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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Get Better Sleep While Traveling

New destinations, new people, new food—travel holds some great benefits, but it can be hard to appreciate them if you’re struggling to stay awake. Poor sleep can leave you irritable, moody, and stressed, not exactly how most of us like to travel. However, there are ways to sleep better while you’re away from home. Some are simple while others take some preparation, but they’re all worth it. 

Poor sleep can leave you irritable, moody, and stressed, not exactly how most of us like to travel. However, there are ways to sleep better while you’re away from home.
Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash

Make It Feel Like Home

You may not have the comfort of your own bed at a hotel or AirBnB, but you can make it feel more like home. If you can, bring along items or stimuli you normally use at home. Travel with a favorite blanket or pillow, create a relaxing bedtime playlist, or bring along your favorite candle. Anything that looks, smells, and feels like home can be a huge help. 

Follow Your Regular Routine

Your body is trained to follow a regular routine so it makes sense to keep that same routine when you’re away from home. The predictability of a routine acts as a trigger for your brain to start your sleep cycle. Your routine doesn’t need to be complicated to be helpful. If you normally take a bath then read a book before going to bed, do the same thing and keep everything in the same order while you travel.  

Turn Down the Heat

Your body needs certain conditions to successfully fall and stay asleep. At the start of the sleep cycle, the body temperature drops. It stays slightly lower throughout the night until it’s time to start waking up, at which point it slowly rises again. 

Cool room temperatures help maintain that lower body temperature. It keeps you from overheating and prevents a premature wake-up. Typically, temperatures between 60 to 68 degrees work best, but that will depend on whether you sleep cool or warm. You might have to make some adjustments and experiment to find a temperature that works best for you. 

Keep It Dark and Embrace the Morning

Light has a powerful impact on the timing of your sleep cycle. Sunlight and other forms of blue spectrum light suppress sleep hormones. At bedtime, block out as much light as possible. This is especially important if you’re fighting jet lag. Your body bases the timing of your sleep cycle on the Earth’s day-night pattern. When you hop time zones, it needs all the help it can get to catch up with the changes to that pattern. Bring along a sleep mask and/or some binder clips to keep the curtains closed and the room dark.

Once morning rolls around at your destination, get out of bed and get some early morning sunshine. Exposure to light early in the day helps set sleep patterns for the next 24 hours.  

Time Your Meals and Eat Smart

Light isn’t the only way the body times the sleep cycle. It also uses other predictable patterns like meal timing to determine when to release sleep hormones. Try to eat your meals at approximately the same times each day to give your brain some kind of schedule to follow. 

You can also help by avoiding heavy, high-fat meals close to bedtime. Also watch out for acidic, spicy, and caffeine-laden foods that could cause indigestion or heartburn. 

Use a Sleep Aid

While I don't usually have issues sleeping, the first day or two away from home can be difficult for me to drop off. I have a pillow spray that chills you out, I've also used Dream Water (both the liquid and the powder), and also CBD gummies. Whatever you find works for you at home should work when you are traveling, so take those things along.

Start On The Plane

Sleeping on the plane can not only help your body combat germs, but it helps you avoid jet lag, too. If you need tips on how to sleep better or just on the plane in general, here are the tips I use. It helps to figure out what normally will help you, like I said above, so do some research before you travel if you don't usually use anything to go to sleep, or it's something simple, like a chill podcast or certain music that you can download before you leave home.

Sleep is the foundation of your health. You need it to be alert, happy, and ready to go. As you develop a travel plan, include ways to enhance your sleep. The changes you make in favor of better sleep may be small but the payoff can be well worth it. 

Have you ever lost valuable travel time because of poor sleep? 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links and I may get compensated for any purchases you make through them. This helps me continue to bring you quality content, so thanks in advance.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Why Staycations Are Still Big Right Now

I know most of us are dying to get out in the world and explore, but we also want to be responsible and safe. Eric and I are still doing Destination Date Nights and exploring Portland's outdoor spaces and through restaurants that specialize in foods from outside of America. Yes, we'll be taking a road trip next month, but like our last one, we'll be changing the way we approach this trip, eating outside as much as possible or taking meals to-go, doing outdoor activities, and masking up whenever we're around people. 

Most of us are dying to get out in the world and explore, but we want to be responsible and safe. Staycations and road trips may be the answer.
photo credit

We'll be staying at our timeshare, so we'll have a kitchen and patio and pool and picnic tables. While this may not sound like as much fun as regular vacations we take, we'll be away from home and have a change of scenery. Follow me on Instagram to follow along on our trip and maybe snag some ideas for your own next trip. 

Will you be staycationing or road tripping this year?

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

3 Steps to Preventing Jet Lag

Jet lag. Is there anything worse? Well, probably. Getting robbed or attacked by a bear or losing your passport. Those are all worse actually. There's a really low chance of most of those things happening to you, but jet lag is really common...and annoying. Now that you're getting close to traveling again, you don't want to waste any time on your trips. Not that you did before, but your first trip out would really be devastating, so here are 3 ways to prevent getting jet lagged.

Now that you're getting close to traveling again, you don't want to waste any time on your trips, so here are 3 ways to prevent jet lag.

You can lose hours or days of your trip because of it, which is kind of like being robbed, because you're paying for vacation you don't get to use. Going west to east is worse than going east to west, but it depends on how many time zones you're crossing. The best way to avoid jet lag is to start combating it before you even leave home. Here are some tips:

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Adjust Your Schedule
The sooner you can get on your new schedule, the better. If you can do so before you leave home, that's optimal, but if you have to work and can't really do that, then start on your plane ride. Immediately set your watch to what the local time will be and do what you normally do at that time. If it's time to sleep, then sleep, but if it's not, make yourself stay awake as much as possible. I take a quick nap, but occupy myself reading, watching a movie, playing a game or coming up with new post ideas (maybe you journal instead). If you are traveling with someone, break out a card game and make them play with you. In other words, keep your brain busy. 

When you get to your destination, stay on schedule. If it's daytime, do some sightseeing. If it's nighttime, then go to bed. Simple! And don't forget to eat on time. Have problems getting on a new schedule? Try a time adjusting app!

Stay Hydrated
Not getting enough liquids in your body can cause you to be sluggish. Bring a big bottle of water with you on the plane, avoid dehydrating drinks like soda and alcohol, and continue drinking extra of water for the first couple of days of your trip. This can also keep you from getting sick. A great alternative to water is tomato juice. It's known to be one of the best beverages for flying, because it's hydrating and full of vitamins. If you're thinking this sounds super gross, just try it. The altitude from flying dulls your taste buds a bit, so it's actually tastier than you think.

Eat Light and Healthy
Eating is really important, but you don't want to eat a huge meal before getting on the plane. You also don't want to eat fried and junk food. Find something light and healthy (or as much as possible) to eat before your flight that'll keep your going, but not weigh you down and make you sleepy. You'll also want to bring snacks. Protein-packed, healthy foods like nuts or fruit are great options.

If you want to know more about a jet lag "diet", see my post here. I still haven't tried it like I meant to, but I found that getting on schedule ASAP worked really well. I am normally tired the first evening, but after a good night's sleep, I am good to go for the rest of my trip. I've done this for coast-to-coast trips and also trips further away.

Have you ever been a victim of jet lag?

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Shereen Travels Cheap Turns 11

Yesterday marked this blog's foray into a second decade. Oddly this last year has not had much actual travel, but that doesn't mean travel is dead forever. In fact, it's far from it. Usually, I go back over my past accomplishments of the year, but I think I'd like to change it up again and talk about some of the things we've been doing that we will continue doing, even after the pandemic is over.

Yesterday marked this blog's foray into a second decade. Travel has been put on hold, but not forever, so here's to hoping 2022 is brighter.

Even though we only took one road trip this year, we still did quite a bit. We explored more of the Portland area than we ever have and we took a ton of staycations, where we "visited" so many places we haven't been. We're coming up on September again, where I will have to decide if I want to celebrate Oktoberfest again. 

I've loved doing our Destination Date Nights and I'm sure even when we can travel freely again, we'll be continuing to do them, even if we cut back to once a month or so. Some of my favorites have been Amsterdam, Egypt, Venice, and Japan. We've found new destinations to add to our list as we were pushing off planned travel. 

We've discovered new favorite foods and restaurants. We've learned that even when forced to be together, we still enjoy each other's company. We've changed routines and haven't been sad about most of those changes. We've become more creative about what we do and stay in touch with others. We've found new podcasts and shows that we love.

Next month we'll head out on a road trip to Las Vegas, because we need to get out of the house. We've decided t hat we can only control ourselves and how we behave, so we feel like this is the most responsible travel that we can do: We'll be staying in our timeshare in Vegas, off The Strip, we'll be masking up everywhere, we'll be eating outside, and we'll be doing outside things like enjoying street art. The few things I have planned inside are things in places I know are doing the most for public health, require masks, and have rigorous cleaning routines. We'll be going first thing in the morning, to avoid as many people as possible, and know that everything has just been deep cleaned. Meow Wolf's OmegaMart will be one of those things, and the Museum of Dream Space is another. 

In Reno, a stroll along downtown's Riverwalk District is on the itinerary. It's lined with wall murals and sculptures. Outside of Las Vegas, Goldfield's International Car Forest and Pioneer Cemetery are on my list. Nearby's Rholite is a ghost town that is also a filming location, and Goldmine is a must with an open-air sculpture museum and an awesome bottle house (that's a house made from bottles). 

This might be the trip we visit the Clown Motel's cemetery, check out the Sierra Nevada Zoological Park and even the Nevada Museum of Art. Though we've been to Virginia City before, I'd love to go again. It's about a 30-minute drive from Reno, but up the mountain and totally worth the drive.  

What's coming up after this road trip? 

If all goes well, in February I'll be back in Vegas for the Travel Goods Show, and this will hopefully see the return of our regular travel. A trip to Disneyland/Los Angeles could be on the docket, since our trip to Walt Disney World was postponed twice and then indefinitely now with the horror that is Covid in Florida. 

We are hoping to visit Chicago at some point, though I don't know if that will happen in 2022. I do know that we will be doing more Destination Date Nights to fill in the gaps between traveling. Destinations ahead so far are Reykjavik, Sydney (Australia), Edinburgh/Glasgow, Dublin, Toronto, New York City, India, and Turkey.

I hope you all are doing well. I'll continue to post travel things for you to plan those awesome trips for the future. I'll also be doing plenty of posts from my home entertainment and things around Portland on my Instagram. Stay safe, stay healthy, wear a mask, and be kind. These are the least we can do and hope for in these trying times. 

Are you starting to travel again? What postponed destinations are you most looking forward to?

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Planning Your Trip to Malta

So, we have recently "returned" from Malta and enjoyed the scenery and food and music. I, honestly, can't wait to go in real life and do and see and taste everything the island has to offer. If you're interested in learning more about Malta, here's an infographic on doing it on a budget:

We have recently "returned" from Malta and enjoyed the scenery and food and music. I, honestly, can't wait to go and experience it all in real life.

If you want to really start planning a trip to Malta, like I am doing, you can check out my Malta Wish List board.

Eventually, we're all going to start packing and getting some stamps in our passports again, but until that time, we can plan and staycation to get a taste of travel. It's one of my favorite things to do when I can't actually travel, and I would never have thought about it if Covid didn't come along. So, there are some bright spots about staying home and safe, even if it's just a way to curb your wanderlust and get creative with date nights. 

What are some of the bright spots of this pandemic for you? What has kept you sane or you've discovered you need more of even after life gets back to some semblance of normal?

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Malta at Home

It's been a minute, but I've had a really busy month, and I'm finally getting back to my Destination Date Nights. Our last one was to Malta, because I knew that summer deserved some actual summer destinations. As you may know, Malta has been a destination on my wish list for quite some time, and we'll be heading there in the future, if we ever get out of this pandemic.

Our most recent staycation was to Malta, where we ate oceanside and listened to Maltese music.

Things look to be doing better and then everything goes to hell again, so I don't expect regular leisure travel to really be back until probably mid-2022. What does that mean? More staycations for you and probably more time to plan a big, awesome trip when we finally come out of this. I'll still be doing some travel in the next year, though probably not as much as I hoped for, because it will have to be careful and safe and responsible. For now, let's look at how we traveled to Malta while staying at home.

Because of where it's located, Malta is influenced by Greece and Italy and northern Africa. This is shown in the architecture and foods. Malta doesn't have much that seems uniquely Malta, but the combination of other countries makes it interesting and a clash of cultures makes for a feeling of being in many places at once. 

We made this a simple Destination Date Night. We had dinner, we listened to some Maltese music and we just enjoyed each other's company. I used the look and island vibes to set my table. Malta is a beautiful, breezy, fishing destination, so I used my striped tablecloth and added a fish vase with poppies (a flower is grown in the area), and topped it off with one of the Knights of Malta. 

Because Malta is such a niche country, there aren't any Maltese restaurants around here, so, like I did with Mongolia, I found a restaurant that had items that were close to what is popular in Malta and then filled in with other foods. I found that the place I wanted to order from actually charged LESS if you purchased a meal kit and assembled/finished the food at home, so I ordered and picked up a seafood stew and a beet salad. I felt that the stew was close enough to Aljotta, a Mediterranean fish soup. Cod is a native fish there, so I chose a stew that also included cod (and also shrimp and clams). 

Everyone has salad, and it was an easy thing to include and put together from the restaurant. I always like to have some sort of vegetables with dinner, and this was a perfect fit. It was beets, gorgonzola, and pistachio brittle with a champagne vinaigrette. Malta has a bread that is similar to focaccia - Ħobż - which I thought would go really well with both the salad and the stew, and I was right. 

While we did some sightseeing via our backdrop ("That lady down there is taking a photo of those people with an iPad!") and chatted about the food and what we would do in Malta, we listened to some Maltese pop music. Then we busted out the dessert.

I wasn't sure I would be able to find cannoli in our local bakeries (it's not really that popular), so I decided to fake a Maltese dessert called imqaret. They are sort of like fig newtons, but flaky, so I baked fig paste in croissant dough. Then I did find cannoli at the bakery down the street, so we had both. Cannoli is an Italian dessert, but it's frequently served in Malta as well. Both were delicious, so I guess I'd be into visiting some bakeries while in Malta. 

Malta is a very interesting and beautiful country that I can't wait to actually travel to. I admired the scenery while watching an annual World's Strongest Man competition and have been thinking about it ever since.  Here are some ways to recreate Malta at home:

There are plenty of other ways to make this a fantastic staycation and to immerse yourself in the culture as much as possible when still at home. Take a stroll through a museum, learn a new language, find out about famous Maltins and how they contributed to the world and Malta itself. 

Unfortunately, between being so busy and our heatwaves, it's been hard to plan another one, but I have a new one coming up. You'll be seeing us visit Chicago soon, and hopefully, also Reykjavik. We'll also be actually traveling to Reno and Vegas on a road trip soon-ish. You can see photos of all of these as they happen on my Instagram. Cheers to more staycations while we're waiting to safely get back out in the world.

Have you done any fun staycations over the last year and a half? Tell us about them in the comments!

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, August 4, 2021

Happy Birthday, Harry!

So, as you know we usually do a big party to celebrate Harry Potter on his birthday, but last year we had to do it virtually, and this year we're waiting to see how things go and have already moved it to September and turned it into game night instead of the usual big do up. We'll be celebrating Harry and the return to Hogwarts for wizarding kids. 

Photos from our two Harry Potter celebrations for The Boy Who Lived's birthday.
One of the staff at Kennedy School, dressed as a House Elf

That doesn't mean we didn't do anything for Harry on his birthday. We did. The week before his birthday I helped run the PDXpelliarmus Harry Potter Activists' booth for Wizarding Weekend at a local hotel that was once a school. For 3 days we have magical vendors, the movies going, themed food, and games. Considering we had to skip last year and we weren't sure how well received this would be with everything going on this year, we were blown away.

Usually, this weekend is the end of our back-to-school supply drive, but we pivoted this year to end Accio Books with this big event and were overwhelmed with book donations. With the money we made from selling our buttons, bags, and other HP-related goods, we were able to cover our entire book list for a charitable organization that works with the houseless, so we can provide them with young adult and adult books. 

Here are some pictures of our table, Diagon Alley, kids dressed up for the costume contest, and my own outfit. (Yes, this was an event where we encouraged masking and all volunteers had a mandatory mask rule.)

My last-minute, weather appropriate garb, as a Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes employee

Our 3 costume winners: Seamus Finnegan (complete with soot-covered face, Dobby, and Professor Trewlawney)

Putting together our gear for Wizarding tea

On Harry's actual birthday, Eric and I convinced some vaccinated friends to go to an annual Harry Potter tea near to us. We have gone every year except last year, where everything was still shut down for indoor dining. This year they had welcome cocktails, tea leaf reading (a must for every year), and a Muggle magician. If you've seen my IG reel, you can watch me volunteer. I wrote my name on a piece of parchment, we set it on fire, and then it reappeared inside of an orange. Amazing! Here are some of my favorite pics:

Channeling our love of Ron's love for the Chudley Cannons Quidditch team

Reading our tea leaves. I see a crow and a crown in the middle, and what might be a squirrel - I see a llama - over on the right. What do you see?

There was a Muggle magician!

Dobby follows me everywhere, I guess. Here's Eric and I with some fellow Potter friends

Cocktails: Butterbeer, Golden Snitch, Invisibility Cloak (color-changing gin drink)

There will be more photos to come once we have had our game night (with costumes!) and probably Rose City Comic Con (where I will volunteer with PDXpelliarmus again) and then Yule Ball. Cheers to August! 

How is your summer going? Did you do any Harry Potter activities?

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