Happy New Year 2015!

Welcome 2015, we are all hoping and praying it will be a wonderful year. I have a few places in mind for 2015. I can not wait to start traveling. Where will I go? Do you have any suggestions?
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The Holiday Season

It is the season to be jolly. The stores,streets and homes are decorated. The Christmas music is playing and the deals are to be had. This season you can find deals on almost anything.Everything is on sale or there are bonuses for purchases.Great time to buy electronics, winter clothes,gift cards, and even sky miles.

A few I have seen is United Airlines offering 40% discount on purchasing miles, Avianca (Lifemiles) was offering 100% bonus and Virgin America offering 50% off first class tickets. If you are thinking of booking a flight check what the airlines have to offer right now.

There are discounts on gift cards.Check the ads each week to find the deals. If you are giving gift cards for Christmas or just using them for personal use, now is the time to find the discounts and bonuses. Itunes usually has a 15% off at most stores.Good time to buy gift certificates for the restaurants you go to regularly. Those restaurants are usually offering $10 off a $50 gift card.Movie ticket gift cards is another deal. If you can afford to buy for the year, you can score a $50 Regal gift card for $40. You can find $10 off your next grocery shopping trip with the purchase of $100. The secret to using those particular deals is to buy the cards first in separate $100 increments. Get the $10 off and then purchase your groceries, use the coupons immediately. There is an expire fairly quick, so use them up. You can use your mileage earning credit card to purchase for and earn even more rewards.

Check all your balances on the gift cards you have. The store gift cards do not expire but the Visa, MasterCard and American Express depreciate over time.Take a sharpy after you check the balance and write it on the card.This makes redeeming the cards easier.

What great deals have you found? I love hearing about the special savings people got. Nothing makes me jollier than getting a good deal. Merry Christmas everyone, enjoy the season.

Earn Miles Shopping at the Skymall

There are sky malls for every airline. Since I collect the majority of my sky miles on United, I use their sky mall. Right now is the time to really rack up the miles by shopping online. United’s sky mall is offering a 450 mile bonus if you spend $175 on JcPenny.com thru their sky mall. Plus you get 12 miles per $1 spent, free shipping on $99 or more plus the 15% off  ( the promotion code AFFSHOP1).

Here are a few other ones that are offering a few extra miles per $1 spent:

Lancome 5 miles/$1

Walgreens 3 miles/$1

Dell 4 miles/$1

Nordstrom 5 miles/$1

Macy’s 4 miles/$1

Target 4 miles/$1

UGG 6 miles/$1

Anthropology 8 miles/$1

Game Stop 4 miles/$1

Most of them are offering free shipping (with minimum spend), extra savings and other bonus items.

To make it even more worth your while, go to the store offering bonuses for buying gift cards. buy your gift cards with your mileage credit card. Get the bonus at the store ( I get the Vons gas rewards). This way you’re getting bonuses 3 ways.

Happy Shopping! If you find any great deals please share with me. I love hearing great deal and great frugal stories. I will try to keep you posted with any new bonuses.

Lands’ End is offering a 500 mile bonus when you spend $75 or more plus 3 miles/$1 offer good till 11/15/2014.

https://x.www.mileageplusshopping.com/shopping/

 

Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary

Queen Mary

This weekend I went to Dark Harbor at the Queen Mary. My daughter, her friend and myself left on Saturday morning and planned a day of it. On the way to the Queen Mary, we stopped in the Funk Zone (its in Santa Barbara). There are a lot of wineries there, so we did some tasting. After wine tasting we headed over to C’est Cheese. C’est Cheese is a cheese shop/cafe. We got amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and salads. It was an adorable cafe with lots of charm. I think I will make it a regular haunt. After our yummy stop in Santa Barbara, we headed towards Long Beach.

We were down south early. We decided to go to the La Brea Tar Pits. I had not been there since I was a kid. It was a pretty day, a very nice day to walk around the park. I remember it much different when I was a child. The 3 of us felt it was a little anti-climatic. We felt it was a little on the pricey side to go into the museum for an hour. We were just killing time until we went to the Queen Mary and wanting to do that frugally. There were a few exhibitions and then there were the ponds with the oil bubbling up. It was free to walk around and look.

