Go It Alone: U.S. Solo Travel Cities

Traveling on your own when you’re a solo female traveler can be scary. I get it. We’ve been socialized from birth to know that being on our own isn’t always ideal. But it can also be one of the most freeing experiences if you have the tools you need to succeed!

Especially if you aren’t from a city, the idea of wandering a metropolis by yourself can be daunting. But these solo travel cities are well-equipped to take care of female travelers just trying to exercise their wanderlust.

person inside a building looking at a structure
Photo by Guillaume Meurice on Pexels.com

Chicago

I’m definitely biased, but my heart city of Chicago is one of the best places for a solo traveler. Not only are we a pretty safe spot, we’ve also got that Midwestern niceness going for us. Sure, folks downtown might walk faster than an out-of-towner, however that doesn’t mean we’re scary!

While you’re here, be sure to check out some of my favorite spots:

Door County

Although it isn’t technically a city, Door County in Wisconsin deserves a solo travel cities shoutout. If you need a relaxing escape from life, especially if you’re a singular traveler, this unique stretch of land in Wisconsin is a dream. You can easily stay busy for a long weekend or hide out in a cozy cabin among the natural beauty Door County has to offer.

Don’t forget to grab some cherries. (You’re welcome.)

Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital with its myriad museums, monuments and tours is a great spot to visitor solo. Particularly for my fellow history nerds who love to drag companions along to museums everywhere they go, you’ll have no shortage of sites to see. Plus, if you visit during cherry blossom season, you can capture all those gorgeous blossom selfies!

If you want some off-the-beaten-path museum recommendations, we’ve got you:

New York City

To no one’s surprise, NYC ranked #1 in both solo female and LGBTQIA+ solo travel cities in a survey conducted by Vacation Renter of 1,000 solo travelers. This major metropolitan area is home to tons of things one can enjoy solo, Broadway notwithstanding. Whether you’re a shopper, theater fan, or just love to see the creepy off-brand costume characters in Times Square, NYC is always a popular spot for good reason.

Why not take yourself on a boat tour? You deserve it!

New Orleans

Maybe not during Mardi Gras, but New Orleans is one of my favorite cities to visit. The food alone is well worth the journey, but the camaraderie you’re bound to make as a solo adventurer makes NOLA an especially special place. If you are a fan of spooky places, definitely get down to New Orleans if you haven’t. Night tours and cemetery tours are prime.

Some experiences that are uniquely NOLA:

Las Vegas

One of the U.S. cities that never sleeps, Vegas always has something going on to keep even the pickiest traveler entertained. From shows to slot machines and way too many fancy drinks, Vegas can be a group destination as well as a solo spot. Sin City is versatile enough to be safe and interesting enough for a single traveler to enjoy.

Why not lost for a while in the bright lights of bygone days at the Neon Museum?

The Great Disney World Ride List

We have always loved Disney for its ability to create a truly immersive experience around every corner. Those experiences obviously include the innovative stage and firework shows Walt Disney World is known for. Shows at WDW happen on a schedule though, which means you’ll have lots of time for rides in between! With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to create a Disney World ride guide. That way, you’ll know which ones to enjoy when you visit the Most Magical Place on Earth. 

Walt Disney created Disneyland, and subsequently WDW, as a place for families to all play together. That means Walt wanted the adults considered just as much as the kids. So, at WDW, there are rides for everyone regardless of age, size, or mobility. 

And don’t worry, we (Amanda and Giselle) will be telling you our favorites along the way.

As folks who travel with anxiety, we know how difficult the unknown can be. Allow us to alleviate some of that anxiety by denoting all Disney World ride we think entertain with less overstimulation with a little set of Mickey Ears.  °o°

Undercover Tourist

Magic Kingdom Park

Side view of Cinderella’s Castle. Photo by Amanda Finn.

Astro Orbiter °o° is a slow-paced space experience for the whole family. Two passengers take flight and soar in circles amidst a gleaming constellation of planets with Tomorrowland swirling around you. 

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad °o° is a classic Disney World ride that provides gentle thrills and small drops. Big Thunder is suitable for riders taller than 40” who then take a mine train through a haunted mine. While the train gets moving pretty fast, ultimately it’s a fairly smooth ride.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Photo taken by Amanda Finn.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin °o° take a spin armed with your own ray gun! In this interactive experience, your party will be guided by Buzz Lightyear in a battle to defeat the chief enemy of the Galactic Alliance, Emperor Zurg. Aim at targets around the ride to determine the sharpest shooter in your group.

Dumbo The Flying Elephant °o° another kiddie coaster where you fly up and down in circles on Dumbo’s back. You’re able to pilot your own elephant choosing whether to go high or low as you spin round and round. This ride was often featured in the WDW commercials in our childhoods.

Haunted Mansion °o° another classic Disney World ride where 999 happy haunts keep you company. Take a labyrinth through an enchanted house with restless spirits who are not quite departed. Haunted Mansion is fun for all ages and a must for anyone visiting Disney for the first time. Don’t worry, it’s not like a haunted house. In fact, it’s more like a silly ghost adventure. Maybe introduce younger kiddos to “Muppet’s Haunted Mansion” first. This is Amanda’s favorite ride in the entire park and she owns way too much Haunted Mansion merch–especially this. [*Note this ride is very dark at times.]

Haunted Mansion in the morning. Photo by Amanda Finn.

“it’s a small world” °o° is a simulated boat ride around the world featuring a catchy song many either love or love to hate. You’ll see why as it’s repeated in many languages during the ten-minute ride. The little dancing animatronic children from around the globe make this “The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed.” 

Jungle Cruise °o° allows you to set sail through the rivers of Africa, Asia, and South America. This cruise is every bit as comedic as it is scenic thanks to the world class skipper navigating the steamer boats. Be sure to keep your arms and legs inside the boat lest they become lunch for passing piranha or one of the many hungry hippos. And keep your eyes peeled for one of Giselle’s must see Disney sights (and the highlight of every Jungle Cruise) the backside of water!

Liberty Square Riverboat °o° takes passengers on a half-mile sightseeing tour around Tom Sawyer Island. Hop aboard the Liberty Belle, an authentic steam-powered paddle wheeler for a 17-minute ride. This is a great option for families looking to rest their feet while continuing to experience the magic.

Mad Tea Party °o° a classic spinning teacup ride modeled after the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, featuring many characters from the classic Lewis Carroll novel, “Alice in Wonderland.” You can spin your cup as little or as much as you’d like to keep your ride a bit more gentle if dizziness is a concern. [*Note: If you are prone to motion sickness don’t ride this. If nausea becomes an issue on this ride, keep your eyes locked on someone directly across from you and have your group spin the wheel in the opposite direction to decrease intensity until the ride stops.]

Peter Pan’s Flight °o° soars over the streets of London, off into the clouds towards the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning. When your ship has sailed to Neverland, you’ll encounter Captain Hook and the Lost Boys before Tinkerbell’s magic wears off. Finally you land back in London with Wendy. It was Giselle’s little sister’s favorite the first time she went to Disney, and it’s still a favorite of Giselle’s to this day.

Pirates of the Caribbean °o° the Disney World ride of the film franchise fame! (Disneyland had it first.) Pirates has been retrofitted with Captain Jack Sparrow animatronics to entertain all who set sail on the high seas through the Caribbean. This is a must-see attraction for a well-rounded Disney visit, as this delightful ride is sure to enchant riders of all ages. [*Note: This ride does use fog, simulated smoke scents and can be dark at times.]

Photo of the best scene from the Pirates ride. Photo by Amanda Finn.

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel °o° a classic carousel ride with a dash of Disney magic. This attraction was originally built in 1917 in Detroit before it moved to Disney World in 1971. The views of the castle from this ride alone are enough to make it enchanting.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train °o° Heigh-Ho! Heigh-Ho! It’s off to mine diamonds on this swaying family coaster which carries Snow White’s seven friends to work each day. You may find yourself waiting a bit to ride, but Disney has made it possible for you to mine your own jewels while you wait in the queue.

