Kayla Weber Art

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HOW TO: Pack for 2 - 4 Weeks In Only a Carry-On Bag

HOW TOKayla Nord7 Comments
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Well this post has been in the works for LITERAL YEARS— but I think this will be such a useful guide for any trip, for any length of time, to literally anywhere.

John and I learned very quickly that the cost of checking a bag is expensive, ESPECIALLY if you are going to multiple destinations and flying in between multiple cities. Checked baggage can be anywhere from $30-$80 EACH WAY…. and if you’re like us and traveling in one area for multiple weeks— that ADDS UP!

Therefore, we mastered the art of packing everything we need for 2 weeks to 1 month—(or honestly longer) all in a carry-on… and I am still able to look stylish all while being comfy. I very rarely re-wear the exact same outfits on these trips, because I plan out different combos to make new outfits each day with the same pieces.

Ahem….. I plan it out the night before. I am sure you read that word plan and imagined me weeks before planning each detail and outfit and that is not the case lol. PROCRASTINATION STATION OVER HERE.

But don’t be like me. Be better.

Our luggage typically weighs about 30-40 pounds depending on where we are going. South East Asia was on the lighter end, and then Australia was on the heaviest end…. just because of weather and temps.

By far, the hardest packing we have ever done was to Australia + New Zealand in our summer (their winter). The areas we were going ranged from freezing temps, to 60’s, and then all the way to upper 80’s.

So, if we can pack for 3 weeks in a small carry-on with hats, gloves, coats, bathing suits, dresses, light jackets, etc… then you can do this for ANY PLACE. I am always flabbergasted at the size suitcases people bring— like what do you even have in there?!?! LOL

Wanted to throw it back a little here with our first big month-long Europe trip back in 2014 when we were young and fresh. lol

Wanted to throw it back a little here with our first big month-long Europe trip back in 2014 when we were young and fresh. lol

Anyways— without further ado, here are my steps to packing light— well, not really light… more like small, packing small… we’ll go with that.

STEP 1: The Bag.

Buy a good quality rolly suitcase, carry-on size. I prefer one that expands just a little, so you can really stuff it full. This one HERE is similar to mine.

You can also use a travel backpack instead of a rolly carry-on. This is the osprey backpack I have HERE.

Yes, I know they both look very small. But I believe in you. I promise you can fit EVERYTHING you need in there and more…. seriously.

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STEP 2: The Cubes.

Order packing cubes RIGHT NOW— found HERE. These things will change your life. I use them every time we go anywhere. Not only do they keep everything organized inside of your suitcase, they help you stuff your clothes in odd shapes to fit all that crap in there.

They are life savers— especially in backpacks because it can be hard to find anything if you don’t have them. They also keep everything organized and you can just throw them in a drawer at the place you are staying.

When you are on the move as much as us, this is super critical to stay organized.

John got the gray ones and I got the blue ones… we mix and match them depending on what size we need.

John got the gray ones and I got the blue ones… we mix and match them depending on what size we need.

STEP 3: The Cosmetics.

Purchase a compact cosmetic bag that hangs. One similar to the one I have is HERE. Another one HERE.

Our cosmetics are very minimal and you will have to purchase all of your cosmetics in travel size or convert them into travel size. The airport regulation is 3.4 ounces or less per item... I just buy the small bottles and make my own travel size of anything we might need.

In this cosmetics bag I fit all of the things we will need for about two weeks. If we are traveling for longer, we just buy things along the way when we run out. Keep in mind, that some things aren’t easily found abroad. I always pack enough dry shampoo to last me the whole time (usually 2-3 small bottles), this amazing bug repellent (if you are going somewhere with mosquitoes), tampons, contact solution, wrinkle release, and random necessities like that.

I have literally had this bag since I was 15 haha!

I have literally had this bag since I was 15 haha!

It is very compact but holds everything we need.

It is very compact but holds everything we need.

I won’t lie to you, I am very low maintenance when it comes to travel + beauty. My makeup bag is below. It is very small and I only bring the essentials.

This tiny bag hooks to the bottom of the cosmetics bag.

This tiny bag hooks to the bottom of the cosmetics bag.

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**PRO TIP: use a contact case and put your foundation into it. This is so much more compact than lugging a foundation bottle around. Using both sides lasts me for over a month.

it looks gross… but very handy haha!

it looks gross… but very handy haha!

I do not bring a blow dryer. I let my hair air dry— or I pray that the hotel/hostel/airbnb have one if I am in a time crunch. I don’t wash my hair often— so it’s not a huge issue. The only time that I do is if we are at a beach destination— then I have to wash it a lot more, but again if it’s a hot location I just air dry it.

If you definitely need a hairdryer I would recommend a small one like this one HERE, or just be sure to book accommodations with one. I do usually bring a curling wand— but these are small and thin and can go in the bottom of my suitcase/side of my backpack.

STEP 4: The Packing.

Procrastinate the actual packing until the night before———

JUST KIDDING DON’T DO THAT.

SERIOUSLY… DON’T DO THAT. (I was just making sure you were still paying attention.)

That’s what I do, and then I have a panic attack, and I totally stress myself out, so let’s make your life easier than mine. LOL

Plan things out in advance… however far in advance that makes you comfortable. Put all of your packing cubes on the floor and designate one for each type of clothing…. one for under garments/bathing suits/camis/etc. (smaller cube). Then designate one for dresses, pants, full outfits, etc. (this will be in your biggest cube). Then designate one for bulkier things like jackets/heavy stuff if you’re going somewhere cold (also big cube). Do whatever makes sense to you. Having a clear system for where things go will make life easier when traveling and packing up each time.

There have been times John and I are traveling and we literally are packing up and changing locations every 2-3 days for 3 weeks straight. It is a huge headache having to pack up and unpack, pack up and unpack— so having a system in place makes things a lot easier…. it’s still a huge pain, but it definitely makes it better.

Once you have a clear system and organizational strategy, start to roll all of your clothes. This will keep your clothes a little less wrinkled and will also conserve space.

Then start adding them into each cube until it is pretty well filled, as seen below.

bathing suits and undergarments.

bathing suits and undergarments.

basic shirts and shorts.

basic shirts and shorts.

dressy tops, dresses, cardigan, jeans, etc.

dressy tops, dresses, cardigan, jeans, etc.

** NOTE I always put full outfits in one, so I only have to open one or two at a time. I used to separate everything… pants in one, shirts in a different and then I had to open so many to just make one outfit. I have gotten smarter through the years.

STEP 4: Part A: What to Bring.

For a 3 week Europe trip I usually bring about 10 light-weight easy dresses, 3 skirts, 4 t-shirts, 4 nicer tops/tanks, a few pairs of light weight shorts, one pair of jeans, 12 pairs of undies, 2 pairs of spandex/spanx to go under dresses, a cardigan, a jean jacket, 2 bras, a sports bra, 2 pairs of leggings, 1 pair of workout shorts, a pair of tennis shoes or converse or Adidas, a pair of sandals, a pair of flats, a pair of rainbows, sometimes a pair of wedges (depending on destination), 5 bathing suits, and a pair of jean shorts. SHEW— that really sounds like a lot— and somehow it all fits.

***NOTE: for abroad travel I hardly ever bring heels, but if I do they are these HERE. So amazing and comfy…

*** SIDE SIDE NOTE: I always bring rainbow flip flops like these HERE, leather sandals like these HERE and a pair of cute flats like these HERE are easily stuffed in the top zipper of the suitcase (all shown below). Those three pairs are my absolute ESSENTIAL shoes for travel. They have been all over the world with me and my feet never hurt. Highly recommend all three because they go with everything, look super stylish and are worth the splurge.

STEP 4: Part B: Packing the Bag.

Assemble the bag. I always put my curling iron on the bottom, my heavy or bulky shoes on the bottom and a thick coat (usually not necessary— but it was in Australia + NZ) on the bottom. I put the light weight pairs of shoes in the zipper part on the inside flap of the suitcase. If I am traveling with a backpack, I put the flip flops and shoes in the bottom zipper. Using a backpack does make the shoe situation a little tougher— so if bringing only a backpack I would forgo any heels. (Pictures for backpack packing at the very bottom)

*** NOTE: If you are going to a fancy location such as Vegas or on a beach vacay in which you need more pairs of bulky heeled shoes, it makes it tougher, but I have definitely still fit 2-3 pairs of heels in the bottom of the carry-on and everything fit.

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Now that you’ve got all the heavy/bulkiest things on the bottom, you can start assembling your cubes. I usually only bring 2 large cubes and 1 smaller/medium cube depending on where I am going. Like shown, you can half them, stuff them and reconfigure in many different ways.

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First big cube in.

First big cube in.

Half it and push down.

Half it and push down.

Second cube in.

Second cube in.

Also half it.

Also half it.

Third cube in.

Third cube in.

Same thing! Half it and push down.

Same thing! Half it and push down.

Lastly, I put the cosmetics bag wherever there is room— usually on the top end of the suitcase or backpack. This is nice to have on top so that when going through security you can just pop it out without digging around too much.

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Everything is in with room to spare!!!

Everything is in with room to spare!!!

For the plane, I always wear one of my pairs of leggings— one pair of my comfy/bulky shoes (usually Adidas), my sports bra, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt and the jean jacket tied around my waist. (The plane is always freezing so I like to have lots of layers.)


STEP 5: The Personal Item Bag.

John hates that I bring a bag like this… but I like it. He brings a backpack, which is probably easier and more comfortable— but I am being stubborn and using this bag— mostly because I like to annoy him (I don’t know why it bothers him so much).

This bag below is nice because it has pockets… but I am kind of thinking about getting a bag like this one HERE because it slides on the handles of your suitcase and zips! Will probably be my next purchase because my bag is always super heavy to carry and doesn’t zip…. aka I roll my suitcase and set it on top and it falls off and spills everywhere. yikes.

maybe that’s why it annoys John? LOL

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In here, I bring a ziplock bag of snacks (almonds, crackers and travel PB, cliff bars, RX bars, trail mix, beef jerky etc.)… these are life savers.

In here I also bring my journal (duh), multiple glue-sticks, my travel purse (which is big enough for my DSLR camera to fit in), my DSLR camera, passports, camera battery + cards, headphones, advil, etc. All the random miscellaneous things. My bag is always outrageously heavy… but it does start to get lighter as we eat the snacks. lol

John always carries this tripod (super light and easy to fit in a backpack— but still full length), go-pro accessories, go pro swivel stick shown HERE (great for getting in action videos!), and all of the electronic/chargers and converters in his personal item backpack.

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STEP 6: Time to Travel!

And you’re done!! Time to hit the road….

Now with all that being said, we don’t have much room for extras— so keep that in mind when souvenir shopping. We really don’t bring back much (most of it is junk anyways)…. but if you want to bring things back or buy clothing there— definitely save some room.

I’m a firm believer in making a travel journal along the way.. you can read how to do that HERE. This is the best souvenir we bring back because it is a compilation of all of our receipts, activity tickets, maps, business cards and brochures that we pick up along the way. Plus it is a minute by minute journal of what we did!

I will also occasionally buy some jewelry or small trinkets here, if I can fit them in my personal item bag.



So, there you have it! Everything we take on a month long trip abroad. Obviously you gotta get a little creative and ask yourself— would I really need/want to wear this? And go with your favorites and essentials… and honestly comfort over everything.

I hope this was helpful! Please don’t hesitate to ask any other questions on anything I may have left out!! Thanks for reading and happy traveling!!


xoxox

Kayla


PACKING THE BACKPACK:

Shoes in the bottom zipper.

Shoes in the bottom zipper.

Heaviest cube goes in first.

Heaviest cube goes in first.

Stuff it down in the bottom and half it.

Stuff it down in the bottom and half it.

Next big cube in next.

Next big cube in next.

And then the next… sometimes they can squeeze right next to each other.

And then the next… sometimes they can squeeze right next to each other.

Cosmetics on the top… pull the string tight at the top and then buckle!

Cosmetics on the top… pull the string tight at the top and then buckle!

All in there!

All in there!

One Week In Peru!

TravelKayla Nord5 Comments
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Hey friends!! I am finally getting around to posting this— always takes forever to write these things.

Also, it took me like 3 weeks just to get back into the groove of life after returning from this trip! Traveling internationally is a lot of work! ESPECIALLY while trying to juggle a business back home.

Anyways, I wanted to tell y’all all about our trip and how AMAZING it was!! We have been planning to go to Peru for several years, so we were super excited it worked out for this year’s “Spring Break” trip. Most of you all know already that John is a school counselor, so we go by his schedule for traveling and early april is always their Spring Break week off. We thought that would be a perfect time to head down to South America again. (Last year we did Colombia— you can read about it HERE.)

We bought flights back in November and had a tough time finding a good route. Anything out of Cincinnati had us flying for over 20 hours and going up to Canada and then back down to Peru— no bueno.

We ended up finding a direct flight on Delta from Atlanta to Lima for $750 each— and it was only a 6 hour direct flight. We bought that and flew out on a Sunday and came back on a Sunday. My little brother, Mitch, lives in ATL, so we thought it would be a perfect excuse to go down and visit him for the weekend before leaving!

Lima

We left at 5:55pm from ATL and arrived to Lima at 11:30pm on Sunday. The airport was bustling because most flights from the states arrive late at night for some reason. I had arranged for our hotel to send a taxi which was SO NICE— they had a sign with my name and we immediately found our guy and were on our way.

Lima is a HUGE CITY with TONS of PEOPLE— over 8 million to be exact. And the traffic is HORRIBLE. The distance isn’t far, but it still takes 30- 45 minutes to get anywhere because of the bottleneck of cars. It took us about 30 minutes without traffic (it was late) to get to the Miraflores district in Lima. We stayed at the Best Western and it was wonderful! It was right in the middle of the Miraflores area which is fun and vibrant little part of town. The room was also very nice and super clean!

Our first day in Peru we hit the ground running, ((per usual)) exploring all parts of the city. We walked the Malecon along the sea, we wandered around the fancy shops, stopped for a beer, strolled though the parks, shopped in the little souvenir shops, and ate our hearts out! It is definitely true that Lima is a very foggy place, but the weather was a perfect 75 degrees! After exploring the Miraflores area for a while, we grabbed an uber to the Historic District and explored there for several hours! The scenery was beautiful and the buildings and architecture made me feel like I was back in Spain! The uber took about 45 minutes to get there during high traffic time, but we were glad we went!

We spent a total of 1 day here and it seemed like plenty to do everything and see what we wanted to!

THINGS TO DO:

  • Walk the Malecon

  • Eat all the food

  • Try a Pisco Sour (beware of the raw egg— might have made me sick, but still glad I tried it!)

  • Explore the Historic District

  • Saint Francis Monastery

  • Miraflores Central Park

  • Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo

  • Cerro San Cristobal

Historic center of Lima.

Historic center of Lima.

Traditional Peruvian cuisine and a complimentary pisco sour! The foam is the raw egg—yikes!

Traditional Peruvian cuisine and a complimentary pisco sour! The foam is the raw egg—yikes!

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Saint Francis Monastery.

Saint Francis Monastery.

The Historic District

The Historic District

Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo

Basilica and Convent of Santo Domingo

Historic District

Historic District

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Cusco

Getting to Cusco was super easy and relatively cheap. There are flights every hour all day long back and forth between Lima and Cusco. We decided to do an early one to get us there with plenty of time to adjust to the altitude and still be able to explore as much as we could.

Our flight left at 7:30am and we arrived at 8:50am in Cusco. It cost us $250 total for us to both fly there round trip on LATAM. Upon arriving to Cusco, we could definitely feel the altitude immediately. I had been super apprehensive about it, and had taken some advil the previous day (said it would help with the symptoms). Breathing at first was definitely more difficult and it felt like I had to keep taking deep breathes to actually get any air! CRAZY!

For this leg of the trip, I had found a company called Apurimic Adventures to help us plan and guide us around Cusco and Machu Picchu. You can find their information here. Juan was my contact and he was super helpful in booking all of our tickets and tours. It was nice to not have to worry with it all! ((Although, as the savvy traveler that I am— I checked and added up all the prices that each ticket would cost to make sure we weren’t being over charged by too much and that it would be worth it—TOTALLY WORTH IT!))

He picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel. We stayed at the Abittrre Hotel found HERE and we loved it! The room was small, but it was a great location and price with free breakfast and very friendly service.

We rested for several hours and napped to try and adjust to the altitude. Our hotel also gave us coca tea which helped with the symptoms as well.

NOTE: we had no idea but coca tea and coca leaves are actually illegal in the USA! John loved the tea and wanted to bring some back— but after googling it I found that bringing some back would have been a very bad idea!! LOL

After several hours of just hanging in the hotel we were ready to explore! We drank tons of water and felt perfectly fine with no signs of altitude sickness.

Juan met us and introduced us to our guide, Habrahan, and our driver. We started by touring the Coricancha, (which happened to be directly across the street from our hotel!) where he told us some incredible history about the city. The particular church we were in was one of the most sacred buildings in the Incan capital, so when the Spanish took over they destroyed all of the Incan temples and built churches on top of them. Much of the Incan stonework forms the foundation of the Santo Domingo church and convent. An earthquake in the mid 1900s caused the Incan ruins to be revealed! Pretty cool stuff!

After this, we hopped in the car with our guides and went all over the outskirts of Cusco touring the different Incan territories, an alpaca textile shop, and so much more! It was so nice having a driver because we were able to see more of Cusco than we would have been able to on our own.

We stopped at Saqsaywaman, which is another Incan ruin area— and stumbled upon a ton of alpacas. I of course had to get some photos! I took so many with one alpaca that he spit on me… pictures below. lol! It looks like he’s kissing me— definitely spitting on me instead! haha

Coricancha

Coricancha

The view from Saqsaywaman.

The view from Saqsaywaman.

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Saqsaywaman

Saqsaywaman

Photos at the Plaza de Armas

Photos at the Plaza de Armas

Our first full day in Cusco was amazing! We had a delicious meal and walked around a little more after our guide dropped us off. We went in the beginning of April which is still technically the end of rainy season— so our first day was pretty wet and a tad bit chilly. The rest of our time there we had beautiful sunny and warm weather and only needed a light jacket!

We had a second full day in Cusco at the end of our trip and we spent the day hanging out in Plaza de Armas. My favorite part was enjoying a morning coffee at one of the second floor cafes, which can be found on three sides of the square. The balconies are very small, but it is a perfect spot to sightsee and watch the world of traditional and tourist Cusco strolling along.

That day we also walked to the San Pedro Market, which is a bustling market down the road from the Plaza De Armas. It was such a neat place to visit and see both tourists and locals mingling, shopping and eating!

For this night we stayed at the Estancia San Blas which was very nice. Our room was basically a closet, but we still really liked the hotel (we aren’t super hard to please)! It was a little further from the city center and up a hill, so keep that in mind if you don’t like hills or walking! haha!

We had a total of 2 full days in Cusco. That was plenty of time, but I could have stayed a lot longer! :)

THINGS TO DO:

  • Saqsaywaman

  • Q’enqo

  • Alpaca factory - La Vicuñita Factory

  • Explore the Plaza de Armas

  • San Pedro Market

  • Eat Aji de Gallina

  • Paddy’s Irish Pub for late night drinks

  • Grab a coffee at a second floor cafe above Plaza De Armas and people watch

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San Pedro Market

San Pedro Market

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Sacred Valley

We woke up early to head out to Sacred Valley for the day. We planned to stay in Ollantaytambo for the night and then would catch an early train to Machu Picchu. It was so nice having a guide because they picked us and all of our luggage up and we were on our way. That was one of the most confusing parts for me when trying to plan this without a guide, was how we would get our luggage from place to place and where we would store it. Habrahan took care of all of this for us!

Along the way to Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo, there are tons of amazing things to see, so we decided to take their extended sacred valley tour. We would be seeing Pisaq, the Pisaq market, Chincero, Moray, Maras salt mines and Ollantaytambo. This tour can be booked through here and we did it in combination with the 3 day Cusco and Machu Picchu tour— here. They customized everything for us— which was so nice!

The drive was GORGEOUS and we loved seeing everything along the way. Our guides were so helpful, explaining things as we drove and stopping wherever we wanted along the way. As we were driving we passed through several small towns where the ladies stand on the street and wave plastic bags at you as you drive by. That means they have fresh food/bread and want you to stop. Our driver pulled over and we bought a huge loaf of bread— it was so sweet and delicious!! We also drove through the area that our guide told us has the best guinea pig— the ladies have them on sticks and wave their bags to get you to stop…. we did not stop for one of these though LOL!!

THINGS TO SEE:

  • Pisaq

  • Pisaq market

  • Chincero

  • Moray

  • Maras Salt Mines

  • Ollantaytambo

Pisaq ruins

Pisaq ruins

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Pisaq Market

Pisaq Market

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Chincero. Learning how they dye the alpaca fur and how they weave it into the different textiles!

Chincero. Learning how they dye the alpaca fur and how they weave it into the different textiles!

Moray Ruins.

Moray Ruins.

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Maras Salt Mines

Maras Salt Mines

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John may or may not have been eating a guinea pig here.

John may or may not have been eating a guinea pig here.

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

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Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo

Eating alpaca on a stick…. against my better judgement.

Eating alpaca on a stick…. against my better judgement.

Ollantaytambo

We opted to stay in Ollantaytambo after exploring Sacred Valley all day. We knew we wanted to see Machu Picchu in the afternoon to avoid the crazy crowds in the morning... so we had Juan and Habrahan book us a room in Ollantaytambo for the night and then we had them get us an early train ride to MP in the morning.

The train ride to Machu Picchu was one of my favorite things. On the way there (we left at 7am) the train wasn’t crowded and we got a whole 4 seater row to ourselves. They served us breakfast, coca tea and coffee on the way there.

The train travels along the river and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It was such a relaxing and fun morning.

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We made it to Agues Calientes!

We made it to Agues Calientes!

Machu Picchu / Aguas Calientes

Once arriving in Aguas Calientes, we explored a while and waited for our bus ride up to Machu Picchu. Since we had limited time in Peru, we did not hike the trail or even hike the trail up to MP. I was very thankful of this after watching others climbing up while on the bus ride— definitely not for the faint of heart.

I was not thankful for the fact that the dirt road on the way up was basically one way (with two way traffic) no railings and a seemingly distracted bus driver. I had a small panic attack just because of the height of the road and the straight down incline off the edge. It was pretty TERRIFYING. And naturally, I had already googled all of the bus crashes in Peru earlier in the week, so that really helped with my anxiety.

We made it to the top… and let me tell you…. it was INCREDIBLE. Totally worth the crazy bus ride up. The mountains alone surrounding Machu Picchu are gorgeous and it is seriously majestic up there.

It was like nothing I had ever seen before…. and the pictures really don’t do it justice… like AT ALL.

It wasn't as crowded as I expected which was nice, but there were definitely a lot of people around trying to get that perfect selfie!

We walked around, took tons of pictures, and Habrahan gave us the best tour with so much information. I was completely awe-struck by how amazing the Incans were.

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BUDGET

This trip was not a super expensive one, mostly because we were only there for a week. Like I said earlier, our flights were $750 each, so $1500 total. And then we spent $250 on flights to Cusco and back. Food was pretty cheap and the conversion rate was very good! We spent about an average of $50 a day on food and alcohol for both of us— totaling to around $350-$400.

Hotels were on the cheap side also… we stayed in 3 and 4 star hotels for $50-$85 per night, totaling around $400 for the week. We use hotels.com so we got a free night during this trip because we have stayed 10 nights using their website.

Our tours and activities added about $1350 for both of us. That covered all of our trains, tours, MP tickets, one night accommodation through Juan’s company and all of our transportation. We tipped our guides an extra $200.

For the entire trip we spent around $4,000 for the two of us to spend a week in Peru.


Overall, our week long trip to Peru was incredible! I cannot get over how insane Machu Picchu was! I also did not expect for Cusco to be one of my favorite cities— but it is up there on the top of my list. It was such a quaint, lively, beautiful little town. I do wish we would have had time to hit rainbow mountain, but our itinerary just didn’t allow for that.

One thing to keep in mind that was unfortunate, was that I did get a little sick at the end of the trip— so always be vigilant when eating adventurously. My husband ate everything in sight including a guinea pig, and didn’t get sick— so I don’t really know why it always happens to me! We both take these travelan pills which kill the bacteria in your stomach so that you don’t get sick— but towards the end of the trip I got a little more lax. So my advice is to take those diligently if you are planning on going and just be weary!~ Maybe my stomach just doesn’t agree with South America!!

Please let me know if you have any questions about our travels! Peru is so amazing!

Happy travels!

xoxox

Kayla

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Travel Guide to Cuba

TravelKayla NordComment
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Shop my outfits: yellow dress || favorite travel shoes || travel purse || white dress || hat

Hey friends! Happy 2019! 

Can you believe how fast 2018 went? Yikes. They say every year older you get, the faster time goes… not cool with that. ESPECIALLY because I turn 30 this year.

THIRTY.

WHATTTTTT?!

But anyways, we ended 2018 and started 2019 on such a fun and relaxing note— CRUISIN’ TO CUBA!

John and I have always wanted to go to Cuba… well, at least since it’s been opened back up— so we were determined to get there some how and soon, before it all started to change! It got a little harder to get there this year, but we found a way! John’s parents also wanted to go, so they came with us!


We have never gone anywhere during winter break, so this whole idea was very exciting. Another time to travel?! WOO HOO! I was about it…. And then Christmas came and I was: 

1. Exhausted from working ridiculous hours and

2. Exhausted from all of the fun (but exhausting) Christmas festivities. 

So, long story short I was so excited that we decided to take a cruise to Cuba, instead of trying to do it like we normally would… because that would have been, well… exhausting. ;)

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We went on the Norweigan Cruise Line and it was SO NICE! The staff was amazing, so friendly and literally the hardest workers I have ever seen. It was just so nice not having to worry about anything. The food was great, the service impeccable, the boat was beautiful, and the rooms were very— quaint! Lol 

We left from Miami, Florida and sailed overnight to Cuba. We actually spent New Years Eve and New Years Day in Cuba which was really interesting because they don’t really celebrate it like we do! Everything was pretty quiet and a lot of places were closed, but we still had the best time. It was actually kind of nice and perfect for photo ops!

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Before leaving, I had not planned much of anything… (what else is new?)… but I HAD looked up a convertible tour company and found one that looked good— and was open… a lot of them were closed for the holiday. A quick email later and our booking was confirmed!

Upon arrival, Michel, was waiting for us with a sign and my name on it. He was so warm and friendly, and immediately started telling us about his amazing country. 

He walked us to his bright red convertible and introduced us to Maykel, our driver. We loved that Michel had a driver, because he was able to really focus on telling us all about Cuba. They drove us around the city and I couldn’t help but admire all of the 1950’s cars, including the one we were in! It seriously felt like we had stepped back in time. They were everywhere and so beautiful. Even the taxis were old colorful cars… wish they still made them like that! When the world cut off trade with Cuba, the Cuban mechanics had to make things work without extra parts… they say the mechanics here are magic. I believe it! 

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Our first stop was the huge Jesus statue overlooking Havana. We walked and talked, and learned some awesome facts and history about the city and country. It was so interesting hearing Michel’s view on the history and turmoil between the states and Cuba. My favorite thing he said was the famous quote “there’s your side, my side, and the truth.”… so true! He even showed us one of the missiles that had been pointed at the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis. CRAZY!

He told us that this is the “party Jesus” because he is holding a cuban cigar and a mojito! Haha! Really does look it!

He told us that this is the “party Jesus” because he is holding a cuban cigar and a mojito! Haha! Really does look it!

Our tour continued through the colorful streets of Havana, driving around with the wind blowing in our hair…. “(and in my mind I was singing “Havana oh na na” the whole time haha!!!). We stopped at the Capital, because— duh, it was picture time! Michel was snapping pics the whole time too, and sent them to me a week later. They were so good and I loved the candid nature of them all!

He told us that The Capital building looks just like one in the states, but is actually 4 inches taller than ours, because they wanted to win. Lol!

He told us that The Capital building looks just like one in the states, but is actually 4 inches taller than ours, because they wanted to win. Lol!

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We drove around a little more and then headed to a cigar and rum shop. This was easily John’s favorite part of the trip and I swear he bought the whole cigar store. It was so interesting to see all of the choices, because obviously we still can’t get them in the states. Michel also taught John the proper way to light and enjoy a cigar— too cool!  

We made another pitstop at the Floridita bar, to see where Ernest Hemingway hung out. The place was PACKED. We could barely get in the door it was so busy. Everyone in the bar was drinking Hemingway’s signature drink. It looked delicious, but seeing as I couldn’t even move, we didn’t stay too long… although it was really cool!

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Our tour ended at a traditional cuban restaurant called Draquecitos. We said our goodbyes to Michel and Maykel and had a traditional Cuban lunch, complete with a Cuban beer and a tiny taste of Cuban Rum. We signed the walls and headed back out to explore. We walked around even more, took a ton of pictures and then stopped for a mojito! The mojito originated there, so there were amazing— of course!

The next day, John and I did what we do best— which is getting lost in the streets of wherever we are. John actually has the most amazing sense of direction, so we are never actually lost— (I don’t know how he does it). I, of course, have to use maps.me (an app that allows you to download places before you go and then it uses your gps— not data— so you don’t get charged and you don’t have to be connected to wifi) for back up purposes. Lol. I always test him on where we are, and he’s somehow always right. (eye roll)

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So, we usually walk and explore and take photos and then end up getting so tired that we have to stop and get a coffee or a drink or some food… and then we walk some more!

We stopped at Cafe el Escorial and grabbed an Americano and people watched. This is one of the most well known coffee places, and is in the cutest little piazza. 

((In this piazza we also took a bunch of pictures, by setting my DSLR camera in a planter… more on this to come. I think I am going to write a blog about how I take and edit our travel photos while we are away! Would y’all like that?!))

We explored some more, walked around by the capital, but most things were closed for the New Year.

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Overall, our short time in Cuba was so much fun— and so very interesting! If you’re looking for a relaxing, yet adventurous trip, taking the cruise is the perfect way to get both. We loved every second. If you have a chance to go, definitely get a hold of Michel for a tour! His email is bestwaytourscuba@gmail.com and his website is here! He was so knowledgeable and we loved our tour!

THINGS TO KNOW:

MONEY:

Credit cards, debit cards, any kind of card will not work in Cuba. If you are going, be sure to take enough cash to exchange for your whole trip! Our dollar is basically equal to their dollar (CUC), but there is a pretty hefty fee to convert USA $ to the CUC. The exhange rate is more favorable to Canadian dollars or to Euros… so if you can, exchange at home and bring all Canadian dollars to exchange to CUC in Cuba. Definitely not ideal to have to convert your money back and forth so many times, but you gotta do what you gotta do!… and of course we procrastinated until the day before and couldn’t get Canadian dollars or Euros in time before we lefts, so we had to eat about $40 every $300 to switch USA $ to CUC. Not terrible, but not great. 

ViSA:

You do need a Visa to get into Cuba. It costs about $75 per person. You can get one through the cruise line or here.

SNACKS:

If you get hungry easily, bring snacks because there aren’t any convenient markets around! If you’re like us and walk a lot and start getting hangry before your next meal, bring some protein bars, or almonds to tide you over!

BUGS:

We didn’t see one mosquito, but according to the CDC there is Zika in Cuba, soooo put your bug spray on. We use this kind and it’s literally like a shield and no bugs come close. I usually get eaten alive, but this type is travel size and amazing … Shop it HERE.

Hope this helps! Literally this was the easiest trip ever… mostly because it was a cruise… but also because the Cuban people were so nice, accommodating, and kind. I highly recommend going before it becomes like all the other tourist traps! It is still so authentic and stuck back in the 50s. Happy traveling!!

Kayla :)

Scroll for more photos!

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Styling a Fall Table

Home Decor, HOW TOKayla NordComment
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Look at me, y’all!! Another blog post!! I told ya I’d start cranking them out!! LOL… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves… who knows if this will last!

But alas, it’s finally the best time of year— FALL!

In the past, I have waited way too long to switch my house decor over from the summer decorations to the Fall. Then before I know it, it’s time to put the Christmas stuff out— but NOT THIS YEAR! This year I am prepared— (probably because I have one less full-time job— SHEW! Life is good!!)

Anywho, I decided I really wanted to keep my blue & white ginger jars out for my Fall table. (But let’s be honest— I really have no where else to store them now that I’ve bought 3,000 of the dang things.) So they will be used again for this season, with a little updating.

Plus, they are so pretty and BONUS, blue + orange are complimentary colors. In art teacher terms, they look really good next to each other, so they will make my fall table pop!

This picture below is what my table started as… I always use more pinks, whites, and light green flowers in the Spring & Summer table.

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I started with this version already on my table, so switching it over to Fall wasn’t too difficult.

If you’re starting from scratch I’ll link where I got everything that I am still using in the Fall version! I used the ginger jars still (similar ones found here, here, here, & here), the West Elm gold table runner (couldn’t find the exact one, but these two are similar found here and here), chargers, place mats (not the exact ones but similar style here), and the Kate Spade plates!

So first thing I did, was remove those candles and candle holders above. They were a little too chunky, so I added thinner candle holders and candlesticks (shown below). I varied the tall and short ones on both sides of the ginger jars. These candle holders are antiques which I found at the Burlington Antique Show. I’ve been looking for these thin ones FOREVER, so I was super excited when I found them.

I then removed all of the pink and white flowers. I had already purchased fall colored flowers from Michael’s. They can be found here. I would recommend going into the store and picking out bunches that go together— it’s hard to tell online. These in the second picture below are the ones I found, and they were 50% off! I liked the duller oranges, peachy-orange colored berries, and more brownish/orange colored flowers. I didn’t want anything too red/bright orange.

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While I was there, I found some cute pale orange pumpkins and some cream and orange acorns shown above! These will be added to the table also!

I started putting the flower bunches into the vases, alternating between berries, flowers, berries, flowers in my taller jars.

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Next, I laid down some fall “garland” along the table. I got one string from Michael’s here and the other strand is real bittersweet from the side of the road (thanks Dad!). Here is something similar! I then laid down the different acorns on every other side and spread them evenly!

Next, I put the smaller pumpkins on each end. The important thing is to keep things balanced!

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Next, I added the placemats, chargers, and plates back on! Adding a placemat and a charger helps make the table look complete... and a little extra fancy!

I topped the plates off with a smaller blue and white patterned plate. I found these at a local store called The Great Room on Southland Drive, but I’ve also seen similar ones at Tuesday Morning!

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Last and final thing I did was add these orange gingham napkins from Michael’s under the plate to throw a little orange there. I can’t find them online, but I got them at the Michael’s off of Nicholasville, Rd. They are paper!

I just love mixing all the patterns here. I also LOVE how the orange and blue contrast next to each other… the art teacher/artist in me gets realllll excited when I get to use color theory in my decorating :) !

Before having guests over, I would definitely set the table with gold silverware and we’d be ready to entertain! My silverware set isn’t in the pictures, but it’s from John’s grandmother, Memo (she had great taste!). If you’re looking for a set, I love this one from Target— here.

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My dinning room table is from Universal Furniture and you can find it here. My dinning room chairs are from Overstock and you can find them here. The China Buffet is also Universal Furniture found here. Curtains are Wayfair, found here. Chandelier is custom made by Kim Schwab.

The ginger jars have been picked up all over town… I usually have the best luck at Hobby Lobby, Homegoods, Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. But like I said earlier, the majority of mine came from John’s Grandma and my Grandma!

Hope this helps and inspires you to get out your Fall decor and create your own Fall table!

I just love having seasonal decor… mostly because my Mom (aka Martha Stewart) always did growing up— and still does, of course! It just makes each season so special!

Let me know if you need help with anything or if I forgot to link something! Have a great Fall season, and as always, thanks for reading!

Kayla :)