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My Favorite Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier

Let it be known: I traveled A LOT in 2017. From our EuroTrip in February and March, to regular flights to and from Boston for wedding planning, and then our honeymoon in Greece, I’ve spent a lot of time on planes, in hotels, packing and repacking. I’ve always been an over-packer. I’m that person who packs the new-with-tags top that’s been sitting in my closet for three months, thinking that maybe I’ll just happen to wear it on my upcoming trip (guess what? I never do!). By the end of a trip I’ll usually stare at my suitcase and kick myself for bringing way too much stuff. However, because we traveled so much over the course of the last year I’ve gotten MUCH better at packing. I can attribute a lot of that improvement to the packing essentials I’ve found that really make traveling easier. Because these items have helped me so much, I decided to do a roundup of my favorites to share with you. Hopefully you find something new that helps you for an upcoming trip!


Samsonite Softside Spinner Suitcase

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Travis and I each got one of these suitcases to use as our checked baggage before our Eurotrip earlier this year. These Samsonite bags are extremely lightweight and the four wheels at the bottom allow you to cruise through the airport easily. They’re very roomy without looking massive, and they fit our packing cubes (mentioned below) perfectly. Pro tip: you can usually find similar Samsonite luggage at TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Ross for even less than you’d find on Amazon!


Longchamp Expandable Bag

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I’ve always loved Longchamp tote bags. I used one in college to carry my books and have another that I use as a beach bag. About five years ago my mom gifted me with a black expandable Longchamp bag that I’ve used basically every day since. It’s a great multipurpose tote because it expands into an even larger size that’s great for traveling when you’re carrying bulkier items such as a laptop and neck pillow. I always use this expandable tote as my “hand baggage” that goes under the seat on the plane. These bags are so durable — I’ve given mine a pretty good beating over the last five years, and it’s still going strong!


Bag Bungee

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I use the Bag Bungee to attach my Longchamp (or other carry-on bag) to the top of my rolling suitcase when I’m walking long distances through a city or airport. It’s very secure and it allows you to keep extra weight off your back or shoulders while you’re traveling.


Bagail Packing Cubes

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Packing Cubes, where have you been all my life!? I first read about packing cubes when we were preparing for our trip to Europe earlier in the year. I’ll admit, at first I didn’t get the hype. I thought: So what, you put your clothes in cubes? What’s the big deal?

Well packing cubes have completely changed the way I pack. I use each cube for a different “category” of clothing. One cube is for pants, one is for tops, another for sweaters, and another for miscellaneous items. The cubes basically act as dresser drawers, so if you’re looking for one pair of pants, all you have to do is take out that specific cube and the rest of your items stay folded and organized in your suitcase. Packing cubes really help if you’re traveling from city to city because you won’t waste time unpacking and repacking your suitcase.


Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

There are so many germs on planes, and being stuck close together with other passengers for long hours is one of the easiest ways to get sick. I recently started bringing antibacterial wipes in my carry-on bag, and I wipe down everything around me as soon as I sit down. Knowing that my armrest, TV screen, tray table, and headrest are clean makes me rest a lot easier, and ever since I started this I haven’t gotten sick after a flight.


Protein-Packed Snacks

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

The food on long haul international flights can often leave much to be desired, so I try to pack healthy protein-packed snacks whenever we travel. Some of my favorite travel snacks include Chef’s Cut Chicken Jerky and RX Peanut Butter Bars because both have lots of protein to keep you going for a couple of hours. If I’m able to, I like to pack us turkey and avocado sandwiches on whole wheat bread for cross-country flights since most airlines do not serve any complimentary food anymore. Having healthy snacks as a backup saves me from getting hangry, and then I’m less likely to reach for an unhealthy food option.


Bobble Water Bottle

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I’ve talked about my love for Bobble water bottles a bunch before, but if you’re new around here, the reason I love this water bottle is because it filters the water as you drink it. Think of it as a Brita filter in your water bottle. I drink water like a fish, so I love having my Bobble with me to fill up in any sink or water fountain.


