Life and Marriage, Travel

Fun Summer Activities In The Chicago Area

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Looking for a little Midwest fun? Well put on your gym shoes and get ready for a day packed with activities and adventure! There’s nothing better than finally getting out of the house after a long, cold Chicago winter, and some of favorite activities are now open for business! See what I spend my weekends doing from May through September!


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Don’t let rainy summer days get you down – the museum campus along the lake makes any day wonderful and full of imagination! The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium are just a few must-see spots to get the creative juices flowing. Even better, most museums have free admission days for Illinois residents with your ID! We happened to go to the Field Museum this year for my husband’s birthday and spent hours looking at all of the amazing and historical exhibits!

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Take a trip back in time and experience a real life medieval times! Jousting tournaments to shops and Ye Old Pub, get transported back in time for chump change at this spectacular event just minutes over the Wisconsin border north of Chicago. Also, who wouldn’t want to meet a few knights in shinning armor?

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Being a major city brings all of the best festivals to your front door, whether in the city or the suburbs. From the apple festival in Lake County to downtown music festivals like Lollapalooza and food fun at Naperville’s RibFest, you’re bound to find a festival worth your time! Find something you love and spend your weekend perusing artisan goods or jamming to your favorite bands.

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Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Chicago is home to not one, but two zoos! Visit Lincoln Park Zoo in the city with FREE ADMISSION to see your favorite wildlife creatures come to life in the urban jungle, or see the vast and beautiful exhibits at Brookfield Zoo just outside the city limits. Both are a great experience to see indoor and outdoor animals come to life on a fun and sunny summer day.

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See a game in the classically preserved Wrigley Field in one of Chicago’s most vibrant neighborhoods or take it out the suburbs to see the Chicago Dogs or Kane County Cougars for baseball fun on a penny pocketbook. A day in the sun soaking in some sports fun is exactly what the doctor called for the cure the winter blues. This is a summer tradition for my husband and I – we got engaged after a Cub’s game and always love seeing a little baseball with hot dogs and a cold drink!


Want the ultimate list of things to do in the city this summer? Click here!


 

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Travel

Travel Destinations Worthy To Top Your Bucket List

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The weather is starting to warm up, and long days in the office with a small window giving me a peek of sunshine isn’t enough to quench my wanderlust. Googling dream travel destinations is at the top of my list each and every day, and I have collected for you the top bucket list-worthy destinations one MUST travel to explore the world!

havasu

Havasu Falls has been a long awaited trip for many outdoor enthusiasts of the southwestern United States. In the west routes of the Grand Canyon, this two-day hike requires at least one overnight of camping due to the time it takes to hike from the starting point, but offers the dessert oasis experience with beautiful blue water. I’ve have been dying to make this trip for some time and it’s not going anywhere from the top of my bucket list any time soon!

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Very few people see Norway as an escape, but this set of islands offers an oasis from the average life. As an outdoors and fishing area, this more secluded area offers small town vibes and the perfect place to view the Northern Lights without crowds. Plus, imagine kayaking these waterways through the beautiful Arctic summerland of untamed island life!

bonair

I am incredible grateful to have checked this amazing island off my bucket list when we were diverted here from Puerto Rico on our honeymoon due to Hurricane Maria. This diving and scuba oasis just off the coast of South America offers incredibly stunning and clear waterways to view some of the best wildlife and coral reefs in the world. During our time there, we saw stingrays and sea turtles larger than any seen in my life! This Dutch-owned island gives incredibly hospitable island vibes with an unhurried lifestyle. If you go, checking out the local farmer’s markets are a must – we found some of the most unique hand-crafted jewelry and delicious cactus liqueur on our trip!

santorini

Santorini is the ultimate Greek romantic getaway. This popular wedding destination is vibrant with colorful street ways and the famous blue rooftops. This series of islands built on an actual active volcano gives traditional and delicious Greek/Mediterranean cuisine paired with perfectly made local wine.

san juan

Our primary stop on our honeymoon was this classic island just a hop away from the Florida coast. Walking through Old San Juan was a dream – the historical forts offered a days worth of beautiful and rich views, and the vibrant colored buildings brought the life of Puerto Ricans to the streets with delicious food and drinks around every corner. For anyone looking for a nice getaway without total isolation, this is an amazing urban experience one will never forget!

