Alaska: Part I

image

Y’all. Y’ALL. 

I don’t have enough adjectives for this trip. “Amazing,” “incredible,” “unbelievable” – nothing comes close enough. I am so, so thankful that we were able to take this trip, and it’ll be hard to top it in the future (although we’re definitely up for the challenge!).

During this trip, we visited Seattle, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria. Each place had its own unique charm, but my favorite moments were sailing through Glacier Bay, hanging out with the Hightowers in Seattle, and pretty much the entire day we spent in Juneau!

Part I // Seattle & Exploring the Ship

Seattle has always been a “bucket list” city for me, what with all the parks, markets, food, and good views, and luckily we had some time to see the place! We flew into SeaTac in the early afternoon on Friday, took an Uber to our hotel, unpacked a little, and then went for a walk. I picked a perfectly-located hotel completely by accident – less than a mile walk from Pike Place Market and the waterfront! We ate at an urban chic seafood place called Etta’s (delish fried cod and shrimp!), got dessert from Piroshky Piroshky, and rode the Great Wheel.

image

image

The next morning, we explored the area around our hotel to find a coffee shop for breakfast, and I quickly discovered my favorite thing about the city – all the nature! Everywhere we looked, there were gorgeous gardens and parks, even in the middle of the city. I especially loved the juxtaposition of trees on the rooftops of buildings.

image

We took another Uber to the Seattle cruise port after checking out of our hotel. We had only been on one cruise before this trip – Honduras, Belize, and Cozumel with Royal Caribbean – so we weren’t completely sure what to expect, but Princess was pretty similar! Here’s our comparison:

WHO DID IT BETTER?

Cruise ship in general: Royal Caribbean.
Staterooms (interior): Princess. The bed was soooo comfy!
Food: Equal, but the waiters/service were better on Royal Caribbean.
Evening entertainment (shows): Royal Caribbean.
Port excursions: Princess. But we were also in Alaska, so…
Atmosphere: both were very chill and laid-back!
Drinks: packages were cheaper on Royal Caribbean.
Daytime activities:Royal Caribbean.
Hangout spots: Princess.

This was our gorgeous view while sailing out of Seattle!

One HUGE advantage to a Princess Alaska cruise – no crowds on the decks! It was chilly and frequently rainy, so most of the…ahem, *older* cruise passengers spent the whole time inside. We were plenty happy as long as we stayed wrapped up in our jackets and beanies, and we never struggled to find a good view of the scenery.

The second night on the ship was the first formal night, and we got to watch a Princess tradition before dinner – the champagne glass waterfall! The boat was crazy rocky that night, and we spent half of our watching time wondering if the champagne tower was going to fall over. I loved the fact that this cruise had so many company-specific traditions, though, like the balloon drop and the final night’s dessert parade at dinner!

Coming up in Part II – Juneau, Skagway, and Glacier Bay!

Packed: Alaska Picks

IMG_0019

When you see it….haha! This is what happens when you try to take a flat-lay photo and you own a dog. *facepalm*

Gosh, y’all – I don’t think I’ll ever stress out as much about packing as I did this time around for our Alaska trip. We had to plan for rain, wind, cold, and potentially warm weather all in the same suitcase, and it was a little overwhelming, even with the help of my trusty packing template. Neither Daniel or I had ever been anywhere in the northwest before, so we had no clue what to expect!

Probably the best thing I did for myself was map out what we were doing every single day of the cruise, and what kind of outfits those activities would require. Then, I created those outfits and laid them all out in order on the floor to stack and pack in the suitcase. For example:

  • Monday – Juneau, glacier excursion and anniversary photo shoot (outfits for photo shoot, hiking/kayaking clothes, dress for dinner)
  • Tuesday – Skagway, train excursion (casual cute outfit, formal dress for dinner)
  • And so on and so forth.

BEST DECISION EVER. I don’t know why I haven’t always done this! It kept me organized and helped me prioritize what I actually needed, instead of taking way too much stuff or packing a bunch of things that may or may not go together. And it really worked, because when we came home and unpacked, I only had one t-shirt and a couple pairs of shorts that I didn’t end up using. MIRACLE. This trick ended up being a HUGE lifesaver for this chronic over-packer.

But enough about that – here’s a look inside my suitcase!

IMG_0020
Cardigan: Old Navy (similar, similar) // Tee: Target // Sunnies: “Ray Bans” from Chinatown (similar) // Jeans: thrifted (similar) // Flats: Target

This was one of my “traveling day” outfits. Comfy, lived-in jeggings, flats that slip off quickly when going through security, the softest t-shirt EVER from Target (I’m not joking, it’s the softest shirt I’ve ever owned), and an extra long, cozy cardigan to stay warm on the plane.


