Every flight that you take matters! Whether you fly once a week, once a month or once a quarter, each of those flights can equate to opportunities for future flights. You may be wondering…How is that possible? Well here’s how, every airline offers a rewards program for buying tickets through their company. Those reward points equate differently for every airline, however if you’re loyal to using an airline more frequently than others, you SHOULD definitely be enrolled in their program.
I am a faithful Southwest Airlines customer for a few reasons – 1) No baggage fees 2) Consistent good service 3) Flight availability to cities that I frequent. Consistently using Southwest as my #1 choice afforded me the chance to accumulate enough points to cover 3 flights in 2018 and 2 additional flights booked for 2019. And I’m here to tell you that I only paid $11.20 for each of these flights! (The $11.20 is the total amount roundtrip, including taxes)
You’re probably thinking about all of the flights that you’ve taken and all of the points that you haven’t accumulated…. Don’t fret! You can start today!!
So here’s a few steps to help you get on your way to your next nearly free trip.
Download the mobile apps for each airline that you use
Sign Up & enroll in the rewards program (Southwest – Rapid Rewards, United – Mileage Plus, American Airlines – AAdvantage)
Read about the specific airlines rewards program, so that you don’t miss out on how to leverage your points.
Sporadically check the app for promotions- For example: Southwest may offer double rewards if you book a flight between X date to Z date. Or, they may offer A-List status upgrade if you book a flight within that month
VERY IMPORTANT: When searching for flights through third party websites, take a moment to see if the actual airline is offering the same price, if so BUY on the airlines website so that you can gain your points.
If you can, maximize your travel with one specific airline to boost your rewards points faster. As mentioned above, this is exactly what I did with Southwest, which worked to my advantage.
Sit back and allow your points to accumulate. You can use them at any point throughout the year, by selecting points vs. $.
**Similar to how flight prices vary dependent upon time of day and # of stops, you will see the same variance when viewing for rewards points. **
Happy traveling my friends, and just a reminder Don’t forget to shine!
Have you ever doubted yourself? Doubted your ability? Doubted your strength? Doubted your decisions? How did you overcome that doubt?
These questions represent a tug of war I recently faced between fear/doubt & confidence/faith. Many of you have probably seen the acronym, F.E.A.R (False Evidence Appearing Real) and although I believe this to be true, my most recent task made all of the evidence appear to be very Truthfuland quite intimidating. My most recent task was in obtaining my Series 7 – Registered Representative License, which involved taking a 6 hour long, 250 question exam.
I have always been the type of person to take on new ways to challenge myself and this by far was the Mt. Everest of all goals I’ve ever aimed to achieve. The preparation for this exam required a solid 7 week self- study plan with over 300+ Hours of study time. What truly made this nerve-wrecking and where the doubt began to kick in was when I received my study materials, in which this is not an exaggeration….Imagine receiving a few encyclopedias and being told everything is important to know and is testable. I had to truly tap into my inner – college study skills and hone in on the information presented. I’ll be honest, my 1st reaction was, “what did I sign myself up for?” My 2nd reaction, “how am I gonna be able to do this?” And then my 3rd delayed reaction, “I’ve got this!” This sequence of reactions occurred throughout my entire study period.
One thing that I know for certain is that God will never put on us more than we can bear, nor will he lead us into a direction to fail. If He opened the door, He definitely wants us to make it through it. So how did I overcome the doubt of exceeding? Dedication, determination & depending on God. I’d like to share how God showed me signs along the way that this was His plan and how it turned my doubt into faith.
About 2-3 weeks into studying, I began to feel overwhelmed with the materials so I opted to purchase a supplemental resource to support off of Amazon. I decided to purchase a used book, since it would only be for a temporary period of time. Once I received it, I did not have much time to incorporate it into my schedule, as I had a study plan that I was following to complete other topics. One day, as I was wrapping up my studies for the evening, a bookmark fell out of the used book that I had purchased. Here’s what the bookmark read, “GOD HAS A PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE!”
I let out the deepest sigh and shed a couple tears as I saw this message. Imagine receiving such a profound confirmation as you’re questioning your Why, frustrated about a challenging topic, and simply overwhelmed. This was the first sign that I knew I was on the right path and that I had to start trusting the process and trusting God to guide me through it.
Reading this bookmark became a daily task to set my mind and nerves at ease. In addition, I began to repeat affirmations daily, such as, “I’ve got this!” “I Am intelligent!” “I Am a conqueror!” “I Am an achiever!” “I am walking in purpose!” Talk about being your own hype woman, I had to do it!
