perú

Eeek, you guys, E and I leave in less than ONE week for our trip to South America. Back in February, I announced our big international adventure for 2017 was going to be a trip to Perú to hike Machu Picchu, and now I can’t believe it’s almost here!

It is no secret that I strongly dislike packing, like very much dislike it. Packing is my enemy.

Poor E usually has to deal with my incredible indecisiveness and dance party breaks into the wee hours of the night before we leave for a trip, but I’m determined to be ready wayyy ahead of schedule this time.

perú

Me to my responsibilities as a packing llama: New phone, who dis? 

We fly out next Thursday, but I’m going to aim to have a majority of my packing done this weekend. *claps for self*

We’ll see. Wish me luck.

Regardless of what happens, I think I deserve brownie points, because we’re packing everything up in our Kelty Redwing 44 backpacks.

I looove this bag! Highly recommend it if you’re traveling abroad and want something that’s compact enough for international airlines (we had no problems using them as carry-ons), but spacious enough to fit all you’ll need.

After E and I graduated, we took these babies on a month long trip across Europe. I repeat, 30 DAYS – and they worked like a gem.

perú

They’re such good quality, and available for a solid price online right now. We just bought one as a gift for my sister. It’s truly a symbol of adventure to me.

All that being said, these bags bring back all sorts of happy memories (did you know we got engaged on that Europe trip??), and I’m excited to break them out again!

Two little items I’m excited to be packing this time…my new stackable wedding bands from Qalo! These flexible, fun alternatives have been perfect to wear when staying active on the beach or at the gym.

I love that they’ll be perfect for our hike – no worry of banging up my real bands or anything happening to it while traveling. E got one too!

kelty

My last piece of news to share is that there are a ridiculous amount of adorable llama pics on the internet, FYI. Would you guys believe that when we were booking our hike with Alpaca Expeditions, I live chatted them to confirm we’d see llamas/alpacas on our trek because our hike description didn’t mention them, while others did…?

The answer was of course, yes. Hehe. I’m sure the person replying to me super enjoyed that. But hey, this is going to be my Emperor’s New Groove childhood dream come true!!

via Buzzfeed

Well, time I go back to googling packing lists in between my animal photo searches. Happy weekend, friends!

If you’ve got any Perú packing tips, comment away!

Days By Day

san francisco travel guide

If we’re friends over on Insta (and we totally should be!), then you might know Eric and I recently spent a long weekend in San Francisco visiting some of our best friends. We’d both been before, so it was fun to spend time at some amazing local spots since we had visited the more touristy ones!

On that note though – SF has some incredible touristy spots, and I highly reco them if you’re going for your first time! More on that later.

The trip was so wonderful, I just had to pull together a San Francisco travel guide to share all the local spots and delicious eats we hit up over three days!

san francisco travel guide

Ooo most of the b-e-a-utiful photos you’ll see throughout this post were snapped by my man! Eric has been playing around more and more with photography, and I think he’s got quite the knack for it.

{Getting Around}

Those hills will get to ya, but walking around is so worth it! We stayed with a friend in Lower Haight, and definitely ubered when we were headed to a neighborhood on the other side of the city, like The Marina or North Beach. Other than that, once you’re in an area, it’s great to walk around and take in all in!

If it’s your first time to SF, I of course recommend taking a trolley ride! There’s also a bus and train system if you want other ways to get around.

san francisco travel guide

{Day One}

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse // ALERT THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Mr. Holmes Bakehouse is real life croissant heaven. Apparently, there’s normally a line out the door on weekends, so go in the morning on a week day if possible. You must try the California Roll (think sushi inside a croissant instead of rice, soy sauce included) and the Cruffin (croissant + muffin, aka GOLD).

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

Blue Bottle Coffee + Phil’z Coffee // Two different shops to check out if you are coffee addicts like us – both big deals in SF. The inside of the Blue Bottle we visited in the Financial District was beautiful. This stuff is strong! Phil’z is a laid back environment that serves drip coffee only. The iced mint mojito is a local fave!

Lombard Street // The crookedest street in the world. A SF must in the Russian Hill neighborhood that’s always fun to walk through.

san francisco travel guide

Coit Tower // This 210 foot tower is a recognizable part of the San Fran skyline and complete with an observation deck on top. Even if you don’t pay to go up, you can see pretty views from the area just outside!

Chinatown // We loved walking through here! Fun fact: it’s the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Popping into the crazy shops is fun, and you can’t leave without some Dim Sum.

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

Side note – it rained all day on Friday, and drizzled the rest of the weekend…so you’ll notice my hair is forever a bun, but my point is rain ain’t got nothing on your fun!!

