A Sintra Day Trip – Why You Have to Go

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a prince or princess living in a palace, then a Sintra day trip from Lisbon is a must!  Our day spent here brought all of Bettina’s princess dreams true. To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to prepare for a daytrip to Sintra, click here.

 

What is Sintra and Pena Palace

 

Sintra is a small city on the outskirts of Lisbon, only 30km (19 miles) away, and is surrounded by natural parks and the Sintra Mountains. There is a lot of history in this area of Portugal as Sintra was a playground for royalty, the rich, and the famous throughout much of history. This means that there is not only the Pena National Palace, which we visited, but also the National Palace of Sintra, the Castle of the Moors, and many others all located in and around Sintra. We drove through Sintra, stopping for a quick coffee, but decided to focus our time on Pena Palace.

 

A Sintra Day Trip View of Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip View of Castle of Moors

 

How to Get to Sintra

 

We already had a rental car as we were completing a short road trip through Portugal from Porto (you can read about our time in Porto here and Coimbra here). Our drive from Cascais to Sintra was about 20 minutes, and it is only 10 minutes more from Lisbon.  We appreciated having a car to get up through the hills to Pena Palace.  The road was steep and narrow, but there was lots of parking when we arrived.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Alternatively you can easily reach Sintra by train from Lisbon.  There are numerous bus and tuk tuk options to take you up the hill to Pena Palace, or you can hike! Of course plan a lot of extra time if you plan to hike through the hills.

 

Pena Palace

 

The main attraction! Pena Palace is perched at the top of a hill, and is considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal. This is a Romanticist castle, and we couldn’t agree more. It is one of the most romantic castles we've visited so far. Pena Palace has a number of different sections and design elements, reflecting the tastes of its prior owners through the ages.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Top from Chicwish / Skirt from Chicwish / Shoes from Mi.iM (Use beingbettina20 to get a 20% discount)

 


 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace
A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace

 

Explore Pena Palace

 

One of the great things about Pena Palace is that you are allowed to climb up a number of the bastions, parapet walls, and ramparts. As a result, this makes for great pictures! You will have to be patient and wait your turn in line though. Unfortunately not all tourists we encountered were so considerate!

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Definitely make sure to explore all around Pena Palace so that you get views of this truly impressive building from all angles.

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Inside Pena Palace

 

To truly live out your prince/princess dreams, be sure to take the time to walk through the interior of Pena Palace.  The inside of the palace is set up to serve as the summer residence of the royal family, and is full of period appropriate furniture, paintings, and other artwork.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Usually when exploring European palaces you only get to see the fancy sitting rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms of the royal elite. However Pena Palace also allows you to see the working kitchen of the palace, which is a unique perspective and makes you appreciate our modern appliances.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Inside Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

Best Views of Pena Palace

 

Once you’ve completed your tour of Pena Palace, take the time for the 20 minute walk through the peaceful surrounding gardens and forest up to the Cruz Alta monument.  With a little bit of flexibility you can climb up to the monument and will be rewarded with impressive views of Pena Palace from afar.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

A Sintra Day Trip - View of Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

This view was worth the walk! In addition, this monument had very few tourists, compared to Pena Palace, which was bursting with selfie-stick wielding crowds in the early afternoon.

 

How Long Does it Take for a Sintra Day Trip?

 

We spent a full afternoon exploring the Pena Palace as well as walking some of the pathways in the surrounding park. Arriving just before lunch, we had about a 5 minute wait to purchase tickets and enter the palace grounds, but otherwise could access everything within and around the palace as we liked.

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Pena Palace - The Next Trip

 

You could easily spend a week exploring the hills around Sintra and the many palaces as there are walking trails all throughout the region allowing you to explore as much or as little as you would like, however it also works perfectly as a day trip.

Check our top tips below to help plan your Pena Palace and Sintra Day Trip!

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Sintra Day Trip Tips

 

  1. Get there early! Like as soon as they open or even earlier. As the day goes on there will be more and more tour buses full of tourists arriving, so get arrive at the palace as early as you can to have the palace to yourself (more or less).
  2. Take some creative photos. Pena Palace is breathtaking from almost any angle, and with almost all of the walkways and areas of the palace open, you are free to get creative and take more than your standard tourist photos. This is your chance to make your princess fantasies come true!
  3. Bring your best walking shoes. Pena Palace is located at the top of the hill and requires at least a 10 minute walk up the steep cobblestone paths. Further, the surrounding park grounds are full of pathways to explore.
  4. Pack some water.  While there is a cafe in the palace, you’re going to want to pack some water if you are exploring on a hot day as there are no other stores near the palace.
  5. Go for a hike. Take the extra time to walk to the Cruz Alta monument to get the perfect photos of Pena Palace from a distance – no drone required! In addition, if you have the time as part of your Sintra day trip, you can also walk and hike all over the Sintra Mountains for other unique views of Pena Palace and the beautiful Portugal Riviera.

 

Have you been to Pena Palace? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

 

Pin this blog post to your Portugal and Sintra Pinterest boards to save all your ideas and don't miss out when you're there!

 

A Sintra Day Trip - Why You Have to Go - The Next Trip

 

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How to Spend A Day in Coimbra, Portugal

To be honest, we hadn’t even heard of Coimbra prior to researching destinations for our Portuguese road trip, which is probably why it was the most surprising destination of our trip.  We had no expectations and absolutely loved the 24 hours we spent here and can’t recommend it enough! To skip ahead to our top 5 tips on how to spend a day in Coimbra, click here.

 

A Day in Coimbra: Getting There and Around

 

We arrived in Coimbra after a weekend in Porto (read about it here) during rush hour, and since we didn’t know much about the city, we were just following the directions of our GPS to get to the hotel. However, the closer we got, the steeper and narrower the streets became.

 

Narrow Streets in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Tight narrow roads do not phase us after all of our European road trips, but these were some of the tightest and steepest we had ever driven on within a city. Even though our rental car was relatively small, we ended up taking a different route to our hotel as we were not confident that we could make a turn without scratching the car.

 

A Day in Coimbra: Where to Stay

 

We spent our one night in Coimbra at the Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra which has very luxuriously designed hotel rooms.

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

Our room was on the first floor but because the hotel is on a hill, we had an amazing view of the city. The room was small but very unique and they even included free of charge champagne and cake in the evenings as well as breakfast in bed in the mornings.

 

Hotel Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

We didn’t spend much time in the hotel though as we hit the streets as fast as we could due to the rapidly setting sun.

 

How to Spend A Day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

A Day in Coimbra: What to See

 

Coimbra is a very old city, dating back to the Roman era and is anchored by the University of Coimbra, established in 1290, and perched on top of the hill. The university buildings include the jaw-dropping Pátio das Escolas. This historic square alone is worth the visit to Coimbra as there just isn’t a bad angle to take a picture.

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 


 

 

It was particularly beautiful at dusk and includes a view of the surrounding valley.

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

The next morning we headed back to the University of Coimbra area to see the Biblioteca Joanina, a famous historic library.  The next visiting time was in one hour, so we spent the time taking more pictures in Pátio das Escolas square and checking out the nearby chapel and palace.

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

My dress is sadly already sold out but I linked some of my favorite turquoise and teal dresses below.


 

 

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

University Square, Paço das Escolas, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

The palace tour had an outdoor terrace, which provided great views over the city.

View from the Palace, University Square, Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

View from the Palace, University Square, Coimbra | The Next Trip

 

We eventually made it into the library, the Biblioteca Joanina, and it was definitely worth the wait! This is one of the most impressive libraries that we have ever been to, and a definite must-see if you are in Coimbra. You’re not allowed to take photos inside, so check out their website to get an idea of what it looks like inside here.

 

Biblioteca Joanina, Coimbra Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Heading back down the hill, we explored the streets of the old town more and fell even further for this quaint city.

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Because we only had one day in Coimbra, we did not have enough time to see the aqueduct, botanical gardens, and waterfront. From the quick views we saw from afar, they definitely are worth a visit as well!

 

A Day in Coimbra: Where to Eat

 

While in Portugal, we were on a mission to try natas in each city. Pastel de nata’s are custard filled tarts, and worth eating at any time of day.  A few locals recommended we stop by this café for a coffee and some natas. The natas were some of the best we had tried with incredibly flaky pastry and were only surpassed by the slightly more lemony natas we had at the Largo da Portagem square.

We both truly believe that calories don’t count when you are traveling!

What to eat in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

For dinner, we can highly recommend Zé Manel dos Ossos. This restaurant was recommended to us by some locals we had met the day before, and they advised arriving half an hour before the restaurant even opened at 7:30pm! We arrived on time, and were second in line, with a few other groups arriving only a few minutes later. This restaurant is considered one of the best in Coimbra for traditional Portuguese food. As there are only seven tables inside you’ve got to be early, or prepared to wait.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

The time went by quickly, and soon enough we were inside the eclectically designed restaurant.  The owner is super friendly and since we didn’t know what to order (nor could we read the menu) he chose for us. We ended up sharing a starter of mushrooms and pork, which had such a rich flavour and were absolutely delicious.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Next up was the main course, seared pork with rice and beans.

 

Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra, Portgual | The Next Trip

 

Portuguese food is hearty and filling, and this was the best we had on our trip to Portugal. The pitcher of wine helped wash it all down. And there is nothing like a digestive evening stroll around the city after a heavy meal.

 

How to spend a day in Coimbra, Portugal | The Next Trip

 

Can't get enough of Portugal either? Check out our blog post on Porto here or get planning your own trip with our free top 10 tips on how to save money on traveling!

 

The Next Trip Top 5 Tips on How to Spend a Day in Coimbra

 

  1. Pick a hotel in the historic old town. There are numerous small hotels in the historic old town that are reasonably priced. The location will allow you to easily reach all sights by foot, and will be close enough to rest your feet in the middle of the day if you need it. We stayed at the Solar Antigo Luxury Coimbra and can highly recommend it!
  2. The first stop when you arrive should be to get tickets to see the Joanina Library. They only allow 60 people at a time into the library, and so times are reserved. Get your tickets early so that you don’t miss out! There are so many beautiful photo opportunities all around the University of Coimbra and the square, that even if you have to wait a bit, it is no problem.
  3. Bring your best walking shoes, i.e. comfortable and preferably closed flats. While flip flops might be comfortable, they will hurt your feet after walking up and down these steep cobble stone streets for hours. Walking is absolutely the best/only way to explore Coimbra. This seems to be a common tip in Portugal!
  4. Try the natas – all of them!  We indulged in natas almost every day of our trip in Portugal.  The best ones that we had on our whole trip were in Coimbra. We can highly recommend these two cafes, here and here. We also had The World Needs Nata recommended to us, but it was closed when we were visiting.
  5. Eat at Zé Manel dos Ossos. This is not your typical restaurant and already seems to be gaining a lot of popularity through word of mouth only. Be prepared for a hearty meal of traditional Portuguese food and entertainment written all over the walls. If you decide to stop by, make sure you get there a 10-15 minutes before they open for dinner. The place has only a few tables and often lines up out the door.

 

Have you been to Portugal? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

 

Pin this blog post to your Portugal Pinterest board to save all your ideas and don't miss out when you're there!

