Live Aqua Resort – Cancun, Mexico

If you are looking for a relaxing getaway with beautiful scenery and great weather Cancun is the perfect spot. It’s an easy flight from the United States. Even with a layover, I arrived at the resort with time to hang by the pool for a couple of hours before dinner.

Live Aqua Resort

This was my first time at an all-inclusive and Live Aqua Resort did not disappoint. The rooms were large and elegantly designed, but my favorite part was the view. Every time I walked into the room the curtains would open and I would be greeted with the stunning view of the resort pools and the beach.

The resort has three pools including an infinity pool and a swim-up bar. There is a bar on the beach, and the barstools are swings. It was definitely an experience being able to go up to the bar and order whatever I want. I don’t usually go on lounging vacations, but I have to admit, it was nice.

As a lover of Mexican food, I was a little disappointed that the resort didn’t have a Mexican restaurant, but they did serve tacos by the pool during lunch. They have Asian, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine available for dinner. The portions are a little smaller than what is served in America, so don’t be afraid to order all three courses. Breakfast is a buffet and they serve everything. They even have a smoothie bar.

The resort also offers a lot of activities. They have morning yoga, beach volleyball, cornhole, cooking classes, live music and karaoke. You just have to ask the concierge for a list of the weekly activities. Then there is the tour desk where you can book your excursions while in Cancun. We choose to spend a day at Xavage – the brand new adventure park, and also booked a tour to Chichen Itza – the ruins of the ancient Mayan city.

Xavage and Chichen Itza

Xavage is an adventure park. They have 4 “main” attractions that you can only complete once, and then some smaller ones you can ride as many times as you’d like. We only had time for the 4 big ones and one round on monkey. The “main” attractions are a jet boat ride, an off-road rock crawling course (you’re the driver), river rafting, and zip lining. Monkey is a rope course. It offers 4 levels, and the highest level is reserved for professional climbers. The easiest level takes about 45 mins to complete, and the hardest can take up to three hours. It is definitely an adrenaline pumping activity.

Lunch is included in your ticket. I suggest bringing sturdy shoes you can walk in but don’t mind if they get wet. Same with your clothes. You can wear a bathing suit or comfortable clothes you don’t mind getting wet. Life jackets are provided at the water rides, and you are given a helmet at check-in. Lunch is a buffet. Since the park is “wild” they also have “wild” food. They have alligator, boar, ostrich and rabbit for you to try and a collection of less exotic foods.

Most people have heard of Chichen Itza – some sites even consider it one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World. Chichen Itza is located in Yucatan State which is about 2.5 hours away from Cancun. It’s a 12-hour tour, and a lot of it is spent on the bus, but they try to give you an all-encompassing tour of a different part of Mexico in a short time. You make 4 stops. The first stop is at a Mayan Village where you have lunch. There is a little shop, a tequila tasting and you meet with a Mayan Shaman. You can also purchase your own Mayan Calendar if you wish.

The second stop is Chichen Itza. To help tourists pronounce it, they call it Chicken Pizza. The ruin site is extremely hot, so bring lots of water, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. You spend about 2 hours at the site and will walk around a lot. The grounds were quite a bit larger than I originally thought. There are a lot of tents set up along the side with little knick-knacks to buy. The guide will walk you around the ruins and give you some history for about 45 mins, and then you can explore on your own. The third stop is a Cenote – basically an open cave with water in it. This particular Cenote is 150 ft deep. In that part of the country, the Cenotes are Mexico’s water source. After a long day in the sun, the water is very refreshing. The 4th and final stop is a small colonial town. This stop is about 20 minutes long – basically enough time to walk around the plaza and grab a snack from a vendor. It was a long and exhausting day, but I enjoyed seeing a different side of Mexico outside our resort.

All in all, the trip was fantastic. I like the idea of 5 days at the resort (keep in mind two of those are travel days). I’m sure Live Aqua won’t be my last all-inclusive. I would do 5 days again, but I would only do one excursion. I think 3 lazy days is perfect and refreshing for someone like me who is always on the go. Have you ever been to an all-inclusive? What do you think of them? What about Cancun? Do you have a favorite resort or excursion there? Leave me a comment below because I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

8 Must-Do Things in London

There are probably hundreds of things to do in London. So I’m going to start with 8 of my favorites. Here are 8 things you must check out and experience while in London.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon Tea is a must for anyone visiting London. Indulge in your favorite treats like scones, small sandwiches and macarons while sipping on your favorite tea of choice. Visit the Ritz in London for a luxury afternoon experience or at Number 16 for a picture-perfect afternoon in a lush outdoor garden. No matter the time of day or your location of choice you can’t go wrong with afternoon tea in London.

