Navigating Walt Disney World in 2020

Walt Disney World is still the most magical place on earth and I feel like the luckiest girl on earth that I was able to visit the parks shortly after their reopening!

Many of my clients left on the books in 2020 decided to postpone their trips and I completely understand the hesitation to travel at the moment– with so much unknown it is difficult to plan and with so many changes to the Walt Disney World experience, many people are wondering; is is worth it? My answer is 110% yes and I’m here to tell you why!

Low Crowds: Never have I ever seen such low crowds in the parks. I travel to Walt Disney World at least twice per year; visiting each of the four theme parks and staying at a different resort everytime, and I really can’t stress enough how amazing it is to have the parks so empty. Disney is limiting the number of guests who can visit each day and this makes for the most magical experience. At the moment, there are no FastPasses, but they are not needed. We never waited more than 30 minutes for any attraction and were able to ride nearly every ride multiple times during our visit. Attractions that usually see a one, two, or even three hour wait on normal days have lines of 10-20 minutes. These low wait times meant more time enjoying ourselves, less stress, less rushing, and more time just having fun.

Limited Park Hours and Lack of Park Hopping: I know this may sound like a negative to some (and I even thought it was a drag before our visit) but these shorter park hours and necessity of choosing only one park per day, again made for more time enjoying ourselves, less stress, less rushing, and more time just having fun. I loved the late opening for Epcot and Hollywood Studios (sleeping in on a Disney trip had never been heard of before!) and the early closing for Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom (evening pool visits and time spent playing Uno in our room was so great!).

Character Sightings: This felt so nostalgic! I loved walking around the parks and spotting characters. In my opinion, it was more fun in a lot of ways than waiting an hour in line to say hello to a princess and take a photo! When characters start their “cavalcade” (as they are calling it) the park music changes, letting everyone know something exciting is coming! My favorite sightings were Alice and Anastasia & Drisella (Cinderella’s Step Sisters). Alice had a wonderful conversation with my daughter and we simply walked up to her– usually meeting Alice is a 45 minute commitment to a line at select times during the day. Anastasia & Drisella perched themselves on the balcony of Cinderella Castle and were advertising for a maid position, which was so funny. 100% of their former maids have become Princesses, in case you are interested in the job!

Safety: The safety measures put into place at Walt Disney World are unparalleled. From limited park attendance, to frequently cleaning all of the ride vehicles (every time we were in line for a ride they announced they were cleaning again!), to hand sanitizer (absolutely everywhere), to mobile food ordering, mobile dining reservation check in, thoughtful spacing of every line, and 100% of people wearing a face covering 100% of the time unless they are eating or drinking and stationary; Walt Disney World is certainly in a “World of their Own”. Because the Disney Company owns and operates all of the hotels, restaurants, dining, and experiences in their “bubble” they are able to create and monitor the safety precautions of every aspect of your vacation; something that is very hard (if not impossible) to do anywhere else.

Many of those immediately interested in traveling to this Whole New (Disney) World have asked— “How long will these low crowds last?”. Well, we honestly do not know. I know that for 2020 the park attendance will be greatly limited, but Disney can increase the number of park reservations at any time and they will not disclose this information when they do it. If you are wanting to go, my advice is to go as soon as you can and feel comfortable doing so. The amazing thing right now is that we do not need any advance notice to plan a wonderful trip, which is simply magical!

Travel in 2020

Wow, 2020, right?!  Like everyone else in the world, I really hope I never see another year like this one again.  From fear to anxiety, anger, sadness, loneliness, to pure insanity at times— I’ve felt the entire range of emotions that come with being a human being in 2020— put on top of it a Mom, Wife, Business Owner then ice the cake with the fact that my business is Travel and like many Texans, my husband is in Oil and Gas (sheesh!).  

My 2020 started out with plans to Disney Cruise in March, Nashville in April, and Africa in June; none of which happened, of course.  So here I am, sitting in my home like almost everyone else in America—dreaming of— where to next?  

