2017 Top 10 Trip Countdown

At the end of each year, I have spent the time to reflect back to my personal growth, and a lot of it comes with lessons learned through trips, people I’ve met, time spent, and memories made.

That said… here is my top 10 trip countdown!

10. Washington D.C.

If looking to do a weekend trip to see the most popular memorials DC has to offer this can be a weekend trip. I recommending seeing: Lincoln Memorial, then White House, Washington Memorial, and Martin Luther King Memorial. For me this trip made the top 10 because it was a nice reminder that although I have a lot I want to fit in a weekend trip, that being in the moment is most important. This trip I remember dragging on from arrival until 1-2am in the morning, and although all stops on most itineraries were met, there wasn’t a particular spot that I just lived in the moment. For 2018, I’m going to get where I want to go, and spend time there being present. Well, there is a moment with red,white, & blue popsicles that sticks out, and playing at a game bar, but besides the point… haha.

9. New Haven, Washington and Milford, Connecticut

If a Gilmore Girls fan, or just trying to marvel over expensive homes, perfect roads, and quiet beaches, then Connecticut may be for you! This is a fun weekend trip, especially if only for a weekend. The entire state spanned over just three hours, and had lots of cute boutiques and small-town feels.

8. San Francisco, California

I left my heart in San Francisco. This was another city toured by the Big B Bus Tour, which was perfect given that getting nearly anywhere here was hilly, and time consuming! This particular trip stuck out in my mind because I had seen a few things that I hadn’t seen in years, or at all: The Painted Ladies (more commonly known as the Full House, house), Alcatraz, and the downtown Pier area, where there was many small shops and museums. Additionally, the many scenic views from many perspectives reminded and humbled me that although I’ve seen many pictures of the beautiful city, that my vantage point by being present is most valued (for me, so travel on!).

7. The 2017 Eclipse, Simpson Illinois

Never have I ever…been a place where half of America drove to, in order to share the same experience at the exact same time. After going directly to Illinois from work, to camping with work colleagues… this trip is an unforgettable one. This made the top list, as I remember the moon covering the sun and the whole sky go dark, everyone go quiet, and then being humbled that as important as our every day lives are… that we are just a small piece of this entire universe.

6. Miami Beach, Florida

This is definitely a place one must visit… during the day the city has miles of beach that welcomes you to natural beauty, and at night the calm beach vibes turn into a salsa/reggae tunes. There has not been such as a place that has both business, beach, and nightlight moods in one place. On this trip a Big B Bus Night Tour was taken, which I would definitely recommend as it acclimated tourists to hidden areas where celebrities live and guides you through the Havana District where many movies were created.

This trip made the top 10 as nothing went as planned, but ended up being one of my most memorable nights in my travels. The only goal all weekend was to hit the beach and soak up the sun, but a part of planning ahead is the unknown if Mother Nature will cooperate. This time, she did not with there being LOTS of rain that particular weekend. But as the saying goes, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.” So! That is exactly what happened, fun in the ocean with rain sprinkling. Then ending the night with a evening walk, and the best food and drinks at Mangos!

5. Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park is the perfect place to visit if looking for scenic drives and HUGE sequoia trees. If you’ve never seen one it is certainly worth the day trip over to this national park. My fear, is not seeing things I’ve always wanted to see because I chose to wait too long. These trees were a must! To see photos and read in books the huge trunks of these pieces of nature I could only imagine, but now can envision from personal experience! P.S. Take the General Sherman stop, preferably visit before the sun fully rises to enjoy the quiet paths and the sound of your breath as you make it to the biggest tree in the country.

This trip, similar to Miami Beach, reminded me to go with the flow and to accept what can’t be changed in the moment. After a long drive, from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park, with many detoured roads due to forest fires, the destination was made. But what happens when you’re ready to take a first camping experience and you have everything except tent polls. Yes, this happened. Admittingly, my first reaction was not pleasant, and throwing the tent over the windows while the warm 100+ degree weather heated the car causing periodic middle-night car starts, it made for an experience. If not, at minimum a lesson for the basics… I mean who forgets tent polls.. this one. All-in-all it was funny looking back at it, and after spending the next night in Fresno to purchase a cheap Walmart tent and extra tent polls for the following nights in Yosemite.

