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After Jim and Angie's lovely sunset ceremony, we went back inside The Bellagio Hotel, where they were holding our luggage, to grab dinner.  On a seven-hour layover coming home from The Philippines, a friend had raved about their buffet.  I'm not a buffet person at all, but was willing to give it a try, and I remembered the meal being really good - but after flying 16 hours, any real food tastes pretty good.  So a year later, James was willing to check it out with me.

At almost $45 per person on Friday and Saturday nights, clearly you're expecting it to be more impressive than the buffets back home.  This was far and above our expectations, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

After we were beyond full, we collected up our luggage and made our way to our much cheaper hotel - the Stratosphere.  The Stratosphere is off the main part of the strip, and located between the strip and Fremont street.  Friends of ours that love Vegas make a face when we said we stayed there, but honestly, it was a place to sleep for a few hours and we spent the rest of our time out and about.  Room stays include complimentary visits to the top of the Stratosphere, which would be worth checking out no matter where you stay.  We visited that night for a bit, and met up with the wedding crew again Saturday morning for a daytime view.  None of us were brave enough for the roller coaster or zip-line jump from the observation deck!


James and I took the monorail and buses to get around, and had a great time people watching.  We aren't gamblers, so we had done our research on what we wanted to do.  With a limited window - basically one day, we made just a few plans to fill our day.  We grabbed lunch at In-N-Out just behind New York, New York casino, James' first visit to the chain, and then took a bus to the Pinball Hall of Fame on Tropicana.

James and I are both pinball fans; he actually has some skill, I just have fond memories of playing.  10,000 square feet of pinball machines is our type of casino!  So we spent maybe $50 over three hours playing almost every machine.  We also got a chance to meet Tim Arnold, the founder who is featured on Special When Lit, a documentary on pinball that's available on Netflix.  The proceeds from the machines are donated to The Salvation Army; five and six figures every year!

After we were done playing, we went to Fremont Street to check out old Vegas and grab dinner.  When we had hit our limit of people watching - and there was plenty to watch, we called it a night and went back to the hotel.  We had an early morning shuttle to catch and met up with the wedding crew at the airport.  My flight left about an hour after theirs to Des Moines, so I decided to put $10 in an airport slot machine.  About five minutes later the $10 was gone, and I confirmed that gambling was not my thing.


Vacation Flashback: Vegas 2012 - Part 2

Monday, May 8, 2017



After Jim and Angie's lovely sunset ceremony, we went back inside The Bellagio Hotel, where they were holding our luggage, to grab dinner.  On a seven-hour layover coming home from The Philippines, a friend had raved about their buffet.  I'm not a buffet person at all, but was willing to give it a try, and I remembered the meal being really good - but after flying 16 hours, any real food tastes pretty good.  So a year later, James was willing to check it out with me.

At almost $45 per person on Friday and Saturday nights, clearly you're expecting it to be more impressive than the buffets back home.  This was far and above our expectations, and I'd recommend it to anyone.

After we were beyond full, we collected up our luggage and made our way to our much cheaper hotel - the Stratosphere.  The Stratosphere is off the main part of the strip, and located between the strip and Fremont street.  Friends of ours that love Vegas make a face when we said we stayed there, but honestly, it was a place to sleep for a few hours and we spent the rest of our time out and about.  Room stays include complimentary visits to the top of the Stratosphere, which would be worth checking out no matter where you stay.  We visited that night for a bit, and met up with the wedding crew again Saturday morning for a daytime view.  None of us were brave enough for the roller coaster or zip-line jump from the observation deck!


James and I took the monorail and buses to get around, and had a great time people watching.  We aren't gamblers, so we had done our research on what we wanted to do.  With a limited window - basically one day, we made just a few plans to fill our day.  We grabbed lunch at In-N-Out just behind New York, New York casino, James' first visit to the chain, and then took a bus to the Pinball Hall of Fame on Tropicana.

James and I are both pinball fans; he actually has some skill, I just have fond memories of playing.  10,000 square feet of pinball machines is our type of casino!  So we spent maybe $50 over three hours playing almost every machine.  We also got a chance to meet Tim Arnold, the founder who is featured on Special When Lit, a documentary on pinball that's available on Netflix.  The proceeds from the machines are donated to The Salvation Army; five and six figures every year!

After we were done playing, we went to Fremont Street to check out old Vegas and grab dinner.  When we had hit our limit of people watching - and there was plenty to watch, we called it a night and went back to the hotel.  We had an early morning shuttle to catch and met up with the wedding crew at the airport.  My flight left about an hour after theirs to Des Moines, so I decided to put $10 in an airport slot machine.  About five minutes later the $10 was gone, and I confirmed that gambling was not my thing.






