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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Living and Traveling Better with SpectraSpray

As Quarantine drags on and on and we're trying to keep healthy in all the ways, it's nice to have ways to help you achieve that that are also convenient. SpectraSpray is here to help you through this difficult time, and you'll want to continue using it when we are out of quarantine and can begin traveling again.

These vegan, organic, sugar-free, gluten-free, yeast-free, wheat-free, dye-free sprays come separately and in awesome kits to help you live your best life during travel and beyond.

I hate pills, especially vitamins, because a lot of them are a choking hazard. Like, why do they need to be SO big?! Also, a lot of vitamins don't give you the most benefits because they have to go through your digestive tract and half the nutrients get lost in the process. SpectraSpray makes vitamins that you spray into your mouth, where they get quickly absorbed and into your bloodstream.

With so many stressors happening right now, it can be hard to stay on a regular schedule. I know I've had trouble getting to sleep many nights and also have felt draggy some days. This is when you'll want to use the Jet Lag kit, or just purchase these separately, depending on what you need the most help with.

If you're having problems sleeping right now (or any time), their Sleep Spray is a natural way to lull yourself into a deep sleep. It contains melatonin and herbs, all proven to support a restorative sleep. 

Need more energy to get stuff done? The B12 Energy Spray can give you that boost whenever you need it. 

A mix of B vitamins and herbs make the Stress Spray a good way to help you just relax and calm down when you feel like everything is too much. 

Worry about health is big on everyone's mind at the moment. Immune Spray creates a barrier in your mouth to defend against bacteria and viruses. This is perfect for these uncertain times, but also when you're traveling to new places and are facing new germs and experiences where it's easy to get sick. Add the Sanitizer Spray and you're good to face the big bad germy world, especially with flu-season on the horizon. I use hand sanitizer multiple times a day, so this one that fits right in my pocket is convenient, especially when out running errands. I know that when we start traveling again, I'll definitely want one (or more) of these for my carry-on bag to spray down things on the plane, in the airport, and at my destination. 

Feeling like you could use a pick-me-up while working from home, trying to help your kids with distance learning, or being socially distanced in your office? Constantly breathing in the warm air from your mask can make you a bit too relaxed and make you feel sleepy (this is why masks are actually great on planes). The new Cafe Energy Spray has a natural mocha flavor and caffeine. It has a much higher absorption rate than energy drinks and gets its caffeine from coffee bean extract. 

They use caffeine, B12 and adaptogenic herbs to give you a natural boost and no crash like you get with beverages like coffee. I'll be honest, I don't love the flavor. It's a bit sharp, but it dissipates quickly and has no aftertaste. It hasn't stopped me from using it at work when I need to perk up a bit, so the taste is not at all a deterrent. It's also great for those that don't enjoy coffee or can't drink it because of the acidity.

Now,  you can purchase these by themselves as single sprays or you can get them bundled like these below:

Travel kit gives you energy, restful sleep and immunity: 
Immune Spray | Sleep Spray | B12 Energy Spray

Stress Less kit allows you to sleep well and stay calm and focused:
Sleep Spray | Stress Spray

Jet Lag kit allows you to naturally fall asleep and then wake up with energy:
Sleep Spray | B12 Energy Spray

Stay Well kit gives your body the natural boost it needs to fight off sickness:
B12 Energy Spray | Immune Spray

Be Well kit can help you stay healthy and germ-free:
Immune Spray | Sanitizer Spray (for hands and surfaces)

I have the Jet Lag kit and these sprays work wonderful separately, but they're going to be great when I travel long distances as well. I always have trouble sleeping the first night I'm away from home. Eric has troubles sleeping almost always, so this is working wonders. When you're going more than you usually do it can be easy to lose steam some days. The B12 Spray is going to give me the extra I need to keep going without needing a nap. 

