Should You Fly a Budget Airline? (Like Spirit Air)

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 2.59.50 PM

Hi friends. So back in the day when we flew out to Denver for spring break, we flew this little airline called Spirit. You may have heard of it, since it’s been in the news a lot lately for its horrible, terrible, no good very bad customer service. And for its fees. And for its delay record. And just about every other complaint you can throw at an airline.

Anyway, me and Chris, my sister and her boyfriend, we all flew Spirit for the first time when we flew out to Denver, and with all the uproar lately surrounding the airline, I decided to throw my own two cents in. You can read the whole post over here, but here’s a bit of an excerpt:

I fly a lot.

In the past seven months I’ve flown Qantas to Australia, Icelandair to Iceland, JetBlue to Florida and … drum roll, please …Spirit to Denver.

In case you’ve missed the news recently, Spirit isn’t exactly a luxury airliner – nor are they No. 1 in customer service. In fact, they’re dead last – drawing complaint rates that were more than three times higher than the second-place airlines from 2009 to 2013

Here’s the thing though: The price was right. The available times worked out … and I had yet to read all the awful reviews the company consistently racks up. (And, for the record, has chalked up to simple misunderstandings.)

So, was it worth it? In my own personal opinion — yes, and here’s why. “

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, take ‘em or leave ‘em, I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the budget airline?

Bis bald, friends!

 

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 1

Iceland_Mountains

Hey friends,

As you all know by now, Chris and I returned home from our (awesome. amazing. unreal. fantastic. insert-fabulous-adjective here) trip to Iceland late last night, and I’ve been busting to share the info and photos with you. Alas, a full day of work has kept me from doing so until now.

Anyway, moving on. Coming home from a trip like this. just. plain. sucks! But going through all the photos and writing down the memories here to keep forever … well that’s just really fun.

Here we go! Day 1 in Iceland began last Friday, at around 6 a.m., Icelandic time ….

After a quick (and somewhat cramped) overnight flight from JFK, we landed at Keflavik Airport a little before our expected arrival time of 6 a.m. Which was actually 1 a.m. NY time.

Who needs sleep when you’re young?!

We had booked a shuttle transfer from the airport to our hotel, the Best Western, ahead of time, which I would highly, highly  recommend since it was so easy and cheap (approximately $15), and you do not want to get to Iceland and have to worry about how you’re getting to your hotel, since if you’re staying in Reykjavik, it will probably be about an hour away. Like I said, we stayed at the Best Western Hotel Reykjavik (Trip Advisor reviews can be found here), which was a tad off the beaten track from downtown Reykjavik (about a 10 to 15 minute walk to the city center, I’d say) — but the front desk ladies were always completely lovely and extremely helpful, and a decent breakfast was included, and the price was right … so really, I’d say if you don’t mind walking a bit to get to the really hopping part of town, it’s worth staying at the Best Western.

Of course getting in at 6 a.m. and arriving to our hotel around 7 a.m. meant we couldn’t check right in. Instead we stored our bags and hit the streets! The cold, dark streets. Neither one of us really had any idea where we were going (and it stayed that way for about a good 20 minutes, I’d say. Why didn’t we just ask for directions?!), and the sun doesn’t rise until about 9:30 a.m. in the winter in Iceland, but none of that mattered — we were on an adventure! We spent the morning walking around downtown, drinking coffee at Te & Kaffi (also read about it here), stumbling upon the most adorable and classy violin-making shop I’ve ever seen (note to self: take up the violin again), and checking out some of the local stores in the downtown area, most of which don’t open until the sun has fully risen by 10 a.m.

Photo 1^^ The gorgeous church that pretty much starts the main drag of downtown Reykjavik.
Also, this picture was taken around 8 a.m. Nary a glimmer of sunlight in the sky!

Photo 2^^ Umm, right?! How amazing is this violin studio??

Photo 3

photo 4^^ One of these things is not like the other …

Photo 5

During our wanders we also happened upon The Laundromat Cafe, which I had read about and knew I wanted to visit. The place has a seriously adorable, 70s-style laundromat downstairs, while the upstairs doubles as a restaurant by day, bar by night, and all-around bookstore (they color code their books, like I do!) and people-watching heaven.

Photo 6

Photo 7

Photo 8

Photo 9

Oh, and my eggs and tomatoes weren’t too shabby, either. (As it turns out, Icelanders are pretty proud of their tomatoes. They consider all other tomatoes grown from outside of the country to just not be good enough … and after tasting theirs, I can see why.)

