Hiking through Enchanted Rock outside of Fredericksburg, Texas

Hiking 101

Going on a hike soon and don’t know what to expect or can’t remember all of the things you need to bring? Don’t fret! Below your will find some tips about hiking prep and packing so you will have all of the tools you need for an awesome trek!

Pre-hike prep:

  • Pick a trail – Most trails are rated for their difficulty and length. Before you head out on a trail, check the trail’s website to see how long the trail is, the average time to complete the trail, the elevation change, and the level of difficulty, to ensure the trail meets your hiking goals.
  • Find a map of your trail – Most parks and trails will have trail maps available online. Print out a map before you go so that you have directions if the trails are not clearly marked or in case you lose cell signal.
  • Research where to park, park entrance fees, and park hours before you go. Some parks open at a certain time but, due to popularity, close once they hit capacity. Most hiking trails will tell you the optimal hours to arrive at the park. Additionally, while more and more parks are taking cards, some are still cash only, so be prepared to pay the park fee either way so you aren’t turned away at the gates!

What to bring on your hike:

  • Packable backpack – A good bag to carry extras is essential to any trip. A packable backpack fits easily into any suit case or car pocket, has supportive, padded straps for comfort, and has extra pockets for water bottles and other necessities you don’t want to hold by hand. My backpack (shown below) folds up to be about 5×6 inches:

  • Water bottles – Swell or Hydro Flask bottles are great. Not only do they look cool (no pun intended), they keep your water cold for hours and hours so you can be refreshed while in the heat.
  • A hat and UV protected sun glasses – Make sure your sunnies stay on when you tilt your head back and forth. You will be looking at the ground a bunch so you don’t want a pair that constantly slips down your face.
  • Hiking boots – Along with a good pair of socks, shoes are the most important part of a hike. Invest in a good pair with support, ventilation, and decent grip. REI is a great place to go try on boots with some expert help, but you can find a bunch of options on Amazon with rave reviews. If you are going on a hike and can’t buy a new pair of shoes right now, wear sneakers with a lot of tread and ankle support.
  • Hiking socks – Investing in a decent pair of socks will prevent painful blisters down the road. REI has comfy and soft hiking socks that come with either high and low tops and will keep your toes warm without blister discomfort. If you are still nervous about blisters on a long hike, check out BodyGlide. I use it when I go on long runs (8-20 milers) and it prevents blisters wherever you feel a chafe. Also, if you are going into grassy areas, wear higher socks and long pants so you don’t get dirt, bugs, or poison ivy on your legs.

  • Protein bars for extra energy – No one wants to hike on an empty stomach! If you are going for over an hour, bring a healthy snack, high in protein and  / or healthy carbs, to pick you up. My favorite are Quest bars, especially the white chocolate raspberry and cookies and cream flavors, almonds, and apples.
  • Bug spray – A must if you are a mosquito magnet like I am!
  • Band aids or a small first aid kit – Target has a bunch of travel sized first-aid kits with a little of everything you may need.
  • Camera / phone for pictures – Don’t forget your selfie stick! You may also want to bring a portable phone charger just in case.
  • A light and comfortable jacket – Just in case it gets cool
  • Umbrella – Check your local weather before you go to make sure you don’t have any rainy surprises!

Have questions? Feel free to comment them below. If not, happy hiking!

Beginner's guide to skiing

Skiing 101

First time skiing? Get SO excited! It is going to be amazing. There is truly no other feeling than flying down the slopes once you get comfortable in your ski boots! Looking up that steep mountain can be a bit intimidating the first time, so the tips below will help you help you overcome your fears and become a ski pro in no time.
first-time-ski-guide

Where to go: If you already know where you are going, feel free to skip to the next section. If not, there are a few things to think about during your research:

