36 Hours in Chicago

36 Hours in Chicago

The story of how this trip came about follows the itinerary. I understand that most people come to my blog for travel tips and the itinerary for ideas to recreate, not for my personal development stories that initiated these trips.

Sometimes the best memories are created on a whim, created in a short time frame, and with little expectations. Life happens whether or not we are ready, so why not be a part of it, instead of being a bystander?  Not in just traveling, but in all we do. 2019 is about being present in the moment, appreciating it while it’s happening and not taking it for granted, and to give back because nothing is worth while if we aren’t sharing.

Transportation To/From:

Car. Living in Ann Arbor Michigan this drive is really quite easy, 3/12 hours on I-94 to Chicago. This car trip is especially good if you have a good audio book in cue, podcast, or someone awesome to share stories with and talk to.

Transportation Costs Roundtrip:

Gas: $80

Tolls (if taking the express route): $25

Parking: Used the Spot Hero app: $60 for the weekend Friday-Sunday

Hotel: 

Warwick Allerton 

Cost: $85/night

This hotel is a classic beauty. It’s an older building from the outside that has underwent a massive uplift inside. You walk into the doors and gave the vibe of money and ritz. Everything in gold and white, everyone greeting and opening doors with a smile, and assistant to the elevator that led to my anxiety; as if the welcome at the door didn’t do that enough. All in all the hotel was clean, the staff was hospital, and the location to downtown was perfect; if plays and the Magnificent Mile is the purpose of your trip.

screen shot 2019-01-14 at 8.26.21 pm

Day 1:  

  • Drive after work to Chicago (Arrive Around 10pm)
  • Checked in to Warwick Allerton 
  • Walked toward Broadway Downtown Chicago
  • Walked in search of clam chowder, stopped in at Fisk & Co

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Day 2: 

  • Walked to the Lincoln Park Zoo (free admission)
  • Went to The Diag Bar to watch the Michigan football game (arrive VERY early for a seat)
  • Get ready for a play at The Allerton
  • Walk to the CIBC Theatre to see Hamilton
    • Cost for a Saturday show $170

Hamilton ChicagoDay 3: 

This trip to Chicago was a complete surprise… well kind of. I will share.

Disclamer: Before sharing, my blog site is like Planet Fitness, a judgement-free zone. It is my story, intended for to share my experiences for personal documentation too.

The end of September I asked the universe to listen to and help provide me guidance on my journey. I was at a point where everything seemed to be aligning perfectly. Work was becoming natural, my traveling had been on an all time high, family relationships were being resealed, my commitment with friends had never been better and I was at peace with my personal goals and development. The only thing missing was a genuine long-lasting connection, a relationship.

I signed up for Bumble.

Quite quickly my prayers were answered. I matched with someone and was well on my way on my first date with someone on the dating app. After a couple dates with him, this trip was suggested and quickly planned. Surprisingly, this is the first trip, ever, that I was planned 100% not.by. me. Our natural connection surely paved the path for some stops on this trip that were not planned… the zoo, Fisk & Co, and Grand Lux Cafe… but each cementing something meaningful and unlike anything I’ve felt before. This trip proved to me to trust my gut, trust my heart… but most importantly to have faith and ask for guidance when needed.

 

 

 

$40 for Your First AirBnB Stay

$40 for Your First AirBnB Stay

As many of you know I am an advocate of using hostels, since they allow a community experience, and have led me to many friendships along my international journeys.

For those of you who continue to roll your eyes to that idea, a safer alternative is to jump on board to the AirBnB train. Below are 5 suggestions based on popular questions I get. For those who want to try the AirBnB experience you can register for $40 off a $70 (or more booking) using the link below. Yes, $30 for a night stay, whaaaatt!

$40 Discount Code

How do I find a high quality home for the cheapest price?

Easy! Follow the steps for how to do it on your mobile device below:

Click the explore tab on the bottom of the app

  • Select the explore tab on the bottom
  • Select the dates you are planning to leave
  • Select the number of people (generally, it’s more expensive for each person)
  • Enter in the search bar the place you’re going
  • Select filters on the top menu bar
    • Adjust your price range
    • Enter the criteria that interests you-  I always check “super host” & “free parking on premise”
      • Super host means the host you’ve selected have been favorably ranked, have hosted a min. of 10 guests, have been rated 5 stars by at least 80%, and have had a response time of 90% or better within 24-hours

What is the average cost per night?

*Speaking for 1-2 people stays

Obviously location means everything. For smaller cities I never pay more than $40/night (before fees and tax). For larger cities, or on the weekends I increase this to $60. If I am going over that amount is when I start using my hotel apps for discounts.

Are Airbnb’s safe? 

Of the over 30 stays I’ve gone on have I never felt unsafe. And some of those times I have been traveling alone. I always do my research before booking, of course, which includes finding which neighborhoods are safest. In terms of leaving my belongings, I have always felt they were safe in the rooms/places I was staying. For safe keeping I know a few of my friends lock their suitcases before leaving  any of their personal belongings.

Please, read the reviews!

I can’t tell you how thankful I have been for always reading the reviews before booking. I focus in on cleanliness, quality, and location. If those three things are favorable for the last 5 reviews I feel comfortable in booking a lower cost home.  It’s in these reviews you’ll find the truth. Know, that reviews are not posted until both people have left a review on each other. So there is some biases in what’s posted. Easily, a host won’t review someone if they feel the person won’t leave a favorable review. 

That said, one time I read a review for this college student who was renting her home in Pittsburg. I generally support the college students… paying off student debt is no joke! Anyway, someone left a comment about she and her boyfriend arriving after going to the bar at around 3am. They were welcomed with people in the streets dealing drugs and people blaring music. The couple decided they didn’t feel comfortable and did not stay. It’s insight and reviews like that, that will indicate stuff about where you’re staying, and will help you make safer decisions.

Book early, or your loss!

This AirBnb hype has caused little supply and a lot of demand. I recommend tracking/saving your favorite places at least a month in advance, and booking no later than a week before your trip. I have found three days before the day you’re looking to book is when everyone decides to book. Unfortunately for me I learned this the hard way and ended up having to book a hotel a couple times because there were no available homes I liked, costing my trips an additional $40/night.

I hope these tips help you in your endeavors! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any additional questions, it’d be my pleasure to help answer!

$40 Discount Code!

 

 

 

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

If you’re a millennial on Instagram this rope bridge is a must see. I mean… it is your typical touristy photo that you see your favorite bloggers visit when in Ireland. And, that you’ll be disappointed to know is near impossible to get a photo of just you walking, unless you are there right at open (9:30a), but it is a must see… I’ll tell you why!

Photo 2

Yes, the view is near perfect. Crystal blue waters, beautiful sand, cliffs in the distance, but from here you are only 15-miles away from Scotland with their mountains in view! Additionally, there are spots once you cross over the bridge that provides good yoga, meditating, sightseeing, and relaxing places to get away from the noise and to hear the ocean. Which I had found it hard to find while visiting Ireland. But my opinion comes at a time when tourism is high, July.

Photo 1

Side note: If you are contemplating this visit or Cliffs of Moher, I recommend this stop! There are cliffs in the distance, far fewer people, and a nice bridge to cross! And for some history, supposedly this bridge was made by salmon fisherman over 350 years ago… if you want to trust Wiki.

 

 

Cliffs of Moher, What You Didn’t Know Harry Potter Lovers

Cliffs of Moher, What You Didn’t Know Harry Potter Lovers

There’s no doubt that if you are planning a trip to Ireland you’ll miss the numerous recommendations to visit the Cliffs of Moher. If you want my honest opinion, the cliffs were stunning no doubt, with there being 5 ledges you can see from afar…. but (yes, there’s a but) there are many places in Ireland that replicate the area and that are more serene, I think.

When you arrive, because even if this isn’t planned you’ll end up being convinced to go, you have two route options.

If you want the beautiful panoramic view, go right. This trail leads you to a small castle you can pay 2 euros to climb and you can get the views you’re looking for, which include the view of the 5 cliffs from the distance to give you the shot you’re looking for. Plus, there are places here where you can connect to Wifi and have seating options for a nice lunch.

I do encourage you, though, to go left. This trail takes you toward paths near the edge of the cliffs, and in my opinion, gives you the full spirit of how truly beautiful this place is. There are parts of the path as you walk you’ll see how massive these natural ledges are and how scary the fall could be. But, if your adventurous and unafraid of heights could pose a good place to find a flat piece of land and eat a packed lunch, which is what I did!

As I ate there and stared around I couldn’t help but be grateful to have come to Ireland. It’s beautiful natural landscapes, and wonder what secrets these cliffs held, considering the cliffs were so massive.

My answer was pleasantly answered while on the bus leaving the cliffs…

The tour guide went over all the movies the cliffs were featured in, and honestly the list was so long I tuned out, then she said it… Harry Potter.

Harry Potter lovers continue reading…. do you remember in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince when Harry and Dumbledore try to find the horcruxes, and one of those found in the potion of despair, located in a cave with crashing waves? Guess what cliffs they passed to get in the cave, and where the cave was located? Yes, the Cliffs of Moher, in fact, the entryway of this cliff is in front of the third cliff where there is a large rock emerged from the ocean floor, as shown in the image below.

Cliffs of Moher

From Harry Potter & the Half-Blood PrinceThe_Cave_entrance

Let’s just say, until that fun fact was thrown out I was a bit underwhelmed by all the hype…mostly so because the number of people swarming around, where I found myself more worried about bumping into someone than appreciating the gorgeous views. But, if you’re a Harry Potter lover and end up here… now you can be pleased to know it’s very likely you’ll be walking on top of the set of one of the final films! You’re welcome!

The Dark Hedges, Yes… a Hollywood Favorite

The Dark Hedges, Yes… a Hollywood Favorite

This is going to sound like a lie, but this story is true.

I often save, bookmark, or screenshot places other people visit and when I’ve accumulated more than a handful of different places located in the same country I consider that place for a visit.

One night (like many nights) I was researching all these places I wanted to go based on these images, doing Google searches for popular destinations, and some not-so-common places that may be of interest. While doing so my screensaver came up with a beautiful images of trees down what appeared like a long road to infinity. This peaked my interest for three reasons: (1) why were these trees so perfectly planted, (2) I questioned why there was no wildlife in any of the stock images I googled, and (3) where in the hell did that road go?

Needless to say my curiosity got the best of me, and you guessed it. It was the Dark Hedges. Come to find out that this location is quite popular and used for many Hollywood films including Transformers, a multitude of Irish movies, and grew popularity recently with the Game of Thrones series. Of course, I learned the rest of this while I was on a bus on my way to visit.

My point of this blog isn’t to divulge the secrets for the three reasons I visited, but to inspire you to visit the places you’ve been curious about, find your answers first hand, and who knows possibly you’ll find happiness and peace of mind when you find your answers.

Side Bar: If you are using a tour company to visit this location they don’t stop for long. It is cheap to rent a car (literally $5/day), and this location has very easy access if you want to experience this magical place for yourself! Admission= FREE!

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How to Get from the Dublin Airport to Downtown Dublin

How to Get from the Dublin Airport to Downtown Dublin

I generally plan transportation in advance to/from where I am going when landing to a new place. This time, however, I refrained because booking in advance was extremely extensive $60/each way, and I knew if I procrastinated when I got there I could find a cheaper option. And yes, even looked to see how long it would be for me to walk to the hostel if needed (1 1/2 hours).

When arriving to the public transportation section the typical methods, taxi, shuttles, and busses were available.

  • Taxi estimated cost 50-70 euros
  • Shuttle bus 25 euros
  • Bus 6 euros each way

Do you want to guess which one I chose? You guessed it!

Okay, so the bus… walked to the bus pick-up area. I arrived at 4am, so you can imagine the resources available to answer my questions were limited so I had to figure out. The map of which buses go to which cities and locations was of no help unless you know the district you’re staying. That said, I aimlessly wandered for a good 15 minutes, probably looking like an idiot to those who I thought had it figured it out (more to come). I finally found a website listed on one of the bus signs that noted “avoid the lines book your ticket in advance.” That website: http://www.aircoach.ie. Here you can book online.

Second obstacle, where are you headed? Again, it listed all these districts, but this time it had several “Downtown District” options. I could have researched where my hotel was relative to these district locations but at this point I was just in a hurry to get Downtown and away from the airport, so I selected the “Downtown District O’Connell Street.”

I headed back to the bus stop area, again passing by the people who I found out were waiting for the ticket office to open, which was not until 8am. Again, this was 4am…. uhhhh! I did let them know of the website, but they insisted that the ticket office would have to open soon… I hope they made it alright. Us stupid millennials and our technology (I’m just saying, we are resourceful!).

Okay next hurtle, buses started to come, but none of them said exactly where they were going. So like a true tourist I entered every bus asking the driver by showing my receipt if I was on the right bus. After 2 wrong ones, I found the right one.

Also, luckily, the ticket I bought to O’Connell Street ended up being the right one.  Thank goodness too because they don’t take credit cards on the bus. However, I will say all the people in Ireland are extremely hospitable and willing to help, so knowing that now that I have returned, if I hadn’t picked the right stop I am sure they would have taken me as far as I needed.

I used the same website to book my trip back to the airport, which is a hell of a lot easier since it blatantly lists DUB Airport as the destination. I will say if boarding from the O’Connell area there are about 5 stops to the airport, so plan at least a 45 minute trip (30 mins to get there and 15 mins worth of stops).

Resources:

Air Coach Bus Link

Abbey Court Hostel, Downtown Dublin

Abbey Court Hostel, Downtown Dublin

On this trip my most common question was how and why do I stay at a hostel. The answer is really quite simple… it is the cheapest way to stay somewhere, generally is safer since surrounded by many people, and because it is a great way to meet new people from all over the world.

Trust me I have had my fair share of bad hostels, but I have found recently that trusting in the ratings by people who stay at hostels has been to my benefit, even if for a little more per night, for the stay.

My Rating:

I would rate this hostel a 10/10! Nothing negative to say!

I highly recommend to anyone staying in Dublin to stay at the Abbey Court Hostel!

Location:

The hostel is located near the city center, and in walking distance to nearly everything, including all the tourism agencies, so that you can make best use of your free time!

29 Bachelors Walk, North City, Dublin, D01 AX90, Ireland

Cost:

Each night at the hostel was 94 euros (~$110) for 6 nights, approx. $18USD/night.

Cleanliness:

The hostel was very clean! They have signs throughout the hostel noting that they clean between 10pm-5am. All the bathroom, toilets, and showers, were extremely sanitary. Although they didn’t have cleaning signs up for day cleaning it was evident someone was keeping up with general maintenance throughout the day.

Number of Bathrooms & Showers:

Each floor had 3 general bathrooms, and at least 6 showers. The only time I found it difficult to get in was around breakfast time at 7:30am.

Breakfast:

The cost per night also included breakfast each morning served at 7:30am. My recommendation is arrive about 15 mins early so that you can get dibs on the fresh and best food available. Choices included: cereal, fresh meats, cheeses, pancakes, oatmeal, and fruits.

Accommodations:

  • All women bunk options:  I stayed in 10-bunk room. It was actually quite nice as all the girls were extremely respectful of space, and turning off the lights early at night, and quiet when leaving each morning.
  • Luggage Drop- Off: if you are in between places, or you arrived earlier than the check-in time you can leave your luggage at the front desk for 8 euros.
  • Free Walking Tours: This hostel, among some others, had free walking tours daily generally with two time options, 11am and 2:30p
  • Lots of Common Areas: This hostel had a smoking section that was nicely decorated that had some outdoor access located near the basement of the building, a study area with access to the Internet for free, and a large kitchen area where people often played games, met for dinner etc.

 

Top 8 Bars to Visit in Dublin

Top 8 Bars to Visit in Dublin

Here’s a quick top 8 countdown guide to the best bars in town!

8. The Meltdown

Located centrally in Temple Bar this bar is perfect for a good drink and has a huge stage for live music, that also converts into a sports bar with a large TV for futbol games.

The average drink was 12 euros, but unlike other bars you’re not obligated to buy a drink to stay and take a table!

7. PantiBar

7-8 Capel St, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

If looking for a liberal crowd of 30-somethings this bar is for you. This is a gay bar that has “fabulous” drinks all for 7 euros! Good place to get started with lots of people showing up early.

 

6. The Arlington

23-25 Bachelors Walk, O’Connell Bridge, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

This bar has a secret located downstairs! You can purchase for 35 euros for a 3 course dinner, 2 hours of live music and traditional Celtic dancing!

If looking for something more affordable, since there are bars that have free live music and dancing options, you can stay upstairs and their main bar area has a live band from 8-11pm–plus during intermission of songs Drake often comes on…LOL.

5. The R.I.O.T

4 Aston Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin, D02 VP93, Ireland

Located in the midst of the Temple Bar district is this small bar that has up and coming artists playing requested songs, and good drinks!

Average cost 10 euros.

4. The Bachelor 

This pub is a small hole in the wall pub located near the city center, next to O’Connells Bar Dublin (next recommendation). This place has new artists looking to get the spot light, playing a lot of American rock tunes.

The average drink is 6 euros.

3. O’Connells Bar Dublin

This bar is closest to most hostels in the area located right at the intersection of Bachelor & O’Connell St.

If you’re into a good karaoke night this is the perfect bar for you! On the weekends after 10pm they have open mic karaoke. This bar exceeds the customer service of all the bars I visited during my trip! This is one of the bars that has both outdoor and indoor seating too, if you want to people watch with the live music!

2. The Church 

Junction of Mary St. and Jervis St., Dublin 1, Dublin, D01YX64, Ireland

Talk about a hidden gem! This bar is little off the beaten path, but worth the extra 5-10 min. walk. This bar is a former church that was converted into a bar, and a dance club in the basement. Here they have live music, live dancing, free cover, and relatively affordable food/drinks!

Average Drink 8 euros & average meal 13 euros!

1.Murray’s Pub

33-34 O’Connell Street Upper, Rotunda, Dublin 1, Ireland

This pub was recommended to me by one of my tour guides. When I asked for live music, Irish dancing, cheap drinks, was open later, and in walking distance to central downtown she raved about this bar.

Average Drink costs 6 euros & average meal 13 euros!

If you do the Do Dublin bus tour there is a buy one get one meal before 5pm, which can make for two dinners! Just saying’!

 

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

1. Irish Currency

There are two currencies in Ireland. If visiting the Republic of Ireland (Dublin, Galway, Cork, etc.) the currency is the Euro. If visiting Northern Ireland (Belfast) the currency is the English Pound.  If visiting each side they do not take the other currency so come prepared.

2. Credit Cards

In most main cities in Ireland credit cards are accepted. The most common credit cards include Visa and MasterCard. They do not accept AMEX in most places.

3. Weather

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but according to the residents in Ireland it rains 330 days of the year, with it being unheard of that there is no rain for more than two days at a time. So, plan accordingly!

4. Food

There is no material change between US food and Irish food. The average meal is 8 euros for breakfast, 10 euros for lunch, and 14 euros for dinner. If you’re looking for authentic Irish food I recommend their Fish & Chips, and Corn Beef and Cabbage!

5. Drinks

Being the home of Guinness and Jameson those drinks are often the cheapest. Drink are on average are 8 euros, more if venturing off to the Temple Bar area and cheaper if willing to go to the local pubs.

6. Chargers

You must buy a wall adapter to charge your devices! You can buy these before you leave in Target’s travel section for $10 that includes many different adapters for each continent. If you wait until you get there you can purchase for 8 euros at your local hostel, or if you go to the travel agencies they sell them in their dispensers for 4 euros!

7. Tours

If looking to book a tour I recommend you plan ahead! Many of the tours I went on were fully booked, and did not have same day availability. You’ll find if you book through the same agencies they will give you a 5 euro credit if you book more than one tour through them; something to keep in mind when planning ahead. Popular tour groups were: Paddywagon Tours, Finn Tours, and Dualway Coaches.

*The tour busses leave on time, and are very serious about arriving 15 minutes before our scheduled time. I can tell you firsthand they left people behind.

**Most hostels set up free walking tours. I paid for mine in advance and attended both. They were nearly the same. I’d recommend taking the free one.

8. Temple Bar Trap

Temple Bar area is popular among 30-somethings and most tourists visiting… it’s where the parties are at night. This area is known for increasing the cost of drinks as you drink and the night goes on, so be mindful of that!

I will have a separate blog for my top 5 bars in Dublin of those looking for good spirits at night.

9. Closing Times

To make most of your time while visiting you should know that most museums close at 5pm, restaurants stop serving food around 10pm, the bars during the week stop serving alcohol at 11p. Coffee shops opened around 7am, and places with food generally an hour later. No wonder why they were all skinny!

10. Popular Places to See for the Day

If you’re time is limited don’t leave without visiting the following places:

Trinity College with tour to see Book of Kells

Guinness Storehouse

Walk around Temple Bar

Dublin Castle

O’Connells Street

 

 

10 Things Not to Forget

As I plan for Ireland I thought I’d share top 10 things not to forget!

10. Travel Size Toiletries, if Doing Carry-On Only

9. Trip Itinerary Printed Out, Along with a Map

8. Water Bottle with Purifying Water Tablets 

7. Walking Shoes 

6.  Pre-arrange Pick-Up Plans 

5. Your Phone Charger, Battery Pack, & Foreign Wall Converter

4. Converting Your Cash to Foreign Currency

3. Calling Your Cellular Phone Company

2. Activating Your International Credit Card (Visa/Mastercard)

1. Your Passport, Visa & I.D.