Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The ABBA Museum

Since we were planning on being in Stockholm for about a week, we knew there would be days that we wouldn't be able to use our Stockholm Pass.  Fortunately for us, there were things we really wanted to do that weren't available to us on the pass.  One of those things was the ABBA Museum.

Yes, of course!  Only in Stockholm is there an entire museum dedicated to the musical group, ABBA.  Upon entrance to the museum, there is a gift shop to the left, a cafe to the right, and exhibits downstairs.  First a stop to the free lockers.  This is pretty common in Stockholm museums and attractions:  free lockers to keep you from needing to carry your bags with you the entire day.  As you proceed into the exhibit space you are launched into a history lesson on each of the four members of the band, complete with artifacts and information on the artistic backgrounds of each prior to formulating ABBA.  Next, a visual display featuring the many costumes designed for the band.  

If the history of this pop groups doesn't appeal to you, the museum's got you covered.  There's a plethora of interactive experiences to enjoy.  For the techie in us all, a hands-on exhibit allowing you to digitally remaster an ABBA song.  They give you the raw tracks, and you get to decide on all of the levels.  At the end, you are scored on how close your mix was to the original.  

If performance is more your speed, you can karaoke any ABBA song in a sound booth that will rate
your vocal skill according to how close you come to the original recording.  Moreover, you can take the stage and dance with holograms of the group to one of several ABBA song choices.  

For those of you with children, there is a special children's theater featuring an ABBA cartoon that takes children on a journey of the four friends' careers from start to finish.  I am a huge ABBA fan, and so is my partner, so we were both pleased as punch with our experience.  If you feel as though your family is split in terms of their interest in ABBA, you might consider the bonus exhibits.  If you keep going further into the ABBA museum you see a rather large side exhibit dedicated to popular European music through the decades.  My partner is also a great lover of Jazz and found some rather interesting pieces of music history there as well.  

Admission to this museum is 250,00 SEK (about $30 USD).  So, this one is a splurge.  They do have a family ticket option, which can save you some money (good for 2 adults, and up to 4 kids).  I genuinely do love ABBA, so this was well worth the splurge!  

Next, we went for pre-planned splurge #2.  The Absolute Icebar (complete write-up coming soon)...

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The 10 Best Holiday Gifts for Travel-Lovers

When I need to come up with the perfect gift for someone, I really struggle.  I am at a point in my life where I really don't want a bunch of extra stuff to store, or clutter up my space.  I also don't want to be the reason other people have clutter either.  I really like gifts that are either experiential, extremely useful, or otherwise make some of my life experiences easier or more enjoyable.   That being said, I have compose a list of my top gift recommendations for the traveler in your life.

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1.  A Universal Travel Adapter

This thing is amazing!  This is the exact one that I have.  It is small, easy to pack or store, and works in over 150 countries.  Given how inexpensive these little devices are, there's no reason not to have one in your suitcase.  This adapter allows the user to plug in any of their devices the old-fashion way or via USB as needed.

2.  A Portable Cell Phone Charger

This is the exact one that I currently use.   I used to be one of those people tethered to the wall outlet in the halls of the airport, seated on the ground, waiting for my phone to have enough charge on it.  Well, I'm not that person anymore.  Now, I can be seated anywhere, or even on the go and have my phone charging as needed.  Originally, I bought it to slip into a special cell phone charging pocket of my suitcase, but truth be known, it can easily be thrown into a purse or backpack for every day usage.  Bonus:  It's got two USB ports, allowing it to charge multiple devices at a time.

3.  Headphones

I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten to pack my headphones because I can't do it much ahead of time.  I use headphones during my daily commute so, they frequently don't make it into my travel gear.  It's not a problem for me anymore!  This is the set that's been designated for travel.  It's inexpensive, and lives in my suitcase ready for take off.  Also, this Sony pair comes with a built in mic, so technically it can be used on the airplane, or your cell phone.  Don't worry; it comes in other colors.  This is just the one that I like best!

4.  Carry-On Size Suitcase

I cannot tell you how much I love this suitcase (but I'll sure try)!  I know almost everyone sings the praises of Samsonite, and I agree that they're great, but what most people don't realize is that Delsey's been around since 1946, when they got their start making leather cases (camera bags, etc.).  I have searched high and low for a suitcase I love, and this is it!  First of all, I am a light packer, and prefer to use a carry-on.  Additionally, I love compartments.  There is a compartment on the outside sized for you to place a charging pack (like the one listed on #2). It has a tiny hole for your charging cord to come out through, thus allowing you to plug your device in from the comfort of you suitcase.  Furthermore, there is a small, square lined pocket that can be unzipped from the outside, allowing you to place something inside of your suitcase without it touching you other things.  For example.  Once I am in the airport, I might take off my coat, fold it up, and place it in this pocket.  Since the pocket is lined, my potentially damp coat will not touch my other clothing.  I can also access it again without getting into my entire suitcase.  I can't tell you how much I love this feature.  You don't realize how handy it is until you are in the airport  wanting to stash a coat, or swap shoes, etc.  There are also some pockets inside of the suitcase.  The one that captures my attention the most is a small, waterproof pouch.  This pouch is terrific for dirty clothing, or wet bathing suits.  It's waterproof nature means that it's contents won't taint clean or dry items in the rest of the suitcase.  Overall, the quality is durable, the price is relatively modest, and it's organizational features are first rate. The traveler in your life is sure to be thrilled with it.

5.  Under-the-Seat Suitcase

This Delsey suitcase is very much the same as the carry-on size that I have, but even smaller.  This is for the ultra-lite packer, and can be stashed under an airline seat.  The beautiful thing about it is that it has many of the same organizational features that can be found in the larger sizes (only compact).

6.  Hanging Toiletries Bag

One of the most annoying things about traveling (especially on multi-destination trips) can be packing and unpacking your toiletries.  If you have the right kind of set, this can be as easy as pulling it out of a suitcase, and hanging it in the bathroom.  It also makes repacking a much easier task!

7.  Packing Cubes

Packing cubes will change the way you travel!  Even if the travel-lover in your life has a set, these are useful.  I find that mixing and matching between regular travel cubes and slender.  I find the larger ones useful for bulkier items.

8.  Slender Packing Cubes

The slender cubes are great for making slightly less bulky items more compact.  As previously stated, I feel that combining regular styles with slim styles often yields the best result.

9.  Traveler's Wall Map

Any travel lover is literally guaranteed to fall in love with this piece of art.  This beautiful wall hanging comes with multi-colored push pins designed to track the travels of it's owner.  Not only is it a wonderful conversation starter, but it also comes in both standard and personalized designs.

10.  Travel Journal

Travel lovers are frequently passionate about documenting their adventures.  I personally use a leather bound travel journal with unlined pages so that I can paste items into it, in addition to jotting notes about my discoveries and experiences.

What are the go-to gifts for the traveler in your life?  If you are a frequent traveler, what are some of the best gifts that have enhanced your travel experiences?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Stockholm Pass

Stockholm, Sweden, "The Venice of the North," a city that has captured my heart.  I most highly recommend this gem of a city to anyone looking for a European getaway.  We elected to spend a week in Sweden, the majority of which was in Stockholm.  The one thing about Stockholm, as with most Scandinavian cities, is that it's pretty expensive.  There are, however, ways to reduce your costs.  One of which is to purchase the Stockholm Pass. 

You can purchase the Stockholm Pass online, or at any number of outlets once you're in Stockholm (hotels, retail locations, etc.).  You can buy a Stockholm Pass for 24, 48, or 72 hours.  The folks at the visitor's center gave us two complimentary 48 Hour Stockholm Passes to review and write about.  If I had purchased this, it would have cost SEK 795.00, which is equal to about $95 (USD).    The Stockholm Pass allows you entrance into over 60 attractions.  This includes Sightseeing tours, museums, palaces, monuments,  as well as, hop-on-hop-off buses and boats. 

As if this isn't already a huge money saver, a 48 hour Stockholm Pass is actually good for 48 hours from the time you first use it!  We first used our pass at 11:00 AM and used it all that day, and the following day.  That third day when we woke up, we went to the place that gives you tickets for boat tours, and got in line.  By 9:00 AM, we had our tickets for a 1:00 boat tour called "Under the Bridges of Stockholm" that would take about 2 hours.  We still had time on the pass, so we grabbed a hop-on-hop-off boat across the water to the Nordic Museum.  By the time we left the Nordic Museum, our Stockholm Pass was expired so we had to take public transit back to catch our boat tour.  Since we had already been issued a ticket to the boat tour, it didn't matter that our pass had expired.  

In the United States, we typically get passes for things, and they are good for a certain number of days, but those "days" expire at midnight, or the end of the business day.  The Stockholm Pass is actually good for the number of hours that you purchased.  Because of this fact, I was able to get three days of activities out of a 48 hour pass.  Now THAT'S what I call a great deal!