  • Proximity to your home: Of course Colorado, Mammoth, and Tahoe are some of the more popular ski destinations in the US, but there are plenty of other areas that can be less crowded with slopes better for beginners that may even be easier to get to pending where you are from. Might as well start small and make those spots your go-to once you feel good in your skis!
  • Mountain difficulty: Each mountain will have a variety of runs ranging in difficulty and those runs are detailed on the mountain’s website. You can find the percentage of run types, see which runs are open, snow fall, and tons of other details about each mountain on its site that can help you figure out if it is the mountain for you! Also, read mountain reviews on sites like TripAdvisor.  Some “easy” green runs may actually be considered blues elsewhere so spot check your final picks before booking.
  • Budget: Ski passes, gear rentals, and lessons costs vary drastically between resort towns. Most ski areas will have average rental and pass prices on their website so make sure to check them out before hand so you are not surprised. Also, most ski towns are far from the airport, so don’t forget your additional transport costs when budget planning.
  • Read about my experiences at Ski Santa Fe, New Mexico and Snow Bird, Utah here.

Where to stay:

  • Ski in / ski out resorts are THE BEST! If you get the chance to stay in one, do so. There is nothing worse than lugging all of your ski gear far distances in ski boots. Ski in / out resorts are usually right on the slopes, have lockers / gear rentals right next to the lifts, restaurants, and a spa all on site for maximum awesomeness.
  • Staying off site is still a great option too, but try to get as close as possible. We stayed in Taos when we skied in New Mexico and it was a 40 minute drive to the ski area every morning and another 40 minutes home every night – doable but definitely not ideal. If you are not driving your own 4-wheel drive car, make sure to ask if the hotel has a shuttle or if there is easy transport to the ski area.

Up the mountain: There are a few things you need to remember on the mountain to stay in peak shape:

  • Stay very, very hydrated! It is the best way to combat altitude sickness and will keep you going longer on the slopes
  • Bring a snack. We always bring a protein bar in our jackets for when we get peckish but don’t want to stop at a restaurant. Just make sure you have it in an inside pocket so it does not freeze!
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen often! The altitude and the snow make the sun a lot more powerful so don’t forget to protect your skin. While a sexy look, you don’t want to take home goggle burn marks!
  • Chapstick and a small travel lotion are also great things to take with you in your jacket pockets for emergencies.

Skiing in Snowbird, Utah

Ski gear: As a first time skier, you may be hesitant to make a full investment in the gear you need – totally understandable! Below are the things you should consider buying vs. renting. For additional details, see the full ski trip packing list here.

Buy:

  • Polarized, no-fog, ski goggles
  • Warm gloves
  • Ski mask (balaclava)
  • Ski beanie
  • Ski helmet with vents. While you can rent a helmet, they pack easily, they pay for themselves after about 2 trips, and I preferred to get once that had not been worn (aka sweated in) before.

Rent:

  • Skis, poles, and boots

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Ski lessons: For your first time on the slopes, get an instructor! If you are going with friends, they are going to want to ski themselves and probably won’t teach you as well as a pro, so it is worth the investment to spend half a day getting the basics down. Most ski areas offer adult classes and typically give you a free lift ticket with your lesson. You may feel a little silly on the bunny hill, but everyone started there at some point! My fiancée is 30 and took ski lessons for the first time a year ago. The lessons helped him get confidence quick and (the best part) he couldn’t blame my advice for any of his falls!

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First ski down: I won’t lie to you, your first time down the slope may be a bit daunting. To tell you the truth, I had a terrible first ski experience. My ski instructor told me a decapitation story on the ski lift up the mountain, a girl flew in front of me and knocked herself out on a wooden pole within my first 5 feet down the mountain (helmets are important people), and I almost got run over by a snowboarder. Needless to say, I did not want to go down the mountain the second day, but I somehow managed the courage and I am so glad I did! If you can get through that first day, the second will make you fall in love with skiing. Your legs get used to it, you start getting into the flow, and your confidence builds. Let me tell you, skiing is all about confidence. If you take your time, you will find a rhythm, and you will find love for this amazing sport! Just go slow and know that practice makes perfect.

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Next steps: Ski more and explore. There are so many different ski areas in the US that you never have to go to the same one twice! On top of that, the skiing abroad is supposed to be top-notch, so why not make an amazing international vacation out of it?

Skiing in Snowbird, Utah

Trip Planning 101

How to plan for a vacation

While planning an adventure is the beginning of your journey and a very exciting peek into your travel possibilities, it can be stressful. The very first step of figuring out where to go can be a whole process in and of itself and then, once you have picked a place, you have to go through the daunting process of choosing flights, hotels, excursions, and booking everything… all of which can take a while. To save you time and some tension, I have put together some tips to make your travel planning process easier!