Space Mountain shoots explorers through the galaxy and plunges them into darkness with nothing but the light of the stars to guide the way. Its breakneck speed, sudden turns, and overall darkness might frighten some of the more timid space travelers, but anyone over 44” is welcome to board the craft. This was Giselle’s favorite ride on her family trip to WDW as a kid and it hasn’t lost any of its luster. [*Note: If you are sensitive to motion sickness do not ride this.]

Splash Mountain is a thrilling log-flume. You’ll wind through a whimsical bayou full of woodland critters singing for your delight. Like any water ride, you may get wet. So, if you don’t want to feel the full weight of a five-story drop splashing down on you, sit towards the back. [*Note: The current theming of this Disney World ride is based on Disney’s “Song of the South.” That movie is racist and we can’t wait for the coming re-theme to “Princess and the Frog.”]  

The Barnstormer °o° let Goofy pilot you over Storybook Circus in a plane he built himself. This is a kiddie coaster you’d expect to find at most any amusement park. Still, it’s a cute ride for kiddos. 

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin °o° like Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride, this one is essentially a replica. Except, in this case, you’re riding on Aladdin’s Magic Carpet. Also, there’s a giant camel at this ride. Be careful, he spits. 

Undercover Tourist

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh °o° the ride that inspired a TikTok trend, Pooh is still usually a family favorite. You see Winnie the Pooh and his friends go through a story together. Honestly, the story doesn’t make a ton of sense, but small children like it. [*Note: The darkness and fluorescent colors used in this ride can be frightening for children.] 

Tomorrowland Speedway °o° drive a mini race car around a speedway without worrying about a crash! These cars might be on guided rails, but the drivers still control how fast they go. We’re not huge fans of this ride. That said, it’s hard to gauge how popular it is because the line is usually either really long or nonexistent. Folks must be at least 54” tall to ride alone and children under seven must be accompanied by someone 14+. [*Note: If you are sensitive to gasoline smells, this ride might make you ill.]

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover °o° a favorite for weary Disney guests everywhere. The PeopleMover is a relaxing ten-minute tour of Tomorrowland from above. These trams are magnet powered too, so there is no odor and you get to see a lot of unique vantage points. It’s so popular that Funko released a line of PeopleMover POP figures with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto!

Under The Sea~ Journey of the Little Mermaid °o° this is one of Giselle’s favorites. Our sea journey goes through the story of Ariel finding her land legs. Climb aboard a clamshell and take a musical adventure with our favorite mermaid. Don’t be one of the “Poor Unfortunate Souls” who glosses over it. 

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress °o° we are warning you now, “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” will be stuck in your head. After all, the Sherman Brothers wrote it! (They are the duo behind the songs in “Mary Poppins,” “The Aristocats” and more.) So, take a 21 minute rest to see the show that Walt Disney first introduced at the World’s Fair in 1964. Because this is one of Amanda’s favorites, if you hate the ride–don’t tell her.

Epcot

The EPCOT ball in the early morning. Photo by Amanda Finn.

Frozen Ever After °o° replaced Maelstrom. Amanda is still not over Maelstrom getting replaced by this ride. Still, if you or your family are fans of “Frozen” this ride is a magical adventure. See Anna, Elsa, Olaf and the rest of their friends as you sail through Arendelle. [*Note: This ride can be very dark at times.]

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros °o° an oft-forgotten ride at EPCOT. Tucked away in the Mexico Pavilion join Jose and Panchito as they look for Donald. The Three Caballeros can’t perform without Donald! They aren’t The Dos Caballeros!

Journey Into Imagination With Figment °o° tricky Figment the Dragon takes you through the Imagination Institute. Together with Figment and Dr. Nigel Channing you’ll explore how the senses connect to imagination. Just like with Figment as a character, people tend to either love this or hate it. 

Living With The Land °o° learn all about how food is grown at WDW! That sounds boring, but it’s actually a really fun ride. You take a gentle boat cruise through some of the park’s gardens too. Because it can be easy to miss, the ride is on the ground floor of The Land pavilion. 

Mission: SPACE was designed to give astronauts-in-training an authentic Zero-G experience to prepare them for space travel. They were deliberately turning up the intensity on its guests, so Disney designed a less intense version of this space training camp experience. The green lane is designed to be sensitive to any and all astronauts prone to motion sickness (or anyone who’s enjoyed Epcot’s delicious adult beverages.) The orange line will take you to the high intensity version which employs centrifugal force to temporarily simulate the weightlessness of SPACE.  [*Note: Giant flashing motion sickness warning, utilize the green line if you have any doubts about your fitness for intergalactic travel. The high intensity experience in the orange lane is easily the biggest thrill you’ll likely encounter at WDW.]

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure °o° a ride that only made Amanda cry twice. (She has Anton Ego tattooed on her shoulder.) Become a kitchen rat to see the world of Parisian kitchens from Remy’s point of view. See, smell and feel what it’s like to be a pint-sized chef. Also, Giselle fell in love with this attraction at Disneyland Paris and was delighted to see its mind blowing technology brought to WDW in their 2021 expansion of Epcot’s France Pavilion in World Showcase. [*Note: This ride can be jarring if you are sensitive to motion.]

The marquee of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Photo by Amanda Finn.

Soarin’ Around The World °o° sit back and encounter the mesmerizing sights, sounds, and smells of a whirlwind flight around the globe. Feel like you’re floating from the comfort of your seat as you glide over elephants on the savannah. This ride is a favorite of Giselle’s, so no WDW trip is complete without Soarin’. If you can get the first row in your section, that’s the best row. [*Note: This ride can be dizzying if you are sensitive to motion.]

Spaceship Earth °o° lives inside the giant EPCOT ball at the front of the park. And, if you can read this, thank the Phoenicians. (And, if you don’t get that joke, thank us later.) As one of the older members of the Disney World ride collection, some folks don’t appreciate Spaceship Earth as much they should. Even so, this is one of Amanda’s favorite rides. As you glide through time to the narration of Dame Judy Dench learn about how humans innovated through time. [*Note: This ride does get very dark at certain points and there are simulated scents.]

Test Track °o° a slightly more intense version of Tomorrowland Raceway. But, instead of a race car you’re in a “sim” car with speeds of up to 65 MPH. You can even find out at the end which car did the best in those trials. [*Note: This ride can be hard to stomach for folks sensitive to motion.]

The Seas With Nemo & Friends °o° is another storybook Disney World ride adventure! However, this time you’re going under the sea with Marlin and Dory to find Nemo–again! Do keep an eye out for real fishies in a massive aquarium. 

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The Tree of Life in the early morning. Photo taken by Amanda Finn.

Avatar Flight of Passage °o° a truly unbelievable flight on the back of a banshee. From your bonded banshee you can see, smell and feel the world of “Avatar.” Between the incredible sights and the moving seat simulating your banshee breathing, this ride is a real marvel. Giselle loved it so much she rode it twice in one day! [*Note: If you’re prone to motion sickness, try keeping your neck up on this ride. Looking straight ahead helps a lot. While Giselle insists the view from the center of the screen assures the best view on Soarin’, she strongly suspects that being seated near the center of the screen on this attraction reduces the fishbowl effects this 4D flight creates with its sweeping panoramic vistas.]

DINOSAUR as in the 2000 Disney film by the same name. (Which was a great movie if you’ve never seen it.) Hop aboard a Time Rover to go back into the days of primeval forests. Your mission? To bring back one Iguanodon! The problem? The meteor that killed the dinosaurs is coming–no pressure. [*Note: Darkness, loud roaring and dinosaurs might be frightening for some children.]

Expedition Everest board a train headed to the tippy top of Mt. Everest. This train, a thrilling roller coaster, will take you on a twisty journey. We’ve even heard that a Yeti might live up on the mountain. But maybe that’s just a legend. [*Note: This ride can be jarring for those who get motion sickness and the darkness/effects might be frightening for some children.]

Expedition Everest. Photo by Rodolfo Marques on Unsplash

Kali River Rapids will either get you completely soaked by the rapids or not at all. If you’re up for the gamble, this river raft ride is a lot of fun. You might even see some playful baby elephants on your journey!

Kilimanjaro Safaris °o° is a big Disney World ride favorite among park goers. As part of Animal Kingdom’s conservation mission, the safari is part animal watch and part educational experience. For about 20 minutes you’ll get to see all kinds of animals who call WDW home. If you’re particularly lucky a giraffe might get in the way of your jeep. That means you get to stare at a giraffe until it decides to meander away.

Na’vi River Journey °o° a much calmer sibling to Flight of Passage. Drift down the river, experiencing the myriad life forms on Pandora. Even folks who aren’t big fans of “Avatar” will appreciate this ride. The Na’vi Shaman of Songs alone is worth the wait. Just wait until you spot her. 

Pandora, the land of Avatar. Photo by Luke Tanis on Unsplash

TriceraTop Spin °o° much like the Dumbo and Aladdin rides, this is another gentle one. Kiddos love TriceraTop because they get to control how high their dino goes. Parents love it because even their little kiddos can ride it. 

Wildlife Express Train °o° for when the Safari wasn’t enough. Grab the train that takes you back to Rafiki’s Safari Watch. On the ride you can see some back areas where the animals live. At your destination you can go to a petting zoo, see the nature walk or learn more about saving the planet! Amanda loves to stop and pet the goats. 

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Millennium Falcon in Galaxy’s Edge. Photo by Haggerty Photography.

Alien Swirling Saucers °o° like the Tea Cups, this is a spinning vehicle ride. Take a spin with the cute green aliens from “Toy Story!” It’s a gentle-ish ride but maybe don’t load up on tots from Andy’s Lunchbox across the way. [*Note: Folks prone to motion sickness might want to sit this one out.]

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Rainway °o° lives inside the Studios’ iconic replica of The Chinese Theater. While it can’t replace Great Movie Ride in our hearts, it’s an excellent addition to the Disney World ride collection. Goofy is at it again! This time he has lost control of his train and you’re along for the ride. Yet another attraction that has a tune too catchy to get out of your head.

The marquee for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Photo taken by Amanda Finn.

Millennium Falcon: Smuggers Run °o° an interactive space adventure! Join up with your crew to get your bounty back safely aboard the Millennium Falcon. If you play your cards right you and your teammates will get a good cut of the profit. If you don’t, well, at least you tried. [*Note: If you’re prone to motion sickness, try to sit up as straight as you can and face forward. It’s a fun ride and this helps!]

Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith join Steven Tyler in a stretch limousine on a wild ride to Aerosmith’s next gig. Featuring a loop de loop and a shotgun launch that goes from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds. This high octane experience is not for the faint of heart, but if you love classic rock music and a good thrill, this ride is sure to appeal to anyone who craves the thrill of a little scare, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster is certainly the attraction for you. [*Note: This is one of the highest intensity rides WDW offers, if inversion or fast turns trigger your motion sickness, this is ride best left off your day’s itinerary.]

Slinky Dog Dash °o° flying around the Tinker Toys on Slinky’s back! While this is a more intense rollercoaster than the other kiddie ones, it’s still fairly easy. This coaster is a lot of fun which is probably why it’s still so popular!

Star Tours °o° is a mainstay of Hollywood Studios. Predating Galaxy’s Edge by a lot of years, Star Tours is an old-school motion simulator. A randomized storyline will take you through the galaxy on a mission with C3PO as your co-pilot. And be careful, you might have a spy onboard! [Motion Sickness can also present an issue on this ride, the simulated motion effects are less apparent in the front of the Star Cruiser. The back row may leave you feeling weightless in your seat on some of the ride’s deep dives.]

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance °o° is not so much a ride as it is a unique experience. Rise is the most complex Disney World ride to date and once you ride it you’ll see why. “Star Wars” fan or not, this is the ride we will rope drop every day for. Amanda and her partner even rope dropped at 5 am once when it first opened. It’s that good.

Inside Rise of the Resistance Disney World ride. Photo by Amanda Finn.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™  is not the ride to be boarded immediately after lunch, but if you can stomach it, will take you on a journey into a wondrous land of imagination. In this other dimension you’ll encounter not only the nostalgic glamor of old Hollywood, but multiple free falls from heights you’re not quite sure of. Don’t worry, the trusty service elevator at The Hollywood Tower Hotel may not always take you where you’re expecting, but the breaks never fail to catch you as you fall. [*Note: The simulated free falls of this attraction are not for everyone. Giselle loves the sensation of my internal organs being suspended momentarily for the few big drops on this attraction at Orlando and the similarly intense Hotel Hightower themed Tower of Terror a Tokyo DisneySea. However, she feels the supercharged feel Disneyland gave their Guardians of the Galaxy rebrand of their TOT attraction is too intense for her, who loves the thrill of the tamer, more deliberate pattern of falls in the traditional TOT schematics.]

Toy Story Mania! °o° is a newer iteration of Buzz Lightyear’s ride at Magic Kingdom. Play against your vehicle partner in a variety of carnival games. Zip through the series of games to see who comes out on top! 

Photo taken by Amanda Finn.

A Vegas Weekend: A Dream Itinerary

As many people who have been to Las Vegas will tell you, Sin City is best consumed in small doses. There’s so much to see and so much to spend money on! So it can certainly be overwhelming (and expensive) to spend too much time there. I personally find a Vegas weekend or long weekend to be the perfect amount of time to take in the City of Lights without being blinded by their brilliance.

The reason I keep coming back to Vegas is the world class shows you can find in nearly every casino. Those shows can be pricey, but they are definitely worth it. (I can give you some tips to save on tickets.) If one of your favorite artists ever has a residency in Vegas, the production value will likely better than anything that can be brought on tour. That means it is probably worth the trip. Whatever it is that draws you to Vegas, there are many things not to miss while you’re there. So I’ve compiled an itinerary of some of my favorite stops for a quick Vegas weekend.

Oh! And for our readers we have a 10% discount on Big Bus Tours in Vegas!

Lodging:

One good spot to save money when you’re booking a trip to Vegas is your hotel room. This area is home to many amazing resorts that offer lush suites. However, I find myself spending very little time in the room and favor a more cost effective option. Planet Hollywood (3667 S Las Vegas Blvd.) and Paris (3655 S Las Vegas Blvd.) offer great prices as well as a great location. Most rooms in these hotels have been renovated and are therefore pretty nice for their price point.

Make sure to ask about a discounted room upgrade at check-in, when I stayed at the Bellagio, I got a great deal on an upgrade to a suite with the comfiest bed and gorgeous wallpaper.

If you want to spend a little more, the Bellagio (3600 S Las Vegas Blvd.), Aria (3730 S Las Vegas Blvd.), and Cosmopolitan (3708 Las Vegas Blvd.) are all located across the street from Planet Hollywood. They too have very lush rooms if you’re looking to treat yourself. Regardless of whether you plan to gamble or not, I’d strongly suggest opening an MLife and Caesar’s Rewards player’s cards. Open them not just for the access they give you to discounts on show tickets but also the opportunity to get free stays! (A great excuse to come back for another Vegas weekend.) I don’t gamble much in Vegas. But I know I can always use my player’s card to get a free room (or save resort fees.)

Vegas Weekend Day One:

Explore: Bellagio – 3600 S Las Vegas Blvd.

The Fountains at the Bellagio are a must-see for anyone doing a Vegas weekend. These fountains are modeled after the ones in Rome, Paris, and Madrid. The Fountains offer a breathtaking show where their waters soar up 460 feet synchronized to a variety of familiar songs. Every show is a little different too! So, if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself watching it from many different vantage points during your visit. The Fountains of Bellagio run every half hour in the afternoon and every 15 minutes between 7pm and Midnight. 

The Bellagio Fountains seen from the top of the Eiffel Tower. This is my favorite view of the fountains, even from 46 stories, you can still hear the music from the fountain show.

The Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens located just off the lobby is another awe inspiring stop to make. (Even if you’re staying at another resort.) The immaculate and elaborate floral displays change seasonally offering a new immersive feat of botany every time you go back. Don’t miss the extravagant Chihuly glass installation either! The instillation resembles over 2,000 Italian flowers sprouting from the ceiling above the hotel lobby.

One of the five yearly themes for the Bellagio’s botanical gardens is the Chinese New Year. These are some of the floral arrangements featured in the 2017 Year of the Rooster celebration.

Eat:

LAGO by Julian Serrano (at the Bellagio) is a more spendy restaurant for a meal. But the view you have of the mesmerizing Bellagio Fountains elevates the dining experience. This is a must-stop if you’re a fan of Italian small plates. Keep in mind the menu does change over time. I still think back to my experience there when I tried pheasant for the first time. The pheasant was set in a delicious wine sauce so enticing, I nearly ordered a second portion. 

The view from an early evening dinner at Lago. This view and their small Italian plates are hard to beat.

Bāng Bar by Momofuku (at Cosmopolitan) is a more budget friendly option. Stop here for a quick and easy meal if you’re taking in the best food in Vegas without splurging. Chef David Chang provides an Asian-inspired twist on spit roasted meats you may be familiar with. I grab The U Wrap with spicy pork or chicken teriyaki while grazing my way up and down The Strip. (The wrap is a more than once in a Vegas weekend kind of treat.)

Explore:

The Forum Shops (at Caesar’s Palace) are something to behold whether you have a penchant for high end designer brands or not. The upside to Vegas being expensive is that so much has been done to curate an immersive experience. It’s not quite the same as being in the Roman Forum at the height of the Roman Empire. That said, there are gorgeous fountains, frescoed ceilings, and even a gelateria. Grab a scoop of stracciatella as you window shop and people watch.

The Grand Canal Shops at the Venetian are truly an experience, you can even hire a gondolier to give you a ride around their canals in a gondola as if you were in Venice.

The Volcano (at The Mirage) is hopefully the closest I’ll ever come to seeing a volcanic eruption firsthand. The eruption show is a theatrical feat of pyrotechnics! Volcano activity happens every hour on the hour between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. nightly. While it’s easy to stumble upon the Bellagio Fountains as you walk about The Strip, The Volcano is not. You’re likely to miss it if you aren’t on the boardwalk in front of The Mirage for the shows. 

The Volcano at The Mirage is sure to heat things up if you forgot your cardigan in the hotel room.

Eat:

Noodle Asia (at The Venetian) serves food all day as well as late at night. If you’re a fan of spicy peanut sauce, I highly recommend their Dan Dan Noodles. Whereas the edamame and potstickers make great appetizers to split with your table. While you’re at The Venetian be sure to check out their shops modeled after the canals and bridges of Venice.

In-N-Out Burger (at The LINQ Hotel) is another Vegas weekend staple for this Midwest native who can’t always have it. Look into their  “secret menu” to make the most of your visit if you’ve never been to an In-N-Out Burger. I usually order a double double animal style with two packets of their secret burger spread for my fries. They are open Late as well. 

 Long before the In-N-Out location by the LINQ was built, I always made sure to head off the Strip to get my animal style fix!

Entertainment:

The Beatles LOVE” by Cirque du Soleil (at The Mirage) is my favorite of the Vegas Cirque du Soleil shows. As someone who loves music, both “The Beatles Love” and “Michael Jackson ONE” (at Mandalay Bay) stand out. They’re a cut above the rest for their modern circus theatrics to the tune of musical favorites. Cirque’s “O” at Bellagio is my favorite show set to an original score with both its synchronized swimming and acrobatics. (Don’t sit in the front row if you mind getting a little wet.)

A scene from “Revolution” in “The Beatles LOVE” show by Cirque du Soleil. Photo by Matt Beard.

The Eiffel Tower Experience (at Paris) or The High Roller Observation Wheel (at The LINQ) are ways to get a miraculous aerial view of The Strip from “Old Vegas” and beyond. This is a view you’re not likely to get from even the highest of hotel rooms. The Eiffel Tower in the evening, with its open air cage, provides my favorite view of the Bellagio Fountains. From here you can still hear the music! Though can be chilly late at night in Vegas when the sun sets in the desert. Be sure to have a light jacket! You’ll be feeling the breeze from 46 stories on a half scale replica of the original Eiffel Tower in Paris.

If you’re not the biggest fan of heights, try The High Roller Observation Wheel. The enclosed ride moves imperceptibly at a one revolution per half hour. High Roller is like the world’s other staggering Observation Wheels in Dubai, London, Singapore, and Melbourne. This ride provides a Ferris Wheel-esque experience to see the City of Lights from its 550ft vantage point.

Ticket Hack

With most shows in Vegas, I would recommend waiting until the day of the show to buy tickets. Take your Player’s Card to the box office and ask about discounts for MLife or Caesar’s Rewards. If you don’t have any player’s cards, Tix4Tonight has three ticket booth locations on The Strip. They offer great discounts to fill last minute seats. (Although I usually scope out for perspective before talking to any box office about tickets.) Third party discount companies offer rates competitive with the theater’s box office too. So, I always check both to ensure I’m getting the best deal. Touring artists and limitedrun residencies may sell out, so it’s always a good idea to look into those before your Vegas weekend.   

Vegas Weekend Day Two:

Eat: Eggslut – at the Cosmopolitan

This is my favorite breakfast stop in Vegas. It’s a shame to go to Eggslut and not try their signature dish “the Slut.” “The Slut” is coddled egg and potato puree topped with chives and gray salt. They even serve it in the mason jar they’ve poached it in alongside baguette crostini for dipping. 

When I discovered the name of this eatery at the Cosmopolitan, I knew it was gonna be a favorite of mine. The eggy and
potato-y goodness of their “Slut” sealed the deal.

Explore:

Shark Reef Aquarium (at Mandalay Bay) is a massive aquarium with cage shark diving–if that’s your thing. One can spend hours admiring green sea turtles, giant rays, sharks, and a komodo dragon amidst the 2000+ animals. If you’ve never experienced the sheer majesty of having a massive ray swim over you at an aquarium, I would 10/10 recommend.

The Coca-Cola Store (near MGM Grand and Park MGM properties) is a semi-tacky tourist trap. Still, I have an undying love for it. I adore the Around the World tasting tray offering 16 beverages imported from countries all over the globe. Inca Kola from Peru is probably one of my all-time favorite sodas.

While the Around the World tasting tray offers many delicious and exotic flavors, the Beverly from Italy is something of an acquired taste.

Eat:

Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen (in the LINQ casino) is a great stop! Whether you’re a fan of the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” or just a hearty portion size after traipsing the city. The “Trash Can Nachos” don’t disappoint. Neither does the “Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheeseburger” topped with onion straws and Fieri’s trademarked “Donkey Sauce.” 

Guy Fieri on Dec 20, 2013. Photo By Denise Truscello.

Buffets are a staple in Vegas and nearly every casino serves one. The buffets come at a range of prices, especially when you venture to properties off of The Strip. Buffets are a great option for big families or groups with diverse palates and dietary restrictions. The Buffet at Wynn (3131 S Las Vegas Blvd.) is probably the most well-known buffet and one of the priciest. Some of my favorite Vegas buffets are Flavors at Planet Hollywood (3667 S Las Vegas Blvd.), The Buffet at The Bellagio (3600 S Las Vegas Blvd.), and Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas (3655 S Las Vegas Blvd.) 

Explore: 

Downtown Vegas or Fremont Street are certainly worth breaking off from the more trafficked and relatively newer Vegas Strip. The Golden Nugget (129 E Fremont St.) is home to one of the world’s largest gold nuggets. The nugget even has a name– The Hand of Faith. This whopping 875 troy ounces (60lbs) of gold is on display for all to see in the hotel’s lobby.

The Hand of Faith was purchased for over $1 Million from a man in Victoria, Australia who stumbled across it with his metal detector in 1980.

Binion’s (128 E Fremont St.) is another stop to note for their $1 million cash display. Many favor Downtown Vegas for its more walkable size. You can easily stroll past all the casinos on Fremont Street in a leisurely five to ten minutes. Whereas you would be pushing it pounding the pavement between Mandalay Bay and Treasure Island in less than an hour. Drinks, restaurants, and hotels are all generally less pricey near Fremont Street. But the older hotels and casinos are not as updated or luxurious as the more ostentatious properties of The Strip.

If you’re planning a bachelor or bachelorette party, check out The Fremont Street Experience (read more below!) At night, it’s akin to a Bourbon Street experience in New Orleans meets Times Square in New York City.

Entertainment: The Freemont Street Experience – 425 Fremont St. Suite 250

There are myriad ways to entertain just about everyone on a Vegas weekend. Street performers, live music, and DJs are scattered across the pedestrian thoroughfare vying for attention from all sides. Suspended 90 feet above Fremont Street is Viva Vision, the world’s largest digital display. It starts at the top of the hour from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. nightly. Each six to eight minute show features a visual interpretation of hit music from legendary artists. Make sure to check their lineup to catch your favorites. 

For anyone following the adage “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” Freemont also offers a plethora of adult entertainment.

The Golden Nugget Casino, originally built in 1946, was one of the first built in the city.

Vegas Weekend Day Three:

Eat: Tom’s Urban – 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S

This foodie spot is on the esplanade in front of the New York-New York Hotel (3790 S Las Vegas Blvd.) It is a great spot for a farewell brunch on your final Vegas weekend day. Tom’s serves breakfast until 11 a.m. and bottomless mimosas until 2 p.m. daily. Hollandaise speaks to my soul, so anytime I do brunch, I don’t pass up a delicious eggs Benedict. The “Classic Benedict” at Tom’s Urban does not disappoint.

Their patio has a lovely view of The Strip and the esplanade. MGM put in the esplanade with their rebrand of Monte Carlo as the Park MGM. At the same time they put in a lovely little park between NYNY and the Park MGM. The park features fascinating sculptures as well as tables and benches if you’re looking for a place to relax. Even with the most comfortable shoes, my doggies are barking on the last day from traversing Las Vegas Boulevard.

Explore:

The Big Apple Coaster (atop the New York-New York Hotel) offers a thrilling view of The Strip. Running at 67 miles an hour, it was the world’s first coaster to include a 180-degree “heartline” twist. If you’re too full from brunch or not a fan of a 203 ft drop, there’s an arcade located nearby. Thanks to the arcade, anyone not inclined to ride the thrill coaster can still be entertained.

Photo of The Big Apple Coaster loop provided by MGM Resorts.

Big Shot (atop the STRAT) further down boulevard catapults you from its platform. You are hurdling at 921 feet to the tower’s max height 1,081 feet above The Strip. This is a must if you like big drops. The STRAT has three thrill rides from its observation deck. All great options for thrill seekers not content with just an aerial view of The Strip from behind glass. I personally prefer the views afforded from the shorter Eiffel Tower and High Roller experiences, but the STRAT is the city’s highest vantage point.

The Neon Boneyard (770 Las Vegas Blvd. N) is a fantastic stop for those that love the glitz and nostalgic feel of Downtown Vegas. The Neon Museum showcases and preserves iconic signs dating back to the 1930’s as a means of telling Vegas’ story. Some of the signs on display are still running and illuminated at all times. The museum also features 200 unrestored signs in its collection.

Eat: Eataly – at the Park MGM, 3770 S Las Vegas Blvd.

Eataly is a great option if you’re looking for another bite to eat before heading to the airport. Eataly has upscale Italian dining halls in other cities as well, but I never turn away homemade pasta. They have three different restaurants and other quick service counters to cater to a variety of palates though. I also like to stop here for a delicious dinner before a show at The Park Theater.

Hopefully these suggestions help you find your way and make the most of a Vegas weekend! Don’t forget we have a 10% discount for you to snag a Vegas tour with Big Bus Tours! You never know what’s gonna happen in Sin City, so it’s best to keep a loose schedule. I encourage all visitors to try random food you see as you’re walking or follow the sound of whatever music you hear playing, because you never know what you might stumble upon. And who knows if you’ll stumble upon it again.

The Bellagio Gardens had a stunning sculpture adorned with flowers for the 2021 Summer display.

5 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica

To be completely honest, Costa Rica was never on my bucket list. I had seen the photos of the gorgeous country, the wide variety of animals, and the food that words cannot begin to describe, and yet it just never called to me. That changed the second I laid eyes on the lush, dreamy views from the plane, from the van, and our hotel rooms. Costa Rica changed me. And I will try to explain why you need to visit Costa Rica even though words are simply not enough.

1. You will go on amazing adventures

I have always wanted to see a rainforest. My husband and I were supposed to go to Puerto Rico for our honeymoon four years ago, but Hurricane Maria had other plans. When I realized we would get to spend extended time in the rainforests of Costa Rica I was smitten. Even outside of the rainy season (May – November) the air is thick with humidity, yet even sweating through my clothes couldn’t stop my grin when I spotted my first sloth. 

There is so much to see when you visit Costa Rica even beyond the vast rainforests, you cannot even begin to imagine the sorts of memories you will make. I’m so glad I packed my Vai Athletica utility bras so, even if I didn’t have pockets, I could have my phone to capture every moment. I have an unreasonable number of sloth photos and I don’t regret a single one. 

Me and my amazing friend Cait Kontalis on a beach in Costa Rica.
Me and my amazing friend Cait Kontalis in Costa Rica.

2. The coffee is heaven

As someone who loves their morning, noon, and sometimes even evening coffee, this point was a huge bonus for me. If you get a chance to go to the Doka Estate to learn about how coffee beans are grown, harvested, roasted, and even sunbathed, do it. You will have a much greater appreciation for your cuppa forever. If you’re particularly lucky you’ll have the opportunity to try their frozen cocoa coffee concoction which is hands down the only thing I want to drink for the rest of my life. (And if you’re the luckiest person you have a tour guide like Jose Mendez who will track down the recipe for you to make at home.)

3. Costa Rica is serious about Mother Nature

As a traveler, I’m very aware of the environmental harm done by travel, particularly over-tourism. Costa Rica is one of the only places I’ve ever been that takes environmentalism to heart. So much so that feeding wildlife can get you a hefty fine or even imprisoned. If you see a hotel boasting that the wild monkeys near or on their property are there for you to interact with, don’t trust that. Interacting with wildlife is unbelievably harmful to the ecosystem and endangers the lives of those animals–when humans are no longer perceived as a threat, animals are more likely to die in accidents or by hunting. 

According to Business Leader, Costa Rica runs on 99% renewable power sources, they plan on eliminating fossil fuels by 2050, they’ve been a leader in tackling deforestation since the 1980s and they are well on their way to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral country. 

A gorgeous male sloth at the Sloth Park, taken by my husband Kyle of Haggerty Photography.
A gorgeous male sloth at the Sloth Park, taken by my husband Kyle of Haggerty Photography.

4. You will fall for the food

One word: “casado.” This traditional Costa Rican dish can be found at most restaurants and is now one of my favorite dishes of all time. Derived from the word for “marriage,” a casado is a plated meal with salad, black beans, rice, plantains, tortilla(s), and often a protein like chicken, fish, etc. I love an opportunity to have a little bit of everything in a meal, especially when I’m traveling, so ordering a casado is a no-brainer for me. Plus every restaurant makes it differently, so it is fun to see how everyone adds their own flair to the dish. 

Costa Rican cuisine is also very well suited for people with dietary restrictions, especially gluten intolerances. Most of the tortillas you will encounter are corn-based.

5. The country is home to 6% of Earth’s biodiversity

Despite its small size, Costa Rica is home to 6% of the biodiversity on Earth which is an astonishing number. That doesn’t mean it has myriad plants, animals, and bugs (although it certainly does), it means that it is home to some of the most intricate ecosystems on the planet. The sheer number of natural systems at play every second in Costa Rica is so magical, it boggles the mind that so much natural magnificence can exist in such a little piece of our world. Costa Rica’s biodiversity is a huge reason why the country is so dedicated to protecting its nature and rightfully so. 

When you visit Costa Rica and find yourself in a rainforest, admiring how high the trees of the canopy grow, yet they still give enough light to the plant life far below them, you’ll understand why the country left such a big imprint on my heart. 

The Tárcoles River at sunset.
The Tárcoles River at sunset.

48 Hours in New Orleans

Mardi Gras is far from the only time New Orleans calls to me. The Crescent City is one of those places that makes my heart sing in ways I can’t describe. But what if you only have 48 hours in New Orleans? Can you really experience a modicum of what the city has to offer?

I bet you can.

The itinerary I share here is one that I’ve done (though perhaps not in order). And if you’re going to do a whirlwind weekend or spontaneous trip to NOLA, this should be your guide. Make the most of your 48 hours in New Orleans!

Save on your hotel - hotelscombined.com

Day 1

Hotel: The Higgins Hotel – 1000 Magazine St.
Mural of people working during WWII that you can enjoy during 48 hours in New Orleans at the Higgins Hotel.

Don’t miss out on this gem of a hotel. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in the WWII Museum next to it, this hotel is modern day meets Art Deco dream. The art on the walls throughout The Higgins is distinctly focused on the people both at home and abroad during the second World War which gives it a distinct flair I haven’t seen anywhere else. This place is a wonderful home for any jet setter’s 48 hours in New Orleans.

Nothing beats the mural behind the concierge desk or the breathtaking chandelier in the lobby, but the rest of the hotel comes pretty close.

Excursion: Head to the French Quarter

(Stops are listed in walking proximity )

If you haven’t been to New Orleans before, you’ll want to grab the iconic pictures by the cathedral and Jackson Square (701 Decatur St.). If you can go inside the St. Louis Cathedral, I recommend it. It is beyond gorgeous. Do be mindful that it is a place of worship even if there isn’t a service happening, folks often gather inside to pray.

A darling red panda I picked up from Gallery Burguieres on my last 48 hours in New Orleans.

Just a two minute stroll from Jackson Square is my favorite NOLA art gallery–Gallery Burguieres. Owner Ally Burguieres’ work is full of charming creatures of all sizes, including the possums that she rescues. Have you ever wanted art made by rescue possums? You will after stopping in her gallery! It’s easy to spot her shop on Royal St. with two adorable giraffes bookending the shop’s name. Be prepared to leave with art that is too cute for words, I always do.

Shop: Maskarade – 630 St Ann St.

You can buy a mask just about anywhere in NOLA, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better selection than at Maskarade. With handmade pieces from local, national and even Venetian master mask makers, there is something for everyone at Maskarade. I fell in love with this shop during my first visit to New Orleans and make a point to stop back multiple times whenever I visit.

Drink: Pat O’Brien’s – 718 St. Peter

I don’t often go out of my way to recommend touristy places, so Pat O’Brien’s on St. Peter is an exception to the rule. Rumor has it this bar, originally a speakeasy during Prohibition, invented the Hurricane drink which became a NOLA classic. So if you’re a fan of a classic, passion fruit inspired libation, don’t miss this stop.

Eat: Cornet – 700 Bourbon St.

If you’re feeling peckish after that Hurricane (or three, no judgement), just around the corner is Cornet. Besides the tasty food (get at least two orders of Bourbon Street Crab Cakes), there is often balcony seating. No matter what time of year or day there is plenty to see on Bourbon street. So grab a seat at Cornet and people watch to your heart’s content.

Drink: Spirits on Bourbon – 615 Bourbon St.
A delectable Resurrection drink from Spirits on Bourbon you can't pass up during 48 hours in New Orleans.

Even if you aren’t familiar with Spirits on Bourbon, which was featured on “Bar Rescue,” this Bourbon St. bar is a lot of fun and their “world famous” Resurrection drink is to die for. A blue curaçao, spiced rum concoction? Yes, please! Spirits’ signature drink is refreshing even in the harshest Louisiana weather. And, not to worry, if you aren’t a fan of the bright, flashing lights of this souvenir skull, you can turn them off. Be warned – people will ask you where you got this drink, so don’t forget where Spirits is!

Tour: Ghost City Tours – ghostcitytours.com

You can’t go to NOLA, a city with such fascinating history, without indulging in the paranormal. Even with just 48 hours in New Orleans you have plenty of time to enjoy a spooky tour. There are a variety of ghost tours to choose from (I’ve done several) but my favorite by far is Ghost City Tours. They have several tours to choose from including a haunted pub option as well as the adults only Killers and Thrillers. If you want a well rounded look at NOLA’s haunted history, their Ghosts of New Orleans Tour is for you. You’ll get an inside look at the city’s insidious side with some of the best guides you can find.

Drink: Pirate’s Alley Cafe – 622 Pirates Alley

Your Ghost City Tour will probably end near the St. Louis Cathedral which is right next to Pirate’s Alley Cafe. This gem is tucked away beneath the mighty church’s shadow, but don’t let that fool you! The “absinthe” cocktails, pirate theme and casual locale is a great place to wind down after a long day of exploring the Crescent City. Don’t blink or you’ll miss this charming little spot.

Day 2

(After the museum, other stops are listed based on walking proximity)

Food: Cafe Beignet – 622 Canal St.

There are several Cafe Beignet locations around NOLA. What makes this spot desirable is that it is on Canal Street, another busy thoroughfare in New Orleans. Perhaps you ant to grab a chicory coffee to go before perusing the area? Don’t forget your beignet(s)! There’s a reason they are Tiana’s specialty in Disney’s “Princess and the Frog.” They’re divine.

Excursion: Southern Food and Beverage Museum – 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.

Even if you aren’t a foodie or a cocktail aficionado, this museum is an absolute blast. Did you know the same man behind Popeye’s, Al Copeland, was the first to feature an onion mum or “Bloomin’ Onion” in his restaurant Copeland’s? Or that the Old Fashioned isn’t just old school, it’s the original cocktail? If you’ve got extra time the museum also houses a bar and cooking classes as well, so you could easily spend a whole day here.

Tour: Sazerac House – 101 Magazine St.
Taking a selfie with my digital bartender at The Sazerac House during 48 hours in New Orleans.

New Orleans’ history of libations is vast and The Sazerac is part of that varied history. The Sazerac House, near the 1850 Sazerac Coffee House where the cocktail was invented, marries interactive technology with sippable moments. Savor sample drinks while learning how to make a variety of drinks, reading up on the medicinal history of alcohol and NOLA’s incredible beverage background. You can even take a selfie with your virtual bartender at one exhibit!

Eat: Killer Poboys – 219 Dauphine St.

Your early activities will get you plenty hungry for a NOLA style lunch. What better way to dine than to nab some of the tastiest poboys around? This Killer Poboys location is a less than 10 minute walk from the Sazerac House. Enjoy a simple shrimp poboy or more complex pecan butter & jelly. Or, it’s nontraditional, but the whiskey grilled cheese is unbelievable. Who can resist any sandwich that involves Irish whiskey? Not I.

Excursion: Steamboat Natchez – 400 Toulouse St.

Sit back for a chill riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River with the Steamboat Natchez. A floating piece of history that gives you an unforgettable view of The Big Easy, the Natchez is an icon. You don’t need to worry much about motion sickness either, take it from someone who brings dramamine everywhere, so breathe deep. A 48 hour trip to New Orleans doesn’t have to be about rushing everywhere, take some time to relax.

Food: Sylvain – 625 Chartres St.
The cornbread you can't miss at Sylvain during 48 hours in New Orleans.

After your riverboat adventure, pop over to Sylvain for more delectable New Orleans fare. Toast your final evening in the city with a “Champagne” Cocktail, a fizzy fusion of sparkling wine, lavender and citrus. Indulge in cast iron cornbread (the best I’ve ever had) before one of their many delightful dinners. Do save room for a chocolate pot du creme though–it’s well worth it.

Drink: Rosie’s on the Roof – 1000 Magazine St. (Higgins Hotel)

If your night is still young, head back to The Higgins and make your way to the roof. Rosie’s on the Roof is a spectacular spot to bid adieu to the place you’ve enjoyed for the last 48 hours in New Orleans. Raise a glass in Rosie the Riveter style to the Crescent City and take in her spectacular views before bed. You really can’t beat Rosie’s patio even after sunset.

A view from Rosie's on the Roof that will make it hard to say goodbye even after just 48 hours in New Orleans.
The view from Rosie’s on the Roof at sunset.

Do Ants Bite?

What to do about it when they do!

Any seasoned traveler knows that adventures can sometimes be uncomfortable. If you’re unlucky like my partner and I were on the island of Nevis, you might stumble upon a fire ant nest. So, should you bother a nest of ants, here is what to do about the ant bites they leave behind.

Most of these tricks can be easily done from the comfort of your hotel/Airbnb/hostel room as well if you’re abroad.

red ants walking on green leaf. This article describes what to do about ant bites.
Photo by Thang Cao on Pexels.com

Ice, Ice Baby

Probably the easiest way to negate the itchiness of ant bites is to apply ice. If you have access to actual ice, wrap it in a washcloth or t-shirt and put it on your bite. Do not use heat, the cold will reduce any swelling as well as the pain and itches.

If you don’t have access to ice, try a cold, damp washcloth. It’ll help you in the same ways ice will.

Take An Allergy Med

When it comes to reducing swelling, a good ol’ allergy medicine will be your best friend. I always pack antihistamines anyway, but if that’s not a habit for you it might be a good idea to start. Allergy medications help with ant bite symptoms as well as all kinds of creepy-crawly bites.

Essentialize Those Oils

Essential oils are trendy, I get it. (And no, I promise this isn’t an MLM pitch) Even so, there are some oils that really come in handy with bug bites (among so many other things) when you’re traveling. Slather any kind of bug bite, ants included, with peppermint, tea tree, lavender, chamomile, or lemongrass oil to relieve the itching sensation and maybe even reduce redness. Some folks recommend camphor oil too-I just don’t like how it smells.

(Don’t forget these oils need to be under 3 oz and in your liquids bag if you travel carry-on only.)

Neosporin to the Rescue

When all else fails, Neosporin will save you from a world of hurt/discomfort. Plus it’s usually easy to find, even abroad, so that makes it a great go-to for all your bug bite-related needs.

What to Pack for New York in April

Instagram would lead you to believe that everyone in New York City looks and dresses like a model. So if you’re visiting the city what the heck do you wear? Here’s a suggestion of what to pack for New York in April! (When weather is super variable)

If there is one thing I can teach anyone about visiting New York City, it’s this: be comfy. Over the course of my weekend in NYC in October (another temperamental time for weather) I walked nearly 70,000 steps (that’s 35 miles) without even realizing it. That’s even more than venturing around New Orleans! You just walk everywhere in New York, how else can you experience the city?

While I was there, of course, I went to Broadway! I had to see Thoughts of a Colored Man and Is This a Room? which were both spectacular. But, when you’re spending the day trekking through Manhattan, you need some versatility in your wardrobe. 

How should you dress in NYC? Comfort, style or both? In this photo you can see the straps of my Vai Athletica bra that I wore on a trip while I'm sitting in the United Club Lounge. Here is what to pack for New York in April.
I even wear my Vai Athletica bra when trying to fit in with fancy people in the United Club Lounge. (The business suited gentleman behind me was not amused by my selfie moment. So I cropped him out.)

Enter Vai Athletica stage right!

Not only are the Vai Athletica utility bras comfortable for hours on end, they’re not bulky like some other sports bras can be. So you can wear them under a variety of clothes, even your sporty looks for the theater. I still absolutely endorse dressing for comfort though, walking in the city can be sweaty, stinky and cumbersome if you prioritize fashion over function. Especially in spring, this is something you’ll want to pack for New York in April.

I promise no one will judge you for wearing joggers and a sweatshirt when you’re doing touristy things in Times Square. Have you seen the off-brand superheroes and Mickey Mouse? You’ll be more fashionable, I guarantee it. Honestly, the Empire State Building viewing platform looks the same whether you’re wearing designer or denim, so you might as well not hate what you’re wearing after 14 hours of sightseeing. 

When you are inevitably starving by 6 p.m., do yourself a favor and hop over to Junior’s to get yourself some cheesecake. The slices are big enough that they should count as a meal. If you’re still hungry there are a million food carts around the city. It’s almost as if NYC has a food inspired nickname of some kind.

Quick word of advice

If you’re seeing NYC for the first time, and you aren’t used to the hustle of a major city, take a deep breath before walking into Downtown. You’ll probably be surrounded by throngs of people trying to get somewhere in a hurry (or not). So, pay attention and don’t cause a foot traffic jam. When it comes to taking in your surroundings, step out of the river of people. Not only will you feel less stressed, you’ll also have a moment to digest the sprawling metropolis around you.

NYC is a helluva town. The marquee lights of Broadway always get me. My heart may be in Chicago, but that doesn’t make New York’s lights shine any less brightly. 

OH. And if you see Lin-Manuel Miranda traipsing around the city, wave at him for me okay?

Guest Homophobia

Sharing this experience is in no way meant to downplay the bigotry faced by queer couples on vacation. This is simply a reflection from one queer traveler to you on one instance of guest homophobia.

Back in 2019, one of my best friends was able to attend a media trip with me as my photographer. We were roommates for most of college, so we’re very comfortable with one another. Because of that, or because we’re very affectionate people, we’re also used to folks assuming that we’re a couple. What we weren’t ready for was the passive-aggressive, outdated guest homophobia at the resort.

One couple at the boutique resort avoided us like the plague.

I wish that were just a euphemism. They truly acted like they would be infected if they came near us.

One of my best friends and I were on a trip together when we discovered homophobes at the resort. We kept smiling even when they glared in situations of resort guest homophobia.
Tori (right) and I.

The inciting incident(s)

In the salt water pool one morning, I approached the couple to ask what time it was (he was wearing a watch). The man grimaced, curtly stated the time, and the two promptly left the pool. We were the only ones in it besides them. At the time, we brushed it off as a weird coincidence that they left so quickly after we got in. That is, until later when we were on a boat with them.

A group of folks, including that couple, from the resort went out on a catamaran to do some tranquility meditation in the ocean. As we re-embarked onto the boat after the outing, I was walking along the narrow pathway to get back to Tori. As I walked past the man, he leaned as far away from me as humanly possible, to the point that he could’ve fallen off of the boat.

That’s when I realized they were avoiding us.

Later on that same day I heard that they refused* (*pitched a fit) to attend a special dinner arranged by the resort because the person arranging it was openly gay. To say Tori and I were outraged to hear this would be an understatement. That same evening we spoke to another pair of girlfriends who visit that resort biannually together. They experienced the same behavior that we did with that same couple.

There weren’t even 50 people staying at that boutique resort that week. Were they really going to be hateful towards 10% of the guests? Give me a break.

Don’t let rich people off the hook

Here’s the thing. I am queer. I’m a pandemisexual (a person on the asexual spectrum) woman with a male spouse. Tori is also in the asexuality spectrum. We’ve adapted to people not understanding our sexuality, but have never experienced that kind of homophobia before.

The sad part is, I could never afford to go back to that resort. And yet, those homophobic guests probably behave that way at every vacation destination they visit. I bet any amount of their money that their behavior is a constant and tolerated because they are wealthy.

I know that money plays a huge role in the travel industry, it has to under capitalism. What doesn’t have to happen is for resorts to tolerate (and thereby approve of) guest homophobia. Queer folks shouldn’t have to bend to the will of the straight, wealthy white people on vacation or anywhere else. We have just as much right to exist and have a good time as anyone else–but hopefully a better time than those homophobes.

Tori and I reported their behavior to any staffers we thought could have any impact in part because was a small enough resort that you saw the same people throughout the day. We also didn’t want any queer couples to have to deal with these people’s nonsense in future scenarios, so we tried to make an impact. I have no idea if our interventions did anything, we just did what we thought was the best recourse.

Their hateful nonsense didn’t stop us from enjoying our work trip. For the rest of our stay we scoped them out. Sometimes we’d go out of our way to walk by them even if we didn’t have to. Any time we saw them we’d hold hands, smile, wave and be on our merry little way.

Kill guest homophobia with kindness.

Gifts for Flight Attendants

Flight attendants, crew members, and other folks that work to ensure our flights are safe and comfortable are under appreciated and undervalued. In addition to a simple “thank you,” some people bring small tokens of appreciation to gift to their crews. So, what can you give to flight attendants? What are good gifts for flight attendants?

Your creativity is the limit, but there are some things that are better gifts than others. If you want to bring something along to thank your crews, read on! And don’t forget to put your name or seat number (or both) on your gift so crew members can thank you.

(Sometimes small tokens of appreciation have been reciprocated by flight crews for special goodies or even seat upgrades. But giving gifts to the crew should always be done out of generosity, not wanting something in return.)

assorted gift bags with cords on brown background - perfect for gifts for flight attendants.
What can you give to flight attendants? You can always make up little gift bags with multiple things from our list!

Cash

Giving flight crews some cash as a tip might feel like a natural answer (especially if you’re American where tipping is common), but flight attendants aren’t allowed to carry cash (per Reader’s Digest). So as nice as giving cash might seem, do refrain.

A Flight Themed Notebook

Journals and notebooks really come in handy for jotting down ideas on the go, or locking adventures into memory. Notebooks like this one (which I actually designed) highlight the special nature of a flight attendant’s job. What could be better?

Gift Cards

Denominations of $5 or $10 (or more if you’re particularly generous) in gift cards for places like Starbucks, Subway, Amazon or other common places are welcomed. Gift cards do not fall under the “no cash” rule and they’re easy to pack away to quickly grab for crew members.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of flight crew members might be different. You can check with your airline with your flight number and they’ll tell you how many members to plan for.

Candy

Individually wrapped candy is a good bet. You can them out into individual baggies or hand the whole bag/container to the crew. After all, everyone could use a sweet little pick-me-up. In my experience Lindt chocolate truffles, Hershey’s kisses, and Ferrero Rocher are winners. Sweets are the perfect gifts for flight attendants!

Please don’t bring homemade candy or treats. Crews aren’t supposed to accept homemade treats for safety reasons.

Hand Sanitizer

Everyone can use more hand sanitizer, especially right now and in the regular flu season. If you can tuck a few mini hand sanitizers into your liquids bag, these are handy (pun intended) gifts they’re sure to appreciate.

Hand Lotion

In the same way that hand sanitizer is always welcome, lotions are too. When you’re constantly washing or sanitizing your hands, spending time in dry airplane air or working with your hands, your skin takes a beating. Small hand lotions are a great way to thank crews for everything they do.

Pens

A flight attendant told me that pens are something they’re always happy to receive. They use, lose and use up pens frequently, yet aren’t always something people think of as gifts for flight attendants. So, jot that down!

Cards

You don’t have to spend a fortunate to make flight crews feel appreciated. A simple, handwritten card means the world. If you just write down your thanks for crew members, you don’t know the difference you could make in their day. Plus it’s something they can share with other flight crews as well. Why not make everyone feel appreciated?

Gifts for Airplane Lovers

Frequent travelers are always so hard to shop for, but fear not! We’ve rounded up the best gifts for airplane lovers of all kinds. There are sure to be pieces here for the special person in your heart.

Steeped

If your traveler is like me and drinks their weight in coffee every day but hates instant, Steeped will be their new best friend. Steeped coffee comes in tea bags for easy caffeination on the go. This coffee might be fast, but it’s not stale or funky tasting like my arch-nemesis instant coffee.

California Blend Medium Roast Steeped Coffee
Photo from Steeped Coffee

At Home with Ray

A luxurious, fashion-forward traveler will appreciate the scarves and other gorgeous silk products from At Home with Ray. Their pieces are so luscious they will remember you every time they wear their scarves out and about. Plus traveling with scarves or wraps makes dressing up a casual outfit a breeze.

A scarf from At Home with Ray - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo from At Home with Ray

Stojo

I’ve written about my Stojo, collapsible, travel coffee cup before. I adore them. They’re an easy way to be environmentally minded on the go, plus they are easy to clean. I recommend Stojos to everyone. They even have other collapsible products now too like water bottles and snack boxes.

Lagoon 12 oz cup - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo from Stojo

Portable Battery Charger

I can’t go on trips without a portable battery charger any more. I’m addicted to them. I specifically love my Anker Powerhouse charger which is powerful enough to charge my laptop for a few hours, but less pricy chargers get the job done too if you just need to keep your phone alive.

Anker charger - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo from Anker

Travel Backpack

A good travel backpack will be your best friend. I love any pack that has a luggage strap to hang onto your suitcase as you’re running through the airport. I don’t mind wearing a backpack but I never want to go back to lugging stuff. My rolling carry-on bag can do the job for me, right?

Travel backpack - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo by Matein

Passport Holder

I am so worried about wrecking my passport, I need to keep it in a passport holder. Being able to have my passport and paperwork in their own little holder is a good alternative to shoving my passport into my backpack which is essentially a black hole.

Passport cover - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo from Pascacoo

Travel Umbrella

I adore rainy places. So much so that travel umbrellas have become a weird niche of mine. You know I won’t be caught in an Irish rainstorm without one. Except for that one time when I did–never again.

Travel umbrella in black
Photo from SY Compact

Eagle Creek Packing Cubes

I know, packing cubes aren’t much of a packing secret at this point. That said, I’ve learned that, like toilet paper, it’s often better to value quality over price. Good, sturdy packing cubes like the variety from Eagle Creek will help you pack more efficiently than cheap ones. Really cheap ones won’t hold your stuff in a nice shape and the zipper will probably give out.

Packing cubes from Eagle Creek - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo from Eagle Creek

Train Case

Especially if I’m not traveling with just a carry-on or if I’m going somewhere by train or car, I am smitten with my train case. It fits all my beauty and skin products in it and mine even hangs from the wall so I can see everything I’ve packed in it in one tidy spot. I absolutely endorse train cases of all kinds, plus they’re really cute.

Train case from Scunci - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo from Scunci

Silk Eye Mask

Silk eye masks are just the best. Whenever I travel I have a hard time falling asleep in new places (or planes) and my silk eye mask is so comfortable. I prefer it to the odd 3D foam masks, but a lot of folks I know love those too. Either way, eye masks are where it’s at.

silk eye mask - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo from VÉNERA

Migraine Stick

Home or on the go, I always have a backup migraine stick with me. If your traveler is a frequent headache or migraine sufferer, these can be the difference between a wasted day on a trip or getting out and seeing the sights. Migraine Sticks are like gold.

Migraine stick - gifts for airplane lovers.
Photo from Basic Vigor

Vai Athletica

Every traveler that wears a bra deserves to have a Vai Athletica utility bra. They are a marvel for traveling, especially if you’re wearing tank tops and you don’t have big pant pockets. The side pockets in Vai Athletica bras are so functional and I personally adore them (plus I own one in every color).

Vai Athletica bra in blue
Photo from Vai Athletica