Visiting Oakley Cabin in Olney, Maryland

http://youtube.com/watchVisiting Oakley Cabin in Olney, Maryland

Come along as we take a quick jaunt to Oakley Cabin in Maryland. Learn the history of what was once a thriving African American road side community.

What I ate in Havana Cuba

After having a particularly terrible food experience at a hotel shortly after arriving in Havana, I was very wary about the food options in Cuba.

Bembe Tapas Bar

Cuba is notorious for having hit or miss food due to the rationing of ingredients, including seasonings. Enter Bembè Tapas & Bar to save the day.

My first meal in a hotel restaurant in Cuba was horrible.

Want more? Read about Street Food in Havana

When I tell you that the food Gods must have been looking out for me, I am not joking. Bembè was literally down the street from my Casa Particular on Calle Barcelona. The restaurant has 2 levels. There is a bar and few tables on the lower level and a small dining area on the top level. The first time I ate there I was seated up top but I felt like I was away from the action so I requested to sit downstairs on my my subsequent visits.

The first time I went to Bembè I ordered 3 tapas: tacos and empanadas. My favorite of the 3 were the empanadas. As you can see from the pictures, you don’t get any accompanying sides with the tacos. The fact that the food was fresh and seasoned was enough for me after the experience I had at the hotel. I took half of the food back to my room with me since I had a small refrigerator/cooler. All of the food pictured above along with a beer was only $14 with a 10% gratuity added on.

Bembè is open 12 hours a day from 12:00 AM to 12:00 PM. At night they sometimes have live entertainment. The staff was friendly, the food was tasty, and the drinks were cold so it quickly became my only spot to eat in Havana. The fact that it was literally down the street was a bonus.

Picture of empanadas and tacos. Façade of Bembè Tapas Bar.
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Once Cuba reopens, make it a point to pop into Bembè for a cold cerveza and tapas. It is located behind El Capitolio on the corner of Barcelona and Amistad.

Bembè Tapas | Calle Barcelona, esquina Amistad |
Havana, Cuba

Now it’s your turn. What was a bad food experience or hidden gem that you found in your travels? Share them below in the comments section!

Remember to like and subscribe if you enjoy travel content like this.

Review of the Riu Hotels in Playa Mujeres

Picture of pool with text reading What happened in Cancun.
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Back in 2019, before we knew that the world was going to shut down due to Covid-19, I took a trip to Cancun, Mexico to celebrate a milestone birthday. I stayed in the beautiful Riu Palace Costa Mujeres, an all-inclusive beachfront hotel located on Playa Mujeres, in what is dubbed the “new hotel zone.”

I gave the property a rating of 3/5 stars. In the video I share my honest opinion of the resort, along with my first impressions of the sister resort The Riu Dunamar. I close the video with a mini tour of the property. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to like, share, and subscribe to my YouTube channel. Tap on the notification bell for my latest videos.

YouTube Video of Riu Costa Mujeres review

Now it’s your turn! What is your best or worst hotel experience? Share below in the comments section.

Exploring Croydon in the Mountains of Jamaica

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I wanted to experience something off the beaten path while visiting Montego Bay in Jamaica back in April of 2019 (pre-pandemic) and that is exactly what I got. While Croydon was once a plantation, it is probably more of working farm these days.

Croydon in the Mountains is a working farm located at the top of a lush mountain in Catadupa in St. James Parish.

🎥Click to watch the video

The bumpy winding road up to the top of the mountain is incredibly treacherous, but the tour bus drivers are experienced and confident. After miles of looking out the window at colorful humble homes with loose goats and free-range chickens roaming about, some out in the road, we safely arrived at the top of the mountain where a beautiful estate opened up before us.

Hold on for dear life as you ride the rickety roads up the mountain.

The farm grows mostly different varieties of pineapples, coffee, and other tropical fruits. Fun fact, there are more than 37 types of pineapples grown across the world, each with its own unique set of characteristics. Among those grown in Jamaica are are Sugar Loaf, Red Spanish, Ripley and Smooth Cayenne. The Sugar Loaf is popular in the local fresh fruit market for its rich and sweet flavour. Each variety had its own unique flavor profile and texture. They tasted nothing like the flavorless GMO products that are often sold in the U.S.

