$40 for Your First AirBnB Stay

$40 for Your First AirBnB Stay

As many of you know I am an advocate of using hostels, since they allow a community experience, and have led me to many friendships along my international journeys.

For those of you who continue to roll your eyes to that idea, a safer alternative is to jump on board to the AirBnB train. Below are 5 suggestions based on popular questions I get. For those who want to try the AirBnB experience you can register for $40 off a $70 (or more booking) using the link below. Yes, $30 for a night stay, whaaaatt!

$40 Discount Code

How do I find a high quality home for the cheapest price?

Easy! Follow the steps for how to do it on your mobile device below:

Click the explore tab on the bottom of the app

  • Select the explore tab on the bottom
  • Select the dates you are planning to leave
  • Select the number of people (generally, it’s more expensive for each person)
  • Enter in the search bar the place you’re going
  • Select filters on the top menu bar
    • Adjust your price range
    • Enter the criteria that interests you-  I always check “super host” & “free parking on premise”
      • Super host means the host you’ve selected have been favorably ranked, have hosted a min. of 10 guests, have been rated 5 stars by at least 80%, and have had a response time of 90% or better within 24-hours

What is the average cost per night?

*Speaking for 1-2 people stays

Obviously location means everything. For smaller cities I never pay more than $40/night (before fees and tax). For larger cities, or on the weekends I increase this to $60. If I am going over that amount is when I start using my hotel apps for discounts.

Are Airbnb’s safe? 

Of the over 30 stays I’ve gone on have I never felt unsafe. And some of those times I have been traveling alone. I always do my research before booking, of course, which includes finding which neighborhoods are safest. In terms of leaving my belongings, I have always felt they were safe in the rooms/places I was staying. For safe keeping I know a few of my friends lock their suitcases before leaving  any of their personal belongings.

Please, read the reviews!

I can’t tell you how thankful I have been for always reading the reviews before booking. I focus in on cleanliness, quality, and location. If those three things are favorable for the last 5 reviews I feel comfortable in booking a lower cost home.  It’s in these reviews you’ll find the truth. Know, that reviews are not posted until both people have left a review on each other. So there is some biases in what’s posted. Easily, a host won’t review someone if they feel the person won’t leave a favorable review. 

That said, one time I read a review for this college student who was renting her home in Pittsburg. I generally support the college students… paying off student debt is no joke! Anyway, someone left a comment about she and her boyfriend arriving after going to the bar at around 3am. They were welcomed with people in the streets dealing drugs and people blaring music. The couple decided they didn’t feel comfortable and did not stay. It’s insight and reviews like that, that will indicate stuff about where you’re staying, and will help you make safer decisions.

Book early, or your loss!

This AirBnb hype has caused little supply and a lot of demand. I recommend tracking/saving your favorite places at least a month in advance, and booking no later than a week before your trip. I have found three days before the day you’re looking to book is when everyone decides to book. Unfortunately for me I learned this the hard way and ended up having to book a hotel a couple times because there were no available homes I liked, costing my trips an additional $40/night.

I hope these tips help you in your endeavors! Feel free to leave a comment if you have any additional questions, it’d be my pleasure to help answer!

$40 Discount Code!

 

 

 

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

If you’re a millennial on Instagram this rope bridge is a must see. I mean… it is your typical touristy photo that you see your favorite bloggers visit when in Ireland. And, that you’ll be disappointed to know is near impossible to get a photo of just you walking, unless you are there right at open (9:30a), but it is a must see… I’ll tell you why!

Photo 2

Yes, the view is near perfect. Crystal blue waters, beautiful sand, cliffs in the distance, but from here you are only 15-miles away from Scotland with their mountains in view! Additionally, there are spots once you cross over the bridge that provides good yoga, meditating, sightseeing, and relaxing places to get away from the noise and to hear the ocean. Which I had found it hard to find while visiting Ireland. But my opinion comes at a time when tourism is high, July.

Photo 1

Side note: If you are contemplating this visit or Cliffs of Moher, I recommend this stop! There are cliffs in the distance, far fewer people, and a nice bridge to cross! And for some history, supposedly this bridge was made by salmon fisherman over 350 years ago… if you want to trust Wiki.

 

 

Top 8 Bars to Visit in Dublin

Top 8 Bars to Visit in Dublin

Here’s a quick top 8 countdown guide to the best bars in town!

8. The Meltdown

Located centrally in Temple Bar this bar is perfect for a good drink and has a huge stage for live music, that also converts into a sports bar with a large TV for futbol games.

The average drink was 12 euros, but unlike other bars you’re not obligated to buy a drink to stay and take a table!

7. PantiBar

7-8 Capel St, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

If looking for a liberal crowd of 30-somethings this bar is for you. This is a gay bar that has “fabulous” drinks all for 7 euros! Good place to get started with lots of people showing up early.

 

6. The Arlington

23-25 Bachelors Walk, O’Connell Bridge, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

This bar has a secret located downstairs! You can purchase for 35 euros for a 3 course dinner, 2 hours of live music and traditional Celtic dancing!

If looking for something more affordable, since there are bars that have free live music and dancing options, you can stay upstairs and their main bar area has a live band from 8-11pm–plus during intermission of songs Drake often comes on…LOL.

5. The R.I.O.T

4 Aston Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin, D02 VP93, Ireland

Located in the midst of the Temple Bar district is this small bar that has up and coming artists playing requested songs, and good drinks!

Average cost 10 euros.

4. The Bachelor 

This pub is a small hole in the wall pub located near the city center, next to O’Connells Bar Dublin (next recommendation). This place has new artists looking to get the spot light, playing a lot of American rock tunes.

The average drink is 6 euros.

3. O’Connells Bar Dublin

This bar is closest to most hostels in the area located right at the intersection of Bachelor & O’Connell St.

If you’re into a good karaoke night this is the perfect bar for you! On the weekends after 10pm they have open mic karaoke. This bar exceeds the customer service of all the bars I visited during my trip! This is one of the bars that has both outdoor and indoor seating too, if you want to people watch with the live music!

2. The Church 

Junction of Mary St. and Jervis St., Dublin 1, Dublin, D01YX64, Ireland

Talk about a hidden gem! This bar is little off the beaten path, but worth the extra 5-10 min. walk. This bar is a former church that was converted into a bar, and a dance club in the basement. Here they have live music, live dancing, free cover, and relatively affordable food/drinks!

Average Drink 8 euros & average meal 13 euros!

1.Murray’s Pub

33-34 O’Connell Street Upper, Rotunda, Dublin 1, Ireland

This pub was recommended to me by one of my tour guides. When I asked for live music, Irish dancing, cheap drinks, was open later, and in walking distance to central downtown she raved about this bar.

Average Drink costs 6 euros & average meal 13 euros!

If you do the Do Dublin bus tour there is a buy one get one meal before 5pm, which can make for two dinners! Just saying’!

 

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

1. Irish Currency

There are two currencies in Ireland. If visiting the Republic of Ireland (Dublin, Galway, Cork, etc.) the currency is the Euro. If visiting Northern Ireland (Belfast) the currency is the English Pound.  If visiting each side they do not take the other currency so come prepared.

2. Credit Cards

In most main cities in Ireland credit cards are accepted. The most common credit cards include Visa and MasterCard. They do not accept AMEX in most places.

3. Weather

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but according to the residents in Ireland it rains 330 days of the year, with it being unheard of that there is no rain for more than two days at a time. So, plan accordingly!

4. Food

There is no material change between US food and Irish food. The average meal is 8 euros for breakfast, 10 euros for lunch, and 14 euros for dinner. If you’re looking for authentic Irish food I recommend their Fish & Chips, and Corn Beef and Cabbage!

5. Drinks

Being the home of Guinness and Jameson those drinks are often the cheapest. Drink are on average are 8 euros, more if venturing off to the Temple Bar area and cheaper if willing to go to the local pubs.

6. Chargers

You must buy a wall adapter to charge your devices! You can buy these before you leave in Target’s travel section for $10 that includes many different adapters for each continent. If you wait until you get there you can purchase for 8 euros at your local hostel, or if you go to the travel agencies they sell them in their dispensers for 4 euros!

7. Tours

If looking to book a tour I recommend you plan ahead! Many of the tours I went on were fully booked, and did not have same day availability. You’ll find if you book through the same agencies they will give you a 5 euro credit if you book more than one tour through them; something to keep in mind when planning ahead. Popular tour groups were: Paddywagon Tours, Finn Tours, and Dualway Coaches.

