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August, 2011

  1. Savvy Tips for Any Traveler

    August 25, 2011 by SavvyInTheCity

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    Today's post is a guest post from my lovely, fun and witty colleague, Miz Sarah Woodward. Sarah is a fan of (budget) traveling, Phish shows, public relations and DIY projects… she's pretty fantastic.

    Sarah just returned from a week-long trip to San Fransisco. And what did she bring back for me? Some savvy travel tips!

    Without further adieu…

    How to Have Fun on a Vacation Without Stressing about Money

    1. Rewear outfits and don't check a bag saves checking fees. (~$25/bag each way)

    2. Stay out of shops – no shopping. (UGH!- but seriously, you can clothes shop at home, online and get the same stuff on sale much later and not waste luggage space or money to do the things you really want to do.) Yes, get a few small souvenirs, but don't go crazy.

    3. If you have a bunch of museums you want to see – pick those with the smallest entrance fees (unless you just really want to see something specific).

    4. Find free entertainment – parades, park festivals, hiking trails in parks, national parks, etc. Entrance fees are always cheap if not free, you spend HOURS in parks or hours walking in a city, etc. and that's hours that you didn't spend money.

    5. Buy a 6-pack and sandwiches and have a great afternoon in a city park. Great way to people watch, make friends, etc. And if I were home, I would sit for hours on my back deck doing the same thing, so why not on vacation?

    6. Walking is really the best way to see a city. And it's free. (And never take cabs. Always walk or take public transit.)

    7. Make friends with locals – they know where the locals only happy hour specials are (Case and point – our new friends made at the Magnolia pub clued us in that Tuesdays is Locals day and everyone knows that all pints are $3 and every day, pints after 10 PM are $2)

    8. Been eyeing a particular fancy restaurant? Eat there for lunch and then have that great taco stand or local pizza by the slice place for dinner.

    9. Even if you don't want the free hotel breakfast – grab a few muffins for a snack for later.

    10. If you have a fridge in your hotel room – use it. Keep fruit, cheese & munchies for breakfasts and snacks or even lunch food in there to minimize dining out costs.

    I have to figure out the airfare/hotel thing yet – 'cause those are the most expensive!!! Though we are about to start paying everything with points – earning credit cards to build some points – we've never really been savvy about that before.

    Follow Sarah on Twitter @AGirlNamedSEW. Thanks, Sarah!

    And for fun a Phew Photos (okay, I couldn't resist) from Sarah's trip:


  2. Blogger Humor: Keywords

    August 22, 2011 by SavvyInTheCity

     

    I have Google Analytics set up in the coding of Savvy in the City. If you are a blogger, you should, too!

    Google Analytics (reporting) is free, set up is easy — and it tells you so much about who's visiting your blog and what they're doing once they get there. When I go into the Analytics dashboard, I like to check out:

    – Unique visitors (the number of individuals going to your site — repeat visitors aren't counted in your "unique" number)
    – Visitor loyalty (how many times people come back)
    – How my traffic compares to six months ago
    – Keywords (search terms)
    – Referring sites (how people got to Savvy in the City, whether that be from Facebook, typing in the URL directly or by clicking on a link on another site — Decatur Metro, for example)

    Enough about Google Analytics. I use 'em but am no pro — so if you want learn more, go check out this article titled "Understanding the Basics of Google Analytics" from Josh Can Help or the Google Analytics blog.

    The point of my story?… people sometimes type in some cuckoo crazy stuff to land here.

    So without further adeiu, the wackiest and funkiest keywords people used this month to find Savvy in the City:

    – "Traditional Mormon garb"
    – "Cameltoe Onesie" (probably had something to do with this post — bad memories)
    – "Gigantopithecus" (ummm… Not even sure what that is?!?)
    – "Husband loses wife in bet" (note: this doesn't say "Husband loses TO wife in bet." It would be pretty terrible to lose your wife in a bet…)
    – "Romper camel toe"
    – "Teacher wardrobe"
    – "$50 Korean black tie silent auction"
    – "Chunky dude fanny pack"
    – "Falafel costume" (how do you even begin to DRESS like a falafel?)
    – "12 year old shorts" (did they mean a 12-year-old's shorts, or shorts that are 12 years aged? No one will ever know!)
    – And my favorite… "body conscious camel toe" (apparently camel toes are really hot right now!)

    I don't even think I've used some of these word combinations here. Hilarious.

    Do you have Google Analytics? What are the craziest keywords you've seen?
     


  3. Savvy Tips: Cabo

    August 18, 2011 by SavvyInTheCity

    The hubs and I just returned from a one-week jaunt to Cabo San Lucas (Los Cabos), Mexico, with our friends Maria and Kyle. They were so generous to invite us along on their one vacation for the year.

    Wow — what a trip!

    Well, I couldn't go on a big, fun vacation without bringing back something for you all… some travel tips for Cabo!

