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Game Plan for 2016

January 16, 2016

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, we decided to make an entire game plan for 2016.  A lot of our goals will require weeks or months to plan so we’re starting now to make sure we get as much of this stuff done as possible.  From travel, to home remodeling, to learning new languages…our list is kinda all over the place.  Check out our process and decide if making your own list might help you achieve more this year.

Right away we noticed some immediate benefits from making this list.  First of all, making our list forced us to think about and talk about 1. WHY it was a goal? and 2. HOW could/would we be able to accomplish it? Adding notes to our goals helped us get an idea of how much time and planning each goal will require.  Sharing our list with you guys is already resulting in us feeling a greater level of accountability for achieving these goals.  We realized that now that we have this list, we can check back in on it every month to track our progress.

We set our sites on a few lofty goals because we want to do our best to keep up with the eventful pace we set for ourselves in 2015.  You can read more about that here.  I don’t think we’ll ever be able to top last year (cuz we got married!), but below is how we’re going to try…

Visit at least 10 different cities

  • With 7 cities already being booked (with rewards points), we should be able to hit this mark.  So far, we’ll be visiting San Diego (for Rihanna), Houston (for the Final Four), New York City, Florence, Rome, Malta, and Chicago.  If all goes well in the coming months, we should be adding Maui to this list
  • To make sure we get to the last few cities to complete our goal of 10, we’re going to keep learning about the points planning/travel hacking process through our friends at
Florence-Duomo | DitchingNormal

very excited for Florence in May

Continue Downsizing junk and bills

  • Right now, we have 2 cars.  While it’s pretty awesome to have 2 cars, we don’t need both and could eliminate about $4,000 in bills by getting rid of one of ’em. That being said, anyone wanna buy a suburu outback sport?
  • We’re about to do some major spring cleaning and plan on getting rid of any unnecessary items we find.
Donation Bags | Ditching Normal

Haven’t worn it in a few months? Take it to GoodWill!!!

Continue Paying off Mortgage ASAP

  • We’ve been able to keep up with paying double on our mortgage for the past 6 months or so, but we’re hoping to paying a bit more once we ditch a car.
  • How are we going to do this? By utilizing credit cards rewards points to discount our travel costs.  You can read more about this process here.
Downtown Boise Condo | Ditching Normal

Hopefully we can pay off this little guy soon!

Spend More Time with Family and Friends

  • Travel, live events, and life in general is more fun when you’re spending it with loved ones.  Get ready to spend more time with the Thompsons this year!
  • We’re going to reach out to friends and family to travel with us more along with other things.
excited to meet this crew in Malta this summer

excited to meet back up with this crew in Malta this summer

Improve our non-existent Photography Skills

  • This includes getting a decent camera and finally learning how to use one.
  • We’ll be bugging our friend Vlad from Radion Photography a whole lot for help!
Muir National Park | DitchingNormal

A favorite pic from 2015

Bedroom Remodel

  • Our downtown condo was pretty beat up when we purchased it as a short-sale a few years ago.  We’ve successfully remodeled every room except for the bedroom so far.  A bedroom remodel, including some new carpet/flooring, larger bed, and a better closet space, are LONG overdue.
  • How are we going to do it? Well, with some help from YouTube DIY videos, we’re hoping to cut costs by doing the work ourselves.  We’ll likely use the money from (hopefully) selling a car, to help us get a king sized bed.

More Collaborations

  • We’re looking forward to working with as many creative minds as possible this year.  Photogs, bloggers, travel addicts, and anyone else that has a passion for making life exciting.  If you fall in this category…hit us up!!!
  • How are we going to do this? By stepping out of our comfort zones and initiating communication with the talented folks we’ve grown to admire.  Emails and social media messages will likely lead the way!
Vintage Style Bride

recent collaboration with Radion Photography, Ira and Lucy, and Next Adventure Studio

Save $15,000 or more by Traveling with Rewards Points

  • Wouldn’t that be awesome to say at the end of the year?  We’re over half way there so far.  It’s going to take some serious planning to finish out this goal though.  We’re all ears to any tips you may have.
  • How are we going to do this? By continuing to plan a head with reward points traveling.  The planning we did last year has resulted in us saving nearly $9k already this year.
Our recent trip we booked on points was featured on

Our recent trip we booked on points was featured on

Continue Gradually Learning a 2nd Language

  • Lacey’s going to be working on Spanish while Mat keeps puttering through Italian.  The plan is to try and make traveling a bit more comfortable while visiting these countries.  Comprende?
  • How are we going to do this?  We have the Rosetta Stones for these languages and are going to start scheduling at least 2 days a week to sit down for an hour or two of studying.  Once we get the basics, we’ll look for some in-person classes we can sign up for.

