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Nashville Bachelorette Party

Get your cowboy boots ready, the girls are headed to Nashville!  Union Station in Nashville, Tennessee, was the perfect location for Catie’s bachelorette party.  Union Station is an early 1900s train station that was renovated, and is now a beautiful boutique hotel located downtown within asking distance of most sights.  On arrival some of the ladies had bloody marys at the hotel bar,  Prime 108 Lounge. They then ventured out a few blocks to Rippy’s Bar and Grill for some southern bbq and beer while they waited for the rest of the group to arrive. 

With the group all together, it was time to toast the weekend with champagne, open gifts, and have fun with the bride-to-be.  

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Don’t let credit card fraud hit you on vacation

While on a recent trip to New York City we were surprised to get an email from our bank stating that my husband’s debit card was being shut down.  After a lengthy conversation with a Bank of America rep we learned that his debit card was closed due to fraud.  Really?!  How could that be?  We have the card right here!  People are really getting crafty these days, and sure enough the card was used at several places we had not been.  LOVE that Bank of America caught the suspicious activity, but wow what an inconvenience to have the card shut down on vacation.  Quick tips on how to avoid this are below…

  • Let your bank know when you are traveling, especially out of the country
  • Try to use cash when you can
  • If you would rather use your card, use a credit card not debit. (Credit Cards don’t have an automatic withdraw of funds like a debit card has)
  • Open a seperate bank account for travel funds
  • Monitor your spending
  • Keep receipts to double check transactions
  • Know the conversion rates when traveling abroad
  • Immediately let your bank know if you see something shady on your account

Happy Travels!  Kristin

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Family Vacations… Taking organization to a new level

My family just returned from our yearly trip to Wild Dunes, in SC.  This is a crowded vacation with 18 members of my extended family in one beach house.  Since I am such a foodie, going out to eat is one of my favorite parts of a trip!  I am sure you can imagine what it is like to eat out with such a large crowd… We enjoyed places like Fleet Landing, Queen Anne’s Revenge, Okra Grill ,and Boulevard Diner.  Each year we run across the same problem, a TON of take out boxes in the fridge.  Finding my own food is a scavenger hunt that always seems to end after I look through every other possible box option. This year my aunt took the initiative to make the food organization easy.  The first night at dinner she whipped out pre-made labels with each family’s last name on it.  What a great idea!

Thanks to Aunt Denise and her label maker, I could easily find my food!

Happy Travels! Kristin

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Paradisus Punta Cana

When you enter Paradisus Punta Cana Resort through its serene tropical entrance, you immediately feel a sense of calm as you wander through the natural foliage and fish ponds towards the canopied beds in the common area. The resort has a very Zen like feeling in its initial impression, but the entrance eventually opens to a very lush tropical setting.

Only a short 30 minute cab ride from the airport, Paradisus Punta Cana has countless options to fit the needs of any honeymoon, wedding, family reunion, or corporate retreat. The property boasts 896 rooms in various styles, twelve restaurants, seven different pools, and an expansive white sand beach. The Reserve section of the property offers visitors more privacy than other areas. Containing only 132 rooms, The Reserve has private pools for adults and children. It also has restaurants that are exclusive to travelers who opt to stay there. It is the perfect way to enjoy the entire resort, but still be able to retreat back to a quieter area for relaxing.

The resort also offers a lot in the way of nightlife. The resort has nine different bars, nightly entertainment, and a casino.

Activities abound at Paradisus Punta Cana! The resort offers water sports including snorkeling, diving (for certified divers), windsurfing, kayaking, and a catamaran for sailing. If fun on land is more your speed, the resort has four tennis courts, three paddle ball courts, a rock climbing wall, batting cages, and volleyball courts. Horseback riding and golf (at Cocotal Golf) are available for additional charges as well.

After so much fun in the sun, you may find yourself needing to relax from your vacation. There’s no better way to do so than to relax at the resorts Yhi Spa. They offer a long list of services as well as a fitness center for use anytime. There’s also a kids “mini spa” where they can get pampered as well.

