Hawai’i for the Have’s and the Have Not’so

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That got your attention didn’t it!  And I mean every word of it…just not how you think.  This post is for the two types of people out there in the world, those who have been to Hawai’i, and those who have not.  You see, if you have only dreamed about going to Hawai’i but haven’t been there yet, there are some things you need to know beforehand.  And, if you have been to one of the Hawaiian Islands, there is not a chance in the world that you do not want to go back…but when you do go back, you want to do it better!

Have Not’s

First, let me get these have not babies up to speed.  Hawai’i is not just Hawai’i.  Hawai’i is a group of islands.  To be super specific, the Hawaiian Islands are part of the Hawaiian Archipelago that is made up of 130 islands that stretch 1,600 miles.   That little tidbit was a trivia question that Thing 3 answered correctly when we were on a snorkeling excursion this summer.  This kid knows geography like nobody’s business.  Anyway, The Hawaiian Islands are made up of 8 islands…most people visit 1 of the 4 major ones.  I’m gonna try to educate you at least a tad on each, and I’ll go into more detail on the big 4.  Let’s do the big 4 first.  One last tidbit before we dive in…there are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet and every vowel makes the long sound and every vowel is pronounced…if you thought towns and cities that are of Native American decent were hard to pronounce, wait until you try to start pronouncing town and street names in Hawai’i. It can be done, but…Ok, back to islands.

Oahu.  Pronounced Oh-ah-who.  Oahu is the most populated and probably what you have seen the most of on TV and movies.  Oahu is where Honolulu, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor are.  It is easily the most over crowded of all the islands.  And, I like to refer to it as the concrete jungle.  It’s my least favorite, although I tell everyone that Pearl Harbor is a must!  You can work a Pearl Harbor day or day trip into any visit you make to Hawai’i without actually staying on Oahu for more than one day.

Maui.  Pronounced Mow-wee.  Maui is my favorite island, and the one that I recommend for people to visit the first time they “go to Hawai’i”.  Maui is populated without being over crowded.  However, there are a couple of crowded spots on the island.  Maui offers the best of all worlds, rugged beauty, amazing food, good shopping, and is consistently rated the #1 island to visit…not just of the Hawaiian Islands…of all islands…anywhere in the world.  You have the English language,  American currency, and American infrastructure…it’s just hard to beat!  Maui is home to Haleakala, the dormant volcano and National Park, and Maui has two very popular resort areas on the island…Ka’anapali and Kihei.  Both are spectacular in their own right, and both offer the same types of amenities and each offers something different as well.  I’ll have several posts devoted to all things Maui coming out soon!

Kauai.  Pronounce Ka-Why-Ee.  Kauai is the most northern of the Hawaiian Islands.  Of the big 4 it is the smallest and least populated.  It’s easily the most rugged and it is home to what I believe is the most beautiful place ever…Hanalei.  Now, that is just my opinion, but it has to rank on some list somewhere…it’s pretty spectacular.  Kauai is best known for hiking, outdoor activities, and just enjoying the beauty and the wander that is Hawai’i.  It’s a sleepy little island that basically shuts down at 9pm, has very few national chains, and is perfect for the outdoorsman or couple that just wants to relax and take in the good life!  Two separate resort areas on this island as well…they are on opposite sides of the island and are completely different.  On the north side of the island is Princeville…think sea cliffs, rainforest jungle, and glorious green mountains galore, and on the south side is Poipu.  Poipu has been under a lot of development in the last few years and is growing as a vacation destination.  More shopping and restaurants are in the Poipu area than Princeville, and Poipu is on the dry side of the island with more beach access.

Hawai’i.  Proper pronunciation…Ha-Vi-Ee.  That’s right…that W makes the V sound.  Hawai’i is also known as The Big Island.  It is still growing in size, as it is the island with the active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  I have not yet visited the Big Island. It is the largest and most southern of the islands.  It is home to Kona (think coffee) and Volcanoes National Park.  I hope to visit one day…there are only two things that I really know about the Big Island.  One, real estate is the cheapest on this island, and Maui locals gripe when vog (volcanic fog) drifts over and settles on their island.

Ok, now for the other 4 lesser known or visited islands in the group.  Lanai is probably the most visited of the 4 in this group.  You can take a ferry ride over to Lanai from Maui.  There is one hotel on the island…it’s a Four Seasons.  You can golf, rent a jeep to go off-roading, and snorkel there.  Molokai is also visible from Maui.  Lots of people take helicopter rides over to Molokai to see it’s dramatic sea cliffs.  Kahoolawe is also visible from Maui…no one lives there as this island used to be a target practice island for the military.  And lastly, Niihau.  It’s visible from the south side of Kauai.  This island is off limits to all but the descendants of the original owner Elizabeth Sinclair.

So, there you have it “Hawai’i” in a nut shell.  Hopefully that shed some light for my Have Not followers.

Have’s

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Ok Have’s, y’all know the real deal.  Now that you know that the flight is crazy expensive, crazy long, and that the time change is a formidable enemy of your vacation (at least it is if your from the midwest or east coast)…let me try to give you some ideas to make your next trip even more enjoyable..and shed some light on how we make the trip from Oklahoma to either Maui or Kauai once or twice a year.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’m a fan of points, both airline points and hotel points!   Because the flight is soooo long, often we buy a coach airline ticket and just use points to upgrade to first class.  This flight is one of the few times that having a first class seat can make a huge difference in your vacation.  Most of the planes that fly to Hawai’i have the new first class seats that lay out completely flat…giving you the ability to actually sleep or at least nap and get you ready for being on Hawai’i Standard Time.  We started doing this a few years back and it has made a huge difference in adjusting quicker to the time change once you are there.  And, if you buy the actual coach ticket, you accumulate those miles on the trip as opposed to using all of your points and not collecting one mile of the 3, 757-ish mile trip.  Also, we get picky about our actual flight plan.  We often try to fly through Houston or Denver to get a direct flight from one of those 2 locations, as opposed to having a flight plan that might be a tad cheaper, but has you switching planes at 3 or more locations.  Not everyone has this goal, but our goal is to get there in comfort and with as much ease as possible…it just sets you up for a smoother transition into the first couple of days of your vacation.

The other big thing that we do when we go to Hawai’i is that we stay in condos…also known as villas.  I’m briefly going to use the word timeshare, and just use it to give you a sort of frame of reference…but then it will be vanished from my lips.  We own condos in a handful of locations, in a network that is now called Vistana, it used to be called Starwood.  Some of you will be more familiar with Starwood Properties…as The Westin, The Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridian, The W, Aloft, Element…I’m sure I’m missing a few more, but you get my point…all of those hotel properties are Starwood properties.  The villas that we own are Westin Villas…they are 1 or 2 bedroom condos with full kitchens, huge bathrooms, and washers and dryers are in every unit.  Now, these villas are timeshare like in nature, but they are not traditional timeshares.   We own them…we have mortgaged them, as you would mortgage a house…therefore, we have written off the mortgage insurance on our taxes…when hubs and I kick the bucket, Things 1-4 will have oceanfront property on Maui, which is no longer being built on by the way, they will have a ski-in/ski-out properly in Colorado…out list goes on and on quite a ways, but I think you catch the concept.   IMG_2283

When hubs and I first started visiting Maui 8 years ago…the average price of a hotel room was about $300 a night.  When we went just last week (Jan 2018) the average price was $700 a night and occupancy of rooms on the island was sitting at about 80% full.  These were statistics that I heard on the morning news while on our trip.  Hubs and I have our Maui property paid off.  We paid $0 for our stay in a 1 bedroom villa (condo) with a full kitchen, washer and dryer and way more room than we needed, plus we had amazing views.  Now we did pay on this property for I think seven years before it was paid off…think of it like a car payment…but in that time…the amount that we paid never went up!  We paid the same rate every year, got the same value every year…the same value as someone who would have easily paid around $1000 a night at our home resort.  Is this making sense to anyone?  Any bells going off in your head right now?   The reason that we can do this year in/year out is because it’s already paid for…or, for some of those years we paid as we went, as an investment…an investment in family time…an investment in time to relax and be together without all the busyness of life.  Now, I will be totally transparent and tell you that if you don’t have or do not want to have a lifestyle of travel, then this way of travel is not for you…you’ll be paying on something that you will never use and that will be a total waste!  But this fully works for us!  The vacation ownership program that we bought into years ago…is more fun for us to use now than ever…most of our properties are paid off and now we just get to use the system.  Our particular system has the most flexibility of anything that we have looked at.

So, that is what has been working for us…for my Have’s…just make sure you book a condo somewhere with a kitchen and washer and dryer!  Everything in Hawai’i is expensive no matter what island you go to.  Having a kitchen can really cut those food costs way down.  We grocery shop and grill out or cook in our room more than half of the nights that we stay on the island.  And, having laundry access in your room, means you can pack less, pack more efficiently and maybe save on baggage fees by bringing one less piece of luggage with you!

Lastly, you should rent a car. Get with one car rental company and stick with it.  All car rental companies have loyalty programs and you’ll start accumulating status and/or points immediately.  Often times we book a particular car online, and when we get to our destination we have been automatically upgraded to a bigger or better car at no extra charge.  Perks are good!

I will have several more posts coming out on Hawai’i in the coming days.  If you have specific questions you would like answered or are curious about the vacation ownership stuff I’m happy to talk about it…I’m not sponsored and I do not receive any promotions from any companies at this time.  I’m just passionate about my favorite vacation spot and always happy to share a good product that adds value and works!  Leave me a comment and tell me which island is your favorite and what your favorite thing about it is!

Day 3 In Scottsdale

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Early Bird Catches The Desert Sunrise

Our final day in Scottsdale was an early one for me.  I booked a facial at Agave, The Arizona Spa at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa.  My appointment was at 8am…sunrise was around 7:30am, so I decided to try to venture out a little early to see if I could get a beautiful sunrise picture.  I wasn’t positioned correctly from either the villas or the hotel to get the epic sunrise picture I so desperately wanted with the sun coming up behind the mountains…but I did get a couple of cool shots like the picture above and these two below.

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The colors in the sky that morning were beautiful.  This area really is pretty!  For me, it’s an unconventional pretty…as you’re there you start to seek out the massive saguaro cactus…seriuosly, they are massive!

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Cactus, mixed with palm trees, and mountains in the desert…it doesn’t even sound right trying to group all of those objects together…but add in some of THE MOST PERFECT weather, and somehow this beautiful hodge podge becomes soothing to your soul!  I am convinced that there is absolutely no way that someone could visit this area and not leave relaxed and refreshed.  Needless, to say…I’m a fan! And, I’ll be coming back!

Spa Time

As I stated earlier, I had an early facial on our last day in Scottsdale.  Agave, The Arizona Spa did not disappoint!  Y’all, this spa was beautiful!  From the high end robes you are given to wear while you’re there, to the super posh and comfy lounge room…this spa was impressive!  The staff was friendly and thorough.  The hot tub in center of the locker room was gorgeous and inviting.  There are wet and dry saunas, and the showers were roomy and spotless!  This was a spa that definitely fostered relaxation!

For reference, I get a facial on almost every vacation that I go on.  Massages are great, and I do love them, but I feel like you get a little more bang for your buck when you do a facial at a spa.  Massages vary greatly depending on who you get as a masseuse.  I’ve had some great ones, and I’ve had some not so great ones…and at the rate that you pay for a massage at a resort…it’s too much of a crap shoot for my taste.  A facial on the other hand…even if your esthetician is not the best, it’s more about the products that they use on your skin…that just feels like it levels the playing field a bit.  Plus, during most facials you get little mini massages in the “wait times” while the products work their magic on your skin.  So for example, during my facial I received a hand massage and treatment, a foot massage and treatment, and a neck, shoulder, and scalp massage…it was AMAZING!!!!  Almost felt like a 2 for 1.  The price for an 80 minute massage was the same price as my 80 minute facial.  That’s a win in my book.  At any rate, my facial was really good…to keep in theme for the weekend, I chose the Wellness Facial.  Honestly, I didn’t love the smells of some of the products, but I did love the way my skin looked and felt when my treatment was done!

Lazy Saturday Brunch

When my facial was finished, I went back to my room fully relaxed, face glowing, ready to tackle trying to repack my overstuffed suitcase.  Being in a little zen-like state made a huge difference in trying to tackle that task…much easier than state of panic I was in when I packed the suitcase for the trip out!  I hate packing!

Elizabeth and I packed our belongings, said goodbye to our beautiful home away from home for the last couple of days, and headed out to Old Town.  We had reservations for brunch at a place called Olive and Ivy   Ugh!  This place was soooo cool!!!!

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Olive and Ivy has the perfect weekend brunch patio and atmosphere!  The patio overlooks the river.  There were 20 somethings there celebrating birthdays, and snowbirds enjoying a late breakfast.  #BestFriendGoals  It was like one of those posh restaurants that any Real Housewife of _____________ (fill in the blank) would go to catch up, make up, or pick a fight with someone!  For me, eating at a restaurant is just as much about the atmosphere and the service as it is the food.  Think about the last time you went to your favorite restaurant but had terrible service…the food is the same…but your experience isn’t.  At any rate, Olive and Ivy had great atmosphere, great service and incredible food to boot!  Our waiter, Larsen, literally told us that he is not allowed to tell us NO to anything!  It’s a food allergy and picky eater’s dream!!  Larsen is pictured below…if you go make sure to ask for him…and tell him Girl You Tripping sent you!  We had lots of fun with him!

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Old Town

Olive and Ivy is in a part of Scottsdale called Old Town.  It’s literally old downtown Scottsdale, but it’s been revamped into a shopping and restaurant haven!  The area is filled with shops full of local southwestern art and jewelry, and quaint little fashion boutiques.  There are tons of great restaurants and watering holes.  It’s totally walkable, but Elizabeth and I opted for bikes!  The first ride is free…after that it’s only $1 an hour.  The bikes were super easy to rent…just download the app and follow the instructions printed on the bike.  It was super fun and a great way to get around Old Town!

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Old Town has a couple of different areas to it…all with walking distance…it’s just divided up a little.  The 5th Ave shopping district is literally the old downtown area…lots of southwestern art and jewelry shops dotted with the occasional super cute boutique.  Then there is Scottsdale Riverfront…this is more of the restaurant and bar area.  Lastly, just about a block away is Scottsdale Fashion Square.  It’s your traditional high end shopping mall…complete with Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Burberry, etc..for a full list of store available at this mall click here.  There is literally something for every kind of shopper in this area.   Visiting Old Town is the kind of experience you can only have in Scottsdale…which made it one of our favorite stops on our trip.  #BuyLocal

I want to leave you with this…Scottsdale is the type of place that you could visit over and over again and not have the same experience twice.  It’s easy to navigate, it’s not overly congested with traffic…if you’re an outdoorsy person, this is a great place to visit…if you’re a shopper, this is a great place to visit…if you’re a golfer, this is a great place to visit…if you’re into spa treatments, this is a great place to visit…if you just want to hang out at the pool, this is a great place to visit!  There truly is something for everyone here…including incredible weather in the winter!!!!

Are you a buy local kind of tourist?  Or do you love to hit up highend retailers when they are in the area?  I’d love to know!!!

Suggestions From Day 3

Agave The Arizona Spa at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa was AMAZING!  One word for you…Relaxation!  So good!!!

Best Patio Brunch in town goes to Olive and Ivy.  The food is exceptional!  Everything is made in house.  The thing they are known for is their cinnamon rolls…don’t miss out on them!  They were over the top good!!!!  It’s just a great place to relax, have a slow meal, soak up the great weather,and spend time with your family or friends.  Olive and Ivy is a DO NOT MiSS!

And for shopping that is quintessentially Scottsdale…visit Old Town.  Window shop, ride a bike, or grab bite to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the area…this is another DO NOT MISS kind of place!

Day 2 In Scottsdale

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We Didn’t Die

Look at this picture.  It looks fairly uneventful.  But I need you to really look at the picture.  Do you notice everyone, except for Pinky and Captain Impresso towards the right…I mean EVERY OTHER person in this picture is holding on to railing.  All the folks in this picture look fairly young and in shape.  And for goodness sakes there is fencing on the trail as well…it’s there to keep you from falling to your death!

Day 2 of our trip started here…hiking up Camelback Mountain.  The concierge at the resort literally gave us 14 other options to hike…this is the one we chose.  It was the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback…rated as difficult (strenuous)…lies, all lies!  I’ve done plenty of trails rated as difficult…difficult is the Na Pali Coast trails on Kauai…where there are no fences to protect you from falling 100’s of feet straight down the sea cliff into rough ocean waters.  No, this trail is not difficult…it is some crossbreed trail combining hiking with rock climbing.

At any rate, we did not die!  Thank you Jesus!  Note to self:  when the concierge at the resort tells you that she is not even allowed to suggest Camelback Mountain hikes to the guests, heed the warning!  As I said, there were 14 other options for us to hike that morning.  Honestly though, Camelback Mountain is part of Scottsdale/Phoenix’s identity.  It’s the most well known mountain in the area…it’s the mountain that hotels and restaurants brag about having views of…so we wanted to conquer it.  Us two middle aged, out of shape girls did not fully conquer it, but we took a good stab at it…sucking wind…one rest stop after the other!

It’s funny…the question on every hiker’s mind while they are recovering and trying to catch their breath from the massive spikes in elevation is…how many more of these gastly inclines do we have before we reach the top???  The second most common question among the hikers…did you make it?  Trust me, almost as many do no make it as do!

For a self proclaimed research hound, I did not do enough research on this hike.  In my defense, I was fairly certain that I could talk Elizabeth out of this hike, instead, somehow she talked me in to it!  In a way, I’m glad she did…however, we agreed that we were lucky that both of us were able to walk off the mountain unscathed.  It was definitely not the safest activity that we could have picked for ourselves.  We walked that fine line between foolishness and empowerment.  Even though we did not make it to the summit, we looked back feeling like conquerers for what we did accomplish.  Would we do it again? Heck no!  But are we glad we gave it a go?  Absolutely!

Thing 4’s Business Advice

We did a couple of live Facebook feeds during the hike.  So when I got off the mountain I had a couple of text messages from Thing 4, the 13 year old.  For context, his comment on my Facebook feed said:  “good job mom plug ur merch” (a comma anywhere in this statement would have made it so much easier to read!)

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Gotta love the YouTube generation!  The conversation we had after the text was me telling him I’m not selling shirts on the blog, for now it’s just informative and entertaining.  But I love him for taking an interest in what I’m doing and wanting to see the blog succeed!  He loves being Thing 4 in the blog and has requested to make an appearance as often as possible!  So, of course, I’ll try!

What You Really Come to Scottsdale For

I think we would have made it to the top of Camelback Mountain if we would not have scheduled massages for after our hike.  We all know, the real reason girls trips are so popular in Arizona is for the spas!  There are no shortage of amazing spas in the area.  I opted for a more therapeutic massage.  I talked Elizabeth into it as well.  We chose to get a Lymphatic Massage from The Lymphatic Healing Center.  This particular massage is said to help the body detox, and aide in weight loss.  The massage is followed by the opportunity to sit in a Far Infrared Sauna.  Lots of you will have never heard of either of these two “treatments”.  If you click on the link above it will give you a quick break down of the benefits of the massage and sauna.  All I know is that when I came home from this trip I had lost 1.5lbs…so I’ll take it!  Just so you know, this IS a massage…but if you looking for the type of massage that really works to get the stress out of your back and neck…this is not the massage for you.  I did hop off of the massage table feeling super relaxed, but in the 90 minute session my therapist, Lyn, rarely touched my back or neck. If you go check this place out make sure to ask for Lyn…she was great!

Smoothie Stop

By the time we had finished the massages and sauna time, we were starved!!!  I think my Garmin estimated that we had burned somewhere around 1800 calories range in just  2 hours on our hike…couple that with the calorie burning of the Far Infrared sauna…we were super hungry.  This late in the afternoon we didn’t want to load up on a huge meal since dinner was drawing near, and we wanted something on the lighter, healthier side since we were kind of on a roll.  We found a smoothie shop called Nekter Juice Bar.  Holy yummy!  I opted for a Pink Flamingo…it was yummy and refreshing, and Elizabeth had an Acai Peanut Butter Bowl.  Now, us midwest girls don’t have the option for Acai Bowls back home….so one of us…the one without all the weird food allergy stuff…had to try one!  Elizabeth said it was amazing!   It may have been one of the best things she had while on the trip!  Nekter is a chain, but there are not a ton of locations…inside looks like farmers market meets Joanna Gains farmhouse…super cute.  Definitely a place you could meet a girlfriend to gab and catch up over something healthier than a triple, venti,  half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato.  Just saying.

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Mexican Food In The Southwest

I mean you can’t go to the Southwest and not eat Mexican food, right???  Honestly, this is the one item that I probably did the most research on…so many options!  I definitely wanted to get it right!  We opted for Blanco Tacos & Tequila and it did not disappoint.  Food was great, atmosphere was fun, service was good!  They had an interesting array of tacos…like a short rib taco and a bbq taco…that bbq taco was my fav!!!!  You can also do a tequila flight tasting there…Of course you can dance…signed, Tequila.  It was just a great end to our busy day!  Tacos and girl time go together like Wilma and Betty, Laverne and Shirley, Thelma and Louise…one just isn’t right without the other…

Suggestions From Day 2

Do not hike the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain!!!  If you must hike Camelback choose the Cholla Trail.  But seriously, unless you are incredibly fit and an avid hiker…just choose a different mountain all together….there are plenty!

For a health promoting massage, the Lymphatic Healing Center was really nice!  Other really well known spas in the area include Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Spa, Joya Spa, and Agave, The Arizona Spa @ The Westin.

For a light healthy meal or snack, Nekter Juice Bar is your go to place.

For Mexican food in a fun, vibrant atmosphere…Blanco Tacos & Tequilla is where it’s at.  Other places that made my short list are Barrio Queen in Old Town, Sol in the Kierland Commons, El Chorro for beautiful views of Camelback Mountain. But, the Mexican restaurant that got the best reviews in my travel groups was The Mission.  The Mission’s menu looked a little too adventurous for my guest, so we gladly went to Blanco, which had more of a girls night out kind of a vibe.  But, if you are a foodie…The Mission is the place to check out!

What’s your “I’ll never do that again” story??? I’d love to hear it!

Day 1 In Scottsdale

Girl Time

Now the fun stuff…Girl Time!!!!  This is a rarity for me as Things 1-4 are all boys!  I love my boys, but not a one of them is interested in hanging out on a patio on a beautiful 75 degree day for girly, fruity drinks and appetizers.  Oh the inhumanity of going to a restaurant on vacation and not ordering at least one thing off of every section of the menu…nope, the Things would not have any part of that!  Buuuuttttt, on my girls trip, with my person, Elizabeth, that’s exactly how we kicked things off!  Drinks and appetizers on the patio at Tommy Bahamas with a dear friend, Brooke, who is from our area. She happens to have a vacation home in Scottsdale.  Brooke was still in Scottsdale soaking up the beautiful views and sunshiny weather over our kids Winter Break.

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Ever catch your friends while your on vacation?  It’s the best! ” Vacation you” is generally so much more relaxed and fun to be around, am I right?  I love running into friends while on vacation…no rush of school schedules, practice schedules, or what you’re gonna get on the table for dinner, or even worrying if you’re gonna get anything on the table for dinner at all.  “Vacation you” can be present without being preoccupied…it’s the best!  So, we hung out for a couple hours drinks in our hands, catching up, one coconut shrimp at a time.  Yum!!!  Seriously though, the appetizers and drinks were really good, the whole patio is shaded, and the tables were not sitting right on top of each other. It felt more like we were at home hanging out on one of our own patios instead of at a restaurant, which is nice!  On top of all that I got a lesson in microblading…do you even know what that is?  Am I the only one Late To The Party (LTTP)??? I think in a house full of boys and sports and never ending laundry and endless amounts of food, I’m always LTTP.  For those of you that don’t know what microblading is…it’s like semi-permanent eye brows.  I see the allure of it…not having to fill in your eyebrows every day…that’d be nice.  Not sure I can see myself doing it, but Brooke has done it and it looked amazing on her!

Tommy Bahamas Restaurant and Bar is located in the Kierland Commons, an outdoor shopping center in Scottsdale. So, of course we took in a little retail therapy before we parted ways.  The Commons is one of the better places for shopping, restaurants and bars in town.  It’s a beautiful area with plenty shops for all types.  Click here for a list of shops if your interested to see what is there.

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Elizabeth and I peeled ourselves away from our patio dining and retail therapy session to go check in to our room at The Westin Kierland Villas.which just happen to be less than a mile away from the Commons!  Bonus!!  We got checked in…our room is beautiful and spacious, and this property has just finished renovating the rooms.  We are in a one bedroom suite that has a full kitchen, a living area with fireplace, and a huge balcony overlooking the golf course and mountains in the distance.  It is just what us two mommas need to help us #unwind on our trip.  We unpack, get settled in to the room, then decide we’d like a few items from the store for our room…since we have the kitchen and all.

We All Do It

So how many of you go to the the same places on vacation that you always go to at home???  We all do it!  The first evening of our stay, Elizabeth and I went to Target…it was to pick up water, a few snacks for the room, and blister bandages for the blister I got on my heal from my Chuck Taylor All Star shoes…because I just haaaddd to try to look cute for the flight out…ya know, pictures and all (insert eye roll here).  At any rate, back to Target…it is a well known fact that no one can go in to Target and only purchase the things they went in for…duh.  Here we are, on our girls trip adventure, wandering aimlessly through the isles, oogling and googling over all the cool stuff that we don’t have at our home Target yet.  One new shirt (because the shirt I’m currently wearing in the Target has a hole in the armpit…hello hotmess), one new fabulous pair of earrings that I don’t need, one case of water, a few healthy snacks, and one box of blister bandages later and we are out of Target…only to move on to………Whole Foods.  Seriously?

So here’s the silly conversation I have in my head…with myself…Me: Hey, how was your vacation?  Also Me:  Awesome, I flew 1,065 miles away from home, rented a car, and stayed in a hotel so that I could shop at Target and Whole Foods.  Two places that are literally 3 mile away from my actual home!

In my defense, I have weird food allergy stuff…so I stop at a Whole Foods in almost every city that I visit.  The bonus is that with great authority that I can tell you…not all Whole Foods are created equally.  For instance, this particular Whole Foods that we visited in Scottsdale had the largest beer and wine section I’ve ever seen at a Whole Foods.  Come to think of it…this store is easily the largest Whole Foods store I’ve been in thus far.  It had an awesome grill area, beer and wine on tap…it was impressive.  Talk about a great place for singles to meet that isn’t a bar…

Between our Target raid and Whole Foods run and getting up at 3:30am for our flight…we are beat!  We decided to skip getting fancied up for a nice meal, and instead headed to a place called the Shake Shack.  It’s small cheeseburgers, thick milkshakes, rootbeer and local beer both on tap.  The menu is easy, it’s super clean, great outdoor patio seating, and it’s in the Keirland Commons shopping center area.  So, was super close to our room.  It was the perfect way to wrap up our busy day.

Suggestions From Day 1

The Westin in Scottsdale has both a resort and villas in which you can stay.  The resort is over the top amazing…check it out here. Both are close to each other, and super close to the Kierland Commons and the Scottsdale Quarter.  The hotel has a walkway that leads over to the Commons, and the Quarter is just on the back side of the Commons.    We did not make our way over to the Quarter, but it looked just as amazing as the Commons.  It’s another outdoor shopping area with restaurants and bars as well.  Click here if you want to check out stores and restaurants at the Scottsdale Quarter.

The patio at Tommy Bahamas was super chill…go for happy hour!  Happy hour offers small plates and drinks at a discount.

We came in to Scottsdale on a Thursday. The concierge at the Westin suggested that we eat in the bar area of Dominick’s Steak House.  Apparently this is the thing to do on Thursday nights! This particular concierge was spot on for a couple of other suggestions, so I’d say this is probably a good suggestion as well.  This was our Target and Whole Foods night…we were just too tired to do anything that evening.

Our flight was early and our layover was short…so by the time we made it to Scottsdale we were starved and brunch sounded good.  We had brunch at a place called Butterfield’s Pancake House.  They had some unique pancakes that were really yummy!  They even had a gluten free option that tasted good.

A couple of other breakfast places that got good reviews, but we did not visit were Snooze and  Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles.  Snooze is located in the Kierland Commons.  If you stay at either of the Westin’s, it would be really close!

I’m a research hound!  What are some of the ways or websites that you use to research your trips?  I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Healthy New Year in Scottsdale

valley lookout

Happy New Year

It’s January 9th.  Happy New Year!!  I can still say that, right?  It’s not just a phrase reserved for December 31st and January 1st…at least I hope it’s not.  Are you still plugging away at your New Year resolution or have you already puttered out???  Me…I’m not really sure.  I haven’t actually made a New Year resolution in many years.  I do, however, always try to strive to be some better version of myself…sometimes I hit the mark and sometimes I totally miss it, but the goal is there nonetheless.  Side note…the last time I gave myself a resolution it was to be better at sending out cards…you know, greeting cards, birthday cards, thank you’s, etc.  I’m terrible about it…better than I used to be, but still could use some work.

Back to the subject.  While not a resolution, I’m always on a quest for better health…my close friends can attest to this truth in my life.  So, I decided that the first trip for the blog and the New Year needed to be somewhere with healthy living and beautiful weather to soak up some Vitamin D!   So, like any traveler I start making a short list.  On the list…San Diego, Miami, Phoenix, Sedona, Denver sort of makes the list, but the weather isn’t what I want for this trip.  Then, one of two things happens for me…I either start looking at flights, or I check out hotels.  Those are typically your two biggest expenses on any trip.  From time to time, there are ways around those expenses with flight miles and loyalty point programs, a subject that hubs has mastered, and a subject that I’ll talk frequently about here.  Ever wonder how our family of 6 travels as often as we do for as long as we do…points!  The truth is most people do not know how to use them, so they seem to have little value to most…I hope that by following this blog that I’m able to change your mind about that a little.

Phoenix, Actually Scottsdale It Is

After a little research, I was able to find airline tickets on United Airlines for cheap.  The deal got even sweeter when I added frequent flyer miles to mix.  My round trip ticket ended up costing me $72!  I applied frequent flyer miles for the trip to Phoenix, and paid $72 for my return trip back home.  Now, $72 is crazy cheap, so cheap that I opted to save those precious miles on the return trip and pay “cash” for that part.

Here are a couple of other tips when looking and booking airline tickets…Tuesdays around midnight is the best time to book a flight…lots of people know that it’s generally cheaper to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  What most people don’t know is that the cheapest time to book flights is around midnight on Tuesdays…experts say travelers save on average about 6%.  So, tuck that away in your memory, and the next time you need to book a flight…set an alarm and go to work!

Here’s my next big secret.  I haven’t paid for a room in 8 years.  Points, points, points!  In some way, shape, or form our family accrues or pays for points, but to actually pay cash or use a credit card to secure a room…hasn’t happened in 8 years!  With that being said, I only stay at Starwood Properties…Starwood is a parent company for Westin, Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridian, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Aloft and Element…and in a merger last year it now also includes every Marriott hotel, including The Ritz Carlton properties. Without getting into to much detail right now…hubs made some smart vacation decisions for his family starting back about 10 years ago.  It’s a system that just works for our family, but that’s a completely different post or 2!

So, grand total for Scottsdale trip for airfare and room…a whopping $72.  No brainer…YEP, I’ll take it!  Last thing I need to secure is a car and a friend to go with me!IMG_2293

Car…check!  Friend…check!  And just to drive home that point value again.  Through Hertz, I’m able to take the points I earn from their Hertz Gold Rewards program and have them go into my United Airlines frequent flyer miles program.  See, all kinds of things that you can do with points if you know what your doing!  Plus, I got a deep discount and a class upgrade on the car from the vacation ownership program hubs bought into years ago.  Lots of people look down on these programs, but if I’m honest I can only think of 1 other person that could travel the way that our family travels…if she’s reading this I’m sure she knows I’m thinking about her.

So, for a grand total of less than $250 I’m on a girls trip with my person (if you don’t know what a “my person” is go watch Grey’s Anatomy), enjoying the most perfect weather and hoping to get in a couple of health activities to start this New Year off right!  Next post will be all about the Scottsdale, promise!  But today, I wanted to start opening eyes and educating people about the possibility that good travel can be affordable and fun!

What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten on travel?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!!!

Something Like A Pro…

gwg

So, as Thing 4’s basketball coach used to say…”I’m something like a pro”.  Let me explain.  Thing 4 played on a basketball team that traveled quite a bit for tournaments.  And as you could image, keeping elementary aged boys entertained on the road was a priority for all parties involved, kids and parents…those of you that have had elementary aged boys will identify with that priority.  So, usually we would try to find a Main Event or something similar so that the boys could play and parents could socialize.  Thing 4’s coach often liked to find one of those establishments that also had bowling lanes…you see he fancied himself “something like a pro”…which meant he thought he was pretty good.  Truthfully, he was.  What he didn’t know is that growing up my mom was a youth bowling director…I lived at the bowling alley.  So, I always gave him a run for his money, and we always had good belly laughs complete with trash talking and jeers (about bowling, mind you).  Those were good times!

Let me get back on track…so this week, I fancied myself “something like a pro”.  I took a drive down the Turner Turnpike to Oklahoma City for a Google conference.

Grow With Google

Google hosted some free workshops…finally something I don’t have to pay for…thank you  God!  Some of y’all think I’m real techie…I’m not…I’m a little techie, and a lot determined. The event was held at the Devon Boathouse and it was a great event!  I took an Online Marketing class and a class on Using Data to Drive Growth.  Armed with this enlightening new information, I’m not quite feeling “something like a pro” yet, but sitting in on these classes definitely made me feel like this can really be a job and not just a hobby!  That makes me feel useful, and that’s a good thing!

By the way, the information I gained is basically the same information that my hubs business has used in the last 6 months to help grow their business.  It works.  Hubs paid a lot of money for this info…a whole lot.  So, here’s my free advice…if you own a small business, do a search for Grow With Google…lots of information there.  It’s work, no one will do it for you, but the info is out there for you to dive into.

Figuring It Out

This whole “I bought a web site thing” is still a little like the Wild West to me, but slowly I’m starting to figure some things out.  My big breakthrough this week was figuring out how to get an email address that has @girlyoutripping.com at the end of it.  Really you wouldn’t think it’d be that hard, I had to do a little digging…but I did figure it out.  Yay, me!  I also figured out how to post directly to my website instead of what I did on my last post.  At a girl, me!  Next up, figuring out how to get the newest post to pop up to the top of the page.  Good stuff!

I have plans and dreams for great content and video…it’s a little ways down the road…hang in there with me, I promise it’ll be worth the wait!  In the mean time, leave me a comment…tell me about what your dream Girls Trip would be.  I’ve got a couple things lined up and in the planning stages, but I’d love to hear what you’ve done or what you dream getaway trip looks like!

Cheers!

What have I gotten myself into???

IMG_2095So, since I’m positive the only folks that will read my blog this early in the game will be family and friends…I’ll skip a formal introduction for now.  Let’s get started, sort of.

I’m feeling part-time mom-ish right now. Our family is in a pretty good season of life…hubs business is thriving, Thing1 (the oldest boy) moved to Maui to start his new career and life, Thing2 (the second oldest) is rocking it in Culinary School, Thing3 (third in line to the throne, Junior in high school) is healthy, making good grades and driven with lofty college dreams, and Thing4 (the not so baby, baby and current 7th grader) is also healthy, smart as whip, and figuring out who he is and what he’s passionate about. Wow, what a run on! At any rate, with essentially 2 of the 4 boys out of the house, I’m feeling part time-ish…which I’m currently relishing! But, truthfully, I miss work…I’ve missed it ever since Thing 4 started kindergarten.  Don’t get me wrong, being a stay at home mom has been amazing and it has afforded great benefit to our family…but I’m a worker…always have been.  So, in an effort to do something work like, but keep some freedom in my schedule, I thought I might give blogging a go…

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

I secured a domain name. For my untech savvy friends out there…I bought a website! Yay, me!  Uh, now what?  I’ve never blogged, I don’t follow blogs, I’m not an Instagram fan (don’t shun me)…all things that would be very, very useful to have some knowledge of when you decide you are going to start a blog.  So, I’m totally in over my head…I’m scared to death…and I’m so excited I can’t see straight!  At first I thought I might wait awhile to post content until I had a better grasp of what I am supposed to be doing, but sometimes watching the process unfold is amazing…like, wow, she really did it, or like the train wreck that you just can’t not watch because it’s so bizarre.  I am definitely shooting for the former!

Wow! To put forth a successful blog is way more involved than I ever imaged that it could be.  I promise not to bore with techie and detailed behind the scenes stuff that I come across, but I hope that you take this journey with me…the good, the bad, the ugly and the funny.

The REAL Goal

The name of the blog is GirlYouTripping.  Once I get the grasp of this blogging thing, the real goal of the blog will be to write about girl getaways and family trips.  I still don’t have the details fully honed in just yet…lots of avenues to take in those categories.  But I do know this, I love to travel with my family and friends.  We go on some great vacations and getaways, and I work my butt off to make sure that we have the best time possible while we are away, because that is what we like to do with our free time and money…both of which are a premium in my life and I’m sure they are in your life as well.  I hope you enjoy reading and watching this journey unfold and that you will figure out how to be a part of it in some way, big or small.

Cheers to new adventures and doing things that push you to be better!