Amalfi Coast Essentials

If you have spent any time here on Always, Erin (hi, Mom!), you’ll know that I love writing a lot about two things: the Amalfi Coast and packing. So, I thought I would do the obvious thing and combine these two loves and share my Amalfi Coast Essentials. My normal Carry On Essentials are here, so you can supplement those with these beach specific must-haves, tailored to that iconic Italian coastline.

Amalfi Coast Essentials

 

Beach Bare Necessities

No use heading to the beach unless you have a proper beach bag. A longtime Longchamp fan, this bag is perfect for carrying all your bits and bobs, smart enough to take out to dinner, and water resistant. Toss in a cute, yet compact, wallet to hold plenty of Euros for all of those lovely Italian leather goods that will surely tempt you. Of course, you’ll want your phone.  Even though you likely (and luckily IMO) won’t have Wifi while exploring, pack a portable charger. I took more pictures than on any previous vacation and was glad to have extra battery so I could capture that dreamy watercolor sunset at the end of a long day of touring.

While a bikini seems like an obvious addition, I’d like to remind you to pack at least two. I only brought one and definitely underestimated how much I’d be frolicking in the Med. Whether it’s taking a day trip to a beach club in Positano, diving off a boat in Capri, or just dipping into the hotel pool – you’ll be glad you packed multiple swimsuits for your multiple aquatic adventures. For that beach club in Positano (or really any beach on the Coast), you should wear water-proof flip flops. Amalfi Coast beaches are all rock or pebble, so you’ll want shoes you can wear right up to the waves since said pebbles can get scorching in the height of summer. My Birkenstocks did NOT cut it, so my poor toes were left toasty.

Paradise Protection

While we’re discussing the necessary summer armor, sunglasses (preferably of the colorful variety) are a must, as is sunscreen. This solid stick is perfect for travel, since you don’t have to waste precious space in your quart size bag for liquids or bother finding a 3oz version.  I have a bit of OCD when it comes to chapstick application, so this grapefruit Burt’s Bees option is always on hand. Once I’m lathered in SPF, to keep cool I like to shelter under this Panama hat and spritz with a bit of Evian mist, in between long, languorous floats in the ocean of course. They also just make me feel like some sort of Fellini-esque diva, so who cares if they’re a tad over the top.

Seaside Style

After a long day of sunbathing, drinking prosecco and swimming in the salty sea, you’ll likely want to duck into a restaurant (Chez Black in Positano is the perfect beachside detour) to enjoy a restorative glass of rose and nibble on antipasto. Pack a full-coverage cover-up that doubles as a dress to make the effortless transition. For post-beach beauty, I’m a big fan of this hair conditioning spray and Wet brush for making my rat’s nest of a hairdo look somewhat presentable. (Pro-tip, definitely pack conditioner for Italy – most hotels don’t supply it) As for summer make-up, I like my tan to do the talking and will just accentuate it using this liquid bronzer and solid blush with a few flicks of mascara. Then, voila, I’m coiffed for my Italian boyfriends and selfies, yet still undone and free-spirited enough to relish in la dolce vita.

Grazie for stopping by my friends! I hope this will help you prepare to your next trip to the Amalfi Coast- whether it’s your first or hopefully one of many! It’s one of my favorite places in the world, so it definitely keeps me inspired.

Check out more of my packing posts here:
Carry On Essentials
Coachella Essentials
Road Trip Essentials
Walt Disney World Essentials
Travel Beauty Essentials

 

Linking Up With:

My first Wanderful Wednesday hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World.

My first Weekend Wanderlust – hosted by a Brit & a Southerner! Please check out both link parties for more excellent travel content! Thank you!

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Tips to Master the Magic Kingdom without Going Mad

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is easily the most popular and iconic park, and I can understand why. It has all the classic attractions (Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Pirates – the list goes on!), and the legendary Cinderella castle. When little kids dream of going to Disney World, they envision this park with its cotton candy colored Main Street, classic attractions, cheery princesses,  and all around “Disney Magic.”

Tips to Master the Magic Kingdom Without Going Mad

This magic comes with a little madness though (see what I did there?), as MK can be a swarm of people. During our recent trip, this park at times overwhelmed us and ended up being my mom’s least favorite due to the sweltering heat and even more suffocating crowds. That Main Street can be shoulder to shoulder tourists and the line to meet the princesses can be over an hour long. I’m a little more forgiving, and MK still has a special spot in my heart due to the castle and it’s Disney classics. So you don’t sour on Magic Kingdom, I wanted to share a few tips to mastering the park without going full on Mad Hatter.

Go early!