If you had asked me “Where to Next?” in February I would have listed places like Argentina, Antartica, the Galapagos, or Bhutan but with the uncertainty of the world at the moment, everyone is looking to explore their backyards a little further.  I know personally places like Yosemite or Mackinac Island were on my list, but by no means were a priority, and suddenly they seem a whole lot more interesting.  While international travel is mostly off the table to many places, and those places that are allowing foreign entry can be a bit complicated. A good Travel Advisor can definitely help you manage the chaos, many people simply aren’t comfortable making commitments to travel abroad just yet.

So, where to?  What trends are we seeing?  Travel at the moment is a deeply personal decision and everyone has a different comfort level— while some people are not ready to go anywhere just yet, others feel the need to make memories with their families or make up for milestones missed while in quarantine.  Some people feel the comfort of knowing hotels are taking sanitation very very seriously, while others would prefer to rent a home to stay away from others (pro tip: You can have your cake here and eat it too!  There are many resorts throughout the US that offer home/villa rental where you can be alone while also having the comfort of knowing your room was cleaned to a tee— the hotel’s reputation depends upon it).  

Overall, the three biggest trends I am seeing in travel at the moment are driving distance vacations, National Parks trips, and visits to the favorite “small towns” in the US.   Places such as Napa, Santa Barbara, Seaside/Rosemary Beach, Aspen, Jackson Hole, and Park City are grateful to see tourism bouncing back this summer after a very, very rough few months.  As for the National Parks— in case you weren’t aware— there are 63 National Parks in the US— how many have you seen?  I know many people are checking some off of their bucket lists this year!

In fact, with most people looking to reschedule their Caribbean or European holidays to US soil, it’s been very difficult in some places to find availability due to the fact that hotels are not at full capacity and home rentals are almost not to be found.  Also to note, 2021 bookings for your favorite international destinations are also becoming scarce as nearly everyone booked for 2020 has had to reschedule for 2021— so my advice?  Plan early and make sure to book flexible rates so that you can rest assured your plans can change if need be.  Home rentals usually carry much more strict cancellation policies than hotels, so this is something to consider as well.  

On my personal list for travel this year is Walt Disney World (which reopens this weekend), Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado (Sand Surfing and Sand Sledding!), and Yellowstone/Jackson Hole (which has been on my list for many years, but I never made it a priority).  

Where are you thinking of traveling?  

Walt Disney World Reopening Plans

In an interview with CNBC in late April, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly, was quoted to say that the future of the travel industry is basically in the hands of Walt Disney World. “Speculating on Americans’ impending return to air travel, and travel in general, Kelly referred back to the broader picture. In order for people to plan a trip, “They need to have something to be able to do when they get there,” he said. “So, Disney World needs to open back up. Restaurants need to open back up,” for example.”

While, I’m not sure that everyone is like me and already coordinating my masks with my park attire, the announcement of the reopening of Walt Disney World in July gave me a lot of hope! Here are the details about the safety and protocols the parks will be following.

  • July 11th, 2020- Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks will reopen with limited capacity.
  • July 15th, 2020- Epcot and Hollywood Studios will reopen with limited capacity.
  • Reservations to the parks will be required
  • Masks or Face Coverings will be required. “Relaxation areas” may be available for guests to use to temporarily remove their masks during their visit.
  • Upon the initial reopening, there will not be any parades, fireworks, or character meet and greets.
  • Characters may be visible from a distance and interact with guests.
  • Mobile ordering of food will be encouraged as well as digital menus for table service restaurants
  • Online Check In to the Resorts will be required (by passing the front desk).
  • Temperature screening will be required upon entrance of the parks.
  • Cashless payment is encouraged (Credit Cards or Magic Band Payment)
  • Park Hours may be shorter than usual.

While all the new guidelines are not quite “normal”, I’m excited for low crowds and to return to one of my favorite places on earth!

We will, of course, keep our clients updated as we know more!

Adventures by Disney

“Legendary Adventures. Storybook Destinations. A Different Kind of Magic.” Being an Adventures by Disney “Insider” (the term used for repeat guests), these group tours are truly a different kind of magic. I know many might be shy to try this type of trip- a set itinerary for a set length of time, with other people you probably don’t know. Today’s traveler is different from the traveler in past decades where group travel was more accepted as the best way to see a particular city, country, or region. I truly believe that it really still is the most efficient way (both in cost and time) to experience a country to it’s fullest and this post will help explain why! If going on an Adventures by Disney tour hasn’t been on your radar before, it should be!

Welcome Reception

The Disney difference is so apparent in their tours. Each day and detail is filled with learning mixed with fun; which is just as great at capturing the attention and intrigue of children as it is adults. At the welcome reception the first night or morning of the tour, you are gifted with a lanyard to start your “pin collecting” journey! With Germany having an evening reception, we also were treated to a glass of bubbles!

The second day of our Adventure through Germany included a longer bus ride to Neuschwanstein Castle. This is something I’ve always wanted to see, but I know many travelers might shy away from an excursion that includes a 2 hour drive, each way, from the major hub of Munich. Adventures by Disney always makes these longer bus rides fun, with lots of snacks, fun projects (like Origami), trivia quizzes, and even performances from the guides!

Speaking of guides, Disney only picks the best and most interesting ones. On every Adventures by Disney Tour, each group has two “Adventure Guides,” one from the US and the other who is local to the country you are visiting. These two guides are with you throughout the duration of your trip and I’m not sure they ever sleep! They are constantly working to make sure the guests are happy, on time for whatever might be next, stress free, and having the best and most magical trip ever.

On top of the Adventure guides, on many days you may also have a “Local Guide” who adds their flavor to the destination or place of interest. I can’t say enough about the local guides or the Adventure Guides chosen, it completely makes the experience.

Another Disney difference is hands on experiences. It is so much fun to be a part of the local culture and learn different skills or simply immerse yourself in the culture instead of hopping from monument to monument, museum to museum! A few of my favorites from Germany were beer tasting at the oldest brewery, learning Graffiti Art in Berlin, making Pretzels in Rotenburg, and visiting a few of the most famous beer/dance halls!

At the end of the trip, I made new friends and countless memories. In 8 nights, we were able to see so much of Germany due to the seamless planning. At the end of every train station or bus ride, there is a team (or Adventure guide) to collect luggage and whisk it all away to your next destination. In Southeast Asia, the guides take care of visas, checking guests into the internal flights, again, luggage collection, and more. It saves so much time and this service is something that even with an amazing Travel Advisor and tour company, would be difficult or extremely pricey if doing on your own!

Adventures by Disney operates over 60 different itineraries on 6 continents. They have a wide array of choices to suit your needs from Adults Only Departures to Short Escapes, Cruise add-ons, and more!

The Shameless Tourist is hosting an exclusive webinar to learn more on April 23, 2020 at 8PM EST and we would love to have you join along in the fun. Lead by one of Disney’s Adventure Guides, you can get a taste of what Adventures by Disney is all about. Please use the contact form today to join us!

A Week in London

2020 is here and I have vowed to be better about my blog posts, I have a lot of travels to catch up on, but thankfully, I always take good notes of my travels to share!  Be on the lookout for new posts, but I apologize, these may not be in the best chronological order!

Christmas 2018: I woke up and my husband gave the best gift to me– a long weekend trip anywhere I would like.  Anyone who knows me knows; this was the best possible gift I could have received. With my husband not able to always go go go as I do, his time away with us is really a gift in itself.  Also, if you notice the title of this blog post “A Week In London”, I might have stretched this long weekend gift to the max!

We arrived on our long haul journey on June 2nd and went straight to our first hotel stop, the Stafford.  The Stafford is located in St James and the entrance is on a very quiet street, which is so nice feeling as though you are in the middle of everything, but also somewhat away from the London Traffic.  The location is prime and the hotel is idyllic.  Soaked with history and having one of the largest wine cellars in London, feel free to host a small (or large) dinner party in the massive Air Raid Shelters under the hotel. I love the newly renovated Carriage House Rooms and the American Bar is famous in the city!

After checking in, we made a bee line for “Sketch,” one of the most famous tea rooms in the city with it’s multiple themed rooms, hip ambience, and infamous bathrooms, it’s been a must on my list for years.

We finished the evening with the London Eye Champagne Experience. This fun offering is just a bit more than the regular tickets and provides a glass of champagne and Fast Track entry to the London Eye. Before hopping aboard, we also visited the Eye Lounge nearby to grab an extra glass of champagne while we waited! Also noted that they provided Keki with sparkling cider instead of Champagne!

Day Two Started with a train and trip to Windsor Castle! St. George’s Cathedral is beautiful and was a fun sight to see soon after the Royal Wedding of Harry and Megan. It’s also so fun to ride the train for the quick 30 minute trek outside the city. Why see Windsor? It’s most certainly one off the easiest castles to see in London.

This afternoon, the rest of the group appeased me after we bid adieu to our guide and changed trains at least 4 times to see King’s Cross. We finally arrived and while it is a very cool train station, note: Platform 9 3/4 is simply a plaque outside a gift shop in the terminal and is no where near the actual Platform 9 or 10. Regardless, we got a great photo op!

We finished the big first day with a couples Date Night. We found a great sitter who took Kennedy to Hamley’s (Basically FAO Schwartz of London) while we toured the Egerton House Hotel, drank Martini’s (and learned to make them), and ate dinner at the Oldest Restaurant in Town; Rules. The Egerton House is the perfect hotel for someone looking for a boutique property with exceptional service. With only 28 rooms, it feels very quaint and personal.

On day three, we took a walking tour through London, visiting the various neighborhoods, seeing Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, exploring the Borrough Market, and ending at Westminster Abbey. I definitely recommend dining at FISH! when wandering the Borrough Market– I love Fish and Chips and this place is delicious.

Day Four was a long trek to Stonehenge, which I have always wanted to see! It’s about a 2 hour or so drive from London to Stonehenge and there isn’t much on the way in either direction. I often combine Stonehenge visits with the Cotswolds for my clients doing a multiple destination stay in the UK, but for this trip, we just wanted to focus on London, making this a day trip for us. It was great to see, but it’s a one and done for me personally. We also stopped at a cute traditional English Pub (The Boot Inn in Wadsworth) on the way back, which was certainly a wonderful experience!

This afternoon, we checked into the second hotel of our stay at the Brown’s Hotel, the oldest hotel in London and a staple in Mayfair on one of the poshest street’s in the area. The decor in the common space feels like a perfect mix of traditional British decor with modern British art and patterns. The Rooms were quite modern, however, bright and cheery. I especially loved the details for children’s amenities including personalized “princess” sheets, a stuffed animal, a book (about the hotel!), a child size umbrella, and of course a small robe and slippers.

This evening we booked a Flytographer Session with Rajeesh and I have to say he might be my most favorite Flytographer I have met thus far!

The Next Day was Kennedy’s Birthday, so we took the day to do fun things, starting with Harrod’s, which is a must for any trip to the city! Of course, we started with the toy department, which has it’s own “Toy Concierge”. It being her birthday, we decided to call upon the concierge for birthday guidance. It was certainly an experience that my daughter will never forget. A hundred Great British pounds later, I finally pulled Keki from the store and we went on to the Princess Diana Memorial Park. This park is the most amazing child’s playground with Pirate Ships, lots of places to play and imagine.

This afternoon, we toured the World Famous Goring Hotel, the “Queen’s Hotel” which is where Kate Middleton stayed the night before she married Prince William. The hotel is simply exquisite with beautiful rooms that make the perfect setting for any British holiday, careful attention to detail (the wall paper is hand painted), the best concierge and service, and the best address in London– Belgravia just around the corner from Buckingham Palace. We had a special tea party at the hotel for Keki’s Birthday and it was the perfect way to spend a special day!

On our last day in the city, we took advantage of the Brown’s Hotel House Car (the beautiful Bentley!) and took the short drive to Fortnum and Mason, the Queen’s Grocer to explore this fun store. I love fancy grocery stores and this is quite the fanciest I have ever seen!

Afterwards, we went to lunch at the Mayfair Chippy, my favorite Fish and Chips Shoppe we stopped at. Make reservations though, it books up!

After lunch, I toured and stopped by several other famous hotels including Claridge’s, The Corinthia, and the Hamyard. All had something different to offer, but I adored the common spaces (especially the spa and restaurant) of the Corinthia, along with the room quality and views. The Hamyard has a much more hip feeling with bright colors, a bowling alley, and a fun vibe. I also love the Soho area where it is located.

The next morning, we went back to the US after a lovely week away. What is your favorite memory in London?

The Island of the Gods: Bali

Bali was everyone’s favorite stop on our Asian tour.  From the hotels to the culture and the people, I am already trying to find a space in my schedule to return in the not so distant future.

We started our time with two nights in Ubud at the beautiful Four Seasons Sayan, which coincidentally was just rated the #1 Hotel in the World by Travel and Leisure.  This property of less than 60 villas was truly spectacular and located a bit over an hour north of Denpasar Airport.  Our Garden Villa was entered on the second floor which had a sitting area and small pond with lily pads.  Walking town the stairs there was a small fountain in the entry way and the front doors opened to our expansive patio and private pool.  The garden views were lush and made for a very private feel to the villa as you wouldn’t expect any guests to be strolling in the gardens behind our villa.

The room was very spacious and well appointed with a huge bathroom and closet and both an indoor and outdoor shower.  Everything about the room immersed us immediately into the Balinese culture.

I could go on and on– the breakfast was delicious (the fruit bar was incredible!), the Balinese dancers in the lobby were wonderful as was the traditional Balinese dinner held afterward.  We had the most wonderful time at the pool with its infinity edge overflowing into the Ayung River.  The scenery in Ubud is simply magnificent and with the river running through the heart of the city, it was so peaceful and serene.  Lastly. I have to mention the cutest kids clubhouse in the world (pictured below) was a colorful treehouse where the kids have movie night and other activities (complimentary from 9AM-5PM Daily).

While in Ubud, we went to the Mason Elephant Lodge and Safari Park where we used Flytographer to take some family photos.  Feeding the elephants was so much fun and it was such a great place to take photos where everyone was having a blast.  Bayu and Ebony, Flytographer’s photographer’s in Ubud were wonderful to work with and captured some precious memories for our family.

When it was time to leave Ubud, the Remote Lands team picked us up at our hotel and we did a short tour between check out and check in to our new hotel on the beach.  On our tour, we visited the Sacred Monkey Forest, the Ubud Market, a Wood Carver’s shop, and a Lewak Coffee Factory.  My favorite stop was definitely the Monkey forest, but I loved the stop at the Wood Carver’s shop where we purchased a beautiful Ganesh elephant.  Our awesome guide also helped us negotiate a great price, so I would highly recommend taking a (knowledgeable) local with you when shopping!

The next four nights were spent at the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, which is on the South Western coast of the island of Bali and only about 20 minutes from the Denpasar airport. Similar to the Sayan property, Jimbaran Bay is an all villa property with a very strong sense of place, immersing the guests in the Balinese culture.  Around 120 villas in total, this property is quite a bit larger than it’s counterpart in Ubud.  The room had similar features- a private pool, large terrace, and large bedroom and oversize bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers.  We had a wonderful view of the Ocean in our Jimbaran Bay Villa, but because of the views it wasn’t quite as secluded as our Sayan Villa (although it was still quite private).

For the common areas, I loved the Sundara restaurant (order the Califlower Tabbouli and thank me later!) and Sundara Beach Club.  It never felt crowded while we were there and my daughter really enjoyed the kids club which was open with much more extended hours (9am-9pm daily– hooray for date night!).

Two of the evenings we ventured off property for dinner.  The first evening we chose a local favorite- Bumbu Bali which was one of my favorite restaurants on the trip.  This outdoor venue featured Balinese dancing and authentic local cuisine.  Bumbu Bali was approximately a 20 minute drive from our resort close to the Nusa Dua area, where we dined on the other evening at the St. Regis Bali.  The St. Regis is a gorgeous resort with spectacular rooms and lots of restaurant choices.  This was our tour guide’s favorite resort and I can see why– the spa, the beach and location, and as I mentioned the rooms were all amazing.  The price of this resort, however, compared to the Four Seasons is quite a lot higher and I preferred the more  Balinese decor at our resort.  Also, for families, the kids club at St. Regis is not complimentary and is not open in the evenings.

Overall, Nusa Dua beach is much prettier than Jimbaran Bay, which is something to weigh in consideration when choosing the right hotel for your family.  It would be a hard choice for me between loving the rooms and amenities of the Four Seasons and preferring the location and beach of Nusa Dua.

In my opinion, no matter where you stay and what you do, Bali should be on your list!

Hong Kong Touring

Hong Kong was my most favorite city we visited in China.  We spent the most time here of all of the spots during our two and a half week trip.

On the first day we took a private city tour and saw Victoria Peak, rode the mid level escalators, drove around the harbor a bit to ride a Sampan Boat and see the fishing villages, had the most amazing lunch at a local Dim Sum restaurant, and finished the day at Stanley Market.  Loved the Sampan Boat ride and by having the best private tour and guide, we had a private boat as well (which was the best!).

The next couple of days were filled with more Dim Sum, Ocean Park (the Panda’s were a must see!), and Disneyland Hong Kong.  As a Disney Travel Specialist, I completely believe in the power and have drank the “kool-aid” so to speak on Disney VIP Tours.  They are worth it, especially when you are traveling abroad and have a limited time to see that country, let alone time to spend at Disney.  Pay the extra for the VIP tour and everyone will be so much happier.  At Disneyland Hong Kong, they are especially reasonable in price (Approximately $700 USD) and only last for 3 hours.  In that 3 hours, we were able to ride almost everything we wanted, and our guide Crystal was amazing.  After our tour, we had lunch at the famous Crystal Lotus where they make Dim Sum in the shape of Disney Characters.  Loved the creativity, but it wasn’t the best Dim Sum in Hong Kong.

My favorite thing we did in the city was a street food tour of the Kowloon area.  Our guide took us to all of the best places (knowing that the restaurants/kiosks prepared the food safely is definitely a reason to hire a guide) and we had a blast.  We finished the evening at the Ozone Bar at the Ritz Carlton, the highest bar in the world.  The views were spectacular and it was definitely a “happening” spot that evening.


Have you been to Hong Kong?


The Upper House Hong Kong

Hong Kong is not to be missed on a trip to China.  Because of it’s former British Rule, it is a city runs somewhat independently of the main part of the country, having distinctive traits of both Chinese culture and British heritage.  The mountains juxtaposed with the Harbor make this one of the most beautiful big cities I have ever seen.

During our five nights, we experienced lots of great restaurants, sites, and also two great hotels.  Our first four nights in the city were spent at the Upper House Hong Kong which is situated on the top floors of the JW Marriott Building on the Hong Kong Island Side of the city in the Pacific Place area.  For the record, I loved staying on the Hong Kong Island side of the city for its ease of seeing the sites.  The other side of the city (Kowloon), is more famous for shopping and dining.  With the Upper House, you have a little of both worlds being near the Pacific Place Shopping Center and only a 5-minute cab ride from the “Central” area of Hong Kong Island.

From the moment we walked into the hotel, the service was exceptional as we rode the escalator from the entrance to the elevator bank.  Once in our extremely spacious and well appointed corner room, we were greeted with some very thoughtful welcome amenities such as Dim Sum handbooks, a Hong Kong tourist notebook made especially for children, a very high quality black leather bag, and a coloring book and pencils.

The 730 square foot Studio 70 Island View Room consisted of a large bedroom with a full “L” Shaped Sofa to the left of the bed, and a cushioned window seat to look out on the city from windows that expand almost the entire length of the suite.  The desk sits in front of the bed looking out the windows with a large built in TV to one side.  A built in Mini-Bar and Coffee/Tea Station were nicely hidden in a closet near the entrance and exit to the suite.

The Bathroom was just as much a showpiece of this amazing room as the expansive bedroom.  The separated dressing and sink area were lit with beautiful mood lighting and a wonderful closet that had a safe and many drawers to house all of the essentials.  Taking a step up behind this dressing area led to the shower and tub area of the bathroom which also boasted full windows that overlooked the city.  A built in TV directly in front of the bathtub was a wonderful perk as well!

The hotel itself feels very much like a boutique property, with only 117 rooms, a small gym, a terrace, and a (great) restaurant, this wouldn’t be a hotel for guests looking to “stay in” every night.  But then again, when in Hong Kong, you should be venturing out!  Cafe Grey on the top floor of the hotel was amazing for all meals.  The great views of the city, swanky bar (that was always buzzing but never felt crowded), and wonderful menu made for the perfect place to start and end each day.

The Upper House offers my clients lots of extra perks and a 4th night free promotion until late December.  Click here to Contact me and start planning today!

Next up: Tours and Restaurants of Hong Kong!

Yangshuo, China

The picturesque city of Yangshuo sits along the Li and Yulong Rivers.  It’s a 2.5hr flight Southwest of Beijing and 1.5 hours due west of Hong Kong, in the mountains of the Guangxi province.  To get to Yangshuo, travelers fly through Guilin airport and then it is about an hour and a half drive to any resort.

Words can’t really describe how stunning this area is;  The juxtaposition of the river and the very dramatic skinny and tall mountains is really extraordinary.  Yangshuo felt like “true China” —  It was difficult to converse with anyone (even those working in the hotels) and poverty and the restrictions of the Chinese government were very apparent.  It also felt very much like a “mountain vacation” within the trip, which was really refreshing.

We stayed at The Banyan Tree Yangshuo, a mountain resort with multi-bedroom villas as well as hotel rooms.  The rooms are large and well very appointed, and I loved the centerpiece of the room– the oversized soaking tub.  This resort has lots of activities to keep a family busy without ever having to leave the property; bicycles, a kids center, gym, Bamboo River Rafts, yoga classes, two restaurants (and the best buffet breakfast of our trip), two bars, a large infinity pool overlooking the Li River, specially scheduled activities such as fan painting, and my daughter’s personal favorite– lots of fish to feed in the resort ponds!

The resort was amazing, but venturing out into the city proved to be one of our most favorite days on the trip.  We left the resort that morning for a short drive to the local primary school.  Here, my daughter was able to see children her age and during our short visit she taught them a little English and they taught her a little Mandarin.  We were the first Americans to ever visit this school and the children were very curious about my daughter’s blond hair and blue eyes!

After the visit to the school, we headed on to a farm house where we met a local farmer and saw his gardens.  We were able to pick fresh fruits and vegetables, wash them with water from the well, and then watch him cook in his home for us.  We spent the next few hours dining with him, drinking his homemade Rice Wine (not sure if I recommend this!), and eating the most delicious Chinese food I think I have ever had.  The farmer spoke absolutely not a word of English, but the connection and memories transcended the language barrier!

We left Yangshuo after two quick nights and it was truly a great experience.  I can’t stress the stay at Banyan Tree enough though, with the difficulty of conversing and rural nature of Yangshuo, having the Banyan Tree as a home base made this stop on the trip extra special.


Starting the trip- Beijing!

Now that I am finally clearing out of Jet Lag, I wanted to start my series of posts on our trip to Asia last month.

This trip was in the works for over a year, after being rescheduled from its original dates in September 2017, we finally embarked on our journey March 8th; flying directly from Dallas to Beijing on American Airlines.  After having traveled with my daughter since birth, I was eager to take her on an international trip before she began Kindergarten.  Which I’m not sure if that makes me a cool mom or completely insane?

Between securing visas, booking the 6 flight segments, 2 ferry tickets, and 7 hotels, I’m so glad I had the guidance and help of Remote Lands, a destination management company for all of Asia.  Remote Lands secured all of our amazing private tours for us during our trip and also gave recommendations for all of the “pieces of the puzzle” to this journey.

Flying directly to Beijing from Dallas is about a 14 hour flight with a 14 hour time difference, and this flight departs daily.  We departed at 2:20PM on the 8th and arrived in Beijing at 4:20PM on the 9th.  Once we arrived, cleared customs and immigration, a BMW Sedan from the Peninsula Hotel was waiting for us with water, warm towels, and assistance with our luggage.

Downtown Beijing is slightly less than an hour drive from the airport.  Upon arrival at the Peninsula, we were warmly greeted by the staff carrying gifts for my daughter and inviting us to take a welcome photo at their Grand Staircase.  I loved how they had all of the details ready to take us directly to our room, bypassing check in (and after a long flight and a car ride, we were certainly ready to just relax).

Once in our room, honestly you don’t really want to leave the Peninsula.  The room is so well appointed, the staff is so friendly– it was the perfect start to this amazing trip!

When walking into the 700 square foot Deluxe King Suite (this is just above the lead in category for this all-suite hotel), directly to your right is a large walk-in closet/dressing area, with Makeup lighting and a small stool.  Past the dressing room/closet is the living area/work station.  The living area is quite large and has a pull out sofa and small dining table.  The work station comes completely stocked with everything you might need, from paperclips and post-it notes to a fax machine and printer.

Two hideaway doors separate the living area from the Master Bedroom where you will find a king bed with luxury linens and a gorgeous bathroom, complete with a large soaking tub, separate shower, two vanities, and a very “zen” vibe.  My favorite things about this room?  All of the details.  From the amazing high-tech features (the volume of the TVs turn down when the phone rings!) to the Valet Box that guests can fill with items that need laundering or shoes that need shining, press a button, and voila!– the items leave and return without disturbing the guest.

On to the city of Beijing- in our short two nights in the city we unfortunately did not do a lot of exploring on our own, however, we did see the highlights: The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and, of course, trying the famous Peking Duck.  We chose to take a “Chair Lift” to the top of the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall and then bobsled down- super fun, but I will say it didn’t seem like the safest bobsled I’ve ever encountered (I will be honest, I haven’t encountered many!).

After our tour (the Mutianyu section of the great wall is about 1.5 hours from Beijing, so it was about a 6 hour excursion with lunch), we had dinner at 1949- a restaurant in Beijing famous for Peking Duck.  Chinese food in this area is very heavy, lots of oils incorporated into their cooking so it wasn’t my favorite place we dined at during our trip, but it seemed like the thing to do.

While we were at dinner, I think my daughter was the one who had the real fun- the Peninsula set up a movie night for her in their Beijing Suite (which has a private movie theater built in).  Truly, they went all out with the decor, snacks, and more to make her feel so welcome.   I could go on and on about how amazing this hotel is– but I hope you will see for yourself!

The Forbidden City was fascinating and an easy tour before our internal flight to Yangshuo.  I love how our guide, Crystal, was able to point out details about the architecture and history that we would likely have never learned on a group tour.  The Forbidden City was about a 10 minute drive from our hotel, we did about a 1 hour tour, then on to the airport for a 12:30PM flight.

Next up: Yangshuo, China!