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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Pack Light for Winter Travel

Packing even for a beach trip in just a carry-on can be a little tricky if you aren’t used to packing light. Carry-on travel has become more and more popular as baggage fees have become the norm among most airlines. 

Not only does packing light save money, but it also saves time, because travelers don’t have to stand around the baggage carousel waiting for their luggage to (hopefully) make it off the plane.

Not only does packing light save money, but it also saves time, because travelers don’t have to stand around the baggage carousel waiting for their luggage to (hopefully) make it off the plane. Having minimal baggage can save your back, too. Not sure where to start when planning your winter travel bag? Here are some tips to keep your carry-on light, but still have a large wardrobe.

fall travel tops

Mix and Match

When you carry fewer items, you need all your clothing to work together. Throw out the idea of packing a whole outfit for each day and instead look to mix and match everything you bring. Pick a color palette and stick with it, or make sure either all your tops or all your bottoms are a neutral color. If all your tops go with all your bottoms, you’ll find your choices are more than expected.

Scale Down

The only one who will know that you’ve worn the same clothing separates more than once on vacation is you (and your travel companions). It’s unlikely you will see the same people more than once on a trip, and if you do, they probably won’t notice that your outfit is similar to what they saw you in before. The magic numbers for what to bring: Five tops and three bottoms. These, coupled with the outfit you’ve traveled in, net you over three weeks of unique outfit combinations.

Layer, Layer, Layer

Just because it’s cold today, doesn’t mean it will be tomorrow. Plan for days that can vary in temperature by packing layers. You might have an unseasonably warm day in the middle of winter or an unexpected cold snap in fall. Be prepared. Pack a few sweaters, a scarf and a mix of tanks and tees. When it’s warmer out, you can opt for a t-shirt. When it’s really cold, you can add two or more layers together to keep chill out. If you’ve brought a dress, toss a pair of tights into your bag to protect your legs. Don’t forget your favorite jacket, which you should leave out of your carry-on to save space for other necessities. It can double as a pillow on the plane or can be stashed under the seat in front of you.

Choose Two

Shoes are the biggest challenge of everyone’s travel bag, it seems. A pair of flip flops is a staple to any carry-on, as they take up little room and are perfect for quick jaunts to the lobby or to the hotel pool. Other than those, two pair of shoes is all you need. When your destination is projected to be cool, a pair of comfortable boots and another pair of walking shoes are going to be your best bet. Don’t bring anything you haven’t worn before or that you can’t walk in for long periods of time comfortably.

Wear your walking shoes on the plane and leave your dress up shoes at home. You’re not going to want to wear high heels after a day of sightseeing. If you really want to wear a pair of nice shoes out, look for a fun pair of ballet flats or wedge booties that will go with other outfits as well.


If you feel that what you’ve brought is kind of drab and not really exciting for a night out, then accessories will elevate those plain Jane items. A scarf, a belt and some statement jewelry can pack small and make a big impact. Jazz up your little black dress or a simple tank with a funky necklace. Even if you’re specifically planning to go to an upscale restaurant or clubbing, you probably won’t feel like leaving your fancier clothes at home was a bad idea. If you aren’t going to wear something two or more times, it is just taking up valuable real estate in your carry-on.

Do Laundry

There’s no way around it. If you pack light and you’re gone for more than a week, you’re going to have to do laundry. Schedule some downtime (which you should do anyway) to clean your clothes. It doesn’t sound fun, but you can take the time to hit the pool, watch a show or catch a nap. Just need to freshen up a piece? Spray some vodka on it. It deodorizes, and since it doesn’t have its own smell, you won’t reek of booze.

Carry-on packing can be difficult at first, but with some practice you can become a pro and save baggage fees. With fewer bags to deal with, you’ll feel freer as you waltz off the plane and get right onto your vacation while everyone else is still waiting for their suitcases. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

5 Budget Winter Destinations

It's not even winter yet, but I can feel the winter blahs coming. The cold, rainy weather has arrived in Portland and I'm already over wearing a coat, considering it's usually windy as well, so your hood doesn't even stay up well. If you're thinking about a getaway this winter, you're not the only one. I've already got a trip to Arizona planned in January and will be traveling to Vegas in February.

It's not even winter yet, but I can feel the winter blahs coming. If you're thinking about a getaway this winter, you're not the only one.

You can get away on a budget, too. Let's look at 5 destinations to start planning a trip to:

Photo by Wei Zeng on Unsplash

Puerto Rico

When you're needing to escape to somewhere warm, the Caribbean is there to welcome you. Enjoy the beach, delicious foods, the rainforest, casinos, and even the mountains. Turn your vacation into something much different than others by following the food trail and going on a culinary adventure. You will need to have proof that you are fully vaccinated and are Covid negative, or you will be quarantined upon arrival until you can take a test and results come back negative.

Photo by Kit Suman on Unsplash


Though Italy is still in a state of emergency, that doesn't mean you can't visit. In fact, they are open to visitors from many countries, including the U.S. There are many historic sites you can visit, there's still amazing food you can eat, and the city itself is just gorgeous, so even if you stayed outside most of the time, you'd still be getting a lovely vacation. You must either present proof of vaccination, or recovery from Covid, and present a negative Covid test.

Las Vegas

Spend your days that would be cold and dark at home by the pool in Las Vegas. I love going off The Strip and enjoying other things the city has to offer. Downtown's art district is lovely and you can view so much free art just by walking around. The Container Park has many outdoor dining options. Ethel M's allows you to view a real, working chocolate factory, and the cactus garden is beautiful in the day and lights up after dark. I would also highly recommend Springs Preserve, which combines the history of Las Vegas, indigenous plants and animals, and art to create an awesome day out. If you're traveling domestically, there aren't any restrictions, though there are still mask mandates indoors, including in casinos (a woman asked me this when I told her she needed to wear one in Las Vegas, despite being from "elsewhere", like casinos weren't all indoors. 

San Diego

With mild temps during the winter, San Diego is lovely, historical, and full of amazing things to see and do. This is another city that has a lot of outdoor choices: Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, Mission Beach Boardwalk. You can see my post hereAgain, there are no vaccination rules for travelers, but masks are mandated for all indoor public spaces.

Photo by Kathryn Maingot on Unsplash


Looking for a beach vacay that also feels Mediterranean? Head to Barbados to drink rum, go scuba diving (or snorkeling if you're not that adventurous), go hiking, and even take a safari tour. There's something for everyone here, including amazing historical architecture and fantastic cuisine. Even fully-vaccinated travelers will need to present a specific negative Covid test.

Did this satisfy any of your wanderlust? My runners-up for budget destinations are Tulum, Mexico (this has become very popular though and may well be insanely crowded), Santa Fe, NM, and Quebec City.

Sometimes, just a change of scenery can do you good, even if the weather is similar to where you live. I know just seeing new things and eating different food and engaging with people I don't know gives me that reset I need in life to not feel like I want to jump out of my skin when I'm home again. It keeps the SAD at bay long enough to get to Spring (for me). Destination Date Nights can only do so much.

Are you planning a winter getaway? If so, where are you going?

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Holiday Travel Gift List 2021

Travel is coming back, y'all! I'm excited, but still cautious and know it's never going to be the same as it was, but many of us also remember when 9/11 happened and also when they stopped allowing smoking on planes and travel changed forever. It's fine. Things change and evolve and we go on with life.

We want to travel safely, so we learn new rules and maybe we complain about them or maybe we just accept them. Basically, I just shrug and figure out how to work with the system and get to my destination and have a good time (hopefully) and go back home and start planning again. 

Well, people are getting vaccinated and boosted and their children are finally getting vaccinated, too, and making them feel much more comfortable taking them anywhere, so while 60% of Americans say they won't be traveling for the holidays this year, it doesn't mean they won't be traveling ever again. In fact, I think most are just frustrated by the high prices and the challenges that pandemic life has wrought upon us all. So, if you have a traveler in your life, then you know that they will be looking to get out there again and you can help them, with awesome travel gifts. 

You'll want to buy your gifts sooner rather than later this year, especially if you plan to ship anything, because slow shipping service is going to be a headache. The cutoff to ship anything Ground this year to get it there by Christmas (you hope) is Dec 9th. Crazy, right? That's why I've posted this list a bit earlier this year. Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales are already flooding my inbox weeks early, so you don't have to even wait to get good deals this year. And, no matter your budget, you can get something awesome for everyone on your list.

Stocking Stuffers - Budget Items - $50 or less

1. Travelon Water Bottle Tote We are always carrying around a reusable water bottle. You don't really realize how much you drink on vacation (or everywhere else) until you don't have to pay for them everywhere you go. I like to keep my hands free when I'm out and about, so a bottle tote is a great invention. Travelon has several, but these two pack down to almost nothing. Nylon is $12 on Travelon | Anti-microbial is $13.50 on Travelon + use my code ShereenTravels20% and get 20% off.
2. Q2 Power Travel Adapter Anyone who travels outside of the country needs an adapter for their electronics. Most US electronics are dual voltage, so you don't have to worry about a converter. This adapter from Bracketron can be used in a bunch of countries, and has a built-in USB outlet for your phone. This was my favorite adapter on my last trip. It charges your phone quickly, and I was able to plug my laptop into the main outlet. It worked perfectly. I only wished I had a second one. $19.95 on Amazon
3. The Man Who Ate Everything Do you have a foodie traveler on your list? Or someone who loves to travel, but not really try new foods. New food is one of the best parts of traveling. Gift them a book about Jeffrey Steingarten traveling around the world to sample foods and expand his palette. If they've already read that one, get them the sequel. From $12.99 on Amazon | It Must Have Been Something I Ate from $18 on Amazon
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. You can see my review here. $49.99 on Amazon
5. Aeropress Go The AeroPress Go is as great as the original, but everything is compact enough to fit inside it's own coffee cup, which is pretty amazing. As a person who travels quite a lot and tends to stay in places that have terrible coffee makers or none at all, being able to get a good cup of coffee is very important to me. If you have a similar coffee lover on your list, this is a must. You can see my review on it here. $31.95 on Amazon
6. Hand Sanitizer in good smelling scents I know hand sanitizer sounds boring, but it's a great addition to a larger gift and is crazy invaluable for being safe and healthy on trips. Everyone has lovely scent combos and they come in conveniently-sized spray bottles. From $16.18 for a 4 pack on Amazon PlaneAire has more non-traditional scents and are moisturizing gels. From $6.99 on Amazon
7. Happyluxe Wayfarer Travel Wrap I love this oversized wrap. It's so soft and comfortable, I can wear it as a shawl or a blanket or a big scarf, or it can be used as a picnic blanket. It packs up small, so I can stuff it in my purse with my snacks. Everyone needs one, in my opinion. $34+ on Amazon
8. Airplane Pockets So, I hate the airplane seat pocket. It's never big enough, it already has stuff in it that isn't mine, and usually there's trash in there from the previous flyer. When I saw these on Kickstarter, I immediately wanted them. We ordered enough for our family traveling from Portland to Scotland and I love them. Airplane Pockets fit over your tray table, making it antibacterial, and give you four pockets - one large one and three smaller ones - to fit everything you need for a flight. After you land, slip it off, fold it up, and toss it in your bag. $23.90 on Amazon
9. The Barrier Method "Just the mask" or Neckie Warmer climates call for more breathable masks and, though I love the Winged Mask (in the next section), their just the mask or neckie (shown) are more suitable for many destinations. They are lightweight, but still anti-bacterial and have built-in UPF, so you don't get sunburned on your face and neck, especially when sitting in the window seat where the sun's rays can be much worse. From $35 on The Barrier Method - sign up for their newsletter and get 26% off through November

Cool Gifts - Moderate Items - $50-100

1. Travelon's new Heritage Weekender This bag is so beautiful and unisex and user-friendly. It unzips on top and has a phenomenal wide mouth opening, because they know what we all want and need in our bags! It can easily hold a week's worth of clothing with spare shoes and toiletries. The Heritage collection is lovely and wears so we'll. The longer you use it, the more worn and fantastic the fabric looks. $105 on Travelon (get 20% off if you use code SHEREENTRAVELS20%)
2. Uber gift cards Sometimes renting a car isn't worth the money and sometimes public transportation isn't an option (like late at night). Make sure they get there safely and easily with gift cards they can add to their Uber account for a cheaper trip. You can buy these at Target or other big box stores. Any denomination on Uber website 
3. The Barrier Method Winged Travel Mask Okay, I feel like travel is one of those things that can be simultaneously awesome and awful. You get to go to cool new places and you can also get some disgusting sicknesses from all the germs everywhere, especially on the plane. 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 traveler with gift of health and wellness with one of these. $60 from The Barrier Method (you can read my review here.)
4. Airbnb gift cards Accommodations can get spendy, so give them something they can really use no matter where they go. Let them choose where to go and where to stay to make them happy whenever they travel. You can purchase any denomination either at a local store that sells gift cards or Amazon
5. Walter + Ray TAB Getting on the plane and then having to contort your body uncomfortably to get items you want to use in-flight out of the bag under the seat in front of you is crazy! Walter + Ray invented the TAB in response to allow you to pack everything you need for your flight in a slim pocket that has a tab that slides into the seat pocket or a strap that fits over the tray table, even closed, so you always have access to all your goodies and you don't have to hurry to shove them all in the seat pocket and then realize you've forgotten something after you've deplaned. $65 on Walter + Ray's website
6. Benjilock Regular TSA-accepted locks usually suck, and are easy to forget the combination to, especially if you only travel a few times a year. If that's a problem your recipient has too, so he just doesn't use a lock on her luggage, a Benjilock might just be what he needs. Instead of a combination or a key, it opens with a fingerprint. And if he's traveling with several people who are using the same carry-on/suitcase, it can hold up to 10 fingerprints. $70 on Amazon, but can also be found at The Home Depot and QVC and Ace Hardware.
7. Timbuk2 Swig Backpack I go on at least one trip alone each year, or a short getaway, where I don't take a lot. I have this bag, which perfectly fits my giant laptop, a few changes of clothes and my toiletries. It's got a very slim profile, so it sits against your body very comfortably. I hate bringing more than I need, but I also like to use this as a personal item on longer trips, so I can keep my necessities under the seat in front of me. $64 on Amazon
8. Herschel Winslow Garment Bag If a more streamlined garment bag is something they're looking for, look no further than the Winslow Garment Bag that looks like a funky softside briefcase. It comes in cool colors and patterns and has mesh zippered pockets inside for all their accessories. It even has a trolley sleeve to slip it over your rolling bag, but can also be used as a pocket when you don't need that feature. $119, but on sale for $47.99 right now on Herschel website
9. Tropicfeel shoes I backed these as a kickstarter, because they sounded amazing. They are pretty much Spring and Summer shoes (though if the fall isn't cold, you could wear them then too). We travel to Vegas a lot and do a ton of theme parks, which have plenty of water activities. These shoes are like your best sneakers and water shoes in one. I backed them hoping they would be as good as they sounded, and they were. We both have a pair and they are super lightweight, can be worn with or without socks, and look fantastic. They are perfect for all the walking your giftee will do on their travels. $78 on TropicFeel 
10. Cashmere travel blanket Sure, you could buy them any number of other travel blankets, but add a bit of luxe to their travels, especially those college kids staying in super cheap accommodations, and to make their economy seat a little less awful. I like this one that's a wool/cashmere blend, making it a bit more affordable for your wallet, too. $81 on Amazon

AMAZING Gifts - Splurge Items - $100+

1. Priority Pass Hanging out in the airport can be fun, but after a while, you wish it could be better. Buy them access to all the airport lounges, so they can get some peace and quiet, free snacks and maybe get some work done or catch a shower. You can purchase them a standard pass for $99/year, or upgrade him to the plus for $299, which includes 10 free visits (generally member visits are $32). 
2. Arcopedico L8 Booties I love these. While they aren't waterproof, they are water resistant, look great with everything, and have an open toe box, so you aren't squashed into them, even with fat socks on. These booties are a bit stretchy and have dual arch support, giving your body the stance it needs to keep your feet, legs and back from hurting, even if you're walking all day long. Find them on Amazon for $122+.
3. A Great Hardside Carry-On Everyone needs a great carry-on, and if overpacking is an issue, a hardside is just what is called for. I have several go-to bags for different trips. I love my Lojel Nimbus, but I also have another Lojel bag I like. Check out the Alto Small. Ebags also makes awesome bags, including the Fortis Pro. It even has a USB port, so you can charge while traveling. Fortis Pro $179 on Amazon
4. iPad Mini I take my iPad Mini everywhere I go. It does everything and I love reading on it, since it's so lightweight. If you know someone who needs a tablet, this is a great one to get for travel, so they can read, watch videos, stream movies/tv, play games, write emails, take notes, and more. I even do work on mine sometimes. $280 on Amazon
5. Skyroll Garment Bag For business travelers, or those who go on cruises, or a lot of special occasions, the Skyroll is an awesome addition to a trip, as it is a high capacity garment bag with a built in shoe compartment and toiletry bag. Arrive at destinations with all your formal clothes in perfect condition, no ironing needed. There's also zipper compartments for smaller items like socks, ties, and underwear. $150 at Men's Warehouse or on Skyroll
6. GoPro Hero 8 Got an adventurous sort on your list? Perhaps they want to take video of everything they experience everywhere they go. You've seen people with GoPros doing extreme sports, but they are just as good at Disneyland or walking around cities. Let them record it all. $399 on Amazon
7. Pivo Camera Stand If a GoPro isn't in your budget, or you have a blogger or social media star on your list, then let them turn their phone into an amazing photo and video studio. I backed Pivo on Kickstarter, because it can be difficult to take a bunch of pics in a row without having to stop and reset after each one, even with the timer on your phone. Pivo, basically, gives you a photo studio in a compact phone holder. It comes with a tiny remote as well. I love it and I'm learning all its capabilities slowly. $99+ on Pivo website

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Stress-Free Holiday Travel Tips

The holidays are coming and it's time to start planning and packing. Soon you'll join the millions of people traveling to visit friends and family or, if you're lucky, going on a winter getaway. I definitely approve of those, because the holidays can be stressful and getting away from everything is always nice and relaxing.

The holidays are coming and it's time to start planning and packing. Soon you'll join the millions of people traveling to visit friends and family.

The airport during the holidays is a madhouse and security lines can be longer than usual, so let's talk about how to get through them with as little annoyance as possible (at least when it comes to yourself).

Sign up for TSA Precheck

You have time to do this and get approved before the holidays. For $85, you get 5 years of bypassing the main security lines and going through a much shorter line with less strict rules. You can keep your jacket, hat, belt and shoes on and your laptop and toiletries can stay in your bag. We're on our fourth year of using it and I'll never look back. Next year, when we renew, we'll be getting Global Entry, which works internationally and also includes domestic Precheck for just $100.

Get There Early

Longer lines mean longer wait times and the holidays means more traffic. Don't cut it too close to get to the airport. Give yourself at least two hours before your flight if it's domestic and three if its international at the airport. Accidents happen, extra long lines happen, computer glitches happen. Just be prepared. Bring a book or magazine to keep you occupied if you end up having a long wait at the gate...or go check out your airport's art or do some gift shopping. 

With the U.S. opening to international travelers again, and more identification and info being checked, things will take even longer than normal holiday travel probably, so pack your patience. You'll also be looking at a lot of disrupted/cancelled flights due to staff shortages and bad weather. 

Fly With Just a Carry-On

I've been flying with just a carry-on for a decade now. I've gotten my packing down to almost just the bare essentials, since I now know what will get worn and what won't. The trick to packing small in the winter is layering and not caring if all your pictures are you wearing the same coat and scarf (maybe two). Here's a post I did on packing light in the winter.

Don't Wrap Any Gifts

If you are visiting friends and family and haven't shipped your presents ahead (which I highly recommend), don't wrap them and stash them in your carry-on. TSA may very well want to inspect them and will not be sorry for you if they have to unwrap them. So, I suggest packing small gifts and saving the wrapping for when you arrive. This takes up much less room too.

Go Left

Most people get to the security lines and head right to go through the x-ray machines. This makes these lines longer. Instead, go left if given a choice. These lines are shorter, making them a bit faster. Try skipping any lines with small kids, because they usually take longer.

Keep a Zip-Top Bag On Hand

Always have a bunch of things in your pockets? If you don't have an empty accessible pocket on your bag, have a plastic bag with you and then empty your pockets into it, so it doesn't get lost in the bottom of your bag or you don't have to stand at the end of the conveyor picking everything out of one of those little round bins to load your pockets back up.

Have Your Liquids Bag and Laptop Easily Accessible 

This is super annoying. All your liquids need to fit in a one quart see through bag in 3.4oz or less containers. Have this out and ready to toss in the security bin along with your shoes and laptop. When you're holding of the line rummaging for things that you knew you needed to have out, everyone gets that much more irritated and grumpy. You saw the signs. Don't pretend you didn't.

Wear Slip-On Shoes

Having to tie and untie your shoes to get through security is just another hassle you don't need. Pack those in your bag and wear some easy on easy off shoes. You will thank me. Anything that's hassle-free is nice, and can get you on your trip faster.

Don't Wear Any Accessories 

If you can get away with it, skip the jewelry and watch and belt. Those are just more things you'll need to take off to put through the scanners and nobody wants to wait behind you while you're spending an extra five minutes de- and re-accessorizing.

Download Your Airline's App

Carry one less thing. You're already walking around with your phone, so download your airline's app so you can easily check in, get updates and have your boarding pass on hand instead of stuffing it into your pocket or a book and then having a small panic attack when you can't find it. You can have everyone's boarding pass in your party on your app. Another brilliant tip: screenshot your boarding passes in case your app logs you out or the airport has shoddy WiFi right before you need to show it to someone. This has totally happened to me more than once. Never again!

Keep Your Chill

Don't be that person who gets all irritated when things don't go your way. Everyone's trying their best, the airline employees are already dealing with dozens of jerky people everyday. Don't make their life harder. Just close your eyes and breathe before you start yelling. Find your chill. Ask if it's really that important. Everyone's having a hard time, but they're dealing with it. Lots of things can't be helped, so you being grouchy and mean isn't going to change anything.

The holidays are supposed to be a happy time. Smile, even when you don't want to, think of the awesome trip you're about to go one, play games with your travel buddies and think of this as just another part of your adventure.

Don't Forget:
With Covid still running rampant and safety mandates in place in most places, don't forget the necessities. You'll need a mask for flying and many airlines are not just requiring masks, but will only allow you on the flight if you have the correct mask. That mask is a medical grade N95 or disposable 3-ply medical mask. I don't personally wear these in my everyday life, but I do have a stash of black disposable masks specifically for this purpose and then wear my reusable masks everywhere else. Disposables are also great if you either don't bring enough to cover your whole trip or don't have plans to do any laundry. 

Aside from mandatory masks, make sure to bring hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes. If you're trying to make your flight more comfortable, a short list of must-haves is:
With a little pre-planning, you can make holiday travel as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Stats say that 60% of Americans won't be traveling at all for the holidays, because of both the high cost of flights and rental cars and Covid. So, while there may be fewer people on the road, there may be more people at the airport due to flight delays and safety protocols. 

Where will you be going for the holidays?

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links and I may be financially compensated if you make a purchase through one of the links. This allows me to keep this blog running, so thank you in advance.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The "Back Room" of Omega Mart

I promised you more photos of our visit to MeowWolf's Omega Mart in my previous post showcasing the supermarket portion of the interactive museum. There are 3 floors to Omega Mart and each is completely different. In fact, some floors change theme depending on the room you're in. 

There are 3 floors to Omega Mart and each is completely different. In fact, some floors change theme depending on the room you're in.

There's an entire storyline involving the owners of Dram Corp, the fictional company that owns Omega Mart. Long story short, the CEO and Owner Walter Dram has disappeared after one daughter (or possibly granddaughter) encountered The Source and also disappeared. His remaining daughter may or may not have tried to kill him in retaliation or to become CEO in his place. 

Your job, should you choose to stray from your trainee duties, is to learn more about The Source, join The Resistance, and break into the company files in order to take down Dram Corp from the inside. 

MeowWolf has several "chill out" rooms that are nice to take a little break in.

I don't want to ruin it, so I won't tell you what The Source is, or what happened to Walter or Marin Dram, what Cecilia Dram is hiding, or what powers The Source, so I'll just show you some behind-the-store photos and videos for you to enjoy. If you aren't planning your own visit and want to learn more, you can easily find walk-through videos on YouTube. 

You can spend some time caving or overlooking other people exploring The Source river or the village. Climb through the caves or get there through a tunnel in a tent in Recreation. 

The board in the microbreak room

The flowers are watching, which you'll find out when you head behind the floral department, where you'll also find other interesting plants surrounding you.

Omega Mart can be a little bit much, or a lot if you easily succumb to sensory overload. Take some time to sit in areas that are calmer and have muted lighting. You'll be thankful you did. After several hours, Eric and I sat in the geometric room (seen in the first video) for a good 20 minutes. The music was still loud, but much more calming, and it was free of the crush of people everywhere else. There's even a dark bar behind the Pharmacy in the main room, in case you need a little extra chill time. 

I hope you have enjoyed my pictures and you are excited to visit an interactive museum the next time you have a chance. What are your favorite museums from your travels, traditional or non?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

My Tucson Wish List

I know we're all travel-deprived. I can feel it in my bones. Every day that I don't have a trip planned has a sense of everlasting doom. Now that Covid boosters are becoming available and kids are able to get vaccinated, I'm really feeling like we're on the track to getting out of pandemic and into endemic territory, so I've done what I do best and have started planning in earnest again.

In early January, Eric, my mom, and I will get on a plane and head to Tucson. We lived there for 13 years and Eric has never been.

Listen, I know I won't die from not getting to travel, but it's also a thing I need that makes me happy. I have been doing really well and being a safe and practical as possible, but next year is the year I get back on a plane. I will have gotten a booster by then and in early January, Eric, my mom, and I will get on a plane and head to Tucson. We lived there for 13 years and Eric has never been there, so this will be a quick trip to introduce him to things we loved and experience things together we never got to do. Believe me, after 23 years away, I have a list.

Biosphere 2

Have you seen that great movie Bio Dome with Pauly Shore? (If not, you totally should.) This is the actual real life version of that, but without the partying. Biosphere started as a way to see if man could create independent ecosystems in an enclosed sphere. It worked and now you can take tours of Biosphere 2 and learn all about how it is used for research and education.

Photo by mohammed alorabi on Unsplash

Reid Park Zoo

I've been to a lot of zoos and there are few that stand out, like San Diego Zoo and the Honolulu Zoo. While we have a large, sprawling zoo here in Portland, I miss the more relatable, easier to navigate zoo in Tucson and am looking forward to how much it has changed.

Photo by Dan Cutler on Unsplash

Old Tucson & Tombstone

If you're a fan of westerns - and even if you're not, because I definitely fall into the not category - you'll love seeing where some of them were filmed. Old Tucson has been a staple in western filmmaking forever, and though the sets have burned down more than once, they have always been rebuilt to bring more to the entertainment industry and to give tourists a thrill.

Tombstone was considered one of the last boomtowns in the American frontier, and was one of the largest silver mining districts. It was also the site of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which has been preserved for history, and is the site of daily reenactments for tourists.

Sonoran Desert Museum

Learn about all the animals and plants and the landscape of the desert with a museum, interactive exhibits, and native animals at this great museum for the whole family. We went several times while living in Arizona and I, honestly, can't wait to go now that it won't be 4,000 degrees outside. 

Tucson Botanical Garden

I don't know if this is new or I just didn't know about it when I lived there, but the Botanical Garden is just that: a place to view all the interesting native plants of the region and marvel in how different they can be from everywhere else you've lived and visited. Now that I no longer live in the Southwest, I have had enough time to learn the appreciation for cactus and succulents like I never did when I was surrounded by them.

Photo by Andrew Ling on Unsplash

Stroll Around Downtown

We were always pretty busy and didn't have much interest in shopping outside of the mall when we lived in Tucson. In fact, it could get so hot out that we just waited until it got dark to do things, so going downtown was never high up on our list. On my last visit, we went down on a weekend and things were really hoppin', so I'm looking forward to checking out all those little boutiques and cafes. 

Eat All the food

We'll only be in town for 4 days, but that's enough time to stuff my face full of my favorite things and then try some new stuff. Just a few of the places I hope to eat are:

  • Little Anthony's - our favorite 50s diner
  • Magpies Pizza - you can't go wrong with pizza that's been named best in the city for two decades, and your taste buds still remember it
  • Eegee's - an Arizona institution! They specialize in a drink that's sort of like if shave ice and a Slurpee had a baby. They have 3-4 regular flavors and then a flavor of the month, made with real fruit. We used to get a cooler of this for parties. Like, I considered driving an hour to get one that time the Travel Goods Show was in Phoenix
  • Bobo's Restaurant - this was a highly recommended restaurant to replace my favorite breakfast place that has closed
  • Tito & Pep - honestly, I kinda just want to go here for the mid-century modern decor, but the food sounds delish and it's supposed to be one of the best restaurants in the city
  • 5 Points Market & Restaurant - you know I have to check out some great coffee places and this is one that just happens to have yummy food and baked goods
  • Savaya Coffee Market - the Google reviews of this coffee shop are all amazing, plus it's right down the street from where we're staying in Oro Valley.
While I'm sure there are more food places I want to try or revisit, these are top of the list. 

I'm looking forward to finally getting to travel in earnest again and getting away when the weather here starts to feel intolerable 24/7. Tucson can be incredibly affordable and while it's cold and rainy or snowy everywhere else, it's between 60 and 70 degrees in January, meaning you can get by with a light jacket or cardigan over t-shirts. 

Have you been to Tucson? What are your favorite things to do or eat?

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