Jacket: Old Navy // Tee: Mandy Jane // Jeans: JCPenney (similar, similar) // Boots: gifted (similar)

This was probably my favorite outfit I wore all week! The bison tee was a recent birthday gift, and I fiiiiiiiinally broke down and got something olive green – I’ve been putting it off because I was afraid the color was too trendy and wouldn’t last more than a season or two, but this jacket from Old Navy just spoke to me.


From top left to bottom right – Scarf: TJ Maxx (similar, similar) // Beanie: gifted (exact) // Beanie: Love Your Melon // Scarf: thrifted but from J. Crew (similar, similar, similar)

My collection of scarves and beanies has steadily grown over the last few years, but this picture is a testament to my commitment not to overpack. I didn’t take 11 scarves “to have options” and then only wear two of them. I packed three scarves (floral one not pictured) and wore ALL of them. I’m proud of myself.

Hope you guys are ready for some unbelievably gorgeous photos, because my first Alaska vacation recap post is coming soon!! Prepare your eyes and your hearts, people.

39 Thoughts Everyone Has While Packing for Vacation

image

  1. Okay…let’s do this.
  2. Wait, I need some music.
  3. *turns on music*
  4. Did I even finish my packing list?
  5. Where is my packing list…
  6. Ahhh here it is! (buried under a mountain of random things on nightstand)
  7. YESSSS. Packing. Okay.
  8. *checks weather app for the fifteenth time*
  9. It’s going to be cold…but what if it warms up? It could happen.
  10. I should pack pants AND shorts, just in case.
  11. I should probably pack an umbrella too, in case it rains.
  12. Or two umbrellas. Just in case one of them breaks.
  13. *gets distracted by dog*
  14. I’m starving, I need lunch.
  15. *three hours of food and Netflix later*
  16. I think I grabbed everything I own out of the closet.
  17. I need to get rid of some stuff.
  18. I probably don’t need 10 shirts for a three-day weekend.
  19. I’ll just take 8.
  20. I remember reading somewhere that rolling your clothes helps you fit more stuff in your suitcase…
  21. *rolls zero things*
  22. How am I supposed to NOT take a million pairs of shoes.
  23. But I always pack too much and regret it when I have to drag my dumb suitcase around.
  24. *gets distracted by dog again*
  25. Whyyyyyy can’t I just pack liquids in my carry-on???
  26. It’s not like I’m going to hurt anybody with a bottle of shampoo.
  27. *lifts suitcase*
  28. It’s too heavy…I just know it’s too heavy.
  29. I don’t even have anything heavy in here!!
  30. *takes out four pairs of shoes and emergency raft*
  31. Okay there, that’s better.
  32. Now let’s see if I can zip it up…
  33. I don’t need to sit on my suitcase – it’s going to close just fine.
  34. Umm. Okay, come on zipper.
  35. COME…ONNNN.
  36. *sits on suitcase*
  37. Gotcha!! Eat it, suitcase.
  38. *muffled sound of phone ringing inside suitcase*
  39. Crap.

Where are YOU going this summer?

Ultimate Packing List

Maybe I’m weird, but I actually enjoy packing for vacation. Anybody else with me? Something about picking out cute outfits, organizing everything together, and making it fit perfectly inside a suitcase……*sigh*. It just does something to me. When Daniel and I first started traveling together, I created a very basic packing list to prepare for the trip. But I never could have guessed that my bare-bones, simple list would turn into my gold-standard template for multiple future vacation packing lists. I’ve used this baby at least 6 times (Jamaica, New York, Wisconsin, Caribbean cruise, Chicago, etc), and it hasn’t failed me yet!

Since the trip we’re going on soon is an Alaskan cruise, there’s a few items that you probably wouldn’t need for other vacation destinations. But this example gives you a good idea of how important it is to be very thorough! Anytime I think about needing something for a trip (like an umbrella or an extra swimsuit), I write it down. It might sound like overkill, but I learned my lesson when I forgot to include “phone charger” on a packing list and had to buy an overpriced one at the airport. I never assume that I’ll remember to pack something, because the closer I get to a trip, the more excited and distracted I’m likely to be.

The framework of my list divides everything I pack into three main categories: outfits, extras, and toiletries. I do this for two reasons. First, it’s easier to make sure I don’t forget things or pack too much of the same thing, and second, it’s easier to find stuff in my suitcase when similar things are packed near each other.

OUTFITS:

This trip was really hard to plan for, because the weather in Alaska can change at a moment’s notice! We have to pack for potential warm weather, rain, and icy cold temperatures, all in the same suitcase. And I usually over-pack! But I think I’ll do pretty well this time around.

