[
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Universal Studios – Orlando, Florida USA Part 2

    This is part 2 of my Orlando trip last month! Click here for part 1 and my short-versioned itinerary. Beware.. it’s a long post 🙂 How do I even choose where to cut it for a “read more”???

    BF was impatient waiting for the entire "Universal" to come around.
    BF was impatient waiting for the entire “Universal” to come around.

    Before I cut it, I’ll tell you the details and pics I go into in this post.

    • Getting to Orlando from New York
    • Getting to Universal Studios Area from MCO
    • Accommodations
    • Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventures
      • Overall experience/tips
      • Favorite and least favorite attractions
      • Food
    • Emeril’s Tchoup Chop Restaurant

    Woot, have fun reading 😛 read more “Universal Studios – Orlando, Florida USA Part 2”

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Orlando, Florida USA (August 2016) Part 1

    #happiestplaceonearth
    #happiestplaceonearth

    My “big” vacation this year was a 8-day, 7-night Carnival cruise around the Caribbean that ported in Port Canaveral, Florida with my family of 18. Cruises, in my opinion, are the best, least stressful option for big group vacationing.. but I enjoy cruises regardless of the number of people going. While the more the merrier mentality goes here, it’s also even better when you have good company (but that’s true for literally any trip or life situation haha). I’ve heard horror stories before where people who originally had flights the morning of embarkation had flights cancelled or delayed or whatever and made them miss boarding the ship. I don’t think it happens frequently, but it does happen and was something to be aware of. Thus, many cruise forums suggested that people who had to fly into port, fly in the day before just incase. For me, it was an excuse to extend my vacation another day so I planned to fly in a day before, and also stay a few days after to make this flight to Orlando really worth it. (The rest of my family flew the first flight into MCO the day of (arrival around 9:30AM) and actually made it onto the ship before I did.) Now I’ve been to Orlando every single year for the past 4 years thanks to my job, so I went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure twice, and Universal Studios Florida, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios once as an adult. The kid in me didn’t mind going again, especially since the BF hasn’t gone to the newer Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Diagon Alley) in the original Universal Studios yet and I haven’t gone to Epcot as an adult. SO! It was set. “We’re going to Disneyland World (and Universal Studios)!!!” I’ll go into my cruise experience in a later post but for now, here’s my short-version itinerary for the Florida portion:

    Day 1 – Friday

    • LGA -> MCO (6:30AM -> 9:05AM)
    • Pick up car rental at Avis Counter at MCO
    • Drive and check into Four Points by Sheraton Orlando International Drive (3,000 SPG points)
    • Walk to Universal Studios Florida
    • Rides
    • Lunch at The Simpsons Fast Food Boulevard (World Expo)
    • Butterbeer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley
    • Rides
    • Walked to Royal Pacific Hotel to eat dinner at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
    • Took ferry back to Universal Studios
    • Watch parade and go on one more ride

    Day 2 – Saturday

    • Check out of Four Points
    • Drive to Cape Canaveral to drop off Avis car rental
    • Cool Avis manager says we can keep the car for a few more hours without extra charge
    • Eat breakfast at Simply Delicious Cafe & Bakery
    • Walk around Ron Jon Surf Shop and Cocoa Beach
    • Return car at Avis and take free shuttle to Port Canaveral

    Day 2 (Saturday) to Day 10 (Sunday)

    • #CaribbeanCruiselife (to be written about in later post)

    Day 10 – Sunday

    • Cruise ship disembarkation at 8:30AM, free shuttle to Avis Car Rental
    • Drove to Lake Buena Vista and returned car at Avis
    • Walked to Disney Springs to find free bus to Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel (10,000 SPG points)
    • Checked in to hotel
    • Took bus to Magic Kingdom Park from hotel
    • Ate lunch at Casey’s Corner (Main Street, U.S.A.)
    • Rides
    • Waffle break at Sleepy Hollow (Liberty Square)
    • Rides
    • Took bus to Disney Springs
    • Dinner at Earl of Sandwich
    • Walked around Disney Springs

