I really wanted to share more travel stories lately. So, today I am going to be sharing our honeymoon destination. I’ll be going over what we did , where we ate, and how we afforded it.
We knew that we wanted to go to Mexico for our honeymoon. We just had to choose between Puerto Vallarta and Tulum. Honestly either option was golden. We ended up choosing Puerto Vallarta because we wanted to visit Playa del Amor. It had been on our bucketlist for years and this was our chance to make that a reality. Sadly, it was not open when we went. We were twenty and this was our first real trip that we booked ourselves. We should’ve looked into it. So, Playa del Amor is still on our bucketlist, but I promise to share when we actually make it.
We did get to go on three excursions. Our hotel had a deal for buy two get one free. We had so many to choose from, but we chose to go on a day trip on a private island, a dinner show on a private island, and go zip lining. All of our packages were through vallarta adventures.
The day trip on the private island was a blast. We took a boat ride to the island where we were greeted with breakfast tacos. They had an itinerary of different things going on through the day. We did a mezcal tasting, went snorkeling, and after lunch, we hung out in our own little spot on the beach. It was perfect for a romantic honeymoon experience.
Next, we visited the same island for a dinner show. We got a dinner buffet on the beach and a tribal show after dinner. I had never seen anything like it, so it was so fun! This is a really cool experience for families or couples .
Our zip line experience was unlike any other zip line I have ever been on. It was such a fun time. They joked with us the whole time and took so many photos of us. It wasn’t just zip lining either. We scaled a tree, bungee jumped, zip lined on our stomachs (superman style), and went down a water slide. Whether you are traveling in a group, as a family, or on a romantic trip, this experience is a blast!
The rest of our trip was really chill. We just took the time to relax after months of wedding planning and actually feel like adults on a vacation without our parents. (LOL) We stayed in a marriot hotel that Cody ended up finding on Groupon for a great price. This hotel was more of a resort and had so many things to do. (Which is why most of our chill days were spent here) The day we arrived, we went to the spa to get a massage. It was a full blow spa too. There were packages you could buy, hot tubs, saunas, and tranquil music playing. After our massage, they gave us a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. (Talk about knowing the way to my heart!) We spent another chill day at the pool where we were served sushi by a chef in the pool and got to watch a scuba class take place. Our last chill day, we walked around the market and gift shops.
Most of our meals were eaten at the hotel. There were a number of restaurants to eat at and room service. But on occasion, we would go out on the town away from all the tourist places and checkout the local restaurants. There were two restaurants that we ate at and both were amazing. Our favorite of the two was Pipi’s. They made guacamole fresh at the table and one day they even had a mariachi band come play for us. The food was amazing.(This was where Cody determined that he actually liked mexican food) The other restaurant that we ate at was Casa Tradicional Cocina Mexicana. This restaurant was a little more touristy than Pipi’s, but the food was just as good. The service at both restaurant’s was remarkable. I highly recommend that if you take a trip to Puerto Vallarta, step outside of the resort and tourist driven parts of the city and come visit one of these restaurants. You will not be disappointed.
So we did a few things to pay for this trip. Obviously alot of the money came from our wedding day, so we didn’t have to budget too much. We also were still learning how to travel on a budget, so when we came home times were really tough… like ramen noodles for a month tough. We did, however, find ways to cut corners when we could. Like I said, Cody found our hotel/resort on groupon. He also used one of the cheaper airlines (Southwest). Normally we would not use Southwest because we don’t like how they do their seating, but if you are only looking at prices, they have some pretty great ones. The only other thing that we really did to save money was use coupons. The woman at the help desk helped us out with this. She gave us a coupon for Pipi’s and gave us the package deal for our excursions.
This was by far one of my favorite places that I have visited. Maybe it was because it was my honeymoon or maybe it was just that good. One thing is for sure, I cannot wait to visit again… I’m thinking five year anniversary? (LOL) Anyways, thanks for reading along and, once travel is back on the board, I hope you feel inspired to visit this beautiful destination that holds such a special place in my heart!
Things are finally starting to get somewhat normal after being inside for three months. My favorite part of everything opening back up is that I get to travel again. Last weekend we took advantage of the beaches opening and went on a small weekend trip with another couple to Pensacola. That trip is what this post is going to be about.
I am not sure why, but somehow none of our trips ever go as planned. We always have at least one ridiculous story to tell. This weekend was no exception. We left late at night because our friend wasn’t getting off of work until around 5. We loaded the car and headed off to our Airbnb. We got our first taste of fast food on our way to the beach. We stopped at Raising Canes and it was like eating gold…minus the burnt toast and burnt french fries. The rest of our trip went pretty smooth…until we got to Florida. As soon as we crossed the state line. We got warnings that there was a traffic stop ahead.(keep in mind that we are still under a stay at home order in Louisiana and it is 1:30 a.m…we were freaking out.) we cruised up to a group of about 10 police units . They stopped us and asked us a bunch of questions. They were not wanting people coming from the states with high rates. Somehow, we made it through this checkpoint and sped down the interstate before they saw our Louisiana plates.
