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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Exploring Mongolia at Home

I know I'm behind on my last few staycations, but that means you're getting a double dose back-to-back. A few weeks ago we traveled to Mongolia, which has always been a destination on my travel list. I know it's weird pick, especially for someone who doesn't really love outdoorsy activities, but for me, the outdoor part of Mongolia is the whole point. 

A few weeks ago we traveled to Mongolia, which has always been on my travel list. Places like Mongolia aren't glamorous, but unique on their own.

I'll be following up with a wish list, but for now, let's talk about our first actual outdoor (like in the yard, not just the covered porch) staycation of 2021. I apologize in advance for the wavy backgrounds, as it was super windy when we decided to do this and there was no way to take a perfectly flat photo.


I went a bit crazy when I saw some new melamine serving ware at Target and bought most of it, including a great tablecloth that looked similar to one on my list for Mongolia. Since much of the country outside of the cities is very plain-like. I wanted to bring some of that, and included a bit basket of wildflowers as a centerpiece, but also included a camel (as those are pretty prevalent) and a cow skull to represent the large yaks and similar animals found there. 


I had two backgrounds customized, because Mongolia isn't a big sought-after destination for such things. The bad things about that is that they only come in a limited range of sizes (the biggest being 7'x5') and they take a long time to receive. The plus side, though, is that I can use any photo I upload. So, I chose an iconic photo of Mongolian falconers for one and then one with the traditional yurt and animals found where the country's nomads live.


Now, there is a distinct lack of Mongolian restaurants that aren't buffets like Changs Mongolian Grill or Asian hot pot places, and I wasn't going to spend all my time in the kitchen, so I looked at Asian restaurants that had items I was interested in eating and were close enough to authentic dishes, and also where I wouldn't have to go to multiple restaurants. I ended up, believe it or not, ordering and picking up from P.F. Changs and was pleasantly surprised by the price and the food.


Almost all Mongolian food is meat, cheese, bread and lard-based. It gets quite cold there and the added layer of fat is helpful to keep warm. Stew seems like that would fit in that mold, so I opted for a family meal which started with wonton soup, then got chicken fried rice and Mongolian beef (this also came with lettuce wraps, but we saved those for lunch the next day). Mongolia has their own thicker, spicier dumplings, but I couldn't find any anywhere, so I ordered shrimp dumplings with chili sauce.


For dessert, I actually made a traditional cheesecake-like dessert called pashka that is rooted in Russian and Polish culture. It's made with dried fruit, cottage cheese, cream cheese and honey. Since I sort of went off script by combining two recipes and not using a regular mold, I wasn't sure it was going to be edible (spoiler: it was and it was delicious!). As a backup, I ordered bao doughnuts as a dessert that is as close as possible to boortsog, dough fried in animal fat. 


The only drinks I could find that were strictly Mongolian were vodka-based and fermented horse milk, neither of which sounded all that appealing, so I decided that tea was a universal beverage. I steeped an Earl Grey, added ice, sugar and crushed blueberries, and we found it really refreshing with our meal.


I found a new favorite music genre while we were eating. I put on Tuvan throat singing, which is also known as khoomei and the Mongolian band The HU came up. Not only do they have awesome music videos, but the music is really upbeat and makes you want to dance. I'm in the process of finding other bands like them that I enjoy. 


We sat and ate and talked about what we thought was the most appealing parts of Mongolia were. We learned some interesting facts about the country and its people. We learned that the capital, Ulaanbaatar, is actually the most polluted capital city in the world, and most of the nomads are younger people under 30. I can see why this would be preferable to living where the air actually makes you sick to breathe. Also, there are more horses than people in Mongolia, so you're more likely to get to hang out with animals if you aren't living in the city, and I'm into that. 

Their takhi horse is the only wild horses still in existence. Thought to be extinct in the 60s, some captive takhis were carefully bred and reintroduced to the wild in the 90s. Though they were kept in captivity, they are the only horses that have never been domesticated. They look different than regular horses and are still on the endangered species list.


Maybe this staycation doesn't seem as exciting as some of my others, because it's not a normal or very desirable destination, but that doesn't make it less interesting and there's a lot you can learn and activities you can do with your family. Here are some of the things I used to bring Mongolia to life in our house:

I like learning about less well-known destinations, because it's like you're discovering something special. Not that places like Paris and Munich aren't special, but they are also popular and hard to have a super unique visit. Places like Mongolia aren't glamorous, but there's a different sort of charm to it and I can't wait to visit for real someday.


What's the weird, but wonderful, travel destination you have on your wish list?

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!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

How My Travel Outlook Has Changed

I've been seeing a lot of people saying they can't wait to go on vacation. Admittedly, I'm one of them, but unlike before this pandemic started, I have some new reservations. While I'd usually be researching flight prices and things to do right about now, I'm just not in the headspace to be doing that with Covid numbers still on the rise, even with vaccinations rolling out at a pretty good clip. Let's talk about why.

Will I travel this year?

We did a road trip in February, and while it was short, we saw a lot and had a good time. Having an Airbnb was perfect, because it allowed us to get away from home, stay safe when we knew that Covid precautions were taking place and knowing it was a lot easier to clean a few rooms than stay in a hotel where they have to clean dozens to hundreds of rooms in the same amount of time. We had a strict check-out policy, in order to comply with safety regulations of the state and allow for time between guests. This was super important to me. 

We also had a place to come back to with our meals and comfortably eat at a table, or make our own food, which we did half the time, as we hit up the grocery store and also brought food from home. This allowed us to have as little contact with people as possible.

We learned from that trip and will go on another, longer, road trip just Eric and I in the fall. We'll both be fully vaccinated in a few weeks, so we'll be feeling a lot more confident being around strangers, though we still might not be willing to eat inside. We've booked ourselves nights in our timeshare, knowing we'll be comfortable and they are taking the best precautions for the safety of their guests, but I'll also be traveling with antibacterial spray and wipes, and going over everything real quick again before we settle in. In all fairness, this is probably a good idea anyway. If you're staying in hotels, some of the surfaces just barely get touched by cleaning product (like the remote and the phone). 

Our yearly trip to Vegas has been cancelled two years in a row, so we are going to make up for it by driving down from Portland, stopping in Reno going and returning, and seeing some interesting roadside things along the way, including the International Car Forest in Nevada. We'll be masking up everywhere and washing our hands as much as possible, and using sanitizer when we can't. As I did with our previous trip, we'll have food, snacks, and drinks, as well as a Covid bag with garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, water, and sanitizing spray. You never know what you might need on the road. 


Why I'm not flying to Vegas

So, shocking no one probably, I have decided that this year is just not the year to fly on a plane. Early in the pandemic last year I said I was fine with traveling wherever, until we learned more about Covid and how it spreads and what it does. I knew I wouldn't be going anywhere pretty soon, but I wasn't sure it was going to last over a year. In fact, it will be two years from my last flight when I finally get on a plane again. 

It's not that I don't think the vaccine is going to prevent me from getting sick. I'm confident that it'll keep me from getting really sick, but I don't trust other people. If I were going to fly out of the country where people have to do Covid testing before they travel, then I would get on a plane in a heartbeat. I don't trust people to not fly when they're sick. And though I'll wear a mask, if they're sitting right next to me, there's no guarantee that I won't pick it up, especially if it's one of the variants that's more contagious, and pass it on to someone who isn't vaccinated. I know by then that people should be vaccinated, but there are some people who legitimately can't be, and others who are immunocompromised that could easily pick up the virus even though they are vaccinated. I'm not willing to be a party to that. 

When most people are vaccinated and we are cleared for non-essential travel again, I'll be back out there, flying all over.

Will I get on a plane next year?

Definitely. I'm assuming by then most people will have gotten their shot(s) and even possibly a booster at that point. My guess is that the world will be more open and travel will be as safe as it possibly can be. 

Will I travel more next year?

Considering by the end of 2021, I'll have only gone two places, and both within driving distance, I'll absolutely be traveling more and farther. I have at least 3 trips planned for next year, and I hope I get to keep all three on the calendar. 


How will we know if we should travel? 

This is definitely a personal choice and to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Right now, I'm still not advocating for elaborate summer trips where you'll be in contact with a lot of people. Here are some questions you should ask:

  • Are you vaccinated? Is the rest of your family/travel party? (this should be the #1 question you ask and if the answer isn't yes, then my suggestion is you don't travel for any non-essential reasons.)
  • Are Covid numbers trending down at your desired destination?
  • What are the restrictions at your destinations? Are you willing to follow them. (If you're not, stay home.)
  • Will you feel safe when you get there?
  • Is the destination welcoming visitors?
  • How is vaccine rollout going in your destination? Are variants prevalent there?
  • What happens if you get sick while away from home? (Would it strain the local health system? Would you feel safe being treated there? Does your insurance cover you out of state/country? What if you're stranded for weeks or even months while being treated?)
  • Are you willing to test several times and quarantine if it's suggested/required?
  • Will you be able to make the most of your trip? Are things that you want to do open?
  • Should you get travel insurance that covers Covid-related emergencies? (hint: the answer is a resounding yes.)
Right now, there are a lot of countries are open to Americans, but with restrictions of some sort, though right now it's being suggested that we don't travel outside of the country at all by the State Department, and if we do, to avoid 80% of countries when possible. The CDC is asking for most travel to be suspended/postponed. This sounds like a good idea considering that vaccine rollout is much slower everywhere outside of the U.S. and even here many counties are going back to high-risk. 

Before we know it, we'll be traveling like normal(ish) again, but until that time, I'm happy to continue staycationing at home with our destination date nights and adding destinations to our travel list. 

Where are you most looking forward to when you start traveling again?

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

How To Save Money When Buying A Car

With all this talk about road trips, you might be thinking about getting a better car that's road-trip ready. The pandemic had lots of rental companies selling off much of their fleets in order to make it through the tough times. Now that travel is bouncing back, those few cars left are in high demand and with high demand comes high price tags. We've seen some rentals as high as $300 a day. So, maybe you were thinking about getting a new car, or at least an upgrade, that can handle more long-haul trips.

Image by Jay Lamping from Pixabay


Buying a car is not a cheap purchase. Whether you are looking at new or old models, they often still cost a few thousand, and that’s without the insurance and tax costs. If you are looking to purchase a car but would like to save some money, it is possible. Here’s how.

Consider a common make and model

Common makes and models are often cheaper to purchase second-hand, plus they are often more affordable to repair if anything were to go wrong. 


If you are considering what repairs may need to be done for your car, new or used, then you can click here to discover more. Certain makes and models will cost more to repair, so buying a common car may be your best bet as it is likely that parts and repairs will be cheaper. 


Avoid buying a new car

Whether you like to buy a car that is suitable for a good old fashioned road trip or one for quick trips to the office and back, buying a used car will save you money. Although new cars are desirable, they will always cost more money. As soon as a car is driven out of the showroom, its value depreciates and is no longer worth what you purchased it for. 


If you do desire a fairly new car, then you are better off buying one that is pre-owned. You can find cars that are only a year old, in like-new condition, with very low mileage for considerably a lot less than the first sale price. 


Do your homework

It can be exciting to go and look at cars in person but you may get over-excited and pay more than what you need to. Doing some homework will provide you with the knowledge you need to find out the best prices for certain makes and models. If you are buying a used car, you may find that buying one with more miles means the price is lower. A few more miles on the clock may not hinder the car’s performance or longevity to a large extent. If you want to save some money and get the best deal, doing some research will help you understand what price is good. 


Pay in full

Paying for a car in full can seem like a huge commitment, but paying monthly installments will incur interest. Taking out a loan for a car, new or used, is a popular choice nowadays. Yet, over the years you will end up paying much more than you would if you were to pay for the car in full. 


It may be worth holding off from purchasing the car for a while if you do not have the money. Waiting a year or two means you can save the amount you will need and avoid paying interest.


Compare prices

The car you are looking at buying may be sold in several local dealerships. It is recommended to look around before committing to the car from a certain seller. A dealership online or a few miles down the road may save you some money. 


Negotiate

Alongside shopping around for the best deal, there is no harm in negotiating on the price. You never know how much money you could knock off the price. If the car is pre-owned as has minor flaws, then you are more than in your right to ask for a discount. Don’t be afraid to ask for a cheaper price whether you are in a dealership or purchasing from a private seller, they might consider your comments and offer you a few hundred dollars off. 


Trade-in your old car

For those looking to upgrade their car, you may be able to trade in your current car for dealership credit. This may not reduce the sale price of the car you want to purchase, but it will significantly reduce the price you will have to pay. 


You can often get more money selling your current car privately, but it will be more timely. If you are ready to purchase a new car immediately and have an old car to trade in, then you can save yourself some money by offering it to the dealership or private seller you are looking to buy from. 


Take it for a test drive

A test drive might be the make or break of a car sale. The car might look impressive but not perform in the way you expected it to. If you still like the car after a test drive but noticed a few issues, these should be reported back to the seller. 


If you are still interested after the test drive but would like them to reduce the price due to a minor issue that occurred during the test drive, then they might do so. You never know what discount you can get if you don’t ask. 


Buy just before the new model year

It is common for dealerships to reduce the price of a car just before the new model year. Thus, buying in late summer (around August) or in January could save you quite a bit of money. 

Dealerships reduce the price of cars when they need to hit their yearly sales quota. If they have cars remaining and need them sold, they are more likely to lower the price. If the prices are not lowered when you go to look but you know the new model year is approaching, there is no harm in asking for a lower price. Shopping before the new model year and asking for money off will most likely result in the best deal and most money-saving. 

Or, you could shop after the model year has happened, and prices may be reduced or cars might be put on sale that they know will be difficult to sell due to the newer models.


Utilize these tips if you are looking to purchase a car and want to save money. You never know how much you could save by negotiating, doing your research, or purchasing at a certain time of the year.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Happy King's Day!

Yesterday we celebrated King's Day on our Destination Date Night. I'll be writing up a proper blog post of our staycation and an accompanying post, but for now, I thought you might like to learn more about it, and you can see our photos on my newest Instagram post, Instagram story, or if you're reading this later, you can also see the story posts in my Covid Travel highlights.

Yesterday we celebrated Amsterdams' King's Day on our Destination Date. I'll write a proper blog post of our staycation, but here's more about it.

Though there was no normal King's Day celebration this year, we watched some former year celebrations and a set from Martin Garrix done this year on the top of a building which was both fun and had awesome views. So, if nothing else we were able to have one of our own dance parties at home that would normally take place in Amsterdam.


While cramming on a boat with a bunch of strangers who are drinking doesn't sound all that fun to me, Amsterdam itself looks beautiful and worth the visit another time of year. 


This week I learned that Holland and the Netherlands are the same thing. For some reason, I thought they were two different countries, but they are not. 

Have you ever been to a city-wide party on your travels?

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Using Freebies to Stay Within Your Budget

No matter where you go on vacation there are bound to be free things to see and do. Right now, with many things closed, or in the process of reopening, freebies are actually easier to find, because they might be the only options. These things are a great way to make your trip dollars go further and allow you to do even more.

Wherever you go on vacation there are free things to see and do. With many things closed or just reopening freebies are actually easier to find.

As a fellow budget traveler, not only am I looking for fun and exciting stuff to do on my trips, I'm also looking for affordable ones. While I may want to cram as much in as possible, my bank account doesn't particularly allow it, so free things are an excellent way to pad out my schedule. If you know where to look, you can do the same.


Free museums

A few years ago, we visited San Diego, where Balboa Park is a huge resource for culture. We purchased an Explorer Pass for the museums there, because we knew we wanted to visit at least half of them. Several of these we're free anyway, but our pass gave them a piece of the profits as a donation when we visited, which we would have done anyway.

A lot of cities we've visited have had free museums, including large ones like London. Some only have certain free admission days, while others run on donations. Keep a couple bucks in your pocket to spare for those. I know it's technically not free this way, but two dollars is still way cheaper than $18+ that lots of museums charge to get in.


Parks

Got kids? This is a great way to give them a way to burn off excess energy and give you a bit of a break, but parks are awesome for adults too. Tons of large parks have more to see and do than just a playground. You might find a duck pond, sculpture garden, botanical garden, etc. Balboa Park is full of such things, plus wildlife, bocce ball courts and more.

Think ahead and get yourself a takeaway meal and enjoy it al fresco. You can't beat that, especially on beautiful days. Some hotels will loan you sports balls, bikes, or other ways to take advantage of the outdoor space. Don't be afraid to take them up on it.


Zoos

While most zoos cost an admission fee (some quite a hefty one), others are totally free. Check online to see what your destination zoo charges. 

If you have a zoo membership at home that participates in AZA, you might be able to use it elsewhere for free admission or at least a discount. Just don't forget your card. Same goes for children's museums and gardens. Some member benefits extend to travel.


Outdoor historical sites

We walk on vacation. A lot. So, I'm always looking for outdoor attractions and landmarks, like ruins, statues, historical walks and more. It's a fantastic way to learn more about the city and most of them are free. 

We went to Old Town San Diego and explored a cemetery that was discovered with radar equipment. We were able to read some of the stories of those people laid to rest there from old obituaries in the newspaper and from a history book (posted at the gravesites).

Street art

I love nothing more than an excellent mural or a street performer. You never know what you'll find around town, so keep your eyes peeled for cool stuff just waiting to be discovered. A lot of cities are partnering with local artists on beautification projects, so this is more and more common in downtown areas.

Think of how much money you can save by adding free things to your trip. You can do more and then put that extra money to a meal (or meals!) out to make it even more memorable. What are your favorite free things to do in a city?

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Mother's Day Travel Gift List 2021

This past year has seemed both really long and really short. All the days kind of blend together, but we're slowly getting back to work, unless you're like us who worked the whole time, getting vaccinated, and starting to look forward to traveling again, even if it's just a road trip, or not until the last quarter of the year. 



Last year was tough on everyone, and Mother's Day seemed pretty weird. I reverted back to childhood and handmade a gift for my mom and made her brunch, because we were fresh out of quarantine and still not seeing people outside our households. My mom was the only person in our bubble. This year, we'll all be vaccinated and looking forward to getting out of the house and planning trips, so travel gifts are back on the table. Here are my top picks for Mother's Day in a variety of price points.



Budget - under $50

1. SpectraSpray
There are natural sprays for everything, including those to make your travels way better. Purchase sprays individually, or ones that go together in a Jet Lag Kit or Stay Well Kit. $19.95+ on SpectraSpray - my review is here

2. AeroPress Go
Does your mom love coffee? Is she always jetting off somewhere? Even if she just enjoys camping or needs to free up some space in her home, the AeroPress Go is perfect for those that just want a good cup of Joe at home. It makes amazing coffee, is super easy to use and clean, and fits inside its own mug. $31.95 from AeroPress or Amazon - my review is here

3. Travel Pakt Toiletries
Give them a leg up on packing their carry-on bag and toiletry bag with awesome natural products. Travel Pakt lets you hand-pick toiletries from a great list of amazing companies that make good products and also do good, then ships them in a TSA-compliant zip-top bag that can be packed right away. $5+ on Travel Pakt - my review is here

4. Airplane Pockets
I really hate the airplane seat pocket. Mostly because they aren't large enough for things I want to have during my flight, but also because I've found so much trash in them when I've flown. Get your mom a set of Airplane Pockets that slip over the tray table (covering it with an anti-bacterial fabric) and give them 4 pockets to hold their phone, glasses, pen, snacks, book and whatever else. If you follow me on IG, you've seen these in action on my trips. $29 on Amazon

5. Well Told drinkware
Since no one's going anywhere for the foreseeable future, why not give them something to remind them of a favorite trip or destination, or a big trip they have hopes of. Well Told Design makes beautiful drinkware with etched maps and more. I have a pair of London pint glasses, but I'm hoping to add to the collection soon. $18+ on Well Told - my review is here

6. Belkin Mini Surge Protector
We have several of these - one for travel and some for our house. These surge protectors are so useful, because you can turn one outlet into three sockets and two USB ports. the back swivels, so you can fit it anywhere and then plug in all your gadgets. It has come in handy in those rooms that have maybe one free outlet (read: 95% of hotel rooms) that isn't at the bathroom vanity. Give your mom the convenience of always having enough power outlets. $16.89 on Amazon

7. Bamboo utensils from The Other Straw
When we all start traveling again, even if it's just around town, we're especially going to want to eat out, even if that's just at food trucks. I'm really loving these great bamboo utensils from The Other Straw. Not only are they eco-friendly and nice to look at, but they come in their own pouch for keeping them clean in between uses and TOS donates 50% of their profits to fund ocean cleanups. $9.56 on The Other Straw


Moderate - $50-100

1. Pang Wangle Essential Wrap
Your mom is going to look chic everywhere she goes with this wrap that has an odorless bug repellent woven into its sustainable, impossibly soft, recycled cotton and Tencel fabric. She can use it as a wrap, a sarong, a scarf, a blanket, and more wherever she goes. $58 on Pang Wangle - my review is here

2. Timbuk2 Scholar Convertible Tote
This is a bag I purchased myself for a personal item size bag for the plane. It's cute and fits in under the seat, but I also was able to pack 4 days of clothes and toiletries in it, along with my iPad, snacks and cords. If your mom commutes and also travels, this is a fantastic bag. It fits a laptop, all their goodies and even a water bottle. You can carry it as a tote or you can attach the hidden backpack straps. It's so comfortable and really good looking. $99 on Amazon

3. Barrier Method Winged Mask
Everyone's got a mask or two right now, but Barrier Method was selling theirs before they were all the rage. I always get comments on mine. This anti-bacterial mask is both healthy and pretty and can be used to stay well, reduce your allergens, keep your neck warm, among other things. Gift your mom the gift of health and wellness with one of these. She can wear it to the grocery store and on the plane. $60 from The Barrier Method - my review is here

4. FaceCradle
There are so many travel pillows to choose from, but one of the best I've tried is the FaceCradle. Not only is it perfect for the ever-diminishing airplane space, but it's great for tall people, and for using on trains and in cars as well. It has a bunch of different ways to use it. We have the regular version and the lite version, and we sleep like babies on the plane. $49.99 on Amazon - my review is here

5. Travelon Anti-Theft Parkview Hobo Crossbody 
The Parkview collection from Travelon is classy and comes in classic colors. Not only is it anti-theft, but it has an RFID-blocking pocket and tons of room. It will never make you stick out as a tourist, and can hold all your things and probably some of your purchases. Mom's have to carry all the things, and this bag can do it, while looking great. $89.25 from Travelon + get 20% off if you use code SHEREENTRAVELS20% 

Splurge - $100+

1. Arcopedico footwear
I love these shoes. They have dual arch support, meaning you stand the correct way to align your body in a way that takes the stress off your soles, calves and lower back. I have walked all day in my booties while in Scotland and England and my feet never hurt at all. $100+ on Arcopedico or Amazon - my review of Mary Janes here | My review of booties here

2. GlobeIn monthly travel box
If your mom doesn't quite have the funds to travel (or just misses traveling during Lockdown), but loves cool stuff from other countries anyway. Give her the gift of stuff from around the world with the GlobeIn box. Each box contains at least 4 goodies from other countries and they all center around a story. $144 for a 3-month subscription. (The price per box goes down with longer subscriptions)

3. CityPASS
I'm sure your mom already has her next trip planned. Why not help her make it more affordable by giving her most or all of her activities for free? You'll be able to find a lot of participating cities. $50+ on CityPASS website

4. Anatomie Style Women's Clothing
Just because you're not at home and trying to pack light doesn't mean you want to look like a schlub. Stock your carry-on with upscale pieces that are classic and versatile. Anatomie isn't cheap, but it's guaranteed to look good for years to come and help you blend in on city travels and cruise ships. Pieces are also lightweight, so they won't take up more space in your luggage than necessary. Your mom will get use out of these pieces at home and on vacation. $45+ on Anatomie

5. Travelon Heritage Carry-All Weekender
This wide-mouth weekender has so much room in it for a weekend or a week or a two-week trip. It's true! I packed two people's clothing in it for a week in Vegas. Not only is it spacious, but it's also super good looking. Your mom will get so much use from this bag and get all the compliments as well. $115 on Travelon + get 20% off if you use code SHEREENTRAVELS20% - my review is here


I hope this helps you find something cool and special for your mom on her special day. Where's your mom's favorite or dream travel destination?


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I will be monetarily compensated should you make a purchase through any of those links. Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Essential Barcelona Travel Tips

So, last week I brought you our Barcelona destination date, where we had tapas and did a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter. If you're interested in visiting Spain, with a focus on Barcelona, you might want to figure out what to do and where to go and some of the basics. These two infographics give you a bit of everything, including a walking tour to get around the city and see all the major sites in one day!

If you're interested in visiting Spain, with a focus on Barcelona, you might want to figure out what to do and where to go and some of the basics.
photo credit





A Walking Tour of Barcelona
From Visually.





Right now is the perfect time to start planning your next vacations, especially if you're vaccinated or are on your way to becoming vaccinated. Until Covid is under control around the world, travel is going to be a lot easier for those vaccinated if they're looking to travel internationally. Many destinations may not require vaccines, but will allow those who are vaccinated to skip mandatory quarantine periods, which might be weeks. 

Is Spain on your travel wish list? If so, which part(s) are you looking forward to visiting? 


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Packing Light for Your Summer Road Trips

Summer is coming and that means packing light should be easy. Well, I've learned that isn't true for a lot of people. While I'm like "throw a bathing suit, some sandals, sunscreen and a pair of shorts in a bag", others are sitting there wondering how they can cram 10 pairs of shoes into a carry-on for a 4-day trip. No! You need my summer packing tips!


Even though you may be road tripping, remember that packing light helps you save room for food, purchases, and everyone else you're traveling with.

Even though you may be road tripping, remember that you will also need room for food, drinks, purchases, and whatever else you need to make your trip more comfortable, especially if you're traveling with kids and/or a dog.

First of all, wherever you go, you probably won't know anyone and you probably won't see them again. Nobody will remember what you were wearing or if you wore the same pair of shorts two, or even three, times. Unless you're getting married and have to bring a giant dress with you, there is no reason you can't pack light for any trip, including your awesome summer getaway.
My NUMBER ONE rule is to mix and match. Remember that your outfit on the plane is not just a travel outfit, but something to add to your rotation when you arrive. If you're headed to a warm weather locale, then here's how I pack: 
  • One or two pair of shorts 
  • One pair of capris 
  • One sundress
  • One mid-length skirt
  • One pair of walking shoes (that you should wear on the plane or in the car)
  • One pair of comfy sandals or other nicer shoes you can walk all day in
Choose a neutral color scheme. I normally pick black, tan or blue for my bottoms. This enables you to choose things that work with all your bottoms. When I travel in the summer, I wear capris, lightweight pants or a skirt on the plane (or in the car), then toss two good pair of shorts into my bag, either the capris or skirt that I'm not wearing, a good summer dress (often this is a travel dress that is cute and moisture wicking). 

I try to wear my bulkier shoes while traveling and pack the smaller pair. Make sure you don't bring a pair of shoes that you haven't broken in yet. Trust me. You don't want to find out how uncomfortable your new shoes are on Day 1 of your trip. It sucks. I do a  ton of walking on my trips, so a good pair of walking shoes (Skechers, Clarks, Aerosoles are favorites) is a must

For your other pair of shoes, choose a cute pair of sandals or flats that will work with your dress, but also with your other bottoms. It sometimes is terrible to have sweaty feet in sneakers when you just want your toes to breathe. I have several really good sandals that I can walk all day in, including these from Clarks, these from Aerosoles, and Jambu sandals similar to these.

Obviously, this can be tailored to your needs. If you don't like skirts, don't take one. If you only wear skirts, don't bring shorts or capris. If you're a dude who doesn't wear skirts or dresses, bring a pair of lightweight trousers and some loafers you can wear to a nice restaurant. Easy! Toss in a pair of flip flops for trips to the pool and runs to the front desk.

When you go to choose tops, think of both fashion and function. You don't want to sweat, but you want to look cute. If you've done your job in creating a neutral palette for your bottoms, this should be easier. Take a mix of 5 tops, making sure at least one can feel dressed up if paired with the skirt for a night out. Just in case. 

Bring a lightweight cardigan that can be used as a layer when it's chilly indoors or on the plane. I also bring a scarf/wrap that matches everything, because sometimes you don't want a full layer, but something that you can use to keep your shoulders covered (this is especially important if you're traveling somewhere and visiting temples). You can also use it as a sarong. 

Toss in your favorite bathing suit, sunglasses and a good sunscreen and you're good to go wherever there's a pool or a beach. 

I know you're thinking that this can't possibly be enough clothes to get you through 1-2 weeks at a destination. Well, you'd be right if you weren't planning to rewear any of these things, but you're a budget traveler, you don't pay to check a bag, and you plan some downtime in your trips to relax and do a bit of laundry. With these nice pieces of clothing, you can make 15 unique outfits, which will take you through more than a long trip of two weeks. 


Since I'm saving so much room in my carry-on, I make sure to include my favorite folding mesh laundry basket, which I use as a hamper until it's full or I'm low on shirts, then I take it with me to dump in the washing machine. I also keep a small bag of detergent (or laundry strips) and a couple dollars in quarters, so I'm always ready. I've stayed places where the laundry was free and others where it was not. I've also stayed places where detergent was readily available and others where you had to go to the store to get some. Be prepared! These are things that take up little room and make your life easier.

And now you know my secrets to summer packing! Are you traveling this summer?


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