20 Photographs That Will Make You Fall In Love with New Zealand

IMG_6749
Lake Tekapo
fullsizeoutput_4f5
Hobbiton, Matamata
IMG_6668
Lake Tekapo
IMG_2943
Air Milford Flight: Queenstown to Milford Sound
DSC04427
Cathedral Cove, Coromandel
IMG_3176
Lake Pukaki (Photo Credit: Mallory Van Ness)
IMG_2989
Air Milford Flight: Milford Sound to Queenstown
IMG_3196
Lake Tekapo (Photo Credit: Mallory Van Ness)
IMG_6902
Milford Sound
IMG_2719
Arrival into Auckland
fullsizeoutput_61a
Lake Pukaki
DSC04361
Stingray Bay, Coromandel
fullsizeoutput_801
Christchurch
fullsizeoutput_83d.jpeg
Hobbiton, Matamata (Photo Cred: Dan Forde)
fullsizeoutput_53b
Lake Tekapo
DSC04331
Coromandel (Photo Cred: Dan Forde)
cropped-fullsizeoutput_5fb.jpeg
Lake Tekapo
fullsizeoutput_638
Lake Pukaki
DSC04341
Gemstone Bay, Coromandel (Photo Credit: Dan Forde)
fullsizeoutput_877
Milford Sound (Photo Credit: Dan Forde)

 

Barcelona with Nabeeda

IMG_1910

I just got back from my first visit to Barcelona! I went with a hand luggage filled with excitement and a diary filled with plans. The city of wonders was at my feet and I was ready to go.

Upon arrival, I remember quickly leaving my stuff at my hostel and being ready to explore the city. I started the day with a walking tour of the Gothic City area. I am glad I went on the tour because I managed to make friends (surprises me too).

After the tour, I went to grab some lunch from the main market in Barcelona (La Boqueria). The market was amazing; my food choice was terrible.

After sneaking in a quick nap and charging my phone (the struggle of team iPhone), I left to tour the city on foot with my new friend. We visited the following locations:

  1. Barcelona Cathedral: entrance was free after 5PM so it was worth a visit as we did a quick tour and lit some candles.
  2. Parc de la Ciutadella: This park was amazing and some of the funniest things happened to us here; a strange man came up to me and my friend and said ‘Barcelona is so beautiful but dirty’ and then he cleaned the floor in front of us with a cloth and said have a good day and walked off. Didn’t ask for money or anything. So, for a laugh and to see a mixed range of people, this park is a must do.
  3. Las Ramblas: the main street and the busiest one as we walked along with beautiful sights all around us. It was amazing to see how engrossed people were in their worlds. Each living their own story and life.

Exploration continued late into the night but we did not find many remarkable sights. We just immersed ourselves into the Spanish culture rather than just being a tourist. You always learn more when you let the traveller/tourist label go. The next day was even more exciting as I started the day off alone with a quick breakfast and a bit of getting lost.

  1. Park Guell: A stop I am glad I made as I saw some of Antoni Gaudi’s work and some beautiful sights surrounding it.

IMG_2002

  1. Bunker del Carmel: This was on my list forever as I had seen many people post breathtakingly amazing pictures of this place. Due to my struggle with maps and directions, I ended up getting lost for an hour! One bus and a taxi ride later, I managed to get to this place. Trust me, the view left me speechless. It was one of those moments that made me realize what a little part of this big world I am.
  2. Barcelona Castellenos: This was an interesting stop. Not many people know but in Barcelona they have a competition where people create people towers to beat the world record. I managed to get to the place where they were having a practice run and it was amazing to see how high they managed to get. I was slightly worrying for the little girl on top.
  3. La Sagrada Familia: now this is a well-known sight and the one I was really looking forward to. I went with one of my friends and it was as beautiful as they say. Tip: book your ticket in advance because otherwise you will never get a chance to go in. I learnt from my mistake and unfortunately I couldn’t go in but the outside was enough to leave my mouth wide open.

IMG_1889

  1. Last and final stop; which was the reason I went to Barcelona was the Ed Sheeran concert. All I can say is one of the best nights of my life.

IMG_2151

Over 72 hours with 5 hours of sleep, I had an amazing experience of Barcelona. I missed some things but I will definitely be going again because Barcelona makes you fall in love and you can’t get enough.

 

To follow my journey and trips, follow my blog at https://worldofnabeeda.com.

My Top 3 Credit Cards for Travel

Credit cards can be your best friend or your worst enemy. For me, they have proven to be both! Before this past year, I had the most basic credit card that had its perks and was great for someone who had never owned a regular credit card.

