Plan the Perfect Trip in 10 Easy Steps

SET A BUDGET

Take a close look at your finances and decide how much you can or can’t spend on your trip. Keep in mind that some locations allow you to eat for just 10 cents a day depending on where you go! So that $1800 airfare may be 95% of what you will be spending and that is OK. Also, be sure to take into account the exchange rate for the money you will need to bring a long. To swap your 1,000 USD to Euros you will only come out with 807.88 Euros.

MAKE A LIST

Make a list of your dream vacations, a vacation bucket list if you will. Start to prioritize them and see if any of these locations are actually a reality given your current budget. Decide which ones you can afford to do for this trip and then decide how long it will take you to save up the money you will need for the next one. Now, pick one!

WATCH THE FLIGHTS

For ideal flights you will want to book them WAY ahead of time. Especially if they are over seas. If you want to make the most of your budget you will want to also use a tracker app on your phone, like Hopper or Skyscanner. Google will also track flights right to your email if you do not have a smart phone, but downloading Hopper or Skyscanner will allow the app to do all the work. The app will literally tell you when flights drop so low that you should buy. I wrote an entire post about Hopper here.

BOOK YOUR FLIGHT

When your perfect flight pops up, BOOK IT! Congratulations, you are halfway there!

BOOK YOUR HOTEL ROOM

This part is my favorite. I am not sure why but searching for the perfect hotel room is my favorite part of booking a trip. Whether you love Airbnb or you are looking for a more traditional hotel room or even a hostel. There are so many options when you are traveling. Sometimes the cheapest way to go is by utilizing hostels. Especially if you are in Europe. You can sometimes even get a private room in a hostel for much cheaper than a hotel. One other option is to use MonasteryStays.com to check out religious boarding if you are a christian . If you want something more luxurious, Airbnb or a hotel is your best bet. Check out what is included and what you will need. On long vacations make sure there is access to a laundry room or find a local laundromat you can use. This will help you pack lighter, and keep smelling fresh.

Start to plan the details

Now you get to research the area you are going to and make a list of all the places you want to visit while you are there. Be sure to check out the best days and times for the places you choose so you avoid crowds as much as possible. This way you will be able to fit everything in and make the most of your trip. It will also help you in the next step. Separate your list into 3 more, “Must see/do”, “Would like to do”, and “If there is time”.

Start an itinerary

Itineraries will keep you on track throughout your trip and make sure you don’t miss any of the must sees on your list. Start with your “Must see/do” list and make sure that you spread them out throughout the time that you have. This will help you make room for the second list “would like to do”. You can try to add these in where you have some lulls between your must sees. If you fit all of these things into your list move to “if there is time”. You can see if you have room for this final list. If. you don’t, do not worry. Bring the list with you and if something comes up or one part of your trip is cancelled, you can quick pick one of the things on your 3rd list.

A lot of the time people skip this option because they like to be spontaneous. This can work in some cases, and it may work for you. However, if you know you may never return to this place you are visiting, you will want to make sure you are efficient with your time and you don’t miss anything that you really wanted to do. From personal experience, you can get completely lost when on a good relaxing vacation. You may not realize what day of the week it is and you can miss a reservation. Itineraries are great for keeping you on track!

Brush up on the language

if you are going out of the country and somewhere you don’t know a lot of the language make sure you study it a bit. Check out my previous post about Learning foreign languages without a class. One other option I don’t mention in that post is “Babble” which is an app that helps translate in real time.  It is relatively new, if you have a smart phone, definitely try this out.

Some important phrases to know are:

  • Where is the bathroom?
  • Do you speak English?
  • I would like to order  [insert food, merchandise here]
  • How do I find [insert noun]
  • I do not understand
  • I am sorry
  • Thank you
  • You’re welcome
  • Hello
  • I only speak a little [insert language here]
  • Can you help me buy a ticket?

Brush up on the laws and culture

Know what is offensive in the culture you are visiting, and know what the laws are. In Singapore chewing gum is illegal and in China there are certain areas that you should not drink the water unless it is boiled. Know what you are getting yourself into and research the area so you don’t end up in a hospital or in jail abroad.

Also, important to know is how to count the money that you will be using in this foreign country. You should not trust the people around you to help, they could be stealing from you and you would not even know. Research the currency and know how to use it.

Enjoy your trip!

