Operation 31 Euro – Amsterdam Guide

In honor of my 31st Anniversary (aka Birthday) my husband and I decided to dust the passports off and hit the international seas. We had our eyes set on Europe. Well.. I did really, since I’m the planner and he just follows along with my idea lol.  I decided to call it….

Operation 31 Euro

( click here for the backstory)

For the 1st half of the mission we decided to see Amsterdam. Now before we talk coffee shops, prostitution, the Red Light District and more… I feel I should go over some of the IMPORTANT details when planning a trip to Amsterdam or any international trip for that matter.

1. What is required? 

When traveling to Amsterdam your passport aka ticket to the world must have at least a 6 month’s validity before your date of departure. Basically… make sure it doesn’t expire any time before your trip.

2. Know your money 

Amsterdam’s currency is the Euro. Most places will accept your debit/ credit card but there will be an extra charge with your bank every time  you swipe your card, so that can get pricey. It’s probably best to exchange your money with your bank or credit union instead of the airport. They’re likely to provide the best exchange rates and charge the lowest fees. Do this before your departure. Our bank takes about 5 business days to process, so we had to exchange at the airport.

Currently 1 USD = .86 Euro

So therefore if you’re exchanging $500 that’s about 430.24 Euros, minus any fees it may cost.

 

3. Know the area

Research the area or just keep reading. Most likely you’ll fly into Amsterdam’s main airport, Schiphol, If you’re not driving, understand public transportation. It’s much cheaper. Like most of Europe, getting around Amsterdam is pretty easy. The Schipol Airport Railway Station is located underneath the airport’s plaza, so getting to your destination shouldn’t be to much of a problem. Just don’t forget to snap a picture at the IAMSTERDAM sign. My best friend says “If you know how to read, you can’t get lost” lol. It’s kind of true though. I would suggest Rome2Rio It gives you directions to anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and car; taking it a step further even giving you an estimate of cost. If you don’t have any plans of renting a car, don’t waste your money on Uber. See the city like a local and hop on the train. ** In light of recent events I feels I should also say “Keep your head on the swivel”** Or rent a bike. Since cycling is a way of life for Amsterdam, there are many bike paths. It rained both days while we were there, so we settled for the train.

 

4. Where are you staying?

A good rule of thumb: the closer you are to the city’s center, in this case Dam Square, the more your hotel will cost. Since we were only in Amsterdam for 2 days,  I didn’t want to go overboard. We decided to stay at the The Fletcher Hotel ($300 total).  A stunning 4- Star hotel that combines both luxury and budget, giving you amazing views of Amsterdam from their SKY lounge and restaurant. The glass shower in the middle of the room is quite sexy also lol.  The hotel offers a shuttle service to the nearest train station, Amsterdam Holendrecht.  By train, it’s about 45 mins away from the airport and about 35 mins away from Amsterdam Centraal Station (Grand station at the heart of the city’s center)

 

5. Power Outlets

Check the need for a power plug/ adapter. Amsterdam’s power outlets are different from the US. Some places may offer USB ports, but it’s not a guarantee.

Now that we have gotten the important details out the way:

Let’s talk Sex and “soft” Drugs ……

Amsterdam is the 8th most visited country in Europe with over 18 million visitors each year. Known for its famous Red Light District and “Coffee Shops”, this is the stop for most 1st time visitors. Since the Dutch has legalized both prostitution and “soft” drugs aka weed, there’s no wonder why.  It’s something about freedom that makes people gravitate towards it. So we did what any 1st time visitor would do.. We headed for the Red Light District and Coffee Shops, with a couple of pit stops in between.

Things to See in the City Center

Red Light District

is the heart of Amsterdam, walking distance from both the Grand Central Station and Dam Square. It’s known to the locals as “De Wallen”  which refers to “sex and prostitution” in Holland. If you’re confused about the where you are the street signs are a good indicator. Some of the main streets in the Red Light District ends with -Wal (plural for Wallen) For example Oudezijds Achterburgwal. If that doesn’t help, look for the buildings with florescent red lights and women in the windows. I’m not talking your average Molly the Maid either.(No Offense) these women are BAD! NO PICTURES though, it’s not allowed. Paying for sex is one of the oldest professions to date and for a city as old as Amsterdam, there’s no mistake why the 2 would go hand and hand. Here’s where  you can find your sex shows, shops, and museums restaurants, and so much more.

Coffee shops

Not to be confused with “cafe shops” where you actually drink coffee.  These shops allows the consumption of weed. Legalized in the 70’s in an attempt to keep people from using “hard drugs”, there’s over 250 coffee shops in Amsterdam. Most of them are in the Red Light District, each with it’s own atmosphere. With so many, I’m sure you will find one to fit your taste buds.

But please follow the rules:

  • Must be 18 or over to enter with passport or ID
  • You can not purchase more than 5 grams
  • You’re only allowed to come twice a day to the SAME coffee shop
  • Hard drugs are forbidden
  • You cannot spoke in public. Only in the coffee shops

 

Amsterdam also hosts their annual Cannabis Cup, a weekend festival to celebrate the culture of weed. Normally held in November, this year the festival was in July.

Museums

Just like there’s a coffee shop for every taste bud, the same can be said about the museums in Amsterdam. Another main attraction for tourists. Some of the most famous are the Anne Frank House, Rembrandt, Van Gough,  Rijksmuseum,  just to name a few. Since we only had 2 days, and our only interest was sex and “soft drugs”, so we decided on the Sex Museum and Marihuana Hash and Hemp Museum

Sex Museum

Operating over 20 years, this museum brings artifacts from all over the world to explain human sexuality in a very interesting way. Here your able to explore the history of sex through the ages, Marilyn Monroe, the early stages of porn through very old photographs, Chinese porcelain sets with erotic scenes painted on them, plus so much more.  The museum is definitely worth a visit, for only 5 Euros, explore one of the most age-old topics and reason for existence.

 

Hash, Marihuana, & Hemp Museum

One of the oldest and most important museums dedicated to cannabis. You’ll explore 2 museums for the price of one (2 ppl = 17 Euros) through an audio tour. One dedicated to Hash/ Marijuana. Here you’ll learn about the Rastafarian’s way of life, with cannabis playing a significant role… How cannabis was a major ingredient for medicine in the 19th Century… and the history of recreational use.. plus so much more. Once your finish head down the street to the next site, dedicated to industrial hemp and the importance of the plant then and now. We enjoyed the We Are Mary Jane: Women of Cannabis exhibit, exploring the role of women in the world of cannabis.

Restaurants

You can’t visit Amsterdam without trying the famous “frites” or “patat”, which are thick cut french fries. They’re usually served with a dipping sauce in a paper cup. Like typical Americans we settled for ketchup, but you can try them with mayonnaise (Dutch favorite). Finding a vendor won’t be a problem. They’re lined throughout the streets.

The crepes and waffles at Crepes and Waffles is another must try. They offer both sweet and savory treats baked right in front of you. Since I’m not a huge foodie, my preference is always pizza. Don’t stop at the 3 Euro a slice pizza stand, you will be disappointed. Instead, I suggest the pizza at Restaurant Marco Polo.

 

 

 

 

For desert, try a chocolate covered waffle at Ice 4 You. They offer many different pastries, I’m sure would satisfy your sweet tooth. Everywhere you turn, there’s a restaurant to cater any taste and budget. Since the city center is so diverse, finding something to eat will not be a problem.

 

 

 

 

Canal Ride

Amsterdam’s canal ring (165 canals) is recognized by the UNESCO world heritage site. Most lasting about an hour, it’s a perfect way to really see the city, while also learning about some of Amsterdam’s rich history. There’s several types of cruises to choose from. So rather its a romantic candle lit canal cruise or a hop on hop off cruise, this should definitely make its way on the list of things to do while visiting.

 

 

Thoughts to myself like….

Looking back on our trip, I can’t believe I was nervous. We have been out of the country before, but there’s something about being on an entirely different continent that made me weary. It wasn’t until check in when we meet Sandra and Jimmy that my nerves started to go away. They greeted us, even sharing some of Amsterdam’s must haves. Ultimately setting the tone for the next 2 days. There’s more to the city than sex and “soft drugs”, this old city offers culture, amazing architecture, a diverse mix of foods and so much more. This is what traveling is all about. Until next time Amsterdam….

As always

Outlier’s Guide to Seeing Walt Disney World… Without Breaking the Bank

In a recent interview with Just’ N Tyme Products, (click here) a brand tailored for children that encourages creativity through children’s books and products, I was asked about some of our family tips for traveling with big families. Since summer is here and the children are out of school, for most families a trip to Walt Disney World is probably on the list.

The only problem is June, July, and August are considered to be Walt Disney World’s peak season and not to mention very popular months to visit Florida since schools are usually out. Not only will your theme parks see an increase, but resorts and hotels are also likely to up their prices.

For this past Memorial weekend and Zoe’s 3rd birthday, The Outliers decided to hit Orlando 12 deep. Although not in the summer months, this was still considered “Peak Season”. So I decided to come up with my own personal list for big families traveling to see Mickey this summer, but not wanting to break the bank and still get the most out of their trip.

First things First: Resort or Vacation Home?

Resorts, in general tend to be pricier. Walt Disney World is no exception. Of course there are perks that are offered that a vacation home does not like: shuttle transportation, extra hours during park visits, etc which is a nice addition,  but sometimes the extra amenities are just NOT worth the additional price that comes along with it.

For us we went with a vacation home near Champion’s Gate. It is about 20 minutes away (25 tops) from the Walt Disney World Theme Parks. We booked early this time and found a 5 bedroom / 4 bath house with an enclosed pool for right at $600 (5/25 – 5/29). For 6 adults and 6 children (twin beds in the kids rooms), this fit us all comfortably. This way we were all able to still be together without having to purchase multiple rooms.

Vacation homes can be an extra saver when it comes to money spent on food also. We made sure to stock up on food. Cooking breakfast also We even had a big cook-out on Memorial Day (grill supplied by the rental) and the kids were able to enjoy the pool


Booking.com

Tickets

For children under 2, park admission is FREE. Ages 3-9 will pay a child ticket and children 10+ will pay adult prices. Luckily for Zoe, she was turning 3 AFTER our park visit lol. We decided to visit only 1 theme park, Animal Kingdom. I was excited about the World of Avatar. If you have plans on visiting, I would suggest coming back at night, as park tickets allows for re-entry.

The more days you visit, the more savings you could get. You save $20 when you purchase 3-day or longer tickets online. 1 day tickets are priced by regular, value, and peak seasons ticket type. Pay attention to which ticket you purchase because regular and value tickets can only be used on that specific date. While peak season tickets can be used on any day.

We made this mistake, but we were able to contact Walt Disney customer service to make the change. If you’re looking to go to Magic Kingdom, expect to pay more money for your ticket. The price is a little more than Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, or Hollywood Studios.

If you’re a Sam’s Club member, you can purchase discounted Disney Gift cards online. These gifts cards can also be used to purchase theme park tickets.

 

 

My Disney Experience

After you purchase your tickets, be sure to register with the My Disney Experience to get the most of your trip. Through the website or App, you’re able to link itineraries. Since we were a group of 12 this was great for us. Another feature is the FastPass+, included in the price of the ticket. This is my favorite. No longer having to wait in the standby line, you’re able to reserve your time for 3 experiences based on availability 30 DAYS prior to your arrival, and 60 DAYS if you’re staying at one of their resorts. SO PLAN EARLY. Since our itineraries were already linked we could ALL enjoy the rides together instead of leaving some behind. After the 3rd experience, just use the app to schedule another and repeat. Availability fills up fast, so again PLAN EARLY!!!!!! We were able to beat the crowds by reserving our time for the Lion King Show, which the kids really enjoyed by the way.

Extra Pocket money

You can skip the dinning plan, Walt Disney World allows for you to bring food and drinks inside of all of their theme parks. Although the Bar-B-Que chicken that we all had was pretty decent, I believe I would have settled on sandwiches and snacks to save a little money if I would have known this. There are water fountains throughout the parks also, so bring your PLASTIC water bottles. Or you can stop at any of the service restaurants to fill up. Soft sided coolers are allowed in also. However there is a size requirement. For more things that are NOT allowed click here.

At any given day in Florida ” the bottom will fall out” ( that’s just southern for heavy rain by the way lol) so I would suggest purchasing Ponchos from a local Walmart, instead of at the parks. It’s better to get them for about $5 tops and not need them versus spending an arm in leg inside the parks. Also moms, if you have plans on purchasing costumes for the little princesses, bring one instead of waiting to buy at the park. Another big saver!!

***Disclaimer***

Following these steps will probably not save you millions of dollars. However, it has been proven to save money lol. So rather its $5 or $100 for large families a SAVE IS A SAVE… Ask anyone….

Thoughts to myself like….

There’s nothing like bringing money home that has been set aside for vacation lol. The family and I have visited Walt Disney World many times, but this was probably the first time we have been and not gone over budget. You would be surprised at how just minor adjustments can go a long way. I’m learning travel is what you make it, and through careful planning and research it’s possible without having to break the bank.

 

 

Want to share more money savers for seeing Walt Disney World? What are some of your family’s money saving tips? SHARE THEM… Leave a comment!!!

As Always,

Let’s Go to Carnival… No passport required PT.2

Assuming you’ve read Part 1, then you’re already familiar with Carnival. If not, I would suggest you click here to catch up lol. But, to save time I will bring you up to speed.

Carnival is a event, celebrated throughout many Caribbean Islands. Masqueraders from everywhere come to together to hit the streets for the ultimate parade celebrating culture and diversity. I figured the only chance I had at celebrating, was to hop on a plane for one of the islands, holding my passport in one hand and rum in the other.

That was, until I found out in the United States, June is National Caribbean American Heritage Month, and adding to that excitement, in Columbia, SC they held the annual South Carolina Carnival. A 4 day event, this year, celebrating food, music, and culture.

I decided to step out on faith and bet on myself, something that seems to get easier and easier with each chance I take. I reached out to the event coordinator and got even luckier. I was invited to participate in the parade, full costume provided.

THIS WAS BIG FOR ME…FOR US!!

I was so excited, until I picked up my costume. I freaked out. So many thoughts began to race in my head…

Could I really wear this?

I’m a mother..of 3..is this OK? (Like it’s not my right or something)

Am I really this brave?

What would my husband say? (let me add, I respect his opinion just in case you’re thinking “what he got to do with this lol?”

But of course I couldn’t back out now, I had obligations. So when the day came, I made a compromise. I settled on some cute little shorts to match. I didn’t know what to expect on the drive there. I had never done anything like this before, completely stepping outside of the box as any Outlier should. My mom and kids joined me (my husband attended his convention in Atlanta), but only as on lookers for the parade.

 

 

When I arrived at the meeting spot, I truly felt like the Outlier I was. I was over-dressed, but it was OK, because the vibe was amazing. You ever walk into a room and everyone is just smiling, having a good time, and the energy just captures you? Well, that is exactly how I felt in that moment.  So many beautiful people, mostly women, of all shapes and sizes in elaborate costumes. I’m talking headpieces, feathers, jewels, glitter, beads, you name it. All there to celebrate their Caribbean Culture, while representing their specific country. It was amazing to see. Once the DJ arrived, it was time to hit the streets. We walked about 15 blocks into Downtown Main St, Columbia, dancing to Soca representing the culture. I met some really great people who I got to hang out with during the walk. S/O to @thischickshammy (representing Jamaica) for letting me tag alone with her and her BF, they really showed my a good time and some dance moves.

@thischickshammy in the middle

We walked right into the Block Party. There were many vendors selling everything from food, adult popsicles, to merchandise. Performers even hit the stage. I mean this was a true block party, and one I will never forget!!!!

 

 

 

Thoughts to myself like…

We’re sometimes so quick to point out other’s body sizes and shapes, when really it’s just us projecting our own insecurities on others. Here I was over-dressed covering up my flaws, and when put in a space around people who didn’t care about theirs, I felt like the odd one out. How dare I be afraid of my own skin. I mean its MY skin. Next year I will be ready!! I will always remember this experience. Not only was my this my 1st Carnival Parade but it was my first time collaborating with a brand. Look what happens when you decide to bet on yourself.

 

 

Thankful for @SouthCarolinaCarinval @hibiscusent

 

As, Always

 

 

 

“Ya Mon.. I went to Jamaica!” – Meet Maria

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jamaica???

The People? Beautiful sandy beaches? Reggae? Bob Marley? I mean I can go on and on. Even if you’ve never been, I’m sure you’ve probably heard of some of the things mentioned right?!

Well for me, I’m reminded of something a little more. Jamaica was my husband (boyfriend at the time) and I first “real” vacation and his first time out of the country. We stayed in Ocho Rios at the Jewel Dunn Resort. The only problem, that was in 2011. We always promised ourselves we would go back, maybe after this, we will.

Since then, in 2018 the United States issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory for some areas in both Kingston and Montego Bay and also Spanish Town, advising tourists to use extreme caution in some areas. I was recently asked if I would still travel to places the United States said was unsafe or to use extreme caution… and my reply was yes! At this point, everywhere is unsafe (halfway joking). Seriously though, whenever you’re in a foreign place, you want to have a sense of awareness. Always keep your head on the swivel lol and always do your research before travel.

Luckily for me, I hang with Outliers. So when I heard my good friend and her husband was going to Jamaica I wanted to get her perspective. It was also her 1st time out of the country…

Meet Maria.. Here’s what she had to say:

I WENT TO JAMAICA!!

I had several pep talks with myself. Honestly, I didn’t feel nervous more anxious than anything to finally see how life is outside of the United States as a tourist of course. We flew with SwiftAir (booked at the all inclusive rate) The flight was actually more comfortable than I had imagined, not so bumpy! The thought of being ABOVE the clouds put me in another dimension. I was a bird for about 2.5 hours lol.

Jamaica was EVERYTHING I thought that it would be….PERFECT water, great food, lots of entertainment. I traveled with my husband. We were guest at the Riu Montego Bay all-inclusive resort. The resort was great for first time visitors and couples, not too kid friendly (JUST THE WAY I LIKE IT)!

Jamaica’s vibes immediately attached to us as soon as we landed. My accent and my outfit changed at the same damn time lol! My husband and I received the upmost respect-we were referred to as King and Queen the entire stay even when we were not on the resort. “When in Jamaica, do as the Jamaicans” *clears throat* YAAMON! We went snorkeling in the middle of the Caribbean Sea…this had to be the most amazing part of our trip. I wrote my families name on the beach and I watched as the pretty blue water carried us with peace, love, and happiness. The idea of true freedom is what comes to mind when I think about Jamaica.

 

Tip: When traveling abroad understand your money. Banks charge foreign transaction fees up to 3% depending on the bank and even more when making ATM withdraws. Example my bank charges 3% for debit card purchases + $5 for ATM withdraws… Sheesh

Another highlight of our trip was the visit to 9 Mile, Bob Marley museum.

 

The tour guides had to be the coolest people in Jamaica. The history of Bob and the impact he made on his country made me realize how great we are as a people! I see myself as a Rebel just like Bob Marley. He wanted people to complain less and embrace life as it is. I want to experience the difference of what sets me aside from average the same as Marley did. I felt his spirit while on 9 Mile. I left a bracelet that meant a lot to me on the outside of his tomb, along with other tourists gifts. I did this because apart of me will ALWAYS be in Jamaica. This is what makes me a Travel Outlier. I will continue to Dream. Travel. Live. Repeat…. every place I travel I will take a piece of it home with me and I will leave a piece of me there too.

Thoughts to myself like…

The key to a perfect vacation is always research and proper planning. With the media and news playing a major role in most decisions we make, I can now understand the stereotype of Americans do not travel. What if Maria would have decided to visit somewhere locally because of the Level 2 warning? She probably would have missed out on what seems to have been a life changer.

As Always,

Let’s Go to Carnival… No Passport Required

I was first introduced to Carnival while seeing Rio.

Ok no I haven’t been to Brazil; however, it was added to my bucket list after watching the movie with the kids lol.

In many of the Caribbean Islands, Carnival is celebrated throughout the year. Each island adds their own unique spin, while still holding on to their roots in African and Catholicism culture. People from everywhere come dressed in masquerade to celebrate diversity, while dancing to the “Soul of Calypso”, or SOCA music.

Celebrating Carnival in Brazil

Fortunately, for us here in the States, June kicks off The National Caribbean- American Heritage Month. It was declared in 2006, to recognize the significance of the Caribbean people and their descendants to the American culture.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that right in my back yard, well not exactly my backyard, but only a little over an hour away, in Downtown Columbia, SC, they were paying tribute to the Caribbean Heritage Month with the

5th Annual South Carolina Carnival June 7th – 10th

This year’s theme, “Music, Food, and Culture” will give you 4 days of cultural experiences you won’t need a passport for.

 

A Festival Driven by the “MUSIC” that represents the vivacious heart beat of the people

The “FOOD” characterizes our diverse medley of race and color, seasoned with the spirited foundation of multiple “CULTURES”.

South Carolina Carnival

The Travel Outlier will be in “them streets” on Saturday kicking off the Culture Parade in costume thanks to Instagram @yuneeek. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in true Carnival fashion I would suggest the follow along with @hibiscusent. This is a FREE EVENT and families are welcomed. I would love to see all my Outliers, this should be FUN!!

Thoughts to myself:

Sometimes the greatest discoveries are right here in our backyard, thanks to my friend who brought this event to my attention, I was reminded of that fact. I’m always so eager to leave my state, that I forget to just look around and take in what it has to offer. Traveling is not just about the pretty destinations and that perfect Instagram shot, although it’s a bonus, travel is about the experiences along the way, meeting new people, and learning about different cultures.

As Always,

 

 

 

 

Is Cheaper Really Better?

I’ve always been the type of person to pay for what I like. If convenience is an extra charge, here’s my card. I approach travel the same way. However, being a family of five, sometimes that’s not so beneficial. No one stretches the dollar like a mother. You must cut corners and sometimes cheaper is the better route.

For us, the go to airline is Delta. I find their loyalty program is decent. I’ll have to do my research on which one is the best.

It wasn’t until a recent trip to Dallas, when we decided to shop for airline tickets with some of the cheaper airlines. It was only for a weekend, and for just 2 days why not? I always do my research and decided to check out the top 10 US airlines from 2017.

Here’s what I found:

2017 US Airlines Ranking

 

We’ve heard horror stories about Spirit, so I could see why they held the number 10 spot. The memes floating around about Spirit is HILARIOUS. So automatically that was out…. Right??

 

 

Wrong! After waiting… again (I do have plans on doing better) I ended up searching for tickets on Spirit’s website. It turned out they really had the best deal. The average round trip flight cost about $117 and according to Hopper (Flight Finding App) it is the 2nd cheapest.

I was able to convince my husband this was a good choice, as he was dead set on NOT flying Spirit. Besides, the flight from Atlanta to Dallas was a little over 2 hours, not too long. If it turned out to be awful, I would never hear the end of it though. So, we went with a one-way flight to Dallas on Spirit, while taking a one way back on Delta. At least if the flight there was awful, we wouldn’t have to fly it coming home.

Our one-way ticket cost us a grand total = $232 (price for 2). They do offer a $9 fare club that offers discounts on everything from flights to baggage. We opted out.

Fees

Seem to be one of the biggest complaints and I must admit you are charged for everything. They have more of an a la carte option, where you pay for what you need. Even with the fees added, I must admit it still did not break the bank for us. I strongly suggest anything you decide to “pick” you do that during the actual booking process. Prices will go up before/during 24 hour check in and even higher if you wait until you get to the airport to pay.

 

For our luggage, I made a mistake during the checkout and paid for a carry-on ($35) instead of paying for a checked bag ($30). You’ll have to see Spirit’s Baggage Calculator for an exact amount. After calling customer service, the representative was able to re-adjust the fee. I had to pay an additional $5 because it was not during the original booking process. Yep 1st checked bag during booking is $30, after booking anytime before/ during the check in process that same bag goes to $40.If I waited until we got to the airport, that same bag would have cost $50.

Another save, my husband and I shared our luggage. Yes ladies, it is possible to share your luggage with the boo. I was proud of myself; I tend to go overboard. I made sure to stay within the 40-pound weight requirement. Again remember, a la carte. The more luggage you bring, the more money you will spend. Don’t wait until you get to the airport, it will cost you!!

This was the 1st time I had to pay to pick our seats also. Spirit charges $7 for each seat assignment during booking. After booking, I would also suggest printing your boarding pass prior to arrival. There’s an additional $10 added for each boarding pass printed at the airport. Again don’t wait until you get to the airport!!!

If you’ve read 15 Hours in Dallas, then you know we missed our flight and had to wait until the next day to fly out. Luckily, we were already checked in which saved us $100, Always check in 24 hours before!!! I knew refreshments were not going to be passed around without a fee, so we made sure to eat while at the airport.

I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking before getting on the plane but the flight wasn’t bad at all. I mean the seats were a little smaller, and the space was a little tighter, but nothing outrageous. I slept the entire way, which is a good sign lol. I don’t know, it’s something about the engine roaring that’s a little peaceful.

My flight experience was better on Spirit, then my return flight on Delta. How ironic!? Apparently, it was that pilot’s first time landing a plane and my first time using the barf bag the airline provides. How did we know it was the pilot first landing?? The crew joked about it, as we were leaving. Totally not funny might I add.  So, I guess in this case cheaper was better!

Thoughts to myself like:

As far as budget, customer service, and experience goes, Spirit gets a check on all 3 in my book. This is one reason why sometimes you just need to experience things for yourself. It’s great if others are knowledgeable and you want their expertise, but ultimately your biggest teacher will be experience. If I would have listened to the horror stories, I probably would have been out of even more money. After all, the one way from Dallas to Atlanta cost us $266 + $25 (checked bag fee). I’m just glad I did my research prior!!

As always,

15 Hours in Dallas

One of my favorite movies as a child is Home Alone. My favorite scene was when the family was running through the airport trying to catch their flight. I can remember thinking, that looks so fun and exciting. I didn’t take into account the thoughts that were running through the McAllister’s’ mind as they were racing to their gate.

Probably thinking “Oh Sh*t we’re about to lose all this money!” (You know they paid for the family’s trip lol)

And after experiencing this exact feeling… I no longer find it fun nor exciting.

The Backstory

A couple of months ago, I decided to purchase a ticket to a travel workshop in Dallas. I was super excited, because this was my 1st official workshop. This was my opportunity to network, learn some great information, and experience Dallas, TX. I had been before for work, so that didn’t really count, and this was my husband’s 1st time.

I found a great deal on Travelocity for the NYLO Irving/ Las Colinas. The total for the weekend was $198. (15% off coupon code incl.) I absolutely loved the layout, very “modern swanky” and it was center to about everything.

Quick snap as we were leaving (excuse the bed)

Tip: Just like anything you purchase online, coupon codes can really save you some cash. Always search for a code before booking.

I waited later than usual to purchase our flights and the price went up. If you see a good price, get it! That’s probably the best you’re going to see.

To save a few extra dollars, I went with 2 one way (nonstop) tickets, flying into Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and the other leaving from Dallas Love Field (DAL). The airports are about 20-25 minutes away from each other but the prices and flight times are different. Just an FYI when searching for plane tickets.

Spirit – 2 tickets (non stop) $228

Delta- 2 (non stop) $267

Take- Off Day

Our flight time was 6:54pm from Atlanta. We planned on leaving Greenville around 2pm, because we are familiar with Atlanta’s traffic.

Butttt…. I’m sure you know us well enough by now to know that leaving on time, is not really our strongest suit. So after picking the kids up from school and getting everyone settled, we were finally on the road at 3:30pm. I had already checked into the flight and paid for our bags, so the only thing we could do is hope for the best.

Tip:

Always check in 24 hours before flight. This will save you BIG TIME in the future.

It wasn’t until we got to TSA check in, when we realized we would miss our flight. The line was INSANE. When you have to be somewhere at a specific time, why does it seem like everyone else is scheduled for the same time slot??

Tip:

TSA Pre Check allows for you to speed through security. With this option you don’t have to remove your shoes, coats, etc and it takes less than 5 minutes. You must feel out an application and schedule an appointment, but it will save you in the long run. Click here for more details. My appointment is already scheduled.

Because we were already checked in and our bags were paid for, the good news, we could automatically be put on the next flight out without paying .The bad news, the next flight did not leave out until the next day. Bummer!

Atlanta

So we were stuck in Atlanta for the night. Luckily, I purchased the insurance for our hotel stay in Dallas ($9) that covered this exact instance. So we were able to get our money back! That of course went to our night stay in Atlanta. Crazy part is, I rarely purchase insurance. The one time I did, I end up needing it. Needless to say, I’ll probably be buying this in the future.

Tip

Hotel Tonight is an app that offer big savings on last minute hotel stays. I definitely recommend downloading this if you ever find yourself in a bind.

Dinner was nice. Atlanta is pretty much our second home when we are just wanting to get away from our day to day. So it was my surprise when we stumbled on Rodney’s Jamaican Soul Food and Grill. Oh man… the food was on point and the vibes were right, with a nice music set up. Anytime you play 90’s R&B, I’m hooked. I had the Jerk Chicken and Waffles with a side of jerk shrimp. J had the jerk salmon and collards.  During dinner, I decided to check my email and noticed my workshop was CANCELED and had been rescheduled. At this point, there really wasn’t a reason to be upset. I had my wine and was having a good time. So, we were was good!!

 

 

Apparently, there was a concert in the city that night. The Brockman’s learned their lesson, no party for us! Domestic Flights (Within the US) requires you to be at the airport 2 hours before your flight, so that’s where we were.

15 hours in Dallas 

We arrived in Dallas around 2 o’clock (Sat). Our flight for the next day was 7am, only 15 hours to enjoy Dallas. I was expecting sunshine, but instead I was smacked in the face with wind blowing 30 mph. After checking in, we decided to grab something to eat downtown. Unfortunately, it was too cold to do any walking, so we settled on the 1st restaurant we saw, Dallas Chop House. The steak was cooked to perfection! Everything is a la carte, so just be prepared.

After dinner, we decided to bar hop. Our first stop was the Playground Neighborhood Bar. If bars are your thing, I recommend finding local bars in the area, the drinks you will find to be more reasonable. The music killed our vibe, so after a couple of hours, we were on to the next stop, Rocco’s Uptown Pizza and Pasta. Y’all know I’m always down for pizza. During the weekends they’re open until 3am. The music was much better and the manager was very cool. So after an hour or 2 we figured we should leave. After all we now only had 5 hours until take-off now.

The Rush is On Again

If we would have made another stop the night before, we would have found ourselves in the same position as before. After dropping the rental car off and taking the shuttle back to the airport, we were in the McAllister’s shoes again, running down the halls to our terminal. We could hear them calling our names over the intercom with less than 7 minutes to board. This time we beat the clock!!

Thoughts to myself like:

What a weekend!! A few years ago, I would have called this trip a bust. Everything that could have went right, went left. Of course it would be if I took that approach. Instead I chose to roll with the punches, and despite the missed flight, the canceled workshop,  and not even a full day to enjoy the city, Dallas taught me a lot. After all it could have been worse, we could have been out of money. Everything happens for a reason. Dallas sure did!!

As Always 

NOLA- The Family Guide

This year for Spring break/ Easter Holiday, the Outliers decided to hit the road again. What started out as a trip to Destin, FL ended up being a family trip in the opposite direction to New Orleans, LA, and probably one of the best vacations we’ve ever had!

Here’s How it Happened

Due to poor planning on our part we let all of the rooms/ houses get booked, and the ones that were left were outrageous. Orlando, Miami, Panama City, all were booked. Of course right!? It was Spring Break after all. We wanted to stay away from the cold weather, so we had our eyes on the southern states, as far low as possible. Alabama was different. I read in a magazine it was a pretty nice state to see… But.. during the month of April they celebrate Confederate History Month, so I didn’t think that was a right fit for us. No one else was excited about Mississippi except for me. So naturally it made sense to visit New Orleans. This was our first time (except for my mom), so it was another state for the Outliers to check off.

Welcome to NOLA

Let me start by saying there’s no place like New Orleans: The people, the food, the culture, the history, again there’s really no place like it.

It started off rocky. We made plans to hit the road at 3am, but my husband let me oversleep (he’s going to be mad when he reads this lol) He “says” he tried several times, so needless to say we didn’t leave until 8am. After the 9 hour drive we pretty much lost an entire day. I then realized we (I) made an error in the number of guests for our Airbnb, which caused us to eventually pay more. The moral, don’t be last minute.

Our host Ms.Morgan was very very accommodating though. So before I get into my list of favorites in the area, I would definitely recommend this Airbnb. The location was everything, within 15 mins from pretty much everything: Canal St, The French Quarter, Bourbon St, Frenchmen St, etc. It fit 6 guests comfortably

Now…. we can start:

The Community Book Center

Ms. Morgan brought us here and I am so glad she did! This is one of the few black owned bookstores in America. As of 2014. there were only 54, crazy right! Ms. Vera and Momma Jenn treated us like family. The atmosphere and the knowledge you get there, I’m willing to bet you won’t find anywhere else. They were hosting a local pop up shop for black own businesses the first night we arrived (Friday). I got to try some homemade pralines, that was mouth watering. Make sure you check out @CSTYLECATERING on Instagram!. We didn’t get to hang around long because they were actually rapping up but they let us come in to check it out. We made sure to stop by the next day and pick up some great reads and more great local black owned spots.

Half Shell on the Bayou

This restaurant is next door to the Community Book Center, and another spot introduced by Ms. Morgan. Due to our arrival and that rocky road we went down, she called the owner Mark, who stayed opened so we can get something to eat. Talk about family! Soon as walked in we heard “South Cakalaky”… Sit down!! Sit Down!! lol. Sitting down was not a mistake. The food OMG! I had shrimp and fries (of course). The rest of the family had more appealing dishes. My mom thought the shrimp pasta dish was amazing! Marc (below) was so welcoming, we met his brother Bernard, who gave us some of suggestions on the list.

The French Quarter, Jackson Square, & Bourbon St.

The next day (Saturday) we headed out for the French Quarter for some sightseeing and shopping. The parking is pretty expensive. We spent about $40 for a couple of hours. However, if you hit the quarter before 9am, you only pay about $13 for the day. So if you’re an early bird, I suggest you beat the crowd for a savings.

For breakfast, we grabbed something to eat at Café Pontalba. I’d recommend the French Toast. Everyone else ordered the shrimp and grits, which seemed to be pretty good also.

There’s a number of restaurants in the area for all different taste buds though.  Around the corner is the famous Café Du Monde known for their beignets. If you get a chance to try it, I would love for you to tell me about them. The lines were in the street each day, so we didn’t get to try it out.

Side note: However, if you’re dying to try some benigets, and not able to get any from Café Du Monde, I would suggest heading over to Morning Call in the City park, which is especially great for families.

Across the street from Café Du Monde, you’ll find Jackson Square, the epicenter of the French Quarter. Along the iron fences you can find painters showcasing their work, Street performers, local artists and so much more. A walk through the park makes for a great picture opportunity. This year New Orleans celebrates their tri-centennial.

 

 

If you’re looking for something sweet?? Head over to Sucre’ on Conti St. for some ice cream and macaroons, another first for me. I tried the banana foster macaroon, which wasn’t bad. The kids enjoyed their birthday cake ice cream.

You can’t come to New Orleans without visiting Bourbon St. So after the ice cream, we decided to give it a try. I was a little skeptical because of the children but it turned out fun. They enjoyed watching the street performers. The streets are lined with bars, restaurants, local shops and more bars. Over at the Musical Legends Park you can find live jazz music playing daily. It’s a tribute to honor some of New Orleans jazz legends.

Musical Legends Park: Antoine “Fats” Domino, Al “Jumbo” Hirt, and Pete Fountain

Y’all know I love pizza, and there’s plenty of options to choose from. So for my pizza lovers, I suggest grabbing some from Crescent City Pizza. You won’t be disappointed! Don’t stop at the 1st one though, disgusting.

Ray’s On the Ave

Later for dinner, we decided to stop here at this little local gem, which is about 10 mins away from The Quarter. The fried chicken was fried to perfection. My husband had the Red beans and Rice. I knew when he asked for a to-go box, he was pretty satisfied.

Ray’s On the Ave: Red Beans and Rice, Fried Chicken, and potato salad

The Praline Connection

The next morning (Sunday) we decided on another recommendation from our family at The Community Book Store. Located on Frenchmen St., another black owned restaurant, this was my favorite. The Stewed Chicken, collards, and macaroni and cheese was exactly what my soul needed, and the bread pudding was the icing on the cake. The entire family cleaned their plate.

 

After eating we didn’t have the energy to do any walking, so we headed down to the Lower 9th Ward, an area that was hit very hard by Katrina.. It’s about 15 minutes from Frenchmen St and I would definitely recommend this drive.

I was excited about visiting The Lower 9th Ward Living Museum and we always try to turn our family trips into a learning experience for the kids. Only one and five residents were able to return after the hurricane, so its important we uplift these foundations. I didn’t take into account it was Easter Sunday so it was closed, but we drove around to take in the scenery. It’s crazy that after almost 20 years you can still feel the destruction.

Tours

There are many tours offered in the area; take one! Rather it’s a walking tour, haunted, or even a plantation, I promise you want be disappointed. We settled for a ghost tour, and took a tour of 4 different cemeteries. This was the kids’ idea. However, the length the city go through to bury and honor the dead, is something worth hearing. I would also suggest a walking tour down Treme’ St, one of the oldest neighborhood for African Americans; the houses are amazing. No matter which one you choose there’s so much history you will not regret it.

Thoughts to myself like:

This trip was definitely one for the books! It’s impossible to see everything in just 3 days, so the Outliers will return. New Orleans is very rich in their culture, history, and architecture. The city opened their doors for us and welcomed us like family. What some may consider intrusive, is only true down home hospitality. It’s no wonder why the city has persevered through everything. I remember seeing a quote along the wall

America has only 3 cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland

Tennessee Williams

So far, I have been to both New York and New Orleans, California but not San Francisco. So I guess that will be the Outliers next stop. Until then

 

 As Always, 

 

 

A Moment of Peace in CUBA- Meet Reggie !!

The universe has a way of showing us things that are destined for us. I like to think of them as little signals in the world. Sometimes, they’re presented very subtle and then there are those times where they practically smack you in the face.

At that point, you can choose to receive them or ignore them, we’re always given a option. I’ve recently started to make a conscious effort to receive them and since I have they show up in abundance, rather it’s a movie I’m watching, music, something someone says, even a TV commercial. If you need help on recognizing the signs, take a moment to read How to Recognize Signs from The Universe. It really was a great read.

Lets flash back:

If you can recall my Welcome post, you would remember some of those dope friends I met in college. We keep in contact through group messages. So naturally when The Travel Outlier was born I had to tell them about it.

So was it a coincidence when my homeboy replied:

I think not!!!!

Of course I had to get the scoop, but before we meet Reggie, lets talk about traveling to Cuba.

As of right now traveling to Cuba for tourist activities is prohibited. However,  general licensed can be issued for 12 reasons: family visits, journalistic activities, support for the Cuban people, just to name a few. For the full list and details Click Here.

Ok… now lets meet Reggie!

Reginald “Reggie” Ellington is a former college athlete and Alumi of Charleston Southern University, with a number of accolades under his belt. He quit his job in July of 2017 to start his own company F.A.S.T World Class( Fitness and Sports Training).

He offers sports performance training for individuals of all ages in the Charleston Area.

Go Check Him Out!! @fastworldclass (IG)

Now lets talk about Cuba….

Was this your 1st time outside of The United States?

Yes, this is my 1st time abroad. I’ve had my passport since 2016 and this is my 1st time using it. I’m finally stamped!!!

Why Cuba?

We chose Cuba because my brother travels abroad frequently and this was a destination that he has never visited. His birthday (at the time of the interview) is in a few days and my cousins birthday was during the trip. So we said let’s go. We bought our tickets back in November. 

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Cuba. #GoodingJr 😉 (Read) Was out there since Tuesday and contemplated on coming back! I will now mark CUBA as best #trip I've ever taken! From the food, the people, the views, #historic cars, dilapidated buildings and over all Cuban #culture. Those were just some of the reasons why I had such an amazing time. Although Cuba is a #3rdWorld country, the willingness to help and kindness of the people was unmatched. We are taught here in America that we deserve what we have by simply being #American. But to be honest, being without for those days and not having access to do better was totally humbling. Although I am proud to be a #Black American, but who says we deserve something just because we are #Able!? Much love to my #posse while in a foreign land. We stuck together to create an experience of a lifetime! #Squaaad!! #crewthick #melinated #afrocuban #hotAf #beach #relax #learn #afrocentric #swipe

A post shared by Reggie Ellington (Charleston) (@thefastathleticperformance) on

 

Where did you all stay?

Once we got through La Habana, Cuba, we rode a van to our AirBnb, which was in La Varadero. We stayed in the penthouse on the 15th FLO (Bruh MAN) lol 

 

 

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Momma we made it… #AtlantatoHavana #penthouse

A post shared by Reggie Ellington (Charleston) (@thefastathleticperformance) on

 

Describe the culture

The culture there was very close knit and pretty chill in the areas that we were. Cuba has a population of 2.6 million people and we were in the northwest corner about 90 miles from the Florida Keys. Their complexions was just like mine or yours. I was excited to see the “Real Cuba” by walking across from the bay, Old Havana. This is where we gave out supplied and got to hang out with the locals. That was my absolute favorite part.

I went to a museum called Fabrica De Arte Cubano. When I tell you this was almost the best club experience I’ve ever had, since I was about 18 or 19. It was a museum during the daytime, and at night it turned into a club. There was all types of people in their dancing, “turnt” to Cuban music, jumping up and down, LIVE AF!!!!

 

How did if feel to be a Black Man abroad? And what was your takeaway? (Anytime I travel I always bring something back with me, not anything tangible, more so thought wise)

As a Black Man with a passport I already feel accomplished. But to be in a country where people look exactly like me, but speak a different language, changed my life. They kept walking up to me thinking I was Cuban because of my facial structure.

 

I had a moment of clarity when I was there. I was sitting on the balcony smoking a cigar, looking at the stars, listening to the waves crash. I saw a shooting star to my right and a constellation to my left… Then it hit me, a moment of PEACE!! I just let go of all my worries, fears, negativity, doubt, and anger. Then a smirk came across my face, and I’ve been good since.

 

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Wake up and Cook up. 🍴#salsa #footworkinThruCUBA #FootworkKing • • At the end of the video pay attention to the small red, white, and lime green #bodega in the background. This small walk up stand was very important to the community. Most of the people in this neighborhood don't have #refrigerators, so as soon as they wake up in the morning they go straight to the bodega to get #water, #drinks, #coffee or anything to help them start their day! …and to we have the nerve to get #pissed when the line is long at #Starbucks! Smh Tuh, WE HAVE NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT! #3rdworldproblems #getReal #BossUP #tbt #godsplan #Wakanda #Blackpanther #grindgang ————————————————————– 🔹Class TOMORROW 6️⃣AM @ #ColonialLake!! #GroupFitness #sportsperformanceclass F.A.S.T Fitness and Sports Training, LLC Reggie@fastworldclass.com 📽 Cred: @abbey.kron 🔹 #Travelabroad #clubmaster #lululemon #slloop #eqtsupport #footwork #passport #stretch #activelife

A post shared by Reggie Ellington (Charleston) (@thefastathleticperformance) on

Thoughts to myself like:

Cuba has just gone from the #8 spot on my bucketlist to now being #3. I can’t wait to go. I’m excited to have been placed at the moment in time to interview. There are signals everywhere, you just have to be open to receive them. Coincidence, I think not!! This picture even found me. If you look closely you’ll see:

2+2=5

Now recall my previous post; Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don’t 

Now I have a smirk, thinking Yea, this is definitely for me!! 

As Always

Dream. Travel. Live. Repeat 

The Travel Outlier