24 Hours in Bogota, Colombia

Bogota was my first stop on my mini South American adventure. As I mentioned in previous posts, Bogota wasn’t initially my intention this trip. I’ve certainly wanted to go to Bogota, however, with this trip, it was simply just a way for me to maximize my travel time. I did not expect to fall in love with this city.

As soon as my plane was landing and broke through the clouds to the point where you could actually see the ground my jaw was dropped. Picture lush green landscapes mixed with beautiful mountains, and towns not completely overtaken by grey buildings and chaotic city landscapes. This would definitely be in one of my top ten plane landing experiences.

The airport created a wonderful first impression as it was extremely navigable and user friendly for a foreigner. It was so simple to figure out where I needed to go, which lines I was supposed to enter, and even getting a taxi was so simple. Believe me when I say you never know what you are going to get when you enter a new airport. In some places you don’t know if signs are also going to have english, or even in the states I’ve been to airports that definitely are not simplified.

During my stay, I stayed at La Selina Hostel in La Candelaria area. It took about a 40 minutes I would say but it was a nice little drive that got me more and more excited to start exploring the closer we got.

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Bogota, Colombia

Once we got to the point where we turned to actually be driving in the little La Candelaria streets my heart began to flutter a bit. Imagine little cobble streets lined with small brightly colored buildings, hinted glimpses of simple yet intricate architecture. When my cab arrived I was super content with my selection as the hostel was a pretty good size, had a lot of other travelers coming in and out, and was in an absolutely perfect location.

We were may four small blocks from the Simon Bolivar Plaza, and a super simple, maybe 25 minute walk to get to the entrance for Monserrate. In between these two attractions the colored buildings contained shops, cafes, restaurants.

I arrived at my hostel a bit too early to check in, however, I was able to leave my backpack in a storage area, grab a map, and begin exploring. My initial thought was to try to get to Monserrate, because I would have a fair bit of time to do that. Well, as I was walking I think the way was almost because I thought I was going the wrong way and turned back. Once I was back on the same road as the hostel I chose to pop into a little cafe and relax a bit, but also take some time to look at the map.

My first major struggle came to me when I had to pay for my coffee. When the barista showed me the receipt it showed 8000 pesos. I was a little panicked because the money I did have I had a few bills that showed ‘1000’ and then bills that had ‘2’, ‘5’, ‘10’, ‘20’ etc. So as I did not happen to have 8 ‘1000’s I panicked thinking I did not have enough money and grabbed a card to pay with.

Fortunately when I got back to my hostel I was able to ask for clarification about the bills and laughed at myself for a little bit after realizing that ‘1000’ was basically like 1, therefore, the ‘20’ would have been like ‘20000’. So I really had plenty of cash on my for a cappuccino and water, which came to literally 2.5 American dollars.

The good news, was that this was literally the only issue I encountered. Yes, there was definitely a language barrier but I found that as long as you show gratitude, people were happy to help you out. In fact, I did not encounter one person who was not polite, helpful, kind, or hospitable. I was overwhelmed my kindness and I think that is part of the reason why I fell in love with this city so much (of course the natural beauty and scenic streets played a massive part too).

So after checking in, I decided to go for another little walk to go see the Simon Bolivar square and then just continue roaming as my heart desired. Like I stated previously, the Simon Bolivar was simply right down the road from where I was staying.

As I walked towards the square I was kind of having one of those moments of excited anticipation where you sort of know your about to see something wonderful yet at the same time don’t know what to expect.

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Bogota, Colombia

The square was amazing! The first thing that immediately caught my attention was the literal thousands of pigeons hanging out. A quick second attention grabber would be the Cathedral of Colombia, which stands strong and magnificent in the square. I think one of the best parts is that because La Candelaria area is on a bit of a hill, at the base of a mountain, everything is constantly backdropped by mountains, or lovely little buildings. So when you stand from a far looking at this church, you see the lush green mountain in the back and something like that turns an already gorgeous building into a gorgeous landscape.

So after taking a quick walk through the square I found myself walking through some more of the little streets. The colorful buildings truly continued to amaze me. As you walk from block to block you go from bright royal blue buildings to rusty red tones to greens and aquas, to bright sunflower yellows, and then to brick buildings and then to white buildings with colored accents, and so on.