*The tour busses leave on time, and are very serious about arriving 15 minutes before our scheduled time. I can tell you firsthand they left people behind.

**Most hostels set up free walking tours. I paid for mine in advance and attended both. They were nearly the same. I’d recommend taking the free one.

8. Temple Bar Trap

Temple Bar area is popular among 30-somethings and most tourists visiting… it’s where the parties are at night. This area is known for increasing the cost of drinks as you drink and the night goes on, so be mindful of that!

I will have a separate blog for my top 5 bars in Dublin of those looking for good spirits at night.

9. Closing Times

To make most of your time while visiting you should know that most museums close at 5pm, restaurants stop serving food around 10pm, the bars during the week stop serving alcohol at 11p. Coffee shops opened around 7am, and places with food generally an hour later. No wonder why they were all skinny!

10. Popular Places to See for the Day

If you’re time is limited don’t leave without visiting the following places:

Trinity College with tour to see Book of Kells

Guinness Storehouse

Walk around Temple Bar

Dublin Castle

O’Connells Street

 

 

10 Things Not to Forget

As I plan for Ireland I thought I’d share top 10 things not to forget!

10. Travel Size Toiletries, if Doing Carry-On Only

9. Trip Itinerary Printed Out, Along with a Map

8. Water Bottle with Purifying Water Tablets 

7. Walking Shoes 

6.  Pre-arrange Pick-Up Plans 

5. Your Phone Charger, Battery Pack, & Foreign Wall Converter

4. Converting Your Cash to Foreign Currency

3. Calling Your Cellular Phone Company

2. Activating Your International Credit Card (Visa/Mastercard)

1. Your Passport, Visa & I.D.

Hello Ms. MIA, Where Have You Been?

I was asked recently asked at a Toastmaster’s meeting, “what do you procrastinate on?”

Honestly, this question took me a bit off-guard. I’ve always considered myself on top of things I am passionate about, and my gut clenched at what I took as a negative question to answer in front of the group, which usually I try to dodge. It was in a quick few seconds I found my truth…

I procrastinate on things I am most passionate about. I quickly sped through things I’ve been procrastinating on:

  • my travel blogging
  • my preparation of public speeches
  • reading
  • growing my personal business

But why?

So I answered to the group… I have a genuine fear of the things I’m passionate about and what motivates me, drives me, makes me happy… to have an expiration date. I keep kicking the can at unused potential than to see it in fruition and eventually that adrenaline, rush of excitement to wear away.

I share this because I’ve realized that as of late I have done a lot of self-reflection, self-assessment, and self-improvement. Inadvertently this has caused me to further delay my blogs, which truthfully has been one excuse for why not instead of what blog is next. I have personally challenged myself to challenge myself to get back to doing what I love… and if I discover that what is a current passion loses flame, then I’ll find a new one or further develop myself to find a deeper purpose for personal growth.

On a deeper level…me spending this time with myself has caused me to step away from a lot of things. I’ve found it easiest to go in my metaphorical “cave” (for those who have read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus know what I mean…yes, I relate more to a man’s preference to find answers solo than to discuss the emotions).

My first step to bouncing back to potential… a Youtube video. My personal attempt at being more vocal, honest, and transparent in what I am doing. My personal delivery in trying to reach out each of you in RAW form (unedited) so you can get to know me past the black and white text, and an attempt to break the social norm right now of being “followers” of one another, and having no idea who really is on the other side of the phone.

About Me

With an upcoming trip to Ireland, and some trips mapped on the calendar, I’ll be back in a more purposeful way… you just watch!

 

Guest Blog- Italy!

All About Italy!

Guest Blogger: Jen Elmore

Ever since Pinterest was created in 2010, I have spent countless hours scouring through the travel boards and daydreaming about the picturesque images of Italy. Every village looked like a postcard, every meal looked divine, and every dreamy little beach screamed romance. My husband and I finally booked our dream vacation to Italy and traveled there in 2016. The trip was perfect, however, the planning and preparation getting to that point was less than seamless just because there was so much to see! Therefore, I could not be more excited to be a guest blogger and put together my ideal itinerary if you want to try to see all of Italy on a tight timeline and do not want to spend hours on research.

