Saturday Small Talk

Good morning, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! I’m grateful I get to celebrate my mom, my mother-in-law, my Oma, and Bob’s grandma. And in person, no less. It’ll require some car time, but it’s worth it. What are you up to this weekend?

Five reasons female relationships are so important. (I agree)

An interesting look at the family vacation.

Does your workplace measure your value based on the hours you work or the outcomes you generate?

The new princess! Without guilt, I scrolled through them all.

I adore these empathy cards.

Have you used Fiverr? I’m looking at logo creation, but I’m afraid of being scammed. Thoughts?

A tutorial for making your own camera strap cover. I hate sewing, but it doesn’t look too difficult.

A fun idea for a wedding gift.

Enjoy your weekend!

Boutique Hotels

After going through all of the awesome travel tips you all offered last week, one stuck out: Boutique Hotels. I had never heard of such a thing! Have you? Regarding where to stay on vacation, Autumn says, “Find boutique hotels. They’re a little more than your chain hotels but the experiences are worth it.”

Obviously, I had to know more! Though there is no official definition, boutique hotels are small (no more than 100 rooms), often situated in the heart of a city, and have a historic or quirky theme.

When they were in San Diego, Autumn and her husband stayed at The Lafayette. Part of the movie Top Gun was filmed in this hotel! Specifically, the bar scene in which Tom Cruise sang “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.” True story.

LafayetteWhen they were in San Francisco, they stayed at Hotel Whitcomb, which served as the city’s City Hall from 1912 to 1915. In the basement, you can see the old jail! 11164113_10101033662519221_2052273962_njailFor the more adventurous, there is the Wigwam Motel, right on Historic Route 66. This motel has been a Route 66 staple since 1930, and is featured in the movie Cars, (animated, of course) as the Cozy Cone Motel.wigwamwigwam 1 Here are some other interesting sounding boutique hotels…

In New York City, there’s the Library Hotel, which has 10 floors, each dedicated to a class in the Dewey Decimal System. Each guest room houses art and books based on the floor/Dewey Decimal class it’s in. In total, there are 6,000 books in the Library Hotel

In Tel Aviv, the Market House Hotel was built on top of the remains of an 8th century Byzantine Chapel.  You can see the remains through the glass floor in the lobby.

The American Queen Steamboat Company offers themed voyages on a Mississippi River Steamboat. Themes include Big Band, Mark Twain, Civil War, and Bourbon.

If you want to find more boutique hotels, try Historic Hotels of America, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or search TripAdvisor for Boutique Hotels in your desired destination.

Thank you so much, Autumn! In addition to the inspiration, she provided the photos for this post.

Have you ever stayed in a historic or boutique hotel? What did you think?

If you’re interested….a tour of a Hawaiian coffee plantation and a trip to Paradise, MI.

How to Have an Awesome Vacation

Last week, I put out a call for travel tips, and you all blew me away with your advice on Instagram, Facebook, and the blog. Thank you! Here are the best of the best to inspire your next vacation and make it a smashing success.

(Heads up! If you get all the way to the bottom, there’s a sweet travel discount, just for you.)


On planning…

Steve says: Plan the first day or two and the last day or two, but leave the middle flexible to take advantage of things you didn’t know about before you started.

Hannah says: Going to Hawaii? Wing it! Going to big cities or all across Europe in a short trip? Plan an itinerary. You will be thankful you know what you’re doing and are not trying to cram 6 major museums/attractions into the one day they are all closed!

Lindsey says: Leave room in your itinerary to be spontaneous.

Darcy says: Do some research ahead of time, pick a bunch of things that look like fun (note the dates/hours!), then when you get there, you have a list of options. My itinerary is rarely strict, but I also don’t like to be bored.


On making it affordable…

Darcy says: ANY budget can work with travel. (Click the link. You won’t be sorry). Also, the cheapest way to travel is to DIY. That all-inclusive hotel is NOT going to net you the best deal on a side excursion. Personally, I think DIY is a lot more fun too.

