Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Year Has Passed...So Have Three Vacations!

I cannot believe it's been over a year since I posted a blog of any kind on here...I've traveled! Three times, in fact.
I came across this interesting link today that I thought would be helpful to my fellow travelers, so check it out! 15 Airport Tech Hacks Every Traveler Should Know

I spent too much time at LAX in October trying to find an outlet not being used, only to find a pretty cool charging station by verizon...I forgot to charge my kindle to watch a movie on the plane so I was able to charge both there, and engaged in some interesting conversation with fellow travelers in need of charging their equipment too!

So 2015 was a year of traveling for me, and one of my New Years Resolutions is to travel to places I haven't been (for 2016).  Right now I have a tentative trip planned to ARUBA in April, and hopefully San Francisco in Fall, to visit Alcatraz.

As for this year, I spent my birthday in April in Los Angeles, I went to Las Vegas in June for a wedding, and back to BOTH places in October and checked an LA/Vegas Road Trip off my bucket list!  For better reviews of the places I'm about to mention, be sure to check out the good, the bad, and the ugly on my Yelp reviews.

April 2015 - Trip to Los Angeles

Another thing I REALLY wanted to do was hike to the Hollywood Sign.  I've been way more active these days so I thought this would be fun!  It was...not sure if my friend who isn't active agreed.  I believe since this hike, they did close off this area for tourists, though I could be wrong since I don't live there.  I suggest googling the Hollyridge Trail - this will give  you all the details you need for this hike from parking to where to turn, etc.  Enjoy the view from up there!

When visiting LA, a personal struggle is finding a hotel that is reasonable in price, doesn't charge a fortune for parking, and is in a safe area.  This particular trip we stayed in Calabasas at a boutique hotel called The Anza.  I found a great deal through booking.com  I did enjoy staying here, though it was a bit of a hike back and forth to Hollywood, it was very convenient for our travels to Malibu & Santa Barbara.  Also, the entire area north of LA is very nice - Westlake Village, etc.  I'm still a little sad that I had NO sightings of famous people while I was there (both times this year, in fact.)  Again, check out my Yelp page for reviews of restaurants and more from this trip.

June 2015 - Trip to Las Vegas

This was trip #9 to Las Vegas for me...and seriously, I was vegas'd out by the time that trip was over.  Traveling there in June comes with HOT weather, but I'm not at all complaining about it.  I embrace hot weather...that's why every hotel has a pool there!  I realized not much has changed or been added since my trip in 2014, so there isn't much to highlight about this trip.  I will say I spent a great deal of money eating at some pretty good restaurants on this trip.  All reviews are posted on my yelp page.  I don't think I'll be back here till 2017 or 2018...it will be that much more exciting if I wait. 

October 2015 - Trip to Los Angeles/Las Vegas

While I was in LA in April, I was talking to my friend who lives out there and he suggested flying to LA and driving to Vegas because it's cheaper...rather than the other way around.  For some odd reason I always thought about the trip to Vegas, and a stop to LA and that doesn't make much sense.  As for this trip, I did a lot of googling about the road trip from LA to Vegas...learned of a highlight along the way, and that is stopping in Baker, CA to see the World's Largest Thermometer.  I'm easily amused, so we stopped here both ways!

Again, the struggle of finding a hotel...thankfully my friend who I was traveling with works for a hotel chain and took care of this part.  We both traveled on airline miles, and the miles took care of the rental car too so it was a very reasonable trip for the both of us.  This time we stayed in Manhattan Beach - I HIGHLY suggest staying here while visiting LA, as it's super close to LAX and really nice!  Even make a vacation out of visiting the beach cities south of LA - I think my next trip out there will consist of a lot more of this!  So many nice stores, restaurants and well...the BEACH!!!  Most of the country was having a heat wave the weekend we visited so it was in the high 90s, maybe 100 degrees while on this trip.  Again, no complaints.

Make note that the entire state of California goes to Vegas for the weekend, and this was very clear considering the traffic coming back to CA on Sunday as we headed there.  We drove out to Vegas on Sunday, to return on Monday.  We really had no itinerary on this trip, so we just winged most of it.  While in Vegas we stayed at Excalibur and covered a LOT of ground while we were there because we had a car.  Again, being my 10th trip to Vegas and second for the year...I was absolutely Vegas'd out...though I do love to show people around there who haven't been there ten times like me!

I'd have to say the trip back and forth goes by very fast...you may be traveling through the desert, but it's still very scenic.  When we got back to LA, we stayed at a hotel by the airport. I never thought about doing this, it's actually a good idea... decent hotel, and well the location is very convenient for when you're leaving to go back home.

