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The Smart Girls Guide to Las Vegas

26 Jun

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Some girlfriends and I decided to celebrate our recent graduation from Michigan State University with a weekend in the City of Sin. What better way to treat yourself for surviving four more years of education than at one of the World’s Top Party Cities?! We had the time of our lives and did it all on a college girl’s budget.  Here is a collection of tips and tricks I picked up throughout the duration of our vacation.

 THE ESSENTIALS


Our hotel and flight were booked a month in advance for 4 days and 3 nights. If you travel to Las Vegas during the off-season it saves you money, flying on weekdays saves you even MORE money. Try to avoid flying Spirit Airlines if you can, the baggage fees suck. You are better off flying Southwest for the best rates! We stayed in Excalibur, a hotel towards the end of the strip. The hotel had a 30% promo when we booked which was awesome. The location was conveniently close to the necessities, (food court, CVS, bus top, other popular hotels), without the price of the main hotels (Venetian, Bellagio, Caesars Palace) in the center of the strip.

SUGGESTION: Mandalay Bay was right next door and we had a blast both at their club LIGHT and most especially at their pool party DAYLIGHT BEACH CLUB. I recommend staying there to swerve the whole family scene goin’ on in Excalibur.

P1040145TIPS:

  • 3-4 days in Vegas is perfect, but any longer would be too much. You don’t get much sleep with all the late night activities!
  • Take the bus from the airport to your hotel on the strip. $2 one way vs $15 to take the shuttle.
  • Wear at LEAST spf 50. The last thing you want is to look fried on your first night out in the city.
  • Nasal spray is also a good idea, even if you don’t get bloody noses….it helps with breathing and staying comfortable.
  • Keep hydrated! We kept water in our purses while exploring and Gatorade in our hotel room for early mornings and late nights.
  • Be sure to tip everywhere you go (casinos, cabs, promoters, clubs). It’s highly expected in Vegas.

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BUDGETING


The city offers some seriously yummy dining options but at seriously expensive prices. We kept a designated snack table in our hotel room to cut down on costs. Each girl brought her own breakfast (granola bars) and little snacks to get them through the rest of the day (trail mix, crackers, jerky, etc). Try to stick to a cheap lunch and indulge in a nice dinner to stay on budget. We decided to splurge on one fancy dinner at Le Cirque in The Bellagio and my steak was worth every penny. I allowed myself about $100 per day ($300 total), but if you take my advice (see below), you’ll come home with $100 leftover like I did!

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SUGGESTION: The girls and I had a fabulous on-budget lunch, thanks to a tip from a local employee. Check out Serendipity 3 for the best $5 happy hour Sangria of your life and the cutest little dining experience. Located across the street from The Flamingo hotel and attached to Caesars Palace.

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TIPS:

  • DO YOUR RESEARCH. You will save tons of money by finding promoters and packages online before your trip.
  • Sign up for multiple guest lists online. Try to have a few options for each day just in case you don’t end up liking a place.
  • It’s much more difficult to skip the line and get offered VIP/Bottle Service if you have boys in your group (sorry fellas).
  • Body guards may escort you to bottle service with random guys, which means free drinks served directly to you. That definitely does not mean you have to stay there. We usually enjoyed a few drinks, made small talk, then left… your girl does not pass up free, $100 bottles of champagne. Cheers!
  • My group was not big on gambling but we definitely made a point to try, it is Vegas after all! Stick to the quarter slots to save money. Notice I didn’t say penny slots (I know that’s what you were thinking). Bartenders don’t usually frequent those slots, which means less free drinks for you. Just pop in a few dollars, and …slowly….use up your bets. (Don’t forget to tip)!

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ENTERTAINMENT


Make a point to see at least one of the many fabulous shows that Las Vegas has to offer. One of the highlights of our weekend was seeing the all male Australian show, Thunder Down Under. We thought it was the perfect way to celebrate our 1 year anniversary from our study abroad in Australia last summer! Plus hot dudes….you can’t go wrong. The show was like experiencing the movie Magic Mike firsthand. It was perfect for a group of gals fresh out of college, we laughed the whole time! (Table #12 is gold, you’ll thank me later). I also suggest going to a pool party for some daytime fun, they are very big in Vegas and Daylight Beach Club was a riot!

