Archives for October 2016

My Travel Philosophy: 5 Travel Truths

whereIf you read this blog, then, like me, you probably have a passion for travel.  A curiosity about the world. A desire for a more meaningful existence. I personally think that travel is one of the best educations and investments in you.  Through travel, you learn about yourself, you learn about others, and you bridge the gap between yourself and that which was previously unknown to you. It is then that you realize that, despite different languages, cultures, and religious beliefs, most of the world is the same. In a way, travel erases fear and, sometimes, prejudices.

The goal of this blog is to encourage you to travel. In my opinion, what stops people from traveling is not always the time or the money (those are just the excuses), but fear and maybe a little bit of ignorance. I found 5 quotes that sum up my travel philosophy, and I would like to share them with you. liveTruer words have never been spoken. As the saying goes, the only certainty in life is death and taxes. So, since you know you only have a limited amount of time on this planet, why not spend it living? I am not advocating that you just quit your job, shirk all your responsibilities, and run around the world living a gypsy life. What I am saying is make time to live. Go outside of your comfort zone. Try something new. Go somewhere new. Learn something new. Which brings me to my next philosophy:planDreams are aspirational. Plans are more concrete. Travel doesn’t have to be a dream. It should be a plan. Make travel part of your plan. Pick a place that has always interested you, set aside some time (like literally request the time off of work and put it on your calendar, even if it is a year away), set a realistic budget (a little internet research and can help you determine how much it will cost to get there and stay there, and then add 10 to 20% so there are no surprises), and then work towards that goal (skip that morning coffee, and put the money in your travel fund; bring your lunch instead of going out, and put that money in your travel fund; walk instead of uber, and get exercise and a few more dollars for your travel fund). That way, you canmemoriesBecause, let’s be honest, there is nothing worse than regret. And, pay billsYou were meant for so much more than that! So, the next time you are feeling the pressures of work (and life), just remember,jobsTake some time out in your life to enjoy all that hard work and to fill your soul. You deserve an adventure! You deserve toexistOkay, so that was 6 philosophies.  I guess I was feeling generous. Anyway, I hope this post inspires you to take that trip that you have pushed to the back of your mind, and, as always, I would love to hear about it.

 

Set To Jet: The Ultimate Travel Packing and Preparation List

packingpost

Recently, I have gotten a lot of requests for a post about packing- how to pack and what to pack. As I started to give this some thought, I realized there is so much more to trip preparation than just packing.  I mean, the preparation process is enough to induce an anxiety attack; but, with a little advanced preparation, it does not have to be stressful. So, I am going to give you an overview of how I prepare for a trip.  This is not just a packing post; it’s a trip preparedness post.

When it comes to packing, though, keep in mind, where you are going and what you are doing when you get there largely dictates what you will pack. There are, however, a few general guidelines that I find helpful, paramount among them is the importance of packing in advance!  I like to pack at least one week before my trip. Why? Well, one week gives you enough time to “live” out of your suitcase such that you will be reminded of things that you forgot to pack.  I don’t mean that you should literally live out of your suitcase, but generally, as you go through the week leading up to your trip, you may remember that you forgot to pack underwear, your contact solution, your Advil, etc. So, without further adieu, I present to you my tried-and-true packing and trip preparation tips!

As Soon As You Book:Visas and Vaccines

As soon as you book your trip (and I hope this is not a last minute booking because if it is, this won’t apply), check the visa and vaccine requirements for your chosen destination. Make an appointment at a travel clinic to get your vaccines and call the embassy of your destination country to advance purchase your visa.  Also, now is the time to check your passport.  Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the date of your return. Back in June, I wrote a post about adventure travel preparation. More detailed information on vaccines and visas can be found in that post.

