2014: 6 Countries, 20 Cities, Only 8 Vacation Days!

2014: 6 Countries, 20 Cities, Only 8 Vacation Days!

I feel like it was just yesterday that I was ringing in 2014 in Marrakech, Morocco – but here I am in Mexico getting ready to welcome 2015 in Tulum in a slightly more subdued manner (I’ve aged). This year was my best year of travel yet, and I visited six different countries and 20 different cities, including nine in the United States. I only had to take 8 vacation days, which is exciting because it proves that even us Americans with only two weeks of vacation time have no excuse to not travel. I learned a lot this year, finally mastering the art that is credit card rewards so I rarely have to pay for flights. I also learned that traveling every weekend is a bit much for both my wallet and sanity. While I don’t plan to reduce my travel next year, I do plan to spread things out a little better so I don’t find myself living out of a suitcase for months at a time with no spare days to do my laundry or catch up with friends.

A virtual wave to all the new readers & followers who have joined me on my mini adventures this year, along with those who have been around for quite a while (hi Mom!). Every time I get a notification that I have a new subscriber, I still get really excited. So thanks for making my day!! Before I recap my travel highlights of 2014, I want to pause and ask you where YOU have been. if you’ve been on an awesome trip, I’d love to hear about it and feature your photo in my new series, Weekend Postcard.


Ringing in the New Year in a wild night club in Marrakech, Morocco was probably the best way to do it. I was there with my sister and her friends, and we started off our night at a Thai restaurant, where a Colombian band was performing (talk about a multi-cultural experience, huh?). After clinking glasses at midnight with the French people at the table next to us, we headed to Theatro, one of the biggest and most popular clubs in Morocco’s party capital. There was a general atmosphere of celebratory chaos, with trapeze artists swinging from the ceiling and people dressed up as bunnies dancing on tables. While this doesn’t reflect the culture of Morocco at all (most Moroccans don’t drink), it was one of those fun nights from my travels that I’ll never forget.

2014 Travel Highlights: Marrakech & Casablanca, Morocco | BlondeBananaBlog.com

Fromt top left: Jardin Majorelle, La Mamounia, Riad 144, and Medersa Ben Youseff in Marrakech; Mosque Hassan II in Casablanca

After New Year’s Eve, my sister and her friends took off for a mountain trek while I stayed behind to spend a couple days shopping in the souks and exploring Marrakech alone. Finally, we reunited to spend our last couple days in Casablanca, a city I didn’t love but didn’t hate either!

February & March

February and March were the low points of my year. I celebrated my 25th birthday slash quarter life crisis in February in NYC, and otherwise stayed inside, hiding from the horrific Polar Vortex and researching how much it would cost to move to the Caribbean.


The depressing months of January, February and March were bearable because I had an amazing trip on the horizon: my first “real vacation” since joining the workforce in 2011! While I’d traveled over holiday weekends and during the time my office was closed for Christmas before, I’d never actually taken vacation time. Partially this was due to stress of what would happen if I left the office for a few days, and partially because I felt guilty asking for time off despite my company’s “unlimited” policy. But my 10 day trip to Denmark and Norway was incredible and worth every minute of NOT checking email. OK, maybe I checked email daily but I swear, I didn’t respond!

I absolutely fell in love with Copenhagen, its colorful winding streets, innovative restaurants and cozy bars. I envisioned myself biking to work every day in a chic coat and oversized scarf, stopping at a trendy coffee shop during my commute. The only thing I didn’t love about Copenhagen was the price tag– sheesh was this city expensive!

Copenhagen | BlondeBananaBlog.comCopenhagen streets; ice cream at Tivoli; coffee at The Coffee Collective; oatmeal from GROD

Before exploring the rest of Denmark, my sister and I set off on a quick detour to Bergen, Norway since Brooke was hell bent on seeing some fjords despite my wallet’s cries of emptiness. I’d thought Copenhagen was expensive, but it’s a bargain basement compared to Bergen! We paid $25 for one beer, but you can’t really put a price tag on these gorgeous views, right? The Norway in a Nutshell tour was definitely a 2014 travel highlight.

Bergen, Norway

Left: Bryggen, Bergen’s historic waterfront; me playing in a children’s playground on Mount Floyen. Right: Views from our fjord cruise.

After two nights in Bergen, we rented a car in Denmark and set off on a very long and flat drive to three other cities: Odense, Aarhus and Ribe. Each one had a very distinct vibe and I was glad I got to explore some of Denmark’s “off the beaten path” destinations.

Denmark Road Trip

From top left: the cathedral in Ribe; historic street in Odense; Rainbow Panorama at the ARoS Art Museum; canal in Aarhus


Who goes to Ecuador for the weekend? That would be me. Over Memorial Day weekend, I visited the colonial city of Cuenca in the mountains and never wanted to leave. I stayed in the most amazing Airbnb accommodations with panoramic views of the city. The Ecuadorian grandma I never had cooked me breakfast every morning while helping improve my Spanish. I went horseback riding in the countryside and shopping in a tiny town called Chordeleg. I wandered around the cobblestone streets snapping photos for hours. I had three course lunches for $1.50. It was heaven.

Cuenca, Ecuador

From top left: horseback riding at Centro Ecuestre Bellavista; on the balcony of my Airbnb; the city of Cuenca; the church in Chordeleg


Literally two days after I returned home from Cuenca, it was time to pack my bags for CMA Fest in Nashville, Tennessee. I went into this trip with zero expectations, as I was tagging along on a trip planned by one of my college roommates. But I had THE BEST time and suffered from Nashville withdrawals for months after returning. Seriously, this city isn’t all cowboy boots and country music, it’s a very cool place that I’d move to in a snap. If only they had fashion public relations agencies there…

Nashville, Tennessee

From left to right: CMA Fest at LP Field; Robert’s Western World on Broadway; Pinewood Social bowling alley + restaurant; I Believe in Nashville mural; cheesy photo opp at the Opry.


I started a new job in July, which was exciting but also meant it was time to cut down on my travel schedule so I could get into the swing of things in my new position. One weekend I did make it down to a summer destination that I’ve been visiting since I was little: Ocean City, Maryland. Usually I stick to a routine of my favorite spots when I’m down there, but this time around we mixed things up, tried some new places and squeezed in a day trip to Assateague Island, where there are wild ponies!

Ocean City, Maryland

Fromt top left: custard from Kohr Bros on the boardwalk; the beach on Assateague Island; De Lazy Lizard bar in OC


In August I actually stayed put in New York for two whole weekends, and the other two were spent in Boston with family and friends. While it wasn’t the most exciting of months, it was a great opportunity for me to hunker down in my air conditioned apartment and complete a few freelance projects.

New York Skyline

Sometimes, I stay put.


September started off with a work trip to Orange County, California, which I extended over a weekend so I could spend a few much-needed days at the beach. While I can’t say I loved Orange County, one can’t really complain about the eternally perfect weather there.

Orange County, California

Huntington Beach; Laguna Beach; lunch at Seabirds Kitchen in Costa Mesa

Next up was a weekend with friends from Boston at Sebago Lake in Maine. We had a fun time hiking, apple picking and shopping in nearby Portland, but I didn’t write about any of it. Even travel bloggers need a vacation sometimes! Just like Ocean City, I’ve been going to Maine every summer for years thanks to family in the state and a friend with a lake house.

Hiking in Maine

Hiking in Maine

My September travels finished with a bang in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, where I was celebrating my friend Camila’s birthday. It was my first time in the city and I had a blast, although I’d love to get back there sometime and explore more. The one thing I wasn’t a fan of? The humidity. Oy.

Ft. Lauderdale & Miami, Florida

From top left: South Beach, Miami; Juvia, Miami; Ft. Lauderdale Beach; Rocco’s Tacos in Ft. Lauderdale


In October, I traveled every weekend and by the end was ready to never get on a plane or train again. I tagged along on a trip to San Antonio, Texas with Camila as she was attending a work conference there.  Thanks to a flight delay I only had about 30 hours to see San Antonio, but I managed to take in a good deal of the city, explore its famous Riverwalk and locate some of the best local cocktails (there’s always time for a cocktail, right?).

San Antonio, Texas

My favorite trip of October, though, was my glamping adventure in Pennsylvania. Sleeping in a tipi in the woods and hanging out by the fire was the perfect relaxing break from an otherwise crazy month.

Glamping in Pennsylvania


In early November, my cousin Carly casually mentioned that I should join her on her upcoming trip to Aruba. The next day I found myself researching flights! Lesson learned: don’t invite me somewhere unless you’re serious, because I WILL come. Thanks to points I had earned with my JetBlue Amex, I only had to pay for a one way flight, making an otherwise expensive destination pretty wallet-friendly. I didn’t think I was much of a Caribbean traveler – the all-inclusive beach resort is just not my scene – but I made it my mission to see another side of Aruba and it was perfect. I never wanted to leave!

48 Hours in Aruba | Rent UTVs | BlondeBananaBlog.com


This month I traveled again with my sister to Virginia and Washington D.C. for one weekend, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with how much we managed to cram into two days. We spent one day exploring Virginia wine country and Shenandoah National Park, and the next day shopping at Washington D.C.’s Eastern Market and eating lots of unhealthy treats.

Shenandoah National Park | One Day in Virginia | Blonde Banana Blog

Shenandoah National Park

Eastern Market Food Hall, Washington D.C. | BlondeBananaBlog.com

Eastern Market, Washington DC

Now I’m finally in the country that’s been on my dream destination list forever: Mexico! OK, so I have visited before on a cruise in 2011, but I’d hardly call the six hours I spent in the cruise ports of Cozumel and Costa Maya an authentic Mexican experience. I mean, everyone should visit a Señor Frogs once in their life, preferably prior to turning 21, but then they should never do it again. Ever.

So what’s on the agenda for 2015?

In early February, I bought myself a trip to Oslo, Norway for my birthday. Yes, I am crazy enough to go all the way to Norway for a weekend – the flight was under $300, so how could I resist? In March I’m heading to Italy for 5 days where I plan to see Bologna and the surrounding area (also thanks to an incredible flight deal). The wheels of my mind are already turning for April, May and the summer with some fun trip ideas too, so stay tuned! And don’t forget to follow along on my Mexican adventure via Instagram.

Wishing everyone a happy & travel-filled new year!!


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  • Robyn says:

    Wow it sounds like you’ve had a stellar 2014! Lovely to see you visited Denmark, I’ve been living over here for a few months and Aarhus is gorgeous- how cool is ARoS!

    Keep up the good work! 😀


  • facebook usa says:

    Hey there, You have done a fantastic job. I will definitely digg it and personally suggest to
    my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

  • Random q – but what credit card do you use that you almost never have to pay for flights? I need to get better at credit card rewards! Thanks for the tip :)

    • annarice23 says:

      Hey Kristin, I use a variety of credit cards including Amex JetBlue, US Airways Barclays, and Capital One Venture. Typically I open cards based on the sign up bonus and then leave them home once i’ve achieved it. Depending on whether or not the benefits outweigh the annual fee, I keep them open (I.e. my US Airways card gives me free checked bags for me + up to 3 fellow travelers on domestic flights which if I use on one family trip a year surpasses the $95 annual fee!). The only card I use constantly is Chase Sapphire Preferred, which I’ve found to be the best travel credit card. They give double points on all travel + dining out and allow you to redeem at a discount through their booking portal. They also offer lots of benefits like complete car rental insurance, travel insurance, and the card has a chip so no credit card hassles when traveling in Europe. Oh, and no foreign transaction fees! There’s usually a sign up bonus of around 40,000 – 50,000 miles. If you did apply, I’d definitely appreciate it if you used my affiliate link :) https://applynow.chase.com/FlexAppWeb/renderApp.do?PID=CFFD2&SPID=FBNC&CELL=6VB1&MSC=1511067419

  • Quite a performance to visit so many places in just 8 days.
    I remember the Majorelle Gardens, a beautiful place I’ve visited too. Loved Morocco :)

    • annarice23 says:

      Haha it definitely took more than 8 days to visit all these places, but I only had to take 8 vacation days from work to squeeze in these trips which I think is pretty great!

  • Emma says:

    Wow, I’m amazed and so inspired by how many wonderful places you’ve managed to visit in the past year, with barely any time off work! This is my first visit to your blog but I’m looking forward to reading more and hopefully sending you a postcard soon :)

  • Susan says:

    Wow! Your schedule is really impressive! I have a 9-to-5 job, too, combined with a love of travel, and I’m really inspired by your ability to stretch those vacation days. I can’t wait to read more!

  • Whoaaaa what a crazy year!! Ringing in the new year in Morocco sounded like a blast. So much variety of regions/cities you got to see.The fact that you only used 8 vacation days!? You should be rewarded haha. It more than sucks that we only get a couple weeks vacation here in the US, but you’re living life to the fullest and I love it! My 2013 went a little something like during my last year of college… a whirlwind of travels that were some of the best times I’ve ever had. I made a vow to design my life so that I can travel as frequently as possible… 2016 on out, I’m looking at you.

    Loved this & all your photos!

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