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January 2020

san francisco skyline

More Unbelievable California Travel Deals!

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SoCal is where it’s at – but what about our beautiful sister locales up to the North? Whether we’re talking about the can’t-be-missed Bay Area, beautiful, sunny Monterrey or the Redwood forests of the North, California has a little something for everyone.

Visit Beautiful San Francisco

The main star of Northern California will always be San Francisco, so you’ll hear me talking mostly about that part of the state today. The rents there are high for a reason – the quality of life can’t be beat there, with dizzying, spectacular summits to intense greenery to the lull of urban life.

Have you ever taken a drive down Lombard Street? Do you have a car with reliable brakes? Hopefully, you do! What about an amazing, luxurious night in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco?

 

travel san francisco

This classic neighborhood is the gateway to tourist attractions such as Alcatraz or bay boat rides and is one of the busiest tourist destinations in the city, including historic ships and spectacular views of the Bay Bridge. 

Don’t be afraid of dive bars in the wharf – there’s INCREDIBLE food around every corner, even in those places that seem a little off the beaten path or less populated. Fresh, hot clam chowder, soft shell crab and mouth-watering ice cream treats are all a part of the Fisherman’s Wharf experience.

It’s absolutely a little pricier than other areas of the city, but budgeting for a luxury hotel, mostly walking and heading off the beaten path for your basics will help minimize some of the costs.

 

Bay Area on a Budget

You don’t have to stay in San Francisco to enjoy the Bay Area properly. San Mateo and other coastal towns are beautiful, less pricey, and offer travel options to and from the city so you can buckle up all the adventures you desire without the hefty price tag. 

Here’s our pick for a fun Bay Area vacation hotel that won’t break the bank:

The Ritz San Francisco

 

Even renting a car at the airport and traversing for a few days may actually save you more cash in the long run than staying in San Francisco – BUT, if you know you absolutely must have the city experience, the Hotel G is a well-known area hotel that can help you save by cutting some minimal comforts.

 

Our pick is the slight drive out of town, which comes with picturesque views of the bay and the Pacific – but if you know you’re going to be out and about, enjoying the scenery, the Hotel G may be a good choice for you.

hotel G

 

Happy traveling! And don’t forget to save big on travel with the JIFU.com travel portal!

What is a JIFU Buddy Pass?

By | JIFU Buddy Pass, JIFU Success, Travel Tips | 2 Comments

How does the Free JIFU buddy pass save me money?

The JIFU Buddy Pass is a free option for anyone wanting to use the JIFU system. 

Here’s how it works, when a hotel, rental car, airline or cruise ship has vacancies, they upload them to a database at a huge discount. Then the travel sites, including JIFU, get special access to these highly discounted rates. The big sites mark the prices up for their customers, at JIFU we do not mark up the price. With your JIFU monthly membership, you can access that SAME inventory with NO markup. JIFU members score great deals not available to the public. This way, you know you are getting the best deal out there with no surprise markups at the end of the checkout process.

Watch the video below.

Claim your buddy pass here for free: JIFU.com

What to do in New Orleans during Mardi Gras

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5 Reasons to Travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is a holiday that we have all heard about or even celebrate at home, but everyone should experience it at least once in their life like a local.

What is Mardi Gras? 

Mardi gras is an old tradition that backdates thousands of years, which began in Rome as a celebration of the new Christian faith that was brought to their culture. They created this holiday to celebrate the combination of their original faith with the brand new one. 

The official date of Mardi Gras falls on “Fat Tuesday”, which is the day before the Fasting begins for the individuals who follow the culture, but these celebrations can last for weeks! These festivities typically stretch from the 2 weeks before the holiday all the way up until the official Fat Tuesday, which falls on February 25th this year, but always takes place 47 days before Easter. 

Well… where is it? 

The Mardi Gras festivals are held in New Orleans, Louisiana where the very first celebration was held in 1699! These parades take place on the streets of New Orleans, but mainly on St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street, although the celebrations take over New Orleans as a whole, and people are partying all over!

@seemoris

New Orleans is a vibrant city with a one of a kind atmosphere. Surrounded by exotic food, people, and memorable attractions. With that, here are my top 5 reasons to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras on your bucket list. 

1. If you enjoy the nightlife, you can stay right in the middle of the action!  

There are many hotels spread out extremely close to the parade streets, as well as the famous Bourbon Street! There are choices between right in the party scene, one or two blocks away from Bourbon, or you can choose to give yourself a break from the celebrations with hotels farther from the party. You can use JIFU to find the best accommodations for your Mardi Gras trip, including flights, hotels, and even restaurants around the town. 

2. Explore Bourbon Street!

Bourbon Street is famous for it’s “party scene”, which is true! This 13-block street is packed with restaurants, clubs, and bars. Among them are the most popular restaurants to eat at, Galatoire’s, Cornet, and of course Brennan’s Bourbon House (which in my opinion) takes the title. The places to eat on Bourbon Street range from alligator burger joints to five-star luxury restaurants, so there are many options to choose from! 

For those traveling without the kids, there are many famous bars on Bourbon who, during Mardi Gras, are well known for their exotic-looking cocktails. The most famous bars include Tropical Isle, Pat O’ Brien’s, and the Old Absinthe House. Now, of course, there are many more options than these, but the must-have tourist drinks include the Hurricane and the Hand Grenade. 

Last but certainly not least, the live music, karaoke, and street performers on Bourbon Street. Although this street is mainly food and drinks, it is still a must-go when in New Orleans.

@bjean05

3. Enjoy Mardi Gras! 

The iconic Mardi Gras parades run all day long, and they all hold the same excitement. Beads, masks, costumes, and floats run up and down the streets of New Orleans in celebration of this traditional holiday. The excitement and high energy scene make for a tiring day, but worth every second! Dancing, singing, and all-around celebration for this holiday that has been going on for centuries is a landmark for this city.

@cytngl

4. See the history of New Orleans

In addition to Mardi Gras, New Orleans has plenty more to offer with its rich history and nightlife scene. Even though Mardi Gras in New Orleans will be crowded as ever, the history of the town is being shown in its full! Different historic attractions include The French Quarter, The Cabildo, The Mardi Gras Museum, and so many others. This city is filled with culture and excitement besides just Mardi Gras and is a great place to explore. 

5. Get out of your comfort zone! 

Traveling somewhere to celebrate a holiday that isn’t typically celebrated everywhere may seem like a huge step out of your comfort zone, but experiencing another culture at their best and happiest is unlike anything else. JIFU allows you to save money while experiencing something brand new and exciting, making sure that you are able to take the best trip at the best price.

santa monica pier

Top 5 Affordable Hotel Deals in Southern California

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If you haven’t spent any time in California, what is there to talk about? Book a flight now! (And do it through the JIFU travel portal, so you can save some cash!)

I’m in love with the place. So few states in the US cover such different terrain, have such friendly people and offer such incredible sights to see and things to do. I have the fortune of being able to spend tons of time throughout various parts of California, so I wanted to give you a quick and easy guide to some of my favorite (and cheapest!) stays across different parts of the state.

First, we’ll cover the LA and San Diego areas/Southern California, then we’ll move up north to the Bay Area, Redlands and other can’t miss sites that should definitely be on your list!

 

Pico Rivera: Epic Hotel

It’s no secret that staying a bit off the beaten path will help you save. If you’re looking for the Los Angeles experience without the LA prices, I recommend renting a car after your flight and staying somewhere Orange County proper. San Clemente, Orange, and Anaheim (though be careful of those Disney prices!) are all great alternatives, and they’re relatively safe.

My LA pick is the Epic Hotel in Pico Rivera. JIFU pretty much always has a good deal going for this place:

epic hotel oc

It’s compact, it’s cute, it has everything you need, you’re not going to be paying an arm and a leg and there are unexpected amenities like cute little computer desks. The proximity to places like UCLA and even Disneyland are worth the stay. The Epic is my pick for the OC area.

 

Long Beach: The Queen Mary

This is one of our hidden gems on the portal. When people think of staying in LA, they likely don’t consider a giant ship. The Queen Mary is such a cool place to stay – and the price is VERY affordable for a beach stay in the area. You can get the boat experience, then jump right off the boat and take a five-minute walk to Long Beach’s recreation area.

visit the queen mary

We’ve heard it’s an especially good trip if you have kids, and you can’t beat the price.

Venice Beach: The Cadillac Hotel

This is hands-down one of my favorite places to stay in LA. It’s RIGHT on the beach, which is rare for a hotel of its quality, value, and price. It’s safe, there’s always a nice breeze blowing through, and you’re right smack in the middle of some of the best eating in Venice (including the charming Candle Cafe right next door, which is perfect for brunch!

cadillac hotel venice

I LOVE Venice and would move there if the rents weren’t so high. Being one of the most reasonably priced properties in the entire area, you can stay for a week without putting out too much coin and get the real Venice/LA experience. Cafe Gratitude, Moon Juice, and other Venice mainstays are right down the road – and at night, a rooftop view of the sunset over Venice and Santa Monica offers breathtaking views. Plus, you’re a few minutes’ walk from the Santa Monica pier, which you can’t miss.