No, really, go really early. We thought we’d be plenty early if we left our hotel at 7:30 for an 8AM park opening, but this was our first mistake. We have been to Disney World several times, but we had forgotten that getting to the park itself can be a production. You need to drive there, find parking, take a tram to the transportation center, THEN take a monorail or ferry boat to the actual park. I’d leave over an hour early, as we arrived to the park gates around 8:15 and faced a massive throng of people. Arriving before 9, even if you miss park opening, is still fantastic as you can zoom through a lot of typically crowded attractions and beat the afternoon heat. We walked right onto some of our favorites including Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. By 10AM, both of these had about 20 minute waits.

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An empty Carousel first thing in the morning.

Take the resort monorail

Arriving to the park gates can be made a little speedier if you take the resort monorail instead of the Magic Kingdom one. The cast members don’t advertise it, but the resort option also takes you straight to the Magic Kingdom, with only two quick stops at hotels. Morning crowds mean you’ll face a wait for the MK monorail, so definitely sneak over to the resort line and you’ll be on your way in no time.

Be prepared for a packed security checkpoint

Disney has heightened security at Magic Kingdom, so if you bring a bag, be prepared to have it searched. This security checkpoint was new since our last visit, so we arrived to an unexpected additional 20 minute line for bag search. I’m glad Disney is taking extra precaution, but factor this wait into your arrival time – no one likes a surprise queue.

Wait to take photos – but take lots!

So you took the resort monorail, made it through the security checkpoint, scanned your ticket and finally walked through the golden gates to Main Street USA. Time to stroll the pastel street taking photos of every rainbow detail and grab your family photo in front of Cinderella’s castle, right? No ma’am! You will want to scoot quickly down Main Street and straight to the rides – preferably Fantasyland or Tomorrowland. The morning is PRIME ride time, and you’ll want to take full advantage of low wait times. Once the crowds start to arrive by 11AM, then by all means start snapping away like the budding Ansel Adams you are and take in every detail on film. I think you could even spend a whole afternoon just taking photos of this pretty park!

 

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If you could only see how many artistic balloon shots I have.

Ride Seven Dwarves Mine Train First

Plain and simple, this is the newest and most popular ride in the park. It was the only ride we couldn’t get a Fast Pass for (all sold out!), so ride it first as the wait will just get more astronomical as the day goes on.

Book Fast Pass BEFORE Your Trip

Speaking of Fast Passes, book them BEFORE your trip. The Fast Pass system has totally changed in the last few years, so I’d refresh yourself here. Essentially, if you’re staying on-site you can book your FP 60 days in advance, and if you’re staying off site you can book them 30 days in advance. You can grab some on the day of, but the most popular rides, at the time you want, will probably book in advance.

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain is definitely a ride you’ll want to book using Fast Pass. We waited over an hour – worth it in the heat though!

Most Wait Times are Inflated

If the wait is under 1 hour, typically it has been inflated. Most wait times were around 10 minutes or so under the posted wait, so when in doubt – hop in line! It won’t be that bad, and Disney has added a bunch of interactive bits to keep you entertained in the queue.

Peter Pan's Flight

Peter Pan’s Flight is known for its epic wait times. Snag a Fast Pass or prepare to settle in!

Take breaks!

If you want to leave Magic Kingdom with your sanity, take breaks! Either leave the park for a pool break or sit somewhere cool for awhile. My favorite break spot is the People Mover in Tomorrowland. Nostalgic and cheesy, the ride takes you on a 15 minute tour de Tomorrowland, all while being in the breezy shade.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority - the People Mover!

Plus you can snag some snazzy Castle shots.

Do it in two days!

My biggest piece of advice to master the Magic Kingdom is – do it in two days! If you can afford it and have the time, spread your itinerary out and don’t try to cram it all in one day. You’ll be able to truly savor the park and all its fantastical little details without getting overwhelmed by the crowds, heat and all there is to accomplish. Relish it!

Magic Kingdom details

Take time to appreciate all of the details. Every corner is filled with Disney magic.

PS – Eat the churro!

Get two even! I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Check out more of my Disney World posts:

The Best Food I Ate at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Essentials: What to Pack in Your Park Bag

Make the Most of Nighttime at Animal Kingdom

Shop my Disney favorites below!

Tips to Master the Magic Kingdom Without Going Mad

The Best Food I Ate at Walt Disney World

As I do on most vacations, I made sure to basically eat my way through Walt Disney World during our recent trip. Luckily I was walking a lot and sweating off my body weight in the suffocating Florida humidity, so my foodie indulgence didn’t do too much damage. Disney World has your typical mediocre and overpriced theme park food, but there a few culinary gems present as well. I thought I’d share the most delicious bites from our trip, so you can add them to your must-eats the next time you’re in the house of Mouse.

Dole Whip 

Location: Adventureland in Magic Kingdom

dole whip

No Disney food article is complete without mention of this heavenly frozen delight known as Dole Whip. It’s essentially pineapple soft serve, but boy does it hit the spot on a hot day. You can also get a Dole Whip float with pineapple juice, but the regular soft serve was sweet and refreshing enough for me. The line can get super long, as there are even t-shirts devoted to this treat, so go early (Dole Whip for breakfast sounds great!) or be prepared to wait. Enjoy your Whip at nearby shaded tables and take in the neighboring magic carpets.

Aladdin's Magic Carpets

Lunch at Cantina de San Angel

Location: Mexico Pavilion at Epcot

san angel inn

Unfortunately I did not snap a photo of my glorious enchiladas at Cantina. I simply was too ravenous to fiddle about with my iPhone. They were also just inhaled really quickly (guilty!).  We arrived around noon after traipsing about Future World in the rain, with no reservation, and were seated right away. The food was excellent, service was quick and friendly (ask for Angel!), and it was the perfect spot to cool off and wait off a little afternoon rain. I’d recommend the enchiladas and tacos – all on the more affordable end. After lunch, I explored the great shopping in Mexico and picked out an intricately painted Day of the Dead skull to adorn my desk. We finished off our “trip” with a quick ride on their “Tres Caballeros” ride. It’s cheesy, but I have a soft spot for the Caballeros and Donald Duck, so it’s a favorite of mine.

Dinner at Le Cellier

Location: Canada pavilion at Epcot

The filet at Le Cellier - yum!

On the other end of the Epcot restaurant spectrum, and literally on the other side of the World Showcase is Le Cellier. Located in the Canada pavilion, Le Cellier is an upscale steakhouse with some of the best steak in WDW. Never ones to be half-hearted when it comes to food, my family started with the classic poutine. AKA french fries with cheese, truffles, and a red wine reductions. SO GOOD. I had their signature steak, the filet mignon, for my main. The perfectly cooked filet sits on a bed of mushroom truffle risotto. This meal was probably our best of the trip, so I’d highly recommend Le Cellier if you want something a little more upscale. Be sure to make a reservation 180 days in advance (when reservations open), and be prepared for an expensive, but delicious meal.

Dinner at Morimoto Asia

Location: Disney Springs
Dinner at Morimoto Asia

Our final dinner in Orlando was a real showstopper at Morimoto Asia. My brother is a huge Iron Chef fan, so we knew we’d have to try Chef Morimoto’s recently opened restaurant, even though it’s more expensive. I started with with Mango Match Punch, a delicious cocktail made with green tea vodka, mango and lychee soda. We tried and shared a few dishes to get a real taste of the restaurant, and my favorites were the rock shrimp tempura, the sushi and the ribs. The ribs were definitely the standout dish, so if you can’t afford a several-course meal here, stop in for cocktails and the ribs. Worth it! On your way out, don’t forget to take a snap of the gorgeous decor!

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Be Our Guest

Location: Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom

The food at Be Our Guest was just fine, but I wanted to mention it as the detailing and decor was a really immersive and memorable experience. You feel like you’re dining inside Beauty and the Beast, so if you are able to snag a reservation, I would still make the trip if you lower your expectations re: food. My brother liked his beef sandwich, and I liked the pork, but my mom hated her Nicoise salad.  Maybe eat something beforehand, and go to split a few entrees and dessert and take a ton of photos.

Anandapur Ice Cream Truck

Location: Near Everest in Animal Kingdom

Anandapur Ice Cream Truck

Okay, Anandapur is really just glorified soft serve, but who can resist that oh so colorful and intricately painted truck? Not me! I also had this cone after a very sweaty and hot afternoon exploring the Animal Kingdom. It was the perfect snack to enjoy while watching Jungle Book: Alive with Magic (read more about my thoughts on Animal Kingdom’s new nighttime experiences here). Nothing special, but I can never resist a tasty waffle cone.

What are your favorite Disney foods? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for stopping by and happy eating!

The Best Food I Ate at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Essentials: What to Pack in Your Park Bag

A trip to Walt Disney World is unlike any other and can be overwhelming with planning. You need to book your dining reservations, buy tickets, schedule Fast Passes, plan out attractions – the list goes on. Once all of your Disney magic is planned it’s time to pack your bags and fly to Orlando! But – wait! You can’t pack just any old bag for Disney. Luckily, I just returned from the Happiest Place on Earth, so I’m sharing the few necessary essentials I always stow away to ensure a Mickey-approved experience.

Disney World Essentials

First, you’ll need a compact and easy crossbody (similar here) to tote into the park each day. A large purse will simply be too cumbersome and will wear you out much quicker than riding It’s a Small World on repeat. Perhaps the most important item to pack is comfortable sneakers. There is SO much walking! We easily walked 10 miles a day, and I was so thankful to have these Nikes to prevent my feet from getting blisters or sore.

While we’re on the subject of shoes, if you’re going to Disney in the summer, I’d also pack some waterproof sandals, like these colorful Chacos. Orlando is prone to daily afternoon thundershowers, and you won’t want your park-hopping and Nikes to get bogged down by some puddles. Similarly, stash an umbrella (this one has great Minnie Mouse vibes) or poncho to keep dry and the touring going.

Of course, you’ll need a small colorful wallet a la this one from Rebecca Minkoff to hold the necessities like your park ticket and map. I love keeping these park tokens as souvenirs after the trip. Obsessed with taking photos, I’m sure to pack my portable phone charger to keep my iPhone camera ready to go in case any celebs like Chip and Dale make an appearance.

Disney trips aren’t all fun and games, however, and you’ll need to bring a few bits to protect from the elements. To guard from the intense Florida sun, solid sunscreen, sunglasses (love these reflective shades), and chapstick are musts. I also get a little heat relief with this Evian spray and take the edge off from a heat headache with this Aleve. Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need your own touch of Disney magic with some mouse ears or the perfect Minnie accessory.

Have a great trip to one of my favorite places, and I hope this post leaves you a little more prepared!

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Wanderlust at Home: 6 Ways to Keep Your Vacation Bliss

There is nothing more utterly soul sucking then coming home from a vacation. After our trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast last summer, I stood at my all office meeting at 8AM on my first day back at work with my mouth agape and brain scrambled like a zombie. Had I really traded in magical cliffs dotted with pastel houses along the cerulean Mediterranean for this? How could I keep the spirit of travel and wanderlust alive without going AWOL and quitting my job to cocktail waitress on an island somewhere? Thankfully, I’ve returned from enough adventures and survived enough travel withdrawal to share a few tried and true ways to keep your vacation bliss alive, long after you’ve returned to harsh reality.

The feeling of adventure is just around the corner.

Create a Soundtrack
Before your trip even starts, create a playlist for the journey. It doesn’t have to be location specific, although there’s something special about listening to Pavoratti sing Nessun Dorma in Italy. Just include some of your favorite songs of the moment, and listen to them during your trip. Months later, if you hear one of those songs, you’ll feel transported to that exotic locale and vacation experience. Certain songs still remind me of a trip to England we took over 10 years ago because I listened to them while on the tube or driving along the countryside. “Lola Stars and Stripes” by the Stills will start playing,and I’m instantly a 13 year old rocking my Converse and North Face fanny pack and utterly in awe of my first trip to Europe. Nothing beats that instant does of nostalgia.

Try to imagine this with Puccini playing in the background

Put Pen to Paper
I mentioned it in this post, but the best way (in addition to photos) to remember your vacation after it’s long gone is through a travel journal. Each night, no matter how exhausted you are from that pub crawl or climbing those ruins, journal what you did that day. What travelers did you meet? What were their names? What did you smell, see and hear? Did something hilarious happen? Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try to commit these experiences to memory, eventually the details are replaced with the tedium of daily life like that expense report you need to file or the date of the wedding you have to attend next spring. Take the thirty minutes to write each night, and your future self will be grateful. Travel journals to get you started:

 

Create a Travel Toiletry Collection
Since I mentioned free souvenirs, make like a klepto and snag some of the hotel toiletries. Now, I’m not just being cheap and suggesting you pocket these to only save money. Using them will also remind you of fabulous hotel life and give you a taste of luxury in your sparse studio apartment bathroom. Our hotel in Praiano’s toiletries had such beautiful packaging, so I stuffed as many as I could in my bag and indulge in the lotions and potions whenever I’m sick of drab Midwestern living. Candles are another great purchase, as their scent will carry you to more wanderlust worthy locations.

Hang Photos
Really, Erin, hang photos? Now, I know I probably sound like captain obvious, but if you’re going to take hundreds of photos (70% selfies if you’re me), you need to put them on display! Usually I’ll post to Instagram with the appropriate 20 hashtags, but then after a few weeks I’ve forgotten about my excessively filtered snaps. Let your photos adorn your walls and nightstand, so when you catch a glimpse of them, you can sate a little wanderlust. The below frames and clips are affordable and whimsical enough to showcase your adventures.

 

Live Vicariously
If you can’t go another trip any time soon, why not live vicariously through travel bloggers? The Londoner is always jetting off to another corner of the world, and Adventurous Kate and Alex in Wanderland write memorable and informative posts from a female solo traveler’s point of view. In short, there’s no shortage of travel writing and photography available online to consume and satisfy your voracious wanderlust appetite.

Plan Your Next Trip!
So what if it’s a year away, give yourself something to look forward to! Even if it’s a short road trip or night in a hotel in your home city, plan an escape from the ordinary to keep the real world soul sucking at bay. If you’re on a budget, plan a themed night at home. Cook an exotic recipe, read through your travel journal and kick back with a foreign film. A little armchair wanderlust will go a long way, and before you know it, it will be time for your next departure!

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