En Route With is back!  After a hiatus to gather some more features and figure out the frequency of this series, I’m happy to announce that it’s back for good.  New features will be published every third Monday, which will also see more Travel Diary and View From Seat 20A posts.  I’m so pleased to be re-launching this series with a woman truly on the go. Case and point – she writes for National Geographic.  Need I say more?

En Route With Annie Fitzsimmons

Annie Fitzsimmons // National Geographic’s Urban Insider

Like most areas of my life, I have evolved when it comes to packing and learn with every trip I take. Last year, I was on the road 2-3 weeks every month, so I better be good at it! On trips to Australia, China, and India, I managed with my favorite bag, the Lipault wheelie. This bag is just gorgeous and fun and envy-inducing when you’re rolling it through the airport. Like seemingly every traveler out there, I also love my Lo & Sons O.G. bag. The Lipault combined with my O.G. is a great combo.

I’m searching for a better, bigger suitcase so if you have any ideas, let me know! Right now I have an old suitcase that I picked up at home in Scottsdale, Arizona years ago, probably at Marshall’s or T.J. Maxx! Lately, I’ve been packing in larger bags because I like to buy items for our new apartment when I’m on the road and I like to work out when I travel but hotel laundry is ridiculously expensive. I haven’t found lightweight sneakers that I love so I bring my Asics with me.  If I pack the night before, I give myself a pat on the back. But normally I’m rushing around and putting it off like the best procrastinators (Oh I have to watch a few more minutes of the Today show! Oh I need to scroll through Instagram one more time!). I do lay out everything, try on outfits, and ruthlessly cut items that I don’t absolutely need.

I love getting to the airport 2 – 3 hours ahead of time for international trips. I love a good airport (like Hong Kong and Amsterdam) The smell of duty free with perfume and chocolate reminds me of my first trips to Europe when I was a teenager and I just love it!  Of course, the airports you get stuck in are always the crappy ones. But still – I have certain rituals – I buy Haribo gold gummi-bears and stacks of magazines to take with me (The latest US Weekly and a handful of bears will get you through the dreariest of travel days). If there’s one of those quick mani-pedi places, I might do that. I do long walks through the airport if it’s in Europe and I have a cart. I’m super quick about security – but I don’t get annoyed when people are slow in front of me. I just am happy that people are traveling. Before I even leave my apartment, I make a green smoothie with extra spinach or kale or drink a green juice – I truly think it keeps me healthy.

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Even though it was 12 years ago, I remember going on my first cruise.

It was a big family trip, and we sailed from Vancouver to Alaska.  Highlights from that trip – horseback riding in the pouring rain, countless orders of french fries and fruit plates from room service, and marveling at how my mother managed to arrange a private room and homemade Indian food for dinner every night.

That Mama Palepu.  She’s my hero.

The decided LOWLIGHT of the trip was my overstuffed suitcase.  It was filled with clothes I never ended up wearing, makeup I never applied, and heavy hardcover books that were never opened.  Lugging it through the Vancouver train station was challenging, to say the least.

Fast forward 12 years, and we’re gearing up for another cruise.  This time, just my husband, my carry-on suitcase, and a brand new destination.  Scandinavia, we’re coming for ya!  (Please excuse my cheesiness.  I can’t control it).

CLICK the image below to watch my Cruise Packing List video with Divine Caroline.

in the video >> suitcase // maxi dress // necklace // flats // heels // sandals // detergent // first aid kit // international mifi

Why a maxi dress?  It is one of the most versatile items to pack for a trip.  They’re comfortable to wear on an airplane, and can be dressed up with a simple necklace and a pair of heels.  This one from Old Navy is my JAM (as seen here).  The jersey fabric is wrinkle resistant, the neckline is super flattering, and it’s ridiculously comfortable.

My 3 shoes per trip rule continues to hold.  The shoes mentioned in the video (flats, heels, sandals) are intended for a beach cruise.  If you’re headed to a colder destination, opt for flats, stylish sneakers, and a pair of heels to tide you through.  Make sure two pairs of the shoes are well-suited for the rain (or just pack a pair of Go-Go-Galoshes).

Travel detergent.  I don’t go anywhere without it.  Laundry is crazy expensive on a cruise ship.  Save your hard earned dough for a cocktail and pack this travel detergent instead.  And never go an any trip without it.

Yes, there will be a health care professional on board.  Is that a reason to risk a visit to the infirmary?  Pack some basic medicines in a pouch – pain reliever, Band Aids, Pepto Bismol, Mucinex, Dramamine.  ESPECIALLY Dramamine.

Another thing cruise ships like to charge out the wahoo?  INTERNET.  If you have limited days out at sea, rent a global MiFi that will work in the countries you’re visiting.  XCOM Global has a great European plan – I opted for that and added Russia as well.  Total cost?  WELL under what roaming charges would have been – plus my husband can use it too.  The device connects up to 10 devices, AND encrypts all your data.  WIN.

You can follow my travels on Instagram – thanks to my MiFi, I’ll be posting up a storm.  Do svidaniya!


I’m ashamed that this series has often been a series of my nightmare experiences while traveling.  It’s not all bad – in fact, it can be pretty incredible.  Sadly, that word does our travel experience with Asiana Airlines a grave injustice.  It was, hands down, the BEST travel experience we ever had.  As I could write a novel about the entire journey, I’m sharing the excellent experience we had in their lounge.  My only regret – not getting to the airport sooner so I could have enjoyed it more.  And not having taken any pictures to SHOW you this lounge.  These words will just have to do.

I had never been more ready to go home.

While our Asian trip had been incredible, it wasn’t short of its challenging moments.  Most of them associated with air travel.

“I just want to get in the lounge, get a drink, and chill,” I thought as we made our way to the Asiana Airlines first class counter.

“Checking in – Hitha Palepu and Sri Narasimhan,” I said, handing our passports to the attendant.
“Welcome, Ms. Palepu and Mr. Narasimhan,” she replied, with a smile.

As her fingers flew across the keyboard, another attendant gestured for our bags to be placed on the belt. A third smiled politely to us and handed a booklet.

A booklet containing 11 crisp $1 bills.

“What’s this for?” I asked, shocked. Given how badly Air Asia had ripped us off during our Asian jaunt, it was a shock to be receiving money.
“Compliments from Asiana Airlines,” she said, smiling.

Extremely nice staff. Money. I was liking this airline already. ”

Here you are, Ms. Palepu and Mr. Narasimhan. Please make your way through customs. She will show you the way,” the desk agent said, gesturing to her colleague and handing us our boarding passes and passports.

With our escort, we sped through security and immigration in under 3 minutes. She guided us upstairs to the expansive first class lounge. “I will return to take you to your flight,” she said, with a smile and a bow.

Say what now?

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