BUDGET

Okay I’m not really saying anyone is clueless, but if you just have no idea where you want to eat when you visit Disney the next time, here are some Disney World dining tips.

First of all, you may read a lot of articles telling you to save money pack a lunch in your backpack and nonsense like that. I say, don’t do things like that. You are on vacation, or at least you are having a mini holiday! For goodness sake, do not pack a lunch. Now, if you have an army of kids with you and you want to pack some snacks, sure, go ahead. But it really is a lot more fun if you eat in a restaurant even if it’s just a walk-up counter restaurant.

So anyway, your best bet for an interesting/good restaurant will be Epcot since you can choose the country and type of food you want to eat. Five years ago I would have said all the restaurants there were really good, and a few years earlier I would have highly recommended Italy. I had a superb meal there once before they change over to the new place they have now. But still, you can find some good eats there. Canada for example has a great steakhouse called Le Cellier. Bistro De Paris in France is well regarded but I have not tried it. I never thought I would like French food but after seeing Julie and Julia (or vice versa?) I had to re-think that attitude since it seems French food is American food with lots of butter. I happen to love butter.

Does anyone like those turkey legs they sell at Disney? The first time I saw someone carrying one around I thought they had an ice cream cone. Then I glanced over again and realized it was a turkey leg. They just do not look appealing to me. I don’t know.

There are a couple of walk-up counter service places I really like. One is Cosmic Ray’s over at the Magic Kingdom in Tomorrowland. I like it because the chicken is really good. I have actually never tried anything else. Yes, I am one of those people who, when I find something I like, I refuse to eat anything else. Well rarely do I switch. And I love the chicken there. You probably won’t think you are eating at Bobby Flay’s restaurant or anything like that but for the type of eatery this is, it’s pretty good, and you can also watch the robotic/animatronic Ray guy who will sing for you. Or…I don’t think he is a guy. I don’t really remember what he is. He sings and I think he plays the piano. But no matter, it’s cool, the air conditioner is running, and you can take a siesta from the heat.

The other counter place I love is over in Epcot, the Yorkshire County Fish Shop at the United Kingdom. Very good fish and chips there. I don’t even bother with the sit-down restaurants over in Epcot because I like this place so much. And I don’t even think they have anything else on the menu other than fish and chips so you won’t have to spend time perusing the menu and deciding what to have.

If you venture over to the resorts, there are lots more choices. Over at the Grand Floridian there are several really good restaurants to choose from including Narcoossee’s which is a seafood place, Citricos (Mediterranean), and Grand Floridan Cafe, American,  a great place for a weekend getaways for couples. You won’t go wrong with either of these three. At Fort Wilderness you will find the Trail’s End which has American food which is quite good. It’s a buffet at the moment and the food is simply, hearty, and good.

Of course that is just a tip of the iceberg when you start to discuss Disney World dining. But do try some of the restaurants and enjoy your vacation to the fullest.

If you want some tips to save money on your next Disney World trip, check out this Disney savings guide. It was written by a former employee.

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How to travel like a boss on a budget in Vietnam

Have you ever wished that you could live the lifestyle of the rich and famous? Being able to visit the most sumptuous locales and enjoy the best facilities the Vietnam has to offer?

How to travel on a budget in Vietnam

How to travel on a budget in Vietnam

Well, pretty much everyone wishes they could be Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for a day, but unfortunately, most of us don’t have the means to enjoy the jet set lifestyle. However, there are some ways that you enjoy a superstar holiday in Vietnam, but at a fraction of the price.

Most people associate private jets and charter flights with superstars and the jet set lifestyle. But did you know that it was actually possible for people like you and me to enjoy the benefits of a private flight at a reasonable cost? Prices on charter flights may vary between 800$ and 5000$ per hour, so depending on the quality and distance of the flight, it might actually be a good deal.

The secret is to book as a group instead of an individual. At the end of the day, if you live on the west coast and you wish to book a charter flight to a popular destination like Hanoi or Hochiminh City per instance, you could save tons of money if you book a group of 10 and more for the flight.

Since it is not a long distance and that you’ll be dividing the cost 10 ways, you could actually end up paying less than a regular flight without having to go through all the inconveniences of commercial airlines. That means no noisy passengers, no kids, and complete freedom and privacy for you and your group.

Here’s a nice tip to save money on your next flight and bypass baggage claim all together.  Lots of people make the mistake of bringing too much luggage with them. That makes the screening process that much more exhausting and inconvenient. But did you know that if you limit your luggage to one carry one bag only, you can save money on the checked baggage fee which will allow you to spend more on your trip?

Remember, the internet is your friend when it comes to finding hot deals on various amenities. A lot of people think that sites like voyagevietnam.co or Priceline are a waste of time and that you’ll end up in a subpar room in the middle of nowhere. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can sometimes find gems on these sites, so don’t overlook them next time you’re booking a flight or hotel room.

Superstar travels on a budget are possible if you know how to go about it. Consider booking a charter flight with a group of your friends, visit local travel agency site such as voyage vietnam to find deals and pack light if you want to save on baggage claim. This way, you should be able to enjoy 5 star travel in Vietnam with 3 star money.

