Category Archives: Traveling

Ohio Trip

We spent this past weekend in Ohio visiting my oldest sister’s family. For those who don’t know, they live in Prague (check out this post for our recent trip to visit them there!). However, thanks to a business trip, they are hanging out in Ohio for a bit so we went up to visit them!

us-with-katka-and-marek

This is us with our niece, Katka and nephew, Marek. They are so fun to spend time with! Melissa (their mom/my sister) and I have talked a lot about parenting over the years and this weekend I started asking her oldest (Katka) what she thought of her parents parenting. It was fun hearing her perspective (turns out she thinks her parents are doing a pretty good job). 🙂

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Katka is very excited to meet her cousin the next time we see them! She loved feeling my baby bump and offering name suggestions. 🙂

melissas-fam

My sister’s family! As always, we had a wonderful visit with them! Even though they live in Europe, I’m so thankful we’ve made an effort to see each other as frequently as we can!

SkylineChili.jpg

We did plenty in Columbus, Ohio over this weekend (including visiting the zoo, walking around the Ohio State campus, walking around downtown, eating lots of delicious food, and playing at parks), but this is the only other photo I have, haha! We ate at Skyline Chili and it was delicious! Though, I’ll be honest, half that cheese came off before I ate it, haha! 😉

17-weeks2

I’ll leave you with this shot from yesterday at the airport. Baby Girl has POPPED! I can’t figure out if this is because I really have grown this much or if this is the first Baby Bump photo we’ve taken near the end of the day versus in the morning. I definitely ate a lot of dairy this weekend which tends to bloat me. So I’m not sure how much of that is Baby V and how much of that is the cheese I had for lunch. 😉 But either way, Baby Girl is growing and making sure everyone knows she’s here! This is the 4th State she’s visited while in utero, but her first flight! I’m excited for all the adventures we’ll have with her on the outside too! 🙂

Do you have far-away family that you still get to see on a regular basis?

Have you had Skyline Chili? If so, did you actually eat all that cheese?! 

Love Rach

Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg

Our family celebrated Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg, TN this year. We left on Sunday just before the fires came raging through and destroyed so much of the beauty you see in this video. My heart breaks for the devastation of such a beautiful place. It makes me especially glad that I documented this trip. Enjoy this glimpse into our time in Gatlinburg featuring snow tubing, walking trails, a murder mystery dinner, games, dancing, and just general family fun. 🙂

I have so many favorite parts to this video. From my mom snow tubing to Makenzie’s face when Christopher beats her at pool to my uncle and nephew dancing to my aunt photobombing my sister to Christopher’s selfie-mode snow tubing clip… it’s all just fun. I’m so glad we were able to get away as a family for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful trip!

Love Rach

Europe 2016 (plus future plans)

My friends, I am officially done recapping our Europe trip. At the end of this post I’ll link to all the blog posts from this trip. Or if you feel like watching all the videos in a row you can do so here:

This trip was amazing. It was so precious to have those 17 uninterrupted days together. Just us. Exploring and adventuring and making memories. I’ll be honest, there are times when life can be really hard. And we are notorious for taking on more than we should when it comes to volunteer work (though we’re better than we used to be thanks to our 30 Days last year). So this trip was such a blessing for us.

We’ve been asked quite a bit where we’re headed next as far as travel goes so I thought I’d fill you guys in. Our plan for 2017 is to travel state-side (maybe with a cruise or a trip to the Caribbean thrown in if we find a good deal). So if you have any suggestions for must-see places in the good ol’ US of A, let me know! I’m not sure if we’ll make it everywhere, but I know that we’d like to visit California, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., Wyoming, Illinois, and maybe even possibly Disney World.

And in 2018 we’ve got our sights set on the UK. We’re hoping to visit England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales to see all the places my family is from. And if it works out, I wouldn’t say no to hopping on a plane over to Finland while we’re on that side of the ocean. 🙂

We love to travel and are so thankful to have jobs that allow us time off. This 2016 Europe trip was amazing and we’re already looking forward to all the fun that 2017 and 2018 will bring! 🙂

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Links to our 2016 Europe Trip:

Vienna, Austria
Prague, Czech Republic
Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
Cinque Terre, Italy
Rome, Italy
Athens, Greece
Mykonos, Greece
Santorini, Greece
Paris, France
Because We’re Terrible at Taking Selfies
How We Travel So Much (and how we flew to Europe for $400 round trip)
Packing for 17 days in a carry on

Any advice for me on favorite places you’ve visited in the USA?

