Five Types of Suitcases You Absolutely Must Have

Different trips call for different luggage. Here are a few suitcases I own that I adore and how I decide which I will use:

  1. Duffel bag. An overnight bag is like a little black dress for travelers. Everyone should have at least one. I like to use a duffel bag for this, I have three different ones. The key is to find one that has enough storage space as well as pockets on the inside and out to fit everything you need and keep it organized. In addition you can also use a large back pack or oversized purse.
  2. 15″ rolling under the seat luggage. For longer weekend trips, whether you are driving somewhere nearby, or flying out on business, a small rolling suitcase that can fit under an airplane seat is my favorite thing in the world. It is slightly smaller than carry on bags and fits under all airplane seats. Brandon and I both have one for short trips back to NJ to visit our families. The suitcase is roomy enough to fit everything we need yet compact enough to fit on smaller commercial airlines.
  3. Standard carry-on rolling bag. If you are like me and need to bring 3 pairs of shoes on every trip longer than 24 hours, the standard sized rolling bag is a great addition to your luggage collection. One reason I love this is because a standard sized commercial aircraft has room above your seat to store these. Modern technology has made me so lazy. I only fly on airlines I can check in from my phone so I can skip the lines at the gate. Very rarely do I ever check a bag. I hate standing in lines with people who don’t know how to navigate an airport or hardly ever fly. I am inpatient and love being able to get out of my car and walk directly to security so I can grab my Starbucks and relax once I get to the gate.  I hate standing in baggage claim waiting for airport employees to unload the plane and get me my luggage. I’ve also seen one too many suitcases lost or contents stolen in airports. If I can keep my possessions with me at all times I am a happy gal.
  4. Large sized luggage. Buy a nice large luggage bag with a good lock, and don’t skip out on the toiletry bag. When I am going on longer vacations like when we were in Hawaii for 2 weeks, I like to bring a large enough suitcase that I have everything I would need for one week including shoes. You’ll have to check your bag, unless you are lucky enough to live near an airport with curbside check in. In addition, you will need to stand around and wait for your luggage to get off the plane and you’ll run the risk of items being stolen. As long as you are careful, have a good lock on your bag, and pack smart you should be alright. Finger crossed and let’s hope that everything makes it home with you! Luggage sets are nice because they are usually roomy are made well, and come in a matching set which makes it easier to spot on the conveyer belt.
  5. Laptop bag. If you’re like me you’ll want to bring your laptop on the flight with you. I have a laptop bag in the form of a backpack which I found on Amazon. There is a ton of cushion so your laptop doesn’t get damaged and they are really nice and well made. I own the HFSX Vintage Laptop Backpack. You can buy ones with built in phone chargers and a place to store your phone, keys, wallet, and passport. Plus, it will fit under your seat.

Geniuspack.com is my favorite place to shop for luggage. They have great luggage that makes travel easy and organizing natural. Their hard side carryon is amazing. You can also find packing tips and lots of travel related gear other than luggage. You can all of the above INCLUDING universal travel adapters which work in 150 different countries. Another great thing to do if you can invest is to buy a luggage set that includes all of the pieces above. You will save money in the long run and everything will match (if you have OCD like me than that’s really important). Don’t forget to comment below with links to your favorite pieces of luggage and why.

 

Happy travels!

Halifax

Halifax, Escalators & Fog

 

Halifax

 

I’ve learned a lot of things while traveling with my parents. Conversely, I’ve also learned a lot of what NOT to do when traveling. One of my favorite stories regarding my parents is one starring my mother. My mother, Noelle, is a gorgeous dark haired woman who is ALWAYS put together. I don’t think she has ever left the house without a full face of makeup or a complete set of jewelry in her entire life. On the other hand, I frequently leave the house without even showering and still wearing the same clothes I wore to bed. I suspect the fact that my mom forced me to wear make up every day to school made me rebel as soon as I went to college.

Naturally, my mom packs three bags just for herself when we would go on long trips. I remember one instance particularly well. We were packing for a cruise to Canada  that would leave out of New York. Growing up in New Jersey, the drive up was not all that far and we had been to the city many, many times. Most of my trips with my parents consisted of going towards the equator, not away from it. My dad spent some time living in Florida as a teenager and I think the fact that he still considers that year, “the best year of his life” influenced every single one of our vacations to go south.

I was actually really surprised that we were going to Canada. I had never thought in a million years we would take a cruise into colder weather I didn’t even know those existed. We boarded the boat and like every other vacation we all argued. In hindsight, this was the worst vacation we ever took together, but there were still some highlights so I will showcase those first.

mist, fog, and more fog.

We arrived in the port in Halifax and were able to see what was a pretty close picture of what my grandfather would have seen 50 years prior stopping in the same port as he came to America from Italy. I imagined him peeking through a door for only a minute to look outside. It would be cold and snowing so he’d quickly shut the door and go back inside the ship.

I remember I stood on the deck and looked out at the large white building with hundreds of windows at the port. I tried to take in everything around me and I wondered if this was the same exact spot my grandfather stood and looked out at Halifax. There were tents set up with vendors and a museum with thousands of photos of ships that had pulled into the Canadian port.

