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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. 😉 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

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Sayulita Love

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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

Brooklyn Bridge walk

Brooklyn Bridge

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!

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

the Honua Kai sent us an anniversary gift!

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

baking our wedding cake!

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Maui, HI

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Maui, HI

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

Maui, HI

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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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Rewards Points Travel

Aruba, Curacao, and South Beach Miami for free

January 29, 2017

Idaho is going through one of the coldest/snowiest winters in the past 30 years.  Snow, ice, freezing rain, slush, inversions, misery.  We had to escape it if only for a short while.  Luckily, we already had a getaway booked for January not knowing just how badly we would end up needing it.  This is kind of a funny story how it all came about actually.  Back in September, we booked this trip out of spite for the sole purpose of getting back at the Hyatt hotel brand.  Somewhat of a blessing in disguise, here is how we ended up visiting Aruba, Curacao, and South Beach Miami for free.

Last summer, Lacey and I visited Huntington Beach, CA.  You may remember our post about it here.  We ended up staying at a little Air BnB during that trip by default as Hyatt would not let us use the 4 free nights we earned from this card.  The Hyatt reps were so awful and unhelpful while I was trying to book nights at one of their $200 per night properties down there.  I felt like they were doing everything in their power to prevent me from redeeming the awards we earned.  Long story short, Hyatt pissed me off super bad and I wanted to get back at ’em for how they treated us.

Angrily, I googled “most expensive Hyatt hotel”.  At the top of the results was their resort in Aruba.  What a coincidence, Southwest Airlines flies to Aruba meaning Lacey and I could get there for free because we earned the Companion Pass.  This was our chance to stick it to Hyatt as these rooms were $600 per night.  Suck it Hyatt.  Side note, these rooms in Aruba were a challenge to book as well.  Their website would tell me there was no availability when I search for 2 or 4 consecutive nights at this resort.  Oddly, when I searched 1 night at a time it was available.  So, I ended up having to make 4 separate reservations in order to get 4 nights in a row.  Keep this in mind when you’re looking for availability on Hyatt’s website.  I’m not kidding, they do their best to prevent you from using your rewards.

While booking our flights to Aruba, I found that we could break up the trip by making stops on the island of Curacao and in South Beach Miami.  We had never been to either place and both looked amazing.  We booked a suite for a night at the amazing Hilton resort in Curacao with honors points and booked 2 nights at the Shelborne Boutique Hotel on South Beach in Miami with Wyndham reward points.  I have to mention how awesome the staff at the Shelborne resort were to us.  I emailed them prior to the trip to confirm our reservation and briefly mentioned that it was an anniversary trip.  When we checked in, they said “it looks like you are celebrating a special event with us so you have been upgraded to an ocean view penthouse suite.”  I had totally forgot that I emailed ’em about it and was a little caught off guard at first.  Then I turned to Lacey and said “happy anniversary, ha”.  If that weren’t enough, they sent us a bottle of champagne later that night.  That was pretty amazing of them and we are so grateful.

Our week-long trip was just what we needed to break up this awful winter here in Idaho.  Each place we visited was amazing for their individual reasons.  Aruba’s beautiful white sand beaches, flamingos, and iguanas made us feel like we were in a different reality.  Curacao’s tropical surroundings and heavily Dutch influenced architecture had us wishing we had more time to spend there.  The hustle and bustle of South Beach blended with the beauty and calm atmosphere at the beach had us asking each other if we were ready to move there.

One last thing to point out.  We ended up paying $25 a night to upgrade our room at the Hyatt in Aruba to an ocean front suite.  So for $100 + taxes we stayed in a room that was priced at $789 per night.  We ended up getting a value of about $3100 from our 4 reward nights.  Maybe Hyatt will rethink their customer service approach when someone is trying to book a $200 per night room next time 🙂

Total Amount of Free Flights/Hotels for this trip alone = $6,799 prior to taxes

  • Southwest Flights – $2900 (we used Southwest points and the Companion Pass to book these flights)
  • Hyatt in Aruba – $3100 (Lacey and I both signed up for this card to earn 2 free nights each)
  • Hilton in Curacao – $309 (used a combination of these cards over time to earn Hilton Honors points)
  • Shelborne Boutique Hotel on South Beach – $490 (we used Wyndham reward points from this card to book this)

