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: 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: #EmnBtoDC

In case you missed our D.C. Eats recap, B and I were in Washington D.C. this past weekend! It was fun to jump in the car, hit the open road and get out of town for the weekend. Although we’d both been there before separately, we wanted to go back and see the historical beautiful sites, together.

Since our hotel was in a prime location, two blocks from the White House, and about a 20-minute walk from the National Mall, we were sneaker ready to hit up as many sites as possible. We got an early start Saturday, but many other tourists had gotten an even earlier start! Our first stop was the Washington Monument, and from there we went to the WWII memorial and walked along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial. There were many baby ducklings with their parents in the pool, they were too cute!Travel - Washington DC - the bee life
I was so looking forward to visiting the Lincoln Memorial and replicating that first time I walked in nearly 11 years before. I have the fondest memory of walking in from the bustling exterior and into this silent, peaceful and mesmerizing place. Sadly, it was not the same experience this time around.  People were yelling back and forth to one another to take a picture or facetiming with family/friends to show them the statue. I was so disappointed, and a little mad! But it was still an incredible place and site to see, the views inside and outside are stunning and breathtaking.

From there we checked out the Korean War Veterans Memorial, and hid from the rain under some trees surrounding it. From there we leisurely walked back through the park and made our way to the Smithsonian American History museum. We explored the war exhibits and the First Lady Exhibit; showing off their Inaugural Gown dresses and various White House China.

We made our way to the Capitol beating ominous clouds, again there were more adorable ducklings swimming in the reflecting pool in front of the Capitol. The Capitol is a massive building, and is radiant in symmetry. We hid from rain in various Starbucks on our way to lunch at District Taco’s.  We did a break back to the hotel, before we went back out and explored more around the White House, adoring the brownstone’s and historical buildings from the 1800’s surrounding it.

We clocked nearly 13-miles throughout our day Saturday, walking to all the sites, shopping and dinner in between. Because we were only there for the weekend, we definitely felt like we had to be selective we our choices but saw our must-see’s and had a fun weekend trip!

Travel: D.C. Eats

This past weekend, B surprised me with a trip to Washington D.C. to celebrate our dating anniversary! We always try and figure out places that are close-ish and within driving distance. This trip was just that. He booked this trip at the end of March, and didn’t tell me where we were headed until 5-days before!

The last time we were both in D.C. was for our 8th grade trips, so needless to say I am sure we didn’t appreciate a lot of it. Not to mention, going now, we were able to explore at our pace and more importantly find some good spots to eat and drink!

Cork Wine Bar
Cork was my surprise for B. I found a spot with the same name as our first date! It was a random find, located just North of Logan Circle. Cork’s atmosphere was cozy and intimate. They’re known for their old world wines, but we opted for bubbly and beer. They also recommend about 2-3 plates per person, so we ordered the full gamut! We started with the house-marinated olives and avocado. They were both pure heaven, and we hadn’t even gotten to the main course yet.  B ordered the grilled octopus salad, which was refreshing and light and a lot of great flavor. From there we enjoyed the crispy lemon and black pepper dusted calamari and rock shrimp, sauteed mushrooms and the lavender encrusted lamb chops. Everything was delicious, but the lamp chops were incredible, the taste and flavors beat any expectations.  We ordered the chocolate mousse to share and couldn’t stop gushing over everything we’d just ate.  Everything was phenomenal.

Astro Doughnuts
This was an Instagram find that happened to be walking distance from our hotel! So we popped over to Astro Doughnuts first thing Saturday AM with our coffee to get some sweet treats to kickoff the day.  We ordered the Maple Bacon, PB&J, and Almond Brittle. They were all delicious but the PB&J and Almond Brittle took the cake.  You can also order chicken or specialty sandwiches – but we stuck with the sweets.  It was on point!

Farmers & Distillers
Located in Chinatown, this spot is an urban twist on all types of cuisines, with their own stamp on the drink menu with their distilled alcohol.  This was your typical hot spot, it was bustling and loud.  The food was good, but it was so-so in comparison to our dinner at Cork. At Farmers & Distillers, we opted for the salad and pizza route. Our pizza picks were on point. We ordered the bacon & baby kale and the brie & tart apple, they were both delicious in their own way.  The food was good enough, but I wish we would’ve spent a little more timing finding a different spot with a cozier atmosphere.

We definitely ate well this past weekend in D.C. – and can’t wait to go back to try some new places and head back to a few favorites *cough Cork cough*

If you’ve got any D.C. must-eats, please comment below for our next trip there!

Bon Appetit!