The Month of Your Trip: Travel Documents and Money

Its time to get your travel documents and money in order.  I like to bring a folder that has all my trip information with me.  In this folder, I put a copy of my flight reservation, my hotel reservation confirmations, my transfer confirmations, the confirmations of all our tours/activities/reservations, and a copy of our itinerary and travel insurance documents, if applicable.  I make a duplicate folder to leave at home with my mom, and, in that, I include all relevant phone numbers and email addresses for our travel agent, hotels, guides. etc.

Next I gather my passport, my visa if applicable, my driver’s license, my travel insurance policy if applicable, my health insurance card, and my credit cards.  I make several color copies of both the front and the back of each.  I leave one set in my home, one in my office, and one with my mom. I also take one copy in my carry-on luggage, I hide one in my checked luggage.  In addition to the copies, I also take photos and store them on my phone and email a PDF document of the color copies to myself.  Sound like overkill?  Wait until you are stranded somewhere, or worse, you get robbed.  It won’t be overkill then. You can invest in a travel organizer to house all these documents, and if you do so, make sure to throw in a couple of pens to fill out your customs forms. I bought a large leather envelope bag from Etsy, and I put everything in there.

You’ll also want to call your bank and all your credit cards and alert them of your travels, including dates of departure and return and the countries and cities you are visiting so that they do not freeze your cards while you are traveling and also so that they monitor your accounts for fraud.  Now is a good time to inquire about foreign transaction fees too.  Finally, you will want to order a few hundred dollars of foreign currency to take with you as well as withdraw enough emergency cash (in U.S. dollars) for the trip. Yes, you can change money while in country, but I find that the change stations in airports have a higher rate than what your bank (or, better yet, a local currency exchange retailer) will charge you. Also, this allows you to monitor the exchange rate and buy on the best date.

The Week Before Your Trip: Hell Week

You have a lot to do this week, so I am going to break this out into steps for you. This will probably be the most stressful time before your trip, but you have to try and remain calm and trust in the value of your advanced preparation. Also, weeks like this will help you appreciate and savor the carefree bliss of your travels.

Step 1: Pack Your Checked Luggage
First, check your airline carrier’s weight and dimension requirements and adhere to them. If you are going to a place where insects/mosquitoes are a concern, make sure to spray both the inside and outside of your luggage as well as your clothing before packing (see the link in my June post mentioned above for more information on this). Also, make sure you have a couple of luggage locks and updated luggage tags.  You may also want to consider an electronic luggage tracking device.

Like I said, your itinerary and destination will largely dictate what you need to pack. So, I think it is a good idea to have a copy handy while you are packing.  Go through each day and think about what you are doing, the climate, and how long your days are so that you can pack accordingly.  I like to literally lay out complete outfits for day and night for each day and then add in a few extra tops.  I try to build my travel wardrobe around a few key basic/classic pieces, like a good pair of jeans, my favorite leggings, etc. The basics include lightweight clothing that can be layered. In choosing your clothing, try to pick versatile pieces to mix and match that can be dressed up or down. You don’t know anyone there so you can re-wear outfits (GASP!), and I don’t care what you see on Instagram from fashion bloggers who bring like two entire suitcases for a weekend getaway, you do NOT need that many clothes. Remember, you need to drag all this crap all over the world, so choose wisely.

Keeping everything organized can be a challenge, so packing organizers can be a life saver. You can keep clothing organized in compartments by using packing cubes. These are some staple items that you want to pack:

