Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I've been nominated for a Liebster Award!!
I've seen a whole host of blogs that I skip to time and time again who have all been nominated, and I figured 'hey, maybe this time next year when I get some more experience' but my pal Hanna at BubuBackpacks nominated me for the award! This award is a way to promote bloggers within the community, a way to show off some of your efforts and friendships while praising those that inspire you or keep you going! How flattering, Hanna! Def visit her page, she's an inspiring lady who not only has smart things to say, but is a trip addiction enabler- her photos and stories of living in Washington DC caused me to book a trip there this coming May! It really is an addiction...

The Rules:
The way the Liebster Award works is that the blog that nominated you gives you a list of questions to answer in a post. You then you get to nominate another few blogs and come up with your own questions to ask them! And finally, link back to the blog who nominated you as a way to spread the love.
1. If you could give one piece of advice to your former self before you started your first trip, what would it be?
Well, my first real tip that wasn't with family or my winterguard team would be when my old boyfriend and I planned a trip to Disneyworld for our one year anniversary in 2008. I had only gone once before om my 18th birthday and it rained the whole time and half of the stops were closed and no characters came out due to the weather. So I was excited to go! We used a travel agent because he pushed for it, and when we went we did have a lot of fun but it was then that I really realized how selfish and pushy he really was. So, looking back at it I would tell myself to be more assertive in what I wanted at the time and not let myself get pushed around into missing things I really wanted to do because he didn't want to. You don't always have to compromise your feelings for someone else, especially if you feel like it's once in a lifetime stuff like the rocket launch we missed because he "didn't feel like it". (We broke up two months later because I stood my ground finally!)

2. What's the first thing you do when you arrive in a new city?
Walk around. Sounds dumb, but I like to get a lay of the land. And food! A lay of the food. I always have my phone or camera in hand, ready to see and capture everything, and check around for desserts. I think trying new desserts is one of my favorite things about new places. And old places.
THIS hot chocolate! Yeah, that's a lava cake.

3. What is your favorite travel memory or experience?
 I can hardly pick just one, but definitely meeting my penpal Suzanne for the first time in Disney, and again in her home country of Holland are top tier. Being in Ireland in general is just about the best feeling, and nearly falling into the gross foam in the North Sea with Suzanne and Chris! Seriously horrendously gross brownish foam, but so fun to run away from!

4. How did you decide to start a blog? And what advice do you have for someone who is thinking of starting a blog of their own?
I started a blog in thrifty travel because I, like most people, brag when great things don't cost a lot! That's me- exciting things on a thrift store budget! Well, people would ask how I booked a trip to such and such place for cheap, or how do I find all of these deals, and so on. So I tell them- hours of painstaking research for every action on the trip! The questions and fandom really began in 2015 when my husband and I flew down to Orlando to meet my penpal of (now) 18 years at Disneyworld. It was one of those THIS IS HAPPENING things that you absolutely cannot pass up no matter the cost (our first time meeting in person after years of friendship and sisterhood). So, as I was running a wedding dress consignment shop for dollars a day, and had no real right to be planning an expensive trip for two, I decided to hunker down on my days off and research the hell out of the best deals I can find. I managed to score a Disney-adjacent hotel during PEAK season (June 1-5) for only $36/night with a free shuttle to the parks and other areas around town! Since it was an absolutely necessary trip to take, we went! Since then I have helped myself and a few others book for less and really broke the habit of saying there's not enough money to travel.

5.What’s on your long-term travel bucket list? Do you have a place or experience that you just HAVE to do at some point in your life?
My bucket list is lengthy! There is an Emerald mine in North Carolina that I would love to go panning in, I'm hoping to get there over Memorial Day weekend, but we'll see! I also am obsessed with Greece (theatre major) but I want to see all of Europe, NYC, Vegas, the Grand Canyon! So many things so see and do.

6. What’s your travel-planning style? Do you book flights spontaneously with no plan, or do you meticulously plan every detail? What do you find most helpful when planning your trips?
I do all of it, really. I am mostly a planner, not every detail to the minute like some people I know but I definitely booked my trip to Dublin on the fly and made the inside plans after booking. It was pretty exciting to find such a great deal on accident, and as it's my first solo trip I'm not overly concerned with planning the day to day stuff other than just getting to Dublin and Holland safely. What I find most helpful is looking for the best deals. Yes, it's work, but I stress less about the tip if I'm not overly freaked out internally about the cost. If I can cover the expenses better then I feel like I can relax more about the whole thing. That's probably normal, and the basis of why I started doing this in the first place!

