Pedal the Plains

This past weekend, Matthew and I rode in Pedal the Plains, a 3-day bike ride through the eastern plains of Colorado. We rode from Kersey to Kenneseburg, from Keenesburg to Brush!, and from Brush! back to Kersey, and it was quite a ride.

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We heard about the race through Matthew’s company. As Matthew works for a cooperative bank that serves rural communities, he was invited along to represent his company in the ride for free. Although I wouldn’t be able to ride for free, I still wanted to partake, so I went ahead and signed up – $270 of my money was initially put down for this ride, BUT then I heard about the opportunity to become a Plains Pedaler. If selected to be one of 4 Plains Pedalers, I would have the responsibility of blogging before, during and after the ride, and I would also get to ride for free.
After writing an essay explaining why I would be the perfect Plains Pedaler, winning a ‘likes’ competition on Facebook (thank you to all who voted!), and being selected by the board of the ride, I was selected to be of the Plains Pedalers!

Since Matthew and I both were able to ride for free, we had a virtually free weekend ahead of us!
Camping each night cost nothing, as we already had all of the camping gear, and we were also served lunch and snacks along the way. The only thing we had to pay for was drinks, dinner and parking for the weekend.

From endless cornfields and brutal head/side-wind, to numerous flat tires and sore butts, the 3-day ride was like nothing I had ever experienced, and definitely a lot harder than I thought it would be.
50 miles the first day, 62 the second, and 70 the third added up to be 182 miles in just 3 days – something I’ve never done before, but something I’m now proud to say I did! Although it was a tough ride at some points, Matthew and I had a great time pedaling through a part of Colorado we rarely ever see, and learning about the rural communities that we never would have thought to visit.

Below are some of the blog posts I wrote during the ride —

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From Kersey to Keenesburg – What a wild ride it’s been!
Matthew & I had a blast pedaling the plains and stopping at each Ed Station to learn more about Colorado agriculture! From J.A. Timmerman Cattle Company and Noble Energy, to NGL Water Solutions and the Wild Animal Sanctuary – there was so much to see! We loved the Wildlife Sanctuary so much that we were nearly the last ones to leave..so here we are, setting up our tent as the sun sets. It surely won’t be hard to fall asleep – even in a tent – as we are exhausted from the ride today! But no matter how tired we may be, we are definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures!
– The Frugal & Free Couple

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Keenesburg to Brush!
Started out as a cold ride with little sleep & energy (due to the crazy wind last night – it was inTENTS –> get it? Intense = “in tents” cause we were camping 🙂 ). Luckily, Matthew & I were prepared with tights & jackets to keep us somewhat warm. We didn’t truly warm up until the lunch stop – where this photo was taken – & the sun finally came up!
With so many cornfields & endless plains, this ride has been scenic, but honestly really difficult. We’re not used to riding back-to-back-to-back like this, so our butts are definitely feelin’ the burn.
So, while we appear to be happy & smiling in this picture, we are secretly in pain & stalling so we don’t have to get back on our bikes. Other than our painful booties, this ride has been great! Looking forward to pumping out the last 70 miles to the finish line in Kersey!
– The Frugal & Free Couple

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s over!
The last day of the ride was definitely the best one, as it was super scenic, fast (except for the wind at some points), & the end was in sight!
Matthew & I had never done a back-to-back-to-back ride like this before, so it was definitely a challenging experience & one that will be remembered!
Thanks to everyone who put this ride together! From the food and education stops, to the camping and town activities, Pedal the Plains was very organized & a joy to be a part of!
(Oh and I personally love the Snapchat filter, hence the picture 🙃)
– The Frugal & Free Couple

I truly want to thank everyone who made this well-organized ride possible!
We had a great time, and will likely be back for another fun ride next year!

Forever Frugal & Free,
Claire

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Cheap, yet Cherished ~ Trip to Chicago!

I love to move. Really, I just love to walk, to run, to bike, and to see everything. Everywhere. If you know me, you know this is true. That’s why it’s crazy to thing that 3 weeks ago was the first time I’d ever been to Chicago (that I remember, at least).

Why is this surprising? Because you can truly walk, run and bike everywhere to explore this massive city. However, even though I felt like it was so easy to get from one place to another, this humongous city made me feel smaller than I’ve felt in a long time. But not Rocky Mountains kind of small. No, a completely different kind of small. With buildings towering above, and a history that dates back to times I never even think of, this city has a way of making you feel so significantly insignificant. And I loved every moment of that feeling.

The rush. People power walking by. Cars whipping curves. Honking. Non-stop motion. My kind of place. If I didn’t know that there was no possible way I could survive the windy, freezing winters, I’d likely move to this city in a heartbeat.

Along with the unforgettable adventures Matthew and I had in Chicago, one of the best parts of the whole 3-day trip was undoubtedly the low cost of it all. Let me break it down to dollar signs (at least the ones I remember)

  • Airfare: 2 x $93 round-trip from Denver to Chicago.
  • Place to Stay: $0 (thanks to Matthew’s brother, who kindly let us stay at his place in one of the prime parts of the city – right next to Millennium Park)
  • Transportation: 4 x $5 for metro pass to/from airport into the city & $9.95 – $2.00 = $7.95 with this $2 off coupon for Divvy Bikes ~ our transportation along the Lakefront Trail, to the Cubs Stadium, to Logan Square and all around (you just have to visit a station to exchange/renew bike checkout every 30 minutes to avoid extra charges)
  • Food: Probably around $100 in all. Just to name a few great spots: $40ish dollars for some delicious deep dish + a free appetizer (when you sign up for the Giordano’s e-club — we had pizza for days after this one) + tasty Chicago dogs from Portillo’s Hot Dogs + a steal on some delicious Middle Eastern food at a BYOB place in Logan Square, Sultan’s Market!
  • Drinks: Not pricey at all, but went to the local grocery store, Mariano’s & Trader Joes, and at times, 7-Eleven (Chicago is awesome ’cause you can get alcohol nearly everywhere) & went to one of the local breweries, Motor Row after buying a great Groupon ($13 for eight 4 oz tasters to share and a pint each)
  • Attractions: The Field Museum (discount with student ID!) & the Evening Architecture Boat Tour (had a Groupon for this! – strongly recommend)
  • Free entertainment: Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, alllllllll the parks, Lakefront Trail, the 606 Bike Trail, lakefront beaches, yoga in Millennium Park, and the views (even from the girl’s bathroom at the top of the Hancock Center)!

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Overall, it was a great trip, and not only made me feel small, but made me realize how incredibly small Denver is.
Although I really did love Chicago, I am still happy to be here, spoiled with my endless sunshine, surprisingly mild winters, stunning mountains, and of course, non-stop activities around every corner.

But, we’ll be back to visit, Chicago – for more deep dish, hot dogs & breathtaking city views.

frugal & free,
Claire

International Inspiration

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I haven’t always been a big traveler.
In fact, for about 13 years, I lived in the same town with the same people and never really even thought about venturing away from it. I was comfortable where I was, and of course, I was still in grade school, so I suppose I didn’t have much of a choice but to stay.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college when I went on my first international trip. At Kennesaw State, I was a part of an honors group called PEGS (President’s Emerging Global Scholars), in which we focused on the world and the impact we have on it. In order to understand how we could work with other countries to make the whole world a more efficient, self-sustaining, and all-around better place, we planned to travel to a different country every year for a first-hand international experience.

Unfortunately, we were only able to take 2 international trips during my time there, but I still accredit PEGS to sparking my interest in travel.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 4 years since my trip to Brazil. From exploring the city of Salvador and visiting the churches and government buildings, to spending time on a beautiful beach and going to a small fisherman’s village to volunteer at the children’s school there, this first international trip truly opened my eyes to A LOT.

First, it opened my eyes to poverty and just how evident the divide between rich and poor could be. We could be in a wealthy part of the city or on the breathtaking beach shores for a second, and then the next, we were in an impoverished part of town, where people lived in the slums with very little food and resources.

Second, it made me realize how blessed I am. I have been given so much, from a caring family to the resources I need to survive (and much more) – but it also made me question why. Why did I have so much when some people have so little? And more importantly, how did they seem somehow happier than I was? At all times, these Brazilian people who appeared to have nothing somehow acted like they had everything. They were so happy and so welcoming. It really made me re-evaluate my life.

