Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Like Seeing an Old Friend for the First Time in Years...

I have a lot to tell you. A lot of it involves tons of adventures I've been on since I last left you. Most of it is awesome, some of it isn't, but I promise I'll share it all with you.

For now, I'll tell you about the end of one of my longest adventures as of recently.

It's been five long years of working as a teacher in Chicago, but at the end of this week, I'll be leaving it behind for a new adventure in San Diego.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I swear, I didn't fall off the face of the planet...

... But that's no excuse for me to be a month overdue of a post!

Sorry, you'll have to wait just a little longer. But trust me, I have tons to write about, now! ;)

Stay tuned...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Favorite

Though I don't count myself as a "foodie," I do enjoy taking pictures of the food I've eaten during my trips.  This week's Friday Favorite: vacation food!







Can you tell by the amount of pictures just how excited I was to be eating this?! Driving to the eastern coast of Oahu, you can find tons of shrimp "trucks" lined up along the road.  They aren't really trucks though, I'd say they were more like shacks. The best part about it was that there are shrimp ponds right behind the shacks where they fish their own shrimp and cook it on the spot! The rice they serve with the meal is drenched in garlic sauce, too, just like they like it in the Philippines ;) Wash it all down with some Hawaiian Sun, and you're good to go!

I can safely say that I have never missed food the way I miss and long for more Fumi's. One day... one day! I'll be back and I'll have more than one helping. :D

Happy weekend!
Rowie

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Preparing for a Trip (Part I)

Looking ahead to August, I'll be traveling to the West Coast for some California Girl lovin'.  I've already talked about how I pack for a trip, so let's talk more about how to prepare for a longer trip.  I usually spend the month before booking hotels, rental cars, and planning specific sight-seeing trips within the vacation.  Let's focus this entry on an important element to a smooth vacation: booking hotels.

Location:
The first thing I consider when choosing a hotel is its location within the city.  What are the priorities of traveling to this city?  Would you like easy access to a beach; would you rather stay closer to a night-life scene; would you like to be near the trendy shopping areas; or would you like to be in walking distance of the best tourist sites?  The best thing to do after you figure out what you appeal to most is to use a mapping system to help you locate the best radius to encompass this area.  For me, I usually also use this mapping system to figure out if I can get to most places by local transportation or even by walking.

Visitor Reviews and Ratings:
Next, I list all the hotels within the area I chose from selecting a location.  If you're good at being a budget traveler, then staying at a Best Western or Holiday Inn shouldn't be a problem, and you can end your search after this step.  If you're like me, though, I like to try to spend a good amount of time enjoying my hotel experience while also seeing as much as I can around the area.  Thus, you'll want to consider checking a website like Trip Advisor to help narrow your choices.  This website is quite comparable to a life saver (haha) because not only do you get a professional rating on the hotels you're considering, you also get reviews from travelers who have stayed at the hotels, plus "real" photos rather than just the glamorous versions on the hotel websites.

You'll want to combine three things you research on sites like this: overall ranking, quality of positive reviews, and personal satisfaction that comes from the "real" photos.  If you're satisfied with all three of these categories, you should feel confident that you'll be going somewhere you will be content with.

Pricing:
This is probably the most difficult part: compensating for the package and the price.  If you have more than a month to decide where you'll be staying at, I recommend joining hotel mailing lists.  Sometimes, hotels will put together special deals for their mailing lists that other third party websites can't offer.  Otherwise, there are two approaches you can take for this part of the booking process: join "coupon/discount" websites for that area; search daily on third party websites for the best deal. 

If you join a coupon/discount website such as Travel Zoo, you could possibly find package deals for your specific hotel.  Websites like Travel Zoo are convenient because they do the narrow search for you.  They constantly browse other discount/third party websites that post deals, and keep them all in one place for your viewing ease.  The downside is that you have to wait until your ideal hotel has a worthwhile deal listed on sites like these (sometimes not even at all).  Otherwise, if you go the third party route, such as Orbitz, Hotels.com or Travelocity, most of these websites now give you the opportunity to view all other third party websites side by side, so that you can see which website has the best deal.  For the most part, though, these websites are aligned so well, that, it's a matter of cutting a few dollars from your taxes/fees when choosing which one to stick with.  One thing to watch for, though, is when certain hotels offer deductions on third party websites to reel in guests.  I've seen as much as 33% off for some hotels, and while you can still use this on the actual hotel's website, sometimes you'll be corned with a higher fee if you go this route. 

Wrap Up:
Make sure you consider other things when booking your stay: most hotels will have some sort of incentive if you stay for more than one night; calling the hotel to see if they can cut you a deal for a weekend rate if you stay for a few days during the week may work; booking both airfare and hotel at the same time can save some money.  If you have other tips or suggestions on how to book hotels, share them here! I'm always trying to become more refined and practiced in hotel searching, so I'd love to hear your ideas ;)

Until the next part,
Rowie

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Favorite

Lucky you! You get a blog post AND a Friday Favorite! Hooray! This week's Friday Favorite: My favorite mode of summer transportation.

