A Suitcase Situation

Would you laugh if I told you that I’ve stressed for months about what to pack for Thailand? Go ahead, laugh. It sounds ridiculous–I know–but it’s true… ;-) Let’s be clear, my stress isn’t stemmed from an indecision on which bikini to wear or what sundresses to pack, rather, I’ve been in a daily battle about whether I should embrace my overpacking ways and check a bag, or if we should challenge ourselves to become backpackers for two weeks.

Backpacking is the easy alternative, right?

For Valentines Day, I even bought my husband an awesome travel backpack for our always-on-the-go ways. It is the perfect size to pack for two weeks of travel anywhere around the world, and it also fits within the constraints of all of those airline carry-on rules, which is a huge plus.

Cool backpack, lots of space, and techy-accessories aside, we run into a problem when we add our scuba gear to the equation. Most of our precious (and very expensive) gear will fit into this new backpack but that leaves little room for much else. And while I would be okay living in swimsuits and flip-flops for two weeks, the conservative country of Thailand may not approve in all situations… like at the Grand Palace, for example…

After many nights of discussion and planning, Cody and I have decided to pack our scuba gear in his carry-on, a few days of clothing for both of us in my carry-on, and check one bag with the rest of our clothes for two weeks. Here’s to hoping the airline doesn’t lose that bag.

Kate Spade Suitcase

So, what exactly are we packing? See my entire list here.

Have you been to Thailand/SE Asia? What did I forget?

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Island Hopping Anniversary Adventures

You guys, our trip to Thailand is just around the corner and the butterflies are definitely kicking in. We have been planning this trip for quite a while now, and it feels a little surreal that we’ll be boarding that plane so soon.

Last year, when we first started dreaming about locations for our fourth wedding anniversary we had four specific criterion in mind: we wanted to go somewhere warm, somewhere exotic, somewhere we’ve never been, and preferably, somewhere far away from “home.” I envisioned relaxing on gorgeous stretches of white sand, snorkeling in crystal-clear azure colored water, hammocks, groves of palm trees, and hopefully some cool places to scuba dive.

Trip Collage

We narrowed down our choices to Italy, Greece, or Thailand, and I knew that no matter where we went, the experience was going to be incredible. So last fall, after a lot of back and forth, and a few weeks of indecision, Cody and I chose Thailand; and as we began sharing details of our upcoming adventure with our friends and family, we were met with pure joy and excitement for our trip and then a curious follow-up question of, “What made you choose Thailand?”

Thailand

I think the photo above explains why we chose Thailand.  ;-)

Known for its incredible beaches, flavorful food, friendly people, interesting history, and rich culture, there’s a lot to love. Another important factor is that Thailand has been rated one of the best places in the world to scuba dive, and after discovering the insanely-favorable currency exchange rates, I felt that we would be crazy for passing up such a great deal.

From reading my travel guides cover to cover, to reading the adventures of fellow travel bloggers, to flipping through articles in Islands magazine, the more I research about Thailand the harder I fall for this slice of paradise.

And just when I thought I couldn’t be more excited, last month Trip Advisor announced its Top 10 Islands of 2015here’s a secret–our anniversary destination made the list. So why did we choose Thailand? The answer is simple, why not? :)

Have you been to Thailand? Share your travel tips below. :)

Get more posts like this one delivered straight to your inbox when you subscribe to my blog by email (I pinky-promise not to send any junk mail). :) And if you want to follow along on our adventure to Thailand make sure to follow me on Instagram (@picturesandplanetickets).
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Yonderbound: A New Way to Plan Your Travel

Have you heard about Yonderbound?

If you haven’t, and you love traveling as much as I do, you should probably keep reading. 

By now you know that I’m a girl who loves numbers, and when I’m planning a vacation the one tool I use frequently is Excel. My detailed spreadsheets often involve multiple tabs for each destination in consideration, and within each tab you will find multiple links to different hotel options as well as a few pictures of the hotel grounds.

While Excel helps to keep our information organized, it’s not the prettiest way to present my travel finds, and unfortunately it’s only as up-to-date as my most recent hotel search.

Cue the orchestra and enter in Yonderbound.

Yonderbound

Yonderbound allows you to search for hotels throughout the world and then save those hotels to your very own Yonderbox. Imagine having your very own Yonderbox for each destination on your bucket list–think of it as a Pinterest for Travelers. :)

Once you have a collection of hotels and any corresponding notes for each hotel, you can easily share your Yonderbox with friends and family. Detailed hotel information, traveler reviews, and up-to-date rates presented in a pretty little package–this is RIGHT up my alley, folks.

Search. Save. Send. and Repeat to your heart’s content. 

Krystle

I’ve only been exploring this website for a handful of months but I can already tell you that my travel planning rituals are changing. I really like how the hotels are linked to Trip Advisor reviews (y’all know I love me some Trip Advisor), and the interface is pretty easy to use as well–easily update your travel dates or refresh hotel prices for the most update-to-date information in one simple click of a button.

Yonderbound also has a monetary side to it as well, so you’ll have to go check out the website to familiarize yourself with that side of things.

I created a Thailand Yonderbox for our upcoming adventure, compiled a collection of my favorite hotels in Hawaii, and am starting to plan our fifth anniversary next year. See what I’ve been up to here.

Yonderbound is still a baby as this site was launched in April of 2014 and if you take a peek at the website you’ll notice that it is still in Beta form. While there are a lot of upcoming plans for Yonderbound there are a few suggestions that I’m hoping they will include:

1) The biggest drawback to Yonderbound (at the moment) is that you have to search for specific dates in order to search for hotels. Imagine how helpful it would be to search for flexible dates (or even an option to search by month); sometimes I know where I’m headed and have decided on the specific month but my actual travel dates are flexible. I would love the opportunity to explore my options without having to specify dates.

2) Today there are an impressive 383,000 hotels listed on Yonderbound, however a lot of the hotels and condos that I searched for in Hawaii did not pull up. We prefer staying in Condos when we visit the islands for the conveniences of home, and at the moment it seems that the majority of listings on Yonderbound are hotels only. I’m hoping they’ll expand to condos as well.

I have read that eventually you’ll be able to book activities and tours through Yonderbound, which has me really excited. Everything you need for planning your next vacation could be included in this one awesome website.

Organizing your travel plans just got a lot easier.

Would you use Yonderbound?

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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
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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?

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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