I know looking at all the credit cards out there can be a bit intimidating, so I wanted to offer some insight on the credit cards I have personally owned and what their pros and cons are. There are a million other cards out there, but a girl can only have so much plastic!

ctz-oct2015-creditcard.png

 

Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World MasterCard

Before this past year, I only had this credit card in addition to all the store cards that I got sucked into. I figured why not get rewarded with money back every time I spent it?!

Pros

  • 1.8% cash back on every single purchase. Go to Starbucks all the time or fill up your gas tank? You get 1.8% back on it. It builds up in this rewards account so you forget you are letting these savings build up and then you get this glorious e-mail telling you the points you have.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • 0% APR for the first 15 months

Cons

  • No rewards directly related to travel
  • No major travel protection

Now don’t get me wrong, this card is pretty awesome. I have redeemed a ton of cash back but I wanted something more. With all the traveling I do, I figured it was time to invest in a card that would reward me for traveling. I have used two but I will start with the first one.

cardart_sapphire_nr.png

Chase Sapphire Preferred

I researched the card for about six months before taking the plunge and applying. I was ecstatic when I got approved just knowing all the trips I could potentially take for free in the future.

Pros

  • 2 points per $1 spent on travel and restaurants and 1 point per dollar for all other purchases
  • 50,000 point bonus when you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months
  • Points redeems for travel get 1.25 points (25% more) per 1 point redeemed
  • Included travel insurance (cancellation, interruption, delay, and baggage delay)
  • Primary car rental insurance included
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Annual fee is $95 per year
  • High APR (16.74% to 23.74%)

Being rewarded for spending money on food and travel?! I did not think that there could be a better credit card for me! The APR is a bit high, which I am not a fan of, but the perks were amazing. SO MANY POINTS! If you are interested in applying for this card, make sure to contact me here.

sapphire_reserve_card.png

Chase Sapphire Reserve

This card was released within a week of me getting the Chase Sapphire Preferred and I was devastated as this card was so much more of what I wanted in a credit card. I waited and waited and waited to make sure I ‘liked’ the Preferred before applying for the Reserve. The crazy thing is, I loved the Preferred before I even used it so the Reserve was love at first sight. I became obsessed with wanting the card until one day they announced that it was the last day of the 100,000 sign up bonus.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel can (flights, car rentals, hotels, parking)
  • 3 points per $1 spent on travel and restaurant purchases and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Points redeems for travel get 1.5 points (50% more) per 1 point redeemed
  • Access to over 900 airport lounges where there is free food, drinks, and adult beverages
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Included travel insurance (cancellation, interruption, delay, and baggage delay)
  • Primary car rental insurance included
  • Full access to the Visa Infinite Concierge who can book music or sporting events, dinner reservations, and so much more!

Cons

  • $450 annual fee
  • High APR (16.74% to 23.74%)
  • Same bonus points incentive as the Preferred (50,000 points if $4,000 spent in first 3 months)

One more thing I just want to throw out there for the Chase Sapphire cards; they are made of a heavier material so you feel like a boss when you hand them over to a cashier. You just feel like you’re getting richer (even though this is not the case) every time you use these cards.

So with these three cards in mind, here is how I would determine which one is best for you:

  1. If you travel a lot or plan on doing a lot of travel in the near future, Chase Sapphire Reserve would be the best route for you to go. If you are traveling a lot, why not take advantage of all these amazing reward opportunities!
  2. If you plan on taking a couple domestic trips, maybe one international trip, then the Chase Sapphire Preferred card would be your best option as you do not have the high annual fee, but you still get some great perks that will be good for when you do travel.
  3. If you are not big on traveling (get on a plane once a year), then the Citizens Bank Cash Back would be the best option. There is no annual fee and you are still rewarded for using the card with cash back. I have not found any other cards with a higher cash back rate without it being a monthly or quarterly incentive (ex: 5% cash back January-March on groceries).
*None of the photos in the post are mine.

Company Review : Glazed Over Donuts in Beacon, NY

fullsizeoutput_772

Congratulations Glazed Over Donuts! You earned the first company review on my blog!

Beacon, New York is not a huge trip for me since I come here multiple times throughout a year to visit my Grammy. However, I will say that even after 24 years and probably hundreds of trips, Beacon never gets old. There is always something new to try and somewhere new to explore. I remember Beacon being nothing like what it is today and I mean that in the greatest way possible. This is where Glazed Over Donuts comes into play!