provence

The Provence region of southern France was one of the most beautiful bucket list destinations I have ever visited. So many years ago, my trip to the quaint towns and lush fields offers a French view that isn’t the standard Paris experience. Beautiful castles adorn the mountainous skyline and the expansive lavender fields is every Instagrammer’s dream! In town, walking through the narrow street markets with fresh baked good and hand-made trinkets give you the perfect opportunity to explore local culture. he pink salt marshes are a sight to see once outside the city, with glowing lakes reflecting peachy hues of color.

angkor

As a firm follower of the Eat, Pray, Love mentality, this is one of those places we all could use for our souls. The Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia is one that is quite the trek from our Chicago home, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site brings the heritage of faith to life. Angkor Wat dates back to the 12th century A.D. as a Hindu temple for practicing faith, and now has become a  sacrifice to the earth. It’s crumbling ruins make the historic site even more precious and magical to experience.

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Life and Marriage, Travel

Planning A Getaway On A Tight Budget

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2018 has been the year of struggling Fridays – the urge to up and leave for just 48 of solidarity with my husband has been completely deserved but under utilized. Careers, life events and all the little things in life get into our way, and when we finally have a solid weekend of peace, it’s mostly spent doing absolutely nothing.

The need to just getaway into a foreign environment and explore the sights and cultures of something other than my office desk is a desire. I like to think that we live by the phrase “die with memories, not dreams” and we dream every day of traveling and seeing the world together. We already have so many trips in the future planned that we can stop thinking about, and each one we plan on a budget because we’re twenty-something and not retirees with years of savings to back us up. That’s why it’s important to set your expectations of money and know exactly what you want to spend before planning, then finding ways to stick to it.

SEARCH YOUR “DRIVE MARKET” AVAILABILITY

In the business and travel world, we use this term “drive market” – it represents the area within 50 to 100 miles radius around you. It’s the area you’re willing to drive as a traveler for a quick getaway and you can often score great last-minute or in-state discounts. For us here is the Chicago area, destinations like Starved Rock or Springfield in-state or Milwaukee and The Dells in Wisconsin are just a quick car ride and can offer great last-minute lodging options with plenty of outdoor and indoor fun.

TRY ALTERNATIVE LODGING OPTIONS

When you travel, hotels are no longer your only options. With the rise of platforms like AirBnB and timeshare rentals, you can find something that may be more comfortable for your needs at a lower price. Looking for something a little different? Try a camping site or rustic cabin-like settings. You may not get housekeeping every day, but you’ll have a cozy place at half the price with peace and quite.

CHOOSE ENRICHING FREE OR LOW BUDGET ACTIVITIES

There is so much out there than you could every imagine for nearly nothing to your bottom line. If you’re traveling in state, many local options offer resident rates or even free days, like the museums in Chicago. Additionally, national and state parks give great rates for travelers to explore the beauty of nature all day for very little. My husband and I want to visit Arizona to hike the Havasupai Trail and camp for a few days of stunning Grand Canyon views and natural thrills – we will only have to spend about $200-$300 for national park and camping fees, making a great budget-friendly experience we will never forget and almost a week driving across the country together.

DO THE FOOD YOURSELF OR CHECK OUT LOCAL SHOPS

Restaurants and on-site locations jack up the price for simple sandwiches and salads knowing that most people are lazy on vacation and don’t want to cook. Invest in some in-room munchies and meals you can put in your mini-fridge, or even cook if you’re in a location with kitchen access. This can save you hundreds on a week-long trip with a little bit of effort.  Another great option is eating locally versus large chain restaurants. Although we know what to expect from national chains, we also know the prices and they may not always be the lowest. Local breakfast spots and coffee shops offer a wide selection of options and the locals are always happy to give great recommendations for places to try or visit.

WHEN YOU SET A BUDGET, PLAN A LITTLE MORE

I know it’s hard when you’re on vacation to not want everything, but think smart when making decisions. Know exactly what you have each day to spend and prepare in advance to have 20% more for those unexpected expenses. Knowing it’s there doesn’t mean you have to spend it, but then when you find that souvenir you really want, you have some wiggle room to get it.

