In 2017, Tim and I were wiped out after 10 trips. We vowed to stay home more in 2018.
The trouble with that resolution is our addiction to booking travel when we find a good deal. Last month, we spent a few days in Tempe, Arizona when we found a good deal on a flight and needed to fly Frontier to maintain our frequent flier miles.
Those deals keep coming! Frontier and Southwest promotions keep hitting our inbox. How could we turn down a $40 round trip from Denver to Los Angeles? We couldn’t. A two-night trip snuck its way on to our calendar.
Airfare booked, lodging was next on the to-do list. I tried to find a hotel in (or near) Los Angeles using a nice points redemption. There wasn’t one that made sense. Plus, overnight hotel parking in the city is expensive.
I called on the Grand Poobahs of travel advice (my parents) to help us pick an affordable getaway city close-ish to LAX. My dad didn’t skip a beat.
Me: “Temecula? Where’s Temecula?”
Dad: “Temecula is the Napa Valley of Southern California.”
Me: “Done. Temecula it is.”
We found a terrific hotel redemption at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Temecula Valley Wine Country (that’s a mouthful!) using our Hilton points. Free parking, free wifi, free breakfast. Booked!
A bedtime arrival meant our exploring started the next morning. Cooked-to-order eggs and a full hot breakfast was a good start to our day. Most of Temecula’s vineyards are scattered along a loop. We hopped out at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa and soaked up their gardens and grounds. At 11:30 AM, we weren’t feeling the $15 tasting ($20 on the weekends!) but it was tempting.
With the winery drive behind us, we made our way to Old Town Temecula. Charming doesn’t begin to capture this sweet stretch of retail and restaurants. A friend urged us to visit EAT Marketplace for lunch. The Grilled Chicken Pesto sandwich could not have been more delicious. More sandwiches should be served on a pretzel roll. We chatted with Chef Leah and asked for her top picks. Even though Leah took great pride in her savory menu, the gluten-free, vegan, low-sugar baked donuts were her top suggestion. Yes, we were skeptical but rewarded with a dense, flavorful and moist dessert. It was hard to stop at one.
The Old Town Spice & Tea Merchants had a magnetizing effect on me. I love to cook all varieties of cuisines and find gourmet spice blends and rubs can enhance my food. Also, I’m a tea fanatic. I figure it’s a cheap and healthy thing to collect. Spending nearly 15% of our trip’s total in this store made sense to me.
Dinner with a Denver friend who recently moved to a neighboring town was the cherry on top of a perfect day.
The weather was expected to be rainy on our last day but it held out for an educational tour of the California Citrus State Park (free tour, $5 to park). After our nearly-private walking tour of the groves, we were treated to a free citrus tasting in their visitor’s center. Incredibly sour lemons to start, juicy and sweet Cara Cara oranges to end. My first time trying a kumquat! Do you know that you eat the whole thing? The peel is sweet, while the flesh is sour. Bonus…they sent us home with a few pieces of free fruit.
A decadent lunch at Kimchichanga in Riverside was colorful but off-the-hook unhealthy. Thank goodness we shared it!
KIMCHICHANGA…it’s fun to say!
Back to LAX and our mini getaway was over. Two nights with direct quick flights is the way to go!
What We Spent on our Temecula Vacation
|Roundtrip Denver-Los Angeles (LAX) for 2 people – $79.96 was “erased” with our Capital One points
|Embassy Suites Temecula
|Redeemed 48,000 Hilton points – $4 in tips
|Redeemed 7,036 Chase Ultimate Rewards points
|Gas for rental car
|Reduced thanks to Kroger fuel points and to Gas Buddy app for helping find a cheaper location
|Denver Airport Parking + shuttle tips
|Used Top Airport Parking for best pricing then erased $11.98 with Capital One points – $3 in shuttle driver tips
|Spices and tea
|California Citrus State Park – free tour, $5 to park
|I thought our last trip was cheap!
As I look above, the only category that wasn’t “hacked” is shopping. The items I purchased help make our food at home taste better. This makes us happy to eat at home so, in a way, that’s a bit of a hack if I’m pushing it!
Can you recommend fun weekend getaways? Are any on your list?