J.R. Tolkien

"Not all those who wander are lost." - J.R. Tolkien

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Escape to a Fantasy World with Breakout Louisville

If you want ever want to be an MI6 agent, spoil a museum heist or heroically escape a kidnapping, there’s a new thrill in town that allows you to do all three.  For $24/person, Breakout Louisville allows you to escape to a fantasy world full of danger and mystery.   You’ll have to use your wits and brainpower to solve puzzles, decipher clues and work together as team to escape from your chosen scenario in one hour.  Here’s the full detail:

What is it?
Choose from four different scenarios 1) Casino Royale: Trapped in the famed Casino Royale in Monaco, you’ll have to solve puzzles left behind by Agent 007 to escape.  2) The Kidnapping: Use clues from the previous victim to escape before the kidnapper returns, while blindfolded and handcuffed to a bed.  3) The Heist:  Work to recover the stolen museum masterpieces before the gallery opens. 4) Island Escape: Coming soon. 

$24/person, minimum of 2 to a room or maximum of 8
Use code WEEKDAY to get $2 off (Monday - Thursday)
If your group does not have 8 people, you might be teamed with another group

1805 Cargo Court
Louisville, KY 40299
Phone: 502-822-4596
Plenty of parking in the back
Sidewalk to building

  • Phone is allowed in room but no photos can be taken
  • Children under 14 years old must be accompanied by parents or guardian
  • If you are under 18, parents need to sign waiver

What to expect?
A staff member led us down a hallway to our room and gave us a quick orientation.  Once finished, he returned to the control room, where he continued to monitor us for the duration of the game.  He was an omnipotent presence that provided us with clarifications and and gave us three free clues when we got stuck.
Hallway leading to the room
The room is decorated to give a realistic feel of your chosen scenario.  Anything in the room can be used as clues to solve the puzzle, so keep your eyes open.  Some clues are more challenging than others but completely doable with some effort.  Your effort will be worth it in the end, as the clever clues and room set up will reveale a lot of fun surprises.  

Our group of 8 chose the Casino Royale room and escaped with 30 seconds to spare! It’s a fun activity for the family or a group of friends that will get everyone to work together.  If you're claustrophobic, no problem.  Just press the exit button anytime to leave the room and come back.  But where's the fun in that? 

Other Options:
http://louisville.lockedin.com/ - coming soon

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

10 meals from around the world for under $10

Do you know that JCPS has over 107 languages spoken in its classrooms?  It’s an indication of the great cultural hot pot we have in our lovely city.  Internationals brighten our social fabric and make a city just a tad more interesting with their rich cultural heritage.  For us foodies, it also means great eats from around the world without stepping foot very far.  Even better, we can enjoy these delicious feast for $10 or under.

Half chicken 
Yummy Pollo (Peruvian) 
This new comer in the Newburg neighborhood offers great free ranged charcoal chicken starting at $6.25 (quartered chicken) to $ 8.45 (half).  All meals come with two sides and sauces.  The chicken is tender and fall off the bone good.  The owner is the friendliest, he’s always ready with a big smile and a hearty hello.
Chicago hot dog & chili cheese fries
Lonnie’s Best Taste of Chicago (American)
You’re immediately transported to another time and place as soon as you step into Lonnie’s small Chicago style diner.  The prices and hospitality are definitely from a bygone era, you can get a Chicago hot dog (large pieces of tomato, cucumber, peppers and relish) for $3.59.  Complete your meal with an order of fries for $2.49 and a soft drink.  If hot dog is not your thing, they also have Italian beef, sausage, burgers, gyros, po’boys etc. for under $10.

New Orleans Roll 
Sapporo Sushi & Sake Bar & Restaurant (Japanese)
This hip and happening sushi joint is not known for cheap eats, but there’s a strategy.  Come at happy hours (5 – 6:30 p.m. Monday - Sunday), grab a seat at the bar and order from the happy hour menu.  You’ll be seated faster, get the cucumber salad for free and your meal comes with refreshing orange slices for dessert.  You’ll be happily stuffed with the VIP Roll for $10 or choose from the 12 items priced at $3, $6 or $10.  If you don’t want to limit yourself to happy hours, check out ToGo Sushi, they have a lot of great sushi rolls for $10 and under.  Your meal comes with a free miso soup and orange slices for dessert.

