If you've been following my adventures on Instagram, you know that we just got home from one of our most frequented vacation destinations, Disney World! I can say that Matt and I a Disney World frequenters. We aren't as consistent visitors as the rest of my family are, but it has made its way onto one of our favorite places. This past trip I shared a lot of details on what we were doing/where we were going on my Instagram stories. While I shared our adventures, I got a lot of questions about the places that we were going that are a bit off the beaten path. I find that usually when I talk to people about going to Disney World they think in terms of rides and attractions only. We are lucky enough to have visited enough times to have the time to appreciate the other little hidden gems that you may not notice on your first or even tenth trip, unless someone points them out to you! I am super excited to share these finds with you. We've had great experiences at these places, which is why they are on our must visit list time and time again. Each of these gems exemplify the detail and magic of Disney in a way that I appreciate so much and hope you will as well! Let's count these down....
Number 5: Dockside Margaritas
First off, I find so many people skip out on Disney Springs during their Disney vacation. In my opinion this is a huge mistake because Disney Springs is full of culinary and shopping experiences that really deliver. I can give a rundown on all of my favorites in another post, but one of my favorite spots to hang out here is Dockside Margaritas. It is located right on the water while also still in the action so you get the best of both worlds. This is one of our go to locations to grab a drink and people watch before dinner reservations. The margarita selection is delicious - their seasonal options are so fun as well - and you really can't beat the view. For couples, like I said, this is a great pre dinner date spot, and for parents this is a great spot to have one parent relax and enjoy a cocktail while the other takes the kids to explore one of the nearby toy stores. Fun fact: this is where Matt and I grabbed bright blue margaritas right before we got engaged.
Number 4: Tony's Town Square - specifically before fireworks
I ride or die for Tony's Town Square in Magic Kingdom. I feel like this place always get forgotten about or hated on by Disney blogs and podcasts and I strongly disagree! Matt and I make it a tradition to eat here during every one of our visits. It is an Italian restaurant right off of Main Street with serious Lady & The Tramp vibes. The food, specifically the gluten free options, are delicious, and they serve decently priced wine by the bottle. If you can get seated out in the sun room portion of the dining room, you can people watch while you enjoy your meal. Personally, those are my favorite seats in the house. If you schedule your meal perfectly, you can be exiting right on cue for the nightly fireworks show over the castle. Since this restaurant is right off of Main Street, once you walk out you are just steps from a perfect viewing location for fireworks, but right near the park exit so you don't have to fight the crowds when the show ends. I highly recommend making a reservation since this place can fill up, especially at opportune times (like right before fireworks). On the other hand, if you aren't picky about timing, this is often one of the restaurants that you can find random openings for a day or two in advance (sometimes even same day!). This is pretty rare for a lot of Disney dining. I chalk it up to park visitors totally underestimating the greatness of this place.
Number Three: Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar
This is an actual hidden gem inside of the Polynesian resort. They are located behind an unassuming inside of a hallway near the outdoor bar. With a quick knock, you are invited inside of a dimly lit, and usually packed room. What this bar lacks in size, it makes up for in atmosphere and entertainment. The decor is so incredibly detailed, you feel as though you truly stepped into a real, but crazy tiki bar. The decor is something you have to experience for yourself, so I won't ruin the surprise. What I will say is the tiki gods have an impact on the atmosphere, shining light on certain aspects, creating abrupt weather changes, and triggering volcano eruptions. When it comes to drinks, they have some killer tropical cocktails that you can also get in non-alcoholic form, which is a nice touch! They also have a variety of appetizer you can munch on as well, so if you aren't in the mood for a drink there are plenty of other reasons to come check it out. Make sure to keep an eye on other patrons as they order the signature cocktails, the tiki gods can really shake things up depending on what they ask for. Overall, we love this place because just being there is such a good time. We love looking at the detailed decor and interacting with the spirited and rowdy staff.
A few tips to make sure you have the best experience possible : Trader Sam's opens at 4pm most days so make sure to be there right there on the dot to get your name on the waiting list. The space and seating are limited so it can fill up quickly. Due to the limited space, a lot of the seating areas are communal which lends itself to great conversation and meeting other guests around you.
Number Two: Animal Kingdom Lodge
I could do a whole post just about why I love Animal Kingdom Lodge so much. To give you the summary, basically the attention and execution on detailed elements will set this resort apart from anywhere else you have ever stayed. I haven't had the pleasure of staying on property at the Animal Kingdom Lodge yet, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying its various restaurants, bars, and hang out spots. The back of the main lobby opens up onto a savanna, full of native African animals, many of which have been rescued and rehabilitated. You can stroll the grounds while enjoying your morning coffee and viewing, you know, giraffes. On a nice day, one my favorite things to do is grab a book, find an open rocking chair on one of the public decks, and relax. The environment is so incredibly magical and peaceful. I actually have to set an alarm because I will get lost in my book and the beauty of the surroundings. This is also a great pre dinner ritual if you have reservations at one of the restaurants on site, which are stellar dining options as well.
