7 Things To Know About Whale Watching Trips

In order to get out to the deep water that whales love, expect to be out on the boat for three to five hours. It will take at least an hour or more to get out and back, which will leave you one to two hours of hunting and watching.

We recently went on a Whale Watch with a new-to-us charter called Captain John Boats out of Plymouth, MA. I hope you find these 7 things to know about whale watching helpful. If you are visiting Plymouth, find more things to do by visiting my review of Delightful Plymouth Massachusetts.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in Amazon and other affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees at no additional cost to you. Here is what I know about travel. Everyone’s taste is different. The opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Humpback Whales

1. What To Expect

In order to get out to the deep water that whales love, expect to be out on the boat for three to five hours. It will take at least an hour or more to get out and back, which will leave you one to two hours of hunting and watching.

If you are prone to motion sickness, be prepared. The ocean swells will have even a large boat rocking as you move over them. The rear of the boat will have a smoother ride than the front, so head there if you are a bit queasy.

2. What To Bring

Sunblock, sunglasses, and a hat

Binoculars

Camera or your charged phone

Your patience, and something to entertain the munchkins

Water and snacks, many boats will sell libations, water, and snacks on board.

An extra layer of clothing

3. What To Wear

Wear sturdy shoes – i.e. sneakers. You will see guests in flip flops and if the deck gets wet, you will also see them slipping around.

Wear weather appropriate clothing and then pack one more layer i.e. a jacket. It can be 10 to 15 degrees cooler out in the open water.

4. How To Take Great Photos With your phone

Use video instead of stills, with the free iMovie app, you can isolate a still photo from your video. This gives you a much better chance of capturing that Instagram perfect pic.

Make sure you have a wrist strap or shoulder strap on your phone, you don’t want it going in for a swim. This Joto Waterproof Pouch from Amazon is inexpensive and offers waterproof protection.

5. Sonar And Radar

If a whale watch says they use sonar and radar to track whales, be wary.

Sonar detects what is under the boat – hopefully you will have spotted the whales before they are under your boat!

Radar locates items on the surface and will detect large schools of fish, which can indicate a feeding place for the whales.

However, a good captain will have an idea where the whales are feeding, will be in contact with other captains out on the water, and have great vision for spotting whale splashes.

6. Arrive early

Arrive early, you don’t want to be running for the boat as they are pulling up the gang plank. Entertaining for the passengers on board, but not so much for you.

If you have your heart set on riding the front or the rear of the boat, and it’s a large touring boat, arrive very early, the best seats fill up quickly.

7. Bring cash

Cash (and usually cards) can be used to buy for snacks, drinks, and ship sponsored photos you may wish to purchase.

Cash tips for the crew are always appreciated.

I hope you get to enjoy a Whale Watching trip very soon. It is a wonder way to spend a sunny afternoon. If you use these 7 things to know about whale watching, they will help you have a whale of an adventure.

Happy Travels,

Sandi

P.S. If you love to travel and are looking for a good credit card to help you travel for free, the Marriott Bonvoy Credit Card has a great offer that will deposit points in your account for free hotel stays. I have stayed in many luxury hotels for little or no cost, most recently the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa.

How To Plan The Perfect Road Trip

Road trips are the way we travel this summer. How to plan the perfect road trip and getting out there, when you are ready, will let you experience what’s in your own back yard.

Road trips are the way we travel this summer. Now that states are opening up, getting in our car and driving to a “near to me” destination is a safer way to enjoy the late summer and early fall. These tips on how to plan the perfect road trip will get you started on the right foot.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. Here is what I know about travel. Everyone’s taste is different. The opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Before You Go

Jumping in the car and just driving can be fun and adventurous. However, with state-by-state restrictions a little planning before hand will be helpful.

Decide where you want to visit, is it just one state or more. Campground and hotel reservations are required due to the limited number of guests they can accommodate – unless you don’t mind sleeping in your car. Ah – no thank you.

It is imperative you check the restrictions for the state(s) you will be traveling through. Each state has their own set of travel guidelines which are fluid and fluctuate as the local statistic change. Start here for New England travel restrictions.

Now for the fun part. Planning the drive. Check travel destination sites like TravelAwaits.com and AAA.com for road trip ideas.

How To Plan The Perfect Road Trip
Camden Harbor, Camden ME

Where To Stay

The large chain hotels are typically going above and beyond the CDC cleaning requirements and the smaller inns are required to follow the cleaning guidelines also. You should feel free to call them and question them on their cleaning protocol.

We have stayed in several small inns and also large resorts around New England for the last two months. I only found one incident were I was not happy with room, but I also didn’t call ahead of time.

Where To Eat

As a travel writer, food is a large part of my articles. I always plan where we eat before we start our trip.

Most places now offer outdoor dining – my preference. Some offer limited indoor dining. Unless it’s raining, when I’m on vacation I want to eat outside.

Planning your meals and making lunch and dinner reservations does tend to hem in your day. However, without a reservation, you may find yourself at the grocery store buying a picnic dinner. Which can also be fun.

National Parks can be a good choice

We have spent a lot of time hiking in the state and national parks. Which, by the way, may also require advanced registrations as many have limited their parking or closed the beaches.

States that do no require masks can make popular trail heads that are crowded feel risky. Less traveled trails will bring you close to Mother Nature’s soothing effect and offer less social interaction.

What I Love About Road Trips

Americans are getting to know there local area again. They are discovering there is so much to see and do right here in this great country we call home.

With a road trip that is less than a day’s drive from home, if you feel uncomfortable, you can pivot or just go home. In this time of uncertainty, feeling grounded in our roots, experiencing our neighboring towns, interacting with lovely people, and enjoying our freedoms unites us as Americans.

Road trips are the way we travel this summer. How to plan the perfect road trip and getting out there, when you are ready, will let you experience what’s in your own back yard. Here in New England you could start with Plymouth MA for some early American history and amazing seafood.

Safe Travels,

Sandi

Email Lists Are Blogger Gold

Do you have an email list? Do you have a good email list? Do you write to your email list regularly? I’m here to tell you, email lists are blogger gold.

I’ve been hovering around 50 subscribers for about three years with one of my platforms and just started a list with my second platform.

We all know, email lists are the only platform where we own our subscribers. Everyone has heard horror stories about a social platform banning or deleting accounts without recourse. Hopefully that hasn’t happened to any of you! We need a hefty, engaged email list of followers who know, like, and trust us.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in affiliate programs; an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to site. This allows us to make a small amount of money, at no cost to you, to help defray the cost of hosting this website.

