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Day 1: The Journey

2:00pm: Leave LA before the Friday afternoon traffic mess starts!

During this trip, we started with a quick Friday afternoon jaunt up the 101 highway from downtown LA to Solvang, a cute Danish-themed village located slightly to the northeast of Santa Barbara, in the thick of the SoCal wine country! As we got closer to Solvang, we decided to catch a sunset at Hendry’s Beach near Santa Barbara.

4:30pm: Sunset Drinks at Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach

Lovely spot for a glass of white wine and some oysters!

7:00pm: Check into Hadsten House Inn

The Hadsten is perfectly located near the beginning of the Mission Drive strip, in the Danish Town of Solvang, making for an ideal walkable location into the village. The rooms and the breakfast are relatively standard. The property does include amenities such as a hot tub and indoor pool. Since most properties were sold out during the Valentine’s Weekend we visited, we were lucky enough to get a room at a property with this location. Costs vary but can be upwards of $100+ a night.

Inside the rooms at Hadsten House Inn, Solvang

8:30pm: Dinner at S.Y. Kitchen 

This restaurant was THE PERFECT night into Solvang. Loved everything we had there from the pasta, to the diavola pizza, to the olives. I look forward to returning to Solvang to enjoy this restaurant.

Day 2: The Wineries

11am: Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery 

A morning stop at one of the many Danish Bakeries in Solvang is all part of the experience! We stopped by the one closest to Hadsten House and grabbed a variety of treats to try.

Take this time to enjoy the various shops and vendors you’ll find in this quaint Danish town!

1pm: Picnic Run at Albertsons 

About a 7-minute drive from the Hadsten House Inn is Albertson’s Grocery Store. As our first vineyard, Demetria, allows guests to bring in their own picnics, we stopped at the grocery and grabbed an assortment of cheeses, meats, deli goods, fruits, and crackers!

Address:  222 E Hwy 246 Buellton, CA 93427

2pm: Demetria Winery & Vineyard

The views from this Vineyard are SO worthwhile. The staff is friendly and provides a real Californian country sense of hospitality. Make sure to grab a reservation beforehand, as especially during the weekends, the place gets packed with couples and families alike!

Gorgeous entrance at Demetria Vineyards

Address: 6701 Foxen Canyon Rd, Los Olivos, CA 93441

4pm: Bridlewood Estate Winery

Bridlewood was another gorgeous, if to say a bit more upscale, winery. The main house has a sumptuous Spanish colonial hacienda feel, and the welcome lobby boasts beautiful tile and a pleasant fireplace next to which you can enjoy your tastings. In the vast backyard is a members-only recreation area that, while barred from our entry, made for breathtaking outdoor hill views while we sipped the in-house syrah. A visit on a sunny day will make for great photos of the aloe-laden landscapes and spacious adjoining countryside.

Address: 3555 Roblar Ave, Santa Ynez, CA 93460

5:30pm: Happy Hour at Mad & Vin

Although the wineries all close at 5pm, that doesn’t mean the party needs to stop! Head over to the Landsby hotel right next to the Hadsten House in central Solvang for some happy hour cocktails. We found it loaded with energy, and enjoyed conversing with the bartenders while they laced up some fantastic cocktails. They mean business here!

6:30pm: Dinner at Mad & Vin

Hang tight for a bomb dinner in the room right next to the bar. The fresh catch fish of the day (this time, salmon), the dimmer lighting, and the comfy couch-like benches on the rim of the dining area were all a hit.

Day 3: Exploring Solvang

9am: Vino Vaqueros Horseback Riding

If there’s one thing you can’t miss out on your trip to Solvang, it’s Horseback riding at Vino Vaqueros. For $115 pp, you get a 90-minute ride through the stunning property. You’ll start alongside the vineyards and move on up to pass the cattle, and then to the hilltop to view the jaw-dropping Santa Ynez Valley. A visit on a blue-sky day will truly make you feel fortunate. For $10 more, you can add on a wine tasting to the experience.

The most gorgeous views here of Santa Ynez

Address: 2178 Mora Ave, Santa Ynez, CA 93460

12pm: Lunch at Pho 805

Even in this quaint Danish town, you can find a Vietnamese restaurant with excellent pho! And after spending a pretty penny over the weekend, a nice warm bowl of the rice noodles for $11 will do the job!

1:00pm: Gelato stop at Solvang Flavors

Across the street from Pho 805, you’ll find Solvang Flavors, a gelato and chocolates shop–perfect for that sweet kick after a savory Vietnamese lunch. Plus, are you really on vacation if you don’t get some form of ice cream!?

1:30pm: Ostrich Land USA

For $5, you will be entertained by these bizarrely intriguing large birds gawking around looking for us humans to feed them snacks (for $1 more you can feed the Ostriches). Watching these Ostrich go buck after the snacks is super entertaining and completely worth the laughs at the end of your visit!

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Heading to the Philippines on a tour with Tao? Get ready for a trip of a lifetime! Doing a tour with Tao calls for preparation. Below is a list of items that are highly recommended to ensure a successful trip. You can also access this complete list on Amazon.

You may also like to read: What to Expect on the 5-Day Tao Tour | Philippines

Full-face snorkel Mask | $38 

Despite the fact that Tao will provide you with a standard snorkel mask, having experienced one of these full face masks, I can’t go back to a normal snorkel! This mask gives so much more autonomy and visibility while snorkeling and will completely enhance your dive.

Water Shoes | $13

There will be some beaches that may have some rough coral around the shore. You will want to have Water Shoes on for most of your dives.

Dry Bag | $15

Dry bags are a necessity during the expedition! This is how the Lost Boys will transport your clothes, devices, etc. every night from the main boat to the island camp by kayak. You’ll have the opportunity to get fresh items from your luggage at the end of every day.

Portable fan | $16

Although the evenings are cooler in the Philippines, I still had challenges sleeping with the hot tropical weather. If you are someone that needs a cool room, definitely bring a portable fan. This fan is great as it can be charged via USB and will last you all night!

Portable Charger | $49

There was only one night during our 5-day tour that we had electricity at a campsite to charge up. I recommend having at least two of these on you during the expedition to charge your phones, cameras, portable fan, etc. You will want plenty of juice especially in your camera devices to capture the beauty of the Palawan archipelago!

Universal Power Adapter | $12 

Can’t travel the world without one of these! This model is a must-have as you can charge up multiple devices with the two built-in USB ports.

Universal Phone Waterproof Case | $8

Typically on the Tao cruise, you’ll get to the island or camp by diving into the water and swimming to the shore. Although it’s important to take this time to disconnect, you will absolutely want to take photos when you see the beauty of the islands. This case is great for protecting your phone while you snorkel over to the beach!

GoPro with Travel Kit | $424

This trip was my first time using a GoPro and the quality of the photos it produced was mindblowing! Definitely recommend to take a GoPro with you on this trip for the amazing high-def images and wide angle capture nature shot capabilities. See some snaps below. I would not recommend a DSLR or mirrorless camera for this trip.

Waterproof Kindle | $130

This is a new Kindle released from Amazon. Not only is it waterproof, which is great for this island tour – but it has 2x the storage space! Do not go on this trip without a couple of books. There is plenty of downtime out at sea to do nothing but enjoy the sun and read.

DJI Mavic Air Drone | $795

If capturing pictures is one of your hobbies, this is a great way to enjoy and photograph the islands. I found the DJI Mavic Air to be ideal for traveling due to it’s size and easy set up. I was able to throw this into a dry bag with no problem or concern. I recommend purchasing two batteries for the drone.

Check out some drone footage here below!

Hydro Flask Water bottle | $29 

It’s important to stay hydrated on this trip and plastic water bottles are not allowed on the Tao boat! The Tao crew does a great job of providing large jugs of water that you can use to refill your personal bottles. Make sure to pack your own so you can replenish throughout the day. Great thing about the Hydro Flask is it will maintain the temperature of your beverage for up to 24 hours!

Portable Mosquito Zapper | $17 

I know this is hella extra, but if I did Tao again, you bet I would have taken this mosquito zapper with me! If you are highly prone to mosquito bites (like me), it’s important to take the right precaution. Repellent spray did not do the trick for me. Great thing about this zapper is it will last all night and is chargeable by USB.

Bathing Suit Cover Up | $17 

It can be slightly chilly between islands as you’ll be cruising on the boat. You’ll want a cover up to help with the island hopping goosebumps.

Eye-cover | $14 

When the sun rises early in the morning (before 6am), you will be thankful for an eye-cover to get a little bit more sleep in!.. Especially if you spent the evenings drinking Jungle Juice brought to you by the Lost Boys

Headband for frizzy hair | $10

If you have wild hair (like myself), you’ll want a headband to hold it.

Fold-able Beach Hat | $14

The ability of your fedora style hat to fold is important when you’re traveling. It is important to have some sun protection so make sure to bring a hat with some coverage.

