Weekend Getaway Guide: Newark, Ohio

Beautiful Newark, Ohio and the surrounding small towns have a lot to offer for a variety of interests, which makes it a perfect destination for a weekend getaway! Whether you want to spend your days outside exploring and soaking up the lush landscape, wine and dine your way through the numerous bars and restaurants, or experience theaters and the local arts, you certainly won’t get bored. As my hometown, I’m so excited to share the parts of the city that make it great!

 

The Guide

 

Where to Stay:

 

Newark and the surrounding towns have a number of accommodations, for whatever traveling style. I’m always partial to AirBnB’s wherever I travel, and the area has some real hidden gems, most under $100/night! Welsh Hills Inn or Orchard House are great options for a real Bed & Breakfast experience, if that’s more your thing. Check out the Trout Club, Granville Inn or Buxton Inn for an upscale hotel stay, or try hotels like The Double Tree by Hilton, or Courtyard by Marriott for a more economical option. Since the area is nestled in lush, rolling hills, camping is always a fun choice for a weekend getaway, too!

 

How to Get Around:

 

Here’s the thing, if you’re used to having the luxury of public transportation or Uber to get around, throw those expectations out the window when visiting Newark. While Newark does have a small public bus route and Yellow Cab service, neither are very reliable or even available everyday. It’s best to stick with your own vehicle for this town, or a rented one.

The good news is that even with the town being a bit spread out, it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to get from end to end, and traffic is incredibly light, so it makes for easy drives! Newark also offers a variety of well-maintained bike trails, allowing a more scenic route through the city, and there’s a lot within walking distance in the Downtown Newark and Downtown Granville areas.

 

What to Eat:

 

The best part of any weekend getaway? The food!

Downtown Newark offers a unique variety of locally-owned restaurants & bars, a few of my favorites being Moe’s Original Barbecue (you have to try their award-winning smoked wings), Elliot’s Wood Fired Kitchen & Tap (wood fired pizza…need I say more?), and The Bootlegger for a fun way to end the evening.

Some of my locally-owned Granville favorites are Broadway Pub, Snapshots Lounge, and Day Y Noche. And if breweries are more your thing, there are plenty of those to go around, too!

 

Where to Go:

 

From taking in the natural beauty of the landscapes or enjoying a night of arts and entertainment, it’s unlikely you’ll run out of things to do in Newark and surrounding areas during your stay.

For a fun outdoor adventure, I recommend checking out Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve (not pet friendly!), Dawes Arboretum, or Lake Hudson in Granville.

Rather enjoy the great outdoors on the golf course? There are lots to choose from!

 

Newark also has a growing nighttime entertainment scene, found in beautiful and historic venues like Thirty One West and The Midland Theatre.

If you happen to be visiting during the summer, do not miss out on the Canal Market District Farmers Market and the Granville Farmers Market!

 

If you’ve been to Newark recently, tell me your favorite spot in the comments below!

Tips For Taking Your Pup On Your Next Adventure

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Whether you’re an avid camper or a trail newbie, wilderness adventures are made that much better when accompanied by your four-legged pals. While it’s a lot more work than simply picking up and heading out on your own, with a little know-how and preparation, your next adventure can be that much more special with your dog tagging along.

Check The Park Rules

Before packing up and hitting the trails, be sure that wherever you’re going is dog-friendly. Most National Parks, for example, don’t allow dogs to share the trails (sad face), and rules vary quite a bit in National Forests and State & Metro parks. Rules for how to conduct yourself and your pup in the parks may vary too, but no matter where you go, leashes are almost always mandatory.

Trust me when I say Park Rangers do not take the offense lightly when you forego those rules. A couple years ago Zach and I took Daisy up to Conkle’s Hollow in Hocking Hills, a place I’d taken her hiking before with no issues, and a place I’d seen other dogs (even that very day). I walked out of there with a $150 fine after a Park Ranger stopped us on the trail headed out. Always, always check the rules first.

Make Sure They’re Up To Date

This means all vaccinations as well as flea/tick medicine. Parasites, insects, and diseases are all a risk for a dog when outside at all, let alone in the open country. Make sure they’re prepared to not only protect against anything spreading to them, but also to protect the land from any foreign cooties your dog might be carrying.

A quick check-up to the vet will give you a better idea as to if your pup is ready to hit the trails with you (both with vaccinations and general stamina/health), or if preventative measures should be taken first.

Pack Their Bags

If you’ve ever gone hiking for an afternoon you know that packing a few light snacks, extra water bottles, & a first-aid kit are automatic essentials, right? Your dog deserves the same. Especially if you’re camping overnight, make sure they’re equally prepared for wherever the trails take you. Besides food and water (and bowls for both!), don’t leave the house without a few trail treats, poop bags, bedding, a spare leash, a towel, eco-friendly wipes to clean quickly and easily, and perhaps a favorite toy if your pup happens to be a little anxious about the new environment.

Ease Into It

Just as you will need some time to build up your endurance for long hikes, you can’t expect your dog to automatically have the amount of stamina needed to hike for miles and miles with you through the wilderness all willy nilly. Take your pup for a few practice hikes in some parks or trails near you, starting small and building your way up to more strenuous trails and longer distances. Be sure to check their energy level afterward - if they’re still excited and active, then you know you can safely increase the distance next time around.

Along with the hiking itself, if you’re planning a camping trip with your dog it’s a good idea to get them used to the tent and campsite set up. Do a practice run in the back yard before heading out, even sleep out there if you think your dog might need it or seems very hesitant about the tent. Make sure they have a comfortable place to sleep (if you don’t want to sleep on the ground, neither do they), and they are used to being on a leash line around the campsite.

Be Mindful Of Them

Whether or not you’ve prepped your pup for the adventures ahead of you, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on the whole time and to keep in mind natural trail hazards. Dogs (tragically) cannot talk to us, but there are signs of distress that are sometimes missed, especially when you’re busy soaking up all the beauty of the nature around you. Naturally, their heart rate and breathing will be excessive during more strenuous hikes, but during breaks watch to make sure that they’re coming back down to normal levels (just as yours should). That means taking breaks long enough to achieve that.

Generally, you should also be keeping them on a leash at all times, only allow them to drink from treated, potable water, and ensure they don’t chew or ingest toxic plants.

 

Daisy and I have been on countless adventures together over the years - she’s my absolute favorite hiking companion. It takes a lot of work and awareness to safely bring her along on trails with me (then again, what part of dog ownership doesn’t take a little work and awareness?), but the extra work is welcomed by a rewarding adventure for the both of us.

 

Have You Taken Your Dog On Adventures With You? What Was Your Favorite Place?

Free (& Nearly Free) Places To Go In Columbus

Phew! Is it just me, or is summer just flying by? I've been slacking on getting posts up here, mostly due to a lot of big changes & simply navigating the summertime buzz that is my social life right now. Ya girl is pretty tired over here, but embracing the chaos! 

Now, for those of you who know me personally, you know that I love me some freebies. This summer I've made it my mission to spend as little money as possible while still doing what I enjoy (ie. I've visited a lot of parks), and I've compiled a list of my favorite free (& nearly free) places to go in Columbus, during summer or otherwise.

Get out there and get exploring!

 

Inniswood Metro Gardens

This little gem in the suburb of Westerville is full of stunning landscapes, flowers, and art, and is one of my favorite parks in Columbus. Bonus points: it's dog-friendly!

Within the park itself there are several "themed" gardens to wander through, all of which have their own quirks and surprises. I particularly like the Sister Garden for the fact that it has a tree house (and since I'm actually 5 years old and can't say no to a tree house), as well as the Herb Garden, Fern Garden, Woodland Rock Garden. All of the gardens are beautiful, though, and even though the park isn't very large, there's plenty to see. It makes the list because it is absolutely free to go!

 
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The Columbus Museum of Art has always been one of my favorite "rainy day" spots in town. I cherish it more so probably considering my Grandma would take me here frequently as a kid, and I've loved seeing it grow over the years.

Besides the steady, impressive art collection housed within their walls, the museum offers a ton of regularly cycled exhibitions that fall usually within range of contemporary art. They also host a ton of really neat events within their museum and outside of the city, and offer a full floor of kid-centered arts and activities (which actually are fun for adults, too, if you like crafting in any capacity).

This museum makes the list due to its free Sunday admission - can't beat that! 

 

North Market

If you like farmer's markets, cultural diversity, food, shopping, and more food, the North Market is the place for you. This indoor public market hosts 35 vendors, consisting of produce, meats & fish, baked goods, bars, restaurants, and gift shops, and has something for just about anyone. On an open afternoon, my favorite thing is to walk through here and grab a bite to eat for lunch, maybe pick up a bouquet of flowers or a specialty baked good to take home, and enjoy people watching at the bar (don't pretend you don't).

North Market makes the list because while nothing is truly "free" at the market, it's only as expensive as you make it, and truthfully it's not necessary to spend a ton to have a good time here.

Bonus points: parking can be validated with any of the vendors after a purchase, which will save you money!

 


This magical park is exactly how it sounds; chock full of roses (and other flowers) of every variety, color, and size. If you've ever dreamed of strolling through an English rose garden outside a stone castle while reading poetry and drinking tea, this is (almost) your dream come true.

Spring and Summer months are obviously the best times to go, June being when the roses are at their peak bloom. Talk about a beautiful sight! The park itself runs along Olentangy Trail and Whetstone Park, so it makes it a great starting or ending place for any other walking or biking adventures, and it makes the list because it's 100% free to go. Win-win.

Bonus points: it's dog-friendly!




 

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Huntington Park: Clippers Stadium

What's better than a ball game, beer, and hot dogs on a summer evening?

Even if baseball isn't really your thing these games are a ton of fun. Take it from a girl who doesn't ever pay attention to the actual game while there. The stadium is designed to be very open, airy, and inclusive, and tickets are sold as low as $7 (and I'm not talking nose-bleeds). My personal favorite is hanging out at the bar/restaurant on the upper level and watching the game from there while dining or grabbing a drink - it's gorgeous view of the city, and a fun, inexpensive way to spend an evening in Columbus! 

 
 


I am in love with this bookstore in all honesty. It has an unmistakable charm about it that I have yet to see in all the bookstores I've wandered into so far - really, the only thing they're missing is a resident cat that sleeps on the cashier's counter. If you're a book lover, you'll understand what I mean.

It's incredibly easy to spend an afternoon wandering the 32 rooms of this store (I mean, there are 32 rooms...it's sort of expected), and since this shop is located in the heart of German Village, it's a great launching point to all of the other wonderful places within the neighborhood.

When I'm feeling a bit blue or maybe just bored, I come here to escape and get lost in the maze of rooms. I never leave empty-handed, and while the books aren't exactly free, they're fairly priced and often marked down (they have an entire room of clearance books!). And hey, it's free to read while you're there.

 

Highbanks Metro Park

If you don't feel like driving an hour away to hike Hocking Hills, Highbanks is a great alternative. It's nestled right between Polaris and Powell, but once you're there you instantly feel like you've been transported far outside the city. There are tons of beautiful trails for hiking or mountain biking, and some that allow pets (Coyote Run Trail is a great choice for pups!) One of the most popular trails is the Overlook Trail that winds you through about 2 miles of woods before dropping you at a stunning overlook spot (didn't see that coming, right?) above the Olentangy River. 

You guessed it, the park is free. Hike away!

 


The Conservatory is another cherished spot of mine thanks to my Grandma's frequent trips here with me as a kid. I find this place incredibly enchanting, and it's a favorite on my list of, you guessed it, rainy day spots. 

The indoor spaces are climate controlled year-round, and are amazing replicas of other climates and landscapes (ie. it's humid, guys). Between March and September the Pacific Island Water Garden room becomes home to hundreds of freely flying butterflies, and let me tell ya, it's magical. 
 

Though the conservatory building itself is filled to the brim with nature and art (did I mention the Chihuly glass art collection they have?), the Botanical Gardens also offer an overwhelming amount of beauty in their large outdoor space. The expertly manicured gardens and park are the only admissions-free part of the conservatory as a whole, but I'm lumping the whole damn place onto the list because it's a must-see for anyone visiting or living in Columbus. 

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16-Bit Bar+Arcade

Hey, I wasn't going to make a list including my favorite places in the city and not include a bar...

While bars are not free in nature (could you imagine, though?), this bar in particular is special due to the fact that it's filled with old-school arcade games that are 100% free to play as long as you buy a drink! Everything from Galga, Pac-Man, Mario Bros, to Mortal Combat, they have it. There's even a couple Nintendo gaming stations set up that house literally every Nintendo game (probably) ever.

And while they're not free, the drinks are half of the fun - they have a huge beer selection on tap and a truly unique cocktail menu (I recommend the Kevin Bacon, the Patrick Swayze, or the Uma Thurman). 

Weekends are obviously the busiest (and most crowded), but their weekday calendar is always full of fun tournaments, special games, and discounts. It's definitely a must-see spot. 

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FREE (OR NEARLY FREE) SPOT IN COLUMBUS? IF YOU'VE BEEN TO ANY OF THE PLACES ABOVE, LEAVE A COMMENT AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THOUGHT!

Weekend Getaway Guide: Camping in Mohican Wilderness

 

This post contains affiliate links and I am eligible to earn a profit from purchases through the links labeled "Buy on Amazon". 

The Mohican area is dubbed the "camp and canoe capitol of Ohio", and for good reason. Conveniently only about an hour and a half from Downtown Columbus, it's jam-packed with more than enough wildlife adventures to fill a weekend, such as hiking, camping, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, zip lining, and much more. 

After months of window shopping for supplies and narrowing down our Amazon cart, Zach and I decided to pack-up our gear and head out for a weekend of camping at one of Mohican's numerous campgrounds, Mohican Wilderness. It's a favorite spot for families, Scout and Youth Groups, and festival go-ers (the Annual Mohican Bluegrass Festival, specifically), but we chose it for it's more secluded campsite options, and the proximity to the State Park. 

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The Guide

 

Sleeping:

We shopped around for a while for a tent, and landed with the REI Co-Op Kingdom 4 Tent for it's functionality, durability, and price. It's large enough for two people (and a dog!) to sleep very comfortably with room to spare and room to stand up. Trust me, you want room to stand up! We also packed the REI Co-Op Kingdom 4 Footprint, and REI Co-Op Kingdom Garage which seemed unnecessary to me at first, but in reality I'm so happy we had them. The garage especially was perfect for storage and extra privacy outside of the actual tent, and we ended up utilizing the hell out of it.

For this camping trip we decided to pack the REI Co-Op Kingdom Sleep System, which we knew would be a little luxurious for our small weekend trip, but well worth it for catching some solid Z's. Otherwise, the sleep system is way too heavy to carry around long-term, so I don't recommend it for any kind of lengthy backpacking excursion. 

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Cooking: 

The campsites at Mohican Wilderness do not come equipped with existing fire rings like most campgrounds, so Zach built the fire ring from rocks found in the stream next to our campsite, for which we used as a grill. In the interest of comfort and ease, we also brought a Coleman RoadTrip Grill stove-top, which is obviously a much simpler method to cook while camping or on the road, and was essential when our fire wasn't stable enough to cook on. 

Be sure to only bring the food you're going to eat, and limit any extras like spices or oils to things you absolutely need. I also recommend investing in a coffee press (something sturdy and easily cleanable like stainless steel) and an insulated mug that you can use for just about anything - it'll save on the amount of dishes you need to pack and clean. Finally, make sure you pack some kind of water container for your campsite - packs of plastic water bottles just aren't very effective (and they're a bit wasteful), so we chose a collapsible water container that we filled from one of the potable water spigots nearby. We only needed one full fill-up to last the entire weekend for all washing and drinking purposes. 

Worst-case scenario, Mohican Wilderness's main office is well stocked in case you forget anything, and the nearest store is only about a 15-minute drive away from the campground. 

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Cleaning:

Cleaning yourself, or anything else for that matter, is always a bit challenging while camping. Even if your camping trip will only last a few days, choose a multi-purpose biodegradable soap to easily clean any dish, piece of gear, or body part. Trust me, you won't need much and you can use it freely without worrying about harming the environment. I also really enjoyed having cleansing wipes on-hand (also an eco-friendly option) for quick clean-ups. Mohican Wilderness does have several shower rooms located along the main campground roads, though Zach and I chose not to venture there more-so for the sake of time. We were pretty secluded in our little corner of the campground, so taking quick spit baths with wipes or even washing off in the stream or from our water container wasn't inconvenient enough to feel the need to use the showers. Plus, it's camping, it's expected to be a little dirty. 

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Hiking: 

Though Mohican Wilderness itself offers tons of recreational activities on their campground like canoeing, horseback riding, and rifle shooting, Zach and I stuck to our tried-and-true hobby, hiking. Mohican State Park is only about a 20-minute drive from the campground and is perfect for a challenging and scenic hiking day. 

The entrance to the State Park is officially on Route 3, but it's best to follow OH-97 to find the "south entrance" of the park to get to Mohican Covered Bridge, which is where the trails begin. It's not well marked, but once you see Park Rd. that's where you where you want to turn. Once at the bridge, you will see entrances to several marked trails, all of which snake along the Clearfork Mohican River and Clearfork Gorge.

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Lyon Falls Trail will lead you through the woods and along the Clearfork Gorge to reach two waterfalls, aptly named Little Lyon Falls and Big Lyon Falls - I love this trail for it's more challenging terrain and lush scenery, and it's only 2 miles long. There's also a dam at the end of the trail which is a good rest stop if you want to go fishing or enjoy a picnic. Another favorite stop within the park is the Gorge Overlook. It sits on the South side of the river and East of the hiking trails (i.e. you'll want to drive there), and it's the perfect spot to take in the beautiful valley views. 

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Mohican State Park does allow dogs on trails, though they must be leashed and..ahem..cleaned-up after. I like to keep a small collapsible water bowl on Daisy's leash for frequent water breaks - if you're thirsty, your pup probably is, too.  

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I always feel incredibly grounded and calm after spending time outdoors in any capacity, let alone spending a weekend sleeping under the stars. I'm definitely looking forward to coming back to Mohican for another adventure soon!

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IF YOU'VE BEEN TO MOHICAN RECENTLY, LET ME KNOW WHAT YOUR FAVORITE SPOT WAS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! 

What to Consider When Traveling With Someone New

Careful consideration typically goes into decisions such as choosing roommates, business partners, significant others, and even carpool buddies, yet when it comes to traveling with someone new we often throw all of that prepared-ness out the window. I'm here to tell you that that level of planning and communicating definitely deserves to be implemented when deciding to travel with someone, for the sake of your relationship, the trip, and both of your sanities.
 

Budget

Structuring a budget for your trip is absolutely essential, whether you're traveling with someone or not. While the subject of money can be a bit awkward, especially when it comes to traveling with someone you've never traveled with before, working out the nitty-gritty details of your budget and theirs will make the actual trip so much more enjoyable in the long-run, and save you both a lot of headaches. 

