Tuesday, April 22, 2014

7 Tips for a Stress-Free Trip Abroad

As you know, my husband and I love to travel. In fact, he's already bugging me about booking another trip to Europe. He forgets that we are going to Puerto Rico next month, and that we have weddings in New Orleans and Florida later this year. Spoiled much? (we totally are.)
In any case, even though it's STILL COLD in Chicago, summer will hopefully be here before we know it. And with that comes summer vacations! In case anyone is headed anywhere outside of the U.S. this summer, I wanted to pass along some of my best tips. Trust me, they will make life abroad less stressful.

Note: the below pictures don't have anything to do with the tip. :)

Follow customs. It goes without saying that things are different in every part of the world. For example, in Europe, tipping isn't customary. Doesn't mean it's not appreciated, but also doesn't mean you have to do it. Just do some research and pay attention before you leave so you know what you're getting into. 
Follow the crowds.When looking for a place to sit down and grab a drink, or where to eat a good meal at night, look for places that are busy. Of course you'll have to wait a hot minute, but the people filling up the place are probably locals and they know best. 
Patience. You're in a different country. A foreign place. You don't know where you're going. You don't know how long things will take. You don't know what food will taste like. You will have a language barrier. You must be patient, for your own sanity and for your the sanity of those you're traveling with.
Walking shoes. People in other countries aren't as lazy as we are here in the U.S. They walk EVERYWHERE. And you probably will too. Even if you don't, when you're waiting in line for tourist attractions and then you get in to the tourist attractions, you'll walk during that time, so do yourself a favor: leave the wedges at home. 
Bring cash. They have ATMs abroad, but you get charged up the wazoo in fees. And, not all places we've traveled to accept credit cards, so it's best to always have some on hand.
Learn key phrasesIf you don't know a language, don't pretend you do. For example, with Spanish, don't try to speak it by adding an 'o' on the end of a word. For example, don't say "Where is the bathroom-o?" and think you're being funny. It's insulting.
Talk to locals. Some of the best things we did on our trips to Europe were recommendations from locals. For example, one night in Granada, we ended up at this tapas bar that a husband/wife owned. The husband was English and his wife was from Lisbon. We were headed to Lisbon later in the trip and we got fantastic recommendations from them as a result. 

Enjoy your summer traveling!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Weekend Recap

Happy Monday!

In true "Rachel" form, I have had three blog drafts in my system from last week waiting to be published, but I forgot. So, the good news is that I'll have more posts this week than my usual Monday jam.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I know I did. Bryan and I went back and forth about whether or not to go home this weekend. Due to May being completely booked for the most part, the debate was either to go home this past weekend or go home Mother's Day weekend. Bryan ended up having an event scheduled during the latter, so home we went!

Finally, after months and months of cold and snow, we had beautiful weather this weekend. A little windy to be sure, but I'll take it, especially when it come with 80 degree temperatures!

Friday night we were able to make it home early enough to have dinner with Bryan's parents, my SIL and her fiance (we missed our niece, Aly!). Not too much excitement after that, given that I never have energy on Friday nights. Am I old and boring, or what?

Saturday morning it was up early to squeeze in some playtime with Sloan before heading out with my mom and sisters for my little sister's first dress fitting! I can't believe how amazing her dress already looks on her. I know mine didn't fit that perfectly when it came in from the designer. She's super excited and I'm so excited for her. The next 6 months will fly by.

After that, we checked out Natty's new condo. She has a crazy kitty named Mia that hates my mom for some reason. Keep in mind, my mom has three cats of her own, used to have a pet-sitting business and loves animals, so it's SUPER weird that Mia freaks out when she's around. Watch how mean she is!

We all went to lunch and after that, I took my niece to meet up with my girlfriends and their little ones a park to enjoy the weather. The kids, ranging from 6 months to 2.5, got along great and ran wild for awhile before getting tired and then everyone decided they needed some Goldfish. Ah, kids. Finally, it was home to relax briefly before heading out to dinner to celebrate my sister and BIL's birthdays.

Cruisin' in my mom's new convertible.

 Chillin' on the way to the park.

Gimme 'dem Goldfish!

We went to a new(ish) brewery outside of town that we've been dying to try. I think we picked a bad night though, because they were out of nearly every beer they brewed! They still had others for us to enjoy, but we were a bit disappointed. 

I volunteered to be the DD anyway (Happy birthday, Jess & Klint), so no sweat off my back. After dinner, I dropped the group off at another bar while I went to meet up with my girlfriends for awhile. And then, BED!

On Easter, we were able to have lunch with both mine and Bryan's families at the same venue. I love when we can make that happen. I love that our families get along so well and that everyone is willing to "share" their time with us. It was 12 of us in total and so lovely to all just be together. 

My SIL is about to give birth to our nephew in a few weeks and she just got engaged, plus the birthday celebrations and just life in general - much to be thankful for this Easter. We enjoyed more of the beautiful weather at the downtown playground after brunch before Bryan and I headed home to Chicago in the afternoon.

And that brings me to today! Back in the office, back to the grind, back to reality, all that good stuff. Hoping for a fast week - my mom and her man are coming in town this weekend for a concert and some good ol' fashioned family bonding!

How was everyone else's weekend?

Mingle 240

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Case of the Mondays

How is it that Mondays are the only day I can find time to sit and write? Honestly, I don't know how real bloggers do it. I start each week with the best intentions to visit this corner every day and write and next thing I know, the week has come and gone and THAT'S WEIRD (oh wait, no it isn't), I haven't written since Monday.

Try as I might, this blogging thing may not be for me. On the one hand, I feel like I put so much pressure on myself to write quality content vs quantity content. And then I can't come up with things to write about. But then it's like, why can't I just use this as a diary? Everyone else does. I also know that I'm only going to get as much out of my blog as I give, which right now is about 5%. What do I expect?

To those of you who do look forward to my posts, and who comment, I want you to know I appreciate it. Stick with me for a little while longer and I hope I can make my part of the Internet something worth visiting every day.

My thoughts on today:

someecards.com - Monday mornings would be better if they were a part of my weekend-long blackouts.

Anyway, that's about all the time I have. I've got a lot of things on my mind that are stressful and exciting and making me kind of crazy. I'll be able to fill you in soon.