Planning, not as Scary as you think

I have been planning this post awhile in my head. During my internet surfing and reading others blog, I have noticed how little posts are about planning for a vacation. Yes, they are those out there talking about what to pack, how to pack, what to bring, how to bring it, and where to go. It seems an alarming number of them do not talk about how to plan!

So either you have to cross over to the blogs about planners or you are left to wonder “How does one plan for a trip.” I think some bloggers have shy away from the subject because either they don’t want to come off too anal or they don’t know how to. Basically, they throw everything in a suitcase and go.

So I figured I should take the plunge and write a post about how to plan for a trip.

Before I do so, there are a couple of things you should know. One I do this for a living, I am a professional special events planner for the city I work for. Okay, technically I am the Special Events Assistant, so my job is basically making sure all our events have all their contracts, permits, checks, payments and inspections organized and ready. I make the Event Planner look organized. And I am good at my job.

I have two trips coming up. One is a quick weekend getaway, and the other is a visit to my parents for a week.  Not what I call jetting off to far off places, but there is some amount of planning.

The last thing I need to tell you is about the planner I used. I started using a Midori Travelers Notebook (or at least my version of it), and I really like the system. It’s not very complicated to use, and easily alter to fit your needs. But more on it later.

So here we go.

Step 1: Have an Idea, not a Plan

dscn3650Before you click away, hear me out. Weather, political climate, and family can change your travel plans so have an idea and use lots and lots of Post-It® Notes.

Everything that looks like interesting, any restaurants I want to try, or experience I want to do, I write down on a Post-It® Notes and stick them to my Midori Travelers Notebook.

I designated two per day and stick the Post-It® Notes on it. If I have reservations, I add a pocket for that day so I can stick the hard copy in it.

I use the Post-It® Notes because it allows me to move them around as I pleased. This helps with planning activities or just having an idea on what I want to do that day.

We found out during the trip to Vero Beach that any water related activity would be out of the question (OJ hand was in a cast). So have back-up plans on things to do was great. We didn’t waste time figuring out what to do. We just went and did it.

I also write on the post-it, the name, address, phone number, and time of operations. All the information is at my figuring tips.

Reservations get jotted down on the pages. Sometimes you just can’t go with the flow.

Step 2:  Read up and talk to the locals—do the research

Blogs are an amazing source of information for us travelers. Because you get a chance to find something out about the area that most travel books don’t tell you about.

Before I go on any trip, I do the research. I check out the local bloggers, and if possible, I talk to people who have lived there or are living there. The local dive bars, hang outs, and things off the beaten path are hidden gems that can make your travels something to write home about.

A couple of blogs lead me to a very good café for Sunday Brunch up in Vero. Another one recommended McGee Gardens (and of course mention bring bug spray).

Step 3: Know what time of year

Why anyone would travel to Florida during the summer months is beyond me. Yes, it is cheaper (except for Disney), but we are smack in the middle of hurricane season, which means for the most part, it rains a lot. A friend of mine traveled down here with her family and spent the whole time in the hotel because it was raining.

When she later told me that, I had to ask why in the world would anyone travel here during the summer. It was cheap. There is a reason it was cheap…most travelers know to stay far away from the tropics when it is summer.

If a place is cheap during a certain part of the year, then make sure you do your research to find out why. Alaska is expensive in the summer time, but dirt cheap in the winter for a reason.

Also, there might be something going on, that you are not aware of.

A pastor friend decided it would be a great idea to travel down to Key West with his young family the last week of October. They got the shock of their life, when they realized they were smack in the middle of Fantasy Fest.

Step 4: Start checking the prices

About a year before, I start doing the research on the prices for airfare and hotel, just so I have an idea. That way I have an idea how much the trip is going to cost.

Also talk to people who fly there a lot. My best friend lives out in Hawaii and she has flown from Hawaii to Florida for only $600 round trip. So I know that when I plan to visit her, to look for that price.

Step 5: Plan the budget

dscn3654You need the money to go. I like to get as much as I can pay for ahead of time (at least the flight and hotel room). I create a budget for my travels and figure out how much things are going to cost. The budget is put in my Midori- and I use Frixion Erasable Pens so that I can add and subtract.

It also gives me a chance to look for deals.  Groupon and Living Social usually have some great coupons, for local attractions. Just make sure you read the fine print and check out the website to see if it is a good deal.

Step 6: Book what you can and what you need

Plane tickets and hotel are always good to book in advanced. Usually, I tried to book everything on a Tuesday; somehow I find this is when everything is the cheapest.

I also signed up for almost every Airline and travel sight, because I am all about racking up the points. I also have their app stored on my phone. The apps are a good way to stay up to date on travel plans.

The last thing you want to do is get there and find out that there is no hotel or that you needed reservations ahead of time to do a particular activity.

Step 7: Print out everything and organized it

I don’t know why people do this, save everything on their phone and not have a hard copy of their reservation. I don’t know how many times while traveling, I have seen friends and strangers try to get something off their phone, when the phone is dead. It’s not pretty!

The next step is to print everything out and organize it. Again the Midori becomes handed. I make pockets or paper clip all the hard copies to their day.  Easy to find, easy to get to, easy to use.

I also have all those Post-It® Notes ideas that I talked to in Step 1 there. So if something falls through, I am on to the next thing.

Step 8: Make a Packing List

This doesn’t go into the Midori, but in my daily planner. For some reason in the middle of work I will remember that I need something and it’s a good place to jot it down.

I also do some research about where I am going and what I will need. My first snowboarding trip, I spent a lot of time watching YouTube video and reading blogs about how to dress for snowboarding. I was glad I did. Other than forgetting my butt pads the first day, I was nice and warm while sliding down the mountains.

I used to travel with the packing list, but I was finding out that I really didn’t use it.

Step 9: Make a To-do list

In my everyday planner, I make a to-do list. Things like getting the passport out of the safety box, putting together my medicine traveling kit, and cleaning the house.

I don’t want to realize on the day before a trip that I forgot to get my passport out of the safety deposit box.  I try to knock out as much as possible, like any supplies shopping or travel documents.

The trip up to my parents, we are planning at least one scuba diving and one snorkeling trip. So in my planner is written, locate scuba licenses, buy Benadryl, and pack scuba/snorkeling gear.

The goal is always to have everything I can do ahead of time done a day before the trip, so I am not stressing out the day of the trip. I was so ahead of the game for Alaska, that I went to have my nails done.

Step 10: Grab the Midori and go

So there you have it, how to plan for a trip. Hopefully, this will help you be less stressful when it comes to planning your get away.

href=””>The Happy Wanderer


My Little Problem


I have a problem, and I didn’t realize it was a problem until it was pointed out by my best friend. There is a reason why she is my best friend; she drives me up the wall, the only person I will probably get arrested with, and pointer of my problems. 

It was during a snowboarding trip in Whistler, BC that she finally decided to have an intervention with me. The conversation went something like this. We were getting in the car after a long day of snowboarding and snowmobiling (where I almost ran over our guide).

Me: Can you hand me the parking pass.

Aimee: Why

Me: for my travel journal

Aimee: you want to keep the parking pass for your travel journal?

Me: Yes

Aimee: Heather, you seriously have a problem.

Me: No I don’t

Aimee: Yes, you do. Hi, my name is Heather, and I am a traveling journal hoarder. I will save everything including a sticker I found on the ground for my travel journal.

Me: In my defense, it was a cool free sticker

Aimee: You have a problem.

Me: No I don’t

Aimee: yes you do.

In this argument continue to we got back to the Inn.

Okay, I will admit I do have a problem because I have spent some (a lot) money, time, and energy in creating a rocking traveling journal. And you would think after all this time; my friends will be used to my weird habit of sticking every business card, hand drawn map, parking pass, tour sticker and other things into my travel journal.

But I have, probably, in my opinion, one of the coolest travel journals.

So how did this habit/problem come about? 

When I was sixteen, I went to Europe for the first time. My grandmother (who was taking my cousin and me) gave us both a travel journal. My cousin didn’t write much in it, but me, any chance I got I wrote into it. When I got back, I made my first scrapbook based on that travel journal.

I would write everything down and then transfer everything I had collected along the way into a scrapbook. But the problem was it took too much time and by the time I was getting started, I was on to the next adventure.

Plus, hauling everything home and trying to figure out what went where wasn’t working for me.

Next step came after a trip to Alaska when I discovered that I had somehow hauled about 10 pounds of stuff and only used half of it. It was around that time I discovered Pinterest and found a whole group of people who were just as addicted to travel journals as I was.  There were so many, with awesome travel journals.

I tried the Smash book, and even though the concept was great. I would put too much stuff in it, and end up having the exploding book (usually on the trip).  Plus, as much as I love the Smash books, they were on the way out when I discovered them. So it became harder and harder to find new ones. Plus, after a couple of trips, I now have a collection of Smash book and scrapbooks.

Next was the use of the Composition Book. It was cheap, but it took a while to set up, and the papers had a tendency to crinkle.  Plus, it didn’t look nice afterward, something that a fifth grader would do. It was on another trip to Colorado that I discovered, I didn’t like my planning part with my actual travel part.  Plans have a way of changing, so this book didn’t allow for the evolution of the traveling.

