The Art of Packing Like a Pro

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Once upon a time I took a 2 ½ week trip to Europe with my high school. All my classmates, lugging around suitcases the size of coffins, were astounded when I showed up with a standard sized suitcase and backpack. “How did you fit enough clothes and toiletries in there?” they asked. Through many years of travel and my mom making me run numerous times through the Chicago airport I’ve gotten the hang of packing precisely what I need and packing it well. I would like to impart to you a few tips on the art of packing.

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Multi-Use Items

When packing go for not only colors that go together, but also layers and items that can be worn numerous times, like jeans. For ladies, bringing a few camis or light shirts you can wear under other items means you can reuse a few tops.

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Michael Mohr

Roll It

I know there are people who swear by packing cubes, which I have yet to try, but I prefer a simpler method. Bring clothes that don’t wrinkle easily and roll them as tightly as you can like they’re a sleeping bag. This creates more space for the important things (Tip: When returning with fragile souvenirs, roll your clothes and socks around them for protection).

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Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

I rarely forget items because, one, I never really unpack. Two, my method of packing is infallible (at least for me). I start from the top and work my way down. What does my hair need? A brush, products, and a hat or headband, etc. Face? I have eyes so I need glasses, contacts, blah blah blah. I go all the way to my feet and then worry about what goes in my backpack later.

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“Take Only What You Need to Survive”

Often times people don’t know what to expect so they bring everything but the kitchen sink and end up not even touching half of what they bring. Know the environment you’re going to and rethink every item you’re bringing. Can you live without it for a few days? Probably. My best example is a hair dryer. Almost every hotel or accommodation has one and with the right product you don’t actually need one. So don’t waste the space.

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Don’t Skimp on the Skivvies 

The one item you’re allowed to bring way too much of is underwear because you never know when you’re going to get stuck somewhere and your grandmother would be so disappointed if you weren’t wearing clean undies. Plus, it’s a pain to wash them in the sink and I guarantee they won’t dry as fast as you want them to.

I hope you all found this helpful. Share your favorite packing tips in the comments below!

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4 Free Places to Get Christmasy in Arizona

Many snowbirds and visitors flock to Phoenix in the winter months to escape the colder temperatures of the rest of the country. However, it sometimes can be hard to get into the Christmas spirit with all that desert around, but you can bet the temperatures will be right. Here are a few FREE ways to get into the Christmas spirit in the Valley of the Sun.

Riparian After Dark

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Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert is all done up in beautiful lights and luminaria. It’s free to walk around, but each night they team up with a non-profit to collect items they need. So check their website to see what they need. It’s like a smaller Phoenix Zoo Lights. So throw some hot chocolate in a thermos, load up the family, and go take a stroll through the wonderful preserve. If it’s a clear night be sure to stop in the observatory and catch a glimpse of the stars.

Chandler Tumbleweed Tree

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Peter Bronski

Residents of Chandler have been building the very unique tumbleweed tree since the late 1950’s and it’s the only one of its kind in the Southwest. If you’re looking for a truly Arizonan Christmas experience look no further. When you’re done hop into one of the many shops and restaurants nearby.

Christmas Lights at the Mesa Mormon Temple

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There is no more impressive display than the lights at the Mormon Temple in Mesa and they stay open until December 31st. The grounds are huge and completely covered by millions of tiny, twinkling lights. It’s really a sight to behold.

Cherry Lane

There is a cup-de-sac with the most glorious Christmas display that we discovered the other day. The display is on Guadalupe, between Alma School and Country Club Way. Go north on Cherry Lane and you can either drive through or park and walk around the neighborhood to see the lights. If you park you can go into the yard of the house at the end of the cul-de-sac which is set up as the little town of Bethlehem. So, round up the kids, pour a cup of cider and take a stroll down Cherry Lane.

5 Reasons to Travel Solo

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To many, the idea of traveling alone might be a scary, panic inducing thought, but it shouldn’t be. There are many benefits to traveling solo.

1. Hindsight is Always 20/20
Sometimes you just need to get away from whatever may be troubling or stressing you and sometimes you don’t even know there’s something wrong until you’ve removed yourself from your own cloud. Whatever it may be there’s no better cure than to forget your troubles for a while and, when you’re ready, take a minute to think on life and what changes need to be made. When you return you’ll be relaxed and clear-headed in your course of direction.

2. The Clock Ticks Only for You
Don’t want to visit that thousandth church while touring Italy? Want to spend three days laying on the beach reading? You can. You don’t have to compromise with anyone but yourself. Everything you want to do and see are open to you at your own pace.

3. Freedom of Thought
My favorite part of traveling alone is that I have time to think whatever I want without the intrusions of society telling me their opinions. You can think and believe whatever you want to. You can convince yourself wholeheartedly that unicorns exist if you so choose. Allow your mind to wander along with your feet and create some new convictions.

4. Go Incognito
Have you ever wanted to be someone else? Here’s your chance to be that person. No one knows you where you’re going so why not be that ethereal, nomadic hippy or a secretive, sunglasses-toting Hollywood star? You may just discover something about yourself.

5. Character Building
Traveling solo forces you to be more responsible, aware of your surroundings, and manage your time, skills that are probably useful in your normal life.

A Traveler’s Dream Christmas List

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat thanks to gluehwein and cookies! While Christmas is really the time for family and being of good cheer, let’s be honest, you’re probably going to buy presents for someone (and going to totally double up for those with birthdays nearby, right? RIGHT?). So I’ve compiled a list of great gifts for the traveler in your family or circle of friends.

The Fashionable Traveler

Travel Scarf

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Not only is this scarf adorable and will keep a traveler warm in cold locations (like a plane), but it also has a secret pocket to hide your passport in! No one will think to rob a scarf.

Map Shoes

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The lady wearing these Jeffery Campbells can clunk around with a map on her feet. If she gets lost all she has to do is look down. Ok, maybe not, but at least she’ll look cute while lost.

Jewelry

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Most ladies like jewelry so why not get her some jewelry related to her favorite pastime? (Adventure AwaitsAdventure is Calling)

The Savvy Boozehound

Let’s be honest, drinking in many countries and large cities is expensive. So, here’s a few gifts for the party traveler amongst you.

Flask

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There are a myriad of fun flasks out there, but few that incorporate travel. If you’re drinking from a flask people are probably going to assume you’re an American, so proudly confirm their suspicions with this.

Collapsible Wine Bottle

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Have you ever been moseying about the beautiful countryside, and thought, This would be a beautiful place for a picnic with some wine and cheese. If only I had a collapsible wine bottle so I didn’t have to lug all that glass around. Just me? Either way, this is a great alternative way to transport wine/liquor. Never miss out on that wine infused picnic again!

The Photographer/ Travel Blogger/ Videographer etc.

Carrying around a a heavy camera bag gets really tiresome and identifies you as a tourist almost as quickly as wearing that camera around your neck and sporting a Hawaiian shirt. For the budding and pro camera jockey look no further than these:

Camera Backpack

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This will keep your precious traveler from getting a hunchback and keep their equipment dry. And look! There’s a place for your tripod and tablet too!

Camera Purse

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Because some of us just want to look cute and fashionable while shooting photos.

The Fitness Enthusiast

Ear Buds and Armband

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Running in a new city is a great way to see the sights and stay in shape, but wires flap around annoyingly. End the wire flapping! I like this one by FreePeople, but I’m sure there are plenty, less expensive and equally cute ones.

The Wanderlusters

Bag Tag

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It has a J. R. R. Tolkien quote. Need I say more?

Convertible Clothing

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Encircle runs a bit pricey, but this cardi will take your travel lady from drab to fab, from cold plane to fun and games. It also is great from those who like to travel light but still look cute.

 

So there you have it. What are some travel items you’re lusting after this holiday season? Share in the comments below!

Top 5 Places to Drink in Dublin

Although my Facebook and Instagram may suggest that I visited every pub in Dublin, and it sure felt like I did, I can assure you that would be a feat that would take no small amount of time. With over 1,000 pubs in Dublin it, to my surprise, has fewer pubs per capita than any other European capital (Viator). However, I would argue that Dublin has one of the liveliest nightlifes (or is it nightlives?) I’ve seen. Even on a Monday evening in November the pubs in Temple Bar and on the outskirts were packed to the brim until close.

Here are a few of my favorite places to grab a drink in Dublin:

5. Temple Bar

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Go here for: meeting fellow travelers, live music and dancing.

The Temple Bar district is the famous pub area in Dublin. It’s populated by tourists from all over and a few locals, which makes it uniquely vibrant and always lively. The Temple Bar is the star of the area for obvious reasons. C’mon! They named the WHOLE AREA after this one bar! It’s a somewhat cramped pub and you’re definitely going to overpay for drinks here, but it’s well worth the money for the live music and conversation with fellow tourists from all over the world.

4. Guinness Gravity Bar

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Go here for: the killer city views.

If you’re looking for the bar with the best view head on down to the St. James’ Gate Brewery. Gravity Bar sits atop the Guinness Storehouse exhibit. It’s walls are entirely glass with labels detailing all of Dublin’s famous sites. Hit the exhibit late in the afternoon and use your ticket to either learn to pour a perfect pint or head up to the bar for your complimentary pint of Guinness and enjoy the view of the city lit up and glittering in the nighttime.

3. O’Neill’s Bar and Restaurant

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Go here for: dinner and drinks, relaxing after a long day or the beginning of a long night

O’Neill’s is out of the touristy areas, closer to the college and populated by a large array of patrons from college kids to folks just getting off work, looking for a meal and entertainment. The music here was mellow Irish-folk and it seemed a bit more relaxed atmosphere. The interior was quaint and classic with huge wooden tables and benches. It’s just a nice quiet place to rest your feet after a long day of sightseeing. And when you’re done you can walk a few steps to the Molly Malone statue!

2. Copper Face Jack’s

Go here for: After hours beer and club-style dancing.

If you’re lucky enough to meet a local they’ll be able to show you one of the many places that doesn’t close until 4 A.M. but by that point you might not know where the hell you are. That might just be me. After an evening of pub crawling my friend met a local who kindly took as to Copper Face Jack’s. It’s your typical club with a large, open dance floor and loud music. Unlike the clubs in my state they don’t play irritating, base-heavy hip-hop. CFJ’s plays music you can actually dance to ranging from Grease to hits from the 80’s and 90’s, a pleasant change of pace… or tempo.

1. Dingle Whisky Bar

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Go here for: good whiskey, relaxed atmosphere, conversation

I like beer, but there’s whiskey in my blood. I’m the kind of lass who prefers a quiet whiskey to sip with friends to loud, over-crowded bars. I stumbled upon Dingle Distillery while pub hopping and it was like finding a tiny piece of heaven hidden away on a Dublin street near Trinity College. Its unique interior is warm and inviting and they carry a large array of whiskey, including the whiskey, gin, and vodka distilled by Dingle. This should be at the top of any whiskey-lovers list.

Review: Connemara-Galway via Extreme Ireland Tours

Traveling with Extreme Ireland Tours/ Irish Day Tours from Dublin through Galway on to Connemara was a somewhat lengthy ride. The first half of the journey took us through small suburbs of Dublin and eventually thinned to countryside villages and towns. We bypassed Galway and made our first stop somewhere in Connemara (a region in Galway County) to see the picturesque Quiet Man Bridge where John Wayne filmed scenes from his movie “The Quiet Man.”

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Keeping with the theme, we also made an impromptu stop at the replica house from the same movie. Even if you’ve never seen the movie the views in these locations are beautiful and well worth the stop.

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After that we traveled through country back roads to the Killary Sheep Farm, which I detailed in the previous post. I will say it is the best stop on the whole tour and an experience that actually feels authentic. So click here for a for account of our experience there.

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From there you stop at Kylemore Abbey for lunch. Their cafe boasts mediocre food and an attitude of general disdain from its staff. I recommend bringing a picnic to enjoy at one of the benches and take in the view of Kylemore. We didn’t have enough time to see the interior, but I’m told the tour price isn’t a great value so save the Euros for Galway.

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Following Kylemore are various scenic stops in Connemara and throughout the Inagh Valley. The scenery here will stop the breath in your lungs.

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Galway is the final stop before heading back to Dublin where I picked up a new Claddahg ring from Thomas Dillon‘s. The city itself is very youthful as it’s mostly a college town. Also, they were setting up what looked to be a splendid Christmas Market so if you’re in the area around Christmas time (which begins earlier there than in the States since they don’t have Thanksgiving to wait for) give it a gander. Galway

Overall, I would give Extreme Ireland Tours a four and a half out of five stars simply because I would have liked more time in Galway, but if you give them notice you can stay the night and take the next day’s tour van back. Our guide was both entertaining and informative. Due to our small tour size we were able to make quite a few impromptu scenic stops. I definitely recommend going during the off season.

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