I haven’t been in the area for a few months so I was shocked to find a new donut shop opened. If you are reading this and you know me personally, I LOVE DONUTS. I knew I had to try at least one before my time in Beacon came to end. I did no research about the shop and instead just looked up the address and showed up.

Glazed Over has a unique approach to donuts. You pick up a clipboard at the counter and create your donuts based on this list of glazes, toppings, and drizzles:

fullsizeoutput_76dfullsizeoutput_777

You put how many you want of that specific donut and they make it fresh in the back while you wait. There is even a glass wall for you to watch them complete each of the customized donut orders. This was all really impressive. I have never had a donut with customized toppings made fresh for me.

Once I got my dozen donuts (yes, I went all out) I tried each one and they did not disappoint. They were ready within 5 minutes which I was not expecting considering they are custom to each customer.

IMG_3762
Top: Glazed, Chocolate Chips, & Salted Chocolat/Caramel, Top Middle : Maple, Bacon, & Chocolate, Bottom Middle: Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chips, & Chocolate, Bottom: Lemon, Almond, Raspberry

I did find that I was a bit overwhelmed with all the options I had to choose from when customizing each donut. I REALLY enjoy this concept but I would like to see some ideas already completed for customers that may be super indecisive or in a bit of a rush. I was just standing there trying to figure out what glaze would go well with this topping and that drizzle wishing there was a bit more guidance when picking each important piece. They do have a donut of the day (which I did not try) but that would be along the lines of what I am looking for.

Make sure you like Glazed over Donuts on Facebook and follow them on Instagram (I know I did)!

fullsizeoutput_76e

The atmosphere of the shop was really down to earth and clean. I want to stress the cleanliness because these donuts are super messy and the shop was still clean.

Overall, I was not disappointed in Glazed Over Donuts one bit. The variety, the efficiency, the transparency, the taste; it was all great. As I mentioned, the only thing that would have made this perfect was the options to choose donuts that are already customized to avoid one’s brain from hurting too much. I will be back next time I am in town and I am already looking forward to it!

You can find Glazed Over Donuts on 315 Main St, Beacon, NY.

Have a company you would like me to review? Comment below!

My Ultimate New Zealand Bucket List – North Island

My recent trip to New Zealand was literally the trip of a lifetime. I planned it start to finish based on reading blogs and travel websites to ensure I was getting the best of New Zealand. In the process, I learned a lot about the history, people, and just what New Zealand is known for. Along the way, I found some hidden gems and even some areas to avoid. I’ve always been a planner but this trip took my love for travel and planning to a whole new level. I planned thirteen full days start to finish, which included the flights, hotels, transportation, activities, road stops. I know I sound like I am bragging and it’s because I totally am; a lot of love, frustration, planning and re-planning went into this trip to make sure it was perfect.

fullsizeoutput_549.jpeg

In 13 days, we saw so many beautiful places and did so many incredible things. There were things that I never thought I could do just based on the fact I have limited myself so much on past travels. I came up with the list of things that you must do while in New Zealand, which could be an activity, visiting a place, or just something you can’t miss. When you go to New Zealand, none of these things should disappoint. With New Zealand having so much to offer, I will be dedicating one post to the North Island and one post to the South Island. This post will be about the North Island and everything it has to offer.

Hahei, Coromandel

fullsizeoutput_567

Hahei is locate on the Coromandel Peninsula is located just a short 2.5 hours away from Auckland and the perfect beach paradise. White sand beaches, incredibly pleasant people, and beautiful weather will make sure that Coromandel will not disappoint. We spent an entire day exploring Hahei, one of the most popular towns on the peninsula.

  • Gemstone Bay – Rent some snorkel gear from Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel and head down to the Gemstone Bay to have a chance at seeing some of the sea creatures of New Zealand! We unfortunately did not see much but we were able to spot some sea urchins. It was still Spring so the chance of it being too cold for a lot of the sea life is increased.
  • Stingray Bay – Spot some stingrays swimming near the shore and enjoy the beautiful beach that is secluded from the rest of the attractions.

fullsizeoutput_568

  • Visit Cathedral Cove – A rock formation that looks like…you guessed it!… a cathedral! The beautiful spot makes for some dramatic photos and a place you just can’t miss if you visit Coromandel. It is quite the walk/hike as it takes about 40 minutes from the car park but I promise it is totally worth it. Pack a snack and water!

fullsizeoutput_56cfullsizeoutput_1dfullsizeoutput_56d

  • Hot Water Beach – Rent or buy a spade and head over to Hot Water Beach on either side of low tide. The rule of thumb is 2 hours prior or after the low tide time. You can find that information online. You dig a hole in the sand and feel the naturally hot water. It is like a hot tub without the bubbles! Be sure to have good timing as it gets crowded and you also don’t want to miss the opportunity to soak up all the heat! In addition to the hot sand baths, the views from the beach are beautiful.