Love Rach

Packing for 17 days in a carry on

This post is an attempt to answer several questions from different people about packing so forgive me if I bounce around a bit.

First of all, I have to tell you guys that if we are driving somewhere, we bring ALL THE THINGS. Seriously. Multiple clothing & shoe options for each day, lots of entertainment (coloring books, reading material, games, etc), cameras, laptops, blankets, pillows, fitness stuff, and suitcases packed FULL. For a simple weekend trip we usually bring enough for a month. 😉

However, if we’re flying… we are no-nonsense, essentials-only packers. This is simply because we don’t like checking bags. If my bag has to be checked, it will no doubt get lost. When we went to Italy in 2013 one of our bags got sent to the wrong place so we spent 2 weeks living out of one carry-on size backpack. This made us realize how little stuff we actually NEED when traveling. So for this trip when we packed, we packed light.

packing light for europe.jpgWhat you see in this photo is everything we brought on our entire 17 day journey! Two carry-on sized bags and 1 personal item.

Our choice for carry-on size backpacks: 

We each carried one Osprey Porter 46 backpack. These aren’t cheap, but they are excellent quality. They are standard carry-on size and you can easily put the straps up to carry the bag like a suitcase as well. We loved all the extra compartments on these bags! Plus they were very comfortable to carry and easily adjustable. Best of all, they also have a front panel opening. So they open like a suitcase. I LOVE this feature! It makes it so much easier to find what you are looking for in the bag. For a size comparison, here’s the backpack next to my standard rolling carry-on that I usually fly with:

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And here’s a peek inside my bag once it was packed:

osprey-46-packed

For bottoms I brought 2 pairs of shorts (1 athletic, 1 regular), 1 pair of yoga pants, and 1 pair of skinny jeans. I also brought 3 dresses to rotate through. In Christopher’s bag he packed 3 pairs of shorts and 1 pair of linen pants as well as 1 casual button up shirt. To save space in our bags (and because planes are cold!), we wore our warm clothes on the plane (a cardigan & scarf for me, a jacket for him). We both wore sneakers on the plane and packed Chacos for beach days. We brought the barest essentials as far as extras, entertainment (1 deck of cards plus books & music on our phones), and toiletries went (1 quart size bag each, thankyouTSA) and that was that. 🙂

How we pack our backpacks:

We packed our outfits (minus pants) for each day in these gallon-sized bags (see below). Each bag has a date on it and then into that bag Christopher and I put one shirt each, one pair of undies each, and a pair of socks each. That way we are sure we won’t clash and we don’t have to figure out what we’re wearing each day. For this trip we brought 8 different gallon-sized bags with outfits that we washed half way through the trip and then re-wore for the second half of the trip. We also had a 9th bag for our swimwear and a 10th for one long-sleeved shirt each. So each of us packed 5 gallon-sized bags in our backpacks.

clothes in ziplock bags

I posted about this before we left and I had several of you ask me how I actually rolled the clothes up in each bag so I made you a super quick video tutorial:

Very basic. Very simple. A lot of blacks, whites, greys, and blues. But very practical which worked well for us. 🙂

Our choice for a personal item:

We carried the Travelon anti-theft cross body bag as our personal item (we would swap it back and forth since it got heavy). We bought this bag in 2013 for our Italy trip and it has been awesome! It has traveled to most major cities with us. Inside this bag goes our itinerary for the day, snacks, travel journal, lip balm, medicine, band aids, headphones, flashlight, deck of cards, cell phones, power brick for charging cell phones, a credit card (other credit cards, passports, and cash were carried in these money belts), and my DSLR camera.

camera-and-bagChristopher with the cross body bag and me with the DSLR camera (at the Roman Forum)

How we pack and travel with a DSLR camera when flying:

When we fly, I don’t bring my whole camera bag. Which means that we only bring one DSLR camera and only one lens for it attached already (on this trip we brought a Nikon D750 and a 50mm 1.8/f). We also brought a little point & shoot camera (Nikon S8100) that has served us well and is perfect for beach days (if we are planning to swim, I usually leave the DSLR in the room because I don’t want to leave it unattended on the beach). And honestly, cellphones these days take awesome pictures and video as well. The DSLR goes into a protective sleeve cover (I have this one, but when I searched for it just now, I also saw this other one and it looks even better so I might be purchasing it in the future). And then my camera is either worn crossbody if I know I’ll be using it a lot (which is pretty much always, haha!) or it goes our Travelon bag.

Whew! That was a lot of information. Let me know if I left anything out or if you have any questions! 🙂

So tell me, how much do you usually pack for trips? Do you pack less when you fly?