Fish tacos
Taqueria Ramirez (Mexican) - CLOSED
There are so many cheap taco places but I’m settling for this new restaurant in the Buechel Area.  The fresh tacos cost only $1.99/each.  You can easily be stuffed with three, complete your meal with the rich and delicious flan ($2.99).  I usually don’t like corn tortilla but it’s really delicious here.  Ask for the jalapeno curtidos (it’s free), these pickled vegetables are my favorite new discoveries.

Phnom Phenh Noodles 
Cafe Thuy Van (Vietnamese)
You might be the odd man out in this mainly Vietnamese restaurant, but it’s worth the awkwardness when you finally sink your teeth into the flavorful $4 grilled pork banh mi sandwich.  Order two or add 2 egg/spring rolls for only $3.50.  For a great hang over cure, get the $7.50 pho (beef noodle soup) or any of the other soupy noodle dishes for under $10.

Photo source: Sam's Gyros
Sam’s Gyros (Mediterranean) - CLOSED
My husband will be disappointed if I don’t include his absolute favorite gyro place.  For only $6.87, you will get an overstuffed gyros (beef or chicken), French fries and a drink.  My husband loves that the gyros has lots of meat, unlimited toppings and the sauce on the side compliments the flavor.  I’m not a gyros fan in general, my favorite here is the Egyptian gentleman manning the business.

Spicy basil with tofu
 Ginza Asian Bistro (Thai)
Yes, you can get cheap Thai food in town, just make sure you go during lunch hours.  Ginza offers pad thai, spicy basil, pad kee mow, red or green curry starting at $6.95 (chicken), $7.50 (beef) and $8.50 (shrimp).  Use your Pinpoint Perks coupon and you can get this meal for a dollar cheaper.  Or go with a friend get $5 off of $25. The lunch special comes with a choice of miso soup or salad.  The spicy basil is my favorite.  Even though the meal is cheap, the presentation and the restaurant atmosphere is anything but.

Goodies from the buffet
Abyssinia (Ethiopian)
Travel to the other side of the world to Ethiopia via a buffet of exotic flavors during lunch (11 a.m. – 2 p.m.) for only $7.95.  The all you can eat menu consisting of tender vegetables, a salad bar, meats, stews and cookies.  It’s a great way to be adventurous without the risk of not liking your meal.  Just grab a bit of everything and come back to the ones you like for more.

A little bit of everything
Oriental House (Chinese) 
If you want your Chinese food a little less fast and generic, stop by Oriental for a slow paced authentic experience.  You can easily find $10 and under big portion meals with top notch flavors (the flat stir fry noodles is delicious!).  For a super cheap meal, order from a dozen small items on the dim sum menu, all are under $5.50.  If you must splurge, get the $11.95 shrimps with glazed pecans, it’s nicknamed the “cracked shrimp”.  It’s that addicting.

Photo: Javier, Yelp
Shandaar (Indian) - CLOSED
This came highly recommended by a fellow Yelper who’s Indian and is on the top of my "new restaurants to try" list.  The restaurant offers buffet for only $8.99, which judging from the photos, has lots of options.  Check their facebook page for the buffet menu.  It’s updated daily 30 minutes before they open.  

With so many restaurants in Louisville, it’s hard to include them all. I’ll be back for more top 10 list of other great international places to eat.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

GoApe in the treetops at Jefferson Memorial Forest

Our group of 10 spent last weekend monkeying around in the treetops with GoApe USA, a brand new zip line and obstacle course high above Jefferson Memorial Forest.  It’s intense fun for 2-3 hours that will test your fear of heights as you climb up the ladder to a tree top platform.  The 39 rope crossings throughout will have you work up some sweats and teach you a lesson in balancing.  In the end of every course is the sweet reward of an adrenaline rush as you zip line down to the ground from high above.

