Destinations, Hotels, Philadelphia

How I Spent 48 hours in Philadelphia

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Travel back in time when you visit Old City Philadelphia © Dec 2017, D. Bell

It is amazing how being away from a bad situation can provide you with much needed perspective. Last year during my winter break I planned a quick jaunt to Philadelphia. I had never been to Philadelphia and I didn’t really know anyone there, however I spent the first few days of my break mulling around my apartment not doing much. I was determined to end the year by going somewhere. I had to get out of  Washington, D.C. which was where I lived at the time. Someone had posted about the Kimpton Hotels brand and I dreamed (no, literally) about their Fiji soaking tubs. I know some people get really grossed out by hotel bathtubs, but I always bring my own cleaning products when I travel so I cleaned it well before I used it.

I can’t deny that the trip to Philly was rough. First I scheduled and missed a couple of buses. The bus that I finally made was late because the driver had to go all the way to Baltimore to get his license. I kid you not! To add insult to injury there was high drama on the bus, but I was determined to get to Philadelphia. Word to the wise, never take Greyhound if you have another option available. There are other bus companies that provide much better service.

When we finally pulled into the bus terminal in Philadelphia, it was too late to sightsee so I requested an Uber (I could have walked but it was freezing and I had no idea where I was.) Once I was checked into my hotel room I headed upstairs to have a cocktail at the hotel’s swaggy rooftop lounge. The lounge only offered small bites and I was voraciously hungry so I headed back down to the main floor to eat dinner at the Red Owl Tavern.

After a full day of stressful bus travel I was exhausted, so I headed back to my room  recorded a room tour, took a shower, and went to bed. The nighttime views from my 9th floor corner suite were stunning! On one side there’s a view of the Ben Franklin Bridge  and on the other side there’s Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. In the interest of full disclosure, the bell atop Independence Hall rings every hour on the hour. You can see the nighttime view from my room by watching my room tour video on Youtube.

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Kimpton Monaco Hallway © Dec 2017, D. Bell

When I woke up the next morning I looked out of the window and I thought I was Alice in Wonderland trapped inside of a giant snow globe! Snowflakes whizzed past my window and everything below was blanketed with a fresh white coat of snow.

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A snow covered Independence Hall as seen from my hotel room © Dec 2017, D. Bell

While it snowed outside I took a long luxurious soak in the Fiji soaking tub. It was everything I imagined it to be!  All of my cares and worries melted away and the stress that previously had my  muscles tight and knotted seemed to dissolve. When I emerged from the tub I felt like a new woman. I brought my own bath salts, but the products provided by the hotel, Atelier Bloem, are quite amazing and have a refreshing clean scent to them.

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Fiji Soaking Tub in King Corner Spa Suite © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I did a little sightseeing after lounging around the room all morning. I visited Independence Hall but because of the inclement weather there weren’t many tourist out. I crossed the street to visit the Liberty Bell where a line of visitors waited patiently in the cold to get inside of the building where the bell is housed. I was starving afterward so I grabbed a pizza from down the street to bring back to the room for dinner. I relaxed in my room for the rest of the evening.

The next day I needed to check out by noon, but not before I indulged in one more luscious bath in the amazing soaking tub. I planned to stay in Philly to watch the early fireworks show at Penn’s Landing but the temperatures were too frigid so I decided to change my bus reservation so I could leave about an hour and half after my scheduled check out time.

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Corner Newsstand in Philadelphia © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I still managed to have enough time to have coffee at the Cosi down the street from the hotel then wander the streets of Old City until I reached Penn’s Landing. I hopped on the SEPTA for $2.50 and rode the subway down to 30th Street station where I got on the Mega Bus and had an relaxing and uneventful ride back to Washington, D.C.

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They still used tokens. I think they were being phased out © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I definitely want to go back to Philly once the temperature begins to warm up.  It’s an often overlooked tough little city with a lot of moxie and great architecture. The vibe of the city is primarily working class and unpretentious. People for the most part are chilled. It felt like a mix of New York, Jersey, and Baltimore.

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Eagles fans on the SEPTA enjoying a cold brew on a cold day © Dec 2017, D. Bell

Philly has the history of D.C. but the personality of New York. I love it! I want to experience the other areas of the city and I want to see how it operates during a typical work week. This trip was the highlight of my year and I am so glad that I bit the bullet and decided to go. I had two other trips booked and planned earlier in the year but I canceled them. I think it was a bit easier to navigate this trip because it was still relatively close to home. Want to see more photos from my visit? Click here.

I would love for you to follow and subscribe for more travel related content. Please leave a comment below. 

~Ciao!

Destinations

Travel Goals – Mid-year review

This year I was determined to travel more. I finally got over my travel anxiety and made it happen. Nike was right…sometimes you have to “just do it!” I am so glad that I not only booked the two trips that I took this year to New Mexico and Cuba, but that I followed through and actually went on the trips! Both experiences have been life affirming and the timing was perfect for the transitions that are happening in my life.

Next year will be a milestone birthday for me. I have been waiting for this birthday because I figured by the time I reached this point in my life I would have it all together. Well, life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at us to keep us on our toes and I am ready for my new chapter. I pray that it involves as much travel as possible.

Upward and onward!

What are your travel goals for 2018? Share them in the comments section. Remember to like, share, and subscribe for more travel related content. 

Tips and Tricks

Is Your Passport a Status Symbol

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Six years ago I obtained my first adult passport, however it wasn’t my first passport. I got my first passport when I was a child. Tomorrow I will finally use my passport to travel out of the country. Everywhere you look on social media it seems as if friends are flashing their passports. The US passport gives you access to so many different countries, so Americans often consider their passport a status symbol of softs.

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 for my readers to learn how to go about obtaining a passport. I attended the tour on March 10 and applied for my passport on the same day. I had my passport in my hand within a week. It was processed in 3 days! One of my recommendations 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 you are setting yourself up for frustration. I wrote about my experience touring the passport facility and getting my passport on Black Atlas and Examiner.com (both now defunct online publications).

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

You’re probably wondering now how you can you get your first passport. Well, you can attend one of the many acceptance events in your area. Find one near you by clicking on the link below.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/passports/special-passport-acceptance-fairs.html

Be sure to bring:

  • A completed DS-11, Application for a U.S. Passport form, which can be found at the   Department of State website at https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.htmlDo not sign the form.
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship.
  • 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. (Please note that neither debit nor credit cards are acceptable forms of payment by the Department of State).
  • Appropriate passport photo, if passport photo services are not available at the selected Post Office location.

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

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

Tips and Tricks

Last Minute Father’s Day Gifts

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. If you decide to purchase something from one of the links clicked on I will receive a small percentage which will then be used to support this site. 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

OK, let’s admit it, being a dad can be a thankless job. As a result fathers often get the short end of the stick when it comes to holidays. Every Father’s Day dads around the country lament that they get the same ole’  tired gifts…shirts, ties, or tools.  I’m sure dear old dad will appreciate having something different this year, and if you happen to be dear old dad then you can take advantage of some of the special Father’s Day discounts below to enjoy all year round.

Take your dad to Ripley’s and receive 25% off all locations (excludes Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and Ripley’s Red and Ghost Trains in St. Augustine). Use promo code: DAD from 6/12-6/17

Get him a gift as special as him! Save 25% on all Ripley’s locations with code DAD. Offer is valid 6/12-6/17.

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Is your dad an avid coffee drinker? This Father’s Day, Driftaway Coffee is offering a limited-time promotion on all coffee gift subscriptions.  Customers can save 10% by using the coupon code DAD10 during checkout. 

Father’s Day – 10% Off Coffee Gift Subscription
Coupon Code: DAD10 Coupon expires June 19, 2018.

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The gift that keeps on giving is access to thousands of airport lounges around the world. Get your dad Priority Pass so he can relax between flights when traveling for business or pleasure. Take advantage of the Father’s Day special below.

Give your Dad a Priority Pass membership—the gift of an elevated travel experience.

Happy Father’s Day!

Airports, Tips and Tricks, Washington, DC

Traveling to and from Washington, D.C. airports

 

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Washington, D.C. is an international destination year-round. The city is constantly overrun by tourists who attend conventions, political affairs, and vacations. The DMV area is very fortunate to have 3 major airports: DCA/Reagan National, Dulles, and BWI/Baltimore-Washington International. BWI is actually closer to Baltimore which is a 45 minute drive north of D.C. The other two airports are in Virginia. Dulles is the farthest out and is about 45 minutes outside of D.C. to the south. My preferred airport is DCA which is directly accessible by Metro. Below I will give you the pros and cons of each mode of transportation to and from Dulles and National. You can read about my unfortunate travel snafu where I had to change airports on the fly by clicking here.

Uber

While there are several different ride share companies in the market the two most popular ones in DMV area are Uber and Lyft. As a matter of fact, most drivers are signed up to work for both companies in tandem. I happened to sign up for Uber first so that is the company that I use most when I need to use a ride sharing service. I used Uber to go out to Dulles airport when I was traveling to New Mexico last month and was able to secure a SUV using the new express pool for $35.00. The express pool requires you to walk to a nearby location to get picked up. Fortunately my pick up area is right in front of my building so I still got door to door service for a lower price. We also did not need to make additional stops for other passengers. The con is that my driver took all of the back roads as he waited to see if he could pick up more passengers. We could have been to the airport sooner if he had taken the direct route and I probably wouldn’t have missed my flight.

My recommendation: If you take Uber to the airport you should definitely find the option that works best for you.  You can get a free Uber ride and I will automatically get a ride for free! Use my code damaabui.

Supershuttle

Years ago SuperShuttle was the best way to get to the airport, but over the years their rates have increased and their competition has grown. My return flight from New Mexico was going to land after midnight so rather than call an Uber I opted to schedule a SuperShuttle. Like Uber Pool, SuperShuttle is a shared ride service. The pro was that I would be able to secure a confirmed rate which was pretty much the same as what my Uber was getting to the airport. The con was that we had to wait for all of the other passengers to arrive before we leave the airport. And, since it is a pool you have to drop off other passengers before you finally get home. I was fortunate that I was the second passenger dropped off but I still didn’t arrive home until close to 2:00 A.M. on a work day.

My recommendation: Use only if you are not in a hurry to get to your destination. One of the reasons that I prefer to not use ride sharing pools is because I like to go straight from point A to point B. 

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Metro

One of the most cost effective ways to travel to and from the airport is by using Metro. The main reason that DCA is my favorite airport to fly out of is the close proximity to D.C. The Metro literally stops right at the airport. Once you exit the Metro station you are pretty much in the airport.

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However, taking the Metro to Dulles is a bit more complimented. If you are taking the Metro from the airport you will need to purchase a $5.00 ticket for a shuttle bus that will take you to the Reston Metro station. You will then need to walk from the drop off location to the station to catch the Silver line.

My recommendation: Unless you are going to DCA I would skip the Metro option. Taking Metro from D.C. into Dulles requires too much time and energy. 

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Taxi

I intentionally listed taxi’s last. They are probably the worst possible way to travel in D.C. When I first moved to D.C. to attend graduate school they weren’t even metered so the drivers would charge you by the zone. It always felt like we were getting ripped off. Now the cabs are metered and you can use one of the online taxi calculators to estimate your fare at Taxi Wiz or Taxi Calculator.

What are the best ways to get to and from the airport in your city? Share below in the comments section.