Get Your Thrills For Cheap in Sandusky, Ohio

23 03 2012

Since I was born and raised near Cleveland, Ohio, it has been a tradition of mine to go to (in my humble opinion) the world’s best amusement park Cedar Point at LEAST once every summer. I only live about 2 hours away from Sandusky, Ohio where the park is located, so the drive is no big deal to me. For anyone reading this that isn’t from Ohio- I SERIOUSLY recommend traveling (no matter how far) to Cedar Point and Kalahari for a quick, fun and cheap weekend getaway.

So what’s Cedar Point? 

Cedar Point Amusement Park

A View of the Park, courtesy TLC.com

According to the Cedar Point website:
“Cedar Point is known for a couple of things. It’s known as the roller coaster capitol of the world. But some  just refer to Cedar Point as the world’s best amusement park. Cedar Point is an amusement park that brings    people together through thrills. With 120 mph roller coasters that have 80 degree drops. An amusement park that, on top of roller coasters, has exhilarating thrill rides. An amusement park that has rides for the entire family and gives you water rides…”

As an avid fan, I can really say that all of this is true. That moment before you drop over the hill on the world’s second tallest roller coaster Top Thrill Dragster or the rush you get on The Maverick when you drop down an inverted hill are feelings you will never forget. If you aren’t a big thrill-seeker, Cedar Point has plenty of tame rides you can enjoy like the Ferris Wheel or the spider ride. Cedar Point is also about to start featuring more nighttime attractions to give it a Disney Land type feeling with fireworks and large shows.

The good news about all of this is that Cedar Point is pretty cheap. For a full day, tickets are 52 dollars and 47 if you order online. However, I recommend going to Marc’s or AAA and you and get tickets for about 40 dollars. If you want to wait until later at night to go, you can get Starlight Tickets for 33 dollars. Not to bad when you think about all Cedar Point has to offer. Really, a day isn’t even long enough to do everything the park has to offer.

Cool off at the water park

While you are already in Sandusky, I also recommend that you check out Kalahari water park. I am usually not one big on that sort of

Kalahari Water Park

The Outdoor Pool at Kalahari, courtesy kalahari.com

thing, but it was actually pretty fun! Kalahari is an African-themed water park that has a ton of water slides, a lazy river, a wave pool and lounge pools among other things. If you get sick of being in the water, the place is also stocked with a huge arcade room and zip lines! Also, for the adults, they have a full bar and nice little “huts” that you can rent. Tickets to the water park are 50 dollars but, once again, if you have a AAA membership you can get tickets for cheaper.
My recommendation

Since these parks are only about ten minutes away from each other, I recommend you make a weekend out of it. My friend and I did it this summer and had a blast. To save money, rather than paying to stay at one of the pricey resort hotels, we decided to stay at the Motel 6. Now don’t laugh or scoff, the motel was actually very nice. Yes, there were not a lot of amenities but they had a really nice pool, the rooms were clean and the staff was very friendly. In fact, we met a group of other young people like ourselves from Chicago trying to save money and they seemed to enjoy the motel just as much as we did. The room for one night was about 40 dollars.

The total price for this trip was around 150 dollars and it was an extremely enjoyable and relaxing weekend. I realize it might be more expensive for people driving or flying from further away, but I really believe these are two places everyone should check out in their travels.





Hotels To Allow Reviews on Web Pages

7 03 2012

Chances are, before you go on vacation and book a room at a hotel, you most likely checked out hotel reviews before hand. Just like restaurant or movie reviews, it can be confusing because you don’t really know who to trust and what to believe. I once had an awful experience in a hotel that had all pretty positive reviews and, conversely, a great hotel experience in a place that had fairly negative reviews.

I stumbled upon a USA Today article discussing the new trend of hotels embracing these hotel reviews. I don’t mean just reviews on other websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, but hotels are actually allowing people to post reviews on their own websites. These are major hotels too like, Hilton and Starwood (the world’s largest hotel chain). As a PR student, I think this brings up interesting points to mull over.

