What to Do on 30A, 30A Travel Guide

6

There is something about travel that gets me so excited. I love to research my destination, plan my top spots and anticipate the trip for weeks to come. Which is why I launched my new Travel Blend series! Last week, I shared my Charleston Travel Guide and this week I am sharing the 30A Travel Guide and what to do on 30A.

30A is a small stretch of beaches and beach towns located on the Panhandle of Northwest Florida in between Panama City and Destin. Each town has a unique vibe with a ton of family-friendly activities – both indoor and outdoor.

I have been fortunate to visit the area for the past three summers and look forward to my time by the ocean for the entire year. 29 days and counting!

How to get there? Fly into the Northwest Florida Regional Airport (ECP) via Southwest, Delta or United and then rent a car or book a shuttle for the 25-30 minute trip to 30A.

30A Travel Blend (What to Do on 30A)

Hotel/Lodging:

For the past three years, my family has stayed in WaterColor – a community known for it’s large, colorful homes and natural, coastal vibe – located directly next to Seaside (which you may recognize from The Truman Show).

Since we have a big group, we rent a beach home through VRBO or 360 Blue. Last year, we stayed in this beautiful, spacious home that was centrally located and even had a plunge pool on the back patio.

If you are traveling as a couple or smaller group, the WaterColor Inn & Resort is a wonderful option. Situated next to the ocean and the Beach Club (or adults only pool which is amazing), this is the perfect location to enjoy all of the town’s amenities. You are a quick bike ride or walk to Seaside Square.

Staying further west on 30A? Check into The Pearl in Rosemary Beach for a luxe, stylish stay steps away from shops, restaurants and the beach.

Brunch:

Great Southern Café is a staple to the Seaside community and a must for any vacationers. If the line is too long, walk to the Seaside market for waffles and a large iced tea; drive to Rosemary Beach for the breakfast tacos at Cowgirl Kitchen or grab donuts from Charlie’s Donuts food truck parked in Alys Beach (get there early as they sell out!).

Lunch:

Last year, I headed from the airport straight to George’s in Alys Beach per a recommendation from my friend Rachel and you should do the same. Sit on the large, umbrella-covered patio and order the Watermelon Tuna Poke and the Dab Salad, a dab of each of their daily chalkboard salads.

Also try a lobster roll from Shrimp Shack, pizza from Bud & Alley’s, tacos and margaritas from the Taco Stand, a burger from Pickles and a visit to the food trucks for a grilled cheese from the Melt Down and BBQ from Barefoot Bar-b-que – all located in Seaside.

If you prefer to eat at home, visit the WaterColor Farmer’s Market on Sundays and buy as many crab cakes as you can. They sell out so make sure to arrive early.

Afternoon Snack:

Since days are spent mostly in the sun, a cold treat will provide you with a relief from the heat. Downtown Seaside offers plenty of options based on your flavor profile – a sno-cone from Frost Bites food truck, ice cream from Heavenly Shortcakes, or a healthy dessert from Raw & Juicy.

Cocktails:

Walk to Bud & Alley’s for a casual, beachfront bar serving up cold beers and cocktails alongside amazing sunset views. Oenophiles may prefer the Wine Bar at Wine World in WaterColor or Havana located atop The Pearl in Rosemary Beach.

Dinner:

Sit poolside at Caliza in Alys Beach and enjoy delicious “Queen Bee” cocktails, an extensive wine list and contemporary American fare. Open Tuesday through Saturday, this restaurant is perfect for a date night without the little ones.

Looking for a family-friendly option? I recommend The HUB, located in Watersound, which offers an open-air dining experience featuring Crave Roadside Burgers, Mile 15 (tacos & tequila) and Red’s Chicken Shack.

Everyone can get what they want and there is plenty of parking. Plus, they have live entertainment!

Coffee:

Wake up early for a sunrise walk on the beach, then grab an iced coffee at Amavida Coffee. Not a coffee drinker? Head across the street to the Raw & Juicy food truck for your daily dose of fruits and vegetables.

Activity:

Even though the white, sandy beaches of 30A are the number one reason why people keep flocking to the area each year, there are many other activities to keep you busy in case you tire of the salt air. Sounds crazy, I know but it can happen.

Biking is the preferred method of transportation on 30A and is the fastest way to get from your house to the beach to the pool and to Seaside Square. Bike rentals are available through Salt Air 30A and Big Daddy Bikes and even include delivery and a bike basket — which I always opt for.

Want to burn a few more calories? Ride over to The Boathouse, located just off WaterColor Way, where they offer SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board), a RUN/SUP class, and YOGA/SUP class along with kayaking, canoeing and more.

Want to burn a few less calories? Take a 1.5 hour sunset cruise on Lake Powell with Motorboatin’ 30A and make sure to stock your cooler with rosé and snacks!

Shop:

When you need to cool off from the sun and beach, retail therapy is just the ticket. I was having trouble picking just one shop to recommend, so I didn’t!

Here are my favorite 30A shops starting from the “top” of 30A and moving down.

  • The Shops at Grayton Beach – Summer House Lifestyle for home decor and beach chic wares
  • WaterColor – Barefoot Princess for Lilly Pulitzer and Vineyard Vines attire, the WaterColor Store for resort-themed gifts and Little Red for children’s clothing
  • Seaside – The Seaside Style for beach-chic accessories and Seaside-themed gifts, The Art of Simple for gifts and home decor, Ophelia Swimwear for L-Space and Mara Hoffman swimsuits and coverups, Mason for southern and gentleman-style including Krewe sunglasses which Michael had is eye on, Raw & Juicy for natural and organic beauty and home products ( (I am obsessed with this After Sun Spray I purchased), Snap for tween clothing and accessories and Duckies for toys (my niece saves her money all year for this!)
  • Alys Beach – Alys Shoppe is a modern boutique for your chic beach needs.
  • Rosemary Beach – Willow Boutique (also one in Seaside) for Calypso, Tory Burch, Joie and more designers and Pish Posh Patchouli’s for beauty, fragrances, hair products like Mermaid Hair and travel sizes which I think is genius for a vacation community.

Try this 30A Travel Blend for a mix of beach days, family fun in the sun, and a summer vacation you will never forget!

And as always, please let me know if you have any favorites to add to my list for What to do on 30A!

