Hidden Travel Gems to Consider (Instead of the Overly-Popular-on-Instagram Destinations)

hidden travel gems to consider

I recently listened to an influencer podcast that was highlighting how Instagram has made a handful of travel destinations overly-popular in recent years. Our feeds have become infiltrated with the same photos of Positano, Tulum, Palm Springs and countless other destinations. 

Don't get me wrong... I love a lot of these places. Some of them you absolutely should see and there is a reason they've become so popular! But it got me thinking... are these the only places a lot of people are planning travel to? The ones that are "Insta-famous"? 

If that's the case, consider this my humble attempt to put drop in the bucket and point us toward a better way forward... one that involves a greater curiosity for the world and a sense of discovery (beyond your Instagram explore page). If you too have found yourself lusting over these type of destinations, here are some other wonderful places I'd argue you should consider that aren't overly-infiltrated with tourists or "grammers" seeking out the same exact shot.





In a sparkling sea of deep cobalt blue just off the northwest coast of Africa, you'll find Madeira: a rugged island with mountains soaring straight out of the water. If you don't already know its country of origin, based on its geographic positioning you'd likely guess Morocco. But this tiny island is Portuguese through and through. Known for its famous namesake wine and warm, subtropic climate, Madeira is a little slice of heaven that you won't want to miss. 

Similar to Positano, Madeira offers a stunning, rugged, dramatic coastline...


Perhaps you were looking forward to drinking copious amounts of Italian wine?  Fear not-- Madeira is known for their very own fortified wine that's made directly on the island. In fact, Maderia actually has a long winemaking history, dating back to the Age of Exploration when it was a port of call for ships heading to the New World (or East Indies). 


Rich in culture and exploding with color, Madeira has more to offer in terms of natural beauty than most destinations I've visited. For further reading, check out my Madeira Travel Guide.  

madeira portugal
madeira portugal
madeira portugal





hvar croatia

Known for beautiful beaches and ancient ruins, Tulum has been attracting travelers by the thousands. Yet there's a tiny Dalmatian Island in the Adriatic sea that offers all of these as well. Hvar, Croatia may already be a popular summer destination among Europeans, yet I'd argue that American tourists will find this resort-town to be a breath of fresh air with a unique spin. Hvar is a 13th century town (that also claims to be the sunniest spot in all of Europe). The architecture is historic and beautiful, and there are countless boat excursions available to hop around all the neighboring islands for those who want to soak up the scenery of the sparkling sea. Read my Hvar Travel Guide to learn more about this breathtaking hidden gem. 

hvar croatia
hvar croatia






I'm a big fan of Palm Springs, but I'd also argue it's not the only town outside of LA that deserves a spot on your travel list. Set in the Topatopa Mountain Valley, Ojai is brimming with beauty + charm. Similar to Palm Springs, it's a perfect retreat from the hustle + bustle of southern California where you can enjoy scenic landscape, delicious food + wine and the perfect touch of character. To read more, check out my Ojai Travel Guide







Before I dive into my reasons you should consider Granada, let me be clear that Morocco is somewhere I haven't traveled to and somewhere I very much want to see. With that said, I still chose to include this comparison because it's no secret that Morocco has become a very popular Instagram destination. Again, none of the above reasons should deter you from visiting a popular destination... my point is simply that you have options- and you shouldn't overlook the ones that aren't as "Insta-famous."

Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain's Andalusia region, you'll find Granada- one of the most interesting cities I've ever visited. You can practically throw a stone to Morocco, so naturally there is tons of Moorish influence peppered all throughout the city (my favorite bits? the architecture + the cuisine). Head to my Granada Travel Guide to get the full scoop on this beautiful Spanish city.

granada spain
granada spain
granada spain


There are countless other destinations I could include in this list, but for the sake of brevity I'll end here. My hope is that this serves as a friendly reminder that while tools like Instagram are an incredible way to introduce us to places we'd like to visit, they shouldn't be our only source of inspiration. The world is wide and full of wonders. Stay curious and always be open to the idea of venturing somewhere that maybe isn't the most popular path... I've discovered some of my favorite destinations this way. 

Still looking for more inspiration to decide where your next trip should be? Head to the travel guide section of my site and start dreaming!


Thanks as always for stopping by!




Travel Day Uniform Essentials

travel uniform

Travel days: they too often start at an ungodly hour in the morning and drag you through a variety of temperamental climates and circumstances. So how does one dress in a way that’s functional, comfortable and still somewhat presentable throughout all of these variables? I’d like to think I’ve kind of mastered this art by now, so here are a few things you need to know. 

But before I share, let me point out that a lot of these items are currently marked down significantly thanks to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. If you’re not a current cardholder who gets early access to these particular items, you can check back in after July 19th for full access.



comfortable flats

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, ferry, car, broomstick or any other vehicle, comfortable flats are a must. With that said, this doesn’t mean gym shoes are your only choice here. This can also be in the form of a loafer, a sandal, a ballet flat or a slide depending on the outfit you choose, but there are several reasons why I suggest against any kind of heel. In addition to heels being more cumbersome when it comes to metal detectors or any kind of security screening, they’re also generally uncomfortable (I don’t care if you are Carrie Bradshaw, don’t tell me you honestly think heels are an ideal footwear choice to schlep around a suitcase in). 



Sit. Stand. Stairs. Sprint to gate. Sit again. Stand again. Schelp your luggage… you get the picture. Travel days certainly aren’t the time to be wearing a mini-skirt or pants that are even remotely uncomfortable. I always love to wear leggings with some sort of detail that dresses it up a bit. Sure, you may have a zipper at the ankle or some sort of leather component, but you’re essentially wearing glorified yoga pants that are comfortable enough to sleep in. If leggings aren’t your thing, I love a boyfriend jean which wears a bit more loose and comfy than your skinnies. And if you really just want to be cozy AF, go for a jogger like these



basic layer t shirts

When your plane feels like a sub-zero Icelandic tundra but minutes later your cab to the city feels like a furnace occupied by Lucifer himself, light layers are the name of the game when it comes to maintaining a comfortable temperature… but where do you start at the base of all of that? I almost wear a basic tee that can be worn under a cardigan, scarf, light-jacket or on it’s own. If you’re feeling cheeky, go for a graphic tee like this, but a safe bet for me is always a classic stripe, which pairs well with just about any later you throw over it. 



blanket scarves

Per my commentary above, a scarf or wrap is a great additional layer to throw on when someone gets a bit too carried away with the AC. I love these because you can wrap it around your neck or your entire body if you want to wear it, but they also come in handy for a blanket you can snuggle up in on a plane. Pay attention to the material and weight of the fabric depending on the time of year you’re traveling (wool is a bit aggressive in the summer, but a light-weight cashmere will pretty much always be your best friend). 

blanket scarf

Surprise! More ways to layer. Cozy cardigans are a must in my opinion (I seem to always go for long ones that feel like a robe and can double as a blanket if needed.) Even if it’s 100 degrees outside and you’re convinced there is no way you’ll need a sweater… bring one. They’re light enough to not weigh down your bag if you don’t need it but will be a game changer if you do. 



Sometimes interchangeable with a cardigan or oversized wrap/scarf, a light jacket or sweatshirt can also make a great final addition to top off your layering. This time of year we don’t need a parka, but having some sort of thicker shell from a denim or utility jacket can provide not only an additional layer for warmth if needed, but also double as a shield if you get caught in unexpected rain.  




Acting as another base layer, I’m a huge fan of t-shirt dresses. Not only are they cool and breezy for warm summer travel days, they also mean you don’t have to wear pants, which I’m always a big fan of. I’d definitely advise bringing a couple layers if you opt for this base, as my legs almost always get cold on a plane when I go for this look. 


Looking for some other essentials for your upcoming travel day? Be sure to check out my blog reviewing my favorite travel bags or check out the “Shop Travel Gear” section of my site for some of my “can’t live without” items. 


Thanks as always for stopping by... I’m excited to share a lot more travel essentials with you in the near future with all of my upcoming adventures!




blonde atlas

Best Bags for Travel


Summer has officially arrived, which means the most popular travel season is upon us! As you prepare to pack your bags for your next holiday, I thought I'd share the ones that have become my personal favorites after I've dragged them all over the globe. 




I suppose a travel wallet isn't a bag, but I felt compelled to include this essential because I often carry it as a clutch (which is kind of a bag, right?) This Cuyana pebbled-leather travel wallet is honestly one of my favorite everyday items I own (I've pointed several friends to this piece and they're now advocates for it as well!) It's perfectly sized to fit in any purse or carry on bag without being too large and bulky. It neatly compartmentalizes your credit cards, travel documents, passport and spare change (plus there are plenty of other compartments where you can keep business cards, a lipstick or other essentials if that's all you want to carry out one night).




Selecting a single purse for travel is a daunting task, but here are some things I definitely recommend. 

-Zip-able compartments to protect against pick-pocketing. 

-A strap you can wear as a cross body to make yourself less susceptible to theft.  

-A size that's small enough to not be cumbersome to carry all day, yet large enough to hold everything you need. 

-A material/color that wears well over time and won't get dirty easily. 

-Something classic that can be worn with a variety of outfits - regardless of what you pack in your suitcase. 

My "go-to" purse while traveling that ticks all of these boxes has been this Fashionable Menbere Foldover Bag in black. It comes with a removable strap so you can wear it as a cross-body for daytime security but also as a clutch at night (and it holds the travel wallet I mentioned above perfectly!) There is also a large zip-able compartment to keep valuables in and a pocket in the back that makes your phone more easily accessible. I also love supporting Fashionable because they are a brand that's focused on ending generational poverty by working with women who have often overcome extraordinary circumstances. They employ these women both locally in Nashville,  but also globally. 





This Cuyana classic structured tote is my most recently acquired travel bag, and I've absolutely loved it so far. I often use it as an everyday purse when I'm trekking around the city (it holds all the essential items you'd have in your purse, but also my laptop sleevewater bottle and whatever book I'm reading). It's also perfect for an airplane carry on or any occasion where you want to carry a little more than what you could fit in a purse. Cuyana also recently launched this tote organization insert that fits into it perfectly if the idea of digging for your belongings stresses you out!



I've had this Le Sud overnight bag by Cuyana for about two years now, and I still carry it all the time (they don't make it in this color anymore, but it still comes in black and I've provided a similar bag with the same color options). Similar to what I said about the carry-all tote above, this is a great bag when you need something to carry a little more than "just the basics." Whether you use it as a gym bag or one to carry the essentials you need for a quick overnight jaunt, this sleek canvas tote has been a staple in my travel repertoire. 



Everyone needs a good duffle bag, and I've actually found two that I love. Both are great for weekend trips or a larger carry-on option to bring on the plane, but there are a few reasons I like having either as an option. For a classic canvas bag that can be thrown around or checked if need be without too much worry, I've loved my Cuyana weekender (they actually don't make this exact bag that's pictured anymore, but the Le Sud weekender is essentially the same thing!)  When I'm traveling for work or any kind of elevated occassion, this  Leatherology large Kessler duffle is beautifully made and adds a bit more polish.


The bags listed above are all fantastic and I can personally attest to their quality after trying them out myself for several years. None of this is sponsored-- just trying to pass along some expertise to fellow travel enthusiasts in search of a good bag! Hope you find these recos to be helpful and if you have any questions about them, feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Thanks for stopping by, and happy travels wherever you're off to next!