007 in the Bahamas

Are there any other Sean Connery fans out there? Let me tell you a story about my childhood… I was raised on James Bond. Now, I was not allowed to watch Jem or Growing Pains, but for whatever reason, 007 was a-okay. And what’s not to love about this spy series? There is mystery, intrigue, action, and beautiful scenery. I’m not sure how many James Bond movies were filmed in the Bahamas; I’ll have to ask my brother the next time we talk and get back to you on that one. However, I do know that, being the super fans that my parents are, his name came up just a few times during our last visit to Nassau and Paradise Island. Here are the 3 places we visited and the corresponding movies…

The British Colonial Hilton in Nassau is the site of the Never Say Never bar… you know, the one where there is flirting and water skiing… all of the things good island banter is made of. Unfortunately, the bar is no longer there. I remember when it was. Yes, my family may have gone on a little James Bond escapade when I was younger. Maybe even stopping out at Lyford Cay and taking a picture in front of Sean Connery’s gate. Moving on…

Another Bond movie great, Thunderball, was also filmed at the Hilton in the lobby; apparently, a few things were rearranged for the movie, so this doesn’t look exactly as it did in the movie. Coincidently, this lobby is also where we all sat in the lobby during our vacation because the 4 year old got a little ambitious “just sticking his toes” in the water and ended up drenched (there are air hand dryers in the bathrooms and the gift shop does sell size 4 swim trunks, in case anyone needs to know).

I’ve saved the best for last… The One and Only Ocean Club on Paradise IslandHaving never had the opportunity to stay here, I’d love to roll my eyes or make some snide remark, but, wow, this place is everything it claims to be. It is gorgeous and immaculate and the staff is spectacular. I have so many memories here. My brother taking lessons from the pro, Leo, who still remembers my family and greets us with his warm smile. Or, my mom taking me to The Courtyard Terrace for dinner and my first official drink (White Zin, of course… it was the 90s) . Pictures of my parents on dates there while my grandmother watched us. The first time my husband and I went there for drinks or when we left our kids with their grandparents for our date nights at Dune. Ahhh… just so.many.memories. But, I guess we aren’t really supposed to be talking about me…oops! Back to the handsome man in the suit. While he’s not Sean Connery, Daniel Craig is a close second. And, he fits in well at The One and Only in Casino Royale. Here are some more pictures because it’s hard not to just keep snapping. It is beautiful!

Want to save this for your very own future 007 self-guided tour? I have a pin for that…

*This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

To Plan or Not to Plan

To Plan or Not to Plan? This is obviously a personal question and depends on, well, your personality. Before I share what we do, please understand, I honestly do not believe that there is a right or wrong way. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below, too.

I think I may have mentioned this before… I love lists. So, you might think I am a huge planner for trips. I’m not. Maybe I used to be? Then, we had kids… Kids can either make you a crazy planner or a non-planner. After trying to plan with kids and having my husband and I disappointed because we couldn’t go to our favorite restaurant that we had been so-looking forward to because there was an hour wait, I knew I needed to change my thinking. We often don’t even plan whether we are going to check into our hotel or go somewhere else in the city until we see the city’s skyline (which is super annoying, I’m sure, for anyone who may be meeting us). We are now flexible, meaning, we may eat lunch at 11am or we may eat lunch at 2pm… a lot of it depends on our kids. But, I actually think this is a positive thing, at least for this ex-crazy planner. It has helped me relax. We have discovered all kinds of new places just because we sometimes hit a wall and are thinking, “get these kids some monkey bars, asap.” (Does anyone else have kids that start climbing when they are tired? What?!) Granted, phones and google maps, lend themselves well to this and help me loosen the reigns a bit too. It’s easier than ever to find restaurants and nearby parks, and this is comforting.

