It’s Football Season Y’all!

It never fails, this time of the year my poor blog always becomes neglected. Between the twelve to fourteen hour days at work and the busy weekends, unfortunately the new posts get pushed to the back burner for a few weeks. But today I’m back, Hi Y’all, and we are talking about one of my favorite seasons of the year! :)

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, and the leaves in the canyon are beginning to turn… this time of year can only mean one thing: Football Season!

As avid football fans we’ve crossed the country attending different games each year–from a bone-chilling birthday weekend in Indianapolis, to a bucket-list experience in Arlington, exploring the quaint college town of Athens, and attending a wild game in downtown Atlanta–we just can’t get enough of the stadiums, the beer, the game, and that electric atmosphere.

Football game - pictures and plane tickets

First NFL game: Indianapolis Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Stadium

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Our decision to attend a football game this season wavered throughout the spring and summer and as soon as we saw that our two favorite teams (the Colts and the Cowboys) were scheduled to play this year we were ecstatic! That is until the schedules were released and we saw that the game would be played the week of Christmas. Expensive flights, pricey hotels, busy holiday travel: No thank you!

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Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints

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Georgia Bulldogs vs. Kentucky Wildcats

While basking in the warm Hawaiian sun back in June I received an email alert about flights to Denver for less than $100 round trip. It just so happened that our Colts were playing the Denver Broncos in early September and visions of watching a football game in Mile High Stadium started floating through my mind. Leave it to me to try to plan a vacation while currently on vacation. I’m telling you–I have a problem ;-) I crunched a few numbers and ALMOST booked the airfare until I pulled up tickets to the game… Unfortunately ticket prices were MILE HIGH (see what I did there) ;-) and we were unwilling to pay more for nosebleed tickets in Denver than we did for tickets on Row 20 in Cowboys Stadium. The idea sounded crazy to me!

So for now, we are enjoying the football season with our dogs from the comfort of our front room. Hey, the beer is cheaper this way anyways. :) However, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that we didn’t book our fall football trip until October of last year so maybe we will change our minds after all.

Do you like football? Who’s your team?

Posted in Football, Georgia, Texas, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

My Secret…

“How do you guys travel so often?” 

“What’s your secret to constant travel?”

“How can I find good deals like you?”

“Can you help me budget for my trip?”

Over the years I have been asked these questions on many different occasions, and I love the conversations that follow. Travel is a main priority in my life right now, so to help others do what I do is an incredible feeling.

Unfortunately I don’t have a money tree, and I don’t have buckets of cash from an inheritance or the lottery (one could only be so lucky), and surprisingly you don’t need my Business Finance degree either… So let’s lay it out there folks, today I’m revealing my secrets to traveling and traveling often.

The Basics

  1. Think about your Vacation Mood
    Where do you want to Travel? Somewhere close or an exotic location far away? What do you want to do? Relax, go on an exciting adventure, or maybe a little bit of both. Read my blog post about finding your RIGHT Vacation Mood for more ideas and to help get you focused.
  2. Start Early!
    I’m talking a year out my friends. Figure out your Vacation Mood and then start researching destinations that will meet your criteria. Starting early allows you to set a baseline of expenses so you can snag that great airline sale when it pops up. A head start also allows you to collect those necessary pennies!
  3. The Internet is your Friend
    The world is at your fingertips with the internet. Use travel search engines like: Hotwire, Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, Kayak, VRBO.com, and more to help you find good deals. Check out my posts about saving money with Hotwire car rentals (here and here), and if you’re looking to score cheap flights on Kayak.com click on the next two posts (here and here). Scoring travel deals is a real thing my friends!

$$ Money, Mula, Dough, Cash, Yen, Euros $$

  • (Yikes, are we really going to talk about this?) While it is a sensitive subject, I wrote about our budgeting tips (and our “bonus” paychecks) in the World Travelers Plan of Action. Check it out!
  • Unfortunately, while there are no “magic tricks” to make cash appear, sometimes it sure feels like it if you stick to your budget. The Magic of Budgeting breaks it all down for you.

Tips While on Vacation:

There you have it. My secrets to finding good deals, my secrets to finding the cash, my secrets to having the best vacation ever. What do you think? Tell me, where are you headed to next? Are you going to use some of the above secrets. :)

Posted in Budgeting, Finances, Travel, Travel Tips Thursday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Turtle Power!

Happy Turtle Tuesday!

