Best Activities and Excursions in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is known for its beautiful landscape and turquoise blue waters that bring people worldwide to its shores. This post will tell you the best activities in Puerto Rico to help you get the most out of your vacation on this beautiful island! The best activities in Puerto Rico are sailing, snorkeling, ATVs, horseback riding, ziplining, and hiking.

TIP: Book your main activities towards the beginning of your trip just in case they reschedule due to bad weather or maintenance.

Disclaimer: There are links to tours in this blog post that I receive a small commission from, but this does not add additional cost to your tour. If you purchase from these links, I get notified as a travel agent, which shows me the cost of the booking and your name. Some links send you directly to the tour company’s site that I do not get commission on when I think it is the better way to book.

Sail to Nearby Islands

This is my favorite activity when it comes to taking in the island life! These trips are around 5 hours and include food, music, floats, and drinks. Boat day trips are just a combination of all things great on an island- clear endless water and good vibes. Some boats require you to meet at the marina in Fajardo, which is about 1 hour from San Juan. Others offer roundtrip transportation from your hotel. These boats have plenty of floats so you can just chill in the water or swim to shore and lay on the beach.

Puerto Rico Catamarans will usually take you to 1 of 3 islands off of Puerto Rico: Palomino, Icacos, or Culebra. For the best snorkeling, Culebra is the best option, but for just a nice clear beach, Icacos and Palomino are both extremely fun for a day in the sun!

Soar Through the Treetops

Puerto Rico is a rare gem in the fact that, if you are a US citizen, you do not need a passport to see a tropical rainforest. Ziplining is an awesome way to get a bird’s eye view of this tropical wonder! There are 2 areas you can zipline at: the rainforest and the dry forest. Both are beautiful, it just depends what you want to see or where you are staying.

Enjoy Caribbean Sunset Sailing

This is a great option that departs right out of the San Juan harbor, making it easy to get to by Uber or taxi. This sailing excursions takes you around the Old San Juan historical walls, giving you a new perspective on this beautiful city. The sunset sail is from 5pm-7pm so that you can take in the entire sunset and make it back to the dock as soon as it gets dark. These sails come with snacks and drinks, and are the perfect setting for any occasion- a date night, a girls trip, or a family activity. The sunset sail is usually more calm whereas the boating day trips that I mentioned earlier can get rowdy, depending on the crowd, but both are extremely enjoyable.

Ride through the Foothills of the Rainforest

I LOVE Carabali Adventure Park, and I think you will too! They offer ATV rides and horseback rides on a large, beautiful property just below the El Yunque Rainforest National Park. I’ve ridden horses twice and loved it. Carabali also offers ATV and UTV tours. They may let you go fast on certain straight paths in the tour, but remember this is a tour, so you have a guide who sets the pace.

Be adventurous on a Puerto Rico Rainforest Hiking Tour

If you are looking for adventure, but feel a little weary of doing it on your own, a guided tour is perfect for you! Puerto Rico tour guides cannot bring tour groups to the actual El Yunque Rainforest National Park road right now, but they will take you to great hikes, waterfalls, and natural water slides on the outskirts of the national park road, which are fun and adventurous! Be sure to wear water shoes or tennis shoes that you do not mind getting dirty as it can be extremely muddy. Guides will show you where to jump off into the water and will usually provide life jackets for safety during the tour. Honestly, locals go to these places by themselves all the time, but if you don’t have a rental car or just want to be on the safe side, I recommend a guided tour.

These are some of the best excursions in Puerto Rico with easy access from San Juan. I did not list the bioluminescent bay tour just because I have not personally been, and have been told that it is best to experience during a new moon. I hope this helps you when planning your next Caribbean adventure!

If you have experienced an excursion in Puerto Rico that you enjoyed, list it in the comments below!

Happy Travels,

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5 Things to Know About Las Vegas in 2021

I visited Las Vegas this past month, March 2021, and have picked 5 important things that I think you should know when you visit Vegas. Shows are slowly starting to open back up, and popular sporting events are making Las Vegas a little more back to normal. Limited capacity is still required, and hotels, restaurants, and activities are selling out. The following post will address choosing the right Las Vegas hotel, taking advantage of Las Vegas rewards, knowing about Las Vegas transportation, booking Las Vegas activities, and choosing a Las Vegas travel agent.

1. Choose a Centralized Hotel, but Don’t Fret About the “Perfect One”

In Vegas, time is money, and you will truly feel like a number at many of these giant hotels. However, it is still super fun staying at these massive properties as many offer some of the best resort-style lobbies, restaurants, pools, gyms, and hot tubs that I’ve ever seen. We stayed at 3 locations because I wanted to check out several options for my clients. The Delano at Mandalay Bay is known as a more up-scale Vegas property, and the Mirage and Paris Las Vegas are relatively average in price for Vegas strip hotels. In my opinion, service was similar at each hotel as staff is limited right now and mobile check-in and check-out is encouraged. Ironically, I saw more staff all over the Mirage than I did at the Delano.

The Mirage Las Vegas Instagram Spots

Each hotel boasted about in-room dining to avoid the wait at breakfast, but I could never get someone to answer the phone for that actually to work. However, I will say that I had to call customer service for billing at the Delano and at the Mirage, and they were quick to respond and the call went just as I needed it to.

Mandalay Bay Las Vegas Front Entrance Instagram Spots

Basically, every hotel will have things you love and things you don’t. The Delano had my favorite room by far, but staff was extremely limited as well as restaurants because of covid restrictions, and the property is pretty far from the center of Vegas Strip. The Mirage had a beautiful pool, awesome gym, and fun casino vibe, but the few restaurants that were open were packed on the weekend. Paris Las Vegas was in the best location of the three, had several restaurants, and had a fun casino, but early check-in had a price, and the hotel room had an odd smell. Just choose a hotel that excels at offering those things that are most important to you.

I scoped out all the hotels while we were there (because that is half the fun in Vegas), and I can help you find the perfect one based on your favorite amenities and cost preference.

Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Las Vegas Outfit

2. Get an M Life Rewards and Caesars Rewards Card at their Branded Casinos

MGM M Life Rewards and Caesars Rewards offer reward cards to anyone who signs up, which gives you a minimum of $10 free play just for signing up! Swipe these rewards cards every time you eat at one of their hotel restaurants, book one of their hotel rooms, or buy from their shops, and you will earn points that can add up for various perks. The main point is to get your free $20 gambling money, which you can choose to use for table games or slots. Even if you set up your rewards account online before your trip, you have to go to the casino to the Caesars Rewards and M Life Rewards desks to get your rewards cards and free play.

The Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas Flamingo Exhibit and Linq High Roller

3. Uber vs. Taxi in Las Vegas

To my surprise, Uber was hardly available when we went to Vegas, but travel is still iffy and it was Vegas Speedway weekend. We took a taxi 3 times while in Vegas just because they were always at the front entrance of each hotel and the airport. Vegas taxis are still more expensive than Uber in Vegas, but sometimes the difference in cost is not worth the wait. Curb is the app taxis use in Vegas. You can order a taxi on the app just like you would an Uber, or if you hail a taxi at the hotel entrance, you can pay by card at the end of your ride. We signed up for the Curb app and got $5 off our first ride.

Paris Las Vegas Hot Air Balloon night Photo and Las Vegas outfit

4. Book the Most Popular Activities in Advance

Although the governor lifted requirements for restaurant reservations, the standard pretty much still stands as the best restaurants fill up fast! I wanted to go to the Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan, but had to go before dinner because all other times were full, and I booked a week ahead! Most Las Vegas restaurants use Open Table for reservations, but if you do not see availability, don’t let that keep you from asking the hostess. Some people make reservations beforehand, only to change their mind later.

The Cosmopolitan Chandelier Bar Las Vegas and Vegas night outfit

Other activities that don’t really sell out from what I saw were the Eiffel Tower Viewing Deck, the Venetian gondola rides, the Linq High Roller, the Shark Reef Aquarium, etc. There are so many options for activities that you can buy them a couple days in advance online, or at the booking desk if they do not offer online purchases. Although, some activities do require at least 1 day advance booking of tickets online like the aquarium. Really, the restaurants that you don’t want to miss out on are what I recommend booking well in advance.

Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Las Vegas

5. Skip the Guessing Game, and Book your Travel through A Professional

Travel agents like myself spend their time taking courses on top destinations so that they can plan the best trips possible for their clients. You don’t have to only book high-end travel to use a travel agent. We can book hotels, rental cars, and activities all separately or in a vacation package, depending on what you need. Working with a travel agent doesn’t take out the fun in planning, it just takes out the guesswork along the way.

Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tower Vegas Strip View and Las Vegas Evening Outfit

I hope this post helps you while visiting Vegas! Feel free to take my travel survey if you would like assistance planning your next trip!

Sincerely,

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Culebra Island, Puerto Rico Snorkeling Day Trip

Last week, I visited Culebra Island right off of Puerto Rico and experienced the best snorkeling so far while living in Puerto Rico! The clear waters of Flamenco Beach are truly breathtaking, and I’ve officially fallen in love with this tiny island.

However, Culebra was not love at first site for me, and I will tell you why here. This post is going to talk about:

  1. Getting to Culebra Island
  2. Culebra Island Transportation
  3. Recommended Time Spent in Culebra
  4. Best Culebra Snorkeling and Beaches

If you choose to purchase from some of the links below, I receive a small commission at no cost to you, so thank you in advance for keeping this blog going!

Flamenco Beach Culebra Puerto Rico
Flamenco Beach Culebra

Getting to Culebra Island from Puerto Rico

There are a few ways to get to Culebra Island from Puerto Rico, but the most common ways are to fly with AirFlamenco or take the Ferry in Ceiba, which is about 1 hour East from San Juan. The cheaper option of the 2 is the ferry, but tickets are released about 2 weeks out and sell out fast! AirFlemenco round trip is about $90 per person, or if you have a big group, you can charter a plane. The ferry takes 1 hour from Ceiba and flights take about 15 minutes.

I am going to elaborate on the Culebra ferry option in this post because I think it is a good option for large or small groups. We chose to ferry, so I have first-hand experience with it. When you type in the Ceiba Ferry Terminal into Google Maps, you will end up at Roosevelt Roads, which is an old Navy base. You can drop off a some of your group to wait at the ferry terminal with the bags while you park the car. Car parking is about a mile further (there are plenty of signs for directions), where you pay in cash based on the amount of days that your car will remain in the lot- $7 for 1 day, $15 for 2, and so on. A shuttle will drive you from the parking lot back to the terminal to meet back up with your group and board the ferry.

As far as facilities, there are porta potties at the parking lot, and the ferry terminal has a snack and coffee bar and restrooms.

**COVID Restrictions- You MUST wear a medical mask, not a cloth mask on the ferry. They have a pack of 10 for sale at the ferry terminal, but bring your own to expedite the process.

Present your email that contains your ferry tickets to the gate guard, and you are on your way. The ferry leaves promptly, so get there about an hour prior to departure like the tickets recommend. To be honest, they did not check our additional bag tickets, so if you are a stickler for rules, go for it, but I am not convinced that the additional tickets are necessary as long as you keep it to a reasonable amount of luggage. The seas can be rough depending on weather, so take some Dramamine the night before and sit on the bottom level if you are prone to seasickness. I personally LOVED the ferry ride as it was so peaceful. Passing nearby islands and being on the open sea for $2 plus tax is a steal!

You arrive at the Culebra Ferry Terminal, and depending on what mode of transportation you choose, your driver will be there waiting for you with a sign.

Flamenco Beach Culebra Puerto Rico
Flamenco Beach Culebra

Culebra Island Transportation

For transportation around Culebra, although it is pricey for the day, I don’t know of many other options, especially during COVID closures, than to rent a golf cart or Jeep. There are 2 companies on the island, Jerry’s Jeep Rental and Carlos Jeep Rental. Jerry is the only one who will rent for 1 day and his website is more user friendly. He will pick up only the driver from the terminal, and you can pick up the rest of your crew afterwards. I recommend having your group walk to the left, and up the hill, further out of the congested terminal area to be picked up. If they walk to the steep road that leads to Tamarindo Beach, you can pick them up and head straight to Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with the sea turtles!