As I was walking I saw peaking above the tops of the building the steeple of a church, so I continued in that direction. As I turned the corner to see the church in its entirety, I was super struck by its decided. The church had this fantastic stripe pattern unlike anything I had ever seen before. The red and white striped exterior made me excited to go inside to see the interior decor. I was surprised to see that in the inside, all the pillars, arches, and other main supports featured this same unique red and white striped pattern. The rest of the walls were painted an aqua blue color. Out of everywhere I have ever been I have never seen a church like this. Experiences like this just kept adding to my intrigue and love for this new city.

I walked back from this church over to my hostel with much ease because the area is basically gridded with streets that are literally numbered. For example, if you know you are supposed to turn on street #3 and you are at 4 you have to turn around.

I then decided that I was going to try again to get to the Monserrate entrance. Literally all I had to do was just continue along the one street and then continue kind of up the hill until you literally run into it. The only thing I would note about the walk is that it is quite hilly- so if this could present an issue I would figure out a way to make accommodations as necessary.

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Bogota, Colombia

Once I arrive I thought I would try to go up the mountain, but as I went toward where the line was, which was very long and had not moved in the 10 minutes I stood there I walked over to where the entrance was to walk and was quickly yelled at by guards because the path was no longer open. So I decided to add Monserrate on my to do list for the next day, hoping for a little bit less of a line.

I started back toward my hostel and made a couple stops on my way back. I managed to find myself in what looked like a cafe called Distrito Chocolate where instead of finding food I was easily tempted to sit and enjoy a hot chocolate because who needs lunch when you are drinking the best hot chocolate you have ever had in your life.

The menu had several options and the boys working new pretty good english, and were happy to explain everything to me. I ended up selecting what the one boy recommended, which was a Choco Coco Vanilla – basically a hot chocolate with vanilla and coconut. To my surprise the boy also came by the table to explain a bit about how chocolate is made showing me, and letting me taste a bit of cacao fruit, and some cacao nibs.

Like I mentioned earlier, as the day went on I was simply overwhelmed by such kindness, and people so willing to help even if we didn’t understand each other.

After I took the time to savor and enjoy this hot chocolate, I found my way back to my hostel to shower and do a couple things on my computer. The other thing that really caught my eye as I was walking around was all the beautiful street art the covered several buildings. In fact, some were actually decorated almost entirely with fantastically intricate murals.

After I refreshed up and rested my legs, I walked back down toward the Simon Bolivar plaza because I was curious to see what it may look like at night. First off, there were no more pigeons and the square was far less chaotic, and the church and buildings still as beautiful in the day time. Afterwards, I popped into a restaurant for some dinner and opted again for the recommendation of the server, which ended up being Ajiaco. My meal featured a soup/ stew soft of dish which has a delicious base filled with chicken, corn, and other flavors. On the side was about a sixth of an avocado and some rice. Taking a bite of a little bit of everything was pure heaven. After finishing as much as a I could, I left with a full and satisfied stomach and happy heart. To put it in perspective too, this meal, which could have easily fed 2-3 people, was about 10 USD.

I took another quick little walk around and then went back to my hostel for bed. My plan for the morning was to go to Monserrate and then catch a cab around 10:30 am to the airport. Catching the taxi from Monserrate versus my hostel would not only save me time, but also money.

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Bogota, Colombia

I left my hostel around 8:15 and got myself a good workout as I walked these now familiar hilly streets with my somewhat heavy backpack. By the time I got to the entrance, everything was just beginning to open up so I fortunately had very little line to wait in. I took the funicular up since the cable car was not running yet and I did not have enough time to walk up. If I were to do it again however, I would probably make a whole day out of it and do the full walk up and down, and eat and explore more at the top of the mountain.

I was able to spend about a total of an hour once I got to the top of the mountain. The view from the top is out of this world. There is an outstanding view of Bogota, but at the same time, you have this amazing view into the valleys on the mountain side, where everything is so green and lovely.

The other thing I found to be quite interesting was that doing the hike up Monserrate is actually something that the people of Bogota actually do. It was cool seeing the Colombia people at the top in designated areas for exercise and rest enjoying the morning with their friends and families.

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Bogota, Colombia

When I was looking at the hours of Monserrate the day before I stumbled upon a review that said if you walk all the way through the little market behind the church you have another nice lookout to the mountainous side. This was certainly correct. If you love mountains and jungle scenery as much as I do, this is definitely worth checking out. It’s also a great option if you want to sit down for a good bite to eat afterward. I didn’t have the time to sit and eat so I opted for an empanada to eat as I waited in line for the funicular down.

