On the Road Again

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I hope you enjoy this sixth installment related to my time in Dubai in October 2016. As with all the others, this was adapted from an email that was sent to friends and family. You can catch up with my adventures here!

One of my “must-do” activities this trip was to visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. This was the one thing we knew we would do, but did not plan prior to arrival. Mainly because it was not clear to us the best way to get there. After talking to our hotel concierge and weighing the options, we decided to rent a car at the mall. Woo Toyota Yaris! Sorry Enterprise, we had to rent with Thrifty.

I offered to rent the vehicle and be the driver, as long as my friend would navigate.

Side note: if you are in a foreign country and have cell service you can use, make sure you have turned your phone out of airplane mode and tested the maps app if you think you may need it. Trust me on this.

After we picked up our car, we were going to pick up another friend across town. We looked up our directions (in WiFi), got the car and headed out.

I’d say 37 seconds after leaving the mall parking garage we were lost. Dubai’s roads are what we now refer to as the spaghetti model. Pick up some noodles, drop them on a plate and that’s what they look like. Everything is a one-way road going in the opposite direction. We struggled to get our maps app up and running and really wished we had tested out our service before we got on the road. Re: my previously mentioned tip.

It is important to know that at this point we had a quarter tank of gas.

Finally back on track we made it across town. Yay! It was not long after we got out of central Dubai, that I realized we really needed to find a gas station. My co-pilots happily looked one up for me. Of course we missed the exit and had to backtrack to the station. My gas light had been on and we were dropping closer to empty every minute.

The area where we got off the highway, was not exactly an area where I wanted to be stuck or have to ask for help. There were all these work garages for semis and it was very industrial. We blended right in. Not.

As we pulled up to the station we found, I realized it was in fact not a gas station, but a station where big trucks come for oil changes and such. My heart sank, and I almost vomited all over the Yaris.

Both of my co-pilots started trying to find another station. Insanely enough, the closest one was back in Dubai. So we got back on the road; me holding my breath, while they tried to stay positive we would find somewhere. The needle crept closer and closer to empty.

I have to admit that it’s pretty ironic we were struggling to find gas in the Middle East.

As we were driving I spotted a station, but we were too many lanes of traffic away to make it work. This was a SIX lane highway. Yes six, in both directions. So I guess technically a twelve lane highway. My stomach sank and that vomit feeling came back.

Quickly we noticed that if we got off at the next exit we could get back to the station. As I took the exit ramp, a closer station came into view and I think a tear slid down my face with relief.

We waited in line for them to fill up the tank. While I knew we didn’t need an entire tank, I also had no idea what may happen the rest of the day, given how it started. So when the attendant asked how much I wanted, I said all of it! Give me all your gas, fill the trunk, get me some containers. I will take everything you have. It only cost $16 to fill the tank, so it was totally worth it.

Once that ordeal was finished, we did the only logical thing there is when you can’t have beer; we ate McDonald’s.

We FINALLY made it to Abu Dhabi without further incident and drove up to the gate excited to enter. Naturally it was the wrong gate and we had to circle around a couple of times to find the right one. Construction, combined with rotaries and spaghetti highways, meant I missed the turn once before figuring it out.

After we parked, we had to go in to get our Abaya so that we were properly covered. In all of the pictures I have seen of people at the Grand Mosque, they were in these nice black Abaya’s. Well that is not what we got. Not even close. They were literally made out of fabric that included every single animal print you’ve ever seen, trimmed in whatever random color they had lying around. Maybe they want to be able to spot tourists? Or maybe they don’t want them to be stolen? Either way, these things were hideous, but free. Actually the entire Grand Mosque is free (including parking) which is pretty shocking.

 

This place is probably the coolest building I’ve ever seen. I was so impressed by it, that I now have a flip-book of pictures to look back on whenever I want to visit again.

On our way home, we decided to complete our road trip with a stop at Subway before dropping our friend off.

We managed to navigate back to the mall and return the car successfully without getting lost. Go us!

To fit in with the Dubai culture, we dubbed our little vehicle the Rolls Yaris, a lesser known Rolls Royce product.

 

We stuck around at the mall after returning the Rolls Yaris, to watch the fountains (again) and have a snack. They had some pop-up restaurants and we had a couple of burgers with the hipster Emirates. And they were really delicious!

Overall a great day, despite the rocky beginning.

If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this: Always make sure you have gas when you are going on a road trip. ALWAYS. I never imagined the Rolls Yaris would lose fuel that fast, but when it’s 100 degrees out, and you are in the desert, it’s a game changer.

Fueled up until next time!

All Gold Everything

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Hello and welcome to the fifth post in my email series chronicling my time in Dubai. These are all emails that were sent in October of 2016. Catch up with the rest of them here!

Alright, I need to get real with you about this. My excitement about going to a SEVEN STAR hotel was palpable. That’s two whole stars better than five! WHAT?! Insanity. But to understand this experience properly,  you need to know what went into making it happen.

After deciding we were going to do the Burj Khalifa, we absolutely could not do another minimum spend meal at the Burj Al Arab. That was not happening, since we actually do need food to survive. Bummer. The problem was, it isn’t the type of place you can just wander to. You have to have a reservation of some kind to even access the property. Talk about exclusive!

For everyone who doesn’t know, this hotel sits out on a man made island. It took them three years to secure the island before they even started construction on the hotel. Just dropped some Big Bus knowledge on you. You’re welcome.

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There are a few restaurants and bars in the hotel, but they all had this pesky minimum spend, of easily over $100. Again, not an option. Then one glorious afternoon I actually found a bar that did not require a minimum spend, just a reservation. Ummmm, hello, sign me up!

I requested a reservation (through the bars app) right away. A few weeks later we were confirmed for Gold on 27. Yessssss.

The day we went to our reservation, we spent the morning on the bus tour of the marina and did a boat tour as well. We hadn’t washed our hair, knowing we’d be sweating a ton anyway, and had hardly gotten ready. Of course we were running late getting back to the room, and didn’t have time to wash our hair. Gross I know. But with the traffic here being so iffy, we wanted plenty of time to get there. And also to take photos like paparazzi.

On the ride over I was petrified that our reservation hadn’t gone through and they were going to turn us away. Even though I had the confirmation. Our driver wasn’t even sure Gold on 27 was a thing and we had to tell him the Burj Al Arab at least three times. In hindsight, it was probably because of our gross hair. Actually the bar is new, having just opened in the spring, so that’s gotta be why he wasn’t sure. Yeah, yeah, that’s it!

As we pulled up to the gate, a porter came out and asked for our information. He said okay (YAY!!!!) and we proceeded up the drive. This was actually happening. When our driver stopped, we were greeted by the bellman and I hopped right out and totally forgot to pay. Oops. Obviously I paid.

Now we were there, out front, with all of the Rolls Royce cars. They were all white also. Very pretty. We went inside and asked where to go. Upstairs, down the hall to security. After finding out the bar didn’t open until the time of our reservation, we took full advantage of taking pictures like true tourists.img_7115

I have to say this. The hotel is beautiful and all the paint that is gold has actual gold in it, but I was kind of surprised it wasn’t more over the top. Again, one of the coolest hotels I’ve seen, but dare I say, it almost had a cruise ship vibe.

Once we made it to the lounge, we were seated by the window and choose our drinks. My friend decided to cause a scene and break her glass, spilling her drink all over the place. It was pretty awkward, but they quickly cleaned up and made her a brand new cocktail.

After we had our drink (yay no minimum spend!) we went to the bathroom before we left.I only bring this up because I want to move into the bathroom. EVERYTHING was gold. And the most beautiful shade of gold. I was, and still am, OBSESSED. It’s also quite possible we had a bathroom photo shoot as well…no we totally did. No one even caught us, though I wouldn’t have even cared if they had. That bathroom was amazing.

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So you’re going to ask me which Burj I liked better? If I’m being honest, I liked the first one the best; Burj Khalifa. Bar on the 123rd floor. It was so cool. And the views were amazing. That being said, I’m extremely glad we did both. I would have felt cheated if we had only gone to one. Go us!

I’m also going to have to have a gold bathroom at some point. Seriously, obsessed.

Okay, enough fancy time, back to the real world…

Don’t Look Down

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Welcome to the fourth installment of my email series about my adventures in Dubai. These are all emails that were sent in October of 2016. Don’t Miss my previous updates as well!

