Tag Archives: travel

Travel Tips (Packing Edition)

My husband and I love to see the world together.  It’s one of the most important things to us.  Forget the car payments, the fancy labels, the cable TV, and the high rent.  The open road will be all for us, thanks.

With all of our travel experiences, we’ve gained little bits of wisdom each time.  So, I figured why not share some of these discoveries we’ve made along the way.

For today, we’ll be sticking with the packing aspect of travel.  Nothing fancy–just a few pointers:

 

LUGGAGE

A carry-on plus one small bag is ideal.  If you can get away with only one or the other, even better!  The less luggage you have to haul around between destinations, the better.  Making the choice to only pack essentials is crucial in travel ease.  When we eloped to Ireland, my husband and I thought we were sticking to the bare basics, but quickly found out that we still weren’t wearing or using half of what we had packed!  Despite packing light compared to everyone else around us, we could have packed even lighter!

ESSENTIALS

If you must check a bag (which, as you already know, I’m against), make sure to pack 1-2 changes of clothes in your carry-on.  You will be thankful for this if your luggage gets lost or you spill something on your outfit between flights.  I also recommend including anything you absolutely wouldn’t want to be caught without on your trip: toothbrush/paste, deodorant, chargers, and of course money and travel documents.

LAUNDRY

Don’t be afraid to do laundry at your destination, especially when staying somewhere for longer than a week.  We planned ahead, staying in places with laundry facilities 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through our trip.  This was a lifesaver!  Knowing that we could wash everything we packed and start over after a few days gave us such peace of mind.  We just found a grocery/market type store and picked up a small container of laundry detergent once we arrived and let the clothes wash and dry while we slept or went out sightseeing.  Easy peasy.  Also keep in mind, most articles of clothing aren’t “dirty” after only one or two wears.  Get the most out of your pieces by re-wearing them when possible.  Hanging something up to air out at the end of the day while you sleep is usually just enough to make the piece feel fresh again.  (Note: quick-dry and wrinkle-resistant fabrics are your best option in travel scenarios for obvious reasons.)

VERSATILITY

Stick to a basic color palette with your clothing.  Try to stay with black or brown and not both.  This way, all your pieces (including shoes and bags) will match each other, giving you more interchangeable outfit options.  Believe me, this is important when packing as little as you can get away with.  Try to avoid anything overly trendy and stick to the basics.  That pair of jeans and solid top will be much more valuable to you on the road than a cute dress that only matches one pair of shoes.  We all like to be fashionable, but the truth is, on the road, you will probably be more excited about the day-to-day activities than you will be to get all gussied up.  To have a little fun with your wardrobe while traveling, pick a vibrant accent color to pair with your neutrals.  Game changer.  (Also, striving to not attract too much attention to yourself is a smart move.  Flashy tourists who stick out in a crowd are more likely to be pickpocketed, as it is known they tend to carry more cash on their person.)

DRESSES

If you’re a girl,  pack dresses!  Dresses were my life-saver on our elopement trip.  They take up very little space in your bag–not much more than a top–and they are a full outfit on their own.  You could almost pack a week’s worth of knee-length dresses in a medium-sized day bag.  Also, since they can be dressed up or down–for a night out or a day of sightseeing–they’re extremely versatile!

SHOES + ACCESSORIES

If you can’t help but want to feel super adorbs on your journey, pack a few pieces of statement jewelry in a Zip-lock bag.  This will keep your accessories contained, while allowing them to really help that dress go the extra mile for that fancy dinner out.  The same principle goes for shoes.  Try to only pack 1-3 pair of shoes, and wear the bulkiest ones on your flight if feasible.  This will help save your precious luggage space.  Keep the shoes neutral so they will match everything you’ve packed.  A pair of sandals or boots (depending on climate), walking shoes, and cute (yet still comfy) flats should be enough to get you through your trip.  Also, try to stick to one day bag/purse and a small night-out option, both of which should match everything in your packed wardrobe.  Don’t over-pack in this department!

UNDIES

If you’re going to over-pack anything, make it your underwear.  They take up almost zero space (especially women’s), and they definitely aren’t something you want to be caught without.  Stick to fabrics that dry more quickly (avoid cotton), so that if necessary, you can hand wash a pair or two in your hotel room sink.  Undies are not something you want to have to re-wear.  They’re not like your outer clothing.  Do yourself a favor and pack plenty.

PACKING CUBES

These suckers were lifesavers on our international vacation.  They help keep like items contained together for simple storage and stress-free retrieval.  You can find some like these on Amazon.com, or even pick them up at your local TJMaxx, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.  Another option is to separate each day’s outfits into separate Zip-Lock bags and label them according to your itinerary for a no-fuss morning routine.  It will allow you to unpack as few items as possible for the current leg of your trip.  (It is also smart to keep your shoes in plastic bags to keep them from rubbing dirt off onto your limited clothing options.)

PLASTIC BAGS

I’m a huge fan of extra plastic bags during travel.  You never know when you might have a damp or dirty garment (or liquid purchase–detergent or toiletry item) that needs to be secluded from the rest of your luggage contents.  Taking a few extra Zip-Locks, garbage bags, and/or plastic shopping bags can’t hurt.  They pack flat, weigh nothing, and may just save your wardrobe in a pinch.

WIPES

You never really know 100% what your accommodations will be like upon arrival.  There have been a few times on various trips, the cleanliness of the place wasn’t up to my germaphobe standards.  A simple  travel pack of Clorox wipes and/or Wet Wipes was usually just enough to put my mind at ease–along with my always-in-my-purse bottle of hand-sanitizer, of course!  Your surroundings can sometimes be messy, and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for it.  Better to designate a tad bit of room for these little guys, just in case, than be caught without them.

BEAUTY

Really work on streamlining your beauty regimen for travel.  Can you just get by with a tube of mascara and lip balm?  Go for it!  If you’re comfortable going completely bare-faced, more power to you!  We actually found it easier to purchase a few toiletry items once we arrived at our destination.  This saved us the aggravation of trudging through airport security with all those liquids.  Then, we just left them behind at our last stop before we boarded the flight home.  Also, try finding ways to spend minimal time on your hair.  Letting it air-dry while allowing your natural waves and texture to shine through can not only be liberating, but also very beautiful.  A low, messy pony of partially air-dried hair was one of my faves on the road.  And remember, sunscreen should always have a reserved spot in your bag!  The more you take care of your skin, the less you should have to cover it up with all those layers of make-up.

TECHNOLOGY

Rethink your technology.  You can probably just get by with only your smart phone on a trip.  This one device is the Swiss Army knife of electronics.  With it, you’ve got your camera, your computer, your GPS, and your entertainment.  It’s all there.  Save space in your luggage or carry-on, and just take this one item with you.

CELLULAR DATA

To save on international data costs, consider purchasing a wifi hot-spot at your destination.  Most hotels will have wifi available to you, but sometimes this service can be shoddy and unreliable.  With a hot-spot, you will be able to use your phone wherever you are (minus the calls and texts).  We did this abroad and talked with family via Skype/Facetime and email, even when driving down the motorway.  If your friends and family have iPhones, you will be able to receive texts when connected as well, so long as the iMessage feature is turned on on all devices involved.  (When traveling abroad, make sure the hot-spot you purchase is international if you purchase it in advance.  If not, it won’t work once you arrive overseas.)

SOUVENIRS

Do you really need to purchase all those souvenirs?  A true minimalist knows that the best souvenirs are the photos and memories you take home with you.  I know people who leave open room in their ginormous luggage so they can bring back gifts for themselves and all their friends and family.  It’s a nice thought, but such a hassle and total waste of space!  Honestly, your loved ones probably don’t want all those cheesy knickknacks from all the places you saw, anyway.  Instead, if you must get them gifts, consider purchasing a bottle of wine or some other perishable item, save space in your luggage, and ship it to them.  Other than the photos and memories, these are our favorite types of souvenirs!

FREQUENT PURGES

If you visit multiple cities per trip like my hubby and I do, consider purging before leaving each location and heading to the next.  You’d be surprised at all the unnecessary, extra “passengers” you can pick up along the way.  Instead of loading everything up without a thought, do a quick run-through of your luggage and any bags/purses/pockets, and toss what no longer suits you for the remainder of the trip.  This can include local maps, brochures, airport paraphernalia, shopping bags, or any “freebies” you might pick up from your sight-seeing.  I even “purge” my receipts from my day purse, moving them to a designated pocket or Zip-Lock bag in my carry-on, so they’ll be out of my way until I get home to check my bank statement for all the cleared charges as well as any fraudulent activity.  Doing this simple act every time we changed locations kept the clutter at bay, making the transition to each new city a breeze.

 

Thanks for reading!  I hope this helps with your upcoming adventures!  If you have any questions on anything I didn’t cover, please ask below in the comments.

Happy trails!

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We Did It

When we pulled into the quaint Bed & Breakfast in the small coastal town at the base of northern Irish territory, I was already a bit frantic. We were running behind, had gotten a little lost, and I had driven the hour and a half for the first time on the opposite side of the car and road. Nervous was an understatement.

As we unloaded our luggage from the trunk, we saw him drive into view. Our photographer had arrived.

I had been hoping to have an hour or so to myself before we met up with him. After all, it was my wedding day, and a girl needs time to fix her hair and put on a touch of make-up. Even simple, low-maintenance girls like me.

We apologized, stating that we might have to get started a little later than we had planned. I, bare-faced, explained how we’d gotten lost and how the car rental company had not initially found our reservation in their system, setting us back another half hour.

He was so relaxed and assured us that we had all the time in the world.

I calmed some, but still didn’t want to keep him waiting. I am never late for anything.

I went upstairs, Gene not far behind, flinging open my suitcase, feverishly searching for my makeup bag. We had so strategically packed and repacked our belongings in our minimal luggage, that this was a feat in and of itself. Which bag is it in?!

I finally retrieved it and began the familiar motions of putting on my face. I tried to give my hair a tad more oomph, but quickly changed my mind, as I knew it wouldn’t make much difference. The air was so misty that day.

And there he was, buttoning his shirt so calmly, grinning from ear to ear. Why couldn’t I be more like him, even if just for this one day?

Gene went downstairs to check in with our photographer, telling him I needed a few more minutes, before returning upstairs to gently hurry me along. As unprepared and thrown-together as I felt, I told him I was ready for him to come up to get some shots of the final “getting ready” touches.

When they both entered the crisp, white room over-looking Carlingford Lough, Tim walked up to me and softly spoke, “Listen. You have nothing to be nervous about. This is going to be a great day. No pressure. No rush. Let’s just relax and enjoy it together.”

He also commented on how great I looked in my lacy dress I had so hastily thrown over my head while Gene went to fetch him. A peace suddenly came over me. What was I so worked up over? Everything so far had played out even better than we’d ever imagined possible. Why should I fear that this day would be any different?

Becoming aware of my nonsensical behavior, I decided to let it go. He was right. It was going to be a great day.

I began to actually enjoy myself. Tim snapped shots of Gene putting on his tie—the tie we’d just bought the night before we boarded the plane—and me putting on my casual jewelry. We didn’t worry about how fancy we would be dressed. We didn’t worry about traditions or things old, new, borrowed, or blue. We were just ourselves. True and simple.

Then she entered the room; a young girl with a pacifier in her mouth, not even waist-high. In her hand was one of the most gorgeous hand-picked bouquets I’d ever seen—another element I didn’t bother to arrange that day. She was the granddaughter of the B&B owner, and wanted to pick flowers for “the princess” on her wedding day. This was the sweetest of moments, in a way that could never be planned or manipulated. It was perfect in all its spontaneity.

We made our way downstairs and rode in the backseat of Tim’s car up to the woodsy car park at the base of the mountain. Our mountain.

Reuben, our minister, was not far behind. Introductions were made, laughs were had, and up we went.

The hike took about twenty minutes and was more difficult than expected. We were all breathing heavily by the time we reached the top, and nothing could prepare us for the view we were about to experience. All we could do was stand there in silence, in awe of the beauty on all sides and as far as our eyes could see.

Worth it. This moment, this marvel, made everything—all the planning, stress, nerves, questions—feel worth it.

We just stood in complete wonder for about half an hour before any vows were exchanged. Just being here with the person I loved so much, experiencing it all together, felt like our vow in and of itself. We both knew that to say those solemn words in this miraculous place would just be the cherry on top.

We turned to face one another, embracing in our joy and gratitude. This time was a gift, a gift that neither of us would ever take for granted. We thanked God with every fiber of our being, for each other, for this trip, for this life.

Then, in that voice that always steadies and comforts my soul, he spoke into my ear.

“We did it.”

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A True Minimalist Wedding

The idea of a wedding can be super daunting for a minimalist couple.

Everywhere you look, there’s potential for some other frivolous expense: engagement photos, save-the-dates, wedding cake AND groom’s cake, fancy invitations, will-you-be-my-bridesmaid? gift boxes, wedding party gifts, bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen tuxes, something old/new/borrowed/blue, a cute little pillow for an equally cute toddler in a tux to carry your rings on, centerpieces, decor you will never have use for again but will feel guilty for throwing away after the big day, and even the several-thousand-dollar wedding dress that will sit in your closet for decades to follow. . . .

The whole thing is a lot to take in!

So when me and my guy decided it was our time to take the leap, we knew we didn’t want to do it like everyone else. It just wasn’t for us.

Instead, we just decided to elope.  To Ireland.  On a mountain.  Just the two of us.

And we couldn’t have been happier with our decision.

Despite being extremely close to our family and not wanting to exclude them, we still felt this was the right decision for us. We’re not frivolous or extravagant people, and the thought of having to spend (or having my parents to spend) such a large sum of money for only a couple of hours of showy celebration didn’t sit right with us.

We ended up getting a lot more bang for much less buck as we enjoyed a two-week trip abroad, and said our vows in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

My dress cost $80, and it’s something I can wear over and over again. We spent about $75 on his attire, using some pieces he already had in his closet. My jewelry wasn’t fancy, just some pieces I already owned, minus the bracelet I got on sale for $15–also something I can wear over again.

We ordered a simple 6 inch cake–chocolate with espresso Italian buttercream icing and chocolate ganache on top–that we ate in the middle of a meadow, and didn’t even bother fooling with something old/new/borrowed/blue or even a bouquet.  (Although the little granddaughters of the B&B owners where we were staying picked me a handful of the most beautiful flowers from their garden!)

Everything was simple and perfect.

We didn’t stress much over the day at all. We took three months to plan the whole trip (much with the help of our amazing photographer and his wife), hopped on a plane, hiked up a mountain, and made it happen.  Then after, we drove around southern Ireland for a week.  Ah-mazing!

I recommend more people go this route. Of course, if you want a huge wedding with all your friends and family present, there’s nothing wrong with that. I think you should go for it!  Just make sure it’s what the two of you really want and not what society has said you should do.

And if you have hesitations about doing it the “traditional” way, I hope that a story like ours will help you see that it’s OK to do things a bit differently.

I’ve heard so many married couples say they wished they had eloped instead of going through with the big wedding, but have heard none who eloped say they wished they hadn’t. There’s something very moving about it just being the two of you on that special day. After all, that’s what it’s all about. You two. Not all the hundreds of people (most of which you may not even know very well) you will have to impress and feed after the ceremony. It’s not about the mounds of gifts you will receive. It’s not about how fancy your dress, hair, or makeup is. It’s not even about the size of your diamond (mine is only .05 carat, and I couldn’t love it more!).

It’s about the two of you and the commitment you’re making to one another.

Another fun detail:
Due to the strict laws in Northern Ireland about getting married (you must have been a citizen for two years and can’t get married outside!), we actually legally tied the knot at the beach in Florida a week before we left for Ireland. We spent a four-day weekend laying on the beach, eating seafood, and drinking fruity drinks–a honeymoon in and of itself–before going on our actual elopement trip/honeymoon. Not too shabby.

Have we got you seriously considering eloping, now?  DO IT!!!

If you want to know any other details about how we did our big day, please feel free to ask in the comments! I’d be more than happy to share with you all!

Now, for a few of the gorgeous pics from our day as well as a closeup of my simple rings–that I’m totally obsessed with!

Thanks so much for reading!

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love         Photography by This Modern Love

 

Photography by This Modern Love Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

Photography by This Modern Love

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We’re All Minimalists

I was talking with family the other day about my use of minimalist principles in my life and how much doing so has changed me over the past few years.

“Truthfully, I believe we’re all minimalists,” I said.

I went on to explain how we all have our favorite possessions: a handful of favorite clothes, favorite shoes, favorite jewelry, favorite hair/makeup routines, favorite pieces of technology that get most of our use, favorite bands/CDs/records, and even favorite meals that we prepare.

All minimalism does is calls us to have those favorites be in the forefront at all times, never getting pushed to the side by the mounds of clutter that creep into our homes, slowly taking over our spaces and lives.

Instead of feeling trapped by all the “stuff” around you, the “stuff” that prevents you from getting to spend the majority of your time indulged in the few favorite items that bring you the most pleasure, why don’t you consider becoming one of the brave ones?  Make the tough choices to eliminate the clutter that doesn’t bring you joy during this way-too-short period we have on this gorgeous planet.

Truthfully, based on my experience, you probably won’t even miss the cast-offs.

I honestly can’t recall a single thing I wished I had held onto during my bouts of decluttering.

And it’s funny how things change; I’ve reduced my possessions by about three-quarters, and instead of looking around and asking myself where everything went, I find myself remarking on how much there is still left to be rid of.  I know if most people saw my house, cabinets, and closets, they’d think of me as a crazy person for saying such a thing.

It’s OK, though.

My life is changing.  My goals are changing.  My definition of happiness is changing.

And my lust for life becomes more ardent with each passing day.

Again, we’re only here for such a short time.  So why should we allow ourselves to be bogged down by the things that not only don’t bring us joy, but also take joy from us?

Let your inner minimalist come out.  I promise, you won’t regret it!

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Tomorrow Is A Big Day

Our yard sale is tomorrow.

I’m so excited.  Once again, I’m amazed at the amount of junk we were able to uncover.  (I’ll post a pic of my mom’s dining room after this post so you can get an idea of what we’re working with, here.)

My parents have a shed in their back yard.  In this shed were tons of items we were too afraid to encounter before.  But a couple of weeks ago, my mom and I put on our big girl panties and slayed the beast.

Childhood papers, old Hot Wheels cars and race tracks, Barbies galore (including way more accessories than I care to admit), Legos, board games (that never got played), hunting gear (brother’s), train sets, tools, car detailing junk, life jackets, beach chairs, bikes, wheelbarrows, home repair items, Christmas decorations, sports equipment . . . the list goes on.

My dad is still not ready to part with a large portion of his tools and things (even though, I really think he should and have told him so), and my brother’s more occupied with other activities than going through each item he owns to down-size.  That’s OK, though.  Me and mom did what we could and made huge progress.

I’m loving Facebook’s yard sale groups.  I’ve made close to $500 just in the past few weeks from using it.  So awesome!  I’m hoping to make a few hundred tomorrow as well.  New York is less than a week away, and I want to use the extra cash towards making memories instead of holding on to the things in my life that I’m getting zero use, enjoyment, or benefit out of.

I’m ready for great things, and I don’t want to be weighed down by my junk when the time comes.  I love seeing cleared spaces instead of feeling claustrophobic in my own house or car.  I love how quickly I can CLEAN my house with less junk laying around.  I love that I could wash every dish in my house by hand in 20 minutes or less.  I love that I only have to do about 2 loads of laundry per week.  I love that I’m obtaining more and more time to do the things that make me happy.

I love my life, and I love this journey.

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Van Dweller

My thoughts have been continually going back to the same thing lately.

I see these stories of people who sell 95% of their possessions and do things like live on a boat and travel all over the globe, and am instantly jealous.  I long to be able to live that simply.  Where my time is my own, living life as one experience after another, without the baggage of what most people consider to be normal.

I found this story on Yahoo’s home page about a student who lived in a van while going to grad school so as not to acquire any more debt.  What an awesome testimony to how little you can have in your life and get by.  Heck, not just get by, but complete grad school!  Pretty incredible, if you ask me.

This was just something I felt the need to share today.  It spoke to me, and once again, I find the wheels in my head turning.  How far do I want to go?

I’d also like to thank those of you in this blogging community who I am constantly encouraged by.  Reading your posts just reassure me that I’m not alone in this, and I’m not as crazy as most of the world around me thinks.

Have any of you embarked upon an adventure such as the ones mentioned above?

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