To the Northeast

Planning a Trip

Preparing for a trip is almost as fun as actually going on the trip.  I spend months reading about the places I’m visiting, watching videos, and researching online to determine how I want to spend my time.  Below, you will find a rough view of how I start to put together a trip.  I always plan the rooms ahead of time, but from there the calendar is pretty open.  If there is something in particular I want to do, I will make a reservation, but I try not to tie myself down too much.

Well, we are on our way.  I’ll try to post each day about our adventures.  We’ll see how well this calendar actually holds up.

Calendar

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
16-9 Hour Drive

Leave @ 6am

Stop in Detroit for Lunch
Toronto

Banksy Exhibit @ 9pm

Queen Street West-Graffiti Alley

17-4.5 Hour Drive

Ottawa

Leave @ 8am
Nordik Massage @ 3:00

Gatineau Park

Byward Market

18

Ottawa
Rent Bikes at Rideau Canal

Fairmont Château Laurier

Major’s Hill Park

Parliament Hill

Canadian War Museum

Westboro Neighborhood

Wellington Gastro Pub

19-2.5 Hour Drive

Montreal

Leave @ 9am
-Old Town

Hidden Alley

Notre Dame Basilica

Atwater Market

Rooftop Terrace

St-Viateur Bagels

20

Montreal
Schwartz’s Deli
La Banquise

Ruelle verte

Mont Royal

Oratoire Saint-Joseph

Plateau and Mile End

Biosphere

Mad Hatters

Metalomania

21-3 Hour Drive

Quebec City

Leave @ 11am
Unibroue

Chez Biceps BBQ

-Old Town

-Festibiere

L’Affaire Est Ketchup

22

Quebec City

Île d’Orléans

Wendake Indian Reservation

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

Le Bouche Réservation @ 7:00

23-5.5 Hour Drive

Portland

Leave @ 9am
Montmorency Falls

Zipline @ 11:00

SchoonerFest

DeMillo’s for Dinner

24

Portland
Allagash Brewery

Bite Into Maine Lobster Rolls

International Cryptozoology Museum

Street and Co. DInner

25-4 Hour Drive

Burlington

Leave @ 12pm

26

Burlington
Beer Crawl

27-6 Hour Drive

Finger Lakes

Leave @ 8am
Ommegang Brewery

-Visit Wineries and Bring Back Food to Cabin

28

Finger Lakes
Wine Tour

29-5.5 Hour Drive

Pittsburgh

Leave @ 8am
-Polish Food

30-8 Hour Drive to Home

Leave @ 10am
-Have Breakfast First

-Stop in Cleveland for Break

Canada 2018 Itinerary

  • June 16-Day One of Vacation, Stay in Toronto (9 hour drive)
  • June 17-Leave Toronto for Ottawa (4.5 Hour Drive)
  • June 18-Second Day in Ottawa
  • June 19-Leave Ottawa for Montreal (2 hour drive)
  • June 20-Second Day in Montreal
  • June 21-Leave Montreal for Quebec City (4 hour drive)-Stop at Unibroue and Trois Rivieries
  • June 22-Second Day in Quebec City
  • June 23-Leave Quebec City for Portland (5.5 hour drive)
  • June 24-Second Day in Portland
  • June 25-Leave Portland for Vermont (4 hour drive)
  • June 26-Second Day in Vermont
  • June 27-Leave for Finger lakes (6 hour drive)-Stop at Ommegang
  • June 28-Second Day in Finger Lakes
  • June 29-Leave for Pittsburgh (5.5 hour drive)
  • June 30-Head Home (8 Hour Drive)

44h Trip

Canada 2018 Ideas

  • Toronto (1 night)
    • Casa Loma
    • Starving Artist-Waffles
    • The Art of Banksy Exhibition
    • Queen Street West-Graffiti Alley
      • Barchef
      • Queen West Antique Center
      • Skyyard at the Drake Hotel
      • Type Books
  • Ottawa (2 nights)
    • ByWard Market-Farm to Table
    • Notre Dame Basilica
    • Parliament Hill
    • The Grand Pizza (VB)
    • Beaver tail
    • Check out Up and Coming Towns (Look for victoire store)
    • Brew Donkey Craft Beer Tours (VB)
    • Wellington Gastro Pub-pair music with food (VB)
    • Spa Outside of Ottawa Nordik (VB)
    • Rideau Canal-Rent Bikes
    • Gatineau Park
  • Montreal (2 nights)
  • Quebec City (2 nights)
    • Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (Get Old Fashioned Fairmount)
    • Old Town
    • Wendake
    • jacques cartier national park
    • Le Bouche (Quebecois Restaurant with bearded guys)
    • L’Affaire Est Ketchup (cook on electric stoves and heavy metal music)
    • Chez Biceps BBQ (Bacon in Bourbon)
    • Battuto Italian restaurant
    • He boislocal beer crawl
    • Festibiere
    • Snack bar poutine
    • Montmorency Falls
    • Picnic on The Plains of Abraham
    • Quartier Petit Champlain
    • Île d’Orléans-Countryside
    • SCANNER BISTRO-Heavy Metal Bar
    • BATEAU DE NUIT-Heavy Metal Bar
  • Portland, Maine (2 Nights)
    • Allagash Brewery
    • International Cryptozoology Museum
  • Vermont (2 nights)
  • Finger Lakes New York (2 nights)
  • Pittsburgh (1 Night)

Earning Miles with Credit Cards

Boots and Airplane-5974If you are new to the world of earning miles/points with credit cards, join me as we learn together.  This past week I got together with a friend that is an expert on making the most of sign-up bonuses and booking flights.  He is self-taught, but very successful with earning miles/points for flights.  After meeting, we came up with an action plan that will work for me.  Let me share all the cool tidbits I learned.

Airlines 101

I think I’ve only flown on three airlines my entire life: United, Aer Lingus, and Delta.  Airlines partner with many other airlines, so it is wise to join the frequent flyer clubs of some of the the majors (United, American Airlines, etc.).  It is free, so why not?

Want to earn some extra points with the big names?  Visit their shopping portals to earn extra points on items you plan on buying anyway.  This is perfect for the holiday season!

Credit Card Basics

There are some basic fundamentals that will help you with your journey into the world of earning flights.  Here are some key pieces I’ve learned:

-Be prepared to pay for your credit card balance.  Earning points is not about accruing credit card debt.  If you want the points, you have to pay your bills in full and on time.

-Do your homework ahead of time.  You will want to visit the resource section below to help you.  Consider the following questions: how much can I spend, what airlines will I be using, is this smart for domestic/international travel, and can I apply for a business card.  Let’s learn why these questions are important.

-Most credit cards have a minimum spending amount within a certain amount of time.  It can range from $0 to $20,000 within a certain period.  Make sure you can handle it.

-Decide whether flying domestically or internationally is your goal.  If you are thinking domestically, British Airways may be your best bet (oddly enough).  If you are thinking internationally, you may want to consider American Airlines depending on your destination.

-Business cards earn more rewards.  If you can handle the minimum spending amounts, be creative with using a “business” to help you earn points.

Resources

There are some great blogger experts out there ready to reveal their secrets.  Like their pages on Facebook to keep up with the word on the street.

The Miles Professor-This article is great for beginners.

Mile Value-Another great resource to get you started

American Airlines Award Chart-Major airlines have an award chart to let you know approximately how many points you will need to book a flight with rewards.  Simply search the airline name and award chart.  Here is a sample chart for American Airlines.

Award Wallet-Keep track of all your credit cards with this free, handy site.

My Plan

I’m starting small with the Barclay Arrival Card.  The minimum expense is $1,000 within three months.  Then I will branch out to the American Airlines card.  That one is $3,000 within three months for 50,000 points (at least one free flight).  From there, I will look into the business card world once I’m a little more comfortable.

I am hoping to become a pro at this someday, but until then, I will share insider tips that I learn.  Have you earned flights with points/miles?  Please share your experiences!

Paris Metro 101

CiteThe Paris Metro is like arteries hidden under the city skin.  These tunnels take you all over the city.  I love rising from the Metro to find unexplored territory, or a grand sight right before me.  Some people may be intimidated by the system, but it really is efficient and much more affordable than a taxi.  I do have to warn you that it is not handicap-friendly.  If stairs or some walking are challenging for you, it may not be the best mode of transportation.  If you are looking for a how-to or some simple tips, read below for more information.

paris vacation 101Getting Ready for the Metro

Finding a Metro is typically easy unless you are away from the city center.  It can be handy to pick up a map that contains city streets and the Metro plan.  Even if you aren’t staying in a hotel, you can probably sneak in to pick one up.  If you are going soon, make sure the Metro map is updated.  They recently expanded some of the lines, so it is important to have an updated map.  You can always download a copy from the website as well.

Once you reach the Metro, you will descend to purchase tickets.  There are some machines that only take cards.  If you have a chipped card, you can use this, otherwise you will need a machine that accepts cash.  Make sure you have bills less than 50 €.

If you plan on using the Metro more than a couple times, I recommend purchasing a carnet.  This is a package deal containing 10 tickets for a little over 13 €.  Some Metro stations have a person working if you need to ask questions, but don’t rely on that.

Your ticket will be good until you pass through an exit.  You do not need a new ticket to change lines or go back if you made a mistake.  You could technically explore all of Paris underground if you wanted to.  Personally, I prefer the view above ground.

How the Metro WorksTurnstile

You’ve got your ticket, and you made it past the turnstile (sometimes this is more challenging than you would think), now what?  This is where having a metro map can be helpful in creating a plan ahead of time.  If you don’t have a map, there are maps posted on the walls.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the metro map, but you can click the map below to be linked so you can follow along.  Let’s do this step by step:

1. Find the Metro stop you are currently in.

2. Find the Metro stop you want to go to.

3. If it is on the same line (color/number), then this will be really easy, but that doesn’t happen very often.  Simply look in the direction you want to go until you find the last stop.  You will use the last stop to help you determine which direction you will go.  For example, if I was at Georges V and I wanted to go to Saint Paul, I would look for the sign that points to Chateau de Vincennes.  Then I would follow the signs until I reach the tunnel where I wait for the train.  Get on, and watch for your stop.

4.  If you need to change lines, don’t fret.  Do be prepared for some walking though.  Some stations are small, while others may have you walking close to a half mile.  Let’s say I’m at my home Metro stop of St. Paul and I want to go to Canal St. Martin.  I look at the map to see how I can make the fewest connections possible.  I notice that I will take line 1 to Chateau de Vincinnes to get on line 5 and exit at Bastille.  Then I will determine what the last station is in the direction I want to go.  I see that it is Bobigny Pablo Picaso, so I follow the signs that point to Bobigny Pablo Picaso.  When the train arrives, I’ll hop on and get off at Republique to make my way to Canal St. Martin.

Want some practice scenarios?  Check these out and look for the answers at the bottom of the post.  Remember, there is more than one way to get where you want to go, but typically we want the most straightforward approach.

Metro Map1. Hotel de Ville to Gare de Lyon

2. Abbesses to Châtlet

3. Opera to Tuilieries

Important Reminders

After going through the turnstile, make sure you put your ticket in a safe place.  I have never been on the Metro when they check your tickets, but I’ve heard from others that they do check.  Hold onto it to verify you paid your way so you won’t be paying more later.

One of the most important points to remember is to watch your valuable items.  The Metro is a mecca for pickpockets because we are easily distracted and the trains can become quite packed.  Try to keep your hand over your purse or pocket with your wallet, or wear a moneybelt.  Zippers and buttons are no match for pickpockets.  To learn other tips, check out my blog post about the topic.

Using the MetroWaiting for the Metro

Now that we have a better idea of how to use the Metro, we will be ready for the first installment of Paris by Metro tomorrow.  The first post will feature the Cité Metro stop and all of the wonderful sights within a kilometer.

 

 

Answer Key

1-Look for Line 1 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes.  Get off at Gare de Lyon.

2-Look for Line 12 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Mairie d’Issy.  Get off at Concord.  Find Line 1 and head in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes.  Get off at Châtlet.

–or–

Look for Line 12 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Mairie d’Issy.  Get off at Madeline.  Find Line 14 and head in the direction of Olypiades.  Get off at Châtlet.

3-Look for Line 7 and take the Metro in the direction of Villejuif-Louis Aragon or Mairie d’Ivry (the line branches off, but this time it doesn’t matter which one you take).  Get off at Palais Royal/Musee de Louvre.  Find Line 1 and head in the direction of La Defense.  Get off at Tuilieries (and enjoy the gardens :).

Travel on a Budget

paris vacation 103Being a teacher makes me a budget traveler.  I cut back in other areas of my life so traveling can be possible.  I may not own a house anytime soon, but that is not my priority.  Besides watching my spending carefully, I have some tricks to save on the expenses of the trip.  I’ve broken it down to before, during, and after the trip to save money efficiently.

Before the Trip

Carefully consider your destination(s).

-Some places are much more affordable than others.  If you want to avoid high currency rates and an expensive lifestyle, avoid Switzerland and Scandinavia.  Eastern Europe, South America, and Thailand are all examples of places where money can be saved.

Stay in an apartment.

-If you are planning on making a city your home base, consider renting an apartment.  This summer I will be paying less than 60 Euros a day for my month-long stay in Paris. If I was traveling with others I could save even more money.  If you are going to be mobile on your trip, then this will not be a money-saver.

Book your flight in advance.Sunset

-I hear about people saving money on booking flights last minute, but I have never pulled this off.  I bought my flight for June back in January.  If I were to buy it now, I would pay over $300 more.  I also like to buy my flight directly from the airline.  I use sites like Skyscanner to get a feel for prices, and investigate more on the airline’s website.  If you are visiting multiple cities, fly into one city and out of another.  This will save you time and money.  Finally, be creative.  I am flying through Scandinavian Airlines even though my destination is not in Scandinavia.  It was the best bargain.  Aer Lingus is another source I turn to frequently for European flights.

Consider passes to save money.

-Museum passes and city passes can offer some savings if you know you are going to hit a lot of major sights.  Just make sure you don’t overload yourself on museums.

During the Trip

Salad3Eat out for lunch and fix something for dinner.

-Eating out is cheaper at lunch than at dinner.  I don’t know what it is about travel, but I am typically starving a lunch.  I need a substantial meal to give me the energy I need to explore in the afternoon and evening.  I fill up at lunch with cheaper prices and then fix something for dinner.  Even if you don’t have a kitchen where you are staying, you can make this work.  Pick up some fruit and veggies at the market and some meats and cheeses to make a sandwich. Even if you don’t do this for every dinner, cutting back on a few will help you out.

Obtain currency from the ATM with a debit card.

-I have made the mistake of getting money from my bank and the airport.  This really limited how far my dollar could go.  The most efficient way to acquire money abroad is from an ATM with your debit card.  I take out the limit provided at the ATM (usually between 200-300).  I try to use my credit card when possible for other purchases because there is no fee. 

Be stingy with souvenirs.  Mask-2

-My first few trips were quite costly.  When I look back it was mostly a shopping trip.  Not just for me, but I love to buy gifts for people I care about.  Over time I have realized that it was costing me a lot of money and really weighing down my bag.  Perhaps a postcard isn’t such a bad thing.  If you are insistent on buying gifts for some, pick affordable options that are easy to pack. Here are some of my favorite souvenirs.

Use Skype or e-mail to communicate back home.

-Cell phones are so expensive.  The cost per minute really is not conducive for sharing your never-ending adventures with friends and family.  Make sure you have a data plan abroad or turn off your data roaming because fees will skyrocket before you know it.  This summer I will be staying in touch with my family with Skype and e-mail.  Skype is free as long as you are contacting someone else with Skype.  Many hotels and apartments also have computers available for you to use if you wish to send an e-mail.

CiteUse public transportation when possible.

-Taxis can be very expensive both here, and in other countries.  I love using the subway or buses to get around.  So many cities have a great infrastructure built for getting around.  Look to guidebooks to figure out the best ticket or bundle for your needs. 

After the Trip

Monitor your bank and credit card accounts.

-When I get home, I watch carefully for stray charges.  This is also a way for me to consciously acknowledge what I have spent, and learn more about my spending habits so I can save even more for the next trip.

Don’t convert your currency back to dollars.

-I always know that I am going to travel again soon, so I never exchange my money back to dollars.  As long as you were planning carefully, there shouldn’t be that much currency left over.  It is nice to have a head start for the next trip.  If you aren’t ever going to return, perhaps a friend will, and providing some currency can be a great gift.

Day 74-1Remember, the goal is to save money where you can so you can see and do the most on your trip.  There are some things I don’t cut back on because it is worth it to spend a little more.  I just can’t feel that way about everything I spend money on or my trips would be few and far between.

Do you have any strategies to help you save money?