Need a little inspiration for your next vacation, either real or imagined? SmarterTravel’s editors have crisscrossed the planet, visiting dozens of countries on every continent—and these are the spots they’ve declared the most beautiful places in the world.
The Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica
“Antarctica feels otherworldly. It’s devoid of human life, with an almost eerie emptiness in places—no manmade buildings, no power lines, no planes flying overhead, and no lights. Simultaneously, it teems with natural life, from penguins calling for their mates in a cacophony of sounds to fur seals lurking below the surface waiting to pounce on their next meal. All that against a backdrop of towering mountains, brilliantly blue glaciers, and an unpolluted sky—I’ve yet to find anywhere else on earth that can compare.” — Caroline Morse Teel, Principal Editor
“Like all the towns in Andalucia, Granada is something special. The architecture, the food, and the people all make for a memorable trip. But the real gem in Granada is the Alhambra. Climb up the steep, skinny streets of the Albayzin neighborhood to the Mirador de San Nicolás and watch the sun set over the Alhambra. It’s been (accurately) called ‘the most beautiful sunset in the world’ and is one of those magical experiences that will stay with you forever.” — Noemi de la Torre, Senior Photo Editor
South Island, New Zealand
“My then-partner (now husband) and I were reduced almost to speechlessness during a road trip around New Zealand’s spectacular South Island. ‘Wow,’ I said as we rounded a curve and a crystalline lake spread out before us. ‘Wow,’ he echoed a few minutes later as the late-day sun cast a rosy glow across hulking mountains capped with snow. Glaciers, fjords, beaches—the South Island has it all, and it’s all stunning.” — Sarah Schlichter, Deputy Executive Editor
Krka National Park, Croatia
“Krka National Park was supposed to be a small pit stop on my guided trip to Split, but it ended up being the highlight of the week. Rivers and streams crisscross the ground beneath you as you navigate the forest on elevated wooden pathways. The entire journey has a deep stillness to it, with only your own footsteps and the sounds of water and bird calls to interrupt. Finally, at the end of the walk, you’re greeted by a picnic ground surrounded by tiers of beautiful waterfalls. The views were stunning and, on the way out, I got to visit a family of wild kittens—so it was probably the best day ever.” — Carol McPherson, Video Editor/Creator
Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada
“The Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia haunts my dreams in the best possible way. I only spent two days there, but even that short amount of time earns it a spot at the top of my list. This picture was taken after a short flight from Vancouver Island to the tiny wilderness lodge of Nimmo Bay. It was an intoxicating blur of dense temperate rainforest hikes, paddling bays so still that my kayak seemed to skim above the clouds, and rushing waterfalls that exhaled the rainforest into the sea.” — Christine Sarkis, Executive Editor
Haputale Tea Country, Sri Lanka
“The most beautiful places are always the ones that photos inevitably can’t do justice. And for me, that paradox always brings to mind Sri Lankan tea country. I took a rickety train ride to Haputale in monsoon-season rains, snaking through verdant slopes and misty gorges made even more dream-like by the drizzle. As if the postcard-esque viaducts and Nine Arch Bridge along the way weren’t enough, meeting Haputale’s local tea pickers in a cloud forest precariously perched at 7,000 feet above sea level certainly was. From the foothills of Agarapatana Plantation I was gobsmacked by the views, which only grew more dream-like as we ascended to the peak to enjoy many fresh cups of tea, served with roti and sweets, overlooking the cloud cover that would occasionally break to reveal miles of rolling greenery below. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to walking into the pages of a Dr. Seuss book and staying a while.” — Shannon McMahon, Editor of News and Features
Tayrona National Park, Colombia
“Many of the world’s most beautiful places come with crowds of tourists and lines that you have to wait in; it’s rare to find that true sense of unspoiled beauty. And when you do, it’s often far, far away from the beaten path. But you’ll usually find that it’s the search that makes the final destination worth it, and that’s exactly the case with Tayrona National Park in Colombia. A trip here makes you feel like you’re on your own journey of youthful exploration in Lord of the Flies. Hours from the vibrant city of Cartagena sit miles and miles of coastline where the Sierra Nevada foothills kiss the Caribbean coast. Find relaxation in the secluded coves and lagoons, or trek in the rainforest to ancient Taryonan ruins. To get here, find the beach city of Santa Marta and then make your way via bus to the forest. There are plenty of hidden retreats and treehouses to stay at, where inviting hammocks swing in the wind waiting for you. There’s nothing quite like following a winding path in the rainforest that suddenly ends with golden sand and open ocean.” —Ashley Rossi, Senior Editor
ChappyWrap blankets are plush, reversible, machine-washable and the only blanket you’ll ever want to snuggle under again.
ChappyWrap Blanket Review
Price and Where to Buy: The original size blankets are available on ChappyWrap’s website for $135. Smaller sizes are available starting at $55.
How the ChappyWrap Blanket Rates
Comfort: 10/10. The original size blankets are generously oversized, measuring 60″ x 80″. No more cold feet from a short blanket. Made from a cotton/acrylic/polyester blend, the ChappyWrap blankets are incredibly soft, cozy, and warm.
Durability: 10/10. The ChappyWrap blankets feel as soft and warm as fleece or cashmere, but don’t suffer from the same shrinking, pilling, or fuzz issues. You can wash and dry these in the machine without worries, so feel free to bring these on vacation with you or let the dog lay on it.
Style: 10/10. ChappyWrap blankets are gorgeous. They’re available in a wide variety of stylish patterns and colors to match your decor. Don’t miss the new places collection with designs that pay homage to destinations like Maine, Cape Cod, or San Francisco.
Final Verdict: Replace all your old, pilled blanket with a stylish ChappyWrap that will last for decades and look just like new.
How can America, home of the KFC Double Down, Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, and Carl’s Jr. Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich, not have these amazing foreign fast-food chains within its borders? Here are 10 delicious and forbidden fast-food chains that we wish would move stateside—ASAP.
Crossbody bags are the ideal daypack for travel—they are more secure and foil pickpockets better than over-the-shoulder purses or backpacks, and they don’t immediately mark you as a tourist. The best crossbody bags for travel are ultra-lightweight or have anti-theft features, like these nine great bags.
Travelon Anti-Theft Crossbody Messenger
Travelon’s versatile Anti-Theft LTD Crossbody Messenger can be worn as a crossbody bag, or you can detach the strap and carry it as a clutch. Either way, it’s lightweight (weighing just over nine ounces) thanks to its travel-friendly and easy-to-clean stain-resistant nylon exterior. Like all Travelon bags, this one is designed to be hard to steal, with slash-resistant construction and locking compartments. There’s even RFID-blocking material built into the credit card and passport slots. An internal clip holds your keys securely, which is perfect for travel.
A sharp, sophisticated crossbody optimized to stay in style season after season is a splurge any woman should be willing to make. Handmade in Tuscany, this crossbody from M.Gemi is detailed with sharp linear accents and dressed in rich tumbled leather. It’s a statement piece for sure—and one that’s absolutely worth it.
Timbuk2’s Messenger Bag is a classic for a reason: It has a padded, air-mesh strap to prevent shoulder pain (even if you overpack it), padded compartments for electronics, specially designed flaps that help keep out rain, an internal water bottle pocket, and a removable cross-strap.
Pacsafe’s Metrosafe Anti-Theft Crossbody Sling Backpack is a unisex option that holds a ton (including electronics in a special padded organizer pocket). Although lightweight, this bag has a hidden stainless steel wire embedded in the strap, which prevents thieves from slashing it. There’s also a security buckle built in that can be attached to something solid (like a table leg) so you can put it down without worry during a meal.
Never dig around in the bottom of your bag for an elusive item again with the Baggallini Big Zipper Crossbody Bag. This purse has five external pockets (including three secure zipper ones) and multiple interior compartments to keep everything organized. The nylon fabric is lightweight and water-resistant, so it will stand up to the rigors of travel.
Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Slim Double Zip Crossbody Bag
As its name implies, this bag is designed to keep your stuff safe, with anti-theft features such as a security flap, steel-reinforced strap guards, and RFID-blocking pockets. You can even fit this slim-profile crossbody bag under your jacket for extra protection.
AmeriBag’s Healthy Back Bags have a unique, ergonomic design that contours to your back and distributes weight evenly. The microfiber version is the lightest and is also water-resistant. Inside, there are spots for your water bottle, pens, cards, and anything else you need.
Sechunk Cotton Canvas Leather Messenger Crossbody Bag
For days when you need to carry just a little bit more, the Sechunk Cotton Canvas Leather Messenger Crossbody bag is just 8.46 inches by 1.57 inches by 10.24 inches, so it fits all without being oversized. Fill the leather-trim canvas bag with all your in-flight essentials.
The Dagne Dover Andra Crossbody is one of the trendiest crossbody bags on our list and comes in a variety of colors. This minimalist bag has lots of organizational pockets to store all your belongings on the go. Wear it as a shoulder bag or across your body.
Protect yourself from being electronically pickpocketed with these RFID-blocking wallets that look like normal wallets.
Tumi Alpha Global Wallet
Made out of a water-resistant tech fabric, Tumi’s Alpha Global Wallet will protect your stuff from both rain and RFID thieves. Inside, everything stays organized with a currency pouch, an ID window, pockets, and card slots.
Use Travelon’s RFID-Blocking Wristlet Clutch as a wristlet, clutch, or wallet—the strap detaches so you have options. Made out of a nylon fabric, this wallet is lightweight and easy to clean. It features four card slots and a zippered pocket, plus a main compartment that’s large enough to hold your phone.
Made out of Vera Bradley’s iconic quilted microfiber and topped with her fun seasonal prints, this RFID wallet will stylishly protect your information. Snap and zipper closures keep everything secure, and there are seven RFID-protected card slots, one ID window, and two slip pockets inside.
Made out of 100 percent leather, Timberland’s RFID-Blocking Trifold Security Wallet is just as rugged as its famous boots. Available in black, brown, and cognac, the wallet’s leather ages with use to look even better over time. The trifold design has six card slots, two slip pockets, an ID window, and two cash pockets.
For the perfectly sized RFID-blocking wallet, look no further than Bellroy’s Hide & Seek. Available in two sizes (LO for bills shorter than 74mm and HI for bills taller than 74mm), this wallet holds up to 12 cards. There’s also a hidden coin pouch and designated section for business cards. Made out of an environmentally certified leather, the wallet is covered under a three-year warranty.
Minimalists will love this ultra-sleek, RFID-blocking card case that can hold up to 12 cards (plus cash via the external elastic strap). Like to change up your wallet to match your outfit? The case’s color plates can easily be changed out to update your look.