HOW TO SET A BUDGET

Some of us aren’t always prepared or know how to set a budget, but here is a great example of how my husband and I budget for trips:

Arizona 2019 – 7 Days, 6 nights

Transportation – Driving – Approx. 2000 mi. round trip
10 gallons of gas/1 tank = 300 miles = $30 per tank of gas
Total Transportation Budget = 2000 mi./300 mi. = approx. 7 tanks of gas x $30 = $210
(round up) = $250

Lodging – 4 hotel nights and 2 camping nights
Hotel = $100 per night = $400
Camping = $30 per night = $60
Total Lodging Budget = $460
(round up) = $500

Recreation – Hiking the Havasupai Trail
Entrance fee and other fees – $135 per person x 2 = $270

Food – $30 per person per day = $420
(round up) = $450

Other expenses – $200

TOTAL BUDGET = $1670 for 7 days, 6 nights
WHAT WE WOULD SAVE = $2000

 

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Business, Life, Life and Marriage, Shopping, Travel

My Favorite Accessories for an On-The-Go Life

My life is constantly on the go: work, gym, shopping, client meetings… it seems like it never ends! I’m lucky to be in my youthful years and have the hustle required to work 12 to 14 hours minimum a day before laying my head down, but this doesn’t mean that it’s any easier to carry my daily life in a bag. I often get swamped down with multiple bags filled with heavy gadgets and accessories to make the diverse activities of my day complete. It took me some time, but I have found the PERFECT accessories for any on-the-go boss babe (or dude) to make your life just a little easier.

Work: The Microsoft Surface Series

This little piece of heaven is something I’ve been wishing Santa would bring in my stocking every year: the functionality and portability of a laptop without the weight and chunkiness makes the investment totally worth it. Because they have so many models to choose from, you can find the right fit for any type of use you need, and the price can be cheaper than an iPhone! Anyone that’s every invested in a Macbook knows the pocketbook pain, and this little tablet with the removable keyboard, mouse and stylist makes your wallet and should feel more comfortable when speeding through the city streets or commuting from meeting to meeting.

Capture: HP Sprocket Photo Printer

For any one that needs printing on the go for photos needs this tech gadget! being the size of your palm is just the start – anyone who takes photos on the go with the need for instant printing can truly benefit from the HP Sprocket. Print photos instantly from your mobile device to share with others and or set it up at a party as a DIY photo booth. The uses for this can be truly endless.

Tip for photographers: Use this portable device to print instant photos at weddings or special events. Gift them to the host before the event ends to share immediately with friends and family. Our photographer gifted us with original Polaroids before our departure at our wedding and it has been one of the best gifts we have ever received so far!

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Schedule: Sugar Paper Planners and Notebooks

I have searched year after year for the best planners for my functional life. I’m constantly on the go, so size, quality and weight matter. The last few years I have heavily invested in them and finally found an answer: the Sugar Paper planners. Not only are they made of extremely high quality paper with wonderful, textured fabric wrapped hard covers, but the minimalist appeal to me has allowed for me to make this planner my own. I opted to go with their larger size this year with the 2018 Desk Agenda featuring weekly and month pages to keep my life straight (and because I LOVED that it didn’t have a coil in it that would get crushed in my jam-packed bag). The best part: they have a line at Target with equally cute and function styles at a lower price point!

Carry: Kate Spade Off The Grid Dessie Charging Laptop Bag8ARU2132_001_2.jpg

A girl needs a fashionable and functional back in business, plus you’ll need something to carry all of your on-the-go needs, so invest in something worth the time and stress and you’ll use it for. It’s perfect for a 15″ laptop or tablet, planner, notebook and your accessories to make it through the long day. Add the shoulder strap for functionality to take it on the go in the most comfortable way for you.

Write: Sharpie Fine Tip Art Pens

I’ll admit – I’m kind of a pen snob. I will buy packs and packs until I find one that gives me the consistency and feel I like, plus the color selection to color code the many files I have. The Sharpie Fine Tip Art Pen set is perfect for everyone from the creative minds who doodle their days away to the business women looking for neat writing on notebooks, planners and papers. Just like the traditional Sharpie pens, this set offers a smooth feeling for long days in the office and meetings.

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Life and Marriage, Travel

Honeymooning Through Paradise

All together, my husband Jeff and I spent eleven wonderful days in honeymoon heaven – but it was almost blown away by a hurricane! Read more about our first adventure together, testing the winds of change.

DAYS 1 AND 2: Our first two days, we adventured the coast of San Juan, PR, seeing the old forts lining the coasts and colorful houses of Old San Juan. We’re both pretty big histroy nerds (him specifically with war and military history), so this was right up our alley! We ventured to San Cristobal and El Morro, two of the most popular, and climbed every turf surface and wall we could – sometimes feeling that “are we supposed to be up here?” feeling.

