10 Reasons to Visit Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon had been on my radar for quite some time, but more from a place of intrigue about Portugal as a whole --- the lesser popular country on the Iberian Peninsula. I didn’t know much about Portugal, other than many Portuguese settlers had once immigrated to San Diego, and drove much of America’s Finest City’s major fishing trade. 

Then, one day, a $200 RT error fare popped up from New York to Lisbon, with a 13 hour layover in Amsterdam. It was only for 5 days total, and in early August when many warn not to travel to Europe, but $200! To Portugal!  I had to jump on the deal.  It took some convincing (ok, begging) of the Mister, but he finally agreed.

And then the error fare got cancelled.  That’s always one of the stipulations of booking travel plans around error fares, but I felt like my dreams were shattered. It was that moment that Lisbon shot to the top of my travel list and I was determined to get to Portugal.

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long.  Another crazy open jaw deal popped up – this time from Boston to Lisbon, then Lisbon on to Argentina. This time it took a little less convincing of the Mister, and then we officially booked.

We ended up spending 5 days in Lisbon and the Algarve and absolutely fell in love. I was ready to send for my things - and pets - and stay forever. Not kidding. It took about one day into the trip until we were dreaming  - and then scheming - to buy a flat in Lisbon, rent it out most of the year, and use it as our vacation home. By the end, we were considering straight up selling our house and moving to the Algarve for a few years.

Those dreams have stayed with me to this day…as well as an urge to return to Lisbon and explore more of this beautiful country (namely, Porto, and the Azores). Portugal has been gaining in popularity lately, and I completely understand why. The weather is just about San Diego perfect, the food is to die for, it’s full of history, culture, and amazing views – so something for everyone, and, it’s a pretty cheap destination for still being on the Euro. Although I would love to keep this place all to myself, it deserves attention from travelers far and wide, so I’ve compiled a list of 10 reasons why Lisbon should be your next trip.

1. Enjoy Sundowners From Castelo de São Jorge

Head up the hills of Alfama to check out amazing 360 degree views of Lisbon at this 11th Century Moorish Castle.  Stroll along the Castle ruins, walk around the entire property, or hit one of the beverage stands and score a cheap bottle of Vinho Verde (Portuguese white wine) and enjoy a breathtaking sunset.

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2. Eat All The Food At The Timeout Market/Mercado de Ribeira

Food markets are having a moment right now with many popping up around the world’s largest cities, and a trend that I love as a way to get to know a new city. Lisbon’s Timeout Market features stalls from some of the hottest restaurateurs around the city. 

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3. Stand Watch At An Old Defense Tower

Make the trip to see Tower of Belém -  an old fortified tower that used to be a critical part of Lisbon’s defense system during the Age of Discoveries. Changes in the Tagus River now put the tower right by the edge of the river, so you can cross a foot bridge and go inside. Dolce Does Travel (DDT) Tip: speaking from experience here – if you sit on the steps along the water beware that you may be in the splash zone.

Bonus: Also stop at the Discoveries Monument and Jerónimo’s Monastery and DEFINITELY don’t miss…..

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4. Gorge Out On The Best Egg Tart In The World

If heaven was packaged up in the form of little pockets of egg tart, it would be called Pastéis de Belém. These egg custard tarts – called Pastéis de Nata – can be found throughout Portugal, as well as other countries with past Portuguese influence – but the best in the world is found in Belém and not to be missed. DDT Tip: don’t wait in the neverending to go line. Wait in the much shorter line for a table, enjoy a few along with a coffee, and pick up a few (dozen) to go from your table. You won’t regret it.

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5. Take A Walk On The Wild Side…of Lisbon’s Pink Street

On Wednesdays we may wear pink, but in Lisbon, the street wears it everyday. Head to Rua Nova do Carvalho during the day (not far from Time Out Market) and snag that insta-worthy shot of you following the bright pink-paved street that was once the Red Light District. Come nightfall, the streets are filled with people looking to have a good time.

