Capri Day Trip

Capri is a rocky island located in the bay of Naples, revered for its beauty and known to attract the rich and famous. If you plan to visit the Amalfi Coast while in Italy, a day trip to Capri is a must. I’ve been fortunate to go once on a trip with some girlfriends and most recently with Drew on the final day of our Mediterranean Cruise.

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How To Get There

Capri can be easily accessed by ferry from a number of ports, including Naples, Positano, and Sorrento. On my last visit to Capri, we booked round trip ferry tickets from Naples for 46 EUR. Private water taxis or helicopters are options if finances aren’t a concern.

What To Do

  • Half-Day Boat Tour. I’ve done a private boat tour around the island on both visits to Capri and I believe it’s the best way to experience the island. Most recently, we used Gianni’s Boats and had a great time. For 290 EUR, we had the boat to ourselves with a skipper to guide us around the island. You can visit the Blue Grotto, but we elected to skip the hour-long line and visit other grottoes and caves instead. You’ll learn a lot about the island from your guide while getting to swim in the Mediterranean and indulge in drinks and snacks.

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  • Treat Yourself. Between the delicious Italian food and the upscale retail shops on the island, plan to splurge a little while visiting Capri. While I’m not much of a shopper, big name designers like Hermes, Fendi, and Gucci boast shops on Via Camerelle where you can drop a pretty penny. During our most recent visit, we picked up one of the famous Capri Bells as a Christmas ornament for our tree. If shopping isn’t your thing, there are tons of great restaurants to choose from. For a nice seaside lunch that won’t break the bank, I suggest L’Approdo in Marina Grande.

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  • Sightseeing. Walk or take the funicular up to Piazza Umberto I for great people watching an amazing view of the island. Piazza Umberto is the center of Capri, so there’s plenty to see and do. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may even spot a celebrity or two.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to see and do in Capri. Regardless of what you end up doing, I know you will enjoy the beauty of the island.

 

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One Week Costa Rica Itinerary

Last year, Drew and I escaped winter for a week by traveling to Costa Rica at the end of February. We loved Costa Rica–there’s so much to see and do there! In fact, there are so many options that we struggled to put together an itinerary that combined adventure and relaxation. Knowing how challenging it can be to plan a week-long trip, here is our itinerary for Costa Rica in hopes that it can help give you a good foundation to planning your own trip!

Day 1

We landed in San Jose, Costa Rica in the early afternoon on Saturday and hit the ground running. We used Service Car Rental as they were reasonably priced while including all necessary coverage and meeting Costa Rican insurance requirements.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens

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The entrance fee is a little steep, but the multiple stunning waterfalls made it worth it. We had fun visiting the aviary house to hold toucans, seeing the various animals throughout the park, and hiking to the waterfalls. It’s very easy to spend a few hours here!

We had also hoped to hike to a viewpoint for Poas Volcano, but daylight wasn’t on our side and we had to drive to our hotel. Next trip!

For lodging, we stayed at Volcano Lodge and Springs in the Arenal/La Fortuna area for three nights, four days. The property was nice and the staff was welcoming. Breakfast is included which certainly adds value. Though the springs on the property pale in comparison to the Tabacon Resort’s hot springs, it was still a nice way to relax in the evenings.

Day 2

We had hoped to visit La Fortuna waterfall, but the road was closed. There had been a lot of rainfall recently, so the roads were washed out and the waterfall basin was overflowing. We were super bummed and plan to go back to see this waterfall someday. However, you should definitely try and visit while you’re in Costa Rica!

Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park

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This was a fun way to spend the morning–good hiking, incredible views, great bridges! We visited on a rainy day, so we had the place to ourselves. Probably not a great place for anyone who is uncomfortable with heights, but the forest, bridges, and waterfalls were all beautiful! Note: admittance is $26 USD for a self-guided walk.

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After traipsing through the rainforest, we ventured into town for lunch at Restaurante Mi Casa for some delicious arroz con pollo. We closed the day relaxing in the hot springs at our hotel.

Day 3

Tabacon Hot Springs

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We decided to spend the whole day at the Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort. We bought the Day Spa Package for $150 per person which included access to the hot springs all day, $100 spa credit towards any spa service, and one meal. We elected to do a couples massage in a private bungalow–it was so peaceful and relaxing.

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That evening we went to a popular night spot in the center of town called Lava Lounge Bar & Grill. It was a hopping spot with a great atmosphere!

Day 4

Cerro Chato hike – Arenal Volcano viewpoint

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I previously chronicled this insane hike in this post. Drew and I are avid hikers and have put miles in on trails around the globe, but this hike was one of the most challenging we have encountered. However, this should not deter you from doing it. The hike is strenuous, but the view of Arenal Volcano from the top of the dormant Cerro Chato Volcano is worth the effort!

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After the Cerro Chato hike, we stopped at Soda Mima in La Fortuna for a bite. We were ravenous and the food hit the spot–one of the best meals we had in Costa Rica! The owner was incredibly welcoming and the food was great and wicked inexpensive. Highly recommend if you’re looking for a casual meal in La Fortuna.

After a late lunch, we hit the road to travel to our next hotel, Rio Celeste Hideaway. With beautiful individual bungalows, this remote hideaway is a great spot for couples and honeymooners. Conveniently located by a national park, you can both relax and enjoy recreation at the Rio Celeste Hideaway.

Day 5 

Tenorio Volcano National Park

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Walk to a breathtaking to waterfall and then hike alongside a river for spectacular views and gorgeous scenery. You may even see coati and monkeys on the trail if you look closely. If it’s rained recently, the trail will be a little muddy, so be sure to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

Day 6

Zip Lining in Monteverde Cloud Forest

We were so excited to zip line in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We used Sky Adventures‘ sky trek canopy zip lining tour for $81 USD per person. The zip lining offered incredible views and satiated our appetite for advenure. The zip lines are on top of a mountain overlooking the cloud forest and the Pacific Ocean. The guides are great–super knowledgeable, very friendly and fun.

After zip lining, we made our way to Jaco where we stayed at an Air B&B right on the beach.

Day 7

We got our start in Jaco at Sunrise Breakfast for a delicious breakfast. Then we went back to our place to put on our bathing suits, slap on some sunscreen, and grab our beach chairs. We vegged out on Jaco Beach watching the surfers and enjoying the sun for the majority of the day.

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In the evening, we ventured over to the Tiki Bar at Jaco Laguna Resort for some cocktails and appetizers. Then we enjoyed a sunset on the beach.

Day 8

We got an early start this day to drive from Jaco to the outskirts of San Jose to go white water rafting on the Rio Pacuare.

White Water Rafting the Rio Pacuare

We booked our experience with Rios Tropicales and they were awesome–highly recommend! We rafted for more than 4 hours down class III and IV rapids on the Rio Pacuare. Our guide was lighthearted and fun, but also made me feel incredibly safe.

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The river was astounding and the scenery was truly breathtaking. The rapids were perfectly spaced, keeping the raft floating down the river with ease. It was a great way to close our trip.

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After our amazing rafting adventure, we made our way to downtown San Jose where we stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Cariari San Jose. We chose the hotel for it’s proximity to the airport as we had a flight first thing the next morning.

Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Costa Rica and truly hope to go back one day as there’s so much more we would like to do and see. It was a great way to break up the winter and the country is so beautiful you have to pinch yourself to know that it’s real. If you have any questions about any of our trip, feel free to reach out–I love sharing our travel experiences and helping others plan their trips.

Hiking in Zion National Park: Angels Landing and the Narrows

Last summer, Drew and I made a spur of the moment trip to Zion National Park to hike Angels Landing and the Narrows. Because we were booking last minute, we lucked out and scored a cancellation room at the only in-park accommodation, Zion Lodge. This made our trip even better because we were able to spend more time in the park without having to fight traffic in and out of the park.

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Angels Landing

Drew was most excited for Angels Landing. I’m not a huge fan of heights, so I was a little apprehensive about the hike. The hike is 5 miles round trip with an elevation change of 1500 feet. When we went, temperatures were in the 100s, so we got an early start to try and beat the heat. The hike starts along a river and slowly works its way up a canyon wall through a number of switchbacks. Then you hit a second group of switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. There are 21 short switchbacks here where you gain elevation quickly.

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Tackling Water’s Wiggles.

At the top you’ll reach Scout Lookout which has a great view of the park. From here, follow the trail along the ridge to Angels Landing, using chains for assistance. Truth be told, I started the last half mile out to Angels Landing, but my fear of heights made me a shaky mess and I decided to turn back and wait for Drew to at Scout’s Landing. While I’m disappointed I didn’t finish the last bit of the hike to Angels Landing overlook, the thousand foot dropoffs on both sides of the trail intimidated me.

Regardless of completion, we both really enjoyed the hike and would recommend it to anyone who wants to truly experience Zion.

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The Narrows

To prepare for the Narrows hike, we rented canyoneering boots, neoprene socks, and a wooden walking stick from Zion Outfitter. We opted to do the bottom-up out-and-back hike and got an early start to ensure we had ample daylight and to avoid crowds.

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The Narrows hike can vary depending on how far you want to go. We opted to do ~10 miles (5 miles in and 5 miles back). The water was cold, but it felt refreshing since it was over 100 degrees in Zion.

Though Drew and I are avid hikers, we found that the Narrows hike was drastically different than any hike we’ve ever encountered. As much as we enjoyed hiking through the water, we also realized it required use of stabilizing muscles and a bit more endurance. Be mindful that the farther you go into the Narrows, the farther you will have to walk back and that your body will be a bit more tired on the return hike.

Additionally, the water can reach heights as high as your waist, chest, or chin. We went as deep as our waists and came across a section near the end of our hike that would have been at Drew’s chest and possibly at my chin and decided we weren’t up for getting that wet and turned it around.

To this day, the Narrows hike is my favorite hike that I’ve ever done. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it and I can’t wait to go back and do it all over again.

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Zion Hiking Tips

  • Hydrate. We went in summer and it was a scorcher with temperatures in the 100s each day. We made sure to hydrate before hikes (including sipping Pedialyte to ensure we had enough electrolytes) and brought more water than we normally would our hikes.
  • Bring snacks. Angels Landing took ~4 hours round trip and we spent 5-6 hours hiking the Narrows. We had hearty meals for breakfast and dinner, but supplemented our hikes with salty snacks like granola bars, almonds, and cashews.
  • Start early. The early bird catches the worm…or at least beats the crowds and has the trails to themselves here. Not only will you get to enjoy the trails in solitude, but you’ll also beat the heat.
  • Bring a dry bag. As mentioned, there are parts of the Narrows hike that were waist or chest deep. If you have a dry bag, you won’t have to worry about your camera, phone, car keys, etc. getting wet. It’s good peace of mind if you happen to slip and fall in, too.

Tips for attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

This past weekend we flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Not only is the fiesta the largest balloon event in the world, it’s also the most photographed event in the world–and once you go, you’ll understand why!

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So, what is there to do at the Fiesta? There are activities in the morning and at night, with a break in the day when the thermals make it challenging for the balloons to fly. Our favorite events were:

Dawn Patrol
First thing in the morning, before the sun has risen, a handful of hot air balloons inflate and take to the skies to check weather conditions. It’s beautiful to watch as they lift into the air and you can still spot them in the dark as they light their burners, often in synchronicity.

Mass Ascension
The mass ascension is not to be missed! During the mass ascension, all balloons participating in the fiesta launch, with dozens of balloons taking flight simultaneously. Balloons start to launch at 7 a.m. (weather permitting), led by a balloon flying the American flag. Over the next couple of hours, roughly 600 balloons will fly over the event space. It’s an incredible sight to see!

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Evening Glow
Once the sun sets, balloonists begin inflating their hot air balloons to participate in the Evening Glow. After all of the participating balloons have been inflated, “all burn” is called where all balloons fire their burners at once creating a truly magical moment–photos don’t do this one justice.

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Having never been to New Mexico or the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta before, Drew and I had a lot of learning to do to ensure we maximized our time there. Here are a few tips and tricks that we hope will help make your Balloon Fiesta an awesome experience:

Tips

  • Get there early. The first morning we left our hotel at 5 a.m. to make the 20 minute drive to the balloon park. On the way, we hit insane traffic and didn’t roll into the parking lot until 7:30 a.m. We learned our lesson and on the second morning we set our alarm for 3:30 a.m., departed the hotel at 4:00 a.m., and rolled into our parking spot at the balloon park at 4:35 a.m. Gates opened at 4:30 a.m., so we got in early, grabbed a hot chocolate, and go to really soak in all the festivities before the 6:00 a.m. dawn patrol and mass ascension at 7:00 a.m.
  • Use the Park and Ride. Parking at the balloon park isn’t for the fainnt of heart–you will endure tons of traffic and pay $15 to do so. I recommend looking into the Balloon Fiesta Park and Ride service, which is $15 including the price of admission to the fiesta (typically $10).
  • Dress warmly. It’s chilly at night during the glows after the sun sets, but it’s even colder in the morning. Dress in layers and be sure to wear warm, closed-toe shoes with good socks as the balloon park grass is damp and covered in frost early in the morning.
  • Plan to attend a few days. If you have the time, I recommend planning to attend at least two mornings and one night. Since flight is dependent on weather, there are days when the mass ascension doesn’t take place due to wind. Give yourself a couple days as a contingency plan so you don’t miss out!
  • Bring snacks. Our hotel was awesome and provided to-go breakfasts in paper bags every morning. Having granola bars, muffins, an apple, and a bottle of water was super clutch as we had something to nibble on throughout the morning, but were able to go get a real breakfast (with green chile!) outside the park after the mass ascension around 9 a.m.

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Mediterranean Cruise Pros and Cons

This summer, Drew and I went on a 10-night Mediterranean cruise where we visited Greece, Malta, and Italy. Each of us had only been on short Caribbean cruises many years ago, so a 10-day Mediterranean cruise was something entirely different for us.

We didn’t initially plan to take a Mediterranean cruise this year or to travel around Europe this summer, but Norwegian Cruise Line had a pretty good deal, so we jumped at the opportunity. Our cruise was scheduled for July 20th through July 30.

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Oia, Santorini, Greece

To stay on budget, we selected an interior cabin as the only time we planned to spend in the room was to sleep and shower. We did not upgrade our meals and found the standard food options to be diverse and delicious–we were never disappointed. Additionally, we did not purchase drinks on the ship–we stuck with water and juice, but splurged on alcohol, soda, and tasty treats while at ports. Lastly, we researched every destination beforehand and made our own plans without having to purchase expensive excursions through the cruise line

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Athens, Greece

Below are the stops and the length of time we were at each port:

Day 1 – Ship departs Civitavecchia (Rome), ITA – 5 p.m.
Day 2 – Ship at sea
Day 3 – Mykonos, GRC – 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Day 4 – Piraeus (Athens), GRC – 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Day 5 – Rhodes, GRC – 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Day 6 – Santorini, GRC – 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Day 7- Chania, GRC – 7 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Day 8 – Valletta, MLT – 1 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Day 9 – Messina, ITA – 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Day 10 – Naples/Pompeii, ITA – 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Day 11- Ships arrives in Civitavecchia (Rome), ITA – 6 a.m.

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Chania, Greece

Pros:

  • Cruises allow you to maximize your vacation time–we were able to visit 5 destinations in Greece, 3 cities in Rome, and we got to spend a day in Malta all in 11 days/10 nights. That would be a very rigorous travel schedule if you weren’t on a cruise. It was great to see so many beautiful places!
  • We were able to island hop through Greece with ease. Visiting multiple islands quickly can be challenging and expensive, but going via cruise made it simple and hassle-free.
  • For solo travelers, cruises can be one of the safest options. You can relax on board, participate in group excursions, and the ship monitors when you leave and return to the ship, so someone will notice if you’re missing.

Cons:

  • Some of the ports were far away from attractions we were interested in seeing or not very tourist-friendly.
  • Our time was tight in each location due to the time it took to disembark the ship and return to the ship, limiting what we could see and do. It was a bit of a tease to visit these amazing places, but not get to really experience and explore the place.
  • Since your meals are already paid for and provided on the ship, we missed out on opportunities to try local cuisine.
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Rome, Italy

Overall, we enjoyed our time on the cruise and we are glad that we did it. A cruise made sense for us to see Greece and Malta, but I don’t think cruises will be a preferred method of travel moving forward. When we travel, we want to don’t want to be confined by time or to small locales–we like to wander and see as much as we can.

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Mykonos, Greece

If you have any questions about a Mediterranean cruise, please reach out–I’d love to share more about our experience. Safe travels!

Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Over 4th of July, Drew and I flew to Phoenix to catch an Arizona Diamondbacks game, visit Sedona, and explore the great outdoors. It was hot as hell (109°), but we made the most of our long holiday weekend in Arizona.

Lower Antelope Canyon

To visit Lower Antelope Canyon, you will need to go with a guide. A friend recommended Ken’s Tours, but they were completely booked the date we wanted to go, so we ended up going with Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours. We were advised to arrive 30 minutes before our tour, but that was completely unnecessary as they were super behind schedule and we ended up having to wait over an hour past our tour start time. Once our group was called, we walked 100 yards or so above the canyon to the staircase entry to Lower Antelope Canyon.

The canyon was a welcome reprieve after standing in the heat for so long–it was much cooler down there and it was great to escape the sun. Our guide slowly led us through the 1 mile lower canyon, assisting with photos and teaching us how to best capture the light and color on our digital cameras and phones. Before going down, I was concerned that we would be rushed through the canyon and wouldn’t get to enjoy the experience and capture the images we wanted. However, I never felt rushed. Our guide was very knowledgeable and shared history and highlights of the Lower Antelope Canyon, while giving us ample time to take photos and enjoy the canyon’s natural beauty.

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Overall, we enjoyed our time at Lower Antelope Canyon and we would recommend visiting and using Dixie Ellis’ Lower Antelope Canyon Tours. Be sure to dress appropriately (since we went in summer, moisture-wicking materials and good sneakers were clutch), eat beforehand (Lower Antelope Canyon has very limited food options nearby), and to hydrate (we each filled our Camelbak bladders to the brim and we crushed them.)

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Horseshoe Bend

If you’re visiting Lower Antelope Canyon, then you definitely need to check out Horseshoe Bend, too. Horseshoe Bend is a quick 15 minute drive from Lower Antelope Canyon and it’s truly a breathtaking sight. It’s also great because it is a stunning location that’s accessible to people of all hiking levels.

Park in the Horseshoe Bend parking lot and make the half mile walk out to the overlook. Since the hike is short and easily accessible, don’t expect to have the overlook to yourself. However, there are plenty of vantage points where you can walk over to the edge to stare in awe and get tourist-free photos.

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If you’re in Arizona or southern Utah, I implore you to visit Lower Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Drew and I loved this day and were so glad we planned to see both locations while in Arizona. If you go, let me know what you think–I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Labor Day Weekend in New York: Yankees, Mets, and the U.S. Open

For those of you who don’t know me, not only do I love travel, but I absolutely love traveling for sporting events. There’s nothing better than exploring a new city by day and attending an exciting sporting event by night. This past Labor Day weekend, Drew and I visited New York City for the long weekend where we had the pleasure of attending Red Sox v Yankees at Yankee Stadium (Go Sox!), Phillies v Mets at Citi Field, and watched Federer v Kohlschreiber in Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open–and all of it was amazing!

Red Sox v Yankees at Yankee Stadium

As a lifelong Red Sox fan, it was a real treat to see a Red Sox v Yankees game. Drew and I visited Yankee Stadium back in 2015, so it wasn’t our first time at the ballpark. Compared to Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium is absolutely massive–and on this day, it was completely packed. We waited in a wicked long line to enter the park, but once we were inside it was pretty easy to find our seats and enjoy the game. Yankee Stadium offers the typical ballpark food, nothing special and a little overpriced. The in-game entertainment and music selections have a dated, nostalgic feeling. Overall, we had a good experience at Yankee Stadium, though I wish the Red Sox could have pulled out a win.

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Phillies v Mets at Citi Field

Citi Field may be the best ballpark I have visited. Opened in 2009, it still looks super new and the layout is really fan-friendly. A friend told us to go hungry to Citi Field because the food is amazing…and they weren’t lying! There are so many great options and a lot of diversity. Drew and I split some Arancini Bros. risotto balls,  a chicken parmesan sandwich from Nicoletta, and cookie dough from –all were delicious! And while we loved the food, we enjoyed the game and the ballpark even more.

Roger Federer v Phil Kohlschreiber at the U.S. Open

We’re fortunate that we’ve both attended the U.S. Open Tennis Championships before, but that didn’t make our excitement any less. We were thrilled to score last minute tickets to the Federer v Kohlschreiber. Federer won in straight sets, but it was still cool to see a tennis great at his best. This was our first U.S. Open with the new retractable roof. Though the roof was open, the perimeter of the roof provided nice shade before the sun started setting. If you are considering attending the U.S. Open, I highly recommend it–tennis is such a fun sport to watch live and the New York crowds make it even better.

48 Hours in Berlin, Germany

Berlin is an amazing city, rich with history and culture. With so much to see and do, you need to make the most of your time in Germany’s capital city. Here’s my list of how to best spend 48 hours in Berlin.

Day 1

Sightseeing:
Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie is the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point from the Cold War era. Foreigners and diplomats would cross between East Berlin and West Berlin at Checkpoint Charlie until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

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Brandenburg Gate
Erected in the 1730s, this visually stunning monument that has witnessed a great deal of history and come out unscathed.

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Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Also known as the Holocaust Memorial, the memorial consists of 2,711 concrete slabs of various height. There is a visitor’s center below which contains approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims.

Dinner: Fame at KaterschmausHolzmarktstraße 25, 10243 Berlin, Germany
A cozy, intimate little spot with amazing food. Everything on the menu is reasonably priced, which is good since you’ll want to try a little bit of everything. Fame is one of those spots you want to bring your friends to because it’s such a unique, fun spot.

Accommodations: Hilton BerlinMohrenstraße 30, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Centrally located and very clean, the Hilton Berlin is an easy place to stay when checking out tourist spots like Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate. The staff is very accommodating, and you can’t beat the convenience of the location.

Day 2

Sightseeing: East Side Gallery
A memorial to a section of the Berlin Wall. The gallery features 105 paintings that were completed in 1990 by artists from all over the world. Restoration efforts were made in 2009 to help eliminate some of the graffiti covering the original artwork.

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Lunch: Kimchi PrincessSkalitzer Str. 36, 10999 Berlin, Germany
Surprisingly good Korean BBQ in the middle of Berlin. Picnic table seating ensures you will make new friends as you indulge in an awesome meal.

Sightseeing: Tempelhof Feld
Berlin converted Tempelhof Airport into a public park. On a sunny day, this place is great for outdoor recreation and people watching. A wonderful spot to unwind and enjoy the great outdoors in the middle of a bustling city.

Dinner: FreischwimmerVor dem Schlesischen Tor 2, 10997 Berlin, Germany
Waterside dining with excellent indoor options in addition to an over-the-water patio. It’s a little tricky to find, but once you’ve made it, you won’t be disappointed with the food–lots of variety!

Accommodations: Michelberger HotelWarschauer Str. 39-40, 10243 Berlin, Germany
If you’re looking for a trendy hotel in a hip neighborhood, look no further. The rooms have a minimalist feel, but the true heart of the hotel is in the lobby where there’s an awesome bar, roomy couches, and a great atmosphere.

No matter what you end up doing, I know you will enjoy your time in Germany’s capital. There are so many great restaurants, museums, and events that I know you’ll be wishing you had more time to spend in Berlin. Safe travels!

Solo Female Travel Tips

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Traveling solo as a female can be intimidating. But with a sense of adventure and a bit of cautious common sense, you can confidently travel as a solo female nearly anywhere in the world.

After planning many international trips in my early 20s with friends and family that never came to fruition, I finally decided that the only way I was going to see the world is if I stopped waiting for it to be convenient for everyone else and just traveled by myself. I’ll admit, I was a little worried at first, but ultimately it ended up being one of the best, most liberating decisions I’ve ever made. My first solo trip was to England and France–since then, I’ve traveled to Ireland, Northern Ireland, Russia, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, as well as many spots in the continental United States.

If you’re considering exploring the world as a solo female traveler, fear not! With a bit of careful planning and some common sense, you’ll be able to travel anywhere your heart desires and feel completely confident and comfortable.

Plan Ahead

Before all of my solo trips, I had my airfare, transportation, and hotels arranged well in advance. For hotels, I looked to friends and family for recommendations and guidance in cities where they had familiarity. For cities where I didn’t have someone to guide me, I looked to Rick Steves and Fodor’s for budget-friendly options. When possible, I book trains that depart and arrive during daylight hours, making it easier to travel to and from the train stations. Usually I’m a fan of walking as much as I possibly can, but when arriving to unfamiliar places I usually summoned an Uber or arranged free transportation through hotels to ensure I safely arrived to my destination.

