Monday, September 19, 2016

Cruisin...


Some people love cruises. Take my brother. He has been on two, 7 Day cruises - THIS YEAR. But he also went with me on my Vietnam/Cambodia trip - so I'll give him a pass.

Me?  I'm not a cruiser.  It just doesn't interest me.  So how did I find myself sitting on the balcony of a cabin ON a cruise ship?  Easy.  My desire to help everyone "get out there and see the world".

Here's where it started........

People are always saying "you don't invite me when you travel", so I invite them they say "that's out of my budget".  Sigh.  So since people tell me that cruising is affordable and that payment plans are available, my desire encouraged me to say "let's take a cruise".  So I chose the dates, and the shortest cruise available.  I sent out some invitations, got some takers and we were all set.

I put down my deposit and created my flight alert.  A few other people put down their deposit and I got excited because I was thinking "YES.  WE ARE TAKING A TRIP!"  Months passed, I sent out encouraging emails (they all ended with YaY), we talked about how much fun we were going to have, I purchased a flight and waited.  And waited…..AND WAITED.  I stopped sending encouraging emails and started sending emails that ended with “are you taking this &*$&# cruise?”
So let's see. I'm now on a 3 Day cruise to the Bahamas (where I have already been this year for a wedding, but I digress) with my “I will travel anywhere” daughter and a friend who has never left the country.  I’m sitting on the balcony adding up my affordable cruise:

Cruise:  $450 (includes transportation to the Bahamas, lodging, around the clock unlimited food - including ice cream, movies, live shows, clubs, casino and other activities)
Flight:  $220
Car Rental:  $90 (this was cheaper than each of us paying for round-trip transportation)
Parking:  $40
Gas: $20
Misc (internet, drinks on cruise, food/drinks on island):  $75

So, my desire to help everyone "get out there and see the world" cost me approximately $900. That’s an average cost of $300/day……hmmmmm.  I’ve planned longer, more exciting (for me) vacations for half the cost; but what hurt me the most was the 2 vacation days I lost. 

When I returned, I spent some time with myself, and we have come to an agreement. People who want to travel, well, will TRAVEL.  I don’t have to invite them, I don’t have to encourage them (YaY), I don’t have to plan specialty trips for them.  They will get out there.  And they will see the world. 

P.S. – my friend did get her FIRST passport stamp.  This is the only picture I saved!


Happy Travels Everyone~

Angie
2 Girls & A Bikini

Monday, August 1, 2016

Do You REALLY Want To Go?

Hey There Family & Friends,

Whew - it's hot!  Yes, even too hot for me!  But please don't take that as a complaint, it's simply a statement because if you know me - you know I love the sun (and the heat).  So bring it on!

Anywho....I have been running into some really good flight deals to Asia.  Specifically Hong Kong and Beijing in November (for my birthday).  And I placed a couple of flights on hold (using American Airlines and Cathay Pacific 24 hour hold), but I didn't commit.  Why?  I don't know.

I got really excited about going to Beijing and seeing the Great Wall of China, but I didn't pull the trigger.  I thought about how exciting it would be to see Kowloon Walled City and Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong, and I still didn't pull the trigger. 
 
I sent a few emails and text messages to some other travelers, extending an invite; but most of my travel friends already have plans for the Thanksgiving holiday.  So I kinda gave up.  And then I thought about it and realized I have a FEAR of solo travel! 
 
I know, I know.  I have people telling me that I haven't traveled until I've traveled alone.  They tell me that I will meet great people and learn a lot about myself.  They say things like "your time will be your own" and "after traveling alone, you won't travel with a group again". 

And maybe that's what I'm afraid of.  Dumping my group.  I mean, I love my friends, friends-of-friends, family, co-workers, Facebook friends, etc.  And these are the people that make my travels fun and exciting.  Aren't they?
 
So I've had to ask myself, "Do You Really Want To Go?".  Do I really want to pass up the opportunity to see some amazing places and knock some things off the must see/do list just because I feel as if no one will be there to capture me being great?  Or do I go and simply BE GREAT anyway?  And where is this fear of traveling alone coming from?
 
Hmmmm....I've got some {deep} thinking to do. 
 
Meanwhile, it's been an exciting travel year.  Most interesting?  I went to Cambodia (talk about HOT).  Seeing the Angkor Wat temple blew me away.  The sunrise changed my life.  I also went to Vietnam.  You can see my pictures on my Facebook Page.  And if you haven't already, give it a LIKE.

I promise to write more this year and keep you guys updated on my birthday travel decision.

Keep Traveling~

Angie
Founder
2 Girls & A Bikini

Thursday, June 9, 2016

What My GrandMa Said….



Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my GrandMa.  Like all Grandmothers, she had her “thing”.  For instance, my girlfriend’s GrandMa would pin her cash to the inside of her bra.  Another GrandMa I knew always had pennies in her coin purse, and she would give me a handful every time I saw her.  A lot of my friends laugh at how their Grandmother would have peppermints inside their purse – FOREVER – the wrapper would be melted onto the candy, but she would still offer you one.  LOL.  I’m sure with very little thought you can immediately tell me what your Grandmother’s “thing” was!

My GrandMa’s thing was words.  She would say things like “Close the refrigerator.  I’m not trying to cool all outside!” or “I’m gonna whoop you until the lights go off downtown’.  Yea – I never figured that one out.  But as I grew up, my favorite became “The more you give, the more you get”.  

Now trust me, I didn’t believe these words originally.  It wasn’t until a friend of mine said; “you are always giving something away” (this was after I gave her a very nice sleigh bed, which was practically brand new).  So I begin to think about it and realized – I AM ALWAYS GIVING SOMETHING AWAY – yet I always seem to have more than enough!  Now, let me say enough is relative.  What’s enough for me may not be enough for you; but I can honestly say, I am living in my overflow. 

Because of this, I always try and align myself with other individuals and/or organizations that also believe my GrandMa’s words of giving.  One of these organizations, and my absolute favorite, is The Passport Party Project.
 
 
The Passport Party Project is a “National Geographic award-winning initiative providing first passports, online global awareness training & first-time global travel experiences to underrepresented American girls 11-15 in an effort to help create responsive and responsible global citizens that travel with love.”  This organization is headed up by Tracey Friley, aka The Pied Piper of Passports.  I promise you I have never met anyone so passionate about giving. She genuinely loves it!  And it shows in everything that she does.  She gifts these young ladies an experience that very few will ever have, and even less will take advantage of if the opportunity came their way.

This year is Phase 3 of The Passport Party Project, and with the help of Tourism Toronto, Heys Luggage, National Geographic Maps, Niagara Parks, Hornblower Niagara Cruises, Porter Airlines, Francesco's Limousine and CityPASS, Tracey and two college students (one of which has been traveling with Tracey since she was 11 years old) will be escorting 15 Teen Travel Ambassadors to Toronto.  After 6 weeks of online global awareness training, where the lucky travelers learned what it takes to be a Global Citizen, they are ready to pack their bags and head to the top of the CN Tower.  Some of these young ladies will travel alone for a short distance by plane for the first time and perhaps even be away from home and/or travel as a group for the first time.  

My current mentee, Destiny A. is looking forward to learning more about Aboriginal Culture and History (Do you know when National Aboriginal Day is?  Destiny does because she had to learn about it during Week 5 of her training!).   Destiny also found it interesting that Toronto was founded as a trading center in the 1600s and is looking forward to eating beaver tails.  All of these things, and more,  were discussed during my time with Destiny, which I enjoyed immensely.  She asked me questions such as “what inspires me to travel” and “how did I navigate myself through the mountains of Atlanta with no GPS’.  She is ready to tackle her adventure.  I am so excited for her!  I am so excited for all of them!

Why?  Because I know that this experience will change their lives in ways they may not understand for years to come.   They will make new friends, see new things, go to new places, eat new food.  They will laugh.  Get frustrated, but then figure it out.  Some may experience fear.  Some may experience tears.  But through it all, they will learn.  They will grow. They will appreciate.  And hopefully, they will begin to understand my GrandMa’s words “the more you give, the more you get”.

Wow.  Now that’s the #PowerOfThePassport.

Travel Well Ladies…

Angela Myers
2 Girls & a Bikini

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I've Been Absent


I know – I’ve been absent.  And it’s not because I haven’t been traveling.  Since last we spoke, I’ve been to Dubai/Abu Dhabi (UAE), Oman (Muscat), Panama City (Panama), Bangkok and Phuket (Thailand), Singapore and of course, one of my favorite destinations, Riviera Maya (Mexico).  And a quick glance at my blog made me realize that I didn’t even take the time to tell post any pictures!  GEEZ.....

Go ahead and ask, I certainly have: "What’s going on Angie"?!  Well, I put some serious thought into it and *bling* the light bulb went on.  It’s not that I’ve lost my lust for travel, but I’ve lost my LOVE for travel. 


 It’s true.  No longer was I spending hours researching new destinations and adding to my “I Wanna Go” list.  No longer was I reading and learning all about my next destination – the people, the culture, the best beach.  I was just buying flights, showing up and hoping that it went well.  How and When and did this happen?

I had to take a step back, re-evaluate and ask myself the basic question: “Why do you travel?”  The first thing that came to my mind:  To say I’ve been.  #recordscratch

No, No, No….this cannot be.   It’s not possible.  I am a traveler.  I travel to learn.  To explore.   To adventure.  To meet new people in new places.  I do not travel for the passport stamp!

I had to take some time off.  I had to remind myself that this is not a competition, but a journey.  To remember that it doesn’t matter that I have not had pages added to my passport; but that I have walked on the shores of uninhabited islands.  That despite my fear of heights, I have been to the top of the world’s tallest man-made structure and taken a ride aboard the world’s largest observation wheel.  That I have spent days laying on the shores of pristine beaches with friends and family.  That I have cultivated a Just Go attitude in those around me and set an example for those watching.  That is what matters. 

I don’t know how long it will take me to get back to the LOVE of travel, but that’s my next trip. 

In the meantime, let me hear all about the wonderful travels you have planned.  Let me see pictures of your recent Spring Break adventure.  Or the honeymoon it took you weeks (months) to plan.  Or the solo experience you didn’t think you would survive.  Or tell me all about your recent staycation where you explored your home town and found a cute little neighborhood.

Where ever you have been.  Whatever you have done.  Share it with me!

Happy Traveling Friends~


 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Friday

There is a running joke in my office.  Every Friday, one of my co-workers will say to me “where are you running off to this weekend?”  or “what exotic island are you visiting this week?”   And I will answer “don’t I wish” with a devilish grin.  Why the grin?  Because little do they know, I am always less than 3 months away from my next beach adventure.  How do I do this?  How can I afford at least 6 vacations a year?  And how can you do it too?  Simple – PLAN THEM.

Now when I say 6 vacations a year, some of those are quick, long weekend get-a-ways; but at least one (or two) will be a week-long adventure.  Here are a few rules I live by when planning my vacations for the upcoming year:
Rule #1 - FLIGHTS:  I book flights at least 4-8 months in advance.  I very rarely buy last minute flights, unless it's an absolutely can not pass up deal.  I prefer to have as much of my vacation paid for prior to hitting the ground.  By booking in advance the flight in advance, I have time to pay it off completely prior to traveling.
Booking my flight is a process.  I typically have a price in mind for airfare to a particular destination because I have spent time tracking the airfare.  I begin watching airfare at least a year in advance, checking the price during high and low season.  This gives me an "average" cost and helps me determine how much I'm willing to pay for my airline ticket. 
I typically spend time checking the obvious sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, etc., however the ITA Software Matrix  has become my best friend.  On this site you can see airfare up to 30 days ahead of your requested departure date.  This way, I can see what departure/return dates
But I also check the actual carrier’s website for unadvertised deals and I’m able to play around with dates easily to find the best price.  Most carriers have a calendar feature that will show prices for the entire month, so unless I’m traveling for a specific event, I will remain flexible with my dates (and location).  I shop airfare for at least a week before booking and I prefer to book my airfare on a site that comes with a price guarantee so that I get a refund if someone books the same flight at a lower cost.  I also know that Monday is the probably the worst day to book a flight and Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest days to travel. So, I keep this in mind when planning my escape.  Also, I set up alerts on websites such as www.airfarewatchdog.com to keep an eye on flights I’m interested in.  If a flight is rising above my threshold, I made a decision to buy; or reschedule that trip.
If booking my flight and hotel together is cheaper than booking separately, I do so.  But I take the time to check and make sure it’s actually cheaper. I go to the hotel’s website directly and check the rates; again there could be an unadvertised special.  I also call to see if the hotel can offer a better deal than what is being offered on the internet.  You don’t know if you don’t ask.
Rule #2:  A refrigerator, and maybe even a microwave, is a must in my hotel room.  This way, I’m not blowing my budget eating out every meal of the day.  For my long weekenders, I always keep quick breakfast items in my room.  A bagel, breakfast bar, cereal, juice and some fruit will get me to lunch.  I always take advantage of a continental breakfast that is included in the cost of the room.
When traveling for a longer period of time, or with my children, I prefer to use a timeshare unit with a full kitchen or rent a condo.  This way, I can cook a few meals.  I also keep snacks and items to make a sandwich for those days when we’re hanging around the pool to get us from lunch to dinner without buying another meal.

Another tip - a refrigerator to keep beer or other alcohol cold can save a bundle!
Rule #3:  I try and bundle my trips.  For instance, if I’m in Cancun, I will visit Cozumel and Isla Mujeres.  When I went to St. Maarten, I took a ferry over to Anguilla.  When I took my kids on a cruise to the Bahamas, we came back and spent a few nights in Orlando before flying home.  Next year, I’m planning a trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands and will take a ferry over to the British Virgin Island of Tortola for a couple of days.  Catch my drift?  It’s much cheaper to extend your vacation a day or two and visit a neighboring city, island or country than to buy another ticket to return.
I also travel like the locals.  I use public transportation versus cabs, or rent a car if I know I’m going to be doing a lot of moving around.  I will also take advantage of any transportation the hotel offers, i.e. a shuttle bus into downtown or to a popular tourist spot.
So there you have it.  I have other tips and tricks that I use, but these 3 will guide me to a year of what seems like, at least to my co-workers, constant vacation.
Happy Travels!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#2014Travels



Yes, I know - It's mid January and I'm a little late, but I've been busy kicking my year off with a bang!  Let's see:
  • I launched a new website.  It's everything 2 Girls & a Bikini; but in one place.  Check it out and let me know what you think!
  • I became an independent travel agent.  AHHHHH, finally!  Off the Beachy Path Travel is a full service travel agency prepared to provide you with as little, or as much, help as you need to make your next vacation, your best vacation.  Also check out our Facebook page!
  • I'm headed to Panama City, Panama.  Yep, I leave in a week.  I'm so excited about my first international trip of the year.  But why Panama?  It just seems so random.  I know, but there was a great fare deal and beautiful islands to see.  That's a double whammy and hard for me to ignore.  Be on the look out for pictures soon!
  • I planned a trip to escort a group of travelers to Riviera Maya.  Me and a group of 8 will be headed to one of my favorite beach destinations for the Memorial Day weekend.  We will spend our days exploring the beautiful beaches of the area and our nights enjoying the Playa del Carmen nightlife.  Get the details here.
I'm still working on the rest of my 2014 travel itinerary, but I'm thinking a little bit of old (Istanbul, yes again) while throwing some new destinations in the mix (Nice/Barcelona/Madrid).  
 
What about you?  What is on your 2014 travel "must see, must do" list?  Are you headed to new destinations or sticking with some tried and true favorites?  Racking up frequent flier miles or staying close to home? 
 
Hmmmm, decisions, decisions. 
 
In the meantime, I've put together a video with some of my favorite people, places and things of 2013.  Enjoy!
 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Apple


You know what they say about The Apple, right?  That is doesn’t fall far from the tree?  YEP, it's true.  Which is why I wasn’t too surprised when my daughter, who recently graduated from high school, approached me with the idea of a “Gap Year” in order to travel. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t immediately on board with the idea. Although my inner traveler was doing swirls, the Mom in me had some concerns.  I mean, at the time, she was only 17.  What did she know about traveling the world?  Where was she planning on going?  What was she planning on doing?  Who was gonna pay for all of this “travel”.

Putting my motherly feelings aside, I gave her a challenge:  come up with a plan for the next year and we will talk about it.  Off she went with her assignment and less than a month later, she came back to me with a very rough draft:  take a TEFL Certification Course, Teach, Travel.  SMH…this plan certainly needed some work and more info.  So, I sent her off with another challenge.  One that required a little more research:  where are you getting a TEFL Certification, is the program accredited, where will you teach (considering she does not have a 4-year degree), and most importantly will it pay you enough to live (and travel)?
 
She was up to the task and I was very impressed with her diligence.  Little did she know, I had already given in and was doing some research of my own.  Turned out, there was a highly recommend program right here in the Chicago area.  It also turned out that there are a few places that will allow her to teach English as a Foreign Language without a 4-year degree.  I was also surprised at how many colleges and universities were willing to let her defer her admission for a year in support of a Gap Year. 

It was pretty much a done deal.  All we had to do now was work out the details and fill in the gaps of the Gap Year.  She was so excited it was contagious.  We were constantly on the internet reading blogs about teaching abroad and learning about all of the different programs.  She decided on a program in Paris, we paid the fees, secured housing and in less than 6 months, we were boarding a flight.  

I know what you are thinking, "But how did she end up in Paris when there was a program right there in Chicago?"  Well, we looked at the programs offered by the TEFL Institute and found that they had schools in various locations.  I suggested London (or Peru since she wants to teach there), but what 17 (now 18) year old female could pass up a chance to spend 6 weeks in the “City of Light”?  What adult could pass up that chance?!

She asked, I agreed.  Simple.  Besides, not agreeing to a Gap Year for travel and allowing her to take the course abroad would have made me a hypocrite – right?  I mean, I travel.  I encourage others to travel.  Why wouldn’t that include her?

I believe that travel changes you.  You grow and become more tolerant.  You learn to appreciate things and you move out of your comfort zone.  You expose yourself to different food, customs, ideas, and languages.  You make connections.  You learn more about yourself and become more confident.  Didn't I want these things for her?  Of course I did.  

Leaving her in Paris was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  I think I woke up that morning crying.  I cried in the shower, while brushing my teeth, while getting dressed...I cried, cried, cried.  When it was time for me to head to the airport, she looked me in the eye and asked, “Why are you crying?”  I answered, “Because I will miss you so much.”  Her response?  “I will miss you too.  See you in Barcelona.”

And with that, I knew my work was done.  Enjoy the journey Kennedy!