By the time we made it back outside it was snowing gently — the perfect Icelandic weather! We made our way slowly back to the hotel (not before picking up some wine at the local store for later) to finally check in and take a nap before heading back out into the day. (As a side note, I’ve already mentioned that the sun doesn’t rise until 9:30ish in the winter in Iceland, but it also sets around 5 p.m., so if you’re a daylight lover, you really need to plan your time wisely to make the most out of what little you’ll get of it if you travel here in February. I wasn’t quite sure how I would take the fewer hours of daylight. As it turns out, I didn’t mind it even one tiny little bit.)

After our nap, we headed over to Cinema No: 2, which I had also read about, to take in two videos — one on the formation of Iceland and its geography and people, and another on the Northern Lights (for which we would have a tour to try to find ourselves the following night). The Cinema was small but super cozy, with couches and an old-school popcorn machine and a lovely man in a warm sweater to take your money at the door. The “movie screen” is really a projector screen, and the videos themselves seem pretty old, but it doesn’t matter. The history of Iceland and its nature and the Northern Lights have been set for years, so there’s really not much updating that needs to be done. On the other hand, it’s a bit expensive (about $30 for both of us) … but it was worth it. A very nice thing to do on your first day in Iceland. Just be sure to double-check the times if this is something you’d like to do on your own trip. The Cinema isn’t open all day (I believe we went around 6 p.m. to catch our movies), so it would be a shame to head all the way over there and miss them.

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 12

After the movies we went straight to Micro Bar, a tiny little bar located behind the lobby of The Center Hotel, practically directly across the street from The Laundromat Cafe. (Also check it out in this list of the 11 coolest bars in Reykjavik, which I really wish I had seen before we left for our trip. But that’s okay … I think we did just fine. The trick is to just ask the locals … but more on that later!) This funky little place is actually a microbrewery, and we were able to sample four of their most delicious beers for the low, low price of $20.

Photo 13

Photo 14

Photo 15

I think here might actually be a good place to mention prices in Iceland. Ummmm …. they be expensive!!! And we live in Manhattan, friends, so when someone from Manhattan calls another place expensive? Well, you just know it must be true. I’ll get a bit more into the finances of Iceland (or lack thereof) in day three, though, because that’s when we learned all about it. For the purpose of today’s blog post, let’s just put it out there that if you travel to Reykjavik, be prepared to drop some cash, friends. It’s one of the best places I’ve been in the world (What?! Did she really just say that?!), but it’s no cheap place to visit.

All of this detracts, however, from the awesomeness that is Micro Bar. It has such a homey, low-key vibe, with subdued lighting and tasty snacks and lovely bartenders, and the most adorable paintings of mountains (each with something tiny and surprising to find that makes it different) on the walls — this is a must while in Iceland.

I guess here is also a good place to tell you about what our original plans were for Friday night. As anyone who has ever read anything about Reykjavik or has been there will know — on the weekends, these people know how to party! They party hard and loud and long into the night. Like, they start the bar hopping around 12:30 or 1, friends. This is no joke. So knowing this was a Reykjavik ritual that we would most definitely be partaking in, we thought we’d grab a quick drink and dinner early, then head back to the hotel with some wine from the local liquor store (conveniently located near Micro Bar), some snacks from the grocery and take a quick power nap before heading out again around 12:30 or 1.

For dinner, we had originally tried to make a reservation at Fridrik V, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in. Then we read about Snaps (which also made that top beer places list I linked out to above), but they were pretty booked when we tried there as well. (Don’t worry, we did make it to Snaps, eventually.) We instead stumbled on Noodle Station, a hole-in-the-wall Thai soup store that smelled delicious and had lots of locals eating there. So that’s where we ate our first night, and it was spectacular, friends. To be fair, I’m going to go ahead and just say that we didn’t eat anything bad, per se, at all on this trip. (You can pretty much assume this means we didn’t eat any traditional Icelandic food — like whale, or Puffin. Ummm…needless to say I’m okay with that, and so is Chris.) So the Noodle Station on Friday night was delicious, but it wasn’t our best meal. Still, it’s worth a shot for lunch or if you’re in need of a quick nighttime meal, for sure.

On the way back to our hotel for some wine and our (what was meant to be a) power nap, we stopped at the grocery store for some cheese and crackers. We were also hoping to find some playing cards (which we without fail always forget to bring on trips), and when they didn’t have any for sale, the lovely man behind the counter who rang us up actually ended up pulling out a pack from behind the register and just giving them to us completely for free. I mean … how lovely! It was really a small act of kindness that made our night.

So that was pretty much our first day in Iceland, friends! I’m going to spare you the expense and just say we never made it out Friday night (100% my fault), but did get out with the crazy crowd on Saturday night … and it was every bit as much fun as everything I had read.

But more on that tomorrow. (That and a little thing called the Northern Lights!)

Bis bald, friends!

 

Travel Alert — Our South American Trip is Planned, People!

