This Time Next Month

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| | 5 Comments

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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My countdown may have started a long time ago, but I would like to point out that in just one month I will be at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If this post is any indication, I'm a pretty big fan. Disney may be the happiest place on earth, but it doesn't have frozen butterbeer (or butterbeer ice cream...and yes I will be consuming all forms of butterbeer on that day YOLO).

Samantha is coming to visit for Labor Day for the occasion and I cannot wait to have someone to talk HP trivia with on the drive to Orlando. That's a sign of a true friend right there. 

I would like to point out that I am not usually a theme park person. Maybe it's because I've lived semi-close to Orlando my entire life, but my family has never taken a week off to traipse through a concrete jungle, wait in lines with wait times measured by the hour and eat overpriced food in a sea of strollers and screaming children. Call it cynical, but it's just not my idea of a good time.

However, this is the closest I will get to strolling through Diagon Alley and riding the Hogwarts Express so I think I will be able to suffer through it. I may not be an early adopter and had no desire to join the thousands waiting 7+ hours for the main attraction a few weeks ago, but I also don't know if I could have stood the suspense of waiting any longer than this to visit.

Forgive me if I come back shouting allohamora at my front door willing it to open. It's simply a matter of reliving my favorite childhood book. 

On a completely unrelated note speaking of books turned into movies turned into theme park attractions, somehow I don't think The Hunger Games will translate well into a family-friendly rollercoaster. Just throwing that idea out there.

My First Apartment: Porch Sitting

Monday, July 28, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| | 16 Comments

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope your week is off to a wonderful start. Can you believe that July is almost over? Madness. 

I wanted to take the time to give update on the apartment decorating. Lots of prints were ordered this weekend so the beginnings of a gallery wall are in the works. But until then, my porch. Which I love, even though I can only sit out there if I light a citronella candle because the mosquitos are the worst. The rug is the latest edition that I ordered from KellyAnn's. It's a fade resistant plastic material, perfect for hosing off.

Also, check out that healthy, growing plant. Six weeks and counting and only one near-death experience. I think the pride I'm feeling right is similar to what parents feel when their children are growing. Yeah, exactly the same feeling.

Friday Favorites: Daily Survival Guide

Friday, July 25, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| | 2 Comments

Friday, July 25, 2014

I'm on of those people who carries an abnormally large bag on a regular basis. Whether or not I bring my laptop with me, I still use my laptop bag as my carry all. I've been known to mistaken diaper bags for tote bags. Those came with some quizzical looks in the checkout line. 

Needless to say, I carry everything I need (and more) with me. I may talk about organization and simplifying my life on a fairly regular basis, but this does not apply to the pile of receipts at the bottom of my bag.

So what do I always have on hand? 

1. Notebook - For all of those ideas, partial lists and random musings, and half-written blog posts. Typing on my phone keyboard is a pain even with autocorrect (made more so by autocorrect, sometimes) so I keep track of things the old fashioned way. 

2. Kindle - I never know when I will end up having to wait for a long period of  time or find myself needing to fill 20 minutes. Now I have no excuse to knock books of of my "must read" list.

3. A scarf - For those days that the office is freezing.

4. A liter water bottle - I drink 2 - 3 liters of water per day. Having a larger bottle eliminates the number of times I have to walk to the water fountain to refill it. Ever since I gave up tea and diet coke (ok, "give up" may be a little extreme) and made water my main beverage of choice, I haven't had a problem getting the recommended amount per day. 

5. Larabars - To curb the hanger that sets in about 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. like clockwork.

6. Tinted lip balm - I received this lip balm in a Birchbox and absolutely love it. It's the perfect mix between a hydrating balm and a tinted gloss. With other lip products, I still had to use my trusty EOS underneath. This cuts out the middleman. 

7. Multivitamins - Because I never remember to take my vitamin in the morning, I tote the whole bottle around with me. And they may or may not rattle around quite loudly. 

What is in your daily survival kit?


Laura of Camis and Cushions

Laura lives in the UK and will be headed to university in a few months. What started out as a space for her to share her favorite fashions and home decor, has turned into a little bit of a mixture of everything going on in her life (and those are my favorite kinds of blogs because no one has just one hobby or niche) - see posts about being a novice hula hooper and crafting. She also loves hunting for a good bargain, as seen in her Steal of the Week posts. 

Follow along: Bloglovin | Twitter | Pinterest

Mia of A Swede Abroad

Mia is living the life that I live in my perfect dream world. She spent the last five years living in London and is now moving down under. Who else is jealous slash wants to crash on her couch on their next trip to Australia? And if that isn't enough wanderlust for you, just check out the list of all the countries she has visited here. Like most of us, Mia doesn't have a job that allows her to travel but just proves that if you love something so much you will find a way to make it happen.  

Follow along: Bloglovin

Backgrounds For An Organized Desktop

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| | 10 Comments

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

In my quest to reach desktop zero, I have also been in search of the best desktop backgrounds to serve as my motivation. When I was on student publications and the office was my second home and the 21 inch iMac pretty much served as my main computer, I was all about having a new, beautiful background every week. It was my thing. Sadly, people always asked if I had designed them myself and I faced this moment of conflicting emotions: one that they think I have enough graphic design sense to do this and two a sense to give credit where credit is due.

I say all of this to say that I like pretty things. And just as a clean desk top (the physical desk) with a few trinkets on it can spark creativity, I believe that a beautiful desktop background can have the same effect. Kudos if it is also functional and helps you organize your files or has a built in calendar. 

Most of these came from DESIGNLOVEFEST and Jenny Highsmith. They never fail to provide desktop downloads on a regular basis. 

Which one is your favorite? Which designer/blogger do you turn to to dress you tech?

Coffee Talk

Saturday, July 19, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| | 5 Comments

Saturday, July 19, 2014

By now, you know my love of Loft. So of course when I saw Mackenzie's photos of the Lou and Grey concept store I was in heaven and planning a trip to Connecticut just to visit.

Do you not have a pretty well let area in your home to take photos of items/food/your cat? Samantha has a tutorial to make your own photo backdrop using colored foam board. 

You can now follow Casey's adventures in Florida. But with a change of scenery comes with making new friends. How do you start over after moving?

I love my DSLR, but sometimes all you have when the perfect moment presents itself if your iphone. Create bright and sharp iphone photos with these simple tips from A Beautiful Mess.

I wish I looked like this when I traveled. But I'll most likely stick with my nike shorts and tennis shoes look.

Maybe I'm late to the game, but I had been looking for a tutorial to make product photo collages for ages. Jennifer heard my pleas and answered.

Visiting Tantallon Castle was one of the highlights of my trip to Scotland. Thankfully Jamie posted pictures of her visit there so I could relive the experience.

10 Reasons I Think All Offices Should Have Designated Nap Areas

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport|| 14 Comments

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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I would like to start this post by saying that I am not one of those people who suddenly discovered naps in college and realized what they had been missing their entire life. No, I have always been a firm believer in the power of taking a break, catching a few z's and powering through the rest of the afternoon. 

College was great because classes ended at 2 and there was the perfect amount of time before homework and evening activities began. Sadly an 8-5 office environment doesn't provide much in the way of nap time and/or place. A time or two I've thought about putting a blanket and pillow under my desk...only downside is they never vacuum under there and a lot of people walk by my cubicle every day so that could get a little awkward. 

Now onto my 10 reasons why offices should allow siestas:

1. Studies show that 20 minutes of sleep (aka the ultimate power nap) improves memory, alertness and energy. It's science, people. 

2. Italy and Spain shut down for a few hours in the afternoon. But let's not talk about how their economies are in the toilet and perhaps there is a correlation between siestas and a lack of productivity. 

3. All of the big tech companies have rooms of nap pods. Clearly this point cancels out my previous comment because tech companies are getting stuff done. If a new version of the iPhone can come out every year, then nap pods are doing something right in this world in the way of productivity. 

4. You won't have to feel guilty about eating a carb-loaded lunch. Have you ever made the mistake of bringing last night's spaghetti leftovers only to regret the decision a few hours later when the sleepy feeling that only comes from a full stomach sets in? Don't even get me started on bringing leftover Thanksgiving turkey for lunch. A nap is required afterwards; there's something in the turkey.

5. Everyone is then in a good mood. I would argue to HR that naps are a step in the right direction to improving employee morale.

