Friday, September 28, 2012

My Carry On

Since I'm flying back home today (I just finished another 2 week stint in Florida for work), I thought it would be prudent to do a post on what's in my carry on. Though, I should clarify: I rarely check bags, so 99% of the time I only have carry on luggage but this is the stuff that I keep in the bag that goes under my seat (not in the overhead compartment) so that it's handy and I can get at it whenever I want.
carry on
  1. Evian mineral water spray ($14 for a pack of two travel sized sprays at Sephora) - this stuff is awesome because you can spritz it on your face for a bit of refreshment and hydration. Recycled airplane air is incredibly dry (you'd never complain that it was too humid on a flight) so your skin will thank you for the moisture. Don't forget - you'll probably have to pack this in your liquids bag!
  2. L'Occitane Lavendar Hand Cream ($22 for a 2.6 oz tube at L'Occitane) - the skin on your hands is likely to dry out as well so I always pack this ultra rich hand cream. The subtle lavender scent is soothing - smells much better than the plane, anyway - and it helps me sleep. I've managed to sneak it through security without having to put it in my liquids bag but you might want to put it in yours to play it safe.
  3. Korres Milk Proteins Make Up Removing Wipes ($25 for a packet of 25 wipes at Sephora) - makeup removing wipes are my best friend when I'm traveling. They don't count as a liquid (hurrah) and they travel really well. I like to give my face a scrub down a few minutes before landing so that I arrive looking fresh and glow-y, despite having spent hours in transit.
  4. SNACK! These days, unless you're taking a 14 hour flight halfway around the world, airlines won't give you anything to eat, for free that is. And if you're like me, you get cranky when you're hungry and extra cranky about paying exorbitant prices for sub-par food. That's why no matter how long the flight (even if it's just an hour) I like to pack a little something to eat. I usually pack an apple and/or a baggie with grapes or blueberries, and a sandwich. Most flights offer complimentary soft drinks but I usually bring a reusable water bottle with me and ask the good people at Starbucks (or any coffee place) to fill it up with water for me.
  5. Journal and pen (I'm partial to Moleskine) - I like to journal when I'm traveling so that's why I bring it but it's handy for writing down your packing list and bring it with you (so you don't lose anything on your way back). It's also good to write down important phone numbers - like your hotel - and confirmation numbers for rental cars and whatnot. The pen is also especially awesome if you are traveling internationally because you have to fill out those pesky customs forms. Filling it out on the plane will save you loads of time getting through the queue once you land.
  6. Aloe socks ($12 for a pack of two at Kohls) - Aloe socks are great. I like to take my shoes off on the plane and give my toes some room to wiggle but your bare feet (no matter how perfectly pedicured) are probably not what your neighbors want to see (unless they're pervs). Aloe socks will pamper your feet while keeping you decent. Plus, aloe is incredibly moisturizing.
  7. Pashmina - the pashmina is my best friend on flights because yes, it's a fashion thing but it can also act as a blanket, you can crumple it to use as a pillow, or tuck it behind your back for some extra support (airplane seats can be really uncomfortable).
  8. Headphones and iPhone/iPod - airlines are scouting for more ways to make money, e.g. making you pay for in-flight entertainment, so instead of forking over $7+ every time I fly, I just bring my own entertainment. Headphones are great at blocking out noise when you want to nap. Or if you have a chatty neighbor, having headphones in your ears gives off the message: "I do not want to socialize, thanks."
  9. Toothbrush & toothpaste - um, yeah, if you're like me, you've fallen asleep on flights and woken up with a less-than-fresh taste in your mouth. Don't arrive at your destination with funky breath - keep your toothbrush and toothpaste handy in your carry on so you can freshen up.
  10. Glasses, contacts case, contact solution/rewetting drops - I like to keep my glasses and contacts case handy in case my eyes get dry and I need to take my contacts out. If you have 20-20 vision, bless you, you are lucky, but you can still suffer dry eyes. Rewetting drops will revive your eyes so you don't arrive looking bloodshot and zombie-like.
Happy traveling.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

San Juan Part Dos

El Yunque
I am v. spoiled with holidays this year. First there was Hawaii in January, then Istanbul in March, and Turks and Caicos in July/August. Well, I've got (at least) one more to add to the list. In November, I'm headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico (for the second time in my life) with a few friends for an extended weekend (Thursday through Monday). Thankfully, we're headed there before Thanksgiving so I won't have to worry about post-Thanksgiving turkey bloat! The price was pretty decent, around $650 for each of us, flights + hotel. The prices had been better and kept creeping up so we jumped on the tickets before they got any pricier.

I'm excited because we've already got a trip to the rainforest (El Yunque) planned ($50 per person tour) and we're staying in Isla Verde, which has more nightlife than Condado, which is the neighborhood I stayed in last time.

 Ritz Carlton San Juan
Another exciting aspect of the trip is that we are staying at the Ritz-Carlton, which isn't as fancy as the Ritz in New York, but still pretty amazing. The Ritz does associate itself with Marriott rewards and status so I'm hoping that even though my friend made the reservation under her name, my Platinum Elite status will have some clout. Fingers are crossed for a free upgrade!

It was ranked #3 out of 14 on TripAdvisor so I think we're in for a comfortable stay.

Snorkeling isn't a real possibility because San Juan  is on the northern coast where the Atlantic is choppier. But I know I'll enjoy the beach all the same, since I loved it last time I was there.

Anyway, I'm so excited. By the time November rolls around, it'll be getting colder here and I'll be ready for an escape to somewhere warm with sand, palm trees, and cocktails served in hollowed out fruits.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Providenciales: Things We Didn't Do

This is (v. likely to be) my final Provo post (at least until my next trip). There are a few activities we considered doing but ended up either not being able to or deciding against it, and I thought I'd blog about them because I did the research, what a shame and waste if nobody uses it.
photo credit
One of the things I really wanted to do was to go on the glowworm cruise. Glowworms are insects that glow through luminescence. There are many different types but the ones residing around Provo will mate a few days after the full moon. The females will swim into the water and start to glow and release eggs (the eggs also glow) and spin around the attract males. The males will follow and also glow and swim around to fertilize the eggs. And then in a sad turn of events, a few minutes later, the males will sink to the bottom of the ocean and die. I sort of imagine it would be like sailing in the actual night sky with stars flickering, but since I didn't get to experience it, I'll never know! [It's because we were scheduled to leave the morning of the cruise, boo].

I found two reputable companies that charter these cruises:
I read some reviews about Silver Deep and they tend to crowd the boats and the amount of food served doesn't seem to be worth the $26 price difference with Sun Charters. But if you are headed to Provo and have a chance to go on the cruise, please do!
photo credit
Another activity we considered was horseback riding on the beach. It seemed like it would be a lot of fun but we were both apprehensive about riding horses (which are HUGE animals that can be intimidating and a little bit scary) and it's at least one hour of direct sun exposure. We experienced a bit of sunburn just from 30 minutes of sitting in the sun to build a sandcastle so we knew that an entire hour in the sun would not bode well.

Again, I found two reputable companies that will take you riding:
Provo Ponies seems to be the more popular/well-known company but Caicos Corral has just a few horses so most rides are like private ones with just two or three people so it's all a matter of what your prerogative is.
photo credit
And one more thing we wanted to do but decided against was renting bikes. Yes, our hotel had bikes to borrow but it was for just two hour periods. We thought it might be cool to rent a bike for the day and bike all around the island but it was just too hot, we knew we'd suffer heat exhaustion. However, if you're a super athlete that is no stranger to pulsating heat, then biking would definitely be a fun experience.

Two bike rental places:
  • Caicos Cyclery - $25/day or $22.50/day for 3 or more days or $140/week and prices include a bike chain, lock, basket, and helmet
  • Scooter Bob's - $15/day or $10/day for 5 days or more and prices include bike lock, chain, basket, and helmet

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Providenciales: Disposable Camera Photos

I got the disposable underwater camera photos developed from Costco. I didn't order any prints, I just asked for a CD of the photos, which is around $5. It was kind of exciting to finally get the photos processed, especially because I had no idea what to expect and whether or not the camera had worked. Thankfully, it had and the photos came out surprisingly clear and pretty. The colors were much truer than the photos I had taken with my iPhone (which came out v. green, but that was easily fixed with a photo editer).

So yes, I'd definitely recommend the Fujifilm Quicksnap Waterproof Camera.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Providenciales: My Map

I almost forgot to share this!

You can of course make your own customized google map. I do this for a lot of my trips - beforehand, I'll mark down must-see places and more importantly, must-eat places.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy 2 Year Anniversary To My Blog!

It's been two years of travel blogging for me, and of course I'm still motivated to travel but I'm actually kind of surprised that I've been motivated enough to post semi-regularly so hooray for me!

I have a few more Provo posts coming but in celebration of my two-year, here's a girly post on cupcake nails.

You'll need:
  • base coat & top coat (DUH)
  • base color - pick something neutral so that the cupcakes will stand out
  • a color for the cupcake bottoms and a second polish in the same color family for the wrapper lines - bubblegum-ish pink is a classic cupcake bottom color and a darker pink would be perfect for the wrapper lines
  • a color for the cupcake top - I like white because it makes the sprinkles pop
  • two or three colors for the sprinkles
  • red for the cherry
  • white for the highlight on the cherry
  • toothpicks for the tiny details
I made a little pictorial tutorial to demonstrate the process, since I only took finished nail photos.

These are my sister's hands. I chose to skip a few fingers and just put some glitter on them, left some plain, and put just a cherry on one finger. I used Essie's Oui Madame, which is a pearly white, for the base color. I think the pearly background looks great with the matte/opaque colors of the cupcake.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Providenciales: Chalk Sound

A must-see in Provo is Chalk Sound. The color of the water is unreal and you will freak out. Our car ride was full of, "Oh my god!"s and "WOWWW!!!"s. You have to go, because describing it doesn't do it justice and the photos can't tell the whole story.

I love this photo because both my sister and I leaned on the hot railing for the photo and had the same "OW!" reaction. It'll be a favorite of mine forever.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Providenciales: Grace Bay

Grace Bay is the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. The sand is so soft and the water is so blue. If you plan on visiting Provo, I highly recommend you stay in the Grace Bay area (and make some sand castles in the powdery white sand). Here are some photos; revel in its beauty.

Doesn't it look like we're in a swimming pool or something?

Friday, September 07, 2012

Providenciales: Snorkeling Smith Reef, East Side

There's a second parking area for Smith Reef. Instead of going left down Coconut Road, head right down Smiths Reef Rd. When you reach a dead end and a cul-de-sac-ish area, park anywhere you can, without blocking anyone's driveway.
click to enlarge

We thought the east side was much more fun than the west side. We decided to go to the part of the reef that was near the walking trail because we figured, if we find the walking trail, we'll know exactly where the reef is and we won't end up in an area that's all sea grass.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Providenciales: Snorkeling Smith Reef, West Side

Smith Reef is in the Turtle Cove area of Providenciales. It's one of National Geographic's top recommended snorkel spots in the world and for good reason. First of all, it's huge. Secondly, the water is crystal clear. And lastly, you might see sea turtles!

There are two potential parking areas when you drive over. One on the east side and one on the west. The first time we drove over, we saw that the eastward road was a dirt one and the westward one was paved so we decided to try the west side.

View Providenciales, Turks & Caicos in a larger map
(You'll notice that there's a LOT of sea grass surrounding the reef so you might have to do some recon before you find a good reef spot).

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