Travel

Category Archives for Travel.

Trip Report: My Texas-sized road trip to Austin, Big Bend National Park & Marfa

trip report big bend

I spent most of last week partying in Austin, hiking in Big Bend National Park, and driving. Lots of driving. I drove over 1,000 miles last week. But let me tell you: West Texas is insanely gorgeous. I had no idea. I kept thinking, “This is Texas?!” as I hiked and drove around the Big Bend area, very much in the middle of nowhere.

I was also able to squeeze in the River Road drive between Lajitas and Presidio (on my way to Marfa), 67 miles of pure twisty mountainous highway considered to be the most scenic drive in Texas and one of the most beautiful in the country.

All the hiking and driving made me feel, at times, that I was perhaps the last person on Earth. It’s such beautiful nature out there. And at night, you can see thousands and millions of stars and glimpses of the Milky Way, which make you feel like you’re on the fringes of the galaxy – which you actually are. Absolutely cosmic.

Big Bend trip report

At the terminus of Lost Mine trail, on the mountains… in Texas!

I wasn’t expecting so many mountains. Or to experience such biodiversity in Big Bend. For example, did you know there are bears in Texas? I sure didn’t. But sure enough, the park is populated with thriving black bears, along with mountain lions, deer, rattlesnakes, and lots of other critters that move between scorched desert to canyon to near-jungle, from cactus flowers to alpines.

Here’s more from the trip.

Big Bend trip report

Read More

Booked: A Texas Road Trip to Austin & Big Bend National Park

I don’t post industry news – and as most of the world remains closed to Americans, I’ve withdrawn inward. Instead of planes, I’ve found solace in my car during the pandemic. My last trip was to Arkansas, and that was back in July.

I’ve been mostly shut-in, but am venturing out again, feeling more empowered and eager to explore. A wandering soul needs to wander.

My next trip is to Big Bend National Park via Austin at the end of this month. Two nights in Austin at the Hyatt Place Austin-North Central, then three nights in Terlingua, TX at this cute Airbnb cabin outside the entrance to Big Bend. Then back to Dallas through Midland and Abilene.

texas road trip 2020

The lil cabin I booked in Terlingua, TX

I used Hyatt points and a free night credit from my Chase World of Hyatt card for the two nights in Austin, so they were completely free. And paid for the Airbnb with my Chase Freedom Flex via PayPal, which is a 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points category in Q4 2020.

That Freedom Flex is a beast, I’m tellin’ ya

The only expenses I’ll have on the trip are gas, food, and pet fees at the Hyatt hotel. I’ve been wanting to visit Big Bend for as long as I’ve lived in Texas.

I took election week off to spend in nature and take a break from all the media and craziness. Coincidentally, I’ll be in Big Bend for Day of the Dead this year.

Texas road trip 2020

Read More

5 Easy Ways to Earn Points for Airbnb Stays (Updated 2020)

save on airbnb

My friend Meghan asked if I knew of any ways to save on an Airbnb booking. I gave the obvious one – get up to $35 off a booking with a new account.

save on airbnb

New to Airbnb? Save $20 off your first $200+ stay, plus get $15 off your first $50+ experience booking

Most everyone has an Airbnb account by now. But if you don’t, here’s my link if you’d like to sign up (and I’ll get a $10 travel credit as well).

That’s honestly the biggest savings. Still, there are other ways to get a return on your Airbnb stay: earn points or miles for it. Depending how you like to redeem them, you can get big value by stacking a few of the methods I’ll tell you about.

Lezz begin, shall ve?

5 ways to earn points and miles for Airbnb stays

Read More

Allbirds: The perfect travel shoes? (Updated 2020)

allbirds review

It’s weird to write about travel shoes in the middle of a pandemic. But I wanted to refresh this article since it’s been up for a while and I have more experience to reflect on.

My first encounter with Allbirds was an article with the kinda clickbait-y title, “The Most Comfortable Shoes in the World.” I rolled my eyes a bit but definitely clicked on it. Because I like to take one pair of shoes with me when I travel: the ones on my feet. So I was curious what had been singled out as “the one.”

Before Allbirds, my go-to was New Balance. They have that appearance of “casual athletic” – and of course the big reflective “N” logo – so I’m comfort-over-style.

For the last three years, I’ve been wearing Allbirds more often than not.

allbirds review

Hanging in my Allbirds

The idea of a comfortable and attractive shoe lured me in. They come in basic colors, they’re $95 a pop, and the founders are committed to design, sustainability, and ethical standards.

What began as a six-month test evolved into a brand preference. And I still get comments about them all the time.

Each pair lasts me ~9 months. I’m on my third or fourth pair by now. Safe to say I’m now a fan.

My Allbirds review, three years later

Read More

My first vacation during coronavirus was really weird

I had to get out. My last trip was to Cabo San Lucas in early March. So for the July 4 “holiday weekend,” I met my mom and stepdad in Heber Springs, AR. It’s a cute mountain town ~45 minutes north of Little Rock.

We booked two nights at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Heber Springs. I had plenty of IHG points – and they’re the only pet-friendly place in town for a road trip with the pup.

After being home for 4 months and only leaving to get groceries, I was ready to be anywhere.

my first coronavirus vacation

What a unique name for a sandy beach

I started out by taking photos of the hotel room as if I was going to do a review and trip report like old times. Well that lasted about two seconds before I realized traveling during this pandemic is just a really weird experience.

From what I saw, about half were taking the virus seriously. And the other half were carrying on like nothing was happening. It was a really strange vibe to reconcile in my mind.

Now that I struck out and traveled, I don’t think I can enjoy trips the way I used to. It wasn’t the same. Maybe I’m not ready for the new normal?

Heber Springs, AR: The site of my first coronavirus vacation

Read More

Ways to support Out and Out during the COVID-19 pandemic

What a strange time to be a travel blogger. And what an especially strange time to be a travel blogger who’s also interested in personal finance topics. I can’t travel, and the economy is going through one of the rockiest, decline-iest, bear market-yist times in a generation – or a lifetime. #iquit #not

There’s no question page views and blog revenues are declining right now. There’s simply lack of interest and people are more preoccupied with daily existence rather than aspirational trips and points balances. I’m still here and ready to get back those types of reports. Trust me, I’m ready to book an epic trip the second things return to normal (in my cabin fever haze).

But what really rattled me was when my company slashed everyone’s salary and started cutting expenses left and right. So now I’m low-key worried about my future and thought – well, there’s no harm in asking for support. Plus, many readers might not know there are so many ways to support the blogs they enjoy. Including mine.

It’s always been hard for me to ask for support. But I figure nothing ventured, nothing gained. And oh, how I’d like to venture right now!

Ways to support Out and Out

Cheers to the many years this blog has been around

Many of the ways you can support are super simple – by clicking a link at no cost to you. Affiliate links are free for you and directly support the blogger of your choice – including me.

And most links have a benefit to you in the form of promotions for services we’re mutually interested in.

I encourage everyone to support the blogs, little guys, small businesses, and local joints they love – we need you more than ever during this pandemic. So please please please use our links!

I will also go ahead and say thank you for the first of many times throughout this post. Thank you for your support!

Ways to support Out and Out

Read More

Review of My $100 Stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

Writing this now is so weird because my last trip was exactly a month go today. In early March, I headed to Cabo San Lucas to enjoy a 4-night stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos. Read about how I booked it for $100 per person – including flights – for what would’ve been a $2,600 trip.

And now I’m reminiscing because I don’t know when my next trip will be, which would’ve seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago. I have FinCon set up in Long Beach in early October. Sure hope I can still get to that. But no jet-setting or hopping around the globe for a while. I’m craving a nice long trip to Europe. ✈️🇪🇺

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos review

Cabo was my last trip in a pre-virus world. Here I am a month ago at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

So I’ll take my time writing this one. While we were in Cabo, word was already starting to circulate about this mysterious new virus. But it wasn’t in full effect yet.

Because of the constant news cycles and information, I feel like this trip was years ago instead of four weeks. 😝

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos review

Read More

FoundersCard Review 2020: Benefits, Updates, Cost – And Is It Worth It?

Time to update my FoundersCard review for 2020! I’ve been a member for 6 years by now. Each year, they add more (and more useful) benefits, keep the best ones, and refine their partnerships based on member demand and use.

The upshot is making the most of even ONE perk can outweigh the $395 membership – and the rest is gravy. And when you sign up with my link, your rate will never go up.

I’ve used the 15% AT&T discount, Hilton Gold elite status, and Caesars Total Rewards Diamond elite status (which is back this year through January 2021!) to cover and exceed the membership cost.

And there are new benefits for 2020!

FoundersCard review 2020

Wow, has it really been 6 years? Just renewed my FoundersCard membership again as a Charter Member and yes that’s a really old picture

Here’s everything to know before you apply for membership.

FoundersCard Review 2020

Read More

Booked: How I used points to save $2,000+ on five days at FinCon 2020

fincon 2020

Dang, conferences are expensive these days! Especially if you’re paying for it yourself and not getting reimbursed from a job. But FinCon is one I’m happy to self-finance.

