Friday, July 18, 2014

Melbourne in a Day

Rachelle, the author of this post,
and her husband Josh,
at Chandon Winery in Yarra Valley.
I have moved around quite a lot as a child and adult, and recently had the opportunity to live in Melbourne, Australia for 2.5 years.  Although I'm now living back in the States, a part of my heart will always remain in Australia, and Melbourne in particular, for its coffee, culture and people.

Quick note: When I moved to Melbourne my son was 7 months old, and therefore most of the activities we pursued in the city were family friendly!

What to do in Melbourne if you are there for one day
Melbourne, Australia.

Southbank: One of the best things about Melbourne is that there are tons of FREE things to do in the city! One of my favorite places in the city is the Southbank area.  From here you can visit the Royal Botanical Garden (absolutely beautiful year round), the Shrine of the Remembrance (in honor of Australian soldiers who fought in the World Wars), and the National Gallery Victoria (affectionately called the NGV, an excellent and FREE art museum in the heart of the city). All of these places are FREE, and if you are looking to grab some food, the tea room on the 1st floor (2nd floor by American standards) has fantastic scones and is an excellent place to have morning tea. Melbourne is famous for its espresso, so feel free to grab a coffee instead of tea - the majority of Melbournians do!  You can't go wrong at basically any cafe in the city. If you're craving American style coffee, a "long black" is the closest you'll find, but the dilution of this drink can vary widely depending on the cafe, so brace yourself for a strong cup of (delicious) espresso.
Shrine of the Remembrance

Federation Square: Upon leaving the NGV building, cross over the river and head into the Federation Square, which is the heart of the city. Melbournians have mixed feelings on the aesthetics of Fed Square, but I always liked it. The Ian Potter Gallery, which houses all of the Indigenous art and works by Australian artists is here, and also FREE. There are several other FREE museums in the square, including the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, which houses interactive exhibits and movie paraphernalia.  Be sure to check the days and times you want to visit the art museums as many are closed on day/week.

Flinders Lane: Street art (graffiti) is particularly popular in Melbourne and the surrounding suburbs, and makes the city unique in that the scenery is constantly changing.  Flinders Lane and Hoiser Lane are across from the Fed Square atrium and are always entertaining to walk through. The graffiti changes daily, and in a matter of weeks the entire alleyway becomes an entirely new display of street art.  Even the dumpsters are painted!
Royal Botanical Garden

Vic Market: Another great place to visit downtown is the Queen Victoria Market (Vic Market). You could spend an hour or several days here depending on your capacity for shopping, but generally there is something for everyone. The market sells meats, cheeses, produce, clothing, souvenirs, and more, and is really something to see in itself. If you are feeling peckish (hungry), the delicatessen has some of the best bratwurst I've ever had (and I don't like bratwurst).

Cafe Vue: Since we had an infant, we rarely went out to nice restaurants, but when we did spring for a babysitter, we ate at Cafe Vue, a sister to the acclaimed (and expensive) Vue de Monde. While you won't get the spectacular views offered at Vue de Monde, you will get excellent food in a cosy environment, and a much smaller bill.

Getting around the city

Melbourne has the most extensive public transportation system in the world, and it shows. We lived there for 2.5 years with no car! For navigating through the city, take the trams, which come every few minutes. Kids 4 and under ride FREE on all trams, trains, and buses, and the word now is that adults will be able to ride free in the city center as well, so check the Public Transportation Victoria website before traveling within the CBD. Beware if you are toting a stroller as many trams are still not wheelchair accessible and it requires two people to get a stroller onto the trams with stairs (there is almost always a good samaritan who will offer to help you!).

Friday, July 11, 2014

Top 10 Travel Movies

With the summer movie season upon us, I thought it would be fun to gather some of the best travel movies of all time.  (Or, at least ones that let us escape to a foreign land.) What do you think? Agree? If you have other suggestions, leave them in the comments section below!

Roman Holiday is a classic travel movie!
  1. Roman Holiday
  2. Casablanca
  3. Eat, Pray, Love (or the book at least)
  4. Midnight in Paris
  5. Before Sunrise
  6. The Beach
  7. Out of Africa
  8. The Darjeeling Limited
  9. Seven Years in Tibet
  10. Into the Wild

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July 4th Celebrations

When people think of New Year's Eve, they often mention Time's Square in NYC.  But, what comes to your mind when hearing "4th of July?" Here are some fun celebrations hosted across our country.  What are your traditions? Leave a comment below!

NYC: Macy's 4th of July Fireworks (the same Macy's that hosts the Thanksgiving Day Parade) holds the country's largest display.

Washington D.C.: Viewing fireworks along the National Mall as they are shot off from the Reflecting Pool makes for a very patriotic July 4th!

Chicago: This city (and the ones surrounding it) have fireworks, music festivals, hot air balloon rides as well as lake cruises!

Dallas: Besides firework displays around the city (sporting titles such as "Lone Stars and Stripes"), there's also Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic at Billy Bob's.

San Francisco: Fireworks over the SF Bay can be seen from famous Fisherman's Wharf, and high vantage points throughout the Bay Area allows one to see multiple cities' displays on a clear evening.

Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, holds a historic July 4th celebration with a salute to the 13 original colonies, music and the firing of muskets and cannons!

Colonial Independence Day Celebration in Williamsburg, VA.
(Note: All photographs adapted from Google Images.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Packing Light - Mix & Match

I've written a previous post about packing light, but wanted to add more ideas to the mix. If you pick a color palette to work with, it's easy to mix and match, allowing more outfits from less items of clothing.  For example:

  • 3 tops x 3 bottoms = 9 outfits (I stick with neutral/solid pattern bottoms and more colorful tops.)

3 tops x 3 bottoms = 9 outfits!

  • Summer dress = Dual purpose 
    • Wear alone during the day or add a blazer for fancy dinner out!

  • Accessories 
    • Pashmina or cardigan serves both to dress up a sundress, as well as keep you warm on air conditioned planes.
    • Small clutch (wallet)/purse - Often dinner out is a formal event. So, I recommend two purses - one for day and another (small) one for evenings out.                                           

An extra (small) evening purse helps
dress up casual daytime outfits.

  • Shoes - Multi-purpose
    • Sandals (can go from day to night)
    • Flip-flops (for beach or shower - Very important in hostels!)
    • Tennis shoes (for rushing around the airport or keeping your feet dry after a summer rain)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Emergency words abroad

When you head to a foreign land, it's nice to take note of some emergency phrases, as well as basic greetings in the native language of the land.  Here are some I've put together from my travels.  Make your own list and keep it in your bag for easy access next time you're abroad!

No matter where you travel,
it's good to know some local
emergency words, just in case!

Ayudame (Help me)
El Medico (The doctor)
El bano (The bathroom)
Ladron (Thief)
Ambulancia (Ambulance)
Hola (Hello)
Adios (goodbye)
Buenas tardes (good afternoon)
Gracias (thank you)

Un accident (Accident)
Au voleur (Thief)
Au feu (Fire)
Au secours (Help)
Urgence (Emergency)
J'ai perdu mon passeport (I've lost my passport)
Je suis perdu(e) (I'm lost)
Bonjour (Hello, Good morning…)
Salut (Hi)
Au revoir (Goodbye)

Hilfe (Help)
Dieb (Thief)
Feuer (Fire)
der Krankenwagen (Ambulance)
Hilf Mir (Help me)
Ich bin in Gefahr (I'm in danger)
Es ist ein Notfall (It's an emergency)
Guten Tag (Hello)
Bitte (Please)
Danke (Thank you)
Auf Wiedersehen (Goodbye)

Aiuto (Help)
Mi sento male. (I feel sick.)
Ho bisogno di un dottore medico. (I need a doctor.)
E un'emergenza! (It's an emergency!)
Dov'e la farmacia piu vicina? (Where's the nearest pharmacy?)
Ambulanza (Ambulance)
Ciao (Hello and Goodbye)
Grazie (Thank You)
Come stai (How are you?)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dine About Town

Living in California, socializing and eating out come with the territory, but it also adds up!  While the good food and company are well worth the cost, here is a fun money saving tip to save a few bucks on your next evening out, wherever you live!

