Archive | Travel Tips

Romantic Sunset

Five Oddly Romantic Getaways in the U.S.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty far from a hopeless romantic. I’m more of what you might consider a closet romantic. As in, I don’t dream of over-the-top proposals but I can certainly still appreciate a strong showing of adoration. I just appreciate it a little more quietly than some (I won’t name names).

Chocolate Heart

Image courtesy of lenguavempace

So, as a closet romantic, Valentine’s Day doesn’t do much for me. I find it to be a bit too forced, a little too well-rehearsed, and I much prefer unexpected displays of affection or small surprises. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate in any shape, form, or pile and I mean no disrespect if you disagree, it’s just my love language. Though ultimately, like chocolate, I love love however anyone chooses to express it.

To better support that notion and the spirit of the holiday, I put together a little list of offbeat romantic getaways that may – if you’re anything like me – make your celebration a little more memorable. Because your love is unique, here are a few equally extraordinary ways to celebrate it!

Five Oddly Romantic Getaways in the U.S.

Treehouse Point, Washington
Just half an hour outside of Seattle, Treehouse Point is a cozy resort composed of six tree houses available for rent. The elevated cabins, the first of which was modeled using lines from the Parthenon, have been built into the old-growth forest famous in the Pacific Northwest. If your inner child still dreams of more mature tree houses, this is the place for you.

Hicksville, California
Don’t let the name fool you – this place is far from trashy. The Trailer Palace, as it’s affectionately called, lives in Joshua Tree, California, a desert oasis perfect for long, quiet, star-gazing sessions. Complete with more than 10 kitschy trailers, an archery range, a saltwater pool and mini-golf, Hicksville has the perfect combination of isolation and entertainment.

Joshua Tree National Park

Image Courtesy of Bootsnall

Tipi Village Retreat, Oregon
Maybe four walls are a few too many for you. In that case you may want to try your love-luck on a tipi at the Tipi Village Retreat near Eugene, Oregon. Set in a secluded woodland, the tipis come comfortably decorated with stone floors and wool blankets while breakfast options include an assortment of organic eggs, smoked salmon, or fresh fruit and granola. This place is a feast for the eyes and the tummy!

Glacier Under Canvas, Montana
You may have noticed a National Park theme. (It is the service’s 100-year anniversary, after all!) Glacier Under Canvas is exactly as magical as it sounds: you sleep just outside (seven miles) Glacier National Park in luxurious safari-style canvas tents. The great outdoor activities nearby are as endless (and some are offered through the resort) as the breath-taking scenes you’ll encounter on this getaway.

Glacier National Park

Image Courtesy of New World Encyclopedia

Dunton Hot Springs Hotel, Colorado
If you prefer your wood log-cabin stacked and ground-level, Dunton Hot Springs Hotel is yet another ideal destination. A restored ghost town, the hand-built cabins of the resort string together a luxury lifestyle and remote relaxation. You’ll find wifi among a waterfall (but no cell service) and a hot spring surrounded by snow. Bonus: all meals – and a chapel – are included in the price of your stay.

We hope you’ll enjoy these dreamy destinations as much as we do, and we wish you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day nonetheless!

Continue Reading 0
Rota Vicentina, Portugal

Hike Portugal on The Rota Vicentina

It goes without saying that the European continent has a lot to offer a traveler. Portugal, in particular, though one of the smaller countries, has a vast array of tourist attractions. Sometimes lovingly labeled as the California of Europe, the west coast similarities can be striking. Lisbon, for example, is built on hills and touts a big red bridge, much like the famous Golden Gate of San Francisco. Meanwhile the surrounding beaches, and the people who flock to them, are as colorful as they are beautiful.

Portuguese Coast along the Rota Vicentina

Portuguese Coast while hiking along the Rota Vicentina

Hike Portugal

Since one could argue that all cities are alike in some ways, touring rural locales, like by hiking the Rota Vicentina, is an ideal way to explore the country’s true beauty. A relatively new trail, the Rota Vicentina snakes its way along the southwestern coast of Portugal, where you’ll find preserved wildlife and a number of endemic species. It begins about two hours south of Lisbon, near Sines, and, depending on your level of persistence, continues almost all the way to the end of the world, or Cape Sagres as it’s also known.

Included within the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentina Coast Natural Park, it is 350 kilometers, or approximately 217 miles, in total and there are two routes by which you can trek the two-year-old trail. One path, The Fishermen’s Trail, winds its way along the coast, while The Historical Way carves its own path inland. Should indecision strike, you can take comfort in knowing that the paths cross and merge on occasion. This way you can pick and choose as you go, much like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, but with more sand.

A farm on the Rota Vicentina in Portugal

A farm on the Rota Vicentina hike in Portugal

In addition to the natural wonders that sprout along the way, the beauty of this hike lies in its structure. Unlike other week-long treks, the Rota Vicentina trails are split between small villages sprinkled throughout the region. At most, you hike around 25 kilometers (15 miles) per day but even that isn’t entirely necessary. If you can stomach the weight of camping gear, there are also designated camping parks where you can rest your soles – and souls –  along the way.

The towns, which give you a quaint look into the mosaic of Portuguese life, also make the trek more appealing by breaking it up. Because you can find accommodation and nourishment at the mapped locations, you’re not forced to carry as much food, water, or gear as you would on other hikes of this length. The website has helpful recommendations for planners, though it can be pricey, and the trail itself is littered with friendly folks who are otherwise happy to lend a hand.

A town along the Rota Vicentina

Whichever way you decide to go, you will be widely rewarded with breathtaking views, ever-changing landscapes, and long-lasting memories. Ultimately, if you enjoy long, romantic walks on the beach, this trail was made for you. Only a handful of things could make the trip more enjoyable, if not easier.

Hints for Hiking portugal on the Rota Vicentina

A Backpack
In theory, you could go without one, but carts and covered wagons are a lot harder to get across the sand. The upside is that your backpack doesn’t have to be anything heavy duty, just something to get you through the day. Somewhere you can stash your sweatshirt after the morning chill burns off or store small essentials like chapstick and sunscreen.

Water
Ideally you wouldn’t tackle any trek without one. Most trekkers recommend going in spring, but your rebellious spirit leads you here in the heat of summer, you’ll need to hydrate. To be safe, you want two to three liters per person on average, and it’s best to plan ahead since there aren’t any refill stations between the villages. Besides, ocean water can be salty.

Gummies
Seriously. Gummies are great for hiking because they provide quick energy your body can burn, meaning the excess sugar won’t lead to a weight gain at the end of the day. After lunch, when your legs are heavy and you’re feeling sluggish, a few sweets will give your body the push it needs to get going again and power through. Chocolate is also a great option here, as long as you note that it gets messy when it melts.

Hike Portugal A Camera
Even if it’s only your phone, because it’s too beautiful not to show off. If or when you finally return home, pictures will help elevate your reputation as an awesome traveler. The combination of cliffs and sand, farms and lighthouses, land and sea will leave even you wondering if you’ve ever seen anything like it. Bring a camera if only to go back and check.

A Headlamp
A headlamp isn’t as necessary as it is complementary. On some of the longer days, it’s best to get started early. As in before dawn early. A headlamp frees your hands for climbing and catching yourself while still being able to spot the toads that serve as the soundtrack for your stroll. While I know that dark and early doesn’t appeal to everyone, a majestic beach sunrise in front of an island fortress definitely does.

Dawn on the Rota Vicentina

Sunrise on the fortress hiking along the Rota Vicentina

A Towel
You might think towels are bulky, but travel towels come quite compact and the beaches are as frequent as they are irresistible. Since some of them are nude, your towel can take up whatever space you saved for your swimsuit. Don’t worry about keeping your secret safe, the locals will get rowdy if anyone stops for a photo opp. So, go ahead, do as the Romans did.

A Knife
For lunch, après-lunch, and maybe even supper. Some of the best local hiking eats include meats and cheeses. Cured meat enthusiasts in particular will find themselves in chorizo heaven on this hike. With a new selection to choose from every day in town, you’ll always have something to open and your picnic will look indescribably more appealing if you bring a small knife to slice and dice.

BodyGlide
“What’s that,” you ask? Oh, just your saving grace. Bodyglide is essentially a personal lubricant, but not the kind that may come to mind. It comes in the shape of a deodorant stick, and, when applied to the body, can reduce friction and chaffing in areas that tend to rub. Even if you sport a thigh gap, I highly recommend it for your feet, chest, or any place your pack may wear. It beats a blister any day.

Ahoy Hostel Porto Covo

Outside Ahoy Hostel in Porto Covo

A Book
Mostly for entertainment. While most hostels have wifi, some of the places you’ll stay will not be all that modern, especially if you camp. A book is always good company on the beach, and if you bring a writing utensil it doubles as a place to take notes. You can jot down the places you loved and the people you met, or write yourself a reminder to review Ahoy Hostel and thank Nick for all his help.

Vinho Verde
Okay, so maybe don’t bring the Vinho Verde in your backpack, but definitely get it at one of your stops. Although the literal translations would call it a green wine, it’s not a thing of Dr. Seuss stories. Instead it’s white, slightly effervescent, inexpensive, and it pairs well with your well-deserved dessert. Sort of like a sparkly Moscato that’s as sweet and refreshing as your adventure.

