Why I've Been MIA...

I think the picture explains it all. Basically, my old laptop finally ground its way to non-functional hard drive and it was time to buy a new one (which renders me terrified and indecisive... and then to making ridiculous spreadsheets by hand to think about the decision).

The bottom line is that I'm excited to be switching to a new, much lighter computer now that I'm not in grad school and don't need my personal computer to have the hardware and software to run crazy models and stats stuff... so finally I can focus on the fun stuff like photos, apps, and more!

I'm even thinking it could mean some serious design updates to the blog sometime soon... seriously, a new computer is like Chrismukkah and my birthday rolled into one because I LOVE my laptops! I'll be back soon to share some fun stuff... thanks for being patient!

Top 10 Travel Essentials

I travel a fair amount for my job up here in Maryland and I've learned a lot about what to pack and how to pack and what to leave at home... I saw this amazing post of 10 essentials from Brass & Whatnots and I thought I'd make my own and share some of the great things I've found.
1. Belkin Charger / Adapter - Amazon - $20 - find it here* - quite possibly THE most helpful thing I've had when traveling. I can charge my phone, BlackBerry, etc. near the bed and I don't have to worry about bringing enough USB power things because the USB cords go directly in here. And if you keep this in your carry on, it's perfect for charging your phone (and letting some neighbors charge theirs) at the airport (because not all of them have the charging stations, at least not near your gate).

2. Kayla Town Square Bag - eBags - $60 - find it here - I think this goes on sale frequently and I know I paid less for mine, but honestly, it's easily worth this price because the strap is actually quite sturdy and I've had a lot of weight in there and it hasn't broken (knock on wood). I carry this along as my personal item on planes sometimes and can tuck in magazines or souvenirs, my electronics, etc. But I also use this as my work bag a lot of the time because the pockets are just perfect. 

3. Travelon Set of 7 Travel Envelopes - Amazon - $18 - find it here* - I have a lot of different sizes of toiletry bags and have tried out a lot of them, but honestly, I love these and use them around the house to contain chargers and they're sort of perfect for travel because you can see what's in them (so you don't have to memorize that the blue bag has chargers and the white has your make-up, etc.) and you can use whatever size fits what you need to store. And they're all plastic and easily washable! 

4. Eagle Creek Pack It Cubes - Amazon - $8.75 - find it here* / Eagle Creek Pack It Half Cubes - Amazon - $10.50 - find it here* - these packing cubes help you unpack things into hotel drawers, separate items (by outfit or type of clothing), and keep it all together in your bags. A lot more helpful than I thought they were before I owned them! (No idea why the smaller ones are more expensive right now, but I love both equally.)

NOTE: At some point, I tried these Kiva compression packable cubes that I thought would be perfect for packing in a lot of stuff, but the zipper busted on 2 of the 3 of them after not much use and certainly nothing too tough (they were NOT overstuffed, they were barely even full). AVOID the Kiva unless they promise they've upgraded everything... and even then, I'd hesitate. 

5. Platypus Water Bottle Bag (Foldable Water Bottle) - Amazon - $6 - find it here* - I have this exact one, but I also have a slightly larger version that I can't seem to find online. I like the larger one a bit better, but I tend to have to fill it in the morning and make that last all day. If you'll be anywhere near water when you're out and about, I'd stick with this one. 

6. Luggage Scale - Amazon - $11 - find it here* - the exact one I bought isn't available anymore, but I think they're all pretty similar. The point is that having one (and not guessing what 50 pounds "feels like" when you're shoving everything into your bags the night before a big trip is pretty nice... and can save you a few bucks). 

7. Built Laptop Case - Amazon - $20 - find it here* - this one is the exact one I have, but there are a variety of patterns and sizes to fit your laptop and they're all sturdy, but slim and lightweight AND pretty. Just my style. 

8. Vera Bradley Travel Wallet - Amazon - $42 - find it here* - for some reason, these aren't available on the Vera website, but this is what I own and use. I don't always use it, but for more complicated trips (with multiple layovers in different cities, rental cars, receipts to submit for reimbursement, etc.), it's really helpful to have something that's just the travel stuff and just for the receipts I have to keep for work.

9. reisenthel travel laundry bag - The Container Store - $5 - find it here - I have the relatively more boring navy blue one because I got it in the store and that's what they had, but these are adorable and perfectly packable and so nice for storing the dirty stuff in your hotel room during the trip and in packing anything that gets a little stinky (and it actually goes back into its original little bag without Houdini or rocket science)!

10. GoGear Travel Tubes (set of three 3-oz. bottles) - The Container Store - $15 - find it here - they don't leak (miraculous!), they're pretty colors, and you can actually get all the shampoo and conditioner out of them (unlike the little bottles that shampoo comes in when you buy travel toiletries at the drug store). I got these because I didn't want to pay for the more expensive version of flexible bottles that people online liked, but I think these must be just as great and I can't imagine what else you'd need. 

More great travel tips and ideas can be found here: 
  • this amazing post of 10 essentials from Brass & Whatnots
  • my pinterest board "travel machine" with all the awesome travel ideas and products I've collected from the interweb and other pinners 
  • 12 essentials from ink + adventure
  • travel essentials for twentysomethings from Blair Blogs
*indicates an affiliate link (so if you click here and buy it, I'll get a tiny fraction of the profit... and my appreciation!) and you can also find all the Amazon products I referenced above here in the travel section of my Amazon storefront

I'll be sharing this post at my favorite linky parties...
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