Traveling with a First-Timer to Grand Canyon and more

In April, a friend of mine will be visiting the USA for the first time. It is her for her to get time off from work so this was something we had to plan way in advance to make sure work would permitted. When she told me she wanted to visit me, she asked gave me two options: Visit Grand Canyon or visit New York. With only 1 week, I knew doing both would be impossible. And also, she has never flown for longer than 2 hours so I did not know what she would be like after crossing the waters. So we decided on Grand Canyon.

I have been to Grand Canyon several times now and there are places I’ve never been to but to make it a memorable trip for her, I planned it as if I was visiting for the very first time. I didn’t mind going back to the same places because every time I see them, it is still amazing. (In the last 4 years, I’ve been 3 times and it never gets old. I want to go hiking there but that will have to wait.)

my original plan

She and I are both Disney nerds so we had to slip in Disneyland somehow. I purposely left the first day empty to see how she would be feeling after the long flight. And once in Las Vegas, I knew we would be doing a lot of driving so I wanted to leave a lot of error time for just in cases. Since it was semi-confirmed, I purchased the airfare tickets, hotels, rental car, and the Antelope Canyon Tour. Also, there was a sale going on for 3 day passes at Disneyland and it was cheaper than buying 2 day passes so we hopped on that. However, we had to make a HUGE change to our schedule.

My friend went to an autograph signing event for Andy from Shinhwa. Since he is from California, she asked him for recommendation. (Note: At signing events, you can ask a question on a post-it and the artist will usually respond to it)

Q: Going to USA for the first time in April. I’m heading to LA area and do you have any recommendation?
A: San Diego Sea World

With his answer, my friend contacted me and said “I want to go to Sea World.” Welp. Time to change our plans around. We couldn’t change too much of it since most of it was paid for. But we could make our schedule a bit tight to make things fit. I didn’t want to make the trip hard for her but she wanted to push to see everything since she didn’t know when she would be back again. So we altered our schedule to include Sea World. The last time I went to Sea World was when I was… 10? So this would be something “new” for me as well.

our current plan

So now, this is our plan. We have less than 30 days left for this trip so I hope we can stick to this. We will be heading over to Disneyland right after I pick up my friend from LAX and I really hope she will be ok. I will also need to get some good-night sleep before she comes so I can have the energy to run this plan myself! But overall, I cannot wait for her to visit me 🙂

Soul of Korea: Seoul

Seoul is an amazing city with lots of history. The city is a mixture of old and new, modern and contemporary. In most places you visit, you will get to experience them both. With this in mind, I started to plan for Seoul. Plus, spring time in Korea can be amazing! The Cherry Blossom festivals are something you don’t want to miss! (That is if you time your trip right) I’m so jealous my cousin is visiting in April. It’s PRIME time for the blossoms and there are lots of festivals on the weekends.

I was super excite to plan this trip because my cousin’s has been wanting to go back to Korea for a long time. And as I said before, I’m a bit of a scheduling nerd. So when I plan trips, I tend to use excel to manage my time…. By the hour. Sometimes by 30 minute increments. I know it can seem daunting but it can be very effective and efficient.


my tentative Seoul schedule for my cousin

It doesn’t look too detailed, right? Well…. I couldn’t fully plan her trip since she is staying with friends and family. Also, she wanted a more relaxed plan that can be altered if need be. She wanted it to be more of a vacation than a work trip. I wanted to give her the bigger framework (main sites) and let her pick what she wants in detail. But there were some main places that I wanted her to visit such as the Gyeongbokgung and COEX. I wanted her to be able to take in the history and culture of Korea, from the old to the new. She only had limited days in Seoul so I didn’t want to add all the palaces to the map and she has been to Korea before.

Also, to make it easier for her, I created a My Maps page on Google with pins, marking the places to visit, eat, drink, shop, and more. Click here to see the Google My Maps for Seoul

I color coded them by dates and used identifiers to indicate what the pins are. The reason I wanted to color code by dates was to make it easier for my cousin to see what was around and if she wanted to break away, she could easily see the areas that could be separated. I will do the same for Busan (one of the other cities she will be visiting).

Also, Seoul is a very walkable city. I should just say that cities in Korea are mostly walkable. So I tried to group areas together so she could just walk around and see/eat things. Mostly eat. There are lots of delicious street food in Korea. Plus, Seoul has a lot of these small alleys/streets that has rows of restaurants and shops so if you find one of these, you can shop-hop.

If you have more days, I would suggest visiting all the palaces and museums. There are so many interesting museums such as the “Witch’s Garden” which is an interactive play zone, “Sugar Planet,” an art exhibition on all things sweet, and more. There are so many of these in Seoul that you can fill your day with them.

And speaking of hop, there is also the City Tour Bus. This bus makes a big circle around Seoul and stops at all the major tourist areas and museums. If you are not so sure how to get around or what to see, this could give you an idea. You buy a ticket and just hop on. If you see something interesting, hop off. When you are done, just hope back on to the bus when you see it. Easy! This bus is very convenient so if you are not the planner type, this could be it. Just to let you know, you won’t be able to hop on and off at every stop in one day. So spend your time wisely.

If you are visiting Seoul but want to do something extra interesting? Plan a trip to the DMZ. DMZ stands for Demilitarized Zone and it basically is the border between the North and South Korea. You can only visit the DMZ through a tour so shop around to find one that you like. Most of the tours will include a trip to Panmunjom(Peace Village)/JSA, Freedom Bridge, and Dora Observatory, but many of the tours are unique to themselves so make sure to check them! It is a very intense trip since Korea is still at war (technically) and during your tour, you can see soldiers on both side of Korea eyeing each other, eyes like hawks. After the tour, you will be able to tell your friends that you’ve been to North Korea so I guess that is a plus.

I hope this peaked your interested! And if you visited Seoul and want to give me and my cousin more suggestions, please let me know! I could love to add more to her trip (or my future trips) 🙂

Trip to Korea : The planning

I really do love planning trips. My family and friends all know this of me. I personally think that planning the trip can be as fun as the actually travel part. (Of course, nowadays, it can either make you hype or spoil the fun with all the pictures and videos you see online)

I recently visited my cousin and she told me that she was planning on visiting Korea soon. And that she wanted me to help her plan for it. (YAY!) I love it when people tell me that they are planning to visit Korea. It is my motherland and I want people to learn more about my culture (and that it isn’t just about kpop or kbeauty).

So we sat down together and went through some guidelines together: How long are you staying, where are you planning on staying, do you want to be more adventurous, do you want to play the tourist, a lot of walking or more relax at a cafe, etc. So many questions asked! Why? Because when people visit Korea, most of their time is going to be in Seoul, the capital. Seoul is a relatively small city and most of the major touristy places are accessible by foot. So the trips can be vastly different from person to person.

My cousin told me that she planned on staying at a friends house for a couple days, her uncle’s house for a couple days, and my parent’s house for a couple days. So that would be 3 cities. I don’t have to plan anything for the duration of her stay at her uncle’s and she only wanted recommendations for my parent’s house. But she definitely wanted a scheduled itinerary for most of Seoul. Her max stay in Seoul would be 4 days and she wanted a mix of touristy and relaxation time. She would be staying at her friend’s house, which is outside of Seoul but close enough to bus/subway into the City.

When this information, I started to jot some ideas down. I’m mostly driven by food and just hanging out with friends while in Korea but it was going to be different for my cousin. So here is to me starting 🙂