I’m genuinely interested in the content, meeting like-minded peeps, and immersing myself in a world of ideas about money. Now that I’m FIRE-ing up my efforts more than ever and missed last year in DC, I simply had to go. But I didn’t want to pay the piper.

So I burned a batch of old Marriott points for a five-night stay only four minutes from the conference hall, plus a few Amex Membership Rewards points. And used Citi ThankYou points and statement credits to fly there and back. The only thing I’ll pay for is food, rideshares to/from the airports, and dog boarding. 💥

fincon 2020 points

There’s yours truly among the revelers at FinCon

All told, I think I paid ~$100 for the flights and hotel. FinCon, here I come!

FinCon 2020 with points

Read More

Booked: Four all-inclusive nights in Cabo worth $2,600 for $202 + 145K points (1.8 cpp)

hyatt ziva los cabos

For the third year in a row, I’m heading to a Hyatt all-inclusive vacation in Mexico with an old friend from Chicago. The past two years, we’ve gone to the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.

This year, we’re switching it up and visiting the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos! I’ve never been to Cabo – and a look at all the restaurants at the hotel was all the convincing I needed.

We could’ve booked PVR again – it all lined up with points – but said nah, let’s visit a new property. After this trip, I will have been to all the Hyatt all-inclusives in Mexico with the exception of the Hyatt Ziva Cancun. And if it’s anything like the past two years, it’s going to be an amazing beach chill-out.

hyatt ziva los cabos with points

Y’all know I can’t pay out-of-pocket for this rn

But I have aggressive financial goals to raise my net worth to $500,000 in the next five years. So there was no way I’d remotely consider paying for this experience.

Instead, I used my points arsenal for flights on Alaska, American, Southwest, and United – and the Hyatt stay itself – with help from Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Amex Membership Rewards points.

Here’s how I saved $2,637 and paid a cool $202 out-of-pocket. A much better price!

Los Cabos with points 2020

Read More

Why I’m Moving (Even More) to Citi ThankYou Points – And Away From Chase

Like most points fanatics, I held Chase Ultimate Rewards points in the highest regard. It was my primary points program for years. At a recent Meetup, I asked everyone to include their favorite points program on their name tag. Literally everyone put Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

I was the odd one out. I proudly put Citi ThankYou points – which spurred interesting conversation. Because I haven’t really used my Chase cards since January 2019, when Citi Prestige unveiled 5X points earning for flights and dining with the Citi Prestige card.

Chase’s nearest competitor to Citi Prestige, the famed Sapphire Reserve, slid to ye olde sock drawer. Then, when the $450 annual fee came due, I downgraded it to the Freedom Unlimited, which I’ve used exactly never.

Why? Well, for my spending patterns, ThankYou points are much easier to earn. Combine that with the fact that Ultimate Rewards points aren’t as shiny as they once were and you have a recipe for saying “Chase Ultimate… who?

Sorry, Chase. It’s not me, it’s you.

citi thankyou points

One’s in, one’s out – which is which?

I say this as someone who is soon to be 2/24 (did I hear you gasp just then?). I mean sure, I’ll prolly get a couple more Chase cards for the sign-up bonuses. But I doubt it’ll change my long-term spending strategy.

Here’s my reasoning.

Chase No-Longer-Ultimate Rewards points

Read More

Mexico City Trip Report: Teotihuacan Ruins, Xochimilco Canals, & Frida Kahlo’s Blue House

This time a month ago, I was headed to Mexico City for Round Two, after a pretty terrible time there in November 2018. I’m happy it turned out to be the quintessential visit, including:

  • Amazing food
  • Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan
  • A boat ride in Xochimilco
  • Frida Kahlo’s studio home
  • A walk through Chapultepec Park
  • Shopping at one of the sprawling street markets

Mexico City is vibrant, welcoming, safe… and brimming with attractions. There are museums galore, amazing restaurants, tons of green spaces, architecture, historical sites, nightlife, and so much more to enjoy. And, it’s easy to get around, considering everything is a ~$10 Uber ride away (Lyft isn’t there as of August 2019). We didn’t even bother with the subways.

I could’ve spent a month there and it wouldn’t have been enough. Considering it’s only a ~2-hour flight from Dallas, I can see myself returning for a quick weekend visit. Plus, temps are in the 70s (with lows in the 50s/60s) all year, because it’s set in the temperate basin of a mountain valley. So coming from Texas, I got a mid-summer cool-down. 🤠

Mexico City Trip Report

Here I am with a shirt and bag from the street market, trying pulque for the first time in Mexico City

I’ll share the trip highlights!

Mexico City trip report 2019

Read More