Short on time & wondering if Stonehenge is worth seeing?  

Stonehenge is a healthy 2 hours and maybe slightly more from London, which means a mininum of 4 hours in a vehicle even if you onlyspend one millisecond at Stonehenge. That’s a tough pill to swallow when every minute in a foreign city is as precious as gold.

I’ve been in your shoes, friend! Each time I start to plan a trip, I find myself trying to find some balance between a LOT of things on my bucket list and NOT a lot of time to accomplish them.

On one hand, if your schedule is overpacked, you risk losing out on the ability to truly be present – because you’re always rushing somewhere. On the other hand, some people (*raises hand*) like to keep a quick pace.

When I plan a trip, I plan it as if I’ll never be back to that location – because I probably won’t. There are just too many other places to see! Between my need-for-speed and the knowledge that I’ll never be back, I tend to pack a lot in. You should know that about me before you finish this post. 🙂

Without further ado, the answer you were looking for…

Stonehenge is a solid 2 hours from London, is it worth seeing?

My initial, gut-reaction is some combination of these responses:

 

 

I’ll explain why but before we get to that, there are admittedly other considerations that you should ruminate on.

What sacrifice would have to be made to make it work?

When trying to squeeze an itinerary together, this is the most important question. At some point, you have to balance the equation of time and activities. If x = time and A, B, C, and D are excursions then A+B+C+D<=x. (Finally, the math I learned in middle school is proving useful).

If your visit to Stonehenge means a little less sleep, or that your itinerary is just a bit more crowded but doesn’t require you to give up something that is at the top of your must-see list, then I think it is definitely worth it. It is a long trek, but you can catch up on sleep on the bus ride, take a laptop and get some work done, read a book, or make use of that time in various otehr ways.

If the visit means that you have to scratch something else that you really want to see, then that makes the decision a little more difficult and only one that you can make, given that no one else’s interests will perfectly align with yours.

For example, I would visit Stonehenge over Harrods or Kensington palace (Will and Kate, if you’re reading this – I mean no disrespect. You have a beautiful home. Plz share this blog. Thx.) My taste in sight-seeing tends to lend itself more to adventure, outdoorsy activities and history. Both Kensington palace and Stonehenge have a lot of history but there’s something so mysterious about Stonehenge that appeals to me. I know plenty of people that would disagree with my ranking of Stonehenge over Kensington and they wouldn’t be wrong. Neither am I. It’s just personal preference and priorities.

This leads me to my next question.

If you don’t see it now, will you have another opportunity?

If you don’t see Stonehenge now, will you have another opportunity? If you have to choose between Stonehenge and something else on your list, would one be more accessible for a future trip than the other? Because of Stonehenge’s location, a London-based attraction may be easier to work into a future itinerary, meaning it may make more sense to squeeze Stonehenge in now if you think you may be back in the area to visit other London attractions in a future trip.

is stonehenge worth visiting

Is Stonehenge really worth seeing?

Stonehenge is totally worth the visit, in my opinion, if I haven’t already made that crystal clear. Stonehenge, like many other European attractions, has so much to offer in the way of history and mystery (cheesy rhyme unintended). Some lists cite Stonehenge as one of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World (while others debate whether such a list is even a thing).

The reason I recommend Stonehenge so highly is because, like many other World Heritage Sites and Wonders of the World, it has a way of creating perspective. You find yourself standing – so small – beside something so massive. And not only is it just towering over you but you can’t help but wonder how could something of this stature have been built before modern tools and machinery? The tallest stone is ~22ft high, which is almost exactly 4 times my height. Not only are they massive… but they’re stacked – and they’ve stood the test of time. Truth be told, this rock formation that has been here for ages will likely continue to be here for ages long after I’m gone. That, combined with the mystery surrounding Stonehenge’s build, is a little bit mindblowing. Few places in this world can create that kind of wonder.

So, yes, go see the rocks. 😉

 

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Plan an incredible trip to Kauai

Traveling to Kauai? Girl, yes.  GO *clap* TO *clap* KAUAI *clap*! I can’t recommend Kauai enough, it’s such an incredible, majestic place. And I don’t toss the word ‘majestic’ around, for the record. Kauai reminds me of the enchanted forests that you read stories about as a kid.

But you didn’t come here to listen to me throw adjectives around. (I mean… let me know if you did and I can come up with some more.)

Most likely, if you’re here, you’re already planning to go to Kauai and you’re just trying to figure out where to stay and what to do.

Where to Stay in Kauai

The island of Kauai is relatively small; less than 35 miles in diameter at its widest point and closer to 25 miles in diameter at its smallest point. Because of this, you can stay virtually anywhere and still easily see the entirety of the island. There are some beautiful places to stay on the island ranging from inexpensive rentals to higher-end hotels.

We chose to stay on Poipu beach, which is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches that I’ve ever seen. (Here I go with the adjectives again…) None of the pictures below are filtered – so you can see for yourself!

The pictures don’t do it justice (the never do) but the lava rock against the bright blue waters of the Pacific ocean were truly stunning. We were also fortunate enough to see a sea turtle, and of course a rooster (they’re more populous than people on the island, pretty sure) on Poipu beach.

What to Do in Kauai

We left for Kauai with full intentions of laying on the beach for a week. We had no intentions of doing anything but relaxing.

But… that’s not who we are and we couldn’t help ourselves. As soon as we landed in the small airport in Lihue, we saw pamphlets for activities and wound up booking 1-2 activities for every single day. We didn’t lay on the beach even once and we have no regrets about that.

Kauai, despite its small size, is packed with options and activities. One of the great things about the island, is that although it is small, it offers a ton of different scenery. The different landscapes accomodate all kinds of different activities.

In no particular order, here are jsut some of the activities that you can do in Kauai (I’ve placed an asterisk by the things that we did:

  • Visit the Napali coast via boat*
  • Visit Waimea canyon (The Grand Canyon of the Pacific)*
  • Take one of the island’s many beautiful hikes
  • Visit one of the beautiful beaches*
  • Kayak, canoe or paddle board*
  • Attend a luau*
  • Take a sunset cruise
  • Go surfing
  • Eat some of the island’s fresh seafood*
  • Visit the small towns on the island*
  • Take a helicopter ride to see all areas of the island, including those that aren’t accessible by foot and including the waterfall from Jurassic Park*
  • Hop on a zipline*
  • Go snorkeling*
  • Go tubing down a mountain
  • Visit one of the island’s many botanical gardens
  • Do a rum tasting
  • Eat fresh pineapple*
  • Discover one of the island’s “secret” beaches
  • Visit a coffee plantation
  • Visit the spouting horn
  • Eat some of the island’s delicious shaved ice
  • Go sailing
  • Discover the island’s amazing local restaurants*

No matter what you choose, you really can’t go wrong. There are options for everyone at any speed in Kauai, whether you’re looking for an opportunity to relax or seek out adventure, Kauai has a lot to offer.

Once again – no filters on the pictures below. Check out the Waimea canyon pictures. They’re just absolutely breathtaking. It seemed almost impossible that real life could look so much like a watercolor painting. Just incredible. (Ok, I’m done with the adjectives, I swear.)

Have you been to Kauai? What are your favorite spots and activities?

Tips for taking a toddler to the Grand Canyon

This is probably a strangely specific topic but one that I sort of attempted to research to no avail. I found tips for taking kids to the grand canyon but struggled to find information specific to a grand canyon trip with a toddler. So, just in case anyone else finds themselves searching for tips on taking a toddler to the grand canyon – hopefully this will prove helpful!

Let me preface with this: I was a little bit of a nervous wreck leading up to our trip. It was an extended family trip that has been on the books for quite some time. It was a trip that was once planned, then scratched due to weather and then planned again years later for my in-laws anniverary as it topped their bucket list. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to see the Grand Canyon and it was on my bucket list as well… but I was nothing less than incredibly stressed about taking my (read: fearless) toddler.

Keeping a Toddler Safe & Secure at The Grand Canyon

If you have a super well-behaved toddler, or a toddler that has fears… fear of heights, fear of being seaprated from their parents, fears of generally annnnny kind, then you might be able to get away with holding their hand. My toddler is generally a good listener (good for a toddler, anyway…) but is easily excited and completely fearless as far as I can tell. I am quite certain she’ll be a thrillseeking adventurist one day.

I considered taking a stroller but she absolutely hates her stroller. It wouldn’t be practical to take her jogger stroller, so I’d have to take her umbrella stroller which I don’t love as much. The jogger stroller is sturdier, handles terrain better, has a tray, and just generally contains her better. Regardless, the thought of having her on the edge of a canyon on WHEELS did not relieve my stress. So, I decided that was a no go for the canyon portion of the trip, although we did bring it for the rest of the trip.

I also considered taking a leash but didn’t feel that was the best option for us. She’s pretty quick and all I could picture was her dangling over the edge, hanging by a chest harness or a piddly wrist strap, most likely secured by velcro. (Insert panic attack here.)

Ultimately, we decided it would be best to put her in the Ergo and wear her. (I hear some newer ones aren’t designed for toddlers but I’m a little out of the loop since I haven’t researched carriers since before she was born.)  As a speedy, independent little thing I knew she would probably hate it but it was the only method that made me truly confident that she would be secure.

Toddlers & The Grand Canyon Skywalk

We stopped at a few places including the West end of the Grand Canyon and the South Rim. We stopped at the skywalk, which was really neat but my husband and I opted to take turns instead of carrying her out on the skywalk. She could have walked on the Skywalk but I think she would’ve wanted to be picked up. It’s a very unnatural feeling to walk on glass that high. I’m a thrillseeker but found myself a little disoriented when walking on the glass and looking down.

Most importantly, this is what toddler parents should know: if we had carried her out onto the Skywalk on one of our hips, she would’ve been right above the height of the edge of the glass side wall. I’m average height and my husband is pretty tall. The glass sidewall came up to about my lower rib cage and lower on my husband. The skywalk is plenty wide, so if you walk in the middle you don’t have to be near the edge but it was also somewhat crowded, so I was weaving around people and was someitmes close to the edge for that reason. People pay for photos and if you do that, you do stand on the edge of the skywalk. I didn’t love the idea that she would’ve been that close to the edge. If we had carried her on one of our hips on the Grand Canyon Skywalk, she would’ve been even closer to the edge than we allowed her to get outside of the Skywalk.

We still found the Skywalk tour to be worth doing as it allowed us to be shuttled to multiple view points. She was free so it didn’t cost anything to take her anyway.

Toddlers & The Grand Canyon National Park

The park charges a flat fee per car and then once you are in, everything is free aside from refreshments. That said, it wouldn’t have saved us any money if we somehow had made arrangements not to bring her (not that that was ever a consideration).

Once you get into the park, you can decide which viewpoints that you want to see and then there are various shuttles to take you to each of the Grand Canyon lookouts. We wore her religiously at the park because if we weren’t on the bus, we weren’t far from the ledge. At any given time, the bus stop was probably 20 feet from the canyon edge.

I was glad we went with the carrier option because the buses were super, super crowded. I don’t expect special treatment with a toddler but passengers often weren’t accomodating even of elderly people – until asked 5, 6, or 11 million times of the bus driver to allow them to enter the bus and take the seats nearest the front. (Pretty sad.) The only reason that I mention this is because I’m not sure how feasible it would’ve been to get on the bus with a stroller. I’m sure it is doable but we likely would’ve had to wait for a few buses to pass so that we could be the very first people on the next bus. The bus system is very convenient but we went in what we were told was an off-season and it was still very busy. We spent a lot of time waiting in line for buses. Once you get to the first lookout and you’re waiting for a bus to take you to the next lookout, the bus is already crowded. Some of the people are coming from the beginning and some are looping back around from other view points. Even if you skip a bus, it’s very unlikely that the next one won’t already be crowded.

A toddler leash probably could’ve worked, too, but I still would’ve carried her once we were off the bus or near the edge. Many of the viewpoints don’t have railings – which is nice because the view is unobstructed. Those that do wouldn’t be hard for a curious toddler to slip through. As I suspected, she didn’t love being in the carrier but she did okay. We danced and played a little, which amused her and probably several others! (Mama has no rhythm)

My Tips For Taking a Toddler To the Grand Canyon

All that said, here are my tips for taking a toddler to the Grand Canyon.

  1. Bring a leash or carrier if your toddler is a busybody like mine.
  2. If you decide to bring a stroller, know that it might be more difficult for you to use any of the available shuttles.
  3. Be aware that carrying a toddler on the skywalk could put them above the ledge of the skywalk sidewall. I don’t believe that strollers are allowed on the skywalk. We had to wear shoe covers, even, to ensure that it did not become scratched.
  4. Bring lots of water. Some places had water fountains – like the Grand Canyon national park. But even the park only had water fountains in a few places. Outside of the park, not all lookouts have water.
  5. Bring some snacks. You can buy snacks in a few places at the Grand Canyon National park but options are limited and food is only available in select locations within the very-big-park.
  6. Bring lots of sunblock. It gets hot and just about anywhere you are, the sun will be beating down on you.

 

Mexico Travel Advisory: Is it Safe To Travel to Mexico?

Disclaimer: This post is meant to help inform and answer questions but only you can make the decision as to whether travel is right for you. in no way is this post meant to make your decision as to whether or not to travel to Mexico. Please follow the given travel advisories and check to ensure that they haven’t changed since time of writing. This site is not liable for any negative experiences that you might encounter while traveling abroad.

The travel advisory for Mexico was recently updated on July 16, 2018. Generally speaking, the country of Mexico is marked as Level 2, which means “Exercise Increased Caution”.

For reference, there are four travel advisory levels. Every country is assigned a number (there are no 0s; every country is marked with 1-4):

  1. Exercise Normal Precaution
  2. Exercise Increased Caution
  3. Reconsider Travel
  4. DO NOT TRAVEL

However, before you hop the next flight – keep reading as the there are regions of Mexico that are marked as level 3 & even level 4, including some popular tourist destinations.

Regional Mexico Travel Advisories – Areas That You Should Not Travel To

Most importantly, the following states are currently scored as a level 4, which should not be visited due to crime:

  • Colima state
  • Guerrero state
  • Michoacán state
  • Sinaloa state
  • Tamaulipas state

For more detailed information about Mexican states and the reasons for the travel advisories, check out this page.

Popular Mexican Tourist Destinations & Travel Advisories

If you’re like me, you may not know which Mexican state your destination city resides in.  For that reason, I’ve included some of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations below along with their current travel advisories.

In no particular order, some of the most popular tourist destinations include:

  • Cancun: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Tulum: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Cabo San Lucas / Los Cabos: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Cozumel: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Cancun: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Playa Del Carmen: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Zihuatanejo: Level 4 – DO NOT TRAVEL Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Mexico City: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
    • Worth noting, Mexico City is a Level 2 area surrounded by Level 3 around certain edges of the city.
  • Oaxaca: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing Guanajuato: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Puebla: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Puerto Vallarta: Level 3 – Reconsider Travel Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Guadalajara: Level 3 – Reconsider Travel Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • San Miguel de Allende: Level 2 – Exercise Additional Caution Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Acupulco: Level 4 – DO NOT TRAVEL Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Monterrey: Level 3 – Reconsider Travel Travel Advisory at time of writing
  • Mazatlan: Level 4 – DO NOT TRAVEL Travel Advisory at time of writing

Mexico Travel Advisory Map

Below is a map, courtesy of the US Department of State that shows the travel advisories for all regions of Mexico. Remember the statuses above numbered from 1-4? To make things a little more complicated, there are some in-between statuses on the map. If you look at a map, you’ll see parts of countries marked with lines, this means that despite this areas’ 1-4 rating, that area contains higher security risks.

is it safe to travel to mexico

 

If you’d like to look at an interactive map, you can find it here.

Travel Advisories in Other Countries for Comparison

With a 1-4 scale, it can be a little bit difficult to try to quantify each level. For instance, a level 2 wouldn’t sound as scary on a scale of 1-10 but on a scale of 1-4, it can seem alarming. However, I’ve found that it can be helpful to take a look at other countries with the same rating can make the levels a little more relatable. For example:

  • Other level 2 areas include (but are not limited to): Belgium, France, Spain, Jamaica, and Germany
  • Other level 3 areas include (but are not limited to): Pakistan, Nicaragua, Russia, Lebanon and Nigeria
  • Other level 4 areas include (but are not limited to): Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan

If you decide to travel to Mexico:

If you’re traveling to a Level 2 area with the intention of staying at a hotel or resort, you can check the ratings and reviews online. If it is a reputable resort and, especially, if it is an all-inclusive, then the hotel likely keeps close tabs on the people that are on the property. Put all valuables in your hotel safe – as is best practice, anyway – but the hotel grounds are typically considered safe. Travel between the hotel and the airport in daylight hours. Your hotel should be able to help you arrange transportation if you have any concerns.

The US Department of State also gives these tips for traveling to Mexico, should you decide to go:

  • Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving at night.
  • Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Mexico.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

 

 

 

 

The Girl Goes

Hi All & Welcome!

I decided to start this blog for a few reasons:

  1. To make up for the photo-journals of my travels that I always intend to make. (I think I have made 3. From trips before 2010. Ahem.)
  2. To share my experiences with anyone that’s interested. (Hi mom!) (Is _____ safe? What’s your favorite place? (trick question, BTW) How do you pick the places that you travel to?)
  3. To share tips and learnings with anyone that is seeking information that I once tried to find and couldn’t (what do you need to travel with a toddler? How do you find cheap airfare? Where do you find boutique hotels that are safe but inexpensive? Is it possible to travel abroad on a budget without selling your firstborn?)
  4. Probably most importantly, because I love traveling and writing is kinda cathartic, too.

So with that said, this is my honest attempt at keeping up with a blog, we’ll see how that goes!