Darcy also says: Study abroad. It sounds really expensive at the time, but it ends up being the cheapest and best way to travel and really get to know a place. If it is an available option, don’t think, just DO.

Hannah says: Going to a city with lots of sights/museums? See if they have a city pass, and do the math to see if it’s cheapest to get the pass or to buy metro tickets and museum passes separately.


On keeping your cool

Darcy says: Bring tiny liquor bottles on the plane with you to avoid airline prices. Especially if you have flight anxiety.

Emily says: Roll with the punches-the missed trains, lost luggage, surprises. You’ll have so much more fun if you do, and rarely are those things that seem SO TERRIBLE at the time really worth the energy or worth ruining the rest of your trip.

On staying safe…

Diane says: Make sure when traveling outside of the U.S. that you make three copies (front and back) of your important documents such as passport and credit cards. Then switch a copy with your traveling partner and leave a copy at home with someone you trust. That way if your documents get stolen you have the numbers to call and get them replaced! The person back home can email or wire them to you.

Darcy says: Anything is doable if you know someone who has done it. For instance, Colombia might sound like the scariest place to visit…until you read about a couple who has done it, and they consistently say that Colombians are the nicest people on earth. Not so scary anymore.


On packing…

Megan says: Pack light! Carry-on size or smaller. Makes the whole experience much less of a hassle!

Hannah says: Take backpacks and carry on only. It’s so much easier. Bring a collapsible duffel bag to check on the way home. If you’re going abroad, it’s usually free coming back to the states! Also a reusable and very collapsible grocery bag is never a miss.

Diane says: Bring wash cloths with you to Europe, they almost never provide them for you.

Jim says: Pack old clothes. Wear then throw out! (so you have more room to bring souvenirs and things back with you!)

Kyle says: Don’t stress about packing – they sell shampoo where you’re going, and if they don’t, you can use soap for a couple days and it won’t kill you. Also, you cannot carry-on a soldering iron.

Shelley says: Roll your clothes, so you have space for things you might buy on your trip. Also, look at the airlines you are flying. Different ones have different restrictions on carry on sizes.

Mindy says: I found out the hard way– if you take checked baggage, do it in a dark color! I had a hot pink, cloth suitcase… Bad idea! You would think, “Easy to find, right?” It looked like a mechanic with dirty hands got ahold of it. Also the inside plastic corners were shattered to pieces. I would go with the hard plastic suitcases instead of cloth!

On footwear…

Hannah says: Salomons, Merrells, Chacos, Rainbows, and (as much as I hate to say it), Crocs dressy flats. They’re so comfy. Take no more than 3 pairs of shoes.


On where to stay…

Corey says: Stay in hostels and meet as many people as possible!

Hannah says:, Flipkey, and VRBO are legit and cheap stays. We had a private flat in central Paris for under $70/night, and have never stayed in Hawaii for more than $80/night. Places may even come with kayaks, bikes, snorkel, or various outdoor adventure gear.

Autumn says: Find boutique hotels. They’re a little more than your chain hotels but the experiences are worth it. We stayed in a hotel in San Diego where part of Top Gun was filmed in the basement. Our hotel in San Francisco used to be City Hall and had the old jail in it.

Darcy says: is a great way to travel cheaper, and if you stay in someone’s spare room, you can get some local tips for what to do/see/etc.

On where to eat….

Kyle says: Anywhere that looks crowded with locals must be good.

Hannah says: Take away food places in Europe are cheaper and significantly faster than cafes, yet still incredibly delicious. Also, look at TripAdvisor for cheap, highly rated, and legit eateries.

Lindsey says: Establish where the best ice cream and coffee can be found. Ask the locals about the best eating establishments and which sites are worth seeing and which are worth skipping. Find a flea market and fresh food market whenever possible.

Autumn says: Absolutely avoid any chain places. TripAdvisor is awesome for recommendations. If we are renting a car, we normally bring a small cooler and buy easy-to-make stuff like sandwich fixings, snacks, and breakfast foods. It helps us save so we can splurge on dinner.

Darcy says: If you see a roadside food stand full of people, pull over immediately, because that many people can’t be wrong.


On getting around…

Hannah says: Book train tickets through the advice of The Man In Seat 61’s site. You will find the BEST deals and advice that you will NOT find on various American or European-rail websites/passes.

Corey says: One of my favorite things to do is just get out and walk around. In Paris, I just walked to whatever I thought looked interesting. I was alone, I didn’t have a smartphone, and I’m sure it was not the safest thing to do, but it was an amazing experience.

Autumn says: Travel the back roads if you have time; skip the interstate. There are lots of cool attractions you’re normally just flying right by.

On traveling ethically…

The Idle European says: Venice is one of those cities that really suffer from the masses of tourists that come in there, ironically enough. For one, you should not arrive with a cruise ship. The ships are literally destroying the city each time one arrives the harbor next to Piazza di San Marco. Also, they bring people to explore in Venice for a couple of hours, and the city itself gains little compensation considering how much money is pumped into the product we know as Venice. Therefore, (no matter where you go) it would be best if your trip lasted at least a couple of days and you spend money in local products and services.


On traveling to Michigan (the happiest place in the world)…

Julie says: Marquette Michigan – Jump off the rocks at Presque Isle into the most beautiful, crystal clear lake in all of the US–Lake Superior! Go to Mackinaw Island and stay at Main Street Inn & Suites. The Honeymoon suite is to die for. A balcony overlooking the main shopping area is a must. The evenings & early mornings bring sounds of quiet streets and horseshoes walking down the road. The daytime it’s the hustle & bustle of tourists & so peaceful to just sit on the balcony & watch. The sunsets that are viewed from the public school only a short walk away are AMAZING (you can also see the bridge). MY FAVORITE PLACE ON EARTH.

One more thing! If you click any of the links in this post, you can get $25 off your next booking by signing up for an account. Thanks, airbnb!

What tips and tricks do you have from your travels to add to this list? Comment below!

In case you’re interested…my road trip across the US and a weekend on Orcas Island.  

Venice, Italy + your travel tips

Our last stop in Italy (after Rome and Florence) was Venice. We just had a day and half there, but it ended up being a perfect amount of time to see the highlights. First stop, lunch and a beer!


Venice is an interesting town. As you probably know, it’s entirely made up of islands. There are no cars in historic Venice, only boats on the canals.


In our day and a half, we rode the vapparetto (water taxi) from one end of the grand canal to the other several times, and we spent an inordinate amount of time wandering around on foot, looking at buildings, shops, and homes.



How cool is that farmer’s market? It’s a boat!

Bob was pretty psyched to find Campo de San Barnaba, which is where the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed.  The inside doesn’t actually look like the library from the movie, unfortunately.



We capped off our time in Venice with a gondola ride, one last gelato, and a fancy dinner. It was a beautiful evening, and the perfect way to end a great trip.


Venice tips!

  • Lodging: we stayed in Mestre, where it was much more affordable. There are plenty of buses that run to and from historic Venice on a regular basis–just ask at your hotel, and they will direct you to the closest stop.
  • Transportation: if you’re under 30 years old, buy a Rolling Venice card for 4 euro, and you will get 3 days of unlimited boat and bus rides for only 20 euro. If you’re over 30, there are still transit passes available. They’re a bit more expensive, but still very worth it. You can ride unlimited amounts of Venice transit boats or buses for however many days you purchase (1, 2, or 3). The advantages:
    1. You don’t have to constantly be refilling cards and monitoring your balance.
    2. If you swipe into the wrong stop, no worries! Just leave and find the right one. Without an unlimited transit card, a mistake like that would cost you 7 euro per person–because you already swiped it for one ride.

I wanna hear from YOU. Based on your trips, travels, and vacations, what do you recommend? Where do you like to stay? How do you get around? Any must have shoes or clothes or luggage? Can’t live without beauty products? Favorite way to sleuth out the best restaurant in town? Share in the comments below, and I’ll link to you in my post next week Thursday.