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We’re getting close to the end of my travel posts, sadly!  This post was one of the most interesting ones to write.  There are so many resources in bookstores and across the (internet) universe about preparing for a trip, but so few that offer suggestions to make the most of your experience while you’re actually there.  Over the years, I’ve developed a loose set of guiding principles that I like to follow.  Check them out and let me know what you think!

Hit the streets.  I find a walk around my destination to be the most orienting way of introducing myself to it.  You get an idea for how far away everything *really* is on the map, what streets and landmarks are important for navigation, etc.  B likes to remind me that I have an unusually strong sense of direction though (I love that I was born to be a sailor), so I can usually navigate myself around a city by the end of the first day.  I would happily walk around all day long.  Just give me some coffee and a pair of sneakers and IT’S ON.  I have always found it to be the best way to fight jetlag.  Why do we let jetlag be such a “thing”?  Just get up and start moving.  Your body will figure out what it’s supposed to do.

I’ll usually ask my dad for recommendations first, if he’s been to the place I’m going (which he probably has).  He’s been to 28 countries and 43 states, so pretty much the only places I’ve been that he hasn’t are Austin and Ottawa.  People love talking about themselves and the places they’ve traveled to, so asking your friends for recommendations is great for all parties involved.  It also eliminates needing to spend much time on your phone looking for things while you’re already there.

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Wake up early.  Some of my favorite travel experiences have happened before 8 in the morning.  Sunrise over the Jefferson Memorial, Tribeca on a quiet Sunday morning, croissants on deserted rues….. If you can, get up early and see the city in its true form – before everyone else does.

Go where the locals go.  You’ll often find better deals, and more authentic culture, by doing so.

Do not throw your health by the wayside.  This is especially true for those traveling for business, where you’ll be sitting in a chair for much of the day.  Stick to your routine at home if you exercise regularly, but don’t be afraid to change up the method.  One of my favorite things in the world is traveling with my dad and waking up early to go on a (rather aggressive) walk across Manhattan to get Ess-A-Bagels.  I am quite sure he insists on staying on the west side to get the exercise in, but we earn those calories one way or another.  This is another reason that I will continue going to sleep early and waking up early on vacation.  Jetlag is bad enough without giving your body another different thing to adjust to.

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Travel by yourself at least once.  I know it can be intimidating to some, but I swear everyone is a better person having to go through customs in a foreign language alone.  My sister and I have both traveled internationally solo, and the compassion and patience you learn to show and appreciate is a gift that keeps on giving.

Learn at least some conversational basics in the native language.  Honestly, it goes such a long way.  I also desperately look forward to the day where Americans are not viewed as THE WORST tourists in the rest of the world, so please, help a sister out here.

Travel during the shoulder (or off) season when possible.  When B and I decided to go to San Francisco, I did what I always do… Pull up the monthly weather for the city.  Do you want to know what the temperature difference between the warmest month (September) and May (when we found the best flight price) is?  Five degrees.  5.  Do you want to know what the plane ticket price difference was?  At least $130 each.  And that’s not even considering the corresponding inflation of hotel prices.  Is the 5 degrees, and swarths of other tourists worth it?  You tell me.  But I will happily take my $200 and buy some dim sum with it.

Sometimes you may benefit from a “don’t ask” approach.  I particularly love trying food that I don’t know the ingredients of.  I have some predisposed notions of not loving certain things, and sometimes a change in preparation is all that’s needed to change your mind.

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(The pictures in this post were all taken in LA!)

San Francisco

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While we were in the Bay Area, there were tons of spots we wanted to check out.  We went to Napa Valley, Muir Woods, Sausalito, San Jose to visit B’s family, and even took a drive down to Monterey and Big Sur.  This didn’t leave too much time to explore San Francisco, but we saw as much as we could in the three days we did have!

I was expecting to be cold all the time and shrouded by fog at least for the greater part of each day.  These things everyone always said about San Francisco, but were not true at all the three days we were there.  We walked out onto sunny streets each morning, and I was a little overdressed in sweaters two out of three days.  This unbelievable stretch of weather we had was perfect for all of the outdoor ventures I had planned.

Where To Stay.

