Everywhere I Roam

13 Things to Do When the Weather Doesn’t Cooperate With Your Travel Plans

By May 4, 2017 Culture, Family, Food, Travel

This weekend my city is hosting The Kentucky Derby. This huge spectacle draws visitors from all over the country for a few days each May. Most of these visitors will be expecting springtime weather and the smell of freshly cut grass. But they will be arriving to a city that is cold and gray and wet. Expectations don’t quite match reality this Derby weekend.

At one point or another it happens to everyone–either a flight is delayed due to weather conditions, or we successfully make it to our destination only to find that our sunny beach trip has become a soggy grey mess. This is when we are forced to utilize our creativity and find a way to not let mother nature stop us from having the time of our lives. What follows is a list of 13 ways to stop your bad luck (see what I did there?) from ruining a good time.

1. Hit a museum

One time, on a family road trip, we got a flat tire in the middle of Kansas. We had no Idea where we were, but we knew we weren’t going to be able to make it home on the spare tire donut in the trunk.  It was going to require a real tire. So we pulled of the highway into Goodland, Kansas, and the first thing we saw was a giant easel, nearly 100 feet tall, with the biggest reproduction of Van Gogh’s ‘3 Sunflowers in a Vase’ I have ever seen. Van Gogh is my favorite artist, and I never would have known that this exhibit existed without a flat tire, leading me to think it was all fate. Use uncooperative situations as an opportunity to see something that you would have never seen otherwise. Visit a nearby museum and stay out of the rain for a while.

2. Go shopping!

Let’s be honest, you were probably planning for at least one day of shopping while on your trip, right? So rather than letting mother nature ruin your day, just tweak your plans and make today your shopping day…after all, you’ve deserved it for dealing with so much on this trip already.

3. Take advantage of hotel amenities

One of the only good things about flight delays is that the airlines always spring for rooms in nicer hotels than I would likely book myself. So when faced ith a delay, I try to make the most of my amenities–jet tub in my room? Sweet! Indoor pool? Even better… I’m going to make the most of my stay one way or the other.

4. See how many phone numbers you can collect

There isn’t much that is fun about being stuck in airports during delays–except for the airport bar, and the ability to pretend to be whoever you would like to be. Take this delay as an opportunity to meet new people and collect contact information–regardless of whether your purposes are personal or professional, just have fun talking to people that you otherwise may never have met!

5. Relax

One of my least favorite things about traveling with my family when I was younger was how we were always so busy. There was very little downtime on our vacations because my parents wanted to pack in as many fun activities they could in the little time we had. While this is commendable, and my parents are awesome people for managing to show me so much of the country in short stretches of time, I think there is definitely something to be said for nice long aps during vacation. If you are the type of person who is always on the go while traveling, let the gloomy day outside be your excuse to chill out for a while. Your body will thank you tomorrow.

6. Work on your blog/ catch up on reading

If you are the type of person who feels like you never have enough time to read or write, then mother nature just handed you a great big rainy gift–the time, space and freedom to do those things that you can never seem to fit into your regular daily schedule; all you have to do is accept it and be grateful.

7. People watch

Back before September 11,2001, I was a younger version of myself, and airports were way more open. One of my favorite things to do after my classes were over for the day was to go to the airport and watch people arriving and departing at the gates. I would get a cup of coffee and write as I watched joyful reunions and sad goodbyes. It was cheap entertainment for a young college student living on ramen, but after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, airport rules changed, and you can only sit at the gates if you have a boarding pass of your own. Which means I envy you, reader with a flight delay, because you have a ticket to see all of those tearful hellos and goodbyes that I have not been able to witness since then, except when I fly. Take advantage of that moment. It is special.

8. Pamper yourself

Whenever I have to travel to conferences for work, it’s always hard to find things to do in the downtime (other than eat) so one thing I love to do is drop by a drugstore and get a face mask, nail polish, bubble bath, and a bottle of wine and have the kind of night that has become all too rare since I have become a mom–a night of self-pampering. And it is sooooo delicious. And quiet. Did I mention quiet?

9. Eat something new

Too often when traveling, we get into our comfort zones and stay there like stubborn little turtles, but I’m going to encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and think of this moment–when the world has conspired to make you uncomfortable anyway–as an opportunity to go all-in with discomfort and try something new. You never eat Thai food but your Airbnb host tells you about a great Thai place on the next block? Go there. Eat. Stretch yourself. Grow–in belly and mind!

10. See a movie

Movies and I have a long torrid love affair. So much so in fact, that any time I am traveling and I feel homesick, a trip to a movie theatre will give me a feeling of home. That may seem a little over the top to you, but it doesn’t change the fact that going to the movies is a great way to spend an afternoon. And if you’re in a country where a different language is spoken, you can even call it a cultural experience. You’d better believe that when I am in Paris this summer, I will see a French movie in a french movie theatre. And It might even be sunny outside!

11. Shoot some pictures

There’s something about a grey rainy day that makes photographs more beautiful. It has something to do with the way light plays on your subjects. Use the rainy day as an opportunity to get outside and get some great shots of the rainy world. Or, if you’re stuck in an airport, take pictures of everything around you. Photography is a great hobby in that it can be practiced regardless of where you are.

12. Be a kid again

My kiddo and I like to use rainy days as the days when we have a blast indoors doing kid stuff: laser tag, rollerskating, ice cream, you name it. But I’ll tell you a secret: You don’t have to have a kid to have fun doing all of these things. Sometimes I like finding an arcade in a new city all by myself…

 

13. Enjoy the weather

Finally, could we all just recognize that rain can be kind of nice? Put on a good pair of shoes and grab an umbrella and explore the world around you. It doesn’t have to be sunny to see that a city (or a beach! Is beautiful. Storms are beautiful in their own way, and we can all try to simply enjoy them.

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How to Choose a Mobile Hotspot: Stay Connected While You Travel!

By May 3, 2017 Family, Stuff, Travel

In our hyper-connected world, it’s hard to imagine how we might live where wifi access is not available. As a blogger, it’s important to me to have internet access while I’m traveling. For this reason, I’ve been researching mobile hotspots–devices that let you connect to the internet wherever you may roam, without…you know, roaming fees.

What does a Mobile Hotspot Do?

A mobile hotspot uses LTE Data to create a wireless broadband signal for you on the go, so that you can stay connected even when there are no public wifi options (or when you don’t want to rely on public wifi. The data costs for such devices are more expensive than your home broadband internet connection, so a mobile hotspot isn’t something you’d want to use all the time, but they are great for occasional use while traveling.

What are my Mobile Hotspot Options?

Mobile hotspots vary greatly in terms of both price and capability. Personally, I need one that will reliably connect my Apple iPad Mini, my Nikon D3400, and my Macbook Air . Luckily, almost all mobile hotspots on the market will support at least 10 devices, so this shouldn’t be a problem. I will likely also use it to make wifi calls when calling home to avoid international calling charges. Since this can eat up data, I’m going to need to pick something that will provide a generous amount of connectivity.

Can I Take Them Anywhere?

So…this is the catch for travelers. If you’re currently with one of the four major cell phone carriers, you probably know that your carrier sells a mobile hotspot that you can activate on your cell phone plan for a monthly fee. At T-Mobile, for instance, two mobile hotspot models are offered at the moment, the Alcatel LINKZONE,  the ZTE Falcon Z-917 , both of which are priced at $72, plus the $25 SIM activation fee. All reviews I’ve read on these devices say that they are solid and reliable machines. However, the plans that T-Mobile offers (prepaid: from $20/ 2GB to $95/ 22 GB) only roam freely to Canada and Mexico. In Europe and other places around the world, the data for the device is more expensive, and the speed is significantly slowed down, which can impede your connection.  Other carriers have similar policies.

What About Traveling Overseas?

There are a handful of prepaid devices that are available to those traveling overseas. The Skyroam Hotspot (click picture at right for more info) is $100, and then each day of unlimited service is $8 after that. The device is not tethered to one carrier, but instead connects you to local carrier data as you travel from country to country, allowing for smooth transitioning from one area to the next without losing connectivity. It also supports up to 5 devices, making it a perfect tool for a busy traveler.

Similarly, the Keepgo Lifetime 4G Hotspot is priced at $119, and comes with 1GB of data, but refilling the data could be a bit more expensive, as it is priced by the amount, not by the day. 1 GB of international mobile hotspot use from Keepgo will set you back $45, whereas 10GB is a whopping $299. At those rates, I would have to force myself to use the internet VERY sparingly on all of my devices while I travel.

So….What?

The bottom line is that traveling isn’t about having your nose stuck in a screen anyway, and while I’m traveling, I actively try to avoid constantly looking at my phone by keeping it on silent and out of sight. But because I’m a writer, I like to be able to connect when I choose to–settling in to write and check social media after a long day of exploring a new city, or Skyping family to show them my beautiful view. For this, i think something minimal like the Skyroam Hotspot would be perfect.

 

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7 Signs That You’ve Had Too Many Mint Juleps at the Derby

By May 1, 2017 Culture, Food, Travel

Living in Louisville, Kentucky, I have seen a lot of craziness during Derby Week. Our beautiful city turns into a mecca of drunken debauchery. Still, there has to be a limit to your mint julep madness. For your own dignity (and safety!) it’s good to know when you’ve had too many. So, for your information (and amusement!) I’ve compiled this list of seven foolproof ways to know if you’ve had too much fun while traveling to my hometown.

1. You fall asleep in an uncomfortable position

If you’re sleeping in the mud (or on your cooler) you’ve probably had a little too much bourbon. When (if) your friends wake you up, you should probably stick to water or soda for the remainder of Derby Weekend.

 

2. You don’t care if your expensive designer dress gets ruined.

Crawling on the ground in a $1000 Ferragamo dress is probably not the memory you’re hoping to have at the Derby. But when you’re three sheets to the wind, none of that really seems to matter, does it?

3. You accidentally throw away your winning ticket.

You made a winning trifecta bet, but without realizing it, threw it away with your empty beer cup. (Who am I kidding…no one throws away garbage at Derby). Now, your friends are going home loaded with cash…and you’re just going home loaded.

 

4. You start to remove your clothes.

I shouldn’t have to say this to people between the ages of 3 and 70, but….keep your clothes on people. There is no better proof that you are a drunken mess than showing your hairy dad bod to strangers in the infield.

 

 

5. You bet (and lose) that last $20 you were saving for your cab fare.

You had that money tucked away in your sock in case of emergencies so you could catch a car back to your hotel. But somewhere between your fifth and sixth mint julep, you handed it over to the guy at the betting cage and old him to put it on a horse with a pretty name just because you “had a good feeling” about it. Now you’re the one hoofing it.

6. You add crap to your Derby hat until it’s too heavy to wear.

Flowers? Check! Extra Derby festival pins? Check! Empty beer bottles? Hell yeah! Your best friend’s socks? Why not! At the end of the day, at least you’ll know that the booze wasn’t the only thing making your head hurt!

 

 

7. You vomit in your Uber.

Dude…that’s just gross.

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How to Pack for the Kentucky Derby

By April 30, 2017 Culture, Stuff, Travel

The Kentucky Derby has been called the fastest two minutes in horse racing, but everyone knows that it’s way more about the fashion than the horses. So, how do you pack for your long weekend in the bluegrass state? Don’t worry, I’ve been a Kentucky girl for most of my life, so I’ve got you covered.

Be Prepared For ANYTHING

When you go to Seattle, you expect grey skies and rain. When you go to San Diego, you expect sunshine and comfort. But when you go to Louisville, KY, you have to expect EVERYTHING. It can be 80 degrees and sunny one day and then drop to 40 and grey the next. This means that your wardrobe has to be as versatile as it is stylish. If you’re spending all of Derby Weekend, make sure you have at least one pair of long pants and a cute cardigan or light moto jacket. Also, while open toes and pretty pedi’s are the foot uniform of Derby festivities, make sure you have at least one pair of shoes that cover your feet (and keep them warm) just in case the Ohio Valley weather decides to rear its ugly head.

When wearing pants, always stick with light colors on Derby weekend, like this great pair from Ralph Lauren (click pic to view details!)

Layers are always useful in Louisville, KY. This cropped cardigan could be worn over a tank top of sundress to help you be ready for anything!

An umbrella is a necessity. The horses may love the rain, but your hair wont. Pick a see-through model like this one on Amazon so that you don’t hide your fabulous Derby hat!

 

Pack in the COLOR!
In some cities, the attire for upscale events is all black (and white and grey) all the time, but not at the Kentucky Derby. In Kentucky, we celebrate with bright springtime colors that are meant to get noticed. At Churchill Downs on Derby Day, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone wearing muted hues. So pick a couple of bright colors that look great on you, and rock them!

Sundresses are a great choice for Derby because they offer some flexibility–if it gets cold, you can cover up with a cute cardigan, and they look great with both sandals and ballet flats.

The Kentucky Derby is all about sophisticated style  like this dress, which  would look great with a green or white derby hat. It could also be paired with a cute white cardigan if the temperature drops!

 

 

Keep a Pair of Flats Handy
If you can’t help yourself but wear high heels to Derby, I get it. But keep a pair of flats–either a great pair of walking sandals or a cute pair of ballet flats–handy in your purse or tote. (Travel Fashion Girl has a great piece on Walking Sandals!). Parking is extremely limited at The Kentucky Derby (The people with the best spots pay big bucks for them) and you are likely to be walking over a mile to the main event. If you are spending the day in the infield, I’d recommend skipping the heels altogether. No matter how long it’s been since the last rain, the infield at Churchill Downs seems to always stay muddy.

These cute flats even have a horsebit embellishment, which makes them so perfect for Derby day!

Save neutral colors for your feet, and let the rest of your Derby outfit show off with a pop of color!

 

 

Don’t forget your HAT!!
No, I don’t mean that ratty baseball cap that you pull your ponytail through. A good Derby hat is less about practicality, and more about looking fabulous. Find one in a bright color (Stoplight Red is gorgeous but a very common color at Derby) and wear it like a boss. A lot of women at Derby get custom-made hats, which is expensive and time consuming. You can find a great Derby Hat on Amazon for a fraction of the price.

Cute Derby hats come in every shape and color!

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How to Save Money With Costco Travel

By April 29, 2017 Family, Travel

When you’re planning a trip, online travel sites can be extremely helpful at finding good deals. On the occasion that I’m looking for a good hotel deal, I like to use the Priceline Name Your price tool, because I’m not picky about where I stay, and for flights I use Kayak, because their prices always seem to be a little cheaper than those on other sites. But lately, I’ve heard a lot about Costco Travel, which I have never used, and so I decided to take a look and see what it’s all about.

Are You a Costco Member?

First of all, in order to take advantage of the proposed deals on Costco Travel, you need a Costco membership, which is $55 a year. I’m not going to expound on the value of the Costco membership, but if you live near a Costco that you can shop at regularly, the membership is certainly worth the cost. If you’re only using it for Costco Travel services, however, it really depends on where you’re traveling and how much you can save by using Costco Travel.

This is because Costco Travel isn’t always going to be your cheapest choice. In fact, when looking at rental car rates for one-way and round-trip travel to multiple destinations, Kayak beat Costco almost every time.

Costco Saves Money on Package Deals

However, if you’re trying to book a vacation or theme park package, or often cruises, it seems like this is where Costco really shines. On cruises, Costco travel is comparatively prices with Priceline and other competitors, but they offer more perks like onboard credit and Costco cash cards, which makes their site worth searching through.

In all, I think it’s a positive thing that Costco has entered the travel site arena to compete with the trip planners that we all use already. I’m sure it’s a big headache for their competitors, but for consumers, Costco Travel seems like a welcome addition to help make travel more affordable.

That said, it’s unlikely that I will use Costco Travel regularly. Their deals are on prepackaged cookie-cutter trips that just aren’t my style. But I would like to take my kiddo to Disney World in the future, so maybe Costco can hook me up with a deal on that 🙂

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How Long Does it take to get a Passport?

By April 27, 2017 Travel

New ID laws across the country, as well as Trump’s travel ban and a whole host of other travel issues have led a lot of people asking: exactly how long does it take to get a passport?

The short answer is that passport application turnaround time varies–by when you apply, as well as where you live, and whether you are doing a passport renewal (You can actually complete a passport renewal application online, which makes it a very quick and easy process) or an initial application.

The passport office near me said to expect my passport within six weeks. I was completing an initial passport application, and I think that’s the company line. (When you ask, how long does it take to get a passport? they will always give you the same response; incidentally, Google will too.)

But my passport application was processed a lot more quickly than the office suggested; I had my passport in my hand within 2 weeks. This is altogether impressive, considering how slow our government is at getting anything done.

If you’re in a real rush to get your passport (I completed my passport application well before my late June departure date just to be on the safe side.) there is an expedite service available to travelers under certain conditions if you’re willing to pay for it.

But in the end, I would say that if you’re completing your passport application at least a month prior to your travel, you’re probably safe. Most people I spoke to when asking how long does it take to get a passport? Shared stories similar to mine, and in fact the longest turnaround time I have heard about anyone waiting in recent years was about three and a half weeks.

So hopefully that answers your question, How long does it take to get a passport? From government sites you’ll always get a longer timeline, but the reality is that you can expect your passport application to be processed and complete within a month.

Also, you can save some money on your passport by taking your own passport photo as I described in this earlier post.

Bon Voyage!

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Life is Beautiful in Vegas

By April 27, 2017 Culture, Travel

Music Festival season has rolled around again, which means that everywhere I turn, I am being bombarded by colorful posters and web ads that boast all of my favorite bands in their lineups. Lately, the most prominent of these has been the Life is Beautiful festival, which will be invading Las Vegas in late September.

Before I continue, I want to say I think music festivals are awesome. One of my favorite memories was seeing Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket play back to back at Bonnaroo one balmy night in July a few years back. And I will admit that most of what I am about to say about Life is Beautiful amounts to sour grapes because I am an adult with a job where people depend on me, which means I can’t attend.

That said, who wants to attend your stinky music festival anyway, Life is Beautiful? I mean, come on… you couldn’t even have it in the summer like normal festivals so that grown ass adults could come rock out to the Gorillaz, Lorde, and Blink-182 alongside all f the stoned 20-somethings? Thanks a lot!!

Hrmph!!

In all seriousness, while the Life is Beautiful lineup seems downright incredible this year, there is one thing that annoys me about this festival when you compare it to awesome ones like Coachella and Bonnaroo: there is no campground.

See, while music festivals really are all about the music (and a little about drugs, I suppose), so much of the experience of attending one is camping at the festival and getting to know all of your temporary neighbors–who are inevitably some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet.

Because Life is Beautiful takes place in Vegas, most of the festival-goers stay in hotels near the strip. Which is all well and good, I suppose, but in my opinion, this makes Life is Beautiful a less than pure music festival experience. Feel free to disagree while you’re chilling to Muse and Cage the Elephant in September.

Bon Voyage!

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I Just Joined BlogLovin

By April 26, 2017 Uncategorized

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

A new way to follow me if you’re picking up what I’m putting down:)

Bon Voyage!

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Take a Day Trip; Love Your Hometown

By April 26, 2017 Culture, Family, Travel

I spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about other places. I think we all romanticize the remote and exotic. But the truth is that even my hometown of Louisville, KY has a lot to offer if you’re stopping by for a visit–or if, like me, you live here, and you’re just interested in experiencing it more fully.

Recently, for example, I went to Locust Grove, which is only about 10 minutes from my house. This is a place that a lot of local schools take their classes on field trips because of the rich history of the place. But I was visiting at around sunset, and I am definitely no historian.

Locust Grove, for those who did not grow up hearing all of the stories is a mansion that was built in the 1790’s, and has held up pretty darn well over the past couple of decades. It was the home of George Rogers Clark, and he and his sister hosted all kinds of famous people there, including Lewis and Clark, the explorers responsible for the whole west coast.

So it’s pretty cool.

To tell you the truth, the house itself isn’t all that impressive; it’s a big house with lots of smallish rooms. What’s really awesome is the acres and acres of beautiful land and all of the old, somewhat creepy outbuildings that you have to assume are haunted. My boyfriend and I went after the tours had ended for the day, so we were mostly alone on the vast property which made it a little eerie. I was just trying to take some cool pictures like those you see here.

But the point of this post isn’t to tell you to visit Locust Grove. Unless you want to. In which case, my very friendly hometown will welcome you with open arms (We really are THAT friendly. And yes, we wear shoes. Most of the time). My point is to tell you to take a trip this weekend to see something cool in your own hometown. And then report back and tell me about it in the comments, because I might want to add it to my list of places to visit too 🙂

Bon Voyage!

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Why Use Airbnb?

By April 25, 2017 Culture, Food, Travel

A couple of posts back, I was discussing Airbnb and how it made travel affordable for me, but the truth is, the reasons why you should stay at an Airbnb rather than a hotel are not purely financial. There are a lot of reasons to forego the traditional hotel route and stay in unconventional housing when you travel. I’m going to list four reasons to stay at an Airbnb for you here.

#1: Authentic Experience: When I was 14, I spent a month living in a small residential neighborhood in Duncans, Jamaica while on a mission trip. As a result, I have a very different story to tell about Jamaica and its people than your typical tourist who sticks to the resorts and beaches. I made friends and took showers with rainwater… these are things the Hyatt simply can’t offer. When you stay in an Airbnb home, you get to feel a little of what it would be like to live in a place, rather than just sightsee. You become part of the community, rather than a mere observer.

#2: Environmentally Friendly: If you think about it, hotels take up a lot of real estate–real estate that is mostly empty a lot of the time. But when you stay in an Airbnb home, nothing extra has been built for your convenience, and as a result, you are being a little kinder to the earth than those who stay at the local Mariott. In fact, you’re being so good, you should reward yourself with a little bit of ice cream 🙂

#3: Airbnb Hosts have the 411: At a nice hotel in any city, there will be a concierge who can answer basic questions for you about where you are, and maybe even help get you a reservation at the more popular tourist watering holes. That’s all well and good, but an Airbnb host will tell you where the locals eat, helping you to find some of the coolest off-the-beaten path places you might have never expected. That info is definitely worth foregoing the pricey hotel all by itself!

#4: Socially Conscious: In addition to being good for the environment, Airbnb is actually good for the economy–regardless of what investment bankers might think. When you stay at a hotel, your money is going into the pockets of a mega-corporation like Hilton or Holiday Inn or whatever, helping them to give their upper management nice Christmas bonuses, but when you stay at an Airbnb, your money is going into the pocket of a real live human who has actually worked hard for it. Sure, Airbnb itself is a big corporation, but any corporation that’s making it easier for normal people to become entrepreneurs can’t be all that bad, if you ask me.

So, even if it weren’t cheaper (which it is) or infinitely cooler (which it is) to stay in an Airbnb on your next vacation, there are other reasons you should consider it too. And if you do, be sure to use my link so I can keep going places and telling you about them!

Bon Voyage!

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