Top Ten Tips … For a Successful Cabin Christmas

I just got back from another amazing cabin Christmas in Mount Baker, with five of my closest friends. It’s become our tradition to go down to a Cabin in Mount Baker for Christmas as our surrogate family of six (and Dave the dog!) I never get to go down with the rest of the group on 23rd December because I nearly always have to work Christmas Eve, so I miss out on all of the shopping, and tend to just swan in for the fun stuff (sorry guys!) I like to think that the six of us have it down to a pretty fine art, after a few years of having done this, and this year was testament to that, our Christmas was filled with laughter, cheese, snow and good times! So with that in mind here are my top ten tips on how to have a stress free awesome cabin Christmas with friends.

  1. Book the cabin early
    We always book our cabin pretty early in the summer.We have a few specific needs – pet friendly, sleeps six, not ridiculously expensive – which means that our search is a bit narrow. We’ve gone to the same cabin three times now, and because we like it so much we want to make sure someone doesn’t sneak in and book it first, plus booking early is one less thing to worry about the closer it gets to Christmas and getting some of the payments out the way early is always helpful.

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    Our cabin
  2. Plan ahead
    My friend James takes charge of the food on Christmas day (thank you!) and I know he plans what our meal will be ahead of time, so that when it comes to the trip to the grocery store, the list is already done meaning the whole mission is streamlined and somewhat stress free! If you’re cooking a meal think about all the little things you’re going to need down to oil, spices and salt and pepper that you might take having to hand for granted.
  3. Keep it simple
    We keep our food pretty simple whilst we are down at the cabin, we have our big Christmas day meal, and then for the rest of the time we pretty much stick to cheese and crackers, leftovers and some other snacky bits. This works for us, you might feel like being a bit fancier, but just remember it all has to be eaten or thrown away.
  4. Know boarder restrictions
    If you’re crossing the boarder, like we do, be aware of restrictions of what can and can’t cross the boarder. We buy all our food and alcohol once we’re in the US so we don’t even have to worry about this. This applies to what you can bring back into Canada too. This year we had quite a bit of left over unopened cheese, so we came home with those.
  5. Buy food and booze in the US
    Like I’ve already said we buy everything we eat and drink once we get down to the States. For a start it’s so much cheaper, we had a bottle of Port that was $6.99 (USD) and I know the other alcohol we get is also a lot cheaper than what we could have got in Canada. Same goes for the food, cheese is cheap and the options plentiful, and we love cheese! Plus there is no worrying about what can and can’t cross the boarder.
  6. Be prepared
    Two years ago I had a tickly cough on my way down to the cabin, by 11pm that night I felt terrible and all I had with me was some cough drops and 8 cold and flu tablets. I had the flu, and I felt horrendous. The cabin is pretty remote, and whilst there is a gas station a few miles away, it’s not just like running around the corner like you would of you were in a city. The moral of the story is be prepared. This year I took a few more medication options just in case any of us didn’t feel 100%.

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    Snow queen
  7. Discuss expectations
    As I’ve already said the six of us have done this a few times now and we all know how the few days are going to go. If this is your first Christmas with new people I suggest discussing the day before it gets there. You might expect to eat at lunch time whilst everyone else thinks you should eat in the evening. Think about all the little details and traditions that you want to be part of Christmas and make sure you’re all on the same page or willing to compromise so everyone can have an enjoyable Christmas.
  8. Don’t be greedy
    We don’t have a whole turkey because realistically we are not going to even get close to finishing it, we have turkey breasts which are more than enough and save us from having to throw a load of leftovers away. Another reason we don’t have an entire turkey is down to limited room in the oven; if we wanted a whole bird we’d probably have to sacrifice some sides. Think about the details.
  9. Bring entertainment
    We always take ample films and games to keep us entertained.The cabin we stay in does have a few classic games in there but we have our favourites that we take down with us. We also take some of our favourite Christmas films, so that we aren’t stuck watching what’s on television.
  10. Go offline and relax
    Our cabin didn’t have wifi the last few times we went there and we loved that about it. This year the owners had installed wifi, which we only used a few times, to Skype home on Christmas day and to contact me about the road/snow situation for my drive down. Going offline and having no phone signal is part of the beauty of the cabin for me, it’s a chance to switch off from the real world and relax.

Whilst traveling with friends can be amazing, and is definitely one of my favourite things to do there is no doubt that there can occasionally be a few bumps in the road. I hope some of these tips can be applied to traveling with friends, even if it’s not for Christmas but just in general, and to help you have as good of a time as I do when I go away with my friends for our cabin Christmas.

 

 

Top Ten … Coachella Road Trips

Whether you are going to weekend one or weekend two, why not make the most of your vacation and take a pre or post (or both) Coachella road trip to squeeze the maximum amount of fun out of your trip! The last two years, we managed to fit in a bit of a pre and post road trip, partly because there are so many great places to see and explore in that part of the world, and partly because traveling 1400 miles from Vancouver we wanted to make the journey worthwhile! I ideally like to sandwich the craziness of the festival with some relaxation either side, with the option for a crazy night if the mood should take. We typically stay in or around Palm Springs before Coachella, and then afterwards head off on another adventure, we’ve visited Scottsdale, Las Vegas and The OC in the past two years.

Here are my top ten picks for road trip destinations (some I’ve been to, some I haven’t) all within a few hours drive of the festival grounds in Indio.

  1. Grand Canyon (approx. 6hrs)
    Yes, it is a bit of a drive, but boy is it worth it! Undoubtedly one of the most amazing natural wonders, it really is something you have to see to believe. This is definitely the place to go if you are looking for a more low-key break, there are some great hikes, but if that’s not your cup of tea, just having a wander around is enough. I splurged when I visited and took a helicopter ride which I would definitely recommend doing, it is so cool to get a completely different perspective of the canyon and really helps you to grasp just how big it is. Make sure you catch a sunrise or a sunset, or both, the views are incredible.

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    The Grand Canyon
  2. Scottsdale (approx. 4hrs)
    Scottsdale was an unexpected discovery we made back in 2014 after our first Coachella, we picked it because neither of us had been before and it wasn’t too far from Indio. I absolutely loved Scottsdale, and will definitely go back and explore again at some point in the future. There is some great shopping, a taste of the old West, amazing Mexican food, and stunning sunsets on offer.

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    Stunning Scottsdale
  3. LA (approx. 2hrs)
    Los Angeles, is more than Hollywood, there are so many unique area’s to explore, from Venice Beach to Universal Studio’s. LA can offer you a relaxing pre/post Coachella vacation, or if you’re in the mood a crazy few days of partying. The great thing about LA being so big and diverse is that it means there are suitable options for all budgets, and some awesome things to see and do for free.
  4. The OC (approx. 2hrs)
    Orange County has so much more to offer than angst ridden teens like some television shows will have you believe. From stunning scenery and quaint towns there is a lot to check out. I’ve been to a couple of places; Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach and Anaheim (see number 9) mainly fueled by my love of said angst ridden teen shows and loved all of them. I’m a sucker for a great beach and The OC certainly delivers on those!

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    Newport Beach sunsets
  5. San Diego (approx. 2.5hrs)
    San Diego has been gradually creeping higher and higher up my travel list. I’ve always been put off by some of the bigger tourist attractions, but lately some Pintrest research has made me reconsider. Beautiful beaches, enclaves of bars and restaurants, what’s not to enjoy? I’ll certainly be visiting the next time I am in southern California.
  6. Palm Springs (approx. 30mins)
    Literally a stones throw away from the festival grounds is the desert city of Palm Springs. We usually stay in Palm Springs the few days before Coachella, last year we stayed in Rancho Mirage which is pretty close by. Beware, hotel prices hike up around festival time, so plan ahead. If you aren’t camping at the festival, there is a good chance you’re probably staying in Palm Springs already. It’s a unique place surrounded by high peaks and big blue skies. The perfect place to recharge and rest by the pool with a cocktail in the blistering sunshine.
  7. Las Vegas (approx. 4hrs)
    Not had enough partying over the weekend? Drive over to Las Vegas where the party never ends! The great thing about Vegas, in my opinion, is that it’s a destination where you can literally do everything. Want to relax by a pool and have a few spa treatments? You got it! Want to party 24/7? Sure! Want to eat amazing food, and have some fancy cocktails? You’re spoiled for choice! Want to see an amazing show? Take your pick! Want to gamble the night away? That’s what Vegas is all about!

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    Vegas baby!
  8. Santa Catalina Island (approx. 3.5hrs including boat ride)
    Catalina is one of those places I stumbled upon a while ago and have been wanting to visit ever since. A short 75minute boat ride from Newport beach, the island offers scuba and snorkeling, hikes, beaches and restaurants.
  9. Anaheim (approx. 2hrs)
    Why not head over to Anaheim where you can visit Disney and embrace being a big kid! Hang out with Mickey and explore the vast park full of fun and adventures. The area is pretty much centered around Disney, but if that is the purpose of your trip then embrace it. Downtown Disney is a wonderful place to wander around in the evening, and if you are spending a day at the park make sure you stay to check out the phenomenal fireworks display at night.

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    Just meeting Mickey Mouse, as you do!
  10. Santa Barbara (approx. 3.5hrs)
    You’ll probably be beginning to spot a recurring theme here, beautiful coastal California beaches are my weakness. Just a bit further up the coast from LA, Santa Barbara is famous for it’s beautiful beaches, fancy boutiques and nearby vineyards. Perfect for a relaxing break, soak up the sunshine and recharge your batteries.

 

So that’s it, these are just some of the many wonderful places to visit, within the vicinity of Coachella. I highly recommend planning ahead as a lot of people have the same idea and places get booked up well in advance. That said, if you are heading a bit further afield you might have a bit more luck if you’re looking for an off the cuff adventure. Most importantly, enjoy exploring this beautiful corner of America.

Top Ten … Coachella Tips

Coachella is just around the corner kicking off the music festival season. I’m sadly not going to Coachella this year, but I’ve been the previous two years, and have had an absolutely amazing time. Here are my top ten tips on how to get the most out of your festival experience, make your life a little bit easier and most importantly help you have fun!

 

  1. GET A LOCKER – We didn’t get one the first year, but we did last year and it was honestly the best $34 I have spent. Plus you get $20 back when you return the key so it’s really only $14. It meant that when we left our tent in the morning we could load up with everything we needed for the day and night; cardigans, hats, sunscreen, change of shoes, and not have to worry about looking like crazy bag ladies. Believe me when I say it gets cold in the desert at night, and changing into leggings and a long sleeve shirt or cardigan makes all the difference after being in the blistering sun all day.
  2. LAYERS AND SUNSCREEN – I cannot stress how hot it can get in the desert during the day and how cold it can be once the sun sets. Make sure to apply sunscreen regularly, you don’t want to get burnt on Friday and be miserable for the rest of the weekend. Wearing a hat is a great way to stay cool and keep the sun off your face too. The layers are for nighttime, waiting around for the headliner to start it gets pretty chilly, so being able to add an extra layer or put more clothes on is a welcome addition. Be prepared for all weather conditions too, the first year we went, there was a crazy sandstorm, and I was so glad I had a scarf and sunglasses with me so I could cover my face.
  3. FREEBIES – Make the most of the freebies available. Sephora has an amazing booth that has hair and make up stations so you can make yourself look picture perfect ready to step over to the photo station. One year they were giving away hair ties as you entered, another year they had a Instagram powered vending machine that dropped a prize when you posted with a certain hashtag. Another booth was giving away Fruttare ice lollies, and last year the JBL booth had free massages, and an awesome photo booth.
  4. GET MERCHANDISE EARLY – If you want to get something from the merchandise booth I advise you do it early, especially if you are there for Weekend 2. Sizes and styles sell out, so don’t wait and end up disappointed. Plus if you get a locker you can just put your new t-shirt, poster, tote in there and not have to worry about it for the rest of the day.
  5. USE POLO GROUND TOILETS – This is something I wish I had discovered earlier, porter potties are the worst part of the festival experience, in my opinion. There are a couple of real washrooms located in the festival ground, near the Craft Beer Barn. Don’t be put off by the long lines, they move quickly and it is so worth the wait for flushing toilets and sinks with running water and soap. If you find that you need to use the porter potties, I suggest going to the very back where they have washrooms in trailers which are a step up from the porter potties. If all else fails and you find yourself having to use the porter potties, do so early in the morning. They get emptied and cleaned overnight so are pretty bearable early in the morning.
  6. NO METAL TENT PEGS ALLOWED – We had our metal tent pegs taken away from us before we entered the camp ground the first year we went. You can buy plastic tent pegs at the general store in the camp ground, but we didn’t discover that until the last day, and so ended up using water bottles and suitcases to weigh our tent down; not the best plan in the world especially when there is a crazy sandstorm happening. My advice; take out your metal tent pegs and buy some plastic tent pegs in advance.
  7. MAKE A NOTE OF KEY LOCATIONS – The camp ground is huge, make sure you know which street your tent is on, or where you need to go to get picked up, there is nothing worse than coming back to the camp ground after a long day to find yourself aimlessly wandering looking for you tent or pick up point. Another tip I would recommend would be to arrange to have a plan should you get separated from your party. Pick a tent, sculpture, booth to go to should you end up split up from the rest of your group so you don’t spend hours looking for one another among the thousands of people in the grounds.
  8. USE THE APP – Plan ahead and use the app. It is a great way to plan the lineup you want to see and arranges it by time and stage, giving you a rough idea of when you should head to different stage to see an artist. The app also has a list of vendors, as well as a map which can be incredibly helpful if this is your first time at the festival. Look at the line up beforehand, you can listen to artists you aren’t familiar with and maybe even make a new discovery that you might want to check out. Festivals are a great place to discover new artists.
  9. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! – You cannot take food or drink into the festival grounds, but you can take an empty or reusable water bottle so you can refill it at one of the many water stations dotted around the festival ground. Sometimes the lines can be pretty long, but they tend to move quickly, filling up once a set has started is the best time as the lines are a lot shorter. There are many vendors selling water, but at $2 a bottle it can quickly add up whilst you are trying to stay hydrated in the hot desert sun.
  10. GET A BATTERY PACK – Yes, there are charging stations located throughout the festival grounds, but they are always very crowded. Some of the booths have charging stations too, but once again you are not guaranteed a space, and if you are camping you don’t want to have to turn your car on just to charge your phone. I got myself a battery pack, and it was a bit of a lifesaver, as it was small enough to stick in my purse and charge my phone on the go. Make sure you put your phone on flight mode whilst charging as it makes the whole process a lot faster.

Most importantly make sure you enjoy yourself, Coachella is such a wonderful experience so make the most of it! Explore the festival grounds as it is full of amazing sculptures, booths and fun things to see. Whilst it is great to see your favourite artist, try and mix it up and see new artists and bands you might not have heard of before, festivals are wonderful places to discover the next big thing. I once read that you should treat festivals as taster sessions as you can always catch your favourite artist next time they come to town. I try to stick with that theory to some extent, but sometimes you just have to see the entire set, so soak up every minute and enjoy!