How to Plan a Trip

Where to start.

Someone recently told me they wanted to travel, but didn’t understand how to begin. And I get it, that can be hard. There’s a lot of behind the scenes planning that goes into a vacation. Flight, accommodations, how to get to and from both airports, what to do once you’re there, piking a destination, requesting time off work, etc.

So I’m here to give you my learned tips and tricks and how I plan everything I do. First thing I do is book my flight. No, seriously. I book the flight before I do anything else. I usually use Skyscanner, Scott’s Cheap Flights, or Secret Flying. I usually type in my dates and I check the cheapest places to fly to out of Chicago, Windsor, Toronto, and Detroit. Once I settle on either a destination or date, I figure out the other. Cheapest time to fly to Dublin or cheapest place to fly to May 1st. It’s really that simple. Then book it. Great! Now we have times and places.

Okay, now, I do a little research. Where are the top places to see, top things to do, have any of my favorite travel bloggers been there, creep on them a bit, check the hashtag of that place on Instagram, now I have a list of everything I could possibly want to do/see in this place. I check some maps, find a central location, google that location real quick – make sure it’s not sketchy, then find a hotel, AirBnB, homeshare, hostel, VRBO, etc. I then book the place. So, main two parts, done!

Third thing I do is look back at that little list I made while researching. So let’s take Portland for example. I found out my list of things I wanted to do through Facebook recommendations, Instagram #portland tag, I looked through AirBnB experiences, checked my favorite travel blogger accounts, and asked for Oregon recommendations on Instagram. This narrowed me down to Mothers Bistro, the DIY bar, Multnomah Falls, Silver Falls, Revolution Hall, and the Pearl District. Once I made my Portland list, I made a rough itinerary and looked at what else I needed, aka a rental car.

And then, viola! Your trip, basically done. Little extras are just little things, packing, checking bag restrictions on the airlines, allocating funds for spending, you know, the easy basics.

Honestly though, everyone plans things differently. You might have a place in mind and aren’t flexible on dates, that’s a little more challenging to find the best prices. Or you might be dead set on going to Thailand but can go anytime. That is a little easier.

Comment below the first thing you do when planning a trip. I’m curious as to how others begin!

Solo in Oregon

Portland, Waterfalls, and DIY bars.

Oregon was one of my top states to visit, and now it’s on my short list of places to live. I am in love with the Pacific Northwest. I started out about a year ago with a goal to hit all 50 states, no timeline, but this is the first time I have verbalized this desire. This has made me track some flights, look at apps, and fantasize about all the places I have never been. Oregon has always been high up on that list but flights are always pretty pricey when coming from Detroit. I did some tracking and some research, as I do, and found a pretty good deal Valentines weekend. Happened to be the same weekend my favorite comedians were performing at a podcast festival so it was essentially a done deal. I snooped around the #Portland hashtag on Instagram and found some pretty epic waterfalls. Then, I looked around AirBnB experiences and found another waterfall hike, something I could replicate on my own – without paying the $85 transportation and guide fee. I decided that weekend, I was going to do a comedy show day 1, chase waterfalls day 2, and explore Portland day 3. So, that brings us to day 1 – travel day! I boarded my flight at an ungodly hour, hopped over to Dallas, quick layover, then popped on over to Portland. Checked into my cute as hell AirBnB, and took a nap. I got ready then lyfted on over to the comedy club. While in line for some titos and soda, I met a group of girls at the live taping of my favorite podcast that were there for some Portland Girls Meetup – they were super nice and I sat with them during the show. Seeing my idols on stage wasn’t so bad either. After this I had a drink and then went back “home” for some much needed rest. Day 2, my day to chase waterfalls. One of my favorite activities! I woke up bright and early to grab by $35 rental car, then headed up to Multnomah Falls. I got there early so there was basically no one there. Quick tip, if you go in the winter and want to hike to the top of the fall, you need crampons or spikes. Lots of ice and snow packed down by all the tourists! I woke hiking boots but it was a slippery trip. Honestly though, this waterfall is amazing and so worth it. After this I headed down that same trail to catch a few others then headed to Silver Falls Park to do the Trail of Ten Falls. (I didn’t get to do the Ten Falls hike but I got to do their Winter Falls hike which was 5 miles, lots of hills, and still plenty of beautiful falls). Here are some of my favorite photos! Day 3, I headed to downtown Portland to explore. I had brunch at Mother’s Bistro. AKA a large mimosa and a frittata. After this I went to Voodoo Doughnuts to grab a maple bar – so good. Then I went to an incredible, magical little place called the DIY bar. I had bottomless mimosas (for $10!) met some really cool people, and made my own custom passport holder! It’s so cute. After this, I got some cookie dough – what, so cool. Went shopping around the pearl district, got literally lost in a book store, and then saw a movie at the living room theater. Basically, Portland is a very cool place, with super kind people, and a lot of things to do. It is very solo friendly and I highly recommend this city. I can’t wait to be back in Oregon to see what else there is to explore!

How to Hike Like a Pro (ish)

Don’t Just Fake it.

You probably won’t make it. I was very tempted to not workout before going to Iceland. Blame stress, blame how busy I was, blame depression, it’s all excuses. Should I have prepared more? Yes. However, I did enough to get by on some decent hikes and I have picked up a few tips and tricks since then. I hope some of my advice gives you more of a head start than I had.

Tip 1: Invest in high quality gear.

Cheap hiking boots will fall apart and give you blisters. Cheap socks will fall apart and give you blisters. Cheap coats and pants will fall apart and hey, maybe you can get blisters from those too. I made sure to bring multiple pairs of high quality ATHLETIC leggings and sports bras, WOOL socks, WATERPROOF boots, and GORE-TEX outer layers. Plus, gaiters can help too if your climate is rainy!

You need athletic leggings, tops, and undergarments because they are moisture wicking. When hiking somewhere cold, if you sweat, you’re done for. One bit of moisture will cause you to freeze. Double check your athleisure is moisture wicking. Also, dress in layers. Nothing worse than being too hot or too cold.

Wool socks are probably the most important thing you will need. Wool socks are made for hiking specifically because they prevent blisters and, you guessed it, prevents moisture. I have an issue with seams in my socks so I prefer Bombas – plus they give a pair of socks to someone who is homeless.

Waterproof boots and Gore-Tex outer layers, does this need to be explained? Don’t get wet in cold places. My boots were amazing and I would recommend to anyone at anytime for any reason. So comfortable and kept me dry and warm.

Tip 2: Water.

Make sure you bring water and high protein snacks so you can beat any kind of workout induced fatigue. My favorite is a tube of almond butter and my reusable water bottle. I keep them on hand and close.

Tip 3: Prepare.

Make sure you have a flashlight, extra batteries, map, extra layers, external phone charger, etc. If it’s long or short, best to have the essentials. And trust me, these are essential.

Tip 4: Workout.

Like I said, before Iceland I didn’t do as much as I should have. I am making 2020 my year to tackle some mountains so I have been working on cardio and strength training. Bring a backpack to the gym with some weights while you’re on the stair stepper. Increase your endurance and you will be fine!

Tip 5: Research.

Do you need crampons? Do you need hiking sticks? Where does your trail begin and end? Do you have enough time and daylight? It’s best to be over-prepared. Research for a 2 mile hike will be different from a 14 and different from a multiple day hike. No matter what the trail, you need to know what you’re getting into.

What are your favorite hiking tips or gear? Comment below!

Getting to know Alyssa Ramos

Talking to my IDOL.

Alyssa Ramos is a full time travel blogger with more bucket list check marks than anyone I have ever met. Her startling list of press features will intimidate anyone – her most recent being in Cosmo. Her passion for travel and adventure has not only changed my life but has empowered me to want to see the world.AR3.png

In 2015, Ramos wrote a brilliant piece for Huffington Post that went viral and that’s how I found her. The post was titled, “Yes, I’m Pretty and I’m Traveling Alone“. The post is satirical, humorous, and inspiring. After that, I have been hooked. Her Instagram is filled with accomplishments from all over the world. If you’re lacking travel enthusiasm, look to her.

I’m extremely grateful to say I was able to interview Alyssa about her “alternative” lifestyle. And she assured me, after 86 countries and 7 continents, she isn’t settling down.

What sparked your passion for travel?

AR: “I wanted to do and see more than just have fun living in LA, so at 26 I decided to take my first solo trip to volunteer in South Africa, then go to Thailand and Australia, and I was hooked ever since.”

What is your number one travel tip for solo adventurers?

AR: “Do your research, make sure you’re well planned — not because you need to be, but because it’ll make you feel more assured, confident, and excited. Also remember that the world is NOT a scary place! I feel safer abroad than I do in the U.S.!”

What country have you found to be the most inviting?

AR: “Indonesia… it’s basically a mix of locals and expats living in harmony these days.”

AR2.pngWhy did you take your first solo trip?

AR: “I ended up going solo because I couldn’t get anyone to go with me!”

What is the number one thing you have learned from traveling?

AR: “What an amazing freaking world this is, and that I was never meant to stay in one place.”

What’s something you’ve learned about yourself from traveling?

AR: “That I am a chameleon and can easily adapt to any location and situation. I also have learned that just by living a life filled with taking chances, risks, and leaps of faith, I can inspire others to be better people and do more with their lives.”

What has been your most successful blog post to date?

AR: “According to Google Analytics it’s “10 Best Stops for an Arizona/Utah Road Trip” and “25 Awesome Things to do in Havana, Cuba!””

What is your favorite mode of transportation and why?

AR: “Whatever gets me there fastest, so probably planes, although I have a lot of fun on trains and motorbikes. Definitely not cars or buses since I’ve been in two roll-over accidents in them recently.” *She’s okay everyone!

AR1.png

What has been your most rewarding travel moment?