Number One: Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom
I could hang out here ALL DAY. Truly all day, I would if I could. I only just recently discovered this lounge, thanks to my family who has made this a regular hangout for them. It's easy to miss as you are walking through Animal Kingdom, but once you discover it, you won't ever want to relax anywhere else. This low key bar is designed all around celebrating the love of traveling. The indoor space is cozy, and features decor with travel quotes and conversation starters beautifully sprawled across the ceiling. The outdoor area has luxurious sofas to lounge on, a view of the lush green landscape, and to complete the luxe effect, draped curtains on the open air windows. The vibe here is so relaxed and the servers/bartenders are incredibly pleasant to interact with. The drink menu is pretty extensive in my opinion, ranging from regionally themed cocktails, to a nice selection of beers and wines. Non-alcoholic cocktails are also offered here, if you are looking to try the concoctions without the booze. If drinks aren't on your wish list, you are still in the right place because, beyond the atmosphere, the food is equally as amazing. Almost all of their small plates can be prepared gluten free and they even have gluten free churros which I wish I could eat everyday for the rest of my life. Seriously.
These are just a few of our favorite gems in Disney, but I know there are a ton more to explore and discover. That is part of the fun of going to Disney again and again, stumbling upon new magical experiences that you didn't even know you needed. We always love new suggestions on where to go so please share your favorites below! Also, make sure to let me know if you end up visiting any of our favorite hidden gems! I'd love to hear about your experiences! Magical travels.
We touched down back in Baltimore today from our week look vacation. As much as I didn’t want to come back to real life, I am happy to be reunited with my pups and sleep in my own bed. The day we get back from trips is always full of trying to get us set back up for the rest of the week. Unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping, trying to make the transition back to the daily grind as easy as possible. My to do list isn’t just full of chores though. I also make sure to take some time to reset my body after being on a different schedule (and potentially being jet lagged). I also prepare for my week and get organized so the 'back to real life' anxiety is kept to a minimum.
Rehydrating is priority numero uno. Usually while I’m unpacking I put on a hydrating face mask to combat any dryness from being on the plane. This past trip I tried this new face mask from Summer Friday’s call Jet Lag, so fitting right? I've also been liking the Drunk Elephant Lippe Balm to help any dry or sunburnt lips.
I also make sure to rehydrate my insides too. This is probably the most important part of my reset routine. If I don't rehydrated properly after traveling I feel pretty miserable and that on top of a post vacation slump is not fun. I usually carry DripDrop ORS on the plane with me so I drink one packet on the flight and another once I get home. On top of the usual dehydration from flying/ traveling I pretty much always have some type of Crohn’s symptoms when I’m away and out of my normal eating routine. This always requires a little extra dehydration relief to make sure I’m feeling good once I’m back to business. I notice, too, that the more dehydrated I am the more my skin will freak out from climate changes between destinations. I think of dehydration relief as the ultimate way to reset my body and make sure I am fueled and balanced to get back to the grind. DripDrop ORS also helps to pack in some extra vitamins that can help prevent getting sick from the nasty germs you can pick up on the plane. Win, win situation overall.
Whether I traveled through different time zones, jet lagged or not, I like to keep my nighttime routine consistent and calming. I make a cup of mint tea with some CBD oil to help me sleep and enjoy this while reading. I always feel the anxiety build in me as the clock creeps closer to having to go back to work. I try and limit this anxiety by trying to stay as relaxed from my trip as possible as long as I can. By getting a good night sleep, I’m more physically and emotionally equipped to handle playing catch up at work when I am back in the office.
The last thing I do, is block out an hour of the day to read critical emails and map out the rest of my week. It’s easy to wait until the morning you return back to the office to catch up, but to me that feels dreadful and chaotic. By feeling prepared and organized for the week of ‘real life’ ahead, my anxiety is lessened and I know what to expect. I make sure to plan my meals and time to move (walk, at home workout, gym) so I can get back into my routine as quickly as possible.
Right now I’m snuggled up on our sofa with our pups, catching up on our shows, and feeling as ready as I can be for the week ahead. What do you do to get back into your routine after a trip?
Our next vacation is just a little over a month away and I am ready to go. I mean, I’m always ready for vacation, but this is our last Disney World trip for a little while. I know I always say this, but for real it actually is going to be. We have another fun, very Disney related trip that we’re planning in the winter so really we have to chill on the trips to WDW for at least a little bit. The other day someone commented that we literally always have a vacation/trip planned. Yeah, we do. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Honestly, for me planning the trip is almost as fun as going. I love researching where to go, hunting for deals, and looking forward to the plans. Disney World is probably the vacation spot where it is the most crucial to plan ahead. I think this might kind of be why I love it so much. There is so much involved in the planning it’s an activity in and of itself. The way I think about it, if you’re going to spend money on a vacation, why not enjoy the anticipation and planning of it.
