Elizabeth the Island Enthusiast

a celebration of unconventional adventures

Tag: Luxury Travel

10 ‘Truly Essential’ Travel Essentials

I’ve been adrift almost 3 solid months now (WEIRD!), and at this point I’m starting to realize what ‘travel essentials’ are actually, well, essential.

Not long ago I wrote a somewhat sarcastic post about some of my lesser-practical ‘essential’ items (including but not limited to my large TempurPedic pillow and constantly-exploding oversized jugs of Aveda shampoo) I’m happily dragging along with me.

While yes, that pillow has caused me a few issues in terms of my luggage weight and the shampoo bottles keep exploding in flight, arguably I *could* do without them (granted the one night I decided to try a hotel pillow I awoke the next day with awful neck cramps… I digress).

Here are ten things I’ve personally found truly essential, and probably won’t travel without again:

FLIGHT0014-in-1Adapter

1. FLIGHT 001 4-in-1 Adapter. This little device is fabulous – it’s small, portable, and color-coded to make it simple for easily confused people (like me) to figure out what power adapter is required for what region. So far, this adapter has worked brilliantly with everything I’ve needed to charge – I also have a slightly more cumbersome adapter that doubles as a power converter, but really haven’t needed the conversion function.

ApricotArganOils

2. Apricot and Argan Oils. I know these aren’t at all necessary for everyone, but as someone who often deals with very dry skin and hair, I’m VERY happy to have these with me!

CoconutTonerFaceSpray

3. Coconut Water Face Spray. Works great as a toner; works great if my face feels parched and merely needs a hydrating ‘pick-me-up’. Again, not necessary for everyone, but I certainly appreciate it!

CetaphilGentleSkinCleansingWipes

4. Facial Cleansing Wipes. I enjoy having a clean face (don’t we all), and there are plenty of occasions I don’t have time to properly wash my face (such as when I’m running out the door at 4:00 am to catch an early-morning flight). Cetaphil is the only brand I’ve found that makes facial cleansing wipes that actually make my face feel genuinely clean and refreshed… Still prefer a good wash with my Clarisonic facial brush, but that can be difficult in a hurry!

AustraliaMacadamiaOilCream

5. Macadamia Oil Cream. To be honest, I just found this macadamia cream on sale in the check-out line at a Target store while trying to find some new lotion on my first day back in Australia, but I LOVE IT! Smells awesome, makes my skin incredibly soft, and the tub-like container conveniently doesn’t explode in my checked suitcase…

NewMalaysiaGlasses

6. ALL Doctor Prescription Notes of Every Kind. This one is probably obvious, but I keep the original doctors’ notes and all documentation for every single medical prescription on me at ALL times, including optical prescriptions…

This was particularly handy when I decided to buy a new pair of eyeglasses my first day in Malaysia (to finally replace my old pair that’d been very broken for over a year…). I didn’t even have to bother with an eye exam – I had all the documents they needed regarding my vision on me, so my new glasses were ready within 20 minutes after purchasing the frames (and for the record, the price of my new frames PLUS the lenses cost less in Malaysia than the lousy rebate from my old vision insurance company, not to mention a fraction of the total cost back home… and in my opinion, the product I got here is significantly better quality)!

HeadphonesAndMiniSpeaker

7. Wireless Headphones. Seriously, the wireless part is awesome… Nobody likes getting tangled up in cords and wires, especially when long hair is involved. But, when these headphones do inevitably run out of batteries, they come with a regular connecter cord (or whatever the proper name of that thing is…). Plus, the rose gold hue matches half my stuff!

8. Mini Portable Speaker. Again, the wireless part is awesome, but the sound quality on this one is surprisingly good too… I always love being able to play the music of my choice out loud in my hotel room (or wherever I’m staying), and this little mini blue speaker is small enough I can take it anywhere!

RollsRoyceOfEyeMasks

9. The ‘Rolls Royce’ of Eye Masks. I bought mine a few years ago at the airport right before a long-haul flight to Scandinavia, and it basically feels like a wonderful PILLOW on my face… All I remember is choosing to invest in the slightly nicer eye mask (versus one of those standard, er, flat ones) and I’m so glad I did – it blocks out virtually all light, meaning I can have sleep-worthy darkness no matter the time of day, and create a sense of privacy no matter the sleeping circumstance! To me, that’s priceless.

10. Multiple Notebooks, Journals, & Planners. Considering I’m a writer, this is hopefully self-explanatory… I take tons of notes on my iPhone too, but honestly it’s so much nicer being able to physically write down my random thoughts and ideas, as opposed to thumbing away on my partially-cracked touch screen while fighting an endless, infuriating silent battle with auto-correct…

Additionally, I’ve gotten in the habit of documenting my travel itinerary plans in numerous locations and forms – let’s just say it pays off to have hand-written hotel addresses and directions when the airport doesn’t have free wifi to access all the necessary info in my gmail account!

LillyPulitzerNotebookAndPlanner

Some Personal ‘Travel Essentials’ For You:

I’ve seen a lot of folks posting about their ‘travel essentials’ lately. And, while I agree cologne, quality headphones and designer sunglasses are totally necessary, I can’t help but feel like some of these hashtag-ridden insta-pics seem a bit… minimal.

With that said, here are three of my favorite (in addition to completely and utterly frivolous) travel items I’ve been toting along my entire journey, apart from the obvious… (Sorry no detailed photos tonight; I need to pack – rest assured I’ll create one of those nicely curated #essentials #layout photos soon enough!):

Aveda ‘Shampure’ Shampoo & Conditioner. The ‘big-ass jugs’ (as a good college friend and I used to jokingly refer to them), no less. Yes, they do explode in my suitcase almost every flight. But I don’t care, because not only have these jugs lasted me over six months (and counting), my hair is HAPPY!

My Tempur-Pedic Pillow. One thing I’ve distinctly remembered from certain past travels is bad pillows. Sometimes I have a lot of trouble falling asleep in general, and a terrible pillow just makes it worse. So, I decided to drag my Tempur-Pedic around the world with me, even though it apparently weighs three kilos (have to attach it onto my carry-on whenever I fly!).

Why did I make this heavy commitment? Because now I can always look forward to a good night’s sleep, wherever I go. It’s fabulous.

A Sizeable Selection of Small Handbags, Jewelry & Other Fun Accessories. Note: I do plan to re-organize and ship home a few things I’ve realized I just won’t use during my adventure (plus my suitcase is overweight, ha!). But, for the most part, I’m so glad I brought plenty of styling options, because I find being fashionable while traveling so much fun! If it makes me happy, must be worth it, right?

That’s all for now… I could go on and on about the tons other specific products in my suitcase, but I’ll save it for another time.

… Just wait until I start raving about my travel wardrobe (that part gets me super excited)!

IdyllicTaveuniBeach

Greetings, Taveuni Island!

BULA and hello from mesmerizing Taveuni Island, Fiji’s third-largest island and otherwise (appropriately) known as the ‘Garden Island of Fiji’!

I can safely say is one of the most gloriously scenic destinations I’ve ever had the privilege to visit. Taveuni has proven Fiji is indeed full of wonderful surprises, and I already know I’ll be returning again someday in the future!

MajesticTaveuniIslandFiji

Let’s talk about the journey here:

I flew to Taveuni Island (Matei) from Nausori International Airport in Suva on what I’m pretty sure is the tiniest airplane I’ve ever been on thus far in my life, which was also the closest thing I’ve experienced to a roller coaster ride in a long, long time. It was wildly thrilling in the oddest, yet most natural way… At least the trip was quick enough I didn’t even have time to think about being scared!

TinyFijiAirwaysAirplaneReadyToBoardFromSuvaPeeringOutThePlaneInsideTinyFijiAirwaysPlane

Thankfully, the crew didn’t mind when I asked to move to the front of the plane upon boarding (as I had way too much carry-on luggage, per usual – I did appreciate the fact that the airport gate checkers weighed ME and my belongings as a whole though, not just my hand baggage!). I wasn’t sure if they assigned our seats based on our weight in efforts to ‘balance’ the plane, but there was no way my giant backpack, pillow, and tote bag were all going to fit underneath the seat in front of me, much less on my lap!

There were no overhead bins, seatback pockets, nor tray tables. I ended up tossing my over-stuffed backpack on the floor in the empty row next to me, where there was space.

FrontRowTinyPlaneRow1

After take-off, a few thoughts occurred to me as to perhaps why no one wanted to sit in the front row… It was situated directly next to the propellers, so needless to say it was a very loud trip (headphones helped). My entire 1-seat row shook forcefully for the duration of the flight as well, seemingly in time with the propellers…

I find it fascinating to watch them though – I remember the times I’ve taken prop planes back in the States, the windows in these rows are blocked out, so you hear the propellers’ loudness but can’t see a thing!!

Good thing my windows weren’t blocked out on this flight, because the scenery we flew over was amazing!

FlyingOverVitiLevuDepartingVitiLevuByAirIslandHoppingInFlight

Another fun part about this flight was getting to see out the front of the plane, as well as watch what the pilots were up to… It’s been a LONG time (as in over 15 years) since I’d been on a fight where I could actually look into the airplane cockpit.

The copilot appeared to double as the lone flight attendant on this little plane (which made sense considering there really wasn’t time – or room – for any in-flight service!).

It’s so much fun to watch what the pilots are doing while flying!!

FijiLinkPilotsOutTheFrontOfThePlane

As much as I enjoyed myself up in the air, flying through a huge cloud of mist, I still wanted very badly to land, only because I couldn’t wait to see what Taveuni has in store…

Now I’m here. And so far, Taveuni Island has definitely not been a disappointment!

Resort Reminiscing

Earlier as I sat writing about my island adventures from the somewhat-random city of Lautoka, Fiji on a cool, drizzly August afternoon, accompanied by no one but a few friendly geckos darting across the ceiling, I couldn’t help but ponder how, exactly, I ended up where I am right now.

Truthfully, I feel extremely fortunate to be in a place with geckos darting across the ceiling. How lucky am I!

While I’ll admit sometimes precipitation does have a way of making me take a step back to observe my surroundings (maybe because I’m less inclined to go outdoors), it was a casual instagram post from the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia that caught my eye and put me in a rather sentimental (albeit grateful) state of reflection. This particular post was simply a photo of the Greenbrier’s stunning outdoor infinity swimming pool, with a caption something to the effect of “How would you caption this photo taken at our outdoor pool?

This brought back a flood of memories. My family actually used to live at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia for several years, so needless to say it’s an incredibly special place to me. I could think of a variety of suitable captions.

I’d spent days – weeks – months – lounging by that very pool. I’d read the majority of the Harry Potter book series from the sunbeds adjacent to that pool. I’d enjoyed many a tall glass of peach iced tea, copious raspberry smoothies, and other gourmet poolside treats from that gloriously scenic location.

Oh how I longed for that peach iced tea.

Pool towel shenanigans.

Pool towel shenanigans.

Fun with luggage carts.

Fun with luggage carts.

I’m not kidding when I said I was (and still am, really) a ‘resort girl’ through-and-through. The Greenbrier isn’t like just any resort though – I like to think my tastes in clothing, fashion and interior decór derive from my years at the Greenbrier. Just ask anyone who’s seen my extensive Lilly Pulitzer collection or witnessed my obsession for ‘brazilliance’ banana leaf print.

I’ll also give the Greenbrier Resort partial credit for fueling my love for the travel lifestyle – I really do believe it is a lifestyle, and a ‘frame of mind’ if you will; I lived it unknowingly throughout my ‘formative years’.

GreenbrierResortHorsePose

As nostalgic as those memories are, even despite the landslide of personal misfortunes and seemingly endless pangs of anguish resulting from those years, I don’t believe I’d be where I am today without those experiences. I haven’t been back in quite some time now, and am sure a lot has changed (their casino wasn’t even built yet the last time I visited!), but regardless of how it’s evolved, the Greenbrier Resort will forever and always hold a special place in my heart.

Perhaps I never have led a truly ‘normal’ life – why bother starting now?

HiddenFloralGreenbrierLeap

Resort-Crashing at Natadola Beach

This past weekend I was in the mood for a fun-filled, seaside adventure. So, I headed towards Suva to check out the highly-recommended Natadola Beach, located adjacent to the town of Sigatoka on Viti Levu’s stunning Coral Coast. To get down there from Lautoka, I was given a slew of very specific directions:

Hop on a van to the Nadi bus station, then get on a bus to Suva; be sure to tell the driver you’re going to Natadola Beach only, which is the first stop, NOT all the way to Suva; you ought to sit near the front of the bus to make certain you don’t miss it. Then, once you’re there, hail a taxi to drive you the 8 kilometers over to the beach; ENSURE YOU DON’T PAY MORE THAN $8; the cabbies will do their absolute best to rip you off…

Groggy and still recovering from an asperous sinus infection, I made a number of key mistakes.

Luckily, these mistakes, some albeit arguably expensive, turned my otherwise lame morning into a wonderfully delightful afternoon.

First, rather than smartly opting for an express van to Nadi, I took what I’m fairly confident is the slowest bus on the entire island – prior to this, I was under the false presumption that the Fijian open-air ‘party buses’ blasting reggae music drive notably faster, simply because of the thumping bass and lights flashing in rhythm. This ‘party bus’ deceived me, creeping along the road so slow I realized 50 minutes into what should have been a 35-minute drive I probably could have jogged to Nadi faster.

I didn’t arrive at the Nadi bus station until almost noon, which irked me tremendously, considering I’d left the house in Lautoka just before 10:00 am. Well aware the crystal clear azure blue water along the Coral Coast would disappear with the tides in due order, I made a mental note to leave much earlier next time.

The glittering waters of Natadola Bay on Viti Levu's Coral Coast

The glittering waters of Natadola Bay, situated on Viti Levu’s Coral Coast

As I pondered whether it’d be best to just stay in Nadi and lounge in a hammock by the murky waters at Wailoaloa Beach all afternoon while staring blankly at the bus schedules to Suva, a perky Australian woman wearing a fluorescent hot pink button-down and khakis interrupted my thoughts.

“Yeh alright, love? Where yeh headed?”

“Er, Natadola Beach, I’m looking for the bus to Suva…”

“Ah! Natadola’s so lovely, has the best water, that’s for sure. Anyone with you?”

I explained to her it was just me.

“Well no worries, I’ll look after yeh, that’s where I’m headed as well.”

“Oh terrific, are you also out for a beach day?”

The woman laughed, adjusting her blonde hair, piled on top of her head in a large messy bun. “Oh no, love. Today I’m off to a goat farm.”

Before I could ask her why, exactly, she was headed to a goat farm near a bunch of world-class beach resorts for the afternoon, we found ourselves shuffled aboard an overcrowded charter bus marked ‘SUVA,’ which was jammed with three people per row nearly all the way to the back.

I hurriedly found an open space on half a seat next to two elderly Indian ladies, who both raised an eyebrow at the nautical-print romper I’d picked as my swimsuit coverup and prayed aloud as we drove past Nadi’s colossal Sri Siva Subramaniya Hindu temple.

NadiHinduTempleSriSivaSubramaniyaTempleNadi

Finally we arrived at the stop, where a huge ad for the InterContinental and an even bigger sign with an arrow reading something to the effect of “This way to beautiful Natadola Beach! Only 8 km!” pointed towards a winding dirt road.

“Okay love, now this is where you need to find a taxi to drive you the rest of the way,” instructed the Australian woman, who though seated several rows ahead, had kindly turned around to check on me approximately every 5 minutes for the duration of the bus trip. “Oh look, there’s one now, grab it quick!”

I had already flagged it down and darted across the road. If there’s anything I learned from living in New York City for a summer back in college, it was how to hail a cab.

“Be sure you agree on the price first!” I heard the woman yell in the distance as the rusty cab floored it, speeding away down the gravel in a poof of dust.

“So uh… I’m only paying $8,” I told the driver, who promptly demanded $10 in return.

Little did he know, New York also taught me how to be a hard-ass, when necessary.

After a few minutes of squabbling, he ultimately gave in, murmuring “fine, but only because today is a holy day, I’ll agree just because it’s Sunday…”

In an instant, the driver’s embittered discontent transformed into deviously warm regards as he inquired when I aimed to return from Natadola that day, followed by an overtly-friendly questioning in blatant attempts to earn my future commerce.

“Where are you from?” he asked with an enormous smile.

“The United States.”

“Ohhh, ahhh! United States! I love the United States! I have been to San Francisco and Sacramento in the United States. I like San Francisco better than Sacramento. Are you from near Sacramento?”

“No, not really.”

“That is good,” he said, grinning. “Sacramento has much crime. San Francisco is very nice. Are you from near San Francisco?”

“No, where I’m from is pretty far from California,” I replied, glancing at my phone. It was almost 1:00 pm. I desperately hoped the tide hadn’t retreated too far, so I could have a glorious swim in that amazing, clear water…

“You want to go to the InterContinental, correct?”

“Uh sure, whatever’s easiest, I suppose…”

Then I noticed we were parked at the front gate of the resort. At once, a uniformed guard swept down from a tidy brown hut marked ‘InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa’ and asked if I had arrived for check in.

Trying to seem as legitimate as possible, I informed the guard I was just visiting for the afternoon. Surely that’s fine, I thought to myself.

“So you’re here for lunch?”

“Yes, absolutely,” I responded, doing my best to appear relatively affluent.

“You will need to buy a voucher.”

“Pardon?”

“You need to buy a voucher, then you can redeem at any of the restaurants,” the guard continued. “The minimum spend is $40. No cash.”

I sheepishly handed over my credit card after confirming the cost was in Fijian dollars, and decided that wasn’t so bad; I needed lunch anyways. Plus, $40 FJD was a price I was gladly willing to pay if it meant I could feel blissfully at ease for a couple hours.

InterContinentalFijiIMG_0528IMG_0527IMG_0521InterContinentalFijiBeach

Escape to one of the world’s most luxurious beachfront resorts!” touts the InterContinental Fiji’s website.

Here’s a fun personal detail – a long time ago, I used to live at a 5-star luxury resort. At heart, I am a resort girl through-and-through.

Even despite the mild interrogations from numerous hotel staff members as I found myself dumbfoundedly stumbling my way towards the resort’s adults-only beachfront infinity pool, I immediately felt at home.

According to my voucher, non-overnight guests were strongly encouraged not to utilize the majority of the resort’s facilities, especially during high season.

Use of the resort amenities including (but not limited to) the swimming pools, complimentary poolside service, beach towels, sun loungers and/or beachside cabanas are exclusively reserved for paying overnight guests of the hotel… We sincerely thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

InterContinentalFijiResortMapNatadolaBeachNatadolaBeachCoralCoast

By the time I reached Toba Bar & Grill, where I planned to redeem my meal voucher, it dawned on me the resort grounds were quite empty. Exceptionally empty. Empty enough that no one would notice nor care if I chose one of the thirty or so vacant poolside chaise lounges to relax for a bit.

I safely determined it was not in fact high season and parked myself on a lounger chair, boasting a fabulous view overlooking the infinity pool with the sparkling Natadola Bay beyond.

InterContinentalFijiInfinityPoolInterContientalFijiResortInfinityPool

Not wanting to get in heaps of trouble for taking advantage of the discreet “CALL FOR SERVICE” flag cleverly attached to the side of my lounger, I sauntered over to the bar area with every intention to enjoy my lunch there, but was straightaway advised to go take a seat by the pool and order via poolside service.

Okay, if you insist…

I treated myself to a frozen strawberry daiquiri and possibly the best hamburger I’ve ever had in my life, followed by a few invigorating swims in the infinity pool to cool off from the blazing South Pacific sun. At one point a server even came by offering delectable, bite-sized skewers of watermelon – a refreshing touch to say the least!

InterContinentalFijiDaiquiriInterContinentalFijiPoolsideLunchInterContinentalFijiFries

Once I concluded I’d roasted enough for the day, I meandered back towards the resort entrance, pausing for a just moment longer to indulge in a cup of outstanding macadamia-flavored New Zealand ice cream.

NewZealandMacadamiaIceCreamInterContinentalFijiFamilyPoolInterContinentalFijiResortGrounds

Without question, the front desk of the hotel gladly called me a taxi for transport to the main road bus stop, thanking me for my stay as I departed.

Vinaka,” I replied, using the Fijian term for ‘thank you,’ still glowing from the generous dose of vitamin D.

InterContinentalResortFijiInterContinentalFijiHotelLobbyInterContinentalFijiHotelEntrance

Fully expecting another tedious journey home involving multiple bus transfers and a moderately unpleasant layover in Nadi, it was by some serendipitous chance an express bus to Lautoka happened to pass by, uncrowded and air conditioned to my liking.

Thankfully, the return trip from Natadola took significantly less time than the laborious trek there, complete with entertainment the whole way consisting of an Eddie Murphy movie marathon playing on a gigantic mounted flat screen TV up front.

VitiLeviFijiCoralCoast

There’s no doubt in my my mind I’ll be returning to Natadola Beach – I look forward to giving the InterContinental Fiji a thorough inside-and-out evaluation in the future!

******

ResortCrashingNatadolaBeach