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Happy Thanksgiving!

It's November 26th in the US, and it's Thanksgiving! 

I'm thankful for a lot of things, mostly going to be posted starting next year on our brand new website, A Journey We Love. It's still under construction, but hopefully it'll be up within two weeks (or more, depending how long Peter will get to reconfigure the template)

For the meantime, we are busy booking our trips for 2016! It's going to be very exciting, and hopefully you'll still stay with us for the ride.

Until then, I'm off looking for shopping deals for things we need for the year (yes, we stock up). Have a nice holiday for those of you in the US

Schengen Visa Application for Filipino Passport Holders in the USA

In my last visa post, I delve into the Chinese and the Korean visa applications. This time, I'll tell you how I applied for my Schengen visa application last year when I went to Germany, Austria & Slovakia.

Neuschwanstein Lake
Me in a lake near Neuschwanstein
Our itinerary was as follows:
Arrive Germany, spend 5 days
Austria, spend 3 days
Slovakia, spend 5 days

The Schengen visa stipulates that you apply for the visa on either 1) the country you're spending the longest time in, or 2) if spending an equal amount of time in different countries, apply at the first point of entry, which in my case was Germany.

NOTE: The German embassy in Miami does not accept walk in applicants. You have to schedule a visa interview on their website in advance.

Here are the requirements I had to give:
  1. Filled out visitor visa application form 
  2. Passport Photo
  3. Roundtrip airline tickets (USA to Schengen countries & back)
  4. Hotel Reservations (for Germany & Austria)
  5. A letter from Peter's aunt inviting me to Slovakia with her home address & details 
  6. Proof of income (3 months of bank statements, both from my checking & savings account here in the US as well as three months of payslips from the company I'm working for)
  7. Employment letter (with annual salary) 
  8. Insurance covering the Schengen area + Switzerland from AXA Schengen covering at least $50,000 worth of incidentals if something were to happen to me. 
  9. Photocopy of my US resident visa (I don't have a green card)  
 Not that much, right?
In Strecno Castle near Martin, Slovakia
 I initially tried to apply for a multiple entry visa, and asked me why I need it. I told the consul I am going back to the Schengen area next year for the Euros in France, but the consul told me that they do not grant multiple entry visas for first time applicants. She did tell me that I can just mail my application to France if they have my records in the database. Hopefully they still have it.

So, what were the questions I was asked:
  1. Where do I work?
  2. How many days are you spending in each country? It is imperative that you know your itinerary by heart. No shuffling through papers, you must be very prepared for this interview. 
  3. Is Slovakia included in the Schengen Treaty? Yes.
  4. Then she asked for all my documents in the order she asked for.
When all my documents were in order after her review, I gave the fee (in cash, including the shipping fee from Miami to Jacksonville as we won't be able to get the passport in person).

Then I'm done, easy peasy, I'm in and out within 15 minutes! My visa was approved and I should get it in the mail within 3 days!

Things to note:
  1. Make sure you have complete requirements with you. They had me retake a photo because the AAA passport photo I had was not close enough. Good thing there was a CVS a block away from the embassy and I had my photo taken in no time. 
  2. Make sure you have more than enough money in cash when you go to the embassy. They do not take debit or credit cards. 
  3. Look presentable! 
  4. Make sure you have all the documents in order. In my case, I made sure everything was in place because there is no way I'll drive another 10 hours just to go back to Jacksonville to Miami (Well, Peter was doing most of the driving but we don't want to spend the extra money on gas & food and the time getting there anymore). I quadruple checked everything to make sure I had it and I made backups in my gmail account just in case I need to get anything.
So, that's my easy breasy Schengen Visa application in Miami. My next visa application will be May 2016, for my Euro 2016 trip in July. Fingers crossed I get a multiple entry one!

October 2015 24-Hour Readathon

Rosie the dog of Furry Reads reading Roadmap by Roadtrip Nation
I already have a my food bowl behind me!
Woof! My name is Rosie and I'm taking over my mom's blog to join in the 24-Hour Readathon. My parents have been building a website for me, but they didn't have time to finish it so I said I'll take over the blog for now. They happily agreed.

If you are interested in following more of my adventures, you can do so on Facebook, Twitter, on Instagram or you can email me here.

The 24 Hour Readathon gives me a chance to read all the books I want in a span of 24 hours. Now, I'm a very active dog and I like to play with my dad so I'll take a few lot of breaks to snooze, rest, and eat, but I'm doing what I can, right?

