Carry-on essentials for sunny destinations

I’m a huge proponent for always traveling with nothing but carry-ons. Why? Because waiting for suitcases at the luggage carousel can add so much extra time to getting out of the airport when arriving to a new destination. Plus, I may have had one too many scares about checked-in luggage going missing, so I’ve learned to travel light with only the essentials.

Ibex leather and wool travel organizer is a carry-on essential for travel

Today, I’m sharing my carry-on essentials for sunny destinations. I just came back from the Dominican Republic just under a month ago (wow, it feels like forever ago!) and found great products to bring along to this sunny destination that not only helped to keep me entertained while in transit for 12+ hours, but are also TSA-approved for carry-on bags.

For starters, let’s talk about a product that I cannot travel without when going on any plane rides in general. The Mario Badescu aloe, herb, and rosewater spray is such a refreshing treat! I’ve talked about this product before in my TSA-approved toiletries bag, but I cannot get enough of this stuff. It really helps my skin feel refreshed, especially after sitting on planes with recycled air circulating. The 2oz travel size also meets all of the TSA requirements.

After some less-than-pleasant experiences with lotion-styled sunscreens exploding in my purse, I’ve started carrying the Sugar Sport Treatment Sunscreen. Although this may seem a bit pricey at the $25 price point, the stick-applicator really makes this a dream to put on. The formula glides on smoothly, smells slightly sweet, and moisturizes without feeling thick like most sunscreens. I like to carry this in my carry on because of the ease of access for application straight off the plane.

The last must-have is this Ibex Urban Tool Roll Up Queen City case. While I received this item for review from Ibex in exchange for this post, I am considering purchasing another one of these for my partner. As someone who has suffered from spending the first 15 minutes of a flight untangling my headphones from charging cables in my purse, this roll-up case is such a dream for staying organized. Each of the 3 loops are adjustable, which makes the customization of sizing for storing pens, cables, etc endless. I also love the snap-button pocket for bigger items like my Anker battery pack, which I bring on every flight since not all aircrafts offer charging outlets. Aside from the practicality of this case, the material combination is so beautiful. The Merino wool and leather combo is such a dream!

And there you have it! Aside from wallet, passport, and some snacks, this is all I pack in my carry-on purse when traveling. I like to stay organized and not have to fret about digging through a bottomless-pit bag to find what I’m looking for, and these are my bare essentials!


Packing for the holidays – TSA approved makeup bag

If there’s anything that I’ve learned to master in 2016, it’s how to efficiently pack a TSA approved bag! Being on the road for work taught me a lot. Not only did I learn that I can live for 2 weeks with the sole contents of a small carry-on roller and a backpack, but also how to strategically pack around TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for my makeup bag.

With the holidays just around the corner, here are my must haves for any makeup bag while traveling:


Downy Wrinkle Release – This stuff is an absolute life saver. I have both the travel sized and full-sized bottle for all of life’s wrinkles! With any shirt that I pack, it’s inevitable to get wrinkly while on the road. With the Downy Wrinkle Release, a quick spritz, small tugs on the shirt, and then a few hours of drying, gets the shirt back to wearable condition! This is so great, especially when there are no guarantees for access to an iron while on the road. Only downside is not being able to wear immediately after spraying.

Arbonne eye roller, cleanser, and lipstick – Arbonne is a new-to-me company. Known for their safe, non-toxic, and eco-friendly products, I love their mantra of taking a scientific approach to experimenting with botanically-based ingredients. In my makeup bag, I always carry the facial cleanser (which maxes out at 3oz– absolutely perfect for your carry-on!), soothing eye gel (really great for travel days, especially when going straight from the plane to a meeting. Helps reduce the eye bags!), and a lipstick as a finishing touch. I love the fact that my favourite lipstick from Arbonne is vegan friendly, which is not something that I’ve seen very often when browsing the aisles of traditional drug stores or makeup shelves.

Benefit Magic Ink liquid eyeliner – My go-to eyeliner! The Magic Ink is the first liquid eyeliner I ever tried (back in 2011 or 2012) and I’ve never looked back. The black pigment is so opaque with just one swipe– I love it!

Bare Minerals warm blush and mini application brush – This flawless application brush came with a starter set that was originally purchased when I was first trying out the Bare Minerals loose foundation. I wish I could find a link of the full set online, but it came with the mini brush, the warm loose blush, and a starter size of the medium beige foundation for under $40. I’ve taken the mini brush and warm blush on almost every trip with me since first getting them about 4 years ago. I’ve since finished the foundation, which is why I’m linking to The Body Shop one below.

The Body Shop extra virgin minerals – Looks like this product has been discontinued, but I used to purchase The Body Shop version of the loose powder instead of the Bare Minerals one because it was a bit cheaper. The coverage was the same as the Bare Minerals one, and if I’m remembering correctly, The Body Shop also had many more shades.

Benefit highlighter Got this from Sephora as a “birthday gift” in 2015 (or maybe it was 2014?) and it’s still half full! Adding a little bit of highlights under the eyebrows and upper cheek bones makes a big difference, especially after long flights.

Mario Badescu facial spray – This aloe, herbs, and rosewater face spray is so refreshing! I love having a bottle handy on trips, especially flights, because it helps to rehydrate and refresh skin. Even when not on a flight, I’ll give the occasional spritz to the face to help set makeup in the late afternoon. It smells delicious and comes in a 2oz travel size (although I also have the full size), perfect for packing in a carry on.

And there you have it! A full makeup bag with all products that meet TSA’s 3-1-1 rule! The last finishing touch would of course be a cute makeup bag. I used to use a mesh bag from The Body Shop that housed a gift set that I received years ago, but after a tube of hand lotion exploded in there earlier this year, I found some cute cat bags from Forever 21.


Sights and sounds of Japan

After amazing day-long adventures in Beijing and Shanghai, I had no idea what to expect going to Japan. Beijing set such a high bar with the visit to The Great Wall, and the Yu Yuan street market in Shanghai was full of some of the yummiest food I’ve ever had! Even with these adventures in China under my belt, nothing could’ve prepared me for the few hours of free time I had in Japan.

First stop was to Shinjuku, home to the busiest subway station in the world! It was incredible (and a little overwhelming) to see huge crowds of people in every direction, while also being screamed at by brights signs, lights, and blaring music from outdoor speakers at every corner.

Japan visitng Shinjuku
My go-to blanket scarf of all time (similar from LuLu*s)

Truthfully, I couldn’t quite focus on anything that was happening around me while walking around in Shinjuku. With all the lights and sounds and colours screaming from every wall – while trying to dodge people on the sidewalk – I am shocked that I noticed this Neko Atsume claw game in the doorway of an arcade. After being obsessed with the Neko Atsume game on my iPhone for almost all of 2015 (cut the “addiction” in November of last year), it was so cute to see how the game has blown up with its own merchandise!

japan neko atsume cat claw game
It’s “Tubs” in hat form! hehe

Before heading out of Shinjuku, a stop off at Squall Cafe was a must! I had never heard of Squall Cafe before getting out on the street, but the beautiful brick toast in their signage drew me in. As someone who grew up snacking on the Taiwanese version of the condensed milk on brick toast dessert, this cafe’s take on the dessert took it to a whole new level. Look at the size of this thing! It’s as big as my face (and it was absolutely delicious)!

japan squall cafe honey toast
The next stop was Harajuku, the city known for its trend setting and great shopping. We went to Takeshita St, which is the shopping district littered with boutiques, yummy snacks, and the most incredible people watching.

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to take many photos of anything while here. As you can probably tell from the frame above, it was so crowded! Takeshita St is a pedestrian-only, where the huge amounts of people in every direction felt like being squished in a can of sardines, and we were the sardines. It was hard to veer off to get to shops, or even stop to tie a shoe lace, when it felt like any pace that went against the rest of the crowd would get you trampled on! Never have I experienced anything remotely similar to this.

I hope to someday come back to Japan to explore all that it has to offer. Until then, I will relish in the memories from the few hours of getting to explore freely!

japan packing lightly
If there’s anything that I regret from the two weeks spent in Asia this year, it would be traveling so lightly. Even though the single backpack and small carry-on roller was perfect for running around airports and not having to ever wait at a baggage carousel, it wasn’t very souvenir-friendly. I didn’t have much space to bring home as many goodies as I would’ve liked to, but hoping this is a good excuse for going back to Japan again in the near future!


Shanghai through a phone lens

Hello, and happy Monday! The last couple of weeks have a bit of a crazy ride, so let’s pick up where we left off, shall we? Continuing from last week’s recap of Beijing, Shanghai was explored in a similar manner where we only had a few hours to get acquainted with the city before running off. In this short amount of time, we headed to one of the most popular markets of Yu Yuan Street.

Yu Yuan marketplace
Within these markets is the Yu Yuan Garden, a gorgeous piece of history that completed construction in 1577. It blew my mind to see the condition of theses buildings – granted, many had been retouched since – and get a glimpse into the lives of those who once occupied them. Similar to the gates at the Forbidden City, there were an exhaustive number of rooms to explore and we only got through a handful of them before running off to explore the next location.

Yu Yuan Garden
Thankfully, our next location was literally right next to the Yu Yuan Garden. We ventured into the Yu Yuan Street marketplace for a snack and to check out some of the Shanghai street vendors. If you’ve been reading this blog since the good ‘ol days, you might recall my love of street markets from the 2011 visits to Hong Kong’s markets and the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok.

Yu Yuan street market
The biggest difference for me at the Yu Yuan’s marketplace vs the other markets I’ve been to are the very distinct alleyways and shop walls compared to the collapsible booth styles in the other two markets. The size and density of the crowd was also quite intense, making it feel like swimming along with a sea of fish through every turn of a corner. If you didn’t keep pace with those around you’d, there’s a good chance you’d trip behind someone else.

xiao long bao in Shanghai
Of course, my favourite thing about any marketplace is the food! There were a handful of food stalls on Yu Yuan St, but I had my eye on the prize for some fresh, hot, xiao long baos. If you’re unfamiliar with xiao long bao, they’re essentially steamed dumplings filled with a mixture of meat (typically pork) and delicious fatty broth. You’re supposed to eat them by puncturing a small hole at the top/side and letting the soup cool off a bit before devouring the dumpling. The biggest mistake that people make when eating these dumplings for the first time is letting all the soup drip out. On top of getting a steamer full of regular sized dumplings, we also each got an extra large-sized dumpling that came with a straw! So yummy!

Shanghai skyline

The night was capped off with a ferry ride across The Bund, which provided a gorgeous view of the Shanghai skyline. Couldn’t have asked for a better day of exploring a new city!


A day in Beijing

Hello from Asia! Last week, I spent a few days in Beijing and made absolutely no plans before hopping on the 10+ hour plane ride over. For context, I only found out that I would be heading to China a couple weeks before getting on the plane, so everything was done on a whim. Having no time (or desire, to be honest) to plan anything, saying that I was a little unprepared is a bit of an understatement.

View from outside the airplane window

The biggest Pro Tip that I got before leaving was to write my hotel address out in Chinese. Hallelujah for this advice because I’m almost 100% positive I would’ve never ended up at the hotel if I had to say the address aloud myself! The language barrier for someone who doesn’t speak the native tongue and traveling to Beijing proved to be quite a real challenge as soon as I deplaned.

If there was ever one regret from my childhood, it would be the fact that I didn’t continue to expand my Mandarin diction or practice speaking it after almost a decade of classes. The most frustrating part is that I can understand when someone else speaks to me in Mandarin, but I have a really hard time finding the vocabulary to respond back– not to mention having a really, really, really awful accent whenever attempting to speak. And so, many minutes of playing charades for directions ensued on this day of adventures.

With less than 12 hours to do touristy things, click through to read about the Bucket List attractions that were at the top of my priorities: The Forbidden City and The Great Wall.

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