We still don’t have solid plans for our roadtrip, which will hopefully include one night at the Indiana Dunes and another in downtown Pittsburgh. Hubs just got an opportunity for a consulting gig, which will require travel to Panama sometime in the next month. We don’t have hotels booked, so we can be flexible…but I want to know so I can plan!

And neither of my guide books have come in yet. I should not complain, given that they’re both being shipped for free (and Pittsburgh warned me it would take 3-6 weeks), but Amazon has forever changed my expectations for shipping and handling delays.

In the meantime, what am I supposed to do? Focus on things like packing and finishing my dissertation? Talk about your major buzzkill!


Another guidebook

I did a bad thing.

I ordered another free guide book, this time from Pittsburgh.

They didn’t want me to order it. The Indiana Dunes page practically begged me for my address so they could send me a hard-copy of their travel guide. Pittsburgh was happy to let me browse their guide electronically, but I had to hunt around for a hard-copy request form. (On second glance, I could have just scrolled down to the bottom of the welcome page, instead of my original convoluted path.)

I don’t like clutter or waste. I order almost all my books on Kindle, including professional books and even one textbook so far. I feel guilty every time I sign up for a paper catalogue or ad, thinking I could see it all online with just a little more effort. But, to be honest, there’s part of me that’s a hard-copy kinda girl.

And that part of me was so over the magazine-style visitor’s guide by, like, page 5. Out of 108.

I just figured out how to download the guide as a pdf, which is easier for me to read than the webpage-version. So I feel a little guilty again…but the pdf version of the guide is also 100MB, so it’s pretty clunky and slow on my usually-up-to-snuff MacBook. I may see if Hubs can take it down a notch so we can access it on our phones, if needed.

So, even though my tree-hugger conscience is bothering me, I’m not sorry that I ordered the guidebook. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and I can add pages directly to my Arc travel binder (I just bought all my travel binder supplies and will be posting about it shortly!). And honestly, it makes it easier for us to see what Pittsburgh has to offer, which means we can make a more informed decision. We only have time to do one or two things, so it’s not about doing everything or fully experiencing the city, but rather choosing something that we’ll really enjoy. (Hubs said that it would be a true test of my “shakeup” abilities!)

The biggest downside is that it takes 3-6 weeks to arrive, which means it may actually come after we leave…but I’m keeping my fingers crossed! In other news, on our morning walk I was telling Hubs about the cool Indiana Dunes trails I’d read about on their page. I mentioned that I thought we’d like that better than swimming, since “we’re not really beach people anyway.” He was disappointed to learn that there were actual swimming beaches at the Dunes, then relieved to learn that I didn’t want to swim. I’m a terrible travel partner in most respects, but it’s good to know we’re on the same page there.


One thing I’ve noticed about blogging is that it inspires me.

I started this blog after I fell in love with the Aeronaut maximum carry-on. This big little duffel made me think of Hubs and I working ahead during the week so we could dash off to Boston or Baltimore over a weekend. I dreamed of us traveling light, zipping back to our hotel for mid-day naps, and growing chummy with city after city on the Eastern seaboard.

Just after I started this blog, I decided to take the plunge and get an Arc notebook from Staples.  I started small — just a soft-backed notebook and the hole punch (which was pricey, but I planned to return it if I didn’t like the system). The beauty of the Arc system is that everything flexibly works together. It combines the ability to move things around like a binder and to flip it around on itself like a spiral notebook. They sell full-size and half-sheet notebooks in a durable hard-back or a lightweight soft-back, and you can punch any paper to add in.

So with my mind on my new travel blog,I immediately thought of how I could use this as a travel organizer. Translation: I can start being organized about our travel. 

I’ll write more soon about my history with travel organization, how I like to plan ahead, and whether I use travel books. For now, suffice it to say that I want a planning system that is light and flexible. I want it to fit print-outs without being too big. I want to be able to move things around and empty it out at the end of a trip (after transferring some notes to my digital copies in case we want to go back…because in my imagination, I’m that on top of things).

I also want to start prioritizing more clearly. I don’t want to plan trips down to the minute; I’m way too poor of a traveler for that. (One of these days I’ll explain just how bad of a travel partner I am, so you can appreciate Hubs’s patience.) I need lots of flexibility, and we’ve learned that life is better when we schedule rest in the middle of each day. Having lots of options printed in one place, plus the ability to take out and put back individual sheets, would be a great solution. Add a couple zipper pouches for room keys, transfer passes, money, receipts, and maps, and some flags to remind you of not-to-miss activities or restaurants, and you’re ready to go!

This seems to a be first comes office supplies, then comes organization situation. Now that I have such a customizable system, I find myself wanting to fill it! And luckily, I have a trip on the horizon to occupy me. I just ordered a free travel guide from indiana Dunes. We started off saying we’d hang out at the beach, but really, we’re not beach people. We only went to the beach once in Miami, and that was for 10 minutes to say we’d seen it. I’m excited about their Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail, and if I let Hubs know there’s butterflies, he’ll sure as shootin’ want to photograph them. Once Hubs books our hotel in Pittsburgh, I’ll be excited to start looking for things to do nearby.

Today I realized that I have the same kind of excitement about building a travel notebook as I used to have for scrapbooking. I recently gave up most of my crafty supplies part of our effort to consume less and de-clutter our household. I love scrapbooking, but I’m such a perfectionist that it takes me forever (and my pages look good, but not that good) and I find myself putting things off. I also stopped doing it because we have no “out of the way” space and I frankly don’t like to clean up after myself mid-project. I decided to embrace another hobby, knitting, that takes up less space and mental energy than scrapbooking, but I missed that focused time on recapping great memories.

Building a travel binder is like doing that, but on the front-end instead of the back-end. As I assemble information and maps, I can dream about the experiences we’ll have. I can think forward to everything, instead of thinking back. My efforts will be useful for making memories, not, well, remembering them. The entire time I work on my travel binder, my anticipation for the trip builds.

And really, isn’t anticipation always sweeter than reflection?

What are your best tricks for building and enjoying the anticipation of an upcoming trip?

First-night bag

We recently had dear friends stay with us for the night. They had just gotten married and were making their way cross-country to their new home in California. Their car was packed. Our neighbor happened to have the same model car, so we could see just how weighed-down their car was!

We met them in the parking lot so we could give them our parking spot (after all, they had most of their earthly goods in their car!) and move our car to street parking. They brought in a few bags then, and assured us they’d get the rest later. When we got in for the night around 10:30, they dug around in the car for a big suitcase (one of several) and a few more bags. They started asking each other “Do you remember what bag my hairbrush is in?” and “Is this the one with my pajamas?” I remember those days.

The drive from our grad school town to Hubs’s New Jersey hometown is 13 hours, plus stops. We have made this drive about a billion times (seriously, at least 10 times in 5 years). The first several times, we were like our friends. Packed car. Everything was in there somewhere. And we’d get the suitcases later, which meant that no one could shower the next day until someone went out to the car in pajamas (or whatever we found to sleep in) and dragged all the over-packed bags upstairs.

And my Ohio hometown is along the way from grad school to New Jersey, so we used to stack those trips. Meaning that the suitcases would get haphazardly re-packed (as long as it zips, we’re good!) and the drama would repeat. I’ve slept in driving clothes because I was too tired to care, and I’ve reworn clothes to avoid dragging the suitcase in. Not pretty.

So if I had been there when my friends were packing, I would offer this advice: Pack one bag (duffel or carry-on) for your trip. Only things needed for the roadtrip go in this bag. Things like toiletries and underwear, you’ll probably have more packed elsewhere, but this bag is just what you’ll need for the next week. If you can’t fit all your clothes in a carry-on, don’t go to a bigger bag! Instead, use Ziploc Space Bags, gallon-sized Ziploc bags, packing cubes, grocery bags, or any other kind of bag to designate the next “batch” of clothes to pull from. Put all your batches of roadtrip clothes and some clothes for unexpected weather in one bigger suitcase, and keep it in an easy-to-reach spot where you can find things and get them out without taking the suitcase out of the car. If you run into unexpected weather or go through everything in your carry-on bag, then open your bigger suitcases, get out extra clothes, and stash your dirties (we like Space Bags for this).

After years of long road trips ended by too many bags, I’ve developed a first-night bag system. If I’m going somewhere with more than one bag, I make sure that our smallest (and easiest to reach) bag has the following:

  • Pajamas
  • Toiletries
  • Underwear/socks/bras
  • Next day’s clothing

Suddenly, getting in at night is easy. We know that we only need to grab one bag, and it’s a light one. Everything else can be dealt with the next day, after we shower and put on clean clothes, I get breakfast, and Hubs gets coffee. (But sometimes we still leave our big bag in the car until we’re completely out of clothes…planning can only help lazy so much) If we’re going on a one-bag trip, I make sure to pack the pajamas and toiletries on top or in a side compartment. The goal is to make the first night and morning of the trip go as smoothly as possible, so I try to anticipate what we will need.

Other things to consider for your first-night bag:

  • Layers (sweatshirt, shorts)
  • Slippers or flip-flops
  • Shoes for the next day
  • Swimsuit
  • Medications
  • Granola bars
  • Laptop or tablet
  • Travel guide
  • Travel binder
  • Book, magazine, Kindle
  • Water bottle
  • Jewelry

Even if you carry all your luggage into your destination the first night, it still helps flow to have one bag with everything you need for the night. And if you plan to leave the rest of your things in your car or another questionable location, make sure all your valuables are in your first-night bag.


Hubs is having a hard time booking a hotel.

On our last trip (turning apartment-hunting into a weekend shake-up), we got spoiled.

le meridien main

A lot.

le meridien bar
Photos from Le Meridien Chambers in Minneapolis.

Now we’re trying to turn our drive from Minnesota to New Jersey into a weekend shake-up. Not a long vacation, but a chance to experience a new place’s energy and shake off the doldrums. And poor Hubs is doing his best to find a good deal in Pittsburgh or Cleveland (including being flexible about our dates to find the best deal), but everything pales compared to Le Meridien.

I had to break it to him that Le Meridien was awesome, but it is unlikely to become our new standard. Cue the Charlie Brown sad music.

AD charlie brown
From the Arrested Development Wiki page. Hubs really did this walk in our kitchen. There really were lounging guinea pigs in the background.

New trip on the horizon!

Exciting news in the Shakeup house — we’re going on a trip!

We were always going to travel from Minnesota to New Jersey, but we had been debating between flying and driving. Now we have pet-sitters lined up and have picked out our travel stops. We’re going to spend one night at the Indiana Dunes and another night in Pittsburgh (or Cleveland…but probably Pittsburgh). Dates are still up in the air as Hubs is looking for great deals.

Once we have it planned, I’ll start researching places to eat, things to do, etc. I’m going to experiment with using the Arc system from Staples to organize our travel plans. Our last few trips have been under-planned, and although we had fun, I’d like to try doing more research beforehand. Hubs likes to go all digital, but I need to see things on paper when there’s a lot of info flowing.

We’ll be taking a lot of luggage, because Hubs is staying in New Jersey at the end of the trip. I’ll be in NJ for two weeks, then have a several-day trip back to Minnesota. I’ll probably pack in our fūl 30″ drop-bottom duffel bag and a carry-on, but I’ll try to keep our road trip stuff in the carry-on.

My goal is to keep all our luggage and bags in the way back of our Honda Fit hatchback, even with a 2-week stay. As always, I’m saving up podcasts for our drive, and I’ll try to pack snacks and drinks so we’re not completely dependent on gas stations.

I’m looking forward to planning (and blogging about) this trip!