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 2.21.17 PM

So after much, much, much planning, research, debate, blood, sweat and tears on our part, Chris and I have finally locked down a South America itinerary that we’re — well let’s just say it — absolutely ecstatic with! Here’s how it goes:

We’ll arrive in Cusco, Peru a couple days ahead of our 5-day tour of the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu with Cusi Travel. That tour looks a little something like this:

Day 1 – Cusco City Tour
Day 2 – Sacred Valley Tour
Day 3-4- Inca Trail/Machu Picchu 2D/1N
Day 5 – flight to Quito

In Quito we’ll connect with our second tour group, Southern Explorations, for our 12-day tour of the Galapagos Islands (I can’t breathe when I type that I’m so excited) and the Amazon Rainforest. That tour includes jungle walks, butterfly sanctuaries, canoe rides, bird watching, canopy walks and zip lines in the Amazon, as well as walks along Darwin’s Way, snorkeling with Galapagos penguins, sea lion, giant tortoise and Blue-footed Booby meetings, and so much more, in the Galapagos.

We’ll end the trip with a little over a week at an all-inclusive beach resort in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

I don’t think I really need to tell you guys just how excited we are for this trip. It’s the trip of a lifetime, and we feel more than a little lucky to be able to go on it.

Oh, and in other news … we leave Thursday for our trip to Iceland. That snuck up on us! Can’t wait to share all that info and the photos here with you guys when we’re back. As a heads up, we’ll be taking a Northern Lights tour, as well as a Gulfoss and Geysir Express Afternoon tour and a trip to the Blue Lagoon.

Bis bald, friends! Here’s to really livin’ it up in 2014!

Photo courtesy of Cusi Travel

 

 

 

Our Aussie Wedding Extravaganza!

Hi friends,

So we’re back home safe and sound (booo!), and things here have been a bit hectic since we landed. (You can thank our cat and her terrible lungs, which have now been fixed, thanks to the surgical team at the Animal Medical Hospital and our dwindling bank account!)

Anyway, I finally have some time to blog today, so I’ve upgraded to a better photo package which hopefully should keep me blogging for the next couple of years. Fingers crossed!

Back to our epic adventure, this trip really was separated into three parts:

  1. Our time spent in Bathurst with all of our amazing friends and family for our (fourth!) wedding celebration and the baptism of our niece/Goddaughter
  2. Our honeymoon at the Great Barrier Reef
  3. Our last weekend in Sydney before we left, which just so happened to coincide with the International Fleet Review where over 20 ships from around the world docked in Sydney Harbour. (Plus they had the largest fireworks show Australia has ever seen … and Prince Harry was there!)

As I like to do (to keep the trip lasting longer, and to stop your eyes from glazing over at one ginormous post), I’m going to break my blogging about this trip into the three sections accordingly.

So back to last Tuesday, we had boarded a Qantas flight to Australia …

Continue reading

A Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip for the Man!

^^ I did it! I pulled off a secret!

^^ I did it! I pulled off a secret!

Hi friends!

So tomorrow is the big day — the day Chris and I fly out for his Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip! And yes, I somehow DID manage to keep the secret! (Well not the whole secret, I accidentally forwarded our flight information to him thinking it was information about a different flight. That was stupid.)

I put together these three envelopes for Chris to open when he got home tonight. Step 1 contained our boarding passes for our flight tomorrow. Step 2 contained our rental car information, becauseeeeeeee … Step 3 were our tickets to the Gentlemen of the Road St. Augustine Stopover Tour!

I’m totally excited for this. Not only will we be seeing Mumford & Sons, fun., Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and tons of other great acts, but I’ll finally get to show Chris St. Augustine, the town where I lived for a year and 1/2 after graduating from college. It means a lot to me to be able to share that with him.

I also booked a boat tour with Mike’s Yacht of Fun — so I can’t wait to report back on that!

Bis bald, friends! Pray for us to have good weather!

July 4 2013: Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona

View from our hike on our last day.

View from our hike on our last day.

Hi friends!

The few days since Chris and I got back from our trip have been a bit crazy, but I really wanted to take some time to post thoughts from our trip as soon as possible. So without further adieu, last Wednesday Chris and I were in a cab and off to La Guardia to catch our flight …

Continue reading

Arizona In Instagram Pics

Hi friends!

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend! For reasons that I will go into in more detail in my full trip post, I ended up taking the majority of my photos on this trip with my iPhone … which of course meant posting them directly to Instagram.

