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Travel Tips

Reading is an Adventure

Reading is an adventure
that never ends
– Charles Shulz

One of the best ways for us to travel is with our own imagination. It may sound cliche but Charles Shulz was onto something magical, reading is an adventure! Think of the writers who brought you books that you will read over and over again, are you transported to a new place? Can you imagine the taste, smells or emotions that characters was feeling? That’s the power of reading!

I remember getting those Scholastic book fair catalogs in elementary school, rushing home and circling all the books I was hoping to get. Finally the day had come, I would walk into the school Library with the money I begged my mom for and pick my new adventure. “Magic Tree House” and “The Boxcar Children” were among my favorites, wondering where the next journey would take us. I still get excited anytime I walk into a library or book store, a library card is a mini passport waiting for stamps. What would be in your “reading passport”? Maybe Middle Earth or the Forbidden Forest?

So let’s celebrate reading and continue the adventure by simply opening a book. Comment below with your favorite reads.

Business Insider “The 21 greatest travel of all time”

 

 

Find Travel Gear on a Budget

Find Travel Gear on a Budget

Finding cheap travel gear on a budget can be hard and frustrating. The anger that takes over when you decided to take the plunge and buy that expensive gear only to see it on sale 3 months later makes you want to Hulk SMASH! Don’t worry, I’m here to help you find the best deals for gear that wont break the bank, so you can spend more on your travels.

Research!

What are you looking for? A reliable suitcase, stylish but warm winter coat, the perfect hat that says “Yeah, I’m on vacation”, or maybe you have no idea what you need but you need to find it. Doing a quick google search will bring up endless possibilities and somewhere in the haystack you’ll find the deal.

A huge source of my travel gear I find on Amazon, they usually have great prices and most time free shipping. I don’t make this my final stop though, I find what I’m looking for and keep their price in mind as my starting point.

REI used travel gear     Steep and Cheap     Overstock

Thrift Stores

I find so much travel gear at thrift stores and I get excited every time. It’s fun to think about the history of the item, what places has it been? Did someone just buy it for one trip? You’ll be surprised at what you can find at a thrift store…travel or not. One of my favorite Reddit threads is “Thrift Store Hauls”, people are constantly sharing their amazing finds for a fraction of the cost.

scary huh? but don’t let that stop you from finding gold

Dig high and low! Check the book section for travel guides or maps for places you’re planning on visiting. They may be a few years old but most of the content will still be accurate for general things to see and do. You may even find a book for a destination you haven’t thought about visiting yet and add it to the bucket list
.

Scan through the clothing racks, there’s no need to spend $800 on a coat when you can score a North Face jacket for $15. Look out for good walking shoes or boots, you can find name brands barely worn. Funny enough when I decided to do this post I went to a local thrift store to gather pictures when I found this Travelon anti-theft bag during a 50% off sale for only $7 when it retails for $65, so happy!

Found this in that scary mess I mentioned, brand new only $3

Don’t stop there, next check out the techy section, display cases, cosmetic bags area. Target will send their after clearance items to Goodwill Industries, sometimes even items that were opened but never used but they clearly couldn’t put back on the shelf. That’s how I found brand new adapters for half the price.

Don’t forget garage sales when the season is right.

Off Price Retailers

I always take a look at Ross or Burlington for travel accessories like luggage locks or travel pillows. I got a pair of Skullcandy head phones for less than $10 when they retail for $40. Costco will have luggage deals from time to time if you’re a member, great quality too. Look for the nearest outlet mall/store for past season items at a discount some even have extra discounts on their sale stuff.
  

Friend Swap Travel Gear

Share travel gear with your friends and coworkers, it’s a great way to test out an item that you’re not ready to buy yet. Obviously if you damage the item you are expected to replace it. As I write this a friend is borrowing one of my Travelon bags while she explores Europe. We’re a community, we have to help each other follow our dreams.

Where do you like to find your travel gear on a budget?

A Geek’s Guide To Vancouver BC

A Geek’s Guide to Vancouver BC

So you want to explore Vancouver British Columbia, and why wouldn’t you? It’s clean, vibrant, and you get the best of both world, nature and city all in one location. You can spend a weekend here or a lifetime and always see something new.


Planning Your Visit

Maps

Vancouver Metro Map
Vancouver Map

I always recommend looking up the official tourism site for the destination you’re visiting. The travel bureau wants you to see the best stuff its city has to offer to make sure you spread the word and keep coming back.

Official Visitors Guide via Vancouver Tourism

Accommodations
Where do you want to stay? Hotel over looking the city or vacation rental to live like a local in a residential neighborhood?

During our latest visit we stayed at the lovely Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Vancouver. This was the ideal hotel for us for location and budget. The hotel staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the city and surrounding area. They also have a fun Instagram page to give you more insight on their favorite locations. There are many hotels in the city that are budget friendly or pamper you with luxury. 

Next thing to plan is how do you want to get there?

  • Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is less than 8 miles from Downtown Vancouver
  • Drive the distance. Make sure to have a vehicle that will tell you kilometers per hours and expect to pay everywhere you go for parking.
  • Train choo choo. Amtrak gives you a chance to see all the beauty the Pacific Northwest has to offer

What To Do

Stanley Park

This park is huge! Being one of the cities largest attractions you should plan at least a half day to explore. The seawall is a nice walk or bike ride to work off all that poutine you ate. Check with your hotel or vacation rental as many will supply bikes to ride for a few hours. There are also plenty of bike rental shops near the park entrance or Citi bike once in the park.

Granville Island

Take one of the little boats across False Creek to enjoy the Public Market and shops on Granville Island. Expect to spend a few hours here exploring and trying the food including Granville Island Brewing Co.

From there continue the little ferry ride to Maritime Museum Dock where you can get beautiful views of the English Bay.

Kitsilano Beach Park

Kits Beach is the perfect place to soak up the sun and spend a summer day relaxing or playing beach sports.

Gastown


Gastown is a small charming neighborhood with a famous resident, the Steam Clock. There’s only 7 working steam clocks in the world and Vancouver is home to one of them. It’s fun to take a few moments watching the gears turn or hearing the whistle blow. There’s also a few souvenir shops near the clock if you’re looking to take some goodies home.

A short walk away you’ll find Canada Place.

Canada Place

An iconic landmark, Canada Place is a great place to feel welcomed. It’s the Convention Center, major cruise terminal, and so much more. Also in the area you’ll find the 2010 Olympic Torch and the digital Orca statue art.

Movie/TV tour

image via vancouversun.com

Commonly referred to as “Hollywood North”. With some big studios in there area, there’s filming going on most times of the year. You can look up some of your favorite films and hits the streets kid, live like the stars.

Whale Watching

image via insidevancouver.ca

During migration you may have a chance to see these majestic creatures. Best months for spotting a whale will be March to October and there’s many different tour companies to choose from.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

image via vancouverchinesegarden.com

Fans of Nat Geo should recognize this gem as they named it the World’s Top City Garden.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

image via capbridge.com

A stunning place to take in the beauty nature has to offer and take instagram worthy photos.

Vancouver Aquarium

image via vanaqua.org

No need to go to P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way when you can visit all your favorite fish here.

Grouse Mountain

image via grousemountain.com

Only 15 minutes from downtown with spectacular views of the city.

Science World

image via scienceworld.ca

Weird Science! Be a kid and get creative with science.

VanDusen Botanical Garden

image via tourismvancouver.com

Sip some tea, take in this wonderland and day dream under a tree like Alice.


Food

Vancouver is on the list for being a “Foodie City” and for great reason, they have food trucks, well respected chefs and amazing cuisine. Where will your taste buds take you?

Blue Water Cafe

image via tourismvancouver.com

Best known for their seafood and outstanding wait service, you can either have an elegant dining experience or wallet friendly happy hour experience.

Earnest Ice Cream

image via earnesticecream.com

We all deserve a sweet treat. Especially after deciding what flavor you want from the mouthwatering list.

Cactus Club Cafe – English Bay

Food with a view! Great place to laugh with friends and loved ones over a great menu.

Vij’s Restaurant

image via vancouversun.com

A local favorite and recommended as a must do

Cafe Medina

image via medinacafe.com

Vancouver locals are huge on brunch and this is the spot to do it at. Lines can form so get here early.

Storm Crow Tavern

Truly one of my favorite geek restaurants! The whole atmosphere pulls you in, you can meet there with friends and family and play board games all afternoon.

EXP Restaurant + Bar

Video game restaurant/bar with great food. They live stream League of Legends, Overwatch,  Starcraft competitions and more, so it’s a really chill place to hang out, just pick the right side; Horde or Alliance?

a few other recommendation

  • Tacofino – TACOS! need I say more?
  • Fanny Bay Oyster Bar – Happy Hour!
  • Meat & Bread – grab a sandwich and head to a park
  • Nicli Antica Pizzeria – pizza and drinks, yes please!

Tips

  • If you’re driving expect to pay for parking everywhere
  • There’s free “neighborhood” wifi in Yaletown
  • The currency is Canadian dollar (CAD). Paper bills include $5, $10, $20, $50 & $100. $1 coin known as a loonie and a $2 coin known as a toonie

What are your favorite places to see and do in Vancouver?

Trip Report: New York City Thanksgiving

 

 Trip Report: New York City Thanksgiving

I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to visit NYC for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. With my mom along for the excursion we were flown out to New York for an experience we’d never forget.

Arriving at JFK the day before Thanksgiving, we needed to make our way to Manhattan. There are a few different ways to get into the city from JFK or LaGuardia airport . Taxi, car share, Shuttle or subway are the most common. I chose taxi since I know it’s a flat rate into Manhattan and it’s easy to get right outside baggage claim. Something new I noticed since last time I was there, is that the Port

Authority of NY & NJ gives out receipts to show the rate and cab number you’re getting into. No doubt this cuts down on drivers pocketing money or over charging.

When you get into the cab they will ask your destination and enter in code 2 into their meter which is the flat rate fee + any tolls or surcharges. Another new thing I noticed is the touch tv screen in the back seat where you can view your rate, city information and payment options at the end of the ride.

We checked into the Hilton Garden Inn Time Square, not actually in Time Square but right around the corner on 8th ave between 48th & 49th st. I typically like to stay at Hilton properties because of their Honors reward program and the amenities they come with. If you like staying at hotels check which company will give you the best rewards based on your needs. They all tend to be really competitive to make you their loyal costumer so you have some choices.

I enjoyed our stay at the Hilton Garden Inn TS, they have spacious clean rooms and friendly staff. Our view over looked 8th ave out towards the Hudson River. When I needed a few items for my new tattoo, there were two choices near by, a Duane Reade (Walgreens company) and a Rite Aide. The nearest subway entrance is a block up on 50th st. a blue line, which was a bonus for us, as it had a elevator for my mom.

On Thanksgiving day we woke up at 4:30 am, hopped onto the subway going uptown towards our grandstand entrance. Our tickets stated they start letting in at 6 am, we got there at 5:30 am and there was already a line around the block. Once in, we were directed towards the bleachers that line Central Park West. We had amazing seats but definitely froze! A few things I wish we would have brought; seat pads, a blanket and hand warmers. For some reason I expected there to be music playing during the parade but there wasn’t.

After the parade we went to Top of The Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center. What an amazing view of Manhattan! You can purchase your tickets online in advance for a selected time slot

and arrive a few minutes before that designated time. There’s 3 observation decks once up top and special tickets you can purchase to come back at sunset or night.

For Thanksgiving dinner we were treated to a luxury buffet at The View Restaurant, which sits 48 stories above Time Square in the Marriott Marquis. The floor rotates giving spectacular city views, making a complete 360 during an hour. There was 3 or 4 stations with different offerings of a decadent food assortment. Add great company and red wine sangria and it made for a memorable evening.

We continued the next 5 days running around Manhattan in full tourist mode. Since this was my moms first time in NYC I didn’t want her to miss a thing. We hopped on the Big Bus Tour, which was brilliant since she can’t walk very well. They have 4 colored routes plus the night tour. The only ones that don’t have hop off locations is the Brooklyn and the night tour. There are many different tickets available depending on we chose the 2 day bus tour with the night tour.

We moved hotels a few times to get in different parts of the city, including Hampton Inn Financial District and the Conrad New York located across from the Freedom Tower and 9/11 memorial. Staying at the Conrad was such a privilege, a way to end NY on a high note.
Well that’s enough of me rambling on, thanks for listening. You can view the rest of the trip in the photos below. If you have any questions please let me know.