7. What’s the number one destination on your list for this year?
My 2018 goal was to go back to Dublin and I am doing that in May! I think it's the fastest I have ever achieved a long-term goal. Aside from that, as mentioned above, I am hankering to go to Emerald Hallow Mines in NC all day sluicing. 

Now for my nominations:
1. Shanelle Jerril
2. Shae Pepper Photography
3. Globe Jamun
4. Blooming Brilliant
5. Different Frame of Mind

Your Interview Questions:
1. What is your favorite travel destination and why?
2. What is the best food you have had on the road?
3. Have you ever experienced any culture shock while abroad?
4. What inspires you to keep blogging?
5. How do you feel your blog does in inspiring others to step out of their comfort zones?
6. What is the best new product you've tried, be it traveling or at home?
7. Where do yo see yourself going over the next 12 months?

Thank you again, Hanna, for nominating me and making me feel like I'm reaching someone! It's important to know, even though you tell yourself you blog for you, that someone else cares, too!
I hope we can all empower and educate one another and keep this award sharing up so that others can feel the love as well.
Be kind. Be well. Do good.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Air Deal Email Alerts- Yay or Nay?: Scott's Cheap Flights, AirfareWatchDog

So, I, like you, love a good deal. And so when looking for travel arrangements and so on, or even for just a good reason to travel like a price too good to pass, I signed up for a few email blasts about deals, mistake fares and so on. Two that I joined that had great recommendations were AirfareWatchDog and Scott's Cheap Flights. Both boast savings of hundreds, blah blah but I wanted to see for myself.  Granted, it's only been a month at each of these, maybe a touch more, so I haven't booked from them or tried to yet. But I get roughly 20-30 emails a week JUST from these two lists. It's overwhelming. And spammy.
Scott's Cheap Flights: I might not ever book from them because they don't tailor anything without a long set-up process. You can set an alert or hope that your computer cache collects info, but basically they just send you deals from any place to any place unless you do that frustratingly repetitive process of tailoring a free site to suit your needs. As you know, I'm in Detroit. We have a pretty big airport. So I can hope on a flight to Europe or Asia if I wanted (and I do). But with Scott's, their emails are mostly flight deals, yes, but having nothing to do with my preferences or even my airport. So yes, an RT flight to China for $693 is a great deal BUT not if I have to spend $350 to fly to Chicago or Atlanta to catch it. Ya know? But I guess the nice thing is that right in the header it lets you know if there are extra fees for bags and such. But still, I like a good hunt when it's my own creation and I will possibly stay on this list just in case, but honestly, it's a lot of emails. It is posted that the free list like I have only gets a THIRD of the emails that the paid premium list gets! I legit just got another email as I was typing this paragraph.
Another annoying thing- in EVERY email it pushes you to sign up for their paid premium  subscription ( $5/Month, $25/6 Mos, $39/Yr). I get it, it's a business and they need money to operate, but spamming me with flights I can't even get to without another RT flight because Detroit Metro is not on your radar and then telling me how much money someone ELSE saved? It just makes me feel more bothered than anything. I don't understand how I can get 4 emails a day and it's still telling me I'm missing out on anything. It also does me no good to know that the company saved a random amount of people a random amount of money. It's like when Wish or RoseGal sites say that they slashed a price of a jacket that cost $58 down to $6. Did it REALLY cost that much to begin with or is that just what you SAY to look irresistible? Because, honestly, if you're sending me this much garbage I can't really think that you actually CARE about saving me anything, you just want me to use your snake oil. I want to like Scott though- he seems adventurous and really into what he's saying and I think for a business guy he really believes he is helping people, and I can get behind that I guess. He has a few books out that I may see if my local library offers and go from there. So this is still a maybe.

