#TravelTuesday | Charleston + Kiawah Island, South Carolina

2018 has been a unique year of travel for Johnny and I as several of the trips we've been on/have planned are for wedding celebrations of our friends. Personally, I love attending destination weddings because it's an excuse for a vacation and the guest list tends to be smaller so the event itself is more intimate for the guests and the couple. Last month, we had the pleasure of traveling to South Carolina for some destination nuptials. I had never been, but always wanted to visit SC, so this wedding picked the perfect destination! 

**FYI, The amount of pictures I took on this trip is severely lacking due to my phone SIM card not working. No reception : less phone usage : photography neglect. 

DAY 1 + 2 // CHARLESTON 

Upon landing in Charleston, our initial impression was how much smaller of a city it was than we had assumed. Downtown was quaint antiquity rather than imposing skyscrapers. I welcomed the change, and enjoyed how much history all the buildings seemed to contain. Perhaps none more so than The Old Slave Market, pictured down the amazing cobblestone street in the final image. 

All of Charleston was full of little details: spiral staircases, nooks and crannies serving as courtyards, and fanciful architectural ironwork. I could have spent a long time just walking around taking in all these details. We did in fact take a walking "ghost tour" of Charleston at night, which was interesting to hear and see some of the history and tall tales of the city. 

// CHARLESTON QUICK TIPS // 

EAT // GRILL 225 (ORDER THE CRAB COCKTAIL...OMG!!) 

DRINK // CARAMELLA (BOOZY ICE CREAM/SORBET FLOATS) 

STAY // WE LOVED OUR COZY TREE HOUSE AIR BNB! (PICTURED ^)

TOUR // WALKING GHOST TOUR (NIGHT), HORSE + BUGGY TOUR (DAY)

DAY 3-5 // KIAWAH ISLAND 

Kiawah Island is approximately an hour's drive from Charleston over bridges twisting through marshlands and beautiful forests. The thing that's most noticeable about Kiawah is the seclusion. Many houses, villas, golf courses and The Sanctuary Hotel (the wedding venue) are on the island, but they are not so noticeable nestled within the dense growth of trees and foliage. With no Uber or ride-sharing service, and limited restaurants/bars, the island is decidedly non-touristy--a concept I can readily get behind! With no working phone, and no Uber services, the theme of the trip for me was a bit of a throwback in the sense that we actually had to make plans in advance! 

The wedding was held at The Sanctuary hotel (last two pictures, above). The property was everything you would imagine for Southern glamour, and the wedding was picture perfect on the green, overlooking the ocean. 

Aside from the wedding, and a close runner-up to seeing a wild alligator, my favorite part of the trip was the beach at night. It is mating season for the sea-turtles of Kiawah and I guess they like to preserve their modesty by having it pitch-black at night for their trysts. SO, since Kiawah is far enough from the mainland, and maintains no artificial light at night, you get to see a truly spectacular sight: a perfect black sky full of stars above and below you as the night sky is reflected back onto the tide and gently rolling waves. I could not stop staring. It's worth the trip to Kiawah just for that experience! 

// KIAWAH QUICK TIPS //

EAT//CHILL // MADE-TO-ORDER CUSTOM PICNIC FROM TOWN CENTER MARKET

EAT//FANCY // HEGE'S RESTAURANT (FRESHFIELD VILLAGE) 

DRINK//CHILL // BYOB ROSÈ ON THE BEACH

DRINK//FANCY // HOTEL BAR @ THE SANCTUARY 

TOUR//DAY // BIKE RENT + RIDE AROUND THE ISLAND

TOUR//NIGHT // NIGHT STARGAZING BEACH WALK 

Thanks to Dan + Laura, and their families, for inviting us to the wedding! 

// MY OUTFIT DETAILS FROM THE WEDDING DAY // 

DRESS // ISABELLA GOWN BY ALEXIS 

SHOES // LOEFFLER RANDALL 

BAG // SAINT LAURENT (SIMILAR)

BRACELETS // KENDRA SCOTT 

 

The New Essentials | Current Favorites | Beauty + Travel

Lately, I've given in to the temptations of Sephora a bit more than I probably should. Between full-size products I've purchased, samples included in orders and even products I've randomly grabbed at the drugstore, I've found some new gems that have been on high rotation in my beauty routine. Since my life is always chaos more or less living out of my FJ Cruiser caravan with how much I am on the road for work or traveling on vacation, many of these products are geared towards packability, making this post a perfect fit to consider as we enter summer vacation season. Pro tip: click the pictures to shop! Enjoy! 

Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask by Glow Recipe

Glow Recipe's Watermelon Sleeping Mask first came to me as a Sephora sample. I thought it would be a gimmick. My stupidly hydrated (and yes glowing) skin the next day told me I was wrong about that. Long story short, you need Watermelon Glow in your life. If you are living that carry-on-only life like me, you'll be happy to know there is a travel size to bust that post-flight dry dullness. 

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer in Radiance 

This post could alternatively be titled the glow edit. For me, I gravitate towards lighter weight, products in the spring and summer to achieve that natural dewy look. This Laura Mercier Radiance primer does just that. It has a slight tint and provides a natural glow plus offers outstanding lasting power for foundation. I wear this primer both layered under foundation as well as on its own as it provides a lovely boost to my natural skin. Multi-functional, quick makeup products are a must when I travel--Laura Mercier Radiance goes in the bag every time! 

Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat 

To be honest, I am not completely sold on YSL Touche Eclat as the "holy grail" cult classic that some swear by. However, I do find myself reaching for it a lot for two reasons. First, convenience and travel. The packaging is sleek, easy to use, and not messy (since the product is all contained), making it perfect for purses or TSA approved zip-loc bags. Second, it is subtle and lightweight. As I mentioned before, I do not like wearing heavy makeup during the warmer months--particularly concealer. Touche Eclat provides a light, glowing (I know, I know) coverage. Maybe it will reach cult classic status for me after all. 

Pravana The Perfect Brunette 

As the more observant amongst you may have noticed, I am no longer a blonde! I've gone back to my roots (sorry for the oldest pun in the well-worn book), and am now trapped in that sometimes awkward phase of the blonde to brunette process where the newly darkened locks can be a bit unpredictable. For me, this manifested in a horrifying red, brassy tone starting to come through about a week after the initial dye job. Luckily I found Pravana Perfect Brunette products. Just like blondes can use purple toned products to keep their shade icy, brunettes can avoid that uncomfortable orangey red from sneaking in by applying the teal-toned Pravana suite of products. I have the shampoo, conditioner and hair mask. I only use the mask once a week because this stuff REALLY works! I already have broken my own carry-on lifestyle rule to bring these products with me on vacay, they are that good. 

Garnier SkinActive Moisture Bomb Sheet Mask

I grabbed this Garnier Moisture Bomb mask while cruising through Wal-Mart picking up last minute supplies for my trip to LA. "Moisture bomb, hmm...I could use a bomb of hydration on my face after a morning of travel," I thought to myself. Impulsively, I threw the mask in the cart, and subsequently into my suitcase. Cue me the next day, on my balcony overlooking Hollywood Hills enjoying an instant skin refresh. Garnier Moisture Bomb masks are a traveler's best friend. The mask is refreshingly cool on the face, and the clean up is easy--simply remove the sheet and massage any remaining product into your skin. Another pro-tip: apply mask in your Uber while en route from airport, and freak out your driver, bf, or anyone around you. 

FYI, if you are interested in my ESSENTIAL PRODUCTS OF ALL TIME click here for that (obviously) still relevant list! 

#TravelTuesday | Eat + Drink In Dallas

In April, we made a quick weekend trip to Dallas. The weekend was centered on celebration (one of Johnny's friends got engaged), so the majority of the weekend was spent with a group of friends eating and drinking. I can't review the city of Dallas as a whole since we didn't spend enough time, but I can give you a quick rundown of some top spots to relax and savor. Also, I apologize for lack of personal pictures on this post--I really didn't take many this trip! All photos below are linked to source.

1. Katy Trail Ice House

 Outdoor drinking heaven at Katy Trail Ice House // Image via  katyicehouse.com

Outdoor drinking heaven at Katy Trail Ice House // Image via  katyicehouse.com

Huge margaritas, even bigger outdoor seating area, dogs galore. Do I need to say more? Go here for afternoon cocktails. 

2. Boulevardier

 Charcuterie Board at Boulevardier // Image via Reddit 

Charcuterie Board at Boulevardier // Image via Reddit 

A more upscale restaurant in an intimate setting--aka, the perfect spot for a romantic dinner. The wine selection is great, and the rustic French food is delicious. I liked the charcuterie board! After dinner, take a stroll through the cute Bishop Arts District. 

3. Velvet Taco

 Tacos at Velvet Taco // Image via CultureMapAustin.com

Tacos at Velvet Taco // Image via CultureMapAustin.com

Holy S^&t. That's all I have to say about these tacos. There is usually a line out the door of this small taco joint, and it is worth the wait. My favorite taco was the Barbacoa, mostly because the tortilla had crispy, melty cheese baked onto it. The loaded tots and elote corn were also faves. Plus, there's always red velvet cake for sale. This place is a must for lunch! 

4. The Old Monk

 Cozy tavern atmosphere at The Old Monk // Image via 10best.com

Cozy tavern atmosphere at The Old Monk // Image via 10best.com

Right around the corner from Velvet Taco is a really cute area called Old East Dallas. It's filled with shops and fun restaurants and bars (I'm still sad we didn't have time to go into the Planet Blue shop). If you are a trappist beer lover like I am, the Old Monk is perfect since it offers a wide selection of Belgian beers. 

5. HG Supply Co. 

 The rooftop at HG Supply Co // Image via Travel + Leisure

The rooftop at HG Supply Co // Image via Travel + Leisure

HG Supply Co. is the quintessential 20-something bar. Trendy decor, fun drinks (try the frozen Moscow Mule) and a rooftop deck. The setting was great for a fun day with friends, and the scene was lively. Lots of dogs here too--10/10 recommend! 

All in all, I was really surprised with Dallas. I wasn't expecting much, but the city was really trendy and aimed toward people in my age group (late 20s). I would definitely travel back for another weekend trip--the Velvet Taco may or may not play heavily into that ruling! 

#TravelTuesday | Now Sapphire, Cancun

Welcome to a new section on my blog, #TravelTuesday! Johnny and I travel a lot, and seeing the country and the world has always been a huge part of my life, so I want to share my experiences and tips here on Luna Elise! Since I'm just starting this segment, I figured I would go back and talk about some of the many trips I have been on this year! Please bear with me on the photography as I don't have a professional photographer along with me when I travel. To hear about our experience at the Now Sapphire resort in Cancun, scroll down! 

 View from our room (Ocean Front Suite)

View from our room (Ocean Front Suite)

Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: If you're in Cancun, nothing is going to be terrible! However, the Now Sapphire definitely had its ups and downs. We were there for a friend's wedding, so this venue was picked for us--giving us a good opportunity to see a different property on Cancun (we always stay at The Excellence Playa Mujeres). Below, I break the property down by my key criteria when going on vacation.

Resort Style/Type

First of all, the Now Sapphire is kid-friendly, which may be a pro or con depending on your preference. This is great for wedding parties and guests or for family trips. The Now Sapphire did a good job balancing kids and adult activities by having "day-camp" for kids and a separate pool + bar for adults. The on-site nightclub was a good addition to give younger adults without children a late night option. Normally, Johnny and I choose adults-only resorts so we were a little wary about Now Sapphire, but I didn't feel--for lack of better words--bombarded by kids like I feared. 

 Iguana right outside our building.

Iguana right outside our building.

Resort Grounds

Architecture and interior design always have a special place in my heart, so I am a sucker for a resort/hotel with great design. Commonly, I will spend more to stay in a place that fits my tastes; so design is one of my factors. The Now Sapphire had small but lovely grounds. Hidden pathways twisted through the bamboo connecting the different villas, and boardwalks crossed over shallow rock pools in the lobby. Plenty of animals could be seen right on the grounds from iguanas to some raccoon/cat creature that I still don't know the name of. The beach was cleared of seaweed each morning. The rooms were pretty standard Cancun resort type lodgings--think marble floors, dark wood furniture, white bedding. No complaints there, but also not blown away. Our favorite part was the balcony. Nothing beats an ocean front balcony, and this one had a jacuzzi tub on it as well. Definite plus for us! Overall for design and style on this resort, the lobby and grounds are more impressive than the rooms. 

 Views upon arrival. Boardwalks are precarious after tequila shots! 

Views upon arrival. Boardwalks are precarious after tequila shots! 

Location

The Now Sapphire was not very conveniently located to some of the main attractions of Cancun. It is quite far from the Hotel Zone and over an hour drive (through road construction) to reach the docks to go to Isla Mujeres. While we don't go out in the Hotel Zone usually, taking a catamaran to Isla Mujeres is one of our favorite things to do. The long bus ride to and from the docks to do our Isla Mujeres excursion was a real bummer for us. Especially during a short trip, three hours on a bus really eats into vacation time! 

 Sunsets on our ocean front balcony--we always spend lots of time on balconies!

Sunsets on our ocean front balcony--we always spend lots of time on balconies!

Food 

On any given day, I love to eat; when I'm on vacation, experiencing new and delicious foods is one of the main ways I explore and have fun. The Now Sapphire gets poor marks in this regard, unfortunately. If you're traveling for the food, this might not be the right resort for you. We did, however, have some truly delicious fresh lobster on Isla Mujeres!

 Our best food was off resort, on Isla Mujeres. 

Our best food was off resort, on Isla Mujeres. 

Amenities

The Now Sapphire offered many of the usual resort amenities (pools, spa, tennis, wind surfing, etc). We loved the spa. It was beautifully decorated and offered unique treatments complimentary when you purchase an upgraded room. One of these treatments was hydrotherapy--basically a hangover cure (convenient)! Speaking of hangovers, our wedding group was not super impressed with the pool bars closing down at 5pm or the lack of mini bar selection. This was probably the kid-friendly element coming into play. The wedding planning service (the reason we were there) seemed to have done a really good job. The wedding went smoothly and the reception area by the pool was really gorgeous. 

 Isla Mueres 

Isla Mueres 

Summary

The Now Sapphire would be a good choice if you have kids, are traveling on a budget or are planning a bigger destination wedding (40 guests at this one) and want to keep costs down but still have a gorgeous experience. For couples looking for a romantic or luxury experience, this might not fit the bill. However, as I prefaced, it's hard to have a bad time in Cancun--hopefully the review above helps you know if the Now Sapphire is for you! 

Euro Trip | Ten Tips for Packing

It's high time for another list. Summer is approaching and many of you hopefully have plans to go on some big adventures! While talking to a friend the other day--helping her find the perfect backpack (if you have style questions hit me up!)--she suggested I do a post on what to pack for Europe. At first, I thought to myself, "Wow, yikes, that's a tall order," but then I thought about the last time I went to Europe (I was 18) and how dumb I was at packing back then. "I can do better now," my sometimes masochistic mind insisted. And so the challenge is on. Packing for Europe (or any long trip) is a huge challenge. If you're like me, you panic, want to bring everything and end up bringing a hodge podge assortment which frustrates the hell out of you when actually on the road. While I can't list EVERYTHING you should bring to Europe in this post as it would be not only presumptuous but also overly voluminous, I have narrowed it down to ten essential tips to make your adventures a stylish success.

Tip #1: A comfy shoe that does double duty.

If you're going to Europe, you are going to be walking more than you've ever walked in your life! All those beautiful, old cities are just made to be explored. While you're wandering between sidewalk cafes and cathedrals, it's important to have something comfy on your feet. It's also important not to pack too many pairs of shoes as they take up space and weight. Enter the Teva Flatform, your new best friend. The elevated height makes it stylish, while the supple leather straps and foam bed make it comfy. I own a pair and could walk in them all day. The best part is that these could totally team with a cute romper or dress for a fun night out look. When I originally thought of this blog post, I wanted to recommend the Charlotte Stone Amie Sandal. I have this shoe as well and the soles are literally made of memory foam. So comfy. However it is sold out ALMOST everywhere. Except here. They have only a few select sizes, so if you are lucky, snag this one up as an alternative to the flatforms.

Tip #2: LEGGINGS.

Leggings are your best friends for a long trip. They pack up light and small, go with everything and they're SUPER comfy. They will serve you well for the long plane ride, the cooler weather days, and--if you opt for a pair with cool mesh cutouts--they can look great for a night out! Even if you are going to southern Europe or somewhere warmer, it is a good idea to have a long pant option. A visit to Vatican City requires women to have legs covered. This pair by Onzie is affordable and stylish. Alo aslo has some really awesome leggings, but they are a bit on the pricier side. If you choose to check them out, I love Alo's Moto Legging.

Tip #3: Lightweight cardigan or kimono.

Once again we have a piece that meets the three criteria--packable, lightweight, multipurpose. A breezy kimono or cardigan is great to have on hand if the plane ride gets cold, you need to have your shoulders covered (another Vatican thing) or to throw on over a dress or romper to add texture to the outfit. Bonus: it can also be used as a swim coverup when you head to the beach! When choosing a kimono to bring, opt for neutral colors, that way it will go with as many outfits as possible. Gray or tan are great color choices as they are neutral and able to pair with many things. I love this style by American Eagle for a cute choice that will go with everything at an affordable price point.

Tip #4: Opt for a stylish backpack.

Backpacks as purses are in right now, and that's a good thing for your stylish and successful Euro trip! When I went to Europe when I was 18, I had this giant shoulder bag. I packed it full of junk and carried it around everywhere. By the end of my trip, I felt like my shoulder was about to fall off. Plus, the bag I carried was an open satchel style; I owe the fact that I didn't get pickpocketed to some strange stroke of luck. Giant shoulder bags and open purses are big no-nos for traipsing around in the major cities of Europe. Luckily Rebecca Minkoff makes the perfect bag solution. The Julian Backpack features a super roomy interior plus exterior pockets. It's iPad friendly, and really unbelievable how much stuff you can fit in this baby. But the real VIP is the clip on the front of the pack. This clip can attach up or down onto one of two D-rings on the bag. Clip it down for normal wear and you can access the zipper. Clip it to the top D-ring when you're walking crowded streets and the flap covers the zipper, keeping thieves out. With two comfy leather straps on both your shoulders, you can carry your essentials around all day! This bag is a little pricey, but totally worth it. I have the black one and carry it all the time. In fact, I invested in two of these bags. If you are looking to get a great deal, check out eBay. I actually just listed my tan version of the bag (plus tons of other stuff) as I am doing a closet clean out. So ehar9263 is my username and I'll stop advertising and move on to the next tip... ;)

Tip #5: Sundresses for the 'Gram

We've all seen these kind of Instagram posts. The kind where you don't know which to look at first, the awesome scenery or the cute outfit. If you're going on a trip with your girls (or your especially indulging boyfriend), creating cute pics like this is likely to be on the agenda. Luckily, these looks are so easy to create and will fit right into your practical packing regimen. Sundresses and rompers pack down so tiny and are space saving as they are a whole outfit in one. Stick to laid-back casual styles in colors that will pair with many things. That kimono from Tip 3? Throw it on over a dress or romper and you have a completely new outfit. I love how many options there are for sundresses with amazing backs that can help you capture moments like this. Sabo Skirt always has amazing options. Urban Outfitters and Free People are also fabulous.

Tip #6: Minimal Make-Up.

Ok, I don't mean you should wear no makeup all the time while on vacation! Of course there will be times when you want to look your best. However, lugging around your entire makeup drawer just isn't the best choice when you're on the go. My advice, look for palettes to minimize makeup space. This travel size kit by NARS contains blush (Orgasm) and bronzer (Laguna) which are two perfect shades you could probably use the whole trip. Do you usually use two different mascaras and three different eyeliners when applying your makeup? Do some trial and error and practice before leaving so you can bring just one of each makeup product. Invest in a good eye shadow palette that can achieve both day and night looks. I love the Too Faced Boudoir Eyes palette. It comes in a small box and is packed with shades ranging from modest nudes to shimmery smoky tones. This way all your bases will be covered without weighing you down. You don't want to spend your whole trip in front of a mirror putting on makeup anyway, right?

Tip #7: Use your bikini as a bra or top.

When vacationing in the summer, chances are you will be bringing bikinis. In the spirit of the cardinal rule of extended travel--make everything as multi-use as possible--why not put your bikini to work even off the beach? This one piece by Nasty Gal, aside from being fiercely on trend with its low cut back, would look so cute with a pair of high waisted shorts or a maxi skirt. It would probably even look good with those leggings you are going to bring. ;) You don't have to go one-piece to use your 'kini as a top. Check out high neck or longline tops to pair with high waisted shorts. The swimwear brand Blue Life has some amazing pieces that are totally suited to be worn both on and off the beach. I love the Tribal Crop Bikini Top as well as their amazing plunge-front one-pieces which could easily take you from beach to club! While you are checking out Blue Life, make sure to have a look at their lingerie inspired bikinis. While some are a little TOO lingerie inspired for my tastes, many of them (such as the Passion Flower Bikini) are really cute and would be amazing for travel as the top could be worn as a bralette under those cute little backless sundresses! It's all about freeing up one more spot in your suitcase and making your trip that much more organized!

Tip #8: Two-Piece sets are your friends.

Two-piece sets are basically a million different outfits in one. You can wear the matching separates together, of course, but then you can mix and match the pieces with other things! This all white set is great because together or apart, it can go with so many things due to the color and the casual style. My favorite store, Sabo Skirt has SO many matching sets available. From simple ones like this to fun prints and tassels, they will have one that works for you. Personally, I would recommend getting a casual set and a sexy, going out set. That way you have a look for nightlife, but also if you mix the pieces from each set together and with other items, you can have several casual looks as a result! I love either the Edelle Set or the Isle Top and Shorts for a dressier look with casual potential.

Tip #9: Bring the Basics.

Really I've already covered a lot of the basics in the other tips. What I mean here are the outfit foundation pieces that you can fall back on. Clothes you can wear your cute but comfy shoes with, throw the kimono on over, pair with your leggings, toss on over your bikini. Clothes that you KNOW you can count on! In my case, stripped down to the bare essentials this would be a good pair of denim shorts, a classic white tee and sunglasses that go with everything. For shorts, I always recommend One Teaspoon Bandits. Perfect faded washes, slouchy fit...yes. If I am going anywhere for the weekend, vacation, whatever, I never leave home without a classic white v-neck tee--it's one of my life rules! My favorite is the PINK Essential V-Neck Tee from Victoria's Secret. I have gone through so many of these--I wear them so much they literally wear out. Finally, sunglasses. I know it's tempting to take your fun giant blue-mirrored sunglasses on your trip, but how many outfits do they REALLY go with? Try to limit the amount of sunglasses you bring as they are easily lost or broken, and at least toss in one ride-or-die pair like classic Ray-Ban Aviators.

Tip #10: Bring a stunning maxi dress.

At some point on your trip, whether it's a fancy wine tasting with your friends or a romantic dinner with your significant other, there is bound to be an evening where you want to look your absolute best. Nothing makes a more elegant statement than a long, flowing maxi dress. Maybe look for one with more dramatic details than you would normally wear--after all, you are on the vacation of a lifetime! Again, no one does these jaw dropping details better than Sabo Skirt. I love this Indie-Rose Dress from their new formal range. The low back just gets me every time! If you don't find anything you like at Sabo Skirt, other brands like Indah or The Jetset Diaries have really amazing maxi dresses as well.

Hopefully these suggestions give anyone going on a big trip this summer a good starting off point! An extra tip for you before I sign off--plan, plan, plan! Nothing spells disaster like waiting until the night before to pack. (Sidenote, as I write this, I am literally going to Denver tomorrow and will be waiting until tonight to pack--don't do as I do, reader!) As tedious as it sounds, it may help to physically list out and coordinate your outfits to what you will be doing each day. That way you will be able to actually relax and enjoy your vacation when the time comes! Bon voyage!