How to Pack Like a Boss

There are two schools of thought on how to pack for a long trip, wherever you’re going. One, bring everything and the kitchen sink so you won’t have to worry. Two, bring a very minimal amount, you can always do laundry there or buy stuff at your destination.

As someone who has known the weight of carrying a heavy bag on your back for 3 months and had my clothes torn by washing machines abroad, I opt for a different set of packing “rules”, if you will. We all want to look good when we travel and sometimes it’s difficult.

So without further ado, here are some packing tips that your back and your Instagram will thank you for later.

  1. Note the environment where you will be travelling.

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On a scale of bikini to parka, what is the environment like where you will be traveling?  When traveling to multiple countries in one trip I pack in the “mean”. I settle somewhere in the average (whatever that may be) and bring a few things outside of the mean. This way I can easily be comfortable in most environments without having to bring everything that I own. Perhaps I’ll bring some tank tops and jeans but a pair of shorts for hotter destinations and a warm jacket for colder destinations. The mix and match is key.

 

  1. Mix and Match

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I like to follow this method: lay out everything that you think you want to bring on your bed. Pick up an item. If you can’t wear it with at least two things, don’t bring it. This helps eliminate over-packing and you’ll be shocked at how much you end up not bringing.

4 tops + two bottoms = 8 outfits!

 

 

 

3. Colors

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I always recommend blacks, whites and grays. A) because they go with everything but B) it’s much easier for you to blend in. Solid colors or minimal stripe/pattern is best because they mix and match well.

However, it is important to note the destinations where you will be travelling. Adding a pop of color can be a fun and exciting addition to any outfit just be mindful of what the locals would wear, wherever you go. For example, I probably wouldn’t wear a neon orange maxi dress in Paris but I might in Ibiza.

You don’t need to break the bank while looking amazing abroad. Some of my go-to spots before I take a trip are: H&M, Forever21 & Old Navy. They have perfect basics, tees and sweaters all for an excellent price. So if I lose something on my trip, it gets torn, etc., it’s not the end of the world!

 

  1. Bags

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I recommend one purse. One that is big enough to fit your daily essentials but small enough to be conveniently carried around all day. During periods of transportation (plane, train, etc) I put my purse in my larger backpack. One less item to carry. One less item to worry about losing or leaving somewhere.

I opt for a purse in a color that goes with everything that you’re bringing. Also try to get a cross body bag instead of a shoulder bag. I know cross body bags aren’t the sexiest but trust me, it’s much better than losing your bag or having it stolen. I absolutely love my Cognac cross body purse and I just put it on my right shoulder for pictures. This will also help relieve the strain on your back that your backpack would normally contribute to.

  1. Shoes

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Three. Yes, I said three. Good walking or hiking shoes, good sandals that can go long distances and either your choice of boots or heels – if you must.

The goal here is to look fabulous without carrying around an insane amount of luggage. Hopefully, these packing tips will help you to be looking cute and packing light!

Safe travels,

V.

Top Travel Photos of 2016

I am beyond grateful for the amount of traveling that I was able to do in 2016. I wanted to share some highlights with you to inspire your 2017 adventures. So without further ado, here are my top travel photos of 2016:

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Location: Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

Why this photo is a favorite: You can get to the Swiss Alps (Jungfrau region) via a train or cable car. As the train moves up the steep incline towards the Alps, the views get more and more incredible. As I happened to peak my head out the window I saw this brilliant waterfall just standing there, waiting to be photographed in all its glory! If you’re going to Switzerland (or even if you’re not) I highly recommend taking a trip to the Jungfrau region.

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Location: London, England

Why this photo is a favorite: Honestly, this photo just screams all the things that you normally think of when you think of England: Big Ben, Parliament and a red bus. All that’s missing is one of those classic red phone booths!

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Location: Grindelwald, Switzerland

Why this photo is a favorite: Remember that train to the Alps that I talked about a minute ago? Here it is! Once you come down from Jungfrau, you descend into Grindelwald. Grindelwald is a beautiful and charming. It’s one of those towns that you thought only existed in storybooks. Coming down into Grindelwald with this view makes you feel like you’re in a fairytale. The infamous mountain, Eiger, stands strong as the backdrop of Grindelwald. The North Face of Eiger has been known to test the fate of climbers and the brand The North Face is so aptly named after it.

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Location: Corfu, Greece

Why this photo is a favorite: We rode ATVs to the second tallest peak on Corfu to get this view. If you’ve never ridden an ATV it can be a bit daunting, especially on the edge of a cliff. But once the wind is in your hair and the warm sun on your face, you’ll wish you had done it sooner!

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Location: Budapest, Hungary

Why this photo is a favorite: I’m a sucker for a sweeping view but this was the moment when I fell completely head over heels for Budapest. This photo was taken from the Fisherman’s Bastion and I feel that it so accurately describes the beauty and magic of the city. There are so many surprising delights in Budapest, they should not be missed.

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Location: Giza Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt

Why this photo is a favorite: I never thought I’d get to Egypt, honestly. It had always seemed like a far away dream. I have been obsessed with Ancient Egypt since I was a little girl watching King Tut documentaries with my father. It was such a surreal experience sitting on this camel (his name was Oscar) while a ten year old Egyptian boy took better photos of me than I ever could. I know that Egypt has become known for its political instability but please do not let that discourage you from going. I never felt unsafe in Egypt and my trip was worth every penny.

Why Corfu Should Be On Your List

Santorini, Mykonos and Crete are nothing short of breath-taking. But, why doesn’t Corfu get any love? Also known as Kerkyra, Corfu is one of the largest of the Ionian islands with a fluctuating population of around 120,000.

Corfu boasts a beautiful mountainous coast, crystal clear waters for snorkeling and gorgeous views from beachside accommodations.

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The west side of Corfu at sunset 

Although all of the Greek islands offer some variation of this, only on Corfu can you ATV to the highest island mountain peak, sun bathe on the beach in the afternoon and go on a sunset cruise in the evening… for a modest price.

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We rode ATVs to the top of the second tallest peak on the island

Some PROS of going to Corfu:

  1. Compared to the other Greek Islands, Corfu remains fairly uncrowded even in the peak of summer

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All of the seven people at Agios Gordios beach

2. It is quite easy to get to. A mere $150 and a 45-minute flight from the Athens airport later and you’re there!

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Where the green, mountainous coast meets crystal clear waters

3. Corfu has something for everyone. The traveling college student, the family in need of a vacation, the hard worker in need of relaxation will all have no trouble finding activities and accommodation to suit their needs.

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For me, one of my needs is to have a delicious Mediterranean salad delivered to me while I lounge on the beach

4. Due to the relatively undiscovered nature of the island it remains very affordable.

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The view from our youth hostel on the west side of Corfu

Some CONS:

NONE. WHY AREN’T YOU GETTING ON A PLANE ALREADY?!

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Eating a communal dinner at our hostel with this view 

5 of the Best Instagram Ops in England

I could have spent months photographing England. Although costly, it is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. From bustling London to the rolling country hills England has some of the best photo opportunities.

  1. A red phone booth.

 

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You’re probably saying to yourself “Well OBVIOUSLY a red phone booth. That is the most stereotypical British photo you can take!” Ahhhh, yes. BUT there is a particular red phone booth that has the best backdrop for photos and that is the one just to the left of the front of the British Museum.

     2.  Stonehenge 

 

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Also, an obvious one. But if you go to the far side of Stonehenge (the opposite side of where you enter the circle and see everyone taking photos) you a) won’t have the sun your eyes but also b) there are no people to obscure your photo!

  1. The Baths of Bath

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Bath is a wonderful place and I highly recommend that you take a trip there if possible. It is such a quaint city and it’s so refreshing to see the beautiful countryside of England. Don’t forget to try the ice cream!

  1. Platform 9 ¾

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Most people don’t realize that the Harry Potter Studio is about an hour outside of London. It’s also totally worth the tour. It’s a wonderful and amazing experience with a ton of photo opportunities in and of itself (even if you’re a Slytherin). However, from Diagon Alley to the Hogwart’s Express, Platform 9 3/4 is my favorite.

  1. A red bus

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Of course you’ll want to get a photo with a red bus and you’ll have numerous opportunities to do this. However, the best time to get a photo with a red bus is when it accompanies Big Ben and Parliament.

 

There a million other excellent photo ops in England but these are a few of my faves!

 

5 Things You Must Do in Cairo

  1. Felucca

 

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A felucca ride is a beautiful experience and I highly recommend doing it during your stay in Cairo. Be sure to seek out a reputable company and boat captain beforehand. I recommend booking a ride through your hotel or hostel. That way you know what price you’ll be paying ahead of time and that the company is a legitimate one. If you don’t want to book through your hotel, be sure to agree on a price before you get on the boat. Bring cash. On a warm day a felucca ride at sunset is the best.

 

  1. Khan el Khalili

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The “Khalili” as it is sometimes called is an amazing sprawling marketplace with everything from grilled corn to silver and gold. This bazaar truly showcases the culture of Egypt. The best time to go is at night when the soft lights cast a golden glow on the streets. You can hear the haggling over goods in Egyptian Arabic while sipping tea or having some hookah at a café. You can see the beautiful colors of the woven tapestries and dresses. You can smell the wide range of bulk spices. Although it is certainly something to be experienced, you should know 3 things. 1) Keep your money and belongings close to your body (we never had an issue but locals can spot a tourist easily) 2) Know what you’re willing to pay for an item and be ready to haggle the price down. 3) Don’t stray too far from the main area especially if you’re alone.

 

  1. El-Fishawy

 

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The oldest coffee shop in Cairo (over two centuries old). It is an open air café in the Khan el Khalili. I must say that most people stumble upon this place by sheer dumb luck while getting lost in the maze that is the bazaar. But, boy is it worth it. A beautiful epicenter of laughter, tin lanterns and tea. Definitely try some mint tea and apricot hookah while you’re there for the “complete experience”.

 

  1. Camel ride

 

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Obviously if you’re going to Cairo you will be seeing the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Surprisingly the two are not right next to each other. Most people drive or go on their tour bus from the Pyramids to the Sphinx. However, I recommend that instead you take a camel ride from the Pyramids to the Sphinx. Here’s why: 1) you can ride a camel anywhere but can you do it with the Pyramids of Giza in the background? Probably not. 2) It’s not very expensive. It was about 15 US dollars per person. 3) You will get the best photos OF YOUR LIFE. I’m serious. You always get someone to guide you down to the Sphinx (in our case it was a ten-year-old boy). He took the best photo of me that I’ve ever seen. There are few places where you can get multiple pyramids in one shot and this particular camel ride allows you to do that. If you’re a photo obsessed traveler like me, this is a MUST.

 

  1. Cairo Tower

 

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Labelled as one of the tallest buildings in North Africa, Cairo Tower is one of the best places to get a view of the city. I highly recommend to go up just before sunset and get some photos. While waiting for the sun to go down head inside to the restaurant for a snack. Try the strawberry milkshake (seriously I don’t know what it is but Egypt has the BEST dairy). Take in the view from a window seat. As night falls, head back outside to experience a completely different view of Cairo. The hustle and bustle of Cairo continues through the night so this is the perfect spot to see the vibrant colorful lights and hear the chaotic brilliance of the city.

10 Things You Should Know Before Going to Egypt

  1. Guides and drivers get a commission from wherever they take you. Some of them are up front about it and don’t try to hide this fact while others not so much. Wages in Egypt are poor and workers are just trying to provide for their families.
  2. Most people speak English.
  3. Two of the top tourist destinations are The Giza Pyramids (Cairo) and the Valley of the Kings (Luxor). These two places are 7 hours apart by car. You can also take an overnight train from Cairo to Luxor or hop on a one-hour flight.
  4. Practice your haggling skills. You will haggle for everything in Egypt.
  5. Although I still recommend that women dress on the more conservative side, it is not necessary to cover yourself up so much so that you are uncomfortable. On a particularly warm day a man that I had met asked me why I would wear long pants and long sleeves on a day like today.
  6. It’s worth it to spend the money to ensure your safety. Stay at a nice hotel. Hire a driver or a guide to go with you wherever you want to go. They know the ins and outs of the cities and can often tell you if you’re receiving a good deal for something or not. It may seem like a lot of money at the time but as of right now 1 Egyptian pound is equal to almost 9 US dollars.
  7. Don’t drink the tap water. Only drink sealed bottled water particularly from trusted sources (hotels, restaurants, etc)
  8. Stick to recommendations from sources like Trip Advisor, Yelp, friends, etc for food choices. If you are determined to go off the beaten path be aware that you may get sick from the food. Everyone’s stomach is equipped to handle different kinds of food differently and the food of Egypt may upset yours. I recommend bringing some Imodium on your trip regardless.
  9. During Ramadan, nobody expects you to abstain from food and drink. It is nice to try to be respectful of one’s religious customs but it is not absolutely necessary. If you need to grab a bite to eat, grab a bite to eat. If you’re thirsty, drink. You should always carry water on you to avoid dehydration. Believe me, it’s better to drink water in public than to get heat stroke on a camel in the middle of the desert (not that that happened to me…)
  10. Egypt is not the unstable, dangerous environment that the media makes it out to be. Very rarely did I feel unsafe in Egypt. People are friendly, the food is good… what is there to complain about.