I am a BlogHer Honoree!!!

I am excited and honored to say that I now have an award winning blog! I am the recipient of the 2017 Voices of the year award for my blog photography for “BlogHer ’17” and “She knows media”.

My photo was nominated in the Eye Candy category and made it through a minimum of three rounds of judging with at least two judges each round.

We can’t share which photo they selected until after the ceremony, but I will be honored at a special ceremony and reception at the conference in June, and my photo will be on display during the Voices of the year ceremony and reception.

I’m so glad that my husband and friends encouraged me to start back blogging. This time, I am able to blog about what I am passionate about, travel and photography.

They say that your gifts will make room for you and mine sure did the moment that I started walking in it.

To God be the glory!!

How to see Istanbul on a long layover…

See all of the major landmarks, visit the continent of Asia and eat your way through the city in 10 hours.

On our trip to the Maldives, we were able to break the flight up with a long layover in Istanbul, Turkey. After 11 hours in economy class, we were  literally running off of the plane when we landed. Before heading to Turkey, our tour guide told us to get our Turkish Visas online in order to save time when going through customs. The online application was very easy and short. The processing fee for the visa was $20 and we received it immediately after hitting the “submit” button.

Here is a look at our itinerary…

Tour name : Private Evening Tour, Incoming Flight.

Tour duration: Pick up from airport upon arrival at about 16:40 and drop off back at the airport at 12:00 am
Sites included:  We will catch a ferry to cross the Bosporus strait to Asian side (Kadikoy), and we will see most of the Istanbul highlights, Topkapi palace, Hagia Sofia, Blue mosque, Maiden’s Tower, Bosporus and Galata Bridges and Galata Tower. Visit the local food market and sample the local specialities with your guide.  Dinner at a nice local restaurant where your guide choose the delicious foods for you, kebabs and many other Turkish food.  Ferry back to European side (Karakoy) Baklava tasting (the mouth watering Turkish dessert), and a Turkish tea /coffee break at a 300 years old cafe which was a former Medressa.
Price includes: Guiding. Pick up and drop off from and to Ataturk international airport. Dinner, food samplings, desserts. Public transportation fees, ferry fees, coffee and Shisha smoking. Three non alcoholic drinks over the night. 
Price excludes:  Extra drinks and shopping expenses and tipping to the guide.
Itinerary:  Our driver will be waiting for you at the airport with your name on a board. You will then be transferred to the center with the private car (Mercedes Vito). You will meet your guide at the center and he will lead you into the sights and share a lot of historic and cultural information with you. At the conclusion of your tour you will be transferred back to airport.
 Followed by
TOP SITES OF OLD ISTANBUL (Half day private tour ), Return Flight.

Tour duration: Pick up from airport at 07:00 and drop off at airport at 11:30 am.

Sites included:  Once you arrive to center your guide will take you to a nice place for a delicious breakfast until the sights open at 08:30 am. You will then visit the follow sights:  Karakoy neighborhood, Ayasofya, Basilica Cistern, Hippodrome Area and Grand Bazaar. Spice Market.

Price includes: Pick up and drop off from and to Ataturk airport. Breakfast. Profesional guiding. Entrance fees.

Price excludes: Drinks and shopping expenses.

Itinerary:  Our driver will be waiting for you at the airport with your name on a board. You will then be transferred to the center with the private car (Mercedes Vito). You will meet your guide at the center and he will take you to a nice breakfast cafe where you can enjoy an exclusive Turkish breakfast while the sights are still closed. After the breakfast then he will lead you into the sights and share a lot of historic and cultural information with you. At the conclusion of your tour you will be transferred back to airport.
Having a guided tour on layovers saves you time, gives you the most bang for your buck and adds an element of safety. We used the company, “My Local Guide Istanbul Tours”. You can check out their reviews and get more information about the company here: My Local Guide Istanbul Tours tour pricing is determined by your itinerary.
Istanbul has so much to offer! We felt safe and fell in love with this beautifully historic city. Layover tours are a great way to fit in another trip while abroad. Read reviews, do comparison shopping and ask for referrals before choosing a company.

Things to consider when planning a trip to the Maldives…

Everything you need to consider when planning your trip…

Me and my husband just returned from a trip of a lifetime to the Maldives, celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. This place was truly paradise, like nothing we had ever seen. We started planning for this trip back in October, so we had a little time to really decide what we wanted to get out of it. We knew that we did not want to have a jam packed itinerary while we were there. We wanted to relax and really be in the moment. That is exactly what we did.

Traveling to the Maldives is quite the journey. The flight from Atlanta is 18 hours long, so we decided to break the flight up with two, day long layovers so that we could explore a new city and take advantage of being on the other side of the world. We were able to connect in Istanbul. We had visited another city several years ago near the Mediterranean, but have always wanted to explore Istanbul. We were not fearful of exploring the city, but we always prefer to take layover tours with a guide so that we have transportation and maximize our time. I will give you all of the deets on the company in my next post about Istanbul.

So when planning your trip to the Maldives, the biggest decision will be where you will stay. Check out the Lonely Planet guide, it will list most of the resorts available with a list of their amenities. Not all resorts offer a pool, they don’t all come with over water bungalows and they don’t all have all inclusive plans. Here are a few things to consider and put on your must do list when visiting the island.

You have come all this way and you may not get the opportunity to come again, so splurge and stay in an over water bungalow.

Get the all inclusive meal plan. We had unlimited alcoholic beverages, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks each day. On the last night, we were over the buffet and ordered fries, a personal pizza and a drink to share that was not offered in the all inclusive plan and it was $27. A meal like this at home would be no more than $10.

Get a spa treatment! Most resorts offer Balinese spa treatments that are much cheaper than what you would pay in the states.

Take a ride on a Doni.

Make sure that your transportation costs to and from the airport is included in your package. The only way to get to each resort is by speedboat or seaplane and cost $150 per person roundtrip.

Make sure that you have an early arriving flight. The speedboats and seaplanes do not run after sunset for safety reasons, so if you arrive after 5pm, you will need to stay overnight in Male.

Have breakfast in bed. At our resort, room service was offered for guests staying in the over water bungalows. We were able to chose from a made to order menu and pick the time that we wanted to be served.

Take a shower outside. Our bathroom had open views of the ocean and there was also a shower and changing room outside.

Don’t overpack. We did not wear half of the clothes that we brought. We were in swim clothes all day, had quick dinners and back in our bungalow by 8pm each night.

Take pool/ beach shoes. There is a lot of coral on the island and in some areas, the beach can be rocky.

Don’t take the latest flight out. The last speedboat and sea plane returning to the airport leaves at 4:30pm. If you have a flight that leaves at 11pm like ours did, you will have to wait at the airport that has no air conditioning in the holding area for hours. You are not allowed to go into the terminal until 2 hours before your flight departs.

Download movies on your iPad from Netflix to watch at night. We only had the BBC and HBO to watch on the television, but we download about 10 movies and that entertained us when the jet lag would not let us sleep.

Buy a sim card from the airport! I paid $22 for an unlimited data package that last for 7 days, so I was never without wifi. Our resort offered a plan for the week for $37, but you only had wifi access in the room, the restaurant and at the reception desk. You did not have wifi at the beach.

We had the time of our lives in the Maldives! We relaxed, enjoyed just doing nothing and being in each others company. Add the Maldives to your list.