I've been on many different sized airplanes, but can only remember a handful of experiences up in the air that were very enjoyable.  It seems as if airline companies (some, not all) are cutting short their hospitality to their guests and focus mainly on getting everyone to their destination quickly and safely (which I guess isn't a bad thing). While it's definitely a plus getting from one place to another way faster, airplanes are not my [current] favorite mode of transportation.

Even if you don't know me well enough, you'd know that I love to travel to warmer climates and beach scenes.  This almost always requires me to be complaisant with traveling from island to island on boat. I'd have to say that I love the cool breeze of wind in my hair, but if I don't pop a Dramamine in my mouth before I venture off on boat, I'd most likely get dizzy one way or another.  Thus, fun way to travel, but not my favorite.

Which brings me to my favorite mode of transportation: Biking! Ok, ok, last summer, you would have never caught me saying that biking was my favorite. You wouldn't have even caught me saying that at the beginning of this summer.  I'm bad at biking. But I recently discovered that, if you make sure you have enough air in your tires (which I somehow failed to have last summer), you're good to go! Usually I choose to drive around with the windows down in the summer, but since high gas prices are unyielding, biking is just way more efficient.

So there ya have it! Get out there and bike, people! If I can do it, so can you ;)

Happy weekend,
Biker Kid

Mini Trip: Hershey, Scranton and Philly

Now that students are finally out of school, I've found a little more time to tell y'all about my trip to Pennsylvania. The main reason for the road trip was to attend a wedding in Scranton, so we decided to do a quick tour around of surrounding cities.

Hershey, PA:
First off on the list, Hershey World! Since we arrived in PA super early (thanks to the safe driving skills of Matt and his dad), we decided to make the Hershey World tour and explore their enormous store.  Simply put: the tour was short and geared towards kids and the candy/chocolate was plentiful and did not fail to have every Hershey creation available. Awesome.




Steamtown Museum:
Next up was a train museum in Scranton, PA. The museum was situated on an old steam-powered train station, where most of the inside area was dedicated to how the trains and the people who rode them looked back in the day. You could walk inside a few train cars, too, so you'd get to see how each car was set up depending on your class status.  Then, for a few extra dollars, they let you ride on a real steam-powered train! Pretty sweet deal if you're a kid and you like trains ;)



Philadelphia, PA:
After attending the wedding in Scranton, we drove two hours to Philly to tour around the city.  We quickly dropped our bags off at the hotel then made our way to one of the busiest intersections I saw: an intersection holding Geno's and Pat's Philly Cheese Steaks! If you're gonna visit this part of town, I'd suggest you go with a partner, so that you can get the opportunity to share a sandwich from each of these locations.  And, don't forget to get cheese whiz on your sandwich (aka, the money maker)! While I liked both sandwiches, I'm pretty sure my stomach agreed most with Pat's cheesesteak because it had an extra onion flavor on top of the cheese whiz. Yummm.



Next, we drove over to the historical area of Philly, where Independence Hall and other important buildings stood.  It all looked like a smaller, more colonial area of Washington, D.C.  I'll admit, I'm not the type of person to be completely under a spell of the magic that happened here back in 1776, but I was still amazed at how great of a job they did at maintaining some of these historic buildings! It felt odd in a way to be in Independence Hall, knowing that at some point in time, something great happened right where I stood. 





I forgot to mention that during our visit to Philly, the weather was an average of 90 DEGREES the entire two days! Considering that, it was amazing just how much we got done on our first day there.  So what's up next? I really wanted to see the "LOVE" Monument not too far away from Independence Hall, so we all hopped back in the car and drove on over.  To my disappointment, the monument ended up being a lot smaller than I imagined! What was pretty funny, though, is that there was a huge fountain behind it, and tons of people were swimming in the water - our first of many sightings of people attempting to cool themselves off.  Right across the street from the Love Monument was a nice surprise: "Your Move" Plaza, an area littered with over-sized board game pieces!




As if the day wasn't hot enough, we finished the day with a run up the "Rocky Stairs" to the Modern Art Museum. Not much to say here other than: we all "raced" up the stairs, got up there, it was super hot, came back down, and treated ourselves to Rocky Water Ice. Nice.





Our last big stop came the next day. Besides driving out to go outlet shopping (to make up for our late attempt at shopping in Mall of Prussia), we wanted to hike around an area we saw from the highway.  Philly is home to a really picturesque dam that is situated near a very cute looking boating area.  The heat continued to overpower us, though, so we didn't stay too long at this view point.


While I feel like there were probably a few things I missed out on seeing in Philly, I'm gonna say that two days was enough to accomplish lots, since most everything is near each other.  Still, a jam-packed 4 day weekend without a minute spared! A productive way to spend my Memorial Day weekend :)

Cheers!
Rowie

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Apologies

I was thrown right back into the grind after my mini trip to Pennsylvania, so my apologies for missing my Friday Favorites.  I'll make more time for my Penn update, but here are a few cool things I saw over my Memorial Day weekend:

 The "Your Move" Plaza in Philly

These little guys were sneaking around downtown Philly