Anchors Away!

Our First (and Definitely not our Last) Experience Cruising with Royal Caribbean

We’re writing this from the Miami airport - an hour after getting off the Symphony of the Seas, and we’re ALREADY having withdrawals.

Now that’s when you know it’s been a good trip.

A few months back we got an e-mail from Royal Caribbean International (RCI), asking us to join them on the inaugural sailing of the brand new Symphony of the Seas. We’d recently read about it - how it’s the largest cruise ship in the world, with everything from zip-lining to a 10-story slide. (Say what??)

Obviously we accepted the invitation, and the Symphony of the Seas completely exceeded every expectation we had. Not only because of its size and grandeur, but also because of RCI’s staff and attention to detail. Here’s a little recap of our experience with RCI, and how they take cruising to the next level:

1. IT’S A FAMILY: We boarded the ship with a bunch of strangers, and we left feeling like family. We bonded with everyone from our hibachi server, to the ship’s captain (You’re the man, Captain Rob!!), to the people we met in the waterside line. It is truly mind blowing how on such a large ship, you can quickly feel known. The RCI crew does a stellar job not only making sure every need is met - but also fostering a warm and fun-loving community.

2. ENTERTAINMENT: We could dedicate a whole blog just to the quality of entertainment aboard the Symphony of the Seas. We saw a broadway production of Hairspray, Hiro (an “aquatheater” style acrobatic adventure show), 1977 (an ice skating show with incredible drone technology), and Flight (a Broadway style show on the history of flight) … How they do all of these shows at sea is crazy in and of itself, and then paired with the quality and talent of the performers it’s absolutely astounding.  

3. TOP-NOTCH FOOD: Anyone that gives “cruise food” a bad rap has obviously never sailed with RCI. There are 20 different restaurants on The Symphony of the Seas, allowing your taste buds to give into any and every kind of craving. We had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the galley and see just how seriously RCI takes food. Every fruit and vegetable is checked for quality and every dish is prepared and presented with care and precision. We were so inspired by the handful of chefs we got to meet, as every one of them is genuinely passionate about what they do. And it shows.

4. EFFICIENCY: Being such a large ship, one of our concerns was the crowds. We were bracing ourselves for long waits and long lines. How do thousands of people get on and off the boat efficiently, get their food served efficiently, or even find a seat at the bar? Well, we can gladly say that we NEVER had an issue with any of the above. From boarding the ship until disembarking, everything was done quick and orderly and pain-free. We’re not sure how the RCI crew handles all the logistics, but they do so flawlessly.

5. DESIGN: It goes without saying that The Symphony of the Seas is beautiful. From the moment we stepped onboard, into the glistening Royal Promenade, we were in awe. (I think our jaws may have hit the floor.) Every room, restaurant, bar, and activity area is perfectly decorated in a sleek, modern, and welcoming way. Every theme was executed tastefully - from the serenity of Central Park to the hustle and bustle of Boardwalk.

COME SEEK.

This is RCI’s tagline - and we absolutely love it. “Come Seek” embodies their very essence - adventure and discovery. Cruising with RCI isn’t simply a week at sea, it’s a week of discovery and exploration - both on and off the ship. No matter your age or your interests, there’s something for everyone. Take our (and RCI’s) advice and COME SEEK. We’re so glad we did.

The Symphony of the Seas is currently sailing out of Miami, with week-long Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. Starting in May, you can experience “Coco Cay”, the exclusive Royal Caribbean Island in the Bahamas! Learn more and shop for your next cruise here.

Our Favorite Gifts for Travel (and Everything in Between)

It’s officially Christmas time - YAY!! Bring on the Christmas lights, Christmas songs, Christmas cookies, Christmas movies, Christmas jammies… we could go on and on. It’s hands down our favorite time of the year. We get to spend quality time with our loved ones (and our pup!), rest, eat a lot, and anticipate the new year.

Oh, and we get to give GIFTS!

Now, we pride ourselves on being good gift-givers. It’s both of our love-languages. Bobby’s more of a crafter (it’s true) - he loves making personalized mugs, tee-shirts, anything paper maché, the list goes on. (And I don’t want to embarass him too much.) I (Alli) am not a crafter - but I am thoughtful. Depending on the person, I like to find gifts that not only fit their likes and style, but that are also unique and special. Some people are harder to shop for than others (DAD!), but it gives me great joy to try.

This year we’ve compiled some of our favorite gifts - most of which are travel related, and others that we just genuinely love (Sally too!). We’re convinced you’ll find something for everyone on here - and you can trust that they have all been tested and approved by yours truly... Here we go!


GIFTS FOR THE TRAVELER

Hook & Albert Leather Weekender Bag: Do yourself a favor and watch this 40 second YouTube video on this game-changing piece of luggage. When the bag is deconstructed, there is a garment bag portion that you can store your pressed suit in. And then there are side pockets for your shoes. Zip the bag back together and you still have a roomy duffel for all of your other essentials. It’s durable with high quality leather and zippers that will only get better with age.

Aloha Travel Bags: These little waterproof travel bags have changed the way we pack. We use them for our toiletries, swimsuits, active wear, you name it! (Alli will even use them as a clutch from time to time.) It’s a fun and sleek way to take your suitcase organization to the next level.

American Tourister Moonlight Spinner: We’ve been using American Tourister luggage for a few years now, and it’s our favorite. Lightweight, durable, and extremely affordable. Plus they’re good looking, too!

Alli’s FAVORITE Cozy Fluffy Jacket: THE BEST $30 YOU’LL EVER SPEND. (Thank you @truelane for the recommendation on this one.) It’s the definition of cozy. It’s like wrapping yourself up in the softest, most plush blankie - and perfect for brisk morning walks and chilly nights. And for only $30, you might as well get a few colors! (The camel color is next on my list!)

Bobby’s Nano Puff Jacket: You probably already have a Patagonia jacket, or a version of it. But if you don’t, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! The hype is real, folks. They’re lightweight, easy to pack, and incredibly warm, and beyond durable. You’ll live in it - just like Bobby lives in his. Join the cult.

Master Dynamic Headphones: There are a few travel items we’ll splurge on - good headphones are one of them. These not only look cool, they’re extremely high quality. We get compliments on them everywhere we go! The MW60’s are insanely comfortable and high quality (but pricey), while the MW50’s bring the same amazing sound quality, are a little more affordable, and can be either on-ear or over-ear (they have interchangeable earpieces).

Fuji X-T2 or Fuji X-E3: Have you gone mirrorless yet? We’re big fans of the Fuji system, and currently use these two cameras on all of our trips. Both the camera body and many lenses are built well and are weather proof, so they can endure a variety of conditions. The X-T2 is the higher end model of the two, and they are both excellent cameras for travel!

DJI Mavic Pro Platinum with Fly More Package: Bobby’s favorite drone, and what we like to refer to as the fourth member of our family (after Sally, our dog). If you’ve been researching drones, you’ll know that DJI makes the best of the best - and this one is no exception. If you’re serious about capturing incredible aerial photo/video, get yourself a Mavic. Extremely portable, great flight time, and amazing image quality!

Lowepro Fastpack BP 150 AW II: Bobby bought this backpack off Craigslist nearly 4 years ago (an older version, but it looks nearly identical), and has since purchased 2 other backpacks. While he’s gotten rid of the 2 newer bags, the Lowepro continues to be everything he needs. Plenty of storage for 2 cameras, 2 lenses, a 15 inch laptop, magazines, headphones, and all the other essential carry-on items.

Priority Pass: They have lounges in nearly every airport. Especially when you’re flying internationally, it’s a game-changer. If you know a frequent traveler that does not have Priority Pass - this is the PERFECT gift for them!

Joby GorillaPod: Besides our camera, our Joby GorillaPod is hands down our most-used travel accessory. We’ve gotten some of our best shots because of this little flexible mini-tripod. It’s incredibly easy to use and maneuver, and can latch onto and around just about anything and everything. It’s a must. (Unless you hire a personal photographer - then you probably don’t need it.)

Movi Freefly Cinema Robot Smartphone Stabilizer: This smartphone stabilizer gives us the ability to film cinema-worthy video - on our iPhones!! Whether you’re shooting for Instagram, Youtube, or just for your personal enjoyment - your shots will be stable and smooth… and you’ll probably consider enrolling in film school shortly after.

Polarpro FiftyFifty Lens for GoPro: One of our favorite tools… the PolarPro FiftyFity lets you capture epic split level shots, like this one below of Alli and Sally in the pool. The optical dome pushes water away from the GoPro lens allowing it to capture both over and under the surface. Get one!

MONQ Portable Essential Oil Diffuser: Portable essential oil diffusers… how cool is that?! They come in a variety of blends - some of our favorites being Forest, Zen, and Pumpkin Spice. They make a perfect stocking stuffer!

Biocol Labs Travel Kit: Our new favorite plant-based remedies that are doctor approved and ideal for travellers like us. Their Travel Kit has a cure for everything: jet lag, flight distress, poor digestion, weakened immune system - and even something to help a hangover! We don’t leave home without it! FOR 15% OFF YOUR ORDER, ENTER CODE: Newlyweds

Sun Bum Sunscreen: No matter where we go, we always have sunscreen and chapstick close at hand. And it’s always Sun Bum. (You might say we’re sunscreen snobs.) They make Alli’s favorite dry shampoo, too!

GIFTS FOR WHEN YOU’RE HOME

Winc Wine: We just recently discovered Winc wines and can’t believe more people don’t do this. It’s the only wine club we’re a part of, and in our opinion, it’s the best. Winc delivers 4 bottles of wine (you can choose or leave it to the experts - they make hundreds of wines) to your door every month (with NO SHIPPING FEES), and it doesn’t cost anything to be a member. Wines start at $13, so they’re super affordable and the branding is on point (very important). Oh - and the wine is insanely good. Sorry Trader Joes wines, we’ve happily moved on.

YETI Wine Rambler: Everything Yeti makes is gold. From their outdoor coolers to tumblers, we’re fans of it all. We’ve recently started bringing our Yeti Rambler Wine Tumblers with us on trips - and they’ve been a game-changer. Especially for Alli. Who enjoys warm Savignon Blanc?! (We love the Brick Red color - perfect for the holidays!)

Minted Holiday Cards: Christmas cards are a big thing over here. Just choosing the photo (or the compilation of photos) can be stress-inducing. Thankfully with Minted, that’s the only stressful part! They make the whole process SO incredibly easy, and their quality and design are unmatched. They’re also some of the most affordable options we’ve seen - so it’s truly a win/win!

Daily Harvest: We make sure we eat as many fruits and veggies as we can while we’re traveling, and while we’re at home. Daily Harvest has become a huge part of our morning routine, as their smoothies are packed with healthy ingredients, are easy to make, and are incredibly filling. It’s super cost-effective too!

31 Bits: Alli helped found this company over ten years ago, and so obviously we HAD to include it! 31 Bits employs artisans in Uganda and Bali that make incredible jewelry, bags, home goods, and more. The cause, the style, the heart - it’s our go-to for gift giving, and this year is no exception. If you’ve been eyeing the mirror above our couch, get it fast. There’s only a few left!

Burrow: Speaking of our couch, we love it. We did a TON of research on couches (it’s an investment!!) and everything we read and reviewed brought us back to Burrow. Their couches are affordable, stylish, and high quality. Plus they have a phone charger built in… YES PLEASE!

Caséta by Lutron: We’ve been talking a lot about Lutron lately, and for good reason. Caséta by Lutron keeps our home secure through a feature they have called “Smart Away”. It randomly turns our lights on and off when we’re not at home, making our house appear lived-in - even when we’re across the globe! Plus - we control it all with an app on our phone. It’s amazing.

Ring: Speaking of home security, Ring is the other feature we can’t live without. This Ring Video Doorbell 2 alerts our phones anytime there’s movement/activity around our home. We’re able to keep an eye on our packages, our visitors, even our outdoor furniture - all in real time! We also have the Ring Spotlight Cam for the side of our home, and the Ring Alarm System to protect the inside. Let’s be real, Sally isn’t a guard dog :)

iRobot Roomba 980: Wood floors and a big fluffy dog are not the best combo. Dust, dirt, hair, you name it - it’s on our floors. And we used to sweep them almost daily. Not anymore, friends!! Our iRobot Roomba is like our live-in maid (we like to refer to him as “Norman”), as Norman vacuums it all up quickly and efficiently - even when we’re not home! Why didn’t we get him sooner?!