Not only are these sprays all natural, but they have the highest absorption rate, they can be used anywhere at any time, they're safe for everyone, are TSA-compliant, and they taste great! You can't say that about a lot of other vitamins, because they taste like they are good for you (meaning gross). These have a nice minty taste, but it doesn't linger, as it absorbs so quickly. So, if you don't love mint, know it's very slight and has no aftertaste.

They're easy to use, too! You spray them inside your mouth or on the inside of your cheek. Use 4-8 sprays as needed and then let it work its magic. 

The slim spritzers will make them easy to carry even in a small purse or your pocket, and carrying multiple of them won't take up much room in a travel bag at all.

More info:
Where can I buy them? Online at SpectraSpray's website
How much do they cost? $19.95+ | Jet Lag kit: $38.95 | Be Well kit: $27.95 | Cafe Energy Spray: $21.95
Other specs: Superior oral absorption; no binders, fillers or artificial ingredients; convenience and taste. No food or drink required. There is no sugar, starch, wheat, soy, eggs, salt or dairy. Made in the USA. SpectraSpray is a woman-owned small business. Each spray gives you 30+ uses, if you use 8 sprays as directed, but you might find you don't need as many sprays, so they will last longer.

You'll find even more varieties online than what I've outlined above. These are just the best travel kits and individual sprays for your trips. You can also grab a CBD spray if you have a fear of flying, and Iron spray to help you fight daily fatigue and avoid those traditional supplements everyone hates to take. Items are in stock and ready to ship to you.

These make great gifts for people in your life. Maybe grab a pack of sanitizer spray for work, kids, or your mailman. Get a Stay Well pack for your mom or dad. Slip a Jet Lag kit in a gift bag for your college-aged kid who needs help concentrating and getting a good night's sleep. Because they're natural, organic, and free of allergens, they work for everyone you know. Let people know you care about their health and well-being. They'll love you for it.

Like what SpectraSpray is doing? Follow them on social media!

How do you keep traveling well on your trips?

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Jet Lag kit, Be Well kit, and the Cafe Energy Spray for the purposes of sharing with my readers. All opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

10 Things I Love Doing On Every Trip

Every trip you go on is going to be different, even when I return to a city, it's never the same visit. There are 10 things I like to do to make my trips awesome, and we tend to do these almost every time we travel anywhere, because they are great ways to learn about your destination.

  1. Get up high - As much as I adore seeing everything from the ground, you can see just how big of a place you are visiting, including all the landmark buildings and parks and water features, like rivers. It's like looking at a map but way cooler. Before we leave home, I look for places that can give me a view of the skyline, whether that's a giant Ferris wheel, like the London Eye, or a building that has 360-degree views like Skyspace OUE in Los Angeles, or even a restaurant like Seattle's The Loupe inside the Space Needle. 
  2. Take an open-top bus tour - The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus is the best invention. Not only do you get some air, but you you also get a city tour that gives you cool information about your destination, and drops you off at all the major landmarks and activities. You can pay for a day or a multi-day pass. I like to make one full complete loop on the bus to see everything, and then get off and see things after that.
  3. Take public transportation - You can learn a lot about your city by taking their buses, subways, and trains. Not only do you save money on getting around, but it gives you a sense of where things are, and it's like a very cheap tour. If you use your phone's Google maps, it'll tell you which stop you want to get off on, meaning you have plenty of time to look around while you're on your ride.
  4. Take a walking tour - There are all types of walking tours in most cities, including free ones. We never really realized how awesome they were until we took ones through Walks.com in London, and now we try to do at least one anywhere we go. They can have different themes or can be general, and we've been on several free ones that have been better than paid ones we've taken. Make sure you carry cash for a tip at the end, have your phone charged for pictures, and do your research by looking at reviews before booking.
  5. Eat at a recommended hole-in-the-wall - You know how much I love food. I will plan whole days around where I want to eat, but I always leave wiggle room. We tend to ask Uber drivers and hotel staff (not the concierge) where they like to eat. We've discovered some real gems this way. Keep an open mind, because some of the best places I've eaten do not look like much from the outside.
  6. Find a great coffee shop - Coffee fuels me in more ways than one. I scope out the coffee shops around where I'm staying on Google and look at menus and reviews. We found two amazing ones when we were last in London. Both had excellent brews, but the food was also outstanding. I have a favorite one in Vegas (Bad Owl Coffee) and one in New Orleans (Avenue Cafe). 
  7. Try the local food trucks - I love food and I love saving money. you can do both at the food trucks/cars. It's also perfect for travel in groups or families, because where there's one food truck, there's usually several. This means you can find something for everyone who might not be able to agree on a restaurant. We live in a city that is packed with food trucks, so we feel right at home when we eat at them in other cities.
  8. Shop the farmers' market - Another thing that focuses on food, but it's also really affordable. Generally, we plan a morning to hit up the nearest farmers' market for snacks and weird things we've not seen before. It's a great way to stock up on local fruits for breakfasts, which is generally the meal we eat in most often. It means we don't have to get up early, and we save quite a bit of cash. Markets are a good place to interact with locals and ask questions (like where they like to eat).
  9. Go grocery shopping - Maybe you think it's weird that adore a foreign grocery store. At home, I try to get in and out as fast as possible, but when I'm in other countries, I like to take my time checking out the different foods and picking out what I want to eat for breakfast and snacks. We've found a lot of new favorite things this way. 
  10. Walk through neighborhoods - Taking the bus or driving is great, but it doesn't give you the same feeling as you get when you just get off the main thoroughfares and just stroll through some neighborhoods to see how people live. We tend to stay in Airbnb rentals and live in a city like a local, which means we are usually walking some blocks to get to a transit station. 
I'm sure you have your own favorite things to do on a trip. I want to hear about them. Tell me your musts for trips in the comments!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Planning Your Oktoberfest Trip

