Since I was already making the trip to Spain and doing a thorough amount of exploring that beautiful country, a little excursion for some luxury appealed to me.  Initially, I was thinking of the South of France, wine country, etc. 

But after doing some research online, primarily Google Maps and Marriott’s website, I realized that one of the world’s most iconic destinations was just a short trip away, and I wasn’t going to pass on this opportunity.  

Initially, I planned to stay two nights in Monaco and take the train to Montpellier for two more nights in wine country before heading to Barcelona.  But as the months passed (I began planning this trip in January 2017) and I did more research on Monaco, the essence of Grace Kelly permeated my soul, and I began to daydream far too often. 

As I eased into my second day in Madrid, the 90+ degree temperatures started getting to me, and I explored alternatives to extend my trip to Monaco.  Stay tuned… 

If there is anything so romantic as that castle-palace-fortress of Monaco, I have not seen it. If there is anything more delicious than the lovely terraces and villas of Monte Carlo I do not wish to see them. There is nothing beyond the semi-tropical vegetation, the projecting promontories into the Mediterranean, the all-embracing sweep of the ocean, the olive groves, and the enchanting climate! One gets tired of the word beautiful.

 – M.E.W. Sherwood


Logistics and Excursion Planning

When traveling internationally, I usually go for 10-15 days.  So, packing light is essential as you really don’t want to drag around five bags and hundreds of pounds of clothes/shoes.  Monaco threw somewhat of a wrench in packing plans; several luxurious experiences to be had and two outfits a day were the minimum I would need.  Delicate clothes, soft layers of luxury, and items simple to roll up and steam when needed were my solution.  

It wasn’t until I was in Madrid that I planned my travel to Monaco.  Luckily, it was easy, thanks to American Airlines and their international One World partner network.  Either way, I don’t usually cut it that close, so time to get intentional.

TB TIP: When traveling out of the country to popular honeymoon or anniversary destinations, it’s common that visitors are celebrating a special occasion. If you are celebrating, inform the hotel prior to checking in. This will yield a room upgrade, resort voucher, welcome gift, free spa services, or all of the above.

So now the planning process.  While some view this as a daunting task, trust me, it’s fun when you know the ins and outs.  Here’s how I navigate it:

  • Find a Marriott property that suits my desires for this trip (each of these wants must be checked yes):
    • Relaxing, ocean-front property with exceptional views.
    • Onsite restaurants for brunch and good dinners since I’ll be onsite for four days in an unknown area.
    • High floor rooms for Cap d’Ail and yacht views (the people watching is second to none) with an upgrade.
    • Has an onsite gym and spa with full services.  I may not take advantage of this given the locale is so enticing w/out, but it’s still an option I want to have.
    • Stay on points is available (it usually is, but out of the country can be tricky, and sometimes it’s not an option). Also, inquiring into any fees that apply to foreign travelers is a must; you’d be surprised what I’ve encountered when not asking that question.
  • Check American Airlines‘ partner sites via their app for airfare from Madrid to Monaco:
    • Nice is the airport you fly into for access to Monaco.
    • Secure an inexpensive economy flight as it’s about a two-hour flight, and First or Business Class isn’t worth it.
    • Iberia Airlines had direct flights from Madrid to Monaco for less than $120.
    • I don’t want to get up early in the morning as I wanted to enjoy the nightlife my last night in Madrid, so a flight departing between 1p-3p is perfect for making sure I can still maximize my first day in Monaco.
    • International airports typically don’t have an Admirals Club Lounge.  Fortunately, there is a Priority Pass Lounge (membership is free with an American Express Platinum and higher card, which I highly recommend for travel perks) in most international locations, including Madrid, so the lounge experience is secured, which is key to my travel experience.
  • Excursions:
    • To Viator, I went with hopes of Monaco-esq luxurious excursions.
    • Monaco is synonymous with exotic cars and motorsports.  When I saw a spirited drive through the hills of Monaco in a Ferrari, I couldn’t resist.  While not cheap at 350 euros, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I wasn’t willing to pass up.
    • There were some other very luxurious excursions like yacht cruises, helicopter flights, etc., but they were well over 1,000 euros, and I didn’t want to break the bank.
    • Walking tours are always a win as you get to see new areas, learn the history, and get some great pointers from locals.  These are usually around 20-40 euros each, and I was able to secure this one for 30.

Travel Day

While I typically get packed up the night before travel, especially going from one travel destination to the next, I didn’t this time.  Given that my flight wasn’t until 3 pm, I had time to spare and was going to maximize every minute of it.  Get 8 hours of sleep; check!  Have brunch in Madrid; check! 

Now it’s off to the airport with time to spare; after all, duty-free shopping between international locations is always fun and cost-effective.  The trip to MAD from the city center is about 30 minutes.  I left around 1 pm, which put me there by 1:30. There wasn’t much to do in the way of customs; check your bags and show your passport.  After a stop at Duty-Free, I made my way to the Lounge for a pre-flight snack and cocktail.  

The flight experience is always slightly different on international airlines, and this was no exception.  Iberia’s food/beverage service was excellent, and the flight attendants were beyond friendly and beautiful.  Deplaning and customs in Nice were rather hilarious; it’s incredibly quick, easy and informal. 

The line of taxis was a sea of black Mercedes Benz’s, and it immediately helped set the mood for the upcoming days of luxury in Monaco.  The drive-in took about 30 minutes, and it was BREATHTAKING!  Picture mountains, clear blue skies, and ocean views, unlike anything I’ve seen in America.  

Arriving at the hotel was deep breathe worthy; this location was better than the pictures online.  I was checked in ASAP, upgraded to a top floor suite, and shown into the restaurant, which also doubled as the Elite Members lounge where I could access water, beverages, etc. 24×7 and grab breakfast (for free), lunch, dinner, and drinks anytime at the bar top. 

Given that it was now about 6 pm, and I was planning to have a night out in Monaco, a dirty martini to celebrate this magical place’s arrival was the perfect way to settle in.  Upon entering my suite, nothing could have prepared me for the wave of awe that took over.  The marina view, the breeze, the sun-painted orange sky… it melted me.  I was on the fence with extending my Monaco stay and bypassing Montpellier altogether while in Madrid, and this view settled it.  I called down to the front desk and extended my stay, on points, for another two nights.

Heart warmed with gratitude to enjoy this magical little country a few more days, I unpacked and got ready for dinner.  Taking a leisurely stroll through Monaco on the way to dinner was surreal and definitely fascinating, starting with encountering a Police officer on a random residential street corner. 

It was about 9 pm, and the sun was beginning to set, and the officer was just on patrol to greet residents and ask people like me (clearly, I looked like an American because he addressed me in English) if they needed directions.  Wow is all I can say… anywho, after about a 10-minute walk, I was at a very high-end little neighborhood restaurant (Le Fish Market Monaco, which has now closed permanently due to COVID) on the water across the channel from the palace.  There was a slight French flair to my dinner, and the fresh seafood was remarkable, the lights of Monaco were twinkling, and I really didn’t think life could get any better.

Day One – Waking up in Monaco

During the summer months, the days in Monaco are long.  Think darkness from 10 pm – 5:30 am.  It’s unique but also kind of exciting because my days felt longer, and I wanted to take advantage of every minute in this lovely place.  By 7 am, I was wide awake, sitting on my balcony, taking in the amazing views. 

Today I had my Ferrari drive through the hills and was planning on checking out the world-renowned Casino de Monte-Carlo at night.  So it was a pretty exciting day ahead, to say the least.  

After a lovely brunch full of freshly squeezed fruit juices and ornate fruits, meats, and cheeses, it was time to feel the wind in my hair.  The Ferrari arrived at my hotel around 1 pm.  Now as much as I love to drive and have fun, I’m in a foreign country and have no clue what the rules of the road are; thankfully, you drive on the right-hand side of the road, but that’s about all I could tell you to this day.

The excursion included a co-pilot, which is why I felt comfortable doing this.  Walking through the lobby and seeing my beautiful, red, convertible Ferrari waiting for me got my heart pumping.  “Am I really in Monaco having a Ferrari pick me up at my hotel?” I thought… DAMN STRAIGHT I am!  

After a thunderous and fast run through the long tunnel out of the City, we were making our way into the mountains.  The cool ocean breeze coupled with being sun-kissed was a feeling I can’t even try to describe; I just couldn’t do it justice.   My “copilot” was a lot of fun and had me push my car to the limits. 

I was a little uneasy at times, but I don’t regret a second of it.  How many people can actually say they stepped outside of their comfort zone in this scenario?!  And that’s what I held on to… We took a 10-minute break or so at the summit for some pictures and admiration of the view, then it was back to the hotel. 

Adrenaline flowing, heart racing, I was back and ready for a drink at the hotel bar.  I had affixed my Go-Pro to the car to capture the experience, and after a few reviews over my martini, I couldn’t believe what a rebel I was!  It’s like a bucket list item I never knew I had.  

After a nap, shower, and some research on where to eat and how to get there by foot, I decided to set out on the 30-minute journey.  The hotel concierge caught me in the lobby and, after a short chat, convinced me to take the city bus.  Now, to be very honest, I’m not above public transport.  However, I am very cautious of risky scenarios, especially when traveling abroad. 

So this was a FIRST!  The stop was about 100 yards away from the hotel, and wouldn’t you know, the bus was punctual and immaculate.  It was actually a little eerie like I was in a movie or an incredibly vivid dream of some form.  But 15 minutes later, I was within a few feet from a luxurious neighborhood restaurant adorned in beautiful plants and modern flares. 

I won’t discuss my meal in depth because it would be an entirely separate blog, but I was in heaven.  So far, I was two dinners in, and both were so special in a unique way I’ve never experienced.  And haven’t since… must’ve been something about the Monaco air.  

With a satisfied tummy and slight buzz, I was off to the Casino de Monte-Carlo.  “Am I really doing this” is all that kept going through my head.  Blessed, fortunate, lucky, grateful… these were the emotions I felt.  Mixed with a little “wow, this place is insanely luxurious and clean,” of course.  There were crews out power washing the sidewalks by 10 pm.  This is why a small apartment is over 2 million euros here.  

Walking into the Casino’s entrance is hard to describe.  There aren’t ¼ mile-long driveways as you’d find in Las Vegas; the land is too valuable and in short supply here for all of that.  But don’t get me wrong, it’s a grand entrance adorned with exotic cars that yield a second look. 

Unlike your typical casino, there is no blast of cigarette smell upon entry or sounds of slot machines and drunkards.  No, this is like walking into a museum, boutique, and dual Michelin Star restaurant all in one.  I made my way to the steakhouse lounge, which overlooked the Ocean, and several yachts anchored with speed boats taking people to and from the casino. 

No phone, no social media, no thinking… just a martini and taking in this fantastic reality.  Sure there were some fun people-watching moments, but all-in-all, this was just an amazingly relaxing and surreal experience.  

Day Two – Walking the Street of Monaco

Coming off the high of driving a Ferrari through Monaco and experiencing Casino de Monte-Carlo, it would be easy to think nothing could compare.  Not true… In my mind, I was about to experience a tour of Monaco on foot, including the palace where Grace Kelly had once walked the terraces. 

After brunch, I took a longer route to meet the guided tour to make a stop at their version of target and a grocery store (so cool in so many ways).  Although I brought multiple power adapters, my hair straightener and steamer somehow didn’t like the conversion so well and burned up; for more on these little faux pas moments and how to make sure they don’t happen to you, visit my website for several tips and tricks.  So I wanted to try and find replacements since I still had another day in Monaco and four more days in Barcelona coming up.  

From there, I made my way to the post office.  While it may sound lame if you want a relaxed cultural experience visit a post office internationally.  And wouldn’t you know, Monaco once again did not disappoint; there was nobody else inside, and I had the chance to buy postcards and stamps unique to Monaco. 

One of my travel traditions is to fill out a postcard and send it to myself from the destination; think stamp, unique postmark, etc.  After about a 30-minute visit with the Postmaster, I was off for my excursion.  

By now, I had experienced half of Monaco on foot on my own.  Keep in mind, it is the smallest country in the world, excluding Vatican City, which is much more like a province.  We met at the base of the hill to Monaco’s Palace.  There was a unique feel about this area. 

It was old in a historical way but luxurious and well-kept, like a more modern government estate.  And then it happened, the tour guide began talking, and I zoned out with each statement into a world of my imagination… Grace Kelly, galas, the world’s royalty and elite, fireworks, laughter, champagne.  This was truly amazing in every sense.  The views.  The level of respect and admiration locals had for their government.  

From there, we made our way to the Monaco Grand Prix course, which is basically city roads located beneath the palace surrounding the primary marina that’s filled with yachts belonging to the rich and famous.  It was fun seeing in person what I’ve seen on TV in little snippets here and there. 

Once the tour ended, I made my way back to the hotel via a different route that gave me a glimpse into the other side of residential Monaco.  Although a little older, it was still clean and quiet in a way that’s hard to comprehend without experiencing.  

Day Three 

Given that it was my last full day in Monaco, I was a little melancholy.  Who wouldn’t want to stay here forever?  So, on my last day, I left fate in the hands of my hotel concierge to provide a magical itinerary.  After all, this team has only guided me to incredible experiences thus far, so it seemed logical enough.  They suggested a day trip to Villefranche (villa-franch), which was an entire blog worth’s of unforgettable memories on its own, and you can read on my website.  

To close the trip out, I dined the waterfront at the hotel and gazed at the marina, people watched and stared at the stars.  I guess I should have been surprised at how good the hotel restaurant was for dinner, but I really was.  Only in Monaco, I suppose… And with that, I closed out my night.

Trip Summary/Recap

A European vacation was taken to the next level in Monaco.  I’ve had a lot of memorable experiences in other European countries, but this one jaded me indefinitely.  The combination of environment, culture, people, sights, history, cuisine, and utter luxury is in a class of its own. 

While it may seem extravagant or out of reach, you MUST travel here once in your life.  The hotel was reasonable on points or currency, the flights into Nice weren’t out of the ordinary, so it’s really just meals and excursions that you’ll experience a higher price.  But if you do it right and apply status, at least one meal a day is comped by the hotel, and you can allocate funds elsewhere.  Monaco is calling…

Tips & Tricks


  • Pool attire.  Yes, you will need it, and yes, Monaco is very luxurious, so be on point and fit in.
  • Dining attire is necessary for all-day tour attire for dinner in Monaco. So, bring multiple outfits that will travel will; light and soft layers are recommended.
  • There are some cobblestone areas in Monaco, so while you want heels for dinner, you may want to bring wedges to avoid the awkward trip unless you aren’t walking in evening attire.


  • The weather is moist and lovely being on the ocean, so expect dampness in the morning and evening.  However, you are in a different area with a culinary scene that will rock your world and need to stay hydrated.  I recommend bringing a packet of Liquid I.V. for each day you’re in Monaco and Europe as a whole.
  • Bring cash, you’ll need it for public transport as they do not accept credit per country laws.
  • Make dinner reservations if attending high-profile places like Casino de Monte-Carlo.  Otherwise, venture out and stumble into the local spots.  They were never too crowded for immediate seating in my experiences and were welcoming to the core.