Caffeinated Travels: Planning a Last-Minute Road Trip to the Rockies

So you want to go on a road trip? Well, let me tell you, it isn’t as simple as it sounds…or so I thought. It’s super out-of-character for me to just up and leave for a weekend to a place I’ve never been, with no plan or budget to speak of. I’m normally a planner, an overthinker, a Type A to a T. I’m at my most comfortable when I’m armed with a strategy, weeks in advance, with everything going according to a plan.

My boyfriend has his own philosophy: Play everything by ear. No plan necessary.

This drives me absolutely nuts and probably causes 90% of our arguments, but at the same time, it’s the best thing for me, because he pulls me out of my fixed mindset and gives me the courage to do something spontaneous. And then it turns out to be easier than I thought.

Today, I’m sharing my own experience of going on a last-minute road trip, with some quick pointers at the end if you want to try it yourself!


Getting out of my comfort zone and into a 12-hour drive:

If I’m being honest, it was shockingly easy to just up and leave. Granted, I’m a college student right now, and it’s a lot more complicated to get away when you’re working a full-time job. Still, it was surprisingly doable. I told my professors and my supervisor at work that I needed to take a personal day off (we wanted to leave before the weekend started), and they completely understood.

Probably because I’m a stress case who is never, ever absent. Even when I’m sick. So. I’m guessing they were like, “Yes, please, for the love of God, give yourself that day off!”

Boyfriend and I got out some maps, figured out what was in driving distance, packed the car, and just…left. Just like that.

We had a few criteria when picking our destination:

  • It had to be an outdoor destination, so we looked for national parks
  • We wanted to go somewhere we’d never been
  • It couldn’t be expensive

We ultimately decided on Rocky Mountain National Park, a whopping 12 hours away.

I was freaked out.

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Figuring out what to do when we got there…

We knew nothing. Absolutely nothing. We went into the entire situation blind, except for the fact that Rocky Mountain National Park existed and it was open.

But that turned out to not be a problem. Once we got there, we stopped by the visitor station, and the ranger gave us recommendations for hikes to take.

And off we went.

Of course, hiking wasn’t my only goal. I couldn’t help stopping by the local coffee shops in Estes Park, the town at the park entrance.

But enough about me. It’s time to share what I learned, so you can take a last-minute road trip of your own!


So you want to go on a road trip…

When you decide on a last-minute getaway, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Use Priceline and/or similar websites to find the cheapest hotels.

We didn’t book hotels until we needed them. One day, when we were done hiking, we realized it was too cold to sleep in the car, so we Pricelined a Rodeway Inn that was five minutes from the park entrance. The deals you can find at the last minute are amazing. However, this also might depend on where you go and what season it is- we went during a less crowded time, so there was more hotel availability.

Find good podcasts to listen to.

A podcast will get you far. “Dirty John” got us all the way through Kansas. I’m normally skeptical about podcasts and audiobooks, since I have a horrible attention span when it comes to audio. I can’t sit still and just listen to something for an extended amount of time. But in a car, you’re sitting still anyways, so you might as well give it a try. And I was hooked.

Bring physical maps and trail guides.

Whether you travel to a city or a national park, you’ll need more than Google Maps. Partly because you don’t want your phone to die, and partly because Google Maps will not help you when you’re on a snowy mountain and you’re trying to stay on the path. Also, maps are fun. You feel like you’re exploring and getting somewhere instead of just checking an app to see how many more hours your drive will take.

Pack for every situation, but don’t overpack.

Bring layers, and make sure everything fits in a backpack and a duffel. Things like flannels, leggings, shorts, and more socks than you think you need because you’ll inevitably get lazy and not want to keep digging around to find a pair of socks. Colorado was weird because the Rockies were snowy and freezing, but then the city of Denver was a nice 65 degrees. I made the mistake of wearing my North Face jacket out to the clubs in downtown Denver on Halloween night…not my best fashion moment. Still had the best night, though.

Stop by a Wal-Mart for car snacks.

Car snacks are the best. THE BEST. And getting hangry on a road trip is no fun. Chowing down on trail mix and Cheez-its while binging episodes of Serial? Way fun. And speaking of fun…

Remember that the journey is the destination.

Half the fun should be the road trip, and this is a time to relax, reflect, and enjoy the moment you’re in.


Happy travels!

XO,

CC

A road map to your travel beauty bag

Do you ever daydream about getting in your car and running off to the mountains? Is this just me? Well, this week, I actually decided to go for it. I’m such a Type A personality that it’s super out of character to just up and leave, but sometimes, you just gotta get away, and this weekend was one of those times.

My boyfriend and I spontaneously decided to drive 12 hours to Rocky Mountain National Park…why? Because we’re going stir-crazy here in our college town and we literally picked a place on the map. Colorado, here we come!

Here’s the catch with last-minute road trips to the wilderness: Camping. Hiking. Limited access to showers. Which is great for a getaway, but not so great for a beauty-obsessed, sorta high-maintenance girlfriend. But I don’t let my boyfriend see me sweat (literally and figuratively), because I have my bag of beauty tricks. Which is just as important as the road map.

With dry shampoo, travel sizes and double-duty products, you can still look like a normal person even while living in a car or tent for a few days.

Scroll down for my must-have travel bag of mini beauty goodies!

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Kate Spade Scenic Route Tote Bag

For holding it all, of course.

DESTINATION: SKIN

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Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30

This is a newer product that takes care of a few things at once: SPF, moisturizer, and a bit of light coverage. When you’re on the road, heavy foundation isn’t a priority, but you’ll definitely want to protect yourself from the sun and dryness.

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Tarte Double Duty Beauty Shape Tape Contour Concealer

You’ll probably need to cover up some serious undereye circles from the travel fatigue, but this product’s got you. Better yet, you can also use it to contour. BOOM. You’ve got a coverup and a highlighter in one. Bonus points: Apply it with the Double Duty Beauty Quickie Blending Sponge.

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Soap & Glory Clean On Me Creamy Clarifying Shower Gel

For when you’re using the communal shower in a campsite. This will wash all your germaphobe worries away. Plus, whenever I use it, the song “Lean On Me” pops into my head. Anyways. It’s great.

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First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser Mini

Don’t ditch skincare just because you’re ditching your regular life routine for a few days! This cleanser gets the job done: It removes dirt and makeup, moisturizes, and helps soothe redness.

DESTINATION: EYES

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Urban Decay Travel Size Original Eyeshadow Primer Potion

A favorite essential in the cutest, tiniest bottle I’ve ever seen. Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you should skip your shadow primer!

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Maybelline The City Mini Palette

With limited space for giant palettes, this mini one has all the essential colors in a small package. Stick to neutrals, and apply with your finger if you forget to pack brushes!

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Clinique Chubby Stick Shadow Tint

Sometimes you need a quick eyeshadow boost on the go, and I keep these in my purse even when I’m not traveling. You never know when you’ll need to swipe on some drama. Also works great in bar bathrooms during a night out.

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Clinique Travel Size Chubby Lash Mascara

This one’s pretty straightforward: Just one of my favorite mascaras in a smaller size. But I also stock up on my mascara samples (like the free gifts with purchase) because they’re the perfect travel size. Next time you get a mini mascara, save it for the road trip!

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e.l.f. Eyebrow Kit

It’s a tiny, two-shade palette, but it works surprisingly well and fits nicely in your bag. Simple is best here. Road tripping it does not mean overdoing it when it comes to brow business.

DESTINATION: LIPS

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e.l.f. Tinted Lip Balm

The challenge here will be keeping your lips from drying out, especially if you’re flying or traveling to a dry area. Chapstick is a must, and the e.l.f. lip balm has the added bonus of adding color while moisturizing. And maybe the biggest bonus: It’s $1.99.

DESTINATION: HAIR

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Batiste Travel Size Dry Shampoo

Another classic in fun-sized form. Arguably the most important item on the list.

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Bumble and Bumble Travel Size Pret-A-Powder

Another great hair solution in a pinch– it’s a dry shampoo, but also a volumizer. I have such fine, thin hair that this is an absolute life-saver on the go.

 

And there you have it– your travel guide to travel beauty products! Do you have any must-have beauty products for when you’re on the go?

Happy travels!

XO,

CC

A Dollop a day keeps the doctor away

A coffee a day keeps the doctor away…I mean, not really, but I like to let myself think that. Even after getting quite the caff boost yesterday at Goddess and the Baker, I was ready to try another dose of cold brew today.

Dollop Coffee is another coffee business that’s well known in the Chicago area. Since I only have two more weeks left living in Chicago, I’ve made it my mission to hit every Chicago coffee establishment there is in the general vicinity. Which means no Starbucks or Dunkin’ for the time being. That can wait until I’m back in Columbia, Missouri, where the coffee options are admittedly more limited.

But that will be a problem for Future Caffeinated Californian. Today I’m in Chicago, and today I get to go to Dollop!


Dollop has several locations in the Chicago area, but I went to the one in the Loop near my apartment. I was feeling a lazy Sunday coming on and knew I had to get coffee and get it fast.

I loved that the place was designed for busy commuters. There was an Express menu and separate window, and this pick-up station to skip the line (something that I don’t see often at indie coffee places). Today being Sunday, it wasn’t crowded, but I have a feeling I’d get the same quick service any day.

I didn’t stick around, since it’s my roommate’s last day in Chicago (wah) but the place had free wifi and lots of space for hanging out. I grabbed a cold brew to go and came back to my apartment to pair the bitter taste with Honey Nut Cheerios.

I’m a slight sugar addict in addition to the caffeine.

The cold brew was good, on par with any good coffee place. It was nice and strong, brewed from Metropolis beans.

Cold brew with a view!

I am going to miss this apartment.

Sorry for the short but sweet post– girl’s gotta run! Leave a comment if you’ve got any suggestions for my next coffee visit. Don’t forget, I plan to hit every possible place selling coffee for my last two weeks in Chicago.

Enjoy the rest of this lovely weekend, and stay caffeinated (hydrated, I think, is the correct word here, but caffeinated is so much more fun).

XO,

CC

Beauty in Transit

Lately I’ve found myself on a train with a bare face and 30 minutes to kill before I have to arrive somewhere and look like I didn’t just run out of my apartment.

Except I’m always racing against time, and when you have 5 minutes to hop on the Metra, mascara isn’t as important as making it there. The good news? My makeup bag is always with me, with beauty tools made for moments of panic.

Here are some pointers for beauty on the go, whether it be trains, planes or automobiles:

Foundation

Hopefully you got this on before you left the house– this one is most important to do under good lighting– but if not, no worries. Just make extra sure you’re blending with the right brushes.

Start with a primer that has SPF (ALWAYS SPF) and then use a BB cream that gives you nice coverage without being super heavy. When you’re applying quickly, you can’t afford to do heavy.

Be sure to use a brush that gets the job done in quick, broad strokes. I use the e.l.f flawless face brush.

Cheeks

A duo palette is the call here. I like the NYX Cheek Contour Duo Palette. If you can go pricier, Clinique and Tarte have great options. Right now I use Clinique bronzer, and apply it with the e.l.f fan brush.

Bonus points: Finish it off with highlighter to look like you really have it together.

And with that, you’ve gotten your base done. On to the hard part!

Eyes

If you’re a travel pro, you have the travel size Urban Decay Primer Potion.

It’s so itty bitty! Look at it next to my mascara!

Next, use a palette with your essential neutral shades. I usually have the original Urban Decay Naked or the Naked Smoky palette with me, but it’s not ideal since it takes up more space. Try a mini palette with the best of the basics. You can always darken it depending on where you’re going. A couple suggestions:

As for eyeliner: Beware of bumps, and choose an eyeliner that won’t smudge if you do hit something. The Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Drama Waterproof Gel Pencil is a good smudge-proof option.

Mascara

When you need to swipe it on quickly, it’s important to have a mascara that will still achieve the same volume without being clumpy. I use the Clinique Travel Size Chubby Lash Fattening Mascara or the classic Maybelline Falsies to get the voluminous effect in seconds.

Lastly: Lips & Nails

When it comes to shaky transportation, you want to avoid neon-bright lip colors and lipsticks that are unforgiving with mess-ups. Opt for a neutral or light pink color in either a lip gloss or lip crayon, which won’t need as much precision and still looks great. The e.l.f. Lip Kiss Balm  is swell.

If you have time, paint your nails with another light, forgiving color. Then grab a magazine and your headphones to sit back and relax, knowing you just pulled off a polished look in the middle of rush hour. Not bad at all.

XO,

CC

 

 

 

Ballin’ on a budget: 10 actual fun things to do under $10

Part of working as an intern or entry-level employee is the less-than-ideal pay. We’ll all got to start somewhere, and most of us start on a limited budget. This is even trickier when you’re a 22-year-old surrounded by people with limitless energy and seemingly limitless bank accounts. It’s hard to be budget-conscious when everyone else wants drinks after work every day, dinners out every night, and plenty of shopping trips and coffee runs in between.

This summer, I’ve felt especially strapped for cash, as I complete an internship while living in downtown Chicago. As anyone will tell you, cities are expensive, and going out in Chicago for just one meal can mean $20-30 gone. 


The city is pretty but not cheap.

So my friends and I started getting creative with our weekend activities. Here’s 10:

1. Rent bikes


Chicago has an amazing bike rental system called Divvy bikes, and I know other cities have similar systems. Basically you pay ten bucks for a code, which you use to unlock a bike from any Divvy bike rack (there are Divvy racks everywhere). The code is good for 24 hours, which means you can bike around as much as you want- as long as you don’t have one bike out for more than 30 minutes at a time. If you’re active and you want to see your city in new ways, this one’s for you.

2. Visit Chinatown or Little Italy


On the other hand, if you mainly want cheap food and fun gift shops, Chinatown is for you. Little Italy is another great spot for great food amd a mini cultural adventure. The last time I went to Chinatown, I pigged out on dim sum, duck, and Chinese donuts. 

Caffeinated tip: Be sure to grab a cup of bubble tea while you’re there. It’s not coffee, but it’s the most fun you’ll ever have drinking tea.

3. Have a pizza picnic.


No matter where you go, you can always bring pizza with you. Order a box of ‘za, find a park/beach around you, and have a lovely date night outside with the love of your life: deep-dish sausage and pepperoni.

4. Ice cream in a new neighborhood 


Literally get on a train and go somewhere you haven’t been yet (I chose Wicker Park in Chicago), then make it your mission to locate THE best ice cream place (I chose Jeni’s). Alternative: The best taco place. Equally acceptable and potentially dangerous if they offer tequila shots.

5. Cheap (or free!) outdoor concert


Another benefit to cities: Concerts. I’m not talking music festivals, I’m talking those outdoor shindigs with families and lawn chairs. They’re actually fun. Bring beer and blankets, and you’ve got yourself a pretty decent happy hour.

I’ve seen Weezer and Passion Pit both for $20, and plenty of other shows for absolutely zilch. Check your fairgrounds and sports arenas– one time I stumbled on the Grateful Dead playing at Wrigley field.

6. Take a day trip to a brewery and take advantage of the free tour.

The MillerCoors tour in Milwaukee? Free. The three beers I got at the end? Priceless.

Even if you don’t drink beer, brewery tours are fun and you feel like you’ve learned something without being in a museum. The beer does not hurt either, though…

7. Shop the sale section of Forever 21.


Truly takes you forever. But it’s worth it when you find a killer romper for $2.99. And you’ve gotten the experience of a shopping trip without actually spending a fortune on two tops.

Alternatively, visit Goodwill or another thrift shop. There’s good stuff there for the taking if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. 

8. Go to a museum on a free day (or show a student ID if you can)


Most museums offer free days for residents and student discounts (even the Louvre). Check their websites and call around, then mark the calendar!
9. Rally the troops for bar trivia night.


Usually free, with great food and drink specials. If your friends are cool enough to not worry about looking cool, you’ll have a blast inventing an absurd team name and arguing over the answers to obscure 80’s song titles.

10. Stay in and have a Harry Potter marathon.
Arguably the best option of the ten. 

Im the end, even though they’re expensive, cities make up for it with all the free events and locations. You just have to know where to look!

XO,

CC

Dunkin’ Love

Ah, Dunkin’. What can I say? It’s been a year now since our relationship began, and my life has changed ever since.

Yes, you read that right– the first time I began drinking Dunkin’ Donuts coffee was a year ago, when I had an internship in Bolingbrook, Illinois (Chicago area). Having grown up in California, I never tried Dunkin’. I don’t even remember it being in San Diego, although my memory could be overshadowed by Starbucks.

Which is why, when I started grabbing Dunkin’ on my way to work last summer, I was blown away by what I’d been missing out on.

I mean, really– Dunkin’ isn’t great coffee, but at the same time, it’s great coffee. I can grab a latte at Dunkin’ that tastes similar to a Starbucks latte, for half the price. And it’s fast. In my line of work, speed counts for a lot. At Dunkin’, I’ve never once waited more than 2 minutes for a drink. It usually arrives within 30 seconds. And then I’m on my way, with my giant cup of happiness.


 

Here’s the thing about Dunkin’, though: You have to be careful what you wish for. In other words, if you don’t like sugary coffee, you better make sure you say unsweet when you order, or that drink will be straight Splenda. If you don’t want a ton of cream in your coffee, ask for 1 cream (the default is 3). 

These were lessons I learned the hard way. Learn from me, people. Don’t repeat my mistakes. I made them so you don’t have to. 


A few other reasons Dunkin’ has positively impacted me life:

  • In the summer, a medium iced coffee is 99 cents from 2-6 p.m.. 99 FREAKING CENTS. For a MEDIUM. And I can drink coffee all day, so the time window is nothing.
  • Dunkin’ sizes are realistic sizes. A small is a small. A Tall at Starbucks is like the kid’s meal version of coffee: Tiny and unsatisfying. You gotta go for the Grande, and by then you’re like seven bucks in the hole.
  • There’s never a line. And when there is, it’s like, 3 people. This is true of every location I’ve seen, and I’ve seen many, many Dunkins.
  • Not to state the obvious, but they have donuts.
  • Did I mention donuts?
  • There’s a Dunkin’ near every tourist area, so you can grab a coffee AND see a few walls.

 

Dunkin’, thanks for a wonderfully caffeinated year. 

XO,

A