I made a small error here as I was waiting in a line for people that needed to buy a ticket for the way down. Of course I didn’t realize this until I had already waited about 10 minutes, but if that was the worst thing then I would say I am more than lucky. Once I got down, grabbing a taxi was very easy and the ride to the airport was probably closer to 25- 30 minutes. As well, I’m pretty sure the taxi was only 20,000 pesos– which is literally absurdly inexpensive when you think about how much a 30 minute taxi ride would cost in the USA.

As I spent those last minutes in the taxi I tried to just soak up as much as possible as I was feeling a little bit bittersweet to be leaving so soon. I honestly did not expect to enjoy Bogota as much as I did but now I am so so so happy I went and am looking forward to heading back and getting to see more of this country.

So my best advice? Don’t be scared of Colombia and certainly don’t skip Colombia. In fact, when you see a great flight deal for a long weekend, book it. I promise you will not regret it.

Enjoy your day!

Xx hann.

How I successfully planned a Spontaneous Long Weekend to South America

My trip to trip to South America was extremely spontaneous. Almost a month ago now I kind of randomly ended up having five days in a row off instead of just the weekend like I initially requested. In addition, the way my schedule worked out made it so I basically had six days in a row.

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Bogota, Colombia

So  the wheels in my brain started turning, and for me that always turns me into crazy travel planning mode. Basically I wanted to see if it would be possible to actually get away without spending a fortune, go somewhere I haven’t been, and find flights that were going to allow me to maximize my time.

As you can guess from me writing this, I was able to check all of the boxes, and last minute booked myself a trip to Colombia and Peru.

Long story short the way I was able to make all this happen was that I got a little creative with my departure airport and just kept searching flights until I found something that made sense. I ended up finding a flight that departed EARLY Friday morning to Bogota that would allow me to arrive between 1- 2 pm and therefore have the whole day to spend. I would say about 95% of all the other flights I found required me to get in the earliest at like 7:00pm and most of them arriving then next day. Even when I was looking round trip to Lima I would have to arrive the next day.

So I spent a little bit more money to take advantage of a whole extra day of exploring while also getting to experience a new country. My flight home from Lima ended up that I could actually depart at 10:00pm and get back around 10:00 am, and then have to drive home. I did have to go to work almost immediately as I got home but that was the least of my worries.

So all and all, I was able to successfully spend five full, jam packed days exploring Colombia and Peru. I really find myself loving this kind of travel because you can really do a lot with only having to take off 1-2 days of work if you plan it correctly.

As long as you allow yourself a bit more flexibility and time in the planning process it is possible to make it work and not spend an absurd amount of money.

Enjoy your travels and if you want someone to take over the planning process for you shoot me a comment 🙂

Xx han

A Vegan’s Guide to Niagara Falls, NY

For those of you who may not know, I spent about a year in college being a vegetarian and six months of that time being a vegan. During this time, I learned a lot of neat recipes, and found many different delicious vegan friendly restaurants.

When I first went vegan I thought going out to eat would be inconvenient for me because I would be limited to a short menu and wouldn’t be able to get something I actually wanted. I am fortunate to say I found myself proved very wrong, and found several places that had the most amazing vegan food and other restaurants that were more than accommodating.

So for all you lovely vegans looking to visit the Buffalo Niagara Falls area, this one’s for you.

  1. Orange Cat Coffee, Lewiston, NY

IMG_2625This cafe is a simply vegan heaven. The reason is simple, everything on the menu is vegan friendly. The cool part? You wouldn’t really immediately know. In fact, here’s a funny story. I went here with a couple of friends (while I was vegan) to grab some coffee, sit down, and just enjoy time with one another. About half way through some of decided we had a sweet tooth and went to find a pastry to split. At the time we were completely unaware that any of the decadent cookies, scones, and muffins were vegan friendly, so we just stuck to our coffees. Well maybe a week later I happened to find out that everything was indeed vegan and my life has forever been changed. To this day, I still have yet to find a bake shop that sells a better snickerdoodle cookie, vegan or not. I dare you to go here and not indulge. Best part? A coffee and a cookie comes to less than 4 dollars… can I get an amen?

