Beautiful Curacao

Beautiful Curacao

 

Bon Dia!

Last month, I took  an amazing trip to Curacao!    Did you know Curacao is one of the cheapest islands to travel to during the winter?   Airline tickets drop as low as $300 and hotel accommodations start at $96 during the winter months.   If you’re on a budget like me, it’s the perfect travel destination!

Curacao is the most colorful island in the Caribbean, it is known for its brilliantly hued buildings and beautiful beaches.   You’ll fall in love with just exploring and learning more about the culture.

 

The Weather
Curacao is beautiful all year round!  It’s not extremely hot, they have the perfect weather.   One of the best things about Curacao weather is that the island is generally not affected by hurricanes, the hurricane frequency is about every 28 years.  The last hurricane to hit Curacao was Hurricane Felix in 2016.

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The Culture
Life in Curacao is just as laid back as it is on any other island in the Caribbean.  I had to remind myself when service was slow, that I was used to everything being so rushed back home.

Most of the people on the island are Afro-Caribbean, however there are also many Dutch, French, Latin American and Asian people on the island as well.  It’s a melting pot just like America!

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Curaçaoan man outside of Kokomo Beach

While English is widely spoken on the island, we took time to learn the local language Papiamento, it’s a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch.

Some of the phrases we learned were:

Bon Dia – Good Morning
Bon Tardi – Good Afternoon
Bon Nochi – Good Night
Ayo – Goodbye

We also learned the term “Dushi”, which sounds like a bad word but it actually has a beautiful meaning:

dushi

There’s very little crime on the island, the local jail only has 75 inmates.  Clearly, a huge difference from here in the US.

For the most part, the people are friendly.  We did run into a bit of racism in the Jantiel area of the island.  Nothing too extreme, just a lot of pointing, staring and laughing.   We brushed it off and continued to have a great time.

 

Exploring
The Punda District in Willemstad is known for its’ colorful buildings.  Buildings in the area used to be all white.  Word on the street is, the Governor of the island suffered from severe headaches which he believed stemmed from the brightness of the sun hitting the stark white buildings.   He ordered that all buildings be painted any color but white.   It was later discovered that the Governor had a large share in the islands only paint store… #shadyboots

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Colorful buildings in Willemstad

 

Street Art is EVERYWHERE… every corner we turned we found beautiful murals

 

One of my favorite things about Willemstad was the shopping.  There were so many cute shops and restaurants in the area.   I highly recommend stopping past Bamali, it’s a cute accessory and apparel shop in the middle of the Punda District.  It’s owned by a woman name Marjorie and she makes everything in the shop by hand.

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The hat I had made by Marjorie, designer and owner of Bamali

 

While you’re in Willemstad be sure to buy a Chichi.  Chichi’s are symbolic in Curacao, they represent the older women in our lives that we hold in high esteem, like mothers, grandmothers, mentors, aunties etc.  The Chichi statues are curvaceous and beautifully painted.  I didn’t buy one, but I def took a pic with one… and I may or may not have checked to make sure she didn’t have breast cancer.

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Me and the Chichi

 

Oh and be sure to stop by the Punda Love Heart to “Love Your Love”  before you leave Willemstad!  The Punda Love Heart was created to celebrate the local artists in the community.  But, love locks have a deeper history.  Over 100 years ago a school mistress and a Serbian army officer wrote their names on a lock and placed it on the Bridge of Love in Serbia.  This tradition spread throughout Europe and people have “locked their love” on bridges all across the continent including the Ponts de Arts Bridge in Paris.

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Punda Love Heart
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Locking our love

 

As I mentioned before, the beaches in Curacao are amazing.  We were fortunate enough to get to two of the beaches, Kokomo and Mambo beach.  The most popular and most beautiful one is Klein Knip beach.   I can’t speak for Klein Knip beach, but be sure to bring water shoes with you to the beach, the rocks in the water are slippery and kind of painful to walk on.

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Panoramic view of Mambo Beach

 

Kokomo Beach has the cutest swing in the water that is perfect for snapping a pic for the gram.  Unfortunately, my lack of upper body strength and coordination wouldn’t allow me to get on the swing.  I’m determined to able to get on it next time!

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Sunset view of the Kokomo swing

 

Food in Curacao
Food is a major part of my decision to travel to Curacao.  One of my foodie friends told me how good the food is in Curacao and she was right! Everything we ate in Curacao was absolutely amazing!  It’s a big difference from the junk so many of the restaurants here in the US serve.  I didn’t see one McDonalds while we were there, but they love Subway – I saw quite a few of them.   I highly recommend Zest Beach Grill in Jantiel, Mistral Bistro in the Punda District in Willemstad, and De Visserij in Piscadera Bay.   Fresh seafood is incredibly inexpensive and will not disappoint.

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Shrimp basket, fried tuna, french fries and “funchi hassa” (fried polenta)  – De Visserij

 

Here are a few things I wish someone told me before I left:

  • Taxis are expensive, rent a car it will cost $40 per day. We spent $250 on taxis in just three days. (someone actually told me this but I thought I knew what I was doing)
  • Racism is Alive and Well – Certain areas like Jantiel seem to not like persons with highly melanated skin. It’s nothing too extreme but it’s definitely noticeable.
  • DO NOT stay at the Floris Suite Hotel, they have cockroaches, the rooms smell like mildew and the customer service is terrible. Even TripAdvisor will make you think this hotel is beautiful… trust me it’s not!
  • If you like to partake in libations, bring your own alcohol, the majority of cocktails we had were severely watered down.
  • Don’t leave without visiting Klein Knip beach… the locals call it Kinippa
  • Bring mosquito spray, the mosquitoes are definitely hungry down there. Oh, and beware of the flies… there are a lot of flies!
  • When you go to Mistral Bistro, ask Robert to make you a Rum Punch… its BOMB!
  • Stay at the BijBlaw (pronounced BAY-BLOWWWWW),  the hotel is beautiful and the food is bomb!
  • Bring cash with you, they accept US currency everywhere!
  • Oh, and remember “Dushi” isn’t a bad word!

 

 

I really hope you’ll check out Curacao!  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Ayo Dushi!! (Goodbye Beautiful)

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9 Tips For Surviving Your First Flight

9 Tips For Surviving Your First Flight

 

So you’ve booked your first trip via airplane and now you don’t know what to expect, right?  Well, I can help you with that!  First things first… calm down and take a deep breath!  Flying is a breeze and there’s nothing to worry about!  You’ve got this!

 

Secure Your Travel Documentation

In order to board your flight you’re going to need various travel documents like a driver’s license or a passport.   Personally, I like to put my passport in my personal bag I take on the plane months in advance.  One of my biggest fears is not having my passport when I arrive at the airport.  It’s also a good idea to print your airline and hotel confirmations. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

Verify Baggage Information

The first time I had ever planned a group trip, I didn’t realize that airlines had started charging for checked luggage and I didn’t account for that cost.    Many airlines charge for checked luggage and carry-on bags, so before you head to the airport make sure you know what to expect when it comes to baggage restrictions and costs.  Skyscanner.com has a great feature where you can find baggage restrictions and fees here.

 

Be Patient

I cannot stress this enough.  Flying takes a lot of patience.  There are lines EVERYWHERE, lines at the check-in desk, lines in the security line, lines to board your plane.  Remember that everyone at the airport has the same goal… and that’s to get to their destination.  If you find yourself stuck in line at any point, take a deep breath and remind yourself to be patient.  You’ll get to your destination, don’t worry.

 

Arrive Early

As I mentioned previously, there are lines everywhere at the airport so ensure you arrive early so that you don’t run the risk of missing your flight.   Some airports like Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and Chicago O’Hare, are known for having long lines to get through security.  Even after arriving early, I’ve come VERY close to missing my flight at these airports due to the long lines ( this, prompted me to get TSA pre-check cuz I ain’t missing no flights honey).