Hotel Zoe.  This was the hotel I had originally planned on booking.  If you want to spend most of your time near the Marina District or Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s probably a great bet!

We opted for an Airbnb since they are so much more reasonably priced then most hotels, and generally with much better locations throughout the city.  Feel free to email me ( if you want to know the place we stayed – our host was great and the location worked out perfectly for us!

Where To Eat.  

Maven.  The first day we were in San Francisco, we went to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies and were walking around the Lower Haight area, with some time to kill before our dinner reservation.  We stopped in Maven and grabbed some seats at the bar, almost instantly ordering the rhubarb crumble (topped with pistachio bourbon ice cream!)  It was so amazing, I would recommend checking this place out just based on that one dish.  They also have a sizable selection of wine, beer, and cocktails.  Every detail of the interior design was better than the next- from the live edge bar, to the open floor plan, and the greenery filled wall!

Hong Kong Lounge II.  There was no question we would be having dim sum at least once while we were out west.  Even though there were plenty of recommendations, we decided on this one.  Everything we had was amazing, but I particularly loved the dumplings!

Akiko’s.  Another non-negotiable SF food I knew we had to have was sushi.  Akiko’s is a small and very cool place so, as with everywhere in San Francisco, I would highly recommend making a reservation beforehand!  The quality of the fish here is outstanding, though I wasn’t super impressed with the assembly of their maki rolls, so I would definitely recommend going with a nigiri or sashimi tasting!


Coqueta.  B and I absolutely adore tapas, so we made a reservation at the waterfront Coqueta as our last dinner of vacation and it absolutely did not disappoint!  They started off strong: with a location on the water, huge windows with views of the bay, and a huge ceiling with exposed beams and pipes.  Our reservation was for the chef’s counter, a bar perfect for couples who want to sit close or for foodies who want to look into the kitchen and watch the artful preparation of their meal!  We started off with a pitcher of sangria (11/10 would recommend) and the Iberian cheese plate, which you can really never go wrong with.  All the tapas we ordered and the churros we got for dessert were amazing, but I would love to go back again to try their paella and manchego cheesecake!

Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.  The Insta Famous bakery has a different flavor of Cruffin (croissant muffin hybrid) each day of the week, which changes quarterly.  We went on a Monday morning, so the line to pick up one of the famed pastries wasn’t too bad.  You definitely have to check it out (and snap a pic of their neon sign!)


Boudin’s Bakery.  Home of the original San Francisco Sourdough, you definitely have to get clam chowder in one of their legendary bread bowls while you’re in town.  I didn’t particular want to go to Fisherman’s Wharf, having a personal track record for impatience in that type of tourist trap, but we went after our Alcatraz cruise solely thanks to B’s recommendation of Boudin’s and it was 100% worth it.  If the clam chowder can impress two native New Englanders, it can impress anyone.

Ferry Building.  One of my very favorite activities in a new city is to snack my way around some local treats (shout out to my Dad who taught me the joy in eating one’s way around cities).  Places like New York’s Chelsea Market and San Francisco’s Ferry Building make this super easy to do!  The Ferry Building is absolutely gorgeous both inside and outside, plus I love that you can pop outside the back to enjoy your treats by the bay!  (Check out all the merchants, food and otherwise, here).

What To Do.

Alcatraz.  The only thing B said he absolutely wanted to do on vacation was the Alcatraz tour, and it certainly did not disappoint.  Make sure to buy your tickets it in advance, since some of the times will sell out.  We chose to take the earliest tour possible, since the island would be slightly less crowded than it would by the time more visitors arrived.  The ferry ride over to the island was very enjoyable, and the audio tour of the penitentiary is absolutely incredible.

Golden Gate Park.  Let me just start this off by saying Golden Gate Park is huge.  It’s beautiful, but it’s also huge.  I think you could spend a full day here and still not see everything that’s housed inside.  The Japanese Tea Garden is absolutely stunning in its serenity, and the Conservatory of Flowers should not be missed either!  There is even an aquarium and a fine arts museum on the grounds, so even if a stroll amongst nature wasn’t on your itinerary, there’s probably something here for you.

Presidio.  This former military post was one of the coolest places we saw.  In modern day, it’s basically a huge outdoor playground and a hub of SF history.  Once you’re here, there are two free shuttles that will take you around the park, plus a free shuttle that will take you back across SF to the downtown area!  I mean, how great is that?!  Their website has a comprehensive guide to planning your perfect trip to the Presidio, but definitely make sure you get in some history at the Officer’s Club and some stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge down at Chrissy Fields!

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Alamo Square.  We weren’t planning on going to see the famous Full House street, but we found ourselves with some extra time so we went anyway.  The park is quite nice, the houses are stunning, but there’s a gorgeous tile mural on the Hayes Street entrance to Alamo Square that you really shouldn’t miss.  I was so impressed!

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Lands End.  The only place on our list that we didn’t have time to get to was Lands End.  I’ve heard that the sunsets here are absolutely stunning, and who doesn’t want a short hike followed by some beach time in California?!

Where are your favorite places in San Francisco??  Let me know in the comments!

Planning A Trip: Research

Welcome to Day 2 of Planning A Trip!

The very first thing I do when it comes down to planning is booking the flights, which may seem sort of obvious to some, since they tend to vary more in price than anything else.  They’re also much harder to cancel than a hotel reservation, so booking the flights means we’re really going on a trip!

I always do quite a bit of Googling when I’m looking to go somewhere.  Some frequent searches are “Best Time To Visit Puerto Rico” or “Monthly Weather Charleston”.  I always like to cross reference the search results of these with the Google Flights fare schedule, and it usually yields some pretty good information.  The average temperatures and number of rainy days sometimes scarcely vary between the busiest travel times and the shoulder season, which allows you to save some money and travel during a slower season that’s only a few degrees cooler.

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I always at least try to fly loyally.  Even when I know I’m going to fly JetBlue, I still use Google Flights while doing my research.  I love how visually everything is laid out, and you can really see how the price varies between dates.  I just make sure to use their awesome filters so I’m only seeing nonstop flights from JetBlue.

I’m also at a place in my life where I’m traveling domestically pretty heavily (trying to take advantage of that TSA Precheck!) and not as much internationally, which is an entirely different animal.

To be quite honest, the early steps of planning (re: hotels and rental cars) are hands down my least favorite aspects of traveling.  I really don’t care about hotels much for 95% of my travels.  Since I don’t do much beach or resort travel, there’s no reason to spend thousands of dollars per night on somewhere that essentially just needs to have a bed and a shower.

Since I’m looking to explore the location I’m in and not the hotel, I tend to also travel pretty loyally to Marriott, so I always check their website directly first to check to see what kind of rates they’re offering (for more about why I travel loyally, check out my How I Afford To Travel post!)

Depending on the location I’m traveling to, and whether or not I have a car, I’ll generally consider staying outside the city center to get $100 off the room price and free parking.  In places like Austin this has worked greatly to my advantage, especially since we were only actually spending one day in Downtown Austin.  In Nashville, however, Mac and I were mostly exploring the Gulch and Broadway, so we opted to stay right downtown within walking distance of almost everything, taking a few Ubers when necessary, since it was so much cheaper than renting a car and staying farther away from everything we wanted to do.

The last step of hotel research that I do is all about bed bugs.  It’s important to preface this by saying my germaphobia in general is what my mom calls “neurotic” and what I call “thorough”.  I wipe down every surface in the entire hotel room with an antibacterial wipe as soon as I get there, and I absolutely never walk around on a hotel floor with bare feet.  This sort of paranoia extends into bed bugs as well.  The internet is super helpful in finding out if the place you’re going has any sort of record with bed bugs.  In places like Manhattan and San Francisco, which see so many travelers from all corners of the globe, it can be really hard to find an affordable hotel that has zero reports, so something within a three or four year grace period I’ll usually let slide.  This is just another reason I prefer to stay at a Marriott over an Airbnb when possible, because big hotels tend to have facility management and protocols in place if a traveler brings along some unwanted friends; plus, their reputation is on the line.  It’s always advised to do your own bed bug investigation once you check in.