6. They are stress relievers. Less stress = a more positive work environment

7. People are already taking 15 minutes for an afternoon coffee run, just let them take a nap and save the $5 on the venti americano.

8. Actually, naps are better than a cup of coffee. Caffeine can impair motor sequence and declarative verbal memory. 

9. Nap rooms and nap-friendly offices are great selling features if you are wanting to recruit people to work for your company. Most people are pro-nap.

10. You can save the time googling how to sleep with your eyes open. No more trying to fake it.

How To Not Be A Plant Killer

Monday, July 14, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport|| 8 Comments

Monday, July 14, 2014

There's a natural progression in my opinion to taking care of things. First plants, then a pet of some sorts, and finally children. Although I know a lot of people who can take care of children, but are hopeless with foliage. 

What little I know about keeping a plant alive for more than a few days, I'll share with you. So maybe you'll be able to add a little life and color to your patio.

1. Know what direction your home faces. 

Either look to the sun or use the handy compass on your phone for this. Knowing if your space will get morning or afternoon sun can make a difference when choosing which plants you want. 

2. Make sure that your planter has a hole in the bottom for excess water to drain. 

You've seen on Pinterest where you can turn just about anything into an adorable pint-size (or quite large) planter, but you have to make sure to drill a hole in the bottom. And apparently you need a special drill for ceramics, FYI. If you lack power tools, it's best to go to the garden center and pick them out there. 

If you're like me, in an effort to make sure that they stay alive, you will most likely overwater them just to be on the safe side. Hence the drainage. 

3. Plant an herb garden to go along with your new found love of cooking. 

Why not get double the use out of your new hobby? Enjoy the aroma outside, as well as adding extra flavor to your meals at no additional cost. 

4. Know when to transfer your growing, healthy plants into a larger pot. 

If you notice any of the following symptoms, it's time to re-pot: stunted, deformed, pale and dull, top-heavy, generally declining, or water drains quickly through soil.

According to Google, you should move up pot sizes by only a couple of inches because, like when you move into a much larger house and automatically fill it with all of your stuff, the plant's roots will grow quickly at the expense of the flowers and leaves (which are what you really care about the most.)

What are some of your lessons learned when keeping a potted porch garden alive?

Coffee Talk: #PotterHeadWeekend Edition

Saturday, July 12, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| | 13 Comments

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Not going to lie, this weekend will mostly be spent on the couch in front of the TV switching back and forth between the Harry Potter marathon and the World Cup finals. Obviously this will give me an excuse to  make Quidditch references during the World Cup. If you have been living under a rock, ABC Family is FINALLY showing all eight Harry Potter movies this weekend! Coupled with the opening of Diagon Alley at Universal, Samantha booking her flight for Labor Day making our trip to the wizarding world official, you can imagine that I'm in full-on Harry Potter mode. Too bad it's a tad too warm to wear my Gryffindor scarf.

Now I'm reminiscing that one time that Harding had a Quidditch tournament and student publications was The Daily Prophet (see what we did there?). I rode my Swifter instead of a traditional broom and called it the Swift 3000. And this was the beginning and end of my athletic career.

So what if I've added the ingredients for frozen butterbeer to my grocery list tomorrow? It's necessary. 

And I may quite possibly be saving up to splurge on a wand at Universal so that I can cast spells throughout the park and unlock more secrets.

And can we talk about that 7.5 hour wait on Tuesday...I would like to consider myself a Harry Potter fan, but that is a little extreme even for me. In the time it took, they could have watched the first three movies before stepping onto the ride. It was definitely not for the faint of heart. Especially in the Florida humidity. That sounds like the worst.

Book Club: The Vacationers

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| | 6 Comments

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

There is a trend in books that make the every "summer must read" list. For the most part, they are page turners. Whether a murder mystery, a YA dystopian novel or a coming-of-age story, books picked for the beach typically don't have much substance. It makes sense though. Would you want to make your way through War & Peace lounging by the pool? Yeah, me neither. 

The Vacationers is said summer book. That the scenario is a family summer vacation only solidifies this. Overall, I thought it was a good quick read for a flight or long weekend, but if you are searching for the meaning of life, this is not the book for you. 

It moves quite slow and keeps rehashing each characters "problem" over and over without any resolution until the very end. The characters have all been seen before: the husband who cheats after 20 years of marriage, the wife who can't handle empty nest syndrome, the couple arguing over wanting to have children, the high school grad who wants to reinvent herself before college, and the 30-something man-child whose trust fund has finally run out.

Set on an island off the coast of Spain, The Vacationers can transport you to your own fictional seaside vacation without ever leaving your couch.

Let me introduce you to two of the lovely ladies hanging out on my sidebar this month!

 Meet Christina, a photographer and lover of road trips. Her travel posts make you feel like you are in the passenger seat right alongside her. She is also a runner, which unfortunately is not something we have in common no matter how many times I have tried to convince myself that I could be a runner. And if that isn't enough, she's also mastered the self portrait photo...I'm still working on that one.

Meet Jasmie, a fellow traveler, fur mama, and lover of Disney. Going on a trip soon and not sure what exactly to pack? She has you covered with her must have travel essentials; I second her choice in iphone batter backup and those stylish earbuds! After visiting Disneyland last year as well, I loved reading her recap of the happiest place on earth. I don't exactly have the small closet problem, since I take up both closets for myself, but if you are lacking space for your ever-growing shoe collection, Jasmine has the best tips on organizing your small you can make room for more purchases of course!

Weekly Wishes

Monday, July 7, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| | 5 Comments

Monday, July 7, 2014

Happy Monday after a long weekend! I'm writing this from DFW because in true fashion I arrived 1.5 hours before my flight departs. Better to be early to snag a seat by an outlet than to be that person running for the final boarding call, I guess. 

In typical fashion, Samantha, Emily and I had a foodcation for my visit filled with lots of tex mex, falafel and down home cooking. The weekend was filled with a visit to the Kimbell art museum, the Fort Worth food truck park and the drive-in movie. 

It's so nice being able to catch up for the first time since graduation day in December. Somehow we're able to pick up right where we left off.

Last Week 

While lots of fun was had, an equal amount of sleep and naps commenced this weekend. I thought I would dread having to get up on Monday morning, but it's looking like it won't be such a dreaded experience. 

And the whole invest in self tanner didn't happen. I'm still the palest person in the sunshine state. Ironic, yes?

This Week

Begin going through my old posts to check for broken links, photos that aren't sized correctly and adjusting categories and tags. I've been putting off this tedious process for the longest time. I just need to sit down and actually start doing it. 

Any bloggers/ readers in Tallahassee or north Florida? Let me know! I still very much feel like I'm new to town. Maybe I should also take up a hobby to meet more people? 

Try the desktop zero practice. Similar to keeping your email inbox empty, desktop zero is all about keeping your desktop free of clutter. I'm sort of decent about keeping icons off of my desktop, but I constantly have dozens of tabs open and applications running that I may or may not use immediately. Just like keeping your actual desk clear, I guess keeping your computer desktop organized helps keep you focused? I'll let you know how it goes. 
The Nectar Collective

t.o & fro's Top 5 Things to do in Alaska

Friday, July 4, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport|| 4 Comments

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hi, my name's Mar and I write over at t.o. & fro, a blog all about my life as an environmental educator, travel addict, animal lover, photography junkie and my hockey-playing hubby's #1 fan. A huge thank you to Jess for letting me take over today!

I started blogging as a way to keep in touch with family when an unexpected move took us from the sunny south to the land of the midnight sun for the 2010-2011 hockey season. We loved Alaska so much that we ended up staying for 3 years! But, all good things must come to an end, and now we're back at home in Toronto living the city life, but still often long to be surrounded by the ocean and mountains.

I'm a total Alaska pusher, so today I thought I'd share with you t.o. & fro's top 5 things to do in Alaska.

If you're brave enough to visit in the winter (trust me, it's not that bad), then I suggest you do so at the beginning of March so that you can see the ceremonial start of the Iditarod in Anchorage. The race begins in Anchorage, each year on the first Saturday in March and ends when the last musher reaches Nome, around 9 to 12 days later. What started in 1973 as an event to test the best sled dog mushers and teams.  Since then, it has evolved into a highly competitive and popular race and is considered the "last great race on Earth".
The Alaska Zoo
Maybe I'm bias because some of my best memories are from this place, but if you ever find yourself in Anchorage, please stop by and say hello to all of my friends at the Zoo. Home to arctic, subarctic and like-climate species, the Alaska Zoo provides a home for injured and orphaned animals that wouldn't otherwise survive in the wild. Their goal is to inspire conservation of these species through education and community enrichment. While summer is a great time to visit, this place is beautiful in winter. Some of my faves include, but are definitely not limited to, musk ox, red fox, great horned owl, wolves and polar bears.

