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.

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!

Bienvenue à Montréal

Paige spent last week home on spring break, so we planned a quick trip to Montreal. If you live in Buffalo (or anywhere else in Upstate New York), Montreal is perfect for a long weekend getaway. While the 6 hour drive is a bit long, it’s decidedly shorter (and cheaper!) than a flight to a European city, which is what Montreal feels like.

Buffalonians know that the US dollar has a good advantage over the Canadian one at the moment. That makes right now an especially great time to visit our northern neighbors! We spent about $250 USD each for gas, food, a hotel room and a museum visit, and you could definitely spend less (or more) with a little strategic planning.

We arrived Friday afternoon after a pleasant drive and very easy border crossing. The one hiccup on this trip was the terrible condition of our Airbnb. It was a beautiful apartment and a great location, but it was about as clean as a college frat house, so that was a no-go. Sometimes Airbnb is great (like that incredible view in Costa Rica), and sometimes not so much. We packed up our bags and drove down the street to a hotel, where we were greeted by clean towels and vacuumed rugs, thank goodness. I highly recommend staying near the UQAM campus, between The Gay Village and Quartier des Spectacle, which puts you within walking distance of both downtown and Old Montreal.

By this time Friday night, all we were able to do was find a restaurant downtown and turn in early to make the most of Saturday. We were impressed by Burger Bar‘s burgers and poutine, which we paired with Guinness, because it was Saint Patrick’s Day after all!

Saturday started bright and early with a walk to Old Port to see the Clock Tower and Molson factory. We wandered through Old Montreal along Rue Notre-Dame, stopping in galleries along the way. We had planned to stop at an art museum Friday afternoon, but with the Airbnb/hotel debacle, we didn’t have time. Checking out the galleries was definitely a good (and free) substitute.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

We also explored the Bonsecours Market and really enjoyed the exhibit at The Fashion Museum, located inside the market. Right now the museum is featuring “Blue Spectrum,” an exploration of the color blue in fashion. It only took about 20 minutes to walk through, but it was interesting and out of the cold!

For lunch we headed up a block to Rue Saint-Jacques, which definitely helped bring down the cost of a sandwich. After lunch, we walked back to the hotel to change our cold, wet socks (there was a lot of snow and ice on the sidewalks, the result of Storm Stella) and admired the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica on the way.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Our next stop was Le Cafe des Chats, where we drank coffee (complete with kitty latte art) surrounded by 9 adopted cats. This is the kind of place you can spend hours, and we did. We took the time to write in our travel journals about the trip thus far, pet cats and take pictures of cats. It was great and I highly recommend adding it (or another of Montreal’s cat cafes) to any Montreal itinerary!

Next, we found our way past McGill University and up the hill to Chalet du Mont-Royal, which provides an excellent view of the entire city and the St. Lawrence river beyond it. We made it just as the sun was setting, and were glad for the extra hour of light that daylight savings time the weekend prior gave us. The snow made hiking tough, but the view was worth it!

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

We walked downtown for dinner and drinks at Parma Cafe and Fiddler’s Green Pub, respectively. The Cafe was adorable, with a menu of pizza, pasta, soup and salads, along with coffee and wine. Fiddler’s Green was a relaxed Irish pub we felt right at home in, with both Guinness and local brews on tap and hockey on the flat screens. It was a welcome break from some of the more uppity restaurants we’d walked by and eaten in.

Sunday morning we had brunch at the most adorable bistro/home goods store I’ve ever laid eyes on. Le Magasin General du Viex is in Old Montreal, right across the street from the science museum. Both the atmosphere and the food were top-notch. If either Paige or I had a home to decorate, we would have bought out the store. I almost did anyway! *Stay tuned, because there’s a whole blog post coming on Le Magasin General du Viex.

Bienvenue a Montreal | Succulents and Sunnies | Taylor K Flynn

Both Paige and I are so excited to go back to Montreal in warmer weather. There are a few things we didn’t get to do, but are definitely on the list for next time, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, Botanical Garden, Hotel de Ville (City Hall), Underground City and going into the Basilica.