Traveling Solo, Turning 30 & Other Unpopular Activities I Highly Recommend

solo travel

“You’re doing WHAT?!”

That was the most common reaction I received upon sharing my 30th birthday plans. (ICYMI, I did a – gasp – solo mystery vacay via Pack Up + Go!)

But it wasn’t the surprise part that startled most, it was the solo part.

Most people gazed at me with sympathetic eyes, ready to whip out their violins and throw me a pity party because they thought it was such a tragedy that I’d have to go somewhere by my little lonesome. Like it was automatically assumed that I must be sad and alone if I had to travel by myself.

In a world that preaches self-love and acceptance – why is it so unfathomable that one would want to spend time alone? I actually like spending time with myself and I think it’s a concept that should be more widely embraced.

Let me assure you, I have friends. I have a core group of besties that I would die for. I have the best parents in the entire world, a little brother I adore more than anything, and a husband of almost 7 years – all of whom most definitely would have gone with me if I had asked them to. But I didn’t.

For my 30th birthday, I wanted to go on an adventure and have an experience that was solely mine. If you’ve never traveled solo, I could see how this might sound crazy. But I’ve had some of the absolute best experiences of my life all by myself. Hear me out.

Four years ago I took my first solo trip (to LA). My travel companion was supposed to be my husband, but he found himself suddenly unable to go. Instead of canceling the trip, I had the craziest idea. What if I went by myself? And instead of doing all of the couple-focused activities I had on the itinerary… What if I went solo and did whatever the hell I wanted?

So I did. I stayed in beautiful historic downtown Pasadena where I walked everywhere to take in (and fall in love with) the scenery. I attended the IMATS for the first time. I got my makeup and hair professionally done just for the hell of it. I swam naked at a spa with a bunch of strangers. I ate what I wanted to and I drank what I wanted to and I didn’t consult any other soul about where to go and what to do.

It was one of the most liberating experiences of my entire life and I will forever cherish the memory of that trip… and the fire it lit within me. That trip empowered me to be fearless. It proved to me that I can do whatever I want without anyone holding my hand or telling me how. Forever after that trip, I stood a little taller and spoke a little louder and took solace in knowing that I am in complete control of my own happiness.

Since then I’ve embarked on over a dozen solo trips, each one of them exciting, empowering, and enlightening in their own way. And my most recent was no different.

On my solo 30th trip to Denver, I ignored my phone (not completely, but more than I usually do). I wandered with no particular place to go, staring at the mountains and breathing in the mile-high air. I ate elk hotdogs and drank multiple bottles of Champagne. I got a Vichy shower (Google it). I ate pot gummies (legally!), blasted Amy Winehouse and danced around my haunted hotel room in a plushy robe. It was cozy and relaxing and everything I wanted to be. These moments were not only perfect, but completely my own, with no one around to effect my energy. (Except the ghosts.)

Throughout it all, I reflected on the 30 years of beautiful life I’ve been blessed to live. I normally reserve my use of the term “blessed” for sarcastic hashtagging purposes, but in this case, I truly mean it.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t go on trips with people you love. Do that! I do it too. I’m just saying that if one of those people you love happens to be you and you decide to travel alone, you might just discover a new part of yourself and have the best time of your life.

I know I did.

Pack Up + Go Review

Pack Up and Go Review

I did something a little unorthodox to celebrate my 30th birthday.

After struggling to decide what to do to commemorate this milestone, I chose to escape on a solo surprise vacay via Pack Up + Go!

What is Pack Up + Go, you ask? Cliff’s Notes version: Think of them as a surprise travel agency that specializes in three-day weekend trips. The kicker is that you don’t know where you’re going until the day you leave. Yes, you read that right.

I literally told anyone who would listen about it and got quite a reaction. Read on to hear more about my experience and the answers to FAQ’s from everyone I blabbed to…

How does it work?

Nearly everyone I talked to about this, online and otherwise, was like, “Wait, WHAT? How do they know where to send you?”

An excellent question! You start the process by filling out a basic questionnaire that asks for some insight about your travel preferences (and allows you to express areas you don’t want to travel to). 