Capri

JenO1Capri

Capri came highly recommended to me by multiple friends, and after spending three days there, I PLEAD with anyone going to Italy to please spend time there. I have been very fortunate to travel to amazing places on this earth, and Capri is by far the best place I have ever been. To get to this beautiful little island, fly straight into Naples and take a 40 minute high speed ferry into the island. The island itself is small and you can explore the entire place in a few days, however I would spend a week there if I could. We stayed in Capri 3 nights today – spent 2 days in Capri and then took a day trip to Positano.

Where to stay:

The island is split into two parts: Capri and Anacapri. Capri is full of nightlife, shopping, and fun town squares. Anacapri is quitter and more laid back. We stayed at an exquisite Airbnb in Anacapri, which is on the far side of the island and away from all of the touristy crowds. I have never seen sunsets so vivid and views so beautiful that I have from the front door of our Airbnb. The owner Genny and his family live in the main house and built the entire home from hand. They were exceptional hosts and I am so happy to have met such a wonderful Italian family.

http://www.villadalessandro.it/

What to do:

Capri is an island of relaxation and romance, but there is still plenty to do and explore.

  • The Blue Grotto: This is world famous and something that was at the top of my list and was conveniently just steps away from our Airbnb. It is a cove with white sand on the bottom so the rays from the sun make it appear bright blue. The waves are crazy so you need to take a boat into the cove but then you can get out and swim around. It was one of our favorite memories together!
  • Private boat rental: We got a cute little private boat (http://www.giannisboat.com) and absolutely loved it. It was an adorable boat with pillow beds, coolers full of wine and beer, and an extremely knowledgeable captain. This is by far the best way to see the entire island and its secret coves. We did lots of swimming and snorkeling and saw some of the bluest waters either of us have ever seen!
  • Hike and get lost in the winding streets: One of our favorite things was just walking and exploring the beauty of this island. You can take a chairlift to the top and take in the views, or you can hike it yourself I you are feeling adventurous.

Where to eat:

Pro tip – Italians eat LATE. We never made reservations because every time we ate around 7 or 8pm, we were the only ones there! Also, Italian house wine is GOOD and cheaper than water. So don’t be shy, indulge!

  • Da Paolina: This was the best meal of our life. The restaurant itself is the definition of romance and is in the middle of a lemon tree forest! Their specialties are lemon sauce and lemoncello! We also had the best caprese salad of our life here (hint…caprese salad was created here)
  • Da Digiorio: This was steps from our Airbnb and overlooked the ocean and sunset. They had extremely fresh seafood and it has just come in from their fisherman, so we got to go into the kitchen and literally pick our fish out!
  • Ristorante Matertita: We loved this adorable restaurant. It was right in the Anacapri square in front of a beautiful church. We ate vodka sauce gnocci here that was out of this world and had some of the best Rose we had in Italy.

Positano

JenO2Untitled

When I close my eyes and imagined Italy, I imagined Positano. We knew we wanted to go to Positano, but we didn’t have the time to stay everywhere, so we ended up making Positano a day trip out of Capri and it ended up being perfect! You can take a 30 minute ferry out of Capri in the morning, and then take a ferry back in the evening. It ended up being plenty of time to see everything and truly feel like we got the Amalfi Coast experience. In a lot of ways, I preferred this because Positano is a major hub for cruise ships, so it was extremely crowded with tourists and it was just a chaotic feeling. Also, it is extremely expensive to stay there, so a day trip was the best of both worlds.

What to do:

  • Wander the streets: If you are a big shopper, you will love it here although it is very high end. The streets wind like crazy so we loved just getting lost and exploring. Walking around was the best way to take in the sights and see the beauty.
  • Have lunch at Le Sirenuse Hotel: This place is PRICEY…however, it is very well known because it has the best view of Positano so tourists flock here to take pictures. It was worth it. When I walked out on the balcony of the restauraunt I literally gasped in awe….there in front of me was THE Pinterest picture I had seen so many times and imagined how awesome it would be to see it in person. Well there I was, seeing it, and it was so special.
  • Rent a beach bed and relax: Laying around people watching was one of our favorite things to do. Completely surrounded by beauty and drink in hand, we spent hours just doing nothing and it was the best.

Rome

Rome

Rome was an absolute must see for my history obsessed and very catholic husband. Even though Rome is a big city and there is a ton to do there, I recommend spending only 2 days in Rome as it is more than enough time to see everything you want to see.