Third, it amazed me how much pride these people had in their country. They waved their flag and talked about Brazil like it was the best place they could ever live. Since I had lived in the U.S. all my life, I had always assumed that we were the greatest country, but it’s not like I ever raved about it. Seeing these prideful Brazilians made me wonder why we didn’t shout out our pride about this land of the brave & free; moreover, it made me realize that we really should. It’s funny now, as it wasn’t until moving to Colorado that I ever thought people could have so much pride when it comes to the U.S. state they live in, but boy are these people proud of this state and I absolutely love it!

Lastly, it inspired me to find a passion – to find something that lit my fire, just as these people in Brazil seemed to have found. For years, I had been searching for something, anything that made me passionate. Of course, I had always found that passion in my family, friends and running, but I felt that I needed to find more. I think my fire was lit more than I realized after this trip – lit for life, for traveling, for more experiences. I believe that this trip inspired my passion for all of these things, and more.

The trip to Brazil changed my mindset. It changed my perspective, and ultimately, it changed my life.

Looking through the pictures, every memory from my time there rushes back to me. I know that these poorly taken pictures will not have that same effect on you all, but since I see this blog as a little something for you and for me to look back on, I’ll share some of these snapshot memories here ~

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frugal and free,
Claire

Colorado Birthday Freebies

New state, new birthday freebies. Bring.it.on.

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If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you may remember my Birthday Freebies post from just over a year ago. However, those freebies were in Georgia. Colorado includes most of the same deals, plus a heck of a lot more.

From restaurant e-club deals to deals that simply require your ID on your special day, there are a plethora of freebies waiting for you to use on your birthday!

Check out the long list of free stuff just waiting for you to take advantage of!:
**click on the links to be directed straight to the loyalty programs!**
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema: Free movie ticket
A&W: Free root beer float
Auntie Ann’s Pretzels: Free pretzel!
Baja Fresh Mexican Grill: Free burrito
Baskin Robbins: Free 2.5 oz scoop of ice cream or swirl of soft serve
Ben & Jerry’s: Free scoop of ice cream
Benihana: $30 gift certificate
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse: Free Pizookie dessert
Bonefish Grill: Free Bang Bang shrimp or dessert
Boston Market: Free dessert
Brio Tuscan Grill: $10 off your check
Bruegger’s Bagels: Free bagel with cream cheese w/purchase of a drink
Buffalo Wild Wings: Free snack-size boneless or traditional wings
Capital Grille: Complimentary chocolate espresso cake (no sign-up required, just show up with your ID on your birthday!)
Captain D’s: Your choice of a 2-piece fish, 12 pc. butterfly shrimp or a grilled tilapia dinner
Caribou Coffee: Free medium drink for signing up & for your birthday!
Charlie Brown’s Bar & Grill: Drink FREE on your birthday!
Cheesecake Factory: Tell your server it’s your birthday to get a free bowl of ice cream + a song!
Chili’s: Free brownie sundae or appetizer
Cinnabon: Free Minibon for signing up & free Mochalatta Chill for birthday!
Coldstone: Free BOGO coupon for Coldstone Creation
Corner Bakery Cafe: Free cookie for signing up & free bakery sweet for birthday!
Dairy Queen: One BOGO coupon for a free mini, small, or medium blizzard
Dave & Buster’s: $10 free game play
Del Taco: 2 free grilled chicken tacos for signing up & a premium milkshake for birthday!
Denny’s: Free Grand Slam breakfast
Dippin’ Dots: Free small cup of Dippin’ Dots
Dunkin Donuts: Free medium beverage
Edible Arrangements: An assortment of free chocolate-dipped fruit
Einstein Bros Bagels: Free bagel & shmear for signing up & free breakfast sandwich when you buy any drink for your birthday!
Ernie’s Bar & Pizza – $20 tab for drinks on your birthday
Fazoli’s: Free dessert w/ entree purchase
Firehouse Subs: Free sub (download the app & fill in your b-day info)
Godiva: $10 gift card during your birthday month
Good Times: Free spoonbender
Honeybaked Ham: Free sandwich for signing up & another free sandwich for your birthday!
IHOP: Free Rooty Tooty Fresh N’ Fruity pancakes stack
Jamba Juice: Free jamba juice or smoothie
Jason’s Deli: $5 off any item
Jersey Mike’s: Free regular sub & 22 oz/ fountain drink
Joe’s Crab Shack: Free app for signing up & for birthday!
Krispy Kreme: Free donut of choice + free small coffee
Longhorn: Free dessert
Macaroni Grill: Free dessert
McAlister’s Deli: Free cookie for signing up & $5 coupon for birthday!
Melting Pot: 6 chocolate covered strawberries w/ entree purchase
Old Chicago’s: Free pizza
On the Border: Free dip trio or brownie sundae
Outback Steakhouse: Free dessert
Panera: Free birthday pastry
Perkins: Free Magnificent Seven breakfast meal
Pinkberry: Free small yogurt with toppings
P.F. Chang’s – Free small plate, dim sum item, or dessert w/ entree purchase
Qdoba: BOGO entree
Red Robin: Free burger
Ruby Tuesdays: Free app for signing up and free burger or garden entree for birthday!
Schlotzky’s: Free small sandwich or 8″ pizza
Sloan’s Bar & Grille – Free drink w/ valid ID on your birthday
Smashburger: Free side or shake w/ any purchase
Sonic: Free regular cream slush, medium tater tots or medium drink
Sprinkles: Free cupcake for signing up & for your birthday!
Starbucks: Free handcrafted beverage
Steak ‘n Shake: Free double steakburger w/ cheese ‘n fries
Ted’s Montana Grill: Free dessert
Texas Roadhouse: Free app or sidekick of ribs
Tropical Smoothie Cafe: Free 24 oz smoothie
Twin Peaks: Free entree
Waffle House: Free hashbrowns for signing up and free waffle for birthday!
Wash Park Grille: $30 tab at the bar!
Which Wich: Free regular sandwich