What to Wear to a Black Tie Optional Wedding

4

If a wedding invitation specifies Black Tie optional, then it is time to bring on the glitz and glamour!

Elevated from a cocktail attire wedding, black tie optional insinuates that the event is super fancy and your attire should follow suit.

On Me: Reem Acra Dress (Rent) c/o, Silver Cluster Studs (Rent) c/o, Red Shoes (here and here), Black Beaded Clutch (DSW in stores), Red Lipstick

Part 2: What to Wear to a Black Tie Optional Wedding

For men, this means a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie. For women, this means a long dress or a really dressy tea-length or short dress with heels, dramatic jewelry and hair.

A tri-fecta of lace, beading and tulle makes this Reem Acra tea-length dress from Rent the Runway perfect for a Black Tie Optional attire. Pair this gown with a statement shoe and silver cluster earrings and you’ll be a total knockout.

Besides my wedding dress, I have never felt so glam in my whole life. I just wanted to twirl and dance the night away.

Keep scrolling to see more of my outfit details and what my better half wears to a black tie optional wedding. Then, make sure to come back to the blog for the grand finale – what to wear to a black tie wedding!

All photos were shot by the talented Jennifer Kathryn Photography at the Chicago History Museum.

On Me: Reem Acra Dress (Rent) c/o, Silver Cluster Studs (Rent) c/o, Red Shoes (here and here), Black Beaded Clutch (DSW in stores), Red Lipstick

On Michael: Dark Gray Suit Jacket, Dark Gray Suit Pant, White Dress Shirt, Tie, Pocket Square, Floral Lapel, Shinola Watch, Black Dress Shoes

London City Guide – Travel Blend

6

72 hours in London is definitely not enough time to become an expert, but it was the perfect amount of time to fall in love with one of the world’s great cities through this can’t miss London City Guide.

London City Guide // Everyday Cuvée

Since this was my first time to London, I wanted to get an overall feel for the city without trying to cram too much into each day.

Even with the limited time, we managed to see most of the major sites, explore a few iconic neighborhoods and get a taste of the local dining and cocktail scene.

London City Guide

Hotel:

When we originally started planning our trip, we wanted to stay near Michael’s cousin and The Corus Hotel Hyde Park is just a few minute walk from his flat. Even without that connection, the location is ideal for exploring London’s great neighborhood scene.

It’s situated right across the street from Hyde Park (which means morning runs could lead you by Kensington Palace, Prince Albert Hall, or Buckingham Palace) and is close walking distance to Notting Hill, Chelsea, Kensington and Belgravia.

This is a mid-range option that you will be more than happy with. Looking to splurge? Check out The Kensington for some more upscale digs with more amenities.

Brunch:

Dotted with some really cute shops (some known, some not), homes with pastel fronts, and lots of cafés, Notting Hill is the perfect location to grab a coffee and some breakfast.

We chose Granger & Co., an Aussie take on comfort food, and were not disappointed. The warm space is bright, comfortable, and always packed (especially on weekends).

They are known for their ricotta hotcakes (and for good reason). Fluffy, slightly sweet, and the perfect indulgence. We paired these with an açai bowl for a healthier option but if I had to do it again I wouldn’t share!

Other standouts in the Notting Hill/Portobello Road area are Farm Girl Café and Biscuiteers for a sweet treat (and a photo op!)

Lunch:

There’s no shortage of places where you can grab a pint, some fish and chips or a steak and ale pie, but if you want to pretend you’re in Paris for the afternoon head over to the Mayfair neighborhood and grab an outside table at La Petite Maison.

Order a bottle of white burgundy, the burrata starter, and the lamb chop and let the afternoon melt away.

If you are on the hunt for healthier fare, head to Farmacy in Notting Hill which focuses on vegan and vegetarian dishes.

Cocktails:

The stretch of King Road from Chelsea to Sloane Square is some of the best in London. Reward yourself for showing restraint (or celebrate that new purchase) with a cocktail at The Botanist.

House made shrubs, smoked ice, and other modern riffs on classic cocktails are worth the trip, but the location bordering Sloane Square and the bustling scene around the fountain in the center of it all makes this an absolute must.

If you’re staying near Kensington and want to escape the hustle and bustle that is the area surrounding Harrod’s, I would pop into Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental.

Sit at the bar, enjoy the warm gougères placed in front of you, and enjoy a glass of wine or perfectly crafted martini. If you’re hungry, share one of Chef Daniel Boulud’s takes on the hamburger. They’re worth every calorie.

Dinner:

Normally, we would pick a special spot for a really nice dinner when we travel to a new city. This time, we skipped the higher end of the spectrum since we are on a travel budget and opted for longer, leisurely lunches or small plates during happy hour at night.

We liked The Marketplace Restaurant at Chelsea Farmer’s Market for 2-for-1 glasses of wine and the dukkah-spiced hummus or The Shed in Notting Hill for small plates on their seasonally-changing menu.

The best-part: wool tartan blankets at your seat for when the sun goes down and it starts to cool off.

Coffee:

We like to start every day with coffee and our favorite spot turned out to be Lido Café across from The Serpentine. You can watch the swans, swimmers, and paddle boats share the waterway or take it to-go and wander around the Queen’s Rose Garden on your way through the park.

If you’re interested in a proper afternoon tea, check out Sketch or The Orangery. For a touch of royal treatment, The Orangery is an open air patio facing Kensington Palace and Gardens. They serve a full afternoon tea.

For something a little more hip, try Sketch. Pink velvet chairs, artwork-adorned walls, and a full assortment of afternoon tea experiences abound, champagne optional.

Activity:

Sure it’s touristy, but booking one of the hop on/off bus tours is one of the most convenient ways of seeing the major sites, learning some interesting facts along the way, and gaining familiarity of where the neighborhoods are located and which you may want to explore later.

Ours included a short cruise down the River Thames from the Tower of London to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. You can book an English-only tour which gives you a live guide, but we found the multi-language bus (with headphones) gives much more info about what you’re seeing.

When you see an area or place you want to see more of, just hop off and explore. Buses come by every fifteen minutes.

Sadly, we didn’t have time to visit Tate Modern but I am definitely adding it to my list for my next trip to London.

Shopping:

Saying Harrod’s is a department store is like saying that a cruise ship is a boat. While technically true, it doesn’t really do it justice.

