Where did the time go?

How are you surviving 2020 so far? Did you jump right in with all the intention to take on #allthethings and #alltheresolutions?

Did you take our advice and start planning for the year?

Me – I feel like I’m still playing catch up, and not quite ready for the new year.

Because last week my youngest turned two years old. And the day after I celebrated 11 years with my hubby and I’m sitting here wondering to myself how in the world did that all happen?

Let’s start with the anniversary – because that’s a doozy. 

I got married to a soldier in a Georgia courthouse 11 years ago, Sunday. We eloped so that I could move to Germany with him.  

That’s right. I got married in January and by March I was on a plane headed out of the country for the first time ever. I was from a small town in Kansas and married this man and flew halfway around the world only to have him deploy for a year to Iraq just months after I got there.  

I was alone. I was unemployed. I was not really sure what to do with myself. So I traveled.

Did you know that’s when my love of travel really started?  I made friends and we got up and went. To Poland to shop for polish pottery. To Paris where we rode around on Segways and took food tours and walking tours. We went shopping for pottery in France. We ran all over Germany and took down so many flea markets that my house is one Kathe Wolfthart chimney decoration away from being a German tourist trap. 

And all that travel with my friends – it made me brave. And the connections and bonds I made totally saved me. And the people I traveled with? 11 years later we are still planning annual vacations to get together.

When my husband came home we just kept going. To Ireland, France, Italy, Montenegro, Spain. Every chance we could we were on the road somewhere. 

And from all of that we built this life. Travel is where we really found each other again after he came back from that deployment. 

Flash forward two kids later and now my youngest is two AND we have a seven year old and I can’t help but wonder where did all of that time go?

What I do know is that I feel so incredibly blessed to have taken advantage of opportunities when they were presented to me instead of waiting for a better time. Because if I had waited I wouldn’t have been as brave. I wouldn’t have seen and experienced as much. And, for all I know, my life would have been much much different than it is today.  

Someday I’ll go there. 

Someday I’ll see that in person.

We can always say, “someday.” Well there are 7 days in a week and someday isn’t one of them. 

So make 2020 your year of trying to turn your “somedays” into an actual day. 

And if I can help, you know I’d love to!

Until next time, happy wanderlusting!

XO Krystal

 

The Scariest Thing About Traveling……

Traveling is the one thing found on everyone’s bucket list, yet there are so many people who don’t travel because of a fear they have. Today I thought we’d pick apart a few of these fears and tackle them head on.

Fear #1 – Afraid to travel alone.

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Solo travel, especially solo travel among women, is on the rise, but there are still so many people worried about trekking out on their own.  Women have a special subset of issues to work through on this set – fear of unwanted attention from men being the #1 feedback that I get from my female clientele.  So what’s a girl to do? Fortunately she has a couple of options.

  1. Join a group tour.  There are several amazing small group tours out there that are doing amazing things.  Many, like G Adventures, cap tours at around 10-15 people so you don’t feel like you are being shuttle herded with the masses.  There are a growing number of options for women only groups as well.  Check out our private facebook page The Serendipitous Travel Squad or sign up for our newsletter to keep in touch on Serendipitous Traveler’s upcoming group trips.
  2. Work with a travel advisor to map out your itinerary. Most importantly –  do your research.  The fact remains that some places are more friendly for solo travelers than not. A travel advisor can help you work through the best ideas, safe places to stay, and help set you up with a solid itinerary so you are never out in the wind.  As long as you use a travel advisor, you always have someone that knows where you are and you have someone to check in with as you go.  

Fear #2 – Afraid of something bad happening

I get this fear from solo travelers, groups, couples….basically everyone.  And I get it. Especially if you re traveling somewhere foreign and you don’t speak the language. And there’s always a litany of things that can go wrong. And was anyone else scarred by the movie Taken? Well even if your dad isn’t Liam Neeson, there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate disasters while traveling. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Be cognizant of your surroundings.  Pickpockets are there and they like to take advantage of crowded tourist spots. Because tourists are always carrying money and are distracted by the sights around them. So many people get pickpocketed and don’t even realize it until it’s too late. But if you are on guard and cognizant of where you are, you can easily avoid being a target. That means, guys, put your wallets in your front pocket. Girls, travel with a purse that zips up and is in front of you.  If you need a backpack, know that you are walking with a bit of a target on your back and keep it close by. Invest in a brand that is slash proof (we like these from ebags), and again, be aware of your surroundings.  If someone is begging from the front, make sure their partner isn’t digging through your pack from the back.
  • Invest in RFID blocking sleeve, wallet or ID holder.  I was shocked last year when I attended a trade show and a supplier showed me how easy it was to swipe credit card information using an app on her phone. Anyone sitting in a public place can gain access to hundreds of credit card numbers and have something purchased and charged up before you even get back to check the balance in your hotel room.  RFID blocking sleeves, wallets, etc are a cheap investment that can save you a lot of time and headache while traveling.
  • Be wary of public wifi.  In a world where we are always connected, it’s tempting to take advantage of a cafe pit stop and check up on your social channels. When you are traveling, you are probably spending more, so it’s natural that you’d want to check in on your finances or your credit card statement.  Unfortunately, public places are traps for mining your data.  It’s too easy to set up a hot spot and call it “Whatever Establishment You Are Sitting At Free Wifi” and dupe unsuspecting folks.  If you much check your wifi, be sure to ask someone if there is free wifi before linking up. Better yet, wait until you are back in your hotel or spring the few bucks and pay for the data. It will save you more money in the long run.

Fear #3 – Afraid of the unknown

 

You just don’t know what you don’t know.

  • How to get from point A to point B.
  • How to use the subway system.
  • Where to go for dinner.
  • What museum should you visit. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance.
  • What do you pack.
  • How to read your train tickets.

And this is where a good travel advisor comes in. They arm you with information so that not only are you adequately prepared to travel, you are armed with enough information to really enjoy and be wowed by your travel.  After all, if you understand what you are looking at you are getting twice the value. At the very least be sure to arm yourself with a good guide book to get you started.

Travel can be an intimidating experience, but fortunately with the right preparation, anyone and everyone can have an enjoyable travel experience.

Face your fears and get out there!

Until next time, happy wanderlusting!

XO Krystal

 

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Disclaimer: In the name of full transparency, please be aware that this blog post contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). I only recommend items that I personally use and gift to my own clients and just want to share the love with you!

Global Entry…is it worth it?

Applying for Global Entry is an easy process, and once you do you can bypass a lot of hassle by using expedited lanes at the U.S. airports, and when crossing international borders.  You can also combine it with TSA pre-check, making your travel experiences easier.

A lot of clients ask me, “Is it worth it to get Global Entry or TSA pre-check?” And my answer is always this: If your time is worth anything to you, yes!

It’s a relatively easy process, makes going through security at airports a breeze.  Children 12 and under can accompany you through the expedited lanes, making family travel easier.  And (BONUS) most major credit companies* will give you credit reimbursement for Global Entry making it a win/win!

It’s easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account. Regardless of your age, you must have your own TTP account.
  2. Log in to your TTP account and complete the application. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application.
  3. After accepting your completed application and fee, CBP will review your application. If your application is conditionally approved, then your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. Each applicant must schedule a separate interview.
  4. You will need to bring your valid passport(s) and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card to the interview. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine readable permanent resident card.
FAQ’s
How long does it take to process global entry?
Processing times vary by applicant, but anticipate up to 11 weeks to process your application.
How long after my application is approved do I have to schedule my interview with a Global Entry Enrollment Center?
You have 365 days from the date of online approval notice to schedule your interview. If you do not complete your interview within 365 days your application will be voided and no refunds will be given. Should you wish to resume application, you will have to start the application process over.
What do I need to bring with me to my interview?
A valid passport, and one other form of identification (Drivers License or ID card)
How long is Global Entry Valid?
Global Entry is Valid for 5 years. You pass can be revoked for criminal offense charges, or if you are charge with a customs and immigration violation.
How do I schedule my interview with a Global Entry Enrollment Center/find a center near me?
Log in to your Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account and from the dashboard select “schedule an interview” button. From there you can select a date and time from a list of available slots.  You will also be shown alternative centers that may have availability sooner. Please be advised that appointments are REQUIRED for all locations.
As always, if you have any questions regarding the process, please do not hesitate to reach out.
*Obligatory disclaimer that you must check with your individual credit card company to see if they offer reimbursement for Global Entry and/or TSA Precheck, and what steps must be taken in order to file for reimbursement.

10 Sweet Treats to Eat While Visiting Paris

Paris is sweet on the eye, sweet on the romance and sweet on the palette. It is a sugar lovers dream and the only problem you’ll have when it comes the delectible French deserts is which one to choose. To help you navigate that yummy last course we’ve broken down the top 10 must try deserts for your visit to France. And if you have to eat more than one a day just to get through them? Well, c’est la vie! 

10 Sweet Treats to Eat While Visiting Paris 

The Tartes Aux Fruits 

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The tartes aux fruits are prepared with fresh fruit inside a buttery pastry.  The fruit sit atop a heavenly Chantilly cream.  You can enjoy these tartes in both miniature and pie sizes. 

The Éclair

The Éclair

The éclair is a popular dessert in Paris.  The long French choux pastry can be filled with either a rich custard or pastry cream, and topped with a sweet fondant.  By definition, the term éclair means lightning in French.  Go figure! 

The Paris Brest 

This pastry was created to celebrate the Paris to Brest bicycle ride in 1891.  Naturally, its circular and contains praline flavored crème and choux pastry. 

Macaron 

 

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Macarons are undeniably delectable – not to mention my personal favorite!  There are so many flavors to choose from.  The base ingredients include an airy meringue and almonds.  Be sure to not confuse with coconut macaroons, in which the English added the -oon to the word in the 16th century.  