Tony’s Pizza // Our friends raved about this being known as the best pizza in the city and we 100% believe them. It was AMAZING. The menu offers a variety of pizza styles, from NY to Sicilian. Be prepared to wait a couple hours – we hung out at a nearby bar and played cards!

san francisco travel guide

Tupelo // A lively, yet chill bar with live music every night! Tony’s Pizza and Tupelo are both in the North Beach neighborhood, so this is an easy place to walk to after dinner.

{Day Two}

The Mill // This goldmine serves up gourmet toast and amazing coffee in Lower Haight. To top it off, they have the most beautiful table wear and the interior design is straight out of my dream home! Everything tasted so fresh. The Mill even has pizza night. A must for any local or visitor!

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

The Painted Ladies // You’ll easily recognize these beauties! This popular row of pretty houses was a quick walk from The Mill. A tourist must.

san francisco travel guide

Lands End // This park was about a 30 minute uber from SF, but not expensive at all when split between friends. You get gorgeous views of the famous Golden Gate bridge and a whole lotta fresh air. We began at a lookout point and then walked along the water towards downtown. Part of the route somehow took us through a shwanky neighborhood, where we swooned over the magnificent homes. At the end of it all, we took another uber to The Mission.

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

La Taqueria // This spot in SF’s Mission neighborhood claims to have the best the best tacos and burritos in the whole world. I can confidently say it’s one of the best I’ve ever had…and this Texas girl has had a lot of tacos in her life. Completely worth the wait.

san francisco travel guide

Clarion Alley // An easy walk from La Taqueria, this street is full of unique graffiti murals and is actually apart of a protected public art project. It’s a great spot to soak in the culture, and of course snap a pretty Insta.

san francisco travel guide

Bi-Rite Creamery //  The perfect spot for an afternoon treat! They’ve got unique flavors, along with plenty of classics, all full of local and organic ingredients. This ice cream shop is tied to SF’s Bi-Rite Market, which has been around since the 1940s.

Delores Park // This spot is one of the city’s most popular destinations – and full of picnics, pups, and pretty skyline views. We went on a day that was a little breezy and cloudy, but on a sunny day the park is poppin’ and you can even buy a rum-filled coconut off a local vendor!

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

Panchitas // I learned what a pupusa was on this trip and they are YUM. We grabbed Panchitas in The Mission for an inexpensive, high-quality dinner. Interested in authentic Salvadorian food? This is your spot.

san francisco travel guide

Blondie’s Bar // Where we spent the majority of Saturday night dancing away and sipping giant martinis! Seriously giant. The DJ was awesome. I would’ve dragged everyone back for a second night if we weren’t flying home. Tip: Cash only, bring $5 for cover. And go! That’s my other tip.

{Day Three}

El Techo // This rooftop spot serves up delicious upscale versions of classic Mexican breakfast dishes. The setting is beautiful, and they had heaters that kept us warm on the chilly morning! You must try the buñuelos.

san francisco travel guide

san francisco travel guide

Tartine Bakery // Tartine is a cute bakery and cafe with lots of tasty treats. There’s a line out the door to back up any hype you might hear. The morning bun and banana cream tart were our favorites!

The Marina // We loved walking around this pretty area. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, and local shops to pop into, and great views of the Bay.

san francisco travel guide

Remember I mentioned we would come back to some touristy spots later? Some good ones in this area you should consider if it’s your first SF trip: Ghirardelli Square, Pier 39, and the Palace of Fine Arts.

Waraku // We finished off our weekend with a walk through Japantown (much smaller than Chinatown) and a bowl of delicious ramen at Waraku. This spot is ranked to have some of the best ramen in the city and the staff was wonderful! A great space for both, a large group or just a couple.

san francisco travel guide

Of course, I can’t go without mentioning the Golden Gate Bridge. The first time my family visited San Fran, we biked across and spent the afternoon at the cute town Sausalito on the other side. Whether you walk, run, or bike – it is an SF must!

Needless to say, E and I had an incredible time on this trip (thanks Mel, Theo, & Rach!).

san francisco travel guide

Hope this San Francisco travel guide is helpful in any upcoming visit you might be planning! Got spots we need to check out next time? Please share!

Days By Day

machu picchu

Eric and I have our big international trip locked in for 2017…we’re going to Peru to hike Machu Picchu in July!

I’m super excited. We’ve heard nothing but amazing things from every person we know who has done this same trek, and it’s actually a good amount of people!

I’m also a little nervous, because I’ve never really done an intense hiking or camping trip like this before. Going 0 to 100 real quick, y’all.

From those same people though, and all our research, I know we’ll be able to do it!

The first thing we booked were our spots for the Classic Inca Trail Trek through Alpaca Expeditions. We read up on lots of great companies, but landed on Alpaca Expeditions after reading all the awesome reviews and awards they’ve received. They have been stellar on customer service already, too!

We learned booking your trek 6 – 7 months in advance is recommended since there’s only a limited amount of permits for the Inca Trail allowed daily.

machu picchu

(via)

The hike is four days and three nights. We’ll actually have individual porters who will carry our bags with the majority of our belongings, as well as our tents and sleeping bags. They’ll also help set up camp each night. Most trek companies have porters included or available for hire.

It’s clear tourism is an amazing source of jobs within the communities of Peru. Our trip is months away and I’m already so appreciative of these incredible men and women who will help us along the way!

Round trip flights to Lima have been booked. From there, we’ll travel to and from Cusco, where we’ll start and end the hike. *Cue Kuzco’s theme song from the Emperor’s New Groove. Anyone else??*

machu picchu

(via)

Aside from the four day hike, we’ll also have a day in Lima and a couple in Cusco to explore! It’ll be our first time in South America.

So now, I’d love to hear from YOU. Have you been to Peru, or hiked Machu Picchu before?? Have you done a long, adventurous trek that’s similar?

What are must-bring items? Are there things you wish you had known or brought?

On our list so far – hiking boots, hiking pants, and a trip to the doctor for altitude medicine they say to have handy! We’re spending the recommended days in the city in advance of the trip to adjust, but I’m all about being safe than sorry.

Machu Picchu

Do you have a favorite hostel, Airbnb, or bed and breakfast you stayed at? Things to do in Cusco or Lima we must see?

I want to know it all! Please shoot me an email (contact info here) or comment below.

We can’t wait for this adventure. Happy Wednesday, friends!

Days By Day

 

P.S. We just got back from San Francisco…food guide to some yummy local spots coming soon! Want to see some photos in the meantime? Would love for you to follow along on Insta here!

honeymoon in jamaica

Happy 2017, friends! I can’t believe it’s in full swing already.

I’m beyond excited for more travels to come this year, but first things first. I want to finish recapping one of my 2016 favorites – the honeymoon in Jamaica!

If you haven’t read Part I, you can do so here. I rave about the ah-mazing resort we stayed at, Couples Swept Away (CSA) in Negril, Jamaica. I share details on the food, our accommodations, and the first of our activities, including snorkeling! I also share some killer snaps we took with our new favorite travel toy, the GoPro HERO5 Black.

honeymoon in jamaica

Maybe you’re new around here (Welcome!), and didn’t know this girl was a wife. You can catch up with E & I’s “story” here and my first post after the wedding here.

Ok, but back to JAMAICA. In addition to all the good stuff in Part I, sharing a bit more below.

{Water Sports}

A huge reason we loved CSA so much is because everyone on the staff was so incredible. From the talented chefs, to the water sports crew, to our scuba instructors, we honestly couldn’t have met kinder, life loving souls.

Another huge perk?? A whole bunch of water sports and lessons were included.

honeymoon in jamaica

I never thought I’d be able to windsurf. While we were by no means experts, we totally did it. Eric better than me I should mention.

We got a lesson in hobbie cat sailing, Eric kayaked, and we got to stand-up paddle board too. You know you’re in paradise when you’re paddle boarding and see giant starfish below.

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

{Glass Bottom Boat Tour}

This was such a fun way to learn more about the coral reefs and see more of the coast. One guide asked us to name a couple big starfish we saw side by side below and no one else piped up. So I gladly said Beyonce and Jay-Z. He dived in, gently grabbed Bey, and let me hold her before returning her home.

honeymoon in jamaica

{Nighttime Entertainment}

So many options! From live steel drums, dances into the night, to beach bonfires – they had so much to offer in the evening. Our favorite by far was the Aura Lounge, where famous piano player Ultimate Chocolate, and singer Miguel, had the whole crowd up in roars of laughter and sing-a-longs!

We chatted with so many awesome couples around this piano, and seeing Ulti and Miguel all up in their element was a pure honor.

honeymoon in jamaica

{Cliff Jumping at Rick’s Cafe}

Rick’s Cafe is apparently one of the top 10 most famous bars in the world, and is known to have the second most beautiful sunset! You can also cliff jump, get drinks, and listen to live music – how could we not go? CSA had a shuttle to take us.

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

As soon as we arrived, we grabbed some rum cocktails and were glued to the people jumping off the 30 foot cliff.  E decided to give it a go and totally rocked it!*

honeymoon in jamaica

*Confession: I didn’t catch it on camera the first time, so he actually really did rock it because he went twice. And it’s unfortunately a low quality photo. Love you, E. 🙂

{Scuba Diving}

Probably our favorite – getting scuba certified! A beginner’s class and swimming around shore is free at CSA. You can then choose to go with the crew on a real dive for $50. It’s a perfect way to test it out.