That said, we do plan a bit… we always buy our plane tickets at least a couple of months in advance for domestic flights and 6 months in advance for international flights. We also do have hotels rooms booked at least a week in advance for weekend trips and usually a month or so in advance for longer trips. I remember driving out to the east coast with my family one summer. Now, keep in mind, these were the days before cell phones and Mapquest.  We weren’t really in a hurry, but around 5pm, my parents decided that we should start to look for a hotel for the night. They were all booked. We finally found one at 10 at night. My brother and I knew not to ask if there was a pool. I don’t know why that memory has stuck with me (clearly, I had a very nice childhood if that stands out as a struggle- ha!) but it has and I make certain that we have hotels booked for road trips. There are some things that I just need and knowing that we are going to be at a decent hotel at the end of the day is one of them. Food is another item I like to plan for… Not necessarily restaurants but just food. Breakfast to be specific. Clearly, there aren’t any full breakfasts had in hotel rooms unless you think ahead and fill out those door-handle room menus or can wait 45 minutes (we don’t and can’t) but a few of us (me and the 4 year old to be specific) need to eat the second we wake up, so I definitely plan to have some Clif bars on hand. I also tend to carry some Smokehouse almonds with us at all times- we all love them and they help us make it through until the next meal. Activities are items we half plan for… we think, “hey, it might be fun to drag our kids on an architecture tour,” but if it is sold out or the weather isn’t great, we don’t stress about it. It’s just always a good idea to have a backup plan should, say, my husband’s business meeting go longer than expected. Having activities in the back of my mind is a must.  We also recently discovered that our children like lists too (yay!). If we do have an agenda, it always helps to draw out what we are going to do or even make a Home Alone-ish map. Another way that we plan is through friends. It is so much fun to ask friends what they would recommend; these are always the best recommendations.

So, in summary, this is what we plan for: food, hotels, plane tickets. We wing it with: activities and restaurants.  Somewhat embarrassingly, I think it has taken us years to get to this point. My husband, the non-planner, and I, the crazy planner, have finally met in the middle and found the sweet spot in planning our trips together where neither of us is stressed out by the other (we just stress other people out now).

Being Americans, I do feel that I have to address this Disney planning business. It is a planner’s dream come true. So. Many. Ways.To.Plan. There is something thrilling to me knowing that we need to book the Belle Breakfast exactly 180 days before we plan to dine with the princess. Or, when I discovered Fast Passes… oh the fun to be had with those. And, maps, how fun would it be to highlight and number those so as to maximize our time. But, in the end, guess what we did? We showed up. I’ll admit, I felt a little cheated out of all of the fun planning. But guess who didn’t feel cheated? Our kids. And that made everything just fine and just as magical. Maybe they didn’t get to meet Anna and Elsa, but just look at how much fun the then 2-year old had sneaking in a hug with Cinderella! And maybe we criss-crossed the park and wasted all kinds of precious time, but then we had time to just wander and take in all there was to see (and there was plenty off good people watching, too). I should add, though, that we went on a 92 degree day in June, so the park wasn’t terribly crowded, but still… I guess my point is that if you plan, it works out great and if you don’t, that’s great too. It’s finding what works for you and your traveling companions.

I want to know… do you tend toward the planning or non-planning end of the spectrum?

If you found this amusing if not a bit helpful and feel like pinning it, here you are 🙂

 

Island Travel Interviews-Philippines, Take 1

 

Photo Credit- Pixabay

This week we are headed to the Philippines with our Island Travel Interviews! I have to admit that I am pretty excited about this, mostly because I really don’t know anything about the Philippines. I will be learning right along with you this time. Fortunately, we have Chel Inumerable from Hey, It’s Chel to take us to Borocay and Roneth from The Fickle Feet to help us learn about Siargao. Let’s get started!

First Stop… Borocay!

Name and Blog Name/URL

Chel Inumerable of Hey, it’s Chel www.heyitschel.com

Which Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Boracay! My favourite island in the Philippines where the water is clear and the sand is pure and white.

Photo Credit- Hey, It’s Chel

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

As many as you could…But if you really, really need to leave, 1 week is enough.

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

I met one of my bestfriends here and we instantly clicked, we backpacked around Asia after that. Also, just recently, I brought my boyfriend here and we had a wonderful time!

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

A good massage by the beach (US$7) by licensed and trained therapists, cliff jumping, scuba diving, sunset watching. There’s a lot of water activities actually that you can do here.

Photo Credit- Hey, It’s Chel

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

Spider House, it has the best sunset view. Sea Breeze Café for a delicious dinner buffet for only US$15, by 8pm watch out for the dancing chefs, Hoy Panga Boracay offers the first smoothie bowls in the island and Jonah’s Fruit Shake for their yummy fresh fruit shakes.

What Surprised You About this Island?

There’s always a new restaurant or establishment popping up.

Photo Credit- Hey, It’s Chel

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

Everyone speaks English so language won’t be a problem. The best way to get there is via Caticlan airport. You can also fly via Kalibo airport which most of the time has a cheaper airfare prices but you need 2 more hours to get to the island (by land and water). There are many hostels and traveller’s inn if you are on a budget, always check the accommodation away from the beach (it will be like a 3-5 minute walk to the beach so it isn’t that bad). If you are a spender, then a nice hotel facing the beach won’t be a problem for you. There are ATMs around the island too.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

Yes I do have a couple, feel free to visit my blog or DM me on Instagram @chelinumerable

And, Next Up… Siargao!

Name and Blog Name/URL

Name: Roneth Politud

Blog:    The Fickle Feet (http://theficklefeet.com)

Photo Credit- The Fickle Feet

Which Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?
The Philippines is composed of 7107 islands. Each islands has a different kind of beauty but Siargao Island stole my heart. Siargao is the surfing capital of the Philippines. It faces the Pacific Ocean, that’s why it has beautiful big waves that surfers all over the world visit. Even non surfers will enjoy the island as it offers a lot more than waves.

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

During our visit we stayed there for four days, but it was never enough! If someone really like to visit the Island, I suggest at least a week is better.

Photo Credit- The Fickle Feet

What was Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

My favorite thing in the islands is the easy and chill vibe it has. Surfing in the morning, going to the beach and even ride a bike in the afternoon. Also, they have a night life where you can just chill and enjoy a good set music while sipping on your margarita!

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Of course I will say surfing! But if you don’t want to surf there’s a lot of option. Like what we did, we went island hoping for whole day. We explore the nearby islands like Naked Island, Guyam Island and Daku Island. Even visited the farther island, it took us almost 3 hours to get the Sohoton cove. Other than island hopping Magpopongko Tidal Pool is a must visit!

(Sohoton) Photo Credit- The Fickle Feet

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

One of the must try is in Kermit’s. We were able to dine-in here. They serve Filipino-Italian Food. Which is authentic I must say. You can make your own pizza, and the pasta was beyond my Filipino taste buds that’s why I can say that it’s authentic on the Italian side. Haha. Also, the restaurant is always full, they have reservations, but if you are not able to make any reservations like we did, just wait. It’s also quite pricey here. Ready your cash for the good food you are willing to spend on!

Of course, if you don’t like to spend much, I have a place in mind. Go to Mama’s Grill. It was actually popular. A lot of travelers were in the place. No wonder, they serve delicious grilled food with affordable price.

What Surprised You About this Island?

I was expecting that it will be so touristy since it is very popular. And on our way to the island, our group of five is the only Filipinos in the plane. All are tourists, mostly are from Spain. The moment we arrived in the island, as I expect more foreigners are there, actually they’re everywhere. It doesn’t feel like I’m in the Philippines. But the surroundings are not crowded, it just like a simple island. Many foreigners but not touristy and crowded, I hope you get what I mean.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

Accommodation: There’s a lot of hostel in the island! If travelling alone, it is best just to stay in hostels like Paglaom. . But during our stay we just rented in Airbnb. It is good when travelling with a group since we can divide the cost. We got ours at $20 (Php1000) per night.

How to get around: A motorcycle ride will cost $0.40 (Php20) per ride. It is cheaper to rent a motorbike for $7-8 (Php350) for whole day. You can also rent a bike for $2 (Php100) a day.

Tips:

  • Reserved a surfing lesson for the next day.
    • Surfing Board: $4 (Php200) per hour
    • Surfing Instructor: $6 (Php300) per hour
  • For night life events in the island. On Mondays chill night at Rumbar and on Tuesdays dance party at Jungle

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

Yes! I actually made a 4 days complete guide in the island.

 http://theficklefeet.com/complete-guide-make-4-day-experience-siargao-wothwhile/

 

Thank you so much to Chel and Roneth for sharing their experiences and traveling tips to these two remarkable Philippines Islands!

Want to put a pin on it? Here you go!

Photo Credit- Pixabay

 

**Nope, I didn’t forget… This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

Top 4 Best Spring Break Beaches

Well, we are in our home stretch! Spring is almost here, and to be quite honest, this winter wasn’t even that bad (I think I may be scarred for life from the Polar Vortexes we had a few years back). You may have noticed that I have been posting quite a few beach pictures over on my Instagram lately, just to get in the mood.  So, let’s talk Spring Break Beaches. Specifically, let’s look at 4 super doable beach vacations. No 8-hour flights for our crew this year!

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina- This island is incredibly easy to get to and could even involve a quick road trip if you live on the eastern half of the US. There is something for everyone here. The beaches are beautiful for running, playing, sunbathing, and, yes, especially biking… they go for miles and miles! Just don’t get overzealous like we did and remember that you do have to ride back to the hotel. If you are wondering what else there is to do, I wrote about it here.

Naples, Florida- Another beach town that is quite easy to get to. A quick flight or a longer drive, but, nonetheless, doable. The beach is beautiful and again goes for miles and miles (can you tell this is a major requirement for me?). The sand is soft and easy to nap on or go for a long stroll. There are several different hotels, with hotel bars, along the way, so if you get thirsty, you will have options. 

Dana Point/Laguna Beach, California- Ahhhh… one of my favorites. Even if you don’t surf, it is amazing to watch all of the surfers getting their waves on (is that a phrase?) early in the morning. Our hotel overlooked the beach with gorgeous cliffs in the background- it almost felt as though we were in a different county. To the right on the beach, was an expanse of sand leading to some rocks and cliffs. To the left were extraordinary homes all stacked one on top of the other and fabulous nonetheless. Just as I was picturing our family living in one of these modern beach homes, we discovered the also-extraordinary pricing. I guess we will just have to look forward to hotel stays at this West Coast “must.”

Paradise Island, Bahamas- My happy place. I’ve been walking this beach since I was about 8 years old and will never, ever tire of it. It exudes calm and peace and a sense of timelessness. The water is so clear that you can see to the bottom and the sand is so white and powdery that even if you are one of those “no sand on my toes” kind of people, you won’t mind it. Everything is so clean and bright that you need sunglasses but really don’t want to wear them because you don’t want to dim all of that brilliant color. Again, you can walk forever on this beach and lose yourself in thought without much effort at all. This is my forever beach and I really hope you are able to experience it because it is much too beautiful not to share. 

I want to know…Do you have a US/Caribbean beach that you love? What is your favorite beach activity? Are you a solo or company beach walker?

Already have Spring Break plans but want to save these suggestions for next year? I have a pin for that 🙂

*Please note that this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation… Thank you!

 

Friday Finds (Take 2)

 

Our Crazy Buddy

Welcome back to my randomness… with Friday Finds, Take 2….Hope you all had a great week! We made it to almost-Friady. Yay! And I made it through February without a broken bone- double Yay! Our only February hick-up was that our dog ate sand at the beach and had to spend the night at the Emergency Animal Hospital. Fortunately, he is back to his crazy, jumping, kissing 10-year old self. 

Brunch Bowl @ Donkey

Donkey Taqueria- If you are visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan, or live within an hour radius of Grand Rapids, this restaurant is a must. It is my favorite restaurant. So much so that I always have fabulous intentions of trying one of the new eateries that keep popping up around the city but just cannot tear myself away from Donkey. I love being guaranteed great service, a delicious Paloma, and top-notch food. Every. Single. Time. Making it feel even more special is the fact that it forces you to just relax. You cannot call ahead (there isn’t a listed phone number), making you come to terms with the fact that you are just going to have to show up and go with the flow. If the wait is too long, we have always had good luck going across the street to Winchester for a pre-dinner drink. Donkey will just text you when your table is ready.

Lee and Birch– Looking for a different activity while you wait for your table? Just head up the street to Lee and Birch. I went in to just “check it out” and pretty much could have seen myself in all of the clothes in the store. It is small, which feels cozy and not too overwhelming. The sales people are pretty chill, helpful but not at all pushy.

Zing Zangs- This is an oldie but goodie. One of my brothers-in-law is our designated Bloody Mary guy and this is a favorite. Whenever he and my sister-in-law ask what they can bring, I always want them to bring the Bloody Mary’s. He did, however, share his secret, so now we can all make delicious Bloody’s. Zing Zangs has just the right amount of spice and thickness. It’s as much a staple at our family gatherings as ice cream cake, maybe even more so!

Barre 3 via You Tube- With all of this eating and drinking going on, I thought it only “fitting” that I throw in a workout too. I just discovered this tonight, and it is great! It is perfect for when, say, your stairclimber is covered in plastic and every item in your storage room is now in the family hangout room because you had/have a “vision” for your laundry/mudroom (insert teeth-clenched emoji here). Moving on… the You Tube sequence is about 40 minutes long and would actually be perfect for when you are traveling too (there are small weights involved, but, let’s be honest, I’m not using those at home either). I really found the instructors to be encouraging and saying everything I needed to hear throughout the workout. The sequences are really easy to follow, and since repetition is key, it’s fairly easy to stay on track.

Well, there you have it, my barely-travel-related Friday Finds. I’ll be back next week with the Island Interviews Series. You may have also noticed all of the beautiful beaches lately on my Instagram account.. stay tuned, a related post is coming next week too. 

**I have no more fun ways to say this, so just know… this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may be compensated. Thank you!

Winter 2017 Giveaway Time!!!

It’s Giveaway Time! I want to know… what is the biggest risk you have taken? What was your motivation? Inspiration? Any plans you are unsure of for 2017?

Whatever it is, I hope that your 2017 is off to a fabulous start! And I want to give you this sign to remind you to stay positive. I hope you all find your wings and fly this year. 

Tag a friend over on this photo on Instagram and subscribe to our updates (it’s over on the left side by the menu), and, just like that, you are entered to win. 

Only caveat…. you must have a shipping address within the continental USA.

Winner will be announced on Friday!

Oh, and one more thing, if you already subscribe to our updates, as a Thank You, you are automatically entered to win 😉 If you’re not interested, that’s a-okay too. Just shoot me a quick email or say No Thank You should your name be chosen. 

Wondering who the talent is behind this sign? It’s Angela from Angtiques. She is awesome to work with and I would highly recommend her. You can check out her store over here on Etsy or her Instagram feed here

Island Travel Interviews- Caribbean, Take 3

Photo Credit- Pixabay

This week, I’m back with two fabulous Caribbean Islands (neither of which I’ve been to- ha!), one that seems to be receiving a lot of attention lately, Cuba, and another that, unfortunately, often is confused with the Dominican Republic…it’s Dominica!

Let’s Start With… DOMINICA!

Name and Blog Name/URL

Raghav Modi from Ticker Eats The World

www.TickerEatsTheWorld.Com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Dominica (not to be confused with Dominican Republic)

Photo Credit- Ticker Eats the World

Dominica stood out among all the other Caribbean islands that we visited, during a 14-day cruise, because of the spotlight they shine on nature. While the Caribbean islands are famous for their beaches, underwater and over-water activities, the tropical aspect of the islands is often pushed back, but in Dominica it was the exact opposite. Waterfalls, jungles, quirky attractions like a school bus crushed under a giant tree, no wonder Dominica is also referred to as “The Nature Island”.

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

Many dream of spending a life living the island life, but since we all can’t do that, I would recommend at least 4-5 days minimum are required to make the most of what Dominica has to offer.

We covered a very minute part of the island in a single day, but being on a cruise, that one day was very satisfying, and gave us a good glimpse into what one can expect if they had more time.

What was Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

The hike to Middleham Falls deep inside the forest was not just the highlight of our day in Dominica, but one of the top attractions from our entire cruise vacation.

The trip included a drive through some of the most common tourist spots, to reach the starting point of a 45 minute hike with a well informed guide who spoke about the importance that nature holds for the locals.

Photo Credit- Ticker Eats the World

He went on to show and share wonders from the plant world – a leaf that tasted like an apple, man flower so called because it resembles a certain anatomical part of a male – and eventually led us to the cascading Middleham Falls that proved to be perfectly refreshing for the now sweating bodies of the hikers.

A dip in the plunge pool and the hike back followed by some local rum punch, it was truly a wonderful day.

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Besides the hike to the Middleham Falls mentioned above, there are a lot more impressive waterfalls across the island that are easily approachable and equally pleasing.

However, one activity that we missed out on – due to time – but was much talked about was tubing down the river and that is something I would go back to Dominica for.

Dominica is one of the few islands that presents its visitors with enough activates, both on land and in water, and can be appreciated by individuals of all ages.

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

No particular restaurant, but after the hike, I went for a stroll with my wife along the port which houses a number of small local eateries and pubs, and had the opportunity to taste the local Kubuli beer and totally recommend that you give it a try.

Photo Credit- Ticker Eats the World

What Surprised You About this Island?

After having been to islands that boasted beautiful beaches and beautiful snorkeling and diving spots, Dominica was different as it focused on in-land activities as opposed to sea based attractions. But, that is not to say Dominica doesn’t have breathtaking beaches.

Photo Credit- Ticker Eats the World

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)? 

