Jacksonville FL Nightlife Must Go To Places: 21 and Up Edition

1.       Birdies

To be honest you can’t have a weekend without ending up somehow at Birdies. It is a chill neighborhood bar with a patio, full bar and pool tables in the back. It can be for both chill, grab drinks sit on the patio and listen to the music spill out into the outside area. Or, even if you want one of those nights where you just want to let loose and forget about anything that stressed you out during the week. Unfortunately, due to its recent popularity, the owner has now required a $5.00 cover charge to get in. But don’t worry it’ll be well worth it. Although, Birdies does not sell food after drinking the SUPER affordable drinks at the bar, there’s typically a taco truck located right outside for all the intoxicated party goers pleasure. Friday and Saturday’s the DJ plays mostly hip hop, rap & R&B music and bartenders are ALWAYS super friendly and attentive.

2.       Beach Bars

I was going to separate these down to which ones I liked best but I figured I’d keep them all together because 1. They are within walking distance of each other 2. They have no cover charges so if you do not like the bar you’re at, there’s no hassle in getting to the next one for a different vibe. Beach bars are typically filled with the younger crowd (college students) or heavily filled with military service members everywhere. Drinks are cheap and music varies from bar to bar you’d probably have to bounce around to see which one best fits what type of vibe you are going for the night. I’ve never waited more than 5 minutes at a bar, unless I was in line for “Surfers” which sometimes is worth the wait. The biggest debate with the beach bars is the strict dress code that they have. 

3.       Hoptinger (5 points)

Hoptinger is located in 5points right across from Birdies. It is known mainly at night for their rooftop bar with an amazing view of downtown Jacksonville. Hoptinger has 3 floors to i. The main floor which is the restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat and drink, the second floor which also has pool tables and ample amount of floor space for dancing and then the third floor which is the rooftop. Hoptinger is a good spot because they have all three vibes built into one. The drinks are cheap and the dress attire is what you want basically, you can dress up or down and not feel out of place.

4.       Daq Shack

The Daq shack is locates in Orange Park, so if you live on or near that side, then lucky you. If not, then welcome to my struggle. Daq Shack is a cute vibe, urban bar that resembles the infamous “Wet Willies”. There’s array of alcoholic and nonalcoholic daiquiris with unique names like “Porn star” (Watermelon), “DUI” (Peach), and “One Night Stand” (Strawberry & Wildberry) just to name a few. The Dj there plays mainly rap and hip hop – predominately rap. As far as dress code goes, you can where want you want as long as your shoes have a back on them. 0 weird flex, I know. But they will literally turn you around if your shoe doesn’t have a back on it. Outside of the amazing drinks they offer, they also have hookahs available to use. 

5.       Live Bar

This hip hop club is located downtown Jacksonville on East Bay Street. There is a cover to get in, BUT ladies are free and drink for free until 11. So, if you don’t want to pay for a cover, I suggest you get there early. The DJ is ALWAYS jumpin’ playing mostly hip hop and R&B music and it does fill up in there by midnight. Being that it is more so of a club, ladies are suggested to wear heels. Grown and sexy I would say the attire is. The drinks are more expensive then what you get at 5 points or Riverside but they still do the job. 

Booking With Expedia Bundle Deals. Destination: Manama, Bahrain

For my 27th birthday I went to highly underrated, desert…. Manama, Bahrain.  I traveled over 7 THOUSAND miles to celebrate in the hot, humid, dry desert….and guess what? I LOVED IT. This time, I booked through Expedia. I’ve used Expedia many times before and I love them primarily because of the points system that they have and typically the cheapest of the major search engines that I use.

Price:

For this trip, I went through the booking agency “Expedia” and combined the flight and accommodations together because typically you save a lot more by doing that instead of booking each separately. Where I did mess up at was that I flew out of ORD (Chicago) and I bought that ticket separately instead of just allowing Expedia do all the work (thinking I was saving myself some money…ya learn and grow) Anywho, my Expedia price for my trip with package protection (ALWAYS buy travel insurance when traveling international.) was S1688.55. What came included with that price was:

-Round trip ticket to Manama

-4 night stay in 4 star hotel

-Trip protection plan

-Free WIFI

-Private Airport transfer to hotel

Arrival:

I arrived into Bahrain (after my flight being delayed) around midnight. I had prearranged to have the hotel transfer me from the airport to them. I clearly learned my lesson in Cancun.

