Sunday, September 27, 2015

10 Essential Things To Include In Your Media Kit

what to include in media kit

Last week, I published about why every blogger should have a media kit. However, the creation of a media kit is certainly not the easiest thing in the world. As a blogger, your media kit needs to explain the value that you contribute to a business, and why you are worthy of their time, effort, or money. Creating a media kit can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task, which is why today I am going to break down all of the essential items to include, and how they help to establish you as a professional to the marketer or company you are pitching! Of course, this is created with a blogger in mind- but it can be applicable to any business!

Don't worry, you are off to a great start. You have decided to make a media kit. What should you include in the media kit? I've broken it down nice and easy, with the ten most essential items to include in any media kit!

1. Your business name & your name. This should be the first and foremost aspect of your media kit. Who are you, and what is your blog? What do you focus on and write about? This is different for every blogger, and this will also be known as your niche. Even within the travel blogging industry, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different niches. What differentiates you?

2. Your URL. You are a blogger- what is your site name? I know tons of bloggers who have a slightly different site name than their URL. Make sure to include your URL so that companies can easily access your site and check out your work!

3. Your value-added proposition. What specifically can you offer the company you are pitching? Companies want to know that whatever investment they make in you will be returned. Explain to the company you are pitching what value you will add to their business in order to hook them in. While you are explaining how they will benefit by working with you, make sure to explain...

4. Various ways in which you are willing to work with companies. Lay it all out for the company you are pitching- what are you willing to do for them? Whether it is a sponsored post, an advertisement on your sidebar, or social media exposure- companies want to know exactly what you will be offering them.

5. Previous companies or partnerships you have had. Companies want to see that you have a proven record of success. Who have you worked with before? If you are just starting out, this might be a terrific time to begin working with companies- even if you are working for free- if only to have the names of a few companies. Wow them, and then ask for a recommendation. These recommendations can take your media kit one step further. If you have a proven history of impressing companies that you work with, other companies will be more willing to work with you.

6. Relevant site statistics and social media information. Even if you are just starting out, include your relevant statistics! Perhaps you've only been blogging a few months, but you have a huge (and established!) social media following. Include this- it helps companies to know exactly how large of an audience they will be reaching simply by working with you.

7. The date of your media kit. Marketers want to know how recent - or ancient - your media kit is. Have you updated it within the last several months, or are you reflecting old (and likely inaccurate) information? Personally, I update my media kit every single month and include the month and year of my media kit at the bottom of each page. This communicates to the marketer that I am reflecting accurate information. On top of that, it tells the marketer how hard I will work for them- they want to know that you are continuously working to improve and update information!

8. Pictures! Of course, this depends on what you offer companies. The longer I have been blogging and taking it seriously, I have spent more and more time working on taking excellent pictures. Between my newly found skills and a great camera, one of the things that I can offer to companies is beautiful, realistic pictures of the product they are offering. As a travel and lifestyle blogger, it is essential that my media kit includes pictures. I'll be honest, I do feature more recognizable destinations in my media kit- Paris & the Eiffel Tower, Berlin & Brandenburg Gate, Big Buddha in Thailand.

9. Frequently asked questions. The longer you have a media kit, the more you will learn what companies are inquiring about. If you frequently are asked the same question by different companies, perhaps it is time to include this tidbit of information in your media kit.

10. Contact information. This is one of, if not the, most important aspect of your media kit. How can the company you are pitching get in contact with you? Your contact information should be highlighted, and ideally have several different methods of contact. I list my e-mail in addition to my twitter and Instagram handles. Because these are my main accounts, they are the methods I am most comfortable communicating with companies through. Make it as easy as possible for companies to contact you and begin working with you!

Overall, the creation of a media kit is much easier said than done. Personally, one of the things that I struggled with when creating my kit was writing about myself and acknowledging all of my accomplishments. For this part, I reached out to family and friends to receive help. It can be hard to brag about yourself- but essentially, that is exactly what a media kit is for! Who are you, what have you accomplished, and why should every company want to work with you?

One important thing to remember when creating and sending out your media kit is that just sending it out doesn't mean your job is done. Research the company you are pitching, and make sure your media kit is relevant to them. When pitching the company, custom tailor your pitch to that company and exactly why you can benefit them. Once the initial pitch is done, absolutely do not forget to follow up! Following up a few days or a week after you send out your initial pitch is absolutely essential.

For other bloggers, do you have a media kit? How have you seen it benefit you, and are there any elements of the media kit that I have missed? If you liked this post, please pin it!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Weekly Wanderlust: At Home in Des Moines, Iowa!

Welcome to week three of Wednesday Wanderlust! This week, we are back in the U.S., and I figured there was no better city to spotlight than my current home of Des Moines, Iowa! On top of many various reasons to feature Des Moines, just last week I had the opportunity to speak briefly with the mayor of Des Moines himself. On my way home from Coeur D'Alene, I just so happened to be seated next to him on the flight, and knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity to ask him a quick question about tourism in Des Moines! In any case, more on that shortly... let's get on to this weeks city spotlight!