Start Mixing in Some Yoga

  • We’ve had a few more aches and pains over the past year that are likely due to our lack of flexibility.  While lifting weights is fun, we need to start taking care of our joints as well.  We’re thinking of trying out Sage Yoga in Boise.
  • How are we going to do this? This ones fairly straight forward.  We’ll get signed up for classes at Sage! Stay tuned for possible review of Sage Yoga.

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Lifestyle Reviews

Top 15 from 2015

December 30, 2015

Being that it’s New Years Eve, Eve…we thought it would be appropriate to look back on some of our more memorable experiences from 2015.  We narrowed it down to 15 simply because “Top 15 from 2015” sounded kinda cool.  In 2015, among other things, we watched some sausages race each other, hung out at a waterfall, walked 100 stories over a city, dropped it like it’s hot, and participated in a very important ceremony 😉

When we were putting this post together, we were a little intimidated with trying to figure out a way to make 2016 live up to the year we just had, but that’s a problem we look forward to dealing with. We have been so fortunate and blessed to have had the chance to experience so many amazing events in just 12 short months.

Here are our top 15 for 2015. Hopefully you won’t be surprised with what landed at #1…

15. Brewers vs Cardinals (Milwaukee)

Our seats at Miller Park were AMAZING! It also didn’t hurt that the home team (and underdog) won! Not much better than a sun-filled day at a stadium eating hot dogs and nachos.  Mat was super excited to see the mascot go down the slide after a home run.  We also got to see the famous racing sausages in the 7th inning stretch!

Sausage Race. Miller Park, Milwaukee

The Sausages ran right by us!

14. Halloween

For being last minute outfits, we loved how they turned out! Not to mention we got to hang with our closest friends and have an epic dance party. Don’t play Rhi Rhi unless you want Lacey to put on her own concert.  Our friends had some epic costumes as well.  There was a seductively creepy Bob Ross, Wayne & Garth, Ace Ventura, and some Minions.


13. Christmas Snowboarding

Santa (Mat) successfully hid a snowboard under the tree for Lacey to find Christmas morning.  After a couple cups of coffee in our pajamas, we headed up to Bogus Basin for a half day of snowboarding.  There was plenty of snow and plenty of room for us to hit jumps, eat shit, wipe the snow off our heads and do it again!

Mat & Lacey Bogus-Basin

12. Collie Buddz (Phoenix)

On our way home from Cabo during Thanksgiving week, we had an overnight layover in Phoenix.  It turns out this was a blessing in disguise because Collie Buddz was performing that same night!  Collie Buddz is one of our favorite Reggae/Hip-hop artists and he sings the song (Gimme Love) that we used as our first dance song at our wedding reception.

Collie Buddz Phoenix

11. Michael Franti (Boise)

Another of our favorite musicians came to town this summer to perform at the beautiful Botanical Gardens.  This super high energy show was one that left us reminded of what’s truly important in life.  …enjoying each other, loving each other, and having an awesome time while doing it!  Michael Franti is the artist behind the song “Life is Better with You“, which became the theme of our wedding in Cabo.  #LifeIsBetterWithYou!!!

Michael Franti Boise, ID

10. Snoop Dogg (Boise)

I think we were both very surprised that this concert made our top 15.  We both knew the concert would be fun, but had no idea just how much fun we would have.  It was a blast!  Mat rapped every line of every song, taking him back to the age of 13 when he used to listen to Snoop religiously AND Lace booty popped and c-walked to the sick rhymes Mat was bustin’.  Toss in a couple of good friends and this results in the #10 best experience of the year!

Snoop Dogg Drop it Like It's Hot

9. Water Slide Birthday Party (Hagerman)

Lacey’s family were the creative minds behind this awesome idea.  We pulled up to their house to find a GIGANTIC bouncy castle-like water slide set up in their back yard.  The day resulted in tons of (sketchy at times) fun for us and everyone else that attended.  You can check out the full details along with the video in a previous post here.

Lacey Water Slide | DitchingNormal

8. Jump Creek Falls (Marsing)

Jump Creek is a hidden gem about an hour away from where we live and we had no idea it was there until this summer! This waterfall destination ended up being quite spectacular, much to our surprise. Read more about this day trip here.

Jump Creek | Ditching Normal

7. Luke Bryan (Boise)

It is going to be hard to top this concert. Everything just fell into place for us to see Luke Bryan. When the tickets first went on sale they sold out before we could grab any. Mat was able to purchase floor tickets just weeks before the concert was in town, which worked out way better than our original plan. We had margaritas at home before riding our bikes to Taco Bell Arena and rocking out just feet away from the stage.