Don’t forget to pack lots of sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and body wash to get you through these beach camping adventures. Stay hydrated, fam!

You may also like to read: What to Expect on the 5-Day Tao Tour | Philippines

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Heading to Trinidad Carnival this year? Get ready for one of the best times of your life.  As you’re preparing for for an all-day-all-night bonanza lasting almost a week, and the blazing Caribbean sun that blares over the island, you might be asking yourself: how do I prepare to keep myself in one piece during the sheer bacchanal? This guide will answer the rookie questions you might be embarrassed to ask, and show you how to pack for TnT Carnival by listing everything that you might need to keep yourself cool and comfortable during your Trinidadian adventure. Each item is hand-selected from Amazon and cost-friendly at under $40. If you plan to purchase these items from Amazon – you can also access the shopping guide list below in it’s entirety here. 

There are a few basic things you want to know before attending TnT Carnival. I’m assuming that if you’ve gone as far to get to the packing portion of your trip – you’ve probably already learned that attending Carnival can involve months of careful planning: hopefully you’ve squared away which band you’re going to play with, your costume, and all the fetes (parties) you will attend this year. If you haven’t–here are the things you need to know:

Why should you join a Carnival Mas Band?

Being part of a band is what truly makes the experience of Trinidad Carnival. There are various bands associated with TnT Carnival that offer an experience unique to their brand. No matter the unique offerings of each band, the main event of ‘playing mas’ is the collective experience on Carnival Tuesday where all the bands march the streets and dance to Soca music till the sun goes down and then back up. We opted to take part of a band that offered an all-inclusive experience – which included costume, all you can eat/drink, airport pick up/drop off, professional make up, body airbrush, transportation, access to exclusive fetes, and more.

Bear in mind: band registration must be made in advance. For what it’s worth, our group happened to play with Fantasy and Tribe, though we also came to learn that Lost Tribe is highly recommended–among many others. For more information on the various types of bands and experiences, click here

How do you go about purchasing a Carnival costume?

To purchase a costume for carnival, you must join a Carnival Mas Band.  As mentioned before, registration must be done in advance to be part of these bands–TnT Carnival is generally not a last-minute trip. To give you an idea of how many months of advance planning is required–Trinidad Carnival falls on the first week of March and these bands often launch their costume collections around June to August of the year before. But it’s all worth it! The launch of these costumes make for one helluva fashion show. You will want to register and reserve your costume ahead of time as they tend to sell out.

The cost of the costume is dependent on the band, style, and details. You can expect to pay anywhere between $600-$900 for male costumes and $850 – $2000+ for female costumes. Please note that the cost of the costume isn’t exclusive to the costume itself, this price tag usually includes the entire experience for Carnival Tuesday: unlimited food, drinks, security, access to the mas itself, etc.

In order to ensure your costume fits, your band will require measurements as these costumes are tailored. Your band will also arrange the delivery of your costume for when you arrive in Trinidad. They generally provide a few other necessities such as a branded beach bag, towel, tumbler for open bar parties, snacks, medicine, etc. with the costume.

Make sure to pack the following items to complete your Carnival costume:

Stockings – $14

You’ll want a pair of skin tone fishnet hosiery to rock with your Carnival costume. There is also the option to wear the costume bare-legged but the stocking route is most popular.

Sewing Kit – $8

In case your carnival outfit needs any last minute adjusting, it’s handy to have a sewing kit.

Strapless Sticky Bra – $17

Depending on the style of your costume, having a strapless and backless sticky bra of some sorts may come in handy. You will be dancing for hours so keep in mind that you’ll want a fresh bra for a stronger stick.

What is the difference between ‘front line’ and ‘back line’ costumes?

Front line costume – this calls for a more elaborate costume with large Victoria Secret Fashion Show-style wings. These costumes are more expensive but also offer advantages such as access to the designer for any questions, exclusive air-conditioned tents during the lunch break, and makeup artists for touch ups during the day of the parade. The one disadvantage of these wings is navigating with them – these wings are massive and take up a lot of space. If you’re wanting to wine and get down on it – you’ll be better off with a back line costume.

Back line costume – I rocked a back line costume and had zero complaints. The difference was a smaller set of wings that I actually wound up appreciating due to their added flexibility when navigating large crowds, and most importantly–dancing!

Here is an example of back line costumes What do you do with your TnT Costume and Wings after Carnival?

After Carnival – you’ll have a large (back line costume) or extra large (front line costume) pair of wings to take home with you. Unless you packed in a way that allows you to self-pack your wings without bending them in your suitcase – you’ll want to figure out how you can bring them back home. There are a few airlines (e.g., Caribbean Airlines) that will allow you to bring your wings as a carry-on but they must be able to fit in the over-head bin space. Otherwise, you will need to arrange to have them shipped home.

How does one ‘Fete’ at TnT Carnival?

Fetes are parties that happen during the Carnival season in Trinidad. The larger and more exclusive fetes aren’t your average party – these are everything-included bashes in which you never know WHO will show up. When we say all-inclusive–that means all-you-can-eat food and alcohol. And speaking of food–make sure to try a double (fried dough with curried chickpeas) and Bake & Shark sandwich at these all-inclusive fetes. And if you like spicy, the pepper sauce can’t be beat.

Fetes start at various times – 4am, 1pm, midnight, etc. and go on till sunrise/sunset. There are many types of fetes you can attend. A few of the popular ones we attended follow:

Soca Brainwash – Alice & Wonderland-themed party on a massive lawn. There you’ll find a DJ tent, performance stage, cuisines from all over the world, and several open bars.

Pictured outside of Soca Brainwash

Caesar’s Army – this is a paint-throwing party that Rihanna’s played in before.

Diamond Vale Breakfast – this was a sunrise breakfast party set at an opulent private ranch in the suburbs outside of Port of Spain. Guests were dress to impress, DJs were booming, and we even ran into Usain Bolt and his squad. When we say you never know whom you might run into in this Caribbean extravaganza, we mean it!

J’Ouvert:  This is the official start to Carnival as it kicks off Carnival Monday morning between the hours of 3 and 4am. For those participating, basically the drill is you’ll want to nap on Sunday night between the hours of around 7 pm and midnight. Just after midnight, around 1 am, troupes of friends and performers rise, get dressed, and hit the streets. Dozens of pre-arranged processions fill the streets of central Port of Spain, with out-of-this-world themes to match: everything from flour tossing to face painting to Cocoa Devil’s, a chocolate sauce-throwing troupe that some in our group soaked up. Each private procession is accompanied and guided by a semi-truck thumping Soca from massive speakers, and as the different processions inevitably cross paths and intermingle, intense dancing and revelry ensue through miles upon miles of the main avenues of the city until sunrise! An indescribable rhythm pervades the city all night as every participant arrives ready to show out–so make sure to stretch beforehand and get in it to win it! You’ll want a dope pair of shades, light-up toys if you’re into that sort of thing, a pair of sneakers and shorts that you don’t care to destroy.

You can find a larger list of fetes here. Below are a list of items you will want to consider bringing for some these fetes.

Baby oil – $5

You will want to apply baby oil BEFORE J’Ouvert so the paint doesn’t stick to your skin

Baby Wipes – $12

Ideal for wiping down the body glitter, dirt, and sweat

That said, with such a wide array of events to choose from, as long as you’ve done your research and are traveling with a great and trustworthy crew, just about any schedule of fetes and bands is bound to provide you with several days of energy and euphoria.

What to wear to fetes in Trinidad

Colors, vibes, and euphoria – that’s what you should think about when you’re figuring out your fete outfits! You will want to base your fete attire by the type of fete you are attending. Leave your luxury and designer items at home – you can find great, affordable outfits on sites like FashionNova, Forever 21, NastyGal, etc to dirty wine in all day and night long! The below items are to help inspire your fete vibes. Please note these would not be appropriate for a ‘J’ouvert’ type of fete , but more so for something like ‘Soca Brainwash’.

Body Jewelry- $25

If you’re wanting to go for that statement look.

A little black dress – $16

Definitely pack a few dresses that you can dress up or wear ‘semi-casually’ throughout the day. You never know when these will come in handy.

Bodysuits – $30

Perfect to tie with shorts, skirts, or stockings!

One piece bathing suit – $25

I absolutely love the versatility of a one-piece bathing suit – you can rock this three ways in Trinidad. One piece and shorts/skirt, one piece with stockings, or one piece by the pool/beach.

Two-piece outfit – $19

If you don’t feel like pairing your outfits – two piece suits are fun and easy.

Face Jewel Tattoos – $13

For those wanting to bling out, effortlessly.

Eye Shadow Glitter – $15

I found this glitter to be perfect for that glossy, heavy shine eye shadow

 Travel-size Hair Spray – $9

It is hella hot and humid in Trinidad, you’re on an island after all. Your hair will do all sorts of crazy things. Don’t spend too much time styling and put your effort in purchasing strong hold hair spray. You’ll be glad you did!