So I figured I’d just post a quick preview of things to come in my full-on post by uploading all of the Instagram pics here. But before I do that, just some highlights from our trip:

  • We spent 12 hours in Charlotte after missing our connecting flight to Phoenix because of rain delays, but that’s okay because we got to eat a wonderful brunch and check out the downtown area because of it.
  • We went on amazing hikes, ate delicious food and drank lots of tequila.
  • I experienced a slight case of heat exhaustion … not fun, my friends! And after all that research I did to avoid it!
  • We did lots of swimming in my friend’s pool.
  • We were randomly, and for reasons still unknown to us, upgraded to first class seats on our flight back from Phoenix. Not too shabby!

Here’s a taste of what’s to come …

^^Rain made things pretty, but is not optimal for flying.

^^Rain made things pretty, but is not optimal for flying.

^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Bloody Mary’s in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Biscuits and grits. This is Charlotte.

^^Biscuits and grits. This is Charlotte.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Welcome to Sedona!!

^^Welcome to Sedona!!

^^Porous shoes on a 7-mile hike = lots of stopping to empty them out.

^^Porous shoes on a 7-mile hike = lots of stopping to empty them out.

^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.

^^Sedona hike–unbelievable.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Downtown Sedona.

^^Downtown Sedona.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Spinach enchilada with a mango margarita.

^^Spinach enchilada with a mango margarita.

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It’s been real.

^^Gilbert Farmer's Market.

^^Gilbert Farmer’s Market.

^^Vegan quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberry scone and iced coffee.

^^Vegan quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberry scone and iced coffee.

^^99 degrees? Check. I will be hiking to the top of this mountain. Wish me luck. (Hint: this is where the heat exhaustion came into play... duh duh duhhhh!)

^^99 degrees? Check. I will be hiking to the top of this mountain. Wish me luck. (Hint: this is where the heat exhaustion came into play… duh duh duhhhh!)

^^View from about 1/4 mile up Cholla Hike, Scottsdale.

^^View from about 1/4 mile up Cholla Hike, Scottsdale.

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Who got a free upgrade to first class on the way home? This guy! (And the gal he was with!)

^^Who got a free upgrade to first class on the way home? This guy! (And the gal he was with!)

So that’s it for now, my friends! I’ll be back soon with the full details of our (amazing and very hot!) trip.

Bis bald!

London 2013 and Chris’s 5th World Marathon Complete!

Image

Oh hey there, London.

Hi friends!

Oh. My. Goodness. What a whirlwind! So Chris and I just said farewell to his parents who, luckily, we’ll be seeing again for our wedding celebration in Australia in just five months. This apartment always feels so sad and lonely when they leave.

While they were here we took a trip to London, Chris ran the marathon and we headed upstate for a little Magnanini Winery wedding celebration with my mom’s side of the family.

It was a fast and furious two weeks, to say the least!

And that’s why I’m a tad late on my London posting. Of course it’s nowhere near faded from memory yet, but I do like to get my thoughts down on the blog as soon as possible, so I don’t leave any details out.

So about that, it was late last Thursday when we left for our little journey ….

Continue reading

In the News: New Travel Site, GetGoing.com, Launches Today

Image

Can this new site make leisure travel cheaper?

Hey friends,

So I know I owe you a D.C. post (don’t say I didn’t warn you that we do a lot of hangin’ around when we’re together), but I wanted to jump on a press release that I received in my email this morning about a new travel site that, I think, has a lot of potential.

So the site, called GetGoing, works on what they’re calling a ‘pick two, get one’ process. What that essentially means is that users design two different trips (including dates, flight times, number of stops they want, etc.), and GetGoing works to get you the best discounts so you can actually purchase whichever trip turns out to be cheaper.

The system works because airlines often offer up to 40% off airfare for leisure travelers in order to fill up their empty seats. “Nearly one in five seats on all flights worldwide are empty, and we view that as a huge opportunity for more people to get out and see the world,” Alek Vernitsky, co-founder and CEO of GetGoing said in their press release. “So we decided to help flexible leisure travelers get great deals on those open seats by proving that they are actually traveling for leisure.” (Hence the reason users are prompted to pick two destinations.)

GetGoing is currently flying to hundreds of major airports in over 50 countries.

Check out the full video explanation of how the site works here:

What do you guys think? Would you try out GetGoing?

Tips for International Travel

While Chris and I get ready to head out to Palm Springs tomorrow (ummm…yay!), I have my head quasi in our trip this upcoming Fall to Berlin, Munich, Rome and Cinque Terre (which is a new destination for us, taking the place of what was formerly going to be Venice. Thanks for the heads up Libby and Allison!).

Don’t worry–once we’re in Palm Springs tomorrow I will officially have my head in the game!

Anyway, back to our Euro-trip. We have our hotels booked in Berlin, Munich and Rome, and our flights booked from NYC to Berlin, and back from Rome to NYC. Then, yesterday, we booked our flights from Berlin to Munich (turns out, that’s probably cheaper than training it…)

I came across this little diddy in the New York Times today about money tips for globe-trotters, and I’m finding it very useful. Some helpful advice includes:

  • Get a credit card with a chip
  • Tell your bank where you’re traveling
  • Learn the exchange rate before you land

Etc., etc. Anyway, just thought I’d share.

Okay, wish us luck! Tomorrow is moving day at my office, and then I’m off to catch the plane to California!

Too. Much. Fun.

New DOT Rules Change the Deals That Make It Into Our Inboxes

Image

I thought I would just share the interesting news I just got in an email from Travelzoo. According to the email, today new government regulations went into effect requiring all airlines and travel companies to include taxes and fees in published airfare, making the pricing more transparent for consumers.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE THIS. The tone of Travelzoo’s email was worried at best. For example, in the second graph they write:

“When we tell you about fare deals from airlines or online travel agents, now we are also including these taxes, so prices will initially appear to be higher. But we’re still finding great prices, including some of the best fares we’ve seen in months.”

Fear not, Travelzoo—at least on my part, I will continue to eagerly read your travel updates in search of cheap flights. I do, however, look forward to this new transparency. Gone are the days of booking a flight advertised at $79 each way, only to find I am meant to pay $139 in taxes.

Because that seriously used to blow.

A Trip With My Girls in the Keys

So like I was saying yesterday, I just recently got back from a trip to Key West with my sisters. This was a gift trip from my dad which included:

As you can see, there were oh so many things to love about this trip. We came to the decision to go to Key West in the first place because we all wanted some place we hadn’t been before, some place that would be warm in January (but not too far away), and my BFF Lisa has always talked about spending time in the Keys with her fam. According to her, it was an amazing place…and she wasn’t lying.

So we three girls headed out at 4:15 a.m. Friday morning to catch our 6:30 a.m. flight.

Why is it that every single flight I take seems to leave at the crack of dawn.

Anyway, turns out leaving at 6:30 isn’t half bad when you’re flying first class. Free Bloody Mary’s, tons of leg room, a plethora of movies to choose from, warm towels….

The good stuff is just never-ending.

Anyway, after our first flight landed us in Tampa we caught our connecting flight to Key West, which just happened to be a teeny, tiny, 17-seater:

My sisters were less than impressed, to say the least.

I, however, saw it as an adventure :)

Anyway, after a quick hop, skip and 1 hour flight, we were finally in the Keys, where we picked up our awesome Mustang convertible!

Then, after only about 15 minutes of tinkering around, we were finally able to figure out how to get the top down:

So that was the first exciting thing to happen.

Our hotel was only about a 10 minute ride from the airport—but when you’re riding in a convertible every trip seems so much cooler.

At the hotel check-in the first day we were confronted with what would be our first clue into the festivities set to take place at the hotel that weekend. Despite his repeated check-ins to make sure that the three of us would have two rooms near each other, when we checked in we were told the hotel was so full, the best they could do was get us a room right above the other room.

Weird, right?

But whatever. We were nonplussed. That’s how you are on vacation, right? Things happen, and you just roll with the punches.

Our first order of business (or Steph’s first order of business, at least), was to check out the beach. Lisa had warned me ahead of time (and I had passed the word on), that the Keys don’t have beaches quite like other beaches. Our hotel just happened to have its own beachfront area, so that was nice, but even so, we ended up spending the majority of our time in the hot tub (where we met a medium, a 15-year-old bull herder, a CIA agent and a retired school teacher, to name a few).

That first night, at the recommendation of our new “medium” friend, we headed to Duval Street for dinner and to hit up Willie T’s, where bar-goers staple signed dollar bills to … well, pretty much anything they can find to staple it on:

After returning to the hotel Friday night we received our second clue as to the festivities of the weekend. Or should I say the festivities themselves made us aware of the festivities. Basically, at around 4 a.m. this incessant blasting of music started, and after about a half hour of listening to it, Steph and I decided to call down to the front desk. Turns out Jen had called as well, and they sent security up to stop it.

The next day we were told a wedding would be taking place at the hotel that night.

Oh, and it was someone local.

Oh, and there were about 500 people invited.

It wouldn’t be until later that day (well technically it was Sunday morning, to be exact), that we would find out it was actually the owner’s daughter who was getting married there.

But more on that to come later.

So after having very little sleep on Friday night, we nonetheless decided to head out to a few other places. First up was the Southernmost point in the U.S. (which is only 90 miles to Cuba), and to get some coconut water (Literally. A man with a drill was drilling holes into actual coconuts and selling them for $3.)

Then it was on to Mallory Square. Unfortunately we weren’t there at sunset, which is supposed to be the most beautiful (and most eclectic) time there. Oh well, that’ll just have to be for another trip.

After Mallory Square we headed over to this local seafood festival we had seen advertised in a park near the hotel. I’m really glad we ended up doing that. It was all local people and local restaurants with tons of booths filled with beer, seafood, artwork and live music. We ended up trying out lobster, conch fritters (Fried conch, basically. Whatever that is!), and shrimp.

After the festival (in which we all bought artwork by a local artist that was framed with used lobster traps! At the time it was cool…and it looks a lot cooler than it sounds, trust me) we went back to the hotel and the hot tub, before heading back out to Duval St. for dinner and—something I had been excited for the entire trip—Key Lime Pie!!

Now, what I forgot to mention before was that earlier in the day we stopped to pick up some provisions in preparation for the upcoming night:

Yup. Those, my dear friends, are ear plugs. But despite that fact that our sister Jen swears by them, Steph and I just could not seem to get used to them. It’s the oddest sensation to have those things in your ears, and try as we might, at around 3 a.m., when it seemed like we were perhaps in the clear and had avoided any ruckus for the evening, I removed the buds.

Bad move.

Turns out the partying wasn’t going to start until 4 a.m. that morning.

From 4 to 7:30 a.m. we sat up listening to the thump, thump, thumping of the base to the terrible music the party-goers were blasting (in, of course, what turned out to be the room right next to where Steph and I were bunked).

Despite my two phone calls, Jen’s two phone calls, and what I’m sure were any number of phone calls from whatever other rooms in that hotel turned out to not be guests of the wedding, there was nothing the poor manager on duty could do. What was she supposed to do, after all? Ask her boss to kindly turn it down?

I don’t think so.

Anyway, lesson learned. Next time you think something might be up…ask. You’re probably right.

It wasn’t a total loss, though. My dad got comped his miles back for the room that night, and on Sunday night Jen and Steph and I were upgraded to an amazing 3-bedroom, 3-bath suite with a kitchen, dining room, porch and roof access.

Not that we actually needed all that, but it just went so nicely with the rest of our indulgent trip, we had to accept :)

Our new view!

On Sunday we ended up spending most of the day lounging, but we did head out to breakfast at Blue Heaven where I had shrimp and grits (which brought me right back to my JMU days. Sad!)

And there was live music (as there is most places in Key West), and ping-pong and art work (as there is most places in Key West):

After brekkie it was back to the hotel for more sun and hot tub. We ordered room service (beer and pizza. Dinner of champions!) and spent our last night soaking up our awesome suite and sharing some last-minute sister gossip.

All in all, it was an unforgettable trip. We spent most of Monday traveling, where we had a five-hour layover in Tampa and spent the entire time in the elite travelers lounge (I told you. This was a fancy trip all the way!), drinking free wine and eating cheese, crackers and salsa (oh, and taking over the TV, much to the chagrin of anyone else in the TV room).

A few more notes on The Keys and its awesomeness:

1) There were a group of feral cats at our hotel, which my sisters weren’t quite too fond of, and, as per usual, I was obsessed with:

2) There are also tons of roosters (or hens? Not sure I’d be able to tell the difference) around Key West, which cock-a-doodle-doo at all hours of the day (seriously, not just at dawn):

3) And lastly, if you go to Key West you must ride a bike. Sadly, I do not have a photo of me and my sis’ riding around on a bike, because we didn’t rent any, but it seems that when in Key West, this is the thing to do, so I would recommend it.

And that’s about it friends! My sisters and I were so, so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip together. And I would suggest that if you ever get the opportunity to head over to Key West, I’d jump on it. I haven’t been anywhere else quite like it.

Bis bald, friends!

In The News: Drunk Passenger Causes $40,000-Worth of Damage on Flight, Disrobes Seat Mate

Yowza Jason Dixon—your name should certainly be added to the list of ‘do not fly’ names after the little stunt you pulled on May 2.

According to this AOL Travel piece, 32-year-old Virgin Atlantic passenger Jason Dixon became so intoxicated on his flight from Britain to Jamaica that he somehow managed to become involved in a physical altercation with his seat mate (after she turned down his advances, of course), ripping off her clothes and yanking out her hair, and then causing nearly $40,000 in damages to the plane.

Sounds like a model passenger (and person). Really.

Bis bald, friends! In only 6-days time Steph and I will be Cabo-bound! Cannot wait!

In The News: Have a Peanut Allergy? Better stay away from Air Canada…

Thank you, Mommyish, for turning me on to this crazy story about Air Canada turning away a 19-year-old boy because he had a peanut allergy.

This is my favorite part from the linked story above: “The comments (to a story about how April Burns son was turned away from Air Canada because of his allergy) focus on how far airlines should go to accommodate people with allergies. Some argue Air Canada had a right to deny her son a seat on the plane; others feel any accommodation was an imposition for other passengers.”

