All Posts By

Lacey Thompson

Rewards Points Travel

Grand Cayman Island

March 17, 2018

We are way behind on posts, so this one is from three trips ago! Yikes! In January Mat and I traveled to the beautiful Caribbean and spent a week at the Wyndham Reef Resort Grand Cayman (using our Wyndham points and the Southwest Companion Pass to get there of course) in Grand Cayman.  We spent the week snorkeling with starfish at Starfish Beach and drinking, eating and relaxing in a hammock at Rum Point. Our favorite lunch spot came with a gorgeous, on the beach table at Kaibo. This is a definitely a must eat if you are in Grand Cayman; they have great food and an even better view. We’d also recommend you check out the Blowhole on the southern part of the island.  There is a super friendly tour guide there that you need to meet!

The west coast of the island includes the capital city of George Town, the gorgeous Seven Mile Beach and my favorite, Camana Bay. Camana Bay is an adorable section of the city that is all new construction and includes shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, condos, gyms, etc. After the day we spent here I was ready to move! This island has it all, a city with things to do and make you feel connected, but also gorgeous, uncrowded, white sand beaches.

 

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

Travel

Lacey’s 30th in Las Vegas

December 31, 2017

For my 30th (yikes!) birthday I wanted to spend it lounging by a pool, going to a spa and eating dessert. Since we have the Southwest Companion Pass, we made the quick trip down to Vegas and did just that! One entire day we spent by the pool and the staff at the Palms were super strict and allowed absolutely NO cameras so unfortunately we don’t have anything from one whole day. 🙁

We booked a condo at Palms Place, which was far enough away from the strip to be separated from the crazy (been there done that for the 21st), but close enough to have amazing views of the entire strip. I spent the morning of my birthday being pampered at the Drift Spa, getting a massage and soaking in their Turkish Tub as well as taking advantage of their amazing sauna! We had a delicious dinner (and free dessert!) at the super fancy Nove Italiano. The food was amazing and so was the service. Definitely recommend!

All in all my 30th in Las Vegas was a success. Now cheers to the next decade!

Happy New Year! 🙂

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Las Vegas Strip

Travel

New York City at Christmas

December 24, 2017

New York City during Christmas time is, to sum it up in a word, magical. The very first time I ever visited New York was during the Christmas/New Years holiday and I absolutely fell in love. Since Mat has only been to New York during the spring and fall, we decided that our Christmas trip would be spent in the Big Apple. He’s not as much of a sucker for Christmas as I am, but even he agreed that this amazing city is magical during the holidays. Nearly everywhere you look there is a giant, beautifully decorated Christmas tree – in lobbies, courtyards, plazas, and the middle of Park Ave! Gorgeous!

During our trip we crossed as many Christmas-y items off our list as we had time to! We of course saw the tree at Rockefeller Center (three times in three days), went to three different ice skating rinks (Rockefeller, Bryant Park and Central Park), visited the gorgeous lobbies and window treatments of Saks, Bloomingdales and Macy’s, drank hot chocolate in Central Park, sugar cookies and lattes at The Plaza, ate delicious sundaes at Serendipity and my absolute favorite: The Rockettes: Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall!

I had never been inside Radio City, but oh man it was gorgeous! We (sadly) didn’t take any cameras to the show, because we were afraid they would not be allowed in and now I’m kicking myself for not taking it! The lobby has the most gorgeous, huge chandelier that is several stories high. The entire place is decorated with a 1920’s, art deco vibe, including the restrooms. Both the women and men’s rooms had additional sitting rooms with large sofas and mirrors everywhere. The hand driers in the bathrooms were run by an antique foot pedal. Normally, I try to avoid lines at all possible, but I didn’t even care about waiting in line to use the restroom because the decor made it worth it. I made a point to sit on one of the couches, adjust my sock under my boot and fix my hair in the mirror. Just because. 🙂

We also went to Top of the Rock, and the day was so gorgeous and clear we had to wear our sunnies! Mat always loves to get as high up as possible for views of whatever city we are visiting. We (of course) also went and got my wedding ring cleaned at the antique jewelry store where Mat purchased it, as well as made a stop at our favorite pizza joint in Brooklyn and our favorite Italian food in mid-town.  This was the perfect destination to get us both in the holiday mood! We highly recommend visiting the tree in Rockefeller. Put it on your bucket list; you won’t be disappointed.

 

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

NYC Panoramic

NYC View

Central Park NYC

Central Park Hot Chocolate

Central Park NYC

Central Park NYC

Bryant Park Tree

Rockefeller Center Tree

Central Park NYC

Central Park NYC

Central Park NYC

Bryant Park Kiss

Bryant Park Smile

Rockefeller Center Tree

Bryant Park

Rockefeller Center Tree

Rockefeller Center Tree

The Plaza Hotel Cookie

The Plaza Hotel Cookie

Rockefeller Center Tree

Rockefeller Center Tree

Central Park NYC

Central Park NYC

Central Park New York City

Central Park Hot Chocolate

Travel

Birthday, Beaches, and Baseball in Chicago

October 25, 2017

Wow, we have been MIA for a while now, but I promise it’s for a good reason…or rather, reasons. August and September were the busiest-read expensive-months of our lives. For real. In August we bought a house (eek!), Mat turned a year older and I got a tattoo. September we had Mat’s birthday trip, Mat’s new tattoo and then my birthday trip. Phew. Lots of exciting stuff! October has been spent just trying to catch up.

Mat’s absolute favorite city is Chicago, and it doesn’t hurt that the Cubs have been his team since he was a little boy watching them on TV. It only made sense that we would spend Labor Day weekend celebrating his birthday in Chicago and attend a game at Wrigley Field. We chose to go over Labor Day so we wouldn’t really have to take any time off work, since we were lucky enough to get a three-day weekend. With as often as we like to leave town, we have to be picky with when and how we use our time off.

We took a direct flight to O’Hare later on Friday and were in town early enough to have a delicious burger at Rock Bottom Brewery. Saturday we spent leisurely walking around the city and ended up down at Oak Street Beach. We accidentally stumbled upon a professional beach volleyball tournament, which I of course loved. The weather the entire weekend was gorgeous- a nice change from the smoke-filled air that Idaho was unfortunately experiencing at the time. Mat and I were pleasantly surprised by the lake; it was huge and a gorgeous blue color. I don’t know why, but I was expecting it to be brownish, you know, like most bodies of water in big cities (looking at you Houston). The lake also had waves reminiscent of an ocean; crazy!

The tournament had brought a few other attractions to the beach, including a huge air-filled-jump-thing. I’m not really sure what to call it. In any case, Mat got a wild hair and decided to jump off the top! He said it was basically a straight shot of adrenaline to the heart. That had worked up an appetite, so then we made our way to our favorite Chicago-style pizza joint, Gino’s East. We also wrote about Gino’s East here. This time, our waitress actually brought us a marker so we could mark our spot for a future trip to the famous restaurant. There is hardly an inch left open anywhere, so finding a spot to write was difficult. I already can’t wait to go back and find what we wrote!

We had tickets to the day game on Sunday, and Mat wanted to spend as much time possible at Wrigley Field, so we got there a little before the gates opened. Wrigley Field is one of the oldest (if not, the oldest) original fields in baseball, and it is gorgeous. I loved all of the ivy growing along the walls. Their layout for concessions left much to be desired, however, as it took about 40 minutes to get my beloved soft serve ice cream in a baseball hat. Still worth it. 🙂

Our last night in town, Mat took me to his favorite part of the city for dinner. We aren’t sure which neighborhood it is technically considered, but it’s between Wrigleyville/Lakeview and DePaul University. It is the most adorable area with my favorite shops, restaurants and cute walk-up, brick town homes! The cherry on top is that we found a place that makes and serves my latest addiction, Chicago-style popcorn. He sold me, I’m ready to move!

We are looking forward to a time when we can spend more than a weekend in this pretty city!

Rewards Points Travel

Carmel-By-The-Sea

July 29, 2017

Last weekend Mat and I were able to go on a quick getaway to Carmel, California, also known as Carmel-By-The-Sea. It had been several weeks since we had been anywhere (last place was Palm Springs), so I was itching for another vacation. Mat, who hates the extreme heat that Boise gets in the summer, was ready for a break from having to sit directly in front of a fan 24/7 to not sweat, so he was happy to book flights to Oakland.

We both love San Francisco (it’s where we met 10+ years ago!), so it made sense to start our weekend there on Friday night. Plus, Southwest has a great flight option that allows us to work a full day on Friday and get into town early enough for dinner! So we packed our bags in Betty Lou (the name of our car) on Friday morning so we could head straight to the airport after work. We had a few minor delays getting into town, but we were still able to make our dinner reservations at The Saratoga.

Saturday we walked to a nearby bakery and picked up some breakfast and coffee, then made our way up to Twin Peaks. We were extremely lucky to get a clear day; typically it’s quite foggy in San Francisco. It was an absolutely gorgeous, sunny morning and it was so cool to see SF from this view. Our plan was to stop in Santa Cruz on the way from San Francisco to Carmel for either brunch or lunch, but we ran into the ever-dreaded California traffic. We have actually been extremely fortunate that each time we have been to California, we haven’t ever had to experience this notorious headache. We were not so lucky this time. We realize now why Californians are so drawn to Boise!

We ended up making it to Santa Cruz, but just for a brief pit stop, since we had now missed brunch and didn’t have enough time for lunch. We attempted to drive to the boardwalk, but there were sooooo many cars we would have never made it driving. We parked and walked the last mile, all while noticing that cars were backed up, bumper to bumper and not moving, in every single direction. It was nuts! We were in Huntington Beach last year for the Vans US Open and don’t remember this much car traffic. I was convinced that Santa Cruz was where Beyonce’s first outing with her twins was, because why else would everyone be there?!

We decided to keep moving to Carmel. This town looks like something you would see out of a storybook; cottages, bungalows, gardens and huge, mature trees everywhere! It’s gorgeous! It’s also quite chilly. I’m always cold, but I had to layer up with scarves and sweaters to be comfortable. Mat was absolutely loving the temperatures. This town is so cozy and romantic. We overheard a waiter say to another table that it is in the top five most romantic cities in the world. I just wanted to walk around in my cozy sweater, cuddle and drink wine all day, which is pretty much what we did. The highlight of the trip for me was buying a bottle of wine at the market, taking a blanket down to the beach and watching the sunset before our dinner reservations.

Before heading out Sunday morning, we made sure to check out Clint Eastwood’s ranch/estate, The Mission Ranch. Wow, this property is gorgeous. From what I read, the ground was set to sell to build commercialized condominiums, but the town wasn’t happy about that. Clint Eastwood (who served as Mayor of Carmel in the past) came along to save the day and bought the property. It has since been renovated to include a restaurant and lodging options, but still kept as a ranch; sheep and all!

Before flying home on Sunday, we made a stop in Monterrey for breakfast and, of course, more coffee. This town is adorable! We were intrigued with Monterrey originally because we have been watching Big Little Lies, which is filmed and based in Monterrey. We walked down Fisherman’s Wharf and watched the most adorable sea lion/otter swim just a few feet below us.

It’s amazing how many things you can see and experience in 48 hours when you aren’t stuck in a cubical. 😉

 

Reviews Travel

Sunny Palm Springs

June 11, 2017

Mat and I took advantage of our three day weekend and flew to Palm Springs, CA for a quick and relaxing trip. Our three-day weekend can be described in three terms: naps, hats and pool floaties. Palm Springs was a great place to get the summer started because the weather was already HOT, which I loved. We stayed at The Avalon and earned 29k Southwest points for doing so.  I thought the hotel/bungalow accommodations were adorable. With these extra points, we earned the Southwest Companion Pass for 2018! Woo hoo!

After working a full day on Friday (we have to use our time off wisely!) we flew in late so we didn’t really get the vacation started until Saturday morning. However, The Avalon had a wonderful surprise waiting for us in our room-a HUGE plate of the most delicious and fresh fruit we have ever had. Mat went crazy on the fruit Friday night and I finished off some of it when I woke up on Saturday.

We slept in on Saturday and had breakfast at the Chi Chi restaurant, which has tables right beside the main pool at the center of the hotel. I had an amazing assortment of buttermilk pancakes, banana foster’s, barrel-aged maple syrup and candied walnuts. The best part was that it was still steaming hot when they brought it out. It was so good. If you follow us on SnapChat you probably saw me freaking out about it. Mat wasn’t as excited about his breakfast burrito, but it came with more of that amazing fruit and gorgeous poolside views, so it’s kind of hard to complain.

After breakfast we walked into town and did some shopping. This is when we made the most important purchases of the trip: our hats. I have become slightly obsessed with mine and it may have contributed to the fact that I didn’t brush my hair the entire trip. Mat looks extremely dapper in his, and of course they helped protect our skin from the blazing sun.

We made a quick stop at Las Casuelas Terraza for some giant margaritas before heading back to enjoy some pool time at the hotel. The Avalon has three different pools, which is nice that they cater to the different interests of their guests. One of the pools was kid friendly (we checked it out but promptly kept walking), and the main pool, located by the Chi Chi, seemed to be mostly couples. All the lounge chairs at this pool were already taken, so we kept going to the third pool. I called this third pool the ‘party pool’, which usually isn’t really our jam but we totally loved it! For the Memorial holiday, The Avalon hosted a variety of activities at the ‘party pool’ including: live DJ, a taco bar, booze-y snow cones, frozes (frozen rose wine), ping pong and bocci ball! We spent the majority of our time at this pool for obvious reason. 🙂 We then preceded to take a four nap after the sun had zapped our energy. Hey, it’s vacation-we can nap however long we want!

The best food of the weekend was at the hard to get into brunch joint, Cheeky’s. The Avalon provided cruiser bikes to hotel guests free of charge so we checked them out one morning and decided to bike the one mile to Cheeky’s. We arrived just 30 minutes after the restaurant opened and ended up waiting an hour and a half for a table! It was insane! During that hour and a half of waiting, dozens and dozens of people showed up to put their name on the waiting list. The restaurant is only open until 2 pm, so I have no idea if it was even possible to get through the list of people before they closed. The food definitely did not disappoint, so it was worth the wait.

Our last night we decided to drive the one hour and check out Joshua Tree National Park. The trees are so interesting, kind of a mix between a cactus and a palm tree. So cool! But to be honest, after you’ve seen 100, they all start to look alike. The park also has these amazing, huge, boulder structures. The park looked especially alien-like after the sun set and there were shadows everywhere.

Travel

Sayulita Love

May 16, 2017

Mat and I recently had the opportunity to visit the sweet surfing city, Sayulita, Mexico for a friend’s wedding. The verdict is out and…we are in love with it. So much so that we may or may not have looked at property while we were there. 😉 This was such a wonderful trip because we were able to travel with our good friends Tony and Heidy! Travel is always enhanced when you can spend it with friends and family.

We found a great villa to rent on Airbnb (Casa Kukana) that came with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen and our own private pool. We did some research before we went and found that most travelers rent golf carts (how great/cute is that?!) to get around the town. If you are traveling to Sayulita, I would definitely recommend getting one mostly because it’s so fun. Plus, it helps you get around fast and is easy to find a parking spot.

It is important to note, however, that depending on where you are staying or wanting to visit, a golf cart may not get you there. There are two neighborhoods in the town that a regular ol’ golf cart can’t access: Gringo Hill and Nanazal. The town is built up in the hills, and these two areas are too steep to access with a regular four-seater golf cart. If you are staying in these areas you will need to rent a larger golf cart or a Polaris.

Sayulita is about a 45 min drive north of the Puerta Vallarta airport, so we arranged (through our Airbnb rental) a private taxi to pick us up. What was great about this arrangement is that not only was it a luxurious SUV, but the driver had ice-filled coolers in the back full of water and beer for us! Perfect for after the semi-long flying time to get there.

Scheduling a private ride from the airport worked out great because the price we paid included a stop at the Mega, which is basically the Wal-Mart of Mexico. Since we had a full kitchen in our rental, we stocked up on food and drinks for the week. Mat and I spent less than $100 on food and alcohol for the week, and if you know how often Mat eats, you will understand how much money this saved us! We also picked up some other items at the Mega including SPF, tanning lotion and a sports bra for me. Long story about the sports bra…but it’s nice to know that items like this are available if needed!

The villa we rented also provided all the filtered drinking water we needed, which is a must in Sayulita so you don’t get sick drinking the unfiltered water there. We even used the filtered water to brush our teeth just to be cautious. I loved our villa so much that it was difficult to ever want to leave it! We had the most amazing views of the beach and the town from our pool.

The town itself is what totally won me over. It is basically everything I want to be able to do every day including: laying on the beach, never brushing my hair, not wearing a bra or shoes, macrame, live music, yoga, delicious food (including pizza and dessert!), cold drinks and amazing shops. All of this is available in this adorable city! We found that Sayulita is a vacation destination for both Americans and locals, which is so cool!

Heidy compared the little town of Sayulita to one of her favorite travel destinations, Costa Rica. Mat and I haven’t been to Costa Rica (yet), but we thought it reminded us a little bit of Curacao. The adorable surf and yoga town is a bit more jungle-y than other places we have visited in Mexico, which makes me feel like I’m in a tree-house up in the hills. I loved it.

One of our favorite parts of the trip happened because we took a wrong turn on the way back to the villa one night and randomly came across a street we nicknamed Carnival Alley. The reason for the nickname was because on this street there was the greatest carnival-like game ever. I don’t think it has a name but we called it Beer Toss. There was a large makeshift wall with rows of glass beer bottles held up by nails, and in front was a table filled with rocks. Yes, glass beer bottles. And yes, rocks. So simple yet brilliant. You pay 30 pesos (equivalent to about $1.60) for three rocks to throw and try to break a glass beer bottle. For every bottle you break, you get a beer. No joke. So, you could potentially win three beers for for about a buck and a half. And it’s oddly satisfying to break a glass bottle with a rock. We had SO much fun in Carnival Alley.  You can see the bottle breaking action near the end of our video below this post.

All in all, the wedding was beautiful (congrats to the new Mr. and Mrs. T!) and the laid back, surfing town won us over. I’m hoping to see you next year, Sayulita!

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita Love

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

Sayulita

 

Travel

Huntington Beach and the Vans U.S. Open

July 28, 2016

Last weekend we decided to take advantage of our free flights with Southwest Airlines and take a quick weekend trip to Huntington Beach, California. We had no reason to go there, other than having heard from friends that it was a fun little beach town. Since we loved our weekend in San Diego so much we thought “Why not?”

We had no plans other than beach, eat and drink. Just a week or two before our trip we found out that we had accidentally booked it while the Vans US Open was happening, so the timing worked out perfectly! We stayed at a place we found on Airbnb that was about four blocks from the events on the beach, so we were able to walk to everything: restaurants, bars, coffee, shopping, and of course, all of the Vans US Open events.

Not realizing how big of a deal the US Open is, we were quite shocked to see how busy the little town of Huntington Beach was! The second day we were up on the pier looking down at the boardwalk that lead to event and Mat compared it to Times Square, except everyone was in bikinis! Crazy! It was strange seeing everyone wear their swimming suits everywhere, including restaurants! It was pretty fun to be in such a relaxed environment. I literally didn’t brush my hair for the entire three days we were there and I loved it.

One day we rented bikes and (foolishly) attempted to ride to Newport. Spoiler alert, that didn’t happen. We did ride by a country festival that was happening on the beach though, which was so cool! A new item has now been added to the bucket list….attend a music festival on a beach.

Between the margaritas, watching world class surfing, skateboarding, outdoor movies in the amphitheater and the amazing sunsets the west coast offers….the weekend was an absolute blast! Oh yeah, we both left with some new Vans gear. 🙂

Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach

Vans U.S. Open Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Main St.

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Vans U.S. Open Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Main St.

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Main St.

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Sunset

Huntington Beach Sunset

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Sunset

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Pin Map

Huntington Beach Pin Map

Reviews

The Boise Flea Market

July 10, 2016

A while back my friend Allison and I met to check out the Boise Flea Market one Sunday morning. I love our little city and all that it offers. I grew up going to yard sales so I think this kind of stuff is just in my blood. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, mostly jut to check it out and see what was in that part of town.

The Boise Flea Market is held the second Sunday of each month (which is today!) out by the “State Street shops”, which I guess is what that row of shops calls themselves, but I had no idea. The address is technically 3017 W. State Street, but the market is a few blocks long. If you are looking for vintage/antique items, this is your place! Not only is there an actual antique shop at this location, but nearly every single seller had items that took me back to my childhood. Campbell’s soup thermos? Yep, I saw 4! There were vintage telephones, magazine racks, wagons, kitchen items, even vintage baby strollers and bicycles!

There was also a mix of hand made items from local merchants. I chatted for a little bit with the woman behind Lost Little Things, and she said that her items she makes are sold at several local shops, but items that are flawed (I didn’t see anything that looked flawed-artists are picky about their work I guess ;)) she sells at the Flea Market. It’s such a great way to get unique, hand made items for a great price! I’m kicking myself now for not getting a print she made to hang on our gallery wall.

I thoroughly enjoyed the vibe of the Boise Flea Market and can’t wait for next month’s!

Official information about The Boise Flea:

Second Sundays, April-October

10am-4pm

3017 W State Street

Boise

2016 Dates for the rest of the year:

July 10, August 14, September 11 and October 9

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Boise Flea Market

Venture Meridian

Time for a Free Summer Vacation

July 6, 2016

Summer is definitely a time for exploration-whether trying out a new hobby, sampling a new cuisine, or checking out a new part of town, the long days allow for more time to dedicate to exploring.

This summer, we were fortunate enough to experience several new cities, attend multiple sporting events and enjoy cuisine from other countries, all while saving several thousand dollars! Thanks to credit card points, we took a 15 day time-out from our regular day to day and visited New York, Florence, Rome, Malta, Comino, Gozo and Chicago.

Our trip started with two days in New York staying at the Waldorf Astoria (for free, but more on that later) on Park Avenue. We spent our weekend eating delicious pizza in Brooklyn, attending a Yankees vs Red Sox game, visiting Wall Street and staring in awe and remembrance at the Freedom Tower. (full NY post)

From New York we flew into Florence, Italy and enjoyed riding bikes and scooters with friends, eating delicious heart-shaped pizza (you will see there is a pizza theme coming), visiting mind-blowing museums, gazing at the city from the Plaza de Michelangelo and walking up to the top of the Duomo. (full Florence post)

We took the train from Florence to Rome where we – surprise! – ate more pizza and explored museums and churches. The main reason for visiting Rome was to attend our first ever international sporting event-the Italian Open! This was such an amazing experience-from the lucky blue skies after a day of pouring rain, to nail biting tie breaker to complete the semi-finals match between Djokovic and Nishikori. (full Rome post)

From Rome we hopped a quick flight to the islands of Malta to meet up with friends and explore what this small country south of Sicily had to offer. Malta was quite possibly the most naturally beautiful place we have seen in person. One of the islands that make up Malta, named Comino, was surrounded by water so blue and so clear that it didn’t look real; it appeared man-made, as if someone had placed a teal colored dye in the water. Unbelievable. In Malta we visited the capital city of Valletta, the Blue Lagoon on Comino, the Azure Window on Gozo, cliff jumped at the local watering hole just outside of Marsaxlokk, saw the oldest known megalithic temples in the world, and tried octopus in the silent city of Mdina. Oh yeah, we also ate delicious pizza. (full Malta post)

To break up the trip home, we stopped for two days in Chicago and were lucky enough to have gorgeous weather! In our short time in Chicago we were able to squeeze in Millennium Park and take photos by Cloud Gate, aka the “bean”, go to the top of Willis Tower and eat traditional Chicago style pizza at Gino’s East. (complete details coming soon!)

This trip would not have been possible for us if we had to pay full price for it out of pocket. In total, by using credit card rewards points, we saved over $10,000 on this trip. We booked our flights to and from Europe for free. We stayed at luxurious properties like the Waldorf Astoria, Palmer House, and Hilton Malta for free. By utilizing credit card reward offers from American Airlines and Hilton, we were fortunate enough to have the 15 day (international) experience of a lifetime. Most anyone can do exactly what we do to earn free travel and everyone should at least take a look at how it all works.

As always, please check out Venture Meridian Magazine and show them some love for supporting us by letting us have our monthly column!

Venture Meridian Magazine April 2016

Brooklyn Sign

piazzale michelangelo florence

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina