Florence | My 3 Day Itinerary

Fall fashion in Florence Italy Duomo

Florence – The Italian city that stole my heart

I will start off by saying that the first thing I recommend doing for your 3-day Florence itinerary, is to add another day to your itinerary. I absolutely fell in love with this city and left wishing we had at least one more day to wander the cobblestone streets and explore the various piazzas and shops. I will share with you the things that we did during our 3-day stay that are an absolute must, the things I think you can skip, and the things we wish we had more time to do in case you take my advice and schedule a couple of extra days (and if you aren’t here to take my advice, then what are we all here for? 😊)

Florence: Day 1

This will be your most action packed day. And the thing I love about Florence is that you can walk everywhere, so you will get the whole lay of the land on Day 1.

The Duomo (duh): The symbol of Florence. The Piazza del Duomo is technically home to 3 different buildings, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with its beautiful exterior façade, the Baptistry of San Giovanni, one of the oldest churches in Florence, and the Dome (the Duomo) that stands 116 meters high. Now, you can buy tours for all three of these sites, or you can do what my husband and I did- Stand in the square and marvel at the beautiful exterior (and proceed to do this every time you walk by on future excursions), enter the Cathedral for free and putz around, and pay to walk to the top of the Duomo for the breathtaking views of all of Florence. Our friends paid for a tour of the Baptistry and Cathedral and said they could have easily skipped it, but paying to walk to the top is 100% worth it, just plan around the rainy weather if you’re visiting in the fall/winter. You’ll have to plan ahead, and can purchase the tickets to climb the dome for 20 euro here.

Galleria Dell’Accademia Di Firenze (Accademia Gallery): Home of “The David”, one of Michaelangelo’s most renowned sculptures. I’m not a big art museum gal, but I loved this museum. Visiting here after all the museums in Rome, the museum felt small to me, which I enjoyed. Other than “The David”, this museum has a gallery of other sculptures, paintings, and plasters which made me feel like I was exploring Mr. Darcy’s Pemberly estate in Pride and Prejudice. And if you’re still thinking, “No but I like, really don’t enjoy art museums” – everybody NEEDS to see “The David”. I’ve never described a piece of art as ‘breathtaking’, but I could have stared at this sculpture for hours (okay maybe an hour, tops). With a 12 euro entrance fee and relatively short line (in November 2021), this is a MUST DO.

Quick Bite at All’Antico Vinaio: Okay, I’ve had multiple people tell me this was the best sandwich they’ve ever had in their entire life. It’s a walk up window right on the street and the lines can get long. They have someone directing traffic for specifically for the line. There are two windows, but they are the exact same. All the sandwiches on the menu are 6 euro, or you can make your own. I went here because it’s super popular and focaccia bread and cold cuts are my jam, however, I left unimpressed. Maybe I got the wrong thing or I didn’t enjoy eating a sandwich standing out in the rain, but I’m willing to give this place another chance. Seriously, multiple people have told me this sandwich is life changing so I can’t let my one experience rob you of experiencing it for yourself.

Piazza di Santa Trinita: There’s an old 13th century church and a lit up Christmas tree in November/December but I really brought you here for the Ferragamo store. See below ;).

Ferragamo Museum/Salvatore Ferragamo Store: For all my fashion lovers out there, I have options for you, too! After all we are IN ITALY! Salvatore Ferragamo purchased Palazzo Spini Feroni in the 1930’s and it has housed his flagship store ever since. Remember, “palazzo” means palace, so you will be able to scratch ‘shopping for Italian designer shoes and handbags in a Gothic palace’ off your bucket list. After you’re done shopping you can head down to what used to be the palace basement to tour the Ferragamo museum. I think it costs around 10 euro. The museum was very well done, and you’ll tour all the printed silk scarf collections based on the parts of the world that inspired them and also be able to see all the vintage shoes. And if you have a not so enthused husband in tow as I did, it’s a small museum so he’ll survive.

The renovated Gucci Garden was not open when I was there but if you enjoy the Ferragamo Museum, then also check out the Gucci Garden.

Ponte Santa Trinita (St. Trinity Bridge): Upon leaving the Ferragamo museum, flip a u-turn and you’ll arrive at the St. Trinity Bridge. This is a Renaissance bridge and is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world. I didn’t know or realize this at the time, I was more impressed by the views of the Arno river. Cue, photo opp!

Ponte Vecchio: From the St Trinity bridge you can see the Ponte Vecchio. Other than being known for being old (Ponte Vecchio means ‘Old Bridge’), it is known for all the jewelry shops that line the street. The shops are v overrated in my opinion, but I won’t pass up a stroll up and down a medieval bridge with secret passageways (we’ll get to that later)

Golden View Restaurant: On Ponte Vecchio is where you should be heading to dinner. We were in Florence for Thanksgiving so we were looking for a more formal, celebratory dinner. I will be recommending some traditional Italian trattorias, but if you are looking for a more formal dining experience, I HIGHLY recommend this place. Not only was this some of the best food we had, but the view is also amazing, or should I say, golden. The restaurant is right on the Arno river and you can see the rest of the Ponte Vecchio. Reserve your table ahead of time from their website.

