Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Favorites

 January Favorites

Travel          Eagle Packing Cubes

TV Series    Once Upon a Time

Book            Unbroken

Pet               Mini Training Reward Treats

Monday, January 28, 2013

Out and About in Maui

Road to Hana

For the road to Hana I reserved a Mustang convertible through Thrifty Rental Car.  The rate wasn’t bad at all, even with an underage driver fee.  Thrifty provided a free shuttle from the cruise port to the rental car location, which was about 5 minutes away, and the whole process was quick and easy.

This ended up being one of the most breathtaking activities I have ever experienced.  The road is very, very windy-they don’t exaggerate in its description, but the views are unlike anything I had ever seen before.  I was with two other people, and we ended up stopping when we would see other cars parked, hopping out and exploring.  I suppose I wasn’t prepared for what the day would actually be like, because I chose to wear dressy sandals and a maxi dress, under the assumption that I would take a pretty picture here and there while we were driving.  Please note, this isn’t exactly the best hiking wear, which is what we ended up doing.  There are tiny paths to follow, waterfalls to climb, and plenty of walking to be done; you’re much better off wearing shorts and sneakers than I was in my misguided apparel.

We didn’t end up doing the whole trip because of time constraints, but should I ever make my way back to Maui it will be the first thing I do, and this time spending an entire day. 

Feast at Lele

The luaus offered as excursions through NCL got horrible reviews, so we booked a luau on our own and drove there with our rental car.  The Feast at Lele is one of the two most popular luaus in Maui, and for good reason-we booked it directly through their website, and it was about $115 per person, without gratuity.  We were seated in the second row of the outdoor “theater”, with our table for 6 sitting directly on the beach.  Upon entering the luau we were all given fresh orchid leis and tropical drinks.  The way the luau is organized focuses on four different sets of Polynesian islands, and the specific dances that each island produces; all this is done at sunset so the show progresses from day to night as the dances intensify.  The food itself is pulled from each island, so you are served four different courses family style, and there is an open bar to go along with the meal.  Attending a luau is a wonderful experience, and the show culminated with fire dancers, something the other popular luau on Maui does not have.


Picture About a five minute walk from the ship there is a private, secluded beach-one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to, with turquoise blue water, soft khaki sand and shade from ancient gnarled trees.  For the few hours I was there, there was literally nobody else there, so I had a small cove of a beach to myself, and it was incredible.  To get there, you walk from the cruise ship to the stone wall, and walk along the wall until you reach the beach.  It was perfect, because I got to come back to the ship for lunch, and then return to the beach. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cruising Hawaii

Norwegian Pride of America

Ah Hawaii.  Paradise.  This particular trip began with my grandmother's dream of going to paradise-and evolved into a girls trip with 3 generations of sisters.  With such a large group, and with dreams of seeing as much of Hawaii as possible, we decided to take a cruise around the islands; four islands in eight days, with a decent price.  All aboard!

We booked the cruise through Liberty Travel, and although I've used them in the past I don't think I'll be using them any more; the last two trips have had small issues, but issues that should have been resolved by a travel agent-and they were not.  There's so many websites out there for traveling on a cruise, and I have booked myself multiple times in the past, so it just seems as if that is what I will be doing from now on. 

The Pride of America is a nice ship, although it definitely is not my favorite and it is somewhat small. This was my second cruise on NCL, and I have to say that I really do prefer Royal Caribbean-I feel as if their ships are more geared towards adults, and have a “higher” level of service and ambiance.  Our room was one of the smallest I’ve had on a cruise ship, and it was slightly dirty-there was mold and the bathroom looked very worn.  The food was good, but I found that they went very heavy on the sauces for the entrees, almost drowning the food to give it flavor.  That being said, the Pride of America is the only ship that does a Hawaiian cruise with no days at sea, which is why we booked the cruise in the first place.  There were also some cute aspects of the ship-in the main buffet they have a children’s section, which I found to be adorable.  The service was also good, and all of the crew members were friendly and responsive.  When you board the ship you are also given a fresh orchid lei, which really allowed us to get into the mindset of the islands.
While on board, we ate at the following restaurants:
Aloha Café

This is the main buffet, and we only ate here for breakfast.  They had a good selection of fruits and hot items, and we were always able to find a seat even for our party of 6.

Liberty Restaurant

Liberty Restaurant is the main formal dining room.  The views are beautiful, especially when you’re sailing.  NCL has “My Time Dining”, so you don’t need reservations.  Although I was nervous about having to possibly wait with our large party, we never had to.  Our food came quickly, and there was a huge selection each night.  Service was good and friendly, and the crew had great suggestions about what to do in town while we were docked.

East Meets West

East Meets West is one of the cover charge ($15) restaurants aboard the ship.  After paying the cover charge though you get unlimited food; and we tried a lot.  The restaurant itself is similar to PF Chengs, so they offer comparable appetizers and entrees, but the food is really delicious.  It’s also a smaller setting, and would be perfect if you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Planning a Vacation

San Juan
Planning a tip can be quite the experience. While deciding to take a vacation can be exciting, the decision often reaches a point where your mind begins reeling with all the different choices.

Where do I go?
What is my budget?
Where should we stay?
What should we do?
What should we eat?

The longer, the more comfortable the trip is, the more these questions may overwhelm you.  At the start of our relationship, Rob and I were lucky to fall into a bit of a travel routine; a routine that takes some of the stress out of planning, but a routine that still allows us plenty of spontaneity in our travel.


Where Do I Go?

For us, we sat down to decide what our travel priorities were.  Rob and I both had extensive travel bucket lists, so focusing these lists allowed us to set shorter term goals for our travel experiences.  Our final travel schedule filled in something like this:

     Spring: Off on a tropical jaunt to relax, catch up on some sun, sit on a beach, and rejuvenate ourselves.  
     Summer Big Trip: An exploration of the U.S.  With 50 states, there is SO much to explore in our own country, that we want to take advantage of it.
     Summer Weekend Road Trip: Living in the North East, there are an almost never ending list of places for us to explore within a short drive, so we try to take 1-2 short road trips a year. 

What is my Budget?

Setting a budget for a trip can be a very difficult thing to do; a weekend road trip is not going to need the budget a two-week long trip to Hawaii or Europe will.  However, I suggest you break your budget down when you're researching your trip into the following components:

     Transportation to Destination
     Transportation at Destination
     Food & Beverages
     Activities & Tours

Regardless of what you establish for your budget, be sure to shop around! Check different websites, call different tour providers, and utilize forums such as Trip Advisor.  The more knowledgeable you are, the more likely you are to get the most experience for your dollar.  
Washington DC
Where Should We Stay?

When trying to determine where to stay, we tend to look at a few options.  For our tropical vacations, we tend to choose All-Inclusive Resorts; they provide us with everything we need for a relaxing vacation (you can see our review of Cancun here and here).  For big cities (Chicago, DC, Boston), we tend to use sites like or  You're able to plug in your price limit, your wishes for the hotel, and your ideal location.  Once you book, you're sent which hotel you'll be staying at; and after using it multiple times we've always been pleased with the results (doing this has resulted in BIG savings).

What Should We Do?

What we decide to do in any given location is highly dependent upon what type of trip we're taking.  That being said, we do have a general idea of what we like to do in different locations.

For tropical vacations, we usually like to do one unique activity that neither of us have done.  In Cancun, it was seeing Chitchen Itza, in Costa Rica it was watching a turtle hatching.  Other than that, our tropical vacations are meant for relaxing.  We often make a visit to the spa, and enjoy sitting on the beach for hours at a time.

When it comes to large city trips, there are two activities we always try to take part in; watching a baseball game (at somewhere like Fenway), and visiting a brewery (like Sam Adams).  Once these two activities are established, we fill in the rest of our vacation with things like museums, parks, historical locations, and exhibits. 
Where Should We Eat?

When deciding where to eat, scouring chat boards for suggestions is a favorite hobby of mine.  I love looking at food magazines for ideas, and talking to people who live in the area.  Rob and I tend to eat a late lunch/early dinner as our big meal out, and supplement with snacks and light food throughout the remainder of the day. 


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Out and About in Boston

With only 48 hours in Boston (which was a surprise trip to celebrate Rob's birthday), I knew that we had to be as cognizant as possible when deciding what to do.  Based on Rob's love of baseball, and our joint love of breweries, I centered our trip around visits to Fenway Park and Sam Adams Brewery.  The trip was then filled out with a surprise parade, a beautiful park, and a few enjoyable eateries.

Fenway Park 

Since the start of our relationship, it has become a joint goal of ours to visit every MLB stadium-and Fenway was our first stop.  The vibe there is unlike anything else I have experienced, and the stadium is small enough that I'm pretty sure every seat you can get is a good seat.  I purchased the tickets the day they came out from the Red Sox website, so I got to pay face value (although you can almost always get tickets online through places like StubHub).  One of the best parts of Fenway is that it is almost a town in and of itself; bars, restaurants, and shops surround the stadium and were literally hopping before the game began.  

Sam Adams Brewery

The Sam Adams Brewery tour was fantastic-if you're a beer fan there's simply no way you can miss this tour while in Boston. The tour itself is free, and includes a small tasting glass and three 7 oz. tastings.  There is a small $1-$2 donation requested per person, but it is not required; at that price though, for what you get, there's really no reason to not make the donation.  At the beginning of the tour you spend a bit of time learning about the brewing process, and tasting the various components in beer.  After this you get to sit in their small "bar" with the rest of your group and try some of their different beers.  And do yourself a favor-if you're in Boston, you must, must, try their Brick Red.  Available only in Boston, you'll find yourself craving the delicious flavor long after you've left.

Bruin's Stanly Cup Parade

Booking our trip to Boston months in advance, there's no way we could have known that the Bruins would win the Stanly Cup, resulting in a parade that not only changed the time of our Red Sox game, but that also brought over a million people pouring into the streets of Boston.  It was an experience we probably couldn't have planned if we wanted to, but one that had us riding the excitement of the crowd.

Cheers Boston

We obviously needed to have a drink at Cheers, so we headed there after having a drink at Sam Adams and meandering through the parade.  The bar is quaint, but crowded; although it may have just been because it was on the parade route.  It was difficult to find even the tiniest bit of room to stand, but we were able to enjoy a pint of Brick Red before continuing on with our day.

Boston Public Gardens

Although we realized after our visit that this park is quite famous, we literally stumbled upon it while exploring the Boston streets.  A breath of fresh air in a bustling city, the gardens boast a duck pond, plenty of benches, and glorious shade from the New England sun.  

Information from this post was also featured on the blog 48 Hour Adventure.   

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Where to Stay in Boston

Our trip to Boston, taken over a short weekend was actually a birthday present for Rob.  I knew that I wanted to surprise him with a trip, and that it needed to be within driving distance of Long Island, and that I wanted it to be somewhere we could catch a ball game.  Needless to say, Boston fit that list perfectly.

When I started to look for hotels in Boston, I was amazed at how much they cost.  It was seriously disheartening.  And then I discovered what would soon become a favorite travel source of mine, Hotwire.  I was able to get an incredible price on the Sheraton Back Bay that made our weekend completely affordable.

Our Room (obviously I didn't think to light the room properly before taking this picture)

The hotel itself is located on Dalton Street, and is mammoth.  Boasting 1,200 guest rooms, we were very pleased not only with our room, but with the view we had from the 22nd floor.  An even better perk? The hotel is connected to all of the food and stores located within the Prudential Center. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Our Tropical Escape (and a Return to All-Inclusives)

After our initial experience with an all-inclusive with the Riu in Cancun, Rob and I had no trouble deciding on our "second official trip" as a couple- our only issue was deciding where to go!  However, since we decided that Cancun had been a bit chilly in October for our taste, we headed even further south for our February trip.  This time we were off to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for a relaxing week at the Riu Palace Punta Cana!

We knew that this trip, in the middle of a cold New York winter, was for us to relax and warm ourselves through and through.  And that is what we did, for six glorious days.  We sat on a beautiful beach.  We read.  We drank fruity tropical drinks.  We ate.  We slept.  It was, without a doubt, one of the most relaxing trips we have ever been on.

Needless to say, we loved the Riu Resort.  It was very similar to the Riu in Cancun-the restaurants and lay out were familiar, which made us feel almost as if we were at home.  The weather was perfect, the water was a beautiful turquoise, and we enjoyed all the amenities the resort had to offer.  In fact, we loved the Riu so much the second time, that we're headed to the Riu Ocho Rios for our honeymoon next month!

The Opulent Lobby of the Riu Palace Punta Cana

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Roundup of the Best Travel Guidebooks for your Trip

Considering not only my profession (as an English teacher), and my absolute love of reading (my personal goal each year is to read 100 books!), it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to discover that I have a small crush on travel guidebooks.  While it may be true that the majority of information in travel guidebooks can be found on the Internet, I’m of the opinion that there’s not much comparison between the two options; and when it comes down to it, I vote for the guidebook as the final source of information.  For the most part, they’re reasonably priced, easy to find, and you have a multitude of options for whatever destination you’re planning on visiting.  On top of this, there is something about the feel of a new book that is unbeatable (at least to literary nerds such as myself). 

The only small problem that arises is when you step foot in your local bookstore, face the travel section, and find 6 books on your next location.  Oops.  Which one do you choose?  I’m pretty sure buying 6 guides for your trip isn’t the most logical decision, which is why I’ve put together a bit of a “review” of some of the major travel guides available.

Rick Steves

Rick Steves’ guidebooks focus on Europe, so they don’t have the largest market.  What they lack in worldwide reviews they make up for in accurate, easy to understand information.  When spending a few days in Rome last year his guidebook was invaluable to me (along with almost every other tourist I saw there).  The books contain a ton of maps (both regular maps and “hand drawn” ones), and the format is easy to follow.  Steves also focuses on helping you see things on your own by giving detailed self-tours.  There is no large push to use certain tour companies, which is fantastic.

Let’s Go

Is there anywhere in the world that Let’s Go doesn’t review?  Unlike Rick Steves, who has such a small market, Let’s Go travel guides cover everywhere from North, South and Central America to Europe to Asia to the Middle East.  The guides focus on budget travel that is still safe and enjoyable.  Each book is geared towards a large geographical location, and then broken up into smaller areas (think of a US state as the main focus, and then counties as a smaller division).  This really allows you to get an overview for the area and what to expect; they even include recent updates and what’s changed recently just in case this isn’t your first visit to that location.


Although they only cover the Americas and the Caribbean, Moon guides are another of my favorite (most recently used for our trip to Yosemite).  Like the Let’s Go books, they organize their book by looking at small sections of the overall location.  They’re honest though (because I don’t find that all travel guides are created equal), and integrate all of their information into an easy to read, concise format.  There’s maps and pictures, and details on some historical and pop-culture information aspects thrown in; which in the end makes you very, very excited for your upcoming trip.


Fodor’s is probably the brand of travel guidebook that I use the most often, and for good reason.  They are one of the most popular companies out there, and they produce guidebooks for practically any destination you could dream up.  They’re insights are detailed and useful, they just tend to be a bit dry for me.  It often feels like reading a textbook, while other travel guides paint more of a story to me.  Depending on what you’re looking for, this may be the right choice for you-they’re both factual and well researched.


To me, one of the best part of Frommer’s is the way they include sample itineraries, along with a section titled “Best Of”.  When you only have a limited amount of time in a location, these can both be fantastic resources to help with planning.  The guidebooks themselves remind me quite a bit of Fodor’s, and are geared toward a wide range of travel interests; anywhere from sitting on a beach to hiking to exploring a city. 

This post originally appeared on the amazing blog, 25 Travels.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Out and About in Cancun

Our Adventures Continue...

Although we were only in Cancun for 5 short days, we knew that we wanted to make the most of our time there.  After a ton of research, we finally decided on two outings during our first vacation together. 

Chichen Itza

We booked our tour of Chichen Itza through Cancun Discounts.  The tour was inexpensive, and included a guided tour of both Chichen Itza and a cenote, or underground spring. 

The entrance to the Cenote

Needless to say, both sites were breathtaking.  Thinking back now, two years later, Rob and I agree that this was the most memorable part of our trip.  Experiencing first hand something that you have seen for years in books and movies is incredible.  Our tour guide was great, and taught us things that we didn't know-like how they believe there's another pyramid underneath the large one!  Be sure to wear walking shoes though-I was amazed at how large the actual complex was. 

Swimming with Dolphins on Isla Mujeres

We booked our dolphin excursion directly through our hotel for a very reasonable price.  The tour included a ferry to Isla Mujeres, and then a day long excursion swimming with dolphins and sting rays, and visiting an acquatic center.  Neither Rob nor myself had ever done this before, so it was one of the aspects of our trip we were most looking forward to.

The day of our scheduled tour came, and it was cold.  I mean so cold that our lips turned blue.  In November, in Cancun.  No bueno.  The tour itself was nice, but it was unfortunate that we were so chilly that it was difficult to enjoy.  We actually headed back to our hotel about four hours early, just so we could use the hot tub in the spa.  This was actually our wake up call that for the winter months we would be heading further south-much further south.  

Seal on Isla Mujeres

 So that is basically the end of our trip to Cancun.  We had a wonderful experience, and would love to go back one day after we explore a bit more of the Caribbean.  Was it a touristy trip?  It sure was!  And sometimes, that is exactly what is needed. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Switch to An All Inclusive

Cancun 2010

I have a (not so very) secret.  

I hate the cold.  

There, I said it.  Living in New York, the cold is a part of life.  From November (and sometimes October) on, all the way until April (and sometimes May), it's cold.  Four layers, waddling with your snowsuit on cold.  However, there is hope.

The Caribbean.

For in the Caribbean my friends, it is warm! Hot even!  You can wear a bathing suit, and go swimming in January.  It's paradise.   But for those of you who have traveled there before, I'm sure you are aware of the plethora of options.  For on most every island, and throughout parts of Mexico, there are more hotels than you can probably count.  Then the questions start.

Where should I go?
What hotel do I stay at?
Should I stay in an all-inclusive?
How much money will I save?
How do I book my trip?
What should I do while I'm there?
Do I just sit on the beach all day?

Cancun holds a soft spot in my heart.  It was the first trip that Rob and I took (after just 3 months of dating).  It's a place that appeals to those on spring break, yet also appeals to those with families for its familiarity and price.  And for two young twenty-somethings going on their first tropical vacation, Cancun was perfect.  

But where to stay??  After hours spent pouring over travel sites and the internet, we finally decided on the Riu Palace Las Americas, and we clicked purchase through what would quickly become a go-to website,  

A not-so-great picture of the beautiful lobby

We decided on this for a few reasons.  While an all-inclusive may not be for everyone, we've had wonderful experiences, and have continued to go back ever since this first trip. What are the benefits you may ask?
  • The website we booked it through had incredible deals.  I mean to the point where we thought there were hidden fees.  There weren't.
  • We loved the idea of staying in a place that was large enough where we wouldn't get bored.
  • All your food and beverages (including alcohol) are included.  And we enjoyed the food!
  • It made the planning process easy for us.  
The Riu chain is (in our humble opinion) more of a European chain, but we had a blast.  The room was clean, the food was good, and the beach and pool were beautiful.

A cloudy picture of Paradise

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

We missed you!

Our TraveLove started way back in 2010.  Rob and I not only started our relationship, but began traveling the world together as well.  Looking back, our entire relationship was mainly founded upon our great love of traveling. 

Cancun, November 2010

2011 came along, and it was full steam ahead in our travels.  We stayed local, we toured the United States, and we made it abroad.  The entire year was a whirlwind, and our blog allowed us to document our journey for those we cared about back home.

Yosemite National Park, August 2011

Then 2012 came, and our traveling slowed down substantially.  Not without good reason though-we had just a few milestones. 

First, in March, we bought our first home.  Our first home that happens to be almost 100 years old.  Our first home that hadn't been updated in a very, very long time.  And Rob and I realized that as much as we love traveling, we love our home as well, and we wanted to make our home as beautiful as we could.  Oh, and along the way we did throw in a trip to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica, February 2012

Then came June, and Rob proposed.  Anyone who knows us knows that we like to do things quickly once we make up our minds-which meant that we decided to get married in August, after a short trip to Chicago. 

Chicago, August 2012

Needless to say, 2012 felt as if we crammed multiple years worth of milestones into 12 short months.  Yes we traveled, but we discovered (and re-discovered) so many more things that we loved.  I finally had a kitchen to cook in.  Rob had his dream yard (and a tractor to match!).  We spent an incredible amount of time in Long Island's Wine Country where we were married.

Jamesport, August 2012
Taken by the amazing LoveMorePhoto

And throughout it all, I was negligent on our blog.  Perhaps it was because I had been becoming frustrated with the platform I was using.  Perhaps it was because I felt as if I didn't have time to breath, let along blog, for weeks at a time. 

But now it's 2013.  And my goal for 2013 is to resume blogging with a slight twist.  Our TraveLove is going to be about traveling and more.  It's going to be about how lucky we are to be on this journey we call life and marriage.  It's going to be about those we love close at home, and things we can do here.  It's going to be about our hobbies-gardening, home making, cooking, reading, and how all of those tie into the travels that we take.

We already have a trip coming up shortly-our belated honeymoon to Jamaica, and I can't wait to take you along with Our TraveLove.