fullsizeoutput_562fullsizeoutput_55d

  • Stay at Tahiti Lodge – the perfect accommodations for those staying a night or a week. The woman who owns the lodge also takes really great care of it. She keeps everything very clean and perfect and from what her staff was saying, she would not accept anything less! They have mostly 2 bedroom accommodations, which are great for couples or friends traveling together. They also provide a spade to use at Hot Water Beach!
  • Eat at The Pour House Bar & the Coromandel Brewing Co. – They brew their own beer and they have magnificent food. We ate here our first night in New Zealand and it was fantastic.
  • Grab Breakfast at Colenso. It is a family owned café with the most delicious food and the cutest gift shop. If you are one that cannot disconnect from the world while traveling, they offer complimentary WiFi too!

fullsizeoutput_4ecfullsizeoutput_4f0fullsizeoutput_4f1

Hobbiton

fullsizeoutput_4f5.jpeg

For any Lord of the Rings fan, this is a must do. I am not a huge fan as I watched the trilogy weeks before we left (should I even admit to this?) but Hobbiton was incredible. If you just close your eyes, you can imagine the scenes being brought back to life and you are standing right there. Who wouldn’t want to visit “Middle Earth”?!

  • Take a movie set tour – it is the only way you get access to Hobbiton as it’s protected by the tour guides and there are strict rules about where you can and cannot go. Whether you are a big fan of the movies or not, the tour is really interesting. This movie set is so well done and permanent! They have real plants that sometimes need to be replaced on a regular basis during seasons when those plants can’t survive. They want the set looking just like it does in the movie and you can see the amount of care and time they spend to do just that.
  • Have a drink at the Green Dragon Inn – Included with your admission ticket is a drink from the Green Dragon. They brew their own beer and have some delicious apple cider. If you aren’t a drinker, don’t worry! They have a non-alcoholic ginger beer.

fullsizeoutput_576

  • Take a picture with/of Bilbao Baggin’s House – You can’t go on this tour and not take a picture with the infamous green door. Since you are with a tour everyone else wants their picture taken too, so just be patient… Your turn will come!

fullsizeoutput_515

Waitomo

waitomo-glowworm-caves-1
Photo Credit: Around de Globe
I do not have a whole list of things to do in Waitomo, but you can’t miss what is available.

  • Book a Glowworm Cave Tour – We booked the Black Labyrinth tour, which was 3 hours long and involved tubing through a cave. We got all geared up in super smelly wetsuits with squishy shoes and then got into a van that brought us to our tubing location. You MUST be in decent shape to do this particular tour. You also must be okay with tight spaces and listen to the tour guides as parts of the tour can be dangerous. With this being said, this was one of the highlights of our two week trip. These glowworms illuminate the caves and it’s breathtaking. Not to mention the tour is a lot of fun; you get to jump over waterfalls and tube through a cave. The tour is well worth the time and the money. For those who want to see the glowworms and do not want to tube and walk through the caves, you can take a little boat and see the glowworms without much work.
  • Buy the photos taken by your guide – Don’t plan on bringing any type of camera with you as you will more than likely lose it. They take photos for you that you can buy at the end.

Rotorua

fullsizeoutput_59b.jpeg

You can do and see so much in Rotorua. Culture, education, and adventure awaits you. Rotorua is a city you could spend days doing all there is to offer.

  • Whakarewarewa Forest – A redwood forest offering a few different trails that you can hike. The trail you choose should depend on your activity level and time. We chose a moderate trail that was expected to take about 3 hours. We ended up finding some shortcuts as the forest turned into a mountain bike trail and looked like a dead forest. There are aspects of the forest that are breathtaking and worth the visit. If you have time to kill and want to get some hiking or mountain biking in, this is your place, but if you are there just to see the trees, you don’t need to go far once entering.

fullsizeoutput_596
Photo Credit: Mallory Van Ness
fullsizeoutput_1c

  • Skyline Luge – SO MUCH FUN. This is one way to get in some excitement without too much work. You have to buy a lift ticket and then a luge ticket based on the number of times you would like to ride down the mountain. We did 3 and felt like it was not enough but time was also limited. I don’t want to say too much because this is something you would need to experience for yourself, but just know it’s a lot of fun by yourself or with friends.