E and I thankfully learned we were pretty natural underwater! We fell in love with it, choosing to count the first dive and cost towards our certification. It just took one additional hour of class and a dive the next morning…then we had unlimited dives for the rest of the trip!

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

People had mentioned not to do our certification while we were on our trip, but I disagree! Doing your training dives is waayyy better in the sea vs. a pool/lake, let me tell ya. It’s also tons of fun, especially when you’re working with a killer crew like CSA’s.

Need more of a reason? In Jamaica, the cost to get certified was about $450 cheaper than in Chicago. If a scuba certification is something you’re interested in, my advice would be to scope out options at home and your destination! My other advice is to go visit the incredible people of Jamaica and do it at CSA. 🙂

honeymoon in jamaica

honeymoon in jamaica

WHEW. Thanks for hanging in there with me, friends! We were able to check so many adventures off our bucket list, I hope this inspires you to take a tropical vacay in 2017, or just go tackle something you’ve been dying to do!

Days By Day

the honeymoon

It is quite chilly up here in Chicago! Did you know that on Monday Chicago was colder than Mars?? Not okay.

That being said, I’m daydreaming of the Honeymoon we went on back in November to Jamaica, where everything was sunny and warm and perfect. It’s going to take a couple posts to share all these adventures and photos!

{Getting There}

Eric and I took off for our honeymoon bright and early the next morning after the wedding. Well, actually it was still dark it was so early, so nix the bright. We rocked these awesome (and original) Married AF shirts and koozies by The Daily Tay, and got lots of compliments.

the honeymoon

We had booked our trip through Southwest Vacations. Loveee Southwest Vacations, you guys! They make it so easy to have everything taken care all in one place.

{The Resort}

On the plane we could hardly contain ourselves. We knew we wanted to find an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, one where we could relax and soak up the sun, but one where we could still be adventurous! After lots of research, we landed on Couples Swept Away (CSA) for seven days in Negril, Jamaica.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

Let me say this place is a real life dream, in case my pure joy above does not convey that enough.

Not only are the facilities gorgeous, but the entire staff is beyond kind. I can definitely say that we left with new friends. CSA is not too big, not too small, and it’s impossible to not feel the romantic vacation vibes.

This resort is located along a gorgeous strip of Seven Mile Beach and has two big pools, six restaurants, bars throughout, and a variety of nighttime entertainment. In addition to food and drink being included, your stay also includes a whole bunch of other water recreation and island activities – glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling, windsurfing, catamaran cruises, etc.

the honeymoon

I said it was a real life dream, right??

{The Room}

So beautiful and literally located steps away from the beach. At night you could hear the waves gently crash. There was also a balcony that had us feeling so adult and fancy when we’d sit out there.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

{The Eats}

Oh my goodness, so yummy! I know people hate on resort food sometimes, that is not the case at CSA. Eric’s favorite was probably the jerk chicken, while I fell in love with a fresh fish sandwich on the softest bread ever.

A light breakfast could be delivered to our room, or we could go to a couple restaurants for a sit down menu or buffet. Everyone knows breakfast is my fave, I was not disappointed.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

At one spot for dinner, there’s a pasta bar that served as an appetizer for a three course menu. Basically, like four dinners in one. It’s a miracle we didn’t come back twice our sizes.

We particularly liked one cafe for the afternoon munchies, Seagrapes. It was technically the vegetarian restaurant, but I guarantee a majority of the clientele was not just vegetarian. There was all sort of healthy eats to enjoy.

{Catamaran Cruise}

This was the first big activity we signed up for. The crew had Jamaican music going and Red Stripe flowing, the Jamaican beer everyone drank. They took us along the island for sightseeing and even stopped at a giant cave for us to go swimming.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

We caught all these pictures with the GoPro we bought just before our wedding weekend! Eric and I had talked about getting one, and then knew we couldn’t leave for all these water adventures without it. Highly recommend –  we were able to get some awesome shots and were totally carefree about any concerns of it getting wet!

the honeymoon

{Snorkeling}

I had never been before! This was one of the biggest things on my to-do list. We signed up for a daytime snorkel and loved it. We got to see a giant barracuda, feed fish, hold starfish, see a sunken cannon and anchor…it was all so beautiful. I kept telling E it was like opening my old science text books and seeing the coral reefs from the pages come to life.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

GoPro was clearly also a star for this outing.

We had such a fun time, we signed up to go again at night. Jumping off the boat that time around was definitely a little freakier, but very awesome. The reefs seem totally different, and we saw more creatures, like an octopus and sea turtle.

the honeymoon

the honeymoon

We loved snorkeling so much, we thought we’d take it one step further and get scuba certified. More on that in Part II, along with other adventures!

That’s all for today, friends! I hope no matter where you are – beach, mountains, or in between – you’re having a great Thursday, with holiday spirit in full swing!

Days By Day