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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Visiting a Castle in Philadelphia

Our trip to Philadelphia was jam packed. In fact, we didn't even spend the whole time in Philadelphia, especially considering we stayed a majority of the trip in Hershey. I'm not opposed to a trip that feels like a road trip, and it also gave us the chance to view the surrounding areas and an excuse to get out and see other surrounding cities besides Chestnut Hill (where we went to the Witches & Wizards Weekend. 

Lancaster wasn't too far from us, and we went there, too, but we also visited Doylestown and Kennett Square. In Doylestown, I saw they had something called Fonthill Castle. Obviously, I'm a person who loves a castle, so I was definitely in. Nearby was also the Mercer Museum, which houses Henry Mercer's collections of stuff, who built Fonthill Castle.

Fonthill Castle
This labyrinthine mansion was built from the ground up from concrete through trial and error. Henry Mercer always dreamed of living in a castle and with the help of a few laborers and a horse, he designed a bunch of rooms to house his handmade tiles as a sort of showroom for buyers. He liked the idea of telling stories through his tiles and the house was positively overrun with them. Wherever you looked, they were embedded in walls, the ceiling and even the floor, though the floor was much less busy than everywhere else you looked. 

the well house
All these tiles were embedded into the cement before it dried

Henry Mercer was well off and came from a wealthy family. He went to law school, but never really practiced law. He also traveled extensively. He tried a lot of things and excelled in quite a few. He never got married, but he wanted to live in a castle, so he sketched some plans and jumped right in. Some stuff worked, some didn't, and eventually he had rooms built and had to figure out a way to connect them. There isn't anything like the ground floor and the second floor in his house. There will be a hallway with a staircase and a room off halfway up and then another at the top and then a different staircase that goes elsewhere. If you didn't know where you were going, you'd be lost a million times a day. And you'd get so much exercise. 

Mercer was a collector on top of an "architect" and "potter", so much so that there is so much stuff everywhere, but not as much as in his personal office. My husband declared it had a bachelor pad vibe, and it totally did. He was like a little kid who just put everything in that room that he thought was cool: swords, guns, books, skulls. You name it. Not only that, but all of the bookshelves in there were basically apple crates stacked on each other. 

The house was really interesting if you didn't think about having to actually live there, because I think I wouldn't have lasted that long. I described it on Instagram as what Versailles would look if the occupants had to make everything themselves. It's definitely an acquired taste. It has its appeal and the house has an interesting story, though it's quite cold in the winter and hot in the summer, as concrete is not a good material to really make a house out of, but Henry Mercer has accidentally burned down someone's barn when he was a kid and that stuck with him and he was deeply afraid of house fires.

You enter directly into this "courtyard".

After our tour, we took in lunch and then headed to the Mercer Museum, which is 7 floors of Henry Mercer's weird collections of everyday objects. From lanterns to cooking utensils to horse troughs to baby cradles, you name it, he had it. He even had a full-size country store and a real gallows. 

If you learn nothing else about Henry Mercer, it's his love of people who work hard for a living and the things they needed in order to do their jobs. It may have been because he never had to work a day in his life, which gave him the opportunity to try a lot of things, without officially fully mastering any. I thought perhaps he loved Americana, but his collection includes items from Europe as well. 

There's even a kid's play room with items from Mercer's collections and an activity room

These 7 floors are basically full of everything that didn't fit into his house. He took what he learned from building his house to build this building as well. It might be no wonder why he never married, what with being so eccentric (or a hoarder). This is a great place to take kids to see how many things they can find or identify. When we were there they actually had a sort of scavenger hunt that you could pick up in the lobby.

In my next blog post, I'll talk about Lancaster and Kennett Square, so you can see why renting a car for a day or two might really be worth it.

Have you ever been to Philadelphia? If so, what was your favorite part of your trip?

Disclaimer: Visit Philly gave me a VIP attraction pass in order to visit Fonthill Castle and the Mercer Museum at no cost, but all opinions are 100% my own.

