Making The Most Of A Short Trip

As many of you know, I recently traveled to Canada on a week long family trip in Whistler, B.C.! My boyfriend and I flew into Vancouver a day early mostly for practicality sake, but also to see the city a bit and explore before meeting up with the rest of my family in Whistler. Although we were only there for a short 24 hours I thought I would share with you how to make the most out of a short trip like this, the planning that I do beforehand, and how to find the best spots in a short amount of time!

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-> First things first, I always suggest planning around the time you have. Be realistic in your expectations and time constraints for your trip. If you want to go see a certain spot and it is not within a 30 min drive/walking distance, venturing further out will cut into your limited time. My plan for Vancouver was to do everything we could within walking distance of our AirBnb or a short taxi ride.

-> Do your research of the area! I found a few areas close by us in the city that I wanted to see. We were staying close to Stanley Park and I knew I wanted to walk around it and explore. I also knew I wanted to walk around English Bay Beach at sunset for the views and the music!

-> I also suggest looking at a few restaurants before you go for easy meal choices. If you are limited on time, having a set dinner reservation allows you to plan around the meal and also limits the dreaded conversation of “what should we eat tonight?” My suggestion for food is to be adventurous! Try new things, go to local spots not chain restaurants, and try things on the menu outside of your comfort zone.

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I know a lot of this is self-explanatory but I always suggest planning ahead and having a short list of things you want to do!

I couldn’t recommend Vancouver more and I definitely will be going back for a longer trip next time! The city is beautiful, the people were so nice, and the weather is perfect!We have so much left to explore and see.

Food tip: We had brunch at The Teahouse in Stanley Park and it was some of the best food and coffee that we ever had, everyone should go there!!

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GEAR REVIEW

North Face Storm Break 3 – Tent Review

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8/10 Would recommend this tent, now let me tell you why-

And believe me!

This tent has seen a lot!!

 

This particular tent has been through snow, rain, freezing temperatures, warmer than usual days, high winds, and all the in-between while camping!

Never once have we seen a zipper or seam leak any water and it has always served us well in rain! I would also say that this tent is very spacious for two people (three would be a tight fit but still possible in a bind)!

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North Face Stormbreak 3 Tent! You can see a vestibule that is folded to the side and the large mesh side doors!

Features we love:

  • This tent has two VERY good sized vestibules (vestibules = a fancy word for basically a mudroom that extends outside of your tent to store gear, shoes, and even backpacks when it’s not raining).
  • It is sooooo easy to pitch this tent. Takes us 3 mins probably and that is great for when you are in awful weather and just for ease!
  •  It’s a backpacking tent and is very compact!
  • This is a 3 season tent and has never leaked in multiple storms, it has with stood winter weather of below 20 degrees, 20-45 mph wind gusts, and you can stay cozy inside while all this incliment weather is happening.
  • We love the gear storage canopy on top, as well as, the pockets on the sides for even more organization.
  • The price point! For an entry-mid level tent this is a great value! We don’t plan on purchasing another tent of this size any time soon!

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Features we would change:

  • The stakes the tent came with lasted one trip and that is all! So I recommend purchasing some higher quality stakes before your trip!
  • Some small condensation during colder nights pools at the top of the rainfly and can/does drip on you occasionally in the morning hours.
  • A lot of people have said that it is too cramped for 3 people, I will second that like I said above. It would be difficult and probably a tight squeeze but possible doable with 3 smaller people.

 

Overall, I did a ton of research on tents before I decided this was the one for us! Of course it might not work for everyone. I recommend taking what I said into consideration and taking the time to look at what is right for you!

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My first night in the tent, freezing rain all nigh long, but we survived!

Happy Camping!

THE ULTIMATE FLORENCE TRAVEL GUIDE

Florence is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region and the birthplace of the Renaissance – so expect magnificent architecture and stunning art. Last June my family and I went on a week-long trip to Florence, Italy for a family vacation. 

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Here’s my ultimate Florence travel guide! 


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What to Expect —

U+21A0.svg  Languages: You’re in Italy so expect the locals to speak the romance language of Italian but, don’t worry like most of Europe, you can almost always find someone within the city who speaks a little English.

U+21A0.svg  Currency, Credit Cards & ATM: Italy uses the euro, so expect to exchange your $ into euro notes before or upon arrival. You can always withdraw money from an ATM as needed rather than carrying too much cash with you at once. Credit cards are accepted at some locations, Visa tends to be the most widely accepted. Just pay attention to foreign transaction fees and international exchange rates! 

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Getting Around —

U+21A0.svg  Getting to Florence: We chose to fly from America to Rome, rather than to Florence because of cost and the timing of flights. Choosing what is best for you is most important in international travel. Flying into Rome then taking a high-speed train into Florence was the easiest option for our large group of 7 travelers. Although, our plan did not go well because half of our group missed a connection and was rerouted twice making an 18 hour travel day into a 37 hour travel day (It was the worst). Traveling to Europe doesn’t always go the smoothest but, don’t let this hold you back! You will get there eventually! 

*** Pro Tip*** Make sure you have at least a 2 hour layover between state and international flights, trust me. 

U+21A0.svg  Getting around Florence: We walked and wandered everywhere! You will fit right in with the locals if you do this and see more of the city this way. If you are traveling from the airport or the train station you can always order a taxi or a private driver if you are pressed for time/ are carrying luggage. I would not recommend driving, the streets are narrow, chaotic, and not to mention that drivers are insane.  

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Where to stay —

U+21A0.svg  The location: Our family rented a villa in the heart of the city through Inspirato, which is a luxury destination travel club that has some amazing locations throughout the world. Now I know this isn’t feasible for everyone, but I would still 100% recommend staying as close to the center of Florence when looking for accommodations. You will have more access to all of the museums, food, and nightlife within a couple minuets walk this way. 

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What to eat —

U+21A0.svg  Lunch at Mercato Centrale: Not only is this a fun place to wander through, but there is traditional Italian food for a great price found here. You can shop for your dinner and snacks if you are looking to cook food in your villa or Airbnb as well! Price Point- $

U+21A0.svg  Lunch at Fiaschetteria Osteria Nuvoli: We stopped here for our first lunch in Florence after a Florence resident recommended this place and we were so happy that she did. Very typical florence cuisine at a nice price. Casual atmosphere and not so easy to find (although very central), but the food was fantastic and the house vino was great. Price Point – $ 

U+21A0.svg  Dinner at I’Parione Restaurant: I highly recommend making a reservation to try this wonderful Florentine style restaurant. My favorite pasta I had the whole time I was in Italy was from here. You can tell the locals love it and if they do then it has to be great! The service was great, the food was great, overall just great! I wish I could go back just for this pasta sometimes. Price Point – $$-$$$

U+21A0.svg Dinner at L’Osteria Di Giovanni: Dine here for a nice evening in the city with traditional Italian food. The atmosphere and the ambience is great. A little bit more fancy but still pretty causal like most Italian spots you will find. A reservation is recommended! Price Point- $$-$$$

U+21A0.svg  Drinks: We ended up finding local bars that we would wander into after mid-afternoon shopping and our dinners. One rooftop bar I could not recommend more would be the La Terrazza Rooftop Bar at the fashionable Hotel Continental. It is a swanky cocktail bar with some of the best views in Florence located right next to the Arno, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Palazzo Vecchio and San Miniato. Price Point $ – $$

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What to do —

U+21A0.svg  Museums: Go see as many as you can! We went to the Galleria dell’ Accademia, Cappella Brancacci, Plazo Pitti, and Santa Felicita to name a few. Buy the Firenze card if you plan on going to multiple museums. With the Firenze card you can enter all the museums with priority access. It was suggested to us to buy the card at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence based on where we were located and the ease of access. 

U+21A0.svg  Bridges over Arno River: They are all an amazing sight to see and I encourage you to walk around the river to see a few of them. We spent time at the most famous of them, the Ponte Vecchio with houses and shops located right on this bridge, it can be pretty crowded but when you find some space to yourself it is magnificent!  

U+21A0.svg  The Duomo and The Bell Tower: We unfortunately missed our reserved time slot to see inside this iconic architectural feat. Get there early or buy a pass in advance. But even the views from outside of the Duomo and the Bell Tower were worth it. I encourage you to come see it at all different times of the day. At night the crowds disappear and it makes for some pretty amazing photo ops! 