Keep your coins, bills, and cards neatly organized with Fossil’s Logan Leather RFID Bifold Wallet. This compact wallet hides plenty of storage space, including a zipper pouch for coins, one ID window, and five card slots. This wallet comes in lots of fun colors and patterns like hearts, colorful stripes, or rose gold.
Just bringing the essentials with you? Keep everything streamlined with Herschel Supply Co.’s Unisex Charlie RFID Wallet. This slim cardholder has three card slots, plus one in the middle for cash or extra storage. It weighs just one ounce, so you really can bring it everywhere.
Heavy shoes or boots can weigh down your feet and legs, making you even more tired and achy after a long day on your feet than you have to be. Swap them out for these lightweight boots and shoes that will make you feel like you’re walking on air.
HOKA Carbon X
You don’t have to sacrifice cushioning and support for a light weight. HOKA’s Carbon X running shoe has a carbon fiber plate to help propel you faster plus plenty of cushioning underfoot. These shoes were worn to break the 100K world record time, so they’re practically guaranteed to help you with your 5K time.
For lightweight sandals, look no further than Havaianas. These iconic Brazilian sandals are made out of a feather-light rubber. Unlike cheap flip-flops, the Flash Urban Plus Sandals have a cushioned footbed, a unique textured sole (to prevent slipping), and a back strap to keep the sandals secure. The Flash Urban Plus has a fun leaf design that will be very on-trend for summer.
Most running shoes are made out of plastic, but Allbirds is here to change that with its new Dasher shoe. The sole is made from a lightweight sugarcane, and the top from Allbirds’ signature renewable eucalyptus and merino wool blend. The sleek shoes have plenty of cushioning, a sockless design, and lots of arch support. Wear the Dashers in good conscience, as Allbirds offsets all the carbon emissions from the shoe’s production.
Made out of Rothy’s signature sustainable knit, these Chelsea boots barely weigh anything—and can be worn straight out of the box without suffering from blisters during the break-in period. Removable insoles add extra support and cushioning to further prevent fatigue.
Bzees Tease Boots have a lightweight secret—the outsoles are infused with small air bubbles. The rest of the boot is made from a stretchy fabric that’s lighter than leather. Remove the free-foam footbed from the inside to save on even more weight, or leave it in for extra cushioning.
Lightweight hiking boots that are also waterproof are hard to find, but Vasque’s Breeze checks both boxes with style. (Click here for the men’s style.) The Gore-Tex Extended Comfort waterproof membrane prevents water from getting inside the boots, while the lining wicks away any sweat-related moisture from the inside. Vibram soles give you plenty of grip to keep you surefooted both on and off the trail.
Clarks’ Step Allena Go features a foam-layered footbed that provides cushioning without weight. A slip-on design adds style and convince, and these neutral shoes will work with a variety of different outfits.
Based on the pictures of store shelves emptied of yeast and flour, it seems staying home means more people than ever are learning how to bake bread. Why not take that new found skill on a world tour with these recipes?
Let’s start our journey in NYC. Every time I visit New York City, bagels are a must (at least once, but usually most mornings). My favorite bagel shop in Manhattan is Bagel & Schmear in Midtown. It’s just a short walk to Madison Square Park, where I like have a bagel picnic and gaze at my favorite building in the city, the Flatiron. Outside of New York, it’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to find a truly great bagel. Fortunately, it’s easy to make great bagels at home. I like this King Arthur Flour recipe. I took a bagel making class at the King Arthur Flour headquarters and learned one key trick: Let your shaped bagels rest in the fridge overnight, on a sheet pan and under plastic wrap. The extra fermentation in the fridge creates an extra-chewy crust and gives the bagels more flavor.
Pão de Queijo
I’ve never been to Brazil, but I sure do love Brazilian cheese bread, Pão de Queijo. This recipe requires no yeast and is gluten-free thanks to a surprising ingredient, tapioca flour, which takes the place of wheat flour. Cheese is the star of the show, however, and the end result is a crispy, gooey cross between a dinner roll and mozzarella stick. These don’t require yeast. The process to make Pão de Queijo is similar to pâte à choux (cream puff dough.) These are best eaten a little warm and in large quantities (you won’t be able to stop yourself!) Check out this YouTube video to better understand the methodology behind this recipe. Since I will always stan for King Arthur Flour, here’s their recipe.
Stollen is technically a Christmastime recipe, but, at the moment, time seems more like an abstract idea than a practical matter so go ahead and treat yourself to a virtual trip to Germany through this sweet yeast bread. It’s studded with lots of dried fruit and a tunnel of marzipan. I’m a marzipan freak, and add more marzipan than recipes usually call for; but I hate raisins so I never use them (insert your favorite dried fruit instead). Your kids will love the heavy dusting of powdered sugar that coats this loaf like a blanket of fresh snow. Here’s a tried and true recipe from the folks at Serious Eats.
The moment I saw Samin Nosrat making this focaccia on her drool-inducing Netflix series SALT FAT ACID HEAT, I knew I needed to whip up a batch of this bread from the Ligurian region in Northern Italy. I was right; this is a must-make recipe. This focaccia recipe is pillowy, crispy in the right spots, made with good extra virgin olive oil, and, surprisingly, with a salty brine that balances salt and fat so perfectly. This recipe is easy, but will need a solid 12 to 14 hours of (hands-off) time for the first rise, which is perfect for staying home in quarantine. Pro-tip: This freezes up extremely well. Cut into rectangular portion sizes, stash it in your freezer, and you’ll have an awesome treat available (as long as it lasts, but, I say, keep baking and don’t let your stock run out).
Japanese Milk Bread
Japan was in my (now-canceled) travel plans for 2020, and as such I spent hours and hours watching YouTube videos about where and what to eat on my trip. Through my discovery process, I learned about Hokkaido Milk bread, a super-soft loaf of white bread and often used for making tonkatsu sandos (fried pork cutlet sandwiches). The bread gets its signature soft texture from incorporating a tangzhong into the dough. The flour-and-milk paste creates a supple, tender loaf that’s not at all similar to the old standbys on American grocery store shelves. I was supposed to leave for Japan on June 18; instead, I’ll bake up a loaf of milk bread and attempt my own rendition of a tonkatsu sando and at least I’ll save the 14-hour flight! King Arthur Flour has a wonderful recipe here.
Last summer, I spent 10 days road tripping through Iceland in a camper van. I can’t tell you how many times over the past month I’ve dreamt of running away to live out this pandemic in a van beside a waterfall. But that’s a fantasy best kept to my day dreams (Iceland doesn’t want me right now!). However, I am planning on finding time in my busy baking schedule to take on Rúgbrauð which is an Icelandic rye bread that’s traditionally baked in the ground through geothermal energy. Don’t have a lava field warming up your back yard? You can also get the same effect by a long bake in a relatively low oven. This is a great recipe to try if you can’t get your hands on yeast, as it’s a quick bread that uses baking soda as leavening (though you will need to get your hands on some rye flour). During my travels in Iceland, I couldn’t get enough of this dark, slightly sweet bread slathered with good Icelandic butter, so I’ll simply recreate a tiny bit of my fantasy at home and pretend I’m back in time in my cozy van fueling up for my next adventure. The Splendid Table has an authentic recipe here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has largely put an end to travel, but there are still people needing to fly to provide care for others or travel for essential work service. Traveling feels scary right now, especially for those who can’t drive to their destination, but there are ways to make the journey as safe as possible for yourself and others. So if you have to board a plane right now, here are the coronavirus tips you need to know for domestic travel.
Avoid Public Transportation
The goal when traveling during the coronavirus crisis it to avoid as many people as possible, so steer clear of any public transportation if you can. Either take your own car to the airport, have someone you’ve been quarantining with drive you, or take a car service/taxi. If you’re taking public transportation of any kind, wear a mask and be mindful to touch as few surfaces as possible.
Wear a Face Mask or Cloth Covering
Even if you aren’t showing symptoms, there’s a chance you may have contracted the virus. To protect others, the CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth when out in public. While stores are largely out of masks, you can create your own using a towel, bandanna, scarf, or t-shirt. The CDC offers a guide on how to make your own. Note that coverings should not be placed on children under two years of age or anyone who has trouble breathing. Once it’s on, don’t touch it without washing your hands first.
Check-In Online, Download a Mobile Boarding Pass, and Use a Carry-On Suitcase
Again, you want to avoid as many physical touchpoints with other people during your travels as possible. Fortunately, you can check into your flight online and download the boarding pass to your phone, allowing for fewer interactions and forgoing the need to hand over a ticket. You will still have to hand over your form of identification at TSA security, however. On the plus side, the TSA has implemented new social distancing measures such as placing markers where travelers should stand, staggering the security lanes when possible, and allowing people to keep their mask on—though they may ask for it to be removed or adjusted when verifying identity.
To skip interacting with a desk agent and prevent your bag from touching multiple people, opt for a carry-on bag instead of checked luggage. While at the airport and when boarding, keep at least six feet of distance from other travelers. Some airlines have implemented rules to help with this, like Delta boarding all of its flights row by row, starting from the rear of the plane.
Wash Your Hands Frequently and Bring Sanitizer
At each stage of your journey—arriving at the airport, getting through security, and after getting off the plane—find the nearest bathroom and wash your hands with soap and water for the CDC-suggested time of at least 20 seconds. If soap isn’t readily available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Major airports have hand-sanitizing stations set up for travelers, and the TSA has eased its liquid restrictions and is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags. Additionally, bring sanitizing wipes for any surfaces you must touch, like armrests on the plane, and pay attention to the label—most recommend keeping the wiped surface wet for a certain length of time.
Pack Food and a Reusable Water Bottle
Most airlines have stopped or limited food and beverage service on flights to avoid unnecessary interactions. And although there are still some grab-and-go retailers and restaurants providing take-out, it’s better to skip them and instead pack your purse or backpack with food and snacks from home. Similarly, bring an empty reusable water bottle that you can refill at one of the refill stations. The added perk? You’ll be saving money on notoriously pricey airport food. Read SmarterTravel’s guide on How to Pack Food and Drink for a Flight here.
Sit by the Window and Stay Seated
Due to the thorough cleaning airlines have employed for planes and the HEPA air filters found on most planes, viruses do not spread easily on planes. However, you could still come into contact with the virus, particularly if you’re seated within six feet of someone who is infected. Many airlines have said they will allow travelers to sit in a socially distant manner on the plane if that’s doable, and Delta is even blocking middle seats for now. To increase your safety, opt for a window seat and stay seated throughout the flight, thus limiting your exposure to people and surfaces.
The CDC states that the virus is thought to mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, typically between people who are within about six feet of each other. So, your best bet at staying safe while taking essential travel is by staying as far from others as possible and avoiding touching your face. When touching something or eating is necessary, be sure to wash or disinfect your hands both before and after. And remember that regardless of whether or not it’s a law in your final destination, the CDC recommends self-quarantining for 14 days.
Plane seat manufacturers have released some crazy iterations of new cabin designs in the past, typically aiming at increasing the number of already-cramped seats on board. You might remember the standing Skyrider 2.0 “seats” conceptualized for short flights, or these stacked lie-flat beds from hell for longer flights—both of which saw hypothetical designs that never materialized.
But now, with a global pandemic in full swing, it seems the same seat makers are focusing more on protecting passengers than packing them into plane cabins. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s an interesting focus on banishing the middle seat.
Aviointeriors, the same manufacturer that designed those standing plane seats in 2018, is revealing its latest plan for post-coronavirus cabins: Shields for personal space and a reversed middle seat.
It’s a far cry from riding an airplane like the subway a la the Skyrider 2.0’s standing design, and looks almost (dare I say it) comfortable, considering there’s no sharing arm rests, accidentally invading what few inches of personal space your neighbor has, or dealing with a coughing or sneezing neighbor. It does, however, beg the question of how larger people who require more than one plane seat would be accommodated, and whether or not seats would be able to recline.
Aviointeriors says “this arrangement allows all three passengers to be separated with a shield made of transparent material that isolates them from each other, creating a protective barrier for everyone. Each passenger has its own space isolated from others, even from people who walk through the aisle.”
Studies have proven that aisle seats are more likely to be subject to passing germs that can get you sick—window seats are exposed to fewer germs. It’s also worth noting that this new Avio design somewhat echoes Spirit airlines’ pre-pandemic switch to staggering middle seats on some aircraft, which gives middle-seat passengers more elbow room.
Aviointeriors has also designed a more simplified solution for plane seats: Seat-attachable glass shields called Glassafe. This simply adds dividers between the aisle, all three existing seats, and the window:
How one editor’s obsession with Krispy Kreme led her to fantasize about nuptials at the North Carolina chain.
“If you had to get married in a chain restaurant, which one would it be?”
My former college roommate posed this question on a road trip that had entered into hour three. We’d long passed Delaware and small talk, and were now wading into “what if” scenarios. My friends laughed.
“That’s crazy!” one replied
“I need to think about it,” said another.
But I had my answer ready: “At Krispy Kreme, saying my vows under the hot doughnuts sign.”
A year earlier, I’d married my favorite person on earth in an elegant, rustic setting. The ceremony was held outside, with tidy rows of white chairs marking out an alfresco chapel. The reception was inside a farmhouse. Peonies topped every surface. Little pewter table numbers organized guests. Champagne bubbled in every fluted glass. It was possibly the most sophisticated moment of my life.
But afterward, I questioned everything but the groom. Why oh why didn’t Krispy Kreme occur to me earlier?
My first Krispy was in Virginia along Route 1. It still sits in a dip in the road between two hills, the midway point of a roller coaster ride. What I remember most isn’t the retro stool seating or the polka-dotted branding, it’s the illuminated “hot doughnuts” sign, lit at night like a vacancy sign at a cheap honeymoon motel. When that signal was on, it was impossible not to swerve my beat-up Volvo into the turning lane. Those doughnuts were part of my report card celebrations and my post-breakup sulks.
I was an easy target: a hormonal, hungry teen who had the appetite to demolish a tub of ice cream. From my first bite of Krispy Kreme’s chocolate iced glaze, I was a believer. Fresh from the oven, shellacked in sugar, and topped in a cap of chocolate, they made me want to write romantic sonnets. Years later, I was still swooning.
As far as I know, there’s only one couple that actually had their wedding at a Krispy Kreme: Sarah Daniel and Kiran Skariah of New South Wales, Australia. Sarah was a student working in the local Krispy who got flirty with Kiran over his usual order, white hot chocolate. They celebrated every subsequent dating anniversary at the venue, so when they got married, they decided to hold the reception there in 2016.
The wedding was covered by The Sun under the headline “I Dough!” I read about it with the sort of stabbing, hyper-focused jealousy typically associated with stalking an ex on Facebook. The bride was a vision of matrimonial loveliness in white lace standing under an awning that read “Doughnuts & Coffee.” The photo—the caption called them the “sweet-toothed pair”—showed them in a booth, smugly snuggling up in their wedding finery, a glazed doughnut between them. Despite all this, though, they seemed entirely undeserving. I mean, white hot chocolate? That was what brought them together? Not a chocolate iced or even a cruller?
But there’s another nuptial I like to picture: the wedding of Vernon Rudolph, founder of Krispy Kreme, and Ruth Ayers. Their wedding took place in 1939, two years after the company was founded. I imagine Ruth in a Meghan Markle-esque dress, a long-sleeved silk gown edged in ivory buttons, topped with a lace veil streaming to the floor like an embroidered waterfall. Did Vernon carry her over the Krispy threshold? Did they feed each other glazed doughnuts? Did they hold the ceremony under the “hot” light?