Florence: Day 2

After a full day 1 of walking around Florence, we’re going to slow things down a bit…

Wine Tasting in the Tuscan Countryside: If you are wanting to do some wine tasting while you are in Tuscany, which, WHY WOULDN’T YOU WANT TO? I highly recommend the wine tasting experience we did. I booked all of our tours while we were traveling through Airbnb, and this one was incredible value. This was a small group wine tour in the Chianti classico area of wine production (think what Champagne, France is to champagne, the Chinati Region is to Chianti Clasico).

This was pretty much a full day experience and so so worth it. The Palagio Winery we went to is about a 30 minute drive outside of Florence and the experience includes a thorough explanation of all the wine, a tour of the grounds and wine cellar, 8 wine tastings (plus olive oil and limoncello tasting), and a 4 course lunch. And this lunch was no joke. The whole day only cost $75 per person (not including transportation). Booking tours through Airbnb felt very secure, easy, and

The photos do not do the view of the gorgeous Tuscan countryside justice!

Piazza Della Republicca: If you do any sort of wine tour that includes a 4 course lunch, you will be wanting a later dinner. (If you didn’t know this already, later dinners in Italy are better anyways because the locals will be eating after 8pm.) Head to Caffe Paszkowski for an aperitif. They have an enclosed outdoor seating terrace to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of one of the main squares in Florence. There’s even a carousel – magical.

Dinner at Trattoria Nella: Told ya I’d be recommending some casual trattorias. This place was recommended to me by a friend who lived in Florence and we really liked it. Small, casual, inexpensive – everything you want in your “down a quiet alley Italian trattoria”. You can view their hand written menu hung up outside the restaurant but one of their popular dishes is the Ravioli Alle Noci (Walnut Ravioli). It’s delicious, but very rich, so I recommend getting it as a shared plate, not your main meal.

Florence Day 3

San Lorenzo Market: This market has it all. The indoor section is dedicated to fresh food and grocery items and also ready to eat cuisine. Eataly is also part of this market. The outdoor portion of the market hosts endless stalls of leather goods, among other things. It’s the perfect place to get your souvenirs and bring dad home an Italian leather belt or your sister a knockoff Gucci bag.

Piazza della Signoria/Uffizi Gallery: You might remember me saying I’m not a big art museum gal. And while I loved the Accademia Gallery, I made the controversial choice to skip the Uffizi Gallery. It hosts some Michelangelo and Botticelli pieces, so if you think it’s borderline irreverent to be in Florence and not see these pieces, then knock yourself out, but I was content to enjoy the beautiful Piazza and the several sculptures that are outside in the square. Among which is a replica of The David (not the same as seeing the real thing). If you’re time in Florence is limited, this is skippable.

Walking Tour: Okay hear me out…I thought walking tours were something only old people did too. And while my husband and I didn’t actually end up doing the walking tour due to weather, our two friends who were travelling with us did. They said it was their favorite thing they did, and we got to benefit from all the fun facts and stories they took away from it -like Romeo and Juliet status family feuds and secret tunnels type stuff. Florence felt small after being in Rome, and we walked everywhere, but like everywhere in Europe, there is sooo much history behind every bridge and building and a little 2-hour stroll about town proved to be time well spent. This tour was also booked through AirBnB and was a very small group – I don’t have a link because there’s so many to choose from.

Dinner at Trattoria ZaZa: This restaurant was randomly selected off a list of recommendations and when we arrived there was about 40 people in line outside, not exaggerating. We almost bailed but decided, “when in Rome”. The wait went by surprisingly fast and before even getting our food we were so glad we waiting. Unlike your “hole in the wall” trattorias, this place was huge, and packed with tables and eclectic décor – 10/10 on the vibe check. The food was of course, delicious and to give you an idea of how inexpensive dining out is here, let me tell you what we ordered: the 4 of us ordered an artichoke appetizer, a pizza (which came with shots of tequila? don’t ask questions), lasagna, gnocchi, 2 bottles of wine, a round of limoncello, another dish, I don’t remember (see afore mentioned drinks), and the whole bill was 140 euro. Shook.

YAB: This next recommendation is not for the faint of heart. However, if you too find yourself happily hydrated after a delightful dinner at Trattoria ZaZa and just don’t want your night to end then head over to YAB nightclub. We were probably the oldest people there, but that meant we could afford a table and didn’t have to wait in line with all the college kids. The table with bottle service was only $300 which had this Southern California girl shook for the second time that night #youngandbeautiful.

QUICK FAQ

  • Where did you stay? We LOVED our AirBnB – linking here – Florence AirBnB
  • How did you get around? We arrived to Florence by train and literally walked everywhere else?
  • Favorite coffee shop? Ditta Artigianale. Also had fantastic breakfast options.
  • Where is the place to shop? It should go without saying that I shopped between all of these activities. There are endless designer boutiques in Florence, and not a lot of “fast fashion”. There is a Zara in Piazza della Repubblica and most of the designer shops are on Via de’ Tornabuoni which the Ferragamo store is at the end of.
  • Best time of year to go? I’m not an expert on this because I’ve only been once and I knew I didn’t want to go to Italy in the heat of summer. We were there in November and it was magical. Every single street was decorated for Christmas with lights and ornaments strung across every road. We dealt with some rain but it was still pleasant with an umbrella.
Florence, until next time…

Have any questions? Have suggestions of your own? Leave me a comment, I’d love to meet you.

