How to plan your next trip without breaking your bank.

As we all know, we have to plan the trip long before the trip itself so we can get the best deal out there.

Now, where should we start? I usually go with southwest.com to decide where and when we are going for our next vacation.

  • Check Out Southwest Route
  • Decide where you want to go
  • Then search the flight
  • Put your depart and arrive cities
  • Don’t need to put the date
  • Click search
  • Click on the LOW FARE CALENDAR
  • Then you can see when is the cheapest flight everyday of the month
  • You can search by $ or points (you can compare which is better points or $)
  • You can search trip 6 months in advance

For example

I did search for a trip to Cancun from Chicago and here is the result

I found the lowest fare on September 10th and return on the 19th or September 24th and return on October 3rd.

If you use points that trip will cost you 8736 points +$81.81

And if you pay cash the total will be $236

If you use points that’s mean each of your point is worth 1.76 cents.

The advantage of using points is that if you found later on that your trip use less points, you can call them to readjustment and get the difference back.

You can also get the advantage of buy one get one free if you have a companion pass. Click here for details

Next is the accommodation

  • We are a platinum member of Marriott so we usually search their properties first
  • If they don’t have any good deal we then proceed with IHG property since we also a platinum member because we have their credit card.
  • And so on.
  • Airbnb is my last resource

Transportation.

For us usually it is cheaper to just rent a car. I book the cheapest one I could find the first day of my search, since you can cancel it anytime. Then you keep looking for a cheaper one every other week. Usually the price go down as the trip day approaching, but we want to be safe so we put one on hold in the beginning which you can cancel it if you find a cheaper one. Once you have determined that’s the cheapest one, you then go ahead with pay in advance since it will save you up to 20%

For a van I usually find Thrifty and Payless rent a car is the cheapest one out there.

For things to do

  • I always go with Groupon and if I see one that I like I keep it in mind. I only buy it when they offer 20% off.
  • Before I buy I make sure I login to my Ebates and click on the Groupon link to get extra cashback. Usually it’s 6% cashback if you click Groupon link from your Ebates account.

Best Travel Credit Card with No Annual Fee

Chase Freedom:

  • Earn $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. (This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.)
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.*Same page link to Offer Details
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases*Same page link to Offer Details – it’s automatic.
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.*Same page link to Offer Details And there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • NO Annual Fee
  • TIPS: spend it on the bonus category on your first 3 months for a double dip.

Chase Freedom Unlimited:

  • Earn $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. (This product is available to you if you do not have this card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for this card in the past 24 months.)
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase*Same page link to Offer Details – it’s automatic.
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.*Same page link to Offer Details And there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • NO Annual Fee

Discover It

  • Become a Discover Cardmember and get a $50 Statement Credit when you make your first purchase within three months. Then, earn rewards with every purchase after that.
  • Discover it – Double cash back your first year. 
  • Earn 5% Cash Back Rewards Categories. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won’t raise your APR.*

 

Things you need to know before heading to Aspen

If you are coming from not a high altitude place you need to prepare yourself so you won’t waste your vacation time from being sick.

Learn from our mistake. We went to Colorado twice in 2018, in the summer and winter. In that summer we visited Denver, Mt Evans, and Rocky Mountain. My husband was a little sick when we reached the peak of Mt. Evans (apps. 14000ft). We thought maybe he got carsick because the road has a lot of sharp turns and a very narrow passage with no rail guard. But he manages to get home with no problem, we even went to the Rocky Mountain the next day and he was just fine.

So on our visit in December, we didn’t think too much about how we’re going to survive in the high altitude place. We thought we will be fine without any Oxygen boost and so on. Oh boy!!! We’re so wrong. Adapting in the winter is not as easy as in the summertime. You need to let your body adjust for at least a day before you do crazy stuff like skiing, snowboarding, any activities that can make you tired.

Our youngest one was so sick, he had very bad nausea, headache, and threw up for at least 4 times and all just water because he kept drinking water. ( I guess our body know what are the best way to cooperate with the high altitude)

I wasn’t aware that time that he was sick because of the high altitude until I met a couple from Texas. They said that was their second time visiting Aspen and they now know that they shouldn’t go skiing or do too many activities on the first day. That time it clicks my mind that our son might get sick because of that instead of a common cold.

We gave him altitude pills and the oxygen boost, the next day he was OK and ready to go skiing again. He used the whole bottle of an Oxygen bottle. The pills make his body efficiently utilized oxygen.

So if you are planning to any high altitude place make sure you prepared yourself with the high altitude pills and Oxygen Boost.

IMG_7531

How to save on local attractions!!!

On every vacation, I always try to save as much as possible especially on the admission ticket to museums, local attractions, and theme parks. I tried to do my diligence before each vacation.

Here are some options to get into the museum for free or at least at a discount rate.

  1. If you have Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit card, every first full weekend of every month you can get one free admission to their the participating museum, just show their credit or debit card and a picture ID. Click here for the complete list of their partners. Usually, kids get in free with your free admission tickets but I guess it depends on the museum. (You can ask the bank to issue extra cards with your kids’ and spouse name on it)
  2. Do you know if you are a member of one museum you might entitle to get into their reciprocity for free or at a discount rate. For example, we’re a family member of Museum of Science and Industry Chicago and since MSI belongs to ASTC, a global organization of science centers and museums, we’re allowed to visit museums across the U.S. and around the world for free or discounted admission.
  3. Watch for the state free museum days. Check the museum website.
  4. Reserve a free passes from your public library. Some of the public libraries give Library cardholders access to free passes for local museums and attractions.
  5. Go for Museum Day. Museum Day is an annual celebration hosted by Smithsonian magazine. Participating museums and cultural institutions across the country provide free entry to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket.Click Get a Ticket to search participating museums and download your ticket.
  6. Search local attraction deal on Groupon. (Signup for here and they usually send you a notification when they have a flash sale. The biggest discount I saw so far is from T-mobile Tuesday 30% off, the normal discount usually 25-10% off)
  7. If you are an active duty military, you and your family can get free admission all summer long at participation museums around the country.
  8. Or you might want to consider CityPass or GoCityCard

THE WESTIN LOS CABOS RESORT VILLAS & SPA

Westin Los Cabos property is located in Carretera Transpeninsular KM 22.5 about 30 minutes away from the Los Cabos International airport. Their property is located in the secluded Tourist Corridor which gives an easy access to both Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.

Westin Los Cabos

This picture was taken from the lobby of the hotel

 

Westin Los Cabos Villa was designed by Javier Sordo Madeleno to reflect the famous El Arco. All their rooms have ocean views and feature the signature Westin Heavenly Bed, with layer after layer of refreshing down bedding. All their villa equipped with a kitchen, washer and dryer, sofa sleeper, HDTVs, DVD Player, and Bose sound system. I really like the washer and dryer option. I washed our swimsuit and all the sweaty clothes almost every day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

I love watching the sunset and sunrise of the Sea of Cortez from our private balcony. Watching sunrise is not an option in our lifestyle. We hardly can make it to see the sunrise. Below are pictures I took during our stay at Westin Los Cabos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our family really enjoy spending time in the infinity pool, hanging out at the beach and digging in the sand. You can not swim in the ocean in front of this resort because of the dangerous riptides. There is a swimmable beach not far from this resort and it is kind of like a private beach too. This beach is pretty quiet if you go on the weekday when the local is still busy working.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Enjoying Westin’s breakfast at Cocina Casera with the amazing view of the Sea of Cortez.

 

THINGS TO DO IN LOS CABOS

Before we go to Los Cabos, I’ve done some research that it is easier to just rent a car in this town than taking public transport like in Cancun. We end up renting a van from BBB rent a car. Their service is excellent and the price really reasonable, two thumbs up to friendly Sagi. Once you decide you want to use their service, they will send you an email on how to proceed from the airport.

We were staying at the Westin Resort. This hotel is so beautiful inside out. Click here for my review about this hotel.

Things we do in Los Cabos

Obviously, there is two town you want to visit while visiting Los Cabos, Cabos San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Driving in Cabos is really easy and safe too. You can bring your own GPS with Mexico map or your smartphone with google map.

What you can do around San Lucas.

  1. Of course, you have to visit El Arco de Cabo San Lucas (Lands End) which is a unique natural rock formation where you can watch whale migrate from Alaska to the warm waters of Baja California from January to March. We took a water taxi which is about $10/person. If the weather permits, they will drop you at the Arco and pick you up in 1-2hrs. If not they will bring you to as close as possible to the Arco and you can ask to be dropped to the nearby beach. Tell them what time you want to be picked up. Don’t forget to pack a beach towel, sunscreen, water, and some snacks. Put on your swimsuit under your shirt because they don’t have a place to change if you want to enjoy the beach.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  2. Hike up to Mt. Solmar.  Do this early in the morning because it can get extremely HOT since there is no shade at all. Bring extra waters and wear a shoe, 🚫NO sandals. This is about 40-60 min hike. It is short but the trail here can be challenging for some people especially elderly and young kids. You need to ask around to get to this hidden gem. The summit view here is amazing, well worth the effort. Make sure you bring some changes to tip a man named Enrique (the property owner)

    IMG_5831

    Mt. Solmar view from the beach

  3. Relaxing at Medano Beach. The water is nice and calm. You will find tons of activities on this beach, from jet skiing, parasailing to snorkeling. This beach is the one with lots of merchants and restaurants. About $10 to rent umbrella and couple chairs for all day. If you like the quieter beach you have to go to the beach under Mt. Solmar. We love it. ** bring snorkeling gear and action camera
  4. Strolling inside and outside beautiful Puerto Paraiso Mall. You will find a lot of photo spots. Cool yourself down inside the mall on a hot day.RPGQE7739.jpg
  5. Watching the sunset at Playa del Armor. It is a beach where the sea of Cortes and the Pacific Ocean meet. It is basically the Arco. The water on one side is so rough and the other side is very calm. I don’t really like it that much because this place is very crowded.
  6. Spend the day at the beach under Mt. Solmar. (I don’t know the name of the place) but you can ask the water taxi to drop you there after visiting the El Arco.
  7. Chill out at Chileno Beach. This beach is a hidden gem when you come at the right time like early in the morning during the weekdays when the locals are at work. This beach is pretty tricky to locate make sure you follow the sign on the road (the address online is not accurate)
  8. Another fine beach is Playa Santa Maria. We went here early in the morning during the weekday so it was pretty quiet. Make sure you bring lots of waters and foods. You will not find a single vendor on this beach, which we liked. Most of the beaches in Cabos is not suitable for swimming but this one, you can swim and snorkel in.

 

What to do around San Jose

  1. Visit the Art Walk held every Thursday evening from 5-9PM. We had lots of fun walking around the downtown San Jose. We fall in love with the local Tamales sold by the street vendors during the Art Walk.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  2. Do your grocery shopping at the giant Supermarket La Comer Mauricio Castro 4650, Zona Hotelera, 23400 San José del Cabo, B.C.S., Mexico – Buy bottle waters and local snacks to enjoy it at the beach.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  3. Exploring Mall Plaza Del Pescador and take some cute pictures
  4. Dolphin Discovery San Jose del Cabo Paseo de los Pescadores s/n, La Playa, 23403 San José del Cabo, B.C.S., Mexico
  5. Stop by at Estuary Bird Lookout Boulevard Antonio Mijares, 23400 San José del Cabo, B.C.S., Mexico

If you have extra days try to visit TODOS SANTOS and LA PAZ.  Todos Santos is really small so you can continue on to La Paz, which is about 1 hr away.

Things to do in Todos Santos

  1. Todos Santos is a very small town between Cabo San Lucas and La Paz. It is around 1.5hr drive. Here you can witness the local releasing baby turtle back to the ocean usually from December to the end of April at Tortugueros Las Playitas
  2. Don’t forget to stop at Hotel California, FYI this has nothing to do with the famous song by Eagle.

 

Things to do in La Paz

  1. Take a picture at Espectacular de La Paz Los CabosApril 09, 2018-5
  2. Stroll along Malecon which is a beautiful waterfront promenade. La Paz’s waterfront, with its wide sidewalk, tiny beaches, tourist pier, benches, sculptures by local artists and unimpeded sunset views, is the city’s highlight. It stretches 5.5km, from the Marina de la Paz in the south to Playa Coromuel in the north. It started getting a face-lift in 2017 that may continue in stages over a few years. Evenings are the best time to visit as the entire town seems to come out to enjoy the cooler evenings. People bike, run and walk along the waterfront, stopping in restaurants for dinner or drinks and live bands play late into the night.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  3. Exploring Isla Espiritu Santo which is the most beautiful island in the Sea of Cortez.  (Playa el Tecolote, La Paz 23000, Mexico) 
  4. Playa Balandra – is about 45 minutes away from downtown LaPaz but it is worth the drive, beautiful scenic route. Playa Balandra is considered as one of the best beaches in Mexico. Pearl white sand frames a lagoon bounded by hills, filled with the sort of turquoise water. It is a home to famous El Hongo, a mushroom-shaped rock formation. The water here is crystal clear, shallow, and very calm.

 

Hope you guys find this guide to Los Cabos helpful. Enjoy Los Cabos!!

Where to eat in Montréal

Mont-royal area

  1. Au Kouign-Amann bakery store. Go for their famous almond cheese croissant and Kouign Amman (316 Avenue du Mont-Royal E Montreal, QC H2T 1P7)
  2. Zoe Dessert
  3. Patisserie Cocobun
  4. Romados Portuguese BBQ and bakery

Chinatown Area

  1. Nouilles de Lan Zhou: 1006 Boulevard St. Laurent Montreal, QC H2Z 1J4 This is a small handmade noodle restaurant right on the left side of Blvd St Laurent if you coming from the Chinatown entrance gate. ** warning ⚠️ all their foods contain peanuts. This place is really tiny, expect a waiting

    Nouilles de Lan Zhou

    Nouilles de Lan Zhou

  2. Ma Xiang Yuan Fresh handmade dumpling. The foods are good but it took forever. This restaurant also located on the same side as Nouilles de LAN zhou but further up.
  3. Bao Bao Dim Sum is kind of an express dim sum. This restaurant is next to the Patisserie Harmonie, a Chinese bakery store. Both located at 83 Rue de la Gauchetière
  4. Dragon’s Beard Candy is also located at Rue de la Gauchetière. ** ⚠️ their Dragon’s Beard Candy contains peanuts in the inside. My kids like to order their HK Bubble Waffles.
  5. Next to it is Daniel Hut ice cream shop.
  6. Back to Blvd St. Laurent not too far from the parking lot you will find Pho Bang NY. This is a Vietnamese restaurant. The foods are really good, my family enjoys eating at this place. The restroom is clean so it’s an 👍 on top of good food.
  7. NUDO is also another excellent fresh handmade noodle restaurant.
  8. **🚫 Sumo Ramen 🤔 we don’t really recommend this one because of the food taste kind of like the instant noodle.

Tips #1: you can park on the side of the street if you are not planning to spend longer than 2 hrs in the area. Longer than 2 hrs just park at the parking lot next to the Chinatown entrance gate, about $15 for the whole day.

Tip # 2: Most stores in Chinatown only accept CASH

Tip # 3: Get cash from local ATM for better exchange rate

Check out this loophole to book $1000 flights for $20 or less —> Click here