We recently visited one of our favorite cities, Nashville! 48 hours of sunshine, catching up with out of town friends, and immersing ourselves in all things country. We stayed at the perfectly located Omni Hotel so we could take advantage of the rooftop pool.

The first night we were able to visit Husk, and it did NOT disappoint. The restaurant is set in a historic mansion and serves up southern-focused dishes. My personal favorite was the charcuterie board filled with house cured meats, cheeses, and homemade cheddar biscuits.

The weekend was filled with bar hopping on Broadway, brunching at farm-to-fork Adele’s and a laid back acoustic Dave Matthews set at the amphitheater on the river, such a perfect weekend.

This was my 5th time in Nashville, here are some more places in Nashville not to be missed:

 

Already missing Nashville and the Halls!

 

Here are some Nashville looks from the weekend:

 

 

Packing light and smart is key when prepping for a European vacation. Lugging around a heavy amount of unnecessary items on planes, trains, and automobiles will wear on you quickly. Let’s start with some basic musts:


 

  • Passport, copies of your passport stashed away in your suitcase, all travel docs
  • Digital Camera
  • Wall Converter…not just an adapter, you’ll want to convert the electricity first. Lesson learned the hard way ending in a melted straightener in Paris once.
  • A good travel read…or two.
  • Phone Charger…and car charger if renting a car. You never want to run out of juice when in need of an app or map.
  • Headphones…I love my noise canceling ones on planes.
  • Inflatable neck pillow
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Deck of cards
  • Backpack for day trips
  • A few plastic bags for dirty clothes…think, wet swimsuits, dirty clothes

 

On to toiletries, I’ve always found great travel sized options on Amazon and Ulta.  Here are some items to not forget, aside from the obvious toothbrush, shampoo, etc.


  • Chapstick with SPF
  • Sunscreen
  • Bandaids or blister relief for all of the walking
  • Travel meds like Advil and Tums…I once developed an ear infection in Greece, I never go on vacation without eardrops, now.
  • Roll on perfume…easily packed and a good excuse to try a new scent.

 

When it comes to clothing, choose a color scheme, prioritize items that won’t wrinkle, and think versatile and easily layerable. Leave flashy jewelry, heels and clutches at home (although, how cute is this?). Think simple and comfortable.

  • Tennis shoes…a must for all of the walking involved on a European vaycay.
  • Rainproof layer
  • Comfy leggings and a sportsbra that can work for a hike or even to throw on before a long train ride.

  • Swimsuits and coverups…if beach-going is going to be part of your European travels, be sure to pack a few of these!
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach bag
  • Sunhat

  • Several fun dresses…long and short
  • Simple accessories that will match any outfit
  • Jacket for layering
  • Neutral Scarf
  • Your favorite pair of jeans
  • Shorts and a few tops to mix and match
  • Sandals that can be dressed up or down, a short wedge if you plan on getting fancy at night.
  • Crossbody purse that zips

 

Always remember to lay everything out ahead of time, check the forecast before you leave, and roll up your items to save space if you are carrying on. Hope you enjoyed these tips on packing light and effectively. This post leaves me dreaming about my next European getaway.

Last month, my Chicago/Denver/West Virginia based family flew into Arizona for a few days of sunshine and relaxation.  We stayed at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa situated on a beautiful golf course with impeccable grounds in the Phoenix Scottsdale area.  From a beautifully kept spa to a lazy river to lounge in, this vacation had a little something for everyone. There were loads of restaurants, bars, and shops within walking distance of it, too.

The first day the guys went on a private ATV tour through Arizona Outdoor Fun and rode four wheelers on trails through the desert for the day.  The girls hit the spa and pool, and everyone regrouped for dinner at Eddie V’s. We ended the night by the fire pits at the Westin with cards, cocktails, and a live music duo.

Dress

The next day a few of us hit a spring training game to watch the White Sox (you’re welcome Dan).  We stayed for a few innings but AZ is just so. dang. hot.  We were in need of a body of water to float in.  That night we visited Tommy Bahama’s restaurant and had a nice open air dinner.
Romper

On our last day we hung out poolside once again, couldn’t get enough of the sunshine and cold beers.

On our last night of vaycay, we had dinner at North Italia. This was our favorite restaurant of the trip. We went on a Sunday and took advantage of their happy hour menu – great salads, wine, and of course company.

AZ was a great destination for a family gathering, and the Westin Kierland met our needs perfectly. Already looking forward to our next family vacation!

This week, I am off to spend time poolside with the fam down in Scottsdale, Arizona!  Here are some items that are making it into my bag:

Aloha, again. If you missed the first half of this recap, this will get you up to speed. The second half of our Maui vacation was spent on the Wailea side of the island.  Wailea has a more upscale island vibe and is a great choice for couples or anyone looking for a little more peace and quiet. We had a spectacular experience at the Fairmont Kea Lani.  It is a gorgeous beachfront property that never felt overcrowded with several pool options. The swim up bar was perfect to post up and watch Cub’s playoff games at, and any hotel that encourages the option to drink your beverage out of a pineapple is a win in my book.  All of the rooms are suite-style and the nightly tradition of a Hawaiian running around the grounds blowing into a conch shell and lighting tiki torches to signal sundown is not to be missed.


The grounds covered in palm trees, the glowing sunsets, the live Hawaiian music, the fresh floral leis, swoon! I became that girl tossing as many of the complimentary bath products into my suitcase as I could to take home because they were that great.  The first night in Wailea we went to Monkeypod for their fresh island fish sandwich that Dan and I both agree is the best fish sandwich we’ve ever had…in our lives…delicious down to the sweet Hawaiian homemade bun it is served on. So great that we stopped again before heading out to the airport. Their mai-tai’s do not disappoint, either.

On our second day in Wailea, while Dan golfed I visited Spa Grande. Spa Grande encourages guests to arrive well before their appointments to enjoy and experience the sauna, eucalyptus steam room, therapeutic specialty baths, plunge pools, and a full body loofah exfoliation by an attendant. Treat. Yo. Self.

Later that afternoon, we ventured to Eskimo Candy, a lunch spot you can miss if you blink that a few friends had recommended for killer poke bowls, DELISH.  That night we walked over to Maui’s Irish pub Mulligans – if there is an Irish pub around any place we visit my 81% Irish husband WILL sniff it out.

As I said in Part 1, bringing our own snorkel gear and renting a jeep allowed us to beach hop at our leisure.  On our last day in Maui, we headed over to secluded Palauea Beach and discovered a sea turtle sanctuary!  We had spotted honu before, but it’s hard to put into words what a unique experience it was, just the two of us floating in the Pacific surrounded by a bunch of Hawaiian sea turtles. They are remarkable creatures and can live for 80 years!


     Floral Top 

We spent our last night at an exceptional restaurant Hawaii offers in the Four Seasons called Ferraro’s. I would have returned just for the melt-in-your-mouth lobster pasta with vodka sauce, but the oceanfront ambiance of this place is like no other. Tip: Ferraro’s offers half priced bottles of wine after 8PM.  We stumbled upon this during our first trip and took advantage this time around, too.

A few more tips before you go:

  • Happy Hours. Happy Hours are a big deal in Maui and taking advantage if you can helps buffer the pricey cost of Hawaii. We especially loved the one at Nick’s Fishmarket in the Fairmont. Hula Grill also had a fun one with live music.  We had also heard good things about this one.
  • Car Rental.  An open air jeep is a must! We’ve booked through this company several times; never any issues and always a good deal.

Maui is truly paradise. We left feeling rejuvenated, well-rested and definitely not hungry. Until next time, Maui, Mahalo!