The survey asks whether you prefer action or relaxation and also prompts you to check off hobbies and interests. See below for a snapshot of the survey:

Screen Shot 2017-04-09 at 6.14.51 PM

In mine, I checked off basically anything having to do with food/alcohol and spas, relaxation, and nature. I skipped all of the fitness and outdoor sports options. (#yolo)

I noted that I did not want to go to Austin or Nashville as I had just traveled to both places within the last couple months. I also requested that I not be sent to Florida, LA, and Vegas as I travel fairly often to all three. 

What is the cost?

The beauty of this service is that you pick your own budget. Full disclosure – I set a fairly high budget for my trip ($1,000) because it was for my 30th birthday and I didn’t mind forking over a little more cash than I normally would.

You could set a budget as low as $400 – it would just mean that you’d likely be traveling by car to a nearish destination vs. flying across a country to stay in a luxury hotel.

How do you know what to pack?

A week prior to my departure, I got an email giving me a heads up on the weather so I would have an idea of what to pack. They gave me the forecast and tips like to bring walking shoes (“you’ll be covering a lot of ground”) and an empty stomach (“this place has some seriously good food – and drinks”).

The email also included necessary information about my departure for planning purposes – “go to LaGuardia airport, terminal B, at 6:45 a.m.” 

Were you afraid you’d hate your destination?

Strangely, no. I trusted that they wouldn’t send me somewhere terrible. I’m also kind of an adventure junkie, so I figured that I’d be able to find something to do no matter where they sent me. If all else failed, my plan was to find a bar and make a memory no matter what.

However, right before I left I did suddenly I have all these panicky thoughts flooding my brain about the travel portion of my trip. What if the flight they book for me doesn’t match my picky travel preferences? What if I have a million layovers? Oh god, what if they fly me on Spirit?! (Spoiler alert: None of that happened.) 

When did you find out your destination?

The morning of my departure! They send you an envelope with your destination and an itinerary inside about five days before you leave with the direction not to open the envelope until the day you leave. Of course, you can cheat and open it early, but I didn’t want to. 

Where did they send you?!

Denver, CO! It was absolutely incredible. Keep an eye out for my love letter to Denver in a future post as it’s too much to write here. 😉

Was it worth it?

The answer – without hesitation – is YAAAAS. I want to do it again! Like, as soon as possible.

Would you recommend this for everyone?

This is a tricky question. Did I love it? Abso-freaking-lutely. Is it for everyone? Maybe not everyone.

If you are a control freak, this may not be for you. Due to the nature of the service, you can’t plan anything ahead. Example: The hottest dinner spot in your destination city might be completely booked since you couldn’t reserve in advance (because you didn’t even know you’d be going there.)

So, you really have to be the type of person that is willing to give up full control and go with the flow.

If you are that person, I recommend it 100%. And btw, if you book a trip, be sure to mention you heard about it from me! :)

Sleepy Hollow Travel Guide + Vacay Inspo

welcome-to-historic-sleepy-hollow-sign

At the risk of sounding extremely basic, I LOVE fall. This time of year is my favorite! So, to continue my annual mission to fill my fall to the brim with memories, I embarked on a trip to the infamous Sleepy Hollow.

Of course, I’ve been a fan of the tale since I was a kid and used to watch the Disney version. My interest in Washington Irving’s story was reinvigorated when the Sleepy Hollow film came out (classic Johnny Depp, hello!) and then again when I relocated to New York where it takes place.

The spooky little town of Sleepy Hollow did not disappoint, so I’m thrilled to share what I learned from my adventure! Read on for my tips and tricks before you plan your own trip…

When to go

Halloween, duh. Sleepy Hollow was affectionately nicknamed the “Halloween capital of the world” (although I’m sure there might be some folks in Salem and NoLa that disagree). Even if you aren’t big on the ghouls and goblins side of Halloween, fall is absolutely beautiful in the Hudson Valley area. So trust me on this, go in October. I took the New York Water Taxi’s Sleepy Hollow Ferry. The view from the Hudson River was breathtaking and the ride there was honestly one of the highlights of my trip! Even if you’re coming in from out of town, I think this is the route to go.