The Tarte Au Citron 

Tarte Au Citron also known as the lemon tart are also very popular.  Donning a pastry crust and delicious lemon filling.  The filling, however, is not made with fruit.  The cream is a mixture containing lemon juice, lemon zest and of course, eggs and sugar.  

The Mille Feuille 

This fluffy treat comes in a vanilla or custard slice and is comprised of several layers of puff pastry.  Between the puff pastry lies an additional two layers of pastry crème.  Another name for the Mille Feuill is the Napoleon.  

The Tarte Tatin 

Named after the hotel that serves the dessert (Hotel Tatin), the tarte Tatin is a unique upside-down pastry.  Its ingredients include caramelized fruit prepared with sugar and butter.  It pairs famously with a bit of tart crème fraiche.   

The Choux à La Crème 

These cream puffs are created using puff pastry as well.  They swell while cooking and are actually hollow.  The oozing center can be either whipped cream or custard.   Interestingly enough, once you add chocolate as your topping, it then becomes a profiterole.  There are various different toppings you can add to this pastry, from ice cream to fruit and even spun caramel. 

Croissant 

Basket of Crossants

This buttery flaky wonder is a signature French pastry.  There are so many ways to top it; you can use fruit, chocolate, fondant or a compote of your choosing.  You will not be disappointed. 

The Petits Four 

Translated, petit four means small oven, and are also known as mignardises.  The fours are miniature bite-sized confections that can also be savory if you choose.  The sweet route includes a sugary glaze atop a crispy biscuit.  These pastries are perfect for tea parties.   

The next time you plan your visit to Paris, don’t forget to work some of these delectable desserts into your itinerary! Better yet, have your travel agent set you up with a fabulous food tour, so that you are sure to be introduced to some of the best that Paris has to offer.  For the real food aficionado’s, there are plenty of wonderful pastry classes to take advantage of. Either way, Paris has more than enough to please your palette.  

The Dominican Republic: More Than Just Resorts

I don’t know about all of you, but I am over Winter in a big way. I live just North of Chicagoland, and I don’t care what you say – the Groundhog lied.

Thus I am dreaming of warmer climates and warmer weather, because never again will I make the same mistake and endure another winter here. Next year we are rebooking our Caribbean Vacation in the middle of the season to give us a little reprieve. Currently I’m booked on a Caribbean Vacation with 11 girlfriends to have a little fun in the sun.

Girls Trip on Beach
Enjoying a Girlfriend Getaway on the Beach

When many people think of the Caribbean, they think of great resorts, Jamaica, and Cuba. But what they don’t realize is that the most popular destination in the Caribbean is the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Republic is on an island that is shared with Hispaniola and Haiti and it sees over 6 million visitors a year. This results in 2 million more than Cuba. This Caribbean destination has a lot more to offer visitors than your run-of-the-mill resort. The Dominican Republic has a lot more to offer than just resorts.

Here are some great things to see on your trip to D.R.

Scenic Locations And National Parks

Lake Enriquillo- Lake Enriquillo is the only saltwater lake throughout the Antilles. It is located in the center of the Parque Nacional Isla Cabritos and is a haven for wildlife. It is one of the largest natural reserves for the American crocodile.

Lake Enriquillo

Eastern National Park- This World Heritage Sites is one of the largest marine parks in the Caribbean. Rhinoceros iguanas, bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees are just some of the amazing wildlife that visitors will get to experience when they visit Eastern National Park.

Bahia de las Aguilas and Jaragua National Park- The picturesque turquoise waters that line this 6-mile stretch of beach is best accessed by boat from the small village of La Cueva. Its’ marine life and amazing views will make for memories that you couldn’t possibly forget anytime soon.

Jarabacoa- Jarabacoa is best known as an area ripe for ecotourism and the location of the Dominican Republic’s only whitewater river, the Rio Yaque del Norte. The terrain, rivers, and waterfalls make it perfect for adventurous activities like hiking, climbing, and mountain biking.

Samana Peninsula and Bay- This peninsula and bay are lined with beautiful mangroves, caves, rock formations, and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic. It is also home to the Parque Nacional Los Haitises. Marine life is present in this area year-round including mother humpback whales giving birth in January and February.

Cultural Locations

Basilica of Our Lady- The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia is an amazing example of modern architecture. This is one of the leading sites of pilgrimage in Latin America as it hosts a huge mass every January 21st.

Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Altagracia

Santo Domingo- This is the bustling capital of the Dominican Republic. It is a mix of its’ Spanish colonial past and the present times. Visitors here can see the oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere, aptly named, the First Cathedral of America. There is also the World Heritage Site known as Zona Colonial (Colonial City). Its’ cobblestone streets and colonial architecture make it a site to be seen. For more modern viewings, there is the Plaza de la Cultura where you can see the Palace of Fine Arts, the National Palace, and the Museum of Modern Art.

The resorts may be a great place to stay when visiting the Dominican Republic, but they surely are not the end all be all. If you are looking to get a real sense of what the country has to offer, you will need to leave the resort. Do some research before leaving on your trip so that you can find some great things to see that are near where you will be staying.