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Jul 31, 2014

Traveling with Kids: 3 Tips from Jessica Lynn Writes

Hi friends of Casey! I’m Jessica from Jessica Lynn Writes thrilled to be here today. I’ve known Casey for a couple of years, and we even met in real life for one awesome weekend blate when she came out to visit me in Italy for a weekend. Sadly, we’ve both moved on from our European adventures, but now we’re just a state away from each other. She’s living it up along the Florida coast and I’m just north of her in Georgia!

I wanted to chat today about traveling with kids, because there seems to be a misconception that once you have kids, traveling will cease to exist. When my daughter, Julia, was born, we were ready to hit the ground running—or at least ready to hop on the first train out of town—and even got her passport process started just four days after she was born (talk about a funny looking picture—the guy took it while she was mid cry). We waited until she got her first round of shots (and for me to recover from delivery) and then we went on her first road trip.

For our first trip we went all out, driving to Lake Como, Italy (sadly no George Clooney sightings); Lucerne, Switzerland; and through the Alsace region of France. It was delightful! Of course it took a little longer than usual since we had to stop every few hours for feedings and diaper changes, but other than that, traveling with a newborn was a piece of cake. Europeans tend to love children and were always extremely accommodating wherever we went with her.

Sadly, we moved away from Italy when Julia was four months old, but that didn’t stop our traveling. We’ve already been on a cross-country road trip, lived in a hotel for three months, went on a Caribbean cruise, been on countless plane rides (and a mama/daughter soloride at that), and we’ve spent weekends in Savannah, Charleston, Atlanta, and Gatlinburg. In the works for the rest of the year are a few more weekends away, another solo flight, and another cross-country road trip—we like to keep busy. 

At the beach in the Bahamas (and the drink this mama had later that day).

Ready for the cruise!
Still going about our day!
While we may not have any more wild weekends in Vegas or be able ride any rides at Disney yet, having a little one in tow hasn’t prevented us from going places and seeing the world. I will admit that traveling with her as an infant was easier than as a toddler (strapping her into a baby carrier was a lifesaver), but now that she walks around it's still totally doable. 

In my 16 months of traveling with my little one, I’ve conjured up three pieces of advice:

1. Go with the flow. Your plans will most likely change (there may be a diaper blowout or a toddler who won’t sit still during a meal out), so you can either stand firm with your agenda or roll with the punches. Starting your trip with the mindset that things may change at a moments notice will help you embrace your new adventure.

2. Flexibility. Be willing to change and adapt to your new situation, which can be easier said than done when you’re in a new place. My daughter, for example, has a really hard time sleeping in the same room with us. We forgot about this priceless piece of information when we embarked on our cruise (you know…in a room the size of a matchbox). Luckily, we were flexible with our options and figured out a solution: her pack ‘n play went into the bathroom for the night. Now, whenever we travel, we either make sure there’s a divider in the room or pray the bathroom is large enough for her bed!

3. Patience, patience, patience. Kids will be kids. They will scream and yell and poop at all the wrong times. They won’t sleep when you need them to on the plane, and breastfeeding could sometimes feel like she’s attempting gymnastics when you’re in a public place. I’m still working on keeping my cool when things get crazy, but when having patience is at the top of my mind, things go a lot better.

Long story short: kids are just little humans. They like seeing the world and experiencing new things just as much as we do. Even though it may take a little extra effort (and more diapers and pit stops), I love that I’m seeing the world with my daughter. We love it so much that we’re adding another little one to our bunch (coming in February)!

We’re still pretty new at this, but we’re taking it one trip at a time. Do you travel with your kids? I’d love to hear your favorite tips when it comes to traveling with little ones!

Follow along with Jess and her travels here:

Jul 30, 2014

So, You're Moving to Wiesbaden? | WHERE TO EAT: Part 2

Cafe/Light Lunch/Coffee Date
La Maison du Pain | Marktstraße 2, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 16661310
Ahhh, cafe lattes the size of your head. No, really. I miss this place so! Great for a relaxing Sunday brunch or a sweet treat and cup of joe, La Maison du Pain always left me full and feeling refreshed. My Maison favorites? The St. Tropez tartine, Croque Monsieur, and their yogurt parfait with honey & fruit. And bonus! They have English menus! Don't forget to take home one of their unbelievable pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) or raspberry macarons. You can thank me later. :)

Cafe MaldanerMarktstraße 34, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 305214
Don't let the creepy old mannequins out front scare you from eating here. What their window decor lacks in sanity, they totally make up for with their delicious desserts! Cafe Maldaner keeps old-time coffee house tradition alive and well in downtown Wiesbaden. Antique furniture & decadent pastries make this a sweet place to stop in for a light nosh, and their Sunday champagne brunch is not to be missed! Located just off the Marktplatz.

Domane Mechtildshausen | Mechtildshausen, 65205 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 73740
Located on a sustainable farm near the Clay Kaserne Army Airfield, Cafe Bohne at the Domane is the perfect spot for a light lunch and cup of tea. Not only can you enjoy fresh fare from the farm, but you can shop at their on-site baker, butcher, bio market, and cheese shop as well as stop to pet the animals! This place is a total dream in the springtime (flowers everywhere!), but could get busy and sometimes the service is slow (it is a farm, after all). Make sure to try their delicious soups and baked brie. A true hidden gem in Wiesbaden!