Airfare Watch Dog: They're just a spammy as Scott, maybe even more. I get 3-5 emails a day from this group- fare deals, tips on traveling, trip watch alerts, hotel deals I never signed up for, etc. The plus here is that it is location based most of the time. So it's not showing me arbitrary deals from San Fran to Sydney or something, they're mostly deals I can cash in on without having to fly to the airport I fly from for the actual trip. Mostly. You can sign up for trip alerts that let you know if something you're looking for changes in price, they say. But it's hopeless because you open the email and get an alert about checking to see if price dropped that you click on and it opens another page. Then that page opens a page to an airfare calculator list thing and you basically are RE-researching your own flight listings all over again just to see if they went down via 15 other pages. So, this list that is supposed to save you time and effort looking for trip deals basically just makes more work for you. I can't recommend joining unless you are someone who gets excited by receiving junk mail simply because it's not a bill. I can't see this email list as being helpful considering the amount of muck you need to swim through just to find something useful. It'd be easier to pick a vacation and research it for yourself than hope that Watchdog will send you something worth seeing. Either way, though, you're still spending hours poring over websites thought the email links. I've had enough. I'm breaking up with Watchdog.
This is the alert I got for cheaper hotels in Key West for a flight not even leaving from Detroit that i didn't book. It's not a link to a good deal. It's a gimmick trying to get you to open all affiliate links and make you angry. There were 12 hotels on the list that I would have to test individually to check prices. And $5 off a $200+ room is NOT a deal, guys, ok?

All in all both of these lists are of course spam. Scott's boasts the best deals and mistake fares and really makes you think you're getting in on something special but I'm here to remind you that if you join a free email list from a Facebook blast- it's not anything special just for you. Their website does make you feel a little thrilled, though, until you remember that that is what businesses are supposed to do. They WILL ask you for money to be further "helped" but if the free emails are already trash-worthy I can't imagine paying $39 a year just to delete 97% of the emails. Watchdog just sends too much. Neither of them reflect well on individual tastes without spending that hard earned cash, and honestly, a monthly payment for spam is just not worth the trouble, even if it is small. When it comes down to it, I have a job that I like and a lifestyle that isn't built for pick up and go travel whenever I feel like it. I have to be choosy. So paying to be a part of a handful of lists that urge me to book flights within 48 hours of the deal or miss out do not make financial sense for someone like me to keep joining. These lists are better for nomads and couples who make their money on the road. Also, I am a curmudgeon. I want kids off my lawn, junkmail right in the recycle bin and don't like anybody tying to pull my leg to make a buck or waste my time.

Have you tried either of these lists and have differing opinions? Let me know below! I'm always down for some good app and alert list tips as well, so if you know of anyone one worth a darn let me know about that as well.

As always, be kind to one another.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Travel App Review: PackPoint, TripIt

I know what it's like to forget to pack something, but, mostly I start packing well ahead of time. Weeks ahead, actually. In fact, I leave for Europe for a week in two months and I've already started my mental list of what to bring. Well, I tried both of these apps on recommendations from some travel friends who say they swear by them just to see if it was anything better than my brain would be.
Just the essentials.

Note: I think it's silly to rely on an app for a packing list or itineraries when a piece of paper would do just fine and wouldn't take up phone memory. But I gave them a gander anyhow, and here are my thoughts:

PackPoint: It first asks you to start off by choosing your gender. Weird, but not too weird, I guess. Then you choose your destination and dates and what possible activities you might be doing. Maybe it's because I'm snarky as shit, but if I know that I am going to be swimming as a vacation activity and I need to be reminded by an app to pack a swim suit then I am a dummy. Like a kid in an elevator, I clicked all of the options except baby. Then it just says Begin Packing.

It shows me the projected weather and an ONGOING list on list on list of things to pack. You can choose to customize your list by paying $2.99 for the premium app. Also, it IMMEDIATELY asks you to rate the app before you even begin really using it.

I actually went through and chose things that I actually own and would pack as if this mountain climbing, photography, campfire, sightseeing trip triathalon were happening in Dublin. I'm only in the first section, camping gear, and I'm already sick of doing this. Perhaps I should go back and act as if I need an app to tell me what to pack for the trip I am actual taking? For the sake of being thorough, alas, the list grows. There's nothing else after the lists, though- nothing. It's just a whole app taking up storage so that you can look at a list you clicked instead of wrote. And someone recommended this?! It also reminds me to bring my house keys? Come on.

