My Five Travel Essentials

While we’re all on the topic of travel, I thought I’d share some of my favorite things that help calm this frazzled mind when journeying to new places. See, while I love packing my suitcase or weekender for a trip, I also get super anxious. I constantly leave the house thinking, “Did I forget something?” and check my belongings twice, sometimes thrice. Though definitely not necessary, here are five of my travel essentials that make me a little happier (and more sane):

1. A Classic, Simple Suitcase

I absolutely love my Rockland carry-on. It looks tiny but fits so much. I took it on a six day trip to Seattle last year and had plenty of room to spare! Since I don’t typically like to check bags in and wanted something that I could use for a weekend trip sans flying, it took me a while to find the right size and style. This one holds all I need while still qualifying as a carry-on and makes me feel incredibly chic while strolling through TSA. Plus, it spins!

{ Steal: Rockland | Splurge: Herschel Supply Co. & Ted Baker London }

2. Packing Cubes

If you haven’t heard of packing cubes do yourself a favor and Google/YouTube them. The reviews are sincere when they exclaim these are “life changing.” Though definitely a first world item, they make packing so organized, simple, and easy. I own a set of three plus one extra half cube, and I’m confident I can pack for anything from a short weekend trip to a week long adventure.

Eagle Creek

{ I have this set, but you can also purchase them here }

3. Pouches

If you are a neat-freak like myself, you’ll know how important pouches are when it comes to organization. When I travel, I like to keep all my important items in one place so they’re easily accessible. I’ll separate everything from electronics to personal hygiene products in their own perspective places. I find designating a particular spot for my belongings makes me less likely to lose something.

{ Steal: Baggu & Forever 21 | Splurge: Lo & Sons & Cuyana }

4. Beauty Organizer

Before buying my Sonia Kashuk beauty organizer I used to keep all my toiletries in one opaque pouch. It was chaos. All my items got jumbled together and I could never find anything. This product sections off my stuff perfectly. I can store liquids in one of the two detachable pouches. There’s a specific place that stores my makeup brushes. I can see everything I’m bringing since all the dividers are clear. And it all zips shut into one compact case.

{ This season’s designs here }

5. A Tote Bag

Since most airlines allow two carry-on items, I bring a tote as my second. Mine is a catch-all and big enough to store a crossbody handbag, a book, and even my 15″ laptop. Because this bag is such a workhorse, I don’t suggest splurging on it. The last thing you want ruining your trip is a scratch on your precious leather bag while you were rushing to catch your flight.

{ Steal: Old Navy | Splurge: Madewell }

So there you have it. My five first world travel essentials. Are there any items you can’t live without when traveling? I’d love to know!

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The Bug

Everyone seems to have caught a bug lately—a travel bug—and I’m no different (although, I’m pretty certain I also have a cold of some sort right now). Last year was the most I’ve traveled, ever, and it was awesome. I look back on 2015 and cherish all that I experienced. I want to feel that way about 2016.

But wait, “How can you even afford to travel when you’re on such a tight budget this year?” is what you’re asking. Good question, loyal reader! I’m going to focus on weekend trips rather than week long extravaganzas. Much more affordable and feasible! Plus, anything outside of the DC metro area is going to count as “travel” for me. So, here’s a list of places I have on my radar thus far:

January: NYC, NY
February: no where, WAH
March: Austin, TX
April: Pittsburgh, PA
May: no where, WAH
June: West Augusta, VA | New Orleans, LA
July: The Outer Banks, NC
August: Zion National Park, UT | Boca Raton, FL
September: Disney World, FL
October: Grand Bahama Island
November: Somewhere TBD for the Boyfriend & my 10 year (whoa) anniversary
December:

There are a lot of open months so if you have any [cheap,] fun weekend trip suggestions, let me know! I’ve already got Boston, MA, Charleston, SC, and Seattle, WA on my mind.

Buildings, Baos, and Bustle: A Weekend in NYC

On the last weekend of January, I made a trip up to NYC with a few friends. There may be a video to come, so if you don’t feel like reading just wait for that.