U+21A0.svg  The Palazzo Vecchio: This picturesque town hall is worth the lines and the crowds. Take a walk inside the courtyard to see intricately designed area. Shop the street markets around this area. Grab some gelato or a slice of pizza and enjoy the views! 

U+21A0.svg  Shopping in Florence: The best roads for luxury brand shops are located on; Via De’ Tornabuoni and Via Della Vigna Nuova. For casual clothing shops go to; Via De’ Calzaiuoli and Via De’ Cerretani. For Italy’s famous leather shops you can find them on; San Lorenzo and Santa Croce. 

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 I fell in love with the culture, the the charm, and the people of Firenze! I hope this inspires you to travel to this beautiful city.

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MY COMPLETE CAR CAMPING PACKING LIST

 

Hello fellow adventurers!

I’m writing this at 8am central time! Will and I are on our way to meet up with friends and family in Colorado for a long weekend of camping. We are currently listening to Bertha’s Road Songs on Spotify (everyone seriously needs to checkout this road tripping playlist made by Brainna Madia for some amazing 35 hour+ tunes). We are heading out on our first camping trip of the year. I am beyond thrilled to be going to Colorado when most of the campgrounds are just opening this weekend! I figured I would share with you a comprehensive list of whats in my car right now, some of my favorite gear, and must have items I would recommend you bring with you!

Now obviously you don’t have to take all of this gear with you. This is just what works for us and each time we find that it is evolving. You will always find yourself saying, “I wish I would have brought this or that”. That I why you make a note on your phone or write it down for easier packing next time!

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Here is my complete car camping gear list:
In and Around Camp-
  • Tent
  • Tarp: we use this instead of a tent footprint for under tent (for now).
  • Sleeping Bag(s)
  • Pillows
  • Blankets: A bunch of old blankets we don’t care about getting dirty, smelling like a campfire, and ideally don’t hold a lot of moisture.
  • Sleeping Pad(s)
  • Hammock
  • Camping Chairs : We have one found in the link by REI and another by Big Agnes.
  • Lamp : We LOVE this little lamp for inside the tent. It dims and is so compact!
  • Headlamps
  • Cooler(s): We are currently using a small Yeti Roadie cooler for drinks and a very old and beat up large Coleman Cooler for Food. Similar found here.
  • Rubber Mallet: for staking down tent, without damaging stakes.
  • Multi-tool or knife.
  • Axe
  • Daypack
  • Extra Batteries
  • Fire Stater
Kitchen Supplies –

My personal gear changes with the season and with what I am planning on cooking! Pick and choose what is important and necessary for yourself!

  • Heat-proof Cooking Utensils
  • Enameled Cooking Pots
  • Cast Iron Pan
  • Heavy Duty Tin Foil
  • Water Bottles / Ice Packs: for cooler
  • Heavy Duty Garbage Bags
  • Washing Bucket
  • Biodegradable Dish Soap
  • Microfiber Towels/ Old Rags
  • Fuel
  • Stove
  • Matches / Lighters
  • Grill Rack
  • Pot Graber
  • Enameled coffee cups
  • Plastic Bowls / Plates / Silverware
  • Gallon Storage Bags
  • Large Plastic Mixing Bowl
  • Utensils : Pairing Knife, Large Knife, Metal Spatula, Whisk, Cutting Board
  • Sponge
  • Food: I plan on doing a detailed camping food blog post very soon!
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Clothing and Footwear –

If cold nights are possible come prepared!

  • Rain Jacket
  • Quick-dry long sleeves and t-shirts
  • Quick-dry pants or shorts.
  • Long underwear layers: I have a few different brands. I always look at the material and the weight of the fabric (usually sticking to mid-weight pants and shirts).
  • Heavy sweatshirts: Patagonia makes my favorite. I have this version and this version.
  • Socks: Merino wool socks are best. I always bring double the socks per the days to be able to change pairs after a hike or if it is raining!
  • Sleepwear
  • Underwear
  • Insulated Jacket/ Vest : They don’t make my jacket anymore but this one is similar.
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Scarves/ Neck-warmers
  • Hats / Bandanas
  • Sandals : Chaco’s are great for around camp, in the rain, and even on short hikes.
  • Boots : These boots are great in rain, snow, and cooler temperatures.
  • Hiking Shoes: similar here.
  • Packing Cubes: Great for keeping all these items organized. I use these and these by Eagle Creek!
Personal Items –
  • Toiletry Bag:  So everything we need in the mornings is located in one spot. Plus- I love that it has a small mirror (it’s the little things).
  • Lip Balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Face Moisturizer
  • Face Wash
  • Cosmetics
  • Prescription Medications
  • Brush/Comb
  • Baby Wipes: On day 4 of a camping trip nothing is better than a baby wipe bath!
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Anti-Bacterial Wipes
  • Toilet Paper
  • First Aid Kit
  • Sunglasses
  • Glasses

