We officially leave for Iceland this week and we can both hardly contain our excitement! Iceland has been on our bucket list for quite some time and we are so eager to explore this beautiful country. But what’s even better is that we’ll be doing it together (with our husbands too!).
This past weekend was spent gearing up for our big trip and it included lots of packing. We’ve gotten domestic travel down pat, but international travel is a different story! Neither of us have traveled outside of the country too much, so we want to make sure we’re extra prepared when it comes to packing.
After lots of research, and a bit of shopping, we think we’re ready for our big trip to Iceland. Here are some of the items we’re planning to pack with us.
We’re bringing our DSLR cameras, but we’ll also be using our phones for photos and social media. So a portable charger is a must! We’re planning to keep our portable chargers with us at all times so our phones are always juiced up and ready for action.
An eye mask is always a good idea when traveling if you want to get some shut eye on the plane. We’ll be flying overnight and landing in Iceland in the morning, so we’re all hoping to sleep as much as possible so we can take advantage of our limited time there. Hopefully these eye masks help a bit. Also, during this time of year it’s light out in Iceland for almost 23 hours of the day! That means we’ll definitely be needing some eye masks to get it nice and dark when it’s time for bed. (Plus I’m a sucker for Amazon reviews and this particular mask has almost 2,000 5-star reviews!)
Leggings are on repeat for both of us regardless if we’re traveling or not. But when on the plane, you’ll most likely find both of us donning leggings. Not only are they comfortable for a long flight, but leggings can also act as a compression on your legs so you don’t retain fluid and swell when sitting for such a long time. Plus, leggings are a packing essential for an active trip like Iceland. Casey is planning to bring her favorite Zella pants, while Bridget will pack these new suck-it-all-in leggings from Athleta!
When you’re on vacation, you can’t let a little rain hold up your plans! We recommend always carrying a compact umbrella for all of your international travels. Iceland’s temps right now are in the 50’s & 60’s and there are a few rain days in the forecast. We’re each packing umbrellas for the trip. This one from Amazon has over 600 5-star reviews (#AmazonReviewNerd), and we’re hoping it can combat high winds!
Here’s another one for the plane ride! I (Casey) just got this cardigan from Athleta and I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s oversized, comfy, and goes with anything! It’s quite possibly the softest thing I own, and get this…it has magnets on the collar so you can wrap it around your neck to really get cozy! I plan to don this on the plane and curl up in it like a blanket both for our Iceland trip, and again in the fall when we head to Italy!
You know those people you see at the airport who look totally put-together and chic even when traveling? Well those people probably have a leather passport case! In order to channel our inner travel expert, the 4 of us all got leather passport holders. Finn has this one, Matt has this one, and we have these. Now we can pretend to be cool travel gurus at the airport even if we’re actually travelers-in-training.
Buying water abroad can be pricey! And in many countries, the drinking water is actually safe to drink. Apparently the water in Iceland is actually really tasty and very safe. Save money (& the environment) and pack your own water bottle when traveling abroad. Plus you can fill up the bottle at the airport before your long flight so you stay hydrated for the long trip in the air. We love S’well water bottles because they keep liquids cold for 24 hours! This one with palm leaves is adorable.
After some research, we found out that Iceland’s outlets are a different shape than the ones we use here in the United States. Therefore we need to pack outlet adapters so that we can still use our chargers, blow dryer, straighteners, etc. while we are away. Iceland (and most of Europe) require C adapters so we made sure to stock up on a few packages of these so that we can still use those electronics overseas.
We plan to bring our GoPro (this is the one we have) with a waterproof case for this particular trip! We’re so excited to bring the camera underwater in the Blue Lagoon. Hopefully we get some really epic shots. But a GoPro is a cool gadget to bring along during any international travel, because they’re indestructible and you can capture both video and photos.
We have a lot of post-Iceland blog posts planned (what we did, what we packed, trip recap, etc), so if you’re planning your own trip there…we’ll have you covered once we return! Now we want to know…is there anything we’re missing from our international travel list? Anything last-minute we should pickup before we leave on Thursday? Thanks in advance for your insight and if you want to follow along on our journey, be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for updates.
Matt and I visited Washington, D.C. over Spring Break and it was hands down one of our favorite vacations we have ever taken together. I hadn’t been to D.C. since I was a kid and didn’t remember much from those trips. Matt had never been before, so we were eager to explore this city side-by-side.
We got so lucky while we were there because the weather was beautiful and the cherry blossoms were still in bloom! Those two things were enough to make us fall in love with this gorgeous city. But honestly that was just the beginning of the many, many things we fell in love with at the nation’s capital!
Here’s a list of 10 things we did while in D.C., and they’re all activities we would highly recommend to anyone else who may be taking a similar trip.
1. See the Cherry Blossoms around Tidal Basin
Seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom around Tidal Basin was absolutely breathtaking. I expected these to be pretty, but the overwhelming amount of pink/white blooms paired with the fresh smell was way better than I had even imagined.
There were some blooms around the monuments, but most of the cherry blossom trees lined Tidal Basin and walking through them was such a bucket list moment. If you ever get a chance to visit this area during peak bloom, I HIGHLY recommend it… at least once! We even got up early one morning and went to the lake to see the blossoms again, but this time at sunrise. It was awesome because there wasn’t a ton of foot traffic (only a few photographers) and we could sit down and really enjoy them. Sitting on the edge of the lake, while watching the sunrise with these blossoms surrounding us was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
It was also fun to see the cherry blossom “theme” throughout the city. From window stickers, to bus advertisements, and lots of souvenirs, cherry blossom pride was very clear throughout the city. We even snagged this cherry blossom doughnut from Astro Doughnuts because… why not?! It was a tiny doughnut shop but definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area because the doughnuts were delicious!
2. Explore the Historic Landmarks
The next obvious recommendation is to check out the historic landmarks while you’re in Washington, D.C. I’m not necessarily into seeing historic landmarks on other vacations, but something about the history in this city was so fascinating to me. Plus walking outside in the gorgeous spring weather to all of these places made it that much more enjoyable!
The cool thing about D.C. is that a lot of the national monuments and museums are all located in the National Mall, which is very walkable and wide open (lots of room for kids to play or families to picnic).
