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: 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: 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!
Bee's Pre Vacation Checklist - the bee life
(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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Travel: Letchworth State Park

It’s amazing how many hidden treasurers are all around us.  I was reminded of one of those again when we went and visited Letchworth State Park in New York.  The park is 35-miles south of Rochester and is 17-miles long with just over 14,000 acres of trees, hiking trails and is known as the Grand Canyon of the East.  We packed up the SUV and headed with the fam for an afternoon of exploring this hidden gem.
Travel - Letchworth State Park - bee life blog
We spent the afternoon soaking in the views, taking mini hikes and even retreating to a quaint little inn for an afternoon pick me up. With a $10 park fee, entering the park is easily accessible with 5-different park entrances with drivable roads, ample pull offs with photo ops and hiking trails – but if you’re just making a pit stop for an afternoon and want to catch the best sites, here are the 5 spots you must visit!

Upper Falls. Entering the park from the Castile entrance will be your quickest way to access not only the Upper Falls, but Glenn Iris Inn and Middle Falls. Right from the parking lot you catch glimpses of the Upper Falls with the railroad tracks in the distance watching over these powerful waterworks. The trail was closed so we weren’t able to get as high up as we wanted, but the views were still beautiful.

Middle Falls.  You’ll catch a glimpse of these on your way to the Upper Falls, but it’s best to walk over from the Upper Falls to take in the Middle Falls, which might be even more spectacular than the Upper Falls!   You’re able to walk around these falls, taking in a double rainbow, catching some of the mist and just swooning over the beauty of these falls.

Glenn Iris Inn. A short walk away from the Middle Falls you’ll find the Glen Iris Inn.  Built in 1914 – this picture perfect inn overlooks  the middle falls with a beautiful lookout perch.  With outdoor seating and a restaurant the inn is also still serving to guests with it’s three stories and gorgeous interior architecture (the staircase was all wooden looking up all three floors!) A wedding was being set-up as we were there too and we even got to witness the first look, it was the perfect backdrop!

Inspiration Point. This came as a surprise, but needed stop.  With a higher view of the middle falls, upper falls and the railroad trellis – this was definitely the show stopping view.  There was also a trail that you could follow while soaking up the views of this spot the whole way!

Although the park will be closing soon in late fall, I can only imagine how beautiful these views are with the orange, red and yellows of the leaves changing with the season! We will definitely be going back to Letchworth State Park for some more hiking and taking in the beautiful works of this amazing planet!

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Travel: #EmnBtoCbus

We snuck away this weekend to visit some friends in their new city: Columbus, Ohio.  Although it was a quick 24-hour trip for us, we seemed to squeeze in some pretty major places for tasty eats and drinks in addition to being able to catch up with our long lost friends!

We kicked off our festivities with a trip to North Market, which is an indoor market that is open 7-days a week with a variety of food vendors, shops and delicious smells.  Whether your shopping for lunch, grabbing meat for a dinner or fresh produce for an upcoming meal.  We were able to try a decent amount of the vendors like Brezel, Destination Donuts, Firdous Express and Hot Chicken Takeover, everything was delicious.  Oh and did I mention, you could walk around sipping the drink of your choice?  I opted for prosseco, yum!
Travel - #EmnBtoCbus - bee life blog
From North Market, we ventured to Wolf Ridge Brewing – this space is impressive with an intimate dining space, event room and then a back tap room giving you that local brewpub feel.  We hung out in the taproom, ordered a few tasting flights and discussed the many flavors of the beers.  With a pit stop back to the house to check on Moz, we headed out for a late dinner reservation at Service Bar. From the moment we walked in, the front doors are jaw dropping, I was in awe of the decor and atmosphere.  With gold tables, black leather booths, gold modern chandeliers and a 1920’s art decor wooden backdrop as the bar, this place was a mix of old world and modern.  Their menu’s also accommodated for vegetarians, gluten free and everyone else, the choices were a plenty and it couldn’t seem like you could pick wrong.

For Sunday #brunch we headed to Hoof Hearted Brewery & Kitchen, again we were challenged with having to choose one item on the menu, so we started with the Brunch Ballz and then decided on the Hoofy Breakfast, which was a plate full of delicious carbs, gravy, eggs and bacon. I had to throw the towel in and get a doggy bag, although, almost everywhere we ate we ended up having leftovers!

We had a great trip visiting our friends, catching up and eating delicious things – we are already looking forward to heading back to visit them for another weekend, as it seems like there are plenty of more cool spots to checkout!

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Travel: #EmnBtoSTL

Since we flew in and out of St. Louis, we were able to spend two-days in St. Louis on our way out from the Ozarks, and a quick brunch on our way out to the lake.  Needless to say our 2-days in St. Louis were jam packed with prime tourist spots and a few off the path places.   We wish we would’ve had more time to explore, but definitely got a taste of St. Louis.

Half & Half Brunch
I had been researching some good food spots, luckily we were able to, at least attend one spot.  It was the perfect pit stop to refuel after an early morning of travel and before the drive to the lake.  The atmosphere was quaint and cozy, the service was friendly and on point, the food was amazing and wish we could’ve gone back for more!

Gateway Arch 
We popped over the the Gateway arch to start one of our days.  The last time I was in St. Louis, I was too young to remember, old photographs are all I have as a memory, so it was great to go back and appreciate the beauty.   Not to mention this was B’s first trip to the city.  We were late to the game booking a tour to go up inside the arch, but we were able to snap enough photos around the manicured greens.  This is definitely a must in STL.

Anheuser Busch Brewery
Of course we made a stop to the iconic “all-American” brewery.  This little village located on the perimeter of downtown, was an impressive site to see with many of the buildings built in the 1800’s, that by the way are in pristine condition.   The complimentary tour was the perfect combination of tradition and taste, while we began and ended our visit in the bier garden! A highlight of our stop here was touring the Clydesdale barn built in 1885, and then snapping a photo with one too!

We had a great trip at the lake, ending it with fun activities in St. Louis.  We definitely want to get back to visit a few new spots and enjoy a few again!