First I’d like to point out that those two points are basically the same thing—siding with Air Canada for their refusal to seat the child. Is no one on this kid’s side? What is he supposed to do, never fly because he’s allergic to peanuts?

Secondly, in what scenario would it be appropriate for a fellow passenger to kick up a stink about needing to skip his bag of peanuts (which, by the way, usually contain about 12 peanuts total, if you’re lucky) because a fellow passenger has a deadly allergy to them. How exactly would that go?

As a side note—the boy was on his way to Fiji where he was going to be volunteering for a few weeks.

As an additional side note, the boy had five EpiPens with him. One could therefore deduce that he was not placing the sole responsibility for his peanut allergy on the shoulders of Air Canada.

I feel enraged by this, but maybe that’s just me? Of course the boy would have to assume some of the risk of getting on a flight in general, knowing that other passengers may have peanut products on/with them, and that Air Canada cannot be held responsible for every single passenger on its plans. But to deny him a seat at all? That seems a bit off the mark, if you ask me.

Bis bald, friends! And don’t bother flying Air Canada if you’re allergic to peanuts!

Check Out a Traveling Pro’s Tips

The Wall Street Journal offers a glimpse into the incredible traveling tips of Alice Shin, the advertising copywriter from Miami who beat out 600 applicants to become the launch blogger for Pei Wei Blog Asia. For the job, Shin had to blog while on a three-week, all-expense-paid trip to eight cities in Asia.

Check out her helpful tips and steal some for your own.

In The News Part Deux: New Rules for Lost Baggage

Two blogs in one day? Fancy that!

I just saw this article and had to share—”The Obama administration said Wednesday it would start requiring airlines to refund baggage fees when luggage is lost as part of new rules that also target ticket surcharges and lengthy tarmac delays involving international flights.”

Sounds like a score to me! I am hesitant to even say this out loud, but I’m one of those lucky few who has never lost her bag in a flight. I can only imagine how frustrating that would be, though. Hopefully these rules will at least alleviate a little bit of that annoyance…

In The News: Rodent Waste Found on Plane

Rodent waste anywhere is gross, don’t get me wrong. But on a plane—that’s just wrong.

According to this WSJ article, Delta is going to need to keep up a bit more stringently with their cleaning practices after U.S. health regulators found rodent waste on a plane in Atlanta earlier this year.

According to the FDA letter, “numerous rodent excreta pellets” were found near areas of the plane where the food is prepared. Some were even found above door panels and passenger seats. Additionally, the “rodent excreta pellets” were “too numerous to count.”

Just ick! Unfortunately my press trip to Cabo was booked today, and guess who I’ll be flying with? Yup. Delta. Hopefully they’ll get their s*&% together (pun intended) before May.

Bis bald, friends!

In The News: Air Traffic Chief Resigns

In the wake of recent reports of air-traffic controllers sleeping on the job, Hank Krakowski, the head of the Air Traffic Organization at the Federal Aviation Administration, resigned today. The FAA has announced plans to beef up overnight controller staffing at 26 airports nationwide—but is it too little too late?

Does this story make you think twice about air travel?

Get Your Miles to Work for You?

As you all already know, I’ve jumped off the frequent flier miles bandwagon. At least I’ve jumped off the bandwagon I was currently hitched to—who’s to say if I’ll jump on another should the occasion arise?

There is, however, a compelling argument to actually use them in today’s NY Times frugal traveler. Take a peak for some sage advice.

Bis bald, friends! I’m off tonight to an informational session for Projects Abroad volunteer work. I will report back forthwith.

In The News: Face lift for airline miles?

Alternative ways to cash in your airline miles can be, well, a bit odd...

Well according to this WSJ article, it’s true. For those of us who have ever been burned by airline miles (I’ve complained on at least one occasion, myself), apparently the airlines are dipping into a new way to make pay-offs—including plastic surgery, big-screen TVs, lawn tractors (?), and even dinner with the New York Yankees.

Seems odd, to me, but then again, I could use a big-screen TV?

Would you cash in your miles for something other than, you know, miles?

Bis bald, friends!

Photo illustration via

Booked—Cancun, Mexico

Well we did it, we booked a trip to Mexico. Cabo turned out to be a bit too far to trek for just a few days, so we went with the classic Cancun instead. Still, I’m beyond excited. It definitely gives us something to look forward to when it’s 9 degrees outside (seriously, it’s literally 9 degrees outside right now).

