Last month my husband and I decided to make a short visit to Miami, a city that had been on our bucket list forever! As cheesy as it may sound we had both grown up listening to Will Smith’s Welcome to Miami, and were curious to see if the depiction in the song was actually what the city was like! We had envisioned miles of gorgeous beaches, palm trees, and sunny skies and Miami certainly did not disappoint. Our 4 days flew by and I’ve compiled 5 do’s and don’ts that I think will come in handy for anyone planning on visiting this little piece of paradise!
1. Don’t stay on South Beach unless you plan on partying late into the night
South Beach is arguably the most iconic area of Miami but is also one of the noisiest especially at night. When deciding on hotels my husband and I were unsure of whether to book right on South Beach or to book something a few blocks away. We ended up staying at the Washington Park Hotel located on Washington Ave which was less than a 2 minute walk from the beach. Walking back to our hotel from South Beach the first night we were so grateful for our decision! Our hotel was conveniently located to all of the main attractions Miami had to offer but far enough away from the noise and commotion so that we could get a peaceful night’s sleep! I wouldn't recommend staying as far away as Downtown or Brickell unless you're planning on renting a car because you'll be at least 15 - 20 minutes away from most major attractions.
Just a 15 minute drive away from South Beach, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens originally belonged to businessman James Deering. As soon as you arrive, not only will you feel as if you’ve been transported to Europe, you’ll also feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to an era of unparalleled decadence and finery. Observe the immaculately preserved historical objects dotting the house as well as the Italian Renaissance gardens for an experience like no other. This place is seriously unlike from any of the other museums I’ve ever visited in the US and I can’t recommend it highly enough!
3 3. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen
This tip definitely goes without saying but I still can’t stress it enough! Coming from Dubai my husband and I thought the sunshine in Miami would be no big deal for us and didn’t bother packing sunscreen. Within spending less than 5 minutes on the beach we were both sunburned (I know, I know, we totally had it coming for us!). Needless to say, pack your own sunscreen so don’t get stuck buying a ridiculously overpriced one from a pharmacy on South Beach!
4 4. Do Allocate More Than You Would Expect For Food
During our past travels, we’ve visited some expensive cities but I don’t think we’ve ever encountered food prices as high as those in Miami. Despite doing research on restaurants and food beforehand we were still shocked to find that even an extremely average meal on average cost upwards of $30. While eating out is unavoidable, I would recommend bringing lots of snacks with you if possible, especially fresh fruit! This is a really random observation but the fruit we saw was extremely terrible quality and overpriced. Also, if you’re looking for a good halal restaurant in the heart of the city, check out Al Basha Grill. The ambiance was lacking but their tasty food and filling portions make up for it!
5 5. Do Explore More Than Just South Beach
The beaches in Miami are beyond gorgeous, in fact, they’re some of the most beautiful we’ve ever seen but we were also glad that we pulled ourselves away from the beach to explore some other neighborhoods in the city such as Wynwood and Little Havana! Miami is such a unique city in terms of its amalgamations of cultures and people. Take advantage of this and take in everything the city has to offer! We would have loved to go to Little Haiti and Coconut Groove as well but couldn’t fit them in to this trip. We’ve left them on our list for next time!
Sometime during the summer my husband and I started researching places to visit for our first European holiday. The more time we spent reading blogs and on Pinterest, the more fascinated we became with Italy.
It seemed that every town was worth exploring and we couldn’t wait to see it all. When we finally started planning our holiday we knew that realistically we could only spare around 9 days including travel time. Never ones to be deterred by practicalities, we decided to make the most of our limited time, ignore everything we read online and plan to go everywhere we realistically could in that span of time.
My husband and I are what you would call ambitious travelers. As young professionals with limited time and resources to travel our goal is always to see as much as we can. Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Burano in 9 days may seem like a lot but here's how we were able to cover them all:
Days 1 - 3: Rome
We booked an overnight flight from Dubai to Rome and landed in the Eternal City bright and early at 7:30am. The lines in immigration were insane and it took us around 2 hours to actually leave the airport. Once we were out we took a taxi and headed straight to our hotel which was around a 10 minute walk from the Coliseum. We stayed at the Hotel Infinito and I couldn't recommend it highly enough! It was affordable, quaint, and very centrally located! We got to our room, freshened up and headed out straight away. Having slept most of the flight we weren’t tired at all (one of the reasons I love overnight flights!).
Our first stop of the day was of course, the Coliseum for which we had pre-booked tickets online.
*I would strongly recommend that anyone who goes to Italy books all of their passes and tickets online. Otherwise you will spend at least 2 – 3 hours of your valuable time in lines.*
After the Coliseum we headed to the Roman Forum and from there we kept walking and ended up at the Trevi Fountain. We had had around 3 gelatos already by this point. Honestly, there are no words to describe how amazing Italian gelato truly is and I say this as someone who’s not a huge fan of ice cream or sweets in general! Also, if there's a panna cotta flavor then try it and thank me later!
After exploring the rest of the area around the Trevi Fountain we had dinner and headed back to our hotel to rest up for the next day.
Day 2 was our most ambitious day of the trip by far. We decided to wake up early and head to Trastevere as we had heard so much about this quaint village tucked into the middle of the city. And of course sometimes when you travel, things don’t always go as planned which is exactly what happened with us.
We decided to take the metro to Trestavere but when we got off at the stop we discovered that the Trastevere on the metro route was a completely different place than the Trestavere we had wanted to visit! By this point we were running late for our 12:30 ticket at the Vatican so we rushed back and decided to try and go back later in the day.
Luckily we got to the Vatican in time and spent around 2 hours there. From there we gave Trastevere another try and luckily we were successful this time! As a side note I would say Trastevere was one of my absolute favorite places in Rome and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who visits.
From Trastavere we crossed over one of the bridges on the Tiberius and headed to the Piazza Navona and from there to the Pantheon. From the Pantheon we decided to take a longgg walk back over to Trestavere for dinner as it has some of the best restaurants in the city.
By this point we were exhausted. We had walked over 28,000 steps by this point and after dinner we took a taxi and headed back to our hotel. The funny thing was we thought the train we had booked to Florence was the next day so we had tried to cover as much as possible but when we got back to our hotel and looked at our bookings we realized we still had one more day in Rome!
On day three in the city we decided to take a more relaxed approach seeing as we had already checked most of the major tourist sights off our list. We slept in and then headed to the Spanish steps where we sat and people watched. From there we headed back to the Trevi Fountain and spent the rest of the day aimlessly wandering throughout what became one of our all time favorite cities!
Days 4 – 5: Florence/Cinque Terre
On day 4 we checked out of Rome and boarded an early morning train for Florence. We had mapped out the places we had wanted to see beforehand so that we didn’t waste any time when we arrived. Florence is small and incredibly easy to cover on foot. Our first stop was the Duomo and then the Pointo Vecchio which didn’t take more than a few hours.
On day 5 of our trip we got on the train again bright and early at 7:30 in the morning and headed to La Spezia which would connect us to another train that would take us to the five villages that make up Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre was the part of the trip I was looking most forward to and even though I was severely under the weather by this point I decided to make the most of the day and explore as much as I could.
The train rides altogether took around 2.5 hours and our first stop when we arrived to Cinque Terre was the village of Riomaggiore. It’s always such a surreal feeling when you a place that you’ve dreamed about seeing for such a long time. From Riomaggiore we headed to Monarola and then Vernazza. We traveled to all of the towns by train which was included in our Cinque Terre day pass. I would have loved to go on the walking on the trails that connected the villages but we simply didn’t have enough time. From our experience, 1 day is definitely enough to cover most of what there is to see in Cinque Terre. The towns are very small and unless you sit down to eat or go swimming you’ll be able to see each one in around an hour.
Days 6 – 8: Venice and Burano
On Day 6 we packed our bags once again and headed to Venice. While it might seem like most of our time was spent in trains this certainly wasn’t the case. Italian trains are quick and efficient and unlike airports you don’t need to arrive hours in advance of your booking.
When we arrived to Venice we dropped our suitcase at our hotel which was only 5 minutes away from the train station and started exploring right away. On the first day we let ourselves wander and get lost in the city as we had a packed itinerary for the next day. Venice is one of those cities where you will get lost so be prepared!
The next day we headed to Saint Marc’s Square early in the morning and from there took an aperetto to Burano. After exploring the colorful, fairy-tale like island for a few hours we headed back to Venice and spent the rest of the day wandering. If you’re going to Venice I would highly recommend buying a 24 hour aperetto pass which allows unlimited use of the public water buses.
Day 9: Venice to Rome
We were unable to buy open jaw tickets that would have allowed us to fly back to Dubai from Venice so we had to go back to Rome. The train from Venice to Rome took a little over three hours and by the time we reached our hotel we decided to stay in as it ended up being much farther from the city center than we had expected. The next day we headed to the airport and flew back home concluding our trip. While there’s still so much left we want to see we were grateful that we could cover as much as we did in a span of just 9 days.