    Day 11 – Monday

    • Took Friendship boat to Epcot
    • Breakfast at Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie (France)
    • Oh you know, just roamin’ the world
    • Taco Break at La Cantina De San Angel (Mexico)
    • More world explorin’
    • Rides
    • Dinner at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (Norway)
    • Watch Chinese acrobats perform (China)
    • Watch Illuminations/Fireworks show (watched in Italy)

    Day 12 – Tuesday

    • Check out hotel
    • Uber to MCO airport
    • Lunch at Panda Express (really the only thing I crave for in airports)

    I’m going to break this into separate posts per day / theme park and hopefully remember to link it back to this post for easy access. Looking forward to sharing more details on this trip!

    xoxo Eileen

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Being a Consultant and San Mateo County, CA

    Beautiful views along PCH
    Beautiful views along PCH

    One of the perks and also possible downfalls of being a consultant is that you travel. Sometimes, you travel a lot. To cool places, to weird “why does anyone live here” places. Maybe travel there every week for a year. Or get on a 12 hour flight for a 1 hour meeting. Most of the time you’ll get to eat extremely good food for free, stay at nice hotels (or not so nice, if your project doesn’t have budget… shout out to Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown…), and get to know your coworkers real well. You’ll build up points and miles so that your vacations are free. Any good consultant to consultant conversation involves what status loyalty you have with airlines, hotels (#SPGrulez), car rentals, credit cards, etc. ALL ABOUT DEM POINTS YO. It’s the “sexy” part of being a consultant but for most people, it’ll wear off after a while. You’ll get exhausted. Sometimes, you’ll be in a really cool city but you’ll only see the airport, the hotel, and the client site. Sometimes your weekends are cut really short. I had one project where I was traveling to Omaha, Nebraska for 2 months… leaving my house for my flight at 11AM on a Sunday and returning to my door step at 10PM on a Friday night. But all in all, I enjoy the travel still – I definitely have my job to thank for taking me to places I may have never gone to. My favorite trip so far was a one week trip to London, where I had my first business class experience (woooo flat beds!), got to stay in the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair, had a drink at the Shard, and eat the best Indian food I ever had (yelp review for Dishoom here). It’s also a lot better when you have an awesome team to travel with… I got lucky that I almost always had awesome travel companions or I traveled solo so I was able to do cool things.

    My most recent business trip (I’m writing this on a flight to Tampa right now, so it doesn’t count yet!) was to Palo Alto, California / San Mateo County area for a client workshop. I arrived on a Thursday morning and left on the redeye Friday night. I had to work a good chunk of the time, but got some time after work to catch up with friends in downtown San Mateo and Fremont, and also drive along the Pacific Coast Highway by myself! The drive is so beautiful that I didn’t even mind the traffic. While it was a short trip, I wanted to share the meals and sights I got to check out! I didn’t go into San Francisco proper since I already been there (read about my trip in SF here) and didn’t want to deal with the traffic, but San Mateo County has some good eats!

    Details after the jump, but here’s my short list:

    Hotel: Sheraton Palo Alto (wouldn’t stay here again on own dime)

    Lunch/Dinner: Crawfish Fusion, Pancho Villa Taqueria, Poolside Grille (in Sheraton), Amber India, Ajisen Ramen

    Dessert: Bambu Desserts & Drinks read more “Being a Consultant and San Mateo County, CA”

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Honolulu, Hawaii USA (August 2014)

    Waikiki Beach Sunset

    Hawaii is everything you’d think it would be. So chill. So relaxing. So beautiful. Warm. Beach. Sunsets. Tan. Waves. Surf. Expensive. Touristy. Drooling just thinking about those Hawaiian BBQ joints. Ah. WHY CAN’T DELICIOUS SWEET AND JUICY SHORT RIBS AND HAWAIIAN MACARONI SALAD BE WHOLE30 COMPLIANT?! (Here is a link to a paleo Hawaiian BBQ sauce recipe I haven’t tried yet and couldn’t find a paleo alternative to the macaroni salad.)

