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Saturday, November 28, 2020

8 Must-Do Road Trips

After almost a year of no travel, I've finally booked a vacation rental for a short road trip for February. We'll be traveling in our small pod (me, Eric, my mom, and the dog) for my mom's birthday, getting take-out and making our own food, then we'll take a few drives around the area, and hang out in the hot tub and around the fire pit. This got me thinking about socially-conscious road trips you could be taking. Here are 8 of the best ones:


I hope everyone's having a safe and healthy Thanksgiving weekend. Before we know it, we'll be planning trips again and going to places we've been craving, with a few changes to the way we do it. Enjoy this time of bonding with your family, and spend some time talking about your next adventure and travel dreams. If you want to see how to road trip safely, you can see my post here.

Where are you hoping to travel when the world opens up again? I'm looking forward to going to Iceland. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

6 Ways To Ensure Your Road Trip Doesn’t End Up Caked In Negativity

Road trips can be very fun and very rewarding experiences where everything is in the right place. The idea of hopping into a personal vehicle and setting off down the road for a few days or a few weeks can be quite dull for some, but the freedom and the adventure excite many people on the planet. Whether you’re looking to head into entirely new areas or you just fancy a girls’ weekend away some time, a road trip can be the exact thing you need. 


If you don’t set things up properly, though, then you could have a pretty underwhelming trip on your hands. Usually, it doesn’t really need too much thought as overthinking will come in, and it will be a complicated little trip. When you have a simple plan and no complications, that’s when you have a good time. There will need to be a little bit of assembling and planning, however. Here are a few things you’ll probably have to do in order to have a successful trip with very few negatives: 

Choose The Right People To Accompany You

This is a really important point and a fundamental one, so we’ll start off with it. You can have all the intricate plans and figure out the most desirable location, but if you have the wrong people alongside you, then it can ruin the entire journey and vacation. If you prefer to travel alone, then this particular point shouldn’t bother you at all, of course. Many vacations have been destroyed by people who choose to bring toxic individuals. At the end of the day, it’s all about the social side of things and the experiences you share, so make sure you’re bringing someone who will be positive and happy with you. This can be a difficult choice at times because you may not want to offend anyone, but your happiness is paramount when all is said and done. 

Make Sure The Vehicle Is In Good Condition

You need to ensure that you’re not travelling in a death machine or in something that will break down halfway through the trip. The way to do this is to take it in to a mechanic and let them sort through it all. If there’s anyone who will be able to fix any problems or reassure you that there’s little to worry about, it’s them. A few things may cost a fee to sort out, but the fee would be worth it in order to get the trip confirmed. 

Make A Plan For Every Part Of The Trip

Planning, for some, is very boring. They’ll just want to hop into the car and go. You need to have a plan in order to make sure everything goes swimmingly, though. You also need to prepare for any potential eventualities – including negative ones. You should check out seasoned car accident lawyers just in case you end up in any kind of fracas. You should also make sure that everyone has what they need in order to enjoy the trip. When you have a roadmap that tells you where to go – it’s very helpful. When you have a roadmap for more than just the road, though, that’s even better. 

Stay Positive Throughout

When you approach something like a vacation – or, more specifically, a road trip – with a negative attitude, then everything that happens will be negative. You’ll pick faults in absolutely everything that goes on, and you won’t look back on it with too much fondness. That’s why you need to adopt a positive mindset when you head out. If you do this, then everything will be much better. This infectious mentality will also spread across the group, and you’ll all have a laugh.

Know Where You’re Going!

This is obvious, but it’s something that should be mentioned. A lot of people wing it and hope that they’ll be able to get there using their navigation technology. While it’s usually reliable, there will likely be hiccups sooner or later. Study the maps and figure out alternative routes just in case you run into a few issues along the way. 

Capture All The Memories On Film  

It’s nice to have memories stashed in your mind. Sometimes, taking photos cheapens an experience because you want the value to remain in your head. With that said, you should still capture a few things so that you can look back on certain days and reminisce. Even if you had a pretty torrid few days, you’d be able to bring them up every now and again and laugh at them. Photographs have the ability to give you a different perspective on this. It’s also great to keep people up to speed on social media – if you have the likes of Facebook and Instagram, of course. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

8 Awesome Free Things To Do In Mexico City

Since we've been quarantining as much as possible during this pandemic, we've been learning about places we want to travel when we're able to again. We've added some places to the ever-growing list, including Mexico City. We've been to other places in Mexico, but I'd love to visit a more metropolitan area on my next visit South. 

While Mexico isn't that expensive to begin with, you can go even more budget-friendly by enjoying free things. To me, that means more money for eating out and/or splurging on things we might have wanted to do and thought we couldn't or for spontaneous things we find out about while there. Here are 8 cool things to see and do in Mexico City for free. 

Explore the Juárez neighborhood

I love a funky neighborhood. Juárez is full of cute little boutique shops and quaint cafés and restaurants. While you may wish to spend money on souvenirs or a meal here, just strolling through the neighborhood and taking pictures is totally free. You also get exercise while out and about. Stop in an artisan chocolate shop, sip some locally-made wines, relax in a beautiful park, or come back in the evening to hit up a bar or nightclub.

Check out the Gran Hotel Ciudad de México

You don't have to stay at the hotel to enjoy things it has to offer, like the amazing architecture. Originally a department store, the lobby of this hotel is topped by a dazzling Tiffany stained-glass ceiling and is home to an antique iron and concrete elevator, and a replica curving staircase of the one of Le Bon Marche. 

Visit Palacio Nacional

Head into this government building to view Diego Rivera's famous mural The History of Mexico. The mural depicts the Aztec era all the way to the development of industry. It's a beautiful way to learn about the history of Mexico, and also people watch at the same time.

Browse the Mercado Roma

This three-story upscale market is a great place to browse and pick up fancy snacks for a picnic or to take back to your room. There's a rooftop beer garden, but you also a vegan taco joint, wine bars and tapas cafés. 

Walk through Mercado Coyoacan

If you've been following me for a while, you know how much I adore a market. I will go out of my way to plan a day around a farmers' market. It's pretty much the only thing I'll get up extra early for. Bring a reusable bag if you are planning to shop this amazing market that sells, pretty literally, everything. It's a very authentic Mexican shopping and cultural experience. I'm a huge fan of bringing home local spices from my travels.

Enjoy Plaza Garibaldi

Do you like live music? Roving mariachi bands frequent this plaza in order to solicit patrons. You can visit any time, but it's most lively after 11pm. I would suggest bringing along some cash to tip or buy a song with. It's worth it to make at least one trip in the evening to see this important part of Mexican culture. 

See the skyline from Torre Latinoamericana

Technically, this isn't free, but if you time it with lunch, it's almost like it is. Instead of going all the way to the top of this 44-story skyscraper, ask to visit the bar of the 43rd floor instead. It has the same views as the observation floor above it. Not only is the building useful for seeing the city from the top, but it's also a marvel of engineering, having withstood an 8.1 magnitude earthquake in 1985 and a 7.1 in 2017, a pretty phenomenal feat for a building built in 1965.

Museo Soumaya

One of the most iconic museums in Mexico, the Museo Soumaya is a big silver building that is a piece of art in itself. Inside, you'll find over 60,000 works of art, many by famous Hispanic artists like Diego Rivera, as well as internationally famous artists like Matisse.

Bonus: Eat some churros

With all that money you saved, you'll have plenty left over for churro-time! Order your churros and watch the chefs make and dip them while you wait in a gorgeous white and blue tiled café at El Moro Churerría. It's touted as the best churro restaurant in Mexico City and it's open 24 hours per day. 

If you've been to Mexico, what was your favorite place or thing you did there?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Experiencing Mexico from Home

It's been a few weeks since Halloween, but we wanted to make a real destination date out of Mexico, so we swapped out our Day of the Dead backdrop for this lovely Mexican neighborhood backdrop and kept the ruins of Teotihuacán background. I went whimsical with my tablescape and added a few cactus to match the backdrop, the cutest little llama piñata you've ever seen, and a tiny sombrero that came as a set (we wore the other two).

If you've been to Mexico, you know it's very colorful and vintage looking, most places you go. I had this wonderful hot pink tablecloth from a party I had a few years ago (clearly, I have a lot of tablecloths that I've purchased over the years for different themes - this one was from my 80's 40th birthday party) that I knew would go great with everything. 

I picked up these green-splash plates on a super sale, some Jarritos Mexican sodas they sell at our closest Grocery Outlet (because why not). I also searched for a great traditional drink, which I'll show you below.

The main point of these dates is to try something new, bring in travel to our Quarantine lifestyle, and have fun together. Nothing says fun to me like hats, and little hats are hilarious, so I jumped on these that come as a set of 3 with removable headbands. We never hesitate to wear hats or other accessories for our Sunday morning Zoom brunches either, so we bring whimsy to others as well. 

I knew I didn't want just any Mexican food from one of the many cookie cutter restaurants around here. They pretty much serve all the same things, so instead, I looked at a cool restaurant sort of near us that specializes in a bunch of different international dishes (Salvador Molly's) and picked a few that were Mexican/South American. In the front are beef tacos, which had a ton of lovely greens on them. We aren't fans of cilantro, but it's always pretty on food. The other greens were crunchy cucumber shreds. Behind that, in the box, is something called a Yucatan Sunshine Bowl, and it has spicy shredded chicken, pickled red onions, yellow rice, black beans, cotija cheese, lettuce (because it's technically a salad), tomatoes, and a few other things, like those deep fried tortillas that are shaped like the sun. 

In the front of this picture is the third dish I ordered, which was a spicy chicken tamale with a side of rice. It also came with beans and a little cabbage salad. They also have this tamale as a veggie one with artichokes, and also a verde pork option. 

Cheers! I love a good traditional drink. I could have gone with a margarita or sangria, but instead found a recipe for something called a sangrita. It is said to have been invented by pouring off the extra juices from pico de gallo, a fruit salad, and then had spices added. The base of the drink is pomegranate juice, tomato juice, and orange juice. You can add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and salt to spice it up. To save the trouble, I used bloody Mary mix that included all those extras and tomato juice, then did a 1:1:1 ratio of that, pomegranate juice and orange juice. I used bloody Mary spices to rim my glasses, and then added a lime and a golden straw to complete it. 

If you use bloody Mary mix, like I did, I wouldn't suggest using as much as I did (maybe one par t to two parts of each of the other two liquids), because it was mighty spicy. We both enjoyed it, but if spicy isn't for you, you might just forgo the mix altogether and just use straight tomato juice and no hot sauce.

As usual, we enjoyed the view and then took a tour. We did two short walking tours of Mexico City and then one of the Mayan pyramids/ruins of Teotihuacán. Both city tours were just people walking around the city. There was no commentary, so you just saw life as it was happening, which is how I like to travel for the most part. 

Because this date was a lunch, we didn't do dessert. If we had, I would have probably found a place to buy churros. You could do flan, but I'm very much not a fan of that, so we skipped it. 

Are you looking to do your own Mexico "journey"? It's easy, because there are so many things you can do to make it cool, unique, or extra special. Here are some things I suggest:

  • Backdrops:
  • Mini sombreros
  • Mini piñata
  • Colorful tablecloth
  • add a sarape table runner
  • Pretty napkins
  • Chip & dip bowl
  • Taco Carousel
  • Taco spoons 
  • Mexico cookbook
  • Guidebook
  • Loteria bingo game
  • YouTube playlist
  • Here's mine

  • If you've been to Mexico already, choose a new place to learn about, or make a slideshow of your pictures and relive your favorite memories with your significant other and/or your family. 

    Are you planning a trip for when we're allowed to travel again? If so, where to?

    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. Thanks in advance! 

    Saturday, November 14, 2020

    Why You Should Be Staycationing Now

    A lot of the country is seeing rising Covid numbers and many states/cities are locking down or partially locking down again, including Portland/Oregon. Yes, we're all sick of staying in our houses (I mean, not me, but I am a complete introvert), because we haven't seen friends or family in person for months, but there are people out there ruining it for everyone and making this last longer, so plan yourself a relaxing staycation and try to unwind and de-stress. 

    If you've been following along, you know we try to do a mini staycation every few weeks. We're doing one this weekend, probably as you're reading this. Plan one, or several. your mental health will thank you.

    Thursday, November 12, 2020

    5 Reasons To Go On A Girl's Weekend

    It’s wonderful to spend time with your kids and your partner, but there is nothing that quite beats the feeling of going away with your girlfriends. Getting ready together, packing together, going to the airport or piling into the car? It’s all part of the fun and it’s an important way to bond with the girls that you love the most.

    If you haven't ever been away with the girls before, it’s time to think about booking your first break. You can choose to go on a far-flung adventure to Thailand and lounge on a beach, or you can choose to bring your troypoint.com Firestick loaded with enough streams to get your movies going in a country lodge with a hot tub. No matter what you do, you need to get away and have fun with the girls somewhere that isn't close to home. So, with that in mind, let’s check out five reasons you absolutely should go on a girl's weekend at least once in life.

    1. You get to be vulnerable with the best girls you know when you go away together. You don't have to dress up to impress anyone, as these girls love you more than your eyeliner. You get to have the airport experience, and you get to finally let loose and let it all hang out. There is a good amount of bonding when you do that, and you can book to go anywhere you like!

    2. The girls you bring with you on a weekend away are girls who are not going to judge you and they are going to be a vault for your secrets. You can talk and talk the world away and you all can advise each other and have the best giggles!

    3. You get to go on an adventure with your friends! No matter where you go you can make new memories and have some new experiences with people you know you will cherish for life. These girls are going to see you sweat it out in saunas and hike up the sides of mountains and they’re not going to care what you look like. This adventure is all the sweeter knowing that there are cocktails and blinis to enjoy afterwards.

    4. Without kids and a partner there, the only person you have to worry about is yourself. Sure, you worry about your girls, but you don't have to serve yourself last at meals or listen to someone tell you about getting their underpants washed!

    5. Lastly, one of the best reasons to go away on a girl's weekend is the chance for pure relaxation. You can lounge on the beach with a book and enjoy companionable silence for as long as you want. None of the girls are going to want to do more than sit back, relax and just enjoy themselves. You can snorkel and play in the sea and just think about yourself for a change.

    A girl's weekend is a rite of passage and should be on every bucket list!

    Wednesday, November 11, 2020

    5 Ways to Keep Travel In Mind Right Now

    I know people like me right now who aren't going anywhere except the necessary places. They are getting groceries delivered or do pick-up. I also know people who have gone on vacation during this pandemic, but I really just don't trust any of it right now. With as badly as some people are coping and staying home as much as possible, I can't trust that most people are doing the right thing, and that means traveling just isn't in the cards for us right now.

    If you're also feeling lost without being able to travel, then I've come up with several things you can do to have a little bit of travel in your life while still staying safe and at home. You've been seeing my Destination Date Night posts, then you already know one big way I'm coping right now, especially when everything is stressful right now. Here are 5 other ways:

    Re-Write Your Travel Wish List

    This is the time I've been talking to my husband about places we really want to go when we are allowed to leave the country again. We've been saving money by not eating out that much or going to the movies or traveling at the moment, so when we get to go again, we're ready with a brand new list and ideas. It helps that our date nights give us a little taste of a destination, making us want to learn more and see these things in person. 

    Some people refer to this as a bucket list, but I like my lists to be a bit more optimistic. Yeah, we're going to die someday, but that doesn't mean it's going to be any time soon. We want to have fun and enjoy travel, not just check things off as we go along. Some places we've added during this are:
    • Cairo, Egypt and surrounding areas like Edfu, Luxor, and Aswan.
    • Mexico City and/or Oaxaca during the Day of the Dead festival.
    • Athens, Greece to see the ruins.
    • Tokyo and Osaka were already on my list, but now I'm even more into it.
    • Morocco for all the gorgeous colors, landscapes, and markets. 
    • Austin, Texas has been on my backburner list, but I'd love to do a short break there to take in the food scene, street art, and history.
    • Chicago for the excellent buildings, haunted history, and cool city sculptures. 
    Aside from those, I'd love to get back to Washington, DC, Colonial Williamsburg, Los Angeles, Nassau, and Vancouver, BC. We're talking about a road trip to Anaheim in the coming months. We'll see if we actually do that.

    Learn a New Language

    I keep thinking I want to do this, or at least continue on my French courses. Eventually, we'll go back to France and travel outside of Paris to see the rest of the country. If there's a place high on your travel list and they speak another language, that's a good place to start. Check out Pimsleur courses. I have French CDs that I used to listen to in my car. You can also get them as an audio book. Eric did much better at his French than I did. I've also used the My Spanish Coach for my Nintendo DS. It makes learning languages and putting sentences together fun by using a game setting. They also have French and Japanese. 

    If you need more personalized help, check out Babbel (don't forget to use Rakuten to get cash back) or DuoLingo (which is free). 

    Binge Travel Shows

    This is the perfect time to figure out where you want to go next or learn about other places through other travelers with some amazing travel shows. Here are some of my favorites:

    • Netflix
      • Jack Whitehall Travels with My Father
      • Somebody Feed Phil
      • Down To Earth with Zac Efron
      • Conan Without Borders
    • Hulu
      • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
      • Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations
      • Expedition Unknown
    • Amazon Prime
      • Uncharted with Gordon Ramsay
      • An Idiot Abroad
      • The Grand Tour

    Explore Destinations with a Virtual Tour

    We've been doing this for months, even if it's just a 20-minute video on YouTube, but you can find walking tours, destination live feeds, and even use Google Earth to explore places. I actually did that when I was missing EPCOT and "walked" around the park. 

    Recently, we've been paying to take virtual walking tours from actual tour guides. We took a haunted walking tour of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and then took another tour from the same guide for Halloween, which was a haunted boat tour. We took a virtual Hamilton walking tour, which took us around New York and gave history that inspired Hamilton and then also behind-the-scenes of the actual show, including how the stage was conceived and what the show might have looked like. 

    I'd suggest looking at Goldstar for tickets to these sorts of things. Since you aren't bound by proximity, you can go anywhere! Your local tour companies might also be running virtual tours right now. 

    Take a Drive

    Pack a lunch and some cool tunes and take a drive around your city, out to a nearby National Park, a scenic overlook, or an outdoor landmark. If you look well enough, you can make a day of it and find places you've never heard of before or go see things you haven't had time to see until now. You should check out some local restaurants or cafes that offer take-away, so you can eat safely and also support a small business with your dollars. I know many places here that offer curbside pick-up. Don't forget to charge your phone for pictures and keep masks and hand in your car if you don't already have both in there.

    You can totally travel in small ways right now and keep the spirit alive. As much as I have moments where I miss travel harder than I ever have, I feel like what I do to fill the void is actually helping me quite a bit in the long run, because we are doing them every week or every other week instead of waiting for that one- or two-week vacation coming up. In fact, now we have other ways to fulfill our wanderlust between vacations when we get back to whatever normal is.

    Explore fun things to do closer to home. Jumping on a plane might not be possible for everyone at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun. With restrictions still in place on international travel, there are fabulous opportunities to explore days out, weekends away or road trips closer to home. From museums, galleries and historic sites to theme parks, family-friendly locations like Silver Dollar City and adventures in the great outdoors, you can visit beaches, ranches, cities or national parks to indulge your love of travel, enjoy new experiences and create more memories.

    How are you keeping the travel bug from overwhelming you right now?

    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. Thanks in advance!

    Saturday, November 7, 2020

    My Favorite Fall Travel Packing Tips

    The weather is turning and it's making me think about packing for fall travel. So if you're going on a fall/winter road trip or you're just looking ahead to when traveling is a thing again. 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 Edinburgh and London last year, the weather ranged from cool, crisp fall air to super cold windy days. It could have been miserable, but learning from our previous trips to the UK, the first of which 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, the next trip 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 in a dress, two pair of stretchy jeans or other comfortable pantsm 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 within 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 a 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 smidge 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. This last trip I took my Arcopedico booties and had plenty of room for my feet, great insteps, and my feet never hurt. This was extra great, because Edinburgh was basically all uphill cobblestone streets and 45 million stairs. At least I got a lot of exercise.

    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 on one trip, who didn't think he would need them. We didn't make the same mistake this last time, though we didn't really 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?

    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. Thanks in advance!
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