“Where do you live?” is a big question we get and the answer is that Bruno and I live in hotels. We’ve been pretty lucky in finding pet friendly hotels and here’s some of our favorites & tips. Read More
Banff is an easy 90 minute drive from Calgary. So when I had a day off I knew I had to go up to one of the dreamiest places on Earth. It’s the perfect place to spend a day.
Banff National Park
The massive park includes the town of Banff as well as Lake Louise (as well as many other lakes we were unable to see in a day). You have to pay an entry fee to get into the park. It cost us $19.60 for a car of 4 people.
How to spend a perfect day in Banff
The town of Banff is adorable, although a bit touristy now. We had a hard time finding parking, even on a Monday afternoon. We walked around the town then up to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. Fairmont’s are very fancy and this was no exception.
After grabbing snacks from the coffee shop off the lobby (iced maple hazelnut latte and soft baked chocolate chip cookie for me) we headed outside to the patio where we had gorgeous views of lakes and mountains.
After the midday snack, we headed back to the car and drove up to Lake Louise, which is an additional ½ hour. There is another Fairmont just off the lake, called the Chateau Lake Louise, which would be an amazing place to stay. The lake is absolutely stunning and the pictures do not do it justice. It is the coolest shade of blue and so peaceful, even with all the tourists.
If you have the time, I would definitely recommend waiting in the long line to rent a bright red canoe. We skipped this but I have seen many amazing pictures with the pop of the red next to the bright turquoise water.
We then headed up to Moraine Lake, which is an additional 20 minutes from Lake Louise. You see the sign to turn off on the way up to Lake Louise so it’s very easy to get to.
We arrived pretty late and were a bit disappointed after seeing Lake Louise but I have seen many gorgeous photos of Moraine Lake and I think the lighting/time of day just wasn’t right for us.
Dinner in Banff
There are so many great dining options in Banff. We opted for the Keg Steakhouse, which is actually a Canadian chain. We ate in the bar area and had all of the food. I got the sirloin with lobster, scallops, shrimp and crab with rice on the side and we shared Brussels sprouts at the table. We drank a delicious red blend wine from BC. We left incredibly stuffed.
It really was the perfect day. It’s an incredible place to visit and I can’t wait to go back and spend more time!
This app is where I store ALL my travel information. On the tour, I travel by plane, bus & sometimes my own rental car and am staying in a different hotel nearly every week. This app allows me to store all that info plus include notes like my nightly rate, the pet fee, etc. It’s all in one place so it makes it very easy.
Until I got to Vancouver, I didn’t realize how much I utilize this app (Vancouver does not have Uber). Since I don’t have a car and am in unfamiliar cities and sometimes the public transit seems too much effort to figure out, I often take Uber. I love that I can use it in nearly every city (and even across the world in Sydney!).
Bonus: the local drivers are always great resources on what to do, eat, and see around town!
I use this app to store all my rewards program information. Because I have accounts at all of them. So this app makes it easy to pull it up when I’m standing at the airport or the hotel check in.
I am personally a Delta girl so I have the Fly Delta app but most airlines have their own. I love the Delta app because it automatically stores all my itineraries but also has a cool feature where you can Track My Bags. It is so neat seeing where my bags are going through in the airport and how much time it estimates it’ll take to get to me.
I use Dropbox for work but I also use it for travel. I’ll save pdfs of itineraries or any other pertinent documents in a file folder that I can access on my phone and on the go.
Their offline feature is amazing. This saved me in Canada when I had a limited data plan and driving a rental car. Search for a city, click the city name at the bottom then Download and follow the prompts. This allows you to search offline and even give you navigational directions without using any of your data. This could also be a great feature if you ride underground subways a lot.
This app is great when traveling with friends or coworkers. Anytime you owe someone money or vice versa, you can easily jump on the app or transfer funds or charge your friend.
What are your favorite apps?