Floor after floor, and room after room, is filled with every designer you can think of and more. Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent, and Hermès are just the start.

You’ll find seemingly whole collections divided into their respective categories across multiple floors. It’s amazing and bewildering at the same time.

Knowing my backpack was at its limits kept me in check, but I can’t guarantee the same for you. Even if you’re not looking for clothing, Harrod’s delivers when it comes to gourmet food options too.

Their “food court” puts all others to shame as you’ll just as easily find Ladurée macarons next to a champagne and caviar bar as you are to find a steakhouse next to high end chocolates. Explore at your own risk!

Even if you don’t make it to one of the iconic department stores (Selfridge’s and Harvey Nichols are other options similar to Harrod’s) you won’t be lacking in high-end shopping options.

We came across Chanel, Dior, and Hermès in multiple neighborhoods but there are lower-priced recognizable brand stores in almost every neighborhood you walk through.

Our favorite was Sloane Square, but don’t take my word for it. Check them all out!

Since I know this is a city I will visit again, please let me know if you have any suggestions to add to my London City Guide!

And make sure to follow our entire Round the World trip on the blog and Instagram!

What to Wear to a Cocktail Wedding

8

Fall is quickly becoming the height of wedding season and if hand-calligraphed envelopes have graced your mailbox, you’ve already started stressing about what to wear to each fête.

“Dressing the part” is a key element to being a great wedding guest and it’s important to properly coordinate your attire to the host’s specified dress code.

But don’t stress! I’m going to teach you ladies (and men) what to wear to a black tie, black tie optional and cocktail wedding in a three-part series with Rent the Runway starting right now!

All photos were shot by the talented Jennifer Kathryn Photography at the Chicago History Museum.

Red Lace Dress (rent it) (buy it) c/o, Tear Drop Earrings c/o, Nude Pumps,  Red Lipstick, Clutch (vintage)

Part 1: What to Wear to a Cocktail Wedding

If a wedding invitation does not specify black tie, black tie optional or a “location-specific” attire like beach casual, it is safe to assume the dress code is ‘cocktail.’

For men, this means a dark suit and tie. For women, this means a short, party dress with heels and jewels.

Easy, right? Sure…but if you’re like me then you’ll want a new party dress for each and every wedding which can be a costly endeavor.

Cue Rent the Runway offering thousands of dresses, jewels and bags for a flawless look from head-to-toe at a fraction of the cost. You can rent items from 4 to 8 days, get a backup size and even have them delivered straight to your door.

Ladies living in Chicago, New York, D.C. or Vegas also have the opportunity to visit showrooms in their respective city to try on dresses prior to renting. In Chicago, make sure to ask for Asia who helped select my looks for this series and has some killer style!

Keep scrolling to see more of my outfit details and what my better half wears to a cocktail wedding! Then, make sure to come back to the blog to see what to wear to a black tie and black optional wedding.

On Me:Red Lace Dress (rent it) (buy it) c/o, Tear Drop Earrings c/o, Nude Pumps,  Red Lipstick, Clutch (vintage)

On Michael: Suit Coat, Suit Pants, Gingham Shirt, Tie, Watch, Paisley Pocket Square, Shoes, Blue Shoe Laces

All photos were shot by the talented Jennifer Kathryn Photography at the Chicago History Museum.

How to Book a Round the World Flight

0

Figuring out ‘How to book a Round the World Flight’ might be the most important part of planning your round the world trip.

Not only will it be a sizable portion of your overall travel budget, but once you press ‘book now’ your trip becomes REAL for the first time. All those hours spent daydreaming about waking up in a new country transform into something tangible when you see your name in all caps on an airline ticket.

How to Book a Round the World Flight

There are a number of different options that you can use to book a round the world (RTW) flight, but we are going to focus on the 3 we considered:

  • Airline Alliance
  • Air Treks
  • Do It Yourself

There are advantages and shortcomings associated with each of them. Read below for our candid reviews on:

How to book a round the world flight

Airline Alliances

The major airline alliances are StarAlliance (United, Lufthansa, Air Canada), SkyTeam (Delta, Air France, Korean Air) and OneWorld (American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas).

All of them have global reach and have Round the World (RTW) tickets on offer. We focused our search on the alliance that Michael and I already had the most Frequent Flier status with: OneWorld.

OneWorld primarily offers two options for RTW tickets: OneWorld Explorer and Global Explorer. You can read more about each here (link above), but an Explorer ticket is based on the number of continents you plan on traveling through and a Global ticket is based on the distance (in miles) that you are planning to travel.

Advantages:

  • Ticket flexibility: if you are really loving Argentina but are booked on a flight departing in a couple days, you are permitted to change your booked flights without change fees. Similarly, let’s say you hate India and want to leave early. No problem.
  • Upgrades: When you book directly with the airlines, it is much easier to upgrade your cabin (with either points, cash or due to accrued status) than when purchasing from a travel operator or agency.
  • Frequent Flier Miles: You are sure to get 100% of the segments/miles flown credited to your account towards higher status. Some of the travel operator/agency flights are only coded to give 50% of miles

Disadvantages:

  • Route Efficiency: The airline alliances fly you through to their international hubs whenever possible. This can create extremely long travel between locations or force you to buy additional flights on other carriers to bypass that stop altogether.

For example: We wanted to get from Kathmandhu, Nepal to Mumbai, India. OneWorld didn’t have a codeshare partner that flew directly from Nepal to India so they wanted us to fly through Qatar and then on to India direct from there. All in–an 11 hour travel day. The other option is to skip that stop on your RTW ticket and buy a direct flight (Air India flies direct between the two in under 2 hours). You then pick up your itinerary from India.

  • Route Flexibility: Generally, the airline alliances RTW tickets have you fly directionally (east to west or west to east) with no backtracking. In many cases, this isn’t an issue. After all, it makes sense to keep going in the direction of travel to minimize flight times between stops. However, due to the availability of hubs (see above) you may find yourself being routed through someplace like Doha, Qatar en route to both Africa and Asia. The problem is that you are not allowed to cross back into the same continent more than twice. So you either have to amend your itinerary or you may find yourself buying additional flights from other carriers to stay on track.
  • Cost: We found that our RTW quote from the airline carriers ranged between 60-80% higher than both the travel operators/agency and a DIY pricing approach.