Doner Kebaps

Cardak Pizza & Doner (Mainz-Kastel) | Boelcke Strasse 5555252 Mainz-Kastel, Germany
After trying a handful of doner shops, this is the only one D and I really ever ate at in the Wiesbaden area. My theory, if it ain't broke...don't fix it! We LOVE Cardak! Great doners, excellent crispy french fries (D dreams about them still!), and quick, friendly service. D was a big fan of the doner duram (doner wrap) and I was a creature of habit and always ordered the traditional doner kebap sandwich. We've heard awesome things about their doner pizza, too. Doner meat on a pizza? Sign me up! Oh, and don't forget the garlic sauce!

Okini | Taunusstraße 22, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 23835808
All you can eat sushi and Asian delights...enough said! If great sushi, marinated steak tips (YUM!), sauteed mushrooms, and potstickers aren't enough to peak your interest...how about ordering your entire meal on an iPad? Neat, right?! Okini is just an all-around fun dining experience. It is a bit on the pricey side, though. Their all-you-can-eat dinner will cost you 25 euros per person. For a better bargain, go for lunch at 15 euro instead. :)

Aroma Noodle Bar Mauritiusstraße 1, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 2408951
I loved this place for a quick bite to eat when I was out shopping downtown with the girls (located just off the main pedestrian zone at Mauritiusplatz). Aroma Noodle Bar has exactly what the name says, NOODLES! But also much, much more. They've got lots of great salads, rice dishes, and desserts, but their claim to fame are their tasty Italian and Asian pasta dishes. My typical order would either be their pesto pasta, Napoli pasta, or their chicken, veggies, & noodles with sweet and sour sauce. 

Thai Express | Langgasse 36, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49  611 5058508
I never actually got to eat here, but D did often on guys night out (yep, he totally goes on those!). He used to rave about all their spicy chicken & noodle dishes, but somehow forgot to ever take me down there to try it. Mean, right?! ;) He loved Thai Express because their meals were cheap, service quick (so they could get to the bars faster), and the food was always hearty & delicious.

Mayflower Chinese Restaurant (Mainz-Kastel) | Uthmannstraße 8, 55246 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 6134 258928
Mayflower was one of those places D and I went to when we wanted really tasty Chinese food. We had a hard time finding great General Tso's around Germany, but Mayflower had it! They've also got great sesame chicken, generous combination plates, ginormous spring rolls, and perfectly cooked sticky rice. Every patron is greeted with a small glass of plum wine, so you know I was sold! 

A Little Bit of Everything
Urban Kitchen | Bahnhofsplatz 1, 65189 Wiesbaden | +49 611 71694600
We loved having get-togethers with our friends at Urban Kitchen. Not only is it central to Wiesbaden (located inside the train station), its menu has a little something for everyone. Pizzas, pastas, burgers, Asian dishes, gyros, soups, salads...the list goes on and on! I've tried quite a few different types of cuisines there and they've all been winners. Great cocktail selection, too!

Scotch 'N SodaGoldgasse 9, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 1714424
Talk about a fun place to dine! Scotch 'N Soda was among one of the first restaurants we ever experienced in Wiesbaden. Burgers, steaks, stews, and a plethora of schnitzels, this Scottish pub-style eatery offers enough meat & pints to keep everyone happy. After dinner hours, the restaurant turns into a bustling pub with a good selection of drinks for all. Don't forget to ask the owner how the dollar bills get up on the ceiling...maybe he'll give you a show! 

Heiliggeist (Mainz) | Mailandsgasse 11, 55116 Mainz, Germany | +49 6131 225757
This place is too cool for words. Heiliggeist translated means "Holy Spirit," which is appropriate because this restaurant is housed inside a former church. Talk about some insanely stunning ambiance! The fare is a little bit all over the place with dishes ranging from club sandwiches and Ahi tuna to penne with orange butter and veal saltimbocca. Even though their menu changes seasonally and varies widely, every dish I've tried has been beyond delicious. You literally can't go wrong.

Citrus (Mainz) | Rheinstr. 255116 Mainz, Germany | +49 6131 216715
Need a great spot for a leisurly lunch date? Citrus is one of my favorites for those! Located along the Rhein River in Mainz, Citrus prides itself on using fresh ingredients to make creative dishes. I love their chicken skewer salad as well as their curry soup. The ambiance is ultra trendy, but the restaurant's building has quite a rich history. You'll just have to go there to learn more!

Ice Cream

Eis Cafe Rialto | Rathausstraße 82, 65203 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 694399
Any time we went downtown for dinner, we ended up at Eis Cafe Rialto for dessert. It's in the perfect location for grabbing a quick scoop and enjoying the views of the Marktplatz. Might I suggest trying their Nutella eis paired with a scoop of Kokonuss (Coconut) eis?  Heaven on a cone! Their spaghetti eis is also pretty rad...a must-try for anyone visiting Germany!


Le Petit Belge (Belgian Beer) Wilhelmstrasse 36, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 1667720
Hands down our favorite (and most frequented) bar in Wiesbaden. It's no surprise that D and I love Belgian beer, so Le Petit Belge was our go-to bar when that hankering for a Trappist beer came around. It's a small place that can often get crowded, but the owner, Helmut, is super friendly and quite accommodating. They also serve fresh made Belgian waffles, frites, and chocolates! Our one-stop shop for a night of decadence. :) They also do beer tastings and serve Saturday brunch, so join their Facebook page to keep in the loop. If you give Belge a try, tell Helmut hello for us! 

Murphy's Pub | Goldgasse 18, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 17278155
Located down "Italian Alley," Murphy's Pub is exactly what you think it is...an Irish pub! It's a fun place to grab a pint after dinner downtown or watch a game with all the locals. Lots of great drink specials, so grab your friends and make a night of it...but be aware, smoking allowed!

Ordering In
Lieferheld App & Website
This is an app (or website you can visit if you don't have a smart phone) that holds menus for local delivery restaurants in your area. You can order and pay for your food right there in the app (credit card or PayPal) and it'll be delivered straight to your door! You can also pay cash to the delivery guy, if you wish. We loved this app and used it whenever we didn't feel like cooking or going out. You will have to translate the menus, though. Great practice if you're learning German!

Lieferservice.de App & Website 
Same kind of service as above, just different company. We used both because different restaurants were listed in each. Very user friendly!

My Top Recommendations for delivery:
Domino's Pizza (better than the American version--less greasy!)
Jit's Thai Kitchen
Pizza Boy

More tips for Wiesbaden to come!!!

Jul 28, 2014

Celebrating 7 Years: Real Life & a Walk Down Memory Lane

I woke up this morning so irritated at D. Last night was our last night sleeping on our comfy rental mattress. We have to give it back today and start sleeping on an air mattress again (our stuff STILL isn't here--shoot me). Instead of sleeping soundly (like one hopes to sleep their last night of comfort for a while), I slept horribly...mostly because D stole all the covers. Blanket, sheet...the whole shebang. I tugged and fought the sleeping bear, but continually lost. He happily snored away, oblivious to my dilemma...and I shivered all night until I finally got up to find another blanket. Naturally, after getting up, I couldn't fall back asleep. Story of my life.

D got up at his usual time to get ready for work. I silently rejoiced that he was gone. I was ready to get one solid hour of good sleep in before I needed to get up myself. Unfortunately, sleep alluded me again, so I rolled out of bed and grumpily made my way downstairs for breakfast. When I walked in the kitchen, D was standing there with a sheepish look on his face. He knew I hadn't slept well...and he knew I was going to give him crap about it. But before I could get an angry word out of my mouth, he walked over gave me a big 'ol D-sized hug, and said "Happy Anniversary, my love. Best 7 years of my life!" 

Well, dang it. Not only did he steal my furied thunder, he made me remember what I forgot--our 7th wedding anniversary. I mean, I knew last night that our anniversary was today, but in my fog of annoyance and lack of sleep, I forgot. We'd also kind of already celebrated our anniversary last weekend at Disney, so again, I forgot. The look on his face, the words he said...how does one yell at another after such a sweet morning greeting? One can't. So, I held my tongue. Then, he handed me a hot cup of coffee, fixed just the way I like it, and all that anger I woke up with just washed away.

This is what 7 years of wedded bliss looks like, folks. Waking up on the wrong side of the bed, forgiving cups of coffee, and eating crow after your husband remembers an important milestone and you...well...don't. Most days, you'll see all our bright-shiny marriage moments. Those are my favorites to share. You bloggers know what I mean. We looovee to share the good...what bad?! There's no bad! Just don't look behind the curtain. Even after all the years we've spent together (13.5 including the dating years), the gosh honest truth is...we don't always get it right. We argue and bicker, we overlook and forget. We nitpick and hold grudges, we say things we don't mean and let our own agendas overshadow the important moments in life. This morning, I almost let something so silly as a bad night's sleep tarnish the beginning of a special day. Thankfully, D knows me better than anyone and knew just how to melt my icy attitude with a few simple words.

Even in the not-so-shiny moments, one truth remains constant--our love and respect for one another and our marriage. This morning, I felt 7 years of hard work, trust, and heart-racing, passionate love bear-hug me right there in our kitchen. No amount of lost sleep could be more important those 15 seconds. So, I swallowed my grief, smiled up at D, and thanked him for giving me the 7 most incredible years of my life. We drank our coffee, ate our eggs, and I sent him off to work with one heck of a kiss. I'll suffer through 100 more years of crappy sleep if it means I can wake up to that man every morning. And that's also the gosh honest truth.

Happy 7 years, best friend. You make me better. Everyday.


And now for a fun & embarrassing walk down 7 years of memory lane....

