Vacation Mavens

Kimberly Tate and Tamara Gruber

  • 30 minutes 49 seconds
    225: Princess Alaska Cruise

    Kim is back from her 7th Alaska cruise! This one was on Princess Cruise visiting the Inside Passage that cruises from Seattle and visits Victoria, Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagaway and sails through Glacier Bay. 

    Note: Kim was hosted by Princess Cruises for her trip.

    • This cruise visits Victoria very briefly at night so not a good choice if you really want to visit Victoria
    • When evaluating cruises, you need to look closely at the time and length in port very carefully
    • If you do want to pick a cruise that flies out of Vancouver, it may be cheaper to fly into Seattle and take either a train or bus to Vancouver
    • The Discovery Princess ship carries up to 4300 guests so it is a large ship about the same size as the Norwegian Bliss (which we have talked about previously)
    • It leaves from Pier 91 in Seattle, which is a bit north of the main Seattle waterfront and port area
    • If you sail with Princess, do the onboard check in on the app at least a month or a few weeks in advance so that you can receive your Medallions in the mail
    • The 16th floor on the Discovery Princess is the pool deck so you may need to walk outside to get the buffet and mid-ship elevators depending on where your room is. Kim's room also had an overhang covering the balcony
    • The cabins on the Discovery Princess are a little small, with no additional seating beyond the bed (except on the balcony)
    • The cabin had a very generous closet space but the bathroom was quite tight (look at the cabin layout in advance)
    • Kim went in mid-June and had amazing weather but there are no guarantees
    • The Princess Theater was quite large 
    • The premier package level is $80 per person, per day includes WiFi for 4 devices per person, 2 specialty dining meals, and the highest level of drink package
    • The 360 dining experience is something you need to book when you arrive and it is a seven-course meal with courses from around the world and it includes videos from makers around the world
    • The food on board was good but fairly standard cruise fare outside of specialty dining
    • Princess has a lot of lounges with something going on somewhere at all time
    • You can buy a day pass to the Sanctuary pool and area
    • Princess has a kids club and activities but there weren't a lot of families on board but it is great for multi-generational family trips
    • In Juneau, Kim went whale watching and it was spectacular wildlife sighting
    • In Skagway, Kim did the White Pass Scenic Railway and "Sip to Summit" excursion
    • In Ketchikan, Kim did a fishing excursion and after you catch fish they cook it for you on a private island
    • Not all cruise ships in Alaska goes to Glacier Bay National Park so be sure to look for this! There seem to be better views from the left side of the ship
    • Bigger ships have to dock further away and some need to tender to port so this is something else to consider when taking an Alaskan cruise
    • Smaller ship (like Holland) are better for walking on and off the ship


    9 July 2024, 10:00 am
  • 38 minutes 29 seconds
    224: Best Travel Apps for Summer Travel

    Summer vacation is almost here and we are getting ready for the busiest summer travel season ever! Be sure to pack your patience, your travel insurance, and these travel apps. In this episode we talk about some of our favorite travel apps that we are using lately for road trips, plane travel, and international travel.

    Travel Apps to Download this Summer:

    • Flight Aware - helps you track to see where planes are and their status
    • Airline apps - send you alerts for delays, help you rebook easily, download mobile boarding passes, can sometimes track luggage, inbound flights, or provide information on airport lounge locations and status
    • Mobile Passport Control - for international travelers that don't have Global Entry
    • Apple Find My Device with Apple AirTags or alternatively use Tile or similar trackers for checked bags
    • Roadtrippers - helps you plan road trips and find things to stop at along the way
    • GasBuddy - helps you find gas stations and the most affordable gas
    • Welcome Pickups - arrange airport transfers or other transportation in 256 locations worldwide
    • Daytrip - sightseeing city to city transfers with stops along the way
    • Hotel apps - allow you to chat with the hotel, digital check in and check out, and sometimes select room, get a digital key, manage entertainment, and other services
    • Card Pointers - helps you manage all your various credit card offers and helps you decide which card to use where and when and maximize your special offers
    • Global Blue - helps you manage your VAT refund forms
    • Stasher and Bounce - helps you find places to store your luggage, which is great if you are staying at an Airbnb or stopping somewhere along your way but need luggage storage
    • Going - great for finding flight deals
    Other Episodes You May Enjoy

    Follow Kim at @stuffedsuitcase on Instagram

    Follow Tamara at @yourtimetofly on Instagram

    18 June 2024, 10:00 am
  • 29 minutes 40 seconds
    223: Sonesta Maho Beach St Maarten All-inclusive Resort

    St. Maarten is a popular destination in the Caribbean, but many people only visit as a brief cruise port destination. However, getting there is pretty easy with direct flights from the USA and there is plenty to do and see on this Dutch and French Island.

    Tamara recently visited St. Maarten to stay at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort as part of a press trip. This is the largest all-inclusive resort on the island and it has plenty of offer for families.

    Read the full review of the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort on We3Travel. It is located in Maho Beach Village, very close to the airport and the famous Maho Beach.

    Sonesta Maho Beach Resort fast facts:

    • 420 rooms and suites in one tower
    • There is an adults-only sister resort next door at the Ocean Point Resort
    • The rooms either have a water (pool or ocean) view or island view
    • It isn't directly on Maho Beach
    • Large pool with water slides and swim up bar
    • Small pool with kiddie slides near the kid's club
    • Teen Zone offers a variety of games and entertainment
    • There are many food options including: Mexican, Asian, Italian, pizza, cafe, tavern, and buffet restaurants

    Tamara also did a johnnycake cooking class and the world's steepest zipline at Rainforest Adventures.

    Other Episodes You May Enjoy

    Follow Kim at @stuffedsuitcase on Instagram

    Follow Tamara at @yourtimetofly on Instagram

    4 June 2024, 10:01 am
  • 30 minutes 13 seconds
    222: Caribbean Cruise on the Holland America Nieuw Statendam

    Kim took her oldest daughter on a Caribbean Cruise for her college spring break this past March. After sailing Holland America in Alaska in the past, she was excited to try the Holland America Caribbean cruise on the Nieuw Statendam.

    This was a unique itinerary that left from Fort Lauderdale and visited Nassau, Bahamas, Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, and Grand Turk in Turks & Caicos, along with Half Moon Bay, which is Holland's private island in the Bahamas. This itinerary included two days at sea.

    Kim has cruised Norwegian, Disney, and Celebrity in the Caribbean in the past, so in this episode, she points out the differences between the different cruise lines and the highs and lows of the Holland Nieuw Statendam.

    Learn more at:

    Follow Kim at @stuffedsuitcase on Instagram

    Follow Tamara at @yourtimetofly on Instagram

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    14 May 2024, 10:00 am
  • 22 minutes 49 seconds
    221: Chickasaw Country and Oklahoma City Road Trip Travel

    Tamara has finally made it to her 50th state...Oklahoma!! She took an Oklahoma road trip to visit both Oklahoma City and Chickasaw Country in south-central Oklahoma, in partnership with Chickasaw Country and the Chickasaw Nation.

    Oklahoma City has a lot to offer as a stand-alone destination including the First Americans Museum and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Tamara stayed at the aLoft hotel in Bricktown, which is the entertainment district with plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, and the minor league baseball stadium and water taxis.

    If you are interested in learning more about First American culture and love visiting small towns, tune in to learn more about Chickasaw Country. Some highlights include:

    • Chickasaw Cultural Center
    • Chickasaw National Recreation Area (see bison!)
    • Chisholm Trail Heritage Center (learn about life as a cowboy)
    • "Leg Lamp" sculpture in Chickasha for those that love roadside attractions
    • Small town shopping in Sulphur
    • Art Walk in Pauls Valley

    You can also read more about Tamara's Oklahoma road trip itinerary on We3Travel.