Photos in Aruba –

Renaissance Island (where the Flamingos and Iguanas are)

Baby Bridge (natural arch)

Bon Bini Festival

California Lighthouse

Eagle Beach

Rainbow Aruba

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

Grand Hyatt Aruba

I heart Aruba Sign

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

Iguana Island Aruba

Flamingo Island Aruba

California LightHouse Aruba

California LightHouse Aruba

Coconut Drink Aruba

Aruba Panorama

Baby Bridge Aruba

“Baby Bridge”

Aruba Rock Garden

rock garden near the natural bridge

Aruba Natural Bridge

Bon Bini Aruba

at the “Bon Bini” festival

 

Photos in Curacao:

Downtown Willemstad

Hilton Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Willemstad Curacao

Dushi Curacao

Curacao Sign

Curacao Hilton

Hilton Curacao

view from our Hilton Suite in Curacao

 

Photos in South Beach:

Shelborne Boutique Hotel

South Beach

Henna Tattoo on South Beach

South Beach, Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

Lacey got her 1st Henna Tattoo on South Beach

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami Henna Tattoo

South Beach Miami

view from our upgrade at the Shelborne in South Beach

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Travel

A Day in Denver

August 24, 2016

Lacey and I had never been to Denver before.  Being that Southwest has nonstop flights from Boise, we decided to give it a look.  If nothing else, we could put a new pin on our travel map.  With the help of some beautiful weather, public bicycles, nachos, and 21oz. margaritas, we enjoyed our day in Denver.

Thanks to the Southwest Companion Pass, Lacey and I hopped on a free flight to Denver last Saturday morning.  We landed, caught the hotel shuttle, dropped off our bags, and took a $5 Uber to downtown Denver.  We were enjoying brunch and mimosas at the Viewhouse on Market St. by 11:30am.  The Viewhouse is one of the coolest sports bars I’ve ever been to.  It’s like Disneyland for drunken sports fans.  They have a huge outdoor area on the 1st level that is full of backyard games like corn hole.  The top floor patio, where Lacey and I hung out, has amazing views of downtown Denver and of Coors Field.  Their brunch is delicious and is accompanied by solid happy hour specials that include bottomless mimosas and a build your own Bloody Mary bar.  Our day in Denver was off to a strong start!

After brunch, we walked across the street and found a public bicycle station where we rented 2 bikes.  We couldn’t think of a better way to quickly find out what all was going on in the downtown area.  While cruisin’ around, we ran into a Farmers Market right outside Union Train Station and then discovered the 16th St. Mall.  Lacey had heard good things about the 16th St. Mall from a friend, so we hopped off our bikes and decided to check it out a bit more.  Full of shops, restaurants, and people, this 1+ mile strip of outdoor mall was something I had never seen before in any other city.

As on most of our trips, I was on the prowl for a delicious margarita.  I wish I could remember the name of the place we found on 16th St, but I definitely found a winner.  The menu offered a 21 ounce, margarita.  Yikes!  It took quite a while to finish that bad boy off, but we enjoyed some great people watching from the patio of the restaurant while I worked on it.

Still on 16th St., we visited a cool little sports apparel shop. I’ve been wanting a new Chicago Cubs hat for a while now.  I don’t know if it was the margarita or just the excitement of visiting a new city, but I figured this would be a good day to make that purchase.  Surprisingly enough, I found the exact Cubs hat I had been looking at online the day before in Boise.  An all black fitted New Era hat with a white “C” on the front…likely the best Chicago Cubs hat ever.

Still riding the high from my purchase (and margarita) we headed back toward Coors Field to grab a bite at Lodos Bar and Grill.  This rooftop patio restaurant looked out to 2 other rooftop bars as well as Coors Field.  The surroundings reminded me of a beer commercial or something.  I always figured they staged those commercials to make ’em look like that, but as it turns out, that’s real life in downtown Denver.  Well done Denver, well done.

