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7 Of The Best Airbnb’s I’ve Ever Stayed In

If it’s one thing I love more than a spacious, cozy hotel, it’s AIRBNB.

I travel a lot for work, and even more for some much needed vacation time, but what I’ve found to be super important when visiting new cities, is how comfortable your accommodations are, and for me, hotels just haven’t been cutting it for me lately. 

Ever since I booked a 2 bedroom spacious condo, with a chef kitchen and washer and dryer in Paris for the same price I paid for a cramped hotel room which was barely big enough for a bed, I haven’t looked back. Don’t get me wrong, for last minute trips, I normally find myself booking a hotel (through the highly discounted HOTEL TONIGHT app) but for anything longer than a day or two, AIRBNB is my preference. 

Plus, what’s better than getting to live like a local? 

With that being said, although most of the places I’ve booked on the site have been amazing, I’ve had some shady experiences as well.  Like the time I checked into an Airbnb and the biggest bug I’ve ever seen in my life greeted me at the door like, “Hey girl hey!!!”  The good news is that Airbnb was pretty good about refunding my money for that place and I decided against giving the apartment host a bad review. 

Things happen.

For that reason, I decided to share the Top Airbnb’s I’ve ever stayed at in various cities. 

1. London, England
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Cost: Ranges from $170 – $215 a night

What I loved: This Luxury, Airy and Bright 1 bedroom modern apartment in the Paddington area of London was the upper echelon of Airbnb experiences. The neighborhood was gorg with all white buildings lining both sides of the street, and Hyde Park (which is equivalent to Central Park) was a few blocks away. The train station was a short 5-10 minute walk which was convenient since all of the necessary attractions (Birmingham Palace, The London Eye, Big Ben, etc) were only a few stops away.

The inside of the apartment was impeccable and decorated to give an old Hollywood glamour feel. The bedroom was very ZEN and had bottles of water and fruit on the night stand. When I checked in there was fresh roses on the table, as well as chocolates, the kitchen cabinets were fully stocked with pots and pans and food, the fridge stocked with water and fruit, and the bathroom fully stocked with all the essentials such as toothpaste, lotion, toothbrushes, etc. I thought maybe it was a one time thing since I was one of the first  to ever stay in the place, but when I went back to look at the reviews recently, everyone mentioned the roses, fruit, fully stocked kitchen and so forth.  A fully stocked kitchen is very rare for an Airbnb unit. 

Additional bonus points: Since I was staying for a week, I reached out to the hosts to ask if they’d be able to give me the place for a set rate, which was discounted a few hundred dollars, and they agreed. (I never mentioned my websites or anything.)  Also, upon check in I asked if they had a full-length mirror in the condo, and I was told ‘no’ but they kindly brought one in for me the next day. 

 

2. Paris, Franceparis-airbnb-2bd paris-airbnb-2-bedroom paris-2bd-kitchen

Cost: $176

This 2 bedroom apartment in the Le Marais area of Paris was my first AIRBNB experience ever. Unlike the London pad which is set up to be rented out by a high volume of guests, this place is the actual living quarters of the host, and she rents it out during the holidays.  

What I loved: Once we got past the super tiny elevator (that could barely fit one person), and the fact that all of the hosts things were still in the apartment, we realized that this condo far exceeded what we would have ever gotten out of a Parisian hotel for the same rate.  The apartment was spacious with a huge cozy living room, washer and dryer, and chef style kitchen. There was also plenty of train lines nearby, as well as restaurants, shops and the market for basic necessities.  What made this stay amazing was the hospitality of the host’s boyfriend Herve, who helped us carry our bags when we arrived as well as when we departed and was very generous. 

I definitely would recommend if staying in Paris for longer than 4-5 days. Live like a local!!

3. Manhattan, New York

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Cost: $349 (Not bad for a 2bedroom in New York if you are traveling with 2 or more people. This place can hold up to 4-6 people comfortably. )

If it’s one place I prefer not to Airbnb in, it’s New York City. You just never know what you are walking into, and you have to make sure you read the reviews thoroughly before booking.  It’s just uber convenient if you are traveling with friends and want to book one unit versus several hotel rooms.

What I loved: This Spacious Mid-town 2 Bedroom apartment near 5th Avenue lived up to all of my expectations.  The unit looked like the photos, and the two bedrooms had enough space to walk around and feel comfortable.  The building had an elevator which you will find is rare. Most apartments in New York listed on Airbnb are walk ups! The full length mirror in the living room was a huge plus for us since we attended a few events during our stay and needed to make sure we were presentable before leaving the house.  This was definitely one of the coziest and spacious New York Airbnb apartments I’ve stayed in and it was in a central location (near 51st and 5) close to everything you’d need.

The check in process was also flawless with someone meeting us at our check in and check out time.   (A recent Airbnb I stayed in had us walking blocks –with our luggage– to find a safe deposit box located in a pay phone to get our keys. And there was a two flight walk up.  Just terrible.)

4. Las Vegas, Nevada

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Cost: $98 – 120

What I loved: If you want to be extremely close to the strip, but away from the crowds, loud noise, and gambling that Vegas is known for, this 21st floor Strip View Studio In The MGM Grand Signature is everything you are looking for while being cheaper than most hotels.  Since the MGM Signature is a hotel, you have to check in at the front desk in the same way you would a hotel room, however with an oversized bathroom complete with a spa tub, two flat screen TV’s, a view of the Strip and (the jumping pool party over at the MGM Grand, a comfy bed, and pool on the property, you can’t really beat the price.  

Extra bonuses: Room service and valet 

5. Chicago, Illinois

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Cost: $92 – $98

What I loved: If you are hopping in and out of Chicago for a business trip, and need a crash pad, this Charming apt in Lakeview will serve it’s purpose.  The place looks exactly like the photos (very artsy and cosy) and is situated in an elevator building in a quiet neighborhood, with just a 10-15 minute ride to downtown Chicago.  Maria the host has some great books on her windowsill as well. 

During my stay, the maintenance guy came banging on the door abruptly while interrupting my much needed nap after a red eye flight. It wasn’t a big deal to me, but when I woke up, I had a note from the host that she had left something outside my door. It was a bottle of wine as an apology for the disturbance. I thought that was very thoughtful. 

6. Atlanta, GA

Cost: $99 a night

What I loved: If you are visiting Atlanta for more than 2 or 3 days and need space, plus basic amenities like washer and dryer, a full kitchen, gym and underground parking, this Buckhead 1-bedroom condo is a good option. There is a grocery store literally across the street, and it’s a very short distance to Lenox Mall and other Atlanta hotspots, bars and restaurants with Midtown being a short 10-15 drive away.  There’s no way you can find a hotel room for the same rate, amenities and space.

7. Hollywood, CA

Cost: $179 a night

Why I love it: I ended up booking this two story Hollywood loft while on a business trip to LA and found it to be much more cost effective than the hotel that we usually book when we visit our LA offices. It is located at La Brea and Sunset and was a 5-15 minute drive to everywhere I needed to go, including Soul Cycle in Weho.  The apartment came equipped with a washer and dryer and 2 bathrooms, as well as a chef kitchen, floor to ceiling windows, 20 foot ceilings, a gym located right outside the door.  All of the nearby hotels in the area are at least $250-350 a night, and you get four times the space with this unit as well as free parking.  It’s definitely a good option for people who have to frequent LA for more than 3-4 days at a time but still want to fill like they are at home versus living out of a suitcase.

If this unit is booked, there is another one in the same building that is even nicer:

Modern Stylish Loft With Breathtaking City Views

P.S,. I remember a time I walked into a $105 dollar a night Airbnb that was in the heart of Hollywood, and I stayed all of 30 minutes. There was no way, anyone would have paid me to ever stay there.  This is why I made this post, to cosign the actual places I’ve stayed at that I loved and that were safe.

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If you will be visiting any of these cities soon, I hope these listings are useful. Always remember to read the reviews before booking an Airbnb as you will find out all that you need to know. Also, if you are not a member of Airbnb and interested in joining, follow this link, sign up and enjoy $35 off your trip the first time you book. 

P.S. If you are just popping in and out of a city last minute for a night or two, hotel tonight is another good option for extremely last minute, discounted hotel rooms.  Download the app here and use my promo code NNECOLE for $25 off your first booking. 

Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb? Share your experience (and the link if you dare). 

Keep in touch. Follow me on Instagram!

Join Me At The Glow Up Wellness Retreat In Grenada

I have some exciting news for my readers who desire an empowering and memorable travel experience mixed with self-care, wellness and adventure.

I’ve partnered with my wonderful friends at OMNoire for their first annual “Glow Up” Wellness Retreat, which will be held on October 5-9, 2017 in Grenada, West Indies.

This revitalizing and empowering four-day weekend will include, daily yoga and meditation sessions, inspiring brunch and dinner discussions with entrepreneurs, yoga instructors, fitness enthusiasts, and global travelers around topics that include: Power of Purpose, Creating a Life You Love Through Positive Affirmations, Living Life With Intention and more as well as exhilarating adventures around the island such as Grenada by Land & Sea, Waterfall Hikes, Island-style partying, a Beach Bonfire Party, Snorkeling and more.

I am huge on self-care and taking time to recharge and I truly believe you will enjoy this awesome opportunity to bond with like-minded creatives, entrepreneurs and business women for a weekend to remember.

Still undecided? Here’s a few more reasons you may want to attend:

Discover the raw beauty of Grenada, one of most untapped islands in the Caribbean.

Learn why Ebony Magazine recommends “The Spice Island” as your next vacation getaway.

All you have to do is show up.

Packages (exclusive of airfare) include most meals, all events on the schedule (unless otherwise noted), ground transportation, daily yoga and meditation sessions, and more. Packages HERE.

Escape your daily grind.

Enjoy a weekend of empowering breakfast discussions, day time adventures, dinner talks and nightlife parties. Daily adventures include Grenada By Land and Sea. Schedule HERE.

Travel with girlfriends or travel solo

Meet like-minded women who share your love of health, wellness & adventure, and forge connections that will last a lifetime.

We’ve designed this experience with YOU in mind.

