Thursday, July 30, 2015

Never Wait In An Airport Line Again...

I hate waiting in lines, and I especially hate waiting in lines at airports. Whether you are departing to an awesome destination or returning home from a trip, the worst way I can imagine starting or ending a trip is waiting in a line. Unfortunately, most trips start and end this way. You wait in line to go through security on your outbound trip, and coming home (from international destinations at least!) you wait in line to go through customs. So what if I told you that you could bypass all of these lines while flying in the United States? I bet you'd say it is well worth the time and small cost to do this every trip! Well- here is your answer for you: TSA Precheck or Global Entry!

Last year, I spent $100 to enroll in Global Entry, and it is one of the best travel investments I have made. You can choose to do this, or to spend $85 to enroll in TSA Precheck. You might be asking- what is TSA Precheck or Global Entry? Today, I'll give a quick explanation of both programs and why they are certainly a travel investment worth making.

Both TSA Precheck and Global Entry are run by the Department of Homeland Security. TSA Precheck is a program that enrolls you as a trusted traveler and provides you with a known traveler number (KTN), essentially allowing you to skip the security lines while traveling through airports. Global Entry is an extension of TSA Precheck, that gives you all of the precheck benefits in addition to allowing you to bypass customs lines on your way home from traveling internationally. Yes- you read that right- because I am a member of Global Entry, I get to skip the security lines before flying, and skip the customs lines when coming home from abroad.

What?! If you are thinking this can't possibly be true- it is. I enrolled in Global Entry last year, and since then feel that it is the best $100 I could have spent on traveling. Right now, I'm going to lay down the pros and cons of TSA Precheck, and why it is definitely worth your investment. So, let's get into the details!

In short, TSA Precheck will save you priceless time and energy. The first benefit- you no longer have to wait in security lines while going through the airport! On top of not waiting in line, you also are allowed to pass through security stress-free. You get to keep your shoes, belt, and light jacket on. You get to leave your computer, electronics, and liquids bag in your luggage. Essentially, all you have to do is place your luggage on the belt and walk through the metal detector...

Yes, metal detector. In certain airports, TSA Precheck members will go through metal detectors, and bypass the body scanners. Remember that big controversy a few years ago about the body scanners, and how people thought the TSA could either see them naked, or that the rays emitted were a danger to your health? Personally, I never bought into either of those theories- but in any case, as a member of TSA Precheck, I no longer go through these body scanners and rather simply walk through the metal detector and am on my way!

So far, I outlined how TSA Precheck would save you time and energy. In addition to these savings, TSA Precheck can also eliminate a lot of the stress that goes with traveling, and allow you to start your trip off on the right foot. No more waiting in security lines, taking items off yourself or out of a bag, and worrying if you remembered everything after passing security. Simply walk in, walk out, and be on your way!

The other week, I had my friend drop me off at LAX, where I was headed on to Napa Valley. LAX is the second busiest airport in the U.S., processing over 35 million departing passengers a year. Can you guess how long I waited in line? Whatever your guess, it is wrong- I walked straight through security, used the restroom, sat down at a restaurant next to my gate, and ordered a beer- all before my friend had even left the airport. That's right, it took my friend longer to drive out of the airport than it did for me to get through security and be comfortably waiting for my next vacation to start. What a dream!

Like I mentioned above, I originally applied for (and was accepted to) Global Entry. So in addition to the TSA Precheck benefits, when I return home from abroad I also get to skip the customs lines. Rather than waiting in line to see a customs agent, I simply walk up to a machine, scan my Global Entry card, scan my fingerprints, and enter my customs declaration. The machine takes a quick picture, and prints out my customs information for me to hand off at the final checkpoint before baggage claim. All in all, the process has taken me on average 45 seconds. Wow!

your destination awaits!
OK, I'm going to go ahead and assume that I've sold you on TSA Precheck (or Global Entry, for the international travelers). In the spirit of full disclosure, I will go ahead and share the fact that these programs are not 100% a dream, and they do have some downsides. So here we go with that:

It does cost time and money to apply. I spent probably two hours filling out my application, which included every place I have lived or worked over the last 5 years. The monetary cost was $100 for Global Entry, or $85 for Precheck. So with that, you should evaluate how much you fly- is the time and money necessary to apply worth more than the time and effort you will save while traveling? For me, hands down this was a HECK YES!