Fast forward to a few days before my exam, (3 days prior to be exact) I had a scheduled call to review a topic with an instructor. The purpose of this call was 100% to discuss this topic, mind you I do not know the person on the other side of the phone. Let’s just say, God sends signs not only visually, however also verbally! Our conversation began with the instructor talking about how she had the week off, so she had time to answer all of my questions in preparation for the exam. It then transitioned to her asking me, “Shyla do you believe in John 3:16?” My immediate response was, “ABSOLUTELY!” She proceeded to ask, “Did you recently get baptized in the last year or so?” At this point, my jaw dropped, ears perked and my eyes were wide as I had taken the step to be re-baptized at the beginning of the year. She then shared, “I’m not sure why, but God wants me to tell you that He is pleased! Continue to shine your light so that others can see!” And 30 minutes later after us both sharing our journeys with Christ, and crying, we made it to the original purpose of the call, which by that point wasn’t even needed. I took this message as God’s way of saying, SHYLA, STOP Worrying, I’ve got you and I’m proud of you! God truly places His angels everywhere, we only recognize it if we’re paying attention.
So It’s now game day (TEST Day) And yes I am still nervous, anxious and truly hoping for the best. After completing the first half of the exam, I resorted back to doubt, not feeling as confident in myself and what I did, but I knew I had the 2nd Half of the exam to come back to and complete. I headed over to the cafe in the building to grab some food to give my brain and body energy to make it through. And I had a simple order, a croissant sandwich and two drinks. I truly cannot make this up…. my order total was $7.77! The number 7 in the Bible, represents the number of completion. (I could spend more time on this, but I highly encourage you to seek to understand why this # represents completion) All I could say was, “WOW!” I’ve always known for God to send signs, but my goodness HE showed up and showed out to ensure that I did not fail and doubt myself.
The restaurant owner/cashier, thanked me for coming in and said, “It was just what I needed because I was having a really bad day and seeing that reminded me that I have a lot to be grateful for.” God used me to be his blessing, while the cashier had no idea that God used him and his restaurant to be my blessing. At this point, I stepped out of the restaurant, prayed and thanked God for staying with me and once again reminding me that “It’s complete and He is pleased!”
6 Hours later…. I PASSED!!!
This Journey taught me how important it is to ensure that My faith become greaterthan my fears. It also reminded me that:
1) God is always there, just sometimes we forget that
2) He will never, ever put on us more than we can bear
3) He answers prayers, however it’s on us to recognize, identify and acceptthe answer He gives us
No matter what the task, trip, job, or experience is that you are pursuing, Remember Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Thank you for reading my testimony of how God helped turn my doubt into confidence, I pray that He continues to provide you clarity and discernment in all that you do.
When is a good time to travel to Mexico?? Anytime, especially for a Girls Trip!
After months of searching for flight deals from different cities, I stumbled upon $200-300 Roundtrip flights to Cancun from multiple cities. This was the perfect gift as I was looking to gather as many of my closest friends to celebrate my 30th Birthday! I could’ve easily stopped there and told my friends this is the final destination, but I wanted a different experience. My Birthday landed on Memorial Day this year and as you know, this is prime time for travel along with massive amounts of tourists for popular destinations like Cancun. So, that made my decision to visit a less known city even more appealing.
Tulum, Mexico provides a unique experience from what many would typically expect from a Cancun or Cabo trip. Tulum is off the beaten path and is known for its bohemian style and quaint boutique hotels. Tulum is a town on the Caribbean coastline of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. It’s known for its beaches and well-preserved ruins of an ancient Mayan port city.
My goal for this trip was to rest, relax and simply go with the flow each day.
There truly is no wrong way to do Tulum, as there are dozens of hotels to explore, along with miles of streets to ride your bike.
Happy to share what made my recent trip fantastic!
Beautiful 4 story hotel that averaged 3 rooms per floor
Our stay included:
Free Bike Rentals
Easy & Quicker Access to Downtown Tulum
Keep in Mind:
Further from the Beach – Requires a 8-10 min taxi ride or 20-30 min Bike ride
Taxi Ride to the beach cost about 100 Mexican pesos
Day 1 –
Catch the morning sunrise
We decided the previous evening that it would be the perfect kick off to the trip to begin our 1st full day with watching the sunrise. Considering the distance from our hotel we had calculated the amount of time needed to ride our bikes and catch the sunrise, which meant that we needed to leave at 5:30 am…..well let’s just say somehow I forgot to set my alarm, so we left just after 5:45. We made it just in time to capture the sun hovering over the beach, which still left us all in awe.
After hanging out on the beach, we headed over to a local coffee/smoothie shop to refresh before our journey back to our hotel. We realized how early it was, so we took advantage of the cooler air and time to ride along the coastline and take in the scenery. (FYI – Bikes and taxis are the main methods of transportation for visitors) I wouldn’t recommend a rental unless you have plans to drive to other places within Mexico.
Riding your bike in Tulum is so simple as you are provided with a lock and key, which provides you the chance to lock your bike on the nearest rack or palm tree. So we decided to head back to our hotel to give us time to get ready for the day and take advantage of our free breakfast.
Would you believe me if I told you we spent about 5-6 hours at one hotel?? Well, it’s true! We stumbled upon Azulik after viewing some beautiful images on Instagram, let’s just say those images do not do this place any justice. Imagine your ultimate tree house as a kid…..this is 100x better than anything you could’ve imagined as a child.
When we 1st arrived, it was brought to our attention that the beach area was too full for additional visitors…..So we were a little bummed and easily could’ve walked out to head to another hotel. Thank goodness we stayed!! This was the beginning of an experience that made it on to our itinerary each day in Tulum. We had the most attentive, patient and kind waiter, Carlos! He truly made our experience what it was. At his restaurant, “Cenote Cafe,” we had the BEST CHURROS EVER!!! Probably not the best dish to have before hitting the beach, but I promise you it made the wait even more worth it. After spending time connecting with one another we finally made our way down to the beach! So if you’re like me or any of the women in my group, a beach trip would not be complete without your own mini photoshoot to capture your best, “Living my best life” photo!
Conversation flowed, hours flew by and by this point we had all worked up an appetite for some authentic Mexican tacos. So we hopped in a taxi and made our way to Antojitos La Chiapaneca! Want inexpensive and delicious tacos? This is the place to go, I recommend the Al Pastor Tacos. It’s pretty simple… order your tacos and once they arrive you can add your toppings– cilantro, onions, fresh lime, cabbage, salsa, or radish.
After dinner it was time to make our way back to our hotel, which we decided to walk considering how many snacks we had indulged in over the last few hours. I’ll share a disclaimer, always have you bike as a back up, let’s just say this leisurely walk took us a little over an hour to get back. Along the way you will be embraced by many local shops and other great restaurants. We took some time to walk in the stores to buy some souvenirs. (Just a reminder — Pack plenty of Pesos) There were so many beautiful handwoven bracelets, necklaces, hammocks, chairs and so much more!
Day 1 ended with many calling it a night, as it had been a long day out in the sun. If you’re like me and anxiously curious to explore, hop on your bike and take a night stroll! We stumbled upon a late night spot to continue our indulgence in great Mexican Food, check out El Capitan and order anything with shrimp, I promise that you’ll be satisfied!
Day 2 –
Visit the Mayan Ruins
One of the signature attractions as a visitor to any major Mexican city is to take a trip to the historical Mayan ruins. If you’ve never been to Mexico, a trip to Chichen – Itza would be worth the drive and experience to view one of the 7 Wonders of the World. However, as I had been previously, visiting the local ruins was perfect. According to playadelcarmen.com,
Here’s a few fun facts about the Mayan Ruins in Tulum:
Tulum means wall in Maya, however, the town’s original name, Zamá (pronounced zam-MAH) translates as “Place of the dawning sun.”
Tulum was one of the few enclosed cities built by the Mayas. With walls on three sides and the Caribbean Sea on the other, Tulum was built to be a fortress.
No more than 1,600 ever lived in Tulum at one time, meaning it was more of a religious and ceremonial center rather than a population center.
The town served as a major gateway for connecting the Yucatan Peninsula and the Gulf of Mexico with the Mayan peoples of Honduras and modern day Central America.
It was blisterring hot during our time at the ruins, so I suggest packing water, sunscreen, a hat and be prepared to sweat. In addition, only Mexican pesos are accepted for entry (70 Pesos). We spent the visit having a private photo session as a way to commemorate the experience, plus this day was my Birthday! So, it was fun to bask in queendom, while both individually and collectively having our personalities captured.
