Taking a Look at Zenni Optical

I am an avid contacts wearer. I love the freedom and comfort they provide–especially while I’m working or driving. Even though I wear my contacts most of the time, I still need a pair of glasses for those days when my eyes need a break. I have always had a difficult time finding a pair of glasses that were both stylish and affordable. Then, my mom told me about Zenni.

Zenni Optical is an online company that sells prescription glasses. They offer a wide variety of style options, and their products are reasonably priced. Once I found a few frames that I liked, I was able to see a “3D” image of myself while wearing them. Although this method is not exactly the same as physically trying them on, it’s pretty convenient!

After making my selection, Justin also decided that he wanted to purchase a pair as well. Once we were ready to check out, we input our prescription information and chose our lenses. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to complete our order! This made us both a little weary…. What exactly were we buying?

Our glasses arrived after about two weeks. We were both excited and nervous to try on our new specs! I chose a style that I’ve never worn before; so, it definitely took me some time to adjust. The quality is decent, and my lenses work well. Justin thinks his frames are a bit too small for his face, but otherwise he enjoys his glasses.

Overall, I am happy with my purchase through Zenni. While customers may receive slightly better quality and “perfect” fitting glasses in person, I think this was the better option for my situation and budget. In addition, I also believe it’s worth mentioning that they have a pretty decent return/exchange policy. So, this company is worth a try in my opinion!

Our new glasses!

To Check or Not to Check Luggage

Each time we begin packing for a trip, Justin and I always have this question: do we check our luggage or carry-on?

While it seems like a simple decision to some, we usually struggle. When I was younger, I never thought twice about checking my bags. I didn’t want to lug around my huge suitcase anyway. After my first trip to Europe, my opinions drastically changed. During my layover and customs inspection, I waited so long for my bag to arrive that I almost missed my connection!

Looking at the big picture, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I lost my luggage or continued on without it. Obviously, the contents were just material items that could have been replaced; however, I would have been disappointed to lose some of those sentimental souvenirs.

For a few years after this instance, I didn’t want to gamble with my time or belongings. I started to bring my bags into the cabin. Even though this forced me to learn how to pack a lot lighter, carrying-on gave me peace of mind. In addition, it also saved me money. Most airlines have started charging additional fees for customers deciding to check their bags underneath the plane.

I will say that there are some challenges with cabin luggage as well. When we choose this option, we always stress about our boarding. We want to make sure there’s room for our belongings above our seats. We have been on several flights where bags have had to be checked last minute. When this happens to us, I always think that our suitcases are going to remain on the jet bridge.

We have also learned that sometimes it’s just not possible to carry-on. For example, during our trip to Iceland, we needed so many Winter clothing items and accessories. We just could not feasibly pack all of our puffy gear into such small suitcases–even though I REALLY tried! I knew this was the right decision, but I was still incredibly ambivalent. So, Justin placed a Tile locator in our bag. This eased a lot of my anxieties! We had a few tight connections, and we knew our luggage arrived with us each time. I also noticed during this trip that we didn’t have to wait long for our bags to drop onto the carousels. These airlines have definitely improved their processes!

Overall, I believe that this decision is different for every person and trip. I think if I had to choose, my preference would be to carry-on due to cost and ease of convenience; however, if I do decide to check, I will always utilize my Tile and bring a few essentials in my purse–just in case! Whatever I decide, I always make sure to have extra room for new clothes or souvenirs. For this reason, it’s imperative that I pack a collapsable backpack. You never know what you’ll find out there!

Do you prefer to check or carry-on?

Experience Review: The Drybar

Discovery

A few years ago, when Justin and I were walking along the Las Vegas Strip, I noticed a video advertisement for the Drybar. The digital billboard peaked my interest. I had never been to a blow-out bar before and thought this would be something fun to do before a date night or plans with friends. Even though I didn’t get a chance to try out the styling salon on our trip, I decided to look it up once we returned home. They had a location nearby us in Scottsdale, and Groupon was even offering a deal to try it out. So, I figured it was fate and made an appointment.

