What’s In My Carry-On

Deciding what to pack in a carry-on can be a daunting task for the inexperienced traveler, but it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think! If you want to walk through security with ease, keep your carry-on baggage to a minimum. Keep jewelry to a minimum and leave most in your checked luggage to avoid setting off the alarm and keep your bag organized so that you can unload what needs to be unloaded quickly and minimizing that flustered feeling of having everything falling out all over the place.

I have a few items that are always in my carry-on.

carry on essentials

1. Passport – a no brainer. Keep your passport safe and on you at all times during your pre-departure and flight.

2. A small packet of facial wipes lets you remove makeup before a long flight and feel refreshed after a red eye flight. Keeping makeup to a minimum is a good idea to let your skin breath and to avoid dull skin when you land.

3. Headphones are a must for me, at all times. I’m often on overnight flights and I have a calming playlist ready to go that helps me to fall asleep and block out any noises from the people around me. Listening to a bunch of people snoring in close proximity is not the ideal situation for sleep.

4. An eye mask is another essential item to help you get the best sleep you can on a plane. You’ve got the headphones to block out the noise and the eye mask to keep out the light.

5. Vitamin C Energising Face Spritz from The Body Shop. This is the perfect travel size (100ml) and is great not only to help keep your makeup in place for day to day use but keeps your skin from looking dull after a flight and is an instant pick me up that refreshes the skin. Plus a quick blast of cool spray on the face helps to wake you up.

6. My skin is notoriously dry and having a mini hand lotion keeps my skin soft and smooth and a good lip chap keeps them from drying and splitting, especially after sitting in a plane for a long period of time with less drinking water than I’m used to. Planes and long flights are a breeding ground for dehydration and dry skin. Drink up and moisturize!

7. A novel can keep me entertained for hours. I prefer to read the old-fashioned way with a real book in my hand, despite the extra space and weight it takes up. But if you are tight for space and want to carry multiple books with you, a kindle is the way to go.

Though not shown or mentioned here, having some healthy snacks is always a good idea. Nuts/seeds or dried fruits are great non-perishables for flights to perk up your energy and hush a starving belly.


Reliving My Childhood at The Harry Potter Exhibition

“There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out,
than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.

— J.K. Rowling

I read each of the books at least five times, growing up with The Boy Who Lived and all of his magical friends.
I waited eagerly outside of a packed theater on opening night of the movies.
I participated in a Harry Potter book club in the fifth grade, proudly dressing up as Hermione Granger.
I cried when Sirius, Dobby, Aragog, Dumbledore, Severus, and Fred died.

*spoiler alert: if you want to attend the exhibit yourself, read this after so you will still be surprised!*


And just recently, I got to step into the world of Harry Potter at the exhibition.
Cued at the front of the line, my friend and I showed our ticket, grabbed a Gryffindor scarf and a wand, and got ready to duel. We dueled in front of Hogwarts, all lit up in the night, as well as in the grounds, and in the Great Hall.


When we reached the Sorting Hat, we waited eagerly as some of our new “classmates” hopped up onto the stool, the Headmistress placing the hat atop their heads. With quiet excitement, the Sorting Hat spoke and placed them all in their respectable houses.

As we walked through the exhibition, we marveled at all of the props set out for us to see, remarking at all of the detail put into props that sometimes were only seen for a moment in one film. Some sections were dedicated to specific characters: Hermione, Harry, Ron, Luna Lovegood, Neville, Professor Snape, Gilderoy Lockhart, Professor Umbridge and Trelawney too. Each section presented life-size mannequins featuring some of the costumes worn by the actors in the films. Harry and Ron’s dormitory was recreated for us, Snape’s potions laboratory was bubbling with elixirs, and the Marauder’s Map was right there before our very eyes.

The Marauder's Map, Harry's Photo Album, etc.

Moving along, we treaded carefully through the Forbidden Forest, saying hello to Bane the Centaur and being careful to stay cheerful for fear that we would catch the attention of the Dementors lurking about. Stepping out of the forest, we came to the grounds surrounding Hagrid’s Hut and took a few moments bonding with Buckbeak.



