Tag: travel

Tips for Booking Airbnb || Rio Apartment December 2016

To get a real understanding of any city, renting an apartment or house is a really nice option when traveling. Here are a few tips for booking your next vacation on Airbnb!

I traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the second time in December 2016. This time I stayed longer than I’ve ever stayed on any vacation: a whole two weeks. I went with my fiance and his best friend. Together the three of us shared a luxury two-bedroom, two bathroom apartment in the upscale neighborhood of Ipanema, just a block and a half from the famous stretch of beach (and two blocks from the foot of a favela).

While the apartment was huge and perfectly furnished for us, there were some challenges that had nothing to do with the property, the host or the neighborhood. There are local infrastructure problems that weren’t insurmountable, merely frustrating at times and slightly irritating at others. I discuss those at the beginning and end of the video.

Anyway, here is a walk-through of that apartment with commentary. I hope you’ll enjoy. Let me know your thoughts on the apartment! Below are some tips for booking on Airbnb


Tips for Booking on Airbnb

(1) Fill Your Profile– Make sure your profile is complete with pictures, info about what you do for a living, why you love to travel, why you prefer airbnb, etc. Get references if you can!!

(2) Make Thorough Lists– Airbnb has a function that allows you to make wish lists for different purposes and add friends, etc. This allows me to save all the places I like while I go ALL the way to the end of the search list. On Airbnb you can filter, but you can’t sort properties, so look at EVERY apartment. You might be surprised by what you find on page 16 or 17 of your search. Most people won’t even go that far. The more popular hosts get top billing and are featured on the first few pages of the search.

(3) Ask Questions– I usually start by asking questions as opposed to immediately requesting to book. Let the host have the opportunity to engage with you first before requesting to book their place. In my message I compliment the property and then ask my question (making sure the details are not in the description). If they aren’t responsive, that’s probably an indicator of why type of host they are. I understand there are always extenuating circumstance, but you want to make sure that you and host are on the same page

(4) Read the Details– there are places that charge additional fees, etc.  One host said i needed to email a copy of my passport and the country visa– as a mandatory policy. I didn’t comply because Airbnb has already confirmed my identity. When I asked “for what purpose do you need my passport and visa,” he backpedaled and said he’d need to see upon check-in, which is fine. There are also places that give discounts for renting more than 7 days! Just make sure you read everything!

(5) Report Prejudice or Discrimination– There are people who wont rent to blacks, muslims, gays, etc. Airbnb has said they don’t support these policies, BUT have put nothing in place to combat the practice. And many host continue to restrict their availability for certain people. I had a host say a property was no longer available. Then they marked it rented. When I resumed my search the next day– the exact same property was available again. I messaged the host who continued to say the place was not available. I made the mistake of going back and forth with this person when I should have just reported them.

I hope these tips are helpful when you book your next vacation rental. SAVE $40 ON YOUR FIRST AIRBNB!

booking airbnb

My FIVE Favorite Things to Do in Rio

I’m planning my next trip to Rio de Janeiro. Here are a few recommendations for first timers to maximize their experience in a Cidade Maravilhosa, “The Marvelous City”. 

(1) Visit the beaches…
Rio de Janeiro arguably has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. And there is something for everyone: public, crowded, secluded, white sand, pink sand, surrounded by mountain, smack dab in the city, full of activities, chilled out. Whatever type of beach you want, Rio probably has what you’re looking for. Also on the more populated beaches, there are vendors selling and renting everything you need: umbrellas, chairs, wraps, sunglasses, bikinis, food, beverages. And feel free to haggle. I personally love to rent an umbrella, lay on my canga (sarong), order a cocktail and grilled shrimp from a beach vendor. And yes, I do wear the teeny tiny Brazilian bikini. When in rome… or better, when in Rio.

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(2) Eat the Galetos…
Not gelato (the Italian style ice cream), but galeto– which is Portuguese for a young/small “rooster”. They are smaller than you expect because they are young and aren’t pumped with steroid. They are served just like chicken and they are everywhere in Rio. These birds are typically roasted and then grilled with spices and herbs. And because they aren’t typically expensive, this is the perfect food to eat before you go out or when you’re coming home from a night out. On my last trip, this was nearly a daily thing. LOL.
grilled chicken


(3) Visit the Samba School Parties…
I have a deep love and appreciation for Brazilian samba. And I respect the pomp and circumstance of the Rio samba schools. Samba Schools are basically community centers that teach music, dance and costume design in order for the community to compete in the the carnival parades at the sambadrome, which airs on television. The winning schools get recognition, money, etc. Anyway, each school has private rehearsals all year to prepare for carnaval, but each week they have at least one public rehearsal to raise money, which is basically the best samba party you’ll ever attend. Live drums, the best dancers, great music, the occasional celebrity appearance, drinks and food. It is an incredible experience– especially for first timers. They start around 10pm and go until the sun comes up again. That is NOT an exaggeration. Below is a video from my first trip to Salgueiro in 2014. Footage from other samba schools in 2016 coming soon!


(4) Take in all the Natural Beauty…
When you go see the touristy sights, you’ll be surrounded by natural beauty. On the train ride up the Corcovado mountain to see the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) or when you take the bondinho (cable car) to see the views from Morro do Urca (Mount Urca) and Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain)– you’ll agree that the views of the landscape, the wildlife, the vegetation and the water are gorgeous. Rio is naturally green and lush, but now it is pretty urban and in many areas visibly impoverished. So keep your eyes open. There are these amazing nature reserves; these areas that are well maintained. And there are other areas that have grown wild and remain untouched despite the urban sprawl around them. I especially like to look up at the trees as I walk the streets. You’ll see beautiful flowers and birds everywhere.
view from urca


(5) Hang with the Locals…
Brazilian culture as experienced in America is super different than the real thing in Brazil. Brazilians have a reputation for being very open, warm and inviting– and they are to a degree. But the reality is that people are people no matter where they are from, so it may take some time to crack the code. Keep in mind that Rio is a social place. You’ll often see people out in groups. You can have a great time with no Brazilians friends. You’ll have a better time if you make friends while there. But to have the ultimate experience, do whatever you can to meet people before you go and meet up with them when you’re there. They will probably introduce you to their friends and those friends will probably introduce you to their friends and so on and so on. Obviously the locals know the best parties and places that aren’t advertised on the internet. So with Brazilian friends you could experience a Rio de Janeiero that you never knew existed. Ask your friends about a sarau, a samba de raiz, a baile funk, a true Brazilian churrasco, etc. Below is a pic of Edrick, Carlito and I with three Brazilian friends.
friends in rio


(6) [Honorable Mention] City Walking
This gets honorable mention because its one of my favorite things to do in any city outside of Atlanta. I love to walk around and get a feel for a city, by experiencing the sights, sounds and smells. Yes the smells– sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but it always makes memories. On our first trip to Rio, I walked more in the first day than I had the whole month before. My feet felt like they were gonna fall off. But I survived and repeated the same thing the next day with more comfortable shoes. LOL. Videos to come! Share this post with your friends before you travel!

Thank you for reading. Go ahead follow me on social media. And of course by the book below. It is so much fun to read. And it will come in handy when you travel to Brazil. Its not just dirty words, there are REAL LIFE common phrases in it. Thanks, friends!

Where To Eat in Miami

I recently traveled to Florida to celebrate my birthday. I checked out a few spots based on recommendations of TV personalities, friends and locals. Here is my round up of faves. Check them out when you’re there.

IMG_2365[1]Legit, the most Carioca place I’ve ever been in the U.S. I’ve been to Brazilian spots in Atlanta, DC, Los Angeles and New York. This was very special. I only wish I had my samba sisters with me. The DJ played all of my faves from Timbalada to Zeca Pagodinho. And the live band played all the latest and greatest in pagode. We went on Saturday (my actual birthday) which is their weekly feijoada (a dinner centered around black bean stew). The caipirinhas were on point, the food was delicious, the atmosphere was lively and colorful. It was a great time.
DineWithDani recommends: The caipirinhas are perfect.
Boteco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Camoronera Seafood Joint & Fish Market
This spot is tucked in Little Havana, which is not exactly a neighborhood that most tourists venture to. I didn’t feel unsafe when I got there, but we did drive through some areas that looked bombed out, abandoned and forgotten. The restaurant is small, but the service is fast and pleasant. Locals know and respect this place with good reason.
DineWithDani recommends: Anything involving shrimp is the reason you go. Period. 
La Camaronera Seafood Joint & Fish Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Rusty Pelican
IMG_2364[1]This is a classic upscale seafood restaurant. Every Floridian knows, has been or recommends this place. Located on Key Biscayne, it offers a stellar waterfront view of Downtown Miami. The menu hits all the marks: oyster, lobsters, fresh fish and delicious sides. This was a surprise dinner for me and it didn’t disappoint. Tip: Sit outside at night and enjoy the view. Its very romantic. The couple across from us couldn’t stop making out. They felt it! You will too.
DineWithDani recommends: The oysters and lobsters are actually not over priced.

Rusty Pelican Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Flanigans Seafood Bar
This spot may be the opposite of the Rusty Pelican– a local chain of hole-in-the wall bars serving up seafood classics. One thing I noticed: almost nothing on the menu is fried. But you can get a whole fish with two sides for a nominal price. You’ll find lots of beers to choose from, a full bar and loads of TVs tuned to sports. This is paradise for my man. Beer, sports, seafood, flip-flops-level casual attire and loud music. No wonder he was excited to show me this spot.
DineWithDani recommends: The clam chowder surprised me, as did the shrimp alfredo and smoked fish dip!
Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
IMG_2363[1]This southern restaurant in South Beach rivals some of the top spots in Atlanta. The server (who was from Atlanta) said they were known for their Chicken & Waffles & Watermelon. Girl, what? I mentally moved past the addition of watermelon and ordered the entree which is meant to be shared. It was perfection. The music is retro. The cocktails are hand crafted and strong. And the guests are a hodgepodge of locals, tourists, celebrities and notables. I sat next to someone from the cast of Empire (who was on a date). That’s all I’m going to say. LOL. The tables are so tight together, however, that I could have eaten off their plates. But instead I talked to the couples on the other side of me about all kinds of shenanigans and we shut the restaurant down with raucous laughter. All in all one of my favorite nights in Miami. I can’t wait to go back.
DineWithDani recommends: Obviously the Chicken & Waffles and & Watermelon are worth ordering, but also the charred okra is a great addition.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Touch of Cuba
On our last day, we went on an adventure looking for something obscure I’d heard about. This worked up an appetite and we thought back to the Cuban spot that looked packed out at 9am. Around 11am we stopped there for an early lunch. This teeny spot in Hallandale serves Cuban classics with a smile. And much like the rest of Hallendale: no muss, no fuss. And it’s all good in the hood.
DineWithDani recommends: The coffee. I’d never go to starbucks again if I lived near this place.
A Touch of Cuba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Get Your Passport… It Is Time For Your First International Trip!

from the monitor on the plane
from the monitor on the plane


So you’re ready to take your first international trip? I went to mexico at 17, the same year as 9/11 (don’t do the math) and I didn’t need a passport– just parental permission. But now, a passport is needed to leave the U.S. period. And my passport never saw a stamp until 2014. I held on to it for years. And I was so proud and cheesing from ear to ear when the Brazilian government official stamped my passport and said “bem-vindo”. Actually i think he said “welcome”, but whatever.

If you don’t know where to start for your first international trip, I’ve got ten steps for you!

  1. Get a passport. I know that may seem like common sense, but you won’t believe how many people say they want to go to London or France or Japan, but they never take the first step to invest in a passport. In the grand scheme of travel expenses, its probably one of the best and cheapest investments you’ll make. $135 + cost of photo. PS- don’t expect your photo to be good.
  2. Pick a Country (and maybe a city). If you’re like me and lust after everything on the travel channel or inside national geographic, the choice could prove difficult. So for this I say follow your heart and go big. If your heart is torn, talk to friends and family, or whoever you intend to travel with. Actually, finding a travel companion can be harder than picking a location.
  3. Do Your Research. Common questions to have answered early that could change your decision: What language(s) do they speak? What kind of food can you expect? What are some local customs? When is the best time to travel? What’s the weather like? Does my church or alma mater offer group travel with excursions? How much is average for airfare and accommodations? Do I know anyone who has been? Do I know anyone who lives or lived there? Does our government discourage or regulate travel to this place? Does it require an entry visa in advance of travel?
  4. Apply for a Visa. Not all countries require an entry visa, but that should be part of your research. Is a visa required? How much does it cost? How long does it take to approve? How long is it valid? What are the requirements for approval? Some countries will give you the visa when you get there (aka the stamp in your passport) but others require advanced application. For Brazil, the process of gathering materials for the application and awaiting the response made me kind of anxious. It was all worth it.
  5. Book Airfare. Some visa applications require you to have your airfare already booked. And if you don’t need a visa, book it as far in advance as is feasible for you. Consider your financial, personal, social and professional obligations at this time.
  6. Book Accommodations. In your research, you already found out what prices were common, but you should remember that hotels are not your only option. Airbnb is blowing up. Hostels are getting better and better. And truthfully, depending on how exotic or remote your chosen location, those may not even be options. So be open minded.
  7. Make a List of Activities. When you pay the premium to travel internationally, staying in your hotel or laying on the beach all day probably isn’t the best use of your time. Go see something historic. Go do something philanthropic. Go learn something new. Your vacation will be better for it. And if it goes badly, at the very least you’ll have an interesting vacation story. But just keep in mind the cultural customs and try not to piss off the locals.
  8. Don’t Piss Off the Locals. Travel blogs, books and more can give you the do’s and don’t for nearly wherever you want to go. If the city you want to visit expects one to dress modestly, do that. If the city you’re visiting is one where people smile and say hello to strangers, try that. Most importantly: if they speak another language and you hit a wall of communication do not, DO NOT yell in english at the locals expecting them to understand.
  9. Prepare for the Expected. There are a few things that will keep coming up in your research, like the suggestions to learn to say a few phrases. If you leave your hotel, you’ll need them. And avoid high exchange rates by exchanging your money at your bank before you leave. Speaking of money, a flesh tone money belt to wear under your clothes may not be a bad idea– just don’t open it on the street. Again, most of the “common sense” international travel tips will come up in your research.
  10. Embrace the Unexpected. Some people say to prepare for the unexpected. That oxymoron doesn’t fit with international travel. No matter how much research you do, you’ll never be prepared for everything that comes your way. So just do your best to go with the flow. You’re on vacation now!

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