 

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting the brands that support us.

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A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go

A few months ago we stumbled across an article from late 2017, saying how the Northern Lights were going to be decreasing for almost the next decade! While we did catch a brief glimpse in Lapland (northern Finland) when we first met almost nine years ago, we didn’t get to see the full sky filled with a beautiful display of aurora. This would be our last chance, so to speak, to try to catch the Northern Lights for the next few years.

Click here if you want to skip to our 5 Top Iceland  Travel Tips. If you'd like to watch our Iceland experience on video, check out Bettina's Instagram stories here.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

How We Got To Iceland

 

Soon after we read that article, WOW Air came out with a great fare sale from Chicago to Iceland, which allowed us to pick up round trip tickets for the two of us for only $220 each. You can’t beat this kind of price for a direct flight to Iceland! We left Chicago late on a cold Friday in January and flew overnight. The beauty of over-night flying is that you don't need to get a hotel and you have the entire arrival day to explore. Check out this blog post for tips on how to get over jet lag.

 

Weekend In Iceland Itinerary and Story

We left Chicago on a cold Friday in January and were actually heading to warmer temperatures up in Iceland, the land of ice and fire! Arriving around 5:30am, our first stop was Joe and the Juice, a great coffee shop in the airport, and then to Avis to pick up our rental car.  We then had a 3 hour drive in front of us, to our destination: Vík.

We passed by top sights such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss but unfortunately, at this time in the day, it was still pitch dark and we couldn’t see them. It wasn’t until we closed in on Vík closer to 10:00am that the sky started to brighten. We were lucky to have done a complete Iceland road trip back in 2015 and have seen most of the main sights already. We were thus able to focus on one of our favourite areas of Iceland: the South-East coast.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

When we were in Vík in 2015, it was late August and lush, green, and almost warm. Things were slightly different today, with temperatures hovering around 0C (32F) combined with wind and snow. That did not stop us from getting out and capturing some amazing photos at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

Chicwish gifted Bettina this gorgeous dress. It also comes in black and white. It's the perfect dress for a wedding guest!


 

The combination of wind and snow meant we ran back to the car quickly to warm up. The clouds had also moved in, and it began to rain, putting a bit of a damper on our moods. However, one thing to know about Iceland is that the weather changes quickly, is unpredictable, so you just have to expect the unexpected!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We began our drive back towards our hotel in the direction of Reykjavík and did take the time to stop at the Dyrhólaey lighthouse and both Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss for more pictures despite the continuing rain.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

The sheer power of the waterfalls is absolutely amazing every time you see it.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

During the winter months, Iceland does not get a lot of daylight. With 5 hours of daylight, the sun was already setting as we were heading towards our hotel.

 

 
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Since we really only had one night in Iceland, this was now our chance to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the aurora forecast was not great. It was also a cloudy night, so our chances were slim at best. It was however supposed to be clear skies in the early morning, so we decided to get up at 6:00am and see what we could see. We drove a few minutes out of town to get away from the surrounding lights and stared out at the pitch black sky.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After fiddling with the camera a bit in the bitter cold, we were able to capture some reflections of the Northern Lights off in the distance. Not quite the epic full sky pictures you see in the travel brochures, but we were happy to have seen something – our trip had not been in vain!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After heading back to the hotel to freshen up and have breakfast we were off again, but this time under blue skies and shining sun, exceptionally rare for this time of year, made all the better by the light dusting of snow from the night before.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We drove south towards the ocean and stopped for pictures at Strandakirkja. The views here were absolutely incredible and made us so thankful for our decision to actually do this weekend trip.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Continuing through the Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve, we came across even more awe-inspiring views.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We were a bit pressed for time at this point to head back to the airport and catch our flight. After a brief stop at the local Costco for a cheap snack and fuel – off we went back to the airport!

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 


Despite having only about 30 hours on the ground in Iceland, we had experienced so much in such a short amount of time that it felt like we had been gone for days. If you have the chance to spend a weekend or longer in Iceland, we highly recommend – it is one of our favourite places!

 

 

Top 5 Iceland Travel Tips

 

1) Expect the unexpected when it comes to weather.

You could easily experience weather from all four seasons, so be prepared and take it in stride! Make sure you bring warm and water-proof clothing. We wore Sorel boots and Fjallraven jackets to keep us warm.

2) Find meals at the local Bónus or Krónan grocery store.

Eating out is really expensive. We’re talking $20 to $25 for a basic entrée excluding drinks, starters, or dessert. However, you can find a good selection of food for somewhat reasonable prices at the grocery store. If you can, bring some snacks with you. Trail mix and protein bars travel really well.

3) Rent a car no matter how long your trip.

Iceland is all about getting out and seeing nature, and there’s no better freedom than having your own car to explore. We rented a car with Avis and everything went smoothly.

4) Bring your Costco card!

The store is relatively new in Iceland and you will save big time on fuel, groceries, and snacks from their restaurant! We got gas at Costco right before returning our rental car, and even snuck in the Icelandic version of the famous Costco hot dog.

5) You don’t actually need cash.

As long as you have a chip and pin credit card, you won’t need to exchange for any Icelandic Krona. We used our cards everywhere without problem and saved the time and hassle of exchanging currency.

 

5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Would you visit Iceland just for the weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

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Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights

So you want to go on a vacation? But you might not have a lot of vacation time or a huge budget? No worries, we have you covered! Other than people asking where our next trip is to, the second most asked question is where and how we book all of our flights to travel everywhere we do. These are our top tips for booking cheap flights! Learn how we travel as much as we do while both having full-time jobs and a busy schedule!