2 fancy dresses for formal nights
5 date night outfits for dinners
8 casual outfits for travel days/excursions
1 swimsuit/cover-up
Socks/undies/bras
1 pair each of sweatpants and leggings
2 pairs of shorts
2 long-sleeved t-shirts
Rain jacket
Fleece jacket
2 pairs of heels
Tennis shoes
Rain boots
Steve Madden boots
Beanies/scarves/gloves
Jewelry

EXTRAS:

Travel documents: passport, plane tickets, driver’s license, hotel reservation, cruise boarding pass, cruise luggage tags, cash, insurance cards, credit/debit cards
Electronics: headphones, chargers, power strip for cruise cabin, iPad, phones
Bag of tricks: Tylenol, air freshener, sunscreen, bug spray, anti-wrinkle spray, Band-Aids, hand sanitizer, allergy meds, Benadryl cream, aloe vera, cough drops, Chapstick, motion sickness meds, Kleenex, Neosporin, nail clippers
Refillable water bottles
Ziplock bags
Binoculars (to see wildlife from the ship)
Umbrella
Hammocks (they pack up really small!)
Daypack backpacks
Extra bag for dirty laundry
Deck of cards/magazines/books

TOILETRIES:

Toothbrush/toothpaste
Shampoo/conditioner
Hair products
Brush/comb
Straightener/blow dryer/curling wand
Deodorant
Body wash
Contacts/case/solution/extras
Glasses
Face wash/moisturizer
Lotion
Makeup/makeup remover
Q-tips/cotton balls
Feminine products
Razor/shaving cream
Tweezers
Perfume
Bobby pins
Eye drops

The only thing I didn’t specify in the list is what I put in my plane bag! I typically grab my Osprey daypack and fill it with books, a magazine, my iPad, headphones, chargers, Chapstick, and all my travel docs. Depending on where I’m going, I either use my backpack as a purse or put my purse inside the backpack to use later.

If any of you struggle with packing, I hope this is helpful for you! It will at least give you a good place to start. I’ll share some of the outfits I put together in my next post!

Are you a “plan ahead” kind of packer, or a “throw my whole closet in my suitcase an hour before we leave” kind of packer?

My Pre-Trip Checklist: 10 Things to Do Before You Leave for Vacation

I consider myself an obsessively organized person, especially when it comes to traveling. Even though I can get overwhelmed when it comes to deciding WHERE to go (there’s just too many great places to see – how are you supposed to pick one??), I dive headlong into research and planning as soon as I know our destination. But even I am capable of forgetting things, and the best thing that helps me is making a million lists. In the next few posts, I’ll share the lists I’ve created over the last few years to help me get ready to go on vacation. First up is my pre-vacation checklist! Here’s what I’ve done before almost every trip Daniel and I have taken together.

1.  Print copies of all travel documents.

Plane tickets, hotel reservations, vacation package confirmation, maps of travel routes or places to visit – EVERYTHING. The last thing you want to do is get lost somewhere with no internet and no map, or stuck without proof that you’re supposed to be wherever you are.

2.  Update your work calendar.

Before you leave your workplace, set “away” messages for your email and phone, and make sure your trip shows up on any shared calendars. Try to finish up any projects you are working on and leave any relevant information for your coworkers, if they need it.

3.  Leave your house in good hands. 

Ask a neighbor, friend, or family member to keep an eye on your place while you’re gone. Have them feed your pets, water your plants, and bring any mail or packages inside.

4.  Check the weather one last time and finalize your packing list. 

And do the rest of your laundry a few days before, just to ensure that your favorite pieces are clean! Once you’re ready to start packing, lay everything out on your bed or the floor. Yes, everything. That way, you can see exactly how much you’re taking and narrow your choices down a little to save space in your suitcase.

5.  Make room for vacation pictures.

If you’re going somewhere pretty, you’re going to want that extra data space on your phone or memory on your camera. Don’t wait until you’re already on your trip to start frantically deleting things after getting the dreaded “Storage Full” message as the pod of dolphins swims right by you and out of your life forever.

6.  Let your bank and/or credit card company know that you’ll be traveling.

This is really important if you’re traveling internationally. If you don’t let them know ahead of time, there’s a chance that your cards could get shut down for “suspicious activity” in another country.

7.  Schedule your preparatory appointments.

Get a haircut, pedicure, spray tan – whatever you need to do to make yourself look acceptably attractive to people who will never see you again.

8.  Download stuff on Netflix.

Did you know that you can download TV shows and movies on Netflix to watch later without using the internet?? Best. news. ever. Long plane rides just got a little less boring.

9.  Clean your house.

You don’t have to deep-clean everything, but I usually wipe down the bathrooms and the kitchen, and I vacuum as many rooms as I can. It’s also good to get rid of perishable food in the fridge, run the dishwasher, take out all the trash, and put new clean sheets on your bed.

10.  Save some money.

Right before you leave the house, turn the thermostat up or down, depending on the season. Unplug appliances to conserve energy. Make a Walmart run and buy some snacks to keep yourself from spending $25 on soft pretzels at the airport (which I always end up doing anyway, because AUNTIE ANNE’S).

Any suggestions or tips that help you get organized before you travel? Share them in the comments!