Travel Tips for Planning an Affordable Weekend Trip

I love taking trips with B to new places we’ve never been! We always try to get a couple trips in throughout the year, some bigger and grander than the ones, and some are just longer weekends away that are more affordable and sprinkled into the mix. If you’re a working couple like B and I, not only are we juggling busy family/friend commitments and house project bucket lists, but have this thing called PTO that makes traveling as much as we want too somewhat limited… especially when you throw other life items into that PTO mix. So I’ve got a few travel trips to not only help plan out more trips, but also how to save some pennies while still exploring and eating your way through new places.
TravelTips(5)Ok! Here is how to plan an affordable and fun weekend getaway!

1. Scheduling A “Long” Weekend. We always like to try and plan trips around holiday weekends, that we already get a day off from work for, or a timeframe when we’re already going to be taking some PTO off.  For me, I like to take my birthday off, and the next day (because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and why not) — so I already had two days that budded up to a weekend! Leaving on a late night flight, on a Thursday night can also help eliminate the need of taking multiple days, giving you a full three day weekend!  If you’re looking to take advantage of those summer long weekends (Memorial Day, Labor Day or 4th of July) — you’ll want to plan a bit more in advance to avoid higher fees or not being able to secure a place to stay!

2. Picking Your Destination – Part 1. If you have a destination in mind, then head down to tip #2. If you’re not quite sure on how to figure out where to go, there are a few ways! First determine how you want to get there, flying or driving?

    • Driving: Then if you’re driving determine what your maximum drive time will be. From there, I’m pretty old school and will pop over to Google Maps and do some ‘Destination’ plugging into of some near-ish cities or destinations that sound adventurous. Last March we headed to Chicago because it was a cool 6-hour drive and within our time limit, plus we’d never been there together – and previously we drove to Washington D.C. for a surprise trip that B planned for our anniversary.
    • Flying: Since we are planning for a longer weekend (3-4 days) we went to our local airports website and searched their nonstop flight destinations.  Our airport flies to a lot of Florida destinations, and a few in between so I started my search there — now head to Part 2. Looking for early flight times and ensuring you’re on the nonstop are also clutch to making sure you’re getting the most time and bang for buck!

TravelTips(1)3. Picking Your Destination – Part 2. Affordable is the next piece of the puzzle, we wanted to keep our long weekend trip under $1,000 and even more so if possible ($500 – $600 was our sweet spot).  So I popped onto Expedia and did a combo Flight and Hotel search for a few destinations based on the nonstop flights from our airport. We checked Miami, Sarasota, West Palm Beach, and even Charleston but they were just a tad pricey for what we wanted, and where we would want to stay in those spots.  Then I pivoted to a few East Coast cities: New York City and Philly. Since we’ve been to NYC before, we passed — and Philly was hitting our sweet spot, and the Expedia search helped me narrowed down the airlines and accommodations.

Pro-tip: When you have your accommodations and airline determined, check the native websites for those vs. booking directly through Expedia — you just might find it cheaper directly through the airline and hotel (we did!)

4. Finding Your Accommodations.  In Chicago we opted for a smaller boutique hotel, because we were able to find it more affordable than mainstream hotels (it was also in the perfect location).  Again, I looked for smaller, boutiquey spots and found Sonder — they lease out rooms in buildings in the area, all with a fun style and unique name. It’s also close to the airport, so that will make it easy to grab an Uber to and from!

    • When you’re considering where to stay, again I like to pull up a map and look at key landmarks/destinations that we want to visit and look for some that are generally walkable!
    • Reading reviews is also a great way to gain insight into smaller boutiques or spots that aren’t as mainstream like a Hyatt or Marriott.

Pro-tip: If you can pick a spot that friends or family live to save on accommodations, do it!  Even asking where family or friends might have a house or time share can be another affordable way to cover the cost of your stay!

TravelTips(2)5. Figuring Out Where to Eat. This is going to sound SOOO millennial, but it’s how I’ve found some great gems on all of our trips: Instagram. I start following traveling accounts for our destination and find all the foodie accounts to start creeping and finding all of the spots.  From donuts, to bakeries, brunches and the best dining spots — you can literally find it all and then pop over to their websites to make reservations or see full menu offerings.

I also like to find places to eat by browsing through OpenTable — this makes it easy to book a reservation for the night your looking for, and there are often user generated and restaurant provided photos, ratings and reviews and easy to flip through menus for all their offerings. Another great way is asking for recommendations from friends or family if you know they’ve been!