Weekend Recap – A New York Fall

We had another jammed packed weekend, full of family and everything fall.  We ventured to my parents house for the weekend.
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Saturday morning we ventured over to my brother and SIL’s new house!! It’s so beautiful.It was great seeing it in person, it has a lot of that century home character that B and I both love, except it’s updated in the right places (like the kitchen and bathrooms).  We also had a delicious brunch at their house, a breakfast pizza, which I need to get the recipe for! It was delicious.

Saturday night we headed over to my cousins house, another new house that we got to see a tour of their new house, which was also beautiful! They hosted their first annual chili cook-off, it was a cool fall evening.  There were 8-different chili’s with various toppings and the desserts were to die for. I was sipping on apple cider and champagne all night.  We also played a game of Cards Against Humanity, with our moms!  It was great getting in some extended family time in with some awesome laughs too!

Sunday morning we went to church with the whole fam, got breakfast at the local diner and then headed out to the local apple orchard/pumpkin farm.  B ended up picking out a 26 pound pumpkin! We got some McIntyre apples, apple pies will be being made soon.

It was seriously the quintessential fall weekend, the weather, the leaves coloring, the activities, company, the poncho and boots, it was just perfect.

 

Travel: Denver Recap – Part 2

Since our trip was relatively short for traveling so far, we didn’t do nearly as much outdoorsy activities as I would’ve liked.  After all, I’m used to week long trips out west, including hikes, horseback riding, kayaking, and sightseeing. So I was beyond happy to get a quick trip to Red Rocks in, to see some of the world’s natural beauty, get a little sweat on and take some pretty pictures.  My cousins were able to take us up there, which was such a help since they had been there before and could navigate the layered landscape and show us the Amphitheater and the distant city views.  It also brought back some of my favorite memories with them exploring JH.  Red Rocks was one of the places almost everyone told us you had to visit, it definitely was a phenomenon.

IMG_4199IMG_4204IMG_4202IMG_4221DSCN2540DSCN2535IMG_4223I can’t imagine going to a concert at Red Rock’s – although I hear that is an absolute must also.  I would also like to go back and do either yoga or boot camp on the steps of the Amphitheater.   The day we went they were having a huge fitness event with obstacle courses and more sessions of exercise classes on the steps, so were were only able to get so high up, which was a bit of a bummer since our time was cut short. Regardless, it was definitely a highlight of the trip and I loved getting outdoors, exploring and seeing new sites. And a special Happy 75th Anniversary to Red Rocks!!

TRAVEL TIP: If you’re planning a trip to Red Rocks, be sure to do some research or go with a local, there are lots of different sections of parking and entrances it’s easy to get caught up!

Travel: Denver Recap – Part 1

This past week, B and I traveled out west to Denver, Colorado!  It was our first time out there (well being anywhere besides passing through DEN) so we were really excited to go explore a new place and get out of town for a long weekend. We were able to explore and see a lot of Denver, at least I think for the short time we were there, but still felt like there was so much more we could’ve experienced and saw.  Since we did cover off on a lot, a recap on the important stuff… food and beer.

Historians Ale House – Broadway St.We visited Historians our first night in Denver, and met up with my cousins there – otherwise would have never found this spot.  They had a rooftop patio that we were able to enjoy, it was a beautiful night.  We snacked on chips, salsa and queso – the waiter said the queso was to die for.  And then since it was dollar taco night, decided to have a mixing of fish, beef and chicken tacos! They were almost bite size, so it was good that we all ordered a bunch. It was a fun spot, and great atmosphere but definitely in line for a bar atmosphere and menu offering. FullSizeRender (4)

The French Press – Lakewood, COAlthough we were only able to have breakfast here once, this small little cafe across from our hotel was the perfect spot for breakfast, a great cup of coffee and a fun homey atmosphere.  There were so many good sounding items on the menu that it was hard to choose.  We had high hopes and intentions on returning the next day for a different menu item, but unfortunately had poor planning and time management to enjoy it again!  They also had lunch and happy hour specials for people to take advantage of beyond the morning breakfast offerings. For our breakfast; I opted for the French toast, which came with eggs and bacon and I added some fresh strawberries on top, it was served with graham cracker syrup, yum!  B went with “Sterling’s Sweet Biscuits” – toasted chipotle butter biscuits, topped with chorizo gravy, cheese and eggs with a side of potatoes. YUM!! FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender (3)IMG_4125IMG_4128

