Month: May 2014

The Tourist Pieces to Pack on Your Journey Abroad

If you’re an Internet hound (and a travel junkie) like I am, you’ve probably seen oodles of stories about why you should put away your fanny pack, running shoes, backpack, and lame Cape Cod t-shirt and try to “blend in like a local.” It makes sense, right? When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in Capri, stop standing around in your binoculars with a blotch of sunscreen dotted on your nose like Nigel Thornberry.

However, even though it’s important to be open-minded, adapt to the culture around you and not wave American flags all over Europe, I don’t necessarily feel like adopting some tourist dress codes is a bad thing. So pull out your guidebook, strap on your sunglasses cord, and read on about what pieces it’s OK to bring on your trip overseas… yet accept that no one is going to ask you for directions in Paris anymore.

1. Sneakers. Since it was 800 degrees in New Orleans the August that I went (as I’m sure it is every August), I obviously packed loads of cute and light sundresses and sandals. Athletic shoes serve as a cardinal sin for dresses. However, one day in, my poor feet were dying from stomping around all day on the concrete sidewalks and cobblestone in the extreme heat. Do yourself a favor and pack one pair of athletic shoes (invest in a pair in a cute color and style if you have to) for that day or two when you literally can’t walk another foot in those precious flip-flops. Your blisters, and your walking tour guide, will thank you.

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2. Electronic cord. These look kind of lame tacked onto your iPhone or camera, but when you’re looming over the 300 foot drop of Giotto’s Campanile of Florence, you’re going to wish you had a little assurance that your $500 electronic isn’t going to fall to its sad, sad death onto a pile of unsuspecting high school tourists. Check some out on eBay here.

3. Oversized purse. Back home, if you find me at a mall, restaurant, bar, or anywhere in between I probably won’t even have a bag – I’ll be stuffing my keys and phone in my pockets like a dude. However, abroad is a different story. You’ll never know how much water you’ll have to steal, maps to keep, stuff you’ll buy, or food you’ll get for free. Plan ahead and get yourself a cheap shoulder bag that you can cram all your stuff in.

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4. Map and guidebook. I’m going to consider this a piece of tourist attire because every (smart) tourist you see wandering (with a purpose) around Barcelona has one strapped in front of their face. Is everyone going to know you’re not a local when you’re furiously flipping pages to figure out where Park Guell is? Yeah, obviously. But you will find it, and you won’t spend the whole afternoon searching, either. They’re worth the investment (and the lameness).

5. City tee. The truth is that no one wants the magnet, ugly jewelry, weird mini statue of the David, or any other overrated souvenir you were going to buy them. Why? Because none of these items really have any utilitarian value. You know what does? A well-made, kind of funny tee that someone is going to wear to work out, wear to bed, or maybe wear to the airport on their next trip. There’s a reason people hoard their college sports team t-shirts – because we love them. Especially if a tee says “Oktoberfest” on it.

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The Best Waterside Restaurants on the Jersey Shore

When you live on the Jersey Shore, summer doesn’t start on June 21, when the sand gets hot, or even when the local pools open up. Beachrats can barely wait for an 80-degree thermometer to tinker on over to the beach (which is why you can spot them surfing in the dead of winter), but instead, you’ll find these dirty combers scouring the sands as soon as the calendar swings over May.

Why? They don’t care if they have to wear jeans to do it – these people want to be on their boats, in the kayaks, hovered over the side with fishing poles, and trotting down the boardwalk with their sloppy puppies – and they don’t want to wait. However, even the dirtiest beachrat needs a nice meal once in a while that didn’t come from a truck, which is why you should check out the below Jersey Shore restaurants in between the spouts of living in your car this summer, especially before all those bennies get down there in mid June.

1. The Lobster House at Cape May Harbor

The Lobster House is a staple of a weekend well spent in the southern shores. With a modest price tag for outdoor seating, you can grab some menus, mark it up with your people, and head over to the respective bars to grab your crab cakes, clam chowder, and oysters on the half shell and enjoy them on the deck across the bay from million-dollar homes and yachts and plenty of gulls. The Lobster House is a great alternative to pricey seafood dining with the hometown, lazy feel of a boardwalk restaurant. Learn more at thelobsterhouse.com

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Photo Courtesy of Ed Morlock

2. Boathouse Restaurant at Wildwood

At Boathouse, choose indoor or outdoor seating for stunning panoramic views of the harbor while enjoying top-of-the-line fresh clams casino, steamed mussels, stuffed flounder, or twin lobster tails. A classier establishment than other harborside seafood restaurants, Boathouse is a great end note when you’re feeling like you deserve to spend a few bucks. Learn more at boathouseonline.net.  

