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Lifestyle, Travel

Christmas PJs & German Ornaments

I absolutely love this time of year, and particularly taking part in festive activities with family and friends. To me, this means curling up on the couch in my Christmas pajamas with a mug of hot chocolate. With our Christmas tree all lit up, of course. Decorating the house together, baking Christmas cookies, watching Hallmark movies… you get the idea.

My sister and I used to help my grandmother decorate her house for Christmas. We loved NeeNee’s collection because she’d spent years traveling and collecting handmade European decorations. Beautiful handmade wooden German and Russian ornaments and nutcrackers and dolls. My grandmother set aside collections for each of her children, so my dad has a similar (significantly smaller) collection of European ornaments. And when she passed away, my parents inherited several of the special pieces my grandmother displayed on her mantel.

Every year, I take special care with these pieces. I decorate our mantel like I would have decorated NeeNee’s, a winter wonderland of wooden dolls, wooden angels, nutcrackers, German smokers, and nesting dolls. And then there are the hand-painted European ornaments for the tree.

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Lifestyle, Travel

2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers: Under $100

I created a similar gift guide last year, and was excited to post a bit earlier this season so there’s still time to shop for family and friends! This gift guide is geared toward the people in your life who love travel. Much of my year involved travel, so I had quite a few gift ideas! The items featured in this travel-themed holiday gift guide include items / accessories that I own and use, or items on my personal wishlist! Best of all, the gifts I’ve linked are under $100 (and most are less than $50!). And there’s still time to catch the Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts and sales.

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Travel

Away Carry-On Luggage: Follow-Up Review

I purchased a piece of carry-on luggage from the Away brand just before I left for London. A few months into my trip, I wrote a review summarizing my thoughts about the luggage and the brand. At that point, I’d taken the suitcase on my international flight to London, as well as two weekend trips. It was enough to form an initial opinion, but now I have more to say after 6+ months of European adventures with my Away bag at my side.

If you’re interested in why I purchased the carry-on, be sure to read my original review. I wrote in depth about the multiple options (in size and color) offered by the brand, the features of an Away bag, and the price.

My Away carry-on is also featured in my post “What to Pack in Your Carry-On.” I wrote…

I love the matte finish and the square shape. It’s extremely durable. And I’m a fan of the two-sided interior – I was able to fit quite a bit in this bag.

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Travel

Ultimate Guide to Planning a Trip to Europe

So you’re planning a trip to Europe – you’re touring Italy or vacationing in Greece, and you’ve got an entire Pinterest board dedicated to the trip. That’s awesome! I’ve been there, and the conceptualization stage is a fun place to be, because the possibilities are endless and the world is your oyster. But when it comes to the nitty gritty of trip planning, things can be a bit more difficult and overwhelming.

Sure, there’s plenty of information about booking your flight or what to pack for your week in Spain, but how do you actually go about planning your trip from start to finish? Where are you supposed to begin?

Having studied abroad as a student and then lived in London for 6 months, I have some experience in this area. My roommates and I planned trips to Copenhagen, France, and Italy while we studied abroad. And when my time as a Program Assistant was up, I traveled with my parents to Germany and Austria and then met a friend in Ireland.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about planning European travel! I’ve worked with my family and friends to plan the logistics of multiple trips abroad. That’s why I’d love to share what I’ve learned in this ultimate guide. There are several ways to go about planning a trip, and I’ll walk you step-by-step through each stage of the process so that you can make all the necessary decisions with confidence.

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Travel

How to Shop for Authentic, Thoughtful Souvenirs: Best British Gifts for Family and Friends

Whether you’ve lived in the UK for a while or are merely visiting, chances are you’ll want to bring back goodies for your family and friends at home. There is so much for Americans to love about British culture: afternoon tea, the royal family, the English accents. So why is shopping for souvenirs so challenging? There’s no way to know what your mom/dad/sister/uncle/cousin might want, so you purchase the typical t-shirt or keychain and call it quits.

Look, I don’t blame you! There’s nothing wrong with t-shirts and keychains (I have both). When I lived in London as a student, it was really important to me to find gifts that were local and authentic. At the time, I’m not even sure I knew what that meant, much less where to find gifts meeting that description. I was totally guilty of purchasing last-minute trinkets at the tourist shop down the street.

In this post, I’ll go over 1) how to select appropriate gifts for family and friends, 2) how to select the best souvenirs for yourself, and 3) the best British brands to purchase from, including a list of gift/souvenir suggestions.

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