On top of the time and money commitment, you actually are not guaranteed to receive TSA Precheck status every time you fly. While this may seem contradictory, it just means you have to be proactive. Whenever you book a flight, make sure you enter your KTN. This way, the airlines- and the TSA- know that you are a known and trusted traveler. On top of this, check in for your flights as soon as you are able to- usually 24 hours. Again, this simply gives you more time to be identified as a known and trusted traveler!

One more potential downside of TSA Precheck- personally, I don't feel this way, but I know others do- is the level of screening it takes. There is an intensive background check. You are photographed, and fingerprinted, by the Department of Homeland Security. You know what though? To me, none of this matters. I'm not worried about the government having my picture or's just not a worry for me. And to be honest, for law-abiding citizens I'm not sure why it would be a concern.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure, there are a couple of 'downsides' to being a member of TSA Precheck. However, I can't imagine traveling without being a member of TSA Precheck and Global Entry, so I am so happy that I spent my time and money enrolling. After all, this is one of the best travel investments to make! Are you a member of TSA Precheck or Global Entry, and if not, why not?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Trefethen Family Vineyards: A Review

Trefethen Review
Trefethen Vineyards
When I first discovered that Nick and I would be traveling to Napa Valley, I was absolutely ecstatic. My first stop after hearing the news was the local wine store to pick up a couple great bottles of cabernet (because, hello Napa!)!. One of the sommeliers highly recommended a stop at Trefethen. I'll be honest- I hadn't heard of Trefethen before, so I wasn't positive that it would be the best place to visit. After all, there are other more well-known vineyards in Napa Valley- and I naively assumed that the best known vineyards would provide the best experience. Nonetheless, I visited Trefethen while in Napa Valley- and gosh, am I ever glad I did!

Best wine tasting in Napa
I thoroughly enjoyed wine tasting at Trefethen!
Trefethen has been a family run vineyard since the property was purchased in 1968 and the winery was opened in 1973. Keep in mind, this is the early days for Napa Valley- at this time, there were less than 25 vineyards in the area and people still did not believe that Napa could produce great wines. After learning a little bit about Trefethen, and finalizing that I would be visiting them while in Napa Valley- my first step was to learn a little bit about the wines, and of course, try a bottle! Rest assured, it was delicious, and I couldn't wait to visit Trefethen. A few weeks later, I was on my way...!

Hard at work learning all about Trefethen!
If you visit Trefethen right now, upon driving up to the winery you will be a little bit underwhelmed. I was told to check in at 'the tent', and it didn't quit make sense until I pulled up. Right now, Trefethen is going through a bit of a reconstruction phase. As such, all of the wine tasting are currently hosted in a temporary tasting room- also known as 'the tent'. More on this later though- for now, you might be asking, why is your wine tasting experience happening in a tent?

Well, on Sunday, August 14, 2014 at 3:20 in the morning, Napa Valley - and specifically Trefethen- was hit with a 6.0 earthquake. As an effect of this, the historic building - and former tasting room - experience a direct hit. Remember how I said the Trefethen property was purchased in 1968? Well, in 1968 the property, including the historic building - constructed in 1886 - was purchased. The same building constructed in 1886 is still a part of the property, and experienced a major hit due to the earthquake (check out the picture below!)

