Friday, January 22, 2016

Best Gear for Alaska Trip

After spending a total of 21 days in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, there were some definite all stars in the gear we brought.  These picks are based on input from both males and females, ages 20-55.

Best Hiking Boots

Best Hiking Boots for Alaska

For Him:
Tom loved his new hiking boots, the Vasque Breeze, and appreciated them on the glacier trek as well as the day hikes.

For Her:
For every day walking, short hikes, comfy car rides, and glacier walks these North Face Janey boots in brown were the MVP of the trip.  They have grips on the bottom, are super comfy and stylish, and totally waterproof with a little spray.  Unfortunately, they are no longer made but you can find them on Ebay.

I didn't do any hiking over 3 hours, so I didn't need boots with lots of support, but if you are going to be more active or do technical hiking, I would recommend these Vasque Breeze boots which I purchased later in 2015.

Best Sandals

Best Sandals for Alaska - Chacos

These Chaco Z/2 Yampa sandals were another MVP of the trip.  I wore them anytime we did water activities, whenever I needed to let my feet breathe, and even for light hiking.  You could get away with only 3 pairs of shoes for the entire trip if you did the Chacos, the North Face boots, and a pair of nice flats for anything dressy.

Best Rain Gear

Best Rain Gear for Alaska

I loved my REI Rainwall jacket (no longer made in this model but newer version here) and my Marmot rain pants.  They kept me warm and dry. On the coldest days (glacier cruising) I layered a North Face fleece under the rain jacket and topped with a scarf, hat, and gloves.

Tom preferred this all-in-one from North Face that has a wind/water resistant outer layer and a fleecy interior.  He has had the jacket for nearly 2 years and it is his absolute favorite down to about 45 degrees F.

Best Daytime Look

Note that everything in Alaska is casual.  You wear the same activities for daytime and evening.  Dressing for dinner just entails putting on something not wet or muddy.

What to Wear in Alaska - For Guys

For Him: The guys preferred jeans (casual), or shorts/zip off pants (for hiking) and a moisture wicking shirt.  They mostly wore boat shoes or light sneakers.

What to wear in Alaska - For Girls

For Her:  I most comfortable in stretchy workout capris, a t-shirt, my sandals, and my rain jacket.  As you can see from the photos, I wore some combination of this almost every day.

Best Daypack

I loved this Osprey 22 pack that I used for my carry-on and my daybag.  It was recommended by The College Prepster after her own Alaska trip and it lived up.  It has a waterproof top compartment, lots of pockets and expandable storage, and compartment to hold a 3L water bag with a sip line holder on the shoulder straps.  Comes in male and female versions with slight sizing differences and different color choices, but I liked the basic black/gray best.

Best Water Bottle

Water bottles are a source of great debate within our household.  There are strong opinions on straw versus not, and one handed opening versus twist.  My all time favorite is this Contigo version that has a one handed opening, and a caribiner clip built into the handle so you can attach it to your pack, pocket, or the seat in front of you on the airplane.  Tom prefers this similar version made by Nalgene which has a flip top covering on the mouthpiece to keep it clean.

Best Guidebook

To prepare for the trip, I took advantage of my Kindle Unlimited membership which gave me access to Lonely Planet Alaska, Seattle, and Vancouver guidebooks for free.  They had good general overviews but I then went to blogs and trip reports online to fill in the logistical details - one of the reasons I established 72 Hours To Go was so that readers don't have to jump all over to find this information anymore!

Best Audiobook

Before any trip, and especially road trips, we like to download an audio book.  We use Audible which has a free trial, and 2 book downloads for free!  Lately we have enjoyed the Fargo Adventures by Clive Cussler.  They are exciting and engaging, yet predictable enough that if you fall asleep for a bit you won't miss too much of the plot.  I recommend them in chronological order, starting with Spartan Gold, but you could pick them up anywhere in the series.

Best Headphones

You should always bring a good pair of basic in-ear headphones on any trip.  They are so useful for music, a movie, a podcast, etc.  Bonus points if you bring a splitter so you can listen to something with a travel buddy.  Keep both in your daybag since you might need them at museums for audio tours.

If you want to splurge, Tom loves his Bose around-ear wireless headphones.  They block out the engine noise from the airplane so you can really enjoy whatever you are listening to.  They do take up space, and require charging, so not good for every day, out and about, use.