Word of caution to my friends; if you joke about me joining your vacation, there's a good chance I'll be emailing you my flight confirmation shortly after!  When our friends Jim and Angie decided to renew their vows in Las Vegas, Jim make a comment about the expensive photography fee and said he wished he could just hire us to go with them.  About two hours later, I had booked tickets for James and me to join them!  Once again, flying through Allegiant Airlines, we booked airfare, hotel, and ground transportation for $777 - a lucky sign for a Vegas trip, right?  

Work travel threw a wrench in my plans when I needed to be in El Paso the week before and after our trip, but I was able to coordinate direct flights from El Paso arriving about the same time.  As I packed my bags, my mom playfully said "You better not get married in Vegas too!"  - ha!  Little did she know we had bigger plans for our own wedding a couple years later!   I traveled with my camera gear in my carry-on, and a small bag for our two nights in town.  I arrived in Vegas about an hour before James was scheduled to arrive, which turned into two hours as his flight was delayed.  I was worried we would miss the sunset ceremony in front of the fountains at The Bellagio Hotel, so we skipped the transport and took a cab to the hotel and arrived in plenty of time! With Jim and Angie were a couple family members, and our friends Allen and Rachel whose wedding I also photographed!
Their lovely ceremony was performed by a minister who took time earlier in the day to get to know Jim and Angie, and did a fantastic job when describing their relationship.    We saw a few other weddings, and I think he provided the best service, hands down. 




After the ceremony, we took more photos, and waited for the sun to set to capture the image Angie dreamed of:






While we waited for the next fountain show, we watched another couple get married at the same spot.  They traveled from the east coast to elope, and their photographer left after a few photos, so we captured more for them.  They were so sweet, but we never heard from them!

Do you know this couple?  Have them contact me!






Vacation Flashback: Vegas 2012 - Part 1: Jim & Angie's Ceremony

Sunday, April 23, 2017





Word of caution to my friends; if you joke about me joining your vacation, there's a good chance I'll be emailing you my flight confirmation shortly after!  When our friends Jim and Angie decided to renew their vows in Las Vegas, Jim make a comment about the expensive photography fee and said he wished he could just hire us to go with them.  About two hours later, I had booked tickets for James and me to join them!  Once again, flying through Allegiant Airlines, we booked airfare, hotel, and ground transportation for $777 - a lucky sign for a Vegas trip, right?  

Work travel threw a wrench in my plans when I needed to be in El Paso the week before and after our trip, but I was able to coordinate direct flights from El Paso arriving about the same time.  As I packed my bags, my mom playfully said "You better not get married in Vegas too!"  - ha!  Little did she know we had bigger plans for our own wedding a couple years later!   I traveled with my camera gear in my carry-on, and a small bag for our two nights in town.  I arrived in Vegas about an hour before James was scheduled to arrive, which turned into two hours as his flight was delayed.  I was worried we would miss the sunset ceremony in front of the fountains at The Bellagio Hotel, so we skipped the transport and took a cab to the hotel and arrived in plenty of time! With Jim and Angie were a couple family members, and our friends Allen and Rachel whose wedding I also photographed!
Their lovely ceremony was performed by a minister who took time earlier in the day to get to know Jim and Angie, and did a fantastic job when describing their relationship.    We saw a few other weddings, and I think he provided the best service, hands down. 




After the ceremony, we took more photos, and waited for the sun to set to capture the image Angie dreamed of:






While we waited for the next fountain show, we watched another couple get married at the same spot.  They traveled from the east coast to elope, and their photographer left after a few photos, so we captured more for them.  They were so sweet, but we never heard from them!

Do you know this couple?  Have them contact me!








Now that I'm getting back into the swing of traveling, I've put together my list of must haves to make travel easier and more enjoyable.  This list isn't all-inclusive by any means, just things I wouldn't want to travel without.

Travel Purse/Carry On Bag


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |


Most major airlines allow you to have one carry-on and one personal item, like a purse or laptop bag.  I get that most guys don't want to carry a purse, but we'll cover that next!  Even if you aren't a large purse person, I suggest investing in a large tote-style bag for traveling - you can even put your small purse inside, if that's more your style.  I have a large Coach leather tote in black, similar to this one that holds a book or magazine, phone, headphones, wallet - everything I want access to during my flight.  Mine can even hold my iPad or laptop if I want it for a longer flight.

 Travel Laptop Bag



Laptop bags have 3 categories, backpacks, messenger bags, and roller bags.  I am not a fan of roller bags as they rarely roll down the aisle well and seem to take a beating as they bang into every seat down the aisle.  I'm pretty sure I look like the worlds largest 2nd grader with my backpack on, but it is a comfortable way to carry a laptop. chargers, and other travel items.  When I travel internationally, I throw in a change of clothes, just in case my luggage doesn't arrive when I do.  I have this bag, which has a TSA-approved compartment for my laptop, so I can just unzip the panel and send the bag through the x-ray without removing my laptop.  Not an issue if you have TSA PreCheck, but a really convenient feature to have.  Some folks prefer messenger style, so I picked these three designs with a little bit more style than the standard Samsonite bag.  I usually put my backpack in the overhead bin, so I don't pack anything I'd want during flight in this bag.