  • Tops (1 to 2 per day and then 2-3 extra; short sleeved and tanks for warm weather and long sleeved or sweaters for cold weather)
  • 2 pairs of jeans (preferably one blue and one black)
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • If it’s a warm weather destination, then a couple pairs of shorts
  • 1 versatile,  neutral colored jacket and/or a cardigan (I like to bring a jean jacket)
  • Active-wear (I love Lululemon.  I bring a few pairs of their yoga pants, some sports bras, and a few tanks)
  • Swimwear if necessary (1 to 2 pieces is plenty and 1 cover-up)
  • 1 to 2 dresses or dressier options (like a skirt, a pair of dress pant, a jumpsuit, or rompers)
  • Socks
  • Underwear and bras (I usually bring 2 bras, 4 sports bras, and 2 pairs of underwear per day)
  • Pajamas/sleepwear (1 set is usually enough)
  • 1 pair of sneakers or comfortable walking shoes (or flat boots/booties if necessary)
  • 1 pair of comfortable flats or sandals for evenings
  • 1 pair of flip flops (for walking around the beach or the hotel room)
  • Water shoes, if necessary
  • 1 versatile belt (I like a gold skinny belt)
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 1 lightweight, neutral colored rain jacket or a poncho
  • 1 neutral colored cross-body day bag (again, I like a metallic, like gold or pewter)
  • 1 small evening wristlet or clutch
  • If it’s cold, then:
    •  1 puffer vest
    • 2 neural colored scarves
    • 1 pair of gloves
    • 1 neutral colored hat or ear warmers
    • 1 set of thermals
    • a heavier coat (that you should carry on the plane with you)

Forget the jewelry. It takes up space, you have to keep track of it, and you don’t need it.  Leave your wedding bands and watches in a home safe and your costume jewelry at home unless you are traveling for an event, like a wedding. I also like to pack a plastic laundry bag to house my dirty clothes. Also, I am assuming that you will get your hair blown out and a gel manicure before you leave. Most hotels now have a pretty decent blow dryer so just bring a light flat iron, or, better yet, find a nearby salon to get your hair blown out in-country and don’t bring anything (this is very cheap in Asia and South America)! I recently got a lightweight travel steamer, so I will be bringing that when I travel next year for my sister’s wedding in Greece.

Step 2: Pack Your Carry-On Bag
The next thing you’ll want to do is prepare your carry-on bag. Again, check your airline carrier for required dimensions and weights. Some airlines are very strict about this. I like a roller-board over a duffel bag. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have one or two complete outfits, sleepwear, and underwear in your carry-on in case your luggage is lost or delayed (or you miss a flight/connection). I also like to carry my essential toiletries in my carry-on. Remember, you’ll be carrying this bad boy with you, so keep it light. Here are some things to include:

Technology

  • Mobile device/iPad/e-reader, charger, and converter/adapter
  • Cigarette lighter charger for the car
  • Mobile/wireless charging device
  • Mobile Wi-Fi device or personal hotspot and charger
  • Headphones
  • If you still travel with a camera and/or a video camera/GoPro, you will need the charger and memory card (same goes for your laptop)

Health Items

  • Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
  • Baby wipes (which can also double as toilet paper when you visit countries where that is a luxury in public restrooms, aka, almost everywhere outside of the U.S.)
  • Prescriptions (in case something happens to your checked luggage)
  • Glasses and case
  • Advil or a pain reliever
  • Birth control
  • Antacids
  • Band-aids
  • Anti-diarrhea medications
  • Tissues
  • Lip Balm
  • Gum
  • Snacks (I like protein bars, nuts, and dark chocolate)

I usually also pack a pair of plane socks and my flip flops. Your selfie stick can go in here or your checked luggage, and I sometimes bring a small, lightweight, hand-held fan with batteries. Did she just say a fan?!? Yes, she did. Go to Asia for three weeks (or the Greek Islands in the summer) and then tell me what the one thing you wished had with you was.  I bet it’s a fan. And a cool towel (which I also brought). By the way, if you are traveling to a place where you will be visiting temples or mosques, then remember to always have a pair of socks on you and something to cover your shoulders. You can’t wear shoes inside these places.

Remember, you also get a personal item (like a purse or a backpack), so use that space as well.  In here, I pack my travel wallet, my phone, extra cash, my travel document organizer/folder, a pen, a light scarf that can also be used as a blanket, and some extra luggage locks and keys in case mine break along the way. I don’t use a travel pillow anymore because all airlines give you pillows on board, but if you do, stick it in your carry on, and don’t forget your earplugs, eye-patch, book and/or magazines.

Step 3: Pack Your Toiletry Bag
I like to pack this a week in advance and actually live out of it for a week to make sure I packed everything I need.  I will usually pack two toiletries bags: one that I carry on with essentials and one that I check in my luggage.  If you’re carrying on, keep your toiletry bag light and TSA-compliant. The TSA’s 3-1-1 rule makes it easy to remember: liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container and they must be in a 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag. Here is what I pack:

  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Hair brush
  • Hair ties, clips, and bobby pins
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo and conditioner (sometimes I skip this since all hotels have these)
  • Dry shampoo
  • Small bar soap or body wash
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Sunscreen
  • Face Wash (and my travel Clarisonic)
  • Moisturizer
  • Hairspray
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Extra contacts, solution, and case
  • Personal prescriptions
  • Pain and fever relievers
  • Cold medicines and throat lozenges
  • Diarrhea/laxative medicines
  • Allergy medicines
  • Band-aids/blister covers
  • Hydrocortisone cream/antibacterial ointment
  • Sunburn relief
  • Insect repellent/mosquito net/sting reliever
  • Motion sickness pills or bands
  • Eye drops
  • Medicines and vaccinations specific to the region/activity, including precautionary antibioitcs and oral yeast infection treatment if that is a side-effect to your antibiotic
  • Make up
    • concealer
    • pressed powder compact
    • blush with brush
    • eyebrow brush
    • mascara
    • lip gloss
    • lip balm
    •  travel sized perfume
    • tweezers and nail clippers

Step 4: Prepare Your Home

Now is the time to make preparations for your home, your pets, and your workload.

  • Have the post office hold mail or arrange for a friend or family member to come pick it up
  • Stop newspaper and meal delivery services
  • Cancel your pool service, pest control service, and cleaning service companies
  • Check upcoming work deadlines and coordinate for coverage with a co-worker
  • Set up an email auto reply and leave the information of your coverage co-worker
  • Arrange care of pets, lawn, and plants
    • If you are having someone stay at your house or come by periodically while you are gone, make sure to leave specific feeding instructions for pets, including instructions to administer medication and emergency vet numbers
    • If you are boarding, make sure to make a reservation and pack food, medication, a bed, toys, and emergency contact information (yours, a local contact, and your vet)
    • Leave watering instructions for your plants and/or care instructions for your house
  • Pre-pay bills online
  • Prearrange school absences for children
  • Empty your refrigerator of perishables, but leave some non-perishable items for your return
  • Unplug appliances
  • Turn up your air conditioner
  • Set up light and sprinkler timers
  • Take out your trash
  • Lock all doors and windows and set your alarm
  • Leave a set of keys to your car and home with a trusted friend or family member
  • Store valuables in a safe place
  • Leave your trip itinerary with a trusted friend or family member, including flight and hotel itineraries and contact numbers
  • Reconfirm/check-in online with airline and print boaridng passes or send them to your mobile device
  • If you will be gone for a long time, consider putting up your hurricane shutters (just in case)

Phew! You are done! It’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy that vacation, because you earned it! Also, you can now enjoy your time away knowing that you’ve taken care of every last detail! I hope you found this post helpful. If so, drop me a comment or an email and let me know.  If I have forgotten anything or you have some other great tips, I’d love to hear them.

An Alternative to Disney: The 5 Best U.S. Cities For Family Travel

Are-We-There-Yet-Sermon-Series-IdeaFamily vacations: where to go, is there anything there to entertain the kids, how much will this cost? I am assuming this is what goes through every parent’s mind when it comes time to plan the family vacation.  I bet it feels more like a chore than an adventure, so I am guessing that most people just go back to what they know: Disney.

Chad and I don’t have kids yet, but I bet a lot of readers of this blog do, and, since the purpose of this blog is to inspire you to incorporate travel into your life, regardless of what stage in life you are in, I put together a list of the 5 best U.S. cities for family travel. Think of this as an alternative to Disney, because, let’s be honest, how many times can you really visit the mouse’s house without wondering if you (or your wallet!) can take it.

