Tuesday, September 16, 2014

[Travel] Weekend Warrior - September 2014

I am a weekend warrior. I love going out every single weekend and trying to make the most of it. This is something I was not able to do much when I was back home in Manila. This will be a monthly series wherein I will present how much I have spent and where I've been to. I will post it as soon as the first weekend is up, updating it every single week until the month is up. Good concept, eh?

This is to show everyone that travel can be cheap and your time can be spent wisely, even if you have a 9-5 job, like I do. You don't need to quit your job and travel the world. With a lot of balance and savings, you can enjoy your life and stability of earning a fixed amount every single month.


Amount Activity (all for 1 person) Location Date
8.5 Disney Parking - Animal Kingdom Orlando, FL 1-Sep
20 Dinner for two - Cracker Barrel  Orlando, FL 1-Sep
4 Root beer Float - Animal Kingdom Orlando, FL 1-Sep
8.5 Universal Parking Orlando, FL 6-Sep
11 Butterbeer Treats Orlando, FL 6-Sep
13 Dinner at Cracker Barrel Daytona, FL 6-Sep
6.25 Lunch at CiCis Jacksonville, FL 7-Sep
10 Beer School - Budweiser Brewery Jacksonville, FL 7-Sep
3 Entrance to Park Jekyll Island, GA 13-Sep
3.825 Georgia Sea Turtle Center (Groupon) Jekyll Island, GA 13-Sep
8.5 Jekyll Island Tram Tour (LivingSocial) Jekyll Island, GA 13-Sep
10 Lunch at Jekyll Island Jekyll Island, GA 13-Sep
29 Trapeze Lesson (Livingsocial) Middleburg, FL 14-Sep

September 1, 2014, Monday (Labour Day Holiday)
Universal Studios, Orlando, FL

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

[TRAVEL] Weekend Warrior: August 2014

I am a weekend warrior. I love going out every single weekend and trying to make the most of it. This is something I was not able to do much when I was back home in Manila. This will be a monthly series wherein I will present how much I have spent and where I've been to. I will post it as soon as the first weekend is up, updating it every single week until the month is up. Good concept, eh?

This is to show everyone that travel can be cheap and your time can be spent wisely, even if you have a 9-5 job, like I do. You don't need to quit your job and travel the world. With a lot of balance, you can enjoy your life and stability of earning a fixed amount every single month.

Photo from http://media1.s-nbcnews.com/


August 2, Saturday
Skydive Palatka, Palatka, Florida - $125 Groupon for a tandem dive.
$85 - Photo & video Package.
One of the best things I've ever done is skydive. I would always, always recommend this to other people!
Those who are brave enough, that is.
Outlet Stores at St Augustine, Florida
Disney Store - $35 (2 plush toys, a shirt, and a mini figure) - what can I say, I love Disney?
VF Outlet - Also bought a hoodie and pajama set for $15
Bath & Body Works - Got my friend a gift (Can't disclose the amount here because he might see!)

August 3, Sunday
Stayed at the pool - did a few grocery shopping but that doesn't count as travel. Spent - travel-wise.

August 9, Saturday & August 10, Sunday
Did not spend much because I mostly stayed at home! Just read, hung out, etc. My boyfriend had to get his car fixed on August 9th so that was the reason why I was not able to go somewhere.

August 16, Saturday
South Florida Aquarium, Bradenton, Florida - $18 for 2 people Groupon deal.
This was sooo worth the money! I got to see Snooty and two of his manatee friends in action! That was really the highlight of my trip. The museum was quite informative too - and I loved the Spanish square.
Bought a souvenir shirt for $12 - not bad! Good thing I can fit in a kid's size shirt :)

August 17, Sunday 
Myakka State Park, Sarasota, Florida - $6 entrance for two people in a car.
$6 - a gift for my mum when I go back.

August 23, Saturday
Universal Studios, Florida - Own a year pass which cost us $170, bought in January 2014.
- Around $10 for 2 glasses of Butterbeer (mmm yummy)
- Lunch and dinner for $20 approx (per person) - ate at Moe's Grill and Panda Express
- $17 for Parking for the car
- $20 for an owl souvenir from Diagon Alley
- $38 gas
- $20 arcade games
A full day of fun in Universal Studios. Rode the Men in Black Ride, the Mummy (SO HOT), the Harry Potter train from Kings Cross Platform 9 3/4 to Hogsmeade, and Twister. Was in the queue at the Gringotts ride for an hour only to have the ride break down on us (NOT COOL!)
Nevertheless, i did enjoy the new Diagon Alley - if you're a big fan of the Potter series, this will eat up your hard earned cash. You can buy almost any souvenir that you can think of and spend lots of money on food and beverage within this part of the park. I did also like the Dragon that breathes out fire every 15 minutes though, and the attention to detail that the park did! Knockturn alley, and all the knick knacks at the shop. Production Design at it's finest! I'll definitely be back at least twice more to make the most of my year long pass. I haven't ridden in all the rides yet!
The boyfriend also got me a few Simpsons toys (Lisa) and he paid for the game I played (where I won Maggie and Santa's Little Helper). We make sure to visit the arcade every time to play. We both like the games and I like the toys - makes for a great souvenir.

