Monday, January 13, 2014

Ultimate Packing Guide and To Do's before a vacation

Ultimate Packing Guide
This is our extended vacation packing list from Japan

If it is hot/humid, bring 2 outfits daily (1 for the day, 1 for dinner/night out with a shower in between)
To keep clothes smelling fresh, add a dryer sheet in your suitcase
  • Tops- Shirts, tees, tanks
  • Pants- Shorts, pants, jeans, skirts
  • Jeans (daytime or nighttime wear)
  • Sundresses
  • Sweater/cardigan
  • Outerwear- Jacket, hoodie, blazer, sweater, pashmina
  • Special event/evening wear outfits (dress, pashmina, pumps, jewelry)

Clothing- Misc
  • Jockey Skimmies, Slip
  • Undies (# days +1)
  • Bras (nude, black, and strapless/racerback/t-back if needed) packed in a Cup Case
  • Seamless sports bras- morning, sightseeing (easy to wash, dries quickly)
  • Socks (# days +1)
  • Pajamas- LS/SS tee, hoodie, black stretchy pants, socks
  • Hangers (slim ones)

Limit footwear, embrace double-duty items, and wear your heaviest/largest footwear on the flight
Alternate shoes to prevent blisters

If it is hot/humid, bring 2x per day so can shower mid-day or before dinner
  • Hat- Fedora
  • Scarves
  • Belt
  • Jewelry- Necklace, earrings, bracelet, watch
  • Purses- Clutch (evening), tote, small backpack (excursions/day trips)
  • Jacket- Rain jacket, trench
  • House slippers

Here is a more comprehensive list for the beach/pool, and this is our packing list for cruising
  • Collapsible hat and/or fedora
  • Cover up
  • Plastic flip flops
  • Swimsuit (2-3 per trip)
  • Wet bag (to hold wet swimsuits, rashguards, etc)
  • Quick Dry towel- I love these towels b/c they are lightweight, compact, and dry so quickly! Great for excursions b/c they don't take up a lot of room in your bag and they dry so quickly
  • The Undress

Workout Clothes
  • Sports bra
  • Tee
  • Capris/shorts
  • Socks
  • Sneakers (running? lifting?)
  • iPod Shuffle & charger, headphones
  • Spibelt or Flipbelt
  • Garmin Forerunner watch
  • Water bottle

  • Portable power strip (we have something similar to this by Monster, but it has 5 outlets total, or even this one b/c it has a long extension cord)
  • Extension cord- So many times, outlets are behind the hotel bed or nightstand, and this extension cord helps us get to the outlet easier
  • USB LED Stick Light- This light is a godsend! Hotel lights aren't always accessible where I want to work or they're too weak, so having this USB light is great. Super bright, and the light can bend/is flexible
  • 2-prong to 3-prong adapter- Some older hotels/B&Bs have only 2-prongs; most of our electronics need 3-prongs
  • AA/AAA batteries (wireless mouse, Bose headphones, T8)
  • Mouse pad (many hotel rooms have glass-top desks)
  • HDMI cable, iPad connector
  • iPhone holder (in the car), AUX cord (if have a rental car)
  • Kindle charger
  • Travel adapter/converter (if traveling outside of the US)
  • Travel alarm clock (battery operated)- Doubles as a portable watch or bring with you to the beach/pool without having to bring your iPhone
  • Luggage scale
  • Portable garment steamer

Here is what I pack on long flights
  • Packing cubes (roll your clothes to prevent wrinkles, and doubles as a dirty clothes bag)
    • Small- Hair dryer, Clothes, Socks/underwear
    • Medium- Clothes (rolled)
    • Large- Clothes (rolled)
    • Slim- Hosiery, socks, underwear, toiletries, curling iron/flat iron, electronics chargers/laptop cords
  • Extra bag/luggage (in case I buy too much)- This duffel is great because it is lightweight, durable, and it collapses into its own carrying case. I bet I can fit a ton of laundry/clothes in here, and use our luggage for more delicate items.
  • Collapsible hamper (if staying in 1 place for consecutive days)
  • Travel umbrella
  • Baggu totes
  • Vitamins
  • Sewing kit
  • Small first-aid kit, safety pins
  • Travel insect repellent, Gold Bond ointment (good for sunburns, insect bites, minor cuts)
  • Duct tape (torn clothes, torn luggage, repairing air pillow- highly underrated!)
  • Toilet paper to go (some rural places just don't have it- be prepared!)
  • Plastic grocery bags or kitchen trash bags (for packing up dirty clothes)
  • T8, WP
  • Envelope (for business trips to hold all receipts to be expensed)
  • Plastic food containers (if you're going to bring food home from your vacation- this doesn't crush the food, it is durable, and lightweight)
  • Fabric softener sheets- Helps to cut out musty odors that can occur in tropical climates (fasten onto front of a/c with string, place in drawers with clothes)
  • Nightlight- Helps to navigate dark room at night

Tip- If you're worried about leaks, add a piece of saran wrap to the top of your liquids and then cap it.
  • SPF body and face (pool, beach, working out)
  • Beauty essentials
    • Hair- Shampoo & conditioner, shower cap, hair clipswide tooth comb, dry shampoo (this one is travel friendly)
    • Body- Loofah gloves, body wash (I use the hotel's)
    • Face- Face wash, antioxidant serum, SPF moisturizer, eye cream (put into small sample container), Buf Puf (a must to get rid of build up of suntan lotion, sand, etc, and prolongs your tan) or this facial sponge
    • Teeth- Toothbrush, toothpaste (those small 0.85 oz travel toothpaste lasts me 1 week), mouthwash, retainer/case, floss picks
    • Body lotion
    • Diamancel file
    • Deodorant (travel size)
    • Shaving- Razor, extra blade, shaving cream
    • Tweezers
    • Q-tips (for sand in ears)
    • Lip scrub (Mary Kay, Lush)
    • Travel-size Aquaphor or Mini Vaseline
  • Hair accessories
  • Eyes
    • Contact lens + case, eye drops, aviator sunglasses or Oakley sunglasses (Asian Fit)
    • Regular glasses case
    • Ziploc bags (quart & gallon size)- protects items from water, organizes items, holds wet items, holds snacks
  • Makeup- Pack it in the Lay N Go mini cosmetics or regular cosmetic bag

Follow TSA's 3-1-1 rule for liquids (1 qt clear pouch with 3 fl oz containers)
  • Lo & Sons OMG carry-on bag (perfect b/c it can slide the bag onto the handles of your luggage = hands free!)
  • Travel blanket, Neck pillow, Eye mask
  • Sea-Band motion sickness wristbands (great for travel- car, small planes, boats, etc)
  • Rubbermaid CHUG bottle or Vapur collapsible water bottle
  • Snacks- Gum/mints, trail mix, Clif or Kind bars, Gatorade low-calorie G2 powder packets, gummy bears, gum/mints, apple + almonds
    • Rag/napkins, rubberbands (to close off snacks)
    • Grocery bag for trash- for car travel
  • Cloth lens wipes, wet lens wipes (for eyeglass wearers)
  • Prescription sunglasses (with case)
  • SPF gloves
  • Tissues To Go
  • Pair of socks
  • Scarf (always so cold, and doubles as a mini blanket)
  • Leisure- Small notepad & pen, Kindle, paperback book, magazines
  • Electronics
    • Macbook (Macbook charger, Macbook neoprene case, wireless mouse, keyboard are placed in checked luggage)
    • Kindle
    • iPhone & charger
    • iPad & charger
    • iPod Shuffle & charger cord
    • Canon P&S, SD card, batteries (2) & charger
    • Nikon dSLR, SD card, batteries (2) & charger
    • Bose noise-cancelling headphones (and extra battery) or iPhone 5 headphones
  • Important documents 
    • DL, CCs (especially the one used to book hotel/air/rental car), cash, debit card, passport
    • Wallet- J. Crew magic wallet (if bringing clutch), Coach wristlet clutch
    • Medical insurance cards, Travel insurance card/document
    • Itineraries, vacation documents, tickets
  • Everyday purse/cross body bag- Fossil (fuschia), KS (light beige), MZW Paige (coffee twill), RM (port)
  • TSA & Toiletries liquid bag (1-qt clear bag, 3 fl oz travel containers)
    • * Chapstick
    • * Tide Pen
    • * Hand lotion (regular or SPF hand)
    • * Perfume (small samples or use this travel atomizer)
    • * Band aids (various sizes, including blister band aids)
    • Floss, Toothpaste, Toothbrush
    • Colorscience SPF powder brush
    • Olay/Neutrogena face wipes (for long flights or while sightseeing if humid/hot)
    • Eyeglass wet wipes, eyeglass cleaning cloth
    • Wet wipes to go
    • Medicine- Advil, Immodium AD, Lactaid, Tums, Allergy meds, Bandaids/blister bandaids, Zzzquil or Advil PM, Miralax travel packets

To Do's before a vacation
1 week before:
  • USPS- Hold mail
  • Call your credit card and bank- let them know you're traveling (so they don't cancel your card thinking it is fraud)
  • Scan your passport, driver's license, and tickets; then email it to yourself (if any of these get stolen, you'll have proof)
  • Upload media to iPad, iPhone, Shuffle- TV shows, movies, music

Few days before:
  • Confirm all travel arrangements and flights
  • Pay bills/utilities (if necessary)
  • Charge electronics
    • P&S camera batteries (2)
    • Nikon dSLR batteries (2)
    • Macbook
    • iPad
    • iPod Shuffle
    • Kindle
    • Sonicare tooth brush
    • Clarisonic Mia
    • Cell phone

Night before:
  • Clean house
  • Clean kitchen
  • Clean out food from fridge
  • Empty trash into outdoor trashcan

Day of:
  • Turn off heat/AC
  • Turn off ceiling fans
  • Turn off electronics/power strips- TVs, PCs
  • Close all blinds and windows
  • Unplug outlets, space heater

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Packing List- My favorite things

I wanted to create a blog post with my favorite travel items. I know that each vacation or business travel is different, but I wanted to jot down some of my favorite "must pack" for every trip.

Here is my post for what I like to pack for a long flight.
Here is a separate post for what I like to pack for a cruise and for the beach/pool.
  • Portable power strip- I have something similar to this one but mine has 5 outlets total. I tend to pack a lot of electronics, which then includes a lot of chargers (iPhone, iPad, Macbook, camera, etc.) I feel like hotels don't have enough outlets, so it is nice to plug everything in one place. I really like the Monster brand because the cord wraps around the power strip, which makes it compact and efficient (who wants loose cords?).
  • Headphones- These Bose headphones are phenomenal. They completely block out surrounding noise (read: kids crying, airplane white noise, distracting neighbor) and you can enjoy your music and/or movies. It's a high price to pay, but since owning them, I can't imagine flying without them.
  • Travel blanket- I got this one from Amazon, and I love it. I did a lot of research on blankets, and I picked this one for several reasons: 1) the blanket has a slit that can go over your head, so your shoulders and body can be covered, b) it has a zipper pouch (perfect to hold small things while you're wearing it), c) the blanket can be compacted into the zippered pouch, making it small and lightweight, and d) it has a sewn in "snap loop" where I can snap it onto my carry-on (and not have to put it INSIDE my carry-on). I do recommend looking at the length of the blanket- I'm petite, so this one fit me fine (but may be too short for someone taller, or for someone who wants to be covered from neck to toe).
  • Luggage Scale- I am notorious about overpacking! I don't own this just purchased this. I think I just need to bite the bullet and order it. I tend to do a lot of shopping while on vacation, so I'm always wondering how heavy my (already overfull/overpacked) suitcase will be on our way home (especially since I tend to buy souvenirs and gifts on vacation). This luggage scale will definitely take the guesswork out (and help avoid overweight baggage fees.) Update: This luggage weight is about 1# in itself.
  • Water bottle- I really like this one from Amazon since it is collapsible. I can take it in my carry-on luggage empty, get through security, and then fill it up near the gate. It is also great for traveling since it collapses. I can stick it in my purse when I'm done and takes up no room at all!
  • Cross-body bag- This is a MUST! We do a lot of walking while on vacation, and to have your bag be hands-free is a huge lifesaver. My favorite cross-body bags are from MZ Wallace. Although it is a steep price to pay for nylon bags, they are made incredibly well, can take a beating, and they've held up well. I love their vibrant colors (but they also have neutral colors as well.)
  • Packing cubes- I love these cubes so much! They keep my clothes organized, and I couldn't believe how much clothes I could fit into 1 cube. They can get banged around and nothing wrinkles.Well constructed, excellent price point, and because they areen't firm/hard-shaped, they can fit in anywhere whether they are fully or lightly packed.
  • Collapsible hamper- This is only useful if you're going on an extended vacation (5+ days) and staying in 1 place the entire time. Our laundry just piles up like a mountain on the hotel room floor, so this will keep our dirty clothes in 1 place and organized away. I also worry that we'll leave a sock here and this will keep them in 1 place. It is collapsible (compact), made of mesh (lightweight), and takes up no room in your luggage (win win).
  • iPhone and iPad chargers- I carry a small pouch that houses an iPad charger, and the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 cables. I carry these on with me.
  • Electronics: Macbook, Verizon Modem, and Wireless mouse (with extra batteries)
  • Yoga pants, sneakers- Most attractive? No. Most comfortable? Absolutely. Especially when you have to run to your gate (read: short layovers, running late since security line was so long, etc.)
  • Portable steamer- I was a little surprised when I saw how tall this steamer was (7"x9"x4"), but I purchased it for our upcoming anniversary trip. I tend to bring delicates with me on trips and I hate using irons on them. A steamer is a great alternative since it is gentle on clothes and works well (better in most cases than an iron.) I had been eyeing this portable steamer for a while and finally pulled the trigger. (It is 1# in weight.)
  • Baggu- My sister introduced this to me, and I've since purchased (2) different sizes off Amazon. I've had similar bags but the quality of these bags are great, and they are super light and are compact. I no longer take totes with my shopping, but instead carry 1 of these in my purse (and plan on taking it on vacation). Perfect for shopping!
  • Extra duffle bag- I always say I'm not going to shop a lot on vacation, and inevitably, I always do. My bags are packed to its max on our way to vacation, and we have had to pay ridiculous overlimit fees. NO MORE!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

San Francisco, Oakland, and Next time....- Day #5 (Sunday 4/14)

After spending so much time sightseeing and shopping, I was so glad to have a relaxing day to spend around Oakland today. On top of that, my lack of sleep was finally catching up with me!

After a really active Saturday afternoon, Naomi and I were looking to have a relaxing Sunday in Oakland. Naomi's favorite bakery La Farine, and the bakery was close enough for us to walk, so Naomi and I got ready and headed over there shortly after it opened for the morning.

The moment you opened its door, the smell of homemade bread and pastries breeze right in. The bakery is very cute (and quite popular) with customers coming in and out frequently. I had read some Yelp reviews that morning and had a few things I had to try- namely, the Savory Morning Buns, Sweet Morning Buns, and the Chocolate Croissants.

Lots of housemade freshly baked treats

Naomi was very familiar with this bakery, so we ordered an assortment to try. Here is what made the cut for our morning breakfast:
Sweet Morning Bun- buttery, flaky croissant pastry dough covered with cinnamon sugar

A sweet surprise! An almond paste filling in the middle (it was incredible)

Chocolate Croissant (my favorite)

I've tried many chocolate croissants, but this was one of my favorites so far. The croissant was buttery flaky, and the chocolate was creamy and soft. Pure heaven.

Savory Morning Bun- Same buttery flaky croissant but topped with chopped ham and cheese

A savory surprise of ham slices

Rustic Baguette- Delicious!!!

Lemon Shortbread- this was OMGawd good. Fresh and not too sweet yet not too tart

After eating a few of the pastries at La Farine, we took the remaining baked goods and walked back to their apartment. 

Naomi and Adrian had some grocery shopping to do, so we got into the car and headed to Berkeley Bowl West. This had place (or maybe it's b/c we were in CA?) had so many varieties of produce and grocery. Think Whole Foods but much larger.

Straus Family Creamery is a huge (and popular) family-owned certified organic dairy farm located in northern California. Naomi picked up some of their milk:
Love the authentic glass milk jugs

Large variety of beets, turnips, and carrots- literally "fresh from the ground" 
Who knew there could be 7 varieties of cucumbers?

... or sweet potatoes?
After battling through the Berkeley Bowl, we headed towards Vik's Chaat for some Indian street cart food. For me, I was thinking this would be literally a "street cart", but Vik's is actually an Indian supermarket (the nicest, cleanest, and brightest Indian market I've ever been to) attached to a large restaurant. 

Once you get into the restaurant side of the building, you'll see an almost-cafeteria like seating:

Before you even sit down, you need to stand (normally in line, this place was really popular!) and order your dishes. The dishes are all small servings, so it's a great way to try many dishes at once. Adrian stood in line while Naomi and I scurried to grab a table.

We started our meal with a Mango Lassi, a traditional Indian beverage made with yogurt, water, and mango pulp. It was pretty thick/creamy from the yogurt (and also quite filling):
Mango Lassi

Here is the (plethora of) food we ordered:
Cholle Bhature- The bhatura is a large deep-friend dough

It came with a side of pickled vegetables

Cholle (spicy chick peas)

To eat the cholle bhatura, you essentially rip off a piece of the bread...

... and dip it into the cholle sauce

Keema Samosa- Fried savory pastry filled with keema (lamb) and peas

Inside the keema samosa

These are puris filled and topped with yogurt and tamarind chutney. I was slightly surprised to see that this was a cold dish (first time trying it).
Dahi Batata Puri

The inside of the puri include potatoes and yogurt

Dosa (pancake/crepe-like wrap) filled with peas, carrots, lentils, and potatoes

My rating: B (I know I am in the minority because this place was very popular.) I am not used to this type of Indian food (we have mostly northern Indian cuisine here in Cincinnati). I did love trying all the variety of new foods, and I think if I lived here, I would continue to try new chaat items.

After lunch, we decided to walk off the food and did some shopping. After some shopping at the Crate & Barrel Outlet, we headed out for a mid-afternoon snack. But not before I saw this mobile cupcakery!
Mobile Cupcakery located outside of the Crate & Barrel Outlet store

This isn't a big deal to Naomi, but I've seen it on blogs, read about it on magazines, and thought it was so cute. I didn't get to snap a picture, but people were lining up (other side of the truck) and ordering cupcakes. Perfect day too, as it was low 70s and sunny.

We headed towards the Lakeshore area to Arizmendi's Bakery & Pizzeria. This is Naomi's favorite pizzeria in San Francisco, and while I wasn't the slightest bit hungry, how could I pass it up? It is located in a really lovely and cute neighborhood in Oakland.

Although we were there at around 4pm, there was (no surprise) a line to order pizza.
Naomi told me she has seen the line go out the door

Arizmendi's only make 1 pizza daily (always vegetarian)
Today's pizza included: Mustard greens, broccolini, red onions, mozzarella and fresh Asiago, roasted garlic, parmesan, and olive oil.

It was one of the best pizzas I've ever tasted. I wish I had been hungrier so I could have eaten more of this. The crust was perfect (love the thin crust), not greasy, and the toppings were cooked perfectly. The roasted garlic on top was heavenly. Excellent quality pizzas.

Something interesting to note is that Arizmendi's is co-operatively owned- meaning, the people who own it, work here. 

We headed across the street to Trader Joe's, and I nearly passed out at the line. First, the line was going down the entire length of the store, and wrapping around the back. Naomi said this was normal on a weekend. Are Californians just used to waiting in lines?!

We had literally been eating all day, so waited (a few hours) before heading back out to The Ramen Shop for dinner. Think Japanese ramen but in a hip, contemporary setting. I was excited to try some Japanese ramen!

The menu was limited but had some variety:

The Ramen Shop was dimly lit (I guess added to their hip atmosphere?)

Naomi and Adrian invited one of their friends Jeremy, and luckily, we got a reservation. We started off with a few appetizers to share:
Tuna Tartare- Spicy Yellowtail Jack tartare with watercress, fennel, and cilantro topped with a citrus vinaigrette

Pork Fried Rice with wild nettles and Siew's spicy chili paste

To be honest, I thought both appetizers were meh. The tuna tartare was good but not great, and the pork fried rice was just ok (definitely have had better). Both were plated nicely though.

For dinner, since Naomi and I were still full from our day of eating, we shared an order of Shiyo Ramen:
Shiyo Meyer Lemon Ramen with split roasted chashu, soy-marinated egg, mizuna, and nori

Adrian and Jeremy both ordered the Shrimp Miso Ramen:
Shrimp Miso Ramen with ground pork belly, asparagus, shoyu-marinated egg, and shunpike
My rating: B. This is not authentic Japanese ramen, but definitely a contemporary version of it. (My favorite ramen I've ever had in the US is still Ippudo in NYC.) I've never even heard of shrimp in ramen?! Regardless, if I had to choose between the Shiyo Meyer lemon vs. Shrimp Miso ramen, it'd be the shrimp miso ramen. It had a good depth of flavor, rich broth, and had I ordered this, I would have given it a B+ rating for taste.

There is no doubt San Francisco has an incredible variety of (excellent) foods, and coming back home was somewhat of a disappointment. I joked with Jenna that I really didn't know where I wanted to eat back home after having had so much variety and ethnic foods at my disposal in San Francisco. 

I want to thank Naomi and Adrian for showing me all over SF and Oakland, introducing me to new foods, and for allowing me to stay at their apartment all weekend!

Next time we are in SF/Oakland, these are the places I'd like to try (mostly food, naturally):
  • Fenton's Creamery- Local ice cream shoppe that has been around for years 
  • Ici Ice Cream- Every time we passed this place, there was a massive line out the door
  • Zachary's Chicago Pizza- Apparently, this place is so good (and popular). Crazy lines, but reviewers say it is worth it. If you love deep dish, this is THE place to do in SF
  • Bakesale Betty- Supposed to one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the US
  • B-Dama- Another Japanese restaurant that garners good reviews
  • R&G Lounge- Located in SF Chinatown, supposed to have excellent Chinese fare
  • Japantown
  • Sausalito, Marin Headlands (sightseeing)