On the tour visitors are treated to a sampling of some of the fruits and coffee grown on the farm.

The guides are knowledgeable and entertaining. I really enjoyed my guide Shakira.

At the end of the tour a delicious jerk chicken lunch is served. It was better than the jerk hut that was on my resort.

Jerk Chicken cooked fresh and comes part of the tour package.

I definitely recommend this tour for anyone who enjoys nature or has a strong interested in horticulture, agriculture, and gardening.

Have you visited Jamaica? What was your favorite experience on the island? Leave a comment below.

Please be sure to like, comment, and subscribe for more travel adventures.

Watch the video on YouTube

I’m vaccinated, now what?

On a sunny day in March of 2020 I stood in the parking lot of my job scoffing at the prospect of shutting everything down for 2 weeks due to what we knew then simply as the Corona virus. I had no idea that 2 weeks would turn into 6 months, and 6 months would turn into a year. Fortunately, I didn’t have any trips booked. I hadn’t traveled since 2019 so I was itching to get back on a plane. Little did I know then that I would be itching well into 2021.

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

I spent the past year following the CDC guidelines and only going out for groceries, take out meals, and visiting the dentist for my half year check up and cleaning. I had gotten quite comfortable with my new normal. Then, exactly a year after the world shut down, I was eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The idea of traveling started to become more than just a longing and I immediately hit up the internet for discount air fares and hotel deals so I could spend my birthday somewhere other than inside of my home.

Unlike some people, I actually did not mind having a year to catch my proverbial breath. I did not miss the early morning work commute, spending money to fill up my gas tank weekly, and the general rat race that came with pre-Covid life.

I spent time at home taking a close look at my finances and creating a financial freedom plan. Since I was not spending money on travel I could use that income to pay off outstanding balances and figure out which credit cards offered the most value and which ones I can retire. And let’s not even talk about how the little Stimmies helped out a bit too.

All of that is to say that there is more to consider than just being vaccinated as we dip her proverbial toe back into the travel waters. How will I come out of this experience better than I went in? What lessons were learned from a year of being “inside?” Do I really need to rush back out there or can I slowly slip back into traveling?

I’ve decided to stick to my plan to continue working on my financial health. That’s not to say that if too good to pass up deal comes along that I won’t take advantage of it, but right now I want to focus on getting my life in order before running off to escape reality. I want to be smarter about the way I navigate the world. I want have richer experiences that I can truly enjoy without having to worry about money once I get back home. So my cards are going to get a chance to cool down and build up points, and I am coming back stronger and better in the coming months.

I can go into more detail in a later post if you are interested. Let me know in the comments section if that is something you would be interesting in. I can do a post or a podcast about it.

What have you been doing this year to improve yourself? Where are you planning to travel next?

Foreign Exchange: Don’t throw your money away

Girl, don’t throw your money away!

My mama used to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” We won’t delve into the logistics of that statement, but I was reminded of it while watching a YouTuber visit Costa Rica. She looked into the camera and with a sense of pride proclaimed, “So, one of the cool things about Central America is that you can pay in U.S. dollars.” Apparently she paid for a meal in USD and they gave her Costa Rican Colón back. Considering the fact that the Colón doesn’t have the same monetary value as the USD it seems to me that they might have gotten the better end of the deal. My advice is to always exchange your money for the local currency unless the value is dollar for dollar.

Exchanging your USD for local currency

A foreign exchange rate is the relative value between two currencies. Simply put, “exchange rates are the amount of one currency you can exchange for another.”

In travel, the exchange rate is defined by how much money, or the amount of a foreign currency, that you can buy with one US dollar. Exchange rates change daily so be sure you are checking regularly before and during your trip for the best exchange rates. Currency converters and current exchange rate calculators can help you make your money go further. If you can try to exchange your money with your local bank at least 2 weeks before your trip.

Take aways:

  • Currency exchange shops and kiosks in airports are not the best places to exchange money.
  • For the best rates, try a local bank or a bank ATM to make your currency exchanges. 
  • Check to see if your U.S. bank offers foreign ATM fee refunds for using a foreign ATM.

Credit card and Bank Transfer fees

✅ Some credit cards do not charge an extra foreign exchange fee, and you will get your bank’s rate if you use your credit card for a purchase.

✅ Some U.S. banks offer foreign ATM fee refunds and do not charge fees for using a foreign ATM.

Final words of advice:

☞Always carry a small amount of the local currency with you.

☞Check with your local bank before traveling to set up alerts, change pins (if necessary) and find out the best way to extend your money on your trip.

When do you exchange your money? What are some money saving tips that you can add?

Thanks for reading! Be sure to like, share, and subscribe if enjoyed or benefitted from this post.

Free Global Entry with TSA Pre-Check

There is an old adage that says, “time is money.” If you agree that your time is more valuable than your money then you will want to look into getting Global Entry. After missing a flight last year due to being held up by TSA I decided that I would find a way to get Global Entry and TSA Pre✓. A year later I have both and I was able to get them for free! Let me explain how I did it and how you can do it too.

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What is Global Entry?

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows faster entry for pre-approved, low-risk travelers arriving in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports  rather than standing in long lines to be processed by an agent. Global Entry applicants must qualify for the program by passing a background check, being interviewed, and finally being fingerprinted. Your status is valid for 5 years. As a bonus, Global Entry includes TSA Pre✓ which expedites screenings through TSA security checkpoints.

Why should you get Global Entry?

There are several reasons someone might want to sign up for Global Entry:

  • If you travel internationally and hate standing in long lines when you return from traveling abroad.
  • If you like getting 2 for 1 offers. Global Entry comes with TSA Pre✓.
  • If you hate getting half undressed and being subjected to pat downs when you travel.
  • If you like getting things for free (more on that below.)

How do you apply? 

To apply for Global Entry go onto the official website at Trusted Traveler Programs and complete the application for Global Entry. The cost is $100 and if you are approved your status is valid for 5 years. However you can get Global Entry for free every 4 years as a benefit of using some credit cards. If you pay for Global Entry using an eligible credit card then the credit card company will reimburse your account for the full cost of Global Entry. I used my American Express card to get Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ for free and within days my $100 payment showed up as a credit on my statement.

What happens next?

After you have submitted your paperwork then wait to be notified that your application has been conditionally approved. You might be expecting an email informing you of your status and you probably won’t receive it. It is my understanding that some people get an email telling them to check the portal and others don’t. I didn’t receive the email but my application was conditionally approved within a week. Log into the TTP portal to check your status about 7 business days after submitting your application. Once your application has been conditionally approved you can make an appointment for an in person interview.

How do I schedule the interview?

Scheduling the interview was probably the trickiest part of the whole process. Once you receive your conditional approval click on the link to schedule an interview near you. Unfortunately, your location might not have any interviews available for the rest of the year, or your interview might get canceled like mine. Find an interview location and time that works best for you and lock it in. If you can’t find an interview location or time near you then you have the option to interview upon arrival as long as you have received conditional approval.

Source: #Twitter

What are they going to ask me?

Some agents are more serious than others. I was fortunate to get a relaxed agent who made conversation so it was less of an interview and more of a chat. She asked me to confirm the same questions that were on the application such as:

  • Address
  • Occupation and location of my job
  • Where have a traveled in the past couple of years
  • Have I been in trouble with the law
  • Have I violated any customs laws
  • Do I have any upcoming trips planned

We chatted about the places I’ve visited, my job, and how she decided to become a Customs Officer. She entered the information while we chatted, took my picture and fingerprints, and just like that I was approved on the spot. The interview took probably about 15 minutes.

How long does it take to be approved?

