Monday, April 27, 2015

Making a Plan: 6 Things You Should Do Before Your Next Trip

We’re making a list and checking it twice! We know you’re so excited for your trip tomorrow that you can hardly wait - but hold on just one minute. If you want to make the most of your vacation, then make sure you’re prepared by reviewing the following tips.

Charge Devices

Seriously? You just got to the airport and your phone is flashing low battery. I don’t care who you are, that’s enough to ruin anyone’s day. Of course, there are plenty of charging ports that can be found in airports but the goal is to start your trip off on the right foot. For that reason, make sure that everything you have is fully charged before heading out the door. That includes phones, computers, tablets, etc.

On top of that – make sure that you grab your chargers. I have definitely made it to my destination and had that sinking feeling of remembering my charger was still at home, plugged in next to my nightstand. Fortunately, many hotels have spare chargers at the front desk. All you need to do is ask!

If traveling abroad, also make sure that you’ve brought the proper adapters for your chargers. This reminds me of the movie Just Married when the couple tries to plug in something without the proper adapter and fries the entire electrical system of the hotel. Not sure if this is possible or just a funny Hollywood moment – but either way – better safe than sorry.

Get Cash

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like carrying large amounts of cash. What if I get robbed or something? That’s not to say, however, that you shouldn’t carry some cash at all times. Especially when traveling, you never know when you’ll find an ATM or where accepts what forms of payment. Carry small bills for food, cab rides, tips, and more.

Stock up on Entertainment

As much as I love spending $20 on a book from the airport bookstore, there are better options. Download anything you might need ahead of time, and make sure it’s available offline – just in case there’s no Wi-Fi available. Consider downloading a book series you’ve been wanting to read, the latest issue of a fun magazine, or a few episodes of your favorite show. There’s no better time to find out how Ted Moesby really met his kid’s mother than when you’re flying thousands of feet high in the sky.

Confirm and Check In
Depending on the airline, you can check in for your flight up to 24 hours beforehand. With Southwest, the sooner you check in, the sooner you get to board the plane – and therefore, the better your seat will probably be. Checking the details ahead of time also helps to prevent any confusion – like showing up for your flight at 6:55 AM instead of 6:55 PM. Have your ticket either ready to go on your phone or printed out and you’ll speed up your experience at the airport substantially.

After you’ve checked in for your flight, you should definitely check your hotel confirmation. There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up after a long day of travel and the hotel clerk not being able to find your reservation. Plus, if you give them a call, you can ask about any possible upgrades for the same price. Can’t beat that!

Take Care of Bills

In life, you should always expect the unexpected. Have a bill due the day after you get back? What if your flight gets delayed and you don’t make it home in time? I’m one of those people who waits until the day a bill is due – only to realize it won’t post for a couple days and will now be late. Don’t be that person! Pay your bills before leaving on your vacation or set up bill pay. In this day and age, your really have no excuse for not making this happen on time.

Check the Weather and Pack Accordingly

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take a cruise to Mexico. The ship left from Long Beach, California and I figured I was fine with summer attire. It was November – not my smartest assumption. All I packed was one light sweater and one pair of jeans – the rest was sundresses and sandals. Needless to say, I spend the first few days and the last few days freezing. That being said – always check the weather of your destination and pack accordingly! I am a true believer in that less is more, and I think you can pack accordingly without over doing it. There are a number of resources out there that can help you pack perfectly for your vacation.

Chance of rain? Don’t forget to pack that Rite in the Rain waterproof notebook! With your journal and these helpful tips – you should be well on your way to an enjoyable vacation. Bon voyage!      

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bird Watching Tips for Beginners

What sparked your interest in birds? Are they something that has fascinated you since you were young or are they a newfound interest? Bird watching can be a truly great way to pass the time and doesn’t require a ton of time or effort. Here are a few simple things you should have to get started:

Field guide. Think of your field guide as your bird encyclopedia. This will be your new best friend and provide all of the information you need to know - names, coloring, size, feeding habits, habitat, etc. According to, some of the best field guides are Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds, Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds and Peterson First Guides: Birds. The latter is a great option for beginners and provides descriptions for 188 variations of birds. This is perfect because it’s not too overwhelming for someone just starting out. Digital guides are also available which are great because they include sounds, videos and more.

Bird watching journal. With your field guide as your reference manual think of your bird watching journal as your diary. Use this item to record your observations and include the date, time and location. Please, forget technology - just for a moment. Your phone is great, your iPad is handy, but a Rite in the Rain notebook is going to be the best thing for the job. Study the bird and memorize its size, colors, markings, sounds, etc. Make sure you jot down your observations quickly and efficiently – you don’t want to miss anything important!

A pair of binoculars. Think you can see that bird perfectly because you have 20/20 vision? Perhaps you feel you’re set with your $25 pair of binoculars. Think again! The right pair of binoculars can make a world of difference in the bird watching world. People really serious about the hobby might invest upwards of $1500 but that’s not necessary for someone just starting out. We suggest that you find a good, affordable pair of binoculars in a price range that you can afford. There are plenty of resources out there that can help you make the right choice.

An attractive yard. You can certainly go after the birds – or you can bring the birds to you! What better place to do a little bird watching than the comfort of your own home? Hang up a bird feeder and plant some fresh flowers. Do a little research on what attracts the kind of birds you want to see. But also, be realistic. Know what kind of birds are common in your area and work to attract those creatures. Honestly, a little bird seed can go a long way in attracting your feathered friends.
What now? You’ve got a field guide, bird watching journal, a nice pair of binoculars, and a beautiful bird-attracting backyard. Where do you go from here? Consider joining a bird watching group or going on a tour! Here in Coeur d’Alene, you can go on a bald eagle watching cruise, which is truly an amazing experience. Is there anything like that available in your area? What can you do and who can you learn from? Do your research, network, and get out there and start bird watching. 

Good luck!