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Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Resort Review: Everything You Need To Know

The first thing you’ll notice about Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is that it is actually located on Cayo las Brujas, an island close to Cayo Santa Maria. While it is a different island it still has the same stunning coastline for which Cayo Santa Maria is best known and the Dhawa is located on an interesting part of that coast – managing to be at times both rugged and sandy – with blue water and long stretches of beach.

We recently stayed at this all-inclusive resort for a week thanks to tripcentral.ca and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. If you’re looking to go yourself, we’ve put together an overview of the resort along with some highlights and suggestions of things you won’t want to miss while you’re there!

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Resort Overview

As one of the newer resorts in the area (as of June 2017) it offers a more modern atmosphere for those travelling to Cuba and a more intimate all-inclusive experience. We found the resort to be incredibly well-maintained with fantastic service and friendly staff.

dhawa cayo santa maria lobby

Though the property is smaller in size than some of the resorts that we’ve seen, you’ve got some options for spending your day in the resort including 2 large connected pools and one smaller, wading pool, tennis courts, a fitness centre, a spa and, of course, the beach.

At night, you can find your way to one of three a la carte restaurants, enjoy the nightly entertainment, head to the disco, listen to live music by the lobby bar or grab a snack at the 24-hour snack bar overlooking the pool.

The Standard Room at Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria

The standard room comes with either one king bed or two queen beds in a bright, island-vibe space that has either a garden, pool or ocean view. We found the necessary amenities like a safe, mini-fridge, iron and ironing board, hairdryer and toiletries and appreciated that the water and beverages were replaced daily in the fridge.

Since we’re not ones to stay in our room and are always out and about, a room with a view is nice but not always a priority for us. If it is for you, we’d recommend getting a premium package that includes a oceanview or request pool view as garden view will probably not be what you’re looking for.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Deluxe Room

Other than that, the room is clean and spacious, welcoming and comfortable and we didn’t find any of the accommodation buildings to be too far out of the way from the major features of the resort.

If you did want to upgrade further, you can always choose a junior or one-bedroom suite which will upgrade you to VIP status and offers a whole array of additional amenities and resort extras.

The Beach

We had mentioned that the beach manages to be both sandy and rugged and this is something we loved about the area of the shore that the Dhawa is located. When first walking onto the beach, a rocky outcrop greets you from the end of the resort’s beach, it’s natural and pretty and a great contrast to the white sand, blue skies and water. It really is only a small section off to the side as the beach extends from it and is a long stretch of soft sand with lots of beach loungers and shaded cabanas to use.

dhawa cayo santa maria resort beach

On the beach is also a bar and restaurant which means you really don’t have to leave until they close! We found that it was a great spot to watch the sunrise, soak in some rays on a lounger, cool down and relax in the water and just enjoy the fact that you’re on a beautiful island. They also have non-motorized sports available for free to resort guests such as catamaran rides which makes for new experiences each day.

The Food & Service

Cuban resorts have long been criticized for their food but we’ve been fortunate to have stayed at resorts in Cuba that have pretty decent food and we’ve yet to have any complaints. The Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria is no exception. Their breakfast buffet was our absolute favourite. While it had a decent variety in general, it was their crepe station (pancake station) that had us up in time each day to make sure we didn’t miss out. Freshly made to order, with a variety of fruit toppings and sauces, they were an incredibly delicious and sumptuous way to spend each morning while on vacation.

The lunch and dinner buffet was also good with changing items daily but we found some favourites and tended to gravitate to them. One of those was the fresh fish section for dinner where the cooked prawns sauteed with garlic were spectacular.

dhawa french restaurant

The a la carte restaurants were also a pretty good change from the regular and offered us a bit of a romantic setting. We tried both the French restaurant (Maison Gourmet) and the seafood restaurant (Fuego del Mar) and though we liked them both, our favourite was the French restaurant. Each guest is able to book each of the 3 a la carte restaurants for one evening.

There was one place in particular that we could often be found: The 24 hour snack bar. Since it was open all the time, we found ourselves there for lunch, for snacks, for late-night second dinners and everything in between. It was definitely a great place to go if you’re hungry no matter what time of day.

Overall, the service was great. The staff was incredibly friendly and attentive and we found ourselves becoming regulars at a particular bar, section of the buffet and the snack bar. The staff at each one made a point to know what we liked and to make us feel welcome at all times.

The Entertainment & Other Amenities

We had fun on the resort and some of that had to do with the entertainment team. Always around during the day starting activities by the pool or beach and performing every night, they were fun and engaging.

The nightly entertainment was performed on stage in the resort theatre (with the exception of one night) and was different each night of the week. The performances varied from musical performances to dancing to shows involving audience participation and were lively ways to spend some time in the evening.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Entertainment

After the shows, the disco started offering a club/lounge-like atmosphere that continued into the late hours of the evening.

If you’re not relaxed after watching a show or participating in one of the games or activities, there’s always the spa area where you can get a massage under a cabana overlooking the water. Though you may want to save that massage until after you give it a go on their tennis courts or burn off some energy in their fitness centre – both areas are great if you’re looking to add a bit of fitness to your vacation.

Our Tips For The Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria:

There are a few things we think you should know if you are planning a trip to Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria resort. For starters, you are not going to want to miss checking out the catamaran rides as they are a complimentary service of the resort and is a great experience  (do remember that tips are very much appreciated by those that will be taking you out on the water). If you enjoy the entertainment portion of all-inclusive resorts, the evening with the entertainment by the pool was by far one of our favourites and truly impressive and may just be something you’ll want to be sure to see.

We said that we were often at the snack bar and that means that we tried the entire menu. What we kept coming back for though were the chicken fingers. They were so good and the interesting mixture of bbq sauce, mustard and ketchup (we’re actually not sure what the sauce that comes with them is made of) was surprisingly delicious on them though you can ask for them without sauce if you’d prefer. If you’re not sure what to eat, or you’re hungry late, we’d definitely recommend heading over to the 24-hour snack bar by the pool for some!

 

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An Ontario Getaway At Long Point Eco Adventures

We’re always looking for great new places to visit in Ontario, especially ones that promise unique experiences, opportunities to challenge ourselves, and pretty much anything to do with good food. So, we were especially excited when Attractions Ontario told us  about Long Point Eco Adventures, a place that offers all three of these in one destination and that makes for a fantastic getaway in Ontario.

Long Point Eco Adventures is located in Norfolk County, an easy 2 hour drive from Toronto and is a destination all in itself, even though the surrounding area is also quite a beautiful and interesting place to discover with Turkey Point Provincial Park, Long Point National Wildlife Area, a whole bunch of waterfront activities and small town charm along Lake Erie.

Whether you choose to spend some time sightseeing or not, you’ll find that pretty much everything you need, from accommodation to recreation, can be found at Long Point Eco Adventure. Our time there was spent enjoying nature while camping in style, overcoming fears while participating in exhilarating activities and dining on some delicious food after sipping on great wine from the vineyard right across the street.

Here’s a little look at what there is to do at, and why we love, Long Point Eco Adventures:

Luxury Glamping

You’ll find three types of accommodation at Long Point Eco Adventures and while one is rustic, the other two take camping from roughing it to living in luxury.

Long Point Eco Adventures Cabins

For those who prefer a more comfortable camping experience, the wilderness pods are a great alternative that will have you feeling like you’re still camping in the wilderness but without any hint of ‘roughing it’. These pods have a comfortable queen bed, a mini-fridge, couch and table with chairs. It also has a deck with chairs, a washroom with a flush toilet and running hot and cold water, though you will be using shared shower facilities. Since there are electrical outlets and wifi as well, you’ll have everything you need to disconnect and relax or connect if needed. You’ll also find a hot complimentary buffet breakfast in the morning.

long point eco adventure wilderness pod

If you want to step up the luxury factor even more, there are wilderness suites that will help you do just that. Spacious long tented structures, queen or king-size beds, all the amenities of the wilderness pods with the addition of a ceilingless shower allowing you the incredible experience of showering under the stars. It’s an incredible glamping experience and perfect for a weekend getaway or longer.

Of course, if you’re more into an authentic wilderness vibe, you can try one of their camping pods which are cabins with twin or queen beds, none of the interior amenities of the other options and shared outhouses and showers.

Eco Adventures & Outdoor Recreation

From the ground to the sky, it’s an incredibly fascinating destination that offers so much to do. You can tailor your visit to whatever you enjoy doing as much, or as little as you want, tapping into their eco adventures and outdoor recreational activities.

long point eco adventure ziplining ontario

For us, the huge draw was the ziplining and canopy tour which had us zipping through tree tops, catching great views of Long Point Bay and Turkey Point and completing a 40 ft rappel. It’s an exciting experience that can be done during the day or at night with 8 ziplines and 2 suspension bridges. We found it an amazing first ziplining experience and those on the tour with us said it was a great ziplining course even for experienced zipliners.

It was also an opportunity to challenge ourselves as Carolann managed to face her fears and push her boundaries. She fell in love after the first zipline and had a smile on her face until the very end.

We also got a chance to join in on axe throwing in the evening which had us learning some new axe throwing techniques by an expert and teaming up to compete in one epic axe throwing competition (we can’t help but brag, et, mention that our team won both games). It really offered the best axe throwing instruction we’ve had and was a ton of fun.

long point eco adventure axe throwing ontario

For those spending more than one evening at Long Point Eco Adventure, you’ll probably want to get involved in some more of the activities they offer. Between their zodiac boat tours, kayaking, fishing tours and mountain biking, you’ll be hard pressed to find a dull moment during the day. Later at night you can take a peek at the sky in the observatory where you’ll get a full astronomy experience and then sit by the campfire, with the bright stars above, before heading to bed.

Culinary Exploration & Excellence

If you like the idea of glamping and want to pair it with more laidback and low-key activities, or add some culinary pursuits to your already adventurous itinerary, Long Point Eco Adventure has got you covered. In fact, there’s a lot to do outside of the high-energy recreational activities they provide.

After our thrilling canopy tour and ziplining, we wound down by heading across the street to Burning Kiln Winery for a tour and tasting. Staying true to the area’s history in the tobacco industry, the Burning Kiln has incorporated architectural elements like the tobacco barn and even uses tobacco kilns as part of an innovative winemaking process.

We found it an incredibly interesting tour with some truly unique elements and discovered some great Ontario wines in the process.

The Burning Kiln Winery Norfolk County

For dinner, we headed to the restaurant on site. The Burning Kiln Restaurant welcomes David’s Restaurant on Tour for lunch and dinner from May to September and has some spectacular dishes to choose from. We had cauliflower bites to start and chose the beef tenderloin and the burger of the week as our mains and thoroughly enjoyed each one. It was a great way to end the tour of the winery and a fantastic meal to remember

The Burning Kiln Winery Restaurant

If you’re looking for more culinary adventures, Long Point Eco Adventures offers an apiary tour where you can don a beekeeping suit and learn all about the hives, honey bees and beekeeping. You’ll also get a chance to taste what the bees are all fussing over – the honey!

Taking a day to explore the forest and learn how to find and pick wild, edible mushrooms is another option. The guided tour will have you collecting mushrooms along the way which will later be used to prepare a meal for you and paired with wines from the Burning Kiln Winery.

 

Whether you’re looking to relax in style in your accommodation the whole time and venture only for food and wine or are interested in a full-adventure experience, Long Point Eco Adventure has something for everyone and makes it one of the best destinations in Ontario for a getaway.

 

A huge thanks to Attractions Ontario for making our stay at the Long Point Eco Adventure possible. If you’re looking for other amazing things to do in Ontario, head over to the Attractions Ontario website!

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4 Cayo Santa Maria Resorts You Should Know About

Cuba holds a special place in our hearts. Not only is it the scene of our very first vacation together, it is also one of our favourite countries to visit with incredibly friendly people, beautiful culture and amazing beaches. Though we mostly enjoy delving into the local scene when we travel, we also love to vacation and that means taking a break from it all, sitting back and letting someone else take care of everything.

So when we needed some time to relax and reenergize, we figured an all-inclusive resort would be perfect and decided to head back to the scene of our first vacation as a couple. To do that, we popped over to tripcentral.ca and looked up resorts in Cayo Santa Maria, the island in Cuba where our travels as a couple began!

All-Inclusive Resorts For A Vacation in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba

What we found were a lot more options than were available years ago. With all of these choices we decided to not only stay in one resort for the week, but also visit several others while we were there. This gave us the opportunity to see what was else available for those looking for a getaway, romantic or not, on an island with some of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen.

Here are four great options for an all-inclusive vacation in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria

We stayed at the Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Resort for the whole week. It was relatively new when we visited and we thought that its modern design and decor was an intriguing contrast to the tropical setting typical of an all-inclusive resort in Cuba.

The Dhawa is actually on Cayo Las Brujas, a neighbouring island to Cayo Santa Maria, but the drive is similar in distance from the airport and you really won’t notice the difference if you’re venturing off the resort for any of the excursions or attractions. In fact, you’ll find yourself closer to the Marina Gaviota Las Brujas where you can go scuba diving, fishing or sailing.

The resort itself is family-friendly with everything from a kids club for the little ones, to a disco at night for the party-goers. We found the food to be above average for what is commonly found at resorts in Cuba and even discovered some favourites at the buffet and the 24 hour snack bar that had us returning for more! With three a la carte restaurants, there’s also decent variety of food to choose from.

Dhawa Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Resort

We loved the pool area as it had two pools, semi-attached, and a separate wading pool nearby. There’s also daily and nightly entertainment and activities with an incredibly talented, friendly and enthusiastic entertainment team.

Our favourite part of the resort was, as is for any resort in Cuba, the beach. This stretch of beach may be a bit unexpected as it has a beautiful rugged natural rocky area to start before it extends to a long strip of sandy coastline. With a bar, food service and tons of loungers either in the sun or in the shade, it makes for a great place to enjoy the sun, sand and water.

It’s a great resort, with a more intimate vibe, that is perfect for a family, a group of friends, a couple or just an individual looking for a more relaxed vacation in the sun.

Melia Las Dunas

The Melia Las Dunas was the resort we stayed at on our first visit to Cayo Santa Maria together and we found it as fantastic during this visit as it was the last time. It’s by far our choice for a romantic getaway for couples in Cuba even though it is not an adults-only resort.

What you will find is two areas of the resort – each one with its own pool and buildings with rooms, but one side geared towards families and kids and the other for adults. While the sides can mix and mingle, there are activities for the kids available only at the family pool (and also the separate kid pool) and most of the guests that are adult-only will find they are given a room at the other side of the resort.

Melia Las Dunas Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Resort

The Melia Las Dunas also has some great dining options. In addition to the buffet, there is a pizzeria serving food at lunch and while it was one of our favourite places to eat, their 8 a la carte restaurants are also great choices for dinner.

There are quite a number of bar and snack options, entertainment throughout the day and evening and impeccable staff and service. Of course, nothing beats a resort that not only has a stunning beach but also an ice cream parlor. One of our favourite things to do when we were planning to spend some time in the sun and sand was to grab an ice cream on our way!

It’s a beautiful resort with a tropical atmosphere and is perfect for a little romance, even if you bring the kids!

Warwick Cayo Santa Maria

The Warwick Cayo Santa Maria is one of the hotels on the island that we were able to visit with a day pass. Since we did not get to stay as guests, our opinions are from what we saw during our time exploring the resort. For us, this resort was simply stunning. Being only two years old, it is similar to the Dhawa in that it felt like a modern tropical paradise.

While the gorgeous, giant pool was definitely something to enjoy (and we did), we really liked the beach with the multiple access points and varied terrain. When we first stepped foot on the one end of the beach we were greeted with a rocky outcrop before it gave way to pure sand.  To us, the contrast between the natural, more rugged looking shore and the pristine, sandy stretch of beach was simply beautiful. Having a bar at each of the main beach access points is also a great touch!

Warwick Cayo Santa Maria Cuba Resort

The hotel rooms we saw were also modern with great decor and added touches.  The one thing we didn’t get to try much of was the food. During the low season, the main buffet was closed for renovations and we were only able to try the mini buffet which was decent but obviously not indicative of the regular food options or any of their a la carte restaurants.

With many bars, a lush tropical property to explore and tons of waterfront space, whether at the pool or on the beach, and lots of activities to choose from, the Warwick is definitely a resort that adds some 5-star Cuban luxury for the whole family!

Valentin Perla Blanca

Multiple pools, beautiful landscaping, different activities and entertainment throughout the day and into the night and, something we’ve yet to experience in our travels, adults only access. The Valentin Perla Blanca was a whole different resort from the ones we visited. As with the Warwick this was only a day pass, so we only got to explore some of what the resort had to offer.

As is with many of the larger resorts on the island, low season means that some of the areas are closed off. For us, that meant we focused our time on the pool that was open and the beach. There are some great vibes at this resort, with the music and the relaxed atmosphere, and we enjoyed slipping into the 24 hour restaurant to test out some of their food (the chicken fingers were definitely our favourite).

Valentin Perla Blanca Resort Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

What stood out the most to us about this resort was the option to upgrade to the Privilege Club. By doing this you would get an exclusive concierge which means quicker check-in and check-out, a special lobster dinner, 20 min massage, discounts on additional spa treatments, premium brand liquors, a special buffet area as well as more benefits and extras in the a la carte restaurants. It also means access to the “Privilege Lounge” which has AC, those premium liquors we mentioned and a relatively quiet space to get away and relax.

We really loved that part of the Valentin resort and knew as we were walking around that it would be a great way to experience a stay there. It’s definitely a great place to get away from it all, pamper yourself and leave the kids at home!

A huge thanks to tripcentral.ca for making these experiences possible. If you’re looking for vacation packages or looking to book a trip, check them out! As with everything, reviews and opinions are our own.

 

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Why Puerto Vallarta Should Be A Stop On Your Next Cruise

It’s no surprise that Puerto Vallarta is one of Mexico’s top cruise ports or that it’s a popular and desired destination that has so many cruise lines including it as a port of call. With so much to do and see, more and more cruises are including Puerto Vallarta on their itinerary, including a new Mexican Pacific Cruise on the cruise ship Magellan in 2018. This probably has a lot to do with the destination itself and just how much passengers are able to immerse themselves in the country and culture without having to travel too far.

In fact, Puerto Vallarta offers visitors such a vast amount of activities and sights that it’s pretty guaranteed to find something for everyone during a visit. Whether a ship docks at the marina or anchors in the harbour, there will definitely be some pretty exciting cruise excursions awaiting nearby – from snorkelling the blue waters, to whale and dolphin watching in the beautiful Bay of Banderas, to tours of tequila factories, the port is a gateway to an exciting exploration of nature, wildlife and culture.

Even if you haven’t booked an excursion through the cruise ship itself, you can still venture on your own and experience whatever facet of the city you prefer.

Exploring Puerto Vallarta on Your Own From Port

Malecon Puerto Vallarta

Since Puerto Vallarta is also a resort town there is an abundance of beautiful beaches where tourists can enjoy water sports and activities or just relax. In fact, taking a taxi to the ‘southside’ of town will get you to Los Muertos beach, one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Vallarta. Here you’ll be able to grab some food at one of the beachfront restaurants, take a swim in water and lay out on a beach towel to dry off in the sun.

At most of the beach areas that are heavily populated by resorts, Playa Los Muertos included, you can also buy a day pass to a resort which can get you either beach and pool access only, allowing you to use their beach chairs and other services, or a full pass allowing you access to all their amenities and food as well.

Shopping in Puerto Vallarta markets

If you’re not looking for a day at the beach, you can ask the taxi to take you downtown instead and explore the social heart of the city. It’s here you’ll find one of the main attractions, the Malecon. Meaning esplanade along a waterfront, the Malecon is quite literally a seaside promenade that has been a centre of town life for over 80 years. With artwork and statues and local artists plying their craft, local stores, restaurants and bars, and stunning waterfront views, it’s not something you’ll grow tired of no matter how long you spend venturing along it. If you do happen to be docked for the night, the Malecon is a great place to go to experience local nightlife too.

Shopping is another activity you can partake in and whether you choose to walk along the port’s shops or head downtown to the Malecon or the Marina Vallarta, you’ll find various shops offering everything from jewellery to souvenirs to tequila. There’s also Mismaloya Beach, the set of the classic film “The Night of the Iguana”, where you can combine some shopping along with some time on the beach in one of Hollywood’s most iconic settings!

Making Puerto Vallarta’s Cruiseship Terminal It’s Own Destination

The port itself offers some amenities like some small shops and snack bars, liquor stores and cyber cafes and you can also choose to get a day pass from a resort nearby the terminal rather than taxi further into Puerto Vallarta.

Alternately, hopping on another ship is also an option as day cruises depart from the Maritime Terminal and offer some pretty exciting experiences exploring the area and the Bay of Banderas. One of the ships you won’t want to miss is Puerto Vallarta’s infamous pirate ship, the Marigalante. It’s back on the waters after renovations and offers day and evening tours with a pretty fun pirate theme. You really don’t have to go far from the port to find some adventure.

marigalante pirate ship puerto vallarta

What is perhaps the most exciting thing about cruising to Puerto Vallarta, is all the upcoming developments of Puerto Vallarta’s International Port. With a multi-million dollar extensive renovation and construction project underway to expand and grow the terminal, it promises to become a destination in itself for cruiseship passengers who dock there.

Already winning awards for excellence including “Best Port of the Riviera in Mexico and South America” in the Cruise Critic Cruiser’s Choice Awards in 2016 and the “Gold Elite Award” by the Global Quality Foundation, it’ll be exciting to see how much more Puerto Vallarta will bring to the cruising experience as they move forward with their plans to transform the port and make it a hub for cruisers and non-cruisers alike – the first cruise port in the world to be accessible to non-passengers.

The plans include a new passenger centre and parking lot as well as some fantastic tourist attractions like a Tequila distillery, an art gallery, artisan shops, a commercial centre with a food court and a cultural centre. It will also be home to what promises to be the biggest aquarium in Latin America.

While Puerto Vallarta is already an exciting and desirable port of call, it seems as though it is only going to get better as more is being offered to cruiseship passengers and tourists wanting to experience as much as they can while they are there. It’s definitely not hard to see why this is one stop you won’t want to miss!

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5 Travel Essentials For Your Carry-On

By Taylor Schear of SOFLOFOODFINDS

We all know that traveling is fun, but let’s be honest… it’s not easy. I always go through the dilemma of what to pack, what to wear, and most importantly how to make it all fit in the suitcase! My biggest dilemma is what to stick in my carry on for flights. I fly into a new city and within the first hour have to be in a meeting. There is no time to spare, and I surely can’t go digging through my suitcase.

5 Things You Shouldn’t Travel Without

After much trial and error I have put together a list of my tried and true travel essentials.

Essential #1: Mable Toothbrush

Mable Toothbrush ranks at the top of my list due to the amount of times it comes in handy. Something about gum just doesn’t cut it for me. I always feel like I need to brush my teeth at the airport before heading out to a business meeting. The best part about Mable is the fact that it helps save the planet. Rather than the plastic toothbrushes everyone is used to, Mable is made of biodegradable bamboo and vegetable based coloring. The toothbrush stands on its own, which is a lifesaver for those airport and hotel bathrooms!

Essential #2: Monkey Mat

Alright so this may seem far-fetched at first glance, but adding a Monkey Mat to my carry on has probably been one of the best choices I have made when it comes to traveling. For those not familiar with the product, Monkey Mat is a 5’ x 5’ mat that stuffs into a pouch the size of a softball. The mat is water resistant and has weighted corners. Honestly, it’s great as a replacement for a beach towel or picnic blanket. However it has a complete different purpose for my travels. The mat is great for layovers at airports. Every time I have a long layover, everyone has already taken the seats at the terminal, and the last thing I want to do is sit on the dirty floor. Well, I use the Monkey Mat as my portable clean floor, and it works like a charm!

Essential #3: Bobble

essentials for carry ons

Bobble is one of the best products ever created. Purchasing water at airports is like buying a beer at a baseball game… expensive. I toss my Bobble in my backpack empty (makes it past security) and then fill it up at one of the water fountains once inside the gate. The filter takes all of the unwanted items out and leaves you with water comparable or even better than the $8 bottles the little kiosk tries selling you.

Essential #4: Healthy Snacks

You knew this was coming… no one can make it through a flight without eating. I am all about staying full for as long as possible. The problem with having meetings right after a flight is it leaves you no time to grab an actual meal, and I’m sorry but typically airplane food won’t cut it. I have three snacks that I carry with me at all times: Super Yummys, Goodness Knows, and Kind Bars. Super Yummys comes in handy when I have a sweet tooth. The coconut snacks have less than 80 calories each and give me just enough sweetness where I’m not craving more. Goodness Knows is a go to since the bar is separated into 4 larger bites. I like this due to the fact, I can eat half and then save the rest for after the flight easily. Lastly, Kind Bars are just plain amazing. The amount of protein and minimal sugar makes me feel all good inside.

Essential #5: TOMS Backpack

This is what holds all the pieces in place. Can’t pack a good carry on without the proper bag. TOMS is known for their iconic shoes, but what people don’t know is that they make amazing backpacks. I refuse to use any other bag besides theirs for a carry on. The backpack is larger than the typical which allows me to carry more. Additionally, it has a padded laptop holder, side pockets, and loops for clip ons. Not only that, but I love the philanthropic side of the business. For every backpack purchased, TOMS helps assist a safe birth for a mother in need.

 

 


Taylor Shear ProfileABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hey guys… it’s Taylor Schear! Thanks for reading! I always love being able to share my passion for food and adventure with others! If you have enjoyed joining me on my food quest throughout the South, then make sure to continue to follow me! I am @soflofoodfinds on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. For more food travel guides then check out soflofoodfinds.com!

 

 

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The Top 6 Wineries to Visit in NYC

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

With more than eight million people living in New York City, you’d be hard pressed to find room to plant and cultivate a full-fledged vineyard. Fortunately, though, the concrete jungle is surrounded by greener pastures, where some experts have been able to grow those tasty grapes.

The next time you’re in New York City, set aside some time for a day trip outside of the metropolis to find the bona fide wineries New York City has to offer. We’re not talking about the exquisite wine bars you’re sure to find on the island, either: these are green, rolling vineyards with more to offer than just a delicious glass of wine.

Read on to find out where you’ll stop on your next Big Apple getaway.

Benmarl Winery

Benmarl Winery is widely known as America’s oldest vineyard, since its first grape vines were planted in 1848. Since then, the place has flourished and expanded to produce 15 varieties of wine, with many flavors inspired by the winery’s location in the Hudson River Valley. Speaking of which, you can take in some lush, green scenery while you sip amidst the valley’s rolling hills.

Martha Clara Vineyards

The Martha Clara Vineyard knows its clients might be coming in from New York City, so they’re prepared: groups shuttled in by bus, limo or car service can sign up for a group tasting once they arrive. And the flavors they sample won’t be disappointing: the winery has barreled everything from trendy rosé to super sweet Riesling.

Bashakill Vineyards

wine glass

The Hudson River Valley is clearly a hub for New York wineries, but developers have only scratched the surface of the area’s potential: 225,000 acres of land viable for wine-making, only 500 have been used so far.

Fortunately, Bashakill Vineyards has taken up shop — and taken advantage of the near-constant temperatures and high humidity in the Catskill Mountains. The winery can produce precisely aged pours because of this climate, and you’ll be glad to imbibe their tasty creations.

Wolffer Estate Vineyard

Most New Yorkers heed the call of the Hamptons each summer, but they do so to lay out on the area’s pristine, star-studded beaches. Your next trip should also include a visit to Wolffer Estate Vineyard, where Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are never in short supply. They pair these staples with smaller batches of specialty wines and ciders.

Oh, and, speaking of pairing: you can get the right charcuterie or cheese board to match your wine here, too. And, if you’d rather just sample the wine, they have tasting flights on the menu as well.

Orchard Hill Cider Mill

wine glass in a field

Mixing things up a bit, the Orchard Hill Cider Mill serves up hard ciders rather than wine. But, don’t make the mistake of thinking that cider is a one-flavor, one-size-fits-all beverage. Instead, Orchard Hill has multiple ciders on deck, including extra-dry and fizzy varieties. Much like Wolffer Estate Vineyard, they pair their pours with seasonal food, though they also incorporate their ciders into the ingredients list to create savory glazes, for example. Yum.

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard

Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard sites on Long Island, and its picturesque pastures full of horses do more than just produce wine. They also provide homes for the livestock at this half-winery, half-horse-rescue. They’re equally as serious about both pursuits, too, as they brought their vines directly to Long Island from France.

If you head to Baiting Hollow, you’re likely to be told how many of the pours take their names from horses who have been saved and rehabilitated there. You can also see the horses for yourself Thursday through Sunday, when the winery offers pony rides and live music to its guests.

It’s not the first, second or even the third thing that comes to mind when visiting New York, but the state’s winery reputation just keeps getting better and better. So, as you plan your trip to the Big Apple, don’t let a day trip outside of the city fall to the bottom of your list. Instead, experience all that New York’s wineries have to offer and add another unforgettable destination to your big trip. Cheers!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


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Romantic Culinary Travels in El Paso

El Paso is a city that manages to be both modern and sleek yet steeped in history and culture. Therefore, it’s an exciting destination for any traveler. It’s also an amazing place for couples to explore, with a variety of hotels in downtown El Paso to spark some romance while staying close to the action. What may be most surprising is what you’ll find when looking to add a little wining and dining to that spark. In fact, you’ll want to try several culinary experiences in El Paso if you’re looking for a little romance in this west Texas destination.

Journey Along The Wine Trail

Image via Flickr by uıɐɾ ʞ ʇɐɯɐs

Along the winding path of Highway 28, you’ll find an incredibly romantic setting as you make your way to one of the area’s most appreciated wine regions. Heading along the wine trail, you can hold hands and talk as you drive by stunning scenery, peaceful landscapes, and vineyards.

It’s here where you’ll also be able to spend some time as a couple as you visit El Paso’s only vineyard and winery, Zin Valle Vineyards, for a free wine tasting. You can also make a day of it and head over on a Sunday when live music is playing. Bring a blanket and some food and enjoy a picnic with whatever wine you both prefer.

Explore the Growing Brewery Scene

The beer culture in El Paso is rapidly growing, with more and more breweries opening. This scene offers the opportunity to explore El Paso in a unique way. There’s also a lot of fun and excitement to be had as a couple while exploring your palate and learning about the flavor profiles of beer.

You can keep date night within the heart of the city and head to El Paso Brewing Co. for a beer tasting, a snack, and a lesson in the area’s beer history. It’s a great place to enjoy each other’s company while learning something new and immersing yourselves in a part of the area’s culture, both past and present.

Indulge in Diverse Cuisines

While Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex may be what first comes to mind when thinking of food in El Paso, the city actually boasts a whole host of different restaurants. They offer a variety of dining experiences for couples looking to enjoy a romantic meal together.

If you want to ignite that spark over delicious food, you can find pretty much whatever you both want, from Mexican cuisine at L and J Cafe to American-style dishes at the Mesa Street Grille. With patio options, live music, or candlelit tables, you’ll be able to find the perfect setting for you both.

 

El Paso is definitely a romantic destination for couples. While there are tons of different things to do throughout the city, you’ll find exploring the culinary scene together a special experience. There’s nothing more romantic and sensual than feeding each other bites of a great meal across a table, staring into each other’s eyes while sipping wine, or laughing at the foam clinging to your upper lip as you savour a craft beer.

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10 Best Dates in Washington, D.C. That Aren’t Dinner & A Movie

By Kacey Mya of The Drifter Collective

Washington, D.C. is the nation’s capital, and for good reason: the city has a rich history and a lively, diverse culture to match. In other words, you’d be remiss to spend every single night out at dinner and a movie when there’s so much else to do.

Date Ideas To Spark Some Fun & Romance in Washington, D.C.

Need a little help planning your next out-of-the-box excursion? Here are 10 ideas for making your D.C. date something extra special:

Picnic in the Park

A picnic is a roundabout way of eating a meal on a date: you won’t be dining at a restaurant, but you can still whip up a meal to impress. On top of that, you’ll be able to go and grab a seat at any time you want without reservations. If that’s not enough incentive, the city has a lengthy list of gorgeous parks that would paint a picturesque backdrop to your picnic. It might even be more romantic to dine on a blanket beside the Potomac or under a cherry tree, right?

Monument Tour

Chances are, you’ve seen the majority of D.C.’s most famous monuments. But, when is the last time you went on a stroll to see them all in one fell swoop? You and your date can embark on a walking tour of the National Mall and check out the city’s most famous landmarks. Plus, all that time walking will give you two a chance to chat and really get to know one another.

Washington DC Monument

Arcade or Billiards Bar

Another dating rut to fall into is grabbing drinks over, and over, and over again. Instead, make your trip to the bar a bit more memorable by choosing a spot with tasty beverages and a memorable activity. A gaming bar like the city’s Atlas Arcade allows you to play retro video games while you imbibe. Or, you can hit up a billiards room and play pool, as well as darts, shuffleboard and arcade games, depending on the place you go.

Outdoor Movie

Okay, so this is technically still a movie date. But the fact that you and your date can grab a blanket, some snacks and sit under the stars while watching a movie makes it just a tad more special. scape the room by solving various puzzles, too, so you can find the one nearest to you or the screen showing the movie you most want to see. Offerings range from blockbusters, to 80s classics, to cartoons — the choice is yours.

Escape Room

Don’t worry — it’s not as scary as it sounds. Places like Escape Artist DC give participants a full narrative, creating a world that has a puzzle to solve within it. You and your date will have to try and scape the room by solving various puzzles but it will be a fun challenge for you to complete together. Once you’re out, you’ll feel like you really earned a good cocktail, which will round out a seriously memorable evening.

Kayaking

The Potomac River you picnicked beside is the perfect place for a kayaking trip, too. You and your date can sign up for a guided tour, or simply rent a kayak or canoe together and start rowing. If you want to do something a little less challenging, you can also rent paddle boats in smaller bodies of water like the Tidal Basin, where you’ll have incredible views of the Jefferson Monument.

Washington DC Date ideas

Museum Hop

Washington is home to some of the nation’s best museums, and they cover a broad range of interests. In fact, allowing your date to choose the museum you’ll visit will give you an insight into his or her interests and personality. Will it be the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, or the International Spy Museum, where you can pick up an alias and try your best to live like an undercover? The choice is theirs.

Visit a Winery

You might be surprised to find out that there are some bona fide wineries within a stone’s throw of Washington, D.C. Many of them have open hours, tours and tastings, as well as activities like live music, movies and bocce ball on the vineyard lawn. Your date will be impressed as you whisk him or her off, though it would be best to grab a shuttle or taxi out to the winery so you can both imbibe.

Volunteer

The nation’s capital has endless opportunities for locals to get involved and make the city — and world — a better place. You and your date can brainstorm the causes you care most about and find a charity involved with your top choice. Then, sign up to fill grocery bags at a food bank, walk shelter dogs or help re-paint a local school. The few hours you spend doing good will make you feel pretty good about yourselves and each other.

Cook Together

Finally, you can always keep things casual and simple and still eat a hearty meal. Simply skip the fancy restaurant dinner and find a recipe online instead. You can work together to peel, chop, sauté and bake, producing a full meal as a team. Sometimes, a meal you make yourself tastes even better than what you buy in a restaurant, anyway — you should try that theory out and see.

Now, Make It A Date!

Chances are, at least one of these date ideas suits you and your significant other. So, cancel your dinner reservations and plan something out of the ordinary instead. You’ll both enjoy doing something different, but mixing things up will make you enjoy those special dinner-and-a-movie nights even more. To us, that sounds like a win-win.  


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kacey is a lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle blog that expresses various forms of style through the influence of culture & the world around us. Kacey graduated with a degree in Communications while working for a lifestyle magazine. She has been able to fully embrace herself with the knowledge of nature, the power of exploring other locations & cultures, all while portraying her love for the world around her through her visually pleasing, culturally embracing & inspiring posts. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.


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Top Features Of The 2017 Chevy Volt For Road Trips

For us, a car means more than a means of daily transportation. It’s also often one of our preferred methods of travel, whether it’s a road trip to get to a particular destination or whether the road trip itself is the point of our travels. We’ve taken long as well as spontaneous drives (like the long weekend road trip to New Brunswick) and through all of them we’ve learned some pretty important tips for taking a road trip. What always ends up being the most important factor is the car we’re driving so whenever we’re looking for a new car, there are some key features we tend to focus on that guarantee the vehicle will suit our everyday needs and beyond. Lately, we’ve been intrigued by a variety of different options for vehicles from fuel-efficient hybrids to RVs as we always have a diverse set of needs when we own or rent a car.

Finding The Right Features In A Road Trip Car

We had heard quite a few things about the 2017 Chevy Volt that made us think it’d be a solid car all around as well as being an environmentally friendly option that had the potential for saving on fuel costs. So, we headed to Hogan Chevrolet to get a closer look at the 2017 Chevy Volt for ourselves.

Since we wanted to see what kind of car it was and whether it was versatile for both everyday driving and road trips, we were looking at it for certain key features that would serve our purposes.

Chevy Volt Interior

5 Key Features in The Chevy Volt

What we found is that the Chevy Volt has quite a few of the features we look for in a car, especially one we’d want to use for frequent road trips. Though small, sleek and part electric, this car surprised us with how much it offers and the following are 5 key features of the 2017 Chevy Volt that were particularly important and relevant to us.

Road Trip Beats: Entertainment System

Chevy Volt Dahsboard

We love having a car with a console that’s packing a punch when it comes to entertainment and with that comes the sound system and phone-charging capabilities. The 2017 Chevy Volt is pretty loaded when it comes to what it offers in those departments – Sirius Satellite Radio, An OnStar Built in WiFi Hotspot option, a myChevy Mobile App which allows you to control the car from anywhere you’ve got a signal, and compatibility with Androids or iphones that allows you to use the touchscreen display to access your phone to play music, make phone calls, use Maps and see messages. The built-in speakers are also great and there’s an option to upgrade to Bose speakers to make it that much better.

While this makes working and staying connected easy while driving the car, especially on longer road trips, the wireless charging capabilities and 2 USB ports also allow us to make sure all our gear is charged and ready to be used wherever we are and however long we are on the road.

Spacious Interior For All Our Gear

Chevy Volt Trunk Space

We can usually travel light but when we driving is our method of transportation, we want to be able to bring whatever we want – all our gear, a cooler for food and drinks and any extras we typically can’t travel with when we’re flying or using other means of travel.

The 2017 Chevy Volt is pretty spacious and would definitely accommodate what we would want to bring with us. The rear seats even fold down to allow for extra storage space.

Accommodation Mode

Chevy Volt Test Drive & Review

A term we’ve coined ourselves, accommodation mode is what we call it when we’ve converted our car into a bed… which we seem to do a lot. Whether it’s a front seat nap while we’re getting where we’re going or a full on sleep in the back with the seats folded down, we like to drive cars that offer us flexibility in how we design our travels and give us the opportunity for spontaneity in where we go and how we get there.

As we already mentioned, the interior is spacious and the rear seats fold all the way down which makes for perfect accommodation mode. The only problem with this is that there’s not that much extra space for the stuff we bring to be piled or shifted. In that case, we could always stick to sleeping in the front as the seats actually recline all the way back and are pretty comfortable!

Guidance & Getting There

Chevy Volt Review

While the 2017 Chevy Volt comes with the option to upgrade for GPS, the cell phone compatibility makes it easy for you to use maps on the dashboard screen as long as you have service on your phone. While we typically get by easily without GPS or an app to guide us, having either makes it so much easier and since we often like to be spontaneous, it helps to have a way to get back on track easily or even look for random places we can stop, places we can eat or even take a rest.

Fuel Efficiency & Cost to Drive

Chevy Volt Electric Fuel Savings

Chevy Volt battery life

 

 

 

 

Unlike your typical hybrid, the Chevy Volt doesn’t run on a combination of electricity and gas at the same time. Instead, it works off the electric power first (to get you to most places you’ll want to go in a day) and then shifts to fuel-powered. We think this is great because you can save on fuel as you drive for everyday errands and even commuting to work and only use fuel for longer trips and destinations.

Chevy Volt Electric Plug Chevy Volt Electric Plug

For road trips, it would mean a bit more planning to confirm you had stops along the way to power up if you didn’t want to keep paying for fuel but as it’s got pretty good fuel-economy, you can still drive solely on gas power if need be.

This combination makes it a great option for saving some money and government incentives drive the price even lower, making it a more manageable cost overall.

 

Overall the Chevy Volt is a pretty impressive little package though the price point is somewhat higher than a comparable car without hybrid capabilities. For us, it’s a great option for a road trip car though the space in back may be tricky to manage a full-blown nap AND our luggage… but to be realistic, how many people really sleep in the back of their cars when they travel? Yep, probably just us!

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best features of the 2017 chevy volt pinBest Road Trip Features of the Chevy volt pin

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Simple Ways To Make A Difference While You Travel

Eco-friendly tourism, sustainable tourism, green travel, the list of buzz phrases we’ve developed to describe a more responsible, more attentive way of experiencing the world is pretty lengthy. All of these have become hugely popular and hotly debated. The impact that travel has on the environment, cultures and wildlife are issues that have come to the forefront of people’s’ minds as they choose how and where to travel. There are also often differing views on what these buzz words mean, how they should be implemented and what it really means to ‘travel responsibly’. It can be expensive, time-consuming, confusing and frustrating to sort through and choose an option that feels right and many times people just avoid it altogether.

simple ways to make a difference when you travel pin 2

6 Things Every Traveller Can Do To Make A Difference

While we don’t have all the answers and certainly muddle our own way through our efforts to travel with the most positive impact possible, we’ve come up with a few things that every traveller can do to make a difference while they travel. These six ideas can be easily incorporated, are inexpensive and only really require a little extra effort and some thought.

 

 

 

Just Say No To Straws

straws

This is something we’ve been trying to incorporate into our everyday experience when we dine out. When we found out that in the US alone, approximately 500 million straws are used per day, we were astonished. Add to that the fact that:

  • they aren’t always recycled,
  • contain BPA,
  • contribute to the 8 million tonnes of plastic that enter the ocean every year,
  • are harmful to animals,
  • and are one of the top ten items found as litter on beaches

The list could go on but it’s pretty clear that straws are really cylindrical tubes of destruction when it comes to the environment.

What would happen if we all just did away with straws? Next time you go to a restaurant while travelling, or at home, make sure to ask for your water or drinks without a straw. For us, this is the hardest thing to remember as that initial interaction tends to happen fast or, if we do remember, we are inevitably brought one already opened anyway.

If you stop at a fast food restaurant, take your drink without a lid and drink from the cup. Wherever you find a straw imposed upon you, find a way to prevent it from happening the next time. And if you really need to use a straw? Get an alternative like a compostable, stainless steel or glass straw to take with you when you leave the house!

Something like the SipWell Stainless Steel Drinking Straws or Green Heart Stainless Steel BPA Free Reusable Straws are great alternatives to the disposable plastic ones we see everyday!

Waste Not, Want Not!

At this point, you may be asking, “So, I’ve gotten rid of the straws, but what do I do with the disposable cups and lids I’m always holding?”. There’s a simple answer but this time it requires more than just thought and effort, it requires a little cash.

If you’re inclined to fork over a bit of dough to help the cause, buying and bringing a tumbler or water bottle whenever you travel can make a huge impact. In certain countries where clean water is hard to find, this may get a bit tricky. Our advice is to find out how the locals source clean water. For example, in Thailand, there are larger bottles that are refilled regularly with drinkable water. We used these extensively while there and it cut down not only on waste, but also cost of water.

If you’re travelling light, or are concerned about the weight and size of a bottle, you can always go with the collapsible kind – like these Collapsible Silicone Water Bottles – which work great even when you’re at home and going out for the day.

You may find you can’t, or won’t, use one in all scenarios and destinations but by incorporating it as much as possible, you’re still reducing your footprint and eliminating a significant amount of plastic waste.

Want A Clean Beach? Help Clean It Yourself!

beach cleanup

We all love going to a beautiful beach so seeing trash along the shoreline or in the sand is not only an eyesore, but also frustrating. We’ll trudge our way through the sand, carrying our towels, chairs and coolers and grumble under our breaths about how inconsiderate people are as we nudge discarded pieces of trash to the side.

Not only are these items blights on a beautiful sandy landscape, they are also incredible harmful for wildlife. Garbage can be mistaken for food and can be especially harmful to sea turtles who nest on beaches and their offspring who are born there.

A brilliant way to do your part? Bring a bag with you when you go to a beach (or a park or other outdoor destination where litter is often seen). All you need to do is pick up the garbage from your car (or drop off point) to where you choose to sit and back again.  If everyone were to do that, think of how garbage-free and wildlife-friendly beaches and other outdoor areas would be. Of course, spreading the word and recommending this to others increases the amount of garbage pick-up that will go on, the number of beautiful outdoor spaces that are clean and the amount of wildlife saved!`

Leave The Paper Trail & Take Photos

We recently saw a brilliant concept at the Brevard Zoo in Florida where the focus on conservation and education was evident in almost every aspect of the property as was their dedication to the environment. What we thought was especially inspired was their lack of paper maps. Instead, visitors are encouraged to take a photo of the main map (’cause who doesn’t have their phone or camera with them?) and use it to navigate. At the start of each of the larger exhibit entrances, another map specific to that area is displayed to look at or snap a photograph.

While this would be an amazing thing at many of the attractions around the world, it realistically won’t be happening overnight. So why not play your part and take a photo of the large maps most sites have displayed at the entrance and skip grabbing one of the handheld paper ones? Encouraging those in your group to do the same could even start something down the line.

If Your Body Says Yes, Walk Or Cycle

bicycle riding in europe

This may not be for everyone depending on their physical abilities but it’s something to consider if you’re able. We often forego taxis, driving or other forms of transportation while we explore a destination and opt to use our own two feet. Whether we’re walking (which is the majority of the time for us) or cycling, we find we can really get a better feel for local life and even spot some hidden gems we otherwise would have missed.

Not only does this allow you a different perspective, it also keeps your heart healthy and saves you from using more environmentally harmful transportation methods.

Though the saying “it’s like riding a bike” is popular, we’re not sure how easy it is to hop on a bike after an extended period of time without riding and navigate the streets of some of the crazier cities, but walking at least some of the way is a good way to cut down on your footprint.

End The Shame. Pee In The Shower

It’s something that few people talk about. It’s a closeted practice that few admit to and yet it could save gallons of water every time you do it. Yep, that’s right. Peeing in the shower is one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do and it’s even got benefits for you too!

While there doesn’t seem to be any sanitary risks (urine should be basically sterile in healthy individuals) there could be potential health benefits with respect to cleanliness. In fact there are a whole host of potential benefits of peeing in the shower!

But we’re talking about the environment right? Not only will you reduce toilet paper consumption but you’ll also be saving up to several gallons of water per flush you avoid by letting the shower water do the job. There has been criticism that doing this prolongs shower time thus reducing the benefit, but calculations have shown it’s a small reduction and the water-saving benefits of peeing in the shower are still huge.

Imagine how much you could save on a daily basis, not just when you travel? But in countries where water processing is not as developed, where water is hard to come by or where water usage is conserved, going number one while you are showering can be considered doing your part to helping the environment and cutting down on your footprint!

All The Small Things

Really, we believe it’s about the small things. It’s about changing the way you think about the environment and your role in it. Small things add up and can add up large. Once we eliminate the detachment most people feel to the environment and start changing the apathy people have when it comes to their own pollution and creating waste, we’ll find that the destinations we travel to will be kept cleaner and safer for longer.

It’s a group effort and it takes time. It doesn’t have to be a trip dedicated to environmental cleanup. It doesn’t have to be a volunteer opportunity that you sign up for. It’s about making a point to contribute in ways that you can, wherever you go and as often as possible.

 

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