The verdict: This approach is great if you are going on an open-ended trip and you want the flexibility of changing your flights without penalty, you are trying to gain elite status with a particular alliance, and cost is not a driving factor.

Do It Yourself

After getting the price quote from OneWorld, Michael and I started wondering if we had the budget to really pull this trip off. Since we already knew where we wanted to go and had pretty fixed dates in mind, Michael started putting together our own itinerary (complete with airline, flight number, duration, and price) to see how the prices compared.

He primarily used SkyScanner and Hipmunk to locate deals on the same flights. For example, we found our initial Chicago to London flight being marketed through Finnair for $525 whereas the same flight through British Airways was nearly $900.

Advantages

  • Cost: Whether you utilize an airline carrier or a travel operator, you are paying for the service. Going it alone will definitely save you money. In our case, it was roughly $500 cheaper per person to Do It Yourself.
  • Flexibility: If you have an open ended trip and access to Wi-fi, you can plot your next stop pretty easily from the web. Taking advantage of deals (and paying in local currency) can be worthwhile. Be careful, though, about not having a continuing ticket. Many countries won’t let you into the country without either a return or continuing ticket.

Disadvantages

  • Customer Service: You might save a few hundred dollars here and there, but you also might have to try to get ahold of multiple companies of varying degrees of helpfulness in the case of emergency. Trying to talk to a small travel company with limited hours and staff rom halfway across the world when you need help rebooking a flight is a recipe for disaster.
  • Expertise: It’s easy to compare apples to apples, but the travel operators are experienced in helping you get the best experience you can. Our agent with Air Treks showed us that it would be $250 cheaper to fly from Bangkok to Bali on our way to Sydney than to fly direct to Sydney. We used that savings to book a few nights on a beach in Bali after deciding to stay a whole week!
  • Time: Finding the best deals on flights is time consuming. It may be a better use of your time to devote that energy to researching the best places to stay or the coolest experiences to book along the way.

The verdict: This approach is great if you have the time, energy, and confidence to plan it your way. If cost is of the utmost importance and you aren’t concerned about having a safety net to fall back on in the case of emergencies then this might be the way to go.

Air Treks

Air Treks is an online travel operator that specializes in round the world tickets. They work with nearly all the global airlines so you aren’t limited to one alliance or another.

Their very easy-to-use Trip Planner gives you a helpful price range for your itinerary prior to speaking with an actual agent and even lets you know if you can potentially add a destination to your trip for free (based on the route you selected).

Advantages:

  • Route Flexibility: Because you are creating a custom itinerary, you aren’t constrained by the direction of travel, the number of continents visited, or the number of miles flown. You can go wherever you want.
  • Route Efficiency: Since you aren’t limited to flying a carrier on a specific airline alliance you are able to get the most direct flight to your next stop. No backtracking through hubs.
  • Ticket Choice: Once you are ready to book, you go over every segment of your trip to select the airline, the departure time, and the fare class. If you prefer to fly OneWorld carriers whenever possible to get as many frequent flier miles as possible, no problem. If you want to book your long haul flights in business class while opting for economy the rest of the way, no issues. If you want to know the cheapest days to fly between one week and the next when making your selections, no worries. They make it super easy to get the best prices for the flights that you want on the carriers you prefer.
  • Cost: In our case, Air Treks was more than 60% cheaper than the same route from OneWorld. They are able to take advantage of fares from smaller carriers, partnerships with all the major airlines, and current promotions on offer to give you the best price.
  • Customer Service: Every agent at Air Treks has to have completed at least one RTW trip. They know what they are doing. You are provided with an agent that stays with your reservation from conception to completion. You have their email and direct phone number. If something goes wrong (flight delay, cancellation, missed connection, etc.) you only have to contact one company. They manage all your flights regardless of carrier so you don’t have to worry about tracking down 3 different people from various travel websites or airlines.
  • Insurance: The only option that we could find that includes travel insurance with every ticket purchased. Things covered include: lost/delayed baggage, trip delay/interruption, emergency medical, evacuation and repatriation among others.

Disadvantages:

  • Ticket Flexibility: While Air Treks will gladly help you arrange changes to your itinerary, you are subject to the carrier-imposed change fees.
  • Upgrades: Locked into economy but interested in bumping up to business class for an upcoming long haul flight? You are at the mercy of the airline. Many of the fares are coded as third-party providers so they don’t have to oblige. Some luck and a good smile are your best bets here.
  • Frequent Flier Miles: They will put in your frequent flier miles into all of the flights, but some airlines have different rules governing certain tickets. British Airways may award you 100% of the miles on their flights but only 50% on the fares flown with Qatar Airways.

The verdict: This is the approach that Michael and I chose. It is great if you know where you want to go and when, flying a specific carrier or airline alliance is not of primary concern, price is a large factor in your decision, and you want the peace of mind of dealing with one company in the case of emergencies.

If you are dreaming about a trip like this too, then make sure to pin this image!

As I know this is a stressful part of trip planning so please let me know if you have any questions about how to book a round the world flight.

Photo via

Lisbon City Guide – What to do in Portugal

9

I would bet that a Lisbon City Guide, or Portugal in general, is not on your list of must-visit European destinations. It doesn’t have the romantic allure that thoughts of visits to France or Italy evoke, but that is only because so few of us really know about this magical place where castles still rise above the walled cities below, narrow cobblestone streets lead you toward the sounds of ancient music, and an afternoon can totally be centered around a good espresso and a simple pastry with a secret recipe.

Lisbon City Guide // Everyday Cuvée

There’s way more to Lisbon than meets the eye, but if you start with this Lisbon City Guide you are guaranteed to come away with the perfect mix of culture, food, and relaxation.

Lisbon City Guide

Hotel:

There are many different areas of Lisbon where you can rest your head at night, but we chose the Alfama district. Known as the oldest part of Lisbon, birthplace to Portugal’s famous Fado music, and a central location to most of the sights, Alfama proved to be the perfect mix between old and new.

We stayed at an Airbnb nearby, but if you are interested in a hotel in the area look no further than Memmo Alfama. Tucked away on one of the many narrow, cobblestoned side streets that make up Lisbon, the Memmo Alfama is the perfect base from which to explore the city.