 

San Diego: Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn

I LOVED this hotel. This beauty is located on Shelter Island, a lesser-known part of San Diego that’s much quieter, where you’ll experience less of the hubbub of Ocean Beach and similar communities. It’s got a neat little lounge inside, all the amenities, and it’s close to all the noteworthy sites in San Diego. It’s a must-stay!

humphreys deals

 

San Diego: Seaworld Area

If you’re planning on visiting SeaWorld, this Comfort Inn can’t be beaten. I personally have a preference for out-of-the-box local hotels, but this hotel is truly perfect. It has all you need for a great time at SeaWorld with the fam – and you really can’t beat the 27% price savings through the JIFU travel portal!

visit comfort inn seaworldThere’s SO much to see and do in Southern California, and this is only the tip of the iceberg! Make sure to check the JIFU travel portal for more incredible deals.

More Affordable Mediterranean Deals!

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Welcome back to Part II of the “Mediterranean Trips You Can Afford” series! 

So it’s January, and I’m NOT feeling it. I’m so over this weather, too – and I’ve been spending pretty much the entire last few days in the JIFU portal, daydreaming about exotic trips to the next few places on my list. In no particular order, my next three favorite Mediterranean stops are Cyprus, Montenegro, and Monaco.

 

Staying in Cyprus: Fall in Love with Paphos!

I’m a big fan of Paphos. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Cyprus, you’d be hard-pressed not to end up somewhere near this city. It’s sincerely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. And just 11km away is Coral Bay. Look at this place:

explore paphos

And before you say, “Amber, I think you and I have two completely different ideas about what’s affordable and what’s not,” just look at these prices.

 

paphos travel deals

The good thing about JIFU’s portal is that you can find pretty much anything you’re looking for, from the swankier vacation to the basic needs met that will allow you to simply enjoy your time outside and catch those Coral Bay views.

You’ll find more than a few ‘tavern’ spots in Paphos. My favorite is Michael’s Tavern, a Cypriot mainstay with elegant eats as well as mezedes (small plates) that would please the palate of any weary traveler.

 

Living it Up in Montenegro

A friend took me to Montenegro in my early 20s, and I’ve been trying to get back there ever since. One of my favorite spots is Sveti Stefan, an islet with a fancy hotel and a monastery tucked away along the Adriatic coast. You need to travel over a highway surrounded by water to get there, and the Adriatic is a clear, sparkling blue – so clear in fact, you can see the ancient rocks and earth holding up the islet as if you’re looking through glass. 

Taking a look at JIFU travel deals for this month in Sveti Stefan, I found these two beauties:

travel sveti stefan

These aren’t your typical elbow-to-elbow European hotel rooms. Villas with pools and whole apartments can be rented out for a few days or weeks, and Montenegro is small enough to explore in under a week, even if you stay on Sveti Stefan. Don’t get me wrong, there’s more food there than you could possibly ever try in your lifetime! You can, however, check off the major travel boxes in just a few days. Plus, you can earn extra JIFU rewards points by paying in cash at the hotel upon arrival.

 

Hit the Casino in Monaco

I’m not normally into gambling, but THIS is no US Casino. The Casino Monte-Carlo on Place du Casino is very close to the water, and the restaurants and lounge bar has a Monaco elegance that makes the trip worth it. I recommend Le Train Bleu Italian restaurant in the casino proper, or you can have a nightcap at the Lounge Bar Salle Europe.

Just a word of warning: Monaco CAN get a little pricey. I recommend this booking deal from the JIFU portal if you’re considering a visit to Monaco.

visiting monacoThese cute apartments are efficient and reliable and give you everything you need to explore Monaco on foot.

 

Honestly, I could keep going and going – the Mediterranean can’t be beaten no matter what side of it you’re on. Don’t forget to check out our special deals using the JIFU Travel Portal. See you in Cyprus!

 

Mediterranean Trips You Can Afford!

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Looking for affordable Mediterranean trips? You’re not dreaming – you CAN afford a Mediterranean cruise or even a brief jaunt. Okay, so I have a thing with Mediterranean Travel. Ever since reading The Odyssey as a kiddo, I’m all about sailing the balmy seas around the Greek isles with my partner and best friends.

