Today: Landmark

Standard

My landmark is Big Ben in London. It is somewhat stereotypical because everyone knows Big Ben, but to me it’s special. London is my favorite place to be and it’s where I fell in love with traveling. So for me, Big Ben is a part of how I got to where I am today and the beginning of my travel story.

Big Ben in London

Big Ben in London

Today: Connect

Standard

I’m slightly behind on posting but I am trying to catch up. Today I’m talking about connect. The image I chose was of the Charles Bridge in Prague. This bridge is particularly interesting as it’s not only a way to get across the river, but it’s also where people come to sell goods, take wedding photos, catch up with old friends, make new friends, laugh, cry and watch the world go by.

Charles Bridge in Prague

Charles Bridge in Prague

Today: Water and Solitude

Standard

Since I was unable to accomplish my water shot yesterday, I wanted to catch up with that first before heading into Solitude. Across the street from me is a great park always busy with fun activities. One of the coolest parts of this park in my eyes is the fountains. Tonight I was able to capture a few images as the sun was setting. Water has always been a big part of my life. From when I swam growing up, to our yearly vacations to Florida, and now living here, I have always enjoyed water.

FountainsFountains

The other topic for today is Solitude. To me, solitude is anytime I’m exploring a new place. As a traveler I find solitude in the unknown. The pictures I chose are from my recent trip to Austria. The countryside is unbelievably beautiful and serene, so much so, that it looks fake even in person.

Austrian Countryside Hallstatt

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

Standard

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!

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

Standard

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!

6 Reasons I look Forward to Traveling

Standard

It’s hard to imagine that in six weeks I’ll be embarking on my next European adventure! With that said, I felt like it was time to share some of my favorite things about traveling. So here are six reasons I look forward to traveling:

1. The Challenge. This might seem odd, but I find that some of the most rewarding experiences often come from the challenge of it all. From booking international flights, to in-country transportation, to lodging, to tours and everything in-between, the challenge of figuring it all out is exhilarating to me. I also think you grow the most when you are challenged and you learn a lot about your own limits which is invaluable.

boarding

2. Time Off. I’m a huge advocate of taking time off of work. As an HR professional I understand the value of detaching from your job and actually taking the time to relax and get away. You always come back refreshed and ultimately your work is better. I especially like traveling abroad with my time off because it also gives me a chance to un-plug. We are so hyper-connected these days that it is refreshing not to turn on a TV, or be attached to your phone 24/7 for a couple of weeks every year.

phone

3. Making Memories. I love the memories made with each new and different experience I have. In my mind, traveling makes the best memories. Both good and sometimes bad. Nothing brings people closer than shared travel memories. I try my hardest to document everything like the paparazzi and take pride in creating movies or photo books of my experiences, but the memory is something I know I’ll have forever and that means the world to me.

NY

Brooklyn Bridge

4. Passport Stamps. Yes, it’s shallow I understand that, but let me try and explain how much joy it brings me to go through customs or passport control…As I approach the somewhat scary passport agent, and they ask me all of the questions on their checklist, I stand in intense anticipation for that moment where they’ve decided to grant me access into their country. When they grab for the stamp and get ready place a new permanent fixture in my passport, my heart races and I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Getting a stamp in my passport is like ripping the paper off that gift you’ve wanted all year long. In that moment I feel pure elation and what could be better than that?!?

pass

Passport

5. Exploring new Places. Don’t get me wrong, I have favorite destinations, but I LOVE the thrill and excitement of being somewhere new and unfamiliar. Somehow I feel more alive and awake, almost like I’m seeing everyday things for the first time. Maybe this relates back to being un-plugged, who knows. But whatever the reason, new cities and places inspire me!

beer

Castle Tour Outside Munich

6. Learning. Even if you don’t travel with the intention to learn, ultimately you will pick up a few things here and there. I enjoy learning simple things, but I also like to learn what the heartbeat of a place is and what makes the destination unique. If you don’t travel with an open mind you won’t learn and frankly you shouldn’t travel. But if you do have an open mind I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised what you’ll learn on your next trip!

Traveling fuels my soul and I have no doubt that I will continue to do it as long as I am able.

quote

Quote from KLM

7 Things to Consider When Traveling to Oktoberfest

Standard

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!

IMG_0181

Inside the Hacker-Festzelt tent during the day

IMG_0098

Outside of the Hofbräu-Festzelt during the day

IMG_0300

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!