Pro-tip: Make a Reservation! If you can, make reservations to ensure you’re getting into the hottest spots, when you want to eat, especially in bigger cities like Chicago, Washington D.C. and NYC the lay of the land is through reservations.
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6. Planning Activities. Heading to a cities travelers bureau via social media or online is another great resource to find key locations to visit or a little less mainstream spots.  Strategically planning activities around your hotel or farther away on certain days can help you optimize your travel days. Also purchasing any tickets ahead of time to visit popular landmarks is crucial, especially if you want to check those off on the early visit times!

Planning and taking that weekend getaway, and checking off more cities on your bucket list doesn’t have to eat up all your PTO or drain you bank account! We will be heading to Philly next month and I’ll be sure to share in my recaps a round up of our travel expenses along with all our yummy eats and traveled spots. Have questions? Leave a comment, below!

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Travel: A Recap of Our 2019 Trips

As the 2019 year winds down, I thought it would be fun to look back at our 2019 trips! B and I adventured to two new cities (for us) and spent time with friends and family and created new memories together. Every year, a goal of mine is to travel whether it’s new places or old favorites. B and I have so many places we want to visit – so we always try to get a few trips in each year.
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Chicago, IL | March 2019
B and I have both been to Chi-Town, but never together! We took a road trip to spend a few days in the big city for my birthday – we found a cute boutique hotel closer to Lincoln Park and conveniently located next to our new favorite spot the Restoration Hardware.  We literally grabbed a drink there one night and just walked around as a night cap after dinner! Of course we ate as much food as possible with our short trip and hit up all the tourist spots like the Skydeck at Willis Tower, the bean, took a run down the lakefront trail and got lots of steps in!
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Portland, OR | July 2019
We were excited to plan our trip out to PDX to visit our old neighbors and good friends who moved out there in March. This trip was not our typical vacation since the main point was to visit and catch up with F+D! We just happened to be in a new, incredible city with killer views and so much to explore.  Our trip was the perfect balance of catching up, site seeing and getting a taste of Portland! Highlights from the trip were a champagne bar, seeing Mt. Moran and our hike around Latourell Falls — the fourth of July was fun having a picnic at F+D’s house, as it felt a bit like old times. There is so much more to see in PDX — so we know we’ll be back for more.
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Myrtle Beach, SC | August 2019
After a city adventure and mountain-esq trip to the west coast, we were able to squeeze the beach in too.  If you’re an avid Bee reader, you know have seen the reason we head down to Myrtle Beach — which is to visit my grandma who lives in a nursing home.  This trip was different, as a recent health scare made grandma more nursing home bound that usual, so instead of getting her out of there as much as possible, we were visiting her there, as much as possible. Not exactly an ideal trip to travel to Myrtle Beach to be in a nursing home, but it’s not often we see my grandma — and as I get older I’ve learned to appreciate this time more, especially since I’ve never been close with either of my grandmas growing up.  We did get some beach time in between card games and coloring!
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With our 2019 trips wrapped up, we’ve already started talking about our 2020 trips and even our 2021 trips! We have big plans, and big things coming up that we’ll be celebrating and lately all we want to do besides gifts or birthday celebrations are more trips, new memories and new sites to see! Where are you headed in 2020?

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Travel: Why We Vacay in Myrtle Beach

So the reason we visit Myrtle Beach is a little different that I am sure 80% of the people heading down there.  The beach and other extra curricular activities are always secondary to the reason we “vacation” there.  I’ve mentioned in previous MB recaps, that we go to visit my grandma who lives down there in a nursing home and that is 100% why we go down to Myrtle Beach, to see her.
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The goal generally when we go down and visit with my parents is to get my grandma out of that nursing home for a few days whether it’s a trip to the beach, shopping, dinner, or hanging out at the pool/condo.  But this trip wasn’t so much the case. Earlier in August she had an unexpected trip to the hospital that ended with her needing surgery which then led to longer hospital visit.  Luckily things went better than anticipated given she is 86 years old, but she was still recovering and more fragile from the surgery and her stay in the hospital when we went down there.  SO, we couldn’t take her out, meaning it was a lot of visits at the nursing home this time.

Our days at the nursing home consisted of making sure Grandma ate her lunch and dinner, occasional visits out to the patio area, cards (which she did not play), coloring (which she did not want to do either) and a few chats about the past.  She even had some photos from her wedding in 1956 – her wedding dress was amazing so I asked her what she ended up doing with her.  Her response; “I burned it.” … Yup! She burned her wedding dress when she was 24.
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The reality of our trip down to the beach destination with 80-degree weather all week was that we only made it to the beach once and only went swimming once at the condo (and at 9 o’clock at night). Friday we went to lunch and did the Conway Riverwalk in between visits at the nursing home.  Saturday was all day at the nursing home with a quick shopping trip to the Tanger Outlets before dinner with the extended family.