Melones Beach

Recommended Time Spent on Culebra Island

During COVID, just about everything is closed indefinitely or sporadically as far as restaurants go. There’s a to-go spot to the left of Kokomo’s at the ferry terminal, a convenient store up the hill, and Moncho’s Barbecue to-go. Blac Flamenco Coffee in town is open until like 10:30AM and Zaco’s Tacos is open some evenings. One lady gave me a flyer for her creole restaurant that sounded delicious, but it had no name or address, so if you see her handing out flyers at Flamenco Beach, ask her where her restaurant is located.

Basically, food should not be the reason you go to Culebra, and you should definitely bring a cooler with wheels to this island. Although it would be an early morning, I recommend taking the 7am ferry to Culebra and the 4pm ferry back to Ceiba, Puerto Rico. The reason I fell in love with Culebra was for the amazingly clear Flamenco Beach and the beautiful snorkeling of Tamarindo and Melones. The small, congested roads near the ferry were enough to make me wonder why anyone would live there, but the snorkeling is incomparable and is the very reason I would go back in a heartbeat!

I booked an airbnb, and rented a Jeep for 2 days for our group, and I just don’t see a need to spend all that money when you can snorkel and beach bum it out in a day, for about $300 cheaper. If you get a larger group to go, a longer stay would make sense as you can split the cost of car and lodging. Another cheaper option is camping at the Flamenco Campgrounds for $30/day, but they are currently closed and under construction.

Flamenco Beach Culebra
Flamenco Beach

Best Snorkeling in Culebra Island & Tour Guides

For sea turtles, head to Tamarindo Beach, which has grass straight out from the beach where sea turtles love to snack! I saw a stingray in the coral more towards the left of the beach, but the sea turtles were just a few feet from the beach. For the most beautiful coral, head to Melones Beach and swim right, towards the rockier area. Colorful coral and fish both big and small will wave all around you. Wear water shoes or fins as I saw more sea urchins than ever before in this water. Also be sure to check the weather before going into any water in Culebra or Puerto Rico. Rip currents are no joke here in the winter, but we did snorkel early February, and I did not feel a huge pull at Tamarindo or at Melones. At Flamenco, I felt a stronger pull when snorkeling, and the reef near the main beach entrance is not very colorful. The reef may be better near the beached military tank on the far left. Flamenco is best for just sitting in the white sand and floating in the shallow, clear waters.

There are a couple other beaches that I did not go to that are also known for snorkeling like Playa Carlos Rosario and Culebrita, which requires a boat transfer to get to. Culebra Island companies also offer snorkel and kayak tours like, Culebra Eco Tours. One of the easiest day trip options if you are more concerned with the clear blue water and snorkeling rather than exploring the island is to take a boat trip from Fajardo with a Catamaran. They will take you to a Culebra beach, a snorkel reef, and will provide all gear, drinks, and lunch. That way, you don’t have to even mess with the ferry tickets, parking, renting a car, or anything.

Catamaran Snorkel Tour Puerto Rico Icacos Island Tobias Traveler Catamaran
Catamaran Snorkel Tours

In conclusion, you won’t believe your eyes when you visit the beautiful beaches of Culebra, filled with clear waters and abundant sea creatures. However, I think that you can cover what there is to see in the span of a day, unless you are really into snorkeling and want to see all of the beaches in one trip. Although most of the restaurants are closed, I still recommend visiting because you practically have all of the beaches to yourself. I hope this helps you plan your Culebra excursion! Feel free to contact me if you do need help finding accommodations in Culebra.

Check out my Travel Planning Page and let’s get started planning your Puerto Rican adventure together!

Happy Travels!

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Universal Studios Orlando During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Michelle went to Universal Studios Orlando this past month during all the COVID-19 Pandemic protocols. She returned with some great information for everyone curious about visiting Orlando theme parks at this time. Join me as we hear what she has to say:

Learn more about Universal Studios in my post linked here. If you would like me to handle booking and planning your Orlando theme park vacation, please fill out my travel questionnaire here.