Where to stay:

The best neighborhood to stay is a cute little area called Trastervere which translates to “the other side of the river.” While it is pricier than most areas, it is very quint, trendy, and has some of the best restaurants in Rome. It is also centrally located to most of the big sites to see.

What to do:

  • The Vatican: This is an obvious one, but if for some reason you feel like it might be overrated and not worth the hype, wrong. It is worth seeing. My husband loves the catholic church so we went all out and did the 3 hours tour which takes you through the basilica and the museum. It is very long so if you are not extremely interested about the Church, I would skip the tour and just walk around yourself through the church and the square.
  • The Colleseum: Another “worth the hype” experience. It was unbelievable to see the ruins and imagine how the romans were able to build such massive structures.
  • Trevi Fountain and the Parthenon
  • largo di torre argentina: This is a ruins site that Caesar was murdered at, but now it is an actual cat sanctuary for the city cats. I am obsessed with cats so of course I had to see it, and there are literally hundreds of cats who live in the ruins and are fed and vaccinated by the city. Even if you don’t like cats, it was actually a really awesome sight to see!

Where to eat:

  • Dar Poeta: Our favorite pizza in Italy!
  • Ristorante Della Ricciotta: This was the cutest boutique restarautant in Rome. Very small and it felt so personal, we also had some of the best pasta here.

Florence

JenO3JenO4

Florence is the definition of an Italian city. We spent 5 days here total, however only 2 of them in Florence but then 3 of them as day trips out of Florence. It is a great home base for day trips because it has a great central location. I recommend doing day trips to other cities because that way you don’t have to deal with the hassle of packing and checking in and out of hotels so much.

What to do:

  • Ponte Vecchio
  • The Duomo: This is the giant church in the main square, and by far the prettiest church in Italy. Make sure you climb the tower all the way to the top for INCREDIBLE views of Florence.
  • The David: I hate museums, but wow. David really was overwhelming. The statue itself was MASSIVE and extremely intricate, it is absolutely worth it to see.

Where to eat:

  • Bucca Mario: Florence is very well knows for Florentine steak and this place does it the best. The steak itself was bigger than my head and it was worth the price.

Day Trips!

Day Trip- Tuscay

Wine.png

I am a huge wine lover so I knew I wanted to see Tuscay, however we just didn’t have the time to really do it, so a day trip was the perfect solution. I recommend using Viator.com which is a website that has a tour for anything you could think of. We ended up doing an entire day tour that took us to multiple wineries in Tuscay where we could tour and taste the wines (https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Taste-of-Chianti-Tuscan-Cheese-Wine-and-Lunch-from-Florence/d519-5070CHIANTISAFARI)

This was one of the highlights of our trip and I am already planning on coming back just to spend time in Tuscany.

Day Trip– Cinque Terre

Day Trip

Okay so I know I say a lot of things are my favorite part of my trip, but this is one of my favorite parts of our trip! Cinque Terre translates to “5 towns” and essentially is exactly that. There are 5 towns all lined up along the coast and each one is the cutest Italian village you could ever imagine. We took a tour to see it all (tours are the way to go) and were so happy we did. Each town is connected by a train or a hike. The views were absolutely spectacular and I highly recommend you add this to your trip! https://www.viator.com/tours/Florence/Cinque-Terre-Full-Immersion/d519-6274P35

Day Trip– Venice

DayTrip1

I always knew we wanted to go to Venice, but I had friends actually tell me they didn’t like it so I worried scheduling it into our trip. Again, that is why day trips are perfect. We booked a train ticket and it was about 2 hours to Venice. I literally want to stop being friends with the person who told me not to go to Venice, because it was the absolute best way to end our trip. We had nothing planned in Venice, you simply go to get lost in the streets. There are no cars there so no streets. Streets are canals and the entire town is a maze full of turns and dead ends. We explored for a full 6 hours and stopped as cute cafes for lunch and drinks. PLEASE GO TO VENICE. Every corner was cuter then the next and I constantly had to stop for pictures, I wanted to gag it was so cute. I am so happy we got this memory, especially and it may not be around in the future as it is actually sinking.

We trained back to Florence that night and flew home the next morning. All in all our trip was 10 days. A lot to squeeze in, but it can be done. Italy is magical and if you have the opportunity to go there, do it!

 

A-Z Travel Tidbits To Take!

A: ppreciate your surroundings! The only regret I’ve ever had is not living in the moment when I’ve been at a place; often times I have a laundry list of places I want to visit and lose purpose of the whole point I’m there… to enjoy & create memories!

B: ring layers when packing! Yes, it may 80 degrees when you get there, but what happens when Mother Nature decides instead it’s going to rain and you have nothing to wear, CA-CHING! Money is spent, and nothing is worse than spending your “fun money” on clothes because you didn’t bring those layers!

C: onvert your money before you leave! Often times the fees associated to converting money at the airport and in the country your visiting can be expensive. Checking conversion fees at various banks before leaving can spread your dollar.

D: o what is on your wish list, or IG likes! We’re all guilty for loving certain photos on social media, and then put it on a wish list, then when upon arrival find other things to occupy our time. Make it a point to do what you initially wanted to do! Live with no regrets!

E: njoy! Be spontaneous and try things you wouldn’t normally try, within reason. Life’s about creating memories and making the most of it!

F: ollow your gut…when your surroundings tell you something is off pay attention. Traveling somewhere foreign is often fun, but it also means that you can become a target. It’s nothing to fear, but when your gut is telling you something become more aware!

G: o some where new! Traveling somewhere you’ve been, or deciding between two tours/things to do… select the one that you’ve not done, or could do anywhere else. Take advantage of where you are, I mean… why not!

H: ave cash, and your debit card in case! Yes, credit cards are now the most common form of payment, but USD is the most universal currency. Even if just $100 bring some cash in case! There were a couple times I assumed credit cards would be best to avoid credit card theft, etc. & the places I was going didn’t accept card, but guess what… USD cash worked even in Spain! P.S. in France you need to pay to use the toilets and more for toilet paper, caa-ching!

I: nvest in good walking shoes. This sounds like common sense, but really. Don’t cheap out. Nothing is more annoying than your feet hurting, and wanting to avoid paid $$ for shoes when you’re already traveling on a budget.

J: ournal your favorite memories! I’ve found that sometimes just writing out at the end of each night what highlights I had helps me better recall the memories! Try it!

K: eep your passport/visa on you. Just for safe keeping it’s better you have your valuables on you, rather than housed in your hotel/Air B&B. Maybe it’s paranoia, but I always worry that I will be stuck stranded in a foreign country with no way home because I’ve misplaced my passport. I bought a spandex belt that has two holes to allow for items to be stowed, and it fit under my pants; in other words, won’t fall out, and I can tell I have it on me.

L: earn popular foreign terms. Learn how to say “which direction is,” “how much,” “please,” “thank you,” “exit,” “can I have,” “yes,” “no,” “what is your name,” “sorry I don’t understand”

M: ake sure to leave earlier than you think for your return flight! Generally, people come back from vacation in the knick of time for work. Make sure to leave plenty of time to get through the airport, security, and to the gate. To save some time, check to see what the normal security time takes at your airport, know which gate you’re at and look at where it’s located in the airport on your way there, and have your pockets cleaned and packed in your carry-on before you even touch foot in the airport.

N: ever try free food being offered. We all heard as kids not to take candy from a stranger, but when we grow up we willingly take everything that is free, AM-I-RIGHT?!

O: rganize what you need readily available before arriving at the airport. This tip comes from being the frantic and panicking one searching for my drivers license/electronic boarding pass when I finally made it to the from the security line. And, this tip comes from being the one annoyingly being behind the person doing what I had done. Just saying! What you need through security: drivers license/passport and boarding pass. If you’re traveling internally, you’ll also need your itinerary!

P: lan ahead. Don’t wait until the last minute to make your itinerary. The most common regret I’ve heard from people and their travels is when they returned back from their trip they saw a photo of a place they wish they would have seen while there. If you research top places in advance you can pack in the most, and not spend valuable time while there to figure out what’s next.

Q: uickly check if the country your visiting has tips included in the price before going out to eat. (I was going to put this under a different letter, but was struggling with Q words!) You’d be surprised how many countries include gratuity in the food price, not even broken out on the bill so you wouldn’t know. I make it a point to research this before you start eating out to save costs throughout the trip.

R: esearch your flights before booking. You’ll find leaving Tuesdays and returning Wednesdays often times is the right combination to find the cheapest flights. If you try this combo, and do it at least 60-days before your flight you have some flexibility to save a pretty penny.

