Packing is the tricky part of traveling. If my recent trip to the East coast has taught me anything, it’s that you never really know what to expect with Mother Nature. An October trip should have been brisk and cool. Instead, I saw 90 degree heat waves with only booties and sweaters in my carry-on. It seems the only two trips you can count on average weather conditions is somewhere sunny and tropical or somewhere cold and snowy. I love winter travel. There’s something about the shorter days and getting to see a place at night all lit up after a long day. It’s also a great time to be indulgent because you won’t be showing that belly near sandy shores. So go ahead and get that second mug of hot cocoa. No one’s judging!Read More
Everyone loves to travel but no one likes to pack. If you’re anything like me, you might even put it off until the last second. When that happens, things are usually forgotten. A good friend of mine shared a master packing list with me that includes everything you could possibly take with you. While it’s made my packing nightmare much more bearable, there are always certain items I never forget to bring with me. These aren’t your typical things to pack like clothes, shoes and medicine. They’re a handful of essentials that are important for their own reasons. Take a look at tell me what you think in the comments below:
1 - Travel Documentation
This may seem like an obvious one but it wasn’t always something I thought about. Travel documentation can vary depending on the destination you visit and what country (and even state) you live in. For example, there are a few states that no longer have TSA compliant driver’s licenses and can’t fly domestically without one. While this isn’t supposed to effect fliers before 2020, it might be safer to take a passport along. And before you argue that a passport is too much money, it’s $110 for adults over the age of 16 and only needs to be renewed every 10 years. That’s $11 per year, not a huge mark on the wallet by any means. Travel documentation also includes any flight or train information. It includes travel insurance, copies of your identification, and copies of your health insurance. All this documentation should be kept on your person, not in checked bags. At the hotel when you reach your destination, make sure to put a copy (or the real thing if you prefer) in the safe.
2 - First-Aid/Emergency Travel Kit
I have mini kits for everything. It’s better to be prepared than to face an emergency and not be able to help yourself or someone else! I’ll actually be sharing what’s in this emergency kit soon so you can see exactly what I’m talking about. As someone who also likes to pack light, we’re not talking anything crazy here. An emergency travel kit should have enough items to get you through an emergency situation. A few things to include are: band-aids, alcohol pads, Benadryl/Antihistamine medication, ibuprofen, an energy/candy bar, and a few others things. It should be able to fit easily in your regular bag or purse. We don’t need full bottles of rubbing alcohol here or a 12-pack of bottled water to make it through apocalyptic events. Just enough odds and ends to help with injuries, allergic reactions, upset stomach and other things.
3 - Multi-Purpose Bag
I don’t own purses. I have one clutch that my friends gave me for a birthday and I can count the number of times I use it in a year on one hand. I own messenger bags, overnight bags and backpacks. Why? Because I’m usually carrying my portable office or a small version of it and I like the bag to live a good life. There are two bags that always come with me when I travel: a giant textbook-sized messenger bag and a backpack. The backpack is good when I need to lug the computer around and the messenger bag is good when I’m just lugging the camera around. I know people who pack several purses and clutches to match all the possible outfits they’re taking on vacation. That’s such a waste of space though! Bring something that can easily collapse and that will serve a better purpose than a fashion statement.
4 - Hand Wipes
I always have a travel-size package of hand sanitizer wipes when I travel. Let’s start with trains and planes. They’re FULL of germs and bacteria. I wipe down the trays when I sit down on the plane to make sure it’s as clean as I can get it with the resources that I have. They also come in handy if any public bathroom you need to use is out of soap. We’ve all been there before! Hand wipes also come into handy if you’re a mom or traveling with kids. Anyone who’s done that before understands me on a real deep level. The best part about hand wipes? You don’t have to worry about it being another liquid in a bottle when going through security. If you can’t find hand wipes on your way out or you have tons of sanitizer on hand, just bring a bottle of that. It works as good.
5 - A Large Scarf
I got this super cute, soft scarf from one of my past Stitch Fix boxes that is enormous. I wear it more often as a wrap than a scarf because it’s so huge. Traveling will come with its share of surprises and one of them is that you’ll find yourself cold even if you’re on the way to a tropical getaway. Planes, trains, buses and cars can often be cooler than we prefer. Hotels can also get chilly. A large scarf is versatile and travels easy. It also lets you enjoy that small seat on the plane without having to share it with your over-sized puffy coat. It will even come in handy if one of the days has an uncharacteristic drop in temperature.
Before you go...I want to talk toiletries for a minute. Bottles of things can take up a lot of space in your suitcase and carry-on. See below for my list of Do’s and Don’ts on what to pack and what to buy. For the things not on the list, bring what might be hard to find if you need it and leave what you can do without or find in a pinch. A few other toiletries I never travel without are my hair gel for curly days (I have a very specific one that I use), face moisturizer because my skin can be annoying and a travel size bottle of dry shampoo. If I'm going somewhere I know will be very humid or warm, I'll also take Urban Decay's Makeup Setting Spray to keep my face in place.
It seems like the entire country is currently going through a schizophrenic weather season. Heat waves on top of cold fronts are hitting every corner at different times. Chicago, for example, had a week-long, record breaking heat wave followed immediately by classic fall temperatures. I went to bed one night with it 90 degrees and woke up to 65. You can’t make this up. What are you going to do though? It’s the transition from summer to fall and unfortunately, it’s almost everywhere. So what does that mean for travel? It means packing is going to be much more difficult than it usually is. I would recommend checking out our post sharing tips on what to pack when traveling to multiple climates if you're planning for more extreme weather changes within a trip. If you’re trying to brave the summer to fall, fall to winter or winter to spring times of year...keep reading.
1 - Pick one color scheme. It’s much easier to pack less if you stick with one color scheme for all your outfits. I like to go with neutrals and stick to black, grey, browns and white or nudes. I’ll pop in a few colorful pieces to mix it up when I’m going somewhere special but for the most part, you’ll see me either in black or grey while traveling. The one exception is my favorite sweater of all-time which is dark green because I can wear it several different ways with a few different pieces which brings me to #2.
2 - Choose multi-purpose pieces. Packing a handful of items that can be worn several different ways multiplies your wardrobe without having to add extra pieces. My favorite sweater can be dressed up, dressed down, worn with yoga pants, works with flats or boots and a few other ways. It’s super comfy, it’s warm enough to wear on its own with a long-sleeved tee underneath or with a tank for cooler days. Similar versatile pieces would be your favorite pair of jeans or flats. A cute top that can be worn under things or on its own. The smartest thing to do is pack a handful of versatile pieces that work interchangeably together. If you pack four items that can work 10 different ways, you’re set for the entire trip.
3 - Embrace layers. Remember about 10 years ago when layering was all the rage? There were shirts sold at the hottest stores specifically for layering. I don’t get how this can be a trend considering it’s one of the most basic ways to get dressed. The hardest part about changing seasons is the cold mornings and nights and hot afternoons. No one wants to waste time going back to the hotel twice a day to remove or replace clothing. Instead, layer up. Wear lighter pieces underneath items that you can remove and either carry, tie around your waist, or hold in your bag until it starts cooling off again at night.
Some destinations are more predictable with their weather which makes planning your suitcase much easier. For the unpredictable destinations, *ahem* I’m looking at you Chi-town, it’s better to plan for everything. That doesn’t mean filling your suitcase to the brim, but it does mean being smarter with your packing selection. For more advice on packing, check out a few of our other articles sharing tips and tricks.
Do you have a love/hate relationship with social media? Me too. I love that it allows us to connect with distant family members. I love that it makes it easy to stay up-to-date on current events. I love that it let’s me share my content and content from others sites with all of you. I hate that it has created a world of 24-hour availability. I hate that it is always changing. I hate that it can be challenging to master. While social media in general and each social channel comes with its pros and cons, we can't deny that social media is important in any business model.
According to an article on Small Business Trends, “8 in 10 internet users globally visit/use social networks on their mobile devices” and “Around 1 in every 3 minutes spent online is devoted to social networking and messaging.” People are always connected wherever they go. Not capitalizing on this opportunity to connect with them is borderline negligent. Small Business Trends additionally reported on social media marketing statistics from businesses. According to their research, “Almost 90% of marketers say their social media marketing efforts have increased exposure for their business, and 75% say they’ve increased traffic.” More important, over “1 in 3 Internet users say they go to social networks when looking for more information about a brand or product.”
So what do we do with this information? First, look at your demographics. Research social media stats for each demo whether it’s by age, gender, income, location, etc. See where they are the most present and tailor your strategy so that you’ll reach them with the proper information. Second, build a digital brand that has a strong image and consistent presence regardless which social media platforms you use. The #1 key to success in social media marketing is consistency in your brand while reaching your audience. Finally, integrate digital ad campaigns into your organic content. It’s important to be sharing the same messaging whether your content is organic or paid. The less your ad and boosted content feels like...well, an ad...the more receptive the audience will be.
Owning a business in today’s world might seem more complicated but it has the potential to lead to greater success. A business is able to reach people that may have never heard of it without the power of social media. It can be a challenge to find a strategy that works well but once figured out, it is an unparalleled asset. Embrace the world of social media and use it to your advantage. Whether you’re promoting blog content or products, your business will be better off for it.
With to-do lists constantly growing and so much to manage between work and home life, sometimes it feels like there’s no way to keep track of it all, even with the perfect planner. Our phones already hold pretty much all our lives- pictures, social media, Netflix. With these 5 apps, your phone can also help keep track of everything that needs to get done, and make sure it gets done.
Asana is perfect for anyone working in or managing a team. Team members can join the same group to share and assign tasks, share files, and add comments and updates to keep everyone in the loop. I personally use Asana at my job everyday, and my coworkers and I all agree it’s the best way for us to stay connected and know who’s doing what.
Sometimes, I really want my handwritten notes or a hard copy of something saved as a PDF on my phone so it’s easy to send in emails and texts. Taking pictures of notes works okay, but they often come out blurry, and the photo files are too big to send in an email. The Genius Scan app allows you to scan anything and converts it to a PDF on your phone. This makes it easy to send the notes or document in both text messages and email, and you can email it to yourself to save it on your computer.
I feel like if I’m not being productive, it’s because I’m looking at random articles and Tasty videos on my phone. With the pocket app, I can save all the articles and videos I see coming up on Facebook or Safari to look at later. Now there’s no excuses- you have the link saved for later, and you can look at it after you get your to-do list done!
As a working student, I have multiple email addresses that are constantly getting flooded with both important information and spam. Sometimes, I look at my mail app on my phone and feel overwhelmed by everything in it. The second I have my email finally organized, I feel so accomplished. Spark detects if an email is personal, work, or school related, and files messages away to their respective category. It makes it much easier to tackle my inbox and keep work, school, promotional, and personal emails separate.
Sometimes I feel like I need a to-do list just to organize my real to-do list. Wunderlist makes creating dynamic and interactive to-do lists simple. Within your to-do list, you can create subtasks, set deadlines and reminders, check off items, share tasks with colleagues, and add attachments and pictures. Each item on your list is perfectly tailored to help you get it done. Best of all, it can sync across all your devices and virtual calendars.
We’ve reached the time of year in Chicago where the weather can either be great or awful. Case in point - we went from a week of beautiful 60 degree and sunny days to 20 degrees with a bitter wind back up to the 50s accompanied by abnormal tornado weather followed by a snow day. Needless to say, Chicago is on crack and needs to make up it’s mind. Date night is easy to plan when you know the weather is going to be gorgeous or even awful. But when it’s a toss up, it’s not so easy. We have rounded up a few restaurants that provide an exceptional experience indoors while the outdoors are a gamble. Innovative cocktails, gorgeous city views and decadent dishes make for an ideal date night. This list should take you through the rest of winter until patio season begins and the city comes alive once more.
Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf | 218 West Kinzie Street
Get a little closer in the dim lit, European-style restaurant. A little on the smaller side, Bavette’s is an intimate space to enjoy a table for two. Bavette’s originality stands out with unique and extravagant offerings like their seafood towers and decadent desserts made in-house. We suggest the Chocolate Cream Pie. What’s even greater about Bavette’s is the variety of price points and menu options. From traditional salads to elegant and classic French cuisine, you’ll find anything from a Classic Ribeye to Roasted Bone Marrow. Oh...and nothing is simple about any of their dishes. Each one stands out in its own special way.
Blackbird | 619 West Randolph Street
My first experience with Blackbird was at a friend’s wedding. After an outdoor ceremony in August, we made our way to this West Loop gem for the best reception meal I’ve enjoyed. You’d expect nothing less from Paul Kahan and Ryan Pfeiffer. Together, they’ve created a restaurant that brings innovation and Midwestern cuisine together in a way that foodies and non-foodies alike can appreciate. The sleek, modern restaurant design provides a sophisticated atmosphere perfect for a first date or night out early in your relationship. We recommend the caramelized Brussels sprouts, and aged duck breast but don’t be surprised if they’re not on the menu when you stop in. Blackbird works seasonally with its ingredients so a menu change isn’t uncommon throughout the year.
Celeste | 111 West Hubbard Street
Inspired by a classic American cocktail bar, like the other restaurants on our list, Celeste is a unique experience all it’s own. From plush seating to marble tables and a vintage-style garden patio, it’s a sophisticated, chic experience couples out for a night on the town dream of. Stop in for a cocktail or glass of wine and move on to dinner. With cocktail names like She’s New In Town and Mr. Untouchable, conversation will never run dry. Indulge in dishes like the Steak Frites or Fried Chicken. You won’t be disappointed at these classics. Looking for a place to keep the conversation going after hours? Celeste’s late night pub menu has everything from a Kale Salad to French Fries and they’re open til 4am Tuesdays to Fridays and 5am Saturdays.
Cindy’s Rooftop | 12 South Michigan Avenue
Cindy’s Rooftop is in the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Open during the warmer months and enclosed when the weather is uncooperative, Cindy’s offers some of the best views of Chicago. Overlooking Millennium Park and the lake, the restaurant is famous for drink shots and selfies with the view in the background. The view, however, does not outshine their menu. Known for an innovative and creative cocktail menu, Cindy’s is the type of place where time flies. You stand at the bar for an hour or more and find your way to a table after a few glasses of wine. Next thing you know, three hours have passed. Believe me when I say I speak from experience. While they’re known more for their brunch, I must give a shout out to their dinner menu. From charcuterie plates that rival those in France to savory entrees like the Pan Roasted Duck Breast, your taste buds will be tantalized. The service is incredible, the atmosphere electric and the experience priceless.
Spiaggia | 980 North Michigan Avenue, 2nd Floor
For a hearty and luxurious Italian experience, Spiaggia offers a combination of classic Italian dishes and twists on old classics. Regardless of your final decision, anything you order will leave you satisfied and satiated. Choose between a five or eight course menu for the tasting menu with or without accompanied wine pairings. The a la carte menu features a selection of pastas, entrees and starters. Looking for something a little lighter and casual? Stop into their lounge for the Bar Menu. They serve a variety of cocktails and impressive wine list with a selection of dishes like the Bolognese which I must recommend.
The Dawson | 730 West Grand Avenue
Casual meets sophistication at the Dawson. This is the type of restaurant where you’ll find ladies sipping wine or cosmos and gentlemen, classic Manhattans or craft beer. I recommend the Dawson to everyone for every occasion. Their menu changes seasonally and they have a beautiful patio during the warmer months. I have yet to be disappointed by the service, atmosphere or food. I recommend the Frites, Kale and Farro Salad, Dawson Burger, Scallops and Warm Brown Butter Sundae. The Dawson is a fantastic spot for a double date, group date, first date or a night out away from life.
The Village | 71 West Monroe Street
A small taste of Italy sandwiched between skyscrapers, The Village is one of three restaurants part of The Italian Village. The restaurant opened in 1927 and has been a favorite of my family’s since before I was born. Reservations book fast for this popular Italian spot, especially because it’s prime real estate in the Theater District. Since I’ve been frequenting this restaurant a few times a year since I was born, I’ve made my way around their menu which has pretty much stayed the same. The Chicken Parmigiana is delicious as well as the Lasagne, Cannelloni, Manicotti, Agnolotti and Prime Beef Carpaccio. The restaurant is dimly lit and designed to feel like a restaurant in the heart of Italy. Romanesque statues stand tall throughout the space with red leather booths and crooners in the background.
Do you have a date night recommendation in the city? Tell us in the comments below.
Venturing off on your own to become a small business owner or self-employed is a big step. You’ll find there are hundreds of people ready to offer you advice and just as many companies trying to sell you their latest product. Breaking off on your own professionally is already a challenge, all of those added decisions and complications don’t need to get in your way. I broke off on my own just over two years ago to become a freelance consultant and take this blog to the next level. The journey has had it’s ups and downs but through it all, there are several tools that have really helped me in terms of productivity, organization and just keeping my head above water. Everyone eventually finds their own process and systems that work best for them but if you’re just starting out on a solo career, consider these tools to help you get going.
I originally used Asana to organize and edit the content calendar for this blog. Prior to Asana, everything was on paper and making changes was always a mess. A friend of mine introduced me to Asana a few years ago but it took me almost a year to actually start using it. Asana is a fantastic tool but it can be overwhelming at first if you’re not particularly tech savvy and/or open to change. There are plenty of tutorials and information to get the hang of the platform and after playing around with it for a few minutes, you’ll notice that it’s not as challenging to use as you might have thought. Once you start using it and organizing whatever you need to in Asana, chances are you’ll be a devotee like I am now.
A few “projects” I have in Asana are the editorial calendar for Lattes, Life & Luggage, recurring administrative and management tasks that I need to stay on top of regularly, training for interns, travel planning, public relations and marketing plans, newsletter management and planning, research projects and all of my deadlines for clients in my freelance consulting. It’s accessible via your computer, mobile device and tablets. There are several different formats so that you can organize things in a way that best fit your needs. It’s also a great way to track progress on assignments whether you work solo or with a team.
File sharing is essential in most careers it seems. Google Drive (as I’ll discuss in a moment) is a great option to share internally but if you need to share documents externally or for viewing only, Dropbox is the way to go. Dropbox Pro gives you one terabyte worth of space and costs $9.99/monthly or $99/annually. I very quickly upgraded to Dropbox Pro simply because I use it with all of my clients and 2 gigs stopped being enough space very early into my venture of being a solopreneur. That extra space is also necessary if you have to save a lot of photos, especially high resolution. Leave the space on your Google Drive for internal documents and let Dropbox be home to photos and client shared folders.
When I rebranded to Lattes, Life & Luggage nearly one year ago (wow, time has flown), one of the first things I did after buying the domain was create a Google Apps account. I think it’s important to have a business email (ie. email@example.com). It gives you more credibility as a professional, no matter the career choice, and also helps keep you out of spam folders. Google Apps is a great resource because it comes with the ability to add other users in case you’re looking to expand your team. It also has more than just email services. You have access to a company Google Drive with 15GB of space per user, Google Calendar, Google AdWords, Google Hangouts and more all dedicated to the company.
While Dropbox is one of the best resources for external file sharing, Google Drive & co. is one of the best for internal sharing. Google Docs, Google Sheets & Google Slides are easy to adapt to which make them user-friendly plus you can have multiple people editing them at the same time. This is really the selling point. Rather than passing documents back and forth or waiting on someone to leave a document, several people can be in a document and working in it at the same time. Game changer!
STAYFOCUSED (or any other site blocker)
According to an infographic published on The Muse, the average worker wastes 3 out of 8 hours in the workday not including lunch and scheduled breaks. That same infographic pointed out that 44% of the time wasted is spent on web surfing. Inc. also published an article regarding time being wasted in the workplace citing the top distractions as Google and Social Media. I’ve read about digital distractions plenty and this past fall, I actually timed every single thing I spent time on. While emails ranked high on my list of time sucks, mindless Googling and social media scrolling were also culprits.
Being a social media consultant, it’s hard for me not to be on social media. There’s usually something I need to be doing for a client on at least one social media channel each day but there are ways to control the time-wasting scrolling. StayFocused is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to block selected sites. Set the hours in which you’d like to block the sites and a time limit for how long you’ll allow yourself to be on those sites. For example, say you want to block Facebook but still be able to go on and scroll for a few minutes during your afternoon coffee break. Allow yourself 10 minutes per day in your “working hours.” Once you hit that time limit, the extension will completely block access to all of your blocked sites. So, to be clear, if you have a total of five websites blocked you only get 10 minutes for ALL of those websites. Not 10 minutes each. You’ll find it sobering when you realize how much time you get back by avoiding unnecessary sites.