When I retrieved my luggage from baggage claim I called the front desk to confirm someone was there to pick me up and they indeed ensured me that someone was. I took literally nearly 30 minutes for us to find each other. I was in constant back and forth between the front desk and the driver. He barely spoke in English and we just couldn’t understand where each were. I was already jet lagged and exhausted so, by that point I wasn’t in the best mood.

Check In:

The kingdom of Bahrain is not the biggest island, so my hotel was only 5.4 km (3.3 miles) away from the airport in which if I didn’t have the driver come pick me up it would have been an approx.. 3.4 BHD Uber ride. Upon arriving to the hotel the front desk that was on the overnight shift was awaiting my arrival being that we were playing phone tag earlier.

Check in was less than 5 minutes and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Being that I provided all my information online with Expedia, the only thing I had to do was sign the receipt and receive the room keys. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Accommodation:

Firstly, almost all the accommodations- if not all in Bahrain are all 4 star and 5 star hotels. Top notch. Don’t mess around. Amazing service. There also are a lot of “aparthotel” which basically means they refined an apartment building and turned it into a hotel. The hotel i booked for after a few days of debate was Somerset Al Fateh Bahrain. I was originally booked for a 1 bedroom room suite with a balcony but when I opened my door to my surprise I was upgraded to a two bedroom two bathroom suite with a balcony. Who they thought I was and what they thought I needed with all that space I don’t know but I was highly appreciative lol. I didn’t have much of a view, but that was okay I didn’t plan to spend much time in the room to begin with.

My two bedroom suite came with all the essentials to your basic hotel needs with an addition of washer/dryer, full kitchen, balcony, Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom and a separate living room.

Somerset was centrally located around everything that was the “touristy” thing to do while visiting Bahrain. I was less than 7 miles from Al-Fatih Mosque (Great Mosque), Bahrain National Museum, Bahrain City Centre Mall and American Alley.

Entertainment:

As far as Somerset’s entertainment, there were two pools offered. One that was indoor/outdoor that overlooked the city and one that was an ordinary outdoor pool. Pool towels were offered free of charge as well as pool chairs to lounge in. Daily breakfast was also included that was from 6AM to 10AM (I never got the chance to try because I slept in most mornings). Also Somerset had a fitness center and business center for your pleasure.

Click here to read about entertainment outside of the hotel that I did.

My Rating:

I give my experience with Expedia and Somerset honestly a 4 out of 5 stars. Booking was smooth, the service was amazing at the hotel however compared to other aparthotels within the area they did offer more amenities to the guest. I believe more so I was paying for the convenience and location of the property. I definitely will go back for sure.

Leisure Travel Perks For Military Service Members, Retiree’s AND Veterans

You guys asked so here it is. I served in the Navy and still keep in contact with a lot of old shipmates plus new friends I’ve made over the years. I did not realize how many people did not know of the opportunities that are available and how much money they could save JUST by have serving the country. Fear not, I got yall.

Airlines:

By no means, if you are an active duty service member should you be paying for your luggage OR not going through TSA Precheck. These domestic airlines allow for all ACTIVE DUTY to travel without paying for their bags:

  • Delta
  • Southwest
  • American Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Spirit
  • Frontier
  • Allegiant
  • Jet Blue
  • Alaska Airlines

For my veterans and retirees, it is a little harder finding an airline that supports you with free bags, so far I’ve only found out that Alleigant Air supports us with the free bags.

Tip 1: DO NOT buy your bags online unless the website/app has a section where they can validate your service. Instead, go to the counter at the airport and check in your bags and present your CAC card, retiree ID, or drivers license with the veteran annotation on it.

Tip 2: Southwest (800-I-FLY-SWA) and Delta (800-325-1771) offers special priced discounted tickets for service members. Call and save money today!

Amtrak & Greyhound:

With your military active ID card, military personnel, their spouses, their dependents, retirees AND veterans save 10% on all tickets by being a “veterans advantage” member. It is completely free to sign up. Click the link below to start saving!

Rental Cars:

That’s right, you can even receive discounts on certain rental car agencies. So next time you’re planning to rent a car, try booking with these services FIRST (each link is clickable):

If I missed something or you have questions, let me know in the comments. 🙂 Enjoy <3

5 Touristy MUST See Things to Do and See in Manama, Bahrain

For those who don’t know…Bahrain is an island located in Asia and is referred to as “The Kingdom of Bahrain”. The country is located in the Arabian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia, north of Qatar. THE DESERT. It is very hot, dry, and sandy- a baby Dubai if you will. Not many people know where or what it actually is unless you’re military but there actually a bunch of great gems there if you so happen to take a trip. For my 27th birthday I did my first solo trip there and composed a list of touristy things to do while there… hope you enjoy<3

1. Brunch

If you are fortunate enough to be in Bahrain on a Friday you NEED to go to one of their brunches. There are soo many different places and options (typically they are held in a hotel of some sort because of their alcohol restrictions in the Kingdom) Luckily I was invite to one at Movenpick hotel from someone in one of the traveling groups that I am in.