Following Lodos we headed over to Coors Field as we had tickets to the Cubs/Rockies game.  Right around that time, Lacey started feeling ill and we decided to call it a day rather then head into the game.  I think the altitude played a role in her illness as I wasn’t feeling so hot either.  Make sure to drink tons of water when you visit Denver!  You need to keep as much oxygen in your blood as possible being that you’re not going to get as much from the air as you normally would.

Aside from getting sick, we still had a good experience in Denver.  We got to see this beautiful city via bicylces and rooftop patios, we had some delicious food and drinks, and I scored a new hat! We will surely visit the mile high city again someday.

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

One Day in Denver

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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

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Travel

You Need to Visit Malta

June 29, 2016

Ever heard of Malta? Neither had we until a few months ago.  Our Barcelona buddies suggested we meet there this May.  Being that we had some reward points to burn, we booked it no questions asked.   After booking, we finally did some Google searching to discover that this tiny Mediterranean island looked amazing!  From beaches to cliff diving to ancient temples and cities; we’re going to show, and tell you a shit load of reasons for why you need to visit Malta.

If you are like we were, then you have no idea where Malta is or how to get there.  Picture the map of Italy.  You know how it looks like boot? Picture the island that “the boot” is kicking.  That’s not Malta, it’s Sicily. Right below Sicily, you’ll find Malta.  You can fly to Malta from many of the major European airports on Air Malta or AlItalia.  From many locations, a ticket on these airlines will be less than $100.  Lacey and I traveled to Malta from Rome for $70 a ticket.

What’s so cool about Malta? Literally everything, and I don’t use the word “literally” as loosely as some.  Malta and it’s neighboring islands Comino and Gozo, are responsible for some of the most amazing geographical features in the world.  Places like the Blue Lagoon, Azure Window, and St. Peter’s Pool are just a couple featured spots off the top of my head.  As if the beauty of the island weren’t enough, the history of Malta is even more incredible.  Ancient cities, megalithic temples (older than the Pyramids), and the roots of Christianity can all be found and explored here.  For all of you Game of Thrones nerds out there, Malta is also responsible for numerous breathtaking backdrops in the earlier seasons of this show.

We felt pretty overwhelmed at first while planning this trip.  There was so much to explore and there were only 4 days to do it.  We couldn’t afford to lose time relying on public transportation to trek us around.  We decided to reserve a rental car.  Renting a car was trickier in Malta because I needed an international driver’s permit and oh yeah, they drive on the other side of the street.  Yikes!

Our first day was spent cruzing around St. Julian’s Bay which was a block from our hotel, the Hilton Malta.  We would definitely recommend staying in this area as it is very close to a ton of restaurants and night life while also being a central take off point to all of the sites you’ll want to visit.

Day 2 got off to a quick start as we were touring the capital city of Valletta before noon.  We popped into St. Paul’s Shipwreck Church, took some pics of Ft. St. Elmo, and grabbed some lunch before taking off toward the city of Marsaxlokk.  Yeah, try to pronounce that…Marsaxlokk.  Just outside of this city, Lacey found St. Peter’s Pool, which ended up being a major highlight of the trip.  After a few hours of cliff jumping and swimming, we made our way back to St. Julian’s for a lot of pizza and wine. This day was so much fun!

The next day was, to this point, the best vacation day of my life.  We caught an early morning ferry to the Blue Lagoon on the island of Comino.  Words can’t describe the beauty of this place.  It’s probably easier to just check out our pics below.  The Blue Lagoon is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

After the Blue Lagoon, we loaded up our rental car on a giant ferry and headed for the island of Gozo where the Azure Window is located.  This landmark is so grand and spectacular.  Unfortunately it’s rapidly eroding away so you better get over there and see it soon!  After a couple hours of hiking around and eating a late lunch, we headed out.  On the way back to the ferry we realized that there were some megalithic temples along the way, so we stopped to check ’em out.  I would recommend anyone interested in Aliens and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to read up on these temples.  There were a bunch of elongated skulls found there as well as other locations in Malta.

Our final day was relatively mellow as we spent the day at the ancient city of M’dina and then at the Golden Sands Beach.  I think we were all still a bit tired from the action packed day before.  It was nice to finish up the trip with a relaxing beach day with friends.

