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

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When I first had the idea for this series of posts I fully intended to complete the series before I left on my recent trip. However, things got busy and that never happened. But truth be told, I think that’s best because this post prior to my trip wouldn’t have been nearly as helpful.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you what I packed and then I’m going to tell you what I wished I had packed.

My suitcase for two weeks

My suitcase for two weeks

Originally I thought it was going to be cold while I was traveling this year.

So here is what I brought:

3 scarves
10 Pairs of socks and underwear
2 Shelf-bra tank tops (ladies I’m talking the amazing ones from Express)
4 T-shirts
3 3/4 length shirts
2 Long sleeve shirts
2 Heavier outer-layer zip-up hoodies
2 Pairs of jeans
1 Raincoat

This was also knowing I would do laundry halfway through my trip.

As it turned out, it wasn’t really cold at all. This was both nice and also somewhat annoying. Probably only annoying because I live in Florida and I was REALLY looking forward to colder weather. But it truly did change the way we functioned day-to-day. Instead of being able to walk around all day and not stop at our home base, we felt like we needed to go back in the afternoon and freshen up because we walked around sweating all day.

Since it was so warm (I SWEAR I checked and re-checked the weather) I wish I would have brought the following:

1 scarf
8 Pairs socks and underwear
3 Shelf-bra tank tops (ladies I’m talking the amazing ones from Express)
6 T-shirts
1 3/4 length shirt
1 Long sleeve shirt
2 Heavier outer-layer zip-up hoodies
2 Pairs of jeans
1 Raincoat

The heavier outer-layer hoodies worked out well, but I was very unequipped in the shirt department. I also felt like I brought far too many socks and underwear. In short, the main changes would have been to take out some scarves, add a tank top and a few t-shirts, take out some 3/4 length shirts, long sleeve shirts, and some socks and underwear. It seems insignificant but it would have made a huge difference.

Hoodie

One of my heavier hoodies-a fleece from The North Face

Ultimately I made it work, but it was frustrating to sweat everyday, especially since that made it harder to re-wear clothes!

I also packed two dirndls for Oktoberfest, four pairs of shoes and a bathing suit. Four pairs of shoes sounds like a lot, and it is. But I had two pairs of walking/tennis shoes, one pair of TOMS for my dirndls and one pair of flip-flops for the baths in Budapest. And the bathing suit was for the baths as well. With a majority of these items being trip specific, they normally wouldn’t have ended up in my suitcase.

On the makeup front I paired down to the minimum. One set of eye shadow (Naked Pallet), one blush, one lipstick, etc. And as far as hair straighteners and curling irons, I brought both a straightener and a curling iron. I don’t think I would bring the curling iron again though since I only used it once.

I made due with a travel size hairspray (it lasted until my second to last day since it was an aerosol), travel size shampoo and conditioner and travel container full of my favorite hair serum instead of the two or three I generally use.

There are three things I brought this time that I hadn’t before, but would absolutely bring again. I got a travel duffle that folds up small and used it on the way home to hold souvenirs. It was great. I also ended up buying some travel dirty clothes bags at Target that were scented and they were perfect for dirty socks. Lastly I brought poo-pourri. With 8 people sharing bathrooms it was a life saver. It’s basically the best product ever and you should own it. Go to the store now and get some. I love it so much that this probably won’t be the last time you hear about it.

BEST Product EVER

BEST Product EVER

As you saw in the beginning, I pack in a backpack for two weeks. To accomplish this I utilize packing cubes. I most likely won’t be using my backpack again for a while just based on upcoming trips and personal preference, but I will always use the packing cubes since they are fantastic.

These are the best! And they come in tons of sizes

These are the best! And they come in tons of sizes

Overall, packing is tough, and there is no exact science but it does get easier the more you travel!

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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!

7 Things to Consider When Traveling to Oktoberfest

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With less than 70 days until my triumphant return to Oktoberfest in Munich, it’s starting to become all I can think about. And I may need to seek professional help soon, though I don’t think Oktoberfest Lovers Anonymous exists…Anyway, because I’ve been thinking so much about Oktoberfest, I thought I would offer you some things to ponder if you are planning a trip to attend this year, or sometime in the future. My perspective for the purposes of this post will be as someone who is an American, has been before and didn’t know a damn thing before the first time I went in 2012.

When you start to consider traveling to Munich for Oktoberfest, there are a lot of questions that come up. Things like: when is it, where to stay, how long should you go for, how do you get to the Oktoberfest grounds, how do you get into a tent, what should you wear and how expensive is it? The list could go on and on but you wouldn’t read all of that, so I’m going to answer the questions I mentioned above and hopefully you’ll learn something you didn’t know before. Ultimately, I want you to go to Oktoberfest and maybe this will help you get there!

So when exactly is Oktoberfest?
You may now think I’m crazy for even brining this up, but truthfully I had no idea when Oktoberfest started before I went the first time. A simple Internet search will reveal that it starts at the end of September and runs into the beginning of October. So plan accordingly. Also, October 3rd is a bank holiday in Germany (The Day of German Unity). Keep in mind that it’s extra crowded in Munich that day.

Whew, now that you know when Oktoberfest is, where the heck should you stay?
Munich is a very easy city to navigate. Despite this fact it is still a good idea to pull up a map when looking at hotels/places to stay to see where the property is in relationship to the Oktoberfest grounds. If you can manage it, staying somewhere within walking distance is ideal. We were a quick 10 minutes walking last time and that worked out wonderfully. If you are booking closer to when Oktoberfest starts, there may not be as many choices, but there are plenty of public transportation options to get you to the grounds as well. Another thing to be aware of is that this is high tourist season for Munich so don’t be surprised when there aren’t great lodging deals out there. But trust me, it is absolutely worth every penny spent!  

So you know the dates and you have a place to sleep, but how long should you stay for?
The length of time spent at Oktoberfest comes down to how long you want to be traveling and what your budget is. We ended up in Munich for about 3.5 days our first time around and we didn’t feel like we had enough time. Oktoberfest can be like a black hole. You might try to just “swing by,” but before you know it, an entire morning or afternoon has passed and you didn’t make it anywhere else. I wouldn’t change anything we did in 2012, but beware of the black hole!

We are rolling now! You have your dates, you’ve figured out where to sleep and how long you’re staying, but what on earth should you wear? What are those silly outfits everyone has on?!?
If anyone tells you not to dress the part when attending Oktoberfest, they are dead wrong. Lederhosen for the guys and Dirndls for the girls are seen in abundance at Oktoberfest. Now I will say this; ladies, please, please, please DO NOT wear any type of sexy beer maiden outfit seen at every Halloween party here in the states. It is considered disrespectful and rude. But if you don’t come with an outfit, you’ll want to buy one in Munich and that can be really expensive. We saw some that were 300 euros! My suggestion would be to check out eBay. There are plenty to choose from and they range in price. All us girls got traditional knee length dirndls on eBay and we were so glad to have them. It is also ok to wear tights with the dirndl, which is awesome, since it can be kind of cold that time of year. The guys did not wear lederhosen last time, but ultimately admitted they wished that they had.

Mass at Hofbrau

Enjoying a Mass at Oktoberfest, LOVING my dirndl!

Listen up! If you’ve fallen asleep, this is the time to pay attention!

How on earth do you get a spot at a tent?
Ok, I’m going to be honest with you. We did A TON of reading and researching on this before our first trip, so here’s an abridged version of what we learned. There are 14 tents (both big and small) at Oktoberfest and I’m pretty sure we saw maybe 4. But that’s beside the point, the fact is, getting into a tent can be tricky. We had 5 people last time and didn’t want to try and get a reservation. This is because you have to reserve and pay for 10 people, even if your group is smaller than that. Most of the time a reservation involves drinks and food so it’s not inexpensive. Instead of going the reservation route, we decided to go down to the Oktoberfest grounds early to try and get a seat. The deal is, if you don’t have a seat you can’t get any beer (which is the entire reason you’re there). Therefore, at least one member of the party has to be sitting. If you are going to try this tactic, get there early and take the first open spot you find. Our group got REALLY lucky and we found a table at Hacker-Festzelt. Our luck did run out in the late afternoon, when they clear everyone out for evening reservations. This is ok though because sometimes you might find spots outside, or you can wonder through the Oktoberfest grounds enjoying tasty treats and fun rides. Last but not least, if you go at night, a lot of the time you will find the doors to the tents closed. This is because they are full. If you happen to pass by one that’s open, RUN in and grab a spot because luck is on your side! This happened to our group one night and we got EXTREMELY lucky and got into the Hofbrau tent!

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Inside the Hacker-Festzelt tent during the day

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Outside of the Hofbräu-Festzelt during the day

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Inside the Hofbräu-Festzelt at night

Wow, that was a lot of work! You’ve made it into a tent, hooray! But how much is it going to cost you?
Every year the price of a Mass (beer at Oktoberfest) goes up. Shocking I know. But the official prices (these are 2014 prices) are released in advance, so you do have time to plan accordingly. Also keep in mind a Mass is a liter of beer, so even if the price feels high, just think about the last tall boy you bought at a football game and you’ll feel much better. This is important to think about though especially since the tents are CASH ONLY. Let me repeat, CASH ONLY. And if you tip your waitress well the first time she brings you beer, chances are she will come back more frequently. Tipping is generally done by rounding up to the next whole number. Again, bigger tip upfront = generally more frequent and better service. Traditional German food is also available at the tents and it’s usually really good. They all sell pretzels too, but those can leave a rather dry taste in your mouth. Guess that’s what the beer is for! PROST!

