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Author: Andrea

Coffeeshops and Waffles: Our Trek through Belgium and The Netherlands

Coffeeshops and Waffles: Our Trek through Belgium and The Netherlands

We booked our trip to Amsterdam back in June and honestly it felt like it would never get here but it finally did! We got a solid deal ($585 RT pp) on our tickets using Google Flights like I outlined previously here. Our dates were set, but our destination was open so we just waited to see what interesting destinations showed up cheaply and Amsterdam was it!

As far as planning goes, once again we used our favorite trusty companion – Rick Steves to help organize the trip and tour us around. I would recommend using his books for any trip to Europe.

If you’re going to Amsterdam, it’s especially important to book your tickets to the Anne Frank House 2 months in advance to avoid waiting in line for hours. This was one of the tips suggested by Rick Steves and it was very helpful.

After booking our flights, we decided to take one trip outside of Amsterdam and go to Belgium. Austin picked the destination – Bruges, Belgium and I was not involved in this part of the trip planning at all. We rented a car and drove there, stayed the night and then came back to Amsterdam via Antwerp.

In Bruges, we stayed at the most adorable boutique hotel – Hotel Van Cleef.

Welcome at Hotel Van Cleef
Welcome at Hotel Van Cleef
Arrival at Hotel Van Cleef
Arrival at Hotel Van Cleef
Hotel Van Cleef on this canal
Hotel Van Cleef on this canal

The town of Bruges was quaint and walkable. You were able to get from one side of the town to the other in about 30 minutes.

Bruges
Bruges
The Market Square
The Market Square
Another view of the market square
Another view of the market square
Other side of market square
Other side of market square
Bruges
Bruges
The Market when it actually was functioning as a market
The Market when it actually was functioning as a market
So many canals and waterways
So many canals and waterways
Andrea: "Hey babe, want your picture taken?" Austin: "No, I think I'm good without one" Andrea: "Ok go stand over there" ... lol
Andrea: “Hey babe, want your picture taken?”
Austin: “No, I think I’m good without one”
Andrea: “Ok go stand over there”
… lol
The Streets of Bruges
The Streets of Bruges
One of the parks in Bruges
One of the parks in Bruges
Bruges
Bruges
The Market
The Market
Bruges
Bruges – our happy hour spot
Bruges
Bruges
He's kinda cute.
He’s kinda cute.
More Bruges.
More Bruges.
The leaves were starting to change.
The leaves were starting to change.
Gorgeous views
Gorgeous views
Had to get some Belgian waffles while in Belgium. They did not disappoint. At all.
Had to get some Belgian waffles while in Belgium. They did not disappoint. At all.
Canals on canals
Canals on canals
Swans
Swans
So peaceful
So peaceful
So many swans
So many swans
Where all the swans come!
Where all the swans come!

Bruges was amazing – although it felt like we were some of the youngest tourists there. We then continued on to Antwerp. #Funfact: Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world. There is also a lot of traffic – just be forewarned!

We were ready for a meal!
We were ready for a meal!
The square
The square
A pano pic
360 degree view
Some of the awesome architecture
Austin in front of some of the awesome architecture
Pretty
Pretty

From there we headed to Amsterdam and stayed in an Airbnb. If you haven’t ever stayed in an Airbnb before, it’s definitely something you should consider if you want more of a local feel. If you use this link, you will get $40 off your first stay. In Amsterdam, we ended up with a large studio apartment in a very central location for cheaper than we would have paid for a hotel.

The first spot we checked out was a local brown café that is reminiscent of the days when you could smoke tobacco inside, despite that currently being illegal. These are cozy places – perfect for a drink.

In the brown cafe
In the brown cafe
Beers at the Brown Cafe
Beers at the Brown Cafe

You’re going to get tired of seeing all of the canals but I thought they were wonderful, so here they are, pictured about 1,000,000 times.

Right outside the Anne Frank House
Right outside the Anne Frank House
Beautiful canals
Beautiful canals
Right near the Anne Frank House
Right near the Anne Frank House
These canals though - so beautiful
These canals though – so beautiful

We also did some touring of the infamous Red Light District. Think like a walk-able Vegas Strip…

