Quick Tip #10: Buy Bug Spray and Itch Cream AT Your Destination

Nothing kills a romantic mood quite like itchy bug bites, so if you’re going to a tropical destination for your honeymoon and mosquitos tend to love you, my biggest advice is to not waste money on bringing insect repellent and bug bite cream from home – just buy them from a pharmacy as soon as you get to your destination.

bug sprays

Sorry, Benadryl. You just don’t cut it.

For one thing, the stores at your destination should (emphasis on should) carry repellents that are most effective for their local insects.  And I don’t know if it’s just a placebo-effect for me or just some extra-toxic chemicals banned by the FDA, but the creams I get at pharmacies abroad always soothe my bug bites so much better than anything I buy at CVS, so I’ve decided to stop bringing stuff from home altogether.

Sure, it might be a bit more expensive to buy repellent and creams when you’re abroad, but being free of itchy red bumps is priceless.

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Real Honeymoon: South Africa & Mozambique (Part 2)

Yesterday I published the first half of Becky and Bryce’s incredible African honeymoon.  The second half is below – enjoy!

[A continuation of “The best part about our honeymoon was…]

Benguerra Island, Mozambique – Marlin Lodge

Again so many amazing moments so here are a couple:

We arranged to take a tour of the island with two locals who worked at the lodge. We took a jeep around the entire island – saw where all the villagers lived and how they lived (all in grass huts). It was a very humbling experience to say the least. Every time we drove by the kids on the sand streets they would run behind the jeep smiling, waiving and laughing. We also visited their local school and got to talk with and meet the headmaster and some of the children. The children were a bit shy at the beginning but once we showed them the picture we took sitting with them at their desks, we instantly bonded!!!

Benguerra Island School

Hanging out with the kids of Benguerra Island, Mozambique

Maybe my favorite moment was a private picnic lunch the lodge put on for us. They boated us to the other side of the island where they had the most incredible arrangement waiting. There was an umbrella with a blanket and chairs set up as we arrived. They had a gourmet lunch laid out as well along with our drinks of choice – Rosé and Mozambican beer, Manica! There was nothing around us but warm Indian Ocean and white sand – it was surreal! They then left us there all afternoon – we really felt like it was our private island at this point. We liked it so much we did it again the next day!

Benguerra Island Picnic

A private picnic on Benguerra Island

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Nothing, other than we would have gone for 3 weeks instead of 2!

How much planning did you do in advance?

A lot!! I give all the credit to my amazing husband, Bryce, who put a lot of time and effort into making this the best trip of our life!!!!! He found all the hotels and lodges we stayed at and worked with a travel agent to set up the logistics.

Mozambique Sunset

A beautiful Mozambique sunset

What was your biggest honeymoon splurge?

Once we got there everything was already paid for which was very nice. The only place to shop was in Cape Town where I bought some jewelry and my husband got an African warrior shield.

Where do you want to go on your next big trip?

Now that we’ve come to grips that it will be next to impossible to top this trip, we can’t wait for our next adventure. We’re thinking about Russia, Colombia, Sri Lanka or Antarctica.

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Real Honeymoon: South Africa & Mozambique (Part 1)

When Becky sent me the following information about her honeymoon, my jaw hit the floor.  She and Bryce took a KILLER trip to South Africa and Mozambique, and now all I can think about is when I can plan a similar trip myself.  Since Becky sent me so much great information and a bunch of photos, I decided to split it up into two Real Honeymoon blog posts.  Enjoy the first half now, and come back tomorrow to check out the second part.

When and where did you go on your honeymoon?

We left for our honeymoon the night after the wedding, September 30, 2013. We had some long flights ahead but our final destination was worth it! We spent our honeymoon in South Africa and Mozambique. Our adventure started in Cape Town, South Africa and we were there for 3 days. Then we flew to the Sabi Sands Reserve where we went on a 4 day safari. From there we flew to Vilanculos, Mozambique and took a boat to Benguerra Island for the finale of our honeymoon. Here we had 5 days of relaxing on the white sand beaches of the most incredible island we have ever been on!

Gold Restaurant

Becky and Bryce in Cape Town, S.A.

How long was your trip?

