The Greedy Clown in Paris

In staying with the topic of how to handle bad situations while traveling, let me share the story of how a Parisian clown took me for 10€.

But before I tell you the story of the greedy Parisian clown, I have to add that panhandlers and scammers in Paris are horrible.  They make the Hollywood panhandlers and scammers look like Mormon missionaries.  And if you have ever been to Hollywood, you know how bad that is. Continue reading The Greedy Clown in Paris

In Case of Emergency: 5 Tools to Overcome

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about breaking my neck in Puerto Rico. No matter what you do, you can’t prevent accidents or emergencies from happening when traveling.  As controlling as you might be or would want to be, something will happen.  So here are 5 tools to overcome accidents, injuries, theft, etc.

Continue reading In Case of Emergency: 5 Tools to Overcome

Busta Rhymes Would Have Been Proud

I thought of this after the post about breaking my neck.  This has officially become my theme song!

Breaking My Neck in Puerto Rico

I love traveling.  It’s a passion.  But just like anything else, traveling isn’t all good times and smiles; it has it’s bad times too.  Planning can be stressful.  Flights changes or delays don’t help out.  Currency exchange can be aggravating. Panhandlers and scammers are plenty.  Injuries happen.  I have experienced all of these.  So, let me tell you about the time I broke my neck while in Puerto Rico! Continue reading Breaking My Neck in Puerto Rico

Paying My Respects 

As I sit here at Monterrey, Mexico International Airport waiting to board my flight to Dallas, I’m thankful that I found out about travel hacking.

Travel hacking has given me many beautiful memories with my family.  But just this past Friday, it provided me a way to pay my respects when my grandmother passed away in Durango, Mexico.

On Friday at noon, I received a text from my cousin Milo that our grandma had passed.  A few minutes later, my father called me to tell me the same.  Within a few hours, I was able to take advantage of my airline miles and hotel points to book my travel to Durango for Veronica, my mother, and me.

Using my British Airline Avios, I booked three flights from Dallas, Texas to Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Durango for only $88 in taxes total for the three of us. I rented a vehicle with Hertz to drive to Durango which I booked on Priceline for $70; another trip I picked up while researching this hobby.

My return flights to get home were tricky but three tickets with VivaAerobus from Mazatlan to Monterrey, Mexico were $300.  We stayed the night in Monterrey at Holiday Inn Express Monterrey Airport using my IHG points making it a free night redemption. Our flight from Monterrey, Mexico to Dallas was $188 total in taxes.  

I’m only providing my costs to show that travel hacking can provide a great savings to everyone. When you have the opportunity to book last minute flights and not pay $1,400/person for round trip airfare, it’s definitely a financial convenience.

Not having attended the burials of my other three grandparents, I was left with a lost sense of peace.  My grandmother is now at peace and I am too now knowing where my other grandparents lay.  I took advantage of the time to see countless cousins, aunts, and uncles I had not seen in 10 years.  Travel hacking provided me this opportunity.  All the stars aligned to make it possible, and I honestly think the souls of my grandparents assisted with doing so.

To this hobby, I will always be grateful

Spain: Favorites, Least-Favorites, and Recommendations

Instead of going into deep detail of what we did every day, I’m going to list our favorites, least-favorites of our trip to Spain (and one day in Portugal), and our recommendations.

Favorite City:
They were all great in their own sense but my favorite was Valença, Portugal.  Valença felt as we had traveled back in time: the fort, the small historic town, the people and the food.  In Spain, Madrid was a very vibrant, modern but historical , and accepting city.  Santiago de Compostela was charming as well and very laid back.

Least Favorite City:
None.

Favorite food/dish:
The home-made pizza at Cafeteria 4D Gelateria in Madrid was better than any pizza I’ve had in the USA or Italy. The pastries at any of the pastry shops were also explendid.

Least favorite food/dish:
The food was a big negative.  We’ve eaten in a few differents countries, always ventured out, and enjoyed the local cuisine.  This time, it bit our tail.  The food wasn’t that great.  No way does it compare to Mexican or American food.  The paella, one of Spain’s most recognized dishes, was very disappointing.  Put it this way, we ate at the pizza joint 3 times, and twice at McDonalds. We do recommend the codfish croquettes, the cheese plates, beef tips and potatoes, and the beef lasagna, and every pastry of course.

Favorite attractions:
El Palacio Real & Santorini Gardens were my favorite attractions.  And for only 4€ per adult, we got a guide to give us a personal tour of the palace.  The best time to go is right before noon.  There was no wait at the palace and the price was reasonable for adults and kids under 6 are free.  Veronica really enjoyed El Prado, which I second.  The kids liked all the parks and plazas.

Least-favorite attraction:
There wasn’t a bad attraction but I was a little disappointed in The Temple of Debod because it was hyped up leading up to our visit.  The area around the temple is very nice with parks for kids to play and plazas to sit and enjoy the day.  It also has a nice view of Madrid.  The problem is that it is very uninteresting once you get there.  Take a pic and call it good.

Favorite shopping:
I’m not the shopper in our family.  I leave that to Veronica.  But, man did I go crazy on this trip.  Because I’m a big guy and I’m cheap, I usually can’t find nice dress shoes that fit my big feet or they are too expensive for my taste.  Well, I came back with 5 pairs of leather shoes and boots.  It was so bad that we had to buy another suitcase to bring back our new shoe collection. But if leather boots are for 20€, wouldn’t you buy a few pairs!?! The best shopping is near La Puerta del Sol on Calle de Arenal, and by Plaza Mayor.  The prices are very reasonable.  Oh, did I mention we walked 20 minutes uphill one-way in 50° temperature for a nice pair of dress shoes? That good!

Veronica recommends Pempke for reasonable, stylish women clothing.  I also recommend Celio for men’s clothing.

Least-favorite Shopping:
El Corte Ingles.  This store chain is like a mall + athletic store + Grocery store on steroids.  And the prices are also on steroids!  The only shopping we did was for food which was really cheap. Save your money for the shoe stores.

Recommendations

  1. Lodging: Stay near Puerta Del Sol. You will be in the middle of all the important places to visit, eat, and shop while in Madrid
  2. Eating: Bars with Tapas.  I really enjoyed the bar and tapas scene in Spain.  You can’t go wrong with the codfish croquettes and a caña de cerveza.
  3. Nightlife: Madrid puts NYC’s and New Orleans’ nightlife to shame. The bars don’t stop until 7am and the scene is very controlled.  We didn’t do much bar hopping because of the kids but you can’t go wrong to do so.  Police are always on surveillance and don’t bother the night goers.
  4. Shopping: A must are the shoe stores.  The salespeople are not pushy and allow you to browse while you come and go. Veronica recommends Pimkie for fashionable and informal women’s clothing.
  5. Getting around:  In Madrid, walking and the metro can get you to where you need to be.  Outside of Madrid, we recommend a car rental to allow you to move at your pace.
  6. Day Trips:  There are many day trips you can take.  Check the cheap airlines such as RyanAir & Vueling for cheap airfare to save you some time and money.  These airlines usually have airfare cheaper than train tickets.  We highly recommend Santiago de Compostela and driving to Valença(Portugal). You will enjoy the towns and the breathtaking views.
  7. Currency: Euros(€) are the currency in Spain and the majority of Europe.  Take a debit card like the Charles Schwab Investor Checking Debit Card that refunds all ATM withdrawals and currency exchange fees.  Go to an ATM and withdraw money as need be.  For high expense items, you can use a credit card with free foreign transaction fees.  Most cards come with this feature but I use the Chase Sapphire Preferred for backup.  Using these two methods, will save you some cash.
  8. The Spaniards: Some of the people we encountered were very polite, nice, and helpful.  Some were jerks and inconsiderate.  There was not an in between in my opinion.  Just know you aren’t at home where hospitality is a must, especially in our area of the country.
  9. Tips: Tips are included in meals, taxi-fare, and other related services as is in many European countries, so no need to tip.  Save that cash and buy you some leather shoes!
  10. Language: Spanish is the local language but most signs/stores have some type of English translation.  I would recommend brushing up on your Spanish.

Bottom line

We had a great trip in Spain and Valença.  Between Paris, Rome, and Madrid, I recommend Madrid than the others.  In Madrid, we felt safe and secure even into the late hours.  Food and clothing prices are reasonable and comparable to the U.S., but lower than the other two.  Also, the panhandlers in Madrid were few compared to Paris or Rome which is always a plus. 

1 Drunk Guy, 1 Rude Spanish Lady, 3 Kids: Our Flight to Madrid

As the title of this post states, we had an eventful flight from Dallas to Madrid.  Who could ask for a drunk guy, a rude Spanish lady, and 3 kids while traveling on a 9 hour flight! Continue reading 1 Drunk Guy, 1 Rude Spanish Lady, 3 Kids: Our Flight to Madrid

4 Free Nights at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme (or any other Hyatt in the World)

I just got through booking 4 free nights at the luxurious 5-star Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme which is located in the center of Paris for our 10th year wedding anniversary. Rooms at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme go for 578 euros, or $610,  a night!

Hyatt 1
One Pricey Hotel

 

How I Got 4 Free Nights Continue reading 4 Free Nights at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme (or any other Hyatt in the World)

How to Get Free Hotel Nights Without Credit Card Signups: BRGs

Most of my stays when I travel are free because of certain hotels’ Best Rate Guarantee(BRG) policy.  The simple way to explain a BRG is if you find a lower price on a third party website like Expedia, Hotels.com,  for the same hotel, same room, same date, same occupancy, and same cancellation policies you have the opportunity to claim a BRG and get one hotel night for free. I’ve successfully claimed free nights in New Orleans, New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, and many more!

How to find a BRG? Continue reading How to Get Free Hotel Nights Without Credit Card Signups: BRGs

Mazatlán: Traveling Ninjas Trip Report

This is a post of a series on Mazatlan.
I.    Mazatlán:  The Pearl of the Pacific
II.   Mazatlán:  Travel Ninjas Trip Report
III. Mazatlán:  In Pictures

We departed from Dallas/Fort-Worth (DFW) Airport Thursday, January 22nd at 9:40 am and landed  at General Rafael Buelna International Airport (MZT) around 11:15 am making it only a two-hour, 15 minute flight.  The weather when we left Dallas was 36 degrees Fahrenheit but 75 when we landed in Mazatlán!

Continue reading Mazatlán: Traveling Ninjas Trip Report