4 QUESTIONS EVERY BRIDE MUST ANSWER BEFORE SHE STARTS WEDDING PLANNING

I PLANNED MY WEDDING IN THREE WEEKS. HERE’S HOW.

I planned my wedding in three weeks. Not at typo. I planned my wedding in THREE WEEKS. Now, disclaimer: I by no means needed to plan my wedding in 3 weeks as we had a 10-month engagement, but once I had these FOUR QUESTIONS answered for my wedding, the planning and decision making was very seamless. So, if you actually happen to be in a time crunch for wedding planning and need to figure things out quickly, determining your answers to these four questions (and doing it quickly) will help you plan something in no time! While my fiancé and I  weren’t in a time crunch, it was so nice to be efficient about the planning, and honestly to just be done with it because it allowed us to enjoy the rest of our engagement without a whole lot of wedding planning tasks. So, whether you have 2 years or 2 months to plan your big day, you are in the right place.

I am well aware that planning and decisiveness comes down a little bit to personality types and how we are wired. If you’ve read my About Me, you know I’m an Enneagram 8. If you know anything about Enneagram 8s, we are very decisive, which has its obvious advantages for planning a wedding. Of course, planning, making decisions, and putting ideas into motion comes easier to some people than others. So, if you’re thinking, “I am not decisive and whatever this chick is going to say isn’t going to work for me”, I would encourage you to keep reading! These tips will help the poor planner and indecisive bride-to-be even MORE.

If you’re decisive like me, once you answer these four questions you will be off to the races, or should I say the altar? All you need to do is get the quotes back, pick the vendor, and make your choices based on their options. If you’re not a decisive person, “picking a vendor and deciding something based on their options” sounds like a 12-month task in and of itself. While personally you would probably stress me out, I’m still here for ya, girl! Either way, THIS IS A GREAT PLACE TO START.

QUESTION NUMBER ONE

WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?

Let me be the kill joy for a minute: Before you do anything, you have to make a budget (Unless you are made of money. But if you’re made of money you’re probably not reading a blog about how to plan your own wedding). I know, I get it. You immediately want to start looking at dresses, booking a venue, and requesting that photographer you’ve been following on Instagram for the last 2 years. While making the budget isn’t fun, it is absolutely 100% necessary and will save a lot of time as you embark on this planning journey. The worst thing you can do is to spend time planning a wedding you can’t afford.

First step would be to talk to your families to see if/what they will be contributing, then come up with a number you and your fiancé are comfortable with spending to get your total budget. Lastly, download a budget template online like this one HERE, and start to itemize everything and allocate a budget for each item. And when I say itemize everything, I mean everything. At this point, don’t worry about filling in the allocated costs for each item as this will evolve as you start to get quotes from your vendors.

QUESTION NUMBER TWO

WHAT ARE YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES?

Stay with me as I say one more thing about budget. You’re not going to know how much everything is going to cost until you get quotes back, so it is important that you make a list of your non-negotiables – the things you absolutely must have at your wedding. Then make a list of things you’d like to have but can live without if they end up putting you over budget.

For example, a non-negotiable for my wedding was an open bar, so my fiancé and I knew knew a big chunk of our budget would be going toward that, no matter what. I also knew florals would be important to me for our “Tropical Bohemian” vibe, so that budget number was high on the list as well. On the flip-side, I was on the fence about paying for a videographer, so that was the first thing to go once we had our quotes for all the other vendors and it would take away from our budget for other items. I wasn’t heartbroken because I already had my “MUST HAVES” vs. “IT WOULD ALSO BE COOL TO HAVE THIS” spelled out. See the difference?

I have a friend who’s non-negotiable was having an In-N-Out food truck for the catering. Considering the In-N-Out food truck didn’t go south of San Clemente, this significantly narrowed down where her venue would be. You may be thinking, “well this sounds like it could limit my options”, and I would say to you, you want your options to be limited! Your head will be spinning with all the choices you will have, so making this list early on will help you navigate narrowing these options down, hence, easier decision making.  

QUESTION NUMBER THREE

WHAT IS YOUR THEME?

Now we are getting to the fun stuff! Maybe this part is easy for you and you have the vision for your wedding day locked down and you’re like “my theme is Moroccan boho chic, next question, thank yew”. But, maybe you will have to ask yourself a few questions to hone in on what you want your wedding day vibe to be. The theme should represent you, your tastes, and unique style.

Here is why this is important: Your theme will keep you focused while you plan and make decisions. There are SO MANY amazing wedding trends, venue types, and vendors that it will be easy to get distracted if you don’t stay focused on YOUR theme. The first thing this will help you do is pick your venue. If your theme is “elegant garden party”, a good place to start would be with googling “hotel garden wedding venues” or “botanical gardens” (wow, I should really charge for this kind of advice). If your theme is “desert chic”, you’re going to skip the industrial venues and start looking at ranches or trendy, boutique hotels. My theme was “Tropical Bohemian”, so I knew I wanted a lush garden feel with lots of palms, preferably with an ocean view (my theme fit my Cabo destination wedding perfectly. You can read all the pros and cons of a destination wedding HERE).