The Good

Survey Reviews

courtesy blogs.villagevoice.com

To be honest, I think many good things can come from this approach. First of all, I believe allowing for these posts will make the hotel look better. It shows that management is proud of their hotel and that they are confident that people will have pretty good experiences when they stay there. Transparency is key here, and I think this is great that hotel chains want to be open and honest with consumers about what it is like to stay at these hotels on vacation. Also, think about when you go to create a resume or LinkedIn profile. Talking about yourself and all of the great things you can do is awesome (if it’s not exaggerated), but doesn’t it make you seem a lot more valuable if you have other people (bosses, teachers, former co-workers, etc.) talking about how valuable you are? Having a third party endorsement makes you seem much more credible, and this is the benefit of allowing for reviews to be posted on your website. I also think this can make users lives easier when they go to book a room. Instead of having to search around multiple review sites, everything they need can be right found right on the hotel’s page!

The Bad

From a consumer standpoint, I see mostly positives coming from this new approach, but then this also opens the door for disaster. What if your hotel ends up getting so many bad reviews that it is put out of business and all of those people loose their jobs? I also feel

Complainers Cartoon

A Cartoon About Complainers courtesy http://www.suzeoge.com

that this opens the door for the ever present “negative Nancy’s.” We all know people like this, they find one little thing wrong and they fixate on it. I believe these negative Nancy’s would be more likely to post reviews, even if it was something really small (the ice machine was broken on my floor for two hours and it ruined my WHOLE vacation…really? Who Cares?!). After all, isn’t there some sort of saying that people are much more likely to complain about something then say something positive. Couldn’t this just encourage negative people to respond and couldn’t these negative people turn off potential customers?

Possibility of ethical issues

Just like a company’s social media page, allowing people to post things about your hotel can raise some ethical concerns that need to be watched out for. First, there is the issue of deleting negative posts. No matter how awful a review is, it can be argued that you should never delete negative posts (unless there is profanity). This is what transparency is all about- being open and honest about your company and allowing customers to be open and honest about their experiences with your product or brand.

Second, in my humble opinion, is that it is SO important to make sure that you do not have people who work for your company posting reviews. To me, this is a deal breaker. How many times do you read reviews and think to yourself, “this sounds so insanely positive to me, it has to be someone working for the company.” Also, remember if someone won a contest and stayed at the hotel for free or something of that nature, you need to make sure (according to FTC law) that they disclose that fact. Without complete honesty, this new hotel review process is doomed to fail.

What do you guys think? Is this a good idea or not one of your favorites? Regardless of what you believe, reviews are just that- REVIEWS. Always take them with a grain of salt.





Planning Your Road Trip

1 03 2012

I hope up to this point in my blog you have thought of me as a sane and rational person, but now I am about to spew a little bit of crazy at you and talk about my 21-hour road trip down to Austin, Texas.
While taking a road trip isn’t anything too weird, I should tell you the reason I decided to take this road trip with my friend Irene was

View of Austin From Our Hotel

to see my favorite band 100 Monkeys. You may not know who they are, but Jackson Rathbone from the “Twilight Saga” happens to be in the band, which has given them a lot more notice recently. Anyways, the band was offering a Sheraton Hotel and “meet the band” deal and a former roommate of mine lived close by, so I felt the opportunity was to good to pass up ($100 per person for a room, concert ticket, champagne toast, and autographed pictures). Plus, I have always wanted to go on a road trip. So let’s talk travel!

Planning

Planning the road trip was definitely the easiest part and we were able to figure out roughly how much the trip would cost from the get-go. The first thing anyone should do before planning a road-trip is figure out how much your gas will cost! I used gas buddy, a simple site where you enter your start and end points and what type of car you have and then viola, you have your round-trip cost! Our trip ended being around $115 per person, which wasn’t too bad when you compared it to the $400 airplane ticket.

Taking a road trip saves you a lot of money and you get to see some pretty interesting things. You also really get a chance to bond with the people you are driving with. But, there are many things you need to be careful of and I’d like to offer four pointers.

1) Don’t pre-plan who is driving

Ford Focus

My Car "Old Blue" Courtesy autobug.com

Irene and I had planned to switch drivers every four hours. Despite what some sites may say, this did not end up working because there are many things you don’t think about. First, we were driving my car, so I found that I had trouble sleeping when my friend was driving and conversely, she nervous to be driving my car. That being said, I ended up driving a lot more on the first stretch of the trip while Irene spent less time driving and more time getting used to handling my car. On the way back, however, I found that I was so exhausted that I was able to sleep a lot more and Irene was so anxious to get back home, so she drove a lot more return trip. Keep in mind your planning might not work and don’t be afraid to adapt.

2) DON’T push yourself to keep driving if you can’t

This is so important, because safety is key on a road trip. I remember two particularly scary moments. At one point, I thought a person was in the middle of the freeway and started to slam on my breaks. Second, there was a huge sign that said a freeway exit was closed and I thought the sign was in the middle of the freeway and that we were going to fall off the road (think the bus jump scene in the movie Speed). Clearly, I was WAY too tired to be driving. I woke my friend up and told her what happened and she was more than willing to switch off with me.

3) Get gas when you hit ¾ a tank

While we went during the winter time (meaning a lot of nighttime driving), I feel like this always applies. You never know when the next gas station will pop up and if it will be open. Once you see you are at ¾ a tank, look get off an fill up at the first station you see. It prevents you from being nervous.

4) MapQuest and your GPS might not be the same 

Cactus

Me and Our "Cactus"

Much to my dismay, after finally falling asleep I was smacked awake from my friend and she was panicking wondering why we were in Missouri. We had studied the MapQuest directions and Missouri was not a state we were supposed to be traveling through. Obviously,

the GPS got us there but I question if it was the best route. We traveled a lot on two lane freeways with little to no street lamps and a lot of trucks. Talk about scary! So think about this before you embark.

Overall, I am glad I went on this road trip. I must say though, I think I would prefer to spend the extra cash next time to keep me calm. Taking a road trip really isn’t how they make it seem in the movies!





Pack Light, Save Money

23 02 2012

If you have been on an airplane recently, then you’ve noticed that it now costs money to check luggage (I mean how dare anyone bring clothes on vacation, right?).  Packing your bags well is one of the best ways to make traveling more comfortable and can help save you some cash (the last time I traveled it was $25 each way to check a bag). If your stuff takes up less space, you can take a smaller bag that can hopefully be carried on. While rolling  your clothes is a pretty popular trend, I wanted to bring up a pretty handy method of packing called bundling.

Bundling (sometimes called wrapping or interfolding) is a great way to pack your clothes. Bundling means wrapping your clothes around an object which will help to avoid the folds that cause creases and wrinkling. It’s also a HUGE space saver!

A "Core" Object Courtesy TomBihn.com

Begin by selecting the object that will form the core for the bundle like an organizer pouch. If you don’t have one of those, anything around 11 × 16″ (30 × 40cm) should work just fine.  But, I seriously recommend buying one because they have been EXTREMELY helpful to me. Make sure the pouch is filled with soft items — like socks and undergarments- to make it feel almost like a pillow.

You also need to make sure to wrap the clothes in a specific order with larger garments on the outside of the bundle. Don’t forget to make sure everything is buttoned! Pro-packer Doug Dyment suggests this order:

1- Jacket

2- Skirts, dresses (though a particularly long, straight dress or skirt might be better placed before the jacket)

3- Long-sleeved shirts

4- Short-sleeved shirts

5- Pants

6- Sweaters and other knits

7- Shorts

When all items are down, place the core on top, forming the center of the bundle. Now, work your way back down the clothing stack, wrapping each piece around the bundle before moving on to the next one. For clothes with sleeves, wrap one side of the garment around the bundle as far as it will go ; repeat with the other side. Next, bring up the bottom of the garment, wrapping it as far around the bundle as it will go. Jackets are the exception to the rule, with their sleeves (because of the tailoring in the shoulders) crossed, forming more of an X-shape around the bundle.

Photo courtesy Core77.com

Wrap everything as tightly as possible (this prevents wrinkles from forming, but make sure it’s not so tight that the cloth is actually stretched). Unless it’s a very nice tailored jacket, all garments should be face up and make sure you smooth everything out. As you add additional garments, alternate the way you are placing them “up and down” (to maintain an even thickness), with their collar edges aligning with (or extending slightly beyond) the top and bottom edges of the soon-to-be-added core. Pants and most skirts alternate “left and right” (skirts are often folded lengthwise first), with the left and right edges of the core. The diagram to the right should help.

Another advantage of this approach is that it reduces the overall volume of your packed clothing to a considerably smaller size than simply “folding and stacking”, or using a vacuum-bag. I highly recommend this tip as paying to check your luggage is a HUGE annoyance and a waste of your hard-earned money. Check out a complete guide of how to bundle your clothes on YouTube if you still are unsure. This tactic has worked well for me but if anyone out there has any packing tips, please feel free to tell me about them in the comment section below.





Booking Your Spring Break Vacation

14 02 2012

It may seem hard to believe, but spring break is just around the corner. It’s time to start planning so you can get the best and cheapest deals without being scammed. I know it can be overwhelming to try and plan these things with all your friends so I wanted to share my amazing experience from my spring break trip to Cancun, Mexico (or “Mancun” as my three friends and I affectionately called it

Some of my Friends and New Australian Friends at The Hotel

because for some reason there seemed to be WAY more men than woman) last March. This trip was one of my favorites as I was able to meet people from all over the world and the United States and had an amazing time.

Total Cost

For this vacation, my friends and I booked our vacation through StudentCity. You might recognize the name because the cast of the Real World Cancun worked for them, or maybe just because the company is popular among college students. For our all-inclusive trip (this means airfare, food and drinks, party package and hotel room) we spent $1,400.  Not too bad, but was it worth it? The answer is absolutely yes!

The StudentCity Experience

Although my friends and I chose to go to Cancun, StudentCity offers plenty of other places to choose from with the same benefits. At first, I was worried because I wasn’t sure if I was really getting a deal and I am always leery to trust travel companies. But when they say all-inclusive, they mean it. All food and drinks (alcohol as well) were paid for at the hotel. In addition, representatives also give everyone coupons for other restaurants around town. To get away from the hotel food, we did take advantage of some of these deals like getting a $1 dollar sub from Subway and a $5 meal from the Hard Rock Café. When you walk in to the hotel you are also given three different wristbands. Be CAREFUL! If you lose these you are out of luck and might not be able to get all of the benefits. One of those was for free food and drinks, one showed you stayed in the hotel and the other one got you access to nightlife. Every day and night, there

My Friends and I By The Beach

was a sponsored party at one of the nightclubs or restaurants on the main “strip.” The wristbands allowed you to cut the line, walk in without paying any cover and get unlimited free drinks.

Once my friends and I arrived in Cancun, all we had to do was walk out of the airport and we immediately saw a clearly marked StudentCity bus that shuttled you to the hotel for free. Once you got on the shuttle and were with students from all over who were going to one of the three hotels that StudentCity placed people in. This was great as me and my three friends met a group of guys from Connecticut that we ended up hanging out with for most of the trip. It was nice and made us feel a little bit “safer” when we went out.

But this was really the great thing about StudentCity…everyone who booked through it were on the same two or three floors. Since we were all at the same hotel, there was a sense of comradery as you end up seeing the same faces every day. This is where my love for Australia stemmed from as I met a few different groups of people from the country. I still talk to the Australian’s I met in addition to the group of guys from Connecticut (thank god for social media). It was so great to meet all of these different kinds of people which is why I would recommended booking through this company. In addition, they have representatives everywhere that will walk you to and from the bars to make sure you arrive safely.

The only drawback is that since the company books your flights for you, you can get stuck with some pretty bad departure times. We had to get up at 3 am when we left forCancunand 7 am after staying out till 5 am the night before.

                                         Our Hotel

Brittany and I in the Pool

StudentCity gave us three options for hotel choices, and we decided to stay at the Krystal Cancun.   Although it was the most expensive hotel on the list, we chose it because it was closer to the bars and restaurants and was where all the “official” StudentCity events took place. Now I am not sure how any of the other hotels were, but our hotel was surprisingly nice for a bunch of spring break kids. The rooms and hallways were clean, the beach and swim-up bar pool were great and the staff was VERY helpful. I figured we might not be treated the same as other guests there on honeymoon’s or just visiting, but we were treated with nothing but kindness and we even got to know one of the bartenders (I still miss Luis). Although there was sometimes a lack of variety in the food served at the hotel (I think we had burgers and fries for lunch almost every day), it was always very good and all water in the hotel was purified. I would highly recommend this hotel even though it was $300 more than the other two hotels.

Favorite Bar/Restaurant

Most of The Boys From Connecticut and Us Getting Ready for a "White Party"

I think hands down one of everyone’s favorite bars in Cancun was Senor Frogs. My friends and I went there for happy hour and had a BLAST. The food and drinks were great (and also free thanks to StudentCity) and the place was just so fun. They had a big stage in which one of the boys from Connecticut embarrassed himself by spilling his drink all over him. They had contests and line dancing , but the best part about this place was the water slide. It was a little scary looking at first because you climb up a straight latter on the wall and then you would get dumped outside in the lake. We were all scared to do it at first, but finally we all caved and went down the slide. What a rush!

So What Are You Waiting For?

Overall, my spring break experience was so pleasant, and I think $1400 is reasonable for a college student when I only ended up spending maybe 25 dollars on anything extra there. There was such a spirit of friendship amongst everyone that booked through StudentCity and all of the staff was very helpful. I would recommend this for any budget-conscience traveler!





Nightmare on the Tarmac: Continental Airlines Crisis PR Plan

8 02 2012

As a PR graduate student at Kent State, I think it is important to bring up some public relations news as it relates to the hospitality industry. I think it’s safe to say people who travel frequently have probably had a bad airline experience at one point in their lives. Whether it’s missing a flight, standing in line for way to long in security, or even sitting next to a crying baby, flying isn’t always easy.

This is why I took particular interest in the Continental Airlines “nightmare” flight that happened in 2009. I know this particular case is a bit dated, but I really think it brings up some crucial issues in both industries.

So what happened?

On Aug. 7, 2009 Continental flight 2186 departed from the Houston Intercontinental Airport at 9:30 p.m. and was scheduled to arrive in Minneapolis-St. Paul at midnight. Two hours into the flight, the plane was diverted to Rochester,Minnesota due to severe thunderstorms. According to ExpressJet (Continental owns ExpressJet) spokesperson Kristy Nicholas, 49 passengers and two babies were stuck inside the plane sitting on the Rochester Airport tarmac for almost six hours before they were allowed to deplane and wait inside the airport. Around 9:15 a.m. passengers were told to get back on the same plane, which landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International around 11 p.m. the next day. The passengers were not given any food besides bags of pretzels and according to passengers the plane started to smell.

                                                                                               

Photo Courtesy Google Images

 

How did Continental handle the situation? 

Continental Airlines provided some explanation as to why the passengers were not permitted to exit the plane. In a news release from ExpressJet, Nicholas said “due to the time of night, the ground handler did not have the resources to allow the customers to deplane safely.” Since there were no security crews at the airport, the passengers were not legally allowed to exit the plane. In the same news release Nicholas said that ExpressJet also tried to arrange bus service to Minneapolis but couldn’t because of “flooding in the area.” She also claimed that the ground crew at the airport wasn’t cooperating and initially blamed the mix up on Delta.