There is no other retreat that will stretch and grow you in areas you’ve never imagined…with a whole lot of fun, adventure, good food and camaraderie in between!

Confirmed speakers include myself, Necole Kane (CEO, xoNecole.com), Christina Rice (co-founder of OMNoire, founder LuxeLife Media & LuxeLife Adventures); Amber Forrester (co-founder of OMNoire, founder of Kane & Couture and Crowned & Brown); and Kered Clement (British Grenadian, travel journalist, digital strategist and content creator), with more to be announced!

Packages start at $1,400 with the first deposit of $750 due at time of booking by August 30th. Receive a 5% discount if your package is paid in full.

Click here to find out more!

We hope to see you in October!!

“It takes courage to push yourself to places you have never been before…to test your limits…to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to stay tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaïs Nin

It’s Okay To Take A Break From Building Your Brand


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It’s Okay To Take A Break From Building Your Brand Without Feeling Guilt Or Shame

It’s not unusual to open up your social media feed to see hashtags like #thegrinddontstop and #sleepwhenIdie. And in those moments if you are kicking back and binging the latest season of “Orange Is The New Black” in footies smelling like yesterday, you may suddenly feel like you aren’t doing enough.

Nevermind that you may have worked overtime and spent hours of your day stuck in traffic, or even spent 50+ hours in a week working towards growing your brand, all while cooking, cleaning, taking care of kids, trying to keep your relationship intact, and have an active presence on social media. In that moment that you chose to do absolutely nothing but enjoy your favorite chick flicks, you may suddenly experience a tinge of guilt.

You may also feel like you have no right to rest and should be grinding harder. That somehow success only comes to those who never sleep, barely eat, and don’t take vacations.

And that’s furthest from the truth. 

A few years ago a successful friend of mine had invited me over to watch movies. As he ran down a list of titles, he was shocked that I hadn’t seen at least 90% of his favorite classics.  I remember him saying, “You don’t watch movies?” and I responded, “I don’t have time. I’m normally working” ( aka I have better things to do with my time.)

His response was, “You need to live a little. You need to escape.”

That day I didn’t quite understand what he meant because I come from a work-obsessed culture who pegged the television the “Idiot box.” Escaping to me meant running off to a secluded island, or traveling to a foreign place, or even immersing myself into a good book — but a movie or binge watching a show, “Nah.” And even those things had to be done moderately because again, we are a culture of super talented, creative dreamers and entrepreneurs who are afraid to take breaks and vacations in fear of falling off. That there may be someone who works harder or is more talented that will slide in and take your place.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that burnout is counterproductive to growth. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your company or brand in the long-term. 

In 2015, I experienced burnout and was exhausted beyond belief. After I closed down my site NecoleBitchie.com, I went to work immediately on a new site, xoNecole.com, that would launch just two months later. During an interview that I set up with CurlBox owner Myleik Teele who is one of my entrepreneur sheroes, I remember her saying, “I read somewhere that you recently took your first vacation after 6 years. I was like ‘Is she crazy??’ I took 10 vacations last year.”

I sat there shocked in all my burned out glory, with barely enough energy to be on the call, let alone transcribe and formulate the interview I was currently having into a well-written feature article. All I could think was, “10  vacations? What am I doing wrong?”  After years of working non-stop, I barely had enough energy left in me to launch a new brand, yet Myleik was sitting on a thriving empire that included a subscription box service, opening her own warehouse, and a podcast and she had somehow managed to give herself permission to take 10 vacations in one year. It was very obvious of who had it all wrong, and who was doing things the right way.

And it wasn’t me. 

That conversation was a blatant reminder that instead of refusing to get adequate sleep, or grinding non-stop, those moments when you are feeding your soul with the things you enjoy like that hour-long pilates class, that weight-lifting session, learning a new language, happy hour with friends, a movie night, an unplug day from social media, a vacation and even binging your favorite show, only lead to more productivity and creativity in your professional life which ultimately will help you become a better performer at work and better version of yourself.

And you should never feel guilty about those moments. 

Just recently I went on a 7-day vacation to Thailand, and had a blast, but there was a lot of times during my trip where I felt guilty about the time I was taking away from my website. When I returned however, I felt relaxed, recharged, and I was bursting out the seams with new ideas and projects. 

Let me say this:

You should never feel guilty about the things that make you happy. 

You should never feel guilty about not giving your time and energy to other people before making sure that you are good mentally, spiritually and emotionally first.

You should not feel guilty for doing the things you love.

You should never feel guilty or selfish for indulging in self-care.

Self-care is a form of self-love and self love is asking yourself what you need every day and then making sure you receive it. That could be as simple as unplugging from everything, and doing absolutely nothing but catching up on some much needed rest, or enjoying your favorite show.

Because you deserve that.

“The shit that makes your heart beat faster and your eyes glow when you do it or talk about it, no matter if it’s hiking, yoga, gardening, painting, sex, meditation, photography, going for walks, helping others – do that. Do it as often as you can. Because that’s what life is about. Creating as many passionate, happy moments as possible. Don’t let anyone stop you from doing the things you love – not even yourself.” – Unknown

Truth bomb. 

