Tips to Help you go on Vacation Without going into Debt

Occasionally it’s important to get away from your normal routine and take a relaxing vacation. While some people prefer visiting new destinations, others just want to spend some time with family members they haven’t seen in a while.

However, some people are not comfortable with making vacation plans due to the costs involved. No matter how great a vacation is, it does more harm than good if it’s likely to drive you deeper into debt. But if you prepare early enough, you can have an outstanding vacation within your budget. Here you’ll find some tips to help you plan a vacation without accumulating debt.


Determine the costs

If you intend to take a vacation, it’s important that you understand how much it will cost you, so you can make adequate plans. You’ll need to find out the charges (for example accommodation, transport, food, activities at your destination, etc.) in advance. To get the right estimate for accommodation expenses, you can look up the prices for hotels in your destination.

While it can be quite hard to plan the exact places to eat or take part in activities, you can rely on reputable travel blogs to get an estimate. You can also get travel guides for your target destination.

If the vacation is all-inclusive, you’ll have an easier time making the estimates. If you need or want to participate in an activity that isn’t included in the package, you’ll have to pay the additional costs. To be on the safe side, account for unplanned costs that may come up.


Start saving

After knowing the amount, you need to start saving in advance for the vacation. The best way to get started is by starting a monthly savings goal and following it consistently. If you can open a savings account dedicated to the vacation fund, it is easier to avoid the temptation of spending money. Most importantly, making automatic deposits will ensure that you actually save for the vacation.

If you have decided the date for the vacation, calculate the time left, and factor in the costs to know how much you should be saving each month. If you have yet to decide on a date, you can find creative ways to cut back on expenses and save money. Know that there are some expenses that you can comfortably survive without and that saving money is a major step towards a debt-free vacation.

At times, you may get a great vacation deal but you haven’t saved enough money. While taking a quick $1000 loan to fund a vacation is not a good idea, sometimes it can pay off.


Earn more and stay motivated

While it’s great to cut back on unnecessary expenses to free up some money, it is better if you can find ways to earn more money. If your schedule is already tight, and you can’t take an extra job, you can sell off the stuff that you no longer need around your house.

While the rewards are obvious, sticking to the plan can be a difficult task, especially because sometimes, it is not easy to maintain the motivation. Nevertheless, you can find several ways to keep the fire burning until you achieve the goal to save.

You can start following bloggers who tell stories and document their experiences in the destination you intend to visit. When you see photos and read exciting stories about the vacations, you’ll be motivated to continue with the plan, even if you have to make a sacrifice in the short term. In addition, you can track the savings plan and watch the funds grow.


Find a good travel agent

While some travel agents might charge for their services, there are many agents who get compensated by the hotels, flights, and cruises that they book for their clients. As such, you can tap into their expertise for free and end up saving time and money for your vacation.

All you need to do is submit a list of activities that interest you, as well as the amount you plan to spend, and your agent will provide you with the most suitable options. More often than not, agents are updated about special offers from hotels, destinations, and airlines. While you can do your own research if you have the time, you may not be able to choose the best deal, especially if you are not experienced. You shouldn’t expect the travel agent to lower the accommodation fee, but they can help you get a better room.


Travel during off-peak seasons

After you decide where you want to go, try to figure out the best time to travel. Normally, a travel agent understands the destinations and the most appropriate times to visit to get the best rates. But if you are planning the vacation on your own, make sure you are traveling to a destination when there aren’t many tourists interested in the area. You can look up the visitors’ bureau website and determine the low and high seasons for a destination.

While you might be forced to travel when the weather is not at its best, you can still enjoy better conditions, and you won’t have to deal with overpopulated destinations. If you are taking a flight, it will cost lower when you fly during midweek, as well as early on Saturdays.


Set a daily allowance and shop for the best deals

Regardless of the destination you plan to visit, you can make huge savings by finding better deals. You can accomplish this through retailers and websites with promotional packages. When you plan ahead about where you will eat and sleep, you can avoid making mistakes when you are tired or desperate to find a place to rest. At the same time, consider any additional expenses like souvenirs and plan where you’ll get them at a bargain.

When you arrive at your destination, it is easy to fall into the temptation of spending more than you had planned. It can be disheartening if you spend most of your money during the first three days of the vacation and are left struggling for the remaining days. To avoid getting into debt while on vacation, you should make sure you have allocated a sufficient amount for your daily expenses and stick to it.


Final words

Nobody needs to go into debt when taking a vacation. If you can’t afford to pay for the vacation, you definitely shouldn’t travel in the first place. But if you can plan early, it is easy to enjoy a great vacation without introducing unnecessary stress in your life.




The Family Travels Through Thailand

In our last article, we left off right after our month-stay in Chaing Mai. Since then, we have spent a month in the south of Thailand, stopping in Koh Lanta, Ao Nang, Krabi, and Phuket before flying back to Bangkok to catch our flight to Japan.


Traveling to Koh Lanta

Our first stop in southern Thailand was Koh Lanta, a family-friendly, peaceful, island located less than 2 hours away from the nearest airport in Krabi. We flew from Chiang Mai to Krabi airport on Air Asia, a budget airline. Both the service and experience was excellent. Everything you could expect from an international airline, but for a tenth of the price.

To book the flights, we used a few travel-dollars we have received to apply to credit cards and flew for free. Once we landed, we charted a private transport to Koh Lanta. We had booked a car but they sent us a minivan with plenty of legroom so that was a plus!


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where to go in thailand with a familyOnce we got to the island, we stayed for a week at the Tamarind Twin Resort. The hotel was pretty good for what they charge. We paid only $30 per night, again, booked through credit card travel credits.

It was a very large room, modern, clean, and the walk to the beach only took a minute or two. The pool was great and the beach (Long Beach) was very clean. Our baby had a ton of fun in the sand and playing in the ocean.

The highlight of Koh Lanta was definitively the beach. The water was clear and the sand was smooth. The sunsets were breathtaking and seemed to last forever.

On our second week on the island, we stayed at the Riviera Boutique House. Overall, that was the best budget hotel we stayed at. The service was excellent, our host was very helpful. We rented a scooter one day and drove around the island to the old town, we chilled on the beach, enjoyed the pool.

Our last stay in Koh Lanta was at The Thai House Resort. We had reserved a bungalow without AC but once we got there, we quickly realized how hot it got. Not only was it hot but too stuffy. The bamboo bungalow was very basic, had a tiny window, and a general feeling of ugliness.

Only a few hours after checking in, we asked the owner for another option. She asked double the rate for a modern concrete bungalow with AC ($60). That is pretty much the going rate for beach-front bungalows in the region but it meant we had to spend way more for our stay (and could not pay that extra charge with credit card points). After a little negotiation, we were able to get upgraded to a beautiful bungalow for only $4 more per day.  That made all the difference!


How is it to live in a small hotel roomwhere to stay in thailand with a family


We enjoyed our three weeks in Koh Lanta but there were a few things that slightly annoyed us.

  • The food options were very limited. There were a ton of restaurants but all serving the same tourist menu. Whenever we see restaurants with a hundred-item menu, (pizza, pasta, Thai food, hamburgers, seafood, fish…) we avoid them. Finding some good, local, restaurants was a challenge and we had to walk around a bit before finding something.
  • Access was not the easiest. Even if this island has a ferry, the drive from the closest airport took us about an hour and a half and cost $100 for a private transfer. This might not sound like much but it is huge for Thailand.
  • The Infrcture was laking. Internet was slow and, water being sparse, the showers had very low pressure.


On the plus side, however,

  • At the three spots we stayed, the beach was amazing. The sand was nice, the waves were not too big, and the water was sparkling blue. We did not see any trash in the ocean, nor on the beach.
  • Boat activity was minimal. The island is fairly quiet and peaceful for that reason.
  • Hotels are reasonably priced and, for the most part, well maintained. Everywhere we stayed was around the $30 per night mark. We always booked walking distance from the beach since a minute walk really does not bother us but basic beachfront bungalows go for about $60-$100 per night.
  • The island is very colorful and offers tons of natural beauty to admire. We highly suggest renting a scooter and exploring a bit in-land. We only paid $8 per day for ours.


