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Category: Travel Adventures & Tips

How We Budget for Our Travels

As you may know, our home base is outside Denver, Colorado and we travel a good amount… at least once a month to various places. Sometimes, we’re only in Denver for 2 weeks or so before our next adventure. We’ve been asked many times how we can afford to travel and budget for it, so I’m here to share all of that with you.

A couple helpful things to know about us and our situation:
  1. Jeff and I are both able to work remotely, so most of our trips are combined work/travel trips meaning we work while we travel. This is different than just taking a week-long vacation using PTO. I’m writing a post on what that really looks like, so be on the lookout for that soon.
  2. We don’t have kids. We have a dog we travel with everywhere but we don’t have the expenses of having children yet (yes, mom, one day we’ll have kids. One day…)
  3. I used to work at Dave Ramsey which means we’re big on following a budget and never spending more than we make. We don’t “charge” any of our trips to a credit card and we’re very intentional with our funds. 
  4. We’re adventure travelers. This means we don’t usually opt for the high-end/fancy places for lodging (unless we get a great deal or doing a brand collaboration) and we try to find the cheapest flights (within reason when it comes to flight times).

How we can afford to travel

We save up for all of our trips ahead of time. We learned awhile ago that we can either go on vacations and be money-conscious the whole time counting up every dime we spend, OR properly plan for our trip financially setting aside money each month and enjoy the trip knowing it’s already fully paid for. We chose the latter option. It’s a much more enjoyable way to vacation when you aren’t worried about money the whole time. 
We have also learned that where you spend your money is where your priorities lie. For us, it is having experiences and traveling together, so our home is very modest and we don’t spend money on materialistic things we don’t need. We live the minimalist lifestyle and it’s helped us be intentional with our funds so we can see more of the world. 

How we budget for our trips

We use the EveryDollar budgeting software which helps us set aside money each month in a “fund” that we use towards our trips.

Wondering how to get that final number of how much you need to save for your trip?

Well, at first it’s an estimate and you can tweak that number as you go when you start to actually book things (i.e. flights, lodging, etc). 
I get my estimated cost for a trip by adding up the “big ticket items”. This would be flights, lodging per night, ground transportation, and I always add extra for miscellaneous such as activities or excursions. We personally count food and drinks in our normal line item on our budget, so don’t add any additional for the trip. If you’re curious what some possible expenses could be for your trip, check out a list here. 
Here is exactly how we use EveryDollar to budget for trips…
Side note: If you don’t already have EveryDollar, and want it, you can go here to create an account (it’s FREE!)
  1. In EveryDollar, create a line item for your trip and make it a “fund” since it’s something you’re going to be saving up for month after month.
  2. Estimate the cost of your trip (mentioned above).
  3. Once you have that number, divide it by the number of months until you’d like to go.
    • For example, if it’ll cost about $2,000 and you want to go in 5 months that means you’ll need to set aside $400 a month. If that’s not feasible, you’ll either need to lower the cost of your trip or push it out a few months.
  4. When you feel good about how much you can put aside for this every month, put it as the “Savings Goal” in the fund line item.
  5. Every month, put that monthly amount you calculated into the fund and watch the amount grow as you get closer and closer to your trip!

You may be wondering where this money you’ve set aside “lives” outside of EveryDollar. Here are some answers:

  • You can either keep this money in your checking account and just know your balance also includes this fund OR what I do and what I recommend is to have a separate savings account for your trip fund. You can set up an auto draft for this monthly amount to go into the savings account and it’ll be there when you need it.
  • When you’re ready to go on your trip (yay!), transfer all the money from your travel savings back into your checking account and only spend the amount saved and what is shown in EveryDollar.
  • To keep track while I’m on vacation, I drag and drop transactions into the fund (in the app on my phone) when they come through EveryDollar. This helps me track it and tells me what I have left remaining in the fund to spend. Easy!
Budget Tip:  If purchasing plane tickets, I wait until I have enough money saved in the fund before I buy them. For the best time to purchase tickets, read THIS post.