Cabeau Neck Pillow

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I’ve tried a lot of neck pillows and this one is by far my favorite. It’s made from thick memory foam and the pillow has an extra raised layer that offers just the right amount of support for your head and neck. It’s the first neck pillow that’s allowed me to sleep for more than one hour at a time on a plane. Travis and I both have these pillows and we’ve even purchased them as gifts for others because we love them so much.


Microfiber Travel Towels

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I bought these towels when we went to Israel in the spring of 2016 because the trip required that we bring our own towels for swimming and other activities. I knew we’d constantly be on the go throughout our ten days there, and I hated the idea of packing a large, wet towel in my suitcase and having to reuse it (hello mildew!).

Welcome the travel towel! This particular brand comes with a set of two towels: one large bath/beach towel and another small hand towel. Here’s why I love these towels: They’re very thin, yet incredibly absorbent. They take up as much room in your suitcase as a t-shirt, making them easy to pack even in a small carry-on. The best part about these towels is how fast they dry. They’re basically completely dry within an hour or so from using them, which would be next to impossible for a regular cotton towel.


Tide Travel Sink Packets

Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

These Tide Travel Sink Packets are a fairly new discovery, and I used them often throughout our honeymoon in Greece when we didn’t have access to a washing machine. These packets are great for hand washing delicate garments in the sink or when you just need to clean a couple of items during your trip.



Packing Essentials That Make Traveling Easier ll www.littlechefbigappetite.com

There is no question that traveling long distances, especially through different climates and time zones, is an easy way to get sick. I always like to be as prepared as possible and pack a variety of medications and first-aid items in my suitcase. Most often this includes: Vitamin C capsules, NyQuil, Advil (or other Ibuprofen), anti-diarrhea and laxatives (just keepin’ it real, you never know!), Tums, Benadryl, cough drops, blister bandaids, and Neosporin.  Some people might think that this is a waste of space in your suitcase; however, if you’re traveling in a different country and not feeling great, the last thing you’ll want to do is have to look for a pharmacy and decipher medication labels in a different language. Trust me, it isn’t fun!


Disclosure: I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite packing essentials. While none of these items are sponsored, this post does include some affiliate links, which means if you buy one of these products I may earn a tiny commission. As always, thank you for your support!

Loving Lately

What I’m Loving Lately — July 2017

Hey, hey! Hope you all had a great weekend. Travis was in Montreal for his bachelor party, so Bessie and I were holding down the fort over here, and I spent a lot of the time catching up on final wedding-related tasks. I can’t believe we are only one month away, ahhh!

So here I am on the last day of July ready to share my monthly list of What I’m Loving Lately. Let’s get going, shall we?


All Clad Stainless Steel Non-Stick 12 inch Fry Pan

All Clad Stainless Steel Non-Stick 12 Inch Fry Pan -- What I'm Loving Lately July 2017 -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

We recently received this new All Clad Non-Stick 12-inch pan from our wedding registry and we’ve used it every single day since receiving it. It’s perfect for our breakfast eggs and protein pancakes, and you barely need to use any oil to coat the pan! It’s also great for cooking delicate fish that usually would stick to a regular pan.

We already owned a couple of different All Clad pans, but they are not non-stick. I swear by this brand, I cannot stress enough how important it is to use good quality pots and pans. All Clad pans are definitely worth the investment because they cook more evenly and last forever! 


Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Food Containers

Rubbermaid 42-Piece Food Storage Containers -- What I'm Loving Lately July 2017 -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

I recently decided to get rid of all of my old tupperware and invest in new containers. My previous batch was a mismatched collection of hand-me-downs from my mom (circa 1996??) that had really seen better days. I tossed the old stuff and purchased this new 42-piece set of Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids Food Containers. and I LOVE them so far. I’m sure you know the horror of digging through your tupperware drawer, trying to find the matching lid and never finding it. With this set, there are only 3 different lid sizes and they each match a variety of containers. The lids also snap together so they stay organized in your drawer. I also love that these containers are BPA-free and made in the USA. And they get major bonus points for making my fridge look super organized and Pinterest-like.