The Good: This app is pretty good if you have never once ever packed for a trip- even to grandma's house. It reminds you, sometimes in triplicate, to pack your lists with what the app things you should pack. It's probably fun if it's your very first trip, or you're waiting in line at the Secretary of State.
The Bad: This app is only good if you've never packed a suitcase ever in your life. Or seen someone packing in a movie. Or have never gone to a movie. Or outside. I can;t recommend or keep this app for anyone who has ever gone anywhere before. It's frustrating how simple it is because it's such a waste of time and memory. Get a notepad and a pen. Customize the list you write any way you feel and you don't have to worry about it dying on you or feeling dumb for not packing the appropriate amount of casual shirts.

TripIt: This one makes a little more sense in the way of traveling. Instead of asking me to pick things to pack, TripIt's main focus, it seems, is to help keep you travel plans in order. You can set your check-in reminders, your itinerary plans and flight information. It keeps it handy in case of emergency. Basically, it's a digital record of all of your paperwork so that it's all in one spot in case you need to look something up.

The Good: It's good to have in case of emergency. I guess. It's nice to have it in one handy place, but not if you find yourself in an emergency with only 2% battery. That's why I'm still a strong advocate for actual paper.
The Bad: There's nothing really bad about this app, it's just a little redundant if you're like me and write things down, save your important emails and sometimes screencap information in a process you've been using for years and don't necessarily want to change. But not everyone does that! I don't think I will keep this app because I don't think I'd necessarily use it or remember to look at it. But it would be a good one to keep in mind if you're in the style of using apps as memory tools.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Travel App Review: Fareness, Low Cost Airlines, SkipLagged

So, in my haste about accidentally finding my way back to Ireland and sharing most of my process with you I neglected to discuss as many thoughts about travel apps as I had planned. But I am thorough if nothing else (besides thrifty).

As per my last post, I’m still looking for a good deal on a flight to Providence (PVD) so that I can catch my flight to Dublin. So I will be using that as my example for all of my app research and findings in this post. Fingers crossed I find some hidden potential! I’m going to focus on the lowest, most budget-friendly costs here, but for example’s sake I added the highest in my first story.
Here are a few apps that I recently found, downloaded and attempted. All opinions are my own, and none of these are sponsored anything for anything.

Maybe I'll skip the plane and take Norberta.

Low Cost Airlines- I was promised an app that curates the best deals to save you money. You can choose from different options based on time and availability and book low cost plane tickets easy peasy. I have not booked from this app, however, I do not think I would in the first place unless it was the ONLY app available. Their procedure is kinda wacky, too. You can choose from simple or complex trips, what appears to be a way to book more than one city at a time, but I’m scared to try. There’s nothing to help you understand, either. I’m probably not going to keep this one. It seems like other apps have better or the same prices so it’s redundant and taking up my storage. Not recommended, so far.
Their 1-way flight to PVD: $93 lowest/ $640 highest (but literally 100 options to choose from)

The good: Prices are low. Low-ish. They seem pretty ok if you’re short on time or patience and don’t want to actually do any money-saving research.
The Bad: It’s definitely not the lowest or best fares I have seen. When it comes to deal apps it’s actually one of the more middle-expensive.

SkipLagged:  I love the idea of this one- as mentioned in my previous post, it lets you key in your airport of choice and then shows you ALL of the deals leaving on your chosen day for jet setting on a whim. However, the prices for a planned trip without the fanfare of being whimsical seem not too terribly deal-tastic.  I will keep this app, though.
Their 1-way flight to PVD: $93 lowest

The Good: The app idea itself is real cool. If you’re wanting a quick weekend away with no strings or worries about a destination, check this out and let the trip plan itself.  Example: RT trip to Raleigh to see my girl Ariel at Different Frame of Mind is only $271 for the March 2nd weekend but looking like it only gets lower from there.
The Bad: Not necessarily a deal app. It does have lower airfare prices, it seems, but it’s not a go-to if you’re a planner/hunter like me. I’m still going to keep it around though for the off chance that I can plan a quick getaway from this Detroit snow/rain/low 60* weather confusion. 

Fareness: This app boasts deal on deal on deals. The thing is, though, that it’s mostly built for vacation deals, not just flight deals- though you can search prices for just flights. It does have a sliding calendar that shows you the prices of each day for 6 months, which is nice, but the deal is not there. It’s more of a convenience app for families or people who don’t know that you can get other deals. You can pick dates and continents, which is nice, and it showcases all of the packages for each spot available to it, but most are for specific days, so it’s definitely not a plan your own vacay kind of app and probably most of the same destination and tour deals can be found on Travel Zoo or something. I very likely will not keep this app. But maybe.
Their one-way to PVD cost: $194. Hard Pass.  

The Good: It works if you’re interested in the destination with guided tours and/or specific hotel stays.  There are some trips that only have deal days rather than a great deal on a trip, meaning you have to book that specific day otherwise you’re paying thousands more for the same thing. But it is all right there in front of you, and seemingly no hidden agendas.
The Bad: Hard to explain, but this app is kind of confusing (you can’t even hit back on your phone, what?). If you’re trying to plan for a specific vacation with your own ideas of what a cool trip around town would be or even what dates serve you best then this app is not for you. However, if you’re a fly by the seat if your pants kind of traveler, you may like it.

All in all most are turning out to be kind of the same. I have a few more to look at and, probably, more and more after that because travel deal apps are the new Hydra. I'm willing to do my research here so that you dob;t have to- so if you have any apps you favor or are just curious about, let me know in the comments and I will give them a whirl!

As always, have fun and be kind to one another!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

More Travel Deal Finds and Impulse Control

You guys! I am STOKED!!

Anecdote: A long time ago my buddy Josh went to the train station in Ann Arbor and said I want a ticket to your next leaving train and found himself in DC for a few days on a whim. I have ALWAYS wanted to do that and I thought that it would be bitchin' to have it for flights where you just pick a date and hit show me all flights- alas, no, I never heard of anything like that.


BEHOLD!! I bring you SkipLagged (also available in app form, which I am currently downloading as I type). From the look of things, I played around with a few days from Detroit to ANYWHERE just like Journey sort of said in Don't Stop Believin'- the sickeningly common Detroit "theme song" lately (Detroit runs east and west, South Detroit is Windsor). I'm toying with leaving town over the weekend of March 31st for personal reasons, and I don't care if I go at it alone. It's always really fun to imagine that you're going somewhere on vacation, to dream that you're doing something for yourself that makes trading hours for dollars worth it. So this beauty here let me put in my dates of ideal travel and hit enter and it gives me a list of discounted destinations to choose from. I'm instantly on board with this and will definitely use it to find last minute stops and hotels. How exciting! Even if you're not a big saver when it comes to money, if you're itching to get away even for just a few days, this looks like a good place to start your planning in reverse; plan the trip ideas then pick the destination based on the best deal. It even has a gauge on the app to let you know the highest and lowest price points and when. Helpful if you're actually making plans.
These are ROUND TRIP prices, y'all!

Another deal app that I have been digging on lately is Norwegian Air. A bit of a bummer that they don't fly out of Detroit Metro, but I can Spirit or Skip my way to Chicago or NYC for cheap to catch those flights and STILL save a whole canvas bag's worth of money. Imagine with me, if you will- 

Katie's dream for 2018: Achieved!  **see edits at bottom
All details are written in real time as I stumbled into more and more deals and non-deals. A plan formed on accident in my dreamer brain that was too good to pass up- so I didn't. That's livin'!
A few days over in Europe so that I can let me heart go wild in Dublin again and also visit my sister from another mister, Suzanne, just outside of Amsterdam. She has already welcomed me into her home any time I'm visiting, so that saves on hotel costs there in exchange for American treats, which is always a blessing. So basically Dublin is the only room to find, and I have no issue with hostels. I think. Thrifty, right?

First off, get my ass to SWF in NY. Easy enough, blah blah. Not. I digress.

Dublin is about $125 or less than flying to Amsterdam right now. So, book that at $109.30 direct to Ireland. 

With me so far?

Then after a few Irish days I'll head back to Amsterdam to see one of my very best friends. I can't tell you what she means to me, she's more of a sister. I guess that sums it up pretty well. Well, Norwegian one way to AMS is still over $120 but Hopper is $84 with a note that says the Hopper hasn't seen a price this low in 8 months. Helpful! That's why I love this app. 

Then flying home, of course, since I need to go home, I fly one way from Schipol airport in Amsterdam back to NYC, if I go on Sunday May 7th to be on time for work it costs $239.90, BUT if I go on Monday, just one day later, it's $189.90. Ok. Done.