S: hut off your phone! Live in the moment, be present. Often times we become comfortable with our little 2×4 screen that we forget to look up and see what’s in front of us! I’ve made it a point when traveling to keep my phone on airplane mode and live in the moment, get lost a little, and interact with those around me! It makes for a much more complete vacation/trip.

T: ake photos! I am sure you don’t need me telling you, but take the photos of the places you stop at that you like, the candid captures of people you’re with… those are the storytelling  memories you want to have. Don’t worry the scenic typical IG shot is nice too!

U: se hand sanitizer frequently. Did you know our bodies become more immune to bacteria based on exposure? So if going somewhere new I would suggest bringing that handy dandy $1 travel sized bottle!

V: antage point photos! Get them by taking a photo from a perspective that differs than the one every one else is going. This could mean getting the Eiffle Tower from inside an adjacent building rather than pointing the lens at the tower head-on

W: alk frequently. Use the opportunity while traveling to get in a good exercise by traveling from point A-B, not only is this healthy but it allows you to fully experience the smell, sound, and exhilaration of the new place.

X: erox your itinerary. It’s always good to have extra copies handy. Ensure you have your address written down in both the foreign language and in English! Do not put your room number on the itinerary, keep this in a separate location, I put my room key with the room number in my wallet or in a separate pocket. In case something gets stolen you don’t want someone able to find you!

Y: ou’re on your own for the next two… I’m not that clever! But hope the rest of these have been helpful!

Z:

A Whole Trip in a Carry On!

I have inherited the name “Dora the Explorer,” not because I roam where ever my heart takes me, but because I’ve mastered the skill in packing a 2-week trip in a single carry-on.

Yes, I know from people telling me… most peg me for a pre-madonna who would have not only carry-on(s), but several checked in bags. But, haven’t you heard to not judge a book for its cover! So, how do I pack 2-weeks in a carry on? Here are some cheats!

1. Pack Half of the Clothes You Think You Need

I remember when I first started packing clothes I wanted a variety of clothes and plenty of options. Here’s how to accomplish both:

  • Select clothes that you can mix-match, giving the illusion you have many outfits but you’re really wearing the same clothes in different assortments.
    • If you’re going on a 5-day trip; pack 3 shirts, 3 pants, mix match!
  • Don’t overpack for the unlikely, we all have wanted to pack the shorts & tanks even though where you’re going is only 40 degrees, because we are thinking “well it’s just a tank top” and then find ourselves with 10 tank tops and ended up using on 1 or 2. Am I right?
  • Stack What You Want & Cut it in Half; not kidding. You’ll find when you travel frequent you travel a lot more for the unknown that what’s necessary. Once you think you have everything you need, cut it in half. I bet you get to the number ratio in footnote 1. Just saying
  • Roll Your Clothes; roll your clothes, this allows more! If you’re bringing bigger shoes for carryon, I shove my delicates in the shoes. If you have case of stinky feet put your delicates in a zip lock before shoving them in the bad boy. Swim wear goes in the other shoe.

Here’s what I normally bring for a 5-day trip: 1 swimsuit, 3 shirts (tank tops included), 3 pants/shorts, 2 pairs of shoes (cheat below), 6 undies, 3 socks, and toiletries that will fit in a large-size zip lock bag! I’ll make the toiletries a separate blog, there’s enough madness I have learned through that.

2. Bring More by Wearing More 

If traveling to somewhere cold (even if you’re leaving from somewhere warm), wearing your heavier clothes through the airport will allow you to bring more!

  • Pick 2 Shoes & Wear the Heaviest; Yup! Pack a comfortable pair of shoes and one that you want to bring, wear the heaviest at the airport and lug around on your carry-on the lighter pair. YES, sandals count as a pair!
  • Bring 1 Jacket and Wear it to the Airport; There are certain travel (clothing) essentials you have to bring just in case and a jacket is one of them. Even if it’s 80 degrees outside bring a coat, but wear it through the airport. Plus, this has saved me when freezing in the airplane!
  • Ladies, Extensions… Some of you have asked me when I wear extensions have I worn them through airport security, yes. Do they go off in the scanner, most times. Is it embarrassing when they pull me aside, no. Most airports are equipped with technology that shows where the metal pieces are, and when they see it’s your head they just tap, tap, tap. Because you’re a woman, only women can touch you, so they usually know what’s up, or will give you the disappointment look of FAF (Fake as F*), but just smile! Confidence sometimes has to be bought and if clipping in fake hair gets you there, AYYEEEE you go! LOL