Happy Travels,

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Ziplining in Puerto Rico at Toro Verde

Tucked away in the mountains of Orocovis, Puerto Rico sits the longest zipline in the Americas and the 2nd longest zipline in the world. This activity is one for the books, and it is also about the closest you’ll ever get to actually flying. The Monster line is not like other ziplining experiences, as you lay down in a thick canvas and face the ground below. As you zoom through the trees, you’ll experience the beauty of Puerto Rico from a whole new perspective.

I was fearful of a tourist trap, but Toro Verde was far from such a thing. You can enjoy the whole day here easily with the all-day pass from 8am-5pm and an onsite restaurant that you can at least enjoy for lunch if not dinner as well. When you finish each course, there is a truck with bench seats in the back that takes you all the way back up to the beginning for more fun. Even the truck ride is beautiful as you sit in the open-air with mountain views every way you look.

The Drive

You need to rent a car to get to Toro Verde. It is a mountainous ride that takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes (with tolls) from San Juan. On your way home, I recommend eating at Papos Guacaros Place or La Playita. Papos Guacaros Place is my favorite food, and is about 45 minutes further back towards San Juan, but La Playita has a cooler view and is only a few minutes from Toro Verde. Both are great representations of Puerto Rico’s famous Chinchorreos.

Be sure to check out my travel planning page when you are ready to book your next adventure! I’d love to help you customize and perfect your itinerary!

Happy Travels,

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Southwest Puerto Rico: Things to do in La Parguera

About 2 hours southwest of San Juan lies a town called La Parguera. It’s known for fishing, diving, and snorkeling. La Parguera is also famous for it’s great parties and atmosphere not only in the city, but just off the shore at the nearby islands of Mata La Gata and Caracoles Cay. People rent or bring their own boats of all sizes, anchoring on a platform just off the beach, and chill all day.

Photo by: @Alvaritonv
Photo by: @Alvaritonv

The Drive

If you take the route from San Juan that goes through Ponce, you’ll be blown away by the beauty you see just from the drive. It’s an easy journey, but mountain views are all around.

Skip the Ponce Bypass and head 7 minutes into the Ponce town square. Just have your GPS set to Parque de Bombas and you will get where you need to go. I wouldn’t say Ponce is worth vacationing in, but it is definitely something you should take advantage of along the way. Find street parking at the square, which is free on the weekends, and take a look around. You’ll be delighted at the beautiful architecture, a fountain, a large cathedral, and cute souvenir and coffee shops.

The two main attractions you have to see are right in the town square. The open-air fire-station museum, Parque de Bombas, is a beautiful preservation of Puerto Rico’s first fire station. Next, you have to take a look inside The Fox Hotel Ponce or even stop for a delicious lunch and latte. This is a pop-culture themed hotel that looks like you’ve just stepped into Hollywood Studios or Universal Orlando. The design of this entire hotel is enough to take your breath away, but try the food and I think you’ll be even more delighted!

La Parguera

La Parguera has a little strip of waterfront restaurants that are almost on top of each other. It’s lively and fun with souvenir shops and tasty treats. On this street, there are several boat rental companies that rent John boats, like Gina’s, and kayaks to explore the beautiful water around you. La Parguera is known for its mangroves, where tiny crabs walk all along the winding branches. The Paradise Scuba and Snorkeling Center that is right across from the boat rentals offers several excursions and tours. Although I mentioned these two companies, there are several kayaking and tour options listed here. Many of these companies also have social media pages that make it easy to see their deals and tour schedules.

Where to Stay

We stayed at 2 different hotels only about 8 minutes apart because we wanted to check them both out and share them here with you. Both locations were incredible. We first arrived at the Parador Villa Parguera, which is in the middle of the restaurant hub and right on the water. The rooms are simple and clean, and the grounds are beautifully maintained. Each room has a waterfront view and a patio to enjoy it from. The main beauty of this fairly small hotel is how abundant the seating areas are. There is seating by the beautiful pool, on the dock, on the lawn, and even on the second level of the deck, which has a gorgeous view of the sunset. There is no coffee maker or fridge in the room, but parking is free and abundant.

The Parador has two special rates going on right now. A Puerto Rico Resident rate of $117/ night and an all-inclusive (breakfast, lunch, and dinner with soda and waters) for 2 nights for $350. From experience, the ribs dinner does not disappoint!

After a day spent at the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse and Comabate beach, we checked into our second hotel of the weekend named La Jamaca, which is a little further from the ocean. You will love this place. The room was small, but plenty, and designed beautifully. This lodging is more of a modern feel, compared to Parador Villa which is more classic. Obviously, surrounded by many hammocks, there are plenty of places to relax and enjoy a good meal or just a good view. The staff is incredible, providing everything you need. Do bring bug spray and apply it immediately upon arrival as the jungle feel of this hotel brings in many pesky mosquitoes, that can be remedied instantly by bug repellant. The hotel also has some available, but I would bring your own as well just to have it conveniently near you. There is a fridge in the room, but no coffee maker.

La Jamaca has a few deals going on as well to include a romantic room decoration and wine as well as a rate that includes breakfast and a few dinners. Check out their Instagram to see these special offers. If you would like help in planning your next adventure, I’d love to help you along the exciting journey! Check out my Travel Planning page!

Happy Travels,

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Universal Studios Orlando Military & DoD Civilian Discount

If you love military Florida theme park deals like me, this is the place for you! I’ll discuss the ticket discount, where to stay, how to plan your theme park days, and I have a fun Universal Video Recap of our trip as well if you would like to get a feel for the park and location of our hotel. Let’s get started!

The Tickets

Universal Studios offers U.S. military and DoD civilians a significant discount on their tickets. You can purchase them at your Travel and Leisure office on base, but the cool thing about these tickets is that the sponsor does not have to be with you at the park entrance like they do at Disney World. The tickets you buy at the military base are already activated and ready to use. You can instantly load them into the Universal App and start seeing wait times and park maps.

harry potter world butter beer

The tickets are about $180 for a 4-day, 2- park voucher. That is the price you would pay for a 1-day, 2-park ticket at regular price! These tickets expire at the end of whatever year you buy them. We bought ours in April 2019, so they expired December 2019. You can choose your 2 parks out of these three: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. If Harry Potter is a big deal to you, you’ll want both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. The Hogwarts Train ride takes you from Islands of Adventure to the Universal Studios to reach Diagon Alley, so they check your tickets when you get off the train. If beating the heat with water rides is priority, you’ll want to choose Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay.

harry potter world diagon alley

Lodging

I called the Universal Resort trip advising center first, just to check their pricing for military discounted tickets and resort lodging. It doesn’t come close to buying accommodations on your own. The price they gave me made the resort stay about $300 per night. Your best bet, if your priority is price, is to buy your Universal tickets at your nearest military base and book a hotel on Universal Blvd with a bus shuttle.

universal studios dining

We stayed at Residence Inn Universal Blvd and loved it! You can use the government discount code to book at a discounted rate. This hotel has a full, complimentary breakfast and a kitchen in each room so we were able to eat dinner in the hotel some nights instead of at the park. In this area, there is also a DoubleTree, Extended Stay, Hyatt Place, Best Western Plus, Holiday Inn, and Fairfield Inn. These hotels range from $80-$200 per night.

islands of adventure spiderman ride

If you don’t mind a short drive, and parking in the Universal parking deck, AFVclub.com is the way to go for both a clean, nice stay and cost efficiency. AFVclub offers week-long vacation stays all over the world, with the bulk of lodging located around Florida theme parks. For an entire week, Club Wyndham Cypress Palms costs $350 on Armed Forces Vacation Club, which is available to active and retired military and DoD civilians. This club has a large pool, gym, full, condo style rooms, and is 15 minutes from Disney.

club wyndham cypress palms orlando

Growing up, Universal was our annual summer vacation, and we stayed in AFVclubs all over Orlando and Kissimmee. I loved them all, just make sure the TripAdvisor reviews are positive, and you should be good to go! Most of these stays are offered only by booking a full week, but many of them are only the cost of a 2-night hotel stay. We went to Universal last minute, so AFVclub was booked, but it is always my first choice in Florida.

club wyndham cypress palms orlando

Transportation to the Park

Since several hotels use the same shuttle bus, getting a seat can be tricky. You sign up the day before for the time you want to leave, and they check for your name before allowing you to board the bus. Signing up the day you arrive can be a little tricky if you arrive later than the shuttle desk stays open. Also, the shuttle has very few stops that take you from the park back to your hotel in the evening. So if you don’t make the cut for the time you are waiting for, you may be stuck waiting an hour and half for the next bus home.