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Other Items To Bring –
  • Camera and Lenses
  • Camera Batteries
  • SD Cards
  • Tripod
  • Charger
  • Power Bank: I bring 4, all for charging my camera and multiple phones.
  • Bungee Cords and extra ropes: to tie down tent
  • Rope with carabiners
  • Bug Spray
  • Citronella Candle
  • Cards
  • Books
  • Portable Speaker
  • Cell Phone and Charger

What are some of your essentials you bring with you on your camping adventures?! Happy Camping!

 

PIN THIS!

 

WHY YOU SHOULD STUDY ABROAD IN COLLEGE

 

Studying abroad in college led to one of the best decisions I have ever made.

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Exploring Athens, Greece

If this is something you are thinking about too, I highly encourage it. I wanted to take a little time to talk with you about why studying abroad is so important to your education and your development. Whether you are going for a week trip to Italy, a month long in South Africa, or a semester in the UK you will have a great adventure. The classes are exciting, the food and the people are amazing, and the sights are unforgettable.

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We Definitely Hiked To The Top On The Windiest Day Ever

A day doesn’t go by without me thinking about my experiences and how they have helped me grow as a person. My month long trip to Greece taught me more about traveling than any of my other trips beforehand. I experienced what it was like to live in a country rather than be a tourist. Yes we had free time to experience the tourist spots in Athens and on the Island of Crete, but we also got to get to know the local spots near our hotels and experience washing our laundry in bath tubs.

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The Gang – Athens, Greece

I developed a deeper understanding of another culture.

In Greece we learned about their history in class everyday and got to experience living and emerging ourselves in their culture. Everyone has a perceived notion of what another country could be like, by studying abroad you get to broaden your perspective by being there firsthand. Your perception changes because you get a deeper understanding of the world.

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Not A Bad View From The Hotel – Nafplio, Greece

Traveling with other people is very intense.

The friendships you make on your trip are unforgettable. You will always have those shared experiences to remember together even if you grow apart after the trip ends. You can share in the memory of that time you ate margarita pizza from down the street everyday in Athens because you were tired of gyros or encouraged each other when you just didn’t want to climb that 27th mountain to see one more ancient ruin or castle. Those friendships will get you through the real-life moments of your study-abroad trip and are an amazing part of the adventure.

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Pizza & Wine … Couldn’t Get Better – Nafplio, Greece

Stepping out of your comfort zone is scary.

I remember getting out of the airport and not seeing a single work of english. For me that is exciting, but for others that can seem daunting. I don’t speak Greek, the few words I still remember are skylaki (puppy), efharisto (thank you), and kalimera (good morning). It’s been a bit since I studied abroad but I still remember feeling nervous about not being able to communicate with anyone for a month. Yes, most countries speak English, but we were traveling to small, I mean small towns on our greek odyssey and not every person we met spoke English. Ask your trip leader or your professors for some basic words and how to pronounce them. This will help you feel more at home. Stepping out of your comfort zone will empower you as a person! When your comfort zone is pushed, you discover so much more about yourself and how you are capable of so much more than you would have originally thought. That power that you feel will not fade when you get home. Use it, continue growing.

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This Pink Toned Monastery Was Magical Even Though It Rained All Day

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t mention the best part about studying abroad… you get to travel! There is nothing like seeing a country you have never been too for the first time. Everything is new, the simple things like walking down a street are more exciting, the coffee is soooo much better (trust me), and the food is so much better than what you can get in the states.

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A View From The Acropolis – Athens, Greece

If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity, go for it! It can seem daunting planning for a large trip, leaving your friends and family behind, and traveling to a place you are not familiar with, but the benefits exceed the negatives, I promise you! Explore the world every chance you get!

Have you studied abroad? If so, where?

HOW TO PLAN FOR A CAMPING TRIP

So you’re planning for a camping trip? If you’re anything like me you have a desire to get outdoors, but the planning can seem a bit overwhelming. Camping shouldn’t be stressful. What I have learned over time is that planning gets easier and easier the more you go and the more experiences you have. It’s a great way to get outside, disconnect, and spend time with friends and family. Here are a few way I approach planning for a camping trip!

Decide Where to Go

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Picking the ideal campsite for what you are looking for is very important, some research on different campsites will help this be a smooth process.

There are so many sites to choose from it can become overwhelming when looking, I always start by picking the general location that I am looking for and use filters on sites like Reserve AmericaRecreation.gov, and the Outdoor Project  to help narrow down the campsite list. These websites are great for reviewing campgrounds, taking a look at campsite photos, and allow you to reserve the sites by one way or another.

You will also want to consider the amenities. For some, camping means being “one with nature” and for others this means still having access to bathrooms, running water, and even electricity. Consider what the campground has to offer. “Primitive” camping is a great experience, but it is not for everyone. Researching what the site has to offer will pay off in the long run, trust me.

Are you going to be camping in a tent, a car, an RV? Certain sites cater to one or the other better. Look to see if there are tent only sites, walk-up sites mean you will have to park your car and walk or sometimes even hike to the site. Likewise some have all the amenities and hookups necessary for campers but are too large for tent only. Campgrounds are a great place for novice campers and those who do not like to rough it all time to still experience what camping is all about.

Gather the Gear

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This is the North Face Stormbreak 3 tent found here on REI.

The night before, lay everything out, get organized

Make a list of all the items you think you’ll need. Lay it all out on the floor if you need to. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway to your campground and saying “I think we forgot…”. Remember the closest store is not right down the street and always plan for the unexpected. Bad weather can happen at any time, getting caught in freezing rain, without a fire starter, your first night at the campground is never something you will want to go through. Take it from experience. Eliminate the stress and plan ahead.

Here is a list of a few bare minimal items for your next camping trip…

  1. Tent
  2. Sleeping Bag
  3. Sleeping Pad
  4. Food for each day you’re camping
  5. Water (water bottles, jugs, water purification)
  6. Multi-tool and/or knife
  7. Any cooking equipment
  8. Head lamp and/or flashlight
  9. Day pack/ backpack
  10. Fire starter (i.e; matches, lighter, commercial fire starter)
  11. First Aid Kit
  12. Black trash Bags
  13. Clothing
  14. Rainwear
  15. Hiking boots
  16. Sunglasses
  17. Sunscreen
  18. Hand sanitizer
  19. Essential toiletries
  20. Toilet paper

*** Key tip: If you are camping with friends share the responsibilities and the gear burden. Not everyone needs to bring the same items, sharing will help lighten the load!

Plan Your Meals

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Planning your meals in advance keeps the worry away. Nobody wants hotdogs for every meal (besides my boyfriend), but the key to finding and cooking healthy tasty meals around a campfire takes a bit of planning and juggling. Remember to limit the amount of bulky and heavy ingredients (especially if you are hiking to your campsite). I have cooked meals like tacos in a bag and Indian food all on a Coleman grill. If you have an idea and put the work into planning, it shouldn’t be a problem to cook meals you would make in your own home with a few minor adjustments.

Foil meals are a great option for beginner cooks at a campground. This article here has 21 great options for foil-wrapped meals!  If you are car camping with a portable grill and a cooler feel free to bring items to make those easy recipes from home! Save space by taking spices, meats and cheeses out of packages, and putting them in small plastic baggies. Pre-portion food into a bag so you can bring along only the amount you need.

All of this can seem like a lot, but if you take the time to plan your camping trip experiencing a few setbacks (like weather) won’t ruin a trip. Cold and rainy weather every day? A well planned warm meal will make everything so much better.

The most important thing is to remember your in nature… enjoy your trip! I know the second I leave a site I am already planning for the next adventure.

 

For a more detailed camping packing list check out this link here.

 

Don’t forget to comment below if you have any tricks for when you plan a camping trip!