Budget Travel Expert, Author, Solo Traveler, Wanderstay Hotels Owner

Passports & Pizzazz


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Milwaukee: 4th WITS in a row

I had the pleasure of speaking at my 4th annual WITS (Women In Travel Summit) and I couldn’t be happier!

It’s also my first time in Milwaukee!


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The Holy Land! (And so much more!)

Israel, I’m really in Israel!

After flying to New York from Houston and landing in Tel Aviv, I was in awe. I’ve traveled quite a bit, but this is one country I never thought I would get to see, and yet there I was in the Holy Land!


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A guide to the most beautiful country on this planet: New Zealand!

Kia Ora from Auckland, New Zealand!

I have been in New Zealand for an entire month and I tell you, it is amazing here! The landscape is to die for, the locals are incredibly nice, and did I mention how beautiful it is here? For the past 30 days, I have been based out of Auckland but was fortunate enough to be able to explore Queenstown (South Island), Rotorua, Waitomo, Waiheke Island, Devonport, Rangitoto Island, and Coromandel. I’ve jumped off the SkyTower, Black Water rafted, relaxed on the Hot Water beach, stared in amazement of the beauty of Piha and Bethells beaches. I fell in love with Queenstown (and wanted to stay there for the rest of my life), partied in an ice bar, paraglided off of a 6000 foot mountain, sipped delicious wine on a vineyard in front of a fireplace, star gazed and even saw some of the planets (Saturn! It was so awesome), learned about the local Maori people and ate delicious food from their culture, hiked a deserted island, soaked in geo thermal pools at the Polynesian spa, and indulged in some of the most amazing deserts around Auckland.

It’s safe to say I’ve been a busy woman, and I have loved every bit of it!

I have been getting so many emails from people seeking recommendations for their travels to New Zealand and I’m here to help you out!

First- I recommend you save up as many days off as possible because you can’t even scratch the surface of this beautiful country in less than a month. But if you have at least a week, I can still give you some awesome ideas on how to make the most of your trip.

All the following itineraries are assuming you will be based in Auckland!

 

1 week:

Day 1: Get checked into your hotel, relax, and eat a good meal. Then head out to the SkyTower in the center of the CBD and jump 636 feet from the tower! After you jump, you get free entrance to the viewing deck of the SkyTower, so go have a look.

Explore the shopping area on Queens Street and make sure you grab a delicious coffee (The coffee in NZ is amazing!!).

Go to the iSite tour desk (there’s one located in the Skytower; the same location where you book your SkyJump) and book your excursions for the week.

Day 2: Catch a 45 minute ferry over to Waiheke Island for a day of wine tasting. Waiheke Island is beautiful!!! The wine is just a plus.

Day 3: Get a rental car for 3 days and today visit Piha Beach and Bethells Beach, which are both black sand beaches. These beaches are incredibly beautiful; you will not be disappointed! Be prepared to drive on the left side on the road. You may want to practice on a quiet road before you hit the highway.

Day 4: Wake up early and head to Rotorua (a 3-hour drive) and visit the Polynesian Spa during the day and the Maori dinner event that night.

Day 5: Leave Rotorua and head to Waitomi for black water rafting. Be prepared for cold water. Then, head back to Auckland after your excursion (about a 4-hour drive)

Day 6: Catch another ferry from the CBD to Devonport (15 minute ride) and rent a bike and ride around the island. Don’t forget to stop by the tasty chocolate factory!

Day 7: Visit the Sylvia Park mall for some shopping. When you are finished, head to Parnell Street and stop by Casa del Gelato for the most amazing milkshake of your life.

 

2 weeks:

All of the activities from above PLUS

Day 8: Catch a 2-hour flight from Auckland to Queenstown. Stay for 3 nights.

Day 9: Choose the adventure of your choice (skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, etc.). After your dare devil activity, grab a drink at the Ice Bar. But before partaking in your favorite cocktail, grab a bite at the world famous Fergburger. The burgers are like nothing I’ve ever tasted.

Day 10: Go on the 8-hour excursion to the Milford Sound (One of the most surreal views of your life!)

Day 11: Head back to Auckland. Enjoy the opportunity to have a multicultural dining experience of your choice. Auckland has a plethora of cultural dining choices, from Indian to Thai.

Day 12: Catch a ferry to Coromandel and explore the Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. This will be an all-day event. Wear comfy shoes and be prepared to walk for at least 2 hours. Beware: there is very little to do in the small town of Coromandel, so you should book a tour. If you buy a ticket to just visit the town, I can guarantee a bit of disappointment. The ferry times are intermittent.