When the passengers finally got off the plane, Continental deferred all questions to ExpressJet, which operated the flight as a regional flight under the Continental logo. This left some of the passengers confused and more disgruntled. Despite the initial confusion, both Continental and its subsidiary ExpressJet issued formal apologies a few days later and that passenger safety and the legal requirements were the primary concern.

This event warranted national news attention because it renewed calls from consumer advocates for passenger rights. This really got me thinking. With the whole body image scanning issues and charging people to check bags, it seems like passengers really have NO rights anymore. Does anyone agree?

What this means for PR

This case also brings up many interesting points from a PR perspective because there was a clear lack of communication with passengers and Continental and ExpressJet did not respond to the situation quickly enough. I believe Continental initially took the wrong approach to deal with the situation. Although they did issue an apology, it took too long. Most of the passengers did not realize that ExpressJet was the company in charge of the plane.

Photo Courtesy Google Images

Because Continental originally deferred all questions on the plane delay to ExpressJet, they lost some credibility and it appeared that they did not want to take responsibility. This original blame-placing on Delta may have created an atmosphere of distrust with the public. If I were the PR professional in this case, I would have had a better crisis communications team in place. Continental must have been aware of the situation on board and should been prepared. They needed to immediately produce a statement of apology and provide refunds, rather than wait until two days later.

If Continental wasn’t specifically in charge of the flight, like many passengers believed, a contact name and number of someone at ExpressJet should have been given to the passengers immediately when they deplaned. The inner workings of Continental should have been transparent to the passengers so they knew what company they were dealing with beforehand.

Truly a nightmare for everyone involved. Any thoughts on what you would have done in the situation?





Two Girls and the Desert

17 01 2012
Hello, world, and welcome to my first ever blog post. Initially, when I sat down I wasn’t sure where to start after so many adventures so I figured I would start with my recent trip to Phoenix, Arizona. I do want to clear up confusion for any anyone…when I say Phoenix, I am also including Scottsdale and Tempe. These three cities all make up the greater Phoenix area and all have distinct qualities. My friend and most frequent travel buddy Irene and I decided to take this trip to see if we would possibly want to re-locate there at some point (which might I add, I totally would). It also was exciting because my cousin and his new wife also live in Phoenix and I don’t get to see them too often so it’s always a treat. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure if I would like Phoenix having never been to the desert (unless you count Las Vegas, but I don’t think that’s exactly the same thing). Extreme heat really isn’t my thing and I can remember nightmares I had as a child of getting lost in the desert. I was actually shocked at how much I LOVED it. The heat didn’t bother me, although it should be noted we went there during winter (which was about 60s and 70s there). The cacti and mountains were beautiful but what I liked the most about Phoenix were the people. It’s crazy to say I don’t think I encountered one mean person there, whether it was people encouraging me when I almost quit hiking the Camelback or going to nightclubs. In the world today, I feel like it is rare to encounter so many nice people. But ho about I stop rambling at  get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about the trip.
Accommodations: I have to admit, this was my first time ever having a poor experience with a hotel. After doing a quick search on the Internet we booked our hotel at the Ramada Inn Tempe. I don’t mean to be too harsh, because there was nothing really wrong with

Out Hotel Room at Doubletree

the hotel. The room was large and nice and included a free fridge and safe. The reason I would not recommend the hotel to any young traveller (especially females) was simply the location. I don’t scare too easily, but my friend and I just felt plain uncomfortable. We were under the impression that the hotel was right near Arizona State University, but it wasn’t anywhere near walking distance. After checking in, my friend and I decided to check out the area and were cat-called after about five minutes of walking trying to find some place to eat. We finally found a local pub (with some insanely spicy nachos) and to our dismay, the bartender even asked us why we chose the hotel we were staying at. I believe he said “didn’t you guys see that weird crack-den apartment complex walking here?” We did. So we decided to switch hotels and stay at the Doubletree Scottsdale, which was absolutely AMAZING but more expensive. This hotel was everything you would think would be included in a five-star resort, yet the room we stayed in was still reasonable at 118 dollars a night (which split between two people, of course). The view was gorgeous, the food at the hotel restaurant delicious and the staff nothing but helpful. They even had a hotel van that took you to downtown Scottsdale (about a five minute drive) for free every hour. I would HIGHLY recommend this hotel although it was a little bit more pricey then I would have liked but the I really believe benefits outweigh the slightly higher cost.

