Barcelona on a Time Crunch

Is eight hours enough?

There’s never enough time in a city, but here is how to make the most of it.

First things first, are you here on a layover? Do you have bags? Check them in somewhere! They will slow you down. Nannybag is what we used in Barcelona, but there are plenty of services similar.

Cabs aren’t too expensive in Barcelona, so we made sure to check our bags in somewhere we wanted to go anyway, no wasted time! Then first thing we did? Beach. (We stored our bags in this surf shop and headed straight there, it was so perfect).

We had been traveling through Amsterdam and Paris, which was chilly, so beach it was. We looked for sea glass for probably 30 minutes then had lunch at a tiny restaurant. AKA nachos and sangria. After that, we decided to walk to the Gothic Quarter and picked up gelato on the way. If you don’t know, this beach is famous in Barcelona for it’s sea glass. It’s a must sea!

We got to walk around and see some of the best architecture Barcelona has to offer. We did shop in a few little boutiques and I got a really pretty turquoise ring. We decided our number one in Barcelona, was getting lost. We didn’t want to rush this city because there is something beautiful on every corner.

Our game plan was basically walk as far away from our end destination as possible, then make our way back slowly. We did decide to head to our cruise ship early, which was the best decision because we got on quickly. But, we did have time if we wanted to go to La Sagrada Familia. We got an incredible view of it from the ship, but we decided against up close and personal.

Plus, I know I will be back to Barcelona one day, needed something special waiting for me.

Plane Fashion

Plane travel. But make it fashion.

Back in the day, people got dressed up for flying. Think about it, it’s a huge metal container propelling people through the air from one destination to the next. It’s kind of a big deal, so I understand making this an event. Now, I’m not saying you need to go to this extreme. Because, really, it was an extreme. But cute and comfortable travel fashion looks have been all the rage. I’m an advocate for looking your best while traveling, mainly because I have activities planned the second the plane lands, but also you see a lot of people and putting your best foot forward isn’t the worst idea.

The one day I decided to look like garbage for a quick hop from Spain to Portugal, my flight was cancelled and we ended up staying a night in Lisbon. AKA we got ready in the airport bathroom… Travel cute my friends.

Anyway, my plane “lewk” consists of a few basic things. A scarf, boots or sneakers, leggings, layers, and a light jacket.

First, lets talk about things to avoid…

  1. Heels or backless shoes
  2. Anything constricting (tight jeans, etc.)
  3. Only shorts and a tshirt
  4. Lots of jewelry

Heels and backless shoes are kind of an obvious one but I still see it every time I travel. Think worst case scenario. Plane is going down and you have to go out the emergency exit or a slide into water. Are heels comfortable or efficient in a split second escape? Do you want to take your shoes off, or have someone step on your feet and you lose a shoe, and have to walk on who knows what? It’s better to be prepared. Plus, on long haul flights your feet can swell and if compressed in a shoe and socks, it’s gunna feel a lot better than if you were wearing flip flops.

This is similar to why you would avoid anything constricting. Free movement is essential if this worst case scenario occurs. Also, you can get blood clots in your legs if you’re not moving them for an extended period of time. Wearing leggings or something with compression that is comfortable, promotes a bit of wiggling.

Now, only shorts and a tshirt? What if you get cold? What if the plane catches on fire? Add a layer of protection people.

Lastly, lots of jewelry. I got stopped behind someone in security once that had on 10 Alex and Ani bracelets. While they’re cute, she had to sit there and take all of them off to go through the metal detector. Before you go through security, think, how can I make my life easier? Then do that.

Now, for my average plane “lewk”, I consistently have a few basic things. A scarf, boots or sneakers, leggings, layers, and a light jacket.

As you can see, Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf, leather jacket, and layers. And you can bet your butt I’m wearing leggings and sneaks. My scarf, as I’ve said before, is my one must have. It’s so soft and comfortable and can be a blanket or a scarf or a wrap or a pillow. I easily get hot and cold on planes so layers is my best friend.

See, looking cute doesn’t mean an hour of hair and makeup and wearing high heels. It’s comfort and practicality that will save your sanity. Now remember, next time you’re getting ready for a flight, think, is this making my life easier or harder? If you have to really think about it, ditch it! You’ll thank me later.

Zombie Pub Crawl

Night of the living dead.

Halloween is the best season, holiday, month, state of mind. When it’s Halloween season, I will seek out the best spooky experiences. I learned about the Zombie Pub Crawl from my cousin who lives in Downtown Minneapolis. This is the largest “zombie” gathering in the world and is a HUGE pub crawl. Previous years have been held in Downtown Minneapolis, this year it was held at Hall’s Island and the historic Grain Belt brewery complex.

Dressing up for this isn’t mandatory but don’t be lame. If you’re going, dress up. I honestly looked like such an amateur compared to 99.9% of people there! I went with m cousin and his girlfriend. Our makeup was slightly last minute but I was pretty proud of our accomplishments! You would absolutely feel left out if you didn’t participate. Plus, they have a costume contest with first place winning free VIP tickets to the crawl for LIFE.

So, because this is titled a Zombie Pub Crawl (ZPC), I assumed like last years it would befile-2 a pub crawl. As in, walking to different pubs/bars dressed as a zombie WITH other zombies. When we got to the entrance of the ZPC, it was in an enclosed park with three stages, roughly 15 food trucks, 4 bar tents, some entertainment in the form of costumed wrestlers in a ring, and a small carnival area. I did learn later that the ZPC was partnered with three local bars, staples of the surrounding area – and not inside the actual grounds. We didn’t get to explore these bars but we had an amazing time at the festival! (A more appropriate term for what it was). I was obviously a little bummed that it wasn’t a real “Pub Crawl” but the added bars and entertainment made up for it.

Drinks were fairly priced, entertainment was incredible, Shaq was the DJ so you can assume how that was… And the BEST part is that the iconic Grain Belt Brewery created a beer for the event called the Zombie Pub Crawl from the Brain Belt Brewery. Spoiler alert, it was amazing. I would absolutely recommend this event to anyone in the Minneapolis area or surrounding. It was definitely worth the trip from Michigan to experience this unique party.

Top Chicago Bars

Exciting and Unique.

I have been to Chicago a few times and I always find something new to fall in love with. These bars however, are some that you have to experience at least once. They’re also bars I continue to return to time after time.

The Green Door Tavern

This is my number one must see bar in Chicago. It’s a staple.

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This wooden oasis is full of eclectic and ole timey memorabilia as it was built in 1872. Some of my favorites are the old sports banners and items like bats, balls, and speed bags, the huge Blackhawk’s drum hanging from the ceiling (Go Wings though), and a carousel horse. While it has great food and drinks, there is a wheel above the bar for shots. Do this at your own risk though, because Jeppson’s Malort is written on there several times. While it’s an alcohol you can only get in Chicago, it has been likened to garbage juice. If you look closely you can see a Jackalope above the bar and some interesting wall decorations in the mirror. This past weekend thankfully I got a Wondermint shot instead of Malort. While it didn’t go great with my beer – I was happy.

The Drifter

This bar is in the downstairs of The Green Door Tavern. Look for the hidden door and someone will come to take your name. The drink menu comes as tarot cards, there are burlesque dancers and live music, and all original, genuine speakeasy decorations from the 20’s. This is a must see in Chicago with some seriously cool atmosphere.

Timothy O’Tooles

Everyone needs a go to Irish bar and this one just happens to have Maple Bourbon Chicken Wings, Irish Nachos, and Tater Tot Poutine. They also have a wide selection of Irish and non-Irish liquor and beer but let’s be real – if it’s not Irish is it still worth it?

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Three Dots and a Dash

This is hailed as a speakeasy type bar but let’s just say and easy to find “speakeasy”. You walk down an alley and look for the blue light above the door. (On busy weekends however, there is a bouncer standing outside rather than right inside). The decorations are incredible and you will feel like a pirate on a tropical island. My favorite part is the giant wall of skulls lit in blue light. It makes you feel like you’re truly going to a different world. Cocktails are rated by how strong they are and there are over 150 different kinds of rum to choose from. You can also get a drink served in a treasure chest – so I mean who wouldn’t want to try out a place this cool?

Old Town Pour House

This is not for those who are indecisive. This tavern-esque bar has almost 100 beers on tap and the best crab dip in the area. If beer isn’t your thing – don’t worry, they also have handcrafted cocktails. This is somewhere you won’t want to miss.

Global Entry

Plus TSA Pre-Check.

This is one of the best travel investments ever created. First things first – what is global entry? US Customs and Border Protection states it is a “program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low risk travelers upon arrival in the United States”. The benefits for this include no processing lines, no paperwork, access to expedited entry benefits in other countries, reduced wait times. Basically – skip customs. Yes, you can still be selected for additional screening, but it will save you a lot of time and hassle.

To get global entry you have to apply and pay a fee. You will fill out extensive information about yourself and confirm the start of a background check. If you are approved from here on, a few weeks later you will have to have an in-person interview where they ask you questions, take your finger prints, and let you know your acceptance or denial.

My friend did her interview with US Customs and Border Patrol at the airport. I did mine at the Enrollment Center under the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Canada. It was quick and painless and I got approved that day.

Another bonus with having global entry is that your known traveler ID gets you TSA pre-check. So basically all my domestic flights that were already booked, I just added my known traveler number and got TSA pre-check added to all my boarding passes. No taking off shoes, removing liquids, body scanners… It makes a frequent flyer’s life so much easier.

Not just US citizens can have global entry. If you’re a citizen of Argentina, India, Colombia, U.K., Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, or a Mexican National – you’re in luck. You are eligible.

Reasons you may not be eligible; false or incomplete information on your application, having been convicted of a crime, being found in violation of any customs regulations, or if you’re part of any ongoing investigation.

Global entry is more prevalent than other services that offer similar expedited experiences. There is Clear, FastTrack, Nexus, etc – but I would recommend global entry. Your $100 fee gives you global entry for 5 years.

This is 100% worth it from my own personal experience. If you have the desire to travel, do yourself a favor and apply!

Visa 101

How to get a Visa.