Step 1: Figuring out where to go!

  • First, figure out how many days you have to play with. If you only have a 3-5 days, consider places within a 1-5 hour flight-time radius (non-stop) so you do not spend the majority of your vacation time in airports or on a plane. The further you go, the longer you should stay. For me personally, I try to have at least 1.5 – 2 weeks anywhere with flight times +15 hours so I can overcome any jet lag and really make the most of the high dollar flight amounts.
  • Once you know how far you can go, determine what locations are good during the time of year you can travel. I had fully planned an Iceland adventure before I realized the ice-hotel we wanted to stay at in September couldn’t be built until December when they had ice! If there are must-do’s in a location you want to go to, make sure they are available at the time you can go. Also, tropical locations have monsoon seasons you will want to watch out for.
  • Next, determine your budget. Compare your budget to the travel costs involved in the general location you want to go. Make sure the flight is less than half your total budget so you have money left for hotels, food, and experiences.
  • Once you have done all of these things, you should have a pretty good idea of where you should go!

Hiking to the top of Acatenango in Antigua, Guatemala

Step 2: Booking

There are two ways to book your trip. The first is to take the easy way and find a travel service that will book all of those things for you. The second is to book yourself. I will go through each option below as both have their pros and cons.

Travel Services:

  • Travel services are great. I had AMAZING trips to both Italy and Peru and all I had to do was show up to the airport with my passport and luggage in had. Everything from flights, tours, transportation, some meals, and hotels were booked for us. The Italy trip was good because I was a solo traveler and the EF College Break tour group I went with provided me travel buddies and new friends. Peru took all of the stress off of my shoulders for our family trip. However, when looking for a booking service for our Thailand trip, the average cost was $3K per person without the $800 international flights. That seemed high, so I researched on my own and got better hotels, flights, and excursions for $2.1K per person – that’s over $3.4K in savings for the both of us! Overall, if you go through a booking agent, make sure you do your research so you don’t pay too much.
  • Once you find some tour agencies that service your destination, check reviews on those agencies. People love to talk about their trips, good and bad, so do your homework on your agency options to make sure they are trustworthy and will provide the best experience possible.
  • Another option is to look at sites like Groupon Getaways and Apple Vacations which have great deals on hotels and hotels + flights as well. The sites help you easily book the shell of your trip but the details are up to you so its more flexible. Just be careful to check blackout dates and participating airports that the deals fly from to ensure the details work for you.

Hanging with some alpacas in Peru

Booking yourself:

  • The best place I can lead you is to TripAdvisor.com. It has every excursion idea, hotel option, and restaurant suggestion you could need on your trip, all with thousands of peer reviews and ratings. Other people’s experiences will really help you shape the best trip possible.
  • Once you start Googling and looking at TripAdvisor, you probably open multiple tabs with all of the things you like and want to save as options. I suggest logging all of your options in an excel document categorized by flight, hotel, and excursions with pricing and the URL to each thing. That way, you have an organized list of options that you can pick from once you are done exploring the web. An example of my Thailand trip plan is below:

Trip Planning Guide

  • Check your credit card companies rewards platform for deals. Cards like Amex and Chase Sapphire will give you get double points, travel insurance, trip / baggage protection, and other travel benefits by booking through the credit card. Amex even has a Hotel Collection program that gives you guaranteed best rates, a $75 hotel credit, and an upgrade (if available) when you book 2+ nights through Amex. You don’t want to miss out on those perks – not to mention all of the points you will rack up!
  • Booking flights always scares me – mainly because I am impatient. Once I find one, that annoying “only 2 seats left” sign in the corner of the booking site always makes me paranoid that I am going to miss out on my ideal flight! The truth is, that is not the case. For the most part, I have waited on flights, the cost went down, and my seats were still there. Flights are typically cheapest to buy on Tuesdays and you can save your flights in programs like Hopper to compare relative flight prices from your airport to destinations or Airfare Watchdog which will monitor your preferred flights and alert you when the price drops.

Overall, take a deep breath and relax! Your journey to your perfect trip within your budget and time frame is calling you and will be here before you know it! Don’t forget to check out my packing tips, road trip prep list, Alaska cruise guide and more to get additional ideas for your get-away.

Soaking up the sun on the beach in El Salvador

Managing a Career & Travel

Sometimes I feel like I am torn between two lifestyles;

  1. The wandering traveler who takes off around the globe, meeting strangers who become friends, seeing things that fundamentally change views on life, experiencing food that surprises and delights, hoping to make it big in the flooded market of travel blogs and Instagram accounts…
  2. The career woman who achieves personal and financial success, fulfillment, and stability by working hard, becoming an expert in endeavors, and putting roots into one location.

Both have their obvious benefits, but both have their own downfalls; one of instability, and the other of having material things but not experiencing life.

When it comes to life, I have always thought of it as balance – everything in moderation. At the end of my life, the thing that I will carry with me is the memories I have made through my experiences. While I want as many experiences as possible, I also want a comfortable lifestyle while I am not traveling. Honestly, I am trying to have it all.

With that said, I have a career that I love that funds my travel habits, my foodie experiences, and my liking for nice things. While I would love to take off as a forever wandering traveler, I like the stability of place I can call home where my close friends and family are, and a career that I can afford the lifestyle I want and save for the future. It is an office job and I get about 2 weeks of vacation. Yep, that is right, 2 weeks of vacation. With that 2 weeks this year, I will be skiing in Santa Fe, cruising through Alaska, road tripping from Texas to San Fransisco, traveling to Thailand, floating rivers in New Braunfels, and maybe more! How do I do it and all on a budget? I will share my secrets and tips with you below:

Vacation Days:

  • Negotiate! Whenever you are searching for a new job, always ask for the number of vacation, personal, sick, and holiday days given each year. Many places start with two weeks vacation and a few personal days, and will give you a third week after a few years. If you are in a place to do so, always ask for more vacation days in your job negotiations. Every day is valuable when determining your travel potential and you don’t want to have vacation day regrets.
  • If you are young and don’t get sick often, use any personal / sick days you can for travel. If this means saving them to until the end of the year to make sure you don’t need to use them, do so, but make sure you utilize them before they expire! While it is nice to get money for the days you don’t use, those are days of potential enjoyment you will never get back.
  • Use every 3-day weekend to your advantage! I have used Memorial Day to travel abroad for the past 3 years so I save a day. Labor Day is also a great time to do so before the holiday season gets busy. Leave on a Friday night and include both weekends in your travels and a 9 day vacation is only 4 days off!
  • Don’t let peer pressure get to you. A lot of people I know or have worked with never use their vacation days and have given me grief about using my days. Vacation days are good for you! They rejuvenate you and give you a new perspective on things, benefiting you holistically in and outside of work. Never let those vacation nay-sayers get to you as they are the ones missing out.

Budget:

  • Priorities: My car is a 2008 and has manual windows and locks. I call her the “Party Yaris”, as my little spunky car has personality and was only $14K brand new (though I had to ask them to throw the floor mats in for free). I could definitely afford a new, more lavish car, but that’s $500 a month out of my travel savings budget. I literally compare the cost of all big purchases to how much travel I could afford with the same funds. It is all about priorities and budgets. Figure out what you really want, and make that your main spending priority. Those cute shoes are nice, but if they are the same cost as a whale watching excursion in Alaska, are they worth it?
  • Budget tracking tools: I use Mint religiously to track how my finances are doing. Mint links to my bank accounts and I categorize all of my purchases so I can see how my spending is each month. I can also set up savings goals for trips and can watch my progress for saving to those goals. If I go over on any budget, this mean, red line pops up and reminds me that I need to be good. I highly recommend tools like Mint, but make sure you use a tool that is verified and safe before you give your credentials to your accounts.

Mint budget software

  • Do your travel research: While I do like being a “lazy” trip planner by finding companies that book everything for me so all I have to do is show up with my luggage and passport, the cost benefit of that is not always worth it. For example, when booking our trip to Thailand, I reached out to several agencies who put glorious, $4K per person, air-fare not included, itineraries for us. We were a little shocked that the price didn’t go down since we were sharing a hotel room and Thailand is notoriously cheap, so I did some digging. After looking for about 2 hours, I found better hotels, international flights, and activities all for under $3K per person! That is a $2K convenience fee which would basically pay for another trip. No thanks!
  • Be patient when booking flights: I always get nervous that, if I don’t book that very instant, my seats and flight is going to disappear. This is not the case and I have lost hundreds of dollars for being too hasty. Use services like Airfare Watch Dog to track you flights. It will alert you when the price drops and will give you estimates on how much the cost will go down or up if you wait.
  • Shop smart: I love buying new stuff for my trips. Going skiing? New ski jacket! Going hiking? I need hiking boots! Having shopping-control is such a challenge! While you will need things for your trips, there is nothing wrong with shopping outlets, finding better prices on Amazon, or waiting for the weekend’s sales. Trust me, I tried on and sent back 7 pairs of rain boots with Amazon Prime’s free shipping before I went to Seattle, but my final pick was only $25 and I walked over 19 comfortable and dry miles in them by the end of the trip! Being a bargain hunter is not only good for your budget, but super fun when you get a great deal!

Under the Space Needle in Seattle Washington

Any questions or need suggestions? I am happy to help you achieve your travel dreams! Comment below or send me a message fellow traveler!

Humpback whale in Juneau, Alaska

Alaskan Cruise 101

Thinking of embarking on an Alaskan cruise? Before you book, ask yourself, do you love incredible views? Can you appreciate nature in its rawest form? Have you dreamed of soaring with bald eagles or watching whales launch out of the water? Are you ready for a life changing trip?! If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, Alaska is calling!

Alaskan Cruise 101 - Glacier Bay Alaska

A few things you should take into account before you book:

  • You are only fully on board the ship for 2 whole days that are spread apart. The other 5 have some sort of stop, so don’t worry about getting too cooped up!
  • Alaskan cruises are much more laid back than Caribbean cruises. There is less of a “party” scene and the actives are a little further apart / aimed at an adult crowd. With that said, if you are ok with the relaxed vibe, you are good to go! You can also make the cruise as jam packed as you want by taking advantage of all of the on-ship activities, even the ones that may not peak your interest at first.
  • Expect to spend about double the cost of your cruise ticket. From transportation, hotels, excursions, dining, and cruise fees, cruises can cost quite a bit more than expected. More detail on this is below in the Booking Fees section of this post.

Booking Your Cruise

  • Booking through a major travel agency can have a lot of perks.
    • Make sure the agency books a lot of cruises so they have buying power first. Those agents can get you the best deals on your cruise price.
    • You can get room upgrades on better floors or locations. You do not want to be the floor beneath the treadmills or food courts! Agents can also help book multiple room parties close together.
    • They will ensure you have the best dining options like restaurant preferences and getting tables next to windows.
    • They can get you on ship credits between $25 – $100 per room and can help you get any booking specials that might be running.
  • Interior vs. exterior rooms are up to you. Exterior rooms are about double the cost so it really depends on your budget.
    • Interior rooms have big mirrors so they seem larger than they appear. You will not be in your room too much since there are so many days off of the boat. We booked an interior room and it was fine with us!
    • Balcony rooms – Go big or go home right? If you do want a view, go with the balcony instead of the window. You will have a great view and have a high likely hood of seeing whales right from your bed if you are an early riser. It is also nice to have the privacy while viewing the glaciers from your room. This is a great option if you don’t mind spending extra and you can potentially qualify for a free drink package if you book at the right time and check the ongoing deals page!
  • Expect extra fees on your trip.
    • Not only does the cruise cost $800+ depending on the room you pick, but there is a daily “tip” fee for your room cleaning team of $25+ per room.
    • Excursions are not included so plan for $50 – $500 per port for excursions depending on what you want to do.
    • For any use of the gym facilities outside of do-it-yourself, there are fees. $20 to use the upgraded saunas, spa treatments (for which I am a sucker), $12 per yoga class… these things also add up if you do them.
    • Gratuity is automatically added to any additional food / drinks you buy from bars / restaurants not included in the base price of the cruise.
    • Don’t forget transportation from the airport to your pre-boarding hotel or to the docks. In Seattle, this can be about $40 to downtown and another $20 to the docks. Multiply this by two for both ways.
    • If you don’t want to be risky and fly in the morning of your cruise, you will also need to account for the hotel on either side of your trip. I highly recommend the Maxwell hotel in Seattle as it is not too expensive ($137 per night), has amazingly comfy beds, and lots of personality.

Excursion Planning:

Don’t book on the ship because you will be going in a huge group and paying too much. Also, don’t worry about booking early!

  • We booked all of our excursions off the boat and in advance of our cruise to save money and to ensure we got what we wanted. Little did we know that at every single port, there are tons of excursion booking booths with discounted rates for basically every tour offered on the ship. Not only that, but almost all places guarantee you will be back in time before your ship leaves.
  • The excursions we did and highly recommend are below:
    • Juneau – Harv & Marv’s whale watching. Not only did we see tons of whales, we had a personal boat for the 6 of us for about $20 more than what we would have paid for a huge group boat ride.
    • Skagway – Skagway Shore Tours Hike and Float picked us up right from port and took 9 of us total to the Chilkoot Trail for a two-mile rainforest hike and then float down the Taiya River. It cost $95 for the 4-hour experience and included snacks and two great guides!
    • Ketchikan – Southeast Sea Kayaks took us on a 4-hour kayaking adventure through Orca Cove. There were a total of 6 people on our tour, including us, and the tour was $169 per person. We spent 2 full hours kayaking and it was our favorite part of the entire trip.

Kayaking in Ketchikan Alaska

Packing Essentials:

  • Forms of identification: Passport and ID are a must so don’t forget them! Also, you may want to bring a lanyard for your cruise ship ID card so you do not lose it while walking around.
  • Warm stuff: I read mixed reviews about how warm it gets in the various ports in Alaska and packed mid-warm jackets. I wish I had a heavier jacket, especially for the days we were onboard the ship.
    • Warm gloves, a beanie, scarves, warm socks, and a waterproof jacket are must haves.
  • The right shoes: I wore my hiking boots or my rain boots the entire trip. Seattle was very rainy so my rain boots were a total hit (and I jumped in quite a few puddles). My hiking boots were warm and great for the long walking days ashore.
    • Have the right socks and waterproof / warm walking shoes.
  • Rain gear: It rained at least once 90% of the days we were on our trip. My rain jacket, rain boots, and umbrella were life savers. Don’t forget them!
  • Personal products:
    • For every trip, sunscreen is a must have.
    • Bring lots of hydrating moisturizer and lip balm as well since the dry weather will get to you.
    • If you have finicky hair, the 2-in-1 shampoo / conditioner on the ship isn’t great so make sure you pack your favorite travel sized hair product. Also, the hairdryers are low powered so, if you have thick hair like mine, bring a hairdryer that won’t take 45 minutes of your cruise time to dry your hair.
  • Day-pack: I bought a North Face Flyweight foldable backpack that zips itself into a tiny bag that takes almost no space in my luggage. This bag became my go to for all of our excursions. It held my water bottle, was my wallet, had space for my rain jacket, umbrella, camera, and any other gear I could need for the day. It was so much better than carrying a purse around and was one of the most convenient things I had on the trip. A day-pack is a must for any active excursions.

On Board Your Cruise

Boarding & Debarking:

  • Airport to dock or hotel: We took an Uber from the Seattle airport to our hotel. There should not be surge pricing at the airport since there are tons of transport options. Almost every car service goes to the airport so getting to your hotel or the port should be easy. Expect about $40 to downtown for two people.
  • Downtown hotel to port: Surge pricing can occur close to the boarding time so check what your Uber fare is from your hotel to the port. If it is surge pricing, check with your hotel. They should also have shuttle / car services at set prices to take you to the port. This will help you get a good gauge for how much you should pay.
  • Boarding: Our boat started boarding at noon and we got there right when it started. There was a minimal line and it only took us 15 minutes to board! Once we were on ship, we were free to grab a celebratory drink! In short, get there early to avoid lines and start your cruise quickly and stress free!
  • Debarking: There are two options; carrying your own bags off the ship or letting the ship do it for you.
    • Recommended: Carrying your bags off early will get you off the boat by 8AM and you will not need to wait for your luggage. Our de-board time was 7:55 AM and we were off the ship and in an Uber at 8:15 AM. It can’t get much easier than that!
    • For those letting the ship deal with your luggage, it gets collected the night before you debark. Then, you have to be out of your room and in a holding area by 8 AM where you must wait until your group gets called, which may not be until 10AM. The process is relatively quick from there but then you also have to find your baggage. On top of all of that, the traffic to get out of the port and the prices for transport go up drastically since it is peak hour. By the time you are back in the city, you have missed out on at least 2 hours of prime tourist time!