2. Mario’s Pizza, Niagara Falls, NY

IMG_3352Mario’s Pizza is located right downtown in Niagara Falls on Old Falls Street right across from the state park. Although Marios is not necessarily a vegan restaurant, the do offer the option to make a Pizza with vegan cheese. This isn’t just any old pizza either. This is literally the best pizza I have ever had. The downside is that I you are going to need to buy a whole pie if you want vegan cheese instead of just ordering by the slice. However, eating a whole vegan pizza may not really seem like a negative for most of you. What are you waiting for? Get yourself to Mario’s for the best vegan friendly pizza and eat the WHOLE thing.

3. The Griffon Gastropub

This restaurant has several locations, but the ones I have been to are located on Military Road in Niagara Falls by the outlet mall, and in Lewiston on the Main Street.IMG_1936 This restaurant makes the list thanks to its mouth watering veggie burger. I know what you’re thinking…  a veggie burger really? This is probably one of the most generic options for a restaurant to include on their menu if they want to be able to say they have vegan/ vegetarians. However, this burger is by no means generic. This burger is flavorful, and filling, and not like every other veggie burger on every other restaurants menu. I promise you, I do not mess around when it comes to delicious food. Don’t believe me, guess you’ll have to try it for yourself.

4. Brickyard Barbecue, Lewiston, NY

IMG_1907In the middle of a meat lovers paradise you’ll find another lovely black bean burger that tastes out of this world. I will say, if you are a vegan who really doesn’t like being around meat, I would not go here. Perhaps, though, you are traveling or visiting with friends whose dietary preferences range from carnivore, to vegetarian, to gluten free, to vegan… Brickyard Barbecue could be the spot for you. So sit back with friends, in a place where you can enjoy a wide variety of beers made right next door and enjoy that delicious veggie burger.. Maybe even split a fried pickle appetizers… just be cautious about the sauces.

5. Downtown Niagara Falls Indian and Halal food trucks and restaurantsIMG_2962

One thing Niagara Falls does not seem to be lacking in is Indian and Middle Eastern Food. If you find yourself wanting to be a little more courageous when it comes to dining this is the option for you. One of the favorite things to do when I worked downtown was during my lunch break I would grab a veggie or falafel gyro from the yellow halal food truck on old falls street and then go sit in the state park and enjoy my lunch or dinner. The food was made fresh right before me in the cart and came out hot and ever so flavorful. If you don’t know what something is on the menu I find the workers are more than happy to always explain dishes and recommend options you may have not tried otherwise.

6. Alz Rootz Cafe at Soma Cura Wellness, Grand Island, NY

Inside my favorite hot yoga studio in the Niagara region sits a small little cafe where serve smoothies, juices, and a small menu. I haven’t tried much from this menu but I am still obsessed with the smoothie I got from there. The smoothie contained something along the lines of banana, spinach, cinnamon, oats, almond milk, and drum roll please… sweet potato. This smoothies was as rich and delicious as the best custard I have ever had. In fact, it was so good that I literally stopped at Wegmans on the way home to buy sweet potato so I could remake something similar for myself at home.

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So if you are vegan/ vegetarian and looking for a cool weekend getaway head to Niagara Falls where you can indulge and not have to worry about feeling limited in your options. In fact, you may even notice your carnivorous friends eyeing down your vegan friendly treats.

~~han

Niagara Falls and Buffalo for the Breakfast lover

This one goes out for those of you who go a restaurant and consistently choose from the all day breakfast menu. From one breakfast snob to another I have compiled a list of my favorite breakfast spots in the Buffalo/ Niagara Falls area long enough that you could literally plan a weekend getaway around eating breakfast foods.

Niagara Falls:

  1. Power City Eatery

IMG_2626Power City Eatery is a local gem in Niagara Falls, just outside of the hustle and bustle of the main touristy area. This cafe keeps there menu simple and delicious featuring pastries, coffee, lattes, egg sandwiches, soups, salads, and sandwiches. The cafe is counter service style and then you can enjoy your food to go or stay for a while at one of the many tables in the cafe. I have mentioned this in other posts, but my favorite thing about this cafe is that it is so spacious. For me, when I go to a cafe I typically go by myself to work from my computer for at least an hour at a time. Sometimes local cafes are too crowded or just too small that it either makes you feel awkward or even claustrophobic. At Power City Eatery you can enter without having to worry about it feeling too crowded or like another patron is reading over your shoulder the entire time.