HOT & BOTHERED would be an understatement so we swiftly made our way to the Casa Tortuga Cenotes to help us cool down! At this point we had all ran out of Mexican pesos, so we paid our entry fee in USD – $21. When you do your own research about the Cenotes, you’ll quickly find that Grand Cenote is top of the list as the main tourist attraction. Our concierge and taxi driver both recommended Casa Tortuga to have a more relaxing, less crowded experience! They were right, this location included 3 Cenotes in 1, you truly can’t beat that. In addition, you have the opportunity to swim through a few caves….Don’t be alarmed you may see a bat!
Once we left the Cenotes, we made our way to the infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobars Mansion. If you’re a Narco fan, this will be right up your ally. This mansion has been transformed into a boutique hotel with picturesque ocean views and plenty of preserved items from Escobar’s time in this home.
If you notice, I hadn’t mentioned food yet…. that’s because we truly had not eaten yet! We made our way to Burrito Amor, which was a delicious, fresh restaurant with numerous options from chips and guacamole to freshly made tortillas wrapped around there burritos. It didn’t take us much time to devour our food. I enjoyed the Al Pastor burrito!
With my Birthday coming to a close, I had a simple request…. Go to Azulik and enjoy their Churros! So, yes after refreshing ourselves at the hotel we went right back to our favorite spot with our favorite waiter, Carlos!
Day 3 –
Be a Beach Bum!
That was the only activity on the itinerary. We rode our bikes and made our 1st stop at Coco Tulum – a very cute spot to grab some drinks. We didn’t stay long as we were in search of a place to have lunch and this was just a pit stop to snap a few photos on these adorable swings.
Our next stop was truly heaven sent!! Free Umbrellas, chairs, hammock and tables right on the beach! The majority of our day was spent lounging, eating, drinking and yes sleeping at Villa Las Estrellas. It was perfect! And the perfect location to get the rest that each of us needed. When you visit, order their device and the guacamole!!
Day 3 ended with our Grand Finale dinner at El Capitan and a ladies night at the hotel!
You truly can customize your Tulum experience to meet your needs. This trip filled all of my buckets and I cannot wait to head back and see more of what I missed in this short 3 day trip. I’ll share a list of each of the restaurants below + a few additional helpful tips.
Where to Eat?
Antojitos La Chiapaneca
Flor De Michoacan – Fresh Fruit + Popsicles
Azulik (Cenote Cafe) – BEST CHURROS EVER! – Ask for Carlos
Villa Las Estrellas – (Try the Ceviche & Guacamole)
A few tips to make your trip smooth:
Bring more Pesos than USD!!
If using a Credit Card many places may charge an upfront 6% or 7% processing Fee
If using USD, be mindful of the conversion rate, Each location will vary.
15:1, 16:1, 16.50:1, 17:1 – represent the different conversion rates we received
Pack Mosquito repellent (Thank me later!)
Stay on the beach
I highly encourage you to add Tulum to your travel list! Feel free to share your recent trip suggestions or ask any questions that you may have. Adios!!
How is April already almost over? If you’re somewhat like me (a travel addict) at this point in the year you probably have already hit at least one place that was on your travel bucket list. My kickstart was delayed as I spent the 1st half of the year focused on my health and wellness. And if you’ve traveled anywhere, one of the most intriguing parts about new Cities, States or Countries is the opportunity to indulge in the foods that they are famous for. So because I know my weaknesses, staying local during the 1st quarter helped me to stay on target to achieve my fitness goals. But on to the purpose of this post…. although I may have taken a hiatus from hopping on the plane, that did not halt me from planning out the majority of my summer.
One of my goals for 2018 is to exceed the number of Countries I visited in 2017 by doubling it. In 2017, I traveled to 3 Countries (Italy, Greece & Mexico), so I figured doubling that would be financially realistic and achievable considering the amount of vacation time I have available. So, I’d like to share with you a few of the places that I currently have planned to visit along with some places that are on my bucket list for 2018. In addition, I’ll give you a little insight on how I captured some amazing flight deals to these destinations!
Honolulu, HI – $282 Round Trip
Tulum, Mexico – $123 Round Trip
Mexico City, Mexico – $200 Round Trip
Belize City, Belize – $315 Round Trip
New Orleans, LA
This list could certainly continue, but I’d be thrilled to visit any combination of these Countries listed above by end of year.