DAY 3: When we boarded our cruise, we were greeted with the news that a tropical storm was forming of the coast of the Antilles Islands, right where we were heading. Knowing full well that the cruise line wouldn’t sail us right into the storm, there were far from any concerns. We were completely blown away by the size and amenities on our cruise with Royal Caribbean. They offered so many options included with our package that we didn’t know what to do first! Obviously, we went for the pool and food though.

DAY 4: Our second day aboard and we were docked in St. Croix, where we paddle boarded the mountainous coast, and jet skied the bright blue oceans. We had such a blast without planning any cruise excursions, since our original destination for the day was supposed to be St. Maarten, which unfortunately was still in disarray from the last hurricane. When returning that evening (sunburnt and exhausted) to debark from St. Croix is when we received the news that the tropical storm was now a hurricane expected to grow catastrophic. At the time, it was only a Cat. 1 or 2, but could grow to be a Cat. 5 overnight. Our plans quickly changed, and the boat informed us early we would be heading to St. Kitts instead of Antigua, staying out of the way of the storm until further information was known.

DAY 5: At this point, the storm was bordering land break near Dominique, and we were a bit bummed that our amazing six-mile volcano hike through the rainforest would be cancelled. Waking up in St. Kitts, we quickly learned today wouldn’t be that exciting either – we were notified that we would only momentarily dock on the island for supplies and journey out to sea, bypassing our plans for St. Lucia, Barbados and Martinique, heading straight for two days in Aruba. The storm had quickly evolved into the strongest Cat. 5 to hit the Atlantic Caribbean ever, and we were at high risk of disaster.

DAYS 6 and 7: Two days at sea brought a lot of exciting on-board activities – adult game shows and comedian performances were by far our favorites. We ate, drank, and swam our married way through activities, naps, and eateries from bow to stern. Jeff enjoyed quite a fun amount of time on the Flow Rider, a surfing and boogy boarding machine. Although, the looming news stations quickly brought the devastating news of early storm impacts in the eastern islands. It broke my heart seeing complete islands flattened to mere rubble.

DAYS 7 (Evening) and 8: With an overnight in Aruba, it was a perfect time to see the nightlife. Jeff and I opted on day one to go on a sunset snorkeling and catamaran trip since we didn’t dock till 2 p.m., where we dove over a World War II German shipwreck and some of the best coral reefs around! This was by far my favorite excursion of them all – the natural beauty was simply breathtaking along the island. On day two, we took to the streets to explore the shops and local markets for some island fun. The locals truly lived up to the saying that they are the friendliest island around.

DAY 9: Finally, we were taken just east for a day in Bonaire, a Dutch colonized island off of the South American coast – the people were just as warm and friendly as Aruba. On a glass bottom boat tour, Jeff and I saw sea turtles and sting rays much larger than you could see in any domestic zoo. The scuba diving clearly makes this a destination we would return to any day. When exploring the port, our boat captain pointed us in the direction of a local farmers market, where artisans sold handmade jewelry and delicious street food. One local vendor making cactus rum gave us several tastings and it was beyond any other I’ve ever tried – obviously we picked some up, but not before the maker convinced my husband to try the chili pepper version to “inspire those masculine honeymoon vibes.” We still laugh about that to this day.

DAYS 10 and 11: The last two days were at sea – our trip was extended a day in order to take us back to Fort Lauderdale instead of Puerto Rico. At this time, PR was just hit less than 24 hours before by the strongest Cat. 5 in Atlantic hurricane history and they experienced significant widespread devastation. The whole island was without power and the port authority refused to let our ship back in that condition, especially since the airport wouldn’t be working anytime soon. I was very proud though that the cruise line offered to not only accommodate passengers on the ship overnight at dock who were stranded until they could travel the next day, but reimbursed all for travel change expenses incurred to guests by airlines.  They even had semi after semi lined up upon arrival at the dock with 41 pallets of supplies to take with them back to Puerto Rico with the PR residents from the cruise with free accommodations and amenities.

As a person in marketing, it’s hard to impress me from a brand perspective, but I am beyond thrilled and impressed by the consumer-oriented behavior we experienced with Royal Caribbean. Not once did we have a worry in the world on our honeymoon, and they made sure that we completely enjoyed our trip (even though we didn’t visit a single island on the original itinerary).

See a recap of my favorite videos and photos from our trip – happy travels!

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