We hopped back in the car and headed towards the Queen Mary. We decided we would stop for clam chowder for dinner and then it would be time for Dark Harbor. We did not buy our tickets before we went. I kinda screwed up, I should have bought them the day we confirmed we were going. Instead I waited until the day we left and we could not get the discounted price. We decided to buy them when we got there. Maybe there would be a deal at the door. No deal at the door and they still charge the $2 service fee. It was $36 to get in. If I had bought the Groupon before it would have been $20 but the day before I actually would have paid $19 with the promo code. I am a frugal person, I write about saving money, and I blew that one. I had a hard time with that. We had already gone all that way and thought we were going to have to pay for parking, so I sucked it up and paid it. We decided to go on the Queen Mary and have dinner on the boat. We quickly found out that it was $15 a person to get on the boat. We also found out you got to apply the price of the ticket to the meal. It ended up being not so expensive. We asked about validation at the restaurant, and because of Dark Harbor they opened the gates and we didn’t have to pay for parking. I was beginning to feel better, it didn’t seem so pricey now.

DH

At 7 PM we went to Dark Harbor. It was dia de los muertos (day of the dead), so everyone was dressed in costumes or had their faces painted. It was quite festive. When we first walked in there was bull riding and a huge swing. It was an additional charge. I was quickly discouraged. I was feeling like it was a huge rip off. We started going thru the haunted mazes. I found out there were 6 haunted mazes included in the price of the ticket. They were pretty entertaining. After a few of them, there were parades, costume contests and a sliding shows (the zombies had knee pads on, they would run and slide). All of it was great entertainment. The whole place was decorated perfect for Halloween and dia de los muertos. It ended up being a lot of fun.

We stayed the night at a friend’s house. We did not have to pay for a hotel. All in all it wasn’t that bad. $36 tickets and $15 to get on the boat which paid for my dinner. The parking ended up being free. Lesson learned buy your tickets early, when the deal is there.  We had a full day of fun and did it frugally after all. There are fun things to do all around us, if we plan ahead a little, most likely it will save you money. DH2

 

First Part Was Great!

My “girls trip” this year started on October 1, 2014. We left from LAX. Spent almost a week in Charleston, and one day in Savannah. There was seven girls this year, one of them was my daughter.
Traveling with my sisters is always fun, but with my delightful daughter, and 3 friends ( one my friends daughter) made it a very memorable trip. I fully believe all woman need a “girls trip”. This is a trip that allows woman to regroup, unwind and laugh until tears are coming down your leg ( sorry had to throw that joke in).
We really had a great time.

We also got to show our friends the wonderful world of Charleston, SC. Many great moments and long lasting memories. Here are some of the photos from the trip. I will upload more later, when I finish the next part of my trip.

Enjoy!

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I am a Foodie How About You?

Escargot

Escargo

My love for travel is not just the site seeing or culture, a big part is the food. I love trying the native food. Sitting in a cafe enjoying a meal and soaking up the ambiance around me. It is a great experience, these are times when wonderful memories are made. I never did try snails in France, but honestly I never really saw them on the menu. I did try coq a vin, it was delicious. Some other interesting food I have tried is alligator in Charleston and New Orleans.

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Coq au vin

My favorite foods I think of is this seven cheese dish I ate on the Amalfi Coast. I don’t even know what it is called, but every time I talk about it I crave it. Shrimp and Grits at Crave right by Kiawah Beach, Charleston. Sweet potato pancakes at Eli’s Table in Charleston. Crab dip at Harry’s in Jacksonville, FL. Pizza from Gino’s in Chicago. The bagels on the street corners of New york city. Etouffee shrimp omelette at Mother’s in New Orleans. Champagne in Paris. Cappuccino in Italy. “The Reggie”at Pine State Biscuit in Portland. French toast at Grub in Los Angeles. The list is endless. When I think of these foods, I get a smile on my face. The memories flood my mind.
In preparation for my trips I check into the foods native to the area. I see what the English version is as well as in the native language. I make a list of the foods I definitely want to try. I also make a list of the foods that I wouldn’t. I am personally not fond of duck pate, mayo, intestines, liver, or brains.To me, being adventurous is one thing, feeling nauseous for the day is not part of a vacation. Another very important thing to do before going to a foreign country is learn the translation for foods you are allergic to ( always bring Benadryl or your epi-pen). Again we do not want to ruin vacations, touring a hospital is not top of the vacation fun list.

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Shrimp n Grits

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Crab Cakes

Chicken-and-Waffles

Chicken n Waffles

Beef sirloin

Beef Sirloin with Dumplings and a vegetable Cream Sauce

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Hungarian Goulash

In my up coming travels I have scoped a few things already. I know the restaurants I want to try in Charleston. When it comes to Prague and Budapest I am relying on the locals suggestions. I know I will definitely try the local beer and wine. Both Countries serve good wine (so I have heard), but the Czech Republic is known for excellent beer.So when in Rome do like the Romans do or in this case, when in Hungary do like the Hungarians do.