You did all the work putting it together and now you get to enjoy it. The worst is over. Do something that is a little out of your comfort zone, try something new, and most of all relax and take in everything around you. There is something so refreshing and exciting about being in a new place you have never been. You will for sure feel out of your comfort zone in some instances, but it is worth it for the amazing memories and experience you are creating for yourself.

Why Hopper is the Best Travel App

I have tried a few different travel apps over the last few years. Apps ranging from hiking to airline apps to money saving travel apps. When it comes to apps that will save you money on your flights you should throw all your money at Hopper and I’ll explain why.

Hopper is easy to use:

Hopper main screenOne of the main reasons I love this app so much is that it is so straight forward and easy to use. It isn’t loaded down with a bunch of distraction junk. The app is easily downloaded and your search options are made ridiculously easy. The main search screen gives you the option of choosing your airports and searching for specific dates, but also gives you the option to input flexible dates. This is my favorite feature because I can plane my trips easily around where and when the best prices are being offered.

Hopper sends updates daily:

IMG_4799
Every morning you get a clear update to your phone on whether or not it is the best time to pay for your flights. I was able to find tickets to my local airport using this feature. Normally prices to fly to visit my family range between $600-$800 per person. I was able to find flights for $314 using the app. As you can see in the screen shot above, Hopper also will let you know if you should keep waiting. The app will even tell you the date you will need to buy your tickets before to avoid a huge price increase just before the flight.

Hopper doesn’t leave the “guessing” up to you:

The language on Hopper is clear and easy to understand. You will know right away whether you should buy the tickets or not without a clear understanding of when your flights will increase or decrease in price. Hopper makes it very easy to know exactly when you are getting the best deal possible. Other travel apps like Skyscanner, which I was a huge advocate for before stumbling upon Hopper, leave the guessing up to the user. Since most of us aren’t travel gurus, and do not travel on planes constantly. It is hard to pull the trigger on flights knowing you got the best deal. With Hopper, you don’t have to worry about playing the “guessing” game.

Hopper allows you to search multiple destinations AND dates:

IMG_64719C8F9082-1
One feature I am crazy about is that I can make my search as flexible or as confined as I need to. Google is a good tool to use if you know exactly what you want, but if you just want to go on a vacation to the cheapest place possible and are flexible on dates, then you can! You can check daily on the best prices and locations to visit. The app will tell you the time frame that the prices are as low as possible. Three days ago I found flights to Iceland for $300. Tell me seriously, who can beat that? I would love to  know.

 

Of course, there are some aspects of the app that I think could be improved upon. I think it would be great to have a place to enter your airline rewards number when you are booking on an airline you use frequently. I also would love for them to add a feature for rental cars and hotels (which is a feature that sky scanner has built in). I am hoping that down the road Hopper is able to grow and partner with some of these bigger corporations so they can add even more helpful features.

Check out more money saving tips

5 Beautiful Places in the USA

Americans travel all over the world looking for a piece of paradise. One of the most popular places to travel are tropical climates and I am here to tell you NOT to do that. If you have never been to a tropical island, go. I’m not telling you by any means to never see the tropics because there is so much beauty and culture that you would miss. However, if you only visit the tropics and you never venture elsewhere, you are missing out on so much of what makes the world what it is. The United States is huge and there are beautiful sites to see and roads to travel right here in the good ole U S of A. Here are 5 beautiful places you need to see before you die.

The Grand Canyon

img_0374

Experience one of the grandest and most beautiful places on the entire planet in America’s great south west. Take in the desert and enjoy the picture perfect 360 degree views. There are probably thousands of things to do and see at this location. You can fly above it in a small plane, white water raft through the canyon, take a donkey ride, hike the rim to rim trail, camp, see the planetarium, and more. The walls tell a billion year old story of how the Earth was made and there is nothing like seeing the colorful layers surrounding you when you are paddling through the canyon.

Route 70 in Colorado near Vail

img_0375

One of the most jaw dropping scenery I have ever witnessed in my entire life is on Route 70 driving from Denver to Las Vegas. My family and I stumbled upon this beautiful canyon on our cross country trip when we were diverted due to an insane snow storm. I was so bummed that we couldn’t see Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Redwood forest. In the end though I got to discover something we were not expecting in the least. In my quick thinking I snapped a photograph which does not do it any justice. If you ever find yourself in this area, look for it. I have no clue what mile marker this is at, so if you happen to know please comment below.

