The Perfect Travel Bag | The Otto From R. Riveter

On Saturday I got back from a two week backpacking trip through Western Europe and Northern Africa and throughout that time I developed a love connection with my newest bag, The Otto, from R. Riveter. Now, I am an ambassador for R. Riveter, but they did not sponsor this post, nor did they pay me to say beautiful things about them. This is, plain and simple, my honest opinion on a bag I think that every travel blogger should own.

Over the past five years of traveling I’ve definitely developed a routine for what works best for me. I have my favorite adaptor, my favorite travel document carrier, and my favorite pack. But I’ve never been able to pin down my favorite travel bag (you know, the one that goes UNDER the seat when you fly). And believe me, I’ve tried to find something that works. If you know me, you know I go through clothes and accessories like my life depends on it, so this is probably the sixth or seventh bag I’ve tried. Luckily, I’ve finally found something I can count on. Here’s why:

Heathrow Airport | London, England

The leather handles are one of my favorite feature with this bag because not only does it come with hand straps, but it also comes with a cross-body strap. This is pretty essential because when I already have a 30 lb pack on my back, the last thing I want is to be carrying a cross-body bag with more stuff in it, and when I’m riding the metro during rush hour (without my pack) the last thing I want is to have to hold on to handles.

Stonehenge | England

When I travel I generally pack very minimal, in regards to clothing. I go for muted colors and a few accessories that can get me through photos without looking like I’ve been cut and pasted into each place. It’s really important to me, therefore, to have a bag that shows quality and simplicity at the same time. The Otto is the perfect balance of chic and also something people notice.

Windsor Castle | England

Size really does matter when it comes to having the perfect travel bag, and The Otto wins this category in spades. The elongated rectangular shape is perfect for putting books, tablets, and other necessities in and I found this so helpful during day trips where I had to have everything I would need for 11 hours in one bag.

Natural History Museum | London, England

When you’re buying  a bag you want it to fit into every part of your lifestyle, and that includes being able to transform as a beautiful day bag for work, to a travel accessory fit for Indiana Jones.

The real question, of course, is how much can you ACTUALLY fit in this thing? Well, for science, I decided to try it out. As you can see, there’s quite a lot that can go in, including (but not limited to) my tablet, a novel, my passport, a water bottle, chapstick, my travel organizer, currency from four different countries, napkins, snacks and postcards. Whew! But honestly, one of the best features of this bag is that it comes with a sturdy zipper to seal all of this madness away. Especially when it comes to stowing it under airplane seats (which I did seven times during this trip), it’s invaluable to know your valuables aren’t going to be sliding back to row 33 during take-off.

Casablanca, Morocco

The pockets are another beautiful, and functional, things about this bag. And let me tell you how much I love beauty and functionality. There are two pockets on the outside of the bag that hug the shape so if you put little items like bus tickets in them they’re not going to blow away. In addition there are two slot pockets on the inside (where I kept my keys, chapstick and other little bits and pieces) and a zipper pocket that stretches almost the length of the back of the bag. This zip pocket I actually used as a wallet for change while I was traveling because I never travel with an actual wallet (story for another time).

Girona, Spain

Stylish, dependable and made by military spouses, there really isn’t a way to lose on this bag. I’m so happy to have mine for this and for all of my future expeditions. It really is the perfect travel companion. Until next time!

Girona, Spain

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Life Hacking My Way To Paris

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Washington State Beauty

I love Monopoly. There are several reasons, such as a desire for world domination, a completely unnecessarily competitive nature and an overbearing Slytherin mindset. But mostly, I like it because it gives you a lifetime worth of money and resources to strategically manipulate in a game lasting a few hours (or longer if you marathon it like me and my siblings did growing up).

I’ve always loved the idea of taking money and finding ways to stretch it beyond what people think it’s capable of – which is probably why I always win Monopoly. If you know my mom, you know where I get this mindset. So, of course, when it came to buying my plane ticket, it was no different.

A couple of months ago I was looking up plane tickets to Paris. I honestly couldn’t believe how much they were. The cheapest were around $1500 – one way.

Knowing that, as an Au Pair, I wouldn’t have a lot of cash flow piling in my bank account (AKA I need to save money, now), I decided that something had to be done. There was no way in hell I was letting $1500 slip through my fingers just to GET TO the country I wanted to live in. So I started researching.

I stumbled across this article on Pintrest that talks about ways to life hack your way around the world; how to travel without paying, or with paying reduced amounts.

I’ve never really looked into life hacking or finding ways around the travel scene, before. I kind of always thought, “Well, that’s the price, so that’s what I have to pay.” False.

After looking up what I would be needing, in regards to travel, I put together a grand scheme.

The next week, I walked into my local Chase bank early one morning (people are nicer in the morning, and they can help you one-on-one because they’re not as busy), and after asking for personal help, and looking up options, I decided on getting my first credit card – joy to the world.

In general, I really hate the idea of credit cards. I don’t like not paying my debts (how Lannister of me) and spending money that’s not mine just doesn’t feel right. I understand why they exist – I just don’t like them.

This time, though, I got a card called the Chase Preferred Sapphire, which allowed me to earn $500 toward my plane ticket as long as I spent $2000 on it during the first three months.

Now, normally, I don’t spend that much money just hanging out with friends (and things like rent and student loans – my main costs – can’t be paid with a credit card) but I did realize, when I got the card, that it was right before tax return season.

Note: As a nanny, I don’t pay my taxes throughout the year but, instead, all at once in Feb/Mar/Apr. 

You’ve probably guessed what I did. Charged that bad boy with my taxes and came out just over $2,000 ($14 over, to be precise). I immediately paid this off, but having spent the initial amount, I still got the voucher.

Then I thought, “Great, I’ve knocked my $1500 down to $1000, but I still think I can do more!”

So I started to look up flights.

Having traveled to the UK before, I knew that Ireland loves people to travel through there, and Dublin will drop its prices drastically in order to get your business. So, I decided to fly into Dublin, and then from there get a smaller plane to Paris.

Side note: I also just LOVE the Dublin airport because they are the most laid back people ever… and I may have really wanted an excuse to hear Irish accents, again. 

Ticket from Seattle to Dublin (after using my $500 voucher) – $448.

Looking up tickets to Paris was a bit harder, but that was because I very specifically wanted to find one that went to Orly airport (the most southern airport in Paris, and more popular – aka more expensive), since that’s where my au pair family said they could pick me up. I settled with a ticket for $200, with a 2 hour layover in Heathrow – another favorite airport (British accents FTW).

Grand total? *drum roll*

$648.

Having saved somewhere around $1000, I feel pretty happy with my plane ticket purchase, and that I have more money in my bank account and a ticket to Paris on my nightstand.

I’ll probably continue life hacking, since this process has the potential to be ridiculously expensive, but so far so good! Have you guys found any awesome life hacks out there while traveling? Send me a comment!

À bientôt!

I've got a golden ticket!
I’ve got a golden ticket!

A Survival Guide To Airports

Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia

I have never flown and not been stopped by security. Maybe it’s due to my too ‘innocent’ baby face, maybe they’re just starving for riveting conversation, but regardless, security guards LOVE to stop me. It’s almost become a joke at this point, as I see them nod to each other about my “suspicious” items (aka headphones or a charger, usually). Brilliant.

In light of my extreme expertise in this field,  I thought I’d give y’all some tips for traveling through airports. I’ve made quite a few mistakes while flying, so here are some de-stressing tips!

1. Bring a refillable water bottle and empty it when you’re going through security, and then fill them up on the other side: If your water bottle is full of liquid when you go through security, it will be confiscated and, depending on the niceness of your security person, you might not ever see it again (regardless of whether it’s reusable). To ensure that you don’t lose your favorite water bottle, pack it empty and then fill it once you get on the other side of security.

2. Wear shoes that are easy to take off and slip back on: I generally travel in lace up boots, which is the worst idea ever. But, if at all possible, try to wear shoes that are easy to take off and slip back on so when you go through security you’re not the girl sitting there trying to re-lace your leather boots for 20 minutes  *like this girl*.

3. Don’t try to bring back jam for your grandmother in your luggage. It is a liquid – and therefore a terrorist threat.

4. Always go to the bathroom in between flights: To save yourself from having to cram in an airplane bathroom, I always advise going to the bathroom in airports during layovers, even if you don’t “need to go” (my nannyness is coming out). Believe me, it will make flying so much more comfortable.

5. Pack an extra pair of underclothing if you’re flying connecting flights/out of the country: If you’ve signed up yourself for a 26 hour flight, make sure your only underclothing isn’t in your luggage, which you probably won’t see again for the next 26 hours. Making sure you have a pair of undies/bra in your carry on can be the deciding factor to holding you together until you’re reunited with your luggage again. Just do it.

6. Bring snacks on the plane: We all know airplane food is less than kosher. One of my favorite fun facts is that the one time  I’ve ever had food poisoning was when I was flying to a third world country – when they warned me about eating the food there. Bring your own favorite snacks. Save money, eat watchu want. Win, win.

7. Bring more than one thing to do on the plane/headphones: Mostly this is for longer flights, but running out of things to can ruin a flight (especially if the movie that’s playing is Wolverine…number 2). Usually I fly with a book, a notebook/journal to write/draw in, iPod, and some kind of activity book (Suduku, Crosswords etc.)

8. Don’t ever buy pre paid phones in international airports: NEVER EVER EVER buy electronics in the airport when you’re traveling internationally. You’ll probably end up paying 3x the actual value of something. Make sure you pre-plan on things like prepaid phones before you leave, or look for a shop that sells them after you leave the airport.

9. Make sure you know what customs line you’re standing in: This is brilliant. I repeatedly get put in the wrong customs line. Probably because people just have no idea “what” I am. In India, I was Indian. In Ireland, I was French. People just can’t get it straight. Just make sure you let the airport workers know what country you’re from when you ask what line to do in – and before you end up wasting 30 minutes of your life.

10. Never let your belongings out of your sight: I’ve never had anything stolen from me, probably because I watch my belongings like a hawk. But friends of mine, have. Just remember to keep your belonging close to you when you travel. Especially if you’re backpacking and you’re carrying all your belongings on your back – Don’t. Lose. Them.

11. Make friends with strangers that know larger airports: I love making friends with people I sit next to on planes…mainly because they can’t leave if I try to talk to them. I make it a personal mission to find people who have been where I’m going and ask them questions. It’s the best way not to waste time in airports, and you get to make new friends. Yay!

12. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when trying to find a connecting flight: I don’t really like talking to people in general, but when I travel I force myself. You can get extremely lost, miss your flight or get stuck in an airport if you don’t have some kind of information. It’s not worth it. Just ask people for help when you don’t know what’s going on.

13. Two words: Window. Seat.:  If at all possible, I ALWAYS get a window seat. It’s so much more fun than being squeezed in between two people. Not only can you fall asleep against something, but you get to see the country you’re going to from the sky. Glory.

14. If you get pulled to the side while going through security, don’t freak out: Like I said before, I’ve never NOT been stopped by security and (in my opinion) I’m not very intimidating looking. Security personnel are just trying to do their job. If you happen to get pulled to the side, think of it as a good thing. You stood out from the crowd *cyber high-five*! But, really, keep calm and just be nice to the people working there. You’ll be fine. 🙂

15. Be nice to the people who are working there: People who work in airports have to see people traveling every day while staying where they are. Personally, I think that sounds like some kind of hell. So, throw a smile someone’s way. Ask them how they’re doing. And always say ‘thank you’ when someone helps you out! Let’s spread a little courtesy no matter what continent we’re on!