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Hungarian Wine

  • Beer

    Czech Beer

I would love to hear about your favorite foods. Weather it be on a trip or where you live.

The Travelers Prayer

A friend of mine, whom is an avid traveler, had this prayer in the back of her photo album. She said a tour guide gave it to her. I really thought it was cute, I asked her if I could share it on my blog. I hope you enjoy it.

Heavenly Father, look down on us, your humble and obedient servants, who are doomed to travel this earth taking photographs, buying souvenirs and walking in drip-dry underwear.

We beseech you, O Lord, to see that our plane is not high-jacked, our luggage is not lost and our overweight baggage goes unnoticed. Protect us against unscrupulous taxi drivers and unlicensed English-speaking guides.

Give us this day, Divine Guidance in the selection of our hotels, that we may find our reservations honored, our beds make up, and hot water running from our faucets.

Lead us, O Lord, to good inexpensive restaurants where the food is superb, the waiters friendly and the wine included in the price of the meal.
Give us the wisdom to tip correctly in currency we do not understand. Forgive us for under tipping out of ignorance and over tipping out of fear. Make the natives love us for what we are and not what we can contribute to their worldly wealth.

Grant us the strength to visit the museums, cathedrals, palaces and castles listed as a “must” in the guide books. If we skip a historic monument to take a nap after lunch, have mercy on us as our flesh is weak.

FOR HUSBANDS: Dear God, keep our wives from shopping sprees and protect them from “bargains” they do not need and cannot afford. Lead them not into temptation for they know not what they do.

FOR WIVES: Almighty Father, keep our husbands from looking at other women and comparing them to us. Save them from making fools of themselves in cafés and nightclubs. Above all, please do NOT forgive them their trespasses FOR THEY KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THEY DO!!!

And when our journey is over and we return to our loved ones, grant us the favor of finding someone who will look at our home movies [or photos] and listen to our stories so that our lives as tourists will not have been in vain.

AMEN

Travel world

To Recline or Not to Recline That is the Question?

It has happened again, another plane diverted to Jacksonville today because there was an altercation with a passenger wanting to recline their seat. Last week there was 2 similar incidences. Is this right? If you pay for a seat, don’t you have the right to recline it? One of these incidences happened on a United flight in Economy Plus. There is 5 extra inches in Economy plus. Why can’t you recline your seat?

Apparently the latest incident, one of the woman involved, demanded the plane to land. The pilot had no other choice. The woman was arrested. I think rightly so. This was a very selfish move on her part. Just because she had someone invade her space a little she throws a fit and demands the plane to land? How old is this lady? Did she not learn sharing?

I learned the day before the first incident about the seat locker (knee protector). It said it was FAA approved. If you read the policies of the airlines, it is highly frowned upon. This started me thinking on my up coming travel. I pray I do not encounter this issue. If I do, I am not getting in a knock down (drag me off the plane) fight. I am simply going to get the flight attendant and ask him/her to solve the issue or ask politely to be moved to another seat.

Hopefully all the attention seekers are done with their little stunts and do not cause everyone to be inconvenienced again. What are your thoughts on this latest events?

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My Upcoming Trip on a Budget

Back in March I saw some pictures of Budapest and Prague. These two cities have been on my bucket list for quite some time. I knew I wanted to go this year, but I had committed to going to Charleston to celebrate my daughters 21st birthday and this years girls trip. My only way to get there this year was on an extremely frugal budget and leave from Charleston, to make it one trip. This is when I started planning.

I had talked about it several times to a friend of mine. She always commented how she thought it would be exciting to go there. She had never travel abroad. I asked her if she wanted to do it with me? She said she couldn’t afford to do a trip like that. I told her sure you can, with the right planning. I explained to her my plans (which I will explain to you shortly). After she heard how inexpensive it was, she said she was in! My friend, Annamay, is the key to keeping on budget. Traveling with a friend (they pay for their own portion) helps cut the costs.

All this time I have been following a blog called http://www.onemileatatime.com. Ben the author of the blog is a genius! He has so much knowledge of using miles to travel. This is not just any travel it is premium travel. He usually flies overseas in first or business class. He does this using sky mileage. He says he doesn’t buy anything, stay at hotels, or fly without benefit a to him. This changed my way of thinking. I knew I needed to do the same. Here are some steps I took to be able to do this trip on a budget.

Step 1: Sign up for US Air, Avianca (Lifemiles), and Alaska sky mileage accounts. These are the 3 I did not have. Each airline has their own sky mileage account. From time to time specials are advertised for sky mileage. You have to be a member for at least 12 days to take advantage of these offers. Specials to buy miles and get 100% bonus. This is an amazing deal. My plan was to earn miles, but I wanted to set these accounts up just in case I needed to buy some.