Newsies closes in Austin on October 2nd and Adam + Bruno + I are going on a road trip to my parents house in Maryland. Here’s the plan!
A sweet little town where my father grew up. My aunt lives in my grandmother’s house, which is where we’ll stay. This is Adam’s first time and I can’t wait to walk along the lake, try out a meat pie, see a plantation, and maybe even a trip to the alligator farm!
We’ll be visiting my friend Gillian and her husband Rob, as well as their 100 cats. I’m excited to see this part of Louisiana.
New Orleans, LA
This is one of my favorite cities from tour and I can’t wait to show Adam. We will definitely eat all of the delicious food and return to the Carousel Bar and Sazerac Bar for cocktails. This time I’d also like to make it to the National WWII Museum and Preservation Hall.
A quick stop to visit my parent’s new house which they bought for retirement.
Epcot (drinks around the world), Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom to finally see the fireworks at Disney and Harry Potter World at Universal.
I’ve never been here but it’s on the list. I love Charleston so I’m excited to see its sister city.
We’ll visit our friend Mackenzie but also enjoy the restaurants and gorgeous walks through downtown Charleston.
We’ll stay with my brother and family in their new house. A trip to the amazing Georgia Aquarium and Coca Cola World a must.
And finally the drive back to Maryland to stay with my parents for a week.
What should we see and do in the cities we’re visiting? Are there any other cities we should stop at along the way?
We took the trip!
Bruno has traveled everywhere with me since he was adopted in January. I’ve learned a lot of tips about flying with a dog. Here’s how I’ve done it:
All Airlines have restrictions on dogs on planes. These include the number of animals on one plane, fees, and even the breed of dog. Call the airline ahead of time – ideally when you book your flight, otherwise do this a few days before.
Here are the fees for carrying on a pet (in a carrier underneath the seat in front of you)
Alaska Airlines: $125 each way
American Airlines: $125 each way + the carrier and pet must not weigh more than 20 pounds
JetBlue: $100 each way + the carrier and pet must not weigh more than 20 pounds
Delta: $125 each way
Southwest Airlines: $95 each way
Spirit Airlines: $100 each way
United: $125 each way
Virgin America: $100 each way and pets may not be in the exit row, front row of the main cabin OR first class
How to Get Around This
Bruno is technically an Emotional Support Animal. Unfortunately, a lot of people scam this system as it is fairly easy to fake it. There are tons of websites out there claiming that after a quick registration process and fee, you’ll be given a license. This might work for some airline employees, but it is not legal.
Emotional Support Animals fall under the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act (not ADA, which I will talk about another time). For the Air Carrier Access Act, this means that if you have a disability or mental illness and have essentially a prescription from a doctor or medical professional, your dog can fly without any fees. There are also no size restrictions so you can fly a Yorkie (like Bruno) or a larger dog like a Golden Retriever as long as it fits in the space in front of your seat. Or you can be like Chelsea Handler and buy a plane ticket just for your dog (first class, no less).
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal
If you have a disability or mental illness such as depression or a fear of flying, your doctor can prescribe you an Emotional Support Animal.
Basically, you need a letter that has the following:
- On letterhead (this one always seems to get complaints for me as my doctor is not highly technical and has a small practice so the letterhead is very simple and some airline employees claim it is too easy to copy).
- The Title, Address, License Number, Jurisdiction, phone number and signature of physician
- The passenger has a mental health related disability recognized by the DSM-IV
- The passenger is under the care of the physician
- Letter must not be more than a year old
(information loosely taken from Delta’s website)
Some airlines (such as United and American) take it even further by requiring a specific form for your physician to fill out and STILL make it difficult to “approve” your ESA. For those reasons, I try my best not to fly those airlines even sans pet. Delta and Southwest have always worked for me so those are my preference.
The carrier is absolutely the most important part of traveling with your pet. Their happiness will all depend on how comfortable they are in their carrier.
