24 hours in Miami

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- like the eternal optimist that I am, I love to be on the first flight out to make the most of my travel day. When my husband and his family booked a Caribbean cruise out of Miami, we decided to skip any *Midwest Winter Weather Shenanigans* and fly in the day before our cruise was scheduled to leave.

This might be one of my favorite strategies, because it felt like our vacation was almost two times as long just from the bonus day that we had in town!

24 hours in miami

Our 6:00 AM flight got us to Miami just in time for lunch. By the time we checked into our hotel and got situated, it was time to hit up South Beach for some regional food. We went to La Ventana for Columbian food, and of course, mojitos. We quickly learned that all mojitos are not created equal, but the mango mojito at La Ventana IS the end-all-be-all.

La Ventana is tiny, and has about 8 tables inside and a handful outside. Imagine yourself in South America when you make expectations for the speed of your service, but know you’ll be in for a treat.

24 hours in Miami |

Wander & Shop
Leaving La Ventana and wandering up and down Ocean Drive was a blast. There were a bunch of funky stores to stop in at, and prime people-watching. Art Deco design is out in full force here, and the buildings are absolutely Instagram-worthy. My mother-in-law and I snagged a few last-minute unique gifts at Helium, including a seriously cool globe and some snarky socks.

We snuck right across the street and walked on the beach to get our toes in the water on Day 1. The public beaches along South Beach are pristine, with neon and pastel lifeguard shacks to add to the overall aesthetic.

24 Hours in Miami's South Beach |

There is so much outdoor art and architecture in Miami that you can make the most of whatever day you happen to be in town. The Wynwood neighborhood features street art and graffiti on the side of buildings completely out in the open. I set my alarm and headed out to Wynwood early on Sunday morning, so that I had time to squeeze this excursion in.

A trip to The Salty Doughnut is a must-do, and it seemed to me that you couldn’t go wrong with any food or drinks you found in the trendy Wynwood area. Definitely be sure to pack your camera (which I forgot) and bring a friend to take pictures of you against all the awesome walls! I relied on the kindness of random people to photograph me (everyone else had slept in) and ended up with some good gems.

24 hours in Miami | Wynwood |

We boarded our cruise ship a little less than 24 hours after we stepped out of the Miami Airport, but I was so glad to have taken advantage of the time we did have in the 305. When we boarded our cruise, we didn’t feel frazzled from just stepping off a flight, and we were able to take advantage of day zero right away.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Miami?

-denise adele k


Making the most of traveling for work

As the queen of wanderlust, I feel like getting to travel for work is one of my best job duties. In the last year or so, I’ve gotten to travel to major U.S. cities, rural Appalachia, Las Vegas, and even Jackson, MS. While I am by no means an expert traveler, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way to help you be a better work (or fun) traveler!

making the most out of traveling for work |

Get a credit card with a great rewards program
I use the Capital One Venture card and can’t say enough great things about it. Originally, I snagged it to take advantage of the possibility to get points towards airfare, but realized that gift cards were the way to go. After using it for a few trips, I was able to compile the rewards into an Amazon gift card to buy my Canon Rebel T6. Patience was the key here, but it was well worth it!

Additionally, Capital One covers the cost of getting TSA Pre Checked (or global entry, from what I recall), which savesyou time and shenanigans in the airport.

Take advantage of what’s around you
If I have a choice in where I’m staying, I always try to pick a hotel that’s in a walkable area near multiple things to do. One of my favorite things to check out while on the go is an indie bookstore, although a prolific library will do just fine. Coffee and craft beer is a close second, both of which are easier and easier to find.

Like a true millennial, I always check out locations on Instagram before I get somewhere, too. I feel better about having some down time on my hands when I have a list of places to check out!

Master the art of packing
I have a go-to bag of items I know I will end up needing that floats around in my suitcase, sparing me from late night trips to a CVS. Without fail, I always end up needing: a safety pin, extra hair tie, a bandaid (ask me about the time I got poison ivy on a work trip), a sleep mask and earplugs. I’m also that person who packs for any and all occasions, because you never know.

This type of packing is not becoming of a budget-friendly personal trip, and I recently learned that exclusively carrying on is not for me. I do know that whatever I have to pay to check a bag is well-worth it over having to pay $17 for a pair of tweezers in the hotel gift shop! I also have status on American, which helps in the free bag department.


Maintain some of your routine
When I’m at home, I’m a dedicated 5:00 PM Crossfitter. I pass our gym on the way home from work, so there’s really no excuse! I do my research ahead of time to see where the closest affiliate is and make sure that I can find a time to drop in. Sometimes this means waking up extra early to get to a 5:30 AM class, but I’m always glad that I made it in.

I make a point of dropping in when I’m on vacation as well, just to offset the vacation calories I’m consuming! No matter what you do to exercise, most things are universal. Bring your running shoes, yoga mat, or try to snag a discounted guest pass at a fitness center. I never thought I’d admit this, but even hotel gyms are starting to step it up!



six things to always pack

When I sit down to count, my mind is blown when I realize how many times I’ve been on a plane in the last few months to travel away from home. I travel a decent amount for my job, and in case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve also been bitten by the insatiable travel bug on my own time too. I feel like I’m unpacking just to re-pack for a new adventure- minus the few times I’ve forgotten to pack underwear, I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at curating what to bring (and leave behind). Here are a few of my essentials:


At the end of the day, even the best location cannot beat our home, so I’ve learned how to bring the comforts of home with me as best I can. This post features the six things that I don’t even bother unpacking from my suitcase, because they are the end-all-be-all of packed items.

Sleep mask, ear plugs and melatonin

When I travel for work, there’s a lot less to control, and many creeping thoughts come around at bedtime. I’ve found that melatonin can help me wind down in foreign territory, and ear plugs and a sleep mask can help me do the rest. I use dissolvable melatonin, in order to spare myself a trip to the ice machine.

At least three ebooks

This could be me, a crazy person speaking here, but nothing is better than cozying up with a book on a long flight, or tucking into a nice coffee shop to kill some time with a good read on a trip. I’m a little more fickle about my books when I’m on vacation, so I always like to have a few to choose from on my iPad. I also download a bunch of magazines from my library’s magazine app to flip through on the plane as we wait to take off. My love letter to the public library system will come in another post, but having a library card has afforded me so many benefits besides books!

Philosophy Purity face wash

philosophy purity face wash: must pack travel itemsI’m not sure when exactly it was ingrained in my memory, but I never go to sleep without washing my face. Even on my 21st birthday, I somehow managed to take my contacts out and wash all of my makeup off my face. I swear by Purity by Philosophy, since it’s a gentle cleanser that doesn’t make your skin feel like it’s gasping for moisture when all is said and done. I pair it with these cute little eye makeup remover mitts, and it’s a seamless, painless experience.


Have you ever been in fluorescent lighting and noticed that your eyebrows look way more out of control than they do when you’re at home? Hotel bathroom lighting tells all, and it’ll behoove you to make sure you can do something about it while you have the chance! I actually always have a set of tweezers with me in my wallet, but I digress.

Page-a-Day journal

page a day journal and other good habits to make | deniseadelek.wordpress.comIf you read my post on good habits to get into, you may know that I’ve kept a journal since I could hold a pen in my hand. My page-a-day journal has been with me to 10+ countries, and has been with me for the last five years, every single day. There have been nights when I’m too tired (or other things, in which case I get caught up the next day over some tylenol and coconut water :)), but I’m always glad to have the chance to write even a few sentences about where life has taken me.

Packing tape

Finding one-of-a-kind keepsakes and art on trips is one of the best ways to get a memorable souvenir for myself or for friends. I’ve shipped items back home on more trips than I can count, but have always been frustrated by the way I packed items, or by how much extra it ended up costing me to send things home. When I sent goodies home from Mardi Gras (at a whopping $40 for a small but heavy box), paying $7 at the post office for packing tape was a punch in the gut. Having a few things to help make shipping things back home more economical helps make the choice between “should I buy this?” and regretting not buying something a little easier.

Where is your next trip to? I’m leaving for Denver tomorrow morning and am excited to hit the ground running for an exciting work trip with some bonus hours thrown in to spend time with friends! Thanks for reading

Six items you'll always find in my suitcase, travel must-haves packing list


4 NYC Essentials

As you might recall from my Rainy Day in New York City post, I had a fun opportunity to visit New York City earlier this month, and had an absolute blast. I’m sure everyone can name ten must-see spots in the city, so I wanted to give you my take on some of my faves that are under-the-radar, unique, or just a great experience. Here are four “things” you will need to pack:

nyc packing essentials |

Comfortable shoes and walk everywhere you can

I’ve been digging the High Line for many years, before rails-to-trails parks seemed to be in every city. I loved the concept of a park high in the sky, seemingly floating through the neighborhood that surrounded it. The High Line runs 1.5 miles along the Hudson River, with plenty to see, eat and do along the trail. We had a big lunch before we walked, and were kicking ourselves for having to pass up the adorable food carts at 15th Street.

the high line nyc |

There are no bikes, skateboards or pets allowed on the High Line, but anticipate this to be a slow walk, as there is plenty to see (and Instagram) along the route.

A few must visits around the High Line are: Frankie’s 570 Sputino, Artists & Fleas, Chelsea Market, and any of the side streets in this area, just to marvel in the beautiful brownstones and views of the river.

the high line nyc |

A notebook in case you get inspired

If you saw my Instagram post last week, Bryant Park is my new favorite place in the city. Tucked into Midtown away from the craziness of Times Square is the most perfect oasis of park meets destination. Bryant Park is home to more than a thousand free events every year, including fitness classes, movie nights, language lessons, a free outdoor reading room, an art cart, and the Southwest Airlines Back Porch bar.

bryant park |

We found ourselves here every day, and the mix between urban and oasis left me feeling so inspired. The New York Public Library main branch is in Bryant Park, and is open to the public. If you know me, you know I was furiously writing down book titles in a notebook as we wandered through, and of course my ears were tingling at the French lessons happening outside.

NYPL & Bryant Park |

Bryant Park is open until at least 11:00 PM in the summer, making it a great spot for trying to decide where the night should take you, or for those who aren’t ready for bed just yet.

Your most trendy outfit and be ready to rock it

New York is a seriously fashionable city, there’s no question about it. I feel like the city and its residents are always ready to be seen, and everyone and everything looks its best (except on garbage day, but I digress).

We snagged some great restaurant reservations for dinner at Vandal and Sunday brunch at Beauty & Essex and I wanted to be sure that my outfits were as on-point as the restaurant concepts, decor and menus were. Aside from the awesome vibe, the grilled cheese, tomato soup and bacon dumplings at B&E are the end-all-be-all. Every single morsel of food that we ate at Vandal was the best thing I ever tasted!

beauty & essex, nyc |

Any of the Tao Group restaurants are a must-visit when in New York, although we enjoyed everywhere we stopped to eat at, including the 99c pizza place we came across.

A return ticket to visit all the things that you missed

While New York may be the city that never sleeps, I fit into the demographic of people who need a solid eight hours of sleep every night. In the four days we were there, I saw more than I imagined I would be able to, but still had about 90 things on my list that we didn’t get to. Brooklyn and its beautiful bridge are still uncharted territory, and I only got to see the Upper West Side as we went speeding through it in a cab on a rainy day.

Hope you enjoyed my roundup of things to “pack” on your trip! I’m not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t bring on a trip with them, as I’m best known as someone who brings three pairs of shoes per day of a trip, but forgets underwear. Happy adventuring!

i haven't been everywhere but it's on my list
image from pinterest

a picture-perfect rainy day in nyc

Our first full day in New York City was a rainy one, but we wanted to make sure we got out to enjoy the city, with or without rain in the forecast. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt right next to Grand Central Station, but most importantly, in the shadow of the Chrysler Building.

The Grand is situated in the middle of the city, making it pretty easy to get uptown, downtown and across town for less than $20 a ride, and probably even less on the Subway. My rationale on this trip was that our time was limited, so I was all for springing for Lyft and Uber to save time.

With rain in the forecast on Friday evening, we knew that our Saturday would have to be spent inside avoiding the downpour. My mom and aunt, who met me in New York after my work obligations ended, voted to go to the New York Botanic Gardens, and off we went. Believe it or not, the NYBG is a great place to get out of the rain.

rainy day in nyc | grand central, ny botanic gardens, joe's shanghai and the library hotel |

A large part of the botanic gardens is an enormous conservatory, sheltering visitors from the elements and housing the NYBG’s seasonal exhibits. We woke up in rainy New York and were transported to Hawaii for the opening day of the Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawaii exhibit. For Chicagoans reading this, the Haupt Conservatory reminded us a lot of the photos of the Columbian Exposition and World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.

rainy day in nyc | new york botanic gardens

Admission covers the entire grounds, as well as a covered tram ride around the park, which is for sure the driest way to get to see everything. The gift shop is next level, and the gray skies brought out the beautiful colors of all the plants that we saw.

rainy day in nyc | NYBG botanic gardens |

We couldn’t count it as a trip to New York without wandering through Grand Central Station and admiring the beautiful art deco architecture (see the trend here? Art deco is hands down my favorite design style). The Grand Central Market is a great spot to browse and nibble your way through into the station, a la Eataly or other European-style markets. For those on a budget, trying to picnic, or in a hurry, this is a great spot to snag some goodies that will please anyone.

grand central station | rainy day in NYC

Our next stop was for drinks at Bookmarks, the rooftop bar at the Library Hotel right off Bryant Park. If I could live in a Library Collection Hotel forever, I would be the happiest bookworm alive. The Library Collections hotels incorporate literary elements into their design, and the Library Way location had more than 7,000 books on the premises.

library hotel | rainy day in nyc |

Bookmarks is the perfect spot to enjoy views of the city from above, without worrying about rain or wind. The majority of the bar is covered with a glass ceiling, full of cozy corners to have a drink and dive into a book, or meet a group of friends in a more social space. We loved our cocktails and feeling like we were outside.

bookmarks rooftop bar at the library hotel nyc |

We ended our rainy day at Joe’s Shanghai, a popular place in the heart of Chinatown. The narrow streets are reminiscent of China itself, and there are plenty of spots to duck in and out of the rain into. We loved Uniqulee, a beautifully curated vintage store with home items, jewelry and delicious smelling Apotheke candles.


Have you visited any of these spots? Stay tuned for more posts about my trip to New York, including my new favorite place!


The best way to spend a long weekend in San Antonio

When my husband and I were trying to figure out where we wanted to spend our first anniversary, we both kept coming back to San Antonio as an option. We love to eat good food, drink local beers, and have a local experience when we travel, and San Antonio seemed like the perfect place!

San Antonio

Pearl District
We got to experience the Pearl District on our first evening, when my husband *willingly and excitedly* took anniversary photos with me. The Pearl District is a recently rehabbed brewery, developed into a park, shopping and restaurant district that’s really unique. They have a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, and there’s plenty of restaurant options whether you want an upscale food hall-style meal, southern BBQ, or even a nice, sit-down meal. We really enjoyed Down on Grayson and the Granary. The Hotel Emma has an incredible lobby and a really great aesthetic, a great spot to grab a drink or a meal as well.


Ice Houses, Growlers Stations & Bottle Shops
The idea of a bottle shop is not huge in Illinois, so we loved stopping into places that sold bottled beer and felt like you were hanging out at a friend’s house. Another thing unique to the San Antonio & Texas area are ice houses, which are more or less no-frills bars with a ton of outdoor seating. We hung out at The Friendly Spot Ice House on our way to and from dinner in the Southtown neighborhood. Another great spot was The Luxury, just near the San Antonio Art Museum, overlooking the river.

Local Cuisine
I don’t think that we had a bad meal the entire time we were in San Antonio. My favorite dinner was had at a bright pink, former convent turned into a charming, locally sourced restaurant called the Liberty Bar. Our waiter was so friendly and knowledgable, and the from-scratch nature of the dishes was evident in every bite. The Downstairs at the Esquire Tavern is a phenomenal spot, staffed with amazing people who are extremely knowledgable about everything in their beverage program. The aesthetic there is kind of art deco with a mix of some taxidermy, and despite that sounding odd, it has a really cool vibe! Another place not to be missed is the Hoppy Monk, which has an insane brunch, and is worth the $30 Uber right just north of town.

Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 9.50.28 AM

We quickly became obsessed with paletas from Steel City Pops– and by obsessed I mean one day we went twice, and we ate there every single day of our trip. Paletas are colorful popsicles, traditional in Latin American cultures. Steel City lets you choose your paleta, choose a chocolate to dip it into, choose your drizzle and a dusting of your choice. The great news is that this company is quickly making its way through the South, and even as far north as Louisville, KY. My husband assured me we wouldn’t be driving to Louisville just for paletas anytime soon, but you should definitely try some when you’re in San Antonio.

And of course- The Riverwalk
We had a lot of fun wandering around on the Riverwalk outside of the super busy downtown areas. The Riverwalk actually runs for about 30 miles through the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, and feels extremely safe no matter what time of the day it is. Know that of course, the downtown areas are super touristy and not really representative of the city itself, but others areas off the beaten path are a great way to have an authentic experience. We wandered away from downtown to Blue Star Brewing and really enjoyed the area, as well as getting to the Alamo up close and person (spoiler alert- it’s a little smaller than you’ve been imagining it!).

We stayed at the Westin Riverwalk hotel, which put us steps from a bunch of vibrant neighborhoods in the area. We enjoyed relaxing on the rooftop patio & pool, and being right in the heart of the city.

Anything that I missed? Think that we need to take another trip back to check something in particular out? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!



6 Must-Visit Places in New Orleans


It goes without saying that my favorite place in the continental United States is the city of New Orleans. Despite growing up in the amazing Chicagoland area, nowhere else has worked its way into my heart and soul like the Crescent City has. My parents raised me to live and die by Saints football, and Drew Brees is the end-all-be-all in our household, whether my Bears fan husband acknowledges this or not.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to New Orleans many times, and in fact, this post will go live as we’re there celebrating Mardi Gras (Follow along on Instagram to see what I’m up to -> @deniseadelek). Here are my six favorites:

6 places you must visit in new orleansOne- Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral
As my friend Mark of the Beyond Bourbon Street podcast puts it, there is so much more to the city than what you see on Bourbon Street, and even the French Quarter itself. To me though, Jackson Square is my favorite way  to start off a trip to New Orleans- something about the sound of the bells in the cathedral mixed with 8 different bands and street performers, palm readers, riverboats, locals and tourists alike is just so quintessentially New Orleans. Walking down Royal Street to Jackson Square feels like coming home to me.

Side note- Mark’s podcast is a great resource for those who are traveling to the city for the first time, or looking to experience the city like a local. And his Instagram account? Game-changer.

Two- Lionheart Prints & Three- Roux Royale 
There are so many great ways to experience the city as a visitor in the French Quarter, and of course it’s always best to grab your beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde simply to say that you went, but you’ll find so many great spots right off the square or in other neighborhoods throughout the city.. I love to stop and shop at Lionheart Prints, New Orleans Forever and Roux Royale for gifts (for myself, and others, I suppose), accessories and essentials.

Lionheart Prints is my new favorite store, thanks to their owner being featured on the Beyond Bourbon Street podcast. The staff there is incredibly friendly, and we even got a demo on how their letterpress works from Ross, who is often featured on their Instagram stories. Thanks Ross! I was excited to check out their Zodiac sign candles, but strangely found that I liked my husband’s one better than my own.

I’ve taken to collecting practical souvenirs for myself and those back home over the last few years (I collected thimbles as a kid… has anyone ever actually used a thimble before? Just sayin’), and I try to snag a Christmas ornament from every place we visit. One year, I did almost all of my holiday shopping at Roux Royale, and managed to get items for almost everyone on my list! I love Lionheart Prints because there’s always a great party item to grab that also doubles as a souvenir.

Four- Pralines from Southern Candymakers
I’m the kind of person who would willingly eat Sour Patch Kids for breakfast, so please believe me when I say it that Southern Candymakers has the best pralines, period. They have two locations in the Quarter, one right by the French Market, which is a nice way to spend a morning wandering through the stalls and tasting more local flavors. The market is covered, as well as the area that Southern Candymarkers is at, so if you ever find yourself caught during the rainy season but still want to be outside, this is a great spot!

My last stop in New Orleans before the airport is always Southern Candymakers to talk a pound or two of pralines home. Try not to act like a crazy person and pace yourself when you eat them. Sorry, dentists of the world.

Five- The Catahoula Rooftop (and a few other hotel lounges)
New Orleans has some incredible architecture, and the interiors also don’t disappoint. There are some amazing properties across the city to eat and drink in, notwithstanding where you’re staying during the trip. The Catahoula Hotel has a great bar on their property with an even prettier rooftop patio and amazing craft cocktail menu.

In the Warehouse District, the Renaissance Arts is a great place to stop on a rainy day. The lobby features a rotating art exhibit with a beautiful atrium and restaurant/bar. When my mom and I happened upon the hotel on our girls weekend last June, the hotel had a hand-beaded Mardi Gras Indian suit on display along with other local artists.

A few other picks: The Ace Hotel, Sheraton New Orleans, The Roosevelt (especially for Christmas!), The Ponchatrain Hotel and of course, the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone.IMG_4560

Six- Oyster Happy Hour at the Blind Pelican
I’m going to go right out on a limb and say that I know oysters a. are not for everybody b. look kinda weird c. are an acquired taste or d. are all of the above, BUT I LOVE THEM. Nothing makes me more excited for a trip back to New Orleans than remembering that oysters are cheap and fresh in the gulf. If seafood isn’t your style, there’s a million other amazing happy hour specials across the city and you’re sure to hit the jackpot somewhere. But if you’ve never tried oysters, this won’t hurt your wallet for ‘just a taste.’

The Blind Pelican is right off the St. Charles streetcar stop, near another great spot called The Avenue Pub. The Avenue Pub is open 24 hours (YASSSS) and has an incredible beer selection.

My list could go on and on, but six seemed like a great number to start. I hope that this post has you looking for airfare to the Crescent City, or at least scheming up ways to make pralines in your own kitchen.

Think I’m missing something? Want to hear numbers 7 thru 91,458 on my endless list? Leave a comment below!