The last question I know to be pure fantasy. Although this light seems to be part of the company’s lore since its inception, the first beacon didn’t go up until the ’90s. But the hot light drives customers into a mania and the company embraces it. The company’s app is fully built around tracking illuminated signs as they flash up, essentially acting as a Tinder for hot doughnut hookups.
And the fact is, its cold doughnuts are delicious but mundane. Yet warm, they’re ambrosia on a conveyor belt. Quite simply, hot doughnuts are hard to get. And as anyone who’s been put through the wringer of love will tell you, when someone plays hard to get, it breeds deep obsessiveness.
Six years after that road trip, I wanted to confess to my husband at last how much I was pining for a do-over wedding at Krispy Kreme, even long after our ceremony. Our conversation wasn’t what I expected.
I turned to him and asked, “Do you ever look back on our wedding and wish we got married in—”
“Legoland?” he said.
Apparently, my husband had his own adolescent dream that our traditional wedding hadn’t met. And that’s when we began plotting our future anniversaries at Krispy Kreme. And Legoland. After all, marriage is about compromise.
By now you’ve probably seen hundreds of lists like this one—books to read after you or your kids finish the Harry Potter series. These lists are all pretty similar, I think, and they mostly focus on stories that feature other magical kids having magical adventures. And I’ll be honest, I think most of those lists are thrown together by people who haven’t even read half the books they’re recommending.
You won’t have that problem here. For one thing, I’ve actually read the books I’m about to recommend. (Full disclosure: I even wrote one of them.) And here’s the other big difference: Most lists like this don’t seem to acknowledge that we all probably like slightly different things about Harry Potter. Maybe for you it’s the magic spells and fantastic beasts. Or maybe you’re really a fan of the British boarding school setting. Maybe it’s the core friendships, the slow-burn mysteries, or the inspiring fierceness of Hermione Granger.
So, this isn’t a list of Harry Potter clones. You won’t find books that try to directly copy Harry Potter here. Instead, it’s a set of recommendations around what to read after Harry Potter based on the elements of the story that may have resonated most with you or your kids.
If you like ghosts and haunted places in Europe…
I love Nearly Headless Nick, The Bloody Baron, Peeves, and (especially) Moaning Myrtle. The ghosts of Harry Potter are charming and funny and only occasionally spooky, but they all have a story to tell. I recommend City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab if you enjoyed hanging out with the ghosts at Hogwarts. It stars a gutsy heroine named Cassidy Blake and her best friend, Jacob, who happens to be a ghost no one else can see. The book is also loaded with Harry Potter references (Cassidy is a proud Gryffindor) and a spooky Scottish setting that evokes a little of that Hogwarts feeling. A second book in the series was released earlier this year and a third is on the way.
From the Publisher: “Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead … and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.
So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger. When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.”
What People Are Saying: “Spine tingling and page-turning, perfectly blending humor, heart, and adventure… I loved it!” –Jennifer A. Nielsen, New York Times bestselling author of The False Prince
If you like teenage witches and wizards, contemporary fantasy, and feisty girls who stick up for themselves…
I wrote this book! It’s called The Witches of Willow Cove and it comes out May 26. I was inspired by J.K. Rowling’s magical series, particularly the third and fourth books where the kids are in their early teens. The elements that most interested me in Harry Potter were the magic, friendships, slowly unfolding mysteries, the occasional darkness, and the clever way all the twists and turns come together at the end of each book—especially in book three. So if Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is one of your favorites in the series, I hope you’ll give The Witches of Willow Cove a try. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite local bookstore. I’m working on the sequel right now.
From the Publisher: “It’s not easy being a teenage witch. Seventh grader Abby Shepherd is just getting the hang of it when weird stuff starts happening all around her hometown of Willow Cove. Green slime bubbling to life in science class. Giant snakes slithering around the middle school gym. Her best friend suddenly keeping secrets and telling lies.
Things only begin to make sense when a stranger named Miss Winters reveals that Abby isn’t the only young witch in town—and that Willow Cove is home to a secret past that connects them all. Miss Winters, herself a witch, even offers to teach Abby and the others everything she knows about witchcraft.
But as Abby learns more about Miss Winters’ past, she begins to suspect her new mentor is keeping secrets of her own. Can Abby trust her, or does Miss Winters have something wicked planned for the young witches of Willow Cove?”
What People Are Saying: “This atmospheric debut is a nail-biting story of local history, sinister magic, and what it means to be a true friend. With narrow escapes, rising tension, and secrets aplenty, good luck trying to put this one down!” –Diane Magras, Author of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter (Junior Library Guild Spring 2018 Selection, The New York Times Editors’ Choice, ALSC Notable Children’s Book)
If you like British boarding schools and tight-knit friends…
My first reaction upon reading The Mystery of Black Hollow Lanewas that it’s just like Harry Potter without the magic spells. I mean that in a good way. British boarding school? Check. Three friends investigating a mystery? Check. Suspicious teachers and lots of twists and turns? Check and check. This is a great story that evokes the cozy feelings of the early books in the Harry Potter series. A sequel has just been released and I hope there’s even more to come.
From the Publisher: “With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who’s a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England, where she’s sure she won’t fit in.
But then she finds a box of mysterious medallions in the attic of her home – medallions that belonged to her father…who may have gone to Wellsworth.
When she arrives at school, she finds the strange symbols from the medallions etched into walls and books, which leads her and her new friends, Jack and Lola, to Wellsworth’s secret society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane. Emmy can’t help but think that the society had something to do with her dad’s disappearance and that there may be more than just dark secrets in the halls of Wellsworth.”
What People Are Saying: “A page-turning mystery ripe with plot twists, crackling humor, and a plucky heroine. Kids will love Emmy and beg for more.” —Michael Buckley, New York Times bestselling author of The Sisters Grim and NERDS
If you like Hagrid and his Monster Book of Monsters…
Is it magical creatures you’re looking for? Let me introduce you to Fablehaven, a favorite literary destination for fans of mythic monsters like trolls, imps, satyrs, and fairies. With relatable sibling leads, a fantastic setting, and a mystery to solve, there’s a lot to love in this long-running fantasy series by Brandon Mull. The first series consists of five novels; a subsequent set of books continues the story after that.
From the publisher: “For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite…
Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.”
If you like adventurous boys, magical battles, and epic mythology…
Percy Jackson and the Olympians may seem like an obvious pick—in my unscientific survey of lists suggesting what to read after Harry Potter, it’s the most frequently recommended series—but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s wrong. The Lightning Thief is the book that launched Rick Riordan to literary superstardom, and with good reason. It’s a fun, funny, adventurous romp that really hits the post-Potter sweet spot. If you’ve only seen the movies, you’re missing out. Not only are they not as good as the books, they’re really not even that similar. Skip the films and head straight to the novels. My son, who doesn’t typically read fantasy, loves these books.
From the Publisher: “Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him.
When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea.
Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.”
What People Are Saying: “Packed with humorous allusions to Greek mythology… along with rip-snorting action sequences, this book really shines.” —Horn Book Magazine
I resisted picking up a copy of the eighth Harry Potter story,Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, because I’d heard mixed reviews of the story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany. It’s a play script rather than a novel, and it focuses on the next generation of kids at Hogwarts, though Harry, Ron, and Hermione do play major roles.
Then my daughter talked me into buying tickets for the Broadway production. And I have to say, maybe a bit grudgingly, it’s a reasonably good continuation of the series. Not perfect, not necessarily the direction I would have gone, but still—a worthy successor. See the full production if you can (the stage effects are spectacular) or read the script if a live performance isn’t in the cards. Either way, it’s a nice way to say goodbye—again—to the wizarding world. And you can always pretend it’s fan fiction if the story’s particular twists and turns aren’t to your liking.
From the Publisher: “It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.
While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.”
What People Are Saying: “A well-crafted and enjoyable read.” —Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal
Check out the best gifts for your favorite female traveler to give this Mother’s Day—bonus, most of these Mother’s Day gifts are under $100.
Travel-Related Mother’s Day Gifts
Bellroy Travel Folio
Help your mom stay organized while traveling with this chic passport holder and travel wallet. She can keep the whole fam organized since it fits two passports, four to eight cards, cash, and multiple boarding passes. This zip-up style also has RFID blocking technology, which protects documents, cards, and passports from RFID skimming, i.e. electronic pickpocketing. The environmentally-certified leather wallet also comes with a three-year warranty.
Give mom a protective and sustainable phone case, no matter what model phone she has. This case is both drop-proof (from two meters), easy to grip, and helps the environment through a donation on the company’s behalf to select charities.
If mom isn’t the most tech-savvy, then these affordable wireless earbuds might just be the perfect gift. This pair supports true wireless and Bluetooth capabilities and comes with a charging case of its own.
Go totally hands-free with this useful and inexpensive phone case; it’s a crossbody bag, wallet, phone holder, and protective case all in one. This Mother’s Day gift is perfect for walking the dog, circling the park, or grabbing a coffee.
From beach picnics to lining the back seat of the car for your family pooch, YETI’s outdoor blanket is an ideal gift for the no-fuss mom. It even comes in a convenient carrying case and is machine-washable. Other standout features are that this comfy blanket has a waterproof layer and that it easily shakes off pet hair.
Gift mom a personalized photo album with this simple yet beautiful woodblock stand. Send 12 of your favorite travel photos to Artifact Uprising and the company will print them on thick card stock and voila—you’ve got a personalized gift within days.
Whether she’s cooking for additional family members in quarantine or perfecting some of her favorite recipes, this multi-purpose toaster oven will be a delightful surprise. Not only is it reasonably priced, but it serves as an air fryer, toaster oven, broiler, rotisserie, and more. The 12 presets include: pizza, roast, airfry, toast, bagel, bake, broil, cookies, rotisserie, dehydrate, ferment, and keep warm. Plus, there’s an included recipe book (featuring over 100 ideas) for even more cooking inspiration.
While the jury’s still out on our summer vacations, remind mom of one of her favorite places with an ultra-plush blanket from ChappyWrap. With maps of locales like Cape Cod and San Francisco, you can keep her cozy during stay-at-home orders.
This pair of stylish slip-on shoes from Keds make for the perfect understated, yet practical gift for mom. Wear them now around the house and save them for the next family beach vacation. The versatile style means they match with almost anything and the slip-on style makes them ideal for errand running and city walking.
We’ve already expressed our love for Rothy’s latest bag collection, and we think the line of bags and pouches also make for great Mother’s Day gifts. All of the accessories are stylish and practical for both future travel and use around town.
Keep mom comfy and fashionable with these spring and summertime sandal staples. Between the premium leather, memory foam footbed, and on-trend style these shoes have it all. Not only do they match almost everything, they’ll be her go-to pair of shoes all summer long.
I’ve already raved about these in my review, but these slipper socks are the perfect inexpensive gift for mom this Mother’s Day. The sock-like upper is flexible and soft while the cushy rubber bottom lets you grab your mail, take the dog out, etc. without having to put real shoes on.
Gift mom this classic shirt, with a twist. The moisture-wicking and stretchy material mean this shirt is the queen of double-duty. Whether she’s a frequent flier or just likes to look chic (but make it comfy) at the grocery store, this athleisure brand has got you covered.
These lightweight pants are the stylish ideal travel pant, but can also be worn easily around the house. The stretch crepe material is airy and breathable and will look good with either a sweatshirt or blazer.
Fair warning, you may want to steal this gift, but know it will bring the utmost coziness to your mom. So, let her enjoy it. Bleusalt’s environmentally-friendly and sustainable beechwood fabric is literally a dream, so anything you pick will be a win. But, if you need help choosing, The Classic Shirt and The 2 Yard Wrap are my go-tos.
Spoil mom with high-quality cashmere, but not at the expected price tag. State Cashmere offers dozens of styles under $100 as well as a wallet-friendly and lightweight spring line, made with cotton cashmere. Or pick something out from the travel section, think socks, blankets, and wraps.
Cult-favorite skincare brand, TULA, offers some of their best-selling products in a convenient and reasonably priced, travel-sized kit. It’s a perfect way to test out the facial cleanser, day and night cream, sugar scrub, and moisturizing primer. And while you’re at it, throw in the brightening eye balm and sunscreen to your cart for yourself (we won’t tell).
Help mom make her skincare routine healthier with Athena Club’s the Go-Tos set. At just $25 this gift set includes the brand’s Dewy Body Lotion, Soft Face Wipes, and All Day Deo. Each product is made with good-for-you ingredients and smells fantastic.
Mom will thank you for this life-changing makeup gift. Meet Subtl Beauty’s stack, the ultimate travel-friendly makeup on the market. Build her a custom stack by choosing a lip stain, concealer, highlighter, bronzer, and/or shine control powder and voila, all her makeup’s in one place.
Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.
We asked experts—the spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) as well as the team physician for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox, and Joffrey Ballet—about shoes that are good for your feet. Here’s what shoes they recommend you pack on your next walking-intensive trip.
“Healthy travel shoes should have arch support, a thicker sole, and shock absorption. A breathable fabric is a bonus. Sneakers should be your go-to when traveling. A casual sneaker should do the trick without weighing down your bags,” says APMA Podiatrist and spokesperson Dr. Priya Parthasarathy.
“If you have to do open-toed, avoid flip-flops and do a more supportive sandal. Something thicker, with arch support and a depression in the heel. My favorite sandals for travel are Birkenstocks.”
Dr. Kamran S. Hamid, an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon for Midwest Orthopedics at Rush and team physician for the Chicago Bulls, White Sox, and Joffrey Ballet also weighed in.
“In general, the best shoes for traveling are those that have adequate support and are comfortable. Hoka shoes are a newer brand that are tremendously light while still providing great support and cushioning. Additionally, they have a slight curvature in the front and back of the shoe which takes some stress off of the middle of the foot for long periods of walking. These are great shoes for long-distance runners that we have repurposed for patients with foot/ankle arthritis or pain.”
How the Tracksmith Session Shorts and Harrier Long Sleeve Rate
Comfort: 10/10. The Session Shorts are made out of an extra-soft Veloce knit fabric that’s lightweight, moisture-wicking, and breathable, and UV protective. The anti-microbial liner won’t chafe or retain odors, making these perfect for travel. The Harrier Long Sleeve is made out of a merino/nylon blend that will keep you sweat and smell free in the spring or fall.
Features: 9/10. The shorts have a perfectly-sized zipper pocket on the side that can hold keys or gels.
Design: 9/10. At 3.25″, the shorts hit the sweet spot for length (not too short and not too long).
Style: 10/10. With a discreet logo and a sleek silhouette, you can wear this outfit out on runs or to run errands.
Final Verdict: Tracksmith’s Harrier Long Sleeve and Session Shorts are the perfect outfit for shoulder season runs.
The VSSL First Aid Kit contains everything you might need in an emergency, and it’s small and lightweight enough that you can always have it on you.
VSSL First Aid Kit Review
Price and Where to Buy: At the time of writing, the VSSL First Aid Kit was on sale for $94 on VSSL’s website.
How the VSSL First Aid Kit Rates
Usefulness: 10/10. The VSSL First Aid Kit is thoughtfully stocked with everything you might need in an emergency, including an LED flashlight, a compass, bandages, a whistle, a thermometer, and more.
Durability: 10/10. The VSSL is made out of military-grade aluminum, so it’s tough and waterproof. It’s also backed by a lifetime warranty.
Portability: 10/10. The emergency supplies are packed inside the flashlight, and the whole kit weighs less than a pound. It’s less than 2 inches in diameter and is easy to keep in your glove box or backpack.
Style: 10/10. The unique VSSL design is perfect. It’s shaped like a flashlight, with the flashlight at the top, the compass on the bottom, and all the supplies inside. The bright red color makes it easy to spot when you need it.
Final Verdict: Hikers, travelers, and drivers should keep the VSSL First Aid kit nearby at all times.