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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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.

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.

This gallery contains 5 photos


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Wanderlust Hostel needs YOUR help!

As you all know, I am opening a hostel in Houston, Texas summer 2017 and we need your help!
The hostel will sleep 40 people and be located within a 10 minute walking distance from the Houston Metro system. In order for me to secure a particular piece of property, I have to get certifications, licenses, and pay certain taxes which totals about $5,000. I started my campaign  Wanderlust Houston Hostel  to raise this money and I have a little over 35 days to get it done.
So where do you and others come into play:
1) Donation
2) Sponsor
3) Invest
1) A donation is a short term gift towards the major goal of 5k! All donations help overall!
2) Sponsor: If you are looking to receive a tax write off and sponsor a business, this is a great opportunity! You will sponsor at least half of the project ($2,500) and receive free hostel stays, a spot on the hostels website for the first 2 years of operation, and you will be able to name one of the rooms at the hostel!
3) Invest! If you are willing to invest the total project of $5,000 the owner (Deidre Mathis) will be willing to discuss a payback schedule (i.e. 1% of gross income for the first 6 months of the hostel openings PLUS the initial investment. The hostel is currently projected to profit $275,000 in the first 6 months which makes your payback: $7,750 ($5,000 PLUS $2,750)
Thanks for your time!


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Cartagena, Colombia: What a colorful treat!

 

When Spirit Airlines offered 75% off of flights to Colombia, I knew I had to jump on the deal! Not only did I wan’t to experience South America for the 1st time, but I had always heard how beautiful, bright, and gorgeous Cartegena was so I jumped to the opportunity!

From Dallas, Texas it was a 4 hour trip in total (45 minute layover in Ft Lauderdale). I landed in Cartegena mid day and right away I noticed the HEAT!! Now I have lived in India, traveled to Abu Dhabi, and I live in Houston TX so I know all about heat and the heat in Cartegena was all to familiar. I recommend bringing your best shades, sunscreen lotion, and as little clothes as possible!

I stayed in Cartegena for 5 days and here are my recommendations of activities:

  1. Visit El Totumo Volcano and roll around in the purifying mud!
  2. Visit Playa Blanca, it is about 45 minutes outside of the city but totally worth the drive.
  3. Eat all the fresh seafood you can take in! The fish is literally caught and cooked the same day! Delicious
  4. Practice your spanish/bring a spanish dictionary as not too may locals speak English fluently
  5. Budget your money, but don’t fret because Cartegena was not too expensive at all!
  6. Try Colombian coffee, it’s strong, but tasty!
  7. Watch the sunset from the top of the city center walls- the most beautiful sight ever!