Love Rach

 

How we travel so much (and how we got round trip tickets to Europe for $400)

We’re asked fairly frequently how it is that we’re able to travel so much. And there are several factors. But first, let me say this: unless you are looking for inexpensive ways to travel, this post (and especially the parts about credit cards) will likely be rather boring. So feel free to skim this post or just skip it entirely. I don’t blame you. 😉 But for those of you who have been asking about this, here are a few of the factors that play in to how we travel so much:

Vacation:

First of all, we both have jobs that are really great as far as taking time off goes. Christopher had four weeks of vacation this year and since I work for myself I was kind enough to allow myself the time off. 😉 And the family that I nanny for a few hours a week has plenty of family and friends in town to help out when I’m gone. We recognize that this isn’t normal for most people to be able to take off so much time so we are very grateful. We also take lots of weekend trips that only require 1 vacation day (a Friday or Monday) for a fun 3 day trip.

No debt other than our house: 

Second, we paid off all of our student loans a few years ago. So other than our house (which we’re working on), we have no debt. We’ve always paid cash for our vehicles and we’ve never had credit card debt. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifices for a few years, but we are so glad we paid it all off because we now have more freedom with our income. We can give more when we hear of someone in need, save more, and yes… even spend more.

Prioritizing how we spend money: 

Which leads us directly into the third thing: even though we have more money available to spend, it doesn’t mean that we spend it on everything that catches our eye. Some people spend their money on designer clothes or nice cars or going out to see a movie every weekend. And there is nothing wrong with spending money on those things. We would just rather spend our money on travel so we prioritize our finances a little differently.

Using Credit Cards (domestically): 

And finally, a big way we’ve been able to travel has been by utilizing credit cards. When we travel in the States we use our Companion Pass through Southwest (so for each plane ticket we purchase or redeem with points, we get one for free). Remember in 2015 when we flew to Las Vegas/Grand Canyon, the Dominican Republic, New York City, and Orlando/Bahamas? Those flights were all free. Well, free with an asterisk. Because you still have to pay taxes and fees on the flights. So each flight cost us about $12 for both of us to fly. Each time we wanted to travel we would redeem miles to pay for Christopher’s ticket and then I flew free as his companion. For this next year I have the credit card in my name so I’ll redeem miles to buy a ticket for me and then Christopher will fly as my companion.

We also have a Hyatt credit card which gave us 2 free nights when we signed up. We also had a ton of points built up on a Chase credit card from previous years that Hyatt allowed us to transfer to our Hyatt account. So that gave us free stays all over the States last year.

Using Credit Cards (internationally):

For this year’s trip to Europe we used American Airlines MileSaver points because their flight award chart showed that it was 30,000 points for a ticket from the US to anywhere in the EU. So 30,000 each way is 60,000 for each round trip ticket. Meaning that for both of us we would need 120,000 points in total to get two round trip tickets to Europe.

So in order to get our 120,000 points we signed up for two credit cards that each gave 60,000 points as an introductory offer after $2,000 in spending within 3 months. Right now the cards listed at that link don’t show that offer, but as with most credit card offers, they come and go with their offerings. Just keep your eye out and there will once again be an offer for 60k points when you sign up. We got the Citi Platinum Select Mastercard as well as another one that isn’t offered anymore (boo!). If you are only needing one round trip ticket then you can just get that one credit card. But if you need two tickets then both people will need to sign up separately for the card to build up the points. Or if that’s too much of a hassle or one of you isn’t approved then you can always at least get one ticket for free and only have to pay for the other one. Still a big savings over purchasing two tickets outright!

Keep in mind that you will still have to pay fees and taxes. For us this amounted to $200/person. So not cheap, but $400 for two round trip tickets to Europe – definitely worth it! So if you start planning your trip about a year in advance, you will have plenty of time to watch the credit cards until they offer the deals you are looking for and then you can apply and begin spending on them immediately (we put all spending on them for that time: mortgage, bills, food, etc). Doing this in advance also gives you better flight options and seats since you aren’t booking last minute.

Important notes about using Credit Cards: 

We are very careful to avoid credit card debt. Yes, we do have credit cards and yes we do put all of our spending on it for x-number of months until we hit the minimum spend needed to get the rewards we want. However, we always pay them off in full every single month. And we always call to cancel them before the 1 year mark (when they charge you the service fee). Usually the person we talk to offers us another year free because they don’t want us to close our account with them, but sometimes we have to go ahead and cancel the card. Canceling cards isn’t bad, but it’s not the best thing ever for your credit score so you do have to be mindful of that when signing up for a bunch of different reward cards.

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Hopefully all of this makes sense. If I didn’t explain something well, please let me know! I’m happy to fill in the gaps. 🙂

For those of you who have used Credit Cards to travel before: did I leave anything out? Or any other tips for me?

For those of you who have never used Credit Cards to travel: does this sound just super convoluted and crazy? When Christopher first proposed it to me a few years ago I thought it was crazy, but I’ve definitely come around!

Love Rach

Because we’re terrible at taking selfies

Christopher finally upgraded his Samsung S3 to the newest Samsung S7 just before we left for Europe.

With a new phone comes fun new features and learning how to use them all.

This includes the fact that when you take a photo on his S7 you can press the screen and the phone with automatically focus on the spot you touch and fix the lighting for that area as well. A super cool feature!

However, this feature doesn’t work in selfie mode.

Instead, when you touch the screen in selfie mode it takes a photo.

You guys, we seriously kept forgetting this so we have all these hilariously terrible selfies with us touching the screen trying to get his phone to focus on what we want it to focus on.

And clearly I need to share these terrible photos with you. 😉

switzerland-1Underneath a waterfall in Switzerland. This was when we first found out that this feature doesn’t work in selfie-mode. We took like 6 photos in a row before we realized it, ha! Also, please note Christopher’s horns. 😉

switzerland-2Same day in Switzerland. This was near the beginning of our trip so we had trouble remembering that this feature didn’t work.

athensAnd then in Athens. This was the end of the trip so we really have no excuse for not remembering, ha!

And then finally… this lovely shot in the Cinque Terre. This one wasn’t a problem because of us touching the screen. Oh no, this one is terrible because of my face.

manarolaThis is one of Christopher’s favorite photos because he finds it so hilarious. What is this face I am making?! Horrible, that’s what. 😉 I had been smiling quite prettily at the camera when this girl walked up behind us and stood in the background of our photo (which happens a lot when traveling in touristy areas so no big deal). So I made this silly face that was supposed to be a “yikes” face, but it just looks horrible. Hence why Christopher finds it so hilarious.

So there you have it. We have lots of beautiful photos and video clips from our time in Europe, but there are some terrible ones too. And you just got a taste of the worst of it. 😉 Just keepin’ it real, my friends.

Are you good at taking selfies? Any tips for us??

Does anyone else’s phone have a feature like this one? 

Love Rach

Paris, France

This may sound strange because it’s such an iconic city, but Paris has never been super high on our list of places we wanted to visit. However, due to using airline miles to pay for our plane tickets, we were limited on places we could fly in and out of on the dates that we wanted. So Paris was the city that lined up best with the departure date we wanted. We figured we might as well see the city while we were there. And oh my, am I glad we did! We loved visiting Paris!

Time Spent in Paris: 23 hours

Where we stayed: Hotel Jean Bart

Where we ate: 

Le Royal
Pomme de Pain

What we saw/did:

Eiffel Tower
Louvre Museum (best museum of our trip!)
Notre Dame Cathedral
Sainte Chapelle
Luxembourg Gardens

Total Steps: 26,773

Miles Walked: 12

Floors Climbed: 19

Overall thoughts: Paris was such a fun city! I liked so many things about it, but the Eiffel Tower (iconic, much?) and Louvre were my favorites. I absolutely loved the Winged Victory at the Louvre. I’m pretty sure I need a full-scale replica of that somewhere at my house. 😉

I discovered on this trip that I love croissants. I’ve always thought that I didn’t like them, but I guess I’ve just never had a really good one before. I had some incredible ones both in Greece and in Paris! And speaking of food, I have a story I need to share…

At dinner in Paris I ordered the vegetable soup. The server informed me that they were out of vegetable soup, but that the onion soup was very good. I was a little unsure because I was envisioning a vegetable soup, but with only onions and no other veggies. But it was inexpensive so I thought I’d try it as a starter. When I was served the soup, I exclaimed, “Oh! It’s FRENCH onion soup! I didn’t realize that’s what it was!” Christopher found this absolutely hilarious. We have both laughed about it many times since then. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize it, but obviously we were in France… so all onion soup is French onion soup. 😉 The clip of me at the end of the video is from when Christopher was asking me to tell him all about my “onion soup” which is why I’m laughing so much. 🙂

I’m so glad we got to spend the day in Paris. It was a fabulous end to our European vacation! 🙂

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If you’ve been to Paris tell me what you loved about it! 

Have you ever had an experience with ordering food and not realizing what it was until it arrived?

Love Rach