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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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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Toronto anyone?

Just two months ago, I had the opportunity to visit a place I have wanted to travel to for quite some time- Toronto, Canada! Just a few hours in the air, Toronto was very easy to travel to and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made the trip sooner.

During my 3 day trip, I got to visit the top of the CN Tower, stroll the downtown shopping mall, visit many unique restaurants, and eat tons of poutine fries! Yum!

Here is a breakdown of some of my activities:

1) If you are into unique dining experiences, you will LOVE eating at “Signs”, a deaf restaurant. Yes, you read that correctly! Everyone in the restaurant is deaf- the bartenders, the servers, and even the kitchen staff. There are  menus with sign language on the table that show you how to properly order the meal of your choice. Not only was the atmosphere amazing, the food was good too!

2) I had to wait over an hour to visit the top of the CN Tower but the view did not disappoint. I would recommend going very early in the morning to avoid long lines. The entry ticket went for about $35 and was pretty worth it to me.

3) Try the Poutine fries and make sure you have a friend to share with!1 Before I visited Toronto, I kept hearing about the poutine fries so I knew I had to try them. They are essentially fries topped with cheese and gravy and they are oh so yummy.

4) If you are traveling solo or with just one other person, take the bus from the airport into the city, it will save you tons of money. I paid about $3 to take the bus into the city whereas if I would have taken a cab, it would have cost me about $45. It take about an hour to make the commute, but imagine what you could use the extra $40 on!

 

Have you visited Toronto, what were your thoughts?

 

 

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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