New Orleans and Sarasota – April 2016
After leaving NYC we headed back down south – way south. Our destination was Sarasota, FL for Nicole and Jose’s wedding, but we had plenty of time to enjoy the journey. Our first stop was Harrisonburg, VA to visit Brandon and Valerie for a day or so. We enjoyed the setting of a pastoral landscape framed by the Appalachian mountains, as well as getting to hangout with some good friends. Our second pit-stop was Knoxville for some catching up with family and inventory sourcing. Next was Nashville for a couple days (more work) and then on to New Orleans for 10 days before a stay in Sarasota for the wedding.
Whew! Listing out each of those stops sounds like a lot of travel for just 2-3 weeks but in hindsight none of it was too rushed except for perhaps Nashville. Since we are also working from the road, we always seem to find inventory sourcing and shipping to fill any of the downtime that we have. We are still working on the balance here and it is definitely a lot harder to achieve when only staying in each spot less than a week. Hopefully when we are in Europe at the end of May and June – where we physically can’t shop (except online) – it will be a nice change in pace. We’re also looking forward to our month long stay in Montreal this summer where we can slow down a bit and feel like we’re “living” somewhere again.
New Orleans and Hotel Strategy:
We love New Orleans for its laid-back attitude, warm winters and affordable food. This was our third time coming in about as many years so we decided this time to stay somewhere different than the touristy areas. We were actually hoping for the garden district but couldn’t find much affordable. Instead, we scored a sweet deal on a Staybridge Suites in Covington, LA across Lake Ponchatrain from NOLA. It was only 5k points a night during the IHG pointsbreak promotion, so we ended up booking 9 nights for almost the same points price as two nights at the normal rate (20k points/night).
Our hotel was actually across Lake Ponchatrain, a 40- minute drive across the causeway to get to downtown NOLA. This wasn’t a big deal (we are pretty patient drivers at this point) but would have gotten old if we went into downtown more than the 3 times that we did. Instead, we hung out mostly in the little towns north of the big easy – towns like Covington, Slidell and Hammond. This gave us a great taste of how, I assume, the rest of Louisiana lives. The hotel was wonderful and a good example of one of the various hotels with suites in their names – they all seem to be more affordable, convenient and pet friendly than the business oriented chains.
Since IHG pointsbreak lists are such a great deal, our new strategy for booking travel is only book out as far the window for the list extends. We book all the pointsbreak hotels we want, fill in the gaps with paid stays, short term rentals, etc, and then wait for the next list to come out (4x per year) before booking again. We have 340k IHG points right now which equates to 68 nights and that should take a little while to burn through. We hope to keep earning points through the frequent promotions IHG runs.
The way the math works on the promotions, including paying for stays with the IHG credit card and getting bonus points on top for having elite status, I figure that we can get enough free stays resulting from paid stays to get our price per night down to about $30. That’s cheaper than our mortgage back home!
There is usually a downside to the pointsbreak hotels, for instance a location relatively far from the main attractions (like ours in Covington).
New Orleans is still on our short-list of places to “settle down” and live for a few months out of each year. It was starting to get a little too warm for comfort at the end of May, but I think the weather is just about perfect from October to March/April. We are going to keep our eyes open for an affordable one or two-bedroom apartment near the garden district that we could buy and then rent during the warmer months and live in during the winters.
And of course the affordable, tasty and unpretentious food in New Orleans is hard to beat. Here are some pics:
We did get quite a bit of work done from the hotel. It rained almost two days straight while there so we took that opportunity to do various things on the computers. We are always trip planning it seems. Also, we are trying to find some products to sell online which we can source cheaply and in a repeat frequency from China. That it taking some time but should be well worth it as a source for passive income and cash flow if we can make it happen.
After our stay in New Orleans, we drove across the top of Florida (a boring drive) and then down to Sarasota for the wedding. We stopped in Tallahassee for one night but didn’t really get a feel for it.
This was our second time in Sarasota and we have decided that it is definitely one of our favorite cities in Florida. It is smaller and more quiet than Tampa to the north. The keys and bays are beautiful and it is easy to understand why siesta key was named the best beach in America.
Nicole and Jose’s wedding was fantastic and a ton of fun! It was great to hangout with everyone and we are so happy for them. We know they are great for each other and are excited for their marriage.
Other than the wedding and all the activities surrounding that, we enjoyed a couple very nice seafood meals, did a fair amount of product sourcing and a shipment, and hung out with the various friends and family there. It was nice to catch up with everyone and be social for a change. Apart from the lack of nearby dog-friendly beaches, the pups liked it too. Nick discovered the lizards, which he didn’t know existed before. Watching him hunt them was amusing.
On the way back to Nashville we carpooled with Mayne’s parents and brother, but parted ways in Georgia. They were gracious enough to take Nick and Nora for the month while we are traveling in Europe (I am writing this from currently from a high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid, barreling down the track. The speed readout near the exit sign reads 290km/hr. It literally feels like riding a bullet and it is amazing).
Will post about our Barcelona visit soon!