Best 6 Travel Apps

1. Viber – This app lets you text, chat or send pics for free as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. It’s a great way to stay in touch with people at home.

Note: While most of our family and friends in the US now have Viber, the majority of people we meet internationally use WhatsApp, which works the same way. When traveling, it’s best to have both so you can stay in touch with family at home and new friends abroad.

2. Google Translate App – Whether you need to translate one word or a full page of cooking instructions, this app translates more accurately than the others I’ve tried. Not 100% word for word but close enough. Plus, it has audio to pronounce the translation for you, which helps significantly when speaking with locals.

3. Trip It – This is the perfect way to organize all your travel times, confirmation numbers and documents. Everything is in one place, so you can easily find the information you need while on the go.

4. Word Lens – Love this app! Download the app and then download the language of the country you plan to visit. Once on your trip, hold your phone over any sign, menu, etc. and it translates the words right in front of you. Its magic. No Wi-Fi needed either. Coolest app ever.

5. XE Currency Exchange – This is probably the most practical app on my phone, as it helps convert any currency to USD so I always know what I’m spending.

6. Instagram – I love Instagram because it’s a fast, easy way to share travel experiences with family and friends at home with one simple photo. It also makes it easy to share on other social media sites at the same time, so you can get back to your trip quickly…to take more photos, of course.

Happy Travels!

Jules

Share the Love

One thing I’ve learned from my (very) short time as a blogger is that it’s definitely a community of sharing, not competitiveness. There are so many reasons to start a blog but the main purpose always goes back to sharing – sharing your life experience, fashion trends or travel stories.

To honor this fundamental practice in blogging, today we’re highlighting 6 recent posts from other blogs and sites that are simply…worth sharing.

1. The Kitchn – Pumpkin Spiced Caramel Corn

Tis the season for all things pumpkin.  If you follow any food blogs or sites, I’m sure you’ve gotten at least a few recipes highlighting Fall’s favorite ingredient.  And here’s another one.

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2. World of Wanderlust – Visiting a Reindeer Farm

Not only do I love traveling but add in the experience of petting or feeding an animal and I can’t contain my excitement.  So when I read WOW’s post about visiting a Reindeer Farm in Finland, I added it to my bucket list immediately.  Just look at that face.

Reindeer Farm

3. Jones Design Company – DIY Gratitude Banner

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays but if you’re hosting, it can be an expensive one. Though you have to spend money on the food, decorating for the day doesn’t have to break the bank.  A little gratitude goes to Emily for this sparkly little banner.

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4. My Name is Yeh – Mini Chicken Pot Pies

I love this blog not only for her fancy recipes but for her charming experiences of living on a farm with her fiance.  And she takes great photos.  What’s not to love?

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5. Homepolish NYC – The $5k Living Room

Homepolish is an interior design company that will inspire you with every project they take on.  Seriously, they’ve got talent…so enjoy their work and get inspired to re-decorate your abode.  Or just get a house plant…they make any room look refreshed.

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6. Lauren Conrad – Creative Pumpkin Decorating Ideas

We start and we end with pumpkin because its just that time of year, folks.  Thanks to these 10 creative ideas, you can decorate your house full of pumpkins quickly and easily.

Mummy Pumpkin

Enjoy!

Jules

Hot Air Balloons and Pyramids

To continue our Monday Mini-Series of Mexico City, lets talk hot air balloons and pyramids.  I’m sure pyramids aren’t the first things that come to mind when thinking of Mexico City but they are, in fact, one of the top attractions in this area.  Add a hot air balloon ride over said pyramids and you have yourself a pretty amazing experience.

Brief History

Teotihuacan is an archeological site northeast of Mexico City. Its the home of two Mesoamerican pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.  In Aztec, Teotihuacan means, “place where gods were born.”

The city was built around 100 BC and thrived until about 550 AD. During it’s prime, it’s said to have had somewhere around 150,000 residents, making it the largest city in pre-Columbian Americas and the sixth largest city in the world.

The Experience

We started our day at 5:30am for the hot air balloon ride.  There are several sites where you can book a tour, though, Fly Volare is the company that provides the balloons and pilots for everyone.

It was still dark when we arrived.  Our guide told us the first balloon is typically a scout balloon, sharing fog and wind details with the other pilots.

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Our balloon is the colorful one on the right.

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Up, Up and Away

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It was quite foggy, which made for a limited view of the pyramids…but that was okay because our pilot took us above the fog and that view was incredible!

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After our amazing hot air balloon ride, we made our way to the pyramids.  We took a brief tour with our guide to learn the history of the area.  There are several places around the site where you can see the original paint and designs on the walls.

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Next up was the Pyramid of the Moon.  Due to it’s current condition, you can only climb halfway to the top.

Since the pyramid is located at the end of the “Avenue of the Dead,” you can see the entire archeological site, including the Pyramid of the Sun on the left.

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Walking along the Avenue of the Dead, we made our way to the Pyramid of the Sun, which is the third largest pyramid in the world. Once you climb the 248 steps to the top, the view is worth the effort.  You can see in the photo below, that it’s much taller than the Pyramid of the Moon.

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If you make your way to Mexico City anytime soon, don’t miss this incredible experience of hot air balloons and pyramids.

Happy Travels!

Jules

 

Be a Good Market Negotiator

Happy Friday Peeps!

This past Monday, I posted about some FAB markets to visit in Mexico City. For those markets, as well as most others around the world, negotiating prices of products is common practice.

With that said, it’s not common in the US, so most Americans are not always comfortable bargaining with shop owners…especially when the products are often already inexpensive in US dollars.

Here are 3 tips to help you negotiate when souvenir shopping at a market.

Tip 1: Do Your Research

Before you leave for your trip, take some time to see what handcrafts and products are well known in the region you’re planning to visit. Knowing what’s considered valuable in that country will help you discern which products to buy as well as the quality of those products.

IMG_3311Photo: Talavera (type of ceramic) from Puebla, Mexico.

Tip 2: The Calculator

When I travel, I always carry a small, cheap calculator with me. While I know you have one on your fancy smart phone, the market isn’t a place to whip out said fancy phone as it could attract unwanted attention. Stick to the ole five-dollar calculator for markets and tourist attractions. Safety first people.

The calculator is your best bargaining tool to help communicate with someone who may not speak your language. It’s also an easy way to bargain by percentage, as most sellers are willing to give at least a 10 to 15 percent discount on a product.

Additionally, in a foreign country, this helpful tool can be used for other things, such as negotiating taxi fares or figuring out the exchange rate on the go.

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Tip 3: Be Prepared to Buy…or Walk Away

The best bargaining chip you have is to be willing to walk away. If you seem too interested, then you will end up paying top dollar for your souvenir. You must be willing to walk away from the item to convince the seller that a lower profit is better than no profit.

With that said, if you take the time to negotiate with a seller and they offer a fair price, be willing to actually purchase the product. The goal is not to get the souvenir for nothing but to get a fair price for a product that you can enjoy for years to come.

IMG_3303Photo: Handcrafts from market in Mexico City, Mexico.

Happy bargaining!

Jules

Home Away From Home

At some point in our lives, we find ourselves in a temporary living space. Whether we’re on a trip or relocating, it’s just not the same as being “at home.”

So whether you’re renting an apartment, traveling for work or living in another country (like me), here are 5 ways to make a temporary place feel like home.

Travel Candle. Bring your favorite (small) candle on the go with you and you’ll feel right at home. Just don’t travel with matches…get those when you arrive at your destination, please. My favorite is the travel candle collection from Jo Malone.

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Photo source here.

Favorite Throw. When we moved to Mexico, I brought my favorite throw from home and I’m so glad I did! It’s a nice comfort to have in a temporary space and makes me feel right at home. It got mine at West Elm and it’s very appropriately called “favorite throw”.

West Elm Throw

Photo source here.

Command Hooks. Okay these FAB decorating accessories are helpful for so many things. If you are decorating for the holidays or want to hang a few photos in a temporary space, these little guys are your new best friend. Seriously, buy a ton and use them everywhere.

Fresh Flowers. I love fresh flowers. Whether they’re from the garden, grocery store or flower shop, we always have fresh flowers in our home. Now living in Mexico, having flowers in the apartment makes the space feel more like our lovely Kansas City home. Even if you’re only visiting somewhere for a short time, flowers make a room brighter and are a great way to spruce up any space.

Removable Wallpaper. This is probably not a great option for hotels but is well suited for apartment dwellers. With so many designs available, this wallpaper is a perfect way to personalize a space for a short time frame and then remove it with no harm to the walls.

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Photo source here.

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Photo source here.

Do you travel with something special from home? Share how you make a place your home away from home in the comments.

Happy Wednesday!

Jules

 

 

Monday Mini-Series: Mexico City

Since this month’s Monday Mini-Series is all about Mexico City, lets talk about THE MARKETS. I mean, really, who doesn’t love a good market?

There are several markets in the DF so I’ve highlighted a few noteworthy ones to visit while in town.

La Ciudadela (Calle Baldera 6 and Enrico Martinez, Mexico City)

This fun little market is full of handcrafts from Mexico. While you want to shop wisely to make sure you’re actually purchasing an authentic piece, you can find anything from beaded animals to ceramics from Puebla.

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San Angel Bazaar and Art Fair (Avenida Revolución and Frontera at the Plaza San Jacinto in San Ángel)

This market is my favorite because I love this area of town. In the plaza area of this market, you’ll find paintings galore. In the buildings surrounding the plaza, you’ll find Mexican wares of higher quality and price. If you’re looking for that one special piece to keep forever, this market is a great place to check out.

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San Angel Paintings

Photo source here.

La Merced Market (Rosario 180, Venustiano Carranza, 15810, Mexico City)

La Merced is a huge traditional public market where mostly locals shop. The food section is housed in several warehouses. There are rows and rows and rows of every type of food you can imagine. Then there are sections where people can purchase clothing, school supplies, electronics…and lots of silk flowers.  Almost anything you need for life in Mexico City can be found here.

While this market is a great experience, it’s not a a place where you’ll find many souvenirs as a visitor.

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MercedPhoto source here.

Floating Gardens of Xochimilco (Southern neighborhood of Xochimilco, Mexico City)

Not just a market but an overall experience, the Floating Gardens are definitely worth an afternoon of your time. Here’s the jist: You sit at a table on a boat and float down the river while you eat lunch (which you can bring or buy there), listen traditional mariachi bands and purchase souvenirs from other boats floating by.   Seriously, peeps, what’s not to like about this place?

floating-gardens-of-xochimilcoPhoto source here.

Xochimilco MariachisPhoto source here.

Mercado de Jamaica (Corner of Congreso de la Union and Guillermo Prieto, 15960 Mexico City)

This is Mexico City’s wholesale flower market. Even if you’re only visiting for a few days, purchasing beautiful flowers for your hotel room is a perfect excuse to stop by this market. The flowers are B-E-A-UTIFTUL. And did I mention cheap? Oh yeah, seriously cheap. You can purchase almost any type of flower or an arrangement they’ve already put together. So there’s really no reason to miss this market.

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Case and point: I got the flowers below for $12 USD. I’m just saying…check it out.

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I’m a huge fan of local markets in a city when traveling because you see the culture of the city. Shop wisely. Taste the food. Enjoy the experience.

Cheers!

Jules

What’s Your Vacation Personality?

You’ve saved, you’ve planned and you’ve packed – all for that perfect time away. So your much-needed, much-deserved vacay should be nothing less than amazing, right? Then why do we sometimes find ourselves at must-see, can’t miss destinations not having fun? Because every bucket list destination in the world isn’t for every personality type.

When planning for a trip, it’s important to think thru your own personality type so you end up in a place you actually enjoy.

Lets break down some ‘types’ of vacations and a few hot spots to try for each.

Relax, Relax, Relax

If your idea of a vacation means that the only time you stand up is to walk to a lounge chair, then this one’s for you. Sometimes we just need to be able to do nothing and this is that type of vacation. A place where there’s not much to do but that doesn’t matter because you don’t need anything more than a quite spot with a good book or a fishing pole.

Domestic Destination: Montana.  Known for it’s sweeping natural settings, Montana is great for a relaxing, outdoors experience.

Montana Glacier National Park

Photo source here.

International Destination: Belize.  Whether you like the beach, jungle or both, Belize provides the perfect setting for a relaxing vacation.

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Photo source here.

Splurge Destination: Bora Bora. Beautifully remote is the best descriptor for this hot spot.  It takes some time to get there, so plan for at least a week.

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Photo source here.

Oh Darling, Lets be Adventurers

For those of you who would be bored after one day on a “relaxing” vacation – a place with a little more adventure might be just what you need. There are so many natural destinations in this world that provide a variety of things to explore and keep your interest. Below are a few:

Domestic Destination: Oregon. From cycling to hiking to kayaking, Oregon is the perfect place to see natural wonders while on-the-go.

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Photo source here.

International Destination: Chile.  There are few other locations in the world that give you both the the bitter cold and the extremely hot – with a little history sprinkled in.

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Photo source here.

Splurge Destination: Thailand.  While it takes some time and money to get there, Thailand is an inexpensive location once you get there. For those who like to backpack thru jungles and along beaches alike, Thailand is an incredible destination.  Below is my oh-so-memorable experience riding elephants in the ruins.  Remember my Top 10 post, including hand wipes?  Take those with you when going to Thailand!

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We Can’t Stop

If the idea of sleeping in makes you anxious because you might miss something, then a place with several attractions should be your next destination. For the on-the-go traveler who prefers the urban jungle to the real jungle, these are great cities to check out:

Domestic Destination: New York City, NY. The number one destination for people traveling to the States shouldn’t be missed by those of us in the US.  This city is everything a busy traveler could want: FAB food (try a hot dog in Central Park), Broadway shows and attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State building. Take a stroll on the High Line, it’ll be worth your time.

Lower Manhattan Skyline from the Manhattan Bridge, New York City

Photo source here.

International Destination: Rome, Italy.  As you can see from my photo below, Rome is the perfect mix of old and new.  With ruins among city buildings, there’s more to see and do in Rome that one trip will allow.  For this city, try and take your time in the places you do go visit – the city will fill up your heart one attraction and pasta dish at a time!

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Splurge Destination: Tokyo, Japan.  The sights, sounds and smells will take over your senses.  If you’re looking for a city adventure like no other, check out Tokyo.  And download Google translator, as most people do not speak English.

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Photo source here.

Nothing’s Quite Like Home

While traveling can be an unforgettable experience, we aren’t always able to get away. That doesn’t mean we can’t take some time to ourselves for a “Stay-cation.”

If you have a free:

Afternoon – Grab coffee with a friend and then go to your favorite store. Even if you don’t purchase anything, spend some time in a place that makes you happy.

Weekend – Choose a restaurant you’ve never tried. Book a massage. Drink lots of wine.

Week – Lucky! Don’t spend this time cleaning and getting your to-do list accomplished…unless you do that on the first day only. Make a list of the top 10 things you’ve always wanted to do in your city (or nearby city) and then go and explore – all the while sleeping in your nice comfortable bed each night.

Group or Solo Travel

If you’re bound and determined to book a vacation with friends, pick a place that allows for lots of flexibility. Each person/couple will want to do different things at some point, so give everyone plenty of unscheduled time to enjoy the trip as they choose.

Best for groups: All-Inclusive vacations. Two great options:

Domestic Destination: Napa Valley Wine Train.  A wine trip with a built-in designated driver?  Sign me up!  This is a great way to spend some quality time with friends and see a good part of the wine-producing region of California.

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Photo source here.

International Destination: Los Cabos, Mexico.  A perfect destination for a group that has all personality types included, Mexico provides an active or relaxing vacation, along with a touch of sunshine.

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Photo source here.

If you’re planning to travel solo, then research thoroughly to ensure you’ve chosen a safe and easy to navigate location. And if this is your first solo trip, try checking out a country that speaks your language, that way you are able to get around or ask for help more easily.

Domestic Destination: Charleston, SC.  This charming city is located in the heart of Southern hospitality.  With beautiful plantations to explore as well as sandy beaches, you’ll make friends upon arrival and never want to leave.

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Domestic Destination: Hawaii.  Most people travel internationally to escape to a tropical destination but Hawaii gives you that setting here in the US.  This dreamy location provides activities for all types of travelers and welcomes solo guests with open arms.

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International Destination: London, England. One of the world’s most visited cities, London is a great location for the solo traveler.  This easy to navigate, English-speaking destination has oh-so-classy sites to see and places to visit.

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Photo source here.

No matter what your personality, there’s a destination for you.  Comment and let me know your vacation personality.

Happy Travels!

Jules