travel

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!