What kind of shoes should one pack for TnT Carnival?

You will want to bring shoes that are comfortable as you’ll be on your feet all day. PSA – Stay TF away from heels! If you want some height to your ensemble – the recommendation is to find a pair of wedges around 2in tall that are comfortable. Here are some examples of shoes –

Boots to go with Costume – $17

You will want a pair of boots like this to go with your Carnival costume. I was hesitant to buy boots because of the heat in Trinidad, but everyone was rocking these. Get into the costume spirit by picking a boot that matches your costume you can decorate!

Flats – $40 

Find yourself a pair of cute flats you can wear to the fetes

Gladiator Sandals – $24

This style of flat shoe is also popular to wear to fetes and day parties

Gel Insoles – $10

As mentioned, you are on your feet all day long – walking, dancing, and wining. You will thank me later for packing a pair of gel insoles for your shoes

Sneakers – $24

You want a cheap pair of tennis shoes you’re ok with destroying. These shoes will come in handy for fetes like Caesar’s Army and J’ouvert.

The Packing Essentials for Trinidad Carnival:

These are items you don’t want to forget!

Lip Balm – $3 

To keep the lips hydrated, many women kept tinted lip balm on them in their

First Aid Kit – $22 

As a safety precaution, it’s always smart to take a first aid kit with you on any trip. Ladies–I’d advise keeping a band-aid or two in your fanny packs, especially if you’re prone to blisters after hours of marching in the street.

Makeup Remover Wipes – $11

I’ve been using this makeup remover for years and it really wipes away all the dirt and makeup. Perfect for when you’re trying to remove all the glitter from your face and body

Hand Sanitizer – $9

You will want to have a small bottle of hand sanitizer on you at all times, especially to grub a bake and shark after hours of dancing and drinking at a sunrise fete. Ladies–you can hold one of these in your fanny pack.

 Tide to go Pen –..
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (or KL as the locals like to call it) is an urban city in Southeast Asia with a population of over 1.5 million. In this urban melting pot, you’ll find a blend of Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Western cultures. The city showcases a beautiful blend between traditional and modern cultures, which you can see between the skyscrapers, mosques, lush parks, and bustling markets. Here is a list of 12 things one should know before visiting Kuala Lumpur.

You might also like to read:

  1.  Top 10 Free Instagram-Worthy Spots in Kuala Lumpur 2019
  2.  Kuala Lumpur: 3 Day Itinerary
  3.  How to do NYE in Kuala Lumpur? Night Life & Fine Dining
How to get into Kuala Lumpur? 

Kuala Lumpur International Airport is one of the major Southeast Asian hubs, and is located about 45 kilometers south of the city center. Upon arrival, it’s recommended to hail a car using the Grab app (which has taken over from Uber as the dominant rideshare service in Southeast Asia).

What is the recommended length of stay in Kuala Lumpur?

I recommend 3-4 days when visiting Kuala Lumpur. You can check out my 3 day itinerary for KL here.

When is the best time to visit Kuala Lumpur? 

Malaysia, like many countries in this region of Asia, also has a monsoon season. March – April is when Kuala Lumpur gets hit by this intense rainy season. The driest time of year to Visit is April – July. Personally, I’ve observed December – January as a great time to travel to Asia. We visited in December to bring in New Years and experienced a few light showers in KL–but nothing that was stopping us from taking advantage of the day!

Do you need a Visa when visiting Kuala Lumpur?

There is no visa requirement for U.S. citizens when visiting Malaysia for stays of 90 days or less.

What is the shopping like in Kuala Lumpur?

There are plenty of markets in KL and you’ll want to be ready to bargain to make the most of them. These markets are great for artwork, clothing, food, electronic gadgets, etc. A best practice is to visit various shops in a market to get an idea of the average price. Then select a shop and start negotiating the price by aiming 10-15% lower than the average you’ve seen around. Remember to stay calm and never raise your voice. If the shop owner is not willing to meet you at a price, I find that walking away will catch their attention.

What is the main language in Malaysia? 

The national language of Malaysia is Malay but you will find that English is commonly spoken. Nonetheless, we did experience instances where our drivers did not speak English.

How do you get around in Kuala Lumpur? Taxi or Uber? 

As mentioned, there is no Uber in Malaysia but a similar alternative called Grab. You can order rides from this app as well as food. Grab is an affordable, safe and convenient way to get around KL.

What is the Currency and Exchange Rate like in Malaysia? 

The national currency of Malaysia is the Malaysian Ringgit, which is equal to about 0.24 United States Dollar as of the time of this writing. In other words, you can think of a dollar as worth just a tad above 4 Ringgit.

Can you drink the water in Malaysia?

Do NOT drink the tap water in Malaysia! You will get sick. Stick to bottled water and ask for mineral water at restaurants.

What are some foodie musts one should try in Malaysia? 

Malaysian food is truly DELICIOUS. You’ll find lots of rice and curries carrying influences from India and China, but with a Malay twist, that are unique to the country. A couple dishes you should absolutely try during your time in KL:

  1. Nasi Lamek – “rice in cream,” a dish with coconut rice, anchovies, and fried fish
  2. Roti Canai – You’ll find various types of rotis and paranthas–make sure to try these! A lot of hotel breakfasts will serve this
  3. Nasi Dagang – a fish curry unique to the locals
How do you pack for Kuala Lumpur? 

It’s warm/hot here at any point of the year, and in December when we visited, was already noticeably humid, even though we were not even within the rainy season. I would advise a combination of lightweight, breathable clothing and shoes as well as some layers for when temps might (rarely) drop later at night. A lightweight rain layer and even a small umbrella would also be a good look. And of course, comfortable swimsuits for those afternoon pool dips to refresh the body are a must!

What kind of travel insurance can you buy for a trip to Kuala Lumpur? 

We purchased travel insurance from Tin Leg through the aggregator site Squaremouth–a truly useful site for comparing travel insurance plans for travels of differing lengths and destinations. The total cost for a plan that covered us for a solid month in Malaysia as well as in Philippines and Vietnam was about $104–not bad. Though we were fortunate enough to avoid any mishaps on the trip, these days insurance is a no-brainer especially for the adventurous traveler, and when you can package up multiple destinations into a single plan, why not!?

Enjoy your time in one of Southeast Asia’s gems!

For more on Kuala Lumpur – Check out:
  1. Top 10 Free Instagram-Worthy Spots in Kuala Lumpur 2019
  2. Kuala Lumpur: 3 Day Itinerary
  3.  How to do NYE in Kuala Lumpur? Night Life & Fine Dining
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Planning a trip to SE Asia during the holidays? We brought in our New Year in Kuala Lumpur, and found the city to be bustling with nightlife, fine dining, and five star hotels options to bring the new year in with a bang! You’ll find in this post exactly what we did to enjoy a smooth and baller New Year’s Eve with complete transparency for costs. Get ready to stay out till sunrise!

You might also like to read: 10 Free Instaworthy Spots in Kuala Lumpur

Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur for NYE?

Sofitel Hotel 

This swanky hotel, in the more upscale and residential Damansara Heights neighborhood, will make you feel like an overnight celebrity. If you book in advance, you might be able to get this 5-star hotel for less than $100 a night.

Why did we select the Sofitel? Not only is their rooftop bar a fresh look for pre-dinner cocktails, but the proximity to our top choice restaurant for NYE dinner–Babe–is clutch, as is the comfort of being in this relatively peaceful part of town while still being able to access the city center with ease.

Where to do NYE Pre-Dinner Cocktails?

Le Bar Rooftop @Sofitel Hotel

Great spot to grab a G&T and line up and to take some photos before the night gets started. It helped that there was no one there when we went.

Here’s our NYE squad takin advantage of this swanky bar at the Sofitel in KL!

Where to do NYE Dinner in Kuala Lumpur?

Babe Restaurant by Michelin-starred Chef Jeff Ramsey is THE MOVE. Not only is the view from the restaurant pristine with the viability of the entire KL City Skyline, but Ramsey’s Japanese Tapas-style cuisine is exquisite. For a night as special as New Year’s Eve, we had the option to opt into one of two pre-fixed, 9-course meals. The meat and seafood were high quality and the presentation of each course made for a memorable experience. The cost of these set menus ranged from 500 RMB to 700 RMB ($120 – $170 USD). Below you’ll find snapshots of the various courses of the menus.

See the beautiful sky line behind us?! Taken at Babe Restaurant in KL – Perfect spot to bring in the New Years!

Reservations must be made in advance with a deposit of 100 RMB ($24) per person.

Pro Tip: I recommend a 8:30 dinner reservation as dinner and dessert took us about 3.5 hours. Traffic in Kuala Lumpur is beastly in general and then when you add NYE to the mix, you can expect to spend double plus the time to get anywhere–especially if headed into the city center. We ended up enjoying the countdown in a taxi while listening to central KL’s fireworks explode above us, which was all good and fine considering we were with the right crew! But this might not be ideal to some. To avoid this, enjoy some champagne at the restaurant. With Babe’s view of KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center), the fireworks will be incredible to watch.

​​

Cocktails to order: Gotta have tequila

Favorite dishes: the Cod and Wagyu Steak.

The Night: Ce La Vi Lounge & Club

Located in the KLCC – Ce La Vi gives you the option to enjoy both an outdoor lounge with a 360 degree view of the city, private DJ, and pool-side fire dancers OR dance the night away inside Ce La Ve’s private club. The music was great – everything from hip hop to reggaeton, flashback from the 90s and top 40.

We made a table reservation in advance which included 2 bottles of champagne and 1 bottle of grey goose. The total cost for table of six and these bottles ended up being right under $1k.

Post Club Moves? 

Head to Changkat Bukit Bintag – one of the biggest stretch of bars for locals and expats alike. If you’re trying to party till sunrise, you’ll find plenty of young folks here waiting for the sun to come out…

Once you wake up from this electrifying experience, the sun will be beating down and you’ll wish to get out and enjoy Malaysia’s tropical vibe. The best part of spending this amazing time of year in KL is that there’s plenty of sightseeing to be had throughout the broader metro region on the days just after the big night. Why not learn some history or try something a bit more off the beaten path like the Federal Territory Mosque? If you want to learn more about that outing, you’ll have to read on… So stay tuned!

Visiting the Federal Territory Mosque in Kuala Lumpur
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Hola amigos! If you’re reading this and planning a trip to Mexico, let me start by stressing that going to Mexico during Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an absolute MUST! There is something incredibly culturally distinctive about being in in the country during this time. I feel that if you go once, you’ll yearn to go back again during this quintessential Mexican holiday.

This six day itinerary will take you on a journey starting in Mexico City with pre Día De Los Muertos festivities, then onto Oaxaca for a more traditional experience. The itinerary below will give you all the deets on what to see and where to eat and drink even if you visit CDMX or Oaxaca at another time.

What you should know before visiting Mexico:

Is a visa required for U.S. Citizens when visiting Mexico? 

No Visa is needed for US citizens when entering Mexico

What is the recommended travel group when visiting Mexico City and Oaxaca?

Perfect for large friend groups, couples, and families

Recommended length of stay:

3 days per city

Local language: 

Mainly Spanish and some English. Most of the working class speaks only Spanish.

Vaccinations needed when visiting Mexico?

None required for US Citizens

Can I take an Uber in Mexico?

You can find Uber in Mexico City but you’ll have to rely on local transportation in Oaxaca

Local currency and value: 

The currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN), and you’ll find your dollar stretching relatively far in Mexico. To provide a few examples –

  • Rates fluctuate but in general $1 USD = 19 MXN
  • You’ll find yourself eating at fine dining establishments and paying~$15 USD for a cocktail, appetizer, and main course.
  • I usually don’t recommend exchanging currency at airports but the Mexico City Airport has a decent exchange rate: $1 USD ~ 18.5 MXN
  • Download the XECurrency app to see conversion rates. It’s a great travel app that works offline
  • You will need cash on hand; not every establishment takes credit card

Can you drink the water in Mexico?

No, do not consume tap water in Mexico. Be clear that you want bottled mineral water at restaurants

What is the weather like in these cities during the festivities?

This trip itinerary is for the month of October. The days are warm and the nights are cool. Plan to bring jackets for the evening. Overall, the weather is fantastic.

What is culture around dining like in Mexico?

Do not expect US standards when it comes to restaurant service. If you need a refill/want to order/request the check, you will most likely need to call over the waiter. Tips are not included and not necessarily expected, but 10% is appreciated.

What do flights look like in Mexico?

Book tickets in advance. The prices are steep if you are comparing to flight costs Europe, especially during the holidays. Here is about what we paid:

Int’l Multi City Itinerary: ATL → Mexico City, GDL → ATL: ~$700

Domestic Multi-City Itinerary: Mexico City → Oaxaca → GDL: ~ $152

Día de los Muertos Itinerary: Mexico City and Oaxaca Day 1: Arrive in Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX/Mexico City)
  • If you have the flexibility to book an Airbnb for Mexico City, I highly recommend it over a hotel. Reason being – Mexico City is known for its architecture. And with that, you’ll find some amazing, unique Airbnbs at GREAT prices
  • You do want to be selective on where you stay in Mexico City. I recommend staying in Condesa or Roma​
    • Distance from Airport ~40 minutes
    • Uber x~ 200 pesos ~$10 USD
    • We stayed in Roma

3:00pm – 4:30pm: Lunch near the Airbnb in Roma Norte at Taqueria Alvaro Obregón

  • Al Pastor tacos and a michelada (Mexican Beer with lemon juice and assorted sauces with chile around the brim) are a must
  • Very cheap, no frills, and delicious
  • Take a seat on the outdoor patio and enjoy the commotion of the city while enjoying fresh flat pressed corn tortillas tacos

 

4:30pm – 5:00pm: Head to Frida Kahlo Museum

  • Address: Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
  • Distance from Airbnb Neighborhood (Roma Norte) ~ 30mins
  • UberX Fare ~ 200 pesos ~$10USD

5:00pm – 6:15pm: Frida Kahlo Museum

  • This museum is Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s house and it’s an absolute must see when visiting Mexico City
  • The website shares that the Museum closes at 5:30p.m., although we showed up slightly before that time and they allowed us to stay till past 6:00p.m. Make sure to get to the ticket booth before 5:30p.m
  • Keep in mind that you will more than likely have to wait in a line outside the museum – you can book tickets in advance here to avoid wait times

6:45pm – 8:00pm: Drinks at Sereno Moreno

  • Lively spot for happy hour or dinner that you find a lot of local professionals go to
  • When in Ciudad de Mexico, I recommend ordering a Paloma – a classic Mexican tequila beverage
  • If you are hungry, PLEASE DO YOURSELF JUSTICE and go next door to Taqueria Los Parados. The best Al Pastor tacos I had in ALL of my life. No frills, no seating, and no disappointment. I’m literally wishing I could be there right now as I write this because they are that damn good

8:30pm. – 12:00am: Head to a Lucha Libre Fight 

  • Definitely recommend doing this with a group of friends or family members
  • Not recommended for the faint-hearted

12:00am – 1:00am: Top off the night with street tacos from Taqueria Los Parados (again)

  • Yes, I realize this is the THIRD time I have recommended eating Tacos upon arriving in Mexico City–but you will soon realize there is a reason for that. Tacos in Mexico City are legendary!
  • Al Pastor or bust baby

Day 2: Mexico City

10:30am – 2:00pm: Brunch and explore the Historic Center

  • Take an Uber to the Metropolitan Cathedral
    • If you are doing this trip during Día De Los Muertos, expect many roads near the historic center to be closed. Uber will take you as far as the roadblocks, and then you can walk several blocks from there into the city center.
  • Have brunch at Fish and Grill –  note – this restaurant may be difficult to find but the view is worthwhile!
    • A street marketing woman working with the restaurant grabbed our attention and lured us in. She took us through a mall full of jewelry and up an elevator to this restaurant facing the downtown center. There is nothing fancy about the place but the views and energy are a must for the experience.

 

  • Spend the rest of the morning walking around the city center, enjoying the architecture and artwork set up especially for Día de los Muertos. This part of town is packed with people, many of whom are Mexican tourists from other regions of the country!

  • Quick Coffee/Postre break? Check out Toks Santo Domingo
    • Positioned right next to a lot of the art work, it’s comfortable spot to get a quick dessert and cappuccino

 

2:00pm – 2:30pm: Head to walking tour

2:30pm – 4:30pm: Hidden History of Mexico City Free Walking Tour

  • This walking tour last twos hours
  • You must make reservations online
  • The meeting point of the tour is at the French entrance of “Bellas Artes” Subway
  • The entrance of the subway is next to the right side of the Palace of Beauty arts”Palacio de Bellas Artes”. If you watch it from the front, just go straight and the entrance has a green Ornament with gothic letters.
  • Sites visited:
    • ​Cathedral of Mexico City
    • Alameda
    • Mexican Bank building
    • Latino Tower
    • Post Palace
    • War Museum
    • Government Palace
    • Diego Rivera Museum
    • MUNAL
    • Beauty Arts Palace
    • Antique Minery Palace
      • Note – may not be able to see all these sites due to the chaos of Día de Los Muertos and the aftermath of the earthquake
  • Our tour guide Dante was awesome! Please note that these guides volunteer to do this because of their passion for their city. Many make a living off their tips, please tip accordingly

4:30pm – 6:00pm: Afternoon meal at Argentalia

  • After a full day of walking around in CDMX, we were exhausted and wanted to chow down on some pizza. We stumbled upon this adorable Argentinian and Italian-fused restaurant called Argentalia
    • You’ll notice that Mexico City is a melting pot of cuisines: whatever you’re craving, you can find in this city
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