Cabbage Key

Cabbage KeyCabbage Key 2

One of the coolest places to visit in the United States is Cabbage Key. You can only get there by boat or private plane and they have been known to host very important people including Jimmy Buffet and former presidents of the United States. One rumor (true or untrue) is that Jimmy Buffet actually wrote “Cheeseburger in Paradise” after the restaurant on the island. Located in the Gulf of Mexico about 30 miles off the coast of southwest Florida sits a small island with only a handful of residents. The restaurant is covered in signed dollar bills and their cheeseburgers and seafood is amazing. You can even take a small hike around this miniature island, take the small trail just behind the restaurant it leads you to the landing strip for the planes and their water tower.

Haleakala National Park (Maui)

Haleakala State Park

face your fears

Hawaii is generally just a very beautiful place to see and explore, but this specific park is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen before. There are 2 locations in this park which are awe inducing. The first is sunrise at Haleakala Crater, but make  sure you dress warm since temperatures can drop to below twenty degrees. I continuously talk about this one because it was so ridiculously beautiful that I hardly believe I witnessed it. The second is the Kuloa Point trail which is a half mile loop with a beautiful overlook. The beautiful waterfalls meet the ocean and black rock cliffs. My husband and I sat at this location for almost an hour enjoying the amazing views.

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate is the home of the Vanderbilt family and is open to the public to view year-round. One of the most popular times to visit this location is during the holiday season. The employees start to put decorations up at the beginning of October and it takes about a month to complete the look. The estate has also turned the stables into a restaurant with amazing food. This place has a swimming pool in the basement and a garden inside. There is even an office that was used to hide some of the world’s most expensive and well known pieces of art during World War II when most of Europe was in turmoil. Plus, the views of the mountains from the balcony are absolutely stunning. This is one spot you definitely need to add to your travel list.

3 instagram famous locations in Chicago

Instagram Famous Locations in Chicago

Social media has taken over the world and platforms like Instagram are inspiring millennials to travel. As a fellow millennial myself, I understand the need to have a “show off” Facebook profile picture. In a world that revolves around our social media profiles and the way that we are portraying our lives online, there are now famous locations people are traveling to just for a photograph to post on social media. Below are three hot spots in Chicago that people are traveling from afar to get to. Some locations have over a three hour wait just for a photograph! Is the wait worth it? I’ll enclose my own photographs and let you be the judge.

the Willis Tower (Sears tower)

Instagram famous locations in ChicagoWhat was once the tallest building in the world, the Willis tower or Sears tower can be found in down town Chicago, Illinois. With 103 floors, the views of the city are simply magnificent. Even in the dead of winter and below zero weather, people stand in line outside around the block to get a chance to ride the elevator to the top. On the top floor there is an attraction called “the Ledge”, a glass look out point where you can look down at the street below through your feet on the floor. There are three look out points made completely of glass with 8 lines for tourists to take photos on the glass floor. The entire wait can take over 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon. Your best chance to get through quickly is to check it out in the middle of the week when they first open. You will also need to walk through a metal detector and have your belongings placed on an Xray belt, so leave your pocket knife at home.

 

John Hancock Building

Instagram famous locations in ChicagoOne of the newest favorite spots to experience in Chicago is found on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building. TILT! is a brand new attraction that leans thrill seekers at a 30 degree angle over the side of the building so you are looking straight down at the Magnificent Mile below. You will stand in line for about two hours to get to the top and then stand in line for an additional 30-45 minutes to get onto the ride. The view is worth the wait. You get to TILT slowly and view the city from over 1000 feet.

Make your ascent to the top at dusk and enjoy the lights of the city and the neon lights in the windows of the ride. Head to the top of the Hancock building during the day for a view closer to that of the Willis tower, but still jaw dropping. You can stop at the bar on the 94th floor of the building for some “liquid courage” if you are a little nervous about the ride. Anyway you swing it, this is a definite must see on your next Chicago trip.

3 instagram famous locations in Chicago3 instaram famous locations in Chicago   

Navy Pier

Instagram famous locations in ChicagoIf you are looking for a gorgeous skyline and beautiful views of Lake Michigan Navy Pier is a great place to see. There is so much to see and do at this location. If you have young kids there are many attractions inside of the pier year round. During the spring, summer, and fall the Ferris wheel is in operation as well. There are cruises on Lake Michigan offered that dock at Navy Pier which are used as party boats, dinner cruises, and sight seeing cruises. Even in the winter, the views are breathtaking. You can walk to the end of the pier inside, but you can also walk the full length of the pier outside if weather permits. Definitely don’t miss out on everything this location has to offer. Head over just before sunset to get amazing photos with the sun setting behind the Chicago skyline.

3 Instagram famous locations in Chicago3 Instagram famous locations in Chicago3 Instagram famous locations in Chicago

One additional location that I did not visit due to the frigid temperatures (negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit wind chills. BURR!) is Cloud Gate. We will most definitely be making our way back this summer to explore Cloud Gate and the rest of Millennium Park. Stay tuned for updates once it gets a little warmer outside!

Comment your favorite places to eat in Chicago below!

5 Must See Places In Maui

Aloha! There are so many fun things to do and see on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Since you can travel anywhere on the island within a day it is easy to see and do a lot in only a few days. My husband and I traveled to Maui for the first week of our honeymoon. We fell in love with the picture perfect sunsets and island spirit. Maui doesn’t have big sky scrapers, but does have plenty to keep you occupied. Below is a list of 5 of our favorite things to see on the island.

The Nakalele Blowhole

The Nakalele Blowhole is found on the north end of the island at Nakalele Point. The blowhole is just past a road side hut for Julia’s Banana Bread. There is a small hut with refreshments by the entrance of the hiking trail to the blowhole. You will hike up a hill and then down into the basin towards the bay where the blowhole is active. For best views, make sure to head over when the ocean starts to kick up and be a little more rough. The blowhole is most active around that time.

Once you get down into the basin you will also find the heart shaped rock. Many honeymooners and couples stop here to take a photo with the heart or kissing next to the heart. The easy part is getting down to the blow hole. Take heed of the warning signs posted in the area and DO NOT jump into the blow hole or stand over it. When the blowhole goes off it can suck you down into the ocean and many people are killed here yearly.  Nevertheless, this is a stop you will for sure need to make on your next trip to Maui. The views are beautiful and you can’t take a bad picture at any angle.

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala is the volcano that formed part of the island of Maui. The summit of the volcano is now a national park and they offer many types of tours. You can always hike the park for the beautiful views of the ocean and waterfalls, but you can also watch sunrise or sunset at the summit over the crater.

There are so many beautiful hiking trails in this park, but one of the most amazing views you can get is the first glimpse of sunlight over Haleakala crater at sunrise. The summit can drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit at certain points of the year, so you might need to pack a winter coat if you plan on visiting this location in the tropics. Cheer as the sun reaches over the clouds and watch the sunrise while natives sing welcoming the new day. You will need tickets for both sunrise and sunset to get into the park so check out their site. You can also book a sunrise downhill bike tour and get your pass into the park that way.

The Road to Hana

The Road to Hana is one of the most famous road trips to complete in Hawaii. The road itself has some of the most beautiful landscapes and dangerous twists and turns on the entire island. You will need to make sure you have a travel guide book with notes for gas stops along the way since you could run out of gas without stopping at the last station before Hana. Tons of tourists run out of gas on their way around the island.

Depending on the time of year, you may or may not want to continue to drive around the island completely. if you continue be sure there hasn’t been a lot of rain or once you get into the Haleakala national park the road may be completely covered with water in certain areas. So be prepare and aware of your surroundings and the dangers. The road gets much more narrow once you pass Hana and it goes on for miles as a grated dirt road. If you are not driving a four-wheel vehicle you might want to rethink your rental car.

The road to Hana has so much for all ages. There are stands every mile or two with tons of different types of food, from BBQ to juice stands, to shave ice, and so much more. Make sure you bring cash and enjoy the ride by stopping as much as you want along the way. If you love hiking there are over 20 hiking trails along the Road to Hana. Some are harder than others so make sure you have a good guide book to tell you where to pull over since some trails aren’t even marked with a sign.

