Girls just wanna have fun…

My adapted how to for my girls’ weekend away.

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Margarita in the pool. Palm Desert, California. June 2014.

In a little less than a month, my sister is getting married and, along with all the other stresses and pleasures this event inspires, this means one very specific per-ceremony event has to take place: the bachelorette party.

What, one may ask, does this have to do with travel?

Well, my sister’s bridal party (plus additional guests) spans 10 people from 50 years old to 14, so this is more than just a one night affair in Vegas.

The 10 of us will be staying in a rented house for two full and two partial days with the bill (minus the house) split between 8 of us. In this way, as well as the event planning, this weekend get away—though very specifically themed—is a lot like planning any other travel experience… most specifically a road trip.

So go through the list:

Housing: rented a house—check

Cars: carpooling 8 of us furthest away in two cars—check

Budget: …

The simplest way to say this is have one. Most of the time, you aren’t taking one of these trips on your own and so your budget not only has to fit everyone involved but account for their spending. There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Paying as a group. This is easy in the moment but can take a lot of post work. You really have to talk out affordability beforehand. Be frank on what people can chip in and what items are and aren’t on this list of group expenditures—some things are for everyone and others are personal—only one of these sets goes toward the group spending. You can even go so far to assign only one or two people (who you can rely on for their model spending habits) as shoppers but the key to this type of budgeting is recite collection and calculating while you go. The receipts tell you exactly how much one person spent which then can be divided. It’s not that I don’t trust people to tell me how much they spent, but seriously, just get all the receipts.
  2. Pay for things individually. This keeps everyone separate money wise which avoids the awkward “you owe me money” down the line, but also means everything from food to entertainment has to be parceled out right there and then—and that’s not even considering how you decide about things like the gas for the car. You have to really plan out what you are doing and where you are going—some restaurants won’t split the bill (at least for larger parties) and everyone will have to think about any pre-bought tickets, possibly paying more for none group rates.
  3. Break down of type. This means that one person (or one group) pays for gas while another pays for food and another for entertainment and so on and so forth. This can keep things simple and reduces the math but can be a serious game of monetary Russian roulette—you don’t necessarily know what is going to cost the most on any given trip.

For our trip, we’ve gone with option one. Two of us are the spenders and in the end we’ll be gathering our receipts and hashing out the numbers. We had a meeting before we did anything else to discuss what we wanted to do and the cost range we thought we’d be able to afford and still stick to while accounting for the number in our party. This is the option I usually recommend for larger groups of travelers.

Plans: …

Just like I talked about in my post about staycations, a weekend away can be just as low key or top speed as you want it to be. You’re not going very far (usually) and are usually trying to keep you costs low. For my trip, this means we’re bringing our food and drinks with us and eating at home. Making your food at home and packing lunches for when you head out—eat in a park and enjoy the day!—will save you a lot of money and can be turned into an event. What you chose to do can also determine costs for a weekend trip just like with any vacation.

Our basic plan is to stay around the house for a good chunk on the trip with an at home (and DIY) spa and pool day and a bachelorette themed movie and game night. We have one day where we’re going to go out and explore the area, do a scavenger hunt, have dinner and go drinking (away from the minors). These trips tend to be more about relaxation than anything else, so take it easy and have fun!

Packing:…

Just like any other trip, packing comes down to paying attention to where you’re going (the weather), for how long, and what you’ll be doing. I have almost always been a chronic over-packer but I’m trying to cut the habit, while still keeping my style intact.

For this trip, that means:

Your travel outfit (ie an oversized shirt, shorts/pjs/sweatpants, slip-ons or sandals [x2 if you can’t rewear it on the return trip])

Your pjs (something comfy for the night in)

Your day out outfit (something easy like jeans and a tee shirt to an easy dress that can transition to …)

Your night out outfit (through on a blazer and some heals/booties over your day wear and up the makeup)

Swim suit (and sunscreen and all other pool essentials)

A robe if you have/want one

Add one Bachlorette themed soundtrack and that’s it. Something easy you can roll and throw into a duffel or backpack with you toiletries, makeup and essentials.

So, that’s my weekend (and next week of last minute prep). What did any of you do for your last weekend away or what did you pack/see or not pack/see that you wish you did or didn’t?

Anyway, this seemed like an odd post and I’ll be sure to be back on track next week, but I hope you enjoy.

As always,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

PS. Exciting news on the horizon so stay tuned and wish me luck!

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Girls just wanna have fun…

So here comes the Geek-out…

…like, a whole mess of it.

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Hogwarts Castle, Film Model. London, England. Summer 2013.

So, I know back in March (wow that feel like forever ago!) we were talking about planning and themes. I ran a through a few but here we’re going to delve in a little deeper; a little further into the levels of geekdom and where it can take you.

Once again it just has to do with research… though at other times it seems to be simple dumb luck. And of course geeking out can and often does has to do with much more than tv shows and movies—we hit cemeteries and “murder tours” because my sister is a criminology student who is a geek about her major as well as literary locations because I’m a geek for all things language and literature. But following are a few of our big geek-outs that range in widespread notoriety and we’ll talk what we saw and how to find your very own Nerd-spaces.

So the picture above is one of the exhibits you can see as part of the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour London—Making of Harry Potter. This is one of the filming models and I swear I almost cried upon seeing it. I mean a serious nerdy moment of awe. If you are a fan of a specific tv/movie/book/ect, most of the big tours through official channels are worthwhile to visit. They also tend to be very easy to find. I suggest (before simple googling the title + film locations) going straight to the main studio or company who produced them and see what they have on their websites; official source means official products/ tours. However, they can cost… a lot; I mean, more than an individual’s budget may allow for. Each person has to weigh their options, but what I can say about this tour (equally, if not more than, the BBC’s Doctor Who Experience; the Doctor Who equivalent though to a smaller scale) is that you get to see tons of real props and costumes as well as screen and audio commentaries that really make the cost worth it, at least for a girl who grew up reading (read: devouring) the novels.

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Ianto Jones’s Memorial. Cardiff, Wales. Summer 2013.

Once you’ve checked out the official channels for your geeked-out travels, go ahead and work on that Google search (country/city + title + “film locations”). You’ll find tons of lists, especially if you are visiting one of the cities you are aware of your interest being filmed in. For example, if you like BBC shows, Cardiff has tons of stuff to see as well as most of wales as it has become like the US’s Canada… an area where you can live, film and produce easily and cheaply while making great tv or movies. Then work through some blogs—we talked about this approach when we were working with “walking like a local”—to see fan based locations. Thinking about it, looking through travel and your fandom on sites like Tumblr will probably give you tons of ideas as well (beware of being sucked into that black hole, of course).

For our trip, these location really focused on Torchwood locations in Cardiff, Wales. You can do tours for these locations (unofficial usually) but they tend to range in both price and quality. Once you have the list of locations (go marathon the scenes before you head out, if you need to jog your memory), go off on your own; at least that’s my suggestion. It was when we were looking for Ianto Jones’s entrance to Torchwood Three headquarters when we ran straight into the wall above. Ianto Jones was/is a beloved character in the show who (spoilers!) died saving the children of Earth in 2009. This memorial was erected and was still being kept up and added to when we were visited in 2013 and is still standing strong. That’s the fun of going to these filming locations; you never know what fantastic nerdy adventures and monuments you’ll be able to experience!

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Tombstone of John Winchester—no, not the Supernatural one! Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland. Summer 2013.

Which leads us to one of my favorite fan experiences you can have while traveling (you know, besides stumbling onto a set where all of your favorite actors happen to be… You know, accidentally.), the totally surprising and (yes) accidental ones. These are the ones you can’t or don’t research and you don’t see coming. Instead you turn around and BANG, there it is. We had this a few times on our trip. Ianto’s Wall was one, but it wasn’t as subtle and hard to come by as others.

One we almost missed but had my sister running through a Scottish cemetery excitedly is featured in the image above. We were in Necropolis—Glasgow’s huge city of the dead (a little morbid but a really lovely place)—just wandering and looking out for Angels (as Who fans are wont to do and, no, we did not take pictures of those!), when Bex did a double take. John Winchester is the father of the two protagonists on the Warner Brother’s show Supernatural and Bex is a huge fan. Yes, it was sad that the name was on a tombstone, but what were the chances of walking past and actually reading that one out of the thousands surrounding us? That’s what made it so special.

Then, as we exited the cemetery, we got another fan moment. Across the street, just sitting on the corner, was an old blue box; a police box. To say we ran toward it is an understatement. For anyone who does not understand the significance, The Doctor (the namesake of the BBC’s Doctor Who) travels around time and space in an old blue Police Box called the TARDIS. To say our hearts broke a little seeing it sitting outside a graveyard is an understatement but we also were more than ready to jump on in and go on adventures with the loveable (if not incredibly broken) Timelord. Alas, the Doctor was not in but it was a huge moment of unscheduled fandom hysterics that seemed to amuse the passersby.

The only advice I can give when it comes to these experience is: Just keep your eyes open! Oh, right, and of course, embrace them.

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We found the TARDIS! Outside Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland. Summer 2013.

So below let me know where you have found/seen/discovered some awesome nerdiness on your travels or those spots you really want to see! Also, if anyone has a specific question or topic the want to see covered in the next few weeks, feel free to drop a line about that as well.

Anyway, until next time, let your freak flags fly and I love you awesome nerds,

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

So here comes the Geek-out…

What we keep (or not)…

Also known as souvenirs and travel gifts.

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 At Hampton Court Palace. East Molesey, Surrey, England. Summer 2013.

Oh the wonderful world of souvenirs; the many mementos we buy, keep and store until we’re overrun. These bits of bought up memories and conversation pieces (for better or worse) that can quickly cut into your budget and stress you out with gift lists (yes, we’ll cover this conundrum as well).

And this isn’t to say that I am anti souvenirs or travel gifts (though maybe I am a little), it’s more that it’s become a custom I do not quite understand.

Whenever a friend comes back from a trip, it’s almost inevitable that I end up with my own trinket. It’s like a custom and I don’t know when or how it happened, but it’s just a fact that when a person goes on a trip, they tend to bring back more than they left with and a good deal of it is not for themselves. I mean, I get it; it’s nice—a little something to show that your friend/family/compatriot/etcetera was thinking about you when you were apart. But let’s just be honest for a minute: most of what we all bring back is little more than clutter that is eventually going to get in the way.

I’ve been traveling through various parts of the world during school breaks for a good chunk of my life, which basically translates to collecting and gifting trinkets from said parts, also, for a good chunk of my life. Many of these vacations occurred with people related to me and I always had someone on the trip nudging me to get other people presents.

I was with my grandparents in Vatican City when I was twelve years old and my grandmother wouldn’t let us leave one of the alcove shops until we picked out something for each of our parents. Yes, my parents are religious—we all get up on Sundays for church, at least—but did they really need another rosary or portrait of Jesus? (Yes, we did get exactly that, but mostly because the picture looked so much like my dad’s old driver’s license. My grandparents weren’t amused but I thought it was clever).

A year later, I was on a student trip to Australia. When I was leaving, my mom told me she expected me to bring back gifts for relatives, especially my parents and sisters. To this day, I have boomerangs and handkerchiefs covered in kangaroos filling the drawers in my room—no one else needed them; to be quite frank, neither did/do I.

Seriously, the key chains, boomerangs, handkerchiefs, magnets, etcetera are lovely mementos of your travels—they are not, however, really relevant to anyone else who wasn’t on your trip with you (Seriously, I have no idea where the Jesus portrait ended up).

So then, what’s the point?

And the serious answer is: I really don’t have a clue.

A souvenir is great—they hold so many specific stories and memories— and are a tangible representation of the time away…. FOR THE TRAVELER!

In my opinion, when it comes to gifts for other people, the best thing any traveler can do is send a postcard (or a few; knock yourself out!). I’m dead serious. People rarely get snail mail so it’s a special note that you are thinking of them when you are away (the whole point, no?) even if you get home before the postcard. They are easy to store, share and display. And in the end, whether you send the postcard or give them to the recipients on your return, they generally cost less with a whole lot more meaning than all the key chains in the world. Unless—maybe—the recipient is a child and then really bring on the plushies.

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From the disposable. Arthur’s seat, Edinburgh, Scotland. Summer 2013.

When it comes to buying for yourself, however, you can get into a whole new conundrum. You end up having to think about and balancing significance and costs and portability and usability and likelihood of turning to clutter (and I’m sure there are longer lists for some of you out there).

So what to do?

My answer: keep it simple.

This can mean a whole list of things, but here are my suggestions to keep it simple a (mostly) inexpensive.

Send home postcards for yourself. Write down something that has happened to you wherever the postcard is from and send it. Or, better yet, wait toward the later half of your trip and start sending them out then. When you are home and back to your everyday life, how cool will it be to get a postcard reminder of your adventure? A little message is a bottle (figuratively of course) from your past self. If you can’t send it to yourself (I know, sometimes postage is more expensive than you’re willing to shell out), just keep the cards and store them. Every once in a while, you’ll be sure to stumble into them and reading about your adventure from the perspective of when it was happening and when you didn’t know what was going to happen next will be a whole new kind of adventure book.

Buy a disposable camera and start shooting. I know, I know, now-a-days you can get photos from your digital camera printed off and get your pre-chosen “perfect shots.” I love this fact, but it’s also one more layer of artifice. You’ve messed with the settings, zoomed in, upped contrast, taken 5 different shots of the same thing to make it perfect. With a disposable, you get one shot; one chance to get what you’re looking for—if you trip, it’s blurry and you can try again but you’ll be wasting film. You can’t see what you’ll get until you get back the physical pictures (and/or the digital copies) back. Then, just like the postcards, you’re reliving the experiences you had while snapping these candids. I know it feels old school, but I like that there is a real genuine feel to the results. Just remember, if you have someone else taking your picture with it, tell them how many you want taken, no matter the quality or you’ll run out of space quick!

Buy something substantial or/and usable. Whether this means something big and/or expensive or something with extreme sentimentality depends on you and your own tastes, but this is usually contained to a single purchase that encompasses your trip. For my last vacation, my sister and I each bought a skirt. There was nothing marking where we were when we bought them—not a city or country—and there was noting really extraordinary about them. Mine is a simple leather skirt (brownish purple in hue with pockets) that falls a little above the knee. But I bought it on Prince Street in Edinburgh. I wore it on a slightly overcast and drizzling day in Cardiff at the BBC. I wore it while exploring London with my parents and tripping up the stairs out of the tube (to a few supportive cheers of “keep going!” from strangers or the escalator). And every time I wear this skirt or see it hanging in my closet, I remember. And that is what makes a great souvenir.

Anyway, those are my suggestions for you and for others. You telling or sending stories are worth a hundred plastic key chains so keep those memories exciting and that’s all you really need.

So, sorry if I got a bit rantie and let me know below what you do for souvenirs (for yourself or others), your take of travel gifting, or anything else you feel like sharing.

Look forward to hearing from you,

I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.

What we keep (or not)…

And you’re on your way…

… with everything in toe.

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The road to Anne Hathaway’s house. Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Summer, 2013.

It’s really summer now. Schools are out, caps are tossed, and plans (and planes) are taking off. So here we are.
We’ve talked planning and packing, booking and moving, sites and cites.
So before you board your planes, trains, boats, automobiles, or whatever else you plan on taking to get you wherever you need to go, take the moment to go through your check list (we’re keeping this post simple) to make sure you really have it all:

Luggage:
Packed with clothes
laundry packets (if necessary)
secondary shoes
makeup bag and portable necessities (remember you can buy most on the road– hair care and body/face wash)

Carry on (if not your main bag):
travel book
empty water bottle
change of clothes(the tight roll method is best!)
extra underwear (!)
Chapstick
electronic charges and adapters
hair ties
medication
travel notebook and pen
travel info folder
small emergency packet of feminine products (you can pick more up if you need them later!)

In your travel folder:
print outs of travel itinerary
plane/travel tickets
event/pre-bought passes or receipt print outs
hotel/hostel booking confirmations
bus/train/ferry tickets/ confirmations

On your electronics:
Apps: transportation (some are hooked in with your travel passes)
whatsapp app (which can get hinky; test it)
contact your provide to up your international minutes and data

House: 
someone to feed/water/walk your plants/animal
Halt or someone to get your mail
house sitter

Home transport:
someone to pick you up and drop you off at the airport

Money:

You have called your bank and let them know you are going out of town so they don’t shut down your cards/ access to money

And that’s the main of it. If there is anything else any of you always stick on your packing list let me know below.

So as you take off, stay safe and merry travels,
I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

And you’re on your way…