Author

Julie - "Girl on the Move"

Literary Adventures: Phoenix Books

One of the things I love most about reading is getting lost in the story and being transported into the setting of the book. So anytime I find a bookstore where I can get lost in the books, I am one happy girl. Phoenix Books likely won’t be winning any “Most Instagrammable Bookstore” awards anytime soon, but this is a San Luis Obispo gem!

Phoenix Books is an independent, used bookstore located in downtown historic San Luis Obispo. When you visit, be prepared to sift through a lot of books. Like literally piles and piles of books! Every shelf is packed from top to bottom and then there are stacks of additional books throughout the store…including all the way up the staircase.

A trip to San Luis Obispo, California should include a stop at Phoenix Books where you can explore shelf after shelf of used books.

Planning Your Trip

A few things I learned on my trip to Phoenix Books to help you plan your trip…

•The store is located at 990 Monterey St, in downtown historic San Luis Obispo, and so parking can be tricky. Rather than look around for a parking spot I found it helpful to use one of the nearby public parking structures. I thought the parking structures were reasonably priced at $1-2 for 2 hours.

•Don’t go into the store with your heart set on finding a particular book! This is a used bookstore, so they won’t have every book you want on hand. When you visit, go into the store prepared to spend time getting lost in the rows of books and you will walk away with a treasure.

•Be sure to stop by the loft upstairs to find stacks and stacks of history books. I also thought it was a fun birds-eye vantage point of the rest of the store.

•Budget more time in your schedule than a quick pop-in to the store! Remember, there are LOTS of books to peruse so you want to leave enough time to truly browse the store

p.s. check out my favorite books from 2018 and see more of my travel and book pics on Instagram!

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Affordable Travel: What I’ve Learned

What is the secret to affordable travel?

This is probably one of the top three questions readers send me, along with…how do you eat cupcakes and not weigh 300 pounds? and I’m visiting (fill in the name of the city), what should I do?  So I thought it was time to put all my thoughts together and share my tips and secrets to affordable travel.

I’ve divided the tips into two groups…(1) increasing the amount of money you have to travel; (2) decreasing the amount of money you spend when you travel. This is what has worked for me…even during seasons of my life where I was living paycheck to paycheck. Some of these tips won’t work for you, and that’s okay! Choose what will work for YOU. If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments below, and if you use any of these tips, I’d love to hear your travel story! And feel free to let me know if you have any other questions you want me to answer!!

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the link.

Affordable Travel: More Money = More Travel

Save, Save, Save

I set aside money each month in my budget (and just like Dave Ramsey says, I name every dollar!) for travel. Different seasons have meant I was able to save different amounts of money each month, but I always make saving a priority in my budget. Saving money each month allows me to break up the cost of a trip over several months. It has also allowed me to take bigger trips, as I save up over a longer period of time.

Hustle

The reality is that most people probably can’t change the amount of money in their take home pay each month so they are a bit limited in setting monthly savings goals. And that is where this next tip comes in for affordable travel. I hustle to increase my monthly income. And let me tell y’all, I hustle big because I don’t want money to be what stops me from traveling! Here’s a look at some of things I am currently doing, or have done, to increase my monthly income…

•Proctor SAT/ACT tests – It’s easy to give up a Saturday morning to proctor a test when you think about the time you’ll be able to spend taking a trip with the money!

•Babysitting – I have babysat more hours than I can even count in my lifetime! I started at 12 and used that babysitting money for a trip to the East Coast in 8th grade. I babysat all through high school for a three-week trip to Spain. And I have babysat as an adult for extra money.

Thirty-One Gifts – I have spent nearly 10 years as a consultant for Thirty-One selling travel bags, accessories, and other great home products. For me, it has been a great way to earn some extra money while using a product I truly love.

Hosting on Airbnb – Opening my home to other travelers looking for affordable travel has provided me with money to do traveling of my own. If you’re thinking about becoming a host, here are my thoughts on being the best host possible.

•Blogging – This blog is also a source of income and if you’re willing to invest time into a blog (lots of time!) it could also be a good way to make some extra money.

Rewards Points

I carefully choose my credit cards and checking/savings accounts and typically only use cards/accounts that offer me points or cash back. I then turn these points into cash for my travels.

***Note: If you feel like credit cards cause you to overspend and go over your budget, then this is not a good strategy for you! This works for me because in over 15 years of having credit cards I’ve never paid a late fee and I have paid my credit card balance in full every single month. So I’m actually coming out ahead by using the points. But the points aren’t worth it if you’re spending money you don’t have just to earn points!

Holiday Wish List

I often ask for money and things I need for travel for Christmas and birthdays since I don’t need a lot of physical things. This is a great way to add to your travel budget!

Make Difficult Choices

Travel is really important to me. So I’m willing to skip the line at Starbucks and wait for the movie to come out on Redbox to save money. I regularly look through my budget line by line and decide if each item is something I really need or if I could instead put some of that money towards travel.  For me, experiencing a new city is more important than a new outfit, so I’m willing to have a relatively small clothes budget in favor of a much larger travel budget.

I've found the secret to affordable travel is to save more money before I travel and to cut costs while I travel and now I'm sharing what I've learned!

Affordable Travel: Cut Spending = More Travel

Shoulder Season

Flexible travel dates? Travel during shoulder season (the time right before and after high tourist season at a particular destination)  to save money on your trip. This year I’m heading to Europe and I’m leaving at the end of May…before summer tourist season really begins. And this helped me save a lot of money on my plane ticket! If you have your heart set on a particular destination see if you can go just before, or after, it gets busy.

Follow the Deals

Sometimes this tip is really hard for me follow, but I have found I can travel more if I don’t have my heart set on particular places. If the goal is just to travel then I watch for deals and when I see a good one I snatch it up and make that my next trip! I use both Scott’s Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club, and I have Google Flight alerts set so I can be on the lookout for great flight deals. When I see a great deal I make that my next destination instead of spending whatever it takes to get to a particular place.

Homesharing

One great way to head out on affordable travel is to skip the hotels and book on a homesharing site like Airbnb. If you decide to book an Airbnb be sure to read these tips on how to be a great guest! A site like Airbnb allows you to save on your nightly rate compared to a hotel. You can also save on food by eating some meals in your home rental instead of eating out every meal.

Free Attractions

For almost any destination you can head to Pinterest and type in “Free things to do in (your destination)” and you’ll find some great suggestions! From free walking tours (like these walking tours in Paris)  to free museum days to free local attractions, you’ll find a surprising number of things to do for free. And when you can explore for free, that translates to affordable travel.

Savings Sites

Check out sites like LivingSocial and Groupon for deals in your destination city. One benefit of these sites is that you’ll save money. Additionally, you’ll probably find a few things to do that you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

Make Difficult Choices

It’s as important to make difficult choices while on your trip as it is while saving for your trip. Personally, I limit alcohol when I travel because it’s just not a cost I want to incur while I travel. I’d rather extend my trip by a day or two then drink while I’m there. I’ll also look for lunch deals at restaurants I really want to try and then just have a light dinner. When I travel I set a daily budget and then decide what’s most important for me each day.

Loyalty

For me, I have had the best experience being a loyal customer. For example, choosing one airline allows me to earn more free miles.

Hit the Ground

Save on transportation by walking around your destination or taking public transportation. Not only is walking a great way to explore a new city, but it’s cheaper than a taxi! Another way to hit the ground is to skip air travel and road trip for your next trip. A road trip is often less about the destination and more about the journey. So this is a great way to travel for less money!

If you have any other affordable travel tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments below! If you use any of these tips, I’d love to hear your travel story! And again, feel free to let me know if you have any other questions you want me to answer!!

p.s. You might be interested in my Top Ten Reasons to Try Airbnb and My 2019 Travel Plans

p.p.s. Also check out How I Afford to Travel Frequently and How to Find Cheap Flights

I've found the secret to affordable travel is to save more money before I travel and to cut costs while I travel and now I'm sharing what I've learned!
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My 2019 Travel Plans

It’s difficult to believe we’re already halfway through January! It feels like we were just opening the Christmas presents and it’s already time to start thinking about Valentine’s Day. Before we get too far into the year I wanted to take a minute to share my 2019 travel plans. There are two main reasons for sharing these plans…

  1. I hope one (or more) of these trips inspires your travel in 2019!
  2. I need your tips! If you’ve been to any of these places or have read great blog posts about these places, please drop links and tips into the comments below! A lot of these trips are new locations so I need your advice!

And now a look at my 2019 travel plans…

January

Central California – Route 1

I’m taking a trip to finish up my tour of the 21 California Missions. I’ve been to 17 of the 21 and I’m excited to visit the final four. All four are located in Central California on Route 1 – Pacific Coast Highway – so it will definitely be a scenic trip!

February

San Diego, California

I’ll be heading to San Diego for a work conference and decided to add on a day or two for some sightseeing. The weather in San Diego during the winter is absolute perfection and although I’ve been there before, there is a lot I still haven’t seen!

March

Cap-Haïtien, Haiti

I always try to sneak in one or two sightseeing activities while I’m in Haiti, but the main purpose of my trip is to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and nephews! Because seriously, who can resist this face?!?

It's time to start making your 2019 travel plans! Here's a look at what I have planned this year to help inspire your 2019 travels.

May-July

Europe

Here’s where the crazy travel begins! I’ve spent three weeks in Spain, but this is my first time in Europe beyond that. And I believe you should go big or go home, so I’m heading to England, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland. If you have any thoughts on where to say, what to see, or what to eat, I’ll take them all!

July

North Dakota & Montana

Once this trip is complete I’ll have been to ALL 50 states!! I have been waiting for this trip for a couple of years now since I crossed off states 45-48. But the time has come to visit these last two states!

July – December

I’m not sure yet! I have a list of trips I’d like to take in 2019 but planning the trips already on my calendar has kept me so busy I haven’t had a chance to make travel plans for the second half of the year. Do you have any suggestions? If you do, please leave them below so I can start planning more adventures!

What about you? Where are you going in 2019? I’d love to hear all about your 2019 travel plans in the comments below.

P.S. If you’d like to know more about my Haiti travel you can check out More Than An Earthquake and Cupcakes in Haiti.

Ile à Rats, Haiti
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Cupcake Adventures: Cupcakes in Haiti

One thing you should know about me is I love cupcakes. Anytime my 4th graders need to create a team name, it is some variation of the Traveling Blue Cupcakes. Sometimes the cupcakes are blue, sometimes they’re dancing, but these kids know that if it’s traveling + blue + involves cupcakes, then I’m in! Often when I travel, one of the first things I research is cupcake shops. Consequently, I’ve been to more than 100 cupcake shops. And now I’ve had my first experience with cupcakes in Haiti!

On our way home from a day trip to Satama Hotel, I was pleasantly surprised to discover Cap-Haïtien, Haiti has a cupcake shop. I couldn’t resist checking out a new cupcake shop, so we made a quick stop! It was quite a treat to check out the cupcakes from Goût Sucré Pâtisserie. Decorated in pinks and purples, the store was quite adorable! You also just had a feeling when you walked in that it was going to live up to its name, Goût Sucré, meaning sweet taste.

The Cupcake Trifecta

The variety is not the same as is typically available at many cupcake shops in the United States, but they are not able to source as many ingredients in Haiti, so it is understandable. The cupcakes are reasonably priced and in terms of the cupcake trifecta:

•Cake to Frosting Ratio – Knocks it out of the park!

•Cake – A basic American grocery store vanilla cupcake.

•Frosting – The frosting had a different texture than expected. However, I’m not sure if that is exclusive to this shop or if this type of frosting is simply more typical in Haiti.

Finding the Cupcakes in Haiti

If you’ve spent much time in Cap – O’Kap to the locals, Cap Haitien most formally – you know that the Boulevard is the place to be.  With the exception of Denny’s (not the tired American chain but possibly the best BBQ chicken you’ll find in Haiti), if you’re looking for a restaurant you’re going to find it on the Boulevard.  The Boulevard du Cap-Haitien is the uncharacteristically wide stretch of road lining the coast which Google Maps will tell you is Mardi Gras Reef, but don’t get excited because you won’t want to touch this beach with a 10 foot pole.  Drive northwest over the small mountain to some lovely beaches, and come back to the Boulevard for some food.  From the Auberge du Picolet, where my sister and  brother-in-law had their wedding reception, to Barik the cowboy bar.  Yes, I’m serious.  There’s something for everyone in Cap.

While this cupcake doesn’t make my list of Top 10 Favorite Cupcakes, the custom creations look great and it’s great for Haiti to be opening new and different businesses like this.  So, if you’re looking for cupcakes in Haiti, or simply want to support local businesses,  I’d recommend a visit!

Other posts you might like:

Haiti: More Than an Earthquake

Cupcake Crawl: Orange County

Cap-Haïtien is a port city on the north coast of Haiti in the Caribbean. Look no further than Goût Sucré Pâtisserie for cupcakes in Haiti.
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Book Recommendations – 2018 List

41,599 pages read in 2018.

At the beginning of 2018 I set a reading goal of 156 books and promptly asked everyone I knew for book recommendations. And then I started reading. A lot. Whether I met the goal is a matter of how you want to look at the data. Technically, I entered 195 books on GoodReads (where I track all of my books) during 2018 but only 110 of them were chapter books. The other 85 were picture books as I read one book a day with my 4th graders. So even though I didn’t technically read 156 books for me this year, 110 is still pretty awesome!

I regularly have people ask me for book recommendations so I thought I would take a look back at 2018 and share my favorite books.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the link.

Historical Fiction Book Recommendations

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – This is one of the best World War II historical fiction books I’ve read. The fact that it is inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine moves it even higher on my list of book recommendations. I’m looking forward to reading Lost Roses, also by Martha Hall Kelly in 2019 and discovering the connections to the characters in Lilac Girls.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – This book is why historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. I love when author is able to share a piece of history through incredible storytelling and when I finish the book I race to Google to research the historical event. Which is definitely what happened with this book!

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – Hunter does something not all authors are able to do well, write a story that covers quite a few years and quite a few characters. And the fact this incredible story is inspired by a true story makes it even more remarkable. Another excellent World War II book.
The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith – Set during World War II, this book was quite thought-provoking. Reading made me think about how war might change what you will and will not do for your family.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan – Another World War II book inspired by a true story. Not only was I not able to put the book down, but this book has helped me inspire my travels in Europe.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – Sometimes it’s important for my reading to wander beyond World War II and out of Europe and Hannah did that by taking me to Alaska in the 1970’s. An outstanding read that made me think about right and wrong and whether the line can ever be moved.

General Fiction Book Recommendations

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan – Admittedly, I am a royal watcher…and not just the British Royal Family! Although I would be happy to talk about the awesomeness that is the Duchess of Cambridge anytime!  This book was just a downright fun read and would be a great beach read and a must-buy for any royal fans.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman –  I connected with this book because I’ve definitely had seasons of my life where I was okay with things just being fine. Ng looks at a life that is more than fine.

180 Seconds by Jessica Park – I truly do not think I could articulate just why I liked this book but every time I scanned back over the list of books I’d read in 2018, this one came to the top.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan – As an avid reader I love finding new bookstores and connecting with others who love reading, so this book was the perfect dive into an intriguing literary world.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch (Young Adult Fiction) – Fun young adult fiction (because sometimes my brain needs a break from heavy World War II reading) that will make you want to head to the nearest airport and hop on a flight to Italy.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (Children’s) – I love children’s books with a theme of friendship because I think that’s so important for kids to read about it. And Brown does an outstanding job with the illustrations (he also has lots of great picture books!) and a compelling story.

