantic dinner after your day, here are some suggestions from OpenTable.


Skip the theme parks and you can not only find pretty good deals on accommodations, but there is a long list of free things you can do, including the Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve, Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum and Kissimmee Lakefront Park. If you need a bit of magic, book dinner in one of the many restaurants at Disney Springs, or choose from some of these date night restaurants.

If your idea of a romantic getaway is a good road trip, here are some of the best scenic drives in the US, according to BudgetTravel. Pack a bag, throw some food and drinks in a cooler, gas up, and go.

If you missed my post on champagne and prosecco travel, go check that out. 

Tell me in the comments where your best romantic destination, attraction, or restaurant.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Literal Champagne Travel (Even On a Beer Budget)

When people celebrate things, like Valentine's Day or weddings or anniversaries or accomplishments, they often do so by popping open a bottle of bubbly. Sometimes it's sparkling wine or prosecco, but we almost always say champagne. By now, you probably know it's not champagne unless it comes from the champagne region in France. If you love a good glass of bubbles, you're not alone. 

By now, you probably know it's not champagne unless it comes from the champagne region in France. Now go take a romantic champagne tour through France

If you want to travel to Champagne, know that the exchange rate is very favorable for Americans heading to France. That means you can save money getting and staying there and then splurge a bit on a tour. 

There are 5 zones in the region and you can hit one or all of them in a trip. If you want to only focus on non-vintage champagne where you won't find most of the tourists, check out the Aube or the Côte de Sézanne zones. If you want to do more than just drink champagne, head to the more touristy parts of the region: Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs. The smaller, boutique producers generally do everything on-site, so you can learn about their bottles from start to finish. Here's a little more about where to go and when from Conde Nast. And if you are going to Reims, here are some awesome things to do there.

You can even learn a little more about champagne before you get there. In fact, Fodor's has 10 fun facts for you.

The idea of champagne and the actual bottles first came from Britain, even though we all think it was France. It wasn't until Britain had discovered the predecessor to champagne, sparkling wine, and how to make the bottles much stronger in order to keep them from exploding under the immense pressure created, that the Champagne region learned how to replicate the bubbly drink in their own way.  

Imagine having the chance to try champagne that is almost 120 years old! That's what some lucky souls are going to get to do, now that the bottles have been rescued from a collapsed cellar in the Northern France city of Épernay. Hopefully, they're still drinkable. 

Pair your champagne vacation with a tour of your favorite foods by taking a French journey to explore the country and the origins of those foods like brie and Roquefort cheese. 

If prosecco is more your speed, or you'd rather spend your time in Italy than France (decisions, decisions), the prosecco region is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. AFAR is here to tell you the best vineyards to check out, as well as where to stay and eat. 

There's also the essential guide that can tell you how to get there and around affordably. Also, where to go for the kind of prosecco you like, the benefits of hiring a driver, and other things to do in the region. 

If you want to add on a unique experience and tour, and don't need everything on your trip to be bubble-filled, check out these vineyard tours of the Bordeaux region by way of a British black cab. Wine-Cab sounds so cool to me, and I've not had the opportunity to try them out yet, but we also aren't big drinkers. The rates are pretty reasonable for half-day trips, and it's nice to not have to drive yourself (you have a built-in designated driver) and find your way around or have to navigate public transportation. It's a luxurious little way to experience the region, which gives a bit more of a romantic vibe. 

I hope this helps you plan a wonderful couple's getaway with some of your favorite beverages, while also creating fantastic memories. Tell me some of your top bubbly drinks in the comments.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Your Next Romantic Getaway

Are you ready for Valentine's Day and beyond? We don't celebrate the day, because everything is so expensive, and we try really hard to do special things all year. If a romantic getaway sounds like something you want to jump on, I'll be bringing you several posts just in time for Valentine's Day.

Some places are just more romantic than others, so if you're looking to go to one of those destinations, here are ideas for Valentine's Day and beyond

Some places are just more romantic than others, so if you're looking to go to one of those destinations in the U.S., Fodor's has a list of 15 small towns to check out, from the surprising Eureka Springs, Arkansas to Carmel-By-The-Sea, California.

If you're willing to go further away, there are infinite possibilities. Winni Wanderer has 11 romantic destinations both domestic and abroad, from Paris to Charleston, SC. 

Wherever we go, we try to visit botanical gardens and parks. They are always chill and beautiful and offer a ton of gorgeous photo ops, whether you want to take butterfly pics or charming couple's snaps among the blooms. They can be tiny or tons of acreage, full of flowers or cactus or herbs. Every one is so different and I love it. Afar has pulled together the 15 most beautiful to visit, though I will argue that they're all beautiful in their own way. I enjoyed Longwood Gardens more than any other, but I loved Kew Gardens as much as I loved the Botanical Building in San Diego's Balboa Park.

If the world is too far for you or you're just looking to road trip for some blooms, then Thrillist has pulled the best from the U.S. and I'm absolutely dying to visit Atlanta's with the living Mother Nature. I'd also throw in Japanese and Chinese gardens to your list of musts, because they offer a completely different vibe with lovely little nooks to discover around every corner. 

Paris is known as the City of Love (and lights), and when you visit, there's no question as to why. The buildings are beautiful, the history, the language, the river, the food. I had the best time exploring other parts of the city then I had before. One thing I missed out on seeing was the I Love You wall. If you want to see it, and take a bunch romantic photos in front of it, while absorbing the love radiating from this art piece.

Valentine's Day isn't just an American thing. In fact, there are different traditions in different countries, which can be really cool and romantic in other ways. Here are 11 of the most unique.

Buy some Valentine's travel gear

Getting ready to jetseet now? While a trip is the ultimate gift, maybe you'd like to extend the gift to useful physical things. Here are some "love"ly ideas for your travel bag:

Columbia makes some great pieces, but right now these are two of my favorites. The Holly Hideaway Flannel Shirt for women and the Rapid Rivers Shirt

Good walking shoes for your adventures are a must. These bright kicks from Skechers are nice looking and comfy on top of that. Check out the Uno-Stand On Air and the Uno Senior Deloney. Both come in red and other awesome colors.

A non-black hardside carry-on is the perfect travel companion. You will always know which bag is yours and you can't overpack. I'm really digging this violet set from Luggex and this Amazon Basics carry-on with Barbie vibes. Both come in other, less feminine colors if you prefer. 

I always carry a power bank with me to charge my phone while I'm out and about. Between social media, navigation, making reservations, taking tons of pictures, I really need a boost to my phone battery mid-day. This one has enough to charge two phones more than once, and fairly quickly.

Planning a picnic in the park or just having a romantic drinky drink in your hotel room? Bring your own non-breakable wine glasses. I love a good silicone cup, because they feel good in your hand and can squish down in your bag, but I am also a fan of multipurpose items, so these hot/cold tumblers can be used to keep wine cold or coffee hot. I like that they come with their own straws, too. And if you find yourself on a wine tasting, and bringing home bottles, here are some protective wine bags for your checked bag, and a wine tote bag for bringing back if you're doing a road trip.

Stay tuned for our Destination Date Night for Valentine's Day, because you don't have to spend a ton of money to go out to a fancy dinner or travel halfway around the world if it's not in your budget. I'll be sharing some tips, ideas, and recipes in time for you to plan your own, if that's more your speed or you're saving up for a big trip later in the year.

Tell me your most romantic getaway in the comments

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

You Have Questions, I Have Answers!

I'm coming at you mid-posts to ask you for your struggles. I want to help you all more in 2024 and to do that, I need to know where you're falling short on your travels or what could just help you more.  

