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Saturday, September 22, 2018

My Best Fall Travel Packing Tips

Okay, so most places it's starting to get cooler, or it will be when you are on your fall or holiday travel. Even when you have to pack larger pieces than for your summer trips, you can still pack light. I'm a big proponent of layering when I travel, since you never know if the weather will be unseasonably warm or colder than you expect. Don't fret though, because you can still pack light and bring everything you need for any kind of weather.

When we traveled to London and Paris in late October, the weather ranged from cool, crisp fall air to freezing temps with rain. It could have been miserable, but learning from my previous trip there, when all we had packed were winter clothes. The first 3-4 days were so warm out that I didn't need a coat and seriously wondered if I'd have to buy some short sleeve tops in order to not get heat stroke. Needless to say, nobody wanted a repeat of that. So, taking all my knowledge into account when packing, I chose several lightweight sweaters that I could layer other things with and went from there.

So, if the weather tends toward cold, cold, cold, your pictures are basically all going to be you bundled up in your coat and you aren't going to see anything you've got on underneath anyway (see title photo). With this in mind, it makes even more sense to bring as little as possible. You'll just need enough to keep you from getting bored and to go between laundry - think of it an excuse to take a break and relax a few times on your trip. Watch a movie, catch up on email or play a game. I bring the same thing for one week as I do for two. Three lightweight sweaters, a cardigan, two tanks and two tees that match your sweaters. Throw a dress, two pair of stretchy jeans or other comfortable pants and two pair of shoes. 

Keep in mind your travel outfit. I usually wear my favorite pair of jeans (with stretch), a tee and a cardigan, one pair of the shoes I'm planning to wear throughout my trip and keep my jacket and a scarf in easy reach. This way if it's cold, I can put more layers on, and if it's hot, I can remove my cardigan.

jeans | dress | cardigan | l/s shirt | t-shirts | tights

A pair of black jeans can double as nice pants for a night out, but a breathable dress can also work. Make sure to pack a pair of heavy tights in case it's really cold and you need some extra protection. Tights are multitaskers. When the weather is colder than expected, like a freak snowstorm, you can throw them on under your pants. I tend toward thinner skinny jeans, because the stretchy ones are comfortable, but may not be as warm as traditional jeans. For this reason, that extra layer might be necessary.

Make sure your tops all mix and match, so you don't have items that only go with some things in your bag. I like neutrals, like black and gray that I can add a pop of color to. You may end up like me and have to wear three layers at once, so if you bring three different color sweaters and three different color/patterns of tanks and tees, you're going to look like a bag lady. I like to go with solids for one layer and some patterns for the other. Above you have 3 long sleeve options and two patterned t-shirts. If you have to layer, these will all work together. The dress is also reversible (from Columbia), so you can make at total of 22 outfits with these pieces. You also have the added warmth of your cardigan and/or jacket.

yup, lots of photos of us just wearing coats and hats or scarves.

Look for shoes that will go with everything. I went to Europe with a pair of flats and tall packable boots, but I love the look of a short boot and a loafer. Make sure you have enough room for your foot to breathe in your boot and that both pair are comfortable to walk in all day long. I loved the boots I took, but they were a smudge too tight, or I overdid myself on the 478965322 stairs in Paris, because I left with a stress fracture in one of my feet. Boo. But at least I didn't notice the pain until the night before we were going back home. Maybe suck it up and wear your flats when hiking up 40 jillion steps, just in case.

Look at the weather before you leave, to be sure you're dressed for your destination. A pair of gloves and a hat are always good companions, because you'll be thrilled if you have them and need them, or miserable if you leave them at home and have to shell out money for them. We actually had to purchase another hat and scarf for Eric, who didn't think he would need them. Unless you're hoping for a lame souvenir, throw some in for everyone traveling. It'll make your life easier.

What is your best winter packing advice?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Theme Park Halloween Trips

Halloween is coming and if you're traveling anywhere, you're probably going to be hitting up a party of some kind. I'm off to do some Harry Potter-ing in Philadelphia before I come home for actual Halloween and our annual party with friends. If I could, I'd be at Disney though.

There's nothing like a Disney party, because everyone's a kid, whether you're 2 or 102. As you know, barely a year goes by without us making some pilgrimage to some Disney park, and this year I hit up Disneyland with my friend. 

Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party

If you've never visited Disney on a holiday, drop everything you're doing and start planning, because it is everything. I prefer Halloween, because school is in, it's less crowded, you get to dress up, the weather normally doesn't suck and everyone gets to trick or treat. Yup, everyone! Here are some other reasons:

Characters Dress Up

Mickey and the gang get in on the Halloween fun, too. Your normal characters come out in full costume (more so than usual) for pictures, making then highly sought after opportunities

Villians and Other Rare Character Sightings
Ever wonder why you never see Jafar or the Evil Queen or those nasty stepsisters? They're reserved for precisely these events. You'll also see characters like Tarzan, the cast of The Country Bear, Brer Fox and Captain Jack Sparrow.

Lines to meet and greet these characters can be loooooong, so be prepared to wait and possibly pick and choose. This year, I saw much less than normal, but it was also the very start if the partying for the season. Sometimes you get lucky and you can swoop in, get some photos and be on to the next thing before the crowds start up again. That's happened to me with the Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Piglet group.

Did I Mention Candy?
Everyone with a MNSSHP ticket gets a candy bag upon entry. There are treat stations set up all around the park. Your map will tell you where and cast members have special Mickey light-up signs to guide you. We don't necessarily even want to eat all the candy, but it's included and it's fun and then we don't have to buy candy for trick-or-treaters.

Awesome Seasonal Shows
I'll admit it. Sometimes just the shows are worth the price of admission. They always center around the villains and this year WDW had a Hocus Pocus theme. The Sanderson sisters were back and calling on their "friends" to help throw the biggest, baddest bash ever. From where I was standing, I would have sworn the real Winifred, Sarah and Mary were there. That's how good the costumes were.

Aside from the castle show (strategize ways to get around that don't involve the castle, because you aren't getting in there), there is a fantastic parade. The Boo To You Parade always starts off with the Headless Horseman. I see they've gotten him to slow down his horse, so people can actually see him and get pictures. Alas, I was still to slow. Everyone gets a spot in the parade: the villains, your face characters and even obscure ones like the traveling ghosts. It's not to be missed. Wait out the night and do the second parade later in the evening and stake out a spot near the start. You won't have to jostle as much for s place to stand or wait to get across the road. Plus, when others are just seeing the beginning, you can be riding rides, getting pics or collecting candy.

Shorter Lines
Because everyone's there for candy, dance parties and Rare Character photo opps, the lines for the rides that are open are usually super short. Sometimes they add a Halloween twist to rides, like Space Mountain.

Special Magic Photos
You can always get some pretty special photos throughout the year, including the ones where they magic in a Disney thing into your photo. During Halloween, these magic pics take on a fun and sinister feel.

The Decorations

I love Halloween and harvest season. Disney overhauls their park every night the party is on by putting out an obscene amount of jack-o-lanterns, Disney-fied scarecrows, orange bunting and so much more. There are quite a few funky Halloween projections throughout the park as well. The more you look, the more you see. Plus there's a fantastic score of Halloween music in the background.

The Halloween Fireworks Are (Ooh) AHHmazing
Okay, yes. The fireworks are always amazing, but the Halloween ones are particularly awesome. They revolve around those sinister villains you rarely see, giving them a ghoulish vibe. The castle is used as a backdrop, so you'll want to get front and center for them, because the castle projections are half the fun.

If you decide that Halloween at Disney is for you, and I think you should, find a costume that isn't super involved, but still creative (you'll have to pack it) and plan to spend the morning and afternoon doing something else, because staying there for 16 hours is super tiring. You can get in a few hours before the party starts with your ticket, so you can enjoy the park before some of the rides close and get in a quick dinner before the fun starts.

What's your favorite time of year to visit Disney?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Get 300 bonus SB when you sign up for Swagbucks in September

All throughout September you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you're probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, or PayPal cash. 

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here's how: 

2. Earn 300 SB total before October 1st, 2018. You'll get a 300 SB bonus for it! 

3. That's it. It's super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I've earned hundreds of dollars worth of SB that I use mostly for Amazon so I can purchase party supplies for my annual Harry Potter party.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links and I will receive compensation in the form of SB when you sign up through that link.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Halloween Travel Planning

So, we've talked about a great Halloween trip I planned, which I'm only going to get to do part of, and awesome packable costumes, but maybe you want to travel to places where Halloween is really celebrated. If that's you and you don't want me telling you what to see and do, this infographic has some fun facts and places where Halloween is big around the world.

Will you stay home or travel for Halloween? I'm doing both! I'll be doing Halloween festivities in Philly and then coming home to do them in Portland on actual Halloween, with our annual adults-only party to follow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Your Next Halloween Vacation

A few years ago, I found out that Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philly) had a Harry Potter Weekend in October and I planned an entire trip around this activity. I've had to change up my plans and the weekend has been changed to Witches and Wizards Weekend, due to Warner Bros cracking down on anything with the name Harry Potter in it and my own one-week limitation of a vacation. Either way, I still think all these activities sound awesome and can make a fantastic Halloween trip, or even just some fun stops as part of a different trip.

Salem, Massachusetts  

Where better to celebrate Halloween than witch-central? All October long you’ll find themed festivities and attractions including a carnival, haunted house, spooky tours and more. Every day of the month you’ll find something going on. This is my kind of town.  Where else can you hit the farmers’ market during the day and then see the Crucible at night and get your palm read and go to a witchcraft shop in between? There might be some places, but I doubt many. And there are even fewer places where you can visit the actual places where witch trials took place. This is definitely on my list of must-see places. 
  • 4D Haunted Adventure at Salem Time Machine - It's a "haunted" attraction for the whole family. You get 3D glasses, walk around in a blacklight environment that takes you through a narrated Olde Salem. It sounds really dumb, but also really fun. If you want to be scared, do the 4D Haunted House instead, with live scare actors.
  • Derby Stree Carnival
  • Museum Place Mall - They show two 3D short films that tell you about Salem and the history of Halloween. There's also live music on the weekends.
  • Salem Haunted Magic Show - 'Nuff said.
  • Visit Lady Irene - A Greek psychic who reads coffee...? I dunno what that entails, but I want to see!
  • Haunted Dinner Theater at the Hawthorne Hotel - The show changes every year, but it always sounds fun.
  • More things to see and do can be found here.
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Laconia, New Hampshire

For 25 years, the pumpkin festival has been held in Keene, but it has now moved north to Laconia to eliminate the many drunken college students who congregated in the small town square. The community comes together to carve pumpkins to add to the pyramid for one of the nation's biggest collection of jack-o-lanterns. for one day, the town lights up with pumpkins, a beer garden, parade and other fun stuff, like magic, vendor booths and face painting.

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So, I would go to Boston for anything specifically Halloween-related, but that doesn't mean they don't have anything. We have family there to visit, plus seafood! Save money on sightseeing with the Boston CityPASS. Valid for 9 days from first use and covers the top Boston attractions for just $54 per person (adult). See the best of Boston with your pass and have plenty of time to do it in. There’s something for everyone and you save almost half off admission prices! Here are just a few I think would be fun.
  • New England Aquarium        
  • Museum of Science 
  • Skywalk Observatory 
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History OR The Old State House
If you're looking for other things in Boston that are Halloween-themed, there are several corn mazes (haunted and traditional) around the area with pumpkin patches and haunted houses. Factory of Terror has a one of the best haunted attractions in the area. Boston College Club runs a wine tasting with craft beer, hors d’oeuvres, live music, and a charity silent auction. The Haunted Castle Bash has a cocktail reception, dancing and hors d'oeuvres. Find more ideas here.

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Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania

Because of the cease and desist from Warner Bros, the town has had to rethink how to run this festival and even the name has changed to Witches and Wizards Weekend (and was called Wands and Wizards Fest just a few weeks ago). It looks like it's going to be more about Halloween than Harry Potter, which is okay, but disappointing. There will still be a pub crawl and Quidditch tournament, so we will still go and report back.
 Watch this video:

Okay, so the pièce de résistance of this trip, and the reason I want to go is the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Weekend. For two days, the town turns into Hogsmeade and the college is turned into Hogwarts. Visitors are strongly encouraged to dress up (uh, yes please!) and participate in awesome activities, like dueling classes, make new friends, ride the "Knight Bus", go on a Butterbeer crawl and watch a Quidditch tournament.

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Since Philadelphia is just a short drive from Chestnut Hill, why not check out what it has to offer. In October, you can look forward to the Chrysanthemum Festival, the Schuylkill Regatta and South Street's Pumpkin Festival. The Mutter Museum, a museum of weird and interesting medical stuff, has always been on my list, so I'm totally going to hit that up. Aside from that, there's tons of history. You can purchase the Philadelphia CityPASS for $59 and check out 4 of these 5 things:
  • The Franklin Institue
  • The Big Bus & Philadelphia Trolley Works
  • One Liberty Observation Deck
  • Adventure Aquarium OR Philadelphia Zoo.
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Hershey, Pennsylvania

Who doesn't love chocolate? Well, I do, so this seems like a no-brainer. Candy for days, a theme park and walking chocolate bars! I'm totally in! Plus it's right next door to:

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Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Another thing that's been on my wish list for a long time. I'd love to buy some sweet homemade quilts and other goodies, while learning more about the Amish community and way of life. Maybe I'll get a chance to ride in one of those horse and buggies where cars aren't a problem like they are in the city. Believe it or not, there are a lot of things to do here, from museums and tours to driving over (through?) covered bridges and wine tasting. 

If you've been to any of these places, what were your favorite things to see or do? 

Monday, September 10, 2018

The September Swago Board is Here!

The digital rewards site Swagbucks is offering big payouts during on their September Swago Board, which runs from September 10th through September 17th at 9am PT! Swago is just like bingo, but in this case you're filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online.

If you're thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it, meaning you can get more gift cards faster. Here are a few tips: 

  • Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete. They can be anything from getting a search win, completing a survey, or just visiting one of our popular stores! 
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete. 
  • You have until 12pm PT/3pm ET on Monday, September 17th to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely. 
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value. Once you’ve achieved a pattern, the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely. 

  • Each activity you successfully complete on your Swago Board will give you anywhere from 1-20 spins on the Spin & Win Wheel. PLUS, when you submit your board for a bonus you'll get additional spins. The number of spins will depend on the pattern you complete. The wheel has all sorts of great prizes that you can win, and each spin is a winner!

The Spin & Win Wheel will be available all throughout Swago and you have until 11:59pm PT on Monday, September 17th to use all your spins. 

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points - if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 500 SB bonus, which is enough for a $5 gift card from the retailer of your choice.  

Click here right now and click "Join" to get started! If you don't already have a Swagbucks account, you'll be able to quickly sign up; PLUS, if you earn 300 SB before the first of October, you'll get a bonus 300 SB!

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links and I will receive compensation in the form of SB when you sign up through that link.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Packable Halloween Costumes

I love travel in the fall and this often takes me to new places near or over Halloween. Whether it's a Mickey's-Not-So-Scary-Halloween-Party at Disney or a Harry Potter festival, I'm always up for putting on a costume and having a good time. As a budget traveler though, I'm not willing to pack much extra where I have to check a bag to my destination, so I look for creative costumes that I can make out of things I can easily pack or am already taking with me. 

In the past, Eric and I have dressed as Wayne & Garth, an ice cream man, a sports fan, and this Halloween we'll be dressing in our Wizarding wear for both a Harry Potter festival and a night of magical science. If you're also looking for an easy, but still fun, costume to take in your carry-on, I've rounded up some of my favorites of the moment.

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Be fruit! Pineapples are really in right now. I'm sure you can throw a spare t-shirt in your bag...and you could even wear it on your trip and then jazz it up afterward, allowing it to do double-duty. Use a Sharpie or fabric marker to create the little spikes you see and then add a headband with the crown to finish the look. Click on the link if you need more help. You can also be a strawberry with a pink shirt and regular leaves on your head, be a kiwi without a headband at all. Do you and find your favorite fruit that this would work with.

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Ladies, you probably are already traveling with a little black dress. It's practically a must for travel of all kinds. Grab yourself some spare black fabric to make yourself some bat wings, throw on a headband with ears and you're done! Classy and fun! Click the link for instructions.

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Eric and I always have khaki pieces in our wardrobe and one year we pulled all our items together to become travelers on safari. It worked for the warm California weather and was also creative. Go with green, brown or tan and add a hat and binoculars (we used toy ones that were small and easy to pack in shoes) and you're ready to spot some animals!

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Come on down! You're the next contestant on The Price Is Right! I love this awesome idea. Basically, you can wear whatever you have (bonus points if you make it a I ♥ Drew or Bob shirt of some kind) and then pack yourself a name tag and price guessing board. I adore anything that packs flat and takes up no room and you can just make one or as many as are in your travel party. Easy!

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If you have more of a morbid sense of humor like I do, then maybe going as roadkill will have you doubled over. I think this is a clever and easy costume that you can do quickly with an appropriate stencil. If you also want to have tire marks on your clothing, go for it. The further you go with it, the better you're going to sell this outfit. Don't forget your animal ears and tail if you want to add that as well. 

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I include Rosie the Riveter in all my costume lists, because A. she's amazing and B. she's super easy to pull off. You probably already have everything in your closet and you can wear jeans or denim shorts, depending on the weather. Make sure to pack the perfect red lipstick though, because it absolutely completes the look.

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I never would have thought of this costume, even though I've been similar in the past. Dominos are creative and so simple! Cut out some white dots, affix them to clothing you already have packed that are black (don't forget that white undershirt that peeks out as the line) and you're Halloween ready. Use fabric tape for easy add and removal of your dots.

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Pig in a blanket! Either pack a cute little baby blanket or a large piece of fabric, put on a pig nose and you've got a costume everyone will love.

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Be a stick figure! This is another easy-to-accomplish outfit. Pack a white outfit and some black tape. Stick on, wear out, pull off and wear other days of your vacation. Don't forget to make yourself a face mask.

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That cute outfit in your carry-on can turn you into a superstar! Throw it on with a black and white wig (the bigger the better) so it covers your eyes, or more, and a giant head bow. Voila! Now you're Sia.

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Bob Ross is having a revival these last few years. People love him, because he's so chill. Everyone can pull him off with a basic jeans and button down shirt outfit and a big wig. If you're going as a couple, turn your travel dress into a "happy little tree". Genius. We had friends who did this combo at our Halloween party last year and it was fantastic.

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This is another new favorite among my friends: sauce bottles. You can find shirts of your favorite sauces, like Sriracha, Tabasco, soy sauce and more (or you can make your own), add a matching hat or make a headband cap and you're done! It's super comfortable and looks like you put a lot of thought into it.

I'll be wearing my Harry Potter witch wear this weekend for Rose City Comic Con, so look for pics on my Instagram if you want some inspo. 

What are your favorite go-to easy costumes?

Disclaimer: this post contains an affiliate link and I will be financially compensated should you order through that link.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Three Birthday Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Cook

Do you have a spouse, a friend or a sibling who loves to cook? If so, you have a lot of creative birthday gift options for that loved one. Food can bring back memories of travel experience and transport you to a another destination. Food is very powerful and a great way to travel when you don't have the money to actually travel. 

If you have the need to purchase a gift soon, check out three birthday gift ideas for a favorite cook or chef in your life.

A Recipe Book Written by a Famous Chef

Maybe your friend or relative loves Julia Child, Wolfgang Puck or Ina Garten. Perhaps the person loves to make desserts and dishes created by a particular chef. If so, why not get a recipe book written by one of the person’s favorite chefs? Your loved one is sure to be pleased with the detailed recipes, photos and funny stories that are often a part of a recipe book.


Spices are used in all sorts of recipes. A grilling spices gift set is a fun idea for a cooking enthusiast because they can be used in countless dishes. Also, having a collection of quality spices gives a cook the opportunity to make traditional dishes taste even better. 

A Personalized Utensil

A cooking utensil such as a spatula, a paring knife or a colander is certainly a welcome gift for any chef. But, why not take it a step further? Give the person a personalized utensil. For instance, you could give your loved one a serving spoon engraved with the person's name. Or, you could go with a serving spoon with the person’s name as well as a meaningful quote about cooking. A personalized utensil makes it all the more special to the chef who uses it. He or she will be reminded of your kindness every time the utensil is used.

These are just three birthday gift ideas for a favorite cook or chef in your life. Think about what the person likes to prepare in the kitchen. Also, consider the condition of the person's utensils and supplies to come up with ideas for a gift. From entrees to desserts, there are many gifts that can help a chef perform at his or her best in the kitchen.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

We're Going Back to Hogwarts

So, we had our annual Harry Potter party, did a bunch of fun wizarding-related things, and then I went back to Hogwarts. As all of you Potterheads know, today's the day all those little witch and wizards board the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station. While I don't get to be there today (sad face) and get in on all the awesome back-to-school stuffs happening, I was able to beat most of the crowds getting robes and wands in order to tour the castle.

First thing's first, you head straight to Forbidden Journey, where you can walk through the whole castle before being attacked by everything terrifying the school has to offer. It's not genuinely scary. It's actually very cool, but you will get tossed around some, so this is why you get food and a Butterbeer after. Here are some fun castle shots:

Hogwarts in the morning

Mandrakes in the greenhouse. They aren't book accurate, but they are still pretty cute. Check out those dragonhide gloves!

These portraits really talked! (click to see bigger)
The house hourglasses. Why is Ravenclaw doing so badly???
One of my favorite characters in Harry Potter: the Sorting Hat

Now's when you take a bit of a break to get on Flight of the Hippogriff, because it's chill and also you get to see Hagrid's Hut and garden, and Buckbeak!

It's Sirius's motorbike!
Don't forget to bow, or you might end up like Malfoy!
Hagrid has a lot of things that may or may not be safe for students. Make sure to look around when in line.

Now, you can go have some Butterbeer before your wand chooses you, hit up the other stores in Hogsmeade and make some magic before the castle show!

One of these wands might be yours!

It may be small, but Madam Malkins is literally packed with actual props! (click to see full res.)

I really just love the look of the Three Broomsticks amid the other buildings in Hogsmeade. And yes, it's always winter.

The food is delicious. We got fish and chips with Tongue-Tying Lemonade and
the cheese toastie with chicken and a Pumpkin Juice (because yaaasss!).
You gotta love the Butterbeer trucks!
I can't even tell you how much I love Honeydukes. I bought so much
unnecessary candy.
Do not miss the castle show. It plays a bunch of times after dark and is only 5 minutes, but SO worth it.
It's magical, you guys!

You did it! A successful back to school experience. Whether you're a first year, heading back to the first place you call home or still waiting on your Hogwarts letter, Hogsmeade is a magical experience for all. Your Universal trip should start and end there. Now, don't forget to watch out for Peeves, keep up with your homework and practice hard for the Quidditch Cup!

A post shared by Shereen Travels Cheap (@srayle) on

Have a great term, everyone! Have some treacle tart for me. 
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