Experience

Once my appointment arrived, I waited in the seating area for my stylist. During this time, I enjoyed the signature scent of the salon and browsed through their “menu” of hair styles. All of their ‘dos and products have alcohol inspired names. I think it’s cute, considering the theme of the establishment. In addition, I like that the styles, for the most part, are the same price! Customers may choose to upgrade their experience with braids, updos, or extra massage time if desired.

Within a few minutes, my stylist brought me to her station and asked me how I wanted my hair to look. After our brief consultation, she guided me to the sinks and started washing my hair. This is probably the best part of the experience, because who doesn’t love a good massage!?

Once my hair was completely washed and conditioned, we returned to the stylist’s station to begin the blow-out process. Because my hair has experienced a lot of damage throughout the years, I very rarely blow dry it. This part can be a little rough if you are tender-headed or have super tangly hair like me. She completed the style by touching up my hair with a curling iron. Finally, she turned my chair around for the big reveal. My hair looked gorgeous and free of frizz, and I loved it!

Thoughts

Overall, my first experience at the Drybar was great. Even though I’m a crazy sleeper, my blow-out lasted for three days total! I will say that my hair required some dry shampoo and touch-ups by the last day. Nothing too crazy or time consuming, though. Work smarter, not harder…right?! I have gone back to the Drybar on multiple occasions, and I am never disappointed.

This company sells all of their products not only in the salons and online, but also at beauty stores such as Ulta and Sephora. I LOVE the Hot Toddy Heat Protectant Mist and The Wrap Party Curling Wand. That device is my go-to styling tool! On the other hand, I did not care for their 3-Day Bender Curling Iron. I couldn’t figure out how to use it right away and ended up damaging my hair in the process. My curls don’t last that well with this particular iron, either.

Overall, the Drybar is worth a visit at least once! It is a little pricey at $45 a visit; therefore, I only like to go for special occasions. If you prefer doing your own hair (or just don’t have a Drybar nearby), I would highly recommend trying out some of their products at your local beauty store. Seriously, they smell AMAZING.

Cosmo-Tai with a braid 🙂

What I Wish I Knew Before Traveling to Italy

As I’ve stated before, I like to do a ton of research on new destinations. I especially like to read articles regarding what other people learned on their trips; therefore, here is what I wish I would have known before our adventure to Italy.

First and foremost, I learned that it is possible to eat too much Italian food. Italian is one of my favorites, and I didn’t think I could ever be tired of it! We enjoyed the local cuisine, but we really needed a change of pace near the end of our stay. While exploring the area around the Vatican, we stumbled upon a great burger place. It was our favorite meal in Italy! Unfortunately, we ate there on a Friday during Lent… oops. On the other hand, I will say that there can never be too much gelato! The frozen treat totally surpassed my expectations, and I ate a lot of it.

I also wish I would have known how busy the Vatican Museum gets. Luckily, we booked early entry tickets. When we first arrived, the museum was pretty empty and enjoyable. After our first time through, I really wanted to see the Sistine Chapel again. So, we started to head in that direction. At this point, it was maybe a half an hour after the official opening time, and the museum was flooded with people. We could barely move! As Catholics, we were really looking forward to visiting; however, I think the craziness took away from our experience there.

In addition, I wish I had heard about the sales people lingering around the popular attractions. While it is common to see this practice in Europe, I felt that some were pretty assertive in Rome. We tried to politely decline their tours, selfie sticks, bracelets, etc, but a few of them made us feel a little uncomfortable.

We also learned on our trip that tourists have to pay city taxes each day. While the fees aren’t incredibly expensive, they are per traveler and can really add up. One night we had overlapping hotel reservations, and we had to pay for both cities.

We also discovered on our trip that Venice is incredibly walkable. As we were planning out our stay in the City of Canals, we purchased a pass that provided us transportation to and from the airport as well as unlimited water taxi rides. It was difficult to decipher walking paths from maps online; so, we weren’t sure what to expect. We only really needed the bus portion of our tickets, though.