Trader Joe’s Spanish Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Spray

Trader Joe's Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray -- What I'm Loving Lately July 2017 -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Ever since I took the Pinnertest and discovered that I am highly intolerant to soy, I’ve noticed soy in just about everything. Most cooking sprays use soy lecithin as an emulsifier, so I’ve been on the lookout for a cooking spray without it. A friend recommended this Trader Joe’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Spray, and I love it! Most of the time olive oil emits a light flavor on the food it’s cooked with, but I use this to cook my protein pancakes in the morning, and I don’t taste the olive oil at all. And if we’re getting reaaaaaaally technical here, I love the sleek design of the bottle because it’s not too clunky in my small hands.


Travel Packing Cubes

Bagail Packing Cubes -- What I'm Loving Lately July 2017 -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

When Travis and I were planning our Europe trip earlier this year, I did a lot of research regarding what to pack. Everyone on the internet seemed to rave about packing cubes to save space in your suitcase and keep your clothes organized. At first I didn’t understand, how could a simple cube help me that much?

Well let me tell you, these things are a major game-changer. When we were in Europe, Travis and I each had a set (in different colors so we didn’t get confused), and we used the different sized bags for different items: pants, sweaters, shirts, misc. items., etc. Since we were traveling to seven different cities throughout the course of our trip, these packing cubes basically acted as our drawers. If we needed to get to just one shirt, we didn’t have to dig through our entire suitcase to find it. All we had to do was take out the appropriate cube, find the shirt, zip the cube back up and plop it in the suitcase. Everything stays organized. It also made packing and unpacking at each location so much easier.

Since returning from Europe, Travis and I have continued to use these cubes for our shorter trips and we both love them. We have these ones, and they appear to be out of stock on Amazon, but I think these ones look very similar.


Bone Dry Pet Food and Water Mat

Bone Dry Pet Mat -- What I'm Loving Lately July 2017 -- www.littlechefbigappetite.com

Bessie is a very messy eater. Although she is sweet and dainty in most other ways, when it comes to eating she dives right in (yup, like an animal) and somehow manages to get her food everywhere. I found this pet food mat at Home Goods and immediately scooped it up because it matched the colors in our apartment and it’s machine washable.

After just a couple of days I liked it so much that I bought another one on Amazon (it’s only $8!), so I have a backup when the other one is in the wash. We always pack one of these mats with Bessie’s food and bowls when she goes to a dog sitter. The mats come in a variety of colors and two different sizes, small and large, depending on the size of your dog. I have the small mat and it takes up no room in the washing machine. I highly recommend it for your pet!


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International Travel USA Travel

How I Stay Healthy on Vacation

Hi people! I am leaving for vacation in England TODAY! Woohoo, I can’t wait! We booked this trip months ago and I am thrilled that it is finally here.

Before I leave, I wanted to share how I stay healthy on vacation. Personally, I hate reading vacation health tips that encourage you to run at least 3 miles a day or order customized meals of steamed veggies and grilled chicken at every restaurant you go to. I believe you should let loose a little bit on vacation! Heck, if we aim to be our healthiest selves the rest of the year, we deserve a little break once in awhile, am I right?

When I am on vacation, I aim to find a balance. I exercise when I can, eat healthy when I can, but definitely indulge and lounge around when I want to. My point it, you shouldn’t be spending your entire vacation thinking, “Is this healthy?” because that’s no fun!

Alright, without further ado, here are my tips!


1. Exercise before your trip.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

Whether you’re flying or driving to your destination, I highly recommend squeezing in a quick workout before you leave. When on a plane or in a car, you end up sitting in the same position for hours on end. No fun! If you can swing it, get in an early morning workout before your trip. Your body will thank you before you cram it into a teeny-tiny airplane seat.


2. Pack healthy snacks.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

Whenever I go on trips, I always pack my own snacks. I wrote this post last summer about some of my favorite healthy travel snacks. I never rely on airport or rest stop food because it’s typically unhealthy and way overpriced. A few months ago I saw a small Chobani yogurt priced at $4 at LAX, and needless to say, I was horrified.

Before we get to England, we have multiple stops and some long stretches of time on the plane. So to make sure neither Travis or I gets too hangry, I packed a boat load of snacks. Coming with us: Homemade turkey sandwiches for lunch on the first leg of the trip, Krave Jerky, Blue Diamond AlmondsKind Bars, Trail Mix, and organic apples.

Bet you wish you were sitting next to me on the plane, dontchya?


3. Bring a water bottle.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

I don’t go anywhere without a water bottle. In particular, I love my Bobble, because it filters the water as you drink. I never have to worry about filling up my bottle from a random water fountain or airport faucet.

I recommend bringing an empty water bottle with you through security at the airport and filling it up at a fountain near your gate. That way you’ll have water for your flight and a bottle to carry around with you during your trip.


4. Pack those sneakers! Exercise when you can.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

I always pack a pair of sneakers and at least one set of workout clothes with me while I am on vacation. Check to see if your hotel has a gym. If not, there are loads of equipment-free workouts you can find online. I love the Nike Training Club App.  If that’s not your thing, go for a run or a long walk. You’re in a new city for darn sakes – go explore it! You’d be amazed how many calories you can burn by just walking all day. Get your body moving for even just a small amount of time – it’s better than nothing!

One more tip – make sure to workout in the MORNING before sightseeing or laying on the beach. That way, you’ll get it out of the way and won’t think about it all day long.


5. Plan your special meals.

Tips to Stay Healthy While on Vacation

One of my favorite parts of going to a new city is researching restaurants I want to try. While I love a good indulgence, you guys know that I really do ENJOY eating healthy meals. So before my trip, I create a list of restaurants that includes both healthy fare as well as “treat” meals. Remember, balance is key. Enjoy your burger and fries guilt-free, but don’t let the rest of your day consist of pastries, pizza, ice cream, etc. All of that food will just make you feel like crap.

I want to really emphasize that it’s okay to eat “off-plan” or steer away from a super clean diet when you’re on vacation. If you stress yourself out about it, you’re not going to enjoy yourself.


I’d love to know how you guys stay healthy while on vacation. Do you do anything I didn’t include in this post? Let me know in the comments below!


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USA Travel

Weekend in Chicago

I took lots of iPhone photos in Chicago. I was debating whether or not to bring my DSLR camera, and in the end I am glad I left it at home. With all of the rain we experienced, I would have hated lugging it around in addition to my raincoat and umbrella.

So instead of recipe photos, today I bring you a hodgepodge of iPhone pictures from last weekend in Chicago. As you can see, because of the rain, we mainly spent our entire trip eating…

Our first meal of the trip was Thursday night at Nico Osteria. The General Manager was the first person to stop by our table, and after telling him that we had no idea what to order (everything looked SO good!), he suggested letting him order for our table of four. It was the best decision and we felt like we got the royal treatment that night.

Nico Osteria

All of the seafood and pasta dishes were UNREAL, but what really stole the show for me was the complimentary dessert, brought to us by our (amazing!) server at the end of the meal. This cake was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was rich and indulgent, and I savored every single bite. I was glad we got to try it, because the server said they were removing it from the menu that week (they change their menus almost daily).

Nico OSteria

On Friday it rained and rained and rained, which was a bummer because we were hoping to spend the day outside.