It was 2 a.m. when we arrived at our Airbnb. We always check the inside of the house out before unloading our stuff. (Just to make sure everything is safe and looks good) We typed in the code for the door, tried the knob, and it did not open. We looked at the check in details once more and saw nothing about the lockbox on the doorknob. We called our host constantly for about 30 minutes. We spent a while trying to pick the lock and open the door with a credit card with no luck. Finally, Cody tried the window and it was open. He crawled through the window of our Airbnb at 2:30 a.m. and opened it up for us. (I’m sure if anyone else saw us they would have called the police.) Once we were all in the house, we noticed that it had not been cleaned. There were hairs in the beds, a dirty towel in the room, dirt all over the floor, and dirty clothes in the tub. I was disgusted.
We took a few pictures for our host and tried to call around to find a hotel to sleep in. It was 3 a.m. and we were all exhausted. Nearly every hotel was booked up due to a swamp fire that had happened earlier that day in the area. We finally found a holiday Inn that had 1 room left and we took it! We rushed over there and by the time we settled in, it was 4 a.m.
The next morning, our host refunded us and apologized for the unclean house. He told us that the cleaners got confused, but he would have everything sorted out before we returned for the night. We packed up our things, loaded the car and went to checkout. The hotel manager even gave us breakfast to-go bags since we had slept through the free breakfast. We had to make a quick stop at the store to get our groceries and sunscreen, then off we went!
We drove all the way to the end of the road where the dog beach was since we had my dog with us. We unloaded and set up our spot. The rest of the day was pretty normal. We swam, napped, and played fetch. The entire beach was social distanced. It was honestly kind of nice to not have another family sitting right next to us.
When we were done at the beach, we made our way to the gift shops. There was someone sitting at the door telling people to put their masks on before entering, but the rest of the shopping experience was no different. They still let us try stuff on and look around. The store also wasn’t pack, but I don’t know if that was their rules or just the fact that not a lot of people wanted to go in the stores.
After shopping, we made a reservation at Red Fish Blue Fish. We saw the restaurants were open and we couldn’t resist. It had been nearly three months without eating in a restaurant. When our reservation time came, we called to tell them we were on the way and they informed us that they ran out of food and had to close early. We still went to the beach in hopes that there would be another restaurant open. After driving around for a while, we decided to try Crabs. We were in luck! Crabs was open and still had food left. We opted to eat inside. Every other table was opened, and we got sat in the back corner away from everyone. The menu was limited, but still had some amazing food on it. I cannot explain how great it felt to sit inside of a restaurant and eat fried seafood!
That was pretty much the extent of our short celebration trip. We left and our bodies were fried … as they are after any good beach trip. As fun as it was, the screening scared us, and we will not be coming back to Florida until everything opens back up completely. Thanks for reading! I am happy to say that I am already planning our next trip and I cannot wait to tell you about it!
So, on my last post, I talked all about my road trip to Colorado. Well, once we arrived in Colorado, we stayed for about a week. We did not have an Airbnb booked or any kind of itinerary planned. (which is very out of my comfort zone)It was more of a spontaneous “what are we gonna do now?” kind of trip. Which, I am happy about because it led us to some pretty great places. In today’s post I’ll be sharing about the many places that we stayed, what we did in Silverton, and the (very few) places we went out to eat.
Like I said, we did not have anywhere lined up to stay, so we stayed in so many different, interesting places. You can read about the two nights that we went camping in Big Molas lake on my camping blog post. Both nights made my top 9 camping stories!
On this trip, we experienced our first stay in a hostel. We had never even heard of one before. We stayed at The Blair Street Hostel and to my surprise, it was actually a good experience. When we got there, the owner gave us a tour. She showed us where the kitchen, the bathroom, and our bedroom were. We were blessed enough to have our own bedroom. The only negative thing I will say about our experience was that we had to share a bathroom (including shower) with the rest of the guests and there was a shower curfew that we had to follow. (No showers after 10 p.m.)
Our next stay was in the Avon Hotel. This hotel was an old miner’s hotel and bar from old Silverton…back when the town was ran by gold miners. The new owners had just bought it and were refurbishing it. It was still under construction when we stayed… but we could tell that one day it was going to be on the must-stay list in Silverton. There was a full bar and restaurant on the main floor and a small library in the upstairs foyer. From my experience and the look of the photos on google now, I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone visiting Silverton, Colorado.
The last place we stayed during this trip is a small motel. It was the end of our trip and we needed somewhere small and cheap… and nothing is wrong with a little motel. The prospector motel was small and quaint, and the owner was so kind. We sat in his office when we were checking out and he was talking to us about so many things and the whole time he had such a big smile on his face.