6. Party In The Streets

While planning our trip, I kept receiving recommendations to definitely go out in the neighborhood of Bairro Alto – but I didn’t get much more than that. Where in Bairro Alto? Which bar? Ha ha ha. Silly, rookie, me. Enter any of the narrow streets or alleys of Bairro Alto, and you will find a place to imbibe. The bars are small, and the drinks are cheap – real cheap – and the patrons end up spilling out into the street to enjoy their bevvies. Get your drink to go, and cruise from bar to bar, and take in some of the street performers along the way.  DDT Tip: When I say cheap, I mean it. Like €1.50 draft beers. Or 40 shots for €9.

7. Awaken Your Soul By Soaking Up The Sun

I am not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. But something I started doing on trips, is waking up early one morning to catch a sunrise at some epic locale. And hands down, most soul-awakening experience was at the Miradouro Portas do Sol, in the Alfama district, is a popular spot, but by some miracle, it was completely dead the morning I went and I had the viewpoint – and the city – to myself.

Bonus: Check out any of the Miradouros – or viewpoints – around Lisbon for an awe-inspiring sunset or sunrise. Portas do Sol is located right off the infamous Tram #28, or was just a short walk up from the Airbnb we stayed at – which I definitely recommend. First timer with Airbnb? Don’t miss $40 off your first stay.

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8. Do As Lisboans Do

The two alcohols you must try are 1: Ginjinha or Ginja (Jeen-jah) liqueur and 2: Vinho Verde wine. Ginja is made with infused Ginja berries – or sour cherries – and you must try a shot, especially in a chocolate cup. You can find different stores that sell the liqueur, or do a tasting at the Time Out Market. Vinho verde translates to green wine to describe its more youthful grapes – and is a native wine to northern Portugal. The wine is a bit fizzy and effervescent, reminiscent of a light bubbly. It is refreshing, especially in the summer, and very cheap.

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9. Take In A Live Fado Show Over Dinner

Fado is a form of Portuguese singing that dates back to the 1820s, typically performed in a restaurant, pub, or café during dinner.  It's known for its sad and melancholy tone. An evening at a Fado restaurant in Alfama is a must - but definitely make a reservation. We lucked out in snagging a table the first night, but had to share with another couple from Turkey. There are a number of places that come highly recommended, but we ate at Clube de Fado. The singing was fantastic, as was the food.

10. Experience A Day In A Real Life Fairy Tale

You have likely seen the pictures, but Sintra, a Unesco World Heritage sight, is a must for a day trip from Lisbon. Typically people will add a stop to Cascais, a beach town nearby that comes highly recommended, but with our limited time plus planned stay in the Algarve, we skipped. Sintra's main sights are the Pena Palace, a Moorish Castle, and an unreal mansion with gorgeous gardens, the Quinta da Regaleira. You'll feel like you're living a real life fairytale, from the bright colors and unique architecture of Pena Palace, to the inverted tower at Quinta da Regaleira. It's easy to lose track of time finding all the hidden treasures within Sintra and its various castles and palaces. 

day trip to sintra portugal


UPDATED: The Best Amazon Prime Day 2018 Travel Deals

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July 17, 2018 - UPDATE

Prime Day is in full swing with another 24 hours left to go. Tons of people experienced the site and app crashing, but don't be discouraged - many sales are left to be had.

Here are some updated items we've added to our cart - all on sale through Midnight, Tuesday July 17.

Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

At only $125 for both apple and android/samsung products, this price is a steal. The normal price is $279. These headphones are clutch on long haul - or even short and noisy - flights. 



Up to 70% off Samsonite Luggage Spinner Sets

Several sets of Samsonite spinners (hard and soft body) at up to 70% off. We immediately added this pair to our carts - you can snag a 20 in and a 28 in suitcase for just $129 (total for TWO)!


Coleman Evanston Screened Tent - 8 Person - $86.89 (65% off)

This 8-person tent is a steal. The same tent is also selling for $155, and the smaller, 6-person tent is currently listed at $120. Jump on this one fast for your next camping trip. 


GoPro Hero Session - $99.99

Save $50 on the compact GoPro Hero Session. Be there or be square. 



