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. 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!

Sunny With a Chance of Tornado?

In June, one of my best friends had her bachelorette party in Nashville, TN during CMA Fest. Being that the drive to Nashville from my home in Wisconsin is only about 9 hours I thought it would be fun to road trip down to meet everyone at the airport. Our families are close, and most of the mothers of the girls invited also joined us. My mom insisted on driving with me. Since she lives in south jersey, she wanted to spend some quality-time, so we took the road trip together.

The 9 hour drive down to Nashville I did entirely myself. I love my mom but she isn’t the best copilot. By the time we made it to Nashville I was exhausted from working all day and then getting in a car and leaving for Music City.

I like to travel solo or with my husband because I feel that traveling brings a lot of reflection and I like my mind to be quiet to take in whatever is around me. Being in a car or plane can be boring, but I also find it peaceful and gives me a chance to reset and relax. My mom likes to talk. A lot.

For the first 3 hours I am convinced that my mom didn’t stop talking. I made the mistake of stopping at a McDonalds on the way down somewhere in Illinois and introduced my mom to a sugar free vanilla latte. 1. I’m not sure how my mom thought that this drink was so ground breaking and different from every other skinny vanilla latte she ever bought from Starbucks. 2. My mom literally did not know how to order it and I’m not really sure what she thought it was.

Side note: this made her talk even more. even faster. and even louder.

Either way it kept me awake, so after 6 hours of music and my mom talking about I don’t even know what she started to fall asleep and I finally got some quiet time.

The rest of the weekend is basically a blur. I was severely sleep deprived and inebriated at other times. This was definitely not a Tour of Nashville which I have done some in the past and will definitely write another post about it. However, I saw the insides of a lot of bars. Broadway is full of bars owned by country music stars like Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, John Rich, and more. There’s a Honky Tonk bar that is 3 (or 4?) stories tall where we watched 2 dudes rip their shirts off, fist fight and then get thrown out by security. There’s a mechanical bull, a million rooftop bars, and during CMA Fest there are also a million people.

BUT, I am going to talk about all that another time. For the sake of this post, I want to focus on the road trip back from Nashville to Wisconsin.

On the morning of our drive home it was raining, I was hungover from day drinking for 7 hours the day before, and we had a severe thunderstorm warning. This didn’t phase me. Thunderstorms and severe weather are common in the midwest. We got in our car at 6am and started driving because I was hell bent on getting back to Wisconsin by dinner. We of course had to stop at McDonalds on the way out of town for my mom’s 697th* sugar free vanilla latte of the weekend. (*information was grossly exaggerated).

About 6 miles in we got a severe weather warning followed by a tornado watch. We continued our drive and finally got out of Tennessee and into Kentucky where we ended up stopping at a gas station and KFC to use the bathroom and fill up our tank. “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin came on the radio in the KFC bathroom as I was washing my hands and realized we were still in Kentucky in the Bible Belt. That place is a whole other world.

Exhausted, hungry but craving healthy food, and a little cranky we continued on. So naturally for the next 5 hours we argued about literally nothing in the car, because what else would you expect after a bachelorette 5 day weekend bender with your mom?

The following transpired very quickly and within 10 mins:

The skies opened up and it was a complete downpour. We started talking about how I wanted to be a storm chaser as a kid because I was always fascinated with tornados and I would write school reports on them constantly, but NJ has like 1 tornado per decade so it wasn’t really a good choice. I literally said, “it would be cool to see a tornado today”. Both our phones started to go off, it was a warning for severe thunderstorm which we could see (OBVIOUSLY  Weather Channel, are you even predicting or are you just telling me what is already happening?).

Somehow we started arguing about me wanting her to drive or about how I thought she couldn’t drive well because she can’t see very good, I don’t even know. I do remember getting really worked up and pissed off and we were yelling.