Readers of this blog - feel free to post comments here at any time if you have questions about places I've been.  This was my 9th and 10th trip to Las Vegas, and 4th trip to LA so I'm at level: expert now when it comes to both!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More Las Vegas

A year went by and I never did update about my 2013 trip to Las Vegas.  I'll summarize, but will tell you more about this year's trip that I just went on last week.

Flashback to April 2013...
The weather in Chicago was terrible, in fact I came home after the trip to my suburb of Lisle practically under water - it was on the news and everything. Lucky for me I live on the higher point of town and didn't flood or anything but I always like to get out of town in the spring to avoid this stuff for a short time.  Only this time the weather was in the mid-80s and dropped to low 60s when we paid a visit.  
What to do in Las Vegas when it's not pool weather???
Well, the pools open in March in LV.  I saw the change in weather before we left so I did some fast thinking....
Rent A Car!!!
People think it's silly to rent a car there but really, there are SO many sights to see off the strip, you'd be surprised.  Even if you rent a car for a day like we did, you really get your money's worth, plus it saves on cab fare.  I will admit driving Las Vegas Blvd is a big of a headache, but if you come from a city, you'll be right at home, though that is something you don't really want on a vacation.

We were staying at the Venetian and like other hotels, they had a car rental agency on site which happened to be Avis.  You can get car rental discounts all over the place, the best I found was a promo code from my employer so I used that.  I want to say our compact car was about $60 for 24 hours and it was just perfect...and so was the car.  A VW Beetle.  I was pretty psyched to drive it!  It was pretty fun compared to my SUV back home.

If you're looking to do something during the day off the beaten path there is Red Rock Resort, Casino, & SpaRed Rock CanyonHoover DamMt. Charleston, and Valley of Fire just to name a few.  I've visited the 9 mile scenic drive at Red Rock Canyon, visited Hoover Dam & Mt Charleston in 1999 while visiting the first time, and Valley of Fire this particular trip.  While driving into Valley of Fire there is a nice little Indian Reservation casino which also has a gift shop selling alcohol, snacks, fireworks, tobacco...you name it!

 Valley of Fire was a great scenic drive.  It was worth every penny to rent a car and drive out here and check it out.
The drive itself is very scenic too, though it's not an actual path like Red Rock Canyon that you follow
As you could see, it wasn't ideal Las Vegas weather...but we made the most of it.  

And again, we saved on cab rides as we had breakfast at Peppermill 
After our drive to Valley of Fire we drove to the Hard Rock Casino, and later on drove out to Freemont Street before returning our car for the night back at the hotel.  I wrote up reviews of all the great places I visited that trip on yelp and created a yelp list so check it out at: My Las Vegas Yelp List 

 May 2014

 Although we really enjoyed our visit at the Venetian, we decided to upgrade our suite and booked the 2 bedroom Hospitality Suite at The Mirage this time.  I will admit, it was pretty fab...

Another suggestion I have about Las Vegas is to get on email lists for hotels that you are looking to stay at, if you are booking air and hotel separate...sometimes it costs about the same as booking a package.  If you are booking separate (I get an air fare voucher every year) you will get email promos from hotels pretty often.  The Mirage has the AAA discount as well.  We booked at a 20% off rate along with $25 room service credit so we got our morning coffee sent up to us!  I've mentioned other suggestions about traveling here in previous posts so if you're a new reader, be sure to check those out too. 

I also reviewed all of the places I stayed at this time as well on Yelp so be sure to check those out too for suggestions.  There is a really great off the strip Italian Restaurant that I suggest there called Battista's Hole in the Wall

And as I've mentioned before - I always find something new to do here with each visit because this place just doesn't get old.  The new hot spot just opened this year called The Linq which is located next to the Flamingo. This is home to the new tourist attraction The High Roller

You get the idea! :)

I also checked out Sigfriend & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat because I've been hooked on playing Las Vegas Slots on Facebook and on my phone - where you can earn FREE stuff in Vegas like buffet passes, drinks, hotel discounts and more!  I've used these the past two visits so it's worth it to play that particular game every now and then.

I need to start counting down the days till next year's trip for sure...because I miss it already!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vacation Car Rental Tips

I have to say...I, never pre-pay for gas, bought the extra insurance a few times only to learn it's just a waste of money.  And sadly, passed up all of the gas stations on a road leading into McCarran Airport in Las Vegas and forced to pay them for the gas we didn't put in there...lesson learned, fill up in advance!  Here are more good tips I just discovered online: