With the economy being as shitty as it is, the one good thing that’s come out of it this week is that gas prices DROPPED. No, kidding. The national average is now under $3.00 a gallon. In DC, it’s roughly around $3.49, which in our minds justified A ROAD TRIP!!! Sure, we COULD be saving money, but the way we see it, it’s cheaper than flying to Europe! And we’re going to PHILLY!!!! (Philadelphia, PA)

Anyhow, The BF is just as crazy about traveling as I am and we’re usually really smart about getting a bargain and how to make the  most of our trip. I usually do a lot of research and have a plan for our day, but I’m definitely not a stickler to it. Just as long as we see plenty and a lot, it’s all gravy with me.

Using our I thought I’d share some planning strategies for people who want to get the most out of their trip:

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1. Hotel & Car Rental: I really can’t tell you how much we LOVE Starwood. We pay our rent (and just about everything) with our Starwood AMEX and it has been REALLY kind in return. Read more about it here and here. Occasionally, we’ll receive a coupon or a email alert about a great deal. Hence, we’re using a 50% off coupon for one of their lower-priced hotels ALoft. We’ve never stayed here before, but the pictures look really chic and for roughly $60 a night (with the discount) we’re super excited! Since we don’t have a car here, I always bid (and win!) for a car on Priceline for about $16.

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2. Where to Start Your Research: When I’m starting my research, I usually start at the TravelChannel website. Since I didn’t see anything interesting, I went to the New York Times Travel Section and read up on article on Philadelphia. Fortunately, they wrote a few articles on Philly and it was a great jumping point.

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3. Eats: For the BF and I, good eats is REALLY important. Since we all know that Philly is known for Cheesesteaks and Hoagies, we were ready to gorge on some artery clogging meals covered in cheese whiz (no seriously!). The New York Times mentioned a few places so I jumped on Yelp to check out the reviews. Over the years, I’ve learned not to always trust tv shows or (sometimes) the New York Times in finding the best restaurants. Check out Yelp! I definitely trust going through “the Best of” Yelp pages. The Travel Channel covered two “famous” cheesesteak places (Geno’s and Pat’s)and the reviews on Yelp were terrible! Rather, I’ve found a bunch of really great places (John’s Roast Pork, Sarcone’s Deli, Tony Luke’s) and hopefully they’ll be just as great as their reviews! Gotta make the most out of the short period of time I’m there! (Reviews on our cheesesteak choices when we get back from Philly this weekend!)

4. Things to Do: By this time, I’ve already moved over to looking up cool places to see. TripAdvisor‘s a great site for this. Also, the NYTimes helped me a lot. We’ll be checking out (of course) the Liberty Bell, Franklin Square, Reading’s Terminal Market, and Mutter Museum (a Macabre museum!). I also like to get the feel for the different neighborhoods, so Frommer’s, through the NYTimes, gives a nice breakdown of the neighborhoods, so we’ll be checking that out too: South Philly (ethnic/Italian neighborhood), Old City (Philly’s SOHO), South Street (electic neighborhood), and Northern Liberties.

5. Map it out! Finally, I like to map out the list of places I’ve collected and rearrange things around to be sure that all the restaurants are spaced accordingly. Google Maps is really great! Not only can you map it accordingly to driving directiongs, but you can map it out to walking directions! Also, you can add multiple destination and drag them around so that it works for you. Do I always stick to the map? HECK NO. I’ll definitely only make it to a few of these places, but it’s always nice to have options while I’m walking. Save a Tree! I always send the directions and maps to my mobile so that I’m not carrying tons of paper.

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