Go here: Camping on the Road to Hana and the cutest BNB in Maui

For two of our seven nights on Maui, we decided to stay in a camper van. I was skeptical at first but it ended up being my favorite part of the trip and I would definitely tell you to go for it if you’re looking for something slightly more “off the beaten path”. (If you know camping is totally not for you, then just skip this first paragraph and head down to the second one where I wrote about the bed and breakfast, it’s much more comfortable there ;)

maui travel guide

His name was Willie the van, I booked him on Airbnb and he came equipped with everything we could possibly need for camping; beach chairs, towels, stovetop, kitchen utensils, etc. It even had twinkle lights hanging inside, which I obviously loved. There was a comfortable platform queen bed in the back with storage underneath and battery operated fans above. We stayed at Camp Olowalu and Waiʻānapanapa State Park, both of which charge camping fees ($20-40), have security at night, and felt completely safe. Olowalu has hot showers and wifi, definitely more upscale, while Waiʻānapanapa was more of a rustic site with traditional camp style bathrooms. (important note, make sure to reserve and print your permit before leaving home for Waiʻānapanapa).

We chatted with some other campers during sunset on the beach and had a great time at both. It was so nice to be able to stay at Waiʻānapanapa after being on the road to Hana instead of driving back to town that night. We got to wake up and have the black sand beach all to ourselves, which was amazing since it’s a top tourist destination. Things to pack: an external battery charger and a cheap little headlamp for getting to the bathroom after the sun goes down. The van had flashlights and USB cigarette lighter chargers but these things just made life easier.

maui travel guide

After our two nights in Willie the van, we checked in to Moana Lani Bed and Breakfast. It was hands down the cutest Airbnb bed and breakfast we’ve ever stayed in. The owners Gwen and Christian felt like friends and they were full of great Maui tips. Our room was super comfy and cute, the lanai patio was perfect for an evening happy hour (with Christian’s delicious mai tais), Gwen’s breakfast was one of the best meals of the the trip, and they had all of the beach necessities ready to go for us every day- including bikes, which we used to bike around Lahaina and to the Feast at Lele.

I truly can’t recommend this place enough, we stayed two nights and my only regret is that we didn’t stay here longer. PS, you can use my link right here and get $40 off your first Airbnb booking. Maui is expensive so use that extra savings to treat yourself to some more shaved ice. ;)

maui travel guide
maui travel guide. black sand beach.
maui travel guide. snorkeling with turtles at black rock.

Our favorite stops on the road to Hana. (If you download the Gypsy Road to Hana app he will point most of these things out. 100% worth it.)

  • Ho'okipa Beach Park. The turtles hanging out on the beach is probably one of the coolest things we saw. From far away they look like huge rocks until then they start slowly moving towards the ocean. Get here early!

  • coconut candy from the little fruit stand at the Huelo Lookout. So delicious.

  • Rainbow Trees at the arboretum

  • Upper Waikani Falls (aka Three Bears). Our friends highly recommended this stop and I’m glad we went, it was the perfect spot to take a cool swim and lay the rocks in the sun.

  • Honomanu Bay. We had this place completely to ourselves. If you have time to spend an afternoon here, it would be a great secluded beach to hang out at.

  • banana bread from Aunt Sandy’s. (if you decide to camp, get an extra loaf and a can of iced coffee at the gas station before you leave Paia to enjoy for your breakfast the next morning!)

  • Venus Pools. You have to walk through a grass field and climb over a little fence to get there but it’s the spot that made us feel like the long drive was totally worth it. It’s a pool surrounded by lava rocks that opens up to the ocean, has cliffs for jumping and clear water for snorkeling.

  • Hamoa Beach. So gorgeous. We were tired and didn’t swim or snorkel (but it looked like it would be great) instead we just sat in our beach chairs at the top of the hill, watched the surfers, and drank a cold Maui Brew. It was bliss.

Other highlights:

  • Snorkeling with turtles at Black Rock Beach. It gets crowded so try to get here early, but even if there are a lot of people already there it’s still worth it! We found 3 turtles playing and swam with them for awhile before anyone else came up and joined us. Park for free at Kahekili Beach Park and then walk the beach path all the way to Black Rock.

  • Hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail. The road along the northwest side of the island is no joke. It was way crazier than the Road to Hana so take the inland route if you’re squeamish, but if you can stomach it then it’s a beautiful drive. We didn’t get to the trail until noon so the clouds rolled in and we got stuck in a rain storm on our hike, so try to get here super early but if it rains on you just embrace it (and don’t bring anything with you that can’t get pretty wet).

  • Surfing at Thousand Peaks and Ka’anapali. Special shout out to Maui at Maui’s Beach House for being the nicest dude in the world, definitely check out his cute store if you’re in Lahaina. He has shaved ice and souvenirs as well as very reasonably priced surf gear.

  • It might seem silly to rave about a rental car, but our experience at Kihei Rent a Car was the smoothest we’ve ever had! They pick up/drop off from the airport, offer the cheapest prices, and were genuinely kind people.

Maui Van Camping and the Cutest Bed and Breakfast

Our favorite meals besides the breakfast at Moana BNB were Fish Market Maui tacos, Gazebo macadamia nut pancakes with fried rice (call to go and skip that crazy line), Ululani’s shaved ice of course, and Huli Huli roadside chicken from Maui Rotisserie.. just do it! (but don’t eat it on the beach because sand blowing into your to-go box is less than ideal)

How to save over $400 on flights

If you have someone you frequently travel with and want to get half of all of your flights for free (I mean, who doesn't?), then this post is for you.

by kelsey davis design

I just spent way too much time booking our flights to Turks and Caicos, comparing cost breakdowns to see if it's a better value to book with cash or points. I wanted to share my findings with you here because A.) I'd love to save someone else the headache of figuring it out themselves and B.) somehow turning my 2 hours of research into a blog post makes me feel a little bit better about myself.

So, here's the breakdown of how we saved over $400 by booking with points and using our Southwest Companion Pass.

  • Every SW point = 1.5 cents.
  • One flight from OKC to Turks and Caicos costs 14,730 points, plus $103.41 in fees (intl airport fees are steep)
  • Converting points to dollars, it comes out to $411.44 for one roundtrip ticket, fees included.

If we booked using cash instead of points, the total cost would have been $457. So, we already saved $45.56 by using Southwest points instead of paying cash.

Now, in comes the beautiful Companion Pass, which lets your designated partner fly free with you on every trip for *at least an entire calendar year. With your pass, you only have to pay taxes and fees, which varies by country for international flights.

  • $103.41 = cost of reserving your companion's ticket (taxes and fees)
  • $514.85 = grand total for two roundtrip tickets from OKC to Turks & Caicos. (instead of $914, which would've been the cost of two full priced Southwest tickets.. pretty, pretty good!)
  • Plus - in case you're not familiar, you get two free checked bags apiece on every SW flight. Yep, even your companion. We usually carry on, but in those times when you need to bring a lot of sunscreen (Caribbean vacay, y'all) it's nice to check for free.

Now, I was curious about how much we were actually saving by booking specifically with Southwest (because that's how I get my kicks in life, lol) so I looked into how much it would cost for both of us to fly to T&C on a different airline.

The cheapest I could find was a combination of Delta and United, which costs $1,142 for two roundtrip tickets, plus $50 per checked bag (um, plus a 16 hr layover? bye). So, compared to the $514 we spent booking with Southwest, that's $627.15 in savings, not even counting baggage fees! And that makes me so dang happy. We just got our second Companion Pass, so we're going on 3 years of free flights and let me just tell you, it never gets old.

A few things I want to point out:

- These prices are reflective of flying to the Caribbean from the Midwest area. If you live in Florida your ticket will be chump change compared to these prices, on any airline I'm sure. I envy you.

- You do need to get two Southwest credit cards to get the Companion Pass. Although it might seem tricky to juggle multiple cards, we use ours as if they were debit cards. I get on and pay them off a few times per month so that we never have a balance and never pay interest, which is just a personal preference but something I wanted to note.

- The fees that you'll pay for your companion ticket on domestic flights are WAY cheaper. 

* The Companion Pass can last you more than a full year, depending on when you get it. See my post here for more details.

- This post isn't sponsored by Southwest, but it should be ;)

how to save money on flights

Go Here: Bright Bungalows in the New Orleans Bywater

We went to New Orleans last year for Easter and it ended up being an unexpectedly colorful trip. I didn’t know much about NOLA beforehand but I came away loving the laid back vibe and wanting to make a tradition of it and go back every Easter. The weather in April was amazing and there was enough going on with celebrations and parades to feel like we were getting a true NOLA experience without the crazy crowds of Mardi Gras.  We decided to stay in an Airbnb in Bywater (the green garden house below) and I'm so glad we chose that spot! It was just a short bike ride through the newly redone riverfront park to the French Quarter or any of the other NOLA sights, and couldn’t be any cuter with its bright bungalows and corner cafes. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a quieter place to sleep but still stay close to the action.

Airbnb cutie in NOLA

We stayed in a private two story guest cottage with a balcony and free bikes -direct link here. It's safe, clean and comfortable (not to mention adorable), and it has a full kitchen with plenty of room to spread out and make yourself at home. If you've never used Airbnb before, its a great way to get a feel for the neighborhood instead of feeling like a total tourist, and you can use my invite for $40 off your first booking.

NOLA favorites. Cafe Du Monde
NOLA favorites.
NOLA favorites.
NOLA favorites.
NOLA favorites.

Top row is from Elizabeth's in the Bywater- really is a must for brunch. The praline candied bacon and bloody mary were amazing, and I loved my shrimp and grits too!

Bottom row images are from Frenchmen Art Market and I'd definitely recommend it for a nighttime activity. Frenchmen is such a fun area to explore by bike or foot, with tons of restaurants and local music, it's like a hip version of the French Quarter and it can easily keep you busy for hours.

NOLA favorites.

Some of our favorites and my first attempt at a travel video below:

  • The Joint BBQ
  • Elizabeth's (praline bacon)
  • Satsuma (pancakes!)
  • Pizza Delicious (white pie)
  • Magazine Street 
  • Frenchmen Street at nighttime/ Frenchmen Art Market
  • Take the 12th St streetcar and hop off explore the whole way
  • The Zoo has a fun NOLA swamp exhibit
  • The French Quarter, obviously! Catch a parade. Explore the shops. Admire the architecture. 
  • Killer Poboys in the French Quarter
  • Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee
  • Lafayette Cemetary
  • One night you have to Uber to the French Quarter and get a Hand Grenade. Or a Hurricane. Or both.. ;) 
  • Biking and taking the street car are the best ways to see it all

Shout out to all of the 12 year olds on youtube that make how to videos for us middle aged girls just trying to put together a little travel vlog. They make it seem so easy (but it's so not).