Budget Travel Expert, Author, Solo Traveler, Wanderstay Hotels Owner

Passports & Pizzazz


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Martinique: Hidden Gem

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A guide to the most beautiful country on this planet: New Zealand!

Kia Ora from Auckland, New Zealand!

I have been in New Zealand for an entire month and I tell you, it is amazing here! The landscape is to die for, the locals are incredibly nice, and did I mention how beautiful it is here? For the past 30 days, I have been based out of Auckland but was fortunate enough to be able to explore Queenstown (South Island), Rotorua, Waitomo, Waiheke Island, Devonport, Rangitoto Island, and Coromandel. I’ve jumped off the SkyTower, Black Water rafted, relaxed on the Hot Water beach, stared in amazement of the beauty of Piha and Bethells beaches. I fell in love with Queenstown (and wanted to stay there for the rest of my life), partied in an ice bar, paraglided off of a 6000 foot mountain, sipped delicious wine on a vineyard in front of a fireplace, star gazed and even saw some of the planets (Saturn! It was so awesome), learned about the local Maori people and ate delicious food from their culture, hiked a deserted island, soaked in geo thermal pools at the Polynesian spa, and indulged in some of the most amazing deserts around Auckland.

It’s safe to say I’ve been a busy woman, and I have loved every bit of it!

I have been getting so many emails from people seeking recommendations for their travels to New Zealand and I’m here to help you out!

First- I recommend you save up as many days off as possible because you can’t even scratch the surface of this beautiful country in less than a month. But if you have at least a week, I can still give you some awesome ideas on how to make the most of your trip.

All the following itineraries are assuming you will be based in Auckland!

 

1 week:

Day 1: Get checked into your hotel, relax, and eat a good meal. Then head out to the SkyTower in the center of the CBD and jump 636 feet from the tower! After you jump, you get free entrance to the viewing deck of the SkyTower, so go have a look.

Explore the shopping area on Queens Street and make sure you grab a delicious coffee (The coffee in NZ is amazing!!).

Go to the iSite tour desk (there’s one located in the Skytower; the same location where you book your SkyJump) and book your excursions for the week.

Day 2: Catch a 45 minute ferry over to Waiheke Island for a day of wine tasting. Waiheke Island is beautiful!!! The wine is just a plus.

Day 3: Get a rental car for 3 days and today visit Piha Beach and Bethells Beach, which are both black sand beaches. These beaches are incredibly beautiful; you will not be disappointed! Be prepared to drive on the left side on the road. You may want to practice on a quiet road before you hit the highway.

Day 4: Wake up early and head to Rotorua (a 3-hour drive) and visit the Polynesian Spa during the day and the Maori dinner event that night.

Day 5: Leave Rotorua and head to Waitomi for black water rafting. Be prepared for cold water. Then, head back to Auckland after your excursion (about a 4-hour drive)

Day 6: Catch another ferry from the CBD to Devonport (15 minute ride) and rent a bike and ride around the island. Don’t forget to stop by the tasty chocolate factory!

Day 7: Visit the Sylvia Park mall for some shopping. When you are finished, head to Parnell Street and stop by Casa del Gelato for the most amazing milkshake of your life.

 

2 weeks:

All of the activities from above PLUS

Day 8: Catch a 2-hour flight from Auckland to Queenstown. Stay for 3 nights.

Day 9: Choose the adventure of your choice (skydiving, bungee jumping, paragliding, etc.). After your dare devil activity, grab a drink at the Ice Bar. But before partaking in your favorite cocktail, grab a bite at the world famous Fergburger. The burgers are like nothing I’ve ever tasted.

Day 10: Go on the 8-hour excursion to the Milford Sound (One of the most surreal views of your life!)

Day 11: Head back to Auckland. Enjoy the opportunity to have a multicultural dining experience of your choice. Auckland has a plethora of cultural dining choices, from Indian to Thai.

Day 12: Catch a ferry to Coromandel and explore the Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. This will be an all-day event. Wear comfy shoes and be prepared to walk for at least 2 hours. Beware: there is very little to do in the small town of Coromandel, so you should book a tour. If you buy a ticket to just visit the town, I can guarantee a bit of disappointment. The ferry times are intermittent.

Day 13: Catch a ferry to Rangitoto Island and enjoy a hike on the secluded island! New Zealand is unique in that it doesn’t have pests. So while on your hike, you won’t have to worry about any furry friends trying to join you on your adventure.

Day 14: Catch the bus from the city and go explore Takapuna Beach. Takapuna is a quiet suburb of Auckland and only a 15-20 minute bus ride from Auckland CBD. Bring a book, and enjoy the sounds of the waves washing ashore. If you’re a dog lover, you will definitely enjoy the sights of dogs walking and playing with their owners.

4 weeks or 1 month:

Day 15 and 16: REST and do nothing. Watch a few movies, read a book, and sleep in late. You deserve it!

Day 17-30: Build your schedule according to your flavor. Stay longer in Queenstown, if adventure is your thing. Maybe visit Wellington or take a road trip through the North or South Islands.