Universal Studios Orlando Hotel Shuttle

We took the shuttle the first day, but then decided it was well worth the effort to just walk the 15 minute, sidewalk stroll into Universal. We were able to get to the park earlier this way, arriving ahead of the crowd. The walk from the hotels that I mentioned earlier do cross a major road, but there is a crosswalk and it is no effort at all. I would only suggest carrying your little ones or making sure they are strapped into their strollers.

universal studios orlando fast and furious ride

When to go?

Obviously, when kids are in school is always the best time to visit theme parks for lower wait times. However, we visited last Easter weekend when many kids were out of school, and Universal nor Islands of Adventure were really that crowded. We rode everything we wanted to in two days, then just re-rode our favorites on the third day. You can definitely get through both of the main parks in 2 days. We ended up just not using the 4th day that was on our ticket.

islands of adventure theme park orlando

I hope this helps with your Universal Orlando vacation planning! Writing about our trip makes me want to go as soon as it opens back up! Here’s a quick video of our trip to Universal and Islands of Adventure Orlando:

Universal Orlando with Katie

For information about Disney World planning for military and DoD civilians, check out this post: Walt Disney World Military Salute Discount Detailed Guide

Click here to see some of my favorite items to use while traveling and it will help keep this blog going as I am affiliated with Amazon!

Happy Travels,

Katie

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Tybee Island Weekend Getaway & Free Itinerary

Tybee Island Pier

Hey you guys! I suspect you are feeling a little restless for a getaway, but aren’t ready to fly yet. Well, I’ve got you covered with my video that will inspire you to take a coastal Georgia road trip. I also have a free itinerary that I’d love to share with you.

Subscribe to my blog to receive your FREE itinerary for Tybee Island, Georgia:

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Tybee Vacation Home

Also, here’s a detailed video of the Airbnb we stayed in for our Tybee Getaway! If you decide to stay here, let the host know Katie sent you!

I hope this gives you some ideas of how to have fun this summer while staying close to home. I love coastal Georgia and I know you will too!

For more Georgia road trip ideas, check out my Georgia blog posts!

If you want assistance in planning your next trip, whether a road trip or flying, I’d love to help you! Check out my Trip Planning Consultations.

Happy travels,

Katie

VRBO

Road Tripping Tuscany, Italy: Directions to Siena from Rome

Italy is well-known for its rolling Tuscan hills and divine cuisine. While road tripping the Tuscany area over the summer, my family and I left Rome and drove to Siena, setting up home base just outside the city walls. We stayed in an apartment rental that was once an old horse barn now completely remodeled into the most beautiful apartment with breathtaking views from the flower garden.

Tuscan garden in airbnb home
siena airbnb apartment

Tuscany can be challenging as rental cars are restricted in many of the walled, hilltop cities. Choosing this rental just outside Siena allowed us easy access to the city bus as well as the highway to reach other famous Tuscan cities. There is no rail system in Tuscany, which makes it necessary to rent a car or book a tour of this area of Italy.

castiglione della pescaia Italian fishtown and resort

We rented a car from Avis at the Rome Airport and drove to Siena from there. The rental process was smooth, and the airport is easy access right to the interstate that takes you to Siena. Italy does however have some of the strictest rental policies around. For one, you must get an additional international driving permit from your local DMV before you go to Italy. Second, you are required to purchase total collision insurance in addition to your personal auto insurance.

Siena Italy apartment buildings

You can rely on a map to drive in Italy, as highways are pretty straight forward. However, GPS will help you find parking and specific locations easier. You have a few different options when it comes to getting GPS directions. You can pay for an international data plan from your cell phone provider ($10 a day for Verizon), download the map of Italy on your Google Maps app while connected to wifi before you hit the road, or choose a rental car that offers GPS.

Florence cathedral

I hope this post sparks your interest to visit this city and to love it as much as I do. I used Rick Steve’s Guide to Italy as my “tour guide in a book” if you will. He describes each destination beautifully and provides the history that makes everything come to life!

For cheap flight options, sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights to get alerts when cheap flights are taking off near you. I started this European trip in Paris, France, because Scott sent me an alert for a flight from Atlanta to Paris for $495. Once you are in Europe, easyJet has cheap, country hopper flights, and I could not have been more impressed with easyJet as an airline company.

Check out my post: Things to do in Siena to plan your Tuscan trip!

Happy Travels,

Katie

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Things to do in Siena, Italy: A list of fun activities in this magical city

Siena, Italy is known for medieval history and impressively preserved architecture. Many still live in and within its walls, keeping up Siena’s romantic reputation and cheering for their favorite team during the annual horse races in the square. Siena is a bustling city in tourist season, but quite walkable. Stay on the sidewalks as city buses stop for nothing! Just wandering the streets is breathtaking when admiring the architecture that remains perfectly sound to this day. There are plenty of things to do in Siena to explore this area for at least 2 days. A few popular activities in Siena include shopping, eating, visiting museums, take a tour or class, and having an elegant Opera evening.

Siena Italy city view in Tuscany

Siena Shopping

Most Tuscan cities have cute, touristy shops that offer post cards, trinkets, and lots of leather! Italian leather is something you will want to take advantage of while here. Real leather is hard to come by in the states, but even the smallest of shops in Italy offer genuine leather purses for as little as 20 Euro. You could also grab a tasteful leather journal to record your best Italian travel memories. I grabbed my green, stamped leather purse from an upstairs vendor as well as leather bracelets for friends back home.

Italian Leather Purse shops

Eating

It’s no secret that Italy is known for incredible food– pizzas, pastas, aperitifs, gelato, and delicious wines. You are basically good to go with food on every corner in Siena. We found a quick, a la carte spot that charged by the kilogram, and everything was delicious. Look for where locals are eating on their lunch break, so you know it must be good.  

Siena Italy Piazza del Campo
Siena Italy Pasta
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Museums

Siena is full of history, culture, art, and beauty. To get the backstory on this incredible city, visit a few of the many museums it offers, or visit them all if you are staying a few days. Museo dell’Opera Del Doumo boasts of having one of the best views of this beautiful city, so be sure to bring your camera for scenic, landscape shots. The Siena National Art Gallery is also a great way to see the local talent that came from this area. Be sure to bring your student ID everywhere in Europe as most attractions offer a discount. Another excellent museum to view is the Santa Maria Della Scala, which holds the actual Fonte Gaia that was replaced by a replica fountain in Siena’s main town square, Piazza del Campo.

Siena Italy Torre del Doumo

Take a Tour

What better way to experience a city than with a local? I took a tour and pasta-making class through Airbnb.com while visiting Rome, and it is one of my favorite memories of Italy to this day. Airbnb has several experiences in Siena with great reviews, including cooking classes, wine tastings, Opera evenings, and themed tours. All you have to do is search your destination on Airbnb.com, and choose the “experiences” option to display all tours and activities offered in that city.

Elegant Opera Evening

The best Opera, according to Trip Advisor ratings, is the Italian Opera in Siena, which is only a 10 minute walk from Piazza del Campo. Adult tickets are 25 euro and students get a 10-euro discount with their school ID. Children under 12 are free. The opera begins at 9:30 pm, so get all dressed up, and enjoy a delicious Italian dinner before the show.

Siena Italy Opera
Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

I hope this post sparks your interest to visit Siena and to love it as much as I do. I used Rick Steve’s Guide to Italy as my “tour guide in a book” if you will. He describes each destination beautifully and provides the history that makes everything come to life!

For cheap flight options, sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights to get alerts when cheap flights are taking off near you. I started this European trip in Paris, France, because Scott sent me an alert for a flight from Atlanta to Paris for $495. Once you are in Europe, easyJet has cheap, country hopper flights. I could not have been more impressed with easyJet as an airline!

Happy Travels,

Katie

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