In compiling this list, I tried to choose places that were (relatively) budget friendly, that covered the span of the U.S., that had something that appealed to the whole family, regardless of age, and that offered a different experience according to your preference (city vs. beach vs. active/outdoors). Also, I enlisted the help of a friend, former law school classmate, blogger extraordinaire, and super mom, Jennifer from The Champagne Supernova Blog. She actually has kids – two of them! So without further adieu, allow us to save you from yet another Disney trip.

Number 1: Washington, D.C.DC MallAh, our nation’s capitol! Do you know why this takes the number one spot? Because, once you get there (and getting there is not too expensive on JetBlue), almost all of your activities are free!! That’s right, free! Our nation’s monuments? Free! Museums? Free! In fact, there are over 200 museums in D.C. and almost all of them are free!  So, whether your children like art, science, animals, or history, there is a museum that suits their (and your) interests.

Another great thing about D.C. is that most of the sites are within walking distance of each other, making it an easy city within which to ambulate. Otherwise, the hop on hop off tours are a great value (also, check Groupon, as they are usually running a special on these tours), allowing you to tour the entire city and Arlington National Cemetery for one or two days while learning about the places you are visiting en-route. This also gives you the flexibility to ride around and see a lot without necessarily having to get off at every stop, and it’s fun to sit on top of the open air bus! Uber is another great option for getting around town.

The only thing that will require advance planning on your part is a tour inside the White House, and all the information you need to plan such a tour can be found here. Advance planning is also needed to tour the U.S. Capitol building, and all the information needed for that can be found here. Finally, you can turn your trip to D.C. into a fun learning experience for your children without them even knowing it!  Just take a look at your child’s syllabus for their history or social studies class (or ask their teachers what they are/going to be learning about), and tailor your trip to something they are learning about in school. All these reasons make D.C. a great and affordable choice for families with children of all ages. Beat that, Mr. Mouse!

Here is my suggested itinerary for a perfect three-day weekend: Plan to fly/drive in on Thursday late afternoon or evening.  After checking into your hotel and grabbing a bite to eat, take a night tour of the monuments to see them lit up or enjoy a free music concert at the Kennedy Center!WWIIMEM

lincoln night

marine corpsDay 1 (Friday): Wake up early and get a good breakfast in you; you’re going to need it! Hopefully, you got tickets to tour the White House, so do that first.  If not, you should still swing by and get a gander at it from the outside. After the White House, walk over to the National Mall (see photo above), which has all the major memorials.  Start at the Washington Monument (you can pre-buy tickets to go up!).  A short distance away is the World War II Memorial.  From there, walk through the promenade (bonus if you are there during cherry blossom season) beside the reflecting pool until you reach the Lincoln Memorial.  After the Lincoln Memorial, head over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Once you are done here, rent a paddle boat and get a view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Martin Luther King Memorial from either side of the tidal basin. Stop for lunch. After lunch, hit the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress.white house

cherry blossoms

Lincoln

WWII

vietnam

Capitol

Supreme CourtDays 2 and 3 (Saturday and Sunday): Make your last 2 days museum days.  You can visit dinosaurs and mammals at the National Museum of History, airplanes at the National Air and Space Museum, the U.S.’s only Leonardo Da Vinci painting at the National Gallery of Art, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, or all the cute animals at the National Zoo. If you are looking to take a short half day-trip from the city, consider visiting Arlington National Cemetery where you can see the Kennedy Memorials, Changing of the Guard Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and Arlington House.  You may also consider taking a day trip to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.national zoo

Arlington

Eternal flame

Number 2: Atlanta, GeorgiaATLYou may be wondering why Atlanta is on the list (and at the number 2 spot).  Well, first, it’s pretty cheap to get to (Delta has a lot of reasonably priced flights), and there are actually a lot of family-friendly things to do here. Both the children and the adults can enjoy a fun-filled long weekend in this city. Here is my suggested itinerary for a perfect three-day weekend: Plan to fly/drive in on Thursday late afternoon or evening, and check into your hotel. Depending on when you get in (and their event calendar), you may want to pre-plan to attend a show at Atlanta’s Fox Theater or head to Stone Mountain to catch the fireworks and laser show.

Day 1 (Friday): Wake up early and get a good breakfast in you, because you are headed to Georgia Aquarium! This place is amazing.  It has huge floor to ceiling aquariums full of color and life and plenty of immerse experiences to choose from.  For example, you can take the Behind the Seas Tour for $15 and get a closer view of the aquarium’s most popular exhibits. You can also choose from different animal encounters, including a dolphin encounter, Beluga Whale encounter, penguin encounter, sea otter encounter, and even swimming with whales, sharks, and manta rays. The aquarium also has a tactile exhibit where you can reach in and touch sea urchin and other sea critters. And, if you want to be a Super-Parent, you can arrange a sleepover at the aquarium! That’s right, a sleepover.  Does the Mouse let you sleep at his house? I don’t think so! (Okay, this is technically not true. You can be randomly selected to win a sleepover inside Cinderella’s castle.  You probably have about an equal chance of getting struck by lightning or winning the lottery, so there’s that).fish

coral

whalesAfter the aquarium, take walk over to the World of Coca-Cola.  Here, you can learn about the history of the Coca-Cola, visit the vault where the secret formula for Coke is stored, meet the Coca-Cola Polar Bear, and, best of all, visit the tasting room and taste as many of the 100+ Coke beverages made and sold around the world. Don’t forget to pick up your free bottle of coke on your way out!coke2

coke

coke taste

coke bearBurn off some of that sugar high by visiting the nearby Centennial Olympic Park or Piedmont Park.

Days 2 and 3 (Saturday and Sunday): On these days, you have options.  You can choose to visit Zoo Atlanta, get wet at Six Flags Over Georgia or Six Flags White Water, or make it a sports day by visiting the College Football Hall of Fame and Turner Field.zoo

birds

tiger

cyclorama college football hallOther family-friendly attractions that add a little history and education include the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Martin Luther King National Historic Site, Underground Atlanta, High Museum of Art, Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, and Margaret Mitchell House and Museum.

Number 3: New York, New YorkNYEveryone loves the Big Apple, and you and your family cannot run out of things to do here! Both JetBlue and Delta offer reasonable flights into New York (you can also combine a visit to D.C. with a visit to N.Y., and take the train). In my opinion, the best time to visit New York is during the holidays when the city is all dressed up! Here is my suggested itinerary for a perfect three-day weekend: Plan to fly/drive in on Thursday late afternoon or evening, and check into your hotel; then, head straight to Times Square.  It is cheesy and touristy, but it is iconic, and your kids have not lived a full life without at least experiencing it once.

Day 1 (Friday):  Wake up early because today you pre-arranged to visit the Statue of Liberty and perhaps even to climb to the crown.  Note, this particular activity will take some advanced planning on your part (especially if you want to go up to the crown), so book tickets early!statue of libertyWhen you are done here, head to the 9/11 Memorial, the Empire State Building, and/or Top of the Rock.empire state