Day 13: Catch a ferry to Rangitoto Island and enjoy a hike on the secluded island! New Zealand is unique in that it doesn’t have pests. So while on your hike, you won’t have to worry about any furry friends trying to join you on your adventure.

Day 14: Catch the bus from the city and go explore Takapuna Beach. Takapuna is a quiet suburb of Auckland and only a 15-20 minute bus ride from Auckland CBD. Bring a book, and enjoy the sounds of the waves washing ashore. If you’re a dog lover, you will definitely enjoy the sights of dogs walking and playing with their owners.

4 weeks or 1 month:

Day 15 and 16: REST and do nothing. Watch a few movies, read a book, and sleep in late. You deserve it!

Day 17-30: Build your schedule according to your flavor. Stay longer in Queenstown, if adventure is your thing. Maybe visit Wellington or take a road trip through the North or South Islands.

 

 

 

Special Notes:

  • The coffee in NZ is so amazing! I’m not quite sure why, but have some and see if you agree.
  • Visit Ponsonby for the Auckland night life. Bars and cafes are plentiful.
  • Uber is readily available in Auckland, but not in other cities (Queenstown, Rotorua, etc.). Don’t be afraid to take public transportation. If you have questions, feel free to ask the experts at Britomart Transport Centre, or any of the bus drivers. They will talk to you and answer your questions.
  • Get an AT Hop card for the bus and load it with $100. You can use this to pay for bus rides, some ferries, and the train.
  • Buy groceries for a week at a time. Eating out can be expensive and unhealthy.

Edited by: Tracy Daniel (danieltracy6@gmail.com)


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New Zealand in Photos (And me jumping from a 700 ft building)

New Zealand is literally one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Stop right now and just do a google search on photos of NZ, see how amazing the photos look? Well, that is how it looks in real life. I have been in New Zealand for about 11 days now and here are some amazing photos I have taken! Also, watch the video of me jumping off of the Auckland Tower, 700 feet in the air!!

Deidre jumping from the Auckland Tower: Deidre Jumping 700 ft of the Auckland SkyTower.


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Denver, Colorado. 2 days for less than $150.

I am a sucker for travel deals! This is the first thing you must know about me. When the opportunity came for me to visit Denver,Colorado with airfare, hotel, rental, and activities included for less than $150, I had to take advantage of it.

Here is a breakdown of my cheap trip:

  1. Flight: $11.70. I fly Southwest airlines a lot! So much so, that I have accrued tons of flight points (If you are taking flights without collecting the points, you are literally robbing yourself of free travel). When I saw that they were offering round-trip flights from Houston for less than 10,000 miles, I took advantage of it. So after taking 10,000 points, I only had to pay sales tax which was $11.70.
  2.  I use hotels.com for all of my hotel bookings and they have an amazing deal where after you stay 10 nights, you accrue a free night. Surprisingly I had a free night just sitting in my account so I choose to use it for one night in Denver.
  3. For a rental car, I again used Southwest to book (you get flight miles for booking rentals via the Southwest site) and was able to snag a car for 2 days for a total of $45.

For flight, rental, and hotel I spent a whooping $56.70.

After arriving in Denver, I dined at Snooze restaurant for breakfast and Jelly restaurant for lunch. Combined I spent a total of $30 for two full meals.

I also visited the Denver Botanical Gardens which is a MUST! It is just o beautiful for words, you must go see for yourself. My entrance into the gardens was $13.

After visiting the Gardens, I took the 45 minute drive to Lookout Mountain which was free and came with an amazing view! Bring your sweater as it can get a bit chilly up there, and don;t forget your water bottle to keep hydrated!

At this point, I had spent just $99 for a day filled with amazing adventures! After filling the rental car back up with gas and grabbing a quick bite to eat, I was able to board the flight back to Houston without spending $150.

Although you may not have the same travel perks as I do (tons of flight points, free hotel nights, etc) hopefully you can take these pointers away to help build you a low cost trip.

  1. Every time you fly, make sure you are getting credit for your trip.
  2. Sign up for hotel rewards, there are tons of sights to choose from (Choice hotels, IHG, Hotels.com, etc)
  3. Sign up for airline alerts.You will be among the first to know about discounted airline costs.
  4. Travel with a friend and cut the cost in half! And also have someone to help you take amazing pictures of your adventure!.

Do you have any tips? PLEASE SHARE THEM!

 

Happy Travels.


