Travel Tips For Retirees

Travel Tips For Retirees
Maroon Bells, Colorado

We work our entire lives to make money. There comes a time when we need to take advantage of being retired and set our long awaited travel plans in motion. It’s time to start planning to visit dream destinations. Make your travel adventure fun and enjoyable with these few travel tips for retirees.

Whether you travel with family, friends, solo, or with your life partner, enjoy the ride, explore exciting destinations, and visit countries that are on your bucket list. Now is the time! Carpe Diem!

Travel With Sandi is a participant in an affiliate advertising program, such as Amazon and others, 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.

Retirement Travel

Travel Tips For Retirees
Wine Tasting In Etyek, Hungary

Life is short and our retirement years are some of the best travel years. When we were planning our retirement, travel was a big part of the retirement plan. Our financial advisor quoted three stages of retirement for travel enthusiasts. Take care you don’t wait until it’s too late to get out and see the world.

The GoGo Years

The GoGo Years begin right after retirement. Vacation planning tends to come fast and furious. You want to go everywhere, see everything. With some careful financial planning you can see the world. Planning on spending your money on travel is a very personal choice, but if you are still reading this article, then I’m thinking you have retirement travel in your head.

The SlowGo Years

These are the years when we know things are getting hard to plan, accomplish, and sometimes enjoy. I haven’t made it there yet, but I know that there will come a time when international travel and long road trips will give way to shorter domestic vacations closer to home. And that’s okay, more luxury and more relaxation.

The NoGo Years

I hope I never find the NoGo Years. My father-in-law went to Italy by himself when he was 80 years young. That’s what I want to be, always the intrepid traveler. I never want to see the NoGo years, I want them long gone!

Travel Insurance

Travel Tips For Retirees
Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride, Scottsdale

There are several types of travel insurance in addition to your regular health insurance you should consider when hitting the open road.

Nomad Insurance

This insurance is specific for a period of time and usually a location. You will need this if you become ill or injured and need to be hospitalized overseas. Do you still love to ski? If you are skiing in Switzerland and break a bone, you will most likely need transport and nomadic insurance will help.

I use Safety Wing, but there are other nomadic insurance companies that offer the same coverage.

Cancellation Insurance

Trip cancellation insurance can be good if there becomes an issue with traveling. Most travel destinations now offer cancellations but with a credit. If you have cancellation insurance, depending on the policy, you may be able to recoup your investment.

CFAR Insurance

CFAR, Cancel For Any Reason, Insurance can be very expensive. This however, is the primo way to secure your vacation dollars. It is not cheap, and depending on your life situation, it may or maynot be the right choice for your trip.

Travel The World

Travel Tips For Retirees
The Gardens At Blithwold, Bristol, RI

There are so many ways to get out and see the world.

RVing is very popular, and seeing the country in a camper van is an inexpensive way to explore your own backyard.

Extended nomadic stays or snowbirding is becoming more and more popular. Head to Scottsdale for the month of February, explore the area, live like a local, and avoid the cold weather. There are so many great snowbird destinations – Mexico, Florida, and any place warm and sunny.

Take a cruise. You can cruise for a week, two, a month, or several months. You can jump on a giant cruise ship and sail around the world. Enjoy a seven river European cruise for 45 days. The options are endless.

Vacation Clubs Vs. Timeshare

Travel Tips For Retirees
Sunset Ride, Hells Revenge, Moab, Utah

If you travel a lot and have a favorite location you go back to again and again, then a vacation club or timeshare might be a good place to begin planning some consistent travel itineraries. These are great options for snowbirds.

Vacation Clubs

There are several vacation clubs where you essentially purchase a share of the club. I am a member of the Marriott Vacation Club and we travel all over the world staying at beautifully curated resorts. My go to trade with the Marriott Club is for a month-long winter vacation in the sunshine. It’s the best.

Timeshare

Timeshare condominiums are where you buy into a particular property for a certain week during the year. I grew up with a timeshare and we rarely stayed at our property. We were always trading it in for some place else. We have stayed all over the globe with the RCI timeshare clearinghouse. Another popular timeshare trader is Interval.

The Basic Difference

The key difference between the two is owning a week or owning a share. Vacation clubs operate resorts where you, as a member, can book them like a hotel; any time, anywhere as long as there are open rooms. With a timeshare, you must bank your week and search for a week in the location you want that someone else has banked. Essentially you are in a huge condo swap. Both have pluses and minuses, it is simply a matter of what works best for you and your ideal vacation getaway.

Credit Card Rewards Programs

Travel Tips For Retirees
Dinner Cruise on the Seine

Credit card reward programs can enhance your travel with free hotel stays and room upgrades, airline miles, and other fabulous perks for using certain cards. You should choose a card that enhances your travel. The cards that offer the best value typically have an annual fee; however, you should see a perk equal to or more than your annual charge. For example, a free night’s hotel stay would be more than the typical $99 annual fee.

To get the most benefit from your card you can use it to pay your monthly bills, i.e. groceries, cable, gas, phone, etc. These are items that you would pay regularly each month. By adding them on your credit card, you only have to pay one bill, and you receive bonus points for using your card.

The real caveat for using a travel card is to pay off your bill each month. You are not going to be saving any money if you are paying exorbitant fees. Be sure to read the fine print, you don’t want any surprises.

I keep two travel cards in my arsenal.

Hotel Cards

The Marriott Bonvoy credit card is my go to card. All my monthly expenses are attached to it and I rack up points pretty quickly. Additionally, the Bonvoy card gives me one free Category 4 Marriott stay per year. This has considerably more value than the $99 annual fee and I always use my free night.

Having the points come in handy for emergency situations, like when my daughter booked a sketchy Airbnb and we needed a hotel super quick. I had enough points on my Bonvoy card and we were able to stay in a lovely Marriott, the puppy too, for two nights and the charge was $50 (because of the dog). You can read about my Airbnb nightmare here!

Airline Cards

I have a Delta American Express card that I use for most of my airfare purchases. I like the travel perks it offers including Rental Car insurance coverage (visit the site for details), no international exchange fees, and mileage accumulation points. Now if you prefer to fly on another airline, like JetBlue, then that may be a better card option for you.

Choose an airline card that offers things you can use. I use the accumulated mileage on my Delta card several times each year. Free flights and upgrades make traveling more comfortable.

When You Are Traveling

Travel Tips For Retirees
Mojitos in Little Havana, Miami

As we get older, the way we travel changes. We are interested in different things than when we had cherubs tagging along. You can dine at fine restaurants, spend the day at the pool, linger at museums and gardens, visit grand palaces, the list is endless.

We should, however, enjoy our travels.

Take It At Your Own Pace

Nap in the afternoon, book and early dinner, and enjoy a walk at sunrise. Our internal clocks change as we age, and jet lag is real. Take your vacation at your own pace. Relax, enjoy, relish the luxury of time. Sipping a coffee on your deck on a river cruise while the ship sails into a charming European port is memorable.

Travel In The Shoulder Seasons

When you don’t need to follow the crowd, traveling in the shoulder seasons, just off of the high season, is delightful. You can avoid the throngs of people, you don’t have to stand in long lines, and the prices are better. Cruising in May or October when the weather is still nice, but the kiddos are back in school, is blissfully peaceful.

Travel Mid Week

If you prefer to travel at the height of the season, then at least take advantage of traveling mid-week. There will be fewer crowds allowing for more elbow room. Hotels and airfares are usually better when you book mid-week also.

Travel Light

If possible, just pack a carry on. Lugging around a big suitcase going from the airport to uber to hotel and back is exhausting. Pack thoughtfully, pack light, and simply enjoy the getaway.

Stay In One Location

If you travel to one location at a time, or several locations where you stay for 3 or 4 days, you will have the chance to relax and rejuvenate before hitting the road again. Traveling can be exhausting and taking time to rest and enjoy your visit is imperative to having a great time.

Watch Your Budget

Set a budget, then hunt around for the best value for your money. Look for senior discounts, travel off peak, and use credit card perks to lower costs. Take advantage of last minute deals, they can bring the cost way down and since your schedule is flexible you may be available. These last minute deals usually make great spur of the moment trips to a destination you may not have considered within your budget.

Let’s Get Going

Travel Tips For Retirees
Makine Paella in BarcelonaTravel Tips For Retirees

I am semi-retired, can work nomadically, and love getting out and exploring new locations. I hope you get to reap the travel benefits of all the hard years of work you logged. Find your new favorite way to travel, an exciting destination, a new travel friend, or reconnect with a loved one through the discovery of travel.

Take these travel tips for retirees and use one, some, or all. No matter what, it is time to plan your next travel the world destination adventure.

Happy Travels,

Sandi

How Travel Writers Score Free Press Trips

The best way to get story ideas is to get out there and experience travel. Start exploring places close to home and you will be scoring paid press trips along with travel articles that generate income.

How travel writers score press trips
Wine Tour in Etyek

Travel writing requires extensive travel. Traveling on your own dime is expensive and not all that sustainable. Freelance writers and bloggers need a continuous supply of experiences to keep their story writing fresh and authentic. How travel writers score press trips seems like a mysterious and complicated process. In actuality, it is as simple as asking a question – Can you assist me in a visit to your gorgeous destination?

Convention And Visitors Bureau Or Destination Marketing Organization

A Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) and a Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) both promote a particular location to support the tourism industry. Their goal is to provide information for leisure travellers, event coordinators, and YOU — press media. They are usually supported by the local government with funding provided by hotel taxes, membership fees, and other subsidies.

DMOs and CVBs are a great source of information and often support for writers who wish to secure hosting, meals, events, interviews, etc. in their destination.

Travel With Sandi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate programs. An affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees.

Public Relations Firms

How travel writers score press trips
Peek-a-boo Canyon

Public Relations (PR) Firms that specialize in travel usually represent a single entity like a resort, hotel, restaurant, etc. as opposed to a destination. They assist their clients in creating media, news, and coverage for special events and ongoing publicity. Like a DMO or CVB, PR firm’s goals are to generate a publicity buzz.

If you are putting bits and pieces of a trip together and are looking for a specific brand, building a relationship with a good size PR firm will open up doors that the DMO may not have access to. For instance, when a new hotel opens and they are seeking media coverage, the PR firm will invite their best media creators for a special opening event. That could be anything from a cocktail hour to a weekend stay.

Across an agency there will be different representatives for different regions or brands. However, a great relationship with one representative can quickly open doors with another representative in the same firm.

As you begin to develop a reputation for great work, you will receive invitations from many different PR firms. Some will not be right for you, others may be right but the timing is wrong. For this latter group, it is great to engage in a dialog to keep the channel open. For instance, you can’t be in their destination city for the grand opening, but you are planning on visiting later in the year. Respond to the invitation, thank them for thinking of you, and tell them you would like to visit at a later date. Typically you will receive an enthusiastic response back and you are on your way to a new travel resource relationship.

Individual Press Trip

How travel writers score press trips
Sailing In Key West

Writers can score press trips with a few simple tips along with a portfolio of relevant articles. There doesn’t need to be many articles, but they do need to be published and well written.

The process may go something like this:

  • You want to visit X and you have a few story ideas
  • You have an outlet that you are fairly certain will publish these stories
  • After some research, you reach out to the appropriate DMO, CVB, PR Firm to request travel assistance.
  • They are interested and you approach your editor for an approved story.
  • The DMO likes your story angle.
  • They plan an itinerary for you.
  • You get to visit the destination with some complimentary benefits.

FAM Trips

How travel writers score press trips
Hot Air Balloon Ride in Scottsdale

Familiarization or FAM Trips are typically group press trips. FAM trips usually have a general set itinerary with little or no room for personalization. Essentially, your story is the one they want you to tell.

Typically attended by a group of writers and bloggers vetted by the hosting organization; these trips can be fun and exhausting. You get to mingle with other travel professionals which is a rare treat. The agendas are usually jammed full of experiences, some which may not interest you or suit your story angle.

Letter Of Assignment

How travel writers score press trips
Canyon Ranch Spa

Once in a while you will encounter a tourist agency that will require a Letter of Assignment (LOA). What they are looking for is a guarantee from your editor that states they have pre approved your proposed story. In the past it was almost always required, not so much any more.

The PR firm or DMO requesting a LOA is trying to ensure the writer is on the up and up. Editors you have a good working relationship with will be happy to supply an LOA. However, if the location doesn’t deliver on the promised experience to fulfill the context for the story, it becomes somewhat of a moot point.

Things Not To Do On A Press Trip

Here is a quick list of what not to do when on a press trip.

  • Don’t overreach – be certain you can deliver what you promise. It is better to under promise and over deliver.
  • Be polite to the vendors – they are putting their time, resources, and energy into ensuring you have a first class experience.
  • Tip the waitstaff – unless it is specifically stated, waitstaff are not the property proprietors and they are not compensated for your visit. So tip appropriately.
  • Don’t over indulge in adult beverages – no one likes a tipsy writer.
  • Don’t skip out on planned excursions – planning time and financial resources have gone into scheduling your personal adventure. You need to show up and be present.
  • Leave the Diva at home – this is a working gig, be respectful and do your job.
  • Deliver on your promises – write, post, and follow up according to the prearranged agreement.

Story Ideas

How travel writers score press trips
The Parlament Building in Budapest

Ask the tourist bureau if they have any story ideas. Many times there is something new and exciting happening that you may not know about. Or, there may be a new restaurant, adventure, or hotel they are looking to promote and have you cover.

I once negotiated an “Eat, Stay, and Play” style piece with a DMO and they mentioned an obscure local phenomenon that I should consider. Turned out to be a second piece that was very well received.

Work With Your Editor

How travel writers score press trips
Ice Cream in Little Havana

Freelance travel writers may need to work with an editor to confirm a story before the DMO, CVB, PR firm will schedule the trip. Bloggers will need to demonstrate a certain level of engagement from their audience. Your editor can be a tremendous help in vetting stories that will work for their publication. This means more clips for you!

Social Media

How travel writers score press trips
Golfing in Arizona

If you are a blogger, social media may be a large part of the press trip package, less so for travel writers. Be sure to go over the requested posting schedule before the trip so you know what photos you need. Also, I recommend advising the tourist bureau you will be posting your social media clips after you return home. This gives you time to curate the photos properly, add the most relevant hashtags, and have time to connect to your sponsor organization. The following week after you return, you can set up the postings and a schedule at your desk instead of on the fly.

I work hard to post about my trips, regardless of whether they are comped or out of pocket. The goodwill associated with tagging venues and extra posts are a simple way to grow your relationships with tourists bureaus and vendors.

What May Be Covered

How travel writers score press trips
Cruise Cuisine

The financial coverage on press trips can be anywhere from complimentary tickets to an event all the way up to a completely hosted stay.

Local press trips usually cover event tickets, meals, or maybe an overnight stay. These local trips typically produce at least one article.

For extended press trips you can expect your activities to be covered along with hotel stays and meals. Additionally, larger tourist destinations may cover airfare and ground transportation. For longer stays, you will most likely produce several feature articles with different angles.

Travel expenses like alcohol, tipping, and transportation from your home to the airport are typically not covered.

Your First Press Trip

To get some traction on press trips and approved stories, start with something local. You can build up a nice file of referrals by covering local events. Hotel and restaurant openings clips demonstrate you can work with the hospitality staff. Published interviews of notable locals show off your personality skills. Round ups of local breweries, wineries, apple orchards, etc. demonstrate your ability to cohesively put a story together.

Covering seasonal events is an easy way to get started, they often are delighted to have media coverage when they open.

Don’t Take No Personally

When you ask for a complimentary ticket, stay, meal, etc. and the answer is no, don’t take it to heart. It may not be the right time for the venue, they may have just hosted someone, or they may simply not have the budget.

Be sure to thank them for the opportunity, and ask them to keep you in mind for the future. I was on the hunt for a hosted stay through a PR firm that was going to round out an extended trip. They did not have the space to accommodate my schedule. I responded with a polite note and thank you. The following week they had an opening for an International tropical destination and invited me and a guest for a completely hosted, four day stay. Morale of the story – you never know what’s on their agenda and when you will be scoring a press trip.

A Quick Chat About Tools

Writers Journal

Like everything else, travel writers need excellent tools to keep them on track and at the top of their game.

An important tool for every travel writer is a travel journal. You can explore why journaling is the best way to keep a record of what you see and do on your travels. You never know when a new, unexpected story will pop up.

The most important thing for me is to use a great Day Planner. Yes, I put some appointments into my electronic calendar, but that is not ideal for keeping assignments straight. I generally produce five to eight, 1,500+ word articles each week and deadlines are critical to keep your editors happy. The easiest way for me is to see the entire week at a glance. Get yourself a good calendar like one of these from Amazon – and use it!

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line, how travel writers score a press trip is unique to each individual location, DMO, CVB, and PR firm. Once you have some chops as a travel writer, destinations will welcome you to come and explore their city. The best way to get story ideas is to get out there and experience travel. Start exploring places close to home and you will be scoring paid press trips along with travel articles that generate income. So whether you are a blogger, writer for a print magazine, regular contributor to a local newspaper, or a freelancer published in online magazines; your writing career will be enhanced by regular press trips.

Happy Travels!

SandiPS If you want to learn more about how to become a travel writer, visit It’s a Lovely Life Start A Travel Blog Free 5-Day Course. This is a great FREE resource to get you started

Why You Need A Travel Journal

You don’t have to travel around the world to write in your travel journal. The best places to practice journaling is on local explorations. Travelers can be locals. Try a few of these ideas to get you started journaling.

When I was young, my dad always carried around one of those enormous camcorders. It was heavy, bulky, and he seemed to be a bystander looking in on our vacation adventures. We are going to explore the reasons why you need a travel journal and how fill all those blank pages.

As I began traveling with my own children, I had a small camera and a travel journal. I wanted to be part of the experience while keeping track of precious memories with my family.

Now, with my grandchildren in tow, I carry my phone. Any notes I need I either take a photo or send myself and email. Then, when I have down time at the pool, at breakfast, or late in the evening, I transfer my thoughts to my travel journal.

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

What Are Travel Journals

why you need a travel journal
Photo Credit: Marcos Paulo Upsplash

I am the trip family planner. Years ago, I would arm myself with AAA Trip Tics, a good old-fashion paper map, and the half used spiral bound notebooks my cherubs discarded at the end of the school year.

Now I use Google Docs and Trello Boards to keep all of my information organized. My bulky camera has morphed into the ubiquitous cell phone. I still like to have a book of maps in the car, you never know when your cell service will go AWOL. My writing journal is fancier, but is still an integral part of my travel must-haves.

Itinerary Planner

Unless you are traveling to an all-inclusive, never leaving the resort, type of vacation an itinerary of some sorts will keep you on time and organized.

I keep all my notes, reservations, and addresses in a Google Doc itinerary, it’s the perfect tool for organizing a trip and capable of keeping live web links, maps, and day-by-day activities. However, it is data service dependent, so I keep a hard copy tucked in my journal.

Once my itinerary is pretty solid, I transfer the information to my travel journal. I like to write it in, I am a writer after all, but a stapled copy of the Google Doc itinerary works well too. Once it’s in the journal, I feel confident that we are covered when we encounter stretches of no WI-FI signal. An itinerary safety net if you will.

Adventure Record

why you need a travel journal
Bistro 17, Orlando Florida, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

Of course, your journal is your adventure record. I like to write in my journal early in the morning or late in the evening, that way it doesn’t interfere with my fun time. To keep my memories of the events fresh, I take a lot of photos. With your phone, its so easy. I take photos of signs, locations, things that interest me, etc. These are memory-jogging pic that will be deleted once I transfer the information into my journal. The don’t need to be pretty. For example, I toured all the hotels at Universal for The Ultimate Guide To Universal Orlando Resorts Hotels. Before I even entered each hotel, I took a quick pic of the sign so I could keep track of what pictures went with which hotels. All those pools look very much alike!

I also like to use videos to describe the feel of a place or experience, and again I delete them once I’ve recorded the information. This cuts down on phone storage overuse.

There are photos I keep, of course, but many of the ones I take are for reference not posterity. Have the photos also helps if I go a day or two before logging in my journal. The next adventure is always more important than documenting what has gone by.

What you record is up to you, you are the writer of this story.

How To Overcome The Fear Of Blank Pages

why you need a travel journal
Photo Credit: Clay Banks from Upsplash

Your Itinerary Will Fill Your First Pages

The first way to overcome the blank page scares is to add your itinerary to your travel journal. Add it before you even begin to pack. Adding your plans to your journal will add to the excitement of the upcoming adventure and get you off and writing about the trip. An added bonus, it solves the white pages issue before you even begin your next adventure. What are your goals for this trip? Write them down. Do you want to relax by the pool every day? Are you interested in exploring the region’s food? Wine? Maybe it is an activity based trip and you want to climb a mountain?

Add your trip expectations and wishes to your travel journal, they will help keep you focused.

Put Pen To Paper By Taking Notes

why you need a travel journal
Plymouth, MA, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

Find a chair with a beautiful view and just soak up the atmosphere. Immerse yourself in the here-and-now, what do you see, how does it smell, use your senses as a jumping off point to get your pen moving across the journals’ page. If you are a perfectionist, then use a notebook to record your travel ideas, thoughts, etc. Later, at home, transfer these notes into beautifully written prose to record your world travels.

I know many writers that prefer a compact pocket travel journal. They are in the habit of writing down prompts as they go through their day. I prefer to use my camera and email as a notebook. However, a small, pocket size notebook and a golf pencil work wonderfully for this type of note taking.

Details Make The Best Travel Journals

Steamers
Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

How many or how few details you record is up to you. I love writing about food and wine, so I tend to journal all the little details on my plate. “Bathed in a buttery Beurre Blanc sauce, the succulent P.E.I. mussels played happily with the crusty baguette. ” Okay, now I’m hungry!

You know when you hear a song and it brings back a certain time and place. the best travel journals capture that feeling. They are like the ear-worm of seeing the world.

Tips For Filling Blank Pages Of A Journal

I want to share a few tips about journaling by exploring some of my trips with you. Below are some prompts and questions you can ask yourself and answer in your journal. It’s not just about filling the blank space, it’s about your personal travel diary entries, your personal memories.

Where did you go?

Boston’s Back Bay, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

Simple, right? This is the easiest thing to capture in your travel journal. The best travel stories start with when I was in …..

My heart is in Boston, we live just outside the city, and love to wander around the winding, hilly streets. Spending a day just walking around exploring the different neighborhoods we often find new and surprising adventures. Taking a photo keeps the details in the front of my memory until I can get them down on paper.

How much did you spend?

Paris, Photo Credit: Barbara Quinn

Again, another easy way to get words down in your journal. Sometimes I not fond of adding up all the dollars that are going out; but it can be a good lesson in better planning.

Big trips mean spending money, sometimes it flows out so quickly and you can easily loose track. The receipts end up in every pocket of my backpack and usually they are in a different currency. I keep a page in my journal just for expenses. If I have a good day exploring free venues, then I can comfortably splurge for fancy French dinner. If I buy spur-of-the-moment tickets to a private tour, then I might be looking for a small bistro for a quiche served with the house wine. It’s all about balance.

How did it make you feel?

Giants’ Causeway Northern Ireland, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

This is an opportunity to use all those wonder descriptive adjectives you have floating in your head. It was uplifting, invigorating, joyous, confident, etc.

When we were in Northern Ireland, we climbed the Giants’ Causeway. Scrambling over the outcroppings in the freezing cold weather with the chilly wind off the Atlantic blowing in our face was otherworldly. Climbing the rugged, barren landscape felt like we were hiking the moon’s surface on a cold day.

What did you enjoy?

Flamingos in St. Thomas, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

I find this is the easiest question to answer. After all, isn’t the point of traveling to have fun and enjoy the journey.

I just adore flamingos. I love birds, and these long legged pink beauties are one of my favorite. I’d have plastic ones on my lawn if my hubby let me. It was a special moment for me to capture this flock. The photo was taken in 1990, so the image quality is poor, but the happiness it brings me makes it worth keeping.

Why did you love it (or not)?

Paella Cooking Class, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

There is a fine line between enjoying something and loving something.

We took a paella cooking class when we visited Barcelona. My husband doesn’t cook, but he enjoyed the experience. My friends and I have a passion for discovering new foods and love to cook. This was one of the highlights of my visit to Spain. In my travel journal, the notation is I LOVED IT!

What did you learn?

How to spend 48 hours in Barcelona
Bistro view from Montjuic, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

Travel teaches us any number of things; cultural understanding, self expression, new ideas, self confidence, and more.

To reach the top of this gorgeous mountain in Barcelona, you can take a bus. That doesn’t make such a good story. So we took a little cable car that stretched high above the harbor. While the little tin can we were riding in swayed in the wind, I realized, even though I was afraid of the height, I could enjoy the adventure. As soon as I let go of my fear, my vision cleared and I could see all around for miles. This was one of those ah ha moments for me. I learned to take a deep breath, and just experience the moment.

My reward, a beautiful view to enjoy an Estrella and one of the best travel experiences of the trip.

Who did you meet?

Vail, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

There is the opportunity to meet so many interesting people when you travel. Engaging locals in conversation will usually lead to great ideas about where to go and what to see. Adding personal stories to your journal is a fun way to explore an area.

I’m not a skier any more, but my family still loves to ski. One time at Vail, we were lucky enough to rent a flat in the village with a view of the mountain. I took a food tour one day, all by my self, and met the most interesting people. The guide was a local chap and knew everyone in town. My journal was full of interesting people that day.

Do you want to go again?

Pebble Beach, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

There are so many wonderful and interesting places to travel in the world. For me, they have to be extremely beautiful, interesting, and enjoyable to go back again.

Pebble Beach and coastal California is one of those “best travel” places. We didn’t get to play when we visited due to time restraints, but we will definitely plan a trip back. Living here must be like waking up in a beautiful dream every day.

Notebooks Vs Travel Journals

Lined notebooks are just as good as a classic leather journal. However, once you start writing your travel journals you will want something beautiful to capture and hold your words. The feel of a leather journal in my hand inspires me to share my very best travel stories. I have always loved a diary, the best travel journals are just a traveling diary record.

Documenting Travel Adventures

Maroon Bells, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

My goal to day is to inspire you to document your personal travel memories. Time passes so quickly and we should enjoy our getaways, search for new travel adventures, and jot down all the wonderful stories we encounter in our journey.

Inspiration For Your Travel Journal

You don’t have to travel around the world to write in your travel journal. The best places to practice journaling is on local explorations. Travelers can be locals. Try a few of these ideas to get you started journaling.

  • hikes
  • restaurants
  • famous sites
  • natural wonders
  • maps
  • outings of all sorts
  • city guides
  • shopping
  • unique stories
  • personal stories

Kids And Travel Journals

Street Art Tour, Denver, Photo Credit: Sandi Barrett

Make journalism fun for these wonderful little travelers. Photo journalism is a great way for kids to be part of the game. Give them a camera or an old phone and let them go photo crazy. Spend time helping them with some of the composition basics and then let them explore the artistic process.

As the education system morphs due to the pandemic, our kids are experiencing more history and culture first hand. Part of their curriculum is begin able to translate what they see, feel, experience; this will service them well as they grow and explore the world as adults.

You don’t have to buy them fancy travel journals, although I’m sure they would love one. The idea is to get them writing about what they did, saw, and felt on their travel adventures.

Getting Comfortable With Writing

Maybe you want to be come a writer. The best way to become great at writing is to put pen to paper daily. Write in a notebook, type on a computer, compose in a journal. The more you write the faster the words come to you, the more descriptive your vocabulary becomes, and the ability to collect your thoughts cohesively improves with practice. Like every other task we undertake, repetition is key to success; practice not perfection.

You will find your own personal style through consistent writing. Do you love the art of dramatic story telling? How about exploring your comedic bent? A how-to guide is always a hit and sometimes difficult to execute. There is a keen sense of satisfaction garnered from putting your thoughts on paper. The best travel journals are very personal accounts of details seen through your “travelers eye.” Only you can create stories from your unique perspective.

You can become a writer, it time to map our your personal journal story. There are so many journalistic avenues that are associated with travel writing. The list is extensive, but using these ideas will help you get started putting pen to paper.

  • Itinerary building
  • Personality profiles
  • Photo journalism
  • Story telling
  • Food and libation
  • Activities
  • Personal stories
  • Inspirational stories

Lined Vs Unlined Travel Journal

Whether you prefer a collection of notebooks or a leather bound journal, any bound paper will work, the ultimate goal is to capture your wonderful memories down on the page.

Do you like to draw, then an unlined journal may be just the thing. I can’t draw, but I know many journalist who can capture the essence of a time and place with just a few artistic lines that make the page come to life.

Writing in a lined journal with a leather cover, it makes me feel writerly. I like a classic, plain cover with lots of narrow lined pages. Each writer needs to explore what is their personal travel journal style. Any journal that gets you writing is the best travel journal for you.

The Best Travel Journals

Amazon is amazing right, you can find anything you want right at your computer. Below are a few great travel journals that are practical. Below are my thoughts on why the best travel journals below are a good brand for journaling and note taking.

Remember, a travel journal is not a planner, it is a vehicle to document where, what, how, and why we travel.

The Dragonfly Heart Travel Journal

why you need a travel journal

The Dragonfly Heart Journal. It has a clasp – love that. Since it is also refillable, so you can use it for a very long time. It is a good investment piece. The size is great – 5 x 8, so it will fit in your backpack and even your pocketbook. Its made from faux leather for the vegan crowd. The price is good too.

Vintage Style Leather Travel Journal

why you need a travel journal
Leather Journal Writing Notebook

This Leather Journal Writing Notebook is super old school and travel journalist chic. It has a cool vintage vibe and will make you feel like you stepped out of a Casaba in Casablanca on an assignment for the New York Times. The price is good, it is a quality leather journal, and is a manageable size at 5 x 7. The pages are stitched in, so when you have filled it up, you need to purchase a new one. Which I love, it’s like that going-back-to-school feel full of new possibilities.

Travel Journal For Kids

Travel Journal For Kids

Get your cherubs off to a great start with their own little travel journal diary. The Travel Journal For Kids has preprinted pages with cues to inspire them what to jot down. I has only 60 pages, so it will cover a few trips, which will give them a feeling of accomplishment when it is completed. The size is 6 x 9, doable for small hands. The spiral binding helps to keep their pencil and book together. Happy bonus, it’s offered at an excellent price.

That’s A Travel Journal Wrap

I hope you have discovered why you need a travel journal. Now that we are able to travel again, it’s time to grab your travel journal or notebook and hit the ground running.

Karen Birmingham Rose of Sangiovese Wine Review

The Lodi grown, medium bodied Italian Sangiovese wine is fruit forward and lower in alcohol content, making it the perfect porch wine.

I am delighted to bring you my Karen Birmingham Rose of Sangiovese Wine Review. It may not be spring, but planning to purchase your spring and summer wines in the next few months is a good idea.

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Perfect for a spring or summer porch dinner, Birmingham’s Rose of Sangiovese is crisp, refreshing, and light. It is the perfect compliment to a light meal. Just chill, pour, and enjoy.

The Lodi grown, medium bodied Italian Sangiovese wine is fruit forward and lower in alcohol content, making it the perfect porch wine.

Where You Find The Wine

I am a big fan of Nakedwines.com. They create a marketing and delivery opportunity for small, independent winemakers by offering essentially a group retail outlet. Your Angel subscription will help support dedicated winemakers around the world. When you click on the Nakedwines.com link, you will receive a $100 discount voucher on Angel prices when you spend $159.99 or more on your first order.

Not sure where to start your wine journey, check out this list of gifts for your favorite wine lover.

Karen Birmingham Rose of Sangiovese Wine Review

Karen Birmingham Rose of Sangiovese Wine Review

Details About the wine

This yummy Rose is currently sold out, but according to Birmingham, “I’m finishing up the 2020 vintage, getting it ready for bottling in January. If you want to add this to your spring enjoyment, don’t wait too long after it comes out.”

Chill, pour, enjoy with grilled fish and crunchy veggies for a relaxing summer dinner. Storing wine in a stand alone wine frig is the best way to keep it at optimum temperature. I like this KUPPET 27 bottle wine chiller from Amazon. It’s freestanding – so you don’t have to worry about installing it under the counter.

Wrap up

While this lovely Rose is out of stock you can choose other wines by this talented wine maker like her Lodi Barbera 2019 or her California Petite Sirah 2018

While we are in the throws of winter, I hope this helps you plan for your summer stock. This Karen Birmingham Rose of Sangiovese Wine Review hopefully gets you in the summer-on-the-porch mood.

Don’t forget to check out the great deals available at nakedwines.com. Angels come in all shapes and sizes!

A Romantic Christmas Getaway at Opryland

Leisurely stroll while you view the beautiful decorations, the 48-foot Christmas tree, and the over three million twinkling lights.

Christmas will be different this year, so why not make it special. A romantic Christmas getaway at Opryland where you can celebrate the season, enjoy the spirit of Christmas, and get out of the house for a bit. It’s all about road trips in 2020 and Nashville is the perfect romantic getaway.

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Nashville has so many unique and exciting adventures to offer her visitors. Opryland, great bars, amazing restaurants, and so much more. It doesn’t matter if you love Country music, the festive atmosphere will put you in the Christmas spirit.

Christmas at Opryland

Between now and January 3, 2021, Opryland is presenting a pop-up Christmas extravaganza — I Love Christmas Movies at Gaylord Hotels!

A romantic Christmas getaway at Opryland
Website Photo: Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center

Breathtaking decorations, luxurious accommodations, delectable dining, and concerts filling your carefree days and nights with the spirit of Christmas.

The Movies

The I Love Christmas Movies at Gaylord Hotels immersive pop-up experience is like no other. As you walk through over 13 iconic scenes from beloved Christmas movies, it will feel like you stepped into a fairy tale. The Polar Express, Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and so many more magical tableau’s await you.

Website Photo: Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center

The Oak Ridge Boys

Country music legends, The Oak Ridge Boys, will celebrate with a “Christmas in Tennessee” Dinner Show. The show runs until Christmas, December 25th. Enjoy a delicious meal while listening to Christmas classics performed by these talented country artists.

Enjoy The Decorations

Take a fun and festive boat ride along the indoor river while you ooh and aah your way through the resort’s Delta Atrium.

Want something more romantic, how about a private horse-drawn carriage ride to get your in the Holiday Mood.

Of course, you can leisurely stroll while you view the beautiful decorations, the 48-foot Christmas tree, and the over three million twinkling lights.

Website Photo: Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center

A romantic Christmas getaway at Opryland is a fun way to celebrate this Christmas season.

Visit the I Love Christmas Movies link to view their safety precautions.

Take Good Care,

Sandi

Goals Are Your Best Tool For Success

We all want to be successful, right? Setting goals are one of the most important tools to navigate the road to ahead of us. Tracking our goals is key. Therefore, goals are your best tool for success.

We all want to be successful, right? Setting goals is one of the most important tools to help us navigate the bumpy road to ahead. Tracking our goals is key. Goals are your best tool for success.

As an entrepreneur, it is imperative to have business goals; as a individual, it is important to have life goals; and as a human, it is helpful to have societal goals. These three broad categories encompass so much of our life and how we want to live it.

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Business Goals

Business success is typically quantitative; revenue, growth, reach, return on investment, etc.

When assigning a value to a goal, we need to figure out what steps need to be taken to achieve that goal – it needs to be broken down into bitesize chunks. What steps do I need to increase my revenue? Where am I going to focus my efforts? What happens when I need to pivot? So many questions, such an enormous task.

Life Goals

Life goals are hard to quantify; they are more about feelings and perceptions rather than hard and fast numbers.

What are your life goals? Do you want to create an environment for better personal health? Do you need to balance your work/life ratio? Are you yearning to slay a herculean task? These big aspirations need to be broken down in to manageable chunks.

Societal Goals

Giving back, taking care of our earth, and understanding other cultures are a few societal goals we should all care about. And you ask, what can I do? It’s just me, by myself. Well, one step, one hand, one act of kindness moves us to a better global society.

Breaking Down Your Business Goals

This is a very simple process to break down your goals. Defining the actual chunks is the most difficult process.

One of my business goals for this year was to separate my website into two sites. This was a daunting task and the “to do” list was extensive. This is an excerpt of my goal breakdown. I have broken the major tasks across three months, then in my calendar I broke each month into weekly goals, and subsequently daily breakdowns.

  1. Define a goal with a measurable outcomeStart a new website for travel and migrate all the travel related posts and adverts to the new site.
  2. Set a time frame to achieve your goalJanuary through March.
  3. Decide how you are going to execute your goal – Set up new webpage, copy over all travel related posts with updated links and SEO optimization.
  4. Break down your goal into manageable steps with quantifiable timeframes
    1. January – Procure new domain, choose and implement a web theme, set up plugins and widgets.
    2. February – Migrate all travel articles to new site. Edit articles to give them a fresh new look. Review and repair all links. SEO optimize all articles.
    3. March – Set up new social accounts for new website. Launch!
  5. Evaluate regularly every goal is different, do they need daily, weekly, or monthly evaluation I evaluated this goal weekly because of the short timeframe.
  6. Celebrate your success I’m happy to say you are reading this blog post on my new website. I love the way it looks and functions. Success!

Breaking Down Your Personal Goals

I’m going to use a personal example from this past year and it’s a pretty common goal. I had surgery on my foot two years ago and couldn’t exercise – not good for me. I ended up gaining 25 pounds over the course of my recovery. As a result, my blood pressure and A1C went up – not good for me either.

Here is the monthly breakdown of my personal goal. I further broke the goals down by week and ultimately daily. Daily goals included: planning menus, shopping, exercise appointments with myself, etc.

  1. Define a goal with a measurable outcomeI need to lose 25 pounds and exercise every day. This is really two goals in one.
  2. Set a time frame to achieve your goalI started in January (who doesn’t?) and gave myself until Thanksgiving.
  3. Decide how you are going to execute your goal – I needed to find a healthy eating plan and start easing back into exercising.
  4. Break down your goal into manageable steps with quantifiable timeframes
    1. January – Research and choose a diet plan, exercise for 30 minutes twice a week.
    2. February – Plan menu and execute diet plan, exercise for 30 minutes twice a week and 30 minutes of yoga once a week.
    3. March – You get the idea…..
    4. November – Continue on diet plan, exercise every day.
  5. Evaluate regularly every goal is different, do they need daily, weekly, or monthly evaluation I evaluated this one monthly to keep me on track.
  6. Celebrate your success I’m happy to say I lost 22 of the 25 pounds – still a work in progress – but I am exercising every day and paying attention to my diet plan, which has now become a habit.

Evaluating your progress

You need to give yourself some love and leeway when you evaluate your goals. These are self-imposed desires and sometimes outside factors beyond our control throw us a curve ball.

Nevertheless, you need to evaluate your goals and your goal breakdown. Try to do this as often as you need to. Each goal and person is different. I need daily reminders, weekly check-ins, and monthly evaluations to keep me on track.

Tools for goal setting

Funny story. I started this post about how important it was to use a planner and it morphed into goal setting. So here is the link to the article How Planners Make Goal Setting Simple.

I am a big fan of self help books. I’ve list some below that can help you change your mind set and help you achieve your goals.

None of these books are crazy expensive, but they all have made a positive impact on my goal setting and achieving personal and professional success.

Crush It

Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk. If you haven’t read any of his books, you need to. He is the king of social media, a master at marketing, and crazy like a fox. This is my favorite self help book ever.

goals are your best tool for success
Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk
Eat That Frog

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy works you through the process of prioritizing tasks and how to get the most onerous ones out check off your list. I start my days with these techniques. Not always easy, but always productive.

goals are your best tool for success
Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
The 5 Second Rule: Transform you Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins was one of the most impactful books I have read. I am a big fan of her books, she is more psychoanalytical than practical, but you can relate to what she has to say.

goals are your best tool for success
The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is a classic business management tool. It is also a must read for anyone who wants to succeed in the quest to reach their goals. I do find that I need to absorb this one in small chunks.

goals are your best tool for success
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Summary

We all have goals we want to achieve. Wishing and hoping they come true won’t cut it. You need to have actionable plans that you can execute in small chunks.

Goals are your best tool for success!

A Beginners Guide To Golf Etiquette

It takes time to get to the starter. You need to find the bag drop, many courses will have someone there to get your bags out of your car and set them up in your golf cart (don’t forget to tip them). After you park your car, you need to check in at the pro shop. Next you need to find your clubs and cart, then find the starter. You should be in your cart, by the starter, and ready to play five minutes before your scheduled tee time.

Golf is the game you love to hate. In general, you are competing with yourself and it is exhilarating and frustrating all at the same time. Golf takes time and practice but is a wonderful way to get out and enjoy Mother Nature. A beginners guide to golf etiquette will get your first few rounds off to a great start.

On a busy day, the course is full of golfers at all levels. Slow play requires some patience, and you want to do your best to keep your round moving.

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Be Early For Your Tee Time

It takes time to get to the starter. You need to find the bag drop, many courses will have someone there to get your bags out of your car and set them up in your golf cart (don’t forget to tip them). After you park your car, you need to check in at the pro shop. Next you need to find your clubs and cart, then find the starter. You should be in your cart, by the starter, and ready to play five minutes before your scheduled tee time.

A Beginners guide to golf etiquette
The Sixth Hole at Oyster Reef Golf Club, Hilton Head

Who Goes First

Off the tee, the winner of the previous hole hits first. On the fairway and the green, the player who is farthest away from the pin hits first.

Body Language

When another player is hitting, stand still and be quiet. It is good to watch them hit and try to follow their ball so you can help find it if needed. Stand away and behind the hitter to avoid getting plunked by the ball.

Taking a practice swing or two is important for planning your shot and preparing your muscles. However, taking five practice shots is irritating to other players, chews up time, and is unnecessary. The driving range is the best place to swing, swing, swing.

Be Ready

A Beginners guide to golf etiquette
Fairway at Robber’s Row, Port Royal Golf Club, Hilton Head

While you are waiting for other players, decide on what club to hit and grab it from your bag. If you are waiting to putt, size up the break of your putt while others are putting.

If you need to chip near the green, grab your club(s) of choice and your putter. This will save you from going back to your bag after you chip. Just remember to collect all your clubs when you finish the hole.

Scoring Is For Players

Seriously, if you are hitting over 100 shots in a round, then you don’t need to keep score. A good rule of thumb, if you shoot three over par on a hole, you are done. For a beginner that can be tough, but remember there are 18 holes and that translates to a lot of swing time.

Playing all 18 holes can be challenging for a beginner, especially if the course is full and there are players waiting. Try practicing a few different parts of your game. For instance, hit off the tee (1st shot) then pick up your ball up, unless it’s a great shot and you have a chance at a good score. Next, work on your chipping, drop your ball off the green and chip on (2nd, and maybe, 3rd shot). Putt (up to three more shots). Playing this way could add up to six shots or more and you haven’t hit any balls in the fairway. Once you feel confident in these shots, add some fairway shots to your game.

Quicker Players

Perfect putting skills!

The pace of the game is important. It can be a long day if you are following a very slow group. A typical round of 18 hole golf should take about four hours, and nine holes would take about two hours.

When the course is full, there will be some waiting time at the tee, it can’t be helped. However, if you have a group behind you that is always waiting for you to finish a hole and there is no one in front of you, let them play through and be on their way. You will feel less pressured and they won’t be hitting balls at you.

Tiding Up

Replace your club divots. You can retrieve them, place them root side down on the divot you created, and give them a firm pat with your foot.

If you hit into the sand trap, make sure to rake up your ball tracks and foot prints when you have finished.

If you bounce your ball on the green, repair the dimple by gently lifting it up with a tee.

When you remove the pin flag, place it gently on the green. After your group has finished putting, return it to the hole.

Lost Balls

As a beginner, use inexpensive balls. You are going to lose them all! If you can’t find your ball, let it go and take a drop. Don’t spend any more than three minutes looking for a ball.

Dress Code

Golf is all about tradition. The dress code at most courses follow these simple rules, with stricter rules at more exclusive clubs. You can check with the pro shop for specifics.

In general, women’s golf attire options are skirt, skort, shorts, or pants with a collared shirt. For men, shorts or pants with a collared shirt. Sneakers are fine if you don’t have golf shoes.

Jeans, cutoffs, leggings, t-shirts, tank tops, and sandals are generally a no go.

Have Fun

The goal is to have a great time with your friends, enjoy the fresh air, and get a small amount of exercise. Be kind to yourself, relish your best shots, and forget the rest.

If you find yourself dreaming about golf, then it may be time to plan a trip to Scotland or Northern Ireland. We didn’t play any golf but we did enjoy Northern Ireland’s Natural Beauty and we did see a lot of sheep!

Golf is steeped in tradition. It has been around since the Old Course at St. Andrews was built 600 years ago. Golfers love the game and welcome newbie players to join their ranks. Golf takes time and practice and a beginners guide to golf etiquette will help you get your game on.

Hit ’em straight!

The Best Gifts For Travelers

Whether you are planning a local road trip or epic vacation for 2021, you will find these travel items make great holiday gifts for 2021 travel adventures.

Whether you are planning a local road trip or epic vacation for 2022, you will find these travel items make the best gifts for travelers and their intrepid adventures.

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RFID Blocking Travel accessories

RFID blocking travel gear helps protect your personal data while you are out and about. With all the high tech spy gear floating around, you need to take extra precautions to protect yourself and your identity.

Leather Passport Holder Cover Case with RFID Blocking

Holiday gifts for 2021 travel

Anti-Theft Day Bag

Holiday gifts for 2021 travel

Anti-Theft Fanny Pack

travel Gear

The right travel gear can make your journey more enjoyable for everyone.

Compression Socks help with swelling and improve circulation. I aways were mine if I have a flight over three hours long. They help me hit the ground running when I get to my final destination.

Car Front or Back Seat Organizer is essential to keep everything in one place. If you are on a road trip with the kids or grandbabies, this is the best tool for keeping all their stuff organized.

Holiday gifts for 2021 travel

Car Power Inverter with four USB Charger Ports so everyone can recharge at the same time. Ever been traveling and your phone is done, or everyone is fight over the one port in the car? This is the perfect solution.

Holiday gifts for 2021 travel

Luggage and more

Packing a suitcase can be a real juggling act. With these accessories, you will be organized and ready to go in no time flat.

Packing Cubes keep suitcases neat and easy to organize. I always use these. And as I go through the days on my trip, I swap them around a bit and empty some for my dirty laundry. Perfect for keeping those less-than-fresh items separate from the good-to-go items.

Holiday gifts for 2021 travel

Electronics Organizer for all your power cords and accessories. This is a must for any traveler who is on a working vacation or has a family with tons of electronic needs. I love how easy it is to find just what I need, especially when I’m flying!

Luggage Set with TSA Lock and Double USB Port giving you safety and power. The best luggage will keep all your items safely together. The first time I used a brand new cloth bag, it came off the carosel ripped to shreds – Ugh! I switched to these hard sided bags and after many, many flights have yet to have an issue.

Starter Hard-shell Carry on for the new traveler. Love this – no one is smushing my stuff in the overhead bin. It keeps everything safe, and you always know it’s the correct size.

Toiletry Bag for all the required incidentals. Get there, get your stuff out, and get ready to go. Holds everything perfectly.

Happy shopping for gifts for your intrepid traveler!

Shopping for your traveler (or that special gift for yourself) is simple because there are lots of new and exciting products out there to make your travel adventure more comfortable.

Here are a few Tips On How To Plan The Perfect Road Trip

Here’s to a safe and adventurous travel!

Sandi

How My Bonvoy Card Saved Me From An Airbnb Nightmare

As we turned down the red dirt road, throwing sandy dust into the air, my daughter spoke of a bad Airbnb nightmare she had about this place — that it was sketchy.

Did she already know? She had booked the Airbnb months ago because it was dog friendly and she was in the process of getting a puppy. She had an idea of what she had booked, I was hopeful but not confident.

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.

The Nightmare Begins

As we drove up the dusty road decorated with broken down trailers, junk yards, and free ranging dogs, I had a really bad feeling.

Okay, the trailer didn’t look too bad, the yard, a red sandy dirt pile, lacked any appeal, the trailer was unlocked, keys on the table. By the way, the photo below is not the trailer in question – but it’s a fun photo!

My eyes were drawn to the gilded framed print above the cheap linen drapes – the rest of the décor was 70’s velvet Elvis. The trailer was clean, so we dragged our stuff in. After all, we were in Big Water, Utah, and it was only for a few days.

The rear door led to the barely “fenced in yard.” After opening the rear door, the step out was a 5×3 foot plank platform about 18 inches above the red dirt, requiring us to jump down and our 12 pound puppy to tentatively hop off. I’m guessing it was not up to code.  The yard was all dirt and full of dog waste. The trailer next door had a yard full of rusting collectibles guarded by two large and angry dogs. The fence shook as they jumped at it hoping to get a nibble on us or the puppy.

Upon further inspection, the light switches in the bathroom were taped onto the wall – I’m sure that wasn’t up to code either. The shower was marginally disgusting. Worst of all, the exterior doors didn’t shut properly.

Photo by John Mark Jennings on Unsplash

No sleep happening

We decided to stay for the night and clipped the questionable locks closed. When we pulled the louver blinds we discovered there were missing pieces allowing a good look into the living room – where one daughter slept on the futon. 

My other daughter, the puppy, and I took the bedroom. The bed was incredibly lumpy, the sheets were rough, and the pillows were so flat my head was below my shoulders. I parked my massive suitcase in front of the back door, giving me some warning if someone tried to get in. Needless to say, we didn’t get any sleep.

About 2 in the morning there were two very large thumps from the front of the trailer. I flew to the living room expecting to see someone coming through the front door. It was my daughter and she was on the floor. The futon tipped over when she rolled over in the bed. Geeze!

The solution

We needed to get out and decided at 2 a.m. we would move. I had 80,000 Bonvoy points and found a lovely Marriot in Page, Arizona, just a few miles away. They were dog friendly and had a room for the next two nights. We booked it, packed the car, and left.

We texted the Airbnb maven to tell her our plans changed and we were leaving. She actually refunded the two nights – a very small amount – but then complained that we trashed the trailer. In reality, we left a plate, a knife and three wine glasses in the sink. We picked up our puppy poops, tossed out a few food wrappers in the trash, stripped the futon for her, and only used one hand towel and one tiny bar of soap. This chick was crazy. 

We notified Airbnb we were afraid for our safety. My daughter left a very general review about how the Airbnb maven was gracious about returning our rent. In return, she then left a nasty review for my daughter; more Airbnb nightmare.

Return to vacation joy

The Courtyard Marriott Page at Lake Powell was just what we needed. Two queen beds, a sparkling clean shower, a patio door to walk out with the puppy, a pool, and a great location. My points covered the room and we paid a $25 pet fee. Small price to pay for safety and security.

The moral of the story. I use my Bonvoy Card to pay my phone, cable, utilities, groceries, and other expenses. I accumulate over 5,000 points each month and they add up fast. This usually gives me enough points for two, three, or four nights stay in a year, plus I get a free room added on my renewal anniversary. There is an annual fee, but it is nothing to compare to what I get in return.

We have used our Points in many different cities, but this is the second time it has been handy as bailout to avoid a questionable stay. 

If you are looking for a credit card that offers you all kinds of wonderful benefits, you should consider the Chase Bonvoy Card. It may just save you from an Airbnb nightmare.

Enjoy the journey,

Sandi

PS If you are planning to rent an Airbnb, which we actually do quite often as most of them are lovely; check out my Airbnb Rental Tips And Tricks. My daughter should have followed these suggestions.

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? Is it a good email list with interested followers? 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. After taking 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.

Finally, (this didn’t happen overnight), I 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. 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 adjacent 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 décor, 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 décor 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 décor 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

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

Gloria Ferrer Winery Review

Gorgeous rolling hills lined with neat verdant rows of trained vines paint a beautiful picture with the bright blue sky anchoring the canvas. We were in search of amazing wines in the Carneros wine region. Here we discovered one of the most beautiful wineries and below is my Gloria Ferrer Winery review of our visit.

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The Winery

Acres and acres of grape vines line the road leading to the stunning Gloria Ferrar winery compound. The massive California style wood and stone architecture imparts a feeling of elegant and rustic granduer.

The Tour

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and entertaining. She escorted us from the anti room, to the barrel holding room where they host lavish parties. Hosting a private dinner with perfectly paired wines would be a luxurious way to entertain friends and family.

We moved on to the bar and tasting room overlooking the production area. As you sip a glass of their world famous Cuvee, you can explore the wine making process. The history of the Gloria Ferrer family and their long love affair with great wines is fascinating.

These grapes from the vineyard’s wines were super sweet and delicious! Harvesting these beauties by hand is a herculean task. At Gloria Ferrer they not only harvest their grapes by hand, they harvest them at night. Harvesting under the star studded California sky adds a touch of romance to the story, but practically, it helps preserve the beautiful grapes.

California Grape Vines

The famous Ferrer caves where they store the Cuvee in naturally cooled cellars is a special treat. A brunch or luncheon date with the perfect wine pairing on the stunning grounds should be on every wine lover’s bucket list.

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.

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.

Here is to getting 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Airbnb rentals tips and tricks
Cozy Airbnb Cottage in Zion

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 with our three 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 U.S., Dublin, London, Lisbon, Barcelona, and Paris. With a few simple Airbnb rental tips and tricks, you can help insure a great stay.

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 SuperHost

Once you have decided on your destination, investigate and select 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, Super Hosts, among other things must:

“To be eligible for Superhost status, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Completed at least 10 trips OR completed 3 reservations that total at least 100 nights
  • Maintained a 90% response rate or higher
  • Also Maintained a 1% cancellation rate
  • Maintained a 4.8 overall rating

Starting with these listings is a great way to guarantee you will have a fabulous experience. If I can’t find a Superhost in my targeted neighborhood, checking the recent reviews is a good fallback.

Where to Begin

Airbnb rental tips and tricks
Charming Airbnb in Barcelona

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 it to 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

Airbnb rentals Tips and tricks
Airbnb Balcony View in Vail
  • Beds don’t always mean bedrooms – think bunk room or sleeper sofa
  • 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 only 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.

Follow these few simple Airbnb rental tips and tricks when you book and your vacation will be off to a great start.

Happy Travels!

Sandi

P.S. Here is my Airbnb horror story – my daughter rented this one!