Rosie from Furry Reads reading Orson Welles's Last Movie
Me and dad reading Orson Welles's Last Movie

I'll post all my updates on this link (boo my parents don't want me to create new pages for them) - so here's an introductory meme.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I'm reading from sunny Jacksonville, Florida. 

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Roadmap by Roadtrip Nation - mainly because I need to only read 50 pages in it. Woof!
Another book is Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, because you know, it's a cute book. 

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

My doggie treats, crumbs that my parents left behind, cereal, bread, oooh a lot of them. With these doggie eyes, my parents can't resist anything I ask for. 

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I was adopted from the Humane Society by my parents, and was a stray dog. My dad was patient enough to train me and both parents loved me, and I now love my new home and am spoiled to bits. Most people say I look like an ewok, from the Star Wars movies. Do I?

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to

I haven't participated in the readathon yet, but my mom had, on several occasions, when she was still living in Manila. My parents are busy with a guest renting out our spare room today so I'll sneak in their room and read while they're distracted!  

The 2016 Travel Calendar [Luxury Travel on a Backpacker's Budget]

A blog has gone viral recently when Rolling Stone magazine published an article that this guy travels for free. I follow his blog, and also want to show the people that no, he didn't really do it for free, these points & miles have a cost in it (ie credit card spend, etc).

This post is to show that lowly people like me and you can indeed travel for free. You don't have to become a popular travel blogger, nor email a lot of establishments asking for free stays and activities. In fact, I find that it is actually easier to just pay for your own travels than ask for sponsored trips. That way, you don't have to be biased when you write about the destination and you get your own experience instead of someone painting a picture of a destination for you.

Here is a list of our 2016 plans of (almost) free travel:

January 1-3, 2016:  Orlando, Florida


February 2016: Montego Bay, Jamaica


Hotels -

May 21 - 23, 2016: Miami, Florida

Why?  Need a visa to get back to Europe (third world passport and all). Plus his cousin is landing in Miami for our wedding! (cousin-in-law managed to snag a $500 RT direct flight from Vienna to Miami, which was a great deal)

Hotels - Eyeing the Hyatt Renaissance in Miami for 12,000 Hyatt Points a night or perhaps an 8,000 Hyatt near the airport. Any suggestions?

June 18 - July 3, 2016: France, Switzerland, Austria & Slovakia

Why? Euro 2016 - as you probably know by now, my fiance is an avid soccer fan, so we're flying there mostly to see if Slovakia (the country he's from) will play. We got ticket to one game already in Lyon. 

The Routing: TPA - FRA - LYS - GVA - VIE - RSW.

We start from Tampa on the 18th of June, as we have to bring our dog to my future in-law's place. Myself & Peter will travel to Frankfurt, spend an 8 hour layover (free c/o United), then get on a plane to Lyon to meet his brother. We'll then make our way to Geneva, where I'll get on a plane to Vienna. Will spend a day or two in Vienna to wait for Peter & his brother to arrive, then spend a week in Slovakia, his home country. From Vienna, I'll fly back to Ft Myers, where my future in-laws will pick me up.

Airfare: Used 60,000 United Points (transferred from Chase Sapphire Preferred/Ultimate Rewards)  + $150 in taxes & fees (reimbursed using Barclaycard Arrival+). Total spend: $0.


  •  Lyon - 
  • Annecy -  
  • Chamonix -
  • Geneva - 
  • Vienna -

Please think of the animals

 We were driving home today from a day out at the outlets. We just dropped off our friend who now lives in our previous apartment, and I saw three rabbits peeking out near the sidewalk, eating or just genuinely staring at the road. I've seen these rabbits before in almost the exact same spot, and almost the same time. I knew deep in my heart that they were grazing, and that it was their supper time, so to speak.

My heart broke when I realized that most of their previous shaded and tree lined space is now going to be commercial property. How did I know that? Well, because of the rezoning signs.

I'm wondering - where will these rabbits go when these developers come in with their bulldozers and other construction vehicles? Do animal protection people sweep the land first, saving all the animals that used to live there before deeming it okay for the developers to start building? Do these said developers even care?

I remember I had a huge fit of joy when I first saw rabbits in the "wild" in the forested area beside my old apartment as I walked home from work. It was during my first week in America. Coming from Manila, it was such a great thing for me to see nature this close. To see these many trees. Only to realize nearly two years later that those trees and that land will make way to another building, or another condo, or another rental property.