I’ve been to quite a few brunches in my lifetime, but the one I went to there out beats every last one of them. There was unlimited GOURMET food, unlimited cocktails (premium alcoholic and non) entertainment, a DJ and a live band. Food that varied from a Seafood bar, Asian bar, Pasta bar, American food, Mediterranean food, pastries, chocolate fountains, fresh fruits…anything you could think of, it was there.

2. Al Fateh Grand Mosque

Al Fateh is one of the largest mosques in the world and has the ability to accommodate over 7000 worshipers at a time. The mosque is open for tours daily from 9am to 4pm. Non Muslim personnel are able to tour the mosque. If you are not dressed appropriately (legs and arms covered) to tour, they also provide you with Hijabs and loaners for you. The tour lasted approximately 45 minutes and my tour guide was soo informative and soo passionate about what she was speaking on. I have very minimal knowledge as to the Muslim culture but by the conclusion of the tour I felt like I’ve had a semester worth of knowledge within me. I actually went when it was prayer time so I was able to witness the prayer. The tour guide read from the Quran and explained how the Quran was written, how the prayer was done and the comparisons/difference between the bible and the Quran. My mind my definitely blown from the experience.

3. Manama Souk

Who doesn’t love a good market? Manama Souq is a plethora of narrow streets and store filled alleyways south from Bab Al Bahrain. The Souq is open 24 hours for your shopping pleasure but that doesn’t mean each shop will be open if you decide to show up at 3AM one morning. Anything you can possibly think of from t shirts, shoes, luggage, shisha, and of course…. GOLD, REAL GOLD is sold there. Streets upon streets with vendors from all over the world. There are a bunch of hidden gem cafes and restaurants that are within the souq like “Haijs Old Café” and “Gahwat Haji”.  

4. (Shajarat-al-Hayat) Tree Of Life

This beauty here is a lone tree that sits at the highest point on the island approximately 24 miles from the nearest city (35 minute drive). It stands at over 400 years old and is named “the tree of life” because there is no visible known water source around that helps keep the tree alive. It is said that some scientists believe that its rooted are deeply rooted in the ground and receives water from a water source. Others believe that the site is that of the biblical Garden of Eden.

5. Wranglers

This heavily US service members club is one of the most popular in Bahrain. It makes you feel at home by the atmosphere, choice of music and vibes of the club. The club is open until 2am, but leading more towards midnight it becomes scarce inside because the servicemen and women have a curfew of midnight. There is no way around that either, there are people there who fill flag you down and check you for your ID if you look “American”. Outside of all that, the music was current and upbeat with hip hop, rap and R &B and the drinks were heavily potent.

The BASIC Step by Step Guide To Your First Solo International Trip.

Alright, so the time is here. You’re ready to book your first trip abroad…. and SOLO. Whether you’re tired of your friends bailing on you last minute, needed time to yourself to regroup, or even just wanted to get that empowering feeling of exploring a new country without adhering to other people’s plans… I GOT YOU. From booking, all the way down to exploring the foreign land. I’ll give you a step by step guide to having a successful first solo trip.

Step 1: Booking

After you have decided on where you want to go, it’s time to find the best price to get you there. Even if I’ve been saving for this trip for months, I’m STILL looking for a deal. (As you should too) Typically when you bundle your needs (i.e. flight, hotel, cars) your total price comes out cheaper. Below are my top 5 booking websites that I use for my travels.

  1. www.Expedia.com
  2. www.Travelocity.com
  3. www.cheapcaribbean.com
  4. www.travelbyjen.com
  5. www.groupon.com

With most of those sites, there’s opportunities for you to gain rewards points. Sign up for it, it’s free & definitely comes in handy when you least expect it. You also get “member” perks where you get a discount on top of the discount or access to exclusive offers that normal inquires don’t get.

Bonus tip: When booking, try to book with a hotel that had 24hr service desk or an AIRBNB with self access/passcode entry.

Step 2: Research

Okay, so now that you’ve picked which booking site had the best deals for what you were looking for now, we research..