During our trip we mostly walked around the town window shopping and rode ATV’s up the maintain trails. On one of our ATV rides we nearly fell off of a mountain. We tried to go up a steep incline on a mountain trail and some of the other vehicles infront of us began to slow. My dad was right in front of us and knew that he was not going to make it up unless he came back down. So, he yelled for us to back up and get out of the way before his brakes slipped. We began to go backward very carefully. We had a mountain and large rocks on one side of us and a cliff that was at least a 30 foot drop on the other side. Cody steered toward the side with the rocks, but our vehicle hit a rock at just the right angle and we were thrown off. I laid there with a 4-wheeler on top of me while my dad was still yelling and the only thing I thought was, “I guess I’ll just lay here. I can’t get up. Either he will run me over or someone will lift this bike off of me. We will just have to wait and see.” Obviously, someone got the bike off of me and everything was okay, but I know it could have been a lot worse.
On the days that we weren’t doing those things, we were off having our own little adventures. One of those adventures was going to see a ghost town. It is straight through the town and up the mountain. It was almost a two-hour trip from where we were staying, but it was a pretty cool thing to witness. We saw old homes and buildings (like an old jail). They were surrounded by meadows full of flowers and the greenest grass. We stayed for a little while before we had to hit the road to try to beat a rainstorm. We did not beat it… instead I learned a quick lesson about why I should always be carrying rain gear with me in Colorado in July. Rain and hail poured down on us while we were exposed on a four-wheeler. By the time we made it back to my family’s Airbnb our toes were blue and our bodies were feeling pretty stiff.
We also experienced a mining tour. We toured the inside of a mountain and got to see antique mining gear and hear stories about a miner’s work day and how they would get the gold. It was a really interesting tour that I would highly recommend to anyone that loves history and nature.
We mainly ate with my family during this trip or ate some of our road trip food, but we did occasionally go out to eat. The first stop was at Handlebars food and saloon. We stopped here on our first day in town for dinner and it was right up our alley. Everyone in there seemed to be locals, so they kind of looked at us weird, but the food was amazing.
Our next stop was at the avalanche brewing company because we needed pizza and heard they had the best around. What we heard was not a lie. The pizza was amazing, and the restaurant had the perfect small-town feel. It even had a spot to sit outside with your pup!
The only other place that we ate was the Coffee Bear. It was exactly what I needed to get my coffee fix and if you like italian cream sodas (which is my favorite!) , they have a very extensive Italian cream soda menu.
So, this pretty much sums up our trip to Colorado. It was such a fun, laid back trip and we got to spend time with our family. If you are ever traveling through Colorado, make sure to stop in the sweet little town of Silverton. Thank you so much for reading along with me and I cannot wait until the day that I can go on more trips and share more stories!
Traveling is my absolute favorite outlet. I love experiencing new places and meeting new people. I love seeing the world from a different perspective. Sitting at home the past couple of weeks has had me dreaming of our next trip, but unable to plan.(which is a form of torture for me) I have been scrolling through old photos of past trips and day dreaming about getting on a plane or in the car and going somewhere I have never been before. So, I figured I would share about some of my past trips. Who knows, maybe it will get my travel bug out? (probably not… it will probably make it worse, but whatever.) In today’s post I am going to talk about our road trip to Colorado in 2018. We made a little road trip out of our drive there and I cannot wait to share.
Once we hit the road, our first stop was Houston, Texas. It was only about a 3 hour drive to the Airbnb that we had booked. This Airbnb was the first and only shared Airbnb we have ever booked. Don’t let that statement fool you, we did have a good experience. Despite it being 10 p.m., we were greeted at the door by one of the nicest people I have ever met. She let us heat up our food in the kitchen while she shared her story of why she opened her home to Airbnb and how she had children our age. We ended up having the entire upstairs area to ourselves, which I liked. I feel like it may have been weird if other people were across the hall… mainly because we would have shared a bathroom with them.
We left early in the morning to hit the Hamilton pool in Dripping Springs, Texas. When we arrived, we sadly realized that we needed a reservation and we couldn’t get in. We searched the internet and found a nearby state park where we hiked to the most clear and beautiful river. We swam for hours and walked the rocky beach (I’ll leave out how painful the hot rocks were on my bare feet.) Once we were sunburnt and worn out, We made our way to The Family Business Beer Company.(Which was the real reason we took the long way to Colorado) The business was great. There was a live band and Jep Robertson actually had a food truck there for all of our food needs. We sat outside in the sun and enjoyed our new favorite meal, shrimp bruschetta. (bruschetta bread topped with jambalaya, topped with shrimp etouffee) Once we were done and ready for a nap, we headed to our Airbnb for the night. Tonight’s Airbnb was a beautiful and unique tiny home in Austen, Texas. (I had always wanted to stay in a tiny home, and we thought, “what better time?”) The tiny home was beautiful with a rustic feel and a cute little balcony to crawl out on. The only thing that did not excite be about it was that there were public bathrooms and showers that I had to walk to.
The next morning, we left a sweet review in their guest book and we hit the road again. This time we had no actual destination. We were just going to drive until we got tired. Once we crossed the state line to New Mexico, we decided that we better start looking for a place to stay for the night. It was really hard to find a place because every place that we looked into was either booked or the prices were spiked because there was a UFO festival in the area for the weekend. (I am not even sure what that entails…) We settled on a motel on Route 66 thinking that Route 66 was something we would want to see. We were sadly mistaken. We showed up and the town looked like Radiator Springs (the town on the movie Cars) The whole town was abandoned and when we tried to find a restaurant, we quickly realized that all of the restaurants are in hotel lobbies. It felt really odd. We woke up really early the next morning and we were ready to bolt. We stopped in Albuquerque to pick up a few things from the Home Depot before making our way to Colorado. We made it around 11 pm and (as you know if you read our camping post) we ended up in the most beautiful campsite in the country, Big Molas Lake.
On our way back we made a couple of small stops. We stopped in New Mexico to see the blue hole. It’s a large natural spring in the middle of the desert. Cody had always wanted to see it, so we figured that this would be the best time. It was not what we were expecting. It was full of people and we had no real desire to be there anymore once we saw it, but we had to at least jump in. So, we jumped…and it. was. freezing. 57 degrees to be exact! After jumping in and drying off, we got dressed and got back on the road. Our only other stop on our way home was Dallas, Texas. We stayed at a luxury apartment through Airbnb and we had a small walk around the city the next day. Our way back home was nothing major; we were pretty anxious to get back home because at this point, we had been gone for 2 weeks.
So, our trip to Colorado lasted us about 4 days and our trip back home lasted about 3 days. How did we stay sane? What did we do to pass the time? Usually I fall asleep as soon as the car starts, but I did not sleep a wink the entire ride and I did not drive the entire trip. So, how did I do it? Cody and I bought two audio books that we listened to the entire time. Somehow the books kept me so interested that hours would pass, and I would not even notice. (The scenery around us probably had something to do with me staying interested as well) We also only ate out for dinner. When on the road, I had our backseat made into a make-do kitchen. I had bags of chips, sandwich ingredients, fruit, snack cakes, and water for us to eat. (Yes, I did make a sandwich for my husband while driving down the road.)
This was another trip that we made on a budget. It was our first long road trip, but I still lookback and find all the memories good. If you ever decide to drive to a faraway location, I highly recommend that you make a stop every few hours to see some kind of landmark or restaurant that the town is known for. You never know when it will make a good story.
Next time, I will be making a post about the time we actually spent in Colorado. It was so spontaneous, and we got to spend time with family. I can’t wait to share and maybe even inspire. Until then I hope you enjoyed reading about our road trip.
Cody and I love to travel, but sometimes we can’t afford a big, elaborate trip to escape reality. Camping is one of our favorite low budget and most adventurous ways to travel. When you have little to no money to spend, you can run into some interesting things that make for great stories. In today’s post, I am going to share some of our favorite and most interesting moments we have had while camping through the years.
The Haunted Campsite: When going camping on a tight budget, Cody and I like to use freecapsites.com This website has a list of all kinds of campsites that are free because they are either ran by kind people, WMA’s, or abandoned. In March 2018, Cody and I decided to take a camping trip to Florida where we were actually going to stay at a free campsite. We drove for hours and around mid-night we could not find this campsite. The town we were in was abandoned and we were exhausted, but there was not even a gas station to stop at for a nap. We had to find this place. We were in the middle of nowhere. Around 1 a.m., we found the entrance to the campsite. It was a state park, which is weird because those usually are not free to stay in. There was a small, gravel parking lot with 2 trails and a dock. Next to one of the trails was a paper with a map of the park and some of its history. Cody and I began reading. We wanted to make sure this place was actually approved to camp in and see where we should go to set up camp. As we read, we learned that one of the trails on the property had been part of the trail of tears. Stories in the history section talked about a haunted presence that would cause people to do irrational things and some to disappear. No matter how exhausted we were, there was no way we were going to stay here tonight. We put that car in reverse and sped out if there. We had a go-to campsite that was only an hour and a half away. We would land there for the night. This was the night that we found out why these campsites are free.
Sleeping Under the Swings: On the same night as the previous story, our go-to campsite was Vortex Springs. We have stayed here many times, our first trip here was back in 2016. We arrived around 3:30 a.m. and the campgrounds were pitch black. We tried to drive quietly so that we would not disturb the other campers. We found a spot and began setting up camp. We packed in very few things. We were just ready to crash. 3 hours later the sound of kids screaming and running into our tent woke us up. We tried to sleep through it, but it got to the point where we needed to see what was going on. I peeked my head out of the tent to find a slide just inches to the left. Somehow in the darkness and exhaustion we had set up our tent in the middle of a small playground. No wonder there were children everywhere.
A dog in a Hammock-This is probably the worst experience I have ever had when camping. It was November 2017 and we wanted to camp in our hammock. This was already a bad idea because it was going to be under 30 ° that night, but we had our dog, Zoey, with us too. Zoey has been camping before and she loves it, so we figured she would do fine in the hammock too. So, we set up our hammock, added a comforter and a sleeping bag in it to keep us warm and cozy, which worked perfectly. We stayed up and roasted marshmallows (my favorite camping past time) for a while. When the time came, we piled into the hammock and put Zoey under the sleeping bag where she slept for a solid 30 minutes. Just as I began to doze off, I felt her wiggling … she was hot. This was the end of the peace for the night and the beginning of a nightmare. Zoey crawled to the top and laid on my legs on top of the sleeping bag. She never made it to sleep. Every time an animal would approach the camp site or rustle in the woods, she would freak out and bark obnoxiously. (I am eye rolling right now just thinking about it). Eventually we all decided it would be best if we slept the rest of the night in the car. So, we did and at 6 a.m. we came back home to finish sleeping. Now we know to never let a dog in a hammock at night.
A 4 course meal on the beach: In October of 2016 we decided to go camping on the beach with one of our other couple friends, Naomi and Josue. They had found a campsite that is about half a mile walk down the beach and you can actually pitch a tent in front of the ocean. We arrived late at night and could not find the campsite area, so we found a motel outside of Pensacola Beach. This motel seemed sketchy, but it was the closest one and the price wasn’t terrible. Well, we thought the price wasn’t terrible until we got in the room. The bedsheets were still dirty and sloppily made, there was trash in the trashcan, dirt in the shower, and mold all over the room. We got out of that place so fast. There was no telling what we could’ve caught by staying there. We demanded our money and they guy at the counter understood. We found a red roof inn across town that was going to give us a discount because of the time. They charged us for their cheapest room and gave use a suite with a kitchenette and 2 queen beds. We stayed up all night watching married at first sight. When we woke up the next day, we set out to find our beach destination. Before going, we decided to pick up dinner. Naomi had found a groupon deal at a steakhouse. We each paid $15 and got a steak, 2 sides, a dessert, and a drink. Someone had the “bright” idea to eat it all at the campsite. What we failed to think about the walk. We all walked half a mile while lugging all of that food, our tents, our clothes, sleeping bags, ice chest, and a foldout picnic table. We kept dropping stuff, someone busted their drink, and someone dropped their dessert. It was a nightmare, but we made it, set up the table and enjoyed our food as the sun was setting. It was one of the coolest moments, but if anyone had seen us, they would’ve thought we were crazy.
The onward store: This one is going to be really short, but it is a must. We were heading to camp in Arkansas for the weekend with our friends and we came up to a point in the trip where we were in the middle of nowhere. Cody had been complaining that he needed to use the bathroom for an hour before we finally came up to some sort of civilization. It looked like an old gas station, but it was closed, so the guys went behind what looked like an outhouse. While they were doing their business, I noticed a pretty official looking plaque in front of our car. The plaque read ” Here is the point where Theodore Roosevelt got his nickname “Teddy” . This is the spot where he refused to shoot the bear. ” My jaw dropped. Cody had just peed on a historical landmark, even more so a historical landmark of his favorite president!
Redneck Paradise: We were going camping in a WMA area we had found a few months back. It was a huge chunk of land right on the Mississippi river. We were warned that Mississippi had been experiencing some flooding recently but figured this place would be fine…not really sure why. We arrived and realized very fast that this place was flooding. We didn’t even get a mile down it’s trail before we ran into a pit of water. We still needed somewhere to sleep though, so we googled some campsites in this empty town. The nearest place was a couple of hours away, so we began our journey again. We finally arrived at this campsite around 1 a.m. We drove around, picked our spot, then went to check-in. (Yes, the office was still open) The office was being ran out of someone’s house. The owners gave us a map and told us that they have a pool, a playground, and a museum. We were astonished and also confused as to where all of this was since we had already toured the campsite. We set up camp in the pitch black and piled into the tent for the night. When we woke up, the campsite looked completely different…not in a good way. Our tent was in a puddle of (what we can only hope was) mud, the playground was one single rusty swing, the pool was a plastic baby pool, and the museum was no where to be found. (Though, I am sure it would have been interesting) This was the most redneck campsite we had ever stayed at. We decided to head back to the WMA where we explored the dry places and pet some cows and we also took a trip to The Onward Store. (The historical sight from the last story) If you ever find yourself in Onward, Mississippi it is a nice little shop and their restaurant has some great food.
Callin’ Colorado: In July 2018, we took a family trip to Colorado. My family planned to drive there in one day, but that was not Cody and my style. We decided to take 2 weeks off and take 4 days to get there. We stopped along the way (I’ll make a post about this trip another time),but when we finally got to Colorado, we still needed a place to stay. We googled a bunch of campsites and found one that was rated “The most beautiful campsite in the nation” It was after hours, so we could not reserve a spot, but this was our only option. When we got there, we drove around looking for a spot to set up the tent. We settled on a little spot tucked away in some trees. The roots were not bad, the spot was isolated, and it had a tree to stand behind. (Major priorities) Once we set up camp and ate, we crawled in the tent for bed. When we woke up, the view was overwhelming. When we had set up camp, we could not see any of our surroundings, but we were in a spot right on the lake with beautiful mountains surrounding us. It really took my breath away, because this was my first time seeing anything like it. The campsite was called Big Molas Lake, and it is definitely a bucket list destination.
