Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Caribbean State of Mind

I promised y'all some pics, so here ya go!

Guess who came to see us off at the airport in Richmond? Yep, that's Airforce One. It was nice of President Obama to stop by.

The view out the plane as we approached Caribbean waters.

There's the Freeport, Bahamas airport. Yep, the whole thing.

There's our airplane- never deplaned using stairs before!

Cabs were at the airport to take us to our hotel.

The front of the Grand Lucayan

The back of the Grand Lucayan.

If you stand in the middle of that back lawn and turn around, this is what you see- the sea!

My hubby standing on our fifth floor balcony. The rooms were in separate buildings from the main building.

The view from off our balcony.

The day after we arrived we went on a kayaking tour through Lucayan National Park. This is our guide, Ricardo! He was hilarious and so much fun.

We paddled through mangroves in crystal-clear water that led out to the sea.

This is Gold Rock Beach, one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. That splash is my husband diving in. The sand was so white and it felt like walking on a memory foam mattress. They actually filmed parts of the Pirates of the Caribbean at this beach.

I'm lovin' it!

Mmm...sushi for dinner! (The doctor said it was okay for me to have sushi, don't worry.)

Moonlight on the water. Seeing this picture makes me hear the waves crashing on the beach.

My feet, and another splash that is, again, my husband diving in. The water was TOO ROUGH for me that day!

The Port Lucaya Marketplace- like an outdoor mall with lots of local restaurants and vendors.

One of the "straw markets" where island ladies sold their wares.

Took this one on a walk around the hotel.

Wuv, twoo wuv.

Guess who got a Mother-to-Be Massage?

My cutie pie walking the beach.

Pensive me.

My poor little snapper. He doesn't look particularly happy about this arrangement.

Like my new headgear?

Playing the nickel slots. Lost all five dollars. Bummer.

My sweetie feeling sad about leaving.

Hanging at the airport after our flight was delayed 5 hours...and then another 2 hours...

Turns out our plane had mechanical problems. So they sent a beast (767) to rescue us!

One last glimpse of the island. I can't wait to go back!!

When we got home we felt so chilled out, it was awesome. My husband and I both agreed we felt like we'd taken some kind of happy drug. If you have the chance to go on vacation- especially to the Bahamas- I highly recommend it. Life on the island is so much smaller and more chill. Shoes are optional everywhere, and it's just such a beautiful place. Good for the soul. :-)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

Time to Vacate: How to Save a Ton of Money on Your Next Vacation

Is anyone else ready for a vacation right about now? Well, if you're like me then the tantalizingly close warmer temperatures of spring are making you want to jump the gun and get outta Dodge.

Lucky for me, I AM gettin' outta Dodge! And out of Richmond, too! ;-)

In January my husband and I started talking about our upcoming 10th anniversary in May and we both agreed that with me being pregnant with our fourth child that if we were planning any kind of couple's retreat in the near future, it was now or never (well, now or MUCH later than now). So I started planning.

As luck would have it, I happened upon a radio commercial that advertised very inexpensive nonstop flights to the Bahamas from Richmond International Airport. I started looking into it, and it turns out that it's a small charter airline called Vision Airlines that is offering great promotional deals. They have only a limited number of flights- their flights out of Richmond fly only to and from the Bahamas on Fridays and Mondays.

I checked out their website further and discovered that if you book your airfare and hotel accommodations together through the airline, you can get a pretty good deal. How good, you ask?

4 days, 3 nights for 2 at a 4-star beachfront resort, ocean view room, airfare included, for $750.

Call me crazy, but I call that a deal!! Once I got us all booked, I began looking into this further. I wondered, were there other airlines that offered deals like these? How else could I work my love of travel into my beautiful thrifty life?

I came across this article that mentions Vision Airlines along with several other small airlines that offer dirt-cheap rates between small cities in and near the continental U.S. For example, the airline Allegiant Air offers round-trip tickets from Newport News, VA to Orlando, Florida for as low as $100/person. Not bad! If you're planning any travel in the near future, check out the article and see if there are any small airlines flying out of airports near you that can get you to your destination for much less than major carriers. Keep in mind that you won't be able to find these low fares through websites such as Travelocity or Priceline. Airlines have to pay to be featured on these sites, and one of the ways that smaller airlines keep costs low is by not paying to be affiliated with discount travel sites.

Speaking of discount travel sites, another one of my favorite haunts is Kayak. If you want to have some fun, go to and click on the link that says, "More". Then go down to the bottom of that page and click on "Explore". This will take you to a page where you can enter your closest airport and a big map will pop up showing the best current flight deals to locations all over the world. If you can do some research and pair these with good deals on accommodations, then you've got a budget vacation in the making.

Here are a few more tips:

- Be flexible with EVERYTHING! Have an adventurous spirit and be willing to go where the deals are, when the deals are.
- Think outside the hotel. Websites like can help you find vacation rentals that my seem pricey at first, but $1000 for a week is less than $150 a night for your entire family, plus staying in a home with a full kitchen will save you significantly on food expenses for the week. Not to mention it's a LOT more comfortable than a cramped hotel room.

- Team up. Consider inviting extended family or close friends to join you on vacation. You can split the cost of a vacation rental and save a great deal of money. Plus, you can take turns cooking and make GREAT memories together! Take this gorgeous waterfront luxury vacation home on Chincoteague Island in Virginia:

4 bedrooms, 4 1/2 bathrooms, sleeps 11. Goes from $1500-$2500/week, depending on the season. Split that between two families and you've got $75-$125 per night per family. Split it between 4 couples and you could vacation for a week at a gorgeous home for as little as $375 for the entire week!

- Sometimes closer is better. The home above would be within a comfortable day's drive for my family. Scout around and find vacation spots that are close by- you don't always need an airline flight for a fabulous vacation!

- Go for natural entertainment. If you travel to a place like Orlando, Florida, you'll find that pretty much anything fun you want to do, with the exception of hanging out in the hotel pool, will cost you a lot of money. Find a vacation spot with a lot of natural entertainment for your family- beaches, hiking, national parks, sightseeing, etc. You can intersperse these activities with maybe 1-2 days of pricier pursuits to make for a well-balanced and well-budgeted vacation.

Remember, the best part of a vacation is the people you share it with. The time you spend with them is more important than the money you spend on them. :-)

Are you excited to start planning your family vacation getaway?? Boy, this has gotten me in the mood to start planning for next year...In the meantime, I'll be sure to post photos of our amazing island getaway after we return. :-)

How do you save money on vacations? Leave a comment and share your tips!

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