In a perfect world, you should spend a few days exploring Dominica, but having said that, even one day via the cruise was quite interesting and definitely something you can look into doing.

The people are extremely friendly and tourism is a huge part of their revenue, so they treat everyone with smiles and are forthcoming to help or recommend activities.

You can research the web and book attractions beforehand, especially like the hike to Middleham Falls as that required government ticket/permission – one cannot just simply drive there and start hiking – and a tour operator gets all the menial work done.

We stayed on the ship, but there are a number of luxurious and cheap options available on the island to suit all budgets.

The best way to get around the island would be by taxi. I am also a big supporter of helping the locals, so hiring a guide who can share more insight into the island is also preferred.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

The Green Dominica – https://tickereatstheworld.com/2017/01/03/captivating-caribbean-the-green-dominica/

Hidden Nature: Middleham Falls – https://tickereatstheworld.com/2016/09/04/hidden-nature-middleham-falls/

 

And Now For… CUBA!

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Paint Play and Travel

www.paintplayandtravel.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

I’ve chosen Cuba, the pearl of the Caribbean, because it is a unique place in the world. Just like a mosaic made of contrasts, its beauty consists of its rich culture, dramatic history, friendly people and amazing nature.

Photo Credit- Paint Play and Travel

 

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

The more the better since Cuba has too much to see and experience. However, I think a couple of weeks will do for first-timer visitors.

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

Cuban music! It is impossible to stand still to the hypnotizing rhythms of the drums and the charm of the singers.

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

Go snorkeling/ diving in the blue-turquoise Caribbean waters. Cuba is one of the top diving destinations in the world. The beauty of the reefs will give you a memory for life.

Photo Credit- Paint Play and Travel

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

I don´t recommend Cuban restaurants. Unfortunately, most of the times you pay too much for bad quality food. However, if you’re staying at a Cuban house (casa particular), I do recommend you to eat with the family. They will make delicious, fresh food for you.

What Surprised You About this Island?

The strength of its people. Cubans have endured, and are still enduring enormous lacks and problems. Nevertheless, they always hold a smile on their faces, and a positive outlook on life.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

It is much better to stay at a Cuban home (a Cuban air bnb) than in a hotel. It is cheaper and you will learn more about Cuban culture and way of living.

Don’t bring American dollars. Since the U.S. has an ongoing embargo on the island, it reciprocates paying you a lot less for your dollars. The same applies to American credit cards. Credit cards from the rest of the world work fine. If you want to bring cash, Euros are the best option.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?         

 http://paintplayandtravel.com/blog/cuba/

 

 

Like what you learned? Why not put a Pin on it? Here’s a readily pin-able image..

Photo Credit- Pixabay

 

**Please not that this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. Thank you!

Decorating with Travel Trinkets

Full disclosure (again): just the word “trinket” makes me cringe. And, yet we find ourselves tempted to buy souvenirs or street art all the time. Luckily, my inner voice often stops us. That said, we have found ourselves in possession of said trinkets because they do remind us of a fabulous beach vacation or a memorable experience. Here is how we have decorated with them…

We have tried to be somewhat discreet. I almost feel like it is more fun for guests in our home to “find” these trinkets than to walk into a room and have them front and center. (I promise, we won’t make you play too many games if you ever come to visit.;)  We have our Indian elephants that we picked up at the Dillihut on our desk in the corner of our living room. I also have a tea cup that my grandmother purchased for me from the Bahamas in our butler’s pantry passthrough. Again, in full view, but not front and center.

We also have decided to leave some things for our own enjoyment. While we love telling people where the elephants and tea cup came from, it is also special to us that we keep some of our “treasures” to our more private rooms. We just moved my husband’s home office into the children’s previous playroom on our second level. It houses, well, another wooden elephant (I think we may be slightly obsessed) and a chess board my husband got from India that he and our daughter have enjoyed playing with lately. We have a framed sketch of India Gate from Dillihut in one corner, too. While we gladly show off his office, it is also a space that is mainly for our family and our special “trinkets.” Oh, and there is a password to enter, too… of course.

Some “souvenirs” are readily identifiable, clearly the elephants are from India and the tea cup with the huge hibiscus flower is from the Bahamas… but did you know that the anchor hooks and sea creature decorations in the kids’ bathroom are from New Orleans? Yep, I went all the way to NOLA just to choose some bathroom decor. In all actuality, it was a bit of a fluke. At the time I had a 4-year old and 1-year old at home, so shopping by myself was, well,… AMAZING!!! I had been looking for something for this small space and found it on a trip. Bonus? Every time I’m giving the kids a bath, I think of our New Orleans trip.

I’m embarrassed to even admit how many photos we have saved on our computer… for our computer’s enjoyment maybe? But we have managed to pull a couple off and find time to have them printed. We have our Lake Michigan photos scattered throughout the house as well as some favorites from our jaunts to Chicago.

How do you incorporate your travel “trinkets” or “souvenirs” or photos into your home?

Feel any of this is pin-worthy? I have a pin for that 🙂

**As always, this post contains affiliate links, meaning that, if you click on them, I may receive some compensation.

Island Travel Interviews- Caribbean, Take 2

Photo Credit- Pixabay

Welcome Back! Have you booked your Caribbean trip yet? Waiting to see all of your options first? This week, we hear about Utila from Aaron of My Sweet Adventures and Jamaica from Khristina of Global Jamaican. So, without further ado…

First Up… UTILA

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Aaron Sweet, www.mysweetadventures.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Utila, Honduras – I fell in love with this Island when I went there in 2011 to complete my Divemaster course.  The friendly people, the amazing diving, the WHALE SHARKS, the proper Caribbean island feel – it was just incredible.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

As long as you can! The joke is there are three lies on Utila – 1) I’m leaving the island tomorrow 2) I’m not drinking tonight 3) I love you.  The island sucks you in and before you know it you have spent 3 months there, and THEN you leave for 6 months, and come back on the way home!

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

My favorite memory was swimming with Whale Sharks for the first time.  In Honduras you cannot dive with them, you can only snorkel – when the captain told me to jump off the back of the boat and the bubbles cleared to see a 10 m fish swimming towards me – I was hooked.  It will stay with me for the rest of my life.

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

You have to visit the Jade Seahorse Resort and in particular Treetanic Bar – voted a few years ago by Lonely Planet as one of the top 5 bars in the world – it is a truly magical place.  You also have to go diving – if you can get to the North Side of the island this is more rugged and has some incredible dives.  I highly recommend diving with Utila Dive Centre – the Course Director, Andy Phillips is a true professional.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

My favourite is RJ’s BBQ – it is opposite Utila Dive Centre and has huge servings of BBQ.  It is only open on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday so plan accordingly!

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g., where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

You will get free accommodation if you go diving, for a certain amount of nights.  Some dive centers have accommodation on-site. UDC doesn’t, but the Mango Inn is still a great place to chill out.  If you are flying in from overseas, consider flying direct to Roatan Island and taking a boat/ferry across from there – it is probably the easiest way. There are also flights to Utila available but they are expensive.  If you are flying into Tegulcigalpa or San Pedro Sula, be wary of these cities as they are dangerous – pay extra for the most expensive buses – I used Hedman Alas which have armed guards and security before getting on the bus.  On the island, the islanders all speak at least some English – I spent three months there and didn’t improve my spanish at all! The money is Lempiras – its around 23/24 to one USD. While Honduras is very cheap, Utila is a bit more expensive due to its popularity for backpackers and the need to get everything from the mainland.

Photo Credit- My Sweet Adventures

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

My full blog article is located here: www.mysweetadventures.com/utila

 

And Next Up… JAMAICA!

What is Your Name and Blog Name/URL?

Khristina – Global Jamaican – www.globaljamaican.com

What Island Will You Be Talking About and Why Did You Choose This Island?

Jamaica – It’s where I was born and raised; No matter where I am or where I travel to, Jamaica will always hold my heart.

How Many Days Would You Recommend Staying on This Island?

Weekend trips are good if you want to explore one part of the island at a time; but you’ll need a week or more if you’d like to explore more.

What is Your Favorite Thing About/Memory From Your Trip to This Island?

One of my favorite memories is the view from sitting on the verandah of the home I grew up in, located in Discovery Bay.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

What is Your “Can’t Miss” Activity on the Island? What activities/opportunities does this island provide?

There are so many! If I had to pick one, I’d say to spend a day at Doctor’s Cave Beach in Montego Bay.

Have you ever been in water so clear that you can see tiny fishes swimming at your feet? A visit to Montego Bay is not complete without a day at Doctor’s Cave. It is said that the water has healing powers and was made famous after Sir Herbert Barker, a British Osteopath, visited in the 1920s and later wrote an article about it. Located only 5 minutes from the airport, you can watch the planes descend to land, while soaking up the warm Caribbean sun.