The four of us drove up fairly late Friday night and were grateful for our accommodating AirBnB hostess. We got acquainted with the small studio in Harlem and fell asleep shortly after catching the tail end of Doom.

Breakfast the next day was an Uber drive away at Amy Ruth’s, a highly rated home style southern restaurant in Harlem. Liked the food, loved the music—Tamia’s “Still” was playing as we walked in. I got strawberries & waffles, though the rest of the group decided on chicken & waffles, and instaregretted my choice when I saw their food come out.

With full bellies we made our way down through Central Park on foot. While walking we couldn’t help but notice the Harlem Meer was frozen over. After joking freaking out a few times, I finally got the courage to stand on the precarious, frozen water. Definitely made a bigger fuss over it than needed, but I kept picturing that horcrux/lake scene in Harry Potter. Anyway, we carried on and walked half an hour through the park to arrive at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Though a few of us had forgotten our [long expired] college IDs at home, we still got a student discount (hooray for scheming!). The museum was in the middle of setting up new exhibits in the main rotunda, so we kept to the side exhibitions. As a graphic designer, I almost feel obligated to like art museums. But while perusing there were definitely times I thought to myself, “What the hell does this mean?!” I did however, especially enjoy the Kandinsky gallery and the Thannhauser collection.

The observatory deck of Rockefeller Center, or Top of the Rock, was something I had been looking forward to all month. Even though I had been scrolling through #TopoftheRock posts on Instagram for days, nothing could have prepared me for that experience. Definitely recommend it, regardless of how “touristy” it may appear.

Our hunger finally caught up with us so we took an Uber down to East Village for dinner at momofuku. Something I learned about NYC that weekend? They have specific time slots for meals—such a strange concept. After being turned away there and at Jeepney, we walked over to Baohaus, Eddie and Evan Huang’s Taiwanese eatery. Thinking we’d get one bao each was a mistake because we ended up going back for seconds. I only tried fell in love with the Birdhaus, but everyone else vouched the Chairman was equally delicious.

Because we got a Sun & Stars tickets at Top of the Rock, we went back for second time. As seasoned veterans, we skipped the first two floors and went straight to the top deck (there are three floors of indoor and outdoor decks). Let me just say now, night time photography is a struggle. I’m still getting used to my 35mm prime lens so only a few of my shots turned out well. My favorite section of the three decks is the ‘breezeway’ which features an interactive lighting installation. I had entirely too much fun actin’ a fool in there.

By the end of the evening we were all exhausted. Thus we decided to be mature adults and return to the apartment to rest before going out again. Well, rookie mistake because we altered our original plan of going down town to Verlaine & Fat Baby, and instead hit up The Halal Guys in Time Square before passing out for the night.

In the morning we got ready, checked out of our AirBnB, and packed up the car. While walking to Red Rooster for brunch we got pulled back into Harlem Nights. I mean literally, Chingy’s “Pullin’ Me Back” was playing through their open door. I couldn’t resist. With no prior extensive Yelp research, we managed to find another place with awesome music. In attempt to make the $25 we spent on bottomless Mimosas worth it, we left the place with a bit more pep in our steps. And full bladders. So full in fact, that we had to hop off the subway at Penn Station to find sweet, sweet refuge in the food court bathrooms.

One extremely confusing, tense subway ride later and we found ourselves in SoHo. Though we spent only a few minutes in Supreme & Uniqlo, the trip downtown was worth it because half of our group ran into THE Eddie Huang. The other half (yours truly included) resorted to retail therapy in MUJI after realizing we rushed right past him. Whatever. Pretty stationary cures all. Kinda.

Randomly met the real life Eddie Huang on the streets of NY! #baohaus #FOB

A post shared by Joey 😬 (@whatdaflip) on

Our trip ended quietly as we headed home. Because I was surprisingly awake, I gave the Boyfriend a break and took over driving for an hour. I swear, there’s nothing I can’t do with a sweet R&B playlist and a venti caramel macchiato. I don’t know what was different, but this was one of my more memorable trips to NYC. So much so that the next day I was already looking at my calendar for another free weekend. Maybe in the spring/summer time. We’ll see.