Our phone alarms went off again. I asked my mom to look and see what the warning was. She looked up at me and said “Tornado.” I had her read me the information on where it was because I literally could not see 5 feet in front of me the wind and rain was so awful. She mentioned the highway we were on and the mile markers. We were smack dab in the middle of it’s path. I didn’t want to stay there because there was not shelter and we were in the middle nowhere in southern Illinois surrounded by corn fields. I saw an overpass up ahead and pulled over underneath of it so we could at least see. This rain wrapped fucker of a tornado passed right by us as we sat confused and a little scared under an overpass wondering what we should do.

We called Brandon, my sister, and father almost immediately and none of them seemed to care very much except Brandon who likes storms and tornados as much as I do.

This experience left me with three very important pieces of advice for everyone who takes road trips.

  1. Pay attention to warnings on your phone or the radio when you are road tripping.
  2. Life is short, and one minute you are sipping a sugar free vanilla latte with your mom arguing loudly with each other, and the next your heart is pounding and you are yards away from a tornado.
  3. NEVER say the words “It would be cool to see a tornado today”

This whole experience got me thinking, sometimes my iPhone doesn’t work well without WiFi, what if I hadn’t pulled over because I didn’t know there was a tornado warning? What if I had been listening to my iPod instead of the radio AND my phone notifications didn’t come through? A million scenarios have played in my mind, but luckily everything worked out.

I think it just goes to show, you can never expect a normal anything, including a normal drive home.

6 Awesome Places Near Atlantic City You’ve Never Heard Of, But Need To Visit.

the stigma

When most people think of New Jersey they think of crumbling industry and  big polluted cities. People think of it as a lesser version of New York and no one seems to want to give it a break. Believe it or not, there is more farmland in NJ than there is acreage in the state of Delaware. You can find some of the most beautiful sunsets, best flounder fishing, and the most quaint little towns in the entire country. Although Atlantic City is not at it’s peak, there are many beautiful places around it. Some places within a 30 to 40 minute drive of the city are worth a minute or two of your time. Below are my favorite places in and around Atlantic City, NJ that you didn’t know existed, but definitely need to see.


6 places (shockingly) located in and near atlantic city

the Historic Town of Smithville


Smithville village


The small historic town of Smithville is located north west across the bay from Atlantic City, NJ. The little village is full of shops and restaurants with amazing food and great atmosphere. They also have revolutionary war time themed re-enactments and host two craft fairs during the year; May Fest & October Fest.  Previously surrounded by pine barrens, Smithville is now the heart of a small town.




Locals and travelers alike love to come walk the old bridge, feed the ducks, and have a slice of pizza or “Stockton Bomb” from Costello’s sitting on the deck over the small lake. Take a ride in the duck boats or have a competition at the “shooting range” to see who can score the most points. The Smithville Inn is an old restaurant that was once a stop on the stage coach route which is now Route 9. The Inn dates back to 1787 and some believe that many of the stores  around the Inn are haunted.

Santa visits at Christmas time and a haunted train ride is fun for all ages during the month of October. Carolers sing during the holiday season and a large Christmas tree lights up the train station near the center of town. You can even stay over night in the village and enjoy a relaxing weekend by visiting their website, here.

Gardener’s Basin

Atlantic City

Second story deck of Back Bay Ale House

Gardener’s Basin is a small area of Atlantic City that barely seems like Atlantic City. One of the best places for a good breakfast in the city is Gilchrist which makes amazing eggs and breakfast sandwiches. Drink a warm cup of coffee and look out over the bay as the sun begins to rise behind you.

Start your afternoon by checking out the little shops and then head over to the Atlantic City Aquarium. Although it is quite small there a lot of really cool “touch” exhibits and craft areas for kids depending on the time of year. They have a decent amount of aquatic life and some really cool relics from old ships to diving suits. There is even an observation deck where you can see a good distance over the city.

Atlantic City

basin mason

Back Bay Ale House is the home of the famous “Basin Mason”. Try a 32 oz mason jar full of delicious adult beverage you can select from their cocktail menu. The drinks are both satisfying and strong for $12.50. If you order a 32oz jar they do have a 2 drink limit and trust me you won’t need a third one. They have mouth watering clams and amazing fish entrees to choose from. The small upstairs balcony, which can have up to a 3 or 4 hour wait time to be seated, has the best view of the sunset. There is an outside bar under the second floor balcony that sits about 100 yards from Scales

When night falls Scales Grill & Deck Bar has the best entertainment. Fairly new after the old building that once stood in its spot burned down a few years ago, Scales provides live entertainment and a fun atmosphere. Located directly on the water, you can either boat here or drive.

Ocean City boardwalk

Ocean City

Jersey Girl

Ditch the Atlantic City Boardwalk and drive 15 minutes south on the parkway until you get to the Somers Point & Ocean City Exit. Pay the toll and follow this road over the 9th street bridge and into Ocean City. One of the last dry towns in the United States is nestled right in southern New Jersey. Ocean City is one of the best shore towns for families with two amusement parks, a large arcade and miles of boardwalk. The beaches are clean and have life guards during the summer months.


Ocean City

Have a Khor’s Bros ice cream cone, enjoy a show at the Ocean City Theatre Company, or play a round of mini golf at Congo Falls. Gillian’s Wonderland Pier sports a huge ferris wheel and rides geared toward smaller children. Take a walk down the boardwalk a little further and find Playland’s Castaway Cove a pirate themed park with rides.


Ocean City

Ocean City boardwalk

Grab a slice of famous Manco & Manco pizza and sit on the boardwalk enjoy the beautiful views of the ocean. Check out the shore stores that line the boardwalk to purchase your own hermit crab and a bright neon t-shirt or sweatshirt with an obnoxious saying. You’re in New Jersey, so why not?

Cape May, NJ

cape may

Located all the way down the parkway South to Exit 0 from Atlantic City is Cape May, NJ. This not so little town has a million things to do. From the concrete walkway along the ocean, to the southernmost tip of NJ, to the shops and bed & breakfasts throughout the town there are so many things to see. Check out the Cape May lighthouse, which also happens to be the place my husband and I got engaged in 2015. You can get perfect sunset pictures at the top of the light house and on the beach. While you are there, check out the old ship wreck a few hundred feet away on the beach.

Cape May

Cape May light house

Walk around down town, or rent bikes to ride to the beach. Stroll down the cobble stone streets and eat an ice cream cone and stop at the Lobster House restaurant & raw bar. This is one of the best places to eat in southern New Jersey. You can eat dinner in the 5 star restaurant which is a little more business casual, or sit on the deck by the clam boats and order from the raw bar wearing your flip flops.


Take a walk back in time and explore this old town about 30 minutes west of Atlantic City in the pine barrens. Batsto is a New Jersey state park with large old barns, mills, and trails to explore. Keep an eye out for the Jersey Devil who is known to roam these woods and has been spotted in the area. The village dates back to 1766 when a large iron works plant was built there. Over time, the natives of the town eventually all died or moved out. Today it is a historical land mark in the state.

The village is right near the river and is well known for hiking, biking, star gazing, and glass making. It is a great place for the whole family to spend some time out doors and exploring history.

the edwin b. FORSYTHe Wild Life Refuge

Located in Oceanville, NJ the wildlife refuge is a beautiful place to reconnect with nature and is found 12 miles from Atlantic City. You can drive, hike, or bike around the 8 mile one way dirt road. Climb the observation towers to get a bird’s eye view of 47,000 acres of preserved wetlands. You will find amazing views for landscape and nature photography as well as diverse species of birds.

When you are finished exploring the wild life refuge trails, check out the Noyes Museum which offers a ton of culture and history of the area. The museum is full of local art and offers many arts and crafts days for kids and is a collaboration with Stockton University. The staff is very friendly and the show room offers interesting art work and beautiful views of Lily Lake.

Like this article? Check out some of my others, here
Have something to add? Leave a comment below!