I’m incredibly fortunate to have my mom instill in me the love for travel and exploration at a very young age. I first obtained my passport when I was seven years old, and I can still remember my first experience riding an airplane was a 14-hour flight from Manila to Los Angeles. I’ve been traveling every year since, having explored nearly 31 states and 7 countries… and counting! It’s an insatiable and lifelong lust for travel that I’m happily and helplessly infected with. My passport will only retire once I take my last breath. Listed below are my top 10 travel essentials.
Ever since my family started going on annual road trips when I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted to eventually set foot in all 50 states. It’s been nearly 15 years since I started the journey, exploring nearly every state in America. Last June, I had the opportunity to explore my 31st state… ALASKA.
Our third day in Manhattan was wet. Rain poured, but we didn’t let it stop us from exploring. We ended up switching up a few days in our itineraries because of the rain. We explored Brooklyn/DUMBO and Lower East Side.
The subway system in New York City is incredibly complex but still easy to understand. Our commute from Midtown to Brooklyn took only about half an hour.
Because of the rain, we lucked out because the Brooklyn Bridge was practically empty, allowing us to take as many pictures as we can without people in the background.
My native New Yorker friends have unanimously affirmed that the best pizza in New York is in Brooklyn, so we decided to have lunch at Juliana’s, which is literally next door to the world-famous Grimaldi’s. Juliana’s is a pizzeria owned by Patsy Grimaldi, and it did not disappoint. We devoured a traditional New York-style thin crust pizza. None of that deep dish sh*t.
Post-lunch was spent exploring DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Any Gossip Girl fans recognize this area? We were in Dan Humphrey’s hood!
The rain hindered us from doing a lot of the activities we initially planned, but we didn’t want to waste the day away so we spent the second half of our day to explore Manhattan’s Lower East Side, particularly Chinatown and Little Italy.
Di Palo’s in Little Italy was definitely a MUST-STOP for me. I knew that there was no way I would return to Los Angeles without grabbing a few goodies from this New York establishment. Di Palo’s is my version of a candy store. My eyes immediately lit up when I walked in. The cheeses, the dried meat, the olives, the pastas…. YUMMMMM-O! I may be Asian, but my gut tells me that I was Italian in my past life.
The rain poured the entire day and night, so we decided to get take-out dim sum and other yummy Chinese food and have a pajama party back at our apartment!
I wish we spent more time in the Lower East Side, but I know this trip won’t be the last time I’ll see the Big Apple. To those who are visiting, make sure to visit Katz’ Delicatessen!
Stay tuned for day 4!
19 Old Fulton St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
200 Grand St.
New York, New York 10013
Summer Road Trip 2014
June 20, 2014
Two things come to mind when I hear the word Chicago. Number 1 is deep dish pizza, and number 2 is the image of the Willis Tower. Lucky for me I was able to experience both during my second day in the windy city! Our first stop was the world famous Sky Deck!
The Sky Deck is on the 103rd story of the Willis Tower, and the entire floor had floor-to-ceiling windows, showcasing a spectacular 360-degree view of Chicago.
Heights aren’t a big fear of mine, but I must say, I did still feel my stomach drop just a teeny tiny bit the moment I walked out on the ledge. It was truly a unique experience! The panoramic view of the Chicago skyline combined with the view of Lake Michigan was breathtaking enough, but experiencing it in a glass box 1,353 feet up? Exhilarating!
Contrary to what every one was doing, all I did was look down! It was as if I was trying to convince my brain that my body was indeed, in fact, standing on a glass ledge… 103 stories up… in Chicago’s highest skyscraper. No big deal.
Watch my short video diary below for a glimpse of my Sky Deck experience!
After an unforgettable experience at the Sky Deck, my family and I went around Downtown Chicago to sightsee even more!
There is something about the Windy City that reminded of the Big Apple. Perhaps it was their subway system or the skyscrapers, but being in Chicago was almost like being in New York City. Almost.
Chicago to me is like New York City, but minus the grit, minus the hustle. It’s like a friendlier, cleaner, less crowded version of New York City.
After a long day playing tourist, what better way to satiate our hunger than devouring the best Chicago-style deep dish pizza at local Chicago establishment, Lou Malnati’s?
Sidenote: An Italian friend of mine does not consider the aforementioned dish “pizza,” but rather “bread and stew.”
I truly wish I had higher-quality photos of the pizza, but clearly, my excitement got the best of me.
At first it felt unnatural to eat pizza with a knife and fork. Personally, I like my pizza’s thin crust and foldable, but hey, I’m Chicago! Eat as the locals do, right? Man, Lou Malnati’s did not disappoint! The crust was substantial, thick enough to support the lake of cheese and tomato sauce and sausage on top, all of which complemented each other harmoniously.
Also, another notable food trip was to Lezza Spumoni, which has the BEST cannoli I’ve ever tasted!
What can I say? This girl’s gotta eat!
Multiple locations throughout Chicago area
4009 St. Charles Road
Bellwood, IL 60104
Everyone should experience a classic all-American road trip. The open road, the ever-changing scenery, the unexpected stalls at the side of the road, the possibility of having an epic experience right around the corner are just a few things that give road trips their unquestionable and eternal lure. With less than a month left until I embark on another adventure from Los Angeles to Chicago, I would like to share a few helpful tips I’ve learned throughout the years as a road trip enthusiast having traveled to over 23 states.
Create a realistic itinerary
Planning is definitely the first basic step in preparing for a road trip. Select a destination(s), research attractions, and create an itinerary that outlines how many days you have for travel and where you want to go. Make sure your itinerary is realistic and not overly ambitious. Driving 15 hours straight to cover “x” many states may seem doable on paper, but avoid overestimating your energy level when it’s time to put theory into practice.
Do NOT make hotel reservations in advance
Unless traveling during the busy peak season, making hotel reservations in advance is something I don’t advice. Although it is essential to have some sort of planning done, I also want to reiterate the importance of being loose and flexible! Delays such road blocks, flat tires, getting lost (yes, even with a GPS!) can happen unexpectedly when it comes to road trips. Last year, I traveled with my family all over the Northeastern Seaboard for two weeks. Not having made lodging accommodations in advance, we eliminated the unnecessary stress of constantly chasing time and worrying about being in a certain place at a certain day. I remember spending half of that trip literally sleeping in a different state from the night before. Pretty darn cool.
Have a hardcopy map along with a GPS
Even the latest newest GPS devices can malfunction, so bring a hardcopy map as backup.
Have your vehicle thoroughly serviced
Check the tires, air pressure, fluids, brakes, wiper blades, belts, hoses, horn, headlights… and so on! Having a safe reliable car is the easiest way to ensure a pleasant car ride.
My rule of thumb is to pack with the mentality as if you’re traveling by air. At best, stick to one carry-on sized luggage. To maximize mixing and matching opportunities, bring neutral clothes with pops of color. Also, make sure to leave extra room in your luggage for travel souvenirs. Watch this Youtube video to learn how to pack like a pro!
Check the weather beforehand
I learned this the hard way. My most recent road trip was a brief 4-day excursion from Los Angeles to Big Sur to Lake Tahoe this past April. Thinking that it’s Spring, my brain somehow assumed that the weather in ALL of California would be comfortable, where it would be warm during the day while cool at night. Boy, was I mistaken. It was downright snowing at Lake Tahoe (think 12 inches!), and I did not pack a single item of clothing built for snow. Cue emergency shopping for snow shoes! Unplanned spending, even for shoes, is never fun especially when you know that your perfectly good pair of SOREL boots are sitting unused at home.
Pack a cooler with nutritious foods and snacks
With miles and miles of open road, eateries that offer healthy and nutritious foods are few and far in between. To prevent gaining weight while traveling and resisting the temptations of fast food, pack a cooler with cool water and healthy snacks such as fresh berries, apple slices, baby carrots and celeries with hummus for dipping!
A lot of things can go wrong when out on the road, especially for long distance driving. Stock your car with basics like water, snacks, medication, flashlights, sharp knives, and a first aid kit. Click here for a list of additional items to bring for roadside emergencies.
With hours and hours on the road ahead, it’s important to keep oneself entertained. I suggest creating a mixed CD/playlist or loading up your iPod/MP3 player with songs. Don’t forget to bring all the essential power cords and chargers while you’re at it! Another way to stay amused would be to have “road trip games.” During a mini-road trip from North Carolina to Virginia last year, my travel buddy and I invented a game where we would try to come up with as many names as we can about a particular category. The only rule is to name a thing/person/place whose name starts with the same letter as the last of the one before. For example, under the Fictional Characters category, one person can start with “Spongebob,” and it can be followed by “Bon Qui Qui,” which then can be proceeded by “Indiana Jones.”
You’re on vacation! Enjoy every minute!
Feel free to share YOUR road trip travel tips in the comments section!