How To Plan A Road Trip

Road tripping is one of our favorite ways we like to explore the great outdoors – especially National Parks and we’re determined to see all of them. I’m also super organized (surprised, right?)  and every road trip of ours usually starts with a Google Map and spreadsheet with the budget 🙂

We recently went on a road trip around Washington (particularly the Olympic Peninsula and Mount Vernon areas) for 5 days and then made our way up to Vancouver, Canada for a visit. This entire area is incredibly gorgeous (if you go during the right time of year) and I’m going to be writing a travel guide for them soon, so be on the lookout!

I thought it would be helpful if I shared our road trip planning templates so you can use them too to plan your own. You can copy them and customize it to your trip!

First, I start with a Google Map. On here, I create an initial ‘layer’ and start putting all the places we want to go. After we consider logistics and how many days we have, I add additional layers for each day and then drag the pins to certain days that make the best sense for the route we’ll take. I label, color code, add fun icons, and photos with descriptions as well.

Tip: Save your map “offline” so you can access it without data too (a.k.a. when you’re driving in the middle of nowhere)

Next, I create a Google spreadsheet with the budget.  On this spreadsheet, I also included a separate sheet at the bottom with the daily route in case that view is easier for you than the map. Use whichever you like best, or both! Click on the image below to open the spreadsheet. (Tip: if you log into your Google account you can go to ‘file’ → ‘save a copy’)

We save up for all of our trips before we go on them. If you want to know how we do that and get a detailed explanation on where the money “lives” until the trip, hop over to THIS post where I explain what we do in detail in the “budgeting software” section.

 

Now, you just need to pack! If you need help with that, you can find my Ultimate Packing Checklist HERE (hint: it’s customizable too)

If you plan for road trips in a different way, let me know how you do it!

Video: Road Trip Out West (in a camper van)

Before we moved to Denver, Colorado I really wanted to take a road trip out West and it’s one of the things we said we’d do once we were out here. The landscape in the South is quite different from that in the West and I’d never experienced it before. We wanted to check out iconic places like the Grand Canyon, see the sandstone buttes of Utah, and canyons in Arizona. So, we did!

Our Route
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The Ultimate Travel Guide to Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas, or “Cabo”, is on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and peppered with resorts along the coast. I found some amazing deals on flights so Jeff and I decided to book it on a whim and invited my mom to join us. We had 4 full days there and a travel day on each end of that. This was also a work + travel trip for us where Jeff and I worked remotely from our hotel (poolside, room balcony, or lobby).

Here is my ultimate guide to Cabo!

GENERAL INFO

  • Currency: Mexican Pesos
  • Language:  Spanish and English
  • Getting around:  Taxis and shuttles. When you arrive at the SJU airport and before exiting the building, you’ll be asked if you have a ride. We got a shuttle from there (you can trust it) and they drop off at local resorts and hotels. When leaving your hotel, just ask the concierge and they can arrange for a taxi/shuttle.
  • When to Visit:  November-April (December-March is peak whale watching season!)
Travel Tip: Keep the visa you’re given when you enter Mexico through customs; otherwise, in order to leave the country, you’ll have to pay for another one at the airport (about $30)

Stay AT HILTON LOS CABOS BEACH & GOLF RESORT

Originally, Jeff and I just planned to stay at an Airbnb in downtown Cabo, but when my mom decided to join us, she insisted on staying at a resort (she’s fancier than us) and I’m SO glad she did. Cabo is a resort city and you can definitely go the more budget-friendly route but just trust me, you’re going to want to stay at one of the resorts. We had a nice private beach, infinity pool, beach bars, and our room close by so we could work some and be with our dog, Leon. Lounging by the pool on our “lunch breaks” was incredible.

Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort was absolutely stunning! Our room was fantastic with a gorgeous balcony view and everything about this place was pristine along with kind, helpful staff. There are 2 pools, one of which is an infinity pool overlooking the ocean (!!!), swim-up pool bars where you can also order lunch, cabanas all over the place, a clean and private beach which was perfect for relaxing, and an amazing beach bar with swings as seats. We spent some good quality time relaxing by the pool and beach and had more plates of nachos delivered to our poolside chairs than we may want to count.