AR: “Stepping foot on Antarctica, my 7th continent, and recently succeeding at raising over $6.5k to buy disaster relief supplies for Lombok earthquake victims, and seeing them delivered.”

Lastly, window or aisle?

AR: “Window 100%. Flights are my prime designated blog post writing time!”

If you would like to know more about Alyssa Ramos [My Life’s a Travel Movie]  – and you should, check out her about page on her blog or follow her on social media. Or both. And can I just say again how awesome it was to talk to her?! You probably wouldn’t guess that travel bloggers working 16 hour days every day of the week would be so willing to help out the newbies, yet, here she is.

Here’s her Instagram, Facebook, YouTube account, and Website. I hope you find her as incredible as I do!

 

How to Eat Alone

Table for One.

Are you someone who cannot stand silence? I personally love my alone time but also love meeting new people and enjoying the company of my friends. Solo travel means sometimes, you will have to eat alone.

First thing you have to get over; weird looks. Honestly, it happens. I would love to say people don’t find solo travelers odd but that’s not true. Traveling alone and getting a table for one in a restaurant is still pretty taboo. But once you realize it’s going to file (1).jpeghappen, it’s easy to get over. I’ve never gotten any direct comments on my unattended restaurant adventures, however, I have heard one indirect comment. One couple said just within earshot, “Why isn’t she at the bar alone instead?”. I didn’t respond because 1. valid, 2. it may not have been about me. Traveling by your lonesome doesn’t mean you have to sit at the tiny tables in the back corner or the crowded bar if you don’t want to. While yeah, it makes sense to take up as little space as possible, you’re a valued customer with just as much right to be there.

When I’m alone I like to get light meals, maybe an app and a drink at the bar, maybe bring a book and sit in a back corner by request. This is all your choice. Sometimes, it’s fun to sit with a stranger at a coffee shop. I’m currently doing that because of a shortage of tables. Her name is Angie and she’s super nice and bought me a coffee because she saw I was applying for jobs.

If you’re uncomfortable sitting alone, bring a book, listen to a podcast, bring a computer and get some work done, scroll Instagram. You have options to keep yourself occupied. But also, take solo dining as an opportunity to be okay with silence. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. Learn to find comfort in your own company.

Traveling Alone

Taking on DC by Myself.

Something I have always wanted to do, is travel alone. As you can gather from the title — it was DC. It was so incredible and I recommend traveling alone to everyone.
I only took one photo of myself, one horrible photo. I will never forget all of these experiences though.

 

My first day there I got in around 10am ish and then checked into my hotel and went hiking at Great Falls Park in VA and um, incredible. I explored amazing ruins, waterfalls, cliffs, you name it. I went back to my hotel after a few hours absolutely exhausted. That night I met up with a friend at the Dacha Beer Garden in DC and drank cheap beer, talked about life, my recent relationship status (single), and jobs. I decided moving out of state is where I’m going to end up.

 

The next day I went to Arlington then walked across the bridge to see the National Mall. I’m glad I went alone because I was able to look for family friends who unfortunately are buried in Arlington, I witnessed two funerals, and got to spend more time at memorials that meant more to me. After seeing every monument at the mall and then some, I walked over to The White House (front and back). I drank some gatorade in the shade and ate some fruit and honestly had the best time exploring alone.

 

The armed guards and fences around The White House surprised me the most to be honest.
That night I went to the mall in Tysons Corner and bought some bath bombs, face masks, wine, and then saw a movie by myself — Dunkirk, frick yeah! After the movie I went “home” and drank some wine with a face mask on and watched bad hotel TV.

The next day was supposed to be kind of crappy and rainy so I decided to hit the Smithsonians. When it rains, no one wants to wait in line to get in so I never had to! I saw the zoo, (mostly for the ellies), the Natural History Museum, and the American History Museum. I love seeing the collections for Women’s Suffrage, the First Ladies, African American History, and basically everything at the Natural History Museum but especially the TRICERATOPS.

I bought myself an elephant ring and pin to remember this amazing trip. The last day I had in Virginia I went to the Mosaic District in Fairfax. They had this amazing and huge farmers market where I bought coffee and spices to take home to the family. I saw another movie at the Angelika Film Center and had brunch alone with mimosas and macaroons.

So… Why DC? It was actually a trip on a whim. I was recently dating someone for a long time, 5 years. We broke up on or around the 11th.

We were supposed to go to the country music concert Faster Horses together the weekend of July 21 – 23. While the friends we booked it with were mutual, they were his friends first so I sold my ticket to someone for the amount I paid and I bought a plane ticket to the cheapest place I could fly to out of Lansing. I found a cheap hotel in a neighboring town, booked that, and decided this would be enough to keep me distracted so I wasn’t so heartbroken during that time.

Traveling alone teaches you so much about yourself. It shows your strengths, weaknesses, resourcefulness.. I recommend this to every single person if possible. Take some time for yourself, explore somewhere new, and spend time learning to love the person you are today.

30 Before 30: 1 down, 29 to go!