Engagement announcement photo 2007 // Wiesbaden 2014

Just hitched! July 28, 2007 // Wiesbaden 2014

First dance as husband and wife, July 28, 2007 // Wiesbaden 2014

Still enjoying alcohol together...typical. ;) July 28, 2007 // Salzburg, Austria 2014

Jamaican Honeymoon, July 2007 // Wiesbaden 2014

Day we brought Tuck home for the first time 2006 // Reunited with our baby dog! June 2014

First Married Christmas in NC 2007 // 6th Married Christmas in Germany 2014

 1st Anniversary--Destin, Fl 2008 // 2nd Anniversary--Emerald Isle, NC 2009 // 3rd Anniversary--Tulum, Mexico 2010

4th Anniversary--Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany  2011 // 5th Anniversary--Lake Constance, Germany 2012 // 6th Anniversary--Riquewihr, France 2013

7th Anniversary--DISNEY WORLD!! 2014

Can't wait to see what the future brings! 

Jul 24, 2014

12 Ways Living in Germany Made Me a Better Person

1| I've become well-versed in cooking my own delicious Mexican food favorites.
Queso Blanco? Perfected it. Arroz con Pollo & Enchiladas Verde? I'm a master. Homemade Guac & Margaritas? None can beat mine. When you can't find great Mexican food in your host country, you learn to make your own. And you save money in the process. Everyone's invited over for a fiesta...as soon as I get furniture, of course.

2| I now enjoy a good cup of coffee.
Not really sure this makes me a better person, but it sure does make me feel good! Before moving to Germany, I was mostly a tea drinker (except for the occasional super sweet Starbucks indulgence). Today, I can't go a morning without a good cup of joe. Look at me all grown up and sophisticated! [eye roll] ;) Europe had stellar coffee and lovely cafes to drink it in. Spoiled me rotten, I tell ya. I'm currently scouting out cappuccino/latte makers for our kitchen, so send me any suggestions you've got!

3| I actually go to parks now.
Parks. What a novel idea! Why don't many Americans go to parks? I rarely did before living in Germany. Now, I'm all like...LET'S GO PICNIC! And run! And just lay out in the grass staring up at the clouds like the Europeans do! I really miss our giant, green park just down the hill from our German flat. It was always filled with people doing all kinds of fun activities. The parks here in Florida are small (at least the ones in our area)...or they're beaches. I know, I know...you're playing the world's smallest violin for me now, aren't you?

4| I can parallel park like a friggin' pro.
Living in a flat with no garage or designated parking space meant D and I had to get really good at parallel parking...and real quick! Street parking was a total pain in our butts for 3 years, but at least one new skill was acquired out of the inconvenience. Any new drivers out there need lessons? I charge in hugs.

5| I'm a more aware and efficient driver.
Pass on the left only. Slow drivers in the far right lane--always. No trucks in fast lanes (except to pass). No lingering in the passing lane. Germany gets these things right! It's illegal not to follow these rules there. Now, if I could only get everyone in America on board, we'd be golden! Germany may have had pushy drivers, but they sure were smart about their Autobahn rules. They just make sense. The only rule I'm glad is out the door now that I'm back stateside? No right turn on red...ever. Feels so freeing to be able to do that again!

6| I've developed an affinity for long lunching.
Don't ask me out to lunch unless you plan on sitting there with me for a couple of hours. Not kidding. The whole "slow living" phenomenon that Europe is so famous for totally rubbed off on me, in certain ways at least. Lunches and dinners out in Germany usually meant 3 hours of dining and chatting. It was so nice to really enjoy my food and our company. Here, everything is so rush, rush, rush! Even more reason to slow down and just be in the moment. Don't worry, if I linger too long at a restaurant or cafe here stateside, I make sure to leave a heftier tip. Small price to pay for a less-hurried life.

7| Germany helped me rekindle my love for yogurt and granola.
German yogurt was the bomb. Probably because it was almost always full fat. If I ever wanted a sweet treat, I'd stock up on German brands of yogurt (and their equally delicious muesli--granola, to us Americans). Now that I'm back stateside, I've stuck to my yogurt obsession, only healthified it a bit. Yay for probiotics!

8| Sundays have become a true day of rest.
Even though I complained about it a lot, there was really something to having everything closed on Sundays in Germany. The day was quieter, slower, more relaxing before the hustle and bustle of the work week began. We replaced running post-church errands with spending time with friends; family, if they were in town. Hopefully we can keep up that tradition here in Florida.

9| I look forward to recycling things.
I thought this would change the second I stepped foot off the plane back in America, but I'm happy to say I still feel the urge recycle things. Unfortunately, we can't recycle all of the same things we did in Germany, but it's still a heck of a lot more than we were doing before our 3-year stent abroad. I feel much more environmentally cautious today than I did in my pre-Germany life. Feels awesome.

10| I've become an excellent care-package sender.
My affinity for snail mail skyrocketed while we were living in Europe. Living so far from home--cards, care packages, and postcards we almost a necessity to keep me engaged with my loved ones. I LOVED putting packages together and sending them off to friends and family. Snail mail is dying these days (which makes me incredibly sad), so I'm trying to help save it...one care package at a time.

11| I've learned so much about world geography, different cultures, food, etc.
Do you know where Luxembourg is located? I do. And the tiny counties of San Marino, Aurora, and Liechtenstein. Before moving to Europe, I had no idea 2 out of the 4 of those even existed. It's amazing how worldly you become after living somewhere other than your home country. I feel so grateful to have been able to expand my global knowledge and to have so many amazing stories to share with our future children.