    1. Don't get "taken" at the airport. After you arrive in Cabo and go through customs/security, you'll walk into a huge room of lots of men and unmarked booths (like vendor stands). These dudes will see you and drool like you are a bucket of money, free for the taking. You will be confused and not know who to trust. Let me tell you this: don't trust ANYONE in that room. They have official airport badges, wave resort brochures and seem helpful ("Don't get in a taxi without us escorting you – it's not safe!"), but they are just trying to take your money. Case in point: We were approached by a guy who told us he was with our resort and could help us get there safely and affordably. Even moreso, he told us if we sat through a timeshare presentation, we would get some sweet perks such as a spa gift certificate and vouchers we could apply to our food and drink. Since our friends are happy with their timeshare, we figured there was no harm in sitting through a presentation in exchange for some schwag, so we signed up and paid for our round trip cab ride as well as some discounted tickets to go out on sailboats later in the week.  We knew there was some risk in doing business with this stranger, but the risk seemed minimal.

    Of course there was a catch. We arrived (safely) at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach resort only to find out our "friend" worked for a resort… just not the one where we were staying. So all the goodies he promised (and we paid for) were legit… if we made a 30 minute trek to his resort. Of course he left off that important detail during our conversation. We found out later that the taxi drivers are safe and fine to work with, so just skip the predators and head straight to a taxi. They'll take you to your hotel/resort for $14-ish a person versus the $20 the vultures encourage you to pay.

    If you see this guy at the airport trying to sucker you into buying something, punch him in the face on our behalf — then run.

    2. Bring cash. I can't speak for all of Mexico, but for Cabo at least, you're fine bringing American money because most all places (hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars) take cash. With American money, too, you don't have to do conversion rate calculations in your head to figure out prices and gratuities (approve. 12 pesos per dollar), and you don't need to worry about exchanging extra pesos back to dollars at the end of your trip. You can just take out a little bit of Mexican spending money from an ATM for street vendors and snacks (2000 pesos, or about $200, should be plenty).

    3. If you're going to drink cocktails, find good deals! Most of the resorts in Cabo offer great happy hour deals. For example, our resort had buy-one-get-one-free happy hours from 4 to 5pm, 7:30 to 8:30pm and 9 to 10pm (at various locations at the property). If you and your sig other had even two drinks per day, you have the opportunity to save $16-$24 dollars per day (since drinks ranged from $8 to $12 each, and beer around $4).

    Also – you may be able to find a better deal on a beverage off-resort property. These "Bulldog" margaritas at Maro Fish House (margaritas with a mini Corona, or Coronita, mixed in were $6 and muy refreshing!). BTW Maro is listed as the #6 restaurant in Cabo by Trip Advisor — friendly staff and great food (and prices!). A meal with two lobster tails and five jumbo prawns was $16! Crazy!

    4. Don't risk drinking the water. Hey, maybe you'll be fine… but it's probably not worth risking 3-5 days of tail-to-porcelain entanglement. Allegedly the water on resort properties is purified — but travelers on TripAdvisor.com point out that Mexican water may be "purified," but it still contains bacterias and chemicals we're not used to in our water. We did have ice from non-bottled-water at several restaurants and that didn't seem to bother us.

    5. Feel safe (to a point). Don't stay holed up in your fancy resort or hotel! Know that Cabo doesn't have the same kidnapping, druglording, hijacking rates as some of its fellow Mexican cities. Feel empowered to walk around downtown, eat at dive restaurants in town and even go out and enjoy the nightlife. We found people as a whole to be friendly and welcoming. (Caveat: this is not an invitation to be stupid. In any city, no matter where you are, pay attention to your surroundings and don't let a girl walk alone at night).

    6. Ask the locals. Who knows best about what to do in Cabo? Probably the people who live there 52 weeks a year. For "comida," locals recommended us to Maro's Fish House as well as Mi Casa (both were excellent, though the first was more of a hole-in-the-wall and the latter was a "fancier" Mexican dining experience).

    And Maria wanted to find a local salsa joint, and we heard the name "Arriba Tequila" over and over again. Unfortunately they are closed except for Friday and Saturday nights… and the occasional Thursday night. But we did get in one good visit to the neat rooftop bar, complete with live salsa music. Heads up if you check out this place: you'll stick out. The emcee said, "Let's get a round of applause for the English-speaking people in the house!" (and we were just. trying. to. blend. in).
     

    Check out the moves on the dancefloor, and from the lead singer of the salsa band!

    7. Stop by the grocery store. Swing by Costco or Mega (the equivalent of a small super-Walmart) in Cabo to stock up on some basic food and drink items — and save some major bucks. We were fortunate enough to have a kitchen in our resort unit so we picked up some refrigerated items (yogurts, milk, coffee creamer) as well as some non-refrigerated ones (coffee, granola bars, cereal bars, cereal, tuna, mayo, ginger ale, diet coke, bottled water). We couldn't help but also throw a few booze-y items (Rum, Tequila, Whiskey) into the cart, knowing we'd be consuming them over the course of the week anyway… All in all, we spent about 1900 pesos (or $180) on groceries, but we saved a lot by skipping breakfasts out, having some drinks in our room and not buying resort-priced bottled water. But let me tell you something, it was quite the shock to see $1900 (pesos) on the screen at the grocery store — yikes!

    8. Know how to tip appropriately. "Do I tip 15-20% in Mexico like in the U.S.?" Good question. The answer is: yes. The travel site Trip Advisor advises "Tipping guidelines for Mexico are nearly the same as  tipping guidelines used in the United States or Canada, with some exceptions. Most service employees earn very little or no base salary and the tips they earn comprise the vast majority of their overall income."

    9. Stretch your comfort zone with a few excursions. We opted for three excursions during our seven-day vacation: sea kayaking and snorkeling (Tios Sports) for $45/person, America's Cup sailboat racing (Cabo Adventures) for $70/person and ziplining (Costa Azul Canopy Tours) for $70/person*. I was probably the most nervous about snorkeling (believe it or not!) because I'd never been before — and I had a hard time thinking about breathing exclusively through my mouth. That sounds silly, but wearing that snorkel mask as a pre-teen in the pool was never comfortable for that reason. Despite my nervousness, snorkeling was really neat. Even in the uber busy waters near the "Arco," we were able to see a wide variety of interesting fish. I look forward to snorkeling again. My favorite outing was actually the America's Cup sailing adventure. We rode on a super fast, super fancy sailboat that actually competed in the America's Cup. Our boys got to help grind the sails — and we gals "watched for sharks." It was a really windy day, so we were able to whip around the water at a fast clip. I especially enjoyed when the boat turned quickly around buoys — so quickly and so angled that the boat was nearly tipped completely on its side (the mast coming close to parallel with the water). It was incredible!

    *Ask your resort if they can make you a special deal!

    10. Do your best to leave technology behind! Drop the blackberry, the laptop, the iPad as much as possible so your Cabo vacation can be as relaxing and disconnected as possible. Some resorts make this easy for you by charging $16/day for wi-fi. I give major props to Maria and Kyle because they didn't pull on their smart phones even one time over the course of the trip! (Dan and I each spent 20 mins here and there when we were in mobile hotspots around town).

    And for fun, here are a few more photos from our trip:

    Glad to be back but I miss the beach at the same time! I hope you had time for a vacation this summer.

    Have you ever been to Cabo? What did you enjoy?


  4. Drumming Up the Courage

    August 14, 2011 by SavvyInTheCity

    For the past year or so, I've been an avid reader of Kristen F. Davis' blog. She is a local (Atlanta) artist who really shines on furniture rehab projects and custom paint jobs. Check out her fantastical blog here (you'll be inspired).

    Every time I check out KFD's blog, I get even more eager to try DIY distressing a wood chair or side table — you know, something cheap just to practice. I need to stop being a chicken (not to mention find a weekend when we're in town) and give it a whirl. I mean, just look at her work… she makes the act of turning Salvation Army furniture finds into treasures look dreamy and seamless!

    A little googling led me to this DIY furniture dressing video from the folks at Alchemy Fine Living (furniture refinishers in California). The video seems thorough and helpful, but I'm still nervious. Also, they seem to use a different technique than Kristen.

    Have you tried rehab-ing or distressing furniture? If so, what did you learn — and what do you recommend? I'm itching to give it a try…


  5. [My Attempt At] Channeling Reese Witherspoon

    August 3, 2011 by SavvyInTheCity

     

    I decided I wanted a hair change, but didn't want to lose any of the length I've been working on. So I decided to make a change from sparse, long, side-swept bangs to shorter, blunt-cut ones.

    I brought this photo of Reese Witherspoon (who is always cute, no matter what hairstyle she's sporting) with me to my hair appointment:

    The results:

    I'm really happy with how it turned out! I have a few more layers, but overall kept my length. The bangs were a touch difficult to tame with the flat iron at first, but my sister Anna (in the purple/pink dress above) gave me a good tip: flat iron in sections (from front to back) to keep them from being too stick straight or blunt. I will have to get used to styling my hair more often (I often air dry my wavy/curly hair – but that doesn't look so great with these shorter bangs).

    I go to Verrilli Hair Studio* (Mary) by Perimeter Mall in Atlanta:

    1151 Hammond Drive NE , Suite 200, Studio 126 
    Dunwoody, GA 30346
    Phone: (770) 361-3557


    *Verrilli Hair Studio gives me a discount on my cut/color because I've referred business their way. Note: I recommend Mary to my friends because she does a great job and is affordable and customer-service-oriented, not because she gives me a discount. Read positive reviews about Verrilli Hair Studio here.