The Trefethen historic building after the earthquake
Trefethen Historic Building
So, as you can see, Trefethen experienced quite a hit. The entire second floor of the building attempted to shift about five feet to the west, while leaving the rest of the building in the dust. Wow! However, as any true family does, when tragedy strikes it is tradition to prevail and come back stronger than ever. As such, Trefethen is now in a reconstruction process, and working on making the vineyard and winery better than ever!

So, with that being said- right now, the tastings are taking place in a temporary location. The outside is quite misleading though, as it does look like an enclosed canopy tent, often used for weddings and other such events that might get rained out. As soon as you enter, you forget that you are inside of a tent and feel transported to a cozy, warm location for a great wine tasting and vineyard tour. The staff immediately greets you, and seats you in a cozy area before beginning your tour or tasting.

Nick and I started our trip at Trefethen with a nice cool glass of water before beginning the tour. As our tour started, we were led behind the temporary tasting room to view the historic building. Right now, the building is being supported by a steel corset as restorations take place to bring the future tasting room to full strength. Restoration is expected to be completed within two years of the project starting in March 2015. After checking out the historic building, the tour led Nick and I to the family house.

Trefethen Family House
I mentioned above that Trefethen is a family-run winery. The family house is where members of the family have lived. Currently, the house is also under going restoration to turn it into a secondary tasting room. Behind the house is a stunning pool and garden. It is easy to envision the many cozy nooks and crannies where visitors of the winery will be invited to relax and sip on a refreshing glass of wine.

Claudia, one of the amazing and friendly chefs for Trefethen!
stunning details all around the property!
Trefethen is a certified California sustainable vineyard and winery, in addition to being a certified Napa green land and winery. Some of the practices that Trefethen uses include 100% solar power electricity, recycling water for irrigation, night harvesting, and natural pest control uses owls, bats, and hawks. Pretty impressive, right?!

Enjoying my wine tasting at Trefethen
OK- let's get on to the wine tasting! Nick and I were able to taste a great varieties of Trefethen's wines. The range was anywhere from a light and fruity Pinot Grigio to a dry riesling to Dragon's Tooth, a delicious blend from Katie's Acre. Trefethen is a true estate winery, with 100% of the grapes used in the wines being from one of Trefethen's properties. Trefethen really focuses on classic wines with a layer of complexity, while still being approachable by all. Confused yet? That just means that each wine is delicious, whether you have a refined wine palette or are having your first sip ever!

One of the sustainable practices at Trefethen- cover crops growing between the grape vines!
Trefethen was such a wonderful winery to visit, and I can't imagine that anybody could visit the vineyard and not feel a part of the family. The family mentality really seeps through the entire experience, and was refreshing to witness first hand. Many of the staff members have been with the family for 10, 15, even more years, and it was easy to see why. As a guest at Trefethen, I felt truly welcomed and couldn't wait to relax and bask in the beautiful grounds and ambiance. In addition to the lovely feelings at Trefethen, it is easy to envision where the winery is headed, and how cozy it will be as construction finishes. I already can't wait to return in the future and see the gorgeous property unfold! Trefethen is a must visit for any relaxing Napa Valley trip!

wouldn't you love the catch this sunset with a nice glass of Trefethen while relaxing with family?!

**Disclosure: I received a complimentary tasting and tour to facilitate this review. As always, this did not affect my review in any way and all opinions are my own and 100% honest!**

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My ABC's of Travel!

As I'm sitting at home dreaming of my next trip (currently not scheduled!), I'm left feeling little wistful for travel. The ABC's of travel have been floating along blog-land for awhile, and I figure now is the perfect time to join in and look back on some of my fondest travel memories! Without further ado, here is a little bit more about my life of travel and favorite memories:

A // Age when you first traveled internationally
Oh, this is a tough one. I've been traveling for as long as I can remember. My family used to have an annual fishing trip in Canada when I was younger, so I suppose Canada was my first international destination- and I'm guessing I was younger than 5! I would have been 12 when I first traveled to Mexico, 15 when I traveled to Costa Rica, and 16 for my first European experience.

