Planning

Olympics: Wrap Up

This is my way delayed wrap up post dedicated to planning a trip to the Olympics. While we went to the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, I’m hoping some of this information will come in handy for others planning trips to a future Olympics. It’s the advice I wish I had read and the advice I would give to anyone looking to attend the Olympics. We hope to go to another Olympics in the future (hopefully Paris 2024?) and plan to use what we learned to make the next trip even more memorable.

This post will be a bit different from my other Wrap Up posts, as it’s less destination specific (I hope), and more event related. Hopefully some of what we learned and advice I can give, will carry over to other Olympic host cities. Rio was a bit unorganized it seemed and a very spread out city so I almost feel that any other city will be a bit more organized and have the arenas closer together. But regardless, I feel it’s sound advice for someone looking to attend the Olympics. As a reminder, here’s my timeline of how we prepped for the Olympics (written before we left). So without further ado, let’s get on with this…

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Slovenia: Summary

We just returned from an amazing 6 days in Slovenia (plus 1 day in Venice). We had chosen Slovenia basically from seeing a picture of Lake Bled at some point and that was about it. When researching flights, we realized it was half the cost to fly into Venice and drive the relatively short distance (less than 2 hours) to Slovenia. Since we planned on renting a car in Slovenia anyway, it didn’t make a big difference to us. Now if you don’t plan on driving yourself around Slovenia, it might be easier just to fly into Ljubljana as train connections and public transport between Venice and Ljubljana aren’t great. With flying in/out of Venice, we decided to spend our final day of the trip in Venice as Brian had never been and it was a good excuse to make a quick stop.

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Slovenia: Planning

This trip idea for Slovenia was thrown together pretty on the fly about 5 months ago. We had planned to go to Greece in July for a friend’s elopement/wedding, but last minute their family backed out and they asked us not to come to make things less awkward for their family had we still gone. It was a bit disappointing to miss our best friends wedding and a return trip to Greece, but we respected their wishes and timing wise it worked out better to push our vacation back a month anyways. So there we were with a blank slate and wondering where to go. We were pretty set on Europe though most of Europe is in full peak tourist season, so we put a few ideas on the table (Slovenia, Estonia, Portugal being the top ideas), then started playing around and looking at flight prices.

Originally the flight prices to Ljubljana deterred us from going, even though Slovenia was probably at the top of the places we originally considered. We could fly into Portugal or Spain for half the cost, but then playing around on Google Flight Maps (my favorite way to see what flight prices are if you aren’t set on a destination) and saw that flying to Venice was about the same price as Lisbon or Madrid and only 1-2 hours from the Slovenian border, hence our trip to Slovenia was born via a flight from Venice.

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Planning: Palawan

We are headed off to our first beach vacation in years and only our second trip to Southeast Asia. I saw a picture of the Bacuit Bay about a year ago and after never hearing of Palawan before, it jumped to the top of the list. Maybe the ocean was calling us. And ironically on what should be our most relaxing trip without a lot of preplanned activities, I am more stressed out than ever pre-trip. Lots of odds and ends have contributed to that feeling of dread. I’ve worked a terrible amount of hours at work lately which makes me feel like I’m rushed in trying to make sure everything is ready. Secondly, my dogs GPS collar stopped working last night and while I completely trust our pet sitter, having the tracker just adds a peace of mind when we are at home and away. And now we are frantically trying to get a replacement tracker on a holiday weekend. Which hopefully we finally have figured out and will arrive before this post is published, but it still only gives us 24 hours to figure it out and be able to explain to the pet sitter how to use it!

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Belgium: Wrap Up

After deciding to visit Amsterdam in April 2016 to see the tulips in bloom, we debated whether to spend the entire week of vacation in The Netherlands or add a second country. After weighing the pros and cons of each, we decided the pull to experience Belgium was greater than seeing more of The Netherlands. However, I absolutely loved Amsterdam and have no doubt that we will be going back to see more of The Netherlands in the future. I enjoyed our time in Brussels and Bruges, but I didn’t feel that pull and love I felt in Amsterdam. Brian enjoyed Belgium more than I did, but he loves beer more than I do so I’m not sure if that factored in at all. That’s not to say I wouldn’t want to re-visit Belgium, I would, it’s just not at the top of my re-visit list.

We also debated quite a bit on where to base ourselves. The most popular cities in Belgium to base yourself in seem to be Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, or Bruges. Granted there is plenty more to the country than those four cities, but knowing we wanted to branch out and visit more than one city, we wanted to base ourselves in one with easy connections. Originally that was going to be Bruges, but after deciding to make a day trip to Paris, we changed to Brussels as it was an easier connection both from Amsterdam and to Paris. Belgium has a lot to offer and you can make so many different things a focus when traveling there from food to beer to World War history to art. We chose the food and beer angle to our trip, as neither of us are huge war history buffs and we had made art a focus in Amsterdam so we wanted something different for the second half of our trip. Therefore in this guide, I won’t be giving much information on war history so if you are looking for advice on the battlefield sights, you will have to look elsewhere. Sorry!

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Planning: Galapagos

This will probably be my shortest planning post I’ve ever written, as I didn’t do a lot of the essential planning for this trip. The idea of this trip was born almost a year and a half ago, when discussing family trip ideas, my littlest brother remarked that he was still due a vacation for his college graduation. My mom had been looking into catamaran trips and Dom and I were not so enthusiastic about that, but I said if it was somewhere Brian and I hadn’t been, we would at least consider it. Then Dom said, what about one in the Galapagos. My parents both were like, sure. And within 24 hours, my mom had called my other siblings and was full on researching a trip there.

We were pretty limited with our time we could go on a vacation. My sister and her husband work for universities and my youngest brother wasn’t sure if he’d be in grad school or not. And with Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, we were pretty much locked into the week of New Years. Unfortunately it meant that we were extremely limited in cruise options. Galapagos cruises are locked into very strict itineraries to help protect the environment, which I’m all for, but that meant we only had a couple of options for cruise itineraries due to our inflexible dates. In the end, we found one cruise possibility within our budget and dates (as a side note, we didn’t look at the extreme budget options as my parents were footing the bill and my mom wanted something nicer than budget cabins). And we also worked out a land itinerary option with a tour agency and sat down and compared the stops on the two itineraries and ended up liking to stops on the island hopping land based option best. Most people say cruising is the best way to see the Galapagos and I have no doubt that it is if you have flexible dates and are traveling with a smaller group (we are a group of 7, though at one point it was 9 of us going) which locked us out of some cruises as they already had passengers booked.

 

Anyways, here is our relatively set in stone itinerary as it’s all planned out with our guide already:

Day 1: Arrival in Quito in the morning, spend the morning walking around Old Town then a trip to the Middle of the Earth

Day 2: Flight to San Cristobal Island, then visit the Interpretation Center, Frigate Bird Hill, and snorkeling

Day 3: Snorkel Trip to Kicker Rock then La Loberia

Day 4: Early morning boat transfer to Santa Cruz, visit the Highlands then Tortuga Bay

Day 5: Day Trip to Seymour Island

Day 6: Early morning boat transfer to Isabella, Tintoreras for snorkeling, Flamingo Lagoon

Day 7: Sierra Negra hike, Concha Peral for snorkeling

Day 8: Transfer to Balta airport, then flight to Guayaquil where we have an 8 hour layover before heading home

 

Packing List: I had trouble as always trying to figure out what exactly to pack. We are doing a variety of activities while gone and multiple types of activities within the span of a day. We will be getting wet, hiking, sun bathing, and more. I wanted to make sure to be able to have proper clothing but not lugging around 2 full bags on the boat each day. I probably way overpacked but that’s normal. 

  • Bottoms: 2 pairs of jeans (mostly for our first and last days in Quito and Guayaquil and possibly out to dinners on the island if cooler evening), 6 pairs of shorts (4 casual/day shorts, 2 nicer pairs to wear to dinners), 2 pairs of leggings 
  • Tops: tee shirts (2 nicer shirts, 8 more casual shirts), 3 cardigans, 2 tank tops, 1 long sleeve shirt
  • Dresses/skirts: 3 dresses
  • Jacket: 1 rain jacket, 1 fleece jacket
  • Shoes: 1 pair water sandals, 1 pair of flip flops, 1 dressier sandal, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of Sperrys, 1 pair of Toms
  • Other: 6 swimsuits, 2 coverups, 1 wet suit, 1 wet suit top, 1 snorkel mask/fins 

What we are most looking forward to: Snorkeling with the sea lions for me, wildlife in general for Brian

Amsterdam: Wrap Up

When we realized we were going to be taking a spring trip in 2016, The Netherlands was the first place we thought to visit. We had thought about visiting in the fall back in 2012, but decided to put it off until we could visit in the spring for the tulips. April 2016 rolled around and we were headed to Amsterdam. Spring is a gorgeous time to visit there, regardless of if you time it just right for the tulips. The trees lining the canal are just coming into bloom making it a very picturesque place to walk around. We debated on whether to make it a Netherlands only trip or add in another country. While I have plenty of sights I would like to see in The Netherlands that we didn’t visit, we had a greater desire to visit parts of Belgium so we added on Brussels and Bruges instead of more places within The Netherlands.

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Jordan: Summary

As I am way behind posting, I will eventually get to Jordan posts after finishing up my previous two trips. This is just a quick wrap up/summary post of the highlights of our week in Jordan. Our week in Jordan was full of top moments and it’s hard to narrow down the best ones. It was an interesting time to be visiting with our presidential election coming up and we had some incredibly fascinating conversations with many locals on it.

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Jordan: Planning

When we were trying to decide where to head in the fall of 2016, we originally looked into Morocco. I’ve had Morocco at the top of my bucket list since high school, while it is far from the top of Brian’s. He had always said we could go to Morocco only after visiting a more traditional African country for a safari. He didn’t want Morocco to be his fist country visited in Africa. I compromised and we went on safari to Tanzania and Kenya in 2015. Morocco was looking more and more likely, until all of a sudden it wasn’t. One of the biggest things I want to see are the Fez tanneries. Yes, I know they are going to stink, but it was pictures of Fez (and the mention in Gilmore Girls) that had me wanting to go there to begin with. When starting our initial research, we learned that the Fez tanneries were undergoing a massive renovation and while they were supposed to be finished in summer 2016, I just wasn’t willing to risk it.

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China: Wrap up

After finally finishing up all my Beijing and Xi’an posts, I am writing my more detailed wrap up post on our trip to provide some more detailed insight into how our trip in regards to planning, and how everything went for us, etc. For a quick post trip summary on our favorites, you can read that here. We decided on Beijing mostly because we made a list of top ten Asian cities we would like to visit and went with whichever plane ticket was cheapest. Beijing won, with Tokyo coming in as second.

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