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Intersimone

3. Rooney’s Ocean Crab House at Long Branch

Rooney’s is a top-of-the-line restaurant and raw bar that sits just far enough from the hub of Pier Village while facing the Atlantic in a completely glass-screened seating area. Offering a raw bar, conveniently placed circular bar, private parties, and a truly stellar $30 all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch until Memorial Day that is never crowded, Rooney’s is a great spot for birthdays and anniversaries while also being a go-to for nursing your Sunday morning hangover with a Mimosa and some crab legs. Learn more at rooneysocean.com.

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Photo Courtesy of Jenna Intersimone

4. Moonstruck at Asbury Park

With an ambiance that doesn’t mimic pinkies in the air or bored businessmen, Moonstruck is reminiscient of an old-school cocktail lounge and restaurant tucked away at the corner of town in a romantic old building. Travel up the hiking steps, grab a bottle of wine, and listen to the insanity of Asbury Park from nearby… in the quiet corner of Moonstruck, equipped with a variation of classic Italian dishes. Learn more at moonstrucknj.com.

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Photo Courtesy of oldbridgemusiccenter.wordpress.com

5. Stella Marina at Asbury Park

Stella Marina boasts an extensive Italian menu in a classy, white tablecloth environment overlooking one of the most notorious boardwalks in the United States. With outstanding views of the Asbury beaches below, visitors enjoy some classic Italian accompanied by plenty of wines fit for events such as birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. Learn more at stellamarinarestaurant.com

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Photo Courtesy of restaurantpassion.com

 

How to Pack Like a Pro

In my current days of adult travel (in which trips are few and far between yet easily financed) it’s simple for me to pull out my biggest suitcase, stuff it full of crap, and be about my way. However, back in my days of being a lost undergrad looking to see the world, this was definitely not the case.

My Wal-Mart backpack, now muddled with the patches of various states and countries and somehow lacking any sort of holes or disfigurements, would be packed to the brim with essentials most Thursday or Friday nights on my newest journey out of town. When I would arrive at my chosen destination and someone would ask me, “Hey, can I borrow your umbrella? I couldn’t fit mine in my bag,” I would sometimes sneak a smile.

Packing like the nomad you truly are requires skill, dedication, patience, and intuition. It is not a task for the weak of heart, similar to travel in itself. If you’re about to fly first class to the Galapagos Islands, ignore this post. But if you’re planning to hop on a bus, then a train, then hitchhike to the nearest hostel with a backpack strapped on, read on.

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1. Roll your clothes. Even though they look way nicer when folded, rolling your clothes and tightly stacking them in a suitcase saves a ton of space… as well as the ensuing wrinkles.

2. Put on your heaviest items. This means that when you step into the airport, your biggest boots and thickest jackets and sweatshirts should be on you, not tucked inside your bag.

3. Wear what you know you’re going to wear. A nomadic trip is not the time and place to pack that dress you bought two years ago that you’ve been meaning to wear. You’re just going to end up wasting space and possibly trying to sell it on eBay when you get home.

4. Give space bags a go. Or pseudo space bags since the real thing is kind of pricey for what is a glorified plastic bag. If you’re really looking to save space, buy yourself tons of large freezer bags and stuff your clothes inside and sit on them to squeeze out the air. Prepare to bring extras since they will pop before your journey home.

5. Pack solid items on the bottom. Clothes will morph around, say, your lava lamp, however your bag will not be able to close directly on top of it. For this reason, pack shoes, lava lamps, and other heftier items on the bottom of your suitcase.

6. Avoid packing clothing that only has one purpose. Instead of packing that shirt that you can only wear to a club, pack the tank top that can be paired with a multi-use pair of pants. You need to get the most out of the space that you have.

7. Don’t pack items that are on their last leg out. If you’ve got one pair of shoes packed but they’re clinging to life, the place to kill them isn’t somewhere along your trip to Budapest. Leave them at home and pack (or wear) the item that is going to be reliable.

8. Keep yourself mobile. Even if you can pack a suitcase the size of a small garage, that doesn’t mean you should. No amount of clothes is worth being that guy lagging behind the group dragging your stuff around. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing. You always want to be able to comfortably carry all your own stuff in one bag and maybe a purse.

9. Pack the night before. Even though it’s sometimes more convenient to wait until the day of, especially if you’re leaving later in the day or you don’t really have a lot of toiletries to leave laying around, pack the night before so before you fall asleep, you can jot down anything you forgot about during the packing process so you can pack it the next morning.

9.  Allot double the amount of time to packing than necessary. For some reason, I always think I’m going to shoot through packing in one hour, although I have literally never accomplished this. Always set aside double the amount of time for unforseen circumstances… like trying to decide if you really need those four-inch wedges.

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