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SUGGESTION: Hit the pool parties early in order to get a good spot by the pool that doesn’t cost $200+. Pack light so you’re not stuck having to take shifts watching each others stuff. Be aware some pool clubs will have you standing the whole time if it’s an overrated hotel.

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TIPS:

Vegas clubs are constantly changing popularity, music genres, DJ’s, and crowds. Here are my tips for the following clubs in 2014;

  • Tryst Nightclub at The Wynn: Hip Hop & R&B, great crowd, small dance floor, beautiful/classy decor. By far my favorite club of the whole weekend.
  • TAO Nightclub at The Venetian: Hip Hop & R&B with a bit of EDM, mixed crowd, big dance floor, awesome Asian inspired decor. My second favorite club of the weekend.
  • LIGHT Nightclub at Mandalay Bay: Top 40 & Heavy EDM, weird crowd, medium dance floor, amazing circus acts all night, very entertaining.
  • HAZE Nightclub at The Aria: Top 40 & EDM Mix, decent crowd, good size dance floor. My least favorite of the weekend.
  • All free drink tickets from your promoters (usually good before midnight) are for well drinks, so know what you want beforehand in order to get in and out of the overly crowded bars quicker.

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SIGHT-SEEING


Some of the best sight-seeing opportunities in Vegas lie in the various themed hotels and casinos on the strip. The best part being, it’s totally free! Do as many as you possibly can because they all have something special to offer. Be sure to cab into Old Vegas, Fremont Street as well, it has a cool outdoor/indoor atmosphere. Old Vegas offers a laser light show canopy above your head at night, free live concerts, some classic casinos like The Golden Nugget and newer ones like The D (Detroit pride baby)! There are even various characters ready to snap a photo for a small price (Chippendales, Vegas Showgirls, The Village Men, Naked Cowboy…you name it, they have it). It’s the only street in Vegas you’re allowed to carry your alcoholic beverage around outside too.

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SUGGESTION: A few of the casinos have free shows for their spectators. Check out Treasure Island for a pirate ship show, Circus-Circus for circus performers, The Mirage for the erupting Volcano, and the Forum Shops to watch The Fall of Atlantis. (We didn’t get to see any of these because we ran out of time, but I did the research and they are all major tourist attractions)!

TIPS:

  • I didn’t realize just how long The Strip was (about 4 miles) until I got there. Ye be warned.
  • Time management for your one day of sight-seeing is very important, get up earlier than you want in order to see more.
  • The Bellagio fountains are magical, so much better in person than any video you’ve seen or story you’ve heard.
  • Don’t be afraid to go into the designer stores, we crashed Tiffany’s like we owned the place…it’s just cool to stare at stuff you can’t ever imagine affording.
  • Zip-line down Fremont Street for about $30 (looked like a blast)!
  • Take a trip on the big Ferris Wheel during the day ($25) or at night ($35) for a spectacular view of the city.
  • Get camera happy, it’s worth it. We skipped our only 2 hours to sleep after the clubs before our 8AM plane back home just to snap photos of ourselves in front of the Vegas Sign…. WORTH IT. (PS don’t try to walk there, just cab and get it over with).

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FASHION


For every girl who texts you “what are you bringing to Vegas” here are your answers. Over packing is a burden, and for such a short weekend, the majority of you will probably carry-on your luggage. You want options but not too many options where you are holding up the crowd trying to decide what to wear. Plan your nighttime outfits to a T, shoes, jewelry and all. I tried to add a little bit of character to each of my outfits (pin-up look, leather look, etc). I feel more put together that way, as opposed to picking the shortest, tightest dress I could find….any girl can do that. Don’t be afraid to stand out, that’s what gets you noticed! As for daytime clothes, I brought two traveling outfits for the plane and one daytime sight-seeing outfit. I also brought 2 bikini’s as options for our hotel pool and pool party, as well as a white button down and floral cape as a cover-up to go with each. Don’t forget PJ’s!

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SUGGESTION: The lighter the fabric, the better. It is bloody hot in Nevada during the summer. Loose fitting, cotton, and comfy is a great mix when you are sweating your booty off walking 4 miles of the strip. Not only is thinner fabric lighter and easier to pack, it also allows you to fit more in your suitcase.

TIPS:

  • Comfy shoes are a must while sightseeing; I bring my Birkenstocks with me everywhere I go.
  • Remember your layers for the plane.
  • Sexy high heels are a must. SUCK iT UP, THiS iS VEGAS.
  • On that note…it’s okay to wear sandals to the club for one night….but one night only 😉
  • Don’t forget your cross-body bag so you are hands free to play. I wore brown for day and black for night.