12| I'm acutely aware of my American loudness...and I correct it.
One of the main things I noticed while living in Germany was how incredibly loud Americans can be...myself included. I was never belligerent or so loud you'd have to tell me to shut up, but Americans, in general, tend to talk louder than most Europeans. Not sure why that is exactly, but since moving back stateside, I'm constantly checking my loudness in public settings so as to not draw attention to myself. In turn, I'm now ultra aware of other people's loudness. I kind of hope this change blows over with time, because I'm annoyed out in public more often. No wonder Germans seemed so cranky some days!

If you've ever lived in a foreign country, did certain things about you change when you returned home? 
Share your experiences!

Jul 23, 2014

Travel Like A Boss Series: Travel Insurance -- Yay or Nay?

Let's say it all together...YAY!!! Definite yay. Well, at least where D and I are concerned. If you're an avid traveler, you've probably purchased, looked into, or at least heard of travel insurance. Some of you probably think, "What's the point?" Others of you might have found out the hard way why travel insurance can be so important. One thing is for sure, it's something all travelers should be aware of. As harsh as this may sound, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. Simple as that.

D and I almost always get travel insurance for our trips. Being a military family, lots of things could pop up (i.e.- deployments, last-minute training, TYD's, revoked leave, yadda yadda...the list goes on and on) and cause any one of our trips to be canceled at a moments notice. I don't like to leave life to chance (especially when there's lots of money at stake), so we plan ahead and snag up travel insurance for our big trips. Anything over 5 days, we insure it. Any trip totaling over $700, we insure it. Any trip that takes us to multiple countries on various forms of transportation, we insure it. Any vacation that might have us zip lining or mountain climbing or doing something super adventurous, we insure it (ahem, ourselves). The thing is, you just never know.

Call me a Worry Wort or a Cautious Casey, but when you've forked out thousands of dollars and planned your little heart out for the vacation of your dreams only to have it ripped out from underneath you because of an unexpected issue, you don't want to leave anything to chance. Paying an extra $100 to make sure we're covered for a myriad of unforeseen travel changes or, heaven forbid, an injury or natural disaster, is the kind of peace of mind worth investing in. D and I almost had to cancel our 3rd wedding anniversary trip to Mexico because the start of his first deployment fell right smack dab in the middle of our vacation. At the time, we were naive and didn't have travel insurance. Not only was I a panicked wreck about the deployment, but I was devastated we were going lose thousands of dollars because of cancelling our trip. Talk about adding insult to injury. Thankfully, his deployment got pushed back a week and we happily went to Mexico, but had his commander not worked some magic, we would have been out $2,500. Mexican resorts don't give a rats @$$ about your husband's deployment. That money would have been gone forever. After that scare, we vowed to always get travel insurance for any big trip we might take. So far, we've kept our promise...and thankfully, we've never actually needed it. 

There are gobs and gobs of different travel insurance companies out there. A simple Google search brings up dozens of pages filled with links to various insurance websites and comparisons sites to help you do your research. It's always smart to shop around and see what options are available to you (not all insurance plans are made equal!). If this is your first go at snagging travel insurance, here are some helpful tips to make the search a little easier:

1| Figure out what kind of coverage you need. 
Do you want full coverage? Partial coverage? Need your bags covered? Medical coverage? SO MANY OPTIONS! Decide what coverage or situations would be important to you and price out plans from there. If you don't care about having your rental car covered (because maybe you aren't even renting one on your trip?), then choose a plan that omits that option, if possible.

2| Insure for the full cost of the trip.
Typically, when you are travel insurance shopping, you'll have to put in your total trip cost to get an accurate quote for insurance. Make sure to include items like plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, excursions...anything you've already pre-booked and forked out a deposit for, include it! 

A few things to consider when choosing the right travel insurance plan for you:

    • Trip Cancellation--most plans have specific terms as to what qualifies as an appropriate reason for trip cancellation, so take note of the wording specific to your coverage!
    • Lost/stolen bags or personal gear--some plans only cover your bags and gear up to a certain amount (per-item limit). Try to find a plan that allows for a higher limit if you've got excessive or expensive gear to cover.
    • Coverage for adventurous sports or activities--some plans may only cover certain sports or activities, so make sure whatever activities you're planning to do while on your trip are covered.
    • Medical expenses--including transport home for serious medical treatment. Make sure to fully disclose any pre-existing medical conditions and medications when choosing a policy.
    • Personal liability--accidents happen and sometimes it's your fault. If someone decides to sue you, don't admit fault until you've talked with your insurance provider, just in case. Travel insurance doesn't typically cover liability while you're driving, so it's always good to make sure you've got coverage for that elsewhere. TIP: obtain appropriate local licenses to operate whatever vehicle you may drive in whatever country you might travel to. Failure to do so may nullify your coverage.
    • Is it safe to travel there? --you may not be covered if you choose to travel to a destination affected by terrorism, war, civil/political unrest or a natural disaster such as a volcano, typhoon, earthquake, tsunami, etc.
    • Extra coverage--life is weird and sometimes airlines or tour companies screw you over with canceled flights, delayed departures, missed connections, or going under. Some insurance plans cover for these headaches, others don't. If you're concerned about any one of these unforeseen issues (or just have really bad luck), maybe spring for the extra coverage.

3| Carefully read through the entire insurance plan, including the fine print! 
What exactly is considered an unforeseen event? Am I covered if I lose my job and can't afford my trip anymore? Are my plane tickets covered? What if a hurricane interrupts my vacation? Whatever the situation, if you think it could happen to you, make sure your travel insurance plan covers it. If you're a military family, this is especially important. Make good and sure your coverage includes a military clause stating that you'd be covered in the event that your trip has to be cancelled due to a deployment, revoked leave, or any other military-related duty. If you're unsure about any part of the fine print, call the company directly for clarification.

4| Keep a copy of your travel insurance plan number and coverage description with you when you travel.
You never know when disaster may strike, so keep those insurance documents on hand--just in case. Add any important phone numbers and contacts you might need in the rare event you might actually have to file a claim, visit a medical facility, or have your trip interrupted.

Reputable Travel Insurance Companies:
Travel Guard (we have used this company)
Travel Insured International via USAA (we have used this company)
World Nomad
CSA Travel Protection

While there are many other things to consider before taking a trip, travel insurance should be a bullet point on your "to-do" list. Your time and money are important assets. If traveling is a priority in your life, you can't afford to leave those things to chance, so why not travel smart and give yourself some peace of mind. Fingers crossed travel insurance will always be just a precaution.

For more travel tips from my Travel Like a Boss Series, click here!

Jul 21, 2014

So, You're Moving To Wiesbaden? | WHERE TO EAT

Some of the top questions I receive in my inbox each week are about Wiesbaden, our former host city in Germany. Many people are planning their moves abroad, some have already began to call Wiesbaden home…but what they all have in common is their need to know the best places to eat, shop, see, and experience the wonders of their new home city. Over the last 3 years, I grew to love every square inch of Wiesbaden and feel very fortunate to have been able to live in such a beautiful part of Germany. Having lived so close to downtown (a mere 5-minute walk), D and I became quite familiar with the city center and all the wonderful shops and restaurants it had to offer. A sweet reader (and fairly new face to Wiesbaden-Hi Chrisy!) sent me an email asking if I'd start a series about Wiesbaden and share my top picks for dining, shopping, and attractions in the area. I'm not sure why I hadn't thought to do it before…but better late than never, right?! Here is just part 1 of my top picks for places you should be eating at in Wiesbaden and the surrounding area...ENJOY!

Ristorante Comeback | Goldgasse 13, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 373802 
This was the very first restaurant D and I ever ate at in Wiesbaden...and like the name says, we always "comeback!" It's located in a charming alley downtown (appropriately dubbed "Italian Alley" by the Americans in town) and serves some of the most delicious fresh pasta dishes I've ever tasted. Their spaghetti Aglio e Olio is better than what I tried in Italy (seriously!) and the servers are all super friendly! A must-eat in Wiesbaden, for sure.

Vapiano |  Wilhelmstrasse 52, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 1608773
Want fast food Italian without it tasting like fast food Italian? Vapiano is the restaurant for you! The concept is unique--grab a card, visit a food station (pizza, pasta, salad, etc.), choose how you like it, and your meal is made fresh to order while you wait and watch! Might I recommend their Caesar salad, bolognese, and carbonara salmone? Wash it down with a glass of Hugo and you've got a winning (quick!) dinner combo.

Aurum | Goldgasse 16, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 3600877
Also located down "Italian Alley," Aurum is one of our fall/winter time favorites...mostly because of their AMAZING parmesan soup. It's to die for! Other favorites--margarita pizza, baked gnocchi, and the involtini mediterranean. Dine al fresco for the best ambiance!

Viva Los Tioz Tapas Bar | Goldgasse 10, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 700 0567 8469
I can't even count how many times D and I ate here with friends over our 3 year tour in Wiesbaden. It's beyond delicious and such a fun dining experience! Located adjacent to "Italian Alley" in a small square, Viva Los Tios is perfect for a tapas-lovers night out. Best tapas on the menu? The chorizo, bacon wrapped dates, garlic dip (with bread), gambas de ajillo (shrimp in garlic), and patatas con alioli (potatos with garlic sauce). Basically anything with garlic will do. And if you're into exotic cocktails, try the caipirinha!

Enchilada | Schützenhofstraße 3, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 45048350
 Germany isn't known for having stellar Mexican food, but if you're jonesing for a good margarita and burrito, Enchilada will fit the bill. Located in Wiesbaden's downtown pedestrian zone (Kirchgasse), Enchilada is easy to reach, has great happy hour drink specials, and has plenty of room for parties or a fun night out with friends.

Mexico Lindo (Mainz) | Adolf-Kolping-Straße 17, 55116 Mainz, Germany | +49 6131 228060
Another great option for Tex-Mex food, except this restaurant is located in Mainz, just a hop, skip, and jump from the Wiesbaden area. Mexico Lindo has excellent steak fajitas--best in town, I think! Owner is originally from Texas, so he knows a thing or two about spice and bold flavors. The taco salad and quesadilla are excellent choices as well!

