Ask Amanda: Healthy Packable Travel

Over the past two years, I’ve  traveled a lot.  Like a LOT lot.  There were times I would spend three weekends out of four outside the country in which I reside, and it was more common for friends to ask “are you going to be in town this weekend?” then actually invite me to something since it was about an 85% chance I would not be.

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I basically kept a toiletry bag, makeup kit, and bathing suit/sarong combo on the ready at any given moment, since there were literally times where I arrived in Singapore’s Changi Airport in the afternoon only to transit through it en route to another destination that evening.  It was amazing, but it was as exhausting as it sounds.

These days, I am much more “local” – I co-own two client-based businesses here in Singapore, which means I am much more tied down to my work.  Outside of a brief ski weekend in Japan earlier this year and a quick jaunt to Bali with my fambam last month, I haven’t gone anywhere for longer than 4 days in 2017.  Wow.

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Here are some places I haven’t been this year…oh wait, minus one, but it’s like an hour away.

That said, because I am traveling less often, I have the opportunity to be more intentional with my packing and travel prep (above and beyond the aforementioned sarong-stuffing), and I now have a few go-tos that I absolutely recommend for being a healthy, well-rested, and fit traveler.

[sidenote: I’ve written on the topic of healthy travel habits several times before, so if you’re looking more for that than what’s actually inside my travel bag, check out LOTS more tips here, here and here]

First of all, let me answer the big question I get most from clients: do you work out on vacation?  The answer is, of course, an unequivocal yes.  So does that mean I always pack at least one “workout” outfit and the requisite sneakers to go with it?  Sure does. But rest assured I make even this part simple – I pack a workout top with a built-in bra so I don’t need to worry about loading up separate sports bras, I exercise in black leggings and my most stylish-but-functional Nike Flyknits that I also wear on the plane, and if the hotel I’m staying at doesn’t have a gym, I pack a jump rope and a resistance band.  Done.

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Bands can make you dance.

Second, I make travel the time to pull out all those luxury samples I get from Sephora and treat myself to some major spa(like) indulgence…even if it’s just in the hotel tub.  I bring the thickest face cream possible and slather it on JUST before takeoff; use the BB/CC cream packets to clean myself up just before landing, and I bring at least one Korean face mask and some fancy body scrub to get glowing upon arrival.

Third, mostly because I am a hundred years old and tend to swell like hell on long airplane rides, I deploy the triple-play anti-ballooning defense of wearing compression socks, taking water pills (please note: this is a travel-only strategy and not something I’d recommend on a regular or even semi-regular basis), and bringing a huge collapsible water bottle on the plane so I can do my best to eradicate the edema situation.

Next, I’d recommend bringing along small sizes of your basic hygiene stuff – think wet wipes, antibacterial wipes, hand gel (for when you can’t get to a proper sink), Kleenex, Shout wipes, a few band-aids, and some probiotic and activated charcoal pills. This mini “first aid” kit will keep you clean, well, and balanced no matter where you’re headed.

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If you wanna get RULL serious about your first aid status…

And finally – what else fills my carry-on bag besides health-related stuff?  I love to drown out the world with my BOSE headphones, bring a couple of books (right now I’m late to the game on You Are A Badass, but loving it so far!), tuck into some unsalted nuts or if I’m ambitious, homemade protein balls, and lay into my super-cozy hooded neck pillow for a nice long haul.

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Not me; perhaps it’s THAT fit blonde?

What are your healthy travel must-haves?  Any tips for maximizing carryon essentials?

Blogger 201: Day 3/5

Nope, that’s not three-fifths of a day – I am combining my B201 assignments from day 3 and 5 into one project today.  I think it’s fair, and I have SO MUCH awesome content I want to share with you guys right now (pregnancy fitness tips, a “day in the life” of a trainer, healthy baking hacks) that I want to make sure I get it all done.

That said, the assignments are as follows:

B201 – Day 3 – Create a Custom Widget

Ok, admittedly this is the hardest one for me so far – I am not great with image editing software nor do I technically need custom widgets right this second, so I dragged my feet a bit on completing this.  That said, once I got into it – it’s fun!  And inspiring!  And will (one day) be the way I do all the menus for my page.  But for now, it’s just this:

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Yep, one little footer widget – all the way at the bottom of my blog, and linked to my “California Living” Pinterest page.  Nothing groundbreaking.  But I made it!  I sourced the image, customized the text and layout, and activated the little thing.  And I am proud.

So, moving on:

B201 – Day 5 – Drive Traffic to Your Archives

I have some amazing archives, dammit – or at least I have a good amount of posts (workout ideas, reviews, tip lists) that will stand the test of time – and should be easily discovered by new visitors to my site, even months after I post.  Today’s assignment is thus:

Integrate features to draw traffic to your older content, including widgets, related posts, and a “Best of” page.

I already do a decent job of linking back to my own posts, but I definitely don’t have any formalized way of suggesting content other than my own in-text links.  That said, I added a “related posts” section to my entries (although I can’t see it posting on the blog yet, hmmm) and I am trying to create my “Best of” page (but again, I can’t see it posting yet).

All in all, today’s assignment is a bit of a fail – but I will not give up!  More updates once I can figure out these newfangled “additives.”

Do you blog?  What widget/feature/extra are you most proud of on your page?

Blogging 201: Day 4

(yeah yeah, I know there’s no B201 Day 3 post yet, but that project is harder and tech-heavy and takes longer, so I’ll update that when I get there).

For now, a look into B201 (the blog improvement project) assignment of the day.

B201 – Day 4 – Give ‘Em What They Want

Conduct a short and simple stats analysis that will help you create an editorial calendar for the next 30 days.

  • Takeaway #1: my most popular post is Lessons From the Organizing Pro, which featured photos of my home, “before and after” documentation, and a strong theme (household reorganization) that seemed to resonate with both male and female readers.  A distant second was Top 8 Lessons Learned in a Year of Wedding Planning, which makes me think that lists are also a popular click for my readers.
  • Takeaway #2: it looks like most of my readers are checking in on Wednesdays (not coincidentally, also #AskAmanda days over on my Facebook page) and Thursdays, and not as many on Mondays or weekends.  This means I might want to think about running my strongest content on the more readable (and hopefully, “shareable”) days.

Because I am committing to blogging 6 days per week, I will continue to provide content every day (and keep up with my Weekend Roundup link posts to make sure you guys haven’t forgotten about me when the weekend rolls around).

That said, I plan to add more list-style posts, personal (vs. stock) photos, and practical, life-hack type thematics – so get ready, readers!  TFB is coming for YOU!

What keywords, themes, or ideas get YOU to actually click over to a blog?

More Lessons From the Organizing Pro

Guys, remember when I had a professional organizer come to my house last week?  Well, turns out I’m becoming a regular customer.  Having Teresa in my house is like working through a zen meditation with a mindfulness master; when she leaves you feel calmer, more in control, and somehow like a better person than before.

That said, our project yesterday was a toughie (not the toughest to come – but perhaps toughest so far).  We worked on my bedroom shelving unit and living room bookcase.  Simple-sounding, perhaps, but you should know this: my (dear, lovely) fiance is a bit of a packrat, and moreover, has a hard time letting go of things (even objectively stupid things, like a cigarette-shaped figurine smoking an even tinier cigarette.  Nope, not kidding.).

Add to that the fact that those stupid IKEA Expedit shelving units are a hoarder’s dream, with nooks and crannies aplenty just taunting you, begging you to cram your crap deep in its dark, shadowy shelves, never to be seen or dealt with again.  Until yesterday.

photo 2We started with a 4×4 (16 “squares”) shelving unit, which seems like a lot of room until you realize it was spilling over onto our fireplace, in front of the unit, and even squished in the little side-panel area between the shelf and patio doors.

No bueno.  

There were mismatched cardboard boxes, some plastic tubs (with and without fitting lids), a useless “file box,” and all sorts of muddled attempts at organizing the square behemoth (pencil cups, Tupperware, file folders in piles) that had, ultimately, failed.  Teresa took one look at it and said this:

We gotta take it all out.

And she was right.  Because the first step in organizing a unit like this, where there are sensitive documents among sentimental collectibles amid actual trash, is to see exactly what you’ve got and create functional piles.  So we did.  We went cube by cube, throwing away trash as necessary and organizing into distinct piles: office, party & wrapping, documents, cards & stationery, tools/hardware, and gifts.

photo 3 (1)Once the piles were made (and the trash ousted), we moved anything that didn’t fit in a separate area (for example, large pieces of framed artwork that weren’t yet hanging on a wall, stacks of misplaced books, very old tax and important documents) into the living room as the go-elsewhere pile – knowing full well that we had to put those things into their proper “elsewheres” before the project was over.  Don’t be afraid to create a temporary messy pile. These things still had a nice, organized home in the end – it just wasn’t my cube shelf.

Finally, we organized the piles into workable little “stations” using cube-sized sturdy baskets, and placed the stations back into the cube where they could be easily accessed, but not visible.  Now I know when I need to wrap a gift, I have wrap, tape, ribbons, and cards all within easy reach – one little basket – yet I don’t have to see those items spilling out over my bookcase.photo 4

Finally, we addressed the go-elsewhere pile, reorganized the living room bookcase (a crazy mess in itself – we got rid of 4 boxes of books plus have some room left over for new acquisitions) and made a plan for next time – this way, I can prep my Container Store and Overstock.com runs to maximize the time we need for our next big project (da-da-daaaa): THE CLOSETS.  God help me.

For now?  A quick peek into the next stage of our organizing project and an overview of my “shopping list” for max household efficiency:

  • those amazing little velvet hangers, so everything in your closet looks uniform, and thin straps and silky shirts actually stay put on hangers
  • clear sheet protectors for the recipe cards I am already accumulating from our recent foray into Blue Apron (full post coming soon!)
  • one of those nifty greeting card storage boxes with the individual categories
  • a storage ottoman so when we unmake the bed, we aren’t creating a veritable moat of pillows and throws around the bed
  • a new minimalist desk so I don’t have to work from the freaking kitchen table; and
  • shelf separators so my piles of workout pants and tops don’t collapse all over each other

What is on your shopping list for your well-organized home?  What tips do you use to stay tidy around the house?