Portugal-Lisbon~Sintra~Porto~Aveiro

I first visited Portugal 7 years ago when I was pregnant with Luna. If you can even call it “visiting”- we were on a 2wk European cruise with the whole Teo clan about 33 of us! TBH I didn’t love Lisbon but then again, how much could you really see in 8hrs??? - that’s cruise life.

This time around I chose Portugal as our summer vacation’s starting point because it’s an easy flight- direct from Miami and only 8hrs! After researching different cities in Portugal I realized, this is a country I judged way too early.

Lisbon is a hopping touristic city, full of bright streets paved with cobble stones and beautiful street art in every corner. The views everywhere are spectacular as it’s surrounded by water. The locals are super nice and would rather speak in English than Spanish- not sure why but you get a little attitude if you speak in Spanish?!? It’s easy to get around either walking, cable cars, tuktuks (super fun but bargain they can be pricey) or uber (super cheap like 2-3e and easy). We stayed in an area called Madalena, which is a great area-walking distance to everything, including the famous Arco da Rua Augusta, the bustling streets of Rua du Madalena (super touristic stores and restos) and walking distance to other sites. Another area I really liked and more upscale is Avenida du Libertad, which houses the upscale shops, some restos and cute cafes.

The first days I tried to resist the tuk-tuks knowing they’d be totally expensive tourist traps. Ubers in the area are actually really cheap and all new clean cars unlike other places. At some point while visiting the LX factory - a super cool renovated area which was an old factory now made into multi-restaurants and stores - a tuk-tuk driver offered me 2hrs for 40e - I could’ve haggled but I know he was hard working by his appearance (he had a white collard shirt with tiny holes) so I didn’t mind paying him. Anyway, this was such a fun experience. He knew all the cool spots (including the bougainvillea spot Bar Terraco de Santa Lucía)-and other local areas. He took us to the best look out points and cutest most picturesque places. He was such a nice guy & great with the girls that I regret not taking a pic with him to add to the memories of photos. The girls had so much fun cracking up but at some points I thought we’d be pushing his tuk-tuk to help it climb the ups and downs of the steep streets of Lisbon. So definitely take a tuk tuk at least once during your stay.

Another outing you should consider is a day or two trip to Sintra. It’s about 30-45 min from lisbon but tends to get super packed especially on the weekends so plan accordingly. It’s one of the most picturesque towns I’ve been to with gorgeous antique houses and lush greenery everywhere. Their main attraction is the castle which you have to stand in line for (prebuy tickets online and the bus pass unless you want to walk uphill 5-10min). We went on a Wednesday and there was still a long line but it moved quick. They don’t allow photos inside the castle but it’s cool to see how they lived in the past and the beautiful architecture. It’s not huge and not overwhelming and my girls enjoyed it and weren’t bored at all. They have plenty of snacks and food there but make sure you eat in the town of Sintra...again súper touristic but super cute! There’s lots of cobble stone streets with cafes, bars and small local shops. I think if I did it again I would stay in Sintra at least one day to really explore all of it. The surrounding houses are amazing!! Apparently really expensive but some of the prettiest houses I’ve seen!

On to Porto - I pre-bought train tickets- first class is more comfortable and not much more - you have to load your luggage yourself which is a pain especially traveling with 3 large heavy luggage’s 😂 . The trip from lisbon is 2.5 hrs and easy, we slept almost the whole way, it’s not super smooth and those prone to motion sickness beware.

Porto’s main attraction is the Douro River. It has lots of locals selling their artistry and lots of restaurants (some of which are total tourist traps) lined up and down both sides (Port and Duoro side). The old city or main center (Port side) has lots of beautiful streets each with pretty houses and tiled walls. Every turn has a street worth photographing. I found amazing empanadas from Argentina at “el Argento”, a small shop who’s enticing food literally called us in from the streets. There’s lots of beautiful churches, parks and small stores - a little gem called Downtown by Mr Joias, has lots of cute clothes and jewelry. Another nice area is Galleria’s with lots of stores and cafes. Nearby is Livraria Lello ranked one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and it’s only 100 yrs old 😳! It’s also been said that it’s the inspiration to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. It’s quite the scene and a bit of a mission. You have to buy a 5e pass per person, two stores down (all kids under 4yrs pay-trust me I tried to say Luna was 4 hehehee) you must put bags and backpacks in a locker for 1e, then stand in cue to get in. Once you’re in it’s quite impressive even though there’s a mosh pit of people there. The design and woodwork are simply spectacular. The tickets I bought for 20e don’t go to waste- each one goes towards one book... they’re smart and are clearly selling lots of books. Right next door is the perfect flower gelato, Amorino Gelato, which Soleil says is Ahhmmmmazing!

Another beautiful place to lunch and maybe even take a dip in their pool is at the Yeatmen hotel. It has the most amazing views of the river and city and it’s away from all the tourists. There’s three restaurants there, we ate at Orangerie which was pricey but delicious. They have two pools - the outdoor is reserved for guests and the indoor by the spa. Technically you’re supposed to reserve and pay 50e per person to swim.

One of Europe’s top 10 beaches is located in Porto, Praia Miramar, a locals mostly beach. There’s a small church on the actual beach. If you know me you know I have an obsession with churches and on the beach, that just makes for perfection. The backdrop is a photographers dream. There were maybe 6 wedding/ engagement shoots the night we were there. It was such a perfect day, my girls raced in the sand, found treasures, had competitions and just had such a blast. Watching them play made me realize how amazing childhood is. We also visited another great beach for kids and adults where a lot of the affluent locals live, Foz do Duoro, Praia do Homem do Leme. This beach has a cute castle playground and a beach bar right next to it. Perfect to get drinks & food while the kids play. The surrounding area has so many cute clothing stores a must if you like shopping or a must even if you don’t, its a great area away from the tourism.

The food in Portugal for the most part was great. We only hit one tourist trap, otherwise everything was fresh and really delicious. Their traditional food includes bacalao which I did not taste, but apparently there’s 365 ways of making it- one for every day of the year hahhaa.

In Porto, on the river try Cafe do Cais, Porto Cruz winery/restaurant and their rooftop cafe. Next door is their ice cream shop which Luna and I beyond loved. Luna loved it for their ice cream and I loved it for their 2.5e deliciously flavored white port! At the very tip by the bridge on the Port side, there’s a little restaurant which is worth a visit for a picture, a drink and maybe quick bite (breakfast) . The view is spectacular and the Late delish ( I asked for a tea and he understood Late - but it turned out to be a good mistake even though I don’t drink coffee). Towards Foz do Duoro check out Bocca or Fuga.

We also visited Aveiro which is about 45min from Porto and is said to be the Venice of Portugal, on a much much much smaller scale. It’s small and they have gondolas, cute houses some cute stores but unless you go to the beaches I don’t think it’s worth the journey. Pics included below. The beaches nearby are soft sand and very pretty.

Portugal was a beautiful experience a great spot for families to visit!



COLOMBIA the Latest Hot Spot

Cartagena is probably one of the hottest places to visit as it’s literally all over everyone’s IG.

 I was super excited to after finally booking an 8d trip over New Years,  which by the way, is to much time to spend just in Cartagena (explain later). Cartagena and it’s skyline is referred to as mini Miami by the locals, we took the skyline in on a horse drawn carriage and it did not disappoint.  It’s a decent size city but the touristic area is small and mainly contained in “La Ciudad Amourallada” The Walled City.  It’s about 3 miles of super cute bright colorful little houses, restaurants, churches, bars and boutique stores.  Now this is cool but honestly you don’t need more than 2 days here. Also if you’ve ever been to Havana, Cuba or Antigua, Guatemala it’s actually quite reminiscent. We went during the highest season Christmas/New Year so every hotel/house was fully booked. Streets were bustling, especially in the evenings, but fun and filled with street vendors all over, the vendors are all over you every step you take especially if you are a tourist, if you are firm with them they get it but if you show any weakness they will stay with you until eventually buy something.  Originally, we were going to go with other couples and experience the night life but plans changed and we didn’t get to fully experience that side of Cartagena but did see how it’s definitely a party place as people were still going strong New Year’s day at 7am! 

So my recs are stay in Cartagena 2 days and then head out to the islands on a speed boat. The islands are about 30-45 min away and definitely worth going to Baru, Islas de Rosario and Tierra Bomba- I definitely would not recommend the beaches in Cartagena itself...sketch! 

 

After 3 days in Cartagena we took off to Medellin a quick 1 hr flight. Medellin is like any other Latin City with yummy restaurants. We only stayed here a day and ended up drinking, playing UNO and dominoes more than actually exploring but it’s a beautiful very lush and mountainous city. We felt safe for the most part but definitely know where to go and ask the locals, because some touristic areas are known to be dangerous so don’t wear jewelry and carry purses there.

The next few days we took off to explore Old Penol and Guatape. It was an easy scenic 2 hr ride to Old Penol- a cute mini town where they have drinks, food and local artisans. The views from this place are so beautiful we spent a few hours just chillin, shopping and enjoying the vibe. 

Finally we reached Guatape which is actually a man made reservoir where many famous Colombians have gorgeous houses along these huge lakes. In the 70’s they purposely flooded the area and created these lakes which inadvertently created a touristic gem.  The views are just sooo breathtaking you immediately fall in love. 

The local town is called Pueblo de Zocales where all the houses have paintings representing their lives or work in the lower facade. Like literally if you’re a farmer you would have pictures representing you farming or if you have a boat and a horse you would have that molded onto the lower part of your house.  

We rented the cutest Chalet ever but let me tell you getting there was a little rough! What an adventure I say it was about 2 miles of dirt roads with big ass holes at one point I didn’t think the car was going to make it. Actually there were no taxis or any restaurants by us so the owner had to get Little tuk tuks to take us around town. Even the tuk tuks couldn’t go as far as the house because the roads were so bad they were scared that their tuk-tuks wouldn’t make and tip over. This place has a little of everything boating, kayaking, eating, drinking, boating, zip lining, helicopter rides etc... It’s considered Medellin’s Hamptons and I see it blowing up soon so don’t wait too long, they’re expanding as you read this and they’re making a modern walkway. It’s truly a little gem and worth a visit!   

Resorts vs. Airbnb

Location, Location, Location 

Where you stay is everything!  For the most part, I love staying in areas within walking distance to town or major sites.  For me, walking is essential and one of the best parts of traveling to explore and see the most.  I do a lot of research on the area I’m staying and really try to find places in the most popular areas.  Next, I choose between a hotel or an Airbnb,  which I chose is highly dependent on the amount of days I’m staying in one area.  Usually, if I stay more than 5 days I like Airbnb’s for several reasons.  First, you may save money by getting an airbnb if you’re splitting the cost and sharing it with friends.  In addition to better nightly rate then a fancy hotel you also save money on food and  laundry, you can pack less for your trip if you have a good plan.  Buying snacks and breakfast goodies at a local grocery store is a great way to save money especially if you have kids who are always hungry!  Additional benefit can include more space and somewhere for the kids to really chillax and for you to unwind.  Certain parts of the world scream airbnb to me while others don’t.  If you’re staying in a country that has a reputation for being safe such as Bali, Cuba or Colombia I would definitely consider getting an airbnb without a doubt. Other countries which seem less walkable and more chaotic such as Guatemala, Belize, or Vietnam not so much.  I recently traveled to Guatemala and had a friend who wanted to join me.  She figured she could just explore while I did the family thing.  While I love my country there’s a few things you don’t do in certain countries and that’s roam free without knowing where to go.  Guatemala city is one of those places that you should really know a local or stick to the touristic places.  Especially if you don’t speak the language it can get a little dicey.  There are certain areas in Guatemala that are very touristic like Antigua and actually there’s probably more Americans living there than Guatemalans, but it’s a little ways away from the city.  I would actually say that when traveling to most Central American Countries, get advice from locals or people who have lived there.  

South America, Europe and Asia for the most part are safe and all have walkable cities that love and welcome tourists.  Make sure you really research the area and reach out to people who have been there for their advice on where to stay.  The beauty of these times is there’s really options for all budgets (always less during off seasons and not holidays) and the best part is just getting out there and exploring. 

 PS. These are some of my favorite locations below: The first Intercontinental Resort in Danang, Vietnam. The second, A beautiful Villa in Capri, Italy, and lastly a beautiful villa in Ubud, Bali.

Bring a Friend and Make it a Fiesta!

Traveling with just my girls is my ultimate favorite thing to do.  However, traveling abroad with friends is also super fun and adds an extra flare to your trip. Think about the amazing memories you will make and the awesome pictures you’ll have. There will also be someone to watch the kids when you have to run to the bathroom (it happens a lot to me) and of course someone to have a cocktail or two with! If you’re traveling to a new place it will also help ease your nerves about traveling alone and makes it much safer. 

My travels with friends started 3 years ago when we met up with our NJ friends in Greece. We have kids of similar ages so it worked out perfectly. It’s was like having a couples trip and the kids just played and entertained each other. The idea is to choose friends who have similar likes and lifestyles. These Greek friends of ours enjoy having cocktails throughout the day, relaxing and are very easy going so it was a perfect match up which makes for a perfect vacation. Later that trip, I met up with one of my single gay besties. Now he doesn’t have kids, so I think initially it was an adjustment being around my three chicas but after a few drinks he was part of the crew. Traveling with friends definitely adds that extra fun factor, but beware, because the good times make days fly by!

The hardest part of traveling with friends is the planning, agreeing on dates and choosing a location, but once you get past that it’s easy! Before your departure have everyone look up sites or activities they‘re interested in seeing so everyone contributes a little. I usually don’t plan day-by-day before we get there but I have a general idea of the things we definitely want to do. If you know me I love boating pretty much anywhere and anytime -it’s almost a requirement for a great trip! So outings like boating I definitely try and book before we depart especially if it’s high season so I don’t get stuck renting the last dingy available. And remember there’s nothing wrong with just going with the flow because there’s nothing better than just exploring. 

This year I was blessed with a beautiful experience. I was able to meet up with my friend, Linda, whom I’ve known since I was a child and lived in Guatemala. She currently lives in Hong Kong and was able to meet up with us while we visited Vietnam and later Hong Kong. This was one of my favorite parts of my Asia trip because Linda and I grew up together, our parents were bestfriends and now we are introducing our daughters to each other. Talk about PRICELESS! These kids acted as if they had known each other all of there lives. They bonded immediately and in such a special way that after 9 days together they were calling each other besties! I mean seriously how can you not love that! So grab your besties and take them with you on your next trip! 

 

Let's Travel

Let’s discover and travel!  First on the to do list is to pick a place.  There’s so many destinations that are kid friendly like the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and almost anywhere in the Caribbean!  If you have really young children and haven't traveled much it's especially important to look for locations close to you.  When my girls where between 1-3 years old we traveled mainly between NJ & Miami, a few times to the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos.  To be honest, it was just easier, flights were short and because it was most familiar to us it became a routine.  Cruises are another great option for kids because everything is easily accessible and you can see a lot of countries and not have to move any luggage or baby gear.  I remember being pregnant with Luna and taking a two week cruise in Europe with my husband and two girls who were 3 & 4 yrs old at the time. We saw a lot of places and were occupied by many kid friendly activities onboard, not to mention great downtime for naps in-between ports.  If your kids are older then definitely start venturing out!  Decide if you want mostly site seeing and relaxing like Guatemala vs an adventure like Costa Rica or a little of both like Turks and Caicos.  I also find that every country has a little of both relaxation and adventure you just have to look for it and plan accordingly.  I absolutely love Europe and South America but flight times and days you have available for vacation comes into play- you don’t want to be traveling 2 full days if you only have 5 days to spare.  https://www.lonelyplanet.com/ is a great website to look around and choose your next location.  They have insights into different countries and so many great places to explore!  

Once you have picked a location, start crazy Google and Tripadvisor searching on what there is to do in that country.   I always make sure I choose activities or excursion that we can do with my 5 year old since she’s our youngest. Nothing is worse then planning an itinerary come to find out it’s not doable for all in your group.   Always plan down to your lowest age then work up vs planning for adults.  I’m dying to go to Peru and India but realistically my kids are too young for these places and we will have to wait a while.....but it will happen!

Next on the list, start your flight search-ticket prices can help dictate where you’re heading.  Generally the further you go the more expensive the flight. I usually start on Expedia and Kayak to compare the best flight deals.  Afterwards I go directly to the airline to see if their prices are less but I find that they’re usually not with the exception of Jet Blue.  I’ve also heard booking on a Tuesday night helps with prices but haven’t been able to prove it-lmk if it works for you!  Booking early is also huge on savings.  If you know when you have vacation days try looking for flights early so there’s plenty of availability or use search engines to notify you when there’s low prices. Since I know when my girls have vacation, I start planning our journeys far in advance!  I may be crazy but I already planned December and I’m starting to think about February’s break.nA lot of schools have similar days off for vacations so I've found that the longer I wait the less availability there is for hotels or houses (I’ll get into housing in a later post) and the higher ticket prices will be.

I took a trip down memory lane (sniff sniff) and included some pictures from previous vacations with my minis including Paris, the European Cruise, Turks and Caicos, Guatemala and a staycation in the Florida Keys.

Remember, any place worth getting to is never easy, so start early and happy planning!


 

Tales of the Traveling Teo Chicas - My Mini Me's

I get asked all the time, “How do I do it?  How do I travel alone with my girls for prolonged periods of time?”. Actually, I just returned from an amazing 6 week Asia and Dubai trip with my three minis Aisla (10), Soleil (8), and Luna (who is 5 but sometimes is still in her terrible 2’s).  Yes, I’m alive and no I’m not ready to give up my kids for adoption or commit myself to a mental institution!  In truth, I’m a little sad that I’m back home and not somewhere exploring this beautiful world!! 

I’ve been traveling with my three crays since they were 3 months old.  Traveling is my ultimate favorite thing to do.  According to my husband, I do it right by traveling with my best friends aka my mini me’s. 

The other day I overheard a lady saying, “I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to travel.”  She had just gotten back from Greece, loved it, but missed her 3 year old twins.  Of course I love couples only trips, but thought ummm... they are totally old enough to travel!!  My friend immediately introduced us having known about my multiple travels with my girls.  I began to tell her about my travels and how I do it and her response was, “that sounds difficult.”  Truth be told it’s a good amount of work and planning but so worth it.  Though I have had my share of “why now” moments, in the end I have never taken a trip with my girls that I regretted the “adventure”it took us to get there.   

We have traveled all over Europe, Central America, the Caribbean and most recently Asia.  Funny enough, my mother-in-law jokingly told my girls, “Your mom wants to show you the entire world before you go off to college!”  Little does she know she’s actually right on point!  Eventually my girls will grow up and there may come a time (teenage years be damned) when they may not want to travel with me, so, I’m not waiting for that time.  There is no better time then the present because tomorrow may never come.  

Although it’s not always super easy, it’s very doable and eventually they become seasoned travelers.  With this Mini and Me Travel Blog I hope to give tips and to inspire other courageous moms to travel the world with their kids. Truth is they will only be this age once so might as well live it up, make it an adventure, and create memories that will last a lifetime.