August 24, Sunday
Paddleboarding - All Wet Sports
Down by the creek in Beach Boulevard, my boyfriend and I went stand up paddleboarding.
- $20 via Groupon
SUP is so much fun! I would definitely recommend it to anyone who would want to try something new.
Best if you can find a groupon to offset your costs a bit. Sometimes groupon gives additional percentage discounts so try to time your booking for that!

That week too, a package arrived - It was a GoPro Hero 3 - an advanced birthday gift from my boyfriend!(my birthday is in a few weeks and he wanted to give me the camera before we went on our Puerto Rico trip) I spent $14 to buy a head mount for the camera so we can use it at the Bio Bay tour.
We tried it in the pool and it's working lovely so far!

August 30, Saturday 
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Lunch - Golden Corral $9 per person
Gas - $20 per person
Sea Pines Resort -$6 per car ($3 per person)
Souvenirs - $9 (tshirt from Camp Hilton Head)
Water - $1.50 (was sooo thirsty, it was such a bloody hot day)
Went shopping at the outlet stores in Hilton Head but I'm not gonna say how much we spent ;)
Dinner - Bluffton: Captain Woody's Bar & Grill - $10
Hotel - Country Inn & Suites, Beaufort, SC: Free using points

August 31, Sunday
Beaufort & Hunting Island , South Carolina
Entrance to Hunting Island - $5 (per person)
Water - $1.50
Hunting Island Lighthouse Entrance - $2
Lunch - Plums Restaurant - $15

I made a pretty little excel file for it - below are just travel expenses (no souvenirs or water) for your reference & exact location:

Amount Activity (all for 1 person) Location Date
125 Groupon - Skydive Palatka Palatka, FL 2-Aug
85 Photo & Video Package - Skydive Palatka, FL 2-Aug
9 South Florida Aquarium Bradenton, FL 16-Aug
3 Myakka State Park Entrance fee Sarasota, FL 17-Aug
5 Butterbeer Orlando, FL 23-Aug
20 Lunch & Dinner (Moe's & Panda Express) Orlando, FL 23-Aug
8.5 Parking - Universal Studios Orlando, FL 23-Aug
10 Universal Studio Games Orlando, FL 23-Aug
20 Gas Share Orlando, FL 23-Aug
20 Groupon - All Wet Sports Groupon Jacksonville, FL 24-Aug
9 Lunch - Golden Corral Hilton Head, SC 30-Aug
20 Gas Share Hilton Head, SC 30-Aug
3 Sea Pines Resort Share Hilton Head, SC 30-Aug
5 Hunting Island Entrance Fee Hunting Island, SC 31-Aug
2 Entrance to Hunting Island Lighthouse Hunting Island, SC 31-Aug
15 Lunch - Plums Restaurant Beaufort, SC 31-Aug
359.5 Total for August

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Travel for Cheap: The 2015 Edition

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.

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. I can't believe it's nearly the end of 2014 as I type this!

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, nor did we have the Barclaycard Arrival+ at the time)
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. 
  • Flight: 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: Still need 9,000 points to book. 
  • Car Rental (use Chase Sapphire Preferred for primary collision cover and no annual fees) - will pay out of pocket
  • Sightseeing Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Isla Grande fees - Barclaycard Arrival (Will update once list is done)
Miami, Florida (February 25026, 2015)
  • Hotel: either covered for by Arrival+ or SPG points (probably the Element because we need to stay near the airport. Only need to stay in Miami for 1 day to do some visa errands for me as 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. 

Las Vegas, Nevada (May 20-26, 2015)
  • Flights: US Airways Companion Pass. Paid approx $460 out of pocket for two people roundtrip from JAX to LAS. 
  • Hotels: None yet - but planning to do hotel hopping (staying 2 nights at a time) with the cost being paid for/reimbursed by the Arrival+ card. 
  • Sightseeing: Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Death Valley, a few shows in Las Vegas, and do the theme parks (all covered for/reimbursed by the Arrival+ card)
Atlanta, Georgia

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

  • Flights: 40,000 Mile SAAver Offpeak American Airline Miles. Flight from JAX to somewhere in Europe. (80,000 miles for 2 people)
  • Hotels: to be determined.
  • Sightseeing: to be determined. 

Japan & Manila
  • Flights: 50,000 Mile SAAver Offpeak American Airline Miles from JAX to NRT for 1 person. (100,000 AA miles for 2) OR 80,000 United Airline miles from JAX to MNL with stopover in NRT. 
That's it for now! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

[Travel] Washington DC: The Washington Monument

Look familiar? This is the House of the Temple in DC.
It was popularized because of the Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Washington DC. Ahh, such a wonderful place to be in. It all started one day when I saw that there was a Memorial Day holiday coming up in May. Being one that makes the most of traveling during a holiday, weekend + extra days off, this is the perfect time to fly. 