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

#1: Sit Down With a Calendar

 

Not the first tip you were expecting? It may seem unusual, but this is one of the most important!

Most people start off by hearing about or seeing pictures of a particular destination and all of a sudden that’s where they just have to go on their next vacation. In this situation, you will likely struggle to find cheap flights. If you have a set location and set date in mind and no flexibility, you're are at the mercy of the flight deal gods.

While you can certainly get a good deal by booking a vacation with a set destination and date in mind or booking last-minute deals, your chances of finding cheap flights are higher a couple of months in advance. Take the time at the beginning of the year/quarter and sit down with a calendar. Map out the weekends you would like to travel and pick weekends where you want to stay in town. Also think about your already known travel plans such as seeing family for the holidays, weddings you're invited to, etc. The end result is a set number of dates when you know you would like to get away so that when a flight deal comes along there is no wondering of when to go. You will already have a few dates in mind (and discussed with your significant other) and can get straight to the booking process.

 

#2: Sit Down With a Map

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Okay, so now you have a few weekends and perhaps a week or two when you are planning to travel. But where in the world should you go!? You might have a bucket list, a list of 'saved' places on your social media accounts, or a few places your friends visited that you'd love to go to as well. If you're looking for more inspiration, you can peruse our Pinterest travel boards which include our collection of travel inspiration around the world. Make sure you discuss your favourite destinations with your significant other/family/friends so that when a flight deal comes along, you don't have any convincing to do!

For example, our goal while living in Chicago has been to see all 50 states – that means in 2019, our travel list includes the final states we have left (read about some of our 2019 travel goals in this post here).

So now that you have a list of where you want to go and when you are able to go there – bring on the flight deals!

 

#3 Set Flight Alerts

 

With a list of potential dates and destinations, you can now use the power of Google Flights to set flight alerts for your most-wanted trips. Setting up a flight alert is super easy and only takes a few minutes. This is how you set up a Google Flights alert to find cheap flights:

  1. Create a search with your trip date and location on Google Flights.
  2. Select the 'Track Prices' option below and enter your email.
  3. Wait for an email from Google Flights notifying you when the flights drop or increase in price.

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

This is what a flight tracking email could look like:

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

You can even use multiple origin and destination airports in your Google Flights search. For example, if you wanted to go to Hawaii or the Caribbean but didn’t care which island, you could choose multiple islands in one search.  Or you can search for an entire region such as 'Europe' and Google Flights will provide you with prices for each city.

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Once you set your flight tracker, you will get notified when prices drop and you can immediately book your cheap flights. Google Flights also includes 'Tips' based on your search and will let you know if the current price is high or low relative to historical prices.

We always set flight alerts far in advance for our inflexible trips, such as heading home to families over the holidays to make sure we find cheap flights.

 

 
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#4 Sign Up for Flight Deals

 

In addition to tracking flight prices on Google Flights, there are incredible flight deals almost every day which let you fly around the world for way less than you think. The only problem is that you likely only hear about the deal once the cheap flights are gone!  Luckily for you and us, there are people who make it their mission to inform us of the latest and best flight deals. We highly recommend following @TheFlightDeal on Twitter so that you get an instant notification when a flight deal is posted. We also highly recommend signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights who will send you an email with your personalized flight deal. You select the region you live in for where you want the flight deals to originate from and then sit back and keep an eye on your inbox for the next great cheap flight to come along!

 

#5 Book the Cheap Flight!

 

So you finally get this email or Twitter alert with an incredible flight deal for one of the destinations you were hoping to go to! Now what?

A good flight deal typically only lasts for about an hour up to a day or two, so you’ve got to move very quickly! Give your significant other/family/friends/travel partner a quick call to confirm the trip and if you have time, take a look at visa requirements and approximate hotel prices to get an idea of the overall cost of the trip.

Once everything is ready to go, head to Google Flights and pull up the flight you received the alert for. For instance, if you got an alert for flights between Chicago and Newark in March, type in Chicago and Newark as your origin and destination in Google Flights, together with your travel dates. The flight options will show up and your flight deal should be part of these options. Clicking on the link in Google Flights will take you directly to the airline's website where you can book the flight.

 

Ready For Take-Off!

 

Five Step Guide to Booking Cheap Flights - The Next Trip

 

Before you hit that purchase button, be sure to check the carry-on and checked luggage restrictions and fees as those can both make or break your flight experience.

Now all you have to do is get ready for take-off!

There is a great sense of ‘winning’ or beating the system when you manage to snag an awesome flight deal! And also, don’t worry if you miss out on a deal as there will always be another one.

If you want to learn more on the tips and tricks we use to save money on flights and hotels for our travels, sign up to our mailing list below to receive our free Top 10 Money-Saving Travel Tips!

 

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Visions of Zanzibar

Just hearing about Zanzibar evokes visions of an exotic bustling city with winding streets packed with houses, spice markets, bazaars, and mosques with a fusion of cultures and people. We were quite unprepared for Zanzibar, having done virtually zero research. We arrived with no cash and no idea how to get to our hotel! The official taxi cab stand had reasonable rates to Stone Town, the main city on Zanzibar, and so once we had exchanged more USD for a couple hundred thousand Tanzanian Shillings (we felt super rich with all those 000’s!) we were on our way.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

The Tembo House Hotel is one of the few hotels in Stone Town that offers beach access but also is right in the heart of the city. Wasting no time once we arrived, we were off to explore the city!

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Stone Town is an important historical and artistic city for Eastern Africa due to its diverse mixture of influencing cultures from Arab, Persian, Indian, European, and local Swahili. But don’t just take our word for it. This has led the city to reach UNESCO World Heritage status for it’s ‘outstanding material manifestation of cultural fusion and harmonization.’