Beautiful night at the Iowa State Fair in August!
Location: Des Moines- DSM for short- is located in the heart of Iowa, which is also (almost!) the heart of the United States. It is close to several major cities including Chicago; Minneapolis (my home!); Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Lincoln, Nebraska.

enjoying a day at the Iowa State Fair!
Population: Des Moines is a growing city, with a current population of just over 200,000 people. It is known as one of the top insurance hubs in the U.S., as well as a great financial hub. Some of the top companies located here include Wells Fargo, Athene, and Principal Financial Group. If you are looking for a position in the financial or insurance world, Des Moines is a great destination for you to begin a career!

Where to stay: Both downtown DSM and West Des Moines are going to be great options for staying. Downtown will of course feature the convenient location to tons of restaurants and attractions including the ball park and Wells Fargo Arena (hockey!). Out in West Des Moines, you will have a little quieter of an area, but still a great location with proximity to the freeways, tons of boutique shopping, and any restaurant you could ever dream of.

Iowa has absolutely beautiful sunsets!
When to visit: Des Moines is definitely a city that you want to visit during the summer or fall months. If I had to pick a specific month, I would for sure say either August or September! During the month of August, it will be hot out (90+ during the day!), but there are tons of activities. From the Iowa State Fair to the beginning of tailgate season and tons of various festivals, August is a terrific month to visit Des Moines. Otherwise, September, even extending into October, is another great time to visit- again, with tons of festivals and fairs there is certainly something for everyone. Just last weekend, Des Moines hosted the World Food & Music Festival. This coming weekend, DSM will be having an Oktoberfest of their own! As such, I truly feel that the best months to visit Des Moines is August or September.

Great day trips: Des Moines is really in a great spot if you are looking to escape from the big city for the day. Located just 3.5 hours from Minneapolis and 5 hours from Chicago, you can certainly escape from the city for a day or two and discover this new place. If you are located in Des Moines, my personal favorite place to check out is the High Trestle Trail Bridge in Madrid, Iowa! The High Trestle Trail Bridge is located about 25 minutes from Iowa, and there are some great walking and biking paths along the Des Moines River. Plus, the bridge is such a cool architectural piece it will make for great photographs! Another great spot (that I haven't yet visited) is the Amana Colonies. The Amana Colonies are seven Amish villages that have maintained a self-sustaining lifestyle for over 80 years. Now, it is a great way to take a step back in time and relax on a day off!

Advice from the Mayor: OK, time to get to the good stuff! As I mentioned above, I had the opportunity to ask the mayor of Des Moines a few quick questions. One of the things I asked about is tourism in Des Moines, and why he thinks people should visit the city. He was quick to point out that Des Moines has become well known for their great culinary talent as well as the arts and theater. With several culinary schools in town, each and every restaurant has stepped up their game and the local restaurants feature tons of great cuisine. DSM is also known for Broadway musicals, many of which will open in DSM prior to heading to larger cities like Chicago or Minneapolis. Check these out for a fraction of the big-city cost!

enjoying a glass of wine at Des Moines' own Jasper Winery!
What to do: There are lots of great things to do in Des Moines. Firstly, Des Moines is a growing city that has all of the amenities of a big city, without a lot of the problems. For example, traffic is nonexistent (in my opinion, being used to a big city!) Des Moines is a small city with a big city feel. There is almost every major sport here, and you can go see the games for a fraction of the cost. From the Iowa Cubs to the Iowa Wild, every season will be covered! In addition to sports, there are great places such as Jasper's Winery, the Farmer's Market, all sorts of other events as mentioned above.

Being 100% honest, I never saw myself living in Iowa. If you had asked me, I would have said I didn't want to live in Iowa. But, times change and life moves on, so here I am! I have been working to do my best to explore Iowa and see everything there is to see- because life is what you make of it! For my readers, have you ever visited Des Moines and found great things to do? Have you ever moved somewhere that isn't ideal and found a way to make the best of it?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Squirrel Monkeys & More At Monkeyland!

Carlos, the alpha male squirrel monkey at Monkeyland Punta Cana
Everybody, and I mean everybody, loves squirrel monkeys. Even prior to ever having met a squirrel monkey, I knew that they were supposed to be one of the most friendly creatures in the planet, on top of being adorable! When I found out that I would have the opportunity to not only meet and interact with these adorable critters, but also to become immersed in the culture of the Dominican Republic, I knew I had to take advantage of it! As such, while visiting Punta Cana this past spring I took a half-day trip with Runners Adventures.

This day trip started out at Monkeyland. Exactly as it sounds, Monkeyland is the home of the squirrel monkeys! In addition to being home of the monkeys, Monkeyland also features a botanical garden, where you are able to learn about plants and flowers that are native to the Dominican Republic. The entire property is spread out over 5 acres, and is located right in the heart of the forest.