With a minimal, modern design aesthetic of tans and crisp whites, you can’t help but to relax. If you need any further boost, head to the second floor terrace overlooking the Tagus River and surrounding Lisbon below.

Here, you will find a small swimming pool, lounge chairs and tables for lunch, dinner or cocktails. Catching the sunset with a glass of port or champagne in hand will reinforce your good decision to stay here.

Brunch:

The idea of brunch isn’t really one that has taken root here. We found most restaurants didn’t open until 10am and the offering was much more geared to a quick espresso and pastry (like the ubiquitous pastel de nata-a sweet, egg custard tart with a caramelized top) than a mimosa and eggs benedict.

No bother, though, because after a late night drinking local Portuguese wines (more on that later) and listening to the haunting melancholic sounds of Fado you will probably sleep in.

If you’re a coffee and full breakfast type of person, you might want to gravitate to a Western hotel chain or one of the central plazas that have adapted to tourist requests, but what fun is that?

Take a walk around your neighborhood until you find a café bustling with locals and find a seat. Our favorite spot was Pois Cafe in Alfama, where the eclectic mix of artwork and furniture mirrored the multi-national clientele we shared a communal table with.

Order your coffee of choice (be aware that the Portuguese like their espresso STRONG-it’s too bitter for me so I opt for a cappuccino or latte) and a tosta mista (basically local ham and cheese on toasted bread-add egg if you want).

More the type to grab a venti latte and banana on the go? Good luck to you. The Portuguese frown upon drinking or eating while walking. I’m not sure I ever saw a to-go cup.

If you’re in a hurry, tell them you want to take your coffee there at the counter and they’ll serve it to you where you stand, but you might as well take a seat and enjoy your coffee while you try to give your legs a pep talk for the steep streets you will be climbing all day.

Lunch:

If you live or have spent any time in a major city, you have probably come across TimeOut magazine. Best known for their curated “best of” lists, the editors of TimeOut Lisbon turned their digital opinions into a real-life experience via their TimeOut Market.

Located just off of the Tagus River and in a converted bus terminal, the market reminds one of San Francisco’s Ferry Building or an old-school beer hall.

They have taken the best purveyors of Portuguese products (paper, books, clothing, soaps, etc.), food (seafood, ham, cheese, meats, etc.) and drinks (port, still wines, beer, and spirits) and given them a space to showcase what they do best.

Grab a beer or glass of wine on the way in, do a loop to see which place or places pique your interest, and away you go. A lot of the menus at the local restaurants are the same so being able to try some of the most innovative takes on Portuguese cuisine under one roof was time well spent. You’re close to the sea so now is the time to load up on seafood.

Tip: there are three restaurants facing the river that have terrace seating. Snack your way over there and then order a bottle of wine and soak up the sun while you plot your next move.

Cocktails:

Like most big cities, Lisbon has been influenced by the craft cocktail resurgence but it’s not their specialty. You’ll find caipirinhas, mojitos, and the like on offer for happy hour, but I would suggest enjoying the local wine and ports as much as possible.

My favorite white wine was the simple Vinho Verde-crisp, light, and with a touch of effervescence. It is a perfect pairing for all the seafood you will be eating. At under €10 per bottle at most restaurants, it’s a steal.

The reds are just as good and you can easily find a Vin Tinto from the Douro Valley a couple hours north of Lisbon for €12 or less.

For me, cocktail hour is all about location and being on or near the water is just about perfect. If you’re in the central plaza of Lisbon, you might like to people watch over a mojito at one of the many restaurants circling the plaza or take a cue from the mobile cocktail cart (pictured above) and take your cocktail to the steps overlooking the Tagus River and watch the day go by.

Looking for something a little more polished? Try the Decadente Restaurant & Bar in the hip Bairro Alta district. They serve great local cuisine here as well, but if you can grab a seat on one of the communal tables outside you can enjoy your cocktail, live music, and maybe meet some fellow travelers too!

Dinner:

If you’ve been out walking Lisbon all day, chances are your body is pretty tired by the time dinner rolls along. Indulge in a short nap if you’re able to as the Portuguese (like the Spanish) don’t start thinking about dinner until around 9pm.

We went to a few fun dinners, but the most memorable was one we stumbled upon after deciding we didn’t want to venture too far from our flat.

Ao Pe de Sé was located just a short walk away on a slope facing the walls of the Cattderale di Lisbona all the tuk tuks stopped at. As the light lit up the stone walls across the way and the faint sounds of Fado music rose up from the streets below, we knew we had to stop.

Focusing on seafood (much of it raw), we dined on an excellent mixed-fish ceviche, tuna tartar, and salmon carpaccio. It was the best food we had in Lisbon by far.

Coffee:

I consider myself a coffee person, but the Portuguese take this label to a whole other level. First of all, keep in mind that the term coffee refers more generally to a shot of espresso. Despite the culture that has developed around coffee, it isn’t very common to see standalone coffee shops.

Most restaurants, cafés, and bars make espresso. It is not unusual to see the locals popping into a local café throughout the day for a little boost (3-5 per day seems to be the norm).

So, if you are looking for something a little less high octane, make note of how to order what you are looking for. The closest approximation of a latte is either the “meia de leite” (half coffee, half milk, foam on top) or “um galão” (one-quarter coffee, three-quarters milk, foam on top).

If that fails, you can always go with a standard cappuccino. That term seems to be universal.

Activity:

After you’ve walked the streets of Lisbon, take a ride on the famous Tram 28. This cable car will give you a ride up and down the streets of Lisbon taking you through historic neighborhoods.

The ride lasts about about 45 minutes and has about 30 stops throughout the city where you can jump on. The ticket cost under €5 and you can pay the driver on board, in cash.

Have an additional half-day to explore? Buy a ticket and board a boat to travel west on the Tagus River to visit the town of Bélem.

Not only will you receive a beautiful panoramic view of the city, you will get a wonderful view of the 25 de Abril bridge, a canny resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Cristo Rei Statue inspired by the Christ the King statue in Rio de Janeiro.

Bélem is home to many historic sites including the Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Tower of Belém, a military outpost built to protect the Tagus Estuary from pirates and enemy attacks. You can buy tickets to explore each destination more in depth with a tour of each monument.

Whatever you do, don’t leave Bélem without trying the pastel de nata from Pastéis de Bélem. You can’t beat the original.