    Follow Kim @stuffedsuitcase

    Follow Tamara @yourtimetofly

    Other Episodes You Will Enjoy:
    7 May 2024, 10:00 am
  • 32 minutes 20 seconds
    220: African Safaris

    Tamara is hosting an all-women small group trip to Portugal this fall and she would love for you to join her! Find out all the details and sign up here.

    Did you know that Kim has been on safaris in four African countries? Today she shares some great tips that will help you decide where you might want to go, understand the differences between various safari experiences, and provide some advice for planning an African safari trip.

    You can read more about a few of Kim's safari experiences here:

    2 April 2024, 10:00 am
  • 27 minutes 9 seconds
    219: German Christmas Markets Trip

    Tamara is hosting an all-women small group trip to Portugal this fall and she would love for you to join her! Find out all the details and sign up here.

    In this episode, Tamara talks about her two-week German Christmas Markets road trip! If you have this magical holiday trip on your radar, make sure to give this episode a close listen and check out the following articles:

    12 March 2024, 10:30 am
  • 51 minutes 36 seconds
    Barge and River Cruising Through France

    Before we say goodbye to summer and pull on our flannels and break out the pumpkin spice, Tamara and Kim are back with a recap of Tamara's European summer travels including a month spent exploring France by river and barge cruise!

    Tamara first spent two weeks in the United Kingdom, on a road trip through both Scotland and Wales with two other travel writers. She then took the Eurostar down to France and spent one week cruising through the Canal Nivernais on the Hotel Barge Elisabeth. Next, she went to Bordeaux and her husband joined her for a weeklong river cruise with AmaWaterways. Tamara finished up her summer of cruising with another canal barge cruise with European Waterways on the Canal du Midi in Southern France.

    The Mavens break down the differences between river and barge cruising and what to expect on each.

    Mentioned on the Podcast:

    12 September 2023, 8:09 pm
  • 53 minutes 21 seconds
    217: Scottsdale and Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka)

    Well it has been a minute since we had a chance to catch up and record a podcast but in this episode Tamara shares her insights and experience from her recent family trip to Japan.

    Kim and Tamara also share their love for Scottsdale, Arizona and some of the things they did on a girls' trip together. Read more at:

    Tamara also talked about her time in Paso Robles, California. You can read her Paso Robles itinerary to get inspired to visit this wine region.

    Kim attended conferences in Walt Disney World (read her tips for using DVC points to save money on a Disney World vacation), Disney Land, and San Antonio. She also took a family cruise to Alaska aboard the Norwegian Bliss, which was different from her Alaska cruise on Holland America last summer.

    Kim also took a quick press trip to Iceland, where she was able to explore Reykjavik and visit the Sky Lagoon.

    We really dug into Tamara's 2-week trip to Japan which included:

    If you are planning a trip, be sure to read Tamara's Japan travel tips!

    When talking about how great Google Maps can be to figure out transportation in Japan, Kim also mentioned her post about using Google Maps to plan a trip.

    Tamara was also just back from a short press trip to Waterton and Glacier National Parks.

    We will be traveling a lot over the summer so expect to hear another episode in the late summer. Then you will hear about Tamara's trip to Scotland & Wales, her river and barge cruises in France, and Kim's amazing trip to Kenya.

    Full Episode Transcript

    [00:00:00.000] - Kim

    Today, we're journeying to the land of the rising sun.


    [00:00:14.520] - Tamara

    Welcome to Vacation Mavens a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts, Kim from Stuffed Suicase and Tamara from We Three Travel.


    [00:00:29.740] - Tamara

    Kim, I can't believe the last time I really talked to you was when we were together in Scottsdale in April.


    [00:00:34.670] - Kim

    I know. It's been a crazy travel season for us. Good. I love that travel's back and everything, but it's also crazy because I thought we would be talking more and we've seen each other so much at the beginning of the year. And then all of a sudden it's like, Oh, summer is almost over.


    [00:00:47.920] - Tamara

    Not quite. That was our intent was to have this monthly. We're struggling, guys. So if anyone is still listening and subscribe to us, which I hope that they are, we're going to do a quick little rundown of some of our recent travels. Now you'll see why we haven't been able to connect and record an episode.


    [00:01:07.600] - Kim

    Yeah, exactly. It's been insane. The last time you guys heard from us, we were headed to Scottsdale, which was middle of April, and we both, I think, had an amazing trip there. We both published our articles, so you can always head to Wee 3 Travel and Stuff Suitcase and see the stuff that we covered. But I loved Scottsdale. It was great.


    [00:01:25.720] - Tamara

    Yeah. I think Scottsdale just continues to be a place I want to go back to because there's so many beautiful resorts and hotels, so there's always some place new to check out. There's amazing spas. Then this time, we did a lot of really cool activities.


    [00:01:41.370] - Kim

    I loved how it was really I think Scottsdale is a great destination a combination for being able to do outdoorsy things. We did hot air balloons, horseback riding, a few different things. But we also did wine tasting and shopping and went to some museums. Then, like you said, went to an amazing spot, the Phoenixion. Scottsdale, if you are a spa person, that's where you want to go.


    [00:02:03.230] - Tamara

    I've been watching our friend, Colleen, that lives out in Scottsdale. She seems to be hopping around another spa every day. I'm like, Wow, I want to come be your friend right now.


    [00:02:12.830] - Kim

    I think everyone's been saying that, I want your job.


    [00:02:15.790] - Tamara

    I'm sure. I would definitely say romantic getaway, girlfriend get away. Scottsdale is amazing for that. There's plenty to do with the family as well because of all those outdoor activities. But definitely check out. I know I have an itinerary. You have some great suggestions on things to do in the summer and how to manage the heat out there. D efinitely check those out on our websites to see more.


    [00:02:39.620] - Kim

    So where did you head after Scottsdale?


    [00:02:41.800] - Tamara

    I went right from Scottsdale to T uson to see Hannah for a little bit. And then the following week, I went to Paso Robles, which I'd learned.


    [00:02:51.090] - Kim

    I always said it was Paso Robles. Oh, it's Robles.


    [00:02:52.980] - Tamara

    Yeah. And it's actually Robles. And I'm like, I feel silly saying Robles.


    [00:02:57.270] - Kim

    Yeah, it sounds like Marbles.


    [00:02:58.630] - Tamara

    But that is a wine region in central California near San Louis Biscoe. I just love it. I was there, I think it was nine or eight years ago with the family, and we were checking out some family friendly wineries there. But it has just exploded in terms of the number of wineries, but also really good food now. The downtown has expanded. I stayed in a new boutique hotel that was just I loved it, which was so cool. It has a rooftop bar. It had a wine, actually a champagne vending machine in the lobby. Oh, I saw that. I saw your story on that. Yeah. So I had a great time out there. And I definitely think anyone that's into wine, put that on your radar as a region to visit. You can easily spill a long weekend. I had a couple of really wonderful spots that I went for wine tasting, just those perfect, incredible views, great food, wonderful wine. I think where many, many years ago it was newer to the scene or it was well known for J. L oor, some of the bigger names. There's just so much going on out there.


    [00:04:02.940] - Tamara

    Where did you go next? Because I know you were really busy right after our.


    [00:04:06.130] - Kim

    Scottsdale trip, too. I had three trips back to back. I did go to Disney World for a conference and I got to ride the new Tron ride. I also checked out a new hotel, which was the Contemporary Hotel, which I had never been to. I loved that. I really do love the splurging on those Disney World hotels that have the monorail access and the ones we've been at Revere too with the Skyliner because, man, it's amazing how much easier it is just to get into and not have to deal with the bus system because then whenever I have to wait for a bus to one of the parks and it's like, inevitably I get there and I'm the last one, I've got to wait for 20.


    [00:04:39.400] - Tamara

    Minutes or something. I will say that's what I liked the most about Disneyland because I've never stayed on park at Disney World. I've only stayed at partner hotels and by hotels.


    [00:04:50.150] - Kim

    Yeah, it is a big splurge for sure. I have a great article about that, though, because we splurged and used... We rented DVC points to be able to stay, and it's still not cheap. It was for the graduation trip and stuff, and this one does a conference hotel rate. I'm definitely not saying it's cheap, affordable, but if you do want to splurge, renting DVC points, and I have a link, so if anyone wants it, or you can look up the how I saved $2,000 plus dollars at Disney World. I have how we did that in there. I actually just tried to do it for Disneyland, but they didn't have any availability because Disneyland only has one property, almost two. Anyways, I did that. But then right after that, I also went on another Alaskan cruise, which you and I have talked about a few times. I'll soon have a couple of articles updated, but this was more of just a family cruise, so I didn't actually treat it like a work trip, which was nice to.


    [00:05:39.930] - Tamara

    Just relax. Which cruise were you on this time, though? Because I feel like was it last summer that you did celebrity?


    [00:05:44.310] - Kim

    Holland last August, which I absolutely loved. I loved Holland. I haven't done celebrity in Alaska yet, but Holland America was awesome. This time we did Norwegian because my family has status with there, and so they like to book Norwegian. We did the bliss, which we have been on the bliss before for a little media sailing when they started it.


    [00:06:02.560] - Tamara

    That's the one that we took.


    [00:06:03.920] - Kim

    To Alaska. Yeah, exactly. Family trip. Yeah. Anyway, so that was that. Then I had one other conference, then back to Disneyland. I hit both the parks within about three weeks of each other, but that was a lot of fun and just...


    [00:06:17.460] - Tamara

    You should have really had a Disney.


    [00:06:19.000] - Kim

    Cruise in the middle. I should have. That would have been perfect. Yeah, exactly. But anyways, that was a wrap up for me. My final trip that I did was I went at the end of May and went to San Antonio for another conference. It feels like most of mine were conferences. I was just conference out. But San Antonio is a cool city. It's been a while since I've been there. I went there for one day when I went to school in Texas for a little while. It was fun checking out San Antonio. But I know you've done a lot of other travels that did not involve conferences.


    [00:06:51.170] - Tamara

    Yeah, I'm like, Have I? I guess. You forget by now. Yeah, that's for sure. Well, I went back to T uson a week and a half later to pick up Hannah and bring her back from school. Then we were home for a week. Then we did our two week trip to Japan. Then I was home for, I don't know, two weeks. Then I just did a real quicky trip to Glacier National Park area.


    [00:07:14.290] - Kim

    Right. I forgot you went to glacier and I went to Iceland. I forgot to mention that. Oh, yeah. I'm blanking on June. I forgot June even existed. Sorry, I was just focusing on up to May, but yeah, definitely. I didn't get to experience the Iceland you got to experience because we stuck around Reykjavik and just explored a couple of attractions that were around there. So it was a quick, quick trip. But Mia is quite the little outdoor lover and cultured lover, so I definitely want to go back to Iceland with her because I know she'll just love to do some of the exploration that you've done.


    [00:07:48.850] - Tamara

    I was going to say, I'll meet you there. Yeah, definitely. I'm always ready to go back there. Yeah, well, I'll definitely put all of these links to articles in our show notes so you guys can read more. But I think.


    [00:08:00.800] - Kim

    That's a good way to do it. But I think we should dive into Japan because it is a very hot destination. I'm still so sad because ours was canceled. We were supposed to be going in April 2020, so we switched off and now you got to finally live the vacation that I was dreaming about back then. I think we should give everyone just a really quick rundown because I know that you have done an amazing job of writing a whole bunch of articles that are really going to be useful for people who are planning a trip to Japan. Let's just start off and give you an idea of how many days were you there and how maybe did you break up your itinerary?


    [00:08:36.480] - Tamara

    Yeah, absolutely. We took two weeks because especially coming from the East Coast, it's just such a long trip. Honestly, it's been on the top of our bucket list for so long, but we just haven't had two weeks where we felt comfortable to go that far knowing we're going to deal with jet lag on the way back. And then the flights are just always so expensive. But at least I was able to use points for one of our flights. So we took two weeks. I flew out on a Saturday morning. Yes, I got there on a Sunday, and then we were supposed to come back on Saturday, but we came back on Sunday because of a weather delay. But anyway, so I did five days in Tokyo, five days in Kyoto, and then three nights in Osaka. When I first started planning the trip, a lot of people told me that I would only need two or three days in Tokyo. But as I was looking at everything that we wanted to do, I was like, I really feel like I could easily spend a week here. It's just a fascinating city. There's just the ultra modern, and then there's the more traditional and each neighborhood is so huge.


    [00:09:42.570] - Tamara

    I think what many people don't realize is just how large the cities are. It's funny, I was talking to my mom before I left, and I don't think she's kept up on modern times as much. There's no way she's listening to this podcast, so I can say it. But she was like, Oh, I showed a picture when we went. She's like, Sky scrapers? I wasn't expecting that. I'm like, What do you think? It's rural villages. But this is the biggest city in the world.


    [00:10:09.310] - Kim

    Yeah, for sure.


    [00:10:11.080] - Tamara

    So it's so huge. And I'm used to going to Europe where even though the cities can be really large, we always stay in that historic, more central area where you're mostly walking. You're taking the metro, but you're primarily walking around a lot. And you may pick a neighborhood, I think about Paris. You pick a neighborhood each day. But in Tokyo, to get to a certain neighborhood, it might be 45 minutes on the couple of connections with the subway and stuff. So I'm glad that we did five days. That's crazy. I could end that was within without doing the Disney stuff, which I know many people like to do when they go there.


    [00:10:49.630] - Kim

    I do know that as a Disney person, it would be hard for me to go to Tokyo and not do Disney, at least Disney Sea, because it's considered a really unique park.


    [00:11:00.330] - Tamara

    Yeah, that's what everyone says. It's unlike any of the others. I get it. But we're not as.


    [00:11:06.430] - Kim

    Into the.


    [00:11:06.990] - Tamara

    Theme parks. Glenn was like, I am not going around the world to go to theme parks.


    [00:11:11.590] - Kim

    Exactly. When you have limited, yes, it's totally valid. I mean, it's very hard to figure out. I agree. I get what he's saying, but I also have that side of me that's like, Oh, but how can you be this close and not do it? So it's very hard to balance that. So, yeah, it sounds good. So you were saying, I know you guys... So I'm picturing Tokyo for my own planning. So you guys were in the Northwestern side of where you look at the downtown to the...


    [00:11:38.990] - Tamara

    Right. The Shizuku neighborhood, which some people were like, oh, do you want to stay there? It's like Times Square. And the area right around the train station is lots of neon, lots of crazy, especially at night. But we were honestly within a 10 minute walk to that, but where we were was more like, business, like government buildings, things like that. So it was really quiet, peaceful. It was great. And we stayed at the Hilton, Tokyo, and it was basically on top of... You could go just down an escalator and connect to two different subway stations. Plus they had a free shuttle if you wanted to the Shinkoku train station. So it was really very accessible. It felt very convenient. And there was plenty of restaurants and things around, but it wasn't super expensive. I don't know how expensive, really, but the Ginza area is much more high end. And then the Shiboya would be nice. But it totally.


    [00:12:43.620] - Kim

    Worked for us. We were happy with it. Nice. That's perfect. Yeah. I had looked at staying in the ginza area because of a few... I was also liked that it was closer to the Disney side, so it was a little easier to get out there. For those of you planning Genza area is basically opposite, diagonal across from where tomorrow states. I've heard the same thing from my research. You really have to allow a lot of time to transfer if you're going to different sides of what you consider the downtown center, 45 minutes to get across sometimes. Kind of crazy. Great. Well, what were some of the highlights then that you guys did when you were in Tokyo?


    [00:13:17.970] - Tamara

    We did a sushi making workshop with True Japan, and we really enjoyed it. The ladies were just really friendly and funny and nice. And so it was fun to see what goes into making sushi. And you probably know that I'm not a sushi eater, really. And we can talk about food later because it worked out better than I expected, except for a couple of times. But it was just fun. It's such a huge part of the culture. So I enjoyed that. We didn't do a whole lot of tours and things. We did a lot of exploring on our own. But the one thing that everybody has to do, which was as amazing as you would think, was the team lab planets, which is that immersive art experience where there's water and flowers and reflections. It's just unlike anything else. And it's really cool. And we've done the traveling, like van go immersive experience. But this was turning that up times 10 or more. And Hannah really loved it. It was really cool. The thing about it is you definitely have to book your tickets well in advance because just one of those things you have a timed entry.


    [00:14:30.970] - Tamara

    It's super popular. And honestly, when it comes to planning Japan, you really need to plan really far in advance. I mean, if you want to get restaurant reservations, some of them book up a month in advance. I think because some of them are so small that if they could take reservations, it might be for eight seats. And so they just go really quickly. And we weren't even there during cherry blossom season or golden week in early May when it's extra busy. difficult to do that. It was amazing. But I would say those are definitely highlights. I just loved exploring different areas. We did go, surprisingly, I liked this, but we went to a sumo wrestling tournament. Yeah, I wonder if I saw that. Which sometimes when people are there, they can see a practice. But there was actually a tournament going on while we were there. So that was something that I had figured out ahead of time. And when the tickets went on sale, I was able to book those the day that they were released. And it was a very cool thing. You don't want to spend hours and hours there because you don't know who the guys are.


    [00:15:33.160] - Tamara

    But just like you could see how excited everyone was to cheer for their favorite, the local person or whatever. And it's just such a dramatic theatrical type of sport. It was interesting. Yeah, for sure. Those are some of my highlights.


    [00:15:48.770] - Kim

    That's awesome. Because I know I saw some of the restaurant experiences you had. It seemed like sometimes you guys went simple and basic, but other times you went really over the top. Anything in Tokyo that you think somebody should splurge on or any savings tips for food or eating in Tokyo other than the restaurants making the reservations?


    [00:16:08.160] - Tamara

    Yeah, we did mostly the casual places in Tokyo. What I was trying to do, because I'm not a sushi eater, is have a variety of foods. And in Japan, all the restaurants really specialize in one thing. They do ramen, they do tempura, they do soba noodles, different things like that. So there's so many different styles of food to try within Japanese cuisine that we just booked a different style of food each night. And honestly, in some of them, we had to line up for the first night that we got there, we went to a place where it opened up five, and we got there at 445, and there was already probably 40 people in line for a 10 seat little place. And you basically you would wait till there was enough space in line. There was people sitting at the counter eating and then people standing behind them waiting for the second that they got up to sit in.


    [00:16:56.790] - Kim

    Their seat. Oh, my goodness.


    [00:16:57.810] - Tamara

    Oh, wow. And you had a vending machine, which is typical. Yeah, a vending machine to order from. So it's typical in a lot of ramen shops. So there's pictures and you just hit the button of what you want. You put in the money, you get a ticket and you hand.


    [00:17:11.650] - Kim

    The person the ticket. That's like McDonald's.


    [00:17:13.780] - Tamara

    Yeah. I'm just kidding. Those.


    [00:17:16.820] - Kim

    Screams in the middle. They have one at Tim Horton's as well. So of.


    [00:17:20.940] - Tamara

    Course, I made a mistake the first time because I saw people with a broth, which I thought was a ramen, and then a bowl of noodles. And I'm like, oh, that's so I saw on the machine that they had dipping noodles and they had ramen. And then you could add extra things, but only if you could tell what the picture was because it was otherwise in Japanese. And so I ordered dipping noodles because it looked really good and ramen because I thought that that's what people had. And then when I handed the girl the ticket, she was like, for one person?


    [00:17:51.710] - Kim

    Oh, no. And she was like, you.


    [00:17:53.890] - Tamara

    Want small or large? Because I was like, oh, is that not what they have? And she was like, no, they have. Because the dipping noodles come with a broth, so I thought it was that they had two.


    [00:18:02.980] - Kim

    Different things in front of them. Oh, and bologna.


    [00:18:04.650] - Tamara

    Yeah. Okay, got you. But I'm really glad that I did it because both were delicious. So I'm happy to sample both. But then Glenn ordered on his ramen, Scallions, and it was covered. It was like a mountain of Scallions because I was like extra. But it was like, if you get extra cheese on a pizza, it's like extra.


    [00:18:23.110] - Kim

    Extra extra. Oh, my goodness. Crazy. I mean, I love Scallions, but I don't know if I could handle the mountain of them.


    [00:18:27.560] - Tamara

    It was crazy. So you make those little mistakes. But we did a lot of the more casual things. And the hard thing is that honestly, I kept saying this, but there's very little in between. So there are the places where you... First of all, Japanese people love to line up, which is really hard when you're visiting and you're tired and you want to be able to eat with a certain time. People wait for two hours to get into this little ramen place or whatever. Oh, my goodness. Yeah, because you're like, I'm tired. I've been running all day. We were running like 5 to 9 miles. We were doing a lot of walking every day. So I'm like, I just want to sit down. So that's why we tried to do some reservations. But there were the really casual, inexpensive, really inexpensive places. And then there's the crazy, crazy high end... Some of the Sushi places, I'm like, there's no way. Because some of them charge up to like $500.


    [00:19:19.820] - Kim

    A person. Oh, my goodness.


    [00:19:21.930] - Tamara

    Insane. That's crazy. So there's just not a lot of middle ground is what I found. Okay, good to know. But the low end, not low end, but the inexpensive stuff is really good.


    [00:19:31.970] - Kim

    Yeah, of course. You just have to go on to wait for it.


    [00:19:35.440] - Tamara

    Yeah, exactly. And honestly, one day... So we had a bit of a rough start because Glenn had a stomach bug the day before we left. So the whole flight over and everything, he basically didn't eat for a couple of days. And then I had a really bad cold the day before we left. And for two days, I was so nervous, I'm testing. I'm like, Please.


    [00:19:57.490] - Kim

    Don't let it be.


    [00:19:58.350] - Tamara

    And it was. And it was just a cold, but I was still super congested, so it was just hard. And in Japanese society, you can't blow.


    [00:20:06.290] - Kim

    Your nose.


    [00:20:06.970] - Tamara

    In public. So I'm trying to be so discreet, going outside and blowing my nose and sanitizing and tucking it into my pocket know, like very... Like trying to be really conscious of that and trying to be super sanitary. But Hannah did end up getting a cold also. One day she was just not feeling up to going out and doing a tour and stuff. So we're like, just stay here and sleep. It was going to be the day that we toured one neighborhood and then we went to the sumo wrestling, and she wasn't super into that anyway. So we're just sleep. And then she went out on her own and she found a 7 11 because just like everybody says, 7 11 has amazing convenience food. So you can buy these really good sandwiches and all that stuff. So there's definitely plenty of ways that you can eat cheap there.


    [00:20:56.090] - Kim

    That's good to know. So then from Tokyo, you went to Kyoto? Yes. Kyoto is such a different vibe. Yeah, the bullet train, right?


    [00:21:05.570] - Tamara

    Yeah. So a couple of things to know about the bullet train is that we had gotten the JR pass, which allows you to use all the JR trains. We got the national ones, so you could use bullet trains as well, except the super fast ones weren't included. And we had gotten one that allows us to make seat reservations. And you also, if you're bringing luggage on the train, you now need to make a reservation for the luggage. And this is for more of a checked bag size luggage, not the carry on size. But we were there for two weeks, so we had checked bags. So you can make a reservation for the last row of seats where the luggage can go behind you, or there's a couple of spots on a luggage rack, but they're really cutting down on luggage on trains. Or you can ship your bags ahead, which we ended up actually a couple of times just shipping our bags ahead. And it only costs $20 a bag. It's waiting for you in the hotel when you get there. It takes 24 hours. So you need to have a small bag with all your stuff for.


    [00:22:06.140] - Kim

    Then one day. Yeah.


    [00:22:07.320] - Tamara

    But we took the bullet train and that worked really well. We saw Mount Fuji because it was a nice day out. So and we ended up like, we got to Kyoto and we just put our bags in a locker and then we took a local train out to Nara, which is about a half hour away or so, maybe 45 minutes. And there's a really beautiful, huge temple out there. But also it's known for their deer park, which Glenn, years ago, because we both work for a Japanese company, so he's been to Japan many times, but 25 years ago. And so he would always tell us about the deer in Nara that bow to you to get fed. Oh, right. And the deer have changed a bit in the last few years.


    [00:22:53.320] - Kim

    Yes. I've heard about this stuff. They have this issue at the monkey place, too.


    [00:22:57.310] - Tamara

    They were so aggressive. That's too bad. They were grabbing my shirt and pulling on my shirt. They nipped my butt. I'm like, Whoa. I feel like all these videos of Glenn and I trying to run away from the deer and we're like, Oh, no. Let's just get away from where the food is so that the deer are calmer. But it's funny because later in the trip, we went to the island of Miyajima, and they have wild deer there also. And one of them followed me into the visitor center, went over to the desk, grabbed a brochure, and then ran out.


    [00:23:29.250] - Kim

    Because they like to get the paper.


    [00:23:31.240] - Tamara

    And so the person comes running out behind the desk, yelling at the deer. And then there's three people in the street trying to wrestle the paper away from the deer.


    [00:23:39.390] - Kim

    Oh, my goodness.


    [00:23:40.590] - Tamara

    And I'm like, You think of deer in the headlights, these gentle creatures.


    [00:23:45.240] - Kim

    Yeah, exactly. It's sad when humanity is like, Yeah, I won't get there.


    [00:23:51.560] - Tamara

    No, it's definitely because there's too many tourists now. They're being fed. Definitely not a great situation. But we did enjoy the day trip out there. Yeah, for sure. I love everything about Japan. It's just so clean and orderly and polite and easy to figure out. My type A personality just really appreciates the order of things. I would like that too. The fact that everybody stands in a line and waits and then you get on when you get on. I love that because in a society where everyone's pushing or whatever, I get.


    [00:24:27.400] - Kim

    Super stressed out. Oh, my gosh, I hated it. We were on a cruise, a European cruise, and that attracts a lot of Europeans. I thought, Oh, you wait in line for your turn to go get your food that you want served. But no, people just come up from other directions and just walk right up. There's no line concept. I'm like, Oh, I like lines. What am I supposed to do? So sorry.


    [00:24:49.240] - Tamara

    I get that. You would love Japan. I think it's such a wonderful place to visit. I think there must be challenges if you live there within the culture. I recognize that I used to work for a Japanese company. I'm aware of many of those issues, but as a visitor, it makes it so pleasant. But anyway, I was going to say that they have lockers where you can store things. Everything is just easy. The trains, everything is in Japanese and English.


    [00:25:19.260] - Kim

    I know they did a big push with that before the Olympics were going to be there. They were trying to...


    [00:25:25.180] - Tamara

    And all of the trains have signs that say what the next stop is. Because sometimes you're on a subway and you're trying to look and you're like, Oh, yeah. They might not answer, but you're like, What was that?


    [00:25:36.320] - Kim

    What did they say?


    [00:25:37.460] - Tamara

    That's Charlie Brown's.


    [00:25:38.740] - Kim

    Teacher talking to you. Exactly. I've had that happen so many times.


    [00:25:43.040] - Tamara

    So that part was great. And Kyoto is just very different. So it is more traditional in the architecture. They preserved a lot of the traditional architecture. There's tons of shrines and temple s o that's the thing is that you could get a little shrine and templed out, but the architecture is so beautiful. There is a downtown center city that's more city like, but it's nothing like Tokyo.


    [00:26:09.310] - Kim

    Or Nagasaki. I remember when we were looking to stay in Kyoto, I seem to recall because we were going to go during... We were hoping for cherry blossom season, but I seem to recall there it's still pretty spread out and there's little neighborhoods in Kyoto even. It's like, okay, this one has more of this vibe and this one I can't remember where we were staying, but I was looking at the different things and getting the bamboo forest, like, oh, well, I'd have to leave here and we want to be near a train station.


    [00:26:32.970] - Tamara

    All those plans. Yeah, you do want to be near a train station because the metro system is not as well developed there. So we took a mix of busses, GR trains, private trains that you paid for the same way you'd pay for a subway. But when we stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which was probably about a 10 minute walk to one of the train stations, but there was a bus that stopped right outside that then went to the main Kyoto station, which is where we would get on to go to the bamboo forest. And then, yeah, so it was conveniently located, but you definitely needed to plan your travel because some of those destinations, especially many of them were taking slower local trains, and they could still take 45 minutes to.


    [00:27:26.150] - Kim

    An hour. That was one of the things in my planning that was the hardest is recognizing that there are so many different train lines, like brands, and you might have a pass with one, but it doesn't necessarily mean you can go on every train that's coming in. So it's an interesting thing that I've never... I'm sure maybe it's in other places around the world, but it's not something we think about in the states at all.


    [00:27:49.420] - Tamara

    The nice thing, though, is that we had our JR pass, which, by the way, I don't even know if they're going to be that useful after this fall because the price is almost doubling. It's going up. It's having some. Unless ticket prices are going up a lot also, you might just want to buy individual tickets.


    [00:28:04.190] - Kim



    [00:28:04.600] - Tamara

    Ticket, yeah. But we bought, as soon as we got, we had ordered the JR passes ahead, so we had our voucher that we had to turn in to get the actual pass. Then we went to an ATM because you needed cash for a lot of things. We have to also use cash to get an IC card. So this is the rechargeable card that you would use to get on the metro or the bus or something like that. But the nice thing is that unlike, Oh, I'm going to New York, I need a metro card. I'm going to this place, I need that card for their.


    [00:28:32.660] - Kim

    Subway system. Yeah, like Long Island Railroad and Metro card.


    [00:28:35.370] - Tamara

    Yeah, exactly. This card worked for all of them. And it also works for a lot of vending machines.


    [00:28:41.990] - Kim

    Some convenient stores.


    [00:28:42.850] - Tamara

    Yeah, the vending machine.


    [00:28:43.690] - Kim

    I forgot. And you reload it always with cash, though? You always have to reload it only cash. You can't reload it with cash.


    [00:28:48.300] - Tamara

    Yeah, which is so bizarre. It's like this is a digital payment system and I'm loading it with cash.


    [00:28:53.590] - Kim

    I wonder if it's because they want to make sure that you're actually paying for it. They don't want you to just be able to dispute it and have gotten the ride for free or gotten the food for free. You know what I mean? I wonder if it's a culture thing.


    [00:29:04.840] - Tamara

    I do know that it used to be, before COVID, a very cash based society. Now more and more places will take a credit card. And if you have, there's a lot of... Not many places take Apple Pay, but a lot of them do take a tap payment system, but more one that they have in Asia. I don't know if it's really worth signing up and trying to figure that out. Got you. I just basically used my.


    [00:29:28.420] - Kim

    Chip credit card. The IC card and.


    [00:29:30.030] - Tamara

    The card anytime for that. And the IC card for the metro, the bus, some vending machines, some required cash still. But yeah, it's just super convenient. So even though there are different trains, so yeah, maybe you can't use your free pass, not for you because you.


    [00:29:44.710] - Kim

    Paid a lot for it.


    [00:29:45.480] - Tamara

    But it's still pretty easy to get around.


    [00:29:49.930] - Kim

    Yeah, it's good. That's great. And I do want to quickly, before we jump over to finishing up Kyoto and going to Asaka, I did want to mention something that you did that I think was brilliant because I even had looked into doing it when we were planning our trip. And that was you had someone meet you at the airport, right?


    [00:30:05.450] - Tamara

    Yeah, I did. And don't do it. At least not for the company that I did. Okay, here we go. You and I had talked about it. I think it was about $75 to $100. It was the company that I bought the JR Pass from. I also arranged to rent a mobile hotspot, so that was taken care of ahead of time to pick up at the airport. And I arranged to have a greeter meet us after customs. And then what I was told was that that greeter would then take me to do the things I need to do at the airport, which would be pick up my mobile hotspot, exchange my JR Pass, get my IC card, find where I need to go to get my transfer.


    [00:30:45.390] - Kim

    Get the train.


    [00:30:46.220] - Tamara

    I figured, hey, it's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things.


    [00:30:51.800] - Kim

    And especially.


    [00:30:52.310] - Tamara

    After traveling.


    [00:30:52.820] - Kim

    For 20 hours.


    [00:30:53.250] - Tamara

    And I want to be jet lived. Yeah, exactly. This will be useful. It was such a waste of money because first I'm trying to talk to the guy, I'm like, okay, we need to go to an ATM, and he's not even understanding what I'm saying. I'm like, You're a greeter. I'm not coming in there with like, everyone should speak English, but his job is.


    [00:31:11.680] - Kim

    To meet people. When you pay people. Yeah, exactly. I know a lot of times they'll have if you want to in English or if you want to in... You can specify a language, but.


    [00:31:20.330] - Tamara

    It seems like it's... Yeah. So one person had my name up and then she called this guy over. So it's like a service they do for multiple people. They had multiple greeters there. I don't know if I just got an inexperienced person, but I went to the counter of the mobile WiFi hotspot place and that person spoke perfect English, no trouble communicating at all.


    [00:31:40.320] - Kim

    And it was easy to find. And you were able to easily find everything.


    [00:31:42.690] - Tamara

    Yeah. I mean, he led me there, but I could have found it on my own, no problem. And then I was trying to explain that I wanted to go to the JR ticket office to get our pass, but also see if he could help us make reservations. Yeah, exactly. Because I wanted to make the reservations as soon as I had my pass because I wanted to try to get the luggage reservations. And he was just like, Oh, no, they don't do reservations here. And I'm like, Oh, well, that's part of why I wanted to pay for this service because I wanted somebody to help me translate what my need was. And meanwhile, we were back and forth, just not understanding each other. So then I get in line at the JR ticket office. I get up there, perfect English from the person that's behind the desk, completely easy to talk to. They didn't make the reservations there. They told me where to go in the Tokyo station or Shinchu station, whatever, which I did the next day. That person also spoke really good English, was able to communicate no problem. And then I was trying to explain that I want to get an IC card.


    [00:32:38.620] - Tamara

    And he was like, Well, you can get the one that requires a deposit or not a deposit. I'm like, I don't care? Can you just tell me where? And he didn't know where to go. Finally, the guy that was behind me in line at the JR ticket office was like, Oh, you want this line right here. And I'm like, Thank you. Then I'm like, What? Then I had arranged for an airport limo bus to take us from the airport directly to our hotel. I just thought first day, and it's really, it's inexpensive. Taxis there are very expensive, but this is inexpensive. And instead of having to drag some bags on multiple trains and subways, I thought it's easy. And so I was like, I thought all that would take us an hour and a half, maybe, from the time we arrived. So I had booked a later bus, but it was really quick to do all of it. So I was like, Oh, maybe we can get an earlier bus. So I was trying to get him to help us with that. No. So I ended up just doing it on my phone. But then he had to come down and he was like, No, I have to wait.


    [00:33:42.890] - Tamara

    Because I was like, Okay, we're all set. Thank you. Bye. And he's like, No, I have to wait till you get on the bus. I'm like, All right, well, can you just stand over there? Because I'm like, I'm done.


    [00:33:52.120] - Kim

    Yeah, exactly. You did not help me. Wow. Okay, well, that's good tip. Good to know.


    [00:33:56.970] - Tamara

    What not to.


    [00:33:58.150] - Kim

    Do, I guess. What not, yeah. No, I mean, it's good because I had considered that too because I was thinking the same thing like, Oh, my gosh, how am I going to get my pass? I was thinking all that same stuff.


    [00:34:07.930] - Tamara

    Cool. I think a lot of things with travel, it feels so overwhelming. But once you're there, you're like, Oh, this is not as bad as I.


    [00:34:13.260] - Kim

    Thought it was going to be. Well, especially in a country that you can't even get around with. It's like, Oh, I speak a little Spanish. I speak a little French. It's just like, None of that's going to help you. You don't want to go in being a ignorant traveler who's just like, Oh, why don't you speak my language in your country? Exactly. I can't stand people like that. But anyways, okay, good to know. Anything else about Kyoto you wanted to mention? I did think it was awesome, your little tip about the bamboo forest. It wasn't really a tip, but I was so happy that you had that experience because I heard the same thing.


    [00:34:44.990] - Tamara

    When I was there, even, I saw some people on Instagram that seem to be there at the same time, but a couple of days before me. And they showed just this mass of people walking through. Because the word is out that for many of these things, you need to get there early. And so even if you show up at 7 AM, there's still this massive crowd of people funneling through this little area. And I don't want to do that. It was an hour away. No one's getting up at 5 AM to get to a place by 7 or whatever just to take a photo. My family doesn't roll like that. They're like, I don't really care about your photo. We just want to see it. And so we decided to sleep in a little bit. We went, we had lunch, then we went to the monkey forest. And I will say the whole Arashima area is, for a touristy area, so much nicer than I expected. It was really lovely. And there's a really pretty river that runs along that on some days you can run boats. It was really nice. Anyway, so we went to the monkey park first because Glenn loves monkeys, although it's such a steep climb up there, he was like, This better be worth it.


    [00:35:53.700] - Tamara

    Actually, there was a fan of it that was like, This better be worth it for your monkeys. But it was cool. We saw a lot of baby monkeys. The monkeys were not aggressive at all. They just hung out as long as you followed the rules. You weren't staring at them in the eyes to challenge them or something. Then we went to a temple, then we went to the forest. So we got to the Grove, not really a forest. It's much smaller than you think it's going to be. We got there maybe like 2.30, 3 o'clock, and it was fine. There was people there, but no crush of crowd and plenty of space to have a photo. Yeah, there's people in the background, but that's fine. Honestly, we just wanted a couple of family photos. I'm not going to win an Instagram competition over it, but it was nice. And it's really beautiful. It's really pretty. But sometimes I think doing the opposite of what everyone says.


    [00:36:47.700] - Kim

    You should do and work out. Especially when it's been around for so long, people are saying do that because it's very much like, oh, the gates open at seven. And so everyone who's built up, it's just like Disneyland. People say, oh, rope drop, rope drop. And you get there. And if you get there late, there's such a long line to get in. And then people come 30 minutes after opening and they walked right up to the turnstiles. There's something about that.


    [00:37:10.900] - Tamara

    Yeah. And I looked at Google Maps is wonderful. It was so helpful for the travel, figuring out the trains because it would say what platform, but also what car to get on if you were transferring. And then when you were leaving the station, what exit to take because those train stations are huge. So you're like, you don't know where you are when you come out. So it was really, really helpful. And it would tell you like eight minutes, 3 stops, here's the name of your stop. This is how much it's going to cost. It was really very helpful. But you can also look for attractions, and it'll show you the busiest times, like a little graph.


    [00:37:47.100] - Kim

    Yes, for sure.


    [00:37:47.990] - Tamara

    I was like, Okay, it looks like 10 to 2 is super busy. Who knows how accurate it is, but let's go.


    [00:37:53.690] - Kim

    After it. I have a good article about how I use Google Maps and you can make a custom and saver on map to help you with your planning to help see stuff for not just road trips, but also when you're planning a city vacation. But that's a good thing. I always forget about how they have that busy season section. I should add that to my post because.


    [00:38:11.540] - Tamara

    That's a.


    [00:38:12.160] - Kim

    Useful thing.


    [00:38:13.300] - Tamara

    When you're trying to figure out, especially for public transportation, many times the night before, I would look like, Oh, how long is it going to take? Because we need to know what time should we be done breakfast? What time do we need to leave? I like that there's a little drop down where you can say when you're departing or when you want to arrive because it changes. Especially public transportation may not have as many trains when you're looking late at night versus when you're going in the morning.


    [00:38:42.000] - Kim

    Totally. That's awesome. I always worry about the train, the car thing, because even in New York, sometimes I've been like... Because I'm not used to using trains often. When I first started going to New York and doing that, the Long Island Rail Railroad and stuff, they have certain cars they don't open the doors to all the time. During different hours of the day. I'm always like, Oh, how do I know what car I'm in? It's definitely one of those Charlie Brown teacher's voices. Sometimes I'm like, I have no idea where I'm at.


    [00:39:10.980] - Tamara

    That's the other great thing. In Japan, it's like, on the avement on the platform, it has numbers. So it's like, you know exactly what car that's going to be. Oh, man. And then everyone lines up single file behind those on either side of the.


    [00:39:26.830] - Kim

    Door for.


    [00:39:27.350] - Tamara

    Everyone to come out and then they go on.


    [00:39:29.780] - Kim

    It's lovely. Lovely. Nice. Okay, so then your last little stop was OSAKA. So why don't you tell us a little bit about that? Because I had planned that we were going to fly into Tokyo and out of OSAKA, but you ended up going back to Tokyo to go home. But what did you do in Osaka?


    [00:39:45.130] - Tamara

    Yeah, flying out of OSAKA would be ideal, but for us, Delta doesn't do that. So we had to go back to Tokyo. So OSAKA is known as the Japan's Kitchen, so it's known for its street food. So I knew I wanted to take a food tour when we were there because it's just that's really one of the things it's well known for. So I ended up... We actually got there, we explored a little bit. We did the... You made a sky building, which actually Glenn did not do. No surprise that when we went up high, especially there's these glass enclosed elevators that go between two towers on the 39th floor. And he was like, Are you kidding me? No way am I doing that. So Hannah and I did that. And then that night we actually went to a baseball game, which was really fun because Japanese culture is really into baseball. And it was like being at a college game in a way because they were playing Hiroshima, so that's not far away. Half the stadium were Buffalo fans and half the stadium were carp fans and they all sat on the right side.


    [00:40:49.140] - Tamara

    So it's like one half was red, one half was white. And they each had a cheering section in a band. And so you felt like you were a little bit at a college game with the marching band thing. It was a lot of fun. But then the next day we took a food tour with Arrogato Travel, and they have food tours in multiple cities. If you want to do a food tour in any of the cities, I would definitely recommend them. The guide was amazing.


    [00:41:13.870] - Kim

    It seemed like you had a really good time.


    [00:41:15.920] - Tamara

    Yeah, she was really wonderful. She had lived in the US for a little bit. I think she went to the University of Wisconsin. She lived somewhere else in the Midwest, too, but it's just such a funky, fun city. We toured this area called Shenzakai. It was built after World War II to attract Westerners and has more of a Coney Island vibe is what they were going for. It has carnival games and all these street food things. It's just so funky and retro. I think anywhere else I would have been like, Oh, this is cheesy. But it was actually really cool. And all throughout that area and the Dontambury area of Osaka, all of the food places, it's like Vegas for food places because they all have these three-dimensional facades with a giant octopus or a giant crab, and they're moving and lit up, and it's just so funky. There was one place where you could fish for your own fish, and then they cook it for you. It's almost hard to describe, but it is just bright lights, really funky, interesting, but lots of street food, lots of fried food on a stick, or like.


    [00:42:30.660] - Kim

    A fair.


    [00:42:31.420] - Tamara

    No, I'm just kidding. And the takeyaki octopus balls is like, that's where that's from. So that's like really huge. Afterwards, we went to the Don Donburi and we had Okonomiyaki. My family always laughs at me because for some reason I could never get this out. And Hannah and Glenn are like, Why can you not say this word? But Okonomiyaki, so it's like the Pancake type of thing with egg and cabbage and other things thrown in that they make on a griddle in front of you. So they have it in Kyoto and other places, but it's really known there. And in Hiroshima also, they have slightly different versions. That was just fun. So to do all the street food stuff, to have the good food tour, we really loved that. And then on our last, what was supposed to be our last day, we went to Hiroshima and we did a tour. I have a whole itinerary where it has a link to the tour company that I booked. Our guide was really sweet. He was wonderful. I highly recommend that. So we did the whole atomic bomb dome and museum, which was really heavy, obviously.


    [00:43:36.130] - Tamara

    And you have very confused feelings.


    [00:43:39.080] - Kim

    About it. Yeah, being.


    [00:43:40.620] - Tamara

    A member. Our role in that. But then we went to Miyajima Island, which is just a short, like, ferry ride. And it is just beautiful. We were there, it was raining. So there was all these mist and clouds on the mountains. And it just had this magical feel to it. But it was such a... I would love to spend a night there. It wasn't overcrowded, but when the people left, have.


    [00:44:07.840] - Kim

    It more to.


    [00:44:08.650] - Tamara

    Yourself type of thing. But there's a really famous Tori Gate that's in the water that looks high tide like it's floating, or when we were there during low tide, so you can walk out to it. And just a shrine. It's just a really pretty lush... That's one thing that really, I don't know why it surprised me, but Japan, outside the cities, it's so lush. You're like, Oh, right. These are islands.


    [00:44:34.300] - Kim



    [00:44:35.380] - Tamara

    And that's why I liked about Kyoto too, because it's like a city that's nestled in a valley surrounded by these lush mountains. Not like towering.


    [00:44:43.150] - Kim

    Mountains, but these really lush. And it has a nice little river or stream or something through it too.


    [00:44:47.450] - Tamara

    So that was how we finished. I loved that. And then unfortunately, then we got stuck in a delay on a train coming back because there was a lot of rain. And then we found out our train for the next day to get back to Tokyo in time for our plane was canceled and we were hoping it was going to be all fixed by the morning. But Glenn woke up at five and he said it wasn't. And so then we were up for a couple of hours trying to figure out, what are we going to do? Because we were like, oh, we'll fly up to Tokyo. And by then, all the planes were booked until 3 PM. But we had a 625 flight and we would have had to get our luggage, get to another terminal, recheck it. We're like, that's never going to work. If we get there at 415 or I don't know, it was 435 o'clock or something is when we would have arrived. Never would have worked. So we're like, all right, let's see if we can stay an extra night here and let's book stuff for tomorrow. And let's call Delta and see if they can switch us.


    [00:45:40.700] - Tamara

    So then we had such a long travel day home because we flew from Osaka to Tokyo. And then we had to do Tokyo to LAX instead of Tokyo. We were booked on a Tokyo to Atlanta. So then at least the last little leg is short. Then we're in LAX for four hours.


    [00:46:00.110] - Kim

    Then you had a six hour flight.


    [00:46:02.380] - Tamara

    Well, and then it ended up being delayed. So we came out, we were luckily at the lounge and we actually went on the patio. The Delta Lounge in LAX has a patio, so it's loud but it was really good. It was just nice to get fresh air.


    [00:46:16.400] - Kim

    After all.


    [00:46:16.980] - Tamara

    That time. I actually went and I took a shower. I didn't even have any clothes. We had even checked everything, so I didn't even have any clothes to change into. But I'm like, I'm just taking a shower anyway. Yeah, for sure. And so then we came out of the lounge. We're like, Go to the gate. They're like, Oh, we're waiting on a crew member still. We're going to wait to board you. And then they started boarding us. We're like, Okay, I guess everything's all set. And then we're sitting on the plane and an hour later, they're like, Okay, the pilot's now in the parking lot.


    [00:46:42.550] - Kim

    And we're like.


    [00:46:43.320] - Tamara

    Oh, my gosh. Seriously? It was the pilot. They weren't even on premises when you boarded us. So we were delayed a couple hours. So we ended up... We got home at 315 in the morning. We'd been going for 30 hours, I think, or more, like 33 hours maybe.


    [00:47:02.380] - Kim

    That one did you have? Did you have any of the upgraded seating for any of those legs?


    [00:47:06.890] - Tamara

    Luckily, because we had booked our tickets in premium select, which if you know Delta, there's like Delta 1, which is like the nice pod lay flat thing. Then there's premium select, which has like a footrest that comes out and it reclines, but not like all the way, but it reclines some. Then there's comfort plus, which is basically like a regular seat with a little.


    [00:47:26.290] - Kim

    More leg room. Like me coming.


    [00:47:28.590] - Tamara

    So the reason we went through LAX is that's what we could get for premium economy. Oh, good. Okay. I mean, premium select on that, the longest leg from Tokyo to LAX. Then LAX to Boston doesn't have that. So I think we were in, I think, we were in Comfort Plus. I don't even know at that point. I was uncomfortable, that's for sure. But yeah. And then we flew into Boston, which we had flown out of Providence. So my car is still in Providence. So I had to get a car service to pick us up, bring us back. T he next day I'm like, Hannah, can you drive me down to get my car? Whatever. That's a.


    [00:48:03.840] - Kim

    Whole long story. It worked out. It sounds like you guys had an amazing trip and it was awesome. I know, like I said already and mentioned, Tamara has quite a few blog posts and she'll link them in the show notes, but you can also just go to Wee 3 Travel. I'm sure it's pretty easy to find them, but I know she has all of her itineraries that are if you guys know Tamara, they're very in-depth with a lot of detail. So super helpful if you're thinking of planning a trip. I think it was great. I'm glad you guys had a good time and glad I got to hear about it a little more.


    [00:48:31.780] - Tamara

    Yeah, it was definitely a bucket list trip. I think being there and being together as a family was wonderful. I think we all acknowledged, we don't know when we're going to have that opportunity again. Just know Hannah is going to be very busy the next few years. S he's going to be more than happy to take a trip with us when she can. We might just know when that will be.


    [00:48:52.240] - Kim



    [00:48:52.840] - Tamara

    I'm glad.


    [00:48:53.360] - Kim

    We got to do it. Yeah, that's awesome. Perfect.


    [00:48:56.710] - Tamara

    What's next?


    [00:48:58.290] - Kim

    I don't even know. You're like, What day is it? What month is it? Exactly. The big thing on my agenda, I'm trying to take the summer off a little bit. We do have a trip up to Canada to visit family coming right up for Canada Day. Happy Canada Day to those of you Canadians that might be listening. Then happy fourth of July to the US Americans that are listening. We are doing that. Then I have a fun trip. You'll be moving Hannah back to school, but I am going to be flying to Kenya and doing a Simara J. W. Marriott stay, which I just got a steal on points for. I'm using points to fly some nice flights as well. That's what's coming up for me. My fall is going to be crazy and booked again, but at least I have. It looks like I'm trying to keep my summer a little more calm. Although that Africa trip, I cannot wait. It's during the Wilder Beast migration. That's a pretty big trip to be. I'm really excited. It's going to be during the Wilder Beast migration, too. So hopefully we'll get some amazing pictures. I got to rent a lens, it reminds me.


    [00:50:04.360] - Tamara

    I was telling somebody about the points deal that you got on that. Everyone just can't even believe it. What a lucky straw.


    [00:50:11.400] - Kim

    That was. Oh, my gosh, it was amazing. I don't know if this would work always, but I'm just a little tip for you guys, if you guys are points people. If you know of any future opening hotels that haven't opened yet, that are opening in the future, just maybe keep an eye on their points rates because that's what happened. This hotel hadn't opened yet. It was opening in April, and in February or something, I saw someone mentioned, Oh, my goodness, they've got nights for 20,000, 20 ish thousand points a night. With Marriott, if you book five nights with points, you only pay for four nights. So it's like book five nights, get one free thing. I don't know how to.


    [00:50:49.500] - Tamara

    Explain it, but you get it. And it's an all inclusive property.


    [00:50:51.920] - Kim

    It's all inclusive property. So all the game drives are included, all the meals are included, everything. I'm paying 93,000 points total for five nights for two people.


    [00:51:00.640] - Tamara

    That's like one night at a nice city hotel.


    [00:51:04.320] - Kim

    Yeah, I know. I was looking at a Fairfield Inn in New York in January, and there were like 65,000 points. So it gives you a little idea there. But anyways, so that's what's up for me. But what about you?


    [00:51:14.810] - Tamara

    As you hear this, I will probably either be in Scotland or Wales, depends on how quickly I get this out. So I leave shortly for a week with a couple of other travel writers, a week in Scotland, a week in Wales, and then I'm going to be home for a couple of weeks. And then I'm actually going to have two weeks in France, which I don't think I've even had a chance to tell you about. But I'm going to do... Glenn and I are going to go to France. We're doing the Taste of Bordeaux River cruise on Amman Waterways. Oh, nice. And then something else that came up. I was invited to do a press trip on European Waterways, which does hotel barge cruises. And I was trying to look at dates in the fall, but they didn't have any availability. But they're like, Well, how about this one on August sixth, which would have been the day I was flying back from France. I was like, Well, I will already be in France. It's to an area that I've been to before. So I was hoping to see something new, but I think it just works out for me to do this back to back, a more traditional river cruise versus a hotel barge cruise just to have these new experiences because I'm not a big ship person, but I'm definitely been wanting to try some of these other types of things.


    [00:52:28.570] - Tamara

    And my friend Michelle is going to come join me for that one because Glenn can't stay for the two weeks.


    [00:52:33.830] - Kim

    Take off that whole time.


    [00:52:34.800] - Tamara

    That's awesome. And then as soon as I get back, Hannah will come back and we have one day at home and then we fly her to Arizona.


    [00:52:43.570] - Kim

    Okie dokey. Well, thank you guys for tuning in again. If you're still with us and still listening, as you can see, we have a few trips on the agenda, so we're not quite sure when we'll make another episode. But as always, we always appreciate you guys tuning in and we'll try to share again soon.


    [00:52:58.280] - Tamara

    Yeah, hopefully, maybe the end of the summer.


    [00:53:00.250] - Kim

    Talk to you later.


    [00:53:01.640] - Tamara

    All right, bye bye.

    27 June 2023, 10:00 am
  • 55 minutes 43 seconds
    216: Ireland and Northern Ireland


    Kim took a last minute spring break trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland with her younger daughter and this week on the podcast, she tells us all about it!

    She flew into Dublin and then stay at a country estate hotel in Northern Ireland before visiting Belfast, the Causeway Coast, Derry/Londonderry, and Galway before looping back to Dublin.

    See Kim's articles on:

    Ireland Trip Highlights:

    25 April 2023, 10:00 am
  • 44 minutes 6 seconds
    215 Oceanside Disneyland California

    Spring break is almost here and on this episode Kim and Tamara share their experience on a girls' trip in Oceanside, California and then their mother-daughter trip to Disneyland with their girls. 

    If you want some inspiration for a SoCal getaway, be sure to listen in!

    7 March 2023, 11:00 am
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