Alaska SeaLife Center Take a day trip to Seward, 2.5 hours south of Anchorage and make sure to check out the Alaska SeaLife Center. The Alaska SeaLife Center generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.  Alaska’s only public aquarium and ocean wildlife rescue center is home to many species of fish, seals, sea lions and marine birds. 
Prince William Sound Discovered in 1778 by Captain James Cook, Prince William Sound is ringed by the steep and glaciated Chugach Mountains, part of the nation's second largest and northernmost national forest, Chugach National Forest. Commercially important for fishing and oil industries, the sound is also prized for its abundance of marine and coastal life, from seals to porpoises, to bears and bald eagles, from spruce and hemlock rain forests to glacier-studded landscapes. You can't pass through Prince William Sound without being in complete awe.
Denali National Park
DNP is much much more than just home to the tallest peak in North America. At six million acres of wild land, the park is bisected by just one ribbon of road that allows travelers to enjoy the view as the relatively low-elevation taiga forest gives way to high alpine tundra and snowy mountains. Located 4 hours north of Anchorage,  wild animals large and small roam unfenced lands, living as they have for ages.  Solitude, tranquility and wilderness await in Denali National Park.

Like I said, I'm a total Alaska pusher. And if I could give one piece of advice to anyone thinking of visiting Alaska, it would be to just do it. Trust me, you won't regret it. And hopefully the photos I've shared today show you why.
Thanks again to Jess for letting me to take over and relive some fond memories. Hop on over to t.o. & fro to say hello. And if you have any questions about Alaska, my hockey-life, or anything else, please ask!
Find me here: Blog  |  Bloglovin  |  Instagram  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest All photos copyright of t.o. & fro 2010-2014. This post appeared first on Stamp in My Passport.

Long Weekend Destinations

Thursday, July 3, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport|| 3 Comments

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hello everyone :) I'm Christina of Route Bliss. Recently Jess asked if I'd be interested in filling in while she's having a great time without all of us in Texas. After much brainstorming, I figured I'd share a few places that would make for a great solo long weekend trip, especially if you're needing a quick getaway this summer!

#1: Colorado Springs, Colorado Garden of the Gods by Christina McCall 

 Why Colorado Springs? Okay, this is the only destination on this list I've actually visited -- both times with other travel companions. First time around I was in COS for only 24 hours as we passed through on a 17 day roadtrip, the second time around, we stayed in town for three days. If you love the mountains or the great outdoors, this is the place for you.

Where to stay? Both times I was in COS, I stayed at budget accommodations -- a Super 8 along the interstate the first time and the El Colorado Lodge the second time. There's plenty of accommodations to choose from at all price points.

What to do? There's quite a bit to do, so take your pick! I highly recommend spending a few hours or more exploring Garden of the Gods (pictured above) -- I've been here mid-morning as well as early evening. Drive up or take the cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak. Explore the shops and people watch in Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs. Tour the Manitou Cave Dwellings and Miramont Castle. Visit the US Olympic Training Center. Visit the US Air Force Academy grounds (and definitely tour all the chapels). Hike the Manitou Incline.

Closest major airport: Denver International Airport. There's also a smaller airport in Colorado Springs that major carriers fly into. I previously put together a destination guide for Colorado Springs on my blog with more images ... check it out.

#2: Asheville, North Carolina asheville-nc Why Asheville? I know its barely pictured above, but there's two reasons I want to spend a long weekend in Asheville: The Biltmore Estate and the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway. To me, the Biltmore is the closest to touring a real castle as one can get without hopping a plane across the pond. Doesn't that pond look like something you'd expect to see in a Monet painting? 

Where to stay? Having never stayed in Asheville before, I'd probably -- for a solo trip -- splurge on a B&B or find a small cabin with a scenic view near the city. 

What to do? Spend hours exploring the grounds of the Biltmore ... and if you time it right, they have a 15k and 5k race there as well, which is definitely a different way to tour the grounds! Spend hours exploring the sights along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There's a lot more to do, but those two activities will probably consume an entire weekend. 

 Closest major airport: Asheville Regional Airport 

#3: The Oregon coastline


Why the Oregon Coastline? Truthfully, I'm not big into beach trips ... but the Oregon coastline has been calling my name for awhile now. Hoping to make a trip to the PNW a reality in 2015. There's something about it that makes me want to spend hours exploring nature as well as delving into my inner thoughts in comparison to the typical beach destination. 

Where to stay? While this is another place I haven't traveled to yet, aside from the offer of a friend's couch when I make it to the area, I'd definitely want to find some place unique to stay. While not along the northern Oregon coastline, if you're on the southern end, check out this Treesort I heard about via another blogger a couple years ago. 

What to do? For a long weekend trip, I'd probably limit my exploring the northern half of the coast from Astoria to Pacific City, including the famous Cannon Beach. Visit Tillamook and snag some cheese. Also, I love this list of 10 don't miss spots along the coast. Closest major airport: Portland International (roughly 92 miles from Cannon Beach). 

Anywhere you'd add to this list? Been to one of these destinations and have additional activities you'd add? Share in the comments below! Thanks Jess for allowing me to fill in for you while you're in Texas!

I'm off to Texas tomorrow

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport|| 6 Comments

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Are you as excited as I am for this upcoming long weekend? 

Celebrating America’s independence would have been that much better if it included a U.S. quarterfinal match, but you can’t win ‘em all.I’m off to Ft. Worth to celebrate in the one state that is always rumored to want to succeed from the country. The irony is not lost on me. 

This trip, like all that Samantha, Emily and I go on, will be spent trying to recreate our Paris experience in America. Fondue, pain au chocolate and an impressionist museum anyone? Also, I would just like to take the time to mention that true friends are those that call you from the grocery store and ask you what kind of croissants you would like to have. Correct answer: ALL OF THEM. 

In my absence, I have two lovely ladies filling in for me to fill your blog feed with tales and photos of adventure in case you are stuck at home. Christina will be talking about her favorite long weekend destinations tomorrow, followed by Mar with her top five things to see and do in Alaska.

All-Inclusive travel: Yea or Nea?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 | Stamp in My Passport| , | 20 Comments

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

When I was younger and my dad was stationed in England, my family was fortunate enough to see the highlights of Europe. There are lots of photos of three-year-old Jess clad in a track suit and fanny pack standing in front of Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, and the Olympic site in Innsbruck. Many of those trips were taken with a group. Hotel rooms and tours are prepaid and you are shuttled from place to place in the comfort of a coach. It can be really nice. All of the details are paid up front and handled by a guide who knows what they are doing. 

Fast forward almost twenty years, and some of my favorite moments from free travel were on guided day tours of Loch Ness and the Wicklow mountains in Ireland (Side note: without the Ireland tour I would have had no idea that I was so close to area filmed in P.S. I Love You.)

If you have ever considered going on an all-inclusive group tour anywhere in the world, you have probably come across Contiki. Marketed to twenty and thirty somethings looking for adventure and to see the world, they offer packaged itineraries to all the great cities of the world, as well as a few slightly off the beaten path. 

The pros? If you are a female who wants to travel on your own, this is the perfect option with very little chance for a Taken incident (unless you have Liam Neeson on speed dial to save you.) You also don't have to worry about lots of unexpected costs. Your travel, hotel and tours are all included in the price you pay up front, as well as some meals, so all you have left to pay for are the fun extras if you so desire. Plus you have a guide who is knowledgeable about all of the stops along the way and can provide great historical and cultural context to all of the sites you are visiting. When traveling solo, you are probably not going to opt in for the upgraded tour of each location.

The cons? You miss out on the fun of putting together your own itinerary. While they offer hundreds of options and there is probably one that will suit your needs, being able to research where you are going is half of the fun. And if you decide you want to spend a couple of extra days in one location, well, that isn't exactly an option. 

What about you? Would you consider signing up for an all-inclusive group travel?

P.S. I was in no way compensated for this post. But if anyone from Contiki stumbles upon this, I am more than willing to write in exchange for a complimentary trip :)