Of course, there are lots of other resorts along the coast but we couldn’t have asked for a better place to have stayed. We were also looking into The Cape – a Thompson Hotel.

EXPLORE DOWNTOWN CABO

This is a tourist city made obvious by seeing the same type of shops along the streets selling similar things (hats, Mexican blankets, ponchos, etc), and even though I say that, it’s still super fun to walk around and pop in some of them to look around. My mom got a hat that I now envy and wish I had bought.

Walk around the marina – There are tons of bars and restaurants along the marina walk. There’s a sailboat docked here that looks like an old pirate ship called ‘Bucaneer Queen’ which is kind of cool to see if you’re into that (like Jeff is).

Medano Beach – This is the main public beach. Several bars and restaurants also line this shoreline. To be honest, I didn’t love this beach because it was pretty crowded with people but great to walk along to get to some of the restaurants (some options are mentioned below!).

SAIL TO THE ARCH OF CABO

This was probably my favorite memory of this trip. We booked a luxury sailing excursion through Cabo Adventures where we went sailing around Land’s End at sunset. It was magical! They served cocktails and served some delicious appetizers too. Along the trip, you get to see major sights like Lover’s Beach, Divorce Beach, The Arch of Cabo, and if you’re lucky, some sea lions and maybe even whales depending on the season.

GET YOUR PARTY ON AT CABO WABO

Cabo Wabo is probably the most famous bar/club in Cabo. It’s owned by the legendary Sammy Hagar of Van Halen and is a large complex with bars and stages where you can listen to some live music.

SCUBA, SNORKEL, KAYAK, SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS

Cabo is known for its many options of water activities. You can likely book any of this through your hotel or just reach out directly to Cabo Adventures.

ATV ACROSS A WOODEN SUSPENSION BRIDGE

If you’re wanting to take a break from lounging on the beach or pool and interested in doing something adventurous on land, this would be it. Wild Canyon offers ATV tours across different terrains and even the wooden suspension bridge. They have a lot of other activities to choose from too.

EAT ALL THE MEXICAN FOOD

We’re HUGE fans of Mexican food (Jeff is from Texas so his love language is tacos) so we were obviously very excited to eat while there!
Taco Loco  This place is small and sits right in front of Cabo Wabo but man, it was amazing. The tacos were really simple but had so much flavor. We had salsa and guacamole too and it was all so fresh!
SUR Beach House  After walking on Medano beach, we stopped here for an early dinner. The restaurant sits on the beach with a view of El Arco. It was an elegant yet laid-back place with the freshest ingredients. My mom and I split the nachos and Jeff had some sort of seafood tacos. Basically, we were all in heaven.
* This is where we met our waiter, Ramon, who we got to do a little travel interview with.
Mi Casa – This is a pretty well-known restaurant in Cabo. The food is good but you really go there for the fun atmosphere.
The Office on the Beach – Cabo is pretty laid back, but this is another well-known restaurant and one that you’ll need to make reservations for. It sits on Medano beach with a beautiful view and a really fun atmosphere. Definitely worth checking out!

CABO GOOGLE MAP

The Ultimate (Winter) Getaway to Winter Park

Winter Park is a town a little over an hour drive from Denver, Colorado. It’s a gorgeous drive on winding roads with the mountains as your background and even more spectacular after a dusting of snow!
 
A couple friends came in town to visit so we headed for a mountain getaway in Winter Park. 

Where to Stay

Winter Park Resort has a variety of great lodging options (condos, hotels, townhomes) at the base of the village. 

Airbnb is a great resource around this area and one we took advantage of. You can find a house with a gorgeous view that’s just down the road from the base village at the resort. This is a great option if you’d like the freedom to cook some of your own meals. Tip: look at places located in Fraser too which is a neighboring town.

If you don’t find something you like on Airbnb and want to go something more along that route, check out this page for a list of lodging resources.

Snow Tubing

Coca-Cola Tube Park is located at Winter Park Resort and has 4 snow tubing lanes. It’s $23 per rider for an hour and so much fun! Hint: lane 1 is the fastest. 

Fraser Tubing Hill is located just outside Winter Park and is exactly how it sounds… a large hill you snow tube down.

