Thursday, July 11, 2019

Puerto Rico Travel Diary Day 1

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger
Hey y'all! Today is all about Puerto Rico! I had really big goals of compiling our trip into one big post but when I started to plan it out, it was just way too many photos and too many details to cram into one post. I want to share about our trip with others but I also want to capture the memories for my family, especially my girls. I hope one day they look back at my blog posts themselves! So, in order to do capture our trip here on the blog like I want to, I decided to share our trip as a travel diary, day by day. Over the few weeks, I'll be sharing each day of the trip and it's highlights. At the end of each post, I'll recap the highlights of places to or things to do and I'll also do a big recap after I finish sharing each day of my travel diary for reference in case you are planning a trip to Puerto Rico yourself in the near future.

First, I'm going to share a little bit of the backstory about our trip. Josh and I started dating back in 2006 and I learned right away that he was half Puerto Rican. He shared with me within our first few times together that he went to Puerto Rico when he was 18, in celebration of graduating high school. I remember him telling me then that he would love to take me to Puerto Rico one day. As a small town girl who had never really traveled much, especially somewhere that you had to fly to, that just seemed like a big dream. Something that I would never actually get to do. After our girls were born, the dream resurfaced and his passion for taking us to Puerto Rico grew even more now that we had children of our own. Years passed before we really talked about going again but last November, Josh took me to Ocean Isle Beach for my birthday, just the two of us. When you are alone for the weekend, you actually have time to talk (imagine that, lol). This summer's trips came up and I mentioned the idea of going to Puerto Rico and making this trip happen for real. Josh immediately agreed and we knew 2019 was the year we would go.

Now, that you have the backstory, I'm going to move into sharing about our first day, starting with our travel experience to get to Puerto Rico. I must start by mentioning that I am super thrifty when it comes to basically everything. I always want to get the best deal and the very most for our money. I exclusively use Expedia for booking all our travel (except Disney) and rewards system is great. We have cashed in on so many free hotel stays thanks to our points. 

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

I used Expedia to research our flights (compared prices on different sites) and checked the price on flying out of different airports close by. To fly out of any of our closet airports in North Carolina, it was going to cost us between $1,500 and $2,000 more for all four of us to fly, compared to the cost of flying out of Atlanta. That's a lot of money! Flying out of Atlanta is a direct flight to Puerto Rico, which is really what I was looking for, especially since this was the girls very first time flying. I didn't want the added stress of connecting flights, delays, and rushing across the airport to get to our gate. We drove down to Atlanta the day before our flight and stayed in a hotel close to the airport, for free, thanks to my Expedia points. The drive to Atlanta took about five hours but we were only a minute from the airport at our hotel so the morning of our flight was pretty stress-free getting there. We even had time to stop at McDonald's for coffee to avoid the overpriced coffee at the airport.

When we got to the airport (about two hours before our flight was scheduled to depart), we parked in the long term parking lot and headed into one of the busiest airports in the United States. The girls were already memorized! As soon we were walked in, we headed to the Delta online check in area to drop off our bags. We prefer flying with Delta personally and Josh always flies Delta when he travels for work when possible. He used the Delta app the day before to check in for our flight and pay for our checked bags so it was super quick to check in. We only checked two bags (my luggage and Josh's). I packed all of the girls items for the week in two carry on bags so save money. I was so worried that my suitcase would be too heavy but I was surprised when it only weighed 36 pounds! The security line was probably the longest part of the process but it went smoothly for us and the girls were fascinated by the whole thing. 

If you live in the United States, you do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. I think this might be the question that I have been asked the most about the logistics of our trip. Josh and I only showed our drivers license. I brought the girls birth certificates with me just in case they asked for them at TSA but they did not need to see them.

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

Getting to our gate and boarding the plane all went really smoothly. I sat with the girls to answer all of their questions. Seriously, so many questions! Since it was the girls first time flying, the Delta staff gave them their wing pins. They loved that! Honestly, the entire flying experience with them was great. Having access to movies, shows, and games right in front of them was amazing. Also, they loved checking out the map to see where we were during the flight so they didn't have to ask me over and over if we were there yet. The girls were impressed with everything and loved being able to pick a drink and a snack on the flight. They were jealous that Josh gets to fly all of the time!

We safely landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico right on schedule. We got our luggage and went to get our rental car. We rented an SUV for the week that had a third row since we are used to having a vehicle that size at home. Picking up our rental was a breeze and we were in our car, ready to go, within about a half hour of landing in Puerto Rico.

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

I put the address into my GPS and we started our journey to where we would be staying for the week: Mamita's house. The biggest blessing in this whole trip planning process was that Josh's grandmother (Mamita) offering to let us stay at her home in Quebradillas. Josh quickly learned that driving in Puerto Rico is much different than our little small town! The drivers were driving so aggressively and fast. There was a lot of traffic in San Juan, we took the wrong exit twice, but about two hours later, we finally arrived at Mamita's house. I had no idea what to expect and really didn't even know what traditional Puerto Rican homes looked like until we arrived. As we were driving through the neighborhood, I noticed the beautiful colors on the homes right away and the attention to detail. 

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

When we arrived, Mamita greeted us with a spread of delicious Puerto Rican food. Josh has been waiting so long to eat some of her pastelles! We explored her house and yard (so many gorgeous flowers and trees) and got unpacked. The girls stayed upstairs in a room with air conditioning. Josh and I had our own space downstairs, which was kind of like our own mini apartment with an exterior door, a full bathroom, and air conditioning (which is super important to Josh). Besides traveling, our one goal for the day was to see a beach. Josh's aunt was at Mamita's house so we asked her what was close by that she would recommend. She suggested that we go to Playa Jobos so we switched into swimsuits and started our drive there.

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

Playa Jobos is in Isabela, which was about a half hour away from Mamita's house. We drove through the downtown area and again, I loved seeing all of the beautiful colors and the character of the buildings. On the way, we stopped at Cacique Mabodamaca, which is a head that has been carved out of the rock. It's huge! The head is of Cacique Mabodamaca who was a Taino chieftain who played a big role in Puerto Rico’s early history. 

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

When we arrived at Playa Jobos, we realized there's really not any designated parking places like you would find at beach access areas in North Carolina. People were parked all along the road and there were some makeshift parking lots ran by locals that you could park in for five dollars. Once we got on the beach, we were blown away at how seriously gorgeous it was! The water was calm and incredibly clear. We realized right away that we needed to purchase our own snorkel gear because there was so much to see here. Also, the water was never more than about four feet deep so it was such a great beach to take children to.  

After our visit to paradise, we made our first and only trip to Walmart. If y'all think Walmart is crazy here, it's even crazier in Puerto Rico! It was so busy and we waited in line for over 20 minutes, even though the line we were in didn't look very long at all. While we were in line, there was a mother with two children in front of us. She had let her kids pick out candy and eat it in line while they waited. She asked my girls if they wanted something but she only spoke Spanish. Julianna understood what she was telling us and the girls grabbed some candy. Again, she tried to speak to us in Spanish but we couldn't understand but the girls quickly figured out she was telling them to go ahead and eat it. This sweet lady even purchased a pack of gum for me and told me it was from her heart. Just this little interaction in Walmart showed me so much! You don't have to be able to speak the same language as someone else to do something nice for them. Kindness doesn't have to be spoken, it can simply be shown. I knew at this moment that I was really going to love Puerto Rico!

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

style on a budget, travel blogger, puerto rico travel diary, what to do in puerto rico, north carolina blogger

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Thanks so much for visiting! Have a great day!

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