Posts in travel
HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT TRAVEL ITINERARY WITH PINTEREST IN 6 SIMPLE STEPS

I am so passionate about traveling wherever, whenever possible. One of my favorite parts of travel is the time leading up to the trip- the planning, the dreaming, the visualizing. I spend hours researching my trips and getaways, and I enjoy this time greatly. The end-all-be-all in trip planning for me, is always Pinterest (this is my profile where I hoard travel boards). Pinterest is a visual search engine like google, and it is simply the most wonderful resource for travel, crafts, style, home and pretty much everything.  I find it offers the best and most unique resources to start planning whatever kind of trip I want- tropical, urban, local. Pinterest can be overwhelming, especially if you don't know where to start, so I'm going to break down the process into very straightforward search steps so you can build your dream vacation! I'm going to use Bali as an example (because, come on, who doesn't dream of vacationing there)?

step 1- download pinterest and start saving tons of pins of your destination

Download the Pinterest app or go to the website on a computer and start with a broad search of your vacation destination. I would start by searching "Bali" and create a custom board. Save every pin that looks dreamy to you, pin it to your board. Save around 5-10 pins.

step 2- Continue to gather information.

Next you are going to search other aspects of your trip. I love searching phrases like "where to stay in Bali" and "where to eat in Bali" and "what to do in Bali." Save all of the pins that look good to you. You can stop the gathering stage once you have 25-30 pins of your trip. 

step 3- Return to the custom board you've created and start skimming the articles.

I typically take notes with a pen and paper during this phase. The key here is to write down notes of the repeat offenders (and what people say about it). For example, when searching for brunch spots in San Francisco on a recent trip, I came across Mama's on nearly every list- people stated it was THE spot to go to for brunch in town and to order the Monte Cristo. I added these thoughts to my notes. I typically will have two huge columns of restaurants to begin with, and as I continue to skim and read more articles, I star the ones that are continually mentioned. Because you could end up with list of 20 restaurants if you write down every single one that is recommended, I would cross out the ones that are only mentioned once. I would also cross out ones that look good, but do not appeal to your particular taste buds.

step 4- Start assigning activities to each day of your trip.

Take a look at your various lists (what to see, what to do, and where to eat) and start assigning activities to each day. Be realistic when doing this part. I have a habit of jam-packing my itineraries with restaurants and activities, and it can feel a little overwhelming and busy when the time actually comes. Plan a reasonable itinerary with plenty of down time and rest breaks. Also keep in mind you probably won't be hungry to eat a big breakfast, lunch, and dinner when eating out for every meal. I typically eat either a late breakfast or early lunch when travelling because, I can only eat so much in a day. Writing out which restaurants you will visit on which day in your itinerary will help with this.

step 5- go back to pinterest and do a secondary search for missing pieces

Once you have a rough draft of your itinerary, if there any holes in restaurants, brunch locations, or activities, head back to Pinterest. This stage is also where Yelp comes into play. If there are a few restaurants that seem to be critically acclaimed, but you have a limited time in the locale, I like to see what Yelpers have to say about it. Sometimes reviews are like "this place lived up to the hype" or "not worth the hype" and I like to take those into account, but with a grain of salt. I generally live by the idea that restaurants that multiple people recommend in their travel guides, are probably good and worth visiting. Even if someone had an off experience and documented it on Yelp. Use your best judgement.

step 6- Finalize your itinerary

Finalize your itinerary, run it by your travel partners, make sure everything seems reasonable. Also, make sure your hitting all of the "can't miss" stops and sights. Ask for any last minute input from friends or family and prepare for an amazing trip!

If you enjoyed this article, please share it on Pinterest!!

Do you use Pinterest for travel planning? How do you plan your trips? Do you like to use itineraries to wing it when traveling? 

 

THE BEST SENECA LAKE WINERIES TO VISIT ON A WINTER WINE TOUR

Wine tours are traditionally reserved for warm summer months, but every winter, without fail, we start jonesing for a wine tour around the Finger Lakes.  One of the (very) few perks of enduring harsh upstate winters, is that we are a short 40 minute drive to wine country. The best thing about doing a wine tour this way, is that there is ZERO planning required. For this weekend, we decided the night before that it would be a fun way to spend a wintery Saturday. We picked Seneca because it's the closest lake and that was it for planning. We typically start at the top of the lake, work our way down on the eastern side and make it as far back up on the western side as we can, before wineries close.