For that reason, I purchased the Sleepypod Air (http://sleepypod.com). It is not cheap but since I travel for work and knew I would be getting a lot of use out of it, it’s worth it.
The inside has a soft bed for Bruno and has a privacy mesh so Bruno can see out but not everyone in the airport can see him so it’s very discreet. The whole top unzips so I can easily zip just enough to put my hand in or for Bruno to stick his head out or I can unzip it halfway for him to easily get in and out. The size allows him to move around inside but also fits underneath all plane seats. The carrier also has a large pocket that fits his leash and treats and the other side has the option for a pocket or you unzip both zippers and it can sit on top of your suitcase. I’ll use that until the bags are checked and then I will zip up the bottom zipper and use the pocket for my boarding pass, cell phone and iPad for easy boarding.
There are other great carriers out there and if you’re looking for a one time use the cheap carrier from PetSmart might work for you.
Before your trip, get your pet comfortable with the carrier. Have it out in the house with access inside so your pet can sniff around it. Put treats inside so they associate the carrier with something good.
Once your pet is comfortable around the carrier, start taking your pet on adventures using the carrier. We would take Bruno in his carrier to the park, to PetSmart, on short and long trips, so that he would know that the carrier meant he was going to go somewhere fun. He got comfortable sleeping inside it and going in and out. This worked!
Research animal relief areas ahead of time. Signage at airports is not always great. You can try the airport’s website or the following two websites also give a great rundown of pet relief areas at all of the US airports:
Unfortunately, not all pet relief areas are great and most are pre-security. Most are located on the Baggage Claim level and are usually off to the side. Some are fenced in and some provide poop bags and trashcans.
My best bet is to usually arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before, check my bags and then head down to the Baggage Claim level to walk Bruno. I’ll usually take him out right away and let him walk along the sidewalk. Yes, he will pee on trashcans or columns but it’s also generally filthy down there anyways. Airports like Chicago’s Midway or Cincinnati (CVG) have fenced in areas where I can let Bruno run around sans leash (albeit it is small).
After a healthy walk (15-30 minutes), we’ll go through Security. With the dog, you must go through the metal detector. Put all of your items on the belt and then take out your dog last (be careful a pushy TSA agent doesn’t try to push your carrier and dog through!). Cross through the metal detector and then you must wait for a hand swab which is testing for traces of explosives. While you wait, you may NOT touch your belongings or put your dog back in its carrier. It’s fairly quick and honestly the whole process is probably must quicker than going through the scanner. Then you’re on your way!
Occasionally I will allow Bruno to walk along the terminal depending on how busy the airport is. He’s a good walker but also loves to stop for sniffs and is small so if the airport is crowded, I will refrain. I try to find a quiet spot at the gate or I’ll find an empty area a few gates down as Bruno gets antsy with a lot of movement.
I’ll let him out on a leash and give him some water using a collapsible bowl. Sometimes we’ll work on his tricks using treats, which focuses him while also tiring him out for the flight. Once boarding starts, he goes back in the carrier and off we go.
On the Plane
As an Emotional Support Animal, Bruno is allowed to sit on my lap. However, he has learned that sometimes I will let him out and therefore now barks or scratches at the zipper until I let him out. DON’T. For the enjoyment of everyone else on the plane, leave the dog in the carrier and ignore them. They will soon learn that this is nap time and stay quiet the whole flight.
I have also learned the hard way about letting Bruno out when he got out of my reaches and ran all the way up the aisle to first class. While yes, very adorable, and it did make me laugh, it was also mortifying. So Bruno will be staying in the carrier from now on!
I have also used Rescue Remedy Pet on a treat to calm Bruno and I hate to admit, a bark collar. Remember, everyone hates a crying baby so they will equally hate a barking dog.
Once I grab my bags, I take Bruno out for a nice walk and then a cab to our next destination.
Do you travel with a dog? Any tips for flying with them?
Chicago hands down has the best brunch. NYC definitely tries hard but seems to be more about the booze than the food and is more your standard diner fare. Chicago is all about the creativity and the noms. So with 2 weeks in Chicago, my friend Brae and I decided to tackle the Chicago brunch scene.
My Brunch “Rules”:
- DO make a reservation! Brunch places fill up quick, especially on the weekends. Reservations are a major do so you guarantee your spot.
- DO go early. If you can’t get a reservation, try to go when the restaurant opens or before 10, when you’ll start to get crowds.
- DON’T go with more than 2 people (unless you have a reservation). Restaurants tend to jam in all the tables possible and there are more 2 seaters than 4 so you’re more likely to be able to get in with just 2 people.
- DO share items. Until they come up with a tapas style brunch spot, you’ll have to share dishes with friends to try out different things. Feel free to order a side or two entrees so you can try out different things. My favorite is to order a side of pancakes “for the table”.
- DON’T go crazy with the booze. Don’t get me wrong, I love a boozy brunch. But I hate going through the hangover stage in the middle of the day. Aside from my takeout & rooftop mimosas, all of my brunches were completely sober which allowed me to enjoy the company, food & relax rather than party it up (that and work later on).
Now here’s the tour:
Location: Multiple locations around Chicago as well as Dallas, Fort Worth & Indianapolis
Ordered: Pot Roast Benedict which came with fruit (more than your typical honeydew & grapes) + potatoes (so-so)
My Take: Delicious! The pot roast was so tender and worked well with the runny poached egg. It felt like a combo dinner & brunch and the pot roast was total comfort food.
South Water Kitchen
Ordered: Three Egg Omelet filled with ham, cheese and lots of veggies. Shredded hash browns on the side (my fave) but they were over salted the day I ate there.
My Take: Delicious! Nothing too fancy but patio dining is a plus and there never seems to be a wait at this Loop spot. Also, their Boston Cream French Toast is TO. DIE. FOR. I’ve only ever stolen bites of my husband’s but if you’re in the mood for sin, this is it.
Location: River North
Ordered: Greek Omelet
My Take: My least favorite of the brunch places. The omelet was definitely missing some meat (gyro meat would be amazing). The coffee is $5, and although it’s Metropolis (one of my fave Chicago coffees), I thought that was a little overpriced – it’s drip coffee!
Location: West Loop
Ordered: Jonah crab scramble + baguette and bacon for the table
My Take: First of all, the décor is awesome. You’ve either got long communal tables or booths with doors. We got one of the booths and I loved the privacy of the doors. The scramble was delicious. The baguette came out fresh from the oven and HOT.
This place didn’t exist when I lived in Chicago circa 2010 and is a very popular Loop spot. There are always large crowds waiting outside and even though it’s on the NoWait app, it’s often a 60 minute wait (!!!!). So we opted for takeout which we ate on my corporate apartment’s 6th floor terrace with some mimosas.
Ordered: Southern Benedict, Rutherford omelet, Butcher Block skillet, Signature Berry Bliss pancakes, Brioche French Toast, & Fruity Pebble Pancakes (off the Kids Menu)
My Take: Everything was delicious except for the French toast which I found disappointing. The Signature Berry Bliss pancakes are a signature for a reason – so good!
Location: Lincoln Park & Roscoe Village
Ordered: Omelet No. 5, Frushi, Pancake Flight & of course orange coffee
My Take: Orange is definitely one of my favorite brunch institutions. They’re known for their Frushi which is sushi made out of fruit. They also have a pancake flight that changes every week. This time we got the Stone Fruit flight to share. I preferred 2 of the 4 pancakes, with 1 I really didn’t care for. The omelet was great and the side potatoes were also delicious. They’re also known for their orange flavored coffee which I love.