Researching before hand can definitely save you headaches and also money. Lots of it. Here’s some basic questions you would want to know the answer to before taking your trip:

  • What attractions do I want to see?
  • How far is the hotel/AIRBNB from the airport?
  • Do i have to use taxis or do they have uber/Lyft?
  • How far is my hotel/Airbnb from most of my attractions?
  • What is the currency difference?
  • Are there strict guidelines to what i can wear?
  • What’s the weather like at the time of year I’m going?

ESSENTIAL . Knowing the answers to these questions are definitely a must. Taxi fares do add up, especially if you’re in a country where they are not obligated to turn on their meter and then knowing you are from America they can(and WILL) charge you whatever they want. Sign up for uber with my promo code & receive $2 off your first 3 rides!!

Get $2 Off My First 3 Rides!

Even some countries have a set rate for different places around the city no matter where you’re coming from, you have to pay that price – so booking your hotel/AIRBNB in the heart of everything is a good move for you. Knowing the weather is also beneficial, does it rain a lot that time of year? Did you pack an umbrella or do you have to find the nearest convenience store and pay $32 because you were unprepared? Or what if it’s chilly in the morning but heats up during the day, did you bring a light jacket for your early morning tours?

What about currency exchange? Do you know how much your currency is worth to the currency of the country you’re visiting? You might want to know so that when getting change back, you are getting scammed. On my past solo trip i downloaded this app & it was simple, convenient & a life savior.

I Need a Currency Converter!

Step 3: Maneuvering

You’ve finally touched down, checked into your living arrangements (be sure to grab a business card of the hotel you’re staying at & keep it in your wallet) & now you’re ready to hit the streets and start exploring.

Firstly, trust everyone but trust no one… Be mindful of what you say, even lie a little if you have to. Allow your natural gut instincts to waver you. Watch who you tell you’re traveling alone with and who you say it by. I typically let the conversation flow before i offer up any information about myself, where I’m staying and my plans for the day. Countless times while in Bahrain the Saudi men asked where I was staying, and if i didn’t feel safe enough to give the truthful answer – my reply was either “with a friend” or “i can’t remember the name of it“. Try to stay inside the building while waiting for your ride to pick you up. It lessens the solicitation of being asked if you need a ride. This applies to both women & men! If it’s a taxi, and you’re telling you’re driver your destination you can even say that you’re “meeting a friend there”. The point is, you never know… Friendly conversations can be not soo friendly. Be aware of your surroundings, what you say and where you go.

Another useful app to help you communicate better with the locals is google translate. It comes with an auto translate where you can snap a photo of what you wanted translated and it’ll do all the work for you. It also helps to try to learn some of the common words before hand too (i.e.  bathroom, taxi, mall, thank you etc.)

 

Step 4: Social Engagement

Although, yes…you’re traveling solo. That DOES NOT mean you have to be by yourself the entire time. (Unless that’s your preference) There are ways you can meet people that isn’t your typical random encounter at the local market. Before i go on a trip, I post in one of the traveling groups on Facebook that I’m in. There’s soo many different groups out there that can satisfy your needs. Black travel, single travel, black single travel, elite travel, traveling moms, female travel…whatever you can think of, I’m sure there’s a group. Don’t be timid, introduce yourself tell them your interests and you’ll be surprised at how helpful and open people are to giving you the ins and outs of where they’ve been or even taking you around if they live there.

If you’re seasoned with social media & a complete social butterfly… create a tinder (if you don’t already have one) and update your bio saying you’re in town and open to meeting up with people. For me, I give my instagram if they want to meet up, from there I can filter through and see who I’m most compatible with and move forward.

Again… trust your judgement. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, then it isn’t right.

If social media apps aren’t your thing, that’s completely okay. While dining out alone try sitting at the bar…even if you don’t drink. Most people who sit at the bar are alone as well or probably a really outgoing couple who’s super sociable. Some of the best conversations happen there and you can even listen in on other conversations to hear of what’s going on in the area and things to do. For me, being a lady I’m usually the only woman at the bar and conversations are quickly birthed.

To me, I’ve noticed people are soo much more friendly out of the country then they are in the country. So loosen up a bit – these people don’t know you and 9/10 you’ll never see them again. (well of course you guys hit it off and exchange information and plan a trip together…lol)

Step 5: Documentation

If you’re anything like me, I love to keep memories. Sure they’re stored away in my memory but nothing beats scrolling through your archives and watching footage of your past trips and basically reliving the moment.