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - St. Joseph Cathedral

 

Visions of Zanzibar - St. Joseph Cathedral

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

The majestic House of Wonders, a former palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bait As-Sahel, another former palace, and the Old Fort, built by the Omani Arabs over 300 years ago when they expelled the Portuguese, stand proudly facing the harbor, though are many decades past their prime, which adds to the unique appeal of the city.

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

After meandering our way through some of the narrow streets we found ourselves back at our hotel, where we cooled off enjoying the luxury of air conditioning compared to our safari tent (read about our safari experience here and here)!

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Feeling luxurious, we walked next door to the beautiful Park Hyatt Zanzibar for drinks and dinner, with another incredible sunset view.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset at Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset at Park Hyatt Zanzibar

 

The beach seemed to come to life at sundown and was full with fishermand and tourist boats coming back to shore (and taking the boat motor with them), as well as kids playing and swimming.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Sunset

 

For our next day we had visions of taking a boat to nearby Prison Island, or complete a spice tour at one of the many spice farms on the island, however, the weather had other stories.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

A couple of thunderstorms came rolling through Stone Town during the first half of the day so we instead decided to relax in our hotel room and around the pool – with our trip so far being pretty jam-packed (you can read about our safari here and here) this was our day to sit back and relax, especially through the heat of the afternoon sun.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Tembo Hotel

 

We still managed to spend a few hours wandering around the hotel and the beach right out front once the storms had passed.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

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Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 


 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

Visions of Zanzibar

 

In the early evening we ventured back out to explore the streets, finding the Darajani Market which was chaotic...

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

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Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Streets of Stone Town

 

... and full of some the best smells (think local cinnamon, cardamom, and currys) ...

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

... and worst smells (think of raw fish, raw meat, and rotting vegetables) all combined into one bombardment of the senses.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Market in Stone Town

 

We spent dinner at Lukmann Restaurant, which we can highly recommend. They have a massive selection of local fare for a reasonable price, and the place was full of both tourists and locals alike, eating like it was their last meal.

 

Visions of Zanzibar - Stone Town at Night

 

Haggling or bartering is not exactly our speciality, but we were getting better throughout the trip. Talking to a Danish couple at our hotel that used to live on Zanzibar, we soon realized we had been duped at the airport two days before! The ‘Official Taxi Prices’ listed, 30,000 Shilling, there were about double what the going rate should be if you can barter appropriately. We are ashamed to admit our mistake and naivety at paying the listed price. We learned our lesson though and drove a hard bargain with a talkative taxi driver, getting him down to half of what we paid from the airport.

Tip: A cab ride from downtown Stone Town to the airport is about 10,000 - 15,000 Shilling. If you arrive in Zanzibar and are being quoted 30,000 Shilling to get to downtown, mention that you got it for 10,000 Shilling last time (or your friend got that price) and the drivers will likely meet you at 15,000 Shilling. 

 

Visions of Zanzibar - View from Tembo Hotel

 

We absolutely loved Stone Town.  There is a very unique blend of Arab, Moorish, English, and African architecture with grand buildings and décor all in various states of disrepair.  The streets are tiny, and crisscross the city in no discernable pattern, but Stone Town is small enough that you can walk until you are lost but can’t really get more than 20 minutes off course. The people are friendly and talkative, and the streets are full of energy.  We can highly recommend spending a few days in Stone Town, and will definitely be doing so again when we return to explore the rest of the island of Zanzibar. Have you been to Zanzibar? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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2018: A Year in Review

Ah 2018. Another year of travel in the books with a number of firsts along the way. Looking back at the very beginning of 2018, we had no idea the experiences we would have and the new places we would visit. No doubt the year went by fast, however if you take the time to sit back and reflect on what you have accomplished and experienced, it makes the year seem more meaningful and richer than just living day to day. Without further ado, here was our 2018:

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

As an avid avgeek, I use OpenFlights to track all of our flights, which comes in handy when you need to look back at where you’ve been. 2018 was our most travelled yet, as we travelled to new countries, new continents, and marched futher towards our goal of visiting all 50 US states. Both working in finance, we love some great statistics, so here we go:

Miles flown: 124, 261 over 88 separate flights (full disclosure, this does include about 25,000 miles flown for work)

Time flying: 12 days, 4 hours, and 9 minutes

Longest flight: 6,529 mile San Francisco to Auckland, NZ

Shortest flight: 24 miles Stiegler’s Gorge Airstrip to Mtemere Airstrip in Tanzania

Countries visited: 12

New countries visited: 2

US states visited: 27 (+5 Canadian provinces!)

New US states visited: 10 (+4 Canadian provinces!)

 

Kyle’s Favourite Trip

 

For a number of years I had been dreaming of doing a camping trip through the San Juan mountains of Colorado, and completing the famous Alpine Loop, which you can read about here and here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

This past August we made the long trek from Chicago out to Colorado and were able to complete that dream. The high alpine views were spectacular and better than I had imagined.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We also experienced the Great Sand Dunes, which you can read about our scary first night tenting here and Denver (read about our day in Denver here) on that trip and had an absolute blast!

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Bettina’s Favourite Trip

 

Although we were only in Cancun for less than 48 hours, it was the most relaxing trip all year (get my full review here).

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Having heard other people rave about Mexico and the temperature in Chicago still freezing cold in April, I couldn’t wait to spend some time at the beach and enjoy the sun.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Staying at the Westin Resort & Spa, Cancun, the trip was everything you could imagine – pristine beaches, warm water, a beautiful pool area, and more guacamole and chips that I could eat.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

Should winter be just as long as last year, we might escape to Mexico for a weekend again!