I want to help you all more in 2024 and to do that, I need to know where you're falling short on your travels or what could just help you more.
photo credit

I'll be addressing these via blog posts and newsletters, and short ones may get put into compilation posts and Facebook posts. No matter what you have questions on or need a little bit of help to do better, let me know: 

  • Need help learning to plan better?
  • Need ideas for budget destinations?
  • Still can't pack light?
  • Not sure how to budget for a trip?
  • Need an audio version of the blog?
  • Want video tutorials?
Add your struggles in the comments here, over on the Facebook post, or send me a short email (hit that little envelope up top to do that).

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Hunt For Happiness Week

Hunt For Happiness Week is almost here. January 21-27th is your time to find and do the things that make you happy. For most of us, a big contributor to that is travel. Whether you travel alone or with friends, you can really up your happiness quotient. Even just the act of planning or booking a trip is helpful to your mental health.

Traveling rewires our brains. It's a great way to gain knowledge through action instead of books. Not that reading isn't awesome, it is, and I encourage you to read anything you can get your hands on that sounds interesting, but travel is immersive education. Here are just some of the ways it gives us a mental boost:

It makes you more creative and accepting of new ideasThis includes food, culture, traditions, and history.

It challenges us - By having to deal with new circumstances and adapt to new situations, we expand our skills and mind.

It creates better bonds - If you travel with others, experiencing new things together can build better relationships, even if things don't always go as planned.

It pushes you meet new people - Meeting and connecting with new people allows you to realize that we're all people just making it in the world and we aren't all that different from each other and can promote empathy and compassion, which brings us to the next on the list:

It promotes tolerance - When we see how other people live, and we have to experience it, too, we become more tolerant and accepting of differences and other ways of living. Diversity is a great thing and people who travel learn that better than those that don't.

It creates new memories - Having wonderful memories to look back on gives us a happy. Sometimes, when I'm feeling meh, and I remember something cool that happened or look back on a particular vacation, I feel myself perk up a bit, knowing I'll have more of those moments.

It expands your palette - There are endless opportunities to try new foods and drinks when you travel. You may find some new favorites, and if you don't, at least you were adventurous enough to try it.

It releases stress - You have your day-to-day routine of work, sleep, eat, repeat. When you worry about any of those things, you hold stress in your body. Travel allows you to release that and makes you calmer by thrusting you into a new routine. Less stress means you reduce your risk of heart attack and anxiety. 

It helps you appreciate different things - If you feel like you don't love where you live, or even if you do, traveling to a different landscape can help you appreciate your home city more, but also enjoy new weather and scenery.

It prioritizes experiences over things - As we age, we find that experiences are much more important than the things we've bought along the way. The more I travel, the less I care about souvenirs, though I buy an ornament for my tree everywhere I go, so my holidays are a lot more exciting with vacation memories every time I decorate and look at my tree.

It builds self-confidence - The more you travel, the easier it gets dealing with situations that are foreign to us. We learn to navigate public transportation, we learn new words, we learn to order off different menus. I'm always proud when I find myself in a new situation and am able to handle it and persevere, especially if I am traveling solo. 

In Ecuador, Eric and I bought matching wedding bands (which we didn't have for the first 3 years we were married) with minimal Spanish from a lovely little family-owned jewelry shop. Now, I can remember that achievement every time I look at my finger.

It helps you learn more about yourself - Find out where your strengths and weaknesses are and work on them. My strengths are planning out a great day and making the most of things if something goes wrong. Eric's strengths are navigation and having fun no matter what we end up doing. I plan the things and make a schedule and he figures out how to get to those places. It helps me know that I need to focus on getting around better when I travel on my own.

It gives you something to talk about - When you travel, other people who like to travel want to hear about it and swap stories. You get ideas from them and they get ideas from you, helping you both plan better trips in the future. It also makes you a better conversationalist, I think.

Well, there you have it, a long list of why travel is important for your happiness. I hope you have some travel planned for the year or you are at least planning a future trip which you may or may not have dates for, because your mental health benefits from having something to look forward to. Go to new places, eat all the foods, do cool things, take a ton of pictures, and meet awesome people. Now, go forth and hunt for happiness this week.

