Next:
Las Vegas, Nevada
On-deck: Napa Valley, California

20 June 2016

Featured Friends: Alex from My Life Long Holiday

Florence, Italy

Hi, friends! I'm beyond excited today to kick start my new project: Featured Friends. I asked on Instagram for people to e-mail me if they wanted to be featured here on my blog and was so thrilled to hear from some of you! I wanted to create this space to introduce other Travel Bloggers since that's the kind of support I received when I first started blogging.

Anyway, I'm so happy to introduce Alex from My Life Long Holiday today! I love that we're both travelers yet so different; she has a family of her own and 3 children, I'm single and can't even grow a plant, she has a ton of European experiences and I have very little - and so much more! Enjoy!

13 June 2016

Let's Go To: Palm Springs, California


I try my best to take advantage of long weekends. 3 days off? Time to travel! Thanks to Travelzoo, I found a deal I couldn't resist at the hotel I've been lusting over - The Saguaro in Palm Springs. Not only that, I've lived in California for almost 3 years now and never been to Palm Springs! I took it as fate that they would have such a great deal for Memorial Day Weekend and quickly booked it.

06 June 2016

Is TSA PreCheck Worth It?


With summer coming up, everyone is talking about their travel plans. One thing that comes up a lot in conversation is the TSA PreCheck program. The one question I get a lot:

Is it really worth it? 

The quick answer is: YES! 

The longer, more informative answer? Right here:

The Lowdown: TSA Pre-Check is available by the Transportation Security Administration in the United States. It's available at 160+ airports including 12 participating airlines. It provides expedited, more seamless process of security screening when at the airport.

How Much You'll Pay: $85 for 5 years.

How to Get It: You can apply/pre-enroll online or in person at an approved application center. Then, you schedule an appointment at one of the centers for an interview. You'll have to bring certain documents such as your passport, birth certificate, etc and a form of payment to the appointment. The purpose of the interview is to review personal information like place of birth, take fingerprints, verify Social Security number, etc. Once the interview is complete and the fee is paid (credit card, personal check, money order), all you do it wait!

After the Wait: About a week or two after your interview, you'll receive a letter from the TSA regarding their decision. My friend received it within a week but mine took over 2 weeks - I'm guessing it was due to the fact that I'm dual-citizen (Japan & United States) and the background check took longer.

Once you're approved, you receive a KTN (Known Traveler Number) which you'll need each time you fly. The KTN is the golden ticket to get into the TSA PreCheck line at the airport. All approved airlines will always have a section for "Known Traveler Number" during booking and all you have to do it type it in. On your boarding pass, it will say "TSA PreCheck" - see below:


At the Airport: 
You get to skip the general line of security and find the TSA PreCheck line. It's generally much shorter. The best part? You don't have to remove your shoes, laptop, liquids, belts or jewelry.

My Experience & Take: I love the PreCheck program and I'm mad I didn't apply as soon as it started. I don't know what I would do without it and can't imagine myself lining up in the regular line anymore! At $17 a year, I think it's a complete steal. Of course you should consider how often you fly but even if you flew once a year, $17 is about half of what some airlines make you pay for "priority security" passes! A lot of my friends who I travel with also have PreCheck so it makes it quick and convenient to get through security even if you're running late. I always have closed-toe shoes or boots on and travel with my laptop so the fact that I don't have to remove them makes me oh-so-happy!

Things to Note: As perfect as I make it sound, there are things to keep in mind. I don't know all the cons to the program but a few instances I've ran into where I haven't been able to use the program properly:

  • At LAX (Los Angeles Airport), if you're flying out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, TSA PreCheck doesn't exist.
  • When I had an early flight out of Detroit and tried to get through TSA, they told me that the PreCheck line doesn't open until 8:00AM.
  • A TSA Agent told me I had to take out my laptop and didn't let me argue or show him the TSA website where it specifically states I don't have to take it out. I think that's more of a training issue and hopefully that's been fixed by now.  

Participating Airlines: 

  • Air Canada 
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Allegiant Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines 
  • JetBlue Airways 
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • WestJet 

For more information or to apply for TSA PreCheck, visit their official website here. For some additional travel hacks, check out my Travel Hacks post here!

Do you have TSA PreCheck? If you do, do you love it? If you're from another country, do you have something similar? 

Find me on Instagram & Bloglovin

♥♥♥

30 May 2016

Let's Go To: Seattle, Washington - Part II


I wasn't originally going to post anything regarding my trip to Seattle this past week since it was actually unplanned. My 93 year old Grandpa and Uncle needed some help selling one of their houses so my parents flew in from Japan and I went up last minute to assist.

Amidst all the moving and selling furniture on Craigslist, my parents and I managed to slip away for a fun day in downtown Seattle. I figured I listed everything I had to on my post from last year for things to do in Seattle (click here for Seattle Part I) but we went to enough new places I thought I would share!

22 May 2016

My First Cruise Experience - Ensenada, Mexico


Last weekend I went on my first cruise ever! I'm so proud that I get to check off one of my New Years Resolutions - Travel via Road Trip or Ship! I went with a group of friends and only 1 of us had been on a cruise so it was definitely an experience.

16 May 2016

How To Deal With Homesickness


Let's get personal for a second. One thing people don't know about me is that I suffer heavily from homesickness. Have you ever looked up the definition of homesickness? Probably not, because it's one of those terms you just know; missing home, missing your family, something like that.

But did you know that homesickness is similar to Separation Anxiety Disorder? Separation Anxiety Disorder is anxiety that happens prior to the separation, whereas with Homesickness, it happens after the separation in addition to depressive symptoms.

I decided to write this post because I'm currently recovering from homesickness. I recently was back home in Tokyo for a few weeks to celebrate my younger brother's college graduation and spent some amazing quality time with my family. For those of you that don't know, I moved away from Japan when I was 18 to attend college here in the United States and while I've visited home several times, I never went back to live there.

As if going away for college wasn't enough, moving 5,000 miles away to a new country away from my family that I'm close to, caused serious issues. I refused to attend activities just in case I miss a call from my family and I could never focus in class. I lost 25 lbs. After my first quarter, I was on Academic Probation (first and last time!) for a GPA lower than 2.5. At this point, I had to start seeing a counselor. My counselor gave me some great advice but also suggested medication if it got to that point.

See, I told you we're getting personal.

Fast forward to 2016, I have my Bachelors and Masters, moved through 5 states and 7 cities - all without medication. Yet I still suffer from homesickness heavily, especially the first few weeks after leaving Japan. I stay at home, I sleep for hours, I cry a lot and often cancel plans that I make with friends. I've started to accept that this is what I have to get through but what I do differently now in comparison to Freshman year of college are taking these key steps.

Whether you're just missing your dog while traveling or you're under the covers eating a pint of ice cream crying because you miss home, try these:

Keep In Touch - ...here's the catch, just not too much. I had a hard time finding this perfect balance so don't worry if you don't master it immediately. Keeping in touch with your family and friends is a great way to keep you happy but when you start to abandon your immediate environment, it enters the 'too much' zone. In this world of technology, it's so much more convenient to stay in touch (hooray!) but it makes it that much easier to obsess over it as well. Talk to friends and family through FaceTime once or twice a week, share photos and texts throughout the day to keep you going but never so much that you're canceling plans, slacking on work or not going to that spin class.

Stay Busy - Obvious but it works. Make plans with local friends, read a book, take a nap, go on a hike, blast music and take a long drive, go shopping, binge on a Netflix series, explore a new dog park, go on Pinterest and cook something new, the list goes on! Occupy yourself with something other than feeling sad. Even if you have to fake it, well, fake it till you make it - right? Oh and a piece of advice, skip Adele. Love her but she doesn't help much in this scenario :)

Develop or Get Back To Your Daily Routine - If you're back at your own place like I am (family: Tokyo, home: Los Angeles), get back to your daily routine ASAP. If you're in a completely new place missing home, develop a daily routine and stick to it. This will give you a sense of accountability, control and belonging. Feeling like you're in control will help you feel less homesick.

Exercise - We all know the benefits of exercising but when you're homesick, it's so hard to get yourself to even put shoes on. It's important to demand yourself to get out even for a 15 minute walk. The night before, schedule a time and promise yourself to get out. Go to a Zumba class, a quick ride on the treadmill, lift some weights - whatever activity you choose, your endorphins will kick in and feel a lot better.

Look Forward To What's Ahead - When my counselor told me this, I immediately rejected it. Look forward to what's ahead? That would make me even more sad! After a while though, it started to make more sense. If you already have plans on going home or seeing your loved ones in the future, fantasize about what you'll be doing together, all that fun stuff. If not, roughly schedule a time you might be able to see them again and think of the quality time you'll be able to spend with them. It makes you feel less lonely and devastated that you're away.

Talk To Someone - When you're feeling down, talk so someone. Call or talk to your best friend, partner, your family, your dog (dogs listen, I just know it). It's ok to admit you miss them or that you're feeling lonely and homesick. Most of the time whoever you end up talking to will give you some encouragement and you'll feel a lot better. If no one is available, write it down! Go back to the old-school diary style and write down your feelings. It may sound cliche but it works!

If you're homesick away at college, studying abroad, working abroad or whatever it may be, I'm hoping you can take something away from this and that it helps you. Homesickness can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress - I know from personal experience. If you feel your homesickness is severe, please ask for help. Sometimes there's a stigma of reaching out for professional help but don't ever feel that way! You are not alone.
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