Trip Planning: Toronto, Ontario

We’re going to Toronto, Ontario next week!  I have never been to Canada and I am so very excited for this trip.  It seems like it has been such a long time in the making that it’s almost hard to believe that we are finally going.  A couple of years ago, Mike and I were supposed to be heading there in the Spring, but life happened and we weren’t able to make it work.  Now, I can confidently say that this trip is happening! (I hope I’m not jinxing myself!)  This will actually be our first trip out of the country together, which we just recently realized when we both realized we need to renew our passports.

Trip Planning: Toronto, Ontario | RebeccaWanderlusting

We booked this trip back in August and have been planning bits and pieces ever since.  Our plan is to spend two nights in Toronto and one night at Niagara Falls, another first for me!  I am actively trying not to do too much research, because I think we are both in need of a slower-paced vacation.  I am using my first vacation days earned at my new job (that I started in February) and let me tell you, I need them! Not because I dislike my job, but because we have been so dang busy!

With that in mind, here’s our little (to me anyways, as you know I do like to over-plan) Toronto, Ontario to-do list:

  • The Royal Ontario Museum
  • Casa Loma
  • Massey Hall
  • The Hockey Hall of Fame
  • CN Tower
  • St. Lawrence Market
  • Toronto Island
  • The Monkey’s Paw Bookstore
  • & These Neighborhoods: Leslieville, Kensington Market, and The Distillery District

As far as packing goes, I will be sticking to my typical travel capsule wardrobe, plus some warmer items as it is supposed to be a little on the chilly side while we’re there.  I’ll be bringing sweaters and scarves and my warmer jacket to accommodate the temperature.

Trip Planning: Toronto, Ontario | RebeccaWanderlusting

We will be staying right downtown in a beautiful Airbnb, which I saved a bit of money on by purchasing a Airbnb gift card through Raise.  I know I’ve mentioned them in previous posts, but I have been using this online marketplace quite frequently to save money on larger purchases (like vacations… or new clothes).  If you’re interested in trying it out, use my promo code WANDER20 to receive $20 off a purchase of $40 or more.   The Airbnb we’re staying at is pretty central to everything we want to see, so I’m excited to be able to walk most places.

After spending a few days exploring Toronto, we’re renting a car and driving down to Niagara Falls to stay the night.  We are planning on doing ALL of the touristy things (boat tour, hike behind the falls…).  I can’t wait!!  From there, we’ll drive the rental car back to Toronto Airport and head home, hopefully refreshed and happy.

Trip Planning: Toronto, Ontario | RebeccaWanderlustinging

Have you ever been to Toronto, Ontario?? Feel free to suggest your favorite spots and recommendations in the comments!

Save Money While Trip Planning, RebeccaWanderlusting

6 Unique Tips to Save Money While Trip Planning

I’ve touched on this a little bit here and there, but this year did not start out very well.  Slowly, each month it’s gotten better and better, due to a change in career, a change in neighborhood and an all-around change in attitude.  I think one of the big things that has helped is for the first time all year, I’m planning a trip outside the Midwest.  Oh man, it feels so good to be making travel plans again!

Mike and I are heading to Toronto in a couple of months, and planning all the details has been such a joy.  More on the specifics of this trip later, but I forgot how much I love looking into new destinations and picking out hotels and restaurants.  I got a little bit carried away and started planning a trip to Puerto Vallarta for my birthday in December too.

Save Money While Trip Planning, RebeccaWanderlusting

It was one of my goals this year to visit Canada and Mexico, so I’m trying to make it happen as well.  Because I’m trying to fit in two larger trips for the last few months of the year, I’m currently saving up and working on a budget to make it doable.  I’m always on the lookout for new ways to save some money, especially when traveling as it’s my most expensive habit.  I’ve tried out quite a few different tips and tricks to save money while trip planning and here’s what has worked best:

  1. Be flexible: The best way to start trip planning is by having no plan at all. If you’re flexible with your travel dates, you open yourself up to the cheapest options available.
  2. Clear Your Search History & Utilize the Right Websites: Your search history can impede your ability to get the best deal out there on airfare and hotels. Before you start your trip planning online, clear your search history and use the right websites to find the best deals.  My personal favorites are,, and
  3. Join Ibotta: This app allows you to get money back from your everyday purchases and in the way of rebates, which can be used towards your travels. You can also use it to search for deals on popular travel booking sites.
  4. Check Groupon/LivingSocial: Either of these sites can provide you with discounts on hotel rooms, dining, and activities.  We’ve used both to save money at restaurants when we travel or to book tours and attractions.
  5. Master Travel Credit Card Points: I am, admittedly, a novice at this skill, but it’s still a great way to get money back when you pay for trips with your travel credit card. (If you’re looking for a great resource on this, check out The Points Guy).
  6. Use Raise Marketplace: I just started using this online hub for discounted gift cards and it’s quite the handy resource. On it, you can purchase gift card for your trip from airlines, hotel brands, AirBnB, and more for a percentage off the total.  As an added bonus, use my code (WANDER20) for $20 off your first purchase (of $40 or more).

Save Money While Trip Planning, RebeccaWanderlusting

How do you save money while trip planning? What are your best travel budgeting tips?

Top Five Friday #20 - Favorite Travel Writing Tools, RebeccaWanderlusting

Budget-Friendly Ways to Indulge Your Wanderlust

I have this problem where whenever I read about or see a photo of any destination in general, I want to go there immediately.  It’s a problem because I usually can’t afford there, especially not right away.  This results in a very long bucket list and endless pennies pinched.  When I take larger trips, meaning further and for longer, I save up for them for months.  I would like to think that a lot of people are in the same boat as me with this.  I believe that travel is one of the best, most rewarding things you could spend your money on.  That being said, I also believe you don’t have to spend a ton of money or travel very far to indulge your travel bug.

Budget-Friendly Ways to Indulge Your Wanderlust, RebeccaWanderlusting

Personally, I try to take one or two dream vacations a year, and then go on smaller trips in the months between to satiate my wanderlust.  I do feel some pressure to keep up with my fellow travelers, but unfortunately, for right now it’s just not something I can feasibly do.  So here’s what I’ll be doing in the next couple of months to keep my travel bug at bay, and things that you can do as well, if you’re looking for budget-friendly ways to seek out some adventure:

Budget-Friendly Ways to Indulge Your Wanderlust, RebeccaWanderlusting

  • Exploring my own city: Chicago has so many different neighborhoods and attractions, I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface. I want to explore the different cultural areas and check out museums I haven’t visited yet.  And, if possible, I want to plan a little staycation at one of the great boutique hotels.
  • Take a Friday after-work through Sunday night trip: I budget my paid time off just like I budget my money; saving it for larger trips to faraway places. It is entirely possible to fit a fun vacation into 36 hours, as long as you plan accordingly.  The key is to choose a destination with minimal travel time to maximize your time exploring.
  • Drive to the nearest State or National Park for a day of hiking: I’ve been to Matthiessen and Starved Rock State Parks in Illinois and Kettle Moraine State Park in Wisconsin, and am dying to cross more off my list. Wherever you live, there’s bound to be a State or National Park within a short(ish) drive that you could easily explore as a day trip.
  • Have a spa day: It’s not for everyone, but for me, a spa day is one of the best ways to relax and get away from the stress of everyday life. The best way to do it is to visit a hotel spa and stay to take advantage the pool and steam rooms and room service.
  • Drive or take an Amtrak Train to another city in your area: As I said, there’s no need to travel very far to find a worthwhile destination. Last month we drove the 3 hours to Galena, IL and had a wonderful, relaxing getaway.  It’s absolutely possible to enjoy a nearby locale for a weekend away.

Budget-Friendly Ways to Indulge Your Wanderlust, RebeccaWanderlusting

If all else fails, you can find me making a pillow fort at home with my favorite travel books or movies, dreaming and scheming for future trips.

What are your favorite budget-friendly ways to indulge your wanderlust?

2017 Travel Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

2017 Travel Plans

I love the new year.  It brings all new possibilities for travel, not to mention a tax return to fund said travels.  As I mentioned in my 2016 review post, my 2017 travel plans will be on a pretty tight budget.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t be traveling this year, just that my trips will be on a smaller scale than last year’s vacations.  While not much is firmly set in place, I do have some big plans (as always) for this coming year and I’m excited to share them!

2017 Travel Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

I’m planning on taking four main trips, one for each season, with a few more sprinkled in between for good measure if I can swing it.  The two countries I most wanted to visit this year are Mexico and Canada, because I’ve never been to either and we’re practically neighbors.  Other than that, I’m planning on traveling domestically by plane, train or automobile.  Here’s how it all shakes out (hopefully):

Winter/Spring 2017:

  • A girls’ trip to Mexico! What better place to escape the Chicago winter than the sunny beaches of Mexico? Right now I’m thinking Playa Del Carmen or Tulum with a day trip to Chichen Itza.  My besties and I are thinking we’ll rent a house on and just relax in the sunshine.  This is still in the works, so I don’t have all of the details confirmed, but it’s the trip I’m most looking forward to!
  • Mike and I are planning on revisiting Grand Rapids, MI for a long weekend in April to see my favorite, Aretha Franklin at DeVos Performance Hall. Hopefully, we’ll stay at the JW Marriott again and hit all the places we missed the first time around.

2017 Travel Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

Summer 2017:

  • Canada! I don’t care who I go with or how I get there.  I’m going.  I want to see Montreal first, but I would certainly take Toronto as well.  In a perfect world, I’d like to drive there and spend a night on the way there or back near Niagara Falls.  Right now, I’m just dreaming, but I’m confident I can make it happen.

2017 Travel Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

Fall 2017:

  • A solo trip somewhere in the States. I’ve got my eye on somewhere in the Northeast like Boston or Maine or even back to New York.  Hopefully it will be  somewhere I can get some great seafood and clear views of the Atlantic Ocean.

2017 Travel Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

Winter 2017:

  • Mike and I are both dying to get to the desert. My Aunt and Uncle own a house in Arizona and we’re thinking of flying out there and hopefully using it as a home base to visit Saguaro National Park, Antelope Canyon, and all the other natural beauty the state has to offer.  Maybe we’ll rent a car and bring our camping gear to spend a night under the stars.

2017 Travel Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

All that’s left is to figure out the budgets and actually book my 2017 travel plans and I’ll be set!  If you have any good recommendations for any of these destinations please share them in the comments.

What are your 2017 travel plans? Where are you most excited to visit?

Life Happens, Change of Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

Life Happens

You may have noticed how a Trip Planning: Traverse City blog keeps appearing and disappearing on here.  I think I have some explaining to do.

Life Happens, Trip Planning, RebeccaWanderlusting

For a few months now, I was trying to plan a small trip for Mike and I (and our pup) for my birthday this weekend.  I looked into a lot of different destinations, but no matter what I tried to plan, things kept falling through.  Austin sounded great, but soon became too much for our budget, the flights doubled in price when I was looking into going to Boston and waited too long to book, and now this Traverse City trip just didn’t come together.  Life happens, right?

We had been planning up until Monday to drive up to Traverse City tomorrow and stay over for a couple of nights, but due to some unforeseen circumstances we cancelled our reservation.  Despite all my best efforts, I couldn’t make it work out.  It’s unfortunate, but, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining.

Life Happens, Change of Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

After we had decided the trip wouldn’t work out this time around, we were presented with an exciting opportunity to travel somewhere else instead.  It took some scrambling and last-minute decision making, but we decided to go for it. So now we are heading to Galena, IL tomorrow for a romantic weekend away, just the two of us.

We’ll drop Brody off with his grandparents (Mike’s parents) on the way and scoop him back up on our way back home again.  Of course we will miss our little pup, but I think he would be happier there, frolicking in their yard then cooped up in our hotel room.

Life Happens, Change of Plans, RebeccaWanderlusting

We are so excited to get to explore Galena, especially now, when everything will be decked out for the holidays.  We had passed through Galena on our way to Dubuque last year and I have been playing with the idea of visiting ever since.  Luckily, now, we’re finally getting our chance!

I guess the lesson here is that when life smashes your plans to smithereens, make that shit into lemonade… or something.  Sigh, life happens.

Tell me about life intervening in your travel plans in the comments!

Trip Recap, South Coast, Iceland

A Quick Euro Trip Recap

Hi all!

I’m back in the states after ten days of being in Iceland and Denmark and doing my best to keep the jet lag monster at bay with copious amounts of coffee.  This trip was amazing, life-changing even, and I’m happy and proud to have been able to do it on my own.  It’s always a great feeling to come home from a trip that met and exceeded all of your expectations.

Though there were some bumps in the road (oh hi spending $40 on bus passes I gave away at the end of the trip and drunk man who tried to grab me on the street in Reykjavik!), I had a wonderful time in both countries and wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything.

In my packing list and budget, I promised a trip recap on both accounts.  As for the packing list, I wore everything I packed at least once (mostly more than once) .  The Packing MVP award goes to the Shout Stain Remover Wipes for saving me from a coffee spill disaster and my Mophie mobile phone battery!  I could have done without the towel I brought, everywhere I would have needed it provided towels for me.

As far as the budget is concerned, I under spent by about $200, which was far better than I was expecting!  Both countries are very expensive, Iceland more so than Denmark.  To compensate for this, I didn’t drink much in Iceland, and when I did, I took advantage of the many Happy Hours there.  The Copenhagen Card that I prepaid for got me into many of the museums and attractions there, so that helped me stay in my budget too.  I didn’t buy many souvenirs, only a couple of things for my family and Mike.

I’ll be posting more about both of these amazing destinations in the very near future, but until then, here are a few of my favorite photos from this trip:

Trip Recap, Waterfall, Iceland

Trip Recap, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Trip Recap, Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Trip Recap, Round Tower, Copenhagen

Stay tuned for more details and photos from Iceland and Copenhagen!

Trip Planning Milwaukee, RebeccaWanderlusting

Trip Planning: Milwaukee, WI

A couple of weeks after I return from my trip to Europe (which I am currently enjoying – Hello from Copenhagen!), Mike is taking me on a little weekend getaway to Milwaukee, WI.  While I have been to this city a few times, mostly for concerts, this will be my first time staying overnight there.  Funnily enough, the original reason we were going to Milwaukee in the first place is because we have tickets to a Thrice (one of Mike’s favorite bands) show at the Rave/Eagle’s Club (the last time I was at this venue was to see All American Rejects when I was 15 and in love with Tyson Ritter).  Because I am going solo to Europe, we thought it might be nice to have a little romantic weekend away together once I came home, so we made a trip out of it.  Milwaukee is only an hour and a half drive from Chicago, which makes it a perfect destination for a quick vacation.  It will be very nice to get a little time to ourselves while exploring a new city together.  Here is the breakdown of our trip planning Milwaukee, WI:

Trip Planning Milwaukee, Visit Milwaukee
Photo Via Visit Milwaukee

Where we will be staying:

  • The Hilton Milwaukee City Center*

*Mike picked this swanky hotel and surprised me with the reservation.  I think he did pretty good!

What we will do:

  • The Lakefront Brewery Tour (which came highly recommended by almost everyone I talk to about Milwaukee)
  • The Public Market
  • Cactus Club for cocktails and live music
  • North Point Lighthouse
  • Wisconsin Cheese Mart (my personal version of heaven)
  • Milwaukee Arts Museum
  • Riverview Antique Market

What we will eat:

  • County Clare for brunch
  • Cafe Benelux
  • Leon’s for custard
  • Comet Cafe
  • Kegel’s Inn for Friday Fish Fry


Have you been to Milwaukee?  Please share any Milwaukee, WI travel tips in the comments!

5 Notes on Road Tripping with a Baby

This post is brought to you by my wonderful sister, Molly Reis, the talented mama of my beautiful nieces and author of Blogging the In-Between.  

We took two trips this summer with the family – one to Tennessee (a 10-hour drive each way) and one to northern Wisconsin (a 4-and-a-half-hour drive each way).  This is how we planned, what we learned and what worked for us in our travels.  Most of it was trial and error.  This is by no means a perfect solution for the adventure that is traveling with a baby; however, I do hope what we learned can help you.  Enjoy your journey!

ZIPLOC BAGS – They just make organization so easy! Get ready for a new best friend! We used the bags to make everything grab-and-go ready. We brought: pjs, outfits, extra tops, extra bottoms, eating supplies, swimming supplies, and blankets and burp cloths. It was nice not to have to think about what we’d need and when and to just have our supplies ready no matter what our trip threw at us. Also, the Ziploc bags allowed us to fit everything nicely into our Thirty-One bag, which was awesome. I highly recommend it (or something similar) because it fit all the babe’s things and was easy to store in the trunk.

Road Tripping with a Baby, rebeccawanderlusting

BOUNDARIES – Set your limits and stick to them! If traveling with family or friends (or even if you’re not), be prepared to stick to your guns a bit. You know what your little one needs. If that means you need to duck out early or make dinner reservations for 5:00 instead of “going with the flow” to be flexible for everyone else, then that’s what you do. We wanted to keep our girl’s nighttime routine as close to normal as possible, so we insisted on eating dinner no later than 6 or being able to leave early if we needed to. We were with family, so it wasn’t a big deal. But I’m sure whoever you are with will understand.

BREAKS – Plan on a longer travel time. We needed to stop about every two hours to give the babe a break. We planned feedings and changings around those breaks. If your child is old enough, you can stop at places that offer a little grass or space to run around so she can stretch her legs a bit. Of course, if your baby is still taking three- to four-hour naps, you can probably stop less frequently.

Road Tripping with a Baby, rebeccawanderlusting

TRICKS – I wish I had a one-size-fits-all trick to make a road trip with a little one easier, but, as I’m sure you know, every baby is different. Here are some things that worked for us, though: Baby Einstein videos (on my phone, using Guided Access so she couldn’t do anything but watch), rolling the windows down every so often, lots of snacks, and music. I also had a basket of toys in the backseat that I kept out of sight for the week or so before our trip. Some people recommend sitting in the backseat, but we found that more distracting than beneficial. It just made her want me to hold her even more, which was torture for both of us. She did better on her own, when she could just play or eat or zone out on her own terms.

FLEXIBILITY – While it is important to know your and your little one’s limitations, it’s just as important to be flexible. You’re not at home – you’re working outside of your normal routine. To expect your baby to behave normally is unrealistic. He might not eat as much or nap at the same intervals. We had to come to terms with the fact that our girl was just going to have to make do with naps in the car as we traveled from place to place on our trip. If we could get back to the cabin early for an afternoon nap before meeting everyone for dinner, great! But we had to be flexible. Trying to stick to the normal routine all day might make you a bit crazy. You’re not in a normal situation – it’s okay for you to put a pin in the schedule until you’re back home. Again, you know your baby best. Follow her cues and trust her instincts.

Road Tripping with a Baby, rebeccawanderlusting

What are your best tips for traveling with babies? What has worked and what hasn’t worked so well?

Creating a Travel Capsule Wardrobe | RebeccaWanderlulsting

Europe Packing List

Today is the day I finally stop talking about this trip and actually leave for Iceland, en route to Copenhagen.  And it has finally hit me that this is actually happening.  I am nervous and excited and ready for a new adventure.  Before I go, I need to pack, which is a project in and of itself.  While it’s been a bit stressful with everything else I have going on lately, I really don’t mind packing.  With the search for the perfect hiking boots that also had to be suitable for wearing out and my best attempt at packing a travel capsule wardrobe, it’s been a fun process.  What’s been the most difficult is trying to plan for the unpredictable climates of Iceland, while still trying to bring clothes I’ll be happy wandering around Copenhagen in. I had to edit the list down quite a bit because I am trying to pack lightly, and I think I’ve finally got it down.   I’ll be bringing my Samsonite rolling suitcase (which will be my checked bag), a backpack (my carry-on) and my Madewell Tote (personal item) with me.  So, without further ado, here is my Europe Packing List, broken down by bag:

Madewell Tote:

  • Notebook & Pens
  • Passport
  • Bill Bryson book (“Neither Here Nor There”)
  • Mophie
  • iPad with “Girl on a Train” on it
  • iPhone Charger
  • Face Wipes (1/2)
  • Bandaids
  • Water Bottle
  • Small purse with wallet

Eurotrip Packing List, RebeccaWanderlusting


  • (1) Outfit – socks (1/10), undies (1/10), bra (1/3), jeans, tank top, long sleeve shirt
  • 2nd Mophie
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Makeup Bag
  • Deoderant
  • Brush
  • Cliff Bars

EuroTrip Packing List, RebeccaWanderlusting

Rolling Bag:

  • Socks (9/10)
  • Undies (9/10)
  • Bras (1/3)
  • Sports Bra
  • Tights
  • Swimsuit
  • Tank top
  • (4) T-shirts
  • Long Sleeve Shirt
  • Sweater
  • Blouse
  • Chambray Top
  • Dress
  • Skirt
  • Leggings
  • Pajamas
  • Flip Flops
  • Flats
  • Sorrel Boots
  • Towel
  • Toiletry bag
  • Jewelry pouch

Europe Packing List, RebeccaWanderlusting

What would you bring on a Scandinavian Adventure? How does my list stack up? 

Top Five Friday #20 - Favorite Travel Writing Tools, RebeccaWanderlusting

EuroTrip Budget

Way, way back in the beginning of this year (gosh that feels like such a long time ago), I was formulating a plan to go on an international trip in the early fall.  I, much to my chagrin, am not one of those last minute jet setters that can take off at the drop of a hat.  A lot (read: most) of my travels take a bit of planning and forward thinking due to my work schedule and need for budgeting to make them possible.  So, back in February, I started looking into where I might go, and how much it would cost to get me there and so on.

EuroTrip Budget, RebeccaWanderlusting

I stumbled upon the IcelandAir Stopover offer and was attracted to the idea of a two for one vacation.  I played around with the second destination and length of time I could spend in each to see which flights were the cheapest and which destinations were the most solo travel friendly.  Eventually, I landed on Copenhagen and booked the ticket a couple weeks later.

EuroTrip Budget, RebeccaWanderlusting

Fast forward five and half months later, and here I am, counting down the days until I depart and saving up every last penny.  A large portion of this trip so far was bought and paid for by my tax return from last year.  In fact, most of my tax returns sort of act as travel gift cards.  Do you think maybe next year the IRS can pay me back in airline miles??  Just kidding…

Anyways, this means that my flight (which was around $800) was paid for upfront with my debit card.  Everything else so far has been charged to my travel credit card (gotta get those points!).  The rest of my budget for this trip is as follows:

  • Flight: $800
  • Accommodation: $100/night x 10 nights = $1,000
  • Food & Beverage: $60/day x 10 days = $600
  • Tours/Activities: $400
  • Souvenirs: $100/country x 2 = $200
  • Emergencies: $200
  • Total: $3,200

EuroTrip Budget, RebeccaWanderlusting

In the interest of total honesty, I already blew it on the accommodation portion of the budget, by $150.  But, in my defense, these are two very expensive cities to visit!  I’m just really glad I booked when I did, because as of a week ago, most of the hotels were booked or increased in prices.  In terms of tours and activities, here’s what I’ve got going:

  • Elding Whale Watching Tour: $82
  • South Shore Tour: $105
  • Copenhagen Card: $95
  • Total: $282

So far so good on that front!  When I return from this Scandanavian Adventure, I’ll check back in with how I did.  In the meantime, please share any budgeting or Iceland/Copenhagen tips in the comments!