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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. ūüôā

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!

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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. ūüėČ

 

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Tips Travel

Easy Way to Fix your Pics!

July 15, 2017

There’s nothing worse than spending a ton of time and money traveling to a beautiful place only to realize the pictures you took are absolute garbage.¬† One of the best parts of traveling is being able to take home amazing memories.¬† An easy way to access those memories is with photos.¬† You don’t want to look back at your photos 10 years from now and think “I swear that place was prettier than that.”¬† Thankfully there is an easy way to fix your pics.

While Lacey and I are by no means professional photo editors, we have found a quick and easy solution to fixing some of the god awful pics we take.¬† We use a free (yes, free!) photo editing software called the Nik Collection, by Google.¬† As always, a reminder that we don’t get paid to promote anything; we just honestly love this editing software.

While there is literally an entire ‘collection’ of free Google photo editing software you can download here, the product we end up using the most is the Color Efex Pro.¬† Within Color Efex Pro, we typically only use 2 of the editing options – Darken/Lighten Center and Brilliance/Warmth.¬† These 2 settings make it easy to brighten up dark sections of your photos and also make the colors pop.¬† These are the only 2 settings we used to fix the picture below.

I know many of you could make this pic look even better, but we’re pretty satisfied by being able to make the terrible original pic look halfway decent.¬† At least you can see our faces now!¬† This pic was actually take a few hours before I proposed so it means a lot to me to be able to brighten up this one.¬† Thanks Googs!

Easy way to Fix your Pics

Let us know if you give the Nik Collection a shot!  Send us some examples of the pics you edited.

Good luck with your edits!

 

Below are a handful of pics from our engagement trip to Italy from a few years back.  Both our camera and our picture taking skills were awful at the time, but we were able to salvage most of the pics with the Nik Collection.  Take my word for it, before I edited the pics below, they were borderline unusable.

 

 

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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‚Äôs, 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. ūüôā 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.

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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. ūüėČ 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!

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Reviews Travel

The ‘Niagara of the West’ – Shoshone Falls, ID

April 16, 2017

Shoshone Falls is currently dumping more water per second than it has in 20 years. ¬†The falls are only about 2hrs away from our home in downtown Boise, so we decided to go take a look! Shoshone Falls is¬†often referred to as¬†the ‘Niagara of the West’. ¬†After finally seeing it in person we now¬†understand why. ¬†Currently running at about 22k cubic feet per second, this is by far the most impressive waterfall either of us have seen in person.

We were a bit worried about the large volume of people rumored to be visiting the falls this weekend. ¬†Some were saying they had to wait over an hour to park during their visit. ¬†Others had said traffic was backed up for a few miles leading up to the parking lot entrance. ¬†Fortunately, we didn’t experience either of these things. ¬†Whether it was good timing, or luck, we didn’t have to wait at all this past Saturday during our visit. ¬†There were plenty of people there, but we didn’t have any trouble finding a parking spot about 200 yards from the lookout points. ¬†The entrance fee is only $3 per car and well worth it. ¬†You can find more details here.

We would highly recommend you visit Shoshone Falls, ID if you’re anywhere in the neighborhood.

Let us know if you have any questions while planning your trip!

Shoshone Falls, ID

Shoshone Falls, ID

Shoshone Falls, ID

Shoshone Falls, ID

Shoshone Falls, ID

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Travel

Best New York City Experience…so far.

April 8, 2017

New York City is like a giant storage unit that the world keeps¬†stuffing awesome shit into. ¬†It’s filled to the top and all the way to the back with food, sports, architecture, shopping, art, and entertainment. ¬†Anytime you slide up the storage unit door, a pile of awesome spills out on your feet and you’re like “do we have too much awesome in here? Nah, I think there’s still some room in the back.” ¬†We were lucky enough to make our 3rd trip to this amazing city recently¬†and agree that it was our best New York City experience…so far.

First of all, I’d like to thank Matthew McConaughy and Kate Hudson for making this trip possible. ¬†Seriously. ¬†If it weren’t for the 2003 rom-com “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, we never would have taken this trip. ¬†Thanks to the scene below, going to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden had landed itself on Lacey’s bucket list. ¬†We take bucket list declarations very seriously in our household, so I knew we needed to make this happen asap. ¬†We scored amazing seats (11th row) as the Knicks caught a beatin’ from the 1st place Celtics. ¬†Lacey was dressed up in her custom Knicks jersey and seemed to be¬†constantly in awe of her surroundings. ¬†In addition to¬†the game, there were a ton of celebrities on hand that were often hanging out directly next to where we were sitting. ¬†The Knicks even honored the team from 1999 during the game which included every player Kate Hudson and Matty Mc-C cheered for during the movie. ¬†What are the odds?!! To top it¬†off, Lacey caught a Knicks shirt from the t-shirt gun people. ¬†It couldn’t have gone any better. ¬†Bucket list item checked off in¬†style.

We only had 1 other pre-planned event for this trip;¬†a live taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers. ¬†This ended up being way more fun than I think either of us thought it would be. ¬†While being led to the Late Night Studio within the Rockefeller Center, we walked¬†by the main Saturday Night Live stage which was really cool to see in person. ¬†As our tickets were free and didn’t have assigned seats, we were thrilled when the NBC ushers placed us in the 3rd row from the studio floor. ¬†The guests that night were Chelsea Handler and Jake Johnson (Nick from New Girl). ¬†We¬†like those two a bunch so it made for an even more exciting experience. ¬†They didn’t allow anyone to take pics in the studio so I grabbed a couple of screenshots from the episode to show where we sat. Shown at the bottom.

The rest of the trip was accidentally action packed, but in a great way. ¬†We ate tons of delicious food at places like PJ Clarke’s, Toscana 49, dessert at Serendipity, and Juliana’s Pizza in Brooklyn. ¬†We visited Central Park for some morning hot chocolate, we stopped by the “Fearless Girl” statue near Wall St., and quickly passed through Time Square on our way to catch a metro. ¬†Lacey visited “blo“, a blow dry bar near our hotel in midtown. ¬†Her hair is always awesome but I think she appreciated having someone else wash, dry, and style it for the day.

Last but not least, we visited the jewelry boutique where I purchased Lacey’s engagement ring 3 years ago. ¬†Neither of us had ever been there before since I ordered her ring online. ¬†The boutique was hidden in a nondescript office building in midtown on the 9th floor. ¬†You had to pass through 2 security doors before waiting to be buzzed in through the main door. ¬†It felt good knowing that it wasn’t an easily accessible, run-of-the-mill jewelry shop with “80% OFF SALE” signs everywhere. ¬†The shop was filled with beautiful antique jewelry and had an amazing view of Manhattan. ¬†We had Lacey’s ring cleaned and maintenanced while we were there. ¬†I don’t think she has stopped looking at her ring since.

One thing¬†that stood out to Lacey and I the most during this trip was finally being able¬†to experience New York City the way we always wanted to. ¬†Since our flights were free (thanks to the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass)¬†we felt comfortable dropping¬†a few extra bucks on tickets, dinner, wine, coffees, and desserts. ¬†The more we thought about and appreciated that simple fact, the more we realized that it really did change¬†our entire experience. ¬†If we had to swap out our intimate dining experiences for fast food or if we had balcony seats at the game instead of our floor seats, it would have been a completely different experience¬†for us. ¬†Still fun, but just very different. ¬†We couldn’t be more thankful for the credit card award options that let us get to places like this for free!

This was our best New York City experience…so far. ¬†We’re hoping to catch a live taping of Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live on our next visit!

Let us know if you have any questions!

Manhattan Brooklyn Bridge panoramic

Madison Square Garden Selfie

Madison Square Park

Madison Square Garden

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Lacey Knicks seats

Madison Square Garden Lacey

Fearless Girl Wall St

Fearless Girl Wall St

Time Square New York City

Manhattan Brooklyn Bridge

Statue Of Liberty

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2nd time visiting the Brooklyn Bridge

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn

Flat Iron Building

Central Park Lacey

Freedom Cone Brooklyn

St. Patrick's Cathedral New York City

Time Square New York City

NBC studios New York City

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Late Night with Seth Meyers

NBC studios New York City

 

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Travel

Happy Maui-versary! – our anniversary in Maui

March 12, 2017

Last year I got Lacey a push-pin travel map for our anniversary.¬† It’s a really cool map, but I realized that it might have been kind of a sucky gift for an anniversary.¬† Anniversaries probably call for a little more effort than just ordering something online.¬† My bad.¬† This year, Lacey and I put our heads together about 4 months in advance and came up with an awesome idea.¬† Rather than doing material gifts, we were going to spend our 2nd wedding anniversary in Maui, HI.

This trip was a rare case because we actually paid for most of it out-of-pocket and did not use any rewards points.¬† We did, however, get 1 of our flights for $99 + taxes while using the Alaska Airlines “companion fare” that comes with this card.¬† So we still saved about $600 dollars on flights.¬† Our tax returns covered the rest of the trip including a 5 night stay in an ocean front studio suite at the Honua Kai Resort.

The Honua Kai is beautiful.¬† The resort has multiple pools, a water slide, a lazy river, a charming ocean front restaurant, and easy beach access.¬† We would definitely recommend staying here if you’re planning a trip.¬† It is located on the northwest side of the island, minutes from Ka’anapali Beach and Lahaina.¬† The studio we stayed in was incredible.¬† We had a full kitchen (where we baked our wedding/fun-fetti cake), living room, large bathroom with a tub and shower, and a large patio equipped with furniture.¬† The best part was the sliding glass door leading out to the patio.¬† You could slide and fold this door together creating an “open air” feel leading from your room out to the resort and ocean.

While we didn’t have much planned for this trip, there were a couple of things we really wanted to do.¬† I wanted to see some waterfalls and Lacey wanted to do some cliff jumping.¬† We knocked out both pretty quickly and stumbled upon some awesome plants, animals, and geography along the way.¬† We visited the Heart Shaped rock near the Nakalele Blowhole and we happened upon the Twin Falls and Garden of Eden along the road to Hana.

We spent our final evening in Lahaina on a bench facing the ocean and sunset.  We shared a giant shaved ice while marveling at nearby whales as they lept out of the water.  So incredible!

For us, this was the perfect way to spend our 2nd anniversary.  Hopefully this becomes a Thompson tradition!

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Maui, HI

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the Honua Kai sent us an anniversary gift!

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baking our wedding cake!

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Travel

Los Angeles for President’s Day Weekend

February 26, 2017

Lacey and I didn’t originally plan on taking a trip in between Aruba (late Jan.) and Maui (next Saturday!), but the weather in Boise continues to be absolutely miserable.¬† The buzz from the Aruba trip wore off quicker than we’d hoped as the wind, rain, snow, and inversions of Southern Idaho kept coming.¬† Lacey and I are both really affected by ugly/dark/cold weather (who isnt?!).¬† I’m not sure if it’s to the level of seasonal depression disorder, but it sucks nonetheless.¬† After a few days in a row of being bummed out, we decided we had to seek out some sunshine.

With plenty of Southwest points paired with the Companion Pass and our recently earned 2 “anniversary” nights with Hyatt, I started doing some searching for a Presidents Day Weekend getaway.¬† From Boise, Southern California is usually our best bet for a quick trip to sunshine this time of year.¬† I had a little trouble out of the gates finding award night availability with Hyatt.¬† I searched places like San Diego, Long Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.¬† No luck.¬† It seemed this was just too short of notice to book a room with awards.¬† Then I remembered Lacey telling me about how much fun her and her mom had wedding dress shopping at Manhattan Beach.¬† I quickly searched for, and found, availability at the Hyatt House near Manhattan Beach.¬† After a quick chat with Lacey, we booked the trip.

The conversation went something like this:

  • Mat – “How do you feel about going to Manhattan Beach for President’s Day? We can get there for free, use 2 free nights at a Hyatt, and then book a 3rd night with a points+cash combination.¬† The entire trip would cost $83.”
  • Lacey – “Oh my gosh, yes! Book it!”

So I did, and we enjoyed a quick and casual, no plans, just hanging out, Netflix by 7pm, awesome weekend in the Los Angeles/Manhattan Beach area.

The weather was a little chilly during the trip, but the sunshine did come out each day after some morning clouds.  We ventured to Hollywood and Sunset Blvd, while hiking to the Griffith Observatory.  We made our way to Venice Beach and crushed some In and Out Burgers on the way back to the hotel.  We even caught a movie during a couple hours of cloudy drizzly weather one morning.

Another awesome experience courtesy of rewards points.  We saved $900+ on this trip by using the Southwest Airlines companion pass and the Hyatt rewards programs.  Let us know if you have any questions on how you can do the same!

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory

Sunset Blvd Hollywood

Sunset Blvd Hollywood

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Zoltar

Muscle Beach Venice Beach

Los Angeles for President's Day Weekend

Griffith Observatory

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Rewards Points Travel

Nearly $22k of Free Travel in 12 months

February 11, 2017

Lacey and I just did the math and realized that we redeemed nearly $22k of free travel in 12 months.¬† To be exact, it was $21,833.42 from February ’16 – January ’17.¬† Holy shit!¬† We traveled to some amazing places (20 different cities) and stayed in some incredible hotels along the way.¬† The majority of our travel expenses were either highly discounted or completely free thanks to credit card rewards points.¬† I can’t stress enough how easily all of you can do the same thing!

Our 12 month travel recap includes the destinations listed below.  Click the links to get more details on what we experienced in the past 12 months and how we did it for next to nothing!

While there were a number of rewards programs we used to get all of this awesome stuff, there are a few programs that gave us the most in return.¬† Keep in mind that we don’t get paid to promote any of these programs.¬† These are our genuine opinions based strictly on our personal experiences.

  1. Southwest Airlines Companion Pass –¬† Lacey and I have redeemed over $5,000 worth of free flights from this reward so far. This reward lets you AND your companion fly for free for up to 2 years.¬† Lacey and I still have all of 2017 left to use this perk and we’re going to do our best to make sure we continue earning this reward for as long as possible.¬† Check out how to earn the SW Companion Pass here.
  2. The Hyatt “2 Free Nights” card – link here.¬† After meeting the spending requirements, you’ll earn 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt property.¬† Lacey and I both earned this reward and used our 4 free nights at the Grand Hyatt in Aruba for an $800 per night ocean view suite.¬† This card also gives you 1 anniversary night per year.¬† Lacey and I just used our anniversary nights to book a stay on Manhattan Beach – Los Angeles.
  3. The Wyndham card – What a nice surprise this card has been!¬† You don’t hear much about this card on the mainstream travel blogs.¬† You’ll earn 45k points after hitting the spending requirement.¬† You can book ANY of their hotels for a flat rate of 15k points.¬† So out of the gate, you get 3 free nights anywhere.¬† We used this to book an ocean front suite on South Beach in Miami.¬† It was one of the best hotel experiences we’ve had so far.¬† More details in this post.
  4. The Hilton Honors program.¬† I love Hilton! They have multiple cards you can sign up for making it easy to stack points quickly.¬† Their customer service reps treat you like royalty when you call to book your room(s).¬† I’ll never forget how cool it felt to have someone say “Alright Mr. Thompson, let’s see if I can get you into our most luxurious property during your stay.”¬† There aren’t many occasions in life when I feel like a big shot, but the Hilton reps make me feel like that every time I talk to them.

We are so lucky to have experienced everything we did during the last 12 months.¬† We are very grateful that there are ways for people on a budget to get to see the world.¬† When there’s a will, there’s a way!¬† We hope to continue this pace throughout 2017 as well.¬† So far we’re booked through June 2017 with vacations to Los Angeles (Manhattan Beach), Maui, New York City, and Sayulita Mexico.

Let us know if you have any questions once you start planning your next vacay!

Edits and pics from our travels last year:

San Diego:

Lahaina Beach House

Gas Lamp San Diego

Giant Margarita San Diego

Houston (Final Four):

Final Four 2016 NRG Stadium Houston, TX

Final Four Custom Lanyard

This pic was on our custom lanyards that we wore around our necks.

Lacey at Final Four 2016 Fan Fest

NRG Stadium Final Four 2016

New York City:

Brooklyn Bridge New York

Juliana's Pizza Brooklyn New York

Freedom Tower New York City

Weekend in New York Yankee Redsox Game

Manhattan Skyline

Florence, Italy:

piazzale michelangelo florence

Scooter Tour 3 Days in Florence, Italy

Scooter Tour Florence, Italy

Tuscany Florence Italy

Bicycles Florence, Italy

Florence Italy downtown

Rome, Italy:

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy

Italian Open Rome 2016

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Malta:

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Free Summer Vacation

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Chicago:

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Weekend In Chicago

Weekend in Chicago

Huntington Beach, CA:

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Vans U.S. Open

Huntington Beach Sunset

Denver, CO:

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

Aruba:

I heart Aruba Sign

Baby Bridge Aruba

“Baby Bridge”

Flamingo Island Aruba

Rainbow Aruba

first view upon opening our window shades at the Hyatt in Aruba. Not a bad start

Curacao:

Curacao Sign

Hilton Curacao

view from our Hilton Suite in Curacao

Curacao Hilton

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

South Beach – Miami, FL:

South Beach Miami

South Beach, Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

view from our upgrade at the Shelborne in South Beach

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

 

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