[Spoiler alert: This post contains obligatory (mostly phone) cheesy vacation photos. I will be sharing tons of DSLR images in future Mediterranean cruise posts.]
Yes, Jake and I were on a Mediterranean cruise from Memorial Day weekend through mid-June! We spent two mindblowing weeks visiting iconic tourist destinations, exploring European cities, eating fabulous cruise cuisine, and enjoying beautiful late spring/early summer Mediterranean weather and extensive water and port views (shocking that I love staring at water and boats, right?).
When we traveled to New Orleans this past fall, I brought my Canon AE-1 and a couple rolls of film to shoot alongside my DSLR. New Orleans is such a beautiful, old city. Shooting with film there felt really fitting. Also, the only lens I brought for the Canon AE-1 is the 50mm f/1.8, which is so perfect for the French Quarter. If you’ve been on the fence about getting a 50mm prime lens, for a digital or film camera, a trip to New Orleans is a great excuse to take the plunge.
Last week, Jake and I spent a few days in New Orleans for an annual medical conference. It was a short trip but a lot of fun. There is so much amazing food, art, and architecture in this old Southern city.
I know it seems weird to come back to the word “old,” but New Orleans is so old. I wasn’t prepared for working gas lamps, brick everywhere, narrow streets, and horse tie-up posts on every other block. Also, the blue doors above are from the children’s museum. They’re some of my favorite doors in the city.
I sort of live to wander in new-to-me churches. (I’m sure that’s a huge surprise given my choice of sites during Doors Open.) St. Louis Cathedral was founded in 1720, making it the oldest cathedral in North America. I can’t even really comprehend what that means or what the area would have looked like during the cathedral construction.
Of course, I couldn’t write a post about a New Orleans trip without talking about the food. I do feel the need to mention that the stereotypes about Southern food, even modern, hipster Southern food, are true. I’ve watched enough food TV shows to know the truth about Southern food before I went to New Orleans, but the trip definitely confirmed it. For example, Southerners frequently get defensive about vegetables and make big claims that they do really do eat vegetables. Then they promptly deep fry them and serve them alongside melted butter for dipping. You have to embrace it and take comfort in the fact that the miles you’ll walk in the French Quarter in between macaroni and cheese, raw oysters, and beignets will burn off at least a few of the calories.
I didn’t research New Orleans restaurants at all. I knew there would be multiple meals we were going to plan with other conference attendees and spouses spur of the moment. I didn’t want to spend the whole time thinking about the restaurants I didn’t get to visit. The moral of this story is that the restaurant scene in the Warehouse District and French Quarter is so amazing that you don’t have to do any restaurant research and you’ll still eat outstanding food. Every single lunch and dinner I ate in New Orleans was delicious and really interesting.
Finally, the last full day in New Orleans, we took a couple hours to visit The National World War II Museum. There are quite a few museums in the tourist areas of New Orleans, and I wish we could have visited more of them. But if you’re going to visit just one and you’re a history buff, it should be the World War II museum. It’s quite extensive, and you could easily spend four or five hours there.
Over the past five years, I have greatly improved my travel packing. I’ve learned what’s really important and what I can leave at home, maximizing my bag space so I’m carrying a limited number of items that are really useful. Today I’m sharing a few of the essential items I brought with me for my recent Montana trip.
Backpack: I’ve owned this LowePro backpack since late 2012. It’s my go-to carry-on bag for airplane travel because it can house a laptop and DSLR camera and because a backpack is more comfortable than a shoulder bag for long days of airport travel and walking while on vacation (I use this shoulder bag for day trips and shorter excursions at home). It has ample room for a large laptop (my current laptop screen is just over 15″) and all of the DSLR gear most hobby photographers will ever need on vacation as well as room to spare for additional carry-on travel items (i.e. Kindle, headphones).
Portable charger: Sitting at the airport chained to the wall outlet or worrying about your phone usage while away from the hotel all day is really lame. Portable chargers are so affordable and make travel with electronic devices much less of a hassle. I try to keep my RAVPower charger charged at home in case of a power outage or emergency, but I primarily use it for travel. It’s a lifesaver during long airport stints and any day you’re away from the hotel for 8-12 hours (i.e. at Disney World, on a day long bus tour to the Grand Canyon).
On a similar note, I also bring a charged spare camera battery or I use my DSLR battery grip while traveling. Canon cameras have amazing battery life. It’s extremely unlikely that I would run out of charge during a single vacation day. But it isn’t worth taking the risk.
Headphones: I bought my first pair of over the ear headphones a couple years ago and have never looked back. I can wear earbuds for short periods of time but over the ear headphones are much better for airplane travel, particularly landing. If you struggle with intense ear popping and pain during landing, I highly recommend headphones. The pair I own is not anything fancy and doesn’t have amazing sound quality, although I still think it’s better than earbuds. At some point, I may upgrade, but for now, this pair is getting the job done.
CPL filter: A CPL or circular polarizer filter is like sunglasses for your camera. When you’re shooting in bright outdoor conditions, a CPL filter helps reduce blown out areas and saturate colors. I use my CPL filters frequently, but they are a must on a summer vacation when you’re often shooting in mid-day under very bright conditions. They even sell CPL filters for Go-Pros.
I do keep sunglasses for myself with me at all times while traveling, too, but I’m an extremely boring sunglasses wearer who usually has a $10 pair of Target sunglasses. I don’t have any fun sunglasses links to share with you, sorry.
Camerarainsleeve: After putting my camera in rice for a few days following a bad rain soak (which does work!), I purchased this set of rainsleeves. I now keep one in my shoulder bag and one in my backpack. If you’re traveling with a high-end camera, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It doesn’t take long for a little sprinkle to turn into a full-fledged downpour and seriously damage or even destroy expensive camera gear. Having the sleeve means the difference between shooting in rain safely and not shooting at all or shooting and risking severe damage. I was very glad to have my sleeve during the Glacier trip where it rained off and on during the entire second half of the excursion.
Finally, for the Montana trip, I purchased my first ever pair of trail shoes from The North Face. Generally I wear sneakers 90-95% of the time on vacation. For this trip, I needed something with a thicker tread than standard running sneakers offer. I have this pair of trail shoes (the cosmic blue / rocket red model) except I paid less than a third of the listed price at the outlets.
These shoes blew me away. I wear sneakers often, even when I’m not traveling. I’m pretty picky about what I wear, and I’ve never owned anything this comfortable. I really hadn’t worn them outside of the store before heading to the airport. They got me through two 10+ hour travel days, an afternoon outing to Lewis and Clark National Forest, a full 24 hours of camping (during which I slept in them because it was so cold), and a nearly 12 hour day for the Glacier Park excursion with NO blisters. It also rained pretty hard during the half an hour we spent at the top of Glacier, and they didn’t soak through. They aren’t the most padded sneakers I’ve ever owned, but my feet have never felt better during or after a vacation so I really can’t complain.
What are your essential travel items?
[Disclaimer: This post contains a handful of referral links. Using these links to purchase the mentioned products or anything else from Amazon is a simple way to support my blog. I do not receive any other type of compensation for mentioning specific products on my blog.]
Jake and I spent the past week visiting some good friends out in Montana. They moved away from Wisconsin about a year ago, and needless to say, it was so great to have so much time to catch up with them while enjoying all that north-central / northwest Montana has to offer. Also, the only trips Jake and I had taken in 2016 prior to Montana were a 5-day stint in Iowa to visit his grandparents (which was good but tough) and a couple days in the Wisconsin Dells and Minneapolis before Jake took his oral boards in Rochester, MN (which was only as much fun as traveling can be before a huge test). So not surprisingly, this trip was much needed.
It had been nearly four years since Jake and I had taken a trip where we stayed with friends. I wouldn’t want to crash with friends for every vacation, but it’s so great sometimes. Staying at someone’s house and eating simple breakfasts in the morning or enjoying a home cooked dinner after a long day of hiking or sightseeing while traveling is really nice.