My experience touring a BlueGreen timeshare

BlueGreen timeshare

Before heading off to Europe, I spent a lovely weekend with my best friend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Last February I was browsing the Bass Pro Shops and ended up chatting with a nice salesman. The deal he was offering was honestly a little too good to be true. Nothing is free, after all. What he was offering was two nights in a hotel in over seven cities in the United States for $100. I decided to buy it. I mean, I had a year to use it. Why not?

Well this year, time got away from me to say the least. Most weekends were spent working my second job in order to save money for Spain. Before I knew it, it was the end of August. So I thought the weekend before I left with my best friend would be ideal. Plus, Gatlinburg is halfway between Cincinnati and Charleston, South Carolina. It was perfect.

So this lovely lady and I went to Gatlinburg …

BlueGreen timeshare

Antes de mi viaje a Europa, fui a Gatlinburg para pasar un buen fin de semana con mi mejor amiga. Este Febrero, estaba echando un vistazo en Bass Pro Shops y hablé con un vendedor muy amable. La ganga que él ofrecía fue honestamente casi demasiada buena como para ser la verdad. Nada es gratis. Él ofrecía dos noches en un hotel por $100 en mas de siete ciudades en Los Estados Unidos. Decidí aceptar su oferta. Tuve un año para usarlo, entonces, ¿cómo no

Pues este año, no he tenido mucho tiempo. La mayoría de los fines de semanas estaba trabajando en mi segundo trabajo para ahorrar dinero para España. ¡Pero el final de agosto vino rápido! Entonces pensaba que el fin de semana antes de ir a España con mi mejor amiga sería ideal. También Gatlinburg esta a medio camino entre Cincinnati y Charleston, Carolina del Sur, donde vive mi amiga. ¡Era perfecto!

Entonces esta preciosa muchacha y yo fuimos a Gatlinburg …

The deal

The deal wasn’t just about the hotel. No, they wanted to sell you something too. In order to receive the discount, they ask that you spend your morning touring a timeshare. The rest of your time is yours. Looking back, I thought “hey what’s a few hours?” However it was longer than I thought.

Kayleigh and I arrived Friday night separately because were coming from opposite directions. We are both running a tad late, so I call the guy at BlueGreen. He says they are open until 9 and as long as I can make it there before then, great! Well while that was my aim, I got a tad lost. But no worries. They set our stuff out in this late arrival box and Kayleigh was able to pick up our stuff. It had her go to this office to check into our hotel and receive our keys. We both had the same experience with the same hotel lady and it was not good …

Kayleigh was the first to arrive and the woman working at the Creekstone Inn (where we were staying) was rude to Kayleigh. Thankfully she let her check in at least. When I arrived, I had the same exact experience with the same woman. Not friendly and not helpful at all. However I got my keys and made it to the hotel with only getting lost once (her directions sucked).

La ganga no solo se trataba del hotel. Lo que pasa es que ellos querían vendernos algo también. Entonces para recibir el descuento, ellos pidieron que miráramos una multipropiedad por una mañana durante las vacaciones. El resto del tiempo era para nosotras. Pensé “¿A qué nos importan una o dos horas?” Pero finalmente duró más tiempo que quería.

Kayleigh y yo llegamos aparte la noche de viernes puesto que vivimos en ciudades distintas. Las dos llegamos tarde, pero el empleado me dijo que si llegara antes de las 9, todo estaría bien. Había tratado de llegar a tiempo pero me perdí en el camino. Pero no pasó nada y dejaron nuestras cosas en una caja al lado de la oficina. ¡Qué bien! Entonces Kayleigh fue a la oficina para recogerlas, ¡pero la recepcionista del hotel no estaba amable! Y peor, ¡también tuve yo la misma experiencia con esta mujer!

Kayleigh llegó primero y la mujer que estaba trabajando en ese Creekstone Inn estaba bastante maleducada. Por suerte la dejó hacer el check in. Cuando llegué, tuve la misma experiencia! ¡No estaba amable ni me ayudó nada! Pero de cualquier forma, obtuve mis llaves y llegué al hotel. Solo me perdí una vez (¡sus direcciones eran muy malas!).

The hotel and tour

The hotel was nice but basic. At least it was clean! The next morning, our tour of the timeshare started at 8 a.m. If we skipped it, we would have to pay full price. So of course we went. And they had free coffee, which was always a plus.

Also you must know that we both had no interest in buying a timeshare. While we both walked away without buying one, we did learn a few things. So we arrive and they tell us to have a seat. They then lead us back to a presentation room where we watch a slideshow about BlueGreen. It seemed as though every BlueGreen salesman was a middle-aged white gentleman in a bow tie. I saw a few women and honestly cannot remember if there were any people of color. That lack of diversity honestly does not sit well for me and could hurt their business.

The presentation is interesting for sure. The woman next to us thought differently, however. Halfway through it, you could hear her snoring! The showed us pictures and explained their point system. The great thing is that BlueGreen does not lock you into one place and one week a year. You definitely have lots of options.

