How to Pack for 8-weeks in a Carry-On

I love to pack light. I save money on airlines fees, I don’t have to worry about losing any checked luggage, and its less stuff to haul around during my travels. Whatever your reasoning is for packing light, I’m here to offer you words of wisdom and guidance for your next trip!

The List

I spent quite some time creating my packing list for New Zealand. I did a lot of research and even did a couple of test packs, so I knew I had everything I would want during my extended travels. One thing I always kept in mind is that if I forgot something or needed more of something New Zealand has stores, so I can buy whatever I need. It’s likely wherever you are planning to go also has stores. The only items I ended up buying was an extra long sleeve shirt (which I have since added to my list) and additional toiletry items – sunscreen, face wash etc. The list now serves as my guide and I adjust it depending on the destination and the activities I will be doing. The list usually has enough clothes for one week and then I do laundry. Ready for the list? Click here to download and start packing.

Laundry

You will be able to do laundry. Whether you are staying at a house that has a washer and dryer or visit a laundry mat, you will be able to wash your clothes. That being said, you will laundry detergent (something that can also be found in the country you are visiting), and some sort of laundry bag. My particular suitcase comes with a laundry bag, but I also like to pack a packable duffel pack that can double as a laundry bag. But in reality, a trash bag with work. You just want something to transport your dirty and then clean clothes that isn’t your suitcase. When I was in New Zealand you could always tell it was laundry day for me because usually the last clean item I had was the dress I packed.

Laundry Day!

Mix and Match Your Clothes

Don’t bring a shirt that will only go with one pair of pants. Or shoes that only serve one purpose. Multi-purpose is your friend when packing light. Bring a variety of colors that will mix and match well. Since most of my wardrobe is black, that’s kind of easy for me. Solid colors also work well. I brought shorts that I could hike in, but could also pass for city wear, or a night on the town. If you look at my photos, you’ll notice I am wearing a combination of the same 5 or 6 items the whole time. After returning back to the States, I didn’t wear any of those clothes for at least a month. Some of the items I brought with me didn’t make it home. It was time for us to part ways, and it made room in my bag for souvenirs. Check out my blog about my favorite travel items.

Layering

This is huge. Even though it might be cold enough for your big coat, you don’t really have room for it. And if you are visiting a place like New Zealand during the Spring/Summertime, you will go through about 4 different climates. Based off all the items I brought, I could layer it up pretty good if I got really cold. I had a tank top, wool long sleeve, fleece sweater, my Athleta jacket, and my Columbia raincoat that was excellent in the wind. I never once had to fully layer up. Same with the pants. The hiking pants I brought were pretty good in the cold and wind, but if it was really cold, I could layer them with some yoga pants. Layering is key.

Toiletries

I’m fully aware that in a carry-on all liquids have to be under 3 oz. My sunscreen in exactly 3 oz, and as I mentioned earlier, I tend to purchase facewash and sometimes shampoo in whatever country I’m in. It helps you feel more like a local. I also just bring the basics as you’ll see in my packing list.

Some Final Tips

I do believe the packing cubes help you save room because you can stuff them, and then make them fit in a tight spot. Plus, they keep your bag organized and neat. I also stuff my sunscreen and undergarments in my shoes. Although I bring 4 pairs of shoes, I only pack one large pair. I wear my hiking boots on the place to save room and would either wear my boots or trainers on travel days to save room. The Toms and sandals don’t take up any room. Same with my jeans. I usually wore them on travel days to save room. Lastly, don’t bring huge glasses or sunglasses cases. They now make softshell cases or stuff your glasses in a sock. It will help you save room versus the large hard case.

What tips do you have for packing light? Share them in the comments below!

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Live Aqua Resort – Cancun, Mexico

If you are looking for a relaxing getaway with beautiful scenery and great weather Cancun is the perfect spot. It’s an easy flight from the United States. Even with a layover, I arrived at the resort with time to hang by the pool for a couple of hours before dinner.

Live Aqua Resort

This was my first time at an all-inclusive and Live Aqua Resort did not disappoint. The rooms were large and elegantly designed, but my favorite part was the view. Every time I walked into the room the curtains would open and I would be greeted with the stunning view of the resort pools and the beach.

The resort has three pools including an infinity pool and a swim-up bar. There is a bar on the beach, and the barstools are swings. It was definitely an experience being able to go up to the bar and order whatever I want. I don’t usually go on lounging vacations, but I have to admit, it was nice.

As a lover of Mexican food, I was a little disappointed that the resort didn’t have a Mexican restaurant, but they did serve tacos by the pool during lunch. They have Asian, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine available for dinner. The portions are a little smaller than what is served in America, so don’t be afraid to order all three courses. Breakfast is a buffet and they serve everything. They even have a smoothie bar.

The resort also offers a lot of activities. They have morning yoga, beach volleyball, cornhole, cooking classes, live music and karaoke. You just have to ask the concierge for a list of the weekly activities. Then there is the tour desk where you can book your excursions while in Cancun. We choose to spend a day at Xavage – the brand new adventure park, and also booked a tour to Chichen Itza – the ruins of the ancient Mayan city.

Xavage and Chichen Itza

Xavage is an adventure park. They have 4 “main” attractions that you can only complete once, and then some smaller ones you can ride as many times as you’d like. We only had time for the 4 big ones and one round on monkey. The “main” attractions are a jet boat ride, an off-road rock crawling course (you’re the driver), river rafting, and zip lining. Monkey is a rope course. It offers 4 levels, and the highest level is reserved for professional climbers. The easiest level takes about 45 mins to complete, and the hardest can take up to three hours. It is definitely an adrenaline pumping activity.

Lunch is included in your ticket. I suggest bringing sturdy shoes you can walk in but don’t mind if they get wet. Same with your clothes. You can wear a bathing suit or comfortable clothes you don’t mind getting wet. Life jackets are provided at the water rides, and you are given a helmet at check-in. Lunch is a buffet. Since the park is “wild” they also have “wild” food. They have alligator, boar, ostrich and rabbit for you to try and a collection of less exotic foods.

Most people have heard of Chichen Itza – some sites even consider it one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World. Chichen Itza is located in Yucatan State which is about 2.5 hours away from Cancun. It’s a 12-hour tour, and a lot of it is spent on the bus, but they try to give you an all-encompassing tour of a different part of Mexico in a short time. You make 4 stops. The first stop is at a Mayan Village where you have lunch. There is a little shop, a tequila tasting and you meet with a Mayan Shaman. You can also purchase your own Mayan Calendar if you wish.

The second stop is Chichen Itza. To help tourists pronounce it, they call it Chicken Pizza. The ruin site is extremely hot, so bring lots of water, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. You spend about 2 hours at the site and will walk around a lot. The grounds were quite a bit larger than I originally thought. There are a lot of tents set up along the side with little knick-knacks to buy. The guide will walk you around the ruins and give you some history for about 45 mins, and then you can explore on your own. The third stop is a Cenote – basically an open cave with water in it. This particular Cenote is 150 ft deep. In that part of the country, the Cenotes are Mexico’s water source. After a long day in the sun, the water is very refreshing. The 4th and final stop is a small colonial town. This stop is about 20 minutes long – basically enough time to walk around the plaza and grab a snack from a vendor. It was a long and exhausting day, but I enjoyed seeing a different side of Mexico outside our resort.

All in all, the trip was fantastic. I like the idea of 5 days at the resort (keep in mind two of those are travel days). I’m sure Live Aqua won’t be my last all-inclusive. I would do 5 days again, but I would only do one excursion. I think 3 lazy days is perfect and refreshing for someone like me who is always on the go. Have you ever been to an all-inclusive? What do you think of them? What about Cancun? Do you have a favorite resort or excursion there? Leave me a comment below because I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

A Mammoth Sized Adventure

Thinking of heading down to Mammoth California for some late spring skiing? Watch my video and get all the details to make your trip an epic one!

Mammoth is a popular destination for folks in the LA area, but if you live in Reno, it’s really just a 3-hour jaunt down the road. This place is also a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and offers something year-round. When I first envisioned our trip to Mammoth on Memorial Weekend, I was picturing us skiing, hiking, fishing, hot springing and I even considered bringing my bike or paddle board. However, Mother Nature blessed us with the snowiest May on record, and it kind of turned into your typical winter ski trip, but that’s okay.

No matter the direction you’re coming from, the drive down Hwy 395 is a pretty one. You’ve got the high-desert landscape on one side and the snow-capped Sierras on the other. Coming down from Reno, you’ve got some awesome vista points like Bridgeport, Mono Lake, or even Bodie the Ghost Town if you have time for a detour.

I highly recommend you take the June Lake Loop on your way to Mammoth. It’s about 25 minutes north of Mammoth Lakes and 15 mins south of Lee Vining. The loop is 15 miles long and will take you past alpine lakes, hiking trails, waterfalls in the springtime, a ski resort in the winter and a brewery.

We had originally planned to camp during our Mammoth adventure, but since there was snow on the forecast, we booked an Airbnb instead. It was a cute little condo right in the middle of town and about 7 minutes from the mountain.

When exploring the Eastern Sierra, definitely add Brewery Hopping to your list. I already mentioned June Lake Brewery on the June Lake Loop, but in Mammoth Lakes, there is Black Doubt Brewing and Mammoth Brewing Company. Mammoth Brewing Company recently joined forces with Great Basin in Reno, I’m curious to see if they start bringing any of the Great Basin beers down south.

Hot Springs is another must do. Most of them are near the airport. I always like to refer readers to Travel Nevada’s Hot Spring Etiquette. This is a fun and free way to enjoy nature, and we want to make sure the Hot Springs stay that way. If you found the Hot Spring on google maps and it was easy to get to, it will probably be crowded. Some of the springs in Mammoth comes with multiple pools and can accommodate a crowd of people. Even with the people, the views are gorgeous and the water is warm, so make your way to an Eastern Sierra Hot Spring.

And then there is the big reason everyone heads down to Mammoth Lakes – Mammoth Mountain. This mountain is gigantic, and it always stays open late into the spring with a base at over 7,000 ft and a summit over 11,000 ft. The mountain has over 23 chair lifts and 3500 acres of skiable terrain. We went for one (epic) spring day, and only got a taste of the mountain. With all the recent snowfall the conditions were amazing, and we essentially had the resort to ourselves (comparably).

Coming from Reno we have a lot of ski resorts within driving distance of our home, but we had such a good time in Mammoth Lakes, I know we will be planning a trip back soon. Have you been to Mammoth before? What was your experience like? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me at keeliecox5.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephants and Thailand kind of go together like peanut butter and jelly, and if you find yourself in Thailand looking for an Elephant experience, I highly recommend the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. They have a few different locations in Thailand. I went to the one in Chiang Mai which I think happens to be the best one.

Your day is broken up into 3 sections. You start off by feeding the elephants bananas. I think this helps you and elephants get comfortable with one another. By the end of the feeding frenzy, the elephants are no longer in their stalls and roaming the ground with you.

The second experience is Spa Time with the Elephants. You head into this giant mud pit where you can rub mud all over the elephants or your friends. I don’t believe the mud had any special healing power, I think it’s just an excuse for everyone to get dirty before heading into the third excursion.

Swim with the elephants! After the mud bath, you make your way to a river where you splash and swim with the elephants. They love the water! And it is so fun watching them play in it. After playtime is over, the trainers will take the elephants further down the river, and you will head back up to camp for some lunch.

This is honestly one of the coolest experiences, and the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a sustainable and ethical eco-tourism project which make my heart happy.  The elephants are loved and cared for, and there is no riding because its bad for their backs.

What to bring?

Towel

Dry Clothes

Swim Suit

Waterproof camera

The GoPro was perfect!

Trainers or a sturdy pair of sandals

 I brought one of each to be safe but was in my sandals mostly.

We booked our experience through our hotel in Chiang Mai. It’s popular, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a booking place, but you can also reach out to the Sanctuary directly.

Check out my video for the full experience. What fun ways have you interreacted with Elephants? Tell me in the comments below.

Until next time…

Cheers!

Keelie

Five of My Favorite Travel Items

We’ve all go those items we can’t leave home without. It might be a favorite jacket or your trusty sneakers. Maybe you have a favorite hat or a water bottle that has traveled the world with you. The point is, we’ve all got them. Yes, we aren’t going to leave home without our cell phone, wallet, id, camera and probably a portable battery, but I wanted to look beyond that. So here are 5 items I never leave behind when packing for a trip.

Garmin Watch

The importance of time when traveling. Sometimes my phone is stashed away in my backpack, or I don’t want to constantly fish it out of my purse to see what time it is, so wearing a watch is a must for me while traveling or on an adventure. The Garmin watch is great because it will also track your steps and calculate mileage. When I was in London, I would average over 10 miles a day exploring the city, and I love having my watch on hikes to calculate where I’m at or how much longer I have to go. It might not be the most attractive watch to wear on my wrist, but it has all the features I need. Check it out for yourself at REI.

