In August 2015 I had a 2 day stopover in Auckland and I found many opportunities for day trips and excursions from the city of Auckland. If you find yourself with the chance to stop over, I highly recommend it. Even better plan an entire trip just to visit New Zealand.
Experience the Lord of the Rings movie set to take in the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of Middle Earth. Hobbiton is a must see for travelers to New Zealand where they are given an opportunity to see the living movie set and immerse themselves in the wonders of the Trilogies.
Wonder the paths of the Shire, escape into a Hobbit hole and attempt to recreate your favorite scenes. The land Sir Peter Jackson loves so much comes to life as your guide shares details of moving making and famous movie sites.
They even have a banquet room on site and opportunities for dining after your tour.
I had never even seen the movies before experiencing Hobbiton but I still found the tour the be very interesting and a great introduction to the countryside of New Zealand. This is only a 2 hour drive from Auckland.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are another must see when visiting New Zealand. The glowworms radiate luminescent light that illuminate the caves with historical and geographical interests.
Enjoy the tour by boat ride under thousands of magical glowworms and become a part of over 120 years of cultural and natural history. While on the boat ride you cannot have any light and must stay extremely quiet or you will scare the light out of them. You are guided through the caves by a pulling system lead by a professional glowworm dude.
I wish I had more opportunity to explore here but it was pouring rain and the caves had flooded. It is very rare that this happens so I will plan it to go back because what I did see was worth every minute. This is only 2.5 hours from Auckland.
Enjoy the thrill of sailing on the America’s Cup sailing ships. With no sailing experience necessary, you can still be involved in all things sailing. It takes more than you think to get these ships race ready. As the wind hits the sails, the professional crew shares their experience with you while letting you feel the exhilaration and power of a sailing regatta.
Not only did I enjoy the race I also enjoyed seeing the contrast of natural landscapes and city skyscrapers that line the harbour from the best view in town. I was given the opportunity to steer, use the grinders to raise and trim the sails and try not to fall off the ship. Located in Waitemata Harbour in Auckland.
I specialize in travel to Australia and New Zealand. Use my insider knowledge and experience to help you plan your bucket list vacation.
When you are planning a destination wedding choosing the right destination is the biggest decision in the whole planning process along with the budget. These two go hand-in-hand but cost should go to the top of the list. Figure out what you can realistically afford and don’t forget to factor in gratuities, dress alternations and the bridal emergency fix-it-kit.
- Take out a piece of paper and write down the top three requirements for your wedding experience. Have your partner do this as well and compare your lists. Do you want beach? Or would you prefer a grand ballroom? Is a formal dinner a priority or do you want to experience the local cuisine?
- Next outline your ideal destination. When you picture your wedding do you picture barefoot on the beach, an underwater ceremony or in a jungle locale? Much like couples, countries, islands, states and resorts have distinct personalities. Take into account travel time and accessibility for you as well as your guests. Also make sure you know the legal requirements for getting married in another country. Some may mandate waiting periods and on-site medical tests so these should be factored in to your budget.
- Choose a resort that speaks to your wedding vision as a couple. Send out e-mails to the wedding coordinators and ask basic questions. Find out if your date and wedding location are available. What is the cost of the wedding? Does the resort offer a free wedding package? What is the weather plan if your beach wedding gets rained out? Some resorts even offer a site inspection trip where you and your partner can visit the resort and see if it is the right fit.
Sandy toes and salty kisses, whatever destination you choose I can help you plan your perfect destination wedding.
If there’s one trip you *must* get right, it’s your Honeymoon. For fifty percent or so of us, this is the only one we’ll ever get. For the rest of us, well that’s another story. In all seriousness, it’s a pretty darn important trip.
What comes to mind when you envision your perfect honeymoon? Adventuring in New Zealand? Relaxing at a luxurious, couples-only beach resort? Sampling culinary delights throughout Europe? Although we all may picture our once-in-a-lifetime journeys differently, we can all agree that if not planned carefully, things can look very different than that romantic getaway playing in your head. Think lost hotel reservations, hours spent in car, waiting around wondering what to do next, or being confined to your hotel because it’s storming. Every. Day.
Long ago, before I entered the fabulous industry of travel, I was married in October. When selecting a honeymoon destination, my then husband and I both agreed that we wanted something exotic in the Caribbean. The BVIs? St. Lucia? We were both very busy with wedding planning so we contacted a Travel Agent. She informed us right away that we were traveling in the peak of hurricane season and advised that we go instead to Aruba, which is out of the hurricane belt. Her expertise saved us from a humid, wet, rainy honeymoon. Her recommendation was spot-on and we had a great time.
I guess the moral of this story is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Your honeymoon is such a special trip and most of us want every detail considered and an overall seamless experience! Take the stress and guess-work out of planning and contact a Travel Agent. We’re here to make sure every base is covered – from planning through post-trip follow-up.
Tahiti is simply one of the most romantic destinations on earth, who wouldn’t want to get married here? It was only a few years ago that laws changed in Tahiti and now weddings on these beautiful islands are now legally binding for Americans and Canadians.
A Tahitian ceremony has a Polynesian influence, which makes for an unforgettable ceremony. You can even have a Tahitian Priest perform your ceremony. Exchange your vows in the sugary white sands with beautiful tropical petals surrounding you amongst the palm trees. If you’d rather wear heals instead of flip flops or bare feet you may consider the over water glass-bottomed chapel, located in front of Mount Otemanu.
Best yet, if you want to go on your honeymoon immediately following your nuptials French Polynesia has multiple islands you can visit. You can easily escape your guests and experience the beauty and romance of Tahiti. If you’re looking for adventure there are great experiences such as feeding rays & sharks, snorkeling with tropical fish in crystal clear waters unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! There are plenty of hiking trails, jet skiing or 4WD adventures. If you’re looking for romance, adventure and culture … Tahiti has it all!
I would love to help you plan the dream wedding for you!
Many romantic comedies portray a Newlywed Couple exiting their wedding, and then being whisked away on the most romantic, tropical honeymoon you could ever imagine – that’s how it always works, right?
Not Always – As a newlywed myself, I had no intention of catching a 7 am flight the morning after my wedding. After twelve months of stressful planning, my husband and I decided the best way to celebrate our nuptials was to take a five day mini-moon up to the Minnesotan North Shore, and save the tropical trip to the Riviera Maya for a few months later. Here is why it worked for us, and why you may want to consider it as well.
There is less stress bundled into one weekend.
Have you been to an airport on the weekend? Chances are, it will be a rush. After an emotional couple of days, the stress of security lines, TSA, and catching a flight may be a little too much for your agenda right after the happiest day of your life. My husband and I avoided the rush of the airport and opted for a scenic drive to Lake Superior the day after. We were in charge of our own time, and had no obligations to be anywhere. This was the most relaxing thing we could have done for ourselves, and we had total freedom to do so.
You have more time to save for your dream trip.
Our mini-moon cost us less than $1,000 – Much less than a tropical “vacay” would have cost us. Delaying our “real” honeymoon by at least a couple months gave us the opportunity to save up for the must-haves in our dream getaway. Since we waited six months, we had the money to make this happen, and even had a surplus for some awesome excursions!
It gives you something to look forward to.
There was a lot of let down after our wedding – After a year of planning, our beautiful dream day was over. Although you will have letdown from your wedding whether or not you delay your honeymoon, saving the dream trip for later will give you something to look forward to in the future. Six months after our wedding, my husband and I hopped on a plane to the Riviera Maya, and spent seven days just enjoying each other, the scenery, and the sun. The anticipation for our warm getaway was well worth the wait!
Looking back on our choices, I wouldn’t change one thing – saving the tropical, romantic honeymoon for later gave my husband and I something to look forward to down the road, after taking plenty of time to establish our married routine together. Weddings are exhausting, so give yourself time to recuperate! Sun and sand will always be there, waiting for you. No matter when you decide to answer the calls of the ocean, make sure you go into your trip relaxed. You’ll both be ready for it that way.