Visas have a lot of information and stipulations. I’m hoping this guide will help you in your travels.

Most countries you will attend will have a requirement for a visa. Some have to be purchased ahead of time, some can be bought upon entry, and price can vary quite a bit.

The best site to find the specific requirements for each country (from the US) is the US Department of State or from the UK is the travel advice section for the UK Government. Type your intended travels into the search bar and select your country. This will bring up everything you may need including travel advisories.

Let’s use Egypt as an example. For Egypt you will need to have at least 6 months validity left on your passport after your trip is to end, one blank passport page, and a visa. Egypt is one of the easier countries to obtain a visa because it can be purchased upon arrival in the airport.

China, however, is more difficult for a US citizen to gain a visa. Again, validity is 6 months but requires two blank passport pages. Each visa type has different instructions and can generally be found online. Depending on which visa you apply for you will have to send in your actual passport to a Visa Office of Chinese Embassy/ Consulate General based on your State of residence, proof of US residency, hotel bookings, flight information, etc.

All of this information can be found on China’s embassy page, however, my traveling friends have told me the easiest way to go through China’s process is to go to a Consulate or use a Visa service like Travisa or CIBT Visas.

Last piece of advice is to make sure you have plenty of time for these processes. Russia states it may take up to 20 business days for a visa application to be approved whereas some other countries don’t list a specific time frame.

I wouldn’t let visas deter you from traveling, instead, use it as a way to explore more about the country and their processes before arriving.

Carry On Essentials

Long or Short Flight – You’ll Thank Me.

It has taken me quite a few flights to figure out what exactly I absolutely need in my carry on. Mostly I pack everything for my trip in only as carry on, but I have the absolute necessities in easily accessible spots.

A photo of Mario Badescu aloe, cucumber, and green tea facial spray, burt's bees cucumber mint chapstick, a sandcloud water bottle, and cvs hand sanitizer

  1. Hand sanitizer
  2. Mario Badescu facial spray
  3. Mouth wash
  4. Baby wipes
  5. Water bottle
  6. External charger
  7. Snacks
  8. Change of clothes
  9. Bathing suit (depending on location)
  10. Neck pillow
  11. Scarf
  12. Headphones
  13. Chapstick

These are my holy grail, never leave home without, staples. Let me tell you why.

First, hand sanitizer – planes and airports are cesspools of germs. Plus, sometimes when traveling you never know when the plane’s soap will be out or the next time you’ll be able to get totally clean.

Second, facial spray. The one I have shown – cucumber, aloe, and green tea is my all time favorite but there are plenty of others. Plane’s recirculate their air and mix in fresh air. While it’s clean – it dries out your skin. Not to mention the long days, new routines, and change in diet while traveling. Facial spray also keeps you awake, refreshed, and energized, and your skin moisturized. Another fun fact, I don’t go anywhere without chapstick so that one is obvious.

Next – mouthwash. Long or short flight, sleep or no sleep, keeping your mouth clean is pretty important. You can (unfortunately) get morning breath any time of day depending on when you eat, sleep, drink water, etc. There are some great travel mouthwashes that take up very little space in your liquids bag. Fly mouthwash, any 1(ish) oz bottle, or SmartMouth packets.

Fourth thing I need to have on flights, different kind of wipes. Clorox wipes, facial cleansing wipes, and body wipes usually do the trick. Clorox wipes to wipe down your tray table so you don’t get sick, facial cleansing wipes and body wipes so you can take a mini “shower” in the plane bathroom so you’re nice and fresh when you get off your plane.

Next, water bottle. Important because a bottle of water at an airport is what, 19 dollars? Kidding but not really. An empty bottle you can take through TSA and fill it up for free. It’s nice to save 100 bucks when you can.

portable chargersSix – portable charger. Self explanatory. (But make sure you check airline regulations for whichever country you’re flying into – there are some new laws out about these!)

Seven is snacks, also self explanatory.

Eighth thing I need on planes is a change of clothes. Once you take your baby wipe shower, you can put on some fresh undies, clean clothes, and get ready to conquer your day. Also, it’s good to have a back up plan just in case your checked luggage gets lost. Nine can be combined in this one also; another outfit to have, bathing suit bottoms for underwear if you’re desperate, or even chill in your bathing suit on a beach or by a pool while you’re waiting to check into your hotel/hostel/AirBnB.

Ten – neck pillow. Most travelers I know have multiple for different flights depending on their seat. I personally only have one and it’s amazing, however, does take up some space. I just attach it to my backpack on the outside but you’ve been warned. This one is perfect for me for every seat I fly in although I am very curious about the Trtl Neck Pillow so if anyone has any experience with it, let me know!

Next is a scarf. I use the Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf for ALL of my travels. This hack I got from @mylifeisatravelmovie. It can be used as a scarf, as a cardigan, and as a blanket. It’s soft, versatile, and squishy when all bundled together. Sleep on it, wear it when you’re cold, use it as a fashion statement – this is a MUST HAVE.

Lastly, headphones. Duh.

Let me know if you have any carryon must haves. Maybe I’m missing out on a hack I didn’t even know about.