**Note that all of the above deals are subject to change
Feel free to leave a comment if you know of any more birthday deals! There’s always more to add to the list!

frugal and free,
Claire

Why I Use Airbnb

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll notice that there’s a trend in the places I stay during my travels ~ that trend is Airbnb.

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, I can understand why you would be a bit hesitant ~ Staying in another person’s home? How weird is that? I know that I was pretty weary about it the very first time that I used it. But after many Airbnb experiences – good and not so good ~ I stand beside this travel housing choice. Keep reading to find out why..

Why Airbnb?
1. It can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be ~ whether you’re looking to stay at a whole fancy home, a bedroom in a total dive or a couch in a living room, you can find it all on Airbnb. You often get what you pay for, and that’s what makes it so great. You can go cheap, reasonable or expensive.

Airbnbs12. There are so many unique options ~ From a shotgun style home in New Orleans and a brand new townhome in Nashville, to a couch in a second-story apartment in St. Louis and a small house boat in Marina Del Rey ~ Airbnb truly has it all. The experiences I listed above were just a few of my own, and they were all ones I will never forget, which is why Airbnb is so great ~ they make every travel experience that much more memorable.

3. You can get a true feel for the city you’re traveling to ~ During most of my travels, I’ve stayed in Airbnbs right in the heart of the cities, so that getting around is easy, and so that I can actually see what it’s like to ‘live’ in that city for a day or two. The Airbnb I stayed at in St. Louis was not located in the best part of town, as there were cops patrolling the area by the hour, but it was quite an experience and I really was able to see the good and bad side of the city. You can’t get that experience by staying in a hotel, folks. And the great thing is that you can choose a more hotel-like experience if you’re looking for something more safe and laid-back. It’s all in your hands – just check the reviews (which brings me to my next point).

4. Real people give real reviews, so you can have an idea of what the place will be like ~ After your stay, you have the opportunity to provide a review of your stay in the Airbnb. These reviews help other travelers choose whether they should stay at that particular rental or not. I always make a point to check the reviews before booking a place.

5. You can get insight from someone who actually lives there ~ Your host can be either present or not when you book your Airbnb. It truly depends on what you’d rather like. The reviews often tell you how good of a host the homeowner is/if they’re even around during your stay, so be sure to check those, and if you choose to have a present host, then you can often ask them any questions you may have about the area, which they will likely gladly answer!

