I bought my family a trip to Spain & Italy

This year I wanted to make more of an effort to make time for my family. I've always dreamed of one day being able to take my family on a beautiful destination vacation but doing that would mean I would have to bear the expense for me and my 2 sisters because they're younger... I wanted so badly for them to experience what I am able to experience so I took a shot and went for it. I spent $10k on a vacation for the 3 of us to Barcelona, Positano, Capri, Naples, and Rome. My Chase bank allowed me to order Euros and pick them up the next business day, which helps me from paying any exchange fees and the money was crisp.

Booking  & Budgeting
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way -
The reason we flew from Newark to Barcelona, Spain is that it was cheaper than flying straight to Italy and might as well put Spain in the mix of our Euro trip too. There were a couple different budget airlines that flew out of Newark but I wanted to fly in a nicer economy class because it was going to be such a long flight for my sisters. I know.. I'm spoiling them but I didn't want them to be miserable on our first day in Barcelona.

The flight cost me $2,474 for 3 passengers on a United flight ($845/per) roundtrip from Newark - Barcelona, and Rome - Newark. I've never flown first class or even business class for that matter. I thought about it so much (too much) and ended up taking another shot and going for it. I did so much research on the United Polaris first class, weighing out if it was worth the $7,000 upgrade. I read up on ways to get around paying for this hefty premium and 3 weeks before our trip, I happened to look on the United website where they had a promotion for buying miles - Buy a certain set of mileage points, and get matched the same amount. I spent $1,505 on 30k miles and got another 30k = 60k miles total. It cost 20k miles per person to get upgraded from Economy to Business Premium. It cost an additional $550 + 20k miles to upgrade to Polaris First Class. I know, it's expensive... but not as expensive as $7 thousand dollars. Again, I debated this for a day, feeling guilty for leaving my sisters behind as I prance around the luxurious first class cabin. But you know what? I bought this trip and paid for it with my hard earned money. I deserved this! Btw - I paid this amount to have a chance at being upgraded - it was not guaranteed. But I checked the seats every day on this flight to see how many empty seats were in first and business class. I had a feeling we had a good chance. I found out 20 minutes prior to barding that we all got the upgrade!! I honestly couldn't believe it. It ended up being a fully booked flight.

United Polaris First Class 
So I didn't get a window seat... slight bummer but hey at least I'm here. The service was phenomenal. They learned your names and greeted you with complimentary champagne. The cabin itself was very private and the seat came with elegant Sak's Fifth Ave bedding that was so soft. The lounge chairs were able to be turned into a complete laydown bed with "relax" mood lighting. The food was above average airplane food. It was served with warmed bread and had a more gourmet aspect than Economy and Business. After dinner, they came around with a sundae bar where you the cabin crew made custom sundaes for you. Or you can opt for their dessert bar, piled up with pastries.
I slept like a baby on this flight. It was truly an experience I was so happy to have. 

For my sisters in Business class, the lounge chairs are very similar to those in a domestic First Class flight, but they had a bigger seat than Economy with a pull-out footrest.  It also came with Sak's Fifth pillows and blankets and complimentary boarding drink. This was my sisters first international flight in 10 years (family used to go to Vietnam a lot) and they were definitely spoiled with flying essentially a business class flight. 

We flew economy back home from Rome to Newark and honestly, I don't know if I can ever fly economy ever again lol.

First Stop - Barcelona
I booked a beautiful AirBnB for this city. They were super accommodating and arranged our taxi to and from the airport, which is helpful and safer. I suggest asking your hotels and restaurants to call a taxi for you. The location was a few blocks from the Sagrada Familia and walking distance to the market. There are a ton of shops and cafes around. While we waited for check in, we had coffee and juice at a cute vegan cafe Eqvilivrivm Cafe. I travel very aggressively as you may know by now - spending just a day in a city and onto the next. I knew my sisters would have a hard time adjusting to the jetlag, which is why I had us stay in Barcelona for 2 days rather than 1. They slept through dinner the first night.
In the morning, we had brunch near the Barcelona beachfront at Brunch & Cake. Honestly, this was way too good. Normally, Americanized hipster restaurants are just for looks and have moderate food. But the flavors here paired so well with each other and the plating was beautiful. Price was average, but very much worth every penny.
I heard that Flax & Kale is a great restaurant to try... and I was so disappointed. The menu was extremely limited and the food was not good at all and overpriced! For a brunch spot, I'm telling you, go to Brunch & Cake. 
We went exploring the Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell on our last day and ended with a paella dinner at Arume. I am still dreaming about the seafood paella... We got both the seafood and duck. For drinks, we had the white sangria which even my middle sister, Jennifer enjoyed. And she hates everything.

✈️ Positano 

From Barcelona, we took a RyanAir flight to Naples, Italy where our boat was waiting for us at the pier to take us to Positano ($63/per passenger). I booked our private charter through Lucibello which cost me about $1,300. There are other charters that have different pricing depending on the type of boat you want. I highly recommend this for at least a day trip from Positano to Capri (might be cheaper). It was so much fun and made the 1.5hr ride more enjoyable. The boat came with towels, champagne, and snacks. And of course, opts for the perfect photo. 

Getting to the pier in Positano, there's really only one way up... walking. It's not as bad as you'd think. Once you get past the steps, you can get a taxi if your hotel is higher up the mountain. There will be a luggage porter service which I recommend to only take your heaviest suitcases because this sucker cost me $10/per luggage. Was it annoying dragging my luggage back down the steps? Absolutely. But I'm cheaper than I am practical. Positano reminds me a lot like Santorini, Greece, except without the white buildings. The beach here is iconic but closer to the shore is very pebbly. Fair warning - don't go barefoot. My feet were CLENCHING. 
Photo Tip - Go down early in the morning to get your picture without a mass amount of people in the background. 
We grabbed drinks on the beach and bought this massive lemon with lemon sorbet in the inside at Covo Dei Saraceni. It took me forever to find out where people were getting these huge lemons and they sell out by the afternoon. Once people know - a whole line will form because it's near the pier.  
We wanted cheap eats because everything on this island was so expensive. We got pizza and apps at Capricci. Pizza was super fast and the staff was so nice! They remembered us from the day prior and made our pizza into a heart.

We stayed at the Hotel Savoia which had 3 balconies in our room, all with an incredible view and conveniently located for our one day in Positano. 

Image result for Boat emoji Capri
Couldn't afford to take another private charter, so we opted for a ferry to Capri that cost $29/per person. It was a short 30-minute boat ride and I was sunbathing while we were waiting for the boat in Positano. Funny story - The guy at the pier who was manning the area to make sure everyone got on the correct boat came up to me and asked where we were going. "Capri line is over here." As he helped me drag my luggage down to the pier, he goes "I messaged you on Instagram." I'm like... huh? I check my DM's and there Antonio is in the requested DM's. I guess he saw me walking around the day before and found me. Kinda creepy but he was beautiful lol. All the cliches - "Move to Positano, I'll take care of you." blah blah. Ok, Antonio. But this is how I keep in touch with the locals. In Greece, I still talk regularly to my AirBnB host in Mykonos and the famous Gelato guy who runs Lolita's in Santorini. It's such a grateful-life moment. 

Ok- I need to elaborate on this hotel, Caesar-Augustus. First of all, it was very expensive. If I didn't have Chase Sapphire points, I probably wouldn't have booked Capri in the first place. Let me tell you, worth every. single. penny. & remember... I'm a cheap Asian. Every detail has been so thought out and the service was unbelievable. They picked us up from the pier in Capri and handled our bags entirely. I didn't even see our bags until after check-in where they had the bell boy place them in our villa. At check-in, you're greeted with a complimentary drink and given a tour of the entire hotel. They cook every meal with produce from their own garden and have a steam room that is infused with their lavender and rosemary. The infinity pool overlooked the ocean and cliffs of Capri, which made for such a relaxing day and stunning sunset.
We stayed in the garden villa - personally gated and they go in in the evening and set your room up for night time - setting up your bed, putting a rug on each side of the bed along with slippers, and turn on the under-lighting where the step is up to the bed. Just simple details like this really make their service top of the line. The owner came to greet and thank us for choosing this hotel. This place really is a perfect romantic getaway for couples. There are several spots on the hotel grounds that have private lounging, private dining, and private spa. 
The breakfast is included in the hotel rate - which was the most extravagant layout I've ever seen. There are at least 10 people on staff, ensuring every table is attended to. Stepping into the restaurant, you're greeted with any drink of your choice (cappuccino obviously for me). They give you a stand for your purse if needed, and fold your napkins and refill drinks anytime your away from your table to get more food. 
The view from here is probably the best on the island. Seriously, breathtaking. The majority of things do to are going to revolve around the center of Capri or down at the Marina Grande. 

Image result for Boat emojiNaples

It's an hour boat ride from Capri to Naples ($30/per) via ferry. Our AirBnB was 6min away from the pier and a short walk to Toledo st which is where everything is happening. It gets extremely busy very quickly and oddly enough, there weren't many American tourists. It almost seems like Naples is where the Europeans go on vacation. We found many cute gelato shops, cafes, and bars that were mainly all in Italian. In Positano and Capri, menus had an English translation. Naples is a very populated city, therefore a lot of homeless and potential pick-pocketers. I learned from my Greece trip to be extra careful in touristy places because that is their main area to pray on. The rumors are true - the pizza here is amazing and the drinks, food, and taxis are way cheaper here than they were on the islands. At night, every street was packed full of people going out for drinks and tapas.

Bullet Train on Apple iOS 12.2 Last Stop: Rome
The Vatican - St. Peter's Basicila
Our final city was Rome, mainly because it's a must see in Italy and it was cheap to fly back to NY from here. We took a Trenitalia train from Naples ($20/per person - Super cheap and convenient!) It was nice to just sit and chill for an hour, riding through Italy. Rome is tourist mania. Obviously because of it's beautiful architecture and famous landmarks. Trevi fountain was packed by 9am, filled with pushing tourists trying to get their picture and make a wish. We tried to avoid that area because any restaurant or cafe would have been overpriced. Our AirBnB was located in the plaza where the Pantheon was and close to the main shopping street so it was easy to grab a taxi. If you want to opt for public transportation, it's $1.50 euros for an hour pass or $7 for a day pass.

Near the Spanish Steps is shopping central, with designer stores like Gucci and Prada. Also, packed every day. We grabbed tea after exploring by foot at Babingtons Tea Room right next to the Spanish Steps. It was very overpriced but the tea was really good and had a great atmosphere. 
We took a taxi to the Trastevere neighborhood for dinner,  which was such a good idea. That area is great to explore and had the best nightlife. Every restaurant had a wait but we ended up at il Duca where we had pasta of course. I had the seafood gnocchi and omg... it was to die for.
Disregard Jen (left), she hates getting her pic taken lol
Next morning we had a light breakfast at Ginger, which was a 5min walk from the Pantheon area. It was eh... That American-hipster place that has average food. On our last day, it rained in Rome, which kinda sucked. But we were blessed with great weather up until this point so I couldn't really be too mad. The Vatican is a great place for when it rains. We walked around the St. Peter's Basicila and up  551 steps to the top to get that 360 views of Rome. My calves were pulsing especially after climbing a crap ton of stairs in Positano and Capri. The Vatican city was packed because 1. it was Sunday and 2. perfect rainy day activity. 

We had an early 6am flight the next morning to a layover in Brussels and indulged in Belgian chocolates and chilled at the Diamond Lounge until our flight. I have the Priority Pass to a majority of lounges around the world due to my American Express Platinum card.
Overall, I was really happy to be able to spend time with my sisters and take a much needed break. I'm thinking maybe Switzerland next? 


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