If you are an entrepreneur, do you find that you experience guilt when you take time off from growing your brand to do a few things you enjoy?  What are ways you are practicing self-care?  Let me know in the comments. 

***Photos snapped at Sri Panwa, Phuket Thailand

 

Thailand: Why It’s So Perfect For A Girls Trip

See the world.

Explore.

Travel.

Those have been the running themes amongst jet setters, travelers and tribes of adventurers online over the past few years who believe self-discovery and living starts with venturing away from your comfort zone. The funny thing about it is when I was younger, I used to escape the small town I lived in through reading a massive amount of books that allowed me to live vicariously through characters in remarkable places that did remarkable things. Now that I am older, I realized that those books molded me and opened me up to living a life that was well-lived. 

I have lived a lot of my life exploring, being adventurous and doing a lot of things I could have never imagined as a 12 year old but one thing I haven’t gotten the hang of yet has been solo travel.   And I don’t mean the occasional trip to London (where I knew too many people to feel as though I was alone), or the trip I took to Vietnam (where I met 6 other travelers from New York.).  I mean, venturing off to places with unfamiliar names, languages and faces and totally navigating the unfamiliar. An incident I had in Paris forever scarred me (and I’ll talk about that later.)

One of my favorite things to do is to travel with friends or a travel buddy. 

Girls Trips are the JAM!!!

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 2.15.37 PMGirls Trip ThailandThere is something about creating memories with others that I adore much more than the trips I’ve done alone. And it is the reason I am working on a travel project with my friends Rachel Hill (RachelTravels.com), Brittnie Anderson and Ashley Nguyen (GoYokococo).  Our goal was to promote adventures, excursions and vacations that encourage bonding and sisterhood amongst women, all while raising money

On March 22,  we hopped on a 20 hour flight across the world for a week-long workcation to Thailand where we visited Bangkok and Phuket.  Initially we had planned to do Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai but after looking up the weather and seeing that both Bangkok and Chiang Mai temps were soaring in the high 90’s with humidity versus Phuket which had gorgeous mid-80 weather, we decided to save ourselves from misery and extend our time in Phuket. 

How We Got There

Our airline of choice was Norwegian Air which currently offers 57 direct routes from the U.S. to Europe and the French Caribbean. I was super surprised that a lot of people didn’t know about Norwegian as they have some of the cheapest consistent airfares for international travel that I have seen. The reclining seats, oversized windows with dimmers, multiple meals, on-call flight attendants that you can summon with a click of a button from your seat, and in-flight entertainment made for a really easy flight.  They also have just the right air pressure in the cabin of the plane so that prevents jet lag. When we got off the plane in Bangkok, it was 7am and despite sitting in traffic for an hour and a half, we were energized and ready to go once we got to the hotel.

Where We Stayed 

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**In an effort to not make this post extremely long, I’m going to break more details about each into separate posts because they were all too amazing for just a paragraph.**

137 Pillars: 137 Pillars and residence hosted us during our first two nights. The hotel and residences is brand spanking new and features studio, one and two bedroom suites. It also has an amazing gym, salon, roof top infinity pool and bar, great views of the city and a delicious restaurant on site.  We split up into two groups with Rachel and I sharing a suite together, and Ashley and Brittnie sharing a suite.  Besides the food, the highlight of this hotel was the glass walkway on the 27th floor. Can we say, adrenaline rush? 

Sri Pawna: After a hectic two days in Bangkok, we needed a vacation from the vacation! Phuket was the answer.  

In Phuket, we stayed in a huge 4-bedroom villa at Sri Panwa that featured two pools, a lobby-sized living room, steam rooms, jacuzzi’s and outside bathing areas. We were in heaven! The property also has multiple restaurants on site, and activities such as sunset cocktails, yoga, cooking classes, spa treatments and more. If you are going to do a girls trip, with more than 2-3 of your friends, villas suites and even Airbnb’s are really great to have those bonding moments.

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GTW Thailand Sri Panwa

Hotel Muse:   We flew back to Bangkok our last night and stayed at the Hotel Muse which was a total different feel and vibe from 137 Pillars. Muse’s ambiance was sexy, mysteriously dark and the design was inspired by the movie Titanic. This hotel totally had us at “Hello” when we walked in our rooms and they had our names embroidered into our pillows. (YES WE KEPT THE PILLOW CASES LOL!)  The highlights of this place is their Speakeasy rooftop bar. And I don’t mean the one they publicly advertise called “The Speakeasy,” there is actually a hidden bar on the roof located behind a secret door. The food and cocktails were incredible, and we got a chance to kick it with fellow travel blogger Cool Young History. 

 

What We Did: 

Initially riding elephants, chilling with tigers, and playing with monkeys was high on our priority to-do list. It is the reason we chose Thailand, and definitely why we wanted to add Chiang Mai to our trip. Unfortunately after doing tons of research, we weren’t exactly sure about the treatment of the animals and didn’t want to encourage and promote adventures that involved us living it up with the wildlife that may be mistreated and mishandled, even drugged behind the scenes. For that reason, we axed the elephant trekking and visits to Tiger Kingdom off of the list and settled the closest we came to wildlife was a few monkeys and snakes that were on hand at The Damnoen Saduak floating market. Our Bangkok agenda also included a cocktails cruise on the Surrianga Cruise  visited the Maekway Long Train Market (which is a must do in Bangkok), as well as a few food street tours on Koh San Road and China Town in the evening, where they came in contact with fried scorpions.  At some point on the second night, while I was in bed dealing with indigestion, the girls ventured off into the nightlife and got to see a few girls blowing ping pongs out of their vajayjays. (Yes, it’s a thing.)

Girls floating marketIMG_3334 2Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 2.15.37 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-12 at 2.39.10 PMIn Phuket, we originally had a full day of canoeing through Sea Caves with John Gray Sea Canoes on the agenda, but our property was so packed with activities and not to mention extremely relaxing that we stayed on the property.  Cooking classes, yoga, spa, endless pools, we were in paradise.

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GTW Sri Panwa

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What we ate:

In Phuket and Bangkok I ate a lot of curry. Ashley partook in the Scorpion eating.

 

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I just can’t.

Highlighted food moments included Baba Beach Club beachfront property (where we ate shrimp with the eyes still intact, as well as Baba Soul Food (which is on the at Sri Panwa), and our absolute favorite food moment was courtesy of Bangkok Trading Post which is on the property of 137 Pillars.

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Need I say more?

The food was great everywhere.

Things To Know If You Are Planning A Trip To Thailand

Bangkok is hot and humid late March throughout June. April and May are the hottest months of the year.  A lot of activities and adventures involve exploring outside so I’d keep that in mind while trip planning.  Also, if you are a big city lover, and okay with sitting in traffic for a long time, Bangkok is the move.  Research the floating markets ahead of time as some of them can get super packed with tourist during certain hours. The city also has a ton of temples, things to do and a beautiful skyline.  If you are looking for more of a vacation, places like Psi Psi Islands, Chiang Mai (mountains) and Phuket (more of an Island feel) would be better suited.

All in all, Thailand has so many things to do and so many options.

ATVing + A Few Cool Things To Do In Vegas Other Than Partying

Years ago, if you were to ask me to go to Sin City to unwind, I would have thought you were crazy!

Seriously!

As a matter of fact, I hated Vegas.  With a passion.

As someone who isn’t a heavy drinker, gambler, or party until the sun comes up type of person, I felt as though that city had no place for me.

That’s until my last visit.

While on the brink of a serious burn out, I took a much needed road trip to Vegas a few weeks ago to catch up with my managing editor Kiah, and I ended up having one of the best times ever. I’ve been on a serious self-care kick lately and I had to first open my mind to the idea that Vegas could be relaxing….which was challenging. But it ended up being just what I needed to regroup, and re-energize so that I could increase productivity at work.

The trip was good to me, and on my last day I was thankful to snag a $95 Airbnb at the MGM Signature which put me away from the crowds, the gamblers and insanity on the strip (although I could see and hear how jumping the Wet Republic pool party was at the MGM grand.)

The highlight of the weekend was a 2-hour ATV Tour through the desert and it was absolutely exhilarating.  Nothing else mattered during that 120 minutes as I jetted across the sand with the group, and I even challenged myself to hit the heels and slopes.

I’ve ridden ATV’s in Cabo and Dubai (it’s my favorite thing to do when traveling), but Vegas by far was the best experience.  I plan to return again this year and try the scenic tour which is about 3 hours, and includes lunch as well as views of the Colorado River and Hoover Dam.

Catch a few of the pics below:

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Necole Kane Kiah McBride Vegas ATV Tours Vegas ATV Tours Necole Kane Kiah McBride Vegas ATV Tours 2 ATV Vegas Necole Kane Vegas ATV Tours 4 Vegas ATV Tour Necole Kane Vegas ATv Tours 5 Vegas ATV Tours Necole Kane Vegas ATV Tours

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animated (2)I’d like to mention that it was 77-80 degrees the entire weekend which is perfect Vegas weather.  Most people flock to Vegas during the Summer months and the weather is normally over 100 degrees and stuffy.  The best months to go for great weather are between March & May, and late early October -November. 

Other awesome activities to experience in Vegas (other than turning up)

Helicopter tour of the Vegas Skyline (check groupon for deals — we used Skyline Helicopter Tours)

Necole Kane Vegas Helicopter Tour

ATV Tours ( This is the one we did and I LOVED it.  I’d check groupons for 2 for 1 deals. My only gripe with this company is the website says that they take cards, but I saw them pressuring people to pay in cash once they arrived — when companies do this I sometimes think the people on staff are pocketing the money or running scams )

A Discovery Tour Of The Hoover Dam (will pick up from your hotel)

Another option is Las Vegas Off Road Adventures ($99 a person, no hidden fees & They pick you up from your hotel — I haven’t tried this one but I’m sure it’s amazing)

Fountain of Bellagio Light Show (FREE)

Stratosphere Las Vegas

This is something I want to muster up the courage to do when I go back.  The tower is the tallest free standing tower in the U.S and at the top, there is an observation deck, and rides that include bungy jumping off of the building (um…I love my life way too much) and an attraction called Insanity that dangles riders off of the side of the building.  I saw this ride from afar and was literally gagging. It didn’t help that I found out the ride had a malfunction years ago which left riders hanging off of the building for over an hour.

Woot! Maybe one day.

The moral of this story is every travel experience is different and what you make it.  Sometimes winging a trip is great, but when you have a list of things you want to do and accomplish, plan ahead of time, and budget…the experience will end up so much better. 

What’s your favorite things to do, places to eat, etc in Vegas? 

Uncle Uber

I cannot tell you the last time I took a cab.  

Ever since I’ve been introduced to ride-sharing apps that allow you to summon a car at a click of a button, along with minimized wait times and seamless payment and tipping, I can’t go back to the old school ways of hanging off of a curb, waving my finger while trying to hail a cab.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting San Francisco for a few days and upon my arrival, I decided to call an uberPOOL, which allows you to split a ride with people. (I’m gonna be honest, ever since this woman wrote into xoNecole and revealed she met her very handsome fiancee by accidentally taking uberPOOL, I’ve been on it. It’s my jam okay!)

Since I ordered POOL, and there was already a couple in the back, I had no choice but to hop in the front seat with the Uber driver. It’s probably the best decision I could have made, as Danny (who we now affectionately refer to as Uncle Uber) spent the next 15-20 minutes of the drive telling me all about San Francisco and what I needed to see.

During the ride, I found out that “Uncle Uber” was from Sacramento and he drove 80 miles each day to drive Uber in San Fran since it’s much bigger and busier than where he is from. During our ride, he told me about all the amazing sights the city had to offer, the cost of living, and the growing homeless population. I also found out that he was a serious foodie and that he currently runs an organization where he mentors and serves as a father figure to young women.

After about 10 -15 minutes of hearing Uncle Uber talk, I didn’t want to get out. So, when we arrived at the hotel, my friend Lauren hopped in and Uncle Uber took us to explore the city. We stopped by Filbert Street, Lombard, and Fisherman’s Wharf before Lauren had to run off to work. He dropped her off at the hotel, and our tour continued with The Palace Of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Bridge, Ocean Beach, Dolores Park, and The Mission District before I hopped out in the Mission district to have dinner. I had to darn near force Uncle Uber to take our cash tip because he genuinely does these things for riders out of the kindness of his heart. 

During our ride, we also stopped numerous times to talk to homeless people that Uncle Uber knew by name and he gave them money. It was very heartwarming to see that he knew a lot about their lives and that he genuinely cared.

He also made sure we were entertained by the street performers.

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Without a doubt, I would not have had the chance to cover so much ground in San Francisco and take so many photos in one day had I not met Uncle Uber.

It’s moments like these (plus impeccable service from the drivers) that make ride-sharing apps a preferred choice over traditional cab services.

I made this video out of a few clips I captured occasionally throughout our trip. Plus, I dropped an interesting tidbit on how me and my friend Lauren met. 

Hope you enjoy!

If you are from The Bay and there are other major places I missed during my trip, be sure to let me know in the comments. I have more than a few reasons to return again. If you ever visit San Fran, I hope you are lucky enough to run into Danny for a ride during your stay.

P.S I think I’m going to write UBER a nice little email tomorrow telling them how amazing Danny was. 

6 Days In London

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, or read one of my latest blogs, you probably know that my #Yearofme is in full effect. Yes, I’m being so selfish this year. And for good reason!

To catch you up to speed, a few weeks ago, as I approached my birthday, I realized that a lot of the anxiety, depression, and frustration I experienced in my life over the past few years was caused by me putting everything and everyone before myself.  In order for me to live a fulfilling life full of happiness, it was time for me to take the reigns back and really make sure I was practicing self-care, and making sure my needs were being met and my cup was full every day before I went out into the world and started pouring that love into others. 

And so I decided to spend a year simply loving myself more.  

Before I began, I wrote down a list of things that made me happy and travel was at the top of my list.  Now, I will admit that as I get older, I am a little hard on myself for not achieving the things that society says we should have as a woman at my age. You know, the kids, the house with the picket fence, the husband, a popping career (okay, maybe my career is somewhat popping LOL!!) — but what I lack in those areas, I feel like I overcompensate with my experiences.

When I am somewhere far off, experiencing a lifestyle I never knew existed, breathing in crisp fresh air while staring at snow-capped mountains in Switzerland, or listening to the sexy accent of a Parisian, or watching the Changing Of The Guard out in front of Buckingham Palace, I suddenly forget about the areas in life I’m lacking in and I start embracing and appreciating the freedom I have as a single woman who is still trying to find her way.  And it’s incredibly exciting!

With that being said, my first stop on the #YearOfMe tour was in London last week!

And boy did I have an interesting time! 

Gogo Bot App

First, thanks to the amazing Gogobot app, I was able to navigate London flawlessly.  I’ve used it a bit during my travels in the US, and it has helped me discover new hotels, restaurants, and things to do in cities like Chicago, LA, DC and even where I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, but I had no idea how useful it was going to be out of the country. Most of the restaurants and tourist attractions I visited, I found on Gogobot.  I recommend this app for anyone who loves to travel and discover new things, or even for people who are looking for new things to do and discover in the cities that they currently reside in. It’s so useful.

Now on to my adventure….

Where I stayed:  

Paddington Neighborhood 2

I stayed in the Paddington neighborhood next to Hyde Park (which could be compared to New York’s Central Park and it’s surrounding neighborhoods.)  What I loved about Paddington was that it was very residential and it didn’t have overwhelming foot traffic. It was close to everything. There were two train stations within a five minute walk, and you could get to most London tourist attractions within 15-20 minutes. 

I stayed in a gorgeous one-bedroom flat I found on airbnb for a week (which I will discuss in another post :)).  

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I also loved that a lot of the buildings were all white. My Romero Britto luggage set from Heys America was the most colorful thing on the block! 

What I Did: 

Big Ben

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Big Ben which is a part of the Palace of Westminster is a must-see in person.  Ironically, a friend and I had just stepped off of the subway when it started chiming at the top of the hour.  It’s absolutely gorgeous but the foot traffic in the area makes it hard to get a good shot.  

 

Big Ben taken from the London Eye

This photo was taken from inside The London Eye. 

The London Eye

The London Eye is one of the world’s tallest observation wheels (I’m assuming this is a fancy way to say ferris wheel). At it’s highest point you can view The entire city of London and take amazing breathtaking photos. 

The London Eye London Eye Attraction The London Eye London 2

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lee and Necole London Eye

Bring a camera and don’t get suckered into buying a keychain, and photo album of photos like I did -_-.  (This is my long-time friend Lee who came to see me for a few days. He’s a flight attendant)

Also in the area:   In walking distance of Big Ben and The London Eye is the Whitehall Area which has a ton of government buildings, palaces, and monuments. 

Whitehall Area London Monty Monument Whitehall London

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Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square (also a short walking distance from Big Ben and The London Eye) is a movie.  There’s a ton of street performers, and interesting things that will leave you wondering, “how did they do that??”

Hoola Trafarlar Square Trafarlar Square silver man

Man with Sand Dog

Covent Garden

There’s also Covent Garden in the area which is a shopper’s dream if you love jewelry, British made crafts, art and leather goods. 

Changing Of The Guard — Buckingham Palace

This was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip!

The Changing of The Guard at Buckingham Palace takes place every day at 11:30am in June and July, and the rest of the year, you can catch it every other day.  As many people that it attracts each day, you’d think it was a once in a lifetime occurrence with an appearance from The Queen!  But it’s exciting nevertheless, and it lasts around 45 minutes with appearances from guards on beautiful horses, and a band.

Changing Of The Guard Buckingham Palace Changing of The Guard Buckingham Palace London

Changing Of The Guard BuckingHam Palace

Across the street from Buckingham Palace is Memorial Garden.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to be stepping on the line. Excuse my manners. I didn’t know! 

Memorial Garden Buckingham Palace 2

Tip: Save your money. Don’t book a tour for Changing Of The Guard, just get there early and claim a good spot. 

ShoreDitch

Oh Shoreditch, how I love you!!!  I happened to come across the #shoreditch hashtag on Instagram and immediately fell in love with all the street art photos.  I knew it was a must-visit area for me, and I actually went two days in a row. 

What you can expect: Tons of Street Art, graffiti, vintage shops, bookstores, and restaurants. 

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All the magic seems to happen on Brick Lane.  I spotted Dark Sugar Chocolates which sells amazing chocolate and cocoa imported from Ghana. 

Dark Sugars Chocolate Shop Outside Dark Sugars Chocolate Shop

There was also a neat cereal place called Cereal Killer Cafe.  

Cereal Killer Cafe

And The Beigel Shop sells these unique colorful bagels!

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Other things you should know:

Black Cars London 3

Avoid the black cabs! They will cost you a fortune. I’m pretty sure I paid one $100 USD to get from the airport when a train ride would have been 20 bucks or less, and an uber no more than $40 or 50.

Take The Tube:

As much as I love taking Uber, those expenses will add up QUICK. Not to mention it takes far longer getting to where you need to go in traffic than if you just took the train.  I’ve had some really crazy New York Subway experiences that have left me skeptical and scarred but I will say London has one of the cleanest subway systems I’ve seen. And everyone is very helpful. People were coming out of the wood works asking if we needed help and offering directions.

You can get a peek into my London Tube experience below:

One final thought: 

The Food

I have to be honest when I say the food that I ate over the course of seven days in London was unmemorable.  The only restaurant that stood out was The Island Grill (directly across from Hyde Park.) I actually went twice because it was so good, and their caipirinha’s where everything.

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Yes, it was as good as it looks. My mouth is still watering!

If you frequent London, or live in the area and you know of anything I may have missed, let me know in the comments. I want to return in the near future, and this time I will definitely plan a meet up!

I also have a vlog on my trip coming soon!

P.S. Don’t forget to follow me on GogoBot (now Trip.com) to read all of my reviews as I travel from city to city, and country to country.  My username is Niki Necole :).   My next stop is Washington DC (Sept 2), followed by Asia (September 12)

Jetpacking In San Diego

“Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, rather than stuff to show.”

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately as I reflect on the past 10 years of my life. A lot of things I’ve bought and thought I needed over time, I now find no value in ….but my experiences, those things have always made me feel richer.

This is why I’m attempting to cross as many things off of my bucket list as I can while I’m still young, healthy and have the freedom to do so. I’m on a quest to live a more fulfilling life.

Besides…

During this July 4th weekend, my friend Fallon and I had the grand idea to drive to San Diego for a day and take part in some fun activities like sailing, paddle boarding and Jet Packing.  For some odd reason, she thought I was not about that life, but I had already tried Flyboarding during a trip to Cabo, so I was well aware of what was in store.

Or at least that’s what I thought…

Here’s what I always envisioned jetpacking to be. Me flying high over the ocean without a care in the world. LIVING!

how-it-works

Here’s what my experience was actually like…

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Jet Pack America, Jetpacking San Diego
Jetpacking San Diego Jet Pack America

I couldn’t get out of the darn water!!! I spent a maximum of five minutes in the ocean before I walked away and said, I’m done. Thanks but no thanks!

Now, let me backtrack:

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When you first arrive to Jet Pack America, you have to check in and sign consent forms.  (It is best to call and make an appointment in advance). You also are given the option to choose between a few flight packages, that include 15 minute flight time, 25 minute flight time, and 50 minutes flight time.  There are also options to add a photo package, or video package so that you can have those memories forever.

Honestly, if you have your own camera, those photo and video packages may  not be necessary. (All of the photos featured in this post are taken with a Canon G7x  or screenshots from video taken with the camera.)

 

Jet Packing San Diego Jet Pack America Jet Packing San Diego, Jet Pack America

Before you go out on the bay, you are required to watch a training video, followed by a test to ensure that you know how to operate the jetpack.  It seems pretty simple when you are setting in the test pack, but what you may not realize is how heavy that jetpack really is.

The next step is putting on the life jacket and a helmet that has a walkie talkie so that you can communicate with the trainer (who is on a jet ski) the entire time.

Life Jacket Jet Pack America 2

Our trainer was Zach and he was super nice.

Swim test Jet Pack America

Once you are all strapped in, you gave to take a swim test which requires you to dip your head under water with the jet pack on to ensure that you know how to turn yourself upright if you were to come crashing down into the water.

This is the part that got me messed up.

I am an amazing swimmer, but the pack was weighing down on me so I freaked out once my head went under water.

Jet Packing San Diego, Jet Pack America

Jordan, one of the instructors, decided to come out in the water with me and be my support system. (Sidebar: That man was so fine. Every time my head would go under water and I’d come back up and see those sea blue eyes of his… man, it was hard to concentrate.)

Jordan Jet Pack America

Necole Jet Pack America San Diego

Finally, I told him too much water had flooded my nose and I was ready to call it quits.

So after I had climbed out of the water, a little boy (no older than 4) went out into the water for a ‘Tatum’ Jetpack ride. With the tatum experience, the swimmer is strapped on the front of the Jetpack with a trainer, and taken for a 15 minute or so joyride.

Now, this looked like fun!!

Jet Packing in San Diego Tatum Jet Pack San Diego - Jet Pack America

Jet Pack San Diego Tatum 2

The only small issue is that you have to be age 12 and under to do the tatum experience.

Luckily, the good folks at Jet Pack America felt bad that I didn’t get the full jetpack experience and they agreed to allow me to go for a Tatum ride. I was a little skeptical with my 5’4, 115 pound body being strapped on the front of this gadget which is made for a child 12 and under.  But I didn’t want to miss out on this adventurous moment.

The result was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in my life.

Jet Pack America San Diego I am Necole Jet Pack America San Diego Necole Jet pack America Necole Kane Jet Pack America San Diego Necole Kane Jet Packing Jet Pack America

Jetpacking san diego 5 Necole Jet Packing San Diego

 

 

Fallon (after a little conning) agreed to try it out as well.

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Fallon Mercedes Jet Pack San Diego Fallon Mercedes Jet Pack San Diego 2

It was amazing!!!!!!

 

Afterward, the instructors Zach and Austin agreed to take us out on a sail boat to end the day.  The thing I loved about meeting these guys is they are literally doing something they love every single day. Zach is from Indianapolis and moved to San Diego a few months ago.  Austin is a skydive instructor and has jumped out of a plane over 500 times.


Zack Jet Pack America 2

Sail Boats Jet Pack America Jet Pack America San Diego 3

My verdict:  I have amazing photos and video from the experience. We created amazing memories that I’ll never forget, but I definitely wouldn’t have had the same experience if we had not gotten a chance to do the Tatum Flight. It was literally the best thing ever.  If you decide to go jetpacking, make sure you purchase enough time to learn how to operate the equipment and get comfortable enough to rise up out of the water.  That will take at least 20 minutes to get the hang of everything.

Find out more about Jetpacking by visiting their website.  There are locations in Las Vegas, Newport Beach and San Diego.

Would you ever try this?