We also got to visit with my cousin and her three boys, who are an absolute treat and love B – they were super fun to see how much they’ve grown up, their personalities and sheer sweetness they give us for only seeing them every so often! We soaked up as much time with them from jokes, to hugs, hide and seek, giggles and cuddles on top of being able to see my cousin and aunt and uncle who live down there too.
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So although Myrtle Beach is often a beach retreat for many others, we go to see family who can’t travel to see us and hope to offer a little ray of sunlight to her probably lonely and long days at the nursing home.

Do you have a ‘vacation’ destination like this? Comment below!

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Travel: 5 things to do in Myrtle Beach besides go to the Beach

We just got back from Myrtle Beach and it wasn’t maybe the typical trip you would expect when you’re going to a beach destination capital – but more on that later *smiles*. So for any of those folks who can’t do the beach 5-days in a row – because let’s face it, my parents are those people and that is who we go down to MB with – here are some fun alternatives to still enjoy the weather and beach vibes that Myrtle Beach has to offer without the beach.

(1) Murrles Inlet. This spot screams adventure, from kayak to jet ski rentals or a chartered deep sea fishing excursion – this spot has endless views and dining options.  Not to mention, Goat Island! With perfect views from Drunken Jack’s, Goat Island and the rest of the inlet offer entertainment even when you’re on shore.
MBTravel-beelifeblog(5)(2) Conway Riverwalk. This quaint town along the Waccamaw River is not only walkable but shopable and has great restaurants. The Riverwalk is the perfect after lunch walking spot to admire the scenic views of the river in this historic southern town – we dined at the Riverside Bistro one afternoon before walking the route!
Travel MB - beelifeblog(1)(3) Myrtle Beach State Park. Slight disclaimer – if you’re planning to do the beach, this is the place to go! With a private boardwalk, gift shop, ice cream and moderately busy beach – you won’t be fighting for a front row spot to the water or sunshine.  Beyond the beach, there are cabins for rent or you can camp at the campsite.  There is also a Nature Center and natural trail.
Travel MB - beelifeblog(2)(4) Golfing.  With over 80 golf courses, this golf capital of the world offers a plethora of golfing options from budget golfing to high end top notch destinations.  We always stay in condos on golf courses and enjoy the scenery while my dad and B swoon over the course.   This past time we stayed on the International World Tour Golf Course and it was definitely a stunner.
MBTravel-beelifeblog(6)(5) Shopping at Tanger Outlets. Who doesn’t love shopping? Especially when it’s outlet shopping! With stores like Nike, Loft, Columbia, GAP, Coach, J.Crew, Adidas and Eddie Bauer there is something for everyone and plenty of discounts to take advantage of.  This getaway from the beach is perfect for a little retail therapy on vacay!

Coming off of our trip, we left just before any sort of Hurricane Dorian weather started to affect the area – although there were rip tides and the king tide that affected the beach and weather.  As of Saturday, the beach was closed due to double red flags — so in this case it’s good to have a backup plan or two!  Also keep in mind, hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30 – but always seems to hit September – November.

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Travel: Portland Eats & Drinks

It’s no secret one of my favorite things about traveling is all the good food involved.  Normally I’m researching months and weeks in advance of a trip, but I admittedly was a bit more relaxed with this trip, knowing we were visiting two new locals who love good food — while also knowing D is an amazing hostess and chef. This trip also had no shortage of champagne and local beers.

Ambonnay Champagne Bar: This cozy and quaint champagne bar was a bit off the beaten path (at least it seemed to be for me), but ended up being the perfect little spot for pre-dinner drinks, conversation and yummy champagne of course! With a rotating menu of different, hand sourced champagnes you can’t go wrong especially if you are a champagne connoisseur – we simply described our preferred bubbly finish and the lovely owner recommended a delicious glass… or two!
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Travel: #emnbtoCHI

In case you missed our Chicago Eats check them out here! Beyond wanting to eat as much yummy food as possible, we also wanted to be just plain tourists and checkout the best spots, while also getting a taste of the life of locals – which I think we did a nice balance of! So without further ado, here is the rest of our CHI-town round-up!

Skydeck at Willis Tower: With views from the 103 floor, you get 360 views of the city, Lake Michigan and every skyscraper in between!  The going rate to get up to the top floor is $25 per person (which is much cheaper than the Empire State Building). It was really fun to soak in all of the city views, plus we had perfect blue skies.