Then it’s time to talk with a salesperson and take a tour. We were with a nice gentleman that seemed to have a knowledge of timeshares and some things in the travel world. However he had no real idea what a hostel was. That came up when were started talking about travel in Europe. It always amazes me when people work in travel and yet don’t have knowledge of things within that realm. However I digress.

The space was nice, and the model yurts and cabins seemed very cozy.

BlueGreen timeshare
The presentation building/el edificio de la presentacion

BlueGreen timeshare

BlueGreen timeshare

BlueGreen timeshare

BlueGreen timeshare

El hotel era bueno pero básico. ¡Por lo menos estaba limpia! A la mañana siguiente, nuestro tour de la multipropiedad empezó a las 8. Si lo hubieramos saltado, tendríamos que haber pagado el precio sin descuento. Entonces desde luego, fuimos. !Y había cafe gratis!

También hay que saber que no teníamos interés en comprar una multipropiedad. Pero aunque las dos salimos sin comprarnos una, aprendimos algunas cosas nuevas. Entonces llegamos y ellos nos dijeron que nos sentáramos. A continuación vino una presentación. Miramos una presentación de diapositivas sobre sus propiedades. Parecía que todos los empleados eran hombres blancos de mediana edad vestidos en corbatines. Vi a pocas mujeres y honestamente no puedo recordar si había algunas personas de color. Les faltaba la diversidad y esa falta no me gusta. No es buena para su empresa.

La presentación fue interesante, pero la mujer al lado de nosotras pensaba diferente. ¡Estaba durmiendo y se podía oírla! Ellos nos enseñaron imágenes y explicaron su sistema de puntos. Lo bueno es que BlueGreen te deja elegir tu semana y lugar cada año. ¡Tienes un montón de opciones!

Luego era tiempo para hablar con un vendedor y dar un paseo. Estábamos con un hombre muy amable y parecía tener conocimiento sobre multipropiedades pero nada mas. El no sabía nada sobre los albergues, por ejemplo. Hablamos de eso cuando estábamos hablando sobre viajar por Europa. Siempre me fascina cuando la gente que trabaja en viajar no tenga conocimiento de cosas así.

De todos modos, el espacio era buena y las yurtas y las cabinas parecían muy cómodas.  

Our thoughts

The idea of a timeshare is interesting but not for either of us at this time. The freedom of choices seems nice but I don’t need fancy resorts to travel. The whole thing lasted until about 11 a.m. and then we were free to enjoy Gatlinburg as we pleased. Honestly this sort of deal isn’t too bad if your vacation allows for that time. Would I do it again? Probably. Would I purchase a timeshare? Probably not.

La idea de tener una multipropiedad es interesante pero no es para Kayleigh ni yo de momento. La libertad nos parece bien pero no es necesario tener centros turísticos muy adornados para viajar. La presentación terminó a las 11 y después estábamos libres para disfrutar de Gatlinburg! Honestamente este descuento no es malo si tienes tiempo en tus vacaciones. ¿A hacerlo otra vez? Probablemente. Comprare una multipropiedad? Probablemente no.

 

 

 

 

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My epic week of apartment hunting in Spain

apartment hunting in spain

Apartment hunting in Spain was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in a while. This past week has been full of ups, downs and surprises. I cried and was grumpy at times. And I laughed because well, you have to. But yesterday night I found my piso (apartment) and all is well. The epic saga lasted about a week and I thought I’d re-account it here.

It all began one week ago last Thursday. First of all, let me just say that that seems like over a week ago. Perhaps the stress of not knowing where I’d live made the week seem to drag on forever. However it was one week ago that I was on a bus from Malaga to Granada. Malaga is the big Spanish city on the coast with an International airport. Hence, that was where I flew into. Granada is less than two hours North by bus. So I arrived and checked into my airbnb. Ah, I have arrived!

So in Spain a majority of people live in apartments. Most have 3-5 and maybe even 6 or 7 bedrooms. Yes, you can get your own place to yourself and pay usually at least 100 euro more a month, or you can share and pay as little as 140 euro per month. This option means you have your own room but share a kitchen and bathroom space. Not only did I want to share, but I wanted to share with Spaniards. As most of you know, I speak Spanish as a second language. However I didn’t really, really start speaking it till about two years ago. Furthermore I figure that if I’m in Spain, I want to immerse myself as much as I can. I can surround myself with English speakers in the US, after all.

I reserved an airbnb because everyone STRONGLY recommends that you don’t agree to a piso before seeing it in person. You never know because photos can be deceiving. So thus, I booked an airbnb for 5 days.

Now most of you who know me know that I like to plan ahead. Also, my biggest personality strength and flaw is that I choose not listen to negativity. I had heard from past language assistants and read on blogs that the piso hunt was tough. Everyone is looking at the same time and you have to do it in … Spanish. Whenever I hear that something is challenging, I always think “well there just must be another way.” In this case, I thought exactly that. I was like “well if I come to Spain with plans to view like five pisos, one will work out and I’ll just move in!” Oh how I wish it would have been that easy. It was not.

So I start in maybe May or June looking at apartment listing websites. Sure, it was way too early. But I love looking at the pictures and I was just imagining my life overseas. As the beginning of September approached, I started reaching out to people. I made a little ad on one website in Spanish saying that I was looking to live with Spaniards near my age. I got a lot of responses. I felt good and I felt prepared. Then I decided to circle around with those people a few days before leaving to see if they still needed roommates. Two of the four had already rented the rooms. Oh well. It’s not like I ever said “save it for me!” I just simply told all of them I would come see it when I arrived. So that left me with two that were still available. I still felt great about it and truly felt that one of the two would work out.

So that Thursday I viewed the first one and like everything except the fact that it was a tad farther from the city center. I viewed the second one Friday and liked everything about it. It literally checked off all of my boxes for what I wanted in a piso. I would have had three Spaniard girl roommates ages 26, 27 and 32. It was centrally located. It was just a nice, cozy place. The girls seemed very nice. I told them right then that I wanted it. It seemed as though they were like “well we need to talk to the girl who is moving out and let you know when you can move in.” But perhaps I misunderstood … I am communicating daily in my second language after all.

So because I thought I had a piso, I spent Saturday and Sunday relaxing. I walked around Granada and ate tapas. I simply relaxed. I thought I would check back in with the girls Sunday afternoon. When I did, they told me they had more people to come see it and that they would make a decision after that. I was crushed. But I knew I couldn’t just wait around. So I went back to my airbnb and cried. Then I dried my tears and got on the computer. I must have sent out like 20 whatsapp messages to people looking for roommates. I got a lot of people telling me that the room was already rented. However little by little I got responses. At the end of my night, I had four viewings planned. It seemed promising.

The sh*t show

That next day was ridiculous to say the least. The first viewing was an apartment super far North. The interesting thing was that the listing was for a piso in the center of the city. However she told me the rooms she had available were in that neighborhood up North. When I arrive, I send her a whatsapp message. She’s 30 minutes away in a pueblo (small town) and will be 30 minutes late. I had a seat and started looking around. I was just like “lets be real … I’m not going to live here.” I didn’t want to waste her time, so I cancelled.

Piso two was AMAZING! It was in a neighborhood slightly south of the city but super accessible with lots of shops, restaurants and other things. I would have had one roommate age 25 and a dog. Her dog was adorable too! Oh and it had a beautiful terrace. It just seemed like a very chill situation. I liked it but had two more viewings that day. The second viewing was in that same neighborhood. I show up and there’s a 9-year-old child. The woman never put that she had kids in her ad! Like not at all. It turns out she’s a sweet Honduran house cleaner with two kids ages 9 and 15. Her brother sometimes stays in the apartment too. But the fourth room they have they rent out. While she seemed nice, I just was not interested in living with a family. However I left it open as you just have to in the piso hunt. You just don’t want to be completely out of options. Also she said she would pass my number along to people wanting English lessons … win! The fourth one of the day was cancelled. I guess they had someone they liked enough that they didn’t even feel the need to meet me. Disheartening? Yes. But life goes on.

That evening I return to my airbnb to continue looking at listings. As I’m sitting in the kitchen, I get a text from a girl who is looking for a fourth roommate. She seems super cute and fun. She tells me that she is not interested in ANY Spanish roommates because she loves living with foreigners. She loves practicing English and learning about different cultures. I think “wow, this could be really good. This could be it.” So I agree to go see it.

First of all, it was a hike. Like it was not central at all, but had the same price as pisos in the center of the city. I arrive and all looks good. There’s a Spaniard, a girl from Portugal and an Italian. Oh and it had a BEAUTIFUL view of Granada. Honestly, if it was closer to the city center, I would have taken it right then and there. But it was far and expensive. So I said thanks and as always, kept it open. After all if I couldn’t find anything and that was an option, life could be much worse. I’d rather live with them than the Honduran family anyway.

As I’m walking back from that viewing, I get a message from a girl named Pilar. Except I’m still getting used to Spanish names and I assumed Pilar was a guy. Now I know Pilar is a girl’s name. She was like “I saw your ad. I’m 28 and live with my dad. We have a room free.” My dad is super low-key and chill, so I thought it was worth checking out. So I agree to meet them on my way back.

As I enter the apartment, there’s cat stuff everywhere. I forgot to ask about cats! I myself am super allergic and it’s usually one of my questions as I’m acquiring information about an apartment. But I figure since I’m already there, I might as well have a chat. I’m invited to sit on the couch and chat with her and her dad. Her dad was nothing like mine (apart from the whole my dad being an American thing). Her dad is 71 and seems to be one of those older people who just says whatever they want. One of those people who knows that the outlandish things they say and do are part of their charm. I’m convinced that certain types of people exist in every culture. This is a perfect example. He mumbles on about the financial crisis in Europe and has a weird fascination with my hands. Apparently they are big and nice looking. He keeps saying things that make her go “papi!!” out of obvious embarrassment. I’m thinking this one is a no. Apparently they have found an apartment and just need a third. I’d have my own bathroom. I’m still not convinced. I figure I already have a dad and didn’t move to Spain to get another. However like the Honduran woman and the far away apartment, I left it open. Like “oh I’m looking at other places but I’ll let you know.”

The next day I view a few more and start/stop writing a message to the girl with the dog and terrace. I wanted her piso but for some reason was hesitant. I then get a message from Pilar that her dad is going to an old persons home and she wants to live in the center of the city. She wants to be my roommate. While that was an odd switch up, I was open. I still viewed like maybe one or two more that day, and chatted back and forth with Pilar. It was nerve wracking and I often felt a tad sick. What if I found nowhere?

I just had to keep on keeping on

Yesterday was crazy. The first place was just like rooms to rent and it felt like a convent. I will say though that one of the rooms was huge and tempting to just take. The landlady made you sign a contract (not super common in Spain). I honestly felt like it was just a boarding house.

The second place I didn’t even end up seeing. I arrive and send the landlord a whatsapp message. I hear nothing back and have a seat on the bench in front. At least I have a bench! I’ve gotten real good at silver linings in all of this. She comes out about 10 minutes later with the girl and is like “se alquilada! Lo siento!” The chick took it right out from under me! What in the heck? It probably sucked anyway. So I just said thanks and continued on my way.

I was super hungry, so I stopped at a cafe and sat in the corner. I start to cry … all by myself in the corner of a cafe. Folks, this is also a part of the expat life. It’s not all sunshine, rainbows and Instagram updates like you might think. Sometimes you just feel so helpless and alone.

The piso

A girl had started messaging me on whatsapp that morning and I just had a different feeling about it. Like perhaps that was the one. I also more or less straight up told her that I had been searching with minimal luck since last week. I said if I liked it, I would want it. She seemed okay with this and it made me happy. Also she was 29 like me!

That evening I decided to be happy no matter what happened. I changed clothes, touched up my makeup and started smiling. I sat in a courtyard and people watched. I browsed shops. Even though it sucked to still be homeless in Spain, I was in Spain! I also told all my friends to pray/send out good vibes for me.

Eventually it was time to view the piso. Upon walking in, it just felt like home. The place just felt clean and well taken care of. My room would be small, yes, but with lots of closet space. I would also have direct access to the balcony and a trundle bed! All there of the roommates were from Spain just like I wanted. I just had a good feeling and said yes. And like that, it was mine! The hunt was over.

Things I realized

  • People won’t always be direct with you. If you tell someone you want it and their response is “we still have other people coming to view it,” it could mean just that. Or more often it means they want to keep roommate searching. If they were enthralled with you, they would have just let you have it then and there.
  • Next year, I may just put more money down up front for my own 3-4 bedroom and then do my own roommate searching. Then I control the conversation instead of the other way around.
  • Panning ahead in Spain is just not a thing. My plans were more or less for nothing.
  • If you have a bad gut feeling, just don’t do it. One guy wanted to offer me a free room in exchange for “english lessons.” Oh and and he would give me massages. Yeah, I turned that one down.

Other odds and ends

  • The girl with the crazy dad’s new piso wouldn’t have been ready until November. But she said I could live with her dad until then. Yeah, no. That was my last last last resort. Who knows if November would have turned into December and so forth.
  • I may hang out with some of the people who’s pisos I viewed. Thats a plus. And lord knows I need friends in a new place.
  • I finally got a response from the girls in the second piso I liked so much. They chose another girl. Go figure.

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How to avoid fees flying Spirit

avoid fees flying spirit

Several weeks ago, I was getting out of an Uber at the Portland airport.

“You don’t have much,” commented my driver looking at my backpack, the one and only backpack I brought on my journey.

“Well one of my life goals is to screw Spirit Airlines out of the money they try to screw out of us. It was nice meeting you!” I said.

I left him laughing (which I always love making people laugh). However with this trip, there was a lot of truth to that statement. The thing with these budget airlines is the price you initially pay is often not the price you pay in the end. The word budget can be deceiving unless you are smart about it. And in this post, I will show you how.

I had flown not only Spirit Airlines but Allegiant and Frontier in the past, and knew that added fees is what they do. However one of both my best and worst qualities is that I ALWAYS think there is another way. With everything. I’m always on the hunt for the creative alternative and Spirit was no different. “They can try, but they will not succeed,” was basically my mantra and thought process as we prepared for the trip.

Below you’ll find some of the most common ways travelers end up with surprise charges when flying on a budget airline such as Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit or Ryanair.

Also I created a budget airline checklist. You’ll want to download and print this handy thing. You’ll have it ready to check off next time you fly.

1. Your boarding pass

I’ll be honest. Airlines such as Delta and American have spoiled me. When flying on any major, non-budget airline, I just print my boarding pass at the gate. It’s one less thing to worry about in the stress of preparing for a trip and those kiosks are so user-friendly.

When flying on a budget airline, do not print your ticket at the airport. These airlines love to tack on that fee. With Ryanair, I read that it’s 40 Euros. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Spirit charges $10 and Allegiant charges $5. I’m sure Frontier charges something too. Here are a few tips to avoid this whole thing:

  • Check to see if the airline has a free app. Most do. You can oftentimes check in on the app and some airlines will issue you an e-ticket on your photo so you don’t even need to print a boarding pass. Just make sure you download the app with an ample wifi connection before getting to the airport. When I flew Allegiant, I was not that smart about it.
  • If you have access to a printer, print the passes at home.
  • Are you traveling and need them printed? Check with your hostel or hotel. The hostel I stayed in in Portland offered printing for 50 cents a copy. That’s a heck of a lot cheaper than $5.
  • Don’t have access to a printer? In the US, Fedex Kinkos can print them for you for like 15 cents. I’m sure there are similar printing places in other countries too.

But whatever you do, make sure you check in before arriving at the airport. Many let you start the check in process 24 hours before your flight.

2. Your baggage

My friend Cece and I opted to avoid all baggage fees. We did not even pay one. How did we do that?

Well you see, there’s a tiny loophole to the whole paying for baggage thing. These airlines would love for us all to pay for our bags at the gate. They make more money this way, of course. And if they can’t get us at the airport, they want us to pay for bags online.

However there’s another way (see, I told you this is my thing). What they want you to gloss over is that you can take one personal item free of charge. On Spirit, it can be no taller than 16 inches, no wider than 14 inches and no deeper than 12 inches. In other words, just the size of my purple LLBean backpack that I’ve had since high school.

If you’re only going on a shorter trip, I urge you to look into this option. I was able to fit everything I needed for a 5-day trip in my backpack.

avoid fees flying spirit

I packed light but smart. I loaded up on small bottles of shampoo and conditioner at Target. I also bought a travel tooth brush case.

To save space, I wore my bulkiest items on the plane. So the Chuck Taylors and jeans were worn while the sandals and dresses were packed. I rolled up my clothing for ample space.

avoid fees flying Spirit

avoid fees flying Spirit

If you are smart about what you bring, you totally can fit your whole life in a backpack for five days.

If you are flying on a longer trip where you need to take more baggage, paying online in advance is the way to go. It is much more affordable to do it online.

3. Seats

So this is a fly at your own risk sort of thing. You are not obligated to buy your seat but they kind of make you feel like you have to. If you don’t, you get assigned a seat at the gate. I almost did not get on a Frontier flight once because of this.

Reserving your own seat usually costs between $6-$25 or so. Yes it sucks to have to pay more. I always just buy my seat to be safe. Perhaps it’s the one fee I’m a sucker for.

No frills at it’s best

If you want food, you’ll have to either buy it in the airport or on the plane. The seats are not anything ridiculously comfy. It’s more or less a bus with wings. However if you keep these things in mind, you’ll save money time and time again. In fact, I made you a little checklist. This is your budget airline checklist. It’s just the thing to use next time you fly any one of these airlines.

Have you flown on one of these budget airlines? If so, what was your experience?

 

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5 Reasons why hostels are better than hotels

hostels are better than hotels

About two weeks ago, I stayed in a hostel in Portland, Oregon with one of my best friends. I’ve always thought that hostels were better than hotels and have even stayed in a few during my trip to Spain last year. However this past week solidified for me that hostels are better than hotels. Now don’t get me wrong, I do love a hotel stay too. I love the comfy bed, the maid service, the little shampoo bottles and everything else that comes along with a good hotel stay. However with this trip, the Portland Hawthorne Hostel was a better option for our wallets. It was between a hostel and airbnb. After looking at this particular hostel’s website, I went with the hostel.

For those of you unaware, a hostel is a place to stay for travelers just like a hotel. However you often share a room with strangers in addition to sharing bathrooms, the kitchen and other communal rooms. The price is often between $20-$40 per night. Depending on the hostel, there are often options for you to have your own room as well. You just pay a bit more for that vs. a dorm room with say six-eight beds.

Hostels are extremely popular in Europe and are sought out by the backpacking community. However in the United States, you’d be surprised to find more hostels than you think. Websites such as hostelworld.com make it very easy to look up hostels all over the world. In fact, that was how I found the Portland Hawthorne Hostel. So we booked two spots in the co-ed six bed dorm. We were ready and excited.

After spending more or less a week in a hostel, I am now a full hostel supporter. So I decided to make this short list for you. Next time when you’re planning a trip, look up the hostels and see if any strike your fancy. It really is a neat way to travel. So without further ado, here are five reasons why hostels a better than hotels.

hostels are better than hotels
Our hostel had a tree house thing

5. A real kitchen

Traveling can get expensive. One of the biggest ways that travelers burn through money is food. Eating every meal at a restaurant can be expensive, especially when you are traveling for a while. However when you stay in a hostel, you have access to a real kitchen complete with everything you’d need to cook a meal. You are free to go out and buy your own groceries, and store things in the communal refrigerator as long as you label with is yours. We were literally a two-minute walk from a Safeway grocery store. So at the beginning of the week, I picked up an assortment of food to munch on for the week. I bought things like fruit snacks, hummus, bananas and canned soup. It helped us live a bit more economically.

Additionally, each morning the hostel has free breakfast complete with tea and coffee. Also the Wednesday during my stay they hosted a community meal where each person paid $3. Super affordable, if you ask me.

hostels are better than hotels
location location location

4. Lots of resources

Hostels always seem to have a lot of information about things going on locally. When I’m sure hotels do as well, hostels give you more of the heartbeat of a city. For example, our hostel had flyers up about local festivals and open mic comedy nights. Additionally, there was information about public transit and city tours. Basically, hostels seem to gather up any information that may be helpful to travels and put it out. It makes figuring out plans for the day so much easier. Furthermore everyone on staff was friendly and helpful. They consider helping travelers experience Portland as best as they can to be a very important part of their job.

3. Affordability

I think we paid around $32 a night in Portland. Some hostels are a little as $10-$20 per night. Hostels will always be less expensive than a hotel room. The reason they can charge less is that they host more people for their space than a hotel. So in turn, you exchange a bit of privacy for price. But honestly when you’re out exploring a city all day, all you really need is a bed and a nice shower.

2. Cross-cultural interaction

You end up talking to so many people when staying at a hostel. It’s kind of hard not to start conversations when you all have to eat breakfast at the same dining room table or share the same kitchen. During my stay I met people from South Korea, France, the UK and Australia. You end up talking and swapping stories about your cultures. Meeting people from other cultures is my favorite way to learn about the world. And you can do that by simply staying at a hostel instead of a hotel.

1. Friendship

Hostels encourage social interaction like no one’s business. Our hostel for example had a community dinner night, a pub crawl and an open mic, in addition to breakfast every morning. It’s not at all uncommon to form friendships and go explore the city with people you met at your hostel. I ended up befriending a traveler or two during my stay in Portland. It was great. If you’re looking to do a solo trip, hostels are awesome because you can find people to do stuff with. You can find people to go explore that really neat part of town with or go to the pub with. It’s wonderful.

 

Have you stayed at a hostel before? What was your experience like? If not, have you considered it?

Today I’m linking up with these bloggers:

Bright on a Budget, KT Cup of Tea, Della Devoted, Life in Leggings, A little Bit of Everything

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Part 1: Portland and what we wore

Portland outfits

For those of you new to A World of Dresses, I spent about five days in Portland, Oregon, with one of my best friends last week. It was good to have a little vacation after a year of both good and bad. The year of 28 was definitely an interesting one for sure.

When traveling, you want to have some comfortable outfits. I call these my Portland outfits. My Portland outfits are a mixture of trendy yet cute. I’ve also included my friend Cece’s Portland outfits. I absolutely love personal style. Mine and Cece’s are both very unique in different ways. I packed a lot of dresses and she packed a lot of rompers. I wore sandals and she wore combat boots. All of our Portland outfits were uniquely us and comfortable.

Our Portland outfits

I packed light for this trip for several reasons. First, we were staying at the Portland Hawthorne Hostel. When staying in a hostel, you trade money for space. And honestly, who needs a lot of space when you’re out exploring a city each day? I did not want some big bag that I had to lug up two flights of stairs and store in a room I would share with five other people. A backpack was the perfect thing.

The second reason I took only a backpack is because of my mission to not give any more of my money to Spirit Airlines than necessary. Spirit Airlines is a low cost budget airline with amazingly cheap flight deals. We got both of our round trip tickets Chicago-Portland for something around $400. The catch is that they charge for everything. You pay to check a bag and you pay to carry a bag on. You even pay $10 if you need to print your boarding pass at the airport (what?!?). You pay for any food on board. We even joked that they’ll ask us to pay for our emotional baggage. You just never know.

There is a loophole, my friends. You are allowed one personal item free of charge. It has to be under the dimensions of 16 inches tall, 14 inches wide and 12 inches deep. I have this LLBean backpack from like high school that still functions well. It has all these compartments and fits those dimensions. It was perfect.

So I simply rolled up my Portland outfits and stuck them in. Everything fit quite nicely. When thinking about ideal Portland outfits, sundresses came to mind. So I picked three and packed them in.

The Old Navy Sundress

This is a new find from this past summer season that I was excited to wear. I love how simple it is and I love anything in the color green!

Portland outfits

Portland outfits

Portland outfits

Portland outfits

Portland outfits

Outfit details

Dress: Old Navy
Necklace: Charming Charlie
Sunglasses: Sidestreet Gallery
Sandals: Target

One of Cece’s Portland outfits

It was hard to pick which outfit of hers I’d post first. They were all unique and dynamic … just like she is! This one from the first day, though, just seemed fitting. It’s the perfect example of mixing several things together so well … a fun t-shirt, boots, a skirt and some purple lipstick to top it all off!

Portland outfits

Portland outfits

Portland outfits

Portland outfits

Outfit details

T-shirt: Go browse your local Thrift Shop
Boots: similar
Skirt (can also be worn as a dress): similar

Those were a few of our outfits. What do you like to wear while traveling?

Also have you seen our latest all about our 5 Portland favorites? Check it out here!

I’m linking up here:

Wednesday

Jersey Girl Texan HeartShopping My ClosetPumps and PushupsThe Pleated PoppySydney Fashion HunterThe Mummy ChroniclesCappuccino and FashionPosh Classy MomLiving on Cloud Nine

Thursday

Elegance and MommyhoodDoused in PinkCurly Crafty Mom, Jaymie Ashcraft

Friday

Two Thirty-Five DesignsNancy’s Fashion StyleJeans & a TeacupClaire JustineRachel the HatA Poketful of Polka DotsForage FashionFashion Should be FunSincerely PaulaBirdie Shoots,Shelbee on the Edge

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My 5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

I’ll admit that it was very hard to pick just five. Last week, a good friend of mine and I spent some time exploring Portland, Oregon. It was my second time to Portland and her first. We did everything from eating doughnuts to laying out in the sun to visiting a nearby winery. So after much thought, these are my 5 favorite Portland spots from this trip. Portland seems to have something for everyone … museums, doughnuts, swimming, shopping, beer, Indian food and so much more. If you are looking to visit an American city that’s accessible, pretty and friendly, Portland is the place to go. Everyone … literally everyone is nice.

So without further ado, here are my 5 favorite Portland spots:

5. The ScreenDoor Restaurant

Cece and I were looking for a good brunch spot and were recommended the ScreenDoor Restaurant. We were staying at the Hawthorne Hostel over in the South East area of town, so it was not far for us at all. The ScreenDoor was an easy maybe 5-10 minute Uber ride. We were on vacation, so why not take Ubers everywhere?

The ScreenDoor describes itself as “the best southern cuisine in Portland.” I would have to concur. I ordered shrimp n’ grits. My best friend lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and I’ve had shrimp n’ grits many a times while visiting her. I was wondering how it would stack up to what I’ve eaten where shrimp n’ grits originated. I was very pleasantly surprised. It was perfect.

Cece ordered the freshly baked short cake with fruit and whipped cream to start. I had a little bit and it was amazing. You honestly could fill up on just that alone.

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots
Oh she’s ready
5 favorite Portland spots
and SO good

I myself stole a few bites and I have to say that it was AMAZING. If you go to the ScreenDoor, you want to make sure you order this as at least an appetizer to share with your group.

Here are a few photos of my shrimp n’ grits. It had pieces of bacon in it and some vegetables too. It was absolutely perfect.

5 favorite Portland spots

Coffee was very important to us. We kept drinking it and they kept refilling it. A brunch spot that understands my need for coffee is my kind of place.

For the main course, Cece ordered a sandwich that had some curly fries on it. I think it was the beef brisket, but I cannot remember exactly. We laughed that it was as big as her head.

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

If you are planning a Portland trip, make sure you stop at the ScreenDoor Restaurant.

4. Sidestreet Gallery

On our walk home from brunch that same day, we stumbled upon a fun and quirky shop called the Sidestreet Gallery. It was everything you think when you think of Portland being weird. Outside they were selling baby doll heads for 50 cents and sunglasses for $5. That was what initially caught our attention. As we made our way inside the shop, we found all sorts of little trinkets, model sets, Christmas decorations, other decorations, jewelry, masks, costume items and so much more. If Portland were just one shop it would be this shop.

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

I bought these rockin’ sunglasses for only $4!

5 favorite Portland spots

My dress here is from Old Navy, necklace is Charming Charlie and shoes Target. I wore either these or my Chuck Taylors the entire time. I like comfort while still looking cute.

3. Voodoo Doughnut

So if you want touristy, Voodoo Doughnut is your place. There’s literally a line at all times of the day, I’ve heard. We went on I think a Tuesday at like 11 a.m.

The whole idea behind Voodoo Doughnut is that they make ridiculous doughnuts with all sorts of craziness on them. I got one with fruit loops on top, for example. If you have nut allergies, be warned right now. There are a lot of doughnuts with peanuts, peanut butter or other nuts. I myself have a peanut allergy and thus stuck to two doughnuts I knew I’d be absolutely safe with.

These were Cece’s doughnuts. Yummmm.

5 favorite Portland spots

And MINE!

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

The wait was … fun?

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

Life is interesting and fun for sure. While at one of our 5 favorite Portland spots, we ran into the ALS people. Do you all remember the ice bucket challenge a few years back? Everyone was making those videos and posting them to social media where they would get dunked with a bucket full of ice/water. Well that was to raise awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease that affects about 5,600 people in the United States and I’m sure many others world-wide. There was a group of people traveling the country to raise awareness. For their Portland stop, they felt that Voodoo Doughnut was fitting. They also felt that dunking the dunkee in icing and sprinkles was even more fitting, so they did just that.

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite spots

If you have interest in contributing to their campaign, you can go here.

2. Swimming/laying out by the bridge

This place just had to be in my list of my 5 favorite Portland spots. Just off of the Hawthorne Bridge, which connected the neighborhood we stayed in to downtown, is a little spot that people go to lay out in the sun and swim. I love that people just swim in the river in Portland. In my hometown of Cincinnati, many people would scoff at swimming in our river.

The flight we took home left at like 11 p.m. at night. So we for sure had a few hours to kill on our last day. This just seemed like the perfect way to spend our early afternoon.

5 favorite Portland spots

Cece can do a bridge …

5 favorite Portland spots

And I wore my Zulily pineapple dress …

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots
Cece looking hot

1. Brooks Winery

Okay, so this technically is not Portland at all. It was a good 30 minutes- 1 hour drive from the city. But it was so amazing that I just had to include it with my 5 favorite Portland spots.

Last year around this time, I spent about a month in Nicaragua doing volunteer work. I befriended Jana who was a Peace Corps volunteer there at the time. When you are overseas, you just have this way of finding people from your culture. It can be comforting and also inhibiting if you really want to immerse yourself in the culture. That, however, is a rant for another time.

Since then, Jana has returned from the Peace Corps and is living back in her hometown of Portland. I just had to see her while I was in town. It turns out that her parents are members of Brooks Winery. They were having a members night our first evening in town and brought us along. It was such a nice treat.

5 favorite Portland spots

The story of this place is fascinating as well. It all started with the founder Jimi Brooks. He spent some time overseas in Europe traveling. Thus when he ran out of money, he found himself with work at a winery in France. After spending time in Europe learning all about wine and how it was made, he returned to Oregon to start his own winery and farm. He sadly passed at the young age of 38. However Brooks remains in the care of his family and they keep his legacy going by producing quality wine and carrying out biodynamic farming practices. You can read the full story here.

We for sure had a great time trying out the different types of wines and appetizers.

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

5 favorite Portland spots

Thanks for reading all about my journey. Have you been to Porland? What were some of your favorite spots?

 

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Why you need a true weekend away … now!!

weekend away

This past weekend away I packed away dresses that had already appeared on the blog. While I had my camera with me, it did not leave the case one bit. On past weekends away, this made me feel anxious. “This place is beautiful,” I’d think. “This backdrop would make for some killer Instagram photos. I just need to go bug someone I came with to play photographer!” While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this way of thinking, it was also nice to take a true weekend off.

The family reunion … my weekend away

Ever since I was little, my dad’s side of the family has taken these trips in the summer. We usually pick a lake-side location and all rent cabins. Some people arrive Thursday night and others arrive Friday. We spend the days on the lake boating, water skiing and swimming. We spend the evenings grilling out, drinking beer and enjoying each others’ company. I used to dread it growing up. My phone would loose reception about halfway down and I’d be bored. Now I really enjoy this weekend away with family.

I just returned from my family reunion to Jamestown Resort and Marina off Lake Cumberland and I feel more rejuvenated than ever. I’m ready to conquer this week of blogging … at least!

I did take a few shots of the lake as it is beautiful. And confession: I did do some small blog things. It’s hard to completely separate yourself. However the tranquility allowed me to breathe and think a little more. It was nice. I made some brainstorm lists and slept in every morning. Bloggers and non-bloggers, we could all benefit from this.

weekend away

Why you need a weekend away

Ladies, I’m specifically talking to you. We often take on so much in our daily lives. I know for example that many of my blogger friends reading this have children and full-time jobs in addition to running their blog. It can get crazy and hectic. I know the feeling well. Others of us may work two and three jobs. Others of us may play large voluntary roles in community organizations. Whatever it is, many of us could keep on going if we allowed ourselves to.

Several months ago, I sat down and wrote an exhaustive list of all the things I needed to be doing for my blog. From scheduling Twitter to growing my e-mail list better to writing blog posts in advance and everything in between, it was LONG. I got overwhelmed.

“Our to-do lists will never end, which is exactly why we need a weekend away.”

weekend away

I’m a firm believer in accepting reality rather than trying to live in unattainable ideals. Once of those ideals is that I’ll do it all. With two jobs on top of my blog, that will never happen. Our to-do lists will never end, which is exactly why we need a weekend away.

Leave it at home and just go. Smell the flowers, swim in the lake and drink the beer. Browse around the gift shop without an end time in mind. Just be … don’t do.

We simply cannot keep going without some time for ourselves. Yet we often forget to love ourselves. Please do me a favor ladies and make time for yourself. Put that list or that phone down. And instead of doing … just be.

Ladies, what are some of your favorite ways to show love to yourself?

Sunday

Beauty 101 by Lisa, The Wardrobe Stylist

Monday

Birth of a Fashion Blogger, Sincerely Jenna Marie, More Pieces of Me, Fizz and Frosting, Still Being Molly, Beauty by Miss L, Michelle’s Paige, Not Dressed as Lamb, Mahogany Closet, Color and Grace, and Not Dead Yet Style

Tuesday

Live Randomly Simple, Sandy a la mode, Two Peas in a Blog, I Do deClaire, The Fashion Canvass, Walking in Memphis in High Heels and Elegantly Dressed & Stylish

Wednesday

Jersey Girl Texan Heart, Shopping My Closet, Pumps and Pushups, The Pleated PoppySydney Fashion HunterThe Mummy Chronicles, Cappuccino and Fashion, Posh Classy Mom, Living on Cloud Nine

Thursday

Elegance and MommyhoodDoused in Pink, Curly Crafty Mom, Jaymie Ashcraft

Friday

Two Thirty-Five DesignsNancy’s Fashion Style, Jeans & a Teacup, Claire Justine, Rachel the Hat, A Poketful of Polka Dots, Forage Fashion, Fashion Should be Fun, Sincerely PaulaBirdie Shoots, Shelbee on the Edge

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