Thought processes over a few hours of search: I'm looking over a few flights from DTW to Stewart International Airport: don't want to do RT in case there are delays- I imagine one night in a hotel in NYC is the same price as my flight from AMS)"
SkyScanner: $204 there/ $$188 back. RT: $207...
Spirit: Doesn't fly to this airport. Wah Wahhhh
LowCostAir: $466 (not low cost)
SkipLagged: $203/$113
Momondo: $200+ for one way OR RT? Weird.  but $419 for one way back? Gross. Not cheap.
Hopper: $217/ $222
Fareness: RT $219
LastMinuteFlights: $216/$187
AA: $212/$519??? Ew.
Delta: RT $206ish
Google Flights all depends on time, it's anywhere from $206 -$493 DTW to SWF...
None of these seems great considering the flight is about 2 hours.Stewart is about 60 miles north of NYC, but the deal flight to Dublin is only at this specific airport.

I'm going to keep looking. It sucks that it costs more to travel a few hundred miles to and from home to NY than it does to go a few thousand miles over the ocean. 
Another thought is I could fly to and from LaGuardia and just take a train or uber or something to Stewart because It would cost me less to do that than it would to fly to SWF.... Train? Uber? (I can't bring myself to take a cab or Uber due to a Criminal Minds episode a few years back! True story!) So many options there but it seems like getting from Michigan to New York is the harder part than actually going overseas.... Like the MTA which they say is about $10 a ticket but probably takes hours... Plus I can't book my trip to NY before I book my flight out of NY because, obviously, I need to know times. I'd rather go directly where I need to be than risk being late. Pro Tip: Don't be late!

It's a real ball buster that Norwegian flies out of Chicago BUT not to go to Ireland or Holland. I could try SkipLagged to see if there is a flight deal from Newburgh to anywhere with a Detroit layover and just get off there if it's cheaper than these flights. Rats. Maybe if I leave a day early? Or stay an extra day, or both? If only I didn't have that pesky day job to get in the way! These are every thought I pass by when deciding each vacation, each stop or each idea. Seriously. 

Anyone have any coupons or tips?

So, this is basically how I research all of my traveling. I. Scour. And I think it's fun, but it can be exhausting. At least through this make believe but possibly actually happening trip the time spent can help me eliminate the apps I don't like, or that are very similar to the ones I do. I have about 15 travel apps downloaded on my phone to try out, so, makin' my way!

But shoot, Amsterdam to Detroit is only $182 on Hopper...No need, I'm rolling my own eyes at myself for not checking Hopper first. (one-way to Dublin is still over $300, though.)

Ok, this is really happening. Stay Tuned.


Until next time, be kind to one another and tip your American waitstaff!

Edit: I booked this trip!
Detroit to Boston: $70ish on Hopper? * still looking for a deal flight here because a few say check back.
Boston to Dublin via Norwegian Air: $139* I upgraded
Dublin to Amsterdam via Hopper: $84
Amsterdam to Detroit (with Icelandic layover) $189

All fees included! That's insane.

All together I am paying a mere $500 for all airfare, staying with friends in Holland, and Insta-spoke to a few travelers about Dublin hostels and found a good one with a women's only floor and storage lockers- so I feel confident about not dying!

I'm so excited, I can almost not believe it's happening! But it is and all on happy accident. If you need some tips for easy travel fares or scouring help let me know! I'm apparently an ace at good timing- which is a main component of thrifty travel!

Friday, February 9, 2018

City Passes- San Diego was worth it!

Hello, hello!

I'm taking a step away from travel apps to discuss CityPass. For those of you in the know, City Passes (or GO Cards, CityPass) are a treasure trove of easy vacationing! If you're going somewhere new and want to tour it for all it's worth, it's your go-to for most of your travel destination needs. You pay for the card ahead of time per person and in that one swift payment you are welcomed to any number of tourist locations for a FREE or discounted rate. The card gets you into parks, museums, sometimes free parking, discounts on meals, skip the line features- definitely worth a look if you like doing as much as possible while saving your hard earned dough for other things like treats and stuffed bears! (no affiliation)

City Pass is an American company that produces and sells discounted ticket packages to top tourist attractions in various North American metropolitan areas- according to their Wiki. I first discovered these babies in 2014 when my husband and I were heading to the Southern California area for vacation. We stayed with friends in Imperial Beach (amazing place!) but got the SoCal GO! Card for 5 days here, which now has cash back from Ebates to sweeten the deal. (if you are not an Ebates member you should be-here's my link to JOIN). There are more offers on the card now than back then- rats! Guess I gotta go back!