What things make you happy? Tell us below. It doesn't have to be travel, though I'd love to hear your favorite destinations. Coffee and dogs make me happy.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Where To Travel Alone in 2024

Solo traveling can be very fun and beneficial. Maybe your partner doesn't want to go on a trip. Maybe your friend dipped out on you. Maybe you just do most things alone and this is no different. Whatever the case, sometimes it's either go alone or stay home. I don't know about you, but I hate the stay home option. We usually travel as a couple, once a year I go somewhere with my mom, and other times I get a friend to go with me, but sometimes I am happy to explore on my own.

If you're looking to travel on your own, you can do it anywhere, but there are some places that are better than others to do it. Here are 10.

One of my favorite places to go on my own is Las Vegas. There are always people out, people always want to chat with you, there's always something happening, and if you aren't into people, there are plenty of things to do on your own where people usually don't bother you. It's like you're part of a crowd, but also not if you don't want to be. If you're looking to travel on your own, you can do it anywhere, but there are some places that are better than others to do it. Here's where to go if you are determined to go abroad.

1. Argentina - The second most popular solo destination (see Japan for the first). Argentina is a haven for any type of traveler, whether you like to be outside and hike to waterfalls or explore the city and eat great food or drink wine at any number of vineyards. 

2. Bali (and the Gili Islands) - Are you looking for water activities? If so, Bali has it all: surfing, scuba, snorkeling, white water rafting. Looking for something on land? Visit a monkey sanctuary, trek up a volcano, or visit a plethora of temples.

3. Colombia - Pirate history, fine dining, graffiti art, beautiful lakes, and nightlife. Colombia has all that and more, with a budget-friendly price tag.

4. Ecuador - Whether you're looking to indulge in history in Quito or head out to surrounding areas to enjoy outdoor adventures, Ecuador is a cheap and gorgeous destination, perfect for groups and solo travelers. 

5. Egypt - For all the sketchy things I've heard about Egypt, it is apparently a great destination for solo traveling, especially if you love archaeology. I would still be extra vigilant when going outside of larger areas that are pretty populated. 

6. Japan - Japan is becoming a hugely popular travel destination and 2023 saw their tourism numbers explode. 2024 is not looking to slow down at all. The country is full of lovely, kind people who are happy to meet you and help you get where you're trying to go. Japan is also promoting their tourism with unique and fun experiences, many that are great for solo travelers.  

7. Jordan - If you want to indulge in some desert activities, or visit the Dead Sea, Jordan is full of things for the solo traveler to do, including glamping, shopping and exploring ruins.

8. Philippines - Almost as popular as Thailand (see below) is the Philippines. With more than 7,000 islands, you are spoiled for choices, which is especially appealing if you love hiking, exploring waters and beaches, enjoying the rainforest and all it has to offer, and boating, but you can always do walking tours in cities like Intramuros. 

9. Sri Lanka - If you love a train, Sri Lanka has big appeal. Their upcountry train routes are great for slow immersive travel. You'll find quite a few US and UK travelers alongside you. 

10. Thailand - There's more to Thailand than what you see in The Hangover II, and the affordability can't be beat. There's street food, beaches, shopping, wild elephants, temples, and even kayaking.

Why travel alone? 

There are lots of reasons to travel solo, many of which don't include the fact that you have no one to go with you. I travel alone, because I like the time for myself. It's very beneficial though. These are just some of the reasons:

  • You don't have to compromise your travel style with anyone else
  • You can do only the things YOU want to do
  • You can do as much or as little each day as you want
  • You only have to worry about your own budget
  • If you're an introvert, this allows you to get the much needed alone time you require to recharge
  • You can try new things that nobody else wanted to do
  • You can really learn how you deal with problems on your own
  • Learn to be more independent and better at figuring out things like transportation and cancellations by yourself
If you think you might like to travel alone, but that you'll get lonely, make sure to call family or friends to chat, as you normally would, meet up with social media friends or an extension of a club or organization you're already a part of, take a tour, or volunteer. You don't have to spend 100% of your time by yourself. I'll often take pics and send them to a friend. This allows me to check in with them and have short chats via text. 

Where have you traveled either alone or with others that you think is a great solo travel destination?

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Using Rakuten to Travel Cheaper

Did you know that you can basically get paid to travel and shop [for your travel gear and clothing] for things you buy everyday? You can and Rakuten will pay you for it. I never buy or book anything without first checking Rakuten. So, what IS Rakuten? It's a fantastic - and free! - site that offers you cash back for purchasing from online merchants. If you plan to make a purchase anyway, you might as well get something for being a loyal (or even a new) customer. 

Did you know that you can basically get paid to travel and shop [for your travel gear and clothing] for things you buy everyday?
Here's how it works: Sign up is quick and easy, then you're ready to shop! When you have a hankering to buy something, say, at Sephora, go to Rakuten, sign in, click on Sephora and it takes you straight to the main website. You must go through Rakuten, so they can track your purchase. At checkout, make sure you use the same email address you used to sign up on Rakuten and within a few days, your purchase will show up in your account. 

Here you can see my current pending and my all-time cash back

You can track your cash back total to see how much you saved and then every quarter, Rakuten sends you a Big Fat Check (if you choose that method) or a Big Fat Payment via Paypal. Normally, you get $5 for signing up, but right now get $30 once you make your first qualifying purchase! Who else does that? If there are coupon codes available or special sales, Rakuten will show them to you, helping you save even MORE!

I like to use my cash back as a travel savings supplement. Each time I make a purchase, I rack up cash and then it gets deposited right to my Paypal account. I use that money to purchase travel stuffs, like Groupons, clothing, tours, and more! If I can get more cash back with it, even better! Of course, you can use it for whatever you want. 

Stores you can shop at: Rakuten has, literally, hundreds of online merchants you can choose from, including a long list of travel merchants. Just a sampling of those include: TravelSmith, Holiday Inn, Avis, Alaska Airlines, Camping World, Orbitz, Air France, Delta Airlines, HomeAway and even AAA! Keep your eyes out for the Daily Double. Each day a list of awesome merchants offer double cash back on your purchases for the day. 

It's Travel Week on Rakuten right now and you can earn 2x cash back on a bunch of merchants. There are also a ton of travel deals now that the holidays are over, so you can get an even better deal when you book.

And now, you can easily get cash back through Rakuten by downloading the Chrome extension on your computer. When you go to a website that accepts Rakuten, the app will add a banner to the top of your screen letting you know, then you can can click on the banner and it will automatically put you through your Rakuten account and straight back to the site. That's it. One click and you're on your way to getting money back. I always like to check out the Rakuten site anyway, because they include any active coupon codes, so you can save even more. 

If you spend a lot of time on your phone, download Rakuten there, too. It's a bit of extra work, since you have to open the app and then find the store you want to shop at from there, but it's always worth it. It's easy to get around, see your account, find your favorites, and see all the places you can get cashback on one screen.

Haven't signed up for Rakuten yet? Do it now.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Dining Out For Less

January is Be Kind to Food Servers Month, so it feels like it's time to bring back some tips for saving money while dining on vacation, along with some suggestions on how you can inject a little more kindness when you're somewhere that you are being served food or beverages. 

January is Be Kind to Food Servers Month, so it feels like it's time to bring back some tips for saving money while dining on vacation.

I love food, and I travel to try new things. I know there are a lot of Americans who try their best to only dine at restaurants they recognize when they vacation, and that's very odd to me. I understand if you travel with picky children or have sensitivity to new foods or are atypical and the one constant you need is food, but for others to go out of their way to travel to new places and then only eat the same foods they eat at home is crazy. Food is awesome and it's an amazing way to learn more about a destination. I feel like you miss out on a big part of travel by not engaging in local cuisine. Anyway, here are ways I save money on food when I travel.

When you've bought random snacks and have hunger in the evening, you don't have to go out

Bring snacks - When I'm out doing things, I can eat all day. That's not helpful when you're on a budget. I am also a person who gets hangry. When I declare I'm hungry, it means that I probably need to eat within the hour before I turn into a different person. A person you don't want to know. I travel like I have a 5-year-old in tow, with a bag of snacks, just in case. You don't have to have a million snacks, but a couple is always good. A granola bar, meat sticks, a bag of nuts. Anything you enjoy that can give you that little boost you need and keep you from becoming emotional because you need to eat. I love a good RX Bar. They're small, but mighty and I especially love the Chocolate & Sea Salt and the Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter.

Tip: Servers are people, too. They didn't make your food, so if it's incorrect or cold or not good, be nice. They're probably happy to take it back and make it right for you, but being rude is uncalled for + don't be mean to the people who handle your food/drinks.

Choose one meal to eat in - If you have a vacation rental with a kitchen, make use of it. Choose a meal to eat "at home". A quick trip to the grocery store is not only fun, but can save you money over dining out. At the very least, and most of what we do, is to bring back leftovers and eat those instead of going out for another meal. Even doing this once or twice can save a good chunk of money, especially if it's a dinner out you're skipping. 

Tip: Give a little extra where you can. I am happy to go out a little less if it means I can tip a little more. Being a server is hard. I know I couldn't do it. Many of them don't make a living wage and depend on tips to pay their bills. Unless I get wretched service, I tip 18-20%, and sometimes more if I can or I get stellar service. I know not all places tip, but even if you're in a place that doesn't really do tipping (like France, maybe), I try to leave $5 or so, so they know I was happy. Just don't do this in places where it is rude to tip, like Japan.

Eat lunch at the fancy place  - Did you want to eat at a fancy restaurant? Then make your reservations for lunch instead of dinner if you can. Sometimes the price for lunch can be as much as half the cost of dinner and often they have the same dishes.  

Hit up food carts/trucks - I live in a food cart utopia. Luckily, more are cropping up around the world. Not only can you save by eating outside of a restaurant, but usually there is more just one truck, which means you can try several cuisines at one time, if you want, or you can find something for everyone in your travel group instead of deciding on just one place to sit and eat. I usually keep a set of reusable utensils in my bag for food cart stops, so I'm helping the earth a little bit and have a better, more durable fork or spoon to eat with.

One of the best hotel breakfasts I've ever had (in Paris)

Book a hotel that includes breakfast - If you have a choice between two hotels in the same price range and one includes breakfast and the other doesn't, choose the one with, because even if it's not the greatest breakfast, it's still free and can save you $10+ per person per day of your trip. I am usually happy to hit up a coffee shop, but even that can add up. If that boring drip coffee is not up your alley (I completely understand), perhaps bringing along an Aeropress and your favorite espresso is a great way to still get a good cuppa and save money.

Tip: If you enjoyed your dining experience, thank your server, but also write a note of thanks on your bill, because not only will they see it, but so will the manager and whoever handles the paperwork after them. It's better than a Google review, because it's specifically for your server.

Share dishes with your travel partner - Sometimes when you go out to eat, you aren't starving and can split something, but my other favorite thing to do is you each order a dish that you both wanted, then share when they show up. If you're happy splitting one entrée, you can always also order an appetizer or a dessert to round off your meal. This way you get enough to eat, but you also don't have to take anything with you if you can't go back to put it in a fridge (though some places don't do leftovers, so it also eliminates wasting any food).

Use GrouponSometimes you can find local favorites on a Groupon deal, saving you 20-60% off a meal. We've found a lot of cool restaurants this way. Make sure to read reviews, because I've also found some not great restaurants this way, though not many. A lot of times new eateries will post deals in order to drum up business and gain a following of regular diners. 

Tip: Be patient. There are a lot fewer staff members at a majority of places right now and it may not get better anytime soon. If you're in a hurry, try to avoid a sit-down place, or go early. Being mad that the skeleton crew can't get to you quickly is just going to ensure that you're mad most places you go. Dining out is supposed to be relaxing. If they're doing their best, that's all you can expect. Have a drink or an appetizer and enjoy your companions or plan your next day of travel. You can always bring a quick game like Fluxx. There are a lot of versions, but why not try the travel-themed version on your travels?

Eat during happy hour - If you don't mind eating a bit early or late, and choosing from a limited menu, you can save quite a bit on a meal. We often go to happy hour at home at one of our favorite restaurants. It gives us an excuse to order more things than we normally would, because it's cheaper and the portions are smaller. Sometimes we don't get hungry for lunch until 3 or we are ready to go to dinner at 5 and this really works out for us. You don't have to order an alcoholic beverage to take advantage of these food deals either, but you can.

Skip the kid's menu - If you can, try to avoid the kid's menu. Sure, they have grilled cheese and pizza and those things that all kids seem to like, but everything is overpriced and half the time kids never finish food they are given. If you can, split something with them or an entrée between two kids. Not only will you get a better value this way, but also broaden your child's taste buds.

Go where kid's eat free - There are lots of places that offer a deal where kids under a certain age eat free when you order an entrée. This can save a lot of money over the course of your trip and it's easy to Google places at your destination where it is offered. 

Tip: Clean up big messes. I see a lot of families eat out and leave a huge mess when they are finished eating. It sucks. There is a reasonable amount of mess that someone expects to clean up, and then there is a 5-foot radius of mashed up food and trash. Please don't be that person. I consolidate all my trash, put all my silverware on my plate when I'm done, and often I stack plates to keep my server from having to pick up 800 individual plates and utensils. 

It's easy to spend money, but it's also easy to save it when you do a little planning before and during your trip. What are some of your favorite ways to save money on food when you travel?

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. I may be monetarily compensated should you make a purchase through them. It's completely free for you and your purchases enable me to keep this blog running, so thanks in advance.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

2024 Travel Trends

I love looking ahead to the coming travel trends so I can see how travel is expected to change in the coming year. Since 2020, people have been vacationing differently than they did before. I know that I savor the ability to explore the world more than I did, while other people have finally discovered that slow travel (taking their time in a destination) is more rewarding than spending 1-2 days in a city before moving on. 

Since 2020, people have been vacationing differently than they did before. Let's look at the upcoming travel trends for 2024.
photo credit

I may not be going anywhere super original this year, but I also plan to visit at least 3 different destinations, travel with intention, travel with my mom, and travel to see family.

According to Hilton, travelers are looking for more personalization, easier self-booking, and will be investing in their sleep more, meaning they may pay a little more to stay somewhere more comfortable, where they can relax after a long day out. Travelers are also placing more value on culture and experiences, like dining, which is good to hear, because those are two reasons travel is awesome and allows people to really connect with a destination and people, building more tolerance for other places, traditions, and lifestyles. 

What ways are you planning to change how you travel? Do you align with the new travel trends?

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Happy New Year 2024

Happy New Year! It feels like 2023 just started and now it's a whole new year. Usually, we try to travel during this time, but we've been doing so much local stuff, that it has felt like a mini vacation. Plus, there weren't any flight deals for the places we were thinking of going to, so we just skipped it this year.

We started out 2024 on a high note, working on one of my new resolutions, but here are what I'm looking forward to this next year.

As you know, the majority of my resolutions are travel-related, non-specific, and pretty easy to achieve, because making resolutions like "going to the gym" or "losing 10 lbs" or "calling people more often" are boring and I know I won't do them, even if I want to. Let's look at what I said last year: 

Be kind - this has been a relatively easy one, especially when you surround yourself with like-minded people. I've done a lot of volunteer work with PDXpelliarmus, our local chapter of Fandom Forward, making sure our LGBTQ+ members of the Harry Potter community feel seen and heard and cared for.