Travel Shoes


I'm a fan of comfortable shoes everyday, but they are even more important when traveling.  From ease of taking off and putting back on at the TSA checkpoint and slipping them off during a long flight, you also want shoes that will let you run across the airport to catch your connecting flight when your first flight was delayed.  Some friends rave over TOMS, but I'm partial to Crocs (clearly I can't be trusted for fashion advice) for their non-skid soles and arch support.

Must-have technology for traveling


My technology picks are all based on my preferences, but there are so many options out there for you when it comes to brand and features.  Here's my favorites:  

1) I'd be totally lost without my iPhone while traveling, in addition to using it for movies, games, and podcasts during flights, the mobile apps for airlines and hotels have changed the way I travel.  I get real-time updates on flight status and gate changes, can check-in and change seats, and use my phone as my mobile ticket.  I also get text alerts from the airlines if there is a major change or delay - this is a huge change from the hours I'd spend at a gate with updates every 15 minutes about our delay.  The airlines' apps usually work while in-flight, even if you didn't purchase wifi, and United's app has movies and shows you can stream for free.

2) Santa brought me an Apple Watch for Christmas (I got the Series 1, 38mm Space Gray/Black).  I know I'm not getting full use of my Apple Watch yet, but I love the world clock when I'm traveling between time zones, getting airline updates, and seeing the local weather on my wrist.

3&4) I love my iPad mini for watching movies in-flight, or watching Netflix in my hotel room.  Some DVDs include a free digital copy, or you can rent or purchase from iTunes, and Netflix now allows downloading some shows/movies for offline watching.  Amazon's Kindle Fire has a much more wallet-friendly price point.

5) I recently splurged on a Macbook Air, mostly for travel.  The long battery life (8-10 hours), and quick boot up have made using on the airplane so much more enjoyable.  My work laptop is more powerful but is also slowed down by the security software and has some restricted use.  Others may find the Chromebook as a better choice for their needs.

6&7) I think everyone needs a hobby they can enjoy while traveling, and mine is photography.  I don't like to travel with my professional gear (it's heavy and expensive), but want a bit more control than my phone offers.  Before our trip to DC, I purchased a Sony a6000; a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.  It's small (fits in my purse easily) and can be used with manual controls, or in full auto mode.  I can also transfer images and video directly to my phone through the Sony app to post on social media, which is nice.   This Sony camera is just as powerful and a bit more compact.


Miscellaneous Travel Necessities



1) When traveling somewhere with a greater risk of pickpockets, I like having some of my money/cards concealed.  I purchased scarves with concealed zipper pockets for my sister and bonus kid.  The pocket is large enough to hold your phone plus some cash or cards and would be great for running errands when you don't want to carry a purse.

2) I got a similar inflatable travel pillow before my long trips to Asia, and I would absolutely recommend.  Since they're inflatable, they don't take up much space when deflated, but this one has a soft over so no scratchy edges.  This one includes and eye mask, ear plugs, and carrying bag.

3) The TSA allows up to 1 quart zipper bag filled with containers less than 3oz (yes, that includes airline sized alcohol bottles...) and these silicone bottles are great for toiletries.  Be sure to put them in your open carry-on bag as you'll remove and place them in a bin.

4) Many people don't realize you can carry an empty water bottle though security and fill at the drinking fountains past the TSA Check Point.  A nice insulated bottle like this would easily fit in your carry on and help keep you hydrated on long flights.

5&6) Headphones are key for listening to podcasts and watching movies during your flight, but can also help block out the noises around you.  I like the earbud style, this one has an in-line microphone for making calls as well.  I also have these over the ear headphones that generate white noise and do a fantastic job of blocking out engine noise and crying babies.


So these are my must have travel necessities; what do you think my bag is missing?  Leave me a comment!

My 2017 Travel Necessities

Friday, April 14, 2017



Now that I'm getting back into the swing of traveling, I've put together my list of must haves to make travel easier and more enjoyable.  This list isn't all-inclusive by any means, just things I wouldn't want to travel without.

Travel Purse/Carry On Bag


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |


Most major airlines allow you to have one carry-on and one personal item, like a purse or laptop bag.  I get that most guys don't want to carry a purse, but we'll cover that next!  Even if you aren't a large purse person, I suggest investing in a large tote-style bag for traveling - you can even put your small purse inside, if that's more your style.  I have a large Coach leather tote in black, similar to this one that holds a book or magazine, phone, headphones, wallet - everything I want access to during my flight.  Mine can even hold my iPad or laptop if I want it for a longer flight.

