My Regal guide to the UK that’s fit for a Queen!

I can’t believe it’s taken me until June 2015 to get to the UK! It’s always been on my list, but never made the commitment until recently. Highlights of the trip through London, Bournemouth and Edinburgh are as follows:

  1. Grabbing 4 posh friends and making it a week long epic adventure!
  2. Drinking so much tea that we started talking with an English accent..”cheerio!”
  3. Eating some of the BEST food in my life…Indian and pies anyone?!?
  4. Chatting with so many locals and finding secret hidden spots!
  5. Discovering the best pup in the world (next to Lilo)…Greyfriars Bobby!

If you have a trip to the UK coming up, use my Regal guide to get you to the best spots! Have questions? Make sure to ask me in the comments field and I’ll help you out!!

Traveler Trip: London is EXPENSIVE! Grab a group (we had 5) and split the cost of an AirBnB or VRBO rental. Saves your wallet and live like a local! 

What I added to my Travel Christmas tree in 2014!!

It’s January 20th and I officially took down my Christmas tree. Finally!! It was such a great tree this year that I just couldn’t box everything up right away and was trying to delay the process as much as possible! My wreath is still up though…so that’ll be a battle for another day!

As most of you know, one of my best pieces of travel advice is “Pick one souvenir and stick with it!” My signature souvenir is collecting an ornament from every state or country I visit. My 2014 Christmas tree was FILLED with new ornaments that I absolutely adored and quite frankly, couldn’t stop talking about! I always forget all the amazing places I’ve been until I put that tree up and I’m instantly filled with joy and accomplishment!

This year I added Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Spain, Texas and two new Chicago ornaments (one for the Bean and the other representing a Beluga whale encounter I did at the Shedd Aquarium). I missed an ornament for Savannah, Georgia and I can’t seem to ever remember to grab one from Boston, even though I go multiple times a year!! Maybe 2015 will be my year to get those!

What souvenirs are you getting in 2015? What did you grab from your 2014 adventures?? Make sure to share your travel comments below!

 

How to survive a family trip to Alaska!

By now, you all know that my sister and I take “Sisters Trips” every year. We’ve traveled to New York, Italy, Prague, Toronto and many other exciting destinations! 2014 will mark our 6th year and we’re going to Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Scandinavian posts coming soon!

In 2013 we tried something new. Something we haven’t done since we were children…we went on a family vacation. Here is how the conversation started:

 

Dad: “Your mom and I want to go to Alaska. Do you girls want to come with?”

Us: “Sure, sounds fun!”

Dad: “Well, it’s just that I didn’t know if it was cool to hang out with your parents on a vacation.”

Us: “Dad…we are old…you’re cool again. Plus, if you get annoying then we’ll just go to the bar.”

Dad: “ok, I’ll probably meet you there.”

 

So it began…the first family vacation in over 20 years! We made sure to bring along our Aunt for good measure. In September 2013 we all boarded a plane and headed to Seattle to greet our Princess Cruise ship...which would be our home for one whole week.

Here are some tips on how we survived:

1. Prepped, prepped…and prepped our family for airport changes.

On average, I fly two weeks out of the month. I am TSA/Global Entry approved. I only pack a Carry-On. I am an efficient traveler. I avoid all older people in line and race around anyone traveling with multiple kids. My mom, dad and aunt on the other hand had not flown since pre-911. Seriously.

So, my advice is that you prep anyone in your group that will slow you down. This will require you to answer MANY questions…over…and over…and over again. Questions like “Can I wear a belt through the metal detector?” “What if I have snacks in my purse?” “Do I have to take my shoes off?” “Are we sitting together on the plane?” “Will we have time to use the bathroom?” But if you are patient and answer them early then it will make your travel experience a LOT better!

2. Found the person in the group that can fix bad moods….and made them HAPPY!!!

This person is my dad. He’s the glue of the family and can turn any frown upside down. This is why it’s important that HE’s not in a bad mood. Enter…fun excursions. Pub and Bike Brew Tour…Check. Adventure park & Zip-lining…Check. Taking funny family photos…Check!