I’ve done Disney World enough times to appreciate the planning that goes into it and respect the hell out of people who do that as a job. (Shout our to my sister). Luckily she helps me with all of the tough stuff (reservations, fast passes, etc.). I do always make a 30 days out plan no matter what trip I’m going on to make sure I’m ready when takeoff comes and my stress is as minimal as can be. One thing I’ve realized about traveling with Crohn’s is minimizing the stress in the front end of the trip can be critical in preventing a flare.
For those who aren’t anxiety ridden Type A’s like myself, you may think I’m crazy for planning so far out, but I promise you, there are a few things that if you do early will save you so much stress come travel time.
My first piece of advice is to make your packing list. I know this seems far out but I swear there is a reason. By making your list early, you can identify items you are missing/ need to order. You can cue up your Amazon Prime list to fill in the gaps on your list. I like to plan outfits ahead of time so I can look for deals on additional pieces I need. I also like to start ordering cosmetic items from Amazon because I can usually get a good deal for them and I’m not scrambling at the last minute to pick things up.
Extra Tip: A little bonus tip here... I get SO many samples of beauty/makeup/skincare products. Between subscription boxes, free samples, and gifted items I have a big collection. I keep all of my extra sample and travel sized products in a special bin in my bathroom closet. This way, I can grab items to pack quickly if I need to. This is also great for guests that are staying at your house! Real friends enforce each other’s skincare routines, okay?
Check for upgrades. I LOVE this one. For our honeymoon, our cruise line sent out and email to bid on upgrades. This was the first time I saw this, but ever since I’ve been ON IT. If a cruise ship or resort hasn’t reached capacity by 60 to 30 days out, sometimes they will let you bid to upgrade your accommodations. This usually means blindly putting forth an amount of money, designated by you and usually A LOT less than market value, to score a nicer room. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always worth a shot. Sometimes vacation packages will offer add ons as it gets closer to your travel date that you can purchase for a discount. This includes things like drink packages!
Make sure dinner reservations are made and activity plans are solidified. This is a big one if you are traveling to a destination hoping to hit a hot spot for dining or drinks. When we went out to LA I knew SUR and Pump were on my ‘must see’ list, so I made sure to lock down reservations as soon as they were available. You can always switch things around as it gets closer, but it’s better to at least have something on the books. This is so key in Disney Parks where you can get highly coveted dining reservations six months in advance. Now this requires a TON of foresight so soon I’m looping my Disney planner sister in on a post to give you the whole scoop on that. Definitely it is something to be aware of though. When it comes to activity plans/ tours it is also important to research and plan in advance. Especially if there is something you really want to do or see, book it early so you don’t miss out.
These next 30 days as we gear up for our trip I’ll be knocking out these items on my ‘to do’ list. I’ve gotten a bit of a head start and have a huge Amazon clothes haul on the way, along with my outfit for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I’ll continue to update y’all on my finds and my preparation process!
Packing for a Long Weekend at the Beach: What You Seriously Shouldn't Forget But Might... So Read This
With Fourth of July weekend right around the corner, I have been getting ready for our upcoming beach trip. Matt and I are headed to Ocean City, MD with a few friends to enjoy the Fourth on the beach. Every year we always try to do at least one beach vacation and most years we end up in North Carolina or Florida. I honestly can't remember the last time I went to Ocean City in the summer, which is crazy because it is only a little over two hours away from Baltimore!
I'm working in the office right up until we leave this week so I spent the weekend pulling together items from my packing list so I'll be ready to hit the road as soon as work lets out for the holiday. My packing lists are NO JOKE. They are very detailed and live in an organized little notebook AND the notepad on my phone just in case one gets lost. Usually I'm flying to my destination so my packing essentials have to be paired down a bit. When it comes to beach trips, the more things you can bring with you the better. As I made my packing list I highlighted a few items that are crucial to bring but may slip your mind. I know this from experience......
The first thing is a BEACH UMBRELLA. Beach umbrellas are so key for protecting your skin from the sun and allowing you to enjoy being outside for as long as possible. I feel as though people are always so excited to get out and basque in the sun that they forget after 20 minutes it can get seriously hot. And amp up your risk for sunburn. I am a big fun of napping under an umbrella with a nice ocean breeze coming my way. If you are trying to read at the beach this is also key because you can have more control of the sun situation and not be squinting all day. Note cute and bad for the face wrinkles.
