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

Passports & Pizzazz


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Martinique: Hidden Gem

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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)

Beautiful Belize

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Belize is one of those countries you just have to see for yourself. I first visited Belize last year and had the opportunity to visit again last week.

I want to help you out on your Belize excursion so I have jotted some useful notes to help you maneuver your trip to make sure you have the best trip ever.

  1. It costs $50 Belize Dollars ($25 USD) for 2 people to catch a cab from the airport to the ferry.
  2. If you are visiting Ambergris Caye, make sure you rent a golf cart and drive the hour ride to Secret Beach, you wont regret it.
  3. If you want a true island feel, stay on Caye Caulker. It is an extremely small island filled with cheap local food (lobster, seafood, etc), very low cost massages, and tons of souvenir vendors.
  4. Don’t have a tight schedule. Leave room to just go with the flow and enjoy your visit to this beautiful country.

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My $150 Vacation to Miami

 

By now, you all know how much I love to travel! For the past 10 years, I have taken at least 2 international trips and numerous domestic trips per year. I am by no means wealthy or rich, so finding deals is imperative to feed my travel bug.

The other day, I was really craving the sight and smell of an ocean. I just completed a vacation to Amsterdam and Paris and I needed some sun. I opened my computer, did some searching and saw that Southwest Airlines had round-trip flights from Houston To Miami for only $149! Such a great deal! Even better was I had a $300 travel voucher I could use for travel since I volunteered to give up my seat on a previous flight, so I cashed in $150 and only had to pay taxes on the flight which was about $20.

I am also a volunteer for Hostelling International and I do travel presentations, etc. promoting hostels and my travel experiences to people in the community of Houston. As a volunteer, I get a certain amount of free nights per year and I decided to cash in a few nights for my spontaneous Miami trip. This made my accommodation cost a big fat ZERO dollars!

So since my flight and housing were booked, all I needed now was money for fun! After thoroughly enjoying myself in Florida, I noticed I spent a whooping $150! Travel doesn’t get much better than that!

Make sure to checkout my book, “Wanderlust: For the Young, Broke Professional” http://www.wanderlustybp.com

 

 


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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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Scuba Dive Lessons!

Black girls don’t do what?

Today I had the pleasure to participate in something I have been very afraid of: scuba diving. Yes, I have skydived, bungee jumped, ridden elephants and camels, and I snorkel in almost every country I visit but I have always been so afraid of scuba diving- that is until this morning.

In downtown Houston, I visited the Gigglin Marlin and participated in a 3 hour introductory scuba dive class. Fortunately for me, it was a rainy day and no one showed up to the class but me so I got one on one lessons! http://gigglinmarlin.com/courses/beginner/open-water-diver/

In the Beginner’s Course, I practiced my underwater breathing techniques, hand signals, and other beneficial techniques to ensure a save dive. The course I participated in was only 15 feet but 15 feet is all you need when you are a first time diver! My trainer really got me pumped and excited about actually becoming an Open Water Diver (certified to dive down to 60ft) and I will be signing up for the courses very shortly. Next time I am in the Caribbean I will be proud to say I am a certified scuba diver!

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