Mini Vacay to the Rescue!

Waterfall in Amicalola Falls State Park

Waterfall in Amicalola Falls State Park

We’re almost two full months into the new year, and I have to say. It’s been a rough two months. Between personal and professional issues arising at every turn, I really needed a break. I told myself it was too soon to go away for a full vacation, but why not a mini vacay for a couple of days? It just so happened that a group of my friends were planning a surprise getaway to North Georgia for a another friend’s birthday. We would be gone four days total. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was just what I needed. There was no internet connection, the TV wasn’t used and we had very spotty cell service. It was perfect.

Ladies, if your mind and body are telling you something – LISTEN. I had been feeling run down and constantly exhausted, but after my quick getaway I feel absolutely refreshed and rejuvenated. I would highly recommend this type of vacation every few months. It wasn’t costly and it was a drive-able distance, but it was still a break from reality. Turn off the cell phones, relax, and enjoy the simple things.

Miss Jet-setter Nadia

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Cape Town, South Africa!

This made our summer vacation trip destinations list for a few reasons, mainly because it was easily my favorite trip to date!

Not only does South Africa offer both mountains and beaches, it also has opposite seasons from those in the Western world, and their winter is actually during our summer. So you can imagine how grateful I was for the brief relief from the Florida heat!

The main purpose of my trip to Cape Town, was to enjoy the World Cup, which took place in South Africa in 2010. So of course my activities included attending soccer games! Besides that, my itinerary consisted of a jeep safari where I got to see all sorts of animals hang out in their natural habitat, chilled with some wild penguins at Boulder Beach, taste tested at some amazing wineries, visited the southern most tip of Africa, and took in all the amazing sites the city had to offer.

Sadly, the only thing I missed out on while in Cape Town was taking a trip to Robben Island to visit the jail cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Since the city was overrun with World Cup fans like me trying to see everything – trips were booked weeks out.

I’m not worried though, I know I’ll be back and visiting Robben Island will be first on my priority list. Not only did Cape Town have amazing locales to visit, it had delicious fresh food, and incredibly friendly residents. What more could you ask for?

Is South Africa on your must visit list?

Europe

I have been lucky enough to visit Europe 3 times in my life and with my most recent adventure in Spain, Germany, Hungary, and Austria – we figured Europe had to be included as one of our Fave 5 Summer Destinations! Here’s a little breakdown of these countries in case you want to plan a trip of your own!

  • Spain: This country is full of fun activities, delicious food, and amazing culture! Be sure to visit Madrid’s Prado Museum and botanical gardens or check out a traditional Spanish bullfight (if you aren’t squeamish!). Barcelona boasts a wonderful Picasso Museum, La Sagrada Familia church, and (of course) swimming in the Mediterranean! Remember to eat paella!

La Sagrada Familia; Barcelona, Spain

  • Germany: This country has tons of history (sad but important to learn about and remember!) and you can check out things like the Berlin Wall at the East Side Gallery and the Holocaust Museum. Also worth checking out are Museum Island and Schloss Charlottenburg! You’ll have no trouble finding sausages and beer!

East Side Gallery; Berlin, Germany

  • Hungary: Check out the best of Budapest by taking a walk across the famous Chain Bridge to “Buda” and riding the funicular up the hill to Buda Palace, which was restored after the war and now houses many works of art. Stop by the Fisherman’s Bastion for a great view of the entire city. Don’t forget to see Heroes’ Square or St. Stephen’s Basilica! Hope you like paprika because it is in almost every dish!

Chain Bridge; Budapest, Hungary

  • Austria: In Vienna, you can spend some time in the Hofburg Palace Complex. Try to schedule your visit so you can see the Vienna Boys’ Choir perform at Burgkapelle! St. Stephan’s church is another must-see in Vienna! Make sure you try some traditional Viennese schnitzel!

St Stephen’s Basilica; Vienna, Austria

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what these countries have to offer! Make sure you do some extra research if you plan on visiting!

What is your favorite destination in Europe?

Caribbean

Another summer vacation destination we mentioned was the Caribbean! There are so many gorgeous islands to choose from, how can you decide? I’ve been to quite a few of the Caribbean islands so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites. So here they are, in no particular order….

Jamaica: From Nine Mile, the birthplace of Bob Marley, to Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios there is much to do and enjoy on this island. A great place to do some shopping while in Jamaica is the Half-Way Tree Marketplace right outside of Kingston. And of course no trip to Jamaica is complete without some authentic jerk chicken – yum!

Aruba: Aruba is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, like Palm Beach, which is probably why that’s all I did while there. This 75 sq mile island, which for perspective is just slightly bigger than Washington D.C., can easily be viewed on a jeep safari.

St. Maarten: My favorite thing to do in St. Maarten is shop! I think it’s safe to say that this island has some of the best shopping available – from jewelry to designer handbags – you can find it all and at a great price here! Of course, it goes without saying that their beaches are gorgeous.

