Every time I pull up my friend Stacie's Instagram, she's in a different part of the world—it's safe to say she travels more than anyone else I know. In the past year, she flew from Los Angeles to India, New York (more than a few times, including upstate, twice), Paris and Provence (more than once), Savannah and all over the South, Barcelona and Sevilla, Portugal, and Colombia—and that doesn't include her weekend trips on this coast. Multiple international trips a year (she usually averages four!) is impressive for anyone, but especially so, considering she and her husband both work full time. I recently sat down with her to get all her tips on finding time to travel—and having a memorable trip once you're there. Here are the top ten tips she shared with me:
Pick one holiday a year where you get multiple days off outside of personal vacation days—like Christmas or Thanksgiving—and maximize them with an international trip. "We definitely have a little bit of FOMO," Stacie said, "but we'll Facetime with my mom and dad when they're at Christmas parties. It's a sacrifice [in that respect], and not something we'll do forever or when we have children, so we're making the most of it now."
There are so many places in the world that picking a destination can feel overwhelming—but that doesn't mean you can't return somewhere you love. "There are those cities that feel like a second home, so we try to plan those trips when the airfare is low," Stacie said. Unlike a first visit, there isn't the pressure to go for a long extended trip and do everything—it's more about strolling and taking in the culture. Stacie will often dedicate one international trip a year to somewhere she's already been, be it Paris or Tokyo—two of her all-time favorites.
"We generally try to schedule a minimum of ten days for a given vacation," Stacie said. While this of course isn't possible for everyone's work schedule, there are still ways to maximize vacation time, however many days that means for you. Stacie suggests splurging on direct flights—that way you aren't wasting an extra half a day getting to your destination and can really make the most of your time. While it may not be the most cost-effective option, the experience of the saved hours ultimately outweighs the cost. If that isn't an option for you, Stacie and her husband also try to schedule their flights back home to arrive on weekday mornings. "We dive right back into work so it's a sacrifice in terms of mental wherewithal, but it's worth it," she said.
"When I first started traveling, I had very little time off," Stacie said, "so I only took one trip a year." Since then, she's been fortunate enough to be in positions that afford her ample time to travel and that allow her to work remotely here and there. When accepting a position, considering negotiating more vacation time over a higher salary—it may have a higher pay-off in the end!
"Where you stay has a huge impact on your trip, so I'll book hotels and, in some cases, make restaurant reservations before booking my flight," Stacie said. She uses Google Sheets to create a spreadsheet and budgeting system with dates, location, activities, and cost. From there—once everything's more or less confirmed—she'll book the flight, the thought process being that there will always be an available flight but a memorable hotel may be booked full.
"I look through Instagram and file spots away quite often, so that by the time I'm planning a trip, I have banks of images of interesting-looking places," Stacie said. From there, she'll narrow her options and search by location on Instagram scrolling through photos until something piques her interest as worth researching.
Here are some of her favorite travel accounts: lucylaucht, local_milk, laurenswells, jessomewhere, parisinfourmonths and ananewyork. "And for truly mind blowing photography, annstreetstudio. In love with everything she does."
"I'll have a 50-page itinerary that I double-check and triple-check, but I think people are afraid to really dig in and plan ahead," Stacie said, "My friend took an international trip recently and said she didn't care for the destination, mainly because they didn't really do anything and that's the worst I've heard! If you're spending all this money and taking time off, it's better to over plan." On the flip side, don't sweat it if plans change or if you're too tired to do something: "We're pretty aggressive with planning, but also very forgiving if we don't feel like doing something in the moment." Stacie recommends importing a spreadsheet into a Google Map and saving it offline to be able to see all of your places of interest by location and make last-minute adjustments based on what's close to you.
One of the things that surprised me the most about flipping through Stacie's feed is how often she travels with friends. "My whole philosophy," Stacie explained, "is that I don't think everybody has to be on the same page. Do as much as you can together, without forsaking what you want to do—if someone doesn't want to go to the museum, meet up with them at dinner. Remember it's your vacation and time too."
To feel comfortable while looking chic, Stacie has invested in a ton of easy, comfortable basics—primarily dresses, which are perfect for a full day out in a city. "I wear a lot of Natalie Martin dresses and I've stocked up on Elizabeth Suzanne, a company in Nashville that makes everything to order!"
She adds, "Don't count on shopping when you're there. Pack as if you're not going to stop." If you do find something, great! If not, you're not stuck in a rut.
"When traveling, I like to get up really early and enjoy the city," Stacie said. At that time of day, most sites aren't open yet, but she and her husband will get up around 6 AM and take photos of the city while people are opening their shops. "It's very romantic," she added, "you find a coffee shop and just stroll before doing your day."
At the end of the day, Stacie seeks out beautiful sunsets. "Before a trip, I look up where the best sunsets are—you can just google 'best sunsets in blank' and find posts where people recommend spots. From there, you can go to a cool bar in the area. Getting up early and having that ritual of a sunset caps off your days."
Best coffee? I really like Boots Café and Ob La Di in Paris. We also love % Arabica in Kyoto.
Best meal? One of my favorites was in Barcelona at Bar Cañete. In Lisbon we went to a place called Cervejaria Ramiro. As for best meals, I think one of the most special meals I have had is at Sukiyabashi Jiro. Having a 90-year-old sushi master personally make and serve each piece was kind of mind blowing. Another meal that sticks out for me is a recent dinner we had at Septime in Paris. On top of the meal being amazing, my favorite LA chef from France, Ludo Lefebvre, sat directly next to us. It was hard not to stare the whole meal.
Prettiest view? Bali’s sunsets were insane—the sky was neon pink and purple over the rice patties— I remember being in awe of that. We also hiked to a lookout point in the Philippines over Lake Kayangan, the turquoise water and the karst mountains below were unbelievably beautiful. Another memorable view was the hot air balloons rising over Cappadocia with the sun. And I still haven't found a prettier drive than the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur.
Best purchase? While we were in Jaipur, I had a custom robe made in pink and green sari fabric that I love. I rarely have occasion to wear it but it makes me happy every time I see it in my closet.
Gifts that always work for friends and family? I usually bring back gifts that are unique to a location, I brought back tiles from Lisbon and face masks from Seoul. In Paris, I stop at Buly 1803 for beauty products—they personalize gifts with the recipient's name in calligraphy.
Favorite place? Tokyo and Paris are my two favorite cities in the world and Positano is my favorite ocean-side town.
One spot you could see yourself living? Obviously Paris and I really liked London. Maybe even Rome!
Any beauty tips you’ve learned in a new place? After going to Seoul, I got really into the actual cloth masks and in Paris, I always go to the pharmacies and stock up on French products.
Nicest people? Thailand was just insanely warm and so nice and kind.
Style you most wanted to emulate? Tokyo, not necessarily the Harajuku girls, but the women.
Place with the culture most noticeably different from American culture? India—the only time we've truly experienced culture shock was in Varanasi. They cremate their dead on the river, and bathe and brush their teeth in the same water. It was so completely different than anything we've experienced before. It's one of the oldest cities in the world and it feels that way as you walk through the streets and along the ghats on the river.
P.S., Here's why our editor Leslie takes an international trip every March, and things to consider before taking your next vacation.