Entering Hagrid’s Hut, we watched as Norbert struggled to hatch from his egg on Hagrid’s kitchen table. A giant-sized depiction of Hagrid’s clothing was placed in the corner, and a giant-sized chair for you to take a quick rest. As we moved on, we realized we couldn’t come to the exhibit without trying our hand at a bit of Quidditch. Three goal posts were set up and we were able to grab a Quaffle and take our best shot. In the end, we earned 60 points for Gryffindor!

While it was certainly interesting to step in and take a look at what went into the creation of the beloved Harry Potter movie series, it left me with a small feeling of regret. Seeing everything in so much detail and reading about what went on behind-the-scenes ruined the mystery behind the films. Despite that, I will now eagerly accept any offers for someone to take me to the Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. Any takers? I make a fun travel buddy, I promise.

Custom Travel Journals from DomesticPapers

I discovered these beautiful travel journals on Etsy just recently. Lee, the talented woman behind the shop and these journals, creates them and as soon as I found them, I was intrigued. Luckily for me, Lee was more than happy to answer a few questions for myself and you lovely readers.

Originally these beauties are filled with blank paper, perfect for a person who likes to sketch or who has straight hand writing. Sadly, I’m not one of those people. Not only do I prefer the aesthetic of lined paper, my writing goes completely off-center without them. Lee kindly agreed to fill my journal with lined pages and then we got on to discussing what the cover should be like — we were so caught up with the lined paper that we nearly forgot about the outside!

Every customer gets to choose what part of the world they would like their map to feature. My decision was easy, I left a piece of my heart in Thailand and knew that I had to have a map of Southeast Asia as the cover of my journal. You also get to choose what you would like to bind your journal; a globe or a plane? As you can see from this photo of my journal, I chose a plane.


Hello, it’s wonderful to meet you! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your Etsy shop?

My Etsy shop, Domestic Papers, combines my great love of All Things Paper with my lifelong fascination with antiques, tools, and paper ephemera. You’ll notice my books all have a “vintage vibe.” I love to mix old images with modern papers, throw in some centuries-old bookbinding techniques, and make something both timeless and useful.

What inspired you to create your custom made travel journals?

As a bookbinder and avid book collector, I’m always cruising the library discard sales for hidden treasures. I struck it rich with a box of ‘worthless’ encyclopedias from the 1920’s. The geography section of each book held a gorgeous color map bookplate. I experimented with reproducing these maps, since the original paper is practically ancient, and came up with an idea for a portable book for travelers that shows off how the world looked nearly 100 years ago.

My handmade journal!

What makes these journals the perfect companion for travelers?

I designed these to be not only beautiful but durable. The take-along size fits handily into a backpack, tote bag, or carry-on luggage. By using heavy-weight artist canvas and archival materials, I’ve created a cover that is sturdy, flexible, and somewhat water-resistant.

Inside, I’ve hand-sewn folded acid-free pages into a roomy spine that allows space for attaching maps, brochures, biz cards, and other mementos while still providing space to write travel notes. I always attach a little pocket to the center section that can hold small items… a bus pass, train ticket, hotel key, or such.

What is your favorite thing about making and using the journals?

I love how not only can I customize this travel journal, but the user can customize it too. Their design choices make creating each book a unique experience and that keeps it fresh and fun for me. When I’m searching for a map for a customer, I feel like I have the whole world at my fingertips! I love to travel but I’m still a ‘homebody’ at heart, hence the name Domestic Papers.

Another map in the middle of my journal

What custom options are available to those hoping to purchase one for themselves?

I start by asking my customer “Where in the world do you want on your book?” I look through my large collection of vintage maps, going back to 1883. I also search more modern atlases and National Geographic maps to find an image the right size and shape for our journal. Some countries are tiny and others are vertical when I want them to be horizontal- that’s geography for you!

I do my best to find wherever in the world my customer wants on the cover. Sometimes, I’ll add a map to the interior of the journal if I can’t quite fit where we want on the cover or if we want a detail map. Also, the customer can request extra pockets, additional pages, lined or unlined pages, a color range for the papers inside, and a style such as romantic, masculine, tropical, or vintage. Of course, to top it off, it’s their choice of brad closure on the front cover.

Choosing all of these elements together is like creating a unique recipe I then follow to make the perfect map travel journal to accompany you on your next adventure!