The island also offers other activities for every interest. Everything from adventure tours like zip lining, horseback riding, and climbing waterfalls, to relaxing tours like rafting slowly down the Martha Brae River or enjoying a sunset cruise. There are way too many to mention.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

Best Restaurant/Place to Eat?

Again, way too many to mention. Jamaica is a food lover’s paradise. One of my favorite restaurants is also in Montego Bay. Chill Out Hut is located on a secluded beach with Tiki-style seating. They specialize in seafood, but the menu has a good variety for every taste. My favorite is the escovitch fish and bammy. Escovitch is a pickling sauce that is poured on fried fish, and bammy is a traditional Jamaican cassava flat bread.

The atmosphere is lively on weekends, with a band performing right on the sand, creating a real Caribbean vibe. The prices are reasonable and they also have a full bar with a wide variety of drink options.

Photo Credit- Global Jamaican

What Surprised You About this Island?

Being that I grew up there, I don’t think anything could surprise me. But if I looked in from an outsider’s eyes, one thing would be the amount of different cultures and backgrounds that make up our people. I hear “you don’t look Jamaican” often times when meeting people that have never been to the island. That’s because a lot of people are unaware that Jamaica is made up of a wide variety of ethnicities. Our motto is “Out of Many One People,” meaning that we are a cultural melting pot of people living together as one.

Any Travel Advice for those considering this island as a destination (e.g.,where to stay, ease of getting there, how best to get around, language, money)?

After visiting Jamaica once, you’ll definitely want to return. I would start with a weekend getaway to an easy destination, like Montego Bay. There are many resorts in close proximity to the airport and a wide variety of things to do. Flights are plentiful from the USA and many have non-stop options. All-inclusive resorts are most popular, but there are many other options as well, including Airbnb.

Most hotels/resorts offer transportation from the airport and if not, there are taxis readily available.

The official language is English and the local currency is Jamaican Dollars, but US Currency is accepted.

If my readers want to hear more about your island, do you have a link to your full article?

Two articles from my site that might help:

http://www.globaljamaican.com/2016/09/quick-affordable-weekend-getaway-jamaica.html

http://www.globaljamaican.com/2016/11/must-do-and-eat-in-montego-bay-mobay.html

*Please note that this post may contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation.

 

Travel Gift Guide by Mackinaw Road

 

I do not like February. Despite it being my birthday month and housing Valentine’s Day, it is just not my month. Last year, I was determined to make it my month, went out for a run, and returned with a broken jaw. So, March wasn’t really my month either. I’m on to a new strategy for this February. Lay low. While I’m “laying low”, I’ve had some time to come up with a Valentine’s Day wish list for the traveler in your life/me.

Moment Lenses and Case– I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wanted to bring our nice camera along on a trip, only to not have room to pack it or not want to lug it around or been in fear that it would knock one of the kids out while they were hanging on me because they needed to be carried. Problem solved with these lenses and case that fit right on to your phone. Genius.

Ebags Packing Cubes– Love these, Need these. Don’t you love it when you think you’ve gotten a great deal on a flight only to find out that each of your bags is going to be an additional $25 each way upon check in? Enter the ebag packing cubes. Now, we can pack one big suitcase but still have some separation of clothes.

Little Passports– Want to include your little ones in Valentine’s Day and your travels? This subscription looks super fun and a great way to learn about the world. You can order based on age or product (e.g., Early Explorers, USA Edition, World Edition).

Okay this is an oldie but goodie- but less expensive- yay! Need some organization in your life? Check out this Travel Cord Roll. 

Hey you! Yeah, you. The one with the sparkle in your eyes. This one is for you. Make your trip even more fun with these Anywhere Travel Guide cards.

Looking for some wall art for the Traveler in your life? I love this print you can easily get from BonsoirStudio on Etsy.

True there isn’t any chocolate or lingerie on this list, but I’m willing to bet that the traveler in your life will still be thrilled. (Keep in mind- this is my wish list, so I haven’t tried nor am I endorsing the products, but they still look pretty awesome, right?!?)

*As always, this post many contain affiliate links, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. 

** Don’t forget to keep an eye out for a Giveaway this month. I’ll be announcing it over on Instagram as well as on the blog.