Finally, I’d like to talk about our rental car. After we booked our trip, I was really having second thoughts about Justin driving in Italy. Most articles I read strongly discouraged tourists from renting cars. While the different language/culture required us to more observant, Justin didn’t think that driving was all that terrible. To be honest, we thought that the conditions were worse in Iceland. While we utilized the freeways to get to the majority of our destinations, we also tackled the dreaded Amalfi Coast drive. There were definitely some tight corners, but the roads were similar to those here in the mountains of AZ. I think it’s important to note that we decided not to drive in Rome. We kept our rental car at the hotel and used the MyTaxi App to get into the city center.

I guess we never really know what to expect of a new destination until we arrive! 🙂

Pick It or Skip It: Instax Camera

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a fondness for instant cameras. I still have a ton of classic Polaroids and iZone photos from my childhood. So, when companies started producing newer versions of these devices, I knew I had to have one.

A few years ago, I received a Fujifilm Instax Mini Camera for Christmas, and I was so excited about it. I couldn’t wait to take this camera with me on all of my adventures. I immediately started experimenting with the camera by taking photos of anything and everything!

From my 24th birthday a few years ago

Although I didn’t expect perfection, I discovered pretty quickly that the photo quality is not exactly fantastic. Even when fully developed, some photos appear dark and lackluster. In addition, the film is somewhat expensive. Each roll has 10 sheets (for 10 photos), and that doesn’t last very long. I would bring my camera along for friends’ birthdays or bachelorette parties, and everyone wanted a print to take home. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to share! I’m just saying that the cost adds up quickly.

The camera itself is also pretty bulky. For several trips I had difficulty packing it, and I never ended up utilizing it anyway. Now, I don’t bother bringing the device, because my phone takes better quality photos anyway.

While I really do love the camera, I don’t think I would purchase another. It’s just a little too inconvenient for me. However, Fujifilm now sells an Instax printer. With this product, users can send images from their cameras or phones to be printed with the same adorable boarder. Although I haven’t tried it for myself, this sounds like a better option in my opinion.

Have you used an instant camera recently? If so, what do you think?

Preserving Travel Memories

After I started traveling, I couldn’t decide what to do with all of my photos, ticket stubs, and momentos. Now, I have a few different ways that I like to document my travel experiences.

First, I have a scratch off world map on my bedroom wall. Each time I come home from a new destination, I love to scrape that top layer off! It’s exciting to see all the places I’ve been. I like to day dream about those that I still want to visit, too.

I also have a travel journal. I found this Mead notebook a few years ago while rummaging through Target. Inside, it has maps, sticker sheets, pockets for keepsakes, and various paper options for documenting memories. I love to use the stickers to mark everywhere I’ve traveled to. I also like to scrapbook a few of my favorite photos from each vacation.

For items that may be too big to place in my journal, I have a travel specific memory box. I found mine at Michael’s, and it was only $2! This box is so cute! I love that it keeps everything neat and organized on my bookshelf.

In addition, I also utilize Travel Listography. In this workbook, I can highlight all of my past adventures and think about those that I hope to have someday. This book is especially good for preserving memories I don’t have photos of. I also bought this at Target.

Finally, I like to buy purposeful souvenirs. For example, I found these adorable coasters decorated with cherry blossoms at one of the Smithsonian Museums. Now every time I enjoy an iced coffee, I think about our trip to Washington D.C. last February.

Is there anything special that you do to remember your vacations?

Beach Trip Packing List

Summer is quickly approaching, and a few friends have asked me what I bring for those trips to the beach. For this reason, I have listed my essentials below.

First and foremost, a good sunscreen is imperative for any summer trip. I have really sensitive skin; so, I like to use Avene Ultra-Light Hydrating Sunscreen. This is the only product that doesn’t give me acne afterwards. As for the rest of my skin, I like to use the Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion. While it’s easy to grab the spray, I feel like the lotion provides much better coverage. Don’t forget to reapply, though.