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Before you book: Check if you need a Visa

There is nothing worse than booking a trip, packing to go, and arriving to the airport only to find out you needed a travel visa to enter the country! Believe it or not, this happens quite a a lot.I recently had a friend call me super excited about a trip to Brazil only for me to ask her about her visa and her appear dumbfounded. Not only did she not know she needed a visa, but she was due to leave out the next day- there was no way that was going to happen. Sadly, she lost out on the money she used for the flight and she took vacation days from work only to stay home and not use them for vacation.

I don’t want the same thing to happen to YOU ! When you find a flight deal, please check first to see if you need a visa, the costs of the visa, and how long it will take before you receive the visa!

Here are some of the most popular countries where USA passport holders NEED  a travel visa! For a larger list, visit http://cibtvisas.com/visa-quick-check

  1. Brazil
  2. China
  3. Cuba
  4. Egypt
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Ghana
  7. India


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My book is in Barnes & Noble!

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How amazing is this? A year after I self published my travel budget book, “Wanderlust: For the Young, Broke Professional,” it is available in Houston at Barnes and Noble! AND it is sitting next to one of MY favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert.

 


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Philippines: A little of this and a little of that

Last month, I traveled to the Philippines and what an amazing time I had! My first stop was Manila, which is a huge, busy, noisy yet amazing city!

I stayed at the Pink Manila hostel which was run by amazing, friendly staff who were very knowledgeable about excursions and great places to eat and party!

During my short 3 day stint in the capital city, I visited the Blacaran Market, rode a Jeepney (ALONE!), and participated in the Carlos Walking Tour which is an amazing guided tour of the Ft. Santiago area of downtown Manila. I ate local food at Rufus, which is a local chain restaurant there and enjoyed every bit of the Filipino flavors!

Random facts:

*Call Center jobs are the highest growing number of jobs available in the Philippines.

*Philippines is the 3rd largest English speaking countries

*Traffic is horrible in Manila!!!! It can often take over an hour to drive just a couple of miles. Always plan ahead!

 

After a few days in the city, I figured it was time for me to explore the beach so I took off on a short 2 hour flight to Boracay, Philippines, which in one word is AMAZING! In Boracay I helmet dived, partied at a hip hop club, went on an all-day snorkeling excursion, and ate amazing Thai food and shopped until I dropped! I would recommend anyone who loves the beach to visit Boracay, it’s much too amazing to pass up!

After Boracay, it was time to travel to Cebu! Cebu is home to about 3 million people and is also a big city, but nowhere as large as Manila! In Cebu I visited the largest mall in the Philippines, the SM Megamall. It was huge! I mean HUGE! Just to walk around it took me about 3 hours and I didn’t even shop or walk into stores! The mall has everything you could want in it! Definitely a shopper’s paradise. I also visited the Blue Water Maribago Beach resort, which had a beautiful man made beach. There, I snorkeled, feasted at an amazing buffet, and relaxed in a hammock. Hanging out here definitely gave me a break from all the big city hustle and bustle!

The next day in Cebu, I took a 2 hour ferry to visit Bohol, home of the Chocolate Mountains! Bohol was such an amazing place full of beautiful greenery and amazing history! You must definitely visit Bohol while in Cebu!

I had such an amazing vacation in the Philippines and I didn’t need tons of money to enjoy myself! The average taxi ride cost me about $5USD, average hostel, about $20USD, average meal about $7USD.uw


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Pura Vida! I love Costa Rica.

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I recently had a birthday and got to celebrate in beautiful Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica-just a short 3 hour flight from Houston- getting to CR was no problem at all!

Most people will fly into San Jose when flying to Costa Rica and although the capital city is wonderful, I highly recommend catching a local bus and visiting one of the near by (or not so near by) cities. This time around, I caught a 3.5 hour bus ride to Manuel Antonio for all of $USD! The bus is pretty comfortable (minus not having AC) and the drive is absolutely beautiful!

Here are a few facts about Costa Rica:

  1. Make sure you have access to USD $29 when leaving Costa Rica as you will have to purchase a exit visa to leave the country.
  2. Eat the local food!! You won’t be disappointed!! The plantains, rice and beans, the meat…yum!!!
  3. Practice your spanish! The locals love to help you.
  4. Make sure you research the are of Costa Rica you are traveling to. Manuel Antonio is different from San Jose which is different from La Fortuna.
  5. Try an adventure activity! I first zip lined in Costa Rica in 2009 and this time around I tried the ATV’s and had an amazing time!
  6. Relax!! Time literally went by so slow in Costa Rica!! I often felt like I was at the beach or pool for hours just to check my clock and realize I had only been there for an hour or so.
  7. Bring a camera and make sure you capture all that this beautiful country has to offer.