6. Bachelorette Party (Portland)

Lacey got to experience Portland for the first time while attending a friend’s bachelorette party and had an absolute blast! They stayed right downtown at Hotel Modera, shopped at Nordstrom (obviously), ate to their hearts’ content at the many food trucks and danced the night away at Holocene. Finding a dance club in Portland was difficult, but they knew it was “their spot” when they walked in and Rhianna’s “B**** Betta Have My Money” was playing. On a classier note, the girls even had a fancy dinner at Departure which sits on top of The Nines Hotel.

Lacey-Bachelorette Party Portland

5. Willis Tower (Chicago)

Chicago quickly became a favorite city of Mat’s following his visit this summer.  While Gino’s East had delicious pizza and the baseball game at Wrigley Field was amazing…nothing will top the experience from the top of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).  Standing in the glass box looking down 100+ stories will make for a life long memory.  The full details of this trip can be found in a previous post here.

view from the Skydeck Ledge in the Willis Tower, Chicago | DitchingNormal

The Skydeck “Ledge” was an experience I’ll never forget. 103 stories down.

4. San Francisco Weekend Getaway (September)

We fit in so many experiences in the long weekend that we were in San Francisco. This city holds a special place for us because it is where we met nine years ago (exactly nine in a few weeks!). We walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and hiked in Muir Woods. We had breakfast at The Mill then hung out in Alamo Square Park like the Tanners. One of the most amazing experiences of the weekend was drinking cocktails while looking at the views of the city from the 39th floor of The View Lounge. Our last morning we sipped coffee at the hidden rooftop garden of the One Kearny building. You can read all about our San Francisco trip in this post and this post.

Golden Gate Bridge | DitchingNormal

3. Thanksgiving (Cabo San Lucas)

Our highly-anticipated vacation to an all-inclusive resort in Cabo fully lived up to our expectations. This week was packed full of food and delicious pina colladas. The gorgeous weather and surroundings definitely accounted for one of the most memorable weeks of our year. Read a recap of it here.

2. Make the (wedding) Cake Party (Cabo San Lucas)

On the eve of our wedding, our friends and family gathered in the kitchen of our villa to help us make our second most memorable event of the year….and our wedding cake. That’s right, our closest friends and family helped us make our wedding cake the night before our ceremony. Talk about special! This also ended up being a little rowdy because some tequila and flash tattoos were involved. It was such an amazing feeling to have everyone that we loved and loved us be involved in this intimate activity. Mat was the mastermind behind this idea and it was a huge success. Read all about it here.

Lacey Stirring Wedding Cake Mix | DitchingNormal

1.Wedding Ceremony (Cabo San Lucas)

A very special group of family and friends gathered in a white domed gazebo in the Pedregal Hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  One of our best friends officiated the ceremony and many of our family and friends shared stories, advice, and loving words with us.  Lacey’s father wrote and recited a blessing over our marriage while our guests stood around us.  We couldn’t have asked for a more intimate, heart felt, personal, and beautiful wedding ceremony.  This is undoubtedly our #1 experience of 2015…and likely of our lives.

Wedding Ceremony Cabo | Ditching Normal


Needless to say, it’s going to be hard to top the year that we have had, because it’s not every year you get to marry your best friend. 2015, you rocked our socks!

We are so excited for what experiences lay ahead for us and look forward to continue simplifying our life to make room for what is important: making memories with family and friends. And of course traveling as much as possible.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Bring it, 2016!

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Rewards Points Travel

Big Trip Booked with Points!

December 23, 2015

You might remember from a previous post that Lacey and I have been stacking credit card rewards points for about 8 months with the original end goal being a free trip to Moorea, Tahiti. Well…we changed our minds. I know, I know, changing your mind this late in the points planning process isn’t usually a good idea, but when you hear about the trip we just booked, you may understand.

Before I get into the details of the trip, I want to tell you what caused us to switch the game plan and put Tahiti on hold. After 8 months of strategic reward points earning, we had a total of 160,000 American Airlines points and 250k Hilton Honors points along with 4 weekend night certificates. Pretty solid pile we accumulated right?  We would’ve needed to double that amount before we’d be able to get the trip we wanted to Tahiti.  Kind of a defeating thought at first.