Anyway, we booked the all-inclusive RIU Cancun in what will allegedly be an ocean view junior suite. That definitely sounds like somewhere I want to be. And I’ve never done all-inclusive before (besides the Toilet-of-the Sea cruise to the Bahamas, of course), but they promise to include everything like daily meals and snacks, unlimited local and imported alcoholic beverages, regularly restocked minibar and liquor dispenser, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, hot tub access, access to sun loungers, parasols and towels, gym and sauna, nightclub entrance, tennis, non-motorized aquatic sports equipment, entertainment, taxes and gratuities. It sounds too good to be true. We did our research, though, and all the reviews seem to say that it really is what it says it is. I certainly hope so.

The only downside to the experience of booking the trip was discovering just how little our airline miles for United actually got us. First were the blackout dates and restrictions. We were able to book an outgoing flight that was pretty decent, but there was nothing available for purchase using our miles to get us home, so that meant we had to pay for it. Then there were tons of fees associated with booking with our miles. About $55/person, actually. All in all, using miles to book the trip probably saved us about half the cost, or a little more, but I was more than a little disappointed with the flight availability and the ridiculous fees. Next time, I think I’ll be booking with a different airline.

Bis bald, friends!

In the News: Full body scans at the airport. How do you feel about it?

A security official demonstrates a full-body scan at an airport in Hamburg

It’s not a totally new story— there are now 385 full-body scanners at 70 U.S. airports, with another 1,000 scanners planned by the end of the next year. There has been an uproar. People are mad. They feel defiled. They feel like this is American and what happened to our civil liberties? I mean, you’re practically naked on those things!

I know how my dad feels. He sent the family a long email on his sentiments—and they weren’t happy.

Me, I’m not sure where I fall in this argument. I’m all for things that will make me and other people feel safe when traveling. But to be honest, I’ve been on many a plane since 9/11, and I haven’t once felt unsafe.

And that was before full-body scanners.

So what’s the impetus? What’s the point in taking such drastic measures? And now with all this backlash, the Transportation Security Administration said today that they would reconsider the policy on passenger screening, although no immediate changes will be made. So what message does that send, exactly? We think this policy is important enough to use in the first place, but now that some people are complaining about it, we take it back?

What are your thoughts on the full body scan? Will you be getting one this Wednesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year for the U.S.? Click here to read a discussion on the NY Times about it.

Bis bald, friends! I’m headed upstate for Thanksgiving day and then to Jersey the day after for second Thanksgiving. Have fun wherever you’re headed!

Photo via

In the News: How Do You Feel About Airport Security?

Heading to catch a flight? Expect to spend some time with airport security first.

There was a piece in the WSJ today about how certain European air officials are accusing the U.S. of imposing “useless and overly intrusive travel security measures.” These officials called certain practices “redundant” and “burdensome,” and even, in some cases, a violation of travelers’ privacy.

Now yes, I’ve complained about airport rules before. The lines are long. The fees are insane. The people can be rude. But the one thing that you won’t hear me complaining about is the security. Sure, it’s annoying to have to wait in a long line and take your shoes out and pull your laptop out of its case and occasionally be pulled over for a random search (yes, this has happened to me more than I care to remember), but I feel much better knowing that every single person around me is being held to the same standards of the search before boarding the same plane that I am getting on.

That’s not to say that there might not be some redundancies in the system, and that’s not to say that there isn’t ever any corruption, but at the end of the day I still say— if you’re going to give up something that’s redundant within the system, don’t make it within the security system.

In the article the British Airways chairman, Martin Broughton, is quoted as having said, “America does not do internally a lot of the things they demand that we do,” and calling on British authorities not to “kowtow to the Americans every time they want something done.” But the article doesn’t specify exactly what these “things” are that we don’t do here in the airports security-wise. We take off our shoes, too, Mr. Brougthon. We take our laptops out of our bags, Mr. Broughton. If you could be more specific, I know I’d certainly be interested to know what it is that we aren’t doing here (and if maybe we should be).

What are your thoughts?

Bis bald, friends! Tomorrow a post about the lovely upstate Shawangunk Wine Trail!

In the News: Airlines Are Actually Making a Profit. Shocker

In case anyone out there was actually worried about the airlines (I mean, why would a company need to charge for crazy things like toilet usage if it was actually doing ok?), it appears they are actually doing okay. The third quarter results are in and—shockingly—the airlines actually made money off of us (insert gasp here).

Here’s the breakdown:

U.S. Airways: $420 million profit
United: $387 million profit
Continental: $354 million profit
Delta: $363 million profit
AirTran: $36 million profit
Southwest Airlines: $205 million
JetBlue: $59 million

And while I can’t imagine how much money it takes to actually keep an airplane in tip top shape (and believe me, we want them in tip top shape!), I still can’t help but wonder if all the wacky fees we’ve been hearing about as of late are really necessary….