As a clear advocate for Airbnb, I’d say to give it a try. Just keep in mind these few tips while choosing your ideal rental:

  • Know what you’re looking for ~ great location? present host? whole house? private room?
  • Read through the property’s entire description, paying special attention to your personal desired factors listed above.
  • Keep an eye on fees and what the price of the rental will truly be in the end.
  • Check out the reviews! Reviews will tell you A LOT about the property – read through these to get an idea of if this is the place you want to be

With these tips in mind, you are sure to have an interesting, great and certainly memorable Airbnb experience.

Ever stayed in an Airbnb? Share your thoughts and experiences in a comment below!

frugal and free,
Claire

Frugal in Fort Collins

Lately, I’ve been super antsy. All last week, I felt strangely aggravated with my routine and wanted something interesting to take me out of it. I really just wanted an adventure. So Friday night, after work, I mentioned to Matthew that we still hadn’t been to Fort Collins (we had talked about going since last summer). He replied with a simple, “Why don’t we go tomorrow?”
Although I’ve always known that Matthew is just as up for anything as I am, for some reason, I was not expecting that answer, but of course, I excitedly jumped on the opportunity to go somewhere new.

So, that night, we quickly planned our next day. I searched ‘things to do in Fort Collins’ on Google, wrote some of the top attractions down, and Matthew had the great idea of checking GroupOn to see if there were any Fort Collins deals we could grab. We found a $12 for $20 of food/drink deal at The Lost Cajun, which we were quick to get, since we had never been, hadn’t had Cajun food since New Orleans last summer, and were eager to have a place picked out for dinner (since we always have the hardest time choosing a place when we actually arrive).
Frugal Travel Tip: Check GroupOn for great deals or happy hours that will be in the area you’re traveling to, so you have a cheap & unique plan for food during your trip.

Saturday morning, we were up by 7:00 (we’re typically early risers, alarm or not), and on the road by 8:00. Of course we stopped at Einstein’s along the way to get our free bagels (year of free bagel/shmear & coffee still going strong), and were on our way.

We started the day biking along the Poudre River Trail, up to the foothills, and then back towards the downtown area of Fort Collins.
Frugal Tip: Get a bike and bring it along to ride during your trips if you can – especially if you’re in a bike-friendly place like Fort Collins! Biking is a great way to explore a town + get a new perspective along the way.
On our way towards downtown, we stumbled upon a happy find – New Belgium Brewing – which we were planning on stopping by at some point that day anyways, so this was a prime opportunity to check it out.
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FortCollins8_NewBelgiumBrewingAlthough New Belgium employees encourage booking a brewery tour ahead of time, we walked up, put our names down on the waiting list (in case scheduled tourists didn’t show up for their tour), and had some drinks in the meantime – $4 for 16 oz pours was quite a steal!

We didn’t make it on the first tour, but we had high hopes for the second, so we waited around (so glad we did) and were able to join in on the 1:00 tour. Although the tour was 90 minutes, it did not feel long at all (this is coming from a girl who is really not that interested in beer)! We had 4 free tastings along the way, a great tour guide, and an overall great experience at this impressively large, well-done brewery.

From New Belgium Brewing, we biked right down the street to check out Odell Brewing (Fort Collins ranks third in Colorado – behind Denver & Boulder – for the most breweries in the state). Odell was even more packed than New Belgium, and it was already getting to be late in the day, so we left to bike back for dinner.
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For dinner, we used our $12 for $20 worth of food/drink at The Lost Cajun and greatly enjoyed our meals. They gave us free gumbo tastings, and then I ordered the Cajun Stir Fry Shrimp and a Hurricane (at a happy hour price!), while Matthew had the Fried Catfish Plate and the great happy hour deal of 4 Abita beers for $8.

Afterwards, we walked around the downtown area of Fort Collins, got some dessert at Mary’s Mountain Cookies (unfortunately not pictured) and browsed through the unique shops.

Night came quickly, and we still wanted to check out Horsetooth Reservoir. So, we drove over to see the humongous body of water and were able to see for ourselves why Foursquare had ranked it as the third best lake in America.
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By the end of our random day, we had done nearly everything we had wanted to do during our first visit to Fort Collins. We definitely plan to go back during the summertime to do a bit more biking along the river and through the town, along with hiking the scenic trails in the area.

In the end, Matthew and I would have to agree that Fort Collins is SWEET ~ and has plenty of outdoorsy, fun, and frugal activities to choose from 🙂

frugal and free,
Claire

LAdventure

For President’s Day weekend, Matthew and I both figured it was time for a new adventure.