B // Best foreign beer you've had and where
This one is so easy it is hardly a question! The best foreign beer I have had is definitely at Oktoberfest. Beyond just having great German beer, Oktoberfest is an experience in itself that everyone must experience at least once in their lifetimes!

C // Cuisine: Favorite experience
Street food while in Thailand! I'll be honest- Nick was much more adventurous than me- but the street food in Thailand is to die for. So cheap, and so delicious!

D // Destinations: Favorite, Least Favorite, and Why?
My favorite place I've ever traveled to is probably Sweden. While not a favorite for many, Sweden holds so many cherished memories for both Nick and I that it will always hold a special place in our hearts. Not only did we travel throughout Sweden, but Sweden was also our first home as a married couple and we spent the majority of our first two years married in Sweden. My least favorite place I've ever traveled to is...well, there really isn't one. I suppose for now I could say Amsterdam- only because I've never gotten to actually visit the city, and every time I fly through there I seem to have excessively long flight delays!

E // Event You've Experienced That Made You Say "WOW!"
I think this one is a cross between the Full Moon Party in Thailand and Oktoberfest. Both of them are such extremely different experiences, but definitely something that everyone should experience once while in their lifetime!

F // Favorite Mode of Transportation
I've got to say, I love flying. I don't know what it is about it, but after countless international trips I still love the feeling of it. I always want a window seat- hello, that view! I'll never forget the first time that I flew with Nick. We were going to Las Vegas, and he commented on how I stared out the window the entire time, because the novelty of flying had worn off for him. To me, flying represents so much more- it represents the excitement of going somewhere new (or old!), meeting the people there, and having great experiences. I hope I always love it!

G // Greatest Feeling While Traveling
There are so many great feelings you experience while traveling that it is difficult to narrow it down to just one. I suppose that the moment I love the most is when each new adventure officially begins, when you arrive in a new destination and begin your day. The whole trip is ahead of you, and you have the ability to make it wonderful!

H // Health While Traveling
I've always enjoyed a good workout, and despite being difficult, it is important to take care of yourself while traveling. After all, you will enjoy experiences much more if you are healthy! Follow these 9 tips to staying fit while traveling in order to make each and every vacation more enjoyable. Remember- moderation is key!

I // Incredible Customer Service
The best customer service I have ever received while outside of the U.S. is definitely at Lo Zodiaco. Lo Zodiaco in Rome is my worldwide favorite restaurant, and a must to anyone visiting Rome!

J // Journey That Took The Longest
The longest travel journey I have ever had was definitely my honeymoon. I can't decide which journey was longer- the trip there, made infinitely long due to my excitement of traveling; or the trip home, made infinitely long because my time in paradise had just ended! All in all, it was about 22 hours on the plane each way, and that doesn't include the time spent in airports waiting to board flights and take off. While it was a long journey, it is definitely one that I can't wait to repeat!

K // Keepsakes From Your Travels
Much of the time, when I travel I do not purchase souvenirs. The memories of the trips themselves are enough of a keepsake. Beyond this, Nick and I have a scratch-off travel map that we love to update upon returning home from each and every trip!

Christmas in Paris was amazing, although the Eiffel Tower was a slight let-down!
L // Let-down Sight- Where and Why?
One of the let-down sights- and perhaps, even cities- that I've experienced was the Eiffel Tower and Paris. I certainly enjoyed my trip to Paris, but visiting in the middle of winter with damp, rainy weather was not ideal. I'd be curious to see how my opinion changes if I ever visit during the warmer, prettier months- but for now, it was an underwhelming experience!

M // Moment Where You Fell In Love With Traveling
I don't know if there was a definitive moment for me. My family traveled a fair amount when I was younger, and if I'm honest, I never really appreciated it. We spent time all throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, in addition to trips to Costa Rica, Germany, Austria, Italy & Switzerland. Even beyond the family trips, I took a few solo trips throughout my teens and early twenties, and it wasn't until I moved abroad that I really grew to love traveling and experiencing new things. So for me, it was definitely a gradual thing that only came as I grew to appreciate it. Now, the thought of staying in one place for too long makes my skin itch!

So many gorgeous photo opps at this stunning property!
N // Nicest Hotel You've Stayed In 
Off the top of my head, I probably don't know the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in- mostly because I really haven't stayed in too many super nice hotels! When traveling, I like to spend my money on experiences and really getting a feel for a destination versus the hotel. If I had to pick one, I would say CHIC by Royalton in Punta Cana!

I was super excited to fly over the Grand Canyon last week on my way out to California!
O // Obsession- What Photos Are You Obsessed With While Traveling?
I mentioned above that I absolutely love flying. So, naturally I take tons of pictures out of the plane window...I'm not sure why, but there is just something about being up in the air that is magical to me! I love looking out the window while flying, whether it is snapping pictures of clouds, city scapes, or dozens and dozens of farm fields lined up like little boxes.

P // Passport Stamps- How Many and From Where?
Being that I just got a new passport one year ago, I actually don't have that many passport stamps! Right now, I've got stamps for the U.S., Sweden, the Netherlands (Amsterdam is usually my connecting airport!), and the Dominican Republic.

Q // Quirkiest Attraction You've Visited And Where?
The quirkiest (let's be honest, strangest) attraction I've ever visited was the Painted Skulls of Hallstatt, Austria. On my very first trip to Europe, my Mom, brother and I toured the Bone House, featuring over 700 skulls that are painted and decorated. Quite an eery, interesting, and definitely strange experience!

R // Recommended Sight or Experience
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest. I can't recommend it enough. I was fortunate enough to attend Oktoberfest in Munich for the last two years, and had an absolute blast both times. The first time was with three friends, and the second time was with three of my family members. No matter who you are visiting with, Oktoberfest is bound to be a fantastic time and the memory of a lifetime!

S // Splurge- Something You've Spent Extra on While Traveling
My Nikon D3200! Now, I'll be honest- I didn't spend extra money on this while traveling. However, I am still kicking myself for not purchasing a nice camera years ago. If you are on the fence, do it! This will be the best way to ensure that your travel memories are crisp, fresh, and crystal clear for years to come. Memories might fade, but these pictures sure won't!

Enjoying a stop in Flåm while on our Norway in a Nutshell tour!
T // Touristy Thing You've Done
One of the more touristy things I've done is definitely going on a Norway in a Nutshell fjord tour with my family while in Norway. While Norway may not be the most popular tourist destination, I'd be willing to bet the majority of tourists visit for the fjords and experience a Norway in a Nutshell fjord tour. There are other (smaller) companies, but the market is pretty much dominated. And for good reason! This tour is one of the highlights of my last year, and I only wish I could go again- soon!

U // Unforgettable Travel Memory
I would have to say that the most unforgettable thing I've ever done while traveling is actually moving abroad to a country I had never been to, let alone pointed out on a map before. My two years in Sweden taught me so much, and changed me more than I ever thought possible. They exposed me to a whole new world (literally), and it is something that has changed my life. Can something be more unforgettable than that?

V // Visas- How Many and For Where?
I've only ever had to obtain one Visa, and that is for my stay while in Sweden! Being an American, there really are not too many places we must obtain Visas for.

Wine tasting while at Chandon!
W // Wine: Best Glass & Where?
The best glass of wine that I've had was definitely most recently while visiting Napa Valley! I'd never been to a vineyard before to wine taste- and wow, was this trip awesome! I was a guest of four different vineyards, and each one was absolutely amazing- they provided such a unique experience. For anyone looking to go wine tasting, look no further than Napa Valley!

X // eXcellent View and Where? 
Flying over the Grand Canyon while visiting Las Vegas. I'll never forget how amazing of a trip this was. For those traveling to Las Vegas, this is certainly a must-do!

Y // Years Spent Traveling
Well, this goes back to the beginning of this post- but pretty much my whole life! Like I mentioned earlier though, the more I have travelled the more I love it. So I hope this number just keeps on growing!

Z // Zealous Sports Fans?
I've loved sports my entire life. If you combine that with my experiences as a professional hockey player's wife, I think I've seen a great array of sports fans- from those who couldn't care, to those who it's all about drinking, to those where it is life or death. It pains me to say it as a Minnesota Vikings fan, but the Packers fans at Lambeau Field are incredible. For any football fan (especially those with a Packers rivalry!) you have to check out a game at Lambeau Field!

And that will wrap up my ABC's of travel! What about you- what are some of your favorite travel memories?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Napa Wrap-up!

Hermosa Beach Hiking
Terrific views while hiking in Hermosa!
OK, OK, I'll be honest...this post wraps up more than just Napa Valley. It also wraps up my time in LA- but, Napa Wrap-up sounds much cooler than Cali wrap-up, so Napa it is! In any case...

loving my time in LA with these gals!
While in LA, I was able to spend a terrific two days with one of my good friends from college. We relaxed, hiked, lounged on the beach, and overall just caught up on the last year we had spent apart- and now, I'm already counting down the days until our next reunion! After my time in LA, it was time to jet up to Napa Valley for a terrifically memorable wine tasting trip!

Silver Oak Review
entrance to Silver Oak in Napa Valley!
Because I knew that I had a short 48 hours in Napa, I wanted to make the most of my time! I started the day off with an exquisite trip to Silver Oak. Silver Oak is an iconic vineyard, and I've actually got a special story about Nick and I's first date that surrounds Silver Oak- stay tuned for that when I review the vineyard! I purposefully scheduled wine tastings several hours apart so that I would be able to fully relax and enjoy the full experience that each vineyard had to offer.

Trefethen Review
Tasting wines at Trefethen!
After visiting Silver Oak, it was off for a delicious lunch before heading to Trefethen Vineyards for a family-driven experience. The property at Trefethen was just stunning. I can only picture how much more cozy it will become as they finish the reparations and restructuring after the damage caused by the May 2014 earthquake.

After visiting Trefethen, I headed back towards Oak Knoll to check into my Airbnb location and relax for a few hours before dinner. I had received very high recommendations to Bistro Don Giovani, so had reservations to check it out for the night! My first night in Napa Valley was a quick one, as I knew that I had a busy day of wine tastings and exploration ahead of me.

Chandon Review
Which Chandon wine would you prefer?

On Saturday, I was able to visit two more terrific vineyards. I started the day out with a spectacular trip to Chandon. The atmosphere at Chandon was truly unique, warm, and welcoming, inviting you to really stay and enjoy the experience with your friends, family, and others visiting the vineyard. Beyond the atmosphere, the beautiful grounds and gardening make you want to stay for hours! After enjoying our experience at Chandon, it was time for a quick stop for a delicious meal- taco truck, here we come!

Nickel & Nickel Review
The stunning property at Nickel & Nickel!
The wine tasting experience of the weekend concluded with a stop at Nickel & Nickel. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Nickel & Nickel, they feature spectacular single-vineyard wines. On top of that, the property is stunning and soaked in history.

the sun has set on my time in California for now- but I will be back!!
Beyond visiting Silver Oak, Trefethen, Chandon, and Nickel & Nickel, Nick and I were able to stop at several different wineries and tasting rooms to truly get a full Napa Valley experience. Each of the vineyards that I visited were so unique, and offered such a different and fabulous experience. If I learned anything beyond wine knowledge in Napa Valley, it is that Napa really has something for everyone! Whether you are looking for luxury, relaxation, a family experience, or a chance to meet new friends, there will be a vineyard and tasting experience for you. This post is just a quick overview of my time in California- stay tuned for plenty of more posts and information on Napa Valley and California in general! I'll be posting about each of these fabulous vineyards, where to stay and eat in Napa, hiking in California, and how to have a great time while still saving a bit of money. For those who have been to Napa before, where is your favorite vineyard and why? If you haven't been to Napa, which of these vineyards would you most like to visit?!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Travel Personality // A Mish Mash

Lately, the post going around blog land is all about travel personalities. As much as I'd love to say that I have one, let's be honest... I don't. I'm a complete mish mash of every personality out there. I'm a little bit adventurous, romantic, intellectual, touristy, wanderer, the list of different types goes on. If I had to sum it all up, I'd say I'm a pretty easygoing traveler. So for today, let's take a deeper look at each of the different personalities and how they make me into a pretty easygoing traveler!

Taking Nick scuba diving for his first time this past spring while in Punta Cana!
I love exploring new places, and ones that are slightly off the beaten path. Even in those places, I like to do interesting things. A great example I can think of is with Nick and I- he loves Cancun (because Cancun really does have everything, and you know what you are getting into every time) while I love exploring new places. As such, on our most recent trip I got to choose the destination- Dominican Republic- while he chose an activity, which was supposed to be snorkeling. After a few brief minutes with the awesome staff of Passion Paradise Adventures, he was quickly convinced to try scuba diving, loved it, and now has joined me on my desire to go shark diving in South Africa or Australia!

When it comes to traveling, I'm 1000% organized. Prior to leaving the house, I will have made a checklist, made a checklist to remind myself to do everything on that checklist, and made about six revised copies of both said checklists....and this is just when it comes to packing and leaving the house. Throw in trying to plan a trip, and I can be a little bit...

The first time I traveled to Oktoberfest 2 years ago was my brothers choice....but we both loved it
so much we decided to go back with more of our family this past year!
I can never pick a destination. Give me a few options, and I will sort through the pros and cons for several days, to perhaps either add a few more options to the list or finally make a selection. When traveling, I actually prefer if Nick selects the destination (and the hotel!) while I decide on the activities once we are there.

Budget Conscious
We selected Thailand for our honeymoon because
of how cheap the country (overall) is!
I'll be the first to admit, I'm pretty budget conscious when it comes to traveling. I would rather have multiple budget-friendly trips a year than one grand trip per year. As of yet, time has not really been my constraint while traveling- so I've tended to pick countries that have a cheaper daily cost of living (such as my honeymoon in Thailand!) in order to extend my stay. At the same time, I'm certainly willing to splurge on the things that I deem truly necessary...

Classical Dreamer

visited a vineyard in Des Moines prior to heading to Napa Valley!
If you ask Nick, I've been dying to go to Napa Valley, and reminded him of that every chance I have had over the last few years. As such, we will finally be doing that this coming week! The only thing that has really thrown a wrench in our Napa plans over the last several years has been my cheapness. When it comes to more pricey things (like trips to Napa, purchasing new cars, and other expensive things!) I would almost not know how much they cost. For my trip next week though, I'm willing to dole out the dough to have this experience crossed off my bucket list!

I love relaxing...
Taking advantage of the swim-up bar while at the all-inclusive Chic Punta Cana this spring!
Vacations are my off days, and the primary days of the year in which I get to relax with Nick (or my friends and family) without having to worry about nine million things that need to be accomplished. For this type of traveler, all inclusive resorts can be ideal- you get to sit back with unlimited cocktails in your hand, waiting for somebody to cater to your every need. Living my entire life in cooler climates - think Minnesota (-20C) or Sweden (0C) in the winters, the beach is always something that seems to be calling my name for vacations. However, I can never seem to relax, because...

But I hate "sitting still"

Spending an entire day (or more!) laying on the beach is just not me. If I am laying on the beach, I need a book in my hand, music in my ears, somebody to talk to, and a cocktail in my other hand...if not more things to do. While relaxing on vacation is great, I want to explore the new places I am seeing, meet some of the people, and overall just enjoy the new place! After all, if I'm just going to lounge around and not get out, what is the point in even leaving the house? And I'll be honest, writing a travel blog has certainly influenced this travel characteristic of mine. I don't think anyone here is reading my blog to see daily bikini pictures of me while on vacation- I know that's not what I look for when reading blogs- so let's get out and have some great adventures!

Greece, just one of the many places on my list (hint, hint, hubby!)
Overall, if I had to sum all of this up...I'd say that I'm a pretty easygoing traveler. I don't mind handing the reins over and letting somebody else plan the trip, but I also like to participate in the planning at times. I like the old, the new, the relaxing, the adventurous, the cheap, and the expensive. The best quote I can think of for myself when it comes to traveling is "I haven't been everywhere, but it is on my list!" What type of traveler are you?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

DIY Drink Coasters For a Travel Lover!

Our memories from the last two years, preserved in drink coasters!
When Nick and I moved down to Des Moines a few weeks ago, I was excited to get started on some cute DIY projects. For the first project, I knew that I wanted to include some memories from our last years in Sweden and traveling around the world. As soon as I saw this project for DIY coasters on Pinterest, I knew that it was the perfect project to personalize our home and utilize some of the great travel photos that we have!

DIY travel projects
all of the supplies for this awesome travel DIY project!
Supplies that you will need for this project include:
-6-8 4X4 inch white tiles
-6-8 4x4 pictures
-modge podge
-paint brush
-polyurethane spray
-circular felt pads

To begin this project, you'll have to gather the above supplies. Take some time picking out the perfect pictures- I selected a variety of pictures, from landscapes to photos of Nick and I. I quickly discovered that the landscape pictures looked the best versus photos of people- which means this DIY project was even more perfect for our travel memories! Tips for this are to select brightly colored pictures, so that the colors pop even more. These DIY travel-themed drink coasters are the perfect conversation starter for your home, or gift for a travel lover!

DIY drink coasters
The perfect gift for a travel-lover!
Begin by covering your work space in newspaper or cardboard. Using a scissors, round the edges of the pictures. Once this is completed, use the brush and paint a thin layer of modge podge directly onto a tile. Quickly place and center a photograph onto the tile. Repeat this process for each tile, and then allow 20-30 minutes for the modge podge to dry and secure the picture onto the tile.

Thin layers of modge podge work best because they dry more quickly!
Once the tiles have dried, paint another thin layer of modge podge on top of the picture. Repeat this process on each tile, and then allow the tiles to dry for 20-30 minutes. Use several layers of modge podge, taking time to smooth it over the pictures and ensure the pictures are fully covered. Once thick enough (3-4 layers), allow the tiles to dry overnight.

A helpful tip: if you use too much modge podge and it doesn't dry overnight, this can be remedied! Place the tiles on a baking sheet in a warm oven for 2-3 minutes. The modge podge will melt together and be smooth once again! Don't overdo this step though- make sure to check on the tiles every 30 seconds, as the process goes quickly!

The next day, step into the sunlight and spray two layers polyurethane on top of the tiles. Allow this to dry overnight as well.

The DIY travel-themed coasters I made for my Mom after our European trip this last year!
The last step is to put circular felt pads on the bottom of the coasters so they don't scratch your furniture, and then you are all done! With just a bit of creativity and time, these coasters are the perfect way to reflect on terrific travel memories. For a DIY travel project, look no further!

For Nick and I's pictures, I used several pictures from our last year in Västerås- the city is so picture-perfect! As well, we used pictures from Germany, Norway, and Thailand. Since making this set of coasters, I've used this idea several time as gifts for both my parents and Nick's parents. These really are the perfect gift for anybody! A set of 8 coasters will only cost about $5 to make (assuming you have the modge podge, brushes, and polyurethane). The perfect gift at the perfect price- what more could you ask for?!
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