With our GO San Diego card we hit as much as possible. Seriously, destinations on destinations on destinations! First day in town we went to the San Diego Zoo so I could cry about koala bears. I loved it! We got food discounts and I do believe I got 10% off of my stuffed koala bear in the Australia area. Pretty obsessed with koalas. With the card we got to line jump to get in (admission covered) as well and made some day friends who also had the cards, and who helped us take this traditional photo!
Sweet googly moogly!

We also went (camera free) to LegoLand (which, admittedly, would have been better if we had kids with us because half of the rides and activities were geared towards kids, so as adults it was just mostly a really long walk- something to keep in mind), Sea World (don't hate) and Belmont Park, a small seaside style amusement park that I was crazy about! All admission entries were free, plus at Belmont we even got free rounds of putt putt (I lost) and other games! It's a great way to spend the evening, it feels just like a tv show setting! 

Sup, bro?

We spent one day in sunny Los Angeles- which I really wanted to be my favorite day on the trip. It was pretty cool, for sure, but it was also not what I expected. But the Go Cards got us into a lot, A LOT, of neat stuff in LA! We started at the Max Factor Hollywood Museum, which I was obsessed with. There was a whole room of Lucille Ball, and as a horror fx makeup artists and costumer, I was just to the moon about the whole thing!

We also went to the Dolby Theatre (we entered through a mall) where I may or may not have sneaked a photo of Leo's Oscar chair, the Chinese Theatre filled with hands, feet and bus tours of people in EVERY infuriating direction (very hard to get photos of things you like when a group of 6 is constantly walking right in your shot even though you are CLEARLY standing with your camera down at the ground for a reason) and we got a discount on crepes while gazing at the Hollywood sign right outside the theatre. 
Harry Potter cast at the Chinese Theatre

Another trip we made in San Diego proper was the Petco stadium, which was neat. I like being aware of the bigness of an empty stadium. I like it back home at Comerica Park where the Tigers play, too. Like waiting for something to happen! We got free museum trips and discounts in Old Town San Diego State Park like the "haunted" Whaley House (maybe more on that later) We also had an adventure in La Jolla going on a Tandem Kayak tour where we saw sea lions, Dr. Seuss's old house and a Spanish guy yacking in the water. The tour was pretty great until that, even though the water was choppy and we could't do the full 90 minute's worth of sight seeing. 
I'll sight see this guy all day!

This adventure was amazing and we had such an unforgettable blast. I know that a huge chunk of us getting to do as much as we did was all thanks to the Go San Diego CityPasses I had only stumbled upon by chance trying to see if we would be in town during tapings of the Ellen show (we weren't). Not only did we milk SoCal for all we could with these babies, I've relied on these passes for a few other cities! Stay tuned for more Go! adventures and other resources for you to save some money on your next vacation!

I am not affiliated with anything listed above, I just like good deals and Ellen Degeneres!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Flight Deal Apps reviews; Hopper, Travel Pirates and WOW

So, in my last post I openly discussed Spirit Airlines and some ways that using their services could save you extra money on top of their great deals. I hope I helped introduced some of you cool cats to something you may not have known! Now I will candidly discuss my feelings on a few Travel and Flight Apps that are Android friendly and FREE! (I'm not affiliated with any of these apps or Android)

Today I want to shed some light on one of my favorite apps of all time: HOPPER! Fun fact, I have had a pen pal in Holland since I was fifteen, thanks to a Backstreet Boys Yahoo Group! Well, for over a decade and a half she and I have been talking about visiting one another, and this past fall I finally did it! And it's all thanks to the deals and ease of setting it up on, you guessed it, Hopper! It's easy, just pick your start and end destinations and Hopper finds the lowest fare for your selected dates from a pool of airways. You don't have to worry about individual choices of this or that airline and comparing the services that only have a $4 difference between them. What I love about it is that you can put an alert on your trip locale and Hopper will announce if the prices you were seeing have gone up or down significantly and their tips on if they think it will go down even further. Well, it took about two months but my husband and I managed to score round trip deals from Detroit Metro to Schipol Airport (Amsterdam) for $622 after taxes and fees (including international fees). When I looked at DTW and Windsor's flights they were RT for about $1300 each with more layovers than the one stop flight we had from Hopper.  And, from Hopper, we booked an RT flight to Dublin and back to Holland for $126 after fees. It was really easy, took about ten minutes for everything once I had my credit card and passport in front of me and all of our flight info was saved on the app as well as emailed over for extra security.
The good: Everything is easy to work with and manage. Check in was fine and printing boarding passes at the airport was a-ok. Hopper sent an alert when it was time to check into our flights a day ahead, as well.
The Bad: When the deals hit and it alerts you it only last about a day or two. So if you're not immediate upon the deal it may raise a smidge next day.
This is a test I did for a screenshot's sake. See how it aids?

Another App/website that I was turned on to is Travel Pirates. For flight deals I'm not sure how I feel about it- yes the deals are great but the ones they boast about (lately it's Fly to San Fran for $20) are only if you start from a nearby location to the place mentioned. For instance, to fly to San Fran for $20 you need to be coming from Vegas only. Coming from Chicago or New York are back over $100 one way and Detroit isn't an available airport.  Plus about 6 pop-up ads hide on you from hitting enter on any click. For flights it's basically your run-of-the-mill flight adjustment deal sites raking through airlines for cheapies, which is still great! But for the flight aspect it's nothing special and my airport only makes the cut half the time. However, the deals you can get for trips away are really looking good right now- a round trip flight with 4 star hotel stay in the French Quarter for a long weekend for $491*? Pretty good! (*that price is the entry level starting point. It goes up from there so I would recommend booking this early if you want it so that you can get the best deals before places book.) 
The good: The deals seem pretty good! Especially the package deals. 
The Bad: Not all airports are included. For most of the trips, if I wanted to book I would have to drive to or book another flight to Chicago O'Hare just to cash in, which kind of eliminates the savings. And all of the alerts I saw when I had the app were for generic trip deals, not anything I had specifically searched out or saved. Sometimes there were 5 or 6 a day to things I wasn't interested in at the time. 

Has everyone heard of WOW? It's a cheap fare service from the USA to Iceland and Europe. The app includes options for hotels and car rentals, if you're looking for that. I mostly only hear about WOW when talks of Iceland come about (DO narwhals exist??), but it's nice to know that you can also fly to about 15 other main European cities as well (such as the nicest people in the world capitol, Amsterdam and my beloved Dublin). Like Pirates, not all airports are on the list of take off list and you may find yourself having to fly to an international (or more specifically international than DTW) just to cash in on that deal. If you get lucky, or you're not looking for too complicated of a trip, WOW can suit you just fine, I suppose. 
The Good: The deals are pretty good! RT from Detroit to Reykjavik at Basic WOW fare (no add ons at ALL) is about $500 with fees but can add up to over $800 for perks like luggage and leg room. It's still a pretty great price! 
The Bad: You can't go whenever you want to these places. There are chunks of time where there is no flight listed from here to there and vise versa. Looking up flight info for this fake trip we're going on together right now took me to May because March and April both had zero availability to book on any day. Also, like other budget airlines (Not the same as budget purchases FOR airlines like Priceline or Expedia, etc) budget airlines "nickel and dime" you for extra money. If you want a great deal from Detroit to Iceland for 10 days but only plan on bringing your purse or laptop, then you're all set with the cheapest price. But if you're like most even slightly clean people, you may want to pack some extra socks and underwear or a granola bar, even, so you will have to pay more or strap it to your body somehow or light layer up. The flights are also nonrefundable and as you can see by this crudely taken photo, only the highest priced trip offer cancellation protection. I can't function the rest of the site unless I begin to build my flight plan, so I can't tell you what is offered as an add on, but I imagine all items in the Biz section can be added on to your tickets. So, you're saving money, but when it comes down to it with all of the itemization, you will be spending a prettier penny than it appears, so you may be surprised.
The app wouldn't show the same screen to capture a clearer shot. Sorry, I'm a caveman.

Now, I know there are many more apps, and I plan to research, try to use and review all that I can. But as someone who supports my fellow bloggers, I read a lot of blogs throughout the week. And I absolutely hate when the blog post looks like it could fill 17 pages if printed. So I will bid you adieu for now and return with another set of apps to help or de-hinder your travel experiences! 

Please, if you have any suggestions of another app to try for some good deals or have used the apps mentioned today, let me know in the comments! I'm always happy to strike up conversations about learning and deal hunting!

Check me out on Instagram and as always, be kind to one another!


I've been nominated for a Liebster Award!! I've seen a whole host of blogs that I skip to time and time again who have all been n...