Los Cabos, Por Favor!

When winter rolls in, I usually start craving a warm weather vacation. So this past holiday season, much to the chagrin on my family back east, we booked cheap airfare (thanks, Southwest!) and headed south of the border. Los Cabos was a short two hour, direct plane ride away and with Chase Sapphire points burning a hole in my pocket, it was a no-brainer! It was actually my first time to Mexico, and I was pumped to explore a place I had heard many rave reviews about over the years.

As a newbie to the area, I learned that Los Cabos is actually comprised of two cities – Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. We chose to stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, located at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula in San Jose del Cabo. I’ll admit that I never used to be into all-inclusives, but after this trip, I don’t think I can go back. With seven restaurants, poolside drinks and even room service included in the all-inclusive package, we never went hungry or became bored with the selections. Our suite was the perfect size for three people, the resort was huge with charming touches of Baja flair and we loved the amazingly helpful and friendly staff. 

Although I love being lazy all day at a resort just as much as the next vacationer, I wanted to get out and explore the town. San Jose del Cabo was just a short five minute taxi ride away from the hotel. It’s more laid back and less commercialized than party spot Cabo San Lucas and it had all the traditional Mexican charm I was looking for. Strolling its plaza and popping into shops is a great way to spend a few hours in the afternoon.

San Juan del Cabo San Juan del Cabo San Juan del Cabo San Juan del Cabo

Five days of sunshine, margaritas and lounging by the pool made this relaxing winter getaway everything that I was hoping for. Let’s just say that my Mexico trip was a success. Now I’m itching to check out more of the country! Next on my agenda? Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta possibly? What are your favorite Mexican towns and resorts?

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Tips for Making Life Easier When Traveling With Kids

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Any traveling parent knows, the task of bringing the kids along on a trip is never easy. From endless tears on crowded flights to temper tantrums in busy public settings, situations like these can be extremely exhausting and embarrassing for a parent travelling with their kids.

Luckily, jetting around the world with your children doesn’t always have to be a terrible headache. With some simple planning & preparation, taking the youngsters on your next world adventure can instead be an amazing, family-bonding experience. Make the family travel experience so much easier with these tips below:

Plan & Book Ahead

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Time is your friend when traveling with the kids. Wherever possible, planning and booking well ahead of time will pay off in the long run. Keep a well documented itinerary, and make copies of any important travel documents to help make your travels run a lot smoother. For some activities and entry to attractions, you are also able to pre-purchase tickets weeks, even months ahead of time. Booking holiday packages that include both flight + hotel accommodations will also make life a lot easier, as it reduces the amount time searching for these separately and can often save you a pretty penny. Some families may wish to stay flexible, but for most, having a well thought out plan is much needed and usually the safer route.

Don’t Forget the Essentials

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As a parent it’s likely you have a list of essential items you must have on you at all times, or at least within reach. What these items may be will largely depend on the age of your kids.

Mums & dads with babies and/or toddlers be sure to equip yourself with ample amounts of nappies, baby wipes, formula and whatever else it is that you need, as you won’t want to run out in the middle of an international flight. Other essentials regardless of age include things like sunscreen, first aid or any necessary medications. But remember, pack within reason. While it may be easy to overpack in fear of running out of these essentials, remember you can still purchase the odd item here and there whilst away. If you need a little extra help, look at this comprehensive checklist of family travel essentials and don’t miss a thing!

Get Yourself Covered

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Before even hopping on a plane, ensure you and every single one of your children are covered by comprehensive a travel insurance plan. While it is advised everyone, regardless of age, gender, travelling destination etc. should be covered under travel insurance, it’s especially important for you as a parent to protect you and your little ones in the event of emergency, injury, illness or loss. There would be nothing worse than having to foot most of a medical bill in an overseas country, if something bad happened. Travel insurance is really a no-brainer, so don’t ignore this critical piece of advice.

Keep Them Busy & Entertained

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This one’s probably an obvious one, but undoubtedly one of the best ways to make your life easier when travelling with the children in tow. Prevent the kids from getting bored (and hopefully any complaints or tantrums) by keeping them busy and entertained as much as possible. This is much easier to do during when taking them on outings and completing activities, but really important to achieve during those more quiet or duller moments, such as waiting around at the airport, sitting on a long flight or lining up in queues. Be sure to pack coloring books & pencils, their favorite toys, games or even an iPad (and don’t forget the chargers too). What you decide to bring to entertain your kids depends on your parenting style and what you know works best for kids. Tire them out and watch them go out like a light at the end of the day, then have a little time for yourself to relax.

Have Some Fun!

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As earlier identified, travelling with kids can be difficult and a lot of planning can be required to successfully off such a trip. However, one of the most important things is to remember to have some fun! Get your kids excited about travelling and get them involved in decisions such as where you’ll go and what you do. Give them a part or a say in your adventure and it’ll make the trip that little bit better.

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Italy…With Kids

“You want to take your baby to you to Italy?” This is something I heard a lot leading up to our Italian adventure. My reasons aside, I understand that traveling with kids is not always ideal. But you know what? It’s doable, and millions of people do it every year. Sure, Italy is romantic, but it can also be a great destination for families. Here’s what I learned after my first trip to Italy with a baby in tow.

Plan Accordingly

Your schedules will be different than they are at home. For example, like most of Europe, Italians eat dinner later than Americans are accustomed to. Factor in jet lag, and a tired toddler is a recipe for disaster. Be sure to schedule in nap times, and pack the necessities like snacks and a change of clothes during long days of sightseeing. Bring enough diapers and formula from home too. Supermarkets with large baby selections are hard to come by in the city centers, and you don’t want to be running around the city looking for specific items. Travel-friendly gear like fold-up, compact strollers come in handy when navigating through a museum or packed restaurant. Strollers that fully recline are also key, and we’ve even been able to enjoy a few quiet meals when little one fell asleep after a busy day. A couple brands that are popular with travel blogging parents include BABYZEN and the Pockit Lightweight model.

Find the Right Accommodations

A luxury hotel that’s meant for romantic getaways may not be the best bet for family travel. Read reviews and make sure that kids won’t be out of place at your chosen hotel. When traveling with our baby, I shy away from boutique properties and choose larger hotels with amenities like room service and a pool. another great option is an Airbnb rental. A kitchen and additional living space definitely comes in handy! Booking this Airbnb in Florence was probably the best decision we could have made!

Taking advantage of the rooftop pool at the Hilton Venice
Hilton Venice
Our suite at the Hilton Venice was spacious enough for a family
Florence airbnb
Our Airbnb in Florence

Take Advantage of Local Family-Friendly Activities

Sure, there are romantic restaurants, wine bars and beautiful piazzas a plenty. But there are also parks and museums, and those piazzas make for a great place to run off some energy. Research online to find the best activities. Florence Carousel

Enjoy the Food

Luckily the food that Italy is famous for is very kid-friendly. I don’t know many children that would pass on pizza and pasta! Eat authentically and you’re all on vacation, so indulge in that nightly gelato.

pasta!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be Flexible and Enjoy Yourselves

I learned the hard way that taking a baby along on our Walks of Italy tour of the Vatican wasn’t the best idea. The three hour tour was way longer than a toddler’s attention span, but we improvised and one of us stepped aside so we didn’t disrupt the rest of the group. Stressful at times, but it worked out in the end. Tantrums happen, trains may be missed or a pacifier may get lost. Go with the flow and don’t sweat the small stuff. Italians have kids too, and overall Italy is a very family-friendly country. We were welcomed everywhere we went, everyone we came across was accommodating and there was even some cheek-pinching by friendly Italian grandmas. Don’t worry about what others think and focus on spending quality time together as a family. Years down the road it will be better to remember the fun memories rather than that time your toddler cried in a crowded restaurant. And don’t forget to take a lot of family photos!  traveling with kids

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Seeing Florence with Walks of Italy

Confession: I usually don’t like organized tours. I’m more of an explore-on-my-own type of traveler. (Ironically, my itinerary-loving engineer husband is the complete opposite). Maybe I just don’t like having too strict of a schedule. But when I was planning my first trip to Italy, I knew I needed some guidance. There are a lot of tour companies big and small, so do you choose the right one? So after a little research I came across great reviews for Walks of Italy and quickly reserved a spot.

After arriving in Rome, we headed to Florence for a three days stay. It was our first day in Florence and I loved the idea of a casual get-to-know the town type of tour, so I chose the Welcome to Florence Walking Tour. We met the rest of the group, about 10-15 people, at the scheduled meeting place and the tour got underway. Finding the meeting point near the Duomo was a breeze, and we were each given headphones and information on the itinerary. Our host was personable and fun and really knew the ins and outs of the city. The tour was about two hours long, taking us through neighborhoods like Santa Croce, across the Ponte Vecchio and through various piazzas. I loved the little facts and tidbits he shared, which I would have never known on my own, like where Michelangelo is buried. He was great at answering questions and gave us insider tips like a great market, good shopping street or the best restaurants to try. The night closed out with a final stop at Gelateria dei Neri, arguably the best gelato spot in Firenze. I think I can speak for everyone on the trip and say that it was the best part!

On our second day in Florence, we embarked on a mission to see the city’s Renaissance masterpieces. I read that an organized tour was our best bet for easy, stress-free entrance into museums, so I booked tickets for the Accademia Gallery & Uffizi Tour. Expedited entry got us in before the crowds, which made it much easier to see the most popular pieces. Our tour guide was also a great benefit once again, sharing knowledge about the museum and its art that I would have never known. Overall I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the tours!

Duomo Florence florence Florencegelato

Traveling to Italy? Check out all the tours that Walks of Italy has to offer here.

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Must See Destinations in France

When it comes to France, there is just so much to see and do for international travelers that it can be a bit overwhelming. In between sipping wine, tasting some traditional delicacies, and getting that perfect shot for your family back home, you don’t want to have to worry about planning to see it all. That’s why I’ve made this list of some of my favorite cities in France for you to tick off your list.

ParisParis

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You simply can’t go to France without visiting Paris, one of the most stunning cities in this country. Here you have to tick off a few of the main tourist attractions; the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the cathedral of Notre Dame. Immerse yourself among the French culture, purchase some local bread, cheese and wine and enjoy an afternoon picnicking underneath the cities most monumental landmark!

NiceNice

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The beautiful beachside town of Nice is incredibly desirable to both local and international travellers. This area is somewhat of a magnet for sun lovers and high rollers, will close proximity to Monte Carlo. With outstanding historical architecture, a load of awesome restaurants all within walking distance from the beach, this is the perfect summer destination! If you can’t get here in the warmer months, don’t fret because Nice gets a bucketload of sunshine all year round.

ChambordChambord

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If you are after a glamorous experience with a chateau fit for a queen then you should make your way to Chambord. Located in the fabulous Loire Valley, the Chateau de Chambord is not to be missed. Hosting an enormous 400 rooms, you will get a look into the classic French countryside. Be sure to pack your camera because you’ll want a pic of this on your Instagram.

LyonLyon

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With a reputation that claims Lyon is the gourmet capital of France, this destination is a must for all foodies. You don’t have to head to the Michelin star restaurants to find quality, traditional meals here in Lyon, there are plenty of local eateries that offer great meals and affordable prices. Located only four hours from Paris, Lyon is really easy to get to via public transport so make your way to Lyon on your next trip to France.

MarseilleMarseille

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Maybe not as well known, however the utterly beautiful Marseille should be on the top of every traveller’s bucket list. One of Europe’s oldest cities, Marseille is a major Mediterranean seaport located on the south coast of France, the town is boasting with Roman ruins, medieval architecture and a bunch of cultural history! A must for all those history buffs that love a little time in the sun!

France is a beautiful country, with plenty to explore. Sometimes it can all seem a bit much so it is often best to book yourself a cheap Europe tour. There are some great tours offering some of the places I mentioned above and more so it’s worth doing your research and finding something that works for you!

 

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Florence in Photos

From the architecture to shopping (hello leather goods!) to the small town feel, Florence was by far the city I loved the most during my summer tour of Italy. Although I only spent a short three days in the city, I came home with many, many photos. Here are some of my favorites. 

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How Your Family Can Get The Most Out Of Its All-Inclusive Vacation

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When you go on an all-inclusive family vacation, you could be missing out on some benefits. The all-inclusive” part doesn’t just mean food, drinks, and beach towels. Such resorts have much more to offer. Since you already paid, why not take advantage of the services to their fullest extent? Many families don’t even bother to read the list of offerings the all-inclusive resorts provide. As a result, they are overpaying for the vacation. The food and the pools are not worth the money you are paying for the all-inclusive resort. There is much more to take advantage of. All you have to do is a little research. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you get the most out of your vacation.

Choose the Right Resort

Before buying a package, you have to ask yourself what type of a vacation you want to have. Are you the kind who likes to hang by the pool all day sipping tasty cocktails? Then you can save money by booking a resort that doesn’t offer too many sports activities. If you love being entertained all day and all night, look for a resort that has a variety of shows planned. Does your family like sports and outdoor activities? Make sure to find a place large enough to offer tennis courts, a golf course, football fields, or whatever else.  Also take note that some resorts are geared toward families and some all-inclusives are adults-only. Just keep this in mind as you search. It should be fairly obvious in the marketing materials and websites. You and your partner don’t want to split the honeymoon suite with your kids. Just be careful. Many of these family resorts offer plenty of activities for young kids. Most resorts will list all inclusions and you can get a general vibe from the websites.  

Try New Food

No matter how many days you spend at the all-inclusive resort, be it 3 or 14, you’ll have enough time to try at least half of the munchies they offer. The variety of dishes is usually mind-boggling. There is absolutely no reason to stick with your old stand-bys. An all-inclusive resort is your opportunity to try new food, especially of the local variety. If you don’t take advantage of all the new dishes, you are not just missing out on a wonderful experience, you are overpaying for your vacation. 
Try not to overeat if you’re worried about gaining weight, but at least vary what you eat. 

Take Classes 

Many resorts offer a variety of classes you can take. The day you arrive, go to the front desk and ask for a class and activity schedule for the week. Remember, most likely, no one will be going around offering you these classes. The instructors don’t get paid for the number of students they teach so they don’t care how many actually come. You have to take the initiative and find out about the classes yourself.

Don’t Go To Sleep Early

Most all-inclusive resorts have some type of evening entertainment available for the vacationers. Usually, the evening shows are the most exciting. You can enjoy the fireworks shows, circus performances, belly dancers, and much more. Every evening, the resorts try to offer something new. So for the money you pay for the package, you get a new show every night. Take advantage of it.

Explore The Territory 

Resorts usually try their best to create a stunning landscape. Beautiful exotic trees and plants, pure white sand, sculptures, and other works of art create an amazing background for taking pictures. Explore the territory of the resort to find these beautiful places. Only a small percentage of the tourists actually see every corner of the large resort facility. Meanwhile, you can find wonderful places for photos, resting, and meditating.

Go Outside The Resort

Even though an all-inclusive vacation means that you have all you need in one place, venturing outside the resort can help you enjoy a brand new experience. 
If you are the kind who likes to take in the local flavor, consider this when choosing the resort. In most cases, such resorts are located in an area filled with similar retreats and reaching a local town requires a long ride. If you want to go outside, find a resort closest to the town.

Take Children For Free

Some all-inclusive resorts allow the children to stay for free as long as mom and dad are paying full price. If you have a large family, such a resort can be a real money saver. Find out about this option before booking the vacation. When you go with children, check out all the activities available for them. For example, many resorts have a children’s club where you can leave your kids under the supervision and enjoy a relaxing drink at the bar without worrying about your child. 

Ask For More

All-inclusive resorts try their best to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. That’s why in most cases, you can get some extra freebies just by asking. Do you want to feel like a real VIP? Ask the bartender to bring you a cocktail to the beach. Do you want a romantic bath with bubbles? Ask the staff to bring you some bath salt and accessories. Need to get the towels changed twice a day? Don’t hesitate to ask. Want a tastier beer or cola? Ask for a can or a bottle.  As long as you are polite, you can get many extras others don’t even think to ask about. 
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New Hotels to Visit this Fall

From Los Angeles to New York, a lot of luxury hotels have opened in recent months. These new hotels are the perfect excuse to plan a fall getaway!

Four Seasons at the Surf Club Four Seasons FloridaI’m a big fan of the Four Seasons brand, so I get really excited when I hear they opened a new property. Those looking for a South Florida getaway that avoids the craziness of South Beach can look no further than this recently opened location in Surfside. This idyllic setting on the Atlantic will bring you back to the 1930 with its old-school Florida vibes.

Kimpton Hotel BornCourtesy of KimptonThis one is right in my backyard, so I’m excited to check out Denver’s Hotel Born. The area cannot be beat, next to Union Station and near all that the LoDo neighborhood has to offer.

Mondrian Park AvenueCourtesy of MondrianI’ve spent many fun nights in LA at the Mondrian, so I’m excited to hear about its recently-opened New York location. Its spot on lower Park Avenue is a good option for those looking for a centrally located hotel in Manhattan.

Waldorf Astoria Beverly HillsCourtesy of Waldorf AstoriaIt’s got the sophistication and elegance you would expect from a Waldorf Astoria hotel, plus a rooftop pool and lounge for amazing views of the city. A prime location in the heart of Beverly Hills means great shopping and restaurants are within walking distance, but if you’d rather not walk, a Rolls Royce is on hand to shuttle guests around.

 

 

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Santa Fe’s Charms

Santa Fe architectureSince moving to Denver from the Midwest almost 2 years ago, I’ve been eager the explore the Western side of the States. I’m fortunate to have a few mountain towns under my belt, like Vail and Aspen (you can read about my recent trip to Vail here), but like any travel blogger, the list of places I’d like to explore is quite long. With my new home base, places like the Southwest are more convenient to visit than ever. Thanks to a surprise weekend getaway planned by my husband, I got to cross Santa Fe off my list too. Since hearing about it from a friend, Santa Fe has long been on my radar. It’s just a five hour drive from Denver, so one weekend I took off for a road trip south. Santa Fe Plaza

You’ve probably heard New Mexico referred to as the “Land of Enchantment.” That’s a great word to describe Santa Fe. The first thing I noticed after arriving was the architecture. Southwest-style buildings and Spanish colonial plazas are everywhere you turn. The town’s main plaza is abound with markets, stores and restaurants. The city has a reputation as an art lover’s town, and rightfully so. Numerous galleries line the plaza, and the Georgia O’Keeffe museum is not to be missed. Local wares like southwestern jewelry, often featuring turquoise, and crafts from New Mexican artisans are also aplenty. The foodie in me loved exploring shops like Santa Fe Culinaria and Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe for spices and chili peppers, and chocolatier Cacao Santa Fe is the place for a high-end chocolate fix. By far my favorite shop was the popular Doodlet’s. This eclectic store sells everything from children’s toys to candy to stationary. I could have spent hours (and way too much money) in this place. Needless to say, Santa Fe has great shopping, and it was even voted the #1 city in the U.S. for shopping.

And another top reason that I was happy to visit Santa Fe? The food! Personally, I’ll never get sick of Mexican food, so I was in heaven. Whether red or green chilis are your thing, it’s all delicious and authentic. Tia Sophia’s and Cafe Pasqual were standouts. History lovers will enjoy Santa Fe Mission, the oldest church in the country, and the spas alone are also worth a visit, from what I hear. The Spa at Loretto is on my list of places to go on my next trip.

Santa Fe is so unique and like no where else I’ve ever been. It’s a small town, and a weekend was definitely sufficient. Interested in a trip of your own? You can find more info and plan your trip hereplaza Santa Fe downtownSanta fe architecture

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5 Things To Do In Rome With Little Ones

The Eternal City is large, noisy and full of history. But for all the ancient sites and big-city attractions, there’s also a side of Rome that’s great for its littlest residents and visitors. Don’t miss these 5 kid-friendly activities.

Villa Borghese: Kids of all ages can burn off energy in Borghese Gardens, one of Rome’s largest parks. There are galleries, a zoo and even a replica of the Globe Theater. Families can also rent a boat and paddle around the lake, or just spend a few relaxing hours strolling the gardens.Borghese Gardens

Trevi Fountain: Everyone has to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain when visiting Rome, and kids will love this tradition. Go early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds.Trevi fountain at night Trevi

Family Friendly Tours: A tour? With kids? Yep, as long as you pick the right one. Tours can be long, with lots of walking and hot temperatures (if you go in the summer like we did!). A food or wine tour wouldn’t be the best choice for our toddler, so we chose outdoor itineraries like Walks of Italy’s Colosseum Tour. It covered the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, and most importantly, included open space for a restless toddler to walk around. Palatine Hill Palatine Hill Colosseum

Piazzas: For a true snapshot of Roman life, there’s no better place than the city’s many piazzas. My personal favorite is Piazza Navona, but there’s also Piazza Barberini, Piazza del Pantheon and Piazza del Popolo, to name a few. Each are beautiful in their own way and full of locals and tourists relaxing at cafes, catching up with friends or just taking in the scenery. Piazza Navona

Food: From pizza to gelato, a lot of the foods you’ll find in Italy are kid-approved. There’s no shortage of pasta and other Italian favorites at every turn, and taking a gelato break every day is OK when you’re on vacation, right?Italian Food

 

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Hotel Review: The Palazzo Las Vegas

PalazzoOh, Las Vegas. Love it or hate it. I, like most people I know, have their fill after 3 days. But nonetheless its bright lights, warm weather and slot machines always call my name every so often. So when the husband and I were looking for a quick break, we settled on the sunshine, pools and good restaurants of Las Vegas. Plus, it’s only an hour plane ride away from where I live, so off for a 3 day weekend we went.

I always find myself back at the Venetian when in Vegas. The all suite hotel has some of the nicest and most spacious rooms on the Strip. But this time we decided to expand our horizons and hop over to the Palazzo. Since it’s a sister property and connected to the Venetian, we knew we couldn’t go wrong. And as part of the IHG parent company, my Intercontinental aspire Elite status would be honored too – bonus!

Upon check-in, our room was upgraded and we were offered late checkout, two perks of my Spire Elite status. The room was as spacious as I expected, with a separate living area complete with a sectional sofa. The bathrooms are large too, with a tub and shower – something that is hard to find in most hotel rooms. The view overlooking the pool complex wasn’t too shabby either. Palazzo Las Vegas Living Room

One of the best things about Vegas is that there is so much to do right outside your hotel room. The Venetian shops are conveniently located in the hotel and are perfect for when you need to stay indoors on those hot 110 degree afternoons. Various restaurant options, shops and luxury boutiques can keep me occupied for hours. Some of my favorites this trip were Yardbird Southern Table for lunch, Canaletto for Italian, Mario Batali’s Otto for pizza and Carlo’s Bakery (of Cake Boss fame) for desserts.

Another reason why I love the Palazzo – the pools. There are 10 pools and 5 hot tubs to choose from between the Venetian and Palazzo. Each one has its own vibe, from relaxing to kid-friendly to the party scene at Tao Beach.Palazzo Pool

From the amenities to the great customer service, I was definitely not disappointed with my first stay at the Palazzo. It may just become my go-to Las Vegas hotel going forward.

Interested in staying here? I was able to find a great price for under $200 a night when booking directly through Palazzo.com.

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My 1st Airbnb Experience

I’m admittedly a little behind the curve on the whole Airbnb thing. As a travel blogger, I’m a little surprised myself that I’ve never rented via the popular site. What can I say? I tend to lean toward hotels (ideally luxury ones at that) for their services, safety and amenities. After rave reviews from my friends, who have used Airbnb rentals everywhere from Hawaii to Paris, I decided to give it a shot.

It was about 6 months ago that I started planning a trip to Italy. My husband and I would be doing the classic first timer’s Italy itinerary of Rome, Florence and Venice. The clincher? Our toddler was coming along for the ride. I know what you’re thinking. Who would want to bring their baby to such a romantic destination? Where we go, she goes, and I wasn’t about to skip a trip to Europe just because we have a baby! I knew that having a little one in tow meant naps, lots of dirty laundry and nightly bath time. The convenience of a private apartment with a kitchen and extra space was tempting, so to Airbnb’s website I went.

Since we had hotels in Rome and Venice locked in with points and hotel loyalty programs, we opted to rent a one bedroom apartment in Florence. While researching, I was really impressed with the search criteria options and being able to filter results for everything from family friendly facilities to amenities like internet and a pool.airbnb viewI was able to find a centrally located apartment from a super host, and it even included a crib. After reading the reviews, we decided to pull the trigger. Upon arriving in Florence, our hosts were gracious enough to meet us at the train station. The apartment was clean, spacious and perfect for our family of three. As every traveler knows, it’s nice to have a kitchen to eat a few meals in, and a laundry room to wash clothes. The location could not have been better – it was located on a quiet street within walking distance of restaurant, shops and Florence’s famous Doumo. The Mercato Centrale around the corner was super convenient and a go-to lunch spot. We were more than pleased with our choice of accommodations and I can gladly say my 1st Airbnb experience was wonderful!

If you’re ever in Florence, check out our new friend Alessio’s apartment. You won’t be disappointed!airbnb

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Hotel Review: Intercontinental New York Barclay

Intercontinental Barclay

I always love being back in New York, so when the opportunity came for a quick weekend trip to see old friends, I jumped at the chance.

Manhattan has so many amazing hotels.For this trip I was looking for a good central Manhattan location that could easily get me to my favorite neighborhoods. With Intercontinental points to burn in my account from my new IHG credit card, I quickly found the Intercontinental Barclay. There were quite a few Intercontinental properties in Manhattan, but I chose the Barclay because of its Midtown location. Located less than 5 blocks from Grand Central, it was a convenient home base to get around the city.

Grand Central
The hotel is withing walking distance to Grand Central

The hotel has an old New York vibe, with a grand lobby and gilded ceilings. As an IHG card holder, I gained Elite Spire status, which meant a room upgrade and complimentary wifi. My room was comfortable, updated and very large by Manhattan standards. I loved the black and white floors, which are classic New York. I even had them in my very first NYC apartment. The bathroom was spacious, clean and modern. Simple amenities like a Keurig machine and nice toiletries were a nice bonus and really make a difference in my book.

From check-in to check-out, the service was great, with helpful staff that even remembered my name. Overall the hotel was comfortable, clean and safe. Have I stayed at nicer Intercontinentals? Yes. (Hello Willard Intercontinental!) But this hotel is definitely nice, and a great Midtown option. For the location, interior and price, this hotel is definitely worth a visit. IHG Barclay bathroombathroomIHG barclayIntercontinental Barclay

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Why We Should Love our National Parks

Muir woodsDid you know that 2017 marks the 100 year anniversary of the US national Parks? There are 59 official parks across the country, which means that there is likely one that’s close to you! Whatever your activity of choice is – hiking, camping or just sightseeing – there’s a National Park for it. We’re so lucky to have these amazing, preserved pieces of nature at our fingertips to help inspire new adventures. If you’ve been itching to visit your closest park, the US National Park Service is offering complimentary admission to all parks on April 15. Mark your calendars!

As a new Coloradan, as we’re called, I recently visited Rocky Mountain National Park. The drive in early fall made for breathtaking views, especially of the Aspen trees, and we actually crossed the Continental Divide! The park’s nearest town, Estes Park, has quickly solidified itself as one of my favorite little towns in Colorado.

During a recent trip to San Francisco, I was also lucky enough to make it to Muir Woods. It’s less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of of the Bay Area, but feels a world away. Added bonus, it’s also not too far from wine country, if you want to make a day out of it. 

Did you know that one of our parks is a rainforest? El Yunque in Puerto Rico is the only rainforest on US soil, and it’s definitely unlike any other National Park you’ve seen. While in Puerto Rico for my wedding in 2012, a short drive from San Juan transported us to a rainforest complete with waterfalls, beautiful plant life and tropical birds. 

I’ve come to learn how necessary the right equipment is for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities. I recently discovered Cotopaxi, and it’s become one of my go to outdoor brands not only because of their products, but because of their support of well being worldwide. They donate a portion of every sale to various charities that assist with global health initiatives, and these backpacks help provide the most aid. So great, right? They are supporting the 100th anniversary of our parks with the hashtag #ParkPride. Share your park photos!

Cotopaxi National ParksI would love to take a road trip to Yellowstone or explore the Everglades during my next trip to South Florida. What National Parks are your favorite, and which ones are you hoping to visit one day?

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Exploring Vail, Colorado

Since moving to Denver last year, I’ve been eagerly exploring my new surroundings. Not only is Denver an exciting city, but the mountains are just a few hours away! I grew up hearing about the natural beauty that Colorado has to offer, and heard stories of friends and family taking ski holidays to towns like Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge. With the mountains a short drive from my new home base, I was eager to get out and explore! So when a few friends came to visit from New York, it was the perfect time to head west to Vail.

We departed early Saturday morning for a short weekend getaway. After arriving around 10am, we headed to our hotel. After a lot of research, I chose the Four Seasons for its location near the entrance to Vail Village. Plus, you can’t go wrong at a Four Seasons property, right? We were greeted warmly and were able to check in early. After settling in, we were eager to start our day and ventured out to a nearby hiking trail. The walk took us through the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens  and on to more remote trails that gave amazing views of the snow-capped Rockies.vailVailrockiesHiking worked up an appetite so we made it back into town for lunch. We chose Mountain Standard, which overlooks a scenic creek and has since become one of my favorite restaurants in Vail. Good drinks, a nice atmosphere and one of the best octopus dishes I’ve ever had – what more could you ask for?
vail villageMountain Standard VailMountain StandardVail Village is a quaint town filled with ski shops, bakeries and restaurants. On any given afternoon it will be filled with local families, vacationers in their best fur coats, skiers and people just generally enjoying the outdoors. The alpine architecture really makes Vail unique and gives the town such charm. A little shopping on the way back to the hotel capped off our afternoon. It was then time for a few hours at the Four Seasons’ spa. One of the best things about the hotel was the complimentary spa amenities available to guests. Not to mention the pool with its gorgeous views! Four Seasons vail Post pool, it was a quick walk back into town to grab a bite to eat. After dinner and drinks at Sweet Basil, one of the most popular restaurants in Vail, we headed back to our hotel. It transforms at night, with lit up balconies complete with fire pits lining the central area of the hotel. It’s the perfect spot for a late night cocktail, and we capped off the night with s’mores on the patio – how fun is that? Four Seasons Vail at night

Although it’s known for its winter activities, Vail is amazing year round. Although I have yet to be back this Winter, I hope to return soon to enjoy the snow and scenery.

 

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