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Archive of ‘Caribbean’ category

What To Get Before You Jet: Cuba

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Cuba is such a beautiful country. I celebrated my #Start30WithLove 30th Birthday trip there, but prior to traveling, it was a complete mystery to me. How does one get there from the US? What do I need to bring? What should I know before I go? There is so much information out there but I didn’t know who or what to trust on the world wide web. Luckily my friend Jessica Berry, who is a seasoned traveler and had flown to Cuba for a trip just a few weeks prior, gave me a lengthy but necessary list of things to sort out before leaving. Combined with her list and my own, here’s our top 5 list.

What To Get Before You Jet to Cuba:

1. Get Your Visa

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This is the question of the century. Do you need a travel visa for visiting Cuba? The answer is YES. You can get one for $50 during check-in with airlines like JetBlue, ($80 for Delta) and the process is fairly quick and easy.

Pay attention to your emails after you book your trip, because your airline may send you a questionnaire with questions about your trip ahead of your departure to choose the one of 12 allowed reasons for travel to Cuba. Jessica chose “family visit” because she visited a friend’s family during her stay. My group and I chose “educational activities” as we spent most of our time getting educated on Cuban culture. But seriously,  no one checks once you reach Cuba. You may also get your visa ahead of time from your embassy, but most people I’ve known have gotten theirs at the airport on the day of travel.

You’ll get your boarding pass, Visa and health insurance simultaneously from your airline (this was the case with JetBlue, at least). Keep both on you at all times, just in case. Your boarding pass doubles as health insurance!

Recommendation: You can check the US Embassy to Cuba website for more info. 

2. Get Cash (Lots of It)

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Cuba is primarily a cash economy. For Americans, US dollars are not used there. Your best course of action is to order Euros ahead of time from your bank in the US and exchange them for CUC (local Cuban currency) at the airport in Havana once you get there, for the best exchange rate. We arrived at Terminal 3, and the exchange counter is outside. If the line is long (which it typically is), you can take a cab to Terminal 2 where there’s less of a wait. You’ll need your passport to enter that Terminal. EUROS are preferred because Cubans get charged a surcharge for changing US dollars and they past that penalty onto you. So bring euros if you can for a 1:1 exchange.

How much you spend will depend on your tastes but beware YOU CANNOT WITHDRAW MONEY while in Cuba. ATMs there do not accept American debit/credit cards, so you’ll need to have all cash.

3. Get A Good Carryon

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Word to the wise – don’t check your bag. Your wait time to leave will depend on a few things. I’ve heard people spend up to two hours at the airport waiting for checked luggage. Ours only took about 30min, BUT the money exchange
line took at least an additional hour. Leaving Cuba took even longer because they’re not yet equipped to handle the influx of new tourism. Do yourself a favor and pack light so you don’t have to worry about checked luggage delaying your travel plans.

Recommendation: Away Travel has super cute and affordable carry-ons. They also have no-brainer accessories like chargers.

4. Get A Tour Guide

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There are so many amazing things to see in Cuba and it’s sometimes easier to see alot of things in a short amount of time if you book a Tour Guide to take you around. Popular areas you’ll want to explore include Old Havana – mainstays like the Plaza de la Revolucion, Catedral de San Cristobal de la Habana and La Bodeguita del Medio. 

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The Viñales Tour (can be booked at Hotel El Presidente  in Vedado) includes a tobacco farm, lunch, a boat ride at the India caves and visiting the Mural de la Prehistoria. At the Mural de la Prehistoria, they have horse and bull rides, great piña coladas (pour your own UNLIMITED rum), and a restaurant. If you’re into lazy beach days, book a day tour in the beach town of Varadero (about 2 hours driving from Havana) where they have catamaran rides for large groups and more. 

Recommendation: Havana Journeys has a great list of day tours. They took great care of us in Havana.

5. Get Used To Being Offline

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You will be unplugged in Cuba! Savor it! It is so relaxing, and you won’t miss it after a while. If you really
need to scratch that itch, you have to buy WiFi cards to get on the networks there. They cost 2CUC/card and last up to 80min (depending on the card and where you’re using it). Some hotels run out and/or reserve some for their actual guests, so buy a few at a time. Wifi is not usually strong, so use your time wisely. The popular Wifi hotspots are hotels and “Wifi parks” (just look for the crowds of people on their phones).