I also have a pretty intense thing for food – and I’m telling you, what you can eat in Cyprus or Athens at this time of year beats ANY niche takeout you can get at home. Do you think all tzatziki sauce is the same? Trust me, you haven’t tried tzatziki until you’ve tried it sitting in an authentic Greek cafe.

But that’s beside the point. You need a little getaway, a trip that’s not just about relaxing and renewing yourself but building memories that last a lifetime. So let’s take a look at six budget-conscious, totally affordable places on the Mediterranean that will give you a little of both.

 

Discover Malta

Malta’s a cute little island south of Sicily, one in a chain of three islands: Malta, Comino, and Gozo. Each of these islands has its own unique characteristics, and are worth a visit without breaking your bank!

My hands-down favorite thing about Malta is history. I’m no history buff,  but I have to tell you – the ruins of old Malta take you back to a whimsical life, with incredible architecture made for the gods. Malta makes you feel as if you should be holding a glass of wine while taking in the breathtaking views. You won’t want to miss Mdina, Malta’s ancient capital, known for its famous circled forts on the outside and its cool boutiques, cafes, and activities within the city itself.

I also REALLY love Gozo’s Ggantija temples, which have been around even longer than the periods. The temple stones are massive, and it’s difficult to think about how they were fashioned, considering the temple itself has been around longer than the wheel. You CANNOT miss Ggantija.

For eats, I recommend Pappani’s in Valletta, Malta’s capital city. It’s got the old world Italian dishes and wines you’d expect from a Mediterranean town. It’s always SUPER busy, or at least it was the few times I’ve visited – so you’ll want to make sure to grab a reservation before heading that way. If you’re nervous about the language barrier, you’ll find that the folks on the phone typically speak English.

In terms of places to stay, check out the Grand Harbour Hotel in Valletta. With harbor views, breezy rooms and rustic, old-world charm, this was the perfect hotel for me and one other guest. In case you’ve never been to Europe, keep in mind the rooms can get small  – so you’ll want to plan on using the room for sleeping and that’s about it. But it’s definitely comfortable, the views are killer, and it’s also affordable. Right now JIFU has Grand Harbour Hotel deals at only $85 a night – woot! This is a great rate for a mid-level hotel in Malta.

 

Grand Harbour Malta

Traveling in Santorini

Okay, confession time, I’ve been to Santorini many times. There’s a ton of tourist activity there, but I think it’s definitely worth a view. It’s one of those absolute must-see places, and the architecture against the clear blue sea is a view so breathtaking, you might shed a tear or two. I know I did!

In case it wasn’t obvious from my raving about Ggantija, I’m really into ruins. Thera in Santorini is one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. A long, rocky path up a mountain takes you through the ruins of what was once an ancient capital city. There’s a bit of a hike/climb involved, so keep that in mind, you’ll want to pack your walking shoes. It’s also a bit high up – but if you’re a risk-taker when it comes to heights, the stunning views are worth it.

If you’re a fan of seafood, you MUST try Metaxí Mas, on Exo Gonia. For seafood fans, their seafood pasta with prawns is well worth the wait. Definitely utilize their outdoor seating!

If you’re looking to travel to Santorini, a European cruise is one way to do it. For less than $2000 a person, Norwegian hits both Santorini and our next island, Mykonos, for a 12-night European hauler that takes you across five different countries. While you’ll want to budget a little more for food, entertainment, and trinkets on all your stops, it’s well worth it for the vacation of a lifetime. Now don’t forget about shopping and dining, save money on a crazy deal with JIFU and treat yourself with a 5-star dining experience you can find in our travel portal!

 

Exploring Mykonos

Mykonos has a reputation as a party island in Greece. Truly, every island in Greece is a party island if you’re with the right people. I enjoy my parties with as few people as possible, and that’s why I highly recommend visiting Ftelia Beach if you’re headed to Mykonos.

Ftelia is the “less-crowded’ option on an island virtually surrounded by water, with all the sand you could hope for. The keyword here is, chill. It’s a chill place to spend time with your friends and relax for drinks at the Ftelia Beach Club. There’s white sand everywhere, and you can save your non-relaxation time for a four-hour tour of Mykonos’ relics and ruins later on in the trip. This one’s my favorite:

 

Mykonos JIFU Travel

 

We’re not finished here! There’s even more Mediterranean goodness headed your way tomorrow,  as we discuss Cyprus, Montenegro, and Monaco. And as always, take a look at time-limited deals and savings from JIFU! It’s how I book ALL my travel, and I’m excited to be a JIFU Ambassador!