Time to Create Your Red Eye Kit

Hi, fellow travelers! It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Between launching my own company for my full-time job (I wish it were travel writing, of course) and planning a wedding, things have been pretty hectic.

Back to the wedding bit, my fiancé is Austrian, so I’m back and forth from central Europe quite a bit. I’ve become a master of red eye travel, even if I can’t sleep very well on a plane. This often leaves me groggy and out of sorts when I finally arrive at my European destination.

I decided to tackle this problem once and for all, so I created my own “red eye kit” to store in my carry-on for my transatlantic flights. They have truly helped to refresh me after a long journey, sending me on my way to a productive day – whether that’s a business meeting or sightseeing.

Here’s what’s inside my red eye kit.

The Bag: Sephora’s “Beauty on the Fly” Bag ($4.95 or free with qualifying travel size purchases).

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This TSA-friendly reusable bag is a must-have. It’s transparent, so it’ll zip through security checks with ease. It holds a lot, but it’s also compact enough to slip into a purse, as well.

Makeup Remover: Neutrogena Travel Size Towelettes ($2.95).

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Before nodding off into sky-high dreamland, make sure to remove your makeup! These travel size towelettes are easy to use and fit nicely in your red eye kit.

The Sleeping Mask: Prices vary.

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Some airlines will give you an inexpensive cloth sleeping mask, or you could purchase it elsewhere. The smaller, lightweight options are easily folded for storage in your red eye kit.

The Moisturizer: Le Mer Moisturizing Cream (Free).

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The skin really dries out from a lot of flying. To prevent it dulling, grab a sample size moisturizer from your favorite department store. The samples are typically small enough to be TSA compliant, and they’ll probably last more than one trip.

The Eye Mask: Sephora Green Tea Eye Mask ($5).

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Before slipping your sleep mask on, place the two patches contained in this eye mask underneath your peepers. The skin under your eyes is very thin, and this mask will deeply moisturize it while you snooze. It makes a huge difference, I promise.

The Sleep Aid: NatureMade Melatonin ($6.99).

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This 3mg all natural sleep aid will send you snoozing in no time. It’s totally safe to use, but just make sure you’ll get at least 6 hours of sleep on the flight or you’ll end up groggy upon arriving at your destination.

The Pain Reliever: Aleve ($6.63).

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There’s probably no worse place to get sick than an airplane. Pack this small bottle of pain reliever in your red eye kit so you’re always prepared for sinus headaches, hangovers and general “airplane flu.”

The Dry Shampoo: Bumble and Bumble “Prêt-à-Powder” ($12).

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When you wake up from your airplane slumber, this mini bottle of wonder powder will surely be a lifesaver! Tackle bedhead (or, in this case, really-small-and-uncomfortable-seat-head) by sprinkling a tiny amount of this dry shampoo into your hand and massaging your scalp with it. It will give you good-as-new hair before deplaning!

The Teeth Cleaners: Toothbrush (prices vary), Miniature Toothpaste (prices vary), Miniature Mouthwash (prices vary) and Flossing Tooth Picks (prices vary).

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Airplane breath is pretty terrible. Get your day started off right, just as you would at home, with a full dental cleaning. Pack a small toothbrush (I’m so serious about this that I even pack my electric toothbrush), mini tube of toothpaste, a travel size mouthwash bottle and even a couple of those floss picks (I find it easier than the typical “spool” style).

The Complexion Pick-Me-Up: Tinted Moisturizer (prices vary).

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Since you probably don’t want to carry a bunch of makeup in your carry-on (and TSA probably won’t let you, anyway), pack a travel size tinted moisturizer. It will give you a little glow, leaving you refreshed after your long flight.

The Spritzer: Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($18).

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After applying your tinted moisturizer (or not, if you’re a guy and not into that sort of thing), spray on a little of this miracle product to freshen up your skin. It will give you that dewey glow – the kind that warrants the use of the word “dewey,” I think – that fools folks into thinking you didn’t just get off a flight. The scent is wonderfully calming.

The Breath Freshener – C.O. Bigelow Mentha Shimmer Tint ($7.50).

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This lip moisturizer doubles as a breath freshener. I love it! You can choose one with a tint and shimmer, or just a plain ole moisturizer. Either way, those around you will be glad you put some on.

Finally, a few more things to consider packing in that bag: a pen (to fill out your landing card), socks (since no one really likes wearing shoes on a plane, right?) and sample perfume vials from a department store (just wait until you’re off the plane so as not to suffocate your fellow passengers!).

Hope you enjoyed these tips and consider making your own kit. If you have any other “must have” items, let me know. And I promise I’ll start trying to write again!

Happy trails!







Travel Tips and Tricks

I know it has been a while since I have last written. I’ve been on many adventures since then – France and England again, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and across the U.S. – so I hope you’ll pardon my absence.

I visited Crater Lake, Oregon last week. It was beautiful, but dense fog and smoke from forest fires enveloped the mountain tops.

I visited Crater Lake, Oregon last week. It was beautiful, but dense fog and smoke from forest fires enveloped the mountain tops.

Since people always ask me how to travel, I wanted to write a quick post with the travel items I couldn’t live without, as well as other tips I’ve developed on my journeys. These are meant principally for international travel, but some can also be used for domestic trips, too.

Here it goes:

  1. Buy a backup battery for your phone. These range from $10 to $80, and they’ll hold one or two full battery lives, depending on which you select. It’s pretty simple: you charge it, then you hook up your phone to it using your USB or lightning cord that comes with your cell. You can use your phone while it’s charging and it will still have another full battery left to use. I’ve had great success with Anker products. It’s always comforting to know (especially in a foreign country) that you’ve got plenty of battery life left, especially on a long day.
  2. Use a passport wallet. I’ve got a big purse, and there’s nothing more terrifying than thinking you’ve lost your passport in that black hole of a bag when you’re overseas. My passport won’t fit in my typical wallet, so I’ve invested in a passport wallet. For years, there haven’t been many options that weren’t bulky or impractical for carrying any place other than around your neck (and let’s be honest, that looks ridiculous). But never fear! Now, Etsy, Amazon and others have loads of chic choices for the savvy traveler. You can typically fit your passport, ticket, reservation confirmations, credit card and even a hotel key. Here’s one I just bought.
  3. Buy a foreign SIM card. First of all, do not travel without a wireless plan. I know many people who think they can just hop on WiFi somewhere to check emails or communicate with loved ones. But for me, I prefer the security and accessibility of using my phone overseas. You can sign up for an international travel plan with your provider, but a much cheaper option is to buy a re-loadable SIM card and swap yours out for it when you arrive overseas. America is notorious for its pricey phone services, so you’ll be pleasantly surprise that you can get much more “bang for your buck” internationally. I use the JT Telestial SIM card, which connects to local networks for data and talk, no matter where you are. There’s a modest fee to set-up the SIM card, and you can recharge it on the Web, on their mobile application or via text, and you can also use their online portal to check how much data or how many minutes you have left. I typically pay between $50 and $150 to use my phone pretty freely for a week or two when I’m traveling. It’s well worth it. Continue reading

How to Sleep on a Plane

I just got back from London and Paris for the Thanksgiving holiday (more on that later). I flew Virgin Atlantic, and I highly recommend it. Despite all the plush amenities this airline offers, I, yet again, was unable to sleep on the plane – either on the red eye to London or on the midday return flight to the States.

Must be nice! (Healthy Living Blog)

Must be nice! (Photo Credit: Healthy Living Blog)

Whether it’s excitement about arriving at my destination or a skewed body clock, I can never settle in and get some shut eye. So I turned to the Internet – where else? – to pull together the best tips for using your meaningless hours on an airplane meaningfully – getting some rest.

Here are 8 ways to fall (and stay) asleep on an airplane:

  1. Pick the right itinerary. Multiple travel resources say the surest way to nod off is to select an itinerary that will have you flying when you normally would be asleep. If you depart at 7 p.m., you’ll have a few hours to read or watch a movie before easing into your slumber. Then, you can awake at a somewhat reasonable time (this is most true with transatlantic flights), allowing your rested body to adjust to your new time zone and environs.
  2. Make sure you’re sitting in a sensible spot. Most people (I am one of them) prefer to sit at the front of the plane. It makes for easier disembarkation when you’re ready to get off the vessel. But the front of the plane is typically the nosiest – it’s close to bathrooms, the cockpit and staff moving about. Sitting toward the middle of the aircraft means you’re less likely to be distracted by others on the plane. Real Simple suggests opting for the window seat of an exit row, but those spots are often hard to come by. The magazine says that in order to maximize your seat (and sleep) opportunities, fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
  3. Properly accessorize. If it’s bright outside, noisy on the plane or you just can’t manage to “turn your brain off,” a sleep mask and earplugs are a great option. They will simulate (as best as possible) a more normal sleeping environment. Frequent travelers may want to invest in Bose headphones.

    Keep your seat reclined at a 135 degree angle for maximum comfort.

  4. Adjust your seat. The indelible Daily Telegraph has discovered the proper way to align your seat for maximum rest. According to the British Chiropractors Association, the magic number is 135 (degrees, that is).
  5. Drink lots of water – before you get on the plane. Hydration is a critical component to restful sleep. Because you don’t want to scoot through the aisles every hour or two to pop into the loo, try to hydrate 12-24 hours prior to your flight. You’ll feel a lot better when you arrive at your destination, too.
  6. Avoid sugar. Food gives your body energy and thus, makes you antsy on board. Skip the snack or meal and snooze through your flight.
  7. Dress well. Then change. Well-dressed single passengers are the most likely to get bumped up to first class, upper class or business class. I try to dress professionally on planes. But once we take off, I’ll change into yoga pants, a sweatshirt and flip-flops. It’s harder to sleep in a suit for me, so packing a quick change is a good way to relax.
  8. Secure your seatbelt. Make sure you are wearing your seatbelt above your blanket or anything else you might be using while you sleep. This means you’re less likely to be disturbed by flight attendants who periodically check the cabin for safety purposes.

These tips should help you get to snoozing in no time. Now, if only I’d follow them!

When Should I Book?

More often than not, getting somewhere and staying there is the most expensive part of traveling. With so many conflicting instructions for booking hotels and flights, I weighed the evidence and my own experiences to determine how to save the most money on transportation and accommodations.


There’s an old legend among travelers that you’ll get the best fare seven weeks out from your trip. After monitoring more than 4 million flights, CheapAir.com has confirmed that there’s some truth to that advice. The company determined that passengers get the best deals on air travel between 29 and 104 days prior to their trips. Customers found the ticket prices, on average, 54 days before their departure (or seven and a half weeks).

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Halló Iceland!

In March 2014, seven friends and I took a trip to the land of fire and ice. Iceland was altogether breathtaking, strange, overwhelming and exhilarating. 45 percent of all visitors to the country are under the age of 30, so it’s a great country to visit for a group of young adults looking for a quick getaway, but travelers of all ages will find plenty to explore in Iceland.

I’ve finally gotten around to writing my thoughts on the trip and some helpful tips for visiting Iceland. Njóta (enjoy)!

Getting There and Staying There

The members of our group paid approximately $580 each for a round-trip, non-stop fare from Washington – Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Keflavík International Airport (KEF) on IcelandAir. We departed on a Thursday evening and the rest of the group (I continued my travels solo) returned on a Tuesday afternoon. IcelandAir is a fabulous airline (I wrote about it in June) and the four-hour trip was virtually painless. Plus, our checked bags were free.

Our gorgeous home in Iceland.

Our gorgeous home in Iceland.

IcelandAir offers discount package deals which include transportation to/from the airport, as well a stay at the Hilton (or other budget hotels in the area). Because our group was so large, we opted to rent a house instead. We chose Rent in Reykjavik, and the company’s owners, Jenny and Kata, were just wonderful. We stayed in the Thomsen – Luxury home, and not only was it a gorgeous house, it was also centrally located in downtown Reykjavik, in walking distance to all the sights, restaurants and bars. There was a slight hiccup with our check-in, but other than that, our stay was perfect. For four nights, we each paid $220.

We also rented two cars (correction: two tiny cars that could barely hold four of us and our luggage) that cost around $280 each for four days. That means we each spent $70 for cars we kept for the entire trip. Gas was a bit expensive, but we appreciated having our own transportation. That meant we could travel at our own pace, stop along the way, listen to strange Icelandic music and enjoy the quiet and privacy we couldn’t get on a bus. It’s worth noting, however, that the rental car depot is off-site from the airport, so it’s important to look for your name placard held by an employee. He or she will drive your group in a van across the street to the airport to pick up the car. From the airport, it’s about a 40 minute scenic drive to downtown.

So, before we left the U.S., each of us spent a whopping $870 for a non-stop flight, MTV Cribs: Reykjavik-caliber house and two cars we could use throughout our trip. Not bad, right?

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Riding Solo

Riding Solo” is not just a song by Jason DeRulo (though it is an audio masterpiece, to be sure). As a frequent traveler, I’ve accepted that not all of my friends have the interest or ability to travel as often as I do.

This means that I often take a leg or two of a trip alone. For example, I went to Iceland in March (I will eventually opine on this) and when my friends returned to the U.S., I flew to London to spend a few days with friends there. I wasn’t technically alone, but I did spend a lot of time by myself. The same can be said about my upcoming trip to London and Paris in November. I’ll stay with friends in London, and then I’ll head to Paris for four days alone.

For many people, this seems a bit intimidating. For me, not so much. I enjoy the quiet time (although too much of it can definitely be unnerving), so traveling alone for at least part of a trip is a good way to move on your own schedule, do what you want to do and enjoy what’s around you.

My friend from college, Holly Phillips, has a blog called The Bitter Lemon. While she mainly focuses on relationship advice (and telling some entertaining stories of the frogs she’s kissed in search of her prince), she just published a post with her tips for traveling alone. Here’s what she says:

  1. Research. Blech, I know, that doesn’t sound like fun. If you’re not a planner, then maybe skip this step. But before I go anywhere, I like to find out where I’m going, what kinds of things I need to pack, and what to expect. Maybe you’re looking for a certain hotel, or if you’re going to a foreign country, get the right exchange rate, etc.
  2. Inform. To be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to inform at least one person of where you’re going, leave them a copy of your schedule (if you want), just in case. Assuming you’ll have a cell phone, let them know that’s where they can reach you, or leave the number to your hotel/where you’re staying.
  3. Do you. This is YOUR trip, so plan to do things that you’ve always wanted to do! Go to that restaurant you’ve dreamed of, get a massage — treat yourself!
  4. Make friends. But only if you want. Check into taking an organized day tour to meet people, while seeing some great sights (I did this while visiting Los Angeles on my own and it was a blast). If you’ve still got time to plan your trip, pick a place to stay that’s got a buzz around it — you can meet people right in the hotel!
  5. Keep an open mind. Plan, but be spontaneous. Be open to discovering new things — including yourself — while traveling on your own. That’s the best part (aside from those single discounts)

I can’t post this without making a note that, of course, traveling on your own, especially if you’re a woman, comes with risks. Use common sense. Don’t go places that look shady, or make you feel uncomfortable. Keep tabs on your finances. Let someone know where you are. Be smart… and have fun!

O, Canada! – Ottawa, Toronto & Niagara Falls

Finally, I have the opportunity to finish detailing our trip to Canada. In previous posts, I chronicled our adventures in Quebec City and Montreal. The final leg of our excursion includes Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls. After attending the Montreal International Jazz Festival, my friend Donald and I headed west to Ottawa. We arrived late in the evening at Gatineau, a suburb of Ottawa located in the province of Quebec. We checked in to our hotel, Crowne Plaza Gatineau, but we were so tired that we experienced nothing outside of our beds and the shower. Both were fine and typical of a 3 star hotel, and a pretty decent value ($124 with all taxes and fees). The next morning, we headed to the Canadian Parliament to embark on our private tour. Thanks to my friend Soren, we got the VIP treatment from a communications staffer for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. Vivek was fantastic and shared with us the fascinating history of the building, and even better, we compared and contrasted our jobs — mine as a Congressional communications staffer and his as a staffer for the Prime Minister. He was patient as I asked far too many questions, and even showed us the Prime Minister’s office. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget! Donald and I especially enjoyed watching the changing of the guard, as well as the preparations for the next day’s celebration of Canada Day.


A view of Parliament in Ottawa


Getting ready for Canada Day outside of Parliament in Ottawa.


The Senate, Canadian Parliament.


The Canadians love QEII.

Changing of the guard in Ottawa.

Changing of the guard in Ottawa.

Unfortunately, our time in Ottawa was brief, as we had plans that evening in Toronto and a four hour drive ahead of us. I must admit that driving into the city of Toronto was a bit intimidating. I’ve often driven through some congested cities – Atlanta (the worst, by far), Houston (a close second), Dallas (tied for second), Washington, D.C., New York City (Times Square, even) and my own hometown of Baton Rouge (which must have been planned by drunks, which wouldn’t surprise me anyhow). But, driving into Toronto was an utterly horrifying experience for me — cars zoomed by and switched lanes while I tried to split my attention between exit signs and the GPS mounted to my windshield. Continue reading

O, Canada! – Montreal

A few days ago, I shared our experiences on the first leg of our Canadian excursion that included Vermont and Quebec City. Now, for the second leg — and probably my favorite! — Montreal.

Following our lovely St. Lawrence River cruise, my friend Donald and I hopped in the car and headed to the magnificent Montreal. After a two and a half hour trek, complete with the mandatory stop at Tim Horton’s, we arrived at L’Hotel in Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal).

L’Hotel was so spectacular that it deserves its own description. When we got to the hotel, the staff informed us that our reservation had accidentally been canceled. Naturally, we became concerned, but the especially professional staff explained to us that there were other rooms and they would be able to accommodate us without a problem. Because it took five minutes or so to get everything arranged, the woman at the front desk offered to comp our valet parking.

L'Hotel in Vieux Montreal, courtesy of the hotel.

L’Hotel in Vieux Montreal, courtesy of the hotel.

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TSA Adds New Rules for Traveling with Electronics

Most air travelers grudgingly accept the mounting inconveniences of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), from taking off our shoes to highly restricted possession of liquids in a carry-on, conceding that the agency is merely trying to keep Americans and visitors safe from the ongoing threat of terrorism.

Now, the TSA will add further complications to boarding an airplane — this time, in another country.

Yesterday, the TSA announced that in order to travel to the U.S. from select airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the airport of departure must check all electronic devices, including mobile phones and tablets. To submit your belongings for the required screenings, all battery-powered devices intended for carry-on must be operational.

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