So it was back to the drawing boards for me.

In October 2014, I discovered Hobonichi Planners and Tomoe River Paper – and it was like the heavens opened up, and the angels started to sing.

For the last couple of years, my planner has come from the Land of the Rising Sun (Japan). This is my planner, work diary, home life scrapbook and everything in between. The paper is amazing and thin, there are a very few things that bleed through, making this idea. Plus the layout allows you to use it how you see fit.  And I thought I could use it for travel journal as well.

But there were two drawbacks. One, my whole work life is in that planner, and if it gets stolen, I am screwed. Two, my whole work life is in that planner, which means I am dragging my work on vacation.

I tried to move to the moleskins but it exploded in the middle of the plane. Nothing like having everything going all over the place as a way to introduce you to everyone who has the misfortune of sitting near you.

So what to do, I want a rocking travel journal, but I need something that I can actually use and will not explode on me.

dscn3674It was one day while I was flipping through my Hobonichi that inspiration hit. I really like Tomoe River Paper, it’s lightweight, and in the two years of using it my Hobonichi, it hasn’t exploded. I bet Hobonichi had to do a blank notebook.

I am glad I didn’t take that bet, turns out they do not have a blank Hobonichi notebook, but a little more digging on the internet and I came across this Esty listening that had blank Tomoe River Paper notebooks (in the same size as my Hobonichi).

And to my amazement, it worked great. The only thing was I need something I could plan my trips in and something to keep all that I have discovered in it.

So another search on Pinterest and tons and tons of YouTube video led me to the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. If you are not familiar with it, this is a kind of throw together, everything is customizable, notebook/planner/dairy, that is based on taking out and putting in different notebooks. There are tons of handmade ones out there. I chose a cool handmade one, mostly because I didn’t want to invest too much into it. The real one comes in leather; mine is made of cloth. It also has a bunch of inserts (or you can make them yourself).

dscn3650And the rest is history.

I still travel with two books now. One is the Midori, or at least my version of it. This one contains all my travel information, reservations, credit card, money, and a small notebook for jotting down things. It works as my planner and carry all. I put stuff that I pick up through the day in it, including an area where I can place all those stickers I get on tours.

And my travel journal, full of all my memories, stays back at the hotel, waiting for the end of the day and a glass of wine, where I will tell it all about my journey. Each evening I transfer all my discoveries to its page.

In another post, I will talk about how to make a rocking traveling journal.

I have listed all the information from this post down below

Instagram photos of my travel journal and midori

Pinterest link

Smash Book

Hobonichi Techo

Where I bought My Travel Journal

Midori Travelers Notebook

Where I bought my Midori Travelers Notebook

Happy Travels!

Ready, Set, Done

Have dog, will Travel



I love my dog. Who wouldn’t? She is this cute little cotton ball full of love and energy.  But when your secret identity is that of a vagabond, having a dog that is as excited about travel as you are is crucial.

Mine isn’t, and she lets you know.

So along the way, I have learned a couple of secrets, tricks, and hacks to help the even faint of heart pooch tolerate travel.


The Pet Suitcase

It says a lot on how spoiled my dog it, that she has a own suitcase, but it’s a life saver. Most dogs and cats are pretty clever when come to learning the habits of their masters. And one of the quickest things they learn is when the suitcase comes out, it means the masters is going away.

When our suitcases come out, she starts to pacing and crying, and sometimes she even tries to climb in. So the rule is when my suitcase comes out, hers comes out too. I make sure she see it and I will put a couple of things in it, like her extra leash. Usually this will calm her down and let her know she isn’t being left behind.

Designate a small bag or suitcase to be theirs. Always use that one to pack their stuff in, even if it is a day trip to the park.

EXTRA HINT: If you are traveling without your pet, pack the suitcase in another room, one that the pet doesn’t hang out in, if that is possible. Me, I used my upstairs office. Out of sight, out of mind.

Have a travel kit

We keep a small travel kit in the car. Here is our list for Skyy

  1. A traveling bowl of water
  2. Wipes (if she gets sick)
  3. Her blanket
  4. Extra poop bags and zip lock bags (just in case there isn’t a trash can)
  5. An extra leash
  6. Some chew toys (something she can play quietly with)
  7. Treats

Make them Comfortable

Most pets (especially dogs) are not used to be cooped up without room stretch. In a plane it is kind of hard to do this. But in a car, a couple arranged suitcases and a blanket turns you back set into an area they can take a nap or chew on a toy.

