A Vacation Style For Everyone

As most of my readers realize, I am an American. I come from a culture that, for whatever reason, does not seem to value vacations as the rest of the world does. We are stuck in a rut where we feel we cannot leave our jobs for fear of losing them or falling too far behind. Fewer women than men take vacations, but I am not one of those women.

Most people in America are lucky if they force themselves away from their job for a single vacation each year. I on the other hand take at least three vacations, with mini getaways in between. Most years I take four. I go for ten days at a time, sometimes more, sometimes a little less, but I go and I leave my worries behind. If more people took vacations more frequently, perhaps we would have less mid-life crises and fewer nervous breakdowns from being at max mental capacity. It’s just a thought; I’m not here to cure the American worker, just to encourage using what you are entitled to. Everyone deserves a little fun.

To plan your trip you can go about it several ways. You have your all-inclusive packages, and you have your ala carte packages that you build as you go. You can fly, drive, boat, or take a train. Everything comes down to your personal desires. One of my buddies loves to take the train to Oregon, and then fly back home at the end of the week; I think that sounds like a blast, though I have never done it before.

If you are booking an all-inclusive package for March, you probably want to start looking for it in October or November. There is a certain timeline for Mexico especially, in which you can get the best prices and have the most options to choose from before things start filling up. We tend to take an all-inclusive trip every few years and it’s always been a blast. I definitely recommend scoping the hotel prices for a few days to see how they fluctuate. All-inclusive prices can go up and down, as can plan tickets, depending on the day of the week you look. You always run the risk of losing out on “the best price,” if you wait too long, but sometimes waiting is beneficial and can win you an even lower price.

If you are planning a road trip, your best bets for pricing are to look to VRBO.com, Groupon, or a timeshare. Timeshares frequently run specials where you can stay for under $300 for an entire week. If you don’t own a timeshare, you can find people on Craigslist who are looking for others to buy a week from them. You always need to proceed with caution when dealing with Craigslist though; I have seen people get ripped off this way in the past. VRBO.com gives you the option of choosing your location and amenities and being able to negotiate on pricing a little more. This route is, in my opinion, safer than Craigslist. We have acquired accommodations from people on VRBO at least ten different times and we have never had a bad experience. Groupon is a great way to find hotel deals as well, but keep in mind they often come with resort fees on top of the price you are paying for the deal, so they aren’t always the cheapest route.

When booking flights you can score some great deals last minute, if you are open to possibilities. Spirit can get you some pretty low price fares if you are able to travel bare, which means you only bring a small carry-on. Spirit is one of the cheapest airlines we have found so far. Flights often drop in price on certain days of the week, be sure to watch the flight and see ahead of time how the prices change from day to day, before you book.

This September my husband and I are taking a trip to Colorado. We are driving and we are staying via timeshare in Winter Park. We will probably plan a few other stops on either end of our timeshare stay. I like traveling this way because it gives my husband and me the freedom to come and go as we please and to see more than one destination during a trip. No matter how you choose to vacation, you always have plenty of options for saving money and gaining that extra cash to spend on fun things like zip lining and white water rafting.

For information on some of the sites we utilize for our trip planning, please check out the following:

https://www.vrbo.com/

https://www.groupon.com/

https://www.spirit.com/Default.aspx

https://www.expedia.com/

https://www.airbnb.com/

https://www.livingsocial.com/

https://www.rci.com/

 

Adventures At Your Local Goodwill

Today I am doing a little shout out to the local Goodwill. This particular store is located in Savage, Minnesota and I happen to frequent it. While I do like the finer things in life, there are some things I have no problem buying secondhand, but at the same time, this store has tons of brand new items. I love Goodwill, because you never know what you will find.

I am sure that many people do not realize this, but Goodwill is one of the stores that Target sends their items to when they leave clearance. Frequently you can find brand new purses, hats, wallets, shoes, clothing, luggage, and other household goods that Target decided to no longer carry. I have bought quite a few brand new items including organic sunscreen, at this particular Goodwill. You can also find new sundresses, sunglasses, and toiletries, as well as gardening supplies, and some new bedding items, though not all of them will be from Target.

I like this location, because it is newer, and it is clean and organized. When I shop secondhand, the store has got to be clean and organized. If it is messy and does not feel clean, I will not have a desire to peruse the items, let alone buy anything. I give props to Goodwill; the stores they have recently opened have seemed to be much more organized than previously. I would recommend Goodwill, especially for holiday items that you may struggle to find in other stores.

For more information on Goodwill, please visit: http://www.goodwill.org/

Vacationing The Summer Away In Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Summer is in full bloom and vacations are upon us. Living in the Midwest you never know what the weather is going to be. It could be hotter than Hades, or it could be cold and rainy. You might have humidity that makes you want to cry, or you could end up with a day that feels like fall is moving in. Take heart in knowing that you can escape the madness by adventuring to either coast, or leaving the country completely.