  1. Third Street Retreat

Just off Third Street and Buffalo ave, almost right across from the Casino, in the bottom of the Jefferson Apartment Building is where you can find this hip little hidden gem for an excellent breakfast. There menu is pretty standard as far as breakfast goes but they definitely do it well. My favorite thing about this restaurant is the decor and the vibe. This small restaurant is decorated in kind of an old school music vibe and it looks really cool from the inside. When I travel, I would always prefer to eat somewhere local rather than the same chain restaurants I have at home. So if you are in Niagara Falls and are trying to avoid eating a $20 bunch buffet at TGI Fridays, look no further than Third Street Retreat!

Lewiston:

  1. Syros

Just off the main street in Lewiston lies my go- to and absolute favorite breakfast spot in the Buffalo/ Niagara Area. Prior to Niagara Falls I lived in the Philly area, where I never understood how lucky I was to have diners on almost every corner. IMG_2526After moving to Western New York and realizing that this was not such a thing there it took me a little to find something that compared. Thanks to a lovely Lewiston Local, my family and I were introduced to Syros.

Syros became my go to for breakfast and brunch because it has that diner charm combined with food that makes my mouth water from nearly 400 miles away. IMG_2525At Syros, no matter what you choose you cannot go wrong. If you find yourself unable to decide I would 100% the gyro omelette, which features gyro meat, and feta cheese along with a side of tzatziki sauce. The day I make the trip back to Niagara Falls this will be my first stop.

  1. Brickyard Brewing Company

Brickyard Brewing Company, or BBC is my go to option for a delicious, boozy, Sunday Brunch. Working in tourism I often have to work every weekend, however; any time I was off on a Sunday you bet I could be found at BBC sipping on Bottomless mimosas and enjoying food just as good as their regular menu. So if you can’t guess already here’s why I love BBC for breakfast: the food is incredible and they offer bottomless mimosas along with other drink specials. The only downfall is that they are only open Sundays for brunch, so it can be easy to accidentally miss it. However, I think part of the reason why it is special is because you could only get brunch on Sundays– otherwise Syros would have a tough competitor. When you go here I recommend the breakfast burger if you are looking for something savory or a stack of doctored up pancakes if you are looking for something sweet.

  1. Villa Coffee House

This sweet little breakfast spot has a more hidden location just off main street. The restaurant has a super small town meets diner vibe and features a standard, yet delicious breakfast menu. Villa Diner is an excellent choice if you are looking to spend less money because they offer pretty good specials, which including a tip, would set you back no more than $10. My go to option here would be to get a create your own omelette with bacon, mushrooms, cheese, and onion, and most importantly, DiCamillo Bread. The simplicity of this restaurant is what sets it apart and makes it a wonderful spot to catch breakfast.

  1. Orange Cat Coffee

IMG_2375I have written about Orange Cat Coffee several times now so there is no hiding my love for Orange Cat! Although this not going to be a sit down breakfast option, this is the perfect place for those looking for a grab and go coffee and a delicious pastry. In my opinion, there is nothing to not love at Orange Cat. Their prices are really good, there pastries are delicious, they have rotating coffee flavors, and every time I go in there everyone is always smiling. If I had to give a downfall I would say that if you were trying to sit in during a busier time sometimes it can be difficult to find a seat. If that happens to you, I recommend taking your coffee and pastry to go and walking down main street to the waterfront and enjoying your coffee with a view instead.

Buffalo

  1. Perks Cafe

To be honest, I really have only been here one time and that was right before I moved back to Pennsylvania. That being said one time was all it took to turn Perks Cafe into a place I am looking forward to one day returning to. Towards the end of Elmwood sits Perks Cafe where inside you will find a cute little cafe/ coffee shop. The coffee and lattes were delicious, the pastries looked mouthwatering, and they did have small menu with a couple good looking food options. The thing I found most intriguing was that most if not all the tables had several outlets, so this would be a wonderful spot if you were looking to get some work done.

  1. Spot Coffee

Spot Coffee is kind of like a local chain cafe in Buffalo. The one I went to was the Elmwood location and kind of reminded me similar to Power City Eatery in Niagara Falls. The Cafe was plenty spacious so among all the other 20 some year olds on their computers I did not feel claustrophobic or awkward, and the menu was vast with many tempting options. This is a good option because if you find yourself loving Spot Coffee, there are several different locations so you can go to whatever location is most convenient to you at the time.

