Where Trouble Melts Like Lemon Drops

Happy Aloha Friday my beautiful friends!

Cocktails and the beach sort of go hand-in-hand (for me, anyways), and over the years I’ve shared a few different drink recipes here on the blog. There’s nothing better than enjoying a cold one while sitting in the sand and watching the sun set.

I’m always searching for ways to incorporate those dreamy-warm-fuzzy-vacation-feelings into my daily life and one of my favorite pastimes is enjoying a cocktail out on my covered patio in the late afternoons of summer. For the record, I don’t drink excessively, I just like to explore my beverage options on occasion. :)

With spring upon us and summer right around the corner, I wanted to share a super easy recipe for Lemon Drop Martinis. They are one of my favorites and making them at home just got a LOT easier! I’ll be honest, when I saw the “simple syrup” ingredient I almost skipped right past this recipe–until I realized how simple Simple Syrup is to make. Let’s just say it’s called Simple for a reason.

Lemon Drop

The Perfect Lemon Drop Martini

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • ½ ounce Triple Sec
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • shaker filled with ice
  • superfine sugar (for the martini glass rim)
  • lemon wedge (for sugaring rim)
  • lemon twist to garnish

Instructions:

  1. Run the lemon wedge along the outer edge of a martini glass and dip glass immediately in sugar to coat rim. Chill martini glasses in freezer after sugared.
  2. Add all liquid ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake what your momma gave ya for about 30 seconds. ;-)
  3. Strain martini into the chilled glasses, garnish with a lemon twist or lemon wheel and enjoy!

Cheers to the weekend!

*This recipe was found on Pinterest
Posted in Travel, Tropical Drinks | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Bucket List: An Update

Three and a half years ago I hit the publish button for the very first time, and on that whim Pictures and Plane Tickets was created. In the beginning, I wanted to document our adventures around the world and hoped to find other travel-obsessed bloggers to share my passion with. I didn’t know it at the time, but a main priority over the next three (plus) years would be finding adrenaline-filled adventures around the world and checking off some seriously cool Bucket List items. I’ve always had grand goals, detailed plans, and the belief that if I write down my dreams I have an increased chance of turning those dreams into achievable goals.

Quote

I enjoy reading about places that I have no intentions of immediately visiting, and within the daydreams, I often find myself gravitating to new experiences that I can add to my never-ending Bucket List. If you would have asked me four years ago, I would have never dreamed that I could actually experience so many bucket list items in such a short amount of time; and in this moment, I can only imagine where the next four years will take us… it goes without saying but, I’m excited for what’s in store.

See my updated Bucket List here.

Santorini SunsetSo tell me, what’s on your bucket list?

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Thailand: Fine Tuning

In my last two posts I’ve shared some of my favorite tips for planning an international trip: tips from staying organized, to scheduling vaccines, how to save hundreds with smart money tips, and how to keep those electronics working. Today we are moving away from the general travel advice and I’m sharing four simple tips to help you plan that trip. Let’s get started, shall we?


Step Seven: Grab a Calendar

Calendar

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rearranged our schedule in Thailand. I had grand goals at first; goals that had us exploring the Gulf of Thailand, the coast of the Andaman Sea, and the temples and elephant sanctuary of Chiang Mai. My goal was to see as much as possible in two short weeks.

However, once I started plotting it on a calendar I could easily see that there was simply not enough time to do everything we wanted. Sure, we could have spent two-or-three days at each location and spent long-tail boatloads of money (did you catch the joke…?) ;-) on transportation, but in the end, we decided that we wanted a romantic vacation to celebrate our fourth anniversary.

I’ve narrowed down our itinerary to accommodate a much more relaxing schedule, and I have found some hidden gems that will give us a taste of the nixed destinations without having to travel cross-country to see them. (win-win!)

My point in this step is when you plot your days on a calendar you are able to clearly see how your vacation will flow. There may be areas that need to be adjusted in order to accommodate your specific travel preferences.


Step Eight: Fine Tuning–Break out the Books and Websites (again)

You may be able to skip this step, but I’m a little travel OCD (surprise!). ;-) I like to first read the travel guide from cover to cover to get a general feel for the destination; and afterwards, I go back and read about specific locations, excursions, and suggestions that I am most interested in. At this point in the process, I am adding specifics and detailed information to my itinerary in order to make sure there is enough time for all of our adventures.


Step Nine: Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor

Now that you’ve read ALL about your destination, it’s time to book a hotel room. Queue the choir and enter in Trip Advisor. My admiration for Trip Advisor knows no bounds, and if I can be embarrassingly honest here, I spend way too much time on this website.

Truth: I have probably read reviews on 85% of hotels located on Koh Samui. I always struggle with booking a hotel because… I want it to be right. I want it to be in the right area. At the right price point. And I want us to love it.

My advice to you is to understand your location thoroughly, and then narrow down the scope of your hotel search. There’s no reason to look for hotels on the south shore if you’re planning most of your activities on the north side. Oh and by the way, if you’re heading to Koh Samui and need some hotel/resort recommendations, I can help you out a little. :)

***And don’t forget to use Trip Advisor for your excursion reviews as well.*** 


Step Ten: Book It!

It should be so simple, right. You spent days hours researching and have decided which resort to book, so you search your favorite travel engine and reserve. But wait! Before you book a room at the first website you visit, take a few minutes to browse competitor websites.

For our trip to Thailand, I browsed Hotels.com, TravelPony.com, Agoda.com, and Expedia.com, and surprisingly, these websites all had different prices for the same location (with the same amenities/room types/etc). Most of the time it was within $5-$10, but $5 a night can add up, and if you can save the money, why wouldn’t you want to?! Take an extra ten minutes to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

Also, don’t forget step six in order to make sure you get the best currency conversion rates. :)

Resort

Koh Samui


There you have it. Ten simple steps (and two bonus tips) to help you plan your next international trip.

Will you use any of these tips on your next trip?

Posted in Asia, Thailand, Travel, Travel Tips Thursday | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thailand: Staying on Track

Happy Wednesday Friends!

I can’t believe that it has been six months since we made the decision to travel to Thailand. In our spare time, we have been busy researching, planning, and saving for this upcoming trip, and we can now official say that we leave for Thailand next month. The sheer logistics of planning a trip to a place you’ve never been, that happens to be half way around the world is daunting; and at times, trying to sort through all of the information can feel overwhelming. So I wanted to share some simple tips that will help you when planning your next international trip.

If you missed my first post with the two bonus travel tips, go ahead and take a peek, I’ll wait…

Are you all up to speed? Clearly, the first three steps are the basics to any trip, so today I want to dig a little deeper and uncover the tips that are absolutely vital for a successful international trip.


Step Four: Visit these two websites: The U.S Department of State and the CDC

us-department-of-state

Now that you’ve thoroughly researched your destination (or have flipped through the travel guide at least once), it’s a good idea to take a look at the U.S. Department of State website. Not only do they list travel advisories throughout the world, but they also list important information for your specific destination, such as: entry/exit and Visa requirements, embassy locations, safety and security information, and important local laws.

The State website also includes a link to visit the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in order to understand all of the potential health hazards at your destination, and most importantly, vaccine information for your upcoming travels. Don’t forget to schedule an appointment with your health care provider within the appropriate windows before your travel date. Do not skip this step as some countries require certain vaccinations in order to enter.


Step Five: Understanding Your Money

BudgetBeach_Bank

Before heading to the airport, contact your credit card company to declare your travel plans. This step won’t guarantee that your card won’t be flagged while you’re overseas, but it will help your odds. While you’re at it, make sure that your card covers foreign transactions so you won’t be charged fees on every purchase.

You’ll want to have some cash or traveler’s check on hand when you depart, so research the current currency exchange rates and plan your budget accordingly. Remember that not all locations offer the same exchange rates, so knowing the current rates will give you the confidence that your money is going as far as it possibly can.

While we’re on the subject, I’ve secured a few of our reservations for Thailand through PayPal.com and there’s a money-saving trick that I want to share with you today. My reservations were billed in Thailand’s currency (known as Baht), and at checkout Paypal provided two different options for currency conversion:

1) Allow Paypal to convert the Bahts to US Dollars (this option is the Paypal default) 
OR
2) Allow Paypal to process the charge in Bahts and my credit card company will complete the currency conversion.

Because option 1 is the default, the final balance was displayed in USD, and after a quick mathematical calculation I noticed that Paypal wasn’t giving me nearly as much on the conversion rate compared to what I was seeing on the XE (Live Currency Exchange) website. Armed with this information I chose option 2 and hoped that my credit card company would give me a better conversion rate.

Capital One

Needless to say, I was delighted when I checked the pending transactions on my credit card and saw that Capital One gave me the live conversion rate, which was much more favorable. So when dealing with currency exchange, remember that everyone will always want a slice of the pie. Thankfully Capital One’s conversion policy saved me $20-$70 on each purchase.


Step Six: Engaging the Electronics

This step is important to us because my husband’s world revolves around technology; and let’s face it, you’ll want to stay in contact so you can post those fabulous pictures on Instagram and Facebook. ;-)

First, you’ll want to know if your phone even works at your destination. Will you need a Global Data Package from your cellular provider or can you use a SIM card? (FYI: From my research, apparently SIM cards can be purchased at the Bangkok International Airport). Contact your cell phone provider to understand your options when traveling out of the country.

Second, now that those electronics are working, how are you going to charge them? Take some time to research the power requirements so you can bring the necessary converters, if applicable.


 

Travel Tip Day 2 Collage

Travel advisories, vaccines, currency exchange, and electronics… What do you think of these tips so far? 

Posted in Asia, Thailand, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Thailand: The Basics

While I’m always daydreaming about our next big adventure, there comes an exciting point in time where the daydreaming ends and the actual planning begins. And if one thing is true, traveling internationally is always a little more hectic. Aside from not knowing the language, there’s a new culture to understand, new food to try, new places to get lost explore, and different time zones to adjust to. And those are all the fun things!

Of course, there are plenty of logistics to figure out before your next international trip as well. Questions like:

  • What are the entry requirements? Do you need a visa? (and I’m not talking about the credit card)
  • What vaccines are required?
  • Is your phone going to work? If it does work, will you have to pay a FORTUNE in roaming charges?
  • Will your credit card work? Will you be charged fees every time you use it? Do you need a pin to use your credit card?
  • Can you drink the water?

And that’s only the beginning, my friends.

With so many questions to ask and an unlimited amount of information at your fingertips, it is incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed. So today I am sharing a special three post series, with a step-by-step guide to help you plan your next international trip. While this guide focuses on our upcoming trip to Thailand, it could easily be used as a starting point for other trips as well.

It’s no secret, but you’re going to need a Passport to travel internationally; so while this hint is not included in any of the following travel tips (spoiler alert!), I’m going to go ahead and assume you already have one. I’m also hoping that as a long-term reader of Pictures and Plane Tickets you’ll know that the first unwritten rule is creating airfare price alerts on Kayak.com. I tend to have a few different locations on my travel horizon at any given point in time, so it’s important to me to keep an eye on airfare in order to snag that awesome deal when prices drop.

Two travel tips and we haven’t even started our official list… :) Let’s jump in and sort through that travel chaos!


Step One: Buy a Travel Guide!

TravelGuides

Visit your local bookstore or browse Amazon.com and pick up a copy of your favorite travel guide. I like to have an actual book not an online copy because you’ll never run out of battery power with an actual book. Psst: I can here you calling me “old-fashioned” from here. ;-) And maybe I’m just totally paranoid, but when I’m hanging out on the beach and decide on a quick dip in the ocean, I feel that a $12 book is less likely to be stolen than my husband’s fancy iPad.


Step Two: Visit the Tourism Website

I’ve browsed tourismthailand.org more times than I can count, and I can count pretty high–not to brag or anything;-) Start by Googling, “Traveling to Thailand” and you’ll find all sorts of travel related websites. Don’t stop at just one, the more you research the more you’ll understand and learn, and that’s NEVER a bad thing.

Amazing Thailand


Step Three: Write it Down

IMG_6279As you begin researching, it is important to have a notebook nearby in order to keep everything organized. I always create a very basic itinerary as a starting point for planning out our days and then build upon the bare-bones structure as I research. If there are any activities that are a must-do on vacation write it down. That way, as you’re reading through your Travel Guide and browsing the websites you’ll be able to keep an eye out for those specific activities and its corresponding details. Staying organized is vital to avoid feeling overwhelmed in this process.


When planning a trip, international or otherwise research, research, research, and stay organized. :) Coming up on Wednesday, we’re uncovering the tips that will keep your vacation on the right track.

Posted in Asia, Thailand, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Backyard Explorations: Salt Lake City

In between the trips and daydreams, my current home-base is located in the great–and beautiful— state of Utah, in the bustling, and ever-growing capital known as Salt Lake City. I’ve lived here for close to five years and although the traffic can sometimes be a nightmare, and the liquor laws are slightly more than strict, Salt Lake City has treated me well.

Over the last few years, our vacations always start by hopping on flights that are at least six hours or more as we set out across the world to explore places that we’ve only ever dreamed about. And while I’m always up for world travel, lately we’ve come to realize how little of our own state we have actually explored–don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of exploring Lake Powell during my childhood, and we regularly hang out at local gems like Park City and Bear Lake, yet there is a long list of places that we haven’t had the chance to explore.

Utah has so much to offer: from the dramatic mountainous landscapes in the North, to the wide-barren expanses of red rock in the South, this state is incredibly diverse. There’s something for everyone from hiking, rock climbing, horse-back riding, and camping, to swimming, boating, kayaking, and sailing… and it’s time that we made a point to get out there and explore our own backyard.

And why not begin by checking off the Mighty Five from our list. Utah is “America’s National Park Capital” with FIVE incredible National Parks within the state lines: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zions. Each park offers unique experiences, dramatic landscapes, and the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime.

We have less than two months until our anniversary trip to Thailand and I was hoping to plan a trip to Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park during that time frame; however, we found out that my poor husband fractured his wrist during his Open Water certification–his injury has less to do with fighting off sharks and more to do with a slippery tricky entry point–but that’s a story for another day… For now, we will have to wait and see how his recovery goes before we lose ourselves in the mesmerizing red rock canyons.

For those that don’t know, the summer months in southern Utah are smothered in extreme (and very dangerous) heat and you won’t find me out hiking in the triple digit weather. So if we don’t make it out this spring, we will have to be patient and wait until the cooler temperatures this fall to explore the Mighty Five. Here’s to 2015 and finally exploring more of our own backyard!

Have you been to any of these National Parks? I’d love to hear your advice on activities that we cannot miss. 

Posted in Travel, Utah | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Maui Roundup

Back in July I began a new series called, “The Roundup” which basically recaps our most recent adventure, and includes location tips, lessons learned, and things we will change on our next visit.

I’m notorious for packing too much into our vacations, but to be honest, this is by design. If we decide to skip an activity or things don’t go exactly as planned, we end up with places and experiences that get bumped to the next vacation. (Which is completely okay by me, because that means we get to go back sometime, right?) :)

On our third visit to Maui we knew the island well; we knew what activities we wanted to try, and we knew what restaurants we absolutely HAD to go back to (Leilani’s, anyone?) That’s not to say I didn’t try to find NEW things for us to do, mixing in a little familiar with a dash of the unknown, and it worked perfectly!

  • LODGING: On our last visit to Maui I promised my husband that we would stay near Hana on our next visit, and I didn’t disappoint. Neither did the condo we rented. I could not recommend this condo more highly and I look forward to the day we can visit again. And during our time over on the West side we stayed at Valley Isle Resort which was a familiar and nostalgic place that we enjoyed on our Honeymoon back in 2011. And while I’m saddened to say that neither of these two locations will be on the itinerary on our next visit (we have plans to FINALLY stay along Ka’anapali beach), I am whole-heartedly looking forward to spending much more time at these two rentals in the future.
Nahiku Cottage

Nahiku Cottage

  • SCUBA DIVING: Now that I’m certified, I’m always looking to spend a day or two below the surface. While on the Big Island I gushed over my manta ray night dive with the Kona Diving Company, and I recently found out that Maui offers a Manta Ray Dive as well. On our last visit, we unfortunately could not make this dive happen due to scheduling conflicts, so I’d love to make this dive a priority on our next visit. Also, I had so much fun with the Pride of Maui that I’d love to book another dive at Molokini Crater.

2-tank-manta-west-maui

source

  • OCEAN VODKA: Touring Maui’s very own vodka distillery including samples and a free shot glass, it sounds like you miiiiight have to twist my arm to get me to go. Just Kidding! I’ve been intrigued with Ocean Vodka ever since I read about this Hawaiian vodka made with organic sugar cane. Sign me up!

Ocean Vodka

source

  • MAUI BREWING COMPANY: Two boozy venues in one post? Well, I do enjoy a good time, and it is a vacation after all… ;) I’ve always wanted to go to the Maui Brewing Company but unfortunately our schedules have never lined up to make it work. Touring a Brewery is on my 101 goals in 1001 days list, and what better way to complete this goal than to explore one while in Paradise.

Maui Brewing

source

  • HANG GLIDING MAUI: Mom and Dad, please skip this paragraph and move on to the next bullet… trust me on this… Okay, now that we’ve successfully adverted their eyes, this adrenaline junkie would like to hit the skies and soar like a bird over the incredibly lush, jungle covered, mountains near Hana. Flight lessons with Hang Gliding Maui is bucket list worthy and just happens to be on my 101 in 1001 goals list.

hanggliding-edited

source

Maui… you absolutely have it all. As my second favorite island in the chain I look forward to many more visits and much more time spent along your beautiful shores. Maui No Ka Oi. Maui is the Best.

What did I miss? What’s your favorite thing to do on Maui?

Posted in Hawaii, Maui, The Roundups, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments