Away We Go

Departure Board by Natalie Parker

By the time this post goes live, Mr. P and I will be up in the air starting our newest and most ambitious adventure.  Planned last year on Christmas Day sitting in our rented Munich apartment, we were able to convince our lovely employers that giving us this much time off would work.

And so we’re off.  We’ll be gone for close to 40 days, visiting 7 countries, and will circumnavigate the globe by the time we get home.  We are keeping to the southern hemisphere or near the equator most of the time to enjoy the weather and to keep our bags light.  It will be quite a change from the last two Christmases traveling with snow.

So, bags packed, Christmas cards have been sent, lovely people watching our new house, extra pages added to our passport, and too many checklists written.  I’ve pre-scheduled some posts to publish while I’m away.

If you’d like to keep up with us in real time, I will be posting on Instagram.

Happy holidays!


New Handmade Travel Journal

Travel Journal by Natalie Parker

Sometimes the travel journal is the first thing checked off my prep list.  Sometimes it’s closer to the last.

We’ve got a big trip up our sleeve and I wasn’t sure how many pages I’d need to fit it all, or what paper would do it justice on the cover.  Due to lots of crazy life events, I didn’t have time to buy and had to use my stash.

Then I stalked around the house looking at every piece of paper I could get my hands on (insert moment when I thought I’d lost the paper from Italy in the move, then realized I didn’t want to use it for a journal once I’d found it).

I settled on something bright, cheery, and orange.  I added more pages to it than I ever have in a journal before.  Usually I use 10 sheets of paper, which when folded in half gives me 40 pages to write on.  I went with 25 sheets this time.  I hope it’s enough!

I sometimes find taking time out to write in my journal a chore and find myself envying Mr. P reading a book.  But I’m always glad to have it when I get home.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t scrapbook while traveling.  It’s just me and this little journal.  I can’t wait to use it!

Click here for step by step directions on making your own travel journal.  Click here and here to learn how and why I keep a travel journal.

Scrapbook Layout: 3rd Birthday

Birthday Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkeBirthday Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerBirthday Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

The Story: My lovely niece turned 3.  She’s almost 11 now!  Time, as always, flies.

Simple simple: I kept the pictures the same size and arranged them in a pattern.  I could have made it more design-y by turning some of them black and white, but the color was so important here.  How else do you understand how much she was into princesses?

Birthday Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

Fonts: Nevis, Tekton Pro Cond | Tools: Epson Stylus R2000 (photos) | Supplies: Pioneer SJ-100 Jumbo Scrapbook (scrapbook & pages), Epson Semigloss Photo Paper (photos), Echo Park/Splendid Sunshine/Sunny Stripe (patterned paper) | Ephemera Included: none.

Italian Paper

Italian Paper by Natalie Parker

It happened again. I tried not to, but it did anyway.

In Italy I found myself buying rolled handmade paper in Venice and having to carry it around for the rest of the time. Onto a vaporetto (public boat), into the rental car, across Italy, across Florence on foot to our new apartment, to the train station, onto a regional train, onto a bus, to the hotel, on the airport shuttle, through check-in and security, one flight, one layover with a run through the airport, one longhaul flight, through customs, on the train home.

It’s a good thing I could keep it on my wrist — just treat me like a kid with a balloon. At least I didn’t leave it on the airport check-in counter like I did in Buenos Aires.

I told myself I wouldn’t do this. In Venice, I suggested that the clerk cut the sheet into a couple smaller pieces. She looked horrified. Look lady, I’m going to cut it up anyway. Nope, I couldn’t bring myself to insist, so it got rolled and around my wrist it went for the rest of the trip.

Italian Paper by Natalie Parker

I really should stick to buying cards because they’re compact! When we got to Florence, I bought some Florentine paper that had to be rolled because why not? I was already holding a roll anyway.

Do you have a weakness when shopping abroad?  I’d love to hear it!

Travel Tips: Making Sure You Have the Right Visa

Passports by Natalie Parker

I’m the first person to say there are no rules of travel.

But there are a few “commandments,” if you will.  These are things that aren’t negotiable.  Here’s one:

You are responsible for having the right passport and visa for the place you want to visit.  Period.

Researching Your Visa Needs

Look into visas as early as possible.  Some countries issue visas on arrival.  Some let you apply and get an e-visa online.  Others require you to mail your passport to a consulate.  Still others require someone to apply in person at a consulate or pay someone to do that for you.

Here are my first steps:

Check  Frommers has really basic visa information for most countries.  They can help you understand whether or not you need a visa and how difficult getting one will be.

Review the U.S. State Department Website:  With a page for every country, the site has more detailed information on requirements for Americans.  If you aren’t American, check with the counterpart in your country.

Confirm on the Country’s Website:  Do not Google this.  Do. Not. Google. This.  Some countries don’t have the best websites and if you Google it, it’s hard to tell if you have the actual government site or a snazzy-looking site run by a private company.  Link out through a reputable website, such as the U.S. State Department Website (even if you’re not American!).  Don’t believe me?  This is the official visa site for Cambodia.

