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The countdown to Cuba

Havana-street

About this time last year, my sister and I were discussing where we could go on our next “sisters adventure” trip. Previous trips included a cruise to Alaska, New Orleans, northern Italy, and countless day trips up island. This time we wanted something a bit different, and my sister was really into the idea of going to Cuba for her birthday. We weren’t able to get our acts together to go last year, but with my sister’s birthday coming up, we went ahead and booked a one-week trip to Cuba! :)

The trip isn’t until mid-May, but I’m already excited. We both agreed on having a city vacation instead of staying in a resort, so we booked a hotel right in the middle of Old Havana. From there, we will be able to walk to many of the main attractions in the city, and if we want to hit the beach we can just take a taxi or bus.

As for the financials, I am covering half of my sister’s airfare/hotel as part of her birthday present. So the total cost to me will be around $2,050 – which does not include meals.

Our hotel stay covers breakfast, but we are on our own for lunch, dinner, and any drinks or snacks. Which is fine, because I’m interested in trying out new restaurants and local food. Although I did a bit of Googling and am a bit concerned about finding healthy vegetarian options, but am sure I can make it work. :)

So if you’ve been to Cuba before, I’d love to hear about your favourite restaurants, attractions, and beaches! Is it worth renting a car? Anything to avoid? Is there anywhere outside of Havana we should definitely see?

Hawaii, I’m coming for you!

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58176_440295435247_507680247_5842370_5352369_nIn 18 days, I’ll be headed to Kauai – the smallest of the four major Hawaiian islands. :)

We are in desperate need of a vacation. BF especially. He has been under a lot of stress lately, and neither of us has had a holiday for longer than 4 or 5 days in almost a year. So for the past week, we’ve been throwing around ideas about where we should go on vacation this year. We were thinking of everywhere from Paris to Lisbon to Jamaica. We almost booked a trip to Mexico, but ended up deciding on Kauai since neither of us have been there before.

A few years ago I was in Maui for a good friend’s wedding and had a great time. But I remember being shocked at how expensive everything was, so for this trip I’m going to be more prepared. I spent $1,100 in 2010 for the 5-day trip, and this trip won’t be significantly more expensive – despite staying longer, and at a much fancier hotel.

Here’s an approximate breakdown of the expenses:

Flight: $0

The direct flights actually cost $586 per person, but we are using our credit card rewards points, so both of our flights are free. :)

Hotel: $800 (7 nights)

One of BF’s good friends works for a global hotel chain. She was nice and let us use her friends & family discount to book a place to stay. So what would have been a $500/night resort ended up costing us $237/night after resort taxes/fees – which is still expensive! But since we got our flights for free, we decided to splurge. This hotel will definitely be the fanciest place I’ve ever stayed at before.

Car: $65

The rental cost us $130 for 7 nights, and was a nobrainer for us. There’s free parking at the resort, and a taxi would have cost $100 roundtrip from the airport or the shuttle would have been $42 roundtrip. We already have a growing list of places we want to visit, and I’m really looking forward to exploring and seeing what the island has to offer.

Food/Alcohol: $400

This is budgeting approximately $60 per person, per day. I anticipate making breakfast in our room, and packing simple beach picnics for lunch. Dinners we’ll likely go out for, but they don’t have to be fancy.

Miscellaneous: $300

We’d like to do a half day snorkeling trip on a catamaran ($140-180), so I’m budgeting in that amount plus any other miscellaneous expenses that might come up.

TOTAL: $1,565

With the discounts and points we were able to use, we saved approximately 50% on this trip – $950 per person on the hotel, and $586 per person on flights – saving us each a grand total of $1,536. Of course, we could have stayed at a much cheaper hotel. But our budget was $1,500 each for this holiday, and we were right on target. :)

So for those who have been to Kauai before, does anyone have any tips on what to see and where to eat?

Heading to the Oregon Coast!

oregoncoast

oregoncoastI mentioned briefly in my post about postponing big travel plans that we are headed to the Oregon Coast on Friday. :) I’m really excited for this trip because work has been pretty busy, and I feel like it’s been forever since the last vacation. But, since everything is a bit up in the air with expenses this year and how much I can really expect to make with scaled back freelancing and my new job, I thought it would be a good idea to map out the expenses.

Here is an estimate of what I think my portion of the spending will be for the 5 days we’ll be gone:

Hotel – $205 (4 nights)
Food – $200
Entertainment – $150
Gas – $80
Miscellaneous – $50

ESTIMATED TOTAL: $685

A short, but sweet trip. And the cost isn’t too bad. I mean, it definitely could have been cheaper if we wanted to spend less on accommodation. None of the places we are staying at are fancy, but they’re all right on the beach, so that means the prices fall about mid-range at about $100/night. The estimated gas cost I got from plugging our mileage into the trip planner on GasBuddy.com, so I think it will be pretty accurate.

Based on the way we’ve traveled in the past, we’re both pretty good at eating simply. We are going to bring a cooler for veggies (bringing the juicer along), as well as food for lunches, etc. I do anticipate going out to eat for dinners, and I think our only splurge meal will be when we go out with my friends.

As for entertainment, we plan on hanging out in Oregon Dunes National Park (and renting dune buggies!), as well as checking out the Tillamook Cheese Factory. :)  Other than that, it’ll just be spending time at the beach, and relaxing.

The countdown is on. Now, my fingers are crossed the rain holds off and we get a bit of sunshine on our trip. :)

P.S. Has anyone gone to Sea Lion Caves before? Is it worth it? I’m having a hard time convicing BF that it’s worthy of a stop on our trip.

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