5 Packing Tips for the Over-Packer

My first trip of the year is coming up in exactly one week so you can bet I’ve been itching to pack for the last month! Unfortunately, I think there is such a thing as packing too early and have had to practice restraint. I made it until this past Thursday and couldn’t take it anymore – in a heart-racing frenzy I pulled out my summer clothes and the packing began!

If you’ve ever gone on a long trip or even a one week holiday, you’ll understand me when I say that packing is a skill that is best when practiced to perfection. While there is a huge difference in packing for a vacation and a six month backpacking trip through various climates, the following packing tips I’m about to share with you will be beneficial for either one:

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1. It all starts with LUGGAGE. You can’t begin to pack until you’ve decided on your luggage of choice. Backpack or suitcase? Hard case or soft? Wheels or no wheels? Dark, neutral colors are popular as they hide wear and tear and your case looking dirty – but have you ever been standing at the carousel watching dozens of the same black suitcase go ’round and ’round? It’s not fun. One trick from the trade is to purchase a unique color or pattern – especially if you’re going with a suitcase. If you just can’t let go of that black beauty you love, attach something bright to help you identify it when you need to.

2. COORDINATE your clothing. I can’t stress this enough! I never used to think up outfits prior to leaving and would just throw in random tops and bottoms. Sure, it’s faster, but more often than not you will end up with a bunch of clothes that never leave your suitcase. You end up wasting space and being upset that you can’t wear your favorite top because you haven’t any bottoms to match. Before tossing clothes in your luggage, create your outfits for your trip. Try them on and try to pick basics that can be worn with more than one item.

3. Roll, Baby, Roll. Rolling your clothes is the best way to create more space and helps reduce wrinkles. Lay your pieces flat and then roll ’em up nice and tight before placing them in your bag.

4. Bring the Basics. When it comes to toiletries, bring the basics. Solid shampoos and conditioners save a ton of space and weight in your bag, coconut oil can be multi-purpose lotion, makeup remover, cooking oil, etc., and you really don’t need your entire eye shadow collection. Embrace the minimalist look and stick to the necessities.

5. Like with Like. This can go two ways: you can either keep each type of clothing together (bottoms with bottoms, tops with tops, dresses with dresses, you get the idea) or you can pack according to outfit, keeping each outfit packed together. You can do this by laying out all the pants in one part of your bag, tops in another, or just by laying out each piece of an outfit together, then another, etc. OR you can opt for clothing organizers that will keep your things separated and allow you to grab what you need without your entire bag exploding in a heap of clothes.

On Island Time: 8 Reasons Barbados Should Be Your Next Winter Vacay

 

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Recently dubbed the Caribbean Destination of the Year by Caribbean Journal, Barbados is, without a doubt, the next trip you need to book.

Like, yesterday.

Barbados is known for its white, sandy beaches and being the birthplace of Rihanna.

It’s the place where high-profile people such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Simon Cowell, Elton John and many others jet off to for their holidays in the sun.

But don’t let that fool you into thinking this destination is only for the well-to-do.

That’s far from the truth.

Barbados is the perfect getaway for travelers of any age and (most importantly) any budget.

The reasons for visiting go far beyond expensive resorts and pictures taken in front of Rihanna’s home on the west coast of the island.

1. For The Adventure

Despite being considered one of the “flattest” Caribbean islands, Barbados still has tons of adrenaline-spiking activities for the adventure seekers.

You can zip line through the trees, scuba dive through sunken ships, snorkel with turtles or go for a horseback ride across the sand.

You can swim in pools of water inside the Animal Flower Cave, hike the rugged coastline of St. Lucy or face your fears of the dark and claustrophobia in some of the underground caves and tunnels.


2. For The Ease Of Getting Around

For only $2 in Barbados (or $1 in American), you can hop on any public bus or ZR (vans that hold roughly 12 people, but can squish in upwards of 22) and get anywhere you need to go.

If you hire a car, it doesn’t take much longer than an hour to drive from one end of the island to the other.

Not only is getting around easy in Barbados, but it’s fun as well.

You’ll typically find loud reggae or soca music blasting on many of the buses and ZRs.

Many ZR drivers bling out the inside of their vans with lights, decoration and colors.


3. For The Friendly Nature

Bajans are pretty friendly folk, and they’re are always willing to lend you a hand in getting where you need to be.

They love recommending their favorite spots on the island or inviting you in for a heated game of dominoes.

They want you to enjoy your stay and feel welcome on the island, and they might even go out of their way to make that happen.


4. For the Mangos And The Coconuts

My version of paradise is anywhere you can buy milk jugs of fresh coconut water, cheap produce at the local markets and mangos by the dozen, which you’ll likely want to eat all in one day (0r one sitting).

Barbados has coconut vendors scattered all over the place, typically on the side of the road or near popular beaches.

Here, you can purchase a fresh coconut for the road or an entire jug of freshly poured coconut water.


5. For The Music

Nothing shocked me more than the musical talent on the island.

If you know where to go, you can find live music acts every night of the week.

I guarantee you will love them all.

From reggae to jazz, you’ll hear it all.

You’ll be blown away by the voices that come out of the artists.

It’s no wonder Rihanna got famous, but it is a wonder that many more haven’t been scooped up.


6. For The Nightlife

Barbados comes alive when the sun goes down, and it goes down early.

Whether you want a chill evening at one of the beachside bars or cafes, or you’re searching for the party atmosphere of St. Lawrence Gap, the Bajans know how to have a good time.

If you’re really in the party mood, try out your skills on the dance floor and see if you have what it takes to wine at the same level as the locals.

Jet on over to Barbados to take part in the Cropover celebration.

Different events are held throughout the month, all leading up to the main event: Grand Kadooment.