If you are looking for a great summer destination with beautiful weather and great scenery, in the month of July, allow me to recommend Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Steamboat is a great location for your summer vacay, because this city has a little bit of everything. You will be surrounded by great hiking territory and a quaint downtown area that has lots of great food options as well as shops.

There are tons of lodging options in Steamboat. You can choose a hotel, a condo, or look to VRBO, which is what my family did on our vacation. We managed to rent a five bedroom home overlooking the mountains, on the outskirts of town. This particular location was beautiful and felt like home away from home. We had a hot tub, a horseshoe pit, a grill, and large open living spaces. Check out VRBO.com, sometimes they give last minute deals to fill their rentals.

If you plan a trip to Steamboat, and you like rodeos, you should check out their Pro Rodeo Series. They host a special rodeo event on the 4th of July. My family had a blast, and it was a fairly inexpensive and entertaining way to spend an evening.

Other fun things to do while in Steamboat are as follows: The alpine slide, gondola rides, bike trails, fishing, tubing, kayaking and canoeing, climbing, zip lining, the water park, and the hot springs. If you like the outdoors, you will find plenty to do in and around this town; there are many more options than what I named above.

While we were out hiking in July we did see quite a few wild flowers. There are nearby hikes that include waterfall destinations. If you don’t feel like hiking, there are also some scenic drives that will provide you with some great views and photographs.

While I have only visited Steamboat once, just thinking back to our last trip there makes me want to return. The feel of the town is small, but also clean and crisp. You can breathe in that mountain air and enjoy the river running along the edge of town. The feeling is serene.

For more information on Steamboat Springs, please visit: http://www.steamboatchamber.com/discover-steamboat

http://www.steamboatchamber.com/discover-steamboat/western/rodeo

 

Rocky Mountain National Park: A Favored Scenic Destination

Over the past few years I have spent a decent amount of time visiting Colorado. From the first time I saw the mountains, I knew I was hooked. It wasn’t until about four years ago that I visited Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time, but it quickly became one of my favorite repeat destinations.

To me, Rocky Mountain National Park is worth the drive even if I am staying in a hotel that is a few hours away. If you choose to do a day trip to the park, be sure to arrive early in the day so that you can take full advantage of all of the scenery. In all honesty there is no way to do everything within the park in one day. There are just too many trails and roads to travel. Ideally a person would want to stay somewhere within Estes Park and spend several days exploring Rocky Mountain National.

One of my favorite hikes in the park is the Alluvial Fan. This is a large beautiful waterfall that fans out as it flows down the mountainside. Definitely be sure to wear a decent pair of hiking boots if you choose to hike up the waterfall, because you may encounter some wet rocks. The views from different points are awesome. There are many great photo opportunities on this hike.

Just the drive alone through the park is amazing. There are so many different animals to encounter. I have previously seen moose, elk, black bear, prong horn, mule deer, and a variety of different birds. Dusk is definitely a great time to go for a drive, because animal activity has a tendency to pick up.

Other than animals, the views are breathtaking. I could photograph the different points in Rocky Mountain National Park at all different hours of the day on a regular basis and I would never become bored. The views are ever changing due to the sunlight, clouds, time of day, and time of year. Definitely bring your camera because you will see some very impressive mountain scenery.

I highly recommend that you both drive through the different scenic roads in the park, as well as get out and explore. There are plenty of things to see and do. If you are not sure where to begin, the visitor’s center is always a great choice. The visitor centers can give you information about the different hikes and often tell you where certain animals may have been spotted.

For more information on Rocky Mountain National Park, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

 

Summer Fun At Gilligan’s In Chetek, Wisconsin

Summer is here and what’s not to love? You have your sandbars, your outdoor music, great grilled foods, cold beverages, camping, and laughing it up with family and good friends. This past weekend I went camping with family at Six Lakes Campground in Chetek, WI. We chose this particular spot because it was a mere four blocks from Gilligan’s, which is the bar my father’s band, 40 Fingers, was playing at this past Saturday.

Gilligan’s is a great time for anyone who loves being outdoors and listening to good music. The bar staff is attentive and they will check up on you to see if you would like to place an order for their wonderful food, or if you need your drink refilled. If you prefer to get your own beverages, the tiki bar is quite large and located out back by the music, for your convenience. The bar features brightly colored bar stools and on a nice day you can sit in the sun and watch the boats come and go on the lake, while taking in some live music.

The food at Gilligan’s is pretty great. This time around we ordered pork nachos and gourmet cheddar cheese curds. The cheddar curds are the size of golf balls, and they are delicious. I feel the need to indulge in them any time I visit Gilligan’s; I’m a Wisconsin girl all the way.

