The Rosy Wanderer

Wandering with a Purpose

Tag: travel

Reward Points – the start of a new adventure

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but today I finally jumped and took the plunge! I’m going to figure out how to maximize using reward points to help me travel. Since I make less money than I used to, but my desire to travel is as big as ever, I need to find a way to make it happen. When I bought my first house, I used my credit card points to buy towels, pots/pans, and other decor. It worked out nicely!

First off, this world is pretty complicated. I mean, there are probably thousands of credit cards out there. It’s not like you can sample cards and figure out which one works best. You can’t continue to open and close cards either because it can affect your credit score. Two big sites helped push me over the edge – Mint.com and The Points Guy. I’ll have a separate blog post about Mint.com, but I’ve been a fan of The Points Guy for a while. He has a beginner’s guide that I found very interesting and helpful. Stay tuned as I start to learn more, but so far I decided to take the following steps…

  1. Applied for Chase Sapphire Preferred card (crazy how fast you can get approved!) which is supposed to be great for travel. Plus, it doesn’t have foreign transaction fees which I need for my trip to Zurich in February.
  2. Made an account and started linking my reward programs to AwardWallet. It’s a free site (there is a Plus version), but essentially it tracks all reward programs (airlines, food, hotel, etc). I had tried TripIt Pro‘s program in the past, but I didn’t like it. One day in, and so far I like AwardWallet. More to come!
  3. Researching other ways to save or grow money. Currently looking at Acorns, Wallaby, Mint.com, and general budgeting techniques.

Once I start to figure things out, I’ll keep you posted. Any tips or experiences would be appreciated! I have some big goals…I can’t wait to turn these clip art pictures into my real pictures! Switzerland, Paris, and Machu Pichu – here I come! Until next time, happy wanderings!
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#tbt – Oklahoma City

Sorry it has been so long since I last posted! I wasn’t well last week, and this week completely got away from me. I’m excited to conclude my three day jaunt to middle America with you today. Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 7.16.47 AMFrom my start in Kansas City to Omaha and Abilene, I finished my trip in Oklahoma City. I didn’t do much research for this stop at all. Several people that I met on my journeys mentioned that the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial was one of the best executed memorials, so that was on the agenda, but not much else. My brother drove up from his home in Austin to meet me, so at the least, I would get to see him. I figured it was a big city, there should be something to do. I was pleasantly surprised.

It was a good ride from Abilene to Oklahoma City. The rolling hills of Kansas started to flatten and get dry. Then I saw something weird in the distance, but I couldn’t quite make it out. Then, it hit me. I think that’s an oil pump! IMG_2809I had never seen one in real life, and it made me excited! There were many of these throughout the rest of my drive into Oklahoma, and I continued to see them on my other trips out West. I didn’t even think to research the rise of oil and oil tycoons. One sign mentioned there were mansions for oil tycoons that you could visit as historical sites. That has done so much to affect their economy and culture, I bet it would have been really cool to see.

Once I got to OKC, I met my brother at our hotel downtown and we went to the state capitol. I love to visit state capitols when I have a chance. To think that is the center of the state’s government and all of the things that happen there. Funny enough, I still haven’t been to the North Carolina capitol, and I lived in Raleigh for almost 6 years. The curse of not visiting your hometown…this will change in the future. Oklahoma’s capitol was very impressive. Since it was a weekend, we weren’t able to go inside or take a tour, but we did get a good luck of the outside of the building. We had an absolutely PERFECT fall day. There were Carolina blue skies way out there in OK!IMG_2815

After visiting the capitol, we decided to explore the city. There was an Ohio State football game on, so my brother found a local OSU bar so we could watch. Following that, we walked around and “discovered” this fantastic riverwalk area of the city. I believe it was relatively new, but it was a great find! The area around it is called Bricktown. I can’t believe that wasn’t one of the first areas mentioned in sites where I researched. Since I have visited, I see it more, but for whatever reason it wasn’t readily apparent to me. Basically, a small, man-made river (creek?) was created through the city, and it was lined with bars and restaurants. It doesn’t go anywhere; it just is in the city. I believe they fill it up manually when it gets low. IMG_2823 IMG_2821OKC has done a lot of revitalization efforts over the past few decades. One of my favorite podcasts is Travel with Rick Steves, and I heard an interview about OKC many months ago. I think it’s wonderful to see these improvements! They have done an amazing job making OKC what it is, and it now rivals Tulsa in offerings and coolness. After dinner and drinks, we went to bed.

The next morning we each needed to leave early to get home, but we took a morning walk to the other side of the city where the memorial is. OKC is very walkable. The city has a hip and shiny part of the city and an older part with sandstone colored exteriors. The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial was as well done as people say it is. The memorial was created to remember the 168 people who were killed in 1995. I remember this happening as a kid. We planted a dogwood tree in our backyard, which President Clinton suggested families do as a memorial. The whole scene was still, somber, and peaceful. I think the pictures tell the rest, but I would highly recommend a visit.

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Oklahoma City isn’t somewhere most people think about visiting, but I think it should be. I believe there is a lot more to explore in the city and the surrounding area. Whether it is native Americans, ranching, or oil, that area has a rich history that we are not usually exposed to if you’re from either coast.