 

 

 

Special Notes:

  • The coffee in NZ is so amazing! I’m not quite sure why, but have some and see if you agree.
  • Visit Ponsonby for the Auckland night life. Bars and cafes are plentiful.
  • Uber is readily available in Auckland, but not in other cities (Queenstown, Rotorua, etc.). Don’t be afraid to take public transportation. If you have questions, feel free to ask the experts at Britomart Transport Centre, or any of the bus drivers. They will talk to you and answer your questions.
  • Get an AT Hop card for the bus and load it with $100. You can use this to pay for bus rides, some ferries, and the train.
  • Buy groceries for a week at a time. Eating out can be expensive and unhealthy.

Edited by: Tracy Daniel (danieltracy6@gmail.com)

Beautiful Belize

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Belize is one of those countries you just have to see for yourself. I first visited Belize last year and had the opportunity to visit again last week.

I want to help you out on your Belize excursion so I have jotted some useful notes to help you maneuver your trip to make sure you have the best trip ever.

  1. It costs $50 Belize Dollars ($25 USD) for 2 people to catch a cab from the airport to the ferry.
  2. If you are visiting Ambergris Caye, make sure you rent a golf cart and drive the hour ride to Secret Beach, you wont regret it.
  3. If you want a true island feel, stay on Caye Caulker. It is an extremely small island filled with cheap local food (lobster, seafood, etc), very low cost massages, and tons of souvenir vendors.
  4. Don’t have a tight schedule. Leave room to just go with the flow and enjoy your visit to this beautiful country.

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Yee-Haw! It’s Houston Rodeo Time!

I have seen the Rodeo on television many times but never thought that I would actually have the opportunity to experience one in real life. Over the weekend I visited my first Houston Rodeo and had the time of my life! Almost 75,000 people were in attendance over the weekend which made for a sold out event.

Funnel cakes, friend oreos, turkey legs, BBQ, and roasted corn were all in abundance and I indulged in most of it, happily! I even enjoyed a few fair rides, I felt like a kid all over again.

The actual rodeo started that evening and was full of action events such as bull riding, calf wrangling, and horse races. It was amazing!

If you have a chance to attend the rodeo, please do- you won’t be disappointed.

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San Francisco Treat

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco for the very first time to attend the Women’s Travel Fest, where I was a guest speaker. I had been all over California: LA, Anaheim, San Diego, and Long Beach, but NOTHING could prepare me for the beauty of San Francisco.

The moment I stepped off the plane I was in awe. The cool brisk air, the gorgeous mountains, and the beautiful blue skies was enough to make any person stop and smile.

I got to visit the old house where “Full House” was once filmed, China Town, The Wharf, and of course the Golden Gate Bridge! Words can’t and will never describe how beautiful this bridge is in person. The color! The architecture, I mean just EVERYTHING about this bridge was amazing.

Because the main purpose of my San Fran visit was for my conference, I spent a lot of time inside versus being outside which means I have so much more to explore in this beautiful city which gives me another excuse to visit this beautiful city again very soon.

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It was such an honor and pleasure to be a part of such a wonderful conference that brought men and women together from all around the world who all had one major thing in common: The love of TRAVEL! The Saturday event was held in the beautiful San Francisco Design Center Galleria and I was a part of the early morning “Budget Travel” panel where we talked about how to snag everything from cheap flights, hotels, and international cell phone rates. The sold out crowd was full of questions and very receptive to the message we were all giving: Traveling is not just for the rich!

The conference covered topics such as staying safe as a solo woman traveler, how to pack for vacation, and even had a session on cool jobs one could get in the travel industry!

If you are a person who is interested in traveling at all, I highly suggest you attend next year’s conference in New York City!


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My $250 Vacation to Aruba!

If you have read my blog before and if you know anything about me, you know I love a good travel deal! Earlier this year Southwest announced they were going to start traveling to a few countries outside of the USA and had incredible deals to get people excited. I was one of those people! I was able to book a round-trip flight from Florida to Aruba for $250 ( The average price ranges between $400-$600 round-trip).

Aruba is such a small, beautiful island! In fact it is only 19 miles long and you can drive the entire island in just a couple of hours. But the activities are in abundance! For my four day, three night trip there were many activities to keep me busy across the island.

Here our my tips for visiting Aruba:

-American Dollars are excepted everywhere so no need to exchange money

-You can choose to rent a car, it costs about $40 per day. I would recommend getting a car for maybe a day or so but not much longer than that- cabs are in abundance!

-You MUST visit the natural pool! It is too beautiful to even put into words! Be sure you visit on a tour and not on your own as there is a 20 minute BUMPY, ROCKY road that can only be driven on by a 4×4 stick shift jeep! Don’t try to make this drive on your own

-Aruba, as a island, is very diverse in population. There are over 50 nationalities on the island- take time to meet and speak to the locals!

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I was able to ride a horse through a beautiful mountain trail for an hour, catch the DROP DEAD GORGEOUS SUNSET on the beach, hop on a party bus, go snorkeling, visit the natural pool, and play games in the casino.

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