fullsizeoutput_59c

  • Visit a Geothermal Park – This is why the city smells like rotten eggs (or Sulfur). There are multiple parks throughout the city but the one that will be most convenient is Kuirau Park, which is located right in the city center. You will be able to get your fix of bubbling mud. You can also visit Waimango Volcanic Valley. I personally did not visit a park with thermal activity as we already experienced a lot of it while visiting Iceland! If you have never seen it, I highly recommend you take the time to visit a park.
  • Go Whitewater Rafting with Rotorua Rafting – The crew was excellent and the fun was never ending. Never in a million years did I see myself whitewater rafting, but it was such a great experience. You even get to raft down the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world! You can purchase photos taken by professionals at the end of the tour that capture some of the best moments of your time on the raft.

IMG_0057
All Photos were taken by Rotorua Rafting

  • Tamaki Maori Village – This is a must-do if you are interested in learning about the Maori culture and history. While the Tamaki Maori Village is a bit touristy, they could not do a better job of educating you on everything there is to know while giving you the Hangi Dinner experience that is so important to their culture. They do a traditional dance and song performance, teach you the games kids played, and tell you the meaning behind their tattoos that cover their faces & bodies.
  • Eat at Terrace Kitchen – We had the best breakfast and dinner here. It was close to our hotel, which is how we stumbled upon it, but the food was also amazing. The acai breakfast bowl was incredible and had so many flavors; I am still craving it 4 months later! For dinner, we each got something different and we all enjoyed what we ordered (the french-fries are delicious!).

Auckland

  • Devonport – Take the ferry from Downtown Auckland and walk the streets of the quaint coastal town. From cute little cafés to independently owned shops, it makes the perfect day trip on a beautiful day. You also get the perfect skyline shot of Auckland from a distance, and unfortunately it happened to be foggy and ready to rain when I was able to capture this shot.
devonport
Photo Credit: Visit Devonport
  • Queen St – Walk the main street in the city and check out the shops and restaurants. You will find a lot of the country’s chain stores that you won’t find in most others.
  • Stroll on the North Wharf – Create a relaxing aspect of your day by admiring the beautiful boats in the harbor and eating at one of the best restaurants in the city. Not to mention you get to eat with a view of the water.
  • Visit the Sky Tower – Auckland’s tallest building that you can suit up and jump off! We already had quite our adrenaline rush in Queenstown so we did not take part in this but it is one of the top attractions. If you do not feel like jumping, they also have the SkyWalk where you walk around the outer room and see all of Auckland below your feet. If you make reservations ahead of time, you can even dine in the rotating restaurants towards the top.
  • Eat at Depot – Known for the oysters but has delicious food in general. They offer small plates to be shared with friends or family. This works out for those who want to try different things off the menu. You really cannot go wrong with anything you order as everything was delicious. The staff was efficient and super friendly. Make sure you get there earlier rather than later as they do not take reservations.

Depot
Photo Credit: Heart of the City
I wish I had the opportunity to spend some time in Wellington and to hike Tongariro National Park, but with New Zealand, you have so much do and so little time. The North Island had so much to offer and soon you will see what the South Island brought to the table. Stay tuned for part 2 for all must-do’s on the South Island!

Book Review: What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristin Newman

I’ve discovered that travel books based on real stories are far and few so I wanted to give this one some credit. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir by Kristin Newman is good for a laugh, giving you the travel bug, and reminding you that it is okay to make your own decisions regardless of what is expected of you.

A little background on Kristin Newman first; she was a writer for shows like That 70s Show & How I Met Your Mother (you see where the comedy aspect of this book comes in already). She spent her work breaks traveling the globe rather than sitting at home and preparing for next season of writing.

I am not going to give too much away but this memoir is about a woman who thought she had her life figured out in her early 20s until life happened and flipped everything upside down. She traveled the world and found herself a bit older and still not married or with kids. She accepted that she wasn’t meant to be that person…at least not for awhile.

Even in today’s society, women are expected to have children. Period.

I will be the first to admit that I don’t want what a lot of women my age want; kids. The thought of having someone solely depend on me does not sound appealing, it is actually terrifying. I feel I am still a kid and I have so much to see and do before the time to have one of my own comes. Kristin really put my feelings into perspective. My passion in life is to love and to travel. Traveling with kids is not impossible but trust me, I have seen those parents in airports and on the city streets. They look nothing short of stressed and overwhelmed.

This book is all about Kristin living life without children and having the time of her life traveling around the world sleeping with whomever she wanted and doing whatever she wanted. Through her story, she proves you can live the life you want and still end up exactly where you belong. Your story is your story for a reason. You are in control of the end result.