Be upfront about your budget with your travel partner ahead of time, and compromise accordingly along the way. You may not want to spend the money to stay at a 5-star hotel, but they might want to be in a specific neighborhood - find a cheaper AirBnb that fits both criteria. Maybe one of you is exclusively taking over driving duties on the way, so the other pays for more gasoline fill-ups or snacks at rest stops. While it may feel in some scenarios that you're paying more for things that aren't exactly a necessity or fit into your budget, realize that your travel partner is also doing the same for you - where it's reasonable to do so, let it go. Enjoy your vacation, after all! 
 

Meals

Here's the thing, standing in the security line at the airport is not the time to announce you're now a vegan. Tell your travel partner ahead of time what your dietary restrictions are if there are any, and what you're preferences around meals are. Some like to completely immerse themselves in the culture of wherever they're staying while others gravitate to what's familiar and comfortable - while there's no right or wrong here, simply understand your new travel buddy might have different preferences on style, price, or time of day they like to eat.

For example, I know I get hungry generally every 2-3 hours - while it's unreasonable of me to ask my friend to stop, sit down, and buy food or a drink with me in the middle of our jam-packed travel day, I will carry granola bars or a piece of fruit on-hand to curb my appetite but not slow down our itinerary. As much as you can, plan your food stops ahead of time (even if that means simply the morning of), so you both are able to enjoy the restaurants of your choosing.

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Alone Time

As an introvert, the idea of spending every waking moment with someone tied to my hip, especially on a vacation, sounds like a nightmare. Even with my boyfriend, I need time to decompress and just have a quiet moment alone to regroup. While you may not relate to that exactly, recognize that your new travel partner might. Or perhaps you do feel that way and you just need a simple second to breathe - don't be afraid to say it. Traveling with someone at all is a huge undertaking, especially with someone new, so don't limit yourself by not setting boundaries when it's necessary.

While they're showering and getting ready in the morning, walk to the coffee shop and grab breakfast to bring back for both of you. Maybe you really want to check out the art gallery down the street but she wants to walk through the park - agree to separate and meet up in an hour. You can catch each other up on what went on while you were apart! To enjoy your travels it doesn't mean you are obligated to do every little thing together - and let's be honest, it'll take a lot of stress off of you both to find time alone.
 

Bedtime

Like alone time, bedtime rituals are just as sacred and important to discuss with your travel partner. Establish ahead of time what you're preferred sleeping arrangements are (ie. do you need a separate bed in a separate room or are you cool with sharing a king?), when you like to start winding down as opposed to when lights are finally off, and when you like to wake up.

Does one of you like complete, black-out darkness while they sleep? Maybe you sleep with the windows open, but they prefer A/C. Figure out where you can both compromise with each other for the sake of the trip. If spending time watching TV helps you relax before finally nodding off, but your friend prefers to read in bed, offer to stream Netflix on your phone with earbuds in as to not disturb her. 
 

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Accommodations

Planning the accommodations is a huge part of the trip itself, so make sure you can agree on the location, price, and style of your digs before embarking on a trip with your new friend. Some are more adventurous and perfectly happy spending multiple nights in hostels or small motels along the highway, while others refuse to sleep anywhere than in a posh hotel with plenty of amenities and privacy. Again, while there's no right or wrong here (personally, I think it depends on the location) when you're in the planning stages of the trip be sure to voice your must-haves for room and board so that you're not stuck wishing you'd never agreed to an AirBnb in the ghetto (true story, I accidentally roped my boyfriend on a trip like that on our first vacation together, and God love him, he stayed with me). 
 

You learn a lot about someone while traveling with them, and not all of it will thrill you. Be open to communication before, during, and after your travels together, and remember to compromise. With a little preparation, you and your friend are sure to make amazing memories together, and your friendship will grow stronger!

Worst-case, you can always travel alone, too! ;) 

12 Tips for Better Travel

 

This post contains affiliate links and I am eligible to earn a profit from purchases through the links labeled "Buy on Amazon". 

Whether you travel enough to earn a designated seat on a plane (I don't think that's a thing, but wouldn't that be cool?) or you haven't taken a trip in years, adopting these 12 travel hacks will help you be better prepared, less stressed, and an overall savvier traveler! 
 

1. Pack an Extra Change of Clothes In Your Carry-On

I originally learned this handy trick from my boyfriend's sister on our most recent trip together, and I'm amazed I'd never thought of it before! Simply pack a spare outfit in your carry-on - yes, a whole outfit. Though it's not likely, delayed luggage does happen no matter how good the airline is, and while you can and should ask your airline what they offer as far as compensation or emergency toiletry/travel kits, having a spare set of clothes to change into while you wait will make it a bit more bearable. Traveling from a colder climate to a warmer one? Pack a pair of shorts or a dress to change into once you hit the destination airport - it's way easier than rummaging through your luggage in the middle of the airport, lemme tell ya. 

 

2. Carry an Empty Water Bottle

Since airports don't allow you to bring a bottle of water through TSA checkpoints, take an empty bottle (or an eco-friendly collapsible bottle) with you to the airport to fill up after you get through security. Once in your terminal, food and drink prices are incredibly inflated, so this handy trick will definitely save you a few extra dollars!

 

3. Pack Early

Do not wait until the last minute...seriously. Get your suitcase out of storage a week ahead of time and put it somewhere where you'll see it every time you get dressed or do laundry, then you can slowly start the packing process over the week, leaving toiletries and last-minute laundry items last. This will give you time to think more about what you really need and don't need (I'll admit, I'm an over-packer), and you'll be less likely to forget something important since you're not scrambling to get everything together in the final hour. 

 

4. Carry Copies of Your Passport & Important Documents

This includes screenshots, printed copies, and emailed copies - whatever works for you. If you were to misplace an important document during the travel day, you at least have a back-up you can use in the meantime while you work on getting a replacement. 

 

5. Pack Earplugs, an Eye Mask, & a Neck Pillow

Whether you're facing a long flight or a long drive (as a passenger, obviously), having small creature comforts like these seem insignificant until you're forced to bunch up your hoodie on the side of the window (or worse, you're in an aisle seat), wishing the baby in the adjacent aisle would stop screaming long enough to let you drift into a not so restful sleep. If you're not directly in charge of navigating or actual transportation, do yourself a favor and catch some z's so you're well rested when you arrive. 

 

6. Use Luggage Organizers

If you're traveling long distances or for a long period of time, organization is key to keeping your head on straight and not loose valuables. I used to always carry extra shopping bags while traveling to stash dirty clothes or my shoes within the rest of my belongings, but then I discovered these babies already exist on the market (there goes another SharkTank idea out the window), and my life is changed for the better. While I don't use every single compartment, keeping specific outfits or jewelry separate makes for an easier time living out of a suitcase, and a better overall travel experience. 

 

7. Download Google Maps for Offline

When traveling Wifi signals can be spotty, especially if you're traveling internationally. Having a reliable GPS (because these days who actually uses paper maps?) could make or break your overall trip experience. Google Maps offers a feature that allows you to download maps of the area you're in or going to, that way when you don't have Wifi or Data you are still able to navigate as you would normally. I know...mind, blown.

 

8. Leave Early

Get everywhere you need to be very early. Travel days are stressful enough on their own, you don't need a long security line or a missed flight adding to it. Give yourself plenty of buffer time in case of traffic, flight delays, or God-forbid you forgot something after you left the house. This also goes for once you're at your destination - since you'll most likely be in an unfamiliar place, allow yourself time to get lost and run into obstacles because they will happen. Worst-case scenario, you're early and you can enjoy a bit of free time. 

 

9. Keep a Travel Journal

While I'm all about documenting my trips with photos and videos, there's something really personal and intentional about carrying a travel journal, too. Research shows that relying only on photos to remember things can actually have a negative impact on how well you remember them. The idea is that since you're counting on the camera to record the event, you're not fully experiencing it for yourself with all of your senses, therefore, your memory of it is dulled. I've traveled with both a journal and without, and I can honestly say I enjoy having the written recap just as much as I do photos. If you're not much of a writer, try a quick voice recording overviewing what you did that day, to help support the awesome photos you're taking. I guarantee you'll remember and appreciate the trip so much more. 

 

10. Pack a Portable Phone Charger

We all know how surprisingly fast our phone batteries are drained, especially when we're relying on it for a GPS or frequent Google Searches, so these little guys are an absolute life-saver while traveling. Especially if you're flying, finding reliable outlets can be a challenge, so having a couple of portable chargers will ensure you're never out of juice! While there are tons of models on the market to choose from, I particularly like having one with included cables for iPhones and MicroUSB.  

 

11. Use Memberships or Discount Sites

Organizations and businesses such as AAA, Costco, AARP, and Student Advantage offer all kinds of travel discounts just for being a member. Definitely check their offers before booking to see if you can get discounts on flights, hotels, or even activities in the city you're traveling to. I also personally love browsing Groupon and Living Social to see what discounts I can find for restaurants or activities before my trips. 

 

12. Book Flights Strategically 

Overall the best time to book a flight is roughly 70 days in advance. Though that depends on the season, too, overall anywhere between 3 weeks and 4 months in advance is considered the "Prime Booking Window" and is when you'll find the best fares. It's also pretty well-researched that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly, whereas weekends are much more expensive. Choosing to travel during "peak season" (which will vary depending on where you go, likely), will raise your costs for not only the travel but also your stay. Typically booking trips right before or after "peak season" will save significant costs and still allow you to have an awesome adventure.

Protip: research flights in a private browser to reset your cookies - this will allow you to research the same route multiple times (just make sure you open a new private browser each time) without the sites catching on and inflating your prices because of your repeat traffic. 

 

What is your favorite travel tip? Leave a comment below!

Weekend Getaway Guide: Washington DC

Edited: 6/23/19

Washington DC has so much to offer in such a compact space which makes it one of my favorite go-to destinations for weekend getaways! Whether you want to soak up the historical significance of the seemingly endless monuments, wine and dine your way through the thousands of bars and restaurants, roam museums all day, or experience theaters and night-life, DC has something for you. The city is also very kid and dog-friendly, which has made it even more diverse in offerings.

Every March/April the National Cherry Blossom Festival is in full-swing, which is a huge attraction for millions (you read that right) of visitors every year, as it's a perfect opportunity to see the city during its particularly beautiful spring season. Hint: bring a camera!

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The Guide

 

Where to Stay:

Use websites like Expedia or Trivago to find the best hotel deals. I was lucky enough to snag a King Suite 2 blocks away from The White House for $157/night (which is a steal in DC) using these sites! If you'd rather AirBnb, ask friends who are familiar with the neighborhoods or do some extra digging online to find out what neighborhoods to look in (personally, I recommend Dupont Circle, Georgetown, or Chinatown). DC is tightly packed and everything is accessible within a couple Metro stops away, so staying outside of the immediate downtown for less money could be a good way to go if costs are a factor for you.

 

How to Get Around:

Speaking of the Metro, use the Metro. Seriously, do not waste your time trying to drive yourself around or Uber, there's simply too much traffic to get anywhere quickly. You can get a daily pass for under $20 at any of the stations, and it'll definitely save you time and sore feet. There are still plenty of places you can and should walk to (the National Mall, for example), but for longer distances, get on the Metro.

Parking, just as in any big city, is hard to come by. Rather, it's expensive to come by. Again, since driving around DC yourself is a bit of a nightmare, if you're driving into the city use an App like ParkWhiz to locate and pre-book your garage space for the weekend. In my case, it was a lot cheaper than using the hotel valet option and more secure than street parking.

eScooters like Bird, Lime, or Spin, are plentiful in the D.C. area, and are a fun, inexpensive way to see the city. Remember to scoot safely, though!

 

What to Eat:

For as many times as I’ve been to D.C., I’ve always managed to find new and fun places to eat and drink. Dupont Circle has an enormous selection of bar & restaurant options, ranging from authentic French cuisine at Bistrot Du Coin, to a hip board game bar called Board Room. Swanky hotel bar, Doyle, and Italian cafe, Sette Osteria, both note “people-watching” as highlights in their Google Maps descriptions, and do not disappoint! Chinatown offers really fun and unique spots like Bar Deco, Crimson (some of the best food we had all weekend!), and Farmers & Distillers (fried chicken served with a glazed donut…’nuff said).

 

Where to Go:

Oh, the places you'll go!

While I highly recommend spending an afternoon exploring the entire expanse of the National Mall and all its glory, especially during the Cherry Blossom Festival, there are tons of gems in DC to find elsewhere.

The Wharf is incredibly fun for an evening stroll or for day-time shopping, and it happens to have the oldest operating open-air fish market in the U.S. (fair warning, everyone will try to sell you fresh crabs).

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If you feel like making a longer Metro ride out across (or, under?) the river, head over to Arlington to visit the Arlington National Cemetary - it's truly humbling. Bonus: every 30 minutes you can catch The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is pretty incredible to watch. 

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Dupont Circle is a small but diverse neighborhood on the Northwest side of DC center. It's full of fun restaurants (check out Mission Dupont), nightclubs, shopping, museums, and rich architecture. The Mansion on O Street, Kramerbooks & Afterwords, and the Dupont Circle Fountain are all must-sees.

And let's not forget about the museums! DC is definitely in a league of its own in this respect. You'll find plenty of amazing museums along the National Mall (Smithsonian, anyone?), most of them free, and even more beautiful museums around the city, more than enough to fill a weekend!

 

If you've been to DC recently, let me know what your favorite spot was in the comments below! 

Why You Should Travel Solo At Least Once

This post contains affiliate links and I am eligible to earn a profit from purchases through the links labeled "Buy on Amazon". 

April of 2016 was a strange time for me. I was recently single after quickly dumping a crossfit-obsessed, borderline alcoholic guy I met on Tinder (yea, who didn't see that coming?), I spent most of my weekends partying and sleeping on friends' couches, and I found myself somewhat on again with a man I'd been chronically on and off with for quite some time (but this time was different!). I was pretty lost with myself. I was at a point where life was leading me, and I was blindly following. I worked a dead-end job, my friends were horrible, my love life was horrible, and my family was seemingly falling apart left and right. Despite my determined positive appearance, I was exhausted. I needed a "restart" button.

That's when I booked a flight to California.

My parents flipped. A lot of my friends and coworkers did, too. A 22-year-old girl from the Midwest traveling to the West Coast alone?! Unthinkable. She'll get lost, she'll be mugged, she'll be raped, kidnapped, sold into sex slavery, caught up in a drug cartel, eaten by a bear or a mountain lion...I get it. (No lie, I was a little scared about the thought of bears and mountain lions.) But I needed this. I didn't even realize how much I needed it until it was happening.

Fast-forward another month, and I'm boarding an American Airlines plane early on a Wednesday morning heading to Oakland airport. Once landed, I frantically searched for my bright red, hard-shell suitcase I'd recently found at Goodwill for $15 (can we all agree that Goodwill is amazing?) in the endless line of other suitcases since I was convinced the airline had lost it in the layover (they didn't - turns out they know what they're doing even if I don't). Once picking up my rental car, which was another panicked event that really doesn't warrant going into, I was off.

The moment I hit the highway due south, I never felt freer in my life.

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My itinerary was pretty hurried given the time I had available: drive down Highway 1 towards LA, stop to sleep somewhere along the way, get to LA and spend a night there, then head back north to Yosemite and spend the remaining couple days there hiking and exploring. I had a motel reserved for the first night along the highway in a tiny coastal town called Pismo Beach, and Airbnb's reserved for the other areas I'd be staying (here, and here). Otherwise, my days were thoroughly unplanned. I explored where I wanted, ate what I wanted and when, talked to whoever I wanted (or rather, didn't), and answered to no one.

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I gained an entirely new perspective during and after this trip on who I was and who I was becoming. More-so, I began to understand who I could become. I very suddenly no longer wanted to be the girl who kept letting life drag her by her hair through the mud. Every mile I drove, every step I took, and every decision I made was my own, and the epiphany it caused me to have made my blood vibrate through me with a new kind of energy that was very unfamiliar.

I was always rather independent by nature, even as a child, but this new sense of freedom I had was like a roaring fire in my belly. I was so drunk off of it I'd considered quitting my job, selling everything, buying a fifth wheel, and adventuring wherever I could drive, just me and my dog, Daisy.

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Of course, none of that happened. I landed back in Columbus the following Wednesday and listlessly settled back into life, as lukewarm as it felt comparatively. But the lessons I learned about traveling that week in the Golden State stuck with me. Such as:

  1. Prepare to spend more money than you've prepared. I'm not kidding. I don't care where you're going, that shit adds up.

  2. If you plan on hiking anywhere, buy a pair of decent hiking boots (link to my suggestion below), and definitely wear them in before trekking in them for a 15-mile hike in Yosemite Valley...

  3. Bring Band-Aides because if you're like me, you'll forget #2. Actually, a first-aide kit, a knife, and a compass are generally a good idea, too. You just never know.

  4. Do your research. I didn't just plan this willy-nilly, despite how it might sound. Draft 1 of my itinerary had me sleeping in a hostel in San Francisco in a neighborhood I'm not sure was even inside city limits. Then I figured out what a hostel was...no thanks.

  5. On the note of research, read all the reviews you can. On everything, and everyone. Especially if you're booking Airbnb, but even for restaurants and things to do and whatever else you bump into along the way. Because trust me, it's pretty embarrassing stumbling into a 5-star French restaurant in the middle of a mountain town dressed in denim looking for a "quick bite". (True story. Thank god the owner found me charming.)

  6. If you're going to a National Park, read the material they give you when you get there. These places are legit wildlife, and bears and mountain lions do appear from time to time, even in the daylight. Read up.

  7. TAKE PICTURES. I seemingly took a million pictures on this trip (yea, I was that gawky tourist with a camera swung around my neck 99% of the time), but even going through them today I still wish there were more, or that they captured more vividly how it really was.

  8. Call your mom. Or your dad, or grandparent, or partner, or friend, or neighbor. They're probably thinking about you, and probably wondering if you've been eaten by a bear or mountain lion yet. It's fine being independent, but not a recluse.

  9. Unplug. Especially during my hikes, I was very unattached to my phone, and it made the experiences that much more enjoyable. Snapchat can wait.

  10. Get comfortable with the idea of spontaneity. For me, structure is everything, so I had to get over this rather quickly. But some of the best adventures on this trip came from my plans unraveling (or a new plan arising that was more appealing). For example, I would've never seen San Fransisco at all had it not been for the earlier than expected check-out time at my Airbnb in Yosemite.

I know this is titled "why you should take a solo trip at least once", but I'm really not here to tell you what to do. Maybe you'll find some of my tips helpful or this story somewhat amusing, but my main point here is this: find something that brings you back to your center and reminds you that you are worthy and that you are able to do whatever you set your mind to. Because moving through life with that mindset is how followers become leaders, settlers become dreamers, and how failures become achievements. You don't have to be as independent as I am, but you also shouldn't feel pressured to be so involved in the cluster of society to the point that you forget who you are. Maybe hiking in Yosemite isn't really your thing, and that's fine. I didn't really think LA was my thing once I got there, so now I know.

For me, this solo trip allowed me the things I needed to grow, and I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. Whether you're flying across the country or driving across town, take time to do things for yourself and by yourself, learn to enjoy it, and allow yourself to grow in those spaces. You might surprise yourself.