My Suitcase and I in London

Suitcase in London by Natalie Parker

Fresh off a weekend trip to Europe, I’m beginning a long business trip to London.  If you’re keeping score, yes, I went back home to California and then came out to London five days later.

I’m on my own — just the suitcase and I settling into a flat in Central London.  Mr. P usually comes with me but wasn’t able to this time.  On the one hand it’s for the best because I’m crazy busy with work.  On the other hand, I don’t want to spend all of my downtime in the flat so I’ll need to find things to do solo.

I’m going to try something I’ve never done: live blog (so to speak).  I never blog during trips because I want to focus on having a great time.  This trip is different, so why not talk to my internet friends since my husband isn’t here?  It’ll keep me honest about going out since I need something cool to write about.

At the same time, I’m eager to share all the fun things we did on our weekend trip to Dublin (only a week and a half ago!).  April is going to become the unofficial month of the British Isles.  I hope you’re ready!


Using Credit Cards Abroad

Using Credit Cards Abroad by Natalie Parker

Last week we chatted about how we use money abroad.  We try and rely on credit cards as much as possible.  That can be tricky so below is some great info about using credit cards abroad.

Get a card with no foreign transaction fees.  Many cards will charge a percentage of every purchase you make abroad, which can add up quickly.  The good news is there are a lot of cards out there now that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.  Call your credit card company if you aren’t sure about fees.  It’s worth getting a new card if your current card has fees.

You can’t use your card in machines.  Make sure you have cash to use in machines to buy train tickets, pay tolls, etc.  Foreign credit cards use a chip and pin system whereas American cards use a magnetic stripe and signature.  Signature cards cannot be used in machines.  If you need train tickets or to pay a toll, make sure to look for a human in a booth that can help you or use cash.

Chip + PIN ≠ Chip + Signature.  American cards are slowly changing over to chip technology.  But, they’re still signature cards.  Chip + Signature will not work in machines abroad.  I find this whole thing really annoying because now I have to explain to waiters that it’s still a signature card.  To my knowledge, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Mastercard is the only real Chip + PIN available in the US.

Call ahead of time.  Make sure to call your credit card company before you leave to let them know where you are traveling.  They’ll also tell you what to do if you have a problem with your card while you’re away.

Don’t charge in dollars.  Sometimes stores abroad will offer to charge your credit card in dollars instead of the local currency.  Don’t do it.  It will give you a horrible exchange rate.

Scrapbook Layout: Meeting My Friends

Meeting Friends Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

Meeting Friends Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

Meeting Friends Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

The Story: In early 2006 I joined an online wedding planning message board.  I made a bunch of online friends and we became really close as we all worked toward our big days.  We stayed friends and in 2007, decided to scare the crap out of our husbands and fiances by meeting in person.  We came from across the country and spent the weekend together.  Despite the husbands’ worries, no one turned out to be an ax murderer and we’re still friends today.

Keeping it Simple: I didn’t want to do something complicated and instead focused on showcasing the pictures and the story.

Meeting Friends Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

Fonts: Klinic Slab BoldAlways in My Heart | Tools: Silhouette SD (headline), Epson Stylus R2000 (photos) | Supplies: Pioneer SJ-100 Jumbo Scrapbook (scrapbook & pages), Epson Semigloss Photo Paper (photos), Freckled Fawn Red Grid Washi Tape | Ephemera Included: none.

How We Use Money Abroad

Money Abroad by Natalie Parker

One question we always get from people is how we use money abroad.  Or, how do we get money, exactly?  Using money is one of those small little facets that makes people nervous and can contribute to not wanting to bother with international travel.

It’s really very simple (most of the time).  This isn’t different from what we do at home:

Use credit cards as much as possible.  If we can use a credit card, we do.  It’s easier than carrying around cash, we get points, we have fraud protection, and get a good exchange rate.  Credit cards aren’t as ubiquitous outside the US, so we always have cash on hand just in case.  Sometimes using a credit card abroad can be tricky, so check in next week for a separate post with some tips.

Get cash from ATMs.  We use a CapitalOne 360 Checking ATM card*, which doesn’t charge fees for using foreign ATMs.  We try to stick to large bank ATMs (HSBC, BNP Paribas, Barclays, China Construction, etc.) avoid places like Travelex if we can.  If we have to use a shady-looking ATM, we try to withdraw as little as possible until we can get to a better one.  Always call your bank to let them know you are traveling!

On rare occasions, we’ll order a bit of cash ahead of time from our bank.  It’s usually when we go to new places where we aren’t sure about the ATM situation or it’s a cash-heavy culture (China, Turkey).  We never order Euros or Pounds Sterling ahead of time.

There are exceptions to every rule.  In some countries it’s actually advantageous to use cash (Argentina).  Before you head to a new country, check out a guidebook or some online forums.  People are always eager to help!

If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them!  Happy spending!

*We used to use our Bank of America ATM card, but they started charging a percentage of each cash withdrawal, so it got voted off the island.

Doing the Pre-Jetlag Dance: Best Tips for Avoiding Jetlag

Jetlag Tips by Natalie Parker

Mr. P and I are getting ready for a weekend trip to Europe and we are in the middle of “pre-jetlagging.”  What is this madness?

I think we can all agree that jetlag + 3.5 days in Europe = No Bueno.  Jetlag is even worse when one comes from California, making Europe that much further.

We make a weekend trip to Europe enjoyable by doing everything we can to battle jetlag ahead of time.

How We Pre-Jetlag

In order to prepare ourselves, we try to get our bodies on east coast time (or further) by the time we leave.  Starting with 5 days before the trip, we get up one hour earlier each day.  On our departure day, we’re up at 3am.

Getting up early means going to bed early, so we head to bed a bit earlier each night.  We weren’t strict about this our first couple trips and it only succeeded in making us exhausted.  To go to bed early, we start taking melatonin about 30 minutes before bedtime.  Melatonin is a natural supplement that helps control your body clock — you can find it with other nutritional supplements at the grocery or drugstore.

In addition to help beating the jetlag, it’s pretty awesome to have that extra time in the morning.  Mr. P and I usually make breakfast together or work out.  Plus, we can leisurely pack our suitcase instead of being in a rush.

This has been our method for the last several years.

Battling Jetlag Once We Get There

Sunshine & walking around:  We usually touch down in the morning or early afternoon.  We dump our luggage at our hotel or apartment and go out for lunch.  Being outside helps our body clocks adjust.

An afternoon nap:  If we land before lunchtime, we’ll take a 1-2 hour afternoon nap.  You have to make sure to get up and go out after though.  It does no good if you sleep until midnight.  If we land after lunchtime, we’ll skip the nap.

Dinner plans:  We keep ourselves honest by making dinner plans for our first night.  I’ll make dinner reservations before we leave on the trip or plans to meet friends in town.  Having somewhere to be is a great incentive to get up from the nap!

Stay up til a reasonable hour the first night:  We don’t stay up late, but we stay up until what we think is a socially acceptable time for someone to go to sleep and not seem like a sloth.  Anytime after 9pm is fantastic.

More melatonin:  By the time we head to bed on the first night, we’re really tired.  But, this doesn’t mean that our bodies won’t wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to sleep.  Melatonin will help us fall asleep and sleep through the night.  We’ll take it for the first 2-3 days of a trip at bedtime.

How do you deal with jetlag?

Ephemera Roundup: Scrapbooking with Tickets

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Tickets are some of the most-used pieces of ephemera in my scrapbooks.  I think I’m the only one on this planet that gets sad when we have to use print-at-home tickets because they’re not nearly as cool for my scrapbook.

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to feature tickets.  I’ve looked around before for ideas and I find that more often than not, I see a lot of fake tickets.  I mean fake in the sense that scrapbooking companies will often sell old-looking fake tickets as an embellishment.  Why use a fake ticket when real tickets are so awesome?

I’ve gathered a bunch of my ticket layouts to show you how I use real tickets in my scrapbook.

Theatre Tickets

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Christmas Play

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Metropolitan Opera

Museums & Attractions

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

New York Museums

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

National Baseball Hall of Fame

Football Season Tickets

Football Season Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

2006 Football Season

Baseball Tickets

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Giants Games

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Yankee Game

Other Sporting Events

USC Football Roadtrip Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

USC Football Roadtrip

Football Roadtrip Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

Tennessee Football Roadtrip

Concert Tickets

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Concert Before Our Wedding

Lots of Tickets Mixed Together

Scrapbook Pages with Tickets by Natalie Parker

Seeing Shows

Clearly, I like using tickets in layouts.  I hope this inspires you to do the same!

To see all of my layouts that use tickets, click here.

I Love Street Art

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Street Art by Natalie Parker

Above in order: Melbourne, Paris, London, Paris, Melbourne, Melbourne, Melbourne

Not many words today — just pictures.  I love street art and I love taking photos of it when I travel.  I went through my photo collection to find my favorites from my trips.  Melbourne is by far my favorite and I love how the city has embraced street art.  I can’t wait to use these in a scrapbook.