Malta is incredible!  I would recommend it to anyone.

Let us know if you have any questions!

Click here to see our video edit from this trip.

Click here to see how we used rewards points to book this trip for free!

why you need to visit Malta

why you need to visit Malta

why you need to visit 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

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

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon

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

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

Malta Valletta Goza Comino Blue Lagoon M'dina

 

 

 

 

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Travel

Rome and the Italian Open

June 16, 2016

After a few fun filled days in Florence, Mat and I took the TrenItalia south to Rome, the Eternal City. Mat and I visited Rome on our last trip to Europe two years ago, but this time we were back for a specific reason: the Italian Open! Neither one of us had ever been to an international sporting event, and we both really wanted to experience that.

Since we saved money booking our trip, this allowed us to splurge on an experience we might never have otherwise been able to have. When we bought our tickets we didn’t know who would be playing in the semi-finals, but we lucked out and got to see the number one player in the world, Novak Djokovic play the number six in the world, Kei Nishikori. The cherry on top was that the match went into a tie breaker!

The entire day leading up to the game was pouring rain. That’s didn’t deter us much, we still walked around this gorgeous city and saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Piazza Venezia. We were so worried that the match would be rained out, especially because it was held outdoors on an uncovered clay court!

We took the (super, extremely) crowded bus to Foro Italico and literally one hour before the semi-finals match, the clouds parted and beautiful blue sky peeked out. It was unbelievable!

The day before the match we checked into our favorite B&B, Gli Scipioni. If you are ever going to visit Rome, we highly suggest staying here! The location is amazing, just steps away from the metro and Vatican City. Plus, they always keep the kitchen stocked, and the freezer full of delicious ice cream! Antonella is such a wonderful human and treats everyone like family.

After we dropped our bags off, we spent the afternoon eating pizza, hanging out by the Trevi Fountain, and visiting St. Peter’s Basilica. I wasn’t able to see St. Peter’s the last time we were in Rome because the line was too long and we didn’t have time. We figured it would be the same situation this time, so we were prepared.

The weirdest thing happened as we were walking toward St. Peter’s; we were in St. Peter’s Square and saw a giant line, as suspected, so we went through security preparing for a lot of standing and waiting once we made it through. However that didn’t happen. Somehow miraculously, or perhaps accidentally, we got in a different line and literally walked directly in without waiting. We are still scratching our heads trying to figure out how it happened. Absolutely zero wait time, even though we could see the line of people wrap around the courtyard.

I wasn’t complaining because I was so excited to see this world renowned church! If the outside seems impressive, the inside is breathtaking. I love thinking about all of the amazing things that have happened in these type of places, and the famous people from history who have walked on the same floors that I was lucky enough to stand on. When we were there the choir came out from some seemingly secret door and serenaded us. They also had a section closed off for church-goers to be able to take Communion. I mean, come on! Take Communion in St. Peter’s Basilica? If I was Catholic I would have to add that to the bucket list for sure.

That evening we had an amazing dinner and easily polished off a bottle of wine. We then walked down the streets of Rome eating gelato, listening to street musicians and then out of nowhere we turned a corner and there was a giant, centuries old building with huge pillars. I’m still not entirely sure what that building was, but that is the just an example of why Rome is so incredible; the mixing of modern buildings with ancient.

We finished the night back at the Trevi Fountain. It doesn’t get much more romantic than the Trevi Fountain at night. As a bonus, it was some of the best people watching of the trip!

There is still so much of Rome we would like to explore, but ever since Mat got me this for our anniversary, it makes it more difficult to not want to put a new pin in for each vacation, so I think we will be visiting the southern portion of the country when we head back to Italy!

What are your favorite sites to see in Rome?

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

Rome and the Italian Open

ponte sant'angelo Roman, Italy

piazza venezia Rome, Italy

piazza venezia Rome, Italy

piazza venezia Rome, Italy

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

Roman Forum Rome, Italy

Roman Forum Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Rome and the Italian Open

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

ponte sant'angelo Roman, Italy

roman colosseum Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

castel sant'angelo Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

st. peter's basilica Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain Rome, Italy

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