Instead, we decided to find a great place to eat! Nearly everyone we asked for restaurant advice told us to go to Au Cheval for a burger. We arrived around 11:30AM on Friday, not having eaten breakfast yet and there was already a one hour wait. So while we waited for our table, Travis and I walked to Whole Foods down the street for a quick snack. By the time we were finished, our table was ready!

Au Cheval

We decided to split a burger, and man am I glad we did! Look at the size of this thing! Pro tip: get the fried egg on top – it’s heavenly.

Au Cheval

We were thrilled when the sky finally cleared up a bit on late Friday afternoon. It was the perfect opportunity snap a few photos of Chicago’s amazing skyline.


Friday night we went to Siena Tavern and our group of 5 decided to split eight or so dishes amongst the table. That’s my favorite way to order because I get to try lots of different menu items that way.

I honestly loved everything we tried. One of my favorite dishes was this halibut. (Yay for more dark restaurant photos!)

Siena Tavern

Siena Tavern

Saturday afternoon our group took a long walk throughout the city and along the lake. It was a very foggy day, but we were just happy that it wasn’t raining!



We also made an obligatory stop at Lou Malnati’s for a slice of their famous deep dish pizza. This was my second time having Lou’s and man, is it dense! Deep-dish lovers are going to hate me for saying this, but I honestly prefer crispy thin-crust pizza. Maybe it’s because I can eat more slices? #givemeallthefood

Lou Malnatis

Sunday, Travis and I had a few hours to spare before we had to head to the airport. Eataly Chicago was right down the street from where we were staying, so we had to stop in. We’d been to the Eataly in NYC and it was food heaven for both of us. I just can’t wait for Eataly in LA!


At the airport Travis and I stopped at Potbelly’s to grab some food for our flight. It always seems like EVERYONE flying out of Chicago Midway also stops here. The line is always out the restaurant. It’s fair because it really doesn’t compare to typical airport food. We decided to split a big sandwich and salad and nearly inhaled them at our gate before our flight.


We had the perfect food-filled weekend in Chicago, but we were excited to get home to Bessie and sleep in our own bed that night.


Have you been to any of the restaurants I visited? Do you prefer deep-dish or thin-crust pizza?

Life Lately

A Big Surprise

Weeks of planning finally led up to this weekend’s big surprise. With the help of my mom and brother, I flew home to Boston from Los Angeles on Friday to surprise my dad. My dad is the master of surprises and he loves nothing more than when our whole family is together, so it was great to be able to turn the tables and surprise him for once.


I took a red eye from LA on Thursday night and landed in Boston very early Friday morning. My mom picked me up from the airport and drove me into the city where we had plans to surprise my dad. His coworker was in on our surprise, which was very helpful because we never would have known his schedule or whereabouts without her assistance.

My dad was scheduled to be in a meeting for a little while, so my mom took me to my beloved Dunkin’ Donuts to grab a small bite to eat. After not sleeping well on my flight, this large coffee was very needed.

Dunkin Donuts

When we received a text message from my dad’s coworker that his meeting was wrapping up, we hurried over to the building, rode the elevator up to correct floor and snuck up behind my dad.

He was stunned! He said he had no suspicions about my visit, which meant our stealthy planning was a big success. After lots of hugs and laughter, my dad (unfortunately) had to go back to work for the day and my mom drove me home.


Boston readers, I feel for you. There is SO. MUCH. SNOW.


The picture above was from the day I arrived. We had more snow over the course of my visit that now you can’t even see those patio table and chairs!

More snow

Because of the weather, a majority of the weekend was spent inside by the fire trying to stay warm. I loved eating lots of cold-weather foods such as this root vegetable gratin and balsamic-glazed turkey meatloaf.


I was so happy I got to see my BFF, Amanda, for brunch at one of my favorite local breakfast spots, Johnny’s. Leaving Amanda always makes me so sad. If we lived in the same city, I know we would be attached at the hip.


I also got to spend some time with two of my favorite four-legged friends.

Diesel, my parents’ yorkie-poo…


…and Cooper, my brother and sister-in-law’s black lab.


