Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Things I Love…About America and other stuff

1.iPhone game apps that involve words…the tried and true “Words with Friends” and my new obsession “Hanging with Friends.” Please find me on both under the username TamiSpencer. I will dominate you (unless you are Chelsea Griffin, in which case I blame my losses on the fact that somehow I always get an unlucky draw against you and end up with ALL vowels or NO vowels. Who do you know at Zynga that is letting this happen over and over and over again?)

2.The way my knockout roses look after I take the time to prune all 547 bushes. (sidenote- I HATE the pruning process. This time, my legs took quite a beating from the thorny rose bushes…and the entire 2 hours I spent pruning the song line “Every rose has its thorn” was on replay in my head. Torture times 20).

3.DATE NIGHTS on a WEEKDAY!! Last night, hubs and I met up with our friends Drew and Laura to do a little dinner and a dollar movie. BONUS—ON TUESDAY THE DOLLAR MOVIE COSTS 75 CENTS! SERIOUSLY, you can go to a movie, in a theatre (with air conditioning) for 75 CENTS!! We saw Source Code. It was better than expected. I’m loving some Soccer-Free* July already. (**soccer free July has already broken the rules and scheduled a joint practice on Thursday evening. He just can’t stop people.)

4.Nordstroms Anniversary Sale. My bro’s awesome wife (shout out Kimberly K.) has a friend who’s a personal shopper, therefore allowing me to tag along with her on a special “members only VIP pre-sale.” Probably won’t buy anything this month as we have the upcoming vaca and I’ve been a little Groupon happy lately so my shopping budget has dwindled, but it’s still an awesome sale (and I really love being involved in anything that labels me a VIP).

5.WEEKENDS AT THE LAKE with super fun family members! We celebrated the 4th with some of William’s fam at Lake Cypress Springs. There was some jet skiing, boating, fireworks, children ages 4-40 fishing, one smashed hand, lots of great food and some refreshing summer drinks, and LOTS of girl talk with some awesome sister-in-laws. (pics coming soon.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Travel Tips

I have always traveled quite a bit for work and have usually been our company’s “travel agency of choice” arranging flights, hotels, cars and anything else that needed to be done to make sure we made it to 4 meetings in 4 separate states in the span of 52 hours. What I have learned is that, given an unlimited budget, you can make almost anything possible (i.e. picking someone up in a tiny town on a private jet with dinner catered in-flight so they will agree to attend a meeting with you in Washington D.C. and be home in time for their grandkids pop warner game). BUT, when it comes to personal travel (which I LOVE way more than work travel), we usually cannot afford the luxury of private jets and 5 star hotels, so I have found some handy resources that help me to find the best deals available out there in the travel world and I thought I would share a few of those for anyone trying to book a summer getaway!
1. Subscribe to the weekly emails from Travelzoo.com. Travelzoo will send you their “Top 20 Deals for Travelzoo VIP” each week. They scour the travel world to see who is offering the best deals on flights, hotels, vacation packages and even entertainment (Broadway shows, dinner deals, even a few spa packages) and send you an email of the 20 best deals across the board for the week. This is especially helpful if you’re not looking for a specific location or date to travel but know you want to go to a “beach destination” and have a window of time that works for it.
2. Use Kayak.com to search multiple travel sites for flight deals at one time. Type in your destinations and travel dates and Kayak simultaneously searches expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, and airline sites to find you the best prices. It cuts out a lot of time and hassle of going to multiple websites and comparing. Once you find the airline that’s offering the best deal, I always recommend going to the airline website and price checking. Sometimes the airlines offer a little better deal when you book directly with them. It can also save you some hassle to book directly when it comes to seat selections, and changes or cancellation you have to make, and online check-in.
3. If you travel regularly on someone else’s dime (i.e. your company), make sure you are taking advantage of travel rewards that you can cash in on personal travel later! For example, we usually fly American (because my boss is a rewards member), so why not earn miles on all my business flights I can cash in for a trip! I also do this with Marriott hotels, Southwest Airlines and even Expedia (on Expedia, I can earn points for any trip I book, whether it’s for me or not—this can really add up!) These rewards programs also usually offer bonus incentives which can amount to free car rentals, resort credits (can you say free massage!) and even free nights. Make sure you go to your rewards program website and REGISTER for ALL their bonus incentives. It’s a great surprise when a couple thousand extra rewards points show up on your statement.
4. If you’re traveling to the west coast, check out Virgin America for the best flight deals. Not only do they often offer direct flights to the west coast (from DFW) for as little as $79, they also have free entertainment on board (televisions with satellite TV in-flight on every seat) and it will be the best flight experience you’ve ever had.
5. If you’re traveling with a small group (4 couples or your whole family), it is sometimes cheaper to rent a nice house than individual hotel rooms. Check out vrbo.com (vacation rentals by owner) for some great steals on NICE houses. (Word of caution- remember these are private homes so you’re trading in some amenities like restaurants on site and room service. Make sure you have access to a vehicle or book within walking distance of an area that offers lots of dining choices).
6. I am a little lustful in my desire for luxury travel. I’m not going to lie, I really like NICE hotels, but when traveling for pleasure, these places are usually out of my price range. I’ve found two really great resources that offer discounts on some high-end hotels. Sometimes these are way too high, even at a discount, but every once in awhile you can score big on a great deal. My favorite is Jettsetter.com (a part of the online shopping auction gilt.com). It’s an “invitation only/member” travel site so here’s your personal invitation from me to check it out http://www.jetsetter.com/invite/tspencer09
The other one I love is Snique Away. They also offer daily specials to really awesome places (most recently I found a great deal to the Lake Austin Spa, wish I could go). Here’s a link to that one as well http://www.sniqueaway.com/invite/TamiSpe
These are my best online resources and we’ve found some great deals through these sites. Hopefully you’ll find this useful in planning your next family getaway!!