July 16, 2018

It takes a lot to prep for travel. Whether it’s a weekend camping trip, baby’s first vacay to meet the fam, a week long break on a white sandy beach, or a month backpacking through EurAsiAfrica, Amazon’s annual Prime Day is one of my favorite times of the year to snag some awesome travel gear at majorly discounted prices to help my next trip go smoothly.

To help you out, I’ve curated a list of the best Amazon Prime Day deals - travel edition. I'll be pushing out links to new deals that pop up via The RoundTrip's Twitter and Facebook pages, so make sure you’re following there too.

So -- what do you need to know to take on Prime Day like a pro?

Amazon Prime Day Tips

  • Set that calendar reminder - Prime Day starts today, Monday, July 16 at 12 pm PT/3 pm ET and runs all the way through tomorrow, Tuesday, July 17. 36 hours of deals.
  • Like what you see below? Download the Amazon App. Save items you’re interested in to a list and get notifications when they’re on sale (Amazon’s showing you how here).
  • Follow The RoundTrip on Twitter and Facebook where we’ll be sharing updated sale items that are too good to miss.
  • Memorize that credit card number (or set up your 1-click purchase) and get ready by scrolling through our list of the best deals you’ll find!

Now that's out of the way, let's get on to the deals.



READ TO ME. Got an epic road trip planned? Catch up on the hottest summer reads from the road audio style with Audible. Through Prime Day, save 66% off a 3 month subscription (that’s $4.95 per month).

BOOK WORM. Logging in lots of time pool and beach side? Try Kindle Unlimited for 3 months for .99. (And then check out our summer reading list for books to download)

PLAY IT AGAIN. Create the perfect playlist for your summer trip w/ Amazon Music. When you sign up now through Prime Day, get 4 months for .99.

PUT IT ON MY TAB(LET). Amazon Fire Tablets - starting at $29.99. If you’re team Amazon with electronics, pick a tablet to entertain the kids on a road trip, or you on a plane. These are the best prices you’ll find all year.



BASIC B. AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Luggage 20 inch - $49.99. B is for baggage, and we guarantee this is the cheapest baggage will ever cost you.

WHAT A THRILL. Beverly Hills Country Club 3-Piece Hardside Spinner Luggage Set - $105.99. You’ll be more ready for vacay than Troop Beverly Hills was for wilderness with this set.

CONCEALED CARRY ON. biaggi ZipSak 22” MicroFold Carry On Duffle - $55.99. This is one luggage weapon you’ll want in your arsenal. The carry on duffle with wheels folds up neatly. Useful if you purchase too many souvenirs on vacay, or have to transport something one way, without having to lug a full bag around the whole time.

SUIT AND TIESuit/Dress Black Garment Bag by BAGS FOR LESS - $7.69. Be like JT (before he went all Man of the Woods) and pack up that suit and tie in this super cheap garment bag.  Or, grab a premium version from AmazonBasics for $34.99.



STATUS: INSTAFAMOUS. DJI Mavic Pro Quadcopter Drone - $790. Longing for a drone to create influencer style videos for social media? DJI rarely discounts their current top line drone, and this knocks just over $200 off regular pricing. You can also snag a DJI Spark for $399 (reg. $599).

HANDS FREE. Anker SoundBuds Slim+ Wireless Headphones - $29.99. Water-resistant, wireless, bluetooth headphones with a built-in mic will be perfect for listening to Rick Steves’ audio tours throughout Rome. Or your favorite podcast in transit. Or getting your run on through Sydney.

TURNT UP. LG Electronics Portable Bluetooth Speaker - $19.99. This speaker (and maybe you) will surely be turnt up on your next bachelor/bachelorette trip to Cabo, or float down a river. Small enough to pack for vacay, with plenty of power for the group to rock out, all for $30 off.

WHERE MY PICS AT. Seagate Portable 1TB External Hard Drive - $64.99. If you do it all for the 'gram, you likely need some storage space for all those pics you take on your travels. Solid price for 1 TB portable hard drive. 



SECURITY! RFID Blocking Neck Stash Anti-Theft Wallet - $10.29; RFID Blocking Travel Belt Wallet - $4.83; RFID Blocking Travel Belt - $8.63. Don’t get your wallet snatched from your back pocket, or purse, with any of these products.