What about if it rains... BOARD GAMES, duh. I am always a fan of bringing board games on vacation. When you have a group of people together its nice to interact instead of sitting on your phones or watching a movie. Games are a really fun option to keep the group engaged without being glued to technology. I mean, you're on vacation, come on. Some of our personal favorites are Code Names, Scategories, and Life.
Staying hydrated is also critical for making sure your time at the beach stays fun and relaxing. I always recommend bringing your own INSULATED CUPS to fill up for a long day at the beach. They are way better than traditional plastic water bottles for keeping your water ice cold all day. Depending on where you are staying, they may not have these kinds of travel cups provided for you, so to be safe I always bring my own. This is my tried and true from Amazon that I am in love with.
When laying on the beach I am always trying to hydrate as much as possible. Sometimes this proves difficult when summer water aka rose is my ocean side beverage of choice. While I'm sipping my seasonal favorite, I pop some DripDrop ORS in my big water cup and sip away. It is so easy to get dehydrated when you are outside in the heat and enjoying some cocktails. I always pack pouches of DripDrop in our cooler or lunchbox, that's my little secret trick. It helps to rehydrate you very quickly so you can get back to enjoying your day at the beach and even prevents dehydration from occurring in the first place.
Next up are PAPER PRODUCTS. Just like with the insulated cup situation, you never know what you are walking into when staying at a hotel or beach rental. I always like to pack some paper products to keep cleanup easy and to prevent too much use of a host's nice dinnerware. Usually I will get a cute theme that goes with our trip and get coordinated napkins and straws as well. This adds some fun decor and prevents fights about who is doing the dishes on vacation. I DO get the recyclable options when I can so while this tip may be frowned upon, I have to speak the truth!
Then there is the potentially most needed and forgotten....ALOE LOTION. We've all come in from the beach just to realize we got a little more red than we had hoped. It is such a bad feeling when you get sunburnt on day one and are uncomfortable for the rest of the trip. I am vigilant when it comes to sunscreen but my husband, not so much. Even if you avoid the sun, packing some aloe products that you can share can save you from having to hear complaints the rest of the week. I definitely know this one from experience.....
Of course I've packed some other, totally extra items like I always do. Personalized wine tumblers, Fourth of July themed bathing suits, stars and stripes paper straws, just to name a few.... Target and Amazon are my go to's for low priced, cheeky items that add some themed fun to a trip.
Drop in the comments any links to Amazon products I can Prime in time for my trip on Wednesday! I'm always open to adding to my list, so give me some recommendations that you all love! Also, let me know, how are you spending your Fourth of July weekend, road tripping to the beach or grilling out at home?
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending my first ever Create & Cultivate conference. I’ve been wanting to go for a couple of years now and finally I was able to make it happen. Let me tell you, all of the hype I gave this event was totally warranted. The displays and installations were incredible enough to make the ticket well worth the cost. Live flowers, Insta worthy walls, and the most perfectly on brand decor was abundant. On top of the aesthetic, the content that was delivered was top notch and the room radiated serious girl boss energy.
I went with Amy (a la AmyScripts) and it was both of our first times attending Create & Cultivate. Since we were both rookies, we didn’t know what to expect at all. I mean we knew to expect as far as the content and flow of the day but as far as the dirty details and insider tips, we were pretty clueless. There were a few things that I wish a C&C veteran would have been able to share with us beforehand to help us prepare and make our day even better than it already was. I am volunteering myself, as the (now) experienced attendee, to share some insight onto what to expect and a few tips for making the most of your Create & Cultivate experience. Before I dig in, I will say, these are just my opinions based on my experience. Yours may be different if you attended in a different city or even if we attended the same conference! I want to hear your thoughts and tips! Please, please share! And, last, if you are looking for a recap of the event, you can watch my play by play via the Create & Cultivate story highlight on my Instagram.
Okay, here is the scoop…..
1. Dress for the day
This seems SUPER obvious but what I thought I should be wearing was not practical and definitely not sustainable for all day wear. I tried to dress cute but comfortable but also in something the represents me and my brand. My floor length kimono was cute in theory but was literally dragging through dirt by the end of the day. Plus, I was really cold. You certainly should pack a jacket and not make the rookie mistake I did. I didn’t understand that a lot of the event was going to be outside so I needed to be able to layer up or layer down based on the time of day and temperature.
I really tried for practicality by wearing heels but bringing flats. I wore my heels for a grand total of 30 minutes all day. And it was truly a pain to carry them around in my bag for the other 10+ hours. Next time, I am wearing comfortable flats and not bringing another option. There were tons of girls in the most adorable outfits with sky high heels, and if that works for them then go ahead babe, but for me I am not fun to hang out with when I am in pain.
Next time I’m opting for a more casual vibe; either jeans and a cute top or a jumpsuit paired with cute flats and a denim jacket of some sort. I’m telling you guys, I would have been SO much more comfortable if I would have followed this advice.
I've pulled together some items on my 'must have' list for next time.
