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

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Quarantine Sanity: A Few things to Keep Sane Right Now

We are all having to alter our usual habits to accommodate to this time of social distancing. Here are a few things I have done to try to keep sane in hopes that you will find a few of these suggestions helpful as well!

Yoga Studio- Not Quite a Yogi, but Practicing!

make a yoga studio at home

I recently ordered 2 yoga mats for my husband and me, and luckily, they came in when everything started to shut down! I was skeptical to buy yoga mats online, but these were perfect. They are a little thicker than normal, so my knees are better padded on our hard floors. Plus, they also double as a workout mat for higher intensity workouts. One day, I decided to create yoga studio on our patio that I think may brighten your mood too! All I did was find plants (fake, I have no green thumb) and vases around the house, cleared the patio, and placed them all behind my yoga mat. Making a space especially for you somehow makes you feel like you’ve shown up to a studio for a workout class rather than the reality that you are still stuck at home. My sweet friend, Patricia, actually dropped a beautiful aloe plant by my house, which not only completed the plant wall, but it also is a plant I think I can actually keep alive.

make a yoga studio at home with plants
make a yoga studio at home

If you don’t have a patio, use your backyard! We can all use more sunlight lately, and stretching in the sun will surely brighten your mood! So far, my favorite yoga instructor on YouTube is Boho Beautiful but there are several instructors to choose from. I’ve also started doing Popsugar Fitness on YouTube, and those will get you sweating! They have easy, moderate, and tough workouts ranging from 20 to 60 minutes long. I like to fast forward and make sure a class has the intensity that I’m looking for before I actually commit to one.

Clearly I’m a work-in-progress

Get Creative with Indoor Content for Social Media

It’s not exactly easy to create photos and videos for a travel blog when you are staying inside 24/7. So I’ve gotten a little creative lately both indoors and around our building. The lighting in our place is very dark, so I try to either take photos in morning natural light, or outdoors around sunset. Another popular idea lately is to take pictures outside with a mirror, so it shows your reflection and the green trees behind you.

daylight photography girl with long red hair
daylight photography girl with long red hair

Now is the time to get creative with simple things that you are doing. Maybe you could photograph yourself watching your favorite streaming service with your fuzzy socks and coffee. People will engage if they can relate to you. Literally, right before quarantine occurred, I began working with an awesome T-shirt company named, Llama Wrangler. I reached out as soon as I saw their designs, and we began brainstorming. Luckily, I’ve been able to create indoor content for some of their designs, and am loving how they are turning out!

Disney plus and chill t shirt by llama wrangler cute disney tees
15% Off Discount Code: KatieLovesLlamaTees
Disney plus and chill t shirt by llama wrangler
15% Off Discount Code: KatieLovesLlamaTees
Up the movie t shirt
15% Off Discount Code: KatieLovesLlamaTees
Disney plus and chill cute tees
15% Off Discount Code: KatieLovesLlamaTees

If you are trying to sell products of your own, try creating content that people can relate to right now. Maybe your candles are helping you relax and read a book during quarantine. Or maybe your beauty products are keeping your face clear despite all the greasy snacking you’ve done lately. Show your followers that! Make it personal.

Head to the Roof

Also, if it’s possible, take your camera to the roof! If you live in an apartment, you can get some really cool sunset photos from the roof with the city skyline in the background. Next, I was thinking of maybe doing some rooftop yoga!

Rooftop picnic and sunset date
Rooftop picnic couples photography
Rooftop Photoshoot with beautiful couple

Launch a New Service!

This one is pretty exciting! After that 2 week slump of not knowing what to do while quarantined, I got an idea. Looking back, I remembered how anxious I was to first start traveling, and I want to help young travelers who feel the same way. I didn’t feel like I could reach out to a travel agent when I first began traveling because I knew I had to do it cheap, and they would not make any money from me. I needed Airbnbs, the cheapest flights possible, and I was too young to rent a car. So, I did research on my own, and made several mistakes along the way. If I just had some advice while planning, or someone who had been there before, planning my young, adventurous travels would have been less intimidating.

Travel planner Katie travel advisor

So this quarantine season, I launched travel planning video chats on my website. I know we won’t be traveling in the near future, but now I have this set up and ready to go for when the world is ready to travel once again.

Maybe that’s what you can do during this time! Online engagement is low and social media is weird right now. Why not take this time to be a little more “behind the scenes?” Reconstruct your Instagram like you’ve wanted to do for so long or fix those details on your website while it is not so visible to followers. If you’re up for it, make a list of all the ideas you’ve had and plow through writing blogs or creating vlogs at this time. Then, slowly announce and advertise your new content when people become more active on social media again. Maybe, you can finally look into creating that business you’ve been thinking about, but haven’t had the time to research on https://www.sba.gov/ .

Spa Days

Color street nails at home

Face masks, nail polish, and soothing lotions can really boost a mood! Recently, I’ve been using Bath and Body Works Stress Reliever lotion and just tried Color Street Nails for the first time this week. After a complete fail at painting my own nails through a girl’s night Zoom chat, I decided I needed a little assistance. Color Street is real polish that sticks onto your nail, and I bought a set from my friend, Carola, last week. It was fun to try, and definitely looked better than when I paint my own nails. I chose a beautiful solid blue that matches the sky. The tips began to chip a bit the 2nd day, but I believe that the glitter ones work better and last longer. I would definitely buy again for the price because, once again, they look way better than when I paint them myself. If you are careful and use both sides of one set, you potentially can get 2 uses out of one purchase, making them about $6 a wear.

Color Street Nails Nail polish at home
Color Street Nails Blue

Take some time to have a spa day soon. Maybe even invite friends to join you over a Zoom meeting. Do a green face mask together and look ridiculous! Paint nails together and chat while they dry. Whatever it is, just make sure you’re not neglecting yourself completely during this time. You will feel so much better if you just give yourself a little T.L.C.

Reading

Novel the Lights Out Club

O.K. I am not a reader, and I am learning that even when I have all the time in the world, I am still not a big reader. However, I do like an interesting book before bed, which is much better than staring at my phone’s blue light before falling asleep. Currently, I am reading The Lights Out Club by Emma Woodham, and I am a huge fan. It’s definitely girly, which I love, and tells of two childhood friends who reconnect over the summer, facing heartbreak, romance, and rebuilding a distanced friendship. Emma is currently writing a second book, and I am excited for the release of it this July!

So, if you are not a big reader, just pick one book, and make a point to read it at least before you go to bed. Start building some better habits while you can consciously focus on the changes you wish to make rather than having to juggle them on top of all the other obligations that will soon ramp up again.

I hope you are doing well and finding things that keep you sane and fill your cup during these indoor times filled with uncertainty. Comment below things you have found helpful while stuck at home lately. I’d love some suggestions!

Sincerely,

Katie

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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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Best Winery in Maine: Pairings, Tastings, and Tours

cellardoor winery in lincolnville, Maine

Just above Camden, in Lincolnville, Maine, thrives a winery with the most beautiful vineyard and venue that offers the best tasting, pairing, and tour experiences. Every Sunday during the summer months, Cellardoor Winery offers a free wine tasting and cuisine pairing experience that is simply delightful. Through collaboration with Fiore, a local artisan olive oil and vinegar company, these two businesses create a culinary experience that is both delicious and entertaining.

cellardoor winery wine tasting in lincolnville, Maine

After indulging in this delectable tasting, the most spry and fashionable lady will take you on a tour of the property to include the history of this winery as well as its expansion over the years. She is full of energy and whit that keeps you entertained the entire time. You will end the tour in the cellar where she explains the importance of winemaking techniques and how they affect the taste of each bottle.

cellardoor winery wine tasting in lincolnville, Maine

Once you give your thanks to this kind lady, browse their shop then stroll through the vineyard at the base of the hill. You could also enjoy a glass of pinot noir on the back patio with a gorgeous view of the green rolling hills and wildflowers that Maine is so well known for during the summer season.

wine tasting in a green vineyard

I stumbled upon this winery while searching for things to do near Camden, Maine. Never did I suspect that this experience would become one of the highlights of my coastal Maine road trip, but it surely did, and I highly encourage you to visit.

Happy Travels,

Katie

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Utuado, Puerto Rico: Canon Blanco

Located in Utuado, Puerto Rico is a breathtaking, extremely random landscape. At the bottom of the winding mountains, there’s a mass of white stone with a river running through it called Canon Blanco (White Canyon.) Although the drive is about 1 hour and 40 minutes from San Juan, this is a sight that is really cool to witness.

Getting There

The road to Canon Blanco winds around mountains and can be narrow at times. I do not recall terrible potholes like other areas of Puerto Rico are known for, just a few steep climbs. Although Google maps took us most of the way there, we missed the entrance at first and had to turn around. You take a sharp turn to the left down a steep hill that has a sign for Canon Blanco camp grounds.

If you keep going past the camping area and over a cement bridge, you are headed the right way. The path is only wide enough for one car at a time. To see the best of the canyon, park on the side of the road by the sign labeled “El Sofa” and walk the path in the grass that leads to the river. It doesn’t look like much at first, but keep walking to the right, and you will see the massive white stones with gushing waters that lead to a beautiful green mountain. We climbed the canyon, but the water rushes fiercely so be sure not to fall in.

Since you are already there, driving a little further and parking in an even larger dirt area will bring you to a picturesque scene that is worth experiencing. Here you will find a few houses, a duck pond, wildflowers, chickens, and even goats on the mountain if you look up. We tried to get to the canyon from this area at first, but it was too steep for us. Be sure not to go past the duck pond by car. It just gets steeper and leads to private houses. Our curious habits made us go back down the steep path backwards, so just don’t do it.

The View

Other places you could visit when headed to Arecibo are Cueva del Indio, Cueva Ventana, the Coffee Museum and the Jayuya Aerostatic Balloon.

Happy Travels,

Katie

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The 10 Best Restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico that You Will Love!

Everyone knows that good food is key to a good vacation. I’ve racked my brain for the 10 best restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico that have stood out to me over the past few months. I hope these 10 restaurants will help you find a place nearby that allows you to enjoy both the meal and the price.

Acapulco’s Taqueria Mexicana

This place is one of my husband’s favorite spots to go, especially on $2 Taco Tuesday! However, the quesadillas are our favorite, and our meat of choice is the barbacoa. They offer my favorite drinks, Agua Fresca and Horchata, and they are excellent.

Sushi N’ Good

Ok this one is a little odd because it is literally a trailer in the Shell gas station parking lot, but trust me, it’s good! The sushi is fresh and comes with 8 pieces. Honestly, the tostones that come with the crab salad were the best I’ve had so far. Rolls vary from $6-$8 and the crab salad is $10.

Acai Express

These fruit bowls are easily big enough to be considered a whole meal. I am holding a small in this picture. Uber Eats delivers these acai bowls to your hotel, but if you have a car, the drive through couldn’t be easier. There is also a parking lot and picnic tables under a shaded gazebo if you prefer to enjoy the outdoor breeze. Prices vary from $6-$12.

Panucho’s

Located on Calle Loiza, this Mexican restaurant is delicious. They have daily specials as low as $5 for three tacos. The picture below is the $5 tacos; however, my favorite meal is the pork soft tacos, complete with guacamole, cilantro, and sour cream for $12. Their appetizer nachos are also flavorful and gigantic!

Pinky’s

This fun little spot in the middle of Calle Loiza is hard to miss with its pink awning. Pinky’s specialty is all day brunch, and it’s open from 7am-4pm daily and 7am-9pm on Fridays and Saturdays . Frothy lattes and fresh fruit smoothies also make Pinky’s a great place to catch up with friends. Because space is limited and waiting for seating can take a while, you can always choose to take your bagel or breakfast sandwich to-go and head to the beach! They also have a Condado location, though I have not checked it out yet.

La Marqueta

A fun atmosphere and great music make this food court in Condado worth checking out. It is open all day and tends to run out of options by dinner. My favorite is the $10 chicken and veggies quesadilla at the Mexican shack. The food is a little overpriced for the quantity in my opinion, but the atmosphere makes it worth trying at least once.

Bistro Cafe

Famous for some of the most incredible coffees on the island, this café in Isla Verde is one of a kind. Except, actually they just opened a second location in Miami, but for good reason. From glitter lattes to mocha frappes with waffles on top, these coffees are mind-blowing! Although the portions are huge, I don’t order food here often just because it is pricey for breakfast, but many people love the brunch here. The menu is so big that it is easier just to find a picture you like on their Instagram or Google page and show it to your server.

Pirilo Pizza Rustica

Sometimes on vacation, you just get a craving for pizza, and Pirilo’s will definitely hit the spot. Their dough is incredible, and they have fun specialty pizza options. I love Mexican food so I tried the Pizza Tampiquena and my husband tried the Salmon. They were both good, but we ultimately decided that we just like the old fashioned pepperoni or meat lovers pizzas. Pirilo’s has three locations: 1. Old San Juan on Calle Tanca, 2. Ocean Park on Calle McLeary, and 3. Dorado on Carr 693. I have only tried the Ocean Park location and have heard rumors that Old San Juan is better, but I will have to confirm that for myself before I believe it. Pizzas are about $20-25 and they can do split toppings if you want to try different options.

Photo retrieved from Pirilo Facebook Page

Dude’s Diner

A fun spot to visit for both nostalgic and scrumptious purposes is in Ocean Park, once again on Calle Loiza. This retro diner has a jumbo projector playing old cartoons behind the soda counter. Although I’ve only tried their chocolate milkshake with marshmallow fluff topping, which was to die for, the rest of their menu looks like a winner as well. They serve all day brunch and your typical good n’ greasy diner eats. The milkshake was $6, and your meal will range from $10-$15 for an entrée and side.

The Stuffed Avocado Shop

OK. This is my favorite place in Dan Juan as it has all the best things in one bowl. There are three shops on the island in Old San Juan, Hato Rey, and in Miramar. My bowl of choice is the Chipotle Chicken with an addition of Mampasteao Rice for a total of $11. When we were living in a hotel for a month, I ordered this dish through Uber Eats at least twice a week. It’s fairly healthy and can easily serve as two meals. They have made dishes with avocado that I never would have thought of, including their Avocado Brownies and Avocado Chocolate Mousse!

Parking is limited for most of these restaurants, so even though we live here, we tend to Uber frequently. Taxis are overpriced, so Uber is a must on this island. If you are new to Uber, you can use THIS LINK to sign up and get $2 off your first 3 rides with Uber!

I hope this helps you find some delicious food while visiting Puerto Rico. Comment your favorite San Juan restaurant and why below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Travels,

Katie

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Best Hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico

This year, my husband and I moved from Georgia to Puerto Rico, and we spent the first couple months living in hotels. In this post, I’ll cover some of the best hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico that we stayed at as well as the difficulties we experienced at each. I personally believe that we found the best hotel for exploring the San Juan, Puerto Rico area, and I saved the best for last.

Disclaimer: Our budget was around $200/ night at Christmas time. This excludes most San Juan resorts and most hotels in Old San Juan. So, let’s get started!

hilton balcony

Tres Palmas Inn

Located in Ocean Park, Tres Palmas Inn is a comfortable, Spanish-style hotel located right on the water. Although the hotel is technically on the “beach,” in the winter, the water comes close to the road, and is not exactly much to look at compared to other beaches close by. If you prefer smaller, local hotels versus large convention-style accommodations, then you could consider Tres Palmas. The breakfast is simple, but plenty, including cereal, bagels and cream cheese, boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, coffee and juices. The selling point for me was the rooftop hot tub. Cleaned daily, and smelling of chlorine (a very important feature to me), this hot tub was hardly used by anyone else. My husband and I would climb the stairs each night and watch the Christmas season fireworks light up the sky.

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ROOM: Our room was stocked with a mini-fridge, lock box, hangers, a dresser, and a flat screen TV. The room did however lack an ironing board and iron, which was a little inconvenient. Guests can check out beach chairs, towels, and even boogie boards. The first three nights, we stayed in a king room, but on the last night, we stayed in a room with 2 double beds. I preferred the 2 double beds to the king as the room was more spacious. This hotel has a small pool and plenty of seating areas to wind down at night, but most daily activities will be done elsewhere as this is not a resort property.

LOCATION: This hotel is beach front, but it is near probably the least desirable beach in the Condado/ Ocean Park area. Restaurants and pharmacies are not within walking distance, and UBER is necessary for every outing. The good news is that UBER is very cheap in Puerto Rico, making the price of this hotel and the amount of transportation you will use an affordable combination. They also have limited street parking if you decide to rent a car. I loved “living” at this hotel as I loved the style and facilities, but it is probably in the worst location of the three I’m mentioning in this post for a week of vacationing. The immediate area is nice, with impressive beach mansions, it will just require an Uber to get literally anywhere.

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PRICE: The pricing of this hotel is average for the area and fair considering it offers daily breakfast and water-front property.

SERVICE: Each staff member was kind and helpful at this hotel. The rooms were efficiently cleaned each day.

The Condado Plaza Hilton

Right in the heart of San Juan’s vacation hub is the Condado Plaza Hilton. This waterfront hotel has resort grounds that are breathtaking. Two large pools, a hot tub, and beach access with umbrellas and chairs make it easy never to leave the hotel except for maybe a nice dinner. I spent my mornings enjoying my favorite part of this hotel, which was the outdoor seating area where I watched the waves crash against the rocks. It had a Hawaiian lava rock feel, and truly should be made into a post card.

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ROOM: This room was renovated. It was called a “King with Deluxe Bathroom,” and the bathroom truly was exquisite with a large wardrobe and glass shower. The wardrobe had a coffee maker, iron, lock box, and mini fridge. We stayed in the main tower, which appeared to have been updated more recently than the adjacent tower. However, the impressive gym and second pool/ hot tub are at the second tower and are hardly crowded at all. This resort is a great fit if your main goal is to relax by the pool or the beach for the majority of your stay in Puerto Rico.

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LOCATION: This hotel is on the Condado Lagoon and practically on its own small, bay beach. A company on the lagoon offers paddle board and kayak rentals on the other side of the bridge. This hotel has its own parking garage and valet. There are limited food options nearby, including the pricey hotel restaurant called Café Caribe, a 24/7 Denny’s, Starbucks, and La Marqueta. Denny’s is literally at the hotel, and is good, but can be slow. You can order takeout by phone, and pick it up for a quicker option. La Marqueta is a trendy outdoor food court with an awesome vibe. The quesadillas are delicious for lunch, but each vendor tends to run out of food by 5pm, turning this into a better spot for drinks rather than dinner. A 15-minute walk further into Condado will bring you to more food options, but all will be crowded at peak tourist seasons, so be sure to either reserve a table or be willing to wait. 

PRICE: For now, the prices of this hotel are excellent compared to resorts nearby. They have waived the resort fee of $30/ day, and I’m assuming that is because repairs are still taking place. But really, the only thing I recognized that was not fully functional were the tennis courts and lagoon deck area at the second tower. The pools, beach, and seating areas appeared to be completely restored. The towers are missing some paint on the outside, but the inside looks back to normal. Parking is valet or self-park in a garage, and is $25 a day.

SERVICE: The front desk service was always kind; however, this hotel seemed understaffed. I would call the front desk, but no one would answer. When they finally did answer, guest services would ask me to call the next morning as they were very busy. Housekeeping was exceptional, and our rooms were always clean.

Tropica Beach Hotel

This hotel truly felt like home after we finished staying here. It is relatively new, a few years old, and I didn’t realize how conveniently located it was until we arrived. Tropica Beach Hotel is also in Ocean Park like Tres Palmas, but the beach it’s near is nicer. This hotel is also more conveniently located to great restaurant options. Ocean Park’s food and bar scene is on Calle Loiza, which is only one street over from this Tropica. From Mexican to Korean Barbecue to local Puerto Rican cuisine, this street has it all.

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BUT, if you decide to stay at Tropica, do try the restaurant right outside your hotel door. Dulcesalado shares the building with Tropica and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tuesdays-Fridays and brunch and dinner on the weekend. They also have a coffee shop to the right of the restaurant as well as a beer garden outside. Our favorite dinner was the Chicken Piallard Salad with the Avocado Salad side. Their Mushroom Soup Burger also has great flavor, and so we rotated between the two dishes. For breakfast, I often would get an omelet with an almond milk cappuccino. They have more elaborate dinner options if you want to splurge such as fried lobster, skirt steak, and shrimp mofongo.

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ROOM: We stayed in the King Deluxe room. This room is literally as big as a studio apartment. It has a spacious closet, seating area, and large restroom. They also moved us to a double room one night while the power was out and the generators connected to the other tower. The double room was still functional, especially for a vacation. Obviously, it was much smaller, but the only notable difference was a clothing rack instead of a closet. The King Deluxe is also very open, as in there is no door to the bathroom or shower. That was no issue for us, but could be awkward to share with a friend. Each room has a Roku TV with Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, etc. as long as you have a subscription. This hotel also offers guests steamers, beach chairs, towels, and bikes for checkout, although I would be a bit nervous to bike anywhere.

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LOCATION: This hotel is close to restaurants, a Walgreens, and a Super Max grocery store. Because an UBER to Condado and even Old San Juan is so cheap, I really enjoyed this hotel location. I feel like you get to retreat from the busyness of the city. Parking is valet and $13 per day, but if you are vacationing, it is likely that you won’t need parking.

PRICE: The prices for this hotel are normal for this area. However, it does seem that they are having a “Keep it Tropica Special” right now.

SERVICE: The service here is great. The hotel is fairly small so you will always be able to find guest services to help. They also use Whatsapp to communicate, so you can just send them a text if you need anything.

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Happy travels!

-Katie

Best Coffee Shops in Savannah, GA

1. Foxy Loxy Print Gallery & Cafés

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If you’re looking for a great time with friends or even with the community, Foxy is your place. Each week, Foxy offers a great environment and fun activities. Some of the best nights are Fire & Wine, every Saturday night, and “Movies in the Courtyard” every third Friday of the month. Other entertainment held weekly at Foxy includes acoustic night, poetry slams, and knitting/stitching/crocheting. Try to visit Monday-Friday from 5pm-8pm to take advantage of their $2 lattes and Lone Stars. The best thing about Foxy is that it stays open later than most coffee shops around town. My favorite combo is a latte with a cookie dough brownie!

2. Mirabelle Café & Suites

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If you’re looking for beautiful Savannah scenery, Mirabelle is magical. Grab a seat outdoors, in front of the café, and watch the horse carriages and Olde Savannah Trolleys stroll by the magnificent Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Mirabelle’s prides itself in authentic Liege Belgian waffles, while offering a sweet twist to the tradition called the “Georgia Peach.” They also offer sandwiches, Panini, salads, and pastries, but I’ve only tried their coffee and waffles, which I give two thumbs up!

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3. Savannah Coffee Roasters

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Savannah Coffee Roasters is ideal for so many reasons. It’s spacious for big groups, it offers gluten-free dessert options, and its seating arrangements are great for studying. As far as entertainment, Savannah Coffee Roasters has tons of board games that you can check out and play with friends from 4pm to close. They also offer chess tournaments, improv theatre, and high tea.

4. Shuga Girl Sweet House

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Fairly new to the area, Shuga Girl’s is all over Instagram, and for good reason! This coffee and sweets shop is beautiful inside with blush pinks, golds, and a nice 20’s vibe. Their coffee is one of the best that I’ve tried in the area. It’s not as dark of a roast and requires less cream and sugar. They also have crepes and pastries that are sure to couple nicely with your hot or iced coffee.

5. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee

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If you want an atmosphere that brings joy to your heart, Bitty & Beau’s is the place for you. This coffee shop is completely staffed by employees who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their tagline is “Not broken,” which proves 100% true once you meet these amazing baristas. Although it looks small from the front, the shop actually goes pretty far back, offering plenty of seating. It is located right behind city market, making it a great location for a little break between sightseeing. One helpful suggestion that I have is to ensure you bring your credit card. So the baristas can focus on customer service and coffee brewing, this shop only accepts card payments.

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6. Way Station Coffee Co.

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Way Station is about 20 minutes from downtown Savannah in a suburb called Richmond Hill. This little shop made it to the coffee list because it actually has, in my opinion, the best tasting coffee along with Shuga Girl’s. The atmosphere is spacious, light and airy, which is perfect for studying or visiting with friends. They often have fun events geared toward children or supporting local businesses. So before you go, check their Facebook page to see if they are offering anything that day.

Savannah Guide Free Printable PDF

I’ve made a printout of my favorite coffee shops that I hope is helpful for your Savannah travels. The atmosphere winners are in no particular order as all are welcoming and enjoyable.

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Sincerely,

Katie