We walked from the Congress building to the Washington Monument, over to the Lincoln Memorial, and then kept on walking to the Arlington National Cemetery. All of these places are in a straight line and made for a three-mile walk. Plus all of the museums are in this area so you can cover a lot on your to-do list without going very far.
Arlington Cemetery was a little bit farther out but definitely worth the trip. We opted out of the free walking tour of the cemetery since we had already walked a ton that day and paid for the driving tour instead. We saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier and really enjoyed hearing all of the amazing history that surrounds Arlington Cemetery.
Although the National Mall was crowded during the day, it never felt too crowded or overwhelming. But we were able to get almost the entire mall to ourselves when we got up to watch the sunrise over the Washington Monument (more on that in #4).
3. Tour the White House
We were fortunate enough to tour the White House while we were in D.C., which was another bucket list moment. It’s free to get in, but does require tickets. To get tickets you need to contact your representative a few months (about 6-9) prior and ask for permission. I emailed our representative in December and then had to send our information and Social Security numbers for approval. Even then, I didn’t hear back with confirmation until the week before we left.
The tour was really cool. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to bring a camera in, so I don’t have any pictures to report back. But being in the White House and hearing more about the history of each room was fascinating. If you’re ever in the area, I would definitely recommend trying to get tickets! The tour is self-guided so you can make it as long or as short as you want, which is my kind of tour.
4. Take a Bike Ride (at sunset or sunrise!)
A few of our readers recommended renting bikes in the city and exploring the National Mall via bike. One reader even recommended taking a ride at night (thank you!!) because it’s less crowded and far more magical. I loved this advice, but we opted to take a sunrise tour instead of a sunset tour. This early morning ride turned out to be my all-time favorite part of the entire trip.
We woke up before the sun one morning and rented bikes ($8 for 24 hours). Then we rode through the streets of D.C. down to the National Mall where we sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and watched the most stunning sunrise behind the Washington Monument.
WOW… if you have the chance to do this, I would HIGHLY recommend it. We especially loved riding at this time of the day since we aren’t city bikers and being able to ride in the city before everyone woke up was a lot less stressful! We rode past the White House, through the mall, and over to the Tidal Basin and were practically the only ones around… which made for the perfect chance to take in the scenes without the crowds.
5. Walk to Georgetown
Another highlight from our trip was exploring the colorful, charming Georgetown.
The cobblestone roads, the colorful doors, the unique door knockers, the delicious cupcakes… what’s not to love about Georgetown?! We walked from downtown D.C. to Georgetown and back, which was only about 2 miles each way. Walking by all of the amazing houses made me want to come home and paint my house a bright and happy color!I mean, can you even?! How could you be in a bad mood living on this block?! The city was so charming! Besides the adorable neighborhoods, there is LOTS of shopping. We skipped the shopping and headed to Georgetown University per Matt’s request. The campus was stunning, especially with all of the tulips in bloom. It’s definitely worth the trip if you’re in the area.
6. Go to a Museum
Like I mentioned before, I’m not someone who typically loves visiting museums or historical landmarks on vacation. But there were so many FREE museums to choose from in D.C., so I was excited to check out a few. My favorite was the National Gallery of Art. The modern, minimalistic approach and floor to ceiling windows stole my heart right away. We didn’t spend a lot of time there (a benefit of FREE admission) but our time there was so inspiring. This blue rooster was on the upper deck of this art museum and was an easy way to see a different perspective of the city.
We also visited the Holocaust museum and the Smithsonian while we were there, both were really interesting. If you’re looking to get tickets to the Holocaust museum (highly recommended), make sure you book them well in advance. They sell out quickly, but you can reserve them online months before your trip.
7. See a Nationals Baseball Game
A ballpark with cherry blossoms in it? Only in D.C.!
Nationals Park was very clean and super pretty, it’s definitely worth seeing if you have a baseball fan in the crowd (like I did). Matt loved it!We took the Metro to get there, which was super easy to navigate and totally worth it! We didn’t get a chance to go, but I hear that Bluejacket Brewery and Ice Cream Jubilee are awesome places to check out in the area before/after the game.
8. Visit Union Station
On our last day in D.C. we walked to Union Station because we heard it was really pretty inside and I’m so glad we did! It’s not as grand as Union Station in New York but it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area. The architecture was ah-mazing. Plus there’s a whole mall (and lots of restaurants) inside of Union Station so that was a fun surprise!
The architecture throughout D.C. in general is pretty amazing. I was in awe at how detailed and stunning these old buildings are and how clean/pristine they still look.
9. Treat Yourself!
From delicious doughnuts to amazing crab cakes, we ate a lot of great food while in D.C. We ate at Union Market one night (where this wall art was found) and loved checking out the open-air market, such a fun vibe there. We ate cupcakes in Georgetown and had to try both hotspots — Georgetown Cupcakes and Baked & Wired — just to see which one we liked more (both were amazing but we did like Baked and Wired a bit more).
We also ate at Old Ebbit Grill, which was a delicious old-time pub right by the White House. Astro doughnuts & District Doughnuts were both delicious too. One thing we didn’t get around to eating was from one of the many food trucks around the city… they all smelled amazing if that counts for anything.
10. Pack the Essentials
Overall our trip to D.C. was so much better than I ever could have imagined. We loved everything about this city and were so impressed at how clean it was and how NICE everyone was. Like really, really kind… everywhere! If you’re heading there anytime soon, I would recommend packing a camera, sunscreen, sunglasses and most importantly, comfy walking shoes!
Matt and I walked over 50 miles (!!!!) during the four days we were there and were extremely thankful that we packed comfy gym shoes (these are the ones I brought). Although 50 miles seems like so much walking, we never felt overwhelmed or bored from walking because we loved exploring.
Overall, we would give our Spring trip to Washington, D.C. an A++ and can’t wait until we can visit again some day!
P.S. If you’re local to Chicago then be sure to watch ABC news tomorrow morning. We’ll be on at 8:20am chatting about ideas to refresh your home for spring!
Now that we’re back and had a chance to get organized, we’re excited to dish on our gorgeous trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico! Although it was absolutely amazing to travel with each other, our hubbies, AND unplug for the week, we did encounter some very unexpected events that made for some less than picture-perfect memories.