Red Light District
Red Light District
Condomerie in the Red Light District
Condomerie in the Red Light District
Condomerie in the Red Light District
Condomerie in the Red Light District
One of the more well-known coffee shop chains
One of the more well-known coffee shop chains
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Amsterdam Central
Amsterdam Central
Amsterdam Central
Amsterdam Central
Another beautiful canal
Another beautiful canal
Beautiful views in Amsterdam
Beautiful views in Amsterdam
Dinner with a view
Dinner with a view
More canals
More canals
Peaceful Amsterdam living
Peaceful Amsterdam living
#wanderlust
#wanderlust
Brouwerij 't IJ
Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Brouwerij 't IJ
Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Canals
Canals
Canals
Canals
More Amsterdam views
More Amsterdam views
Yummy beers...they always have a unique glass for each beer
Yummy beers…they always have a unique glass for each beer
Walking through Amsterdam on our way to a comedy show
Walking through Amsterdam on our way to a comedy show
Westerkerk
Westerkerk
Sunset in Amsterdam
Sunset in Amsterdam
Boom Chicago Comedy Show
Boom Chicago Comedy Show

This was a fabulous trip. We thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Europe. Can’t wait to go back!

Currently reading: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Currently listening to: Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great by Joshua Medcalf


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Our trip to Paris – a photo tour

Our trip to Paris – a photo tour

I have been dreaming of going to Paris since I started taking French in middle school. Learning about culture, art, food as well as the beautiful language really made Paris high on my list of places to go. I continued taking French in high school but stopped in college, so my knowledge of the language decreased significantly as I am now 11 years out of high school *yikes…how did that happen?!* but that never caused my interest in visiting to decline. If you saw my recent post about booking flights, then you know that we got a pretty good deal on this trip to Paris and since we had fixed dates, we were open to location although I sure was excited for our trip to Paris. This trip was via IcelandAir and I did a post about the stopover program on that airline previously here.

As with ALL of our trips to Europe, we trusted all trip planning to to Rick Steves. I would highly recommend his books for any and all Europe traveling you want to do if you are interested in coordinating the trip yourself, which allows for tons of flexibility. He even suggests itineraries and ranks each of sights so you know whether they are worth visiting or not. Here’s the Paris version:

He offers books for both the country and the city so depending on how focused you plan to be (we spent all of our time in Paris and the immediate surrounding area, hence the purchase of the “Paris” book rather than the “France” book).

Now onto our activities…

We spent the first half of our trip exploring the immediate city… here were some of the highlights:

Good ol' Mona
Good ol’ Mona
Louvre View
Louvre View
The Luxor Obelisk at the center of the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France
The Luxor Obelisk at the center of the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France
Claude Monet's Water Lilies in Musée de l'Orangerie
Claude Monet’s Water Lilies in Musée de l’Orangerie
Claude Monet's Water Lilies in Musée de l'Orangerie
Claude Monet’s Water Lilies in Musée de l’Orangerie
View from the Arc de Triomphe of the Champs-Élysées
View from the Arc de Triomphe of the Champs-Élysées
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe - photo taken specifically for my mom who has a very similar picture herself from her Euro excursions
Arc de Triomphe – photo taken specifically for my mom who has a very similar picture herself from her Euro excursions
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
View from the Arc de Triomphe
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Beautiful Plaza near our hotel
Beautiful Plaza near our hotel
Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Notre Dame
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
View from the Eiffel Tower
View from the Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower
Musée d'Orsay
Musée d’Orsay
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Palais Garnier
Sunset on the Seine River
Sunset on the Seine River
Sunset on the Seine River
Sunset on the Seine River
Sunset on the Seine River
Sunset on the Seine River
Sunset on the Seine River
Sunset on the Seine River – from our picnic spot.
Sunset on the Seine River
Sunset on the Seine River – we had a picnic right here. It was amazing!
Sunset in Jardin du Luxembourg
Sunset in Jardin du Luxembourg
Sunset in Jardin du Luxembourg
Sunset in Jardin du Luxembourg

Two highlights of the trip included eating at the restaurant on the Eiffel Tower, the 58 Tour Eiffel & doing a Seine River sunset dinner cruise. Here are some of the pictures from those two excursions:

Sunset from the Eiffel Tower
Sunset from the Eiffel Tower
After dinner on the Eiffel Tower
After dinner on the Eiffel Tower
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel – What a cutie
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
58 Tour Eiffel
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view
Eiffel Tower at night
Eiffel Tower at night
Seine River cruise
Seine River cruise
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise
Seine River cruise
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view
Seine River cruise view

The last three days of our trip to Paris, we rented a car (Austin impressively navigated the driving in Paris thing – whew! That is not for the faint of heart!) and were able to go outside the city a bit, particularly to check out the chateaux.

Palace of Versailles
Gate at the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles gardens
Palace of Versailles gardens
Palace of Versailles gardens
Palace of Versailles gardens
Palace of Versailles gardens
Palace of Versailles gardens
Palace of Versailles gardens
Palace of Versailles gardens
Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
On the way to Vaux-le-Vicomte
On the way to Vaux-le-Vicomte
On the way to Vaux-le-Vicomte
On the way to Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte gardens
Vaux-le-Vicomte gardens
Vaux-le-Vicomte gardens
Vaux-le-Vicomte gardens
Vaux-le-Vicomte gardens
Vaux-le-Vicomte gardens
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte – definitely my favorite of the chateaux
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Chateau de Fontainebleau
Chateau de Fontainebleau
Chateau de Fontainebleau
Chateau de Fontainebleau
Chateau de Fontainebleau
Chateau de Fontainebleau

Overall, we had an absolute blast and we really felt like the 7 days that we had on our trip to Paris was a sufficient amount of time (you can never do it all, but we were ready to move onto our next destination – home!).

Currently reading: “You are a Badass at Making Money” by Jen Sincero

Currently listening to: “The Power of your Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murray


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#MyStopover – A journey through Iceland

#MyStopover – A journey through Iceland

This post is almost two months in the making. Yikes. Things have been rather busy in the Cannon house, but I would be remiss to skip out on a write up of our last adventure. So let’s talk logistics… For our most recent vacation, we were all set on going to Paris, however we heard about an option to do an extended layover in Iceland on our way over there. This is affectionately referred to as “#MyStopover” on Icelandair and it allows for a layover of up to 7 days with no extra cost to your ticket. Cool right?

We flew into Reykjavik and spent most of our time on the Golden Circle and southern portion of Iceland. Renting a car and driving ourselves was very clutch, allowing us to stop when/where we wanted although the price of car rentals (and almost everything in Iceland) is high. The guide we used for the drive is here.

Now for the weather. We went the last weekend of April and when we checked, we saw it was going to be upper 30’s to low 40’s. No big deal for the Utahns. Welllll it was windy. Very windy. And it must be like this often because the rental car places all say to hold your car door when you open to make sure it doesn’t swing and whatever is beside your car.

As far as the sights go, I am not sure exactly what I was expecting, but I can tell you that Iceland’s terrain was a surprise. As you can see, it’s basically an incredible waterfall tour. I’d like to go back both in the winter and the summer to see how different it is at other times. Here are some of the pictures and videos from #MyStopover . Definitely can’t wait to go back to Iceland!

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Þingvellir National Park
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Þingvellir National Park
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Þingvellir National Park
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Þingvellir National Park
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Þingvellir National Park
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Þingvellir National Park
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Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park
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Gullfoss
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Gullfoss
Faxi
Faxi

img_20170424_070837512

 

Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss

 

Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss
Skógafoss
Skógafoss

 

Skógafoss
Skógafoss
Southern Iceland
Southern Iceland
Vik
Vik
Vik
Vik

 

Seljalandsfoss

 

Þingvellir

 

Skógafoss

 

Gullfoss

 

Stay tuned for a post outlining the rest of our trip to Paris.

Currently reading: “You are a Badass at Making Money” by Jen Sincero

Currently listening to: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline


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The best way to pack your suitcase for your next trip

The best way to pack your suitcase for your next trip

As someone who just got off her 79th flight this *year* a few hours ago (yes it is April 12, and I do mean since January 1), I certainly know a thing or two about packing a suitcase. It can be a little different packing for work-related trips compared to vacations but overall, similar principles still apply. So let’s talk about the best way to pack your suitcase for your next trip.

This was taken on my honeymoon in Santorini, Greece.
Santorini, Greece where I spent my honeymoon

1.Use packing cubes

Packing cubes were honestly something I thought was totally unnecessary for a long time. It wasn’t until I was in Hawaii for 8 days with my friends in October and my friend Stephanie was using them that I realized it was something I needed to try. On that trip, I succeeded in not checking a bag, however my carryon was so stuffed that the second I unzipped my bag there was practically stuff everywhere in an explosion of bathing suits, underwear, dresses and toiletries. Not fun. And also not easy to find that one thing that I needed that was definitely at the bottom of the big ol’ pile.

This is where packing cubes come in. For the trip we just took to Hawaii last week, I was able to organize so much better. For this trip which was vacation, I had a cube for each: bathing suits, underwear/socks/bras, workout clothes, during the day clothes, and nice clothes. However when I travel for work, my cubes are slightly different: underwear/socks/bras/panty hose, workout clothes, non-work clothes, and work clothes.

One of my FAVORITE parts about using packing cubes is when I am going on vacation and I am not sure the size of the suitcase I am going to be taking…

Has this ever happened to you before… you figure out everything you are bringing, fold it up all nice and neat in your suitcase only to realize that you aren’t going to fit it all in? Then you have to unpack everything to move to a larger suitcase and inevitably the nice, neat piles you folded are now *not* in nice, neat piles anymore?

Your problem is now solved with packing cubes. Once everything is packed in the cubes you can just arrange the packing cubes in your suitcase, if they don’t fit, it takes less than 30 seconds and zero re-folding to move to a different suitcase. Eliminate that frustration, get packing cubes. I promise that using them is the best way to pack your suitcase. The kind that I have are currently $25.99 on Amazon so you aren’t looking at breaking the bank, but you certainly will be eliminating the frustration.

Here are the packing cubes that I have. However if you follow the link, you can see there are different colors (maybe if you are packing for two kids you might want two colors) and a variety of sizes. They are seriously the best way to pack your suitcase!

2. Pack with a list

Ok so going for full transparency, I do not utilize lists for my business trips. I practically pack the same thing over and over for these so it would be a bit of a waste. However, vacations are different so I absolutely use lists here. And unless you travel regularly, they really will be helpful for you as well.

Why spend time making a list when you could be spending that time packing? Well it will help you really think of everything. I have certainly been guilty of forgetting important things like socks, toothpaste, or my charger because I needed to charge up but I didn’t unplug it from the wall when I left on my early morning flight. And it’s not like you can’t purchase these things once you reach your destination, but this is taking valuable time out of your vacation.

The other important thing about lists is it will help you think of the things that you should bring that you don’t normally interact with on a day-to-day basis. For example, I have a GoPro that I don’t bring with me on work trips but I often bring it on vacation. Since I don’t see the GoPro regularly, it’s easy to forget about it when I am packing for vacation, especially if I am packing in a crunch.

3. Wrinkle-free clothing

People often argue about whether or not you should roll or fold the items in your suitcase to avoid looking like a hot mess when you arrive at your destination or spending an hour ironing everything. My favorite solution is to consider the items that I am packing and how wrinkle-prone they are and to just pack the items that are less likely to wrinkle during the trip. Side note: This maybe because I dislike ironing unless it involves me throwing something in the dryer, haha. If you are deciding between two shirts and you know that one of them will require ironing and one won’t, just pack the wrinkle free option!

4. Consider the weight and size of the items that you are packing

I am heading to Iceland in a few weeks and it will be colder there than it is where I live. Instead of packing my winter coat, I will be bringing it on the plane with me. My coat is big and it would take up too much space if I put it in my suitcase.

*As a reminder the FAA limits the number of items you can carry onto a plane to two; a carryon that fits in the overhead compartment like a roller board bag and a personal item such as a purse that fits underneath your seat.*

FAA restrictions aside, most airlines don’t give you a hard time about things like jackets or pillows, and these things are not [usually] included in your two item limit.

You should also consider the weight of the items that you are packing. For example, my husband wanted to bring his Carolina Blue Nikes on our trip to Hawaii since the Heels were in the Final Four (and won the NCAA championship…go Heels!). These shoes are heavyyyyy. Much heavier than his sandals that he was also bringing to Hawaii. He opted to wear these shoes, rather than his sandals onto the plane to save weight in the suitcase.

Cheering on our favorite tall drinks while enjoying the semi-final game against Oregon.
Cheering on our favorite Tar Heels in the semi-final game against Oregon April 2017.

5. Think about security lines and restrictions

If you are just bringing a carryon on your next flight and you do not have TSA pre-check, or you are traveling through an airport that is not TSA pre-check capable, consider the security restrictions BEFORE you leave for the airport. The best way to pack your suitcase is to keep your liquids, gels, or aerosols (in your 3-1-1) bag in an outside pocket or on the very top of your suitcase. This will absolutely help you speed through security as you won’t have to dig for your bag of liquids and hold up the line behind you.

If you travel even a few times a year, I would certainly recommend looking into TSA pre-check. It is very nice not to have to go through the scanners, take your shoes off, or remove your computer or 3-1-1 liquids from your bag. It’s not that expensive and it is good for 5 years. It is also covered as part of some travel credit card benefits, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Hopefully these 5 tips helped you learn the best way to pack your suitcase for your next trip. Do you have any pointers from your own travel experience? I would love to hear them in the comments! Also, for more travel-tips be sure to subscribe to my list so you won’t miss a post!

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “Relentless” by Tim Grover

Me at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Me at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

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How to find the best flight deals

How to find the best flight deals

After snagging two < $700 trips to Europe in less than six months, I have gotten a lot of questions about how to find the best flight deals. There are various loyalty programs for airlines and hotels as well as credit cards that you can utilize and I will write another post about those ways at some point. However, now I want to focus on the traveler who wants to know how to find the best flight deals without miles, credit card points, or loyalty status.

Austin and I on our most recent trip to Maui at Haleakala Crater.
Austin and I on our most recent trip to Maui at Haleakala Crater.

There are two ways that you can go about planning your travel when looking for deals…

1) Have set days and a flexible destination

OR

2) Have a set destination and flexible travel dates

Now if you have both set travel days and a set travel destination, you can find several flight trackers that will let you know if/when the price drops. But for now, back to the deal finding.

1) Have set days and a flexible travel destination.

So you requested your vacation a year in advance and it’s something that cannot be changed? This is largely our situation when I am planning on going on vacations with my husband since he is a surgery resident and their vacation dates are planned up to 16 months in advance.

Your best friend in this situation is Google Flights. If you haven’t used Google Flights before, you are really missing out. You can read more about Google Flights here.

With fixed dates, I like to set my departing airport and dates in Google Flights and then for the destination you can put “Europe” or “South America”. From there you can peruse the destinations to see what comes up for you and your particular dates. This is exactly how we decided we were going to Paris because the dates we had for vacation were already set and the flight prices on those days were cheap.

google-flights-europe-input
This is what you will see when typing in google flights. Then you click on the picture that looks like a map.
google-flights-europe-map
This is what comes up when you click on the map picture under google flights and you are searching for European destinations. Here you can click on cities to view flight details.
google-flights-south-america-map
This is what comes up when you click on the map picture under google flights and you are searching for South American destinations. Here you can click on cities to view flight details.

Now let’s review the other scenario that you might have and how to find the best flight deals…

2) Have a set destination and flexible travel dates

Have you been dreaming of a trip to Hawaii? London? Tokyo? For people with more flexible dates but with a great idea where you want to go, you have two routes. The first is to check out Google Flights again. On Google Flights you can put in your timeframe, picking say a week in October and then pulling up the calendar. When you have the calendar pulled up, you can see what days are cheaper. You can also use the flexible dates option where it will show you a graph of the cheapest days to leave and come back. Lastly with Google Flights you can set the number of days you would like to be gone for and then search by price using the Price Graph feature. Google Flights can also send you price notifications as well.

Using the calendar feature on Google Flights.
Using the calendar feature on Google Flights.
Using the flexible dates feature on Google Flights.
Using the flexible dates feature on Google Flights.
Using the Trip Planner feature on Google Flights.
Using the Price Graph feature on Google Flights.

The other option with flexible dates is to utilize Kayak. The best way to do this is from a computer rather than a tablet or a phone. Then google “cheap flights from [insert your home airport code/city] to [insert destination airport code/city]”. So for example, if I live in Salt Lake City and I want to go to Maui, I would google “cheap flights from SLC to Maui”.

From there, click on the Kayak link (may not be the first one or two results). Many websites have this function somewhat including Google Flights, but I really do like Kayak’s the best. From there you will see a nice price graph. The difference between this price graph and the one from Google, is that this is comparing trip prices across varying different lengths. Why is this helpful? Well if a 7 day trip flight price is $900 and an 8 day trip flight price is $650, odds are you would want to do the 8 day trip because it would likely be a cheaper overall option for you unless you are spending a lot of money on hotels.

kayak-slc-to-maui
How to find the best flight deals when you search on Kayak. You can scroll with the arrows on the bar graph to change the date time frame.

Hopefully you are now ready to book your next trip. Make sure you check out my pictures from Hawaii and subscribe to my list to get more travel tips. Have any other tips you have found for how to find the best flight deals without using miles, credit card points, or loyalty status? Leave them in the comments!

Cheering on our favorite tall drinks while enjoying the semi-final game against Oregon.
Cheering on our favorite Tar Heels while enjoying the semi-final game against Oregon.
How to find the best flight deals
Kaanapali Beach from the Hyatt Regency.
How to find the best flight deals
Kaanapali Beach from the Hyatt Regency.
How to find the best flight deals
Enjoying a nice walk on the beach
How to find the best flight deals
Austin enjoying the beach.
How to find the best flight deals
Second angle.
On the beach!
On the beach!
Before yoga on the beach
Before yoga on the beach
Luau ready
Luau ready

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The incredible view from the swim up bar at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.
The incredible view from the swim up bar at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa.
Heels win the championship!
Heels win the championship!
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Austin at the Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Me at the Haleakala National Park
Me at the Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Haleakala National Park
Along the Road to Hana
Along the Road to Hana
Along the Road to Hana
Along the Road to Hana
Mama's Fish House drink. Our meal and drinks were amazing! *Side note* The bartender mentioned he averages 1000 drinks per day and there are two different bars in this restaurant!
Mama’s Fish House drink. Our meal and drinks were amazing! *Side note* The bartender mentioned he averages 1000 drinks per day and there are two different bars in this restaurant!
Sunset outside of Mama's Fish House.
Sunset glow outside of Mama’s Fish House.

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to (I actually JUST finished it as I was typing this): “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero ****If you haven’t read or listened to this book yet, PLEASE do. This is somewhere around the 10th time in the last year I have read/listened to it and it is SUCH a great book. Very influential mindset wise. I always get something new out of it each time.


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Is travel an acquired taste?

Is travel an acquired taste?

It’s no secret to anyone who is even an acquaintance of mine that I absolutely love to travel. Maybe it’s something about how vast, uninhabited and unique the west is that just invites you to explore further. Perhaps it’s the feeling when standing under the centuries old architecture from other countries and feeling the awe of creation in a time that it wasn’t so easy. Or maybe it’s that my dad was in sales and we would always go with my parents on trips creating fun family memories. Whatever it is, I can’t. get. enough.

My friend Collin who was visiting a couple of weeks ago and I have both been bitten by the travel bug. We were discussing the contentment of some people to stay home compared to how we are both wired on our road trip from Salt Lake City, Utah to northern Arizona.

This got me thinking… is travel an acquired taste? Is travel sort of like beer in college (or high school – no judgment here), where you took your first sip and thought it was absolutely the worst thing ever. And your mom was so right about that nasty stuff but then gradually you realize it does go really well with pizza, and burgers? Maybe travel is one of those things you have to try a few times to learn the tricks… how to get through airport security without having a panic attack, that you definitely don’t want a less than two hour layover in the Charles de Gaulle Airport because you will have to run, or that odds are if you want to check your bag and not pay, they will give you the option once you get to the gate.

This got me thinking… is travel an acquired taste?

And once you get a taste for travel, it’s hard to go back to hanging out at home most weekends. There are always more places to go and people to share experiences with. Travel helps you get to know yourself better as well because experiences you have are much more variable than they would be if you were doing something similar week in and week out. Fortunately my job is also now allowing me to see the US, and I am so grateful for this.

What do you think? Were you born with a wanderlust soul or did it take over slowlyyyy or maybe all at once after one particular trip?

I have already shared some pictures from my adventures with Collin here. But I wanted to share the rest. Below is the portion of our trip in northern Arizona near Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend. And sorry in advance, I was a bit obsessed. It’s an absolutely gorgeous spot.

Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Me & Collin at Horseshoe Bend
Me & Collin at Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend
Lake Powell
Lake Powell
Lake Powell
Lake Powell

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero ****If you haven’t read or listened to this book yet, PLEASE do. This is somewhere around the 10th time in the last year I have read/listened to it and it is SUCH a great book. Very influential mindset wise. I always get something new out of it each time.

Adventures are best when they’re shared

Adventures are best when they’re shared

When Austin first matched at Utah for residency, I really didn’t know what we were getting into. I visited Salt Lake City once in February during my own residency for an American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation meeting in February 2013 and I thought it was a miserable place. Little did I know that because I was visiting in February I caught the dreary inversion at its worst. Then Austin and I visited together when he was considering ranking Utah #1 and we had some very gracious hosts from my pharmacy school class. Utah was cool then, but I still didn’t really grasp the whole I-might-actually-move-there thing.

But then, match day came. He opened the match envelope and there it was. His #1 choice. Utah.

Then everyone started asking “oh do you ski?”

Me: “Nooooooo……”

Everyone: “Oh well how about the outdoors?”

Me: “Not really…”

I had always equated the “outdoors” with camping and getting dirty. I much preferred showers and a warm bed. But you have to think about where I am coming from. I lived in North Carolina since the age of 7. Growing up through college, I lived in central NC where there is neither mountains or beach. Then, after school I moved close to the beach. “Outdoors” in eastern NC was the beach. OR sweating your butt off on a walk around the park in the humidity, not ever seeing anything besides a pretty lake or pond because it was flat. And if you went camping, it was just to get dirty and say you did.

Austin’s very first vacation during residency we decided to do a “Utah world tour”. We wanted to check out all of the Utah national parks in 8 days. We were going to do some camping and some hotel stays. For anyone who is into National Parks, you know that just one day at most of these places is not enough…and we figured it wouldn’t be, but we lived here now so if we liked it enough, we would come back.

During that vacation we went to Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park. It was pretty wild. And more importantly, I was hooked. Absolutely sold on the “outdoors”.

Since then, we have spent most of our free weekends exploring. It was even my idea to go camping a few weekends ago to Goblin Valley. Here’s a post about that weekend. I have wanted to share the beauty of Utah and the rest of the west with everyone since I moved here. Hey if I didn’t know about Utah, how many people did? (This is a rhetorical question…plenty of people knew, which is why they asked me over and over again if I liked the outdoors)

So when one of my friends, Collin, texted me about coming out to Utah over his spring break, I was pretty darn excited. Someone from the “outside” to share this place with. And he was a great sport. He arrived when I was out of town for work and explored the city and then when I got back, we immediately drove to southern Utah to get our adventure on.

We went to Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Horseshoe Bend in northern Arizona. Horseshoe Bend is going to be my next post so stay tuned. Here I am just focused on the two National Parks. Here are some pictures from our trip. Be sure to compare these to just a few weekends ago when my parents were here (Bryce Canyon with my family & Zion National Park with my family)… it is AMAZING what a few weeks can do to the scenery.

Wildlife in Zion National Park
Wildlife in Zion National Park
Collin & I on top of the East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
Collin & I on top of the East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
Me at the East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
Me at the East Canyon Overlook in Zion National Park
Hiking in Zion National Park
Hiking in Zion National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Life is all about perspective, right?
Life is all about perspective, right?
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park

The trip was fantastic… going to have a part 2 for the northern AZ portion coming very soon. Once again, be sure to check out the posts from just two weeks ago to see how different the parks looked (Bryce Canyon with my family & Zion National Park with my family).

 

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero ****If you haven’t read or listened to this book yet, PLEASE do. This is somewhere around the 10th time in the last year I have read/listened to it and it is SUCH a great book. Very influential mindset wise. I always get something new out of it each time.

A Date with the Goblins – Camping near Goblin Valley State Park

A Date with the Goblins – Camping near Goblin Valley State Park

Over the weekend, we decided that we would go camping near Goblin Valley State Park. We were a little delayed getting started as Austin didn’t end up getting off of a work until after 9. However since we figured he wouldn’t get off until around 6 we booked a hotel halfway to Goblin Valley in Price, UT so we wouldn’t be setting up late at night. This turned out to be a great move.

Camping in the actual park requires reservations but the BLM lands surrounding the park are available for camping for free. There were plenty of campsites that had fire rings already there. We were excited to find a great one.

Campsite in BLM lands
Campsite in BLM lands
Goblin Valley State Park
Dex playing at the campsite

After setting up we went into the park and went for a hike on the Carmel Canyon Trail. While on the trail, we ended up taking a detour to Goblin’s Lair and it was incredible. The detour Goblin’s Lair made the entire trip absolutely worthwhile. Here are some of the photos from the Carmel Canyon Trail.

Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Austin on the Carmel Canyon Trail
Austin on the Carmel Canyon Trail
View on the Carmel Canyon Trail
View on the Carmel Canyon Trail
View on the Carmel Canyon Trail
View on the Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Carmel Canyon Trail
Me on the Carmel Canyon Trail
Me on the Carmel Canyon Trail

Now for some Goblin’s Lair pictures…

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An attempted family photo
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Me & Dex… he wasn’t a fan of Goblin’s Lair
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A view of Goblin’s Lair

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img_20170304_141403996

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Another picture of Goblin’s Lair
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Austin inside Goblin’s Lair
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Austin & Dex
goblin-valley-11
Goblin’s Lair
goblin-valley-10
Me inside Goblin’s Lair
goblin-valley-9
Me inside Goblin’s Lair (again)
goblin-valley-6
I think you get the idea
goblin-valley-5
Austin decided to go all the way down. Here’s his view looking back up.
goblin-valley-1
One of several panoramic photos that Austin took of the view up into the top of Goblin’s Lair
goblin-valley-2
One of several panoramic photos that Austin took of the view up into the top of Goblin’s Lair
goblin-valley-3
One of several panoramic photos that Austin took of the view up into the top of Goblin’s Lair

Okay… clearly we were a bit obsessed. Seriously though, Goblin’s Lair made the whole trip to Goblin Valley State Park well worth it. If you happen to go there yourself, make SURE you take the detour to check this out.

Here’s the actual valley itself…

Goblin Valley
Goblin Valley
One of the Goblins
One of the Goblins
Goblin Valley
Goblin Valley
For some height perspective... Austin and Dex next to some Goblins... check out the wind blowing Dex's ears
For some height perspective… Austin and Dex next to some Goblins… check out the wind blowing Dex’s ears
Goblin Valley
Goblin Valley
Goblin Valley
Goblin Valley

Once we got back to the campsite however, things got a little dicey. The wind was picking up on our way off of the trail and once we got back to our campsite it was so windy we were almost surprised to still find the tent in place. It was the night of the Duke-Carolina game so we listened on satellite radio and waited for the wind to die down. It didn’t. We cooked on a propane grill and then settled in for a fairly sleepless night with the tent flapping all night. The wind got worse overnight so we packed up pretty early in the morning and headed back.

As we drove back to Salt Lake City, we noticed it was windy virtually the entire drive back and that night there was a massive front that came through with some inclement weather. I am not sure if Goblin Valley State Park is usually that windy or if it was an across-Utah front. I suspect the latter but don’t quote me on it. Overall… definitely interested in going back. There were some other trails just outside of the park that would be very fun to try out if Dex wasn’t with us (Little Wild Horse Canyon & Bell Canyon loop).

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle

Weekend Trip from Salt Lake City to National Parks – Part 3 – Zion National Park

Weekend Trip from Salt Lake City to National Parks – Part 3 – Zion National Park

My last two posts were about the first portion of our family trip down to the Nationals Parks – Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Park. The final part was the grand finale – Zion National Park. Zion National Park is the most well-known national park in Utah, and it is a pretty incredible place. Instead of driving along the rim like you do at the Grand Canyon or Bryce Canyon, you drive IN the canyon and get to look up at the massive stone walls.

The most famous hikes in Zion National Park are Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. Both of these hikes are decently dangerous with Angel’s Landing having very steep drop-offs and chains to keep you steady and the Narrows with extreme flash flooding risks. That being said, for in-shape/avid hikers, those are both MUST hikes.

Since we were a little less aggressive, we opted for the East Rim Overlook Trail. This is a trail I had never been on before that still offered a fantastic view without the extremes of the hikes that I mentioned previously. It was not extremely steep, and therefore much more generous to my east-coast family.

Although we made this trip from Salt Lake City, Zion National Park is only 2.5 hours from Las Vegas and definitely a worthwhile, shorter-trip-than-visiting-the-Grand-Canyon adventure.

Here are some of the pictures from the hike!

 

Zion National Park
Walked under this massive rock along part of the trail.
Zion National Park
Here is my attempt at a panorama picture to demonstrate what it looked like under this rock.
Zion National Park
Walking along the edge…this is looking down.
Zion National Park
Christina on the trail.
Zion National Park
The view from the top.
Zion National Park
Another shot of the view from the top.
Zion National Park
Christina at the top.
Zion National Park
Mom & dad
Zion National Park
Dad showing off on the rocks.
Zion National Park
Me at the top.
Zion National Park
Christina at the top
Zion National Park
Yoga time!
Zion National Park
Christina at the top!
Zion National Park
Family photo 🙂

 

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

Weekend Trip from Salt Lake City to National Parks – Part 2 – Bryce Canyon

Weekend Trip from Salt Lake City to National Parks – Part 2 – Bryce Canyon

If you caught my last post, you know that my parents visited over President’s Day weekend and as they had already visited once before, they decided they wanted to see some parts of Utah besides just Salt Lake City and Park City. Therefore we decided to take a weekend trip from Salt Lake City to the National Parks. We planned a nice little loop from Salt Lake City with the first stop being the closest national park – Capitol Reef. The next stop after that was Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bryce Canyon is definitely more popular than Capitol Reef, but still not the most well-known national park in Utah. It is also significantly higher in elevation than Capitol Reef. Since our visit was in February, we caught it in the snow! It is truly a magical place in the snow. If you want to do some hiking in Bryce Canyon in the winter time (or ANYWHERE at a high elevation), you will definitely want to invest in some Kahtoola microspikes. These spikes attach to your hiking boots and will help substantially with your footing in the snow. As a side note, these are the exact spikes that I have and I highly recommend them. Many people go instead with Yaktrax, which are much less expensive but also not nearly as substantial. I have heard many reports of these breaking.

Here is a link to the Kahtoola microspikes:

Since the whole family was not equipped with these, we decided to pass on the hiking. However, I have done the Queens Garden trail twice which takes you down in the canyon so you can see it up close and personal. It is very beautiful!

Bryce Canyon is famous for the “hoodoos” which are beautiful rock formations. You can see a lot of these various formations in the pictures below.

 

Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park
Inspiration Point at Bryce Canyon National Park

So this is part two of our weekend trip from Salt Lake City. Once again, if you missed part one, you can check it out here. Be on the lookout for part 3 coming soon.

Currently reading: “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Currently listening to: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie