Traveling is rich in experience but doesn’t have to be an experience only for the rich!

I will tell you right now. You can afford to travel! Don’t believe me? You should – because I do. I make sacrifices, yes. I make it priority, yes. Why? Because I can’t imagine my life without travel.IMG_0116

Whether you are looking to travel regularly or want to take the trip of a lifetime; you can do it. You may just need a bit of advice from someone who is a well seasoned traveler – namely, me. I’m no expert travel agent. But I do have some tricks of the trade which allow for me and my husband to take above average vacations on our average budget

Stalk the system! 

Got to love the internet. The ability to stalk is unbelievable. I’m not a creep but I stalk on a daily basis. There are companies all over the world selling the same travel products: flights, cruises, all-inclusive vacations, hotels, car rentals, tours, etc. Your job as the consumer is to use that to your advantage.

Sign up for updates and alerts for any price drops on places you want to go. When I fly internationally, I stalk all major airlines from here to Europe from all major airports. I just booked a flight from the Germany to the Midwestern US for $400. That’s crazy good! It might take some time and energy but it does pay off – literally.

Get a travel rewards credit card! Maximize your spending by putting it on a card that gives back for money spent on travel. Plus, no fees on swipes overseas can be a life saver. A lot of credit card companies have bonuses as well, stalk them and take advantage.

Explore every means of transportation. Everyone likes to arrive as fast and as comfortable as possible but traveling on a budget can’t always be like that. Some flights have big layovers. Some distances are cheaper by train, bus, or boat. Explore all your options just to be sure.

Pinch pennies! 

International travel isn’t an expensive as you think. That means, every dollar counts. Keep that in mind while saving up for your big trip. You can sacrifice a few extra splurges a week and save real money to spend while overseas. Don’t believe me? I’ll give you an example.

I live in Germany. Currently, flights from the airport 30 minutes from my house to London England are ten euro. Now, ten euro is about twelve dollars. Twelve dollars is about what you spend on a lunch at Panera, am I right? Lets say you eat at Panera or something similar twice a week. Tell me, if you had the choice between; first option: eating two PB&Js and getting a round trip ticket to London; and second option: eating Panera twice. Which would you choose? Are you catching my drift? I hope so.

I mentioned before something about long layovers. Everyone hates them but you don’t have too! Many times, flights with super long travel times due to super long layovers are cheaper than those without. But think about it, you can save money and explore more cities. Who said you have to stay in the airport? Look into transportation into the closest city from the airport. With a six-hour layover in Finland, you could bus into the city, have a meal, go through a museum and walk the streets aimlessly. Fun, huh?

Get your priorities straight! 

It is important to have a plan. I prefer that plan to be well-organized. You need to know where you are going, how you are getting there and what you want to do and see! Everyone has a different idea of what a vacation is. Some are the lay on the beach and relax type of people. Some are the extreme sports and active type people. Some are the museums and tours type of people. There is no wrong!

I’m just here to be the friendly reminder that you can’t have it all. Okay, maybe your rich and laughing right now because you can have it all. If so, I’m jealous! For the rest of us, we have to get our priorities straight. If you want to relax on the beach; you have to sacrifice on the activities. If you want to do all the activities; you have to sacrifice on the relaxing. It’s simple really.

For my husband and I, we go to tour cities! We hit the major sites and see the most amazing famous things in the world. We prioritize our daily activities over our nightly sleeping arrangements. We pay less for our hotel or hostel in order to experience more within the city. The same concept can be applied to any vacation you take!

What are you waiting for? Stalk the system! Start pinching you pennies! And get your priorities straight! Stop making excuses for why you don’t have a passport; why you haven’t ever flown; why you haven’t done something you’ve always dreamed about!

3 travel tips the average traveler MUST know!

Are you planning to fly overseas?  Are you day dreaming about places mysterious and unknown?  Either way, I’ve been where you are.  I’ve had my fair share of international flights but I’ve had more days spent dreaming about so much more – more trips, more countries, more places, more adventure.

Flights overseas are complicated but don’t have to be confusing.

For many, the mere thought of flying overseas is overwhelming. It is true – international travel can be almost discouraging in nature because of all the possibilities. I want to say this in the nicest way possible – Get over it! The pros will out weigh the cons. I promise you will not regret international travel done right. It is life changing!

Be organized, do your research!

Whether organization is a natural strong suit of yours or not – I suggest you do your best to be organized in this one aspect of your life.

Tip #1: Make a folder in your personal email for travel.

The internet is your best tool for planning this journey. Entire journeys can be planned, bought and booked without ever leaving your couch. It’s a beautiful thing – the internet. Throughout this process you will make many subscriptions to various websites and you will need a folder to organize all the information they send you.

While this might seem unnecessary, companies who send “junk mail” don’t always include only junk. Often times, I receive emails which contain real trips, real deals, and more importantly – real ideas that spark my interest into a new trip idea. Yes, there are times in my life when I delete all those emails. If I’m not traveling or planning a trip they don’t have much value to me. They are truly junk to me, in that moment. But if I am itching for a getaway, it is usually an email ad that inspires my brainstorming!

On the other hand, when trips become real and you are booking travel you need an organized place in your inbox to keep all of your travel times, destinations addresses, and confirmation codes. Additionally, it keeps all the receipts in one place so I can budget my trips and know exactly how much I spent and on what I spent it.

I challenge you to add the folder on your inbox now! Even if you have nothing planned, it will stare at you and maybe one day you will finally have the courage to take the trip of your dreams.

Tip #2: Know where you want to go and what you want to see. 

Many people want to see the world but when I ask them – where they want to go and what they want to see, more often than not the answer is something like “Rome, London, Paris, everything!” The reality is: Those places aren’t neighboring cities. You must pass language, country borders, and bodies of water to achieve such a trip. Are you prepared?

I suggest lists! I love lists but especially when traveling. I make lists of cities and countries, sites within cities and countries, travel between cities and countries, and travel between sites within those cities and countries. I have lists created of road trips across the US, backpacking trips through Europe, island hoping in Indonesia, and cruises through the Caribbean. Some of which are ridiculously far-fetched but until I plan them I will never know where my limit of possibilities are.

I recommend a few websites I use to aid me in making these lists. I wish they were like this cute little secret websites that contain hidden places that no one has ever visited but frankly, those don’t exist. These are all pretty popular but also very helpful!

  • Google – I use google maps and googles top sights to inspire my travel in some of the most beautiful places in the world. It rarely forgets a top sight and always contains information about the surrounding area not to mention the travel between areas.
  • TripAdvisor – I like the ranking system that TripAdvisor uses to rank the top sights to see in a given city. I usually cross reference their “sights to see” with googles “top sights”. They balance each other to give me an idea on what is really worth my time.
  • Lonely Planet – I use Lonely Planet for more of the off-the-beaten-path type of activities. They suggest restaurants, festivals, and tours that are top notch.
  • Afar – I use Afar much like Lonely Planet! And, bonus, it is updated by real people on what they real did while in a country.

Tip #3: Print or screen shot everything.

Call me old school but before my husband and I travel, I print everything! I’ve been in a situation one to many times where technology failed me; I was left helpless – a slave to data service or wifi. Once you have booked each step of your journey, it is more than likely you have an email, a URL, and maybe even an app all with the information you need for your trip. How exciting! Now, it’s time to actually travel!

I hope you have planned ahead and taken the time to check what kind of international data your cell phone company offers during international travel. But regardless, I recommend to print or at least write down all of your confirmation codes, addresses, and travel plans so you don’t have to rely on 2G data speeds or finding a wifi cafe to try and figure out train schedules, directions, or confirmation codes.

Another more technology friendly idea is to screen shot all the information so it saves on your camera roll instead of having to load the email or internet page. It’s faster and more reliable. Plus, if you are like me – a control freak, reliable puts your mind at ease so you can actually enjoy yourself during the journey – knowing you are prepared.

Here are some examples of things I screen shot, print or write down before I travel.

  • Travel dates and times – This may seem like a no-brainer but a lot of people rely on the technology at the location of travel to know when they are supposed to be where. Often, bus and train stations have travel times posts online but then on-site they don’t have live screens updating you on when they next train, bus, or boat leaves. Save yourself from the stress by making a note about timetables of transportation you are planning on using.
  • Lodging information – I highly recommend writing down the name and address of the place you are staying! In additional, include your confirmation code, the price you paid when you booked it online, the check-in and check-out times, and the contact information in case you have trouble finding it.
  • Keywords – If traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language, I recommend jotting down a few common phrases. Yes, while almost everyone in the world speaks English nowadays; I find that it greatly enhances the experience of travel if you have a few words or phrases ready to whip out and surprise the natives. Words like: Hello, Goodbye, Excuse me, Thank you, Please – go a long way when trying to get the help or attention of those around you.
  • Maps – Pretty much everywhere in the world now has some form of public transportation. It might not be stellar but they do have something! If you are like me, you don’t have a private driver picking you up from the airport. Rather, you have to catch a bus, train or taxi. Don’t rely on your phone to load the information for what train line or subway station or bus number you are suppose to take next. Document the routes of public transportations and maybe add notes about which lines take you where – lodging, city center, airport, bus station, car rental property, etc.

I challenges you to fight through the complications – it’s worth it. There may be times of confusion but following these simple tips will help you a bit along the way. Best of luck as you plan your adventure.