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Tuesday #top5 Packing List

Sunday = Jamaica!! Petersen Family Vacation 2012 sans my bro.

I literally am beyond excited at this point. Being the planner that I am, I’ve already started my packing list for my week of relaxation, sun and time spent with my parents. Here are the #top5 items on my packing list:

(1) Swim Suit — duh. My #1 outfit of choice in Jamaica will be a swimsuit. Soaking up that sun!!

[Victoria’s Secret Swim top + bottom, $42]

(2) Cover-up — en route to and from the beach in style … need to have a comfortable and stylish look!

[Victoria’s Secret, $34.50; Target, $17.99]

(3) Summer Hat — I feel as though my time spent in the sun will require protection above and beyond sunscreen. The answer? A hat!!

[J.Crew Summer Straw Hat, $34.50]

(4) Sunglasses — since LASIK I rarely go outside with eye protection. Sunglasses are a must.

[Ray-Ban RB3362 004/N1 COCKPIT, $150]

(5) Maxi Dress — for lounging or for dinner, a maxi dress is perfect vacation evening wear. Relaxing and comfortable yet stylish and sexy. This is my most recent fave:

[No longer available, similar here Gap, $50-70]

Anything I’m missing? Any recommendations for my packing list or to do list in Jamaica? All ideas are welcome!


Travel Addict: Napa Valley

Wine Country? Yes please.

Located north of San Francisco, California, Napa Valley is most widely known as the hub of the US wine industry – rivaling Italy, France and Spain. Home to over 400 wineries, Napa sees as many as five million visitors a year. Top grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, and other popular varieties.


The weather in Napa makes it a tourist destination year round. With its Mediterranean climate, Napa tends to be warmer than any of its surrounding areas. Speaking from experience, we were bundled up in San Fran then I was comfortable in a dress in Napa.

How to visit Napa: 

There are unlimited ways to see Napa. We did a day trip from San Fran, but I’ve also heard a full-on Napa trip is equally as fulfilling as our San Fran/Yosemite/Napa vacay. You can visit the wineries privately or on an organized tour. You could visit via bus, limo, bike, etc. The options seem endless!

Most popular wineries:

According to this 2012 vote of ‘best of San Fran’ the Frank Family Vineyards were named the top winery and Platypus Tours was named the best wine tour company. I haven’t been, but I’m on board. Here’s another list of the top ten wineries in Napa.

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Helpful Travel Links:

The Napa Valley

Napa Valley – Trip Advisor

Travel Addict: NYC

Blog reading prep: Empire State of Mind

In the same break that I traveled to Charlotte, I went to NYC for our 2nd Aussie reunion.

Yep. Life was good.

I’d been to NYC two other times. The first time as a kid on Petersen Family Vacation. Best memory? Climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty (I don’t think you can do this anymore). The second time I was 18 with one of my best friends Jillian to dance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Best memory? Well … the parade!

My most recent trip was a little different for a few reasons: (1) I was with residents of NYC, not fellow tourists (2) there were no parent chaperones and (3) we were over the age of 21 so I got to experience NYC’s nightlife a little differently.

Beej and Devin hosted Maureen, Jamie, Ariana and I – you may remember them from this post – for an awesome reunion weekend.

NYC is the most populated city in the US. It’s made up of five boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

Weather/When to Go:

I would argue that NYC has similar weather to Chi, maybe a bit less windy. Highs in the 80s generally in the summer, and lows in the 30s in the winter. Beautiful year round although I’d recommend going in the summer – my fave season!!

What to Do:

NYC is not short on things to do: Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, Broadway Shows, Chinatown, Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Wall Street, Rockefeller Center, sporting events, Bryant Park … literally the list is endless. The one thing I’d love to do and have not in my 3 visits? Visit the Today Show taping. Considering I wake up to Matt, Ann, and Al every morning, it would be unreal.

Where to Stay: 

All three trips I’ve stayed near or in Times Square. There’s so much going on there and I absolutely love it. Check out Fodor’s recommendations here.




I love NY

NYC – the official guide

 The New York Times travel guide


Travel Addict: Charlotte, North Carolina

I ended up in Charlotte with my parents between jobs. I had left Scripps and had taken a week before starting at Groupon. The purpose of our Charlotte mini-vacation? Mom had a conference, so Dad and I would hang around Charlotte all day then meet up with Mom post-conference.


Charlotte has a humid subtropical climate … in normal words? It has 4 distinct seasons. Average highs range from 50-90 and average lows range from -5-50. Overall more temperate and less precipitation than Chicago.

When to Go: 

You can really visit Charlotte any time of year. I’m not a huge winter fan and there is more precipitation in spring than fall, so I’d recommend summer or fall.

What to Do:

My Dad and I had a blast around Charlotte. Experiencing the NASCAR Hall of Fame which was both informative and interactive. Day 2 was spent on an amazing segway tour of Charlotte. Had I done a bit more research pre-trip, this walking tour looks pretty cool and it would’ve been fun to take in some Charlotte sporting events like the Panthers.


Where to Eat: 

While Charlotte Magazine names their 25 Best Restaurants, we enjoyed dinner at the EpiCentre each night – testing out Vida Mexican Kitchen y Cantina and Blackfinn. Both delicious and right up our alley. Post-dinner entertainment was also right at our finger tips – bowling, sweets, or a selection of bars and clubs!



We were never really in a hurry so chose foot transportation. It seemed like while pubic transit was available, the best and easiest way to get around would be a car — be it your own or a rental car.


Charlotte’s Got A Lot Tourism Site

Visit NC

Travel Addict: Scottsdale, Arizona

Coming off my most recent vacation, I could not be more obsessed with Arizona — specifically Scottsdale!



Scottsdale weather is truly unbeatable. An arid climate with mild winters and hot summers, the average lows range from 40-76 degrees and highs range from 68-105 degrees.

When to Go: 

Because the summers can be SO hot, I would recommend vacationing to Scottsdale in the spring or fall. Spring draws extra tourists since 15 MLB teams are based in and around Scottsdale for their Spring Training season.

What to Do:

Between Scottsdale and the surrounding cities (i.e. Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix) there is a ton to do. Hiking, golf, cultural events, sporting events and top-notch spas are the tip of the iceberg. Scottsdale is known for it’s happening nightlife and is also a hop-skip-and-a-jump from destination weekends like Sedona, Vegas, Tucson and the Grand Canyon. Phoenix is also home to ASU.

Where to Eat: 

Stingray Sushi, Blanco, Postino, Yogurtland and Daily Dose. I have yet to be let down by a food establishment in Scottsdale. I love the amount of outdoor seating at restaurants in Scottsdale. And as I mentioned in my last post, I am obsessed with The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. You cannot go wrong in this department.


While you can cab to and from the airport, you really do need a car to get around (luckily we had Jenny, Lexi and Amanda)

Get Started with these Links:

Scottsdale CVB

Trip Advisor – Scottsdale

Arizona Guide

10Best Scottsdale

Adios Chi, Hello AZ!

As I mentioned in this post, I booked an impromptu trip to AZ this past Monday. ADIOS CHI, HELLO AZ!

In an effort to accomplish complete and total relaxation, I will not be looking at a computer until I return next week. I plan on spending a lot of quality time doing nothing. And maybe throw in a hike to the summit of Camelback.

Check y’all next week — and feel free to be really, really jealous because here’s the forecast:

Scottsdale, AZ 10-day Forecast

Travel Addict: Sydney, Australia

Even though I’m gearing up for Scottsdale, part of my heart will always belong in Australia. I love Australia so much that it cannot fit in one post. So let’s start with Sydney!

Sydney is the capital of New South Wales and is the most populated city in Australia with almost 4.6 million residents. A hub of activity and a top tourist destination in Australia, Sydney is a temperate climate with warm summers and mild winters. Similar to Chicago, Sydney is broken up into neighborhoods: City Centre, Kings Cross, The Rocks, Darling Harbour, Paddington, etc.

In my opinion, the two most iconic structures in Sydney are the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. They create an extremely unique skyline for Sydney and still take my breath away.

My recommended tourist destinations in Sydney for the active tourist:

  • Sydney Opera House – the tour and/or a show
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb
  • Taronga Zoo
  • Sydney Aquarium
  • Luna Park
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Explore The Rocks
  • Art Gallery of NSW
  • Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair

There are SO many more — trying to be brief!

And now to the beaches. I LOVE a good beach day. The sound of the waves crashing is literally one of my favorite sounds of all time. Luckily, Sydney is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches, some of my faves?

  • Manly Beach
  • Coogee Beach
  • Bondi Beach
  • Palm Beach
  • Shelly Beach
  • Bronte Beach

When to GO:

You can literally go year round. I recommend Australia’s summer (US winter) first. If that doesn’t work then spring or fall. Last choice as Australia’s winter (US summer). If you didn’t realize, being in the southern hemisphere, they’re seasons are the opposite of the US.

Where to stay:

I recommend Circular Quay (or the City Centre) since it’s in the middle and close to transportation or walking distance from most awesome things to do.


The transportation in Sydney is unique in that it is a system of buses, trains and, most importantly, ferries. It’s quite an easy system to learn. You can get singular passes or longer use passes.


Toss out those silly US dollars, Australia runs on Australia dollars. The current exchange rate is $1 US dollar = $0.95 Australian dollars – basically 1-for-1.

***Passport is required for this trip!

Last but not least, a couple of my favorite Sydney fun facts:

  • Australia is the only continent that eats their national symbols: Emu & Kangaroo
  • The top sports in Australia are rugby, Aussie rules football, cricket and soccer
  • Australians drive and walk on the left
  • Australia has a similar history to the US — the original inhabitants are the Aboriginal Indigenous Australians
  • Vegemite is the most popular food in Australia, it’s a vegetable paste
  • Australia is the world’s smallest continent but sixth-largest country