Running Through Rome: The Adventure of a Lifetime

Hello!

I told you guys I’d be back with more Europe posts, and I am not one to disappoint! As I was sitting here thinking about the rest of the time Joni and I spent in Roma, a vision of dozens of posts swarmed before my eyes. You see, we fit in so much, and saw so many things, that it would take me forever to write it all up. So, I’m going to do something a little different. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here we go:

The Colosseum was an incredible experience, and when I asked Joni later, she said it was one of her favorite things that we did. Why? Because it’s some of the coolest history we have. (Side note, you can click on any of the pictures in groups to make them larger).

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There’s nothing like visiting these ancient buildings and trying to wrap your mind around the fact that people, real people, lived and fought and died here 2500 years ago.

Along with the Colosseum, we went to the Vatican Museum, where we saw the Sistine Chapel and rubbed shoulders with thousands of other awed visitors.

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Not the Sistine Chapel.

We also found out that the Sistine Chapel, where no photos are allowed, is actually enormous, and the most famous panel within it is actually quite small:

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We visited St. Peter’s Basilica, listened to audio guides about a thousand dead popes, and got to see some of the best religious art in the world.

We walked through the Roman Forum, an entire city’s worth of ruins that culminateĀ in a palace overlooking the Circus Maximus (where the old chariot races were held).

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I call this “Joni Unawares”

We went to the Trevi Fountain and the top of the Piazza Venezia, which the Romans hate because it’s made of white marble, but looks just as beautiful to us:

We ate more gelato than any person has a right to- though the best was the one separately recommended to us by two different tour guides.

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From La Romana

We made real, Italian pasta in a class taught by a real, Italian chef. And then we ate every last bite.

We drank bottles of wine and climbed the entire city and when people asked us if we were tired, we stared.

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Because this is what Rome is about. It’s life. It’s the past and the present and the art, all mashed together into one teeming, thriving city.

And it’s beautiful.

-Carissa

Weekly Inspiration: All-Inclusive Cancun on Points and Miles

Hello!

So I realize I started a new series of posts called weekly inspiration, and then never followed up on that. Now, a few weeks later, I finally have time to write some more about awesome things you can do with points.

Today’s topic is Cancun! This comes partly as a result of my own impending trip to Cancun (with my friend Chrissy! Hi Chrissy!) and as a result of a conversation with Joni, where I asked a billion questions about what types of vacations people like to go on.

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This could be you

Now, without further ado, I give you Cancun on points and miles:

Hotels

Now, everyone knows there are a billion all-inclusive hotels throughout Cancun, and a lot of them are good. Great, even. But if you’re going for the experience of a lifetime, the Hyatt Zilara (adults only) and Hyatt Ziva (family-friendly) are the gold standard of all-inclusive luxury. They have tons of reviews talking about how amazing they are, and, even better, can be booked using reward points! (That’s very uncommon, by the way).

The Zilara costs more, since it’s adults only, and a four night stay there in July will run you $4300. Yes, that is mind-bogglingly expensive.

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Ouch.

However, the Chase Hyatt rewards card, which I have mentioned previously, comes with 2 free nights at any hotel in the Hyatt portfolio. (After 2k spend in the first 3 months). If you and your other half (or friend, or literally anyone else you wouldn’t mind sharing room with) each get this card, you’ll both be basking in the Cancun sunshine before you even know it.

Alternatively, both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred currently come with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after 4k spend each in the first 3 months. These points can be transferred over to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, meaning you can use them to pay for your entire stay at the hotels.The Hyatt Zilara Cancun will run you 25,000 points/night, and the Hyatt Ziva will cost 20,000points/night.

And it’s all free!

Flights

Now, flights to Cancun can be relatively inexpensive, if you keep an eye out and book quickly when good rates appear. I just snagged a flight going from Orlando-Cancun-Los Angeles for $260 total. I paid using points from my American Express Business OPEN, and since it was on Delta (my preferred airline), I received a 50% rebate on points, meaning I spent only 13,000 points total for my flight. (Which is the equivalent of paying $130).

However, if you’re going at peak season, or if you don’t feel like scouring the web for stuff, tons of options abound for reward flights to Cancun.

Southwest usually has really good (and cheap) options for flights to Cancun. To that end, I recommend one of Southwest’s Chase credit cards. There are three, currently offering sign-up bonuses ranging from 50,000-60,000 points.

A quick search on Southwest shows me that they have roundtrip flights to Cancun in July (flying from Los Angeles) starting from 11,108 points roundtrip per/person. This means you and your new best friend can both fly (twice!) roundtrip to Cancun on points. Of course, if you live on the east coast things tend to be a bit more costly, but you should still have more than enough points to cover the cost.

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Since these are all-inclusive resorts, of course, flights and hotel are the entirety of your cost. This whole vacation is free!

To put this into perspective, the dollar cost of your stay would go like this:

$4352 on hotel
$520/flights ($260/person on Southwest)
=
$4,872 for four nights at one of the best all-inclusive hotels in the world. Or, using points, it’ll cost you nothing at all.

So there you have it! A really easy way to get the vacation of a lifetime using a few different cards. Let me know if you guys have any other recommendations for vacations, or if there’s something specific you’re dying to see. Until then, I’ll be dreaming about the beach! Adios!

-Carissa “Gettin Tan” Ragland

Murphy’s Law of Jordan

Hello All!

I still have tons to write about for my whole European adventure, but today I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled programming to write to you about Jordan. Because…guys…I’m pretty sure this country hates me. Let’s get on with it!

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My only photo of Jordan

Ok! So I arrived to Jordan after a long day of travel (Naples -> Rome -> Athens -> Amman) on March 29th. Now, most of you probably know this, but I lived in Jordan last year, so I’m familiar-ish with how to get around. Jordan doesn’t have much (any) public transportation, so, since my flight landed at 01:30am, I made sure to book myself a private transfer to my hotel. David was coming to join me the next day, but, as I’m sure you guys understand, you don’t want to be a lonely girl in the middle of the Middle East, no matter how much you like its people. Thus, I also booked a nice hotel (ok, the best), and was supposed to be dropped off there at around 02:30am, once I got through customs, etc.

Note how I said supposed to?

Yeah.

I finished up with my luggage and customs and walked out to the lobby, where my driver was *guaranteed* to be standing around waiting for me. Except he…just didn’t show up? I wandered back and forth for a few minutes, wondering if I had missed the sign, before concluding that, yes, my private driver had indeed abandoned me in the middle of the airport at 2am. In Jordan. I finally managed to get ahold of a very sleepy man (using the company’s *emergency* number), who seemed shocked to learn that he had a customer waiting, and asked if he could call me back.

While waiting for his return call, I learned that Uber is a thing in Jordan! And dear God thankyousomuch for Uber, because it saved my ass. I called a car (which took twenty minutes to get to me, since there was apparently only one driver in all of Amman) and politely told the missing transfer driver to eat it.

So, I gratefully climbed into the Uber and headed off to my hotel, arriving at around 3:30am, where I greeted the hotel receptionist in Arabic and told him I wanted to check into my room.

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Look! Nala!

Now pause here for a moment. Half the reason I booked this hotel, and not any others, is because it participates in the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts program. That means you receive a room upgrade, 12pm check-in, 4pm check-out, free daily breakfast for two, and a $100 food/beverage credit for the length of your stay. Since I didn’t want to be wandering the city alone, I figured the massive quantities of free food would work out for me while I waited to David to arrive. I also meant to luxuriate in the heated pools and maybe even work out (lol no).

Ok, back to check-in. There I was, standing exhaustedly after my car debacle and just wanting to head to my room, when the receptionist (who was very kind), told me that my reservation was set for 28-30 April, not March. I was thus one month early.

Well. Shit.

It also turned out that the hotel was fully booked for the next few days. Seeing the look of panic on my face, the receptionist offered me water and tea and asked me to sit down while he figured something out. Promising that he’d be back in 15 minutes, he disappeared for the next hour.

Finally, he returned, saying something about possibly a room that they may have but it might be really expensive and also I might have to leave at noon? At this point, I didn’t care, and simply nodded.

Another hour later, the actual night manager returned, who told me they had found a room, which I guess was somehow previously unbookable? They had cleaned it and set it up for me, and I would be able to stay for the two full nights with all the amenities from American Express. Silently expressing my joy, I followed the manager up to the room and fell over into the bed, finally falling asleep at 5:15am.

So, a pretty iffy start to Jordan, right? But at least I was in the best hotel in Amman, right?

Yeah, true. But then I woke up with food poisoning. (Or, at least that’s what I thought it was). Let me tell you guys, there is nothing so pathetic as me lumbering around a hotel room by myself, whining and watching 10 episodes straight of RuPaul’s Drag Race. David finally arrived at around 11pm that night and proceeded to shove pepto bismol and pedialyte down my face, which was a far cry from the $100 steak I had been envisioning eating, but I was grateful for nonetheless.

Now, it’s three days later and I’m almost better!

But, David has gotten sick now. And let me tell you guys, there is nothing so pathetic as David lumbering around our Airbnb, whining about his tummy while watching 10 episodes straight of Spartacus. Men are babies. (I’m conveniently forgetting how pathetic I was, ok?)

I guess…it can only get better from here?

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Enjoy this unrelated photo!

-Carissa “Murphy’s Law” Rawson