I'll be honest, I was a little uneasy about this trip after my previous experience with elephants in Thailand. I did tons of research on Monkeyland prior to visiting, and my visit not only met my expectations for the safety and care of the animals but far surpassed them! I was so happy to interact with the staff and learn how much they cared for and really loved animals. Gwen and Mike, a Canadian couple who are the primary caretakers of the monkeys, have a combined experience of over 35 years spent caring for animals, with 12 of that being spent at the Toronto Zoo. Throughout the entire experience, it was so easy to see how much they truly cared for and loved the animals!

Once the entire tour group has arrived and viewed the botanical garden, you are instructed to remove any loose jewelry (the monkeys will love it and snatch it!) prior to entering the garden. Each person is given a 'snack bowl' full of nuts and fruits for the monkeys. After some brief instructions, it is time to enter!

I think this one speaks for itself!
Upon entering the enclosure, any children in the group are able to sit down in the prime location of the tour: right on a bench near several low-hanging branches. Slowly, the squirrel monkeys came out of hiding and began grabbing little bites of food from each of the children. This was a great way to get the children involved and super excited about the trip, and also to slowly bring the monkeys out of hiding and get them running around with everyone.

After some time with the children, we meandered along a path that had several great stopping points where various squirrel monkeys could come out and interact with us. They were all so friendly, and it was clear that they loved the attention and interaction with humans! While strolling through Monkeyland, Gwen did a terrific job of telling us stories about the monkeys and really educating each person in our tour group on the life of the monkeys.

I kept watching the monkeys, not looking at the camera...oops! 
One of the great things we learned is that contrary to popular belief, squirrel monkeys actually have a longer lifespan living in semi-captivity (like at Monkeyland) than if they are living in the wild. This is because there are no predators that attack the young, old, or sick monkeys. At Monkeyland, the semi-captive environment is more than enough for the current squirrel monkey population- the 5-acre property could easily accommodate at least 2-3 times the current population of the squirrel monkeys.

"Hey, what you looking at?!" is what I pictured this guy saying!
One of the very interesting stories we heard was the interaction between Carlos, the current alpha male of the pack, and a younger, 3-year old male monkey who was just coming to maturity. As the alpha male, Carlos sensed that this other male squirrel monkey (I forget his name!) may one day be competition. As such, Carlos actually began bullying this other guy and almost beat him to death. Fortunately, Gwen and Mike realized what was going on and stepped in, bringing this other guy to a separate enclosure and saving his life. They currently have plans to create a full-sized secondary enclosure and allow this guy to create his own pack!

Carlos striking a pose- such a show off!
"Ooh, wait, get my good side!"
Snack time!
In any case, the monkeys were so adorable, friendly, and each of them had such unique personalities. The alpha male, Carlos, was definitely a show-off! You can see several pictures of him here strutting his stuff and showing off for us (and the female monkeys!) When we visited at the end of April, it was nearing the end of mating season, so Carlos was in full show-off mood. It was very interesting to learn that specifically for mating season, the male monkeys will bulk up- you can see how much larger and muscular Carlos looks versus any of the other monkeys!

Maria's house
After our trip to Monkeyland, it was on to visit a traditional Dominican farm. The farm featured Maria and her family. While visiting Maria, you will have the opportunity to see a coffee and cocoa plantation, as well as tasting each of these products and some fresh Dominican fruit. At the end of this tour, you will have the opportunity to see Maria's house and how a typical Dominican family lives. This was a great experience to be immersed in the culture and get off the beaten, touristy path a little bit!

Working with the cocoa beans!
Overall, this excursion is an ideal excursion for families. The squirrel monkeys are a hit not only for the children, but also for any animal-loving adult! Visiting the farm and Maria's house is tailored more towards adults, but each of our guides did a great job of trying to include the children and keeping them interested.

A couple pieces of advice for this tour. First, definitely consider combining Monkeyland with Ziplining! The drive can be a long, bumpy one, and the two activities are located close to each other. In addition, make sure that you eat breakfast prior to this trip. It can get to be a long one, especially if you are hungry! I didn't have much of an opportunity to eat breakfast prior to Monkeyland but had fortunately brought with a snack, and it certainly saved the day! If you are visiting Punta Cana, either as adults or with a family, this is absolutely one of the best things to do!

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

Friday, September 18, 2015

Anniversary Surprise Trip to Coeur D'Alene!

I absolutely fell in love with this beautiful place!
As those of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter know, I just returned home from a surprise trip to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. Now, to many, Idaho certainly does not sound like a tourist destination. Or like it would be pretty - let alone gorgeous! Let me assure you though, Coeur D'Alene was absolutely stunning and stole my heart. Today, I want to give you a quick wrap up of how this trip came to be, and all of the wonderful things I was able to do while in Coeur D'Alene!

Strolling the boardwalk with the love of my life!
A few months ago, Nick found out that he would most likely be traveling for work to Coeur D'Alene September 14-16. He's been on the road almost every week for the last eight weeks- in between trips to Minnesota and Wisconsin, he has headed to Boston, Washington D.C., and Sacramento. However, this trip was different. First, because I had always heard Coeur D'Alene was beautiful, and second, because we were celebrating our second wedding anniversary on September 14! Naturally, I asked if I could tag along on the trip. Not realizing how beautiful Coeur D'Alene was, Nick kind of brushed the idea aside (or so I thought!) for the next couple of months. All of a sudden, as I was trying to make anniversary plans for us here in Des Moines, I found out that he had arranged for me to take the time off work and purchased a ticket for me to join him! (talk about an amazing husband...!)