If we weren't in the middle of a pandemic, Oktoberfest would have started already. This year would have would have marked the 210th celebration, which I'm sure would have been something. We celebrated in our own way with a destination date night last week. You can follow my lead and put together a family, solo, or romantic Oktoberfest at home. 

Even if you don't like beer, Oktoberfest has something for you. It's based around a travelling funfair. Sure, it's a beer festival, but it's so much more. If you're looking forward to participating in the future, I've pulled together some important info for you:

When does it happen? 

Originally, Oktoberfest was celebrated in October and started as a celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria (King Louis I) and lasted 5 days, but it has since morphed into an enormous 16-day festival that has tons of food stalls, beer halls, fair rides and more. The festival ends on the first Sunday in October.

Where does it happen?

While you can attend an Oktoberfest celebration nearly anywhere now, the original and biggest is in Munich, Germany. You'll see great big beer tents that can have seating up to 6,000. The Mayor of Munich officially opens the festival by tapping the first keg. Each brewer has their own beer hall with food and entertainment. Upwards of 6-7 million people attend from all over the world.

Top foods to eat at Oktoberfest

Food is a big draw for visitors. As you know, I love trying new foods wherever I go, so this sounds like a great way to try a bunch of things. Here are some of the things you should look for if you go (or to make/order if doing an at-home celebration this year):
  • Brezen - otherwise known as a pretzel, you can find these in every size wherever you look. they can be plain, served with mustard, or even split open and filled with things like butter.
  • Fischbrötchen - a little bit lighter than most other fare on this list, fischbrötchen are basically little seafood sliders, usually using fish, shrimp, or crab.
  • Hendl - these roasted chickens are smothered in butter, parsley, and paprika and in high demand at Oktoberfest.
  • Knödel - a potato or flour dumpling that is often served as a side dish. Potato dumplings are a staple at any big eating event in my house. 
  • Obatzda - a soft garlicky cheese spread that is often served with pickles or pickled onions, but it's awesome with a brezen.
  • Ochs am Spieß - ox on a spit is a traditional meat kebab that has been around almost as long as Oktoberfest. It's often covered in a red wine sauce.
  • Schweinshaxe - roasted pork knuckle that is generally served with sauerkraut and a potato dumpling, or other potato side.
  • Spätzle - you're probably pretty familiar with this grated, boiled dough, though probably not the way they serve it in Munich: in a heaping helping and topped with fried onions and/or bacon, or even smothered in cheese.
  • Steckerlfisch - a variety of different marinated fish that is grilled. Every stand has their own version with their own spices.
  • Weisswurst - a white sausage made from minced veal and pork back bacon and various seasonings. Served in a pair in a pot of hot water with a pretzel, mustard, and a wheat beer.

I will tell you that portions are huge and you'll maybe want to split these with your companions, because otherwise you'll be dying before you even start. Perhaps that's why Oktoberfest is two weeks long. You'll need more than a few days to sample all these delicious foods.

Let's talk about beer, because there are 14 main beer tents, with only 6 breweries represented:
  • Späten
  • Augustiner
  • Paulaner
  • Hacker-Poschorr
  • Hofbräu
  • Löwenbräu

You must request reservations ahead of time if you want to sit in one of these tents. The larger ones can rotate through tens of thousands of people in a day. Each one has their own process and start at different times of the year. You also have to book a group reservation for 8-10 people. I don't know if this will change after this year, but it's good to do your research. If there are fewer than that in your party, you may want to show up early and see if you can grab a seat that isn't reserved.

How to save money

Like with everything, you can plan ahead to save money. 
  • My number one tip for saving money is by limiting your beer consumption. This might be a bit easier for grown-ups who don't tend to go to pound drinks back to get as drunk as possible. A liter of beer can run you $10-13, but they also tend to have double the alcohol content of regular American beers (6% vs 3%). Bring along water to stay hydrated. You can purchase it there, but it will still run you about $7/liter.

  • Try to hit up the festival on the weekdays, as it will be easier to find a seat in a tent than on the weekend, especially if there are only a few of you. Weekends are always the most popular days.

  • Only bring the amount of money you want to spend, because it can be easy to lose track of your purchases. This makes it easier to budget.

  • Stay outside of Munich or look for an affordable Airbnb on the outskirts, because the closer you get to Theresienwiese (the park it takes place in), the more premium the rates. Train travel is convenient and can be a lot more affordable if you're trying to save money. 
  • Food portions are large, so look to split meals. Unless you're starving, you'll find it difficult to finish some of these entrees. You can always supplement with pretzels, which will also help you soak up some of that beer you've been imbibing in.

Staying safe

You never want to leave yourself open to unsafe conditions. This is always a concern where a lot of cash may be available and people are drinking a lot. Make sure you know what you're going into before you leave home:
  • Drink responsibly. You already know this. Remember your limits. Remember to eat (and drink water!). Remember your budget. If you find yourself doing poorly, there are recovery tents available that help hundreds of people every day.
  • Don't bring all your money. Bring cash, but bring just as much as you plan to spend, so you can't go overboard, but also because if you get robbed, you won't be screwed for the rest of your trip.
  • Beer tents all have their own serveware. Do not take the steins/mugs. This is a crime. There are plenty for sale throughout the event to take home as souvenirs.
  • Know your way around. Make sure to do your research, so you know how to get back to the train station and your hotel/rental. Keep a backup battery on you, because you don't want to get lost without a phone that could have all your important info in it. Get a multi-day train ticket and save yourself some money and hassle.
  • Agree on a meeting point if you separate. There can be up to 600,000 people there at times. That's a lot of people, so don't lose your important people. 
  • Carry your money, phone, ID and hotel key on you. Large bags are not allowed inside, so make sure you adhere to the rules.
  • Bring all your belongings with you if you leave the beer tent. Often you can't get back inside, due to crowds. 
  • Never leave your drink unattended. Someone could slip something into your beer in an instant. This happens everywhere. If someone buys you a drink (score!) make sure you are there when the waitress brings it.
There are plenty of other ways to make Oktoberfest amazing, like buying traditional dress and going with all your best friends and you have at least a whole year to plan your trip to Munich, or even a more local celebration. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Oktoberfest By The Numbers

Last weekend we "traveled" to Germany and Oktoberfest on our destination date night. These Covid staycations have been a lot of fun for us, because it breaks up the monotony of staying home and sitting on the couch, but also because it gives us a chance to learn new things about places we haven't visited yet, and will help us relive some of our best vacation memories. With all the bad of 2020, these are things we need right now.

If you were thinking about a future trip to Germany to get in on Oktoberfest and all the cool things it has to offer, I'll be talking about that in my next post, but for now, let's look at some amazing facts about this celebration:

This year would have marked the 210th celebration of Oktoberfest.

Have you ever been to Oktoberfest or even a local celebration? I have and the music and the food is always great, wherever it is. We'll definitely make the effort to try to get to more local festivities when we can go out in groups again.

I've been taking some great suggestions for future destinations, foods, and activities over on Facebook, but I'd love any of your recommendations in the comments. 

Where should we go next? What should we eat? Let us know! 👇👇👇

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Visiting Oktoberfest from Home

I've got another destination date night for you! It's September, which means it's official Oktoberfest time. Well, we all know all the actual celebrations are cancelled due to the pandemic, but that doesn't mean you have to miss out. We sure didn't. We had a wonderful date night over the weekend that featured a quaint German street, a Biergarten, and a rowdy crowd of Oktoberfest-goers. 

We did this all without leaving our house, literally, because the air outside is toxic. The whole west coast is on fire right now. We tried to have our date night on Friday, and were willing to brave the bad air, but then I was outside for 2 minutes and changed my mind. 

I set up Germany in the living room instead, then the restaurant I had my heart set on was closed due to smoke getting into their HVAC, so we picked up cheeseburgers on pretzel buns and bacon fries. 

On Saturday, we moved some furniture to create a little dining area, and I set up the table and my YouTube playlist while Eric picked up food I ordered earlier. Aside from creating my romantic table, using a card table, I set up a beer tasting flight for myself, because you can't have Oktoberfest without some drinks - regardless of what kind. 

I picked up 3 interesting bottles of beer from the store, making sure one was a German-style dark beer. The first beer is a stout from Seattle brewery Elysian. This was a pumpkin coffee ale called Punkaccino. The second was a Bavarian dark from Ayinger (also from Seattle) called Altbairisch Dunkel. I actually really loved this one and drank the whole bottle. The third beer was just for fun variety. A third Seattle beer. This one was called Lindemans Framboise and was a raspberry lambic beer in Belgian style. It smelled like raspberry jam, and was much more sweet tasting than that. It might be a great dessert beer, but it was not for me.

As with any German dining experience, we started with a great fondue with bread dippers. I realized I had these adorable little fondue forks, which worked perfectly, since we weren't reaching across the table to get to it. You could totally do fondue with a giant pretzel (or pretzel bites) or even bratwurst. If you have a fondue set, make your own!

As you know, I love food, so I like to try as many things as possible. I usually order two entrees so we can split them. I chose the chicken jaeger schnitzel, one of our favorites. It's pounded flat chicken, breaded, fried, and then served with a mushroom cream sauce. This one came with spaetzel. It's not my favorite, but Eric enjoys it. 

The second entree I chose was a special. It was boar bratwurst that came with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. I enjoy an interesting exotic meat and boar is one of those that I find particularly tasty. This one had fruits mixed into it, so it was slightly sweet, and came with a dark spicy mustard. We had this much on our plates and still had leftovers. 

After all that food, we took a few minutes to enjoy some people watching at Oktoberfest.
This was a perfect time to hang out in the "Biergarten" (beer garden). We saw an oompah band and tried to pick out which festival-goers we thought were Americans. Outside the festival building was a carnival that played mostly American music and served up huge helpings of delicious fair foods in between carnival rides that look like they might be a bad idea after drinking and eating a bunch. 

No vacation is complete without dessert out, so we also ended our meal with a traditional apple strudel. Usually, I avoid these like the plague because they claim to have raisins and I always think they're going to be whole raisins. I was wrong though, because this was delicious. A perfect end to a great evening.

Germany and Oktoberfest was pretty easy to plan and put together. The food is readily available in most places and has something that can appeal to everyone if you are doing this with your family.

Here are a few things you can use to make an amazing trip wherever you want to set up your destination:
What do I like most about these "trips"? Aside from being on them, planning them is fun and the unpacking is much easier and not at all stressful. Depending on how elaborate you want to go with your destination staycation, it can be a quick set up, too. This was, by far, our most expensive date night. I spent around $110, but we've been saving so much by not going out to eat, and getting takeout only two days a week, so it gives us a way to mix things up. 

Don't forget to "stamp" your passport

Get your family in on destination nights. Give everyone a part of the trip to plan: food, destination, activities, etc. This is a great time to learn more about different cultures and plan a future trip. Just know that our next trips may not be happening until we get a vaccine, so we're looking at late next year, because we also have to wait for Covid cases to drop drastically and for other countries to reopen their borders to us. 

If you want to follow along or see more pics/vids of my "trips", follow me on Instagram.

Are you trying to jazz up your quarantine time? What are you doing to keep sane?

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I may be compensated should you choose to make any purchases through them. This allows me to keep this blog running for you. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

10 Must-Have Travel Items

Since travel is off the table right now, it's the perfect time to stock your travel bag for when you get out there again. I travel mostly the same way every time I go anywhere, no matter where I go. I have perfected my packing list and having a packing plan that works for me makes life so much easier. Part of my plan is taking the same things every trip, because it's familiar and it works. Here are the things I'm always packing, wherever I go.

Ziploc bags

You  never know when you'll need to separate something from something else, but also when you want to take a bag of cookies with you or keep your wet bathing suit from getting your rental car seats soggy or have an emergency diaper situation. I bring a handful of zipper bags with me anywhere I go. I've used them for snacks, for dirty clothes, for leftovers and for receipts and brochures. They are multipurpose and take up almost no room in your bag.

Back-up bag

Usually when you go on a trip, you buy stuff. That means you may not have room to pack it on your way home. Well, I try not to overpack my carry-on, but it's still just a carry-on. Because of that, I bring along a back-up bag to use for all my overage. I have this one and this one and they are both awesome. Just depends on how much you are willing to spend, but also how much you're restricting yourself on souvenirs when you travel. Sometimes I know I will be buying gifts, so I bring a bigger bag than normal.

Mesh pop-up hamper (laundry detergent)

Whether or not I'm on a long trip, I don't like living out of my suitcase and I don't like mixing my clean and dirty clothes. I have a great pop-up hamper that also works as a laundry bag that I put in the corner of my room to throw all my dirties. Then, before I go home, I can schlep it to the laundry room (or just drag it to the washing machine). I always have a small bag of dry detergent and a stash of quarters, so I'm ready for whatever the situation calls for. I have this one, which has really sturdy handles and four pockets, so you can even take along a book or game to pass the time. It's served me well for at least a decade so far.

Reusable grocery bag

I am a grocery shopper. I don't go out for every meal if I can help it. I generally show up at my destination and take a trip to the store on the first day to shop for breakfast foods, because that's the easiest meal to make and the least exciting to me to eat out. If you want to skip the back-up bag above, you can definitely use your grocery bag to bring back items from you trip. You can also use it as a laundry bag if you don't have that much. I've used it for both of these things before, since they usually have sturdy handles and nice flat bottoms.

Packable rain jacket

One time I didn't pack my rain jacket and it was a mistake. I've since learned that I should never leave it at home, even if I'm going to Vegas or Orlando. In fact, when it rains in places where it rarely rains, it often pours harder than you're used to, which sucks hard. I know lots of people like to bring umbrellas, but I don't, because a rain jacket is multipurpose. It doesn't take up as much room as an umbrella, but you can pack it down into your day bag and also use it if you happen to get chilly. You never know when a cold snap will present itself, even when it comes in the form of really insistent air conditioning. This is also why I always bring a scarf or wrap with me on the plane.


The sun can really wreak havoc on your eyes. Even when it's not super sunny, you need protection from its rays. While you probably don't forget the sunscreen, but make sure you don't leave your sunglasses at home, because you don't want to have to pay 3 times as much as usual by purchasing them at your destination, or looking squinty in all your pics.


Do you get hangry? I know I do! I always have snacks in my bag, because sometimes things don't go as planned and you aren't always in a place where you can get into a restaurant to sate your hunger. Toss a couple of granola bars or a piece of fruit or a bag of trail mix into your bag, just in case. You'll be happy if you have need it and sad if you do and didn't pack it. I also suggest a reusable water bottle, which I also count as a snack. We use this one.

Compression socks

Walking is hard on your feet, not to mention your ankles and legs. Most of us walk a lot more on vacation than we do at home, which can make our ankles swell and really hurt us at the end of each day. I pack a really good pair of compression socks in my bag that I can either wear under pants during the day or put on the second I get back to the room. I've been known to sleep in them when I've had sad, swollen ankles, and they help immensely. I swear by these Zensah socks.


I don't always bring my laptop, and when I do, I only use it in my room. I always bring along my iPad Mini though, because I can read on it, take notes, listen to music and podcasts, play games and even check and answer emails. It's perfect for finding directions for your sightseeing before you leave the hotel and great for watching Netflix when there's nothing good on TV and you need to just unwind.

Back-up battery

Nothing sucks worse than when your phone battery dies as you're trying to call the hotel or get an Uber or take a picture of something awesome. You need a back-up battery. I have this one that will recharge my phone 2 1/2 times before it needs to be recharged. We actually have two, and we each carry one. This way Eric can play games on his phone all day and I can take all the pics I want and text with my mom. Because I can use any cord with this one, I can also use it to charge my camera or share with someone else to charge both our devices at once.

There you have it. The 10 things I don't leave on vacation without. I keep a lot of these things in my carry-on all the time, so my bag is halfway packed with all the things I know I'll always need. 

What do you never leave home without on your trips?

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

10 Cheap + 5 Free Things To Do In Venice

While we aren't traveling, we're trying to keep our wanderlust at bay by doing our own destination staycation date nights.  We're very adamant about being responsible travelers, and right now that means not traveling at all. We still want to travel though, so we've gotten creative. 

This gives us a great chance to start looking at things we want to do when it's safe to get out in the world again (and we're not bound by travel restrictions). Since we "went" to Venice last date night, I decided to pull together a budget traveler list for the city for your next trip. You'll probably spend a lot of money going on a gondola ride and eating decadent pasta and seafood dishes, so figure out what else to do to balance out your budget.

10 Cheap Things to See/Do

  1. St. Marks Basilica - There are a lot of churches to visit in Venice, many are free (donations encouraged), so why not visit the most famous? It's usually very busy and you will not have much time to see it all. You will pay a small fee to see the museums, which are highly recommended. You will have more time to visit these parts. Make sure not to miss the Pala d'Oro. 
  2. Pala d'Oro - Don't miss seeing this golden, bejeweled casket of St. Mark, located in the middle of the Basilica. Price for viewing is just 2 euros.
  3. Vaporetto Tour - This ferry boat is one of the best ways to see the city and other places. Rates are only €7.50 each way, but if you want to do more with it, purchase a day pass or a multi-day pass. 1-day passes are €20, 2-day passes are €30, and 3-day passes are €40, or a 7-day pass will run you €60. which saves you quite a bit. Below are some of the great areas you can visit that are included in your Vaporetto pass.
    1. Lido - Enjoy the beach while in Venice. This is an 11-km-long barrier island. Of course the beach is not the only thing there. More than 22,000 people live there, so check out these top activities.
    2. Burano - Spend a half or whole day on this sweet little island that's full of gorgeous photo ops. This is also where to eat better than anywhere else, because it's a fisherman's island. Check out what to this island has in store for you.
    3. Murano - If you've heard of Murano glass, then you already know some of what you're going to see. This island is more quiet and laid back, so you don't need to spend an entire day here, but it's still worth the visit
  4. Ca' d'Oro - Also known as Palazzo Santa Sofia, this palace on the Grand Canal is called the Golden House. The house has been turned into a museum, and you can tour the house and balconies, which give awesome views of the Canal. Admission is €6. 
  5. Scala Contarini - The snail staircase attached to the palace of Gioielli Nascosti di Venezia is free to see from the outside, but if you'd like to walk up them and also visit the exhibits, you'll have to pay an admission. It's just €7.
  6. Sample a bunch of gelato - There's no better way to cool off on a warm day than ice cream, but substitute gelato, which has a higher sugar content, and you'll enjoy a chill pick-me-up. Pair it with an espresso and pour over for an affogato. 
  7. Have coffee at Correr Cafe - Instead of sitting in an overpriced cafe in St. Mark's Square, have a coffee and snack at the cafe in the Correr Museum for quite a bit less, and still be able to people watch if you grab a window seat.
  8. Fenice Opera House tour - Tickets to the opera can be really spendy. If you aren't interested in going to one (I wouldn't blame you, because I'm not a fan of opera), or can't afford a show, for just €11, you can take a tour of this stunning building that dates back to 1792.
  9. Basilica Santa Maria della Salute - This church is special, as it was built by Plague survivers for the Virgin Mary, and has graced the skyline for over 300 years. The central dome inside is astonishing and covers six side chapels. Don't forget to take time to look down as well, because the floors are equally gorgeous. Admission fees are just €4. 
  10. Burano Lace Museum - Located in (surprise!) Burano, the lace museum has over 100 pieces of lace to showcase the amazing handcrafted patterns done by artisans. Learn all about the history of lace-making. The museum is located within the lace school, which has revived this age-old tradition that was on its way to becoming lost. While not for everyone, I still feel like €5 for admission is a pretty good deal.

5 Free Things to See/Do

  1. Rialto Bridge + Market - Though these two aren't right next to each other, I think they go pretty well together. The Rialto Bridge is the most iconic bridge in Venice, which amazing views of the Canal and the gondolas. Less than 1/4 mile away is the indoor market, where you can browse some of the local fresh foods and maybe pick up food for a picnic or to have in your room, to help you save a bit on going out.
  2. Museo della Musica - This deconsecrated church is now a museum of musical instruments and Baroque music.
  3. Walking tour - Like many cities, Venice also has free walking tours of the city for tourists. Make sure you tip well if you enjoyed your tour though, because these guides work for tips, plus it's just polite. It'll still be much cheaper than a traditional city tour.
  4. Orsoni Colour Library - If you are interested in Venetian glass, the Colour Library has the only glass oven still operating in all of Venice, while visits are free, you do have make reservations in advance, so make sure you plan ahead, because they are only open certain days. You'll also need to catch a boat to get there.
  5. Libreria Acqua Alta - This library has used, out-of-print, and antique books, plus furniture made out of books. Because it has suffered constant flooding, it has resorted to using creative shelving, like gondolas and canoes and bathtubs, to hold their selection of second-hand tomes.

Bonus tip for a budget visit: Instead of spending a small fortune on a regular gondola ride, take a traghetto instead. That is basically a water taxi that crosses the Grand Canal, but in a larger gondola to hold more people. This will only cost 2 euros per person. 

I hope everyone is keeping safe and happy and trying to channel their travel dreams in other ways. Don't forget that if you're still working, this is the perfect time to save for your next big trip, whenever that may be. A lot of people are planning overseas trips for the beginning of the year, but I wouldn't look any sooner than July or August. For more pandemic and staycation ideas, you can scroll through the blog archive (on the right sidebar) or check out my Coronavirus Travel board on Pinterest.

Where will your next dream vacation take you?
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