My flight back to LA was cancelled because of all the snow, so I got to spend an extra two days at home with everyone. Many people were probably frustrated with the cancellations, but I didn’t mind because two days (the original duration of my trip) would have been way too short!

We were seriously snowed in. Even after you plow the snow, there is no where to put it! Oy.

More Snow

I finally flew back to Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

Boston Logan

After even more flight delays (waaah!) I was thrilled to see Travis AND Bessie in the car to pick me up from LAX. Bessie was so excited to see me, her tail didn’t stop wagging the whole way home. The 70+ degree weather when I landed was also a very welcome surprise!


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USA Travel

Hawaii Vacation Part I

We had the most incredible Hawaii vacation and I am so excited to share it with you guys!


We set off bright and early on Monday morning. I was hoping to sleep on the plane, but I was so darn excited that it was impossible. After a five and a half hour flight I was more than ready to get off the plane. I was very pleased when I realized the Maui airport is actually quite small because I was able to get my checked back in under five minutes from stepping of the plane! I am pretty sure that is record for me.

Before we knew it, we were in our rental car on the way to our hotel!


It was fairly cloudy out by the time we landed, but I still thought the scenery was beautiful.


Travis and I did a ton of research before our trip. Hawaii has always been on the top of my list of vacation destinations, but I’ve always been put off by the steep prices on all the islands. A few months ago we saw a hotel and flight deal for the Andaz at Wailea, a new beautiful hotel, we knew we couldn’t pass it up. The Andaz opened last September and all of the reviews we read raved about the beautiful property and impeccable service. We spent so much time researching because we wanted to prioritize what we were going to spend our money on.

When we pulled up to the Andaz entrance, we were greeted by friendly valets who took our car and bags and handed us each a beautiful lei. I received the tuberose lei and they gave Travis the traditional Kukui nut lei. Unfortunately, I forgot to take close-up pictures of them! When we entered the lobby, we were met by one of the lovely staff members, who sat us down on a large couch overlooking the pools and checked-in on an ipad (I think that was a first for me!). They also gave us warm hand towels and fresh lavender lemonade – I felt like royalty!


Next, we were taken to our room and I loved how bright and beachy it was! The room looked out onto the property’s gardens and we had our own private balcony where I sat every morning to enjoy my coffee and read.



After we dropped our bags in the room, we were more than ready for some lunch, so we set out to explore the hotel and find something to eat.


You can almost see our leis in the above picture.  Please note Travis’ “I am so excited to eat” dance!


We decided to stop at Bumbye Beach Bar, which was next to one of the hotel pools. I ordered a glass of pinot grigio and Travis ordered a local Maui beer to kick off our vacation. For lunch we ordered the chicken “popsicles” and a grilled chicken kale salad to share.

IMG_1586Some hotel food can be overpriced and lack imagination, but everything we ordered so fresh was delicious! I knew that was a good sign that the rest of the food throughout the hotel would be delicious as well.

After lunch we decided to take a stroll on the beach. The wind and waves were crazy, so there was barely anyone left laying out by the ocean.


After our walk, we went back to the room to rest for awhile until dinner. We had reservations at Ka’ana Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant at the Andaz. Before dinner, we freshened up and went downstairs to grab a cocktail and watch the live entertainment they have by one of the pools every evening. The performer sounded so much like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, a Hawaiian singer whose music I’ve always loved. It felt so peaceful listening to him as we enjoyed our drinks.


Our meal at Ka’ana Kitchen was incredible. I was enjoying it so much that I forgot to snap some photos. I did, however, make sure to capture the gorgeous sunset we watched during our meal. Look at these colors! I took pictures of the sunsets every night during our vacation because I just thought each night was more beautiful than the one before it.


After dinner, we were wiped from a long day of travel and the three hour time difference, so we passed out pretty early. I was so eager to wake up for our first full day on the island!

Hawaii Part II recap to come later this week…


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