My husband and I are all about having fun and being silly, so when my mom gifted us with a miniature sock monkey during the Christmas festivities of 2009, we decided he would begin to accompany us on our travel adventures. We named him Ernesto, and his initiation into sightseeing began in 2010 with a spring visit to Walt Disney World. Since then, Ernesto has visited Dallas, Niagara Falls, Austria, and Italy. Poor Ernesto was left behind on our trip to Las Vegas and our most recent cruise to the Caribbean, but I think all has been forgiven.
Posing Ernesto for silly photos throughout our travels has become a fun tradition for us, and one we know will be even more fun when we bring children into the mix. If you haven’t created a fun and silly travel tradition, it’s time to go for it and start making memories in an entirely new way when you’re away from home.
If you do have a fun and silly travel tradition, I would love to hear about it, particularly if it involves photography. Please share below in the comments section!
A few photos from Ernesto's vacations:
The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza
This museum is one of the most powerful and emotional experiences I have ever had while traveling. The audio tour was really interesting, and I had tears in my eyes as I walked through the book depository.
pictured: the infamous grassy knoll
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Ernesto joined us as we walked from the Maid of the Mist (Canadian side) to the Cave of the Winds (New York side) - I don't recommend this...it is a very long walk! (We logged about 8 miles on our pedometer!) Ernesto rode along crammed into my purse.
pictured: The American Falls as photographed from the Rainbow Bridge
outside of Straden, Austria
A visit to the beautifully lush Austrian countryside was marked with a photograph of Ernesto in the vineyards that ran up and down the hills.
In Stephanie's carry-on...
- guilty pleasure magazines: I am partial to celebrity tabloids like US Weekly, but since I am a subscriber to Entertainment Weekly, that always ends up in my bag as well. I don’t feel embarrassed about pulling that one out in public.
- Nook: I am still a fan of reading traditional print books; however, when traveling it just makes more sense to pack the Nook so I have many selections on hand. I still pack one print book to take to the pool or beach.
- book of puzzles: I am a junkie for puzzles (mostly word puzzles), and this helps restore the brain cells lost while reading US Weekly.
- travel journal and pen: I really like to create scrapbooks for our vacations, but the journal is the first step for that. It is small and portable, so I am able to keep track of where we go and what we do. If I remember or I am not too tired at the end of the day.
- medicine bag: Always together; never apart.
- snacks, vegan of course: Being vegan means doing some planning ahead, and I like to visit one of our local specialty stores to stock up on some tasty snacks for the plane.
- at least one change of clothes and underwear: In the event of lost luggage, at least there is something else to wear. In the event of a mealtime disaster or your baby’s projectile spit-up, at least you have clean alternatives.
- toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant: Do yourself and everyone around you a favor.
- important documents: Check, recheck, and check again. Passports, boarding passes, online tickets for tours and shows, etc...don’t leave home without them.
- chargers, adapters, iPhone and camera: This little bag has gotten out of hand over the years. I like technology as much as the next guy, but I get tired of schlepping all of my cables and adapters around with me on trips.
- scarf: I have one of those big pashminas that is great for snuggling with on a cool plane. On my flight to Vienna in May, it was nowhere near enough protection from the Arctic temperatures of the exit row, but it was a start.
- pair of socks or slippers (for overnight flights): I was SO glad I had packed my slippers for our overnight flight to Vienna. Yes, I changed into shoes before using the bathroom. I was completely repulsed by the passengers who visited the bathroom in bare feet or socks. Seriously, people. That is disgusting. Those bathrooms were not getting any cleaners as the hours ticked by.
- Ernesto the Sock Monkey: We have a miniature sock monkey that travels with us everywhere we go so we can photograph him seeing the sights. It has become a fun tradition for us, and one we know we will especially have fun with when we have children.
What do you pack in your carry-on? Anything fun?
Love it or loathe it, packing for vacation is an inevitable part of the travel experience. Over the years I have become more savvy in both the contents of my luggage and the method of packing my carry-on and checked bags, but even I will admit to a few stumbles along the way. (For example, our first cruise - talk about way too many items of clothing for one week! Or a more recent example - our trip to Europe in May 2013 - talk about not having the proper gear for sudden winter weather in late spring! More on both of those in upcoming posts...)
Everyone has their favorite tips for maximizing luggage space and how to best plan for overall packing, and these are some of mine:
- Luggage tags can get caught and come off in the machines (especially the buckle ones) so I recommend adhering a sticker with your contact information to the inside of your luggage. An alternative to this would be putting this information on a piece of paper in an interior zipper pocket.
- If you are traveling with a companion and checking more than one bag, divide your items between both bags. If the airline were to misplace your luggage, it probably wouldn’t be both bags, so you would at least have some of your belongings.
- If you are only checking one bag (whether traveling alone or with a companion), pack some clothing into your carry-on bag. I always recommend packing some basics into your carry-on, but when checking only one bag, I would go the extra mile and include a couple of outfits in addition to my standard under things, warm clothes, and socks.
- Be sure to keep all medications with you, and make sure all prescription medications are in their original pharmacy containers.
- Try rolling your clothing instead of folding it – this will help with wrinkles and will allow you to pack more items. Not too many more items though! Save room for souvenirs!
- Pack items that can be mixed and matched easily, and include various accessories to change the look of your outfits. Ladies, go easy on the shoes! (This is always my biggest packing obstacle!)
- If you’re packing necklaces, try rolling them in Bubble Wrap and securing the little package with tape. For necklaces with thin chains, try fastening them through a straw first.
- Always pack a few plastic bags that seal – you just never know when these might come in handy!
- Include a folder or portfolio so that you can save tickets, maps, brochures, and postcards without worrying about them bending and getting ruined.
My family and friends know that whether I am on a jaunt down the street to Target or an eight-hour flight to Austria, I always have my medicine bag with me and can be counted on at a moment’s notice to assist them with their upset stomachs, mosquito bites, or headaches. I am good like that. When I travel, I am almost obsessive about making sure I have the medications I might need while I am away from home. For many years, a cute little zipper pouch from Bath and Body Works has been my traveling medicine cabinet, and it has been all over the world and back. The following items are my staples, but sometimes I throw in a few additional products depending on destination and time of year.
Always keep your medications in your carry-on bag in the event (ugh) that your luggage vanishes. Prescription medications should be transported in their original drug-store containers.
What to include:
1.) A stomach soother like Pepto Bismol will slow the growth of bacteria while helping with symptoms such as diarrhea, heartburn, nausea, and an upset stomach. I would also pack an anti-diarrheal such as Immodium AD; even though it is a one-trick pony, it is powerful and starts working quickly.
2.) An antihistamine like Benedryl will ease allergy issues, but taking one before flying or at bedtime will also help you fall asleep.
3.) Aloe Vera will soothe sunburn, calm bug bites and blisters, and even help eliminate blemishes. Look for a travel size, or buy the big bottle and pack your own.
4.) A pain reliever like Ibuprofen helps pain, soreness, and inflammation.
5.) A nasal decongestant like Sudafed popped before flying can prevent discomfort due to congestion and help with the pain and pressure in the ears and sinuses. This is my R.N. mother’s favorite travel trick. If you’re on a red-eye, go for the nighttime version.
6.) Saline nasal spray helps keep mucus membranes moist in dry airplane cabin air, making them less hospitable to germs.
7.) Badger Balm Sore Joint Ointment is a personal favorite of mine when traveling because it is excellent for naturally easing aches and pains in the joints and muscles. A little goes a long way, and when rubbed in with long strokes, the relief is almost immediate. It also has a pleasant scent!
8.) Bandage strips are good for cuts and the painful spots on your feet when your shoes are rubbing after a long day of sightseeing.
*Note that I am not a health care professional – please see your medical provider about any questions or concerns you have about your health while traveling.