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Europe

Portugal on Points: How to Maximize Your Travel Rewards

Posted by on Jul 12, 2018 | 2 comments

Portugal on Points: How to Maximize Your Travel Rewards

Our recent summer trip to Portugal was indeed pretty incredible, but it almost didn’t happen at all.

You see, we recently bought a rather large boat to use as a second home in the Seattle area (my husband’s home town). Due to this new expense, the budget for our annual summer European holiday took a nose dive.

Uh, to pretty much nothing.

Never one to let a lack of adequate funding spoil a great trip to Europe, it was time for me to get creative. I was determined to make the most of my travel rewards – including airline miles, hotel points and credit card rewards – to spend 10 days traveling around Portugal on as tight a budget as possible, while still making it a fabulous vacation for both me and my husband, Dave.

My goal? To do the whole 10-day trip for $1,000 or less. I got pretty close. Here’s how I did it…

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The Algarve Portugal in 3 Perfect Days

Posted by on Jun 22, 2018 | 0 comments

The Algarve Portugal in 3 Perfect Days

It’s the southernmost region of continental Portugal and one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in all of Europe…with good reason. In 2017, the Algarve region saw an estimated 7.1 million tourists and recent studies have named it one of the best places in the world to retire.

Nicknamed the “sunshine region,” this relaxed, Mediterranean retreat is known for year-round sunshine, sandy coves, azure waters and stunning golden cliffs. It was from these shores in the 15th century that Portuguese explorers set off on an epic journey to discover other lands. And today, it is on this same coastline that Portugal welcomes the majority of its annual visitors.

Not surprisingly, no trip to Portugal would be complete without a visit to the Algarve. So, after beginning our Portuguese holiday in Porto and then hopping over to the Azores for a few days, it was time to fly back to the mainland and hit the beach!

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The Azores: Europe’s Most Extraordinary Islands

Posted by on Jun 13, 2018 | 0 comments

The Azores: Europe’s Most Extraordinary Islands

Situated in the middle of the North Atlantic, 850 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal, the Azores archipelago is made up of nine lush, volcanic islands. Known for its verdant landscapes and abundant volcanic springs, the Azores are one of the “hottest” (pun intended) island destinations to emerge on the tourism scene since Iceland.

You may not have heard much about this remote island chain yet, but with international flights on the rise and new, hip hotel openings, it’s likely you soon will. My advice? Get there before everyone else does.

The Azores are one of two Autonomous Regions of Portugal (the other is Madeira). The autonomous regions were established to recognize the islands’ distinct geographical, economic and cultural differences from continental Portugal.

In 2009, UNESCO designated several of the islands (Flores, Graciosa and Corvo) as Biosphere Reserves for their impeccable preservation. From dazzling blue lakes and emerald pastures, to bubbling hot springs and volcanic caverns, the islands of the Azores make a pretty good case for heaven on earth.

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Porto, Portugal: A Travel Guide

Posted by on Jun 6, 2018 | 0 comments

Porto, Portugal: A Travel Guide

Spring has begun to fade into summer which means it’s time for the annual Europe trip! May is one of my favorite months to visit the continent and with my husband Dave working in Germany last month, I couldn’t resist tagging along and planning a few weeks of travel after his business trip wrapped up.

Last year, you may remember that we tackled a road trip through Ireland and a few new spots in Italy – Procida, Ischia, San Marino, the Amalfi Coast and the Italian Riviera. This year, the destination is Portugal!

I’d been to Portugal once, on Round the World #3, but I’d barely scratched the surface of this diverse country by devoting my time solely to Lisbon (there is so much more to see!). This time, I was determined to spread my Portuguese wings and venture north, south and offshore by visiting Porto, the Algarve region and the Azores during our 10-day journey.

We were also on a tighter budget than usual (due to our recent purchase of a boat in Seattle), so for this trip I would need to maximize my travel rewards points to keep our costs down. Spoiler alert: I was even more successful than I’d hoped in that endeavor, more on that in a post coming soon!

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The Best of the Italian Riviera in 3 Days

Posted by on Sep 24, 2017 | 0 comments

The Best of the Italian Riviera in 3 Days

The shining star of Italy’s Liguria region, the Italian Riviera stretches lazily along the Mediterranean connecting the South of France to Tuscany. Along that crescent-shaped coastline, you’ll find hidden turquoise coves sprinkled between stunning pastel-colored seaside towns.

After visiting Cinque Terre on our honeymoon, Dave and I were excited to head back to this beautiful part of Italy to see more. For this visit to the Italian Riviera, we chose Santa Margherita Ligure as our base of operation. With a central location along the coast and an abundance of reasonably-priced accommodations, it seemed like the perfect choice (and, indeed, it turned out to be).

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Elba Island Italy: Tuscany’s Best Beaches

Posted by on Aug 19, 2017 | 2 comments

Elba Island Italy: Tuscany’s Best Beaches

After a wonderful stay in the Republic of San Marino, we were so excited to head back to Florence for a visit to the villa where we got married. With our 2nd anniversary right around the corner, a reunion with our Italian family in Tuscany and a few days spent reminiscing about our beautiful wedding week were just what we needed!

The villa was even more magical than we remembered and we could have stayed for a month but, alas, after a few days it was time to move on to the next stop on our Italian tour, the island of Elba. So, after reluctant farewells to our villa family, we hopped back in the car for the drive to the coast.

Elba Island is the largest of the 7 islands in the Tuscan archipelago and the third largest in Italy, after Sardinia and Sicily. But aside from its popularity as a holiday destination, Elba is perhaps most famous for harboring French Emperor Napoleon during his exile in 1814-15.

But aside from the island’s rich Napoleonic history, most visitors flock to Elba Island for clear blue seas and magnificent beaches that could rival those in the Caribbean.

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