The Philippine Embassy in DC.
I didn't think I'd be giddy to see this but I was! 
So a few months before May 23-26, 2014, we looked for tickets and chanced upon $200 roundtrip tickets from Jax to Reagan via US Airways. And of course we jumped on it (this was the time when the boyfriend and I were just starting out with the points & miles game so everything was really in cash)

Our hotel was a $100/night deal at a placed called the Normandy Hotel (I'll probably post a trip report about the hotel when I'm not lazy)

Since I am very, very particular about trip planning, one of the things I really wanted to do was go up the Washington Monument. It was closed for a few months because of some damage but luckily, it will be open a few days before we got there. Bingo!

It is highly advisable to reserve tickets to the Washington Monument in advance by going to Recreation.gov - the tickets are free but if you buy them in advance, you will have to pay a service charge. No worries for us - my boyfriend and I are lazy louts and would rather do something else with our time than queue up for two hours hoping to get tickets (but what if we don't?) - the service charge is very minimal - for the two of us we only paid like $5 and that includes shipping to my apartment. Score! (Of course, this only works if you live in the US. But fear not if you live outside the US, you can opt to pick up your tickets at the ticket counter on the day that you're supposed to go up). Booked our tickets for May 24th, 10:30 AM and we're all set!

The ticket is timed, so you'll have to be there at least 15-30 minutes before your timed ticket and sit down at one of the marble benches and wait for your turn to go inside.

Before you go in, the park ranger will group you in batches (me and my bf along with 8 other people) then you'll have to go through an airport style security check (bags will be X-Rayed), and no food  is allowed inside. You'll then wait outside the elevators which will take you up the monument.

Since we were the first two inside, I got a chance to get my photo taken with Mr Washington himself. OK, a statue, but that's close enough.

There are two windows in every side of the monument (8 in all) and overall has breathtaking views of the National Mall & surrounding areas (if you went there on a clear day - when we were there it was very clear and sunny. Perfect weather, really).

Do take the time to take photos and marvel in those windows. I myself am a history buff and do love taking on amazing views, we ended up staying much more in the place than we expected to! Check out our photos in the rest of the post below. Please do not take and use them elsewhere without my permission though. You can grab hold of me on the contact me page on the right side of the page if you would want to use them.

You should notice that there is a red light blinking up on the top of those two windows/viewing areas. Not sure what it's for though! I theorized it could be for airplanes - they do land quite close to the city center (via Reagan airport) but I could also be wrong!

Once you are done with the viewing area, you'll go down one level into a mini museum showcasing how the Monument was built, various trivia, etc - this is where you'll catch the elevator back down from the top.

Watch out while you're elevator though! There are many commemorative stones that were donated by various states, some of them more interesting than the others! I managed to take a photo of some of them but unfortunately I didn't get to upload them! Oh well.

That concludes the Washington Monument trip.
Depending if you're a big history buff or not, it will take around 2-3 hours to do everything (including waiting for your turn to go up the top, waiting for your turn at the windows, taking pictures and then going to the other windows)

Enjoy the photos in the blog - my camera is amazing isn't it?

It was a plus that we were there during Memorial Day weekend cos there was so many events going on!

WWII Memorial, Reflecting Pool & Lincoln Memorial

MLK Memorial
WWII Memorial

The White House

Me at the Monument

Thursday, July 24, 2014

[Travel] Fort Clinch State Park, Amelia Island, Florida

Fort Clinch is one of those places that are so near to Jacksonville, we just had to get to it. It starts with a quick one hour drive from Jacksonville - to a place called Amelia Island.

My boyfriend actually found this place, being a history geek that he is, with the power of Google. He was actually looking for a place where we can stop by and sight see before the sunset cruise in Fernandina Beach.

There is an entrance fee per cars in the area - but its less than $5. It is a HUGE complex, with hiking trails within the area, and there is a long stretch of beach where you can just walk.

It was almost winter when we were there, so we didn't bother to bring swimsuits. It was a wee bit chilly walking at the beach but the boyfriend and I had it all to ourselves.

After walking for nearly 2 hours, we decided to go back to the Fort and continue on to the pier. The ranger recommended going there (the lovely person who helped us when we were paying the entrance fee for the car) so we hurried to get there and walk to the boardwalk. It was another 5 minute drive from the Fort, and another few minutes walk to reach the end of the boardwalk and back. 

The  boardwalk was nice - there were loads of birds in the pristine beach and there was not much people there. Not sure if it was because people didn't want to go because it was winter or that the park was nearly closing when we were in the boardwalk area.

Realizing that we only had 40 minutes left before our boat tour was scheduled to leave, we had to leave too.

But you do have a chance to look at some photos I took from the trip! Sheldon says hello!

The Sheldon toy was actually given to me by my boyfriend when we were first going out - I saw it in Barnes & Noble, thought it was cute but didn't buy it. Little did I know he'd surprise me with it a few days later!

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