Visit New Orleans: The National World War II Museum

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit the World War II Museum in New Orleans. My visit ended up being a highlight of my time in New Orleans, and shed light on a war that all Americans are vaguely familiar with, but don’t know enough about.

Inside the World War II Museum | © Lauryn Wilder
Inside the World War II Museum | © Lauryn Wilder

I began my day in the French Quarter, with some beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde. I have a tendency to get up at the crack of dawn no matter where I am, vacation or not, so I needed to kill a little time before the museum opened.

When I was done at Cafe du Monde, I started the walk toward the World War II Museum. I enjoy walking anywhere and everywhere I can in a new place; it’s the best way for me to learn the layout of a new city, and find places to eat or shops to visit. The walk to the museum took me through Jackson Square, where I got to see some of the few remaining Confederate statues in the city.  

Pencil drawings of soldiers, by soldiers | © Lauryn Wilder
Pencil drawings of soldiers, by soldiers | © Lauryn Wilder

When you get to the museum, you’re directed to the ticket counter where you are handed a “dog tag” of a real-life veteran. My veteran was a female pilot named Geri Nyman; throughout the “Road to Berlin” exhibit, I learned about her life before the war and her experiences as one of the first female pilots in the American military. Learning her story while going through the exhibits made going through the museum feel more personal to me; as someone without a World War II veteran in the family, Geri gave me a face to associate with the time period and the cultural makeup of the time.


The collection of the National World War II Museum encompasses four buildings, including the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, and The Boeing Center. Each building’s exhibits cover different aspects of the war; from the warfront in the South Pacific, to the events that started the worldwide conflict in Germany. Inside the Boeing Center, visitors get an up-close look at the vehicles and aircrafts that propelled the war effort forward.

Pin-up girls | © Lauryn Wilder
Pin-up girls | © Lauryn Wilder

I was surprised at the emotion I felt walking through the halls of the World War II Museum. Reading the letters of soldiers to their sweethearts, listening to Geri Nyman’s story, and learning details about the concentration camps that were never made available in school almost brought me to tears. The examples of wartime propaganda in the Road to Tokyo exhibit were reminiscent of our current political climate, particularly between North Korea and  the United States.  

Wartime Propaganda | © Lauryn Wilder
Wartime Propaganda | © Lauryn Wilder
Wartime Propaganda | © Lauryn Wilder
Wartime Propaganda | © Lauryn Wilder

World War II changed everything. It changed relations between countries, and how military operations are carried out. The war brought women to the workforce, and set the stage for the founding of the United Nations and the Cold War. The National World War II Museum tells the stories of the men and women involved in this global conflict, and their heroic effort to preserve freedom for those throughout the world.


Tips on Dressing for Humidity



Packing is one of the least fun things about going on vacation. You want to bring enough but not too much, while leaving enough room for any souvenirs or trinkets you may find along the way. I usually leave packing until a day or two before I’m due to depart, and I check the weather forecast up to a week before I leave. My primary concern when I travel is packing weather-appropriate clothing, since I’ve caught myself too many times without the proper coat, or without any umbrella. Since I come from a hot, arid climate it’s a little difficult for me to plan for snow or humidity. After many instances of trial and error, I’ve finally learned a few helpful hints to manage in clammy environments.

  1. Loose fabric. You don’t want to wear anything that is too tight in humid climates. If it clings to your skin, it will cause you to sweat more. Dresses are a great option for spring and summer; if you’re traveling during colder months, layering loose fabric is the way to go.
  2. Cotton is your best friend in tropical climates. Cotton isn’t a form-fitting fabric, and the material allows for sweat to absorb quickly. Linen and rayon are also good options for this kind of weather.
  3. Bring an umbrella if rain is in the forecast. You may not need it in the end, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  4. Bring sandals whenever possible. Sandals and flip-flops aren’t always practical in humid climates, but if you can get away with them – go for it. They will not only keep your feet from sweating, but they take up less room in your suitcase. Win-win. If it’s too cold for flip-flops or sandals, stick to lightweight, comfortable shoes.
  5. Sports bras. When I go on vacation, I prefer to pack sports bras over regular bras. Underwire and humidity is a recipe for itching and general discomfort, and when I’m on vacation I’d like to avoid that as much as possible. This isn’t practical for every outfit or occasion obviously, so I would bring a nice one along just in case.
  6. Always bring extra socks and underwear. I would recommend bringing twice the number of socks and underwear for the days you will be gone. Walking around in wet socks may be at-home remedy for colds, but when you’re on vacation it can be uncomfortable and unsanitary. Not only that, since they take up so little room in a suitcase, you can get away with bringing extra without worrying about packing space.


While it’s one of the least-fun things about going on vacation, packing is pivotal to traveling. If you do it right, you can go on your adventures with (relatively) little worry. If you don’t, you can end up spending money you didn’t plan on to overcompensate. With a little preparation and the tips above, you can organize your vacation wardrobe appropriately.

If you have any other suggestions on packing for humid weather, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Vacation Guilt?

