How To: Using Instagram to Plan the Perfect Trip

I love social media and I love to travel, so it probably isn’t much of a surprise when I say that I always use social media when planning a getaway. Instagram is particularly helpful, because people share the most beautiful place they saw during their day, which usually means it’s worth your time as well. This was really helpful in Costa Rica (check out all the highlights in this post) because it was a shorter trip, which meant less time to wander and happen upon the coolest places on our own. Here are 3 ways I used Instagram to make our trip extra-amazing:

1. Research Local Hashtags Before You Go

Start with basic location-based hashtags (like #costarica, #sanjose and #manuelantonio) and let Instagram’s suggestions lead you down a rabbit hole. Collect a list of 15 or 20 of the the most promising, based on how the photos look, how many posts there are and how relevant they are to what you want to do on your trip.

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
There are 3 reasons you should do this:

  1. Take a look at what people are already posting to discover unique must-dos and restaurants.
  2. Post pictures of your own trip with these hashtags for more likes AND to help future travelers.
  3. Help local attractions find you. Cafe Milagro in Manual Antonio commented on a photo I posted and we ended up going 3 times. We would have never chosen it on our own, but the craft beer, live music and local coffee were all amazing!

2. Search the Cities You’ll Be Visiting

Instagram’s “Places” are also really helpful when you’re looking for things to do. I like this feature because it not only lets you scroll through all the photos tagged as in that city (Quepos, Costa Rica for example), but also at locations within that city (like Playa Manuel Antonio).

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
This really helps when you’re trying to figure out which must-dos are where, especially when they’re not in a book or on Google Maps (like the can’t-be-missed Playa Biesanz). Plus, Instagram’s new location stories make this easier than ever!

3. Follow Local Attractions You Want to Visit

This goes for local businesses you’re planning on patronizing too. To stay up to date on hours, special events and even coupons, give places you really want to visit a follow. Their posts could help you decide what day you stop by or other nearby stops you should make. This tip can also be applied to Facebook and Twitter, depending on where the attraction or business is most active. If you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, Facebook’s native translation will do a good enough job to get the point across.

Now go and plan a killer vacation! And let me know how you use social media to find the coolest places on your next trip.

The Ultimate WNY Summer Bucket List

I love summer in New York and making a bucket list every summer helps me make the most of it! There are a few things on my list every year, as well as some new adventures I’ve been waiting for warmer weather to try. This year, I want to focus on exploring Western New York, instead of trying to plan a plethora of weekend trips. Buffalo is an incredible city in the summer and with more friends moving to Rochester, it makes sense to take advantage of all the (585) has to offer too!

This Summer in Buffalo:

  1. Food Truck Tuesday at Larkin Square
  2. Hertel Ave (Must-dos: Lake Effect’s new scoop shop, Poutine and Cream, and Lloyd’s)
  3. Silo City
  4. Buffalo City Hall Observation Deck
  5. Wilkeson Pointe
  6. Tifft Nature Preserve
  7. Erie County Botanical Gardens
  8. The Victory Gardens at Oxford Pennant (open from May 20th to July 3rd!)
  9. WNY Book Arts Center

In Rochester I Want To:

  1. Visit Rochester’s breweries
  2. Public Market
  3. Fuego Coffee
  4. Glen Edith Coffee
  5. Upper Falls
  6. Rochester Subway and Broad St Aqueduct
  7. Chimney Bluffs
  8. George Eastman Museum
  9. Highland Park

The Stuff in Between:

  1. Kayak in Oak Orchard Creek
  2. Go fishing
  3. Spring Lake Winery
  4. Chestnut Ridge Park
  5. Bike rides (although I’m going to need a bike for this 🤔)
  6. Lockport Caves
  7. Spruce Lake at Holiday Valley
  8. Go on a picnic

I’ll be documenting my bucket list progress on Instagram and would love it if you followed along! What new places are looking forward to exploring this summer? Let me know what you think I should add to my summer plans ☀️

6 Recipes to Try This Spring

Warmer weather and spring veggies have me craving new, fresh recipes. Here are 6 I’m excited to try this season!

1. One Pot Vegetable Penne Pasta – Love & Lemons

There is nothing I love more than one pot pasta recipes. They’re easy and yummy. This one is filled with tomatoes, pepper, zucchini and more. In a few months, we can make this right out of the garden, but for now the grocery store will do. I’m going to make this my lunch meal prep for the week.