Bruz Brewery – DenverWe visited the recently opened (we were there for their grand opening), Bruz Brewery since it’s close to my aunt and uncles place. Rested in a new development this spot is prime real estate for this up and coming area. Not to mention; dog friendly both inside and out!  They had about 12-beers on tap. Since we only visited for a quick drink I went for the Summerfield Saison and B had the Dawg Daze IPA. I can’t wait to see how that brewery grows and expands, especially in their spot. The best part about visiting Bruz is that we were able to do so with my aunt and uncle and two cousins, while trying out a new spot (that we would’ve never known about).  IMG_4143IMG_4144

Tivoli Brewing Co. – Downtown DenverWe were introduced to Tivoli Brewing Co., for the welcome reception Friday night before the wedding (the reason we traveled to Denver).  We were welcomed by a lavish spread of beers and bite-size treats; everything was to die for. Our spread included the; High Five Chicken Potstickers, Parmobello Mushrooms, What the Buck Bavarian Pretzels, Sweet Hot Brussel Love, and mini 2 Pigs in a Sleeping Bag. Seriously everything was SO good, we were snacking and sipping all night. The beer selection was impressive (and overwhelming – at least to me!), I stuck to their Tivoli Helles, it was a golden hued lager. Their atmosphere was fun and underground-esq.  They also had amazing city views from their large outdoor patio space – also a prime spot for baseball fireworks viewing.  IMG_4154IMG_4157IMG_4159DSCN2520We enjoyed Tivoli so much (and it was super close to the hotel everyone else was staying at) that we killed some time for a light lunch pre-wedding on Saturday and enjoyed some more beers. I opted for something new and tried the Seasoned Skirt Steak and Chargrilled Chicken Vindaloo tacos – they were both topped with gucamole, fresh cilantro, red onion and queso fresco.  B went ahead and ordered the fullsize; 2 Pigs in a Sleeping Bag and a side of fries. IMG_4238IMG_4236

We would’ve ate more and explored a few other spots if we’d had more time between wedding festivities and trying to be tourists and see some sights. But we had a good mix and spreading of foods.  Next time we’re in Denver we will definitely spend more time downtown on “brewery row” – at least that is what I am calling it, a few people had described it as such and sounded like a must!

Any favorites spots or recommendations for our next trip out to DEN?

Weekend Recap: Easter Showers

This past weekend we headed north to my parents again for the weekend since it was Katie’s shower and a bonus of Easter!

Katie’s shower was Saturday morning, a brunch at a local country club. I got there early to help decorate with her mom, and having never been to the venue I was a little nervous about how some of my decorations (future post coming with some of the fun DIY’s I did for her day) would work in the space. Luckily everything worked out perfectly and looked great! Katie was so happy with everything, woo, success! It was fun celebrating Kates with the official countdown starting towards her big day. Having been friends for over a decade, it’s crazy that we’re at this stage in our lives! I can’t wait for her bachelorette party and the big day!!

It has been a few years since I’ve been home for Easter, and the first time since B and I have been together, I am usually dog sitting! My brother and sister-in-law came over Saturday and stayed over so my mom had a full house, she was beyond happy. Sunday morning, the six of us headed to church, which was full of Alleluia’s! After church we snapped some pictures at the house and then mom and dad got cooking brunch! Yes, two back-to-back days of brunch, it was terrible. =) They made their signature waffles, bacon and an egg souffle all to end with a triple layer carrot cake! #foodcomma

To top off the weekend, we found Hank a home! Our close friend’s parents ended up taking him, they came up Thursday night to see him with their dog and ended up taking him home- for a test run, and ended up falling in love with him! We’re so happy he is in a (permanent) loving home and is going to be so spoiled. That was a big relief, this past week was very stressful for B and I trying to figure out what we were going to do with Hank!

I’m looking forward to getting back into our routine and starting some workout classes! Here’s to a great week!

 

Weekend in the Woods

This past weekend B and I got out of town for a quick weekend getaway to the Cabin in the Woods.  I grew up in the country, but even this place is a little bit in the middle of nowhere for me.  I couldn’t even tell you where the closest gas station or grocery store would be, nor do you pass one on the way.


It’s always nice to get away to this little retreat, it’s so quiet and peaceful – but also extremely buggy. Plus it’s super close to one of our favorite breweries – Southern Tier, so of course we headed up there for the afternoon too.  Tasty beers, great food and an awesome atmosphere – we stay for hours.  We’ve made a yearly tradition out of it, but will definitely be going back before Summer’s end.

When we are back at the cabin we usually relax, and play board games (like Sorry!) and walk around the property with Moz.  She was super fascinated with the frogs while we walked around the pond, every time they jumped in and made a splash she would get scared and then become super curious! It was so cute. We also visited a homemade ice cream shop in the nearby ‘town’ – massive portions, huge selection and so cheap!

It was a fun – quick weekend away. I love creating memories, and traditions with B, even if they’re simple.