2. Bring a big bag
*With extra room in it. The amount of swag and free stuff you get throughout the day is truly jaw dropping. I found myself wildly under-prepared to tote around my new goodies in my already stuffed (thanks unnecessary heels) bag. Next time I will probably go with a small bag to carry my essentials and a cute and large tote to store everything else. If you are traveling in from out of town to attend also keep this in mind. The gift bag alone is enough to set your luggage over the weight limit so make sure your re packing light and preparing to carry home your loot.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
3. The start time is a suggestion not a requirement
When it comes to schedules I love to abide. Having a solid plan and knowing where to be and when are two things that speak to my soul. That being said, it gave me MAJOR anxiety when Amy suggested we show up around 9am when the start time was 8am. Turns out, she was right. The world didn’t end, and this is a strategy I will follow next time. Create & Cultivate is a SERIOUSLY long day, so unless you can handle a 14-16 hour excursion, you need to get savvy with your scheduling. The morning schedule leaves a lot of down time for checking in and grabbing coffee/breakfast. We used this time to check out the pop ups and additional activities, which was great, but honestly, we could have fit that in later in the day. I also recommend prioritizing the panels you want to attend. If the morning panel isn’t hitting home with you as much as one of the keynote speakers at the end of the night, you may want to skip out in the morning so you can be engaged later in the day. By time we were exhausted, mid afternoon, we were seeing a whole new group of ladies roll in fresh faced and ready to go. They got the memo on how to do it!
This brings me to my last tip...
4. Prioritize and pace yourself
All of the pop ups, activities, speakers, and photo ops can be overwhelming. They jam pack the day with things to do so you are continuously engaged. I went into the day convinced that I needed to check every booth off my list and do absolutely everything. Have to get my money’s worth, right? That was another expectation that was wildly unrealistic. Going into the day, you have to prioritize what you definitely want to do/ what is worth waiting in line for, and make sure to plan accordingly. Getting to everything, while potentially possible, would be downright exhausting. Prioritizing and pacing yourself can ensure you have a fun day while still getting the most out the conference and not burning yourself out.
Create & Cultivate NYC was such a beneficial experience, like I really feel like I got a lot out of it. I came home inspired and ready to channel my inner boss babe. Now that I have the “insider tips” I can’t wait to see how great of an experience I have next time. To be honest, I considered booking a flight so that I could attend the Self Care Summit in Los Angeles in a couple of months, but somehow resisted. The next time C&C is on the East Coast, consider me in. Now, you have the tips to make the best of your Create & Cultivate experience, too.
So, tell me... have YOU been? What tips do you have that I should add to my list?
Saying a little proactive cheers to the weekend today. I’m counting down the days until this Friday when I’m going on a much needed long weekend girls trip to New York City. Amy Scripts and I are headed to Create & Cultivate. We’ve been dreaming of attending this conference for years and now that we finally have the opportunity, we’re making the most of it with a jam packed weekend in the city that never sleeps. As crazily excited as I am, anytime I look forward to an event, I enter the situation with an overwhelming amount of anxiety that honestly really sucks. There have been countless times that I’ve looked forward to events or trips, only to be hit with a Crohn’s flare or complication that has put a damper on my day. That’s the reality of IBD and while I can’t eliminate the possibility of feeling sick, I can make sure I am armed with the proper tricks up my sleeve to help me stay feeling as good as possible.
I scheduled my Remicade for today (a Tuesday ugh), but I needed to have it before the trip so I’d be feeling as good as possible. I stocked up on all of my prescription and OTC meds to throw in my extra large tote bag. And I’m making sure to throw ample amounts of DripDrop ORS packets in my purse. Everyone has their own way of navigating IBD and for me this is how I do it. I know certain things that will make me sick and avoid them. Then there are other things I have no idea will affect me until my digestive systems makes up its mind that day. When I’m traveling, I’m constantly eating at new places and trying new foods and cocktails. I’ve mentioned this before, but trying out a city’s unique cuisine and cocktails is one of my favorite things. IBD you’re not stopping me from that! I know the chances of me having a reaction to a food I eat out is higher than making something at home, but let’s be real, I’m going to NYC.... girl’s gotta enjoy herself. Where I’m really careful though (and where DripDrop saves me) is in the cocktail department. You know I’m a fan of a rosé or a cold glass of champagne, do not get me wrong, but the dehydration risk really does freak me out..... no matter how many times you see me post #roseallday.
Let me tell you, when you’re already dehydrated (thanks Crohn’s) and indulge in a few alcoholic beverages, things can take a bad turn. Most likely you’ll end up extremely hungover with GI symptoms to boot. Not fun when you’re trying to have a lively girls weekend, not fun when you are trying to make the most of your days exploring a city, and not fun when you are sharing a bathroom. SOS.
