My All-Time Favorite Hotels

When I was in Cambodia, I fell in love with my hotel and started thinking about how many hotels I’ve stayed in and which ones were truly memorable.  I love staying in hotels, especially nice hotels, but there are definitely a few standouts that make the cut as my all-time favorite hotels.  Many of these aren’t even fancy, but there was something special about them that seared them into memory.

Le Meridien Angkor; Siem Reap, Cambodia

This is the hotel that spawned this list in the first place.  From the second I walked through the entrance and was greeted by a cool washcloth and cold juice, I was smitten.  A gorgeous oasis to retreat from the heat of Cambodia.  Beautifully designed pool and spa area, excellent service and good food, too!

Le Meridien Angkor

Le Meridien Angkor

Renaissance Carambola; St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

My mom and I stayed here two Christmas vacations in a row!  After a late night arrival, waking up to this ocean view was such a treat!  I love a hotel room with outdoor space, and these screened in porches were perfect, not to mention the hammocks and uncrowded beach. This place is a great destination for a quiet escape from the real world.  I know we’ll be back again!

Davis Bay

Hacienda la Jiminita; Quito, Ecuador

We stayed here before and after our Galapagos cruise, and it was so charming, especially the resident French bulldogs, Francois and Maya.  I wish we’d had more time to explore the grounds, but it was another whirlwind trip! This is a place I’d love to return with a pile of books and just relax.  (we know my trips are never relaxing, but maybe someday they will be!)

Casa de Hacienda "La Jimenita" - we spent the first two nights at this cute hacienda near the Quito airporthttp://hotelnuevoaeropuerto.com/

Breakfast at the hacienda - the food was delicious, and fresh squeezed fruit juice!

Flanigan’s Inn; Springdale, Utah

Oh, Flanigan’s!  Someone on a backpacking forum recommended this place for its proximity to Zion National Park and I visited with my friends in 2008.  I then spent the next 8 years dreaming of a return until I finally made it back in 2016 after my Grand Canyon rafting trip.  On the 2nd visit, I also got to experience the spa and the hilltop labyrinth, which was pretty cool.  Honestly, I think there’s something in the air here that just captivates me.

Flanigan's in Springdale, UT - awesome place to stay!(Photo Credit:  Amy)

The pool at Flanigan's - I love that view!

Redstone Inn; Redstone, Colorado

We’ve been visiting the Redstone area for many summers, and in 2005, my mom, sister and I decided to fly out for Christmas at the Redstone Inn.  What a treat, and I think this started the Christmas travel tradition for us.  We had all our meals in the gorgeous lodge, enjoyed stunning views of the night skies from the hot tub, and even a horse-drawn sleigh ride to nearby Redstone Castle.  What an experience!

redinnsnow

Photo Credit: Aspen Valley Film

Christmas Eve sleigh ride at the Redstone Inn

Freestone Inn; Mazama, Washington

My sister and I stayed here on a trip to Washington State, after seeing Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge.   The cabin-like rooms each had their own patio, the lodge was gorgeous, the location remote. I would love to come back here sometime.

Lake outside our deck at Freestone Inn

Heaton’s Guest House; Dingle, Ireland

I don’t even have a photo of Heaton’s, but the Dingle Peninsula was just stunning.  I think we only stayed at Heaton’s 1 night, on a whirlwind trip across Ireland, but it had the perfect location near town right on the water.  I remember saying it would be the perfect place to come back and just relax with a bunch of books.  It’s been 13 years, and I haven’t made it back there yet 🙁

Honorable Mention:

Indian Lodge at Davis Mountains State Park, Texas

This place looked so great, and I really, really want to go back and give it a proper visit.  Unfortunately, when I visited I came down with a cold/flu and spent pretty much the entire time in bed.

Sunset from Skyline Drive(BW)

Far View Lodge at Mesa Verde National Park

I guess I have a thing for lodges?!  This was a short visit on a road trip to Utah and Colorado.  Super cute rooms, good food at the restaurant and of course, stunning scenery and history.

Mesa Verde - my last National park of the trip, and where I would meet my mom.

I have a feeling I will be adding a few more to this list soon!  Any suggestions?

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Galapagos Islands Packing List

Packing for a 10 day cruise of the Galapagos is a daunting task, especially when flying to and from the frozen tundra.  OARS provided us with a packing list, which made for a good starting point.  There were definitely things I didn’t use at all (tripod) and things I’d wished I’d brought along (fleece or lightweight down jacket)

Here I’ll show the suggested packing list, along with my comments and notes, in the hopes that someone may find this useful for their own Galapagos trip.  I should note that we traveled at the end of December, on the cusp of rainy season, so we had some overcast days, but no rain.

