One of the blogs I follow, had this post yesterday http://boardingarea.com/onemileatatime/2013/12/01/us-airways-100-bonus-shared-miles-returns/. This is a very good deal. This deal is offering a 100% bonus on sharing miles from December 2-6, 2013. So if you share 50k miles, the person you share them with gets 100k for $567. This is enough for business class to Asia.The problem I found is I didn’t have a sky mileage account for US Air. You need to have one for at least 12 days to participate in this program. I quickly made my account. Next time I can participate. I am posting this just in case you have an US Air sky mileage account. I hope all of you take advantage of this offer. It will be exciting to hear about the travels you took with the miles. Now this is frugal travel!
This week at Von’s grocery stores is a great deal on gift cards. Spend a minimum of $150 on participating gift cards (Best Buy, Toys r Us, Macy’s, iTunes, Regal, AMC, Gap, Bath & Body Works, Starbucks, Sephora, Petgo, Micheal’s, Lowe’s, Amazon, Forever 21, Kohl’s, and quite a few more) receive $25 off your next purchase. You will also receive 4x’s the gas rewards. This is the perfect time to get all these rewards, then use the cards next week on Black Friday. I take this money and save for future travel.
At Farm Fresh Grocery stores for each $100 dollars on participating gift cards you receive $20 off of groceries. I do not know exactly which cards are participating, please read the fine print listed at the store. I do know you can receive gas rewards with their store program.
If you are buying $200 or more, ring them up separately. For example: if you are buying $300 in gift cards at Vons, separate them into $150 increments and ring them up in 2 transactions. This will give you 2-$25 off you next shopping trip.
Are the grocery stores in your area offering special deals? Please let me know. Thank you and happy saving!
My experience in Italy is the inspiration for this post about hotel selection. Staying at the right hotel, helps set the mood for your trip. I didn’t realize that until I made it to Venice, Italy. On my Italian vacation I stayed in 3 cities and obviously 3 different hotels. Each time I checked in I compared the hotels. Quickly the pattern presented itself. I did not realize how much the small things really mattered to me. When I booked this vacation I did it because of a travel deal I saw on Groupon Getaways. I had never been to Italy, so I left it up to the travel agent to choose the hotels. That was a first for me. I had only booked a trip through a travel agent once before. Until now I would do all the trip planning, book all the hotels myself. This time I trusted the agent. She did her job and booked hotels. Here is my comparison:
Hotel #1 Serena Hotel Rome, Italy
1. Location: This hotel was inside the city walls and within walking distance to many popular sites. It was around the corner from the train station. We had train tickets to Florence and our hop on/off city tour bus picked us up at the train station so this was very convenient.
2. Size: This hotel room was moderately sized. For a European hotel room it was actually slightly bigger than standard. It had 2 twin beds close together, a mini fridge, and other basic room amenities. The room was located on the third floor (which is really the 4th; they count the bottom as ground level).
3. Elevator: This hotel had a small 3 person elevator. It was cute. It had the iron doors. It was an open elevator so it did not feel as closed in. I only took the elevator to get my luggage upstairs. All the other times I took the stairs because I’m mildly claustrophobic.
4. Beds: I felt the beds were a little hard. My sister loved them. I guess it’s just a matter of preference. I slept fine on them. The sheets were clean and no bed bugs (yes I do check).
5. Bathroom: The bathroom was a decent size with enough shelf space for all of our toiletries. The blow dryer was horrible! I could do a better job than that. Small shower but it was not too bad. The towels were great. These were almost bath sheets, I really liked those. No wash cloths. They did have thin linen tea towels that we used as wash cloths.
6. Trashcans: One in the bathroom and that was it. I did not know this would bother me, but it was inconvenient.
7. Wi-Fi: This hotel offered free Wi-Fi. You had to enter a code. This is normal, but you had to enter it every time you went on the Wi-Fi. The code was a crazy number/letter combo. The Wi-Fi kept kicking me off. This was very frustrating. Plus you had to have a new code every day unless you specifically asked for a 3 day code.
8. Safe: This room had a safe. It was easy to use. We put our extra cash, passport and any other valuables in it. This is a great feature everyone should get in the habit of doing. Do a trial run with your safe empty first.
9. Breakfast: This hotel included breakfast. The breakfast was basic. It had ham and cheese, rolls, yogurt, fresh fruit, Danishes, cereal and toast. It was an automatic cappuccino machine, but it made amazing cappuccinos. I looked forward to a cappuccino every morning.
10. The staff: The staff was so friendly and helpful too. Good suggestions and directions.
Hotel #2 Cimabue, Florence, Italy
1. Location: This hotel was a distance from the train station. First went to the information desk to see where the hotel was located. If the hotel was around the corner we would walk, if not we would get in the taxi line (we knew approximately how far it was so as to not let the taxi driver can’t over charge us). The trip cost about 12 euros. The hotel was just a few blocks from our tour bus stop. This was convenient and money-saving, since we did not always have to take taxis.
