Discover the Beauty of Cuba

Cuba, Havana in particular, is a shell of the crown jewel it once was. Many of the buildings have dilapidated exteriors, everyday Western amenities are some times scarce; but the magic of Cuba isn’t about frills. The culture (the music, the art) that pulses through the streets of Havana are truly where the magic lies.

Take the time to walk the streets of Vedado, Old Havana and Miramar; listen to the sounds, sip the famous rum and partake in a cigar. Talk to the Cuban people and ask them where they like to eat and go dancing, or maybe just have pleasant conversation. But whatever you do, don’t think that because Cuba lacks “things”, you can’t have one hell of an experience, because I’m here to say that you can.

Over the next week I will be sharing a glimpse of what my stay in Cuba was like as my girlfriends and I explored Havana and Vi√Īales Cuba.

Enjoy the video I created using my GoPro– I’m new to this so go easy on me ūüôā


Why You Should Choose Airbnb

Airbnb has become my official go-to for accommodations when I’m traveling abroad, and at times domestically as well. At this point I’ve stayed in bookings from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo, and have yet to have an issue.

I totally understand why Airbnb and other home sharing platforms may make some nervous, but trust me, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not staying in one.

Here are the top reasons why I choose Airbnb.Napa Valley

  1. Airbnb is significantly less expensive than traditional hotels. Now this is just from my experience, but depending on where you’re traveling to, Airbnbs are significantly cheaper than hotel options. Of course there is a reason for that. More than likely no one will be coming to refresh your linens and change out your towels everyday. No one will take out the trash for you and vacuum during your stay. It’s sort of no frills, and that helps keep costs down.
  2. You get to stay in the heart of it all. When I travel, I don’t want to stay where all the other tourists are. Yes, I know how that sounds. However, aside from not being surrounded by an influx of other tourists who don’t know what to do or where to go, Airbnb has allowed me to stay in actual neighborhoods, where I can mingle with locals as if I were one. In Rio, I stayed in a location 3 blocks from Ipanema Beach, surrounded by local eateries and easily accessible to public transport; all for less than $75 a night. It literally could not be beat.Cape Town

3 Hosts have the best¬†recommendations. I have met some of the nicest hosts during my Airbnb stays. I always do private residences when I book, but my hosts have always been willing to give recommendations for¬†what to do and how to get around in the city I’m visiting. My host in my¬†recent Airbnb stay in Havana, Cuba was absolutely instrumental to my group having an amazing time. She made sure we had a contact for a trusted guide around the city who helped us arrange transportation, tours and exposed us to some of Havana’s gems. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for her,¬†we definitely would not have had the robust experience we did.

Anyone else out there a fan of Airbnb?

6 Travel Tips

Since I’ve kicked my travel game up a notch over the past couple years, there are a few travel tips that I’ve embraced along the way.

  1. Do get Global Entry.Global Entry The best present I’ve given myself in recent years is Global Entry. It allows you to breeze through US customs, includes TSA Pre‚úď¬ģ and lasts for 5 years. AND it’s only $100. Definitely a worthwhile investment.
  2. Do let the deal guide you.airfarewatchdog I’ve gotten the chance to experience some great destinations, for cheap, by simply paying attention to flight deals. I never gave thought to going to Dubai, but when I got an alert about flights for under $300, it was a no-brainer. Some of my favorite sites to follow are¬†airfarewatchdog and The Flight Deal. Get hip!
  3. Do get travel insurance. Travel insurance works like any other insurance. You may think, “I don’t want to pay another $20-$40”. Well, you never know what may happen, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Everyone knows how much of a pain change and cancellation fees can be. Save yourself the potential headache and just get the insurance,
  4. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack.via GIPHY

    I used to be a last minute packer. I also used to be the traveler that sat snuggled on the plane, all ready for my next adventure, only to be struck by panic when I realized I left an important item at home. Packing 2-3 days out makes such a difference. Not only do you have time to go through your checklist several times, but you also have time to edit. No, you probably don’t need 5 pairs of shoes for a weekend jaunt.

  5. Don’t travel with people you don’t like. I’ve heard horror stories of people’s trips being ruined because they decided to go on a trip with people that they didn’t really like in the first place. When traveling, especially outside of the country, it’s super important that you not only get along with your fellow travelers but that you actually like them. No need to ruin a perfectly good trip with bad company.
  6. Do be open minded. “I don’t eat that.” “I don’t like that.” “I’d never do that.” Don’t be that type of traveler. You never know what magical things you can discover if you’re open to trying new things. For example, I’m very anti outdoor activities; however, when in Rio de Janeiro I went on a 5 hour hike through Tijuca Forest. From sitting on the bank of a waterfall, listening to the sounds of nature to sitting inside a centuries old tree with bats flying over my head; it was hands down one of the best experiencing I’ve ever had.Tijuca Forest**Honorable mention: Do know your rights as a flyer. Did you know that you’re entitled to monetary compensation for lost baggage? Or that in lieu of a voucher you can ask for cash? This article from Jet Setter lays out 7 secret passenger rights that you should know.

What are your travel do’s & don’ts?


Eating Cape Town

I decided to devote an entire post to the food in Cape Town because honestly, the food is truly that good. Where are some of the best places to eat for cheap in Cape town? Especially if you are on a budget? Glad you asked.

Bo-Kaap Kombuis: You can admire the colorful beauty that is Bo-Kaap, take in city views, and have the best roti of your life. Great spot for sampling Cape-Malay cuisine.

Eastern Food Bazaar: This open-air food stall establishment is great for groups. Vendors are selling Indian and Middle-Eastern style curries, shwarmas, and even bunny chow. Bunny chow is a South African dish that’s basically a meat stew served in half a loaf of bread.

The Neighbourgoods Market: It’s only held on Saturdays so it’s perfect for lunch or simply snacking on everything from saut√©ed mushrooms, dim sum, and stuffed macaroni and cheese balls to paella made on the spot. Also make sure you stop by the bar for the most beautiful Moscow¬†mule you’ll ever have.

aMododa: I sang the praises of this spot in my post about things you must do when in Cape Town. Come prepared to EAT. It’s essentially South Africa’s version of BBQ so there is no shortage of grilled meats, accompanied by house made bread to enjoy. It’s great for an early dinner and the DJ playing local tunes turns this braai into a party.¬†

Tasha’s: Okay. So Tasha’s is located inside the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. Yes, a mall. Yes, it is a chain. But I don’t care about any of that. I had the best chicken salad sandwich ever here from brunch. Just go. If you’ve got fickle eaters with you, this is the perfect spot.¬†

Arnolds Restaurant: Kloof Street is lined with cute eateries, but if you’re in the mood to get a little adventurous, try out Arnolds. What do I mean by adventurous? How does warthog, crocodile, and springbok sound? I went for the ostrich and it was delicious.

Cod Father: I waxed poetic about the seafood at Cod Father in my previous post about Cape Town. Just visit and make sure you make a reservations. This spot can be difficult to get to but offers beautiful dinner views.

Been to Cape Town? What were your favorite cheap eats?

Five Things To Do in Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa is one of the most gorgeous cities I’ve ever visited. There are mountains and vineyards and beaches and… penguins. Cape Town is like if Miami mashed up with Cape Cod; beautiful coastal city, a little sleepy but with intermittent bursts of energy.

Although there are more than five things you should do if you visit Cape Town, here are the five you definitely should not miss.

  1. Experience a traditional braai: In South Africa there is a cooking style called braai. The closest thing in America would be BBQ, but this¬†some how manages to be SO much¬†¬†better.¬† We went for dinner at aMododa in the Woodstock area and the food was so flavorful and so cheap it simply cannot be missed. There was also music and beer.. I don’t think I need to say anything else.
  2. Tour Robben Island: You simply cannot go to South Africa without learning more about its intricate and some times dark history. The influence of Apartheid continues to permeate throughout the country. Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. The tours of prison itself are all lead by former Robben Island prisoners and include a visit to Mandela’s cell.

Tickets are sold daily from the tourism office at the V&A Waterfront. You can also buy them in advance online, which is actually what I recommend because they sell out quickly.

3¬† Eat, drink and delight your way through the Neighbourgoods Market: Every Saturday, the Neighbourgoods Market comes alive in Woodstock. I literally ate my way through the market while enjoying the live jazz being played, and sipping on the most beautiful Moscow Mule I’ve ever had. There were tons of people out enjoying the weather and the company of friends. In addition to being able to buy things to eat, there are also clothing, accessories and other product vendors.

4 ¬†Visit a vineyard: South Africa is known for its wines, and there is no shortage of vineyards in close proximity to Cape Town for you to visit. I chose Fairview Wine & Cheese in Paarl because it’s only a 40 minute drive away AND more importantly because they have goats. I’ve got a thing for goats. This vineyard may not be as scenic as others in Stellenbosch and but’s great place to experience the wines of SA. For 80 rand, the equivalent of $6USD and some change, you get a guided tasting in the private room with 8 wine & cheese pairings. All of that for SIX dollars! Who in their right mind would pass that up??

5¬†¬† Have dinner at the Cod Father:Are you all noticing a theme yet? Cape Town has some great food, I can’t help but share it! The Cod Father is an awesome dining experience. Diners are able to select their seafood, fish market style and then it is cooked right then and there. Your selections are charged by the pound and served in a¬† style perfect for sharing. Do not pass up on the butter fish, prawns or the grilled calamari. I have never had calamari so tender and flavorful. Also note, reservations are a must. You should honestly plan to make dinner reservations no matter where you are planning to go.

Honorable mention: Journey to the top of Table Mountain. This recommendation is a no-brainer. Whether you hike up or take the cable car, the top of Table Mountain offers some of the most spectacular views of this beautiful city. The header on this site is actually a shot I took from up there.

This list is simply a taste of what Cape Town has to offer. Have you ever been? What are your must see, do and eat recommendations for Cape Town?

3 Travel Must-Haves

This¬†week I’ll be taking my first trip of 2017. Preparing for it¬†got me to thinking: what are my 3 travel must haves?

  1. Leather backpack: So your backpack doesn’t have to be leather, but mine is and I’d definitely recommend it. I’m currently rocking a classic black leather backpack from Coach, and it literally can carry everything. Typically, I’ll put my water bottle, headphones, wallet, passport, and any other small things I don’t want getting lost or crushed in my luggage, in my backpack. I treated¬†it with waterproof spray so that it’s more of an all-weather bag. If you don’t have a durable backpack, I recommend that you get one ASAP.
  2. First-Aid kit: I’m a bit of a¬†spazz when I travel. I’m always conscious of what I’m eating, drinking, touching; so it’s only natural that I would see the importance of being prepared for the worst. I’ll¬†typically carry an anti-hystemine, a digestive aid, cold meds and an antiseptic. It only takes one time for you to fall victim to¬†Montezuma’s revenge and you aren’t prepared to know the utmost importance of having meds readily available.¬†
  3. Camera:¬†Well, duh. No need to even explain this one. I do want to sing the praises on this Sony camera though. I primarily use this¬†Sony a5000¬†when I go on trips. I’ve had it for a couple years and it still gets the job done. It’s ease of use, compact body and the ability to transfer photos to my phone via wifi makes this camera great choice for amateur photos, like myself.

**Honorable mention:¬†Travel adapterIf you’re traveling abroad, this¬†honorable mention item truly is a ‘must-have’. If you’ve never travelled out of your home country, you probably haven’t even thought about the fact that not all countries use the same style of power adapter. Save yourself from learning the hard way… blowing a fuse, starting a fire or shocking yourself, by picking up a travel converter. ¬†They’re super inexpensive and worth it!

Now that I’ve shared mine, what are the items that you just can’t leave without?

My Travel Story

What sparked your love of travel?

For me, most of my favorite childhood memories are from the trips my family took together. Our travels were mostly domestic but they allowed my siblings and I to experience all the beauty that America has to offer. 

Cross country trips on Amtrak (One of the best ways to see the country. See sample trips here¬†.)…shopping trips to New York City, road trips to the beaches of Miami… I am eternally grateful to my parents for providing us with experiences that showed us what life was like beyond our hometown.
Our family vacations also sparked my desire to learn about different cultures, further fueled by an obsession with National Geographic Magazine.

My childhood trips are¬†what continue to feed my current travel bug. Two years ago I made a commitment to see more of the world. I challenged myself to leave my comfort zone, booked a trip to Dubai on a whim, and I haven’t looked back since. I’m half a dozen countries in, with more exciting adventures in my near future.

Travel fulfills me in a ¬†way nothing else has. Meeting new people, experiencing delicious cuisines, seeing the sights… everything about seeing more of the world inspires and energizes me. I can’t wait to begin sharing my travels and more with you all.

What’s your travel story?