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After looking for cheap flights around the U.S. using Google Flights (simply search ‘everywhere’ on Google Flights, click on the map, pick your dates, and check out all the flights and their prices around the U.S.!), we chose Los Angeles (since neither of us had been) for a great deal of $72 round-trip via Spirit Airlines, from Saturday, February 18 to Tuesday, February 21.

After booking our flights, 2 weeks out from our trip date, we went ahead and booked 2 places on Airbnb for our stay. Our first night would be spent at a dive (about $40) near the University of Southern California, just about 5 minutes from downtown LA, and Sunday and Monday night would be spent on a small yacht in the world’s largest boat harbor, Marina Del Rey (for $90/night).

The next week – 1 week before our trip – we sat down at Einstein’s and planned our whole vacation (while enjoying our free bagels & coffee). Since we were flying into LA, rather than driving, and didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting a rental car, we decided it would be easiest (and cheapest) to take the metro. While choosing our Airbnb locations, we purposely chose one close to downtown LA for our first night, because we had decided that we would spend Saturday night and the whole Sunday exploring LA before heading to the Marina. We would do all the touristy things and more ~ Visit LA Live, go to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, visit Union Station, walk through Chinatown, explore Grand Park, check out Koreatown, the Griffith Observatory, The Grove, the LA County Museum of Art, and whatever we found in between.

So, once we knew where we wanted to go, we mapped out which metro lines we would have to take and familiarized ourselves with the public transportation. On Sunday night, Monday, and Tuesday, we would be relaxing more on our boat and checking out the Marina Del Rey, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica, without having to use public transportation (just walking and riding the bikes provided at our Airbnb yacht). After planning our entire trip to a tee, we felt extremely prepared and were increasingly excited as President’s Day weekend drew nearer.

But, just as is possible with any vacation, not everything went as planned. There were certainly obstacles – some expected, some not so much.

The day  before our trip, it poured (and I mean flooded) in LA. So, rather than blue skies and sunny days, we braced ourselves for grayer skies and gloomier days. Also, in order to bring a free personal item on Spirit Airlines (16″ x 14″ x 12″), we had to pack extremely light, which I thought would be an issue for me (I tend to overpack..), but it surprisingly wasn’t that difficult at all. The bag I packed was even smaller than it had to be, as I knew I would have to be comfortable carrying it around all day Sunday, since we would be checking out of our Airbnb early that morning and walking everywhere around LA. So, the bag wasn’t too much of an issue. The issues truly began when we arrived in LA.

The flight was fine; actually, it was really pretty, as we flew from Denver and over the Rocky Mountains to get to California. When we landed at 5:00 PM, we maneuvered through the airport pretty easily, but struggled to find the right airport bus that would take us to the downtown bus station. Just by our luck, they had recently moved our bus from the downstairs stop to the upstairs stop, and had poorly marked this change, so most of the airport workers didn’t even realize it, and told us the wrong place to wait for the airport bus. When we finally found the bus and arrived at the next bus station, we asked a security guard to kindly point us in the direction of our next bus. It only cost $1.75 each for us to take the bus all the way from the airport to the University of Southern California – the next day, we planned to buy a day pass ($7.00 + $1 to pay for the actual card – for 24 hours on any downtown bus and rail – which a sweet lady informed us that you can only buy at the rail stations), since we would be riding the metro all day on Sunday.

On our way downtown, our next obstacle arose. We texted our Airbnb host to let him know we would be there shortly, and received an unexpected reply – apparently, there was a squatter in his house, so we would not be able to stay there that night. Great.
Well, we certainly did not want to be homeless in LA, so when we arrived at the University of Southern California, we spent the next 3 hours calling Airbnb, getting our refunds, and trying to find a place to stay. After much frustration and coldness (it was pretty chilly in LA after dark..), we finally found an Airbnb that would take us in at such short notice, so late at night.