My dad looked through mounted black and white photos looking for one that looked familiar. He stopped when he found a black and white photo of the exact ship in the Halifax port that my grandfather took to America. I was amazed that there was actually a photo of the ship, the M.S. Vulcania. It looked so incredibly old to me. I tried to picture my grandfather as a young boy with his sister trying to navigate the narrow halls. He was hopeful of the future and had no idea how successful he would be all because he made that step and left his home and everything he knew behind him.

It was really foggy for the remainder of our trip and of course it wouldn’t be a “Bruno family vacation” without a good old fashioned shake up. My sister spent 90% of the entire cruise crying in her bedroom over her boyfriend who she had just broken up with. My sister was hysterical for almost the entire trip. My mom was understanding and my dad was livid. Mainly because the amount of money that the cell phone bill was about to come out to with all the long distance phone calls was astronomical.

I can’t really blame him for being pissed off. So the majority of the time I spent wandering the ship in more or less darkness from all the fog. I remember texting and eating a lot because there was’t much to do. It was kind of cold so there was no way we could swim and I was only 17 years old so I couldn’t drink. That left very little to occupy my time.

that one time i disobeyed a security guard and almost got tazed.

My fondest memory from this trip came as a surprise to me. Like I said previously, my mom packs multiple suitcases when we go on vacation. One other thing you should know about her is that she also has a completely irrational fear of escalators. I’m not quite sure what it stems from because I never asked her, but for what ever reason it’s there. We were going down the escalator into customs my entire family in a single file line. First my dad with his bag, my sister with hers, me with mine, and in the back was my mom with 2 rolling suitcases and a bathroom bag. I didn’t realize until we got to the bottom of the escalator that my mom had not followed us.

I took a step back and saw her standing at the top rustling with her bags, crying, and panicking. She had no idea how to approach the escalator with all of the luggage. She was shuffling the bags around and then eventually I realized she needed help. There were two security guards, one that was at the top of the escalator and one that was at the bottom of a different escalator. You would assume that out of all the people standing in customs, SOMEONE would have helped her, but no. So, I looked at my dad and said “I’m going to help her.”

The security guard started yelling at me something about not being allowed to go back upstairs once you come down. Annoyed at the entire situation and the fact that they were yelling at me instead of just helping my mom so I didn’t have to help her myself pissed me off.

Anyone who knows me, knows I also have a short fuse. I assume it comes from my Italian family because I have zero patience when it comes to stupidity. If you are in a position to help someone, HELP THEM. So naturally 17 year old me yelled back at the female security guard who was yelling at me to “STOP OR I’LL TAZE YOU”.  I could feel the blood rush to my face and my ears started ringing.

“I AM GOING BACK UP THESE STAIRS TO HELP MY MOTHER. I WOULDN’T HAVE TO IF YOU WOULD HELP HER YOURSELF, BUT AS WE CAN SEE, YOU AREN’T DOING SHIT.” It just burst out and I couldn’t stop it.

I ran up the stairs and the security guard started to move towards me then, she looked over at my mom, then back at me, and stared in disbelief as I completely ignored her. Grabbing both of my mom’s rolling suitcases I ushered my mother onto the escalator behind me. She followed me down the escalator and we continued into customs. I don’t think she ever thanked me, but I also think she was too embarrassed to think straight at the moment so I understand. It was unspoken. I was pissed off for the rest of the trip home from New York, but I guess it could have been worse.

That security guard could have actually tazed me.

Suck It Up And Bike Your Volcano.

 step out of your comfort zone.

I could feel the adrenaline pulsing through my veins as I stood at the entrance to the Haleakala national park and tried not to think about the descent down the side of the volcano. The ascent was easy mainly because it was before the sunrise and I couldn’t see just how high we really were. Post sunrise, you could tell we were at least 8,000 feet above sea level. My knees buckled as they called my number and handed me my old rickety bike with worn out brakes. “I’m suppose to ride this all the way down!? You have got to be joking,” I thought to myself. 

Up until the last 3 years of my life I didn’t do anything outside of my comfort zone. I have severe and crippling anxiety at times and my whole life I played it “safe”. Something changed when I turned twenty four years old. I did everything my parents had told me to do my entire life. I never paved the way for myself and I didn’t really have to fight for anything on my own ever. On my 24th birthday I realized I felt kind of cheated out of that experience in life. How can you truly be successful if you didn’t fight for what you want? When my now husband asked me to move one thousand miles away I instantly knew I had to say yes. So I did.

Just give in.

“LET’S GO!” Our guide screamed.  I wanted to cry and scream and laugh all at the same time. I was all the way in the back, that meant I would have to keep up with everyone else. Part of me wanted to throw my hand up and jump in the van for the ride down. The other part of me was screaming to just let go and enjoy the ride. One by one the bikes started to move and I had to make a decision, give up or give in. So I thought of my spin instructor’s favorite tag line “Don’t give up, give in”. I strapped on my helmet, took my feet off the ground and gave in.

Deciding to move a thousand miles away from my family and friends was hard. I had already committed to going, but I was still silently looking for an out. Instead of letting myself be upset, I thought about my life. I was trying to figure out who I really was, and in order to do that you need to push yourself. I had Brandon as an amazing support system and my family would still be just a phone call away. This would be my chance to make it on my own. I had to let go of my fear and push my boundaries.

there is nothing more satisfying than facing your fears.

Once we got going, I realized all the anxiety and fear of biking Haleakala was in my head. The scariest part of the entire ride, was everything I was telling myself leading up to it. The ride itself was relaxing, beautiful, AMAZING, and awe-inspiring. We rode through a lavender farm, a pine forest, sugar cane fields, and towns. Ending the route with an awesome view of the beach and pacific ocean. In a total of 6 hours I had froze my butt off at over 10,000 feet, watched the sun rise from above a volcanic crater, biked down about 24 miles of volcano, and stood on the beach. If you want to talk about exhilarating, THAT is exhilarating. 

Moving to Wisconsin and away from everything I knew and loved was one of the best things I have ever done. I still am searching to find out who I truly am. I’m constantly growing as a person and I believe travel is one of the best ways to do that. There were 3 major turning points in my life that have made me who I am today. The first, was a cross country road trip with my parents in 2013. The second, was the day I met my husband (ultimately  leading to the day I chose to marry him and move 1,000 miles away). The third, was the day I chose to face my fears and bike down a volcano on a bike that was about 25 years old and falling apart.

do not let your fear hold you back.

If there is something you want, do not let the fear of anything hold you back. Fear is the opposite of love. Love makes your life better, fear will keep you from doing the things you love. Give yourself enough credit to know that you will come out on top, and fear is only an emotion. Face your fears. Fear cannot hurt you, so find your volcano and bike the hell out of it.

face your fearsface your fear

[The company we used for our tour we found through Viator, the price was fair and the service was fantastic. We had a great time with our guides and enjoyed every minute of our trip. We enjoyed coffee in a small ‘cowboy’ town about halfway down the volcano. Everyone was really nice and our instructors seemed to be having a great time too. We definitely recommend using Mountain Riders if you decide to book.If you have a little more experience riding, you can also solo ride the same route. Experienced biker? Try biking UP the volcano and do the Cycle to the Sun ride.]

Our Non-Stop Honeymoon in Kauai

Excited for the second leg of our honeymoon and exhausted at the same time, Brandon and I stepped off the plane in Kauai. I had been so busy with wedding planning that I honestly didn’t even look up what to do hehoneymoon in kauaire. I knew I had booked excursions for various days of the trip, but I wasn’t sure where they were. Luckily, Brandon was a little less occupied with the wedding than I was and he looked into the best things to do for our honeymoon in Kauai.

One thing I will say about Kauai is that we learned the power goes out quite frequently. When we arrived, the entire island was in an outage. There was no way to purchase anything and everyone was on hold. In other words, if you are traveling here, make sure you have cash on you at all times. Neither Brandon or myself drink very much, so we tend to explore and stay active often.

beautiful sights to see

Honeymoon in KauaiThere was so much to see and do on this island even though it is the smallest Hawaiian island. We booked most of our excursions online through Viator which is a pretty cool and easy website to use. We saw multiple state parks, we hiked and even took a helicopter ride. If you do any excursions at all in Kauai, the best one to do is to take a helicopter. Kauai contains some of the wettest places on the entire earth, so by mid morning clouds tend to cover the top of the island. Make sure that if you book a helicopter tour it is one of the first ones to leave. You might be really tired, but the views are worth it. We used Island Helicopter tours and they were really great and accommodating.

The helicopter tours are breathtaking. You will definitely want to bring a good camera and brace yourself for one of the most thrilling views of your life. The tours are one of the only ways to see the Napali coast, other options include; sunset cruises, hiking, and fishing boats. There are no roads that go all the way around the island so you will need to hike from Hanalei.

great food to eat

One of our favorite places to eat was Little Fish in Poipu. We stayed at an amazingly beautiful resort; Kiahuna Plantation which happens to be across the street. At Little Fish, you can order ahead of time online and then pick it up if you have the app. The acai bowls and the coffee shakes were healthy, delicious and filling. We were in absolute heaven and enjoyed many a morning breakfast here.

honeymoon in kauai

Kona Coffee is another really awesome place we enjoyed on our trip to Kauai. Since we don’t drink a lot of alcohol we thoroughly enjoyed the coffee tasting on the deck. They have a store with really cool souvenirs and coffee to take home and you can order food, drinks, or ice-cream. The coffee brewery also offers tours of the plantation and the history of Kona Coffee. The last tour usually leaves around 4pm during the week so make sure you get there early.

 

what the heck happened here?

Like I said, my husband and I do not drink very often and so it does not take much to get us drunk. The first day we arrived in Kauai we decided to check out the resort restaurant which was rated very highly. The food and drinks were amazing. However, things started to go downhill when I decided “one drink won’t hurt right?”. Well, one drink turned into 3 strong drinks off the cocktail menu because our server completely forgot to put our food and appetizers in. We waited for over 2 hours for our food watching people come and go all around us. Instead of the manager comping a dessert or a drink or anything on our receipt he stood 5 feet from our table and stared at us. He never said a word, just stared. Needless to say we never went back. I worked many jobs in restaurants for over 8 years and never had I ever been treated that way. Regardless of how good the food was. We would recommend take out over that experience. The food was great, but completely overpriced and the service was terrible. No thank you.

exploring the hidden falls

Honeymoon in KauaiOn one of our last days in paradise, we had an excursion to Wailua River and secret falls. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but Duke’s Kayak was a great guide. The hiking portion was beautiful and the falls were amazing to see. If you go with a tour guide, you will most likely be there with many other groups and it can get crowded. Check it out later in the day if  you are knowledgeable of the area and there are a lot less people around. Be careful though, because you can get lost easily while kayaking.

Our tour guide had a small dog who kayaked and hiked with us the entire day. He kept us entertained and made sure the group stayed together. There are really awesome views and cool historical information shared about Hurricane Iniki and the damage on the island. Like everywhere else on the island, there are roosters and chickens everywhere. Brandon and I enjoyed our lunch by the waterfall and then jumped in the water. One thing we should have been aware of was the amount of large unforeseen boulders under the water. Brandon and I both banged ourselves up pretty good. Luckily, no blood just large bruises, but they still hurt. We were so glad we invested in waterproof Keens for this hike.

waimea canyon

Honeymoon in Kauai

One of the most beautiful views on the entire island are of Waimea Canyon. Brandon and I took the long drive up to the top of the national park one early morning and were one of the first people there. Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea canyon is a popular attraction in Kauai. There is access to hiking trails along the way, but for the sake of time we chose to drive to a look out point and just take in the view. We bought fresh fruit and banana bread from the fruit stand nearby and tried to take in the view. Our photos do not do it any justice. The canyon is gorgeous and definitely comparable to the grand canyon. On a future trip we would definitely hike this awesome attraction, no matter how difficult it may be.

Polihale State Park

Honeymoon in KauaiBrandon decided on our second to last day of our honeymoon in Kauai that he wanted to take me to the Polihale State Park. I had no idea what it was and when we arrived I was even more skeptical. We drove down atleast a 5 mile dirt road to get into the state park and on the beach. The road was note graded and it was extremely rocky. We did this in a ford mustang convertible so it was a little risky for us, but it was totally worth it. The sand is extremely hot (like all other beach in the dead of summer) and the beach is large so you’ll have to run to the water. Although we didn’t do it, you can also camp here by the beach or under the trees further off shore.

There is a beautiful view of the start of the Napali Coast Park. We chose to sit on the beach for a few hours watching the Navy Battleship off the coast. A lot of people were sunbathing on the beach in their bathing suits. The park was not crowded at all and the beach was huge, this place is high on the recommendation list if you have a Jeep. Or if you don’t have a Jeep and you just wing it like us.

pizza in lihue

To our surprise we found a New York pizza counter in Lihue called Pietro’s. We were so overjoyed it was insane. Not only was the pizza actually affordable, but it was just like home for us. We can never find great pizza out in the midwest and deep dish is too greasy and messy. It’s always a pleasure to find good tasting regular crust pizza we can fold in half and enjoy. We stopped at the pizza place just before we head over to the airport in Lihue for our connecting flight to Arizona. We sat outside and in the shade enjoying our slices with a slight breeze. Pietro’s is definitely on our list of need to visit places if you want authentic New York pizza.

lihue airport

We didn’t quite get the memo that the first American Airlines flight out of Lihue was ours. When we arrived at the airport we returned our rental car and walked over to the ticket counter. It was completely empty and the lights were off. It was 4pm. We thought we would get there early, go through ticketing and security, eat and then catch our flight. Unfortunately, we were not able to go through security until 7:15pm. We sat out front of the airport counters for three hours before we could check our bags. Since we had to check out of our condo so early in the morning we had nowhere to go. The rental car was sent back to the rental place so we couldn’t leave and we were stranded. It was a rookie mistake. ALWAYS check your airline’s schedule before you head over to the airport. You might want to have dinner in the city.

Visiting Hawaii soon? Here are some tips we have for saving money.
Leave a comment below of your honeymoon or vacation experiences on Kauai!

5 Ways to Save Money for Travel

It can be really hard to save money when we all have so many things we need to pay for. Keeping  a fund going so that you can see and do everything you plan takes a whole lot of sacrifice. I have compiled a list of the best ways to save money for traveling that Brandon and I practice everyday. You will ideally need to prioritize your life and depending on your financial situation you may need to cut back on material things. Here are a few of my tips and advice to help you, so you can get out there and start exploring.

1. open up a separate bank account

Open up a new bank account to help you save money. Here are a few reasons why I recommend this. For one, you will have a card especially for your travel money so you can still save separately for your family or future. You can easily differentiate how much you have to spend on your next getaway. It is painful to watch your savings drop a couple thousand every few months from all your hard work. This can discourage you, but travel is an investment in your life and your wellbeing. You should not feel this way. Creating a separate account that you put a set amount of money in weekly or monthly helps ease that. As a piggy back to this recommendation, open up a credit card and hotel rewards card so you can receive miles and free rooms.

2. try 365 days of saving

Pick out a large jar to start saving with. Put the jar in a kitchen cabinet or in your closet or nightstand and in view so you know it is there. Starting on January 1st (or whatever start date you choose) put in one dollar. On week 2 put in 2 dollars. You can continue to increase this until you reach the last day of 52 weeks. If you can not afford to start at 1 dollar, try starting with just a penny and increase it from there (weekly). To add to this, you can have a weekly board game night where the loser has to put a dollar into the jar. If anyone in the house swears than you can also make them put a quarter or a dollar into the jar. You can have fun with this and come up with your own games.

3. eat out less

You can save loads of money by cooking at home. Brandon and I love to go out because we both don’t really want to cook, but when we need to save money that’s the first to go. We usually decide to go out once a week and the rest of the time we have to make something at home. We save over $300 dollars every other week by doing this. Believe it or not, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and canned soup go a really long way if you don’t want to really cook.

4. cut out unnecessary buys

Instead of buying a new dishwasher, try fixing whatever you already have. American no longer makes long term investments in what they buy. The quickest fix is to throw out what is broken and buy it new. Try to fix it yourself first, youtube is amazing and you’ll be surprised at what you can do yourself. If you can not fix whatever it is yourself, then try to hire someone. Usually whoever you are hiring is going to be cheaper than buying an entire new dishwasher, and if it isn’t? Buy the dishwasher, but shop around first.

5. make your money go a long way

When you decide on a destination and you have the money you want to spend ready, be smart. Shop around using different sites like cheap-O air, expedia, travelovity, hotels.com and more. Some of their prices will be relatively equal, but others will be quite different. Also, keep in mind when you are booking that if you book your hotel or airline between 3 days-24 hours of the flight, it is MUCH cheaper. If you can wing it, the best thing to do is just go to the airport and book your flight the day of. Check out what is leaving and go from there. If you are willing to stay in hostels they are pretty cheap, couch surfing or airbnb is also pretty affordable.

Do you have your own Money Saving tips? Comment yours below!
Want to check out my money saving tips for hawaii? see here.

Tricks to Help Pass the Time on Long Road Trips

I love taking long car rides to nowhere, but it can be really dull if you are doing a lot of your traveling without being able to stop anywhere along the way. Here are a couple tricks to help pass the time on long road trips. Check out some road trip essentials I can’t go without here.

play a game

My parents use to always play games with me in the car growing up and we frequently would play “I Spy” which is a fun one for the car as well. One game that my sister and I were particularly fond of was the alphabet game. If you don’t know what I’m talking about it is really simple. You start at the top of the alphabet and try to find signs, billboards, stores, etc. that start with that letter. Once you find a word beginning with ‘A’ everyone needs to move on to the next letter and you cannot go backwards. The game isn’t over until your car finds a word that starts with every single letter of the alphabet. Then you just start over!

If this game isn’t a good enough distraction, there are also travel size games like Guess Who you can bring with you on the trip if you check out Toys-R-Us or a book store.

sing-a-long

I like to make playlists in my car for long road trips (although my husband is not fond of my taste in music, sometimes he plays along). Try to make playlists with popular songs that everyone will know. An example of a popular song might be “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey or “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. If you can come up with a really long playlist you can probably kill two or three hours just singing your favorite lyrics.

sleep

This is my husband’s favorite thing to do on long care rides (although it isn’t really safe). If I drive he is probably popping a Z-quil and sleeping for the majority of the ride. For some people this isn’t an option, personally I get really nauseous when I try to sleep in a car but if it works for you then it is a great option. You can literally skip a few hours and it’ll feel like you didn’t miss a thing.

read

Some people love to read in the car on long road trips and can read entire novels while on the road. I have some trouble doing this, but I know a lot of people that find it very relaxing. You are awake and alert incase there is something cool to see on the side of the road, like a quirky attraction but you can also tune a lot of things out.

brainstorm/think about your goals

If you are an artist or have a lot of ideas like me, I do a lot of thinking in the car. I can brainstorm post ideas for hours without feeling bored. I usually bring a journal or something with me to help me organize my thoughts and also to jot down any unique ideas I can come up with. I’ll also journal a lot of our trips to keep things fresh in my head incase I want to write about it down the road. This is also a great time while you have a journal out to think about your goals. Write down some short-term goals, long-term goals, and life-time goals. The best way to achieve your dream is to put it in writing.

 

Have any other good distractions? Comment some of your tricks for passing the time below.

St. Louis Day Trip Itinerary

Looking for the best places to see and things to do in St. Louis? Look no further! Below I have come up with the perfect St. Louis day trip itinerary for a first timer. Keep in mind there are SO many more places to see and things to do. This list is mainly just an over view of the most famous places to check out. One thing we were unable to do on our weekend trip was check out the Budweiser brewery and Blues Museum, so don’t forget they are there too. St. Louis is full of history and there is so much more to it than most people know. The itinerary below is made up merely of suggestions and can easily be tweaked to fit your personal needs. Happy travels!

St. Louis Day Trip Itinerary

7AM- Wake up and get ready for the day

If you are driving from far away, or if you stayed over night in the city you will want to get an early start. So I recommend trying to get there the night before and staying overnight to get a fresh start. If you can, valet your car for the whole day. You won’t need if you have an Uber or Lyft app. There are literally Ubers everywhere and we had a wonderful experience with all our drivers. Get up early and take some time to get ready, you will be out all day so pack smart.

8Am- the mud house

St. Louis Day Trip ItineraryCall on an Uber or Lyft and take a ride over to The Mud House for breakfast and coffee or tea.
This is rated one of the best places to have brunch/breakfast in the city. Get there during their busiest time and you might be standing in a line clear out of the front door. You may have trouble finding a table due to the limited space, but the coffee is delicious. In the warmer months they have tables for patrons to use out front of the cafe as well. The atmosphere is welcoming and has an urban feel. The walls are covered in eclectic art and instead of order numbers you’ll receive a funny photo or meme to mark your table for the runners. We didn’t try it, but the french toast looked amazing. If you aren’t one for french toast try a breakfast platter. The jam is delicious.

9am- The gateway arch and tram ride to the top

St. Louis Day Trip ItineraryWe recommend checking out the gateway arch as early as possible. They start tours of the arch
at 9am. Be sure to buy tickets online before your visit as ticket lines can get pretty lengthy. This is a national park service so there are park rangers and you will need to go through security. The line for security is the longest line you will stand in today. It’s a lot like airport security except you won’t need to take off your shoes. Try to get to the arch about  45 minutes to an hour earlier than your scheduled tour time. You can enter the security line 30 mins prior to your tour time, and the extra 15-30 minutes will allow for you to take a walk around and take photos of the arch and Mississippi river. Take the ride to the top and come down the opposite side. You may get claustrophobic from the tram ride since they cram 5 people in a tiny capsule. The ride is about 4 minutes up and 3 minutes and 30 seconds back down. The top of the arch is like being in an airplane, it is extremely stuffed and there are a lot of people. Take a quick look around both sides of the arch and then descend.

11pm- Riverboat cruise on the mississippi river/courthouse

St. Louis Day Trip ItineraryOnce you are finished checking out the Gateway Arch head down the stairs towards the river and board your boat and get a tour of the Mississippi. They serve snacks and drinks on the riverboat so you can also grab something small to eat since you might be a little hungry. Hear about the famous Louis and Clarke crossing the Mississippi in St. Louis and expanding our country westward. (There is also a Great Westward Expansion Museum in this park but in 2017 it has been closed for renovations).

If it is a little too cold for a Riverboat cruise you can also check out the old Courthouse where the Dred Scott case was heard. The court case that arguably started the entire civil war was originally fought right here in St. Louis. If you are a history buff and love Civil War history (and even if you don’t) this beautiful building is a good place to stop and walk around.

2pm- anheuser-busch brewery (BUdWEISER)

We did not find the time to check out the Budweiser Brewery during our day trip to St. Louis, but we wish we had. We heard great things about this one from our Uber driver and friends who have visited before. The brewery is located very close to the Mud House, but on the opposite side of the highway. You can see the big brick building from the street. They offer tours to see how the beer is made and they also keep their stables with the Clydesdale horses from the commercials. At the end of the tour you can sip your beer and check them out. This is definitely one spot you don’t want to miss.

4pm- pappy’s smokehouse

St. Louis Day Trip ItineraryEver had Memphis BBQ? Missouri is home to some of the best BBQ in the entire country. Pappy’s has been featured on the Travel Channel and is well known in St. Louis for amazing ribs. You’ll be able to see the smokers out front of the restaurant under an awning right next to the street. There is a parking lot directly behind the restaurant and what looks like a side door is actually the front door. You will stand in line for 30 minutes to an hour or longer to be able to order, but it is VERY worth it. The fall off the bone ribs are some of the best we have ever had and you can choose your own BBQ sauce or try them all. Every table has four flavors of BBQ sauce to choose from. My favorite was the Pappy’s Original BBQ, but there are sweet and spicy sauces as well. Keep in mind, Pappy’s sells out daily and they stay open until everything is gone. It is best to get here as early as you possibly can if you want a large selection to try.

Before or after dinner I recommend heading back to the hotel for a bit and freshen up, it’s been a long day.

7pm- city museum/bowling

St. Louis Day Trip Itinerary
If you have kids, and even if you don’t, the city museum of St. Louis is a really cool place to check out at night. The museum is geared towards kids with tons of slides, tunnels and really cool exhibits to play in. There is even a ginormous ball pit and a huge section of caves to explore. After 5pm kids start to disappear and young adults come to have a drink and walk around the museum. There is a 10 story spiral slide that starts on the 10th floor and spirals all the way down to about the 2nd floor. If you get roof passes there is a huge ferris wheel and some additional slides you can try out. One in particular faces the river and you can get a really cool view of the bridge. There are three bars in the museum including one on the roof so if you are afraid of heights and a little nervous about the slides, have a few cocktails. We recommend a “Mama’s Lemonade” made with blueberry vodka, lemonade, and blueberries.

There are also some really cool bowling alleys in St. Louis. One in particular we saw and wanted to try but did not have the time was Flamingo bowling. You can see the bowling alley from the street and it is full of pink neon with a bar and large glass windows. It was packed when we drove by after 8pm and looked like a pretty popular place to hang out.

other awesome places to see

It is really hard to do absolutely everything in St. Louis is a single day, but you can at least see the big things. If you can stay longer we recommend trying all of the above places as well as the Blues Museum on Washington Avenue. There is so much to see and do in a city full of so much history as this one. If you would rather check out the Riverboat rides at night, they do nightly cruises as well as dinner cruises. City Museum also hosts wedding receptions and parties. Be sure to stop in the gift shop in the Arch for some fudge as well.

Comment below with your favorite places to visit in St. Louis. Where can you get the best BBQ?
Check out some carry-on bag packing tips here

UnderGround World Hidden In the Pocono Mountain Range

Wonderland

Wonderland

“Wonderland” or “Alice” is a world found within an old viaduct over the Delaware River. Many locals frequently trespass onto the property for the graffiti art and beautiful views. It is located fairly close to the New Jersey and Pennsylvania state border. Most people drive right past it on the interstate without ever knowing it is there. If you can find the location, you will need to park on the side of a road. You’ll then need to walk down a small trail and over a few concrete road blocks. Eventually you will find yourself at the top of the viaduct covered in gravel from the old rail roads that ran over this bridge in the past. On both sides of the bridge are beautiful views of the Delaware River.

wonderland

Towards the center of the bridge you will find a manhole that is not covered with a ladder that descends down into the viaduct. If you are brave enough, go down the ladder for what feels like forever. At the bottom you will find yourself near an opening and surrounded by graffiti. There is graffiti art everywhere and you’ll get another breathtaking view of the Delaware River. Take a moment to breathe in and out and just be.

Remember to be safe when checking out this location. Since the viaduct is on private property you are trespassing and can be arrested for being here without permission. While I have never personally had any issues, you should always be aware of your surroundings and be careful. The ladder down into the viaduct during rainy weather is exposed so it is very slippery. Be sure to we are comfortable shoes or shoes with grip. Do not try to descend the ladder in heels or boots.wonderland

Know any other cool places in Pennsylvania to check out? Comment below!
Going on a road trip? Check out my post about road trip essentials.

Taking Trips with Pets

Flying with your fur-baby

Many people today have pets and the majority of those people think of them as their family, as my husband and I do. We treat our cat, Fester, like he is our child sometimes. So how could you go on a family vacation without bringing along your four-legged friend? Taking trips with pets can be stressful for both you and your pet. Make sure that you have your pet checked by a vet to be sure they are in the best condition possible before bringing them away with you.

You will need to buy a carrying case for them and they will need to stay inside it. The exception to this rule is if you have a service animal or a doctor’s note stating they are a “companion”. This allows you to keep them out of their carrying case, even on board your flight! Provided your pet is under the weight restriction and able to fly under the seat in front of you, they can sit in your lap for the duration of the flight.

If you have an animal that is easily irritated and upset you might want to find some way to help calm them. Some vets offer medication for this, but there are natural alternatives as well. When we moved to Wisconsin, Brandon’s mom sent Fester to us. His dad hopped on a flight to Chicago for work where we picked him up. She used a lavender essential oil collar and he had no problems. Our cat Fester slept right through the flight and stayed awake, but calm, through the 3 hour car ride to our new home. Do remember, that your pet may be drowsy for a short while before finally waking up once you remove their collar. The Sentry Collar that Brandon’s mom  used can be bought for both felines or canines and come in many sizes.

Choosing a carrying case for small pets

Taking trips with pets

My sister carrying her cat, Mika.

Taking trips with pets

One of the best carrying cases for a cat is the cat pack. There are a few versions of this out there. A popular one right now is a back pack with a round window for your cat to look out of. My sister bought one that you can wear as a back pack or you can roll it behind you. It is made of mesh, very breathable and it provided enough room for her cat to be very comfortable.

Make sure that your pet fits correctly in the traveling case you choose. If you plan on bringing your dog or cat into the cabin there are regulations to follow. You will need to make sure that the carrying case will fit underneath of the seat in front of you. Check-In will make sure that your pet’s case is up to regulations. Beware. If your case is not up to regulation you can be turned away. If you buy a new carrying case bring it in a few days before your flight to make sure it will fit.

Another thing to think about when taking trips with pets is whether they fit comfortable inside their case. Your furry friend should be able to turn around completely inside their carrying case. If your animal is unable to turn around completely,  your flight representative may turn your pet away. Try it out ahead of time.

Remember, before a flight do not feed your pet since they can sometimes get motion sickness. Unfortunately, your kitty or doggy does not get a barf bag to use. Make sure they are sedated, they remain in their case, and they do not eat prior to any flights.

taking trips with pets: on the road

Taking Trips with Pets

Toddles

Taking trips with pets

Fester

 

 

 

 

 

If you need to bring your pet on the road with you, you may want to use an SUV. You should try to make an area for them to lay down on their own bed if possible. Most animals do not like the car so you may want to use the lavender collar I mentioned above, here as well.

You will also need to factor in time to stop for bathroom breaks if you have a dog. A lot of rest stops have areas for your dog to use for activity or bathroom. For cats, you can bring a litter box in your car. If you do bring a litter box, keep in mind you may need to open a window every few hundred miles. Make sure you keep your cat in a carrying case in cars as well. They can be distracting or they may even escape through an open window.

Be sure to always keep your pet on a leash, even with open windows. Just tie the leash to a spot in the car that is safe. Always be sure to bring extra doggy bags for “number 2” and get them enough exercise daily. It’s good to bring them a a few toys to keep them distracted as well and make sure you bring enough food with you for the entire trip.

Sharing your life with your pets is so important to many, so it would be terrible to leave them at home. When taking trips with pets be sure that your pet is comfortable. Whether your fur-baby is in the back of your car or under the seat in front of you, make sure they are healthy and you follow all airline regulations. If you do all this then you should have smooth sailing.

Happy travels!

Traveling in Your 20’s is a Must: Here’s Why

 

traveling in your 20's

see the world in all it’s glory

 

Traveling in  your 20’s is a must. You will learn so many different things. You will find an appreciation for things you did not understand before and you will change every time you go somewhere new. I can’t tell you how you will be changed, because every experience is different. However, I can tell you it will be worth it. 


1. Education.

Step out of your comfort zone and learn something new. One of the best reasons to travel young is because it shapes you into the best version of yourself. You find confidence, independence, and clarity in who you are. You will not only learn about yourself, you will learn about the culture you are immersed in. There is no better teacher than experience, and you will get a whole lot of it.

You will learn how to navigate foreign countries and airports and you will learn key phrases in languages you knew nothing about. Traveling gives you a better understanding of the world and the people that inhabit it. You will also acquire a large quantity of useless facts that will be great conversation starters.

2. Cultural appreciation.

Immerse yourself in cultures that are foreign to you. When you walk a mile in someone else’s shoes you begin to understand where they are coming from. Doing this will give you the skills to understand opposing views in everyday life. Appreciating someone else’s cultural views will help you excel in future careers making you more relatable to others. Traveling in your 20’s will give you more experience than the average twenty-something. You will be much better at adapting to change as well as troubleshooting in high stress situations.

3. Respect for our earth.

Spend more time outside and less time indoors. Explore the landscapes of our Earth wherever you go. I can’t stress enough how important it is to see the world from every angle. You will see landscapes that are beautiful and some that are haunting. Everywhere I go I take time to walk or hike the landscape. Some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen come following a 6 mile hike. You will realize how small your troubles are in comparison to the world. Ultimately, we are all just minuscule in relation to the size of this giant rock we cling to floating in space around a hot ball of gas. You will learn to love our Earth, the views, and you will know how important it is to respect her.

4. Find your independence.

One of the best things about traveling in your 20’s is that you will find your independence. You will get lost and you will need to learn to adapt to the unexpected. By traveling you acquire the necessary tools to be independent, making you a great leader, and you will excel in your career. One thing I can tell you is do not rely on anyone else but yourself. If you are traveling in a group, bring a map. Do not trust your phone or your friend’s guide book. When my husband and I were in Hawaii we learned the hard way how easy it is to get lost. We were hiking in an unmarked trail I had read about in a travel guide. What was suppose to be an easy hike turned into a nightmare because I ended up taking us up the wrong trail.

Bring a map and don’t rely on your phone or guide books.

5. You have no monetary ties

If you are in your early twenties chances are you do not have any substantial debt. Without student loans looming over your head use the money you do have to travel. The experience you will gain far out weighs the risk you are taking by traveling. You most likely do not own a home and may not have any car payments, however if you do have these things, you can still take advantage of travel. Fresh out of college and can’t afford a plane ticket? Get in your car with your friends (or solo travel) and take a road trip. You can even map out campgrounds to stop at so you don’t have to pay for hotel rooms.

If you live in the U.S. (or even parts of Europe) there are so many things to see. If you have student loans kicking in within the next year, get in your car now and take full advantage of not having that outrageous payment.

6. you are not promised tomorrow.

Someday you will die. You are not promised tomorrow so make the most of your life now. Traveling in your 20’s is important because there is no promise that your legs will work tomorrow or that you will even be alive. Take full advantage of your young body now while you can. I work in family medicine and see many geriatric patients. One of the more frequent advice they give is this: See the world now before it is too late. We all age, and some of us age better than others, but at some point we all decline to a point we can no longer travel. I don’t know about you, but when I am 90 years old I do not want to regret anything.

Not traveling is the most frequent regret that I hear about. You may not be sure if you should skydive, but if you are at least considering it then maybe you should do it.

7. money is best used on memories, not ‘things’.

Do not waste your money on the latest trend because it always goes out of style. The best thing you can do with your money is to sink it into something that will enrich  your life. Culture in the U.S. revolves around brand name items that no one really needs. These things go out of style and end up being worthless. Putting $1000 towards traveling in your 20’s instead of $1000 towards a purse you want or alcohol is a much better investment. What are you investing in? Your future. Being a seasoned traveler makes you more marketable, relatable and knowledgable about things others don’t even know exist.

Traveling will teach you more about yourself and the world than you thought possible, so buy a plane ticket, pack a bag, and be in awe of something.

(Want to learn how to navigate Hawaii for less money? See my blog post here.)