PAIN IN THE NECK. Trtl Pillow - $30. Don’t arrive to your destination with a sore neck because you slept funny in your economy seat. This neck pillow helps you catch some zzz’s while providing support without being too big and bulky to lug around.

**NEW** SUCK IT: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter - $9.99 (60% savings). The LifeStraw is an easy to pack and carry water filtration system perfect for hiking, camping, traveling to countries without reliable water supply, and even emergency preparedness home or abroad. Plus for every straw purchased, a school child receives safe drinking water for a year. 



BABY ON BOARD. Britax B-Free and B-Safe Ultra Travel System - $455.98. This car seat fits right into the stroller, making travel with the baby a whole lot smoother.

BUT FIRST, COFFEE. Coffee Boy All-in-One Portable Coffee Maker - $39.99. What makes this so great? It’s both a portable and rechargeable grinder and pour over drip coffee maker. Never go coffee-less again whether in Mexico or Mozambique.

GRILL, BABY, GRILL. Coleman RoadTrip 225 Portable Tabletop Propane Grill - $159.99. Get your grill on, on your next camping or road trip.




Note: These are affiliate links. We may receive a small commission that helps us offset costs to keep this site up and running.

TRAVEL TIPS: See And Stay Guide To Cinque Terre

where to stay in cinque terre italy

Don't miss my 3-day itinerary for Cinque Terre.

So, you've found all of the instagram shots of Cinque Terre and all the blogs tell you what to do -- but what about planning all of the logistics?  I watched so many vlogs, pinned so many pins, read so many blogs, and googled so many pictures, but, like, figuring out where to stay? What village? How to get around? That information was not as available.

So, glad you're here. Consider this you Crash Course to Cinque Terre.

So Tell Me About These 5 Lands?

The Cinque Terre makes up 5 seaside villages. It’s also often referred to as 5terre. From East to West, you’ve got Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Each has its own charm.

And….Where Should I Stay?

If you’re totally lost and confused– you are not alone. I really struggled with figuring out where to stay. Which village was the best? The worst? The most touristy? And why can’t I find Cinque Terre (or 5terre) on Airbnb or hotels.com? (Hint – search by village name).

When planning, I took to every forum, travel Facebook group, and friend I knew who had visited to ask where to stay.  I really stressed over not wanting to choose the “wrong” or “bad” village. Spoiler alert –there is no wrong or bad village! They just all have something different to offer.

RIOMAGGIORE: You’ve definitely seen pictures of Riomaggiore. First village stop when coming in from La Spezia/Pisa/Florence. It is small, and also the busiest. Definitely livelier than Manarola and Corniglia. Decent number of restaurants and bars that stay open, and has a dock. 

MANAROLA: This is where we stayed, only because our #1 priority was an Airbnb with the best views. We took too long deciding where to go and stay, almost everything with a view was booked. And then we found this AMAZING apartment with the most gorgeous views and we were sold.

We were SO happy with our choice.  Manarola ended up being my favorite village.  Quiet while having enough restaurants to enjoy an evening out. Our goal was relaxation after busy and long days of sightseeing the rest of the trip and Manarola served up exactly what we were looking for.

If you want something more lively with more nightlife, look at another village, but if you’re good with fantastic restaurants then retreating to your hotel or apartment, then I highly recommend Manarola --- and 100% recommend our apartment. It’s worth every Euro, especially if you’re on a romantic honeymoon or anniversary getaway. 

CORNIGLIA: All we kept hearing was Corniglia was the only village not right on the water or with any direct access to water. So, in my head I took that to mean it was waaaay up high on the mountain. While it is high from the water (i.e. no boat/dock access) it’s not as crazy high as I expected. Corniglia came very highly recommended as the most underrated village to stay in.

While all the towns are steep once you get off the train (with the exception of parts of Monterosso al Mare), Corniglia requires a trek up 200 stairs, or in a bus to get from train station to main part of the village. So, if you or a travel companion have some mobility issues, you’re better off staying in Monterosso al Mare.  If mobility is not a problem, and you’re looking for an even more quiet village than Manarola, Corniglia is the gem you’ve been looking for.

VERNAZZA: Ah Vernazza.  This was the village recommended over and over and over again to us. It’s really gained in popularity as it is the village always suggested by Rick Steves. This was our first choice in part due to Rick Steves, and in part because it had some “nightlife” (aka few bars) and solid restaurant options, especially right by the water. But, in the end, views from our Airbnb ended up top priority and we missed all the best apartments.

MONTEROSSO: If mobility issues are highest concerns, then Monterosso al Mare is the right spot for you.  This village is broken up in two parts – Monterosso al Mare is newer and the only part of the villages to have an actual beach. Follow the coast and go through a tunnel and you’ve found the old town of Monterosso.  Lots of restaurants and the only place you’ll find a more traditional “hotel” or “resort” feel accommodation.  Monterosso is the largest and one of the busiest villages.

Now, some logistics…

HOW DO I GET TO THE CINQUE TERRE?  By train you’ll arrive at La Spezia train station and transfer to the Cinque Terre express train to access each of the villages.  I highly recommend getting the Cinque Terre pass (you can purchase at the tourist office in the La Spezia train station, or at any of the other village train stations). This allows unlimited train rides between La Spezia and Levante, including stops in each of the five villages. It also includes free wi-fi at the train stations (although not the best), access to public restrooms, and entry into the Cinque Terre National Park – which you’ll need if you plan on doing any hiking.  You can get the pass for either 24, 48, or 72 hours.

FROM FLORENCE: We arrived in the Cinque Terre by train from Florence bright and early. The quickest and shortest train ride in is once a day departing Firenze Campo Di Marte train station at 7:38 am, arriving in La Spezia at 9:11 am (double check train schedules!).  Other trains have a transfer in Pisa and take longer. This made for an easier trek and maximized our time in Cinque Terre.

FROM ROME OR MILAN: You may want to come in a night earlier to make the most of your time. Recommended train from Rome (with transfer in Pisa) or Milan to La Spezia. 

FROM OTHER RIVIERA TOWNS: Find a regional train that takes you into Monterosso or Riomaggiore. To access other towns you’ll need to transfer at either of those stations via Cinque Terre Express train.

WHAT IF I HAVE A CAR? Driving in any of the Cinque Terre villages is not ideal – cars are prohibited from each of the villages, so you’ll have to find parking above each village at a pricey €20 a night – and it’s pretty limited. Or there’s a parking lot in La Spezia where you can leave your car and then rely on the express train. Trains make it so easy to get from village to village. So unless you can’t get rid of a car for the rest of your trip, I highly recommend train.

GETTING FROM TOWN TO TOWN:  You can hike, train, or even take a ferry. Note that as of press time (January 2018), most of the lower hiking trails – including the Villa Dell’Amore -- are closed to renovations. 2011 brought devastating flooding and landslides to the villages and the hiking trails. You can currently hike from Monterosso to Vernazza, then from Vernazza to Corniglia but that’s about it for the lower trail. You can follow trails through all five towns if you take a tougher network of trails but allocate about 8 hours for that (plus stops in each town). 

How To Spend Three Days in Cinque Terre

File Under: Why Cinque Terre deserves more than a day trip.


Don't miss the See and Stay Guide to Cinque Terre!

I remember exactly where I was when I first learned about the Cinque Terre and saw photos of the five seaside towns located on the Italian Riviera.  It was oddly enough in a French language class in high school while discussing the French Riviera, which led to the Italian Riveria….and photos of these five majestic towns. 

It was also the moment I realized love at first sight was a real thing.  And the moment I decided that someday, I had to explore this part of the world.

It took about 15 years, but finally, this past May, I made it to the Cinque Terre.  I had the same debate as most others do when planning an Italian adventure – Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast? The best advice I was given was you can’t go wrong with either. And while Amalfi Coast is definitely at the top of my list for next time, Cinque Terre was everything that 17-year old me had hoped and dreamed it would be.

We opted to end our 10-day Italian adventure (also included Rome, Florence, a day trip to Tuscany, and a pit stop in Pisa) relaxing in the Cinque Terre which was a fantastic way to end the trip --- but also made it that much harder to get on the plane home. I could’ve stayed in our apartment in Manarola forever.

Cinque Terre is advertised as a popular day trip destination whether staying in Florence, Lucca, or elsewhere on the Italian Riviera.  And while I’m usually a big fan of day trips as a way to maximize your time, not all towns are created equal. The “5 lands” are truly as magical as they’re hyped up to be.  They’re also as busy and crowded as they’re hyped up to be. The real magic of the gorgeous waterfront hill villages happens in the early morning and later evening when all the day-trippers have left. 

So, what’s so magical about Cinque Terre?  I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves…..


A stop in the Cinque Terre could easily be shortened to 1-2 nights as much as it could be lengthened to 5-7 nights.  I spent 2 nights in Cinque Terre, but maximized train schedules to arrive early enough the first day; I essentially had 2 full days and 2 nights. I could’ve easily spent another 2 days to delve deeper into the five villages, more time on a boat, and see more of the Riviera Coast. But, if you’re crunched for time, 2 days is plenty to explore the 5 towns and spend the third venturing out along the Italian Riviera.

First things first….I’m a realist.  What the heck are these 5 lands?
The Cinque Terre is made up of 5 seaside villages. It’s also often referred to as 5terre. From East to West, you’ve got Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Each has its own charm.

If you’re completely lost about the 5 villages and where to stay – keep reading here!


Arrival. Arrive by 9 am to maximize day one. See transportation guide. Check into Airbnb/VRBO.

Hit the trailheads. Head to Monterosso via train to start the hike. Walk along the coast from Monterosso al Mare through the tunnel to old town and follow signs for the hike. The hike to Vernazza takes about 2 hours give or take depending on heat, crowds, and your fitness level. Once you get to Vernazza go down through the village and cool off with some lunch al fresco at one of the restaurants right along the water.  Also, you’ve definitely earned a glass of vino.

Explore the towns. Soak up the sun, hang out by the water, explore the shops, and eat some gelato in Vernazza. Then either continue on the hike to Corniglia….or hop on the train. In Corniglia you can’t miss trying the local white wine – Vin Sante. You’ll see tons of vineyards on the hike to Vernazza and all over the hillsides of Corniglia.

Chill waterside: Take as long or as short as you want exploring the towns before heading back to get ready for dinner. If you wind up with extra time, go back and hit the beach in Monterosso, or lay out along the water in one of the other villages.

Dinner with a view: Get a reservation at Billy’s da Trattoria in Manarola (just minutes away from the Airbnb we stayed at), especially on the patio at sunset. The views are to di(n)e for.

Not feeling it?
Alternative options: arrive the night before if you’re coming from anywhere other than Florence, Pisa, or Genoa to have a full day. 

If it’s hot you’ll want to save the hike for day 2 to get an early start. It gets hot on the trail! In that case, Explore the towns on day 1, then spend day 2 hitting the trails and closing off on the water.



Rise and Shine: If you booked the same accommodations, start your morning with some coffee on the gorgeous veranda. No better way to start the day and realize how lucky you are to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Hit the towns – again: If you followed our day one suggestions, you only really saw 3 of the 5 villages. Hop the ferry or train to explore the other two (i.e. Manarola, Riomaggiore).

Rent a boat: Head to Riomaggiore boat dock and hire a boat and captain for the day. Those views of the 5 villages and dramatic hillsides are unbeatable from the water.

Aperitivo: I know, I know. We’re partial to Manarola.  But, you can’t hit the Cinque Terre without a visit to Nessun Dorma – a bar with the best views in the Riviera. The cocktail or rosé menu are the best, and don’t miss a cheese plate or bruschetta. Mmmmm.  We enjoyed it here at sunset.

Dinner and drinks: Venture to another town, or find a solid local restaurant for dinner in your village. If staying in Riomaggiore or Vernazza, hit the local watering hole.

riomaggiore cinque terre italy


Free Day! By now you’ve explored all 5 towns, you’ve hit the trailheads, and you’ve spent time out on the water. You can delve deeper into any of those areas (there are some serious hiking trails in the park) – or…take a day to go explore the rest of the Riviera.

I Found My Love…. in Portofino. Buy a train ticket to Rapallo and head toward the water. Buy a roundtrip ferry ticket that will take you to Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, and San Fruttoso. We booked a roundtrip ticket so we could go to Portofino first, then got off in Santa Margherita Ligure to explore and catch a train home from there. Oh, and when in Portofino, definitely sit and get a bottle of wine or bubbly and people watch the yacht parties and the lamborghinis driving down the tiny main road.  Note – if weather and wave conditions are not friendly, the ferry service to San Fruttoso won’t run.

italian riviera ferry

Not feeling it?
Head east instead to Porto Venere.  Not as well-known as the rest of the towns, a total hidden (for now) gem that fits right in with its sister 5terre and has a few more sights to explore.

Fry Not?
Another gem in the area is Camogli. If you’re in the area the second weekend of May, don’t miss their annual Fish Fry festival. The main festivities run on the Sunday with a giant frying pan on the beach serving up some fresh fish. Events start the night before with giant bonfires on the beach and fireworks. 

3 day itinerary for cinque terre

3 Ways To Fit In Travel With a Full-Time Job

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Travel can be daunting for newbies – there seems to be so many barriers to travel, whether due to cost, security concerns, lack of sufficient vacation time – or lack of paid time off (PTO).

The latter reason is one of the biggest issues plaguing US employees. Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation report shows that more than half of American workers (55%) left a record-setting 658 million unused vacation days in 2015. These habits are leading to higher than ever employee burnout rates, while the US slipped a spot to #14 on this year’s World Happiness Report.

While Americans blame unsupportive bosses, the need to show job dedication, and concern about returning to a mountain of work, 30% of participants claim they can’t financially afford a vacation.

Since I’ve already shared tips on how to travel the world for under $200 to address the financial barrier of expensive plane tickets, I wanted to also share how I manage to travel while holding down a full-time job.

My PTO and Holiday Schedule: I work for a public university, so I am fortunate to get more holidays off than most people -- I get 13 holidays (including 4 days at Christmas and New Year’s) a year. I also work a typical Monday - Friday schedule, so I have weekends off. And, I receive 15 paid vacation days a year. However, our university closes for the week between Christmas and New Year’s so I get a built in 10+ days off in a row, but I have to use about 3-4 vacation days during that time. So, I really get about 11-12 paid vacation days plus the 10 total days off during Christmas week. That translates into up to 3-4 weeks off a year if I maximize right and don’t have obligations in which I’ll need to use my PTO.

Unzip a life of travel while holding down a full time job with these tips!

Unzip a life of travel while holding down a full time job with these tips!

Use 5 Vacation Days Plus Weekends for a 10-Day Trip

As you should know by now, I plan my trips based on the cheapest airfare deals. The cheapest travel days are typically Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturdays. However, I’ve been lucky enough to score some great deals that allow me to travel from a Friday night to the following Sunday night for a full 10 days away. If you can combine this with a built in holiday, you can squeeze one extra day in.

How To Implement: Try to hold out for deals that allow travel on weekends, i.e. Friday night to Sunday night, and try to plan around a 3 day - or 4 day (hello, Thanksgiving) weekend. These deals do exist!

With the husband enjoying Thanksgiving Day 2015 in Prague!

With the husband enjoying Thanksgiving Day 2015 in Prague!

Work With What You’ve Got

I fully recognize some people don’t get more than a week of vacation time, or get weekends off.  But, if you at least get 5 days plus 2 days off a week, you can still manage to go somewhere over the span of 9 days.

If you can’t swing a full 9 days, even just 4-5 days can be enough to take in a city or destination, and it gives you just enough days to unwind from the stress of work. You may not be able to jam a bunch of cities into that timeframe, but it’s the perfect length of time to really get to know one destination.

How To Implement: First, make sure you know how many vacation hours you have. Then look at your work calendar and identify some times you can take anywhere from 2-5 days off surrounding your weekend or typical days off. I then like to wait for a great deal or sale to pop up with reasonable travel time to have the most time available to explore the destination!

Created our own 5-day long weekend and took advantage of $150 RT flights to Chicago for a long weekend getaway to Chicago, Indianapolis, and a destination wedding in Kentucky in November 2016!

Created our own 5-day long weekend and took advantage of $150 RT flights to Chicago for a long weekend getaway to Chicago, Indianapolis, and a destination wedding in Kentucky in November 2016!

Maximize Weekends and Holidays

In a similar vein to above, 48 hours can be plenty of time to visit a new city in your own state, or a nearby state, and if you have a 3 day weekend, then that’s even better. Not all travel has to be international -- there is so much to do and see in your home country.

If I’m taking advantage of a weekend or 3-day holiday weekend for travel, I try to stick to less than 2 hours of flight time or 5 hours of driving, otherwise you’re just spending way too much of your precious time off in transport.

I also love to travel over Thanksgiving.  Maybe you’re the type to prioritize the holiday at home with family and friends, but if you’re willing to forego a year of cranberry sauce, NFL, and turkey, unless you work in the medical field or service industry, you get a built in 4 days off.  That’s enough to travel somewhere quick, or add on just 3-5 vacation days for a full week-week and a half international trip.

And, as I mentioned, I'm lucky enough to get a full week off at Christmas/New Year's. Although it's typically more expensive, this year I was able to book flights from Los Angeles to Barcelona over Christmas and New Year's for less than $500 per person round trip.  

Last year, I used Southwest points to check off a new state capital -- Santa Fe -- and the year before I visited a friend. Both of these trips were over 4 days of my total 10+ days off. It gave me plenty of time to celebrate holidays with family and friends, unwind and catch up at home, and still travel somewhere new.

How To Implement: Pull up google maps and look at destinations within a 2 hour flight or 5 hour drive (about 1,000 miles flying or 300 miles driving, dependent upon traffic of course -- holiday weekends may result in increased travel times) and make a list. I like to choose destinations based on weather, time of year, least amount of crowds (if possible), somewhere new with enough things to see/do, or something that checks off a bucket list for me (i.e. state capitals).

If it’s driveable, I narrow down location or which weekend based on affordable hotel and airbnb accommodations. If it’s by flight, I wait for the next Southwest Airlines sale to pop up and book the cheapest late night Friday to late night Sunday or early Monday morning flights that allows me to get back to work on time.

Taking in the views at Red Rocks in Denver, CO on a quick 48 hour weekend getaway in June 2016

Taking in the views at Red Rocks in Denver, CO on a quick 48 hour weekend getaway in June 2016

BONUS - Maximize Business Trips and/or Take Advantage of Remote Work Opportunities

I’m counting these as bonuses rather than 4th and 5th tips, just because not everyone has the the flexibility to work remote, or travel for work. However, if you do travel for work, it’s a great opportunity to add on a weekend somewhere in or near your business trip destination to explore somewhere new.  I travel several times a year to Washington, D.C. and this year was able to extend my trip by taking the train up to NYC and flying home from there (actually cheaper than a roundtrip ticket to D.C. at the time!).  I’ve also made a stop on the east coast for work on my way back from a Europe trip.

Maybe working remote with these views wouldn't be so bad...

Maybe working remote with these views wouldn't be so bad...

The work remote option isn’t as fun -- I mean, who wants to work while on a trip in some exciting foreign locale -- but it can be a way to negotiate a longer trip out of your boss.  Say, take 5 vacation days, and an extra 3-5 where you’re working remote so you can get away for a full 3 weeks. Another option that may be available to you would be if your company or organization has an office in another location. Explore whether you can work from that office for a week and take advantage of the surrounding weekends to explore nearby destinations. 

BONUS #2: Get Deals From The RoundTrip

If money is still your #1 barrier to travel, don't miss any of the hottest error deals and airline weekly sales. Make sure you've signed up for The RoundTrip -- our weekly 5 min tipsheet on the week's top travel news and deals to get you to book your next flight! #ShamelessPlug :)

How do you manage to travel while holding down a full-time job? I’d love to hear your tips! Comment below with your favorite part-time travel hack.

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