A quick pit stop in Post Falls, Idaho!
Nonetheless, fast forward until we land in Spokane, Washington. Coeur D'Alene is about 30 minutes outside of Spokane, so as soon as we had landed and collected our bags off we went! About 15 minutes into our drive and all of a sudden we crossed this stunning bridge, with a backdrop of a deep ravine and waterfall in the background. Despite wanting to get to the hotel and checked in, Nick pulled off to the side of the road and we had a quick pit-stop in Post Falls!

Slightly blurry...but gosh, was Post Falls ever beautiful!
We only strolled around Post Falls for 20 or 30 minutes, but the entire park area we visited was beautiful. Unfortunately, the beautiful waterfall we saw from the road with the steep ravine was a bit different of a view close up. However, with the beautiful bridge, clear water reflecting everything, and a gorgeous park area- you couldn't ask for a much better pit stop!

After getting back on the road, we finally made it to our destination at the Coeur D'Alene Resort, right on lake Coeur D'Alene. Once we had checked in, I decided to head out and explore the town solo! With a population of just over 40,000, Coeur D'Alene is definitely a small town that has embraced tourism. As such, strolling the streets it was amazing to see all of the locally owned shops and boutiques that still had an upscale feel. I didn't recognize a single store or restaurant, which was terrific because it really meant that Coeur D'Alene had maintained the small town feel.

Walking along the boardwalk in Coeur D'Alene!
Other than exploring the town, I spent a ton of time walking the world's longest floating boardwalk and hiking Tubbs Hill. All of the views along the waterfront were spectacular. My only regret is that the sun did not come out to play for too long during my trip, so I was never able to catch a sunrise or sunset! Both of these are supposed to be just stunning in Coeur D'Alene.

One of the things that surprised me the most with visiting Coeur D'Alene was our date night at Tony's On The Lake. Tony's was established by the D'Alessandro family, who emigrated to the U.S. from Italy in 1909. If there is one thing I love, it is fabulous Italian food. Well, Tony's not only had some of the best Italian food I have ever had, but the service was far superior to almost any restaurant I've visited in the world. Definitely not what I was expecting in Idaho, but oh my gosh! Beyond wanting to return to Coeur D'Alene for the stunning views, I will certainly be returning so that I can have the pleasure of dining at Tony's again.

so many beautiful murals in town!
The other thing that I really enjoyed about Coeur D'Alene (really, what didn't I enjoy?) was the amazing kindness of each individual I came across. Now, in Minnesota we like to call ourselves Minnesota Nice- but the Coeur D'Alene people have certainly adopted that mentality! Each person that I interacted with, whether a staff member at the restaurants or hotel, somebody in a shop, or random people I encountered while hiking- was so warm and friendly. There is definitely something about small towns that will make you fall in love!

taking in the gorgeous views!
This trip was absolutely so amazing. If you had asked me a year- or even six months ago- if I thought I'd be celebrating my second anniversary in Idaho, I would have probably laughed at you. Looking back at how things have changed, it is a truly great reminder that sometimes life's unexpected turns bring us some of the greatest things. I can't wait to continue to share more beautiful pictures and memories from Coeur D'Alene with you!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

City Spotlight: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Welcome to week two of weekly wanderlust! As promised, this week we are going to head international and take a look at the gorgeous city of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic! Punta Cana has always been on my radar as it is a relatively popular tourist destination. During the long winters in Minnesota, everyone loves to get out of town and escape to a sunny destination, so this past year I was super excited to be headed to Punta Cana for my first time! Without further ado, lets take a look at everything you need to know about Punta Cana!

Location: Punta Cana is located on the eastern-most tip of the Dominican Republic, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Punta Cana is most known for the 32-kilometer long stretch of gorgeous white sand beaches, dotted with plenty of palm trees and luxurious resorts.

Population: Punta Cana has a population of just over 100,000. An estimated 80% of the population in Punta Cana is Haitian, coming to Punta Cana to work from the neighboring country of Haiti.

Named for: Punta Cana is named for a specific type of palm trees, the Cana palm trees. While in Punta Cana one of my awesome tour guides was able to point out several different types of palm trees, including not only the Cana trees but also the Royal Palms. Before heading to Punta Cana, definitely take a look at the types of palm trees so you too can differentiate them!

my favorite view in the world- out the window of a plane!
How to get here: Getting to Punta Cana is very easy- as long as you aren't scared of flying! Because the Dominican Republic is located on an island in the middle of the Caribbean, the easiest way to get to Punta Cana is to fly to Punta Cana International Airport. The airport welcomes over 6 million passengers each year. Upon arrival, be prepared to pay $10 cash per visitor for your 'tourist visa'. Other methods of getting to Punta Cana would certainly include taking a Caribbean Cruise. Personally, I would recommend flying in and out of Punta Cana versus the cruise route, as there is not a ton of things to do and see within the city if you are only there for a short time.

the swim-up bar at Chic by Royalton was second to none!
Where to stay: There are hundreds of resorts located along the Bavaro Beach area in Punta Cana, and certainly one for everybody and every budget. Nick and I stayed at several different resorts while we were visiting Punta Cana. By far, our favorite resort is the brand new Chic by Royalton. The resort was gorgeous, the staff friendly, and overall an excellent experience! My biggest piece of advice when selecting a resort is to find one along the water, and take any published reviews with a grain of salt. Many people will complain about the lack of English speaking resort workers- to those reviewers, you should keep in mind that you are visiting a country that speaks Spanish as their first language, not English!

When to visit: Punta Cana is known for relatively stable, sunny, and warm weather year-round. However, the hot and humid season will last from May to October while the months of November through April will be slightly cooler. The warm months will get up to 95 degrees (35C), while during the cool months at night the temperatures will dip down to 65 degrees (20C). Punta Cana is definitely a destination that you can visit at one point of the year and have a terrific time!

Fun facts: While out and about in Punta Cana, you will see tons of yellow school buses imported from the United States. However, don't be fooled like I was originally- the yellow school buses are not bringing children to and from school; rather, they are bringing in the resort workers from neighboring cities.

What to do: As a tourist destination, there are tons of different things to do in Punta Cana. I stayed in the city for 10 days, and in that time was just barely able to scratch the surface of all the terrific things to do in the area! My best recommendation is definitely to stay in an all-inclusive resort along the beach. While there are tons of different activities to do during the day, the city does not have a ton of restaurants or night life. I even asked one of my tour guides who was born and raised in Punta Cana for a restaurant recommendation in the city, and he was absolutely unable to come up with a recommendation where we would be able to enjoy the experience.

While in Punta Cana, some of the activities I was able to partake in included scuba diving, zip lining, and a day spent at the Bavaro Adventure Park. Truly, you will be able to take part in just about any activity you can imagine! While your resort can always help you out with reservations, there will also be tour operators strolling along the beach. Parasailing, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddle boarding are all popular activities.

Amazing scuba diving!
My quick recommendations for visiting Punta Cana? If you are looking to go snorkeling or scuba diving, you will want to take the time to head south on the island towards the La Romana area. The La Romana area will be less wavy, and thus much better for these types of water activities. I had an absolutely terrific experience with Passion Paradise Adventures, and can't recommend them more.

Zip-lining will always be a great activity. Runners Adventures features the longest zip-line in the Dominican Republic, and is a terrific experience for the day. We also visited monkey land with Runners Adventures (what an awesome activity, especially for children!). The only thing I didn't get to do while in Punta Cana was go parasailing, which would be a terrific way to see the island. I skipped out on this as I've gone parasailing before, and we had a private plane ride along the coast. Next time, for sure!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why Every Blogger Needs a Media Kit

A little less than a year ago, I made the decision to start taking my blog more seriously. With that, came the decision to rebrand from Hockey Wife, Hockey Life, to a name that would always fit me: Samantha Angell. In addition to this rebrand, two of the absolutely essential tools I've begun using are a media kit and business cards. A few months ago, I published a post on blog investments you should make, including having business cards. Today, I'm going to talk about why every blogger needs a media kit, and the essential elements of the kit!

What is a media kit? There are tons of different terms for a media kit. Originally, and to this day, a media kit was known as a press kit. However, over time the press kit has evolved as it is mainly used as a tool to speak with various advertising mediums, thus adopting the term media kit. A media kit, or a press kit, is a resume for your company. Similar to how a resume boasts your accomplishments and experience, a media kit will do the exact same thing for your company, all in one professional document. Now that we know exactly what a media kit is, let's take a quick look at why every blogger needs to have a media kit and the benefits of the media kit!

A media kit establishes you as a professional. This is the most important reason to having a media kit. A media kit will establish you as a professional, because companies will recognize the hard work and effort you have put into your media kit. There are so many different necessary elements to include in a media kit (stay tuned for a post later this week on these elements!), but the media kit is the best way to establish yourself and a solid rapport with a potential client. 

In addition to establishing you as a professional, a media kit is the place where you can showcase yourself. No, it isn't bragging, because you are backing it up with statistics and solid information. Take the time to highlight all of your accomplishments, and why every company should be dying to work with you. Maybe it is your impressive site views, or an extensive social media following. A media kit is your place to showcase every single thing that makes you great!

A media kit can answer many questions for companies, all in one document. Sure, it is easy to send out a couple of e-mails to a company. Why not make it easy on both the company and yourself and answer any questions they may have in one fell swoop? Often, the information included in your media kit will answer questions that companies didn't even know they had. This is especially applicable if the person you are pitching is not accustomed to you, your blog (or business!), and the services you are offering. Simply having a media kit will familiarize them with each different aspect included with working with you.

A media kit is meant to differentiate you, and everyone should have a different one. In my opinion, no two media kits should be the same! As a travel blogger, one of the things I can offer companies is social media promotion through the use of various social media sites and great photographs. Because of this, my media kit includes tons of pictures from around the world. However, there are tons of different blogging niches that it may not be applicable to have as many pictures in the media kit. Discover what works best for you and run with that!

A media kit can be a great tool for your (outside) career. I've used my media kit as a tool and way to show off my skills when applying for jobs outside of the blogging world. I've mentioned it before on here, but I am working towards my MBA in International Marketing. Obviously, media kits are huge in the marketing world. However, the knowledge and skills shown in a media kit can be relevant in so many different industries! Marketing, advertising, public relations, sales, management- almost any business-related position will understand what your media kit says about you. If you are in a relevant industry, don't be afraid to use your media kit as a tool and example of your work.

I first created my media kit in December of last year. Prior to then, I had worked with only one or two companies. Since the creation of my media kit, I've noticed how it is infinitely easier to contact companies and pitch them with my ideas. Similar to my previous post on why business cards are absolutely essential, I truly feel that every blogger needs a media kit! Bloggers, have you created a media kit? What do you feel the benefits of a media kit are? P.S.- if you liked this post, please, pin it!

Monday, September 14, 2015

6 Ways To Maximize Your Time at Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest, in my opinion, is the happiest place on Earth. I know, I know, supposedly that is Disneyworld...but it really isn't. Disney World (in my opinion) is filled with long lines, screaming kids, and way too many people not knowing what they are doing or how to have fun. On the other hand, give me a pretty much adults-only, weeks long party, filled with delicious food and beer, and you essentially have the definition of the happiest place on Earth. However, Oktoberfest isn't always the easiest of experiences to navigate, especially for a newcomer. As such, here are the six most important things you need to know to maximize your Oktoberfest experience, especially as it is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

1. The name is misleading. I'll be honest, prior to attending a German Oktoberfest, I thought this was a beer drinking festival held in October. It was not until planning to attend Oktoberfest- and luckily, researching it- about five minutes before booking my ticket to Munich- that I learned Oktoberfest really isn't all about October. Oktoberfest is held to celebrate the coming of October, and is thus held for sixteen days leading up to the first Sunday in October. At the same time, just because you are participating in celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich, doesn't mean that it will be the authentic German experience you are hoping for. More and more, Oktoberfest has become a huge tourist attraction.

2.  You ABSOLUTELY must dress the part! There is nothing I can stress more. Whether or not you have reservations, whether you are going for one hour or one week, dressing the part is 100% essential. It will help you gain entrance to the tents, get in the mood, fit in, and have an absolute blast. If there is one thing you MUST do while attending Oktoberfest, it is dressing the part!

3. It will be a long, exhausting experience. In general, if you don't have reservations- and even if you do- the earlier you can arrive to Oktoberfest the better. It will give you a chance to explore the grounds from the outside, as well as plenty of time to spend inside the tents. Combine an already long day with tons of people and consuming beer by the liter, and the days will end up becoming very long very quickly.

4. When your plans change, it will be necessary to adapt. Unfortunately, when traveling things don't always go as planned. If something changes, be flexible and ready to adapt! Last year, of the 4 people I was attending Oktoberfest with (including myself), every single one of us had a delayed, missed, or cancelled flight. However, you must learn to make the best of the experience, laugh it off, and prepare to have the time of your life! In addition to travel things going wrong, it is possible that you will lose something. As such, I personally recommend bringing as little as possible with you to Oktoberfest- and ladies, definitely skip bringing a purse!

Yes, thats the face I made when learning how to carry my ninth maß!
5. It is necessary to not only pace yourself, but also to learn how to properly hold your maß. As mentioned previously, any day that you spend at Oktoberfest will be a long day. Make sure to take the time- and effort- to drink some water throughout the day and eat. Although the German beer will fill you up quickly, it is important to continue to fuel your body with more than just another maß of beer. Speaking of the maß- there is a proper and an improper way to hold your beer. Don't hold the beer by the handle! Essentially, you should be placing your entire palm against the beer, and propping the handle on top of your thumb and the back of your hand. Germans will make fun of you if you don't know this beer etiquette!

6. You will make new friends, and have one of the best experiences of your life! Take 6 million visitors attending Oktoberfest and the tradition of sharing tables and inviting others to join, and you have a very social environment. Relish the experience of meeting and chatting with people from all over the world! While at Oktoberfest, I was able to meet friends from Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Canada, and even people from Minnesota and North Dakota. Taking all of these tips to make the most of your Oktoberfest experience, and these 19 essential Oktoberfest tips, and you are bound to have a terrific time!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

City Spotlight: Madeline Island, Wisconsin

Happy Wednesday and welcome to the first week of Weekly Wanderlust: City Spotlights! To kick off this new series, I'm going to take a look at Madeline Island, Wisconsin. In the spirit of full disclosure, there are actually several cities located on Madeline Island, but the area in itself was so great that I want to feature it immediately! Madeline Island is one of the lesser-known gems of the Midwest, and I was fortunate enough to visit Madeline Island for my first- and definitely not my last - time just a few weeks ago. Without further ado, here is the spotlight on this beautiful island!

Location: Madeline Island is the largest of the 22 Apostle Islands of Lake Superior. Currently, Madeline Island is the only Apostle Island open for commercial development and private ownership. Towns on the island include La Pointe, Middleport, and Old Fort.

Population: A mere 246 permanent residents! Madeline Island is a terrific destination for weekend getaways and cabin time, so much of the 'population' you will see at Madeline Island are temporary visitors.

How to get here: Madeline Island can be reached by taking a ferry from Bayfield, Wisconsin. During peak hours, ferries will run every 30 minutes to the island. You can either purchase tickets as a solo passenger on foot, or you can purchase a ticket to bring your car over to the island as well.

my first ever Paddle Boarding experience!
Where to stay: Tourism is Madeline Island's largest industry, and as such there are tons of great places to stay! You can opt to stay in a motel, a private residence rented out through sites such as Airbnb, or camping at Big Bay State Park.

Fun facts: La Pointe was voted one of the coolest small towns in America in 2011 by Budget Travel Magazine!

What to do: Madeline Island is the perfect destination for a Midwestern weekend getaway! With tourism being the main industry, there are tons of great activities for people of all ages to do. In my short time on the island, I was able to experience paddle boarding for my first time, visit Big Bay State Park and go cliff jumping, lounge at the beach, and enjoy swimming in the (albeit cold!) waters of Lake Superior. Other activities available include kayak and bike rentals, sailboating, hiking, fishing charters, and much more! My personal favorite activity was cliff jumping into the lake!

Have you ever been to Madeline Island? What do you look for when you are booking weekend getaways in the summertime?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Top 11 Things to Do In Munich, Germany!

September is certainly in full swing right now! Just under a year ago I was packing up and gearing up for my second trip to Munich for Oktoberfest. Of course, as a city Munich has so much more to offer than just Oktoberfest! In the spirit of knowing that there are tons of other great things to do while visiting Munich, today I'm going to take a look at the best eleven things to do in Munich, Germany! No matter how long you are staying in Munich, you are bound to find plentiful things to do, sights to see, and food to eat!

Celebrate Oktoberfest. Obviously, this is a given. Oktoberfest in Munich is one of the best, if not the best, attended festival in the entire world. Each year, it welcomes over 6 million visitors, in addition to the locals celebrating the holiday. Check out more information on the history of Oktoberfest! If there is ever a time of year to visit Munich, the Oktoberfest season would be it!

Stroll the English Garden. The English Garden (or Englischer Garten, in German) is essentially Munich's version of Central Park - albeit, established prior to Central Park! The park was established in 1789 and extends from the city center to the northeastern city limits. Within the park, you are guaranteed to find beautiful landscaping, boating, jogging and hiking paths. One of my personal favorite things about traveling to large cities is having the feeling that you are not in the city, and the English Garden will definitely give you that impression!

Visit Marienplatz. Marienplatz is the town square of Munich, and has held that title since 1158. In the middle ages, markets and tournaments were held in the square. Nowadays, the square hosts both the New City Hall and the Old City Hall, as well as many other attractions. Marienplatz is very centrally located and easy to access, especially as it is located on top of the U-bahn and S-bahn stations!

Check out the local scene at Viktualienmarkt! Just a short walk from Marienplatz, you will encounter Viktualienmarkt, one of the great farmers markets in Munich. Viktualienmarkt occupies over 22,000 square feet and has shops ranging from foods such as cheeses and sausages to flower shops to tourist shops. It really is one of the best ways to experience the feel of a city and understand the local appeal to Munich!

Taking a walking, biking, or Segway tour of the city. Munich is a bustling city, and as such there are tons of different things to see and ways to see them. Personally, I would recommend taking a tour of the city- a great one would be to find a free walking tour- in order to ensure you don't miss out on any of the sights! Most of the walking tours will include all of the major things listed in this post, and will also be a great way to meet other people visiting the city.

Unwind with a great Bavarian beer at one of the legendary beer halls. This is primarily for those who aren't able to attend Oktoberfest. If you can't do this, it is an absolute must while in Munich to visit an iconic beer hall, such as Hofbrauhaus, and try out a liter of the beer! In Munich, there are six original Bavarian breweries, and each of them will offer a different experience. Every city has an attraction that you simply can't skip, and for Munich, visiting the beer halls is it!

Eat a pretzel. When in Rome, right? Germany is known to have fabulous pretzels - or brezel, in German. Most places that you go, these pretzels will be larger than your head, and being fresh-baked, they are amazing!

Residenz Palace. The Residence Palace was constructed in 1385, and served as the royal palace to Bavarian monarchs from 1508 to 1918. Currently, the Residence Palace will feature gorgeous furniture, art, porcelain, and more from any decade and style to the present day. Currently, the Residenz Palace features over 130 different rooms, each with a unique and dynamic display.

Neuschwanstein Castle is just gorgeous, and the perfect day trip from Munich!
Get out of town! If you are looking for a break from the city, take a day trip to one of the great Bavarian cities located near Munich. My personal favorite would be taking a two-hour train ride to Füssen. Füssen is home to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles. Each of these castles is majestic, and most certainly the perfect way to spend a day away from Munich!

Deutsches Museum. The Deutsches museum is the world's largest museum of science and technology, and features over 28,000 exhibits. With a museum of this size, there is certain to be something for everyone! If you are curious about just about anything in the world, Deutsches Museum will have an exhibit for you.

Relax! Hey, chances are, if you are visiting Munich (or any new city!) you are on vacation. Relax, and do whatever pleases you. Just because I loved some of these attractions, doesn't mean you will. Vacationing is all about relaxing, so do whatever it is that really pleases you!

For those of you who have been to Munich before, what would you say are the top attractions? Did I miss anything on the list? No matter what you do, you really can't go wrong with a trip to Munich!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Exuding Elegance: Visiting Nickel & Nickel Vineyards

If you are looking for a unique vineyard experience that simply exudes class, elegance, and excellence; look no further than Nickel & Nickel vineyards in Napa Valley. Nickel & Nickel is known for their 'single-mindedness' in that they are committed to providing exclusively 100% varietal, single-vineyard wines. To a non-wine connoisseur, this can mean that Nickel & Nickel focus on and understand every aspect that goes into each and every wine; from the soil and grapes selected to the exact harvest date and aging processes used. While I had known this, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect while visiting Nickel & Nickel. From the moment I first arrived to the vineyard to the moment I left, I felt completely at ease and knew that I was at a winery where I would be taken care of by the best.

Entering the stunning property!
Welcome Room at Nickel & Nickel
Pulling up to Nickel & Nickel, I felt like I was entering the American Dream. The property is surrounded by a white picket fence, and you are immediately greeted and buzzed in via an intercom. Before getting further into the tour, I'll give you some more background on Nickel & Nickel and the winery. The vineyard is conveniently located in Oakville, right near the center of Napa Valley. It is located in 42 acres and was originally settled as a farmstead in the 1880s. Since then, buildings on the property from the 1700s and 1800s have been renovated to include classic touches on each and every vineyard experience.

Pre-wine tasting and tour! Isn't the property gorgeous?
Once arriving to Nickel & Nickel, you will be warmly welcomed into the John C. Sullenger House. This home was built around 1884 and recently renovated to become the welcome center and tasting room for Nickel & Nickel. The home is just stunning, and will instantly do that...make you feel at home. Once welcomed, you will be able to enjoy the ambiance of the home before beginning your tour of the vineyard and property.

Throughout your wine tour, you will be introduced to the various buildings on the property: the Gleason Barn, the Barrel Cellar, and the Fermentation Barns. Personally, my favorite area was a complete tie between the Gleason Barn and the Barrel Cellar. Each of these areas of the property was so unique, and possessed an entirely new aspect of the vineyard.

Vintage car on property!
All of the unique and vintage touches really make Nickel & Nickel stand out!
The first stop on my tour was the Gleason Barn, which is why I will start there! The Gleason Barn was built in 1770 in Meriden, New Hampshire by the Gleason family. After surviving the Revolutionary War, the hay barn was spared from demolition in 2001. Over the process of two years, the barn was dismantled and restored, being shipped in pieces to Nickel & Nickel before being reconstructed at the winery in 2003. Inside, the barn features offices and a laboratory, in addition to gorgeous touches such as antique cars!

Just wow. Pictures and words really don't do this wine cellar justice! 
The impressive fermentation room!
After leaving the Gleason Barn, we were brought to the fermentation barn and the barrel cellar. WOW is the best way to describe this. As you descend into the barrel cellar, anticipation builds until the entire 30,000 square foot subterranean cellar is laid out before you. Row after row of French Oak barrels is displayed, housing and aging the wine perfectly. The rows seem never-ending, and you can almost taste the wine as you are breathing in the delicious scent of the barrel cellar. Truly, this is an experience you have to see to believe.

Our wine and cheese tasting!
Once we had completed our tour and exploration of the property, it was back to the main house to taste some delicious wines! The tasting was very elegant, as you walk into the room and everything has already been prepared for you. Each setting was laid out with four pre-poured Cabernet Sauvignons, three cheese pairings, and a customized tasting card with your names printed on it. Upon seating, Kenji, our incredibly knowledgable host, instructed us on each of the wine and cheese flavors. We were encouraged to sip each wine and try it with the different cheeses, returning to our favorite pairings throughout the tastings. Kenji not only taught us more about Nickel & Nickel and their wine club, but also answered any general questions or comments that we may have about wine. After wrapping up his presentation, we were left to enjoy the wines!

Once I had (gladly!) finished my tasting and cheese pairing, it was time to depart Nickel & Nickel. Overall, the property was so beautiful and simply oozed elegance. The vineyard provided such an exquisite and unique experience, it instantly made me think of all of the friends and family I would love to return to Napa Valley with and bring them here!

One last picture of the wine cellar, as it was so impressive!
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