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There you have it, a collection of my personal tips for the perfect girls getaway to Las Vegas. I hope this helps you in the planning process, saves you a bit of grief, and room for a bit more fun! Have anything to add? Feel free to comment in the box below.

 

Cheers,

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The Brunette Abroad: Hangin’ Loose in Hawaii

13 Mar

Aloha Readers!

Now that my last college spring break is over, I wanted to take the time to reflect on my final experience abroad last summer. On our flight back from Australia, we decided to take a seven day pit stop in Hawaii. My mind is especially wandering to the beautiful white sand beaches while I am stuck in the stormy, snowy weather of the Midwest.

Our extensive amount of luggage was a comical sight to see. After 3 months living out of a suitcase in Australia, we were forced to lug all of this crap to our hostel. The cab driver was not very happy with us.

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We stayed in a hostel in Honolulu, Hawaii right off the coast of Waikiki Beach. Our group of five girls stayed in a room with various visitors from Norway, China, Germany and of course, the US. The second we got settled into our rooms, we headed right to the beach to catch up on our tans. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

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Afterwards we came inside from a long day of relaxation to major sun burns… YIKES. Let me just add we wore SPF 30 and still woke up the next day fried to a crisp.

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Our second day started out with a heavy dose of SPF 90 along with cotton t-shirts in order to hike Diamond Head National Park. Old volcano’s and ancient WWII bunkers kept us preoccupied until we reached the top. We caught a breathtaking sight of Honolulu making the sweltering hike 100% worth it..

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as well as goofing off with some other great sights along the way…

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Our next big adventure consisted of a night out with our hostel roommates, who happened to be from California. We decided to pub crawl 5 different bars downtown and it was a total blast! We spent the night meeting a ton of new friends from all over the world and dancing the night away. I am happy to call those roomies my friends still to this day! 🙂

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The next day was followed with a very special visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Site. My friend Cortney and I woke up early in order to pay our respects to all of the brave soldiers who gave their lives fighting for our freedom during WWII almost 72 years ago. I have to admit I cried like a baby after taking the charter out to the USS Arizona Memorial placed above one of the sunken battleships. The whole experience was mind-blowing and something I will never forget. It served as a great reminder of how proud I am to be American…

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To conclude our incredible stopover on the island of Oahu, we decided to attend a traditional Luau at Germiane’s. The crew got all dressed up for a night of hawaiian food and entertainment. Each of us was adorned with a beautiful shell lei upon our arrival and handed our drink tickets for the night. We enjoyed an extensive buffet of all you can eat Hawaiian foods including roast pig, pineapple, pu pu, coconut cake and much more. Once we settled back to our seats after piling on our plates with heaps of authentic foods, we watched a show full of impressive polynesian dancing. Each dance was from a different Pacific Island including Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Samoa. We witnessed everything from traditional hula and fire dancing to combat dances with sticks. It was one of the coolest performances I have ever seen!

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The Hawaiian Islands are exactly what the media cracks them up to be. I’ve never seen a more naturally stunning environment like the beaches of Oahu. Most of the locals were friendly and absolutely glow with the passion they contain for their homeland. I would recommend visiting Hawaii to each and everyone of my friends, as it’s so full of beauty, serenity, excitement and relaxation.

This post concludes the last of my study abroad installment to my blog. Be sure to check out the rest of my posts featuring my experiences interning in Australia and feel free to post any comments/questions if you are curious about traveling abroad!

Mahalo,

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The Brunette Abroad: My Road Trip Through New Zealand

24 Nov

It has been three months since my amazing adventure abroad, and even to this day it feels like yesterday. As I am sitting on my cozy couch with my roommate in our college house, my heart yearns for the beautiful sights and experiences I had just last season. Although it feels like a dream, I cling onto these memories in hopes of returning one day. Until then, I write down everything I can think of from each of my mini adventures. Tonight I am excited to share my trip through the North Island of New Zealand with you.

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My friend and I decided to rent a car and make our way through as much as the island as we could, all in 3 days! We started by flying into Auckland, where we were greeted by a gorgeous display of the Maori indigenous culture. We checked into a hostel and prepared for our weekend journey.