Zazzle: Being the thoughtful gifter that he is, Zazzle is Bobby’s favorite gift-giving site this time of year. You name it - he’s made it. Customized mugs, magnets, t-shirts, even snowglobes!! They’re quick, easy to work with, and bound to be a hit with the whole family.

GIFTS FOR YOUR PUP (SALLY’S PICKS)

Pet Plate: We’re the couple that refers to our dog as our “first born”. We’re obsessed with her. (Can you blame us? She’s SO CUTE!) Because of said obsession, we try to feed her the healthiest and best food for dogs - that fits in our budget. Pet Plate is just that. Sally loves it, we love the ingredients, and they deliver it straight to our doorstep. Boom.

Farmer’s Dog - This is another great healthy and high-quality food delivery service for dogs. We like to change up Sally’s meals from time to time, so we usually switch back and forth between Farmer’s Dog and Pet Plate. Both of which are cost-effective and Sally-approved. (We’re also big suckers for their marketing - every meal has Sally’s name on it!)

Kurgo: We go on at least one roadtrip a month, and 99% of the time Sally comes too. Her safety in the car is really important to us, and we absolutely love Kurgo for just that. They make a variety of car accessories for keeping your four-legged friends safe on the road - from the Kurgo Dog Hammock to the Auto Zip Line, Kurgo allows us to drive knowing that Sally is as safe!

Kong Products (specifically the squeaky balls): We just had to throw these in because they’re Sally’s FAVORITE THING EVER. (Not ours - hence the fancy headphones we mentioned earlier.) She could chew and play with them until the cows come home (or until we take them away), and they’ll for sure be in her stocking this year. Yes our dog has a stocking. Doesn’t yours?!

Do You Guys Ever Fight? Behind the Scenes with Alli & Bobby

It seems as though the more we share our lives through our travels, the more fascinated our audience is with the “behind the scenes”. If we had a dollar for every time someone asks us, “Don’t you get sick of each other?” - well, we’d have a lot of dollars. We get it all the time! Questions about our relationship, how we live, work, travel together - even people wondering where our dog goes when we’re not home! (Valid question.)

So, we decided to devote a blog post to just that.

The Traveling Newlyweds as you’ve never seen them before… (lol!)

How do you guys do it? 24 hours a day, 7 days a week together?

Alli: It honestly isn’t as much - or as hard - as some people think. Maybe that’s due to our easy going personalities, or maybe it’s luck… but we really haven’t had many issues with spending so much time together. Sure we get on each other’s nerves every once and awhile, but it’s never anything that lasts very long.

We’ve definitely learned patience. For me, that means lingering a little (sometimes a lot) longer at certain spots so Bobby can get the “perfect” shot. My intuition is always to go go go - and that’s not always conducive to content creating. It’s something I’m still working on. For Bobby, it’s patience when we’re (well, mostly me) deciding where to eat. I need to research, look on Instagram, survey my surroundings and compare menus before I land on a decision. Bobby’s “hanger” used to show itself a lot more than it does now!

One thing that I think we do really well is support each other. We’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Whether Bobby’s working on a new photography project or I’m writing content for a tourism board, we’re the first to encourage each other. We have to daily remind ourselves that we’re on the same team - and with that kind of mentality, you can do anything.

Bobby: It’s challenging to follow Alli on this, because I would say most of the same things.

Our personalities mesh together in a way that compliment each other, and we don’t get sick of each other. But don’t be fooled... we also work hard to keep a strong marriage. We listen to each other, have date nights, we’re intentional about spending quality time together, we’re quick to apologize and forgive, we laugh often and our inside jokes get weirder by the year, and we are each other’s biggest fan. As Alli said… patience is really important in our world. I get pretty neurotic and particular about photography sometimes, and Alli can just go with the flow. And instead of getting upset when I’m hungry, or “hangry”, I’m getting better at being grateful that my wife is going to find us the most epic spot to eat. See, I’m saying the same things as Alli.