Not every woman is going to want kids and this books proves that is OKAY. Women should not be shamed for being selfish and wanting to travel the world instead of reproducing. Having or not having kids is a decision every woman should be able to make on her own without judgement. She can always change her mind down the road but that should always be her decision.

Regardless or whether or not you think her lifestyle is the one you have chosen for yourself, the book is well worth the read. You can be married or single. You may love to travel or stay home. I happened to read this book as me and my very new (like a week) fiancé were flying back to the US after a two week trip in New Zealand. Kristin made me giggle through the entire story and made me feel like I am not crazy for not wanting kids just yet. She takes you to Amsterdam, Argentina, Brazil, Paris, Iceland, New Zealand, and even a few more destinations. Kristin lets you you into some of the deepest secrets of her life. I am not going to say anymore, now it’s your turn to read it!

You can pick up a copy of the book at your local bookstore, download it to your tablet, or purchase it from Amazon. *I have no affiliations with Amazon and any of its content (I’m just a huge fan of Amazon Prime)

Credit to The EveryGirl for the featured photo

Top 5 Trip-Planning Tips

I have planned two incredible trips in the past six months. One to New Zealand for 13 days (posts Coming Soon!) and one to Spain & Portugal for 10 days for a family friend. I started planning trips when I was studying abroad and I have since advanced in learning what works (and doesn’t work) when planning a trip. A lot of my family and friends always question how I know what to do and how overwhelmed they would be if they had to plan a trip. Now, I can’t give away all my secrets but let me give you a few tips to get you started.

  1. Know the general time frame you want to travel. The more flexibility you have, the more options that you will be presented with. If you have strict travel dates then you may be limited but it will take a lot of guess work out of your whereabouts.
  2. Determine your budget. You may have all these tours and activities you may want to complete but you need to make sure you are not going to break the bank. Once you have a budget, STICK TO IT. You do not want to find yourself in tons of debt when you get back. With this being said, keep an open mind because you do not want to give up something you were really looking forward to because you went $20 over. Track ever dollar you spend.
  3. Book your flights first. A lot people think this is obvious but you wouldn’t believe the number of people that book their hotels first. Once you book your flights, you know the dates of travel and can plan anything and everything from there. If you book something else first, you are confining yourself to that date, in that specific place. I recommend watching travel deal websites for flight deals (which will also help with your budget).
  4. Use Pinterest and travel blogs to research where you are traveling. You will get firsthand accounts of people who already traveled to this region or locals who may have some insider tips. The big travel tip companies are great but those tend to lead you towards the most touristy things possible. Thousands of people are reading the same thing which means you are not the only one to have this “idea”. Obviously visiting the major landmarks is part of a trip but you can still get into a local mindset and find hidden gems by avoiding these sites. Make a Pinterest board for each trip to keep everything in one place and allow you go back if you need to for more information.
  5. Plan the bare bones of your itinerary before booking hotels and activities. Make sure you are seeing the most important things before allocating your time to the next stop on your trip. You do not want to travel to a specific city or country and not see the one thing you went there for in the first place all due to bad planning (or lack of).

This is just a start to all the tips that go along with planning a trip. It can be as easy or as hard as you make it. Your trip can be as planned out or as bare boned as you make it. Traveling is a passion, a way of life. Everyone has a different way of preparing for a trip but knowing the steps to make the most of your time is extremely important.

Booking your next trip and still need help? Contact me here and I will be happy to assist. I can plan an entire tour start to finish or fill in the blanks and make sure nothing was missed.

Travels with Carlie – 5 Places to Visit in Latvia

It was 2015 and I had never been to Europe. My international travel experiences to that point included a cruise to the Caribbean, Jamaica, a cruise of the Panama Canal, Canada and a cruise to Bermuda. You may be thinking – “That’s a lot of cruises!”. To which I respond- “Get Out”. I don’t need that kind of negative thinking in my life. But in all honesty, yes, I was ready to take a break from cruises, despite how fantastic I think they are, and venture to somewhere a little more east and not on a continent that ends in America. Europe here I come!

Europe. I know what you’re thinking. London! Paris! Venice! There are endless options of cities and countries to visit in Europe, and I cannot wait to visit them all, but I would not begin my travels at any of these popular tourist destinations. Allow me to enlighten you on the great country of Latvia. Latvi-what? Latvia. This is the country you never knew you have to visit and I will share just five places and things you can do while you are there.