For rental cars, I don’t shop loyally as much.  I’ve found Hertz to generally have some of the best prices, especially if you have AAA.  While I was under 25 they waived the young driver fee which was huge (plus, you can add on a second driver for free if they are also a AAA member).  B tends to also get some pretty great rates with his “perks at work” program, so those can be worth looking into as well.

I also think it’s pretty important and responsible to start making a travel budget.  Once I have an idea on the most affordable options, what kind of attractions we’re doing, and such, I’ll start to break down the budget.  For San Francisco, it looked like this.

Different people will, of course, have a different idea of their budget based on varying priorities (some might think budgeting almost $40 for coffee is ludicrous, but exploring coffee culture is important to us, especially in somewhere as significant in the coffee world as San Francisco!)  I also way overestimated for transportation, quite frankly because I wasn’t interested in spending time researching those costs and we walked a lot.  But it’s always better to overestimate and allow yourself some wiggle room!

Next up, the more fun part of planning, is deciding what to do!  When going someplace totally new, it can be overwhelming trying to understand giant lists of neighborhoods, attractions and restaurants.  Google Drive is invaluable in these early stages.  It gives you an opportunity to put all of the information you’ve found down in one place and go back to it no matter where you are.  Plus, when you’re traveling with someone else you can both work on the planning doc together!  In these early stages, I’ll write down everything I find, highlighting the neighborhood next to it.  Then later on down the road, I don’t have to go back and find this information when I try to find a place to eat after the attraction.  Then, once I’ve found pretty much everything there is to find in the destination, I can start eliminating things until the list gets down to a more manageable size.  After that, cross-referencing the attractions and restaurants can help me prioritize everything and get an idea for what is manageable, and what is actually 2 hours outside of the city!

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I use blogs and Instagram accounts quite frequently in my research process, especially in looking at finding restaurants.  Where locals go to spend their hard earned cash on a Wednesday night is exactly where I want to be eating on vacation.  Eater is also one of my favorite resources, to find out what’s popping right now, or where the quintessential cuisine of your destination can be found.

I can be somewhat of an obsessive planner (or a control freak, depending on who you ask).  I spend so much time researching a destination before I arrive to make sure I eliminate things I don’t care to see, aka things that are frequently the top results on Google.  I’ve tried to develop a balancing act of having a plan, while not overbooking myself to the point of every sight just becoming an item on a checklist.

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My sister and I travel best when we have at least some sort of a schedule.  I love finding the local food scene, but Michaela has celiac’s disease; so this could lead to some stressful and hangry moments were it not for proper planning beforehand.  When we went to Nashville, we did a broad overview of what each day would look like, so I could spend some time finding gluten free places in the area that worked with Mac’s dietary restrictions, while also letting me explore Nashville’s culinary identity.  In the end, it looked something like this.


Looking at this schedule, it almost looks like we were jam packed for the entire trip.  But realistically, we still had so much time to fit in other activities around this schedule (we even went to two more museums than we planned!)  We’ve been practicing getting in each other’s faces for 23 years, so needless to say we can be pretty good at it when the hanger starts getting in.  We knew after many trips to NYC together that having an idea of what we were doing each day – and having a place with good celiac reviews nearby – was going to make our trip the best and smoothest it could possibly be.  When visiting familiar destinations like NYC, we’ll usually just pick somewhat of a starting point for the day and work our way to the end point on a very loose schedule.

A look at how I planned to go to San Francisco with B is a lot different, but the core Google Drive is still there!

Once we decided to go to San Francisco, we quickly realized that this city is just as expensive as everyone says.  All of my normal planning avenues were failing me.  We didn’t want to stay outside of the city when we wouldn’t have a car, and even the lower tiered Marriott’s were more costly than I would have liked.  I was ready to book a room at the chic Hotel Zoe, when B found an amazing price for an Airbnb in Nob Hill.  Since it was more centrally located and in more of a local neighborhood, we decided it would be a better option for us than staying near Fisherman’s Wharf.