The Airbnb we found was pretty much a dive in Koreatown, but we got our own room and it was in what seemed to be a safe neighborhood. Overall, I was just happy to have a place to stay for the night. We took an Uber from USC to our Airbnb and the moment we arrived, we checked in and went out for food (it was like 11:00 PM and we were starving). It may have been ignorance or sheer lack of knowledge, but I had no idea that Koreatown would be just that – Koreatown. We were the only non-Korean people who strolled into the extremely crowded restaurant, Ddong Ggo Pocha, and as a result, we were also the only people who didn’t know that the only way to get service was to ring the bell under the table (a bell we didn’t know even existed..). Luckily, a waiter filled us in on the ‘obvious,’ and we were able to order one of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a while. Whether it was so delicious simply because we were starving, or because it truly was that good, I don’t care. All I know is that the butter chicken and ramen we scarfed down was so incredibly tasty.

Needless to say, after a filling dinner, we slept extremely well (happy to have a bed to lay our heads on) in our Airbnb that night.

The next day, we were ready for things to go right. Although we had everything planned from our original Airbnb location near USC, we made slight alterations, and started the day in Koreatown instead. Unfortunately, it rained on us a bit, and it was pretty much cloudy all day long, but we did end up doing almost everything we wanted to, and very easily with our $8 metro day pass. From Koreatown to Union Station to Chinatown to downtown LA with LA Live, the LA Times and the District Market to the Griffith Observatory (which we got to via a weekend shuttle to the Observatory) where we saw LA from afar and the Hollywood sign, and finally to the famous Pink’s Hot Dogs – we had a full day and really felt that we saw much of what LA had to offer.

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After the non-stop day exploring downtown, we were happy to finally get on the bus that would take us to Marina Del Rey.

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At 6:00, we met up with our host at our Airbnb boat. It was small, well displayed, and well done in the fact that we would only be staying there 2 nights. Our host had some snacks, karaoke, movies, a kayak, towels & toiletries, and bikes (which proved to be the most important part) ready for us when we arrived. Despite my concerns of constant movement from the water below us, we slept really well in that boat and were well rested for the next day.

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On Monday morning, we went to a tasty breakfast place right on the marina – Killer Cafe (where we got the ‘secret’ deal between 6:30 am and 8:30 am, thanks to our Airbnb host’s insight) – and took the bikes to Venice Beach, where we rode along the boardwalk for forever. We checked out the Santa Monica Pier, enjoyed a delicious fried chicken and waffle sandwich at Bruxie in downtown Santa Monica, and warmed up from the chilly ride at a cute coffee shop, The Cow’s End Cafe, in Venice on our way back to the Marina. When we got back to our boat, we drank some of the wine and beer we had gotten from the grocery store the night before, busted out some karaoke, and headed out for dinner. We purposely went to the Killer Shrimp for their Killer Shrimp deal, but since it was President’s Day, they weren’t running the deal (good to keep in mind for next time), which was unfortunate, but we stayed and ordered something else instead.

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Our last day was full of more exploring via bike – this time, all around the opposite end of Venice Beach – and tried to search for seals, which were impossible to find, and apparently a little farther south. For lunch, we rode our bikes to try In-N-Out for the first time – animal style and all – and despite the fact that I rarely eat fast food, it was pretty delicious. After checking out of our Airbnb around 2:00 PM, we spent the rest of our time on Venice Beach, walking around, exploring everything we had missed before. When it was time to go, we easily found a bus that took us right from Venice to the airport to catch our flight around 9:00 pm. Oh, and we somehow managed to get first-class seats (which basically just meant more room..no free food/drinks, unfortunately), but hey, I guess some things do work out. The night ended with a mad dash from the plane to the final lightrail leaving the airport at 12:25 am, and then another mad dash from union station to the lightrail that took us home.

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Our trip definitely had its ups and its downs, but overall, it was one of the most memorable trips we’ve had so far. Now, I just can’t wait to go back to Cali when the sun is shining and it’s warm enough to truly relax on the beach 🙂

The $ Amount Sum Up of Our Trip for 2 to LA

  • Flight to and from LA: $72 each = $144 total
  • Airbnb: $40 + $180 = $220 total
  • Transportation: Uber from USC to Koreatown = $7, Metro total = $11 (x2 = $21 total) (2 x $8 day passes, 2 x $1.75 for bus to downtown, 2 x $1.25 from Venice to airport) = $28 total
  • Food & Drinks: $140

Total $ Amount for a 4 Day Trip for 2 to LA: $532

4 days of fun in a whole new city with my best friend for just $266 each?
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me 🙂

frugal and free,
Claire