Ideally the entire process shouldn’t take more than 3 weeks from start to finish but my process was more like 2 months. Delays can be caused by increasing enrollment numbers (especially during the peak travel months,) a backlog from this year’s government shutdown, and the reassignment of officials to the southern border. My initial interview was canceled the week that I was supposed to go due to the humanitarian and security crisis at the Mexican Border back in June of that year. Fortunately, I was able to reschedule a later interview in a neighboring city. The other option is to interview at an airport upon returning from traveling abroad. You must complete enrollment within 365 days of receiving your conditional approval. Not scheduling and completing the interview will result in cancelation of the application and no refunds will be granted.

Here is my timeline of events for reference:

  • May 13 – applied online
  • May 19 – received notice of being conditionally approved
  • June 26 – interview scheduled (then cancelled)
  • July 18 – interview rescheduled in another location
  • July 22 – notified that I was approved!

Are there options to Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ ?

  • Clear is a privately owned biometric security company.

A few important reminders:

  • When you get your passport updated remember to add your Global Entry number to the new passport.
  • Remember to add your trusted traveler number to your airline reservations. Your card is not going to give you access to the Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ lines in the airport. They are to be used when driving across borders in North America.
  • Your names must match on everything. If your middle name is used on your passport it will also be used for Global Entry. You should book your airline tickets using first, middle, and last as well if that is what is on your Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ . The easiest way to ensure that you remember to do this is by changing the profile of your favorite airlines to match your TTP information.
  • Your Global Entry expires on your birthday, not the date that you were approved. Plan accordingly.

Do you have Global Entry? What is the best part of having it? Share your comments below. Be sure to like, share, and subscribe to She Jaunts!

Can I afford to travel?

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate and referral links that might share a percentage of sales with me at no extra cost to you. I use those funds to purchase cheap airline tickets, so thank you in advance for helping me to jaunt.

I used to believe that I couldn’t afford to travel for pleasure. Not only did I believe that I couldn’t afford to travel for pleasure, but I also believed that I didn’t deserve to travel for pleasure. Why would I think such negative thoughts? Well, I have consumer debt and a large student loan repayment plan. I also live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Actually, the only cities I have ever lived in were the most expensive cities, so saving money has been a struggle for me.

I finally decided that the negative self-talk was getting me nowhere fast and I needed to make some serious financial changes. I began researching how to create a budget which led me to watching YouTube videos that described how to increase my credit score. My credit score had been stagnant for ages and I couldn’t figure out why. I later realized that it was because my utilization was too high so I made plans to pay off my high interest credit cards and decrease my credit utilization by getting more credit cards to balance the credit used with the additional credit limits. It worked!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Around this time last year, I was offered a pre-approved American Express card. I had a negative experience with American Express when I was in college and it left a bad taste in my mouth, but I knew the value of having an American Express card so I applied for it. That decision was one of the best decisions that I’ve made in a long time because between the sign-up bonus, the interest-free period, and the other wonderful benefits that I can’t even begin to list here, having an American Express card offered positive value to my financial portfolio and sure enough my credit score grew.

Don’t get me wrong, having better credit wasn’t the only reason that I was able to afford to travel this year. I also took on two extra jobs that generated a bit of extra income. In addition I paid off my highest interest credit cards by using a personal loan that had a lower interest rate and my tax refund. I began using Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar budget app to plan my spending each month. For the record I am not Ramsey enthusiast, however Everydollar is a wonderful resource. As a result of diligent budgeting I was able to cut back on expenses like eating out too often, getting mani-pedis, and other extras that were eating into my savings. I was also able to put my student loans on hold for a while then I negotiated a lower payment plan. Basically I was being strategic about my spending.

As a result of paying off my high interest credit cards, I now have extra money to spend  and pay towards my remaining bills. I am also looking into moving into a less expensive apartment (or city) and I plan to use that money to … you guessed it, travel!

So, let me give you a detailed break down of how I was able to take my trip to Ojo Caliente Spa in New Mexico in April. Note: I am paying off debts charged to credit cards immediately or interest free.

Airfare

I had Luv Vouchers from Southwest Airlines from two trips that I canceled last year due to crippling anxietySouthwest Airlines had one of their amazing sales so I used my expiring vouchers towards the airfare. I also earned points toward future travel by enrolling in the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program.  You might also consider applying for their branded credit card which is currently offering 40,000 reward points.

Accommodations

My hotel was probably the largest expense on this trip. I stayed in the least expensive option at Ojo Caliente for 2 nights. With extra amenities (including meals) added on my final bill was around $500. I used my American Express card because it provides the the best customer support if there is ever a problem on the trip. For example on my trip to Philadelphia last year I bought the wrong ticket and the bus company wouldn’t give me a refund. I paid for the ticket using my American Express card and they were able to credit the money back to my account.  My American Express card was still in the interest-free period, however my interest-free period was expiring soon so American Express sweetened the deal by offering a monthly payment plan called Plan It for large purchases over $100.00. Even though I have already taken my trip to New Mexico, I was still able to break up the payments for that trip into 3 smaller payments with no interest (at that time).

My next trip will be to a destination where I am using Airbnb for my accommodations . My housing expenses will be much cheaper as a result. Use my discount code to say up to $55 on your stay and experience.

Car Rental

I rented a car while I was in New Mexico however when I tried to use my American Express card to check out I was charged more than I was quoted more for my deposit. The agent said something about having extra fees for companies that were not Visa or Mastercard. So, I opted to use my Capital One Spark card. While the Spark card is not interest free, it does offer cash back on all purchases and since the bill was $151.00 it wasn’t a large expense to pay off.

So, there you have it. My tried and true tips and tricks for finagling a well deserved jaunt when you just have to get out of town. I am in no way shape or form advocating going into debt for the sake of travel I am just sharing what worked for me and my budget. As I mentioned earlier, I worked two extra jobs and I had extra money that I received from various sources (including a contract negotiation on my job.) The first step to traveling on a small budget is to create a realistic budget. Once you know how much money you are truly working with then you can go from there. The credit cards that I used were to maximize benefits. I received statement credits, interest-free periods, and in the case of the car rental, a smaller rental deposit. Happy jaunting!

Share how you manage your travel expenses in the comment section below. Please click like and subscribe. 

Check my travel deals page for exclusive discounts and ways to save money on your next trip. 

The top 5 things to do when visiting San Francisco

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Photo: The Golden Gate Bridge by Pexels
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate and referral links that might share a percentage of sales with me at no extra cost to you. I use those funds to purchase cheap airline tickets, so thank you in advance for helping me travel.

Someone once said that “the coldest summer I ever spent was in San Francisco.” I was born and raised in the glorious city by the bay and will agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. During my childhood I didn’t spend my summers running around the city in shorts. As a matter of fact, I never knew that people had summer and winter wardrobes until I moved to the east coast. What would be considered summer clothes were only worn to summer camp in the mountains or on summer vacations down south. And when I say down south I don’t just mean the southern part of the United States, I’m including southern California.

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Photo by: Brett Sayles

Here’s a fun fact about San Francisco, it is made up of microclimates. It can be cold and foggy in the morning, then warm up once the sun comes out and the fog burns off. Suddenly, it will be cold and damp again. But that’s not all. There are pockets of the city that are in a sunbelt and other parts that are notorious for being in the fog belt. I obviously grew up in an area that is in the fog belt. Most people think that all of California is warm and sunny, but San Francisco is sassy and independent. She does what she wants, when she wants. To help first time visitors navigate my hometown, I’ve come up with 5 tips for people visiting San Francisco for the first time.

Tip #1: Dress in layers. You will want to bring a jacket or a light weight coat to wear at night when temperatures can drop 30 or more degrees. Hoodies are good to wear during the day with a short sleeve shirt underneath. Bring a few long sleeve shirts, a scarf, gloves, and a hat for that chilly ferry ride over to Alcatraz. Wearing clothing that can be layered is key. Most people dress casually so jeans and slacks are a good idea. I would not bring shorts because it’s usually too chilly unless you are going outside of the city.