Here’s What I Had

Platform A, the three year old list of 50 subscribers was going nowhere – no engagement, no sales, no consistent emails. Ugh! I knew it was time to up my game and, actually, get in the game. I took several email courses – discovered my “true client” and figured out what I had that they needed. I did all the groundwork, but it didn’t help grow my list.

I finally figured out how to create a landing page, a quality lead magnet, and a welcome email sequence. These tools along with a few dollars for targeted Facebook ads tripled my list in two months. Whoop! Whoop!

I was on my way, right? Wrong!

I still wasn’t engaging my audience. They didn’t get me and didn’t want what I was selling.

Here’s What I Did

I signed up for Raelyn Tan’s Happy Subscriber Toolkit. A whopping 104 email templates – enough for one a week for two years. Emails like The Checklist Teaser and BIG News & You’re Hearing It First join others that make your email engagement and marketing a snap.

In Raelyn’s list, each email has a catchy title, a note from Raelyn describing the circumstance for that email, and the text outline with prompts and highlights to personalize your story. And know this, it is about storytelling.

Now I’m a freelance writer and I still struggled with my emails because I wasn’t digging deep enough nor getting personal enough to connect with my audience.

Here’s What Happened

I discovered new ways to engage my audience and ask them to do stuff. Like repost articles and videos for me, share my story, buy my things.

My list grew because my followers were engaged. My sales grew because my followers trusted me. My confidence grew because my followers were engaged and trusted me. See the cycle?

Here’s What You Can Do

You need great, engaging emails to connect with your audience. You can check out Raelyn Tan’s Happy Subscriber Toolkit. It is an amazing value.

You need a reason for people to sign up for your list. So build a Lead Magnet, and since a $1 a day, or a $1 a week if that’s all you have, into marketing.

You need to figure out your welcome email sequence letters. Raelyn Tan’s Happy Subscriber Toolkit included five.

Email Lists Are Blogger Gold

Go for the Gold! Build your email list.

Wishing you all blogging success!

Sandi

PS I also purchased The Complete Sales Email Template Pack – I’ll let you know that that turns out.

PPS Don’t forget to add affiliate links to your emails. My Affiliate Marketing Networks info sheet is a good place to start.

Video Blogger Tools That Won’t Break The Bank

Subject matter – start with your back yard, or your street. Take a walk, enjoy the neighborhood. Look for something interesting. The just start video taping, you can edit later.

Here is a short list of tools that will take your video blogging from struggling to Wow-you-did-this-with-your-phone with video blogger tools that won’t break the bank.

Subject matter – start with your back yard, or your street. Take a walk, enjoy the neighborhood. Look for something interesting. Then just start video blogging, you can edit later. You will need to take quite a few videos to find your style. Keep at it.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Phones and cameras

Use your phone. I have an iPhone XS Max with 512GB. This phone has lots of storage and takes great pictures and videos. Get as much storage as you can afford. Videography takes up a lot of storage. Amazon has this phone unlocked and with a Renewed Guarantee at a pretty good price.

The new iPhone 11s are out but you can still get some refurbished ones.

Anyway you slice it, you need a good camera to take videos. I like my phone because it’s always with me. I also like Apple because the free editing software is pretty good.

If you prefer, a DSLR works well too, but it’s like duplicating everything you carry with you. I know enought to get myself in trouble with a Digital SLR camera, but there are lots of great reviews on Amazon. Make sure it has decent video capabilities.

Lighting

For on site production – a simple lighting kit will work well. When I’m photographing something in my studio or where I have control, I use a very inexpensive lighting kit that works perfectly. It’s a three piece lighting set from Limo Studio.

Lighting while you are traveling is a little trickier. Trying to catch a great shot of your dinner in a dimly lit restaurant is almost impossible. This small, rechargeable selfie ring from Meifigno has three light modes and just clips on to your phone. Slip it on, snap a few mouthwatering photos, and store it away, perfect.

stability

For stability you will need a tripod, I love this inexpensive tripod with bluetooth from UBeesize. It is perfect for when I want the camera stable and remote access.

My new fun toy is the DJI OSMO Mobile 3. This sweet little gadget stabilizes your cell phone and offers multiple controls to create stable videos while you are walking, running, and any other way you are moving fast. It takes all the jiggling out of the video. And it’s not as expensive as you would expect.

I hope you have enjoyed drooling over these Video Blogger Tools that won’t break the bank! I have fun using them, and it has upped my vlogging game.

Check out my two Youtube Vlogs:

My new vlog, Travel With Sandi

Bespoke Fashion and Sewing With Sandi

Here’s to getting lost in the journey,

Sandi

The Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels

The Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resort Hotels highlights the best of what staying on property has to offer Universal’s guests.

Universal Orlando Resort Hotels run the gammut from posh, high end resorts to family friendly, affordable stays. All of the eight hotels have pools, restaurants, free transportation to the parks and other hotels.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. Here is what I know about travel. Everyone’s taste is different. The opinions expressed here are mine alone.

When you stay on site, you have access to exclusive benefits including one hour early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Volcano Bay. Other benefits include: water taxi and bus services between parks and Universal hotels, pool hopping, and a variety of dining options.

How much would your kiddos like a wake up call from one of their favorite Universal Orlando Characters! Time to wake up, it’s a Scooby Doo Day!

My best tip! When you stay at one of the property hotels, you can pool hop to any of the other hotels! Each pool has its own distinct flavor, different pool every day, maybe. Be sure to check in at the resort you are visiting for worry free pool access.

One important feature to consider is the Free Universal Express Unlimited ride access included in your reservation at the Portofino, the Hard Rock, and the Royal Pacific Resort. This unlimited pass gets you on to rides quicker than standing in line, giving you the opportunity to enjoy more of rides. Huge!

Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel

Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel is the premier, luxury Universal Orlando Resort. It is designed to resemble an the old Italian seaside village of Portofino. When you stroll the piazza, you feel like you need to parla Italiano!

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Loews Portofino Bay Resort, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

With elegant appointments and meticulously maintained grounds your stay at the Portofino Bay will be exceptional.

Dining at the upscale Bice Restaurant, choose patio seating overlooking the piazza, is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner. Mama Della’s and Trattoria del Porto are available for casual dining. Splendido Bar and Grill poolside round out the on site dining options. Don’t forget to stop by Gelataria for a sweet treat.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Dinner at Bice Ristorante overlooking the piazza, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

The pool at the Portofino is so amazing. There are organized games for the kiddos, secret grottos, a tiki hut bar, a gorgeous pool, and lots of palm trees.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Secret adult hide-a-way at the Portofino Pool, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

A few of the benefits of staying at Portofino Bay is the Free Universal Express Unlimited access and priority seating at many restaurants throughout the property.