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At 8 A.M. we were ready to pick up our rental and take to the road from the big city of Auckland to the remote area of Matamata (a.k.a Hobbiton).Thanks to my friends swift adaption of driving on the left side of the road (yikes!) and a straight hour of Mumford and Sons, we arrived to the original movie sight of The Lord of the Rings trilogy in a little over an hour. Both being fans of the movie series, we set out on a tour of the site. We learned fun facts about the movies, and got to walk the same paths as Gandalf the Grey and our favorite ring bearer, Frodo! Afterwards we relaxed with an original brew of our choice (created for the cast by Peter Jackson himself) within the Green Dragon Tavern, an exact replica of the one in the movie!

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After that we set off to the city of Tauranga. Sitting right off the coast of The Bay of Plenty, Tauranga is home the massive, extinct volcano of Mauao, (Mount Maunganui). This city was where my boss at my internship with Pretty Girl Fashion Group grew up, so I found it very cool I got to visit on my way down the north island. My friend and I stopped in time to hike to the top of the volcano for a quick workout and sight seeing. It was an awesome experience!

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The next day when we were driving to our next destination, Rotorua, we noticed a “rotten egg” smell in the air. Apparently the whole city reeks of it because of all the volcanic activity in the area. Once we got to driving, it was normal to see hot smoke rising from the ground in random places. This meant we were close to our next destination, the Wai-o-tapu Geothermal Wonderland. The park is New Zealand’s most colorful and diverse geothermal attraction revolved around the areas volcanic activity. We walked through naturally colored hot-and-cold pools, the world famous Champagne Pool, the amazing Lady Knox Geyser and the massive craters that are the hallmark of the Rotorua region’s volcanic heritage. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

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Afterwards, we jumped in the car to head to the North Island’s biggest lake, Lake Taupo. After a quick lunch of PB&J by the water, we headed around the lake towards the mountains of Tongariro National Park, which made for a breathtaking view. The scenery throughout all of our car rides were lovely, but this one is one I will never forget. Not long after, we arrived at the base of Tongariro Crossing and Mt. Ruapehu (a.k.a Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings).

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We decided to hike to the closest attraction (2 hours), which proved to be quite a task! We didn’t have much hiking gear, and my nikes could only take me so far past rivers, snow, and massive mounds of rock. We made due long enough to reach a stunning waterfall where we took pictures and enjoyed the sights. Tongariro is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and I recommend it to anyone if you are in New Zealand. This by far was one of the highlights of my entire summer. The mountain sights were absolutely incredible!

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After a long day of hiking, we drove to our closest hostel in sight of the mountains and prepared for our next adventure. The next day we drove our longest distance to reach the Waitomo caves, where we ventured to The Black Water Rafting Co. We experienced the adventure of a lifetime touring the glowworms in the famous Ruakuri Cave. We were guided by two experienced rafters as we took to the pitch black waters with our rafts. We floated in darkness with nothing but the tiny specs of light above us to guide our way to the end of the cave. It was scary and beautiful all at the same time. A very cool experience to add to the list!

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Finally, we headed back to Auckland for one last night to explore the big city before we flew back to Australia. I headed to the Sky Tower, the highest point of the city, for a cocktail and relaxing sight-seeing opportunity. I got to see the city all lit up at 1,076′ above the ground. The sky scrapers looked like shining beacons against the water. Such a great way to end a fabulous weekend adventure.

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If I ever get a chance to go back, I would do the South Island next! I loved the mountains and the South is known for its incredible, mountainous sights. (Look it up, seriously….stunning). New Zealand is one of the only countries where you can surf and snowboard in one day, so that would be another goal of mine as well.

I am so thankful for the chance to see such an amazing country. It was hands down one of the most exhilarating moments of my summer. A thanks goes out to my parents for helping me afford this trip (it was towards the end of my summer and bank account), Michigan State University for such an incredible study/intern abroad program (number one in the USA), and The Education Abroad Network for hooking us up with the coolest tour guide and arrangements while I was in Australia.

Cheers,

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The Brunette Abroad: Crazy in Cairns, Australia!

27 Sep

After getting home a little over a month ago, I took a break to spend time with my family and friends, and get settled back into college at MSU. Now that I am back in the good ole’ US of A, I am thrilled to share the rest of my amazing summer with you guys!

This post is about my trip to Cairns, Australia. Cairns is considered the tropical region of Australia which is located near one of the 7 Wonders of the Natural World, The Great Barrier Reef! After a good month of the cold and rain in Sydney, it’s safe to say we were ready for a mini vacation away from our internships to enjoy the 80 degree weather and amazing sights Cairns has to offer.

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We took off around 6 AM Friday to arrive in Cairns that afternoon. After arriving at easily one of the most fun hostels I have ever been to, Gilligans, we started to explore the area a bit. Cairns doesn’t actually have a functional beach because of all the swamp that surrounds it, so the city created a big “water hole” in the center to serve it’s residents and visitors. We made sure to check out the famous steel fish sculptures and pools the first day!

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That night us 4 girls went on a big pub crawl. We attended about 4 different bars surrounding the area, including SugarHut, PJ’s, Wool Shed, and Gilligans. There were easily over 100 people and we met amazing new friends, and had a blast dancing the night away. To my dismay, I did not sleep much that night and we had The Great Barrier Reef planned for early the next morning (yikes).

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Saturday morning on the reef was an experience to say in the least. I ended up a bit sea sick on the way out. Word of advice: ALWAYS take your ginger tablets! We had a day full of snorkeling, lunch on the boat, and great company. Unfortunately, my attempt to learn to dive 10 minutes beforehand didn’t go so well, but I still got a great view of 2 beautiful angelfish that swam right up to me in the middle of my unsuccessful dive training. After that I told myself one day I will go back and do it right. That means a full weekends worth of dive training, and then dive in the Great Barrier Reef more prepared.

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Sunday proved to be one of the best days of my entire summer. My good friend Cortney and I took a full day trip exploring the rainforests of Cairns. We got to experience some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen! We got to slide down a natural water slide in the middle of the forest, check out the world’s biggest fig tree, swim in the famous Millaa Millaa Falls (Herbal Essences Commercial ring any bells?), scout for platapi, swim in natural water holes, and relax in one of the Australia’s biggest crater lakes. My words can’t do this experience justice: so here are some pictures to give you a better idea of the beauty that is Australia…

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One heck of a weekend right? I was pretty upset to say goodbye to all the fun we had, but no where near as upset as when I found out I missed my flight back to Sydney!!! Cortney and I were stuck in the Cairns airport for 6 HOURS until we could catch another flight out, and boy was that a costly mistake! Lesson here kids: always be prepared, and check your itinerary regardless if you are “positive you leave at 12pm when the flight was really 10am”.

For more info on my experiences abroad in Australia, check out my posts for The Education Abroad Network!

Cheers,

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The Brunette Abroad: My trip to the Gold Coast through photos

25 Jul

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For a more detailed post of my adventures in Surfers Paradise, check out my blog post for The Education Abroad Network!

Cheers!

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The Brunette Abroad: My Summer Playlist

14 Jul

The Brunette Abroad: My Summer Playlist

Much like you other 20 somethings, music plays a major part in my life. While I am working abroad in Australia, I am constantly walking or riding public transport. This means my iPhone and iPod are never too far away from me.

Here are the songs I just can’t get enough of this summer; laid back, funky, beach approved, and full of good Aussie vibes. I love how music can remind you of a special person or place, and I know once I am back home in the States these songs will forever remind me of my amazing trip abroad:

1. Get Lucky- Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers

2. Ocean Avenue- Yellowcard

3. Lay Me Down- The Dirty Heads ft. Rome of Sublime

4. Rock Your Body- Justin Timberlake

5. Boys of Summer- The Ataris

6. Blurred Lines- Robin Thicke

7. I Want You- Savage Garden

8. Smooth- Santana ft. Rob Thomas

9. We Can’t Stop- Miley Cyrus

10. Royals- Lorde

A little mix of everything, perfect for any mood.

 

Cheers,

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Summer 2013 Moroccan Inspired Photoshoot

9 Jul

While traveling to the Gold Coast this past weekend I stumbled upon this photoshoot in my Glamour, June 2013 magazine. How stunning are the colors and theme? Makes me want to fly to Thailand and ride the elephants in a bikini (okay maybe not a bikini), but definitely a swingy skirt and crop top 😉

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Credit: Behati Prinsloo by Bruce Weber for Glamour US June 2013

I especially love all the mix of print and bright colors for summer. Comfy fabrics with a loose fit is perfect for the beach. Just add a layer of dainty gold necklaces, or thick leather beaded bracelets with sea salt sprayed waves for the ultimate bohemian look!

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