I’m not sure why, but I always get nervous before going on vacation. I love to get on planes and go on adventures, but somehow I always turn into a nervous wreck in the days before I leave. Of course some of it is pure excitement over going somewhere new, but every time I feel happy about the impending adventure ahead, anxiety inevitably follows.

A lot of this has to do with the prospect of getting from A to B, but more than that – I think I feel guilty for leaving my dogs behind. I already feel like I don’t spend enough time with them, so when I decide to venture out for a few days (without them) I feel like I’m abandoning them.

I did a lot of research in how to combat these guilty feelings before my last trip to New Orleans. For some reason, this time it was more difficult to leave them behind (it was just one day longer than my last trip, but it felt like two weeks longer). I hired a dog sitter to come check on them in the evening, and my roommate agreed to check on them in the mornings. I made sure to bring them souvenirs when I brought very little back for my human family members. Still, I couldn’t shake the guilty feeling no matter what I did.

Have you ever felt guilty before going on vacation? I thought it was just me at first but after a couple Google searches I realized that I am not the only one. What was your reason(s) for feeling guilty? What did you do to combat those feelings? How did it affect your time away?

Chicago Travel: Five Must See Exhibits of The Field Museum

In a city full of museums, art galleries and skyscrapers, The Field Museum stands out as one of Chicago’s top tourist attractions. Founded in 1893 as the Colombian Museum of Chicago, The Field Museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. It is also the home to the most complete T. Rex ever found. With roughly 1.39 million visitors last year alone, the Field Museum has proven time and time again to be popular with tourists of all ages.

The Field Museum continues to be at the forefront of scientific education for all ages with four different learning centers dedicated to conservation and research. Visitors to the Field Museum can spend an entire day combing through its collections, with exhibits dedicated to world cultures, endangered animals, and fossils. Below are five of the resident highlights of the Field Museum that every visitor should see:

  1. SUE the T. Rex. Sue is the most popular attraction at The Field Museum. Her massive frame greets you as soon as you step into the lobby, cementing her place as the crown jewel of The Field Museum. Her head is on the second floor in a glass case; weighing in at over 600 pounds, it’s far too heavy to be with the rest of her fossil. She has been on display since 2000, and since then has drawn over 16 million visitors.
  2. Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egypt collection is set up inside a replica of an Egyptian tomb. The tomb spans all three stories of the museum and is full of hieroglyphs, sarcophagi, and even a Book of the Dead. The Egyptian marketplace exhibit details what daily life in Ancient Egypt was like. You can even peer inside the remnants of an actual sarcophagus. The museum shows a companion film to the exhibit, but you don’t have to see the film to enjoy the collection.
  3. Tsavo Lions. The Tsavo Lions may not be as well-known as SUE, but theirs is a story draped in both blood and infamy. The Tsavo Lions were famous at one time; the pair terrorized a Kenyan railroad camp for over ninth months in the late 19th century. People claimed the lions ate over 130 people at the time but scientific testing estimates the final number was closer to 35. Their skins and skulls were donated in the 1920s by Lt. Col. John Patterson, the British Army officer who killed them and ended the threat.
  4. The Mesoamerican and Central American Collections. These exhibits contain thousands of pieces of pottery, weapons, statues and textiles that highlight the rich and dramatic history of the Americas. One thing that stands out about these collections is the sheer size of many of the pieces; there’s a replica of an Aztec calendar stone on display that takes up an entire wall, and wood carvings that stand from floor to ceiling. Most of the items are in cases, but even through the glass you can see the detail in the works and the excellent care each piece receives.
  5. The Fossil Collections. The fossil collection at the Field Museum is nothing short of awe-inspiring. From dinosaurs to modern species, the fossil collection is one of the most impressive collections of the entire museum. The dinosaurs are the highlight of the fossil collection, with an entire room dedicated to the extinct predators and herbivores of yore. If you’ve never seen a dinosaur fossil up close, this is an experience that can’t be passed up.



Travel Questions No. 8 – Do you ever travel (for fun) during the holidays?

Travel Plans 2017 – Update

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for this year to be over with. This hasn’t been a terrible year overall, but it was definitely one of those years where I felt like everything was “one step forward, two steps back”. Now with 2016 coming to a close, I’m looking to the new year with a fresh set of eyes and a cup full of hope. Among other goals, I want to make it to at least two places on my bucket list: New Orleans and Big Sur.

New Orleans

I will be going to New Orleans for the first time in February. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am; this has been a dream that I’ve had for years, off and on, and now it’s finally going to happen. I am staying in the French Quarter, and I am hoping that I will get to spend some time on Bourbon Street and Jackson Square. Among other things, here’s just a few things I think I’d like to do:

  1. Eat: beignets, etoufee, gumbo, and po’boys
  2. Visit a plantation
  3. Take a haunted tour
  4. Shopping (of course)
  5. Visit the WW2 Museum

This list isn’t comprehensive, of course, or binding. I’m a big believer in going where the wind takes you or, going wherever time allows. J

Big Sur

I am hoping I can get to Big Sur for my birthday next year. I’m hitting the 3-0 milestone, and I have never seen a real-life waterfall. I haven’t looked into too many details on Big Sur yet, so this is still in the idea stage. My biggest reason for wanting to visit Big Sur, besides the waterfalls, is the rest of the heavenly, breathtaking scenery. If I can’t make it to Big Sur, my back-up plan is Sequoia National Park. I’ve never seen redwoods before. I need to see redwoods. J


Travel Questions No. 6 – Would you ever travel by bus?

Travel Questions No. 3 – Have You Ever Gotten Into a Fight on Vacation?

Dogs and Car Rides: Tips to Make Traveling with Pets Easier


The only downside to traveling for me is the fact that I have to leave my dogs behind. I’ve got three little ones, and every time I leave their little faces behind it breaks my heart. Of course, if I had all the money I would take them with me wherever I went whether by, plane, train or automobile. Until that time comes, they have to stay home unless I am driving. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to making traveling more fun for all of us:

Take them out on a lot of short rides ahead of time. I take my dogs to the park on almost a daily basis, so they are used to getting in and out of the car without problems. Sometimes, I’ll take them on short errands with me, like going to In N Out or to visit family (but they’re never left in the car alone). Now they insist on coming with me any time I grab my keys. When you make getting in the car fun for them, you have already won half the battle.

Bring the food they are used to. It’s not a good idea to abruptly change a dog’s food under normal circumstances, and it is especially not a good idea to do while you’re on vacation. A change in food can upset a dog’s digestive system, and the stress of new surroundings can compound that.

Take frequent breaks. I try to stop at least once an hour or every two hours to let my dogs out. We stop long enough to take a short walk, have a potty break, and drink water. It does significantly slow down your travel time, but it is good for both you and your pet. Sometimes I catch myself just wanting to rush through the drive and get to my destination, but when you force yourself to slow down and take breaks, you end up enjoying the journey itself a lot more.

Don’t leave them in the heat. This is absolutely essential. In the desert the temperatures can reach well above 100 degrees in the summertime, making the insides of a car reach 10 to 50 degrees hotter on any given day or time. This is an easy rule to follow; the only time it can get a little tricky is if you are on the road and alone. You can’t bring your pet into every gas station you pass by, especially if you need to use the restroom. The times that I find myself needing a bathroom break on the road, I leave out cold water and keep the air conditioning on. I also time myself; I’m never gone for more than five minutes.

Bring plenty of water. This is pretty self-explanatory. I usually bring a gallon for the dogs and some of the 24 oz. Aquafina bottles for myself. This is an important tip to keep in mind all year, but it is even more important in the warmer months.

Secure them in the vehicle. They make seat belts and crates for dogs that are specially designed for car rides, but I’ve always used their regular crates on trips. Keeping your pets crated during a trip not only ensures their safety, but yours by extension. Whether you get a ticket for having your pet in your lap, or your furry friend distracts you while driving and causes an accident, having a loose pet in the car can cause a number of headaches.

Go on a walk before you leave. Taking them on a walk before you embark on a road trip will help burn off excess energy, and allow them to use the bathroom. Even if it’s just a quick trip outside, it will be enough to get their brains working and prepare them for the long drive ahead.

Bring something from home. Whether it’s toys, blankets or pillows, items from home will give them the sense of comfort they are missing out on the road. It will also help them to stay calm if they need to be in the hotel room by themselves for a little while.


My favorite travel sites

For as much fun as being on vacation is, preparing and planning that vacation is much less enjoyable. Depending on your destination and your reasons for traveling (business or pleasure), you will have a laundry list of things to do to prepare.  The Internet can simplify this but with so many websites out there it’s hard to know where to start. Below are some of the websites I use to prepare myself whenever the wanderlust strikes:

  1. Expedia:

I love using Expedia for hotel rooms. My favorite feature of the website is that, for some hotels, you don’t have to pay up front. I appreciate this particular feature because while I like to know I have a place to stay I also like changing my mind if I find somewhere better.

  1. Viator

I haven’t used any other tour company yet, because I love Viator. Sometimes I don’t know what I want to do when I’m going out of town, and Viator is never short on suggestions. You can choose from a variety of activities, to tours to group excursions, and the prices are reasonable.

  1. Google Flights:

I just discovered Google Flights last month. With all the apps that Google has now, I think Google Flights is my favorite. Google notifies you every time a fare increases or decreases in price, making it easy to track and compare prices on multiple airlines. For example, when I first started looking for flights to Chicago, the average rate was 350.00. I tracked the flight using Google Flights, and I ended up getting one 3 weeks later for 200.00.

  1. Amazon:

You can get almost anything you need these days from Amazon, and if you have Amazon Prime you can get it within two days. If you need a neck pillow, a new set of headphones, books, travel accessories you can likely find it on Amazon.

  1. Virgin America:

If I am going to one of the select cities Virgin flies to, I scour their website for prices. A big plus about their website is when you look at dates, you can view the prices for the dates as well. It’s not always the cheapest flight to take, but it’s by far my favorite airline so far.

  1. Lonely Planet:

Lonely Planet is the place to go if you need ideas for things to do or food to try while you’re on vacation. Besides that, they offer current travel information for your destination, travel guides and phrasebooks.