Staying at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas

When planning our trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Ollie and I knew it was going to be the only true vacation of our year. We wanted to treat ourselves and stay somewhere nice. Well, nice is definitely an understatement for the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas, which far surpassed our expectations and offered all the relaxation and beauty we had hoped for. I highly recommend visiting in low season if possible. We went at the end of November when the hotel was only at 30% capacity. We basically had the whole of this stunning property to ourselves, and that felt pretty damn special. The hotel just finished renovations 2 months prior to our stay, so everything was updated and new. It was done very well, and we were all impressed. We stayed in a garden view room, which was so lovely, and our friends stayed in a lagoon room and had access to the pool straight from their balcony.

My favorite things about the hotel were the pools, swim up bar, and beach access. My husband’s favorite things were the breakfast buffet, comfy beds, and the “never-ending pool that wraps around the hotel.” He’s not exaggerating- there is almost 5 acres of pool at your disposal. We made it a goal to swim in all of them and ended up spending about 6 hours doing a pool crawl that day-I’m not complaining! To have a well-rounded review, I need to mention a couple cons of the stay. The bathroom did not have a door, only a window shutter (which looked nice, but didn’t offer much privacy). And the last “con” I can think of (which could have been easily avoided if I read this blog beforehand hehe) is that the hotel is about a 5 minute drive from Macrossan Street. If you plan on spending time there, you can take a convenient shuttle into town for $5 per person per way. This adds up fast if you go back a forth even a few times. Some of the shuttles offer a 3 day unlimited pass for $25. If I knew about that on day one I could have saved myself a lot of money.

Being the travel lover that I am, I could never understand why some people choose to spend their only vacation each year going back to the same place over and over again. After my stay at the Sheraton Mirage in Port Douglas, I now understand. I think I’ve found the place I could return to time and time again. It was just SO NICE, and there’s so much to do in the area. I can’t recommend a trip to Port Douglas enough. And if you decide to go, you know where to stay!

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Check out my Port Douglas vlog to see live footage of the hotel and what we got up to when we were out and about.

For a day-by-day itinerary of our visit click here.

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2017 Travel Goals

We’ve reached that time when everyone reflects on the year past and starts making resolutions and setting goals for the new year. Daydreaming about travel is what I’m best at, and I’ve had so much fun thinking about potential trips for 2017. I wanted to write a post sharing what I think could happen travel-wise, so I can see how much comes true when the year is up. I’d love to do a #tripamonth …Here we go!

January: NYC for NYE (already booked and official), some sort of weekend trip close to San Diego (I’m thinking maybe Catalina Island or Big Bear or San Francisco)

February: Potentially London-only have 5 days to work with but I’ve been dying to get back there since I lived there briefly in 2014. Mexico and Puerto Rico are looking good as well.

March: The end of the month goes into our anniversary weekend so we will try to take a 4 day trip somewhere (Vancouver, Mexico, Seattle, Arizona, and Utah are all on the radar)

April: Indianapolis and West Lafayette

May: Iceland

June: Chicago

July:

August:

September: Alexandria, Virginia and Washington D.C.

October: Yosemite

November:

December: Miami

I’d love to hear what your travel plans are for 2017! And any recommendations you may have for me 🙂

NYC Dreaming: Sweetbitter Book Review

I really liked this book, Stephanie Danler’s debut novel, about a girl who heads to New York City to alter the boring narrative of her life thus far. NYC represents that for so many, a place to escape, write a new story, grow, and become whoever you want to be for the time being. It paints a dreamy picture of what it might be like to pack your bags and move to New York with no plans, taking whatever the city gives you, accepting it all. Tess is young and wants to feel something no matter the stakes, no matter if it’s right, no matter if it lasts. The novel perfectly captures what it feels like feel: to desire someone who desires you back, just not enough to choose you when more is on the line.  This is a book for the senses-I cared about the flavors and feelings on the page all the way to the end.

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I love books like this that give me such a good sense of a place, feeding my wanderlust without being a “travel book.” Another such novel was The Lullaby of Polish Girls. See my review here.

I’m curious: What feelings does New York City evoke in you?

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Advice for First-Time Backpackers

For those of you out there who are about to embark on your first backpacking trip (or are thinking about it), and, like me before I went on mine, would like to get some insight into what it might be like: here are my top tips and a little blurb about each!

  1. Don’t over plan (or have everything booked) before arrival.

My trip to Nicaragua was going to be my first time backpacking. It was a new concept for me since I am normally such a planner. I’m used to planning every single detail before going somewhere (to the extreme like what every hour of the day will look like). However, I wanted this trip to be different and to have the spontaneity that a true backpacking trip would have. So I held back (going off the advice from my travel buddy for the trip, my amazing cousin/soul sister Ellen, who had spent 3 months backpacking earlier in the year). All we had booked was where we would stay upon arrival in Managua and where we would spend Christmas. We had done a little research on good places to stay in each place we would possibly venture to, but nothing else was booked, which would allow us the freedom to decide how long we wanted to stay somewhere and where we would head next. And it turns out I loved how this felt! It was amazing and very freeing to not know what was next and to decide as we came to it. I’m glad that I kept the planner side of me in check and let the spontaneous side make the decisions. I was traveling in a way I never had before.

2. Have a general route in mind (places of interest, things you don’t want to miss out on, possible hostels you might stay at if you end up in a particular area).

You definitely don’t want to over plan or have too much booked before arrival, but a little research will help and will save a lot of time once you are there. I knew which things were “must dos” for me, which was important because it’s super easy to be too laid back and end up accomplishing nothing all day. Sometimes going with the flow leads you to amazing places and makes for off-the-beaten-path memories, and other times it can lead to sleeping in all day and never venturing out.  For example, I made sure we didn’t miss out on Laguna de Apoyo near Granada or hiking up to the Jesus statue in San Juan. If I didn’t make an effort to plan these things, we might have ended up spending the whole day at the hostel bar instead (which is fine for some days but shouldn’t be the whole point of a backpacking trip). So a bit of planning can be good. It was also helpful to have some hostels in mind for each city we thought we might visit. Especially in a third world country where wifi isn’t always guaranteed, we could at least show up somewhere and have a name to drop for where to take us. You can definitely survive without doing that, but knowing what you’re looking for can make things more comfortable.

3. Allow flexibility.

I want to point out that we would have missed out on Popoyo altogether if we had planned our whole route before arrival. Because Popoyo was not on our “to do list.” It was just somewhere we knew we had to go after hearing our friends in Ometepe talk it up so much. We weren’t tied down to anywhere, so we decided to make a stop in Popoyo after Ometepe instead of heading straight to San Juan. I’m so glad that we did. We had the best surf lesson there and got to stare out over the most beautiful beach. It was the perfect detour, the kind that’s only possible if you are flexible with your travel plans.

4. Talk to everyone you can, locals and fellow travelers.

Don’t be nervous to strike up a conversation with people staying in your hostel. Almost everyone is going to be open to making a new friend and spending time together, which was a new concept for me having never been “on the road” before. It’s just the mindset. Even an introvert like me will be fine on their own.

5. Must bring items: earplugs (sleeping in a dorm is the opposite of quiet), headlamp/flashlight (many places will not have street lights especially if you are staying somewhere more remote), quick dry towel (so convenient), Febreeze (used more times than I would like to admit)

6. Know your surroundings and be smart.

7. You can wear the same thing every day and no one will judge you so don’t over pack.

8. Be open minded, but also be true to yourself. This is huge!

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