2. Size: This room was slightly larger than the one in Rome. There were two twin beds slightly close together, a mini fridge, and other basic room amenities. This room was on the 2nd floor.
3. Elevator: There was a small elevator with enough room for my mom and 3 pieces of luggage. We sent her up with the luggage and my sisters and I took the stairs.
4. Beds: The beds were slightly softer and I slept great. Clean sheets and no bed bugs. We needed to ask for more pillows, they provided them with no problem.
5. Bathroom: The bathroom was a little bigger. This had the same towel situation as the last hotel. This hotel had a great blow dryer, Thank God! I finally could blow dry my hair.
6. Trashcans: One in the bathroom and one in the room, this was great.
7. Wi-Fi: Wonderful Wi-Fi. You only logged in once and it automatically started when you walked into the hotel.
8. Safe: This room had a smaller safe, but it worked fine. My Kindle did not fit in it. The hotel itself was very safe. After 9 pm the external doors were locked and you had to use a code to get into the lobby.
9. Breakfast: This hotel offered a Continental breakfast. No ham but cheese to put on the rolls. The fruit was canned and not fresh, but the cappuccinos were made by a barista, fresh. They were very yummy. I looked forward to them every morning.
10. Staff: The staff was so sweet and hospitable. They were very hard workers.
Hotel #3 Tre Archi, Venice, Italy
1. Location: This hotel did not seem far from the train station but having to walk over 3 canal bridges with no ramps it’s farther than you think. We paid a man 30 euros to take our (8) bags to the hotel. This helped because we didn’t have to deal with them and he showed us the way. On the way to the airport (for an especially early flight) the water buses are not running. You have to walk or take a water taxi for 120 euros. In retrospect we should have paid for the taxi.
2. Size: Cracker-jack box pretty much sums it up. This room was very small. They could not fit two twin size beds in it, only a full size bed. No night stands either, just shelves nailed to the wall. It was on the 2nd floor. This was actually 57 steps (my sister counted). You could not lay your suitcase down and open the door all the way. My sister’s and mom’s room was a regular European sized room. I think they blew it giving the smallest room to the girl who write’s the travel blog.
3. Elevator: There wasn’t one. We had eight bags to get up 57 steps. Even the man they sent to help rolled his eyes. This was the end of our trip so we had a lot of stuff by now. When we were leaving we just let the suitcases slide down the marble stairs at 6 a.m.
4. Beds: One full size hard bed. One very flat pillow each. Clean sheets no bed bugs.
5. Bathroom: Tiny. The blow dryer was okay; it worked better than the first hotel. Nice towels. No water pressure and it went from hot to cold during your shower. I could not seem to wash the conditioner out of my hair no matter how long I tried.
6. Trashcan: One very small one in the bathroom. There was no room for anything else.
7. Wi-Fi: They wanted us to pay 5 euros for 24 hours of access and it only worked in the lobby. What is the point of that?
8. Safe: It was complicated but it worked. My mom and sister’s did not work. We used the one in my room.
9. Breakfast: Their menu consisted of yogurt and rolls. There was some spreadable cheese. There was also a cappuccino machine that kept locking up and not working. We believe there was no caffeine in the cappuccino. We actually thought they put sleepy time tea in it because we were even more tired.
10. Staff: The staff was rude and not very helpful. The lady at the front desk kept looking at us with a “stupid Americans” look. I think the man helping with the luggage wanted to slap her for putting us on the 2nd floor. I almost wish he had.
After I compared the 3 hotels, I realized little things can make all the difference in your stay. Most of the items were not a big deal. By the time I got to Venice, the elevator, room size, location, water pressure, breakfast, Wi-Fi, and friendliness did make a difference. I thought Venice was pretty, but my experience was not great. The hotel put a damper on my mood, which altered my opinion of Venice.
This experience, I learned some good lessons. I know now what research I need to do. Tripadvisor.com is a great tool for this research. Now I will book great hotels with everything on my “must have” list. If there are things I do not like, I will go to the front desk and change them.
Now it’s your turn. What are the things you need or look for to make it the right hotel for you? Please tell me about some of your experiences and/or comfort preferences. Thanks and happy travels.
Italy was a lot of fun. I saw beautiful cities, buildings, artwork and met some really nice people. The people you meet along the way can really enhance the experience. I thought it would be fun to take their picture and share them with you. I took notes, but I was surprised how much I remembered on my own. These people left an impression on me, I hope I did the same for them. The weird thing was that I met 3 other people named Wendy.
Groupon is offering free shipping on purchased goods. You can follow the link below (if your on a smart phone) and to the left (if on a computer) to use this offer.
Ciao everyone, I am back from Italy. I am trying to deal with the jet lag and get back to real life. This part is very hard, especially going through “fall back” twice (once in Rome and again here in the states). I am organizing my thoughts for my next posts. This is just a little posting to keep you updated.
My trip was wonderful! I figured out it was a “fat camp” with gelato and pizza. Yes, I did lose weight while eating what I wanted on vacation. How is that so? We walked so much and shared meals. I still managed to get all the flavors of Italy I wanted and not gain a pound. We all had a great time. It was a success. Now I need to get to work to relay all this information to you.
The central coast has a lot to offer all year-long, but I love autumn the best. September and October has the most beautiful weather. We are usually blessed with an “Indian Summer”. Temperatures usually are between 70-85 degrees (Fahrenheit). The sunsets can be amazing, full of color. The colors of this season comes out in nature everywhere. We have our own type of fall foliage, it mostly presents itself in the grapevines and the veggies in season. This is a great time to visit the central coast, with a lot of fun things to see and do, for little or no money.
Please enjoy the pictures of a few things to see and do on the central coast. There are many ways to enjoy a nice vacation on a budget here, these are just a few of my suggestions.
*The photos were obtained by Chers Etheridge, Jalama beach, Jalama beach store, Refugio beach and Santa Barbara wines Facebook pages.
Lately I have been inspired by photographs of beautiful places. This inspiration led me to organize the pictures into a bucket list. I usually have a mental bucket list (bucket list: a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime). Here is my bucket list of places I would like to travel to. There is no particular order, because usually a fantastic deal dictates where I am going next.
I would love to read your thoughts and your suggestions on places to add to my list. Happy travels!
*I did not take any of these pictures personally, I found them on the internet.
There is a certain preparation I do before I travel. A few months before I leave for a trip, I evaluate my wardrobe and then buy some new outfits. Always consider what the locals will be wearing in the places you are visiting.I have found personally that fitting in makes you feel a lot more comfortable, especially in a foreign country.Recently one of the blogs I follow oneika-the-traveller.com did a posting about this. She said dress conservatively and try to blend in. I find this advice a good excuse to buy new clothes.
Lets start with getting through security at the airport. Wear shoes which are easy to take on and off. Keep most of your jewelry and watches in your carry on until after you get through security, this goes for belts too. Take your jackets and cardigan sweaters off before you get in line.From my experience the baggier your clothes, the more likely you will get searched. Make sure if you have any liquids (4 oz or smaller) they go into a quart size plastic bag (for TSA regulations). I always drink my water before I go through and then fill it up on the other side at Starbucks or a restaurant (this can save you $4 not buying a new water bottle).
Always wear something comfortable when you travel. This does not mean your pajamas! All my life I flew standby and had to wear a dress, it was a strict dress code. I was thrilled when I could wear whatever I wanted, but I still try to look nice.I just read another blog the other day and it mentioned something about this. It was called “What your flight attendant really thinks of you”. Sometimes when the plane takes off, the flight attendants will upgrade people to business or first class. You have a better chance if you are dressed nice and neatly, well-groomed and are a pleasant person.There is more confidence and better attitude when you are presenting yourself nicely. Jeans are fine, just not ripped or ill fitted. Bring a jacket or sweater, sometimes it gets cold on the plane. Dress in layers because sometimes it gets hot.In the summer I wear sandals and in the colder weather I wear boots that I can pull on and off easy. I wear a watch too, it’s important to know the time while you are traveling.
I know when traveling to big cities (this is mainly addressed to women) the locals wear a lot of black. In the summer this is not so much the case, but the rest of the year it is. Certain churches you cannot go in unless your shoulders are covered and you cannot wear a skirt above your knee. Always check the dress code before you go.I like to pack with simple t-shirts (I add a scarf or necklace to dress it up), nice jeans, shorts (not too short, during warm weather), 1 or 2 skirts (obviously for the ladies), very comfortable boots and walking shoes, appropriate undergarments, something to sleep in and always bring your bathing suit.
There is a theory of packing older clothes that you do not want anymore and leaving them at the hotel. I kind of like this idea. Make sure you write a note on them letting the hotel staff know your intent to throw them away. You do not want them returned to you in the mail. I like to only check one bag when I am traveling overseas, because it is easier to handle one checked bag and one carry-on. In the states I will just take a carry-on, because there is usually a fee to check a bag. What I try to do is pack most of my clothes or the ones that are most important, in my carry-on. My checked bag is almost empty. On the way home I put all my souvenirs in my carry-on and my clothes in the checked bag. This way if my checked luggage gets lost on my outbound flight, I will not have to spend time shopping for something to wear when I arrive, and if it gets lost on my return flight I will still have all of the treasures I bought when I get home.
I hope this will be helpful to you in your travels. If you would like to share any of your own tips please leave comments below.