That being said, I am not saying see ya to my favorite NYC cocktail spots (While We Were Young and Pietro Nolita, I’m looking at you!). Life is about BALANCE. And enjoying the heck out of yourself when you get a well deserved break. After indulging in a couple beverages I make sure to drink a packet of DripDrop in my water before I go to bed AND when I wake up. This helps me to feel so much better when I get up in the morning and keeps my body from experiencing those negative impacts of dehydration. It’s like my secret weapon for not feeling like a total hungover human. My favorite packets to use in this case are the full serving sticks that you mix into 16oz of water.
This also makes me super popular on group trips because everyone is asking me for DripDrop. How popular now are those services who give you in home IVs to cure your hangover? I’ve basically got that in a little pouch. Dehydration is honestly one of the worst feelings and I’m incredibly happy that I won’t have to deal with that mess this weekend. I’m not saying this means you can go out and get college drunk and feel fine. I’m saying that you can enjoy celebrating with friends, trying cocktails at an event, and trying that bottle of wine you have no idea how to pronounce. You can live life without the constant anxiety of how dehydration will impact you. You can avoid that pit in your stomach that makes you feel like you are going to miss out. You can feel a little more like your 27 year old self who just wants to laugh with her friend at dinner and cheers to celebrating a well deserved weekend off.
Photos by Madison Short
Matt and I love traveling together. Being on vacation or on a trip where we are removed from the stresses of everyday life and we just focus on things we love doing and each other is the ideal situation. You find out so much about a person when you travel with them and if traveling is something you want to do as a couple, you have to make sure your travel styles vibe well. Luckily, Matt and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to jet setting so it quickly became something we loved to do as a couple and will continue to do (hopefully more often as long as the money and puppy sitters are there).
When we were making the decision on where to go for our honeymoon we definitely had some back and forth before we came to the final decision. My heart was set on Europe from the beginning because it had been years since I had been abroad and Matt had never been. Matt was pretty open to my suggestion but somehow the idea morphed into him going to see soccer games overseas which was NOT how I envisioned our honeymoon going. I mean that would be a great trip, just not for our honeymoon. I imagined my college days, gallivanting around Europe, without a care in the world, going from city to city while running off of practically no sleep. Back then, it was thrilling and made me feel spontaneous but now, just thinking of living like that gives me a stomach ulcer.
I am not “go with the flow”, I like everything planned, and I knew that as ridiculous as it sounded, in order to relax I would have to plan the shit out of a Euro trip before we went. Usually I would have jumped at the opportunity but when you are planning a wedding, hustling at your 9-5, blogging on the side, and trying to keep your health in check, the LAST thing you want is another thing to plan. Now I do have to give Matt credit, for as non planning as he is, he did offer to help but me being the extremely particular psycho that I am I insisted I was going to do this myself. I felt bad because I wanted us to have an amazing honeymoon but I didn’t have the time to plan something, especially on a budget, but at the same time I wanted it to be super specifically everything I ever wanted.
As Lauryn Evarts would say, “I don’t ask for much”.
Our friends had done a European cruise the year before and absolutely loved it. They were able to visit multiple locations and seemed to have remained relatively stress free throughout the whole thing, planning included. I had been on cruises my whole life growing up for our family vacations (including a European one) and Matt and I went on a cruise together a few years ago. It seemed like a perfect solution. And it was. Here’s why:
You get to experience a bunch of different places.
If we were going to pay for the flight and invest the time into going abroad we wanted to make sure we were seeing more than just one destination. Cruises give you that option! My first experience abroad was on a European cruise and I love that it gave me a little taste of so many different places. From that experience I was able to decide what my favorite cities were and make plans to visit again. With this being Matt’s first time abroad I wanted him to have a similar experience and be able to take in the beauty of the different culture, history, and architecture of a few locations.
Everything is taken care of.
Once you board a cruise you have to worry about absolutely nothing. You don’t have to worry about getting from city to city with all of your luggage, you don’t have to worry about where you are going to eat dinner, you don’t have to plan your days in port because the excursion has already taken care of that. Take it from the most anxious person ever, if I say you have nothing to worry about, you really don’t.
Upfront cost/ easy to budget.
This one is a huge relief especially when you are trying to plan and budget for a wedding at the same time. Before we even left for our cruise we had paid for our flights, the cruise itself, our excursions, and gratuity. This way there were no surprises and we could start paying these things months before we actually went on the trip. The only additional expenses were extra meals we had while in different ports and alcohol on the ship. With that it was super easy to track our expenses though so we didn’t have any colossally terrifying credit card bills to return home to.
We choose to do the 7 Day Adriatic Cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line. It was cost effective but still really nice which was important to us. We weren’t going to be spending a ton of time on the ship because we were visiting so many ports but I am a stickler for good food and service so we were not going to compromise on that.