Have an additional full day to explore? Buy a train ticket to the town of Sintra which will take about 45 minutes and is home to the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace, a Disney-like, real-life palace.

If you don’t have a CP pass already, then you need to stand in line at the ticket office to buy both the train ticket and the pass. The trains run pretty frequently so you can just show up to the station.

Once you arrive to the train station in Sintra, turn to your right to board the 434 bus which cost €5 per person, paid in cash to the driver. The 434 bus is the public transportation option that stops at three destinations in a circular route.

We skipped the first stop and exited the bus at the Moorish Castle. Little did we know that you needed to purchase a ticket for both the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace, so we waited in long lines at both. I suggest purchasing your tickets online in advance of your visit.

After walking around the Moorish Castle for about 45 minutes, we walked uphill to the Pena Palace instead of boarding the 434 bus. It was definitely an uphill haul but would have taken longer to get back on the bus.

Due to large crowds, we decided not to tour inside the palace but instead enjoyed exterior views and the Sherwood Forest-esque grounds surrounding the palace.

Shopping:

A Vida Portuguesa is a one-stop shop to stock up on locally-made, handcrafted products for your home or personal use. Also keep your eyes open for any local shops selling handcrafted Portuguese tiles, known as azulejos, as this is what the area is known for.

Should you need to pick up anything else while you are here, don’t fret. The central shopping district just a few blocks off of the main plaza is dotted with the likes of H&M, Zara, and Mango. You’ll find whatever you are looking for.

I hope this Lisbon City Guide has you excited to visit this beautiful Portuguese city and please let me know if you have any questions by posting a comment below.

And make sure to follow our entire Round the World trip on the blog and Instagram!

Around the World Trip

7

Today, I have some exciting, life-changing and somewhat nerve-racking news to share: my husband and I are embarking on an Around the World Trip!

Later this year, we will be leaving the US of A behind to explore the world! The loosely formed itinerary begins in Europe with plans to make our way through Africa, India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia, and South America — all with our belongings on our backs.

Thus far, my international travel has been limited to Mexico, Costa Rica and the Bahamas so this is a HUGE adventure for me. I am nervous and excited all at the same time.

For those closest to me, this leap comes as a pretty big surprise. I dream big, but I scare easily. I have always wanted to see, explore, and experience the world, but I also find safety and security in family and home. I don’t mind taking risks, but I prefer to have a safety net.

Over the last few years, Michael and I found ourselves daydreaming about a trip like this when talking about the travels of some our closest family and dear friends. Hearing their colorful stories of long train rides across India, the majesty of wildlife on safari in Africa, leisurely lunches in Parisian cafés and the bustling streets of Vietnam made us long to bring those experiences to life.

Don’t get me wrong. I still want a family, a home, and a fulfilling career. But I also know that I would always regret letting this amazing opportunity pass by.

We are choosing to take a leap. To try. To throw conventional wisdom out the window. To invest in experiences and believe in ourselves. To take the long way home.

In the coming months, I’ll be sharing more details about the planning process for our Around the World trip, including our final itinerary, packing lists, and tips we have picked up along the way.

Once we hit the road, our goal is to document our experiences here and highlight the ‘best of’ moments and destinations as we make our way across the globe.

Athleta Trekkie Pants, Around the World Backpack, White V-Neck Tee, Sunglasses, Bandana, Flip Flops

I’d love to have you follow along on our Around the World trip adventure and if you’ve have any recommendations as to where to go and what to see, please let me know in the comments below!

Round the World Packing List: Clothing and Accessories

11

Making a Round the World packing list has been one of the hardest parts for me when planning our adventure. The thought of carrying six months worth of clothing, shoes, accessories, toiletries and tech stuff in one large backpack and one carry-on daypack truly frightened me to my core.

Round the World Packing List

I’ve had to throw the ‘style blogger’ part of me out the window and seek out clothing and accessories that will work in a myriad of destinations, climates and occasions. I want to be comfortable, dry, and not look like a total tourist (but hey, I am and I will probably look like one most of the time).

I’ll be sharing my Round the World packing lists in a few parts because there is way too much to cover in one post. Up first is for clothing and accessories. Next, I will be sharing toiletries and first aid supplies, technology and carry-on essentials in three separate posts.

Round the World Packing List: Clothing and Accessories

In order to keep my options streamlined and my head from going crazy, I chose a color palette of black, gray, khaki, white and army green so that each piece could work with everything else in my bag. I, also, really embraced the “athleisure” trend focusing on non-wrinkle, moisture-wicking materials and layers to keep me cool and fresh.

Luggage:

  • Osprey Womens Ariel 65 Backpack in Vermillion Red – Even when I am carrying 30 pounds of weight in this pack, it is comfortable and easy to manage. I got fitted at an outdoors store and I am glad that I did because I felt most comfortable wearing the small backpack size, but needed the “medium” back insert for the pack to sit in the right spot at my hips and and back.
  • Osprey Daypack – This is my carry-on bag that will hold all of my in-flight essentials and things I want to keep on me at all times (passport, license, medicine, etc.). I chose this version because it attaches to my larger pack very easily. It is adequate and will do the job.
  • 4 packing cubes (Large, Medium, Small and Extra-Small) – Even if you aren’t traveling with a backpack, you should use packing cubes. They keep your items organized and somehow create space in your luggage.
  • Compression bag – To decrease the size of my coats, these work wonders!