I desperately wanted to go to Yosemite, but we quickly realized it wasn’t really feasible this trip.  Instead, we opted for some more time spent outside of the city in Napa, Muir Woods, and Sausalito; and decided to save Half Dome for its own special trip.  A fair share of logistic hurdles arose while planning (making sure we were around to hang out with Bryan’s sister and brother in law on the weekend, not leaving our suitcases in the car EVER to avoid break-ins, etc), but with some time spent arranging attractions like puzzle pieces, we found a way to fit in everywhere we wanted to see without feeling rushed.

With B, food isn’t as much of an issue as it can be with my sister (through no fault of her own).  Knowing we could both eat anywhere, we decided to plan our dinners ahead of time, so we could find the best meals at the best prices and enjoy some date nights during the trip; figuring we would be able to grab a burrito or something quick for lunch along the way.

Sketching out a loose itinerary was particularly helpful for this trip, since we had to book some things in advance.  Once I compiled a list into (you guessed it) Google Docs of all the activities available to us, we were able to funnel everything into priority attractions, secondary attractions, and the things we really didn’t need to see.  We tried to plan only 2-3 things (including meals) each day, giving us additional time to explore as we went, but making sure we didn’t miss anything we really wanted to see.  Then, depending on how each day unfolded, we could pick items from the secondary list to hit up, should we find the time.


A great tip I’ve found for trying to plan out your travel days is to always look at tours.  Even if you don’t plan on taking one, tours can give you a good idea of what you can fit into one day (for example, Muir Woods and Sausalito is a popular tour bus combination, so I knew we could do them both in one day).

Make sure you stop by next Wednesday for the third installment of Planning A Trip!

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(The photos in this post were all taken in Paris!)

xo, C

My Go To Airport Outfit

I’m going to be pretty blunt with you all.  I have been raging war against airport fashion since I was ten and saw my fellow children getting on the airplane in pajamas (didn’t they know what my mom said about pajamas not being acceptable in public?!)

That being said, airports are the only place I don’t overdress for.  Au contraire, I am probably judging you pretty hard if you wear stilettos to the airport.

My travel outfit is pretty much what I can be most comfortable in without sacrificing personal appearance.  For example, sneakers I can get on board with, leggings I cannot.

Long Blazer.  The long blazer is crucial to looking polished, but keeping yourself warm during your flight.  This is an old blazer-coat hybrid from Old Navy, but I love this one and this one.

Uniqlo Leggings Pants.  These were a recent addition to my travel wardrobe and I would recommend them to everyone going on a long haul flight.  I normally just wear jeans to the airport, but these are so comfortable for those cross-country flights, while looking like jeans!  Plus, they’re only $30.  You’re welcome.

Nikes.  I used to exclusively travel in white lifestyle sneakers (think Chuck Taylors or Stan Smiths), but I’ve been loving the comfort and walkability of Nikes.  I have TSA Precheck, so I don’t have to take my shoes off at the airport, but the sock form makes it super easy to slide in and out of if you do!

Cape Scarf or Travel Wrap.  I know I’m not the only one out there who gets cold on planes… This travel wrap from Target is absolutely perfect – you can wear it as a scarf or as a cape, and even use it as a blanket!

Layers.  Most obviously, I always wear layers I can take on or off, particularly based on the arrival destination.  If I’m going somewhere down south, a t-shirt will be perfect for the warm sunshine waiting!

What’s your travel uniform?  Let me know in the comments!

xo, C

Introduction to Travel Month on The Sol Compass!


Hello everyone – welcome back!  Today kicks off “Travel Month” on The Sol Compass.  I’ve been working hard over the past two months with Mac, Bryan, and my parents to hone in on what it is that makes traveling so enjoyable for me (yes, even the actual ‘traveling’ part).  Over the month of May I’m going to share comprehensive guides and tips about traveling, since they are my favorite things to research and read about!


I have always loved traveling.  Ever since I was a little girl, my parents always made traveling to new places and experiencing different things a priority.  My mom would teach us all about the animals we saw at the zoo, and my dad would quiz us after leaving a museum to make sure we were reading and learning while we were there.  Our family vacations are the best memories of my first 18 years, and they inspired me to prioritize traveling as an adult as well.


It is so easy to get stuck in what you “must do” when planning a trip that you can find yourself forgetting about your own personal interests and preferences.  I think one of the most freeing moments I’ve had was when I realized I didn’t *have* to do anything, anywhere.  Taking the path less reviewed on the Internet has led me to the most amazing places, and this journey is what I want to share with all of you, including how I found what it is about traveling that fills me with life.


Through hours of extremely thorough research and some trial and error, I have developed somewhat of a routine to use for every aspect of going on vacation.  Everything from what I pack in my carry on to how I decide where to travel will be covered, and I can’t wait to finally start writing about this passion of mine!

So what can you expect to see on the blog this month?  How I plan a trip, broken down into three sections; some guides to the places Mac and I are traveling to this spring; how I organize myself while packing; and tips on traveling solo, with an allergy, and for work!


Make sure to check back in on Monday to see Mac’s first installment (if you have no idea who I’m talking about, meet my sister Mac here!)  In the meantime, you can see all of my past travel posts here.

(The pictures in this post are from my summer trip to Germany, Frankfurt and Rudesheim am Rhein five years ago!  It was before I started blogging, and I’ve never shared them on here – but I do get a kick out of seeing how pixelated my pictures were back then!)

Thanks for stopping by – see you all next week!

xo, C (and M!)

Stress Free Travel

Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a big fan of exploration.  Whether it’s a new restaurant, a new neighborhood, or a new city; I’m always the first to say ‘yes’ to a new experience.  Unfortunately, adventuring outside Boston usually involves a lot of driving, and sitting in a car for four or more hours can really get tiring after a while.  When I’m sitting inactive for so long, all I can think about is the other things I could be doing during those precious hours.  On my many drives to New York City to visit my family, I’ve wished that I was able to work on the blog, catch up on some reading, or even just answer emails without crushing my data plan and/or getting nauseas.

Enter Amtrak with the solution to all of my problems.


Taking a train to your destination opens up so much travel time.  When you’re traveling on the same schedule as everyone else is (namely weekends, especially of the ‘long’ and ‘summer’ variety), driving can take twice as long.  Amtrak trains don’t get stuck in weekend traffic, so you’re guaranteed to get to your destination on time.  The best part about this is that I was able to spend our four hour train ride from Boston to NYC (nearly impossible on a Friday during the summer!) doing whatever I wanted.  With onboard wifi, you’re able to catch up on sleep, reading, work, or even OITNB!  Having some time to be productive while traveling for a fun weekend makes adventuring so much more possible, and I loved being able to enjoy every second of my trip without stressing out about work or leaving at the ‘right time’ to avoid traffic!


If your ideal train doesn’t involve a gang of giggling girls going on vacation, Amtrak has a quiet car for a ‘library-like atmosphere’, perfect for sleeping or some intense studying!  The one on our car was located just past the snack car, which is a great excuse to get up and stretch your legs a bit and really convenient if you forgot to bring snacks!


For over 40 years, Amtrak has been providing this hassle-free transportation to over 500 destinations in the US and Canada.  If you’re a high school or college student, you can save 10% with the Student Advantage Card!.  Amtrak also offers all different deals and regional fares on their deals page that you can view here.  When you find the right rate, Amtrak can make all your traveling easy and stress-free.  I take the Boston to NYC trip several times a year, and never felt as relaxed as I did while taking the Amtrak train.  Knowing that I would pull into Penn Station, conveniently located in Midtown Manhattan, on time without hitting any traffic after a productive trip allowed me to relax and calm my inner ragey Bostonian driver.


Have any of you ever taken an Amtrak train? I’d love to hear more about your experiences in the comments below!  I’m currently working on planning a long weekend trip with some friends, and Amtrak will definitely be on our planning radar this time around!

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

xo, Caitlin

This post is sponsored by Amtrak and Her Campus Media.  All opinions expressed are my own.  Thank you for supporting the brands that make The Sol Compass possible!

Summer Loves

Summer Loves

beach towel | slide sandals | embroidered dress | crossbody bag | pompom scarf | boater hat | sunglasses | iPhone case | S’well water bottle | water resistant speaker | water fan | underwater camera 

I have been on a major blue and orange kick lately, which is evident based on my shopping habits this month! Here are some of my favorite items for the end of June- which is your favorite?!

xo, Caitlin