The drinks at Gilligan’s can be ordered in a keepsake drink mug, if you like that sort of thing, which I personally do. The mugs come in a variety of bright and fun colors. Mine is hot pink, but you can also get blue, neon green, purple, etc. I bring my mug with me to refill, each time I visit. This bar also has a variety of specialty summer drinks. I recommend trying them out if you are adventurous and open to new flavors.

Gilligan’s has music on weekends. My father’s band, 40 Fingers, will be at Gilligan’s again this coming Saturday, if anyone is wishing they hadn’t missed this past week’s performance at this particular location. This upcoming weekend features the Bear Creek Band, on June 28th, Your Mom, on June 30th, and 40 Fingers, on July 1st.

The venue has two bars, one indoor and the tiki bar, out back. The bands play outside just off the lake in the tiki hut. There is a dance floor, but the floor is all sand, so it can be difficult to dance. The majority of the sitting area is hard floor and my family and friends tend to hang out up top near the tiki bar and dance on the more solid ground.

Gilligan’s is the place to be for good food, good music, and relaxing lakeside. For more information, please visit: http://gilliganschetek.com/

 

 

Carlos’n Charlie’s At The Flamingo

When in Vegas, there are plenty of dining options to choose from. There is no shortage of buffets, bars, or any other type of food you might have a hankering for. If you have a particular love for Mexican cuisine, and you like the bar scene, Carlos’n Charlie’s might be the place for you.

Carlos’n Charlie’s is similar to Senor Frogs, and they are located in the Flamingo. They have the DJ who plays a lot of fun party music, they hand out free shots here and there and they may even have a silly contest or two. People in this bar tend to get a bit wild and crazy, from my experience.

The food is good. I’ve tried several different items on the menu and all are wonderful. I particularly enjoy there appetizer platter, everything on it is quite tasty. The ribs are also great. You will not be disappointed by portions.

If you look on Groupon, you may find a voucher for food and two hours of unlimited drinking. This can be dangerous because they tend to pour their drinks a little strong. They give you a choice of tap beer or the frozen margaritas.  I like the margaritas because they are served in a glass you can keep and you can choose to mix flavors together.

For more information on Carlos’n Charlie’s, please visit: https://www.caesars.com/flamingo-las-vegas/restaurants/carlos-n-charlies-las-vegas#.WUrzM9yQxhE

Check Out The 40 Fingers Band of Eau Claire, Wisconsin

This upcoming weekend is Father’s Day, and while I love my Dad, unfortunately I have another engagement to attend, so I cannot be with him to celebrate. As a tribute to how cool my father is, I have decided to tell the world a little more about one of his favorite pass times. My Dad has been in a band since he was a boy, he is a self-taught drummer, and his ambition never ceases to amaze me. Today, my dad still remains a kick ass drummer and singer, which if you notice, is a commodity, because many drummers do not sing due to the concentration and multi-tasking required to maintain the beat.

If you are in the Eau Claire area on a Saturday night, or possibly the surrounding area, chances are you will be able to find my father’s band, 40 Fingers, playing somewhere. The band consists of four members: Dave Ambers (drummer), Laura Reali (Keys, Alto Sax.), Hal Ahlers (Bass), and Cory Miller (Guitar). All of the members of the band are wonderful singers.

If you love to dance and you enjoy a variety of music, this band would be perfect for you. They play a wide selection of music from old to new and country to rock. Laura does a great job belting out Ex’s and Oh’s, while Cory has the perfect voice for “Love Shack.” My dad, Dave, does a great job with the song “Temptation Eyes,” and Hal is awesome with “No Matter What,” and no matter what they are playing, every member of the band has a great sense of humor and they have fun all through each gig.

While I am definitely partial to 40 Fingers, I can genuinely say that very few bands meet my expectations, because of how solid my father’s band sounds. Even though they play in some smaller towns, they have a big sound and they draw in several regulars, everywhere they go. If you haven’t heard 40 Fingers, I encourage you to check them out. I love to wander around and listen to what the audience has to say about the band; it’s always positive and people always comment on how much fun they are having.

40 Fingers does have a few regular locations that they play at, which are as follows: Jake’s Tiki Bar (Menomonie), Gilligan’s Tiki Bar (Chetek), Sammy’s Pizza (Eau Claire), Big Swedes (Holcomb), VFW on Starr (Eau Claire), VFW on Folsom (Eau Claire). To find out where 40 Fingers will be playing next, please visit: http://40fingersband.com/index.html

For more information on the 40 Fingers band, please check out their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/40-Fingers-817262014961407/

Adventure is wherever the desire takes us.