What do people think of when they see roadkill on the streets? Or when they see that a previously forested area becomes nothing but bare land, or worse, buildings? Do they become happy that such a development means that everything is going well, the economy is good? Do they think it will become another shopping mall that will be close to their home or work that they can hit right to buy a thing or two?

We have become too consumer minded. We have become too excessive. We have decided we wanted too much. Too much land, too much development, too much stuff. We are taking more from mother nature and the animals are hurting for it. One of the last handful of white rhinos died recently, people hunting animals for sport, or just for fun. It's just too much. It's all hurting. We see it all on Facebook and start sharing them, but then what do we do? Nothing. We continue to consume more than what we need, and we just sit here and read the news again.

It's just becoming sad. And cyclical. And it's heartbreaking. 

There's people who love animals as a whole, those who love only domesticated animals, those that hate them, and those that just don't care. Whatever type of person you are, please know that we are an ecosystem, we all depend on each other. If we exploit other species, think about what will happen to us.

Think of it as if animals and nature were other people too. How would you feel if someone else exploited you? Pushed you out of your home to make way for buildings and other residential property? If people started hunting you for sport because you are pretty, you are a prized trophy for them? Wouldn't you feel insulted, and would demand for a lawsuit?

I wish animals can do the same too, but they can't. Don't think they don't have any feelings or a brain. Because they do. Sure the are not as advanced as us, but they're alive, they're breathing, and killing them is like murdering them.

The next time you decide to harm an animal, think "what if it was a person - would I do what I am doing to another person I know or meet randomly for the first time?"

Why goals are essential to your life success

During the 2014 World Cup, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Early today I was chatting with my friend about goals. She said she finally quit her job and is trying to look for another one at a multinational company. Staying 10 years at a local company, she realized she had enough, and looked for something better. Same friend told me her goals: she wanted to go abroad. It took her approximately 3 years before she made the leap.. and I'm glad she did. 

So, why are goals essential to your success?

Let me back up a bit here... and tell you some goals that I wanted to achieve:  

  1. 1998: I wanted to go to London: Blame Boyzone, but yes, I wanted to see them live
    •  2008:  I finally got to London, for free on a business trip. (Yes, business class all the way). You can see a very, very old post here
    • Lesson learned: You will always find a way to make your goal into a reality, regardless of how much time it takes.
  2. 2001: I wanted to move abroad. The Philippines got too corrupt, annoying, and the president was an imbecile. It really got annoying come 2012, when I definitely decided to move, by hook or by crook. 
    • 2013: I moved to the USA. My original plan was to move to London but sadly, it didn't work out. Had another offer in Birmingham but since the USA came first, I decided to go with it. 
    • Lesson learned: Sometimes what you want may not always be what you get. And sometimes what you get may turn out to be even better than what you wanted in the first place.

Those are just some of the goals I made happen for myself. There's a few more that I can mention: travel more (started backpacking around the UK in 2011, and Asia from 2012-2013)

Camburgahay Falls, Siquijor, Philippines
Cambugahay Falls, Siquijor

How did I make it happen? Does this mean I'm successful?

First off, success is subjective. You can define your success in your own way.

Your goals are essential to your success because:  

  1. It gives you focus - they say when you write down a goal, the more you get to make it happen. And that's true. I kept on writing down what I wanted to do, I told people who would dare listen what I wanted. I wanted to be the person who made things happen, and not just someone who says something and does nothing. A goal keeps you focused on what you want to happen, and then you move on to step 2

  2.  You get creative - When you have a goal, especially a challenging one, you get more creative about how you would reach it. You start thinking outside the box and you're getting frustrated. Getting frustrated is amazing. It gives you something to obsess about: How do I do this? What do I do? What resources can I tap on? And that, my friends, is the start of step 3

  3.  You make things happen - These goals tend to multiply: you get more and more of it. When you have a new goal, write it down, and set a date to review it. In my case, I write down goals whenever, but short term goals (ie within one month), I check the last day of every month. These are written down at least the month before. It feels so good to tick off things from my list and making things happen. The bigger goals, like moving from one country to another (not so easy, especially if you live in the Philippines), can go in a longer term goal and be on a separate notebook. 

  4. It is so much fun to look back and realize hey, I made this dream (goal) happen!

Hopefully this has inspired you to make a goal. As of writing, here are a list of our goals to help inspire you:
  1. Be financially independent (FI) - I became convinced I want to retire early after reading "Your Money or Your Life" and "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" - I've always wanted my money to work for me instead of me working for money. In fact, I even convinced Peter to get in on the FI mindset! We're slowly making our way there, and we're taking the necessary steps to do it. 

  2.  Get married on a budget - Weddings are expensive all over the world. And ever since we got engaged, I've been trying to think of ways to make our wedding very affordable. Our starting budget is $3,000 but it looks like it can balloon to $5,000. Keep posted. We're posting our progress here on this blog.

  3.  Travel a lot (weekend, vacations), even with a full time job - 2015 has been good to us, travel wise. Here's hoping 2016 will be even better (note: planning trips to France & Slovakia in 2016, as well as mostly local travel).

  4.  Monetize this blog as another income stream - Still a work in progress, but hopefully we can do it. Still trying to learn the ropes on this.

  5. Get sponsored trips - We love to travel after all, and sponsored trips will be the icing on the cake!
Good luck on your endeavors! 

Review: Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia by Lois Yasay

When I was still living in the Philippines, and way back in the late 2000s, I stumbled upon the Sole Sisters site and that blog was what my friends read when we went to Sagada. It's one of the biggest travel blogs online, and we got hooked to reading her adventures. Note: this was the time when I was still starting out on travel, and was still saving a lot and figuring out some finances to afford my subsequent trips.

Let's fast forward a few years later when Lois released her book, "Where Should I Go in Southeast Asia?" - Full of photos taken from her trip and drawings, it aims to give you an idea of where to go, stay, and how much to spend in the countries she discusses in her book. It also has a ranking of the countries of which ones are the best from her experiences and lots of links to read blog posts that complement what was written in the book. Another plus? You have direct links to hostels she stayed in, so you can book your dream SE Asia trip using the book.

The book is short, and is mostly designed to be like an art/coffee table book - downside is it's only available in an ebook format. But look at the bright side: should be great as an inspiration every time you turn on your computer! Not exactly written as a how-to guide, please don't expect details as you would get from a Lonely Planet (or other travel guide) book.

I miss Southeast Asia: wish I went to Laos and Myanmar, but there's always a next time. This book created a big urge for me to revisit some countries I had on my SE Asia list when I go back home as a stopover.

You may buy the book at this link - book is for sale for $12.99

The book was provided as a review by Lois, but all the opinions & text posted are of my own. 

A proposal in Devin Castle - Bratislava, Slovakia

I have a few dozen deadlines and we have been lying low since we have gotten back from Europe.... but here's the big news I promised to tell, now that both our families are aware.


Engagement in Devin Castle
Look at my face haha
Deadlines can wait, I can catch up with it, my personal life comes first right now. 

How it Started:

Peter and I work for the same bank here in the US, and we met at work when we were still in the same team. For some reason we clicked, started dating, and here we are. I wasn't particularly keen on an office romance but whatever. 

How the Engagement Happened:

I had always dreamed of becoming engaged in a castle or a palace... I don't know, it's the princess in me that wanted that. And so when we were watching one episode of How I Met Your Mother, when Ted was planning a castle wedding with his wife, I blurted out loud: wow, I wouldn't mind getting engaged or getting married in a castle. 

Ladies take note: if you say something like this, even if it is just in the moment; your guy is listening and would remember what you said.

And so we went to Europe. I had always loved Europe: always, always, always. Ever since I lived in the UK, it had always been a place I could call home, a place that always fascinated me. 

We had been to multiple castles on our road trip: from Neuschwanstein & Hoheschwangau in Germany, to Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg, to Strecno Castle near Zilina, Slovakia, to Bratislava Castle in Bratislava, and finally, to Devin Castle in Bratislava, where he asked me to marry him.

Devin Castle, Bratislava, Slovakia
Devin Castle, Bratislava, Slovakia
 Let's rewind here for a second folks and go to a bit of history: Devin Castle is near the border of Austria and Slovakia. It is also where the Danube and Morava Rivers meet. His dad explained that Devin historically was the start of Bratislava/Slovakia, so poignant.

We were on a terrace and I was out taking photos of the rivers, and of the castle, as you can see on the photo below (this was taken in a different terrace, minutes before I got cold and needed to put my Disney jacket on - Yay Disney)

Ruby in Devin Castle, Bratislava, Slovakia
Ruby in Devin Castle, Bratislava, Slovakia
When Peter suddenly went on his knees behind my back (after he took that photo) and prepared a short speech (which I will not share), asked me to marry him.

I said yes

My ring, with a shot of the Danube and Morava Rivers in the background
My ring, with a shot of the Danube and Morava Rivers in the background

Ugh, my hand looks wrinkly in the photo above so  forgive me, I didn't pack hand cream on this trip and it was cold. 

And there you have it, the story of our engagement. 

We took this photo of us together after it happened so we'll always remember. Unfortunately, it was a bit too overexposed:

Ruby and Peter in Devin Castle, Slovakia
Ruby and Peter in Devin Castle
So there you go.. the next few weeks/months are going to be funny/crazy - We don't know the date of the wedding yet, all we know is we're doing one in Florida, another one in the Philippines, and a mini celebration in Slovakia. And oh, we're all going to be doing it our frugal way as usual (should be a challenge too).

We came from two different countries and ended up meeting in the US. I hope you still join us on our crazy adventures as we embark on this big event.

Atlanta Georgia Travel Expenses

Apologies for our absence - Peter and I have been busy trying to recover from our Philippines/New York trip and just recently, over the Easter holidays, we came back from Atlanta! Aside from that, I got really busy with other projects, such as planning my Financial Independence and side hustles! Oh, and I finally finished this blog after our Europe trip. Busy, busy!

Zoo Atlanta by the fickle fan
Zoo Atlanta!
Why Atlanta?  Well, we had been discussing it for a while and we always wanted to visit this city because of its hustling & bustling activity. Plus, why not? It's only a 5 hour drive from Jacksonville.

Peter might be back to tell you more about our adventures, but so far here's a breakdown of our expenses. Everything in the breakdown is per person, split between two people (we're a couple)
  • Gas: our main form of transportation is driving. For 3 days of sightseeing & from driving from Jax to Atlanta 
    • $50.50 each 
  • Sightseeing:
    • $79 each for the Atlanta CityPass (to be reimbursed by Arrival+) 
    • $11 each for the Atlanta Skyview (via Groupon)
    • Total: $89
  • Dining: 
    • $ 80 - We had lunch at Golden Corral when we were driving to Atlanta, then ate at food trucks or cheaper food joints for dinner. 
  • Others (Souvenirs, etc):
    • $31.25 - That's a lot of money for souvenirs. It's mostly from me though. I got crazy at the World of Coke (its expensive but cute), and also had to get the quintessential magnets that I bring home to our souvenir pile. 
  • Hotel: 
    • $72 - For two nights (split with the boyfriend), at a Best Western near the airport. It was one of the cheapest we could get (was too cheap to use points to redeem for a short stay such as this). 
  • Total spent: $323.75 ($244.75 once the Arrival+ points kick in)
Spending $144.40 per day is not that great of a redemption, but I would still do it as it was a great weekend getaway from an otherwise boring week of staying at home. Then again, we could probably have made it a bit cheaper (ie used a cash back card to reimburse the Best Western hotel), but I used a different card to meet a spending requirement so missed that chance!

Downtown Atlanta by the fickle fan
Downtown Atlanta

Pub Tour London: A great night activity in London

Tower Bridge, London, UK
Tower Bridge, London, UK

So I was on a business trip in London and my colleagues had told me good luck when I had mentioned I'm going out on a pub tour. Why, I asked, and to which they said that almost everyone who goes out on a pub tour of the city gets on their hands and knees at some point in the night or the morning after - but it is a lot of fun.

Off I went, searching on the internet for a company to book until I found Pub Tour London. They had two tours: one for central, and one for shoreditch and I booked the central tour. It was 12 quid (GBP) if booked online on a weeknight - not too bad for someone to guide me to some of the best bars around town. Meeting place was at the Piccadilly Institute from 8 -9PM, which was a great time for me to grab dinner and get there right after work. I went alone, so it was quite daunting for me to go to a pub but whatever, this tour helps me meet new people anyway. Found the people who are the tour organizers of Pub Tour London who then connected me to new people that are also within my group. Not so bad.

Pub Tour London Group Photo

After an hour in one pub, off we went to another, and another, and another. There was free shots, but I think what made me quite tipsy was the fact that I kept mixing drinks. Just so you know, if you are planning to visit London, some of these drinks can cost quite a bit of money. Try budgeting around 7 GBP for a pint of beer, more if you are planning to buy some of the mixed drinks (which can range form 9GBP up).  It wasn't all about the pubs, as the night went on, I found myself in some clubs too, which charge exorbitant entry fees. Turns out that this tour I booked from Pub Tour London is in charge of paying for these cover charges. Excellent. So, a bit tipsy and trying my best to dance and talk to some of my new friends, I finally ended the night in the wee hours of the morning, with a few more Facebook contacts and trying my best to remember how the night had unfolded. Let me just say my Friday was really unproductive, as I went on a Thursday night. (Note: Thursday nights at work are more like our drinking night to give way to the people who have families and want to leave early on a Friday to go home to their respective towns). I would definitely recommend Pub Tour London to anyone who may want to go and have fun in a new town and meet new friends along the way! They upload group photos on their gallery - so try to grab it from their website when you can.

The 2015 Travel Calendar [Luxury Travel on a Backpacker's Budget]

So, since I've gotten into the points and miles game recently, I figured I'd also post my plans on how to travel for cheap in 2015.

Why so early? Because to travel for almost free, you need to book secure your award tickets as soon as you can. And it also means jumping on various promos to get as many points as you need. Oh, and this isn't a backpacker trip... we're traveling using hotels, cars, and doing all that we want to do: paying $30 for dinner? that's fine, we can offset it somewhere. Paying $50 for a tour? Yes, also fine - we can reimburse it. No holds barred, no budget constraints (much) - just trying to do whatever we want in the hopes of reimbursing as many of it using points.

So, our travel plans for 2015 are as follows and bits and bobs of what we want to do, we don't have specific itineraries yet. I'll update this page as soon as I have booked more flights/hotels and our overall out of pocket cost before the end of 2015. Note - most of these tricks only apply to the US, but you should know that YOU CAN TRAVEL IN STYLE WITHOUT PAYING MUCH - all it needs is a bit of planning and knowing what's out there! :)

Tampa (January 17-19)
  • Busch Gardens - paid $45 in cash for entrance during the AMEX Daily Getaways (too bad we didn't have an AMEX card when we bought it, would have been much cheaper - paying $45 for 1 ticket is 50% cheaper than the normal price (around $100)
  • Lunch - $17 (buffet) out of pocket
  • Parking fee - $17 out of pocket
Orlando, FL (January 31 - February 1)
  • Disney - one last time (we're season passholders and it's going to end soon) 
  • Hilton Grand Vacations SeaWorld - got an Orbitz deal during Black Friday. $27 out of pocket. 
  • SeaWorld - paid $49 in cash for entrance during the AMEX Daily Getaways (too bad we didn't have an AMEX card when we bought it, retail price for Seaworld is around $100)
  • Gas (from JAX to Orlando) - out of pocket (approx $30) 

Cancun, Mexico (February 21-25,2015)

  • Hotel: Boyfriend got a targeted offer to stay at the Westin Lagunamar Resort.  Paid $319 in cash for 5 days, 4 nights and we get 5,000 SPG points after our stay! Retail price per night for the room? $400+
  • Flights: Miami to Cancun using British Airways Avios (9,000 per person x 2 = 18,000 BA Avios RT) (Transfer from AMEX Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards cards)
  • Ruby: 9,000 British Airways points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards + $78 in taxes (paid in cash)
  • P: 9,000 British Airways points transferred from AMEX Membership Rewards + $66 in taxes (reimbursed using Barclaycard World Arrival+)  - retail price varies
  • Sightseeing Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Isla Grande fees - Barclaycard Arrival (Will update once list is done)
    • Others: 
      • Airport Shuttle - $55 for two people (cash)
      • Chichen Itza Tour - $56 each, to be reimbursed using Arrival+ miles. 
  • For a full breakdown of this trip, click here (Final cost for Mexico/Miami: less than $450)
Related Articles to Cancun: 

Miami, Florida (February 25-26, 2015)
  • Hotel:  Hyatt House Miami Airport - only 8,000 points (transferred via Chase Ultimate Rewards). $0 out of pocket. Retail price for the room? $250+. Only need to stay in Miami for 1 day to do some visa errands for me. I have a Philippine passport and would need a Schengen visa to get to Europe). The boyfriend will have to work from the hotel while I do my visa errand - and yes, we still have our full time 9-5 jobs, in case you were wondering. 
  • For a full breakdown of this trip, click here (Final cost for Mexico/Miami: less than $450)
Manila, Philippines (March 17-25, 2015)
  • Flights Total: 
    • JFK to Manila for only $247.50 (cash out): Got an Etihad mistake fare last Christmas.
      •  Used $32.50 worth of Arrival+ points to get the original price of $285 down to $247.50
    • JAX- JFK - Jetblue $79. Didn't use Arrival+ but opted to use the JetBlue credit card so we can earn twice as many points on that flight.
    • JFK-JAX - US Airways (with a stopover in Philadelphia) - $120. It is cheaper and since we have the US Airways card, we get free checked luggage each too. Booked using Arrval+ so expecting to reimburse it as well. 
    • Manila to Tagbilaran Flight - TigerAir/Cebu Pacific - $70 for two people (to reimburse using Arrival+)
    • Tagbilaran to Manila Flight - AirAsia - $50 for two people (to reimburse using Arrival+) 
      • $25 reimbursed using Arrival+. Total Cash out for this leg: $25
  • Tours & Accommodation Total: $280
    • Paid out in cash - $280 for two people. Thing is, the company doesn't allow us to pay in credit cards so there you go, everything in cash
  • Travel breakdown to follow soon. 
Atlanta, Georgia (April 3-5, 2015)

  • Total Spend: $323.75 (Atlanta Travel Expense Breakdown)
  • Hotel: Best Western Plus ($150+ including taxes & fees) for 2 nights, paid out of pocket using Orbitz. (Because they had a sale, normal price is around $100 per night)
  • Attractions
    • Atlanta Citypass - CNN Center, the Georgia Aquarium, and World of Coca-Cola. Also saw Zoo Atlanta. All for $79 per person. To be reimbursed by Arrival+ 
    • Atlanta Skyline - bought using a groupon $18.40 in cash for two people + free chocolate.
  • Transportation & food are covered separately in the expense breakdown, as well as things to do. 
Europe (April 17th - 28th, 2015) Germany, Austria & Slovakia

Why these countries? Because my boyfriend is originally from Slovakia and he wants me to see his country :) Vienna is the closest biggest airport to fly out of Bratislava, and Germany because I'll need a Schengen visa to get in the region. Germany is the closest embassy to where I live without flying to DC so we'll have to stay longest in Germany for the trip. Not too bad though, considering that the south of Germany is full of castles, which I love! 
  • Total Spend: 
  • Flights Total :
    •   40,000 Mile SAAver Offpeak American Airline Miles. (80,000 miles for 2 people) JAX-MUC (April 17th), VIE-JAX (April 28th). (The airline taxes & fees $288 for 2 people are going were covered by our Arrival+ card) - total cost out of pocket? $0. Total miles? 80k AA
  • Hotels Total: 
    • Munich Total: $
      • Out of pocket cost per night, $80. We are staying at a small hotel near the old city of Munich where everything is walking distance - hurrah! How's that for location? Saved $100 by booking using the VISACHECKOUT deal on
    • Vienna Total: $65.11
      • Best Western Wien, Vienna (to reimburse using Arrival+)
    • Salzburg Total: $60.11 
      • Hotel Goldenes Theatre (to reimburse using Arrival+)
  • Sightseeing: to be determined. 
  • Travel Itinerary to follow
Las Vegas, Nevada (May 20-26, 2015)
  • Flights Total:  $230
    • US Airways Companion Pass. Paid approx $460 out of pocket for two people round trip from JAX to LAS. (Normally that $400 ticket is just for one person!)
  • Hotels Total: $
    • Las Vegas: $150 cash for 3 nights (including the resort fees, averaging $50 a night including a weekend stay) for Stratosphere May 20-23 during Orbitz Cyber Monday - out of pocket. 
    • Las Vegas - Excalibur: $30 for the night (Used a visa checkout deal, so we only paid for the resort fees and $10 for the room)
    • Boulder Dam Hotel - $103.95/night - paid in cash
    • Grand Canyon Hotel - $83.45/night - paid in cash: wonderful hotel!
  • Transportation Total
  • Sightseeing/Entertainment Total: 
    • Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Death Valley, a few shows in Las Vegas, and do other things. To be determined - we got a lot of great deals using the VISACHECKOUT offer from Will post in a different article. 
  • Itinerary to Follow
 Augusta, GA & Aiken, SC (July 4-5, 2015)
  •  An unexpected trip, driven mostly by pointbreaks
  • Hotel - 5000 IHG points (Pointbreaks) at Candlewood Suites in Augusta, GA
  • Gas - $50 for a tank of gas and a half for our trip. 
Orlando, FL: Wet n Wild (August 22, 2015) 
  • Paid by our own cash. $135 for 2 FL residents including an all day buffet. Not so bad. 

Turks & Caicos (Sept 19-22, 2015)
  • Flights Total: $21
    • 18,000 British Airways Points from JAX to MIA (for P & R, roundtrip). Taxes: $192
    • Taxes reimbursed using BarclayCard Arrival+ ($150, worth 15,000 Arrival+ pts)
    • Final Flight cost: $42 for two people
  • Hotels:  $290.50
    • Inn at Grace Bay. $581 for three nights, includes kitchenette.
 Niceville, Florida (Sept 26-27, 2015)
  • Hotel: 5,000 IHG points (Pointbreaks) - Paying $0.
  • Travel breakdown to follow soon.
Melbourne/Cocoa Beach, FL (October 10,-11, 2015)
  • Hotel: 5,000 IHG points (Pointbreaks)
New York (October 23-27, 2015)
  • Flights Total: $12
    • 20,000 JetBlue points + nearly $12 in taxes and fees. In theory we could have gotten the $12 for free using a different cash back card, but getting more points is more worth it. 
  • Hotel Total: $0
    • We'll be staying at our friend's apartment in Manhattan
  • Transportation Total: $ 
  • Sightseeing Total: $

Cancun, Mexico Travelogue: It all started at 2:43 A.M. (Missing a flight, driving from Jacksonville to Miami & more!)

The flight to Cancun, Mexico was to leave at 11:15 in the morning.  We were going to wake up early, and drive to the airport early, and be at the airport early.  The key word running through here is "early."  That was the plan.  Problem is, we live in Jacksonville, which is in North Florida.  The flight was departing from Miami, which is in South Florida.  300 miles (roughly 5 hours of driving) separates these two cities.

So as you can see, to be there early was a priority, and before we went to sleep the night before, we were determined to not be on time, but early.  We set a departure time of 4 a.m., but then we got bold and said, "Nay, we shall leave even earlier than that.  Set thy departure clock at 3:45 a.m."  We were feeling confident.

We set our wake-up clock at 2:45 a.m.  We actually woke up 2 minutes before that.  We were feeling good.  "See, we don't even need the stupid alarm, we can wake ourselves up whenever we want.  I can smell Cancun already!"  This is where things began to go awry.  We leisurely showered, had breakfast, had some tea, relaxed, and by the time that was over, it was 4:15.  Well...crap.

The driving map from Jax to Miami

We stumbled out of the apartment, set out on the road and the car clock showed 4:25.  We were still confident of getting there early.  "I'll just go a little faster", I said, like I can just shave off an hour as if I was Sebastian Vettel.

The ride was going smoothly, the road was empty, but we needed a bathroom break. 10 minutes.  We resumed the ride.  Another bathroom break.  10 minutes.  We still said we were going to make it in time, but instead of our voices being confident, there was a noticeable anxiety in saying we were going to make it, as if we knew that we were not going to make it, but saying it out loud would just ruin the whole ordeal.

I went a little faster, and was gaining some minutes back when I saw cop lights behind me.  Since I was going 78 in a 70 mph zone, I didn't think much of it and went to the middle lane so the cop could go past me and catch the bad guy somewhere up ahead in traffic.  The cop moved to my lane.  I slowed down.  The cop slowed down.  "What does this lady want?" I asked as I moved over to the right lane so the cop could catch the bad guy up ahead.  I looked into my rearview mirror and saw the cop pointing at me to pull over.  Well...crap.

We finally made it to Cancun

20 minutes later and $140 poorer (I failed to move over for an emergency vehicle, even though I slowed down), we were now in half-panic mode.  We had one more very brief bathroom break and parked the car at a Marriott hotel (we had a deal arranged with them).  Their hotel shuttle took us to the Miami Airport.  It was 10 a.m.  Our boarding was 10:40.  We sprinted to the curbside check-in.  The guy told us we had to go inside.  We dashed inside, all our bags swinging wildly, dodging bewildered travelers left and right.  We went to the check-in kiosk and it told us we had to go see an agent.  We ran to the agent.  The agent gave us a weird look, looked at our tickets and dryly said, "You missed your flight." Well...crap.

We eventually got lucky and rebooked our flight for no charge, but the lesson here is: Never be too confident.  Never take things for granted.  

And next time, drive to Miami the night before and stay at a hotel.  As much fun as it is to blaze across Florida to catch your flight, it's better to be safe than sorry.

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