♥Check out Anatomie for travel friendly clothes♥

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Photo by: Vincent Gerbouin

Tip #2: Don’t drive. Parking and traffic in San Francisco and the Bay Area is atrocious! Unless you are staying outside of the city I wouldn’t suggest getting a car to drive around the city.  Have you ever tried to parallel park on one of those jaw dropping hills in a tight space at night? Right. Instead, I recommend that you ride BART, MUNI, or catch an UBER or Lyft. San Francisco is a relatively small city and it can be quite walkable, but just be warned that those hills might take you out.

♥Ride Big Bus San Francisco to explore the city♥

Tip #3: Eat your way through the city. Food is amazing in San Francisco and you will find delicious food from around the world all over the city. Great Chinese food is not only in found in Chinatown but some of the best food is found in the Richmond and Sunset districts.  Mexican food, especially burritos are hearty and flavorful in the Mission district. Italian food can still be found in North Beach. If seafood is your thing then you can get amazing fresh out of the water fish and shellfish at Fisherman’s Wharf. One of my favorites things to do on a chilly San Francisco day is to get a bowl of clam chowder served inside of a San Francisco sourdough bowl.

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San Francisco Chinatown by Brett Sayles

Tip #4: Satisfy your need for culture by visiting local museums. The MoAD Museum is within walking distance of several other museums in the Yerba Buena Arts District. If you’ve got a sweet tooth then you don’t want to miss the Museum of Ice Cream. Stroll through gorgeous Golden Gate Park which will lead you to the California Academy of Sciences and  the de Young Museum. While you’re there, stop and enjoy a cup of tea in the adorable Japanese Tea Garden. Visit nearby Fort Mason or The Presidio. When I was a child one of my favorite places to visit was the Exploratorium . Back then it was located at the Palace of Fine Arts but it has since moved to Pier 15 near the Embarcadero. While you are over there be sure to check out the beautifully restored Ferry Building. Other interesting activities include walking through the very colorful Castro neighborhood to learn the history of the LGBTQ movement in San Francisco. There are so many touristy things to do and you should feel free to partake in as many of them as you can.

♥City Pass lets you spend less and see more♥

Tip #5: Venture outside of the city. While I love my hometown I will admit that the surrounding cities and towns can give it a run for its money. There is the vibrant culture and history found in nearby Oakland and Berkeley. Visit the Oakland Museum and Lake Merritt. Head across the other bridge and you can enjoy the juicy flavors of a wide variety of wines produced in Napa and Sonoma. Ride a ferry over to Sausalito for lunch and a bit of window shopping, or if you are brave enough try to walk or bike across the blustery Golden Gate Bridge. Whatever you decide to do I’m pretty sure you will have an amazing time.

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Photo by Melvin Wahlin on Pexels.com

Perhaps I’m biased but I believe that San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in America. I leave you with my top 5 must dos for people visiting San Francisco for the first time. Jaunt over to Fisherman’s Wharf, / Pier 39 for Dungeness Crab. Take a trip to Chinatown to eat dim sum. Hang off of a cable car as it clangs its way up and down the rolling hills. Jaunt across the Golden Gate Bridge to sip wine and watch the sun set over the glistening bay.  Finally, gaze down on the city from Twin Peaks while eating a two handed burrito.

ETA: Some people have been asking about places to stay in San Francisco. I would suggest staying in an Airbnb rather than a hotel but if you decide to stay in a hotel check out my travel deals page for great money saving discounts.

Have you visited San Francisco? What tips would you offer a first time visitor? Share them in the comments section. Be sure to like, share, and subscribe!

I flew on Spirit Airlines and survived

Spirit Airlines

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate and referral links that might share a percentage of sales with me at no extra cost to you. I use those funds to purchase cheap airline tickets, so thank you in advance for helping me travel.

The backstory

I know what you are thinking, but hear me out. After I returned from Jamaica in April I started looking online for a birthday trip the following month. You see, my birthday this year was a milestone so I wanted to bring it in big. I found a reasonable all inclusive package and booked a trip to Cancun with Riu Hotels.

The problem with these packages is that the airlines they partner with are not always my first choice, and they often have layovers. The package that they were offering had a choice of several airlines but they all had layovers. Except one. After the experience of flying through Chicago ORD last month I decided to go with a direct flight. The only airline that was offering a direct flight was you guessed it…Spirit Airlines.

I’ve heard all of the horror stories about Spirit but I could not get past the fact that they were offering a 3 hour direct flight to Cancun from Baltimore so I went ahead and booked it. I’ve also read all of the blog posts and articles about how to outsmart Spirit. I tried them all but failed. Spirit remains undefeated when it comes to nickel and diming people out of their hard earned money. By the time Spirit got done shaking me down with its supposed chump change flights, I was left feeling like a chump. In all fairness I had been warned. I’ll break down how Spirit got me good in a separate post.

Check in

When I arrived at the airport it wasn’t too chaotic. Since I had printed my boarding pass ahead of time and I wasn’t checking a bag I was able to go straight to security. I felt like Ice Cube the rapper in his video “Today was a good day” when I managed to pass through security without getting felt up! Once I made it through security with my dignity still intact I casually strolled towards my gate. Since I knew that Spirit doesn’t offer complimentary anything I packed my snacks at home and just purchased a bottle of water, a diet soda, Lifesavers, and gum. Just enough for the flight since the resort was all inclusive.

I recently got the American Express Platinum which includes Priority Pass lounge access. I was just chiding myself for not getting to the airport early enough to use this valuable benefit when I happened to walk past a Priority Pass lounge. I pulled up my membership number on my phone and went into the lounge. I was surprised that it was in the Spirit terminal and close to my gate. I got some fresh fruit, a cup of coffee, and a granola bar to take with me since my flight would be boarding shortly. There wasn’t a lot to grab and go since the whole purpose of the lounge is to, well lounge.

The boarding process for Spirit was smooth, especially since I was in one of the early boarding groups. I was the second person on the plane and since I had paid extra for the “big” chair in front I did not have to struggle to make my way to the middle of the plane. While it wasn’t first class, the seat was almost as comfy as a first class seat would have been.

Don’t get me wrong, Spirit is as no frills as they come. No power outlets, no wifi, no in flight entertainment, and no freebies of any kind. O.K. you do get a free carry on. They are like the dollar cab of the sky…they will pick you up and drop you off. In its defense Spirit has improved its on time rate recently so I guess that counts for something. Yet, the fact remains that I have friends who have been left high and dry by Spirit so it is a real gamble as to whether you will have an uneventful trip like mine or a nightmarish trip like my friends Sarah and Conni. I think if you have a plan B lined up and you are getting the better end of the low fares that they offer it might be worth the risk, but check back with me after Spirit has screwed me over.

Up in the air

The flight crew on my flight to Mexico was quite spirited and played a trivia game to get passengers to sign up for the Spirit credit card. Passengers were able to earn extra points for completing the application on the plane and they were given additional freebies for birthdays and anniversaries. The crew divulged at the end of the flight that Spirit will be adding wifi and better seating. You can see the video on my instagram account. The crew flying back home were the laziest flight crew I have ever seen. They literally sat down and gossiped amongst themselves for the majority of the flight.

Final thoughts

So you might be asking if Spirit is now my new favorite airline? Absolutely not. But I don’t absolutely hate it. I would take it again if they had the lowest fare and offered the shortest direct flight to my destination.

Have you ever flown on Spirit Airlines? Would you fly with them again? Share in the comments section. Be sure to like like, share, and subscribe. 

Review of Busboys and Poets

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Neptune Benedict from Busboys and Poets

When I still lived in New York I would make it a point to eat at Busboys & Poets every time I visited Washington, D.C. Busboys and Poets is a socially conscious restaurant located in the revitalized neighborhood of U Street near the campus of Howard University. There are other locations in the surrounding Washington, D.C. area but the  location at 14th Street and V Street is my favorite.

The restaurant is large and usually busy to the point that you might have to wait for a table. There is a section in the front filled with telecommuters, students, and digital nomads feverishly typing away on open laptops. This location also has the largest of their independently run bookstores offering a wonderful selection of multicultural books for children and social-political books for women and people of color.

On one visit, I ordered shrimp and grits from Busboys and Poets. I was expecting traditional grits with shrimp on top, however Busboys served grits cakes that were surprisingly creamy inside, yet firm outside. The shrimp was served in a creamy sauce with a nice hint of spice and they were massive – medium size shrimp would have been sufficient. It was actually way too much food for lunch. I was stuffed to the gills!

When I visited another time I went for dinner service. The hostess gave me the option of sofa seating or a table. I chose a table that offered a view of bustling 14th Street. I ordered the turkey burger with a side of crab grits.  To drink I also ordered the white sangria which was strong and well-balanced. As I waited for my food, I started a new book that I picked up from the in-house bookstore for 50% off. I enjoyed the music selection which could have been swiped from my personal iPod! The meal did not disappoint as it was absolutely delicious and flavorful. The grits were a nice consistency with just enough crab to make it worthwhile.

Watch Cherry Blossom Sunday

Each time I have gone to Busboys and Poets the service has been a bit inattentive so don’t expect to be offered a refill, an after meal coffee or tea, or dessert. While the food is delicious, I do suggest passing on the dessert menu as the desserts I have ordered from there did not seem to be as fresh as they could have been.

Busboys & Poets @ 14th & V
2021 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 387-7638

Getting a new passport

48427470951_7e093ff117_oThe year before I moved out of New York, I obtained my first adult passport. A United States passport is one of the most powerful documents one can hold and it gives you open access to hundreds of amazing countries. Yet it seems that many Americans take for granted that the world is their oyster.

I got my first passport when I was a child living in Guam. We traveled across Asia to Japan, China, and the Philippines. It was that early experience with exploring unknown lands and unfamiliar cultures that sparked my interest in traveling. Once we returned to the mainland when I was around 11 years old  I didn’t venture out of the country again until 2018. Let me share with you how I got my adult passport.

In 2012 I stumbled upon the Passport Party Project, a grassroots effort led by fellow California native Tracey Friley. Tracey put out a call for bloggers to attend the annual Passport Day in New York. At the time I was publishing a blog called Uptownflavor and I thought that it would be great for my readers to learn how to go about obtaining a passport. I attended the tour on March 10 and applied for my passport that same day. A week later I had my passport in my hand. It had been processed in only 3 days!

One recommendation offered by the State Department personnel is to get your passport during what is considered the slow season. If you wait until right before summer break or the holidays when most people travel then you are setting yourself up for unnecessary frustration. I wrote about my experience touring the passport facility and getting my passport on Black Atlas and Examiner.com (both are now sadly defunct online publications.)

By participating in the Passport Party Project and Passport Day, I learned that the number of Americans traveling internationally is significantly lower than citizens of other countries like the UK and Canada. The good news is that the number of Americans holding a valid passport has increased and the numbers continue to steadily climb each year. Sadly the number of African Americans with a passport is still relatively low.

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How to get a passport

At this point you’re probably wondering how you can you get your first passport. You can do as I did and attend one of the many acceptance events in your area. Find one near you by clicking on the link.

You can also visit a local passport agency or an authorized acceptance center. Do not use a third party service that charges you extra fees for applying for your passport.

What you should bring:

  • A completed DS-11, Application for a U.S. Passport form that can be found at the   Department of State website https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.htmlDo not sign the form until the passport agent tells you.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship (an original birth certificate)
  • Proof of identity (valid driver’s license, government employee ID, military ID).
  • Photocopies of U.S. citizenship and identification documents (these will be sent with the application, but bring originals for proof documentation).
  • Appropriate payment. Acceptable forms of payment can be found on the Department of State website.
  • Appropriate passport photo. Follow the guidelines carefully.

Passport applications for children under 16 have special requirements. Visit travel.state.gov for more information.

How much does it cost?

I recommend only getting the passport book. I ordered both the card and book but the passport book is the only document that allows me to travel anywhere in the world. It should cost you $145.00 and it is worth the investment because it doesn’t expire for 10 years. You could think of it as spending $14.50 each year to have full access to the world.

When and how did you get your first passport?  Share your passport story in the comments section. Remember to like, share, and subscribe for more travel related content. 

#powerofthepassport #shejaunts

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