Ordered: Summer Squash & Kale omelet with the Bread Pudding pancakes and grown-up pop tart to share
My Take: I’m still dreaming about the grown up pop tart. With creamy mascarpone cheese and berries, it was incredible. I wasn’t a fan of the cinnamon topping on the pancakes so they were not as great as I was expecting. The omelet was very good and I loved the side of mashed potatoes!
Location: River North
Ordered: Benedict Flight
My Take: This Southern BBQ restaurant offers a delicious flight of 3 of their benedicts – chicken w/ cornbread, brisket w/ biscuit & pulled pork w/ fried green tomato. My favorite was the brisket on top of the cheddar chive biscuit with my least favorite being the cornbread. It was too sweet for me but the smoked chicken on top was delicious.
Location: Lincoln Park & Bucktown
I didn’t visit Toast during the official Tour de Brunch but I have to list it because it is one of my absolute favorite brunch places. I used to live around the corner and went pretty frequently. They’re known for their stuffed French toast which is incredible. I love the mascarpone flavor and will usually get the orgy which includes berries, granola and all the delicious.
Since September 2014, I’ve been touring with Newsies throughout North America. Once the tour ends this October, it will have played 70 cities in 2 countries. So in the last 2 years I have seen and done a lot. Here’s some things I’ve learned:
- “Where are you from?” is a very complicated question
I am constantly asked this question from strangers and it often spawns many more. I don’t have a home anymore – all of my stuff is in a storage unit in Newark or odds and ends at my parents’ house in Maryland. I live in hotels and don’t exactly know when that will change. “Allover” gets the huh? response since it’s a fairly unique lifestyle. New York needs clarification on city or state and even down to which block in Manhattan. Now it’s Maryland – where I grew up and where I get the least amount of follow up questions.
- Stuff is just stuff
My husband and I both went on separate tours around the same time so there wasn’t much logic to keeping our expensive NYC apartment. We moved everything to storage and honestly, I’ve barely even thought about it. Some people get really attached to things. But you have to ask: do I really need this? When you live out of 2 suitcases, your priorities change and you constantly ask yourself whether you need something. I have certainly traveled silly things to then ask myself why and most of the time it gets donated.
- Long Distance Relationships Can Work
Adam and I got married and 3 months later the 2 of us (rather unexpectedly) went out on 2 different tours. It takes work to change how you communicate and coordinate schedules for visits. But it’s also made the time we have incredibly special.
- You could spend all your money OR you could save (a lot)
In addition to the career opportunities of going on separate tours, we also knew that this was a great way to save money. In New York we were POOR. Yes, we both worked on Broadway but unfortunately Associate Company Managers and even worse, Production Assistants don’t make a lot of money in a very expensive city. In addition to a salary on tour, you receive per diem which covers housing (in hotels with a group rate) and meals. It is entirely possible to live solely off your per diem (and pocket your salary) but also to even pocket some of the per diem. We did that for 2 years and now have a down payment for a house which I’m incredibly proud of. But there are definitely people I work with that talk about how they spend all their money and I just wonder how?! I’m sitting here with a ridiculous amount of money, we make a very good salary, AND I’ve still felt like I’ve been able to enjoy a nice lifestyle.
- Having a pet on tour is hard but is incredibly rewarding
I was pet-less when I started the tour but picked up an adorable stray Yorkie while on the tour. It’s definitely changed my life – getting up earlier, planning to come home between shows, planning daycare or dog walkers, not to mention when the dog gets sick. But having a companion to help me see the world and keep me company is amazing. I adore the bug and could not imagine life without him now.
(And you CAN travel with a cat – there are 2 cats on our tour!)
- Stay healthy
It is so easy to gain weight on tour. One – you’re eating out most of the time. But two – you’re in a new place and want to try all the new foods. I try to find that balance between working out and still enjoy everything. I’ve learned to eat right 90% of the time – and indulge every once in awhile when I know something is going to taste amazing or this is the only place I can get it.
- Life Stuff Still Has to Happen
It’s great that you can travel and feel like you’re on vacation all the time, but unfortunately life stuff still comes up. I’ve planned major dental surgery on my breaks from the tour, gotten sick in many a hotel room and foreign country, and unfortunately have to do laundry every 2 weeks. I try to plan as much as possible – figuring out where I’ll be in the the year and which my 3 (THREE!) dentists I’m going to see.
- Kitchens and laundry in unit are incredible luxuries
The magical kitchen. Bonus points for the Trader Joe’s a few blocks away!
Since I live in hotels for generally one week at a time, it’s very rare that I’ll get anything beyond a room and a bathroom. But when you come across that magical kitchen or even laundry in unit, it is fantastic.
- It’s OK not to be into a city
For every city, I tried to compile a “bucket list” of things to do, eat, etc. Some cities were harder than others and some I even just threw out the list because I wasn’t feeling it. If you’re traveling for a long period of time, this is OK. It’s easy to get fatigued or feel like you can’t see another museum or another ______. Those weeks were when I’d catch up on sleep and TV.
- There are homeless people everywhere
Having lived in New York and Chicago, I thought homelessness was only a big city problem. Turns out there are homeless people everywhere and it is a huge problem. One of 50-odd cities thus far, Greenville, SC is one of the only places I can recall not seeing homeless.
- Loyalty is key if you want to get ahead and rack up rewards
Staying at different hotel chains and flying every airline is not going to help you get any free trips. 10,000 points here and there won’t get you anything but 50,000 at one chain will. So choose your favorite airline & hotel – both of which will have lots of partners so you aren’t too limited – and try to stick with those most of the time.
- You attract more bees with honey
There are so many things that can go wrong with traveling. But I always try to keep my cool and be nice to everyone. I’ve always felt that you’ll get further by being nice to the hotel or airline agent than by being nasty and making demands. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were in their position?
- You can tell a lot about other people based on how they talk to strangers
When you’re on tour for 2 years with the same 60 people, you learn a lot about them. And one of the things I’ve learned is by watching them check in to a hotel or communicate with customer service. It says a lot about somebody when they’re immediately acting like a jerk to a complete stranger who is just trying to do their job.
- Traveling solo is awesome
Even though I am traveling with a big group on Newsies, I often like to go off on my own for sightseeing. It allows me to do what I want to do but also to talk to the locals and take in a new place without being distracted by another person.
- I am incredibly lucky
It is so easy to feel stressed or tired from the constant traveling. But when I look back, I realize I have seen so many cool things and had amazing opportunities working for Newsies and Disney. Most people don’t get to do all these things in their lifetime and I’ve gotten to do it all in the last 2 years. I will always cherish these memories.
And welcome to my very FIRST post! Thank you so much for reading this – I hope you enjoy all my future posts related to traveling this crazy world.
But let me get started by telling you a little about myself.
My name is Kristen Jackson and I LOVE to travel. I am currently a Stage Manager on the tour of Newsies, which when the tour ends in October will have run for nearly 2 years and traveled to 70 cities in North America. AHH! This basically means that in the last 2 years I have lived in hotel rooms with all of my personal belongings in just 2 suitcases.
Not to mention that I also picked up a dog along the way, hence the name The Touring Yorkie. Bruno is my incredible dog who has made this journey even more fun and loves exploring new areas (and smells!) as much as I do.
In addition to the tour, I travel to Australia every few years with my Aussie husband who I married in June 2014.
I also backpacked through Europe with my good friend Jill when I was just 20 years old. It was one of the craziest things I ever did but was so rewarding and started the whole travel craze.
So with all this travel experience, I decided to start a blog to help YOU, the reader, travel wherever you want to go. My blog will focus on the traveling lifestyle which will include hotel cooking, traveling with pets, and living on the road but will also include a few city tidbits based on where I’m at the moment (finishing up two weeks in Chicago, then off to Charlotte).
What kinds of things would you like to see on the blog?