 

Other Highlights

 

Tanzania

One of our most recent, and most exotic, trips was to Tanzania which was also amazing. Going on safari was a definite highlight and better than we could have imagined! We thought we’d be lucky to see one giraffe far in the distance running away, but instead, we saw hundreds far and wide. You can read about our safari here and here and our exploration of Dar es Salaam here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

New Zealand

Of course, how could we forget our first trip venturing into the Southern Hemisphere! Heading down to New Zealand (for only four days no less), was a trip we will not forget about anytime soon, and is a place that we have pegged to visit again in the near future.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We had a great time exploring the beautiful countryside, which you can read about here, as well as Auckland (read about here), and everything in between (Geothermal Wonderland and Lake Taupo).

 

Eastern Canada Roadtrip

Lastly, we spent the fourth of July on a great American road trip – to Canada – and explored the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

The weather was great, the people were friendly, and we covered a lot of ground, however we are most proud to have eaten seafood and ice cream on each day of the trip! You can read about our trip here, including Prince Edward Island, historic Peggys’ Cove and Lunenburg Nova Scotia, and the impressive Bay of Fundy here.

 

2018: A Year in Review

 

We also thoroughly enjoyed a weekend in Paris, a few days in Bruges, a family get together in Venice and the Dolomites, visiting Montreal, exploring Charleston, and eating our way through New Orleans!

 

The Next Trip in 2019

 

We’re not wasting any time in 2019, starting the year off in Switzerland our first flight will be heading back to Chicago on January 2nd. Shortly after, we will be heading back to Iceland for a weekend in January hoping to catch some Northern Lights. Looking further into the future we hope to round out all 50 US states, so that means trips to hotspots like Hawaii, Alaska, and North Dakota (?), as well as Tennessee, North Carolina, Utah, and New Mexico. We will likely also have a small handful of trips to Europe and hopefully somewhere else warm and sunny! Stay tuned for more adventures on The Next Trip in 2019 and thank you for being here!

 


 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

If you've been following along on our trip to Tanzania, you might recall that we spent our first day in Dar es Salaam (you can check out our city tour here) and the second day on a river safari at the Selous Game Reserve (you can read about our adventure here). With two additional days for safari, we decided to do an early morning game drive the day after we arrived and a full day game drive on the third day.

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

 

Early-Morning Safari Game Drive

 

Doing an early-morning game drive on the second day of our African safari was definitely a struggle as we were still jetlagged. However, it was immediately worth it when no more than five minutes into the drive we came across two giraffes chowing down on a tree near the road! Our safari guide patiently stopped and let us take some imperfect pictures due to the angle and distance. Little did we know, there would be hundreds more giraffes to come.

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The best place to look for animals in the wilderness is, of course, close to food or water sources. In talking to our guide, the Selous Game Reserve near the Rufiji River Camp contains about seven or so watering holes for the animals, which can make it slightly more difficult to find them, given that water is so plentiful. This is not the typical dry, desolate savannah that you might have expected from an African safari, but rather the geography is rolling hills with trees and bushes all over.

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

View from the Safari Car - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Each turn around the next corner brought new excitement as we discovered new animals and views along the way. Forewarning – this is a picture heavy post!

 

Water Buffalo on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Marabou Storks - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Warthog Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Zebra on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Warthog Family on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Halfway through we stopped to enjoy a bush breakfast, complete with hot coffee, delicious fresh fruit, and homemade pastries. This gave us a chance to stretch our legs and walk around.

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

However, you couldn’t wander too far or too close to the water, in case a crocodile had his eyes on you for breakfast.

 

Crocodile on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Just after breakfast we caught a hippo running out of the water – it may not be slim, but can sure run fast. Seeing a hippo out of water during the day is relatively rare as hippos tend to stay in the water all day to protect their skin from the sun and heat. For pictures of hippos in water, check out this post.

 

Hippo on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Further along that day we came across more giraffes, birds, and impalas than we could count.

 

Tower of Giraffes on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Blue Bird on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Blue Bird on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The impalas give birth to their young each year in November, so there were hundreds of little calves running around.

 

Herd of Impalas on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Baby Impala on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Last but not least, we came across three lions lounging in the sun. We drove right up to them, within 10-15 feet and turned the motor off of our open top, open door safari vehicle. (The third lion was hiding in the bush.)

 

Pride of Lions - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

The lions couldn’t have cared less that we were there, and just kept on sleeping in the shade, trying to stay cool and away from the hot African sun.  We stayed here quite a while, and saw them stretch, yawn, and lay around, just like a slightly-oversized housecat.

 

Pride of Lions - African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Male Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Male Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Before we knew it we were heading back to the lodge, extremely pleased with all of the animals we had seen that morning.

 

Full-Day Safari Game Drive

 

The next day was our full-day game drive, and we were on the road for almost 7 hours. We saw a lot of the same animals as the day before, but also now spotted an elephant in the wild (and not next to our tent, which you can read about here), ...

 

Lonely Elephant on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...a small herd of wildebeest,...

 

Herd of Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Herd of Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...a large heard of zebras,...

 

Zebras on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Herd of Zebras on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

...and a small family of lions and their cubs.

 

Family of Lions on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Lion Cubs on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Bettina really wanted to cuddle with the lion cubs, but it was not advised by our safari guide.

 

Lion Mom and Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Lion Cub on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Everyone has heard of the big five game animals – consisting of the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo, of which we saw three on this trip – but did you know that there is also an ugly five? The less glamorous grouping of animals consists of the warthog, hyena, marabou stork, vulture, and the wildebeest.

 

Warthog on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Hyenas in Water on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Two Hyenas in Water on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

We were fortunate to catch all five of these animals on our day-long safari drive.

 

Marabou Stork on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Vulture eating on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Wildebeest on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

And here we have another beautiful animal, affectionally known as the toilet-seat, which you can see from the rings around it’s behind.

 

Male Water Buck on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Female Water Buck with Baby on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Baby Water Buck on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Despite the cute lion cubs and the toilet seat babies, Bettina's favourite animal on the safari was by far the giraffe.

 

Young Male Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Mostly due to their elegance and perfect posting.

 

Giraffe Mom and Baby on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Giraffe on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

But also because they made her laugh with their indecisiveness when it comes to directions!

 

Tower of Giraffes on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

Our first African safari turned out better than we could have imagined, with our excellent accommodation, sunny weather, and of course all of the animals that we saw.

 

Scenery on African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

If you’d like to book your own African safari in Tanzania, we have partnered with Takims Holidays, who booked our safari, and are offering you a 20% discount (use the code thenexttrip20 with your inquiry). Have you been on a safari before?

 

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African Safari Drive in the Selous Game Reserve

 

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The Start of our First African Safari

Having spent a day in Dar es Salaam, it was finally time to start our first African safari!

 

Getting to Selous Game Reserve

 

We awoke early to head to the airport, though this time we were headed to the smaller, domestic terminal. We had heard that the terminal was small, but we weren’t quite ready for how small. There was a single waiting area of a few benches, a couple passengers sitting around, and an open door out onto the tarmac. Five minutes before our flight was due to take off someone appeared at the door and called for boarding – and off we went with Auricair.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

Only a few minutes later all 12 passengers were seated and we were taking off towards the Selous Game Reserve. Named after famous British explorer, hunter, and conservationist Frederik Selous, the reserve covers 50,000 square km (19,000 sq miles) and has been protected for over 120 years. Wildlife populations are high, however less dense than some of the more popular parks in Northern Tanzania (the Selous reserve is almost 4 times larger than the Serengeti).

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Flying Auricair

 

We dropped off one group of German tourists at Stiegler’s Gorge at another African safari camp, and then it was just Bettina and I for our private 15 minute flight onto the next airstrip. We flew low over the Rufiji River and even spotted our safari camp from the air! The "airport" closest to the Rufiji River camp was everything we had imagined it would be - rustic and outdoorsy. 🙂

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Selous Game Reserve Airstrip

 

Booking and Accommodation

 

Our dedicated time for our African safari adventure was only 3-4 days. Not knowing where to go with our time and budget constraints, we decided to book with Takims Holidays. Our travel agent Abbas suggested we explore the Selous Game Reserve due to a high possibility of wildlife sighting. He booked our stay at the Rufiji River Camp where we had a private tent nestled in the trees with a view over the river.

If you are thinking about going on your own African safari and don't know where to start, we can highly recommend Takims Holidays. Everything was well taken care of and Abbas made sure we would get the best experience possible given our constraints. Get 20% off your safari with Takims Holidays by using our exclusive discount code: thenexttrip20. 

 

The main area of the camp had a large open dining area, firepit, pool, and a number of places to kickback and relax. Upon arrival, we were escorted to our tent due to known elephants in the area.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

Shop Bettina's Safari Look

 


 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The tent is definitely towards the glamping end of the spectrum given it had a wooden door, two king-size beds, and a full bathroom.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Rufiji River Camp

 

We were told right at arrival that the cute baboons love to stroll through the guests' camps if you don't keep the door closed and they will make quite a mess looking for food. Sure enough, baboons were walking around our tent at all daytimes, hoping we would leave something for them.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Baboon

 

No sooner than ten minutes after, we heard some rustling in the bushes along the path and this guy appeared.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Elephant at Rufiji River Camp

 

This elephant was munching on a tree on the very path we walked to get to our tent only ten minutes earlier!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Elephant at Rufiji River Camp

 

African River Safari

 

One of the thing’s we didn’t realize about safaris until we got here, was that you could choose your activities each day, so whether you were staying for three days or ten, each night you chose your activity for the next day, which could be a walking tour, river safari, various safari drives, or a trip to the local village. We thought it best to start with an easy river safari.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - River Safari

 

Before we even made it to the boat we could hear a bunch of grunting, splashing, and animal noises coming from the river. These were the hippos, and they are a noisy bunch!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

Heading out on the water the hippos live in pods of usually a dozen or more, and all had their heads above water in the distance. As we got closer in the boat they would slowly, one by one, drop under the water until we were nearby and they were all gone! It made photography a bit of a challenge, however since they can only hold their breath for about 5 minutes, they frequently resurfaced.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo

 

Further down the river we spotted our first crocodile! Crocodiles often choose to live near hippos as their droppings attract certain fish crocodiles like to eat. However, hippos and crocodiles definitely do not get along. We witnessed one crocodile getting slightly too close to a hippo near the end of our boat ride.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Crocodile

 

While harder to photograph, everywhere we turned we saw new types of birds that we’ve never seen before.

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

The Start of our First African Safari

 

Further down the river, we were near the border of the Selous Game Reserve, where villagers commute back and forth on the Rufiji River in dugout canoes.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

The Start of our First African Safari - People in Selous Game Reserve

 

As we were nearing our camp, there was a bunch of splashing and grunting coming from a nearby pod of hippos. We spotted a crocodile that was getting a little bit too close. See for yourself who won this fight!

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Hippo Fighting a Crocodile

 

As this was a slower time of the year, all of our activities were either just the two of us, or with one or two other travelers. No complaints here on our private African safari by boat!

The evening was finished off with a fantastic dinner and African sunset.

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

The Start of our First African Safari - Sunset at Rufiji River Camp

 

We were just getting started, as we heading out on the early game drive the next morning! Is doing an African safari on your bucket list?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 


 

A One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Travelling to a new country for the first time is always exciting, but it is even more exciting when the trip is to a whole new continent (if you look at our travel map, Africa is looking quite empty)! We took the long way to Tanzania (intentionally), including a 23 hour and 50 minute layover in Switzerland, which allowed us to visit Bettina’s family and spend the night in a real bed. This meant that we arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, late at night about two days after we left Chicago.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We had one day in our itinerary to explore Dar es Salaam and were very fortunate to have a local tour guide, Rumina, show us around. We started at one of the smaller local markets which was full of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, and an assortment of other household goods.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We were less than 20 minutes into our day and Bettina had already purchased a new handbag! According to Rumina, this would be one of the best places to pick one up on the cheap.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

The heat and humidity (about 33C/92F and 85% humidity) was quickly getting to us – so why not freshen up with a little bit of coconut water?

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Dar Es Salaam has an estimated population of over 5 million. With a fairly small city center it certainly does not seem to be that large.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We enjoyed getting a sense of the city on our driving tour, along with a stop along the coast at Coco Beach to pick up some freshly fried cassava chips.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

When we stopped the car here we were immediately bombarded by everyone hawking whatever food they had to sell. While everyone was friendly, it can be a bit overwhelming when you have 10 or more people all following you around trying to sell you something! The fact that we very much looked like tourists didn't help.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

If you’re interested in getting some great African artwork, there is a market near the Slipway which has a huge selection of locally made goods, where we picked up a few more souvenirs!

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

And when you are tired of shopping, right next door is a couple of great oceanside restaurants for food and drinks with amazing views.

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Her purse is from Aldo and is currently on sale!

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

During our short trip to Dar es Salaam, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro. (We managed to pay for our stay entirely with Hyatt points which we had collected on previous trips.) The hotel itself is beautiful and everyone made us feel very welcome.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We loved our room and the city views that came with it.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

After our city tour, we went back to our hotel to cool down in the air conditioning and freshen up before dinner, but not before stopping off at the rooftop bar of our hotel.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

With a great view over the harbour, this is one of the many great spots to catch a sunset in Dar.

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Hyatt Regency Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Shop Bettina's Evening Look

 

Another great place to catch a sunset is the Cape Town Fish Market, a restaurant and bar right on the water. The perks of being there on a Sunday night included great live music, including local Tanzanian songs and other popular Western music sung with a very questionable accent, causing us to wonder which language they were actually singing in!

 

Cape Town Fish Market, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

We finished the night off with some great food – we have no idea what was ordered, but it was all delicious!

For only having one day to spend in Dar es Salaam, we feel like we got a pretty good feel for the city, but also can’t wait to return to spend a few more days. For anyone who has safety concerns, as long as you apply typical common sense considerations as you would in any large city in the world, you will have a great time exploring this wonderful city. We were surprised at how incredibly friendly everyone was and how delicious the food was!

 

One Day Taste of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

Have you been to Dar es Salaam?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!

 

 


 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

Denver is surprisingly close to the Rocky Mountains, which means you’re never short of mountain views while in the city. We only had one day in Denver at the tail end of our Colorado adventure (which you can read about here,  here, and with amazing sand dunes here) before our two days of driving back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

Since we only had one day we wanted to get a bit of an early start, and probably started our self-made walking tour of downtown around 10:00am. Let’s just say that we were definitely not impressed the first few hours in the city. There seemed to be camps of people (quite literally camps, with tents, chairs and everything) around every second corner with many of them giving an all new meaning to the ‘mile high city.’ It overall gave us a bit of an uneasy feeling while walking around. We did, however, find time for a few quick shots around the Colorado State Capitol building and loved the view from one mile above sea level.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - State Capitol

 

We ventured over to the LoDo neighbourhood and found Urban Farmer, a modern yet rustic steakhouse with delicious brunch options and outdoor seating. Things were starting to turn around.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - LoDo

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

Our brunch was excellent, the sun was shining, and my mimosa and Bettina's bloody mary bar were on point.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Urban Farmer

 

We can definitely recommend Urban Farmer if you're looking for a great Sunday brunch spot!

No sooner had we finished eating were we looking for even more food. Bettina had been talking to a few locals on Instagram and received a large list of places to go to. The Milk Market at Dairy Block came highly recommend to us, and we can only pass along the recommendations.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

Shop Bettina's Look

 

Customizable Disk Necklace by GLDN

Earrings by Coco Loves Rome

 

This bumping market hall was full of modern restaurants and bars all with delicious looking and (smelling!) food. Since we had just eaten brunch, we weren’t that hungry but that has never stopped us in the past from indulging in more food!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market

 

As we strolled around the market, we stumbled upon Morning Jones and just could not resist their decorate your own doughnut station. You basically got six fresh doughnuts on a plate and were free to add as much Oreo crumble, sprinkles, bacon, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, or caramel as you could fit.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Dairy Block Milk Market Morning Jones

 

For better or worse, we finished it all and were thoroughly stuffed the rest of the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along 16th Street doing some shopping before heading back to Chicago.

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver

 

On our way to leave the city, we drove through the RiNo neighborhood, a trendy and artsy neighborhood too cool for us to be let in. We didn’t have time to stop, but it is definitely at the top of our list when back in Denver. Our drive back to Chicago took us through Nebraska and of course, Bettina had to capture the essence of the state by taking some sunset pictures in corn fields!

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

A Day of Discovery in Denver - Nebraska

 

 

Have you been to Denver for the day? If so, have you been to the Milk Market?

 

Make sure to pin this pin to your favourite personal travel board on Pinterest so that our tips are only one click away!