Harry Potter Studios

Maybe you’ve read my blog on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and know what a huge Potter fan I am, but even so-so fans can appreciate Harry Potter Studios in London. See props from the movies, the Hogwarts model that was used to film the outside shots, costumes, Doby’s face – you name it. This place is wicked cool. The studio is located 20 miles outside of the London city-center and you can either take the train or hire the Harry Potter Studios bus. Plan ahead because tickets do sell out.

Big Ben and Parliament

This is London. All the photos you see, every time London is in a movie you see Big Ben. I’m just thankful that Big Ben and the English Parliament survived WWII. That is one thing I like about London is the contrast between new and old, and what was built before and after the war. I remember the first time I looked up at Big Ben I swore I saw Peter Pan and Wendy flying around the clock’s face. You’ll have to visit this site twice because day and night both offer unique views.

Tower of London

I love how old this place in. The oldest building – the White Tower – was build in the 1000s. Most people visit the Tower of London to see the crown jewels, but the history is fascinating. We all know about the infamous torture chamber, but that wasn’t the only place where people died. I’m convinced this place is haunted, and they should host a night tour. I thought of a movie when some thieves break in after hours to steal the Crown Jewels, but then have to deal with the ghosts and tortured souls of the tower. But definitely check it out, well worth the entry fee.

Buckingham Palace

Who doesn’t want to see where the royals live? While there might not be any royals there when you visit because they have multiple places, it’s still a cool thought. Try to make a guard laugh, and enjoy a walk around the grounds. The gardens nearby are beautiful, and Buckingham Palace is located near Hyde Park which is a great place to spend an afternoon walking around.

Jack the Ripper Tour

You might say I have a thing for scary things. I like adventure, and scary stories tend to get my adrenaline running, so I guess you can say they are a type of adventure. East London in the 1800s was not a nice place. It where the poor lived and where most of the crime happened. It isn’t necessarily a nice place today, but still worth checking out. Plus, for my Harry Potter fans, you’ll recognize a lot of East London from Diagon Alley. The tour guide will take you to different places when victims of Jack the Ripper were found and then show you photos, so you can see what that area looked like 130 years ago. I’m waiting for this tour to partner with augmented reality, that is going to be insane.

Ride the Underground

It’s a right of passage to ride “The Tube” in London. If you’ve never been on a subway system before, the London underground might seem a little daunting, but it definitely is a convenient and quick way to get around the city. The city bus is definitely cheaper, but everyone has to ride The Tube at least once. Pick up your Oyster card right away – it will be good for the underground and the city bus. The underground charges you based on how far you travel and what zones you travel through, so check the price sheet when loading your card, and don’t forget to “Mind the Gap.”

See a Play

Head to the West End and see a show. London has a similar selection of Broadway shows as New York City – The Lion King, The Book of Mormon, Hamilton. But the longest-running show belongs to the Mousetrap. It’s been going for 59 years. I saw The Lion King. London definitely fulfilled a lot of childhood dreams between Peter Pan and Big Ben, Harry Potter and seeing the Lion King in action. If you’re not sure which play to see I recommend the Lion King, though I do want to see the Cursed Child (duh), and School of Rock (another childhood favorite movie). The West End is near Covent Garden which is a touristy area full of shops, restaurants and pubs good to visit before or after your play.

There is so much to see and do in London. I didn’t even get into the museums, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kings Cross or Abbey Way. Really you have to pick your favorites and then plan for a return trip. Have you been to London? Leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite must-do in London.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

4 Tips For Balancing Life and Adventure

So you love adventure, but you also love your job, family, house and pets. You want to bike that new trail this weekend, but the lawn really needs to be mowed. Or you want to join your girlfriends in New York, but you’re on a tight work deadline. Life is all about balance. So how do you balance life and responsibility when you’re craving adventure? Keep reading for some great tips.