  1. Riga- Riga is the capital of the country and a very beautiful city. There is the old city you can walk around with it’s historic buildings and beautiful architecture. You can venture over to the market and experience all the culture, foods, and….smells (the fish building). I highly recommend taking a free walking tour to learn about the history and culture from a local university student.You will see Freedom Monument, St. Peter’s Church, the National Opera, the list goes on and on. All of this information can be found on Trip Advisor. And before you leave the city, stop by the Radisson Blu Hotel, take the elevator up the the Skyline Bar and enjoy a delicious hot chocolate while you enjoy the gorgeous views unparalleled to anywhere else in the city. 
  2. Liepaja- On the western part of the country is a beach city named Liepaja. Since I was there in the winter, I didn’t get to swim, however it was still beautiful. You can find tons of amber and there is swimming in the warmer months.
  3. Bauskas- Did someone say castles? Get away from the cities and drive south of Riga to Bauska. Here you will find the gorgeous castle Bauskas Castle. And just a short drive away is Rundale Palace. Prepare yourself to wear some nifty plastic booties over your shoes and take a bajillion photos.
  4. Jekabpils- Now let’s venture over to the eastern part of the country to Jekabpils. If you didn’t know, Europeans love spas. Jekabpils has a wonderful little spa with multiple pools, saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs. Prepare to relax and enjoy being in a completely new country that few take the time to travel and experience.
  5. Cesis & Sigulda- These two towns are near each other and you really shouldn’t miss either one. Cesis castle is absolutely amazing. Sigulda also has a beautiful castle, and you can see Turaida castle from the back of Sigulda Castle, so double win! While in Sigulda I also recommend taking the cable car transport over the Gaya river. Even if you just ride it over and then back. The views are breathtaking.

Latvia has been the most memorable trip I have taken. I would argue it was better than any of the cruises I’ve been on, and I looove my cruises. Do yourself a favor and venture over to eastern Europe. You will not be disappointed. And eat at a Lido for me, because if there’s anything better than castles, it’s food.

Carlie writes about travel, weightloss, and military life on her own blog http://www.listfiveblog.com/ Please go read more about her travels and ramblings there!

Iceland: 19 Tips & Tricks

Iceland is so diverse in terms of weather, temperature, and activities that you can’t just pack a basic bag and leave. There is so much thought that goes into planning the perfect Icelandic trip that I wanted to make sure I was spreading the knowledge as best I can. Our trip was amazing and I want to share my tips and tricks with you in hopes I can make your trip just a little bit better!