  1. Ashker’s

IMG_2864I initially found this restaurant during my hunt for a juice and smoothie bar. Little did I know I would find a lovely little cafe with not only delicious smoothies and juices, but also a fantastic menu for breakfast and lunch. I wish I remembered what the name was but my favorite was this fluorescent pink smoothie which I think had beets, peaches, and a couple other things. I would combine this with a breakfast quesadilla and then go about my day knowing that if everything else where to go wrong I had made at least one healthy decision.

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I don’t know if breakfast tourism is a thing, but with this lovely list you could make a long weekend out of traveling around Buffalo and Niagara Falls just eating breakfast. I really truly hope you enjoy these recommendations and much as I do and please please please leave a comment if you have any other local breakfast places you love so I can go try it out as soon as possible. Disagree with one of the suggestions leave a comment anyways have a super wonderful day!

xoxo han

8 Tips for Cruising on a Budget

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St. Thomas, USVI

Nowadays when it comes to vacationing it seems almost impossible to get away without throwing away your entire pit of savings. Recently, my family and I have really enjoyed cruising because you get to see many different places, there’s always something to do, and there always seems to be something to do that appeals to each of us.

The only problem with cruising is somehow no matter what we do, we always end up with some sort of ridiculous bill at the end. I would say that is the biggest downfall to a cruise vacation, for what going in can seem very budget friendly (if you can find a cruise special for under 300 and flights for 200 or can drive to port you could potentially go on a 5-7 day getaway for around 500 per person).

That being said, as I stated earlier, cruises always have a magical way to get you to fork over ridiculous amounts of cash. More recently it seems as though around every corner on the boat there is some sort of costly temptation whether it be drinks, excursions, gift shop, sweet shops, or specialty dining.

Because of this, I have compiled a list of ways to enjoy your cruise and not break the bank and or potentially not spend any additional money.

1. Look for Cruise Specials

Okay so this one is obvious, and often times this isn’t really an option for everyone because most of the time the sailing date is often at a weird time. However, if you find yourself with a flexible schedule, you may be able to find a cruise that may cost $500+ during a summer month for $200-$300 per person in January. If are traveling with let’s say a family of five, saving $200 per person could save you $1000 in the long run.

2. Find a Departure port within driving distance

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Charleston, South Carolina

Once again, this option may not really work for everyone. If you are departing from a city in the middle of the USA it may just not really be possible to make the drive to a port city. That being said, I know I would personally be willing to drive max 10 hours away, so in that situation I would actually have a lot of options. Although you would still have to pay for gas tolls etc. that would probably maximally come to about $200 total. Once again, if you think about a family of five going on vacation and you get a flight for anywhere from $200 to $500 per person, you could potentially save yourself anywhere from $800 to $2300 dollars.

3. Fly out of a major airport

So this is for those who driving really isn’t an option to. You can save a lot of money on flights if you simply just fly from the nearest major airport to you. Living near Philadelphia I kind of luck out that within two hours I have several major airports. However, let’s say you live in Rochester New York, I can almost guarantee you that if you that if you look to fly out of the local airport it is going to cost you. Instead be open to flying out of other airports such as Buffalo, Syracuse, Toronto, or even the Niagara Falls Airport for flights with discount airlines such as Spirit or Allegiant. If you are willing to drive around two hours to an airport you could save a significant penny.

4. Look for cruise ports that won’t require you to book an excursion

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

This a really big one considering excursions can range anywhere from like $30 per person to $200+ per person. That being said I have done excursions that were worth every single penny– but that is not the point. The point of this is sticking to a budget. A couple of ports I would recommend would be Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Isla Roatan, Honduras; Havana, Cuba; Nassau, Bahamas; Catalina Island, California; San Juan, Puerto Rico, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; or any time the cruise ship mentions going to their private island. These ports have either had a beach or the city right there so you can just get off the boat and immediately be right where you want to be and explore without having to spend an extra dollar.

