Iceland Part 1: Golden Circle Tour

Oh Iceland, where do I begin? Let me start by saying that this country is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been…in a good way. Given that we only had 3 nights in Iceland, we opted to stay in downtown Reykjavik and partner with local tour companies for two excursions. Our full Iceland trip will be broken down into 5 sections, as I have a large amount of review, tips & tricks to share…

Day 1: Golden Circle Tour via Grayline

We woke up bright (literally- it was light out almost 24 hours!) and early on Sunday morning to grab a quick breakfast in the hotel lobby prior to our 10:00am pickup. Since we were staying in town at the CenterHotel Midgaurdar, pickup was a breeze. We waited out front as they pulled up right on time. The small bus takes you to the main bus station, where you are checked in and  directed to the appropriate large bus.

My first impression of the bus was very positive. It’s your standard 55-passenger bus, but felt new and updated. The seats reclined, there was free wifi and in-wall plugs to charge any electronics. Given that this was a full 8 hour excursion, having these amenities proved to be a valuable, and necessary, benefit.

Tip: Come prepared! We packed a backpack with extra socks, gloves, beanies, jacket, various snacks & water bottles. We used it all.

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The lush, green scenery of Iceland

Here’s our itinerary:

The Golden Circle Classic Tour takes you from Reykjavik city to Þingvellir National Park, arguably the most important site in Iceland in terms of history, culture, and geology.

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Þingvellir National Park, right after the rain passed

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A UNESCO world heritage site, Þingvellir National Park is home to Iceland‘s largest natural lake and the place where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia split and drift apart. From Þingvellir, the tour continues through an area of beautiful scenery towards two of Iceland’s greatest natural attractions at Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir hot spring area.

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Gullfoss

At Gullfoss waterfall you can take a short walk down a pathway and get right up close to this powerful waterfall and feel the mist of glacial water on your face as it cascades down into the narrow Hvítárgljúfur Canyon.

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Getting soaked by the powerful & beautiful Gullfoss

The Geysir area home of “The Great Geysir” hot spring, which all geysers are named after, this area is an impressive collage of bubbling mud pools, hissing steam vents, and colourful algae deposits. It also features one of the world’s most reliable fountain geyser, Strokkur hot spring, that every 4 to 8 minutes blasts out a column of super heated water up to 20 metres into the air.

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Overall, Grayline was a very easy tour group to deal with. Their busses are clearly marked, they come fully equipped & they run a tight ship. Our tour guide was very informative, knowledgeable & had a good sense of humor. I would definitely recommend them for this tour – I only wish we had more time to do a second tour!

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A surprise trip to a “secret” waterfall from our tour guide…

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Stay tuned for Day 1, Part 2 tomorrow…

Thank you to Grayline for sponsoring this post. They graciously provided us with this complimentary tour. As always, the provided opinions are my own.

 

My Bachelorette Party

Happy  Monday y’all! I’m still on a huge high from pretty much the best weekend ever. All of my best friends & I hopped down to South Florida for a long weekend full of beautiful ocean views, delicious food & drink and endless laughs. I’m so grateful that 10 of my best gal pals were able to join in celebrating my “last sail before the veil” (as our boat Captain Michael said). To say I’m sad the weekend is over is a huge understatement! Isn’t it the best feeling when you bring a group of friends together & everyone not only gets along, but genuinely enjoys spending time together?!

While I won’t share all of the fun details from the weekend, I want to give recap with a few of my my favorite parts.

We spent hours by the pool, soaking in the view…

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We ate delicious food & drank delicious drinks…

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We dressed up & had a night (or two) on the town…

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The girls surprised me with the most amazing bridal brunch…

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And an afternoon on the best boat ever…

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my high school friends

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my college friends

 I can’t thank my friends enough for all of the time, effort, money, generosity, love and thought spent on this weekend. I am one VERY lucky girl!

 

5 Favorite Paris AirBnbs

When this picture popped up on my Facebook newsfeed today, I immediately smiled…

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How has it already been 1 year since we were in Paris?

As a throwback to my one of my favorite cities in the world, I want to share 5 of my favorite Air BnBs that I’ve found in the City of Lights. Or is it City of Love? I say both!

If You Want Cozy + Modern + Affordable

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This 1 bedroom charming flat is under $175/night and located in the Latin Quarter, near great restaurants & nightlife. The location is perfect and it’s got all you need if you’re in Paris for a few days. The apartment looks clean, updated and bright! Look at all of the natural light coming in. An excellent, budget-friendly choice.

If You Want a Tres Chic Place With A View of the Eiffel Towel

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While having this view comes with a price, this place is sooo Parisian! From the chevron hardwood floors to the french doors leading to balconies, this will have you feeling like a local in no time. Bonus: it’s two bedroom so this would be great for a group of friends, family or two couples. And let’s be honest, you can’t beat that view…

If You Want to Splurge on Luxury

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By far the most expensive on my list, this rental is luxurious bordering on gaudy…and I love it. The silk sheets, the ornate crown molding, the over-the-top decor, it’s super luxurious. Located in Saint-Germain, this place is a dream come true if you can afford it. To me, it feels like a posh French hotel but you have the space of an apartment. I mean, look at that kitchen!

If You’re Traveling Solo

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This 1 bed studio is perfectly tucked away in La Marais, arguably my favorite neighborhood in all of Paris. It’s got charming touches, old French architecture, and all you need to feel comfortable for a few days…all within walking distance to the best shops, restaurants & sights.

If You Want Amenities & Local Interaction

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With a hidden grotto in the lower level, this apartment is very unique. In addition to the pool, this rental boasts a home gym, sauna and a stylish courtyard to spend your mornings sipping coffee on. With 2 bedrooms, it’s the perfect place for a group that wants to spend time at their rental. The owners are likely to interact with you, so be sure to brush up on your French!

7 tips for staying well & well-rested while traveling

 

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Enjoying the views after a hike up Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona

One of the challenges while traveling is trying to fit everything in. Between visiting tourist attractions, dining out at recommended restaurants, strolling through neighborhoods, taking endless pictures & soaking it all in, how do we even find time to sleep?! Staying well rested (and well!) while traveling is no easy task.
As a very on-the-go traveler (see my itinerary examples here), I always try to focus on getting rest & staying healthy. Let’s face it- if you’re sick on vacation, nobody is having a good time. Just ask my travel buddies from the Costa Rica Food Poisoning Incident of 2015. (AKA the trip from hell)
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Gorgeous canal view while sipping on my morning coffee

7 TIPS TO STAYING WELL & WELL-RESTED WHILE TRAVELING
1. Get Moving
Whether you’re taking a pre-breakfast walk around town, hitting a local workout class (always fun way to meet people/get good recs) or taking a bike tour, don’t stop moving! Likely, you’ll be walking during your vacation but make sure to squeeze in some exercise.
Tip: plan your workouts for first thing in the morning. Get it done & enjoy your day!
2. Early to bed, Early to rise
I wish I were better at this…but I do try! Is there any feeling worse than oversleeping on a (non-beach) vacation and waking up to feel like half the day is already gone? I like to try to be in bed before midnight on vacation (sometimes even earlier) so that I can still “sleep” in until 8 and feel well rested.
 
3. Eat meals sitting down
We all know that multitasking while eating is bad news bears (how many times have you heard “no eating while watching tv”)…on the flip side, we don’t always have the time for a sit down meal while traveling. So if you tend to are trying to save time/money, grab your meal to go and sit down outside. Enjoy your  morning coffee & croissant on the bank of the Seine…eat your caprese sandwich in a cute Italian park…pack a picnic basket and eat cheese, crackers & grapes while in central park. Whatever you do, make it leisurely.
4. Always travel with a water bottle 
Not only will you be able to stay fully hydrated (good for your skin, hair, mind & body), but you’ll also ward off overeating, causing you to feel tired post-meals. Triple bonus: you’ll save a ton of money not buying water bottles!
5. Stick to your nutrient routine
This may not apply to all of you but for those that regularly take vitamins or supplements at home, there’s no need to stray from that. I always pack a probiotic & digestive enzyme for the days I know I’ll be gone
Tip: If you’re headed somewhere you know you won’t “eat healthy”, pack some protein powder in a shaker. Mix with water & drink your protein every morning!
6. Don’t forget your fruit & veggies!
Often times I find that fresh produce is hard to come by while traveling (especially in Europe). If you’ve got a grocery nearby, stock up on some raw veggies. If not, try to pick up a piece fruit to eat as a daily snack.
Tip: less sugar = less fatigue.
7. Take a Nap
This corresponds with #2 – you woke up early & had a busy morning. Now reward yourself with a mid-day siesta. Those Spaniards are onto something!
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Soaking in the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

What’s your favorite tip to staying well & well rested while traveling?!

5 Sample Europe Itineraries

One of the travel questions I get asked most often is “how do we decide where to go?”. Specifically, I’ve had about 10 people in the past week say they’ve got roughly 10-12 days off (basically 1 work week + bookend weekends) and want to go to Europe. Given that there are about a million different options, depending who you’re traveling with, your experience level, your travel style, etc I’ve put together 5 options that are pretty versatile.

London, Paris & Amsterdam

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This is what I like to call the “starter pack” of Europe. London is always a great option because they speak English, it’s a very cosmopolitan city and it’s easy to get around. Take the chunnel or a quick flight and you’re in Paris. Three more hours in a train and you’re in Amsterdam. This trip would be great for couples, friend groups or families. Given that each city has so much to offer, you can really tailor the trip based on your wants & needs.

Paris, Brussels & Amsterdam

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I often suggest Paris (listed again, as you can see) for Europe first-timers as it’s easy to fly directly into and a great starting point for trips. There are also many day option trips from Paris (see my recent visit here), so you can use Paris as a “home base” for your entire trip. Additionally, the train is incredibly easy to take from Paris to Amsterdam (and back). It’s about 3 hours each way, with a stop in Brussels, making this itinerary a no-brainer. If you’re nervous about traveling in a foreign country, or prefer to limit your inter-country travel time, this is the route for you.

Rome, Venice & Florence

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A classic Italian trip, these 3 cities are easily accessible and in the same Northern region of Italy. You’ll get to see a ton of history in Rome, view world famous art in Florence & explore the canals of Venice. Eat, drink and walk your way through a trip of a lifetime. While this trip is ideal for multiple travel styles, I think it’s especially great for couples or a small girls trip! (I went with two girl friends to Italy & Greece for 2 weeks and it was perfect – we could share a bottle of wine, a pizza & move easily in/out of museums).

Lisbon, Madrid & Barcelona

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For all of you East Coasters, this is a great trip to take. You can easily fly into Lisbon (or Porto if you prefer) and out of Barcelona (or vice versa). Portugal & Spain are similar in that they’re usually warmer, they’ve got outstanding beaches & delicious red wine. We actually may be doing a similar trip in the fall so I’ll be sure to give more details once planning commences.

Berlin, Prague & Munich

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Whether you’re into history or beer, Germany has something for you. You can easily take the train between all 3 cities, making travel fairly simple. It’s worth noting that Prague is unlike any other city in Europe – it has this unique magic & charm about it, almost like you’re in Disney world. The old school architecture, castles & bridges capture moments lost in time. It’s romantic & magical for sure.

I could come up with a ton of other options (including about 10 off the top of my head that I’m dying to go to, including French Riviera > Monaco > Italian Riviera), so feel free to reach out if you need help. This is one of my favorite things to do!

What’s your favorite European Itinerary?!

How I chose my “getting ready” wedding venue

When I think of my dream wedding, a few key pieces come to mind: a gorgeous dress, the look in my husband’s eyes, being surrounded by family & friends, and eating, drinking & having fun! Then, when I dive deeper, I think about how I want to feel on my wedding day – excited, nervous, calm, pampered, special, etc. SO many emotions, right?! Since a LOT of excitement comes leading up to the wedding (days prior, getting ready, etc) it was absolutely critical for me to have the perfect place to get ready in. After all, I’ll be there with my bridesmaids, my mom, my grandma, the photographer, videographer, hair & makeup…it takes a village people! haha.

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In all seriousness, I looked long and hard for a location that would be perfect for (a) Terry & I to spend our wedding night and (b) a venue for me & my girls to get ready in.

So…what was the criteria?! I came up with 3 things that were important to me…

It has space

This was HUGE for me! The thought of being cramped on my wedding day immediately stresses me out. With 5 bridesmaids, 3+ family members & a handful of vendors, having an open space with plentiful counterspace is absolutely necessary. We’ll be there for at least 5 hours on Saturday and need the space for hair & makeup stations, a light lunch spread, a champagne bar (obvi!) & of course, plenty of closet space for our dresses!

It feels swanky yet sophisticated

Let’s be honest, when else in your life can you justify splurging on a super nice hotel room for a weekend? (Okay, maybe the honeymoon too…) Since our wedding is out of town, renting a place was our only option. Given that I only plan on getting married once in my life, I want to get ready in a place that is luxurious and chic, yet sophisticated and classy. Something that appeals to both my grandma and my bridesmaids. Something that makes people say “wow” and that makes the photographers swoon. Think of all the pictures that will be taken here!

It feel special

In addition to the aesthetic feel (mentioned above), feeling “special” to me means a place that has amazing customer service, that understands the importance of your wedding day, that will go above & beyond to assure that everything goes as smoothly as possible with minimal stress & worry. Keeping calm on your wedding day is e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

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When I found the Pavilion Grand Hotel, I knew I found the right spot. From my first interaction with the managers to our hotel tour, they made me feel right at home. They understand the excitement & anticipation that comes with your wedding day and they have all the bells & whistles to guarantee that your entire weekend goes smoothly. From valet parking to an on-premise salon to an in-house bistro, they’ve got it all. The space. The swank. The special feel I’ve been dreaming of.

Let the countdown begin! Less than 3 months til the big day. Be sure to stay tuned, as I’ll be sharing many Instagram posts & a follow up post of my experience.

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Thank you to The Pavilion Grand for sponsoring this post. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Jackson Hole Part 3: What to do (in summer)

So you likely read my part 1 (“the wedding”) and part 2 (“food & drink”) posts on Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Today I’ll be rounding out the Jackson Hole series with part 3: what to do in summer. Of course, what to do in Winter is a totally different post and I imagine it involves a lot of snowboarding and skiing! I’m way more of a warm weather type of girl, so Jackson was an absolute blast to visit in the summer! There is seriously SO MUCH to do y’all – for couples, families, kids, groups, etc. We had about 4 free days and soaked up every minute we could, but believe me when I say the list is endless. It’s the absolute perfect place to get outdoors and explore!

Head to String Lake

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We rented Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) from Rendevous (they were $40/day) and spent the day kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming in the lake, jumping off rocks, etc. The lake is super clear with the Grand Tetons in back- spectacular view. It was so much fun and all 6 of us had the best time goofing around.

Tip: bring towels, chairs & cooler with food (be sure to store in the bear locker!)

Granite Hot Springs

We thought this was cool but would be more fun in winter, as the springs were very hot & crowded. We made the best of it and enjoyed the natural (cold) waterfalls and hiked around. If you’re there during cooler weather, I highly recommend it. Located on a back road, about 10 miles off the beaten path, the area provides gorgeous views full of wildlife. We saw deer, cows, horses, etc…

White Water Rafting

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The bride & groom organized this as a group activity for the Thursday before the wedding so the families & friends could get to know each other. What a fun idea! We had the best time rafting down the Snake River – the rapids were fast, exciting & sometimes even scary! There were people of all ages (I’m talking 10-70) and everyone had a blast. Can’t recommend this enough.

Relax at the Four Seasons

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One of the nicest hotels in Jackson (the Amangani being the other), we took advantage of our stay here and spent an afternoon drinking rose & laying by the pool. Let me just say- this was the life! Side note: we also ate at the Westbank Grill, which was one of the best meals from the trip. Chef basically brought us out one of everything (literally- bison, steak, shrimp, tuna, brussels, mac & cheese, etc) and we went to town. There were 6 of us and our 4 hour dinner was absolute perfection!

As I mentioned, we only hit about 50% of the things on our “to do” list (due to limited time) but here are some activities I’d love to do when I (hopefully) get back to Jackson:

Horseback riding

Obviously there are horses everywhere in Jackson! This place is full of barns and farms and dude ranches…however, we could never find the time to commit to a half day excursion. Had we done a bit more research I’m sure we could have made it happen though. Next time!

Visit Yellowstone/Old Faithful

About a 2 hour drive (each way), Yellowstone is obviously a “must see” if you have time. A big chunk of our group took a day trip to drive out there & explore the park and they absolutely loved it. They said the scenery, the nature, the history- it’s all worth going.

Hike to Phelps Lake on the Lake Creek Trail

We actually arrived a day too late for this, but the whole group did this hike and everything said how fun it was. They hiked for a couple of hours and ended up jumping off some cliffs into the lake. The pictures were beautiful & it really sounded like a fun day!

Mormon Row

Okay, so I kept reading about this but sadly never made it! They say that if you want to see buffalo in person, they hang out here by the old barns. I actually never saw a buffalo during our trip, but I did see a moose which was super cool.

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Who else has warm weather ideas for Jackson Hole?! I’d love to hear what else I missed so I can plan on it for round 2!

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