Sushi dinner in San Francisco
Many cities have annual dining events, with prix fixe menus at a steep discount from what the selected restaurants normally charge.  The key with these events is to keep an eye on when they are happening, and get a reservation in advance! It's a great opportunity to check out new (expensive) restaurants for a fraction of the cost! OpenTable has a list of "restaurant weeks" throughout the country.  Or, if you're in the bay area, San Francisco is currently doing their "Dine About Town" event June 1-15, 2014, and San Jose has an annual event also! Bon Appetit!

Friday, May 16, 2014

America the Beautiful

With Memorial Day approaching, and summer on its heels, many people will be taking trips within the USA this year.  I thought with the unofficial start of summer upon us, it would be fun to show some photography of my travels across this amazing country!

Golden Gate Bridge, California.

4th of July fireworks over Pretty Lake, Indiana.

Stowe, Vermont.

Yosemite, California.

Seattle, Washington.

NYC, New York.

Empire State Building, New York.

Miami Beach, Florida.

Big Sur, California.

McWay Falls, California.

Maui, Hawaii.
Pike's Peak, Colorado.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How do bloggers make money?

Online travel blogs is a great 'modern' way to gather travel ideas and information. One question I always had reading these, was “That seems like such a cool job, how does someone do that?” While I have not even come close to the readership these professional have amassed over time, I thought I’d address the question of revenue generation from a blog.  (Since this blog is about money-saving travel tips, it seems to fit!) Hopefully it will help some of you who have small blogs you keep as a hobby to monetize or help anyone interested in setting up a new blog!

How do professional (travel) bloggers make their blogs financially worthwhile?  From my research it seems there are a few general ways, which include:

1) Sponsorships
2) Paid trips/reviews
3) Self-written eBook sales
4) You, the reader. 

From me, you ask?  How? Well, as you might’ve already noticed my website (and most others) have ads.  As readers click on ads they’re interested in, the website generates revenue, just for the click! The most important factors are dependent on the blog’s content and quality ads the audience wants to check out. It’s a useful tool for professionals, and people like me who just enjoy blogging, the revenue that it can generate is a nice perk!  If you already have a blog and want to add ads, or are new to the process, it is a service provided directly through Google called Adsense!  Keep blogging and hope you make a little money along the way!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Save money by skipping eating out

Local Markets, like this one in Lativa, are a
fun and inexpensive way to enjoy local foods!
There is one way to save money that is pretty universal... Cutting down on the number of meals out.  This can be applied while at home or away traveling. A lot of people buy lunch at work everyday, spending at least $10 per meal.  Over the course of a month, that adds up to $200!  (And, this is a conservative estimate!)  Bringing lunch doesn't have to involve a big time commitment.  Places like Trader Joe's offer ready made and relatively healthy meals at around half the price of eating out.  If you can't commit to bringing lunch everyday, even small steps, like skipping the $2 soda adds up.

Local groceries, like this picture from Norway,
are a fun way to learn about local cuisine!
While traveling, I tend to eat at least breakfast "in," whether that be choosing a hotel that offers free breakfast, booking a vacation rental with a kitchen, or bringing along power bars in my luggage. Of course, I think part of the fun of traveling is experiencing new cuisine, but I don't think it's necessary three times a day over the course of a week (or more)! In addition, some of my fondest travel adventures include packing a lunch from a local grocery (which in itself can be an adventure) and finding a park or beach to enjoy a picnic!  A lot less expensive than a restaurant, and a real authentic experience.

Save money for a special meal out, like we
did at this Pectopah in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Hope these simple tips can $ave you some money at home and abroad... it adds up!
Making your own meal, and having a picnic, is both inexpensive
and an amazing experience, as we did in Sweden.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Images of Italy

To follow up on some previous posts regarding how to take travel photos (and use them as souvenirs), I wanted to share photos from some of my favorite travel destinations!  Starting with Italy.  Enjoy!

The Villa del Balbianello in Como, Italy.

Isle of Capri

Taormina, Sicily

Faraglioni Rocks, Isle of Capri

Trevi Fountain

The Eternal City (Rome) 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Benefits to Packing Light

A lot has changed in the airline industry over the last decade - including the ease of traveling with luggage. I try very hard to never check a bag, for several reasons: the extra time to check-in (and claim) luggage, the cost ($40+ round-trip), the chance of it being lost, etc. Whether you're packing for a week in Hawaii or two weeks in Iceland, here are some tips to help you pack light, and $ave a little on the journey :) 1)  Get a carry-on that is as large as possible, but still able to fit within the guidelines of airlines' carry-on sizes.  (These can be found on each airlines' website.)                  

2) Lay out everything you want to pack initially, and put at least 10% back. Most people don't wear everything they bring, so if you think ahead, you can save yourself the backache of carrying stuff you don't need. 3) Use space saver bags.  These are inexpensive, reusable, and easily compact all your clothing items.
4) Make sure to use any unused spaces.  Meaning, if you have a pair of tennis shoes, put your socks into the shoes instead of leaving that space empty.5) Always wear on the plane your largest clothing items, and layer. You can easily remove a sweater once your onboard versus fit that same bulky sweater into your bag.6) If I'm traveling internationally and plan on buying gifts, I'll pack an extra bag (small, foldable) into my luggage, and use that to bring back the souvenirs.  This allows you to only have to check your luggage one-way. In addition, if the luggage is lost or delayed on the return portion of your trip, it doesn't matter as much.7) Always use travel-size toiletries.Any more tips for packing light?  Leave suggestions below!
Avoid long lines and bulky luggage - Travel light!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Heavenly Hawaii

Since spring has arrived, I thought it would be a good time to post some warm weather travel pictures to get everyone thinking about summer adventures! I haven't met one person who visited Hawaii and didn't love it.  Here are some photos from several of my trips to the Islands, hopefully to inspire you to plan your own! Aloha!

Morning sun on Maui

Green turtle at Laniakea (aka Turtle Beach) on Oahu

Lei in the sand - Kaanapali

Haleakala Crater - Maui

Byodo-in-Temple, Oahu

Sunset over Waikiki Beach

Check back - I'll describe the exciting things to see and do on Maui and Oahu in future posts!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Spicy Taste of New Mexico

Following up on last week's post, Jamie, a resident of New Mexico, gives some tips on their "local flavor." Enjoy!

Get some green chile!  The State question is “Red or Green?” If you can’t make up your mind, you can also order any entrée “Christmas” which means your food will be smothered with half green chile sauce and half red chile sauce.  Lately our favorite place has been El Bruno’s for stellar margaritas and New Mexican cuisine.  Have them make guacamole table side or try their amazing chips and queso.  We always get the fiesta platter for 2 because it has a little bit of everything for a really great price and it is more than enough food for 2.  Another fun place to try for chile is El Pinto. It has excellent atmosphere full of patios and chile ristras.  If you want to take some chile home with you, they have a variety of delicious, authentic salsas and green chile that they jar, sell, and even ship. Wherever you go, you’ll be sure to see green chile cheeseburgers on the menu. It is a must try!  Breakfast burritos are also a must.  Golden Pride may not be much on ambiance, but they have the best breakfast burritos in town. #9 is our favorite.  The spiciness of all chile varies greatly, so if you aren’t sure if you can handle the heat, ask for the green chile on the side. It’s a perfect way to taste the local flavor in manageable doses!

Check out Old Town Plaza in Albuquerque!  Specifically, head to Old Town Pizza Parlor for lunch or dinner.  Locally owned, this place has an excellent wait staff and fresh food.  Their salads and calzones are some of my favorites.  They have the best mint iced tea as well as a perfect kids menu. All kids should try the cheese roll. One specialty dish is their green chile pasta alfredo—think huge bowl of hot cheesy goodness with a kick.  Here in New Mexico, we put green chile in almost everything!

Santa Fe   A day trip to Santa Fe (about 1 hour north of Albuquerque) would be well worth your time and money if you have it.  We enjoy taking the Rail Runner to Santa Fe for the day.  You can catch the train downtown in the morning, eat lunch at Tomasita’s in the Rail Yard, walk about 1 mile to explore the Santa Fe Plaza, grab a chocolate treat from Señor Murphy’s Candy Shop, see the famous spiral staircase, and head back to Albuquerque for dinner.  If you are driving, then stay for dinner and eat at the Blue Corn Café.