I had the pleasure of seeing overwater bungalows in person is so much more awe-inspiring than in a picture. We visited Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma, and it was stunning. If this is on your bucket list, I highly recommend saving a little bit on airfare, by flying into Cancun, and staying in one of these amazing overwater bungalows at El Dorado Maroma.
Now is the time!!!
The bathrooms are beautiful, with the Jacuzzi soaking tub indoors and out on the balcony!
With the full seclusion here, you can relax and truly escape the crowds and enjoy each others company!
There is something about being able to see the water from the inside of your room. Absolutely beautiful. (yes, you can put the rug over the top to cover it up if you prefer.
Beds face the sliding glass doors so you can see outside at all times.
Everything about the bungalows makes you want to just kick your feet back and relax.
My clients recently returned from the beautiful Riviera Maya, Mexico. They stayed at the Barcelo Maya Grand Resort, and upgraded their room to the Junior Suite Ocean Front Club Premium. They also upgraded their airport transfers to ‘private’ which for this resort is well worth the upgrade!! Here is what they had to say:
Thank you so much for planning out all the details for our honeymoon! We had such a great time and will be planning on returning again in a few years! The flight was good we had enough time to make it to our transfers on the way there and home. Having the private transfer to the hotel from the airport and then back on the last day was so great! The driver when we first got to Cancun was so nice and talked to us all the way to the hotel! It really made us feel comfortable and welcomed to have that great initial experience! We already decided we would have a private transfer when we travel next time. The hotel was very nice and our room was perfect! We would do Premium room again they were updated and really modern. You could see the ocean and the pool from our balcony! They did a great job with cleaning and restocking our fridge each night. We liked how everything was at the hotel. You could go snorkeling, they had dolphins, the spa, and of course all of the swimming pools and swim up bars! We really like the restaurants which was a nice break to eat at instead of the buffets for every meal. They had entertainment every night as well and stuff going on during that day you could do or just watch while your in the pool:)
We had a lot of fun and thank you for all your help again!
In June 2016 my husband and I took our first trip to Puerto Vallarta and we had a blast! On our flight down we upgraded ourselves to first class and this is the way to go. If you have never done it I highly suggest you try it. All you can eat and drink, bigger seats and more leg room. We stayed at the RIU Jalisco and were told we had the best view in the hotel- full ocean view! It is such a treat when you come from a cold weather state to open your shades in the morning and see the ocean and hear the waves. The hotel is very large so there could be a lot of walking depending on where your room is located. The food is yummy, the hotel is clean and the staff is friendly.
When I am in a new location I like to take a tour to really get to know the destination so one day during our vacation we did this. Puerto Vallarta is not as Americanized as other Mexican destinations which allows you to have a more cultural experience. We visited a church that was built by the local residents who donated whatever material they had at home to build it. It was gorgeous! We also visited a flea market where we did a little bartering for our souvenirs and then visited a fourth generation home where organic tequila is made. I am not one to drink tequila but this tequila is yummy! Nice and smooth:-)
During one of the evenings we did an excursion called “Rhythms of the Night” and I highly recommend this tour. I would describe it as Mexico’s version of a luau- you take about an hour long boat ride, where you are served unlimited snacks and drinks, to the cove of Las Caletas. You dine under the stars at your own private beachside table bathed in the soft glow of candles. After dinner you walk over to the theater and the show begins. The dancers tell the story of ancient civilization through movement and music. Take my word for it, you don’t want to miss this show!
When you are ready to plan your adventure to Puerto Vallarta let me know, I am happy to help!
In May 2016 I was fortunate enough to travel to one of my most favorite places…Disney World!! I am that girl who walks through the parks with a big smile on her face just happy as can be. I stayed at the Grand Floridian and wow, this hotel is nice! From the fragrant flower bouquets, friendly staff and being right on the monorail, this place has it all. Just a quick ride on the monorail and you are at Magic Kingdom, the happiest place on earth. While at Magic Kingdom I went on 2 of my most favorite rides- Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World.
While at Disney I also did site inspections at a few other hotels and one of the hotels was the Caribbean Beach. At this hotel they have pirate rooms and they are cool! If you have any little “pirates” in your family they would love to stay in one of these rooms. Something to keep in mind though is that if you are tall, this room type is not for you. There is no room for your feet to hang off the end of the bed and therefore you might not get the best night sleep. These rooms are also located in the last buildings at the hotel so it is about a 10-15 minute walk to the lobby.
Another hotel we visited was the Wilderness Lodge. If you like the rustic, outdoor feeling then this hotel is the perfect fit. We ate at the Whispering Canyon restaurant where they serve western fare. Be ready for a rowdy crowd and the foolish, outrageous and amusing behaviors from the wait staff.
When you are ready to plan your next Disney World vacation I would be happy to help and share of my hints and tricks with you!
It was great and we wouldn’t think twice about returning.
As a reminder, we were a group of 6 that ranged in age from 5 to 77. Everyone was thrilled with the vacation. Here is a quick summary:
- We emailed in advance and were able to make room requests (ground floor) and secure dinner reservations for the first two nights prior to arriving (our room request was also honored)
- The rooms are spacious and the beds are comfortable. This is the only AI I have been to where the beds aren’t hard and generally miserable.
- When we arrived we had fresh flowers in our rooms, a fruit tray, and (as returning guests) a bottle of tequila. A few days in t-shirts we delivered to our room with the Iberostar brand and “We’re Back” imprinted on them.
- We ate at the a la carte restaurants all seven nights. When we arrived, the front desk concierge made our reservations for the five nights we weren’t able to make in advance. Some or all of us dined at the Japanese, Steak House, Mexican, Seafood, Italian, French, and Gourmet restaurants. The French restaurant was the least favorite because of slow serve and too much air conditioning. We ate at the seafood restaurant twice. The first time the food tasted good but was served cold. Only when prompted by the restaurant manager the next day did we mention this. We didn’t complain. The next time we were there he met us and bent over backwards to ensure we had great service and hot food. In the morning we ate all of our breakfasts at La Marina. The staff were great and brought me a piping hot cappuccino as soon as they saw me coming.
- All the bartenders were great. We enjoyed before and after dinner drinks and the bartenders quickly learned what we liked and mixed great drinks using premium brands (Bombay sapphire, Absolut, Remy Martin, Courvoisier, etc.). Service around the pool and on the beach was great. We brought insulated cups and never got attitude about filling them.
- Housekeeping was fantastic. They cleaned the rooms and refreshed towels twice a day. This is the only AI I have ever been to where I don’t mind walking barefoot on the floor in my room. There is never sand, grit or dirt.
- We enjoyed the nightly shows and recommend them
- Paige participated in Lucy’s Club (the kid’s program) on multiple occasions. They seemed to be having so much fun that she asked to go. She loved it! One day she made tie-dyed t-shirts and one day dressed as a pirate and when on a treasure hunt. At night Paige participated (and performed) in the 8:00 p.m. kids programs.
- We never had trouble finding chairs by the pool or on the beach. Also, while we had read that there was a lot of seaweed on the beach, that was not the case while we were there.
- Dan and I got massages and enjoyed the spa services. They are spendy … but a great way to relax on vacation.
- I had read in advance that the hotel was pretty aggressive in marketing their new preferred guest program. On our first day the main desk concierge tried to rope me in to the “presentation”. She offered us a meal at The Grand and free massages. I politely declined and made it clear that none of us wanted to spend 90 minutes of our vacation on the pitch. That was the one and only time it was brought up. No one else in our party was even approached.
We love this resort and hope to return soon. This was the experience of all six in our party. I will say that we tried to tip all staff generously. However, I do not think this determined the level or quality of service we received. There were others who tipped nothing and they appeared to be treated equally well.
The favorite thing about the trip was definitely the resort. It is a 9 or 10 out of 10 in our book.
Thanks so much for your patience in helping us book this trip. You are definitely my go to person.
I am so happy that we worked with you to plan our honeymoon. I have told everyone I know to talk with you if they need help planning a trip. Thank you again.
The Sandals La Toc was beautiful. We stayed in the room with the ocean view, I bet you still have it on file, and it came with one room-service breakfast and one bottle of champagne (for our honeymoon), one couples massage (for staying at least 6 nights), and one Piton sunset cruise (for staying at least 7 nights).
When we got off the plane and went through customs, we were put on a shuttle bus with AC that took us to the resort. The driver was very knowledgeable and gave us a little history lesson about the island. The people in the airport who shuttled our bags to the bus loading area requested a tip. Everyone else at the resort (with the exception of the massage therapists) refused tips per the rules of the resort. Even at the restaurants… you just order, eat, and leave.
When we got there, we gathered near the entrance and had a welcome champagne cocktail. Orientation took about an hour. Then we went to our room and got ready for dinner. There are 9 restaurants there!
All of the food was good. We did not eat at the French restaurant because my husband didn’t have closed toe shoes along so we were not allowed in (since we were not dressed according to their dress code). The closed toe shoe requirement is not clearly posted either… we had dress clothes along, which we wore to most dinners, but because of his sandals we could not go to the French place. Make sure you tell them that a man must have dress shoes in order for the couple to eat dinner there!! It is ok for a lady to have sandals though!!
We also did not eat at the Japanese and sushi restaurants because my husband isn’t a fan of that kind of food.
The French place and the Japanese place are by reservation only. They fill up fast, so make sure to get on the list right away!!
Our favorite was the Neptune. It is right on the ocean, open to the breeze. We ate there for lunch and dinner one day!
The Pizza place was great too, and if you sit at Neptunes you can have the pizza too since they basically share a kitchen. The pizza place is only open for lunch.
Armondo’s was the Italian place, we ate there for dinner 2 nights. It was also my favorite!!!! It is up the hill on “Sunset Bluff”. We found the most amazing little sitting area on the bluff, just down the steps from the Sunset Bluff pool. No one was ever there!!
The Pavillion was the buffet, open for all 3 meals, and everything was good there.
The Cricketers Pub was a nice piece of home in the tropics… basically an English pub like Houlihans.
Finally, the Pitons was a Caribbean restaurant that served a lot of local-type food… it was amazing. I had this seafood bouillon that had a small octopus in it!! It was good.
Eat a lot at meals because there isn’t anything open between meals (except snacks at the gift shop)!! A couple of days I actually got really hungry in between lunch and dinner.
We went to the no-tax gift shop and got some gifts and clothes, and we went to the “locals” gift shop to get some other gifts. We went into the resort gift shop to get some cigars and some snacks. It was so nice to get a drink, have a cigar, and sit by the fire at night.
Friday nights they have a street dance. We were on the Sunset cruise, so we didn’t make the street dance.
Saturday nights are steak night. We didn’t make it to that either, since we wanted to spend our last night there at Neptunes with the gentle ocean breeze.
I LOVED the swim up bar. I had never seen anything like that before.
The pool is busy. There is another pool up on the Sunset Bluff, but since we weren’t staying up there we didn’t feel like walking up to that pool. It was fun to walk around on the beach too, and swim in the ocean.
There are a lot of things to do there. We would have golfed, but it was too hot for us. The couples massage was incredible. There are “playmakers” who walk around and try to get people to play games, trivia, etc. There are also resort photographers who try to take your picture all the time.
We took a kayak out around the bay, that was super fun but we got super burned!! We had SPF 70 and we still burned.
THE ONE BIG DOWN SIDE:
The beaches are not privatized in St. Lucia. The locals DO hang out on the beach and WILL try to sell you ANYTHING no matter how many times you might have said NO before. I was even asleep on a chair and one came and woke me up to tell me he made us a little thing out of a palm leaf for $20. To avoid being hassled any more, I just gave him the money and we went back up the steps to the resort…. and stayed there.
For the most part, everyone is extremely nice. The resort staff keep close tabs on you- for example one day we were going to go walk to town and look around, but they would not let us do that. In order to look around town you had to buy a “shopping excursion” for around $150/person. There are a lot of cool-looking excursions… we wanted to do a zip line and hike the Piton Mountains but didn’t get around to it.
When it was time to go home, we got on the shuttle bus and went back to the airport, and that driver was also very nice and knowledgeable. I literally cried when we had to leave. It was just so beautiful. Like nothing I had ever seen before (granted the most tropical place I have ever been is Miami)….
We did not visit the Halcyon. I do know it is a smaller resort with not as many things to do, but the one couple we talked to on the Sunset cruise were staying there and said it was “intimate and beautiful”. You can take a shuttle to the other Sandals resorts and drink there, eat there, party there all day if you wanted. You just can’t sleep there (since you aren’t checked in there)!!
I LOVE St Lucia. I would go back right now if I could. I have even looked up what it takes to work there, cost of living, etc.
The Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach resort in Cabo San Lucas is gorgeous. It is a very large property and very spread out but there are golf carts running nonstop to take you where you want to go. This hotel has more of a Mexican feel to it, different from the contemporary resorts that are becoming more common. The Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach resort is not within walking distance of town so you would need to take a taxi if you wanted to check out exciting Cabo. There is a sky pool at this resort with absolutely amazing views and it would be perfect for a private party. There is also a chapel where you could have a legal wedding ceremony.
Rooms- very spacious with full kitchens
Beach- located on a private beach but it is not swimmable. However, you can take a courtesy shuttle to nearby Medano beach which is one of the best swimmable beaches in Los Cabos.
Overall impression- beautiful, large property, amazing views
Breathless is new to Cabo San Lucas and is located on Medano beach which is the safest swimmable beach in Cabo. You are also just steps away from the infamous Cabo San Lucas nightlife, restaurants and shops. All suites have private balconies with ocean or marina views. Breathless is more of a “party” hotel and what I like about it is that it is two separate buildings, one for the active nightlife and the other, quieter one, for sleeping. There is no swim up bar at this hotel but the infinity pool overlooking the ocean is gorgeous.
Rooms- if you have a room with a king bed it is positioned towards the balcony so the first thing you see when you wake up is the water. The rooms also have tablets that allow you to order room service and watch Netflix if you have an account but the tablets must stay in the room. All rooms also offer free Wi-Fi.
I was not able to check out any of the restaurants but there are 8 of them along with 4 bars/loungers.
Overall impression- clean, great location, friendly staff.
Cabo San Lucas…the first word that comes to mind is Wow! This destination is amazing and I cannot wait to go back. Where else can you find the desert, the mountains and the ocean? I wasn’t sure what to expect being there was a hurricane not so long ago but I saw no signs of any damage. All of the hotels I toured were up and running as if nothing happened. What did I love most about this destination? The weather for starters- Cabo has 350 days of sunshine and very little humidity. Very little bugs- because it is a desert there are very few bugs. I saw no mosquitos the whole 4 days I was there. The water- it is such a pretty teal color and I wasn’t expecting that so it was a pleasant surprise.
While I was in Cabo I stayed at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos. This resort is amazing! It is adults only so if you are looking to get away for some “grown up” time I would highly recommend this resort. The beach is not swimmable due to the undertow but I loved sitting on my balcony and listening to the waves crash while sipping my morning coffee. Because I had small children at home I loved the unlimited connectivity feature of this hotel. All of my calls home were free of charge as was the Wi-Fi in my hotel room. The resort is not within walking distance to town so if you wanted to check out Cabo Wabo you would need to take a taxi.
My room was amazing with a spectacular view from my balcony. Full ocean view and I could hear the waves crashing against the shore.
Because I toured many different hotels while in Cabo I wasn’t able to try out all of the restaurants at the resort but I did eat at Himitsu. This is an Asian restaurant with Teppanyaki tables available upon request and the food was great. The chef puts on a nice little show while preparing your dinner, all with a smile on their face.
Overall impression of this resort- clean, comfortable, very friendly staff.
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