Author Archives: lovelibrarianmelanie

About lovelibrarianmelanie

librarian. living a small, lovely life in an airstream trailer.

18 Tips for Traveling to Memphis, Tennessee

18 tips for traveling to Memphis TennesseeI finally surprised George for his 30th birthday. Big time. With a trip. To Memphis. Because I’m the best wife ever. Surprising George was a huge feat for me. Something always happens and that little stinker somehow figures out his present. Not this time. Oh no. This time I waited until I could hardly stand it anymore (12:01 PM on his birthday) and whipped out those tickets with so much pride.

We had the best time. No stress. Just relaxing and sight seeing. And Memphis is perfect for that. Of course I learned a bunch along the way. And as I learn, I like to share it with you all. Learn from my triumphs and tribulations, folks.

Here’s what I learned along the trip, along with some phone photos because I remembered the camera, but forgot the charger. Story of my life.

1. Memphis is in on Central time (duh!).
I did a lot less planning on this trip because I had to keep it a secret. Much of this trip was loosely planned or not planned at all which was a little nerve-wracking for me. I didn’t even remember that Memphis is on Central time! We went to bed much earlier than many of our Memphis friends, but we got up earlier too and avoided some of the crowds.

Memphis Trolley

The inside of a trolley in Memphis.

2. A downtown trolley ride is a steal.
The downtown trolley in Memphis is a steal. The trolley doesn’t travel very far, just in a large loop around the downtown area and up and down the main drag, but it’s only $1 per ride or $3.50 for a day pass. The trolleys are heated, and beautifully restored. I was ready to move into one, they were that pretty. We even took a ride on the trolley at sunset right by the river. Gorgeous.

3. There are weird alcohol laws in Tennessee.
If you are a drinker, especially a wine drinker, be aware that the alcohol laws in Tennessee prohibit you from buying wine at a convenience or grocery store. You’ll have to visit a liquor store for to purchase wine. And the liquor stores, especially in the downtown area, where we stayed are not plentiful. But you are allowed to enjoy adult beverages on the street. I did some researching and the wine laws may change soon, but as of April 2014, you still can’t easily buy wine in Memphis.

4. There are weird smoking bans.
I’m not a smoker, but apparently in Memphis if the bar, restaurant or establishment is 21 years of age and up (even for breakfast!) people are allowed to smoke. This may have been more of a problem if we were traveling with kids.

5. Be careful if you have food allergies or intolerances.
The food allergy and intolerance wave hasn’t hit the south yet. I love the south, it’s my home, but people are still fairly clueless about food allergies and contamination. And it can be dangerous for folks like me. Almost every single thing was served with a biscuit or on toast. I would suggest doing your research and asking your waitstaff how your food is prepared. Some places surprised me with a gluten-free items that weren’t on the menu.

Beale St. in the morning

Beale St. in the morning

6. Visit Beale Street in the morning to avoid crowds.
Crowds don’t bother George and I, per say, but if we can avoid crowds, we will. Beale Street doesn’t get going until the late afternoon, but if you like to keep it a little quieter, visit Beale Street in the morning. We went about 11:00 am. The bars and restaurants were just opening. Beale Street didn’t get crowded (and obnoxious) until we swung through at 4:00 pm.

7. There’s no breakfast restaurants on Beale Street.
Really. It’s hard to imagine because breakfast food cures hangovers, but there are no restaurants serving breakfast on Beale Street. You’ll have to get a couple of blocks away to get your breakfast fix. We stopped at a little diner called the Bon Ton Cafe, just a short walk away.

Sun Studios8. You can walk from Beale Street to Sun Studios.
We had debated whether or not to get a car on this trip. It would have been convenient, but after doing the math, I decided against it. Parking fees can be steep and other than Graceland, you can walk to most attractions if you stay in the downtown area. Walking from Beale Street to Sun Studios, for example, was no problem.

9. Be prepared for crowds. Check local events.
I had booked a hotel and bought our plane tickets for this trip months ago. I’m also pretty oblivious to sports. Little did I know that Memphis was one of the hosts for the NCAA tournament. There was an insane amount of people in town for the games. It was also spring break for schools in Arkansas which is right across the river. Luckily I booked early so the hotel rates weren’t outrageous, but the restaurants and the streets were a little overwhelming at times.

Wearing our nerdy headphones at Graceland.

Wearing our nerdy headphones at Graceland.

10. Sun Studios does guided tours. The Graceland tours are self-guided.
I was a little disappointed that the Graceland tour was self-guided. We wore nerdy, Walkman-esque headsets and it was distracting trying to figure out if I was on the correct audio chapter. Sun Studios, on the other hand, had a guided tour. It was obvious that our tour guide had a passion and respect for music history. It made such a difference. She even played a bit of guitar for us! Just get to Sun Studios early. The tours fill up quick and the waiting area is cramped.

11. You can’t walk to Graceland from the downtown areas, but the taxis from Graceland are plentiful.
You’ll probably have to call for a taxi to Graceland, but the taxis will be waiting to whisk you back to your hotel. I considered staying at the Heartbreak Hotel for a night—its right across the street from Graceland, but it was more expensive for us to stay at the hotel than to commute via taxi from downtown.

The living room at Graceland

The living room at Graceland

12. Graceland isn’t open late and it’s smaller than you’d imagine.
I splurged and purchased the “platinum” tickets for Graceland. It was a good decision. In addition to the house, we also visited most of the exhibits. I think I would have been disappointed with the house-only pass. The platinum tickets gave us access to other exhibits where we saw boat loads of costumes, artifacts and videos. It’s also important to note that Graceland is only open 9:00-5:00 pm Monday-Saturday and 9:00-4:00 on Sunday. And the lines can be long.

13. Buy your Graceland tickets online first and pick them up at will-call.
In order to avoid the long lines, I would highly suggest purchasing Graceland tickets in advance. You will avoid the long ticket lines and you might even be able to find an online discount code like I did!

14. For souvenirs, get away from the tourist areas.
I try to stay away from souvenirs. Instead, I take a lot of pictures for mementos. If you must purchase souvenirs in Memphis and in other big cities, get away from tourist areas. The local drugstore or even Wal-Mart will carry similar souvenirs at half the price.

15. Check the weather report, especially if you are staying downtown. The streets fill with water pretty quickly and without boots, your feet will get wet.
I packed in such a hurry that I didn’t even check the weather report. I really wish I had packed boots. It was rainy for two days out of our trip and the older streets of downtown Memphis were filled with water in a matter of minutes. I genuinely thought I might get trench foot from this trip.

16. The highlights of Memphis can be seen in a long weekend, but the museums and sites are plentiful.
There’s plenty to see in Memphis. Memphis is steeped in music and civil rights history. And there’s plenty of museums to prove it. And although there’s much to see, if you get your priorities straight, Memphis can be seen in a long weekend. With just four days in the city, George and I felt like we saw almost everything we wanted to see, but also never felt rushed.

Memphis Skyline from the top of the Peabody hotel.

Memphis Skyline from the top of the Peabody hotel.

17. The view from the top of the Peabody Hotel is the best in the city.
The Peabody Hotel is a sight to see— especially if you appreciate architecture. It’s a seriously majestic hotel in the middle of the city that was built in the opulence of the 1920s. The hotel is also home to live ducks! The view from the top of the hotel is awe-inspiring. On a clear day, you can see all the way across the Mississippi river to Arkansas and most of the city’s sites. And the best part is that the view is free and open to the public!

Ducks in the Peabody Hotel fountain!

Ducks in the Peabody Hotel fountain!

18. If you want to see the ducks march at the Peabody, get there early.
The Peabody Hotel is home to a parade of ducks which at 11 am everyday march from the roof to the fountain in the lobby of the hotel. Then at 5 pm, the ducks are wrangled up and marched back up to the roof. The original ducks were put in the fountain by some boozed up guests who were going to use them as decoys on their fishing trip. Years later, a hotel employee, who was a former Ringling Circus animal trainer, trained the ducks to march on the red carpet and the tradition is carried on to this day. The march is super cute, but a bit crowded. We arrived 30 minutes early to the march and got a pretty good view. But we definitely weren’t the first folks there!

Have you ever been to Memphis? What kind of tips do you have? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

Happy Birthday, George!

Austin food trucksToday is my hunk, a hunk, a burnin’ love’s 30th birthday. In celebration of the big 3-0 we are headed to Graceland! I’m taking a few days off from the blog to celebrate, rest and relax with my favorite guy.

Elvis has left the building (until Monday).
love,
melanie

30 Ways to Live a Simpler Life

30 ways to live a simpler lifeLiving simply has been on my mind as of late. I think I live a pretty simple life. I mean, it can’t get too complicated when you live in an Airstream. I may have the whole simplistic living situation figured out, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Lately I’ve been feeling a little “over” the Internet. There’s just a whole lot of stuff and not enough substance. Do you feel me? This week I’ve weeded out time-consuming blogs. I’m also giving myself a little break to take a technology detox and celebrate a special someone’s birthday tomorrow. I’m going to get out there with my favorite person and just live.

  1. Commit to living simply
  2. Practice mindfulness
  3. Clear the clutter
  4. Get your financial house in order
  5. Identify your sources of stress
  6. Eliminate your sources of stress, if possible
  7. Outsource your chores
  8. Take a technology break
  9. Turn the alerts off
  10. Do something nice for someone
  11. Write down your feelings
  12. Actually take your vacation time
  13. Take time for yourself each day
  14. Shun perfection
  15. Take time to enjoy nature each day
  16. Eat meals with 5 ingredients or less
  17. Eat more fruits and veggies
  18. Eat lunch away from your desk
  19. Make a list of priorities
  20. Meditate or practice yoga
  21. Give yourself a break
  22. Forgive yourself
  23. Read a book just for fun
  24. Share your feelings with someone
  25. Listen to calming music
  26. Get a good night’s rest
  27. Tell someone you love them
  28. Learn to day “no”
  29. Remember that things are just things
  30. Commit to simplicity again tomorrow

How do you keep it simple? Let me know in the comments.

love,
melanie

Love Weekends: Hustlin’

The scrap metal we pulled out of the woods.

The scrap metal we pulled out of the woods.

On Saturday, George and I got up early and trekked into the woods behind our house. Although it was never a “dump” people dumped trash in the woods behind our house from the ’50s to the ’70s. What can I say? People were a lot less environmentally friendly back then. Does anyone remember that episode of Mad Men where The Drapers are having a picnic and when they are finished Betty picks up the blanket and scatters the trash onto the ground. And then everyone proceeds to leave the trash all over the ground all nonchalant! Yeah. It’s kind of like that.

We pulled out a ton of old, rusty metal to take to the scrap yard. Ok, maybe not a ton. It just felt like a ton because my arms are weak little twigs. Later this week George is going to take it to the scrap metal yard to cash it in, so I don’t know the exact poundage yet. Don’t worry, I’ll have a write up about how to make a little money on the side by scrounging for scrap metal.

Worn out!

Worn out!

It was hard, laborious work but I’ll take whatever extra money I can make.

Do you have a weekend side hustle? I want to hear about it in the comments!

love,
melanie

Survey Winner!

Random Number

 

Thank you everyone for taking my survey. The results will help me to create a blog enhancement plan and I could not be more grateful. As for the drawing… the winner is… Erika from Rejoice for the Day! Erika, as the 21st survey responder,  you won a very special prize pack from me! So, lookout for an email, so I can get your mailing address.

I hope everyone has a fantabulous weekend. I just started the seeds for my vegetable garden yesterday and I will be frolicking in Saturday’s nice weather.

Do you have any plans for this weekend? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

How to Create a Budget for a Road Trip

This isn't my actual budget, but it's a good start!

This isn’t my actual budget, but it’s a good start!

Yesterday I went over 20 ways to save on a road trip. And today I’m going to take you through the details of creating a road trip budget. Creating a budget for a road trip is a little nerdy (what?! nerdy? who? not me!) and maybe a little too Type A for some folks. But I’d highly recommend it. We don’t want to come back after a relaxing trip to a mound of debt. Am I right?!

To help you figure out costs, I recommend the following:

A Travel Budget Calculator
Travel budget calculators are quick and convenient. I like to use online travel calculators like this one and this one for the initial and estimated cost of my trip. Then, I get real nerdy and create a more official budget in Google Drive. With a spreadsheet in Google Drive, I can see the hard numbers, including money I spent before the trip. If I have wifi, I can also update the costs along the way! If you’ve never created a spreadsheet in Google drive here’s a video on how to do that.

A Fuel Cost Calculator
Paying to fuel up your car is no fun– especially if you drive a gas guzzler. With the app and website Gas Buddy, pump prices are no longer a surprise. Just put your route and vehicle information into the calculator and Gas Buddy will pinpoint the cheapest gas on the route, so you know exactly where to fill up and the exact cost!

Don’t forget to factor in costs for:

Tolls
Tolls can be one of those unexpected and bummer costs on a road trip. To avoid an unexpected toll, or even worse getting caught without the cash to pay the toll, put your trip into Google Maps before you leave. Google Maps will warn you if there is toll on your route. You might be able to go around the toll, but sometimes tolls are unavoidable. Most states with tolls will have some sort of prepaid quick pass. Florida has a “Sun Pass” that makes travelling through tolls cheaper and quicker. Just a little bit of Internet searching should bring up the costs of the tolls in the states you are planning to visit.

Food
To me, food costs are the most difficult thing to budget for on a trip. I don’t know what I’ll want to eat tomorrow, so how do I know what I want to eat three months from now?! Unfortunately food costs are more of an estimation. To even attempt a budgetary number, I look at the price range of the restaurants in the area on Yelp. I know that some days a mom & pop diner will do just fine, but other days I’ll want something a little more fancy. It’ll usually even out, but I always give myself a little more wiggle room in this department.

Experiences
Don’t ever forget to budget for experiences. Experiences, like parasailing in the keys or seeing Cirque du Soleil in Vegas can really make your trip. Just do your research before you go! You might be able to find online coupons or discounts for ordering in advance.

Lodging
Lodging will probably be the most expensive part of your trip. Remember, you can ask to stay with relatives or friends, couch surf or even camp. For this trip, we’re planning a combination of budget hotels, a couple days in the lap of luxury and a couple of days camping! That way we get the best of everything! Lodging costs are fairly easy to calculate if you book all your hotels in advance. Remember to always check for discounts and shop around for a hotel. Start your search early and you could save some major buckaroos. Experts recommend booking about 6 weeks out, but for some travel locales (like the beach during the summer) I’d recommend booking much farther in advance.  My favorite hotel deal site is Kayak since it searches all the travel deal sites at once!

Incidentals
It’s the law of the universe. Something is going to happen and you’re going to need a little more money than you thought you would need. It’s always better to over budget and come home with money in your pocket than come home with pockets full of sand and regret.

How do you create a budget for a road trip? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie

 

20 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Road Trip

20 ways to save money on your next road trip

Picture c/o http://usamania.wikispaces.com released under CC licensing.

This summer George and I are taking a road trip to Florida. We’ve been talking about taking this trip for years and I am so pumped that we finally ponied up and planned the thing. I often visited the gulf coast of Florida on family vacations as a child. And I can.not.wait. to (annoyingly) sing entire Jimmy Buffett albums in the car and experience the first time George swims in the warm, clear water of the gulf.

This isn’t our first road trip. Oh no. One summer I lived in California and we drove all the way across the country. I learned quite a bit about road trippin’ and money from that excursion. This time we won’t be traveling quite as far but my budget is still tight. Here’s some of my best tricks and tips to save money on your (and my!) next road trip.