new-york-water-taxi-to-sleepy-hollow

What to wear
The most important piece is comfortable shoes! Nearly everything fun in Sleepy Hollow involves walking and exploring large, hilly areas (especially the cemetery, but more on that later). Leave your witchy heels at home, this is a job for Adidas. As far as your outfit, leggings and a flowy fall dress will do!

sleepy-hollow-cemetary

What to eat

If you’re day tripping from Manhattan like I did, I recommend kicking off your Sleepy Hollow adventure with brunch at Ichabod’s, appropriately adjacent to the Headless Horseman bar on Irving Place in Manhattan. Don’t confuse this awesome spot with The Horseman in Sleepy Hollow. That Horseman is a sad diner and you will be disappointed if you eat there. Pro tip: Walk a little farther from Sleepy Hollow to Main Street in Tarrytown where you’ll find a string of foodie friendly restaurants (The Twisted Oak, yum) and hipster approved craft beer bars (The Oath, double yum). When you’re done, grab some homemade ice cream at Main Street Sweets. SO good.

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Where to stay

Planning to stay overnight? If you’re coming in from another area, The Castle Hotel and Spa should be your home away from home. This stunning resort is a hot spot for weddings and special events with good reason. The grounds are absolutely beautiful and have an eerie elegance, perfect for a Halloween vacay. If you’re an NYC dweller looking to save a few bucks, you can totally skip the overnight part and ferry back after a full day (it only takes about an hour to get back to the city).

 

the-headless-horseman-bridge-sleepy-hollow

Where to play

It just would not be a trip to Sleepy Hollow if you skip the Headless Horseman bridge and take an obligatory tourist photo at the very spot where the horseman made his infamous ride and scared the bejeezus out of our friend Ichabod Crane. Also worth scoping out: Washington Irving’s Sunnyside where you can tour the grounds of Irving’s beautiful estate. Another not to be missed sight is The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, a walk-through pumpkin promenade at Van Courtlandt Manor with over 7,000 decorated jack o’lanterns on display. You also can’t miss the Old Dutch Church and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (where many of New York’s elite have been laid to rest). Spooky, but beautiful.

Follow my advice and I promise you a perfect Halloween excursion to Sleepy Hollow! 👻👻👻

Celebrate Fall with Betsey Johnson at Macy’s

betsey-johnson

Are you ready for a super fun fashion event to bring in fall? Love the movie Trolls?! Betsey Johnson will be at Macy’s to celebrate her new line, Betsey Johnson xox Trolls, and you can have a chance to meet her! Join to celebrate Betsey’s latest collection inspired by Dreamworks Animation’s Trolls and available exclusively at Macy’s.

I’ll be at the iconic Macy’s Herald Square on Thursday Oct. 13th at 6 p.m. to celebrate with Macy’s and Betsey and I’m SO excited. Be one of the first 100 customers in line and have your photo taken with Betsey! Plus, with any $50 Betsey Johnson purchase, receive a signature selfie stick. If you’re in the area, come hang with us! If not, definitely check out Macys.com to see where the nearest event is in your area.

For more information, visit http://bit.ly/Betsey16.

[This post was sponsored by Macy’s, but all opinions are my own.]

Channel Your Inner Mermaid This Summer

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 1

Happy summer, lovelies!

Every year around this time I’ve made it a tradition to celebrate the season by attending the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. The 34th annual parade went down on Saturday and I had an absolute blast!

This time around, I sported a comfort-chic mermaid look rather than going full mermaid with a full costume tail, wig and the whole nine yards.

Even though I wasn’t in full garb like many other merfolk, I got a ton of compliments on my mer-OOTD – especially my shoes!

Teva Universal

I wore my new Teva Original Universal Iridescent sandals in Deep Teal. Featuring reflective materials and a cool flash of color (like a mermaid tail!), these party-ready shoes take a classic style into new realms of glam. They were soooo comfy as I was running around the boardwalk (and in the sand) all day. I can already tell that these babies are going to be my go-to summer sandal this season!

To complete my outfit, I scooped up both my fun mermaid scale leggings and “Part Time Mermaid” tank on Amazon. Highly recommended for anyone who loves to live the #mermaidlife!

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 3