If it is a cat, try investing in a large carrying create. Something that the can move around in.


Car Sickness

My mom’s dog used to get car sick, so they learn not to feed her until they arrived at the location. Less in the stomach, less to throw up.

The Book

When I first got Skyy, I created a book for her. Not only did it have her registration, family tree, and proof that she belongs to me, but also carries her vet records, the contact number for her microchip, her chip number, her insurance records, and up to date pictures of her. Every trip that she goes on or if I leave her with someone, we bring it.

Just in case something happens, she either gets lost or hurt, I am not trying to find important documents.


I cannot stress how important it is to have your dog or cat (or rabbit) microchip. I have lived through two hurricanes and those chips were the only thing that reunited pet owns with their pets.

Collars can get lost, tags can get lost, but the microchip stays with them until they die.

Know the area:

Before I hit the open road, whether it be a quick weekend up at my parents, or a long road trip. I already have the contact of a local vet, and emergency hospital. My little one likes to hide her stuff animals in her stomach, and it is usually 2 AM when she decides to retrieve it. This usually means an emergency trip to the local vet hospital.

I have this information not only stored on my phone, but also a hard copy in her book.


Getting her used to road trips.

When I first got Skyy, she was only 9 weeks old and barely 3lb. So the only trips she took, were back and forth from the vet. I started to realize that she was associating the car with vet visits (which no dog like). So I started to take her on fun trips.  A trip to a local farm so she could meet other animals, a run to the pet store, a walk along the beach, and even a quick trip to the park, helped her to realize that not all car trips are bad.


Exercise them before hitting the open road.

I try to plan most of the trips that Skyy will be traveling with me around a stop at the dog park. If that isn’t possible, we go on a very long walk to ensure that she will not be too energetic at the start. Energy usually equals nervousness.

It also helps to take a break during the traveling. If you are flying, sometime during delays and layovers, take the dog for a walk or find a quiet area and play with them. On one trip, I saw this guy walking his rabbit.

A lot of rest areas on the highways now include a dog run.

Extra hint: For all my solo vagabonds out there, this is a good way to meet people. In the hour that I watched him, Rabbit Guy had about 20 different women stop and talk to him. A couple of times I saw the exchange of numbers.

Make sure every place you are going is pet-friendly.

Thankfully this hasn’t happened to me, but one of my friends had plans for a great weekend in the mountains only to find out that when they got there, –no pets allowed.  It ended up costing them a small fortune to board their dog.

Another friend of mine arrived at “pet-friendly” hotel only to find out that there was a $25 per night fee and that she had to let them know 14 days in advance. So while other dog owners were enjoying their vacation with their pooches, hers was boarded up at the local vet. Even if the hotel or place you are staying says pet-friendly or pets allowed, call up and see what the policy is.

Extra Food

Sometimes plans go astray, sometimes you never want to leave, and sometimes your car breaks down. Pack extra food so that you are not worrying about food for your fur babies.

Extra Hint: I measure and put Skyy’s food and vitamins in a bag for each day. It saves space and makes it easy to feed her.  Just grab the bag, and dump it in her bowl. Plus, if you accidently leave the bags at the vacation site, you still have food when you get home.


And last trick –

Roll down the window, and let your pup feel the breeze, let her smell the air. Unless you are on a plane.

Remember to plan things they will like too. A dog doesn’t want to spend his/her vacation locked up in a strange room.


With a little planning, your cat or dog can have a great time exploring the world with you.  If you have your own tip, please leave it in the comments below.

You’re in Gator Country Now

It was on a recent trip that a conversation happened that inspired this post.

I was sitting at a local Starbucks, wasting time, when I heard two people talk the alligator attack in Orlando earlier this month. One of them wondered out loud what an alligator was doing up in the Orlando area. The other one chimed in, it was probably someone pet.

“It’s Florida, it’s a body of fresh water, there is going to be a gator in it,” I said. Both people looked confused, and the one said, “But it’s up in Orlando, alligator don’t live there it isn’t a swamp.”

I said again, “It’s Florida, it’s a body of fresh water, there is going to be a gator,”

The two of them looked at me oddly, and I said to them. “You are not from Florida are you?”

Wasn’t too surprise when the answer was no.

Living in what some would consider paradise, there are four things that stop Florida from being perfect. Flying cockroaches, mosquitoes, hurricanes, and gators, in that order.

Since gators don’t rank very high on a Floridian scale on what we considered dangerous or unpleasant, it is a wondered that most people think we are nuts when it comes to our laissez-faire attitude about gators. The truth is, we learn to live with them.

So I figured I should let you on to a couple of gator secrets that will make your next trip to the Sunshine state, a safe one.

Tip 1: The minutes you cross the state board; YOU ARE IN GATOR COUNTRY!

Jacksonville – Gator Country

Orlando – Gator Country

Tampa- Gator Country

Key West- Gator Country

Miami – Gator Country

St. Petersburg – Gator Country

Any town, village, retirement community, tourist trip, small town, farm – Gator country

Gainesville – The capital of Gator Country.



Tip 2: Floridians have a love/hate relationship with the gator

Think about it, when you’re from Florida, you are either a Cane, a Nole or Gator. That is how we Floridian classifies ourselves.

We don’t think it is strange to see a gator out on the golf course or lounging by the side of the road. And we usually have one news story a night about a gator in a pool. They are here to stay.




Tip 3: The Gator Test

All you have to do is ask these two questions

  1. Is the body of water fresh?
  2. Is the body of water in Florida?

If you answer yes to both of these questions, then there is a gator nearby, in it, or around it. If one of them is no, then it is up to debate whether there is a gator or not.

By the way, a gator cannot be removed until it reaches at least 4 feet. Then they are hard and expensive to catch, so most communities and parks don’t bother until it becomes a nuisance.

Tip 4: Don’t feed them

For some reason tourists think it is a good idea to feed them. But what tourist don’t realize is that alligators have a natural fear of us, and by feeding them they start associating us with food. And that is never good.

When they lose that natural fear of humans and decided that they are going to get lunch from us one way or another, then it becomes a problem. If you happened to see one out in the wild, take a picture of it, but don’t give it your ham sandwich.

There is enough wildlife in Florida that our gator population will not go hungry.

Tip 5: Gators don’t make good pets

One of the funniest (or saddest) thing I read in my grandmother’s diary when she was young, was about a trip to Florida. She talked about how you could buy baby pet gators from the side of the road and her father wouldn’t buy one, because it might eat his prize Kio. Smart man.

I wonder how many gators end up being flush down the toilets are let go in Central Park in the 30s and 40s. Maybe the rumor about alligators in the New York sewer is true.

No, gators aren’t cute, and they don’t like to be cuddled. They just want to be left alone. If you want a gator, stop by one of the local tourist stores and get the cute and cuddly ones that are stuffed with cotton. Less money, fewer headaches, and you wouldn’t lose a limb.

Tip 6: Swimming in fresh water is never a good idea


Growing up in Florida, that was the one thing that was stressed over and over again. Never swim in a fresh body of water, unless you can see the bottom.  Gators love to hide in the muck. Most of us will tell you, we even check our pool before diving in, and yes, I have had a gator in my pool before.

I had a hard time swimming in fresh water lakes even when I was in Hawaii. And to the amusement of the locals, I kept asking, “Are you sure there aren’t any gators in there.” They laugh, but when it has been ingrained in you since early childhood, that any fresh water, whether it be here or on an island out in the middle of the Pacific should have a gator in it, you will question it too.

Because the idea of fresh water without a gator just boggles the mind.

Tip 7: Gators are not cold blooded murder

A gator will attack humans for two reasons. Reason one is that we threaten them or their nest in some way.  Reason two is that they are hungry and started to associate us with food (thanks a lot tourist).

So as long as you leave a gator alone and don’t feed it, the chances of you get attacked are slim. I have lived here for 30 years, and not once have I been attacked.

Tip 8: If it is salt water, you are probably safe from gators, but sharks are another story.

That is another post for another day.

Tip 9: If you want to see a gator in wild be safe.

Every year, we hear about tourist getting lost or killed out in the Everglades. If you have this desire to see a gator out in the wild, then be safe. Either go to a park that offers airboat rides, or go to a place where gators are kept at a safe distance.

I encourage everyone who visits Florida to take an airboat ride.

Tip 10: Gator meat

Yes, you can eat gator and yes, it kind of taste like chicken.  There are some bars and local hangouts that serve fresh gator meat. Ask a local; they can probably point you in a direction to one the many places in Florida to get gator tail or gator meat.

Tip 12: Keep small, medium and large kids and dogs away from a body of fresh water.

Gators love a small prey, whether it be a duck, a turtle or your dog. It is never a good idea to let either your kids or your dog go swimming in a fresh body of water that isn’t either a pool or a natural spring (it’s too cold for a gator).

Most Floridians know someone who lost a dog to a gator

So there you have it, a Floridian guide to being safe around gators. To recap, don’t go near one, assume any body of fresh water in Florida has a gator in it, don’t feed it and don’t try to make it a pet.

I hope your next trip to Florida is a happy and safe one.


Would you believe that some people think this is an alligator