Favorite Eatery: It is always great to be able to try out new places to eat when you are on vacation and everything I ate in Phoenix was fabulous, albeit a little spicy. My favorite restaurant on this vacation was definitely Z’Tejas. Z’Tejas restaurants are only located on the west coast, so being from Ohio I had never heard of them. The food was absolutely delicious. My cousin’s wife and I had one of the most popular dishes, the “Leo Street Tacos” with chicken, cheese, Chipotle cream sauce, avocado and amazingly…cucumbers! It was light and refreshing, the perfect tex-mex dish. It also sits well when you drink one of the restaurant’s award-winning margaritas. Any margarita you get there is bound to be delicious. These drinks so good and so strong that the restaurant even has a 3 drink frozen margarita limit to prevent patrons from getting a little too tipsy.

Favorite Activity: I like to think of myself as reasonably active. Yes, I need to loose some weight but I do work out often so I still consider myself somewhat fit. When my friend Irene suggested we “hike” Camelback Mountain, I agreed. I figured it would be no big deal to walk around for a little bit but boy was I wrong. Whoever says that the mountain is a “hike” would be lying to you…it’s a CLIMB.

Me at the Top of Camelback Mountain

After advice from my cousin, we decided to climb the Echo Canyon side (there are two different trails you can choose, and we choose the slightly harder side). He admitted he wasn’t sure if we would make it all the way to the top but that we should at least try. At first, it was pretty easy just walking up a bunch of stairs.  But then I saw it: a climb so steep that you needed to use a handrail to physically pull yourself up the mountain. Halfway up this part of the climb, I slipped and nearly fell back to the

The Hardest Part of the Climb

bottom. I had to swing my leg around the railing and pull myself back upright to get up (note to anyone who attempts this climb, do not wear shoes with balance-balls in them). There was one point during the climb where I was envisioning myself being life-flighted off the mountain, falling back down it or passing out from heat and exhaustion. This is where I was so grateful to have Irene and other people shouting encouraging words as we kept climbing. I can honestly say hiking up that moutain was one of the hardest things I have ever done but it was so worthwhile (even though I was sore for three days). Seeing the view from the top of that mountain was something I will never forget. My advice to anyone who wants to climb it is to make sure to take it slow and make sure to bring a lot of water. Also, make sure to wear shoes that have good grips on the bottom and don’t forget to bring a camera! Finally, I would not recommend driving there as parking is EXTREMELY limited. I can honestly say it seems like they have parking for maybe about 20 cars so if you aren’t there early in the morning you won’t get a spot. Trust me here and don’t make the same mistake we did and think you can get lucky and find a spot.  Luckily there is a shuttle that leaves from nearby MacDonald Street that takes you there for five dollars a person and you can leave a car there for free at the parking lot. The shuttle comes every ten minutes and it was kind of funny to hear everyone’s stories in the rides there and back.

Favorite Nightlife Spot: I recommend El Hefe. This bar served great tacos during the day and at night was an extremely fun and hip bar with ample outdoor seating, fun top 40 music and a great vibe. Drinks here were reasonably priced and generously portioned.

Overall, this trip to Arizona was very exciting. The nightlife was great and it was easy to get cabs back to our hotel. The hike was exciting, the food was great and the people were friendly. I really believe that taking a quick trip to Phoenix is something any budget-savy traveller can afford.

Total cost for trip: Airfare (230 RT) + Hotel (around 180) + Food/Drinks (around 100) + Cab fare (10 dollars) = approximately 500 dollars for our four day three night trip