Travel, When in

5 Ways to Save On Your Next Trip

We are so ready to get back to travelling both domestically and internationally. There are so many places we have yet to explore but we’re waiting until it’s 100% safe to travel. In the meantime, we’ve been planning and budgeting for our next trip. The budgeting part can be the hardest as we want to save money but get the most from our experiences and “do it all” while we are away. I curated our top 5 tips on how to save money when planning your next trip. The tips will save you hundreds if not thousands on your next vacation so there will be less money stress and more fun and relaxation during your vacation.

  1. Use Airline Miles: We ALL have a bunch of airlines miles saved up since the pandemic started. Now is the time to cash in!! Review your miles and cash them in for seats, hotel stays, or rental cars. For example you could travel domestically or to the Caribbean for 10,000 miles or less. By doing this you will end up only paying for government mandated taxes and fees. NOTE: Watch out for blackout dates; typically certain holidays throughout the year.
  2. Book A Rental Condo: Instead of a hotel try out a rental condo which gives you more space and the ability to live like a local during your trip. Plus condos are more affordable than hotels especially if its a family vacation with lots of people. Plus, you’ll have your own kitchen so you’ll save money by eating at “home” and its a creates the opportunity to gather around the table with your family.
  3. Travel Off – Peak: Book your trip during non-holidays, i.e. the week before or after to save hundreds of dollars. Not only are these times cheaper, there will be less crowds or the dreaded “we over booked the flight, anyone want to volunteer their seat?” speech (we’ve all heard that before). Plus there will be smaller crowds and shorter lines at popular tourist destinations like museums, amusements parks, etc. Additional savings: tickets for popular tourist destinations will also be cheaper!
  4. Deals Guide the Way: If your on the hunt for a great deal, then let the deal send you to your next destination. Instead of trying to make your budget fit your destination, let a trip deal determine where you will go. There are great deals for the places least travelled so its a great opportunity to see something new and expand your experiences. But these deals come and go fast so set up email alerts so you’ll be ready to book ASAP. This strategy is perfect for saving on your next trip and many include airfare and lodging so its a win-win!
  5. Stick to Your Budget: The best way to save money is to stick to your budget. Research how much air travel, lodging and experiences will cost and stick to it! Its easy to get lost in new offers or 1 extra experience during your trip. But by paying for that extra luxury, you can easily eliminate your cost savings and possibly go over budget. Travel budgets are easy to create in excel or use any of the numerous templates online. Don’t forget to include expenses for food and souvenirs!

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Travel, When in

6 Reasons To Keep A Travel Journal

As we look forward to some travel this year, why not start a travel journal? This is the perfect way to capture all your experiences not just through photographs but also on paper. Travel journals are the perfect companion for any traveller, small enough to fit in any carry-on and last a lifetime. Its the perfect conversation piece for friends and family. There are a bunch of reasons why you should carry a travel but here are just a few of my favorite reasons:

  1. Capture memories, trip details and emotions
  2. Self Awareness and personal development
  3. Pre-trip research, references and tips
  4. Trip Guide and experience log
  5. Important Info and Contacts
  6. A great souvenir

How To Start A Travel Journal

When you’re starting out, keep things simple. Personalize your journal and customize it to show who your are. Choose a layout that fits the flow of your travel experience with room to grow. Sections for tickets, travel schedules, sketches, people you met, best experiences, and summary pages are just a few of the options to put in your journal. Not an artist, no problem! Give travel stickers a try. There are plenty of Pinterest flatlays to give you some ideas. But don’t let it overwhelm you with its picture-perfect journals packed with wise quotes and beautiful sketches. Make your journal perfectly you!

Buy a simple journal that you won’t mind getting a little dirty from your travel adventures. A small A5 leather bound journal is a perfect addition to your suitcase. It’s better to have an imperfect journal that’s yours than none at all. Don’t forget to add a spot for a pen or pencil so your not searching for one while your having the best time of your life.

Keep it honest. Be truthful with yourself and don’t sugar-coat or aim for what you think a travel journal should be like. Let it be yours – and let it reflect the good, the bad and the ugly of your travels. A journal is a record of experiences – not a perfect narrative waiting to be published. But if you do get it published…..what a great story it will tell!! Safe travels!

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Travel, When in

Take A Spartan Holiday

We are always looking for ways to unwind from our busy daily lives….work, school, activities, etc but what about technology. In there era where technology rules everything…..shopping, bills, social media, texting a dual purpose vacation may be just what you need. A Spartan holiday allows you to take a vacation from our busy everyday lives AND technology. This type of vacation encourages a total disconnect from technology in order to allow you to truly enjoy your vacation; allowing you to get back to nature and best of all yourself. Shrimayee Thakur said it best:

“To celebrate a Spartan Holiday is to wring pleasure from the modest stuff…..To enliven a rainy day. To gain independence from the media narrative of the week….Honour the actual. Observe slowly. Engage the world like a traveller, canny but agape, whether five or fifty or 5,000 miles from home. That’s what you can expect here, an eyeful.”

Now, your probably wondering how you can travel without technology especially since we use our phones to take pictures and post to social media. Bring your phone but also bring a pen and paper or a travel journal. Draw what you see, write you feelings, thoughts and inspirations based on what you see and discover. Now is the perfect time to start a travel journal, there are lots of options to choose….from blank pages to lined to dot grid. A travel journal your personal narrative of your adventures and the life you have lived. And…it makes the perfect conversation piece with family and friends. Need more reasons on why you should have a travel journal and how to start one? Check out my post here about travel journals.

Another important factor of Spartan holidays is to stay in a micro hotel. Micro hotels offer tiny rooms that are much smaller than traditional hotels. Although they are small, the rooms maximize space! Equipped with full kitchens, outdoor patios with fire rings, and mezzanine bed lofts these rooms are perfectly nestled within forests, hilltops or mountain sides. Talk about fantastic views! Plus, you will have packed light. For Spartan holidays, you only need to take the essentials-clothing, food and travel journal. Less is more! Besides, you’ll be spending a lot of time in nature and not your hotel room.

So I encourage you to find time and a destination for a Spartan holiday. Take the time to get back to nature, unplug and re-center yourself. What before of self care than to pause and observe the world as traveller. What will you discover?

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Family, Surviving Chaos, Travel, When in

The Exotic Resort Zoo – Johnson City, Texas

If your looking for some family fun, something that is social distancing friendly and you happen to be in Texas, then check out the Exotic Resort Zoo! Located in Johnson City, Texas the Exotic Resort Zoo is the perfect getaway for the whole family. This is a full scale zoo with exotic animals and safari cabins available to rent. Before the pandemic, you could hop on any one of the numerous guided tours for a trip around the zoo. While on the tour, you can feed the animals and visit the petting zoo which is a ton of fun. Also, if you wanted to spend more time at the zoo, you can rent a cabin…..even during the pandemic! These cabins are a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country. Each cabin can sleep 4-8 people and features basic kitchen appliances to a full kitchen depending on the cabin of your choice. These cabins are perfect for couples or the whole family.

Currently, the zoo has switched to a drive-through safari which is perfect for social distancing. You get to experience the zoo right from the comfort your car and still get the chance to feed the animals! First up on our drive-through safari was the petting zoo full of goats, fallow and axis deer. Although we couldn’t go inside, we were able to toss some feed to the animals which the kids loved! Following the petting zoo, we encountered all types of deer. From Sika to Axis to Fallow they were all eager to get some food right out of your hand. These guys definitely weren’t shy and came right up to car…talk about up close and personal! And of course they were accompanied by their friends the antelope and sheep.

Up next we entered the camel pen which was crazy! When you see a camel from far away you don’t truly understand the magnitude of how big they are. But once they get to your car and stick their WHOLE head and neck its a whole new perspective. And whats a camel without an llama or 2. These animals have no fear and enjoy every minute of their visitors.

My favorite part of the safari were the Zebras. They were absolutely beautiful and stunning and we spent the most time their feeding them. You definitely have to be careful with these guys because they bite! Be sure to drop the food on the ground so you can keep all your fingers. On our way out, we visit the Ostrich pen and encounter some Buffalo. To be honest, the ostrich and emu look very mean to me or maybe just angry….. These creatures are gentle giants but are very aggressive when it comes to food. Be prepared to keep your hand sanitizer handy or at least a towel because the buffalo loves to lick the food from your hand. Their tongues are long and EXTRA slimy, it was definitely a gross out moment for the kids.

The Exotic Resort Zoo is a perfect getaway for the whole family, especially now during these unprecedented times. If you plan on making the trip, here are some surviving chaos tips to make the trip smooth, stress free and fun:

  • Buy Ahead: Purchase tickets and at least 2 bags of feed BEFORE the day of your visit online. If your going on a holiday, buy your tickets at least a week in advance. This place sells out quickly.
  • Snacks: Be sure to pack some snacks and water for the road trip! Nothing worse than cranky kids stuck in a car.
  • Restrooms: Due to social distancing, the restrooms at the zoo are closed. Be sure to stop at the nearest gas station, about 4 miles north of the zoo, for your families pit stop.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Be sure to bring plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes since you will be feeding the animals. Their tongues are slimy so you’ll want to have clean hands when your finished.

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Food, Surviving Chaos

Brigadeiro: Traditional Brazilian Desert

Brigadeiro

How about a chewy candy to start your new year off right! Brigadeiro are rich “little chocolate nuggets” popular in Brazil and were created by confectioner Heloisa Nabuco de Oliveira. Brigadeiros typically accompany birthday celebrations but you can have them for any celebration. This Brigadeiro recipe is easy, kid friendly and makes quite a few….12-14 total!

Ingredients

  • 1 14 oz (300 ml) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 tablespoons (22 g) unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1 tablespoon (14 g) butter
  • chocolate or rainbow sprinkles

Let’s Make It!

  1. Use half of the butter to grease a big plate or platter.
  2. In a small bowl or cup, mix the cocoa and water so the cocoa dissolves.
  3. In a medium-sized, heavy saucepan, use a wooden spoon to combine the dissolved cocoa, condensed milk, and the remaining butter over medium-low heat.
  4. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens and starts to look a bit like brownie batter. When you drag your spoon across the bottom of the pan, it should take a moment before the gap fills back in. Hang in there, this step can take as long as 20 minutes.
  5. Spread the chocolate on the buttered platter and let it cool to room temperature. If you want to speed up the cooling, pop the platter in the fridge.
  6. Once the mixture is cool, grease your hands with a little butter. Scoop up some chocolate in a spoon and then roll it between your palms to form a ball.
  7. Roll the ball in sprinkles. Scoop and roll the rest of the chocolate the same way. Enjoy!
  8. Muy delicioso!!

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Style, Surviving Chaos

2020 Year in Review: Favorite Books

Although 2020 didn’t quite work out the way we planned….we still managed to get some reading done. I ended up reading more books this year because we’ve been staying at home to stay safe. I found myself reading books in new genres like fantasy, historical fiction, books written by women of color, autobiographies, trilogies and more. Diving into a good book has helped me stay sane, especially during the chaos of this past year and gave me some me time away (self care) from everything happening in the world. It’s been a tumultuous year!!! Below is a list of my 5 favorites books from this year, some you have heard of and others you may not. Although these are my 5 favorite books, I did have some honorable mentions that are definitely worth picking up on your next trip to the bookstore. Happy reading!!!

Queenie” by Candy Carty-Williams

Queenie is a great exploration of being black modern women in today’s world. I was so glad to read a book from our perspective and dealt with issues within the black community that are rarely discussed. Summary: Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth. As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”


Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing is a wonderful novel based with strong appreciation for the natural world. I really enjoyed being part of the main characters journey and she navigates childhood to womanhood, love and loss, growing independence and survival. Summary: For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.


The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library was definitely a book that took me out of my comfort zone. A story about life, regrets and missed opportunities, this book will definitely have you reflecting about your own life. I love the philosophical nature of the book and all the lives the main character thought she wanted only to come back full circle to her own life. Summary: Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.


Behind Closed Doors” by B.A. Paris

If your looking for a good page turner, Behind Closed Doors is definitely it! I love the suspense of this book, the twisted nature of the characters and being on the edge of my seat. This book is definitely worth reading. Summary: Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.


The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season is book 1 of a great fantasy trilogy with lots of twists and turns. I loved the level of detail that intricately connects the characters and their story lines. Plus I love seeing the representation of my ethnicity and culture portrayed throughout the book. Summary: Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. Across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land to save her daughter.


Notable Mentions

  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruins by Roseanne A. Brown
  • Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • The Turn of A Key by Ruth Ware
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia