An In-Depth Review of the Aer Travel Pack 2.0

I recently had the opportunity to one-bag travel with the Aer Travel Pack 2.0 and wanted to contribute my opinion to the bagosphere.This is a 33L pack geared toward those want to travel with only one bag and usually carry a laptop or other tech gear. Check out the video below or keep reading for my full written review.

Before we get to my impressions, let’s highlight some of the bag’s features.

Features and Tech Specs

  • 33L
  • $230 USD
  • Comes in black, grey and camouflage
  • YKK zippers
  • Duraflex buckles
  • 3.7 pounds (without the hip belt which can be purchased separately)
  • “Practical Lifetime Warranty”
  • Company established in 2014
  • Dimensions: 21.5″ tall, 13.5″ wide, 8.5″ deep
  • Small enough to satisfy most airlines carry-on restrictions
  • Fits up to a 17″ laptop
  • Constructed from a very durable 1680 Cordura Ballistic Nylon
  • Manufactured in China
  • Available online and select stores

    one bag travel aer travel pack 2.0 travel pack backpack
    Front of the Aer Travel Pack 2.0

How Does it Feel? 

The exterior material is a very sturdy Cordura. The tight weave resists stains, pet hair and water. Seriously, this thing repels just about anything that touches feels very soft to the touch. This was a surprise since my last travel bag was the GoRuck GR2 which, while also being very water resistant, attracted pet hair and was very rough against my skin and clothes.

When the pack is loaded up and on your back you’ll notice some light noise from the zippers swaying but due to some sort of powder coating or anodization on the zipper pulls it’s not very loud. There is ample padding on the back of the pack which feels lovely while carrying a heavy load.

The straps are extremely well padded and easy to adjust on-the-go. The pack has a high profile and comes with an adjustable (and removable) sternum strap and if you usually pack heavy you can purchase the add-on hip belt for $20.00. Although I try to pack as light as possible I still think the hip belt is a worthy accessory. I have a messed up back and try to keep as much of my carry weight on my hips as possible.

What is it Like to Use? 

It’s great! Not only does it carry everything I need for a week (and if I’m going to wash my clothes then forever) it handles the weight well and fits under the seat in front of me on a domestic flight. I haven’t had a chance to test it on smaller or international flights but due to the moderate squish factor I don’t think it would be an issue.

From the outside of the bag, you can access the water bottle holder pocket. It’s a decent size and holds a thick and tall bottle easily. I never had any concern about my 17oz stainless steel bottle falling out. When you’re not using the water bottle holder, you can easily zip it up and the bag maintains its slim profile. The only annoying thing about the water bottle holder is that one of the compression straps sits just above it. It doesn’t hamper the holder’s usability but it might irk you sometimes. If, however, you choose to use the outside pocket to hold an umbrella or tripod, you can slip it under the compression strap and be assured that sucker isn’t going anywhere. 

There are two carry handles – one large and padded on top of the bag and the other slightly less padded but still very soft and comfortable on the side of the bag. I used both during my travels found them to be easy to grab, comfortable against my palm and fingers, and well constructed. My only nitpick is I wish the top handle was tapered to accommodate the curvature of my hand while I grasped it. All in all, that’s a very small complaint.

The pack is lined with a ripstop nylon. On the black version of the bag (which is the only color I tested), the nylon is a charcoal grey and being a lighter color than the outside of the bag is nice for easily seeing your gear. The nylon isn’t quite as soft as I would have liked but it’s not too rough. I traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East with a Briggs and Riley roller bag and they really nailed it with their silky nylon fabric so I know AER could make this inner lining softer while maintaining durability.

On the outside of the pack there are three notable pockets – the outside pocket on the front of the pack, the quick access pocket on top of the pack, and the shoe compartment on the bottom of the pack.

The outside pocket has the beefiest zipper I have ever seen on such a small pocket. It’s certainly large enough to fit some snacks, socks, and travel papers but I’m still confused as to why this outside pocket has such a thick YKK zipper. Rest assured – it will not fail and it, along with the rest of the bag, has enough water proofing to stay dry during a massive down-pour.

I adore the quick access pocket. When I had the pack on the floor under the seat in front of me I was still able to easily access this upper pocket. When I sat the pack down next to me (and yes, it stands up on its own which is a bonus!), the quick access pocket was there waiting for me every time.

The shoe compartment sits on the bottom of the pack and keeps your kicks separate from your main gear. AER says it is large enough to fit men’s size 13 shoes and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration – this thing is huge. It’s lined with the same ripstop nylon which folds down in case you don’t want to use this pocket.

The AER has two main sections: an organizational area, and the main packing area.

The organizational area is a dream. There are tons of pockets to slip your baubles, dongles and pogey-bait. If you’re an organizational nut, this bag is like manna from heaven. I was able to fit my toiletry kit in the bottom area of this section but it could just as easily have a packable jacket or large noise-cancelling headphones stuffed down there.

The main packing area opens in a full clamshell which is ah-maz-ing for travel. If you haven’t had a chance to travel with a clamshell opening one-bag you owe it to yourself to try. The pack opens to lay flat and you can stuff all sorts of things into the main compartment. I travel with a medium and small packing cube and even with a full-sized pair of boots, the AER took it all in stride. Side-note: the shoe compartment on the bottom of the bag does take away from the space in the main compartment so if you’re putting your bulky boots in there you’ll have less space for your packing cubes. I traveled during the rainy season and while I don’t usually make use of shoe compartments I was grateful to have it when packing my dirty boots.

Within the main compartment there are two flat pockets, one with mesh and one without. They don’t have much dimension so they’re only suitable for flatter items. The mesh is absurdly rough and felt abrasive on my knuckles when I tried to use this pocket to the point that I never tried again. It’s so stiff that it actually bends and makes a pop / click noise when you apply pressure to it. Who knows, maybe I’m a wuss? See my video review above and you tell me.

The laptop compartment is placed so that your laptop rests flat against your bag. I have a 15″ MacBook Pro which the AER Travel Pack 2.0 practically swallowed. If you have a 17″ laptop, have no fears – that monster will easily fit in this pack. The big downside to the laptop compartment is that it doesn’t have a false bottom. Really, AER?! There is more than enough room for AER to have included a 1-2″ false bottom which practically guarantees that your expensive laptop is protected but they chose not to include it. Instead there is a small padded flap that sits on the bottom of the compartment and is designed to catch the bottom of the laptop and protect it from the floor if you need to quickly set your bag on the hard floor. Rather than have faith in the padded flap catching the bottom of the laptop as it should, I found myself being extra careful not to toss my bag on the floor. For a bag that has a 10 gauge zipper on what is arguably the least important pocket on the entire pack, I’m surprised they didn’t choose to beef up the laptop compartment.

It is worth noting that the bag is 21.5″ tall and so it might not meet the strict free personal item dimension for some of the stricter airlines (looking at you AirAsia and Spirit) but, again, if it’s not packed out fully you might be able to wrestle it in their demonic-boxes. Another consideration is that the bag weighs 3.7 pounds all by itself so if you’re flying on an airline that is known for weighing your carry-on luggage this might necessitate you learn the ways of the ultralight community.

Is it a Good Value? 

Although this bag retails at $230 it is a wise investment. The AER Travel Pack 2.0 is an overbuilt bag and will stand the test of time. AER designers went a little nuts and built this bag the same way that Germans built their homes when they settled in North America. Not only is it a high-quality bag, but AER offers a killer warranty with a lot of happy customers. When traveling I was never concerned about a busted zipper or broken buckle and that peace of mind is priceless.


I recommend this bag to those who are looking for an affordable well-built bag.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below! And if you’re curious about other items we bring during our travels, sign up for our mailing list below to have updates delivered directly to your inbox – or just keep checking back here.

We were not paid in any way for these reviews and recommendations. All of these items were purchased with our own money. If you decide to to purchase an item via the links provided we will earn a small percentage and be immensely grateful for your support. Thank you!

How to Organize Your Car for a Road Trip

This post is part of the Ultimate List of Road Trip Essentials.

After driving hundreds of miles a day, we really learned to identify gear that improved our ability to travel well and have fun doing it. We wanted to share our insight to help those who are new to roadtripping or just looking for new tips and tricks.

For reference we don’t have a large car – we’re driving a small sedan and there isn’t much built-in organization. When Penny and I embarked on our first cross-country road trip together we did a lot of planning to make our car as usable and comfortable as possible. Over time we realized that could have used the space more efficiently and that road trip organization is always a work in progress. This post will walk you through our process.

First, we analyzed what we needed to do while in the car. Here is what we came up with:

• Store Penny’s small items like a phone, mints, scrunchies, sunglasses, etc.
• Store trash until we found a place we could throw it away.
• Store stuff for our animals like treats and poop bags.
• Keep all our beverages handy.
• Easily access items we use on a regular basis or would need in case of an emergency.
• Safely mount the phone we use for navigation and music.
• Seep our phones charged.

During our first cross-country trip we used our small sedan’s built in organization areas and found it wasn’t enough. Sometimes, Penny and I used the cup holders for our phones and wallets but then there was no room for our water or coffee. We liked to have snacks near the front seats in case we found ourselves hungry during a long drive or a few energy drinks in case we needed a jolt. We quickly realized we needed more room and started to think of solutions. Enter the humble Slim Side Pocket. This little organizational pocket is, as advertised, very slim. It’s designed to stick to the side of your center console although you can place it anywhere that the tape will adhere. There is a division in the middle of the pocket so small items don’t slide from end to the other. This is great if you’re using it for small items like phones or wallets but if you wanted place a longer item in it this won’t work for you. Regardless, we were incredibly happy to invest in some extra space and we recommend it for a long road trip.

When we travel we inevitably produce trash. Whether it’s from fast food wrappers, paper towels, or an empty lip balm tube, we don’t like to toss trash on the car floor. There is something about a dirty environment which makes a long road trip even longer. I’ve seen some people keep a small trash can on the floor of their vehicle in the backseat and for a shorter trip with less baggage this could work for you. Since we usually go for much longer drives and floor space is a commodity, we decided to work with the space we did have. We ended up finding a robust organizational bag, that hangs from the back of the seat headrests. You can either hang these from the back of the driver’s and front passenger’s headrest or if you don’t plan on having any passengers you can hang them facing toward the front (although not on the driver’s side). We bought two and used one for our trash (the waterproof liner really came in handy) and the other for dog treats, poop bags, and leashes.

Even with the slim side pocket and organization bag we still needed more! We had a place to store spare phones and small items, items for the dogs, and trash but we didn’t have enough space for all our beverages. Our sedan only has two cup holders and that’s great for an everyday commute but let’s say you and your passenger both have a coffee but you also want water (gotta stay hydrated!) – you’re going to want to keep your water bottle close by without it rolling all over the floor.

We also like to keep an atlas, a tablet, and a few energy drinks and whatever else within easy reach. It might be overkill for some people but if you’re like us you should take a look at a mesh organizer. It’s essentially a mesh storage pocket with a few separate layers that set up to rest between the driver’s seat and the passenger seat. You can toss any number of oddly shaped items in the layers and they’ll stay put. Because the organizer is mesh, you can also easily see where everything is at all times. One unexpected perk was that it represented a physical boundary between the front and the back of the car for the animals. Yay!

With all of our storage needs out of the way we started to focus on the best way to mount our phone. We prefer to use our phone for navigation and music so it had to be a set-up where the driver could easily look over and see the maps view. Simply keeping it in a cup holder not only took up valuable space, it wasn’t as visible. We’ve used a lot of phone mounts over the years and finally found one that was clean, minimal and functional. The ProClip magnet mount is strong enough to hold something as large as a tablet without falling off but it’s also easy to adjust and take your phone off / put your phone on.

Last, but definitely not least, we needed a way to charge multiple devices at once. Since Penny and I each have a smart phone we opted for a USB car charger with 2 ports although some go up to as many as 4 ports if you have a lot of devices.

Whew! That’s a lot of information but the main points are:

1) Figure out what your needs are ahead of time and try to find solutions.
2) Understand that your organization system is always evolving.
3) Keep your stuff organized and you’ll have more time to relax and enjoy the trip.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions please let us know in the comment section below. We love to hear from you and look forward to sharing your tips!

Big Agnes Big House 6 Deluxe Tent: A Long Term Review

big agnes big house 6 deluxe tent at yosemite national park campground

Penny and I lived in our Big Agnes Big House 6 Deluxe tent for just over ten months. That breaks down into about 300 days of using and trying not to abuse our beloved Big Agnes Big House 6 Deluxe tent.

Full disclaimer: This is NOT a tent designed for long-term living. Penny and I took a chance on the Big House Deluxe to see how it would hold up to prolonged use. Big Agnes is an amazing company with excellent customer support but if you choose to live out of a polyester tent like this for 300 days you really shouldn’t hassle them about any warranty repairs. That being said, having lived out of this thing for almost a year I can tell you with confidence that you probably won’t need to call them about much of anything.

The Big House 6 Deluxe tent (2017 version) is an impressive and beautiful three season tent. We received many compliments from friends, family and total strangers during our travels. Our picture of it at Yosemite National Park was one of our most popular Instagram posts.

The head room is this tent is definitely “deluxe.” Penny, who is six feet tall, could easily stand up and move around. The walls are vertical enough that nearly all the floor space (75 sq. ft) is usable. We were even able to fit a queen sized air mattress into the Big House Deluxe and still have some room on the sides and a decent chunk of space at the foot.

Penny does want to point out that as a taller person while the height of the tent was great, she still had to do a lot of stooping to unzip the much shorter doors.

On the slightly taller main door, there was a strange point of tension on the upper right hand corner of the zipper. It appeared to be caused by an overly taut part of the fabric directly to the right of the door. If you plan on using this tent infrequently it will probably be fine but since we used the tent for such a long period of time this “tight spot” was frustrating and ultimately led to a failed zipper.

In order to mitigate the problem, we tried to pitch the tent differently but the fabric was still too tight in that one spot. It may be a design flaw or we may have received a defective tent. Regardless, if you keep your zippers clean and are gentle with them they should be fine. We used a zipper cleaner / lubricant from M Essentials to keep the small nylon teeth on all our zippers as clean as possible.

Since we were living in this tent, we used it to lay around and watch our favorite shows. Big Agnes advertises “side wall pockets sized for i-pads” as a tent feature! We were happy to find that if you propped an iPad into the gear pocket and you maximized the screen brightness you can easily view videos through the thin white mesh. Not only was the white mesh great for watching videos but it really helped in quickly identified whatever other gear you stowed in the pockets. We wish more tent manufacturers thought of these things when designing their shelters.

Specs and Sizing

At 14 pounds packed, including the footprint, this tent is not for ultra-light crowd. It is meant to be a car-camping tent for a couple or small family who really want a lot of space. Big Agnes advertises this as a 6 person tent but, as is common in the outdoor industry, they’re overly ambitious with their estimates.

See below for the crammed configuration they require for six adults to fit into this tent.

In our camping experiences, we comfortably fit four adults, their gear, and one dog in the tent. All adults slept with their heads facing the same direction and we had enough room to turn around without bumping into each other.

The tent is easily broken down so that if you and your backpacking partners want to break up the pieces between your packs it wouldn’t be too heavy. If you split the weight between 4 people you’re only looking at 3.5 pounds each.


We knew that the California sun would beat down on our rainfly and destroy the waterproofing in spite of the factory UV protectant applied by Big Agnes. Penny and I took measures to prolong the life of our rainfly and used Nikwax TX.Direct and Nikwax tent and Gear Solarproof sprays. Both of these products are recommended by Big Agnes and were found at our local REI store. Unfortunately in this case, since the Big House 6 Deluxe is such a large tent you’ll need a lot to throughly apply each product and that can get expensive.

Our rainfly worked perfectly for the first six months or so we had it outside which is actually a very good length of time for polyester. Penny and I weathered heavy rain and the tent floor and rainfly held fast, keeping us and all our possessions dry. Big Agnes tape all the seams and create the polyester rainfly and the floor with a 1500mm waterproof polyurethane coating. For the price of the tent we would have liked to see the bathtub floor coated with 3000mm polyurethane coating but with a properly positioned footprint   you’ll probably be fine.

The Big House 6 Deluxe held up surprisingly well to strong winds. In Southern California, we get what are known as the Santa Ana winds, nicknamed the “Devil Winds.” On average, gusts are 46 MPH but can reach as high as 92 MPH. Due to where we pitched our tent we didn’t receive gusts at nearly that level but, in spite of its high-profile shape, the Big House 6 Deluxe did hold up to winds in excess of 20 MPH.

Unfortunately, the rainfly merely sits on top of the tent (with a small buffer to prevent the fabric from touching) and so there is no way to truly seal the tent from strong windy weather and a huge layer of dust found its way into our test. I imagine if there was heavy winds along with rain the inside of the tent would be wet, too.


  • Beautiful
  • Spacious with a high ceiling
  • Breathable polyester
  • Stands up better than expected to strong winds
  • Easy to pitch and tear down with color coded assembly
  • Durable and water-proof
  • Customer Support is top-notch
  • The carrying bag design is great!
  • Easy to see at night
  • Plenty of space, pockets, and loops for gear


  • Made in China
  • Some taut areas cause tight spots for the zippers
  • Expensive
  • Guy-lines pulled apart like paper towels after only 30 days in the sun.
  • Bathtub floor could have better polyurethane treatment
  • In high winds, dust or rain *will* get in your tent because there is no way to really keep the elements completely out
  • Bees don’t see a tent – they see a giant yellow flower and are determined to get inside


We highly recommend the Big Agnes Big House 6 Deluxe tent as a 3-season car camping tent that will comfortably fit up to four people. This tent is made of good quality materials and the staff at Big Agnes are cheerful, knowledgable, helpful, and dependable.

We were not paid in any way for these reviews and recommendations. All of these items were purchased with our own money. We strongly prefer to shop locally when and where possible. If you do, however, decide to to purchase an item via the links provided we will earn a small percentage and be immensely grateful for your support.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below! And if you’re curious about our travels, sign up for our mailing list below to have updates delivered directly to your inbox – or just keep checking back here.

The Ultimate List of Road Trip Essentials

black audi on road surrounded by mountains

After driving hundreds of miles a day, we really learned to identify gear that improved our ability to travel well and have fun doing it. We wanted to share our insight to help those who are new to roadtripping or just looking for new tips and tricks.

When we first started out there were several items we initially thought were essential (looking at you, Vitamix – I know, I know…) only to find they did not warrant the valuable space they occupied. Through trial and error we discovered some great and practical items that made our trip much more comfortable and enjoyable. This is our current list and we’re always looking for ways to make it better but as it stands these are personal items that we bring on almost all long-distance road trips. You may decide that some of our items aren’t essential to you or your family and that’s okay!

For reference we don’t have a large car – we’re driving a sedan – and it can be a very tight squeeze when traveling with animals but we make it work. Due to our size constraints we focus on space saving items – if you have any thoughts or suggestions on our list, please let us know in the comment section below. We love to hear from our community and look forward to sharing your tips!

Our priority is packing in such a way that we hit the sweet spot of comfort and organization while using as little space as possible. If you’re traveling with other people you may be able to share some of these items and therefore save on space.


Personal Items

Car Comfort and Organization



Tech Gadgets


Travel Apps



Car Emergency Kit

First Aid Kit

If you’re on a schedule and need to see all the recommendations now in an easy to digest format I’ve created a printable spreadsheet with each of the above categories and their corresponding items and recommendations which can be found here.

If you’re looking for travel tips instead of a gear list please keep an eye out for our upcoming list of road trip travel tips.

We were not paid in any way for these reviews and recommendations. All of these items were purchased with our own money. We strongly prefer to shop locally when and where possible. If you do, however, decide to to purchase an item via the links provided we will earn a small percentage and be immensely grateful for your support.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below! And if you’re curious about other items we bring during our travels, sign up for our mailing list below to have updates delivered directly to your inbox – or just keep checking back here.

Personal Items to Bring on a Long Road Trip

black audi sedan surrounded by luggage

This post is part of the Ultimate List of Road Trip Essentials.

After driving hundreds of miles a day, we really learned to identify gear that improved our ability to travel well and have fun doing it. We wanted to share our insight to help those who are new to roadtripping or just looking for new tips and tricks.

These are our essential Personal Items.

picture of road trip essential items personal items
Our Road Trip Essential Personal Items

For our first long voyage I assumed that the car seats would be comfortable enough for my neck but unfortunately after three hours of driving I started to experience neck fatigue. I borrowed Penny’s travel neck pillow which offered some support but I felt silly wearing a pillow designed for airline travel. The neck pillow also constricted my movement which didn’t feel safe on the road.

For our second voyage I did some research and found a neck pillow better suited to driving that also complimented our car’s black interior. When Penny tried my new pillow she noticed how soft and comfortable it was and asked for one as well. I actually keep it in my car even when we’re not pulling 600 mile drives.

In terms of bed pillows we recommend bringing your own bed pillow with you on long trips. It’s comforting to lay your head down on a familiar pillow after a long day. Another plus, you will likely avoid any neck aches from too-soft or too-hard hotel pillows.

Lower Back Support

Both Penny and I have lower back pain so we looked for a way to prevent flare-ups. My car’s adjustable lumbar support might be good enough for short trips but we needed something more for those long travel days. We settled on a posture corrector seat and despite it looking a little weird on a plush seat it works really well.


While you’re not driving it’s nice to curl up in a small blanket or large throw and catch some zzz’s. I use an old Army poncho liner from my military days because it’s magically light, easy to pack, and provides variable temperature warmth. It’s also helpful when you sleep in a sketchy motel room and want to cover the existing sheets with something familiar.


I always have lotion at the ready. Washing my hands with cheap rest-stop soap tends to dry my hands out and lotion keeps them nice, soft and healthy.

Lip Balm

I’m addicted to lip balm, specifically Burt’s Bees Peppermint. I bring it with me everywhere I go – whether on a road trip or not. Penny is partial to the ultra conditioning lip balm with kokum butter but that one is a bit glossy for me, so if you don’t want to have shiny lips, you may just want to stick with the peppermint or a similarly delicious flavor. If you’re like us you’ll be sorry if you forget to pack lip balm!


Life on the road can be amazingly bright especially if you’re driving westbound during sunset. Bring a pair of sunglasses and make sure they’re polarized to reduce eye fatigue while maintaining optimum visibility.


Ever desperately need to blow your nose…while in traffic? Have some tissues handy to avoid using your sleeve. Ew.


Mints are a quick pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired and (bonus!) they make your breath fresh,  which is nice for your companion. It may also keep that cop who pulled you over in a better mood.


In the same way that mints can provide a nice wake-up kick to the senses, having an essential oil or fresh herb handy can be just the boost you need to stay focused while driving a long monotonous stretch of road (looking at you I-10). My good friend put some dried mint in a tiny jar which I kept near me while driving. I would periodically open the jar and take a deep breath which kept me energetic . Perhaps more importantly, it kept me grateful for all the wonderful people in my life.

Weapon / Knife

Regardless of whether you view a utility knife as a weapon or not, it can be used as one. You should always have a knife around.  It s a handy tool and serves double-duty as a means of self-protection. That being said, if you’re down to a small utility knife to save you, you’re probably in bad shape…that’s why I also have a tire iron, machete and baseball bat. I know, I’m paranoid but —- QUIT LOOKING AT ME FUNNY!

if you do choose to travel with something better suited for self-protection please check the laws in the states you’ll be passing through to make sure you’re in compliance.


I have at least a few carabiners with me while driving. Why? Because they’re incredibly versatile! I clip one or two to my main backpack and have a few more in my emergency tool kit.  I’ve used a carabiner to secure my bag to my chair while at a cafe, clip my dog’s leashes to a fence, or attach the top of my water bottle to a luggage handle. I’m currently using one to hang a lantern from the top of our tent.


There exists a great scholarly discussion on whether or not you should keep duct tape, gorilla tape, gaffers tape or tenacious tape in your bag. Tenacious tape seems to be the king of repair tape but I’ve settled on gorilla tape because of its strength, the lack of sticky residue, and the ease of tearing it with your fingers instead of having to cut it with a knife or scissors. A small piece of gorilla tape has been serving as a temporary patch on our air mattress for the last four day days – not too shabby.

Gorilla Tape Patch for Coleman air mattress
Gorilla Tape Temporary Patch
Beverage Container

Stay hydrated. I prefer HydroFlask to keep my water cold which is especially helpful during summer driving. I also have a KleenKanteen but recently it’s been leaking and on the whole, has been less reliable than the HydroFlask therefore I can’t recommend it.

I like to keep my coffee or tea mug separate from my water bottle to avoid lingering tastes and having to wash it out so often. I also really enjoy having both coffee AND water available to drink. Some of you minimalists will be fine with just one container in which case definitely go with something stainless steel so that your water doesn’t taste like coffee later in the day.

For my coffee I use a 16oz Tervis tumbler with a travel lid that came in a welcome packet from the Wounded Warrior Project. I like it for coffee because it doesn’t keep beverages hot all day. I don’t like pouring piping hot coffee and having to wait at least four hours before I can sip it without burning myself. Ugh.

Baby Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

When my dog chased a llama through the fields of Indiana I ended up covered in mud and who-knows-what-else. I thanked myself for packing baby wipes and hand sanitizer.

Bottle Opener

How many times in your life have you heard, “Does anyone have a bottle opener?” ‘Nuff said.

Safety pins

I primarily keep these around to make sure my blouse doesn’t blow open and I inadvertently end up flashing strangers. I’m currently using one right now to keep a low-cut dress modestly placed. Sorry, strangers.

Good Luck Charm

C’mon, who doesn’t benefit from the comfort of traveling with a good luck charm (or two, or three)? It might not help, but it definitely won’t hurt. Unless it’s broken mirror or something. Don’t bring that.

Light Source

At some point on the road you’re going to need to rely on a light source other than the sun. Whether it is a lantern, flashlight or even some fire-starters make sure you have a way to create light. Don’t rely on just one source of light either – I have a small Fenix flashlight in my car AND in my packed bag, a headlamp in my first aid kit, and a lighter on my person (I wish I had the foresight to make sure they all shared the same battery – I address this point in our upcoming post on travel tips.)


Penny and I travel with a small assortment of games that require no electric power or batteries. We like having easy access to entertainment no matter where we are and whether or not that place has reliable internet or power. Our favorite games to play during our downtime are Bananagrams or All Queens Chess.

Eye Mask and Earplugs

Penny loves to look at me and hangs on every word I say so she has no need of either of these items but you, dear reader, may find yourself in a situation where you’ve driven very late into the night and want to sleep in the next morning. Unfortunately you may also be crashing on a far-flung friend’s couch with light pouring into their living room and they have noisy neighbors. Be prepared and have an eye mask (this one is molded so it doesn’t rest on your eyelids) and earplugs

If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below! And if you’re curious about other items we bring during our travels, sign up for our mailing list below to have updates delivered directly to your inbox – or just keep checking back here.

We were not paid in any way for these reviews and recommendations. All of these items were purchased with our own money. We strongly prefer to shop locally when and where possible. If you do, however, decide to to purchase an item via the links provided we will earn a small percentage and be immensely grateful for your support. Thank you!

How My Father Inspired Me to Travel

man in a baseball hat drinking in a bar

This is my Father’s Day tribute post.

My Dad has lived in Los Angeles for over 50 years and is a location manager.

What is a location manager?

A location manager is a person in charge of scouting locations for films, commercials, and television shows.

As a result of my Dad’s trade, it is no surprise that he knows Los Angeles inside and out. Recently, as we drove to a film set he scouted for his most recent project I looked out the window and admired the golden hue of the mountains. I thought to myself, I wonder who owns that land and why it remains (thankfully) undeveloped. Then I remembered that I was sitting next to my Dad, practically a living, breathing GPS unit complete with historical archives. I pointed to my left and casually asked him, “Do you know who owns that land?” I shouldn’t have been surprised when he provided a name and – I kid you not – explained to me the legacy of the land extending back 150 years. His breadth of Los Angeles knowledge is mind-blowing.

My Dad was born in 1941 and grew up in western Massachusetts. His parents worked at the Eaglebrook School and he and my uncle attended the prestigious boarding school tuition-free. My dad has a painting in the living room of the lush green hills surrounding Eaglebrook School, the same view that his father, the head chef, saw every day as he prepared food for hoards of hungry students.

When my Dad graduated he felt the pull of our nation’s collective manifest destiny and headed West to begin his life-long love affair with Los Angeles. He started working lights at The Troubadour in the legendary Southern California music scene and collected stories that I’ve grown up to revere. Somewhere there is a picture of him and The Doors’ Jim Morrison, each of them with their arm around their girlfriends, both named Pam. As if that isn’t cool enough, they’re all wearing leather pants. Yeah, that’s my Dad.

thanksgiving with the beach boys
Thanksgiving 1967 (Neil Young, Richie Furay, Steven Stills, Dewey Martin, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and my Dad)

He’s had Thanksgiving with The Beach Boys, managed Buffalo Springfield, had fights with Bob Dylan, partied with Mama Cass, and so much more.

At some point, he transitioned from the music scene to the movie industry, where he put his vast knowledge of the Los Angeles area to use scouting locations for major motion pictures. I remember being on location with him one day and holding my little sister who was probably around 2 years old at the time. Whoopi Goldberg walked by, tousled my younger sister’s strawberry blonde curls and said she was the most adorable little girl she’d ever seen. She followed with, “Those curls could give me for a run for my money!” I didn’t know who Whoopi Goldberg was at the time, but I did agree that both she and my little sister’s hair was fabulous.

My Dad is truly the most remarkable and well-lived man I’ve ever known. His influence sparked my own desire to travel, live with gusto, remain curious about the world, and get out there and collect stories. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without having such a wonderful role model. Hearing my Father’s stories inspired me to make my own and I will be forever grateful he is in my life.

This Sunday he and I, along with my siblings and Penny, are embracing a 30 year Father’s Day tradition and taking a drive out to the LA Roadster’s So Cal Car Show in Pomona. We’ll be posting plenty of pictures to our Instagram so if you like classic cars check it out.

Happy Father’s Day and Happy Hot-rodding!

Casa Barranca: An Ojai Winery Experience

Pratt House Facade at the Casa Barranca Winery in Ojai, California 2017

“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.” – Jack Kerouac

Every time I visit Ojai, California, I am completely taken aback by its awe-inspiring beauty; the rolling hills, open skies, sunshine and ecologically friendly attitude are all things that make Ojai a very worthwhile place to visit. Whether you have a desire for some tasty farm-fresh food, want to visit an interesting art gallery, or have a sudden thirst for some top-notch wine, Ojai provides.

As a lover of all things wine, I was pleasantly surprised when Vicky and I were invited to Casa Barranca’s Wine Tasting Party.  I couldn’t wait to travel to Ojai to indulge in a little (or in my case, a lot) of that miraculous nectar of the gods. As we were approaching the estate, we were greeted by a jovial security guard asking to see our tickets. After a few confused and frantic moments on our part, he chuckled, waved us on, informing us that there were no tickets and that one should always start the day off right and with a good joke. Normally, I would agree with his life philosophy but, when the ability to drink massive amounts of delicious wine flashes suddenly before my eyes, I become slightly less appreciative of the fine art of comedy. After just a few moments and some carefully maneuvered driving through the flurry of people trying to park, we checked in and headed inside the Estate.

“Casa Barranca” meaning, “house of the ravine” was commissioned by Charles and Mary Pratt in 1909 when they decided that they needed a place of serenity to escape to when the busy streets of New York became too overwhelming. To fulfill their dreams of building a house that matched the majesty of Ojai, they enlisted the help of, “…two of the most gifted architects of the Arts & Crafts Movement, the brothers Charles and Henry Greene.”

The Arts and Crafts Movement revitalized “…traditional artistic craftsmanship with themes of simplicity, honesty, function, harmony, nature and social reform. The movement promoted moral and social health through quality of architecture and design executed by skilled creative workers, and was a revolt against the poor quality of industrialized mass production.”

By the late 19th century, the American Arts and Crafts Movement, was flourishing because it was a step towards a more natural, balanced and harmonious lifestyle as well as, a direct response to the mass consumerism of the industrial revolution and the end of the Victorian era and its architectural over-embellishment.

Living Room by The United Crafts from the Craftsman Journal, United Crafts, 1802
Living Room by The United Crafts from the Craftsman Journal, United Crafts, 1802

The Casa Barranca Estate, is the second Greene and Greene creation that we have visited. The first, was the beautiful and sprawling Gamble House in Pasadena, California. Both residences have a warm, earthy, simple yet luxurious charm that I appreciate and are excellent examples of the American Craftsman style.

As soon as we entered Casa Barranca, we were greeted by a banquet table filled with glistening wineglasses and name tags. I don’t think I have ever been more excited to put on a name tag, than I was in that moment.

We didn’t waste our time, and within five seconds of grabbing a wine glass, it was filled with Rosé . Rosé is wine that incorporates some color from the grapes and may be the oldest known type of wine because of the method originally used in its production, known as the skin contact method or pigeage.

wine glass on ledge
Ready for Rosé, Casa Barranca, 2017

Rosé has always been one of those types of wine that I’d drink in a pinch, but when it comes down to it, I’m a red wine gal, through and through. That being said, their Rosé was decent. It wasn’t too sweet and it had the crispness of what I would typically associate with a Riesling.

While sipping our first glass, we strode around the grounds and took a self-guided tour of the Estate. The thing that most amazes me, as an East coaster, is the West coast’s mentality toward open green spaces and the absolute joy and genius of the “sleeping porch”.

twin sized bed on an old california craftsmen sleeping porch at the gamble house in pasadena
Time for a nap. Casa Barranca, Ojai, California. 2017

The sleeping porch is a thing of beauty. A place where you can sleep outside, with all the comforts of an indoor bedroom but, with a much better view. Sleeping porches, while still used as a means of relaxation and regeneration had a much more practical use in the early 1900’s:

“Tuberculosis was the number one cause of death and fresh air was considered some of the best treatment for people suffering from this lung ailment. The population in the southern states discovered that by building a screened, private porch they could enjoy the cooler summer nights rather than sleeping in a stuffy and warm bedroom. Hospitals also made use of the fresh air by placing patients’ beds on porches.”

After spending all day wandering through a craftsman house, that was designed to promote the free flow of California air, I wish that sleeping porches had not been replaced by the modern conveniences of air conditioning.

Once we finished exploring, we headed down to the festivities on the lawn and tried Casa Barranca’s Arts & Crafts and Bungalow Red wines. Vicky’s Dad is a Casa Barranca member and receives quarterly wine shipments and while he prefers the Arts and Crafts Red blend Vicky and I love the Bungalow Red. We especially liked that the wine was made organically and the winery uses honey from their own apiary.

people laying on blankets on a green lawn in ojai, california
Party Time. Casa Barranca, Ojai, California, 2017

After filling up on wine and some delicious, much appreciated, vegetarian food, we headed over to the pool to cool off. As soon as we sat down, we met these two hooligans who dared me to jump in the pool fully-clothed.

older couple in pool
Honestly, I didn’t need much convincing. It was very hot out. Casa Barranca, 2017


woman sitting in pool wearing all her clothes.
Taking a dip. Casa Barranca, 2017.


two women high-fiving next to a pool
Hi-Fives All Around! Casa Barranca, 2017

Overall, the time spent at Casa Barranca was filled with laughs, wine and just the right amount of lunacy. If you happen to be in or around Ojai we recommend stopping into the Casa Barranca Tasting Room and having a few flights. Unfortunately, the Estate isn’t open to the public but if you join their Wine Club you might get an invite to their next event.

We are grateful that we had the opportunity to visit and would especially like to thank Vicky’s Dad, Richard, for the tickets!

Things 3: A Quick Review by a Real User

Screenshot of Things 3 - A Quick Review by a Real User

A lot of things go into starting a new blog, a lot of things go into maintaining a blog, and a lot of things go into living your daily life.

I use Things, a productivity app geared toward getting things done and staying organized, to combat the jungle of my to-do list. I’ve been a long time user of Things starting with the first iteration of the product and shelling out cash for the updated version Things 2. Recently the developers at Cultured Code dropped the latest version, Things 3, to a thirsty fan base who have been waiting years for updates.

I took a look at Cultured Code’s website to see if the new Mac OS version was worth the price ($40 dollars for an update, $50 for new users) and as excited I was to see the new design I ended up disappointed. The first thing I noticed was that the app dropped many of its older skeuomorphic design elements and has adopted a lighter feel. The result is a cleaner landscape which will likely appeal to more users but lacks character. When I first opened it I almost mistook it for DayOne which is a journal app highly praised for its beautiful design. So yes, it is pretty but in an uninteresting way.

There is a long list of new features. I’m only going to address the Mac OS version of Things 3 since I don’t have the latest iPhone or iPad version.

The Good

There are plenty of things to like about the new Things. There is a new way to cleverly integrate your calendars so you can see your calendar events in the Today and Upcoming views which means, unless you’re editing your calendar, you don’t even need to have it open on your desktop. Things 3 allows you to plan what you’re going to do that day (or week) with what you already have scheduled.

Things has also created a way for you to segment tasks by the time of day with their “Today and This Evening” feature. For example, if you need to hit up the bank during the day but won’t have time to sort your sock drawer until later you can place it in the Evening section.

The Today and Evening View of Things 3 by Cultured Code
Today and Evening View – Things 3

I like to nest my lists which means I create tasks and then create tasks within those tasks. It is, essentially, an outline and Things 3 has created a way for me to create checklists within tasks without resorting to creating a new project.

Starting a Checklist in Things 3
Starting a Checklist – Things 3

When you create a new task in the lower right hand corner there is a small grey icon that looks like a checklist. If you click that and start typing you’ll be creating a new task and starting a checklist!

Checklist Feature on Things 3
Checklist – Things 3

Another major update is the addition of time-based reminders. Cultured Code is way behind on introducing this feature that most to-do apps have had for at least a couple years. The new time-based reminder works and performs its function flawlessly. If you want to set a reminder for any task simply double-click the title. If you’re in the Today view click Today and then Add Reminder. If you’re in any other view you’ll need to click the small grey calendar icon in the lower right hand corner to bring up the Reminder function. Unfortunately you can only set one reminder but it’s a start.

Set a Reminder in Things 3 by Cultured Code
Set a Reminder – Things 3

There are a few other updates which are nice. I like the ability to have multiple windows open. I also enjoy the little pie next to a project slowly changing based on your progress. The concept of Headings is fantastic but I could not figure out how to add them anywhere. I tried a variety of different selections but nothing would allow me to un-grey the New Heading option in the Menu Bar < File area.

Lastly, I appreciate that Cultured Code allows their users to purchase their software instead forcing their fan base into a subscription model. Things 3 is a hefty up front cost but the developers offer a free fully-featured 15 day trial so you can decide if it’s worth it for you. That being said, Cultured Code is not offering much of a discount for their loyal legacy users.

The Bad

Cultured Code did a good job with Things 3 but it could have been better.

As I stated earlier the design is pretty but lacks distinction. It blends seamlessly in with all the apps I already use which sounds nice but in practice it’s just a little boring. I would appreciate the ability to customize the application a little bit. I’ve included a picture below of an Evernote window and a Things 3 window side-by-side to illustrate my point.

Things 3 vs Evernote
Things 3 vs Evernote

There are wide gaps between my Areas of Responsibility which 1) don’t look good and 2) make my sidebar significantly longer.

Side by Side Comparison of Things 2 & 3 by Cultured Code
Side by Side Comparison of Things 2 (left) and Thing 3 (right)

The sidebar is an area where I would really appreciate that customization. In the latest design Things 3 eliminates the category titles from the sidebar leaving it up the user to guess what exactly they’re viewing. I know the designers did it to streamline the look of the app but they did it at the expense of clarity (ironic). I want the option to add helpful titles back to my sidebar. As long as I’m wishing and wanting, I’d also love:

  • The option to add a shortcut to the sidebar (for example, a “Tags” shortcut that took you to a view of all your tags)
  • The ability to collapse sidebar menu items
  • Being able to define where you want projects in your sidebar instead of living with the new default which places them underneath their area
  • If I add a tag to an Area of Responsibility or to a Project I’d like the option of having that same tag applied to each task within the respective container
  • Batch editing for multiple tasks
  • The ability to drag a task from the current list to an existing Project while in the slim view single window (existing projects are in the window, you simply can’t drag and drop as you would be able to with a Project listed in the sidebar)
  • Collaboration – this is Things 3 and the year 2017 and I still can’t share a list with Penny or anyone else unless I use a different to-do list app – big problem.

The Verdict

Would I recommend Things 3?

I’m not sure. I’m going to continue to play with the free trial until it ends and make a final decision but if I had to make a decision today I would not upgrade. The price to upgrade to the new version for legacy users is $40 which is a steep cost for what is available. I’m tempted because I really enjoy the calendar integration, checklist feature and separate windows but ultimately the cons keep me from opening my wallet right away. I’m on a budget so I want to make sure this is a product I would use daily and really enjoy. I take one look at that weirdly spaced sidebar and think, “I don’t want to see that every day.” If that could be adjusted I may change my mind.

If you’re a new user with disposable income and fondness for clean design (and can live without collaboration in your main to-do list app) then it’s a decent purchase. If you’re looking for a budget to-do list option with more customization and collaboration features check out Wunderlist.

Regardless of what to-do list app you use or if it’s just plain ole’ pencil and paper, happy travels!