911Day 2 (Saturday): Visit Central Park, have lunch, and go ice-skating! Afterwards, head to one of the city’s many museums like The Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Guggenheim, the Whitney Museum of American Art, or the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art). Here is a list of museums that cater just to children’s interests. You can find free museums or information on special free hours at other museums or museums that have suggested contributions here.ice skateartDay 3 (Sunday): Save your Sunday for a Broadway matinee.  Your New York trip is a great way to introduce your children to art, including performance art.  There are several Broadway shows that are suitable for children, like Lion King, Aladdin, and Matilda. A list of kid-friendly shows can be found here. Make sure to pre-book your tickets as the shows sell out fast. If you want to chance it, you have a couple of options short of buying tickets on a third-party site.  The first is to  rush to the theater as soon as it opens on the day of the performance and wait in line to buy same-day rush tickets which can sometimes sell for as little as $25.  Some shows sell standing room tickets, which means you will stand to watch the show.  Others, like the Lion King, distribute day-of-show tickets through a lottery.  The other option is to wait in line on the day of the show at the TKTS Booth, which is located under the red steps in Duffy Square (47th Street and Broadway). Almost all of the Broadway hits are on sale there, mostly at 50 percent off. There are also some online options, like the TodayTix app or nytix.com.  Get your discount codes at BroadwayBox, Broadway Insider, and Entertainment-Link.broadway 2At some point before you leave, make it a priority to stop at Levain Bakery and wait in line for the cookies.  They are sooooo worth it!cookies

Number 4: Salt Lake City, Utah

utahThe U.S. National Park Service is celebrating its 100th year anniversary this year. If your family is active and looking for a great (outdoor) adventure, then why not visit Utah’s National Parks? Did you know i) that there 5 national parks in Utah (from east to west: Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion), ii) that all the national parks are a stone’s throw away from each other, and iii) that they are located just a few hours outside of Salt Lake City? All the info you need to plan an epic national park journey can be found here. This is actually on our bucket list, as a result all Utah photos used are borrowed from the internet.UtahScenery_NatlParks

Number 5: HawaiimauiOkay, so Hawaii isn’t a city; it’s a state, and you may be surprised to see Hawaii on my list, but here it is! Hawaii has gotten cheaper to get to, although it is still an expensive place to visit.  But, if your family craves some amazing beach time coupled with a little history and nature, then this is the place to go. I think that a week here is enough time to visit Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.oahuStart on Oahu because most flights come into Oahu anyway.  I think 2 to 3 days in Oahu is plenty.  That will give you enough time to visit Pearl Harbor and the battleships on one day, and hit the beach and perhaps hike diamond head on the others.Pearl Harbour

diamond headThe flights between the islands are pretty cheap, so hop a flight to Maui, where you will spend the rest of your time.  Aside from beautiful beaches and great snorkeling, in Maui, you can attend a luau, take a drive through the scenic Hana Highway (but, trust me, do this on a tour and not on your own), get a sunrise experience at Haleakala, and take a day trip to the Big Island to visit Volcanoes National Park!beach 2

beach
luau

hana

waterfall

sunrise

bigisland

volcanoeI hope this post has inspired you to break out of your family vacation rut, and seek out a new adventure that the whole family can enjoy.  Let us know what you think of our suggestions, sample itineraries, and tips and whether you would be interested in a similar post featuring international vacations.  Until then, cheers to making memories that’ll last a lifetime!

 

 

Savannah, Georgia: An Itinerary For The Perfect Girls’ Weekend

Forsyth ParkOnce upon a time, four friends graduated law school and real life began.  They moved all over Florida, got jobs, got married, and half of them had kids. Gone were the carefree days of Gainesville, Florida (Go Gators!).  Now, if the four friends want to get together, they have to coordinate schedules, clear calendars, take time off work, consult with husbands, and hire babysitters. But that is okay, because, once a year, the four friends do just that.  This year, they convened in Savannah for three (mostly) carefree days of exploring, shopping, and eating.

If you want a quick weekend getaway with the girls or even a romantic getaway with a significant other, Savannah is a great choice. First, it is a completely walk-able city, but Uber is also easy to use in this city. Second, there are plenty of quiet streets and over 20 beautiful squares to explore. Third, the food is good. Also, since Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is located here, the town is very artsy, which makes for a cool vibe and fantastic people watching! What more do you need?  It’s also super dog-friendly, so bring your pup along! Below, is the perfect three-day Savannah itinerary.