Lahaina

Lahaina was the capital of the kingdom of Hawaii from 1820-1845 and there is so much history to the city. The old courthouse building and some of the original homes are still standing. You can read all about the history as you walk the avenue. There are a ton of shops, art galleries, and restaurants that line the streets. They have a park full of Banyon trees that provide a nice shady spot to rest in front of the old courthouse. Shave ice is a big thing in Hawaii and it’s basically “water ice” or “Italian ice”, but the ice is shaved instead of crushed. It’s really refreshing, especially in the Hawaiian sun.

You will enjoy every minute of your time in this quaint and beautiful town.

Black Sand Beaches

One of the coolest things to do and see in Maui are the black sand beaches. There are a few of them on the island and they are magnificent and beautiful. There is one black sand beach you can see on the way to Hana that many people stop at. The black sand beaches are not small course sand, but instead large pebbles. Be sure to wear water shoes and bring a beach chair if you plan on staying for a while since walking and sitting on the beaches can be pretty painful. These beaches are mostly flocked with tourists who are passing through. Not many people spend their entire day lounging here so be ready to see a lot of people hiking through in a steady line.

Either way, the beaches are a must see. They have a unique beauty that set them apart from beaches in other places on the island.

Maui includes so many fun and relaxing things to do for people of all ages. Make sure you check out my post about tricks to save money in Maui!

The Cone Heard Around the World

IT STARTED OUT AS INNOCENT FUN.

In the fall of 2013 my dad convinced my mom to join us on a cross country road trip from New Jersey to Los Angeles in a C3 camper. I was stoked to be able to explore so much of the country that I have never seen. We were going to go to all of the big state parks in the north west like Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, the Redwood national forest, and more. I could not wait to get out and see everything I had read about in social studies classes all through elementary school.

My dreams were crushed when two days into our trip. I was staying with my sorority sister from Ohio State on my parent’s anniversary and I got a news alert that the government had shut down. I was devastated. Not only were we not allowed in the parks now, but what was the point of driving all this way for nothing? We had only made it to Ohio so far and we were at least a day or two out from South Dakota depending on where we would stop to sleep. My parents picked me up the next morning, I was hung over, wearing the same clothes as the night before, and I probably smelled.

I went into the camper bathroom and tried to puke but couldn’t so I put my head phones in, sat in the passenger seat next to my dad and giggled to myself as I listened to “Iowa Stubborn” from the Music Man while we drove across Iowa (Don’t worry you can click the link to see what song I am talking about so you can laugh too). As beautiful as fly over states are, there is a reason when you are trying to get from point A to point B you fly. Highways in flyover states are seriously a drag. Although the first hour and a half was pretty entertaining, that shit gets old quick and you can only make so many “corny” jokes.

THINGS STARTED TO GET WEIRD.

We stopped briefly at the Corn Palace just to say that we did it and then made our way to the Badlands National Park… even though it was closed. Here is where things got a bit interesting. My dad slowed down when we came up to the entrance and realized there was not a single person around. With the rangers all off work we decided to take our chances and my dad drove over the cones and into the park. We hadn’t come all this way for nothing.

We pulled off at a parking lot that was coned off and my dad and I started snapping a few pictures. I snapped a photo of myself giving a thumbs up next to the “this national park service is closed” sign and said it would be funny if my dad threw a cone and mom took a photograph. My dad started laughing and we took a few action shots of him throwing the cone until we got the perfect picture with the cone in the air above his head.

MY DAD THINKS HE IS A CELEBRITY.

My mom and I posted a photo on Facebook and I captioned it “‘This national park service is closed. Oh yeah? You and what government workers are going to stop me?'”. A family joke meant to be shared between us and friends would soon be plastered all over Facebook and we had no idea.

First, someone made a meme out of my caption and the photograph. Then, the meme was posted on twitter and Fox News was tagged in the photo. By the time we reached California someone from Fox News had tweeted it, put it on Facebook, and wrote a blog post about it. Over 100,000 likes and shares later, my mom’s phone had imploded from constant messages, likes, and shares. The entire time we were in Los Angeles my dad kept talking about ‘getting an agent’ and saying he was being ‘recognized’ everywhere to make my mom and I laugh.

I am not even joking with you when I say how serious it is that you pay attention to what you put on the internet because one embarrassing photograph could very well be EVERYWHERE within 24 hours. One thing most people don’t even consider when they think about people in the spot light, is that you receive a massive amount of hate mail. People who have never met you have serious personal opinions about you. If this should ever happen to you, the best thing to do is to not read any of it. The negativity seriously isn’t worth any of your time at all. Don’t waste your energy and give in to angry people sitting behind a computer.

