New Levels of Comfort on LATAM Airlines

We’ve become sticklers when it comes to flying. With how many bad experiences we’ve had and horror stories we’ve heard, we like to stick to the airlines that we know. It’s very rare that we fly anything new, and when we do, it’s usually because the deal was too good to pass up.

 

As we began planning our trip to Argentina and Chile, we started researching airlines and came across LATAM Airlines. It appeared to be the trusted airline for South America, and when it came to the reviews, people seemed to love it! So we thought, why not… let’s give LATAM airlines a go. And boy, are we glad we did!

 

From checking in, to waiting in the lounge, to boarding the plane… everything was easy and efficient. You can usually tell what the flight will be like based on the check-in experience, and it couldn’t have gone smoother. The LATAM team was friendly and welcoming, and ensured that every need was met. A warm smile goes a long way when you’re traveling long distances, and we instantly felt at ease. 

 

We flew Business Class on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner out of LAX. As soon as we had sat down an attendant was welcoming us with a glass of champagne, a little bowl of nuts, and a friendly “Welcome Aboard”. We both turned to each other with big eyes and even bigger smiles… We like this airline already!

IMG_8698.JPG

Let’s talk about the seats. They recline just about any way you could wish. Want just your legs elevated? Done. Want to lean back, but still have your feet on the ground? No problem. Want to lie COMPLETELY FLAT? You better believe you can!! (All experienced long-haul travelers say “Amen!”) If that’s not enough, the seats are just downright comfy. Not once did we have “sore bottom syndrome” as we like to call it, and we had more than enough space to stretch out and get comfy. The oversized pillows and plush down comforters were another game changer. We both agreed that LATAM’s linens were the best in the skies, and reminded us of our bedding at home! 

Now, the food. We hold in-flight dining to a very high standard. It’s rare that we enjoy airplane food, and more times than not we leave the plane feeling unsatisfied and bloated (Anyone else?). Friends, LATAM proved that not only can airplane food can look good, but it can TASTE good too! Oh, and it was very fresh and healthy… what a novelty! From fresh salads, to artisan cheese plates, potato leek soup and creme brûlée… everything exceeded our expectations! For breakfast we had a fresh vegetable quiche that totally hit the spot. Alli even asked the stewardess for the recipe! (She didn’t know it) ;)

DSCF2195.jpg

It goes without saying that the drinks were top-notch as well. Whether we were drinking wine with dinner or a welcome glass of champagne, or some scotch with our dessert, everything was great. We loved that they paired each coarse with a South American wine, and had fun trying all of the different varietals. Needless to say we slept like babies!! 

 

Onboard entertainment is another make it or break it factor for us when it comes to flying. If an airline doesn’t have a good movie and tv selection, it instantly goes down a few notches. Heck, if we’re going to be paying good money… we expect to be entertained! Once again, LATAM didn’t let us down. Their movie selection was endless and featured a few titles that were still in theaters! They also had tons of our favorite tv show episodes, and loads of games. We definitely had a few Solitaire tournaments, but we’ll keep the winner to ourselves. (Bobby cheated.)

Another thing we should mention about our onboard experience - WE SLEPT. For hours. It was heavenly. We arrived in Argentina so incredibly refreshed and recharged, with almost no side effects of jet lag. We both agreed we could’ve flown for a few more hours!! After what was almost a 24-hour travel day, that’s saying A LOT.

This experience has made LATAM Airlines one of our new favorites. We really can’t say enough good things about them, and hope you’ll give LATAM a try the next time you head to South America! Oh, and more about our South America trip to come… :)

Dog Friendly Adventures with Sally the Bernedoodle in San Diego!

So, we have a dog named Sally… that we’re mildly obsessed with. A goal of ours since the beginning has been to focus on more dog friendly trips, since leaving her can be SO HARD. (Those of you with dogs can relate!) While international trips are pretty much impossible with a 60-pound Bernedoodle, we’ve found that taking her on road trips and staycations is the way to go. She’s great in the car, loves exploring new places, and it’s relatively easy for us to transport her! We recently did a little weekend trip to San Diego with Sally (her first time in a big city!) and it was a BLAST. Here are a few of our favorite dog friendly spots:

 

 

WHERE TO STAY

The Manchester Grand Hyatt is one of our absolute favorite places to stay in San Diego, and it just so happens to be extremely dog friendly! The location is clutch - right on the water next to Seaport Village, across the street from The Gaslamp, and walking distance to just about everything. 

Upon check-in we were greeted with water and food bowls for Sally, a bright red ball, and doggy treats in our room. Talk about royal puppy treatment!! Sally experienced her first elevator (she was a little confused at first, but learned to love it) and her first time admiring the view from 48 floors up! But let’s be real… she could’ve cared less about the view - all homegirl wanted was that ball!

The rooms are spacious, modern, and oh goodness… that bed. We’ve come to find that all Hyatt’s have the most plush and comfy beds. Even Sally agreed! 

 

WHERE TO EAT

If you’re a foodie like us, you know that the dining options in San Diego are endless. Every time we come back to the city we hear of new “it” places to eat, and so far nothing has disappointed! And while there are a lot of dog friendly spots, it helps to do your research beforehand. Here’s a few of our (and Sally’s) highlights!

 

SALLY’S FISH HOUSE :: Seaport Village

Yep, you read that right. The Manchester Grand Hyatt has a dog friendly restaurant named Sally’s Fish House, located right on the water. The views are amazing, the food is fresh and delicious (definitely consider the fish and chips!), and the doggy treatment is top notch. Not only do they have an extensive dog menu, they have custom bowls for the pups (they let us keep one!). They even had doggy popsicles for desert! We’ve never seen Sally so happy at a restaurant before. If we’re being honest, this meal was the highlight of our trip. HIGHLY recommend for all dog lovers!!

 

QUEENSTOWN PUBLIC HOUSE :: Little Italy

This Kiwi-inspired restaurant is not only incredibly Instagammable, but the food is insane. Their outdoor patio is perfect for dogs, and the servers even come around with gift wrapped dog treats! We recommend getting here early, as it fills up quick - and if you can, try to score a seat by the fire. Oh, and come hungry. The portions are huge!

LOFTY COFFEE :: Little Italy

Located right across from Queenstown Public House, Lofty Coffee is one of our favorite San Diego based coffee shops. We recommend ordering a couple pour-overs from different regions and sharing. It’s the perfect spot to sit outside with your pup, sip your coffee, and people watch. 

 

PUESTO :: The Headquarters

The Headquarters is a new dining and shopping experience just down the street from the Manchester Grand Hyatt. It’s a great place to explore with dogs, and most of the restaurants have outdoor patios. Our favorite spot is a Mexican restaurant called Puesto, that’s known for their innovative tacos and margaritas. It’s a really fun vibe, and great for dogs. Sally actually fell asleep while we were there, allowing us to eat our dinner in peace - which NEVER happens!

 

 

AREAS TO EXPLORE

Like we said, everything is super walkable from the Manchester Grand Hyatt. Most of our weekend was spent walking around different locations and neighborhoods around downtown San Diego. A few of our favorites are:

  • Seaport Village: Tons of shops and restaurants all along the waterfront. You could easily spend an afternoon walking around the village and having a drink at one of their many restaurants. Also, it’s a great place to watch the sunset!
  • Little Italy: Every time we go down to San Diego we find ourselves back in Little Italy. It’s charming, constantly evolving, and a blast to explore. Some of our favorite Italian food (and gelato!) is there, and it seems like everyone that lives in Little Italy has a dog. Our kind of place!
  • Coronado Island: Just across the bay from the Manchester Grand Hyatt is Coronado Island, one of our favorite places to explore! We parked near the Hotel Del and spent a morning walking along the beach, around the historic Hotel Del, and up and down the quaint streets. 

This quick weekend getaway was just what we (and Sally) needed. It definitely got us excited for more dog friendly trips, and for the next time we can return to San Diego with our pup in tow. If any of you have any favorite dog-friendly locations or doggy travel tips, leave us a comment! We’d love to hear!

 

How to See (and Photograph) the Northern Lights on a Weekend Trip to Fairbanks, Alaska

Note... this is a guide on how to give yourself the best possibility to see and photograph the Northern Lights. We can't guarantee you will. The phenomenon that is the Aurora Borealis is fickle, and it does what it wants. We had the privilege to visit Fairbanks, Alaska in March, one of the best months for Aurora viewing. During our trip we saw just enough of the Northern Lights to feel extremely lucky... but we definitely came away craving more! The following is a guide to prepare you for your upcoming trip to Alaska, and how to make the most out of chasing the Aurora Borealis. 

 

For how to get there, get around, and where to sleep, check out this more comprehensive blog on our trip... Here we're specifically talking Aurora Borealis. 

 

Seeing the Northern Lights - For the Non-Photographer

Okay if you are just there to view, then you should probably go on a tour or get a guide. We'll recommend two: Fairbanks Snow Sleighers and SkyFire In Focus Tours. Snow Sleighers may be the better choice, because you can do a snowmobile tour in search of the northern lights. On our next trip you will ABSOLUTELY find us here! SkyFire in Focus Tours is a great option too, because they will pick you up at your hotel, provide camera equipment if you'd like, and hot drinks to keep you warm while you're viewing. 

 

Seeing the Northern Lights - For the Photographer

We encourage you to stay in one of the epic spots above and still go on a tour (because locals will take you to the best spots), but here is some information on what you need to take photos once you're lucky enough to see the northern lights.

Basics

  • Make sure you have the right cold-weather gear. Standing out in sub-zero temperatures while waiting for your shot can be miserable if you aren't prepared. 
  • A high quality-camera and lens (renting is okay if you know how to use it) is a must. More specifically, you want a camera that can provide good image quality at high ISOs. Full-frame DSLRs or mirrorless cameras (Sony and Fuji) are solid. 
  • When it comes to lenses, you want a fast lens with an aperture >f 4.0. A lower aperture will allow for your images to have less noise and better quality. 
  • Invest in a tripod. You need something strong and sturdy that will stand up (hehe) to all types of weather. Make sure it has a solid ball-head so it can quickly maneuver to wherever the aurora may be. 
  • Don't plan on getting a good picture with your iPhone. 

Before you go out

  • Charge your batteries and bring extras. Extreme cold can drain your batteries quick, so keep them somewhere insulated (inner coat pocket). 
  • Check that your memory card has plenty of space on it, and bring a back-up.
  • Pack your extra lenses, your tripod, a shutter release, a headlamp, flashlight, snacks, water, extra layers, and anything else you might need. 

Getting the epic shot

  • Be patient. 
  • Shoot in RAW so you can have more flexibility when editing the photos later. 
  • Prepare to shoot in manual mode.
  • Set your aperture to the widest setting possible setting, or one stop down - around f 2.0. 
  • If you are going to do manual focus, then get any objects in the foreground really sharp and in focus. 
  • In terms of ISO, try not to shoot above 3200. We prefer to be in between ISO 800 and ISO 1600. 
  • For shutter speed, we used between 5-30 seconds. Check out your image, and adjust accordingly. 

These are some things that worked for us. Adjust based on your experience and let us know what you think!

Lastly - Pray, cross your fingers, clinch your lucky penny, or do whatever superstitious thing you think will help you... we hope that you get a spectacular show while you are there! Good luck!