Twice as nice
But before we get into those details let’s chat about ALL of the picture-perfect memories we did make while in this amazing place! We stayed at Valentin Imperial Maya Resort, which was the same resort that Casey and Finn went on their honeymoon (you can read all about their trip right here). It’s adults only, all-inclusive, and is such a large beautiful place to stay.
They loved the resort so much that they vowed that not only did they want to come back, they wanted to bring friends next time they visited. Fast forward two years and here we are. We also brought another couple (hi Adam & Lauren!) so we had a group of 6 total. On our first full day we saw a full rainbow…legit the ENTIRE rainbow! It was crazy and we got so many gorgeous photos of it.
Happy New Year!
One of the best parts of the trip was being there for the New Year and all the New Year’s Eve festivities. The resort was decorated in Christmas lights and even Christmas trees (!!), which was mind-boggling for all of us Chicagoans. Crazy to see holiday decor in 80 degree weather, but it made us feel even more grateful to be away from the single digit temps at home. #SorryChicago
We got all dressed up for New Year’s Eve and had a wonderful meal all together. Then we watched a fire show on the beach, listened to live music in the courtyard, and counted down until midnight.
Here’s a (grainy!) photo we took at midnight right before the ball dropped! Lots of champagne, laughs, and dancing for this group.
Most days we spent at the pool relaxing. The pool at the resort was HUGE and had plenty of seating. And there were tons of floats available in the pool… which made for the perfect afternoon “vehicle” to get to the two swim-up bars.
While the girls often napped or read in the sun, the boys spent lots of time playing beer pong in the pool.
Or we’d all join in on some of the over-the-top pool activities like the foam party (say what?!), drinking fun tropical drinks, or taking lots of ridiculous underwater photos.
Say no to sunburn
The sun in Mexico is super intense, so we were sure to lather up constantly! Casey got a pretty bad sunburn on her honeymoon so we were committed to making sure that didn’t happen again. We re-applied lots and lots of sunblock (50 & 100 SPF) and pretty much had hats on at all times. <— imagine how trendy we must have looked lathered in white sunblock with oversized hats. But honestly we didn’t even care as long as we didn’t come home burnt!
It’s crazy how the more time we spent relaxing, the more lazy we got. At first it was hard to officially unplug and just relax (something we’re not very good at). But the more time we spent by the pool and on the beach, the better we got at feeling less guilty and instead enjoyed and embraced the lazy days.
When we weren’t by the pool, you could find us relaxing on the beach. We’re not sure if it was the time of year or just a coincidence, but the water was wavy almost everyday that we were there.
Although some days the waves were too dangerous to swim in, we still took advantage of walking the beach and taking in these breathtaking views.
The water was SO clear in this area and the sand so darn smooth. We can see why so many people visit this region of the world. Absolutely stunning!
The few days that we did swim in the ocean, we saw beautiful fish right around us as we swam. The water was so clear it was crazy how easy it was to spot them!
We linked this beach bag on our Instagram while we were there and weren’t surprised that it’s been one of most popular items we have ever linked! Casey got it for Christmas and we are both obsessed with it (Bridget added it to her wish list when she got home). It matches with just about anything and has several compartments that really helped keep Casey organized on the plane and throughout the vacation. If you’re in the game for a casual bag, we HIGHLY recommend this one!
We had such a blast together and are so grateful for the chance to celebrate such a wonderful year in such an amazing place. But like we mentioned before, this trip came with some unexpected news. Just about half way through the week, Matt got news that his grandma passed away back home. We were crushed.
Matt and I got on the next flight out to get back to family as soon as we could. Getting news like this is never easy but getting this news and being thousands of miles away from our family makes it even harder. Thankfully we were able to get home in less than 24 hours & spent the rest of the week back in Chicago celebrating her admirable life.
The vacation we planned for almost all of 2016 looked a lot different from what we ever imagined. Although it was filled with jaw-dropping beauty, it was also filled with devastating loss. Through the laughs and the cries, we’re reminded how lucky we are to have the amazing people in our lives. It’s these people who make the good times great and the hard times just a tad easier. This trip was the perfect reminder of exactly that.
Over the past few years (since the blog’s beginnings) we’ve been fortunate enough to do lots of traveling…TOGETHER! Seeing new parts of the country is always amazing, but it’s even better when your bestie is right by your side!
*Affiliate links used for your convenience
All of these trips have definitely made us better travelers, and we’ve even gotten better at not over-packing. We are far from perfect in this category but practice makes perfect, right?!
We figured it might be fun to share some of our favorite items that we use when away from home, as well as a few tips to make your next trip more organized and less stressful!
Our Travel Essentials
SCARF: We both always try to travel with a scarf… even in the summer! If we’re not wearing this scarf on our bodies, we will keep it in our purse so that we can use it on the plane if we get cold. And if we don’t get cold (which hardly ever happens) it’s great to have as a “pillow” on the plane. Outside of our travel days, we also like to have a scarf with us throughout the trip just in case the hotel/weather is colder than we anticipated. We love this neutral scarf that goes with just about anything.
BIG PURSE: Most airlines only let you on the plane with two bags as carry-ons, so we like to get the most bang for our buck with that second bag… especially if we didn’t check our luggage. Having a large bag/purse allows us to make the most of that second bag and carry on as much as we can. Usually we keep everything in our purse that we want easy access to while on the plane (i.e. computer, chargers, camera, book/magazines, etc.). Casey has been loving her new bag for fall, and it’s the perfect size for both work and travel.
TOILETRY KIT: Our toiletry kits are DEFINITELY not fancy but they are very practical. We’re sharing more details later in this post, but building a travel toiletry bag has been the biggest game changer since we started traveling. We have a travel toiletry bag ready at all times and can quickly grab it and go when packing for a trip, which saves SO much time and stress. And when we come home from our trip and one of our items is running low, we will add more shampoo or conditioner OR buy the item and add it to the bag so it’s all set for the next trip. Here’s an inexpensive bag we both have that makes traveling so much easier!
COMFY SHOES: Both of us always travel in gym shoes so that we are comfortable. It’s also convenient because when we have to take our shoes off to go through security, we always have socks on. Once we had to go barefoot through La Guardia’s security after taking our sandals off. Let’s just say…. lesson learned. Gym shoes + socks from here on out. Bridget loves her converse, while Casey prefers her Nikes.
LUGGAGE: Casey splurged on this TUMI luggage as a wedding gift and loves hers! Bridget’s luggage is just average but does the trick… for now. We like these lightweight bags because they’re different colors, which makes telling the difference between the two of them super easy. Having wheels and the ability to pull or push them is probably the biggest priority for both of us… and having lots of pockets to keep them organized!
CLASSIC CLOTHING: We try to pack items that can be as versatile as possible. We bring one jacket that will match with everything (like a leather jacket or a neutral blazer), one pair of “dressy” shoes that will match with everything (like nude wedges or TOMS) and one pair of gym shoes (like converse). That way we can save space on doubles of the same type of item. We also try to choose layers that will work with our day or night outfits.
NIFTY FIFTY CAMERA LENS: As much as it’s sometimes a pain, we ALWAYS travel with our DSLR camera. We actually really love capturing the beauty of new places with our camera, both for the blog and for our own record. When we travel with our camera, we usually just bring this lens because it’s super light weight and captures the pictures well. When we REALLY want to be overachievers, we bring our favorite lens (this one) but it’s SO heavy and expensive so we try to avoid it whenever possible.
PHONE CHARGERS: We keep our cell phone charger in our purses, so that we can have easy access to it throughout our travels. We were recently on a flight where there were chargers in the seats, so having our cell phone chargers accessible was a huge perk! We also add colored washi-tape on each of our chargers (more details here) so that we don’t get them mixed up. It’s such an easy and temporary trick that works wonders!
EARBUDS: We ALWAYS bring ear buds and try to have our favorite podcasts downloaded onto our phones so that we can listen while we travel. And usually we roll up all of our cords, clip them, and put them in a zipper pouch (like an old pencil-case) to keep our wires from getting tangled in our bags.
Our Travel Tips
WHIP UP A DOCUMENT: Before you bid your home farewell, we recommend taking 15 minutes to whip up a sheet with all of the important information about your trip. On this document you can include your airline information, hotel address and phone number, travel agent contact information and more. We make and print one of these sheets for EVERY SINGLE trip we go on together or with our hubbies. We like having a paper copy of this info just in case you don’t have access to wifi and you need answers ASAP! This handy-dandy sheet has helped us out many times throughout our trips. Be sure to share this doc with someone at home too, just in case.
PHOTO SHARING: We always create a photo sharing plan ahead of time, that way you can easily track down all of the vacation photos that everyone took on the trip. If you’re taking pics on your iPhone, we recommend creating a photo stream and inviting everyone in the group to share their travel photos. If a DSLR camera is more your style, set up a Dropbox folder ahead of time and invite all of your travel companions to join in. Everyone can dump their photos into one common place, so you all can enjoy the memories throughout the trip and well beyond!
MAKE A WARDROBE PLAN: It may sound straight up crazy, but we often write down our outfit plans for each day of our trip (day & night). We started doing this so we don’t accidentally show up to an event wearing the same thing (it’s happened before…), and we loved this technique so much because it forced us to think ahead and not overpack. It may be a bit more work on the front-end, but we promise it’s worth it when you can just wake up and get ready for the day while on vacation. No more hemming and hawing in the morning, and more time spent enjoying your vacay!
CREATE A TOILETRY KIT: Another thing we both have is a small toiletry kit that contains mini items of everything we need. When we come home from traveling, we don’t take the items out of this kit. Instead the items stay in it and we can just grab this kit the next time we head out-of-town. We even use our little kits for sleepovers! All you need is a small toiletry bag, and inside you can add travel-sized items of all the essentials. (hairspray, deodorant, toothpaste, travel toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, etc.)
CHARGE & DOWNLOAD: We always joke that throughout DIY Playbook’s history some of our best ideas have been born while we’ve been on a plane together. Probably because that’s some of the only time we are together with no internet or distraction… just time to chat and brainstorm. And when we aren’t chatting or brainstorming, we are most definitely trying to get as much work done on our devices before landing at our new destination. In order to do this, we like to have our computers, cameras, and cell phones completely charged before getting on the plane. If we’re alone, we also like to download some recent podcasts episodes (YHL has a podcast + Chris Loves Julia podcast) so that we can be entertained (and inspired!) while working away!
Last week, we chatted all about our trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Can you tell we fell in love with this cute little town? As evidenced by the 100000+ pictures we took during our weekend getaway…
We visited this tiny little coastal town before our big Michaels Makers Summit which was held in Carmel Valley Ranch. As you guys may know, we’re a part of the Michaels Makers team (yep, the Michaels that carries just about every single craft supply you could ever want!) and each month we, along with about 40 other bloggers, are challenged to create a themed craft.
We had an awesome year with Michaels (more about our year of crafts in this post), and we were so honored and excited to sign on for another fun year of creativity! We love being challenged to DIY outside of our comfort zone, and we can’t say no to a fun trip to a gorgeous location #winwin
Carmel Valley Ranch
Last year the retreat was held in Sonoma, and we didn’t think it could be topped. Well, this year’s location somehow outshined our Sonoma trip. It was held at Carmel Valley Ranch, which is a 500 acre resort complete with vineyards, a golf course, hiking trails, 2 pools, horses, fitness centers, and nightly s’mores. Say what?! When we first arrived we walked around with our mouths hanging open for a good 30 minutes.
Our room was just about the size of each of our homes (we’re not even exaggerating) and it included a living room, large bathroom, and bedroom with a fireplace. It’s a big feat that we even managed to ever leave the room.
Hanging with the other Makers
One of the best parts of these trips is bonding with other creatives. And since we met everyone last year, it was like a mini blogger reunion.
We absolutely adore Courtney from A Thoughtful Place and loved being reunited with her. She is so genuine and kindl, and is just as beautiful on the inside as the out. If only she lived closer…
Lucy from Craftberry Bush is another sweetheart, and we are so impressed by her amazing talents. Have you seen some of her watercolors? We absolutely adore her and her plethora of creative skills.