If you think I was joking about any or all of this story I am not because here is a direct link to the twitchy site written by a Fox News journalist who shared everything on her Facebook page.

Halifax

Halifax, Escalators & Fog

 

Halifax

 

I’ve learned a lot of things while traveling with my parents. Conversely, I’ve also learned a lot of what NOT to do when traveling. One of my favorite stories regarding my parents is one starring my mother. My mother, Noelle, is a gorgeous dark haired woman who is ALWAYS put together. I don’t think she has ever left the house without a full face of makeup or a complete set of jewelry in her entire life. On the other hand, I frequently leave the house without even showering and still wearing the same clothes I wore to bed. I suspect the fact that my mom forced me to wear make up every day to school made me rebel as soon as I went to college.

Naturally, my mom packs three bags just for herself when we would go on long trips. I remember one instance particularly well. We were packing for a cruise to Canada  that would leave out of New York. Growing up in New Jersey, the drive up was not all that far and we had been to the city many, many times. Most of my trips with my parents consisted of going towards the equator, not away from it. My dad spent some time living in Florida as a teenager and I think the fact that he still considers that year, “the best year of his life” influenced every single one of our vacations to go south.

I was actually really surprised that we were going to Canada. I had never thought in a million years we would take a cruise into colder weather I didn’t even know those existed. We boarded the boat and like every other vacation we all argued. In hindsight, this was the worst vacation we ever took together, but there were still some highlights so I will showcase those first.

mist, fog, and more fog.

We arrived in the port in Halifax and were able to see what was a pretty close picture of what my grandfather would have seen 50 years prior stopping in the same port as he came to America from Italy. I imagined him peeking through a door for only a minute to look outside. It would be cold and snowing so he’d quickly shut the door and go back inside the ship.

I remember I stood on the deck and looked out at the large white building with hundreds of windows at the port. I tried to take in everything around me and I wondered if this was the same exact spot my grandfather stood and looked out at Halifax. There were tents set up with vendors and a museum with thousands of photos of ships that had pulled into the Canadian port.

My dad looked through mounted black and white photos looking for one that looked familiar. He stopped when he found a black and white photo of the exact ship in the Halifax port that my grandfather took to America. I was amazed that there was actually a photo of the ship, the M.S. Vulcania. It looked so incredibly old to me. I tried to picture my grandfather as a young boy with his sister trying to navigate the narrow halls. He was hopeful of the future and had no idea how successful he would be all because he made that step and left his home and everything he knew behind him.

It was really foggy for the remainder of our trip and of course it wouldn’t be a “Bruno family vacation” without a good old fashioned shake up. My sister spent 90% of the entire cruise crying in her bedroom over her boyfriend who she had just broken up with. My sister was hysterical for almost the entire trip. My mom was understanding and my dad was livid. Mainly because the amount of money that the cell phone bill was about to come out to with all the long distance phone calls was astronomical.

I can’t really blame him for being pissed off. So the majority of the time I spent wandering the ship in more or less darkness from all the fog. I remember texting and eating a lot because there was’t much to do. It was kind of cold so there was no way we could swim and I was only 17 years old so I couldn’t drink. That left very little to occupy my time.

that one time i disobeyed a security guard and almost got tazed.

My fondest memory from this trip came as a surprise to me. Like I said previously, my mom packs multiple suitcases when we go on vacation. One other thing you should know about her is that she also has a completely irrational fear of escalators. I’m not quite sure what it stems from because I never asked her, but for what ever reason it’s there. We were going down the escalator into customs my entire family in a single file line. First my dad with his bag, my sister with hers, me with mine, and in the back was my mom with 2 rolling suitcases and a bathroom bag. I didn’t realize until we got to the bottom of the escalator that my mom had not followed us.

I took a step back and saw her standing at the top rustling with her bags, crying, and panicking. She had no idea how to approach the escalator with all of the luggage. She was shuffling the bags around and then eventually I realized she needed help. There were two security guards, one that was at the top of the escalator and one that was at the bottom of a different escalator. You would assume that out of all the people standing in customs, SOMEONE would have helped her, but no. So, I looked at my dad and said “I’m going to help her.”

