vacation

5 Tips For Planning Your Next Vacation

5 Tips For Worry-Free Travel“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

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If you can’t tell already from the bulk of my posts, I love to travel. I may not be able to do that much of it now that I’m in graduate school, but I try to prioritize even the shorter road trips so that I can experience something new. I truly enjoy visiting a place I’ve never been before, and immersing myself in the culture, food, and history. (Check out my travel guide on Savannah, Georgia, for my latest vacation recap!) However, no vacation is complete without the proper planning, and I’m nothing if not a planner. 🙂

With Memorial Day Weekend almost here and summertime just around the corner, it’s not too late to plan your next adventure. Below are my tips for making it a stress-free vacation, because you deserve it!

  • Call your credit card companies and financial institutions.
    As someone who works in the banking industry, I can attest to this! If you use your card in another state or country, your bank/credit union/credit card company may think that someone has stolen your card and is conducting fraudulent transactions. One of my credit cards was shut down before my trip overseas, simply because I purchased attraction tickets online. Let your financial institutions know where you will be and how long you will be there so that they don’t mistake your travel expenses for fraudulent activity.
  • Plan ahead with a unique itinerary.
    When it comes to vacations, I love this part of the planning process. Before we go on one of our mother-daughter trips, my mom always orders a AAA book to guide us on things to do and places to stay in a particular area. I love the U.S. News Travel site, but I also really enjoy searching for travel blog posts via Pinterest to find suggestions, including some off-the-beaten-path. Having even a rough itinerary will keep you organized throughout the trip and ensure that you have the chance to do the things you’re dying to do!
  • Look for a Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour.
    I am a huge fan of these tours because they allow you to see a lot of the major landmarks and learn the history behind them, while “hopping on” and “hopping off” at your leisure. It’s a great way to spend your first day in a new city! I first discovered these tours in London, but have done them both abroad and in the U.S. If you’re visiting one of the seven cities they serve, I highly recommend Old Town Trolley Tours.
  • Print extras of everything.
    Renting a car? Booking a tour? Designate a folder for all things trip-related, and keep copies of your reservations and tour confirmations with you in case you need to reference that information later on. You’ll thank me when the rental car company doesn’t properly compute your Costco membership discount, and accidentally upcharges you for your car! 🙂
  • Keep your home safe.
    Don’t forget about your house or apartment when you’re on vacation! It’s important to make sure you come back to your home just as you left it, from setting your alarms to cleaning out the fridge. Check out the below infographic from SimpliSafe all about stress-free travel, as well as their tips for keeping your home safe when traveling overseas. SimpliSafe offers wireless, customizable security systems that use modern technology to protect your home, whether you’re leaving the country or simply leaving for the grocery store. Visit their website here!

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Where are you traveling this summer? Sound off with your plans and other tips in the comments section!

The Hostess City of the South: Adventures in Savannah

Savannah - 12While discussing upcoming travel plans, my friend Karina brought up an important point: if you didn’t blog about it, did it even happen? Back in January, my mom and I took our much anticipated annual mother-daughter trip to Savannah, Georgia, a city with culture as rich as its cuisine.

The Historic District of Savannah, where we spent the bulk of our vacation, includes 22 town squares as originally planned by James Oglethorpe in the 1700s. The squares are easy to navigate, and each one we visited had its share of landmarks, restaurants, and eclectic shops.

I’m excited to share the highlights of our trip on the blog, and provide a guide for those traveling to this city for the first (or fifth!) time. 🙂

Places We Visited

  • Wormsloe Plantation
    We began our visit at the Wormsloe Plantation outside of Savannah’s Historic District, first occupied by Noble Jones. We toured the museum and watched a short film about the city’s establishment, but the highlight of visiting these tabby ruins was our mile-long walk down the Spanish moss-lined avenue. What a gorgeous view and a perfect photo op!
  • Savannah - 195Owens-Thomas House
    My mom and I are both big fans of historic homes, so visiting this English Regency-style house was a must. The house served as a home for many over the years, including (temporarily) Marquis de Lafayette. We enjoyed learning the history of the home and its architecture. If you only have time to visit one historic home on your trip, this is the one!
  • Telfair Academy
    Telfair Academy is an art museum located in Telfair Square (near the Owens-Thomas House) and boasts a beautiful sculpture gallery. It also boasts its share of ghost stories. For those planning to visit Telfair Academy, your ticket will also grant you admission to the Owens-Thomas House, as well as the Jepson Center, a contemporary art museum.
  • Sorrel-Weed House
    The Sorrel-Weed House is located very close to our hotel, so we decided to pay the home a visit. The home is currently undergoing restoration efforts, but it was interesting to see how people lived in the 1800s when it was first built. It is also a site known for its ghost sightings, so be wary of any paranormal activity!
  • Savannah - 73Massie Heritage Center
    This former school house was converted to a museum after the school closed in the 1970s, and provides a great overview of Savannah and its history. From its interactive 3D map of the city with a laser show to the 1800s classroom replica, we had fun stepping back in time at Massie.

Tours We Took

  • Old Town Trolley Tours: Hop-On, Hop-Off
    Whenever visiting a new city, I always recommend taking a hop-on, hop-off tour if available. Not only do these tours allow you to learn a lot about the city you’re in, but they also happen to stop at all of the major attractions and can be a great guide for getting to know the area. We toured the city on an Old Town Trolley Tour, which transported us to the picturesque Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Congregation Mikve Israel (one of the oldest synagogues in the country and the only one designed with gothic architecture), Massie Heritage Center, River Street, and many more destinations.
  • Ghosts & Gravestones Tour
    You can’t visit a historic city known for its hauntings without taking a ghost tour! My mom and I did a Ghosts and Gravestones tour on our St. Augustine trip last year, so it was only fitting that we returned for our 2017 trip. The tour gave us some additional insight into Savannah’s history, but it also stopped at the Andrew Low House as well as a ship chandlery. Definitely spooky!

What We Ate

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My mom and I don’t consider ourself major foodies, but we did eat a few delicious meals and treats during our visit! Here are some of our favorites:

  • The Public Kitchen and Bar
    Our first dinner in Savannah was spent at The Public Kitchen and Bar, a farm-to-table restaurant located near our hotel. I tried a Thai Coconut Red Curry, while my mom ordered one of the grass-fed burgers the restaurant is known for.
  • River Street Sweets
    River Street, while iconic, was a little too crowded and touristy for our taste. However, we did make a special stop at River Street Sweets, where we sampled free pralines and purchased some candy to bring back to the hotel. The long lines were worth it!
  • Gryphon Tea Room
    Gryphon Tea Room was the perfect lunch spot for our second day in Savannah. The restaurant itself is a sight to behold, with beautifully carved bookshelves, stained glass, and ornate light fixtures.  While I enjoyed my chicken marsala, the highlight of our visit was definitely the pot of Atlanta Peach Tea that accompanied my meal. On my next visit to Savannah, I would love to return for high tea.
  • Chocolat by Adam Turoni
    How can you walk by a store called “Chocolat” and not go inside? Like Gryphon, Chocolat by Adam Turoni is filled with bookshelves and actually resembles a bookstore more than anything else. The store sells gift book boxes of chocolates, mint julep truffles, and a variety of other unique food products. I enjoyed a piece of the Savannah Honey Chocolate Bar and a Raspberry Chambord Truffle. Definitely worth the visit!

Savannah was only a four-hour drive and the perfect way to spend a long weekend for a mother-daughter trip! I can’t wait for my next visit to the Hostess City of the South, and look forward to getting to know this city even better.

Have you been to Savannah? What are some of the highlights from your trip? Share your suggestions or questions in the comments section below!

Adventures in Florida: New Smyrna Beach

New Smyrna BeachIn a few short days, I will be completely finished with my spring semester and one half of the way through graduate school! Time flies when you’re having fun (that, and when you’re up against a deadline on a paper!), but classes have proven especially challenging for me this semester, so I will be excited for a little break. :)

I plan to celebrate the upcoming summer season by crossing a few more items off my 26 at 26 bucket list, spending quality time with friends, and doing some much-needed organizational projects at home. Of course, no summer in Florida is complete without a beach trip, so I’m looking forward to taking a mini-road trip to New Smyrna Beach!

As some of you may know, I grew up a lot closer to the coast, so a trip to the beach was no big deal. However, living in Central Florida often means fewer beach trips, simply because of how much longer it takes to get there! For my 25 at 25 bucket list, I decided to visit a Central Florida beach that I had never visited before: New Smyrna Beach.

IMG_4926New Smyrna Beach is one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever visited. Not only does it have that picture-perfect white sand,  but you can actually park right on the beach. The last time I went, I felt like I was on spring break! 🙂

If you’re getting in around lunchtime, the best place to stop is the iconic Breakers Ocean Front Restaurant, a beloved landmark in NSB. The seating throughout the restaurant overlooks the ocean (and makes for excellent people-watching), and the burgers are pretty good, too.

For those visiting from out of town, check out Tripping.com to book your vacation rental. From beach houses to luxury vacation homes, Tripping.com has a great selection of places to choose from in New Smyrna Beach and all over Florida, and will compare prices from all of the top sites.

Thinking of making the trip? Here are my top five must-haves for any beach vacation.

  • Proper Hydration
    In case you haven’t heard, Florida can get pretty hot in the summertime. While a cold beer may feel refreshing, it’s important to stock up on water as well in order to remain fully hydrated. Don’t forget your cooler! Bonus tip: A koozie will also help keep your drink cold. Check out ChicMonogram on Etsy for customized monogrammed koozies. Her turnaround time is awesome and her products never disappoint!
  • Cute Cover-Up
    A cute cover-up is essential for any beach trip. I’ve bought a lot of my favorites at Target, and am currently eyeing this adorable kaftan.
  • Sunscreen & Skin Care
    A little bit of sun goes a long way. Make sure to protect your skin from the UVA rays. I like to bring a hat as well to cover my face and (hopefully!) prevent added wrinkles. Don’t forget a lip balm with SPF too– your lips will thank you!
  • Ibuprofen
    As much as I love the great outdoors, I tend to get a pretty bad headache if I’m outside in the heat all day. That’s why I always make sure to pack some ibuprofen or aspirin– that way, I can enjoy the day for longer and still feel great.
  • A Great Beach Read
    For added relaxation, pack along that book you’ve been dying to read. Need some suggestions? For short stories with a splash of dark humor, check out B.J. Novak’s One More Thing, or Helen Ellis’s American Housewife. If you’re looking for sci-fi drama, And Again by Jessica Chiarella is a true page-turner. Or, if you want a memoir with a strong female lead, look no further than Mindy Kaling’s latest, Why Not Me? or Amy Schumer’s Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.

What are your favorite beach essentials? Any tips for visiting New Smyrna? Share with us in the comments section below!

 

Link Love Wednesday: Heartache and Coconut Chicken Bites

HeartbreakGood evening, and happy December! Blogging has been a bit slow here at So It Must Be True in the last month, but life has been good. Outcomes for my fantasy football team may have taken a turn for the worst in the past few weeks, but the holidays are almost here and it’s time for celebration. What are your plans? Any fun holiday parties in the works? Share what you’re most looking forward to this season in the comments section below. As always, enjoy this week’s batch of Link Love!

What are some fun links and interesting articles you’ve come across this week?

International Adventures: Tips for Celebrating Bastille Day in Paris

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Sitting by the Eiffel Tower several hours before the fireworks went off! 🙂

Bon jour! For those of you of French descent/nationality, I wish you a happy early Bastille Day!

Last summer, I celebrated Bastille Day in the heart of Paris. Bastille Day, the French National Holiday that takes place on July 14, commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which symbolizes France’s freedom from its former monarchy. Because I had spent my Fourth of July on an airplane and missed out on all of the American traditions, I was excited to celebrate Bastille Day in France and become immersed in the French culture.

For those of you who made the trip out to Paris this summer, add Bastille Day to your itinerary. (Tweet this!) The city bursts to life with events and traditions that are enjoyable even if you aren’t French, but they can become a bit overwhelming for those who haven’t experienced the holiday before. Here are a few tips for how to appreciate all that Bastille Day has to offer without getting lost in the crowd.

Watch the parade on television.
This may sound counter-intuitive; after all, why would you watch a parade from your hotel room when you could watch it in person? Unfortunately, the Bastille Day Military Parade that takes place on the Champs-Elysses draws in such large crowds that it is nearly impossible to find a spot from which you can actually see the parade. Instead, open a bottle of champagne, turn on your television and stay by a window. If your hotel is near Bastille itself, you may even see the Patrouille de France jets fly by outside.

Paris226Spend your day in the city.
Once the parade is over, go outside and participate in all the revelry that Bastille Day has to offer. Take pictures with cadets from the military academies, climb the iconic Eiffel Tower (what better day to do it than on Bastille Day?) and eat an early dinner outside if weather permits. The excitement of Bastille Day in Paris is contagious, and by spending the holiday among the locals, you will feel like even more of a part of the experience. Be sure to watch your belongings, though – it is easy to lose track of your bags in these crowds.

View the fireworks from the Eiffel Tower.
The perfect place to view the Bastille Day fireworks from is the Champ de Mars, the lawn of the Eiffel Tower. Although the fireworks show doesn’t occur until late evening, arrive early with your camera, a few snacks and a towel or blanket to sit on. My friends and I selected our spots six hours before the show, giving us our fair share of seating. The fireworks are accompanied by music, so you will find yourself singing along among complete strangers from all over the world and having the time of your life.

Leave early.
Although the streets and subways are going to be inundated with people, you can still avoid a great deal of the crowds by leaving the fireworks show five minutes early. This will help you skip the big rush and get back to your hotel safely.

Enjoy your Bastille Day!

Original version published in Immersion World.