Pro-tip #1: Buy your tickets ahead of time to skip the line!
Pro-tip #2: You get 60-seconds on the glass ledge, so plan your angles ahead of time!
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Cloud Gate aka the Bean at Millennium Park: I mean, we had to check it out right? Everyone that goes to Chicago gets an iconic picture in front of the bean! Our bean pics were anything but iconic – I’m not sure why everyone is so obsessed with it because it just stretches out your face. If the weather was a little nicer, we would’ve explored the rest of the park a bit more!
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Run Through Lincoln Park & the Lakefront Trail: This was honestly my favorite part of our trip – our little 4 mile run through Lincoln Park and then popping over to the Lakefront Trail for stellar views of the Chicago skyline was an absolutely perfect start to our Friday.  Our hotel was about 2 blocks from entering Lincoln Park, so we ventured down the brownstone lined streets through the quiet of the morning before all the hustle and bustle. Lincoln Park was filled with doggy play dates, other runners and we even got to see some Zebra’s from the zoo!
CHI Recap - the bee life (3)The Chicago River: We were able to enjoy the stunning views of the Chicago river as we ventured to Willis Tower and the back to our hotel and down the Magnificent Mile back to the Gold Coast where we stayed. Again, because it was super chilly unless you were in direct sunlight, we weren’t able to take the 1.25 mile Riverwalk, but next time we go in the summer it will be a must!

Fun fact: The River was NOT still green after St. Patrick’s Day.
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A few other fun sightings we were able to soak in was the Chicago Tribune (Never Been Kissed) – our hotel even had a valet that didn’t allow you to self-park, so immediately our trip was starting out like a Ferris Bueller movie. We can’t wait to get back to CHI when the weather is a little nicer so we can explore on feet a little more; even though we still racked up 10.3 miles between our run and walking adventures!

What’re you favorite Chicago landmarks?

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Travel: Chicago Eats

We squeezed a lot in during our quick trip to Chicago – but there was definitely a lot more on the list of recommendations that we need to get back to try! We pretty much focused on brunch, dinner and dessert of course.

Chicago Style Pizza at Lou Malnati’s – This was B’s pick, since he’d seen the restaurant on Triple D – and it was also conveniently located near our hotel.  The vibe of the restaurant was low-key and because we were seated in the bar area – we had prime seating to watch a few of the March Madness games that were on.  We split a salad and a small classic Chicago deep dish pizza and it was more than enough for the two of us! From Lou’s we ventured over to Sprinkles, a cupcake place each picking out our own treat to enjoy as a night cap – which were absolutely delicious, btw.
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3 Art’s Club Cafe at Restoration Hardware – Through some tricky instagram research I found this spot which ended up also being right near our hotel, this place looked like a dream and with a brand like Restoration Hardware to back it up we knew this would be a top notch spot to enjoy brunch.  Luckily for us, we took advantage of being in town on a week day and beat weekend traffic and waits – and were seated right away next to the focal point fountain and chandelier. The brunch scramble with avocado and texas  toast and side of Canadian bacon did not disappoint, nor did the wedding cake fry cake doughnut or Bellini.  We could’ve stayed here all day… more to come on RH in my next recap!
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The Hampton Social – Another spot found through some tricky instagram research, this place looked trendy and seemed to have a menu to back it up with a decent variety of options to pick from.  Admittedly, B and I were both underwhelmed with not only the restaurant atmosphere/experience but with the food as well.  This would’ve maybe been a better spot for pre-dinner drinks and an appetizer, as everyone pretty much just wanted to get a photo with the ‘Rose all day’ neon sign, including the 12-year olds seated next to us and the food was good enough.
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Brunch, for brunch – This brunch spot had a huge menu to pick from with all your breakfast standards with some fun twists – making it a win-win for everyone.  B had the perfect scramble “Morning Wrecker” that was pretty much made for him, and I went against my better judgement and ordered on the more healthy train with a standard eggs/meat/toast combo instead of the doughnut french toast that I had my eye on.
Brunching Pro-tip: When you’re on vacay, just order the damn french toast – especially if it’s made from doughnuts!
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One reason we love to travel and something we always plan for when we do travel is finding good spots to eat – unfortunately with a short trip there are only so many meals to consume and only so much our stomachs can handle!  So, as I mentioned when we venture back to CHI next time we will definitely be returning to a few of these, while also exploring for some more yummy eats!

What’s your favorite CHI-town eats?
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Travel: Guide to Palm Spring’s Aerial Tram

One tip we received during our honeymoon was to do the Palm Spring’s Aerial Tram.  Unfortunately, by the time we found out about it, tickets were sold out and we were SOL.  So this time we planned ahead and made sure it was on our trip itinerary.  So if you’re visiting Palm Springs, this is definitely a fun adventure to spend a few hours doing and make sure its a successful experience with these tips!