    I went to Honolulu for a short trip back in August 2014 with my family of 12 (yes, it does get more complicated the more people you have to plan for/manage in a vacation but could be more fun); this trip was joint with a week in Tokyo, Japan. Just being there for a few days was amazing though. I wish I could’ve spent more time there. The culture there is so chill and the natives seem to be pretty nice (that’s probably because almost all the natives I interacted with deal with tourists all the time). Yahh braddah. Total 360 from the NYC vibes. I remember seeing a lot of love for spam (yes, the canned ham); even McDonald’s featured spam in some of their sandwiches. Oh and long lines for the popular Hawaiian BBQ joints even at closing (~9PM). And an ABC convenience/souvenir store on every block. If you need some R&R, get your butt here. I’d love to go back and travel to other areas/islands. I hear the best way to experience Hawaii is just to rent an apartment and a car and just drive around to different areas on an island. I did thoroughly enjoy that our hotel was like 1.5 blocks away from the beach.

    Since I was asked about travel tips for Hawaii and spent some time trying to recollect what I did 2 years ago, I figured I’ll post it here hoping it helps others as well. As it was 2 years ago and my Squarm game wasn’t as hot back then, there are missing details from the trip. I’ll try my best to cover as much as I remember.

    More details after the jump, but here’s a high level overview:

    Thursday, Day 1

    • Arrived at HNL Airport at 1:26PM
    • Prearranged a shuttle (for the 12 of us) to the hotel from the airport
    • Checked into Aqua Queen Kapiolani Hotel (we arrived to the hotel around 3PM and check in did take awhile. I highly do not recommend staying at this hotel)
    • Dinner at Marukame Udon (Japanese)
    • Walked around/shopped close vicinity of the hotel
    • Checked out Waikiki Beach’s sunset
    • Because we ate dinner so early, ate a snack at Me’s BBQ (Korean, BBQ)

    Friday, Day 2

    • Grabbed breakfast at Tucker & Bevvy Picnic Food and ate at the beach
    • Morning beach time at Waikiki Beach
    • Commuted to Hanauma Bay by bus
    • Ate a quick lunch (nothing special, just convenient) at Hanauma Bay
    • Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay
    • Took bus back to Waikiki
    • Ate dinner (I forgot where)

    Saturday, Day 3

    • Grabbed breakfast at Starbucks near hotel
    • Commuted to Pearl Harbor by bus
    • Pearl Harbor Visitor’s Center
    • USS Arizona Memorial (free tickets.. details below)
    • USS Bowfin Submarine ($17.50/ticket as of today.. would recommend buying)
    • Lunch at Pearl Harbor (nothing special, just convenient)
    • Commuted to Dole Plantation by bus
    • Dole Plantation
      • Train, Maze, & Garden (Combo ticket is $20.00 as of today.. wouldn’t recommend any of them; if anything, only the train is decent as it’s a ride around the plantation)
    • Took bus back to Waikiki
    • Dinner at Hula Grill Waikiki (good food/drinks, but pricey)

    Sunday, Day 4

    • Breakfast (I forgot where)
    • Walked to Diamond Head State Monument (~50 min, 2.3 miles)
    • Hiked to top of Diamond Head (~2 hrs round trip)
    • Commuted by bus back to Waikiki
    • Lunch at Duke’s Waikiki (wouldn’t recommend lunch buffet)
    • Shopping for Souvenirs / Beach
    • Dinner at Uncle Bo’s (decent spot for dinner, don’t do the unlimited appetizers option)

    Monday, Day 5

    • Breakfast (I forgot where)
    • Beach day at Waikiki Beach
    • 1 hr surfing lessons (I think we went to Star Beachboys, but I honestly do not remember. I would yelp around)
    • Dinner at Rainbow Drive – In (long lines and not much seating but yummmmm!!!)
    • Walk around vicinity of hotel, last minute shopping
    • Ate free samples at Honolulu Cookie Company (lol typical asians)

    read more “Honolulu, Hawaii USA (August 2014)”

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Washington D.C., USA (April 2016)

    The White House
    The White House

    8096063_friendly-reminder-that-in-an-alternate-universe_tb3161512

    I’ve been watching the latest season of House of Cards (just finished, actually… oh.my.g) and actually a bit of this 2016 presidential election. So it was a perfect time to go to Washington! (TBH, just needed a mini-vacation, and DC is a good weekend getaway from NYC.) I’ve always been intrigued about government, politics, and general US history and thankfully my travel partner (aka the bf) is a history teacher and used to work in politics… so it was definitely an interesting and educational trip.