5. Be careful at the bar

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Charleston, South Carolina

Okay I’ll be honest this one can be tough. Obviously the most cost effective solution is to not drink but as most of us are cruising for vacation, this really isn’t an option. I have seen drinks at the bars on boat range anywhere from around $7 to $11+. If you choose to pay for drinks as you go you could save $100+ just by getting one of the less expensive drinks on the menu. Another option the cruise is going to tempt you with is going to be to buy a drink package. Basically, you would pay around $55 dollars a day and you get like 10 or 15 drinks a day included. I would definitely recommend this if you plan on getting at least 7 drinks a throughout the course of the day or if you enjoy really fancy drinks such as martinis.

If you plan on going on a vacation where you are going to be drinking quite a bit, cruise lines such as Norwegian now have some cruises where all the alcohol is included. So you literally just walk up to the bar and they give you whatever you like. Or anytime a server comes by with a tray of drinks you can try whatever you would like to try. This is also nice because if you get a drink you don’t like you don’t have to feel so bad about not finishing it.

6. Eat On-Board when you are at port

The best thing about the cruise is that you literally have unlimited food within an arm’s reach ALL THE TIME and…. IT’S FREE! So if you want to save a chunk of money on your days at port simply eat on the boat right before you go, explore– maybe get a small snack, drink, or a local favorite, get back on the boat and then fill up on all that good free food again. Going back to my family of five scenario, let’s say for everyone to get lunch at port it costs $100. If you go to three different ports you could save yourself a good $300 dollars.

That being said, I do understand that some places you go there are food you are going to want to try. However, if you opt for a couple small snacks, this little trick will still save you a lot of money!

7. Only allow select members of your group spending privileges

This one more pertains to families, but when you are on the boat your room key becomes your form of payment. When you book your cruise you will have the option to choose who in your party has the ability to make charges on their card. My next tip will kind of get into this more but the boat is going to have a lot of ways where it is easy to swipe your card and pay for something stupid and if only one or two people have access to making charges, it is a lot easier to control what, when, and how money is spent.

8. Avoid all the ‘extras’

This one could probably be the most difficult. Like I stated in the beginning, every corner on the boat there is some sort of option to spend extra money. This can include but is not limited to shopping, specialty dining, a sweet shop, arcade, a casino, and even classes. Long story short, if you want to save a good amount of money I would just straight up avoid all the above because I can tell you from experience you really aren’t missing much.

So if you are planning your next vacation but finding yourself on a rather tight budget, cruising could be a really great option for you! By following the tips listed above you can make sure you actually stick to that budget.

Got any other suggestions or think I’ve made a mistake? Leave it in the comments?

Need help planning your next vacation??  Leave me comment!

xoxo

 

Orange Cat Coffee Review, Lewiston, NY

Coffee shops… where to begin? I can’t think of one person who does not enjoy going to a coffee shop whether it be local or chain. Stuck right on the heart of main street in Lewiston lies a local favorite coffee shop: Orange Cat Coffee. Inside the shop or outside on the patio you can find a really cool mix of local retired regulars, students from the local universities, and friends of all sorts chatting over a cup of coffee, specialty latte, tea, pastry, or lunch item.

IMG_2625Orange Cat is the exact image that comes to mind when you think of your ideal small town coffee shop. The environment is cozy and small yet roomy with plenty of places to sit. The staff is super friendly and welcoming, knowing regulars my names yet also greeting first time customers with a smiling face, and the overall vibe of the shop is super charming with its cozy features making it an inviting place to enjoy with a group, a friend, or alone.

Orange Cat is one of those places on the main street of Lewiston that is always at least somewhat busy. I have gone in when it is easy to get a prime spot on the couch and I have gone in when I have to wait in a line out the door for coffee. Either way the shop is usually well traffic. I will make a note here that if you are going in alone and plan on sitting for a while and feel a bit awkward, the initial walk to the back area to find a spot on a busy day can be quite intimidating on a busy day being surrounded by groups of people laughing together.

So on to the food and drinks. I’m pretty sure I have mentioned Orange Cat in a post or two before but the shop features a large selection of freshly brewed flavored and regular coffees with rotating flavors, specialty lattes, tea, cookies, scones, muffins, and a lunch menu with a soup of the day and salads.

This is a place where I can honestly say I have tried almost everything and literally everything is good! My personal favorite when it comes to the pastries would definitely be the snicker doodle cookies. First off it should be noted that these cookies are about the size of your had and at least a half inch thick. I have personally found myself to be a very dedicated fan because they are soft cookies—so basically when you bite in it does not snap or crunch. It is simply just a velvety bite of sweet deliciousness and the best part is that because of the size you can enjoy longer than the average cookie. The muffins and scones are also super delicious and these usually become my go to if I am lucky enough to be here when there is a fresh batch out of the oven.