4. Yosemite National Park, California

This was definitely top 5 worthy due to its beauty, challenges, scenic stops, late night fire talks, and nummy s’mores. What stands out most to me was the 8-mile North Dome trail. Having never really hiked a trail, this was quite the challenge what I found was the journey to the desired location was quite wonderful, and I’ve always been one for the motto “it’s the journey, not the destination.” If you’ve never been to Yosemite and looking for a day-trip hike that isn’t too difficult, I recommend this hike! A helpful tip would be to carry a liter of water for every two miles walk, especially if the weather is hot. When visiting it was about 90 degrees. The nice thing about this hike, was a lot of it was shaded until the last mile, when you overlook the Half Dome. And, when you’re at your destination weather doesn’t matter… you take it all in!

3. The Big Island (Kona), Hawaii

Okay I’m going to be honest. I don’t know how Hawaii made it as a (U.S.) state, I need to read up on the history. The length of time to travel from Michigan to Hawaii, was just as much as it was to go to the Philippines and Europe. That’s a crazy thought! Now, I’ll tell you this was the first trip in my travels that challenged me in planning, because I have to: learn that there are many islands, that cost differently to get to each, and each provide different terrains and activities to do that are vastly different. Once I figured out the different islands, and considered the various costs my mom and I decided on the Big Island. Flying into Kona was certainly a memorable experience watching the plane land to rugged land, when I had always pictured luscious greens and beautiful birds. Landed, got “laid,” and took on this annual trip with my mom that was unforgettable. The Big Island provides: traditional late night luaus, beautiful volcanoes, rocky beaches, macadamia nuts, exotic flowers, fresh fruit, submarine tours with WWII ships, GORGEOUS waterfalls, and cave tours.

2. Iceland

Can you believe the idea of visiting Iceland came from a country song? Yes! “Die a Happy Man,” by Thomas Rhett. I remember hearing this beautiful song, and thinking “this guy is willing to give everything up he wants to see for a woman?” One line said, “if I never get to see the northern lights…” and I thought… one day when I meet my future man and maybe I will have to give up some moments I’ve always wanted, and before that happens I better see these Northern Lights! I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is so very true! So, needless to say, I started doing some research of cheaper places to visit in February that allowed this experience, with the symbolism of February being my birthday. And, well Iceland didn’t disappoint! And, the Northern Lights dancing along the sky was something I’ll never forget. The beautiful country provided MANY different experiences.

The southern part of the country is historic, rooted from the Viking days, and from volcanoes that changed the geography of the country. The eastern coast has beautiful and unforgettable black sand beaches and glaciers to hike. The northern region of the country is known for taking a snowmobile to the tops of glaciers, and you can’t visit Iceland without visiting the city of Reykjavik, that was quaint, quiet and walkable offering many mini shops, seafood, and iconic buildings and landmarks, and the infamous Blue Lagoon.

I definitely recommend this trip for 20-30 somethings, but as a helpful tip, be prepared to spend a lot of money on food, due to everything needed to be imported into the country. I would say the average meal was about $40 USD.

1. Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

My favorite trips have mixed in: historical symbolism, road trips, family, loved ones, and new experiences. This trip provided all of these! This was the first time for all those who had come on this trip in taking an RV across the country. I am long overdue to share some of the RV experiences, but for those considering a visit to Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota not only has a mountain with four presidents on the side of the mountain, but is home of Bear Country, the antique Drug Store (that is comparable to a mall with country antiques and fees), Crazy Horse, Falls Park, and Railroad tours that allow you to take the beautiful state all in.

This trip is for all ages! If you want to be ambitious, I challenge you take it in an RV!

Where to go next Thanksgiving?

I’d like to consider myself as a glass half-full type of gal. That said, I’ve found comfort in traveling around the holidays. Yes, there are delays, yes there are some unplanned bumps in the road, but what other time of the year do you see loved ones excited to leave to aboard a plane and tackle the challenge at the airport for companionship, love, and family?! That reason, accompanied by a week off work generally means I am spending the time on an international trip!

Below are a list of my top 3 international trip recommendations for the holidays!

3. Manila, Philippines

What better place to go than where it is 60-80 degrees during winter months, city centers are filled with Christmas decor while in flip flops, and where Santa Clause looks like he is on vacation with sunglasses, Hawaiian shirt, and open-toed shoes… the Philippines! 

Those who know me, best, know that my family origins are rooted in Manila, so that in and of itself it makes the list, but something past all of that are the Filipino lanterns on nearly every neighborhood porch, Christmas lights on many whomping willow (think Pocahontas trees), and of course the traditional pig roast (nasty, but unique to see!).

2. New Zealand 

The nerd in me comes out. One of the most memorable trips was having a Thanksgiving feast at Hobbiton in New Zealand. Imagine, spending the day touring Hobbit houses, learning about the making of the Lord of the Rings film, and then capping the night off with a Thanksgiving style dinner. Book your Hobbiton Feast here!

Even if the J.R. Tolkien books are not among your favorite, the rolling hills, Milky Way across the whole skyline, and a night latern tour is worth the 20+ hour flight to make it New Zealand. 

This is definitely family friendly, and care free– the New Zealand residents are amongst the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve come across in my travels!

1. Paris, France

My most memorable Thanksgiving is hand’s down my first international trip with my mom. The backstory is that when she was younger a physic told her she wouldn’t live to be past 50. As I was growing older I began fearful of this time, being somewhat superstiscious, so before her 50th birthday I had my mom write down a list of things she wanted to do in her lifetime; for hope. So, for her 50th Thanksgiving we went to London & Paris. 

Paris is a stand-out in my mind for Thanksgiving, not only because of what her 50th birthday meant to me, but because the city was illuminated in Christmas decor throughout the city and streets. I recall many memories, but of them was walking at night up to the Arc de Triomphe, where there were hundreds of small tents with local shops, scents of s’mores and maracroons, fashionable residents, and many songs of Christmas. Walking through were rush of emotions, all positive, and the epitome of what holidays symbolized to me: family, love, happiness, and a whole lot of Christmas. 

Enjoy!

Gilmore Girls Weekend Itinerary

Looking for a weekend trip inspired by the Gilmore Girl’s show? Below is the itinerary Katie and I followed to knock out the Gilmore Girl’s iconic show inspirations, in one weekend!

Day 1 (Friday):

DTW>BDL (1.5hours) Arrived at 7pm

Modern Apizza (Top rated pizza joint, that has been around since 1934)

Checked in to Air B&B in New Haven, Ct $70/night

Watch Gilmore Girl’s episodes on Netflix, was in bed by 10pm to get good night rest to visit “Luke’s” in the AM.

Day 2 (Saturday):

Our day started at 7am

New Haven> New Milford (Estimated 1hr 15min)

Theo’s Downtown Diner (Luke’s)

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New Milford Town Gazebo (Gazebo)

Gazebo

Homestead Inn (Independence Inn)

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New Milford> Washington (20 mins)

Hickory Stick Bookshop (Stars Hollow Books)

Washington Food Market Inc (Doose’s Market)

Marty’s Cafe (Luke’s Diner)

Mayflower Grace Inn (Dragon Fly Inn)

Dragonfly

The Gunnery (Chilton Private School)

Pit stop to Averill, a apple orchard

Pit stop, happy hour at Haight-Brown Vine Yard

Washington>Litchfield (20 mins)

Went to visit Bradford House Antiques (Kim’s Antiques, but it’s gone now)

Litchfield> New Haven (55 mins)

Wander around Yale University Campus

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Night ended at 10pm

Day 3 (Sunday):

Our day started at 8am

Check out of Air B&B in New Haven

Breakfast at Choupette Crêperie & Cafè (French style crepes)

Katie did her personalized tour of Yale University

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Visited the Yale Newsroom (window was broken so snuck my camera in)

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Visited a Connecticut beach

Village Chocolatier in Gilford (Taylor’s Old Fashion Soda Pop Shop)

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Gilford>BDL (Approximately 1hr)

 

 

 

 

A Gilmore Girls Weekend Q&A

Never did I think that in my 20’s I would visit the hometown inspirations of a show I used to watch as a kid. My show of choice throughout middle school & high schoool was Gilmore Girls. There was something witty and funny about watching the relationship between mother & daughter (Lorelei and Rory), while experiencing similar experience and life changes with my own mom. We could have definitely worked on our dictionary and historical references, but I will credit that to the writer of the show, which obviously my mom and I didn’t have the opportunity in hiring for our own chapters. 

About 4 months ago a former co-worker, Katie, and I, were discussing states we needed to check off of our bucket list and what better way to marry our favorite tv-show as a kid, and Connecticut. A Gilmore Girls inspired trip!

To start I will say I was somewhat disappointed in realizing the the show was filmed in a Hollywood Studio. I didn’t realize shows like this had sets built for years while the seasons unfolded. Quite remarkable when you think of it. 

Random questions people have been asking:

Q: Can you do this trip in one weekend 

A: Yes! Who would have thought the ritzy state of Connecticut could be driven in just a 3 hours from the two furthest points. This can definitely be done in a weekend, and with no rush! Katie and I even had time to visit an apple orchard, and the first half of the Michigan football game on Saturday (#GOBLUE).

Q: Did the places of inspiration truly look like the show? 

A: Some were a stretch. There was no doubt that the Independence Inn, Dragon Fly, and Gazebo were inspirations pulled from New Haven, New Milford, and Washington, Connecticut. But the others involved a little imagination and some re-watching of a few episodes.  Especially, the spot for the Kim’s Antiques, which the inspiration has been converted into a modern retail store. And with two girls with messy buns looking for Lane, did not feel welcomed; with a belt in the store costing nearly $300. 

Q: Was it easy to find affordable hotels to stay in Connecticut? 

A: I have mostly traveled alone, and so I have grown accustomed to rooming with strangers through Air B&B. On this trip Katie and I rented a room at an Air B&B in New Haven. I would recommend this location, as it is near Yale University and provides a serene unique setting. You could stay at the inspiration of the Independence Inn, or Dragon Fly, but the difference in price would be approximately $80 more a night.

Q: Were the cities bigger or smaller than you anticipated? 

The cities were quite small, with those living in them knowing our exact purpose for visiting. One store owner told us “our small town of Washington has many girls joining to find the Gilmore Girls inspiration. I don’t think some realize how small our town really is.” The towns inspiring the show of New Haven and Washington, were quite small- but quite refreshing. I mean Kirk had 30 jobs, so it’s not like Stars Hollow could have been that big. Just saying. 

If you have additional questions, please leave a comment and I will answer back! 

5 Non-Traditional Things to Do in Vegas for 20-30 Somethings

Preface: Thank you Katie, Lisa, and Emily for a great trip and inviting my non-traditional Vegas self along to enjoy this journey with you all! 

When one of my girl friends invited me to do a girls’ trip to Vegas my initial thought was this trip probably was one I would sit out. First, I am not the stay out late, sleep in, type-of-girl. Second, I have been one to enjoy more serene places that involves cozy coffee shops, small mom/pops novelty stores, and natural scenic landmarks. 

Little did I know Las Vegas would mark a place in my heart for some non-typical stops for 20/30 somethings. 

1. The Fremont Strip

This is the original Vegas strip. You likely have seen this strip in some of the action/gang movies, where the inside of the strip is illuminated in thousands of neon signs. Also home to the Golden Nugget, Binion’s , and Four Queens. 

Binion’s is where you can find roulette tables for a minimum $2 hand, perfect for people going to Vegas on a budget, but want to experience a little gambling. This was my first time playing at a table, and found it quite fun, especially when the losses are $2, rather than those on the main strip being $25 on the weekends. 

Also at Binion’s you can play hide-and-seek for the $1M in a glass case. I mean, what a waste though, $1M just sitting for everyone to gawk at. Admittingly, Katie and I were those people.

AND… as if the above wasn’t enough, Fremont has affordable all you can eat buffets. Among the old casinos lie $9.99 buffets.Good luck finding that on the new strip. 

2. Bring Back the 90s with the Backstreet Boys

And, the selling ticket for why this trip was booked. The three girls that I joined were celebrating their dirty 30, and what better way than to celebrating while seeing the Backstreet Boys at Axis! 

Now, if you thought that they must be too old to put on a good show, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that they all had it going on. Fit, dancing, and singing their 90s hearts out. The show was approximately 2 hours, and held at the Axis theatre inside Planet Hollywood. And, if going with the right planners, you’ll find your hotel room just a single story above the theatre to make the experience all the better.

The BSB show has been extended into the 2018 calendar year, so if you’re interested, this would be highly recommended! 

3. The Mob Museum 

Did you know that Las Vegas became what it is today due to the gang/mob scene, spreading from New York to Nevada? 

When traveling, I have found it quite fascinating learning different cities origins, demographics, and unique characteristics. The Aside from the iconic “Vegas Strip” I had not known, really, what made Vegas, Vegas. Until now. 

First, I will say it is best to visit the museum first thing in the morning when it opens. It allows a unique and quiet perspective. To start, classic music plays outside the steps of the museum, which honestly was quite lovely as Katie and I were waiting for the museum doors to open. Yes, two ordinary 20/30 somethings excited to be the first that day to learn Vegas’s history. #nerds. Second, if you’re not educated on gang history I would highly recommend you rent the audio guide. This added at least an hour to Katie and my two hour stay. Unlike some museums, the audio books were brief, entertaining, and to the point. Last, go when you have at least two hours to dedicate. There’s enough there, but to truly appreciate what the museum has to offer, it involves the interactive sections, along with the various movies. 

Thank you Katie for the recommendation and letting me in on your morning plans! 


4. Beer Pong at Margaritaville (New Strip)

The Vegas strip provides a lot of opportunities to eat, rest, drink, and gamble. But, how about brining parts of college back? Tucked away in Margaritaville was $30 beer pong. This was certainly the remedy to four exhausted (106+ degrees) girls looking to mix drinking with some fun. 

From the left: Katie, Lisa, & Emily (Not that you need to know, but we so copied this idea off another group)

5. The Original Las Vegas Sign

On the southern end of Las Vegas lies the Original Las Vegas Sign. Built by 1959 by Bettie Willis. This sign, that is seen in many old action films is a reminder that the city is older than the lavish hotels that lie on the new Vegas Strip. 

The last morning on the weekend trip to Vegas, Katie and I woke up early to catch a glimpse of the Vegas sign. My initial thoughts: it was smaller than I thought, being 9:30 in the morning the line to get a photo next to it was longer than I wanted to wait, and last was… why had I not seen Elvis yet? 

Few quick things: If you are using Uber, getting dropped off here is easy. If you’re looking to get picked up, however, anticipate at least a 25 minute wait. The sign is on the southern most part of Vegas, where there is not much going on. Also, beat the tour buses initial start time at the, now, historic sign, which starts at 10am. And, there is an Elvis, but evidently the Vegas heat in June gets to the King, and he prefers to wait in his car with A/C until someone asks for a photo. Thank you, thank you, thank you very much. 

Trip Takeaway:

Each trip I learn something new about myself, a little reason why it is I enjoy going on trips often. What I learned this trip is that my non-traditional self should be happy doing what I want, no matter the expectation even if it’s “Vegas.”