A 50th Celebration in Paris & the Italian Riviera

Annette and Mike were looking for an incredible luxury adventure to celebrate her 50th birthday. Something classic, full of shopping, champagne, great meals, and maybe even a little beach time. We knew Paris had to be top-of-the-list! Adding a little bit of the Italian Riviera to relax and slow down created the perfect grand celebration for a milestone adventure! Here’s how their trip went:


We loved our trip and cannot thank you enough for your help in planning. Everything was so organized and exceeded our expectations!

Paris Tours

Paris was just amazing. Every sight, everything we saw in the short time we were there was amazing. Feret from Paris and Beyond Tours was more than amazing. We would never ever have been able to see as much as we did in Paris being there a short 3 days. He took us on a tour for the entire day of every possible place we would want to see. His knowledge was incredible. We learned so much history, it was incredible.

He also spent extra time with us helping me shop at Chanel and what a disaster that was. We were there on the day of the new launch for Fall collections so shopping in Paris was quite impossible the days we were there. He helped me navigate that process so well. The boat cruise was also a highlight. Ann and her partner (I forget his name) were so so amazing. They made homemade apps, and the cruise and history we saw was something out of a movie. Highly Highly recommend it. They were easy to find too as I was a bit concerned about meeting them at the correct spot.

Paris Hotel

Our hotel in Paris (Le Metropolitan) I have to say was just ok. Great people. An incredible spot, and the view was incredible. But it was very small. No amenities or concierges really. Maybe that is what you get and you pay for that view? The view was unreal. The location was great too in one of Paris’ most famous neighborhoods. (16th arrondissement- learn more about Paris neighborhoods here!) Paris btw, was also very safe and clean I have to say. Transportation was extremely easy with Ubers too when we didn’t have cars. We also just wandered at night and found local restaurants and we had the best meals. Overall it was terrific.

San Remo

We flew into Nice and had the most awesome driver meet us. We fell in love with this family-owned business. Luigi and his son Luca both drove us on subsequent days to Monte Carlo and Portofino/Santa Margherita. Hotel San Remo is a close 45 min drive from Nice airport and we arrived at an incredible room with the most amazing views of the Ligurian Sea. OMG. The hotel was beautiful and full of amenities we like — the spa, the pool, the outside bar and restaurant, and shop in the lobby for a last-minute bag to take home all my purchases lol. It has a very famous history of royalty staying there and it was beyond amazing. Our room was huge. Our day trip to Monte Carlo/Monaco was amazing. The most incredibly wealthy area of shopping, boats, restaurants, and casino I think I have ever seen. We shopped all day, and enjoyed Champagne at an outdoor Veuve Cliquot pop-up champagne spot. AMAZING. I wanted a day to shop, and Monte Carlo did not disappoint.

We then had a day at the pool and by this point in the trip we needed this so badly. The pool at the San Remo was built by a famous Italian architect and has a rich history. The lunch there and the view was amazing. It was a peaceful restful day. The hotel also suggested the best small local restaurants that we ate at the following nights and they were just amazing.

Portofino & Santa Margarita

We then did a day trip to Portofino and Santa Margarita and all I can say is wow. AMAZING. This was my 3rd and Mike’s 4th time in Italy and we have seen a lot of Italy including the Amalfi Coast. This compared.

Small coastal towns with beautiful colorful architecture and restaurants and shopping to die for. The place we had lunch at was amazing in Portofino OMG. La Terrazza at Belmond Splendido. Was a dream location. AMAZING.

Our driver Luigi again, was great getting us there. Gave us so much history along the way. Knew where to take us, how to get us there and tell us all the amazing things along the way. We never could have done our day trips without him. Professional and the best.

Then my bday ended with Roberta (owner of San Remo Experience). We were so moved by her. She took us off the beaten path to a very small village where we learned to make pesto and fresh pasta. Had the most wonderful tour of beautiful churches, the town square, and local osterias. She had such a beautiful heart and was so patient and kind. So knowledgeable. We loved her. We had the best day.

I honestly would not change a thing about our trip. We loved loved loved it. Thank you for all your help and guidance we couldn’t have done it without you!

Annette

12 Little Travel Splurges That Are Totally Worth It

12 Little Luxury Travel Splurges that are totally worth it pin
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Given the chance, we’d all love to travel in luxury, with the most comfortable, memorable, and unique experiences possible. But many of us struggle to strike the balance between luxury travel and reasonable spending. We don’t all have a never-ending budget to indulge in every luxury available. So how do you decide which luxury travel splurges are worth it? Consider if it will save you time, make you more comfortable, or improve your experience. Here’s our list of top travel splurges that we think are worth every penny:

Splurges to Increase Your Comfort

1. Airport lounges– If you have a long layover, buy a day pass for the airport lounge. Enjoy some comfy chairs, free food, and drinks, and wait in a relaxed style. Alternatively, for an even lengthier layover, book an airport hotel to grab a couple of hours of sleep and a shower. If you happen to be spending one of your valuable vacation days in the airport, it’s worth treating it like part of the fun. Plus, indulging in some pampering at the airport will start your trip with a sense of relaxation and comfort.

2. Business Class – For those long flights, try upgrading to Business Class. More leg-room and seat space will ensure you catch some sleep and land in your new destination with a spring in your step. Plus, you’ll enjoy upgraded meals, drinks, and amenities while you’re on board.

Pro-Tip: If you’d rather book just one leg in Business Class, make it the overnight flight so you can sleep comfortably. ( Usually the one to Europe or home from Hawaii)

a beautiful balcony overlooking the sea
Photo Credit: Andrea & Eric via Shared Adventures – read about their epic adventure to Greece & London here!
king corner hotel room in Block Island Rhode Island set in blue tones with two windows
Photo Credit: Annie via Shared Adventures – read about here mini-adventure to Block Island, RI here!

3. A Room with a view- If you’re staying more than a few days in one location, your hotel room becomes a big part of your vacation! On a cruise ship with a small cabin, at a beautiful beach resort, or in the heart of the city, a stunning view — or maybe even a private balcony or terrace — is worth the splurge. After a long day of exploring, you’ll return each night to a lovely space where you can enjoy a glass of wine and toast to your adventure.

Pro-Tip: If the bigger room is just a bit too much for the entire trip, split your stay between two hotels. Start in the more budget hotel, then end your trip in luxury with a more expensive suite. 

4. Book the hotel a day early – Is your plane landing in the wee hours of the morning? Most hotels have late-afternoon check-in times, and it’s no fun to have to kill the day waiting to get into a room. However, if you want to go straight to your hotel room for a shower, a soft pillow, and a fresh change of clothes, book your hotel starting the night prior so you can get right in. No need to wait around!

Splurges to Save You Time

Time is your most valuable commodity on vacation! Anything that lets you spend more time enjoying your adventure, experiencing the destination, or relaxing on the beach is worth the extra expense.

5. TSA precheck – Not stressing about waiting in line at the airport can save you so much time and energy. You won’t need to worry if you’ll make it to the plane in time. Or spend the first part of your adventure waiting in a long line. For smooth, easy, and fast comfort, consider one of the many ways to fast-track airport security.

6. Airport to Hotel Transfer – When you finally arrive at your destination, you’re often a bit tired, disoriented, and ready for a shower. Navigating public transportation in this state is no way to start your journey, certainly. Splurging on a private transfer is well worth it. Walk into the Arrivals Hall, look for the driver holding a sign with your name on it, and off you go. Confident secure, and at ease.

Photo Credit: Maxime Steckle via Unsplash
Photo Credit: Mia & Matt via Shared Adventures – read about their Italian honeymoon with a fabulous private tour guide here!

7. Skip-the-line passes – What if you are finally in Paris for your big Parisian adventure and so excited to see it all, but you only have a few days? Spending hours outside the Louvre, just waiting to get inside is not ideal, for instance. Getting a skip-the-line pass for major sites maximizes your efficiency. And leaves you more time to explore the rest of the city!

8. Private Driver –Splurging on a private driver for the day will save you time and enhance your experience. There’s no better intro to a destination than having a knowledgeable local take you to all the best places. Especially if you’re visiting several towns close together, like the Amalfi Coast. Sure, you could probably navigate the multiple trains and busses, but having someone to take you to each spot is well worth the cost.