Webers Wikinger | Grabenstraße 14, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 307622
Hands down the best German/Viking food in all of Wiesbaden! We LOVE Webers...love it. Best dishes--the turkey escalope with fried potatoes and either the garlic or mushroom cream sauce, the bacon wrapped pork medallions, or the salmon fillet. If I were you, I'd eat the turkey escalope every single time...it wasn't my last meal in Germany for no reason! Reservations recommended.

Paulaner | Wilhelmstraße 58, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 1667101
If you're hungry for traditional Bavarian cuisine, Paulaner won't disappoint. Aside from their famous beer, you can also find great schnitzles, yummy seasonal menus, and sausage platters typical of Bavarian cooking traditions. Their kasespatzel was my favorite in town! Located downtown right on Wilhelmstrasse.

Der Andechser RatskellerSchloßplatz 6, 65183 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 300023 
Located under the Ratskeller in downtown Wiesbaden (just beside the beautiful Marktkirche), Der Andechers is most well-known for its monastery-brewed beer, but also serves a wide variety of traditional German dishes from rump roasts to afpelstrudel. I find the best part about the restaurant is the fun stube (beer/wine cellar) atmosphere.

Brahaus Castle (Mainz-Kastel)Otto-Suhr-Ring 27, 55252 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 6134 24999
I've eaten at the Brauhaus Castle at least 3 dozen times. It's where I bring all our visitors for authentic German meals, it's where half of our squadron going away parties were held (large outdoor biergarten), and it's where D and I would go on date night every so often. Great schnitzles and spundekas, EXCELLENT salads (Rustica salad is my fave!), kitschy German ambiance, and wonderful beer brewed in-house. They also have tasty specials during spargle (white asparagus) and pumpkin seasons! Did I mention they have English menus and speak English? What's not to love about this place?!

Kafer'sKurhausplatz 1, 65189 Wiesbaden, Germany | +49 611 536200
If you're looking for a fancy French bistro-inspired night out, Kafer's, inside of the beautiful Wiesbaden Kurhaus, is the date night of your dreams. The restaurant itself is a piece of art--high ceilings, chandeliers, gilded mirrors--rich architecture around every turn. The food is quite the gastronomic adventure--lobster, lamb shanks, octopus salad--delights for all types of palates. While there is a small cover charge to eat there (roughly 3 euros per person), the food and atmosphere is worth experiencing at least once. Kafer's also serves a lovely Sunday brunch. Reservations recommended!

So many places to eat, so little time!
More suggestions to come in my next installment...so, stay tuned!

Jul 16, 2014

Coffee Talk v.8

  • We're on week 3 of living back stateside. I can't believe it's only week 3! Feels like we've been here much longer. I guess returning to the familiar makes it feel like you never left? Or maybe Florida is just that wonderful? I'm thinking it's a healthy mixture of both.
  •  Things I'm LOVING about being back in America: 
    • Being back in the same time zone as my family & friends.
    • Having a stateside phone number that said family & friends can now call/text me on (no more me having to call everyone!!).
    • American grocery stores (UNLIMITED CHOICES! HOORAY!). 
    • Giant parking spaces (I'm talking GIANT, did they get bigger while we were gone?).
    • Watching TV shows as they actually air (screw you, Hulu!).
    • Air conditioning. I've never appreciated it so much.
    • Our American-sized oven and refrigerator. I can now bake a whole batch of cookies at one time. The Hallelujah Chorus is currently playing in my head.
    • Being able to go to shopping at stores after 7pm if we need to (and we've needed to, a lot).
    • Stores being open on Sundays (it's just convenient, I'm sorry).
    • Being able to read signs and talk to basically everyone. It's nice not to have the added struggle of a language barrier.
    • Chick-Fil-A (duh) and frozen yogurt bars. Give me all the toppings!
  • Things I'm MISSING about Germany and Europe:
    • Summer festivals. Fall festivals. Winter festivals. Spring festivals. All the festivals.
    • Lack of humidity. I'm melting here, guys. I miss dry heat!
    • Being able to walk everywhere. I hate buying gas every 5 days.
    • Delicious German Riesling. Hope our wine shipment arrives safely because we haven't found a great glass here yet.
    • Doner kebabs, spundekas, turkey schnitzels, and yogurt dressing. Never thought I'd being saying this.
    • Summer daylight lasting until 11pm. It gets dark too darn early here.
    • Just hopping in the car and jaunting off to Belgium, or France, or Austria, or Switzerland, or the Netherlands for the weekend. Makes me teary-eyed just a smidge.
    • The lack of bugs. There are so many bugs and critters here in Florida. SO MANY. Not a fan.
    • German drivers. HA! Just kidding, I don't miss those.
  • We are really, really loving our new house. I can't tell you the immense joy this place has already brought us and we've only been here 3 weeks. We can't get over all the space we have and we're so excited about all the memories we'll make here. Totally basking in the glow of new homeownership. Until something breaks, that is. Fingers crossed that doesn't happen for a long while...I wanna hold on to this feeling forever. It was a long time coming. :)
  • D has been tackling small house projects here and there and loves the feeling of accomplishment that goes along with making little improvements to our happy home. It's a sweet side of him I'm thrilled to see peeking out! Even after almost 7 years of marriage, I'm finding new and wonderful things to love about him!
  • Speaking of love and my handsome hubby, we'll be celebrating 7 years of marital bliss on the 28th of this month! In celebration, we're going on a short vacay to Disney World, complete with a stay at a Disney resort and character breakfast reservation in Animal Kingdom. Is it wrong for two grown adults to want to dine with Mickey and Minnie? If it's wrong, I guess I don't want to be right! This little getaway might not be an anniversary weekend in France, but we're stoked about it just the same. 
  • Can we just quickly talk about the last episode of The Bachelorette? SPOILER ALERT!! (ignore this bullet point if you haven't watched just yet). Chris (farmer man) might be the kindest, most understanding man in the history of The Bachelorette series. His exit made me cry...half because I was rooting for him, half because he handled Andi sending him home like such a gentleman. She's gonna regret letting him go. A country boy with his own home, thriving business, and good-lookin' tushy...you could make almost anywhere a home with those glowing qualities in a husband! It's all good, though. I'm sure he'll be the next Bachelor. I need to get my sister signed up!
  • If you haven't read this story and full on ugly cried at these photos...go cry one out today. It's heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. God bless Duke's doggy soul. I'm so happy he got the best last day ever. Grab some tissues, you'll really need 'em. I literally can't even think about this story without tearing up.
  • A little blog housekeeping: I'm trying my hardest to get back into the swing of all things blog-related. It's a slow process, to say the very least. I feel like there are some things that need to change about this space now that I'm back stateside, so a lot of brainstorming and re-evaluating is currently happening in my head. Once I iron out where I want to take this space in the next year, I'll be taking extra care to implement changes slowly and, hopefully, seamlessly. I love this space, but as much as I want to jump right back in full throttle, it's not smart...nor realistic.  So, bear with me, friends! I'll screw my head on straight again...someday. 

What's new in your world this week? Tell me all about it!

Jul 14, 2014

Starting Over

Every 3 years it's the same old song and dance. We pack up everything we own and move to a new city and a new Air Force base. The typical things happen...D starts a new job, we find a new place to live, we learn new neighborhoods, shop at new stores, and find new doctors, dentists, and hair stylists. But the one part of the moving process that never ever gets easier (and people tend to forget about)? Making new friends. It's my least favorite thing in the world to do. I know that's probably a loaded statement, but finding myself as a complete stranger (knowing absolutely no one) in a new place makes me feel 30 different kinds of weird and vulnerable. Starting from "friendship scratch" will forever be a daunting endeavor. 

D and I have never really had problems making friends. In fact, I think we're quite good at it. I've got the gift of gab and D is cool as a cucumber in almost every social situation. A dynamic duo, if you will. But even with glowing social skills and lots to talk about, we still find the tasks of finding friends, all the way to building friendships, something of a beast to tackle (at least in its beginning stages). Some may think it to be "old hat" to have to start over making new friends every few years, but we still get nervous, we still feel awkward, and we still hate breaking the ice (and not every friend we meet is a friend we necessarily want to keep...but that's another post for another day!). I think it's human nature to want to retreat into a hole whenever the thought of having to put yourself out there becomes something of necessity more than it is a luxury. Having friends and acquaintances outside of just your significant other, old friends, and family members is an integral part of adapting to a new place, in my opinion at least. I know for D and myself, it's one of the first things we try to do when moving to a new city or state...or foreign country, for that matter. Even though we know we have to do it, friend making can take a toll on me emotionally, sending my nerves into overdrive until that first friend meet-up is over and done with. After the first initial social ice-breaker, we build confidence and momentum in the whole process. The nerves dissipate a bit and we remember that building new relationships is also fun and exciting! It may take time, but we know it's worth it. Friendships are good for our minds, but essential for our hearts.

That's where we find ourselves just 3 weeks into our Florida relocation. Now that we've secured the house, the jobs (for D, at least), the familiarizing ourselves with our new surroundings...it's time to venture out and make ourselves some friends! Thankfully, D's new squadron is chock-full of new faces to meet. In fact, we've already broken the ice and had our first two social experiences here in the Sunshine State! Praise the Lord! We spent Saturday night mingling with 5 super sweet couples at a backyard BBQ and then had dinner last night with D's squadron sponsor and his lovely wife. It's interesting how both D and I can be so out of our minds with nervousness before these meet-ups, but after, so pumped and hopeful as we download our experiences at home with each other that night. So far, our friend-making attempts have been positive and far from scary. Granted, as the years pass by, we find ourselves more selective with who we build friendships with (you live and you learn, am I right?), but one thing remains the same...the need to find friends who build you up, are supportive through the tough times, and who are just plain 'ol fun to be around. I've got to say, it's so nice being back in the South! Southern sweetness abounds in this city! While the art of making friends is something I might never find easy, it's definitely an exciting and rewarding part of life. As the saying goes...

"Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other, gold!"

Is friend-making something that makes you nervous, too?
How do you cope with being a stranger in a new city?
Any tips or words of the wise for those of us navigating making new friendships? 
I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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