Update: This recipe worked great for a whole week worth of lunches! I used 2 small zucchini, a pint of cherry tomatoes and 16 ounces of whole wheat pasta with 5 1/2 cups of water. Next time, I’ll add even more spices to really jazz things up.

2. Blackened Fish Tacos with Creamy Avocado Sauce – FoodieCrush

At this time last year, my roommates and I were spring break-ing in Florida, eating fish tacos with mixed drinks at beachfront restaurants. This year, not so much. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy fish tacos at home!

3. Slow Cooker Thai Curry Chicken – Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

I’m not going to put away the slow cooker just because it’s getting warmer. I’m excited to try this recipe! I love when I can make rice and add whatever has been cooking all day with no effort on my part to make a meal.

4. Moroccan Chickpea Quinoa Power Salad – Little Spice Jar

This is a great side dish or a main meal. When I made it, I used less scallions and didn’t include dates. The flavors had a chance to blend overnight and it was even better as leftovers.

5. Glowing Green “Pasta” Primavera – Oh She Glows

Everything on Oh She Glows is delicious and unlike some vegan recipes, you can’t tell it’s vegan. I always love the sauces Angela creates and this sun-dried tomato basil-hemp pesto looks amazing.

6. Southwestern Veggie Wraps – Oh My Veggies

I love wraps, I love sweet potatos and I love black beans. These wraps look like an easy dinner with enough flavor and filling to make up for the meatless-ness.

Niagara Food & Wine Expo GIVEAWAY 🍾

Mark your calendars, the Niagara Food and Wine Festival is less than 3 weeks away! The Expo is a 3 day tasting event (running April 21-23) with samples of wine, beers and spirits from both around the world and local wineries. The list of exhibitors includes Aure Wines and Muskoka Lakes Winery, Goose Island Beer Company and Niagara Brewing Company, plus Alacran Tequila, Rheault Distillery and Relay Coffee Roasters. Don’t worry, there’s also food samples from dozens of the area’s best chefs to pair with all your drinks 😜

If all the food and wine wasn’t enough, there is also a Tasting Stage and Entertainment Area. The most exciting feature at this year’s Expo is the addition of demonstrations by The Chef & The Dish. The Chef & The Dish is “a global kitchen-to-kitchen culinary experience.” They’ve taken the traditional cooking class and turned it into a one-on-one experience with no geographical constrains, thanks to modern technology. You pick the type of cuisine you’re interested in making, and The Chef & The Dish pairs you with one of their chefs, located around the world. How? All through private, one-on-one cooking classes via Skype!

Niagara Food & Wine Expo | The Chef & The DISH | Succulents and Sunnies

Interested in learning more? Check out their website!

The Chef & The Dish is demonstrating their culinary experience with 4 presentations throughout the Expo, including Japanese cooking with Chef Yoshimi from Tokyo and Spanish cuisine from Chef Ana in Seville.

Now, the part you’ve been waiting for: The Chef & The Dish invited me to the Expo to watch their demonstrations, and they want you to come too! Thanks to The Chef & The Dish, I’m giving away 4 tickets (2 here on the blog and 2 over on Instagram) to the Niagara Food & Wine Expo in April.

To enter the giveaway:

  1. Follow this blog using the little white box on the right side of this page.
  2. Comment on this post to let me know you’re interested!
  3. Want to double your chances of winning? Share this post on your Facebook or Twitter (let me know you did this in your comment).

A few details regarding the giveaway and Expo:

  • Your tickets will be good for 1 of the 3 days of the Expo. You can attend on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
  • No one under 19 is allowed into the event, including infants and kids.
  • This event is in Niagara Falls, Ontario, so you will have to cross the border to get to the event.
  • Feel free to enter both this giveaway and the giveaway on my Instagram!
  • I will randomly select the winner of both pairs of tickets on Friday, April 14th.

Sunday Brunching in Montréal

On the quick trip Paige and I recently took to Montreal (read about the whole trip in this blog post), one of our biggest priorities was finding a great brunch before leaving on Sunday morning. The biggest hurdle was how early we wanted to eat, around 9 am, so we could head home. We also needed to be able to walk from our hotel on Rue Berri.

Sunday Brunch Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

We landed on Le Bistro du Magasin Général du Vieux, which turned out to be a wonderful decision. The bistro serves a delicious, fresh menu with tons of both coffee and mimosa options. We also thought it was very fairly priced, especially for the prime Old Montreal location.

After we ate, an omelette for me, and an apple and brie sandwich for Paige, we browsed the beautiful collection of home goods, jewelry and scarves that the store sells. This collection is beautifully curated and I wanted to take everything home. We left full of both food and inspiration!

Sunday Brunch Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Sunday Brunch Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Quick Trip: Ellicottville, NY

Cody and I took a quick trip to Ellicottville this weekend to visit Ellicottville Brewing Company and wander through a few of the small town’s shops. It was a perfect spring weekend – a little grey, but warm – perfect for a getaway to this cozy ski resort town.

Our first stop was the brewery tour at EBC. The old building is beautiful and the tour did a great job of not only explaining this history of beer and the Brewing Company, but also the building. The taproom’s bar is from the 1983 World Fair and is the second oldest bar in the area, which I found so interesting. Cody really enjoyed how knowledgeable our tour guide Kevin was on beer history and the making of beer.

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

The tastings at the end of the tour were delicious: Blueberry Wheat (already one of my favorites), Juicy Juice, Mosaic Sunrise and 1/2 Baked Porter. The tasting room is part of the brewery’s addition, framed by giant wooden beams and overlooking stainless steel beer tanks. We stayed for lunch and a flight, to try the beers on tap but not in the tasting room.

Ellicottville Brewing Company was the biggest reason we chose Ellicottville for our trip, and it turned out to be a good decision. We left educated and full, which was a nice combination.

We checked into our hotel and spent the next few hours watching HGTV (Fixer Upper marathon for the win!) and getting hungry enough to walk to our next meal, dinner at Villaggio. This is another place with a great atmosphere, full of rustic-eclectic decor, string lights and laughter. The Sabres game (which we actually won!) was on the big screen as we ate. There were definitely groups in Ellicottville for a Saturday night out, so I’m sure it would have been fun to stay out and visit a few of the town’s bars, but Cody and I headed back to our hotel to take advantage of the pool and hot tub.

Ellicottville, NY | Quick Trip | Succulents and Sunnies

Sunday morning we checked out of our hotel and walked back down Washington Street. We poked around in ski shops, home goods stores and Watson’s Chocolates before heading home. And how can you not stop and pet the dogs at Adventure Bound every time you walk by?

While our trip was short, Ellicottville was a perfect weekend escape. With the ski slopes still covered in snow but temperatures warming, wandering around the village was a great way to spend a day!

Thinking Spring 🐥

The weather has dipped back into the teens, but our early taste of balmy weather has me thinking spring! I love the refreshed feeling that comes with the rainy, warming weather of April and May. There are so many parts of spring that make me happy, from the chicks at Tractor Supply to the days warm enough to take a run in shorts.

Buffalo has so many great restaurants with rooftop patios and outdoor seating that goes to waste for half the year. The first weekend that outdoor tables are set feels like a city-wide party filled with string lights and gorgeous sunsets. This spring, I’m excited to enjoy the patios at Templeton Landing, Deep South Taco and A. B. V.

Last Wednesday I stopped at Tractor Supply solely to check on the chick situation. There weren’t any chicks yet, which meant the time I spent on the drive there crafting an Instagram caption was for naught. But lucky for me and my springtime obsessions with all cute little animals (baby cows, baby bunnies and baby goats 😍), Tractor Supply is both on the way home from work and right next to the gym!

Warmer weather makes me want to never step foot on a treadmill again. I can’t wait until a few miles on the canal doesn’t leave my nose feeling like it’s going to fall off. I know Murphy is excited for days that stay lighter longer so he gets a walk more than once a week. The first few weeks of open windows, open barn doors and no winter coat are always welcome, especially in Buffalo.

Succulents_and_Sunnies_Thinking_Spring_Murphy

While some parts of spring cleaning aren’t so fun, I love taking everything off the shelves to dust and putting photos, books and keepsakes back in a completely new way. I stopped at Target yesterday for face wash and walked out with half the homeware department, I swear. I then spent hours changing out stacks of books and frames. My next step is printing new images for all these frames; currently, I’m looking at a cute child I’ve never seen before eating a dripping ice cream cone.

What are your favorite parts of the new season? Let me know in the comments below! 👇