Life Itself is an Adventure

You don’t have to fly halfway across the world, or even leave your state to have an adventure. Sometimes the best adventures happen in your own back yard. I’ve shared blogs on signing up for a fun run in your hometown, or if you’re lucky enough to live in Reno, there is plenty to do from hikes to events to satisfy your adventurous spirit. Grab your family and your pets and explore a new part of town, or eat at that restaurant that will allow dogs on the patio. Life itself is a wild and fun adventure, so enjoy it.

It’s Okay to Stay Home

We are human, and we need rest. So what if you walk into work on Monday morning and don’t have a crazy Instagram story to share. You are still allowed to love adventure and travel if you spend a weekend in your garden, or sitting on the couch binging Netflix. A full work week can be exhausting. Combine that with back to back travels and a quiet weekend at home sounds amazing – at least that’s how I feel. Plus, I probably need to give my house a good clean and give my cats some extra love.

Plan Ahead

If you are busy like me, then planning ahead is going to be your friend. I put everything in my calendar – even when I want to start thinking about planning for another trip. Planning ahead will help you save time and money because you will be fully prepared for whatever is thrown at you. Plus, you’ve probably had some time to research what you want to see or do on your trip, so you can get the most of it. I know how precious time is.

Make the Most of the Opportunities Given to You

A great example of this is a bleisure trip. If you are able to extend your stay over the weekend that’s great. You’re basically killing two birds with one stone. But if not – take an evening to go out and explore. Family reunions are a great opportunity. If everyone is coming to you, this is your chance to show your family your favorite spots around town, or if you traveled out of town even better. I’m sure there is a family member who loves adventure (almost) as much as you.

The most important tip though is to not get so caught up in the adventure itself and just remember to have fun. Life is too short to worry about the trips you couldn’t go on or the fact that you have to do yard work one weekend instead of going skiing. If you plan ahead, you’ll have plenty of adventures and wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. Do you have any great tips about balancing life and adventure? Please share them with me in the comments below. 

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Picture Perfect Views – Reno Edition

Reno, NV aka The Biggest Little City in World. Located in the Eastern Sierra, this little gem has always been known for its gambling, neon and the “smaller Vegas.” What you might have not known is that Reno offers spectacular views. Climb up one of their desert mountains just before sundown and you’ll be treated with one of the most colorful sunsets you’ve ever seen. Whether you are looking for a view of the city or the mountains I have you covered. Keep reading and find where the best views in Reno are.

Dry Pond Loop

Located in south Reno is the popular Dry Pond Loop. The trail head starts off of Timberline Road – look for either the Upper Thomas Creek trail head or Jones White Creek. You will have to walk a little bit along Timberline road to complete the loop, this trail can be completed in either direction. As you wind up the mountainside and into the Mount Rose Wilderness, you will see a sign for the Dry Pond Connector. The views along this trail are quite spectacular, but the summit offers the best view of Mt. Rose framed by pine trees.

View of Mt Rose

The ‘N’

This trail is short but steep with rewarding views. Start your hike from either Rancho San Rafael Park or the Reno Softball Complex off Virginia St. The ‘N’ stands for Nevada, and this hike offers some of the best views of the University and the park below. If you plan to complete this hike during the afternoon in the summertime, please bring appropriate cover and water as this hike is fully exposed. One of these years, I plan to watch the balloon races from the ‘N’ – I think the view will be stellar.

The 'N'
Photo Courtesy of VisitRenoTahoe.com

Huffaker Hills

This isn’t a long hike, roughly 2 miles, so it’s a perfect way to get out and stretch your legs while taking in panoramic views of the valley. Find the trailhead off Alexander Lake Road. It’s a rocky path so bring appropriate shoes. And maybe some drinks or a picnic! This is the perfect spot to take in the city.

Harriet the Dog

Hunter Creek

Another local favorite, Hunter Creek is about 6-miles long, out and back and features a waterfall at the end. Set in the hills of west Reno, you get some amazing views of downtown framed by the canyon. A majority of the hike is exposed with the last miles or so taking place amongst the pine. You’ll forget all about the neon and casinos of Reno when on this hike.

Hunter Creek Waterfall

What is your favorite hike in Reno? Tell me in the comments below.

Until next time…..

Cheers!

Keelie  

Why Traveling Can Help With Grief

So, this is my personal blog about travel and adventure. Well, this is a personal story. I’ll spare you all the sad details, but in November of 2014, I lost my baby sister in a car accident – she was 19. It was tragic and devastating for my family, but as the saying goes, life goes on. Everyone deals with grief differently. For me, well you’ve heard the story. I quit my job in October 2015 and was hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand on the one-year anniversary of my sister’s passing. I believe that travel can help people cope with grief and here’s why.

Remembering the Good Times

Growing up my family did a lot of camping, hiking, exploring, you name it. Spending time outside and enjoying nature has me remembering the good times. Go someplace you usually would visit together, partake in an activity you both enjoyed, and remember the good times you spent with your loved one. I like to visit restaurants I used to frequent with my sister, hike trails I used to hike with her or camp places we used to visit together. I can’t explain it, but it helps me feel closer to her.

Fulfilling a Bucket List

Perhaps your loved one left one behind. I will never know exactly what was on my sister’s bucket list, but I have a feeling it would be filled with a lot of traveling and fun adventures. Each time you visit a new destination, take a momentum of your loved with you – like a trinket or a photo. Yes, they are not physically there, but because of your love, you know you are never truly alone. I believe each new destination I visit is helping my sister fulfill her bucket list and honoring her memory.

New Memories

Whether we like it or not, life goes on. The days pass, the years pass. I know my sister would not want me to sit there and dwell on the past. She would want me to get out there and create new memories. Whether that is taking your first solo trip and backpacking through a country for 8-weeks or going on a weekend trip to New York with some of your besties. Creating new memories is just as important and remembering the old ones.

Sharing Their Legacy

I want everyone to know the legacy of my sister. Whether that’s telling a stranger I met about her or writing her name in the sand for everyone who walks on the beach to see. I find comfort in knowing that I am spreading the memory of my sister all over the world and keeping her legacy alive.

We all deal with grief differently, and that’s okay. I hope you can find some peace during this difficult time. Also, I don’t think we ever stop grieving, so really it’s about how we live with it.

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I love you Fraine 👼💕

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What is your favorite memory of a lost loved one? Tell someone. You can tell me, tell a friend or write it out in the sand on a beach in a far away land.

Until next time…..

Love ❤

Keelie

The Bleisure Trip – Las Vegas

What is a Bleisure Trip? It’s combining your business trip with a leisure trip. Whether you show up to your conference early, stay a little late, or add on a few extra days to that out of town business trip, the Bleisure Trip is the latest trend in travel.

Las Vegas – home to over 40 million visitors a year is popular with leisure travelers, but also conventions, conferences, meetings you name it. This makes the 24-hour town perfect for the bleisure traveler, especially if you’ve never been!  If your conferences are anything like the ones I’ve been to, you maybe have one free night to explore, so extend your trip over a weekend to get the full Vegas experience.

Where to Stay

If you’ve never been to Vegas and experienced the Strip, stay on the Strip.  Whether that’s extending your stay if your conference hotel or picking a new one, you’ll want to be where the action is. Do your research. There are tons of different hotels on the strip and they all vary in price or activities. Plus, the Strip is 4 miles long, so you won’t necessarily be walking up and down it. I have been to Las Vegas a handful of times and usually stay on the south strip in the Tropicana. It’s a great hotel, and I’m all about the greasy pizza deals at the nearby New York New York.

However, during my last trip (which happened to be a bleisure trip) I stayed at Planet Hollywood during the conference and moved over to The LINQ for the weekend. These hotels are located in the center strip, and I loved being in the center of the action. Planet Hollywood is right across the street from the Bellagio. It was pretty cool walking outside my hotel and seeing the fountains. I also loved the atmosphere of The LINQ. They have corn hole and beer pong at the pool. The LINQ Promenade is right outside with great dining, zip lining, and the High Roller – the Ferris Wheel built after the London Eye.

What to Do

This might be a loaded question because what isn’t there to do? Gambling is an obvious choice, but I’m not a huge gambler. Well, since this is your first time to Vegas, you need a picture with the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. I waited about 25 mins in line for a photo, but it’s a really cool photo. One of my favorite things about Las Vegas is the shows. It could be an act that has a residency, a band that happens to be in town or a cirque show. Usually when in Vegas, I try to catch a Cirque show. But this last time, I opted to see the Backstreet Boys during my “free night” of the conference and then that weekend saw Blink-182. My late 90s heart was very happy. I also recommend the High Roller in the LINQ Promenade or Zip lining down Fremont Street. If you are in Vegas when the weather is still warm, don’t miss the pool! Soak up that Nevada sun and rest up for a long night ahead of you.

If you have the opportunity to turn your trip to Las Vegas for a conference into a Bleisure trip, invite a friend! If you live on the west coast, this is an easy weekend trip for your significant other to fly down and meet you. There is a reason why Las Vegas attracts so many visitors a year. It’s a fun place with a lot to do! Have you ever gone on a Bleisure Trip? Where did you go? Tell me in the comments below.

Until next time…..

Cheers!

Keelie

Backpacking the Tahoe Rim Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail is 165 miles long and goes around the entirety of Lake Tahoe. You can choose to complete the thru-hike in one fell swoop, you can do day hikes on portions of it, or you can choose to backpack just parts of it. I have done the latter two, but I want to talk specifically about backpacking from Mt. Rose Summit to Spooner Summit on the Tahoe Rim Trail.

The Trail

You technically start just south of Mt Rose Summit (within walking distance) at Tahoe Meadows. There is a huge parking lot where you can leave your car and a proper toilet before embarking into the wilderness. This section of the TRT is about 25 miles long. We hiked around 15 miles the first day and 10 miles the last day. I recommend you leave a car at the Spooner Summit Trail head. You might be able to hitch a ride back, but I was so beat after this trek, that the last thing I wanted to worry about was how I getting back to my car. The trail takes you up along the east shore of Lake Tahoe, and the highlight of our first day is when you reach the summit above Marlette Lake. Here you get a view of Marlette and Tahoe in one shot. If you are keen on visiting Marlette Lake, read my blog about the Lake Tahoe Flume Trail. From this point, your first day of hiking is almost complete. There is a campground you can stay at called Marlette Peak Campground. They have vault toilets, bear lockers, a picnic table, a fire ring and most importantly – potable water. We made dinner, played cards and enjoyed some whiskey after a long day of hiking.

On day two, you’ll wind alongside a mountain offering picturesque views of Lake Tahoe before you head into the trees until you reach Spooner Summit and the end of the hike. Do look out for the TRT signs. At one point we ended up on the Flume Trail and had to back pedal. We probably added about 1 mile to our overall hike with this little detour.

The Essentials

You might be a seasoned pro at backpacking and not need a list. For me, this was my first trip. I had a backpack – it was the one I had trekked all through New Zealand, Europe, and Peru – and that was it. It’s a little small compared to some traditional backpacking backpacks – 46L – but I am just over 5’, and when that thing is stuffed, it’s heavy for me. Outside of my backpack and hiking clothes, I didn’t own anything needed for backpacking. I borrowed a sleeping bag from a friend. I opted for her warmer bag because I get cold easily, and we were going to be camping high in the Sierra. I didn’t have a stove, so I brought food that didn’t require heat. I packed tortillas, peanut butter, nuts, jerky, protein bars, and a couple of Mountain House’s freeze-dried meal Granola with Blueberries and Milk – just add cold water. One of my friends brought his Jet Boil and ended up trading me one of my Granola meals for a Steak and Pepper meal. It was pretty tasty, but then again anything is pretty tasty after a 10-mile hike carrying a 15 lb. backpack. I also brought a tarp to sleep on that night (I didn’t own a tent, nor would a tent fit in my backpack). However, one of my friends brought a tent but didn’t care to sleep in it, so he let me borrow it. I also packed an ultra-lightweight sleeping pad (borrowed), and whatever toiletries or clothes I thought I needed. Lucky for me, my friends had packed the playing cards and the whiskey.

Do pack extra socks! The last thing you want is your feet to develop blisters on this long trek, so a fresh pair of socks is mandatory! Also mandatory is water. I brought 4 water bottles. I did not bring a filtration system because the campground had potable water (and lots of bees, but that’s beside the point).

I don’t have a packing list for backpacking to share with you (though I most likely will end up creating one), but if you have any thoughts or questions about what to bring, or what life is like on the TRT either leave me a comment below or tweet me at @keeliec5. I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time…..

Cheers!

Keelie