*A closing note from Lee: My grateful thanks to Michelle for the opportunity to share my map books with you!*


I could not be happier with the finished product of this journal. I had mine done in the regular size, although Lee offers the option of having mini journals made for those that want to travel even lighter and have limited space. The regular sized journal is light-weight and the perfect size to bring with you. My only criticism is that I wish it was filled with more paper because I write a lot on my travels and am going to be able to fill this baby up pretty quickly. I wish that I had some upcoming travel plans because I want to write in it so badly! But I don’t, so I’ll have to be patient and wait for my next trip to fill it up with beautiful memories.

With the new year fast approaching comes opportunities to explore places we’ve never been before. These travel journals may just be the perfect companion for yourself on your next adventure or as a gift for someone who loves travel.

If these journals capture your interest, head on over to Lee’s Etsy shop Domestic Papers to browse her creations and contact her.

Travel Inspiration: Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents by Elisabeth Eaves


Elisabeth Eaves takes her readers on a ride through her personal accounts of travel, love and growth. What begins as a trip overseas with her high school classmates transforms into an insatiable urge to see the world, get lost in new places and make connections with new people. As she makes her way  from one city to the next, we learn about her highs and lows, her thoughts and ambitions, and feel connected as she takes us through the string of men who capture her heart. She struggles to realize who she truly is as she can feel herself changing ever so slightly with every new person she meets and every new city that she visits. Below are two beautiful quotes that I pulled from the book:

“There are lives—so many—that I hadn’t experimented with. What if I was meant to be
an aid worker, a dive instructor, a spy? What if I was meant to be a writer in New York?
And forget even what I was meant to be. What would it feel like to just wander the world,
free of all responsibility, knowing I could stand on my own two feet?


“We carried bottled water and day packs and cameras, except for Fred,
who said he didn’t believe in taking photographs; he planned to store
his memories in his head, an idea I found incomprehensibly radical.
My impulse to record was almost on par with my impulse to travel”

I’ve read this book at least four times already and each time it makes me yearn for farther places and makes me wonder what I really want to be doing with my life. If you haven’t, I suggest picking it up! It makes for a great summer read or a great book to read while on your own adventure around the world.

Casa di Giulietta

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,

The more I have, for both are infinite.”
— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

I recently shared a photo that I took four summers ago in Verona, Italy. Seeing that photo reminded me of what a charming place Verona was and, although it was four summers ago now, I remember it like it was just yesterday. Everyone knows the famous Shakespeare story of Romeo and Juliet. It has been told and re-told, played and re-played time and again and is considered to be one of the most famous love stories of all time.

Traveling with two girlfriends from the North to South of Italy, our main decision for stopping in Verona was to see Juliet’s balcony and have an entire day dedicated to Romeo and Juliet. As we walked through the arched entrance of Juliet’s balcony, our eyes were met with thousands of colorful notes and letters stuck to the wall that is known as Juliet’s wall. After taking a few moments to scan them over, it is clear that the majority of the notes on the wall come from young girls and women from all over the world. And, not surprisingly, the majority of them are love notes.

Juliet's wall of love letters

I thought this one was cute.

Despite the house being quite old, the balcony has no connection to Juliet and was actually added on to the house and declared Juliet’s balcony in the late 1930’s. Juliet’s balcony has become a popular tourist attraction after being deemed the balcony of Juliet. Nevertheless, myself and many others swarm to the balcony to take photos, leave notes on the walls, take a touristy photo of grabbing one of the boobs of Juliet’s statue for luck, and even write a letter to Juliet and send it in the post! Apparently, volunteers actually respond to some of these letters but I’ve been waiting four years and have still had no letter back.

statue of juliet -- touch her boob for luck in love!

Juliet's balcony

You can even pay a small fee to go explore inside the house and stand out on the balcony for yet another touristy photo. Budget traveler bonus? Coming to Juliet’s balcony is free unless you want to go in the house!

Despite the lack of true connection to the real Juliet, taking a trip to see “her” balcony and explore “her” house would make a nice activity for you Romeo and Juliet fans or those of you that are just die-hard romantics. As much fun as we ended up having that afternoon, if you’re not a Romeo and Juliet fan or you simply don’t feel like you have the time, skipping Juliet’s balcony isn’t a huge loss. I found it to be a bit over-rated and basically just another tourist trap. But, if you are a fan of that sort of thing, it gives you butterflies and warm fuzzies for the rest of the day!