Skimbaco Lifestyle | online magazine » SKIMBACO TRAVEL Skimbaco Lifestyle, online magazine inspiring you to live life to the fullest. Travel, home, food, fashion, family. Wed, 27 Jan 2016 00:38:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 12 Life (and Business) Lessons Climbing the Lion Rock in Sri Lanka Taught Me Tue, 19 Jan 2016 21:43:16 +0000 Photo by Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery. Inspiration from Sri Lanka Here is a picture of me on the top of the Sigiriya Rock. Read why this photo of me signifies so much more…]]>
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Photo by Noel Morata of Travel Photo Discovery.

Inspiration from Sri Lanka

Here is a picture of me on the top of the Sigiriya Rock.
Read why this photo of me signifies so much more to me — and what you can learn from it too.

Let me start by telling you a story of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka, also called the Lion Rock, a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) chose to build his capital on the top of the Sigiriya Rock, a column of rock nearly 660 feet (200 meters) high, where it was difficult to access, and easy to guard.


One story goes that Kasyapa was a king’s son, but he was not on the line to be the king, so he stole the title from his father King Dathusena by murdering him. Some stories tell another story of him finishing his father’s work to build the Sigiriya fortress and city. One story says he built is as his “pleasure place.”

Frescoes in Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

We might not know the real story behind it, but Sigiriya is considered to be one of the most important urban planning sites of the first millennium, and the site plan is considered very elaborate and imaginative. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. One side is decorated with colorful frescoes. One side of the wall is called the mirror wall, it is covered in highly polished white plaster, and rumored to be so shiny the king could see his own reflection on it. The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king’s death, and it was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.


Today, there is a staircase on the side of the rock, and you can easily walk the over 1000 steps to the top of the rock. But it is not as “easy” for all. Especially if you are terrified of heights, like I am. The stairway is narrow, and there is only one stairway to go up and come down, and you need to let people to go by you, when they pass you going to the other direction. And this is the most visited tourist attraction in Sri Lanka, so be prepared that it can be many people sharing the steps with you!


That’s not all. On the side of the rock wall, there are huge hornet’s nests (look closely in the picture, you can see them on the top part of the photo), around 5-6 feet (up to 2 meters) high. At times the hornets get excited and fly around (and attack) the people climbing the stairs close by. Then the stair-traffic stops, everyone kneels down and hopes the hornets fly away. In reality it is a lot of screams, prayers and people trying to stay calm, but with panic slowly creeping in the crowd. I didn’t hear any horror stories though… maybe the fear was all in my head.

Monks in Sri Lanka

The climb is so worth it. It is worth for the view, and worth for feeling the “I did it,” despite the fears of heights or the hornets.


Take Advantage of your Fears and Disadvantages

While visiting the Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka is something I highly recommend, you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to draw inspiration from it.

I was interviewed for a Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat about Skimbaco, social media, my online business and well “success.” The interview was published today. They asked me to provide a “business head shot” for the interview, which run in the business section of the newspaper. I have lost a lot of weight after visiting Sri Lanka 14 months ago, and could have taken a professional head shot, more suitable for a business article (I guess), and much more flattering. But I didn’t. In fact, I was almost rude, and refused. Because this one page photo on the newspaper signifies so much more than any other picture of me could have ever done.

Turun Sanomat - Katja Presnal

Photo by Laura Lehto of

This photo was taken on my business trip, I was in Sri Lanka attendeding the Professional Travel Bloggers Association’s conference there and later on even sold a story about Sri Lanka to be published on Huffington Post, which ended up being one of my most read posts I’ve ever written on HuffPo.

I was terrified of climbing the stairs up – but so proud of myself when I did it. Many people climbing it with me thought it wasn’t a big deal, because they had climbed higher mountains, and without the staircase! The photo also tells a story of my “day in the office,” I have created a business of living life to the fullest, and creating a lifestyle for me where I can challenge myself and enjoy things like world travel as part of my work. Most “digital nomads” are young, not many have children, and even the families who travel, usually do the travel blogging (or the digital business) together. I created my business on the side, alone, while being a housewife, stay-at-home-mom and moving from country to country.

Moving often because of my husband’s career has been the most significant disadvantage I have ever had for having a career – another one is that I am not a native English-speaker, and I still make several grammar-mistakes and have an accent when I speak. I have used all of these in my advantage. I started writing more about our personal travels and attracted more travel industry sponsors. I fly my Finnish flag now high, and write more and more about Finland, and Scandinavian culture and products. I often even start my conference speeches pointing out the obvious and that I am not ashamed of it:

“I am from Finland and I have an accent. I hope you don’t mind, because I work very hard to keep myself exotic.”

12 Lessons from Sigiriya Rock for Achieving Your Success

1. We all climb high mountains, heck, sometimes they can be just small hills, that leave us tired and breathless, but often proud that we made it up. There is a lot of sweat, even tears, hard work, and well, several steps to reach the top, and most of this sounds like the cliché talk every single life coach and motivational speaker tells you. It still doesn’t mean it is not true. But some mountains can be easy too.

2. While the pictures of a person standing victoriously on the top of the mountain might be such a cliché, what most people don’t talk about is that the “top of the mountain” looks so different for all of us. Sometimes it’s coloring your hair blue – sometimes it can be learning to walk again after a horseback riding accident.

Define your own mountain top.

3. Read this carefully: it does not matter how high your “mountain top” is. It does not matter what other people think of it, and even if it is easy for them to climb it. Do not let people define your success, and dim your celebration when you reach milestones on your path.

4. Have patience, and guts when you carve your own path defining your own “mountain tops.” Use your disadvantages in your advantage and instead of trying to hide them, learn to make them the strongest advantage you have.

5. Ask for help when you need it, but have some reservations when people are helping you. Remember that sometimes they think your success should look something different than what you actually want. Your success starts with you.


6. Plan your steps carefully, but more importantly, ask yourself where you are going and why.

When selling products online was my business, I defined success by the number of orders I got each day.
The more successful = the more orders I was packing.
Same happened with my consulting business.
The more successful = the more consulting hours I was doing.

I learned that I was very, very bad at planning my business. My success was defined by me working more and more hours, instead of planned in a way that I could enjoy more life. Now I have finally figured out a way to make passive income, with my blog and also with Young Living essential oils (read more about my Enjoy Life with Oils team).

7. They say be careful what you wish for, and for a reason. The real question isn’t really HOW to climb the mountain top, and how to make your dreams come true, but the real questions really are WHAT you want, WHAT is your mountain top, and how do you define your success. Figuring out the way can sometimes be the easiest part. But it can be frustrating to reach your goals only to realize it wasn’t what you wanted.

8. Take the shortcut when you can. Sometimes there are stairs built to the top (like at Sigiryga, and I feel the same way in the Young Living business, all the tools and how-to’s are available to me), and there is no shame on taking them. But you do need to know what you are passionate about, and WHY you want to reach certain milestones. Otherwise, you will be like all of those people who have climbed on the top, and felt it didn’t fulfill them at all.

9. When you are excited about going on the top, and you want to invite everyone to join you, remember that it is perfectly fine when they say no. This is especially a big message to all of my Young Living team-members. Even if you have found your passion, and think it would be great for your friends too, accept that it is not for everyone, or it can be simply a bad timing in their lives. Maybe they want to sit out of it for now — or forever. But don’t let it slow YOU down and keep YOU from achieving YOUR dreams.

10. Sometimes all that buzz is… just buzz. There can be buzzing bees around you, but it doesn’t mean anyone is going to sting you. This can be good – and bad. Good that you won’t get hurt! But bad because sometimes you can have good PR, lots of people talking, many followers, many potential clients, many “almost” situations… but it’s all buzz, not biz.

11. But I guarantee you: if you stir up a hornet’s nest enough, eventually you will be stung! If you make same mistakes often… eventually they will turn into big ones. If you keep up working hard on the buzz, the BUZZ will turn into BIZ.

12. Lastly, a lesson from King Kasyapa — make sure you tell your own story enough many times to people so they know how you built your “empire on the mountain top.” People talk anyways, so DO the things in a way that you can be proud of yourself and then tell them the real scoop!

Monk in Lion Rock

For more… subscribe to my newsletter. Can I help YOU to climb and find your “mountain top?” We welcome guest writers, and are looking for new Skimbaco team members and business builders for our Young Living essential oils team. We have Young Living team members in four countries and would love to welcome you to start your own location-independent business with you!

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s profile on Pinterest.


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Moms Choose Airlines that Understand Their Kids – Like KLM Does Tue, 22 Dec 2015 02:49:26 +0000 Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Choosy Moms Choose Airlines Their Kids Like One Christmas we surprised our children with the iconic “You are going to DisneyWorld” gift. We printed our flights on a paper…]]>
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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.


Choosy Moms Choose Airlines Their Kids Like

One Christmas we surprised our children with the iconic “You are going to DisneyWorld” gift. We printed our flights on a paper and wrote on the other side “Merry Christmas, you are going to DisneyWorld.” Our oldest, Isabella, was reading the text for the others, and as she was finishing the sentence, all three kids’ faces remained calm, with a slight smile. There was no screaming, or jumping up and down because of the excitement. Then our youngest, our son Kristian, took the printed paper, checked on the other side where the flights were printed and started jumping up and down, because the flights were with one of his favorite airlines.

True story. Our children care equally much about the airline we fly with, than what the destination is.

Once we flew business class, the entire family, on an airline we have flown a lot with, and always been very happy with. However, this was our first time entire family flying on business class with this specific airline. This airline was not very accommodating for children in the first class, and pretty much made us feel like our (very well-behaved) children shouldn’t be on first class at all. I’ve done excellent job avoiding that specific airline for years after that.

Every parent knows that sometimes it can be a very small thing that makes kids either happy or unhappy during the flights, and when the airlines work the extra mile to make the children feel welcome, and excited to fly, parents are much more likely to choose the airline again.

KLM’s Bluey Animation for Kids

KLM is one of those airlines that understands it is in all passengers’ interest when kids feel comfortable on board. They created an animated character Bluey to welcome the youngest ones in the family on board. KLM already offered their younger passengers some incentives to be entertained on board, but bringing Bluey to life turns their experience into a much richer and memorable experience. To bring Bluey to life, KLM developed several episodes of adventurous animation movies. These movies are available via KLM’s Inflight Entertainment System and online. Under his daddy’s wings, Bluey learns things about flying and mischievously explores the world. The Bluey narrative ties the whole kids experience tighter together and provides a foundation for future expansion of the program.

The Holiday animation is perfect to get those kids excited, who are flying this Holiday season.

I admit that flying with KLM and via Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport brings back so many family memories, including exploring the airport (they even have a Dutch museum there), and it has always been such a pleasant experience with our children. Now, I, of course, personally love KLM’s Business Class mostly because of their collectible Delft Blue miniature traditional Dutch houses, filled with gin. Did you know that since the 1950s, KLM gifts every World Business Class passenger with a unique gift: a Delft Blue miniature traditional Dutc house, filled with Dutch gin, also known as genever? Each miniature depicts a real Dutch house. Every year on 7 October we celebrate the anniversary of KLM’s founding in 1919 by presenting a new house. I remember when I was a kid, my father collected them… and now my husband Matt and I have a light hearted competition who gets to collect more of them. In a way or another, KLM just does get everyone in the family.

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s profile on Pinterest.


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PORTMANTOS Announces Collaboration with Artist JGoldcrown Fri, 18 Dec 2015 02:48:38 +0000 PORTMANTOS, an online boutique for luggage and all things travel, has announced an exciting collaboration with the acclaimed artist and photographer, JGoldcrown. I always love when brands team up with artists to bring a special…]]>
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PORTMANTOS, an online boutique for luggage and all things travel, has announced an exciting collaboration with the acclaimed artist and photographer, JGoldcrown. I always love when brands team up with artists to bring a special touch to their products. Fashion and art seems to go hand-in-hand, and JGoldcrown’s touch to a set of Rimowa luggage render it quite the statement.

For those not familiar with JGoldcrown’s work, he has been dubbed the “man behind NYC’s most photogenic walls.” This collaboration is even more special as the proceeds will be benefiting the Boys & Girls of America. Goldcrown has hand painted a limited-edition set of Rimowa luggage which is being auctioned at Charitybuzz.

PM James Goldcrown Final

In regards to the collaboration, Goldcrown says, “I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to collaborate with PORTMANTOS on such a unique project. Painting my bleeding hears in a non-traditional way, while also furthering the mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of America in the process, is both a humbling and rewarding experience.”

Goldcrown’s murals can be found throughout New York City, whether you are in Soho or the Lower East Side, you can catch a glimpse of his #BleedingHearts and #LoveWall. Goldcrown is represented by New York philanthropist and art dealer, Kipton Cronkite, founder of Art Stager. The collaboration features his signature technique directly onto the silver aluminum surface of a 3-piece set of Rimowa luggage.

PM JGoldcrown Signing

This also a great gift idea for the person that might seem to have everything or the travel and art lover. The winner will also get to spend the day with JGoldcrown at his studio in Brooklyn, custom designing a fourth piece of Rimowa luggage that will round out the set.

Act fast on this collaboration as the online auction is open for bidding through 3pm EST on December 21st!

Post by Wes Holland

Monsieur Curations - Men's Lifestyle at Skimbaco Lifestyle, feature by Wes Holland

“I dream of being a business leader in the fashion world. Whether that be creating and running my own luxury retail consulting firm, or heading a department for a renowned fashion house, I want to mix the intellectually stimulating side of business with the creativity that the fashion world offers. Make sure to subscribe to Skimbaco Fashion weekly feed.” Wes Holland of Life Through Preppy Glasses.

Let’s connect!

Follow Skimbaco Lifestyle’s board Monsieur Curations for MEN on Pinterest.

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North Carolina: Your Holiday Cookie Headquarters (Make these Moravian cookies at home) Mon, 14 Dec 2015 13:00:22 +0000 Holidays are often times synonymous with cookies and in Winston-Salem, North Carolina there’s no exception. A longtime holiday tradition, the Moravian cookie is considered to be the holiday staple of this North Carolina town. Rightfully…]]>
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Moravian Cookies

Holidays are often times synonymous with cookies and in Winston-Salem, North Carolina there’s no exception. A longtime holiday tradition, the Moravian cookie is considered to be the holiday staple of this North Carolina town. Rightfully so since it is are the epicenter for the Moravian cookie, baking more than a million pounds of dough each year! Some hardcore culinarians might say that making the Moravian cookie is one of Salem’s greatest accomplishments, garnering worldwide fame and affection (Oprah has named them among “her favorites”.)  We think Winston-Salem is famous for a lot. It’s also the home of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. We visited the Moravian Cookie Trail earlier this year. and were so impressed on how these cookies were made.

Historic Old Salem is beautiful during the holidays.

Old Salem

In North Carolina,  you will always find a holiday gift basket with Moravian Cookies in them. It’s one of the state’s biggest sellers.  Check out my holiday foodie gift ideas for North Carolina products.

Or you can whip up your own cookies at home.

Original Moravian Cookie Recipe

(It’s recommended to cut the recipe in half)

3/4 cup butter and lard or shortening, mixed
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons ground ginger
1-pint black molasses
1 teaspoon salt
7 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 tablespoon soda
4 tablespoons ground cloves
1/4 cup boiling water

To make cookies:
Cream butter and lard with sugar. Add molasses. Sift flour with spices and salt. Add soda to boiling water. Add flour mixture and soda water to creamed mixture.

Work well with the hands. Cover and store in a cold place overnight, preferably longer. Roll to infinite thinness on board.
Bake on greased cookie sheets at 375 degrees, for a very few minutes or just until they begin to brown.

Christmas cookies

Be sure to check out the #OutaboutNC family-friendly travel guide to Winston-Salem and Old Salem.

Photos courtesy of Visit Winston-Salem.


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Young Living Membership – Perfect Gift for Travelers (see the top products I don’t travel without) Thu, 10 Dec 2015 21:12:20 +0000 The Gift that Keeps on Giving I don’t travel without Young Living products anymore. Whether I need something for jetlag or to get me going on the morning, or to have my mints for the…]]>
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happy travels kit

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

I don’t travel without Young Living products anymore. Whether I need something for jetlag or to get me going on the morning, or to have my mints for the flight, or to have a quick healthy snack, I turn into Young Living products. While the essence of their products are the essential oils, they pack a vast variety of other natural products for wellness, fitness, home, and personal care – most of them made with the goodness of essential oils. While I have taken a lot of time to learn about essential oils and their use, there are several products you can get started without much research.

I started as a Young Living wholesale distributor while we were living in a hotel, and we had just moved from Europe to the USA. We are moving to Canada next week. It has been a GREAT way for me to build an additional business and stream of income that is location independent. Truly a traveler’s dream. It took me over a year to start making money with my blog, but I made my first Young Living check only a few weeks after I joined. The best part about building a Young Living business is that you work hard to build the business, and then you can enjoy passive income for years to come if you don’t want to work as hard anymore. Again, this is what most people dream: building a passive income stream, working from anywhere in the world…

I know some of it may sound “too good to be true” – and I admit it isn’t easy, and the start can be slow, and can feel discouraging, but once this train is moving, it is not stopping. These products are for EVERYONE, and you don’t have to worry about “targeting specific target market,” and the products are something that attract natural curiosity, and once people try them, the products really sell themselves. Because they work. Your passion is much more important than your ability to “sell.” In fact, the entire company is pretty “anti-selling” and everything is really focusing on you having so many positive experiences with the products, that you can’t do anything but naturally rave how great they are to everyone you know. Well, the company might word it differently, but I have seen this happening again and again.

I was very fortunate that I joined in a team with several veteran social media experts and bloggers, and I have learned so much from them (things that I have been able to use in my blogging as well). Every information HOW to do this business has been on my fingertips the entire time, and for once it feels amazing to have a TEAM where we all work together, and there is no competition whatsoever, and I feel GOOD about myself for helping others, and helping them in their path to wellness and abundance. I would love to help you too.

Young Living products to travel with

I collected some of my favorite Young Living products here. Many of these come in 3-5 packs and last for several trips or are easy to share with friends and family too.

Also, on a related note, all of these equal to around 300PV, a purchase volume, that every month gets you amazing freebies. There are several ways Young Living members gain free products, and certain purchase volume each month in one of them. This month those who order for over 300PV will get several amazing freebies, including the entire Everyday Essentials oils collection with 10 most popular essential oils.

Young Living products for travelers

Thieves Aromabright Toothpaste 2oz. – 5pk retail: $36.84, wholesale: $28 This five pack of toothpaste in convenient smaller size has enough to share with friends too.

Lip Balm Gift Set with 4 lip balms retail: $21.05, wholesale: $16.00 I never fly without a good lip balm! Keep them yourself, of gift as stocking stuffers for your frequent flyer friends.

NingXia NITRO 14 tubes retail: $50.99, wholesale: $38.75 Never run out of energy during travels again! Small sized, pack in your carry-on!

Thieves Spray 3 pk retail: $31.25, wholesale: $23.75. Stock up on Thieves spray and keep it with you during travels to sanitize naturally. Three pack for sharing/gifting.

Deep Relief Roll-On 10 ml Retail: $35.20, wholesale: $26.75. Whether you drive a car all day, sit on plane, or walk checking out the sights, the Deep Relief gives your muscles some comfort on the end of the day. Easy to use with the roll-on cap. Must in a traveler’s bag.

Thieves Waterless Hand Purifier 3 pk retail: $18.09, wholesale: $13.75. Stock up on hand purifier, small size, easy to keep with you in your purse/carry-on. Pack of three, great for sharing as gifts too.

Thieves Mints-3pk retail: $16.78/each or 3-pack for wholesale members for $34.50 Thieves Mints are a must for long flights.

Tranquil Roll-On 10 ml retail: $37.83, wholesale: $28.75 – 28.75PV – Oh jetlag… sometimes you need some extra help for falling asleep at night. Don’t cross the Atlantic without this.

En-R-Gee Essential Oil 15 ml (3336) $24.75 – 24.75PV – Be ready to take on your travel destination with full energy with the help of energy boosting En-R-Gee.

Lavender Hand & Body Lotion 236 ml (5201) $20.75 – 20.75PV – Changing climate, and especially winter and airplane travel can dry your skin. The Lavender Hand & Body Lotion is a moisturizing lotion helping to keep your skin at its best.

Bon Voyage Travel Pack (4699) $55 – 50PV – Travel bag full of YL goodies in travel size. I don’t travel without mine! You can even reuse the little bottles later on. Comes with ten products in a travel kit. Makes an amazing gift for any traveler.

Three More Essential Oils I Travel with

AND here are three more essential oils that are great for travelers. Good thing about the oils is that they come in small bottles, and one drop goes far, and many oils can be used multi-purpose for many different reasons. Here are three more great oils to pack in your carry-on:

Valor encourages, calms and gives you boost of confidence. If I am stressing about standing at the security check line, or afraid of climbing the mountain – Valor gives me the boost I need to make it through.

conquer with valor

DiGiZe is great as a dietary supplement in water when traveling abroad. It’s great to use before every meal to keep your belly happy all trip long, it supports your digestion.


Peppermint is perfect for bumpy car rides on the mountains, or at the sea when the waves are little too high. It smells fresh and gives you fresh feel, and even cools you off on hot summer days. So many uses, an absolute favorite of mine.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Perfect Gifts for Travelers

As you are thinking of gifts for yourself or the other travelers in your life this year, think of gifting the Young Living membership. While you can purchase Young Living products as a retail customer, the wholesale members enjoy 24% off prices, and while the wholesale members can also be “distributors,” there is no obligation to ever sell anything, you can just enjoy the wholesale prices on your own purchases. But with the wholesale membership comes the possibility to also share the products with others, and travelers tend to meet a lot of new people, making it fairly easy to spread the word.

Interested in hearing more?

Read more on my oil site Enjoy Life with Oils, and when you are ready to give the products a try, I recommend getting the Premium Starter Kit by using this link, it comes with several samples and 11 most popular essential oils and a diffuser. I am also happy personally answer all of your questions, and help your path with Young Living for a great start. Kick off your Young Living business right on time for New Year’s resolutions!

As an example, here is what you can get when you order a Premium Starter Kit with Bamboo diffuser:

YL premium starter kit

Are you ready to take control of your pat to wellness AND abundance?

PS. Forward this post to people who you know could use this in their lives! Or hint them that THIS is what you want for Christmas :)

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s profile on Pinterest.


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Travel Insight: Holiday Shopping in Raleigh’s North Hills Wed, 09 Dec 2015 15:00:38 +0000 Holiday Shopping in Raleigh’s North Hills Oh, this time of year, there is so much to do. Trees to decorate, visits with Santa, and gifts to buy. Take a deep breath, and put some fun…]]>
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Christmas at North Hills in Raleigh, NC

Holiday Shopping in Raleigh’s North Hills

Oh, this time of year, there is so much to do. Trees to decorate, visits with Santa, and gifts to buy. Take a deep breath, and put some fun in that holiday shopping by planning an overnight shopping excursion. You can even do it in a large city nearest to you. Grab your best girlfriend, and put the “Merry” in Christmas by having some fun together this holiday season.

Raleigh’s North Hills is a destination, all in one spot. With upscale restaurants, a movie theater, locally owned shops and two hotels on property, it’s a one-stop shop for shopping. There’s really no reason to go anywhere else. If you can’t find anything for picky Aunt Sally there, then she may just be a hopeless case because North Hills, located in Raleigh’s midtown, has something for everyone on your list.

Bruegger's at North Hills

10:00 a.m.: Grab a cappuccino to go at Bruegger’s Café and Espresso Bar.  You’ll find Santa there on weekends. Or enjoy a  latte at Saxbys Coffee. 

Quinessentials at North Hills

10:30 a.m.: Stop in Quinessentials. This locally owned shop is the premier store in North Carolina for bridal registry, tabletop, linens and gifts at every price point, from the world’s top designers. I bet you’ll find something for Aunt Sally here. But never fear. There’s always PaperBuzz, which has served as a favorite local shop in Raleigh for over twenty years. From formal to funky, they take pride in their eclectic collection of gifts and stationery and enjoy carrying a unique selection. And let’s not forget about Charlotte’s Gift and Jewelry. Charlotte’s has something for everyone. From $10 earrings to fine jewelry, 14-karat gold and home accessories, you can always find something in your budget!

12:00 p.m.: Ooh, la la! We’ve worked up an appetite. Coquette is a true French brasserie with classic bistro design centered around a magnificent zinc bar. They have the best bread and salted butter that will make you think you are in Paris. Quiche is their specialty, and they prove that real men eat quiche by serving up man-size portions.

1:00 p.m.: Let’s get serious. Santa needs some help, so Learning Express is the go-to local toy store. Their shelves are stocked with thousands of amazing, unique toys, classic toys that have passed the test of time, and the latest and greatest toys that are wonderful and wildly imaginative. They even had Prince Charming. I was happy to cross that off my list.

2:30 p.m.: After browsing in Target, JCPenney, Plow and Hearth, make the foodie on your list happy with a gift from Midtown Olive Press. This gourmet specialty store is a first-of-its-kind retail experience for Raleigh in which customers can sample and select from award-winning fresh olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars, handcrafted in small batches and imported from around the world.


3:30 p.m.: For the high-end designer girl in your life, Monkee’s of Raleigh is a must-stop. This locally owned store carries the best in high-end fashion and shoes. From Tory Burch to Jack Rogers to Frye Boots. You name it, it’s here. Hmm, I know someone who has a birthday coming up this month. I think  a Tory Burch tote has “me” written all over it. You will also like Scout and Molly’s and Anthropologie. Vineyard Vines has everything on your preppy list.

Monkees of Raleigh at North Hills


Time for our Hotel Check-In: 

 Hyatt House Raleigh North Hills

4:30 p.m.: We’re pooped, and it’s happy hour. We grab a bottle of wine from the Harris Teeter, which is just steps from our hotel, and check into our two-bedroom suite at North Hills’ The Hyatt House. This new property in North Hills offers contemporary, upscale accommodations for the traveler. Each suite comes with a full kitchen equipped with dishes and wine glasses. They also offer special shopping packages exclusively for North Hills that include a $100 gift card to any store.

Hyatt House Raleigh North Hills

7:30 p.m.: Wow, time flies when you are having fun catching up with a girlfriend. We take the complimentary hotel shuttle to Mia Francesca Trattoria for dinner, which is located across the street from our hotel in the main area of North Hills. It is walkable, if you prefer, but I like to be chauffeured. With local farm-to-table ingredients crafting every dish on the menu from scratch, Mia Francesca is the premier Italian restaurant in North Raleigh. I adore their flatbreads. I’ve been known to eat the entire thing.

Hyatt House Raleigh North Hills

With several bars and entertainment options, there’s lots to do after the stores close. We had a full day of holiday shopping, so we opted to enjoy some time in our spacious suite at Hyatt House and retire early. Your room rate includes a full breakfast the next morning, which includes piping hot coffee and omelets made to order.

Day 2 at North Hills in Raleigh’s Midtown

After checkout, we hit the North Hills streets again, and, believe it or not, we worked up a lunch appetite even after a hearty breakfast at Hyatt House.  We grabbed a late lunch at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. The combination of bold flavors, sauces and spices creates a unique style of American cuisine that originated in Aspen, Colorado. My absolute favorite is the grilled chicken sandwich with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and red pepper mayo. It’s delicious.

Firebirds Restaurant at North Hills

Maybe Aunt Sally would like a trip to the spa. Natural Body Spa and Shop, located at North Hills, is a green day spa dedicated to providing a peaceful haven for all clients, where they can escape the harshness of daily life, learn more about wellness, and take care of their bodies and their world naturally. A full-service spa, Natural Body offers massages, facials, waxing, nail services, and body treatments.  Need some dessert? Pop into Edible Art Bakery and Dessert Cafe. 

Do we really have to go home? A shopping excursion can certainly make the holidays even brighter.  And you’ll find the perfect gift, even if it is for yourself. Learn more about North Hill’s Holiday Shopping.

Leigh at Monkee's of Raleigh

Disclosure: Leigh’s shopping trip to North Hills was at her expense, but the Hyatt House Raleigh North Hills stay was complimentary and was part of a media visit.

Photos courtesy of North Hills, and HinesSightBlog

luxury travel, East Coast travel, resorts & hotels, travel industry news, Southern travel, luxury travel blogger

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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The Story of My Life: We are Moving Out of the Country. Again. Wed, 09 Dec 2015 11:16:31 +0000 One Year Anniversary and Time to Leave This week we celebrate our one year anniversary back in New York by packing our things, and scheduling another international move. It was magical to be back in…]]>
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Go with your heart

One Year Anniversary and Time to Leave

This week we celebrate our one year anniversary back in New York by packing our things, and scheduling another international move.

It was magical to be back in New York City for Christmas time last year this time, but we all felt deeply saddened we had left Europe after living in Sweden for three years, and after just having visited Paris on our last vacation, on our way out of Europe. We arrived right on time for the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree lighting in New York City – and the demonstrations that surrounded it last year; immediately giving us the harsh reality how much had changed in the three years we had been gone.

It’s odd now to look back. Just last month the terrorist attack happened in Paris and the situation in Sweden is very different too after a year. I don’t wish we were still in Sweden, but I also wish we hadn’t come here.

Magnolia Bakery, NYC

Truthfully, we felt like we failed by moving back to the US and by not staying in Europe, (or not moving to Asia). But we tried to make it work. We thought buying a nice house would help. We thought putting kids to good schools would help. Kids got caught up on the three years of New York schools in a matter of weeks, and all three are honor roll students. It truly is true: world travels, exposing to new cultures and going the hard way in life helps kids to excel at school, and not just in theory.

Truthfully, we have not enjoyed our time in Binghamton, NY, area. We live in Vestal. It’s “the town” when country people say they are “going to town.” I can find every big box store and chain restaurant just around the corner from us. Our “town” is a four-lane road full of strip malls, and I didn’t even buy a car so I don’t have to drive it through any extra times I don’t have to. I don’t like the fact I have gone to Target more times the past year than the past ten years before that. And yet, sometimes, I feel like going to Target is the highlight of my day here. I don’t want to be that person. And I feel like a snob saying these things aloud, and I don’t want to be that person either.

Nomadic living

And it is funny, especially because I am so far from a snob. Second car isn’t the only thing we didn’t buy when we moved back. We also don’t own a TV, any gaming systems, microwave oven… or even beds. Now I realize how sad it may sound that we have hoped to leave so desperately, that even in the seven and half months of living in our house we haven’t even bought beds, and are still sleeping on mattresses on the floor. For the first four months I also kept my clothes packed, hoping there was a mistake, and we can move out soon. This is the reality of nomadic living. Living out of boxes, sleeping on the floor, living in hotels, and not owning many things. And we are OK with that.

Now I feel relieved, and even smart because we didn’t spend all that money on things, and we didn’t stop hoping and working for a way out. We didn’t settle.

People often ask from us which has been our favorite place to live in, and every time I answer diplomatically that every place has its good points and bad points, and a lot of your happiness and your content depends on yourself. That’s what SKIMBACO really is. It could be “skiing in Colorado” or “shopping in New York” or “museum hopping in Paris” or “sailing in Finland.” You just need to find what is the best in the place you are. I still agree and sign that statement, but maybe I am having a mid-life crisis or something because this time I am screaming and stomping my foot on the ground, and I am determined to argue that this place is not for us, and we should just leave.

It’s not the place alone, I know locals like it here. It’s me, it’s us. We kissed the world, and we liked it. We don’t have to settle, if we don’t want to. I don’t have to find the silver lining in Vestal, NY, if I don’t want to. It’s not that life is hard here, it’s almost the opposite. It’s too easy.

I kissed the world. And I liked it.

Things are never one-sided, and there isn’t a perfect place (do you know one? I’ve visited 30+ countries and lived in 20+ towns, none of them is perfect.). I am not naive, and I know that running away isn’t the solution either. If I am not happy in the inside, I am not going to be happy wherever in the world I am.

I’ve had many flashbacks to memories and feelings I had when I moved to the USA the first time in 1998, and had the biggest culture shock of my life. When we moved back from Germany in 2002, I was too busy with two babies, pregnant and renovating a house upstate New York, that I didn’t even have time to think of culture shock of coming back. I think Matt had it the worst then, and he had really hard time settling back in the USA. I was just trying to stay positive, because I didn’t think we had any other option but to stay here.

We waited for the opportunity to move back to Europe for ten long years. Matt started working for his current company in 2008, when we moved from Colorado to New York. One of the main reasons he took the job, was a hope to get international assignments in the future, and move back to Europe. Then finally we moved to Sweden four years ago. It’s funny that many, even those who know us well, say “how easy it is” for us to move and leave. None of this has been easy, and I know it won’t be easy. But it is worth the pain, worth the hard work, and worth sleeping on a floor and not having the latest and the greatest of anything.

Mailbox in a snow.. It's time to get a new mailbox and move again!

When we got to Sweden, I started posting my “Good Morning from Sweden” photos on Instagram (follow me?) every day. I was just thankful for the sunrises I saw every day. I was in a place where I felt like home, even though it wasn’t even home. That’s what I miss in my life. The small moments of gratefulness “I can’t believe this is my life” and “I am so lucky to live here.” It’s the feeling I had every time I landed at Arlanda airport in Stockholm and smelled the cinnamon buns; the smell that combines my childhood memories in Finland with the new memories of baking with my kids and the gratefulness of living in Sweden and coming back home. Those are the things I miss. The small things. Life fills with small things.

It would be easy to say that we want to run away from the USA because of political environment, level of education, cost of healthcare, gun laws, GMOs and FDA — and a list of many other things. Technically it is all true, but ultimately we are just people who want the best for their kids, and enjoy life to the fullest. To me it really is quite simple: I want to look outside my window everyday, feel excited and safe where I am, and thankful for my life. And preferably I want the view look pretty too, and to be something that draws me outdoors to explore more. I want the best for my children, and I want to help them to make educated decisions for their future. They all have two passports, speak a few languages, and I want to continue to help them to become global citizens who have a wider view of the world.

It pains me to say how much I want to leave. Especially because many of my best friends are American, and you live here. Many of my dearest friends live in state of New York (and I would most likely feel very differently if we lived closer to NYC). I love this country like my own. But honestly, I had these same feelings when I moved out of Finland. I love Finland, and so many things and people there, but enough was just enough, and I was so ready to leave. I would love to return back to Finland, and I am sure one day I will be happy to return to the United States.

However, we are heading to a completely new country, where we haven’t lived before. Not in Europe, but staying in North America. We are moving to Canada. Now, what could go wrong, eh?

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s profile on Pinterest.


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Family Road Trip Tips for the Holiday Travel (and a Giveaway) Thu, 03 Dec 2015 11:54:35 +0000 Hitting the road this Holiday season? You are not alone. Be prepared for the traffic and for the long trip. For staying sane and safe for all the way there with these tips we gathered…]]>
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Road trip tips for the Holiday Travel Season

Hitting the road this Holiday season? You are not alone. Be prepared for the traffic and for the long trip. For staying sane and safe for all the way there with these tips we gathered together with Autotrader.

1. Make sure your car can make the ride!
Do a quick check on the essentials before your trip. Check the wear and pressure on your tires, and be sure your fluids (oil, coolant and wiper fluid) are topped off. If you are driving to colder climates, make sure you have good all weather tires.

2. Plan well!
Part of the road trip fun in the USA is just getting on the road and driving, and then stopping for overnight in a roadside hotel when you feel like it. On our recent two road trips we realized it is always not as easy – especially during the holidays, if you are traveling with a larger family (or dog!). Make hotel reservations ahead of the time, I highly recommend it.

3. Time it right.
You will not like this — but sometimes the best travel days are the Holidays itself. Typically the days right before the Holiday are the worst, for example December 23rd is usually the busiest in December, and December 30th is busy as well.

If you can, avoid the busiest travel days, December 21st to 23rd and get a kickstart already the weekend before — or wait until the 24th or even the 25th, when the roads are empty. We have traveled before on December 25th, and it has been one of the most pleasant travel experiences because there are less people traveling than in any normal day.

4. Make it an adventure.

make enough stops

Just because you have an ultimate destination doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fun stuff in between. Check your route for family-friendly stops along the way such as a zoo, park or even toy store to give kids something to look forward to while breaking the trip into manageable pieces. Our favorites are parks, and unique rest stops and local restaurants.

5. Entertainment!!


I personally like having Sirius radio in the car, or Spotify to make it easy to have good music playing all the way. Another tip is download podcasts or books that everyone in the family will enjoy. We also like language lessons. I am not really abig fan of having kids watching movies or on their screens all road trip, but our children are already teenagers and they tend to be easier to entertain now than when they were younger. For the little ones I do recommend a DVD player or an iPad/tablet attached to the back of the seat. Magnetized board games, word games, coloring books and good old toys like the Rubix Cube can work just as well.

Keep calm on road trips

6. Bring snacks and take time for healthy dining stops.
Greasy food isn’t the best for staying alert — or feeling good — while road tripping. I highly recommend staying away from fast-food restaurants, and making the dining stops more meaningful in local restaurants, road side attractions or even with picnics with home made packed lunches.


Bring along lots of smaller, healthier snacks to keep kids (and adults) content. Fruits and vegetables that are easy to eat. For example like carrot sticks, bananas and apples, are great options. We also like Babybel mini cheeses, grapes and Finncrisp crackers. I like to buy fresh bread, cheese and ham and Dijon mustard for easy on-the-go sandwiches, or artisan bread with pear jam and Brie-cheese (you can steal some turkey leftovers for these sandwiches too). I also like the Stanley Brand thermoses and containers to bring along food and drinks that stay hot — perfect during the cold December time!

7. Have patience & try to keep positive attitude!


Remember that it is much more important to arrive safe and late, than not arrive at all. Between road congestion, frequent stops and the sometimes-bad weather that plagues many areas this time of year, holiday travel time can take longer than anticipated. Allow —and plan for— extra travel time, and you’ll have a better chance of arriving safely and stress-free. Make the trip fun by stopping in quirky roadside attractins like the South of the Border in South Carolina.

We like to diffuse energizing essential oils in the car to keep spirits up (and the car smelling good too). I use an USB diffuser and our favorite oils on road trips are Peppermint and Citrus Fresh. Remember to avoid essential oils that can make you too relaxed and sleepy, like Lavender and Lemongrass.

8. Bring your pet too!
Don’t leave your pet behind this Holiday season. If you are traveling with a dog – read this ultimate guide to traveling with a dog with 22 tips!

Tara Trompeter, managing editor at Autotrader, really sums up what I think of family road trips as well:

“Holiday travel doesn’t just have to be about getting to where you’re going. Family time in the car can be a great opportunity for making memories — or a recipe for grunts and grumbles. A little bit of planning ahead before you get on the road will go a long way toward filling the experience with more fun and laughter for everyone involved.”

For those families that venture out on road trips frequently throughout the year, the experts at Autotrader also rounded up a list of 10 Fuel-Efficient Family Cars for a Long Holiday Road Trip. The list includes family cars that boast affordable pricing, roomy interiors and a fuel-efficient 30 miles per gallon on the highway. Among their picks are the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Optima, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Outback and the Toyota Camry.


Road trip pack giveaway

Road Trip Kit ($75 Value)
The giveaway includes: Charger, $25 Visa gift card, Tote, Seat Back Organizer, Selfie Stick, First Aid Kit, Single-use Wet Wipes, Snacks

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends December 8th, 2015 midnight EST. Open for residents of the USA.

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s profile on Pinterest.


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Living Life to the Fullest in Costa Rica: the Pura Vida lifestyle of Costa Rica Mon, 16 Nov 2015 16:27:29 +0000 Guest post by Andrea Fellman of Wanderlust Living. Adopting the Pura Vida way of life If you think moving to paradise means instantly checking out and becoming all zen, roaming the beaches barefoot while your…]]>
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Guest post by Andrea Fellman of Wanderlust Living.

Pura Vida Wanderlust Living Andrea Fellman

Adopting the Pura Vida way of life

If you think moving to paradise means instantly checking out and becoming all zen, roaming the beaches barefoot while your mind drifts off into the sunset, never to be seen or heard from again, think again. Sure, some people come to Costa Rica for a year to do exactly that “check out”, and that might be their intention and ultimate goal, so good for them. Costa Rica is a wonderful place to just that.

However, the slow pace here can actually be quite challenging for some and it may take longer than you think to succumb to the pura vida way of life. The term pura vida means pure life or the good life, or some variation of – life is good, everythings fine, take it easy, relax, or in some situations simply – oh well. It is meant to be a positive phrase and it can actually helps expats in Costa Rica adapt to some of the lifestyle differences and slower paced life. Pura Vida reminds you to “calm down, everything’s going to be fine”.

It’s a phrase that over the last 2 ½ years has helped me to calm the F’ down. Unless someone is hurt, bleeding or on fire, typically nothing is that serious or urgent to get worked up about. I’m an American mom, so I know a thing or two about being dramatic. But this pura vida concept and statements like “slowing down” conflict with who I am daily.

My husband and I operate on a pretty high level of mental activity and type-A personalities, if you put us on the moon we’d find 16 things to do with our time. So, it’s no surprise that moving to Costa Rica hasn’t slowed us down a whole lot.

Which is why the quote “No matter where you go, there you are” could not be more true. You may be able to change your location but who you are at the core is much harder to change.

Which might actually be the best lesson to learn from this experience of moving to Costa Rica. It doesn’t matter where you are physically, you’re always going to have to make the world around you work for you.

Finding Balance in Costa Rica

Hudson Sing at Las Catalinas Wanderlust Living(1)

I do feel that there has been a very good balance for me here in Costa Rica. While my work requires me to be very social and active online with social media, when I shut it down, I truly shut it down. And because of the slower pace here, there isn’t a million other things to tend to or feel pressure to keep up with like back in the States. No one is in a hurry and rushing around you, the chaos is kept to a minimum. It’s the weekends where I find myself soaking up the pura vida way of life. To get away from it all, I can literally just walk out my front door. I can go roam the beach barefoot and hike the Las Catalinas trails for hours, lay by the pool, read a book and truly relax. Even the social engagements in Costa Rica are extremely low key and laid back, with the more the merrier attitude where everyone feels welcome. We have rotating potlucks every weekend, bonfires on the beach and never ending playdates. Which are just as much for the adults as the kids.

Pacific Heights Wanderlust Living

The other benefit of living here is that I have been more present and grateful for everything I have and am able to do and see. Some of the things I experience here are just for me and my family. It’s the private parts of my life, that mean more than any public pieces, those are the moments I try to tuck away in my mind to keep for later. I’ve let go of feeling the pressure to share everything about this experience. Contrary to the present state of social media, not everything should be shared.

I’ve read that many expats have difficulty sharing their experience about living abroad, and I believe it’s because the emotional currency of some experiences are so rich in value that they cannot be exchanged.

La Catalinas Wanderlust Living

If you are planning to move to Costa Rica or anywhere abroad, it’s okay to be a bit naive. Not unprepared, but naive in that you should come with an open mind and have your own natural and unique experience. Someone telling you everything takes the adventure out of it. Whether it’s funny or frustrating things that have happened to us living in Costa Rica, they happen for a reason and we learn and grow from them. If you’re brave enough to move abroad then you’re probably comfortable with the unknown and that’s what makes it all so exciting!

Community in Costa Rica

People make the place. This statement could not be more simple but true. Are there things about Costa Rica that bother me and get annoying, yes. No place is perfect, but hopefully the people you are surrounded by should make up for what it might be lacking in strides. Our children go to La Paz Community School which makes it easy to integrate into a strong community that feels like family. La Paz and the expat community in Costa Rica is what made us stay longer than expected.

La Paz Community School Under the Guanacaste Tree Costa Rica

Everyone moved to Costa Rica for their own personal reasons but we all have something in common from the moment we meet – we all took a giant leap of faith. There is an instant under lining attitude of “we’re in this together”. Everyone is always willing to help and we trust each other more than I think we would have if we had met back in the States and I think it’s because we all have a collective interest in making this experience a positive one for everyone. If one of us is hurting or needs help there is a kink in the chain connecting us all.

La Paz Community School Hammocks

Costa Rica is like family summer camp; you’ll make friends fast and they’ll change you forever.

Everyone comes to Costa Rica for a reason. Whether they’re escaping, healing, searching, working, growing, or relaxing and there will always be people coming, staying or going. We’ve experienced the exciting coming phase, we’ve mastered the staying phase and soon we’ll be going, but I’ll be keeping some of that Pura Vida with me.

Andrea Fellman and Kids Wanderlust Living

Want to learn more about Costa Rica?

Interested in learning more about Costa Rica? Check out Wanderlust Living to read more about Costa Rica and connect with me on Findery (@wanderlustliving or Twitter (@savvysassymoms).

finding costa rica

This post is part of a Findery’s #FindingCostaRica project, to bring you the best travel tips to Costa Rica, whether you are a local or traveling there the first time. I have collected several notemaps on Findery to share my favorites of Costa Rica, including tips for living in Costa Rica and 10 Day Itinerary in Costa Rica.

#FindingCostaRica Twitter Chat

Join us for #findingCostaRica Twitter chat on Tuesday, November 17th at 11am PST/2pm EST. Read details here. Follow @Findery and @savvysassymoms to chat more about Costa Rica, and Katja of @skimbaco will be there too among many others!

View my Flipboard Magazine.

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The Ultimate Travel Guide with a Dog: 22 Tips for Traveling with a Dog Tue, 03 Nov 2015 14:54:04 +0000 Traveling lifestyle AND owning a dog is possible!! If you want to travel, and have a dog, you really have two options: travel with a dog or leave the dog home. It is also possible…]]>
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Tips how to travel with a dog

Traveling lifestyle AND owning a dog is possible!!

If you want to travel, and have a dog, you really have two options: travel with a dog or leave the dog home. It is also possible to teach a dog to love traveling and be at ease in changing environments (read about our experience of traveling with a dog, and how our first dog traveled in more countries than many humans do, and how our nine month old puppy has already traveled thousands of miles and weeks of hotel nights.). However, traveling is not for all dogs, and some are happier when left at home. This post gives you tips for traveling with your dog, and what to consider way before you even start planning your first big trip with your dog!

On this post I give several simple tips how we have trained our dogs to love to travel, tips how to make it easier and what to consider before booking a trip with your dog. I didn’t dive deep into different kind of traveling, so whether you are flying with your dog, going on road trips or staying in hotels or at vacation rentals, you might want to look up more specific information as well. I am not “a dog expert”, only a dog-loving dog-mama with lots of experience on traveling with a dog in several countries in Europe and around the USA. Our first dog lived in several countries with us. It is always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian before traveling with your dog. There are also several great options for those who choose to leave their pet home from kennels to having a family member to take care of the dog or hiring a house/pet sitter to live in your home while traveling.

The Ultimate pet travel guide! 22 tips for traveling with a dog! Via travel experts at @skimbaco

Before you even travel with your dog.

1. Breed and size matters. Before you even get a dog, it is good to consider a few things. Are you aware of some breed restriction some airlines, hotels or even countries and regions can have? Some of these might not just apply to large breeds, but also to some smaller breeds (for example short-nosed dogs such as pugs). If you already have a dog, this is still important to check. Often the restrictions also apply to the size of the dog – or amount of the dogs, if you travel with multiple dogs. Traveling with one small dog can be very different than traveling with two Rottweilers.

Dog park in West Palm Beach, Florida

2. Start training when your dog is a puppy. They say it’s difficult to teach old dogs new tricks, and in our experience teaching older dogs to love traveling can be challenging (might have breed too: we could never travel with a beagle we had). I recommend starting to travel when your dog is a puppy so it will become normal to him, and he will learn to love it (hopefully).

3. Do a practice trip. Or two. Even if your dog isn’t a puppy anymore, and you want to take him for the first trip, you can try to train him. Start with practice trips like local day trips, trips to friend’s house for one night, shorter road trips or simply driving to a new dog park and eating out in a restaurant patio afterwards. All of this training is important for puppies anyways, but imperative if you want your dog to become a traveler. If you have an older dog, changes are you have already done a lot of “travel training” without even thinking about it.

Eating in restaurants with a dog...

4. Crate training is pretty important as well. It is important that your dog will love his crate, whether the crate it for home, for car rides or for flights. The crate should be his safe nest, where he feels comfortable and happy. We made a mistake with our first dog that we barely ever used the crate at home, but only when he flew, and while first about 6-8 flights when fine, he eventually started hating the crate and it became very difficult to even get him in when he was older.

5. Destination matters and start planning early. If you plan on traveling in your country, destination might not mean as much, but it might. It does depend on your dog’s breed, for example some providences in Canada have breed restrictions. Some counties, and cities in other countries can have local restrictions as well. Some countries can have very difficult animal importing rules, and also age restrictions (no dogs under one year old). If you plan of traveling out of the country, don’t just check the animal import laws to that country – but also back to your own. For traveling to USA, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal & Plant Inspection Service, Veterinary Services or 800-545-USDA (8732). If you have layovers, you plan on driving through countries/regions — don’t forget to check those either. You can find this information often from a consulate website.

6. Health check! Like said earlier, it is always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian before traveling with your dog. Some things to also consider: vaccinations must be up to date. There are certain vaccination requirements when you import a dog to certain countries, and sometimes they have requirements that have very specific time restrictions, for example rabies shot has been given more than five days, but less than 14 days.

7. Safety measures like name tag! Collar. Name tag with your phone number. Leash. All basics that you most likely have all squared away. But consider having your dog microchipped in case your dog gets lost. When the microchip is registered with your current contact information, including a cell phone number, you can be reached even on your travels if your dog gets lost.

How to find places where to stay?

Dogs in hotels....

8. Check out Bring Fido or get the app. Bring Fido is absolutely the greatest thing that has happened to traveling with dogs pretty much ever. The website and the app are an endless resource of dog-friendly hotels, restaurants and activities in most popular travel destinations. We have only used this in the USA (in several states), and so far have been very happy as a resource. Also, one late evening we had hard time finding a hotel on our road trip, and my husband called Bring Fido and they were able to book us a hotel. We had already called several different hotel chains with no luck. The only bad thing about booking with Bring Fido (or most third party booking services) that we were not able to collect hotel points for the chain we stayed with.

9. Check out dog-friendly hotel chains. It might be easier to stick to certain hotel chains that you know will always allow dogs. The list of dog-friendly hotels nowadays is longer than you’d expect! For example in the USA there are several chains that allow dogs in most, or all of their locations. Notice that while there are several chains that offer free stays for pets, some have one time fee AND/or a daily fee per each pet. Also size restrictions apply in many, and the amount of pets you can bring.

We like the Hyatt Place hotels for reasonably priced stays with a dog, and often without a pet fee. Many other Hyatt hotels also offer dog-friendly stays. Several Marriott hotels with their brands like Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn typically allow dogs, also their Renaissance Hotels. Several Hilton brand hotels also allow dogs, like DoubleTree by Hilton and Home2 by Hilton. La Quinta Inns & Suites is a good budget hotel brand during road trips in the USA, for those times when you only need one night’s stay and want to continue driving the next day.

Kimpton hotels Directors of Pet Relations

Photo: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Alexandria

10. Luxury hotels actually like dogs too. You don’t have to be a budget travelers to travel with a dog. There are also several comfortable luxury or luxury hotels that allow dogs. In fact, they don’t just allow dogs, but treat them like royalty, like the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, where dogs have their own afternoon tea. Several of the following hotel chains allow dogs, but check individual locations and their pet fees and restrictions: Kimpton Hotels, Loews Hotels and Resorts, Ascend Collection, Renaissance Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts, Crowne Plaza, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Kimpton Hotels goes as far that they have Directors of Pet Relations in several of their locations, working dogs who “eagerly greet guests in our lobbies, quality test our pet amenities, and lord over the nightly wine hours.” Oh, what a dog’s life!

11. Other hotel stay limitations. Note that some hotels don’t allow you leaving the dog in the room without supervision, but some (luxury) hotels offer pet sitting services, or their concierge can help you to find one locally, or to find you a day kennel for your dog if needed. If you plan on doing activities without your dog during your travels, take this in consideration already when booking your travel and where to stay.

What to bring?

12. Dog bed and/or crate. Crate is needed for flying, and it is also safest for your dog to travel inside a crate in a car. It is not always possible to bring a crate with you, but I highly recommend bringing your dog’s own bed.

13. Food & water. Pretty common sense, but it is also good to have a travel food and water bowls so you can easily feed your dog on the go. Extra water is also important, we typically carry a reusable water bottle that is easy to refill. Training snacks are also very important. You will run into many situations when you want to praise and reward your dog for good behavior and encourage him to continue it.

14. Medicine and pet care products. If your dog in on medication, remember to bring it! For natural pet care products I recommend Young Living’s products, they are great for your dog’s wellness at home and when traveling. They are especially good to take along traveling because of their small size.

15. Poop bags. Another self-evident for many, but if you live in a rural area where you don’t have to worry about pet waste, remember that picking up after your dog is a law in cities and many neighborhoods. Accidents can also happen when your dog is nervous about new situations. Pack plenty of poop bags.

16. Cleaning supplies. Related to the accidents… I always bring some basic cleaning supplies with me to deal with motion sickness in a car or other accidents. I usually bring a travel sized Thieves Spray and an empty spray bottle and Purification Essential Oil and other essential oils. The travel sized cleaning detergent is good for cleaning, but I like to spray non-toxic scent to eliminate the stink as well!

Purification essential oils helps eliminating dog smells! Great to bring for travels with a cheap water spray bottle. Just add 5-8 drops in the spray bottle of water and spray in your hotel room. Via @skimbaco @enjoylifeoils

17. Non-toxic air refresher. The air refreshers like Febreeze are full of chemicals that can be harmful for you and especially for your dog, and many hotels use similar products in their rooms. You can easily ask the room service not to spray them in your room while you are staying there. I always carry my own air refresher with me in a form of essential oils and an empty spray bottle. 5-8 drops of essential oil like Purification in the entire spray bottle of water, and it’s good for spraying the car, or dog bed, or even hotel room to eliminate the bad smells. If you stay in a small hotel room with a dog and a family the spray bottle + essential oils is a MUST!

18. Toys! Bring toys for entertainment, they might be needed in social situations like when you are trying to eat dinner, or if you leave him alone in the hotel room.

Random tips!

Lavender Essential Oil works calming dogs.

19. Lavender to calm nerves. Dog training expert Cesar Millan does not recommend medicating the dog for travels to calm nerves, but “for a little extra calm, try rubbing a little Lavender essential oil between your hands and give your pet a little aromatherapy or deep tissue massage at the beginning of your dog’s spine or base of her head.” We have been using the Young Living’s Lavender essential oil for our dog with good results!

20. Give your dog enough exercise. Whether you are traveling by plane or car, make sure your dog gets enough exercise before the trip and during the trip (if possible). When your dog has gotten enough exercise before a flight, he will be more likely to be calm and rest the trip. Also, remember to schedule enough stops on your road trips to exercise your dog.

21. Go easy on food. Our dogs have never eaten much during travel days, and that’s actually good because it helps to avoid motion sickness. We also have made a mistake buying different kind of new snacks or food during our travels and it is better to stick to foods your dog is already used to, and notice: you can even order them to wait for you in the destination. Don’t even think of asking my husband what happens when you feed some restaurant food scarps to a puppy on a road trip… (go back to tips #15 and #16).

22. Think ice… This might be an odd tip, but ice can be very useful in many travel situations with a dog. I always freeze a big chunk of ice before flights, so our dog will have water supply that lasts most of the flight, even if water in bowl might tip over at some point. When we dine in outdoor patios, we also fill our dog’s bowl with ice. He likes crunching the ice and it is more interesting than water and keeps him occupied. Sometimes I also freeze dog biscuits and carrots inside an ice chunk for long term licking and chewing fun. Put these “DIY ice chunks” inside a ziplock bag and inside your cooler bag to stay cool and also as useful ice to keep everything else cold. These are great on road trips. Well, not in the car — but on the breaks!

Life isn't about where you travel. It's who you travel with.

These are just a few tips I have learned while traveling around Europe and the USA with our dogs.
What else? Add your own traveling tip with a dog in the comments!

PS. Read more about Young Living essential oils at and how they truly are part of our everyday lifestyle – even with our dog!

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

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