 

3. Brought extra alcohol…because we knew we’d need it! 

When you go on a cruise, everyone is allowed to bring 1 bottle of wine/champagne on board for free. Everything else, you have to pay for. There are always a few bars on the ship and ours even had a wine bar that did regular tastings. We just found that after a long day we wanted to relax on our balcony with our own favorite bottle. We brought Castoro wine that we got from our Paso Robles, California trip.

4. Found fun things on the boat…and actually have FUN!

Our boat was amazing and had a little something for everyone. We went to a wine tasting, comedy show and even made a few stops at the casino. One of my favorite moments was watching “Mama Mia” on the top deck! My mom, aunt, sister and I had seen the Broadway play a few years ago so it was nice to bond and watch the movie together. We even got a little dancing in!

 

Hopefully these tips will help you on your next family vacation!

What tips do you have to survive family travel??

When I say Folsom, you say Cash!!

Here’s a little fact about me….one of my favorite actresses of all time is Reese Witherspoon! Even if some of the movies she’s starred in are cheesy, I still love every bit of it and will re-watch them a million times! Legally Blonde (1 and 2), Sweet Home Alabama, This Means War…the list goes on and on! So, of course, when Walk the Line came out in 2005 I had to see it. I knew very little about June Carter or Johnny Cash, but I became an instant fan! Every now and then I feel a little bit country and can’t help singing along to the soundtrack or listening to the Johnny Cash station on Pandora.

Walk The Line Movie Poster - photo courtesy of Apple.com

Walk The Line Movie Poster – photo courtesy of Apple.com

This brings me to a little story about my recent week in Sacramento, California. It was a work trip (certification class), in a city I’ve never been to, and I was stuck for a week without preparing one bit for any type of sightseeing. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, the best advice I can give you is ask around for guidance or suggestions. When people want to visit Chicago, I honestly won’t shut up about my city (the BEST city in the world!!) and others tend to do the same.

Since everyone in my class knew I was from Chicago they suggested I try Chicago style pizza and the best spot was in Folsom, California. Now, I didn’t tell them this because I felt incredibly ignorant, but what went through my head was “Folsom….as in Johnny Cash Folsom Prison?” I few days later I found out that it was EXACTLY what they meant. Unfortunately, the pizza place was closed so I decided to see what was happening at Folsom Prison. You know…the prison that’s no longer in use and has a nice big museum and gives you informational free tours???? WRONG. I was so very, very wrong.

It started of well. I spotted the entrance via a stone sign and drove in. It seemed safe and I made a note of the welcoming and natural landscaping. Nice touch Folsom, nice touch. “Exactly how a museum entrance should look,” I thought.

Entrance to Folsom State Prison

I parked in what I thought was the museum parking, but quickly noticed that this was also the parking for prison visitors. “Hmm, what prison visitors?” And then I saw it. A van pulled up and let off real prisoners in neon jumpsuits. Here’s what went through my head next, in order:

1. Wait…this is still an active prison? I’m in stiletto heels and totally overdressed for a prison.

2. The prisoners are looking at me in my stiletto heels and know I’m totally overdressed for a prison…but they probably like it. Creepy.

3. OMG, I think the entrance to the museum is where they let out the prisoners.

4. Yes, I am correct.

5. How fast can I run, in my stiletto heels, back to my car if one of the shackles breaks off?

The prisoners were quickly escorted away, clearing a path for me to walk to the museum. Behind the security office, I saw this.

Not what I was expecting, but I went in anyway. There was a nice man at the counter who took my $2 museum fee and told me to look around. The space is very small and there is a lot of stuff so you have to take your time to read all the little informational cards next to each cased item. Of course Johnny Cash posters and newspaper articles are everywhere.

Other than pointing out the Johnny Cash memorabilia, he did mention some additional “highlights.” One was that all the California state license plates are made at Folsom. Interesting. Next, he told me that Rick James was a prisoner there and that the museum houses his guitar. Strange. Here it is.