Step 2: Decide how to earn the miles. Credit cards offer bonuses on miles. I was going to take advantage of these. I checked into different cards. The ones for me at the time were Avianca, Chases Business Ink and Chase Freedom. Avianca has no minimum spend and you receive 20,000 miles. This does not seem like much, but on Avianca Airlines (it is a Star Alliance), you can book with miles and money one way, with no fuel surcharge. With the 20,000 miles and $168.00 I could get to Budapest. It was not my first choice for getting there, it was my back up plan. With the Chase Ink I got 60,000 ultimate rewards points for $5000 in spending within 3 months. This seems like a lot of spending, but if you use it for your utilities, phone, food, insurance and purchases it is really not bad spread out over 3 months. In addition to the 60,000 points, you also earn 5 times the amount on the purchases and spending I did. This equaled 75,000 points. The Chase Freedom card offer 25,000 for $500 in spending. I was able to combined both and have 100,000 ultimate reward points. You can convert ultimate rewards points to purchase airline tickets, through the ultimate reward travel program. By converting them you are actually purchasing a ticket with your points. The conversion rate to do this is 1.25. Meaning I could convert my 100,000 points to be $1250 towards the purchase of an airline ticket. I could also transfer them to my United account at a 1:1 ratio and get 100,000 to my already existing 60,000 miles.
Annamay had to earn her miles too. Annamay chose a card giving her 50,000 miles.

Step 3: Earn miles while you’re collecting your bonus miles. I started doing all my shopping online thru the sky mall. I collect United sky miles. I used their sky mall. Target, Macy’s, Home Depot and all the popular places to shop online, are in the sky mall. I needed a garbage disposal, I ordered thru the sky mall and got $2 for each dollar and picked up at the store. I needed to renew my magazine subscription to All You magazine, I did it thru my Mileplus on United. I received a big bonus for ordering the magazine too. I joined a wine club (which you can cancel any time) and got 6 bottles of wine for under $42 dollars, shipped to my house, and 2500 bonus points. I bought a new cell phone thru the mall and earned 2500 bonus miles. There are surveys, financial services, car rentals, hotels, retail and other items in which you can earn miles.

Step 4: Choose your itinerary. I chose the dates for Charleston to what worked best for everyone going, plus the weather. October is a beautiful time to be there. It is also a nice time for Budapest and Prague. We chose to fly to Budapest first and our return flight from Prague because it had better availability. I booked the Charleston trip using a voucher I had earned. Annamay and I booked our flights using miles to Europe. United has a fuel surcharge, this is relatively inexpensive. We were able to get “saver” miles, so for 60,000 miles and $116 we got our airfare.

Step 5: Lodging. While in Charleston, we wanted to stay downtown for 2 nights. We picked the Embassy Suites for the location, breakfast, pool and happy hour. This was a little on the pricy side, averaging $320 a night. There are 7 of us, so it is just $183 per person. I was able to use my points from my credit union to pay for the majority of my daughter and I’s portion. In Budapest and Prague, Annamay and I decided to do a vacation rental by owner. After carefully selecting the perfect property based on location, amenities and price we were able to get our lodging for $250 each. We are going to bring oatmeal for breakfast and almonds for snacks.

Step 6: Transportation. Seven girls in Charleston means a minivan. Unfortunately my sister on the East coast no longer has a minivan. We have to rent a minivan. I decided we would just take Uber, a car service, downtown and not rent the van until 2 days later. This way we can use my Uber credit for a free ride, not pay to park the van ($16 per day) and save on 2 days of rental. My nephew helped us get a discount on the rental of the minivan. Now getting from Budapest to Prague. We looked into driving because it only takes 4 1/2 hours. The fees seemed reasonable at first, then I noticed high taxes, drop off fee and toll fees. This ended up being more expensive than the train. We decided train was the best option. Our tickets with the delivery fee is $138 each.

Step 7: Map out your trip. Right down everything you all want to see. Tripadvisor has a special feature button on the left side of the attraction “add to List” button. Add everything you want to see to the list and print it up. Gather everyone’s lists and consolidate them. This way you can map out everything in the area you want to see. This saves time and money. You do not waste gas or bus fare to go all over the place.

Step 8: Have fun and enjoy it. Take lots of pictures, those are the cheapest souvenirs.

When we get there we will share meals to help save costs as well. All in all for my airfare,lodging, train,and auto rental I only spent $329.00. I would have to say this is an extreme budget. With planning and playing the game, you can travel for inexpensive too.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask. I would love to help people go on a fantastic trip on an extreme budget.

budget.