 Travel Laptop Bag



Laptop bags have 3 categories, backpacks, messenger bags, and roller bags.  I am not a fan of roller bags as they rarely roll down the aisle well and seem to take a beating as they bang into every seat down the aisle.  I'm pretty sure I look like the worlds largest 2nd grader with my backpack on, but it is a comfortable way to carry a laptop. chargers, and other travel items.  When I travel internationally, I throw in a change of clothes, just in case my luggage doesn't arrive when I do.  I have this bag, which has a TSA-approved compartment for my laptop, so I can just unzip the panel and send the bag through the x-ray without removing my laptop.  Not an issue if you have TSA PreCheck, but a really convenient feature to have.  Some folks prefer messenger style, so I picked these three designs with a little bit more style than the standard Samsonite bag.  I usually put my backpack in the overhead bin, so I don't pack anything I'd want during flight in this bag.

Travel Shoes


I'm a fan of comfortable shoes everyday, but they are even more important when traveling.  From ease of taking off and putting back on at the TSA checkpoint and slipping them off during a long flight, you also want shoes that will let you run across the airport to catch your connecting flight when your first flight was delayed.  Some friends rave over TOMS, but I'm partial to Crocs (clearly I can't be trusted for fashion advice) for their non-skid soles and arch support.

Must-have technology for traveling


My technology picks are all based on my preferences, but there are so many options out there for you when it comes to brand and features.  Here's my favorites:  

1) I'd be totally lost without my iPhone while traveling, in addition to using it for movies, games, and podcasts during flights, the mobile apps for airlines and hotels have changed the way I travel.  I get real-time updates on flight status and gate changes, can check-in and change seats, and use my phone as my mobile ticket.  I also get text alerts from the airlines if there is a major change or delay - this is a huge change from the hours I'd spend at a gate with updates every 15 minutes about our delay.  The airlines' apps usually work while in-flight, even if you didn't purchase wifi, and United's app has movies and shows you can stream for free.

2) Santa brought me an Apple Watch for Christmas (I got the Series 1, 38mm Space Gray/Black).  I know I'm not getting full use of my Apple Watch yet, but I love the world clock when I'm traveling between time zones, getting airline updates, and seeing the local weather on my wrist.

3&4) I love my iPad mini for watching movies in-flight, or watching Netflix in my hotel room.  Some DVDs include a free digital copy, or you can rent or purchase from iTunes, and Netflix now allows downloading some shows/movies for offline watching.  Amazon's Kindle Fire has a much more wallet-friendly price point.

5) I recently splurged on a Macbook Air, mostly for travel.  The long battery life (8-10 hours), and quick boot up have made using on the airplane so much more enjoyable.  My work laptop is more powerful but is also slowed down by the security software and has some restricted use.  Others may find the Chromebook as a better choice for their needs.

6&7) I think everyone needs a hobby they can enjoy while traveling, and mine is photography.  I don't like to travel with my professional gear (it's heavy and expensive), but want a bit more control than my phone offers.  Before our trip to DC, I purchased a Sony a6000; a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.  It's small (fits in my purse easily) and can be used with manual controls, or in full auto mode.  I can also transfer images and video directly to my phone through the Sony app to post on social media, which is nice.   This Sony camera is just as powerful and a bit more compact.


Miscellaneous Travel Necessities



1) When traveling somewhere with a greater risk of pickpockets, I like having some of my money/cards concealed.  I purchased scarves with concealed zipper pockets for my sister and bonus kid.  The pocket is large enough to hold your phone plus some cash or cards and would be great for running errands when you don't want to carry a purse.

2) I got a similar inflatable travel pillow before my long trips to Asia, and I would absolutely recommend.  Since they're inflatable, they don't take up much space when deflated, but this one has a soft over so no scratchy edges.  This one includes and eye mask, ear plugs, and carrying bag.

3) The TSA allows up to 1 quart zipper bag filled with containers less than 3oz (yes, that includes airline sized alcohol bottles...) and these silicone bottles are great for toiletries.  Be sure to put them in your open carry-on bag as you'll remove and place them in a bin.

4) Many people don't realize you can carry an empty water bottle though security and fill at the drinking fountains past the TSA Check Point.  A nice insulated bottle like this would easily fit in your carry on and help keep you hydrated on long flights.

5&6) Headphones are key for listening to podcasts and watching movies during your flight, but can also help block out the noises around you.  I like the earbud style, this one has an in-line microphone for making calls as well.  I also have these over the ear headphones that generate white noise and do a fantastic job of blocking out engine noise and crying babies.


So these are my must have travel necessities; what do you think my bag is missing?  Leave me a comment!

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