Tipsy Tuesday | You're Engaged! Now what?!

Yay! He just popped the question and your new name is ENGAGED! There's so much excitement and you're swept off your feet and hovering above cloud 9. Enjoy it, then head on down back to earth because you've got some planning to do sister!

Congrats lovebirds!

Let planning begin, but don't forget to actually enjoy the engagement. Remember to go on dates from time to time with zero wedding talk. Marriage > Wedding. 

After you've said yes, you need to make sure you share the news with everyone and anyone, but family first! Everyone is going to want to know when the big day is. You don't have to decide on a date immediately, just let them know you'll be sending a save-the-date as soon as you decide and ask them to send you their current address. This way you don't have to make a spur of the moment date decision while you're riding that cloud 9. 

Once you've soaked it all in and made the announcement, then it's time to start deciding on dates. Consider max number of guests you'd like, whether you want an indoor or outdoor wedding, what season will work for that and a date that will work for each of your schedules. Take as much time as you think you'll need to save up and plan the big day on top of your regular schedules. Always pick a few dates, just in case your priority vendors are unavailable on the first date you choose.

You'll probably want to make an estimated budget next. There are no rules, minimum or maximum for this. It can be helpful to break this down into your top 10 categories based on vendor priority to you. Who and what are the most important for you to have as part of your wedding day? Have a little flexibility in your budget; it's much easier to go over budget than you think. Write out the numbers 1-10 and list each vendor involved in your day in the order of importance to you.
1. Wedding Venue
2. Professional Photography
3. DJ/Band/Music
4. Food/Caterer
5. Videographer
6. Dress/Attire
7. Florals
8. Cake
9. Invitation Suite
10. Other (rings, hair and makeup, officiant, honeymoon, decorations, tents, chairs, gifts, transportation, etc)

Once you decide on a rough budget, set up a meeting with a wedding planner/coordinator if you'll be working with one. These talented professionals can save you tons of stress and dirty work. If you'll be planning the day fully on your own, you'll need to get started searching out each of the major vendor categories listed above, starting with whatever vendor is a highest priority for you. This will be different from one person to the next. For me, our photographer was a top priority and we actually changed our wedding date when I found out she was already booked for our original date. Know that your major vendors (reception venues, photographers, videographers and DJs) will already be booking 1-2 years in advance so don't take your time once you know what you want. 

Trust will be everything here, so follow your gut instincts when you meet with your vendors. Find professionals you have the best connection with, who you know will leave you with nothing to stress about. Someone you know you can trust. Read reviews, ask questions and meet face-to-face whenever you can. Professionals will always have a contract for you; read through before signing and never hire someone who doesn't have a written agreement to do the work you're hiring them for. 

You may find your vendor priorities change throughout this process of narrowing down vendors as you find certain artists and designers you can't live without. This is normal. Just remember to adjust your budget accordingly.

Once you get the major vendors dialed in, you can start thinking about your wedding party and who you'd like to ask to stand in as your bridesmaids and groomsmen. I can't tell you who to choose, but I will say be sure to select a crew who you can trust to lift you up, help when needed and are 100% in support of you. These are your go-to guys and gals on the big day and you want friends & family you can lean on. Take them with you to go start collecting ideas and trying on dresses and florals!

Time to make the guest list and collect addresses! Start with family and work your way down through your closest friends and co-workers. Don't feel obliged to invite everyone you know! Do you want children or no children to attend? If your venue has a limit and you have an enormous guest list, you'll have to either cut back or change your venue. Do what is most important to both of you. If everyone can't fit at the ceremony, but the reception venue is larger, it's okay to invite some guests only to the reception.

Next, you'll want to book your engagement session. I highly recommend booking this with your wedding photographer as a way to get to know each other before the big day. You can use these photos in your newspaper announcements, save-the-dates and later on display at any engagement parties or showers. 

Send out your save-the-dates as soon as you have your date set in stone, followed by the formal invitation & RSVPs at least two months before the wedding (even sooner for destination weddings). To save on paper, you can send a link to your guests to RSVP electronically on websites (like this one here).

There you have it: the first big things to help you get started with wedding planning. Narrowing down the little details can be tedious and sometimes annoying, but don't lose sight of what all the planning is for. Ask your family and wedding party for help whenever you need it! 
Happy Wedding Planning!

Our 2nd Wedding Anniversary Trip | Orcas Island Pt. 2

The next morning, we took our time getting ready. Beau had breakfast planned, cinnamon rolls and mimosas! We ended up eating cheddar brats (something I eat like once a year normally) too because we didn't know when we'd get lunch since we were heading out on a whale tour that afternoon. 

Beau and I went for a hike to Obstruction Pass again, but it was more like a jog because we had to get all the way across the island for our tour and I was reminded how out of shape I am.

We took the Orcas Express and while we didn't see any super cool killer whales, we saw a couple of gray humpback whales named Heather and Big Mama who have supposedly been around for many years.

We had a few hours to kill after and found our way to the Island Hopping Brewery. We killed time playing the cardgame Speed and sampling good craft beers before heading over to Pizza Portofino. I'm craving their garlic butter focaccia again just thinking about it. 

The ferry ride back involved more (failed) attempts at finishing puzzles laid out on the tables, gorgeous sunset colors and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what a beautiful life we have.

I'm so ready to photograph another couple on the islands now. Please just get me a Leanto next to you so we can hang by the fire after. Who wants in?

Our 2nd Wedding Anniversary Trip | Orcas Island Pt.1

Our second wedding anniversary was Sunday May 14th. Beau told me not to make any plans for Saturday or Sunday, to pack a bag with camping and hiking gear and to plan to be up by before 3am. That was all I knew. I love how much he loves to surprise me. He always has. I'm not great at surprises because I typically clue in to little details easily, but we've both gotten better the longer we've been together.

Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 2:30am. Beau made us coffee and hustled me out the door in all of my groggy splendor. The coffee, we agreed, was terrible because he thought he'd run the same K-cup in the Keurig twice to make one big coffee (don't waste your coffee this way my friends). We stayed awake out of excitement for the rest of drive though, the Serial podcast holding our attention. By the time we reached Anacortes, I figured out we were taking the ferry over to the San Juan Islands.

On the ferry, Beau clued me in that we were going to Orcas Island and he had a list of awesome places for us to check out when we got there. The ferry wasn't packed and we walked around, watching the sun slowly coming up and fighting buying the delicious smelling tator tots because he promised there would be a cafe on the island I would love more.

We arrived at the island around 6am and the sleepy island town was still asleep so we drove around the entire west side of the island and walked along the beach, stepping on squishy kelp and looking for crabs. Once the Brown Bear Cafe opened, we were some of the first in line to enjoy a delicious Vanilla Peach croissant, JamBon (ham) croissant and a large vanilla americano. 

We headed over to hike Obstruction Pass on a mission to find the starfish we read about. The screaming seagulls wanted to eat them so it took a little time to discover how well they were burrowed under crevices of rocks. It did not disappoint, they were beautiful and bright. We hate seagulls (yes, I've been pooped on on my head) so we made sure to hide them just as we found them to keep the birds guessing. 

During the afternoon, we checked out Constitution point and watched two baby deer prancing around. One was albino and if you look close enough in my photos there, you can see him in the distance.

Afterwards, we stopped locally for some fresh caught mussels and then sampled vino at the Orcas Island Winery. Interestingly enough, they don't grow their own grapes on the island. The climate isn't right for growing, but they love the place enough to open a winery there. I don't mind; the merlot was delicious and bold with raspberry taste!

We stayed in a Leanto and it was much cooler than I thought a glamping experience would be! I love camping, but throw in a tent big enough to stand in, a luxury bed, camping chairs, tables, umbrellas, firepit, water jug, coffee and lanterns and all the stress of packing goes out the window. Beau surprised me with a cheeseboard, my favorite snack/meal ever. We sat by the fire all night, reminiscing our favorite wedding memories.

It was very cold outside, but they provided us a hot water bottle heat pack and wool blankets so we stayed cozy in bed. After Beau killed a large spider, I slept like a baby (which is rare for the light sleeper I am). 

Enough words, more photos... Keep scrollin'

Part 2, coming right up!