The price is a bit steep at $57/person but I think it’s definitely worth the money.  Here’s what you can expect to see.

Each group of 14 people receive a thorough 45 minute training session on how to use the harnesses and the course.  You’ll have time to practice on the ground.  At the end the session, you’ll also get to practice again at a shorten and lowered obstacle course.  You’ll have plenty of time to ask questions and to practice any part you’re uncomfortable with.

Practicing with the harness on the ground
The Course
You’ll go through 5 different sections, each gets progressively harder and longer.  Separated by a short walk, each section consists of:

1. An ascent on a rope ladder to a platform

2.  Several rope crossings, varying in difficulty, lengths and types

 3) A descend via zip line.  

Two of the sections has a Tarzan swing. 

You can go at your own pace and completely unsupervised.  After the training, the staff can be seen periodically throughout, but the entire course is your adult jungle gym playground.  Go through it as quickly or as slowly as you like.

Check out this video: goo.gl/OiCvA3 
You can easily get a 10% discount for students, a group of 10 or more, or use the Yelp app to check-in.  Get a 20% discount when you go on the weekdays for group of 10 or more.


  • Wear comfortable clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty 
  • Closed toe shoes only (no slip-ons)
  • If you bring a camera/phone, make sure you have a way to attach it to your body
  • Avoid clothing with buttons so you won’t get caught in the mesh
  • Consider wearing gloves to prevent callus (but not necessary) 
  • Location: Jefferson Memorial Forests
    11311 Mitchell Hill Road (Visitor's Center)
    Fairdale, KY 40118
  • Hours: 8:30 a.m (first group)., 5 p.m. (last group)  Check website for time and availability 
  • Pricing: Age 10 - 15 $47; Age 16+: $57
  • RSVP: goape.com 

I would not recommend this for those with an intense fear of height.  But if you have a normal reasonable fear, you’ll have fun.  Your fear will be challenged, which is part of the fun.  Just keep in mind that you’re always attached and secured to a rope.  The only part that had me screaming was the last Tarzan swing.  It’s suitable for those with a low to moderate fitness level.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Buy One Dozen Krispy Kreme Get One..almost Free

Buy One Dozen Krispy Kreme Get One..almost Free! It's actually 78c, a very sweet deal if you ask me.  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Gilty Pleasures, Designer Goods from 70% to 90% Off

Fashionistas and bargain shoppers, get your credit card ready for a trip to Gilt Designer Outlet in St. Matthews for hours of Gilty shopping pleasure.   This temporary pop-up outlet offers deep discount on designer clothes, home goods, furnitures and accessories from their distribution center in Shepherdsville. Everything in the store is currently 70% off but it can go up to 90% off as the week progresses, depending on availability and stock.  This is what happened today at the VIP opening (thanks Yelp!):

A friend scored a pair of Marc Jacobs shoes, MSRP at $300+, for only $29.70.  I got a $108 dress for $12!  How can you get in on the action?  Here's the details:
  • Location:  Gilt Designer Outlet
    4600 Shelbyville Road
    Louisville, KY 40207 (near Trader's Joe) 
  • Dates: 7/10/2015 - 8/15/2015
  • Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
    Sunday: 12 p.m. - 6 p.m. 
They restock throughout the month so come back often for great deals.  Once they close up shop on August, you can continue to buy Gilt merchandise from their online store. Keep in mind that all purchases are final so no refunds or returns.  

Happy hunting! 

1/2 Ice Cream Today!

The weather is gloomy outside so let's cheer it up with some 1/2 price ice cream offered all day today at Sonic!

Photo Source: Sonic Facebook

Budget Travel Tips: Smart Car Rental

1.  Compare airfare
2.  Smart car rentals
3.  Hotel hustle

I love the freedom of the open roads, especially when someone else is driving (usually my poor husband)  So I try to squeeze in a few short road trips here and there when I can.  I've picked up a few tips along the way to help lower the cost of car rentals.  Check out some of my techniques, there's even a super secret deal at the end!      