Ski/Snowboard

Winter Park Resort has seven territories to ski/board so you’ll have plenty of options! If you can go on a weekday rather than a Saturday or Sunday, you’ll save some time in the lift lines. The runs are well groomed and overall just an excellent place to ski for newbies or the expert. My favorite territory to ski is Mary Jane. 

If you’re up for it, you can even try ski biking! 

Snowmobile to the Continental Divide

Grand Adventures offers a 2-hour adventure snowmobile tour to the Continental Divide. If you’ve never been snowmobiling, it’s definitely something you need to try! They do guided and unguided tours and you can ride on your own snowmobile or go tandem. Dress warm and in layers!

Snowshoe 

Snowshoeing is hiking but with a pair of snowshoes strapped over your boots to make it easier so you don’t sink into the snow with every step. There are plenty of trails around the area too. If you don’t have your own snowshoes, you can rent them at the Nordic center and most ski shops. Find hiking trails on alltrails.com and take your snowshoes with you or stop by the information center in downtown Winter Park to pick up your own trail map. You can find more info here too. 

Go Fat Tire Biking

Fat tire biking is a mountain bike with fat tires that have tread made for riding on snow. There are literally hundreds of miles of trails and roads to ride on around Winter Park! You can find out where to rent bikes and where to ride them here

Where to Eat

Idlewild: Grab dinner and drinks here after a long day of winter activities. It’s a cozy, comfortable place that’s on the smaller side so go early or late and definitely try the Brussels sprouts! I’m also a sucker for their cool logo.

Goodys Mountain Creperie: Located in the Winter Park village, stop by here after skiing and get a delicious crepe and warm cocktail.

Photo from Idlewild's Instagram

We had a great time in Winter Park and will definitely be back in the summer to check out the alpine slide and all of the summer activities. There’s so much to do here no matter the season! If you have any questions, let me know.

Backpacking Western Europe for 30 Days

My first time traveling abroad was when I decided to backpack around Western Europe for a month. Yep, 30 days abroad. I was about to graduate college with a marketing and international business degree and realized I had yet to actually travel internationally (a study abroad semester wasn’t required then). That felt silly so I booked a trip.

That month of trekking through 10 cities in 6 countries with just my backpack is what made me fall in love with traveling. The different cultures, foods, architecture, transportation, people… I loved it all and it all blew my mind.

That’s a lot of places to go in just one month! It was my first time in Europe so I wanted to see as much as I possibly could while I was there. I was really a tourist on that trip and it’s not the way I travel now nor would I recommend anyone try to fit that many stops into that time frame. I now travel like an explorer getting to know a location, talking to locals, and definitely prefer quality over quantity.

Here is what that trip looked like. Now, this was 7 years ago and I wasn’t a travel planner then, so grace my friends, because I don’t remember all the details.

Side note – most of the lodging were hostels, which get a bad rap, but you can get different types of rooms (private, shared, mixed) and there are some really great ones out there. Just make sure you do your research and read reviews. This is my trusted hostel source.

Day 1-4:  LONDON, England

Stayed here: Lse Rosebery Hall 

Explored: Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Tower of London

Took the Chunnel to Paris.

Photo by Rob Bye
Photo by Arvydas Venckus
Photo by Hugo Sousa

Day 5-7:  PARIS, France

Stayed here: St. Christopher’s (I remember really liking this place)

Explored: Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Pont Alexander III Bridge

Photo by Anthony DELANOIX
Photo by Arthur Yeti
Photo by Irene Ledyaeva

Day 8-9:  AMSTERDAM, Netherlands

Stayed here: Intersail (this hostel was on a boat!)

Explored: Canal tour, walked around a lot, the red light district, Heineken brewery tour, Ann Frank house

Something to know about Amsterdam… they bike everywhere!

Took the night train to Munich.

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus
Photo by Piotr Chrobot

Day 10-12:  MUNICH, Germany

Stayed here: Hostel Central

Explored: Marienplatz, Residenz Palace, Englischer Garten, Hofbräuhaus, Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau Castle

The beer in Germany is WAY better than here in the states and I promise you’ll come back a beer snob (at least I did).

