Yes You Can!

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Image of Vernazza, Cinque Terre via Erin Johnson/Flickr

Who wants to travel?

Who thinks they can’t afford the trips they deserve?

I’m here to tell you – yes, you can! I will show you how.

I have traveled to many places over many years. Yes, I made my share of mistakes, but I learned from them. From travel in America, the Caribbean, to Europe. Today with Hotels.com and Airbnb and similar sites, it makes things easy. Do your homework! I use Kayak.com for my airfare as well as going directly to the airline sites. Kayak will search all sites and bring these prices to you. You can also set up price alerts to receive emails of price changes. Sometimes I have waited quite close to my travel dates to book air and got lucky with better fares.

Let’s start with travel in America. Decide where you want to go. If you are flying and can be a little flexible with your dates, sometimes a day here or there can change flight cost by a lot. If traveling to a certain city – for example. New Orleans – do a search on what you want to see. Check sites like TripAdvisor to get tips from other travelers.

I like staying at a hotel for some of the amenities. I never stay at hotels rated less than 4 stars – this almost always guarantees a nice, clean stay. If I can’t find a nice hotel in the right area for the right price, I will go to Airbnb. This site is trustworthy, as you can see many reviews not only about the home, but also the host. I have stayed at many great homes for a price better than any hotel. Sometimes going a little off season can be quite nice, with fewer crowds and lower prices.

If you need to rent a car, check multiple agencies and ask if they give discounts to AARP or AAA members, seniors, or students. My son paid half once because he was a med student. If driving to your destination, stop at a AAA office and have them give you a TripTik travel planner. They’ll help you plan your routes, including any stops for sights along the way. They can also book your hotels, too!

Now on to the Caribbean! The only advice I have for you is don’t go during hurricane season. I personally don’t care what island I go to, as long as they have great resorts with nice beaches. So I go on Cheap Caribbean and search the best package deals for the best prices and best resorts, on any island.

If you want tropics with a lot of thing to do and see, I suggest Costa Rica. Costa Rica has amazing beaches, small hotels, resorts, and Airnbnbs. It has volcanoes, mountains, rainforests, and wildlife mixed with adventure. Again, doing itinerary research online is best.

Also look at paid, organized tours and follow their itinerary but plan and book yourself to save money!

Now on to travel abroad! Which is my favorite, by the way.

I start by picking a time of year and destination. I have been mostly to Italy, but also to London, Paris, and Greece. I research flights on Kayak with flexible dates. Then I start checking Airbnb and Kayak for hotels and rooms in the various towns of interest. I usually know what I want to see, so that eliminates part of the planning process.

I have the perfect example for you. A girl that works for me and her spouse wanted to go to Italy and Greece this summer. Thinking they couldn’t afford it, thinking it would cost $15,000 for the two of them, a week in Italy and a week in Greece.

Well, I grabbed on to that and told them I will make it happen for much less.

So using Kayak for flights, two places I have stayed at, and Airbnb, this is what I found them. Are you ready??

Newark to Rome, Pisa to Santorini, and then Athens back to Newark. Three nights at Hotel Diana in Rome, three nights at an amazing Airbnb in Florence, and two nights at Camere Giuliano Basso in Vernazza (Cinque Terre). Then fly to Santorini from Pisa for a two-night stay on the beautiful island of Santorini, Greece, at a beautiful Airbnb. Then off to the Greek island of Crete to stay four nights at another Airbnb. All the Airbnbs are rated 5 stars with great reviews. Then a flight home from Athens.

The price? All for $5,000 for two people for two weeks! Now this does not include food, spending money, or transfers between cities/islands, but in both Italy and Greece the transfers are easy and affordable by either train, boat, or plane.

While in Roma if they take the hop on/hop off bus (which they have in all major cities), they can spend one or two days seeing whatever sights they want to see, then getting back on the bus for the next sight. If you buy your tickets for the sights from the hop on/hop off driver, you can go to the head of the lines. This is the most efficient way to see a city.

Once in Florence, there are small, not-too-pricey local tours into the Tuscan countryside to choose from. As for the city of Florence itself, you don’t need a tour, just do your homework! Same applies to Vernazza, Santorini, and Crete.

So we booked the whole trip and they couldn’t be happier!

Now there were times I flew to Roma with my first two nights’ hotel booked at Hotel Diana, where I walk the city since I have seen all the sights. Then I rent a car and off I go. No reservations! I find the driving pretty easy once out of the city. I drive through Tuscany and wherever I land by 3pm, I find the local information center where for free or a slight fee, they find me a room to my liking. I stop in little towns and wineries for tastings. Just enjoying the countryside and local charms is the most memorable thing to me. This kind of travel can be done on almost any budget, anywhere you want to go. It just takes the right kind of research and planning.

A Farewell Dinner

So my son’s friend “J” is Special Forces in the army. He let me know he and his wife were going to be in town before he gets deployed to Afghanistan for six months, so of course I had to have them over for dinner.

Let me backtrack by saying all my son’s friends used to be at my house every weekend as teens, sleeping all over the house (it’s a small house!). Sometimes they’d even sleep on the dining room table in a sleeping bag! And they loved my cooking as much as I loved cooking for them almost every weekend. When my son’s friend joined the army, my son was away at college. I decided to have a going-away dinner/BBQ, inviting all the boys that were in the area regardless of my son’s absence. Needless to say, it was wonderful, and whenever any of “my boys” are in town, they’ll still reach out and let me cook for them!

So as I was saying, my son’s friend and his wife, along with my friend Jen, were going to come over for dinner, and now I had to make the big decision of what to cook! I drive myself crazy over this, since I like to make my meals memorable. So for this dinner I decided to make pecan-encrusted chicken breasts pan-browned in butter (yes, butter makes it better – that’s the mantra in my house), then finished in the oven at 350F for 30 minutes. For a side, I made roasted asparagus (drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper) that I topped with Parmesan cheese. Of course, we had to have pasta, so I tossed some capellini with roasted garlic, EVOO, and fresh basil. I rounded out the meal with one of my signature salads: spring mix, baby arugula, grape tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds. The secret to a great salad is chopping the greens into bite-sized pieces so when everything is tossed together, you get a perfect mixture of all the flavors in every bite.

The meal was wonderful, but the company was even better. They brought me wine, and a gift of olive-wood serving utensils from Barcelona. We ate and laughed and had a fantastic evening together (and boy, can he still eat, lol – that’s why I always make plenty of food!).

My son’s friend cleaned up after dinner while Jen and I got to know his wonderful wife better. I’m very proud of J and will worry for the six months he’s in Afghanistan. Be safe!

Hello, and welcome!

Let me introduce myself.

TTI’m TT, a 55-year-old hairstylist and manicurist and former waitress and bartender. I’m also a mother of one (now grown) child, four dogs, and a cat! Every day I speak to a wide array of people, and from this I’ve learned a lot and continue to learn. With this knowledge, I’ve found that I can help many people with many things – I’ve actually become sort of the “go-to” person my friends and clients approach when they need recommendations or tips!

I love to cook, and I cook well. I love to travel, and I’ve been all over the world. I help my clients plan their own trips as well as their menus. There’s nothing funnier to me than a client saying, “My husband told me to ask TT!”

I’m also a jack of all trades and can tackle and fix almost anything – and if I can’t do it myself, I know the right professional for any job. My client Jeanne “Jellybean” Juvelier has been on me for over a year to create a book, and I finally thought, well, she’s right.

I want to bring my Tastes, Travels & Tips to you, and with today’s technology I decided to start this blog. (Thanks Jeanne!) I imagine all the people I can reach and help this way. Some friends have told me that I should have been a life coach, but I don’t want a different career. I just want to spread my word and help as many people with as much as I can.

So here I go!

Until next time,
TT