Hosting Out-of-Town Guests

As I wrap up this month’s edition focused on travel, it’s important to remember that travel doesn’t always mean I am going somewhere… This past weekend we hosted Alex’s dad and stepmom, who came to visit from Michigan, and I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips for making guests feel as welcome and comfortable as possible.


Things to Buy

  • New candle for the guest room (or a plugin scent, like the Glade Cashmere Woods one I used)
  • Local treats (Berger cookies are always a hit here in Bawl’mer!)
  • Custom snacks/drinks (it’s always nice to reach out to get preferences before your guests arrive)
  • Bottled water (especially for out-of-state guests)

Things to Have On Hand

  • Neighborhood maps or visitors guides (especially if you live near a big city)
  • WiFi password (I’ve seen some nice ideas on Pinterest for displaying your password, we keep ours on a Post-It)
  • TV channel list (this is very handy if you don’t have a main cable box in your guestroom)

Things For the Guestroom

  • A wastebasket (often overlooked, always needed)
  • Have an extra blanket and 1-2 pillows available (I’m lusting over this one from Pottery Barn)
  • Soft lighting for late-night reading (something like this Ikea lamp is perfect)
  • A mini fan or heater (depending on the season)

For the Bathroom

  • A basket of sample bath/beauty products (I love sharing my Birchbox samples!)
  • Set out a few towels/washcloths (I like to spray them with a nice, fresh scent)
  • Buy a bottle of Poo-Pourri (trust me, life will never be the same again)

Things For Entertainment

  • Check out your local event calendar (maybe there’s a music festival or art show going on!)
  • Pre-select restaurants to make choosing a dinner spot easier on everyone (also helps to know your guests’ preferences beforehand)
  • Common house computer (we have an extra laptop that we keep in the living room so guests can log on to check email, etc.)

Do you have any other ideas that help make your guests feel right at home?

Travel-Themed Movies // My Favorites

When you’re focused on saving your pennies (like I am) it might be difficult to fit a vacation into your budget. Luckily, there are travel + adventure themed movies to transport you to another place. Below are my top 10 travel movies – did I miss your favorites?


10. Brokedown Palace
Thailand seems like a beautiful country with rich history and phenomenal architecture. Just don’t make friends with cute boys who traffic drugs. While more of a cautionary tile/episode of ‘Locked Up Abroad’, I’ve always counted this as one of my favorite travel movies.

9. Little Miss Sunshine
Olive Hoover has the kind of “I’m me, take it or leave it” attitude at age 7 that I wish I had at age 30. This wacky family adventure reminds me of goofy road trips we’d take with extended family as a kid (but thank goodness we never had to sit through a baby beauty pageant).

8. The Way Way Back
This sweet coming-of-age movie had me wishing my family had a summer rental house near the beach.

7. The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson has a signature style that makes me want to jump in each of his movies and live there for a while – especially that gorgeous pink Grand Budapest Hotel. In ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ three brothers take a journey on a train (how glamorous!) through India (how magical!) and reconnect with each other along the way.

6. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
I truly believe my love affair with New York City at Christmastime began the moment I saw this movie for the first time. Plus, it introduced me to the Talkboy, which provided hours of entertainment for my sisters and me.

5. Mamma Mia
The white, sandy beaches of a Greece provide the backdrop for some hilarious fun leading up to beautiful beach wedding. Bonus points for being a musical (based on one of my favorite Broadway shows!).

4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
This film, based on James Thurber’s short story, made me want to do something crazy and adventurous. We settled for some fro yo after catching the show at our local theater… but in the spirit of Walter Mitty, I imagined we were ordering gelato from a tiny Italian gelateria.

3. Midnight in Paris
The only movie I have ever seen (or will ever see) by Woody Allen is a fantastical story that borders on fairy tale, transporting you to 1920s Paris (and present-day Paris, which is just as cool). It made me wonder what time/place I would like to visit…

2. Up!
There is no greater adventure than love. BUT traveling by balloon house to a far-off, exotic world where you meet talking dogs and interesting wildlife seems like a pretty fun adventure, too.

1. Dirty Dancing
How fun would it be to take a family vacation to an outdated, stuffy, preppy, country club? Probably not so much, unless a Patrick Swayze lookalike happened to work there. A girl can dream, right? For die-hard fans, you can have your own weekend getaway at Kellerman’s (aka Mountain Lake Resort)!

Swoon-Worthy Destinations

Jamaica and Canada are as far out of the United States as I’ve ever gone, but I do have grand plans for future world travel. While I dream of sipping café au lait at a posh French bistro and sailing along the shores of Greece, there are plenty of swoon-worthy destinations to explore here in United States. Here is my bucket list for US travel…Who’s ready for a road trip?

1. Blue Ridge Parkway
Up in the Appalachian Mountains is a 469-mile stretch of gorgeous scenic overlooks, hiking trails, campsites, and old homesteads. The Blue Ridge Parkway connects the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and is one of the most visited area of our National Park System. I’m hoping we can check out a stretch on our trip to the Smoky Mountains at the end of the month!

image source: Blue Ridge Parkway

2. Vermilion Cliffs National Monument
While the Grand Canyon should be on everyone’s US travel bucket list, there are plenty of other beautiful natural sights that are worth a trip out West. The Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness is more than 100,000 acres of smooth cliffs, red rock amphitheaters, and hiking trails. It’s known for being a great place for solitude – I can’t image a better place for a hike to clear your mind.

image source: Wikipedia

3. Sequoia National Park
There’s a powerful beauty in the redwoods in California – they’ve been growing for thousands(!) of years. I want to take in the awesomeness that is General Sherman – the largest single stem tree in the world. The park spans more than 400,000 acres and reaches up to 13,000 vertical feet. The park also boasts the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States: Mount Whitney rises to 14,505 feet above sea level.

image source: National Park Service

4. Northern Lights in Alaska
If I could pick one thing to see before I die, it would be the Northern Lights. According to Wikipedia, the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) are caused by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric charged particles with the high altitude atmosphere. According to me, they are a magnificent display of the cosmos. To each their own, I suppose.

image source:

5. Savannah, GA
The only urban center on my list, and I chose it because of the lovely Spanish moss trees and southern charm of Georgia’s oldest city. It could also be because Gone With the Wind is my favorite movie of all time. Savannah has it all – beaches, historic landmarks, five-star food, ghost tours, early American architecture, gardens, and more!

image source: J. Meirs//WikiTravel

Tell me about some of your favorite places to visit in the States!

Travel Tips + Tricks

Traveling as much as I do for work has allowed me to see parts of the country I’d probably never visit on my own. Plus, moving away from my childhood home in Michigan means that the Southwest Airlines path between BWI and DTW is like a well-traveled road for me. I’ve picked up on a few ways to make travel less stressful, from packing hacks to finding local hotspots one I’ve arrived.

    • Make a list! I always start with my handy dandy checklist then add to it based on my final destination/plans.
    • Try on all your outfits, even if you know they fit. Think about what you’ll be doing when wearing each outfit – a skirt might be the right length standing up, but look too short while sitting during an all-day business meeting.
    • Nude heels go with everything! Invest in a sturdy pair, and you’ll only have to pack those and a great pair of flats or dressy sandals. During winter travel, wear your boots on the plane to save space in your case.
    • Organize jewelry and accessories by outfit – it makes getting ready a breeze! I tie up sets of jewelry and belts in a handkerchief and pack it with each outfit so I know what goes together. Insert a picture example
    • Buy a toiletry bag! I found one at Target for less than $20 and it has been the most helpful travel accessory I’ve ever had. Find one that has a lot of compartments and rolls up nicely.

    • If you are traveling to a beach destination or plan on hitting the pool, pack a waterproof bag (I love my Baggu!) in case you don’t have time to dry your bathing suit and beach towel.
    • Clean out your purse! Digging through a pile old receipts to find your ID is no fun. Make sure you have all the essentials, here’s what I don’t leave home without: phone/charger, headphones, ear plugs, hand lotion and sanitizer, chewing gum, granola bar, aspirin, and of course my cash, credit cards, and ID or passport.
    • Pack a smaller purse with a long shoulder strap – a crossbody bag (who knew there was a term for it?!). It’s great to have a hands-free, lighter option instead of a bulky bag, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking. You can easily hold important stuff like cash and your phone, but still have room for lip gloss and small trinkets you pick up along the way.

At the Airport
  • Fly Southwest, if you can help it. They have great perks, their staff is always super friendly, offer early bird check in for a decent price, and are flexible if your plans change.
  • Keep your liquids in an easy-to-reach place, like the outside zipper pocket of your carry on. It makes the security line go a little quicker, and you can always pack it in your bag more securely one your though the checkpoint.
  • If you have time to kill, hang out in a bar or restaurant area. Grab a soda or glass of wine, plug your phone in to charge, maybe read or get a little work done… It’s much better than sitting in those uncomfortable seats and dealing with distractions.
  • Check the board for flights that have just taken off, typically those boarding areas will have open seating with comfier chairs and charging stations. Just be sure to pay attention to the time so you don’t miss important gate announcements for your flight!
On the Plane
  • Bust out your ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones. I tend to prefer reading or getting work done on longer flights, so popping in my plugs allows me to block out all distractions (and potentially chatty neighbors).
  • Grab anything you think you might need out of your carry on bag and stick it in the back pocket of the seat in front of you before takeoff. That way, everything is within reach and you won’t elbow the guy next to you when reaching for your iPod.
At the Hotel
  • If you can, unpack and organize your clothes, shoes, and toiletry items right away. I spend the first 30 minutes in my hotel room hanging my clothes and setting up my “get-ready” station with makeup, hair care supplies, etc. It makes a ton of difference when I’m not in my comfort zone.
    2014-09-12 08.32.51
  • Forget your phone or tablet charger? Check with the front desk, they typically keep a stash of forgotten cables and wires.
  • Ask for suggestions on dining and entertainment outside if the touristy areas – locals always know the best hangouts.
  • If your room has a mini-fridge (or even if it doesn’t) and you have access to a convenience store, stock up on bottled water, Gatorade, and snacks. It’ll save you money and you won’t have to drink tap water, yuck!
  • Charge all expenses to one credit card so you can easily tally up how much you spent. This is especially important for work trips where you might have to submit your charges for reimbursement.
  • If you travel to the same cities on a regular basis, save location/contact info on your favorite cab companies, restaurants, convenience stores, hotels, etc. on your phone (I use Evernote).
  • Have as much fun as humanly possible!
Do you have any tried-and-true travel tips to share? I’d love to read them in the comments!

Packing List // Free Printable

I used to write out my packing checklist each time I went on a trip, even though I generally pack the same items. There are plenty of free packing checklists available for download, but I’ve never found one that matched my packing style or had the level of detail I needed. So I made my own! Click on the image below to download a copy for yourself.


How do you get ready for your trips? Do you write a list or wing it?

September 2014 Edition // Travel


I travel a lot, both for pleasure and for work, and there have been months where I’ve spent more nights in a hotel than in my own home. This month alone I have trips scheduled to Fort Lauderdale, New York City, and Gatlinburg, TN! In addition to sharing my adventures, this month’s posts will feature my favorite tips for making travel less stressful, whether you’re going on a camping trip with a group or you’re traveling solo to a work event.

Some of my favorite memories are attached to a trip I took with family and friends. Recently, my BFF Ashley and I took a few days off to visit Ocean City. We had a great time parasailing, checking out the boardwalk, and dancing the night away… but the best part of our trip was going to the beach at 3am and eating a bag of chips while sitting on a lifeguard post, just talking about life and the universe. Can’t get better than that, right?


As I might have mentioned before, I love all things Disney – specifically, Disney World. I was blessed as a kid to have parents who took us there every other year to celebrate Christmas. I remember one trip where we stayed at the (now defunct) Disney Institute Resort and waking up to find that Santa had left us presents! I do have plenty of wonderful memories of family vacations to visit the Mouse, but my most memorable Disney vacation is of our honeymoon in 2011. I didn’t dream about weddings as a young girl, but I did dream about my Disney honeymoon. My favorite memory is the night we spend at the Grand Floridian – after dinner at the award-winning Victoria & Albert’s, we had champagne and dessert on our balcony while watching fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. It was incredible, romantic, and one of my sweetest memories with Alex.


My last big family vacation before I moved out on my own was to Myrtle Beach. We had such a great time playing in the sand, taking pictures of old guys in Speedos, playing seriously competitive mini golf, and generally being goofy together. When I think of this trip, the first thing that comes to mind is the night we found baby sharks washed up on the shore. I was sad for the little guys… but chances were there were some that did make it, so I refused to get back in the water for the rest of the trip.


What about you – what are your favorite vacation memories?