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Looking back on the past year, we did a lot of traveling!
For part-time travelers, we really made the most of our vacation time in 2015. As freelancers, we aren’t restricted to taking only two or three weeks of holidays a year. Whether on the road or staying close to home, we managed to visit quite a few places throughout 2015. We traveled as a couple, Justin traveled with friends, I traveled with friends, and I took my first trip as a solo female traveler. Let’s review the year that was – our travels in 2015.
We went for a romantic overnight getaway for Valentine’s Day to Niagara-on-the-Lake. We stayed at the charming Pillar and Post inn, and enjoyed a delicious three-course vegan meal at Rise Above in St. Catharines.
February: Dominican Republic (Justin)
Justin traveled to the Dominican Republic for a resort holiday with a couple of friends. He had a relaxing vacation spending most of his days swimming and playing lots of beach volleyball. Justin also met a few friends while he was there. One friend from Germany actually traveled to Toronto in September, and I had the chance to meet him, too! Justin stayed at the Grand Bahia Principe resort in La Romana, and said it was very easy to dine there as a vegan. Unfortunately, he didn’t take many photos while he was there and we didn’t blog about it. One of the highlights of his trip was taking an excursion riding dune buggies around the area, which involved one of his friends getting covered head to toe with mud after being stuck in a giant mud puddle!
February: Travel Massive
In February, I went to my first Toronto Travel Massive meeting, which is now something that I attend every month. Travel Massive is a community of travelers, bloggers, industry brands, travel start-ups, and more. There are meet-ups every month in different venues around the city, often hosted by a brand or a tourism board. It’s a great way to get to know the other travel bloggers and industry reps in the city, and I’ve made some valuable networking connections there. In April, I met my Travel Massive partner in crime, Lauren of Twirl the Globe, and we have gone to most of the meetings together ever since. Travel Massive is something that I look forward to every single month, and I can’t wait to attend them throughout 2016 (and beyond!).
Photo by Toronto Travel Massive
March: Caribbean Cruise (Lauren)
I was originally planning on going to a travel conference in March. My sister, Robyn, was going to come to the conference with me. When we discovered that the cost of a week-long Caribbean cruise was actually cheaper than going to a four-day conference in Boston, we joked that we should just go on a cruise instead. That joke quickly got serious, and by the end of the day, we had booked the trip! The cruise started and ended in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where we spent a day prior to the cruise eating vegan food and swimming at the hotel pool. The cruise itinerary was: Princess Cays, Bahamas; St. Thomas, USVI; St. Martin; and Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. You can see a summary of our entire trip here.
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May: Three Weeks in Italy (Justin and Lauren)
We went to one of our dream destinations in May: Italy! Justin and I arrived in Venice and visited Florence, Ferrara, other towns in Tuscany (Siena, Lucca, San Gimignano, dinner in Chianti countryside), Pisa, Cinque Terre, Porto Venere, Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi Coast, Pompei, and Rome. We covered a lot of ground, yet took our time to see many amazing aspects throughout this incredible country. And we barely scraped the surface, so I’m sure we will return someday. Our favorite moments included visiting Venice/Burano/Murano, hiking the coastal trail between Monterosso Al Mare and Vernazza in CInque Terre, marveling at the Pantheon and the Colosseum in Rome, meeting our friend Agata in Ferrara, people watching and enjoying apertivo in the piazzas of Sorrento, and exploring the beautiful Amalfi Coast. We are still in the process of writing about our adventures in Italy, but you can find the articles all collected in one place here.
Saving for Future Travel
After returning from Italy, I decided that I wanted to find ways to save money to travel even more. I have a whole list of ways that I save money to travel, which includes saving money on travel. Staying in apartments in Italy was a great idea, as we saved money by cooking some of our own meals. One of the best decisions that I made was signing up for a Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard, as I was able to rack up tons of points to be used towards travel. In only months, I’ve saved up more than enough points to pay for our future flights to Iceland and back, and I’m sure I’ll be able to pay for some of the accommodations, too! Although this post is sponsored by them, I can honestly say it’s the best credit card that I’ve ever owned. To gain the most reward miles, I put almost every purchase that I make on this card. For every dollar I spend, I get two reward miles. New cardholders will receive a bonus of 40,000 miles, equivalent to $400 in travel (once you spend $1000 on purchases within the first three months of signing up). The card has an annual fee, but it quickly pays for itself.
100 reward miles equals $1 travel for your next trip. There are no minimum redemption requirements, and you can use the points towards partial redemptions on part of a transaction. The travel points can be redeemed for almost anything involving travel, gift cards, or even cash. Redeeming miles is a very easy process. Purchase your travel, log into your Capital One account, click the redeem button for the full or partial amount of the charge, and your account will be credited accordingly. I’m glad that I finally signed up for a travel rewards program where I’ll easily be able to redeem the reward miles time and time again on many upcoming trips.
Late Spring/Early Summer Bruce Trail Hikes
The Bruce Trail hikes continued throughout 2015. My goal is to eventually hike all 900km of the Bruce Trail that runs throughout southern Ontario, from Niagara to Tobermory. I hiked a few times in Niagara, St. Catharines, and Thorold, getting covered completely in mud at one point. Follow along on my hiking adventures on the Bruce Trail here.
Summer: A Tourist in Toronto
We spent most of the summer in our hometown, making day trips and overnight trips here and there. Though we were at home, we played tourist in our own town many times in Toronto. There were so many awesome tours and activities in Toronto throughout the summer. We managed to take a tour of the street art and graffiti, take a beer tour of Toronto, check out the Pompeii exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, and I ran my first 5km…err, 8.5km race at the Wanderlust festival at Toronto Island. Here’s also a guide of the best places you can visit in Toronto.
Summer/Fall: Local Ontario Travel
There’s so much to see and do in our home province of Ontario, Canada. During the summer months, there’s not only hiking, but plenty of outdoor fun to be had. A small summary of our outdoor adventures in Ontario includes: treetop trekking at the Scenic Caves in Collingwood, indulging at Scandinave Spa, kayaking around the 1000 Islands, trying stand-up paddle boarding for the first time in Kingston, zip lining at Long Point, luxury glamping for the first time, and discovering how local farmers grow the food that feeds our cities in Chatham.
October: My First Travel Conference (Lauren)
It was also my first time traveling alone! I went to TBEX in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and stayed at the same hotel where I stayed before my cruise in March. I had no idea back in March that I’d be returning to the same spot once again in the same year. I learned so much at TBEX, made valuable connections in the travel industry, and had an amazing time meeting fellow travel bloggers, particularly my Weekend Wanderlust co-hosts, Jessi from Outbound Adventurer, and Chris & Heather from A Brit And A Southerner. I also had a great time kayaking in Fort Lauderdale and discovering the Wynwood Walls in Miami.
November: Jamaica (Lauren)
In November, I traveled to Jamaica with my best friend, Shannon and her mom. We stayed at the Riu Palace Tropical Bay in Negril. It was my first time staying at an all-inclusive resort. We traveled away from the resort to see YS Falls and went on an adventure down the Black River to see crocodiles. One of the highlights of the trip (blog post coming soon) was a last-minute visit to Luminous Lagoon, a must see place if you go to Jamaica. We also went to Rick’s Cafe, a staple if you’re traveling to Negril, and found a hidden gem road-side vegan Ital restaurant called Ras Rody. As you can tell, I still have plenty of stories to write about from my holiday in Jamaica.
November: Quebec City
We were invited by Quebec Tourism to visit Quebec City at the end of November. Though we’ve been to Quebec during the summer, a winter vacation there was a whole new trip. We visited the enchanting Christmas Market, walked around Old Quebec to see the Christmas decorations around town, attended the Red Bull Crashed Ice event, visited Montmorency Falls, took a behind the scenes tour at the Winter Carnival headquarters, dined at some of the finest restaurants in Quebec City, and explored a historic monastery that’s now a hotel/museum/wellness center/yoga studio/healthy restaurant. It was a whirlwind four day trip, and our love for Quebec grew even stronger. Stay tuned for more articles about visiting Quebec during the winter months.
So, where will we go in 2016?
Most of our travel plans are up in the air. We’re leaving our schedule open for new opportunities that come our way. With that said, we’re going to be spending this Valentine’s Day in Northern Ontario near Algonquin Park, trying some winter outdoor activities and unplugging from the online world for a couple of days. In March, I’m going to be volunteering in Kenya with Animal Experience International, working on a wildlife conservancy to monitor giraffe populations (among many other projects). I’m currently fundraising for my Kenya volunteer trip, so if you’d like to support me, please visit my donation page or purchase something from my Etsy shop!
In June, we have tentative plans to go to Iceland. This isn’t set in stone yet as we haven’t booked anything, but we will soon be making more concrete plans for this trip of my dreams!
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