Paul and I are coming up on the first anniversary of our wedding this month (yep, we’re newlyweds). Did you know that the average wedding cost in the United States last year was over $25,000? Paul and I agreed that we had no interest in spending that kind of money on our wedding. We are working to side hustle and save money wherever we can in order to achieve our dream of a year traveling the country. Rather than drop $25k, we planned an amazing wedding in our favorite city, New Orleans, on almost no budget at all. How did we do it? A lot of careful planning and research enabled us to have a wedding on a budget that was also the wedding of our dreams.
Heather and I generally travel well together. We do our research, weigh our options, and come to decisions that we both feel good about. On trips we often praise ourselves for the fine job we did planning such a spectacular vacation. (Sadly, that’s true. We actually do.)
But, nobody’s perfect.
We have made our share of travel mistakes. We share them here in the hopes that you can avoid them on your own travels.
1. Traveling North for New Year’s
Our most recent oops. Last month we reviewed our impressions of Montreal. The city certainly has a lot of destination appeal. However, amid a record breaking cold snap this appeal plummets. We thought: how much colder can Montreal be compared to Boston at New Year’s? Answer: Nose snapping instant frostbite colder.
There’s a reason that people in the Northeast go south in the winter. I accept the logic now.
Montreal is one of the most complex cities I have ever visited. It is culturally rich, steeped in history, and ground zero for French-English bi-culturalism and its attendant debates. It is also an industrial port, forged by its strategic location on the St. Lawrence river. It’s modern and international yet traditional and insular. The beautiful and ugly co-exist in single perspective views of Montreal as in few other places.
I have been to Montreal 5-6 times in my life and three times within the past two years with Heather. Our recent sojourns were driven by initial curiosity about the poker scene after seeing the Playground Poker Club on a televised tournament. It turns out that the Casino Montreal also has a decent poker room. Enjoying both, and the fact that Montreal is only a 5 hour drive from our house, we have returned twice in the summer and most recently over the New Year’s weekend.
However, I must admit I am still divided on Montreal as a vacation destination. Let’s start with the positives.
This time of year we are always looking for a quick post-holiday get away to celebrate the fact that we’ve made it through another festive season alive. Between holiday preparations for our four kids, end of the year work demands, and celebration with our respective families, by the end of December we really need a vacation. We are fortunate enough most years to fit in a brief three or four day getaway before the new year rolls around.
We have three requirements for our December destinations. They must: 1) lie within a short drive of our home in the Boston area, 2) sport plenty of winter scenery, and 3) be in the general vicinity of at least one poker venue (of course). For example, later this month we will be heading up to Montreal (and will supply a full report after that trip!).
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As we ponder our Poker Pilgrimage, we need to decide where our year of travel will take us. We have three basic criteria for places to earn a spot on our journey, a location must either have a poker room (or rooms: Hello Las Vegas!) we want to visit, be a spot that we have never been but would like to go (such as Charleston, SC), or be one of our favorite cities, and thus worthy of a return trip. Today, we thought we would share our five favorite cities and start to pin some way-points on our journey.
Boston is an easy one. We live in the Boston area, and thus this is where our journey will begin. Boston has history, museums, culture, natural beauty, and sports teams galore. For the first time visitor we would recommend the aquarium, the science museum, Faneuil Hall, a walk down the Freedom Trail, a walk along the Charles River, taking in a game (Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox, or Bruins depending on the season), and a visit to any of the many historic and beautiful outlying towns. Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun, and numerous New Hampshire cardrooms are within a couple of hours if your poker jones needs to be fed. If you’re looking to save on attractions, you can Save 45% or more on Boston’s 5 best attractions with CityPASS. The Boston CityPASS allows you to save on such attractions as the Aquarium, Museum of Science, and the Skywalk Observatory. These are all must-visits on our Boston list.