Travel Splurges to Enhance Your Experience

9. Once-in-a-lifetime experiences – Unique experiences that you can’t have anywhere else are expensive for a reason. You’re not going to have another chance to do them. So take that helicopter ride over Hawaii or dine inside a volcano in Iceland. It will be a memory that you keep forever, the highlight of your trip, what you always tell people about, and what you’ll never regret doing.

10. Professional photos – This is one of those great travel splurges if you are traveling with a group or on your honeymoon! Having a professional follow you around for an hour or an afternoon will give you travel photos like you never knew you could have. Almost certainly, they’ll end up being your favorite vacation photos. And if you’re in a group, it means having everyone in the pictures. Instead of always missing one person or having a poorly taken every-one-is-blinking photo by passing strangers, consider this splurge.

Photo Credit: Matteo Innocenti Photography via Shared Adventures – read about Ann’s luxury trip to Tuscany, Italy here!
hawaii jack harter doorless helicopter ride
Photo Credit: Molly & Matt via Shared Adventures – read about their Hawaiian honeymoon here!

11. Small group tours – The best thing about using a tour guide is getting context for your surroundings. Even if you have a guidebook, a knowledgeable local guide offers something more. There is often a history, some little details, or folk-lore stories that only a local guide can tell you. But it can be hard to hear that story amid a big tour group. And, feeling like cattle as you are shepherded from one spot to another adds more negatives than positives to the adventure. Having a small or private group not only saves time (no waiting for stragglers), but it also allows you to ask questions and get individual attention. It gives you the sense of a friend showing you their hometown.

12. Amazing meals– Food is an important and unique part of every culture. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “foodie”, enjoying a good meal will make you smile. Learn about the culture through the food and bring home a taste memory to talk about for years.

Pro Tip: If you are in love with a specific high-end restaurant, but not the price tag, make a reservation for lunch instead of dinner


Are you ready to add a touch of luxury to your next adventure? Let us know! We’re always excited to help you decide which extra details and travel splurges will lift your adventure to the next level!

Ann’s Tuscany Adventure

I’ve been to Tuscany before, but always with Florence as my home base. Doing day trips to Siena or Lucca, or heading out into the countryside for a day of winetasting before retreating back to the city. When the opportunity arose to spend a whole week in Tuscany, I jumped at it! 

The focus for this trip was romance travel (destination weddings and honeymoons). We had the opportunity to tour some gorgeous properties and meet some fantastic local business owners (florists, caterers, event planners, and photographers). And, of course, eat and drink some amazing local food and wine.

If you’ve ever dreamed of getting married in Tuscany, we can absolutely hook you up!

[Photo: The dining hall of Corte dei Papi villa in Cortona]

But I am really excited about Tuscany in general, and what a different experience it offers vacationers when compared to the big cities.  

Accommodations

We stayed at the Buccelletti Casali and Cantina, in Castiglion Fiorentina. It’s a charming property that has been in the Buccelletti family since 1625. They’ve been growing olives and making olive oil for generations, and they now make wine as well.

They have converted the old farm workers’ houses into clusters of villas and apartments. Plus, they’ve turned the olive oil mill into a stunning event space. It was the perfect home base for a week spent exploring the surrounding countryside.

[Photo: Buccelletti Casale and Cantina]

The accommodations themselves were the first big difference from previous trips to Italy. I was in a cute little house with two bedrooms and bathrooms, a living/dining area and small kitchen, and a private yard/garden.

We could prepare our own breakfasts of farm-fresh eggs, homemade bread, and locally produced yogurt, jams, honey, and fruit. We had bottles of wine and olive oil produced right there on site. And the cuisine could not have been more “farm to table”. So different from staying in a hotel! 

When you’re out in the country at an agriturismo like this, it does help to have a car, so that you can get out to the local shops and markets. But at the Buccelletti Casali, we had a basket of provisions (replenished mid-week) and it was more than enough for breakfasts and snacks.  

The Countryside

We were a group, with a very organized itinerary (and drivers/guides), but I would highly encourage clients to rent a car and enjoy a more independent stay in Tuscany. The roads are great, the traffic is light, and they drive on the right side of the road. It’s very manageable for American drivers.

[Photo Credit: MIP Studios via Shared Adventures – a road in Cortona]

While we were there, we had a busy itinerary filled with site inspections at hotels/inns/B&Bs, guided tours of Tuscan hill towns, tastings at local vineyards, and many lengthy multi-course meals with wine pairings. Brutal, I know.

We learned how cheese is made. We met mayors, hoteliers, restauranteurs, and the fascinating couple who purchased and renovated the villa featured in “Under the Tuscan Sun”.

[Photo: Ann & Kristy at Villa Laura]

Highlights

Some of the highlights, for me, included: 

  • Cortona – a town of steep streets, gorgeous views, Etruscan history, and tempting shops.
  •  Pici – traditional hand-rolled Tuscan pasta, made from just the “poorest” of ingredients (flour and water).  
  • Podere il Casale – a pecorino cheese producer, organic farm, and farm-to-table restaurant outside of Pienza, where we enjoyed a fabulous meal completely sourced from right there onsite. (So delicious that I purchased and carried home their very heavy hardbound cookbook in the hopes of recreating that magic
  • Brunello di Montalcino wines – made with 100% Sangiovese, bold and fruity, one of the best Italian reds!

The Tuscany Takeaway

Tuscany is all about the slow food movement, slowing down to take it all in, and enjoying the views.

There’s no long list of “must-sees”. You can while away an afternoon (guilt-free) sitting by the pool sipping wine and snacking on prosciutto. Or riding an e-bike through the countryside. Or rolling up your sleeves for a cooking class.  

I realize now that I was doing it all wrong when I visited Tuscany as a quick side trip from Florence. Tuscany invites you to stop, linger, indulge, experience, and enjoy. And I can’t wait to come back and do it all again! 

[Photo: Villa Le Prata in Montalcino]

How to Approach Your Honeymoon Budget

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A honeymoon is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation! So it should be unique to you as a couple and should create special memories that you’ll be talking about for years to come. Whether you’re dreaming of an overwater bungalow, a fairytale town, or a cabin in mountains, you’re also planning for a wedding, and you probably don’t want to break the bank along the way. So, how do you even begin to put a price on your trip of a lifetime and plan your honeymoon budget? 

Where you want to go, what you want to do, and what level of luxury you want to experience will all factor into the overall cost. And there are a few simple steps to figure out what is realistic and what you can afford. We’ve created a fun worksheet to get you started with the steps outlined below. Download our free Honeymoon Budget Worksheet here!


STEP 1: COMMUNICATION & THE BIG PICTURE

The foundation of every good relationship is communication. And budgeting for the perfect honeymoon requires a lot of it! You want to ensure that you’re both on the same page in terms of expectations. 

honeymoon couple sitting on a log in a rainbow in hawaii

Start with the big picture. You don’t have to decide where you’re going or what exactly you’ll do when you get there, yet. Instead, talk about what kinds of things you imagine doing and in what kinds of environments.

Are you walking hand-in-hand along a white sandy beach with ocean waves as your soundtrack? Wandering the cobblestone streets of Europe and feeling like you’ve stepped into a fairytale? Spending your days lounging in your luxury honeymoon suite with an awe-inspiring view? Did you travel far to get there or was it a quick flight to paradise?

[Photo Credit: Molly & Matt via Shared Adventures. Read about their Hawaiian Honeymoon here!]

Try starting the conversation by telling the story of your honeymoon. “I imagine we spend our honeymoon… sipping cocktails in lounge chairs on the beach…”

Once you agree on the general big picture, take some time to write down things you love to do together to give the trip a focus on who you are as a couple. Then write out your non-negotiables. Do you want to leave right after the wedding? Does the accommodation need to have a pool? Do you want to have an immersive local experience? Make sure you’re both clear on what your partner expects from this amazing vacation.

STEP 2: TIMING & LOCATION

Timing

Once you have the big picture, you can get into the details and the budget. First, consider how much time you have for the honeymoon. Most people have a certain amount of PTO and you will probably take some of that for the wedding. So, consider how many days you can realistically be away. 

If your dates are flexible and the destination is more important than the timing, you can skip the following step. 

honeymoon couple in the Dolomites Italy

Now, it’s time to consider the all-important seasonality. Many couples still travel right after the wedding, meaning a fixed time frame for their honeymoon. Consider which destinations are best at different times of the year, and look at whether your specific travel dates exclude any destinations because of poor weather conditions or too-high prices.

[Photo Credit: Shannon & Lou via Shared Adventures. Read about their winter honeymoon to Northern Italy here!]

Region

If you have a specific destination in mind then you can skip this step. However, if you’re still not sure exactly where you want to go, the next step is to figure out a general region. Ask yourself the following:

Do you want to stay close to home or travel farther abroad?
Are you looking for warm or cool weather?
Do you want somewhere on the coast with a beach? Or a big city?

Take a look at a map and talk about the different areas these questions bring to mind in connection with your dates. For example: if you’re looking to stay close to home, with warm weather, on a beach in early June, then you’ll stay in the northern hemisphere and might head to places like Mexico, the Caribbean, or the Bahamas. 

STEP 3: COST ESTIMATES

Flights

Airfare costs are generally fixed with very little wiggle room and can take up a good chunk of your budget. This makes them the best starting place. Even if you’re not set on a particular destination yet, look back at your time frame, and potential regions. Then start looking at average flight prices for those options. Finding the average flight cost will give you a good starting point for your budget. 

Remember to be realistic when you’re looking at flights. You’ll only want one connection and not the super-restrictive basic economy fares that involve all sorts of added fees for seats and bags. Looking at the average economy class fare will give you a better idea of what to build into your budget. And if you’re thinking about splurging on Business or First class for this trip of a lifetime, take a look at those prices too.

The Rest 

Once the estimated airfare is taken into account, it’s time to work out the details. The rest of your budget can fall into roughly three categories: Activities, Accommodations, and Meals. Put these in order of priority (for you) to figure out where you want to splurge and where you can save a little. Are you set on being awe-struck during a hot-air balloon ride? Does your mouth water at the thought of eating at a Michelin star restaurant? Do you want only the finest luxury resort? Whatever is most important, allocate more of your budget towards that key thing. You can make compromises on the pieces that aren’t as important to you. 

Sunset beach Costa Rica Honeymoons

Pro Tip: If accommodations are important but the full trip in a high-end hotel is stretching your budget, try splitting the accommodations. Stay in a slightly cheaper hotel first and end the last few days on a high note at the luxury property!

[Photo Credit: Katey & Oliver via Shared Adventures. Read about their split-accommodation Costa Rican honeymoon here!]

After deciding which is most important, you can do a little research as to average costs. It doesn’t have to be exact, just a quick search to get a general idea. 

Honeymoon budget worksheet filled out with examples

STEP 4: SAVING

The final step, once you have a ballpark cost is to add 20%. This is your honeymoon and there are going to be many “treat-yourself-moments”! It’s best to build those into the budget early on. 

Finally, decide how you want to start saving! Consider a honeymoon registry to help fund all the extras. After establishing the basic framework for the trip, you can set up a wish list for guests to contribute to tours, activities, spa treatments, dinner on the beach, etc. Set aside a certain amount each month and start saving! 

Remember, this method only gives you an estimate, not a hard and fast exact cost. There is always some wiggle room.

WAYS TO SAVE

If you’re finding it hard to get everything on your wish list AND stay within your ideal budget there are a few things you can do to save money:

  1. Consider cutting a night (or two) to make it work. No one ever remembers how many nights they spent at a destination. It’s better to have exactly the experience you’re dreaming about, but for one less night. If you cut back on the overall experience just to stay longer, you’ll regret it.
  2. Keeping your dates flexible lets you take advantage of low-season travel and lower prices. Or head to a less-expensive and popular but no-less-amazing destination. 
  3. Talk with a travel agent! Travel agents have years of experience and know-how. If your final budget is just a little more than you want to spend, a travel agent can help. We might know a unique destination that has everything you’re looking for with a slightly lower price tag. We might be able to get you special rates and perks on accommodations. We have connections with tour guides, private drivers, and hoteliers all over the world, giving us the inside scoop on the best destinations for every size budget.

Even in money matters, travel planning should be fun and inspiring. After you fill out the worksheet, let us know what you discover about your dream honeymoon and we can get started!

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)