  1. Stay in a hostel or AirBnb that will allow you access to a full kitchen. Eating in Iceland is incredibly expensive so if you are trying to save money, eating in is one of the best ways you can do it. Shop at Bonus (Icelandic grocery store with the creepy pig) for the best deals. The food is still great quality but you are shopping at a discount. We ended up staying in an AirBnB which was so clean, welcoming, and convenient.
  2. Rent a car. Do not rely on day trips or others to drive you all over the country. Renting a car is easy and you are in charge of everything. Gas is expensive so be mindful of the car you are renting. It cost us about $120 USD to fill our 14 gallon tank. We had a Mazda 6 which was great on gas so in our 5.5 days we were in Iceland, we didn’t spend too much money filling up.IMG_2237 2.jpg
  3. Get out of Reykjavik. Spend a day there but the countryside has so much to offer. You have glaciers, geysers, and mountains everywhere. You have national parks with waterfalls and tectonic plates that you can see.
  4. Plan to wear layers everyday. We would start our days early and end them relatively late. It is chilly in the morning and evenings but would often find ourselves getting a little warmer as the day went on. We did go in May so we had 24 hours of sunlight which was helpful when attempting to get all our activities in but would throw us for a loop with the change of temperatures. The top articles of clothing I brought were my North Face hiking boots, my fleece-lined Columbia leggings, my Columbia fleece jacket, my North Face Tomales Bay rain jacket, and my Columbia waterproof pants. Don’t forget wool socks and thermals, especially if you plan on snorkeling in Silfra.13161875_10153364707452574_9063047029956274330_o.jpg
  5. Bring lotion! The air is incredibly dry in Iceland so make sure you pack a bottle of lotion, you WILL need it. I am not one to use lotion on a regular basis and I used it multiple times a day while traveling.
  6. Bring your own reusable water bottle. The tap water is clean & pure. To buy bottled water is relatively expensive. Just fill up before you leave and fill up at different stops along the way. You will save money and drink some of the purest water ever.
  7. Book your excursions in advance. There were a few times when we were so thankful we planned our days out to ensure we could do everything we wanted. Even Blue Lagoon needs to be booked in advance.
  8. Pack your own snacks. We brought about 50 granola bars with us and had maybe 10 left and the end of the trip. They come in handy often. They do add weight to your bag but the more you eat, the more you have room for souvenirs on your return home!
  9. Take a walking tour of Reykjavik. Yes, the city is small but you learn so much by going on a tour. You learn of places to eat, shop, and go. If residing in Reykjavik for more than a day, knowing your way around the quaint city is going to be helpful.
  10. Bring credit and debit cards only. No cash is needed unless you want to tip (which is not required or requested but appreciated). Make sure you know the PIN for your credit cards as some of places (especially gas stations) require a PIN.
  11. With the amount of international transactions you will be making, I highly encourage you to have a credit card that voids international fees.
  12. Gas stations and stores close relatively early so make sure you get your grocery shopping done and the car filled up with gas.
  13. Fill up on gas whenever you can when venturing out of Reykjavik. You never know when you will see another gas station.
  14. Do your research in regards to the season in which you are traveling to Iceland. It could change your mind in the type of car you rent, the clothes you bring, and even your accommodations. You also don’t want to go to Iceland during midnight sun if you want to see the Northern Lights (cause you won’t see them).
  15. Everyone speaks English but it is nice for you to say thank you in the native language. A simple ‘takk’ will do.
  16. Keep in mind you are on an island where cows are not common and you see sheep and water everywhere. Common Icelandic foods include lamb, fish, and seafood. If you are picky, bring your own food or make sure you have a kitchen to cook what you like to eat. You will be able to find burgers but they aren’t common so they don’t taste as good.13161759_10153361500342574_8371216029416906389_o
  17. Go to Blue Lagoon on your way back to the airport. It ends your trip in a relaxing manner and allows you to leave Iceland feeling refreshed even after a long active trip. I recommend upgrading to the next package they offer as it  will give you a robe, a towel, and flip flops. There are showers with frosted doors for those a little concerned with being naked in front of other women. It is extremely common and there are other Icelandic people there who will be walking around naked. img_9251
  18. Put conditioner in your hair when showering before you enter the lagoon. Do not rinse it out until you shower off after you have spent your time in the Lagoon. Put it up in a bun or ponytail. This will avoid any part of your hair getting super dry and hay-like because the minerals in the water destroy your hair.
  19. Always travel with an extra SD card. I unfortunately learned this while on my trip but my sister happened to have an extra card! I would have missed about 2.5 days worth of pictures!
  20. You don’t have to try Brennivin. It’s pretty awful and makes you feel like your throat might have a hole in it.
  21. Look up from your camera. Take the time to take a picture or two but no matter what you do, the picture will never look like the real deal. Just enjoy it. Take a deep breath and be thankful that you get to experience so beautiful.img_5766

I am sure with each trip to Iceland one would learn something new. How to do something better, what to avoid for future trips. The thing is, all we have is now. Enjoy your trip to Iceland!

All the Feels of Traveling

I often find myself dreaming of my next adventure and most times even the adventure after that. I come up with a million different places I want to visit and in an instant can back up my idea with a million reasons why I want to go.

The culture. The people. The food. The natural beauty. The landmarks. The language. The unknown. The smell. The shops. The atmosphere.

Traveling is so much more than that though. It’s the planning of each adventure. From the flights, to the accommodations, to the excursions. Even where you are going to eat and mapping your day-to-day down to the hour. It’s so exciting and you learn so much about your passion for travel through the simple act of just planning.

After all of that is done, it’s the anticipation. Knowing you just spent so much time carefully choosing your flights and making sure you can do everything you want within your budget. It’s knowing you just planned the trip of a lifetime and having to wait months before it actually happens.

Then you have the stress of packing. Making sure you have everything you need but also making sure you are not over packing. You end up over packing anyway and ripping through your suitcase and having a life or death conversation with each article of clothing or accessory. Making sure your bag is not overweight is really that breaking moment, especially when packing the night before.

Then, it’s the day of departure and you’re an anxious mess. Worrying you forgot something and checking for your passport and camera a million times before leaving the house. If you’re like me, coming up with a million scenarios why you might miss your flight and causing yourself to pretty much have an anxiety attack.

Getting on the plane and realizing you are finally embarking on the adventure you had spent hours, even days planning is actually happening. Excitement and happiness flood your body.

And the best part of it all, actually exploring your destination. Experiencing all those feelings that makes you want to travel forever. Feeling like you found your place in the world when you’re in a place that is brand new. All the stress from your everyday life is lifted and replaced with a sense of peace. A sense of wanderlust.