Photo Courtesy of REI

Packing Cubes

When packing for 8-weeks in a 36L backpack, packing cubes are a necessity. But I love them so much I even use them in a suitcase to keep everything organized and neat. The packing cubes are perfect because if you are looking for one item, you don’t have to search through your entire travel wardrobe and risk leaving a sock behind. You can organize your clothes in the cubes and use them to save space in your bag. I bought mine on Amazon and never leave home without them.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon.com

Athleta Shanti Jacket

If you need a versatile, multi-purpose jacket, don’t leave any further than the Athleta Shanti Jacket in Powervita. This is my go-to jacket for everything which makes it perfect for traveling. I can take it hiking, on a run, or I wear when exploring a city and trying to look trendy. I can wear it on a business trip, or even use it if I’m dressing up for the night. When space is limited in your bag, and you need one jacket that will go with each outfit this is it. It also works as the perfect layer in the winter time. I thought I lost this jacket in a hotel room in Vietnam and started to have a mild panic attack. You can find the jacket online at Athleta.com.

Athleta Trekkie Hike Pant

 This is my favorite go-to pant for hiking, or if I want to explore the city, but don’t want to wear jeans. The pants are comfortable, durable, breathable – basically everything you could hope for in a pair of pants. They aren’t waterproof, but I would rather be caught in a torrential downpour wear these pants than a pair of jeans. One is just more comfortable to walk in afterward. They are also great in the wind. I wore these pants when hiking the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand, and they handled all the elements. The wind, cold, and the heat on our descent. I also wore them on my Irish road-trip and they were that perfect amount of car comfy yet stylish. You can find these pants online at Athleta.com.

Paperback Book

So, this isn’t a specific item, but I still don’t like to leave home without a paperback book. Yes, the Kindle app on my iPad is great, but there is just something about the concept of a paperback book. Plus, a tradition of mine now when I’m traveling is, I bring a book with me, read it, and then exchange it at my hostels or hotels book exchange. I have read some awesome books through the book exchange like The Martian and The Secret Life of Bees. I like to bring a book hiking, and I don’t really want to carry a tablet. And it’s hard to read from a tablet with chilling on a beach. I know the kindle paperwork is good for that, but I’m not ready to carry around two tablets just yet. Costco always has a great deal on books. In fact, I just picked up the Alice Network and will be bringing it to Mexico with me.

What are some items you can’t leave home without? Tweet them at me @keeliec5 or tell me in the comments below!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

Ha Long Bay Vietnam

We were headed to Thailand with some friends. My boyfriend wanted to check out Vietnam while we were in Southeast Asia. I said, if we’re going to Vietnam, I want to go to Ha Long Bay.

So, what is Ha Long Bay? It’s a bay in northern Vietnam that features thousands of little limestone islands. Because of this, Vietnam has the most islands in the world. It is a UNESCO World Herit age Site and popular among tourists. The best way to see Ha Long Bay is by boat, and you’ll see that’s how everyone visits the bay because it’s populated with tiny cruise boats everywhere. However, even with tons of other boats nearby, you still feel like your sailing in your own oasis.

Hanoi is the largest city to Ha Long Bay. Here you will find plenty of tour options that include transportation from the hotel to your ship. I recommend booking your tour through your hotel, it was such a seamless process and allowed us to enjoy our short time in Vietnam a little more. We even coordinated transportation from the airport to the hotel which was nice. We had a late flight, and I was glad I didn’t have to navigate the busy streets of Hanoi. And when I say busy, that is an under- exaggeration. I’ve never seen so much traffic. Scooters everywhere, sometimes on the sidewalk, and no pedestrian right away.

When we checked into our hotel, the Meracus, they gave us a guide to navigating Hanoi which included tips for crossing traffic – basically, don’t hesitate and be assertive. The scooters will swerve around you. Through the Meracus we booked a two-day, one-night cruise to Ha Long Bay. The bus picked us up bright and early, and we made our way east. Our bus probably had 50 or 60 people on it, but that was not everyone we would be cruising with. The Ha Long Bay cruise is quite intimate with about 12-15 people.

The boats are made of wood and beautifully designed. Our room had a balcony which I enjoyed, and there was plenty of outdoor seating on the top deck and inside the main cabin. After settling into our cabin, the boat set sail and we were off to our first destination. All Ha Long Bay two-day, one-night itineraries are the same, you just might do them in a different order.

Each boat comes with a tour guide that will also serve as your translator. Our first stop was a massive cave. We took a smaller boat to shore, and make our way through the cave with the other tourists. The cave was massive. We probably walked around for about an hour and only touched a fraction of it.

The other activities are kayaking and hiking or swimming. The weather wasn’t ideal during our cruise, overcast and cool, so it was a trip when the water was warmer than the air. The hike is a short yet steep one to a top of a lookout point with an amazing view of the bay below. If you are a fast hiker, you might be able to hike to the top and take a quick dip before getting back on the boat. The kayaking excursion takes you through a limestone tunnel and into a clearing surrounded by tall limestone cliffs. You can paddle to the edge, but beware of any monkeys!

You itinerary while on the cruise is basically booked, so it’s critical you head back to the boat at the time your guide gave you. Your meals are also planned. Everyone ate together in this gorgeous dining room with massive windows on all sides. And the food is fantastic. It was probably my favorite part, and you will not go hungry. It happened to be my birthday (and Thanksgiving back home) that first night on the cruise, and they made me a cake! My boyfriend made the reservation, so he must have told them about my birthday (swoon). After dinner, you can try squid fishing, just relax and enjoy the evening, or maybe you’ll find the crew downstairs and hang out with them as we did!

You can’t really go wrong with a Ha Long Bay cruise, and it really is an immersive experience. The cruises are intimate, the boats beautiful, the food is delicious and the scenery is amazing. Plus, you’ll learn more about the history of Vietnam and Ha Long Bay and the Vietnamese culture. So are you convinced? Ready to book a cruise to Ha Long Bay? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time….

Cheers!

Keelie

12 Hours in Vancouver

So clearly 12 hours in Vancouver is not enough time to see this beautiful city, but sometimes that’s all you have, so you have to make the most of it. For me, I was spending time with my sister who lives on Whidbey Island, Washington and we decided to take a day trip to Canada and explore the city. It was just over a two-hour drive from Oak Harbor, WA to Vancouver. We left just after the sun came up, and were home just after sunset. So here is how to make the most of your 12 hours in Vancouver

Rent a Bike

If the weather is awful, you might not want to rent a bike. But if the sun is shining, and the weather is good, there is no other way to see Vancouver than on two wheels. Also, the city was meant for biking. I’ll touch on Stanley Park later, but Vancouver has designated roads with protected bike paths – meaning the bike path is separate from the road. I felt completely safe on the bike, and I was glad I didn’t have to deal with traffic or parking. We paid for long term parking in one of the lots, and it was two wheels for the rest of the day. For full-day or hourly rentals, you can check out bike shops like Cycle City or Spokes Bicycle Rentals. The city of Vancouver also has a docked public bike share program called Mobi.

Stanley Park

You’ll forget you’re in the city. Bike or walk the 8.8km seawall located along the perimeter of the park for views of the Pacific and Vancouver Harbor, and then venture inside the park for dining, off-road riding and the Vancouver Aquarium. Since my sister and I were short on time, we biked the seawall and then explore just a fraction of the 400-acre park. The aquarium is definitely on my list for my return trip.

Granville Island Public Market

Ride your bike along the coastline and make your way to Granville Island. You can either ride your bike across Burrard Street or take the Aquabus (bikes are allowed). We took the Aquabus there and rode our bikes back. The public market sits right along the water and is a huge indoor area filled with endless fresh baked goods, produce, seafood, candy and gourmet food. I highly recommend you grab some lunch while you are here and a few macarons. Souvenir shops are also plentiful on the island. Since you are in Canada, I recommend Maple Crème cookies. There is a brewery on the island, but I’ll touch on that later. After refueling yourself, grab your libation of choice and relax in the harbor while you watch the buskers perform.

Lululemon Flagship Store

People flock to the original Starbucks in Seattle, so I wanted to visit the Lululemon Flagship store in Vancouver. It isn’t really any different than the other Lululemon stores, but I was still jazzed to check it out and buy a pair of what are now my favorite exercise shorts. The flagship store is located on the corner of Robson and Burrard, so an easy ride down from Granville Island. Plus, this is the shopping district of Vancouver. Just remember you’re on a bike!

Brewery Hopping

Think of it as a pedal powered self-guided pub crawl, or you can join a brewery tour with Vancouver Brewery Tours. I mentioned the brewery on Granville Island before, so hopefully, you were able to check that out before heading back downtown. I recommend heading to Gastown, especially if you are looking to visit more than one brewery. If you don’t mind back tracking a bit, hit up Yaletown Brewing Company before heading back to the water. At this point, my sister and I had to bike back to the shop to return our bikes before they closed and moved the car closer to Gastown. Grab some dinner at Steamworks. They are a brewpub with a huge two-story location right on the water. The beer was delicious and definitely order some poutine fries.

This was the last stop for my sister and I in Vancouver. We still had a two-hour drive back to Oak Harbor and stopped for gas and coffee on our way out of town. Even though we only had a short time in Vancouver, it was so fun exploring the downtown area. At one point in the day, the clouds moved away and I could see the massive mountains in the short distance. I know where I’ll be going during my next visit to Vancouver. Have you been to Vancouver? What was your favorite activity? Tell me in the comments below!

Until next time…..

Cheers!

Keelie