Jackets/Coats/Poncho:

  • North Face Down Jacket – To keep warm at night on safari, hiking and more, plus it packs down super small. My husband got the men’s version (twinning!)
  • North Face Waterproof Rain Jacket Parka – I love this rain jacket because the hem is longer so you won’t get your butt wet when sitting down. Plus the hood folds into the collar so you can tuck it away when you are not wearing it.
  • Athleta Green Anorak – The gold zippers were the selling point on this one and I liked that this would make an outfit a little dressier. The hood also folds into the collar on this jacket as well.
  • North Face Poncho Sweatshirt – This is going to be my go-to cozy, wear on every flight and cuddle-up piece. The material is very soft and the collar is big enough to curl up in during long flights and train rides.
  • 1 Lululemon zip-up jacket – For workouts, hikes and more

Tops:

  • 2 long sleeve, moisture-wicking shirts (1 gray and 1 white)
  • 2 short sleeve, moisture-wicking shirts (1 gray and 1 dark gray)
  • 2 moisture wicking tanks with built-in bras (1 gray and 1 black)
  • 2 cotton, v-neck t-shirts (1 gray and 1 white)
  • Gray, sleeveless tie-back tank – No real necessity here, but I just bought it and really liked it. Maybe I’ll do yoga in Bali wearing it!
  • Wrap-around cardigan – To wear when I need to keep warm and cover up in traditional cultures or venues like a church
  • Black long-sleeve sweatshirt – Seriously, the softest sweatshirt you will ever own. I, also, think you could swap this out with a hooded sweathshirt.
  • Chambray shirt – Because I never, ever leave home without it

Dresses:

  • 3/4 sleeve black dress and 3/4 sleeve gray dress – For sightseeing, dinners and winery visits in Europe and South Africa
  • Green shirtdress – Wrinkle-free and SPF+ 50 protected
  • Black maxi dress – For dinners, dressier occasions and potentially as a beach coverup

Bottoms:

  • Black skinny distressed jeans – My “dressy” pant for sightseeing, going to lunch and dinner
  • 2 pairs of hiking/active shorts (1 black and 1 green) – Have SPF 50+ protection, lots of zippers and a comfortable waistband
  • 2 pairs of hiking/active pants (1 black and 1 khaki for safari) – Have SPF 50+ protection, lots of zippers and a comfortable waistband
  • Black running shorts – For workouts and hiking
  • Black cropped yoga pants – For workouts, hiking and general to and fro
  • Black skirt (with built-in shorts)- The bow makes this a skirt a little dressy. Plus, it has SPF 50+ protection.
  • Comfy jogger pants – For lounging, airport travel and sleep

Undergarments/Socks:

  • Underwire bra
  • Comfort bra – This version packs up super small so I threw it in at the last minute
  • 2 sports bras – One from Lululemon and one from Athleta
  • 10 pairs of underwear – The BEST I’ve found for working out and active stuff
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks – I am able to wear the kids version which saves me money!
  • 3 pairs of moisture-wicking running socks
  • 2 pairs of ankle socks
  • 1 pair of ActiveLayer long underwear in heather gray (top and bottom) –  For sleeping in colder climates and hiking. I typically would choose black but read a few blogs that mosquitoes in Africa are more attracted to blacks and blues.

Shoes:

  • Black flats – These are amazing because they are so supportive, comfortable and have a rubber sole with traction. I’ll be wearing these out to dinner and nicer spots mostly in Europe, South Africa and Australia. They are so small I can throw them in my purse too.
  • Black Nike tennis shoes – For all airport travel, sightseeing and easy jogs
  • Waterproof hiking/trail shoe – Since most hiking shoes are very bulky, I have a hard time really loving any of these types of shoes. However, I know I need them for support and to keep comfortable on our hikes. So after trying and buying a few pairs, I am happy with my choice and like that they are black, gray and white to match my color scheme since alot of hiking boots are the color of dirt ????
  • Black Teva sandals with ankle strap – For water sports and walking around hot climates like India, Nepal and SE Asia
  • Black rubber flip flops – For the beach, walking around at hotels and lodges, and less than stellar shower floors

Accessories:

  • Two-piece bikini (top and bottom)
  • One-piece swimsuit
  • Scarf – To keep warm on airplanes, colder climates and “fancy-up” my dresses
  • Red bandana
  • “Sporty” watch with an army-green band to match my color scheme
  • Baseball cap – For bad hair days and plane rides
  • White running hat – For workouts, hikes and water sports
  • Stretchy workout headband
  • Crossbody purse – I like to keep my passport, phone and wallet in front of me so I searched near and far for the right crossbody bag ultimately choosing this one because of the three zippered pockets, great price and stylish look. I will mostly carry this in the beginning of our trip and stowing it away in some countries.
  • Passport case – with a gold monogram of course
  • RIFD-safe wallet
  • Turkish towel – As a coverup or towel for the beach, blanket or scarf
  • Foldup Resuable Tote – For the beach, to pack a picnic, carry groceries and wine or just about anything
  • Tassel earrings – I know, this may seem a little strange but I feel totally glam when I wear these earrings. We will be celebrating Thanksgiving with our cousins when abroad and the holiday has typically been a black-tie dress code so I wanted “something” to make me feel fancy!

After months of planning and packing and buying and returning, I feel confident with my Round the World Packing List and the clothing and accessories I have chosen. With that being said, I may find that some items were unnecessary or that I couldn’t live without X, Y or Z. Therefore, I will update this list when needed!

Can you believe that entire Round the World packing list fit into one backpack and one daypack? I couldn’t either! Make sure to come back from my Toiletries/Cosmetics/First Aid, Technology and Carry-on Packing Lists.

Want to see how our Round the World trip is going? Follow along on Instagram and Facebook and here on the blog!

How do plan an Around the World Trip?

0

Two of the biggest questions Michael and I have received about our upcoming trip are: “How do you plan an Around the World Trip?” and “How do you choose which countries to visit?”

Well, as one might expect, those questions don’t come with easy answers. After all, there are roughly 194 recognized countries scattered across 7 continents and 5 oceans. Time constraints, route logistics, packing lists/visa requirements, climate, and budget are just some of the topics to consider. With all of these factors bouncing around your head, figuring out where to begin may be the hardest part.

Before you can really start diving into planning, you need to figure out where you want to go. For beginner travelers like us, this can be a daunting task. We suggest that you take the advice offered by our close friends at Round We Go and make a list.

After a few celebratory glasses of bubbly on New Year’s Eve 2015, Michael and I both wrote down the 10 places that we would most like to visit on separate pieces of paper. Once completed, we looked at the lists side by side. Any countries/cities that appeared on both lists automatically made it onto the ‘must-visit’ list.

At this point, it starts to get really fun! We printed out a copy of a world map (like the below which shows the places we are going) and marked the map with our ‘must-visit’ stops. Then, we connected the dots (starting in the US) going in an East to West direction. You can do it in reverse as well.

The order doesn’t matter as much as connecting the stops in a consistent direction (trying not to back track). We will go more into this later in Part Two when we discuss ‘How to book a Round the World Flight’, but for now just trust us.