In addition to sunscreen, proper attire is also important to a successful summer trip. I always pack 2-3 swim suit options, a few cover-ups, a baseball cap, and cheap Old Navy flip-flops for the pool/beach. I also like to bring a couple of sundresses, a cardigan, and nicer sandals or wedges for night time. Other clothing items that I have with me include: shorts, flowy tops, a pair of jeans, and sneakers for activities.

Finally, if there’s room in my suitcase, I like to have a few additional accessories on my packing list. For my seaside vacations, I like to take a beach bag and possibly some water toys. While most resorts will offer a towel service, I sometimes pack my own or a small blanket just in case. One of my favorite “extras” to pack, though, is my dry bag. I like to use this water-resistant pouch to contain any wet items for the trek back home. It’s so nice to not worry about my luggage getting damp!

Summer 2019 is almost here, and hopefully you are going somewhere exciting. 🙂

Weekend Trip Ideas

Weekend trips are a great way to travel without having to take vacation time. With my work schedule, I can block my days so that I don’t always have to use my hard-earned PTO; however, Justin’s schedule is a little different. To maximize our time away and minimize his time off of work, we like to plan trips over the weekends. Holiday weekends–especially those over the summer–are usually peak travel times. This means more tourists and higher prices. So, to avoid crowds and save money, we usually decide to plan our own long weekends away.

Here are a just a few weekend trips that we have taken recently.

Las Vegas

Justin, myself, my brother, and my sister-in-law trying out a restaurant in Vegas!

Las Vegas is one of our favorite places to go for a weekend trip. The drive is only about five hours for us. We love to walk the strip and try new restaurants. Even though I’ve been a few times, I feel like there is always something new that I want to do while I’m there. Some ideas for activities include: The High Roller, The Neon Boneyard Museum, one of their many shows, The Fremont Street Experience, zip-lining, and so forth! While it’s a little pricier, my favorite place to stay is the Encore at the Wynn. I highly recommend it.

San Francisco

San Fran is an hour and a half flight from the valley. There are a lot of sights to see, including The Painted Ladies, Lombard Street, and The Golden Gate Bridge. We loved riding the trolley to the shopping district. I will say that the hills here are NO JOKE. We stayed at the Marriott Marquis during our visit, and we really enjoyed it.

Los Angeles

We love going to LA! It takes about six hours to drive from the valley, but the traffic there is brutal. So, if we can find a good deal, I prefer to fly. Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and the Santa Monica Pier are just a few of the great attractions in the area. My favorite activity, though, is definitely to visit DISNEYLAND! I am always down for a trip to The Happiest Place on Earth!

Sedona

Sedona is such a beautiful city. It’s about a three hour drive from Phoenix. Sedona is a nice place to relax and enjoy some cooler weather. When Justin and I go, we like to hike and watch the sunsets. In the past, I did one of their famous Jeep Tours with a few of my friends. It was fun and scary all at the same time! Overall, I definitely think the city of red rocks is worth visiting at least once.

San Diego

View from our room at the Hilton Bayfront!

Lastly, San Diego is also a great weekend destination for us in AZ. It is only a six hour drive from the Phoenix area. I love that there is so much to do there! We like to visit to Coronado Island or Mission Beach during the summer. Last year, we went to a Padres game for the first time. The stadium was really nice! We stayed at the Hilton Bayfront during our trip. The hotel was nice and close to everything we wanted to do.

Group vs Independent Travel

Lately I’ve been seeing travel advertisements plastered all over the Internet. Several of these agencies provide “guided group tours.” This means that the company will arrange major transportation, accommodations, and events at each destination. Customers can go alone or with friends/family; however, there will most likely be others traveling along in the group as well.

Although it may seem challenging, “independent” travel is always an alternative option. With these vacations, a person–or even a group–can explore the destination without a tour guide or “required” scheduled activities.

I have done both types of trips. I thought this would be a great opportunity to share my perspectives on each of them.

My Experiences with Group Travel

When I was younger, group travel worked well for me. I didn’t know anything about planning an international trip. It all seemed so overwhelming. Booking with these companies is so simple. I basically just showed up for an amazing experience abroad! I also ended up seeing places that I would not have originally planned for myself.