3.  Toiletries & Size Limits

I believe we are down to 3 oz. on what you can bring on the airplane…

  • Purchase the airport approved empty containers from CVS or Walgreens. I usually bring shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. If you need more than one 3 oz. then fill up two with what you already have at home!
  • Next time when you’re getting a haircut as if they have sample size of the shampoos/conditioners of the yummy smelling stuff they used on your hair. Sounds cheap, but seriously
  • Take with you the complimentary shampoo/conditioner a the hotels you stay even i you don’t use them on your immediate trip. You can bring them for next time!
  • Only take with you what you can fit in a large zip lock bag! It makes it easy to take out of carry on for airport security (although I keep mine in my carry on, having it in a zip lock still helps them quickly identify my things in the x-ray.

What I usually bring: tooth brush, travel size toothpaste ($1 at CVS), deodorant, 3 oz shampoo, 3 oz conditioner, 3 oz lotion, comb, mascara, eyeliner, mascara, and chap stick.

Be mindful that carryon requirements differ based on what airline you choose to fly with. This has also been a consideration before booking a trip, because airlines such as Spirit & WOW Air charge to breathe…

If you have additional tips/tricks post them in the comment section!

 

Do You Need a Travel Visa? Tips if You Do!

Although your passport takes you to 174 of the 195 countries in the world, what do you do when you want to visit one that doesn’t meet the mark? Apply for a visa!

When I first started traveling it was easy to select places to go that required only a passport, I mean 174 countries should be easy. And, I’ll be honest I’ve feared booking a trip and then finding out at the airport you’re denied access. Come to find out when you book your flights it will tell you before you checkout if a visa is required, and that’s what happened when booking for China.

Some of the countries that require a tourist (“holiday”) visa no matter how long the stay include the following:

  • China
  • Algeria
  • Brazil
  • Egypt
  • Nepal
  • Vietnam

Before planning your next visit, check out this link to see if the country you’re visiting requires a tourist visa. Also! There are some countries that require a visa is staying an extended time, so be mindful of that as well.

Know, that that you have to have your itinerary complete, with flight and hotels booked before applying for a visa. Sounds odd that you’re investing in a trip before granted access, but it’s true. I have some recommendations:

  • Pay the extra $10 when booking your hotels for the cancellation insurance
  • Purchase flight insurance
  • Plan ahead! For me this was somewhat difficult because I like to plan tours, etc. as I near a trip when I’ve done more research, but this becomes pivotal because planning logistics will become important for presenting your itinerary. Essentially, the embassy is looking to be able to find you and know that you have accommodations in advance of approving you.

What I didn’t know when deciding on China is how much a holiday visa costs! And, it’s not cheap. Especially considering that everything needs to be booked in advance. Prices for visas ranged from $250-600 depending how quickly you needed your visa, and depending on which company.

After doing some research I chose Passport & Visas.

The company had good reviews that mentioned two key words for me… “reliable” & “responsive.” As a frequent traveler, these two words become pivotal in making big decisions. I placed my order 12/2 and received 12/28. There were some questions back from the company during the interim regarding our accommodations and letter of referral (required if you’re not a part of a tour group). The company had very quick response times when following up on my order, and had a good tracker on their website to let you know where my application was in the process (similar to when you order a pizza). Was really quite impressive.

After you’re approved they return your passport with the visa sticker in your passport. Just like that!

Other random facts: 

There’s an expansive list of things you have to have before you even start the application process. I recommend acquiring all the documentation you need before you purchase your order, so that the estimated return time is actual. I found it taking me a half day in getting everything situated to submit for ordering, they included:

  • Small passport photo taken within 6 months– you can get this done at Walgreens or CVS for $20
  • Have to provide your passport, & they will return back after approved or denied access (Passport has to be valid and not expire within 12 months of your visit)
  • Copy of your drivers license
  • Itinerary of where you’ll be on what days and where you’re sleeping
  • Proof of accommodations (that it has been paid, or booked)
  • Completed electronic visa application for the country you’re going (be mindful of what color your ink has to be)

*Some of the requirements may be different based on where you’re going

I will report an update to this post when I return from China, on experience through customs using a visa. But, assume you just have to show evidence of what was presented for visa application!