Traveling solo means either awkwardly having to ask random people “can you please take a picture of me” or dragging around your tripods, drones, selfie sticks & go pros everywhere. There’s definitely pros and cons to both. While asking for a picture by someone random, they might not get your whole outfit or completely miss the dope ass architecture behind you which was the reasoning behind wanting a picture in the first place. OR, while trucking along your photo/video equipment, it gets heavy…sometimes it’s inconvenient if you’re in a heavily trafficked tourist area and you didn’t beat the rush because you slept in from the night before of partying. :/

Either way, get it done. These moments are definitely worth being documented. If you’re an iPhone user and your storage is running low after you deleted hella pictures and apps i recommend downloading “google photos”. It continuously downloads your photos on your phone to a “cloud” and then you can delete the photos that’s in your iPhone “photo” app. Click below to download!

Most of my pictures are taken by me because usually when I ask people they can’t capture the vision that I have in my mind. Don’t feel like going through the fuss of asking people to do it? You can buy the tech i used for these pictures below… or click the “shop” button in the menu 😉

 

I hope these tips helped you conquer your first international trip abroad. If they did, feel free to let me know in the comments <3

Flight Ready Essentials For Airport Travel

Finally! The weekend is here and you’ve already booked your flight (hopefully after extensive research and got the best deal) and now you’re RET-TA-GO. Usually my trips are over the weekend or a holiday extended weekend where time off is more lengthy than normal. So, how do I prepare for it in the most cost efficient ways? I got you, i’m here for you..let me break it down.

Luggage:
Usually 3-4 day weekend trips require 3-4 outfits, and if you’re anything like me it’ll require 6-8 outfits – a girl gotta have options. Proper luggage is key to saving you money while traveling for short periods. Most airlines charge for checked luggage and carry on bags, BUT there is a way around that. You are are allowed one “personal item”. It will behoove you to take full advantage of that. A “personal item” has to be able to fit under the seat in front of you. I’ve bought mine from Amazon (of course) and it’s my go-to bag. One trip back home, I managed to fit 7 outfits, 4 pairs of shoes, pajamas, undergarments, my hair care products and all my toiletries. The TRUTH. Listennnn here, this bag saved me soo many times. It’s lightweight and waterproof just in case the plane has to land in water. I’ve never been questioned about it and it fits perfectly under the seat. If the plane isn’t full, you can even store it in the overhead bin so you can have some leg room 😉

TSA PRE CHECK:
I CANNOT express enough just how important and convenient this little beauty is. Whether it’s saving me time at the airport or just simply being more convenient of not having to strip down when walking through the body scanners at the airport.
TSA Pre check is basically a program where you get expedited passage through Transportation Security Administration at DOMESTIC airports. – whet? To sum it up, you can pass through the security lines without removing electronics from carry on bags, taking off your jacket or belt, taking off your shoes or even removing liquids from your bag. LIT- yeah, i know. If you are an active duty service member you are automatically enrolled. Federal government employees must enable the option on the MILCONNECT website. For all others, you can simply apply at the TSA website. No worries, I’ve included the website below.

I want TSA Pre Check!

The annual fee for TSA is only $85 for FIVE years. You can’t beat that. Less wait time & more convenience. Probably one of the best travel hacks for me. Applying is easy, you submit a 5 minute application online, select an appointment time, do a in person 10 minute background check and fingerprint scanning & upon enrollment you’ll get a “known traveler number” which is what you’ll enter when booking your flight. Don’t eat out for a month and buy this! You won’t regret it.

3. Headphones

After you’ve packed, gotten through security and now waiting to board your flight. There’s one last thing that you definitely need to get you to your next destination with ease. If you are one of those people who can just knock out and fall asleep as soon as you get to your seat- good for you. I envy you. But if you aren’t, like me… you’ll need some quality HEADPHONES. It seems, soo minute but it actually makes a hell of a difference. There has been a few times I’ve left my headphones at home and just to my luck there was a restless toddler who screamed the entire way or two tipsy friends meeting up – and forgot they were sitting right beside each but still continued to talk loudly to each other. Y’all know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. So, miserably i had to sit there & listen. I have specific travel headphones, i only use them when i travel and they stay with all my travel gear/necessities (i.e. passport, shower bag etc.) . Invest yourself in some quality headphones, hell even noise canceling headphones if you can.

I hope these helped you all with your upcoming travel. If there is something else i missed let me know in the comments 🙂