This parade shows off elaborate costumes, music and dancing through the streets.


7. For The Beaches

The beauty of the turquoise waters and white, sandy beaches of Barbados is undeniable.

The west and south coasts of the island are where you will find the calm waters of the Caribbean sea, which are perfect for water activities, swimming and sunbathing on the beach.

In stark contrast, the north and east coasts are where you will experience the natural beauty of the rugged coastline and the crashing waves of the Atlantic.

Some of the best beaches are, at the same time, the most popular.

These are Crane Beach, Accra and Sandy Lane.

But along the way, you can discover some hidden gems with far fewer people taking up your space.


8. For The Island Time

The number one reason for making Barbados a part of your 2016 is getting to experience what life is like on island time.

Barbados and its people will teach you a lesson or two about what’s truly important, what truly brings happiness into your life and what can create a shift in your perspective.

Time slows down, and so do you.

Your days no longer revolve around the strict North American schedule dictated by time and money.

Instead, they revolve around building friendships, talking to someone a little bit longer on the street and being able to dive into the sea at a moment’s notice.

A Visual Journey Through the Rocky Mountains, Part 2

Last we spoke, I left you snuggled around a campfire with the wine glasses clinking. After a night laughing with family, we set off for my favorite adventure: Lake Louise. I can’t believe it’s taken me 24 years to get here but I already can’t wait to go back next summer – this time to hike to the teahouses. I don’t think there’s any better motivation for a sweaty hike than ending it with an unbelievable view and a nice cup of tea. This time we settled for a leisurely stroll around the lake while I went crazy on the photos.

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Lake Louise (2)

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Lake Louise

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I think I did an ok job of getting a photo at every possible angle, except for from above, don’t you think? We had the most crystal clear, sunshine filled day – I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon! But the adventure doesn’t stop there.

Just down the road from Lake Louise is yet another gorgeous stop-off point. Moraine Lake, though it doesn’t have the same turquoise waters as Lake Louise, sparkles brilliantly in the sun. Better yet, if you’re just itching to get up close and personal with the shimmering water, you can rent out a canoe for a paddle around the lake!

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Moraine Lake

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The rest of our time was spent in good company, fits of laughter and warming up on the cool summer evenings by a campfire.

Have you visited the Rockies? What did you think?

For a more detailed itinerary, click here!

A Visual Journey Through the Rocky Mountains, Part 1

If you’ve never been to Canada or don’t know much about the country then all of your knowledge might just come from the typical Canadian stereotypes. That we ride polar bears to work, that we have a pet moose in our backyard, that we live in Igloos and have an unstoppable need to apologize – even when we’ve done nothing wrong. While some of these are true (can you figure out which 3 are lies and which one is true?), Canada is a lot more than it’s stereotypes and a lot more than the East and West Coast that most travelers head to. Some of the most exceptional scenery and activity packed locations is Canada’s Rocky Mountains, located in the Southern part of Alberta.

We may be a prairie province with wheat fields as far as you can see but we also have hours upon hours of mountainous terrain – perfect for a road trip with family or friends. You can drive from Jasper National Park to Banff National Park (or the other way around!) and have breathtaking views at every turn, plenty of break spots and tourist points to take some of the very best pictures and partake in tons of activities from horseback riding and hiking to whitewater rafting or bungee jumping.

Whether you’re a summer sun-seeker or a winter nut searching for some of the best powder on the slopes the Rockies are perfect all year round. This summer we took a family road trip where we made our way from Jasper to Banff, camping out along the way and exploring some of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen.

We began our journey on the road, mountains on either side and passing by herds of elk and mountain goats. We had our fun of exploring Jasper town and checking out the trails through the wooded forest near our campsite. 

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Sunset in Jasper National Park

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By the second day we were suited up in our wetsuits and willingly let ourselves be taken by the river, propped up in raft. If you haven’t tried whitewater rafting, I highly recommend it! Be prepared to be drenched in ice cold mountain water – especially if you’ve been volunteered to sit right up in front! My cousin and I may have swallowed half of the river that afternoon.

If you took the icy plunge, as we did, follow our lead and go directly to Miette Hot Springs. Lucky for us, we were camping just up the road from the hot springs and got there just as the sun was setting, dipping into the hot water to thaw our chilled bones.

Jasper National Park sunset

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After having our fill, we headed on to our first stop: Athabasca Falls.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

And took our next stop along the Icefields Parkway, where I went snap happy and landed my favorite shot of the trip:

Icefields Parkway

Before long we had arrived in Banff National Park, setting up camp just outside of town and cozying up to a fire and some well deserved glasses of wine.

 

For a more detailed itinerary, click here and stay tuned for the rest of this adventure!

‘Tis the Season!

There might not be snow on the ground yet but Canadians are already beginning to embrace the spirit of the Winter season. Churchill Square kicked off the beginning of a number of winter and Christmas-themed events that will be popping up all around the city for the next five months with their annual Holiday Light Up.

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In the hours leading to the light up the square was busy with performances by special guests, food vendors, stilt walkers, clowns and mascots but everything slowed down as the countdown for the light up began.

Bundled up in scarves, toques and mittens, hundreds of people gathered around around to watch the Mayor light up the tree as the sun set and darkness engulfed the square. At 74-ft. tall and adorned with 14 thousand LED lights and decorations, it was a spectacular moment that left everyone in awe.

With cheers and claps from the crowd, the event was topped off with a beautiful fireworks display that illuminated the sky.

If you missed the action, don’t worry! Churchill Square will be lit up (minus the fireworks) for rest of the season. Head out when the sun has gone down, bundle up in your coziest winter attire and take a stroll through the square to get a first-hand view of the beautiful lights on display.