Equipment and Personal Items:

  • Duffel bag: bring your gear packed in soft luggage or a duffel bag rather than a suitcase that will stow easily on the boat – We used the LLBean Large Adventure Rolling Duffle, and shared it for two of us (not realizing luggage on international flights is free!)  We were sweating the 50 lb weight limit, but just scraped by!  The closets on the boat actually had room for a small roller-style suitcase , so a collapsible duffle isn’t totally necessary.  Since we were sharing luggage, I used several Eagle Creek packing cubes to keep my stuff organized.
  • Daypack: it should be large enough to carry your water bottle, camera and rain jacket and can double as your flight carry-on bag I brought my usual daypack and almost never took it hiking.  My mom used a fanny pack, which worked perfectly.  I usually stuffed a bottle of water in my camera bag and that was fine.  None of the hikes were long enough to require a full daypack.
  • Water Bottle: heavy duty and minimum 1 liter capacity. For day hikes, hydration systems like a CamelBak® are great but you will need a water bottle while in the kayak. 1 liter bottles didn’t really fit under the water purifier faucet, so we ended up just reusing the 16 oz water bottles that were provided with our cabin.  Again, the hikes weren’t super long, so 16 oz was usually enough water
  • Headlamp or flashlight, extra batteries and bulb I didn’t bring this, and didn’t need it. Some people wore them to read on deck after dark, but we were more interested in stargazing
  • Plastic bags: 1 large trash bag and assorted zip-loc bags to separate wet or dirty clothes These did come in handy, especially for packing stinky shoes and wet clothes for the long ride home!
  • Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap and a spare Polarized glasses are a must.  I bought a cheap-ish pair specifically for this trip as I didn’t want to get my good sunglasses ruined or lost.  Saltwater and sunscreen aren’t great for plastic.  I brought, but never used, the securing strap.
  • Small, quick-drying towel I packed a couple of these, but didn’t use them.  They would have been helpful to dry off our feet for hikes after wet landings, but I always left them on the boat!
  • Toiletries including biodegradable soap and shampoo Each bathroom on the boat had soap and shampoo, so this wasn’t really necessary either.
  • Sunscreen: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher A must!
  • Lip protection: SPF 30 or higher Also a must!  My mother assumed her lipstick had SPF and looked like Angelina Jolie after a day in the sun.  Sunburned lips are extremely painful and can ruin an otherwise enjoyable meal, so make sure you have plenty of lip SPF on hand!
  • Moisturizing lotion or cream This was good to have as well as aloe vera.  It’s nice to smell good after a day in the ocean 🙂
  • Insect repellent: Mosquitoes are generally not a problem, but it’s always best to be prepared I brought only a small tube and never used it.  There were flies on some of the hikes, but not enough to warrant putting more chemicals on our ski.
  • Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, sea sickness and stomach medication, moleskin, eye drops, etc.) I went overboard here and brought a motherlode med kit with a little bit of everything….just in case.  And ended up sharing with several people.
  • Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts (blowing sand can cause problems for contact wearers)
  • Earplugs: we may motor into the night and waves slapping the hull can be loud Didn’t need these either, as I’m a very sound sleeper, but several people did mention the noise so it’s not a bad idea
  • Cash for National Park entrance fee, gratuities and incidentals  I brought $600 cash, which proved to be just enough.  I didn’t really shop on this trip, but there were people to tip in Quito, which I hadn’t thought about ahead of time.  In addition to $100 fee for the Galapagos, I tipped $120 to our guide, $140 for the crew. I had a small bar bill for my daily Coca-Cola, and various other small expenses. I think I came home with a bit of cash.  Soda was $2 on board, and I think wine was $5 a glass, which was very reasonable.

Footwear:

  • Sport sandal or amphibious sport shoes (such as Teva) Keen’s were great for this trip.  My mom only brought Keens (no hiking shoes) and did OK.
  • Athletic shoes or light hikers: 1 pair, comfortable and with good tread for hikes, the city and travel I would still recommend hiking shoes as some of the hikes are pretty rocky.  Since we flew out of the frozen tundra, my Merrell hikers were the shoes I wore on the flight, too.
  • Hiking socks: 3 or 4 pair, light-weight synthetic or synthetic/wool blend I think I brought 3 pair of socks on the cruise.  With short hikes, I re-wore socks for a few days as I only wore them an hour or two at a time
  • Comfy socks with grip soles or slippers for onboard the boat (no land shoes onboard); you can go  barefoot I brought flip flops, but only wore them on the flight to and from the Galapagos.  We were barefoot on the boat.  Socks would have just gotten wet, so I don’t see the need.

I will say, all shoes go into a bin on the boat to avoid dragging mud and sand all over the boat.  This bin can get pretty stinky, so a quick drying shoe is a good idea.  The Keen’s were pretty bad by the end of the trip, so garbage bags came in handy!

They suggested socks for the tortoise day, as ants were common, but then we all wore wellies anyways.

Clothing:

  • Long-sleeved shirt: lightweight, quick-drying and light color for sun protection (UPF-rated shirts are great)  I brought a few quick dry shirts, but wished I had brought more of the lightweight UPF style with the rollup sleeves.  The quick dry were too heavy in the heat.  I had brought one UPF shirt, and bought another one in Puerto Ayora.
  • Long pants: lightweight, quick-drying and light color for sun protection  I wore pants once, it was just really too hot for pants at all
  • Lightweight fleece jacket or top I talked myself out of bringing my fleece and I regretted it.  It definitely got cold(ish) and damp up on deck after dark and a fleece jacket would have been great.
  • Shade hat or visor with securing strap and a spare  I love straw hats and any excuse I can find to wear them!  I brought a hiking-style hat too, which was great for dipping in cool water when it got too hot.
  • Rain jacket & pants: a lightweight, hooded jacket is recommended. Rain pants are optional. I wore the rain jacket a few times, and it came in handy as an extra wind layer when we landed in Chicago.  The rain pants stayed in my suitcase the whole trip, though.
  • Swimsuit / swim trunks: 2- piece suits recommended for women. Tankinis are a great option. I brought 2 tankinis so that I could alternate each day and have a dry suit to wear.  Ialso brought two cover-ups which were great for hiding from the sun while on deck.
  • Underwear: quick-drying While it is possible to wash these out in the sink, underwear don’t take up a lot of room.  I brought enough for every day.
  • Pajamas I brought PJ bottoms, a tank top, and a lightweight cotton robe, which was nice to have
  • Quick-dry shorts: 2-3 pair  I think I wore the same pair of shorts every day.
  • Quick-dry t-shirts/tops: 4 2 or 3 was plenty for me.  Really, you’re in and out of clothes all day, so you can really re-wear a lot.
  • Casual clothes for evenings and in Quito (Note: evenings can be cool) This is true, one good heavier outfit is good for your time in Quito.

Floppy hat is must in the strong sun!


Optional Items:

  • Sarong: useful as a cover-up from the sun, or as a wrap Very useful as a towel, coverup, skirt, etc
  • Rash guard tops for snorkeling and paddling 1-2 I searched high and low for my rashguards and couldn’t find them.  Definitely would have come in handy with my neoprene pants that I brought.
  • Personal snorkel gear (we provide gear but many prefer their own) I found the provided gear just fine, no need to bring my own
  • Shorty wetsuit (can be rented for $5/day) The boat provided full wetsuits, which I wore every day.  I had also brought neoprene capri pants, but without a rashguard to wear with them, it was too cold for me.
  • Binoculars: compact Definitely would have been useful
  • Camera and accessories Of course!  I had my Nikon D3000, my iPhone and a borrowed underwater camera.  The tripod, however, was useless.  The boat moves constantly, and we were on the go on all of our hikes.  With the Nikon, I had 3 lenses and got the most use out of the zoom lens (70-300mm), even though we were close to the animals, I got some great shots with the zoom.
  • Walking stick: collapsible I never used one – the boat had a few to loan, not enough for every passenger, so if you’re not comfortable rock hopping, you might bring one
  • Clothes pins Definitely used these to dry our things on the deck every day!
  • Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book I’m not much of a journaler, but I had brought out the printed itinerary and each evening, tried to write down what we had seen.
  • Bandana Always!  Great for dipping in water to cool down your neck or forehead.
  • Spare rollup duffel for purchases while in Ecuador (or purchase one in Ecuador) I didn’t bring an extra bag, as I knew we wouldn’t shop much.  Ironically, the only souvenir I bought was a tote bag at the Galapagos airport.
  • Not on the list, but I brought a paperback book, plus my Kindle, iPod shuffle and some G2 powder, which really came in handy.  It was nice to have an alternative to water day after day on our hikes.

We’ve turned the deck into a clothesline

If you follow the suggested packing list line for line, you’ll survive just fine, but there were definitely a few things not needed.  It will really depend on the individual traveler, but as a backpacker, I’m used to living with what I can carry on my back!

 

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