Amsterdam Recommendations - Send Me Your Tips!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

We are heading to Amsterdam in May! Neither of us have ever been before. We have been to a lot of canal cities (Venice, Copenhagen, Bruges), so it only seemed appropriate we hit up Amsterdam next. Plus, it looks so pretty & the flights were crazy cheap (less than $400 per person round trip out of Nashville!)

photo via
Besides renting bikes, exploring the canals, and visiting Anne Frank Museum, what should we do? Amsterdam is super famous for the red light district elements, but I know there has to be more to this city than that!

I've also heard a lot about the TULIPS and I believe they will be in bloom during that time (but I could definitely be wrong)! Are they easy to enjoy from the city? Is it a day trip out? Will we have missed them if we are there in mid-May? Could I possibly ask more questions about flowers? :) I would love all of your recommendations! 

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We will most likely be staying in an Airbnb, so I'd love to know what areas of town are best to stay in. We love good coffee, walkability (or bike ability I guess), live music, and any vegetarian options. I recently read about this avocado themed restaurant and hope it's open by the time we get there!

photo via
We'll only be visiting for about 3 full days, and a little extra time on our travel days, but this will be a quick visit so we're looking to maximize our time. 

Also, what's a girl to pack? Is the weather nice in May?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

This Week in Travel: Vol. 46

Monday, February 6, 2017

  • Yikes! No cell phones on planes, please. 
  • 25 Travel Hacks to save you money this year.
  • A 200 year history of hotels & how they have changed (I thought this was so interesting!)
  • Guess where they found over $400k worth of smuggled drugs on an airplane?
  • Unfortunately, these are all myths. 5 common misconceptions about air travel rights.
  • This Mexican beach looks amazing!
  • A hilarious in-flight item for toddlers. Worth a shot, I think!
  • Cruises and the younger generation.
  • A change to American Airlines planes, but chances are you won't really notice. 
  • Peanut allergy vs. airlines. I once sat next to a man who had such a sever allergy, they did not serve nuts on the flight because the dust may throw him into anaphylactic shock! I made him show me where he kept his EpiPen... just incase! (it ended up being fine)

Since it came in the mail about 2 weeks ago, I've been listening to La La Land on Vinyl constantly. Well, I was listening to it on vinyl - until we started the construction on our living room. Construction on that room means losing access to not only the living room, but the den (where the record player, tv, couch and most of my plants are) plus, the front door. So for now, we're walking around the house :) BUT I'm very excited about the new lighting & paint colors we're doing. I've wanted to do this update for about 3 years - so it's been a long time coming! As with most home updates, we're doing everything ourselves, so it will be a slower process than if we had a contractor, since we have full time jobs & other activities going on. Oh, and when I say "we", know that means Matt is doing 98% of the work and I'll be helping with some trim painting when the time comes :) 

Anyway - back to La La Land. Did you see the movie? Did you love it? I also loved the Golden Globes opening number inspired by the movie. I'm looking forward to our friend's annual Oscar party to see how many little gold statues they take home. I should also note, the silver lining of buying the vinyl was that it came with a free digital download. so my record player being confined isn't keeping me from this soundtrack!

Anyway, I hope everyone had a wonderful week! Cheers to a great one!

From last week:
All About Global Entry
Costa Rica Packing List

All About Global Entry: The Application, the Interview, the Approval

Thursday, February 2, 2017

We recently were approved for Global Entry, so I thought I'd do a little info post & FAQ on what the heck that means, and who should get it!

What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.

We have 3 international trips coming up this year, and the idea of a breezy customs experience is one I covet. While it's not available at all airports, it will always expedite our re-entry to the US. After a 3 hour customs experience at LAX last year, I think I'd pay 5x the fee to have customs expedited.

How Long Does It Last?
5 long, wonderful years

How Much Does it Cost?
$100 total for the application. Yes, that's for the whole 5 years.

What Do You Get?
Expedited customs experience at select airports (but at all US airports that accept international flights) PLUS a bonus of TSA Pre-Check at all participating airports (no matter if you're flying domestic or international). TSA Pre-Check ALONE is $89, so Global Entry is the steal of the century.

Should I Get It?
If you go out of the country even once a year, I believe this is worth it. If you fly often, the fact that you get TSA Pre-Check included, and have Global Entry there when you need it, seems worth it to me too.

First Step: Pre-Application Checklist
  1. You must have a valid passport
  2. Make sure you're eligible (you must have a passport from a participating country)
How to Apply For Global Entry
  1. Create a Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account. Regardless of your age, you must have your own GOES account.
  2. Log in to your GOES account and complete the application. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application.
  3. After accepting your completed application and fee, CBP will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your GOES account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Each applicant must schedule a separate interview.
  4. You will need to bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your permanent resident card.

All in all, the application took me about 20 minutes. They will ask you a lot of questions about the last 5 years - where you worked, where you lived, countries you've visited - so be prepared to remember which apartment you were living in in 2013. Once completed, we were pre-approved in about 3 days and booked our interviews. Matt and I booked back to back interviews at 2:45pm & 3pm in Memphis (more on that in a minute). After reading online reviews, I also brought other forms that linked my name to my address (above and beyond my license & passport)- W9's, pay stubs, etc. We did not need these, but it never hurts to have a back up!

The interview was easy - they asked me if I'd ever been arrested, they asked me what we did in Costa Rica - very conversational and was over in about 3 minutes. Then, they take your fingerprints & tell you an email will come in 24 hours or less. Ours arrived in our inboxes before we got to the car 5 minutes later. We quite literally could have taken a flight at 4pm and had all the benefits of Global Entry.

The experience could not have been more simple. 


Apply in Advance
While our process was a swift one (less than 2 weeks), sometimes it can take longer. The online pre-approval is typically less than a 1 week turn around, however - getting an in-person interview is what can take so long. We checked Nashville for interviews (keep in mind, this was 2 weeks ago, around January 15) and there weren't any available until JUNE. Nearly 6 months away. With a trip in March and one in May, this felt hopeless and I was so bummed we hadn't taken care of this sooner! 

It Might Be Worth the Drive
We checked surrounding cities - Louisville, Atlanta, and Memphis - and while the first two were also booked out, Memphis had appointments literally the next DAY. We booked our appointments for the following Saturday (about 10 days in advance) so we could go over the weekend, but if we had the time, we could have driven there the next morning. 

Be Honest On Your Application
There's no need to lie - if you lie, they will most likely catch you. If you're truthful, it may not even be an issue. Also, if you've had any legal issues in the past, bring any documentation that might clear it up. There's no hard and fast guideline to what is/isn't acceptable in this program, but I'm guessing shoplifiting when you were 16 probably won't stop you from getting Global Entry. Just be prepared with paperwork. 

I am SO EXCITED that we have Global Entry now - I have a few friends with it and they can't say enough about it! Do you already have Global Entry? Do you think you'll apply?

Costa Rica Packing List

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Costa Rica was so fun, but I truly had no idea what to pack. I did a decent job in the end, but there were a few things I'd change. Here's what I think is ideal to pack for about a week. We easily packed carry on only for this trip (much easier for warm trips than cold trips, huh)

Costa Rica Packing List

I was tempted to bring heels (low, casual heels, but heels nonetheless) because we were going to at least one nicer dinner, but I'm SO GLAD I DIDN'T. Two reasons; Costa Rica is not overly developed and many of the roads are gravel only or mud, and it's such a casual place! Even at the nicest restaurants, most people are wearing shorts and a tank top. So so so so casual.

Running shoes were key, not only for exercise or excursions, but like I said, the gravel roads (and 1 mile walk we had) were easier to walk with a sturdy shoe. 

Durable sandals (my Reefs) were the best pick! I barely wore my J.Crew leather sandals because they slip so badly on mud, and I didn't want them to be filthy. BUT I'm glad I had a prettier option for nicer dinners.

I brought 3 maxi dresses - but wish I would have only brought 1. For the reasons above, walking was a pain in them since I was trying to keep them off the mud! Midi dresses and regular sundresses were a much better option. These were great for dinner, because most restaurants did not have a/c or were outside.

Shorts & Tank Tops
I brought 1 pair of athletic shorts and 2 tank tops, 1 pair of jean shorts, and mixed and matched them all. Like I said, this place is CASUAL! While I'm not really a yoga-pants-in-public kind of girl, there was no point in getting all dressed up to walk a mile in the mud/gravel to get breakfast, 1 mile back, and then put on a bathing suit for the beach. 

Bathing Suits
Bring at least 2! On a trip that is primarily focused on the beach or pool, 2 bathing suits are necessary.  You don't want to get stuck with a damp suit from the day before (yuck). I brought 1 cover up and bought a pretty sarong on our first day in town!

Protect Yourself
I don't burn easily, but I do wear 15-30 SPF at all times. Matt burns quickly and easily, so he opts for rash guards & sun shirts that protect his shoulders and chest from the sun. He still applies sunscreen to legs & face, but his shoulders are always what get charred. Bring lots of sunscreen, any protective clothing, and a hat! There are also a lot of bugs around, so bring a good bug spray - especially for the evening!

Costa Rica is HOT. Hot hot hot. We were visiting over Thanksgiving, and the temperatures were in the low 90's each day. The evenings were not much cooler. We were sweaty. The sun is also quite intense, even in the "winter". The rain forest is also right off the beach, so it's very humid and can be buggy. I didn't bother to blow dry my hair the entire week, because I knew it would be in a bun before long anyway, so why fight the curl? (especially with the nice salty ocean to help!)

Part of the charm of Costa Rica was the fact that it's laid back and a little "unfinished". It's so nice to be able to be so casual in a beautiful place. 

I hope this helps you plan how you'll pack for your trip to Costa Rica!

This Week in Travel: Vol. 45

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hello hello! We are back after a whirlwind 36 hours in Memphis to complete our Global Entry interview -- and about 5 minutes after our interview, we got the email that we were officially APPROVED! This is exciting news, since we were hoping to be approved before our next international trip in March. I'll have a detailed post coming about the Global Entry process for anyone interested in applying themselves. 

We stayed at the beautiful Peabody Hotel in Memphis which is world famous for their ducks. Sounds weird, but I assure you, it's the cutest thing ever. I'll also be doing a little Memphis recap soon. I'd never been, even though it's only 3 hours away from Nashville! We also hit up the new IKEA which was great, because it's only about 2.5 hours from our house -- much better than 4 hours to Atlanta. We can now squeeze in a day trip to IKEA without speeding through the store or driving home at 10pm (we've done it so many times. Glad those days are over!) Not to mention Memphis traffic is nearly nonexistent and Atlanta traffic is always a nightmare. Thanks, IKEA! :) 

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, and hope you enjoy these links!

Photo Diary: Tamarindo & Playa Langosta, Costa Rica

Friday, January 27, 2017

Costa Rica was an absolute dream. We did a home exchange in Playa Langosta (the smaller town about which is less than a mile from Tamarindo, a slightly larger surf town) and used our Companion Pass to get there. Thanks to great deals, we used less than 20,000 Southwest Miles to get there (originally over 40k miles round trip! We were refunded nearly half of our points).

We spent the week eating local seafood, walking the beach, playing in the ocean and catching an amazing sunset each night. I'll write more details about our trip later, but for now, here's a photo diary of the trip. It's so pretty and untouched!

Seriously, how beautiful is Costa Rica? We were so lucky that our condo gave us sunrise & sunset views and we could see everything from the 5th floor! The country is so beautiful, I can't wait to visit again someday.

Have you ever been to Costa Rica?