The security guard started yelling at me something about not being allowed to go back upstairs once you come down. Annoyed at the entire situation and the fact that they were yelling at me instead of just helping my mom so I didn’t have to help her myself pissed me off.

Anyone who knows me, knows I also have a short fuse. I assume it comes from my Italian family because I have zero patience when it comes to stupidity. If you are in a position to help someone, HELP THEM. So naturally 17 year old me yelled back at the female security guard who was yelling at me to “STOP OR I’LL TAZE YOU”.  I could feel the blood rush to my face and my ears started ringing.

“I AM GOING BACK UP THESE STAIRS TO HELP MY MOTHER. I WOULDN’T HAVE TO IF YOU WOULD HELP HER YOURSELF, BUT AS WE CAN SEE, YOU AREN’T DOING SHIT.” It just burst out and I couldn’t stop it.

I ran up the stairs and the security guard started to move towards me then, she looked over at my mom, then back at me, and stared in disbelief as I completely ignored her. Grabbing both of my mom’s rolling suitcases I ushered my mother onto the escalator behind me. She followed me down the escalator and we continued into customs. I don’t think she ever thanked me, but I also think she was too embarrassed to think straight at the moment so I understand. It was unspoken. I was pissed off for the rest of the trip home from New York, but I guess it could have been worse.

That security guard could have actually tazed me.

Giant’s Causeway

A REVIEW OF GIANT’S CAUSEWAY:
WHAT IS IT? AND WHAT TO EXPECT.

the legend

Giant’s Causeway is one of the top 10 tourist destinations in Norther Ireland. In Ireland there is an old legend that speaks of the giant responsible for the rock formations at this site. Many years ago, a giant, Finn McCool had a problem with another giant in Scotland named Benandonner. Finn decided he would go over to Scotland to teach him a lesson, so he grabbed chunks of rock from Antrim Coast and formed a bridge allowing him to cross to Scotland. When he got there he realized Benandonner was massive and larger than he was. Before Benandonner could get to him, Finn crossed back over to Ireland. Finn’s wife quickly dressed him as a baby and when Benandonner came looking for him, he was terrified when he mistook Finn for a baby and thought “if the child is this big, then Finn must be huge.” Benandonner went back to Scotland and Finn was saved thanks to his wife’s quick thinking.

Giant's Causeway

The science

While some choose to believe the story of Finn McCool, there are also scientific explanations for the rock formations at Giant’s Causeway. An old volcanic eruption and millions of years of erosion is responsible for the way it looks today. The column rocks are called basalt columns and are formed using volcanic or igneous rock. Originally, it was a mystery as to how these columns formed in perfect hexagonal structures as opposed to anything else. Today, we know that when basalt lava cools at a perfectly uniform pace it forms hexagonal structures. This is what we see today at Giant’s Causeway.

Giant's Causeway

what to expect

Giant’s Causeway is found not far from the Bushmill Distillery, which happens to be another great tourist stop. You will need to hike about a mile down onto the rocky shores to see everything, although the views from the top of the cliffs are also beautiful. Be ready for whipping winds and and sea spray. It may be advisable to dress for a misty day even if it isn’t raining. Leave enough time to explore the gift shop and cafe as well, located next to the parking lot. The bathrooms are also located here. Conveniently, there are quite a few hotels near by as well as a hostel if you are looking for cost effectiveness.

Giant's Causeway

worth the visit?

Absolutely. Giant’s Causeway is one of my favorite places on the northern coast of Ireland. You honestly can not snap a bad picture. Be careful near the cliffs as there have been many people who have fallen. If you are in the Bushmills area be sure to make a stop by this location. If you are aware of the legend and enjoy great views, this place is very interesting. The hike is fairly easy and the path is easy to follow. Have your camera ready and take in the fresh air and scenery around you.

Giant's Causeway

Tricks for Cheap Flights

If travel was that easy, everyone would do it. Right? One of the biggest barriers for those who want to travel is the outrageous price of plane tickets. Everyone who travels has had to deal with it at one time or another, and it sucks. I will let you in on the tricks for cheap flights you can use so you don’t have to break the bank. There are 5 important tricks that will change the way you shop for airline tickets.

Tricks for Cheap Flights

Always look in multiple places.

