Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bye, November! Holiday Travel & Packing Tips

November was a whirlwind of fun in the Benjamin house. The first weekend was my brothers birthday. The next week, we spent a long weekend in San Francisco. We came home and promptly hosted our Friendsgiving #KikkomanParty - our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. We wrapped up the month by celebrating Thanksgiving with family and kicking off holiday shopping with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. December will be just as exciting and chaotic!

These jam packed weekends would not have been possible without proper planning and a little luck.
In planning for San Francisco, I stumbled upon this awesome website Utrip, which helps travellers create itineraries based on their interests and previous experience or lack of with the city. Each day they suggest attractions, shops, dining, customized based on what type of trip you're looking for - More art and museums? Easy. All about the wine? Done. Go a step further by adding your flight times and hotel accommodations for more convenient suggestions. Still in need of a hotel? Utrip is happy to help! Although I didn't follow the Utrip itinerary to the letter, it definitely made some great suggestions based on our "first timers" itinerary. Check out our full itinerary here. You can create an account with Utrip and save your itineraries, taking the best of each, or create your own from scratch. This is a great tool if you are visiting family for the holidays and want to spend a day with your significant other exploring the city!

California Sightseeing San Francisco Itinerary Travel
Select your "Traveler Profile" and then drag the bars up and down based on your interest to find a trip suited to you! More art and museums? Easy. All about the wine? Done.
California Sightseeing San Francisco Itinerary Travel
Day 1 of our Utrip Itinerary
San Francisco Highlights include but are not limited to...
  • a quick 9 mile stroll from our hotel to the Golden Gate Bridge (and a much needed Uber ride back), including stops at the Palace of Fine Arts, Fort Point and the Golden Gate Welcome Center
  • dessert at Ghirardelli Square
  • a ferry ride to Alcatraz and audio tour of the cell block
  • shopping in Fisherman's Wharf, including the Spice and Tea Exchange of San Francisco
  • Coit Tower
  • the Painted Ladies
  • a full day trip to wineries in Sonoma and Napa, with a stop at Muir Woods with Extranomical Tours
This trip, like many of our getaways was a mix of stops. I would consider our walking trip and stop to Golden Gate casual and comfortable. The winery tour was a step up without being too formal or snooty. This mix demanded a second pair of shoes (I didn't want to wear athletic shoes to the winery) and my makeup. With limitations on luggage weight and sizing, the question becomes "how do I get my stuff to California without paying extra fees?" I am lucky enough to get a free checked back whenever I fly United, as a United credit card holder...and I take advantage of that regularly - I'm not willing to get in a fight for room in the overhead bins. Although you are limited to 50 lbs of checked luggage, that's tough to max out unless you are carrying rocks around the country with you. But how do I get my shoes to fit?

My packing secret - TRAVEL SPACE BAGS!

Unlike their larger siblings, Ziploc Space Bag Travel Bags require no vacuum. Simply seal the ziploc shut and roll the air out. These are available online and in big box stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond (use one of those 20% off coupons you're hoarding in your drawer!). My only warning - they puncture easily and clothes may wrinkle. I always turn my engagement ring to the inside of my hand to keep the prongs from puncturing the bags and I always hang dress clothes immediately upon arriving to our destination. Generally speaking, I use two of these guys to pack my clothing (bras, bikini tops and other items that may be misshapen stay outside of the bags). At the end of the trip, one becomes a dirty bag and one stays clean with anything I didn't wear or tshirts I picked up at the souvenir shop.

California San Francisco Space Bag Travel Bag
Whoa, all my clothes in one space bag left room for my makeup bag and not one but two pairs of shoes! I opted to wear my sneakers and save the extra space for souvenirs from San Francisco.
I started using travel space bags on our trip to Istanbul, Turkey last November. We were travelling for a wedding and I wanted to make sure our wedding attire was in our carry-on in case our checked luggage was lost. The only way everything fit was with space bags. We used the same method in our checked luggage, which guaranteed we had enough room in our luggage to bring back goodies from the Turkish Market. I've been travelling this way ever since. In San Francisco, my sneakers were a must (we walked over 35 miles and 50 flights of stairs on this trip according to my Garmin Vivosmart HR, I wore holes in them before we got home). Packing with my Space Bags left enough room to pack my riding boots for our day trip out to the wineries and a fancier dinner in Fisherman's Wharf. The alternative? Find a comfortable pair of flats before Christmas (and send the link to Ross of course)!

Looking forward to any suggestions for packing and planning! Also, taking recommendations for new shoes 😉😉😉

California San Francisco