Embarking on a solo career, you’ll need to decide whether you want to work on an hourly contract agreement, in a retainer or project-based agreement or both. If you’re decision is both or hourly, you’ll need a solid system to track your time. Even if you’re working on a retainer or project-based method of payment, I still think it’s important to track your time because it gives you an idea of what you’re spending your time on and how long it takes you to complete any projects. Toggl is a free tool that makes it easy to track your time. The Pro Plan has more features like adding in rates but I’ve found that the free version works just fine.
If you’re interested in marketing your business or you’re in the business of content marketing, Buffer and Squarespace are my top two recommendations. Buffer makes it easy to organize and schedule social media posts. The Buffer Awesome Plan gives you up to 100 posts queued for each profile and up to 10 profiles. It’s also incredibly affordable compared to other social media scheduling platforms out there. Squarespace is my web hosting platform of choice. I’ve used Blogger and Wordpress as well but Squarespace by far is the easiest to manage as a non-designer and their customer service is incredible. There are obviously plenty of tools and programs out there for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small business owners. It just takes a little trial and error to find out what works best for you.
Tell us in the comments below which programs you find helpful.
Two big resolutions many people make in the new year are fitness and travel related. Unless you have a very active trip planned or some kind of wellness retreat on the books, travel and fitness don’t necessarily seem like the best pair. You’re away from your gym and traveling with any equipment is a waste of valuable space and weight. Most hotels have some kind of fitness center but not all of them and definitely very few bed and breakfasts. So how do you get a workout in while traveling to stick to those resolutions and not let the little indulgences get the best of you? Easy!
Walk everywhere. You burn an average of 300-400 calories walking for one hour. To put that in perspective, that equals about 20-30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, 15-25 minutes on a stationary bike, 20-30 minutes running (assuming a 10 minute mile) or an 80-110 minute-long Pilates class. The best exploring is done on foot so if you can manage at least 2-3 hours of walking, you’ll burn anywhere from 600-1200 calories in just one day. I think that allows for an extra glass of wine with dinner.
Use fitness apps. There are dozens of apps out there that have downloadable workouts that can be done anywhere. Sites like Blogilates, Tone It Up and Beachbody on Demand carry a variety of free and paid programs and individual workouts that you can take with you anywhere and do in the comfort of your hotel room. Lay a towel down on the floor to complete any floor exercises and use things like desk chairs and the foot of the bed as equipment if necessary. Bottles of water make excellent dumbbell and kettlebell substitutes.
Research studios in the area. A lot of yoga studios, Pilates studios, gyms and specialty health and wellness centers offer a la carte class options for travelers and new residents. If you are a die-hard cyclist, look into any studios within walking distance of your hotel to see if they offer affordable classes without a subscription. If you’ll be in a destination for a little longer than a quick trip, ask if they have bundle options that are discounted if you buy 3+ classes. Even if you won’t become a regular visitor, most studios welcome travelers just passing through for a bit.
Look into free outdoor activities. Chicago, for example, has free yoga on the beach and at Millennium Park for locals and visitors to enjoy during the summertime. Most cities and some small towns have free yoga classes in the park or on the beach when the weather allows. Local gyms and fitness centers will sponsor or send an instructor to rooftops or other public areas for people to come and enjoy a class usually at sunrise or sunset. See if there are any happening in the location you’re visiting during your travel dates. It’s a great opportunity to meet locals, get recommendations and connect with others who enjoy the same fitness activities as you do.
Get Outside! Other than taking long walks to explore a destination, hiking, swimming, surfing, biking, mountain climbing are all fantastic ways to stay active while traveling. Take a bike ride along a lake or ocean front. HIke to the top of a mountain or volcano. Take surfing or paddleboarding lessons. Find something fun and exciting that you’ve always wanted or try and go for it! Travel is all about going outside of your comfort zone and what better way to do it than getting active.
Travel and fitness do not have to be mutually exclusive because they actually work really well together. Travel isn’t just about indulging in all of the decadent meals and treats a destination has to offer (although that is pretty amazing). It’s about experiencing everything a city/town/exotic destination has to offer. That means everything from the comfort of your hotel bed to the challenge of climbing a mountain. Justify all of those high calorie dinners and wine tastings by being active all day long. I always say that travel is nothing unless you get out of the car and onto your feet. You discover all of the best finds simply by walking down the street.