Plan From There

Review timelines for the visa and when you plan to travel.  If you have to apply for a visa ahead of time, calendar a reminder.

Validity from Date of Issue:  Some countries, such as India, have visa validity from the date of visa issue, not when you travel.  This means you can’t apply right away but need to wait until closer to your trip to get it.

Do You Have to Send Your Passport?  If you need to send your passport in or drop it off at a consulate, make sure you plan for when you won’t be needing it.  We had a 4-month window between trips this summer and needed to ship our passports off for a visa to use at the end of the year.  I made sure we had our passports sent off to get the visa well before we left again.

Going Lots of Places?  Just plan it.  All countries have different rules and it can be confusing if you’re hitting a lot of places on your trip.  Just go over them one at a time, write it down, then plan what dates you need to do which things.

Other Important Things to Consider

Do You Have Enough Passport Pages?  Some countries require one full page or even two full pages.  Review the requirements and make sure you have enough pages.  We had extra pages added to our passports this summer to give us more wiggle room.

When Does Your Passport Expire?  Countries have rules about how long your passport has to be good for on your date of travel.  Six months is a good rule of thumb but check to make sure.  If your passport is close to expiring, they may not let you in.

Print E-Visas/Confirmations.  Even if the country issues e-visas and doesn’t require a printed visa, print it anyway.  Even if it’s just a confirmation page, print it.  You never know when an airport employee or border agent will ask for it.  Australia issues e-visas but when I got to the airport, the check-in agents didn’t understand that and didn’t want to check me in unless I could show them proof I had a visa.  Thank goodness I had the printout!

Even if you are paying someone to do it for you, you should still take the time to make sure you are following the rules.  Again, you are responsible for making sure you have the right visa and a border agent isn’t going to care if the tour operator said they’d take care of it.

This can be intricate, but it’s totally doable.  Just take the time to read up on what you need to know and you’ll be fine!

Designing New Luggage Tags (free download!)

Luggage Tags by Natalie Parker

Picture this:  it’s the night before our most recent trip to Europe.  We are trying to finish up work and head to bed soon.  It’s the perfect time to realize that we just moved into a new house and all the contact information on our luggage tags is bad.  *smacks head*

I’d been wanting to redesign our luggage tags for a while.  They were so law-firm-circa-2006.  I had plenty of other projects to do but looked forward to when I would have to redesign them if we moved.  So excited!

Then yeah, we bought a house in a flurry, moved in, then packed our bags for Europe.

15-Minute Design

What’s a girl to do?  Stick with Times New Roman again?  No way.  This was a design emergency and I’m love the results.

Inspiration: I browsed my Type pinboard on Pinterest to get some ideas.  I wanted something bold that would say “that’s not your bag” without actually having to say it.

Fonts Used:  I used Oswald for our name and Ostrich Sans for our contact information on the back.

Software & Cardstock: I threw this together old school in MS Word and printed directly on some bright teal stock I had in my stash.  I think the design would have been pretty striking on white, but Mr. P vetoed it.  He said a colored tag was easier to see from far away.  He’s right, as per usual.

Luggage Tags by Natalie Parker


The whole thing was a 15-minute design operation and I’m pretty pleased!  Usually I labor over design choices for a while.  This is totally like being on Project Runway, I’m sure.

Thank goodness I had some blank luggage tag holders!

Download the Template

Download the template here for MS Word.  I didn’t fix it up except to remove my personal info.  You’ll have to download the fonts and adjust the spacing a bit depending on your information.


Italy: How to Tell Real Gelato from Fake

How to Tell Real from Fake Gelato in Italy

Did you know that most gelato you will see in Italy is fake?  Yes, fake as in made from a powder and pumped full of air.  80% of gelato in Rome is fake.

Don’t let the “artigianale” (artisinal) signs fool you.  We saw plenty of fake gelato that was labeled artigianale.

Look at the colors.  Real gelato will not have artificial colors.  Look closely at mint and banana.  Real mint gelato is white, not green.  Real banana is greyish and not yellow.  If you find green mint or yellow banana, it’s probably fake gelato.  The color of the gelato should exist in nature.

How to Tell Real from Fake Gelato in Italy

Look at how it’s displayed. Is the gelato piled up into pretty puffy mounds?  Then it’s probably fake.  The pretty mounds mean that the gelato has had air whipped into it and likely contains stabilizers.  Real gelato will be displayed very simply.  Some of the real gelato we saw was kept in covered containers!

Is it garnished? Are there piles of mint leaves on the mint or strawberries all over the strawberry gelato?  Then it might be fake.  Again, real gelato doesn’t need to advertise.

How to Tell Real from Fake Gelato in Italy

Yes, it can be challenging to avoid the fake stuff and find the real stuff.  On the plus side, if you avoid the fake gelato it will keep you from eating gelato every three seconds on your trip.

Even being careful to find the real stuff, I still averaged about 1.5 gelatos a day during our two week trip.  It can be done!