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Packing

Do not overpack. Lugging a heavy suitcase around train stations and buildings without elevators is not fun, and since you’re traveling alone, you won’t have anyone to help you. Pack appropriate clothing–err on the side of caution and pack modest, casual clothing. Educate yourself on the country your visiting and the things you’ll be doing because this will help dictate items you will need. For example, in Italy and Greece, you need to cover your shoulders in most churches and holy spaces, so I always pack a lightweight scarf or shawl. On hiking trips, I always pack a pair of flip flop or strappy Chacos to wear after the hike to let my feet breathe and relax.

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Keep In Touch

As mentioned, my family and friends were all concerned when I started traveling abroad alone. To ease their minds, I typically send trip update emails every couple of days throughout the trip. This assures them that I’m safe, but also gives them a glimpse into my adventures. Sharing with loved ones seems to enhance the experience.

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Won’t I Be Lonely?

Absolutely not. You can be as solitary or social as you would like. Traveling alone has opened me up to conversations with strangers I never would have met had I been traveling and chatting with friends. I’ve found that many people are curious about female solo travelers and are eager to chit chat and provide help when needed.

Additionally, I’ve also found pleasure in being able to do what I want, when I want. Being able to control my entire itinerary and call all of the shots is fun! I have learned to embrace the quiet and allow my mind to wander and to be okay sitting alone at a table in a restaurant or on a bench in a park.

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General Safety

  • Walk confidently. Review your map or phone before leaving and try not to use either while en route. Walking around with your phone in your hand makes it easy for someone to snatch your phone or to target you as a tourist.
  • A cross-body bag with zippers is my travel must-have. It’s less likely someone will be able to steal your bag or pickpocket your purse with it wrapped around your body and zipped closed.
  • Don’t wear headphones when walking alone at night or in less crowded area. Headphones make it easier for people to sneak up on you.
  • I always keep a photocopy of my passport in my travel luggage. Additionally, my parents, fiance, and friends have digital copies of my passport that they could email if I ever got in a pickle.

Listen to your instincts, use common sense, and make good decisions and you’ll have no issues traveling as a solo female. Your bravery and sense of adventure will be rewarded with memorable travel experiences and stories to share with family and friends. Safe travels!

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Memorial Day Weekend in Yosemite National Park

This year I spent Memorial Day Weekend in Yosemite National Park. With the snow finally melting, Memorial Day is a great time of the year to visit Yosemite to see the raging waterfalls and beautiful views…if you can handle the crowds.

For Memorial Day Weekend 2017, Yosemite National Park estimated about 100,000 park visitors. Fortunately for us, we had booked a VRBO property that was located inside the park, eliminating a lot of driving time. Below are the highlights from our trip:

Sunset at Glacier Point

An amazing overlook with a view of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, and Yosemite Falls. On the evening we went for the sunset, the valley was covered in clouds, but the panoramic view was amazing even when cloudy.

Tip: During the summer, Yosemite park rangers hold sunset talks at Glacier Point. Lots of great information and stories–don’t miss it!

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Yosemite Valley Loop Trail

In order to get our bearings within the park, we hiked the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail on our first day. We started at Bridalveil Falls and then caught the loop around the valley. This is a great hike because you get to see all of the Valley highlights (El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Cathedral Rocks) while hiking along the Merced River.

Tip: The best part about this hike is you can make it as long or as short as you want, as you’re able to catch the park bus along the route. We ended up grinding out 14 miles on the trail in total and it was totally worth it.

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Mist Trail

One of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done–highly recommend! On the Mist Trail, you get to hike up nature’s staircase right next to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. Bring a raincoat and waterproof boots because you will get wet.

Sadly, I was recovering from a hospital stint with viral meningitis, so we took the John Muir Trail after reaching the top of Vernal Falls. Others in our group continued up to Nevada Falls.

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Sunrise hike at Sentinel Dome

For a 360 degree view of Yosemite Valley, head to Sentinel Dome. We went for a sunrise hike and had the trail to ourselves. From Sentinel Dome, you can see El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Nevada Falls.

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Tunnel View

For those of you who prefer not to hike, but want to experience an amazing view, head to Tunnel View. From here you can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls within Yosemite Valley, and Half Dome in the background.

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Unfortunately, Mariposa Grove was closed during our visit, so we didn’t get to see some of the most famous trees in the world. We did visit the Tuolumne Grove and got our Giant Sequoia fill, but I plan to go back to visit Mariposa Grove sometime in the coming years.

You are in for a treat no matter when you visit Yosemite National Park. The scenery is breathtaking and the hikes will also take your breath away…from exertion.