Here is the method I use:

  • If I’m not checking a bag, I arrive an hour early
  • If I’m checking a bag, I arrive 90 minutes early
  • If I’m traveling internationally, I arrive two hours early

This method has yet to fail me!

Note: Many airports provide information on their website regarding wait times at the security checkpoint.

 

Check-In First

When you arrive at the airport the first thing you should do is check-in at the airline desk, so that you can get the documentation you may need, like boarding passes.    This is a better method than checking in at the Skycap because you’ll be able to ask specific questions pertaining to your flight as well as get any updates.

Note: download the app for the airline you’ll be flying with so that you can obtain an electronic copy of your boarding pass.  This lessens the amount of paperwork and documentation you have to carry in your hand.   

 

Go Through Security

When going through security remember that there may be lines, so please be patient.   Be sure to bring socks, you will have to take your shoes off and it’s disgusting to put your bare feet on airport floors.     Be sure to pay close attention to the direction of the TSA Agents and things will go smoothly!

Note: If you see the TSA Agents with their dogs, this indicates that you don’t have to take your shoes off!

 

Head to Your Gate

Once you get through security, before you run to the bathroom or grab a bit to eat, head to your gate so that you know exactly where you are going.   There will be large screens throughout the airport that air flight information, including gate information and departure status.    Take a minute to check the screens to ensure your gate Hassan not been changed.

Note: many airports are going silent and are not announcing gate changes and updated flight information over the intercom.    Be sure to check the status of your flight via the airline app or flight status screens throughout the airport. 

 

It’s Time to Board

Planes are boarded by zone, you can find your zone on your boarding pass.   Once you board the flight, look for your seat number.  You’ll find it right below the overhead bin.   Once you’ve found your seat be sure to quickly put your personal items away as others are still trying to find their seat and get settled, you could be holding them up.

 

On the Plane

When flying, due to the change in atmospheric pressure, your ears will pop.  It’s not really painful, but it is pretty uncomfortable.  To avoid the discomfort of ear popping you can do things like, chew gum, use filtered ear plugs, or taking a decongestant.  Additional tips can be found on the Mayo Clinic website

Flight attendants will come around offering complimentary snacks and beverages (depending on the airline).  If you’re feeling a bit fancy or want a little more than pretzels and peanuts, many airlines offer other menu items at an additional cost.  Cash is not accepted, so be sure to have your credit/debit card handy.

 

Happy travels… and congratulations on getting your wings!

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Benefits of Traveling with a Tour Group

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Recently, I returned from an absolutely amazing trip to Antigua.  One of the coolest things about this trip was that I went with a travel group.   Now that I think about it, this wasn’t the first time I had traveled with a group, but it was one of the best tour group experiences I’ve ever had.  All fun and no drama… just 22 women with the common goal of exploring the world and having a good time!

There are so many benefits to traveling with a tour group:

Everything Is Planned For You

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Catamaran boats

Planning excursions when I travel has always been really overwhelming for me.  There are always so many options to choose from.  But in most cases, when you’re traveling with a tour group, everything from meals to excursions is planned for you.  For this particular trip, our excursions and accommodations were all planned for us.

Our trip was kind of short and our only excursions were a day trip to Barbuda (I didn’t go) and a catamaran cruise to private beaches, which were absolutely stunning!  As a special treat, our coordinator even hired a professional photographer to document our experience on the catamaran!

Our accommodations were at the brand new all-inclusive Royalton Antigua resort and it was absolutely beautiful.  I’ll get into my experience at the resort in another post. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it.

 

Great Way to Organize Travel with Friends

When it comes to planning trips with friends I often find that people just don’t want to split up the duties that come along with planning a trip. That either leaves one person to plan it all or no one at all.   Since everything is already planned for when you travel with a tour group, you can eliminate the anxiety that comes along with planning a group trip and have a stress free vacation with your friends.