Once complete, take a look at the lines connecting stops. What countries lie between Stop 1 and Stop 2? If one of those countries is on either your or your travel partner’s top 10 list, then consider adding it to the ‘must-visit’ list. For example, maybe you both have Barcelona, Spain and Venice, Italy on your lists. Lying between the two is the South of France. Is Marseille, Nice, Monaco, or Cannes on one of your lists? If so, consider taking the train from Barcelona across the region on your way to Venice.

We think it is better to start with a broader itinerary and edit down naturally once you get into the time of year you are visiting, the amount of time you have, your budget, your interests, etc. It becomes a lot easier than you think. In the above example, we found that the overall train time from Barcelona to Venice is about 24 hours. With a few scheduled full day stops in Marseille and Nice, our total travel time ballooned to 3-4 days.

While this would definitely make for an amazing experience, it would force us to lose a day each in Venice, Florence, and Rome in order to make our fixed departure flight to Paris so we opted to fly from Barcelona directly to Venice instead. The flight is under 2 hours, less than half the cost of the train trip, and allows us to take our time going through Italy (which topped both of our lists anyway).

Figuring out the ideal itinerary will vary from person to person, but we think this is a great place to start.

Some key points to consider when planning an around the world trip:

Costs – Chances are, you are traveling on a fixed budget. Check out locations where the US dollar is strongest. South America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, etc.), South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand top the list this year. Consider visiting countries on the shoulder season (before or after their busiest tourist times) to save on everything from food to flights.

Get a little more bang for your buck by staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel, hit the market for a bottle of wine and a picnic lunch instead of restaurant meals, and opt for overnight trains/flights to save on accommodation and maximize your time in the next city.

Climate – You will most likely be carrying all your clothes on your back. Packing (and carrying around) clothes for a bunch of different seasons is not a good idea. We are timing our departure (and route) to follow summer temperatures as much as possible.

Packing t-shirts and shirts is a whole lot lighter than sweaters and coats. Make sure to note important things like the rain/monsoon seasons. Nothing deflates a beach vacation like endless rain.

Comfort – Getting out of your comfort zone is one of the most precious gifts that travel provides. However, finding time to indulge in your creature comforts can help you appreciate them even more while recharging your batteries for the next leg of your trip. This could be a slice of pizza, a warm bath, or a night’s stay in a fancy hotel.

One of Michael’s favorite travel memories so far was a trip to Nepal to hike in the Himalayas. After a week of eating mostly dal bhat (the standard Nepalese rice and lentil dish) he stumbled upon a wine bar in Kathmandu that had French wine, charcuterie, and imported cheeses. That little treat became a memorable part of the trip and even though it was a splurge at the time, it was well worth it.

Stay tuned for Part Two where we discuss ‘How to book a Round the World Flight‘ and keep following our Around the World trip travel series!

Charleston Travel Blend

3

When traveling to a city for the first time, it is easy to get overwhelmed trying to plan the perfect trip. Rather than trying to cram too many things in, I try to focus on these key ingredients–unique hotel, local coffee shop, a fun brunch spot, al fresco lunch, boutique shopping, cocktail lounge, dinner hot spot, and a recreational activity. This helps me create the best blend to get the feel for a city regardless of where I am headed to next.

Charleston Travel Blend

Hotel:

The Mills House is pink…doesn’t that make the choice a no-brainer?! Located within a 4-minute walk to the City Market, this centrally located hotel features gorgeously designed rooms, a floral-adorned courtyard perfect for dining and outdoor pool to cool off after a long day of exploring.

I am also dying to stay at Zero George Street on my next visit!

Brunch:

Poogan’s Porch is the perfect southern spot to indulge in biscuits & gravy, chicken & waffles or shrimp & grits — all of which are absolutely delicious.

The dining rooms are bright and airy and can accommodate large groups but make sure to book a reservation as this southern staple can book up quickly.

Lunch:

Fresh oysters and platters of fried chicken are a dime a dozen in Charleston, but when you combine that with fancy champagne, cheap beer and some of the best ‘day drinking’ cocktails in town, Leon’s Oyster Shop becomes a can’t-miss destination.

You will find just the right amount of industrial vibes to remind you that this was once an old auto body shop, but don’t let that description fool you. Every inch of this hot spot has been carefully designed to keep locals and tourists alike coming back for more.

Cocktails:

Although Husk is a wonderful dinner option, the Bar at Husk (open at 4pm daily) is located in a historic brick home adjacent to the restaurant and is a quintessential spot to grab a whiskey-laden cocktail.

Since my husband and I have also been to Husk in Nashville, I picked up Heritage, a visually appealing cookbook by Husk chef and owner Sean Brock, to add to our kitchen collection.

Dinner:

FIG has been winning awards in Charleston and across the country since 2003…and for good reason! Their seasonal menus reflect what is in peak form from their local farmers and their creative twists on traditional Lowcountry cuisine has helped elevate the whole Charleston dining scene. Give it a try. You will not be disappointed.

Coffee:

The Daily by Butcher & Bee is a bit off the beaten path from downtown Charleston, but totally worth the trip for your morning latte.

Not a coffee person? Not to worry. They also have an extensive selection of cold-pressed juices, breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and more.

Activity:

Although Charleston is best explored on foot, there are a few additional options to sightsee at a slightly faster pace.

In my opinion, Old South Carriage Co. offers the best carriage tour in the city with friendly, knowledgeable staff and a few different tour options. I prefer the One-Hour Residential Carriage Tour because “dream house shopping” is one of my favorite pastimes and can keep me entertained for hours on end.

Rent a bike for the day too see the rainbow-colored houses and perfectly manicured gardens that make Charleston so unique. Cycle through the tree-lined avenues to The Battery located South of Broad – Charleston’s priciest neighborhood and home of historic 18th-century mansions.

Shop:

King Street is the premier destination for shopping in Charleston and is a well-curated mix of mainstream shops with hip boutiques. My favorite ones to visit are Hampden Clothing and RTW.

And if you happen to be visiting Charleston during the second weekend of the month, head to 2nd Sundays on King. They close down the streets and have a festival featuring live music, street vendors and sidewalk cafés from most of the restaurants on King.

Try this Charleston Travel Blend for a mix of southern hospitality, colorful scenery and a guaranteed fun time!