Coffee wise I usually go with one of the flavored coffees of the day simply because the prices are honestly really good. I think on the days I get a coffee and a cookie it comes to right around three dollars, which I think is extremely reasonable—especially cause I have spent at least this much on Tim Horton’s for something comparable. Recently my go to with the flavored coffee has been to mix the two flavors of regular coffee if they seem as though they may go together.

On a special day if I have a taste for something sweet or a flavor catches my eye on the latte menu I will opt for a flavored latte. Honestly I think the most interesting thing I have had here would be the latte that has I believe caramel coconut and kiwi, which I believe is called funky monkey. I initially had to get it because I was skeptical of Kiwi in coffee. This ended up all mixing really well together to make the perfect treat for my little extra need for sweet. Today I opted for a latte as my eye caught the sweet and nutty latte, which has cinnamon and almond flavoring.

Today is also the first day I am trying out the lunch menu. I decided to try the falafel salad and was honestly surprised with how inexpensive it was. The salad was 4.95 and because of this I just assumed it would be a small portion but instead the salad came out definitely a full portion that I would say would be filling for lunch.

So my meal today came to right around nine dollars for a salad and medium specialty latte and I would personally say I am quite satisfied with the price I paid. I can 100% say that this is far more reasonably priced than other local places and even than other chain such as Panera or Starbucks. As well, the taste is definitely comparable if not better than most places.

Another really cool note about Orange Cat is that everything on the menu is vegan. So all the pastries and salads are made vegan and dairy substitutes are available for coffee. This is something that doesn’t really seem to be advertised, partially because I think people freak out when they see vegan thinking its going to be ultra healthy. But here you can treat yourself to a super decadent pastry, salad, or coffee with a clear conscience knowing your goodies are cruelty free.

So If you find yourself in Niagara county and are looking for a place to go for a coffee or to sit back and catch up with friends or family, or a place to go to study or get some work down Orange Cat should definitely be on the list of places you need to try. I think the only way you could literally not like it here is if you don’t like coffee and you don’t enjoy sitting in a coffee shop. Even then—give it a try and be ready to leave with a happy heart and a satisfied stomach.

Syros Restaurant Review, Lewiston, NY

As many of you could probably tell by now, I am a lover of all things brunch and breakfast food. Seeing the words ‘all day breakfast’ on the menu for me is like walking into a store and seeing the words ‘clearance’ in large font.

One of my favorite places to go for breakfast in Lewiston and a top contender for Niagara County would be the restaurant Syros in Lewiston, right off main street. I first discovered this restaurant about four years ago with my family when they came to visit me at college for parents day weekend. We were walking around the town of Lewiston for the Harvest fest and happened to ask for a suggestion for a place to go for breakfast. Luckily for us the restaurant Syros was suggested and I have been loving going here ever since!

Syros is the place to go to enjoy a bite to eat amongst family, catching up telling stories, and enjoying the company of loved ones. Or a place I’ve found myself with friends recapping an evening after a long night out, filling in the gaps in each other’s memories. Or more recently, a place I’ve gone several times alone, enjoying a quiet breakfast eavesdropping on the ever-intriguing chatter of small town gossip from the locals. No matter what the situation may be I always find myself feeling welcomed here with fantastic service and even more incredible food.

Food wise Syros is basically your average diner style food but with some super unique specials. My go to here for the last couple of times has been to get a gyro and feta omelet, which comes with potatoes and toast, and then to kick it up a notch a side of tzatziki sauce. After having my breakfast with tzatziki sauce the first time, I really don’t think I can go back. Even if I were to find myself ordering something that tzatziki was not included with I would literally pay extra to have it.

Now I know the restaurant does do a lunch and dinner menu but I have never been during this time, and even if I did I would probably still order breakfast.

Another really great thing about this restaurant is that there is quite a lot of seating yet the restaurant still feels cozy, which in my opinion is the best sort of vibe for a diner.

I have been able to share some awesome memories, great laughs, peaceful mornings, and amazing food here at Syros and I always look forward to any opportunity to go here or recommend this restaurant.

So what are you waiting for???

Time to go try out Syros !!!