Kauai, Hawaii

With so much to enjoy, we had a tough time narrowing down what to do on this beautiful island. Here’s some of our favorites from our recent trip…

Helicopter Tour (Open Door)

I get car sick and sea sick, and I’m really not too fond of heights, but I don’t think Christian would have ever let me live this one down if we didn’t do it together. After all was said and done, I’m so glad that he pushed me to get on a helicopter with Jack Harter Helicopter Tours. This was honestly the best experience we probably had in Hawaii, and with a rainy island like Kauai, we ended up doing this on the absolute perfect day. You get to take in so many incredible views of the Napali Coast, and you get to see parts of Waimea Canyon that you can’t view from anywhere else but a helicopter.

Tip: Enjoy some ginger candies before your flight and wear sea sickness bands if you’re prone to motion sickness. If you start to feel queasy, focus on the sights and on the horizon, not spending too much time looking at your phone or camera screen. It’s totally normal to feel nervous before the flight, so try to embrace your nerves and think about how amazing the experience is going to be.

Open Door Helicopter Tour with Jack Harter Tours

Kayaking on Wailua River and Hiking to Secret Falls

If one of the things on your list is to swim under a waterfall, you definitely shouldn’t miss out of this one. It’s a nice scenic paddle up the Wailua River to Secret Falls (and being from Florida, it was great to kayak on a river without the fear of alligators 🐊). The hike is relatively moderate, but it also depends on weather. We didn’t have much rain when we went so the path was pretty dry, but I can image when there’s been some rain that it would be quite muddy. Be sure to pack water and a lunch or snack, and we’d recommend wearing water shoes for the hike and swim to protect your toes from the rocks. Overall you should give yourself about 4-5 hours if you’d like to spend some time relaxing at the falls. You can rent a kayak from a number of places right on the river (we rented from Wailua Kayak and Canoe). We’d recommend reserving yours at least a couple of days in advanced.

Waimea Canyon State Park

Known as the “Grand Canyon” of the Pacific, the drive through this park was one of the highlights of our trip, and a bonus, it had many amazing lookout spots right along the road. We didn’t have too much time for hiking, but apparently there are some pretty incredible trails. If you have a full day to spend out there, pack a lunch and snacks, and be sure to do some exploring. If you’re planning a half day, get an early start to the park and on the way back, take a stop over by Hanapepe Bay at Kauai Chocolate Company – you will not be disappointed. If you’re hungry or could go for a nice brewsky after all the Waimea Canyon goodness, try Kauai Island Brewery & Grill right across the street.

One thing we didn’t get to do, but that’s on our list for next time:

Visit Princeville and check out Queens Bath, a natural pool, on the North Shore of the island (we stayed in Poipu on the South side at the Grand Hyatt – highly recommended).

Any other suggestions for our next trip to Kauai, or questions for us? Feel free to comment below 🙂

How to Pack for 3 Weeks in Europe in a Carry-on (and a personal bag)

Choose a good sized personal bag

Most airlines will allow for both a personal item and a carry-on bag. We like to maximize the size of our personal item by using our incredibly roomy Herschel backpacks. They have lots of little compartments as well as a space for your laptop, and my smaller bag even has a shoe compartment!) We use our backpacks to pack things we need easy access to, like a sweater, electronics, and our toiletry bag (more notes about toiletries later). Along with that, we pack a change of clothes in case we aren’t able to check in to our hotel or rental and we’d like to change our clothing without having to rummage through our carefully packed suitcase. Final note: most airlines aren’t too particular with personal bag size, as long as it can fit under your seat, but its always a good idea to check with your airlines for any possible restrictions on personal item size.

“We use our backpacks to pack things we need easy access to, like a sweater, electronics, and our toiletry bag…”

Plan to wash clothing

I know. Laundry. Yuck. I completely understand. But trust me on this one, its definitely worth it. Most rental apartments have a washer and a drying rack (if you find one with a dryer, woo hoo!). It wasn’t too time consuming to throw in a load before dinner and lay it out before bed, and this really freed up a lot of space in our suitcase. If you’re staying in a hotel, call ahead of time and find out how much it costs for laundry service. It might be worth it to pay a little extra to avoid having to bring a checked bag, just fit a few extra items.

Consolidate shareable items

By shareable items, I’m specifically referring to toiletries. No, I am not suggesting you share a toothbrush; however, if you’re able to share things like your comb, toothpaste, face wash, shaving cream, etc. with your significant other, family member, or travel partner, I would highly suggest it. It doesn’t seem like it saves much space, but when you’re trying to pack for 3 weeks, every square inch counts.

Bring a foldable nylon bag

Okay. So it’s kind of a cheat more than a travel hack. But we knew we would want to bring home a few things to remember our trip by. Namely, some souvenirs for family and a couple bottles of wine -which due to liquid limitations would have to be checked. This being the case, we packed a compact nylon duffle bag. We used the Just in Case tote by Tumi —> https://www.tumi.com/p/just-in-case-tote-01100421041/ but there are other great options for packable bags on the market as well. So while sparing ourselves the hassle of lugging bulky suitcases around Europe and the fear of our clothing not making it to our destinations with us, we knew that we’d end up having to check a bag on the way home – which we didn’t mind. So on our return flight, we checked one of our original carry-on suitcases, while using the nylon bag as a carry-on.

Our Favorite Carry-On

This is in no way sponsored, but we absolutely LOVE the carry on luggage by Away. They’re incredibly durable and have some great features, like the external battery for your mobile device or tablet (which is easily removed and can be used as a portable charger throughout your trip). The clothing compartment also features buckles to secure and compress your clothing to maximize the space; And the wheels sit slightly under the suitcase rather than sticking all the way out, so we’ve found that it often fits easier in the overhead bins than other rolling suitcases. Above all things, the price is very reasonable. See the link to check it out —> https://www.awaytravel.com/luggage/bigger-carry-on/navy

Do you have any tips for packing light? Please share them below! We’d love to hear some other great suggestions!

8 Mediterranean cities in 10 days

How can you visit 8 beautiful Mediterranean cities in 10 days? Well, we embarked on this whirlwind of a trip last September by ship. Specifically the Celebrity Reflection. If you’re looking to see and do a lot in a relatively short period of time, this is the way to go. Our ship left out of Civitavecchia, about an hour from Rome.

Here are some highlights of the ports we were able to enjoy, along with some tips on getting the most out of these Mediterranean ports.

Messina, Sicily

  • At this port, we booked a Godfather Tour (Savoca) and trip to Taormina by the Discover Messina tour group. We highly recommend this tour, which took us to several film sites from The Godfather movie as well as the bustling and picturesque town of Taormina where we were free to explore on our own. Here we enjoyed a delicious Italian lunch and lots of shopping.

Tip: Be sure to have comfortable walking shoes, as some parts of the Discover Messina tour do involve uneven paths and steps.

Look at that view from Taormina!
Taormina

Valletta, Malta

  • Two words. Blue Grotto. Some of the most amazing and beautiful blue waters we have ever seen are found in Malta’s Blue Grotto. We took a small boat around the Grotto and even enjoyed a dip in the clear blue waters.

Tip: Save money on a tour and take a short cab ride ride. – I digress here for a moment. So, being frequent travelers to cities like New York, we were incredibly leery of the cabs from the port, who called out to give us a ride. So we spent over an hour trying to find a local bus at one of the local bus stations, which was supposed to be simple. Needless to say, we gave up and negotiated with a very nice driver who was able to get all 8 of us to the Grotto for about 30 Euros. – Once you get there it’s a couple of Euros per person for the boat ride. Getting back to the port was a little different. You can take a cab (which half of us did) or take the Hop On Hop Off bus (which the other half chose to do, as the wait for another cab was going to be a while). A note on the Hop On bus: the ride back is about an hour because it takes you around the island before reaching port.

Blue Grotto

Mykonos, Greece

  • What to say about Mykonos… Beautiful whitewashed buildings, so many shops and amazing beaches with crystal clear blue water. While there are many beaches to visit, we chose to spend a day at Psarou, relaxing at the luxurious Nammos resort and enjoying lunch and cocktails by the sea.
Nammos at Psarou Beach
  • You can reach any of the beaches either by car, which you can rent near the port, or by catching a public bus at the Fabrica bus station (about a 20 minute walk from the port through town). The buses cost around 2-5 Euros per person depending on where you’re going.

Tip: Taxis are nearly impossible to find as there are very few on the island. If you plan to take the bus, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and enjoy the scenic walk through town.

  • To reach Psarou Beach by bus, we took the bus labeled Platis Gialos and told the driver we would be getting off at the Psarou stop. Unlike any bus I’ve ever been on, they pack these busses to the max, filling every seat as well as the entire isle. This was quite a hilarious experience, I must say. To avoid missing their stop, anyone in the back had to speak up if they were blocked in when it was their time to get off. As chaotic as it was, it all worked out well and for the price we paid for the ride, it was well worth it.
  • For more information on the beaches, this website is a great reference! –> https://www.mykonosbeachesguide.com

Rhodes, Greece

  • The port at Rhodes is located just a short walk to the beautiful historic old town. We decided to go exploring on our own and just enjoy the medieval cobblestone streets, popping into the shops and admiring the architecture. Being an incredibly warm day, we stopped and enjoyed an ice cold beer, a meal, and a restroom break at Panos. The staff there was very nice and the beer was refreshing, tasty, and huge. Bonus: they had free wifi.
Rhodes, entrance to the old town

Santorini, Greece

  • Arriving in Santorini was quite a unique experience. After the tender to the port, you have take a cable car to reach the town, situated atop cliffs above the port.

Tip: The cable car does have a credit card machine, but they are often “out of order”. Don’t find yourself, as a few of the other travelers did, without cash, and stuck at the top on the way back to the cruise ship. Its a bit of a long trek (I believe one person stated that it took her husband over an hour) down a very uneven pathway.

View of the port and the town of Thira (above) from the tender.
  • Being in such a popular spot for such a short period of time, we really wanted to see as much of the island’s natural beauty, which lead us to join our friends on the Dreamcatcher catamaran tour by Santorini Sailing. http://www.santorinisailing.com/index.php/tours
  • Highlights of the tour were swimming in the hot springs of the Red beach and enjoying a delicious greek lunch, cooked fresh on the boat.
Dreamcatcher by Santorini Sailing

Athens, Greece

  • There was so much to in Athens, most namely, the Acropolis. From the port we chose to take a Hop On Hop Off bus. We saved a few bucks working out a price at the port versus booking in advanced.

Tip: If you don’t book your ticket to the Acropolis in advanced (and you have cell service) you can avoid the incredibly long ticket line by purchasing your ticket on your mobile device. The QR code is emailed to you almost immediately and you can get directly in the entrance queue.

  • Aside from the Acropolis, we didn’t choose to do much more than wander the streets and grab a bite to eat at one of the many quick service gyro spots in the city.
  • If there’s one thing to be stressed about Athens in September, its the temperature. Please be prepared with a hat, SPF and plenty of water!

Naples, Italy

  • “In Napoli, where love is king, when boy meet girl, here’s what they saaaaaay….. when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s AMORE!” We certainly fell in love with Napoli. Well, we fell in love with the Amalfi Coast. For this stop we took a bus tour along the coast and stopped and the towns of Positano and Sorrento, and also the ruins of Pompeii. For a cruise stop, trying to visit all three at once was incredibly rushed. If you can, I would highly advise choosing to visit either the coastal towns of Positano and Sorrento or touring Pompeii. The towns of Positano and Sorrento had so much to offer by way of shops, restaurants, and relaxing by the ocean. But, with only an hour at each spot, we honestly didn’t get to enjoy them much. On the other hand, it gave us a small taste of each town and we were able to experience some incredible views.
  • After visiting the towns we arrived in Pompeii – the preserves of ancient city which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. If you choose to visit, I would recommend booking a guided tour. We, unfortunately, did not and ended up spending most of our time there wandering aimlessly and looking for the cadavers. I feel that we would have enjoyed Pompeii much more if we were able to learn a bit about the city and some of the various buildings uncovered by the archeologists.
  • As with Athens, I would again highly recommend a hat, SPF and water, as there are very little shaded areas.

Arriving back in Rome

  • Just a short bit about Rome. There’s so much to do and see its impossible to sum it up on this post. Here are a few highlights from our trip.
  • Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Tickets can be purchased either in advanced or on location. Definitely a must see historical spot to check out when in Rome.
  • BEST pizza IMO is Pizza Florida… Not just because we’re from Florida. But, you know how when you’re a kid and you go somewhere and its the best ever in your entire life and you go there as an adult and its total crap? Well, I visited this spot in 2010 with some family on my first trip to Rome and 8 years later this pizza was just as I remember. Absolutely amazing. Crispy but soft crust, melty cheese and tasty toppings. –> https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d1863797-Reviews-Pizza_Florida-Rome_Lazio.html
Pizza Florida – choose from one of their pizzas made that day and they cut it to your desired size and bake it up fresh!
  • If you have the opportunity to visit outside the heart of the city, take a trip over to the neighborhood of Trastevere. A charming and artistic spot with so much character. We really loved our dinner there at the restaurant Pimm’s Good, named after Pimm’s liquor. Dine on delicious modern Italian fare and indulge in one of their craft cocktails.
  • No visit to the eternal city is complete without a scoop of gelato. The gelato chain Venchi never failed to disappoint, and their varieties of gelato as well as sorbetto (dairy-free) were incredibly creamy and delightful. My favorites were the chocolate sorbetto varieties.
Hope you enjoyed our tips and this little taste of the Mediterranean!