Our stay in Ao Nang

After three weeks in Koh Lanta, we booked a private transfer to Ao Nang. Once again, we booked a sedan car but got a nice, big, minivan. This time, we got luxury leather seats with plenty of legroom. As for hotels, we booked 8 nights at the Ibis with points from our RBC credit cards and got the whole $65-per-night stay for free. The hotel was super nice, clean, offered a nice pool area, and a great breakfast selection.

It can get weird to raise our kid without support or activities. Being so far from family can get hard but nice resort-style hotels like this one are great to get distracted a bit. We hung out by the pool, let her play, and enjoyed the sun.

By then, after months of traveling, we definitively started to miss family. Especially with a newborn, having that support would be nice. We are always by ourselves, only us three, and it even if we are never bored, we do feel a small void.

Another thing we really start to feel is the closeness. We have been living in small hotel rooms for months and it does have it’s downsides. When our baby is taking a nap, for example, it is really hard to stay silent without a living room or office space. Even typing on the computer can wake her up sometimes.


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From Ao Nang, we visited Phra Nang Cave Beach by longtail boat. It was a fun adventure. The boat ride only takes about 15 minutes and cost $8 round-trip. From there, we visited a small cave and admired rock climbers conquering the flank. It was an easy day-trip, even with a baby.


raley beach trip with a baby


where to stay in thailand with a family

Another fun activity accessible from the beach in Ao Nang is the Monkey Trail. This free trail crosses to the national park around the mountain. It was pretty well maintained and easily accessible; simply walk until the end of the beach and start climbing up the stairs.

Unfortunately, we did not see any monkeys. It was still nice to see the jungle and the quiet beach on the other side of the mountain.


where to go in thailand with a family


A quick stop in Krabi

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After months of slow travel through Thailand, we finally did a quick, 3-day, stop in the town of Krabi. This was a nice stop after the month of beach life. We took another private transfer to get there, another $100, but this time actually got the car we booked.

Traveling by land was a big plus with an infant. Even for the island, we were in a van and took a ferry. It was so much easier than taking boats all the time.

Originally, we had planned to visit 2 or 3 islands by boat but after consideration, we rebooked our hotels to stay car-accessible the whole way.


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We visited a nice weekend market, explored the town, and walked through the mangroves.

It was nice to come back to a city after spending so much time at the beach. The restaurant scene was much better and the liveliness of it all was refreshing. With now much better options to choose from, we finally ate amazing food again.what route to travel thailandhow to travel thailand cheap


Traveling in luxury in Phuket

The next stop on our Thailand trip was the island of Phuket. Again, we used a private car transfer to get to our next hotel and got to the Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach bright and early.

We paid for the room with rewards points so it did not cost us anything. In addition, we got upgraded to an ocean-front Villa since we are platinum members with Marriott. Throughout all of our travels, this has to be the most luxurious hotel we stayed at. Our villa had amazing decor, a private pool, and a crazy ocean-view.

The resort was beautiful. They offered watersports, amazing restaurants, and a very relaxing atmosphere to end our stay in Thailand.


family trip to thailand marriott in thailand on rewards


The service was simply breathtaking. One new thing we never experienced before was turndown service. Every evening. the maids would come to prepare the bed for use, change our towels, set our slippers on the side of the bed, and leave us a little thought on the pillow with fresh flowers.

It was completely over-the-top and no one actually needs this service but it was a nice touch.


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Last stop in Thailand: Bangkok

Finally, our last stop before flying out was Bangkok. We stayed 3 nights at the very nice Marriott Marquis, again, paid with points. Once more, they upgraded us. This time to a suite on the 32nd floor.

The view was amazing. the hotel was wonderfully done and the service was outstanding.


bangkok hotel marriott marquis


The highlight of this property was definitively its breakfast buffet. The ginormous selection was breathtaking and the quality exceptional. They have an Asian section, juice bar, Western section, salad bar, cereal bar, and a never-ending selection of food.

We also tried 3 of their ten restaurants and were very impressed. The service was outstanding and everything we had was delicious.


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Their business lounge was also very nice. It offered great views of the city from the 27th floor and the outdoor terrasse was also a nice touch.

The food was good, however, alcohol was only served from 5:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. On the plus side, they did offer a full-service bar so we ordered a few cocktails. Most lounges usually only offer self-serve.


bangkok hotel lounge for free


The suite was very nice and elegantly decorated. We had a huge bathroom with a rain shower, full bath, and marble finishes. We finally got the luxury of hanging out in the living room when Baby was sleeping since the bedroom door could be shut close.


bangkok hotel for freemarriott marquis bangkok with rewards points free hotel stay


All-in-all, we had a great time in Thailand and after 69 days, we finally flew out to Japan.  Thailand was so welcoming. Especially with a baby, they were all so smiley and happy. They LOVE babies. Some restaurants, we had 5 or 6 waitresses hovering around her and entertaining her! They just go crazy for them.

In contrast, Tokyoites were pretty straight-faced. But that is another story for another post.

Cheers, Mr. Mrs, and Baby Xyz.




Slow Travel Through Thailand (Mostly Chiang Mai)

It has been over a month now that we have arrived in Thailand. Some might think we are crazy to slow travel with an infant in Thailand but the experience has been amazing so far. They don’t call it the Land of a Thousand Smiles for nothing. Everyone seems fascinated by our baby! 🙂

With everything to discover over here, we never found the time to write at all but here we go.


Our free hotel in Bangkok

Since we flew for free with Swiss airline (thanks to our American Express cards) we had to land in Bangkok. From there we flew to Chaing Mai after only 5 days in the capital.

Arriving was pretty hectic. We took a taxi from the airport at 6 A.M. got to our hotel before check-in time but they were great and had our room set up by nine.

We stayed at the i-Sanook Residence, a great hotel away from the crowds. It is not located right in the action but it is still close to everything and offers free transport to four main spots around the city.


Travel like a digital nomad in Bangkoki sanook hotel in bangkok


It had a superb pool, included breakfast, and was really affordable for such a bustling city. We really enjoyed the huge breakfast variety, from bacon and eggs to dumplings and chicken stir-fry. The offerings of both Western and Asian cuisines were delicious.

We booked this through credit cards rewards and the whole 5-day stay was completely free.


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Things to do while traveling in Bangkok


A true foodie destination

Bangkok is a crazy city. Amazing, but crazy.

We had a blast exploring the many many street markets. Discovering so many dishes. Tasting all the flavors.

Thai food in bangkokThe food game here is on a whole other level. There is street food everywhere! Even on the smallest, narrowest, streets, there would be three or four vendors. The most surprising thing is to see their set-up; they usually have a scooter with a sidecar where they put their propane or charcoal grill and a workstation. Like food trucks but on scooters.

We ate Pad Thai, fried chicken, sticky rice, curry, ramen, a ton of delicious meals. Out of all of the time we ate out, we were disappointed only once or twice. Thai’s sure know how to cook!

As per the cost, most meals were around 60 Baths ($2) per plate. As long as you are willing to try the local cuisine, you can find plenty of restaurants, even sit-downs, for 60B or 90B ($2 or $3). Some street stalls even have dishes for under 30B ($1).

A good find for us, especially with an infant, was to eat lunch in mall food courts. They offer a huge variety of local cuisine, every stall is locally run, not franchises or anything like in North-American malls. The best thing is; they charge the same price as street vendors.

In food courts, at least, you get clean tables and AC. It was a great break from the heat right around the noon peaks.

In a city that reaches 35°C (95°F) on a regular basis, air-conditioned malls are a life saver.

In Bangkok, we only ate Thai food from food courts like at MBK or Central World, street stall or local joints which mostly consisted of a few tables in someone’s house with a grill or wok out front where an old lady cooked.


transportation in bangkok with an infant


Getting around Bangkok

Oh, the traffic! We could not believe how much traffic there was. Any time of the day, it was always jammed.

Transport, in general, was pretty hectic. Taxis in Bangkok are known for over-charging tourist so we always asked for the taxi-meter. Instead of the driver simply saying how much it will cost, the meter runs on the official taxi rate and is usually half the price as what the drivers try to get away with.

The problem was, even with a cute baby, most drivers would not take us when we asked for the meter. Especially on a rainy day, they would just drive away if we asked for the meter.

The worst was when we were coming back from the Grand Palace. There was a huge downpour. We waited inside for the rain to stop and then we walked around for a good 20 minutes before anyone would pick us up on the official rate. Looking back, we would have greatly benefited from using Grab; the local Uber app. It is safe, reliable, and reasonably priced.


bangkok slow travel


We overpaid a few times and got the meter price a few times but in the end, it was never extravagant. We are talking about a few dollars here and there.

Thailand is really really cheap, most of our taxi rides came to about 100B ($3). The most we spent during our stay was going to and from the airport. The 30-minute drive was 500B ($17).

bangkok river boat map

A great discovery we made was to try the Chao Phraya River Express Boats. These commuter boats are amazing to get around the city cheaply and run all day long, every 20 minutes. The fare was only 15B (50¢) per person and you simply hop on and get off when you want.

Our hotel offered transport to one of the piers so we just got on and explored the city from there. We went to the Grand Palace and visited some temples by boat. We also used it to get back home a few times just to save on the taxi and skip the rush hour traffic. Not only was it cheap but it was also pretty fun. Riding the river was much better than sitting in a taxi.


What to do all day?

With a baby, our outings were a bit limited but in no way boring. We still got to do a bunch of stuff.

Before leaving for this around the world trip, we expected to slow travel with very few activities, apart from taking care of our baby. We had the time off and rather than staying home, we saw this trip as a nice way to explore the world while raising her. However, after spending weeks in Europe, never stopping and doing stuff every day, we realized how awesome our baby is! She is such a good traveler.

We were able to do much more than we anticipated. As long as we did not go out for more than three or four hours at the time, she was fine. Also, she has been great about taking naps in the stroller and baby-carrier, allowing us to be more flexible with our outings.


slow traveling with an infant


In Bangkok, we spent a lot of time in markets, temples  (called Wat), and just exploring the city.

Almost every day went like this:

  • Woke up when our baby said so,
  • fed her, showers, breakfast at the hotel,
  • got a complimentary ride from the hotel,
  • explored,
  • go to a mall to eat lunch in cool AC,
  • go back to the hotel for the nap, feeding, and relaxing,
  • another short activity,
  • supper, often takeout if our baby was asleep,
  • relax and go to bed.

We visited huge markets like the Pratunam Market which is Thailand’s largest clothing market. From food stalls to fake Louis Vuitton bags, to hand-make silk, the markets offer a huge variety and are an adventure of its own. We could spend the whole day in one of those.


wat in bangkok traveling with a baby in bangkok


Over the days, we also visited so many Wats! They are all over the city and it is an easy way to escape the busy noisiness. It was so quiet and relaxing in there. The Wat Phra Kaew, for example, had beautiful grounds, enormous sculptures, and impressive architecture.

Thai temples are museums of themselves and most of them are free to enter. However, they ask you to cover up. No shorts, skirts, or tank tops.


slow traveling with a baby


slow traveling with a kidIn Wat Pho, we saw the reclining Buddha. A 46m long gold Buddha so big they had to build the temple around it after it was sculpted. Wat Pho is now recognized by UNESCO in its Memory of the World Programme and is also known as the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.

Talking about Thai massages, they are dirt cheap over here. For about 200B ($6), we got some amazing massages. That will buy you an hour-long session in most places around town.



After five days in Bangkok, we took a budget airline, VietJet, to Chiang Mai. Waiting at the BKK airport, we tried the Domestic Bangkok Airways Blue Ribbon lounge.


Bangkok bkk airport lounge Bangkok airport lounge


The service was impeccable. The duck we had was very tasty. The food selection was nice. They had good snacks and hot meals cooked to request.

However, their alcohol selection was very limited. We visit a lot of airport lounges and this is the first one which does not offer liquor. They had beers and wine, that’s it.

Comfort-wise, the lounge was amazing. They even had massage chairs to decompress, a nice seating area, and a modern decor. This lounge was meant for Bangkok Airways first class passengers but we had access through our Priority Pass membership included with our American Express card.


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Once on board, we were very pleased with the level of service, legroom, and quality of the aircraft given the fact that we flew budget and the tickets were only $40.


Slow travel in Chiang Mai, digital nomad central

Once we landed in Chiang Mai, after a very short hour-or-so flight, we took a luxurious airport transport to the condo we had booked. We traveled in a large SUV, with leather seats and all, and only paid 150B ($5) for the ride!

Travel like a digital nomad in Chiang Mai

For our accommodation, we rented a really nice condo called the Nimmana located in the trendy and touristy Nimman neighborhood. Since Chiang Mai was the longest stop in our trip, we booked through Airbnb and stayed at one spot for the whole time.

The condo offered amazing grounds, a beautiful pool, a sauna, and a gym. Not to mention great staff and a central location right in the action.


condo in Chiang mai for slow travel luxury condo in Chiang mai for slow travel


This city is renowned for being a hub for digital nomads, slow travelers, expats, and alike. It offers most luxuries and comforts of the West at a fraction of the cost, great weather, delicious food, and amazing people.

Expat in Chiang Mai

The place we got was far from the cheapest. You can easily find studio apartments under $150. We even found some places for only 3,000B ($100) per month. It will not be luxurious but it will be livable.

We opted for something nice, new, and central. Comparing other complexes around, we chose one of the nicest spots. Even so, we only paid $570 for the month and it would have been a hundred dollars cheaper if we leased it for 12 months.

Being so expensive in Thai terms, there was a lot of expats and tourists in our complex. It was nice to meet people at the pool and easy to make friends for the month.

The neighborhood was super nice. Mostly aimed to cater to Chinese tourists and expats. Many of the co-working spaces, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars were all walking distance from our place. Even if there was a lot of Chinese and Westerners, there were still a bunch of local, authentic Thai restaurants and shops. The market beside Maya Mall was very enjoyable and the food stands all over the streets were amazing.


travelling in bangkok with an infant


Meeting new people

The people we met here were great. Traveled people, most of them working remote or running something online, living the stress-free life.

Over there, someone making $20 per hour teaching English online can easily work two or three hours per day and live a life of luxury. The cost of living is so low that most of the financial stresses of Western life disappear. It is easy to live without a budget and still never run out of money.

We’ve met Jason from Mr. Free at 33 who lives in Chiang Mai now full-time since 2017. He was a great host and we had some very insightful chats.

He reached financial independence at the ripe age of 33 and moved to Thailand to benefit from geo-arbitrage. Moving here practically made him feel like an instant millionaire. Lifestyle wise, with a modest passive income, he can live like a king! It was great to meet him and see how it is possible to retire early and still live a very comfortable life using geo-arbitrage. We admire his jump to move to Thailand for good and his determination to achieve FIRE so early.

Using the Meetup app and a local expat Facebook group to find like-minded people was really helpful. We played board games a few nights, attended a few meetups, and met so many interesting people from all over the world. Even attended a Bitcoin mixer a few times. Meeting new people was refreshing.


Things to do in Chiang Mai

Since we had a whole month to fill, we had to find a few things to do. One of the first things we did was to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a beautiful temple on top of Doi Suthep mountain.


Slow travel to Chiang Mai with an infant


In the past, it used to take hours to get up there but they have built a new road since the last time we were in Thailand. Now, it only took us half an hour to get to the top using a Songthaew (or Red truck taxis).

Transport in Chiang Mai Red truck

Those are amazing! Songthaew are shared taxis where other passengers can hop on with you. The driver calculates the route and drops everyone off at their desired location kind of like a bus. They are red pickup trucks with seats in the back and since the arrival of Grab (the Asian Uber), they lowered their fixed price to 30B ($1) per ride to compete. Awesome!

In Bangkok, getting around was almost impossible but in Chiang Mai, Red trucks made everything so easy. Just waved one down and pay a dollar. And there is no shortage of them, there was always one around! 


Slow travel through Thailand


The view from up at the temple was beautiful, the viewpoint offered views of the whole city. Dating back to 1383, this Wat was one of the nicest we have visited.

In the center of the Wat, a huge copper-plated chedi was shining in the hot sun with all its golden grandeur. Even the stairs up are an attraction. Two dragons protected the entrance and their bodies climb up the 309 stairs up to the temple, it was pretty impressive.


chiang mai zoo with an infant


On another day we went to the Chiang Mai Zoo. It was an easy activity to do with a baby, even on a hot day. However, the zoo seemed to be made for cars. The distance between each exhibit was quite long. In terms of animals, they had a wide variety, ranging from local elephants to penguins and pandas. All-in-all, it was a nice day and the entry fee was only 100B ($3).

We also spent a few days in the Old City, the historical city-center of Chiang Mai. We visited a few Wats, our favorite being the very old Wat Chedi Luang. When it was built in the 1400s, it was one of the tallest buildings in the city before collapsing during an earthquake in 1545. Now, its ruins still stand and offered a nice piece of history.


things to do slow travel


There are also so many markets to visit but our favorite has to be the Tha Pae Walking Street Sunday market. This street market becomes so alive on Sundays. The smells, the flavors, and the craftsmanship, all come together.

In Bangkok, for example, most markets sold the same junk, replicas, or knockoff from China. Even when you look closely at the silk, which is one of Thailand’s specialty, they are all the same and clearly, all come from the same massive distributor. At the Walking Street, however, most of the things were handmade and sold directly by the artisans. Everything was unique and refreshing.

chiang mai waterfalls

Finally, we also visited the Mae Sa waterfalls at Doi Inthanon National Park. To get there, we booked a private driver for three hours for a total cost of  600B ($20).

The Mae Sa waterfalls are a series of 10 waterfalls. We climbed up to number 8 before, finally, turning around. The path was nice, right in the jungle. Some people were swimming but the water seemed too brown for us.

After two hours in the National Park, we went back home and stopped at Maya mall for a nice lunch in the cool AC.

That about does it for the notable things we did in Chiang Mai. We mainly stayed around our neighborhood, walking around, attending meetups, playing bowling, swimming in our pool and taking care of our little girl. Once you get into the slow travel mood, a routine quickly take place.


The Thai healthcare system

Unfortunately, our little girl got sick during our stay in Chiang Mai. After a few days of fever, we decided to visit a doctor.

In Thailand, healthcare is free for locals but tourists and expats can visit public hospitals and get treated for a modest fee. With more than 1,000 public hospitals, most locals use these facilities

Going to the hospital was an option, they offer a relatively good standard of care but we would have to wait in a crowded waiting room. Lines can be long and we wanted to make sure we get serviced in English so we opted to go private instead.

The private clinic was able to give us an appointment that same afternoon. We got there and saw a doctor after waiting only 5 minutes. Going private, we got the first-class treatment. The nurses and doctor were educated in Western universities, spoke perfect English, and had access to all the latest equipment.

It was also much cheaper than expected. Nothing near North American prices. Our total price for our visit, including a blood test and 30 minutes one-on-one with the doctor, came to less than 1,000B ($33)!!!

The anti-biotics then prescribed came out to only 150B ($5).

After a few days of treatment, our little baby was back to her normal, happy, self. Overall, we had a great experience with the medical treatment here, in Thailand.


Traveling down south

After a whole month in Chiang Mai, we are finally flying down to southern Thailand, starting with Koh Lanta. We will be staying for 3 weeks on this island before exploring the mainland a bit. We will keep you posted in our next article.


Mr., Mrs, and Baby Xyz.


Exploring the South of Thailand with a baby




Family Travels in Germany with a Baby

As part of our big tip, we stopped for a week in Germany. We are so thankful to be able to travel to Germany with points. This expensive country would have definitively hurt the wallet quite a bit if it was not for travel rewards.

Our around-the-world trip is going great so far. We spent some incredible time in Italy and are so glad our family travels are going smoothly. We did forget our passports in Italy but, fortunately, got them back a few days later. Other than that, we did not get robbed, sick, or hurt, so life is good.

We are now staying in Thailand for two months and enjoying ourselves a bit too much to take the time to write every week.


How to book a free hotel


free Marriott in Germany

In Bavaria, we stayed at the Westin Grand in Munich, an amazing luxury hotel which we booked with our credit card rewards points.

Upon arrival, we got upgraded to a suite with an amazing view of the city (above) given our status with Marriott.

We also gained access to the hotel club lounge and free breakfast at the restaurant. This lounge must be one of the best of all the chain. The service was outstanding, beers, wines, and drinks were served all day, meals were served, deserts, snacks, you name it.

Located on the 23rd floor, spanning on two levels, the lounge offers a great view of the city and greatly helped us keep our costs low since we ate about one meal per day there and drank from there rather than the room’s minibar or grocery store.

The suite we ended up getting was in two sections, one bedroom and one living room with a dining table and second bathroom. A huge space we did not need but let’s enjoy the amazing benefits of the SPG card when we can, right!


free hotel in Germany


Since we planned to be in Germany during Oktoberfest, we had to go a few times and enjoy the true Bavarian hospitality.

The first time we went, we sat down in the Spatenbrau tent and ordered a pork leg with a beer. Calling this a tent is a large understatement but that is how they call them.

Above all expectations, the food was astonishing! It is so surprising to see these huge operations, feeding thousands of people at the same time, churn out such high-quality meals.


travelling to Germany with a babyoktoberfest with an infant


The tents are enormous. Boasting traditional colors and elegantly decorated, they can host thousands of patrons at a time. It was nice to see all generations, from kids to octogenarian, enjoying themselves in traditional garments. The beer was flowing and the plates flying.


What to do in Germany with a baby


Boasting leather pants, called Bundhosen, men are walking down the streets of Munich in this festive fall season. The atmosphere was just so joyful.


Germany with a family


We went back to the Oktoberfest, this time over the weekend, and it was even busier than during the week. The crowd was dense, it was a bit trickier with Baby. Thankfully, the carrier really helped to get her around safely. With her hanging from my chest, we were able to walk through the crowd easily.


Visiting Oktoberfest with a baby


People were dancing on tables and signing to the musicians on stage. Definitely, something to experience once in your lifetime!

We ordered chicken and more beer. Again, it was delicious.

Apart from that, we visited a few churches, markets, and admired the history of Munich. Participated in a free walking tour and learned a bit more about the city but, of course, everything was in a small radius so it was pretty limited.


travel to Germany with points traveling to Germany with a baby


From our hotel, we could easily take the metro everywhere. We purchased a weekly pass with the MVV, which operates the metro, buses, and railcars, for only 15€ per person.


traveling to Germany with a family


Germany with a baby

Of course, we could not miss the impressing Gothic revival architecture of the New Town Hall.

Every day, at 11 A.M. noon, and 5 P.M. the Glockenspiel plays. This show reenacts an important wedding to the town’s history with figurines, music, and carillons of cast bronze bells. This event seems to attract every tourist in town and, coincidently, we ended up in that square almost every day at 11 A.M.

It is quite impressing to see but the most impressing is to see all these tourist filming the play on their phones. There must be thousands of videos of this event on Youtube!

Other than that, we visited BMW Welt and did the BMW factory tour.


BMW factory tour


BMW Welt factory tour

If you are at all interested in robotics, I highly recommend the BMW factory tour.

You can visit BMW Welt for free. It is mostly a showroom for all their models, including some prototypes, motorcycles, and models from Mini, and Rolls Royce.

The factory tour, however, shows you all the ins and outs of car making. It was fascinating to see the giant robot arms assembling the cars.

Being the first BMW factory, it was fun to learn a bit of the history of the company and see where it all began. For only 9€, it was one of the best “museum” experience I ever had.

After a week traveling in Germany, we took off back to Switzerland to catch our plane to our next stop; Thailand.


Flying for free


Once in Switzerland, we stayed 3 nights at the Sheraton Zurich Hotel for free using our SPG rewards points, saving us $483 per night. The hotel was great, located in a nice up and coming area with a lot of shops.

Canadian travel cards for hotels

Again, this hotel had a lounge so we ate all our meals there instead of spending outrageous amounts of money on restaurants. Even eating at fast food joints or takeout restaurants would have cost at least $20 per person, per meal.

The hotel’s menu was ridiculous; $7.5 for a bottle of water and $25 for a glass of wine! We just drank everything from the lounge. 🙂


Zurich travel with a baby Zurich travel with a family


The old city of Zurich was nice but it was not long before we were on our way to the airport.

Obliviously, we took the time to stop before our flight by the Primeclass Lounge for a little drink and lunch.

We had first entered the Aspire Lounge but could not even stay due to its proximity to the smokers area, the whole place stank. The food selection was lousy and the looks missed a little class.

After entering there for nothing, running out, and finding the next closest lounge near our gate, we ended up in the Primeclass which was beyond our expectations. With a wide variety of drinks, snacks, and hot meals, we were very happy with our visit.

Thanks to the American Express Platinum card, we get unlimited lounge visits so visiting two in a day did not bother us a bit.


Zurich airport loungetravel to Germany with pointsZurich airport lounge


On the plane to Bangkok, we got an extra seat for Baby and enjoyed a rather calm flight. She slept most of the way and we arrived at our destination at 6 A.M. the following day.

Cheers, Mr. and Mrs. Xyz





Our Trip to Italy , Exploring the Italian Alps (The Dolomites)

free hotel in italy

Two stops on our around-the-world trip were in Italy. From Austria, we took a train to Bolzano. This quaint town right in the Italian Alps is only a short drive away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Dolomites. Of course, its great location for hiking and adventuring in the Alps is not the only reason why we booked a stay there, the great Four Points by Sheraton in town was also a super good redemption. Travel hacking to Europe was a huge plus and honestly, it is the only reason we could afford to stay there for so long. A few credit cards here and there really makes a difference!

Bolzano travel plans

The breakfast was great, and the location was ideal for us. Even if it was in an industrial district, it was only 10 minutes away from downtown.

We enjoyed their restaurants and the service was outstanding. Really happy with this free hotel.

On our first day there, we mainly stayed around the hotel, enjoyed the spa, and explored the neighborhood. The second day though, we went into town and walked around the central area before sitting down in a park for lunch.

It was unplanned but we got there right in time for their annual biking festival. The classic rides were cool.


Bolzano travel


travel for free to ItalyFrom there, we went on to explore the city by foot. We saw the main attractions, ate a lot of pizza, and took it slow.

The city of Bolzano is beautiful. There are the main tourist spots but also an extended crawl of small streets, spanning for miles and miles, each hiding there own little gems.


Visiting Italy with rewards



travel hack italy

What is fascinating is that each building is unique and, unlike in North America: old. The colors are vibrant and construction sturdy.

On another day out, we walked up the Guncina Promenade in Bolzano. These walking paths offer a great view of the city skyline and are lush with greenery. From exotic cacti to local trees, the Guncina had plenty to offer.


travel hack Europetravel hacking in Europe


Another amazing viewpoint was the gondola ride up to Soprabolzano.  For only € 10 each, we took the 12-minute Rittner Seilbahn gondola ride up, starting right in downtown Bolzano, near the train station. With a gondola departing every 4 minutes, there’s practically no waiting time.


travel for free to Italy

It was really nice to see the city from above and walking around the small village up in the mountains. For another € 5, we could have gone to another small village by train but Baby had had enough.

Bolzano roadtripLater that night, we walked to the local Avis to rent a small Fiat for the trip to come. Obviously, we got this car rental for free with credit card reward points. 🙂

The next morning we went on to climb the Italian Alps. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was truly breathtaking. Driving through the Dolomites is something we would recommend anyone traveling through the Italian Alps. Each turn tighter than the previous one, each road narrower than the previous…


Driving the dolomitehow to travel hack to Europe


So from Bolzano, we drove all the way to Sass Pordoi in the Province of Trento. The drive and the mountaintop offered some of the best views we ever saw.


dolomite huge mountainsdolomite awesome view dolomite awesome mountains


Once at the parking lot, instead of taking the gondola up, we hiked a little path going up to the viewpoint. It was free (instead of about $30 per person for the gondola) and the hike was amazing.


hiking the dolomite hiking the top of the dolomite



Our next stop in Italy was Padova, a small town near Venice. We chose to stay there since the hotel was a third the price (in reward points) as in Venice and only a 30-minute bus ride away. With a bus stop almost at the door of our hotel, we could get to downtown Padova in 10 minutes and Venice in half an hour. This travel points redemption was one of the best one so far and the cheapest of all our European journey.


traveling to Europe on points Travel hacking europe


traveling to Europe with a baby

Being a bit out of the action was also a great move on our part since we realized Venice was too much for us. First of all, there at no drivable roads so everyone is carrying their suitcases through the cobblestone paths and a bunch of stairs. That would have been terrible with our stroller.

Secondly, there are just too many tourists in Venice. With the rise of cruises stopping for the day and the romance the city has to offer, way too many people are crowding the paths and attractions. It quickly got overwhelming for us.

However, as a day trip, Venice was amazing. We got to walk the nice tiny roads, watch the boats go by, walk the bridges. We ate some O.K. pizza, drank some good wine, and got some amazing gelato.

If you have never been, we highly suggest you stay around the city and commute in for a few day trips. The hotels are cheaper and the commute is really easy.

For us, one or two days seems plenty. We are not really into these hyper-touristic spots.


Travel hacking around the world travel hacking italia


where to stay in Venice

After 5 nights in Bolzano and 5 more nights in Padova, we went on to our next stop, Munich, Germany.

Unfortunately, we forgot our passports and wallet in the hotel’s safe and had to put our fate into the hotel staff and the friendly delivery guy at DHL to ship them to Germany but everything ended up O.K., there are still some good people in this world. 🙂

All-in-all we really enjoyed our stay in Italy. The Italian Alps, in particular, were truly breathtaking. We would really like to go back during winter time.

We then stayed at the Westin Grand in Munich and enjoyed German culture, Oktoberfest, and the everything Bavaria had to offer us. Stay tuned for that in our next post.




6 Day Trip in Austria with an Infant

How is the Four Points by Sheraton Dornbirn

Last week, we took a train from Switzerland to Austria. Of all places, we decided to stay in Dornbirn, a small city near the German and Swiss border. It is actually the tenth largest in Austria. Since we travel Europe with an infant, we did not want to ride a train for too long and kept things simple.

The train ride took about 4 hours, including a transfer in Zurich. Baby found the ride a bit annoying by the end but still had a blast once at the hotel.

The only reason why we discovered this city is that there was an SPG hotel sweet spot! Since we are using reward points for almost all of this trip, we looked at the Marriott and SPG hotel maps to find the best redemptions in Europe.

Those sweet spots can make the difference between spending a week at a hotel for free or spending the whole month traveling for the same price (in points).


Apply for the SPG card today (Canada) or

if you are from the USA, click here to find your card today!


Four Points by Sheraton Dornbirn Rooms


We stayed 6 days at the Four Points by Sheraton Panoramahaus Dornbirn for a total redemption of 35,000 SPG points. This stay would have cost $180 per night, deeming the total value to be over 3¢ per point. All of that thanks to the SPG credit card!


$1080 Saved on hotels  ÷  35,000 points redeemed  =  $0.03086 per point


With our status with Marriott, we got upgraded to a room on the last floor, with a view of the mountains. We also got a little welcome gift, fresh macarons, which was nice. 🙂

Out of all the hotels we stayed at, this has to be the nicest gym/spa area we ever saw. Not only does it have beautiful views of the mountains, but it was humongous! The gym spans over 2 whole floors, offering every single piece of equipment imaginable, classes, and an outdoor patio to exercise in style. It is centrally located, near the bus line, a mall, and restaurants so we never had any troubles getting around.


Hotel in Dornbirn


Family vacation in Dornbirn

With a whole other floor dedicated to the indoor pool and spa area, the outdoor pool offers panoramic views and the perfect spot for Baby to nap.

The spa area, which includes a female only and mixed section, offers dry saunas, infrared saunas, steam rooms, relaxation areas, and showers. There is something for every taste.

All-in-all, we were very pleased with this hotel and really enjoyed their facilities.

It was nice to be able to relax there when spent all day walking around.


Four Points by Sheraton Dornbirn Review


Traveling in DornbirnWe started by exploring the city on foot, walking around the historic neighborhoods. To be honest, though, we did more poolside than exploring on our first day. It was just too easy to lay down and relax!

Restaurant-wise, Austria is pretty affordable. Especially compared to Switzerland.

We were able to eat out for less than $10 per person at every meal. The drinks were very affordable too and groceries were even more. Between the food we made ourselves and the restaurants, we never spent more than $20 per person, per day.

After two days in Dornbirn, we decided to rent a car to enjoy Austria and explore a bit. We searched for tours and, since most guides publish their whole itinerary online, copied their route.

Wherever you are traveling, looking at some tour guide’s itineraries online is a great way to find the scenic routes and explore some country without breaking the bank. Instead of paying $150+ per person for a tour, we simply rented a car for $50 and drove to the exact same spots.


roadtrip in Europe with an infant


We rented a small Ford Fiesta from Hertz for $50 and drove a few hours around the region. We drove up crazy mountains, the roads were insane! The driving felt surreal, it was like a Gran Turismo. From left to right, up and down, we drove slowly but surely.

Dornbirn Road Trip

If we zoom in the map, you will see exactly what we had the pleasure of driving through. These Alpine roads are super narrow, windy, and fun to drive on! It was an experience we just could not miss.

Unfortunately, we cannot drive for much longer than four hours before Baby gets cranky so we now keep our road trips fairly short and stop often along the way.


What to do in Dornbirn
Roadtrip from Dornbirn


After slightly less than two hours on the road, we stopped for lunch in Lech, a super nice ski town up in the Alps. We walked over a 400-year old bridge, ate our sandwiches, drank beers, and headed home.

On this trip, we stopped in Schwarzenberg, Lech, and Burserberg before driving back to the hotel. The views were fantastic and we highly recommend the drive.


Dornbirn travels


On the next day, we visited the city right beside Dornbirn; Bregenz. This quaint lake-front town was an easy day trip, only a few minutes by train from Dornbirn.

It was fun to see the history and the grandness of the buildings. There is something quite magical to multi-century-old constructions. Just to think that some building was build 400, 700, 800 years ago is revealing. The oldest building we found so far was a 1,200 years-old church which was renovated 800 years ago. Pretty impressive.

It makes us think about the whole construction industry today. It is nearly impossible to find a good-quality condo builder nowadays. Most construction will start falling apart right after the warranty runs out!


Things to do in Dornbirn Austria


travel with an infant in Austria

On top of that, our other days were filled with poolside fun, relaxing spa time, and walks around town.

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Austria. Everyone we encountered spoke a little English and was more than happy to help. Public transport was clean, efficient, and cheap. Restaurants were delicious and cheap. Finally, the country-side was simply breath-taking!

Austria definitively makes it on the list of countries we would love to visit again.

Now, we are off to one of our favorite. A country that will always be on the list of revisits; Italy.



Mr. and Mrs. Xyz




Traveling in Switzerland with our Family

Continuing our trip around the world, we have now journeyed to Switzerland. Traveling with an infant can be hard but, thankfully, we planned things right and our trip is going pretty smoothly (for now).

The best is to stick to direct flights and to keep Baby entertained or asleep. We also noticed some moms traveling with their baby carrier on the plane. That seems to be a good idea to walk down the aisle when your little one is too fussy.

We flew in overnight, leaving Canada at 4 P.M. and arriving in Zurich at 6 A.M. after a 7h flight. Then, we hopped on a train to Frutigen to explore the countryside.

Here, everything is expensive! The 2h train was over $100 per person, and that was in a regular commuter train, nothing fancy.

I hope the locals get better prices when buying monthly passes, otherwise, this commuting thing makes no sense. We are all for public transports but at these prices, I am very surprised to see the trains full. Not many seem to drive but, even with the higher gas prices, the highway taxes, and Euro taxes, driving that same distance seems to cost no more than $50. In Canada, public transports are subsidized and they are still fairly unpopular compared to the beloved car!


Zurich family travel


In Frutigen, we rented a super nice studio on Airbnb. The kitchen really helps save on meals and the view is simply breathtaking! For only $100 per day, this was a steal!


switzerland with an infanttravel with an infant


traveling with an infant

From our studio, we can see the whole town, the fields, and the mountains. It is truly exceptional to see the grandness of all this. The mountains are so high that there is snow near the top while we are down here wearing t-shirts and shorts.

The town is nice and peaceful, not much traffic. Not a lot of tourists either.

Although everything is expensive over here, we do our best to cut down on things we value least. For example, we enjoy eating out and tasting the local cuisines but we are traveling for another 4 months so there will be plenty of other occasions to eat out.

In addition, this is the only Airbnb we booked until mid-October. We will be staying in kitchenless Marriott hotels for the following weeks so we took the occasion to cook our own meals.

For this week, we bought groceries and will enjoy our little kitchen. Most restaurants are in the $25-$35 per person range but we were able to buy enough food for the week for about $70, the price of one single outing. So far, we cooked some delicious chicken, made sandwiches, ate swiss cheeses and sausages… Even without an oven, we were able to make pretty good pizzas on the stove-top.


Saving on food while traveling


It has been only 3 days we are in Switzerland and since we are traveling with an infant we are taking things slow. We took the first day to catch up the 6h time difference, slept a lot, did groceries, and stayed in. Everything takes more time when you are traveling with a baby! 🙂

On day two, we visited Oeschinen Lake. Once again, the prices shocked us. The 10-minute train ride cost $20 per person and the short gondola ride was over $25. The very next day we noticed that we could have taken the bus there for free but I guess that is just the way it is when you are traveling in an unknown country. You cannot know everything and optimize every cent when you cannot even speak the language.

At least, the views were amazing and the mountain-top lake was breathtaking.


traveling with a baby

traveling with toddlers


After a short gondola ride up, we had to hike about half an hour down to the lake-side. Most of the path was gravel but it was not really stroller-friendly.

About 20 minutes in, a little restaurant sat on the hill overlooking the lake. From there, we left the stroller and used our baby carrier to walk down the steep trail down to the lake. It was way easier this way but it got pretty hot having her so close to us.


travel with a baby


Once at the lake, we dipped our feet in, the water was surprisingly warm for a maintain lake. The trees, water, and huge mountains in the background were truly picturesque.



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flying with a babyair travel with a baby


The walk back seemed to take forever and the air was hot and steamy but everything ended on a perfect note. We took the train, walked back up the long long hill to our Airbnb, and enjoyed the view.


around the world with babyBaby Xyz enjoying the grand scenic view.


On day three, the sky had turned and the beautiful sunshine had vanished. Looking at the weather report, we knew we could not go too far. The rain was imminent. Since we are traveling with a baby, we did not take any chances and wanted to stay dry.


infant travel tips


baby travel tips

Just beside our Airbnb, we walked a country road going up in the mountain. Walking parallel to the mountainous cow pasture on one side, and a small river to the other. We got up to a series of dams, holding the riverbed, and ate our sandwiches sitting on the grass.

Once back home, after only two hours or so of walking, the rain started pouring only minutes after we entered our studio. We took it slow and watched a movie instead of adventuring out into the rain. Sometimes, a slow day is just what we need.


It has only been three days since we landed in Switzerland but so far, we are really enjoying our trip. Traveling with an infant was scary at first but I think we manage pretty good so far. 🙂 Stay in touch for our next update once we are in Austria, we will be posting roughly every week with some more pictures and more adventures.


Mr., Mrs., and Baby Xyz.




Fly for Free to British Columbia, Canada, with Aeroplan

We are spending this whole month in British Colombia. The flight from Montreal was about five hours long, just enough to get Baby excited. We were a bit worried about her first flight since we have half a dozen more planned for this year. Having a crying baby on a plane is the last thing we want on a long flight. Thankfully, our little one mostly slept on the flight. We also used our rewards points to fly for free with Aeroplan so that’s another plus…


Baby’s first airport lounge…


Flying within Canada is surprisingly expensive and our flights turned out to be worth $790 at time of booking. Thankfully, we used our rewards to fly for free with Aeroplan. We had accumulated a lot of points with our American Express cards and spent only 25,000 + 163$ per flight, saving us 1,254$ in total. Calculating our return on points, the 50,000 Aeroplan we spent had a return of 2.508¢ each. That is not the most we ever got per point but it is a pretty good redemption. It is always fun to save over a thousand dollars just by applying for one or two credit cards. 🙂


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


free flight to bcHow to fly for free in CanadaVictoria BC Trip


Once we landed in Victoria, BC, we visited family and friends, enjoying the hot summer and beautiful scenery. It did not rain and the temperature stayed above 25°C for our whole stay. After a week we drove North towards Vancouver.