Lacey and I started thinking more about whether or not the Tahiti trip was actually worth all of the points and additional fees it would take to stay at an over-the-water bungalo at the Hilton Moorea.  Yes, this would likely be one of the most beautiful beach vacations you could take, but that’s ALL the trip would be…a beach vacation.  You would check in to your hotel and spend a week lounging/swimming/relaxing.  Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE vacations like that, but we just had a vacation like that in Cabo over Thanksgiving.  We’re kinda jonesing for a more action packed vacation now.

I often break vacations down into 2 categories:

  • Do nothing vacation – lay on your ass all day, eat tons of food, sleep way too much…usually involves a beach.
  • Do stuff vacation – action packed days full of museums, landmarks, concerts, sporting events, and general site seeing.

Last week we definitely booked a “do stuff vacation” …at a HUGE discount with our points.
We’re doing 5 cities in 2 weeks. New York, Florence, Rome, Malta, and Chicago.  There’s definitely enough to keep us busy each and every day of this trip.

So here are the details:
We are flying to New York City for 2 days. We’re staying at the luxurious Waldorf Astoria on Park Ave for free with our Hilton weekend night certificates. The plan is to try and catch either a Broadway show or a Yankee’s game (the Red Sox will be in town!), or hopefully both.  In addition, we have some general walking around/site seeing to do…not to mention some excellent pizza to eat!

From New York, we’ll head to Florence, Italy for 3 days. We’re planning on visiting the Duomo, seeing the David, and likely doing a wine tour in Tuscany. We’re still working on booking a small apartment in downtown Florence (out of pocket) for this trip. Florence is a beautiful, romantic, and mellow city when compared to some of the other major Italian cities. We can’t wait! …not to mention, they’ll be some excellent pizza to eat.

Florence-Duomo | DitchingNormal

After Florence, we’ll hop on a train to Rome where we’re going to spend 2 days.  Most of our time will likely be spent around Vatican City since we didn’t get to see St. Peter’s on our last trip. The Italian Open will be going on and we’re going to do our best to catch a session. Maybe we’ll see the Williams sisters throw down.  We tried to book a free stay at the glamorous Rome Cavellari with 2 more of our weekend certificates, but unfortunately the hotel is fully booked.  We’re going to pay out of pocket for a cool little B&B we’ve stayed at previously.  Rome is by far the most historic place we’ve been lucky enough to visit.  We’re really excited to head back…not to mention, there should be some good pizza to eat.

Trevi Fountain. Rome, Italy | DitchingNormal

Then we’re off to Malta for 5 days. Malta is a beautiful, small, island below Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you have likely seen some imagery of Malta as numerous scenes were shot there. One of the more recognizable landmarks is the Azure Window. We booked (with points) 5 nights at the Hilton in Malta. We’re super excited to explore this island…not to mention, find out what kind of pizza they have there.


the famous Azure Window (arch) shown in the background

Finally, we’ll make our way back to Chicago for a couple of days where we’ll be using 2 more weekend night certificates to stay at the historic Palmer House on Monroe St. Chicago is one of my most favorite cities of all time.  I am really excited for Lacey to finally experience this city.  This is going to be a great place to wrap up our vacation with museums and site seeing…not to mention, there will be some great pizza to eat. We’re coming for you Gino’s East!

Gino's East Chicago Style Pizza | DitchingNormal

So now, the main event.

How much would this trip have cost if we paid for everything on our own? $10,284

How much are we paying for this trip? $1390 total ($695 each)

Since we used points to book the majority of the trip, all that was left to pay for was:
1 one-way flight home from Chicago.
2 round trip flights Rome to Malta
5 nights of hotels (Rome/Florence)
Taxes on our free flights

We are getting an 86% discount on this trip by using our rewards points. We saved about $8,900.  You might be in disbelief, and so was I, but I looked up the exact cost of the same flights and same hotels for the dates we were traveling…and that was the exact cost of the trip.  Yikes!

Our 8 months of the points planning and strategizing seems to be paying off!

All this being said, we still had 100k Hilton points left over after booking this trip. We could have used these points to stay for free in Florence, but the Hilton properties there don’t look all that cool.  We opted to pay out of pocket for what should be a better experience at local B&B’s.

*side note, we ended up using those remaining 100k points to book 3 nights at a suite in Houston for our upcoming trip to see the Final Four. This saved us about $950.

To wrap it up, we’re stoked for our upcoming trip! We still hope to make it to Tahiti one day, but are more than fine with putting it on pause for now…especially for a trip like this!

Below are the cards that gave us the bonus rewards to help make this trip happen:
American Airlines – AAdvantage card
Citi – ThankYou Premier Card
Hilton – Reserve Card
Hilton – Signature Card

Let me know if you have any questions!

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