Having a theme will also make communicating with your vendors much easier AND a lot faster. This is the first thing your photographer, florist, and rental company will ask you when you request a quote. It not only helps you communicate your vision to them, it will help them turn around a quote a lot quicker and make suggestions because they know exactly what you’re looking for. I believe this is what helped me plan my wedding so quickly; I had a clear vision of what I wanted and a way to communicate it.

QUESTION NUMBER FOUR

DO YOU HAVE A PINTEREST BOARD?

This goes right along with your theme and communicating with your vendors. They won’t just ask you for your theme, they will ask you to share any inspiration photos, preferably your Pinterest board, with them. Again, this will help you communicate your vision, and speed up the quoting and selection process. Even if you are not an avid Pinterest user, I highly recommend making one for your wedding planning. And if you’re like me and have been pinning wedding ideas since college, I highly recommend cleaning it up. Something tells me having your bridesmaids wear cowgirl boots isn’t the look you’ll be going for anymore. Your boards should be organized, specific, and only include things that are true to your wedding theme. I made these 3 Pinterest boards to stay organized:

In the words of Pitbull, “One. Two. Three. Four. Uno. Dos. Tres. Cuatro.” Just like that, you are ready to get started!

I hope this post has inspired you and helped put your pretty little mind at ease as you start planning what will be the best day of your life. Do you any personal experiences or input you would like to share? Leave a comment below; I would love to meet you!

Wedding Credits: Dress – Lovely Bride; HMU – Blanc Bridal Salon Cabo; Photographer – Billi Cate Photography; Florals/Decor – Del Cabo Weddings.

Destination Wedding | The Pros and Cons

DESTINATION WEDDING PROS & CONS

psst…they’re mostly pros

So, you’ve got the ring on your finger (finally!) and if you are anything like me, you have immediately started googling, pinning, e-mailing, and are eagerly getting started on planning your DREAM WEDDING. Maybe you’ve dreamed of a destination wedding all of your life, or maybe, after gathering all this inspiration over the last however many hours it took you to get started, something makes you turn to your partner and say, “Babe, what if we did a destination wedding?”.

Again, if you’re like me, you may make a pros and cons list. Now let me start this post off with a disclaimer: I RECOMMEND A DESTINATION WEDDING. My husband and I are from San Diego and got married in San Jose del Cabo, and we would not trade the weekend we had for the world. So whether you’re thinking Mexico, Iceland, Hawaii, or Croatia, I say, “Do it!”. But I will not say that without letting you in on the PROS AND CONS that my husband and I experienced along the way. You may have unique things come up depending on the destination you choose, but I will share some that I believe will apply to most, if not all, you destination brides-to-be.

So, let’s start with the CONS of having a destination wedding. Now, remember, I am recommending, nay, yelling from the rooftop, for you to have a destination wedding. So, don’t forget to read on to the PROS. You may just discover some of these CONS have an appealing flip side.

CONS OF HAVING A DESTINATION WEDDING

  • Trimming the Guest List: One of the first things you will have to accept about planning a destination wedding, is there will be people who won’t be able to make it. Whether their health, age, or financial situation restricts them from traveling too far, there will be people who you will miss. (Stay tuned. There is a pro to this)
  • The Guilt Trips: Some of these people may be disappointed in you that you are picking a destination that they are unable to travel to, and make you feel guilty for it. Luckily, I didn’t experience much of this, but I know it can happen. With everything during wedding planning, you must remind yourself, and your friends and family, that the wedding is. about. the. bride. and groom. End of story. Do not let this deter you from doing what you and your betrothed want to do.
  • Travel Logistics: There are always going to be those guests who just can’t answer their own questions about travel arrangements, whether the wedding is 20 minutes or 12 hours away. This concern can be highlighted for some guests if you are asking them to travel internationally. This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to have a detailed wedding website with a “Travel & Accommodations” section, and to set boundaries for yourself. Those questions will come, and you can simply reply, “Yes, we thought of that! All the details you need are on our website!”. I used ZOLA for our wedding website and loved it.
  • Vendors of Choice: Some vendors may require a little more work to find if you are getting married in an area you have no connections to. You may have a photographer, florist, videographer, etc. that you’ve always dreamed of working with that you simply can’t afford to fly to Bali. You will have to either rely on your venue and their preferred list of vendors or do your own research to find someone you want to work with nearby, which can be challenging if you’re not familiar with the area. Lean on Yelp, TripAdvisor, google reviews, or even reach out to other brides who got married at/near your venue on social media.
  • No DIY: Maybe you were planning on DIYing some wedding decor to save some money. However, it’s going to be a little difficult to fly with your homemade seating chart or the corn hole you borrowed from your sister. Yes, there are probably some things that you could do cheaper if you were able to bring them yourself, but it’s just not going to be worth the hassle. I recommend relying on your wedding vendors for all the decor. The only thing I brought with me from San Diego to Cabo were some fans for the wedding ceremony and blow-up props for the dance floor, all of which stayed in Mexico.

PROS OF HAVING A DESTINATION WEDDING

  • Exclusive Guest List: While you may be sad that Grandma can’t make it to Tulum, do you want to know arguably the best part about having a destination wedding? You can cross some people off that guest list, girl! Sorry distant family member I only see once a year, sorry co-worker who is expecting a courtesy invite, sorry friends of parents that I don’t even know – “We are having a destination wedding and due to the intimate nature of our ceremony, we can only invite our immediate family and friends“. Practice saying that and leave that guest list drama for the poor bride who has to manage 350 RSVPs to her ballroom reception.
    • TIP: You can also use that sentence up there to fill in the blank and explain why no small children are invited, and you can thank me later.
    • Also, don’t get destination wedding confused with micro-wedding. We budgeted for 75 guests. We sent out invitations to 100 people (yes, invite the people who you know can’t make it), and ended up with 50 people attending.
    • TIP: On the fence about who makes the cut? Ask yourself, “Would I invite this person out to dinner and pay for their *insert your cost per plate here* tab?”. If the answer is no, then you have your answer. I am aware not everyone can be a decisive Enneagram 8 like myself who has no problem saying ‘no’ to people. But, hopefully this helps?
  • Vacation With Your Closest Friends & Family: Now that you’ve got the guest list situated, think of how epic it is going to be to have a vacation with your closest friends and family. No obligatory invites (okay, maybe a few) but just the people who are closest to you, who truly know, love, and support you. This is the only time where you will all be on a vacation together, partying together, and all to celebrate YOU! I got married at the Cabo Surf Hotel in Cabo, and there are no words to describe the joy of waking up and looking out the window and seeing your friends on the beach, then going down to breakfast and all the restaurant tables are filled with your family, and then have all your friends around the pool. It’s like the pre-party, party, and post-party all wrapped up in one trip. I wept when we checked out of our hotel room because I was just so emotional knowing that we just experienced something with our loved ones that we never would again (See, 8s do have soft spots).
TROPICAL WEDDING BRIDESMAID COLORS TROPICAL FLORAL CEREMONY ARCH
  • It Will Be Unique to You: While there are things you can do to make any type of wedding unique to you, there is something about a destination wedding that will be unforgettable to your guests. And I don’t just mean the destination. Whether it’s planning a sunset ocean cruise for the welcome party, a beach bon fire for the rehearsal dinner, a wedding party paddle-out the morning of the wedding, or a mariachi band during cocktail hour, there are so many unique experiences that you can plan that you would be unable to do if you got married in your hometown. Even if you’re like me and are from San Diego and can do all of those things at home, planning something special and specific to your destination will make the weekend even more unforgettable.
  • Vacation Mode: This isn’t just a vacation for you, but for all your guests as well. They all took the time off work, paid the money to be there, and are excited for their anticipated vacation. While this may have been stressful to orchestrate, once everyone is there and has a day or so to get settled, EVERYONE is in vacation mode. I personally felt no pre-wedding stress once we arrived at the destination because once everybody was there on the beach with a margarita and their ‘out of office’ on, what was there to be stressed about? It is a huge plus to have everyone on the same page and in relaxation/party mode.
  • Built In Honeymoon: Chances are your destination wedding will be somewhere you will want to stay and travel around. Personally, I am not for delaying the honeymoon and am all about that instant gratification of leaving the wedding and heading straight to your honeymoon. We got married in Cabo then hopped on a flight to the other side of Mexico and honeymooned in Tulum (check out my blog post for all the details on why we love TULUM). Overall, we were in Mexico 10 days and loved doing everything at once.
  • Get Married On a Weekday: Because your guests will most likely be taking more time off work and staying at the destination longer than they would if they were traveling domestically to your wedding, this may give you the option to get married on a weekday, which is usually cheaper for a lot of venues. Because Cabo is only a 2 1/2 hour flight from San Diego, our weekend itinerary was a little shorter. Most guests arrived Thursday, and we had the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and welcome party Thursday night. The wedding was on Friday and we had the post-wedding brunch on Saturday. Depending on how far your destination is, you may want to lengthen your itinerary and have guests stay longer, which may give you the option to get married on a Thursday or a Monday!
  • No Forced Mingling: If you haven’t caught on by now, I am not a ‘people pleaser’. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I have always said there is no way I’m spending my wedding reception going from table to table mingling with guests; they can come find me on the dance floor. Of course, people would find this rude, LOL. So, lucky for me this wasn’t an issue! I was hanging out with our wedding guests for 2 days leading up to the wedding because we were all staying at the same hotel. No need for forced mingling at the reception – we had already been partying together all weekend! Of course, you always feel like you could have spent more time with certain people, but it was nice to have more than just a 5 minute small-talk with our guests
  • The Photos!: Need I say more? Just think of all the dreamy photos you will get at your unique destination.
  • Other Ways to Celebrate: While you have accepted that not every single person you want there will be able to attend the wedding, remember, there are other ways to celebrate together. Don’t be afraid to invite people to the engagement party or bridal shower that you aren’t inviting to the wedding. It may be a little awkward, but the true friends and family who just want to support and celebrate you will understand.

What all of these pros meant for me, was the event became truly about what it is supposed to be about: the bride and groom. There is something about getting away to a beautiful destination without the drama of a huge guest list that will really simplify your wedding week and keep it focused on what truly matters.

While planning a destination wedding is not without its stressors, I truly believe it makes for the most blissful, stress-free wedding week. I hope I have helped convince you to make the leap, and you can now start planning with eyes wide open! And remember, it’s about YOU!

If you have any questions you would like to ask or personal experiences of your own you would like to share – leave me a comment below. I would love to meet you!

BRIDE & GROOM BEACH WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY DESTINATION WEDDING LOVERS SOCIETY MILO GOWN BACKLESS WEDDING DRESS

Credits: Dress The Lovely Bride; Florals Del Cabo Weddings & Aria Vera Floral Designs; Venue: Cabo Surf Hotel; HMU Blanc Bridal Salon; Hair VineEtsy; Photographer Billi Cate Photography;

Tulum | A Tropical, Bohemian Paradise

Beach | Jungle | Paradise

If you haven’t already noticed, Tulum has recently started to emerge from its unknown whereabouts on the map, to the ultimate vacation destination seen all over social media. How would I describe it? Here are a few things I’ve heard/said myself:

  • It’s like Venice Beach meets Mexico
  • Ever seen the Flinstones? Picture the Flinstones and welcome to Tulum
  • It’s like the Hawaii beaches meets Adventure Land at Disneyland meets LA’s coolest restaurant

So now that you’re sold on going there, because who wouldn’t be after those descriptions? I’ll dive right into everything you need to know. Starting with how long you should stay. You might be thinking that it’s still kind of small and rural so you may get bored if you stay more than 3 nights. And you would be wrong. I recommend 5 days minimum to do everything worth doing and to eat at all. the. amazing. restaurants.

If you want to play a fun game while reading this post, you cant take a drink every time I say the word “vibe”. Because what better way is there to describe Tulum? It’s a vibe.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Tulum is located about 1.5 hours south of the Cancun airport. You will want to fly into Cancun and schedule a shuttle to take you from there to Tulum. We used Cancun Discounts, and they were cheaper than any of the services the hotels quoted us on. You can also rent a car, which brings me to my point.

HOW DO I GET AROUND?

You always have the option to rent a car if you’re not planning on doing any organized tours, and need a way to explore outside of the hotel zone. However, most of the things you’ll want to see and do are all on one long maybe 8-10 mile strip? If you don’t want to walk, you can rent a bike or vespa, and if it’s still too far to bike, you can taxi, although taxis are very expensive. A lot of the nicer hotels have bikes that are free for hotel guests to use. Walking is great because you can get a close look at all the restaurants, shops, and food stands, but you are also able to walk places on the beach!

WHERE DO I STAY?

I have not even began to scratch the surface of all the fantastic hotels there are to stay at. One of the many appealing features of Tulum is most of the hotels are small, boutique hotels with only a dozen or so rooms. This means there are so many unique options to choose from! Here are the ones I recommend based on personal experience or word of mouth.

  • La Valise Tulum – This is where we stayed for the majority of our honeymoon, and it was a DREAM. It has less than 10 rooms so the whole hotel feels very private. You are going to pay over $500 for the “cheapest” jungle room, but it is SO worth it. The ocean rooms are $800-$1,000 a night and are absolutely INSANE. Our jungle room had a palapa roof and outdoor shower. I love this place because of the daybeds on the beach and throughout the hotel, the small pools, the beautiful common area, and that it is literally on the sand. The concierge here are super attentive and your stay comes with free breakfast at the hotel, a cocktail at one of their restaurants every night, and free bike rental.
  • Encantada – This is the sister hotel to La Valise and is very similar. The rooms are stunning and this Encantada also has a quiet beach with day beds.
  • Azulik – This hotel has to capture the ultimate Tulum experience. You are in a literal tree house. People come to visit this hotel to visit the restaurant with its bird nests, and walk through the tunnels to the yoga studio. I personally didn’t want to stay here because when I say tree house, I mean an actual tree house. Like no AC or electricity in the rooms. But, you stay for the experience and the very private beach.
  • Coco Tulum – Coco is a less expensive option but still a great experience. You’ve probably seen pictures of the all white rooms, beach bar, and swings on the beach

DONDE ESTA LA FIESTA?

  • Taboo – Amazing beach club. You can reserve your spot on Open Table, as with a lot of the other restaurants in Tulum. You’ll pay a cover for a nice spot or daybed but it’s worth it.
  • Papaya Playa Project – this place turns into a beach party on Saturday nights! Think jungle beach dance party vibes and need I say more? Go later around 10:30-11pm at night
  • Coco Tulum – if you’re not staying there, this is a fun beach bar during the day! It’s also the spot for the very instagrammable swings on the beach.
  • La Zebra – another beach bar/club with great craft cocktails.

WHERE DO I EAT?

For every amazing hotel in Tulum, there are 5 great restaurants. This is one of the reasons why I believe you’ll need to stay longer than you think you do. It’s impossible to try them all! This is by no means an exhaustive list, but ones that I can personally recommend. Most restaurants you can book on Open Table and if not, you will email them directly. Make reservations. Some open up for reservations 1 to 2 months in advance.

  • Itzik – Dinner. The restaurant belonging to La Valise hotel that serves Mediterranean/Israeli food. We came back again just for the meat hummus. It was insane. Also the best chicken shawarma I’ve ever had. Outdoor restaurant feels like a real life rain forest cafe.
  • Funky Geisha or Rosa Negra : Dinner. We only made it to Funky Geisha (Asian fusion food), but they are owned by the same group (also own Taboo), and have heard great things about all their restaurants. This restaurant is Vegas vibes. A DJ with loud music, brought us sparklers for our honeymoon, and they stay open allll night. A girl was standing up at her table dancing, and we thought the waiter was telling her to sit down, but he was just bringing her a chair to dance on. It’s definitely a scene so if you want the full experience, go later after 9pm.
  • Bak by Harry’s : Dinner. Steak house with all the Tulum vibes. Amazing bread.
  • Posada Margherita: Lunch. Delicious Italian food with great cocktails ON THE SAND. This place has amazing food, cute rustic decor, and wooden menus so they don’t blow away! We stopped here on our way back from the Tulum Ruins and it was the perfect relaxing lunch after a long bike ride.
  • Gitano: Dinner or post dinner. Definitely more late night vibes. The food isn’t the best but this place is vibezzz. It is a restaurant in the jungle, with a neon sign, and disco balls. It turns up on the weekends for late night with a DJ and everything so I would recommend for a late night drink or snack and party in the jungle.
  • Raw Love – Breakfast. Yummy bowls acai bowls and healthy bites. Located at Ahau Hotel which you will for sure notice because it has the Daniel Popper installation of the lady made out of wood and rope which is a Tulum landmark.
  • Hartwood – Dinner. Probably one of the most popular restaurants in Tulum. You have to email a month in advance for a reservation. No menu, just daily items based on what’s available from nearby vendors and the catches of the day. Cash only.
  • Kin’Toh at Azulik – Dinner. Drinks. This is the restaurant in Azulik, which is also practically a treehouse. The food isn’t anything to write home about, but you pay to sit in a bird’s nest overlooking a canopy of rainforest trees or to lounge in one of the nets/hammocks and take an Instagram photo. They also have a wine cellar that you can ask about.
  • Matcha Mama – Coffee, Matcha, & Acai. Also very Instagrammable spot because that’s what people care about these days.

WHAT IS THERE TO DO?

Well, when you’re not lounging at your hotel beach, partying at a day club, eating at one of the must-try restaurants, or taking a siesta, there are some other activities that you will have to squeeze in.

  • Tulum Ruins – A cab ride or a long bike ride away. It only costs 80 pesos to get in, and you must have cash and exact change. These are the only ruins in Mexico that are perched on an ocean cliff. Must see.
  • Tulum Jungle Gym – Also located at the Ahau Hotel (look for the lady!). This is what someone meant when they said, think the Flinstones. This is an actual gym you can work out in, but nearly all the equipment is made of wood, stone, bamboo, and rope.
  • Casa Malca – the hotel/restaurant that is said to be one of Pablo Escobar’s mansions. Here is where you see the interesting artwork and hanging furniture. I personally didn’t think it was worth the visit because the hotel is very exclusive to hotel guests. You have to pay a cover to eat at the bar or restaurant, and there is a $100 minimum spend per person. This doesn’t even give you access to some of the cool photo-op spots throughout the hotel as they are reserved for hotel guest access only. However, you may still want to check it out.
  • Cenotes – If you get your butt off the beach for anything, you have to do a Cenote tour. There are actually hundreds of Cenotes throughout the region so there are several different types of tours you can do. The big ones are Gran Cenote and Dos Ojos. We didn’t see those, but opted to pay a little more for a private tour of 3 small cenotes. This was incredible because we were the only 2 people (along with our tour guide) who were swimming in the cenote. Because there are so many cenotes and they are located in the rainforest with no service, I say paying for a tour is a must. We used Xaman-Ha Connections.
    • Other cenotes are the Tamcach-ha cenote, Laguna de Kaan luum (mud bath), Cenote Taak Bi Ha, Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman (has a swing)

ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW?

  • Download WhatsApp if you don’t already have it. This is how the hotels and tour companies will communicate with you.
  • Bring lots of cash/pesos. Most of the restaurants are either cash only or they charge a high percentage for credit cards.
  • Tulum is a quiet beach town during the day that turns up at night. If you make a 7:30 dinner reservation, you will literally be the only one in the restaurant. Most people take a siesta in the afternoon after being at the beach all day and have a late dinner. If you want the full vibe of these restaurants, eat at 8:30 or later.

WHAT I WORE:

Outfit Details: MY FAV Black Bikini BottomsRevolve; Men’s Green PantsVuori; Gold Sandals – Seychelles; Orange One Piece – Topshop (old); Green DressPetal and Pup; Espadrille SandalsASOS (old); SunglassesTarget

Do you have any other Tulum suggestions? Anything else you’re dying to know? Please leave me a comment below; I’d love to meet you!

Valle de Guadalupe | Baja California’s Hidden Gem

The Ultimate Girl’s Wine Tasting Trip

IS IT SAFE?

Some of you might immediately be thinking, “Girls trip to Mexico? Are ya sure that’s a good idea?”. Honestly, while Ensenada isn’t the safest place in the world to travel, I feel like you have the same odds of being kidnapped walking around Downtown San Diego as you do walking around certain parts of Mexico. But, that’s just my opinion. I’ll talk about some great things that make the trip more convenient and a lot safer.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

Your question about safety brings me to my second point. Ensenada is a great place for a weekend trip because it is so accessible from San Diego. By accessible, you can like, accidentally end up in Mexico if you miss your exit, and it’s about a 2 hour drive from the border. While Mexico is relatively safe if you’re not stupid, driving down there can be a whole different story. If you plan on driving, it’s not that bad. You’ll see some craziness in TJ, but once you get on the Federal Highway 1 it’s a pretty, peaceful coastal drive.

TIP: Bring pesos for the toll roads and just don’t drive at night. And there’s places to stop before the border if you want daily insurance.

What I recommend for a safer, more convenient, and more bougie experience all around is to hire a driver. There’s plenty of shuttle services, but I found a private driver that lives in Mexico who will meet you on the Mexico side once you walk across the border. They will provide a private shuttle (different size cars available) to take you from the border to your hotel, into the valle, from winery to winery, and back to the border. We had someone for 2 days and paid around $400- WORTH IT. Highly recommend Francisco at Kiko Tours.

WHERE DO I STAY?

Here’s where you have 2 options that can totally change the vibe of the trip.

Option 1: Stay at a hotel on the coast of Ensenada, Punta Morro being my favorite. They have ocean/pool view rooms, breakfast overlooking the water, and an amazing restaurant all around.

Option 2: Stay at a boutique hotel in the Valle de Guadalupe. I have always found the best options on http://www.booking.com. There aren’t any large hotels in the Valle, and most of the “hotels” are on small private properties or vineyards with stand alone rooms, almost like cabins or cabanas.

WHICH WINERIES DO I NEED TO TRY?

This is of course the most important part! So, how do you say “all of them” in español? While I have loved every single winery I’ve tried, I will narrow down the MUST SEES if this is your first trip to the Valle.

  • Decantos Vinicola – If you go to any winery in the Valle de Guadalupe, go to Decantos. It is on the top of a hill and the view is phenomenal. Not only is this a beautiful spot, but they have a great selection of wine and small bites. If it’s your first time here, do the tour of the winery. They’re the first (one of the first?) to incorporate the use of gravity to make the wine and the tour is fascinating and worth the $. This is definitely a spot you will want to hang out for a couple hours. Also, don’t sleep on the hats they sell in the front. Best souvenir you can buy and you will get compliments every time you wear it and you can say, “I got it at a winery in Mexico. Thank yewww.”
  • La Justina – Being one of the newer wineries, La Justina isn’t like a normal winery, it’s a cool winery. Neon signs, cute bathrooms, hanging plants, craft cocktails, and DJ, this place checks all the boxes for your girls outing. This place has all the vibes, and also a full menu, which is a plus.
  • Cuatro Cuatros – However long you are staying in the Valle, save this stop for your grand finale. While most of the wineries in the valle are located around the um, valley, Cuatro Cuatros is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Make reservations in advance, pay extra for the nicer table, and prepare to pay a cover to take the shuttle to the top of the cliff and actual restaurant. Have your moment to be like, “is this really worth it?” then get over yourself and prepare to have your breath taken away by the view of the Baja coast.

Outfit Details: Knit DressFree People; Hat Lack of Color; Halter TopVan de Vort; Pink Pants – Lulus; White Top – Petal and Pup; White Shoes – Dolce Vita (old)

WHERE DO I EAT?

Not all of the wineries have full restaurants so I would plan to have breakfast, snack at the wineries, and go hard for dinner.

  • Finca Altozano – RUN. DO NOT WALK. Get the octopus and one of every taco and thank me later. You will eat like a QUEEN without the menu prices of a downtown San Diego restaurant. Located in the Valle de Guadalupe, the atmosphere is a rural, rustic, relaxing restaurant with amazing views. My favorite restaurant in all of Ensenada.
  • Deckman’s – Ran by Michelin Star rated chef, Drew Deckman, this will be the nicest dinner you have during your stay. Also an outdoor restaurant located in the Valle with romantic lighting.
  • La Cocina de Dona Esthela– THE BREAKFAST PLACE if you are in the Valle. Homestyle Mexican breakfast with homemade tortillas.
  • Tacos El Franc Located in Tijuana, whether you are stopping here on your way in or on your way home, you need to stop and get the best al pastor tacos of your life.
  • Gorditas La Tia – Stopping in Playas de Rosarito on your way home is also a must to walk through the flea markets. But, more important than the shopping, is the gorditas. They say you are what you eat, and gordita just happens to translate to “little chubby one”. Think of that while you’re enjoying the chorizo con papas or frijoles con queso and just enjoy and have no regrets.

Being from Southern California, la Valle de Guadalupe is TOP 3 weekend getaways. If you want wine tasting, great food, ocean views, and you want to get your mula’s worth- skip Temecula, pass on San Diego, and just keep driving yourself right across that international border.

Did I leave out one of your favorite spots? Is there anything else you’re dying to know? Please leave me a comment below; I would love to meet you!