After reading over 100 books last year, here is a look at my book recommendations with historical fiction, general fiction, non-fiction and children's!

Non-Fiction Book Recommendations

Finish by Jon Acuff – This was the first book in read in 2018 because I had a couple of big goals (read 156 books, become debt-free) and I wanted 2018 to be the year I actually finished my goals. I can’t recommend this book enough for anyone setting any type of goal.

Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath – Fantastic read on how to create memorable moments and why it’s so important to create those moments.

Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines – I enjoy reading biographies and memoirs and after several years of watching Chip & Jo on TV I was excited to read Chip’s book. And it was well worth it. Great to take a closer look at their journey and who they are as people.

The Disney Way by Bill Capodagli & Lynn Jackson – Disney has been successful year after year and decade after decade for a reason. And this book gives you a sneak behind the curtain at Mickey’s house and how to implement the strategies yourself.

Picture Book Recommendations

Here’s the thing…picture books aren’t just for little kids! This school year I’ve committed to reading a picture book every day with my 4th graders and it is one of our favorite parts of the day. Since we’ve already read nearly 90 books this year, it’s difficult to pick just one or two favorites, so here is a look at some of our top favorites from the first half of the year…

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin – We’ll be reading the sequel in the spring!

After the Fall by Dan Santat – A book about trying again even when it’s really hard.

What If You Had An Animal Tail!? – In the words of my students, “It’s both informational AND entertaining!”

The Bad Seed by Jory John – Is it possible to change?

What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada – The process of nurturing ideas until they come to life.

Water Princess by Susan Verde – Raising awareness and inspiring action for global access to clean water.

Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors by Drew Daywalt – Fun read!

Rot, the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton – You’re perfect just the way you are!

2019 Book Recommendations

I’d love to hear from you in the comments, what books should be on my 2019 reading list? My first goal is to see how long I can go without getting any new books while I read all the books already on my shelves, but then I’m open to suggestions!

Other posts you might like:

Orange County Bucket List

Haiti: More Than an Earthquake

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Travel Inspiration: Road Trip Bloggers

I love traveling and exploring new places and one of my favorite ways to travel is to road trip! There’s just something about not only enjoying a destination, but exploring and discovering new things along the way. I was one when I took my first road trip and I’ve road tripped more than 100,000 miles since then. Along the way I’ve found a lot of travel inspiration from various road trip bloggers.

These bloggers share can’t miss roadside attractions, unique lodging, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that can’t be passed by and adventures to take in places you may never even have considered visiting. These bloggers inspire me to pack up and hit the road so I wanted to pass on that inspiration to you as you plan your next adventure! You can also find great road trip inspiration on Pinterest!

Road Trip Bloggers

Back Road Ramblers – Tara and Eric share about road tripping in the United States and have an interest in small town destinations, traveling with teens, hiking, glamping retreats and more.

Backroad Planet – Howard and Jerrry are from Florida and they travel off the beaten path and share out-of-the-way historical places, scenic routes and the hole-in-the-wall places you just can’t miss.

Dang Travelers – David and Angela are obsessed with travel and highlight amazing locations, pass along budget-friendly tips, share our favorite travel resources, and to post about our journey from part-time to full-time travel.

Exploration America – You’ll have the opportunity to follow this family of five as they explore America one city at a time.

My Road Trip Marriage – The name says it all for Jerry and Rebecca.

If you're looking for some travel inspiration, these road trip bloggers will inspire you to pack a bag and hit the road for your next adventure!
One Road at a Time – Abi and Patti have lived on both coasts and they now redefine retirement one road at a time.

Roost and Wander – Nikki shares a great mix of travel and recipes/traditions from life at home.

Travel Inspired Living – Tonya started her blog in a 31-foot motorhome and has grown and evolved to share thoughts on family travel, travel in the US, cooking in hotel rooms, and as every good road tripper needs…Tonya shares roadside attractions!

Have you been on any road trips lately? Are there other road trip bloggers that inspire you to hit the road for your next adventure? GOTM post signature