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Today is our second wedding anniversary, and I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. Looking through our wedding pictures and receiving sweet notes from our families got me thinking about how crazy that time was before our wedding, and how I’m not exactly sure how I (we) got through it all. When we found out that Kevin had landed a job in the U.K,  we knew it meant we’d have to get married in a hurry if I was going to join him. We had been talking about marriage for a few months, but neither of us expected to have to pull a wedding together in 6 weeks. But somehow, we did it. And we had a lot of fun.

So, if you’re in a hurry to get hitched, or if you have an itty bitty budget, I have a little advice for you.

1. Get by with a little help from your friends (and family, and friends of friends).

If people offer to help, resist the urge to control everything, and let them. My mother in law set up the chairs for our ceremony. One of Kevin’s colleagues had a friend who offered up their backyard as a spot for our ceremony, and we made it work (free venue in Napa Valley!). A friend helped me get ready on the big day (after a hair tutorial from my stylist). We saved a ton of money on set up fees and avoided having to hire a planner.

2. Keep it small.

One of the best ways to get your wedding costs (and stress) under control is to keep your guest list short. We started with a list of 120 and narrowed it down to only 45, and it was the best decision we made. The small guest list reduced our hassle and expense, but it also allowed us to enjoy quality time with everyone who attended. We emailed the friends and family who weren’t invited and told them the truth-that we love and appreciate them, but that we could neither afford nor manage a big wedding. The responses were overwhelmingly kind and supportive.

3. Be resourceful.

I hired one of my former students (who is now studying photography) to be our photographer. I cared about getting great candid shots more than portraits, and I knew she could handle it. Her services for the evening cost us all of $200. Kevin’s best friend played his guitar at our ceremony. His services were free. For our reception we brought our iPod with a pre-planned playlist and Bose speakers, and saved ourselves the cost of a DJ or band (as well as awful requests like the Hokey Pokey).

4. Throw tradition out the window.

Given the size of our wedding, we decided not to have a wedding party. When you only have 35 in attendance, it feels like one big, unofficial wedding party, except no one had to spend money on matching outfits. One of our closest friends officiated the wedding, which allowed us to personalize the ceremony as much as we wanted to (we kept it short and sweet at 8 minutes long). We didn’t care much about having a traditional cake, so we saved a lot of money by letting our guests order dessert off the menu at the restaurant that hosted our reception.

5. Prioritize.

In the age of Pinterest and a gazillion wedding blogs, it’s easy to get carried away with the planning and spend hours (if not days) agonizing over decor and favors. Do you remember the favors from weddings you went to 5 years ago? Or what colors the flowers were? Neither do I. People remember who they met, how much they drank and danced, and whether or not it was a fun wedding. We decided to put the bulk of our budget towards food and booze, and our guests seemed pretty pleased with that decision.

6. Don’t waste time organizing things that don’t need to be organized.

I sat down to organize a seating chart, agonized over it for a few hours, then gave up. I realized that our guests are adults who are perfectly capable of picking a chair, sitting in it, and enjoying their evening. It wasn’t necessary for me to micromanage the experience. Everyone made new friends and the seating chart ended up being a non-issue.

*I did create a seating chart for the “head table” so we could sit with friends who had participated in the ceremony.

7. Remember that it’s your wedding.

Kevin and I decided from day 1 of planning that we were willing to hear advice and input from family and friends, but that ultimately our wedding would be about, well,us. Guests were going to have to choose between a vegetarian and a meat option because I’m a vegetarian. Meat eaters would have to either enjoy their steak dinner or try something new. We walked down the aisle together, hand in hand, because we were starting our life together. My dad didn’t give me away because, well, that’s just antiquated nonsense. Obviously every couple and every family is different (ours kept pretty quiet about their opinions and let us do as we pleased), but it’s really important to filter out the noise and plan the wedding you would enjoy the most.

8. Don’t fall into the wedding markup trap.

Venues and vendors mark up their rates significantly for weddings. Whenever you can get away with it-lie your ass off. We told the restaurant that we were renting the space for a going away party, we told the chair vendor that we were renting for a garden party, and so on. They’re not going to come after you for the secret markup if they find out you’re lying! Another secret: use small or lesser known vendors whenever possible. We found our amazingly talented and affordable florist on Yelp. She does flowers for parties and weddings as a hobby, which meant she was really flexible (we hired her 2 weeks before the event) and easy to work with. And did I mention talented?

9. Make it a multi-day affair.

We were living in California wine country when we got married, so we invited everyone to come for a three-day weekend and enjoy everything Napa Valley has to offer. We set up an itinerary on our wedding site and let people choose which activities they’d like to do with us, as well as other options if they wanted to go their own way. We had a really fun wine tasting caravan the day before our wedding, and it allowed us to spend quality time with everyone, which left us feeling relaxed before the big day.

10. Enjoy the process and the day.

Don’t let anyone tell you that nonsense about how you won’t spend time with your spouse at the reception, and you won’t have time to eat, blah blah blah. Make time for what is important. Enjoy yourself, and don’t succumb to the cultural pressure to have the BIGGEST MOST MEMORABLE WEDDING EVER. Focus on having fun and appreciate the special moments. You only get to do this once.
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