    I didn’t do as much planning as I normally would’ve. I just knew we were going to hang out around the White House / National Mall area, since we were only going to be there for a short weekend (literally Saturday and a bit of Sunday). It worked out perfectly, as it left a bit of spontaneity and a more relaxed atmosphere. There were certain things I did need to prepare in advance, as tickets/reservations were or were likely needed, such as requesting White House Tour and U.S. Capitol Tour tickets, but if you don’t care too much about those attractions (full list here), you’ll still have a great time as there are many DC attractions not requiring tickets or advanced planning.

    When you’re booking accommodations for a short trip, stay downtown or near the National Mall. I was really hesitant to follow this advice in the beginning, as the hotel or Air B&B prices were higher than what I was comfortable paying, but after having stayed a block away from the White House, it was totally worth every penny for the amazing location to be able to walk everywhere (granted, I did score a decent deal on Hotwire; more on this later). If you’re staying for more than a few days, then it might make more sense to stay out of downtown and commute in. But you do not want to deal with parking, traffic, etc. if you’re just there for a short time. Suck it up, pay, and enjoy… you’re on vacation, after all. DC is also beautiful and on nice days, you’ll want to walk everywhere. And because you’ll walk everywhere, bring comfortable shoes.

    Here’s a short list of what I did:

    Day 0 – Friday

    • Parked car at nearby garage ($40 for whole weekend through SpotHero app)
    • Checked into the W Washington DC hotel
    • SLEEEEEEEEEP

    Day 1 – Saturday

    • Breakfast at Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken
    • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
    • White House Tour (*Tickets Required*)
    • US Capitol Tour (*Tickets Recommended*)
    • Library of Congress
    • Walking along the National Mall
    • Dinner at &pizza (we didn’t have time to eat lunch)
    • National Portrait Gallery
    • Washington Monument

    Day 2 – Sunday

    • Breakfast at Founding Farmers
    • Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool
    • Lincoln Memorial
    • Korean War Veterans Memorial
    • DC War Memorial
    • Tidal Basin
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
    • Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
    • Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial
    • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
    • National Museum of American History
    • National Air and Space Museum
    • Check out of W Hotel and drove towards home
    • Stopped in Baltimore to eat crabs at L.P. Steamers

    read more “Washington D.C., USA (April 2016)”

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Los Angeles, California USA (August 2015)

    Santa Monica Beach
    Santa Monica Beach

    I’ve lived in New York all my life and I didn’t think I would be able to live anywhere else. Until I visited LA. Well, I still prefer NYC > LA, buuuuuut if I ever had to leave NYC, I would head to LA fer sure. Mainly because there is beach, weather is mostly awesome, food is so delicious, AYCE KBBQ is like $15, and I would try to attend all the show tapings. The traffic is meh but so is NYC’s. What was interesting is that I’m usually a typical Noo Yawker in sense of being very fast-paced, efficient, on-a-schedule, and everything is urgent and at first, the lax culture in LA really made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like the pace at all. But after a few days, I loved the chill, beachy vibes.. I could get used to this!

    We spent a total of 5 days in LA. LA is huge and you WILL need to drive everywhere, unless you plan on spending a lot of money on Ubers. Parking is pretty cheap compared to NYC though. We could have crammed everything we wanted to do in maybe 3 days, but I’m glad we took the time to enjoy each point. PLUS, I had way too much food I wanted to try. I’ll do this post a little differently than my SF one, but will of course still give a run down of what we did. I split the trip into East LA and West LA.

    Super long post, but here’s a quick run down:

    Day 1 (Arrival from PCH drive ~1:30PM) – East LA

    Day 2 – East LA

    Day 3 – East LA

    Day 4 – West LA

    • Lunch at Golden Deli (Vietnamese)
    • Stroll Little Tokyo Shopping Center
    • Stroll Old Chinatown
    • Eat dinner at Sushi Show (AYCE Sushi… As a sushi lover, BEST AYCE sushi place I ever encountered)

    Day 5 – East LA

    • Breakfast at 85°C Bakery
    • Griffith Observatory
    • Drive through Beverly Hills
      • Rodeo Drive
      • Niiiiiice, very expensive houses
    • Lunch at Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle (Ramen) (yes, again! so good)
    • Stroll through Hollywood Blvd
      • Walk of Fame
      • TCL Chinese Theatre
    • Dessert at Blockheads Shavery (Shaved Ice Cream) (yes, again!)
    • Santa Monica Beach (Last stroll before airport)
    • Return rental car at LAX

    read more “Los Angeles, California USA (August 2015)”

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Pacific Coast Highway, California USA (August 2015)

    Amazing views only along the PCH Highway 1.
    Amazing views only along the PCH Highway 1.

    The PCH drive was like living through a series of those Sample Pictures that comes with Window builds. Incredibly scenic and breath-taking views.

    We rented a car in San Francisco and went south for Los Angeles (and kept the car throughout our LA trip and returned it at LAX). We split up the trip into 2 days (moreso, 1.5 days) and definitely could’ve sprung for extra stops along the route. We worried that it was going to be really cloudy (and it was for the beginning, but even with cloud, the experience was filled with incredible sights. I thought sitting in a car for 8 hours was going to be boring, but it’s not at all. From one amazing sight to the next, I was always in awe and excited. I’ll post which major stops I made, but my main takeaway would be – TAKE YOUR TIME. Do not rush through the drive. Stop often (in safe areas, of course) and take a moment to breathe it all in. Oh, and bring snacks and drinks for the ride. read more “Pacific Coast Highway, California USA (August 2015)”

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    San Francisco, California USA (August 2015)

    The famous Golden Gate Bridge

    I’m still figuring out how much or little details I should provide, so please bare with me! As always, feel free to reach out to me or drop a comment. I always love California. I can not imagine myself living in San Francisco (sooooo expensive to live in), but definitely loved visiting. This was my second time and certainly not my last!

    P.S. THANK YOU SQUARM for helping me track/remember all the places I went!

    Here’s the short list, before going into details:

    AccommodationsSheraton Fisherman’s Wharf
    Must Eats: In N Out, Delicious Dim Sum, Mee Mee Bakery, Hollywood Cafe
    Good Eats: Fog Harbor Fish House, Darren’s Cafe, Bi-Rite Creamery
    Okay Eats: Ghirardelli Chocolate Marketplace, Cool Tea Bar, 3 Potato 4, Tartine Bakery, Taqueria Cancun
    read more “San Francisco, California USA (August 2015)”

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Travel Preparation for California Trip (August 2015)

    On the Pacific Coast Highway Drive (Hwy 1)

    On the Pacific Coast Highway Drive (Hwy 1)
    Here’s some of my travel prep tips including planning itineraries, booking flights and hotels, and a list of trip essentials, that I used to plan for my trip to San Francisco, Pacific Coast Highway Drive, and Los Angeles.

    read more “Travel Preparation for California Trip (August 2015)”

    [
  • Travel Challenges
  • ]

    Eternal Love for California

    I just got back from my San Francisco / Pacific Coast Highway (US Route 1) / Los Angeles vacation yesterday. While a bit jetlagged and dreading to return to reality, I figured I’ll hold on a little bit longer to this vacation mentality by writing about my journey/itinerary while I was there. Plus, a few of my friends said they wanted to do the same thing so hopefully this helps them plan their trips. This segment will be in separate posts by location and I’ll link to all of them in this post as I complete writing them.


    Posts

    Travel Preparation

    San Franciso

    Pacific Coast Highway Drive

    Los Angeles


    Why I Was So Excited for This Trip

    Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to go to California. Maybe it was all that Hollister/PacSun brainwashing but I always thought Cali was the most raddest place (right after NYC, of course). So much Cali brainwashing. The OC, The Hills, Laguna Beach (yes – my TV selection was fabulous). read more “Eternal Love for California”