On our first visit to Hawaii back in 2009 we encountered our first sea turtle on the popular, sunny, south shore beach of Kauai. Poipu Beach is a frequent hang out for the Hawaiian Honu (sea turtle) as well as many sea-lions; and while I expected to see a sea-lion relaxing on the sandy beach, I never thought I would have accidentally snorkeled with one. Oops…

Sea Lion 4

Over the last five years, we have been incredibly fortunate to encounter turtles on almost every island. Here’s a few of our favorite spots to see turtles:

Kauai: Poipu Beach

Miami is known for its delicious cuban food and sexy nightlife scene, and I’m thinking that Poipu Beach must be the “Miami” of the turtle world. This crescent-shaped sandy beach is a hot spot for turtles and sea lions alike, and maybe we’ve just been lucky, but every time we visit Poipu Beach we encounter sea life.

Kauai TurtleKauai Turtle

Kauai: Tunnels Beach

Just like Poipu Beach on the south side, turtles are often seen at Tunnels Beach on Kauai’s lush North Shore. Every single time that I visit this beach I spot a turtle frolicking out in the waves. Sometimes it’s a shadow within the waves, or I see them cruising through the famous “tunnels” coral formations, and every once in a while it’s a small head peeking out of the water. If you visit Tunnels Beach, you are bound to find a new friend.

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Kauai: A’nini Beach

Ah, Anini Beach. Let me count the ways I love thee: your protected waters, tree-lined beach, soft sand, and hidden location, it’s no wonder this beach is one of my favorite beaches on Kauai. And during the winter months, I’m not alone; there were too many turtles to count at this beach. We decided to visit you more than once that winter and our turtle friends were there each and every time.

Kauai Turtles Kauai Turtles Turtles at 'Anini

West Maui: Kahana

Our condo at the Valley Isle Resort was high up on the tenth floor, and the floor-to-ceiling windows and huge balcony provided spectacular views of not only the neighboring islands, but the friendly visitor that we saw each and every day for two weeks. It never failed, every morning he would swim down the coast and every night he would swim back. I loved sitting out on the balcony with a cocktail in hand watching for our not-so little friend.

Maui Turtle

West Maui: Honokowai

The main reason that we decided on an oceanfront condo along the west coast of Maui was because it was January, which in Hawaii means: Whale Season. We wanted to spot whales while enjoying breakfast out on our lanai, and of course the whales didn’t disappoint. The unexpected surprise–turtles joining us for breakfast almost every morning.

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Big Island: Punaluu Beach

Black Sand, Palm trees, Honu, need I say more? Punaluu Beach is a hot spot for Turtles, almost as hot as the black sand itself. (I say almost because that sand is scalding hot!) If I were a turtle I imagine that this would be the place I would want to go as well. Now if we could just do something about those pesky tourists… ;-)

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Which spot is your favorite?

Posted in Big Island, Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Hawaii in a Glass: My Perfect Mai Tai

One of my favorite things about traveling is having the opportunity to try the local foods and signature drinks around the world. We’ve enjoyed Pirate Pain Killers while sailing around the US Virgin Islands, drank rum punch during our visit to St. Lucia, tried ice-cold Carib beers while sunbathing in St. Maarten, filled up our steins in Leavenworth, and although unsuccessful, I searched for Vikingfjord Vodka during our stay in Norway. While Hawaii has many different signature drinks such as Blue Hawaii’s, Pina Colada’s, and Lava Flows, my favorite is the Mai Tai. The strong drink mixed with delicious tropical flavors is the perfect way to cool off after a fun afternoon in the sun.

Happy

Happy Hour at Leilani’s on the Beach in Maui

Hopefully one day I’ll be lucky enough to call Hawaii Home, but in the meantime I’ll spread the Aloha by mixing up these strong cocktails to enjoy with my ‘ohana (family) out on our back patio. Now, I just need some soft sand, some hawaiian music, and a palm tree or two…

My Perfect Mai Tai

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz light Rum (I like using Captain Morgan’s Pineapple Rum, or try another fruity flavor like Mango or Coconut Rum)
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Dark Rum (for the float)

Instructions:

Mix the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and pour over ice. Top with a generous Dark Rum float. All that’s left is a garnish of your choice (I’m particularly fond of a pineapple slice with one of those cute little umbrellas).

Beautiful presentation

A beautiful presentation at the Old Lahaina Luau

Who’s up for a drink? Happy Aloha Friday!