Auf Wiedersehen!

5 Reasons Research is Important When Planning a Trip

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Now that you’ve gone through the 5 Tips for Picking a Perfect Itinerary, here are 5 reasons research is important.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Research is the single most important tool you can arm yourself with when traveling.

Because research is such a vital part of travel, and people often forget its value, here are five quick and simple reasons why research is so important.

1. Culture. When you travel abroad it is extremely critical to learn about the culture where you will be staying. Take Italy for instance. Many of the churches require you to cover your shoulders to enter, even in the dead of summer when it’s sweltering outside, while other countries have laws about words you can and can’t say. Learning about the culture of your destination will help you immensely. And respecting the culture of other countries is an important aspect of helping to maintain the integrity of traveling and also to make sure you don’t put yourself in an unwelcome situation.

2. Itinerary Activities. After you’ve planned your itinerary, how do you figure out what to do when you get there? Research! If you don’t research your destination you won’t know if there are any local festivals, holiday celebrations or must see attractions. How sad would it be if you left Rome without seeing the Vatican? Or you missed the Mona Lisa in Paris? And if you don’t do a little bit of research you may not know that Oktoberfest actually starts in September.

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3. Immunizations. When traveling abroad there are many foreign things you can encounter. An easy way to make sure nothing compromises your adventure is by arming yourself with proper vaccines. Just go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out what exactly is needed or recommended before traveling. Some vaccines are not carried at your regular general practitioner, but it is generally pretty easy to find a travel doctor in your area and it is well worth the time and potential expense!

4 & 5. Language and Currency. Knowing simple things like what language is spoken, or what currency is used where you will be traveling is also important. Some currencies are closed, meaning you can’t get them until you are physically in the country, while other places may accept multiple currencies. It is also helpful to know what the primary language is in each of your destinations. And it doesn’t hurt to learn a couple of quick phrases in that language. People are always more willing to help you if they hear their native tongue. Bonjour, Ciao, Hola and Guten Tag can go a long way.

Euros

There are many, many, many more reasons it is important to research where you will be traveling, but these are just a few quick and simple reasons why I am so passionate about research. Even if you take 10 minutes to do some last minute googling in the airport, knowledge is power!

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks about how to plan your next adventure!

5 Tips for Picking a Perfect Itinerary

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So if you’re anything like me, you are constantly making lists of potential destinations to visit. But what do you do when it’s time to actually plan a trip? How do you narrow down your list of amazing possible destinations, and put them into a manageable itinerary? Here are five simple tips to help you start planning your next trip:

1. Figure out who will be traveling. Will you be solo, with friends or maybe family? Also, find out what the overall physical ability of the group is. Some destinations are great for a family, while others are better suited for a group of friends. And there are destinations that pose physical restrictions, such as a trip hiking in the mountains.

2. Length of time. Once you’ve figured out who is going on the adventure, it’s important to figure out how long the adventure will last. Though a lot of the time this is dictated by vacation days and overall budget.

3. Geography. Grab a map, grab a globe, or get online. A map is one of the most essential itinerary-planning tools! Once you have your map, take a couple of potential destinations and check out where they are in relation to each other. If four are in Eastern Europe, and one is in South America, think about splitting those destinations into two trips. And it is also important to realize that what may look like the best itinerary on a map, may not logistically work out. Sometimes there just aren’t easy, quick or cost effective ways to travel between two close destinations.

4. Time of year. This can affect a lot of the things listed within the first three tips. Depending on when you travel it might make a difference on who can join. This can also be a determining factor on the length of time you are able to be gone, or want to be gone. And it can definitely impact the geography of the trip. If you are trying to ski in Switzerland, it won’t work to go during the summer!

5. Research. Once you’ve narrowed your list down a little bit, do some research! Get some books, look online, and write down things that seem interesting or fun to do in each destination. This also helps if you want to go somewhere for a specific event, like Oktoberfest in Munich.

As you start planning, keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect itinerary; perfect doesn’t exist when it comes to travel. No trip ever works out 100% how you planned it. There is also no right or wrong way to go about planning. And sometimes the best things happen by complete accident. For me at the end of the day, travel is more about the actual journey, than the physical destination.

Trip planning at it's finest!

Trip planning at it’s finest! From my 2012 trip!