Go somewhere new - this year we went to Palm Springs, which neither of us had been to. It was a lovely break and at some point we will go back, because the city may be small, but it's wonderful and full of amazing food and architecture. 

I halfway add that we went to Vancouver, BC. I have previously been to Vancouver island and we had a long layover in Vancouver before, where we went to lunch, explored the conservatory, went to a salt room, and then went back to the airport. We were there for much longer this time, though still not long enough, and did quite a bit in and around the city. This year we plan to hit up Nashville.

Keep masking in crowded areas - We went to several events, rode on planes, and went to multiple theme parks this year. We wore masks in all these places. It's an easy thing to do to keep ourselves from getting sick and spreading it to others, whether it's Covid, the flu, a regular cold, or something else. I probably won't stop masking on planes, as I was trying that out before Covid came along. Not being sick on vacation is wonderful and I highly recommend it.

Encourage people to go to new places - I hope that through my own travels and tips for saving on things, people plan new adventures. I had the opportunity to give a lot of advice for places to friends in real life, from London to Las Vegas, so I know they did fun things once there. I also encouraged a new friend to come check out Portland, and she did!

Revive Destination Potlucks - Okay, we tried this for Mardi Gras and it went over okay, but not well enough for me to keep it up. It's much easier to plan a Destination Date Night for the two of us and I feel like the amount of work I put in is worth it, so we will continue to strive to get some of those in where we can. (Give me suggestions for places you want to see/read about! Hit me in the comments.)

What would I add for this year? 

  • Do more local activities and events - We spent a good chunk of December exploring the city's holiday markets, pop-ups, attractions, and events. It was pretty great and I hope to continue finding things to do the rest of the year. In February, we'll be attending a tea tasting and lantern viewing for Lunar New Year at our Chinese Garden. 
  • Meet up with more friends on my travels - If you're like me, you have a lot of social media friends you've never met in real life, but you know they are awesome. We met up for meals with some last year and I look forward to doing it again. I usually ask for recommendations for places to eat and get coffee before I travel and our trip to Vancouver was no different, except that when people gave me recommendations for their favorite places, I asked if they would be willing to come eat with us, and they did, and it was fantastic.
  • Try something new - I don't know what this will be. Maybe it'll be an activity, maybe it'll be a hobby, it'll definitely be food. The more new things I can try, the better. I'll keep you posted as I'm able to achieve them. 
  • Bring back 48 Hours on a Budget series - I love this series, but it takes a lot of work to do each post, so it often gets put off and then I haven't done any and I am disappointed in myself. 
  • Do more holiday/month-specific posts - I hope to bring you more specific posts like for Women's History Month, and travel for holidays/events. 
  • Create more reels for Instagram - I don't know that I am great at them, but I hope to do more and get more creative now that I know what I'm doing and can do it all within the Instagram app. Let me know if this is something you care about (you can see my latest one at the bottom of this post) or if you just like stories and regular posts.
  • Support more local and small artists - As someone who purchases a lot of Harry Potter and magical things, but doesn't want to buy branded merchandise whenever possible, I have been buying things from artists I love. It helped a lot going to 5 or 6 holiday markets in a month. I plan to continue this into the new year, because without artists, what is life even? 

We started out 2024 on a high note though, working on that last resolution, and I hope my whole year goes the same way. A local(ish) artist opened up her home on the 1st and gave tours of her collection of devil and Krampus pieces. It was truly amazing and then we came away with a new piece of pottery she made. I'm excited to see what things I find for myself and others this year at more things like this.

Here's hoping for a prosperous, adventurous, and delicious 2024. I hope the start of the year is already good for you. Let me know your resolutions for the coming months, no matter what they are. I want to read all your comments!

Pin It button on image hover