Tipsy Tuesday | Wedding Detail Shots

Today's Tipsy Tuesday post is brought to you with a glass of merlot and on the subject of being prepared to have your wedding details photographed. These details may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Wedding rings
  • Wedding dress and groom suit
  • Garter
  • Something old, new, borrowed and/or blue if you're going traditional
  • Any special jewelry, hair pieces, clips, brooches, veil or heirloom pieces
  • Paper Suite (Save the Date, Invites, Envelopes)
  • Florals (bouquets, boutonnières and any extra pieces your florist may leave for styling photos) 

When I arrive at your getting ready venue, I like to photograph the details immediately so everything is ready for you when you need it. I especially love when everything is grouped together in one area of the room, out of bags and with the tags already off.

If you'd like your wedding gown or groom's tux photographed, please have them hanging (with the tags) on the hanger you'd like them photographed on. Wooden photographs much better than plastic. If you would like bridesmaids dresses photographed as well, be sure to have them all hanging in the closet, on a curtain rod or anywhere they can neatly fit together. Many couples want their wedding attire photographed in full so please keep your shoes, ties, cuff links and veil nearby if you'd like them all captured. Keeping all of your getting ready items in one spot will keep my shooting and styling flowing efficiently and help you to not lose track of anything at the last minute.

If you'd like your invitation suite photographed, I can find just about anywhere to do this, but it's a total bonus to the photo if they can include bits of wedding details in the shot. This may include a couple scrap flowers from your florist, extra fabric from your gown or wedding favors you'll be sharing with guests later in the night. Anything small that ties in to your day.

It's always a good idea to get your rings polished before the big day as I'll be getting nice and close detail shots of them. It also helps to have both the bride and groom's wedding bands, plus the engagement ring in the same room so I can photograph them all together.

There you have it! A few simple tips to being prepared for your photographer to show up the morning of your wedding.

Karen | Branding Portraits at UW

When I first moved to WA, I only knew about 6 people in my area. Hallelujah for the gods of cyberspace because I just so happened to connect with Karen in a Facebook Rising Tide group. We immediately bonded at a coffee shop, discovering we are both photographers who share a passion for capturing as much realness as possible. Every week since we've met, Karen and I have met up to catch up on life, talk business, encourage each other to keep rocking the girl boss status and study new camera/lighting techniques. She's an awesome soul with a generous heart, an open mind and creative eye. You should seriously head over to Kirsch Photography to check out the latest yoga studio sessions she's been photographing... ahhhmazing!

Being a WA local, Karen has introduced me to one of the best coffee shops (and now I'm craving a Herkimer americano) and toured me around the area, pointing out history and sweet photo spots. Including the cherry blossoms at the UW campus, which ended up being the perfect place for me to photograph her for the first time. As always, that Seattle rain showed its familiar face and we chose to break out umbrellas and dance in the rain because that's how it's done with photographers like us. Ladies and gents, say hello to Karen!

Tipsy Tuesday | Where Should I Get Ready For My Wedding?

True story, I've had a bride get dressed outside before. Now before you freak out at what a weirdo photographer I must be, you've got to understand that we were at a venue only the bride and her 'maids were to be at. We were surrounded only by trees. The indoor light was brutal and the bride cared more about her photos than the thought of a bird flying through the sky seeing her. So I asked and she said yes. The fresh air + space to move was so appreciated and her prep photos turned out so stunning!

Hey guys! Today's Tipsy Tuesday post is to help all of you future bride and grooms to choose the best room to get ready in! Now, this may not be something that has even crossed your mind. You've probably figured you'd throw your dress on in the teeny church basement. Or in the chapel's nursery, because it's bigger. Or you and all the guys would get ready in your childhood bedroom at home. And you've asked your photographer to be there for the getting ready portion of the day, to capture all of the details and little moments. You've seen the beautiful photos of the best friend lacing up the dress and the mother helping her daughter put on her pearl necklace. The sweet moments as everyone huddles around the bride and prays with her. The groomsmen helping each other put on their ties. Beautiful happy moments that us as photographers love to capture for you. But let me caution you in advance, we aren't magicians and can't turn a Motel 6 bathroom into a Four Seasons Penthouse.

Next, can the space comfortably you and your wedding party inside? Your makeup artist, hair stylists, photographers, videographers, your mothers and grandmothers? Think of everyone who needs to be in the room (with all of their bags, equipment and accessories) and be sure you've chosen somewhere with enough space. If you're someone who gets claustrophobic easily, be sure to find somewhere with extra space so you feel comfortable to breathe and move around.

Now let me tell you about the importance of getting ready in a place with great natural light. While I can bring in extra gear like lighting stands and speed-lights and umbrellas to create lovely light everywhere I go, a wedding day doesn't always allow the time or space for all of this. My goal is to be capturing all of the little moments and details are they are happening, not focusing on dialing in settings on my gear or trying to move my light stand out of everyone's way as they're busily moving around. Keeping my gear as low-key as I can manage and relying on natural light, I can better turn my attention to the emotions and moods around me. So to get the best possible photos in your getting ready room, pay attention to the lighting in there. Is there just one florescent lightbulb to light up the entire room or big windows with nothing outside of them blocking the light from coming in? Are there light neutral colored walls or will the blue lightbulb be bouncing off of red walls on to your skin? If you're not sure, look in a mirror or take a good ol' selfie, noting if the light is flattering on you or not. It doesn't have to be perfect, I've got skills for that. You just have to like what you're seeing and be prepared for your photos to kind of match the feel of the room.

janelle elaine photography-landmark inn-marquette-mi-wedding-169-X3.jpg

Maybe you're thinking, I have nowhere to get ready with good lighting and my pictures are going to suck! Before you give up, consider renting a spacious hotel suite or conference room, getting ready in a family friend's home, getting dressed before you get to the church or putting the final touches on out on the deck/sunroom. If you have no other options, don't worry! Honestly you can make the best out of the space you have. Clean it up, take out the trash, hang everyone's attire neatly on a rack, ask everyone to put their bags away when they're done getting dressed, close any closet doors and take down any decor you don't want to see in your photos. (P.S. Please always clean up a little regardless of what your room looks like; I'll be capturing the day as I see it). A professional is always ready to tackle whatever lighting situation we walk into so don't stress if you don't think your getting ready room is ideal. If you have the option to choose somewhere better than what you planned on using though, go for it!


My Dream Last Night & a Note on Kindness

I woke up this morning, covered in sweat and feeling defeated. I had a very vivid dream last night that shook me up and pissed me off. Have you had a dream (or nightmare) like that before? I can recall most of it and even feel the physical sensations occurring. In my dream, some boys from my high school were bullying me. This was strange because outside of the occasional middle-school teasing accusations of being anorexic or bulimic due to my small frame and the time in 6th grade when one classmate paid another to chuck a basketball at my head, I wasn't bullied. But in my short dream, I felt the despair of a bullied victim for what felt like eternity.

The boys in my dream were coming at me with a vicious, snarling dog. They were laughing at me as I ran to my car and tried to jump in. As I was closing the door, one of the boys caught it and held it open. I was pulling the door shut with all of my strength, but it wasn't enough. The dog fit his face in the crack and was biting me, tearing my clothes to shreds. I was screaming HELP, over and over, yet nobody was listening. The boys laughed even more, reminding me that nobody was coming to save me. My voice eventually dissolved into a dry whisper as I started to lose my voice. The tears came and I kept tugging at the door until it fell off, leaving me to defend myself with a heavy door.

Help, help please! I was crying out and the people in the distance would look at me and keep walking. Why weren't they doing something about it? How can they just watch me?

My throat felt raw and I knew I wasn't being heard anymore. At this point, I woke up, my back wet in sweat. I was furious still, at the fact that nobody cared enough to come save me in my dream. That people could be so cruel, laughing while watching another human in pain and despair.

While none of this crazy dream is a reflection on anybody I actually know (myself included), my heart goes out today to those who have been bullied and abused. Who feel forgotten and alone. Those of you who feel like you're being pushed underwater, each time you try to come up to catch a breath. Who feel the pain of being mocked and laughed at for a cruel joke that isn't funny. Those of you hurt emotionally or physically. I want you to know that you are not alone. Keep getting back up, don't let anyone's actions define you. You are worthy of everything you want. I'm sorry for the bullying you've endured and I am here for you when you need someone to have your back. My mother taught me at a very young age that I was to be kind to everyone and to stick up for anyone being bullied, which has stuck with me my entire life.

Let's all practice compassion and kindness today and everyday. You never know who is fighting a vicious, snarling dog in their life. 


Tipsy Tuesday | First Looks

Today's Tipsy Tuesday post is on whether or not you should plan for a first look before your ceremony. Let's talk this out.

shooting for andrea naylor photography

shooting for andrea naylor photography

Wait, rewind. What is a first look? 
Okay so a first look is the first time a bride and groom see each other on their wedding day (before they walk down the aisle).

Why would we want to see each other before walking down the aisle? Aren't we supposed to wait?
There are no rule books. Seeing your bride before the wedding is not bad luck. Sorry to ruin the fun, but it's simply an old tradition. Your wedding is between the two of you and how you want it to flow! 

Now, some couples prefer tradition and want their first time seeing each other to be during the ceremony and in front of all their guests, which is totally respectable. There are no if's and's or but's about it. No problemo, we just plan your timeline around avoiding seeing each other until the ceremony. 

There's another variation off of this tradition called a "First Touch". This is when the couples meet up before the wedding (without seeing the other) and hold hands, share a closed eye kiss, exchange gifts, or pray together. It's a sweet way of letting the other know, 'hey, I'm here with you. I can't wait to see you.'

janelle elaine-belsolda farms-mi-wedding-217.jpg

Others, would rather their first look to be an intimate moment, with no one (but the photographer) witnessing or distracting them. They want to take it all in privately, not feeling awkward or embarrassed to show emotion in front of everyone. Occasionally either the bride or groom (maybe both) dislikes being the center of attention and are uncomfortable with the pressure of giving the "right" reaction in front of all of their guests. Not every groom will throw his hands up in the air, not every bride will cry. A private first look helps to alleviate the stress of all eyes on you and puts your focus back where it should be - on your husband or wife-to-be and allows whatever natural reaction to happen, happen.

shooting for Riutta Images

shooting for Riutta Images

Sometimes couples don't care about others watching, but find a first look helps to set a relaxed vibe for their day. Without the pressure of waiting and waiting to see each other, they meet up before or after getting ready so that they can actually spend as much of their wedding day together as possible.

For others, a first look simply fits better into their timeline. These are the couples who would rather take all of their photos before the ceremony so that they can enjoy the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception without having to leave their guests again. Gathering all of the family after the ceremony for photos when everyone is trying to hug you can get chaotic. Instead, since these couples have already seen each other before the ceremony, they can ask family to come early to get the photos out of the way so when it comes time to celebrate, they have nothing else to do but relax.

janelle elaine-firstlooks-1-16.jpg

I can't decide....What would you do?
While I have nothing against a traditional aisle look, I personally chose to have a first look with my Beau for a few reasons. First, we were getting married in the early evening on the beach. We had all day to get ready, but didn't want to spend the entire time apart. We flew to Mexico to get married to each other and wanted our memories to actually be together! We also didn't have much time before sunset after the ceremony to get tons of photos and our reception dinner wasn't long after the ceremony. Therefore, we met each other a little earlier privately and got to spend some beautiful quiet moments in each others arms before everything began. It was great getting to assure the other that we were there, we were ready and nothing else mattered. We got some stunning photos during that time that we may not have otherwise gotten before we ran out of time.

shooting for andrea naylor photography

shooting for andrea naylor photography

Will I regret it?
While I can't answer this for you, I can say I haven't met anyone yet who claims to regret their first look. Even if you see each other from the second you wake up, nothing will make your groom more happy then seeing his bride walk down the aisle or take away from a bride's experience of seeing her groom waiting for her at the alter.

No matter what you decide, be sure it's based on what you and your fiancee want. Stay traditional or opt for whatever sounds the most fun to you, just keep it true to your desires and base your timeline around that. If you need help with the timeline, stay posted for tips or shoot me an email and I'd be happy to help you coordinate times! 

Are you or did you have a first look or keep it traditional? Let us know in the comments! 

Tiana & Anthony | Rattlesnake Lake

When Tiana reached out to me that she wanted an outdoor photo session with her boyfriend Anthony and their new puppy, I knew it was going to be a fun one because first of all, I love photographing love stories and secondly, who doesn't love golden retriever puppies?! Plus Tiana said they'd be down to go wherever so while Rattlesnake Lake wasn't our first choice, it made a pretty killer backdrop.

Ellie was an adorably fluffy ball of energy. She especially liked Tiana's skirt and thought it'd be pretty fun to play tug-of-war with. We may or may not have had to tie her leash to a stump for a little bit to get some photos without Tiana trying to pry her skirt back out of Ellie's mouth. :D

Anthony and Tiana had such a sweet and loving relationship. It's pretty awesome when you don't have to direct people too much because they're just that into each other, which was completely the case with these two! 

 Check out their gallery below:

Tipsy Tuesday | Engagement Outfit Ideas

Here are 5 quick tips for pairing outfits that will help you to look your best in your engagement photos.

What colors photograph best?
1. Neutrals are a safe choice, but don't be afraid to experiment with bold pops of color here and there. If you're anything like me and like wearing all black, consider bright red heels, a colorful sweater or a purple scarf. I like to recommend neutrals on top if we're shooting outdoors in the sun as your shirt can cast colors on to your skin. Neon purple or cherry red chin? Not good.

To add accessories or stay simple?
2. Accessories are the best for changing your look simply by adding or subtracting accessories. Long strands of beads, hats, bangles, fun earrings, a watch, and of course - your freshly cleaned engagement ring! Can't decide? Bring a handful of choices and we can interchange them throughout the session!

What should we wear? Dressy or casual?
3. In all of my engagement sessions, I recommend bringing both a casual and a dressy outfit. Mom and grandma like seeing you dolled up, but if you prefer comfy casual, want to hike a little, plan on getting in the water, you may want to bring something other than your fanciest. Browse your closet or online for inspiration. Materials with detail photograph incredibly. Think lace, tulle, silk scarves, etc..  

jep_-1-5 copy.jpg

Choose shoes (or a lack of) that are comfortably mobile for the environment. Stilettos may not be the best if we're going to be doing some hiking. Suede loafers aren't great for walking in wet sand. You can always wear comfortable shoes and bring the heels along in a back pack to put on when we get to the shooting location. 

What if I hate my outfits?
4. Try on everything beforehand to be sure you love how you look in the outfit! If you are incredibly self conscious about your calves, opt for pants or a long skirt. If you think your tight shirt shows too much definition of your shape - opt for a more flowy top. If you hate it to begin with, you're going to hate how it looks on you in the photos. I can pose you in flattering ways, but if you're convinced your love handles look bigger in a belly shirt, maybe skip that outfit because it will be all you see when you look at the photos. Make sure you're comfortable with the clothing you choose!

Does neutral mean boring?
5. Neutral doesn't mean avoiding patterns and colors completely. Love stripes, florals or geometric patterns? Totally include them! Just don't overdo it with multiple patterns. If your spouse has on a plaid shirt, opt for coordinating colors without pattern. If you're going bold with a floral dress, choose a more simple and neutral pairing for your fiancee.

That's all for now! 5 quick tips to help you look amazing for your upcoming engagement session!

Gone Cruisin'

Just a reminder that I will be completely out of office (and country) from Saturday Feb. 24th to Saturday March 4th. I will be happily be out of cell service, out of wifi and enjoying a sunny vacation during these dates! Feel free to fill out the contact form and know I will be back to answer any messages from you during regular offices hours on Monday, March 6th. 



7 Things I Love for Traveling

$12.90 $12.90
Bedtime Bliss®
$21.99 $39.99
$24.95 $49.95

7 of My Travel Must Haves

My random travels these past few years have taught me a few lessons (i.e. a $7 local mocha shaved-ice at the Maui flea market tastes way better than the overpriced $7 Figi water in the airport) on how to travel more and travel smarter while getting the best bang for my buck. And yes, I'm always looking for a deal because I have an enormous travel bucket list to conquer before I die. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite travel go-to's that always make it into my luggage.

1. Vapur Water Bottle. Forget the $7 water in the airport! This baby is my all-time favorite source for travels. It's extremely lightweight, rolls up to a super small size when empty, and has a clip to attach to your suitcase. I got the 1-Liter Size and filled it up in airports, artisan wells and hotels. It's completely reasonable in price, durable and easy to clean. It also holds an impressive amount of wine, not that I've tried or anything...

2. Bedtime Bliss Sleep Mask. Contoured to your face so it's not smushed against your eyes, this is the best eye mask I've tried for traveling. There's enough space that it doesn't mess up your makeup if you're taking an afternoon cat nap and don't want to redo your makeup afterwards. I've worn this mask in planes, trains and cars and it's like instant lights out - perfect for a light sleeper like myself. Excellent in helping with jetlag when you need the rest, but the rising sun is messing with your eyes. Bonus, it came in a pouch for easy and small storage and included a pair of ear plugs! Shoutout to my fellow B-School Babe Davina for killing it with this awesome design! 

3. Inflatable Neck Pillow. Okay so we all know how much it sucks trying to sleep comfortable on a plane or train, right? Neck pillows are awesome for helping with this by supporting your neck so you're not at a constant slump. Only thing is, if you're anything like me and travel with a very full suitcase, a pillow is just one more annoying thing to try packing in when you're not using it. Bam, insert the inflatable neck pillow invention! This little game changer made my day when it came in the mail in a pouch smaller than the size of my hand and easily blew up in less than 10 seconds to a velvet cushiony dream piece (don't ask where I come up with this sh*t). 

4. Okay this isn't a product, but I completely love this site for accessing the best months to travel on a budget. If you're wondering how people insist it's easy to travel on a budget, here's a couple of insider tips (disclaimer - this definitely doesn't work as well if you don't have a major airport to fly from and flexibility is key). First of all, always search your flights from a private tab. Airlines can track how many people are researching for certain flights and can raise the prices if it seems to be a popular ticket. For me, in my Google Chrome tab, I just go to file and click on "New Incognito Window". 
Next, head on over to where you can select your departure airport. From here - if you're flexible, you can usually go somewhere within your budget. On the "To" tab, select Flexible. On the Dates tab, click Whole month and then Cheapest Month. Hit Go. The most inexpensive tickets all around the world available to you will be shown. Cool, right?! Of course if you know you want to fly to Ireland, but you're flexible with dates, you can put that in the "To" and still select Flexible dates. This will show you the current cheapest months to fly to your destination. For me, it looks like I can get from Seattle to Milan for around $540 in May, which must be the cheapest month to travel there.

5. Colgate Wisp Brushes. Mini freaking toothbrushes, no toothpaste needed. I can't tell you how many times these little guys have come in handy while traveling! Waking up from a snooze over a 6 hour flight, drinking a coffee and downing those delicious Delta Biscoff cookies (I always ask for double) always leave my mouth feeling gross. A quick scrub down with these disposable brushes are a life saver.

6. Packing Cubes. If you're anything like the old me and use the method of literally throwing everything into the suitcase, zipping it shut, and opening it up at my destination to a total tornado - you're going to love packing cubes. Now I haven't tried the exact brand listed over to the side here (mine are from Ikea), but I swear these help me pack more and stay better organized. All shirts that need to be laid flat go in the big ones, small wrinkle-free items get rolled super small and zipped into the smaller sizes, while shoes get their own to keep dirt off the clothes. The mini ones are great for storing all your toiletries. It's SO much easier finding my stuff when I arrive and helps protect the nicer items in my suitcase.

7. Cleansing Wipes. Last but not least, I always carry cleansing wipes of some sort for my face. I'm not a total germaphobe, but there is something about the gross circulating air out of those airplane/train vents that makes me feel dirty. It's not uncommon for me to refresh my face after a flight or use Thieves antibacterial wipes to wipe down my tray table in flight. I sure used quite a few wipes to clean up the restroom counters and wipe down the seats I was creating my bed on when I took the 26hour train from ND to WA last spring!

There you have it! 8 of my favorite travel go-to's that come with me on just about every long distance flight or train ride. Travel more and travel smarter. Happy Explorations! XOXO

Just an FYI and to make your day easier - you can click directly on these Amazon Buy Links and purchase right from there! Being an affiliate, I may get a small gift card from them if you do - so thank you in advance for your support! Don't feel pressured though, feel free to shop around and find your own favorites. I just wanted to give you an opportunity to try my personal faves!