With all that in mind, Traveling Newlyweds is so much fun for us - we see it as a season of life that is uncertain, so we’re cherishing every moment!

You guys look like you’re living the DREAM. Do you even work?

Alli: Believe us when we say that content creating and travel blogging is hard work. It’s extremely long days when we’re in-destination, it’s late-night editing and early morning hustling. It’s a lot of writing, it’s a lot of planning, it’s a lot of busy work, and it’s a lot of being “on”. Being on a “press trip” may sound cool and exclusive, but typically it means red-eye flights, full days packed with meetings, gathering content, interviewing tourism boards and brand agents, and experiencing hosted activities that we’re capturing content for. You may see a snapshot of us laying out at the beach, but the times where we’re actually laying out are few and far between. 98% of the time we’re running around from dawn to dusk!

That being said, we’ll be the first to say that we ARE living the dream, because we LOVE what we do.

We love the destinations we travel to and the clients we work for. We thrive on new experiences and new locations, and learning more about this magical world we live in is truly our favorite pastime. We feel SO BLESSED to call this our job, and we’ll never take it for granted!

Bobby: What she said. We work hard.

How do you work, and who does what? What’s a day in the life of the Traveling Newlyweds?

Bobby: Every day is different. For the most part here is what I do: pursue new opportunities, cook good scrambled eggs, plan out logistics, edit photos, pick up Sally’s poop, take photos, and manage our website.

Alli: Just like Bobby said - no day is the same. Our travels and projects are so seasonal, that it’s constantly changing and evolving. It’s usually a pretty even mix of emails, travel research, phone meetings, picture taking, and editing. It’s incredibly easy for us to spend an entire day looking at a screen - so we try to break it up with evening walks, dinners with friends, and an occasional card game. I always win. ;)

How do you balance work life/personal life?

Alli: It definitely gets tricky when your work life is so personal. We try to be intentional about having date nights where our phones are put away and we make time during the week to hang out with family and friends. Having a dog also helps, as we try to take her on nightly walks where there’s no “business talk” allowed. We’re still figuring out the balance - but so far so good.

Bobby: This was really hard for me when I was teaching (I taught high school math). All of my students would dig into our personal life and it drove me crazy for the first year or two. But then, like an older brother that teases their sibling to get a reaction, as soon as I got over it, they mellowed out. Now that I’m not teaching, the new struggle is finding balance… I sometimes feel like a work-a-holic even though all of our friends would say, “You work?” Alli and Sally force me to slow down a bit, and I’m grateful.

What kind of camera do you use, and who takes your pictures?

Bobby: Alli uses her iPhone Xs, and I use a Fuji XT-1. Not sponsored, I just love the feel of all the dials and the quality of the glass. But if you work for Fuji and want to sponsor me, let’s talk.

What’s been your favorite destination so far?

Alli:  I LOVED Japan. The people, the food, culture, the pride in their culture and country. It’s by far the cleanest country I’ve ever been to - even the subway in Tokyo is pristine! It’s hilariously quirky too - hedgehog cafes, robot shows, teeny tiny bars that hold only eight people… And don’t even get me started on Kyoto. One of the most magical, truly “zen” places I’ve ever been. Japan is otherworldly.

Bobby: South Africa. We’re definitely spoiled living in California, and South Africa reminded me the most of home. When in Cape Town, you can be at the beach in the morning, playing with penguins in the early afternoon, and sipping wine in a spectacular wine region in the early evening. There is so much to see and do… and whiskey is really cheap :)

What have you learned from working together?

Bobby: Alli isn’t afraid to dream big. She loves thinking of the next destination, strategy, or campaign that we’re going to go after, and nothing is out of reach. She also tries really hard to hear me out when she doesn’t like one of my far-fetched ideas. She’ll let me go on and on about why I think an idea or product is what our next move should be, and then will gently (most of the time) let me know that it’s not a good idea.

Alli: Bobby is SO driven. He’s the first to wake up and start working in the morning, and he’s usually hustling on projects and emails until he falls asleep. He’s always coming up with new ideas for TN, and for having zero marketing/social media experience - he’s really caught on quick!



