Cheap Flight Tools and Tricks

The starting point, the largest cost, and often the pain point of international travel planning is the flight. Looking for options can be overwhelming, and many times it has made a trip completely undoable– but sometimes it’s the one thing that actually ends up working out. And when that’s booked, you usually have no choice but to save up and go! Haha! (More on this mentality later)

These tools and tricks have been the reason I’ve been able to see so many places I never thought I’d see:

1. Book during shoulder season/off-season for your destination

Shoulder season is the 1-2 months that overlap between off-season and peak season. The gamble here is that you could have the disadvantages of off-season (weather, closed businesses, etc.), but oftentimes you’ll experience the advantages of peak season without the crowds. Off-season is a bit riskier, but most destinations have enough redeeming qualities to warrant a little rain or cold.

2. Fly into a nearby country with a larger airport

This works especially well in Europe/Southeast Asia where travel is common among the region. If Marrakesh, Morocco is your dream (as it is mine), but the $1,100 price tag is a bit steep for your budget, start your trip exploring in Spain and hop on a cheaper flight over. This is what we did to see Bali, Indonesia- my dream destination that I thought was completely out of my league.

3. Befriend Google Flights

My absolute savior. Stalking flights early and often is somewhat common-sense, I know, but it’s the best way to feel confident about your purchase. Plug in places or dates and scan for those green numbers that indicate a lower price than usual. They have a calendar view if you’re flexible on dates, and it’s super easy to navigate. 

4. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights & Pomelo Travel

These services send out daily flight deals from major US airports. Scott’s Cheap Flights were the reason I got such a cheap ticket to Paris- an awesome surprise as we were looking at both Asia and Europe for that month. The only downside is having to pull out your wallet right away– the flight deals don’t last long and it’s recommended to book within a few hours of seeing the price, sometimes even on the spot.

5. Utilize Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” option

Skyscanner, a service similar to Google Flights, will accept “Everywhere” as an option. Just plug in your dates and see what’s available.

6. Set up flight alerts

I’m not big on flight alerts, but it’s great for super busy people. Alert services like Hopper or Google Flights will do the work for you and send you statuses on how much your flight is and when you should book.

7. Know what’s included

Don’t go for a budget or big name airlines if you have to pay another $100 for a carry-on. Many smaller airlines still offer free baggage in their prices, so make sure you check before booking with whatever’s “cheapest.”

8. Use airlines with free stopovers

A stopover is exactly what it sounds like– the airline will stop in a destination free of charge on the way to/home from your destination. This is a great way for countries to get tourism and for us travelers to essentially get a bonus destination in their trip. We use Iceland Air’s program last January and it definitely won’t be my last timing taking advantage of it. Read a full list of airlines to keep an eye out for.

And as always, there’s things I know nothing about, like credit card rewards and frequent flyer points. When I’m more of an adult I’ll be sure to update. For travel inspiration, follow my Pinterest boards. I promise it’ll never run dry.

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10 Can’t-Put-Down Books That Will Get You Back into Reading

I’ve always been a “read when I travel” kind of girl. So much so that when I was younger, I would bring (no joke) anywhere from 5-10 books on a trip. Whenever I’m home, however, it’s a different story. With less downtime and more distractions, I neglect reading – and I hate it.

The best way to hop back into what I call a “reading phase” is by simply finding a really good book. (Ha! Crazy idea! How did I think of that!)

From there, I go through a phase of almost obsessive reading– until I stumble upon a book that’s a chore to get through. Then the cycle begins again.

While I can appreciate a good romance, self-help, or inspirational book, the genre that actually gets me back into reading is always a thriller/suspense/mystery. I want to literally hole myself up in my room and not speak to anyone for the days (hours?) it takes me to finish that book. So, I did the work for you (well, I tried to, anyway). Here are ten books that will get you back into the pages:

1. The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn
2. The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter
3. You – Caroline Kepnes
4. Behind Closed Doors – B.A. Paris
5. Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
6. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
7. Stillhouse Lake – Rachel Caine
8. Mr. Mercedes – Stephen King
9. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
10. The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

Have you read any of these? What did I miss?

P.S.- Who has a Goodreads account? This app is actually the only way I will remember what books I’ve read and if I enjoyed them. No kidding, the book will leave my mind if I don’t document it. Anyone else? 🙂

Happy reading!

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Girl’s Weekend Guide to Milwaukee

Milwaukee is underrated. I know Chicago gets all the Midwest city love, but Milwaukee, Wisconsin has truly stepped up its game since my 8th grade years driving up for pop-punk concerts at the Rave.

Now, if you don’t live in the Midwest or haven’t stepped foot in Wisconsin, know that it’s much better than it sounds (and hopefully I can prove that to you). And if you like beer and cheese, I won’t have to do much convincing, because that stereotype is absolutely true.

After spending an amazing ~girl’s weekend there, I’ve compiled a little itinerary modeled off our own. Thanks to Meghan for planning a perfect weekend and for helping me add more Milwaukee gems 🙂 Without further ado… the itinerary!

Friday:

We drove up to Milwaukee after work and had what I believe all weekends should start with– a night in. We cozied up with wine and cheese, put our phones down and caught up. Staying in on Fridays should be a given– first for the quality time, and second for that magical feeling waking up Saturday morning without a hangover.

Saturday:

8:30 am – Workout Class
Start your day with a morning group workout class. We went to Orangetheory in the Third Ward (must try if you haven’t– your first class is free!) and it absolutely killed us. Boutique fitness classes are a great way to try something new and get a sweat in early on, and besides, dying is always more fun when you have good company. Milwaukee is scattered with boutique fitness studios, see below.
Other options:
Spire – cycling, rowing, TRX | Hot Yoga Milwaukee | Yoga Squad

Bianca Bialk

10:00 am – Breakfast
Time to treat YO SELF! We opted to go for breakfast right after Orange Theory so we could beat the crowds and also so we could ruin everyone else’s dining experience 🙂 We headed to Sweetdiner, a trendy and bright cafe with delicious food. If you decide to visit, spend some time walking around Milwaukee’s super cute Third Ward area. Then go home and shower, jeez!
Other options:
Cafe at the Plaza | Honeypie Cafe | Toast | Café Benelux | Urban Beets Cafe (vegan) | Merriment Social

12:00 pm – Milwaukee Public Market
One of Milwaukee’s biggest tourist and local attractions is the Milwaukee Public Market. Hang out for an hour, walk around, and try some of the vendor’s fresh food. The public market also has classes and events sometimes, if you’re into that kinda thing. It’s also indoors, which is the kind of self-awareness I like to see in a city.

1:30 pm – Milwaukee Brewing Co.
They don’t call it the Beer Capital of the World for no reason! We stopped at Milwaukee Brewing Co.‘s newer location on 9th St and it did not disappoint. Bright windows, greenery walls and beer flights make for a very happy Bianca. This location and the other offer brewery tours for $12, which gets you beer samples and a pint glass as well. We love Wisconsin.

4:30 pm – Lakefront Brewery
Time for beer stop #2, and this one’s practically a Milwaukee must-do. We decided to go for a brewery tour at Lakefront Brewery (book ahead) that has the exact same perks as the previous brewery. They make it informational in a funny and entertaining way, which is important because I’ve been on 294 brewery tours and still don’t understand how beer is made. Tip: try their Hazy Rabbit if you like IPAs and do not leave until you’ve overdosed on their cheese curds– I cannot recommend them enough.

Bianca Bialk

6:00 pm – Dinnnnna
After stuffing yourself with beer and fried cheese, it’s time to put on your big girl pants and go grab some dinner. Balzac was the perfect choice for us, as it’s a cozy restaurant with small plates and an extensive wine list. The food was delicious and the portions were JUST RIGHT. Small plates or die. If you speak in Yelp language, I’d say this is a two dollar-sign ($$) restaurant.
Other options:
$ – Ian’s Pizza, late night
$$ – Birch and Butcher, small plates | La Merenda, tapas | Point’s East Pub, dive bar with great wings | BelAir Cantina, Mexican | Fixture, pizza | Sobelman’s, American/burgers | Rice N Roll, sushi/Thai | St. Paul’s Fish Company (get a lobster or bring home some fresh fish)
$$$ – Zarletti, Italian | Harbor House, seafood | Third Coast Provisions, seafood
$$$$ – Carnevor, steakhouse 

Bianca Bialk

7:30 pm – The Night Begins…
After dinner, head back home/to the hotel/to the Airbnb to freshen up and maybe pregame if the previous four beers and two glasses of wine just wasn’t enough. We went out on Brady St. and had a blast. Bars/areas recommended below:
Brady St (The Garage, Jo Cats, Nomad) | Old World Third, good for game day | Third WardWalkers Point/Fifth Ward, up and coming | Bayview | Riverwest | Shorewood

Sunday

If you don’t have to waste your whole day recovering, here’s a list of Milwaukee’s top attractions. Enjoy, and let me know what I missed:
Drinks – The Outsider, rooftop bar | View MKE, rooftop bar | Lost Valley Cider Co. | Milwaukee Pedal & Paddle Tavern | Lakefront Brewery | MKE Brewing Co.
Sports – Milwaukee Brewers | Milwaukee Bucks 
Activities – Check out Visit Milwaukee for an up-to-date listing of seasonal activities! 

P.S. – If you’re new to Airbnb, use this link to get $40 off your first stay!

Thanks for reading,