Cruise Food 101:

Breakfast:

  • For when you aren’t in a rush in the morning, a great breakfast option is breakfast in bed! While the menu is a little more limited to mainly baked goods, cereal, and fruit, having breakfast while looking out your balcony / window in bed it an excellent start to the day! Not only that, but its complementary.
  • The buffet open as early as 6 AM and restaurants at 9 AM for all other breakfast options. The food it’s the same pretty much where ever you go.

Lunch:

  • Typically, while at sea, the formal restaurants are open for lunch. While they take longer than the buffet, the food is typically a bit better.
  • One of the buffet restaurants on board usually has a rotating menu of different cuisine. Look for the daily updates in your cruise itinerary for new options like “A Taste of Alaska”, Mexican, Indian, or Chinese food.

Dinner:

  • Book the 5:30 PM (or early) dinner reservation for your evening dinners. The food and menu is much better in the restaurants (included in the price of your cruise) than the buffets. Also, booking the early dinner will ensure that you are done in time for any of the fun shows or evening activities that the cruise provides.
  • Try a celebratory dinner at least one night in one of the other restaurants onboard that you have to pay for. We had a delicious 4 course steak dinner in the Crown Grill for only $29 a person. Considering we are from Texas and have good taste in steaks, I can say with confidence that it was a great deal and a great meal.

Alcohol / Beverage Options:

Before buying the alcohol package on the cruise, which can be over $50 per day (about 5 drinks a day), consider the following:

  • Look for / ask your travel agent about free alcohol packages if you book a suite or balcony room.
  • You can bring a bottle of wine per person in your luggage which can save you money. Also, if you go with friends who bought the alcohol package, get them to bring your extra bottles of wine in their luggage.
  • There are happy hours onboard almost twice a day (around 3 PM and 10 PM) which have deals like buy one, get one for $1.
  • You will be off the boat for multiple days so you will be paying your alcohol packages on those days even if you don’t use them.
  • Overall, we did not buy the drink package and faired just fine.

On-Board Tidbits:

  • On-ship communication:
    • Most blogs will recommend walkie-talkies to talk to your other cruise buddies. On Princess cruises at least, there is no need for them! Princess has an airplane-mode website that is free on their Wi-Fi. The site lets you message anyone else on the cruise. You can even have group chat! While it is not an app so there are no pop-up notifications, it is still a good way to communicate with your buddies without paying for anything extra.
    • The Princess website will also show all of the day’s activities so you can check them out / add them to your personal calendar while on the ship. You can even share events with people through
      the messenger function as well!
  • Movie nights: A must do at least once! The ship shows various movies each day on the outside movie screen. Find one you want to watch, grab a hot chocolate, and pick a lounge chair to relax in on deck. Too cold? Don’t worry, the staff provides fleece blankets and warm popcorn for an incredible movie watching experience.
  • Art auctions: Do not buy art on board the ship without doing your internet research first. A lot of times the prices are high and the value is low. What you should do, however, is attend the high-speed auction and watch people spend tens of thousands of dollars on pieces in seconds and the funny auctioneers try and get people to buy. It was quite an entertaining part of the trip!
  • Get involved in the axe-throwing, karaoke, trivia, or dance competitions. It will only make your trip that much more fun and will make you an on-board celebrity!
  • Attend the Alaskan speaker events that come onboard. A word of warning, their stories are inspiring and will make you want pack up and move to Alaska as soon as you return home.

Alaskan Cruise