Overall, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma may not be as sexy as dog sledding in Alaska, partying on South Beach, or eating lobster in Maine, but it was a huge treat and provided more appreciation for this great country. Flyover states have their own unique charms and are home to millions of Americans. Even though it was hard to recruit someone to meet me, I suggest you have an open mind if you’re present with an opportunity to visit. Happy wanderings!

#TBT – Alaska

For this week’s #TBT (Travel Back Thursday), I bring you Alaska. One year ago, I made it to my 50th state. It was a major accomplishment for me in my life. A year and a half before, I made a goal to visit all 50 states by the time I was 30 with only 25 under my belt. A month after my 30th birthday, I made it to Alaska. The accumulation of planning and commitment, I achieved a goal that I thought would take me the majority of my adult life.

Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, AK! WOW!

Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, AK! WOW!

There are two ways to do Alaska: 1. by sea, 2. by land. I’ve heard land is amazing and what is highly recommended. Unfortunately, timing and the logistics wouldn’t work for for what I was planning; I opted for sea. As a victory celebration, I thought it would be fun to invite family and close friends to join me on an Alaskan adventure. A cruise ship would be the easiest way to plan this, as well as give each person the flexibility to design the trip to their interest. We could meet up for dinner in the evening and talk about what we experienced that day.

Life Lesson: when you have a chance to drink local - do.

Life Lesson: when you have a chance to drink local – do.

In the end, we had a group of 13 brave the great Alaskan Wilderness. I mean, it was much more adventurous than you think. We survived a bear attack, a sinking ship, and an earthquake.

Be Bear Aware! We survived a "bear attack" when we had to walk past the grizzly to get from the Musher camp to our bus. The first bear sighting of the season.

Be Bear Aware! We survived a “bear attack” when we had to walk past the grizzly to get from the Musher camp to our bus. The first bear sighting of the season.

 

 

 

 

 

I’d say we roughed it. The Crown Princess (Princess Cruise Lines) took us from Seattle, WA, to Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria (Canada). It was absolutely amazing! We didn’t have long at each stop, so that is one reason to do a land trip. Just be careful, Juneau is the only US capital that is not connected to the rest of the state by a car. You can get there by air, sea, and birth canal (thanks to our tour guide for that funny joke!) It’s a big state, so make sure to plan any driving trips prior to arriving…

I didn’t realize it when booking, but May was a wonderful time to go. The mountains still have snow on the top; if I got to Alaska and didn’t see snow, I know I would have been upset. I originally wanted to go in April for the birthday, but cruises only leave from May until September. I imagine fall is a beautiful time to visit.

One of the most mind-blowing experiences about Alaska has sunk in more since I returned home than I could process while I was there. In most of the continental US, we are used to very populated areas. There are buildings, signs, roads, and other man-made items almost everywhere we look. Alaska is virtually untouched. There are no man-made items for our mind to recognize to put size in proportion.

What kind of blue is that? Windex Blue! They don't look that big until you see the boat next to it.

What kind of blue is that? Windex Blue! They don’t look that big until you see the boat next to it.

Driving down the road, you see other cars, billboards, and buildings to show you how big a hill or mountain is. In Alaska, you don’t have that to scale. Sailing down the Inner Passage, there are rolling hills on either side, but it wasn’t until we passed an equally large cruise ship that they looked like mountains.

OVERALL

I’m really glad we did Alaska by sea for the first trip. We didn’t see much of the state, but we saw amazing landscapes, and it gave us the flexibility we needed for the trip. The inner passage is gorgeous, and I hope to visit it again.

Two lessons learned (besides staying longer):

  1. Get a balcony window. There is too much to watch in the inner passage. It’s not like sailing to the Caribbean where you see ocean for most of the time. This cruise provides opportunities to watch for animals and the shore line.

    The water was as clear as glass throughout the entire voyage.

    The water was as clear as glass throughout the entire voyage.

  2. On the visit to Tracey Arm Fjord, do the excursion to take a boat to the glacier. I can only imagine how amazing that would be from sea level.
    Tracey Arm Fjord. This was something that I didn't even know existed! We were lucky to get so close.

    Tracey Arm Fjord. This was something that I didn’t even know existed! We were lucky to get so close.

    Some more pictures for fun..

Even though it was May, it definitely wasn't a warm-weather adventure.

Even though it was May, it definitely wasn’t a warm-weather adventure.

I desperately wanted to see a puffin, but no such luck. I LOVED this sign!

I desperately wanted to see a puffin, but no such luck. I LOVED this sign!

I am not a big beer drinker, but I love flights at microbreweries. It's always great to sample! (This is from Skagway Brewing Company)

I am not a big beer drinker, but I love flights at microbreweries. It’s always great to sample! (This is from Skagway Brewing Company)

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MUSH! Sitting on a dog sled. I almost packed my winter boots for this...good thing I didn't!

MUSH! Sitting on a dog sled. I almost packed my winter boots for this…good thing I didn’t!

Victoria, British Columbia. Stunning.

Victoria, British Columbia. Stunning.

 

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