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Avec Amour : October 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wanderlust Wednesday: Ixtapa, Mexico

The only part of the "wedding" process that I was TRULY interested in was - where the heck are we going on our honeymoon!

It was one of the first things i started putting my research into. Venue? Dress? I got to them eventually :)

There are a lot of things to weigh in on your options for a honeymoon: warm + exotic, or cozy + cold? Removed from society or tourist destination? Do you want to relax the entire time, or have activities? There are tons more. We decided on: exotic, warm, slightly removed, and RELAX. This directed us to mexico, the caribbean, the pacific islands, hawaii, etc.

We started searching everything, and it was totally overwhelming. The next question - all inclusive or not? We did the math on some of the nicer resorts vs. all inclusive, and we ended up spending slightly less on drink and food for the week, and we always had exactly what we wanted (some all-inclusives are limiting on the restaurants you can eat at, etc).

Our answer: Capella Ixtapa in Ixtapa, Mexico.

the view
We found Capella through a website called Jetsetter.com and i have to tell you - it's my favorite website on the planet. They only feature five star resorts in the most beautiful places in the world, and nothing they offer is less than incredible. That being said, they also offer them at incredibly low rates (i'm talking $500 a night hotels for $150 at times) - making this a win-win for us. 

Ixtapa is in the Zihuatanejo region... which is about 2hrs north of Acapulco. Zihuatanejo is the beach that they talk about at the end of Shawshank Redemption :) It's a quiet little place on the side of a cliff... 

This place was true paradise. It's built into a side of a cliff, so each room has an infinity pool. The two large pools at the bottom are for all guests, and they're also beautiful. They have the most kind, helpful staff i've ever met in my entire life. One of the servers HUGGED Matt on our last night there, saying he would miss us. I believe a lot of this success is the low density of the hotel. It only has 50 rooms or so, and each room only has 1 king bed. So it's mostly couples, and you've got 100 people there at a time, max. The resort is large enough to where you'd barely notice. 

The food is probably the biggest reason to visit - it was truly the most amazing breakfasts i've ever had in my life! Roasted eggs, fresh tortillas and tomatoes.... divine. I just recently read an article in Conde Nast Traveler about the top 500 hotels in the world. Capella wasn't only listed as one of them, but it was the only place to receive a perfect 100 score for food and dining.... and i completely agree! Just order everything.


And as a little bonus, they deliver house made chips and guac to your room EVERY SINGLE DAY at 5pm. It's accompanied with dos cerveza. Absolutely perfect.

I'm especially reminiscent on our time right now because in one month exactly, we'll be back there to celebrate our first anniversary (a few weeks delayed).


This place was heaven on earth for us. I don't think you'd hate it either.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

picture day.

My talented friend Abby was in town this weekend, so I thought it was a good time to have some pictures taken for a Christmas card! You know when you're in high school and you say "I'm always going to do ___________ when I'm an adult", and now that you are, you probably do two of those things? Yeah, well sending out a Christmas card/having family photos taken was on my absurd list, and it's probably the only thing i've stuck to.

Abby is the photographer and designer behind Conteur Co., and also the woman responsible for my engagement photos which i LOVED.

She's probably the only person I don't feel awkward around with a camera pointed directly at me.

Speaking of vulnerability, i could probably find something wrong with myself in every single one of these pictures. I'm working on not doing that anymore, and accepting my quirks and self-proclaimed flaws.... but it's a process.

(I'm looking at you, crooked smile.)

So if anyone out there feels the same way when seeing themselves in pictures, I hope you'll join me in trying to accept your quirks, too :)

Anyway, here are a few of my favorites from the 1 million she took this weekend at Shelby Bottoms Park.

this one sums us up pretty well i think :)
The full set can be found here, and I'd highly suggest Abby for your weddings, babies, engagements, christmas cards, and so on! Also, any insight to the best photo for a Christmas card.... suggestions welcome! :)

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Luxury On A Budget - Hotels & Lodging

Finding my initial love of travel in High School and College left me with minimal funds to actually take trips and include things like food and lodging. I've done everything from hostels to 5-star resorts, and there's usually an easy way to to find the happy medium.

We'll call these posts Luxury on a Budget, or LOAB, as ways to keep your cost down without really missing out on anything. Obviously there are tons of sites like Hotels.com and Travelocity, but these are my tips for thinking outside the box and also for getting a better deal!

Some of my favorite ways to save money without sacrificing quality in the lodging department are:

1- How To Travel Like Royalty: Jetsetter.com

Jetsetter is my favorite way to pretend like I'm royalty. They only offer 5-star resorts, and the prices are typically more than 50% off. Unlike other discount programs like Groupon Getaway and Living Social Escapes, these are gorgeous places with nothing wrong with them. A lot of them are boutique hotel lines opening a new location or featured during their off season. My best deal on Jetsetter was paying $130/night for a Mexican resort usually going for $450-550/night. Other good deals are fancy NYC hotels for under $200 and getaways in the Bahamas.

To sign up for Jetsetter go here to sign up to get their weekly emails. Trust me, it will make you want to book your next trip to anywhere.

2 - How To Travel Like a Local: AirBNB.com

What started as a way to organize places for people to stay for a conference, Air Bed & Breakfast was born. Now AirBNB allows homeowners to post their place online, you can choose your level of bunking-up; you can rent a room, a shared house, or private lodging. I've used AirBNB all over the country in large cities, and it always ends up saving hundreds of dollars a night. For example, hotels in downtown Seattle were going for around $300/night. We rented a 2 bed/2 bath condo with a balcony and view, 4 blocks from Pike's Place Market, for less than $150/night. Not to mention we had access to a full kitchen, and were communicating with our 'host' for his recommendations on food, coffee, and drinks. Be sure to read the reviews, and message the host ahead of time with any questions about location, accessibility/public transportation, etc. When available, AirBNB is my favorite way to stay.

3 - How To Travel With Monopoly Money: Credit Card Points

Some of the best things in life are free. While yes, you do earn the miles by spending money, we use it as our daily debit card (gas, groceries, etc) so we literally earn points for everything we do. It's paid off at the end of every month, so we only spend within our budget (we use Mint.com to track our spending).

We love our FlexPerks card through US Bank, because flights and hotels start at 20k points and there are NO blackout dates. Unlike the American miles we've been trying to use for years, our FlexPerks points are pure gold. We recently booked a 3 day trip to New York City on Delta and stayed at a Conrad Hotel in TriBeCa, for less than 80k points for 2 people. Fantastic deals!

4 - How To Get the Most For Your Money: Oyster.com

Oyster is the best way to see what you're actually booking, because they have real pictures, not just the 10 stock photos the hotel provides. They also have a comprehensive list of what is included and what costs extra (so you don't have to scour the entire website trying to figure out what they'll charge you for!). It's my best guide for scoping our hotels.

These are just a few resources for booking a place to stay on your next trip.

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