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Welcome to World Escapes, a travel blog by an American travel agency
based in Austin, TX. We promote slow, experiential travel for the
adventurous, modern-day traveler. Join us on our adventures as we

explore the world and share our experiences with you.


Discover our newest city guides, travel journals, itineraries, and practical tips from recent journeys.

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As a travel advisor, I travel often. Here are my favorite, must-have travel accessories to level up any trip:

1) Noise canceling headphones. One long international flight surrounded by a gaggle of screaming babies is one noisy trip too many. I always wear noise canceling headphones when I fly in order to be blissfully unaware of the chaos, crying and chatter around me.

2) A portable footrest that attaches to the airplane seat in front of me. I'm short, so long flights where my feet don't exactly touch the floor means I frequently experience low back and butt pain. This led me to buy a hammock/sling type of footrest made of fabric that attaches to the seatback in front of me. Using this device means I can comfortably lounge in my chair, and the pressure on my back is lifted. These hammock-like footrests are flexible and easy to adjust, so you can choose the optimal height for you.

3) Toiletry bottles with screw on lids. I've tried every possible toiletry packaging, and the only ones that reliably work for me are bottles with screw tops, which I buy on Amazon. The flip top toiletry bottles always leak on me (even when they claim not to), so these are a godsend.

4) My waterproof Kindle. I always have something to read when I bring my Kindle. Instead of packing four beach reads for a weeklong trip, I can store unlimited books on my little Kindle, which saves a ton of space when packing. The fact that it's completely waterproof means I can lounge in the water at the pool or at the beach, and read without worrying about water damage. (I know; I've dropped mine at the bottom of a pool before). My idea of heaven!

5) Self-test COVID test kits. After testing positive for COVID in Italy earlier this year, I now bring my own COVID self-test kits with me. This means I can always test myself before getting an official test.. This comes in handy if you're stuck in a foreign country waiting on that negative test result; by testing yourself in your hotel room you're saving major bucks by not going to a foreign pharmacy repeatedly to do so. You're also limiting exposure to others if you are symptomatic.

6) A paper hand-held fan. I can't tell you how many times I've been unbearably hot while traveling. Carrying a small, hand-held paper fan is a lifesaver. It's tiny, so you can pop it in your purse. And when you're uncomfortably hot, you'll be glad you have it.

7) A "sleep sounds" app for my phone. At home, I use white noise to go to sleep in the form of a ceiling fan. Because many hotel rooms don't have fans, I rely on an app on my iphone that lets me fall asleep to white noise in the form of ocean sounds, nature noises, and even fan sounds!

8) Motion sickness/nausea medication: Unfortunately, I've been sick to my stomach while trekking the sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namibia, driving the bumpy roads of Costa Rica, and languishing on the deck of a catamaran in Croatia. I now know to carry anti-nausea medication with me in the form of a patch or a pill that dissolves under my tongue (no water needed!). This medication has "saved" me more times than I can count.

9) While we're on the subject of medication, I've also started bringing constipation packets with me when I travel. My apologies for TMI, but traveler's constipation is a thing, and having these packets on hand means I'm prepared when it strikes, without the need to go to a foreign pharmacy. Trust me, I've tried to explain this issue before to a pharmacist when there's been a language barrier, and it made for a pretty colorful conversation.

10) Blister band-aids. It doesn't matter how "sensible" the shoes I pack are. Inevitably, I'm going to get a blister from all the walking I do when I travel. I love these bandages because they adhere well and won't fall off, no matter what. They're also very comfortable and can be used on other parts of the body if necessary.

by Meaghan Clawsie, Elated Escapes (

Of all the concerns my travel clients have approached me with lately, the most common is: "What if I test positive for COVID in a foreign country, and can't fly back to the United States? What will happen to me?" This is a legitimate concern, since the United States requires overseas travelers to produce a negative test in order to return to the country, regardless of vaccination status. Also: Omnicron.

Well, as luck (or bad luck) would have it, this happened to me recently. I had been traveling around Italy for 2 weeks, and it was time to come home. The day before I was due to fly back from Florence, I took my required COVID test, expecting things to be business as usual, and lo and behold, I tested positive. I was confused, because I was mostly asymptomatic. While I did have a scratchy throat that week, I assumed it was from running myself ragged for days on end. Who wouldn't feel crappy? In disbelief, I tested again. Still positive. I reluctantly accepted the fact that I must have COVID.

While I now know a few people that this has happened to, at the time, I was in the dark about how to handle the situation, despite working in the travel industry and having access to lots of information.

Here's what to do:

1) Always get travel insurance before you travel so if this happens to you, you won't have to pay out-of-pocket for the extra week (or more) you'll be required to stay in another country, and those unanticipated hotel nights and meals can get costly. Most travel insurance plans aren't too expensive, and will cover this sort of circumstance if you ask for it.

2) Bring COVID self-test kits with you on your trip. Not only can you test online (live) and eliminate the need to go to a testing place (which can be expensive), you'll be glad you have these tests with you if you're stuck in another country and want to test yourself repeatedly throughout the week. If you have a box of 6, say, that's 6 times you can test yourself cheaply without having to visit a doctor an approved pharmacy for an official test.

3) As soon as you test positive, if it's not documented (because you tested yourself), go get an official positive test, and hold on to it. Why? Because if you test positive for COVID, you only have two options for getting on a plane and going home -- a negative COVID test OR a doctor's note clearing you to travel. But you can't use (or get) a doctor's note until 10 days after you first tested positive, so you need to have a record of that date if you are going to use this option.

4) If you didn't get travel insurance before your trip (and even if you did), you'll want to ask your hotel or resort if they offer special lodging rates for guests who test positive for COVID. Many properties will cut you a break and allow you to stay on with them until you recover at substantially lower rates. This might come with a stipulation, such as canceling your housekeeping services (to keep staff from getting exposed) or asking that you eat your meals in your room instead of in their restaurants (so you don't infect other guests).

5) Once you get a negative test result, if it's not official (because you tested yourself, say), go get an official test result from a doctor or approved pharmacy so that you can fly home. But make sure you get an Antigen test, because Antigen tests are much less sensitive. (Other types of COVID tests such as PCR tests might show you as "positive" for weeks on end). Fortunately, the US accepts Antigen tests for re-entry.

6) If you've been testing positive for more than a week, and you don't feel symptomatic, it may be time to start thinking about getting a doctor's note to clear you to fly back home. These doctor's notes, called Documentations of Recovery, can be used to board a plane when accompanied by a positive COVID test result more than 10 days old. To get yourself a Documentation of Recovery letter, you have a few options. You can get one in-person from a doctor in the area in which you've been traveling, or you can get one online through a provider like QuickMD for a cost of around $75. Note: no doctor will give you one of these unless you can prove to them that you tested positive more than 10 days ago. This is why it's so important to keep hold of your first official positive test.

7) If you're biding your time overseas, waiting for a negative test result, don't try any wacky "remedies" in the hopes of cheating the system and getting a false negative. Not only is it unethical to travel in close quarters on cramped planes while you're contagious and symptomatic, but doing things like putting hand sanitizer up your nose (yes, I know someone who admitted to doing this) doesn't work, and you could end up harming yourself.

I have more tips, but I think this is a good start. For more guidance on how to handle testing positive for COVID while traveling, reach out to me at Safe travels!

by Meaghan Clawsie, Elated Escapes (

JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa in the Texas Hill Country

Looking for a quick, fun and restorative getaway from Austin? JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa is only 3 hours from Austin, in Sonora, Texas.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to stay at the JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa in Sonora, Texas for a few days of recreation and relaxation.

JL Bar is located in the majestic Texas Hill Country, a 3-hour drive from Austin. Situated on 13,000 acres, this all-inclusive luxury destination is five star all the way, without being stuffy or pretentious. After all, it’s a ranch!

Whether you want to relax and unwind for a few days at the spa, or whether you want to indulge in nonstop fun with activities like horseback riding, pistol shooting, and ATV exploring, JL Bar truly has something for everyone.

This beautiful, five star property sits on 13,000 acres

JL Bar aims to be a world-class destination, complete with the sorts of amenities you’d expect at a five-star resort, such as fine dining, wine tastings, banquet facilities, and a spa and fitness center. But what JL Bar offers that not many other properties do is a commitment to recreation, music, and natural beauty that allows guests to have a unique experience every time they come to stay at the ranch.

What surprised me most about JL Bar is how much FUN it is. It’s like a playground for adults (and kids). From the moment I checked in and was given a personal golf cart to ride around in during my stay (since the ranch is so big), I knew I was going to have a good time. During my few days there, in addition to getting spa treatments, I rode a horse, I explored the vast property on an ATV, I went shooting, I tried axe throwing, and I spent way too much time in the “living room” of the main lodge, hanging out at its bar, playing pool, and singing karaoke.

Getting ready to explore the grounds on an ATV

The main lodge is gorgeous, extremely well-appointed, and straight out of a rustic chic Pinterest board, but it’s also where all the nighttime fun and shenanigans take place. There are cozy fireplaces, a big central bar, a pool table, and a karaoke machine setup that gets a surprising amount of use. Because of the homey, communal feel of the lodge, you never know who you’ll be rubbing elbows with at the bar, or sharing a mic with at karaoke. On my recent visit, I decided to take a turn at karaoke and cued up “Life is a Highway,” only to be joined at the second mic by an unfamiliar bearded man in jeans and a puffer vest. As I stumbled through the lyrics and fumbled the melody, he put me to shame with his perfect pitch and mastery of the mic. When I left after the song finished to refill my wine glass, he stayed at the mic and chose another song, performing a solo. Everyone’s jaws collectively dropped as his deep, soulful singing filled the room, no longer blended with mine. Were we really hearing this guy? He was amazing. We later found out he’s a successful recording artist with his own band in New Orleans. We had been told by the staff earlier in our visit that “you never know who’s gonna take the mic next at karaoke,” and they were right on!

The "living room" in the main lodge

One of the reasons the karaoke sessions at JL Bar get so interesting is that the ranch also houses a professional music recording studio on its premises, and many well known and up-and-coming musicians have recorded songs there. (There’s also an airport on property, so stars can fly in incognito via their private jets). Apparently it’s not uncommon for musicians to come together at the ranch, share some libations (the wine selection at the ranch is AMAZING), and engage in songwriting at the ranch. And once they’ve written a song there, it’s easy to move into the recording phase, since the state-of-the-art recording studio is right there. The owners of the ranch are patrons of the arts, and they actually own the rights to many songs by novice and famous songwriters alike. Ever heard of Kacey Musgraves? Some of her songs are owned by the ranch.

The bar in the main lodge

Besides all the fun to be had on the ranch, it’s also a great place to go to to veg out and reconnect with yourself (or a friend or romantic partner). The setting is beautiful and luxurious and big enough that you can keep to yourself if that’s what you prefer. The manager of the ranch compared the feel of its grounds to South Africa, and I could instantly make the connection. There are incredible views from the ranch, and the landscape and sky are reminiscent of what you might experience there.

The grand staircase in the main lodge

Another high point for me is the quality of the staff at JL Bar. From the gregarious bartender who kept our glasses full every evening (the ranch is all-inclusive, so drink away), to Mike, the group sales manager who floored us at karaoke with his versions of “Sweet Caroline” and “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” everyone who works at the ranch is warm and engaging and the type of person you’d want to spend a few hours getting to know. Which is what we did! The common spaces at the lodge really encourage socializing and interactions, although if privacy and romance is what you’re after, you can certainly find quiet, private spaces as well.

The bartender in the wine cellar. Their wine selection is top notch

Two of my favorite staff members are John and Sydney, a couple who live and work at the ranch. John is the resident horse trainer and wrangler who took me horseback riding, and his wife Sydney is the wine sommelier who has the ability to teach anyone about wine while making it exciting. Having lived close to Napa and Sonoma for many years, I’ve been to my share of wineries, wine tastings and wine events, and I’ve heard lots of winemakers speak about their craft. But Sydney’s knowledge of wine, and her ability talk about it in easy to understand terms, really resonated with me. She offers wine tastings at night before dinner, and selects the perfect wine pairings to go with your meal as well.

John, the horse wrangler

The spa at the ranch is also amazing. The deep tissue massage I had was excellent, and they offer a number of skin treatments (both traditional and cutting edge) that I hear are phenomenal. Just one more reason to go back!

One of the spa's treatment rooms

The food at the ranch is plentiful, hearty, and delicious. Because the ranch is all inclusive, all your meals are covered, and boy are they good. Standout breakfast choices include chicken fried steak, eggs benedict, and breakfast tacos. Lunch one day was pizza made to order in an outdoor brick pizza oven. Dinner is over the top, with everything from huge cowboy steaks and melt-in-your-mouth pork chops to lighter fare like entree salads, salmon and halibut.

dining room
The beautiful dining room at the ranch

My time at JL Bar was restorative, yet packed with fun, and I'd gladly go back. There's so much to do there (or not do, if that's your preference), that every trip has the potential to be unique. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get away from it all and unplug from life and rediscover themselves. Whether it’s couples who want to play together by day and be wined and dined at night before indulging in some couple time, or families with kids who want to bond over activities like paintball, archery, ATV riding, axe throwing, fishing and horseback riding, or girlfriends who want a getaway that includes a fabulous spa and great meals and wine tastings, this all-inclusive ranch really does offer something for everyone!

Luxe accommodations at the resort

If you’d like to visit JL Bar Ranch, Resort & Spa, please reach out to me at to book a reservation.

JL Bar's values

by Meaghan Clawsie, Elated Escapes (



Discover our newest city guides, travel journals, itineraries, and practical tips from recent journeys.

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