Hard Rock Hotel

When you disembark at the dock at Hard Rock Hotel, you meander up a serenely inviting path adgacent to the Woodstock Lawn that is juxtaposed with the edgy but elegant rock and roll interior.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Guitar Fountain, Hard Rock Cafe, Photo Credit: Hard Rock Cafe Website

Sip a perfectly crafted martini or cocktail of choice at the Swanky Velvet Lounge. Whether you prefer the dark velvet style of the indoor lounge or the stylish veranda seating, you will feel like you are part of an exclusive rock band entourage. If you are there the last Thursday of the month, check out the Velvet Sessions, a rock and roll party with live legendary band performances.

For more family oriented dining, the Hard Rock offers the seated dining at the Palm Restaurant, casual dining a The Kitchen, and poolside at the Beach Club. For a mid-day or late-nite snack, Emack and Bolio’s has just what you are craving.

Grand Staircase Hard Rock Cafe, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

A few of the benefits of staying at Hard Rock is the Free Universal Express Unlimited access and priority seating at many restaurants throughout the property.

Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort

Loew’s Royal Pacific Resort has that South Pacific, toes-in-the-sand feeling. The inviting tropical decor, first class amenities, and comfortable rooms will have you wanting to extend your stay.

Dining options include Jake’s American Bar for seated dining. The kid friendly Island Dining Room and the poolside Bula Bar and Grill are good family options. The Orchid Court Bar and Grill is just the thing for a relaxing tropical cocktail to cap off a perfect vacation day.

The pool at the Royal Pacific Resort is tiki inspired and very tropical in feel. You can rent a cabana for the day and relax in the glorious Florida sunshine.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Cabana at the Royal Pacific Resort, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett
Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Royal Pacific Resort, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

A few of the benefits of staying at The Royal Pacific Resort is the Free Universal Express Unlimited access and priority seating at many restaurants throughout the property.

Loew’s Sapphire Falls Resort

Delicious tropical decor makes Loew’s Sapphire Falls Resort a family friendly, luxury resort. The beautiful pool, the fun oasis-like vibe, and the exceptional service makes this one Universal Orlando Resorts hotels best spots for family fun.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Sapphire Falls, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

The pool area is spectacular. Enjoy an evening gathering at a firepit sporting comfy Adirondack Chairs while the kids splash in the hidden water slides. This toes-in-the-sand pool area will be your favorite spot to hang out.

Sapphire Falls, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett
Pool At Sapphire Falls, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

The New Dutch Trading Company is their grab-and-go restaurant and Strong Water Tavern has a lovely poolside view. Drhum Club Kantine offers poolside dining and Amatista Cookhouse rounds out the dining options.

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort

If you are traveling with kids, particularly tweens, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is the hotel for you. The pool area is so much fun with slides and a retro beachy vibe. Rent a private cabana for a relaxing all-day-at-the-pool day. Cabanas come with food and beverage delivery, a large screen TV, and the perfect lounge chair to take a nap.

Cabana Bay Pool, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett
Cabana Bay Pool area, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

The retro, Jetson like feel, is fun for kids of all ages. The mod, brightly colored furniture will surely lift your spirits and transport you to vacation mode. The in-resort bowling alley will delight every member of your family.

Dining is also thematic with the Hideaway Bar and Grill and Atomic Tonic offering poolside cuisine. The Bayline Diner offers quick, food court style meals. The Galaxy Bowl Restaurant is located in the bowling alley for kid friendly fun.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels

Universal’s Aventura Hotel

The Aventura Hotel is a haven for vacationers craving upscale accommodations with a chic, modern feel. This is a good choice if you are visiting without children and are looking for a more serene choice. Families do stay here, but the pool is on the small side, without “fun” activities, making it less appealing for the kiddos.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Aventura Hotel, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

Even if you aren’t staying at the Aventure, you should head over to the Bar 17 Bistro for a drink and a nosh. The view from the glass walled lounge is spectacular. If you can time your visit for sunset, even better!

The other dining option at Aventure is the Urban Pantry, an Asian and European focused restaurant.

Adventura’s Bar 17 Bistro, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett
\Adventura’s Bar 17 Bistro, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn And Suites And Dockside Inn And Suites

Universal’s budget and family friendly sister resorts Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites and Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites are a one-stop vacation spot. Beautiful pools, no fuss dining, and fun themed decor says, sit back, relax, and enjoy.

At Surfside, the Beach Break Cafe offers quick grab-and-go meals with lots of options.

Dockside is one of the newest Universal Orlando Resorts hotels, scheduled to open for the Summer 2020 season. This is your opportunity to stay at a brand new resort.

Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Surfside Resort, Photo Credit: Endless Summer Resort -Surfside Inn and Suites Website
Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels
Surfside Resort, Photo Credit: Endless Summer Resort -Surfside Inn and Suites Website

I hope you find The Ultimate Guide to Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels helpful and enables you to navigate your hotel selection easily.

Hotels.com has great offers on Universal Studios Hotels. Extra 15% Off Select Hotels with Free Cancellation When you Book Now and Stay Later. Use code GETAWAY15. Book by 7/5, travel by 12/31.

Happy Travels,

Sandi

PS If you decide you are more of an Airbnb vacationer, check out this post on Airbnb Rental Tips.

How To Spend 48 Hours In Barcelona

Experiencing everything Barcelona has to offer in just two days is impossible. However, you can absorb the vibe of this hip, vibrant city with careful planning paired with wild abandon!

Experiencing everything Barcelona has to offer in just two days is impossible. However, you can absorb the vibe of this hip, vibrant city with careful planning paired with wild abandon! How to spend 48 hours in Barcelona offers itinerary suggestions for your short visit.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.

Barcelona has two tour bus companies, the Big Red Bus City Tours and the Bus Turistic. Both companies offer great service covering all the hotspots in Barcelona. We chose the Big Red City Tours Bus because we observed two Big Red Buses for every one Bus Turistic, which meant less waiting time between pickups. We booked our tickets through Viator, that way they were in my email and ready to go when we arrived. With a two day ticket, we were able to traverse the city, have a guided audio tour, and take in the adventures that struck our fancy.

Tour LA Sagrada Familia

Get off at stop number 11 on the green line of the City Bus to visit Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Famillia. Construction of the Basilia began on March 19, 1882, and is scheduled to be completed in 2026. Whether the building will be finished then is up for debate and many Spaniards are sceptical about this timeline.

How to Spend 48 hours in Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia

Interestingly, the Basillica does not tower over the city; her decorative towers take you by surprise as you ascend up Avenue Diagonal to Mallorca Street. The towers rise seemingly from nowhere, and the tallest towers are still unfinished. They will most certainly change the shape of the Barcelona skyline when completed. The middle and tallest towers represents Jesus Christ, there is one for each apostle – 12 in all, one is for the Virgin Mary, and four represent the evangelists. The largest, central towers are under construction and the ever present construction cranes detract from the wildly artistic facade.

In 2019, Barcelona finally granted the building permit for Sagrada Familia that was submitted in 1885. To tour this magnificently eclectic church, it is best to purchase tickets in advance. I ordered our tour tickets through Viator, they have lots of options. You should consider a skip the line tour, as the lines can be very long. You can wander around the church on your own,;but to have a true grasp of the magnitude, symbolism, and history, a guided tour is best.

LA Rambla

La Rambla, the heart of the city center, is a wide boulevard filled with shops, restaurants, and hotels. It stretches from Port Vell, near the cruise terminal, to Placa de Catalunya. At night the area comes alive with hawkers, lots of tourists, and pickpockets (be attentive). A must do is to grab an outside table at a touristy bar and sip on sangria; it’s a fun place to people watch.

Barceloneta Beach

The beach in Barceloneta is a wide swath of crystal sand. Retirees playing cards and dominos camp out all day in private clubs that line the beach, while the younger set hits the beach to surf, play volleyball, and soak up the soul warming Meditarranean sunshine. Stop for a glass of Cava and a few plates of tapas at one of the many restaurants planted at the beach’s edge.

FC Barcelona

Football (soccer) fans can enjoy a tour of the home stadium for FC Barcelona, Camp Nou. Stop number 14 on the red line of the City Bus, Camp Nou is smack dab in the middle of the city. The tour, complete with VR glasses and audio guide will have you right in the middle of the action.

Casa Batillo

Gaudi’s work dots many of Barcelona’s neighborhoods. Casa Batillo on Passeig de Gracia is one of his most famous homes. If you want the perfect tour, book the 8:30 preview where you can visit before the throngs of tourists arrive. Casa Batillo can be reached by either the red or green line, stops 19 and 16 respectively. You can view the facade restoration in this video from the Casa Batllo website, the colors, design, and craftsmanship are fascinating.

Port Cable Car

Want to experience the best views in Barcelona? Take a ride on the Port Cable Car. For about $20 you can take a round trip cable car ride from the port to the five star Miramar Hotel on Montjuic. At the top, you can sip a drink at the bar perched on the side of Montjuic, visit the Miramar hotel, wander the gardens taking in more spectaular views, or hike further up the mountain. You can take the red line bus (stop 6) to enjoy this vantage point if you are a little cable car timid.

How to spend 48 hours in Barcelona
Bistro view from Montjuic

Dining

When choosing a restaurant, avoid the establishments that have pictures of the food pasted on the windows or on a kiosk. In general, they are tourist traps. Look for authentic Catalonian cuisine a block or two off the main drag.

For a fun night out, try The Paella Club. Here you will join a dozen other couples to create several different types of paella paired with bottomless glasses of Cava, Spanish sparkling wine. After the cooking lesson, join your new friends for a family style dinner to taste your creations along with dishes crafted by Chef Alex.

Hubbies Cooking Paella

If you are in the Gothic Quarter, the Firebug Bistro is a local hangout with good food and a causal vibe. Try the “Sexy Bravas” and the “Civiche Pow! Pow!” for a Spanish flavor bomb!

We Bistrot is a classic tapas spot with sidewalk tables, a pass-through kitchen, and a well stocked bar. It’s a great spot to enjoy a slow, relaxing meal. The potato salad with tuna was the hit of the night. We tasted most of the menu and loved everything.

Where To Stay

We stayed at this Airbnb in the Gothic Quarter, El Gotic. It was in a old classic building with beautiful, traditional tile work; marble floors; and dark, imposing woodwork. We could walk to great restaurants, Placa de Catalunya, the Zoo, La Sagrada Familia, and more. Airbnb is a great resourse for Barcelona.

How to spend 48 hours in Barcelona
Kitchen at our Airbnb Barcelona

Of course, there are lots of great hotels too. Check out the Hotel Barcelona Universal, a four star hotel in the Gothic Quarter.

No matter where you stay, or what you see, I know you will enjoy your 48 hours in Barcelona.

Lost in the journey,

Sandi

San Fran to LA Road Trip

This trip included all the must see stops on the California Coast. Our guide was Adam, he is knowledgeable, friendly and is like your new travel BFF!

San Fran To LA Road Trip – our 3 day California Trip where neither Chris or I had to drive!

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.

This California Road Trip included all the must see stops on the California Coast. Our guide was Adam, he is knowledgeable, friendly and is like your new travel BFF!

Day One

We booked our tour through Viator, it was simple and amazing.

On Tuesday morning, Adam pulled into our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Downtown San Franciso, right on time.  He loaded our luggage and after we collected another group from a different hotel we were off and running aimed at the Pacific Coastal Highway. Adam gave us a brief overview of the day and then we were on our way to Monterey.

There are planned stops every few hours to give you a chance to regroup, stretch and view the sites.  Our first stop was Pigeon Point Lighthouse, part of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

I was thrilled to see the plants! All of these we have to grow in pots back in New England.

California Road Trip - San Fran To LA Road Trip

Our next stop was at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport. A family run farm with a lovely little shop. We dropped our mony in the till on the counter for our purchase. We bought a pint of Mara Des Bois organic strawberries.  Chris and I had finished them before we pulled out of the parking lot. Yum!

We saw some beautiful California beaches and lovely homes on our drive down to Santa Cruz, where we stopped for lunch and a stroll.  We had a light lunch and a stroll around town window shopping.

In Monterey, we were staying at the Spindrift Inn in Cannery Row (Steinbeck anyone?).

Monterey Bay

But first we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Aquarium was quite impressive. Monterey Bay is teeming with Kelp Forests that are home to some amazing sea creatures. Our timing was good and we watched the diver feed the sharks and other large fish. The special exhibit was Viva Baja, which featured creatures from the coastal habitats of Baja. Just take a look at this flamboyant cuttlefish – it is beautiful.

Our room at the Spindrift Inn was lovely and had an upscale beachy decor. There was a sweet bay window seat overlooking Cannery Row.

The hotel is 4 stories and has a large roof deck which overlooks Monterey Bay. We had our happy hour and breakfast the following day on the deck.  The views were spectacular, I want to have  my coffee there every morning!

California Road Trip - San Fran To LA Road Trip

Day Two

Adam collected us early in the morning for day 2 of our coastal trip.  We were excited because the Big Sur scenic drive had just reopened a week before, it was closed for almost a year due to a landslide.

But first it was the world-famous 17-Mile Drive.  Magnificent views, homes, and my husband’s favorite – Pebble Beach Golf Club.  We had about an hour to wander around the grounds and through the club house. Did you know Pebble Beach is a public course? Anyone can play there – even me – Ha!

California Road Trip - San Fran To LA Road Trip - Pebble Beach
The 18th at Pebble Beach

But there is more to see on this drive, The Lone Cypress – a California landmark, the Del Monte Forrest, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Poppy Hills Golf Course and more.

The Lone Cypres
The Lone Cypress

Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-Sea was our next stop on this California Road Trip. We had a drive by some of the sweet cottages then parked. We had about an hour to grab a quick lunch (lots of great little coffee shops) and window shop. Since Chris and I love walking, it is fun to explore these little towns. This $3,500 leather jacket caught my eye,  but I couldn’t get Chris to bite 🙂

Big Sur

Big Sur – all I can say is WOW! The 3+ hour drive up and down twisting roads with breathtaking views. We stopped several times for photographs, even ran into people from Boston. These photographs do not do the scenery justice! This San Fran To LA road trip is nothing like home.

California Road Trip - San Fran To LA Road Trip
Big Sur
California Road Trip
Big Sur

We stopped in San Simeon to view the Elephant Seal Colonies – the male seals were in residence – they are huge and loud.  Fun to watch.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle – what can I say…..250,000 acres, 41 fireplaces, and 60 bathrooms!

1 Refilling-the-Pool_4157

Photo credit: from www.hearstcastle.org

Adam dropped us off and went to check us into our hotels and drop our luggage (one of the great perks of tour travel). We boarded the bus at the visitor center then began the trek up the mountain to the Enchanted Hill for the Grand Rooms Tour. The tour was interesting, and included parts of the gardens, pools and the large entertainment areas.  The real fun was wandering the gardens and taking in the breathtaking views.

After a white-knuckle ride back down the long driveway, we were off to our hotel in Cambria, The Rigdon House, a lovely boutique hotel off the main drag. We were just a little late for happy hour, which is ubiquitous in Coastal California. However, we enjoyed some nice Chardonnay and light finger food along with delightful company: a young couple from Dublin, Ireland, a couple from Simi Valley and a couple from Los Angeles.  Eventually, we made our way to Robin’s for dinner. It was across the street from Rigdon House and recommended by Adam.  The atmosphere was California Coastal Casual and we had a great meal – I highly recommend the Pecan Tart if it is available, Yum!

Our suite at Rigdon House was large, gorgeous, and spotless. We really only were in Cambria for dinner and sleep, but from my short peak of the area – it looked like a nice sleepy, well traveled town between San Francisco and LA.

The  Rigdon House

Day Three

Our morning began with an 8:00 am pickup and a morning drive to Solvang. A Danish tourist town loaded with wine tasting and pastry shops.  We stopped for an hour and had enough time for a pasty, coffee and a walk about town.

The Santa Ynez Valley was next on the tour. The beautiful scenery was dotted with vineyards, grapes and cows as far as we could see (at least until the mountains inhibit the view).

We finished our time with Adam in Santa Barbara.  He brought us to the Amtrak Station as planned and organized each groups’ tickets to Los Angeles.  We planned to spend two days in Santa Barbara, Adam arranged our tickets, and dropped us at our hotel. It was his recommendation and was spot on!

San Fran To LA Road Trip

San Fran To LA Road Trip

Our touring trip was perfect, Chris didn’t have to drive so he got to see all the amazing vistas, relax and enjoy the ultimate summer California road trip!

If you want to take this wonderful Pacific Coast road trip, you can book it here. Make sure to tell Adam, Sandi sent you!

Happy Travels,

Sandi

Gloria Ferrer Winery Review

f you want to try some great wines when you are in Sonoma Valley, be sure to visit the Gloria Ferrer Winery. You will be happy you did.

When we visited San Francisco recently, we took a wine tour that visited three Napa and Sonoma Wineries. The best of the best was the Gloria Ferrer Winery – Sonoma. I hope your enjoy our Gloria Ferrer Winery Review.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.

The Tour

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining. She escorted us from the anti room, to the barrel holding room where they have lots of parties, then on to the bar overlooking the production room. Throughout the tour she explained the process and relayed family stories and their long history.

We tasted grapes fresh from the vine. They were super sweet and delicious!

California Grape Vines

We enjoyed a close up look at some of Gloria’s Champagne flute collection. Unfortunately we did not have a tour of their famous caves, however, the harvest was beginning that evening and they were getting ready for it to begin that evening.

The grapes are harvested mostly at night, but hand.  It is a long process, but it ensures the grape skins (which ad color to the final wine) are not broken.  This gives the wine maker more control over the color.

Gloria Ferrer Winery
Gloria Ferrer Winery, ready for harvest

The Wine

My favorite wine at Gloria Ferrer was the 2015 Jose Ferrer Selection Chardonnay at $40 a bottle, it is not inexpensive, but for a special dinner with friends – it would be perfect.

I decided to join their wine Cuvee Club which ships two bottles every quarter. I received my first shipment recently and it was delicious.

If you want to try some great wines when you are in Sonoma Valley, be sure to visit the Gloria Ferrer Winery. The wine tour is like attending a party.  You will be happy you did.

Gloria Ferrer Cuvee
Royal Cuvee

I hope your enjoyed our Gloria Ferrer Winery Review. We certainly enjoyed tasting all their spectacular wines.

Hope you get Lost in the Journey

Sandi

Delightful Plymouth Massachusetts

Plimoth Plantation will keep you busy for an entire day.

Plymouth Massachusetts is a super friendly town that is great for a day trip or a weekend get-a-way. This year Plymouth is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing. You can check out all the festivities at Plymouth400.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.

Everyone needs to see Plymouth Rock – it is great, albeit questionable historical accuracy, symbol of the Pilgrim’s landing on America soil. Don’t be too disappointed, since it is truly just a rock; but it is encased in a beautiful superstructure built in 1920. Anchoring a beautiful park along the Plymouth Harbor.

Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock

Where to Eat

Enjoy a lovely lunch at East Bay Grill. You can eat out on the patio overlooking the harbor. We had amazing lobster rolls, loaded with huge pieces of perfectly cooked lobster meat, served with coleslaw and a pile of French fries.

Treat yourselft to an after dinner, vacation-required ice creat at Ziggy’s on Water Street. All I can say is Yum!

Other Fun Things to do in Plymouth

Plimoth Plantation will keep you busy for an entire day, and they have great tours. My favorite viewing at Plimoth Plantation is the Rare Breeds in the Nye Barn, I am a farmer deep down in my soul. There is the Grist Mill, Craft Center, 17th Century English Village, and the Wampanoag Homesite. If you love American History or are looking for a pastoral place to spend some family friendly time – this is the place.

Long Beach in Plymouth and White Horse Beach are two beautiful public beaches if you want to get in some chilly Cape Cod Bay swimming. We were treated to a horseback riding group enjoying the Long Beach surf on a sunny September Sunday.

Plymouth Massachusetts Horseback riding

There are lots of great Airbnb’s in Plymouth.  We stayed in an old Fisherman’s cottage ½ block from the harbor between Water Street and Court Street. Court Street has a lively shopping and bar scene, with most places rocking until late in the evening.

I love Airbnb, it can give you a homey, neighborhood space, with perhaps a separate bedroom and living room, some kitchen space, and room for friends and family.

For something more upscale, there is the 1620 Hotel  it has well appointed rooms, great location and is adjacent to a quaint little shopping center offering small specialty shops.

Art is alive and well in Plymouth

Plymouth Lobster Crawl organized by the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce features 29 unique 5’ tall lobster structures through out the waterfront and downtown Plymouth. Make sure you tag your photos: #PlymouthLobsterCrawl

Plymouth Public Art Initiative
Public Art

You will see lots of Art in Plymouth Massachusetts.  The Plymouth Public Art Initiative brings hand-painted Adirondack chairs and picnic tables to the Waterfront for her visitors to enjoy.

Adirondack Chairs

Okay, I couldn’t resist photographing this huge fallen tree.  It’s been here quite a while and I’m guessing that it is part of the art scene on the waterfront.

I hope your enjoyed our weekend get-a-way in Plymouth Massachusetts, where the locals are super friendly, there is lots to do and see, and the restorative nature of the water will have you wanting to go back and visit again and again.

Delightful Plymouth Massachusetts

Get Lost in the Journey!

Sandi

Northern Ireland’s Natural Beauty

Full Irish Breakfast – Sheep – Irish Sea – Sheep – Giants Causeway – Sheep – Royal Portrush Golf Course – Sheep – Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge – Sheep – Baaaaaaah!

We drove from Dublin to Portrush on our last visit to Ireland! The ride takes just under three hours, but the scenery is so beautiful, we stopped frequently to just enjoy the breathtaking vistas, enjoy a nibble to two, and chat with some lovely people.

Some of these links are affiliate links some are just things I love. I recieve compensation if you purchase through these links at no additional cost to you.

We connected with some friends, he grew up in Dublin, and began our journey north very early in the morning with the goal of getting to Portrush by dinner. We stopped at a small hamlet and for breakfast just outside of Dublin. Nothing but the Full Irish Breakfast for the guys – rashers (bacon), black and white pudding (sausage), eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms, beans, and potatoes all fried in butter! On the side is fresh soda bread with more butter and jam, tea and orange juice. So much food! I had beans (which just came from a can – go figure) and toast; not the best vacation breakfast I’ve every had, but fortifiying. The guys were stuffed!

We skirted Belfast and made our way up the coast, stopping frequently to take in the beautiful seashore along the Irish Sea, Like Tweed’s Port Carnfunnock Bay Slipway.

We stopped for lunch in Carrickfergus on the shore of Belfast Lough. After lunch we wandered around Carrickfergus Castle and stumbled upon the towns Christmas celebration. We could hear loud music and followed the sound. The street fair was fun and was a perfect diversion from the driving.

We reached our designation – the Inn on the Coast. It is a sweet little hotel with a view of the Atlantic. The staff was so nice and the rooms were comfy. We headed to the bar and restaraunt for dinner, it was exactly what you would expect, cozy with a roaring fire, lots of Guinness and hearty entrees. After a leasurely dinner, we got in a few games of pool.

The morning brought lots of black ice. The parking lot was a skating rink, but we ventured out anyway. Off to the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge first. We climbed the rocky mountainside along the Atlantic towards the bridge to take you to the outcrop. The experience was exhilerating and unnerving at the same time.

Our next stop was The Giants Causeway. The hike from the parking lot seemed much shorter than it was, because the scenery was spectacular. Chris was climbing around the rocks like he was 12 years old. I was shocked by his agility, which was spurred on by his excitement at the amazing view.

We swung by the Royal Portrush Golf Cub to get a peak at a few of the golf holes. The 148th Open (British Open) will be played there in July 2019. I don’t know where all these people will stay – Portrush is not that big! I’m sure they will be bussing them in from all over.

With our siteseeing complete – we husted back to Dublin to meet Chris’ cousin for dinner and a little family catch up time.

If you don’t want to drive, you can try a tour. You can check out the one my dauthter took to visit this beautiful country Click Here!!!

The people of Northern Ireland just absorb you into their life, you feel like you have always belonged and can stay forever.

Exploring Northern Ireland’s natural beauty was a trip to remember. Full Irish Breakfast – Sheep – Irish Sea – Sheep – Giants Causeway – Sheep – Royal Portrush Golf Course – Sheep – Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge – Sheep – Baaaaaaah!

We drove from Dublin to Portrush on our last visit to Ireland! The ride takes just under three hours, but the scenery is so beautiful, we stopped frequently to just enjoy the breathtaking vistas, enjoy a nibble to two, and chat with some lovely people.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.

We connected with some friends, he grew up in Dublin, and began our journey north very early in the morning with the goal of getting to Portrush by dinner. We stopped at a small hamlet and for breakfast just outside of Dublin. Nothing but the Full Irish Breakfast for the guys – rashers (bacon), black and white pudding (sausage), eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms, beans, and potatoes all fried in butter! On the side is fresh soda bread with more butter and jam, tea and orange juice. So much food! I had beans (which just came from a can – go figure) and toast; not the best vacation breakfast I’ve every had, but fortifiying. The guys were stuffed!

Exploring Northern Ireland's natural beauty was a trip to remember.

We skirted Belfast and made our way up the coast, stopping frequently to take in the beautiful seashore along the Irish Sea, Like Tweed’s Port Carnfunnock Bay Slipway.

Carrickfergus

We stopped for lunch in Carrickfergus on the shore of Belfast Lough. After lunch we wandered around Carrickfergus Castle and stumbled upon the towns Christmas celebration. We could hear loud music and followed the sound. The street fair was fun and was a perfect diversion from the driving.

Northern Ireland's Natural Beauty
Christmas in Northern Ireland

We reached our designation – the Inn on the Coast. It is a sweet little hotel with a view of the Atlantic. The staff was so nice and the rooms were comfy. We headed to the bar and restaurant for dinner, it was exactly what you would expect, cozy with a roaring fire, lots of Guinness and hearty entrees. After a leasurely dinner, we got in a few games of pool.

Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge

The morning brought lots of black ice. The parking lot was a skating rink, but we ventured out anyway. Off to the Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge first. We climbed the rocky mountainside along the Atlantic towards the bridge to take you to the outcrop. The experience was exhilarating and unnerving at the same time.

Northern Ireland's Natural Beauty
Northern Ireland's Natural Beauty - Rope Bridge

The Giants Causeway

Our next stop was The Giants Causeway. The hike from the parking lot seemed much shorter than it was, because the scenery was spectacular. Chris was climbing around the rocks like he was 12 years old. I was shocked by his agility, which was spurred on by his excitement at the amazing view.

Giants Causeway - Northern Ireland's Natural Beauty
Exploring Ireland's Natural Beauty - Giants Causeway

We swung by the Royal Portrush Golf Cub to get a peak at a few of the golf holes. The 148th Open (British Open) will be played there in July 2019. I don’t know where all these people will stay – Portrush is not that big! I’m sure they will be bussing them in from all over.

Back to Dublin

With our siteseeing complete – we husted back to Dublin to meet Chris’ cousin for dinner and a little family catch up time.

Dublin Ireland

The people of Northern Ireland just absorb you into their life, you feel like you have always belonged and can stay forever. Northern Ireland’s natural beauty will hang in my memory.

Wish you were having a Guinness? Check out this post about making a Baby Guinness!

Guinness And Baby Guinness

Do you Love beer? Do you Love Guinness? Do you want to learn the correct way to pour a perfect Guinness? Do you dream of going to Dublin?

Do you Love beer? Do you Love Guinness and Baby Guinness? Want to learn the correct way to pour a perfect Guinness? Ever dream of going to Dublin? This post is for you!

Guinness and a Baby Guinness

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.]

We made our trip special with a private Connoisseur Bar tasting, The Guinness Connoisseur Experience – you can view their promo video: https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/connoisseur-experience

We sampled the Guinness Draft, of course, the Guinness Extra Stout, the Guinness Dublin Porter, Guinness Rye Pale Ale, and several others. It was a transporting experience, the dark wood paneled bar, an enchanting Irish storyteller-bartender with a thick brogue, the historical photos, mood lighting, intimate crowd, and the amazing beers!

Guinness and a Baby Guinness - At the Bar
Connoisseur Bar

We had a lesson on how to pour a Guinness correctly and got a chance to give it a try and pour one for ourself. If you love beer, this is a tour for you. We had tastings, a full pour of our own and then a coupon for another Guinness in the rooftop bar. Don’t go on an empty stomach!

Guinness and a Baby Guinness - the real thing
So much Guinness

Baby Guinness

Let’s talk Baby Guinness’s! You will need some Kahlua (or coffee liqueur) and Bail3y’s Irish Creme, a shot glass and a small spoon.

How to make a Baby Guinness

In a shot glass, pour the coffee liqueur. Invert a spoon and place it over the opening of the shot glass. Slowly pour the Irish Cream over the spoon. The goal is to have the Irish Cream will float on top of the coffee liqueur, creating the look of a tiny beer.

Guinness and a Baby Guinness
Baby Guinness

Visit Dublin for a day or two, that’s enough! Go to the Guinness Storehouse, The Temple Bar, and enjoy a small cafe to watch the crowd go by.
Slán is beannacht!

Impossible Burger Coast To Coast

We were visiting Santa Barbara, CA, in August – it is like one of the most beautiful places in the world! The sunshine, the food is amazing, and the people watching – what can I say! I found myself in search of a great veggie burger and wondered if there was a difference in the Impossible Burger coast to coast.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.

I am mostly a vegetarian/pescatarian – once or twice a year I may have a piece of bacon (zoiks). One thing I miss is a really great burger. Even if you order a meatless burger made on site, it still doesn’t have that burger unctuousness. I had been reading a lot about The Impossible Burger and in the early days it was difficult to find on the East Coast.

I was in search of a West Coast pub that served The Impossible Burger. Jackpot! Around the corner of our hotel, The Hotel Milo was Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen. We are always on the lookout for a great pub and I was delighted to find they had The Impossible Burger on the menu. Theirs is served with grilled onions, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and house spread; I ordered it with a fine dark draft. The Impossible Burger did not disappoint. It was “meaty”, juicy, tasty and totally hamburger, you will be asking yourself: Where’s the Beef?

West Coast

Impossible Burger coast to coast - Santa Barbara
Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen Impossible Burger

East Coast

In February, we went to our local Tavern in the Square. I ordered what I thought was The Impossible Burger with bacon, onion jam, aged cheddar, and a fried egg, sounds great right. Not so much. It was dry, the bacon was hard not crisp (how do you do that?) had no flavor and they overcooked the egg! When I was getting ready to write this review, I revisited the menu at Tavern in the Square. The burger is not an Impossible Burger, but an Impossiburger. A little play on words?

Impossible Burger coast to coast -
Not The Impossible Burger

Today I headed out for more research (Yum) and visited the Rail Trail Flatbread Co. to try their Impossible Burger. Which comes with chao cheddar (dairy free), green leaf lettuce, pickle, onion, tomato, vegan aioli, and potato bun. I substituted muenster cheese and added avocado. I ordered a Berkshire Beer Company Halidale Stout to go along. They were both  scrumptious – the beer and the burger.

Impossible Burger coast to coast - Rail Trail
The Impossible Burger – Rail Trail Flatbread Co.

The Impossible Burger is made by Impossible Foods . According to their website “We’ve been eating meat since we lived in caves. And today, some of our most magical moments together happen around meat: Weekend barbecues. Midnight fast-food runs. Taco Tuesdays. Hot dogs at the ballpark. Those moments are special, and we never want them to end. But using animals to make meat is a prehistoric and destructive technology. Animal agriculture occupies almost half the land on earth, consumes a quarter of our freshwater and destroys our ecosystems. So we’re doing something about it: We found a way to make meat using plants, so that we never have to use animals again. That way, we can eat all the meat we want, for as long as we want. And save the best planet in the known universe.”

Caveat Emptor – Let the buyer beware! The Impossible Burger is fabulous, the Impossiburger – tastes just like a regular frozen veggie burger – Blah!

It is a lofty promise, and the Impossible Burger totally lives up to expectations!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry,

Sandi

Vail Food Tour

In between the food tastings, Matt regaled us with stories of Vail’s history, how it came to be, who were the major players and what it was like in the beginning. Did you know that Gerald Ford had a residence in Vail?

Does your family love to ski? Snowboard? Do you wonder what the heck you are going to do with two or three days while they are on the slopes? When in Colorado, my favorite thing is the Vail food tour.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin and CJ Affiliate programs.

I know, the first day it’s great, right? Peace and quiet, time to read, reflect and relax.  Day two and three can become a little tedious.

We just spent three days in Vail, Colorado. All I can say is gorgeous!

Vail Food Tour

The Stay

We found an Airbnb in Lionsgate which is part of the overall Vail complex comprised of Lionsgate and Vail Village. Both areas are anchored by a gondola. A steady stream of free buses connect all the points of interest and the two villages.

The view from out Airbnb was so cute!

Vail Food Tour

The Food

I was lucky enough to find an amazing Vail Food Tour; a 2 ½ hour food and history tour (with added libations ). Our guide, Matt, was friendly, knowledgeable and attentive.  I was on the tour as a single with a friendly group of four women celebrating their annual reunion.

We began our tour at Terra Bistro with Ahi Poke with Fried Rice Tots and Prosecco.  I had never tried poke before – but since this was a tasting, I gave it a go. It was refreshing, light and flavorful. Of course, it was perfect with the Prosecco pairing.

Our dining experience included mouth watering salted caramel chocolates from Fuzziwigs Candy Factory , we had a custom brew at Vail Brewing Company who partners with Bol who delivered ancho chile marinated lamb lollipops for our happy little group, and gnocchi with white truffles paired with a crisp chardonnay at La Botega.

My favorite – a vegetable grilled cheese served with curried roasted cauliflower soup and a beet cocktail. If you want to eat at the White Bison – make reservations – you will certainly enjoy your meal.

Vail Food Tour - the White Bison
Lunch at the White Bison

In between the food tastings, Matt regaled us with stories of Vail’s history, how it came to be, who were the major players and what it was like in the beginning. Did you know that Gerald Ford had a residence in Vail? That there is a mini “Bellagio fountain”? That the WWII ski rangers had a part in making Vail – well, Vail as we know it today.

If you think it’s busy during the snowy months, you need to check out what’s happening during the other seasons. More tours from Matt’s company, lots of fun festivals and races.

If you want to take this amazing walking food tour, check out the description here.

This tour company also does a Booze, Brews and Bites tour which I am sure is amazing. Next time!

Getting lost in the journey,

Sandi

Airbnb Rental Tips And Tricks

Look at the pictures, they should tell a story. Are the beds nicely made and are they the right size for you? Will the Kitchen, Living Room and Dining Room work for your stay? Do the Bedrooms have doors? What does the front of the building look like? Is there parking? How about public transportation?

We love Airbnb! It is my first go to when we are traveling, it doesn’t matter if it is just the two of us or it is with my 3 daughters, son-in-law, granddaughter and my mom. Right now I am planning a trip with another couple to Europe and we are looking at Airbnb’s for most of our housing. We have booked all over the US, Dublin, London, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Paris. With a few simple Airbnb rental tips and tricks, you can help insure a great stay.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Travel With Sandi also participates in the Awin, Airbnb, and CJ Affiliate programs.

The process I use for booking is the same, no matter who is going or where we are traveling. I follow these Airbnb rental tips and tricks to book every stay. Note: we always stay in a lock out – renting the entire space – I am not totally into the “Bed and Breakfast” type of rental. I personally would not share a room either.

Airbnb Plus

Once you have decided on your destination, investigate and decide a preferred neighborhood or two. It is too easy to go down the rabbit hole looking at all the pretty pictures; you may end up far away from your “ideal fun spot”. You need to focus your search so it matches your goals i.e. shopping, dining, nightlight, museums, etc.

I start with the Airbnb Plus listing and see if one of those work. According to the Airbnb website, Plus listers, among other things must:

“To be eligible for Airbnb Plus, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Maintained an average rating of 4.8 over the past year
  • Accepted 95% of booking requests over the past year, including instantly booked reservations
  • No canceled reservations over the past year (except for penalty-free cancellations)

Additionally, Plus spaces must be:

  • Thoughtfully designed in a way that shows your unique style and personality
  • Well-equipped with amenities like wifi and coffee
  • Well-maintained and clutter-free
  • Outfitted with comfy mattresses, high-quality bedding, and plush towels”

Starting with these listings is a great way to guarantee you will have a fabulous experience. If I can’t find an Airbnb Plus listing in my target neighborhood, I continue to the rest of the listings. We have had many great stays in housing that had not yet been upgraded to Airbnb Plus

Where to Begin

To begin your search on the site, set your filters. The more filters you set, the narrower your search. Set your destination, dates and number of guests. Then use additional filters to further narrow your search. How many beds do you want? how many bedrooms? Bathrooms? Laundry? Pool? Wifi?

I don’t add neighborhoods in the filters. Firstly, they are not all listed and I may find a perfect place on the edge of my neighborhood. The map will populate on your screen and you can shift tit o reflect your desired neighborhood; the listing shown will be within that map area. This is very handy if you want to expand or constrict your search.

Next, go through the listings shown and quickly review the photos to see if the decor appeals to you. Do you want a balcony? See if the photos show one and also the view; you don’t want to be viewing the house across the alley (ask me how I know!). Do you want multiple bedrooms with certain size beds? What floor do you want to stay on? Save these listing to a wish list you set up specifically for this location. The wish lists are a great tool, particularly if you are visiting more than one city.

After you have done a cursory review. Go to your wish list and give each listing a thorough review.  Remove the ones that don’t meet your standards.

Things to look for

  • Beds don’t always mean bedrooms – think bunk room
  • Bedrooms may not have a door, it could be a loft or a drape that separates the room
  • Bathrooms do not always have showers and/or tubs
  • Patios/decks do not always have a view
  • Older buildings usually do not have elevators
  • TVs are not standard – a must have for my hubby!
  • Dishwashers, Washers, Dryers, Coffee maker – are these necessary for your stay?
  • If there are more than a few decor photos – it makes me question what they are not showing?

Look at the pictures, they should tell a story. Are the beds nicely made and are they the right size for you? Will the Kitchen, Living Room and Dining Room work for your stay? Do the Bedrooms have doors? What does the front of the building look like? Is there parking? How about public transportation?

Also consider the reviews. They should be recent and well written. You want to see positive comments about the location, cleanliness, ease of check in and responsiveness of the owner. Read between the lines!

You need to consider the Total Cost of the rental, not all rentals have the same fees. You will find Service and Cleaning fees on some rentals – so check the bottom line!

Review Your Stay

Lastly, after you check out; leave a review for your host. You build credibility with future hosts based by leaving good reviews. Make your review truthful and positive.

Check out Airbnb for your next trip and follow these few simple Airbnb rental tips and tricks when you book.

Happy Travels!

Sandi