Paradisus Punta Cana has something for everyone and every occasion. It is perfect for large groups of people with varying needs and travel expectations. The resort is beautiful, and the staff is attentive to the needs of the guests. The Shady Umbrella would love to help you find your place in the shade, so contact us with any of your travel needs.

Happy Travels,

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Zoetry Aqua

Zoetry Aqua in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic offers the perfect balance of seclusion and luxury at their 51 room thatched roof resort. I have found in the past that there are usually compromises made when selecting a resort…we found none when it came to Zoetry. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, the rooms are lovely, and the staff as attentive as you will find. At Zoetry Agua you will find pools woven throughout the grounds and along the pathway to the beach offering it’s guests the opportunity to find the perfect spot to relax. The property is large enough, and the rooms few enough that you can let mind relax in your own private oasis. 

The focus of Zoetry seems to be health and spa, but if that’s not your thing there is still plenty to take in and enjoy.  The resort offers a full service spa, three restaurants, a coffee shop, and several bars. Activities like scuba, cigar rolling, kayaking, horseback riding and yoga are also offered outdoors and on the beach.

Zoetry is perfect for couples looking for luxurious quiet, honeymooners that want to loose themselves in eachother, and it provides an intimate setting for destination weddings.  

The rooms at Zoetry are very peaceful and lavish. They have a very therapeutic feel because of the hardwoods and stone flooring, comfortable bedding, and open layouts. Modern conveniences abound also such as air conditioning, free wifi, and satellite tv should you need it.

The resort is located about an hour outside of the Punta Cana airport by taxi, but there is also a helicopter transport option if you want to make a “baller”esque entrance into paradise.

The food at Zoetry is all very well prepared. There are several different restaurants to choose from as well as room service in the morning and late night. The resort has dishes prepared for the health conscious and for those who didn’t go on vacation to start dieting. All the food is made to order, except on Friday nights there is a expansive buffet at the beach bbq. The grilled spiny lobster is a treat, so don’t hesitate to go a little nuts.

Two peacocks named Paco and Pica roam the grounds at their leisure and can often be seen outside of your room or while dining. You may end up with a visitor from time to time.

Zoetry off
ers destination wedding packages for the couple who wants to get away with their family and friends for their special day. There is an outdoor pavilion for services and private restaurants available for memorable receptions. Susana, Zoetry’s wedding coordinator, takes the utmost care in providing a beautiful outcome to your day. 

Zoetry is the perfect fit for many travelers ideal vacation…The Shady Umbrella would love to help you find your place in the shade.

Happy Travels,


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Navigating the Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Airport



This is an overview of most island airports, but specifically Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (PUJ)… You may be wondering what to expect when you arrive, so hopefully this will help to make your trip as stress free as possible.

Upon landing in Punta Cana, you are first met with what is arguably the cutest thatched roof airport around.  Once inside here are a few stations that you must proceed through in order to gain entry into the Dominican Republic. The first station is where you purchase a “tourist card”.  These are  $10 (cash only, US dollars are accepted)  per visitor, and are given to an attendant at the next station to validate your purchase.  Now proceed to the customs line, here your passport will be stamped and the customs documents (blue page given by flight attendants) that you filled out on the plane will be validated by the customs officer.

Be sure to grab any luggage that you may have checked and the head towards the exit where another airport attendant will be collecting the information card (white page) that was also filled out aboard the airplane. 

Provided you aren’t a drug mule or international criminal that just slipped up…welcome to the Dominican Republic!

Transportation is waiting just outside the airport…

- A valid passport is a must.

-Don’t forget cash for the tourist card!

-Travel at your own risk, I suggest not taking anything you don’t want stolen or misplaced.


Checking your flight status 24 hours in advance for changes and completing the online check in (if available) is always a good idea. It helps save time and lowers the risk of surprise at the airport.

Once you return to the airport, there are two terminals (A and B ).  Check out the airlines at the terminal you were dropped off at.  If you don’t see your airline check-in area, then it is located in the next terminal on the other side of the airport. There are very long security lines for both terminals, so be sure that you have checked in with your airline before waiting through it.  

After the security lines, you will do your business with customs. Then follow the signs to your flight’s gate and relax. You are heading home!

If you do an online check-in with Spirit Airlines and choose to print boarding passes, these are NOT your airline tickets! Make sure to have your passport scanned and proper tickets printed prior to proceeding through security. Your new tickets will have “DOCS OK” printed on them validating your check-in.

Clearing US Customs upon Return

You will head through Customs once again upon returning to the US. Once your passport and paperwork are validated, a security check is again required. Any “Duty Free” liquor or perfume that has not been checked (over 3oz. and not in your quart sized plastic bag) that you have purchased will be confiscated and not allowed back into the country.  Basically making most “duty free” shopping a complete waste of time and money.

After you clear customs, welcome back to the US! Have a safe connection as you continue home!

Happy Travels,

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow” ~Lin Yutan

Helpful Links:
Country Entry/ Exit Requirements
TSA What to know before you go
American Airlines
Air Tran
Continental Airlines
Spirit Airlines
US Airways

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Don’t Get Hit With Unplanned Phone Charges

When planning to travel abroad it is a wise idea to check with your phone provider and review your plan. 
With smart phones that automatically update without prompt, you may be getting hit with charges without
making the first phone call. 

When in doubt simply cut off your data package while overseas.

Happy Travels!

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Royal Wedding Travel

Looking to travel to London during the big royal wedding event in hopes to get a glimse of the action?  Check out this great option for getting you there and
royal accommodations for six nights.

Picture used from Europe Express

Flight out of Charleston, SC on Delta Airlines
April 28, 2011  3:32pm Charleston, SC to Atlanta, GA  4:51pm
April 28, 2011  5:35pm  Atlanta, GA to London Gatwick  April 29, 2011 7:10am

May 5, 2011  9:15am  London, Heathrow to Detroit, MI  12:40pm
May 5, 2011  1:55pm  Detroit, MI to Charleston, SC  3:58pm

Top Notch Accommodations
K West Hotel and Spa
Daily continental breakfast included

Transfers to and from airports included

Package Price per Passenger: $1,927.32

*Rates are subject to change based on availability
*Other dates, flight options and hotel options are available

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Leave Your Mark at Bowen’s Island Restaurant!

Our friends at Pub Politics Live recently came down to Charleston for a little R&R, but took an afternoon to broadcast an episode of the hit SC politico web show from Bowen’s Island restaurant.  

Bowen’s Island is one of our favorite spots to go in Charleston when fresh seafood and fantastic views are the only things that will do.  The establishment has been in transition until recently after a fire took the original building.  However, the restaurant is back and the new elevated dining area offers the same great food, and unsurpassed views of the Folly River and surrounding marsh.  The restaurant descibes the experience perfectly below:

“To the uninitiated, the oyster joint on Bowen’s Island was a curiosity of sorts—an aging pile of cinderblocks and boards held by layers of graffiti, with bivalves being cooked inside on some sacrificial altar. To legions of loyal customers, the place could hardly be called a restaurant. The island became a state of mind.

In 2006, the year that Bowen’s Island Restaurant celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, Robert Barber accepted a James Beard Award, honoring the place as an American Classic. Five months later, the restaurant that his late grandmother, May Bowen, started burned to the ground. What remained were but stories of greatness.

Today, fresh oysters are being brought in from the marshes, new walls are ready to receive their marks, and new memories are being made. Will you be a part of the history of Bowens Island?

Check out the restaurant for dinner from 5pm to 10pm Tuesday through Saturday nights, or look into booking Bowens Island for a private party today. In any case, it’s not worth missing if you’re a Charleston local or even better, an adventurous tourist.”

Can’t decide what to order?  Our favorites are the fried shrimp, frogmore stew, and crab cakes! So stop on by, enjoy the views, and leave your mark…

Happy Travels,

Kristin and Jason


Bowen’s Island Restaurant
1870 Bowens Island Rd
Charleston, SC 29412
Phone: (843) 795-2757








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Check out our travel article in the Summer issue of Wink!

We recently wrote an article for Wink giving some trip ideas for Summer 2010.  Wink is Columbia’s first digital magazine, focusing on the people and places that make Columbia great!  Check out this awesome internet magazine and their unique flippable format!

Follow Wink on Twitter!
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Happy Travels,


Wink Summer 2010

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