Took the train to Venice.

Photo by Warren Sammut

Day 13-15:  VENICE, Italy

Stayed hereB&B in Venice, Flat Ca’Corte

Explored: Rialto Bridge, Piazza San Marco, Doge’s Palace, Basilica of the Salute, walked around a bunch and went to markets, the Bridge of Sighs, Basilica San Marco

Venice isn’t built on a grid like most cities and is like a really beautiful maze that’s easy to get lost in.

Photo by Joshua Stannard
Photo by Craig Philbrick
Photo by AussieActive

Day 16-20: ROME, Italy

Stayed here: Trastevere neighborhood with friends

Explored: Trastevere neighborhood, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Piazza Venezia, Castle Sant’Angelo, St. Peter’s Basilica (and went inside the dome), Piazza Navona, Vatican

There is SO MUCH to do and see in Rome! It blew my mind that you could just be casually walking around the city and stumble upon so many ruins. The place is full of history and wine in Italy is truly cheaper than water.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz
Photo by Chad Greiter
Photo by Edgar Castrejon
Photo by Mauricio Artieda

Day 21-23:  FLORENCE, Italy

Stayed here: Soggiorno Pitti

Explored: Duomo di Firenze, Michelangelo’s David, Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens

Try the trofie pasta, aperol spritz, and of course indulge in all the gelato and tiramisu while you’re in Italy!

Photo by Domenico Loia
Photo by Domenico Loia

Day 24:  NICE, France

Stayed here: Hostel Smith 

This was just a quick stopover on the way to Spain so I didn’t do much other than walk around.

Photo by Nick Karvounis

Day 25-27:  BARCELONA, Spain

Stayed here: Safestay Barcelona Sea

Explored: The beach, Park Guell, La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, La Rambla, Gothic Quarter, Casa Mila

I love Barcelona. After visiting, I realized I have a favorite architect… Antoni Gaudí who has so much of his gorgeous work around Barcelona.

Photo by Dennis van den Worm

Day 28-29:  MADRID, Spain

Stayed here: Pop Hostel

Explored: Saw a flamenco show, Plaza Mayor, Plaza de Toros, Mercado de San Miguel

Day 30:  Depart Europe and back to the states

Have you been to any of these places? If so, what were some of your favorite spots or other things you did/saw there?

Travel Guide to Park City, Utah

The past few years, our family has done a ski trip in January checking out a new ski town each time. In the past, we’ve gone to Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Aspen, Colorado; and now this year, Park City, Utah. Each one has been an amazing winter wonderland.

GETTING THERE

We flew into Salt Lake City, rented a 4WD SUV through Hertz, and then drove 45 minutes to Park City. The drive through the mountains was beautiful.

WHERE WE STAYED

We stayed at Silver Baron Lodge within Deer Valley Resort next to Park City. Our place was incredible and right next to the slopes. We had a 3 bedroom condo with a fireplace in each room (!!), a hot tub on the deck, and a view that overlooked the heated pool, other hot tubs, and snow-capped trees. Every day in the afternoon, the lodge had warm cookies and the most delicious hot chocolate for guests. They served this awesomeness in a cozy common area with couches and a fireplace blazing. It was the perfect treat when coming in from a long day of skiing. I’m going to be honest, I had multiple cookies and cups of hot chocolate each day ?

A few of my other favorite things about this place: they had shuttles that took skiers to the base of the mountain to hit the slopes, Cadillac Escalade courtesy vehicles that would give you rides to pretty much anywhere you wanted to go (restaurants, into town, shops), amazing buffet breakfast (included), and the kindest people ever working there.

SKIING

We skied at both Deer Valley and Park City multiple days and had a blast! We rented our skis again through Ski Butlers (my favorites) who came to our lodge to drop off and pick up our skis and boots afterward.
Both mountains had amazing skiing with lots of runs and beyond beautiful scenery. Skiing down from the top of a mountain is one of my favorite things to do in the world. If I had to choose, I think I preferred Deer Valley though. They kept the runs very well groomed and I really enjoyed the restaurants on the mountain where we stopped for lunch.