Is it hard having a dog and traveling as much as you do? Where does she go when you’re gone?

Alli: It’s only hard because we miss her so much!!! We try to take her on as many trips as we can, but most of the time she stays with my parents. She’s the closest thing they have to a granddaughter, and they love her just as much (if not more) than we do! Shout out to Mama and Papa Swan for being the best puppysitters EVER!!

Bobby: Yeah, it’s not that hard. We love Sally so as long as we know she’s being taken care of and getting lots of love, it’s not that big of a deal. We’re super blessed to have Alli’s parents, as well as an amazing doggie-daycare right down the street.

What’s one thing you can’t travel without?

Alli: I don’t go anywhere without my Aloha bags. I’ve been traveling with them for nearly four years now, and they’ve completely changed the way I pack. They’re waterproof, machine washable, durable, incredibly lightweight - and even make cute clutches when you’re on the go! I LOVE THEM. (not sponsored.)   

Bobby: I can’t travel without my earplugs. Nothing special, just the squishy ones you get at a Rite Aid. Whether it’s crying babies on a plane, or Alli talking in her sleep, I am always thankful when I have a pair of earplugs in my backpack.

What’s your dream destination?

Alli:  Samoa. It’s perfectly underrated - and I’ve wanted to go for years… Turquoise waters, rugged rainforest, friendly locals.. It’s going to happen.  

Bobby: Tahiti was a destination that caused us to start Traveling Newlyweds, thinking it was a place we could never afford on a teacher’s salary. So I think if/when we go there, it will be pretty special.  

Is Your Brand's Influencer Really an Influencer? Check this out...

It feels as though we’re living in the “Wild West” of Instagram.

This world is rapidly changing, growing, and intensifying - and it’s every man (or account) for himself.

As algorithms continue to change, awareness, views, and growth seem to be further and further out of reach. There are days when we wonder if our channels are even valuable anymore, as it seems that only a fraction of our audience is seeing what we post. As content creators, we’ll be the first to say that it can be extremely frustrating.

But that being said, there’s SO much hope and opportunity in this space. This social media influencer world is only getting bigger - and influencer opportunities are continuing to grow. Now more than ever brands are realizing the sheer value that is social media marketing - the eyeballs, the personal connection, the quick turnaround, etc. And they are willing to pay top-dollar to work with big accounts. Awesome news for influencers and content creators like us, right?

Well, kinda.

Now, we’ve gone back and forth about writing this for months. We didn’t want to be “those” people, focusing on others when we should be focusing on ourselves. But what started out as a simple and sad observation has become something so increasingly out of control, we feel as though we HAVE to say something. (And hey, there’s a good chance you’re already aware of this!)

But if you’re a brand that works with influencers or you’re an influencer that works hard on growing and engaging with your audience, listen up - and boot up. It’s an untamed world out there.


FAKE ENGAGEMENT

What?! People can pay for followers and likes?!

Ok, so maybe that’s not new news. If you’re like us, you probably see DM’s slide into your inbox from time to time, asking you if you’re interested in buying engagement. The amount of emails we get about “Growing Your Followers Fast” and “REAL FOLLOWERS NOW!” is alarming. And what’s even more alarming is how many people are doing it, and just how sneaky the whole operation is.

Google “Buy followers on Instagram” or “Buy likes on Instagram” and you’ll quickly see how lucrative this industry is. For $10, you can buy around 500 instagram followers, and $1 will get you 100 likes! These followers and likes aren’t real people - they’re either bots or inactive accounts. No matter how “real” a company claims these accounts are, they’re not. They’re fake. Their follows and likes are empty. And it gets worse.

Instagram accounts can now buy custom comments. That’s right, now these “real” bots and accounts can be programmed to leave comments. For only $17.99, you can purchase 50 “custom comments” from females, males, or both (you chose)! You write the comments, they go into the system, and within minutes these accounts are leaving them on your post. And accounts do this. All the time.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Ok, whatever. So people are buying followers, likes, and comments. This affects me how?!

Here’s where our issue lies.

Most brands and companies pay for sponsored content based on the size of an account’s following and their engagement. Some will charge a flat fee, while others pay per like and/or comment on a post. Seems fair until you factor in how easy (and dirt cheap!) it is for content creators to purchase such engagement. Many influencers are making thousands of dollars off of fake metrics.

Large accounts that consist of fake followers, likes, and comments are becoming more and more common. We see new ones pop up every day. But why do we care?

Because we’ve worked hard for this. It’s our job now. We’ve built a brand and a voice through our travels. And we’ve gotten to know hundreds of others that do the same (shout out to all our fraaans!!). They’re authentic and genuine, they’re experts in the travel space, and their platform is now being compromised. And in the same way, we’re seeing brands spend their (oftentimes minimal) marketing budget on fake exposure. It’s ethically and morally wrong.

But if you’re savvy to it, this “cheating of the system” is easy to spot.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

If you’ve never seen a fake account or a “bot” before, this is typically what they look like:

Very few photos, usually with no or minimal captions.

Other ways to spot fake accounts are:

  • Inactivity. If the last time they posted was September, 2015, chances are they’re not hanging out liking and commenting on Instagram

  • Foreign accounts that have conflicting agendas. We’ve seen what looked like a Russian menswear shop commenting on how delicious a (sponsored) granola bar looked. Could that be real? Maybe - but probably not.

  • Weird comments. It’s easy to tell when a comment is off, or doesn’t match up to the photo. If an influencer posts about their cute new Anine Bing sweater and comments are telling them they are “So funny OMG” and “You should be a comedian!”, they’re probably not authentic.

We know we’re not the first to tackle this issue. We know Instagram is aware of, and combating it daily. We know that this one little blog post isn’t going to fix the problem. But we hope it’s the start of a bigger conversation.

It’s amazing to us how many brands, tourism boards, and companies aren’t aware of this false engagement epidemic. So if there’s one thing we can end with, it’s this.

DO YOUR RESEARCH

False engagement may be getting harder and harder to catch - but if you know what you’re looking for you can still spot it. (Keep in mind that every large account is going to have their share of random and inactive followers - it’s just bound to happen. Bobby likes to say that if you can scroll through an account’s followers ten times and more than five out of the ten accounts you land on are fake or not relative to whatever space the influencer is in, you most likely have a problem.)

Go through their feed, see who’s following them and who’s engaging with them. If it’s authentic accounts that are in their target demographic, EPIC! If not, you might want to deep dive a little more. If you’re suspicious, ask for screenshots of their story analytics. Those haven’t been tapped yet. (That we know of).

This space is just getting started. There is SO MUCH ROOM TO GROW. But if people keep misusing it, and brands stay naive, it will eventually crash and burn. And it goes without saying that this isn’t just in the “travel influencer” space - but all over Instagram.

Do your research. Keep hustling. And stay authentic.


- Bobby and Alli Talley




Fall-ing for New England: Boston, MA and Kennebunkport, ME

Friends. We found fall. Not the kind of fall we experience in Southern California, i.e. “iced” pumpkin spice lattes, “light jacket” weather, and approximately ten total trees changing color (and you have to hunt for them).

No, the kind of fall that we’ve only seen in Hallmark movies. Trees with bright yellow, red, and orange leaves, apple picking farms, and crisp, cold air. We’ve officially been ruined by fall in New England. Here’s what we did in the hopes you can experience it one day too…


BOSTON

Now, we were only in Boston for a total of 18 hours, but we did it well (and we’ll be back). We stayed at the Beacon Hill Hotel, located in the picturesque neighborhood of Beacon Hill. We LOVED this spot. You’re surrounded by brick buildings with cute shops and quaint restaurants, plus the Beacon Hill Hotel makes you feel like a local. There’s only 13 rooms, so it has a quaint, homey feel.

We ate dinner just a few doors down at Figs, a thin crust pizza bistro that’s equally cozy as it is good. Order the Red Sox pizza and a glass of Octoberfest beer, and you’ll thank us later. Follow that up with a drink on the rooftop (bundle up!) at the Beacon Hill Hotel, and you’ve got the makings for a perfect night in the city!

The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel (get the breakfast sandwich), then ventured out to explore the city!

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First stop: Acorn Street

This is Boston’s most photographed street, and it’s steps from the Beacon Hill Hotel. Get there early (like we did) and you’ll bypass the crowds!

Next up, Walk the Freedom Trail!

Now, we didn’t walk the entire Freedom Trail - but we did walk a good portion of it! Take it to Paul Revere’s House and do a self-guided tour inside. It’s well worth the $5 admission to see what life was like back in his day, as Paul Revere himself was an incredibly fascinating guy. (Who oddly really resembles Jack Black!)

Right down the street from Paul Revere’s house is Mike’s Pastry, world famous for their cannolis and decadent baked goods. We had no self control and ordered numerous things - and they were all amazing. Especially the cookies.

We closed out our 18 hour Boston sprint with coffee at George Howell. Not only do they have great branding (something we’re suckers for), but they have fantastic coffee. The baristas are well-trained and serious about what they serve, and the quality proves it. If you go in the fall, be sure to try the Hot Buttered Cider!

MAINE

Just two hours from Boston is Kennebunkport, Maine - our final destination. The drive to Kennebunkport is sprinkled with gorgeous scenery, cute seaside towns, and what seems like an endless amount of lobster shacks. It’s every bit as dreamy as it sounds!

We stopped at Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery for a lobster roll, fish chowder, and their famous “Fishwhich”. All of which were mouth-wateringly good. If you’re a seafood lover, this is your heaven.

  • Because of our late start out of Boston, we got there around 2pm and there was no line. From what we hear, lunch can be crazy - so take note!

Next stop was our “home” for the next three nights, the Inn at English Meadows.

This charming B&B completely changed how we view B&B’s (more on that here). It was the perfect blend of cozy and luxurious, and the hospitality and attention to detail that the Innkeeper Elizabeth showed us was unparalleled. We had the “Carriage House Suite” which included a living room, kitchenette, private balcony and walk-in closets. It was like our own private casita - and we can’t imagine staying anywhere else!

We walked to dinner at Old Vines Wine Bar, a welcoming little wine bar that specializes in tapas, wine, and specialty cocktails. Three of our favorite things! If you go, make sure to order the meatballs!

We woke up early the next morning to explore the town of Kennebunkport, and we were so glad we did. We basically had the town to ourselves! We grabbed coffee at Mornings in Paris and Dock Square Coffee House (yolo!) and oo-ed and awe-ed over the picturesque buildings and town square. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast back at our inn, and headed out for a drive!

We were on a mission to find the best fall foilage - and we figured the best way to do so was to explore the old country roads. Sure enough, we were quickly surrounded by colorful trees and farms that looked like they were out of a storybook! We embraced not having a set schedule, and stopped numerous times for photos, leaf frolicking, and...apple picking!

Located on Bridgetown Road, Five Fields Farm is an apple picking dream. They hand you a bag, explain the different varietals, and point you to the fields. The trees are dripping with the juiciest, crunchiest apples we’ve ever had, and picking them was SO much fun. This is a must-do if you’re in Maine in the fall!

We slowly meandered back to Kennebunkport, where we relaxed at our inn before going out for the night. We had drinks at a local favorite, The Pilot House, and then dinner at the newest (and coolest) restaurant in town, The Boathouse. We’re still dreaming about their lobster mac n’ cheese!

Our final day in Kennebunkport was spent exploring. We stopped at Snug Harbor Farm to pet their mini horses and walk around their stunning farm. And then we made our way to Ogunquit, where we walked the famous Marginal Way path along the ocean.

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Conveniently, it led us straight to Barnacle Billy’s, where we had the best Lobster Roll of our trip! (Make sure you order the rum punch, too.) We sat along the water and watched the sailboats pass through. The view, the weather, the lobster roll… it all was too good to be true!

The rest of our day was spent shopping in Kennebunkport and enjoying a leisurely happy hour at Stripers Waterside Restaurant. It was the perfect way to close out a perfect (and too short!) trip to New England. We can’t wait to return.

*Do you have a favorite spot that we missed? Leave us a comment and let us know - we’re looking for reasons to return! ;)