The Finger Lake Wineries also have fun weekend events scattered throughout February and March, like Pasta and Wine weekend, where each participating winery gives you wine samples along with various interesting pasta samples (my past favorites were a lasagna and a chocolate mac and cheese...amazing). Or the Chocolate and Wine Weekend, where unique creations using chocolate are paired with various, delicious wines. Definitely recommend both of these fun events if you can attend, but if not, DIY-ing your own tour can be fun, too.

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This wine tour was especially awesome because we took recommendations from the winery staff at each place we went, so our route ended up being directed entirely by local favorites and wine experts. A few of the winery stops were recommended by multiple staff at different wineries.  Damiani was a standout, according to everyone we met. The other standout was Zugibe. We also got this enticing recommendation for a lunch spot, called FLX Wienery, on the southern tip of Seneca Lake, but we had already eaten a late lunch and it did not fit in with our route/timing. But this place sounded so unique and delicious, just check Yelp if you don't believe me! Gourmet Hot dogs, Hamburgers and Poutine. Enough said. 

Below is the route of our Wine Tour on Seneca Lake, along with my thoughts and reflections on each winery. We started at Ventosa Vineyards, which we usually miss because they haven't participated in the themed weekends in previous years, so we were excited to stop here. This ended up being the BEST decision ever, we got so many good recommendations and I couldn't get enough of the wine and the view.

Ventosa vineyards

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Ventosa was the first stop on the tour, it's at the Northeastern side of Seneca Lake. I love this winery and their red wines are particularly strong. Paul loves red wines, and so did our server here. Our guide focused on wineries with an amazing red wine game when giving us recommendations. The wine is top notch at Ventosa and so is the service. Definitely recommend stopping here. It was a calm, serene stop and the staff were so friendly and eager to talk to us about the wines, and anything. They have great semi-dry whites too. This is a popular spot for weddings in the summer.

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Zugibe

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Our next stop on the wine tour was Zugibe, and we were SO excited about the wines here. They lived up to the hype for sure. Our tasting here was a nice and relaxing experience, it was just us and one other couple in the tasting room. The dry reds at Zugibe were really, really good. There was nothing too sweet on the menu, even the whites were dry and delicious. Considering neither of us like anything too sweet these days, the wines were perfect for us. I only tried one white wine here, because I didn't want to miss out on any reds. Try the Fred's Red and the the Phonetician blend. The Lemberger was on point as well. They have a really pretty outdoor area, with cute little tables and a perfect Summer view. I'd love to go back in the Summer, sit outside, with a glass of wine in hand and enjoy the fresh air. Friendly staff here as well. We loved this stop, and it is definitely a necessary stop on any Seneca Lake Wine Tour.

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Lamoreaux Landing

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We bought a few bottles at this winery because we loved the reds so much. I enjoyed the white wines we tried here as well. We had such a fun experience, this place probably wins the overall experience medal in my book. The wine experts here were a couple, and they were SO friendly and fun. We were the only ones in here so we got extra special attention and there was no shortage of wine flowing. Such a fun place and a great stop for your wine tour.

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Wagner Winery and Brewery

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Wagner Vineyards Estate Winery was a super-quick stop for us, unfortunately. Wineries close at 5pm and this was something that hadn't occured to us until we arrived here at 4:30 and she told us last tastings would be at 5. They have a brewery here for beer tastings, too. We enjoyed the wines, although spent the shortest time here because we didn't want to miss Damiani! Not after everyone had raved about it. What stood out here was our friendly server. He was enjoying telling us the history and tons of info about the wines, which I normally love, but I felt too rushed to soak it in. Worth a stop and if I were to go back, I would stay longer, and also try the beer tasting they have available.

Damiani wine cellars

Damiani Wine Cellars was our final stop on our wine tour, and the red wines here are definitely the best of the best. Every single wine that we tasted here, was amazing. We stayed well past closing hours and continued to milk our samples for all they were worth. We bought two different bottles here, Pinot Noir and Cab Franc, and I cannot wait to crack those open. This is a must stop on any Seneca Wine Tour!! Just plan your time better than we did so you can stay longer, and really enjoy everything the Seneca Lake wineries have to offer.

The best tips I can give you is to plan the route, and pick the wineries ahead of time where you want to stop. If you don't, you'll end up visiting too many mediocre wineries (we have in the past) where sample sizes are subpar and wine is sickly sweet. Add my recommendations to your itinerary and you will absolutely have a solid start. Also, keep in mind wineries close early! So start your day earlier than we did (we started at like 1pm). What I would do, if we were to re-create this tour, would be to skip lunch beforehand, and instead plan to have our main meal at FLX Weinery.

Have you been to the Finger Lakes?? They are worth a visit if you're in the Upstate NY area! What are your favorite wineries on Seneca Lake, if you've been? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE DAYS AT AN ALL-INCLUSIVE IN PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
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We recently spent five glorious days in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and it was such a beautiful getaway, during these chilly January months in Upstate NY. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort right on Bavaro Beach. I've never stayed at an all-inclusive before, and it was such an interesting experience! I wanted to share some thoughts on Punta Cana, general thoughts on staying at an all-inclusive, and what we learned from our quick vacation.

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Punta Cana

Punta Cana is so gorgeous, and you will quickly find once you start researching your trip, that it is the land of all-inclusives. I think nearly all of the hotels we found, while we were searching for accommodations were all-inclusive. I can only surmise that this is for a reason, and that Punta Cana is one of the places where they want you to stay on the resort. It is typically okay to venture off for excursions through local companies or your hotel, but for the most part, wandering the streets is likely not a safe option. When we first arrived in Punta Cana, we headed straight for the pool to squeeze in 45 minutes of fun before pool/pool bar closing time. We met this lovely couple from Boston and became fast friends. One of the first things they mentioned to us, was that they frequently stay at all-inclusives, but love to venture out in whatever city they were visiting. They had friends from home that had recommended they stay on resort property. We took that advice as well.

 

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Staying at an all-inclusive

Paul is the type that loves to wander the streets, interact with locals and try local cuisine. I totally love these things too when traveling, and that was the biggest missing aspect of staying at an all-inclusive. Additionally, there are so many things to navigate when staying at an all-inclusive, at the least at the big resorts. Figuring out where to eat, which restaurants need reservations, which restaurants cost extra, which drinks are not too sugary sweet, which drinks are the most value for your money, and where the worthwhile activities are is an enormous job. The resort we stayed at was huge, and there were various hotels within the resort, all with their own restaurants, pools, and activities. Frankly, we found the process of navigating an all-inclusive for the first time, very overwhelming. By the end of our stay, we had started to get the hang of things and figure out what was what. It was definitely fun and a totally new experience. We LOVED being able to order multiple entrees per person at the restaurants and multiple appetizers just to try to everything. I've been on a few cruises in my life and I would equate an all-inclusive resort to a cruise ship on land. What do you guys think about them? Although there were various restaurants (Thai, French, Dominican, Greek, etc) I still love the variety and authenticity of being able to eat Dominican food in restaurants with actual Dominicans.

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What we did in punta cana

If you follow along on Instagram, I think you can see my love of swimming, beach time, and pool time. That is where we spent the majority of our time. Unfortunately, we had limited nice weather while we were there (it rained one entire day) so I wanted to maximize our sunlight hours. We finally decided on an excursion that involved snorkeling, swimming, a catamaran and a picnic lunch that sounded perfect, but the company was closed the days we were in Punta Cana due to unpredictable weather. This excursion also came highly recommended from our Boston friends. On the non-stop rainy day, our Boston friends left at 6am for a ziplining excursion that sounded like fun. We hemmed and hawed too long to commit in time to doing this, since I've been ziplining before, but if you never have been, it's definitely a worthwhile experience to try!

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We had a really great time in Punta Cana, and we both agreed we wish our stay was just a tad longer! Stay for a week if you can and really try to experience all the beauty, beaches, and activities that Punta Cana has to offer! Anyone been? Do you guys agree about the all-inclusive experience? or are you die-hard all-inclusive stayers? Tell me in the comments! I'd love to hear any new travel recommendations too!

 

Have you ever stayed at a punta cana all-inclusive? or anywhere?

PS- we got upgraded to first class on our long flight from NYC to Punta Cana!  It was the absolute best (and my first time ever in first class)! Paul gets upgraded frequently but since we booked under him, we both did! Definitely got the vacation off to a festive start.

Related: Check out some dreamy domestic travel destinations here and here!!