Pro Tip: Deer Valley is a skiers-only mountain (sorry boarders!)

OTHER STUFF

While we were there, the Freestyle International Ski World Cup was happening for moguls and aerials. So, a couple nights after dinner we went to watch the most ridiculously awesome skiers compete to qualify for the Olympics!

RESTAURANTS

Here are some of my favorite meals we had while visiting:
  • J&G Grill –  An upscale restaurant in the St. Regis hotel. If you go here, you have to get the black truffle pizza! Even if you don’t go for dinner, take the funicular up to the hotel and enjoy the beautiful view from the top. There’s a restaurant and bar with a spectacular view over Deer Valley.
  • Prime Steakhouse –  Delicious steakhouse and fun piano bar on Main Street in Park City
  • Buona Vita –  Italian restaurant on Main Street in Park City. This was probably my favorite meal of all! Everyone at the table absolutely loved their food. Jeff got the Lucattelli pizza and I had the Gnocchi Al Pesto and neither of us could rave about it more.

Miami Beach

My birthday is the week before Christmas and to celebrate the big 30, Jeff and I took a trip to Miami Beach for a couple days before heading home to Nashville, Tennessee to be with family for the holidays. We only had 2 full days there and wanted it to be a relaxing trip, so we didn’t have time to explore all that Miami has to offer and just chose to stay on the Miami Beach side. Here’s what our 2 days looked like.

We stayed at The Nautilus Hotel in South Beach which was truly excellent and were greeted in our room with a couple birthday macaroons! It was in the perfect location, beach access with 2 free beach chairs, a swanky pool with cabanas, a really neat “backyard area”, and an entire bar-lounge which was luxurious. A couple of my favorite little things (I love it when a brand/company pays attention to the details) was that the lobby always smelled incredible and the bamboo arch walkway with string lights was adorable. I don’t know what scent they were pumping into the air, but every time I walked into that lobby, it was something I noticed. We had a great time staying at this hotel and I’d highly recommend it.

After we first arrived and checked into our hotel, we went to grab a bite to eat somewhere nearby and stumbled upon Sweet Liberty. We both fell in love with this place and I can’t talk it up enough. First, we had excellent cocktails – Jeff got a “Banana O’Hara” and I had a fresh margarita. We’re seriously going to try our best to recreate that “Banana O’Hara” drink at home! Then, the burger happened. Our waitress told us it was amazing so we had to try it  – and boy was she right! We both said it was one of the best burgers we’ve ever had and it could easily feed 2 people. Also, the atmosphere of this restaurant was just cool. If you’re in Miami Beach, you have to go here.

Day 1 – Exploring

This day was my birthday. We woke up and went for a run on the beach-walk and then came back to our room to have mimosas and French toast. It was so incredibly delicious. Not a bad way to start the morning! Afterwards, we got cleaned up and checked out a couple of bikes from our hotel and rode around South Beach. We went to the Museum of Ice Cream (super fun!) then explored the Art Deco area along Ocean Drive. Later in the evening, we had drinks at our hotel bar and then walked to dinner at The Social Club down the street inside of the Surfcomber Hotel. Y’all, this dinner was phenomenal! We had the pimento mac and cheese, steak frites, and a sour cream cake for dessert. Of course, I also had super fun sparkly candles on top ?

Day 2 – Relaxing

Since the first day was all about exploring Miami Beach, I really wanted the second day we had there to be as relaxing as possible. We slept in and then went for a couples massage at a nearby spa inside of Hotel Victor. We could have just used the spa services at our hotel, but Jeff found a great deal on Groupon so we opted for that. Afterwards, we grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby Mediterranean restaurant then went to the beach for the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun and enjoying the downtime. For dinner, we decided to try out the restaurant at our hotel, Nautilus Cabana Club. The food was excellent – especially the roasted Brussels sprouts. We sat outside and the weather could not have been more perfect!
The next morning we hopped on a plane and headed for Nashville. Overall, we both really enjoyed Miami Beach and would definitely go back again. If you like warm weather, Art Deco buildings, beaches, and going out to enjoy the nightlife, you may want to check this place out!

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!

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