Posted in Food, Hawaii, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Jawsome!

It’s here! It’s finally here! One of my favorite weeks of the year is upon us!

SHARK WEEK!

Every year for one week, the Discovery Channel dedicates a week of programming to sharks–shark facts, shark stories, shark attack survivors–I can’t get enough of it. If you’ve read Pictures and Plane Tickets for a while then it’s no surprise that these creatures fascinate me. A combination of strength, power, and terrifying danger, I can’t help but feel captivated by the ocean’s most dangerous predator, and for this one week you won’t find my TV on any other channel.

In honor of Shark Week, I wanted to reblog a post I wrote back in 2012 when I snorkeled with Sharks off of Nassau, Bahamas. Enjoy!

Stuart's Cove

As promised, I am writing about our thrilling yet dangerous adventure that we went on last week while visiting the Bahamas. While researching excursions for our visit to Nassau, I came across a company called Stuart Cove’s. They advertise “The World’s most exciting underwater adventure!” and of course I was intrigued. Stuart Cove’s is a full service dive resort and they also offer snorkeling tours to those not yet scuba certified. When I saw that I had an opportunity to swim with sharks in the open ocean I was very excited to say the least. How often are you in the Bahamas, and how often do you get to swim with sharks?

Stuart's Cove

Our captains, CleeJay and Obie drove the boat, called the Zambizi, to two different snorkel sites where we were allowed to snorkel with many beautiful tropical fish. There were so many at the second spot that I was literally swimming in a school of fish. Simply amazing.

Stuart's Cove

Stuart's Cove

The last stop was at the Atlantic Tunnel Wall off of the southwestern side of New Providence Island. They anchored the boat and told us that the bow of the boat was at a depth of 45 feet and just off the stern the ocean floor drops down to 6,000 feet. My first thought was, ‘Don’t the bigger sharks usually swim at a deeper depth? And now these big guys are being enticed to come up and check out the lunch buffet?’ Cleejay then reminded us about the dangers of swimming with these wild animals and provided information on what not to do once we were in the water. When the time came to put on our fins and snorkel gear I was nervous. My heart was pounding, my stomach was in a knot, and it was a little hard to breathe, yet I could barely contain my excitement to get in and see the sharks below.

After easing into the water, I looked down and saw three sharks close to the bait box. During the ten minutes (which felt more like an hour) that we were allowed in the water, more sharks appeared from the depths below. A few of the majestic yet frightening creatures were interested in the snorkelers above and came up to explore what we were doing in the water. It was a terrifying experience to have these sharks and all of their razor-sharp teeth so close, but it was also very exciting as well.

The sharks looked big when I was swimming next to them in the water, however, once we were safely standing above them on the boat I could really see their massive size and their graceful nature in the water. Now that the experience is over I have to say that it was even better than I imagined, however with that being said, I have thought to myself a few times since the snorkel, “what the hell was I thinking?” :) It was dangerous, very risky, and slightly suicidal, but what an experience it was! Up next, I want to swim with the big sharks off the northern tip of Oahu (this time shark cages are provided).

Do you share the same fascination about sharks as I do?

Posted in Bahamas, Risky Business, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Daunting Kalalau Trail

The Kalalau Trail (Kah-lah-low “low rhymes with how” Get it? Kah-lah-low) is the epitome of hiking trails. 11 looooong miles of intense physical and mental challenges mixed with an awe-inspiring coastline, friendly hikers, and the most incredible destination one could strive for: Kalalau Beach.

KalalauBeach

Kalalau Beach

Photo Credit

There’s only two ways to reach Kalalau Beach my friends: hiking the daunting trail or kayaking from Ke’e Beach. Either way, you’re going to have to go back the way you came.

Now incase you’re wondering, my husband and I are pretty active–we love to hike (if the flat paved trail near our house counts), and we love to be outdoors (mainly, out on our patio enjoying a couple of cocktails while watching the sun set), and we even make exercise a daily habit (yes, I’m totally counting yard-work or walking the dogs as exercise), but to be completely honest, we are mostly active during the fall: active football fans, my friends: games, stats, fantasy football, traveling to see our teams play. Oh, that’s not what you meant by “active”? I digress. ;-)

In all seriousness, the Kalalau Trail isn’t for beginners. While the idea of challenging myself to 11-miles of pure hell to experience one of the most magical places on Earth seems awesome and totally bucket-list-worthy, the last thing I want to do is kill myself on vacation by falling off Crawlers Ledge–it’s 500 feet straight down to the ocean. To all of those who have completed this incredible hike, I raise my Mai-Tai (including that cute little umbrella) and Toast to You!

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Crawlers Ledge

Crawlers Ledge

Crawlers Ledge: I’m not even afraid of heights, but this photo makes me want to cry! YIKES

Both Photos found via Google Images

All kidding aside, while we aren’t in top physical condition, we aren’t completely out of shape either, so my husband and I finally decided it was time to hike part of the Kalalau Trail. We decided that we would conquer the first mile of the trail–like how I said “conquer”? As if one measly mile really puts a dent in the 22-mile roundtrip trail.

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Kalalau Trail5-1

It’s one mile. How hard can it be really?

The answer. HARD.

Sweat producing, red-in-the-face, hold-on-I-need-a-break, I CAN’T BREATHE. Hard.

Kalalau Trail1-1

 

See the thing about the Kalaulau Trail is that there is no slow incline, or anything gradual or “easy” about it. Within the first two miles you go from sea level to 500′ and back down to sea level. The trail is never “level” as it crosses towering cliffs and deep valleys along the rugged and remote NaPali Coast. And those first two miles are probably two of the easiest miles. 

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Kalalau Trail9-1 Kalalau Trail8-1

If you want to hike the full 11-mile trail you will need a permit. Plan on spending a night on the trail as you make your way to the magical Kalalau Beach. The trail crosses five valleys, three rivers, lingers dangerously close to several severe drop offs, and will challenge even seasoned hikers with its many mental obstacles or even pure physical exhaustion.

While I enjoyed the challenging hike through the lush, tropical jungle, I found it to be incredibly cruel to look down on this amazing view while I was sweating buckets glistening in the midday sun:

Kalalau Trail-1

That water… what an amazing shade of blue!

When it comes to being active, maybe hiking just isn’t for me. Give me the water sports: Swimming, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Wakeboarding, Skiing, that’s my idea of an afternoon of fun. To each, their own.

Kalalau Trail3-1-1

Tell me, have you hiked the Kalalau Trail? How far did you go?

On a final note, my thoughts and prayers are with the amazing people of Hawaii today. May you all stay safe and may these hurricanes pass with as little impact as possible. Aloha!
Posted in Hawaii, Kauai, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The Mysterious Green Flash

We sat on our lanai during our first night in Kona and I admired the beautiful coastline while listening to the hypnotizing rhythm of the ocean. Enjoying some liquid aloha, an ice cold Kona Longboard from the Kona Brewing Company, we watched as the sun danced across the cloudless western sky. It was our first visit to the Big Island and we had one of the best lanais on the western coast to watch the sunset.

As the sun began to hug the horizon I turned to my husband and said, “I wonder if we will see the Green Flash tonight?”

His quizzical sideways glance my direction made me realize that he had never heard of the elusive phenomenon known as the Green Flash.

Have you?

While it sounds like a superhero; it’s not. And people say that it’s a myth; also not true. The Green Flash is a natural occurring phenomenon with a scientific explanation for people like me who want to know how everything works:

The day has to be clear with no clouds on the horizon as the sun begins to set. As the last part of the disk slips below the horizon a bright green flash is sometimes seen. The scientific explanation (according to Maui Revealed) states that when the sun’s rays pass through the thickest part of the atmosphere the light is bent and split into different components (much like a prism refracting light into the colors of the rainbow). The light that is the most bent is green, which is why we see the rare green flash.

If there are any clouds on the horizon, you won’t see the green flash. It’s also important to note that you should avoid looking directly at the sun until the very last moment before the sun dips below the horizon–we wouldn’t want you to burn your retinas.

A time lapse of a sunset with the Green Flash

A time lapse of a sunset with the Green Flash

Photo Credit

I had read about the Green Flash, but I never thought that I would actually see it. Now that I think about it, it’s totally bucket list worthy because of how elusive it can be. That night I saw my first Green Flash and it will go down as one of the most memorable sunsets I’ve yet to witness. Over the next ten nights, my husband and I tried to spot the Green Flash once again, and the phenomenon eluded us. I guess we will have to keep searching…

Aloha!

Green Flash1

Photo Credit

Have you see the Green Flash?

Posted in Big Island, Hawaii, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments