Beach Life in Vila Nova De Milfontes, Portugal
I don't know how many of you follow Zara but being in Europe every single store here is having that Saldas SALE to us!
So seeing as we are leaving this Sunday to head to Lisbon, I need to get my shopping game on!! So I ordered a handful of goodies from Zara to try on and then determine what is a must and must go! Would love to know what you love and what's a no!
Quick and Easy Guide to booking the Perfect Airbnb
My husband Cullen does all of the research on where to go, what to see, and what Airbnbs to book. For the past 8 months I've been lucky enough to just show up, wheel in my suitcase and unpack, but turns out booking an Airbnb is a real art form. At some point I actually wondered, how does he do it?
I mean, we've lived in Airbnbs full-time, all over the world for the last eight months. This year alone we've been to 16 countries and over 100 cities and towns (or something like that. I counted them up but lost the list).
So I finally asked him to write a post on how he books our Airbnbs, and he agreed to an "interview", lol.
What's the first thing you do when you get on Airbnb?
You gotta set the table and make everything right -- and THEN build a wishlist. Once your wishlist is built, THEN you can deep dive into the properties.
That said, here are my --
Step 1: Set the Filters
First you'll want to set your number of guests, price range, and room type as Entire House. But then there are a few that are discretionary. What I select: wifi, family friendly, two bedrooms, and depending on the area, air conditioning. For most countries that aren't the US, don't assume they have air conditioning, even in Europe.
Step 2: Set the Dates for DISCOUNTS
You know if you book by the month you may be able to get a huge discount, yes? There are weekly discounts and monthly discounts, but the monthly discounts can be deep.
One huge caveat is that the monthly discounts are non-refundable -- even if you arrive and find out that the place is the absolute worst, there's really not much you can do. You just have to be really careful in advance. More on that below.
Meanwhile, to get a discount on my ideal place, I set a date for about a year and a half in the future for monthly stays -- never mind when your actual target dates are. Right now, you just want to see what your options are and be able to compare monthly prices at a glance.
By doing this, you will be able to see all houses that are in your price range and filters. Any sooner than that, and some of the places may be booked and won't show up in the search results.
Step 3: Zoom in on Location. Will you have a car? If the answer is no, you need to weed out anything that's not super close to where you want to be.
For example, for city escapes, I go right for the historical city center. For the beach? Right by the beach. Etc.
As a family, we don't mess with buses, trams or trains -- it's just not worth it in our experience. We get around by foot, rented cars, taxis or uber.
Step 4: Check for Star Ratings. I wishlist only 5-star review places. Anything less than 5 is not acceptable. 4.5 is not going to cut it.
What if it doesn't have any reviews? Don't be a Guinea pig. If the place has no reviews, I'm moving on. For shorter stays, I might allow an exception, but I'm not gambling with one month or longer stays.
Step 5: Scroll through the pics. We're not clicking on anything just yet. Just a gut check scroll - yay or nay?
If it fits all of the criteria above, WISHLIST IT.
Now it's time for a DEEP DIVE.
But are you ready for this though?
Cause this is where things get dicey.
Step 1: Check the reviews
Reviews are everything, but they can be a minefield. My most important rule of thumb is this: people have to be raving about the place itself, not just the host or location. Here's how I weed out the bad ones.
1. Number of reviews. Be skeptical of 2 or 3 five-star reviews. You should assume they are friends of the owner, "salting the tip jar", so to speak. If there are over 20 reviews and they all tend to agree, you're a whole lot safer. But even then, you gotta watch out! Which leads me to my next point.
2. Sniff out sugar-coating. Beware that people sugar coat their reviews, for various reasons. More often than not, it's because they got to know the charming host. Well, nice hosts are fine. But what if the host is great AND the place has rats? You won't find that out until you get there! That actually happened to us in Bali. The place looked great. Nice furniture, with a private pool, daily cleaning and 65 five-star reviews. Unfortunately, it also had a six-pound rat and the bathrooms stunk. When I went back and looked at the reviews, guess what? They were ALL about the host.
3. Sniff out novices. We found out this year that novices tend to rate things highly -- restaurants, hotels, and attractions. It's kind of like this: At a Mexican joint in Lisbon we overheard a 23 year-old diner telling someone at the next table, "get the tacos -- they're THE BEST!" Needless to say, they were nowhere near the best. They tasted like what you would expect: tacos in Portugal. Don't trust a review from a bright-eyed novice.
4. Ask yourself, "Do they have skin in the game?" A reviewer, with no kids, who only stayed for one night can say whatever they want. "It was fabulous!" they'll say. After you get there, you'll be like, "Under NO circumstance is this place fabulous! It is average in every sense."
As a family, we've got a TON of skin in the game -- I've got a wife who's um, not picky at all (cough, love ya babe), two little girls that need things, and we're staying for a month. There's a huge difference.
Takeaway: If any place smells "off", un-heart it immediately.
Step 2: Compare perks. The view from our current Portugal house is just ok, but we went with this place because it comes with free breakfast every morning delivered to our door, for a month! The way my girls eat, that's about $600 worth of breakfast. Plus it has weekly cleaning. Nice.
Step 3: Make the call. If the price is right, the location's great, people think it's great AND it has perks, I'm shacking up.
Pro tip: book it immediately and then don't think about it. If not, you might wuss out!
I feel like I'm forgetting something...oh yeah, kid's stuff:
Step 4: Kid-ly amenities? Compare the descriptions and reviews to see if the house comes with things easier with children, i.e. toys, free bikes, high chair, boogie boards, puzzles, books -- stuff like that. REALLY helps to have this stuff for long stays.
We like to inquire about a pack n play for our 1-year-old, Gisele. Sometimes the listings say there is one and other times it doesn't say. Always inquire about this, because sometimes they have a way to get one or know of how you can rent one when you get there.
Kathryn here 🙂 I'm back.
NOW it's time to book!
You can use the Instant Book option (which will book immediately) or send a request, and usually, the owners get back to you within a day.
Congrats, you just booked your first AIRBNB like a pro!
Getting Ready for your stay, what to expect:
How do you check in to an Airbnb?
Don't assume that the host is any good at communicating where the places are or how to get the key. In some cultures, they will leave things unsaid and assume if you need anything you will just call. But the thing is, if you are in a foreign country -- sometimes your phone doesn't work!
So remember to over-communicate everything about the check in advance. What's the actual address (sometimes it's not listed on the listing). Will someone be there to greet us or will there be a lock box? Can you access it by car or will you have to walk a long way? (Super important for us with kids and lots of stuff!)
Constantly communicate with the host.
If anything goes wrong or you need something contact the host. This is maintenance free living at it's finest. The host usually wants good ratings so they will bend over backward to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
Pretty easy, they will usually tell you what to do and have a set time for check out just like a hotel.
Let me know if you have any questions or if you have any useful tips you would like to share.
Overall our last eight months of Airbnb living have been a good experience and if we were to book all over again, it would be completely different knowing what we know now. So hopefully this helps you not make the same mistakes we did and have a nice, clean and relaxed stay at your next Airbnb.
Best Baby Gear for Travel
After traveling for 8 months most of you have been asking what I brought for Baby Gisele. So, I'm rounding up my MUST HAVE items you can't leave home without when you're traveling the states or internationally.
- Make My Day Soft Silicone Baby Bib Blue/white with Pearls- Seriously don't invest in any other bib out there! this bib catches food/liquid. It's the only bib we brought on our 8-month journey and it's been amazing. Super easy to wash or wipe clean and Gisele isn't able to rip it off! Cute boy version here too.
- Munchkin Miracle 360 Sippy Cup Don't even waste your time with any other cup to teach your baby/toddler to drink. This cup took Gisels a few days to get the hang of but once she did it was amazing! I can throw it in my purse and it won't leak. She can knock it over and it won't spill. So thankful my Sister-in-law brought this when she came to visit us. Toddler version here: Munchkin Miracle 360 Sippy Cup
- Also a huge fan of these little snack cups. Munchkin 2 Piece Snack Catcher easy to travel with and most the time the snacks don't escape all over my purse!
- The Gathre Mat. You might have heard me talk about this mat before but after using it for the last 8months at the beach, the airport and the playground this mat is not just a regular mat! It keeps the sand off and doesn't get stains. It's super soft to sit on and really cute too. We only have to bring our Gathre mat and a towel to the beach now because we can all fit on the Gathre mat and then use the towel to dry off
- Baby K'tan- one of the easiest baby wraps I've ever owned. I can put it on with Gisele in it under 10 seconds. LOVE LOVE LOVE this!You can wear it a ton of ways and when a place wasn't stroller friendly I would throw on my Baby K'tan and go.
- Marcus & Marcus Collapsible Silicone Bowl - Pokey the Pig
- This Skip Hop Chelsea Diaper Bag was amazing. It cute to wear and can also be a backpack. It has insulated pockets for bottles and comes with a changing pad. Also, cheaper options are here and here
- For smelly diapers on the go, this is a MUST Munchkin Arm and Hammer Diaper Bag Refills. Not every Airbnb or hotel can change the trash that often so we really need to make sure our smelly diapers didn't smell up the entire house/hotel. A MUST even if you aren't traveling!
- BRICA Fold N' Go Travel Bassinet we didn't bring this on this trip because she was too big for it but if you are traveling with a baby at 1-7 months this is a perfect size. We've brought ours to Guatemala, Florida, and NY to name a few places. it folds up and is super packable.
- Honest Baby Soap these lasted us 5 months. It's really hard to find the right soaps and oils in Asia and even Europe. These are super packable and I knew that my girl's skin wouldn't break out or have an allergic reaction to anything. New diapers in foreign countries were enough of a struggle we didn't need to try new soaps too.
- Neat Solutions Neat-Ware Table Topper most places lacked a high chair. I didn't bring these with me but in retrospect, I wish I did. I used to use them for Isla and these would have been amazing to have this year abroad.
Would love to hear from you and what you can't travel without!
Kathryn’s Picks under $40 – Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Nordstrom Anniversary Sale
Must have pieces from the Nordstrom SALE!
If your a card holder you can shop NOW... if not Friday at 2am EST is you moment ( be sure to add all items to you cart or wish list so you can be ready to purchase them when the SALE goes live!!!
Here are my picks:
Jeans under $65Sale: $44.90
After Sale: $68.00Twisted Seam Ankle Skimmer JeansSale: $44.90After Sale: $68.00TOPSHOP Hayden Busted Knee Boyfriend JeansSale: $59.90After Sale: $90.00Sale: $64.90
After Sale: $98.00**Crossing my fingers that they restock this antique rose color! But the black is a MUST purchase!MUST HAVE Shoes for Fall!Sale: $89.90
After Sale: $139.95
You can never have enough jackets!
Sale: $59.90After Sale: $89.00 Asymmetrical Zip Boiled Wool Blend CoatSale: $129.90After Sale: $199.00 Hooded Drawstring Long CoatSale: $109.90After Sale: $180.00
Send My Bags
Traveling gets harder with kids, especially when you add a piece of luggage and a stroller. Don't get me wrong, I'm obsessed with our stroller (link here), but It's not that compact. So, when we knew we were leaving Asia and headed to Europe to road trip for two weeks before settling down in Portugal, we knew we might need to find another way to get our luggage from Salzburg to Portugal (and hopefully skipping the cities in between like, especially Venice)
Then I remembered reading that Amber from Barefoot Blonde's Blog had written about using a service called Send My Bags it just that. It sends your bags to your destination for you. At the time I was thinking this was a genius idea but not sure I would need it. Well, I was wrong here we were flying into Prague and road tripping it for two weeks, and there was no way to pack everything in our car, especially in Venice Italy in our future. For those of you who haven't been you have to lug your suitcases all over the tiny, charming street of Venice to get to your apartment as well as take them up and down many bridge stairs so this was just not a possibility for us with two kids and a stroller.
So I reached out to Send my Bags to see if they wanted to Collab and they did! I wasn't sure what I could pack and how much I could pack. But I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of luggage sizes and weights you could send.
So I packed my big suitcase and Cullens' carry on with anything we wouldn't need for the next two weeks and packed ONE CARRY Carry on size bag for the 4 of us for the next two weeks! (Patting myself on the back)
The suitcases were super easy to prepare we just had to print out forms to attach to the bags with string and then we left them at the front desk to pick up between the time of 9-5pm. Honestly, this part would have been inconvenient if we were at an Airbnb and had to stay home all day to wait for them. So I would suggest staying at a hotel or doing it on a day where you don't plan on going anywhere. They did come promptly at 10 am, but you never know.
So once the bags were out of our hands, they were supposed to arrive in one week to our house in Portugal. They came two days early, and our host was able to meet them and hold them until we arrived.
Both our bags were in great shape, and all the contents were in perfect condition. I'd use them again. It was hassle free and took a huge weight off our shoulders (literally, lol). So next time I can just sit back and relax and know that all my favorite things will arrive safe and sound.
**They are great if you are moving cross country, headed to college, flying with golf clubs or skis and don't want to worry about lost luggage.
Send My Bags sponsored this post but all opinions are my own.
Alfaberry, Australian Kids Fashion
Since arriving in Australia I've become obsessed with many Australian brands. I found Alfaberry on another travel bloggers insta. When I reached out to them they said they would love to collab. I got to pick two sweet dresses from there adorable collection for Isla. This white eyelet Broderie Bell Sleeve Dress is my personal favorite. I love the high low hem line and the quality is pretty amazing, it's fully lined. I seriously would love one of these in my size...lol.
I find it funny that even at a young age my favorite is dress or outfit is never Islas! I mean how does this already start at 3! I did pick out both these dresses but her favorite is the one shoulder kelly green shift. She wore it all day and then threw a fit because she wanted to wear it to bed. Ha ha! I almost let her but then that would of started a hard routine to get out of.
They also have really cute boy tops, bottoms and pullovers.
Here are some of my other top picks for girls and boys.
A Loft Hotels, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
We arrived in KL from our 8 hour flight from Australia and felt instantly at home in our rather large hotel room. They had already prepared the crib for Gisele and had complimentary snacks and water...which is always a bonus coming straight off the plane!
The beds were so comfortable and we had the most amazing view of Malaysia with their floor to ceiling windows. Big windows ALWAYS win over Isla. And for night time they had blackout curtains which Cullen is a fan of he sleeps best with NO light in the room at all!
Can we talk about how modern this hotel is? They have charging stations for your phone in the lobby, fun floor games to play, and amazing infinity rooftop pool that we spent a lot of time at.
Most importantly their brunch was AMAZING! They cater to people from all over the world so there were pancakes, dim sum, tikka masala, vegetarian, gluten free options, donuts! You name it, they had it...or they would make something to your liking. We only stayed here for a long weekend but they knew the girls names after the 1st day! I’m a sucker for people loving on my kids:)
Do you have a favorite hotel when you travel? Would love to hear!
I would definitely stay at another one of their properties.
Eek! Another Year Older
So, every year for my birthday Cullen and I try to plan a birthday trip, but it would never work out. This week as my birthday was approaching I laughed and said I FINALLY get to have my birthday in a warm sunny place!! What a guy to have planned my birthday in Bali this year! (wink)
I think the last warm birthday I had was in 6th grade we went on a cruise with my dad's work and I got to celebrate my birthday at sea...where I also had my first sip of alcohol (it was Baileys) -- and won $50 on the slots....but that's another story. LOL, what happens on a cruise stays on a cruise.
So, the sacrifce of a warm birthday is missing out on one my favorite traditions back home.
First of all, we celebrate birthday octaves. So the whole month is one BIG celebration and we always have a birthday dinner with my family. As the birthday girl you get to choose your favorite restaurant and everyone comes and it's a long meal of chatting, laughing and passing the kids around. Pure chaos but I love it! And usually towards the end of the meal someone will ask the birthday questions.
What was your favorite thing about this year?
What do you look forward to in the year to come?
Well, this year was pretty EPIC I couldn't pick just one this to share, so here are my TOP 10 BIG things that happened this year in chronological order.
1. Rosewood Celebrated 5 Years in Business and had an EPIC 3 Days of celebrating at the store. I was SOO preggers but it was such a blast collaborating with all my favorites vendors!
2. I had my sweet baby girl Gisele. My husband Cullen was away on business and and the night he got home I went into labor 3 weeks early 🙂 I didn’t know my heart could burst with love for yet another girl.. Who would of thought you could love your second baby as much as your first!!
3. Closed Rosewood after 5 years in business. BUT got to hand the keys of Rosewood To aweomse Girl Bosess KC and kate from Urban FitCo! They are opening in March so show them some LOVE!!
4. We decided to sell everything we own to work and travel the world. We flew over 28 hours to start our year out in Bali for 2 months with 3 suitcases, and 2 girls.
5. Started a blog …that you are reading right now. Never thought I would be a blogger BUT I’m having a blast documenting our life abroad. Also I’m super excited to be collaborating with some of my favorite brands this month!! Stay tuned.
6. Started Isla Ford - a women’s and Kids brand… still in the works but check it out on Instagram here and our website is coming soon!
7. Started Darling Market - In Bali I got to work with a local manufacture and tailor to make some of my own designs. Really excited to share them soon!
8. Joined Rich House Media - I joined up with my husbands business to do little consulting. We help new business owners open their businesses, help existing businesses grow on social media and email marketing! CHECK IT OUT!
9. Found my hidden strength - I was afraid that Rosewood defined who I was so much that closing the store I would lose some of my identity. But I’m finding that I have so much more to offer and so many other gifts while at the same time learning that motherhood is HARD! It’s always been a full time job but being in a foreign country and getting creative with how to keep your girls entertained, fed and happy is a whole new learning experience.
10. OH yeah and I let a monkey climb up my body for a photo op 🙂
I never could of predicted this year to turn out the way it did and never did I imagine that 33 I would be traveling the world with my family. I'm looking forward to what this year brings and allowing myself to sit back and watch it unfold. I know something big is in store and I can't wait to see what it is!