To get to the city, we took the ferry to Tsawwassen. Then, drove to Vancouver where our trip started at Jericho Beach.


From Victoria to Vancouver


The ocean was cold and the breeze salty. The busy port was pretty entertaining. It was nice to look at the huge cargo barges on the horizon. The beach was clean, sandy, and very welcoming. The official parking lot was paid but we found a free spot right on the street, it was easy to avoid any charges and the entrance to the beach was free so we were able to enjoy the ocean for free.

The sky was hazy and grey because of the 566 forest fires currently burning through the province. We stayed safe and out the most dangerous regions but the sky and air quality were definitively indicative of the hazards surrounding us. As you can see in the picture we took below, there was a constant fog anywhere we looked. The sky was dense with smoke, even though we did not notice any smoky smells, it kept the clouds low.


Jericho Beach VancouverJericho Beach Vancouver


After a few hours there, we drove through the peaceful neighborhoods towards Granville Island, where we people-watched, ate some pastries and gazed at the water-front.

For the next three nights, we stayed at an Airbnb in North Van we found for about $100 per night. It was slightly off the busy downtown, yet, just a short ferry ride or bridge away. On day two, we decided to leave the car parked in our quaint suburb and walk to the city center. We took the commuter ferry, which was only $4 per direction, and got in town in less than 20 minutes.

In town, we explored the ocean-front, walked through Coal Harbour, and shopped for our next million-dollar-Yacht. 🙂


Coal Harbour marinaFree trip to Vancouver


Mid-day, we stopped at an amazing Mongolian restaurant called Great Wall Mongolian BBQ where we ate, as much as we wanted, for only $13.50 per person. The food was barbequed right in front of us, we simply made our selection and they cooked it. We ended the day with a little walk around North Vancouver, a beer or two, pizza, and a very comfy bed.


Great Wall Mongolian BBQ restaurant


On day three, we drove through Stanley Park and strolled through Chinatown. After that, we headed to Lynn Canyon Park and hiked amazing trails. Crossing a suspension bridge, stopping at a beautiful swimming hole, and enjoying the giant trees of the region. The sky-high trees were simply breathtaking and the waterfalls complemented the scenery perfectly. I would have gladly paid to see this but, like most parks in BC, it was free! This outing was a great alternative to visiting the world famous Capilano suspension bridge, which has an entrance fee of almost $50 per person.


National Park in BC


We then hit the road towards Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway, for our final stop in Lillooet. The sky was very smoky, we barely saw anything on the horizon, but it still made some good pictures. The hugeness of the mountains around the region was simply breathtaking. One after the other, peaks seemed to be higher and higher.


free flights with aeroplan credit cards


On the road, we stopped by a crystal blue lake for a little dip, too bad the view was so murky. Because of a little science and a mix of photons and electrons, the waters are turquoise, almost bright blue. Our picture did not turn out that great because of the forest fire smoke but there are some pretty amazing ones out there if you google it.

The place was full of multi-million dollar cottages along the lake-front. We worried that the whole water-front would be private and drove around a few lakes before finally finding a public beach. The access was small but quiet, had a large dock, and an amazing view of the mountains.


travel with an infant to BC


After a few hours on the road, we stopped in Lillooet, a small town in the middle of the deep gorges of the Coast Mountains. This little town, home of fewer than 2,500 residents, was a quaint stop to break up our road trip.

After a good night’s sleep, we visited the town’s museum. It has plenty of artifacts, it was the perfect little activity before our next stop.


aeroplan free flights


Midday, we had a reservation to the Fort Berens winery. After a nice wine tasting, we sat down for lunch. We had some lamb, drank some wine, and enjoyed the smoky view. The wine was delightful and lunch surprisingly refreshing, it is worth the stop if you are ever in the area but make a reservation beforehand since it does get quite busy.


how to get free trips with aeroplan


After a delightful meal, we hit the road to make it back to the ferry before 5. The drive through the Fraser Canyon was amazing we highly recommend it to anyone in the Vancouver area. We feel blessed that we can fly for free with Aeroplan and travel pretty much anywhere on very small budgets.

Finally, we would like to send our deepest wishes to anyone near the forest fires or affected by the smoke clouds. Stay strong and stay safe, Mrs. and Mr. Xyz.



Debt-Free Living Traveling

How to Travel to Bar Harbor, Maine, on a Budget

Last week, we drove down to Maine to visit the Acadia National park. The 7-hour road trip had to be broken down in two days, now that we have a newborn. We stayed in a bed and breakfast halfway. Once we got to our little New England getaway in Southwest Harbor, I quickly saw the beauty, enormous wealth, and charm of the region.


debt-free travelDebt free lifestyledebt-free life


We drove there so we really had the time to take in the breath-taking views or the forests, ocean, and mountains. Coming in the park was astonishing. The views were well worth the $30 entry-fee we had to pay for the week.


Don’t spend it all on hotels

For accommodations, we rented an Airbnb in the harbor. It was a small cabin, off the main road, with an open concept kitchen-dinning room-living room on the first floor with a tiny bathroom beside the staircase leading to a mezzanine bedroom. The living-space must have been no larger than 500sq. ft. but it was plenty for us.  The total cost ended up being around $100 per night.


Frugal travels


Where the expenses can really get out of hand is the restaurants. This area of New England (neighboring Bar Harbour) can quickly get really expensive. People traveling there are mostly wealthy and are not shy to spend. Obviously, most places charge more for their goods and services since people are ready to pay more.


Big pockets, small jackets

how to save on a tripYou know the type, people wearing Polo shirts and S.Perry boat shoes… The ones who just bought everything from the Patagonia or North Face store to go on their first hike… Those are the ones in the fancy restaurants.

We went to one where basically every man had a polo and a half-zip sweater along with loafers or boat shoes.

Aside from that, we mainly ate at small lobster shacks or cooked our own meals at home. We tried to keep it to one restaurant outing per day.


Debt-free living with credit cards

I am taking a wild guess here but I am pretty sure that most people visiting the Acadia park area are not millionaires. My guess is that most of these expensive restaurants and hotels are mainly paid for by credit cards. And most of those expenses stay as debt. Living a life you cannot afford can be disastrous in the long-term but, unfortunately, most people live as such.

For the average American, debt is normal, debt is good; debt is a way of life.

The best way to think of your credit card is a means of payment, not a loan. Debt-free living is not impossible. You just need to see debt for what it is.

If you cannot afford it, don’t buy it. It is a simple as that. Anything that you put on your credit cards needs to be paid back.

We recommend the use of rewards cards for all day-to-day purchases simply to maximize your cashback. However, if you end up spending more than what you can afford and accumulate credit card debt, then you might be better off on a cash-diet.

Talking about diet, check out this delicious lobster dinner we cooked;


Save on a roadtrip


For under $10 per person, we were able to have fresh lobster for dinner. In any restaurant, it would be impossible to get anything under $30 – $40. We simply bought live lobsters from the local grocery store. Stocked up on some butter, garlic, and corn. Boiled the everything for about 12 minutes and it was deliciously easy and tasty!


Know where it is all going

For total financial freedom, you need to know where your money is going. If you are going on a vacation without any idea of how much it will cost you, what are the options, or even how will you pay for it, you definitively need a budget.

Back in the days, you would need to do spreadsheets of every single account you had and compile all of it manually but nowadays, you can let Personal Capital do it all for free! With the money-management tools offered now, it is easy to track all your bank accounts, investment accounts, 401k, credit cards, and mortgages, all in one place. It is important to oversee all your accounts as a whole to properly allocate and budget.


Never pay for a trip twice-over

With a better understanding of exactly how much you are spending and where your dollars are going, you will quickly notice the unnecessary spending that incurs each month. Once you have a budget down, you can plan for your next trip without going into debt to pay for it. Living debt-free is all about planning. Without a plan, you will inevitably fall into debt at one point.

You will quickly see that once you start thinking in years, the small things can get really expensive. Assume you pay 2500$ for a trip. Instead of putting everything on your card without even thinking of repaying it, you actually budget and are able to pay it in full on an outstanding credit card; you will save $525 of interest in a single year! (Assuming the typical interest charge of 21%) If you had kept that debt lingering on a credit card for a bit less than 4 years, you would have paid this trip twice over.