Prior to arriving in Dubai, my friend and I had done TONS of research (I know you’re shocked) about the best way to go up the worlds tallest building; The Burj Khalifa. We knew it was a “must do,” but we weren’t sure how to accomplish the task without spending all of our money.

The best time to go up in the building is at sunset, and they know this, so they charge an arm, a leg, and another arm. We simply felt we could not justify paying so much, to just go to the top to look out the window. We wanted to feel like we got something for our cash.

So we settled on the bar; Atmosphere.

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There were a few reasons this became our choice:

  • The bar is the highest in the world sitting on story 123
  • Our money got us actual alcoholic drinks (alcohol is hard to get)
  • It was a more unique experience than an observation area
  • To go, all you had to do was simply make a proper reservation (ours was during sunset)

The only catch was the minimum spend that was required. Ugh, sneaky smart restaurant owners. Our actual reservation was for an A La Carte dinner and we could choose to spend our minimum however we wanted, which I also liked.

In the end, we settled on drinking our minimum rather than eating. Who is surprised? No one? I didn’t think so. And I know we both feel it was the right decision. We had a few Cosmos (seriously so good) and then a fun mixed drink that was orange. They were all delish!

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Amazing drink at Atmosphere

We were lucky enough to sit by the window that overlooked the dancing fountains and we got to enjoy a sunset from 123 stories in the air. It was a rather clear night, so the photos were pretty great. And once the fountains started, we pressed our faces right up to the glass to watch them, it was really cool.

When all was said and done, we spent a bit more than our minimum, and I personally spent the most I ever have on six drinks and a side of fries. But hey, who needs to eat!? Really though, we both thought it was worth it, and would absolutley do it again. Thanks Atmosphere!

Just for reference the Burj Khalifa is 163 stories tall. Yes, 163. Yikes!

…feet back on the ground, catch you next time…

The Wheels on the Bus

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Please enjoy part three of my Dubai adventures, adapted from emails sent in October 2016.

Monday morning, October 10th was our first morning in Dubai. We arrived at night, hadn’t gone anywhere but our hotel and we were bears looking for food in the winter hungry. We needed food/coffee before things got ugly. So what did we do? We went to the Dubai Mall. Not to be confused with the Mall of the Emirates (more on that later).

Yeah, I hear you saying to yourself she’s in mother f*ing Dubai, and she’s going to the MALL?!? But this my friends, is not just any mall. This is a combination of EVERY famous brand from around the world AND an aquarium and ice rink, all rolled into one hugely massive building. Guys, they have everything you could ever want. Including Ben’s Cookies! It’s phenomenal.

But let’s face it, we are American, (and why pretend to be someone else, when it’s just who you are) so we had some Caribou Coffee for breakfast. Yes, we did, and I’m not even ashamed. I did burn my tongue though, I hate that. As we were about to leave, I noticed a group of moms with their kids over in the corner. One had two children, both dressed in Ohio State gear, so I obviously had to say something to her. I learned the whole group is married to Emirates Pilots, and they are all living in Dubai. This lady of course was actually from Michigan, but her husband was from Ohio. The world is really so small.

You are probably wondering now what the weather is like. So I’m in the desert. But it’s a tropical desert. What the what does that even mean?!? Well it means it’s hot as F, but also humid as F. Fantastic. There is literally NO way to look good and be outdoors. Not possible.

So to continue on our path of being tourists/westerners, we got a ticket for the Big Bus tour. You know, the double-decker kind that go all over the place. Ruby was our sales lady and she cut us the best deal (right) for a week-long ticket. We got our headphones, free water (SCORE) and headed up to the top to see how long we’d last before actually turning into sand.

Not going to lie, this was a great choice. Dubai is SO spread out that it’s impossible to get a feel for the city before you come here, trust me we tried.
There are three lines to take, so we did one on Monday and ended back at the Dubai Mall. This is also where the Burj Khalifa is and the famous fountains. Think Bellagio in Vegas, but bigger. And they do two shows an hour. One set to traditional music and one set to a pop-song. Our first experience was a Celine and Andrea Bocelli duet, it was magical.
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And guys, I’m pretty sure we had Texas Roadhouse for dinner ‘merica!

Until the next time!

Are We There Yet?

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Oh Hey There. For those DYING for the continuation from my last post (the infamous major airport meltdown on the way to Dubai), here is the next installment. As a reminder, this series is a set of emails that have been adapted from a trip I took in October of 2016. Enjoy!

Good morning Zurich! Sadly I only got to see your airport and really only one terminal, but it seemed nice. One day I’ll actually make it a destination…just like everywhere else.

We had about an hour and a half to grab a bite to eat and get to our next Swiss Air flight. One thing I have always appreciated about Europe is the ability everyone has to queue without needing to be told every five minutes what to do. Everyone quietly lined up to board the flight with no fuss. It was delightful. Zurich was freezing, so I got a 45 second taste of winter to hold me over for a few months.

Sadly on this flight my friend and I were not sitting together, but I lucked out with bulkhead seating, score! Our flight was so easy it was just long. With about three and a half hours left, I was way over being on a plane with nowhere to go but to hang out with the crew in the back. Which we did, for a few minutes chugging water.

The craziest thing was our flight path. We flew over Turkey, a bit of Syria, and then down the border of Iraq and Iran. But we landed early and made our way to the passport control area. I’m so used to flying into the UK or Europe, that I was prepared for any questions they might have asked. The guy hardly even looked at me, stamped my passport and sent me on my way. Our bags were already waiting for us at baggage claim, so we got some Dirham (cash) and made it to the taxi line. 20 minutes later we arrived at our hotel, good ole Radisson Blu Downtown Dubai. Our goal was to make it to the hotel and have a drink at the rooftop bar. Despite being extremely exhausted, we had some Cosmos and they were super yummy! Expensive, but yummy.

Side note: the Dirham’s are impossible to figure out. Just not worth even trying. I have no concept really of what stuff costs, just that it’s more than what I want to spend on a sandwich.

Anyway, after 28+ hours of travel, we were BEAT. Shower, sleep, exploration in the morning.

Zzzzzzzz…..

Delays, Beers and Tears, Oh My!

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This next series of posts I plan to publish, are emails that I sent to a few friends and family members when I was traveling in October 2016. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Where do I even start…let’s begin with this keyboard and where I actually am. Currently I am in the business center of the Sofitel on Palm Island in Dubai. Go ahead and google this hotel, yes it’s far too nice for me. My friend who I am traveling with is here for a wedding, so I have tonight and tomorrow night to entertain myself. Right, so this keyboard. It not only has keys that are super far away from one another, but the shift, enter and apostrophe aren’t quite in the right places. Add to that, the average number of symbols present on each key is 3. Yes 3 Thankfully it is set up in “American” so I don’t have to try and figure out how to actually use this thing.
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Currently it’s Friday night, but here in Dubai, Friday is actually Saturday, meaning it’s halfway through the weekend. It is a bit odd to have the weekend be Friday and Saturday but it works.

So I think I will start this from the beginning, to get everyone up to speed.

Follow me back to the week of October 8, 2016. In Florida, we were bracing for a hurricane as I was preparing to travel about halfway around the world. I was a wreck all week worrying about the path of the storm. Thankfully it never got as bad as was feared. However, it still affected my flights when I left, even though it was a very nice day at home.

I was dropped off at the airport with ample time to check-in, get through security (holler pre-check) and relax. But that is not what happened. Immediately I learned my flight was delayed, thus making me miss my connection in Atlanta. I was meeting my friend in Newark to fly to Zurich and on to Dubai.

Here’s A LONGGGGG story, short-ish. I was put on standby for the first flight to Atlanta and I didn’t get on. It was too late to get my bag off the plane, so I had to get to Newark. I cried when I didn’t get on the plane (this is a theme for the day) because I was frustrated and worried about my connections. I did get on the second flight to Atlanta and was going to have 36 minutes to make my connection. You can stop laughing, I know this is a nearly impossible task in that airport. When the plane door opened I RAN LIKE FORREST through the airport to my next gate. As I was running up an escalator, the guy in front of me drops his passport and does not realize it. I now have no choice but to run after him and scream down the terminal, “SIR, YOUR PASSPORT!!!” He said thanks and I continued on at a full sprint. When I got to the gate, it was closed and my world was shattered. I had a full-fledged completely irrational meltdown right there at the gate. I had been running so hard that when I started to cry I was actually hyperventilating and I couldn’t catch my breath.

There is also ZERO privacy in an airport terminal and I was too distraught to think I should go into the bathroom. So I slid right into my meltdown and just completely lost it. We are talking two airport employees asked if I was okay and one even brought me napkins for my tears and dignity. Eventually I made it to the service desk to be re-booked. My next concern was getting into Newark two hours later than originally planned and having to get my luggage, (it made it onto my standby flight and was just chillin with it’s other luggage friends in Newark) re-check it, and make it through security. Oh and I hadn’t checked into my international flight yet because it was through Swiss Air and I couldn’t ever find my reservation. My mom, the wizard, figured that one out (thanks Mom) and got me checked in at least. Now after all this I still had over an hour in Atlanta and needed, nay, deserved, at least one drink.

I found a sports bar to watch some football and have a beer. Sat down at the bar and ordered an Oktoberfest. The guy next to me kept looking at me (he was reading a book in a bar…) and I finally asked where he was traveling to. I learned wayyyyyy more than I wanted about him and then he asked me this…”were you in the terminal a little while ago crying?” Yes, yes sir I was. He asked me if everything was okay and I told him my story which I’m sure he didn’t care a lick about, but hey you asked. And then I chugged my beer, leaving my last bits of dignity at the bar.

Happily I made it to Newark, got my bag, checked in, and made it through security with little to no issue. The lady at the check-in desk did freak me out when asking if I had a visa, but she had zero clue and it was not a problem.

HUGE shout out to those that helped me through that day…you know who you are!

I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep I got the night before I left, or the hysterical crying, but I slept pretty well on that flight to Zurich. Oh and in case you were wondering, I was in the LAST row of the plane, folded like origami into my seat. Peachy.

Wheels down in Zurich….

To be continued.

Why Breaking all of Your Normal Travel Rules Might be a Great Idea

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The sky is smiling. My happy place.

I’m an avid traveler. I enjoy trips of all different kinds. I’m also a big routine follower even when I’m on the road. But recently, I’ve completely changed up my travel style and I kind of liked it.

For the most part, if I am traveling somewhere for a short period of time (4 days or less), I try my hardest to abide by a general set of rules; I carry-on my luggage, check-in ahead of time, get a ride to the airport, pack light and don’t get to the airport all that early.

On my last three trips however, I have broken all of these rules and it hasn’t affected my mobility, or my experience like I would have thought.

For instance, I am a die-hard carry-on luggage traveler when I’m only gone over a weekend. However, over thanksgiving I accidentally booked my ticket with a checked bag instead of a carry-on. Initially I was really annoyed with myself for making such a rookie mistake, but after completing my journey, I was actually really glad to have checked my bag. I know many travelers who would say I’m insane because they have had their luggage lost one too many times, but I thought it was nice not to have to manage a roller bag and a carry-on by myself. It made using the restroom, getting food and just hanging out in the airport easier. I was responsible for less and I didn’t hate it. It can be very annoying to have to take your rolling suitcase everywhere and not have both hands free.

As a rule when I travel, I am watching the clock so I can check-in for my flight right away. But because I have checked bags recently, I didn’t find a need to check-in early, and you know what? It was completely fine…Well, except for that one Southwest flight. But hey, who doesn’t love a middle seat?!

Packing is something I generally pride myself on. In my opinion, I have perfected packing for many different types of travel, in my own minimalist way. On my last three trips, I have completely thrown my general set of rules out the window. And I have to say I liked having a few more clothing options and a few more of my usual home amenities with me. I’ve thrown caution to the wind and just packed what I wanted and it was kind of awesome. It also made me feel more at home, allowing me to relax and enjoy my time more.

The other thing I have done the last few times I’ve traveled is opt to park in long-term, off-site parking, rather than take a cab or ask for a ride. I am very fortunate to live in a city where the airport is SO EASY it’s silly and parking off-site really only adds maybe 10/15 minutes to your travel time. Plus, it makes things like delays easier because you don’t have to worry about inconveniencing the person who has committed to picking you up.

This brings me to my general distaste for getting to the airport a full two hours before a flight. It’s not my thing, and to me sitting around is a waste of time. Yet on my last two trips I have been at least 2 hours early for my flights and it has been kind of nice. There’s time to sit down and eat, or get your snacks and just relax. It completely takes the stress out of the situation. Hmmm maybe that’s why they recommend it…

In the end, sometimes it’s nice to travel in a different way than normal. It brings some of the excitement back and is a fun change of pace. I’m sure I would feel differently about all of this if my home airport weren’t so easy and if I hadn’t had such good luggage experiences. But it does remind me that change is good and doing things the exact same way each time may not always bring you the best results.

Bars, Baths, and Beautiful Budapest

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This European trip was all about trains. So naturally we took the train from Salzburg to Budapest. I will warn you that figuring things out once you are in Budapest is very different. Hungarian is an impossible language, and even though we knew it was going to be Eastern Europe, it was still overwhelming. We ended up getting directions from a really nice guy and found our way to our apartment via the subway system. The apartment we stayed at was great, and we would recommend it for sure…but it was tough to find. You cant check out more information here. After we settled in, we had the front desk make a dinner reservation at a great spot on the river at a restaurant called Dunacorso. Go there, it’s delicious.

Our Dinner View

Our Dinner View

Our first full day in Budapest we scheduled a walking tour. I personally have always been a fan of walking tours, and I still feel like they are the best way to learn the pulse of a city.

Prior to our arrival in Budapest, we found a gelato place that serves gelato in the shape of a rose; Gelarto Rosa. It is located right on the edge of the plaza by St. Stephen’s Basilica. Our entire group would recommend making this a priority while in Budapest. So much so that it’s possible we had two in one day…

Gelato

Gelato

After walking all day we were starving. Luckily near our apartment there was an entire restaurant area with plenty to choose from. We ended up eating at Yiddishe Mama Mia and it was fantastic.

Side Note: Our food in Budapest was the best food of our trip.*

Once our bellies were full, we decided to stop back at the apartment before heading out to the ruin bars (also very close to our location). These bars are made up of random mismatched furniture, indoor and outdoor seating space, and cheap drinks. Some of them offer food as well. We had an absolute blast ruin bar hopping and only wished we had another night to experience more of them.

One of the Famous Ruin Bars

One of the Famous Ruin Bars

Our last day in Budapest half of our group went to the Szecenyi Thermal Baths in the morning. I would HIGHLY recommend this experience to anyone traveling through Budapest. It was amazing (I plan to write a detailed post about our experience and how we went about tickets, etc. because it can be confusing. So check back for more information on this day). We even had a fish pedicure!

The Baths

The Baths

That afternoon we did a peddle bar tour with our entire group. This wasn’t the best experience, but we made the most of it. Unfortunately our bike bar didn’t have any power, so we were manually peddling the entire thing. Our beer was also very tough to pour without a ton of foam and there were only four peddles to use and one of them didn’t work most of our tour. In the end we can agree that you can skip this activity.

Our last night in Budapest we had more rose gelato, another good meal and some drinks. The group consensus was that we LOVED Budapest and did not want to leave!

The Salzburg Adventure

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After our time in Munich, we hopped on a local train and made our way to Salzburg. We did not purchase our tickets in advance, since the trains run between the destinations regularly. What we did do, was board the train a bit earlier than normal, which turned out to be a great idea since we were able to get seats with tables. The train ride was easy and we made it to Salzburg with no issues. Our next task was to navigate to our hotel via the bus system. Salzburg isn’t very big, and the busses are great, but we did have a tough time figuring it out. Eventually we did and made it to our hotel. We stayed at the Star Inn and it was awesome. It has some of the biggest rooms I’ve seen in a hotel abroad. And with full rooms it was great to have the extra space. The shower and toilet were also separate from each other which was awesome when sharing a room with four people.

Star Inn

Star Inn

After dinner that night, we went exploring and enjoyed getting lost in the beautiful twists and alleyways that make Salzburg so enchanting.

The next day we rented cars to take a day trip to Hallstatt. That morning we caught the bus to the airport to rent our vehicles. They were manual transmission, so only thee of our group could drive, myself being one of them. In the end we split into a boys car and a girls car.

The Girls Car

The Girls Car

On our way to Hallstatt we stopped at a few places of interest and really enjoyed the scenery and having the freedom of our own cars. No one we were with had ever done that before, and I know all of us would do it again. Once we made it to Hallstatt we parked and walked into town to get some food. It is quite possibly the cutest town ever. We were there in October so sadly the ferry was not running but it didn’t impact us at all.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

The one piece of advice I will give you is if you plan to go to the lookout point and the salt mines, do that first thing. We tried to do it at the end of the day but they close down the cable car much earlier than we had thought. Even without that, the day was fantastic. Driving through the mountains and just enjoying the country was something we will always remember.

While in Salzburg we also did the Sound of Music tour. Even if you don’t care about the movie, you get a great sense of the city.

I am 16 going on 17

I am 16 going on 17

The one strange part of the tour for us was when we were in this little town to see the church where Maria and the Captain got married. The air raid sirens went off. Supposedly they test them every so often, but it was truly terrifying.

Overall we had a lovely time in Salzburg, and the Austrian countryside was amazingly beautiful. We can’t wait to go back!

I’m a woman and I’m going to Europe. Now what the heck should I pack for two weeks?! Part 1 of 2

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Packing. This is most likely everyone’s least favorite part of traveling and yet it’s one of the more important things to consider. As a woman traveler it can be extremely overwhelming to think about spending two weeks without unlimited choices everyday, but it is an absolute necessity. Since I started traveling I’ve gone from “that girl,” who had a suitcase you couldn’t lift, with a large carry-on duffel (this was back before strict weight restrictions), to someone who backpacks and has a small carry-on. Through my experiences I’ve learned a thing or two, so I wanted to share a few thoughts that might help you prepare for your next adventure.

One of the first things I do when traveling is check the weather. I’m a bit of a weather freak and look at averages months in advance. Part of the reason I plan so far ahead is because living in Florida we do not have access to colder weather clothes as often, and it is important to find things you need when they are available. It’s also partly because I love weather. Anyway, Europe can be tricky depending on where you are and what month it is. Just because it’s July, doesn’t mean it will be hot and dry. So I recommend checking the weather averages in advance, then start stalking the 10 day forecasts once it gets close enough.

After I’ve checked the weather, I start to gather things in my closet I might need. This is where living in Florida can be an advantage. Since I travel mostly in the fall, a lot of the clothes I travel with I wouldn’t be wearing here until late Fall or Winter, so I am able to put them aside. I also do this well in advance because it gives me a chance to cut items out. I pack knowing that I will do laundry while I’m away, which is helpful. It is not necessary to bring 14 shirts for 14 days. Doing laundry abroad is not a big deal. It’s also a good idea (and somewhat necessary when packing light) to try and coordinate your clothes for layering. So I make sure all my tops mix and match with each other and the scarves I bring, that way I feel like I’ve brought more with me.

This leads me into my next point; make a list. And when I say make a list, I mean a list of everything. From taking out the trash, to setting your out of office, to how many pairs of socks you need. This helps ensure that you have all the loose ends tied up State-side while you are gallivanting around the world. It also helps you to relax knowing you have all of the vital essentials packed and ready to go. I am a firm believer in light packing, but if you don’t have a plan it is impossible. Once you know what the weather is and what activities you will be participating in, sit down and make a list of everything you will need. Trust me this is key!

Knowing what your itinerary is, is also super important. If you know you will be attending specific events (Oktoberfest), hiking, or going into ice caves, you need to be prepared.

Another big things us women struggle with is our hair and makeup. Believe it or not gentleman it takes a bit of work for us to look so beautiful all the time, and it can be really daunting to figure out how to accomplish this while abroad. Fist and foremost, do some research to find out what the voltage and plug type is where you are traveling. Once you know that, if you plan to bring any heat tools be sure the are DUAL voltage. I killed a chi straightener in Ireland because you cannot use them with a converter. Be sure to check and see if you will have access to a hairdryer as well, because they are a pain to travel with! If you are like me and you use products and specific shampoo, try and find them in travel size, or invest in some travel containers because you don’t want to be lugging around full size products.

On the makeup side of things, see what colors you use the most and do some practices to make the whole process as simple as possible. You really do not need all those lipsticks and eyeshadows, I promise!

Overall, my main tips are: know your itinerary, check the weather, pack early (then take items out), pack light, get travel sizes of your favorite products, check your voltage, and remember simple! LESS IS MORE! Good luck ladies, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it! Check back for a follow-up of what I’m actually bringing on my trip!