Our itinerary was:
Sunday: Venice, Italy (EMBARK) --- Cruise leaves at 5:30 pm
Monday: Kotor, Montenegro --- 2:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tuesday: Corfu, Greece --- 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Wednesday: Santorini, Greece --- 2:00 pm-10:00 pm
Thursday: Mykonos, Greece --- 8:00 am-4:00 pm
Friday: At Sea
Saturday: Dubrovnik, Croatia --- 7:00 am-1:00 pm
Sunday: Venice, Italy (DISEMBARK)
We choose this cruise specifically because I was dead set on going to Santorini and we both really wanted to do the Game of Thrones tour in Croatia. This itinerary gave us the option to do both and also stop in Mykonos which was another destination I had wanted to check out.
We left out of Venice, Italy and neither of us had ever been there before so we were super pumped about this and wanted to get there a few days early so we had some time to explore. I also ALWAYS recommend getting to the port city early if possible just in case of any delays, missed flights/connections, or any other SOS moments. It also starts your vacation off a whole lot smoother when you aren’t stressed because you are down to the wire on your schedule.
We booked our flights so that we would fly overnight on a Thursday and arrive in Venice on Friday morning. That would give us half of Friday, all day Saturday, and half of Sunday to explore before we boarded the ship. The question here was, where were we going to stay? At this point we had invested the majority of our budget into the flights and the actual cruise so we were not going to be staying at any fancy hotels on the water. I looked. They were amazing. I tried to justify it. But I couldn’t. Instead we opted for an Airbnb that cost us about $120 or so per night. As much as I am a fancy hotel lover, I also really love staying in an Airbnb, especially in a new city. I feel like it really gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and what it would actually be like to live there.
Our small apartment was perfect for our stay. We had a full bed, a kitchenette, our own bathroom, and, thankfully, air conditioning. My favorite part is that we were tucked away from the street in a building that opened up to a private courtyard where we relaxed and enjoyed wine before we headed out for dinners. Our Airbnb host was so friendly and extremely helpful. She met us at the water bus station and walked us to our apartment. Since there are no real streets in Venice, things can get a bit confusing so we were thrilled she was there to help. We weren’t in a super touristy area so we had the chance to try out cafes that weren’t flooded with tourists and explore the residential areas that surrounded us. We stopped at the fancy hotels I mentioned before to grab a cocktail on their terraces and enjoy the views and then strolled back to our cozy home away from home. I absolutely loved it. AND it was way more budget friendly than the alternative.
TIP: We actually were able to cover the Airbnb expense with the points from my Capital One Venture Card. I got this card about two years ago to use for all of my business expenses. This means that I can pay that off every month with the money my company reimburses me with while racking up points to use to my next vacation. The thing I love about this card is you can use your points toward any travel expense, not just flights. That means pretty much anything from hotels down to your Uber. You also get a substantial point bonus if you spend a certain amount within your first three months of having the card. I can’t remember the exact amounts from when I signed up but we were able to use that bonus to put a serious dent into our flights to and from Hawaii back in 2016.
Speaking of flights…..
Flights are always the budget buster and there isn’t really a solid way to get around that. Of course if you are spontaneous and can randomly book a trip somewhere you can take advantage of those flash deals on flights and things of that nature but when you are traveling at very specific times, your options are limited. A trick that we used for this trip and our trip to Hawaii was piecing together one way flights that were more cost effective instead of just settling on the roundtrip package. On our way to Hawaii we did a one way flight to LA, hung out for a few days, took another one way flight to Maui, and then booked another one way flight home. It ended up being cheaper than the alternative and allowed us to break up our travel time. On this trip we searched surrounding cities for cheaper flights going abroad. Luckily, living in Baltimore gives us access to flights out of quite a few major cities within only a few hour drive. We found an Aer Lingus flight out of Philly that stopped in Dublin and then flew straight to Venice. Score. For our home flight we booked one from Venice, back through Dublin, and then to Boston, then Baltimore. It worked out really well and saved us a chunk of money that we could then put into other vacation related expenses.
Since we were already paying a decent amount to fly overseas, I wanted us to get the most out of our trip and not sacrifice any potentially great experience because of money. But at the same time I still didn’t want to blow our budget out of the water. We have other trips on the horizon that we need funds for too! We found a pretty good balance where we splurged on some things (like good food and wine) but saved in other areas that didn’t necessarily matter as much to us. Let me give you an example… On the ship they offer specialty dining packages which are really cool but not cheap. They allow you to visit the specialty restaurants that have some amped up décor and service along with a special menu. We did end up doing one night of specialty dining but the rest of the time we ate at the regular restaurants on board which still had great food/service and we had already paid for it in our initial booking price! Instead of spending big on the ship we went to nice dinners in Venice and Santorini where we could get courses of fresh local food and bottles of wine for a fraction of what that would cost on the ship.
The main expense that we accrued while on board the ship was alcoholic beverages. On our previous cruise we purchased the alcoholic beverage package that allowed us pretty much unlimited drinks for the duration of our , all for a flat, prepaid rate. We looked into the packages this time around but the cost seemed too steep for what we thought we would actually be drinking. Plus, we were going to be off of the ship for the majority of the time in ports where wine was cheaper than water. Definitely a better choice than on ship purchases.
At dinner we would split a bottle of wine that complimented our meal. The bottles were pretty decently priced in my opinion and the ones we tried were pretty good! I’m not a super wine snob or anything so I would think for someone with a more elevated taste they may disagree. I am at least moderately picky when it comes to wine though and they had viable options in just about every category. I did splurge on a few glasses of Veuve one night.
What about excursions?
Our excursions were prepaid from when we booked them months ago and some of our wedding guests gifted us excursions through our Wanderable site so that covered a large amount of our activities we had planned. If you are big into traveling I highly recommend registering on Wanderable. The website allows you to create your own page detailing your honeymoon plans and allows your wedding guest to purchase different experiences for you. The whole thing is customizable and you can add anything from excursions, to on board credits, to spa treatments, that your friends can contribute to or purchase in full. I am always into giving an experience instead of a material item so I think it is super cool to be able to actually see the couple you are gifting to, enjoy an adventure you purchased for them.
Even in Venice, where we obviously didn’t have any excursions, we didn’t spend a ton of money on activities. Everything is walkable to the transportation costs were very low. When we did need a boat or a car to get somewhere, we relied on public transportation which is very affordable. In Venice we did splurge on one activity which was a total MUST while we were there. A gondola ride. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and it actually felt unreal. It was 100% worth the 100 euro we dropped and I would certainly do it again next time.
TIP: Before we left for our trip we opened up a Southwest credit card. Now these credit card tips aren’t supposed to make you think it is no big deal or that you should just open a bunch of credit cards. We don’t have a ton of cards and choose wisely based on the points/rewards which cards make sense to open when. We have been planning a trip to Florida in December and we knew that if we signed up for the card, spent money, and got the new sign up bonus points, it would basically cover our plane tickets for our next trip. This trick worked perfectly and by both using just one credit account to put all of our travel purchases on we were able to really track what we were spending and realistically communicate that to others now when they ask.
What’s the verdict?
Matt and I both agree, we are thrilled with our decision to have done a cruise for our honeymoon. Exploring Europe in such a carefree (but preplanned!) way allowed both of us to relax but also experience so many different places in the Mediterranean. Everyone always asks us if we wish we had more time in the ports. “It seems like such a short time!” is the number one concern I hear when other people are considering booking a trip for themselves. Of course we wish we had more time in ports. I would have loved to have spent a week on every Greek island we visited. That being said, I also don’t have months off of work and a trust fund to boot. For the time we had and the budget we had, there is no better way that I think we could have seen these destinations.
Now that Matt is at least a little more familiar with Europe and I am done with wedding planning, our next trip abroad will probably be planned out in my typical OCD fashion. It probably won’t be another cruise again for a little while just because we like to mix things up but I certainly will do a European cruise of some type again.
My overall verdict is that if you want to go to Europe on your honeymoon, you want to see more than just one place, and you want to actually relax, a cruise is 100% the way to go.
Hopefully this article helped to break down how we decided on our trip as well as how we made things as cost effective as possible. I know there were a lot of questions about this topic so if there are areas I didn’t touch on or things I didn’t answer send me a DM or drop it in the comments and I will make sure to address your topic.
Over the next month or so I am working on creating posts highlighting the different destinations we visited along with some tips, tricks, and recommendations from those places. Stay tuned and follow along on Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) to be the first to know when these posts go live!
Hello, hello, hello.
It has been a little bit. To be honest life has been hitting me hard. I have been super overwhelmed with just about everything going on.
I've decided I am in deep need of:
Yes, I am kidding, but wouldn't those things be nice?
Finally I've come out of the eye of the stress storm and am on the way out of the hurricane... I think. Either way, I've planned some great new content that is coming up and to hold you over Diane and I release a short podcast episode!
We jump right in, chatting on the phone from Maryland to Hawaii. I am in a post Remicade daze so please mind my "um's" (brain fog is real AF) and Diane is lounging on her balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Same, right?
This was Diane's episode to run with and she did an amazing job of describing her beautiful vacation and giving some tips for traveling to Maui and traveling with Crohn's.
Check out this mini episode and stay tuned for another full length one that is going to be released later this week!
Our new podcast is up on iTunes! We are recapping all of the details of our trip to Charleston, SC. Make sure to give us a listen below or via iTunes.
If you want to help support us please rate, review, and subscribe on iTunes!
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.