Friday, July 22, 2011

Great Britain's final arrangements

I used my Wyndham rewards to get points on motel deals. But hubby and I wanted to try small B&B's so we mixed and matched. Days Inns and family-ran B&B's. The deciding factor to choose one or the other? LOCATION and ... PRICE!!!!! of course! Don't forget we ARE on a budget.
Here's a place where I found reasonable B&B's:   but a lot of times it is also reasonable to just type "Bed & Breakfast NAME OF TOWN" in your search. Sometimes the places we were going to visit were so far off the map that they had no hotels posted on 4hotels. Neither on nor on

I regret not having asked for the oyster card as an add-on to my London Pass. It'd've been cheaper (forgive me my exxxxtra apostrophes, but really, isn't that how we really talk?)
I bought 2 Oyster cards for 50 POUNDS each. the max you can spend a day is ... I want to say 7 pounds if you stay within London center. Or

Hubby watched a bunch of Rick Steve videos about Great Britain while I was away and I came back to a bunch of ideas of his about where to go. Now guess who has to fit everything in the itinerary!!!  Now our trip includes not only England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, but also Wales!!!! Please, Hubby, don't watch any Cornwall videos!!!!

Yesterday Google Maps was mean to me and deleted all the 5-day itinerary I'd been  building for the past 2 days. Have you ever seen a woman screaming in despair? That was me. Suddenly the Brazilian phrase "killing dogs with screams" had a whole new meaning to me. Hubby thought I'd lose all the hairs in my head. As usual, he came to my rescue and tried to fix my problem. Every time I cry in despair he comes to help. He then realized he should greatly appreciate all my trip planning and never complain that any part of the trip is not the way it should be, for he spent the next hour trying to reconstruct what I had lost and by minute number 5 he was already writing Google a nasty email.

I had booked a tea time at the Kensington Hotel for 25 POUNDS. Then we figured, why pay more for the tourist place when we can pay less than 10 pounds to Afternoon tea at a small hole-in-the-wall normal people's place. So we canceled the Kensington. Our choices came from

I am still trying to convince Hubby that a play in London is a must-do. Even Rick Steves thinks so. And Rick Steves forgot to mention the Bagpipes at 9;30 am at the Edingburgh Castle, mind you!!!!

I just learned that it is smarter to get money at an ATM machine there, using your bank's debit card.  They say you pay no fees to your bank. That I must check. Let me call Bank Of America now.

Now that every lodging and transportation is done. I will proceed to update my travel guide - a file I have been keeping with info about every city or town, including attractions we must not miss there, and their addresses.

Once that is ready, I will trace a point by point itinerary using my google docs spreadsheet.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Orlando, 2010

For some reason I do have charts saved from our trip to Orlando. I did do some extensive research on car rentals, travel directions (avoid toll roads), cheap deals to Disney and Universal, and finding a motel that was cheap, close enough to the parks and close enough to Dean's favorite place to go eat on vacation - Waffle House. We actually ended up next door to Waffle House. The name of the place was Master's Inn.

I got the motel from the Master's Inn website because that would give us points with our frequent flyer card from AA. But I also investigated Expedia. both places offered me awesome deals.

As for the rental, it was also through some frequent flyer deal. Besides, by using American Express we paid even less. The car was an awesome deal! And we got to drive a Versa. In Cali we drove a Yaris. Actually, renting cars is an awesome way to test drive a car while having fun on vacation. The Yaris and the Versa were both on our realm of possible next cars and we had a very upclose and personal experience with both of them.

For Disney tickets I found this awesome deal - buy 5 for the price of 3 days at The Official Ticket Center, a local vendor that sells on line. We paid $464 total for the two of us. Just make sure you bring the card you used to redeem the tickets. They won't give the tickets to you unless you have the same credit card in hand.

For Universal I just went on their website and bough two two-day tickets.

As for to the minute planning, oh, dear, I was freaking out. I was scared that there would be so much to do that I would not be able to do it all and be frustrated.  I ordered brochures from both parks and listed all the must-not-miss rides. Then traced our route inside the park using the little maps from the brochures and trying to maximize the amount of rides hit per hour.

Did we stick to the route? You must be joking right? Of course not! But it turned out that we did everything we wanted and a bit more, with time for repeats. As long as you try to maximize your time in a somewhat organized fashion you'll do fine.

Since our Orlando trip was the latest one, things went much smoother than all the others. Why? Well, let's just say I am getting the hang of it. I am a great planner, but I have to work on the follow-through part. And Orlando showed a great improvement from Cali and U.S.  I hope I follow the pattern with England. My fear with England is that it is so overwhelmingly huge. It's two weeks and it's a different country.

If you want to see more of Florida, check out my regular blog - I did a post trip journal there. I was hoping to to journal during the trip but we got to the motel room waaay too tired for any thing. As you can tell, that would not have been much of a honeymoon either, since the highlight of a honeymoon should happen inside the motel room.

Well, as you can see, the DVW (Dean and Vika Winters) trips are not very much on the romantic side. We understand that we skimp a lot during the year in order to take these once-in-a-life-time trips. That means we are there to enjoy the trip, not each other. And that's just about it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Souza Family Trip to the U.S.A.

Right after our trip to California, my aunt and grandma came to spend a month with us. If you know anything about me, and my family, you'll know that a month was enough to see the whole East Coast of the United States. Plus a visit to an aunt in Ohio and a quick trip to Chicago.
And when I tell you that my grandma is a little bit over 70 years old, and took on the challenge, walking a few miles a day, going to bed late and waking up early, as you're about to see on the charts below, you'll begin to love her.  Who is this woman, you ask, who can walk that much and at that rhythm at such an advanced  age?
If I tell you she does not look a day past 50, you'll begin to think she's attractive and athletic,  a true go-getter (she took after her grand-daughter). And if you are an old rich man, no children, no one to leave your money to after you pass on, you're allowed to fall in love with her and marry her. Just make sure you talk to me first. I need to make sure your intentions are good.

Anyway, the trip. Well, the actual trip fell short of my expectations. I was told to include a number of attractions - a large number of attractions. And I did. And I planned everything, as I usually do, to the minute. But things did not work out to the minute. We skipped places such as the Groton Submarine and the Gillette Castle. We failed to travel to Main for a lobster dinner and failed to make it to Salem, the Halloween town, and to Gloucester, the town of the Perfect Storm. Why? Either because we were too late, too worn-out or because we got rained in.

Also we rushed through a few things, because we were late to get out of the motel in the morning. Three ladies and a guy trying to use one bathroom in the morning is not as simple a task as you'd think.

My Aunt Léa really wanted to see the scenes from Night at The Museum, and she wasn't able to.  I had no idea where to find them either. Just bear in mind that the Met is huge.

California 2009

So in 2009, the year we celebrated our paper anniversary, we traveled to California. It was supposed to be our honeymoon, since we did not have a real honeymoon.

There was only one problem... It was not a honeymoon.  See, a honeymoon is supposed to be a time when you enjoy each other in a very married kind of way... let's say that does not happen when one of you is driving  for 6 hours a day and the other 18 hours that you spend awake is spent walking and making sure that you stay hydrated.  See, the time you spend in the bedroom is actually spent ... how can I say that ... sleeping...

Anyway, here goes the chart from our trip, with all the costs included. Sorry, no websites. I was not as careful about keeping records back then. But let's just say I did extensive website search of hotels, gas stations, maps, tolls, fees, parking lots, ticket websites, trolley stops and fees ...  ... Everything was printed about 2 months before the trip.

Unfortunately I forgot to take the print out for San Francisco, and we had no money for the toll booth on that day and missed the parking lot that would leae us closer to the dock for Alcatraz... as a result, we did not get to see Alcatraz, we missed the boat.

Moral lesson here - DO NOT forget your day itinerary after you do extensive research on the day, and buy tickets that can only be bought 6 months in advance to Alcatraz. If anything goes wrong, you'll be very disappointed, and Alcatraz will be nothing but a dream...

Do make time to go to Santa Cruz. There you will find this amazing place called THE MYSTERY SPOT! What the heck that is, I do not know. I know gravity's laws are simply broken with absolute impunity there and people's sizes change in very weird ways.

In Santa Cruz you can also enjoy a walk in the Oldest Beach Amusement Park in the country. That's the park they used for the fictitious town of the movie The Lost  Boys with then-smoking-hot Kiefer Sutherland.

If you stay in or near Fresno, where we stayed, do try to find a Brazilian Restaurant. The food there is absolutely awesome! It is all you can eat, as any traditional , authentic Brazilian Churrascaria (and I am Brazilian, so I know what I am talking about), and the service is impeccable.  Just make sure you have money in your credit card. Why? Brazilian Churrascarias are expensive, brosef.

This trip had the specific goal of seeing the sequoias, those amazing trees that grow so wide and so tall, we feel like we are little dwarfs in a land of giants. But LA, Frisco, and Santa Cruz ended up in the itinerary... How? Well, let's just say that when we comes to travelling, Dean and I are not looking for a fun relaxing time (well, some times we are, but things never turn out relaxing once the itinerary gets put together).

All I can tell you is, it was all worth it, and my only regret is that we missed Alcatraz due to my sheer incompetence. DO NOT DO WHAT I DID!

Public Transportation + Afternoon Tea = The ultimate London experience!!!

So, last Saturday I got on line again to do some more Great Britain's purchases.
OMG!!!! I can't even believe how close we are to this trip!!! I feel like there is a knot in my stomach!
ME!!! IN EUROPE!!!! YEE!!!! That's gonna be totally awesome!

Anyway... I went to this website and purchased an OYSTER CARD with $50 pounds in it (by pounds I mean the currency they use in Britain, not the weight unit of measure). I bought one for me and one for my baby! guess how much everything totaled? U$189.00

I did the math actually. I tried checking how much we'd spend if I were to buy us 5 day travel cards, it turned out the travel cards would be a couple of pounds more than with the oyster.

Then I talked to my aunt on the phone, and she said we had to go have afternoon tea in London!
O...M...G!!!! AFTERNOON TEA IN LONDON! How is it that I had not thought about it before? The land of the afternoon o'clock tea! Duh, Vika! Wake up and smell the freaking flowers and go schedule tea time.

So I got on the web. "Let's see ... Tea ... in London ... (credit card fake attendant voice) ok, found it! The Ritz! ... Oh, $35 pounds. Let me check the Savoy ... $32 pounds. ..." Houston we have a teeny weeny problem ... I knew that Dean would whine and wail and cry that that was a bit too much for tea and cookies... So I googled "restaurants that serve tea in London" found places that do tea for as low as 9 pounds! However Dean settled for the Aubrey, at $25 pounds a person. He was sold in the environment.

This is the website we looked for afternoon tea

And here is the website for the Aubrey, wher you can make reservations and check the menu:

OK so far so good. I will let you know when there's more.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Great Britain - our first truly international international trip

This is our first truly international trip. Yes, we have gone to Brazil a few times, but Brazil is my homeland, so I can't consider Brazil to be international, even though we are traveling abroad and we need passports and Dean needs a visa and stuff.

I am very nervous about this trip. We will be in a foreign country, where they use a different kind of money and think and live differently than we do. So I am trying to be very careful about planning. And I know we might not be able to fully enjoy all the benefits of  this trip, because everything is so foreign to us. Yet, I am doing my best.

We might get there and find out we will not be able to do everything we planned. I am really afraid that we get there and realize we will need much more money that we already have. Actually we already will need more money that we have. That's why our tax returns will be going towards the vacation fund.

Yes, we have a vacation fund, freak, how do you think we can actually afford the trip!!!!!

But what I am really afraid of is that when we get there this trip will turn out to have much more hidden costs than what I predicted.

Here's a picture of what our trip chart looks like so far.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Great Britain's First Buys

Two weeks ago I made our first Great Britain trip purchases. - 2 plane tickets + a hotel in London (downtown London mind you!!!) = U$2,357.00. - 2   4-day Great British Heritage Pass = U$139.00. (This pass will save us lots of money on free entrance to attractions all over Great Britain, including some - wow! - castles in Scotland - especially the Edimburgh Castle. Oh, and by the way the British people say Edimburgh really funny. They say Edimbra. LOL. Gotta love that British accent!) - 2  2-day London Pass = U$ 184.00. (This pass will save us lots of money on free entrance on attractions in London. That includes the Windsor Castle and the Westminster Abbey!!!)

There's more to buy. We are going to Ireland for a weekend. We need tickets from Liverpool to Dublin. The Ryanair website has awesome sales, like a round trip Liverpool-Dublin-Liverpool for about L$25 a person. I need to wait for the sales to buy at that good price, so I am watching the website everyday. Once we get the tickets I can start looking for hotels and car rentals.

Of course we still need money for a couple of attractions that don't take passes, such as the Buckingham Castle (London), the Mersey Ferry trip (Liverpool), The Beatles Museum (Liverpool), and the Blarney Stone (Ireland). We were going to go visit Paul McCartney and John Lennon's childhood homes, but we figured it was not worth the money. If you're a Beatles fan trying to visit Liverpool, think about that. Is it worth paying 20 pounds a person to walk into Paul's and John's old homes? I think people really exploit the Beatlemania thing. Really. I can walk by it and take a picture. I don't have to get in and listen to someone tell me how Paul used to make scrambled eggs in this kitchen or John used to think about him mom Julia in this bedroom. But I will make it to the Carvern (which also costs money), and will go to Strawberry Fields and to Penny Lane!

We might go visit a malt distillery if we have the time. And money.

Life Trips Plan

Since I love to plan, I made sure that I planned out all the trips Dean and I want to take during our lives. I have planned a time for everything, including babies. Obviously this is just a plan. The future belongs to God.
In this plan I also have a packing list so I don't forget anything, and one major item on that list is Birth Control - that, my friend, is the only thing under my control that will make sure everything happens when it is meant to happen.
I edit this file often because plans get changed again and again - you know life happens.