The first night, we enjoyed a dinner in the organic garden with the other 34 makers at the summit. It was full of wine, amazing food, and lots of laughter. Oh and lots of pictures. Because that’s what happens when you put bloggers together in a gorgeous setting. Lots of snapping!
Let’s Get Crafty
The main point of the trip was to get together to get our creative juices flowing and challenge ourselves to try new things. We took classes in everything from jewelry making, to flower arranging, to watercolor painting.
Our favorite classes included wood burning (we are dreaming up some holiday projects with this new fun tool) and shibori dyeing.
We “tie-dyed” scarves, and had so much fun getting our hands dirty. Courtney may have added a bit too much dye to her scarf, and came out with a solid blue one. Ha! Just goes to show…we certainly are not pros when it comes to all of this!
We did another macrame class this year, and were again pretty terrible at it. It’s way harder than it seems and our fingers just don’t seem to work very well when it comes to weaving.
Other Fun Activities…
This year was also a bit different because 50 lucky winners were able to attend the 2nd portion of the trip. It was so fun chatting with these women from all over the country, and they all were just so grateful and happy to be there.
Another noteworthy guest? Sarah Michelle Gellar! Yes, BUFFY! She was there for one of the dinners to promote her new business called Foodstirs. We were so excited to get a picture with her…but she was only there for about 20 minutes. Next time we’ll have our selfie stick all ready to snap away.
We could go on and on, but instead we’ll leave you with a few more pretty photos of this gorgeous retreat.
We are grateful for all of the opportunities that this little blog has brought our way. But this trip is extra special. There’s nothing like taking a break from your routine to re-energize. Connecting with close friends, crafting with new friends, and dining in a gorgeous setting was more than enough to recharge our batteries!
We’re excited for another year of craft challenges with our favorite brand. Bring it!
If you followed us last weekend on Instagram, you know far too well how we are now obsessed with Carmel-by-the-Sea. We had the privilege of visiting this 1 square mile town last weekend, and we both came home declaring that this city is one of our top 3 favorite places we have ever visited. Honestly, we loved every single thing about this amazing place and can’t wait to go back! Take a look at our pics from Carmel* and then we can chat about where we ate, what we did, and general tips for anyone else planning a trip there!
*note: Everything about this place was just as gorgeous as it was charming so we took WAY too many photos throughout our short stay. #consideryourselfwarned
What We Did
Walked around town:
Because the town is literally 1 square mile, everything in Carmel-by-the-Sea is within walking distance (and that includes the beach!). We took in the town by walking around and immediately fell in love with the colors, gorgeous plants, and quaint shops/homes throughout the city.
Walked the beach:
Ocean Avenue (the street that runs right down the middle of town) will lead you down to the ocean & Carmel’s gorgeous beach. This beach is known for its white sand and without even knowing that, we immediately noticed (and commented!) on how white and rock-less the sand was. Although we were not dressed for the occasion (leather jackets are not the best beach wear…), we walked the beach a few blocks north and enjoyed climbing the rocks and seeing Pebble Beach Golf Course in the distance. Because we loved these gorgeous views so much, we even got up early the next morning to come back and run south on the beach and explore even more. The views of both the ocean and the gorgeous ocean-front homes were even better than expected!
We took an $8 Uber ride over to check out the famous Pebble Beach property (per instructions from BOTH of our dads). We walked around the beautiful grounds and then grabbed drinks and a light dinner on the patio just off the 18th hole. This would be an AMAZING spot to watch the sunset on the ocean, but unfortunately the sun never made its way out that day. We can’t complain though… drinks by the fire on the patio overlooking the iconic 18th hole was pretty darn amazing!
Clint Eastwood’s Mission Ranch:
Did you guys know that Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor of Carmel?! Crazy, right? Well, he owns a huge ranch about 5 minutes outside of town and it’s pretty darn adorable. We ended up going there to grab a drink on the patio of Mission Ranch Dining Room after Pebble Beach, but by that time we got there it was dark. We really wish we had more time to go back because it was one charming place. Rumor has it is that Mr. Eastwood can be found in the dining room’s piano bar anytime he’s in town. And when we say dining room… think old ranch restaurant from the 50’s but in the most adorable way. String lights, live piano bar, and tables looking out over grazing animals right in front of the ocean. Next time we make it back to Carmel, spending more time at Mission Ranch is on the top of our list!
Carmel Valley Ranch:
Although this is not in Carmel-by-the-Sea, we still have to mention Carmel Valley Ranch because we definitely think it’s worth checking out if you have an extended amount of time planned in the Carmel area. It’s a 10-15 minute drive outside of Carmel-by-the-Sea and offers an entirely different feel. Instead of quaint and coastal, this 500 acre ranch is spread out in the California mountains and has more of a vineyard-meets-mountain-ranch-meets-golf-resort feel. We couldn’t believe that the terrain and whole “feel” of this area could change so drastically in a 15 minute car ride. We’ll get into more details about the Carmel Valley Ranch in our Michaels Maker Summit Recap (next week!), but we had to mention how unreal we thought this property way. In all honesty, this property is out of our price-range, but if you’re looking to splurge and relax… Carmel Valley Ranch is worth looking into! #WOW
Where We Ate
Before we get into what we ate while in Carmel, we have to THANK YOU guys so much for all of your recommendations. Your tips + messages totally helped us choose some amazing restaurants… and so did this post.
La Bicyclette: We grabbed breakfast here and really enjoyed it. It’s an old pharmacy turned french restaurant so you can imagine how cute it is. Plus they had great lattes, great breakfast, and great bakery goods!
Niko’s: We grabbed a drink on the outdoor patio at Niko’s. Note to wine drinkers — there are lots of wine tastings around town…. almost all of them start at noon.
Forge in the Forest: We grabbed lunch outside on the patio here and loved sitting fireside while enjoying some great food. We both ordered the soup & sandwich combo, but probably our favorite part of this lunch? The skillet cookie for 2! Highly recommended.
The Bench at Pebble Beach: This scenic spot was a bit pricey but fun to check off the bucket list. If you’re bringing your +1, this would be a great way to earn some serious brownie points. Patio cocktails next to the fire, looking out on the 18th hole, and sunset over the ocean? I guess we can see why it’s a bit pricey!