My first trip to Europe with a tour!

When choosing to go on one of these tours, customers are signing up to an adventure with strangers. This is a gamble. On one trip, I met amazing people and created close friendships. On another, my companions barely spoke to me. Luckily, I have always traveled with at least one friend. So, others never really put a damper on my personal experiences. However, I don’t know if I could say the same for those who come to the trip alone.

On every tour, a guide leads the group though the itinerary. This person can definitely make or break the vacation. They provide insight into the culture and history of each destination. They are also utilized as resources for restaurant recommendations or free time activities. A personable leader is imperative. On the other hand, a mediocre guide can really affect the trip’s dynamic.

Although the guide will not hold up the entire cohort for tardiness, I feel like there is still a lot of waiting with this type of experience. For example, at the beginning of one trip, we sat in the hotel lobby for hours as the others in our group continued to trickle in. This was brutal after a long flight.

My Experiences with Independent Travel

Justin and I have always explored on our own. Even though it requires extra efforts researching and booking activities, I really think it’s worth the work!

First, it is usually much cheaper for us to travel independently. With discount travel sites, we have discovered some great deals. I recently compared prices on a trip we took. I found that we paid HALF as much as the group rate for the same itinerary! So crazy.

In addition, I love the flexibility of independent travel. We have the freedom to explore at our own pace. If desired, we can choose to find a tour guide for certain events or places. On the other hand, we can skip activities without feeling like we’re wasting money or missing out.

My recent trip to Europe with Justin!

Final Thoughts

Overall, while the convenience of group travel is enticing, I think that traveling independently is a much better experience for us. By doing the work, we can use the money saved for extra excursions or even another trip entirely. I feel like we can see more of the world this way! In addition, with the influx of travel sites and blogs, online planning is so simple these days. For these reasons, I definitely don’t believe that a guide is necessary for an amazing and unforgettable vacation.

Have you ever gone on a group trip? If so, what do you think about them?

Disneyland Maxpass Review

When Justin booked our Disneyland tickets a few years ago, he discovered an upgrade option for the Maxpass. I hadn’t heard of Disney’s Maxpass before, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; however, it was only 10 extra dollars per person each day, so we figured it was worth a try.

I LOVE Disneyland, but I do not care for large crowds or lines. I mean, who does? Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that the amusement park is going to be at least somewhat busy, if not packed during peak seasons. For as long as I can remember, the Happiest Place on Earth has offered guests their FASTPASS service to help alleviate these long wait times.

Every guest has the ability to obtain a FASTPASS with a valid park ticket. Guests have to place their admission tickets in the ride’s kiosk and return to the attraction at the scheduled time. This reservation service is great for those rides with exuberant lines, because FASTPASS guests basically walk right on! While utilizing this amenity requires some strategic planning (and maybe some running), it’s totally worth it!

From my perspective, Disneyland’s Maxpass is an extension to this original park perk. When we purchased the Maxpass, we were able to view current wait times and book our FASTPASS selections from the Disneyland app on our phones. This is so incredibly convenient! In addition, the app allowed us to schedule multiple–up to 3 I believe?–reservations at once. We mapped out our day during the few times we waited in line. With this upgrade, we were also able to download all of our ride and park photos. No more horrible screen shots!

Taken by a photographer at California Adventure. I downloaded it with the Maxpass!

Unfortunately, only a select number of attractions provide the FASTPASS service. For this reason, there are rides, such as Peter Pan, that will probably have long wait times throughout the day. In addition, FASTPASS offerings are NOT guaranteed. This means that reservations may fill up quickly! I also believe that the price of the Maxpass has increased to 15 dollars now. While that amount doesn’t seem like a whole lot, every cost adds up quickly at Disney. Despite these disadvantages, I still truly love the Maxpass. During our last two visits, we arrived right at opening and were able to ride everything we wanted by lunch time.

Now that I have used the Maxpass at Disneyland and California Adventure, I don’t think that I can go back standing in line for hours. This service has immensely enhanced our experiences! I’m already saving for our next visit!