Where to Stay: The Claska Hotel, Tokyo

Part hotel, part restaurant, part event space and part super cool design shop, this hip and quirky boutique hotel is a hidden gem in Tokyo’s off-the-beaten path Meguro neighborhood.

The hotel was remodeled from an old business hotel in 2003 as a collaboration between the English Design firm Tomato and up-and-coming Japanese designers. The minimalist aesthetic of the space is thoughtful and well designed, but still retains the energy and slightly worn feel from a past time.

Not all rooms are created equal at the Claska, and the hotel is often booked up months in advance. Each room has a different design, so guests often do their research and reserve a specific room.

The Claska’s restaurant Kiokuh is situated right in the lobby, ideal for people watching in the lobby over a pot of tea or cocktail. The restaurant’s French-based menu serves breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the day. There are two options for breakfast - either a Japanese and American menu. Meals are simple but delicious. Try the Japanese breakfast if you are feeling adventurous!

Claska’s fantastic shop “DO” sells a well curated mix of Japanese clothing and housewares. Certainly not your traditional souvenir shop, this is a destination in itself where ceramics, artisan fabrics, and trendy clothes abound.

Take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary bikes to explore the many interior design shops and restaurants sprinkled throughout the neighborhood. Meguro is slightly off the beaten path, but much more low key than many parts of busy Tokyo. Its a charming neighborhood and I really enjoyed exploring this quieter side to the city. 

-- IF YOU GO -- 

Pack... comfy walking shoes, pocket wifi and a Tokyo guidebook

Plan ahead... each room at the Claska is different. do you research and book in advance if you have a preference on your room's style (my vote is for the "Modern" rooms: Japanese and Scandinavian style, with clean lines and plenty of space!)

Read more… One-stop shop for design lovers

Just Back From: Oahu

We just returned from an idyllic few days spent on the North Shore of Oahu, the third year in a row that we've made this trip. While I always love traveling somewhere new, returning to the same place again and again has lots of benefits as well. You know what to expect, what to pack and have a good idea of what you want to do, so there's less planning and more time to just relax.

This time we brought our 3 month old baby - his first flight and first vacation (!) - which made returning to a place we know all the more appealing. We fell into an easy routine of early mornings watching the sunrise, lazy days on the beach and afternoons spent reading (or napping) during tropical rainstorms. We indulged in fresh ahi and yummy pad thai from food trucks and slept better than we have in months. 

{For all the scoop on what to eat and where to wander, check out my newly-updated North Shore travel guide}

If you are planning a trip to Hawaii, I highly recommend checking out Oahu for a local feel of the islands.  

Go Now: Portugal in the Off Season

There’s a reason it feels like everyone you know traveled to Portugal in 2017. The country has been exploding as a popular destination over the past few years, and shows no signs of slowing down. With the allure of delicious food, gorgeous beaches and charming towns, U.S. travel to Portugal increased 22 percent in 2016. And while June - September is peak tourist season in Portugal, here are 5 reasons why you should consider visiting in the off-season. That means now!

Constantly popping up on travel lists from Travel & Leisure naming it destination of the year for 2017 and the New York Times including in their 52 Places to Travel last year, there is no shortage of arguments for why you should book a flight asap. And while summer is the peak tourist season in Portugal, here are 5 reasons why you should consider visiting in the next few months:

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Weather - Portugal’s weather is consistently mild. With highs in the summer reaching into the 80s (Fahrenheit), the winter low rarely gets below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with daily averages in the low 60s. These mild temperatures make for especially pleasant sightseeing. Layer with a scarf and light jacket and you’ll you’ll be sufficiently prepared for your days of exploring (but also be prepared for rain, just in case!)

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No crowds - One of the best perks of traveling anywhere in the off-season is enjoying a city without fighting the crowds. The convenience of this alone is a huge selling point for me. Restaurant reservations (or just walking in) are much easier to come by. The more touristy spots, such as museums or the Tower of Belem or the Palace of Pena in Sintra, are so much more enjoyable when you aren’t stuck waiting in long lines. There is even a noticeable difference, allowing for a more pleasant experience, when you are just wandering the streets without fighting crowds.

Money - In that it goes further. Always a main consideration when planning a vacation, budget is super important and Portugal tops of my list of awesome and affordable destinations! There are plenty of flight specials and hotel deals to be found this time of year. We flew on TAP Portugal which offers a flight direct flights from the U.S. as well as the free stopover option that played a role in driving tourism to Iceland. We also found very reasonable pricing for Airbnbs. As a bonus, now is a particularly good time to visit Europe with the dollar strong against the Euro.

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That winter light - Hear me out on this one. Yes, days are shorter this time of year and while some could argue that gives you less time to sightsee, there is something about the light in the winter that is magical. Crisper and sharper, the scenic vistas of Lisbon will be all the more breathtaking in the glowy winter light.

Authentic Portugal - Last but not least, traveling at less popular time for other tourists opens you up to experiences you may likely not be exposed to other times of the year. Sleepy beach towns, quiet restaurants and nearly empty hotels create space for connections with locals that busier seasons wouldn’t allow. One of the most powerful experiences of travel is connecting with people living in a different place and in a different culture than you. It expands your horizons and forces you to get outside of your comfort zone. In seasons when the hospitality industry is focused on catering to tourists they don’t have the time to have a meaningful conversation with you, but in the off-season they aren’t as worried about serving everyone staying at the hotel or working through a mile-long wait list. Space naturally opens up for authentic connections, which has the chance to leave a lasting impression on you as a traveler.

Where to Stay: Sublime Comporta

Often the road less traveled leads you to exactly where you need to be. And the road to Comporta, Portugal in November is certainly a less traveled path. Known as a popular beach escape for many Europeans, Comporta is increasingly a popular destination with new hotels opening up over the past few years.

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Visiting in the off-season gave us a chance to see the sleepy beach town without tourists, or really many people at all. With most of the town was closed for the season, we enjoyed a relaxing few days at the new-ish Sublime Comporta hotel and leisurely explored the area without fighting any crowds or traffic. Within an easy hour drive from Lisbon, we were happy to escape to a nice hotel for the last few days of our trip. 

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Located on 17 acres, the Sublime Comporta is built to blend in with the natural surroundings. We stayed in a Cabana Suite that included a cozy king bed, and a full kitchen, fireplace and living area in a separate room, plus a deck and private pool give you the option to never leave your cabana! 

A spa, pool, fire pit, on-site organic garden, yoga pavilion and tennis courts offer plenty of activities to keep you busy during your stay. We, however, found it hard to leave the cozy couch in front of the fire (and the staff was happy to frequently re-stock our wood supply). It was so pleasant to hunker down and enjoy our minimalist but comfortable cabana. 

The on-site restaurant Sem Porta uses lots of local ingredients and offers an upscale dining experience. While the restaurant was good, it's very pricey, and we really enjoyed eating a more causal meal in the lobby bar one night.  

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The hotel is not right on the beach, but it can be reached in a quick 10 minute drive. We ventured out several times for meals during the day, and while a lot was shut down for the season, we found a few noteworthy spots. Have I mentioned the amazingly delicious seafood that we encountered at most meals on this trip? Enjoy!  

  • Comporta Cafe - One of our best meals of the trip. We ate on the deck right off the beach, filled up on clams and seafood spaghetti and enjoyed the ocean breeze.
  • Restaurante Dona Bia - A popular restaurant but was unfortunately closed for the season.
  • Eucalyptus - We had a casual meal here - a good place for a simple sandwich and coffee.