  1.  Buy Tickets Early! Not only will this guarantee you a day/time to visit and experience the tram, but you’ll basically skip the line when it’s your trip time.  Tickets range from $26 for adults to $17 for children.
  2. Plan for 20-30 extra minutes for Arrival.  We definitely cut it a little close with our arrival time and ticket time.  First, because our GPS took us on a wild adventure to the wrong address, second – there are different level parking lots depending on the time of day and how busy it is, you might be farther away – so get ready to hike up a hill or wait for the bus to come pick you up!  Also there is a $6-8 parking fee.
  3. Consider Planning Your Trip Around A Meal.  This would be a way to fully experience everything the mountain station has to offer.  From a casual cafe, full bar, or the Pine’s more upscale restaurant, this already memorable trip could be topped off with a delicious meal and endless desert views.
  4. Dress in Layers.  At an elevation of 8,516 ft. it is definitely cooler on top of the mountain than the base – so depending on when you go plan accordingly.  When we visited it was in the 70’s at the base and in the 40’s at the top!
  5. Consider Hiking.  If you’re in for more adventure and activity verses a sit-down meal, there are over 50-miles of hiking trails to take advantage of, so dress and pack appropriately for an afternoon of hiking!

IMG_2469Honestly, I totally underestimated what this experience would be like – from being on multiple trams in the Teton Mountains, the mountains surrounding the desert cities although beautiful are smaller in comparison, or at least that is what I thought!  The quick 10-minute tram ride, is a stunner and fairly intense with steep inclines running 2.5 miles and climbing 5,873 from the Valley Station to the Mountain Station.  It was an incredible ride up and took us out of the desert for the time we experienced the aerial tram!

Learn more about the tram here!

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Bee’s Pre-Vacation Checklist

Not a great planner? Well I wanted to share my Pre-Vacation checklist with you in case you needed a little help when you’re getting ready for your next trip – there are so many things that need to get coordinated, from pet sitters, bills, work and all the last minute things you forget about!  Here are 6-easy things things to help you stay organized and get all the things done before you go!
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(1) Schedule your Mani & Pedi 2-3 Days Before Departure.  I love having a fresh mani and pedi for major life events and vacations! So for me it’s crucial, and something to schedule closer to your departure date so you can ensure your nails stay un-chipped and vacation ready,

(2) Get Your Spa Appointments in the Week Before.  Depending on what kind of vacay you’re having or where you’re going.  Whether it’s getting a nice base tab with a spray tan, getting a fresh haircut, or a bikini wax for the beach! Make sure to space these out or get them scheduled a week or so before vacay.  Remember – you don’t want to be too busy right before you leave, because that won’t help with the stress!

(3) Plan Your Outfits Ahead of Time.  It might feel like it’s too soon to pack but setting aside outfits two or three weeks ahead of time will help you fill in the blanks if needed! This also saves time of doing loads and loads of laundry just before you leave for that last minute piece you decided to wear – not to mention if you need to go shop for anything you’ll have time to make sure you have a vacation ready wardrobe.

(4) Organize Your Confirmation Codes & Reservation Details.  It’s important to get all your reservation details organized into a central place that will be easy to reference on the road – that means your flight numbers, rental car and hotel check-in.  I like doing a quick screen grab and favoriting on my phone so they’re easy to find and adding details in my notes section as my back-up.

(5) Set A Reminder On Your Phone for Flight Check-Ins.  24-hours before you’re flight you’re able to check-in, and this is something I always forget – I don’t have airline apps or get email notifications, so I need to set my own reminder.  With a quick and easy reminder 24-hours before I remember to get all checked in, don’t forget to do this for your trip home!

(6) Pre-Schedule Vacay Activities.  Whether it’s a special dinner reservation, tickets for a famous tourist attraction, check out ticket pricing and times ahead of the trip.  This is especially important if you’re heading to city destinations like NYC or DC.  We quickly found out that we wouldn’t have been able to eat, or at least not at a decent time if we didn’t have a dinner reservation in either city! Same with famous destinations, tickets and crucial times quickly get snatched up – planning ahead will relive stress and allow you to see and do all those picture perfect places.

As much as vacations are for relaxing, they’re a bit stressful leading up to them so with a little pre-planning and organization you can be a little less stressed and straight to vacation mode!  Also, make sure you have a vacation ready wardrobe with these tips, seen previously on the bee. Do you have any pre-vacation rituals when you travel?  Leave a comment below!

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