Overall, for $2 and very last minute planning, it was fairly interesting. It did leave me wondering a bit more about Folsom Prison and the history. I did find some additional information through Wikipedia and then watched a video about some of the history behind his visit.

Photo courtesy of solitarywatch.com

Photo courtesy of solitarywatch.com

Before I left, I snapped a quick shot of the prison. The same shot that Johnny Cash once took that’s now quite iconic.

Feeling satisfied with my visit, I headed back to the car and back to Sacramento. If you’re ever in the Sacramento area, I would suggest stopping by! It’s only 23 miles away and there is a nice quaint downtown area that you can spend time in if you’re not up for the whole prison thing!

Sochi Best Dressed list = My future travel plans!

Despite all the massive controversy surrounding the 2014 Sochi Olympics, I thought the Opening Ceremonies were vibrant, bold, risk-taking, well constructed and inspirational!

Wait…wait…I’m not talking about politics! I’m talking about the mostly fashionable Olympic uniforms and the controversy over the USA deciding to wear ugly Christmas sweaters. Seriously Ralph? Yuck!

Photo courtesy of Emag.com.uk

Photo courtesy of Emag.com.uk

I’ve decided to use this controversy to aid me in creating a future travel list (outside the USA), based solely on countries who I feel were the Best Dressed! Here we go:

1. Canada

I’ve been to Toronto and Victoria already, but just seeing these bright red wool coats makes me want to plan another trip. I may just buy one for myself and head up to Calgary to go on a bobsleigh ride! How very Olympic of me!

Photo courtesy of Huffingtonpost.ca

Photo courtesy of Huffingtonpost.ca

2. Germany

Was anyone expecting Germany to walk out in Rainbow jackets? Not me,  but I loved it! It’s colorful and playful and it just gives me one more reason to see this country that’s been on my list for quite some time. At the top of my list is Neuschwanstein Castle! That place looks so magical that I’m assuming there’s a permanent rainbow over it at all times!

Photo courtesy of Sportsgrid.com

Photo courtesy of Sportsgrid.com

3. Bermuda

What can I say? It’s the middle of winter in Chicago and I have ‘shorts envy.’

Photo courtesy of ew.com

Photo courtesy of ew.com

4. Lithuania

When I was a little girl, I boldly announced to my entire family that my first car would be a lime green Dodge Neon. Of course, as I got older, that completely changed, but I do still love the color! After doing a bit of research I was able to find all sorts of fun things to do there and now can’t wait to plan a trip.

Photo courtesy of Theweek.com

Photo courtesy of Theweek.com

5. New Zealand

New Zealand gets 3 S’s: Simple, Sleek and Stylish.

Wait…wait…who’s that guy carrying the flag? Ok, New Zealand gets 4 S’s – “Sexy” for Shane Dobbin. And my bags are already packed…

 

Which Olympic uniforms were your favorite?

Tweet! Tweet! Three Little Birds Travel is now on Twitter!!

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Happy Friday everyone!!! I don’t know about you, but I’m SO ready for this weekend to start! It’s been a long week of attending work trainings and dealing with Polar Vortex #2, so I’m very excited to put the books down and enjoy a nice, relaxing weekend up in Wisconsin.

Before I head up north to enjoy more snow and cold temperatures, I want to take a moment and celebrate my new Twitter account! It’s officially been 1 month since I started this new social media outlet and I’m in LOVE!

It’s a great way to communicate to all my followers about special travel deals and share knowledgable advice from the sources I follow.

I hope you love it as much as I do! Make sure to follow me @3lbirdstravel

I went to Cancun and brought Prague, Hawaii, Brussels and Greece with me!!

I finally made it back home from Cancun and I’m already missing the warm sunshine, gorgeous aqua waters and bright green landscape. Here in Chicago the normal winter color palette consists of either white (snow), grey (old snow) or black (really dirty snow) so it was quite a fresh change to see all those beautiful colors for a week. As soon as I got off the plane I was hit with a wonderful “Welcome Home” from Chicago – negative degree weather! Thanks Chicago…

My trip started off at O’hare airport, looking out at all those typical winter colors and counting down the minutes until boarding began. Of course the inevitable happened when my coworker arrived at the gate and looked at me…and then my carry-on suitcase…and then back at me.

“That’s all you brought??”

“Yep! I always bring a carry-on. If I forget something, I can buy it there.  It’s the only way to travel!”

He obviously didn’t read #4 on my 14 travel tips for 2014 – There is only one size luggage for 2014 and it’s called Carry-On. No excuses. What he also didn’t know was that I managed to pack not only my Cancun necessities, but some items from Prague, Hawaii, Brussels AND Greece!! All in my not so fancy carry-on!! Let me explain a little more on why and how I was about to accomplish this amazing feat.

If you remember in my post “Pick one souvenir, and stick with it“, when I travel I don’t spend a lot of money on nonsense items and souvenirs. I stick to ornaments and then decorate my pretty Christmas tree during the holidays. However, there are always exceptions to rules and this is one of them. If you find something you LOVE and know you will USE it, then buy it. I don’t like “stuff” and I don’t like dragging a large amount of goodies with me when I’m traveling from city to city, so if I pick up something it has to be useful and special. When deciding what to pack for Cancun I came across some travel items, from all over the world, that I thought would be useful and not take up too much space! Here’s what I brought:

1. Prague – I’m obsessed with chapstick and always make sure I have some within my nearest reach. Since my sister and I did a Beer Tour in Prague, I thought it only made sense that I purchase beer chapstick from Czech Beer Cosmetics company! I came across this store randomly on the way back to the hotel and brought home lip balm for all of my friends. I normally don’t bring too many gifts home, but these were inexpensive and small so they hardly took up space in my carry-on. Since I purchased over 10 small items, they threw in Beer Shampoo too! My remaining showers in Eastern Europe improved instantly!

Czech Beer Lip Balm

Czech Beer Lip Balm

2. Hawaii – Any part of a beach trip, in my opinion, requires a sarong! They don’t take up too much space and are the perfect cover-up because you can wear them in all sorts of different ways. My favorite sarong was actually a gift from one of my close friends who used to live in Hawaii. Every time I see the bright pink and red flowers, I remember that moment that she gave this to me. It’s such a simple gift that will be used over and over again! On the trip to Cancun, I used it as a beach towel and it was perfect.

Sarong from Hawaii

Sarong from Hawaii

3. Brussels – This next item was also a gift, but this time from my sister. In 2013, my sister traveled to Brussels and had to make the obvious stop to see the little peeing man, otherwise known as the Brussels landmark – Manneken Pis. What she didn’t realize was that there was a whole museum dedicated to this little man’s clothes! There’s actually over 800 different outfits that have been dedicated from countries all around the world. I wouldn’t say that this was on her “to-do” list, but it definitely would have been on mine so that’s why she backtracked and went. She brought me back a deck of playing cards that I like to take on my trips in case I have some downtime. Easy to store so in the carry-on they went!

Manneken Pis playing cards from Brussels

Manneken Pis playing cards from Brussels

4. Greece – My close friend and I visited Greece in October 2013 and had the most relaxing week of stuffing our faces with seafood, watching the Santorini sunsets and laying on the beach. On our last day we took the ferry back to Athens in hopes of seeing the Acropolis. After what seemed like an episode from “The Amazing Race,” we arrive in Athens and found the Acropolis closed. We were so disappointed, but determined to get the only other thing on our Athens list crossed off – Visiting the Poet Sandal Maker. We raced to the shop and hesitantly went down a dark alley in hopes of the famous man who has designed sandals for celebrities such as John Lennon, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jackie Kennedy, and Sophia Loren. We quickly picked out a few pairs and on our way we went! Since i knew I was going to get some beach time in, I packed them in the carry-on!

Sandals from Greece

Sandals from Greece

What are some of your favorite items you like to pack for vacation?