A Guide to Summer Travel Safety

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Exploring a new town, city, or country can be an exciting time. It can also be a time of unknown, wondering what could happen and whether your new location will be safe. However, there are several ways to ensure your travels are safe, while still having a memorable time.

Leave an itinerary and emergency contact: Before leaving for your trip, leave your itinerary and contact information with a trusted friend or family member. Your itinerary doesn’t have to be down to every detail, but give them the basics as to where you’ll be and when. Try to check in with them often, so that in case something does happen, they can contact authorities.

Choose your transportation wisely: Research transportation companies and their safety records before starting out, especially if you are traveling abroad. Avoid less-safe vehicles by making sure your mode of transport is in good condition and has working seat belts. According to the World Health Organization, the number one death for U.S. citizens abroad are motor vehicle crashes.

Secure your items and leave valuables at home: It is very important to secure your luggage, money, and other items when traveling. Keep your valuables, such as laptop, jewelry, and other expensive items at home to avoid them being stolen or lost. As for your luggage, always have locks on it. TSA-approved padlocks are great to prevent airport security from taking them off and having your things falling out after inspection. If you need to secure your bags, use a backpack and a bag mesh protector. Your bags will be in a wire mesh, where you can lock them inside. When you are in your room, use a travel door alarm on your luggage to make you aware of any suspicious activity or tampering when you are out sightseeing. Lastly, always remember to secure your money. Travel wallets that strap to parts of your body are dependable. Whenever I travel, I use a cross-body purse to carry my belongings. Other travel wallets can strap to your legs, waist, and shoulders. Also, let your bank and credit card companies know when you are traveling, especially overseas. Remember to not flash your money every time you pay for something. Also, be protective of your cell phones. It is common for thieves to grab cell phones out in public.

Stay alert: When you’re in a new city, stay alert to your surroundings. Your surroundings include the areas you are traveling to, buildings, and people around you. If someone is making you uncomfortable, walk away in either the direction you came from or a quicker way out. Head towards a safer, more touristy/populated area. If they follow, find the authorities. Try to blend in and not take on the typical tourist look. Don’t have a map sticking out of your bag or pocket, or a camera around your neck. These actions are a giveaway that you are unfamiliar with the area and a tourist. Instead, dress like the locals and be alert when using your camera, maps, etc. An important part of staying alert when traveling is always having an escape route. For your room, take note of the map on the back of your door and familiarize yourself with the emergency routes. Also, if you are venturing into unknown areas, be aware of the buildings and landmarks. If you feel unsafe, go into a café, shop, or restaurant, until you are more comfortable.

Be aware of your location’s safety: The State Department is a great resource to check whether or not there are travel alerts and warnings for your destination. In addition, you can find out what possible vaccinations you need and local laws. Be sure to check on the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Within this program, you can register your travel plans and if an emergency occurs, the State Department will be able to notify you.

Traveling to new places and touring unfamiliar sites is one of the best things a person can do. It’s a time to make new memories, fall in love with new places, and learn about other parts of the world. However, it is important to always be safe and alert when traveling. Using the tips above will help make sure your trip is stress-free and a memorable adventure.

xoxo,

Megan

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What’s in a Carolina Name? A Look Inside the Names of Famous North Carolina Cities

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We know their names by heart and everything about them, but we don’t truly know their meanings. Wonder what I’m talking about? The names of famous North Carolina cities. Have you ever thought about why Raleigh is named Raleigh? Or why Wilmington is called just that? Well, sit back and read below for the history behind the names of famous North Carolina cities.

Winston-Salem: 

Let’s start with our hometown – Winston-Salem. Originally, the Camel City was two towns: Winston and Salem. The name Winston comes from local Revolutionary War hero, Joseph Winston. Until 1851, the area was known as “the county town” for being the county seat for the town of Salem in the newly formed Forsyth County. As for Salem, it bears its name from “Shalom” meaning peace. It was chosen by Count Zinzendorf, a patron of the Moravian town.

Raleigh: 

North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, is the second largest city in the state. The City of Oaks is named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who established the lost Roanoke Colony in current Dare County. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth gave Raleigh a royal charter to explore and colonize land in the New World. His first attempt at establishing a settlement was known as the Roanoke Colony (the Lost Colony). Three years later, he returned and tried again to reestablish a settlement on Roanoke Island.

Greensboro: 

Formerly spelled Greensborough, Greensboro is the 3rdlargest city in the state. The city gained its current name after the Revolutionary War. Major General Nathanael Greene was an American commander at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781. The battle was a British win, but Greene’s troops inflicted many casualties on British General Cornwallis’ army. Before 1781, the residents of Greensboro were Quakers from Pennsylvania. In 1750, they arrived in Capefair, the area now known as Greensboro. Quickly, more people came to the settlement, making it the most important Quaker community in North Carolina during that time.

Wilmington:

An important port city for various periods in history, Wilmington is currently known for being the Hollywood of the East Coast, its one-mile-long Riverwalk, and the coastal arena it provides people. The city was settled by English colonists and named after Spencer Compton, the 1stEarl of Wilmington. Compton was a British Whig statesman and is considered to be Britain’s second Prime Minister from 1742 to 1743. As for the area, the settlement was built in September 1732 on land owned by John Watson, and was founded by the first royal governor, George Burrington. Before deciding on the name Wilmington, the city was called “New Carthage,” “New Liverpool,” and then “New Town (Newton).” In 1739 – 1740, the town was incorporated under the new name, “Wilmington.”

Boone: 

A quick drive up US-421 North will take you to the beautiful city of Boone, North Carolina. The area is famous for the Blue Ridge Mountains, skiing and snow sports, bluegrass music, and of course, Appalachian State University. One can easily guess Boone got its name from American pioneer and explorer, Daniel Boone. According to historians, Boone spent time camping at locations within the present city limits. His nephews, Jesse and Jonathan, were members of Three Forks Baptist Church, the town’s first church, which still stands today.

Charlotte: 

The biggest city in North Carolina, the Queen City, and home of the Carolina Panthers, everyone knows the city of Charlotte, but few know the name’s meaning. It was first settled by Scotch-Irish and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and German immigrants before the Revolutionary War. Charlotte is named in honor of German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In 1761, she became the Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland. Seven years later, the town of Charlotte was incorporated. Along with its nickname, the Queen City, the city was often called The Hornet’s Nest, due to British General Cornwallis’ troops occupying the city during the Revolutionary War. Eventually, residents were driven out and Cornwallis wrote that Charlotte was “a hornet’s nest of rebellion.”

Next time you’re in one of these cities, you can show off your skills by testing your travel companions on their knowledge of the meaning of the city’s name.

xoxo,

Megan

My Fall Bucket List

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Fall- my favorite season of them all! Every year, there are several things I MUST do before it ends, so here is my fall bucket list:

  • Tailgate at a football game.
  • Go apple picking.
  • Buy school supplies.
  • Watch Halloween movies.
  • Decorate with tons of pumpkins and DIY fall crafts.
  • Travel through the mountains to see the leaves.
  • Visit the county fair.
  • Carve a pumpkin.
  • Make an apple pie, apple butter, apple pie, and homemade apple sauce. (Can you tell I like apples…alot?)
  • Stuff myself during the holidays.
  • Go on a hayride.
  • Eat s’mores at a bonfire.
  • Wear a hoodie, while snuggling up with a cup of hot chocolate.

It’s fall, y’all!

xoxo,

Megan

Summer Travel on a Budget

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As of Wednesday, June 21st, it is officially summer! With summer comes no school, longer days, and more traveling. However, taking trips can be expensive. But, never fear, there are still ways to travel and enjoy the summer season without breaking the bank.

Start a Travel Fund: Start collecting your spare change or setting aside money for an upcoming trip. You can also create a savings account just for traveling. Little by little your money will add up, and before you know it, you’ll be in your dream vacation spot.

Go During the Middle of the Week: Did you know hotel rates and other travel expenses are lower during the middle of the week than the weekends? Try going on vacation during the week. You’ll end up saving more money and won’t have to deal with crowds at popular tourist attractions. Another way to save is to travel during the off-season. Research your destination and see when the crowds are the lowest. For some places, winter is the highest tourist time, while summer is the busiest for other destinations.

Visit Nearby Destinations: While staying in one place, explore the surrounding areas. For example, if you are staying in a major city, take the time to venture out to nearby tourist attractions. This will save you time and money without having to plan another trip.

Have a Staycation: There are probably places in your own hometown you have never explored! Take a day or two and get to know your city a little bit more. Visit the little, unknown places, historic sites, and more. You never know what history you’ll learn about your hometown. Also, read your newspaper and look online for free events and festivals to take part in.

Research Your Accommodations: Hotels aren’t the only place to stay while on vacation. Vacation rental websites, such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com, are great places to search for cheaper accommodations in different cities. Plus, you’ll get to live like a local while exploring a new place. Another benefit is the possibility of having a kitchen, where you can make your meals and save on food. Be sure to read the rentals’ ratings and reviews before booking.

Take Advantage of Free Things: There is no shame in taking advantage of free entertainment, attractions, and transportation while on a trip. Sites like museums and parks can be free to visitors. Also, look into your location’s events, including concerts, art shows, and more to experience. Another way to save money is by using public transportation or, when possible, walking.

Fly Right: Prices for plane tickets vary throughout the time of the year and day of the week. It is recommended you purchase your tickets 50 to 100 days before your trip. Another way to save money is research prices through travel websites, such as Kayak, Expedia, and Airfarewatchdog.com. Try to plan your departures on a Thursday and returns on Monday to save more. When traveling abroad, fly to your destination during the off-season for cheaper airfares.

Use Travel Saving Websites and Apps: When it comes to any trip, the best thing you can do while planning is to research the best deals for accommodations, transportation, and more. An easy way to compare prices is by using travel saving websites and apps. In addition to the websites listed above, the Travel Channel recommends using jetsetter.combudgetplaces.com, and momondo.com.

Save Money on Food: You don’t have to eat out every meal while on vacation. When you first arrive, go to the grocery store and stock up on the essentials and items, such as sandwich supplies and easy to-go meals. This way you can pack your lunch, dinner, and snacks to take with you while site-seeing. Plan to splurge and eat out for maybe one or two good meals during your trip, and pack the rest.

Vacation expenses can quickly add up when you aren’t looking. However, there are still ways to save money and have the time of your life exploring a new place and making memories.

xoxo,

Megan

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Megan writes the monthly “Budget Bzzz” column for Forsyth Woman. This article was originally published in the June 2017 edition of the magazine http://www.forsythwoman.com/budget-bzzz-summer-travel/ 

Taking the Stress out of Traveling with Kids

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It’s summer time! And with summertime come trips and family vacations. Spending long hours traveling in a car, on a plane, or another mode of transportation can be tiring on both parents and children. But, there are tricks to keeping kids engaged and not asking the typical, “Are we there yet?”

Keep the Activities Coming: Pack a travel bag full of games, puzzles, coloring books, stickers, and more to keep your kids occupied. If you are traveling for several hours, try handing out a new item once per hour. Take the travel bag a step further and create a small bag for each child. This bag can be a pencil pouch or something of a similar size and include items that are interesting to that child. Lastly, play family games along the way. Have printable road bingo or a road trip scavenger hunt. Another classic family game is the license plates game, where everyone competes to see how many different license plates they can find. When traveling by airplane, it can be hard to pack all of these items into your carry-on. Instead, try downloading kid-friendly apps with games and videos on your iPhone or iPad. This way, your children will stay engaged in an activity other than running up and down the aisles of the plane.

Pack a Snack Bag without Sweets: Kids will get hungry going from place to place. Be sure to have their favorite treats to ease their hunger and avoid the hangry mood (hungry plus angry). However, remember one thing: don’t include sweets. There is nothing worse than being in a public tourist attraction with a child having a sugar rush. Include in the bag savory treats like cheese cubes, pretzels, fruit, and veggies. Don’t forget water to drink!

Start a Travel Journal: Put an educational spin on your trip and have your kids start a travel journal. This travel journal can include drawings, lists, and stories about the interesting places you visit, food you eat, and the various activities you do. Also, collect postcards from the different places. With these postcards, you can either write a message on the back and mail them to yourself or include them in the journal. Another way to engage your kids in the travel journal is to give them a camera to take pictures. This child-friendly camera will allow kids to capture their favorite sites and what interests them. Types of cameras can include disposable or Polaroid.

Have a First-Aid Kit and a Clean-up Kit: When you are traveling with kids, anything can happen. Be prepared with a First-Aid kit and a clean-up kit for spills. In the First-Aid kit, include band aids, gauze pads, a digital thermometer, cold pack, sunscreen, bug spray, aloe vera, saline solution, antibacterial wipes, medicine, and anything else you would normally include. For the clean-up kit, put in antibacterial wipes, paper towels, small garbage bags, zip-lock bags, and extra clothing and diapers.

Plan Ahead: Plan your trip and make your reservations well in advance. Along with hotel and flight reservations, buy tickets for attractions ahead of time. In addition, plan out a schedule for your trip, including the various activities for each day. Check out the websites for the places you’ll visit, see the nearby restaurants, and other sites to help your trip go smoothly. However, one of the most important things to remember is to stay flexible! If you have one attraction planned for a day and end up doing something else, don’t worry! Don’t plan too much or too little. The ultimate goal of the trip is to have fun and make memories with your family. Also, have a plan of what you’re going to pack in regard to clothes for your kids. Have a to-do list and schedule of what needs to be done in the final days leading up to your trip.

Bring Your Child’s Must-need Items: Don’t forget to bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal, toy, or blanket—anything they normally carry around and need to have at home. These items will help kids feel safe and comfortable while exploring new surroundings. Plus, it might help prevent some emotional break-downs.

Traveling with kids can sometimes be stressful. However, use the tips above to ease that stress and create lasting family memories.

xoxo,

Megan

 

Simply Carolina: My NC Bucket List

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I absolutely love my home state of North Carolina! From the mountains to the coast and everything in between, the Tarheel has something for everyone. This state is full of historic sites and attractions that are must-sees. Even though I have live here for my whole life, there are still many things I want to experience. Here is my NC bucket list.

  • Climb Old Baldy on Bald Head Island
  • Go to the ghost town of Portsmouth
  • Visit NC potters in Seagrove
  • Visit the Life and Science Museum in Durham
  • Climb Mount Mitchell
  • Visit the Carolina Coffee Shop in Chapel Hill, the oldest restaurant in NC.
  • Visit St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Bath, the oldest church in the state.
  • Go to a race at the Orange County Speedway
  • Run on an old Nascar track in Hillsborough
  • Do some shagging, shucking and jiving at the NC Oyster Festival
  • Raft the Nantahala
  • Climb the stairs to the top of the Corolla Lighthouse.
  • Take a dip in Lake Lure, the setting for that famous scene in Dirty Dancing.
  • Tour the USS North Carolina.
  • See the wild ponies at Shackleford Banks.
  • Slip down Sliding Rock.
  • Learn about sea turtle rescue at Topsail.
  • Visit the Carolina Raptor Center at Latta Plantation.
  • Climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
  • Paddle board on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Xoxo,

Megan

 

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Simply Carolina: My Favorite Things in NC

June 26

North Carolina-one of my favorite places in the world. Trust me, I could make you fall in love with all things about the Tarheel state and here’s why:

1. We have the best of both worlds-beautiful mountains and beaches.

2. UNC v. Duke basketball rivalry is a can’t miss.

3. The Wright Brothers and the gift of aviation.

4. We have all four seasons.

5. BBQ–need I say more?

6. There is a city for all types of people.

7. There are TONS of places to have fun for a day-trip, such as Carowinds, The Biltmore Estate, and the Outer Banks.

8. We all know the wonderful taste of Cheerwine.

9. North Carolina is known as “The Hollywood of the East Coast.”

10. You can’t beat the music and musicians from the state. James Taylor, Scotty McCreery, Ben Folds….(the list goes on and on 🙂 )

xoxo,

Megan

To Inspire and Motivate – Samantha Brown

 

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“Authentic travel is never in the must sees, always in the mundane.”  -Samantha Brown

To travel- it’s a verb with a heavy definition. What exactly does it mean “to travel?” Well, it means something different to everyone, so here is my definition.

Growing up, I remember watching Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown and her shows, Great Hotels and Passport to Europe. For each episode, I kept thinking “Samantha has the best job in the world and I would love to have it.” As I watched the shows, I quickly realized I have a passion for traveling and was inspired by Brown to see the world.

The reason why I travel is simple-to see the world and gain experiences. There is so much learning to be had outside of your comfort zone. My travel philosophy is to travel as much as possible, while learning about the history of an area and the people who live there. It also includes being adventurous and making memories. This philosophy plays into my five step travel list.

For every trip I take, I must:

  1. Take tons of pictures. I always come home with about 1,000+ photos.
  2. Meet and talk with the locals. You’ll get the best information about where to eat, what to do, and learn more about the area from a person who lives there.
  3. Research the location’s history and plan out my must-sees. However, I am careful to not plan too much and allow time for adventures.
  4. Get lost—on purpose. Take a back road, walk down a different street, just get out and explore.
  5. Go back to that same destination. It might not be the next year, or the year after that, but sometime in my life, I will make the time to go back.

If you want to get out of your comfort zone and see the world, you must travel. It doesn’t have to be a three week excursion. It can be a day trip to a nearby city or even a stay-cation in your own town. Just travel!

Trust me-adventure is out there. You just have to make up your mind and go!

xoxo,

Megan

Homemade Spanakopita

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This past weekend, I went to a Greek bake-sale in my hometown. Yum! I could have bought everything on the menu. One of the items I purchased was Spanakopita, which was devoured in no time. So, I decided to try to make some at home and wanted to share the recipe with you. Here is my homemade Spanakopita recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds spinach, washed and drained
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 to 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup  unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 pound filo pastry sheets

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauce pan. Add half of the spinach and saute until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Remove spinach and squeeze out excess liquid, then chop roughly. Repeat with remaining spinach, using 1 more tablespoon of oil. Pour off any liquid from the pan, and add remaining oil.
  2. Add scallions and saute until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach, parsley, salt and pepper to the scallions. Cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from to cool.
  3. Stir the feta and beaten egg to the cooled spinach mixture.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush a baking sheet with the melted butter.
  5. Unroll the filo dough on a flat surface and keep it covered with waxed paper and a damp towel so it doesn’t dry out. Using a sharp knife, cut the filo into 3 by 11 inch strips, and recover with the towel. Use a pastry brush to brush a strip of filo with melted butter. Place a small spoonful of spinach filling 1 inch from the end of the pastry. Fold the end over the filling to form a triangle, then continue to fold up the strip in triangles, like folding up a flag. Continue with remaining strips of dough, placing filled triangles on the baking sheet and keeping them covered with a towel until ready to bake.
  6. Brush the triangles lightly with butter, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Life Hacks

I’m all for making life easier. So, when I find a tip I like to use, I feel obligated to pass it on.

Here are my favorite top 7 life hacks (so far):

  1. If you mess up a voicemail for someone, press # to erase and start again.
  2. You can heal paper cuts immediately and stop the pain by rubbing chapstick over it.
  3. While on vacation, hide your emergency money in chapstick containers, lip balm containers, and other less noticeable places.
  4. Eat marshmallows to relieve toothaches, sore throats, and arthritis.
  5. If you ever break a glass, put a piece of bread on it. The bread will pick up all the small pieces of glass.
  6. Put candles in the freezer before using them. They will burn longer.
  7. In a public bathroom, the stall closest to the door is the cleanest. Studies show that this stall is the least used.

What are your favorite life hacks?

xoxo,

Megan