There is SO much more to chat about here but this is a quick list of What To Get Before You Jet To Cuba. Have you been to Cuba? Thinking of going? Leave us a comment below.

Photos by Augusta Sagnelli

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Special thanks to contributor Jessica Berry for adding to this post!

LBS Travel: 14 Destinations for Spring Break 2016

Whether you’re still hitting up sites like Groupon for last minute travel deals or patiently waiting with your bags packed for your next adventure, time is winding down and spring break 2016 is just around the corner. Traveling the world is one the best and most immersive ways to add to the richness of your life. If you haven’t made up your mind just yet, consider one of these offshore travel destinations for your spring break vacay.

Cuba

Vintage car passing modern bar nestled between dilapidated Art Nouveau buildings along the Av de Malecon.

For so long Cuba has been forbidden fruit. Americans were prohibited to venture there, to indulge in it’s emerging food culture or sigh in awe at the sight of The Malecón, Havana’s breathtaking 8km-long sea drive. No more. While traveling there still requires approval from the US Government and frequent flights to and from have yet to be established, it’s better to see the island now before it becomes a major tourist attraction.

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10 Things To Do in Martinique

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I’ve been to my fair share of Caribbean islands. From the Bahamas to Jamaica to Barbados, you name it and I’ve probably been there at least once. But visiting Martinique on my #24HourReset this past December was an experience unlike any other Caribbean island. Now that airlines like Norwegian are offering direct flights to Martinique at rock-bottom prices (I got my roundtrip airfare for $230 from NYC to Martinique!), there will definitely be a surge in tourism to the area, which is exciting.

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From the french-meets-Caribbean culture to the beautiful and quaint villages, here is a guide with 10 things to do in Martinique in case you’re planning a trip there:

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LBS Travel: 10 Things To Do in Montego Bay Jamaica

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I used to frequent Montego Bay, Jamaica as a child. My Dad’s family is from the countryside of Trelawny and I remember going there to visit my Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. Though many of those memories have faded, experiencing Jamaica once again as an adult has its own set of lasting memories and experiences. Particularly, seeing the country from the perspective of a tourist was an entirely new experience for me and it was SO much fun. Who knew Montego Bay, Jamaica had so much to offer? Thanks to Strength of Nature and the Jamaica Tourism Board I had the opportunity to experience some really amazing sights and sounds. Here are my Top 10 Things to Do in Montego Bay:

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Kickin’ It: #SoBeautifulInJamaica Strength of Nature Recap

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Last Thursday I was invited by the wonderful team at Strength of Nature® brands to spend a few days in paradise. The brand sent a group of us bloggers and editors off to the sunny shores of Montego Bay, Jamaica for an indulgent Caribbean getaway complete with fun, excitement and (my favorite) – new hair products!

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Kickin’ It: Caribbean Crawl (Bahamas Edition) Recap

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to embark on yet another Caribbean Crawl adventure with my good buddies Jessica of Glamazons Blog and Lexi of LexiWithTheCurls. Last time we went to Barbados for our very first Caribbean Crawl. We had SUCH a blast that we decided to do another one for the summertime. This was our first time visiting the beautiful Paradise Island, Bahamas and we were hosted by the Hotel RIU Palace Paradise Island, which is absolutely stunning.

Related: 2014 Caribbean Crawl Recap (Barbados)

Here’s what we got into:

riu-hotels-paradise-island-bahamas-beachSo I was the first to touch down in Nassau and from the airport it was just a 30 minute ride across a bridge to get to Paradise Island. The beauty of staying on Paradise Island is that you can easily get back and forth to downtown Nassau if you want, simply by taking a taxi or by ferry. Once I pulled up to the Hotel RIU Palace Paradise Island I was ready to kick off my shoes and head straight to the beach. The RIU is an all-inclusive resort, so I was greeted in the lobby with a fresh cold glass of rum punch and at check-in was given a wristband and my room key.

riu-hotel-paradise-island-bahamas-suiteThe Hotel RIU Palace Paradise Island put us up in one of their corner suites overlooking both the beach and the pool. It was absolutely beautiful. The room was spacious and the view was breathtaking.

riu-hotels-paradise-island-bahamas-bathroom-selfieOf course I went straight for the closest mirror for a “straight-from-the-airport-hair-tied-chillin-with-no-makeup-on” selfie. #bloggersbelike #selfietime

riu-hotels-paradise-island-bahamas-poolAfter jumping on the bed like a little kid and throwing my swimsuit on, I was ready to head to the pool.

motions-hair-conditioner-beachRight before heading down, I threw some Motions Hair Moisture Plus Conditioner on my hair to prep it for water fun.

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Because the Hotel RIU Palace Paradise Island is all inclusive, we ended up spending the majority of our time in the Bahamas right on the premises. There were cocktails, amazing food, poolside activities and more included.

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By the second day, I was ready to hit the beach. Lexi and I got up early and headed down to soak up sun while waiting for Jessica to arrive.

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I wore my new floral printed high-waisted bikini from Forever 21 Plus collection. It fits my body so well and it comes in such a fun print! Also, it was only $27.80. Here’s the link for the one-piece version of this: Forbidden Fruit Swimsuit ($27.80). I checked and it looks like the two-piece is sold out. Also similar is the Fierce Fiesta Bikini Set ($27.80) – it’s essentially the same suit but in red.

caribbean-crawl-bahamas-lexi-christinaLexi and I had a blast on the beach. The local Bahamian men (Baha men? IDK) kept trying to take us on “private” jet ski rides. Needless to stay, we stayed on land.

caribbean-crawl-bahamas-christina-lexiThe beach on the Hotel RIU Palace Paradise Island premises is absolutely beautiful. There are complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas as well for your use. And of course courtesy towels for hotel guests.

atlantis-paradise-island-landscapeThe next day we ventured next door to the Atlantis Resort to check out the on-site aquarium as well as the water park. I LOVE water parks so I was stoked.

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Atlantis is absolutely beautiful. It definitely lives up to the hype. I remember watching commercials for the resort as a kid saying “Man I want to go there!” Finally had my chance and it was so totally worth it.

caribbean-crawl-atlantis-aquariumThe girls and I saw all types of marine wildlife at Atlantis. They offer really cool activities like swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with stingrays, and more. Here we are at the aquarium fascinated by the sharks above head.

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I was all like “Mama, I made it!” Absolutely loved Atlantis. After this point (obviously) I couldn’t take any more pics because we had to lock our phones away in lockers. I took a swim in one of their many pools, sailed down the lazy river, and hit three major water slides. So much fun and an unforgettable experience. If you’re headed to Paradise Island, you MUST visit Atlantis.

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That about wraps up my weekend with the girls for our second Caribbean Crawl (Bahamas Edition). I had SO much fun and the best part is that my airfare to and from Nassau was really reasonably priced. I flew Jet Blue direct from JFK to Nassau and was able to score a great last-minute deal. For more travel tips, check out my post about My Dream Getaway Destinations & 3 Tips For Making Yours A Reality.

Have you ever been to the Bahamas? What were some of your must-see places to go and things to do? Leave me a comment!

#CaribbeanCrawl (Bahamas Edition) was sponsored in part by RIU Hotels and Motions Hair. All opinions expressed herein are my own and not those of the company.

My Summer Beach Getaway Essentials (2014 Edition)

st-lawrence-beach-apartmentsSummer time is all about soaking up sun, spending quality time outdoors and getting away from home! As you guys know from my countless travel stories, I absolutely love to get away. There are a few items I never leave home without when I’m headed on an excursion that includes the beach.

beach-getaway-beauty-essentialsWhether it’s close to home (I took baby Cadence on her first beach trip last weekend!) or far away (like my recent weekend trip to the Bahams), here are some tried & true beach getaway essentials I always pack:

1. Conditioner

motions-natural-texturesWhen I only have space in my carry-on or beach bag for ONE hair product, I always opt for a great conditioner. You can use it to detangle your hair, to protect it before swimming and to restore it afterward. It’s also perfect for co-washes.

travel-size-conditionerI put a little of this Motions Natural Textures Smoothing Conditioner into a clear travel size bottle for transport and voila! Just enough conditioner for a weekend trip.

If you have a little extra space, throw in a curl creme or pudding like Motions Hydrate My Curls Pudding.

2. Detangling Tool

tangle-teezerThe best time to detangle your hair is right out of the water when it’s still damp. Dentangling on dry hair is a nightmare. This Tangle Teezer makes life way easier. It detangles without the breakage and gets my curls in order so quickly.

3. Lightweight Face Moisturizer

olay-fresh-effectsWhen going away on a beach getaway, you want to pack moisturizers that are light and easily absorbed. Humidity and high temperatures can leave your skin super oily. I love this Olay Fresh Effects Hydrating Gel. I wrote a post about it here. It’s great for summer and also comes in sample/travel size.

4. Lightweight Body Lotion

aveeno-daily-moisturizing-lotionThe same goes for body lotion. I opt for something light and easily absorbed. This Aveeno Daily Moisturizing lotion is a classic and easily absorbed. This also comes in travel size if you can’t fit the full size in your bag.

babybrownsugar-aveeno-babyPardon this commercial interruption. Cadence wanted to tell you guys to always pack your sunscreen. And never leave home without your babies. Can’t wait till she has her little passport so I can bring her on my international excursions. Sunscreen by Aveeno Baby.

5. CC Cream

cc-cream-cover-fxI love two-in-one makeup products when headed beachside. Nothing too heavy. Tinted moisturizers, BB and CC creams are great if you want a light coverup after swim activities (I don’t wear this in the water). CoverFX CC Cream is my go-to. I blogged about it HERE and still going strong with this one.

6. Waterproof Eyeliner

stila-stay-all-dayEyeliner is a great, easy way to highlight your beautiful eyes. And I’ve found that I can throw it on with a little lipgloss for a polished makeup look. Opt for a waterproof formula if you’re planning to swim. This Stila Cosmetics Stay All Day Waterproof formula is perfect.

7. Lip Gloss

stila-lip-glazeLip gloss is normally my go-to over full on lipstick for the beach. Unless I’m planning to chill beachside without actually swimming (which happens sometimes), I opt for a sheer gloss with a hint of color. These Stila lip gloss colors are my faves.

stila-lip-glaze-wildberry-dazzleberryThe Wildberry is a nice sheer pink for daytime and the Dazzleberry is a little more intense with a hint of sparkle for statement lip looks. Both colors available in the Stila Color Me Glossy Lip Set ($28.00)

8. Travel Size Sunscreen & Hand Sanitizer

walgreens-productsIf you’re spending any time in the sun, you need sunscreen. And if you’re leaving your house, ever, you need hand sanitizer. I have a complete list of sunscreens that I’ll touch on in another post, but if you’re on the go and missed a few essentials like these, head to your local pharmacy like Walgreens to pick them up. Just don’t head to the beach without them.

Shop My Beach Getaway Essentials Below:

What are some of your beauty essentials for a beach getaway? Did I miss anything?

This post was sponsored in part by Motions Hair. All opinions expressed herein are my own and not those of the company.

Kickin’ It: 2014 Caribbean Crawl Recap

caribbean-crawlSo you guys know from some of my previous recaps like the NYFW Crawl and the NOLA Crawl that I tend to travel ALOT with my main squeezes –  Jessica of Glamazons BlogDanielle of The Style & Beauty Doc, and Lexi of Lexi With The Curls. Whenever we get together we always have an amazing time and earlier this month was no exception. I spent 3 lovely days in the Caribbean touring the beautiful island of Barbados. In my 10 Things To Do in Barbados post I highlighted all the top to-dos. In this post I’ll recap how much fun I had with the girls.

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LBS Travel: 10 Things To Do In Barbados

what-to-do-in-barbadosSo this time last week, I was enjoying my final day in Barbados by partaking in an island tour provided by the Barbados Tourism Authority. While on the tour, we made so many stops and got tons of great information about the island’s history and culture as well as the best places to go while you’re there. On top of the sights I took in on this island tour, there were plenty more I discovered on my own while on the #CaribbeanCrawl with the girls. Check out my top 10 things to do in Barbados (in no particular order):

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What’s In My Travel Bag: Caribbean Crawl Edition

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I’m officially here! I just landed on the beautiful sunny shores of Barbados and I am absolutely in love with the island. I just met up with the rest of the #CaribbeanCrawl crew – Jessica of Glamazons BlogDanielle of The Style & Beauty Doc, and Lexi of Lexi With The Curls – who flew in from Trinidad this morning. Getting here was a bit of a struggle but I’m finally here. Let’s just say between packing my bag, making sure my princess (BabyBrownSugar) had enough clothes to wear and breastmilk to eat, and making sure all loose ends were tied up before leaving – I’m exhausted! This is the perfect time to do some beachside lounging but before I do I wanted to share with you guys some of my travel essentials for the trip. Check out what must-haves you need for a fun 3-day Caribbean vacay like this one.

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