Even on the smaller scale, it can get scary. Letting that hundred dollar restaurant bill accumulate on credit can quickly add up.

Of course, you need to know yourself. If you are the kind of person who sees credit cards as an easy way to track your spending, then use them. However, if you are the kind of person who swipes away without seeing the dollars go, then cash might be better for you.

For some, cash is a way to see that they are spending.


Beach vacation for less


Empty houses and ocean-front sinkholes

Driving down North Harbour, we saw some nice mansions and ocean-front estates. Some are ginormous, on endless pieces of land. There again, I doubt everyone paid for those up front.

Most people go into debt to buy houses they can barely afford. Or even worst, cottages they barely use.


Living below your means


This house above, for example, is not even one of the larger one. It is a 4000sq. ft. home on ocean-front property and is currently listed at $1,000,000. It seems like a bargain if you compare to New York or Vancouver but we are talking about a tiny cottage town 10 hours away from NYC and 3 hours away from the closest large city (Portland).

Buying this million-dollar property will likely require a 20% down payment, or $200,000. The opportunity cost for this alone is huge!

This could be invested for retirement or used towards buying a rental property which would generate income instead of putting so much towards a water-front home.

Your interest rate on a 30-year loan would be about 4.0%, which gives you a monthly mortgage payment of $3,800. Using the rule of thumb which states that you should not spend over 20 to 25% of your gross income on your mortgage, you can theoretically afford the house with an annual income of $182,00 to $228,000.

Again, making that much does not mean you can afford that house. It just means the banks will be happy to finance it for you.


Trip to Maine Acadia Park


All-in-all, we had an amazing trip to Maine. We swam in the ocean, hiked the beautiful trails of Acadia park and really enjoyed our stay there. In the end, we did not get into any debt and did not even spend a lot of money simply because we planned and were thoughtful about our expenses. Not all debt is bad, but living debt-free is just so freeing.


Get out of the hole and Consolidate your debts

Honestly, if you have large balances of student loans or credit card debts, you should shop around for a better rate. Online portals now make shopping for rates much easier and applications more convenient. The best place to start looking would be SoFi. Their online platform is easy to use and they can even help you refinance your mortgage at a lower rate.

Living below your means is not, in any way, living in poverty or eating soup every single day! Live happily, Xyz.




9 Things we Must do on our Next Trip to Los Angeles

We visited California last summer and really enjoyed Los Angeles. The weather is absolutely amazing, the beaches are endless, and the people are great. The only thing was the traffic! Everywhere we went had a lot of traffic but it was so worth it! We never thought about what to do in Los Angeles, we just did. There was just so many things to do in LA that we decided to plan another trip down there next winter.

We were having a chat with our friend Bernz JP who blogs over at Moneylogue and he suggested a few things we absolutely need to do on our next trip to LA. Hopefully, these lesser-known spots will not be packed.

Not to mention, California is actually a great redemption with Aeroplan since they charge a fixed rate, no matter where in North America you go. For us leaving from the East Coast, buying our flights would cost over $800 each but with Aeroplan, their fixed rate of 25,000 points makes it super appealing!


Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!


We can basically get two return-flights with a single sign-up bonus when applying to the Business American Express Gold card.

On top of this, there is a ton of super nice Los Angeles hotels with points programs.

Bernz was kind enough to write up this guest post detailing his suggestions, we will try to see them all and hope it will help you plan your next trip too. According to him, these unique places to visit in Los Angeles are the real stars of the show…


 – So Bernz, let’s say we want to skip the $50 entry to look at Dr. Phil’s house and the obnoxiously tacky celebrity tour van is not our thing, where should we visit during our next stay?

Hollywood Boulevard, Universal Studios, Rodeo Drive; even if you have not seen these historic Los Angeles landmarks, you have probably heard enough about them to skip the whole ordeal.


Take a stroll through The Museum of Death

Among the lives of the rich and famous lives a sobering reminder that no amount of money or fame in the world can stop our inevitable physical demise.

Skip the traditional Los Angeles museums; The Museum of Death is home to the largest collection of serial killer artwork, full-sized execution devices, and body bag collections.

Plan to stop at this grizzly location before lunch – fainting and an upset stomach are not uncommon. Enter if you dare.


chandelier tree silver lakeSource: We Like LA


Snap the perfect photo at The Chandelier Tree

On a quiet street in Silver Lake, an illuminated tree lights up the residents below. Over 30 chandeliers cover the branches, providing a luminous light show for the guests. Brion Topolski and Adam Tenenbaum created The Chandelier Tree as an art installation for the Silver Lake residence. The Chandelier Tree is a beautiful opportunity for a first date, proposal, or engagement photos.

The crystal-covered cypher tree is illuminated most nights, but make sure to check the Facebook page before going – it does take some nights off.


WACKOFeed your inner hipster at WACKO

Behind the rainbow graffiti walls on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard lie a little store named WACKO. This punk-inspired toy store features rows of pop culture collectibles. Betty Page calendars, limited edition Tokidoki Barbie, and even a $15,000 seven and a half foot sculpture are up for grabs. Make sure to stop by neighbors Soap Plant and La Luz De Jesus.

The Soap Plant carries eclectic beauty supplies, jewelry, and other handmade anomalies. La Luz De Jesus is an art gallery just upstairs of WACKO. La Luz De Jesus is widely regarded as the start the California art movement known as “lowbrow.”


Dine in the dark at Opaque

No phones at the dinner table may be a new concept to some, but dining in complete darkness is certainly a new experience for most. After leaving your cell phone at the door, guests are quite literally guided to their table by the server, who is donning a pair of night vision goggles.

Total visual deprivation heightens your remaining senses, allowing the smell and taste of the food to take over the experience.

You may want to leave your fancy dress at home for this one, dining in the dark can be a messy experience for the uncoordinated.


Explore the Underground Tunnels

Below the City of Angels are a network of underground paths, used by corrupt city officials during the prohibition to smuggle alcohol. Finding the tunnels can be more fun than walking the actual channels themselves.

A series of hidden entrances throughout the city make for a fun scavenger hunt type of event. The mostly empty tunnels now have an eerie, unnerving feel to them. The ghosts of the underground L.A. party scene roam the depths below, leaving only the hollow hallways of what once was behind.


Source: Visit California


Stargaze at the Griffith Observatory

For an incredible view of the city and the skies, head over to Griffith Observatory. You can visit the grounds, view the cosmos, and walk through the exhibits for free during normal business hours (open until 10 p.m.). If you didn’t feel small enough in the big city, the views of the sparkling skyline serve as a humbling reminder of just how enormous the city really is.

Check out the Weekly Sky report beforehand to know what’s in store for the evening.


Source: California Beaches


Catch a wave at Surfrider Beach

If you’re going to try your hand at surfing, this is the place to do it. The iconic Surfrider Beach is known for its killer waves and infamous surfer meet-ups.

Plan your trip during the less busy months; while Surfrider beach isn’t the most popular spot in L.A., it can still get fairly busy during the summer.


Get lost in The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore is Los Angeles’s largest book and record store. New and used treasures buried within the 22,000 square feet of aisles are sure to be the highlight of any bookworm’s trip. Not only can you find a plethora of books and records, but you can also sell your collection too.

The Last Bookstore began in 2005 at a downtown Los Angeles loft, and after three major renovations has grown to over 22,000 square feet. This is truly a unique place to visit in L.A.


Attractions in LASource: Wise Barbecue


Grab a bite from one of L.A.’s famous food trucks

Los Angeles is known for its cutting-edge culinary creations. Instead of breaking the bank at a swanky downtown reservation, try a famous food truck. Various locations throughout the city offer some of the best street tacos, Korean fusion, creative desserts, and really anything else you could ever want. The convenience and usually cheap price tag make this unique Los Angeles outing a favorite for visitors and locals alike.

Alright, so we have our whole itinerary planned up for our next trip! We will probably be traveling to L.A. next year and, this time, we will be ready to explore these unique spots. If you have other ideas, share along!

What are your favorite places in Los Angeles to visit? Let us know in the comments below!