Day 1:

While Savannah has an airport, I think the most economical way to get there is to fly into Jacksonville, Florida, and drive two hours into town. That’s what the four friends did!  We met in Jacksonville, where one of us lives, and headed out from there.  We rented an old historic home for the weekend, and I am glad we did because it makes your stay feel more authentic.houseWe got into town in the early afternoon, and, since we were all starving, we made a beeline to The Olde Pink House. This is probably Savannah’s most popular restaurant.  It is housed in an 18th century mansion, and it serves classic Southern fare. The restaurant is good, not amazing, but it’s an institution, so that alone makes it itinerary-worthy.old pink

pink 2If you get there early enough on a weekday, you may want to line up for Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. The place opens at 11:00 a.m., but the line starts forming way before then. Once inside, you seat yourself at one of the tables for 10, which you share with strangers. There’s no real menu, but the offerings change daily.  They just start bringing out home-style southern food that you share with your table-mates. Expect things like fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits.

Once we had our fill of fried green tomatoes, we headed over to Wormsloe Historic Site. This place is a blogger’s dream because it is so damn picturesque.  While you are there, you can visit the museum and see the colonial demonstration.  There are also hiking opportunities.wormsloe

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worm 4Our next stop was to Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah’s most famous cemetery.  It is very old, but very serene in this old cemetery. If you read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (which I recommend you do before you visit Savannah), the cover photo featured the now-famous “Bird Girl” statue, which used to be located in this cemetery, but is now housed in the Telfair Museum of Art.bon 2

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bon 3For dinner, we headed over to a.lure, a downtown Savannah restaurant.  The whole menu looked good, and everything we ordered was great.dinner1After dinner, we walked over to Leopold’s, another Savannah institution that has been serving up homemade ice cream for nearly 100 years! They are best known for their Tutti Frutti flavor, but I opted for lavender and honey almond and cream flavors.icecream2

icecreamDay 2:

We started our day with a hearty breakfast at B.Matthew’s Eatery. Make a reservation if you come here, because the place was packed.  After trying the fried green tomato Benedict, I understood why.  Their yogurt granola bowl was also great.breakfastAfter breakfast, we had a full day of exploring ahead of us! When you think Savannah, think antebellum architecture, historic cobblestone squares, and Spanish moss. There are so many quaint little streets and shops to explore. Once you visit, you will understand why Savannah is chosen as the backdrop for so many movies. churchThe Forrest Gump feather flew by this steeple at the beginning of the movie: forest gump

fountainIf you love old, historic homes, then this is the town for you.homesIconic Jones Street: homs3

house 5The Mercer Williams House:mercer house

 

house2If you like to shop local, you will love Savannah.  In addition to cute (but pricey) clothing boutiques and some great home decor stores (like The Paris Market and One Fish Two Fish), Savannah also has some pretty sweet selections.candy 4

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candyIf you like your chocolate fancy, then head over to Chocolat by Adan Turoni. The Honeycomb Chocolate Bar, won a food award by Southern Living Magazine, so if it is there, try it!chocolat

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chocolate3Speaking of honey, Savannah Bee Company is a honey specialty shop, selling different flavors of honey, honey spirits, honey candles, and honey beauty products.honey4

honey3They have a honey tasting bar:honey

honey 2For lunch, you could plan a picnic in Forsyth Park, but if you prefer a restaurant, try Treylor Park or their sister restaurant, Hitch. For dinner, make advance reservations for The Grey, Savannah’s new it-restaurant. The coolest thing about this place (other than the delicious food) is that it is a restored 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus Terminal. If you are looking for a more fine dining option, check out Local 11ten Food & Winegrey2

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Day 3:

After brunch, you can hit up some of the art museums around town or make it a beach day, and head to Tybee Island, just 20 minutes away! You can also schedule an afternoon tea. Whatever you choose, I am sure you will agree that three days was just the right amount of time to escape to this quaint, historic gem of a city before returning to real life!friends