Road trip in Ireland. Ballaghisheen Pass, Ireland
Use your own insurance. The one sure way to save money on car rental is to use your own car insurance.  Generally, your personal car insurance coverage travels with you to whatever car you rent (this is true with State Farm).  Check with your insurance company just to be sure.  Rental company will be very persuasive in convincing you to take their coverage, so be firm!  Keep in mind you'll be assuming the risk and it can affect your personal insurance premium.

Use your credit card.  Did you know that most major credit cards will provide secondary insurance coverage for your rental car? This means, it'll cover any cost not covered under your car insurance.  Chase Sapphire provides primary coverage, meaning even if you don’t have car insurance, your credit card should cover you.  Check with your credit card company for this and other travel perks (ours covers lost luggage too).

Take advantage of your memberships.  Your credit cards and memberships usually can get you discounts.  Costco members receive nice discounts if they book it directly at the Costco website.  Car companies also offer discounts to AAA members, veterans, and American Express card holders.

Sign up for membership. We use Thrifty and Dollar a lot because they usually offer the cheapest rate.  By spending just a few minutes online to sign up for their FREE membership and pay online, we get instant online discounts and save a lot of time at checkout.  On our last trip to Charlotte, we felt like superstars. Our shuttle called ahead to let the front desk know we were on our way.  As soon as the shuttle arrived, the rental car was waiting outside, engine on, and paperwork ready.  In Vegas, we went straight to the garage to pick our car without waiting in line like the other suckers :)

Use aggregate sites.  Like airfare, use aggregate sites to compare prices on several car rental companies at the same time.  My favorites are: Expedia, Travelocity, and Kayak.  Once I have an idea of which car company offers the best rate, I then go directly to the company's website to book my car.

Consider Hotwire.com.  I recently saved $150 on car rental with this site.  The catch: you won't know the name of the company until after you paid.  They will provide you with the essential details such as features, type of car, pick up, drop off etc.  My booking also showed a list of companies you're guaranteed to get the car from.  I was happy with the list as it contains names of all the major companies.  I ended with Hertz and very happy with the price.

Try a package deal. Booking car rental along with your flight or hotel as part of a package can save you a lot of money.  I recently added car rental to my flight and saved $100+.  Happy camper here!

Super Secret Deal.  Remember those coupon books the kids sell?  A friend shared this link that will allow you to get the same discount as those coupon books.  The link will give you a free upgrade and a few other discounts.  I'm guessing next year it will be enterprise.com/ent16.  Enterprise also offers free pick up and drop off!

Other things to keep in mind:
  • Read the fine print.  Make sure you get unlimited mileage (especially important for interstate travel) and look for any other restrictions on your rentals. 
  • Check your rental car for dents or any damage before you drive off the lot.  Report immediately or you might have to be responsible for them. 
  • Car companies usually offer a cheaper rate if you rent for a whole week.  So play around with your dates.  You  might end up paying the same for a 3 day rental as you would a 5 day rental.  
  • Book early, especially around the holidays, to save money and also to make sure you get the type of car you want. 
  • Most agencies have less compact car in stock, reserve a compact car and your chance of getting an upgrade is very high.    
  • Avoid filling up near the airport, the gas stations there are usually more expensive.
  • If convenient, consider renting at an off airport location, you'll avoid the airport tax.  
  • Search for online coupons by simply put in "coupon code" + "name of rental company". You might find some good codes to apply to your rental.  
What are some techniques you've tried? Check back next week for some tips on hotel travel!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cheap pancakes today!

Celebrate Ihop's 57th anniversary with some cheap pancakes today!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Budget Travel Tips: Compare Airfare

Hello, my name is Thao and I'm a bit of a travel addict.  How do I cope? I find cheap ways to travel so I can do it more often.  Over the years, I’ve picked up some good travel practices that helped me plan trips without breaking the bank (too much).

I know there are a lot of articles on traveling cheap (definitely look into those), but these are tried and true techniques from my own experience.  There’s no one magical way to get a good deal, you just have to do research, plan and compare.  The key is flexibility and a lot of planning!

It’s a long article, so I’ve decided to break it down to different parts.  This week I’m focusing on airfare.

1.  Compare airfare
2.  Smart car rentals
3.  The hotel hustle

Like any big purchases, shop around and compare before you make the big move.

Start with an aggregate site
  • Start with Kayak.com (another friend swears by Priceline).  Kayak lists prices for several airlines at once, making it easier to compare.  The best thing about Kayak is that you can choose +-3 days before/after your travel date.  It then generates a table with several dates and prices.  Here’s an example.
  • Also, don’t forget to check “nearby airport”.  Some cities have multiple airports close by with cheaper prices (LAX and NYC are examples). From Louisville, try flying out of Lexington or Cincinnati.
  • Once you find a good price for your desired time, date and airline, don’t book yet.  Go to other aggregate sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Google Flights and compare prices again using the dates you just picked on Kayak.  Those sites sometime have better rates or more time options.
  • Keep in mind that rates for Southwest, Virgin America, Allegiant, Jet Blue,  Spirit and Frontier Airlines are not included on those sites, so check directly on the airline’s websites to see if they have better rates.
Book directly with the airline company
  • When you’re ready to book, go directly to the airline you like from your search and book through them.  If any issue arises, it’s better to deal directly with the airline rather than through a third party. 
  • If you see an airline that you’re unfamiliar with offering ridiculously low rate, do a quick Google search and read reviews.  I’ve heard horror stories about cheapoair.com for example. So always beware.
Try a budget airline
  • For Louisville travelers, check out Allegiant and Frontier airlines for amazing discounts to certain cities.  They are based out of Cincinnati and Lexington, so you do have to drive there first.  Click here for my detailed blog entry on these 2 airlines.

Be flexible
  • That means in when and where you go.  If you just want to get out of town, look up popular destinations and go with the cheapest one.   Google Flights now features a world map of popular destination and the prices.  Click on the city and it’ll show a bar graph of the prices for the upcoming months. Choose the cheapest one, pack your bag and just go. I’ve been on weekend trips to Puerto Rico, Cancun and Bahamas just because the tickets were cheap and enjoyed them all.

Travel light
  • Almost all airlines charge for check-in luggage now.  Simply travel light and do carry-on to save money on check-in luggage.   It’s also nice not to have to lug heavy luggage all over the place and no worries about lost luggage!  About 50% of the time though, the airline will do free curbside check-in at the boarding gate. 
  • Most European and Asian budget airlines are very strict on carry-on restrictions so read before you go to avoid unnecessary fees.  EasyJet in Europe, for example, will allow only ONE piece of luggage, no extra purses or small personal items.

    Keep these in mind when booking your flight:
  • You can cancel within 24 and get a full refund (it’s the law).  If you find cheaper fair the next day, just cancel your previous reservation.
  • Cheapest travel days: Tuesday & Wednesday; Medium: Thursday & Saturday.  Leaving on Thursday and coming back on Monday is usually 20% cheaper.  Here's a comprehensive study by Expedia on best days to travel.
  • Have a general idea of how much tickets cost to a certain destination so you can go ahead and book your tickets instead of waiting around for the price to fall to an unreasonable rate.
  • Don’t wait too long, tickets can go up and down VERY quickly.
  • I always book flights at least 3 weeks in advance, more during the holidays.  Don't wait to the last minute (a week prior) and don't book too far in advance (4 or 5 months).  Many sources say the best time to book is 54 days in advance.  Here's the logic.  
  • It might be cheaper to book regional flights abroad. I booked several flights to neighboring countries while in Asia and paid half as much as a fellow traveler booking the same flights while in the U.S.  It varies but worth a try, especially if you have a friend living abroad.
  • *I find that the frequent flyer miles don’t work as well for me because I just go for the cheapest rate and not necessarily have loyalty to any one company. I also don’t travel enough for those points to add up. I prefer using my credit card which offers great cash back rewards.
Have any good travel advice? Let me know yours! Come back for tips on car rental next week.