Green, Green Grass : One of our last nights in Colorado, we stayed at Big Molas Lake again. This time we did not get a lake front spot, but we found a nice field that looked like the biggest of the camping spots. We set up tent in the beautiful field and crawled in our tent to watch Netflix (basic, I know) About 30 minutes after settling down, we started to smell something strong. It had a slight smell of pot. This wasn’t uncommon in Colorado, but we cared because we thought someone was by our tent smoking when we knew that there were no tents around us. We got our phone flashlights out to inspect the area and what we found shocked us. There was no one by our tent…we had set up camp in the middle of a marijuana field. You heard me right. It went on forever the entire freaking field that we were staying in was full of pot, not grass at all. We decided we had better get back to our tent after we realized this. The stench filled our whole tent, but this was the only open spot on the property, so we had to stay. Our minds were still blown that this was an actual thing…marijuana was growing wild in Colorado. (My mind is still a little blown to be honest)
Camping in the Storm: In October 2019, we decided to go to Northern Alabama in the Appalachian Mountains. We stayed at The Cathedral Cavern State Park. We left after work and knew we would not be there until around 10 p,m., so we called and confirmed that we could stay. We got direction from google maps on how to get there and off we went. There was a huge storm the night we were heading there. We could barely see the roads and there were mountains all around us. Easily one of the scariest things to experience while driving. We saw the sign and knew we had made it to our destination. We found a campsite and waiting in the car for the rain to lighten up. When the rain got light enough , we set up the tent and started loading all of our stuff into it. As we were finishing up, the rain began to pour. Cody finished loading stuff in, while I used a towel to wipe the water out of the entry and set everything up inside. We finally got both dogs inside of the tent and decided to hunker down for the night. Cody crawled in, but when he tried to zip the tent, it would not zip. The screen zipped, but the rain flap was not having it. “Great!” We both said. We pulled everything as far from the door and edges of the tent as we could and laid a towel in the entry to catch any water that may try to enter. We froze. I woke up at 4 a.m. to rain dripping on my face and my feet cold with water. I curled up in a ball and covered my face with the sleeping bag… this was going to have to wait until tomorrow. When we officially woke up for the day, all of our clothes, blankets, and our sleeping bag were soaked. Our entire tent had an inch of water covering the floor. We loaded everything back into the car and headed to the nearest laundromat to get everything dried off. We stayed here for about an hour, so we sat in the car eating sonic corndogs and watching Netflix while we waited. After everything was dry, we made our way to Walmart to buy a heater and a new tent. We were not going to spend another night like that again.
Canada. Why Canada? This was a frequently asked question when I began to tell people where our (Cody and me) next big trip was. It was relevant. It is not a secret that I am not a fan of the cold. So, why Canada? Even more so, why Canada in January?
It was mid November, about a week before Thanksgiving and I had Christmas gift ideas racing through my head. I sat in the car trying to figure out what to get Cody. His only requests were new underwear, socks, and sweatpants. I thought, “Have we really sunk that low? 2 and a half years of marriage and the best I can do for him is socks and underwear? No way!” It had been a while since our last big trip, and I was longing for more. Then, the thought crossed my mind, “What about a trip for Christmas?!” Cody is always the one planning our trips. I usually deal with organizing how much we spend and making sure we actually get out and see the places we go, but I had never actually taken the reins and given him a trip he would like. So, I passed the idea by him and he loved it. “…But I don’t want to know anything about it.”, he said. So, the google searches began. I searched for days and narrowed it down to 2 places. New York or Alberta, Canada. Canada was just slightly more expensive. I gave it a week. I prayed, googled, searched for all the best deals and determined that this was a dream trip and it would be a reality. Now, I just had to figure out how to pay.
So, how did I manage to pay for 2 round trip plane tickets and a condo at a resort in Alberta, Canada in just one month? A lot of it was Jesus, but I also really set my focus and saved. One of the most expensive aspects of booking the trip was the flights. So, I set google to track the flights for me. I planned on paying for the flights within the next week or two, so I knew the prices wouldn’t fluctuate a ton. The tracker alerted me anytime the ticket prices would drop or rise, so I was able to use that knowledge to determine how low these prices would really go. The lowest price that I saw was around $600, so I knew that I wanted to book when I saw those numbers around that price again. I did. I paid less that $610 for two round trip tickets thanks to google flight tracking. It allowed me to book my flight directly through United to get the best price options. The next step was to find where we were going to stay. Although I was focused on booking our flights first, I never took my eye off of places to stay. My line of thought was “If I don’t continuously check Airbnb to confirm availability, we may book a flight and have nowhere to stay.” I had my eye on one place in particular. It had a hot tub, full kitchen, and mountain view for under $100 a night. The day I booked our condo, the place I had been watching disappeared. Though there were many other options at low prices, I was upset. After a few minutes of weighing out my options, I found a condo in the same resort as the one I had been set on and it was only $2 more! I paid in an instant. I paid less than $1,500 total for flights and a condo for a week. Those prices were low, but to save for it in a month was a lot of work. So, how exactly did I manage to save that amount of money? I picked up shifts at my work and small odds and end job wherever I could find them. I was working 40-50 hours a week and saving every bit of it that I could.
