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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

How to Pack for a Special Occasion Trip

Earlier this month, Eric and I took a weekend trip to San Francisco to celebrate one of his cousin's weddings. It was fairly short, in that we flew in Friday after work and flew home on Sunday, but we were able to see everyone we wanted and party for an evening and eve got in some sightseeing.

There are some circumstances where you have to attend a special event and you can't pack light, but if you're a wedding guest, you can pack light.

I hate wasting time on a short trip with waiting for a bag to come out of the carousel and I always worry if my bag will make it to my destination, so I don't chance it if I don't have to. I'm also into saving baggage fees for something more fun, like dining out. There are some circumstances where you have to attend a special event and you can't pack light, but if you're a guest at a wedding, you can still get everything you need in a carry-on and personal item. Here's how:

Invest in a weekender, or equivalent, with a garment bag

Unless you want to spend time ironing, which I definitely do not, having a bag that has a garment bag as part of it is a great way to travel with fancy dresses and suits. We have a Skyroll garment bag and roller bag for such occasions. We took the original Skyroll for this trip, since it was so short. It's not available anymore, it doesn't look, but you can get something similar at a reasonable price that is still carry-on size. Don't want to carry a bag? Here's a roller garment.

Roll your other clothes

If you've been following me for a while, you know that I'm a big believer in rolling clothes. This bag makes that easier to do, because it's already round, and it doesn't require a packing cube.

Day 1 - On the plane

Wear clothes on the plane you can re-wear at your destination

I almost always travel in a pair of black pants, because they go with everything and they can be dressed up or down, depending on what I'm doing. If we had gotten in earlier, we would have driven straight from the airport to the restaurant the family was doing dinner at. If it hadn't been St. Patrick's Day, we would have worn less nerdy shirts, but we got in too late and it was St. Patrick's Day, so we decided to have fun with it. I also wore my black cardigan that went with all my clothes, for the chill, and we both had rain jackets.

Morning - Day 2

Only bring two pairs of shoes

For this short trip, we both only had our special occasion shoes and the shoes we wore on the plane, but this is my usual rule for travel: bring a good pair of walking shoes and a dressy pair of walking shoes, like sandals or ballet flats for women and loafers or oxfords for men.

Day 3

Pack the bare bones

We were only gone for 2 1/2 days, and while we could have re-worn one of our shirts to travel back home, I still packed two shirts for each of us. Both shirts went with the pants and shoes we wore. When it comes to underwear, I make sure to pack a pair for each day and an extra pair, just in case. Normally, I don't take extras, because I have time to do laundry if I have to. The same goes for socks.

When it came to packing my toiletry bag, I do what I always do before each trip, I completely empty my bag and evaluate everything I have to take what I absolutely need. For this trip, I added a selection of bobby pins, some of which were decorative, and a second small eyeshadow palette with more classic colors for the wedding. 
Bag I purchased. It's still fairly small at 8"x8", but it held everything I needed.

(But) Don't forget the necessities

By this, I mean important things for the special occasion: essential undergarments, ties, a belt, jewelry. Anything you can wear on the plane is great, because that's one less thing you have to pack. I purchased a cute purse that I could use for the wedding, but also for walking around, and I packed it in my personal item and had the bare minimum in my Travelon compact sling* for on the plane. (*see my review here.)

I highly recommend a lint roller for fancy events. I have a Flint, which I love. It twists down to fit inside the roller, so the sticky part isn't exposed when you aren't using it. It has the best pick-up of any other roller I've ever used. You can buy refills for it, so it can last you for a long, long time.

Choose the right "personal item"

I have a lot of travel bags, but for this trip, I chose to bring along this expandable laptop bag that a friend bought me. You can use it for just your laptop and accessories, or you can expand it for a bigger backpack. This is where I stashed all our toiletries, charging cords, a wrap, snacks, and my laptop. Eric also carries a backpack with different snacks, his jacket, and usually a book he's in the middle of reading and headphones. We both have extra room in case we buy things at our destination.

Afternoon/Evening - Day 2

With a little bit of strategy, you can easily pack everyday wear with special occasion wear in just a carry-on and a personal item. This is the second time we've traveled for a wedding and had to bring along extra things, but we pack two people into one carry-on usually, unless we're going for longer trips, then we each have one. If we can do it, then you can do it. It just takes a little bit of practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and you learn what things are important and what things you can leave at home.

What's your biggest challenge for traveling for a special event/occasion?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that could result in monetary compensation for me should you make a purchase through them. This also allows me to keep this blog running, so thanks in advance!

Saturday, March 25, 2023

How to Travel More Safely

We just came back from a trip where our car got broken into and some of our stuff was stolen, which sucks really hard, but things could have been worse and insurance will cover our things and the broken window. Things don't always go to plan on trips, and I'll be taking new precautions on future trips, but for now, here are some ways to travel more safely:

Things don't always go to plan on trips, and I'll be taking new precautions on future trips, but for now, here are some ways to travel more safely.
Photo credit

I hope all your travels are good ones where you stay safe and healthy. Stay tuned for more tips on how to keep your electronics secure, wherever you are.

Have you ever had a health emergency or had your things stolen while on a trip?

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

7 Things to Do On a Layover

Most people hate the airport, and I get it, but I also know it's a necessary part of a vacation, so I always love to explore new airports. I will plan what I want to do and where I want to eat at airports long before we even travel. I have Gate Guru downloaded to my phone, so I can see what art and other cool stuff there is at the airport. If you hate the travel part of traveling, here are ways to actually enjoy the airport.

If you hate the travel part of traveling, here are ways to actually enjoy the airport.

Why do I enjoy the airport so much? It could be that we have one of the best airports in the country (Travel + Leisure has awarded it six years running), but I like most other city's airports, too. I'll tell you why: Viewing the airport as a part of your trip makes it seem way better than just a waiting room to get into a smaller waiting room to get to where you really want to go.

It's like a mall that also has a portal to another destination! (Yeah, I actually hate the mall, but it's the best comparison.) Once you start thinking this way, you might feel differently in the future too, not be one of those annoyed harried people who look at the route monitors with a permanent scowl. Listen, you'll eventually get to where you want to be, so chill out and enjoy yourself. Get  a snack or a beer, buy a new magazine and go check out what the airport has to offer.

I love these new pieces at PDX. They're crochet!

Art collection

All airports now have some sort of art collection. Some even have their own galleries for those travelers who have quite a bit of time to kill. I always like to see the different things on display at different airports. Take some time to wander your terminal to check out the exhibits available. One of my favorites is the History of Flight "museum" in Harry Reid Airport in Las Vegas. They are remodeling, so we'll see what it looks like in its new home.

Play area

Travel with kids can be trying and, after having to sit for hours without getting to flail or even stand up, jumping around and annoying people near the baggage carousel is not a fantastic way to burn off energy (or make friends). Head to the nearest play area, which almost all airports have, and let them climb and run and yell and whatever else so they can be ready to fly or for the next leg of your journey. Bonus is that they are usually airplane themed and lots of kids love pretending to be a pilot. 

Workout rooms

These may be few and far between, but if you're lucky enough to go through an airport with some, pack some shorts and a tee in your carry-on to do some running or strength training. Getting some exercise is a great way to stay alert and get moving after a long flight of being folded into a tiny space. If you normally get a workout in during the day, then you're not missing out by sitting on the plane.


You're probably bringing your laptop or tablet, so why not download some movies or TV shows to watch if you have 90+ minutes to spare on your layover. If you're lucky, you might be in one of those fancy schmancy airports that have an actual theater for travelers and you can see a new movie or short indie films on a big screen.


Treat yourself to a massage, pedicure of something else a little luxurious. I've been lucky enough to get a manicure at the Butter London location in Seattle, but we've also hit up the XpressSpas on trips as well. They do their best to make your treatments short and sweet, so if you have a tighter connection, you can still catch your flight.

Specialty souvenir shops

Bring home gifts to commemorate your trip for yourself or others. If you're just passing through, this is also a great way to sample some of the local flavor, whether it's candy or beer or whatever else. Fair warning, when you go through Portland (PDX) and think Oregon Rain sounds like a fantastic water choice, just don't.

Go sightseeing

If you have a fairly long layover, don't think you can't get out and enjoy your stopover city a bit. Last year, we had 8 hours in Baltimore on our way to Paris, so we stored our luggage and made a fun day out of it. On our way to Philadelphia, any flight we chose out of PDX had a layover in SFO and the outgoing flight from there wasn't until 10:30pm no matter when we flew, so we took the earliest flight, had 12 hours there and met a friend for some sightseeing and catching up. We went to lunch, the zoo, the wax museum, the San Francisco Dungeon and finished up with dinner at Pier 39, then went back to the airport and had a nice sleep overnight on the plane. 
Or entertainment. My favorite new shops are the 24-hour kiosks in airports. You can buy everything from travel-sized makeup to fancy noise-canceling headphones to an ebook reader. You pay full price, but if you forget that sunscreen you love from Supergoop! or the best ever Benefit foundation, or even a toy for your dog, you can get them at whatever time you're stuck at the airport.

What do you like to do to pass the time at airports?

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Avoiding the Worst Part of Long Distance Travel

Long distance travel can be a pain. Depending on which way you travel, you lose time getting to your destination, or getting home, it's tiring, you  have to pack more strategically than usual, you need different things if you're going to an international location, and the worst part, it can cause jet lag, so you miss a good chunk of your trip. 

How do not get jet lag? There are ways of doing it. Here's how I go somewhere with an 8 hour time difference and hit the ground running.

So, how do you keep from getting jet lag? Because there are ways of doing it. Here's how I go from a destination with an 8 hour time difference and immediately hit the ground running, stay for a week or more, then come home and go to work the next day:

Eat Healthfully

I try my best to eat healthy when I'm getting ready to travel, because heavy meals contribute to feeling sluggish and tired. It's important to eat lighter at least the day before, the day of, and the day after your long flight. It boosts the vitamins your body needs, improves hydration, and gives you good energy. I find that eating light and flying helps me sleep better as well. 

I tend to try to eat veggie-packed meals up to a week before my trip, as well as lighter meats if I have any. I skip eating too many carbs and opt for chicken or fish, because you don't need extra carbs for sitting. Avoid excessively salty or sweet foods. You'll feel better while traveling.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Staying hydrated is always important, but make sure you drink as much water as possible on the day before, the day after, and during your flight. Being dehydrated saps your energy, and that can easily lead to jet lag or sickness, neither of which is good. If you get tired of water, add a flavor packet to your bottle of water or ask for tomato juice on your flight, which gives you extra veggies, plus the altitude changes the taste to your body, so if you don't think tomato juice sounds too yummy, you'll find it more tolerable at 30,000 ft.

Skip the alcohol. I know a lot of people like to get a drink on the plane or at the bar before their flight, but that's not always conducive to a good travel experience. It might be fine for short flights, but when you're traveling long distance, alcohol can dehydrate you and disrupt your sleep pattern. It robs you of good REM sleep, which you need in order to feel rested. I would suggest skipping alcohol for the same time period that you're drinking extra water and eating extra well.

Tip: bring along a reusable water bottle and fill it before getting on the plane. Remember the ice, because warm water sucks. If your flight is extra long, bring a bottled water to refill it with. I say this, because the water on the plane is not something you want to drink, unless it comes from a brand new bottle or box of water, it probably came from the water tanks, which are notoriously hard to clean and harbor bacteria. It's why I also avoid getting ice in my drinks on board. You can then save money at your destination with your reusable water and toting it around with you during the day.

Get On Local Time

The best thing you can do to not get jet lag is to get on your new schedule as quickly as possible. If you're going from work to plane to destination, like I usually do, this can be more tricky, but I like to figure out what the time in my destination is, and then sleep on the plane as soon as I can to adjust my internal clock. 

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 figure out what the local time is 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!

all my important airplane things: water bottle, travel pillow, and large wrap

Have a Sleeping Plan

This sounds stupid, but after losing a day and a half on a trip, I have planned very hard to make sure that never happens again. Sleeping your entire flight or staying awake your entire flight will not be your friend. I promise. On our flight to France, we had a bit of a split trip. We left in the evening, ate dinner before we boarded the plane, then slept as much as possible, then touched down in Baltimore early in the morning. 

We had most of the day to sightsee, so we dropped our carry-on bags at a local UPS Store through Bounce, an app that finds you places that will store your bags for the day, and did a bunch of things until it was time to head back to the airport. We picked up our bags, got the train back to the airport, changed clothes, and checked in for our flight that took off in the evening. This part of our trip had two legs: Baltimore to Reykjavik, and Reykjavik to Paris. My plan for this part was to sleep the entire way to Reykjavik, then grab a light breakfast (we got coffee and a yogurt with fruit and granola) and maybe take a quick nap on the flight into Paris.

We arrived in Paris around 12 pm, which gave us time to get lunch, check into our rental, and get a bit of sightseeing, then get dinner and head to bed early to get a good night's sleep in an actual bed to start refreshed for the next day. I find that if you get about 5-6 hours of good sleep on the plane, then you have enough energy for that first day and sleep comes very easy that night, getting you on local time pretty easily.

Tip: Invest in a great travel pillow. I have never gotten good sleep with a crappy pillow. Having neck or back pain is not what I want to go into a trip with. Eric and I both have the FaceCradle. You can lean forward into it and it allows me to sleep like I would at home. Everyone is different though. If the FaceCradle isn't for you, maybe the Turtl, the twist memory foam, the evolution from Cabeau, or the Somniwrap from Travelon will work for you instead.

Use A Light Sleep Aid

If you know you need a bit of a push sleeping on the plane, or at your destination, using a sleep aid is nothing to be ashamed of. I use Dream Water (gummies or the powder are easily transportable), but you can also take melatonin or use lavender oil to invoke sleepiness. I have a great pillow spray, which you could spray very lightly on your travel pillow or a scarf, probably before you leave home, so the smell has a chance to dissipate a little bit before you board the plane, because if the smell is too strong, everyone around you will hate you, especially people like me who have allergies. It also comes in a roll-on bottle

Now you have the knowledge and tools to get your best sleep and get on your new schedule as quickly as possible, so don't worry about losing time when you get on your vacation. You just have to figure out where you're going! 

Have you ever had a terrible trip because of bad jet lag?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that could result in monetary compensation for me should you make a purchase through them. This also allows me to keep this blog running, so thanks in advance!

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Why You Should Plan A Trip Right Now

Are you planning any trips right now? I have three on my schedule right now: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Even when I don't have anything planned for months, I'm always planning trips, because it's fun for me and it relaxes me just thinking about being on vacation. 

Why should you be planning a trip right now? There are benefits to both planning and going on a vacation.

So, why should you be planning a trip right now? Besides the obvious, that we all need to get away from normal life every once in a while, there are benefits to both planning and going on a vacation:

  • Problem Solving Skills - When we plan travel, we work on our scheduling skills, making sure everything we want to do fits into an itinerary. We also figure out a plan to save the money we need. On vacation, we work on our time and money management skills, making sure we hit everything on our list and we don't go over our budget.
  • It's Educational - Whether you think it is or not, we learn so much when we travel. Through museums and walking a city or even just talking to locals. We learn about new places and history and culture.
  • Builds Tolerance - Leaving our bubble of home and all the things we know and how we live and people we know is good for us. We meet new people and we learn how they live and work and play. Learning about new cultures is good for us and opens our minds with new experiences. People who travel have more empathy for others and are more connected to people as a whole, becoming less selfish.
  • Get More Exercise - Exercise is good for us and when we travel, we often spend more time walking around, climbing stairs for amazing views, strolling beaches, swimming, and running to catch busses or our plane. It gets your blood pumping and makes you healthier.
  • Try New Food - One of my favorite parts of travel is food. I love trying new cuisine and exploring grocery stores and farmers' markets in other destinations. You can learn a lot about a place from their food.
  • Makes You Happy - Going on vacation just gives us good feelings. It helps us make more of the hormones that contribute to our well-being: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Colors, smells, tastes, and more can all raise these hormone levels, giving you joy, and there's no better way to assure this than to go somewhere new and take in new colors, smells, and all those other good things.
  • Become Well-Rounded - Did you know that when you travel, you look better to prospective employers? It shows you're more open-minded, are open to new ideas and perspectives. Having a little bit of an edge over other candidates is only ever a good thing. 
  • Learn About Yourself - Whether you travel alone or with others, being in a new place can teach you about yourself and how well you deal with certain situations. These can help you deal with different situations once you get home, too. 
  • Create Bonds - When you travel with others, it can make or break your relationship, because you'll be spending a lot more time with each other than normal. Traveling well with others demands good communication, and when you learn that you can create stronger bonds with your travel companions. 
  • Lower Stress/Blood Pressure - Not having to go to work or answer to anyone is great for lowering stress and just generally making you feel better about life in general. The break gives you time to recharge and refresh and gives you a new start to work and home life when you return.

So, if you aren't currently planning a trip right now, you should start. And if you plan on going on a trip in the summer, the earlier you plan and book it, the better. If you need some help, check out my summer vacation post

What's your favorite part of going on vacation?

Saturday, March 11, 2023

St. Patrick's Day At-Home Celebration

It's almost St. Patrick's Day, and you know what that means! Bars are going to start serving disgusting green beer and be packed with drunken revelers that announce that everyone's Irish on March 17th. As lovely as the Irish are, I'm not entirely sure they agree with all that nonsense, regardless of them doing similar things in Ireland for tourists.

If, like me, the thought of cramming a crowded pub for St. Patrick's Day sounds like a terrible idea, then perhaps throw an at-home celebration.

If, like me, the thought of cramming into a pub with a million other people who are loud and don't understand personal space sounds like one of the worst ways to spend your time, then perhaps having an at-home celebration is more for you. Make it kid-friendly for your family, or use it as an excuse to have your own celebration with friends in a less obnoxious environment. Plus, it's way cheaper to drink beer at home, and you can stream the parade, Irish musicians, and even watch the celebrations in Dublin as they happen.

We dug out our Ireland banners and created a little outdoor pub feel in our dining room. We put on our Ireland colors and headwear to get in the spirit.

This year, I made my own spread, because it was easier than ordering something and driving to go pick it up during dinnertime and I wasn't limited to the menu at that restaurant. I made a leprechaun tree for my centerpiece and sprinkled gold coins around the bottom of the cauldron. The topper is actually a dog toy/wearable, that the dog will neither wear or play with, and the green boa in the bottom and the shamrock garland are both from the dollar store. I found the green cauldron at Party City and I snapped it up, because you can't have enough cauldrons in our house.

Eric picked up some beer cheese fondue on a trip to the store and I made sure that was our starter for this meal. If you don't have a fondue pot, it's no big deal. I have this dip contraption that you can either put hot water or ice in to keep your dip hot or cold and it worked perfectly. Just make sure to keep it covered until you're ready to eat it, so it doesn't congeal. I paired it with a cut up baguette.

On the left are my desserts: Irish potato candy and grasshopper bars (which I just cut into a slab, because it didn't totally set in the fridge). I added Lucky Charms marshmallows to the top for some whimsy.

St. Patrick's Day is the perfect excuse to make colcannon, a potato, leek, and cabbage dish.

That was my most involved dish, which is really only involved, because of all the chopping you have to do, but I only dirtied two dishes to make it, because I made the mashed potatoes, emptied them into the baking dish, then make the other half of the dish, added the potatoes back in at the end to mix together, and then put it all back in the baking dish to finish in the oven. I picked up a pre-made corned beef from Trader Joe's and whipped up some ginger maple carrots to round out the meal.

Just me at an iconic Dublin bar with my iconic leprechaun tree. LOL!

We put on a stream of a previous year's parade in Dublin (which I still don't really understand, because it doesn't seem to have anything to do with Ireland) and just had a really low-key celebration. I took this time to try some stouts I had in the fridge that I hadn't gotten around to drinking. This is a great time to try all the interesting things you see at the store, but never buy.

Here's a fondue cheers to great St. Patrick's Day shenanigans, no matter how wild or tame they may be. Here are a few other things you might want to decorate your space:
I hope this helps you have a wonderful and fun celebration full of delicious food and travel facts and maybe good friends. With a week to go, you have plenty of time to get any of the suggested items and round people up for a good time.

How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links and I may be monetarily compensated if you make a purchase through these posts. This helps me to keep this blog running and bring you more posts you enjoy, so thanks in advance.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The "Riviera" of California

When we travel, we like to go places that regular travelers may not be interested in going. When planning our trip to Palm Springs, I scoured Google Maps to check out what things in the area might worth checking out. One of those things was the Salton Sea, which sort of promised to have some good photo ops and possibly even a walk on the beach. I was right, but also very, very wrong.

While in Palm Springs, we drove out to Salton Sea, which sort of promised good photo ops and a walk on the beach. I was right, but also very wrong.

I didn't do any research outside of looking at the map, so on one of our days, we got breakfast, stopped in Indio to see the Coachella Valley Museum, then headed out on a drive to see what the Salton Sea had to offer. In Oregon, any seaside town has a certain charm, no matter how small it is, so when we also learned at the museum that this was meant to be the Riviera of California in the 60s, I was more excited to go check it out.

For a time, the Salton Sea was the vacation destination and the area was growing with vacation homes, resorts, and golf courses, then, suddenly everything was abandoned and nobody ever returned. So, what happened? Well, to understand that, you have to know how the Salton Sea came to be, because it wasn't a natural lake. 

In 1905, a ton of rain caused the Colorado River to flood and spill into this natural crater, called The Salton Sink/Basin, now the largest manmade lake in California. In the years following, farmers were using the river water for their land and diverted the excess into the basin to keep the lake the way it was now. 

In the 50s and 60s, it became an unlikely vacation destination, and they decided to capitalize on it, and it was working. It was marketed as the Riviera of California and people flocked to this spot. They trucked in saltwater fish to stock the lake for fishing and there were watersports and yacht clubs and people lounging on beaches with drinks, but then water run-off containing fertilizers were entering the water and created a layer of algae on the bottom, which in turn created a poisonous atmosphere for the fish and birds, causing them to basically all die off pretty suddenly. Not a great atmosphere for a relaxing vacation. The travelers moved on to better recreation spots.

The saltiness of the sea is so high, it can't sustain wildlife and the beaches are almost nothing more than fish skeletons. That would have been okay, but in the 90s the water levels lowered to the point that the lake bed was exposed and the diseased dirt formed dust clouds that made the towns hard to live in with the terrible air quality. People still living there moved out and didn't move back. 

Now, the towns are basically deserted, with bones of resorts and homes being the most likely thing you'll see. There are a few people still living among these abandoned buildings and there's a recreational area on the opposite side of the lake from Salton City, and RV park at Desert Shores, and even a market (one of the only places still open for business when we were taking a tour).

This is a place to explore if you like abandoned places, but make sure you bring snacks and drinks with you, as you won't find much out there. Luckily, it's less than an hour drive from Palm Springs to Salton City, and there's also the town of Indio and a casino resort nearby, but all the beaches on the west side that we found were private property. 

The mountain views can't be beat.

Did we find places to take photos? Of course we did. Most were buildings that had fallen into disrepair, but also a motel that, shockingly, claimed to be open with vacancies. Some of photos I took still felt very cool and personal, like maybe we shouldn't be there, even if no one else was there either. I would love to go back and explore different areas around Salton Sea, but in the meantime, if you'd like to learn more, check out this post. It has photos of then and now and a very short video documentary. 

If you rent a car and want a completely different vacation vibe than that of Palm Springs, take a day to drive out to the sea. It's quiet and the drive is beautiful. Maybe on the east side you'll find actual beach lounging opportunities, but you'll also find a lot of fish carcasses, which may or may not detract from your relaxation. 

Do you love abandoned places? What are your favorites?

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