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Avec Amour : July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

10 Toiletry Item Swaps - Eliminating Liquids in Your Carry On

I talked about how to slim down on your packing, and touched briefly on the space liquids take up. Eliminating liquids so you have more room in your carry on is easier than you think. I personally can't get as crazy as NO liquids, because things like shampoo bars don't work for me... but here are 10 of my favorite alternatives or combination products!


Michael Kors fragrance / Yes to Grapefruit exfoliating face wash / Deodorant / Deborah Lippmann nail care, $17 / Dr Brandt tinted moisturizer / Benefit makeup, $42 / NYX translucent face powder / Small item storage / Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby-Mild Pure Castile Soap - 32 oz.

Lip/Cheek Stain - Combination
This is such a great option for travel, because lip & cheek stain lasts for HOURS and a tiny bottle goes a long way. You can add a light layer on lips for day and darken it for night.

Rollerball Perfume - Alternative/Space Saving
I'm a big perfume fan. My favorites are all of the Michael Kors scents - the tuberose is beautiful! Something I never sacrifice in travel is my signature scents, but I wouldn't dream of packing the ornate, glass bottles (even though they are all under 3.4oz!). I received a rollerball perfume as a gift several years ago and have kept one in my purse ever since. Most designer perfumes are available in rollerball at Sephora for less than $30 and they last forever. If you're looking for a budget alternative, Target has a few under $15 (more in stores than available online).

Dr Bronner's Liquid Castille Soap - Combination
Although I buy this in a 1L bottle, I can decant it into a 1oz bottle and it would still last me a month. Castille soap is basically broken down vegetables and it can be used for almost anything. I normally use it as a body wash, for shaving my legs, bubble baths, laundry & back up shampoo, but it can also be used as a stain remover, hand soap, home cleaner, mouthwash and even TOOTHPASTE. I'm not going to lie to you and say it tastes good, but it will clean your teeth and is safe to swallow. I love the peppermint because of the cooling effect is has. It can also be used to relieve sore muscles & achy feet. Because it's highly concentrated, you only need a few drops. Its broad spectrum of uses make it one of my favorite products, especially because you need so little. Here's how I make my own laundry detergent using Dr Bronners!

BB Creme - Combination
I've worn tinted moisturizer since I began wearing make up (liquid foundation is no good for girls with freckles!), so BB Creme is a no-brainer for me. I really love dr.Brandt's because of how well it color adjusts to my skin! It's also very smooth & moisturizing and has SPF 30, so I'm good I'll be concealed, moisturized, and protected from UV rays! Almay also makes a budget friendly version.

Face Cleansing Cloths - Alternative
These are sold by just about every company who makes face wash, so chances are you can find a brand you like. If you can only find a large pack and are going on a shorter trip, take the number you'll need (and add a few for freshening up on the go) and place in a Ziplock bag. If you're unable to find your brand & are weary of chemicals used in face washes, try Norwex cloths. They are naturally antibacterial and require no soap or facewash - just add water to cleanse your skin. They can be used up to 4-5 days and can be laundered normally.

Translucent Powder - Alternative/Combination
Not only is it great for setting your make up, you can use it to absorb excess moisture (hello, walking in flats all day) & as an alternative to dry shampoo. Travel size bottles (1oz) of drug store brands cost the same as full size bottles (5-7oz!). Not only are they a rip off, but they take up loads of space for minimal use. Using translucent powder (try a cheap brand like NYC or Elf, don't waste HD Make Up Forever getting rid of a little oil) eliminates this from your bag.

Lush Deodorant
I always thought people who used natural deodorant were crazy.... until I tried it! Lush makes several deodorant bars; gel type bars, baking soda based bars, and powders! The gel/baking soda can be cut down and stored in a snack size Ziplock bag. The powders can be decanted into smaller 1oz containers or into snack size baggie for flat packing. Not only are you saving packing space and cash, but you're eliminating aluminum from your body :) Check them out here

Contact Lens Case
This might seem silly.... but there are some products you only need a LITTLe of (like cold cream to remove make up or hair serum), and a contact lens container is a great way to carry these! I had a friend carrying a bottle of hair serum in her bag (2oz is $15), and it exploded EVERYWHERE. Not only were her clothes covered in oil, it was $15 down the drain when she only needed a few drops for the weekend. Small 1-1.5oz cosmetic jars like these or these are a great alternative, too!

Nail Polish Remover Pads
These are a life saver in so many ways. I've always lived on the go, even when I'm at home! I keep these in my car to remove a chipped mani, and I do the same in my travel bag. Even if I'm not repainting my nails, they typically are chipping within 3 days, so it's time to remove & reapply. Carrying a 3oz bottle of nail polish remover isn't really worth the space, but it's not worth putting in a smaller bottle. These polish remover pads are pre soaked with remover & are the best for removing nail polish! I always have a few in my toiletries bag, and they always come in handy for me (& my girlfriends!)

Those are my favorite swaps! Some of these swaps are better than the real thing when you're traveling (nail polish remover & rollerball perfume, i'm looking at you!) - so give them a try! What swaps will you make to eliminate liquids in your carry on?


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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to Pack Light & Always Carry On


Back when you could still check bags for free I always did - it didn't matter if it was a 2 day trip or a 10 day trip, I checked a bag and it was bursting with unnecessary items. I surpassed the 50lb. max on the regular, and was always stuffing heavier items in my already-full purse or tote bag.

When airlines started charging for bags, I learned how to carry on - but I still always brought way too much! I slowly started to realize how much extra I was carrying around when I never used half of it. Here are the tricks I've used to keep my carry on light & my packing easy.

1 - Packing Cubes

Medium Size eBags Packing Cubes 

Packing cubes are one of my favorite inventions. Not only do they help you maximize space, they're great for organizing! If you're taking a trip with two parts (maybe a wedding & some sightseeing) you can split your garments accordingly to help keep your suitcase in order. Or perhaps shirts in one and pants in another. Another great way to use packing cubes is to smoosh down your bulkier items - winter coats, sweaters, etc - so they are taking up less space.

I have a set of each of the above. The larger Ikea ones lay flat very nicely in a carry on, and the Medium eBags stack well in a regular carry on suitcase or in a backpack.

2 - Cut Back On Shoes
Shoes are definitely the biggest space hog in your suitcase. I've found that 3 pairs of shoes will definitely get you through most trips! If you're going to New York City, choose comfortable & chic flats for the day and a comfortable heel for the night. If you're backpacking through Europe, choose comfortable trek shoes & a nicer option. You'll typically find me with flats & tennis shoes, plus a 3rd - sandals in the summer, boots in the winter. If It's a trip that requires heels (attending a wedding or a major city), i'll leave my sneaks at home and take heels. Yoga & HIIT exercises can be done in the hotel sans shoes! Choose neutrals

3 - Pack Versatile Items
This was the biggest trick I had to learn. I always packed FULLY SEPARATE OUTFITS for each day or occasion. I'd bring jeans & tee for day 1, dress for day 2, shorts and top for day 3, a different pair of shoes, sweater & accessories for each. I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea! Now I pack as few items as possible that can be re-purposed or mixed & matched. For example, I have a black dress that can be used for just about anything. It's a nice enough cut that it can be used for dinner & drinks, but casual enough that it can be worn to the pool or grocery store. Think about the most versatile items in your closet (in relation to where you're going!) and start by packing those. Change your look with your 3 pairs of shoes & a few good accessories. It's the little things that take you from day to night and casual to polished!

 Sightseeing      Dinner Date      Beach/Pool        Airport         Brunch    Bridal Shower

Topshop strappy black dress / MKT studio brown jacket / Low wedge gladiator sandals / Carvela woven wedge sandals / Kate Spade leather purse / FOSSIL white purse / Bauble necklace / Sole Society stud earrings / Monogram jewelry / Michael Stars fedora hat / Burberry cashmere scarve / ZeroUV round metal glasses / Victoria's Secret

When you pack versatile items, you're packing several outfits in one & you're learning to shop your closet! The more ways you discover to wear an outfit on the road, the more use you'll get out of it at home.

4 - Just Say No to Liquids
I never realized how much liquids could weigh you down! Even with 3oz bottles, liquids seem to be one of the BIGGEST space takers in the suitcase! Shampoo, conditioner, hair product, face wash, moisturizer, make up, nail polish remover, hair spray, perfume.... it goes on and on.

Swap for alternatives or doubles when you can! For long trips I like to bring a bottle of nail polish with me so I can freshen up on the go, but the small bottle of polish remover seems pretty huge for a one time use on the trip. My solution? Nail polish remover wipes. They lay flat and take almost NO space! They're pre-soaked and usually gets my polish off better than a cotton ball anyway. I tuck 2 in my bag before I leave.

And just like with clothing, packing versatile items can really save the day! Swap moisturizer, foundation & sunscreen for BB Creme that packs a punch for coverage, moisture, & SPF! One tube instead of three.

Here are my best tips for eliminating liquids in your bag.

5 - Question Every Single Item 
When you're laying out your clothes, ask yourself why you're packing it. Determine if this is a necessary item or a 'what if?' item

"What if?" Items to be on the lookout for

- "What if it's cold?". Weed out unseasonable items like heavy clothing for a tropical vacation. I promise... it won't be cold.
- "What if we go out 2 nights that weekend? Should I bring another pair of heels?" We've talked about this with the excessive shoes! Unless you're running a marathon, attending a wedding, sightseeing in a city, going to the beach & going snowboarding in the same trip, you can probably eliminate a few shoes.
- "What if I spill something?" Don't bring doubles. Packing two different pairs of dark jeans? Brining two pairs of pants is of course sensible, but choose different fabrics & colors to maximize your options! Plus, you can do laundry anywhere if you're really wearing them out.
- "What if I finish my book or my iPad dies. Shouldn't I have a backup?" at all cost, avoid heavy extras. You don't need a laptop, dvd player & tablet - pick one & load it up with your movies, games & documents. Same goes for reading material. Loading books onto a tablet or e-reader is your best bet. But if you prefer the feel of a book in your hand, bring one - then plan to swap with a friend when you're done or scope out a used book store at your final destination. Another fun way to get new material is finding hotels & coffee shops with "take one, leave one" book shelves.

I KNOW it feels weird to cut so many things out of your suitcase.... but it's really only hard the first time I promise! If you have a trip coming up and don't think you can do it, DON'T. Pack as you usually would and pay attention on your trip. Look for items you ignore & items you reach for again and again. Over time, you'll cling to what you need & purge what you don't!

Do you have any carry on travel tips?

Happy Packing!

Other posts you might enjoy:
How to incorporate travel into your budget
How to save on flights (using One Way Tickets)
Carry on guide
Seattle City Guide
Perfecting the Multi-Way Flight
Luxury on a Budget: Hotels & Lodging
Americana Inspired Vacations
How To Find the Perfect Airbnb In Seattle

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Monday, July 14, 2014

You Learn Something New Everyday v.2 (World Cup Edition)

I'm not going to pretend I care that much about soccer. I was an alternate girl for a intramural team in college for two semesters (read: they just needed girls to run around the field). I appreciate it because it's the world's game and I think it's beautiful how entire countries come together for these teams! I also love going to games in real life (I've been to a Fullham game and a FC Barcelona game) because the atmosphere is the best! 

That being said, I probably watched a combined 20 minutes of the World Cup this year..... but that doesn't mean I'm not fascinated by the tournament itself, even if I don't want to watch every minute of overtime.

1 - Red Cards
The Red Card was born in 1966 when the World Cup was held in England, and the match was England vs. Argentina, and the ref was German. Questioning a play, an Argentine player (speaking Spanish) was questioning a play, but because of language barriers, was thrown out of the game. The word "off" was supposed to be universal for "cool your jets or you're out of here", but it was getting lost in translation still. At a stop light later on, a man named Ken Aston decided to take a cue from the traffic ref, the lights - "yellow, take it easy; red, stop, you're off". And so the cards were born. They were first used in 1970 at the World Cup in Mexico.

2 - The Official Language of the World Cup
There is no official language of the world cup. They use basic English when they can (yes, no, foul, offside, etc), but other than that, they use red/yellow cards & signals (corner kick, throw in, etc) - and they aren't required to explain their decisions any more than those signals.

3 - What is FIFA anyway?
FIFA stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or International Federation of Association Football in English. I'm glad we cleared that up.

4 - Most Wins
Brazil has won the World Cup 5 times, but they are also the only team to have qualified for every single World Cup! The Netherlands have been Runners Up 3 times, but never won! I feel for them. Germany has 'placed' the most, with 4 wins and 4 runner's up titles. 

5 - 1939-1949, no World Cup tournament
With WWII, the canceled the 1942 & 1946 World Cups. With so much of Europe in ruins from the war, FIFA decided to accept Brazil's bid to host. It was the first World Cup that wasn't hosted in Europe. 

Just a few facts about the World's Game that you might enjoy. Soccer fans, i'll see you again in 4 years. Congrats, Germany on the triumphant win!


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Friday, July 11, 2014

How To Find the Perfect Airbnb in Seattle

One of my favorite ways to save money without sacrificing experience is finding alternatives to hotels. As much as I love room service, I don't always love the price tag. Airbnb is a savior in this department.

When I studied abroad, we mainly resorted to hostels & staying with friends of friends - the best way to conserve cash! If Airbnb was around then, it would have been wonderful.

Now that it exists, Airbnb is one of my favorite ways to save money AND enjoy cities more like a local. Here are some tips for choosing the best place.

Quick Trip (2-3 days)

If you're in & out for a quick weekend, I'd recommend staying near downtown. Pioneer Square, First Hill & Belltown are all neighborhoods within one mile of Pike's Market. You can easily walk downtown (Space Needle, Pike's Market, ferry rides, etc), but you'll save a little money staying out the outskirts.

Long Weekend (3-5 days)

Downtown Seattle is beautiful and bustling, and I love it. BUT - there are so many gorgeous neighborhoods within a few miles of the city center, they're worth checking out. Depending on what your activities are, check out Freemont (craftsman style homes, charming coffee shops, etc), Eastlake (close to UW, close to the water), or Wallingford (adorable mini Main Street with shops & restaurants) - these are great areas to stay if you're looking to live a little more like a local.

Even if you'd like to mix tourist attractions in, no problem! All of these areas are easily accessible by bus (which you can read about and plan trips here!) You can use Google Maps to see what the bus schedule is from any area. Don't be afraid to message an Airbnb property owner to ask which bus stops are within walking distance from their place.


Most places boast free wi-fi, but here are a few things you might want to double check before booking.

Is there a place to park?
Many places closer to downtown (such as Pioneer Square) have limited parking or can only offer street parking. Check with the property owner if you plan on renting a car.

Shared Space or Total Privacy? 
There are three options on Airbnb: Entire Place, Private Room or Shared Room. Shared Room is the equivilant to couch surfing. You'll be crashing with a stranger. I've heard of people who choose this (often cheaper) option and luck out with the entire place to themselves anyway. It's a great way to meet new people but can be tiring if you're looking to relax after a long day of sight seeing. Private Rooms often come with their own bathroom, but double check the details on the location. Some of the also have their own private entrances, so they're just as good as the entire place! Obviously Entire Place means you've rented the place out - all to yourself! This is a really great option for traveling with groups or a few couples. You can get a 3 bedroom house for a fraction of the price you'd rent 3 separate hotel rooms.

Check in/Check out policies?
Arriving late or early is something to consider with Airbnb, as you'll be getting keys from owners sometimes. It's also nice to check if your host is ok with you leaving your bags for a bit on the day you check out if you're taking a later flight. That way you can get out of their way but enjoy your last day sans luggage.

My #1 Tip is.....

Always read the reviews! Be mindful of the fact that sometimes one apple ruins it for the whole bunch, so don't just take one guys word for it. Read as many as you can and take note of the reoccurring themes: Loud street noise? Comfortable bed? Proximity to sights & transportation? You'll typically get your questions answered here (even questions you didn't know you had!), so it's important to spend a little time reading through them.

The Airbnb community is a WONDERFUL thing, and we love it. Have you ever stayed in an Airbnb property?

Other travel posts you might enjoy:
How to incorporate travel into your budget
How to save on flights (using One Way Tickets)
Carry on guide
Seattle City Guide
Perfecting the Multi-Way Flight
Luxury on a Budget: Hotels & Lodging


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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Americana Inspired Vacations for the 4th of July (or anytime)

I LOVE the 4th of July - it reminds me of being a kid :) Sparklers on the beach in my american flag bathing suit.... those were the days. There's also something whimsical about places that are "quintessentially American". These are typically old money/preppy towns (like Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod), but I think there are more options than you might think.

In honor of America's 238th birthday, let's take it back to the 13 original Colonies. Here are some gorgeous places on the East Coast that I LOVE visiting or am DYING to visit! There are so many amazing places you can go to and you don't even need a passport and just scream 'MERICA (in a the best way possible).

Grab your pullover & loafers, and let's see this country.

New England's crown jewel is #1 on my list right now. I've never been to most of the NE states, but I'd really like to. I want to eat lobster in my nautical sweaters and search for lighthouses. Maybe stay IN a lighthouse? A girl can dream :)

I saw this spread in Condé Nast Traveler and it just reminded me why I want to go there.

Finger Lakes, NY
My mom is from Upstate New York. I've always wondered why Upstate New York was used as a phrase for the 99% of the state that isn't MANHATTAN. New York State is huge! With that being said, I've been to the Buffalo/Niagara area a few times, but nowhere else "Upstate". I recently went to Ithaca, NY for a scouting trip and have fallen in love! There are a few long lakes called the Finger Lakes, and the area is crawling with charming farm towns, wineries, and creameries (hello, wine & cheese heaven!)... not to mention that Ithaca is the home to Cornell University, arguably one of the most beautiful college campus I've ever seen. And there's a WATERFALL a half mile from campus. Get yourself a B&B and go wine tasting for the weekend.

Waterfront restaurant in Ithaca

                             one of the many waterfalls                            Downtown Ithaca, crawling with cute cafe's

Savannah, GA
I'd dreamed of going to Savannah for years, and finally made my way there a couple of years ago. It's extremely charming, full of history, and beautiful as could be. There are ghost tours (my favorite) to accompany the extensive history, dozens of cute restaurants and shops line the cobble stone streets, and plenty to do no matter what your travel style is. I can't wait to go back, and eat here.

I'll be celebrating the 4th in good ole' Tennessee this year, followed by a month on my favorite beach (working holiday, if you will). I can't wait! Where are you celebrating America's Birthday?

Have you ever been to these places? Would you go back? Where else is on your list of Americana Quaint towns?

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Travel vs. College

Yesterday, an article titled 6 Lessons Travel Teaches You That College Never Will was floating around the web. Several of my friends shared it on numerous social networks, and I read it as soon as I saw the title. As a travel addict, I of course loved & agreed with every single word. I agree that college is forced on so many that aren't interested, and travel is barely offered as an option to most. I'm a huge advocate for traveling, and have never understood why a 'Gap Year' was such a faux pas in the United States (when it's so common in the rest of the world). My semester in London changed my life FOREVER, in ways I struggle to put into words when asked about it. This article didn't only make sense to me, it explained a part of my soul in a way.

However, the more I thought about it throughout the day, I realized that there are definitely two sides to this story. Two sides I've experienced personally and simultaneously: travel & college.

I attended college in the traditional sense; I started the Fall following my high school graduation, I completed it in four years, lived in a dorm (for a time), had a full coarse load, participated in campus events, ate terrible food from the cafeteria, joined clubs & organizations, was completely broke most of the time, pulled all nighters and made life long friends. I also learned about true community, hard work, and a lot about being an adult. I wouldn't trade my four years for anything.

I spent a semester abroad in London, and during that time, I traveled to 10 different countries throughout Europe and Africa. I returned to London the following year to live & work in the city. I've continued to travel the United States & visit Europe. I'm constantly searching for the next adventure and love everything this big beautiful world has to offer. I truly get sad thinking about how many wonderful places there are in the world, and that' I'll never have enough time to see them all. The best four years of my life were extended to five, when I was able to have all these incredible experiences. I can't imagine my life without this time... both as a tourist and a resident of a different corner of the earth.

There are so many things that a college experience teaches you that travel can't. I could say that farming teaches you things you'd never learn as an investment banker, and vice versa. But is that the point? Not everyone needs to know how to milk a cow or play the stock market. We all have passions, gifts and strengths that can be developed in many different ways.

The truth is, it's not travel vs. college. You can have BOTH. You can have neither. I think both sides are worth exploring, and both can offer amazing experiences, unique to themselves. All experiences & paths in life are different and can be equally incredible and beautiful.

There's no magic formula. Everyone is different. Learn about yourself and decide what's important, interesting, and turns you into the person you want to be (both personally & professionally). Don't go to college if you truly don't think you want to. You have to decide what you want and make it happen, whatever that that might be.

Don't let money discourage you from travel or college. If they are important to you, find a way to make them happen. They aren't enemies, I think they go hand in hand quite well.

I know plenty of college graduates that are struggling financially and in their career. College does not guarantee you a job, it just provides you with extra knowledge and experience. In the same thought, I know plenty of people who have traveled and are still intolerant, closed minded, and devoid of culture.

Stamps in your passport & a framed degree have this in common: they are only proof of the experience. It's truly up to you to learn about life, culture, community, yourself, others, how to contribute to society, how to love, budget, make hard decisions and who you are going to be.

Like I said, I loved this article and everything it highlighted! I just happen to think life is more à la carte than prix fixe, don't you?

Did you go to college? Travel? Neither? Both? 

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