Barbados: As the birthplace of rum, Mount Gay specifically, you already know you’re in for a good time while you’re in Barbados. For example, their Crop Over festival, which is much like Carnival on other islands and Brazil, is a month long – talk about a party! And you can’t leave Barbados without trying their famous fish fry.

What’s your favorite Caribbean island?

Hawaii

I hope you caught Nadia’s post on our Fave Five Summer Destinations! As promised, we’re providing some fun details of each location; next up – Hawaii!

Of course you know that the Hawaiian Islands are a very popular honeymoon destination, but it isn’t just a favorite for couples. Everyone who has visited this little piece of paradise has loved it – and for good reason! Well… several good reasons, actually!

sunrise at haleakala: maui

  1. It is gorgeous! Trust me… the photos do not do it justice. This is a place you need to see with your own eyes at least once.
  2. The culture is friendly and relaxed. It is the perfect environment to “get away from it all”.
  3. Seafood lovers rejoice! It won’t get much fresher than here – so prepare to be in foodie heaven! If you don’t prefer seafood, there are plenty of other items to tantalize your tastebuds – I promise you’ll never find a juicier pineapple.
  4. There’s a seemingly unending list of things you can do here… surfing, parasailing, snorkeling, helicopter rides – that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ever been to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine? What better place to mark it off the bucket list than in Maui?

If you want to plan a trip to Hawaii, you’ll have to make a tough decision… which island should you visit? Here’s a quick overview of the 4 main islands to help you choose:

diamond head from waikiki beach: oahu

  • Hawaii (The Big Island): The name says it all… this is the biggest island in the chain – and growing! It’s famous for its volcanic activity so make sure you take a helicopter ride to check it out!
  • Maui (The Valley Isle): This island offers a variety of landscapes and is considered by many to have a perfect combination of “island living” and city comforts. This island is famous for its “Road to Hana”, which will take a full day to travel, but rewards you with beautiful waterfalls and lagoons. And don’t forget to catch a sunrise at Haleakala… well worth the early morning!
  • Oahu (The Gathering Place): You’ll find the most creature comforts on this island which is the home of the state capital, Honolulu. Even though it’s considered more “fast-paced” than the others, it is well worth the visit… you won’t want to miss Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head, the North Shore, or Pearl Harbor!
  • Kauai (The Garden Isle): This island is incredibly lush and green due to a lot of rainfall… but don’t let that give it a bad rap! More rain equals more breathtaking waterfalls and varieties of plant-life. Sail out and see the beautiful and famous Na Pali Coast – you’d regret missing this!

hanalei bay: kauai

Which island is most intriguing to you?

Toronto Getaway

Recently I took a trip to Toronto and loved it! Granted I’m a bit biased as a Canadian citizen who has loads of family in Toronto, but nevertheless it was a fantastic trip.

My favorite area is Downtown Toronto and these are my top locations:

  • Eaton Centre: Located in the heart of Downtown Toronto, the four-story, glass-domed Eaton Centre is a shopping mall for the budget conscious and big spenders alike. It now even boasts a restaurant quality “eatery”, unlike any mall food court you’ve ever been too!
  • CN Tower: As a Toronto landmark, it is impossible to visit this city and skip a trip to the CN Tower. At 1,815 feet tall, the CN Tower offers an amazing view of the city from the Observation Deck, or if you’d prefer to take in the scenery from a dinner table – the 360 Restaurant.
  • Harbourfront Centre: Located along Toronto’s waterfront on Lake Ontario, Harbourfront offers a variety of ways to spend your day outside, enjoying the weather. You can rent boats, kayaks, or just picnic along the water. There are usually tons of events going on there as well.
  • Chinatown: Toronto’s Chinatown is the 2nd largest in North America, losing the #1 spot to New York. This is your one-stop shop for authentic Asian fare and culture. Not to mention the shopping opportunities!

As you can tell, Toronto is one of my favorite places to visit- have you been?

Summer Vacation Packing Tips

Hopefully you caught our recent post on how to plan the perfect trip. One of the steps of trip planning that we covered was creating a packing list. In this post, I’ll give you a list of items that you should remember to bring on your summer vacation.

  • Clothes: This is obvious, of course, but we’re including it on this list anyway. Seriously, though, make sure you pack enough for your whole trip… then throw in at least 1 more outfit. Because if you’re like me, you’ll inevitably decide you hate something that you packed.
  • Makeup & Beauty Products: Depending on your destination, you may not want/need to wear a ton of makeup, but at least remember the basics – powder, blush, and mascara. Also, don’t forget your face wash! Most hotels won’t provide it and we really don’t want you to have to use hand soap…
  • Toiletries: You can get by with hotel shampoo but you’ll be really sad if you forget your toothbrush and toothpaste!
  • Sunscreen: It doesn’t matter if your vacation isn’t to a tropical island… if you’ll be spending any time outside, you better bring and wear sunscreen!
  • Bathing Suit: Whether you expect to need this or not – pack it! It won’t take up much space in your suitcase and it’ll be better than having to run out to a store and attempt to find a suit that you love.

modern girl's martha bathing suit packing

What item would you hate to forget to bring on vacation with you?