As with every trip, we ran into some unexpected problems. A trip is never going to run as smoothly as you think, so Cody and I have learned to roll with the punches. Our first dilemma was that we had no snow gear and that stuff is expensive. Luckily, with the help of some loving friends and family members, we managed to get everything we needed for our trip. Once our bags were packed and our budget was made, we were ready to go. The next punch didn’t come until we were sitting in an airport restaurant. Cody left $250 of our spending money at home. I pretty much facepalmed right then and there. We were going to have to rethink our budget, but if you know Cody and me, we are very low maintenance, so this wasn’t going to be a huge fall back. Another issue we ran into (because of my lack of preparedness) is that we did not have a mode of transportation and our condo was an hour from the airport. We took a cab and dropped nearly $200 Canadian dollars within our first couple of hours in Canada. Our condo was also not near the city, which was great when we were there, trying to relax, but was not as appealing when we wanted to go out. The cab experience was our biggest financial set back, but it was a great experience that lead to us meeting new people and finding local places to see. On Friday evening we caught the last bus to the top of Mount Norquay to go snow tubing (which I had already paid for), but upon getting there found out that it was closed for a cardboard sled derby. (I will elaborate more on this later in this post). This set back was our favorite and probably the most minor. The final set back that we had wasn’t until the day we were leaving. Our flight from Calgary to Chicago was delayed by an hour due to technical difficulties. We arrived at our connecting flight as they were calling the final boarding call. Overall, none of our setbacks on this trip were too major to overcome, but my word of advice to any new traveler is to expect some kind of setback. Some trips it may be minor, and others can be major. If you have backup plans and a good attitude, you will survive. Find ways to enjoy the little things, even if they are not what you planned. This is advice that I have to give myself during any trip or crisis. Things could always be worse.
Although, you know how I saved money to book our trip, I have also mentioned budgeting our trip spending. We did not have a lot of time to save for our trip after I booked it, so our money was limited. So, how did we manage to enjoy our time in Canada without breaking the bank? We planned. First, we determined our priorities when traveling. Our three major priorities when traveling are: Explore the local area, try local foods that we may not get at home, and relax. When we are home, I am constantly planning our days, weeks, future trips, home decorating, ect. Cody and I have no off mode when we are home, so no matter where we are off traveling to, we never try to over stretch ourselves. We limit how many activities to do each day and usually our first and last day at our destination are strictly reserved for relaxing. Since food is a huge priority to us, I wanted to eat, but also not spend all of our money on food (because if left to it, we will).I set a limit of 4 places to eat and we bought supplies for 2 homecooked meals. (I will give information to what we cooked, how we stretched it, and where we ate later). We were in Canada for 5 days (not including the days we spent in an airport). Our first and last days were set aside for relaxing, exploring the resort and snow, and grocery shopping. We spent one day strictly walking around and exploring Baff and two days doing activities. Cody and I usually only do 1-2 activities per day when traveling to ensure that we are not overstretching and exhausting ourselves on our vacation. Another thing that seems like a big deal to most, but is not to us, is souvenirs. We love to look at souvenirs (and occasionally something may catch our eye that is a must.) We tend to take as many photos as possible, because honestly we will relive the moment through a photo or video better than we will through a trinket or a shirt. So, my biggest advice to someone who wants to travel on a budget is to find what brings you joy and what you want to be a priority and form your trip around that thing.
Cody and I had a handful of excursions planned for this trip. Since we were on a budget, we did not plan a ton of activities. We booked our activities through Banff adventures. They had lots of deals on their website, but the one we chose was for a sleigh ride, tickets to the hot springs, and snow tubing for less than $100 each. We decided we wanted to go snow tubing at night, but it was only offered on Fridays and Saturdays, so we saved it for Friday night. On Thursday we woke up and caught a taxi and a bus from Canmore to Banff . We were told to walk to the horse stables to save money and enjoy the scenery. It took us about 30 minutes in the -10 degree (Farenheit) weather. It began to snow while we were walking, too, but the walk was enjoyable and worth it when we arrived. There was a heated barn with hot chocolate waiting for us and no one else signed up for the sleigh ride with us, so we ended up getting a private horse drawn sleigh ride (which is $200 value for two people). They took us around their land and through a park where we got a view of the mountains and got to see animal tracks. Our guide was really friendly and had even been to Louisiana once. When the ride came to and end, our tour guide allowed us back inside to get more hot chocolate while she put together a fire and a marshmallow toasting station. It was the best feeling, a toasty fire in the middle of the snow. After we had our fill of marshmallows and had defrosted our toes, we started back toward the city. Once we got to town, we picked up our tickets for the hot springs and tubing and made our way to the bus stop. The hot springs were just out of town and may have been my favorite part of the trip. We arrived at a cabin where they took our tickets and sent us to our locker rooms. I felt ridiculous changing out of snow gear and into a bikini. “This is crazy”, I kept repeating to myself. I threw my hair into a bun and sheepishly made my way outside to Cody. We met in a freezing hallway and as we walked toward the outside door, we were greeted by what felt like burning hot water. It started at our ankles and got deeper as we walked. We never had to feel the freezing air on our bare skin. We were submerged and as the air got colder, the water felt better. It was like sitting in a hot bath with the air conditioner blowing on you. All around us everything was covered in mounds of ice. The lifeguard wasn’t even able to sit in his chair due to the amount of ice buildup. On Friday evening we made our way to Banff for the last time. We had a bus to catch at 5:30 pm. It was the last bus up to mount Norquay for the day. It took about 15 minutes to get up the mountain. Once we got up to the snow tubing area, we were told that snow tubing was closed for a cardboard sled derby event. This wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if we hadn’t waited until our last day and taken the last bus. The next bus wouldn’t be for three more hours, so we called Banff adventures to get a refund and we decided to enjoy the event. Banff Adventures was understanding and had great customer service. They had us refunded immediately. The event began at 6:30 PM with children and then adults later. They would make their way to the top of a giant snow mound with their creation in tow and race down the snow in a decorated cardboard box. Most would wipe out, while others would bolt past the finish line. While the participants were competing, the locals, parents, and bystanders sat around a fire talking and hanging out. This was probably the most at home we felt during the entire trip. So, overall this night probably ended up being a lot more fun than it would have been if it had gone as planned. Most of our time in Canada was spent sightseeing, window shopping, and eating.
Like I said previously, we had a limit of four times that we could eat out at some sort of restaurant. On our first day there, we began to google food options. We had just arrived, had absolutely no food inside the condo, and we were hungry. Cody’s mom had told us to try poutine, so we decided that would be our first Canadian food venture. We found one place that looked locally owned and had great reviews, so we layered ourselves in snow gear and called a cab. (We tried out three cab companies while we were there, and our best experience was with Canmore cabs) The restaurant that we chose was called 514 Poutine. We later found out that it was owned by a local from Quebec, which is where Poutine originated. So, we knew this was going to be a great place for us to try this dish for the first time. If you do not know what Poutine is, it is twice fried French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy. We got our first taste of poutine with smothered onions and ground beef added in and IT WAS AMAZING!!( If you could see me typing this now you would see me drooling and rolling my eyes just from thinking about it.) It is a MUST when visiting Canada. Our next food venture was to The Old Spaghetti factory. We were missing home and needed some red sauce in our lives at this point and this restaurant had been calling our names all week. When we arrived, it had a feel like Olive Garden or another chain Italian restaurant feel, which is not usually the environment Cody and I go for. We ventured on and found that the quality of the food was not similar to a chain such as Olive Garden. This restaurant had a deal that originally drew us here. If you pay the price of the entrée, you also get bread, salad, dessert, and coffee. We paid less than $35 for chicken parmesan, a Caesar salad, bread, ice-cream, and a cup of hot coffee. The best part was that the price did not diminish the quality of the food. It was just as good as a local Italian restaurant. The only other place we graced with our presence for food was (of course) another poutine restaurant. It was our last day in the city and we needed a taste of poutine one last time, so we took a tiny break at Banff Poutine. The space was small, offering only high-top wall seating and one restroom. It had a modern, city feel to it. While it was not as good as 514 Poutine, we still enjoyed it. We got fried onion added in this time and it did not disappoint. The price was a little cheaper than 514 Poutine and it is in another city, so if you go to Banff or Canmore, make sure to check out one of these amazing places. Although we had to make a limit to how many places we could eat out, we still cooked and ate at the condo. This was a key component to save money. We bought ingredients for two meals. We also chose meals that were sure to have leftovers to carry us through the week and the ‘midnight snack’ feeling. Our two home cooked meals were potato soup and spaghetti with green beans. These are both extremely easy and cheap recipes which makes them perfect to cook when traveling with limited resources.
I have been wanting to share this information for so long and am so glad and relieved to have it out there. I wanted to share that traveling is possible while keeping a tight budget. You can still experience some great new things in the great big somewhere. Do not limit yourself at home watching Netflix all day and having a pity party when you see someone else’s post about traveling. You don’t know what they sacrificed to get to experience that. If you want it bad enough, you just need to sacrifice, pray, and save. Adventure is waiting and I can’t wait to see where the next one takes us. Thank you so much for reading and I cannot wait to share more another time.