I bet you’re wondering, how in the world did you find such affordable flights?? Well, I’ll tell you that the only time I travel to a different Country or State is if I can capture a “flight deal.” My motto for traveling on a budget is, “Buy now, plan later!” There is not a feeling worse than missing a deal, I promise you that as it has happened a few times. For example, there was a Round trip deal to South Africa for $450. Yes! You read that right, $450! And I hesitated and waited as I tried to gather a group of friends that could go…. and as time progressed, the tickets creeped right back up to over $800. So safe to say I learned my lesson from that experience. I promise you it will all work out in the end, with the “Buy it now, plan later” mentality. (If you have anxiety about making that type of purchase, just include travel insurance into your purchase) I do this because these deals typically only last for 24-48 hours before reverting back to their original or typical cost. So, when you see it, find a date that works for YOU and book it!
So here’s a little insight into how I search for and find deals….
Grants you access to prices to any destination at any time
I visit these sites religiously to find deals that can work for my schedule. I highly encourage you to use these websites in an effort to save $$$.
This summer cannot come soon enough as my severe diagnosis of WANDERLUST has kicked into full effect! Can’t wait to share more posts this summer about what I do on each of these trips!
More than anything, please share your travel goals for 2018 and any tips for the places that I am visiting in the comments below!!
Also, if you have some aspirations for trips that you’d like to take, however you need a little guidance on how to save some money on travel…let me know and I’d be happy to share a few tips that I’ve learned along the way!
Keep SHINING Friends 🙂
Wanderlust: (n.) A strong desire or urge to wander or travel and explore the world.
“Take me out to the ball game. Take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks. I don’t care if I never get back. Let me root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win its a shame.”
And the Cubs did win! What a perfect way to kick off the beginning of an amazing weekend adventure in the windy city. With this being my 1st MLB game, it was so important to me to fully immerse myself in the experience, so I inhaled a Chicago style hot dog (Sooo good!), cheered with the crowd and of course in my best voice sang, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game!”
Next Stop, Navy Pier. Unfortunately didn’t snap many photos here. As you walk down the boardwalk, you’ll see great options to grab a bite to eat or drink, Lake Michigan tours or simply some relaxing spots to soak in the beauty of the city. Hop on the Ferris wheel for a nice view of the Lake and City. Then headed to Cloud Gate, better known as, “The Bean.” A must see in the center of Millennium Park.
Day one would not have been complete without stopping for some Deep Dish pizza. The battle of the best Deep Dish pizza in Chicago will be left up in the air until my next trip. Let’s just say one stop was all my stomach could handle in 48 hours. In an epic battle between Giordano’s Vs. Shyla, the longstanding champion Giordano’s won the fight. And it was lights out after this cheesy masterpiece.
Day 2 started with a beautiful view 100 stories high (1,130 feet high) at the John Hancock observatory (360 Chicago). This place is truly breathtaking. You can take some time to relax, grab a drink and simply soak in the magnificent views. After embracing the 360 degree views of the city, just a short distance away is the Oak Street Beach.
As you leave the John Hancock center, you’ll be front and center to many shops as you step unto the Magnificent Mile. As someone that is obsessed with oceans and sand between my toes, checking out this “beach” was a must. Lake Michigan is so expansive that you’d really assume that it was an ocean, as there is no end in sight.
You would think going up 1,000 + feet in the air once would be enough, but oh no, I wanted to go higher! 1,353 feet to be exact. Where can you go higher? At the Willis Tower, formally known as the Sears Tower. This building was once the World’s Largest tower. Of course, if you are afraid of heights, stepping onto this glass overlook will probably not be your cup of tea, however it was worth the experience. (Side note… It only takes 60 seconds to get to the top)
At this point, starving was an understatement so stopped for a quick bite at “The Gage.” This mussels dish was AMAZING!
With this restaurant being in close proximity to Millennium Park, take some time to explore the attractions; waterfall, performing arts stage, grab a Chicago style hot dog, visit the food trucks, you name it and it’s at the park. Just a few blocks up you’ll find the beginning of Route 66 and not too far from there you will be in the mix of more shops, Garrets popcorn and the Chicago Theatre.
This amazing trip would not have been complete, if I didn’t go to a show at the world renowned, Chicago Theatre. Although, I missed Hamilton. Jamming to some of my favorite artists was the cherry on top to memorable time in the Windy City.
Can’t wait to get back to Chicago!
Feel free to ask more about my weekend itinerary.