Best Camera

Overall consensus from our group was that for amateur photography the cell phones worked perfectly, even when compared to some of the nicer cameras we brought.  I used the Google Photos app to edit and curate my album
Tip:  You can edit and save photos while in airplane mode so I used downtime on long bus rides to curate as I went making it quick and easy to organize and share after the trip

Most Useful Thing To Pack

Plastic baggies!  We used sandwich and gallon sized bags to hold electronics, snacks, maps and contain muddy/wet clothes and shoes as we had to move hotels every couple of days on the land portion of the trip.  A close second would be the aforementioned rain jacket since it was the perfect windbreaker/dry layer.

What else are you thinking of packing?  For those that have been to Alaska or the Pacific Northwest, what else would you recommend?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

72 Hours in Dallas, Texas for Create+Cultivate

At the end of January, Create + Cultivate is going to Dallas and there are approximately 400 women who can hardly wait to attend, myself included.  Create + Cultivate is a creative conference & online platform for female entrepreneurs in the digital space. They create inspiring environments that seek to enlighten, entertain & inspire both online & offline.  The one day conference promises learning, networking, inspiration, and growth.  For everyone that is going to be a part of #createcultivatedallas here is a custom detailed itinerary for making the most of this career opportunity in a wonderful city.

Planner's Note: There are of course tons of places to eat, things to do, hotels to stay at, etc., however this itinerary is optimized for those staying in the downtown/uptown area or at the conference sponsored hotel who arrive Friday and depart on Sunday.  See the end of the post for hotel recommendations and how to get around town.

Detailed weekend itinerary for Create+Cultivate in Dallas from 72 Hours To Go

Your Itinerary

Friday, January 29, 2016

  • 5 min - Connect
    • Before you leave home, download the C+C app so you have all the latest info at your fingertips
    • Download/copy the list of speakers and mentors to your electronic device before your flight so you can read bios and brainstorm questions
  • morning: Travel
    • If you are arriving by air, or will be without a car, see the recommended transportation section below for some tips
  • late morning: Pit Stop
    • drop off bags at hotel and check in if possible
    • Tip: If your room is not yet ready, ask if you can at least check in now so that all you have to do later is pick up your keys since they will already have your card and guest information on file
  • 12-1 pm: BBQ Pit Stop
    • Grab some barbecue for lunch and savor the flavors of the South - brisket is the specialty in Texas if you want to eat like a local at this non-chain, low key lunch place
    • Sammy's Bar-B-Q, 2126 Leonard Street, Dallas, TX 7520
  • 1:30-3 pm: Shopping
    • Visit Highland Park Village, an outdoor shopping center, to peruse some high end merchandise and #treattyoself or dream of what you will do when your entrepreneurial dreams become a reality
    • Address; 47 Highland Park Village, Dallas, TX 75205
    • If you landed later, or BBQ isn't your thing, stop in Mi Cocina for some delicious Tex-Mex, or re-caffeinate at Starbucks
  • 4-5:30 pm: Refresh
    • Return to your hotel to check in, refresh, and get ready for the networking happy hour.  Be sure to hang up, or iron out, whatever you plan to wear to the conference tomorrow so it is wrinkle free and instagram perfect for Saturday
    • Private message 3 people you connected with on social media before the conference and make plans to meet up during the happy hour, or grab dinner afterwards
  • 5:45 pm: Transit
    • Depart for the networking happy hour via Uber
    • Don't forget to bring your business cards and practice your quick self-introduction in the car ride over
    • Tip: keep a pen handy and jot a quick note about why you connected with someone or what you want to follow up with them about on the back of their business card right after you meet.
  • 6-7 pm: Happy Hour
    • The Common Desk - Deep Ellum, 2919 Commerce Street, Dallas, TX 75226
    • Beer, Wine, Light Food to be served
    • Push yourself not to be a wallflower!  Some people will know other women at the conference and some people are venturing solo into a brave new digital world, so put yourself out there and remember that almost everyone likes to talk about themselves so ask them about their business and what they hope to get out of the conference
  • 7:30-9 pm: Dinner
    • Invite some of your new acquaintances to continue the conversation over dinner - there are plenty of restaurants within a few blocks of the happy hour venue
    • Pepe's and Mito's Mexican Cafe, 2911 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75226, features great Tex-Mex cuisine in a laid back atmosphere
    • Braindead Brewing, 2625 Main St., Dallas, TX 75226, features great brews, burgers, and salads
  • 9 pm: Retire
    • Transit back to the hotel and get everything physically and mentally prepped for tomorrow because it will be a marathon, not a sprint!
    • Charge your phone and your extra battery pack

Saturday - January 20, 2016 - The Conference

For full conference details and schedules, read the C+C post or use the C+C app
  • 7:45 am: Transit
    • Head on over to The Lofty Spaces, 816 Montgomery St, Dallas, TX 75226
    • Don't forget to bring a government issued ID for check in, along with your business cards, phone, charger, and something to take notes with
  • 8-9 am: Check In
    • Get your badge, track number, and schedule for the day
    • Enjoy breakfast and get to know the other conference-goers
  • 9 am - 4:30 pm: Conference Tracks
    • Follow your schedule for the majority of the day
    • Tip:  If you are Track #1, lunch is not until 2 pm, so be sure to grab a refreshment and snack during the break at 12:40 pm to keep you energized and focused
  • 4:30-5:30 pm: Break
    • Refresh and check out all the vendors
  • 5:30-7 pm: Keynote
  • 7-8 pm: Happy Hour
    • Unwind and celebrate the end of a great day
    • Exchange cards with anyone who you connected with
  • 8:30 pm: Dinner
    • Grab some new friends and get some dinner to talk about everything you learned 
    • Near the W-Victory: Naga Thai Kitchen, 665 High Market St., Dallas, TX 75226
    • Near Downtown: Americano, 1530 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226

Sunday, January 31, 2016

  • 7:30 am Coffee Talk
    • If you have an early flight, make plans to meet up with someone staying near you to talk business over morning lattes and pastries.
    • Near the W-Victory: Cook Hall or The Living Room, inside of the hotel, are the closest places to grab coffee early on Sunday morning
    • Near Downtown: Weekend Coffee, 1511 Commerce St, Dallas, TX 75201, Espresso drinks, pour-over coffee & pastries served in a hip, bright space inside the Joule Hotel.
  • 9 or 10 am: Power Brunch
    • Take advantage of some connections made this weekend, or collaborative ideas brewing and make plans in advance to meet for a working brunch over coffee and mimosas
    • Lark on the Park, 2015 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Dallas, TX 75201, reservations recommended, the pastry basket is worth the carbs
    • Mercat Bistro, 2501 N. Harwood St., Dallas, TX 75201, opens at 10 am, reservations recommended, enjoy crepes, pastries, and quiche
  • Spare Time
    • If you don't have to leave right away, here are some ideas for how to spend a nice Sunday in Dallas
    • If the weather is nice, head to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, 8525 Garland Road, Dallas, TX 75218, $5 admission gives you access to walking trail and the lovely winter blooms.  This is a perfect setting to do a photo shoot in the natural light.
    • If the weather doesn't cooperate, head to the Dallas Arts District where you can duck between museums.  Start at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 North Harwood, Dallas, Texas 75201, opens at 11 am with free admission to main museum, where you can see a temporary exhibition on Pop Art, and gather inspiration for your home in the Decorative Arts and Design Collection, or visit the international art wings to satisfy your wanderlust.  Download the tour app to your phone before you go.
    • Departing out of Love Field?  Check your bags early then stop at the Frontiers of Flight Museum to learn about aviation and take photos of your OOTD with all the planes as a metaphor for how your career is going to take flight after this conference; 6911 Lemmon Avenue Dallas, Texas 75209; open 1-5 pm today; $10 admission
  • Departure
    • If departing by air, plan to arrive at the airport 1.5 hours before your flight to check in and get to the gate, especially if you are flying out of  Dallas-Ft. Worth because it is a major hub airport.

Getting There, Around Town, and Back Again

If arriving by plane, you will fly into Dallas Love Field or Dallas-Ft.Worth airports.

No Need To Rent a Car - To get around town, I would not recommend renting a car unless you plan to venture outside of downtown.  All of the conference activities are in the same part of the city and you can easily get to venues via car service, and all of the recommended eateries in this itinerary are within walking distance of the venue or the hotel.

Use Uber to Get Around - If you have never used it before, download the Uber app on your phone and use my referral link to get a free ride up to $15 (and I get one too!)  Its easy to split fares within the app if you make friends and share cars to and from events during the weekend.
Some fare estimates for UberX:
  • DWF Airport to W-Victory Hotel = $23-30
  • Love Field Airport to W-Dallas Victory Hotel = $10-13
  • W-Dallas Victory to Highland Park Village = $8-11
  • W-Dallas Victory to The Common Desk = $5-7
  • W-Dallas Victory to The Lofty Spaces = $5-7
Note: You could also use Lyft, but the presence is not as well established in Dallas, therefore statistically you will be able to get an Uber pickup faster.  Here is a referral code for new customers to get $50 in credits.

Where to Stay

The official hotel of Create+Cultivate Dallas is The W-Victory with a special room rate available until January 20, 2016.  It is located between uptown and downtown, near the Victory Metro Station, within a few miles of all the weekend activities and my recommended eateries or outings.

If you prefer to stay elsewhere, there are great deals for ~$100 per night on Hotwire right now.  Some people I know ended up with a room at The Adolphus, a four star boutique hotel in the downtown area.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

72 Hours in Anchorage, Alaska

Alaska is a beautiful state and there are so many things to do in Anchorage or Alaska in general that 3 days hardly seems enough time.  Whether you are just dipping your toe in everything that the chilly Bering Sea has to offer on a long weekend getaway, or this is just one stop on a greater adventure in the last frontier, here is a detailed itinerary for a 72 hour trip to Anchorage, Alaska.  See the end of the post for arrival information and hotel recommendations.

Detailed itinerary for 72 hours or less in Anchorage, Alaska

My Itinerary

Check out a copy of the super detailed itinerary that I made for my family when we had our trip to Alaska.  Contact me if you would like me to build you a detailed itinerary based on the general itinerary below, or customized to other activities you are interested in.

Your Itinerary

Detailed Itinerary for 72 Hours in Anchorage, Alaska
  • Day 1 - plans for 4+ hours based on travel in the morning with an afternoon/evening arrival
    • For more details and photos, check out my trip report from the field for this day
    • 30 min: Pickup rental car from airport and head towards the Turnagain Arm 
    • Optional 15+ min: Stop along the road at the Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary
      • walk along the .5 mi of boardwalks and use your binoculars to check out the wildlife
    • 30 min: See the boor tide
      • Check the tide tables and see if you can park the car, find a good lookout spot near Beluga Point, and sit down to catch a view of the boor tide
    • 30+ min: Grab dinner at Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ in the little town called Indian
    • 30 min: Follow Seward Hwy towards Portage enjoying the views
    • 1 hour: Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center 
      • Open until 8 pm May-Sept; go within 2 hours of closing to have the place to yourself 
      • Note: Allow at least 45+ min to see all the animals, less if you drive around, more if you want to get out and walk the loop.
    • Optional 20+ min: Take a detour on Portage Glacier Road
      • Catch a glimpse of the tunnel to the port of Whittier and some great glacier and water views
    • ~1 hour: Return to your hotel
      • Settle in for the night; be sure to draw blackout curtains since the sun is out late and up early
      • Charge the camera since you will want it on the glacier hike tomorrow
  • Day 2 - plans for the entire day
    • For more details and photos, check out my trip report from the field for this day
    • Wake up and gear up: pack a day bag with water and snacks, and layers for an outdoor adventure
      • You probably want zip off pants, or something that will transition well from the warmer temps in Anchorage to 40+ temps on the glacier face
      • Boots recommended today for the hike, but sneakers will work; no flip flops or sandals on the ice
      • Pack water, sunglasses, sunscreen, and an outer layer that is windproof to keep you warm
      • Bring a trash bag or something to put muddy shoes in after the glacier hike; wear or bring another pair of shoes/sandals to change into
    • 45 min: breakfast at B&B, hotel, or nearby cafe
      • TIP: Take it to go for the car if you slept in because of jet lag but don't skip breakfast because you will need the fuel for the glacier hike!
    • 2.5 hours: drive from Anchorage to the Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Area at milepost 101on Glenn Hwy
      • Stop at Carrs/Safeway Grocery in Palmer along the way to get supplies for a picnic lunch
      • Enjoy the scenic overview of the glacier and read about the history and how the glacier formed; tables to have a picnic if you are ready to eat now
    • 15 min: drive to milepost 102 on Glenn Hwy and take the turn for the Matanuska Glacier Park
      • follow the gravelly road to the main office/store where you need to pay an access fee and sign your life away but can then drive up to the glacier and hike around on your own
    • Explore the Glacier
      • Option 1 - 1+ hour: park the car, gear up, and hike about 15 min across the gravel and mud to the face of the glacier.  Walk around on your own and take pictures for as long as you like.  Bring your lunch stuff to eat at one of the picnic tables.
      • Option 2 - 1.5+ hours: If you want to explore more than just the face of the glacier, pre-arrange a guided glacier trek with MICA Guides who offers high and low adventure options
    • 1.5 hrs: Drive to Thunderbird Falls
      • Ditch the muddy shoes in the trunk then get back in the car returning towards Anchorage, but plan to stop at Thunderbird Falls
    • 45+ min: Explore Thunderbird Falls
      • Enjoy the lookout from the viewing platform, or take a short 1 mile hike to the face of the falls
    • 45+ min: Return by car to your hotel in Anchorage
    • 45+ min: Clean up and power napping if needed
      • be sure to rinse your muddy boots/shoes so they dry overnight
    • 1.5 hrs: Head to Humpy's Alaskan Alehouse for dinner
      • Be prepared for a wait time if it is a Friday or Sat night but you can grab a drink at the bar and relax
      • Ask for seats on the back patio
      • Try the local brews if you are a beer fan
      • The fresh fish is excellent, but there are plenty of carnivore options for non-fish eaters
  • Day 3 - plans through late afternoon, assuming evening travel back home or to the next destination on your Alaskan Adventure
    • Wake up and take breakfast to go on a morning stroll to the waterfront
      • If you are staying downtown, Resolution Park has a beautiful overlook of the Knik Arm, and the Alaskan Mountain Ranges visible from Anchorage
    • Packup and check out of hotel
      • leave bags in car or with front desk
      • attire for today is casual; no special gear needed other than the usual day bag and something comfortable for an easy bike ride
    • 2+ hours: Head to the Anchorage Museum 
      • Learn more about the culture and heritage of Alaska
      • Start at the Alaska Native Cultures exhibit, then branch out to whatever catches your interest
      • Catch a docent led tour for a 45 min overview of the museum highlights; daily at 11 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm; included with museum admission
      • Note: museum buffs could be content to spend the entire day here
    • 45 min: Grab lunch at the Midnight Sun Cafe
      • Tip: Call 30 min ahead for to go orders if you want to take it on the trail with you
    • 30 min: Head to Pablo's Bicycle Rentals and pick up bikes and helmets
      • Tip: Use coupon on their website for a free drink
    • 2+ hours: Cycle along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail 
      • Enjoy views of wildlife and the Cook Inlet
      • Use this map to decide your route based on how much time you before your departure
      • Its about 4.5 mi from the rental place south on the trail towards Earthquake Park which is a good visit, and a good turnaround point for an afternoon outing.  Plenty of stops along the way to rest and enjoy the view.
    • If departing by air:
      • plan to arrive at the airport 1.5+ hours before your flight to return the rental car and check in

Getting There

Most travelers arrive in Anchorage by plane, or by cruise ship.  If you fly into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, it is relatively small, but still has all the standard amenities.  Plan to pick up your rental car before you leave the airport.

If you are arriving by cruise ship, most likely you will dock in the nearby town of Whittier.  Books tickets in advance to take the 6:45 pm Alaska Train from the port of Whittier directly to downtown Anchorage.  The train has dome cars and plenty of windows and external platforms to enjoy scenic views of Portage Glacier, Turnagain Arm, and Anchorage over the 2.5 hour journey.  Plan to pick up a rental car at the airport once you get to downtown Anchorage.

Where to Stay

If you prefer to stay downtown, which puts you closer to shops, restaurants, and the airport, I recommend two options:
  • Save - Holiday Inn Express Anchorage
    • budget friendly and breakfast included; slightly further away from the main streets of downtown but if have your rental car you can easily drive where you want to go
  • Splurge - Hotel Captain Cook
    • 4 star hotel with posh rooms and quality service; breakfast not included but there are some great places to eat within a 3 block walk if you want to avoid the pricey and unmemorable dine in or takeout options within the hotel
      • Nearby Snow City Cafe has the best rated breakfast in town; if you have time to sit and eat this should be your pick
      • Just across the street, the K Street Convenience Store is handy if you need something quick to go, or snacks for the day
If you are willing to stay 30 min outside of town, I personally recommend:
  • The Turnagain View B&B
    • We stayed in the Rock Room but all three of the guest rooms looked wonderful
    • The owners were so warm and welcoming and made a fabulous breakfast spread
    • In July 2015, they had a litter of puppies that were tons of fun to play with if you have children