Traveling Like a Pro

Traveling like a pro as actually a lot easier than it sounds. From my own experiences, I’ve compiled the list below that highlights a fewrules I follow when traveling to ensure my trip runs smoothly.

see? the first flight out can have it’s perks

Sign up to accrue airline miles. Even if you don’t exclusively fly the same airline every time, it’s a smart idea to signup every time you take a flight with a new airline. It’s free & a great way to get a free flight/ upgrade your seat.

Pack like a pro. Check out yesterday’s post on packing. No one likes to lug a heavy suitcase around.

First flight out. Many will fight me on this but it is my preference to always take an early flight out. Usually those flights have less of a chance of being delayed and if you happen to have a flight cancellation, it’s likely you’ll be able to jump on another flight later in the day.

Bottle of water + Snack. Whenever I travel, I usually keep at least one energy bar in my purse and one in my suitcase. Once I’m passed security, I always pick up a bottle of water. This stems from those horror stories I’ve heard about planes running out of water. I’ve thankfully never been on a flight like that, but it always eases my nerves knowing I have water & a snack, if needed.

Pre- TSA // Global Entry. If you travel a lot, I cannot express the need to have Pre-TSA & Global Entry enough. You don’t have to take anything out of your bag or remove your shoes to go through security. The application process was fairly simple. Fill out a form online & stop in for a quick interview. Again, American Express offers Pre-TSA as a cardholder perk.

Clean out your purse prior to takeoff. You don’t need those receipts or superfluous items in your bag. No one wants to be the one fishing through their bag at security looking for their ID.

Make yourself comfortable. If you’re gearing up for a long flight, donne a cute pair of leggings & cardigan. I love to swear a scarf or cozy wrap in case I get cold.

Airport Lounges. Check into what your airline or credit card may offer. I’m a Priority Pass holder which grants access to 1000 lounges worldwide. With American Express, I have access to Centurion Lounges, which always makes me get to the airport with plenty of time so I can relax prior to my flight.

via Centurion Lounge

Check your credit cards. As I’ve mentioned, Amex has a ton of great perks that go along with traveling but if you have an airline of preference, check into options with their credit cards. Often times, they’ll run specials such as gaining 60k miles when you spend so much in the first three months. Great option if you need to make a larger purchase, may as well gain those miles to use for flights! The credit card you already use may have great perks you’re unaware of.

Pack thoughtfully. This is a rule I swear by! Have you ever flown somewhere tropical in the dead of winter? When you land, your shorts and sundresses won’t save you from the cold. When I’m packing I’ll put anything I’ll need handy in the very top of my suitcase. Like a jacket or heavy sweater. That way, when I land, I can unzip the top and pull out my jacket or whatever I need. Quick & efficient when you don’t have to stop, unzip your entire suitcase and dig around.

What travel tips do you live by?

Cheers,

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Packing Like a Pro

early morning flights require cozy jeans & a snuggly sweater

Over the past few years, my travel has increased quite a bit, which is perfectly ok with me. I love traveling and have learned there’s definitely an art in doing it well. For work or fun, I usually find myself on trips that last 3-5 days & if you can do it right, for that amount, you should never have to check a bag. See a few tips below for packing like a pro & ditching your checked luggage.

  1. Invest in good luggage. When I was shopping for a luggage set, there were a few specific things I was interested in. I wanted one piece to be suitable for carry on travel, I wanted it to be bright & recognizable ( ie: red) and I wanted to find a brand that was guaranteed (with warranty). I ended up with Victorinox which is ironically the brand my family of travelers has always used. These are other great brands that made the top of my list: Away (even charges your phone!) & Delsey.
  2. Make an itinerary/ packing list. If you have even a rough idea of what you’ll need to pack, it will eliminate most of the “just in case” outfits. For example, if you’re spending all day Saturday at a spa on your trip- no need to pack an outfit for Saturday during the day. If you know you’ll be outside in fall like temperature, pack a few items that can be layered.
  3. Channel the French. French women are notorious for keeping their chic closet’s tre simple with a few staple & iconic pieces. Pack simple pieces that transition from day to night, work well with other pieces you’re bringing or can be layered.
  4. Eliminate duplicates. If you’re staying in hotel, there’s a 99% chance you won’t need to pack your hair dryer (even though it pains me to leave my Drybar babe). Staying with your bestie for the weekend? She probably has a straightener/ curling iron and most of your shower essentials.
  5. Wear your largest pieces. If I’m packing my favorite wedges for the weekend, I’ll wear them to travel in. Winter coat? Carry it on with you. It could get chilly on the plane & if not, you can always stow in the overhead compartment. Taking your largest pieces out of your bag saves so much space for other necessities.
  6. Roll whatever clothing you can. I always roll my jeans, pajamas, cotton dresses anything that won’t wrinkle too badly, I find this to be a major space saver.
  7. Combine handbags. When carrying on a rolling bag, you’re still allotted one personal item. In this scenario, I usually pack a smaller purse and carry on a tote wth my purse inside + my book, iPad. For example, this past weekend, I took this tote as my “purse” but packed two smaller clutches for nights out.
  8. An extra bag. If I’m worried about purchases I’ll be making or know I may have a fuller bag on my return trip, I’ll pack a bag like this Lilly Pulitzer one. Folds completely flat & fits in those skinny front pockets. You can always pull that out, throw in your purse and a few other items and count it as your person item.
  9. Check the weather. Takes two seconds on your phone to know what Mother Nature will be up to at your destination. If you’re heading to a tropical beach vacation, you probably don’t need to pack more than one sweater or sweatshirt.
  10. Keep your toiletries bag packed & ready to go. If you’re carrying on, you know you have to keep your liquids small. I keep a toiletries bag ready & stocked to avoid any late runs to the CVS travel section. That way I never need to worry about what I have & can throw it in my bag the night before.

Hope this helps next time you find yourself packing up for a getaway!

Cheers

Friday: Busy Life Update

Happy Friday! So I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet..though it feels that way. The past two weeks have been absolute, yet perfect, chaos.

Two weeks ago kicked off the beginning of what we’ll refer to as “wedding season.” I use quotations because this year, my wedding season consists of four weddings, in three weeks. For me, all of which have been in Ohio (yay home!)

Marcella, my little in Kappa Alpha Theta & one of my dearest friends, was the first to kick off these wedding festivities with her now husband, Dan. Their wedding was absolutely stunning as all of us twelve bridesmaids wore gold Amsale gowns with hues of purples in our bouquet, groomsmen’s vests and reception colors.

 

<gorgeous suspended floral arrangement by HeatherLily>

Last weekend Dave & I had to divide and conquer two weddings. Dave attended our friends, John & Ashley’s wedding in beautiful Greenwich, Connecticut while I flew to Akron to be the Maid of Honor in Alex’s wedding. Alex & her husband Brandon said their I Do’s in the most beautiful church in downtown Akron, St. Bernards & at their reception, the dance floor kept going even after the music had stopped. What a celebration! I was even able to surprise her when my MOH speech ended with an Ice, Ice Baby personalized rap. Her face was TOTALLY worth it.

After Al’s wedding, I flew to LA for a quick work trip but managed to squeeze in a little “me” time. More to come on that next week. On the wedding front, I’m so happy to say everything is moving along swimmingly. I even found my wedding dress! It’s so true what they say, “when you know, you know.” I couldn’t have been happier to work with the lovely ladies of Brides by the Falls.

To wrap up wedding season, for my third and final wedding, I’m flying to Columbus this morning to celebrate my friend, Lauren, who I met dancing with Ashland Regional Ballet. Over the years, I’ve seen her in a lot of tutus but I cannot wait to see her in a wedding gown!

Lots of great travel content coming your way next week!

Cheers

Major Life Updates

June was quite a month for me.

I celebrated my twenty- eighth birthday just a day after my last post with a fun night out starting at one of my favorite restaurants in NYC, When We Were Young. The food, cocktails & company couldn’t be topped. Their signature drink, the While We Were Young, is as beautiful as it delicious.

I wore my favorite summer romper from Express.

A few days after my birthday, I started a new job that allows me to pursue my passions inside & outside the office. That being said, I’m happy to have some time back to keep content flowing across the pages of Bliss & Bellinis. Leaving my old job wasn’t the easiest. I enjoyed my clients, my boss & the people I worked with but job-wise, sometimes you have to look beyond the here & now and set yourself up to work in a space that you’re truly passionate about.

A few weeks after that, Dave & I headed home to Cleveland to celebrate my birthday with my best friends & family. Unbeknownst to me, Dave had bigger plans. While in Cleveland, Dave proposed at my very favorite place in the world and coincidentally where we had our first date, The Cleveland Museum of Art.

After a big glass of champagne, we went to meet up with my parents to celebrate. To my surprise, Dave, and our families, had arranged a surprise engagement party at my parent’s home with our closest friends and family… which all kicked off with what else but a bellini toast. I’m not afraid to admit it but I think my summer peaked early this year. Needless to say, I’m 100% OK with it.

In my downtime, I’ve been trying to spend as much time as I can at the club or on a sailboat, which was a perfect way to welcome the summer solstice.

As well as gallivanting around the city a little bit, too. Smorgasburg is one of my favorite activities. Recently, I FINALLY got to try the infamous Ramen Burger— which totally lived up to it’s reputation. Delicious. 

Trying to soak in as much East Coast sun as I can but I have a lot of upcoming travel to look forward to. On a totally unrelated note, is everyone gearing up for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale? I am counting down the days!

Cheers!

Viñales Itinerary

My excursion to Viñales was one for the books. Viñales was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and is almost completely undisturbed beyond the city limits. Knowing there were so many activities we wanted to accomplish, we booked a private tour with Discover Viñales Tour Company. We were picked up by our driver early in the morning in Havana and departed for our two hour drive. Once in Viñales, we picked up our guide, Yaniel and headed toward the Indian Caves. We walked through the caves to the boat that guided us through the remaining cave. 

After the caves, we headed toward a tobacco field, sorting house and paid a visit to Rene, an expert tobacco farmers who’s been rolling organic cigars for over 50 years!

After the tobacco field tour, we had lunch at an organic farm overlooking the most picturesque valley. The meal was the freshest meal I’ve ever had, as we walked up the to the restaurant, we saw farmers pulling fresh vegetables from the ground. Talk about farm to table.

the view wasn’t too bad either

After lunch we visited the prehistoric mural and rode horses through the Silent Valley. 

I can’t recommend visiting Viñales enough and booking a tour with Yaniel through Discover Vinales. This city is the most undisturbed, beautiful area I’ve ever seen.

Cheers,

Havana Itinerary

Friday

Arrive in Havana midday and take a cab to your Casa Particular in Miramar- a neighborhood of Havana. The airport is approximately 30 mins away from Havana so it’s a great way to see some of the rural landscape as you head into the city.

After getting checked in, waste no time and head into Old Havana. Most casa’s have access to call a cab for you but I highly recommend taking a taxi collectivo. It’s the Cuban version of Uber, except you flag a car down on the street and you pay a small fee to get wherever you’re going. Cubans use this method of transportation as the buses are over crowded and many drivers only charge 2-4 CUCs depending how far you’re going.

Every night, my recommendation is the same…dinner & dancing. Head to StarBien Restaurante for dinner. 

Saturday

Wake up early and head to Hotel Inglaterra, where you meet your tour guide, Saúl, for a day tour of Havana. This tour was an incredible way to get our bearings around Havana and cross off some of learning some of the history. I highly recommend booking through Locally Sourced Havana Tours and asking for Saúl. The morning consists of a walking tour through Havana, a full lunch and a classic car tour which all wrap up at Hotel Nacional for drinks around 4 or 5pm.

Grab dinner at El Cocinero and head next door to Fabrica de Arte to dance the night away.

Sunday

Wake up and have a leisurely breakfast, head to Santa Maria del mar. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Havana but the beach is absolutely incredible. Locals boast that the water is five distinctly different shades of blue and they were certainly right. Spend the day at the beach and head back to Havana to get ready for dinner at Paladar Atelier. 

Monday

On this specific trip, we checked out of our Airbnb this day and stayed our last few days at the Melia Cohiba. The hotel was nice but definitely not a “must.” We spent the early afternoon at the pool and spent the early evening grabbing drinks before dinner at La Guarida.

After dinner, walk along the Malecón where many locals hang out at night. The Malecón is a roadway and seawall along the coast, which is a great spot to get some relief from the heat.

Tuesday

Day trip to Viñales… coming tomorrow! Stop back to read more.

Wednesday

Spend the morning roaming around Old Havana and pick up any last minute cigars you want to bring back home, grab a street churro for one last sweet taste of Cuba and head to the airport.

Sips

La Floridita– bright pink right at the top of Ospibo St (Bishop St). A bit touristy but the location boasts it’s most famous guest Ernest Hemingway.

La Bodeguita Del Medio- definitely touristy but this is where the mojito was created. There is always a crowd but great live music. Perfect to catch a mid day cocktail while you explore the streets of Havana

Hotel Saratoga rooftop – poolside drinks with a great view of the city. Perfect for a relaxing night.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba– this infamous hotel is great for a drink out on the veranda. Easily the best mojitos in Havana and a great spot to put up your feet and enjoy a cuban cigar

Dancing

King Bar– lots of dancing and live music, very much a club atmosphere but a lot of fun

Fabrica de Arte– probably my favorite evening out in Havana. Fabrica de Arte is an incredibly restored warehouse that is a night club combined with an art museum. Plan to spend all night here as between the art, live music and incredible DJ’s, you won’t want to leave. The line is incredibly long and starts to form early but if you’re dying to get in, you can sweet talk the bouncers for a few CUCs.

Casa de musica- live music and two shows a night, go early to avoid the line

Eats

El Cocinero- directly next door to Fabrica de Arte, this nondescript restaurant has amazing rooftop dining. Definitely ask to be seated on the roof

La Guarida– this “hideaway” paladar is one of the most unique places to dine in all of Havana. The restaurant sits inside what appears to be a run down building but once inside, you’ll see all the charm La Guarida has to offer. Asked to be seated on the roof and make sure to go up to the highest point for an incredible 360 degree view of Havana

Paladar Atelier – this paladar is one the most highly rated restaurants in all of Havana. The food options may seem a little odd on the menu but friends agreed it was one of the best meals of their life. I had to agree.

StarBien Restaurante- a quieter paladar in a residential area in a beautifully restored home. Asked to be seated outside and enjoy the Italian/ Cuban fusion.

*make all dinner reservations prior to arriving in Cuba, check out more tips from yesterday’s post

Overall, there are so many places to “get lost” in while visiting Cuba. The people are so friendly so if you need help or are looking for a recommendation, just ask! There were so many no-name places we stopped into to grab a drink which were all fantastic.

Feel free to reach out with any questions. If you’ve traveled to Cuba before, is there anything I’ve missed?

Cheers,

Cuba Travel Tips

I’m so excited to finally share my Cuba travel guide with you! I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many beautiful countries but I can honestly say Cuba ranks very highly amongst them. Since the embargo was lifted, Americans citizens can now fly directly to Havana from most international airports. Cuba’s main months for tourism are from November-early May, so I took advantage of the last week in April to indulge in all the Cuban culture I could soak up in one week.

Since there are so many good tidbits to share, I’m going to be sharing travel tips and itineraries over the next few days. Below you’ll read some of tips I picked up on while traveling to Cuba…

cruising down the streets of Havana in classic cars

Visas– Americans are still required to carry a visa and list one of 12 reasons to visit Cuba. Most tourists are able to obtain an Education/ People to People visa. Check your departure airport but most airports have designated areas to get your visa on the day of your departure for $50 or $75. Just plan to arrive earlier than normal as there is usually a line.

Checking bags– Not something I recommend. I had heard not to check bags but alas, my flight was full so several passengers had to check their bags and I was one of the lucky few that were chosen. Bags that are checked are subject to extensive search and Cuba hasn’t quite conquered the amount bags coming through security.. it took over an hour and a half for my bag to come out. My recommendation would be to plan to carry on and make sure you have priority boarding so you can absolutely take your bag with you.

Currency– despite what anyone may tell you, Cuba does NOT accept ANY American credit cards so be prepared to bring a stack of cash. Most airports do not keep CUCs in their currency exchange so it’s best to exchange to Euros or Canadian dollars in the US and then exchange in Cuba.

Tours– I was skeptical about scheduling tours as sometimes I feel they can be a bit of rip off . For this trip, I wanted to make sure I got my bearings of the city so I scheduled a tour with Locally Sourced Havana Tours (formally known as Havana Tour Company) for our first full day. I’m so glad we did. Not only was the tour incredible, local and authentic, our whole group ended up going out together that night and danced the night away. Saul, our tour guide, was incredible I highly recommend booking a day with him. We also did a private tour of Viñales, which was incredible. I never even saw other tourists the entire day. Yaniel, our tour guide, took us to an incredible organic farm for lunch, the underwater caves, horseback riding through an organic tobacco field and the Silent Valley. It was incredible. More to come on Viñales this week, too!

our airbnb front courtyard was so dreamy

Airbnb– another issue was a skeptical on but Casa Particulars (aka Airbnb) are 100% the way to go in Cuba. The hotels are nice but overall outdated, very expensive and several are own by the government. Casas are a perfect way to see Havana like a local. I could NOT recommend our Airbnb more. Sonmy and her husband were fantastic hosts and their home is beautiful. Just make sure to choose a Casa with air conditioning- you’ll want a little relief from the heat at night.

Where to Stay– There are a plethora of Casas to choose from in the various neighborhoods of Havana but we chose to stay in Miramar which was perfect. It was just a short ride in a taxi colectivo to Parque Central and it was quiet at night. Note that Havana nights are very lively (read: loud).

Cabs– getting around Cuba is incredibly easy. There are always taxis in populated areas, especially near hotels but it’s must easier to get a taxi colectivo from the side of the road. Think of it as Cuban Uber. You hail a taxi colectivo on the side of the road, let the driver know where you are going and pay a fraction of what you’d pay for a regular cab. There are also many classic cars you can take as a taxi too, which I definitely did a few nights for dinner. They’re pretty cool.

Reservations– with the influx if tourists from all around the world, many of the restaurants fill up quickly. Be sure to make reservations prior to arriving so you won’t miss out. Check back tomorrow for a list of my favorite places to dine.

Cuban architecture is all in the details

Language– make sure to brush up your Spanish before landing in Cuba. While many restaurants have English speaking waiters, almost all cab drivers or taxi colectivo drivers do not.

Wifi– Wifi is still VERY hard to come buy in Cuba. Most hotels in Havana have wifi cards available but they are for guests only. There are also wifi parks every few blocks in Cuba where you can purchase a card (about 3 CUCs) for an hour and log on there. You’ll know how to find these parks because you’ll see a large group of people on their phones. In all honesty, disconnecting and indulging in the culture (versus scrolling through Instagram) is the way to see Cuba.

People of Cuba– The Cuban people are incredible. They are excited to see their country boom with tourism and are one of the more friendly cultures of places I have visited. I recommend bringing a few extra toiletries with you as the stuff we take for granted is hard to come by or very expensive in Cuba.

The Beach– While planning this trip- I kept reading the beaches of Veradero were not to be missed. Veradero is about three hours from Havana and while we had a trip to Viñales planned, I wasn’t sure we’d be able to accomplish both. Once in Havana, we heard that Playa del Santa Maria was just as beautiful and only a 40 minute drive. The ocean is literally five different shades of blue! We spent Sunday at the beach which is what many local Cubans do as well. Don’t feel like you’re confined to Havana if you’re only staying for a short trip – definitely recommend a trip to Playa del Santa Maria.

Tomorrow I’m sharing my Havana itinerary and all the best spots for sips and eats. You don’t want to miss it!

Cheers,