 

Someone to Show You the Way

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Wes, our amazing coordinator

You don’t have to worry about getting lost or finding the pickup point for your excursions because your guide will show the way.   Many tour group trips come with a guide to lead you on your journey.  They can translate for you and answer any questions you may have.  They can even order food for you (I definitely had to get my guide in Morocco to order pizza from pizza hut for me because my French was TERRIBLE)

On this particular trip we didn’t have a guide, but our coordinator had visited the island a few weeks before we arrived, to ensure that everything was in place for us.  Seriously, Wes was the best coordinator ever!

 

 Your Parents Can Relax

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Day one, and we were already feeling like old girlfriends

 

My mother is the epitome of a worry wart, so when she found out I was going to Antigua and didn’t know anyone on the trip she was definitely nervous. But, she didn’t really need to worry.  When you’re traveling with a group, it’s completely safe for you to go without knowing anyone.  You’re literally never alone until it’s time to go to bed (unless you share a room with someone).  There is always someone to go exploring with, have dinner with, or lay out on the beach with.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous about going on this trip alone.   I’m not even sure why I felt that way.  I go to concerts, restaurants, and festivals alone all the time when I’m at home.   I just knew that I would spend my entire vacation alone and doing my own thing.  The truth is, from the time I arrived at the resort until I landed back in the U.S., I was never by myself!

 

Photographers Everywhere

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Mini photo shoot in the pool

I know I get on my friends nerves always asking them to take my picture.   When you’re with a travel group everyone is willing to stop and pose for pictures and be tagged in them so that their friends and family back home can see.  Of course, they’ll take great pics for your personal collection too!

We were regularly taking each other’s pics, and we took it seriously too!  We were constantly telling each other which way to pose, and ensuring each pic got the right amount of lighting.  It was pretty fun and absolutely hilarious!

Some of the most epic pics that depict group travel can be found on social media pages like Melanin Globe!

 

You Leave With a New Group of Friends

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Melanin Globe should feature us! #travelgoals

After sharing so many memories and hilarious moments… how could you not leave a group trip without a set of new friends?   You’ll develop a network of friends from all over the country!  It’s an awesome way to stay in touch with the new people you’ve connected with to visit them or even travel together again!

From the start of our trip we were all already feeling like we had been friends for years.  We laughed, and some of us even shed a few tears.   By the end of the trip, we were all already thinking about a trip together in 2020.

Keep in mind that your experience with a travel group all depends on the group you’re with, but having a good attitude about it will make all the difference. You’ll get to meet some cool people and make a lot of awesome memories.

If you’re interested in traveling with a tour group, here are some of my favorite people that plan frequent group trips:

 

I really hope you’ll make your next trip with a travel group!

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You Get What Your Pay For… Spirit Airlines

You Get What Your Pay For… Spirit Airlines

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So listen…  I threw a ton of shade at Spirit Airlines in the past.   This was solely based on an experience I had with them in 2013 when I flew from Las Vegas to Baltimore… EPIC FAIL.

I’m a pretty forgiving person so in October of last year when I needed a cheap flight for a last minute trip to Atlanta I decided I would give Spirit Airlines another try.   See the thing about Spirit Airlines is that they promise ultra low cost plane tickets.  The issue is that while your plane ticket is low cost, you also have to pay for your seat, carry-on bags and checked baggage.   If you don’t pay for your seat or bags at the time of booking, the price sky rockets astronomically.   For example, if you pay for your bags at the time of booking, your carry-on bag is $35. If you pay at the time of online check in, the same carry-on bag is  $45, and if you wait until you arrive at the airport, the price is $50 or $100 if you’re at the gate.   And that’s just for carry-on bags… imagine what the cost is for checked luggage!  Oh and I forgot to mention that you also have to pay for printing boarding passes.  Nobody has time or money for that!!!!

I was fully prepared for the shenanigans of the airline when I booked with them, so I stuffed my favorite tote bag with enough snacks and clothes for three days and made sure it was small enough to fit under my seat (Intrigued? I’ll do a minimalist packing post soon).  Spirit was definitely not going to get any extra coins from me for carry on bags.   My trip to Atlanta and back was a success… Spirit had won a new customer.

I tried Spirit again this past April when I flew round-trip from Baltimore to Mexico… another successful trip.   But… a few weeks ago I used Spirit Air for another trip and that’s when they turned on me… THEY DID ME WRONG YALL!

Springtime in the DC area means a ton of thunderstorms are on the horizon… a few weeks ago the weather was so terrible that my flight with Spirit Airlines was canceled coming out of Baltimore.  I called Spirit to get a refund for my trip and they gladly obliged.   However, they only refunded me for my trip to Atlanta and not my return flight.  When I asked why… the agent responded “Oh the weather will be clear in Atlanta the day you return so we can’t refund you your money because there won’t be a travel advisory for the weather….” WHAT!!!  These petty clowns done played me!  I explained in my most professional angry off voice “Ma’am, I can’t get to Atlanta to catch the return flight so I need a refund.”  She says… “I’m sorry ma’am, but you can call back on Thursday and see if there is a travel advisory for Atlanta, if there is we can refund you your money.   Would you like to do that? Or for your convenience I can cancel your flight without giving you a refund, the cost to cancel the flight will be $100… which works better for you?”  I seriously thought I was being pranked… I was tired… I had been in the airport since 3pm and it was now close to midnight… I had no fight in me… I just said “No thank you” and tried to figure out how I would get back to my car without drowning in the torrential rain.

See… you try to give people (or airlines) second chances… and they act right for a little while… but then show you their true color when they think you aren’t watching!  Spirit got me this time… but believe me they will never get me again!  No matter how cheap the flight may be!

Traveler… BEWARE!

My Travel Essentials

My Travel Essentials

I’m traveling this week, so I figured I would share with you guys the items I take with me on a flight.

A Good Book


Nowadays, I never travel without a good book. I feel that when I’m sitting in airport for waiting for my flight to board is the perfect time to catch up on my reading.  This time I’m bringing along  I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi.  I’ve heard so many good things about it, I can’t wait to crack it open.

Zzquil


Ok one thing about me is, I love to sleep when I’m on a plane.  I take a Zzquil right before boarding and I’m out before the flight even takes off.  For me, airplane sleep is the BEST sleep.

Something to Keep Me Warm

 My favorite blanket scarf from ModCloth is a frequent travel companion of mine.  Yea, I know they hand blankets out on flights, but I don’t trust them (germaphobe)… so I bring my own.

Moisturizer

Cabin air makes my skin so dry so I always keep a good moisturizer on hand.  Since I’m traveling I opted or these thin mask packs.

Snacks

Airplane snacks are always wack and super expensive to me, so I bring my own.  This time I’m bringing: Kind fruit bars, dried fruit, vanilla almond butter and I’ll probably make some kale chips.

Headphones

  Anti-bacterial Wipes

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I watched a documentary once that made me question the cleanliness of planes.  So, now I bring a pack of wipes with me to wipe down my seat prior to me sitting in it.  You never know what occurred in that seat prior to you boarding the plane… GROSS!

My personal bag is filled with a few other things like extra underclothes, a first aid kit, hair pins and other toiletries.  I always feel overpacked, but at the same time I’m ready for anything!  What do you guys travel with?

International Power Source

So, usually I would bring a power source with me so that I could charge my phone and other electronics overseas but I left my international charger in Australia, and I completely forgot to order a new one.  I’m hoping I can stop by Best Buy or something before I leave to get one.  I’m sure they cost an arm and a leg at the airport.

Until next time…
@myproductaddiction