You should ALWAYS look on as many sites as you can. First, try typing “flights from ____ to ____” in your google search bar. Google usually does a pretty good job of searching all of the available sites and airlines. My second go to is Skyscanner. Skyscanner is a website that helps you search for flights at the best price out there and has an easy option to search for one-way flights which brings me to my next trick. It also has a super easy to use app that I love.

book your flights one-way.

One trick for cheap flights is to book your plane tickets one-way. This isn’t always successful, but when you book your trip one-way you can sometimes get deals. Plus, you can book one plane ticket and book the other one at a later date when prices come down a little.

do your research.

Look up the best and worst times of the year to visit where you are going. The closest you are to the tourist season, the higher the prices will be. In the summer time prices tend to skyrocket basically everywhere. Try to avoid holiday weekends, weekends in general, and tourist season.

Be flexible.

Try not to carve out the dates you want or even where you want to go. Chances are if  you travel a lot you have a very long list of places you want to see. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, pick a month you want to travel and compare prices. Once you compare the prices for all of the possible destinations within that time, then you can pick a date and place to go. If you pick the week before checking out prices, you will almost always be paying more than you want to.

tuesday, tuesday, tuesday.

The best day of the week to travel, and for the lowest possible prices you should depart on a Tuesday, and return on a Tuesday. For reasons unknown to me, choosing flights on Tuesdays are always more affordable. One of the worst days to travel is on a Friday or a Sunday, so try to avoid those days at all cost.

Of course, there are so many tips and tricks and places to read up on the tricks of the trade. One of my favorite blogs with cost saving  tips for airlines is Scott’s Cheap Flights and Nomadic Matt.

Need help packing your carry on? Click here.
Traveling with pets for the first time? See here.

5 Places that Serve Thanksgiving Dinner

Being on the road all the time and being away from home can be extremely hard during the holidays. My husband and I moved away from all of our family in New Jersey two years ago and Thanksgiving has become a weird day for us. One thing I wish I knew before now was where I can get a great thanksgiving meal on thanksgiving on the go. Here is a list of places that serve Thanksgiving dinner.

Places that serve thanksgiving dinner

bob evan’s

Bob Evan’s is well known as one of the best places that serve Thanksgiving dinner. This chain is found mainly in the north east, parts of Florida and parts of the midwest. However, they are highly rated and recommended for Thanksgiving dinner. Order the farmhouse feast and you will enjoy turkey, gravy, mash potatoes, green beans, cranberry, rolls, pie and more! You can either dine in or take out! They can cater large groups and pick it up hot or cold if you place your order ahead of time on their website.

Boston Market

Boston Market gives Bob Evans a run for their money with their Thanksgiving dinner option. Like Bob Evan’s you can pick up or dine in, but you can also have it delivered to your home at select locations. Their menu is very close to all other chain restaurant menus and I urge you to compare. Prices, quantity, and choices will vary depending upon location, but Boston Market gives a great selection with yummy quality.

Denny’s

Denny’s does not serve a completely traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s not bad. Plus, there are plenty of Denny’s accessible all over the country. They have a featured seasonal menu that is updated here. Check it out, there are holiday breakfasts, dinners, and desserts to choose from including pecan or pumpkin pies.

Perkins

Of all the places that serve Thanksgiving Dinner, Perkins is probably the least advertised. This is mainly due to the fact that not all locations are open on Thanksgiving. Some however, are and their menu in past years isn’t all that terrible. Definitely check with the Perkins you plan on spending your Thanksgiving at what their hours and menu will be that day. Trip Advisor however has rated them pretty highly for their Thanksgiving dinner so it might just be worth it. Unfortunately, there is no menu available on their website to check out what they will be serving this year.

Cracker Barrel

Of all the places that serve Thanksgiving dinner this is one of our favorites. With Cracker Barrels all across the country and accessible to major highways this is one of the best. Cracker Barrel is already known for their “just like mom made” comfort foods. If you are looking for a good sit down Thanksgiving dinner than this is the place. They offer all the Thanksgiving favorites so you don’t feel like you missed out. Don’t worry, the plates are large so you won’t leave hungry, although you might be a little bit tired from all the tryptophan in the turkey! Like most other places offering Thanksgiving dinner,  you can also order to pick up hot or cold!

Is there a chain restaurant you enjoy for Thanksgiving, or have your tried any of these? Leave your recommendations below!
Want some road trip advice? Check out this article about essential items you’ll need