Katy’s Place: This old-fashioned, cash-only diner was definitely worth the 15 minute wait. We heard so much about this place before heading to Carmel so we were determined to try it while we were in town. The diner style breakfast was delicious and the decor reminded us of Grandma’s kitchen. It was charming and homey and we would recommend it if you’re looking for a good ol’ fashioned breakfast.
High Heels: We randomly met the mayor while we out running in Carmel and after chatting with him for about a half hour, he told us that it’s illegal to wear anything higher than 2 inch heels in Carmel. Saaaay whaaat?! How funny is that?! Although we don’t think they really enforce this law, he did invite us to stop by city hall and pick up high heel permits so that we could get formal permission to break that law. #troublemakers
The Bench: The mayor and his buddies also brought us down to this little bench just outside of Carmel overlooking the beach. Under this bench looking over the ocean, there is a mailbox that has a pen and a journal inside. The tradition is that people come visit, sit on the bench, write in the journal and leave it in the mailbox. When the journal is filled, it’s added to the local library and replaced with a new one. We absolutely LOVED this tradition, so of course we had to sit at the bench and write a little something to be left by the sea.
Shopping: Although Carmel by the sea is small, there is lots of upscale shopping crammed into this square mile. From big brand stores like J. Crew, Anthropologie, Kate Spade and Tiffany & Co to more one-of-kind souvenir shops, specialty shops, and art galleries, there really is something for everyone. We didn’t do much shopping, but if that’s your thing there are lots of opportunities to shop in Carmel.
Uber Rides: We did not have a car while in Carmel. Although we wish we did to take the 17 mile drive or go hike Point Lobos. We had no problem at all getting an Uber and couldn’t believe how close everything was. Anywhere we wanted to go was about a 10-15 minute/$8-$15 Uber ride.
Pet Friendly: Dogs are literally allowed in just about every single restaurant or store throughout town. And not only are they allowed, almost every store/restaurant offers water bowls and treats. Heck, even the toll booth to jump on the 17 Mile Drive was giving out dog treats!
More Time?: If we had more time, we would have checked out the entire 17 mile drive, drove over to Monterey to explore, drove to Big Sur to take in even more of this amazing part of the country.
As you can probably tell by now, we loved everything about Carmel-By-the-Sea. Next week we will be dishing on our experience at the Carmel Valley Ranch for the Michaels Makers Summit but in the meantime, we would love to hear from our fellow travelers or even locals.
Did we miss something in Carmel that you really love? Leave it in the comments below so that we can put it on our “next time” to-do list and so our fellow readers can add it to their Carmel travel notes.
Psst…looking for some fall fashion or home staples? There are some stellar sales this weekend!
WEEKEND SALES J. Crew: Use code “SHOPNOW” for 25% off select items Express: Buy 1, Get 1 50% off! Gap: Use code “FALL4IT” for 40% off West Elm: Up to 50% off rugs…some of these are seriously so good. this jute one is a staple!
1 week ago, we were both in “Hotlanta” (frizzy hair and all!) at the annual Haven Conference. We always love an excuse for a girl’s trip out of town, and this long weekend away did not disappoint!
Haven is a blogging conference specific for the home and DIY niche, and this was our third time going.
Our First Haven in 2013…
We first attended 3 years ago when we were legit BABY bloggers and The DIY Playbook was only 6 months old. At that time, it was incredibly overwhelming, yet so exciting, to learn about the mysterious world of blogging, and see some of our idols within the industry. Here’s some photo evidence of us being all cheesed out and excited…
Those grins. Oh boy! You can read more about our first Haven trip in this post, but seriously…do not judge those pics. Luckily our photography skills have greatly improved!
The Haven Conference 2016
We certainly know a heck of a lot more about blogging now than we did way back when, but we still learn so much from attending this conference. And many of those blog idols, have become great friends of ours over the years. Seriously…this little blogging community is the best!
While we didn’t have a ton of time to see all of the sights in Atlanta, we were able to go out on the town last Friday night. Our good friend Michelle (from the blog Iron & Twine) lives in Atlanta, and she took us out for a night of dinner and drinks in Midtown.
We ate at JCT Kitchen and dined on avocado toast (#basic), truffled fries, oysters, and roasted veggies. It was divine, and just what we needed after a long day of classes.
The area near the restaurant was seriously adorable. Industrial, yet still quaint and charming. Definitely a must-see if you visit the city.
We spent a majority of our days in classes & workshops learning about the latest techniques within the blogging world. The classes ranged from Photo Editing tips, to the Legal side of blogging (so much to learn!) to tips on how to improve your website’s SEO. You should have seen us frantically taking notes throughout most of these classes! Better yet, you should see our to-do list. It’s about a mile long…
When not in class, we spent time checking out the sponsor booths and chatting with vendors. Casey got to see Amy Howard (from the Amy Howard at Home paint line), who she worked with on her DIY show, Weekend Workbench. That was a fun reunion!
And Bridget dined on her fair share of donuts from this adorable setup! I mean, can you even? #bloggerdreamscometrue
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend in Atlanta! We had so much fun traveling together, loved catching up with our blogging buddies, and left with plenty of new blogging tips & tricks to implement right here on the Playbook. Just goes to show, there is ALWAYS more to learn!
3 years ago, we would have never dreamed that The DIY Playbook would turn into what it has today. We were just 2 young gals excited to learn more about how the heck to even run a blog. Now we can’t imagine our lives without out little slice of the internet, and without all of you!
[Disclaimer: We partnered with Zazzle to bring you this blog post. All opinions and photography are our own and are not influenced by Zazzle. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.]
Over the past 3.5 years, we’ve had the opportunity to travel to lots of awesome places together. Atlanta, NYC, Sonoma, Buffalo, Seattle…the list is growing each year, and we are so grateful that we get to explore new places side-by-side.
Today we’re jetsetting yet again, and this time we’re heading to the Haven Conference. Haven is a blogger conference specifically for DIY & home bloggers and is being held in Atlanta. We’ve gone twice before and always love seeing other bloggers who share the same passion as us! It should be a jam-packed weekend in Atlanta and we are looking forward to connecting with lots of old friends. And on top of that, a whole weekend together to catch up on blogging, DIY and LIFE… what’s not to love?!
Traveling with your bestie is the best. And since we’re so similar when it comes to our traveling habits (we’re both organized yet laid back) our travels are usually stress-free and so darn easy, which makes each trip fun! Since we’re such compatible travel partners, we have a few more trips planned for the remainder of the year, including a week-long trip to Mexico with our husbands over New Year’s! <— this trip is the blog’s treat to them for their endless love & support. We couldn’t do it without them and want to make sure they know how much we appreciate their help.
New Luggage Tags
We recently ordered some new luggage tags from Zazzle, not only to jazz up our boring black bags…but also to get us excited for our remaining trips together! We went with these sleek black and white tags from Zazzle for the girls.
There’s even a slot on there where you can easily insert your business card right into the tag.
So convenient, right?!
There are so many options for luggage tags on Zazzle, and it took us forever to decide (we seriously scrolled for way too long, but it was so fun to check them all out!). Ultimately we loved the classic look of these tags, and especially love how you can personalize them with your name right on the front. And for less than $11 a pop…you really can’t go wrong!
So it looks like we are officially all set for this weekend’s getaway! We will be en-route to Atlanta later today, matching bag tags and all. You can follow this weekend’s Haven adventure on Snapchat (diyplaybook), on Instagram, or stay tuned for a full recap right here on the blog next Friday.
And speaking of Atlanta– any recommendations?! We’d love to hear about any local hot spots we can check out. We’ll be free one of the evenings and would love to explore the city a bit.
Last Alaska post… I PROMISE!! Like I mentioned during our recap post, I had a hard time finding many blog posts about an Alaskan road trip in the summer, but the ones I did read were SO helpful when planning/preparing for our trip. My hope is that this post (along with this one and this one) will help others who may be preparing for a similar trip. If you’re not interested in taking a trip to Alaska, I PROMISE this is my last post and we’ll be right back to decorating and DIY tomorrow.
Without further ado, here are the 10 TIPS I wish I knew before visiting Alaska in the summer. (Truth: Matt and I literally kept a written list over the course of our trip so we could report back accurately! You’d be surprised by what you can accomplish when you’re in a car with no radio for hours on end. #NERDALERT)
1. Keep your gas tank full: If you’re road tripping through Alaska you will be doing PLENTY of driving, which actually didn’t seem bad to us since all of the scenery was so amazing along the way. But while you’re out driving, don’t let the gas tank get too empty because there aren’t a TON of gas stations to stop off for gas. As in…. don’t miss the opportunity to get gas, even if you’re not close to empty, because there may not be another gas station until it’s too late! <– Same goes for bathrooms!
2. Pack a GPS + CD: While we were out driving not only did we have zero cell service, we often didn’t have a radio signal either. SOOOO… be sure to pack a GPS AND a CD so you know where you’re going and you can be entertained along the way. Don’t rely on your cell phone as your only means of directions/music because it may not be available for hours on end. (When I say hours on end… that is NOT an exaggeration, trust me).
3. When you see cars pulled over, get your camera ready and pull over too: This was news to me, but when you see a caravan of cars pulled over to the side of the highway, pull over too because chances are there is some cool animal right on the side of the road — like a moose or bear! Every time we saw cars pulled over, we got our camera ready and pulled over to enjoy the view (from the safety of our car, of course). We were able to see a moose family, a large male moose and a caribou by doing this…. all worth the stop!
4. Pack Layers & Dress for Comfort: It’s chilly in the morning but nice by the afternoon so having layers that can easily be taken off throughout the day or even throughout your hike is key! Also, casual clothing (and maybe a few hats) is really all you need for a week in Alaska, no need for fancy. Here’s a WHOLE post about my tips for packing for this trip.
5. Order the fish: The halibut, the salmon, the king crab cakes and crab chowder = all AMAZING!! The fish up in Alaska is SO fresh and so delicious… I promise you won’t be disappointed ordering any and all of the fish you can.
6. Charge your camera: There is wildlife and amazing scenery to capture at every turn (literally at every single turn) so make sure your camera is charged and your memory card has plenty of storage available. I would even advise having a back-up battery ready just in case… you can never be too prepared, right?
7. Read the signs: I mentioned in tip #2 to bring a GPS since your phone will likely not have service for a lot of the adventure but IF somehow you forget that tip, don’t panic! I’m from Chicago where the highways can get a bit overwhelming or confusing if you’re not from the area. Alaska was not like that at all. There was pretty much one highway to get to all of our stops and the highway to get there was very well marked. So just having a map (even one from the car rental place) and a keen eye for following the signs, I’m confident you’ll be just fine exploring.
8. Don’t forget about the extended daylight hours: Often times when we’re planning a road-trip vacation, we don’t like to do a ton of mountain driving at night so we plan our route accordingly. In Alaska, this was NOT an issue because there was daylight for 20+ hours per day. Yes… you read that right, 20 hours of daylight each day. We were there for a whole week and never once saw darkness, which is an awesome perk for travelers on the road in Alaska. When you’re planning your routes and overall vacation schedule, you don’t have to worry about “driving too late” and it becoming dark and scary on unfamiliar mountain roads because chances are you probably won’t hit darkness until almost midnight.
9. There are plenty of pull-offs to take pictures, so take advantage: We drove from Seattle to San Francisco last year and there were plenty of “pull-offs” to stop safely on the side of the road to take in the scenery. However, I was surprised to find there were even MORE in Alaska (especially in the Kenai Peninsula). My advice to you would be to take advantage of these pull offs so you can really take in the gorgeous scenery. Even if these frequent “stops” add a bit more time on your trip for the day, they are COMPLETELY worth it.
10. Don’t leave food out in your car: This was a tip we got from one of the locals and one that really surprised us. Apparently it’s not a good idea to keep food out in your car because sometimes bears in the area can smell it and break into the car to get to the food. And just like the local told us, “these bears don’t just open the door nicely to get to their snack, they break in”. And let’s be honest here, no one wants to wake up to a damaged rental car and the aftermath of a bear picnic. This didn’t happen to us (thank goodness), but it was a tip we wanted to pass on just to be safe.
For those of you who have already traveled to Alaska, do you have any tips to add to our list?! I’d love if you left them in the comments so fellow travelers can learn from your experience too!! The more the merrier, right?! You guys are the best! =)
If you plan on heading to Alaska during the summer, this post is for you! Like I mentioned in our Alaska Trip Recap, we flew on Alaska Air and our experience was very positive overall but the one negative was that this airline charges to check luggage, $25 per bag. Because Matt and I aren’t used to paying to check luggage (love you Southwest!), and usually just travel with a carry-on anyway, we chose to pack what we needed…. and only what we needed… to try to check only ONE bag. Yes, two people + 1 bag for an entire week of Alaskan travel!
Not only did we save a few bucks, but more importantly, it was so much easier to only have one suitcase to lug in and out of the car all week. And trust me if we could do it, I KNOW you can too! Plus after experiencing our week in Alaska and really seeing what we used and what we didn’t use, I’m even more convinced that you can DEFINITELY make it work. So let’s jump right into our Alaska Packing Guide!
What should you pack for a summer road trip in Alaska?
When we headed down to Seward, we were very grateful we had our winter coats with us. We definitely didn’t need the winter coat all day, everyday… but we did use them all day on the glacier cruise. That day, I had my winter coat on, a hat, gloves, boots, two pairs of pants, and lots of layers. But our dress for this excursion was out of the ordinary for the week. Here are some of my favorite items I packed:
This winter jacket + hood was perfect and my go-to on the glacier excursion and just about every early morning when it was still a bit chilly out.
Even if you’re not taking the excursion out to the glacier, I would recommend having your winter coat as an option throughout the trip because I ended up wearing my winter coat almost every morning. By the afternoon, I threw it in the car because the sun was shining and it was not nearly as chilly. But since the mornings were “chilly”, I was very glad I had this as an option almost everyday.
This water-resistant rain jacket was awesome because it had a hood, matched with just about everything, and was perfect for the little bit of rain we saw on the trip.
The next biggest piece of advice I would give you is to pack layers, layers and more layers! After I took off my coat for the day, I usually would spend the entire day taking off and putting back on layers. At some points of the day, I was comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans, but later in the day, I was happy to have a button-up and even a jacket. So I would definitely recommend bringing layers as options.
Casual wear is KEY! Do not dress to impress in Alaska… dress for comfort! (I can’t stress that enough)
I can’t stress enough the importance of packing ONLY casual clothes (unless you plan on going to a fancy dinner, which we did not). Going into the trip, I didn’t really realize how casual everything is. I thought maybe I would “get ready” for our dinners or adventures… not. even. close. I literally lived in ripped jeans, a casual button up or tee, boots, and a hat. From breakfast to dinner, and everything in between, it was all about comfort so pack only what’s comfortable, warm(ish), and you don’t necessarily mind getting a bit dirty if you’re out exploring. When I say dirty, I don’t anticipate anyone rolling in the mud or ruining their clothes, but there is no need to buy anything new or wear anything fancy while exploring. #trustme
I would also recommend packing a few hats… these were my lifesavers. I think I wore a hat almost every single day. And the hats were less about fashion and more about an easy excuse to get out the door in the morning without doing a thing to my hair. Seriously though — not a thing. I barely wore any make-up or did my hair the entire time I was in Alaska and it was GLORIOUS!
For obvious reasons, make sure you pack some sunglasses!! And maybe some sunscreen if you’re going to be outside a lot (and you have fair skin like me).
I wore my converse gym shoes traveling to and from Alaska, but the rest of the trip I wore these boots and loved them! I didn’t mind getting them dirty and loved that they kept my feet warm and dry… especially on the glacier cruise (paired with an extra layer of socks). If you have some type of “hiking” boots, I would HIGHLY recommend bringing them. Beyond these, you probably don’t need many other shoes, which really saved us a lot of room in our suitcase. I did put a pair of sandals in my bag to go to the hotel pool and also brought my converse, but I think I could have gotten away with just bringing these boots and the sandals. And speaking of sandals, make sure you grab your bathing suit if there is a pool in any of your hotels. One of our hotels had an indoor heated pool and hot tub overlooking the mountain and I’m so glad we had our suits to take advantage of it!
LOTS OF IT. There were mosquitoes everywhere. I promise your bug spray will become your new scent for the week… and you won’t even be mad about it because you’ll be so glad it’s keep those annoying bugs away.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit how few pairs of pants I packed for the week. 2 pairs of yoga-ish pants and two pair of jeans, which really could have been one pair of jeans. The yoga pants were good for hiking and also good to double up on during the glacier cruise. The jeans were pretty much my go-to’s for every other day. Oh and throw in a pair of shorts to wear to the pool…. because there’s nothing worse than trying to put on jeans or yoga paints after getting out of the pool. #nochance
GPS + CD:
Almost all of our road trip came with absolutely NO cell service and absolutely NO radio signal! I only say this because I don’t want you to rely on using your cell phone for directions only to find that your cell phone GPS isn’t working most of the time. Not that the routes in Alaska were complex (it’s basically one highway the whole time with lots of signage) but having this plug-in GPS was really helpful when we didn’t have service. One thing we did not pack, that I really wish we did, were some CD’s. I love listening to music in the car, but during most of trip the radio would not pick up ANY channels. Literally nothing. So I would advise going old school and packing a few CD’s to enjoy along the journey…. that is unless you really want to take in the outdoors. But as far as I’m concerned, you can totally take in the outdoors with a little Meghan Trainor playing in the background. 😉
Lots of information to take in, I know! I promise it’s not as complicated as it sounds and if you can only take away three FOUR important tips from this post, I hope they are:
1. Layers, layers, layers!
2. Casual is key…. dress for comfort, for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g!
3. You can re-wear items (especially your layers) so don’t overpack. Bring only the essentials and use those extra luggage fees to splurge on something fun while you’re there!!
4. And how could I not mention this until now?! Please, please, please make sure you pack your camera and extra batteries! The scenery is AMAZING so make sure that camera is charged and ready.
Good luck packing and most importantly, happy travels!! If I missed anything, drop your question in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer it the best that I can. Also be sure to check out more Alaska Trip details in this TOP 10 TRAVEL TIPS for YOUR NEXT TRIP TO ALASKA.
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