All in all, we were gone for 2 weeks.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

Africa was always our number one. We threw around several other ideas but we always came back to Africa. We both are well traveled and we wanted to go somewhere neither of us had ever been so we could experience it for the first time together. We also wanted adventure, culture, and beach! At the end of the day we new Africa was it – so we decided on South Africa for the culture and adventure, and Mozambique for the beach (but there was definitely culture and adventure there as well)!

Safari

On safari at Sabi Sand Reserve

The best part about our honeymoon was…

The entire trip was a highlight, a few of them include:

Cape Town

We had the most amazing dinner and experience at Gold Restaurant.  We started the evening with learning to play the African drums. We then had like a 15 course dinner – all African cuisine. Throughout dinner the staff performed singing and dancing throughout the restaurant, it was truly amazing. I even got pulled up to dance with them, had gold flakes sprinkled over us and they also painted our faces. At the end of dinner they pulled everyone up to dance together. Sooooooooooo fun and so delicious!

Gold Restaurant

Dinner and dancing at Gold Restaurant

Sabi Sands Reserve, Notten’s Bush Camp

We have so many amazing moments from the safari but our top two was when we saw a pride of lions and a pack of elephants.

During our morning game drive we came up on about 2 female lions in the bush. As we got closer, there was an entire pride of lions walking towards a little hill area to try and find shade. There were about 15 female and young male lions all gathered together – they looked like they were waiting for something. A few minutes later we saw the male lion (the leader of the pride) slowly walking in. As he approached every lion got up and greeted him with a gentle embrace then went back and sat down. We were so close to all of them we felt like we could reach out and touch them. Once they decided it was too hot – they all got up one by one and left!

Lions

Lions!

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… And We’re Off to Bocas del Toro, Panama!

This song has been stuck in my head ever since we booked our flights to Panama back in March:

That’s right, we’re spending [an extended] Memorial Day Weekend in Bocas del Toro, Panama!  We’re going to try to stay offline as much as possible while we’re down there, so that means I’m not going to publish the next Real Honeymoon post on Monday morning like I normally do.  However, I do have an absolutely jaw-dropping honeymoon to share with you as soon as we get back home, and it’s so good that I had to break it into two posts.

Wherever you celebrate Memorial Day, I hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend!

Real Honeymoon: France

I’ve made it pretty clear in previous blog posts that I’m a total beach person, so when I was planning my own honeymoon I only considered tropical places with white sand and warm water.  However, Lauren and John’s incredible honeymoon in France is a completely non-beachy honeymoon that I would have been thrilled to go on.  Planned around their love of good food and wine, they ventured all over France and went to some of the world’s best restaurants.  I’m salivating just writing this, so I’ll let Lauren take it from here.  Foodies, enjoy!

When and where did you honeymoon?

John and I headed to France in April of 2013.  We spent time in the Loire Valley (Orleans, Blois, Amboise and Tours), Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpelier, Lyon, and of course Paris.

Loire chateau (Azay-le-Rideau)

Posing in front of a Loire chateau (Azay-le-Rideau)

How long was your trip?

Two weeks.

Loire valley and Amboise Chateau

Amboise Chateau in the Loire valley

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

John and I have always loved France (and French food and wine!), and have been a couple of times together.  For this special trip, we picked cities and towns where neither of us had been, so that we could explore them together.  We started with the Loire Valley because it’s our favorite wine and cheese region in the country; then, based on train routes and lengths, planned a loop around France.

Ham!

So much ham!

The best part about our honeymoon was…

This is a tough question!  We had an amazing time in each and every place we visited.  Like most of our trips, we tried to avoid museums and most tourist attractions so we could focus on the heart of the city.  We always ask for recommendations at our hotels and bed & breakfasts, and were able to try some amazing restaurants which we would never have found otherwise.

Our biggest surprise stop was Bordeaux. No one we had spoken to mentioned the actual city, although many had visited the vineyards in the area, so we didn’t know what to expect!  The city went through a renovation about 6-7 years ago, and now is clean and beautiful, with a long riverfront for strolling.  Our b&b there, Ecolodge des Chartrons was also spectacular, and the owner, Veronique was very helpful for where to explore…and where to avoid!  We were also lucky enough to end up in Bordeaux during the annual Antique Fair and Ham Fair, so we poked through French antiques and enjoyed some delicious ham sandwiches from tiny purveyors.

Overlooking the village of St. Emilion in the Bordeaux region

Overlooking the village of St. Emilion in the Bordeaux region

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Honeymoon Nightmare: What To Do When The Airline Loses Your Luggage

Imagine it’s a day or two after your wedding.  You’re basking in the afterglow of your perfect wedding weekend, and you’re trying not to check Facebook obsessively to see all of the photos that your friends have been posting.  Now you’re en route to your dream honeymoon location.  You took a sleeping pill before you boarded your plane, so the next thing you know you’re landing at your destination.  When you arrive at the baggage claim, it seems like it’s taking forever for your bags to appear because you just can’t wait to check into your hotel.  The crowd around your baggage carousel begins to thin, and fewer and fewer pieces of luggage come down the shoot.  Eventually, the carousel comes to a halt, and you still haven’t spotted your bags.  Then the reality sinks in: your luggage is not there.

missing luggage

Shit.

Okay, let me stop myself right there before I cause any panic attacks.  I know TONS of people who have gone on honeymoons, and literally NONE of them lost their luggage during those vacations.  However, I unfortunately do know of this happening to plenty of people (myself included*) during non-honeymoon trips, so although it’s an unlikely scenario, it’s still important to know what to do if it happens to you.

First things first, either you or your spouse needs to file a report with the airline to let them know your luggage is missing while the other one  waits at the carousel in case any other bags from your flight were just really delayed.  Make sure to get a file locator number from the airline, too!

If the airline doesn’t have an immediate solution for you, it’s time to whip out your smartphones and, as your mom says, “get on the Twitter.”  Have I personally done this before?  Nope, the last time an airline lost my bag was before iPhones and Twitter were around, but after reading travel guru Wendy Perrin’s blog post about her own recent experience with lost luggage in Ecuador, I would definitely do it if it happens to me again.  (Oh god, please don’t let it happen to me again!)

Wendy didn’t write a mean, aggro tweet about how so-and-so airlines is the absolute worst for losing her luggage.  Instead, she sent out the following simple tweet: “@AmericanAir Arrived in Quito but checked bag did not. EWR>MIA>UIO. Filed claim at UIO. What else can I do to expedite luggage recovery?”

After several hours and lots of back and forth with the airline via Twitter, Wendy’s lost luggage fiasco had a happy ending.  Twitter, of course, is a public forum that has the potential to reach millions of people, and airlines do not want to be badmouthed in front of such large audiences.  Wendy said that even at 1:00 AM, she received better and more useful information from the airline via Twitter within three minutes than she was able to get after an hour at the airport.

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Real Honeymoon: Kauai & Maui

This week’s real honeymoon blog post features another California couple who took advantage of the West Coast’s proximity to Hawaii.  Jessie and Jon really nailed the perfect balance between beach/relaxation time and doing exciting activities during their trip.  Read their fun recommendations and check out the beautiful photos below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We left one day after our wedding and spent 10 days in Hawaii…..six nights in Kauai and four nights in Maui! [July 2011]

Four Seasons Maui

How long was your trip?

Our trip was 10 days! Wish it was more :)

Kauai

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

My husband and I discussed where we wanted to go….we both wanted a place that was fun, chill and beautiful! Since I planned a majority of our wedding, my husband was happy to plan our honeymoon. I had been to Hawaii before and thought it was a beautiful place that would let us just chill and enjoy being married without to much travel or stress :)

Kauai

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Staying at the Four Seasons in Maui….and just being able to enjoy being husband and wife! It was the first time in a long time that I allowed myself to just chill!

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Really nothing…we had a great time, the service, the side trips we planned, our days just relaxing at the pool…. everything was just “us” and gave us the time to enjoy one another’s company instead of getting caught up in the day to day obligations!!!

Hawaii

How much planning did you do in advance?

My husband did most of the planning….which was very difficult for my OCD tendencies! But he did an amazing job planning awesome activities as well as massages! Here are some of the best activities we did:

Helicopter Tour: Jack Harter Helicopters
We went on a helicopter tour, which was amazing. About 70% ok Kauai is only accessible by air, so this definitely gave us a chance to look at some of the amazing views of the waterfalls, beaches, etc that would not have otherwise been able to see.

Helicopter tour

ATV Tour:
This was by far one of the best, most fun activities we did. Amazing, kind, nice guides! Really fun drive, got to see where movies were filmed, provided lunch! Just awesome :)

Catamaran Tour:
This was really fun! Beautiful views, got to go snorkeling, saw dolphins, provided breakfast and lunch! One word of advice, if either one of you or your fiance get motion sickness I would recommend taking something before, a couple people got sick on the boat….mostly kids though!

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Honeymoon Destination Recommendations for… Wine Lovers

It’s been quite awhile since I wrote my last Where To Go? post, so in honor of my good friend Stephanie who’s visiting San Francisco this week and in the midst of planning her own wedding, I thought it would be quite appropriate to cover a topic that’s dear to her heart: wine.

The following is a list of honeymoon destination recommendations for wine-loving couples created by myself, someone who knows little to nothing about wine.*  Since I am faaaar from being a wine expert, let’s just say that everywhere on the list is known for great wine, and hopefully my non-wine related comments will help you decide whether a particular location suits your particular honeymoon interests.  Pour yourself a glass, and let’s begin!

1) South Africa

Cape Winelands, South Africa

The Cape Winelands, South Africa

I’m starting off the list with the place that I want to visit the most.  South Africa really has it all: beautiful beaches, incredible wild life and safari opportunities, and the infamous wine regions of Constantia, Stellenbosch and Paarl.  It’s not a budget-friendly destination (especially if you want to go on safari as well), but if you’re going to go big on your honeymoon, I think South Africa would be absolutely fantastic.

2) Argentina

Malbec

I guess that’s what Malbec looks like?

On the other end of the budget spectrum, Argentina’s Mendoza region is another perfect honeymoon destination, especially if you love steak and a good Malbec.  While Argentina may not be as cheap as it used to be, it should still be significantly less expensive than a honeymoon in either South Africa or Europe.  Keep in mind though that Argentina is a huge country, so if you want to check out Buenos Aires as well as Mendoza, you’ll need to book some additional flights.

3) Australia

Hunter Valley, NSW

The beautiful Hunter Valley

If you’re going down under for your honeymoon, you’re in for a treat because Australian wine is delicious, and you don’t have to travel far from Sydney if you want to experience the wineries first-hand.  You can easily take a day trip to the Hunter Valley region in New South Wales, and then sleep off your hangover on Bondi Beach the next day.

4) France

Bordeaux

A winery in Bordeaux

There are three things that the French sure know how to do properly: food, wine, and romance.  What else do you need during your honeymoon?   The correct answer (at least for me): Beaches.  Fortunately, the French Riviera is just a short flight or train ride from Paris so you can have the best of both worlds, as well as Champagne, Burgundy, Loire Valley, and Bordeaux in between.  Stay tuned for an amazing Real France Honeymoon post coming up in a few weeks from a very food and wine-savvy couple.

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Real Honeymoon: Turks and Caicos

When Danielle first contacted me about her honeymoon in Turks and Caicos, I was really excited to hear about her trip because I haven’t been there yet and it’s definitely on my travel to-do list.  But by the time I finished reading her draft, I was shocked/totally impressed by how ballsy she and her husband Gary were to plan a Caribbean vacation smack dab in the middle of hurricane season!  If you don’t recall, a recent real honeymoon post featured Sarah and Patrick, who had to cancel their September 2007 honeymoon in Aruba at the last minute due to a hurricane, and ended up going to Hawaii instead.  Fortunately though for Danielle and Gary, their risk paid off and they enjoyed great weather and off-season discounts.  Am I brave enough to plan a similar trip during September?  I doubt it, but I’m so glad that everything worked out in their favor.  Read all about their incredibly relaxing honeymoon below, and check our Danielle’s super cute blog Les Bon Enfants as well!

When and where did you honeymoon?

Turks and Caicos, September 2011.

Turks and Caicos

How long was your trip?

Two weeks.

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

We did a lot of thinking about what we wanted our honeymoon to be. We love to travel, and we want to see the world, but the thought of planning a huge wedding, and immediately after embarking out on a major sight-seeing vacation (and all the meticulous planning that goes into such a trip)  sounded more exhausting than relaxing, and we needed to relax! Something tropical, romantic and luxurious was in order. I have been all over the Caribbean many times with my parents, and really wanted to go back to St. Bart’s with my new husband – I knew he would love it – but mom made a comment that made me think twice about my decision: she said our honeymoon should be a place neither of us has ever been before. That way, over time the memories won’t get tangled up in the memories of our family vacations. It will be our own special place. With that in mind, we decided on Turks and Caicos, and it really fit the bill for us.

Turks and Caicos

The best part about our honeymoon was…

Our hotel, The Regent Palms. It looked like an old plantation house! The rooms were huge with a pretty patio and a little kitchenette (which we used to make espresso every morning and stored Caribbean beers in the fridge). The staff was amazing and really went out of our way to make us feel pampered and at home. It was right on Grace Bay Beach, arguably the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean, so we never even felt like we had to leave the hotel grounds.

I was also happy that we booked such a long time (two whole weeks!.) It took the pressure off of having to cram in things we wanted to do and count the days until it was over. We could truly chill out and unwind without even having to worry about what day it was!

The Regent Palms

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Not. A. Thing. A few of my friends thought we were nuts for planning a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season, but really, I’ve done it before and I’d do it again. The hotels and airlines are so great about re-booking you for a hurricane-related delay (or offering a full refund) since they know days ahead of time that when they are coming that we felt totally comfortable taking a chance. Prices are a fraction of what they are during high season, the beaches are way less crowded, and the weather is perfect.

Turks and Caicos

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Looking Back On Our Honeymoon: One Year Later

I can’t believe that this Sunday marks my first wedding anniversary.  Seriously, where did the past twelve months go?  My husband and I still live in the same apartment, work at the same jobs, have the same dog… things just don’t feel too different, but now I guess we’ve transitioned from “newlyweds” to an “old married couple.”  Awesome.  I have confirmed this in a recent conversation with one of my sisters.  It went a little something like this:

Sister: “_____ is having a baby.”

Me: (gasp!) “Whoa, really?  Aren’t they a little young?”

Sister: “Yeah, they’re pretty young, but they act so old.”

Me: (sarcastically) “So, like as old as Aaron and me?”

Sister: “No, not that old.”

Thanks a lot, Nicole.

Since it’s been a year since the wedding, it has also been a year since our honeymoon and I’m feeling nostalgic.  In honor of our honeymooniversary, I’m going to reminisce about some of my favorite parts of our trip.

Kids in Bali

1) Indonesian kids love Aaron.  I don’t know if they thought he was an NBA player or what, but a photo similar to the one displayed above was taken many, many times during the eight days that we were in Bali.  I mean, this wouldn’t be unheard of if we were in a remote village or some other place where there weren’t tons of white tourists.  But this was Bali.  There are literally caucasian Australian tourists EVERYWHERE.  Why were they so obsessed with taking photos with Aaron?  Either it was just because he’s 6’6″, or perhaps they mistook him for a famous pop star we don’t know about in the U.S.  (I think Aaron’s hoping for the latter.)

Balinese Burrito

2) The burritos at Taco Casa in Ubud, Bali.  Like most brides, I watched my diet and worked out a lot before my wedding.  I didn’t do any juice cleanses or early morning bootcamp classes, but I did make myself give up burritos for a few months.  Burritos are one of my favorite foods, you see, and I live close to some of the best taquerias in San Francisco, so this was no easy feat.  But when we were on our way to our first hotel in Bali, I noticed a huge sign for burritos at Taco Casa.  I didn’t care that we were in Indonesia which is probably one of the last countries in the world that I’d expect to produce good burritos, I was going to have one damn it.  Despite having very low expectations, I thought my burrito was quite excellent.  Maybe I’m just too burrito-deprived, I thought, but Aaron also thought his burrito was shockingly delicious.  So coming from two San Franciscan burrito connoisseurs, we give Taco Casa two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Private Beach in Hoi An

3) The beautiful beaches in Hoi An, Vietnam – man, they were nice.  The photo above was taken on the private beach of our hotel – Boutique Hoi An Resort.  We stayed for four nights and absolutely loved it, so I’d totally recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about going to Vietnam.  The hotel was pretty busy because a German girl and Australian guy were having a destination wedding there.  Since we were still totally in all-things-wedding mode, we chatted with the groom’s parents who told us that the couple met at a hostel while backpacking in London.  (That’s the story that Aaron and I are going to use from now on whenever we get asked about how we first met.)  It was fun to (respectfully) spy on their intimate beach wedding.

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