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Africa, Blog, Food, South Africa, Travel

The Best Luxury Safari Resort – AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge

We often say that though the places we visit are amazing, it is the people and interactions we remember the most. This was definitely the case throughout our stay at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. From the staff including all of the managers, our butler, Mo, our tracker, Bethuel, our ranger, Brenden and our fellow game drive team members – we will never forget the experiences we shared with everyone at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge.

 

“After our stay with AndBeyond, we can confidently say that we will only stay with them because of the huge impact they had on us as individuals and our experience.”  

 

Why You Should Choose AndBeyond

When travelers choose their safari lodge, there are several things they typically consider, but the main concerns are – location, service, budget and activities. These are all very important things to consider, but what makes AndBeyond go “and beyond” is their loyalty to their guests, land, wildlife and people. Their loyalty and commitment is the reason why they are listed four times in the 50 Best Resorts in the World from CNTraveler AND Travel and Leisure.

AndBeyond has a simple principle they abide to and it is called “The Three C’s”. CARE for the LAND, CARE for the WILDLIFE and CARE for the PEOPLE. AndBeyond’s priority is not about making money, but about ethical conservation and community work.

 

In addition to their responsibility in conservation and community, AndBeyond strives in making their guests feel a part of their family. We have stayed at some of the best resorts in the world, but none have made us feel more like family than AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. We cried when we had to leave because of the connections and relationships we made with the staff. After our stay with AndBeyond, we can confidently say that we will only stay with them because of the huge impact they had on us as individuals and our experience.

The last reason travelers should choose AndBeyond is because of their luxury service. Most resorts have luxury service at their accommodation, but being a safari lodge, AndBeyond takes luxury service further than anything we have ever experienced. From private meals, surprise dinners in the bush, luxury safari drives, candlelit hot baths and more. AndBeyond continued to surpass all expectations.

 

Getting There

Getting to Phinda Game Reserve is a pain, but when you arrive you forget all about your transportation troubles and how long it took to arrive. This is quite normal though for all game reserves, its a long journey, but it’s more than worth it. There are two ways to arriving in Phinda – by plane or car.

Phinda Game Reserve has their own private landstrip, so flying to Phinda is the fastest option. South African Airlink flys to and from Phinda based on their set schedule. Be aware the plane is extremely small and seats only 12 passengers. If the weather is bad, the plane will not land in Phinda due to the risks since the airstrip/runway is very small. So, even though you pay for the luxury of getting to Phinda, it may not always be the quickest. Case in point, our flight time from Johannesburg to Phinda (with a stop in Kruger) was supposed to be a total of three hours, but ended up taking eight hours. Due to bad weather, our pilot had to land in Durban and then a bus was arranged for us to go from Durban to Phinda. The drive from Durban to Phinda was at least three hours.

our small plane we would take to and from Phinda

This brings us to the second option of arriving to Phinda, by car. The driving distance from Johannesburg to Phinda is five hours. You can also fly to Richards Bay and drive only 50 minutes. The last most common driving route, is flying to Durban and driving three hours to Phinda. Even though we were not supposed to fly to Durban and drive to Phinda, we found that at least three other travelers during our stay took this route.

 

A Day at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge

5:30am – wake up call
6:00am – 6:30am – morning coffee and tea
6:30am – 9:30am – morning game drive
9:30am – 11:00am – breakfast
11:00am – 1:00pm – down time
1:00pm – 3:00pm – lunch
3:30pm –  4:00pm – afternoon coffee and tea
4:00pm – 7:00pm – afternoon game drive
8:00pm – 10:00pm – dinner

A luxurious day like this is ALL included in the daily rate. Yes, all we did was eat and go on safari game drives, it was the best vacation of our lives!

 

Accommodation and Amenities

 

The accommodations of AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were amazing! As the name of the lodge states, it is indeed on a mountain providing their guests with the most beautiful views of the reserve and the Ubombo Mountains. Their dining room, pool, lounge and of course, the suites, all had views of the reserve, thus giving guests special sightings during their entre stay. There are a total of 23 rooms, 16 are suites, one family suite and 3 are family cottages, which can become 6 regular cottages.

Within the lodge were an abundant number of features for guests to make use of:

  • Dining Room
  • Outdoor BBQ dining space
  • Lounge with bar access
  • Safari Shop
  • Wild Child Club
  • Conference Room
  • Business Center
  • Pool Deck
  • Spa

The Lounge

The lounge was our meeting point everyday for our game drives. It was a place where everyone was brought together for eating, drinking and mingling. We felt like a part of their family every time we were in their lounge. We would be introduced to managers, staff, our ranger, Brenden and new members of our team (guests would stay in the same vehicle with the same group, ranger and guide during their stay). Thus, giving us a warm welcome and a special family gathering atmosphere.

As we briefly mentioned, the lounge is where we met every morning and afternoon for coffee and tea. During this time the bar would be full of food and drinks for all of the guests. The rangers would offer us our drink of choice, (coffee, tea, espresso, latte, orange juice, etc.) and there would be fresh fruit and baked goodies to snack on. Before every game drive, we would gather around with Brenden and our team to enjoy our coffee and snacks while we laughed and told amazing travel stories of all the places we had all visited.

In addition the the lounge being the meeting point of every morning and afternoon, it was also a great place to hangout in between game drives. We loved sitting in the lounge admiring all the beautiful African art pieces. There were also several different board games to be played, comfortable seats to relax in and of course a beautiful view to always enjoy.

We never had to leave our lodge to find animal sightings. Every morning there would be monkeys hanging around the lounge looking to snag our morning cookies and cake. Near our lodge and suite we would find hedgehogs and nyala. They were shy, but not as skittish as the ones we would see on our game drives. From the lounge we could see in the distance giraffes walking and one time we saw them just a few hundred yards away! We are sure you are wondering if any predators or animals could attack us, there were never predators, but there is always security around in case of any situation were to occur. At night time we always had to have security walk us to our rooms for safety reasons.

 

Suite

Our suite took our breath away! It was more than spacious with high ceilings, an ensuite bathroom, a sitting area with a bar and a spacious veranda with a plunge pool and outdoor shower. Not to mention our bed was facing the windows to our veranda, which greeted us with the open air and views of the Ubombo Mountain range. Needless to say we had beautiful views whether we were laying in bed, taking an outdoor shower or relaxing on our deck. Waking up every morning to the sun peeking above the mountains was always the perfect way to start our day.

Our bathroom was almost as big as our bedroom and sitting area combined. It had a full bath tub in the middle, (which we enjoyed a lot), a walk-in shower in the corner, double sinks and a private toilet room. Bath robes, slippers, bottles water and toiletries were all provided for us and stocked daily.

We loved our seating area with the beautiful African chandelier and our own open bar. Our suite also had a desk near our bed and a closet that had plenty of space for all of our belongings. We felt more at home in our suite than our actual home – it was that luxurious!

 

Spa

Guests staying at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge should enjoy a relaxing day at their fabulous spa. I (Christina) enjoyed a 45 minute massage with Isabelle, who was one of the best masseuse I have ever had. Isabelle used techniques I have never experienced in a massage before by using wooden African massage tools to help release the knots in my back. She also had a variety of natural massage oils, which all served a different purpose – relax, detox, de-stress, hydrate and more. Guests can also have the pleasure of enjoying a massage in their room. In addition to massages, the spa also offers wonderful bath aromatherapy.

 

 

Safari Shop

The safari shop has everything a guest could need for their visit and souvenirs to take home. If guests need binoculars, a new safari hat or shirt, the AndBeyond Safari Shop has it all for them. The only thing a guests needs to really bring with them to the resort is themselves! We found their safari clothes to be reasonably priced around $50, which is what we paid for our clothes back home. We had to contain ourselves from buying every souvenir inside the shop – there were so many beautiful African pieces we wanted to buy. Some of the African souvenirs came from the nearby Zulu village, therefore the locals were getting paid well for their work.

 

Service

Service was exceptional from the moment we arrived to the lodge until we were on the plane back to Johannesburg. Any questions and concerns we had we always answered by a staff member or a manager. At least 85% off the staff at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were from the nearby Zulu village, including our butler, Mo and our ranger, Bethuel. Regardless if it was Mo, or our favorite manager, Will, we made some great relationships with a lot of staff members who took great care of us – like we said, AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge is like our extended family.

Every time we arrived back to the lodge from our safari game drives we were greeted by the staff with warm towels and refreshments. In the morning they would serve fresh orange or kiwi juice and in the evenings they would serve hot chocolate or spiced hot wine.

AndBeyond certainly went beyond with their service. We were welcomed with a letter and a surprise anniversary platter of fresh fruit. When Adam got sick, the staff took great care in helping him get better by providing him with complimentary medicine and making sure he was feeling better the next day. When we came back from one of our game drives, we found our bathroom was candlelit and a hot bath was drawn with some bubbles. Every detail made a difference to provide us with the best hospitality we could have imagined.

 

Butler

Every guest in a suite or cottage is assigned a butler. We had Mo during our visit and he took care of us for anything we needed during our stay, including our meals. Mo delivered excellent service with a bright smile everyday. We could not have asked for a better butler.

 

Housekeeping

The housekeeping team did a phenomenal job! Laundry is a complimentary amenity at Phinda Mountain Lodge and the housekeeping team took great care of our delicate clothes. Every day when we returned to our room our laundry was neatly folded in a basket with a sweet letter.

 

Dining Options

The dining options at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were endless! During our four nights at the lodge we dined at the pool, the verandah, in our room, at the boma, the dining room, and the bush! The kitchen staff did an excellent job preparing delicious, authentic South African cuisine for every meal. Food and drinks are included in the rate, so guests can eat to their hearts content.

 

Breakfast

It is true what they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge! Every morning there would be an array of breakfast foods and drinks at the center table inside the dining room. Muffins, yogurt, cereal grains, smoked salmon and more would be placed around the table for breakfast starters.

There was an amazing alcohol set up for bloody marys and mimosas, as well as fresh pineapple, carrot and orange juices.

Then guests would choose their main hot entree from the menu.

 

Lunch

Lunch was served as a buffet style inside the dining room at the center table. Every afternoon there would be a selection of cold salads, roasted beef, a quiche of the day, a hot dish of vegetables, a pie of the day and more.

Lunch by the Pool

AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge arranged a beautiful private lunch by the pool. Our butler, Mo, would bring us an array of all the food options that were being served in the dining room to our table in small portions. We had everything we needed – great views with great food.

 

Dinner

In our four nights at the lodge, we never ate dinner at the same place. Our first night was inside the dinning room, then we at the boma, followed by a private dinner in our suite, and lastly we had a bush dinner! AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge goes above and beyond when it comes to dinner, they give you a true African dining experience that you will never forget – we certainly will never forget!

Dining Room

The dining room would turn into a quiet romantic evening with dimly lit lanterns on every table. For our three-course dinner we enjoyed a vegetable soup for an appetizer, prawns with a lemon and herb sauce and a puff pastry tart with cherries and ice cream for dessert.

Boma

A Boma dinner is a traditional African outdoor dining experience in an enclosed area where guests dine under the stars. The dinner is typically a buffet including barbecue meat and vegetables. Several tables were set up for the guests to enjoy dinner with their rangers and trackers – we were eating with family. The food was fantastic, but the company was even better. Dining as a team discussing all the amazing animal sightings from our entire day under the sats was the perfect way to end a perfect day.

Private Dinner

AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge arranged a private dinner for us to help celebrate our two year wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a beautiful roasted butternut squash soup and sweet corn fritters for appetizers. For our entrees Adam had a mushroom risotto, which was heavenly, while I had a seared ostrich loin for the first time. It was so tender and amazing! And who could forget dessert? Two slices of bitter chocolate torte with caramel ice cream.

Bush Dinner

We were fishing our afternoon game drive when we saw candlelights in the distance. AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge surprised all the guests with a bush dinner. Yes, we were dining not just under the stars, but possibly surrounded by wild animals. It was incredible how the staff created a restaurant with a full bar, kitchen, wash room and dining room in the middle of the bush. A fire pit was near the bar with lounge chairs where we enjoyed a few glasses of wine before dinner. Even though we were surrounded by people, it still felt so romantic with all the lanterns lit and the fire going. This was not only our last dinner at the lodge, but also one of the best dining experiences ever and one we will never forget.

 

Luxury Safaris

We never expected our safari game drives to be so luxurious. We had some cold weather during our visit, so AndBeyond provided blankets and ponchos for everyone. We also enjoyed five star hospitality on our safari breaks. Our ranger, Bethuel and our guide, Brenden, would set up a beautiful array of hot cocoa, tea, coffee, cookies, coffee bread and more for our morning drives. During our night drives, we were provided with every alcoholic beverage you could think of, along with delicious chips and dip, corn nuts, dried fruit and more.

Phinda Private Game Reserve is at least 74,000 acres big and has the Big Five and around 30 of our favorite animal, cheetah. On our first game drive we found a pride of lion with two cubs and five female lions! The same evening we were alone with a leopard at night! The next morning we found two brother cheetahs and were able to enjoy them all to ourselves. It only took us three game drives to see all three big cats! In addition to the big cats we saw plenty of elephant, rhino, buffalo and more.

Also included in our daily rate were bush walks. One afternoon, Brenden took us out to the bush to find tracks in the road. We were successful in finding several different animal tracks, as well as elephant bones!

 

Extra Activities

AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Range offers a full day of activities included in the daily rate, but for those seeking more adventure, there are more activities that can be added to a guests visit. To name a few:

  • Sleeping under the African stars
  • Professional safari photography
  • Tracking black rhino on foot
  • Ocean safari in the Indian Ocean
  • Zulu village tour

 

Daily Rates

We can say without a doubt that every penny is worth a visit to AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. All of our expectations were surpassed! Here are the current rates for the suite in 2018, the rates are per person, per night.

Included in the daily rate:

  • Accommodation
  • Two safari game drives
  • Three meals daily
  • Beverages – soft drinks, coffee, tea, house wine, local brand spirits and beers
  • Refreshments and meals on safari breaks
  • Laundry
  • One hour bush walks with a ranger
  • Transfers to and from Phinda landstrip
  • VAT
  • Emergency medical evacuation insurance

 

For further information, we highly recommend travelers to contact AndBeyond on their website. Or contact us and we can help plan your vacation to AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge for free!

 

Christina + Adam

 

 

Africa, Blog, Guide, South Africa, Travel

A First Timers Guide to The City of Gold – Johannesburg

We had the great opportunity to visit Johannesburg twice during our layovers within Africa. During our days in Johannesburg we were able to do a lot of sightseeing, learn about the city’s history, eat delicious South African cuisine, and stay at two wonderful hotels. We encourage tourists who travel to South Africa to visit game reserves, to also take the opportunity to spend at least a full 24 hours in Johannesburg. Seeing wild animals is amazing, (we know, it’s why we went to South Africa), but seeing the culture and history of Johanessburg is amazing too. Here is our first timers guide to some of the best places to visit, dine and stay within Johannesburg (based on our first hand experience), along with some helpful tips.

 

Related posts: The Best Tips for Flying To and Within South Africa!

 

Safety

Johannesburg, the City of Gold – tends to get a bad reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. We are here to tell you, that is not the case. Just like all major cities, there are growing and influtential areas, suburbs, good school distrcts and more, but there are also areas of poverty and slum. Not once we did encounter any dangerous areas or incidents while in Johannesburg, what we did experience was pure culture and history.

 

Getting Around

We recommend two different ways to sightsee in Johanessburg, the City Sightseeing hop on-hop off bus or Joburg Tourism where they can provide you with a private guide.

Hop On-Hop Off buses are always a popular way to see a new and unfamiliar city. The great thing about a hop on-hop off bus is the opportunity to stop at several destinations you wish to see for an entire day, while paying for a budget friendly price. Along the routes there are also audio guides to use at your disposal, so you can learn about the places you are seeing or visiting. For people who have a lot of time to enjoy sightseeing at their own pace, this is a great fit for you. If you enjoy a more intimate setting that goes based on your tight schedule, we recommend a private driver.

We were invited from Joburg Tourism to enjoy a private driver/tour guide. This was our first experience with a private driver/tour guide and we enjoyed every second of it, in fact, we do not think we can enjoy another group tour ever again. Our guide, Lucille from Cresco Tours, was very knowledgable about the city and was able to show around Johannesburg and educate us more about the city than we have ever imagined. It was also comforting to be able to sightsee and learn about Johannesburg on our own time. To know that we never had to worry about catching our next ride somewhere or continuing to switch tour guides at every site. We were able to make a strong relationship with Lucille and enjoy our time exploring Johannesburg. If you decide to book with Cresco Tours, be sure to ask for Lucille!

 

City Sightseeing Hop On-Hop Off
https://www.citysightseeing.co.za/johannesburg

Joburg Tourism
http://www.joburgtourism.com
http://www.joburgtourism.com/packages/standard

Cresco Tours
http://www.crescotours.co.za/day_tours.php

 

In the Heart of Johannesburg

The heart of Johannesburg is the central business district. There are plenty of things to see, dine and stay in this area. In addition to some fun sightseeing, there is also a lot of culture and history that has defined the city of Johannesburg and South Africa as a whole.

 

Constituional Hill

If you only have time to do one thing in Johanessburg, we encourage you to visit Constitutional Hill. It was one of the most moving tours we have ever experienced. It reperesnts Johanessburg’s past, present and future.

Before the tour, there is a video that gives you a brief history of Constitutional Hill. The brief history is that black, white and colored men and women were prisoned here for speaking their minds of the harsh truth that was occurring in Johannesburg during that time. The treatment they were receiving was unbearable and inhuman. Walking through the prison cells, courtyard, torture chambers and isolation cells was depressing – we could not fathom the history that took place here. To see people be treated so inhuman because they were trying to get their freedom, equality and dignity was heartbreaking.

Some exhibits within the tour had pictures, audio and video of ex-prisoners’ stories of the series of events that happened to them everyday. Constitutional Hill has three prison blocks – Number Four (for black, asian and indian “native men”), Old Fort (for white men) and Women’s Goal (for black and white female prisoners).

The tour has prison cells that showcase the prisoners living arrangements, which were very poor – they would cram in dozens of men in a small prison room. We were told that in the courtyard, the men would have to strip naked and receive brutal beatings.

The isolation cells might have been the most heartbreaking of them all. Visitors can step into the isolation cells to see what it was like for the prisoners. The prisoners were only supposed to stay inside the isolation cells for no more than 30 days, but some stayed there for an entire year. Without even stepping into the isolation cells, we cannot begin to even imagine what it was like to be in their shoes.

A lot of historical men and women of Johanessburg were imprisoned at Constitutional Hill, including two of the most influential leaders of our world, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi. In honor of these men, Constitutional Hill has dedicated one of the prison cells into a small msusuem of their history here and in life.

Out of this tradegy comes hope. Johannesburg created their congress room in the center of Constitutional Hill and embraced their history for a better future. The bricks of the building are the same bricks the prisoners would mine. There is a small narrow window across the congress room where the judges can only see people’s legs walking by. This feature is to remind the judges that they sit in the chairs to help create a better world for all those people walking outside. We enjoyed the congress room a lot because of how much thought and meaning went into building the room.

11 Kotze St 
Johannesburg, 2017, South Africa
+27 11 381 3100
Open daily: 9am – 5pm
Prices vary for age and type of tour, so please click here to get an in-depth page of prices.
https://www.constitutionhill.org.za

 

Apartheid Museum

A visit to Apartheid Museum is a museum unlike any other, representing the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa. Guests take an emotional journey through a series of 22 individual exhibition areas, which tells a story of a state-sanctioned system based on racial discrimination and the struggle the majority of people endured to overthrow the tyranny. South Africa does not shy away from their past, but embrace it to make a better future – the Apartheid Museum is South Africa’s beacon of hope to show the world who they really are. It is a museum not to be missed.

Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd
Ormond, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 11 309 4700
Open daily: 9am – 5pm

Adults: R85
Students, seniors and children: R70
https://www.apartheidmuseum.org

 

Top of Africa

To experience the best views of Johanessburg, head to the 50th floor of the Carlton building, also known as the Top of Africa. Why is it called the Top of Africa? Because it is THE tallest building in Africa! At the observation deck, guests can see the city and its surrounding landscape with 360 degree unobstructed views. Though we went on a hazy day, it did not deteriorate from the beauty of Johanessburg. We were able to see the business district, suburbs and of course, the mining grounds.

150 Commissioner St
CBD, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 (0)11 308 1331
Monday – Friday: 9am – 6pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm
Sunday: 9am – 2pm
Tickets can be purchased at the front desk, located behind the store “Studio 88”, one floor below ground level.  If lost, ask a security guard or a store clerk. 
Adults: R15
Children under 10: R10

 

Gold Reef City

Gold Reef City has is a place for tourists of all ages – two hotels, a casino, a theme park and a mine tour! Guests must pay an entrance fee to enter the theme park regardless if they will partake in any rides. Guests wanting to actually go on rides must pay a higher price. To visit the mine tour will also cost an additional fee, but it is well worth it for those interested in learning how Johannesburg became The City of Gold! During the mine tour, guests will feel the cold air as they descend into the depths of the earth and discover the riches of South Africa’s history and gold. They will also have the opportunity to pan for gold in freezing cold water and watch gold being poured into golden bars!

Northern Pkwy & Data Cres
Ormonde 99-Ir, Johannesburg, 2159, South Africa
+27 11 248 5000
Closed Monday-Tuesday

Wednesday-Sunday: 9:30am – 5pm
Thrill Rider above 1.3m: R210 or R320 to include mine tour      
Non-Rider above 1.3m: R120 or R230 to include mine tour      
Guests under 1.3m: R130 or R240 to include mine tour  
Students and seniors 60+: R175 or R285 to include mine tour
Heritage Mine Tour: R340
Children under 3 years are admitted free of charge
https://www.tsogosun.com/gold-reef-city-casino

 

 

Soweto

Soweto is a the largest black town in South Africa and is known for its culture, history and the home of Nelson Mandela. Great local food can be found around town with an entertaining culture and lifestyle.

 

Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial

The museum was built in honor of Hector Pieterson and is located only two blocks away from where Hector was shot and killed.  For those who do not know the story, students were walking to the stadium to gather for a protest and were met by the police. The children threw stones at the police and the police responded with gunfire. Hector was the first one to be shot by the police. This tragic event started the 1976 uprising in Soweto and throughout the country. The museum is dedicated to all the children, women and men, whose lives were lost during the apartheid tyranny. Outside the museum is a beautiful memorial which represents the event of the students and police officers. The memorial is built with a fountain that flows to the streets – the water flowing symbolizes the blood shed from the children. The iconic picture of Hector dying in the arms of another Soweto resident with his sister next to them, is placed next to the memorial.

Tip: If you are going to the Apartheid Museum, it is suggested not to visit the Hector Pieterson museum on the same day because of the amount of emotion placed upon the visitors. It is also said that a visit to the Apartheid Museum is enough to capture the history of the events, but if you want to learn more of what happened in Soweto then going inside the Hector Pieterson Museum is advised. Otherwise seeing the memorial with a tour guide to explain the symbolism of the event is enough.

8287 Khumalo Rd
Orlando West, Johannesburg, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 536 0611
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sundays: 10am – 4pm
Adults: R30
Students and seniors: R10
Children (ages 6 to 12): R5
https://www.gauteng.net/attractions/hector_pieterson_memorial_and_museum/

 

Orlando Towers

What was once used as a power station for over 50 years, is now South Africa’s largest mural painting in the country and a place to have fun. Soweto has a lot of culture and history, which the Orlando Towers signifies in their colorful painted murals that can be seen from miles away. For those seeking adrenaline, you can bungee jump, base jump or freefall from the top of the towers! After you enjoy your thrill of choice from the Orlando Towers, don’t forget to dine at Chaf Pozi (more info on the restaurant at Places to Dine). Spending a day at Orlando Towers and finishing your evening at Chaf Pozi will be an experience you will never forget in Johannesburg!

Chris Hani Rd, Soweto 1808
Johannesburg, 1809, South Africa
+27 71 674 4343
Thursday: 12pm – 5pm
Friday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Prices vary depending on activity
http://www.orlandotowers.co.za

 

Nelson Mandela House

Visiting Nelson Meandela’s House is almost a must when visiting Johannesburg! If you are fans of the legendary man, we highly recommend you visit his house. The house is full of gifts he received from leaders all over the world, in addition to awards he received throughout his life. Outside the house, visitors can see and feel with their fingers the bullet holes from people who shot at his house. Inside the house, visitors can see the last picture ever took of him before he was imprisoned next to the picture of him when he was released.

8115 Vilakazi St & Ngakane St
Orlando West, Johannesburg, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 936 7754
Open Daily: 9am – 5pm
Adults: R60
Students, seniors and children over 6 years: R20
children under 6 years: R5
http://www.mandelahouse.com

 

Playing Soccer with the Children

As we were driving throughout Soweto we kept seeing several children playing soccer in the middle of the streets. When we parked to visit the Nelson Mandela House, there were children playing in the parking lot. As soccer players, we could not resist playing with the children, so we joined them. It was a surreal experience that we will never forget. If you happen to find street vendors selling soccer balls, it would change the children’s world if you buy one for them, otherwise they will love it if you join them in a game or two!

 

 

 

Places to Dine

 

Homestead

Homestead focuses on South African food using the freshest and local ingredients. Their speciality is called “bowl’d food” where guests pick their starch, meat, vegetables, sauce and salad – essentially all of the components are served in bowls and placed on a wooden tray. One of their starch options is pap, also known as mieliepap, which is a traditional South African corn porridge, similar to polenta, but prepared differently. We recommend guests to enjoy it with a meat stew served on top.

58 Anderson St
Marshalltown, Johannesburg, 2107, South Africa
+27 11 689 1000
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 10pm
Sunday: closed
$$ – $$$
http://homestead.co.za

 

Aurelia’s Restaurant

A luxury dining experience at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. The ambience of Aurelia’s Restaurant during the night is romantic with its dim lighting, candles and fresh flowers on the table. Their dinner menu is quite extensive, which showcases the chef’s creative molecular gastronomy appetizers, entrees and desserts. The dishes have a little Mediterranean flare with some South African cuisine that can please any palate. To read our full review of Aurelia’s Restaurant, click here.

64 Jones Rd, O.R. Tambo
Kempton Park, 1627, South Africa
+27 11 928 1727
Lunch served daily: 12:30pm – 4pm
Dinner served daily: 6:30pm – 10pm
$$$$
http://www.emperorspalace.com/things-to-do/restaurants/aurelias-restaurant

 

Chaf Pozi

After you experience the Orlando Towers, dine at Chaf Pozi, an authentic South African Shisa Nyama (barbecue) cuisine restaurant at the base of the towers. At night, Chaf Pozi turns into a shebeen (live music and dancing), which is an integral part of South African urban culture and represents a sense of community, identity, and belonging.

Chaf Pozi
Chris Hani Rd, Soweto 1808
Johannesburg, 1809, South Africa
+27 81 797 5756
Monday – Thursday: 11am – 6pm
Friday – Sunday: 9am – 2am
$$-$$$
http://chafpozi.co.za

 

Sakhumzi Restaurant

Located across the street from the Nelson Mandela House is Sakhumzi, which serves local Soweto, authentic-home cooked cuisine. We have never encountered such a vibrant community during a dining experience. Everyone greeted us with a warm welcome as if we were family. Everything is made fresh from the kitchen and served as either a buffet or a la carte from the menu. The buffet has a great selection of authentic Soweto food, from traditional pap to lamb stew, sausage, tripe, cow tongue and more.

6980 Vilakazi St
Orlando West, Soweto, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 536 1379
Monday – Thursday: 11am – 10pm
Friday – Sunday: 11am – 12am
$$ – $$$
https://sakhumzi.co.za/our-story/

 

 

Places to Stay

Johannesburg is full of several different types of beautiful hotels – boutique, eco-friendly, luxurious and more. We highly recommend two hotels, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace and The Reef Hotel. Both hotels are amazing for different reasons.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is a five star hotel and the perfect hotel for layovers, as well as, a phenomenal hotel for luxurious vacations. It is in between Johannesburg’s central business district and Soweto, so also great for location. Click here to read more about this hotel.

The Reef Hotel is a four star hotel located in the heart of Johannesburg – the central business district. The hotel has some amazing features, such as a jacuzzi on their sun deck and a rooftop bar. Click here to read more about this hotel.

In addition to these two hotels, here are more fabulous hotels to stay at:

  • Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff
  • Hyatt Regency Johannessburg
  • The Peech Hotel
  • Saxon Hill, ranked as one of the Worlds Best Hotels in Travel and Leisure.

Book your hotel in Johannesburg by using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us!

Booking.com

 

 

Based on our experience, we suggest at least two full days in Johannesburg! Spend one day in the heart of Johannesburg and another day in Soweto. There is truly so much to see and experience in Johannesburg. It is not a city to be used as a layover, it is a city to be seen! We hope this guide has been helpful and given you a new and better perspective of Johanessburg.

 

Christina + Adam

 

 

Blog, Las Vegas, Nevada, Travel

Vegas Strong – A City Still Shining Bright

As some of our readers may know, we met in Las Vegas and lived there for two years. We both moved to Las Vegas shortly after we graduated from our universities and went there to grow in our careers in a management training program. For us, Las Vegas is where we truly started our lives. Most people feel a great connection to the city where they move to after college and for us it is no different – we met, fell in love, made lifelong friends and started our careers. We love Las Vegas with every inch of our body and sometimes think we might move back one day because of how much we loved our two years there. So, when we heard about the Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on October 1, 2017 we were more than devastated.

We will never forget where we were when we heard the news of the Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. We just entered the airport lounge at the Kruger International Airport and were handing the agent our Priority Pass cards when we saw CNN news on the television. The agent was trying to hand back our cards, for who knows how long, because everything around us didn’t matter – our world, our home was just attacked and nothing seemed right anymore. At the time we were watching the news, the event had just happened less than three hours ago, and with the time differences most of the United States citizens had no idea what was transpiring. We watched the news waiting to hear more information; it went from 20 dead and 200 injured to 58 dead and over 500 injured in just an hour, making it the deadliest shooting in modern US history. Our hearts felt broken and we felt helpless being in Africa. We remembered Facebook had a “check-in” feature and we quickly started asking all of our friends to check in – we had no idea if we had people we cared about at the concert and that was frightening.

The next thing we knew, we were on our flight back to Johannesburg, South Africa. When we landed, we found out that we had two friends at the concert, Alexa and Tyler. We were relieved to know that they were both safe at home and could not imagine what they just went through.

 

a sushi double date with Tyler and Alexa

It is sad to say, but the truth for us (and for a lot of people) is that we stop for a few moments of silence when we hear about tragic events all around the world, but then we carry on with our lives. We still feel bad for what happened, but at the end of the day we go on with our lives because we weren’t the ones affected. I think a lot of people can agree that they feel and do the same. It is only human nature and nothing to be ashamed of. Even with Las Vegas, a place we call home, a place where we had two friends at the concert, we still went on with our lives – we went on to enjoy the rest of our trip throughout Africa. It was not until we went to Las Vegas a week ago (October 21-24) and saw the aftermath and strength of the city, that it became more real – we felt more of a connection to the shooting than ever. When we saw the memorial with our own eyes, our world never felt smaller. When we saw everyone showing their remorse with flowers, candles and other tokens, we felt more connected to the victims, especially our friends and city than ever before. A lot of thoughts went through our minds during these moments, we thought to ourselves that we wished we felt this way before. We thought, how can we make others feel the way we feel right now standing at this memorial, while they are not? Thus the purpose of this article.

Our goal with this article, is to help others understand that though it is okay to carry on with your lives after hearing about a tragic event, we want our audience to place themselves in someone else’s shoes, because that is how we felt when we were in Las Vegas last week. It is one thing to see it on television, but it is another to be there and really feel the affect in person. We also hope to show our audience how this city has come together to be stronger than ever. It is a shame that it takes a tragic event to bring people together, but with darkness there is light. And as we all know, Las Vegas is full of light!

photo credit: The National Compassion Fund

An Interview With Alexa

Our amazing friend Alexa agreed to participate in an interview to showcase the terrible events she and others had to go through and how she has overcome the tragedy. Her interview gives us insight on the night of October 1st and a chance to really feel connected to her story. If you need to, we recommend grabbing some tissues because her story is definitely not an easy one to share.

 

You are a born and raised Vegas citizen, how does this make you feel towards your city?

I am, yes. It doesn’t change how much I truly love this city. I haven’t been able to drive back to the scene or near Mandalay Bay, but I think overtime I will be able to.

 

What remarkable moments have you witnessed of the city or people coming together to help make Vegas strong?

The amount of people that visit the Vegas sign where the shrine is located, is amazing. It is great to see people going there to pay their respects and/or bring flowers, candles, cards, etc. I have also been so proud to work for MGM Resorts International. They instantly provided anything and everything needed for the employees who were there that night. They called to check in on how I was doing and reminded me of the options I had. My coworkers were there for me when I had no concentration, energy, and would sometimes just cry out of nowhere.

  

How did you get out safely?

Once the second round of bullets started going off we ran inside the VIP cubes when a gentleman (I am assuming was in the army based on his hat) told us to get down to the floor in which we listened. After that we thought, “no way are we staying here, the gunman is going to come inside and shoot us.” Another man looked us in the eyes and told us “RUN.” We ran out the back door of the VIP cube, to the back where the fence had been opened. We ran across the street and started to run East, but that is when we heard gunfire to our right thinking the gunman were coming that way. Later, we found out this is when he was shooting at the fuel tanks. We then turned North and hopped the fence to the church, ran through the parking lot, hopped the next fence, and started running through the parking lot in between the Tropicana hotel and the Hooters hotel. I had parked my car over in that lot since we were late to the concert. After initially passing my car, we ran back to it, laid on my horn so we wouldn’t hit all the people running around us and drove out. We followed a big truck that ran over a planter, knocking down the bushes, which helped my car to go over and out onto the road.

 

If you had time to process or think while seeking safety, what was going through your mind?

Everyone has a different survival mode, according to my grief counselor. For example, Tyler instantly blacked out and doesn’t really remember anything. He doesn’t remember the route we took or the people that were around us. I, however, remember every little detail. I can tell you though, you don’t think AT ALL. I remember not knowing who to trust. Some people would tell you to get down and others would tell you to run. You’re obviously in fight-or-flight mode so you just think RUN, RUN, RUN. The hard part about this incident was it sounded like the gun fire was coming from everywhere due to the echo.

 

You have gone to Coachella four years in a row, do you foresee yourself going to Coachella or future outdoor concerts/festivals after Route 91 Harvest Festival?

To be honest, it definitely scares me. Will I be able to enjoy myself fully? Probably not. However, I don’t want to live the rest of my life in fear. Tyler and I love festivals and concerts so we will just have to try our best to start enjoying them again.

 

Do you live your life differently after October 1st and if so, how?

I 100% live my life differently after that night. There is just so much more to life and I don’t let the little things bother me anymore. I am very close with my family, but I feel like I do everything I can to talk/see them as many times as I can. When/if something comes up, I just remember how truly grateful I am to be alive. Nothing is scarier than fearing for your life. It changes everything!

 

After a month, how are you feeling?

I am definitely feeling better. I still have those days where I just feel anxious and scared or so sad for everyone involved. I actually was falling asleep last night and started hearing the gun fire again! So scary!

 

How are you working through this trauma?

You just do your best. You cry if you need to, talk to anyone, keep yourself surrounded and especially try to continue on with your life.

There will be times where certain sounds, sound just like the gunfire which will bring you to an instant panic. This can be known as PTSD, but overtime it will get better and we won’t jump at the sounds we hear.

Trauma comes with a lot of different symptoms as well, like loss of memory, hard time concentrating, confusion, anxiety, feeling hopeless, and most of all guilt. Both Tyler and I struggle a lot with the guilt aspect of it. We are very thankful to have gotten out with just bruises (which I still have a month later!!!), but to know that we got out so quick and with minor injuries brings on a lot of guilt for us. It shouldn’t, but it does. Maybe we could have helped people on our way, thrown people into my car, anything. Again this goes back to your survival mode and understanding that what you did at the moment, was what your brain was telling you to do.

I think back though, if I had saw someone get shot; I know I would have stopped to help in some way!

 

Do you have any stories you wish to share?

While running for safety, I dropped my nice David Yurman bracelet my parents got me. I only realized a couple days later that I didn’t have it. I thought it was long gone by now, since it’s a nice piece of jewelry. About a week and half later from the incident, I went on to the FBI website and filed a claim for my bracelet in hopes maybe it was still at the festival grounds. A couple days later I was told to go to the Family Center that was open for the survivors, family members, friends etc. After a lot of questioning (in a good way) from the FBI, they went into the back area and came back with my bracelet. As you can imagine, I was shocked they retrieved it. I instantly started crying and was terrified to look at it in case there was blood on it. Thankfully it didn’t! I wear it every day still as a reminder of just how lucky I was that night.

 

 

The City and Nation Coming Together

It was refreshing to hear how so many people came together to help the victims and their families. Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air offered free flights to family members of people who were killed or injured in the shooting. MGM Resorts International provided free rooms at the Bellagio to the victims’ family members and also provided meals to workers at the hospital. They are also selling Vegas Strong merchandise (hats, shirts, sweatshirts, tumblers and more) to be purchased at gift shops. All of the t-shirt sales are being donated to the MGM Resorts Foundation to support the first responders, the victims and families affected by the shooting. UFC, Zappos and Station Casinos all donated $1 million each to the families of the victims. Uber and Lyft offered free rides to and from blood donation centers, hospitals and relief centers. Domino’s Pizza delivered free pizzas to police officers, first responders, hospital workers and people in the waiting rooms. So many people were lined up to donate blood that they had to start sending them away, so instead of turning around, they went and bought water and snacks to all those volunteering and donating blood. These are just a few stories of how people came together because there were truly so many people helping in many different ways, the stories are almost endless.

 

 

Showing Strength Throughout the City

Throughout the city, people will find billboards from dozens of different companies showing their support to the city and victims with #VegasStrong. Seeing it around the city is uplifting and inspiring. We saw it throughout the Vegas Strip, T-Mobile stadium, Downtown Las Vegas, the airport and on the highways to the suburban neighborhoods. Even on the radio station commercials and talk hosts would touch on the Vegas shooting. The most significant #VegasStrong sign is perhaps the window banner at Mandalay Bay, right above where the shooting perspired.

photo credit: ABCnews

Las Vegas Sign Memorial

When we visited the Las Vegas sign to promote Mariamor Designs All You Need Is Love bracelet, we had no idea there was a memorial for all the victims who passed away from the shooting. What was once a place tourists go to take pictures in front of the famous Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, is now a beautiful memorial where people show their respect. We witnessed people giving flowers, candles and more, to some of the victims’ crosses. What touched us significantly was seeing several different national flags from other countries around the world. It is a beautiful memorial where a lot of people have come to place their token of respect and remorse.

 

The memorial was created by Zanis, a retired Chicago-area carpenter who built each tribute. He has driven to several states to donate his crosses and create similar memorials for fallen victims for 20 years, including, the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Columbine High School shooting, the Colorado theatre shooting and for the hundreds of gun violence victims in Chicago from 2016 to 2017. Needless to say, Zanis is a remarkable man with a big heart.

We do not know how long this memorial will be at the Welcome Las Vegas sign, if it will stay there forever or make its way to a new home. If you are traveling to Las Vegas, we encourage you to show your respect at the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign.

 

 

Thank you

We want to extend our thank you to everyone who has helped with the aftermath of October 1st, whether you donated, were a first responder, nurse or doctor and more, thank you for your services to help those in need. Thank you for making a difference no matter how big or small. We know that every bit of help makes the biggest difference.

 

Making a Difference

Las Vegas and the victims have endured a great deal. As you can see with Alexa’s interview, the shooting may have been a month ago, but people are still healing and there will never be a set time of when people will no longer need help. So, if you can take the opportunity to help in anyway, we highly encourage you do so. Here are a couple places where you can donate:

  • Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas started a Gofundme for the victims’ families. They have already raised over $11 million and are close to reaching their goal of $15 million. To help this fund, click here.
  • The National Compassion Fund has partnered with the Las Vegas Victims Fund. 100% of the funds received through the National Compassion Fund Las Vegas will be distributed directly to victims. To help this fun, click here.

 

 

With Love,

Christina + Adam

 

 

Blog, Lifestyle, Travel

Mariamor Designs – The Perfect Handmade Jewelry for Traveling

Do you live by an inspirational quote that you wish you carried with you every day? Do you want to spread more love into this world? Are you in need of some new jewelry that brings a smile to your face? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have exactly what you are looking for!

Full disclaimer: I have bought all of my necklaces with the exception of my sponsored Wanderlust necklace. My opinions are my own.   

 

About Mariamor Designs

Mariamor Designs, a jewelry company based out of Orange, California,  is owned and operated by Mary Grace Schmidt. Mary creates handmade jewelry with love by using real American currency that have been collected from the ground. There are dozens of coin designs to choose from and each one can be either strung on a necklace, bracelet or made into a ring. Each piece of jewelry is made with only the best materials; sterling silver (the same metal used by Tiffany!), gold-filled, or semi-precious stone chains. A CZ cross, heart or star charm can also be added to any jewelry piece. The options to customize your lucky penny with Mariamor Designs are endless!

What makes Mariamor Designs jewelry special, is that each handmade coin is designed to spread love, happiness, beauty and joy into the world. When you wear your piece of jewelry, you instantly feel a part of what it represents. For those that find themselves lost, a piece from Mariamor Designs is a simple reminder that they are loved and special in their own way, every single day.

 

Love Club

Mariamor Designs’ Love Club is Mary’s way of spreading a little extra love into the world. Each month a new coin design is created with a purpose in mind; a reason for that message each month. It ties to world events, holidays, weather patterns, or trending topics.

With each coin, you receive a new piece of jewelry: necklace, bracelet, keychain, and even wine glass charms! This amazing membership is available in two different versions: Love Club and Love Club Premier. The Love Club members receive monthly gifts, and quarterly pieces of high-end jewelry for ONLY $10 a month. The Love Club Premier program receives monthly gifts with the same coin, but retailing a value of $60 each month for only $19.99! Each membership receives their monthly piece of jewelry with a beautiful letter explaining the theme of the month and the inspiration behind the coin. Members receive these pieces of jewelry weeks before they are released to the public or can even receive limited edition coins! Some previous Love Club items have been:

 

What makes this membership fun is not only the monthly pieces you receive, but also the individuality promoted. Each piece is meant to be interchangeable and can be modified specifically for you! After a year of the Love Club I have a dozen different coins I can wear depending on my mood and what message I want to share. Because of the versatility of Mariamor, I have removed some of my coins on necklaces and placed them on my bangle instead. As I mentioned before… ENDLESS options to entertain your creativity.  You can also layer your necklaces and bangles to look cute and spread double or triple the love! My favorite combo is my Wanderlust necklace with my All You Need Is Love  bangle. I fulfill my wanderlust while spreading the message that all we need… LOVE!

Throughout the year, members not only receive their monthly piece of jewelry, but sometimes they receive a bonus piece or a special gift as well. As an avid traveler, I loved my Love Club luggage tag gift! It is always on my suitcase when I travel and I can always easily spot it out!

Finally, the best part of Love Club is being able to purchase the pieces you LOVE the most as many times as you want and for a discounted price! Members receive up to 40% OFF of Mariamor “Love Club Extras” that can be added to your shipments, as well as an additional 10% OFF the whole website! For example, you can purchase any additional Love Club coin for only $12 as well as a new keychain, charm, bangle, or necklace to accompany it (prices vary). They make the perfect gift!

 

Customized Designs

Build Your Own

With Mariamor Designs you can be the artist! Just let your creativity flow by choosing from dozens of coin and chain options; she can help make the perfect design for you! From sorority sister gifts, to Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day gifts, Mariamor Designs can do it all!

Foreign Currency

For those avid travelers like myself, I always come home with extra foreign currency as a little souvenir. Mariamor Designs can custom design your special piece of foreign currency! Talk about the perfect souvenir from your travels!

photo courtesy of Mariamor Designs

Bridal Gifts

Mariamor Designs offers the best bridal gifts for the flower girl, bridesmaids, maid of honor, mother of the bride or groom and of course the bride to be! All you have to do is email your customized design idea to Mariamor Designs and they will make the perfect bridal gifts for you.

Charity Events

Mariamor Designs was created on the basis of spreading love every day, and what better way to spread love than at charity events? The coins can be custom designed with your organization and a message you wish to share to your donors and supporters.

To create your custom design jewelry pieces contact Mary via email at mariamordesigns@gmail.com 

 

Love You

A LOVE YOU dime on a sterling silver chain was my very first Mariamor Designs jewelry piece, I received it shortly after Mary opened her business in 2016. I brought my Love You necklace with me to Europe and wore it constantly to help spread love throughout the cities. At the time, Europe was going through a series of tragic events and I wanted to help spread love where it was needed. Whether it was walking the streets of Florence, or sailing in Lake Garda, Italy, I loved wearing my necklace. It has a classic and simple design that any girl would “love” to have!

 

Be The Change

Inspired by one of Ghandi’s most influential quotes, Be The Change is one of the most inspiring coin designs Mariamor offers. As I said before, when you wear your Mariamor Designs’ piece, you instantly feel a part of what it represents. When I went to the Tujatane School in Zambia to donate school supplies and Mariamor Designs’ necklaces, I knew exactly which necklace I wanted to wear that day: (Shelby’s) Be The Change penny and peach moonstone necklace. The necklace and my trip made me feel as if I was a part of something bigger than myself. I was spreading love, happiness, beauty and joy into these children’s lives and I believe that is the purpose of Mariamor: to wear a piece of jewelry that will make you want to inspire yourself and others, even if it is just making someone smile.

 

All You Need Is Love

Inspired by The Beatles, the All You Need Is Love quarter is one of my favorite pieces of Mariamor Designs. The message is simple and effective. I have this wonderful coin on my silver sterling bangle with a heart charm that fits perfect on my wrist. During my recent trip to Las Vegas, I wore this piece every day because though the city is holding strong, it is also in need of love. In hard times like these, spreading love is exactly what we need and I was proud to be able to represent love with Mariamor Designs in Las Vegas.

 

Wanderlust

I love every piece of jewelry I have received from Mariamor Designs, but my absolute favorite is my Wanderlust quarter necklace. As my readers know, I travel often, thus I have a lot of wanderlust in my bones, so what better piece of jewelry to wear when I travel than my Wanderlust necklace?!?!? I never travel without it and I swear it brings good luck and love whenever I wear it. I’ve traveled to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Las Vegas with my Wanderlust necklace and they have been some of the best trips of my life. Could it be because of my necklace? I think so!

I have partnered with Mariamor Designs to offer a 25% OFF discount on the Wanderlust necklace! This is the biggest discount yet, so be sure to take advantage of it! Just use the code WANDERLUST25 at checkout and plan your next trip while you wait for your necklace. Hurry! Offer ends on November 30th, 2017! 

 

More Coin Options

Here are more coin options to choose from, in addition to even more available online at Mariamor Designs website!

 

So the next time you are going to make a difference, you can wear your Mariamor Designs Be The Change. When you are going on your next destination, wear your Mariamor Designs Wanderlust necklace. When you need some strength, faith or hope, wear your Mariamor Designs pieces. Wear them with pride, joy, inspiration and happiness to spread love and your desired message everyday!

Mariamor Deigns 
http://mariamordesigns.com

 

Every day, spread love,

Christina

 

Africa, Blog, Food, South Africa, Travel

The Reef Hotel – a 4 Star Hotel in the Heart of Johannesburg

With only one night in Johannesburg as a layover to Phinda Game Reserve, we were grateful for the opportunity to stay at The Reef Hotel, a four star. The Reef Hotel is in the heart of Johannesburg – the central business district. It is the perfect location to do some sightseeing and a great hotel to spend one night or a full weekend in Johannesburg.

Full disclaimer: This was a sponsored stay from Joburg Tourism, but our opinions are our own.

The Reef Hotel first opened in 1990, but was remodeled in 2010 to host the World Cup! As soccer players and fans of the game, we thought it was pretty cool to stay in a World Cup hosted hotel. Before it was a hotel, it was an office building – which means that being amongst the skyscrapers in the central business district, the hotel is tall with 15 floors. Each floor has its own purpose:

  • The ground floor has the bell desk/concierge, art gallery and Homestead restaurant
  • The third floor has the front desk, bar and lounge, Grill Room restaurant and the sun deck
  • The fourth floor has conference facilities and meeting rooms
  • The remaining floors have the rooms
  • The top floor, also known as the balcony, has Elevate Rooftop

 

Accommodation

Reef Hotel has 120 suite rooms with two options, a standard or deluxe room. Guests cannot go wrong with either room as they are both fully equipped with a modern design. They both have the option of a double or twin bed, city views, air conditioning, a desk, complimentary Wi-Fi, plasma TV with cable, shower, hairdryer, coffee machine and an electronic safe. In addition to these room amenities, the deluxe room also offers a full sized bath and complimentary breakfast. Check out our video below to see the room in full detail!

 

Each room offers a beautiful floor to ceiling backdrop of a black and white picture that represents Johannesburg’s culture and history. Our standard room had a picture of one of Johannesburg’s mine shafts used to find gold. It was a very fitting room for us as we were excited to learn about Johannesburg’s history.

We found the room to be very spacious and had everything we needed for a comfortable stay, including a fresh bottle of water and toiletries. The bed and pillow (the most important part of a room), felt like we were sleeping on clouds, which was exactly what we needed after a long 18 hour flight.

 

 

Features and Amenities

The Reef Hotel offers plenty of features and amenities that are helpful to their guests.

  • Complimentary transportation within 3 miles of the hotel
  • Airport shuttle for R450 ZAR each way (1 -3passengers), must be booked ahead of time
  • Free indoor parking
  • A relaxing jacuzzi on the sun deck (must reserve two hours before)
  • Conference facilities and meeting rooms for up to 200 people
  • Art gallery
  • Sun deck
  • Disabled access rooms
  • Non-smoking rooms
  • Laundry services, charges apply
  • 24 hour room service
  • On-site restaurants
  • Bar/lounge

 

Food and Beverage

The Reef Hotel offers guests dining options from two different restaurants. Their on-site restaurant on the third floor, the Grill Room and the Homestead restaurant connected to The Reef Hotel on the ground level. Every meal we had during our stay at The Reef Hotel was delicious.

 

Homestead

We dined at Homestead for dinner right after we checked in, therefore it was our very first South african meal and it was delectable. Homestead focuses on South African food using the freshest and local ingredients. Their speciality is called “bowl’d food” where guests pick their starch, meat, vegetables, sauce and salad – essentially all of the components are served in bowls and placed on a wooden tray. One of their starch options is pap, also known as mieliepap, which is a traditional South African corn porridge, similar to polenta, but prepared differently. Being the foodies that we are, we tried the pap and recommend guests to enjoy it with a meat stew served on top. We both also enjoyed their flame-grilled chuck blade steak, which was amazing! It was perfectly seasoned and tender – one of the best steaks we have ever had.

 

The Grill Room

The Grill Room was not open when we stayed at The Reef Hotel, but rest assured it is opening near the end of this month! Guests should be excited to dine at their new restaurant as their menu offers an array of beautiful cuts of meats that pair perfectly with any of their seven sauces. From the classic T-bone and ribeye steak to the beautiful tomahawk steak, the Grill Room has it all for any meat lover. In addition to their steaks, the Grill Room also has composed entrees of oxtail, osso bucco, kingklip fillet and chicken breast. The best part, quality food for a great price! The highest priced steak is listed at R210 ZAR, converted to U.S. dollars that is $16 (Oct 2017), that is a steal! We wish we could have dined here because we have no doubt the Grill Room serves fantastic food.

 

Breakfast

Breakfast is complimentary for guests staying in a deluxe room and R171 ZAR ($12 Oct 2017) for guests staying in a standard room. The Reef Hotel does a wonderful job with their breakfast. Guests have plenty of options to choose from including, fresh eggs cooked any way you want it, bacon, sausage, beans, braised vegetables, hash browns, cold meats, cheese, fresh fruit, yogurt, danishes and more.  After a great breakfast like this one, we were ready to tackle our day in Johannesburg!

 

Bar/Lounge

The bar/lounge is located behind the front desk on the third floor. The 360° bar is centered and serves the best South African wines and beers, as well as spirits and house-made cocktails. Not only does the bar serve alcohol, but they also serve coffee and make a great cup of latte.

 

Elevate Rooftop

The Elevate Rooftop is a luxury venue opened to both in-house and outside guests. It is only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 3pm to 10pm, so unfortunately we did not get to experience the fun ourselves, but the staff did let us check it out and it seems like the place everyone wants to be. Elevate Rooftop is an indoor and outdoor venue with 360° views of the City of Gold. These views can be accessed by the rooftop surrounding the inside glassed-in venue which features beautiful lounge spaces, a DJ booth and a bar presented by Skyy Vodka. Check out their website here to get all the details on upcoming events hosted at Elevate Rooftop.

 

Service

We received a warm welcome when we arrived at The Reef Hotel. The bellman immediately helped us with our bags and the front desk agents were very friendly. In the evening, the front desk serve complimentary apple juice, which was refreshing after our long flight. In the morning, they serve fresh orange juice. The front desk agents were always helpful in providing us with information to make our stay relaxing. Everyone we encountered at The Reef Hotel always greeted us with a friendly smile and excellent customer service. From the bellman, to the front desk and servers – we enjoyed every interaction with the staff.

In our rooms we received a welcome card from our housekeeper, Irene, and a welcome letter from the general manager with details of our visit and information to help with any questions we may have had. We appreciated both these small touches of customer service.

 

Three Notable Highlights

We enjoyed everything about The Reef Hotel, from our comfortable room, to the customer service and food – we loved it all, but there were three things we truly loved that really made The Reef Hotel stand out to us.

 

Hospitality/Culinary Program

Being in both the hospitality and culinary industry ourselves, we really appreciated The Reef Hotel’s initiative to hire students from a hospitality or culinary school. The students are not full time employees, but in-training to gain first hand experience. We know that is an important role to grow in this career and it was refreshing to see so many students working here. Bravo to the students and The Reef Hotel.

 

Eco-Friendly

Another huge initiative on The Reef Hotel’s part is their eco-friendliness. Not only are they supporting their community, but they are also supporting the Earth. We found The Reef Hotel to be very eco-friendly with their electricity. The lights in the hallways were motioned censored, it was almost pitch dark when we exited the elevator to our room floor and as we walked down the hallway closer to our room, a light would turn on. This continued until we were at our door. Inside our room the electricity was controlled with our room key – we had to place our room key in a key holder (the power saver) and then all the electricity would turn on including air conditioning, lights and power outlets. When we took the key card out of the power saver, everything would turn off 30-45 seconds later to allow us time to exit. This is also a great way for guests to not lose their key card!

 

 

Humor to Make You Smile

One thing that is hard to find in hotels is humor and character. Hotels are always trying to provide excellent customer service, state of the art technology, delicious food and luxurious rooms, but rarely do we ever stay in a hotel where there is character that really makes us laugh and feel more at home. Every hotel room has their own “do not disturb” sign and notepad and they are usually a simple, cookie cutter design. The Reef Hotel takes this basic feature and owns it with humor to connect with their guests by bringing a smile to their faces. We always enjoy staying in a hotel where they go above and beyond or think outside the box and The Reef Hotel does exactly that! Just take a look at the pictures and we guarantee you will smile too.

 

Location

For travelers coming from outside South Africa, a lot of times we have heard that they never want to travel within Johannesburg because of safety reasons. We can confidently say that we never felt unsafe and really enjoyed The Reef Hotel’s location. Located within the central business district, The Reef Hotel is truly in the heart of Johannesburg, providing easy access to explore the City Centre or travel to surrounding suburbs of Johannesburg for some sightseeing. The City Centre district, which has several bars, restaurants, a stadium and a casino to enjoy, is only a ten minute walk away. The historical Constitutional Hill (a must visit) is only 8 minutes away by car and from there travelers can use a hop on-hop off bus to travel to more sights within the city. Soweto, another location we recommend travelers to visit, is only around 20-25 minutes away by car. Lastly, it is an easy 20 minute drive away from the airport.

 

Overall

We really enjoyed our stay with The Reef Hotel. The staff was friendly and helpful, the food was delicious, the rooms were spacious and comfortable and we enjoyed the location. If you are visiting Johannesburg for more than one day to explore the city, then we highly recommend you stay at The Reef Hotel – it has everything you need to make your visit to Johannesburg enjoyable!

 

Book Your Stay at The Reef Hotel

For the standard room rate the prices vary around $70 for two people and around $100 for a deluxe room, which includes breakfast for two people. Again, if you are visiting Johannesburg for more than one day to explore its rich culture and history, we recommend The Reef Hotel.

If you think this hotel is a good fit for you, please book it using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us!

 

Booking.com

 

The Reef Hotel
58 Anderson St, Marshalltown
Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 11 689 1000
http://reefhotel.co.za

 

Christina + Adam

 

Africa, Blog, Food, South Africa, Travel

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace – The Best Luxury Layover

Like us, most international travelers flying into Johannesburg’s O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), are there for a quick layover to continue onto their final destination – a game reserve for safaris. Though we highly recommend travelers to explore Johannesburg, sometimes there is not enough time to sightsee or jet lag travelers just want to relax before they continue onto another flight the next day. This leaves travelers with a few hotel options that are close to the airport, but none compare to the award winning, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is a five star luxury hotel just five minutes away from O. R. Tambo International Airport. You might be thinking that you will hear planes fly over often and it will be loud, we only heard one plane and it was early in the evening – no planes ever disrupted our sleep.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is one of four hotels in Peermont’s Emperor’s Palace complex. The complex or Emperor’s Palace is Johannesburg’s Las Vegas – it has a lot of hotels in a small space with plenty of dining options, live entertainment and fun chances of winning big at the casino. Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace has also been awarded by International Hotel Awards in 2014 for Convention Hotel South Africa, Airport Hotel South Africa, Best Airport Hotel Africa and Best International Airport Hotel. So, as you can already gather, this truly is the best hotel near O. R. Tambo International Airport to relax, eat and play.

 

Lovely Aesthetics

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace blew us away with their luxury touches throughout the resort. From the moment we entered the lobby till we walked into our room, it truly was an Emperor’s Palace. Even the exterior of the hotel is beautiful with its palace-esque architecture and green roof – it is even more beautiful lit up at night. Any woman staying at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace overnight will feel like a princess or a queen.

As soon as guests walk through the revolving doors, an open lobby with high painted ceilings welcomes everyone. Guests are immediately transported from the outside world of Johannesburg, to an entirely different world inside Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. The theme throughout the resort has an Ancient Roman and Italian Renaissance era ambience.

The front desk compliments the lobby with a simple wooden desk and marble table top, two beautiful picture frames and a welcoming Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace sign. The lobby and front desk are the first things the guests see and sets the tone of the positive experiences guests will receive during their stay.

Through the lobby is a grand piano in the middle of the foyer or cocktail lounge, right before Aurelia’s Restaurant continuing with the luxurious atmosphere of the resort. Aurelia’s Cocktail Bar is positioned at the corner of the lounge with a wonderful glass display of spirits.

In addition to the front desk and reception area, there is also a guest relations and concierge desk for guests to use at their disposal. There are only five floors, but they have long and extravagant hallways. The vibrant gold, maroon and blue floral carpet play well with the lightly gold tinted wallpaper. It is a very inviting hallway to your room, which is even more spectacular.

Luxurious Rooms

There are 182 luxurious rooms at the Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. Within the 182 rooms are 16 different types of rooms and suites. Regardless if guests are staying in the Classic or Deluxe Room or if they are staying in a Suite, every room is spacious and magnificent. Every guest staying in a room at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace also receives complimentary breakfast at Aurelia’s Restaurant.

We had the luxury of being upgraded to an Deluxe Suite Room and it was spectacular! When we entered our suite we felt like we had just won the jackpot. Every piece of furniture looked like it belonged in a real queen or king’s palace. The Deluxe Suite Room comes with a half bath, a grand living room, a bedroom with a full desk, a king sized bed and a huge bathroom with double sinks, a bathtub, fancy toilet and an overhead shower. Though the suite was impressive, we were surprised to find a bottle of chilled champagne with two champagne glasses waiting for us, as well as a romantic gesture of rose petals laid across our bed and bathtub, (we were celebrating our two year wedding anniversary). We could have lived like royalty in this suite forever – we absolutely loved this suite and is by far one of our favorite hotel rooms we have ever stayed in.

The living room area had the most beautiful furniture! It consisted of a seating area and dining area. There was a sofa, two chairs, a love seat, and dining room chairs, all with a tone of a luscious red. Every seat felt as comfortable as it looked and the chandelier was the final touch of luxury. In the dining area there was an espresso machine with my favorite espresso brand, Lavazza.

The bedroom was gorgeous with the silver plush backboard and royal-esuqe golden wallpaper. There were also more chairs in the bedroom with a silver touch of color and a desk that had a business panel equipped with a HDMI, USB, audio, PC, video and universal outlet. It had everything you could need for your computer and/or technology equipment.

The bathroom was one of the key elements of making this suite amazing. It was fully decorated in a beautiful gray marble and had a golden framed mirror and beautiful black and white pictures. It is not often when a hotel rooms has a double marble sink and it made getting ready for the day and night much easier. Of course the bathtub was wonderful, but the overhead shower was even better. We mentioned that this suite had a fancy toilet, it is true, this toilet was warm every time you sat on it! In addition to the warm seat, it also served as a bidet – a little too fancy for our taste, but a nice feature for those who want it.

Enjoy a full tour of our suite in this video!

 

Wonderful Service

Every staff member we encountered was friendly and happy to assist us. This included the front desk agent, hostess at Aurelia’s Restaurant, our server for dinner at Aurelia’s Restaurant and the concierge team.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace offers complimentary airport shuttles to and from the hotel. They have a set schedule in the lobby that is presented to guests, so they know when to be ready. We arrived two minutes before departure time, but found that the shuttle left early. Though we were disappointed the shuttle left early, the concierge team were very quick to react and solve our situation. Within minutes we were escorted to a car that took us to the shuttle and we made it safely to the airport. Sometimes mistakes happen at the best of places, but it is how people react to them that make the difference. We were very pleased with the way the concierge team handled our situation.

As we mentioned, we were celebrating our two year wedding anniversary for this entire trip to Africa. We booked this hotel through our travel agent, so we were blown away by our surprises waiting for us in our suite. These little touches ended up being a grand gesture and it meant a lot to us.

An Elegant Dining Experience at Aurelia’s Restaurant

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and breakfast at Aurelia’s Restaurant. Aurelia’s Restaurant has a contemporary design that is beautiful both day and night. The dining room is shaped in a semi-circle with an island in the front of the room and glass windows on the facade of the restaurant, which gives guests an open view of the outdoor pool and gardens. The island is used as a dessert station at night and an array of breakfast selections in the morning.

Dinner

The ambience of Aurelia’s Restaurant during the night is romantic with its dim lighting, candles and fresh flowers on the table. Their dinner menu is quite extensive, it was literally a book full of pages that showcases the chef’s creative molecular gastronomy appetizers, entrees and desserts. The dishes had a little Mediterranean flare with their South African cuisine that can please any palate.

Our evening started with some freshly baked rolls and soft butter. For appetizers we had their Escargot au Riesling and Ostrich Bobotie Ravioli – both were outstanding. The escargot were delicious in their garlic butter, cheese, riesling sauce – it was so good we cleaned the dish with the bread to get every drop of the sauce. The ostrich ravioli was outstanding – the ravioli was the biggest one we have ever had and it tasted perfect!

The entrees are created to be enjoyed as they are described on the menu. Each entree is well thought out and designed with the perfect flavor and texture combinations. The main entrees have two pages with plenty of options to choose from, one page is full of seasonal entrees, while the second page has table side and signature entrees.  We went for two seasonal entrees, the Corn Fed Chicken Cordon Bleu and Red Wine Braised Karoo Lamb Shank. Oh my, the entrees were heavenly! The chicken cordon bleu had a more molecular gastronomy flare than the lamb shank, but both plates were beautifully plated. The chicken cordon bleu was vibrant in color and tasted amazing. The lamb shank was so tender and juicy it basically fell off the bone. The vegetables were the best we have ever had and we are not ones who typically eat their veggies, but we would eat those for every meal.

No meal is complete without dessert. Though we wanted to try every dessert, we only had room for one and went with the Chocolate Tore. A 70% Valrhona dark chocolate cake with pistachio mousse, fresh berries and raspberry ice cream. The dessert tasted as good as it looked! We loved the colors and playfulness of the dessert. The cake was rich, but paired well with the smooth pistachio mousse, fresh berries and tart raspberry ice cream.

The presentation of every plate from start to finish was a work of art and we were very pleased with our dinner.

Breakfast

As if dinner was not already fantastic, Aurelia’s Restaurant blew us away with their breakfast buffet! As we said before, every guest receives a complimentary breakfast at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. Though everything about Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace was outstanding, we would stay here again just for the breakfast buffet.

The buffet had everything a guest could ever imagine and more!  There were at least ten different stations offering different International cuisines, located throughout the restaurant! The island in the front of the restaurant offered a variety of breakfast selections. It had a large selection of danish, muffins and bread, 15 jars of fresh fruit, cold cuts of meat, sushi (yes, sushi), three yogurts, nine different types of cereals and grains, a mezze platter, fresh honey (guests literally took honey from a honeycomb) and much more. This is just the food on the island.

On the hot side were three types of bacon, five types of sausage, roasted potatoes and tomatoes, beans, vegetables, lamb, fish, chicken and an Aisan-stir fry station. There was also an egg station where a chef would prepare the eggs anyway you wanted it, scrambled, fried, omelet, etc. Lastly, they had a crepe and waffle station with a variety of toppings to choose from.

So now we have explained what food options were offered, now let us tell you what was offered to drink. They had six different juices to choose from a dispenser and if those juices were not fresh enough for you, a cook would use a machine to squeeze oranges right in front of you. We both had at least two glasses of this freshly squeezed orange juice – no orange juice has ever tasted so fresh! If juice is not your thing, they also had seven pitchers of flavored water and fresh fruit smoothies.

As you can see, a guests options at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace are endless! We really liked how they offered something for everyone with their different international cuisines.

 

Amazing Amenities

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace offers a variety of amenities to their guests. For guests who want to relax during their entire layover night or weekend holiday, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace has everything you need – we wish our layover was longer so we could have enjoyed them all.

  • Free WiFi
  • Octavia’s Day Spa
    • The perfect place to relax from your long flight with a massage, facial, mud bath, sauna, steam room and more.
  • Outdoor Pool
  • 24 Hour Gym
  • Secure Parking
  • Complimentary Airport Shuttle
  • Business Center
  • Executive Club Floor
  • Art Gallery

In addition to these amenities, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is connected to the casino, Theatre of Marcellus and their own shopping district called, The Emporium. The Emporium has a movie theatre, arcade room, dining options and more for guest to enjoy at their leisure. If you have been to Las Vegas, it resembles most casino resorts, especially the Venetian, Palazzo and Caesars Palace.

 

 

Casino – What Happens in Joburg, Stays in Joburg

Coming from two people who lived in Las Vegas and worked on the Strip for two years, we were excited to see Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace casino floor and found it to be Johannesburg’s little Vegas paradise.

The casino floor was front and center with a walkway surrounding it, which would lead to the Emporium, Theatre of Marcellus and more. Something that struck our curiosity was a glassed in-room in the center of the casino. It was a very tall and wide glassed room with table games inside. We learned that it was a smoking table game floor only – we found this feature to be a brilliant idea!

On a funny side note, we never gambled once for pleasure in Las Vegas the full two years we were there, yet at the casino at Emperor’s Palace we played Blackjack! Though we lost, we had a lot of fun playing alongside some locals. As we have said, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is the perfect place to relax and have fun in Johannesburg (and maybe lose some money along the way)!

 

Overall

We really enjoyed our night at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. We were blown away by the room aesthetics. We were pleased with the service of the staff. We ate some fantastic meals at Aurelia’s Restaurant. Lastly, we relaxed and had a great time! We cannot say enough good things about Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace and highly recommend you book your layover night in Johannesburg or your entire stay right here!

 

Book This Hotel!

For the lowest room rate the prices vary around $350, but we booked almost a year in advance and found much cheaper rates. Lower rates can be found at the other Peermont hotels at Emperor’s Palace, which are all fantastic and include breakfast too. Again, we cannot express how convenient this hotel is for a layover in Johannesburg. You get to have fun, eat well and relax.

If you think this hotel is a good fit for you, please book it using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us! 

Booking.com

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace
64 Jones Rd, O.R. Tambo
Johannesburg, 1620, South Africa
+27 11 928 1770
http://www.emperorspalace.com/hotels/peermont-doreale-grande

C+A

 

Africa, Blog, Guide, South Africa, Travel, Zambia

The Best Tips for Flying To and Within South Africa!

Traveling to Africa is no small feat. For international travelers flying into South Africa, it can take anywhere between ten to twenty hours or more! For most travelers, everyone flies to Africa to experience animals in their natural habitat, see the blue city of Morocco and experience the Arabian nights or to one of the Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. The reason people want to visit Africa are endless, but the one thing in common is flying there.

We just got back home to Washington D.C. last week after spending ten of the most wonderful nights of our lives in Africa. In those ten nights we flew eight times!!! We flew to and from Johannesburg, South Africa, within South Africa and Zambia. Therefore, we encountered a lot of flight and traveling situations unlike any we have ever experienced in our traveling careers. This post is to help all the world travelers flying to South Africa and other countries to/in Africa. Our tips are from our own experience in South Africa (at several airports) and Zambia.

So, before you do your happy dance…

Check out these tips that can help you on your next trip to Africa!

 

Make Copies of Your Passport

Before you leave home, make copies of your passport. When you arrive to your hotel keep your passport copy in the safe and your original passport with you at all times. You never know when someone will ask to see it and if anything bad were to happen, you will always have a backup.

 

 

Always Keep the Small Boarding Pass

Every airline in every country is different. For the United States, when we hand the flight clerk at the counter our ticket, they scan it and either give our ticket back to us, or they may keep it. Then we walk to the plane and find our seat and wait for take off. This is not the case in Africa. When you hand your ticket to the flight clerk at the counter they will rip off the ticket by the divider and hand back the smaller portion. Keep this small ticket with you all the way until you finally take your seat because they ask for it when you arrive at the plane. Then a flight attendant verifies it by looking at it and directing you to where your seat is. In some cases it is helpful on the big planes that have two rows, but in most other cases the plane is small and we really do not know what the purpose is.

 

Always Have Your Passport Ready

The same thing from above applies here. You are constantly asked to show your passport from security checkpoint one (sometimes again at another checkpoint), to when you hand your ticket and lastly when you board the plane. It is easier to just always hold your passport securely in your hand until you sit in your seat rather than putting it away and retrieving it constantly.

 

A Small Travel Document Holder Will Be Your Lifesaver

If we did not have our American Express travel document holder, we would have been a hot mess! It can be a small bag, pouch or folder. By day 4 in Africa we had about 8 previous tickets and a lot of documents that we needed to keep with us at all times, such as, insurance, yellow fever card and more. Having the document bag is great because it keeps everything in one place and you can easily keep it safe in your backpack when you do not need it.

 

Airport Lounges Will Become Your Best Friend

Every airport and terminal we were in had a lounge that we were able to use, including small airports like Kruger International Airport. Having access to airport lounges is awesome for budget travelers because every lounge has free Wi-Fi, food, drinks and yes, alcohol! We highly recommend the Priority Pass (get it for free with Chase Sapphire Reserve – click here to read how to get your card), we were able to use our pass at every airport. We really cannot stress how much of a lifesaver this was to us. We never had to struggle to find a seat in the terminal and never had to fight over an outlet to charge a device.

 

Arrive to the Airport 2 Hours Beforehand, No Matter What!

We were told one hour before is enough time, but we found ourselves always rushing and getting confused, ESPECIALLY at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB). Even at Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingston, Zambia – a very small airport, we had to arrive two hours early. The airports themselves are not gigantic but the staff told us wrong directions several times at O.R. Tambo and nearly had us miss some flights. While at Harry Mwanga it took a long time to check in because the line was very long and they had very few staff members available. So, whether its a big or small airport, always arrive two hours beforehand – you never know what you can encounter.

 

When in Doubt, Trust Your Ticket

If your gate number changes before you arrive at your original gate, go to the original gate and ask the flight clerks if it really changed. We had two experiences when the TVs changed either our flight time or gate number, and both times the TV was wrong. We found ourselves running and sweating our way through airport terminals in utter panic that we would miss our boarding because our ticket said gate A14, but the TV said gate E20 – completely different directions. We also almost went back to our airport lounge when a TV displayed our flight was delayed, but after we asked a clerk, we learned that it was actually on time. Trust your ticket and then ask questions!

 

Turn Your Phone Off!

We are not sure what it is about flying in Africa, but nine times out of ten, we were asked to turn our phones completely off – airport mode was not acceptable. When the flight attendants announce to turn your phone off, DO IT! We experienced a traveler (sitting right behind us) and a flight attendant get into a riff because the traveler was not turning his phone off when asked. The flight attendant did not leave his sight and kept demanding he turn off his phone right there and then. It was really unnerving to see and hear it, so don’t make a scene, turn your phone off!

 

Disinfection Spray While Onboard

Do not be alarmed when the flight attendants go down the aisle spraying a disinfectant. They will warn you beforehand as they may go down the aisle more than once because they must spray an entire can. The disinfection spray is not a pleasant smell, so travelers are advised to cover their mouth. It is not harmful to humans, but strictly a protocol all airlines must abide by from the World Health Organization. “All International and Regional services operating in and out of the Republic of South Africa must be disinfected according to the “blocks away” method at the last point of call prior to leaving and entering South Africa (travelstart source).”

 

You Will Never Go Hungry!

With the exception of our flights to and from our lodge, we always received food! We are not talking about your small bag of pretzels or peanuts, we are talking about meals. Even on our flight from Johannesburg to Livingstone, which was only an 1 ½ hour flight, we were served a hot lunch meal. Christina is a picky eater and even she enjoyed the food (most of the time).

 

 

Drink Up!

ALL of our main flights offered complimentary wine! It was not cheap wine either, it was good South African wine. If you are not feeling like drinking wine, ask your flight attendant if they have mango-orange juice – it is so delicious!!!!

 

Goodbye Jetway, Hello Tarmac

For most of your flights, the plane will be parked on the tarmac. For the larger airports, after you hand your ticket to the flight clerk (remember to hold onto it), you will take a bus onto the tarmac and then walk up a flight of stairs to board the plane. After you land the same thing applies, walk down steps, board a bus and then you arrive at the airport terminal. For the smaller planes we sometimes walked out the doors and the plane was waiting just a few yards away from us on the tarmac. It was definitely a more unique way of boarding and departing a plane – it was a cool experience.

 

Expect Things to go Wrong

We either experienced a lot of bad luck, or this is normal when flying in Africa. Not including our flights to and from D.C. to Johannesburg, but four out of our six flights were always delayed because of various reasons. Christina has a co-worker from Liberia, Africa and she even said that everyone in Africa will always try and book direct flights because things always go wrong. Some things you cannot control, so just be aware that your flights may be delayed quite often.

 

Check With Your Smallest Aircraft For Their Luggage Protocol

As we stated early in this article, most travelers fly to Africa to enjoy safaris. With that being said, travelers often fly to main cities and then take smaller aircrafts to their respected airports near their safari game reserves. So, if you are flying within Africa, check with your airline’s baggage allowance, especially the smallest aircraft. We were only allowed one duffel bag each with no wheels and had to be smaller than 24 inches. Do not let your vacation be ruined because you cannot bring your suitcase full of your belongings on the plane!

 

Do Not Forget To Add Your Points!

We were able to receive points/miles for every flight we took. Every point and mile counts, so do not forget to add them to your account to go towards that free flight!

 

We hope these tips were helpful for you on your trip to Africa! We came across all of these without any prior information and wanted to help the next person to not have to go through any stressful situations we went through. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to comment below or reach out to us personally.

Safe travels,

C+A

 

 

Blog, Travel

15 Inspiring Travel Couple Bloggers You Should Follow

Today marks our 2 year wedding anniversary and tomorrow we embark on another “honeymoon” trip to Africa! Since our first honeymoon in St. Lucia, we knew we wanted to celebrate a honeymoon every year. Last year we spent the summer in Europe and celebrated our anniversary a little early at the Grotta Palazzo restaurant in Puglia, Italy. Now we are going to our third continent and adding four more countries to our list. Since we met, we have done nothing but create memories through destinations. We could not ask for better partners to not only enjoy life together, but to also go on unique trips throughout the world. It is one thing to find your partner, but another to find your travel partner.

To celebrate our love, we want to share travel couple bloggers who inspire us with their love in each other and traveling. Each couple is different than the next. They all have amazing content and love for one another. Some may focus on food and travel tips while others may focus on lifestyle and photography. Everyone’s personalities shine throughout their blog, but really shine bright in their About page. You will find their About page hyperlinked into their title. We have also included their niche (besides love and travel), a romantic or adventurous article and their social media platforms to follow – trust us, you are going to fall in love with each one of these couples.

 

We got married in 2015, therefore we are going to share 15 travel couple bloggers you should follow! But first, here are two wedding pictures to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary. Here is to many more years full of travel, life and blogging!

 

Kallsy and Logan of Pages of Travel

Kallsy and Logan strive to have a lifetime filled with experiences and visiting places they have never been before. Their website is a place for them to share their stories of the beautiful places they visit, and the wonderful people they meet. They hope to inspire others to travel with them and share their experiences as well! We can certainly say they have inspired us and we hope to spend some time with them in St. Louis.

Their niche: travel tips, travel itineraries and tech gear.

Click here to read their 7 day, luxury honeymoon at Sandals Ochi Beach Club in Jamaica.

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pagesoftravel
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pagesoftravel/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/pagesoftravel
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pagesoftravel/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/pagesoftravel

 

Mat and Ling from Linger Abroad

Mat and Ling’s website, Linger Abroad is all about reliving the best travel moments through photography, sharing their experiences and hopefully inspiring those to take the leap and go somewhere new. Ling is a fantastic photographer and any reader can see that every photo captures their moments beautifully. Their website is more than a travel blog, it is an art gallery.

Their niche: photography, activities and eco-tourism

Click here to read their premier honeymoon resort in Fiji.

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lingerabroad
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lingerabroad/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lingerabroad
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lingerabroad/

 

Madi and Ben of The Restless Worker

Madi and Ben have been to countless countries, some before they met, and others during their relationship. They believe in immersing themselves in the cultural of the countries or cities in which they are visiting. They do their best to eat local cuisine, participate in local tours, and get lost as much as possible. Their goal of The Restless Worker is to expose their readers to new destinations, new landmarks and new ideas for discovery.

Their niche: career tips, blogging tips and lifestyle

Click here to read how they met and fell in love – it is beyond adorable!

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/therestlessworker
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/restlessworker/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/restlessworker
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/restlessworker/

 

Brian and Amanda of Eat Work Travel

What we love most about Brian and Amanda, is that they are just like us – their jobs consume most of their days, but they are determined to make the most of their time outside of the office! They are also always up for trying new adventures as well as tasting different cuisines and libations. Though they are conservative in their daily lives, they are risk takers when they are traveling!

Their niche: luxury travel, whiskey and work-travel balance

Click here to read their Top Romantic Destinations for Couples

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eatworktravel
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eatworktravel/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/eatworktravel
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/EatWorkTravel/

 

Daryl and Mindi of 2foodtrippers

Daryl and Mindi are a married couple that quit their 9 to 5 job and are currently traveling the world one meal at a time. They are seriously the cutest travel foodie couple! Their travel-foodie journey has taken them to some of the best food cities in the world in countless countries. In addition to their love of food, their website also has great hotel reviews, guides and more.

Their niche: culinary travel

Click here to read their post about a weekend of romance at a wine boutique hotel in Cape Town

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/2foodtrippers
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/2foodtrippers/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/2foodtrippers
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/2foodtrippers/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/2foodtrippers

 

Bassam and Lena of Happily Ever Adventures

Bassam and Lena strive to find adventure in everyday life. In addition to their love of travel, they both have a keen eye and big interests in home decor, entertaining, cooking, exploring their city, L.A. and outdoor activities. One reason we enjoy following them so much is because we relate to their travel lifestyle. They always figure out how to travel often, stay at nice places, and experience fine dining while not over spending. Their website is full of love, passion and travel – we know you will fall in love with them, just as we have.

Their niche: newlywed lifestyle

Click here to read their post on 7 Relationship Tests to Pass Before Getting Married

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/happilyeveradventures/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/happilyeveradventures/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EverAdventures
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/everadventures/

 

Craig and Leigh of The Globe Diary

Craig is a doctor and Leigh is a lawyer making them a powerhouse couple! Even with their busy careers they find time to pursue their love for travel. Their blog focuses on all of their adventures to inspire their readers to take their next trip. They are also big foodies and coffee snobs, so in their adventures you will find great tips on delicious food and coffee destinations.

Their niche: culinary travel, coffee, lifestyle and their hometown, Edmonton.

Click here to read their post on 10 Tips for Travelling with a Partner

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leighglobediary/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theglobediary/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theglobediary
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/theglobediary/

 

Lia and Jeremy of Practical Wanderlust

Liaremy (yes, they combined their names, which is a tiny bit gross but also SUPER cute!) are on a year-long honeymoon. They use their travel blog to document their journey, which seems to primarily consist of total fails and mishaps. Like the time Lia had to get rescued off of a waterfall in Colombia. Or the time Jeremy ran a BMW into a castle in France. We encourage everyone to follow this disaster-prone couple along on their awesome honeymoon adventure!

Their niche: budget travel

Click here to read their post on Romantic Things to do in Memphis, TN

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/practicalwanderlust
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/practicalwanderlust/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/practicalwander
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/practicalw/

 

Karen and Jacob of Wanderlustingk

First and foremost, Karen and Jacob are cat lovers – love it! They also love experiencing new cultures/food, exploring new natural landscapes/seeing wildlife (can be cats), and seeing new types of architecture. They moved from the United States to Amsterdam and will soon to live in Paris. They have been enjoying the opportunity to travel every chance they get. Their website is a wonderful place to find inspiring stories and practical advice about travel, moving abroad, expat life, adventure travel, and via ferret (a form of rock climbing).

Their niche: cultural travel

Click here to read their post on the 15 Best Places to Elope

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wanderlustingk
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wanderlustingk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wanderlustingk
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/wanderlustingk/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvonO-EtTRKETbWaLmAnBsg

 

Bryan and Anna of Travelling Daze

Bryan and Anna are two young travelers trying to see as much as the world as possible. Their website is dedicated to documenting their adventures, but also to motivate others to get out see the world. They want to share how they’ve been able to travel better and smarter using a combination of reward points and travel deals.

Their niche: couples travel guides and travel tips

Click here to read their post on a couples travel guide to Murre, Switzerland

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/travellingdaze/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/travellingdaze/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TravellingDaze
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/travellingdaze/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzrs2HjwqTT50m7Hv252gug

 

Claire and Danik of The Curious Explorers

Claire and Danik are avid adventure seekers! Their website features adventures of their cycling, hiking, running, scuba diving and more. They have a great appreciation for our beautiful planet and love learning about local cultures, food, languages, as well as taking in amazing experiences. They are an all around awesome travel couple!

Their niche: active travel

Click here to read their post on a romantic vacation chasing the Northern Lights in Finland.

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheCuriousExplorers/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thecuriousexplorers/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/curiousxplorers?lang=en
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/curiousxplorers/

 

Kelly and Sean of A Pair of Passports

Kelly and Sean focus on showing couples & travel partners great things to do together and places where they can get incredible photos to frame at home. They also both work full time and want to show other couples that it’s possible to work AND travel – we agree! To feed their travel obsession, they love to sneak away for long weekends every chance they get and explore England when they can’t go too far. Long story short, they live their life to the fullest by traveling every chance they get!

Their niche: couples travel, sports tourism, dog friendly travel, wine tastings, weekend travel and London

Click here to read their 5 Romantic Weekend Getaways in Europe

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apairofpassports
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/apairofpassports/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/apairofpassport
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kellhogan/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq58aDY2JW22_etS8USxgpQ

 

Kerry and Claire from Nomadplans

Kerry and Claire sold their home and quit their jobs to live in a new way – a way of travel. They now focus on the importance of doing what makes them feel content and motivated, which is writing, traveling and working on building a new future together. A quick peek into their blog and you will find great advice on both travel and everyday life.

Their niche: travel and lifestyle advice for those 30 somethings/mid-lifers

Click here to read their post on their Capture Series of South Africa

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nomadplansblog/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nomadplans/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nomadplans55
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/nomadplans/

 

Meghna and Pushkaraj of Trailing Abroad

Meghna and Pushkaraj want to inspire their audience to wander abroad through their articles. They want to take their readers on a whirlwind of fancy luxurious indulgences, while also sharing tips on how to keep the balance in check. They divide and conquer their blog together, Meghna writes and is a beautiful storyteller, while Pushkaraj captures stunning photos. Together they have a great website that is going to grow tremendously!

Their niche: storytelling and travel tips

Click here to read their romantic stay at the UnderWater Room at the Manta Resort

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trailingabroad/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/trailingabroad/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TrailingAbroad
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/trailingabroad/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwnNiLohXDMZSxk5Cj1S2Hg

 

Alex and Cris of LooknWalk

Alex and Cris share a passion for traveling, photography and discovering new, interesting places. Combined, they have years of traveling experience and everything that encompasses traveling – freelance writer, travel consultant and travel support specialist. Needless to say, they are basically pros at everything travel related! They also have another awesome blog, LooknWalk Greece, which focuses primarily on Greece – it’s the perfect place to start planning for your next couples getaway.

 

Their niche: Europe travel

Click here to read their post on How to Spend an Amazing Wedding Anniversary on the Island of Ios, Greece

Follow them at their social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Looknwalk/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cricketro/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AradInfo
Pinterest: https://ro.pinterest.com/looknwalkc/

 

We hope you loved these travel couple bloggers as much as we do!

Love,

C+A

 

Guide, Travel

How to Maximize Your Money with the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Many people ask us, “how can you afford to travel so much?” Most people would think it’s because we make a lot of money, trust us, we do not. So, how do we do it? We use our credit card points! The next question people ask is, “how do you receive so many free flights across the world so frequently?” The answer is because we maximize every penny we earn and we use the world’s best travel credit card, Chase Sapphire Reserve. Unfortunately, it is only available to residents of the United States, so this guide will only be helpful for those who qualify for the credit card.

Now let’s go back into more detail on how we maximize every penny. There are four different ways to earn Chase Ultimate Reward Points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve:

  • 3 PTS/$1 from Travel Purchases
  • 3 PTS/$1 from Dining Purchases
  • 1 PTS/$1 Earned on All Other Purchases
  • Bonus from Shop through Chase – the most important tip we have to offer

 

Travel Purchases

If you are reading this post, it is most likely because you love to travel and you want to travel more for less. The Chase Sapphire Reserve is the best travel credit card because it gives you 3 points for every dollar spent on travel and dining! In the past three years (two were with Chase Sapphire Preferred with 2 points per dollar spent on traveling) we have redeemed two free roundtrip flights to St. Lucia, two one-way tickets to Paris and two round trip flights to Johannesburg.  With the being said we have enough points to do four round trip flights to almost anywhere in the world – just waiting on the right destination to redeem them for.

What we want to discuss and help you understand the benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve card by using our most recent flight redemption on our trip to Johannesburg, South Africa. Flying from Washington D.C., we were looking at almost $2,000 for two 18 hour, round trip flights. Redeeming Chase Ultimate Reward Points is like gambling at the casino – everyday the flights redemption points change. So we monitored every week on the point redemption for certain flights we wanted.  We watched the point price rise and fall back to its initial price for two to three months, when lo and behold it dropped significantly! Our flight went from 84,000 points to 64,000 points! Does this mean the actual retail price of the flight dropped? No, it did not. The total price for what our flights should have cost was $1,923.52. The last part of this equation is making sure we are MAXIMIZING EVERY PENNY. So, you do the math of how much $1,923.52 translates into Chase Ultimate Reward Points. The answer is 192,352 points!!! We redeemed 128,234 total, thus saving us 64,118 – which is equivalent to one more round trip flight!!! You can also do the math vice versa, how much does 128,234 points translate into money? The answer, $1,282.34, thus saving us $642.18 total.

Have we convinced you that the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is the best travel card yet? If not, read further. If you are already hooked, scroll to the bottom of our article! 

Let us convince you some more. Take our trip to South Africa, hence our flight to Johannesburg, we will say that we have spent $6,000 on our trip. That in turn means that we received 9,000 points, which equals $90.00. Now that may not seem like a lot of cash back money, but truth be told, it is. Only one other credit card, Citi ThankYou Premier Card, offers 3x points per dollar spent on travel expenses.

The last way to maximize your points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card is their travel partners. Chase partners with some premier airline and hotel reward companies for a 1:1 point transfer. Here is their list of partners:

 

 

Sometimes, redeeming points for flights directly on Chase’s Ultimate Rewards site is not always the best option. Our flight to St. Lucia was “cheaper”, less points to transfer them to British Airways and book directly on the airlines site than to book through Chase Ultimate Rewards. So, to maximize your penny and points look into Chase Ultimate Rewards AND airline rewards for the best point redemption.

 

Dining Purchases

Dining purchases are also three points per dollar spent. If you enjoy going out to eat, even if it’s to Five Guys, food trucks, or Michelin star restaurants, you receive three points per dollar. Earning points for dining will accumulate faster than you know! It is another great benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.

 

Shop through Chase

This is how we maximize every penny the most out of all the ways to earn points! Chase Ultimate Rewards offers a shopping portal. If you love to shop till you drop (like Christina), then this is the way to shop. Chase’s shopping portal offers several different stores and each one offers a certain amount of bonus points per dollar spent. Here are a few of our favorite stores we shop at for an example:

 

To maximize your money is simple, if you are going to purchase something, purchase it through your airline or credit card shopping portal. There is nothing to lose here, only money back! Every time you are going to buy something online, do yourself a favor and look at your desired shopping portal to see if they have the online store available for bonus points.

Here are a few examples and tips that can help earn you more points:

  • Since we put everything on our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and want to receive the most points with that card, we look at their shopping portal first. Sometimes they do not have the online store, so we go to Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal and find our online store there! Not only do we gain bonus points with Southwest, but we are still earning one point per dollar spent with our Chase Ultimate Rewards – it’s a win win!
  • Are you a gamer? We both are (add gamertag Geeg28 on Xbox Live). We only own a Xbox Live, sorry, and when we renew our Gold Live subscription we do not just do it on Xbox, but through Gamestop! We go to our Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal, buy a one year subscription on Gamestop then activate it online. Our $60 turned into 180 points.
  • Do you own an iPhone? Do you ever purchase AppleCare+? We do, and we did it through Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal that turned $130 into 260 points.
  • Groupon user? We have used Groupon a number of times to get not only deals, but bonus points though Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal! That deep tissue massage for $45 and flying lessons for $120 turned into a total of 660 points!
  • This one is for the ladies, Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal has all your favorite shopping brands and department stores (at least they have Christina’s). We frequently purchase a lot through Macy’s, so lets say we spend $300 in the course of 4 months, thats 1,800 points!
  • For our upcoming Africa trip we have the opportunity to go on 16 game drives in 8 days! That means we had to buy a lot of safari outfits. Therefore, we went to one of our favorite outdoor brands, The North Face and you guessed it, we shopped through Chase Ultimate Rewards shopping portal. Safari clothes are not cheap, we spent $400, but guess what, we earned 2,000 points!
  • Sometimes Chase will email special bonus point deals. Last month they had a deal with Walmart and Chase Pay. When we bought something from Walmart.com using Chase Pay, we received 10pts/$ up to $250 – that was a deal we could not pass up. Luckily for us, we were about to buy a GoPro and accessories. So, this comes back to our general rule of thumb, if you are going to spend money, spend it wisely. We could have bought our GoPro anywhere online, but with this deal we earned $4,975 points! (We each have a Chase card).

 

Calculated Points From This Post Example

From the examples we discussed, which do not even include everyday expenses on point per dollar spent, we are at a total of 18,875 points. As you can see, if you spend your money wisely by earning bonus points you can maximize every penny to go towards your next vacation! Like we said, that calculation is only the tip of the iceberg.

This pie chart is a slight comparison to what our real one on Chase looks like. As you can see, more than 50% of our spendings are 3pts/$ spent.

 

The Need To Know Stuff

The big factor that typically scares people away from the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, is the annual fee. The annual fee is $450 a year, BUT you receive a $300 travel credit every year. This means that the annual fee is only $150 a year.

Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card also waives your Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application fee. That is a savings of at least $100.

You will also have access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass Select.

No foreign transaction fees – perfect for world travelers.

You always have 24/7 direct access to a Customer Service specialist and they are always amazing!

Another huge money savings is their Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We never have to pay insurance for rental cars, flights, cruises, trains, buses – anything! For more details on what they cover please view their website, but they cover everything you need.

Major tip: if you want the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, but are hesitant because you already own any Chase credit card with an annual fee that you want to get rid of without closing the account (which we advise to never close a credit card), we have a solution for you! Transfer your credit line! Once you receive your Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, call Chase and have them transfer the credit line over from your old card to your Reserve card. Then you can close the old credit card without hurting your credit score! You can also downgrade to Chase Freedom Unlimited to receive 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases.

 

Do You Think the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card Is a Good Fit For You?

Then sign up now! If we have convinced you to apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, then we ask that you use our referral link. If you get approved and spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, then you receive 50,000 bonus points! While you reap in the awesome bonus points, (which is at least one free round trip flight almost anywhere), we too will be rewarded for referring you.

It has to be this link, so please click here:
https://www.referyourchasecard.com/19/CKUB7WTUFG

If you do apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card please comment or message us because we only get to refer 5 people!

 

 

Get your free flights now!

C+A

 

 

 

 

Blog, Food, Germany, Travel

How to Have an Epic Time at Oktoberfest

One of the worlds most celebrated festivals, Oktoberfest! It has become so popular that it is no longer celebrated in only Germany, but also all over the world. Almost every city has their own version of Oktoberfest in the United States, but nothing compares to the real deal in Munich! That is why thousands of people travel to Munich over the course of two to three weeks in late September to October. The dates vary, but this year Oktoberfest begins September 16th and ends on October 3rd. This guide will help you show you how to have an epic time at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany!

 

Accommodation

Expect prices for all accommodation to be high in Munich during Oktoberfest! Plan well in advance. Once you book your flight, book your hotel. An average hotel price for a decent hotel is around $180 a night and at least $250 for luxury hotels. Hostels will be the cheapest option, but will fill up even quicker than hotels. Airbnb also costs in average of $150 and increase as they get closer to Oktoberfest. The last option is couchsurfing, which is what we did, but we got extremely lucky. Most couch surfers only opened their places to their friends or said not to contact them during Oktoberfest. If you choose to go this route, you will be emailing a lot of hosts, but if you are as lucky as we were, it will be worth it!

 

Lederhosen and Dirndl

No Oktoberfest is complete without your Bavarian lederhosen and/or dirndl.

Men wear a lederhosen, which translates to “leather breeches” and that is exactly what they are – leather pants or shorts. Lederhosen were created around the 16th century in the Bavarian area of Germany to accommodate the farmers and laborers with their work. What was once used for labor is now used for pleasure. The other half of the costume is the shirt, traditionally it is a white button down shirt, but in todays generation you will find colorful plaid shirts too. Lastly, the high socks, brown shoes and Tyrollean hat complete the Oktoberfest outfit.

photo from https://www.oktoberfest-dirndl-shop.co.uk/

For the ladies, you wear a boob busting dirndl dress. Yes, boob busting – there is two things the Germans love, beer and boobs! There are classic dirndl dresses, but today you will find more sexy ones that have a more eye catching appeal. The dirndl comes in three parts: the body of the dress which includes the full skirt and bodice, the blouse and the apron. The apron will always come with a bow and it is important to know where to tie your bow. A ladies bow projects her status: to the left means you are single and ready to mingle, to the right means you are married or promised to someone and in the back means you are widowed, or for waitresses.

photo from https://www.oktoberfest-dirndl-shop.co.uk/

If you find yourself wanting a souvenir of your time in Oktoberfest or see yourself wearing your costume again then buying your lederhosen/dirndl would be smart. Otherwise renting one in Munich is also an option because the costumes are not cheap if you buy the traditional and well made ones. If you plan on renting make sure you reserve your costume many months in advance!

Since we were close to the end of our trip our budget, we did not have enough money to buy our costumes and we really never saw ourselves wearing them again. So a great alternative is to just buy Tyrollean hats! Like the lederhosen, try and find a quality hat at the market place – trust us, just by feeling them you will be able to tell the difference between cheap and well made. We ended up buying ours from a street vendor at the festival and love them! Lastly, lederhosen and dirndl are not required, but at least 80% of the people wear them. Just wearing our hats alone made us feel a part of their culture and not out of place.

To really have an epic time – just go all out!!! Girls dress your best with make up, hair the whole cha bang and guys wear those lederhosen with pride!

Here are some sites to buy or rent your lederhosen/dirntl:

 

 

Beer Tents

So, now you have your accommodation and costume, how do you have the most epic time at Oktoberfest?!?!? Two different ways – you can either make reservations at a beer tent or you can tent hop. They both offer two different and amazing experiences that you will never forget – unless you blackout, then you will most likely forget.

There are 14 big tents and 21 small tents in Oktoberfest, needless to say there is PLENTY of beer to go around! Now when we say tents we do not mean circus tents, because thats honestly what we had pictured in our minds, until we arrived. No, the tents are more like buildings! In fact, they say it takes weeks if not months to build these structures.

Visitors can find the more popular and well known German beers in the big tents along with just more seating and a bigger atmosphere in general. That is not to say the small tents are no fun, we went to a small tent for some food and (of course) beer and found it entertaining as well.

 

Since you are most likely going to be drunk the entire time you are at Oktoberfest let us try and help guide you with this map.

 

Table Reservations at Beer Tents

Why is a table reservation at a beer tent important? Because if you have a table you get served regularly, well and you do not have to stand the entire time. Some beer tents only serve beer to those in seats. More importantly, if the tents start to get overpacked they will not allow you inside the tents unless you have a reservation. Reservations for beer tents start in March if not sooner! Pick the tent you wish to drink the most beer in and contact the tent through their website. Every beer tent does reservations differently, so follow their instructions promptly. The good news is that the table reservations are FREE! You only pay about 20,00€ – 80,00€ per person, which turn into vouchers for beer and food. If you want an entire table to yourself you must have at least ten people.

Reservations are definitely the smart way to go and you will have an epic time because you do not have to worry about anything except drinking! The only negative about reservations is you see one tent and drink one type of beer for the entire time. So, can you have an epic time without reservations? Yes!

 

Tent Hopping

When you do not have reservations, you tent hop! At least that is what we call it. Most big tents have beer gardens and these seating areas cannot be reserved and are seated by a first-come-first-serve basis. We recommend getting to tents before 2pm on the weekdays and right when they open at 9am on the weekends. A local told us that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the least crowded, so if you do not have table reservation this would be your best opportunity to tent hop and grab seats.

We really enjoyed tent hopping because it allowed us the flexibility to try a lot of different tents and beers. Each tent has their own atmosphere with different live bands, decorations, food and of course beer. Depending on which tent you visit, you may have a hard time grabbing a server to get you beer. Our best tip is to stand near the beer serving station, (which is incredible to watch them pour beer after beer) and try asking a server politely for a beer – showing a nice tip doesn’t hurt either. The other option is nudging off a table and getting them to buy you the beers. Some tables are more friendly than others, just use your best judgement.

 

Don’t forget to eat!!! Each tent has something different to offer, but they all have Bavarian and German traditional food. Did we mention giant pretzels? You will be drinking a lot and most likely spend hours, if not the entire day at Oktoberfest, so make sure you are eating to last throughout the day!

 

To have the most epic Oktoberfest we recommend doing one day with a table reservation and then spending the next day tent hopping or vice versa. 

 

Our Favorite Big Tents

  • Paulaner (Winzerer Fahnde)
    • Big yellow ribbons are strung with strands of red and blue in this huge tent!
    • We fell in love with Paulaner beer and now drink it at home
    • Seats 8,450 inside and 2,450outside
  • Spaten (Ochsenbrauerei)
    • Offer an amazing variety of different oxen specialties.
    • Bright blue and white ribbons strung across the tent.
    • Seats 5,900 inside and 1,500 outside
  • Löwenbräu (Löwenbräu-Festhalle)
    • You will hear an authentic lion roar sound every couple of minutes.
    • Vibrant yellow, blue and white interior
    • Seats 5,700 inside and 2,800 outside
  • Hacker-Pschorr (Hacker-Festhalle)
    • Every evening starting at 5:30pm, a Rock ‘n’ Roll-Bandperforms to get the beat going.
    • Decoration has clouds painted on the ceiling to make you feel like you are in Bavarian heaven.
    • Seats 9,300 inside

 

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere of Oktoberfest is unreal!!!! We would walk into a tent and be totally blown away by their decorations and the amount of people crammed inside. Every tent is slightly decorated differently, but for the most part there are vibrant, colored ribbons strung across the tent with lights hanging down. There will also be a lifted stage for the live band placed somewhat in the center so everyone can see them.

Live music is always playing, and when the German toast song, “Ein Prosit” comes on, everyone in the tent sings as loud as they can while swinging their mug in their hand back and forth. Essentially the song is about cheering towards having a great time with friends in a big community – exactly what Oktoberfest is! You can listen to the 30 second song here.

Check out our mashup video of the music played in a variety of tents at Oktoberfest.

 

There are no rules in Oktoberfest (with the exception of no standing on the tables). We would be walking and one guy would stand up on his seat and get everyones attention and chug his beer and the crowd would go crazy. Then across from him another guy would stand up and chug two beers and the crowd would get even crazier! Everyone is standing, chugging beer, hugging, arm wrestling, you name it! At the end of the day it is all about having fun and creating memories you hopefully remember the next day.

 

Beer Tent Facts

Hours: on weekend the beer tents open at 9.00 a.m., on weekdays at 10.00 a.m. The beer tents close at 11.30 p.m. The last beer is sold at 10.30 p.m.

Music: Bavarian music is played inside most of the beer tents until 6 p.m. and then transitioned into playing famous hit songs like Journey’s, Don’t Stop Believing or Bon Jovi’s, Living On A Prayer. On Saturdays many bands start the party music/famous songs earlier.

Forms of payment: beer tents only take cash for food and drinks.

Tent capacity: some tents have the capacity of around 5,700 – 9,300 seating inside and 2,450 – 2,800 seating outside.

 

Make Friends!

Yes! Make friends especially if you do not have table reservations. Since we came with our couchsurfing host, (who we were not hitting it off with) we joined the couchsurfing Oktoberfest group chat and found one fellow couch surfer, Anthony. We also made two new friends, Leo and Maylee, because they heard us speaking English. If it were not for these three awesome people we would not have had as much fun! We all ended up tent hopping together and hitting it off really well. In fact, we hang out with Leo to this day because he lives three hours away.

After about 6pm we managed to join some locals at their table and we all started mingling together. At this point we were pretty drunk, which means we all had a lot of liquid courage. Thank goodness we did because we had a blast hanging out with the locals.

Meeting new people and bonding over beer – isn’t that what Oktoberfest is all about!?!?!?

When we look back at our Oktoberfest experience its the people we remember the most. Even if you come with friends, make new ones! Despite the awesome music and decorations, it’s the people you are with that make the experience.

 

Oktoberfest was one of our highlights during our entire 77 days in Europe. If it is not on your bucket list yet, we hope it is now! And we hope you have an epic time!!!

For further information, here is Oktoberfest’s official website – it is well done and very helpful.
https://www.oktoberfest.de/en/

 

 

PROST!

C+A