Continue Reading 0
Cat Napping

The Three Best Travel Pillows to Try Before Your Next Trip

It goes without saying that traveling is exceptionally fun, but sometimes it can also be a real pain in the neck… especially if you don’t have the right travel pillow! Travel pillows are one of the smallest luxuries that can make the biggest difference on any trip you take – whether it’s by plane, train or automobile. Having somewhere to rest your weary head can mean arriving fresh and somewhat rested instead of groggy and jet-lagged.

Unfortunately, wading through the wide array of travel pillows available, on top of everything else you have to check off before take-off, can take more time than it might seem to be worth. In an effort to help put your tense muscles at ease, we put together a little list that should help alleviate your travel pillow blues and hopefully give you the greatest sleep you’ve had away from home!

Here’s what we found to be the three best travel pillows:

The Travelrest

The Travelrest was made specifically for cuddle bugs. If you’re having separation anxiety from your body pillow and looking for a hug away from home, this inflatable pillow may well be the best travel alternative. Its especially unique in its ability to offer full lateral support. This much cushion is a rare find in a travel treat. You have to first inflate it manually, and then you can place it over your shoulder and enjoy the comfort that comes as a cozy embrace from a pillow. For safe-keeping, you can wear it like a messenger bag or tether it to an airplane seat. Or if you’re into the hands-free thing, you can easily loop it over the headrest in a car or vehicle and dream of shouting, “Look, ma, no hands!”

World’s Best Air Soft Microbeads Tube Pillow

If the sensation of sleeping on a beach is more your style, you might prefer this tube variation. The World’s Best Air Soft Microbeads cradle your head in a flexible, squishy softness that is so light it can be piled on top of the heaviest piece of luggage without tipping the scales. It’s also an ideal size for the little nooks and crannies that keep conventional pillows at bay. Rumors are it can make a 16-hour flight feel more like a cat nap. Even better, the tube also doubles as a lumbar support when it’s your turn to take the wheel or fits comfortably under your knees when you’re ready to put your feet up in the hostel bed.

Morph Pillow of the gods

This newbie is named after the Greek god of dreams, Morpheus, and is designed to make you feel like you’re sleeping on the clouds of Mt. Olympus. It’s made from a simple and straightforward memory foam sphere that goes places easily. Wherever you go, you can stuff it against a window or desk, on your shoulder or under your chin. Despite a machine-washable cover, the Morph compresses into a small plastic case that fits into both overstuffed luggage compartments and your carry-on. If space-saving is your priority, the Morph is a gift from the Gods.

Whatever your pillow preferences, traveling is a marvelous adventure that should not only be entertaining, but comfortable as well! Taking time to satisfy your travel needs and invest in the right pillow will at least give your more time to dream comfortably about your next destination!

Continue Reading 0
cancun vs playa del carmen

Cancun vs Playa del Carmen: Where Should You Stay?

Mexico’s Riviera Maya is one of my favorite beach destinations in the world. Easily accessible from most of North America, miles of beautiful white sandy beaches, plenty to do and a wide range of places to stay make the Riviera Maya a perfect beach destination.

However, because the destination has so much to offer to a wide range of travelers, researching and planning travel to the Riviera Maya can be overwhelming.

One way to make it easier to plan the perfect vacation to Mexico’s Riviera Maya is to narrow down your search by general location. First, start by determining where you want to stay, Cancun vs Playa del Carmen, then you’ll be better able to organize the perfect beach vacation from there.

Should we stay in Cancun vs Playa del Carmen?

cancun vs playa del carmen

The Cancun resort area is actually an island located just off the coast of Mexico, connected to the mainland via two short bridges. Here you’ll find mostly large, all-inclusive resorts spread out along the northern and eastern sides of this island.  Alternative accommodation options that can save money and offer flexibility for your trip are Cancun timeshares.

Even during the busiest months of February – April, you’ll find plenty of room to spread out and enjoy these world-class beaches.

The ocean-side beaches are by far the most popular, and most of the hotels in Cancun face the ocean. The lagoon-side is more often used for water sports like jet skiing and kayaking.

Here are some of the best reasons to stay in Cancun on your beach vacation.

Cancun Offers Easy Access from the International Airport

Most of the resorts in Cancun are only a few miles from the main Cancun International airport. Especially if you are sneaking to Mexico for a quick weekend away, this might be reason enough to select a place to stay right in Cancun.

Minutes after landing, you will be sipping your welcome cocktail while checking into your resort.

All Inclusive Resorts Dominate Cancun

If you’re looking for pure rest and relaxation at an all-inclusive resort during your Mexican beach vacation, Cancun has a variety of options at a range of price points. There are over 170 all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, and most of them are located on what is actually an island; The Island of Cancun.

You’ll find familiar brands like Club Med, Iberostar and Riu, as well as some recent new additions including Nizuc, Temptation and Dreams.

cancun vs playa del carmen

For the best beaches, select a resort on the east, or ocean side of the island. For easy access to the shopping malls, bars, restaurants and watersports, select a resort on the lagoon side.

Cancun’s White Sandy Beaches Don’t Disappoint

Cancun was founded in the 1970’s. That’s right. The city of Cancun, now with a population of over 700,000 people, didn’t even exist fifty years ago. And the main reason for it’s rapid growth; the amazing natural beaches.

These white sandy carpets of Caribbean bliss were the original draw for tourism to be developed in this beautiful land, and remains the main draw today.

If you prefer laying on the beach vs. pool side, you can’t go wrong with Cancun.

cancun vs playa del carmen

Some of the best of the best beaches in Cancun include Playa Caracol and Playa Nizuc. Located right in the middle of the hotel zone, Playa Caracol is popular among families with small children thanks to it’s clear, shallow water and a sandy, not rocky, bottom.

Playa Nizuc, located at the southern tip of the main hotel zone in Cancun, is set away from the large crowds and the biggest hotels and is a great, less-busy option. But be sure to pack your own water, food, and umbrella as there are no public facilities available in the area.

But what about Playa del Carmen?

cancun vs playa del carmen

Playa del Carmen is located about an hour south of Cancun. The city spreads outwards around the main public beach and the main ferry docks for transport to the island of Cozumel and where day-tip cruise traffic parks. The main beach in Playa del Carmen starts at the ferry docks and runs to Calle 14 and Gran Porto Real.

And here are some of the reasons you may want to consider staying in Playa del Carmen on your beach vacation.

Discover Authentic Mexican Culture in Playa del Carmen

Speaking of growing cities, Playa del Carmen’s roots are as a sleepy, bohemian beach town on the Riviera Maya, about one hour south of Cancun. And while this city has grown rapidly over the years, it maintains the heart and soul of this palapa and hammocks beach town.

The Mayan Riviera has somewhat of a quirky “show” culture, and Playa del Carmen is perhaps the epicenter of that culture. On any given night you can find fire dancers on the beach, live music in the many bars and restaurants, and the intimate Playa del Carmen resorts offer a range of shows and entertainment featuring local performers.

cancun vs playa del carmen

But perhaps most interestingly, you’ll see locals walking to school, doing their shopping and on the weekends enjoying their own beaches. Playa del Carmen is a growing city with lots of locals out and about as well. While in Cancun it’s mostly tourists, here in Playa del Carmen you’ll have the opportunity to interact with locals.

Playa del Carmen is a Walkable City

Built around the pedestrian-only zone of 5th Avenue, Playa del Carmen is super easy to get around on foot. The main area of the city where you will find most of the bars, restaurants and hotels, is only about 10 blocks long. Wander through the street to find amazing authentic local food (hello street tacos!), stock up at the grocery store, or wander the length of the beach.

Getting around Playa del Carmen

If you’re keen to venture a bit further or explore the town a bit more, consider renting a bike during your stay. You don’t need a rental car unless you plan on exploring beyond Playa del Carmen. There are a number of trustworthy, high quality transfer companies that can get you from the airport in Cancun to Playa del Carmen.

You can even walk to your nighttime entertainment, such as the popular Coco Bongo show. stay at Hotel Deseo, which is less than one block away, as a perfect home base between beach and the town.

Tech Tip: Whether at Cancun or Playa del Carmen, use your virtual pc in the cloud through CloudDesktopOnline and collaborate and share using SharePoint through Apps4rent. You can access your work from anywhere with iOS/Android mobile devices as well as PCs and Macs.

Wide Range of Accommodation Options in Playa del Carmen

Where Cancun is the land of the all-inclusive resort, many more options abound in Playa del Carmen.

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen, The Royal is the best option. Located on a beautiful beach right in the middle of town, you can easily walk down the beach or one block into town to hit the pedestrian only 5th Avenue.

However, if all-inclusive resorts aren’t your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Playa del Carmen. You’ll find plenty of boutique hotels both on and off the beach, as well as thousands of vacation rentals. I love companies like Vacatia and Loco Gringo for narrowing down the options when it come to vacation rentals.

You’ll find plenty of condos on the beach that are new, tastefully decorated and include pools and other family-friendly amenities. Plus, most vacation rentals come with parking, if you do opt to rent a care and explore activities throughout the Riviera Maya.

Looking for more Mexico travel information? Have a look at the complete Riviera Maya family travel guide here!

So what do you think? Have you been to either of these Riviera Maya cities? How would you compare Cancun vs Playa del Carmen?

 

 

Continue Reading 0