Bahama Mama

Despite the title of this post, I don’t really like rum, but it’s still relevant.  This past month has been crazy busy for us because we got another new addition and we went on vacation. First things first, my sister found herself a tiny puppy to call her own. Meet Violet.

Pug Puppy

Sleepy pug puppy

Two days after we picked up Violet, Alex and I went on what can only be called the Most Epic Double Date in History. My friend, her husband, Alex and I traveled to the exotic island of Grand Bahama to get some R & R. We really needed it. Life has been pretty stressful.

I got the window seat!

This was the taxi that we got when we landed in Freeport. Yes it has 6 doors. It’s the wildest vehicle I’ve ever been in and I sort of wish I could drive it everyday.

Taxi

We saw little lizards like these all over the place. I’m sure the locals think they are pests or totally normal but all four of us were enamored with them.

Lizard

Here is another creature we were enamored with the entire trip.  A little girl we met told us she named her Sprinkles so that’s what we called her. She was pretty accustomed to people, but obviously lived outside.

Resort Cat

The one major touristy thing we did was go on a glass bottom boat tour. It would have been better if the sun was out (it makes the water easier to see through), but we had a good time.

Ocean

Well not all of us. Alex got seasick. As soon as we were off the boat, he felt better. You learn something new everyday! He wanted lunch as soon as we landed, haha. Boys.

Sick Boyfriend

This is a view of the resort from the boat. All the salmon colored buildings with white roofs were part of the resort. If you look on the left of the resort you can see a white building with a blue roof. That’s a business man’s castle! He owns all the Burger Kings and KFCs in the Bahamas.  There is a slightly smaller house to the right of his that his son lives in. The locals call the houses the Whopper and Whopper Jr.

Hotel from Boat

We spent a lot of time in the Port Lucaya marketplace and during a walk we saw this guy.  He was huge! He didn’t scamper away immediately so we stopped to take some pictures.

Big Lizard

Near the marketplace is an enormous hotel called the Grand Lucaya and they have this lighthouse attached. You could see it from the marketplace so we headed for it only to find out it’s part of a hotel.

Lucaya Lighthouse

I took this from a little restaurant bar at our resort.  You could literally grab a drink and walk straight into the ocean. Needless to say we spent a lot of time out there.

Resort Amenities

My friend even ditched her flippy floppies to run into the high tide. She may have had one too many Mai Tai’s.

Friend Flips Flops

The only part of the trip that was so-so were the short flights we took from Freeport to Ft. Lauderdale. We flew Silver Airlines who had great service and they did nothing wrong, I was just terrified of the small planes. I’ve never flown on an aircraft so small and it gave me the heeby jeebies.

Plane home

All in all it was a great trip.  It gave us a chance to get some much needed relaxation (and a tan).

Have you taken any trips recently? Where to?

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Weekend Round Up

Here I am. Yes, I’m alive! I had a nice Thanksgiving that reminded me why I’m thankful for my family and thankful I moved out. We went with a non-dramatic no-one-has-to-cook option this year and headed north to this lovely resort.  After a few days of gluttony, eyeing the elliptical with rancor, and laughing it up with my fam, I was ready for a quiet few days at home to unwind before the ever-looming Monday arrived.

Then I got the itch to do something productive.  God knows why. So I snatched my boyfriend away from his precious football to go Christmas decoration shopping with me.  I prefer to not purchase new things every year for every holiday because it’s just not practical. However, we didn’t do outside decorations last year because buying our tiny tree was about all we had the money for. So this year we got lights and a wreath. We may end up getting a few more net lights to cover some naked bushes. Check it.

image

We have this rickety old wooden ladder left to us by the previous tenant that my man refused to let me climb (despite the fact I’ve probably been on infinitely more ladders than he has). Adorbs. Yeah, I said adorbs, just love me.  Those are supposed to be icicle lights, but they seemed to be pretty tightly wound in the box.  We are hoping the icicles just fall after some time being hung = too lazy to break out the ladder to force them into the right shape.

Oh yeah, see my wreath?  Here’s a close up. 

Ballsy

I love this wreath so hard. We found the Christmas section at our local Target and I did briefly fall in love with a wreath of ornaments, but we couldn’t agree on which color(s) so when I saw this I tossed our compromise back to its shelf and snagged this little beaut. I’m going to try to bring in some cranberry garland to our house to pull the wreath and everything together.

My boyfriend did complain that we were decorating too early.  Then we pulled up to our house and our neighbor was stringing lights across  his garage. And our other neighbor. I don’t think it’s too early because, quite frankly, I don’t want to be out there in the snow struggling to get it done. We felt so great once it was all hung and lit.  Kind of like we were going to be good adults one day. One day.

I’m Back…With a Brand New Edition

Did you miss me? All 7 of you? Well I missed you guys. I’m officially back from my vacation and we had a great time. I am sitting at my desk in the Windy City with some 20/20 hindsight and more money saving vacation tips!

It was toasty down in Orlando so we did our fair share of sweating but so did our trusty water bottles. They were a life saver for sure. They saved us from dehydration and wallet murder. Yeah, wallet murder. I can’t say enough about how many beverages we didn’t have to buy, how much high fructose corn syrup we didn’t drink, and how much the humidity made me want to dive into those water bottles.

The night before we flew out, we packed and weighed our luggage to make sure we wouldn’t have to pay any overweight luggage fees. We soon realized that both our bags combined were under the weight limit. So here’s my suggestion: Pack one big bag for two people. If you are having a hard time fitting everything in one bigger bag, then you are packing too much. I only had 22 lbs of luggage for a 7 day trip.

Also, make use of the carry on option. We really wish we had just carried on our luggage. That could have saved us $100. If you bring 2 smaller bags, you can probably carry them on. If you can’t, they can check your bags at the gate (and we heard someone say without a fee). I can’t make any promises, but it could be worth a shot.

The DVD’s we brought kept us from being tempted to purchase in flight tv on the way there. On the way back they played some shows for free. Nice.

We got a few deals thanks to our hotel too. They gave us a few cards that got you a free apptizer or dessert (we didn’t use those, we mostly cooked in) but they also gave us a voucher for a free coupon book at the local outlets malls. We actually used them and when we got there we found out the malls charge $5 for them! I got discounts on shoes for me and my love, pinkberry, and some new work clothes. (Admittedly some weird shopping for vacation, but it was there and the deals were great).

Also, I thought I might do some little reviews of the places/vendors we used for our vacation.

United: Honestly, the customer service was surprisingly good. I have heard horror stories of how inflexible and rude some airline employees can be but the people we talked to from United were absolutely (refreshingly) sweet and helpful. They helped us get seats together on both flights and helped us whenever we looked a little lost (more than we thought).

TSA O’Hare: Fast but terse. Not understanding with people who we saw who didn’t know exactly what to do. The lines were very short and we made it through with tons of time.

TSA Orlando (MCO): Kind of hit or miss. The woman who checked our boarding passes and IDs was bubbly and nice while the people managing the line were practically rude and not as efficient as O’Hare.

The Fountains: A Bluegreen Resort: The room had literally everthing we could have needed. The kitchen was stocked with all the kitchen basics and appliances. It made cooking and eating in very easy. The layout of our building left something to be desired. It was faster to take 6 flights of stairs to our room than to use the very far away elevator. The staff was helpful. The grounds were clean and well kept. Tons of amenities and events even during off season. Overall very nice.

Carl’s Van Rentals: Like I mentioned before, they were very helpful over the phone. In person, they were just as helpful and the service was wonderful. Prompt pick up and knowledgeable about getting us back to the right place at the airport. The van itself was clean and in great condition. We never had any problems.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Their dedication to detail definitley showed. Every inch of the place fits the theme. Live performers (probably dying in 90 degree/extreme humidity) never faltered. Every cast member we interacted with was pleasent and helpful. Our safari driver was hilarious! The rides were great, especially Expedition Everest. Loved the animals everywhere.

Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure:  Ok, honestly we only went there to see the Harry Potter stuff, but we loved all of it! The Hulk roller coaster was a favorite for both of us. As far as the Harry Potter “island” goes, we were blown away. The rides were great, the shops were amazingly detailed and the butterbeer was (thankfully not book accurate) cold. Souvenirs were really cool and oddly priced. Some things were wildly overpriced while others seemed very reasonable.

Overall, we had a great time and didn’t break our budget too badly.

I$lands of Adventure

In just 6 anxious days, my boyfriend and I will be embarking on a vacation! While I’m sure you want to hear all about the silly girl giddiness I feel about it, I’ll spare you. Being the poor 2o somethings we are, we had to be very budget conscious.  I bet you want to know some sweet money-saving tips we used to book this wondrous vacation though. I’m happy to share.

We are traveling to the wondrous city of Orlando, Florida.  This is how we do:

Hotel – The Fountains Orlando. Yeah, it’s part of the bluegreen timeshares. The boy is a part owner thanks to his thoughtful parents so we get to stay there for free. Ok, so not everyone has parents who are part of something like this, but I bet you know someone who is. Or maybe they have a cabin near a lake, or a campsite, or a hookup. Trust me, if you look you will find something.

Transportation – We booked our flights as early as possible. The closer to your departure, the higher the cost. We are saving ourselves from having to park at O’Hare (which is practically theft) by parking his car at my office and taking the bus. It’s pretty convenient, but not everyone works within spitting distance of a major international airport. Do the fun thing and beg someone to drop you off. We also saved money on a rental car for Orlando by finding a company that doesn’t charge the renter for being under 25, and they will pick us up from the airport. Shout out to Carl’s Van Rentals! I called to double-check about the fee and the gentleman on the phone was very friendly. A+!

Dining – The Fountains only has 2 room villas with kitchens. You won’t hear me complaining. We plan on taking our lovely van to a local grocery store to pick up some way-cheaper-than-eating-out essentials like milk, cereal, lunch meats, etc. It is still vacation, but we plan on keeping the costs down by eating groceries and eating out with local deals groupon style. Your hotel room doesn’t have a kitchen or fridge? Buy some non-perishable snacks and pick up lunch from a local supermarket. Most have prepared foods for a fraction of the cost of even fast food.

Entertainment – The Fountains (like many other hotels) include DVD players in their rooms so we’ll be bringing along a few of our faves (forecast is showing rain for the entire length of our trip, hence the DVD precaution). We will also be (hopefully) hitting up a few theme parks. I got reduced price tickets through a perks program at work, but our hotel also offers more wallet friendly deals on the local parks and I bet yours would too. Google it, and they will come. We will also be bringing along a book or two and an ipod just to keep us occupied constantly.

Here are a few extras I picked up:

  1. Bring your own empty, refillable water bottle to the airport. You can’t bring more than 3 oz of liquid through security, but you can bring an empty water bottle to refill after you get through. Save yourself the $5.
  2. Bring your own snacks to the airport. It is suggested that we arrive 2 hours before our midday flight. This girl gets crabby when she is hungry. Save yourself the stress and the money and bring yourself some snackage.
  3. A vacation is an exciting thing, but you don’t need an entire new wardrobe. My closet is packed with clothes and I won’t be buying any new vacation clothes. If you really need to feel fresh and new for your vacation get a mani/pedi or a haircut. $30 well spent.
  4. Set a budget for your spending. We know that a nice picture frame with a picture of us on vacation will be more sentimental and long-lasting that 2 $40 hoodies, or any other wildly overpriced souvenir. If you see something you like and immediately have a place for it in your home that people will see and appreciate it, then fine. If not, pass it up. 
  5. If your family is anything like mine, they will be expecting you to bring them back some souvenirs. I started a little tradition of sending my younger siblings postcards from my various excursions and they always seem to love them. Less than $1 per person. I might grab another small something, but I don’t feel obligated to spend $20 on each of them (there are a lot of us).
  6. Book your vacation off season! Everyone is going to be traveling during the holidays, summer, and spring break. We booked our vacation during the fall when everyone else has run out of vacation days (it just so happens to fall on my birthday also). Orlando will still be sunny and exciting in September and maybe even less hellishly hot and humid than it would be when it’s also packed with people.