Monday, November 26, 2018

4 Reasons Why British Columbia Is The Best Province In Canada

Canada is such a great country with some amazing cities and lots of beautiful natural landscapes to explore. On a first visit, you’ll probably go to Ontario and visit Toronto and the surrounding areas. There are so many great places to explore there but if you’re going back again and you want to go somewhere different, you should head to British Columbia. This diverse province of Canada has so many things to see and do that there truly is something for everybody there. These are just some of the amazing reasons to visit British Columbia next time you take a trip to Canada.


Beautiful Landscapes

If you’re a nature lover, British Columbia is one of the best places in the world for you. The Northern area of the province is one of the less visited parts but it’s also one of the most beautiful. There are some incredible dense forests with rivers and fjords running through them and impressive mountain ranges that are jam packed with all sorts of hiking trails and cycle paths. You’ll also find some of the best waterfalls in the world in this region. You might not be able to visit Niagara Falls but Alexander Falls and Della Falls are just as impressive.

Great Places To Stay

If you really want to get close to nature while you’re visiting British Columbia, there are plenty of great campgrounds in the area where you can stay. But that’s not for everybody and if you want to visit the area without having to stay in a tent, you can still find a great hotel in Kamloops, British Columbia. There are also some great wilderness resorts where you can get the best of both worlds. You’ll be close to the incredible natural landscapes but you’ll still have all of your normal comforts that you miss out on when you’re in a tent.


Once you’ve done the countryside and you want to visit a city, Vancouver is your next stop. This brilliant port city is bursting with character and you’ll never be short of things to do. It’s a great cultural hot spot brimming with museums and art galleries all over the place. The night life is great too and there are plenty of delicious restaurants to eat in. While you’re there, you should ride the tram to the summit of the nearby Grouse Mountain for a unique view of the city and the surrounding area. You should also visit Stanley Park where you’ll find stunning beaches and a huge rainforest that is home to some truly incredible wildlife.


The capital of British Columbia is situated on Vancouver island where you’ll find a whole range of exciting wildlife. Victoria is filled with great Victorian architecture with lots of quaint, colorful buildings all over the place. You’ll also find the great British Columbia museum where you can learn about the history of the place as well as the impressive British Columbia Parliament building.

These are just a few of the great places you can visit when you go to this incredibly diverse region of Canada.

If you've been to British Columbia, what was your favorite part of your trip?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

How To Keep In Shape While You Travel

It doesn’t matter where you’re off to or how long you’re going for, we all look forward to our travel plans. They offer an opportunity to relax, unwind, and escape the monotonous routines that run our everyday lives. That being said, some of these routines are important, with exercise being one of the most crucial examples. Travel can take its toll on our bodies and minds, so we need this physical activity to keep feeling our best. With that in mind, here are five ways you can stay in shape and on top of your exercise while you travel.

Prepare To Mix Things Up

You may stick to a strict workout regime at home, but, when you go away, you might not have all of the equipment or facilities you need to follow this to the letter. Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, you should prepare to mix things up from the very beginning. This way, you won’t end up disappointed or stress when things don’t go to plan. Just look at this as an opportunity to try something new. You never know, you may find a workout you enjoy even more.

Don’t Forget Your Exercise Equipment

You may not be able to pack a running machine or your favorite dumbbells, there are a lot of small and light pieces of equipment you can load into your suitcase to aid your activities. Resistance bands and skipping ropes are just two examples of things avid travelers frequently fly with. You should also make sure that you pack some gym clothes and your running shoes. If you do this, there aren’t any excuses for skipping a morning jog.

See The Sights By Foot

Whenever possible throughout your travels, you should take part in quite physical activities, like water sports and hikes. You should also make a point of walking or cycling to see the sights, rather than taking public transports. There are many destinations that offer walking and cycling tours too, like the Amish country tours, so consider adding one or two of those to your itinerary. By doing this, you’ll work up a sweat without even realizing it.

Use The Facilities You Have

Being somewhere new means that you don’t have your usual gym facilities, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any available at all. Before booking your trip, try to find accommodation with or near a gym, preferably one with fitness classes. If the facility isn’t part of the hotel itself, then you might be able to get a temporary pass for while you’re there. If neither of these are an option, then look for a hotel with a pool instead.

Add Exercise To Your Itinerary

Finding the motivation to exercise, especially when there are so many other fun things you could be doing can be tough. For this reason, it’s vital that you create a rough itinerary and plan specific times to work out. This way, you really do have nothing better to do, so you may as well keep yourself in shape. That being said, you should avoid fitting too much exercise into your plans. As long as you stay active, there’s no need to waste sightseeing hours in the gym.

Exercising while you travel can be tough, but, hopefully, with the tips above, you can stay in shape.

Do you have a favorite way to exercise when you're away from home?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Best Places in America for Walkers and Hikers to Visit

For some people, the ideal vacation is about sitting around and doing nothing. But for some of us, it’s about the exact opposite. Delving into what nature has to offer and exploring incredible landscapes and wilderness is thrilling and fun. So if you’re looking for new places in America where you can walk and hike in stunning surroundings, let's talk about some of the options to consider. There’s something for everyone, and plenty of new places that are worth exploring.

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Big Sur

Located on the West Coast of Central California, Big Sur is one of the most impressive natural landscapes you’ll find anywhere in America. It’s 90 miles long, providing you with plenty of rugged landscape to explore at your own leisure. The beaches that you’ll find along the coast are incredible too, so you might want to stop to do some surfing along the way. Or you can just put your feet up for a while on the golden sands.


Combining stunning mountain peaks with some of the most beautiful lakes you’ll find in the US, Yellowstone is a place that’s ripe for exploration. You won’t get bored of everything it has to offer either. You can even swim in the park’s hot springs if you want to. There’s something for just about everyone in Yellowstone National Park, so it’s not to be underestimated.

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs is located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, making it an ideal spot for your to stay if you want to spend time walking in those stunning mountain ranges. You can find a hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado easily enough, and this can be your base camp for all the activities to come later. You’ll never get tired of exploring the many hiking trails in this part of the world.

Yosemite National Park

There are 1200 square miles of landscape to explore in Yosemite National Park, and that can make it a pretty daunting prospect. However, when you see the forests and mountains all around you, it’s all worth the effort. It’s shaped like a basin, so when you’re at its base, you feel the landscape surrounding you from every angle and it all looks incredible. There are also shuttle buses that make getting around the park slightly less daunting for you.

The Grand Canyon

We all know about the Grand Canyon, but have you ever been walking or hiking there? If not, you’re certainly missing out on something special. Millions of people head there each year, but they don’t all spend their time walking and hiking. The landscape is one of the most incredible and awe-inspiring on the planet, so you owe it to yourself to explore it in more depth.

North America has a lot to offer people who love to walk and hike, so if you’re looking for that kind of getaway, make sure you consider the places mentioned here. They’re all going to be able to satisfy your needs and give you want you want from a walking or hiking trip.

Where are your favorite walking or hiking spots?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Holiday Travel Gift List 2018

Can you believe that it's almost Thanksgiving. While I hope you're all excited for your turkey feast, I know you're probably getting stressed about the holidays coming up, so the holiday travel gift list is here! Whether you have a little spend or a lot, there's something for everyone who travels on your list (and even for those who don't really). Here are some of the best things you can put under the tree (or in their stocking, or in a box to ship across the country).

There are a ton of cool things you can buy for someone for under $50. Here's your budget round-up:
  1. Belkin travel power strip - I got one of these for travel and now have 3. 2 of them are used at home. I love this because most hotel rooms don't have enough outlets and it's annoying. Even if they do, then you have to plug in all your stuff all around the room. No thanks. If there aren't any outlets, unplug a lamp, plug it back in to this strip and you'll still have 2 open outlets and 2 USB outlets. The plug itself swivels to fit in any space you have. I love it and you (and those you give it to) will too. $14.99 on Amazon.
  2. Travelon Anti-Theft Courier N/S Slim Bag - A smaller bag that doesn't get in the way when you're traveling, but still has room for the necessities is important. I love this bag so much. It has a great look, is anti-theft, and RFID-blocking. The small size will keep your back from hurting as you walk all over the city sightseeing, and the thicker strap won't cut into your shoulder. $52.50 on Travelon's website, but you can get 20% off if you use code SHEREENTRAVELS20%.
  3. Happyluxe Wayfarer Travel Wrap - I love this oversized wrap. It's so soft and comfortable, I can wear it as a shawl or a blanket or a big scarf, or it can be used as a picnic blanket. It packs up small, so I can stuff it in my purse with my snacks. Everyone needs one, in my opinion. $34+ on Amazon.
  4. Bajer mesh folding laundry basket - I never travel without my pop-up laundry basket. I use it as a hamper and the heavy duty handles make it easy to tote to the laundry room of my hotel and can easily handle a load or more of wet clothes if you'd rather hang to dry in your room. This is also a great gift for a college student. $12.95 on Amazon.
  5. Atlas of the Unexpected - This book has so much eye candy and travel inspiration that you can't help but want to plan a trip while reading it. From the discovery of the  Dead Sea Scrolls to the amazing Just Enough Room Island, this is going to become a new favorite for your bookshelf and coffee table. {review to come} $19.49 on Amazon.
  6. Face Cradle travel "pillow" - We have two of these. The regular version and the lite version. We traveled with both of them on our last trip across the country and were able to get a great night's sleep on the plane. It can also be used in the car, on the train and a tabletop, so those that travel a lot or travel at nighttime often. $49.99 on Amazon.
  7. Battery back-up charger - When you use your phone for directions, email, pictures, and texting, your phone battery drains fairly quickly during a travel day. I also blog and take notes and more when I travel, so I always find I'm in need of recharging. Don't hope you'll find an outlet or just give up on using your phone for the rest of the day. This battery can charge two devices at once, and charge them more than once before it's drained completely. It's not much bigger than your phone and we have two. $16.99 on Amazon.
  8. Travelon anti-theft packable backpack - The first and only of its kind, having a daybag that is theft-proof is very useful, especially if it's a backpack. This one packs itself away into a small pouch for when you need it and then turns into a good size backpack that is lightweight, holds quite a bit, and even has an RFID pocket, for extra security. Perfect for beach days, family vacations, day tours, and shopping excursions. $47.25 on Travelon's website, but get 20% off with code SHEREENTRAVELS20%.
  9. Travelon's anti-theft tailored crossbody phone pouch - If you know a person who hates to carry a purse, but needs to carry more than just their phone, having bulky pockets is not the answer, or super convenient while traveling. This mini purse is pretty, but goes with, literally, everything. Wear it as a crossbody bag, wear it as a waist bag, wear it with jeans, wear it with a dress. It's adorable and can fit your large phone and even a regular size digital camera (along with credit cards and cash). $42 on Travelon's website, plus get 20% off with code SHEREENTRAVELS20%.
  10. Coolmesh II Tab Sock from Wrightsock - I love a good pair of socks. Warm ones that don't make my feet sweat, short ones that don't slip down, cushy ones that help keep my feet from hurting. Coolmesh socks do all those things and more and come in other styles besides the tab sock, but these are my favorite. $8+ on Amazon.

Maybe you have a bit more to spend or only have one or two people to buy for (lucky you!). If that's the case, here are ideas for more than $50, but less than $100:
  1. Lewis N. Clark WEA Carry-On Tote - This bag is pretty much the perfect size, whether you want to use it as a carry-on, a weekender or a commuter bag. It's big enough for all your necessities, but small enough that you can't overpack it and want to cry that it's ridiculously heavy. It fits your giant laptop and all the other necessities and looks great in the meantime. $59 on Amazon.
  2. Airline gift cards - Buy a gift card that can be used for their favorite airline or hotel chain (or Airbnb) or rental car company. It's nice because you can customize it and make it a bit more personal than a normal gift card. whatever you want to spend.
  3. eBags Motherlode Weekender backpack - This bag will come in handy on a weekend trip to Vegas, a week-long trip to visit Grandma or months in Europe. It fits under the seat on the plane, too, so that's pretty awesome. The bag expands for extra purchases along the way and has a ton of pockets to keep stuff organized. $120 on Amazon.
  4. Uber gift cards - Sometimes renting a car isn't worth the money and sometimes public transportation isn't an option (like late at night). Make sure they get there safely and easily with gift cards they can add to their Uber account for a cheaper trip. You can buy these at Target or other big box stores. Any denomination on Uber website.
  5. Butterfly Twists rain boots - If you've bought any sort of rain boots, you'll know most of them are terrible, because you can't walk more than a block in them, and they don't keep your feet warm. Butterfly Twists are pretty, warm, and also comfortable to walk around in. I have them in Windsor, but they come in a bunch of styles. ~$50 on Amazon.
  6. City cards - I'm sure the traveler on your list already has their next trip planned. Why not help them make it more affordable by giving them most or all of their activities for free? You'll be able to find a lot of participating cities between Smart Destinations and CityPASS. $50+ on SmartDestinations website and CityPASS website.
  7. Lewis N Clark Secura Destinations Messenger - The Secura Destinations messenger converts into a backpack and I'm loving it! Use it as a messenger on the plane and around town and then convert it to backpack when you're out and have purchased a little more than you want to carry or on your way back home. $69.99 on Lewis N Clark's website
  8. Kameleon Rose Travel Dress: Okay, so I have rarely spent $65+ on a dress, but I have done it and have been happy every single time. What if you could spend that same money and get over 20 pieces of clothing? Because that's just what the Kameleon Rose dress is. It can be a dress, a skirt, pants, a top, a poncho and more! I'm loving mine that I picked up at the show and can't wait to show you with an upcoming review. $65-80 on Kameleon Rose's website.
  9. Lewis N Clark Onboard Underseat Duffle -  I love the Underseat Duffle, because of its profile and how handy all the pockets are to get to all your things even with it under the seat. It's also manageable to carry, even for a smaller person.  You can carry it with the handles or the included removable, adjustable shoulder strap. You can use it as a personal item size or your main carry-on, and you'll never feel overburdened by your bag. $69.99 on Lewis N Clark website.

Do you want to go all out for the traveler on your list? Well, there are plenty of things out there to choose from, but what are some of the best? Of course I've got a list for things that cost $100 or more that will make them happy and think of you on every trip they take.

  1. Walter + Ray InTransit bag - This is the ultimate carry-on bag, because it fits your large laptop, all your clothes, electronics, snacks, toiletries and more, plus you can carry it 3 different ways. I packed everything for a 5-day trip to Disney in this and it made traveling easy, and also looked great$119 on Walter + Ray's website.
  2. Kindle (waterproof) Paperwhite - If you have a traveler who loves to read on your list, then a Kindle is kind of a no-brainer. It saves room in a bag and the battery lasts forever on one charge, so even a long travel day will still have reading material available. $129.99 on Amazon.
  3. Anatomie travel clothing - Anatomie sells luxury travel clothing for women, that look awesome and feel just as good. They are perfect for finding what can be considered resort wear, but they have lightweight pieces that work for all sorts of travel situations and help you blend in as a local. $100+ on the Anatomie website.
  4. Bluffworks pants - It's nice to have clothing that does double duty. Bluffworks pants are specifically for travel, because they are odor-resistant, stain-resistant, wrinkle-proof and almost indestructible. They look like dress pants, but they're sturdy enough to wear hiking, camping or rock climbing. One pair can work for everything you do on vacation or a business trip. $98 or $125, depending on the style, on Bluffworks' website.
  5. Lojel carry-on - Lojel has a great list of carry-on bags. They have hardside and flexible hardside luggage that always fits in the overhead of the plane and looks great. I take mine on the majority of my trips, knowing that my stuff is always safe and that my bag is always regulation size, no matter how much I figure out how to stuff into it on the way home. Your recipient will love theirs, too. $110+ on Amazon.
  6. Scottevest Chloe Hoodie - This hoodie has so many functions...and pockets! So many pockets! It's stylish, cozy and lets you walk around without a purse if you want. It isn't cheap, but the construction is rugged, it's flattering and they are going to wear it all the time. If you don't have a girl on your list, SCOTTeVEST has similar ones for men, including the 10-pocket cotton hoodie, the 10-pocket microfleece hoodie and the 13-pocket Knowmadic hoodie$90 on Scottevest website.
  7. Baubax travel jacket - BauBax has created the ultimate travel jacket for travelers and it comes in several different styles. Their most popular is a hoodie and it may very well become a favorite. The bomber, just like the hoodie, comes with 15 different functions that are unique and all very useful when traveling, whether you're on a plane, train, bus, or even just heading to a festival in your hometown. The jacket features 9 pockets, all of which have a function. $149-179 on the Baubax website or Amazon.
Want to save even more on your travel gifts? You totally can. Sign up for Ebates, if you haven't already, to get cash back and promo codes. You can also use Swagbucks the same way. New members can get a bonus of $10 with their first purchase with Ebates and get $3 free for signing up at Swagbucks. Make the most of your dollars, so you can buy more, or save more for that next trip you're planning! 

And hey! Don't feel bad buying any of these for yourself or putting them on your own holiday wish list!

Where are you most looking forward to traveling this year?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links that result in monetary compensation, which helps me bring you even better content. Thanks for purchasing through them!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Earn Big Cash Back this week leading up to Black Friday

As a pre-Black Friday warm up, Swagbucks is offering big cash back for shopping online at several of your favorite retailers right now! Just go to this page to see all of the deals available and get the jump on your holiday shopping. 

In order to take advantage of the cash back, just create your Swagbucks account when prompted (it takes less than 30 seconds) and then you're all set! Your cash back comes in the form of SB points, which you can redeem for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, or get PayPal cash! 

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me you get a 300 SB ($3) bonus when you earn your first 300 SB before December 1st! This site's a great way to extend your shopping budget, especially around the holidays!

Monday, November 19, 2018

How to Plan a Trip to Central California

If you’re thinking of somewhere to head next year, you should be thinking about Central California. It’s a beautiful part of the world with tranquil natural landscapes for you to enjoy. If it sounds like the kind of place that would tempt you, it’s worth learning about how to plan this kind of trip and be prepared for it in the right way. That’s what we’re going to talk about now so read on to find out more.

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Find a Hotel Near the Action

There are many places where you can stay when you start your trip to Central California, but it’s worth finding a place that has good amenities and things to keep you entertained. From there, you can head out into the wild and explore the natural side of things. The hotel near Tachi Palace Casino is one that many people choose because it’s in the center of the action.

Enjoy the Culture and the Nightlife

There’s lots of great nightlife and local culture to be observed in Central California, so you should make the most of this when you’re moving between places and staying in towns in this area. It’ll depend where exactly in Central California you are, but be sure to engage with local culture and spend time in the bars and restaurants where local people spend time.

Make the Most of the Stunning Natural Landscapes

There are so many areas of stunning natural beauty in Central California, so if this is your kind of thing and you enjoy spending time in nature, you should research the spots you want to visit. You’ll be spoilt for choice. There are so many great places for hiking, walking and camping, among many other activities you might want to spend your time doing.

Use Sun Protection

If you are going to spend lots of time outdoors making the most of everything Central California has to offer, you should be sure to use sun protection. Sun protection matters because it allows you to spend time outside without putting yourself at risk, and the sun can do you a lot of damage in the summer months in California so you can’t be too careful.

Understand Safe Camping

Safe camping is vital, especially when it comes to fire safety. Campfires can cause deadly forest fires in California, so you need to be extra careful and be sure to put the fires out completely before you leave the area. You’ve probably seen plenty of coverage of forest fires in California recently, so it’s vital that no risks are taken. You should also make yourself aware of any natural dangers that might be present in the area before camping there.

Central California is a beautiful part of the world, so don’t let the other more tourist-friendly parts of the state overshadow what it has to offer. If you love spending time in nature and admiring the natural environment, you need to visit Central California when you get a chance to because it’s not to be missed.

Have you visited Central California? What did you like about it?
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