  1. Plan, plan, plan
    Planning is one of the most important aspects of saving money– especially on a road trip. First, create a list of the stops on the trip. Google Maps has a great multiple destinations feature. Using your ideal stops and mileage,  create a budget. I’ll have more tips about the details of creating a road trip budget tomorrow. Knowing where you are going and how much you think it will cost is one of the most essential ways to keep your road trip on the cheap. 
  2. Travel with friends
    By traveling with several people, you’ll be able to split more of the expenses like fuel and hotel rooms. If you like to do your own thing, just let your group know that you like your space too. There’s no shame in needing a little me time.
  3. Expect the unexpected
    So many unexpected things will happen during a road trip– good and bad. You might have car trouble, prepare for that. You might also see something  so kitschy that you just have to stop. The world’s biggest ball of twine, anyone?!
  4. Pack your own food
    Eating on the road will eat through your budget like pac-man eating dots. By packing your own snacks and some meals, you manage to fight the lure of the gas station pretzel and Slurpee. Some of my favorite road trip snacks are: peanut butter and apples, dehydrated fruits and instant coffee! I’ll, of course, have another post about road trip food closer to my trip.
  5. Eat out for lunch instead of dinner
    There comes a time on the road trip when jerky just isn’t going to cut it. Plus, the local cuisine is part of the experience. To cut down on the cost of eating out, try eating at restaurants for lunch instead of dinner. The prices will be lower at lunch time, but you still will be able to savor that local cuisine.
  6. Grocery stores
    Gas station food isn’t very healthy and it’s expensive to boot. Sometimes eating out isn’t much better. Find the local grocery store for healthy and inexpensive fare. George and I will go to the grocery store as one of the first stops when we get to our destination. We stock up on things we couldn’t pack on our road trip like yogurt or milk and store it in our hotel fridge– if we’re lucky enough to have one. This is great for those late night snacks or hotels where breakfast isn’t free.
  7. Stay with people you know
    Relatives and friends have an obligation to let you stay at their house for free. Kidding. But it never hurts to ask if you can stay with relatives or friends who live in cool locals. Offer to cook dinner for them or do other household chores while you are there. Be a good guest and offer the same in return. 
  8. Stay with people you don’t know
    If you don’t know anyone in your desired travel location, you could always try couch surfing. I’ve never tried it, but if I was going to couch surf, I’d be take precautions. I’d only couch surf  with a friend and through a verified organization like Couchsurfing.org.
  9. Collect experiences, not things
    Stay away from souvenirs. You don’t need them. Rely instead on pictures to remember your trip. If you must bring back something for your loved ones, look for something free and memorable. I brought my mom a rock from our trip to the Grand Canyon. Shells from the beach are another total classic.
  10. Take advantage of your smart phone
    What would I have done traveling without a smart phone? Probably eaten at a bunch of crappy restaurants and seen a lot less sights, that’s what. Yelp is one of my favorite tools for scoping out delicious (and cheap!) restaurants in a new city. I also just downloaded the Gas Buddy app for this trip. Gas Buddy helps you find the cheapest gas in your location.
  11. Make some money on the way
    If you are going to travel a long distance, you might as well make some money while you do it! There are a couple of different ways to make money on your road trip. Barnacle uses drivers to deliver packages all over the U.S. If you have a truck, you could also become a carrier for things like furniture and motor vehicles. Check out U Ship for more details.
  12. Camp along the way
    America is a beautiful country with lots of free or low cost camp sites. Even if you aren’t a happy camper (I’m not!) just knowing that I have a hotel booked for the next few nights would soften the blow of spending a night at a campground. It might soften the blow to my wallet too! Recreation.gov is a great place to start your camp ground search.
  13. Kayak.com
    Kayak is my favorite site for travel discounts because it searches all the major travel sites at once. No more going to Priceline to compare it with Orbitz. Kayak does all the work for you!
  14. Ask hotels for discount
    It never hurts to ask for a discount. I highly recommend AAA for roadside assistance. They’ve helped me when I’ve locked my keys in my car– more than once! With AAA, you’ll often get discounts on hotels too!
  15. Don’t forget stuff for the actual trip
    I never leave for a trip without sunscreen, cash and paper towels. Sunscreen is always more expensive at the beach or touristy locations. My bank’s ATM or a Cash Points may be no where in sight. (I hate ATM fees!) And paper towels are a must for quick clean up in the car. In general, all of these items are going to be cheaper for me to buy at home than to buy on the road.
  16. Pack light(er)
    I know, I know, I just said that you need to bring all kinds of stuff. And you need to bring stuff to a point. But packing light(er) will help you to save on gas. I’d consider things like shoes. Do I need 5 pairs of shoes for this trip? Probably not.
  17. Keep your car in tip top shape
    Before you leave on a road trip, get your car checked out by an expert. There is nothing worse than having to buy a big unexpected thing, like tires, on the road.
  18. Fully inflate your tires
    By keeping your tires fully inflated, you’ll save on gas. Fully-inflated tires also are more environmentally friendly and believe it or not, help prevent accidents!  Periodically check them at gas stops and you could save a cost of $300-500 per year!
  19. Maintain steady speed
    Keeping a steady speed is essential for achieving optimal fuel economy. Tests from The Energy Conservation Japan show that “varing your speed up and down between 75 km/h and 85 km/h every 18 seconds can increase your fuel use by 20 percent.” So, put on that cruise control and ease on down the road, baby!
  20. Make travel a priority
    Travel is a big priority in my life. I save for it just as I save for retirement. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret not taking George to see the clear, blue-green water of the gulf coast. That’s why each month I sock a little bit away just for travel.

What are your best road trip money saving tips? Let me know in the comments!

love,
melanie