Tagging along for the adventure are two of our good friends.
Let the research and planning begin!
We finally get to go to Japan in February 2017.
Tagging along for the adventure are two of our good friends.
Let the research and planning begin!
So, I see a lot of vitriol and snooty behavior circulating the internet amongst fellow travelers.
Apparently, the only REAL way to travel is to strap a 30 pound hiking pack on your back and hitchhike around while mooching off of complete strangers for accommodation.
If you travel that way, cool. Do you, man.
However, implying that anyone who doesn't want to travel that way is just a "tourist" or doing it wrong is fucking dumb. I don't know where this hipster travel fetish came from, but I'm tired of it.
WE. ARE. ALL. TOURISTS.
Bragging about how little you spent on your travels does not make you better
Admittedly, I am still a complete novice to the world of international travel and our luck has definitely run out a few times along the way.
I thought it would be entertaining for you all to get a glimpse "behind the scenes" so to speak. Traveling is most definitely not like that super sweet and serene instagram pic you keep seeing pop up on pinterest of someone completely alone in front of the Trevi Fountain (Rome is NEVER that deserted.)
Traveling downright blows at times. Like, why the fuck did I pay all this money to get this angry in a foreign country kinda blow.
Let's go from first past to present:
Ireland, UK & Paris 2013
1. Ate salmonella tainted Chicken in London
2. Mixed up flight dates from London to Paris. Had to pay $150 to correct tickets.
3. Was not prepared for the STEEP entry fees to some of the tourist attractions. Was so disappointed with the Tower of London.
4. Sickness hit me the day we left London. Was pretty much bedridden for 4 horrible days in the city of lights. Including Christmas.
5. Paid for extra day in hotel because I was too sick to walk around (€200)
6. Too sick to ride the metro. Paid €60 for a shuttle to airport
7. Didn't check flights before getting to CDG only to find out our flights were cancelled due to a storm. We were already at the airport and didn't want to go all the way back to the hotel even though we had already paid for an extra night...
8. Waited 3 hours in a line full of pissed off people to be re-booked and stayed the night in the airport. I laid on the cold marble floor and tried not to vomit on people's shoes.
9. The next morning they screwed up our re-booking and kept shuffling us around from desk to desk trying to figure it out. Eventually, less than 20 minutes before our flight was to depart, an airline employee literally RAN us through 2 terminals, through security and directly onto our airplane as the door was closing.
1. Stayed in Playa Del Carmen. What an awful waste of time and money.
Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice 2015
1. Card didn't work in Iceland airport (should've been a red flag for what was to come...)
2. Order cab to pick us up at our airbnb in Paris to take us to our shuttle bus to ORLY airport. Got up at 3am... and could not find the cab. Eventually had to cross our fingers and try to hail one on a big road. Thankfully, we managed and got there just in time.
3. Bought tickets to the Vatican and assumed we could just show the digital version at the ticket counter. Lady was PISSED and I thought she was going to tell us no. Somehow, they scanned them off my phone and sent us angrily on our way. Phew.
4. Decided to brave the metro (which was kind of hard to navigate in Italian) and go see the catacombs outside the city. After ending up in a super super sketchy part of town not knowing where to go we decided to just cut through a huge park like area...saw a couple of gypsy camps and some old ruins. Walked through a farmers crop. Found an American family that was lost in the same park as us trying to get to the same catacombs.
5. On the train to Florence around 10am, I realized that I left our passports in a drawer at our airbnb in Rome... Had to buy a ticket back to Rome when we got to Florence.
6. When we got to Florence, Police asked to see our passports. Told them we had left them in Rome, but that we had photo copies (life saver).
7. Waited all day with baited breath to find out if Han had gotten there ok, (he's the only one of the group that doesn't speak a foreign language) and if he would be able to get back and find us (he did).
8. He showed up at our airbnb on the outskirts of Florence at around 5pm. It took him so long because his card didn't work to buy metro tickets. So he had to buy euros at a shitty exchange which was taken as a cash advance on our credit card, which = interest. Lots of interest.
There you have it dear readers. We're actually train wrecks. I'm not sure we should even be allowed to travel, but all this nonsense hasn't stopped us yet.
I think problem solving is a good skill to learn. Especially on the fly in an extremely stressful situation in a foreign country :)
The nice thing about all those mistakes, is that they don't happen a second time.
Until next time,
Lulu & Han
I am a known "over packer" when it comes to travel. This is a habit I've been working very hard to break because it's not very convenient to wait for possibly lost checked luggage with the crabby, jet lagged masses, not to mention all of the stuff I've had stolen from my bags over the years... lookin at you TSA.
This trip, I resigned myself to only packing ONE carry on backpack and my Travelon shoulder bag. The caveat being, Ryanair has very small/strict carry on luggage requirements. I will most likely have to be able to stow my full shoulder bag in the back pack.
What I brought:
2 pairs of boots. Not pictured are the leather ballet flats I'll be wearing on the plane/ in the airport.
1 Neck Pillow: This one has a snap on it so I can attach it to my bag.
1 Medium weight jacket. Its going to be between 60-70 during our trip, I might even nix it and bring a lighter sweater instead.
1 Big scarf/shawl. The big scarf can double as a blanket on the airplanes/trains we'll be taking,
1 black hat
2 Pairs of jeans
1 Pair PJ's (pants and shirt)
1 pair comfy yoga pants for plane
5 tops (easily color coordinated)
1 black cardigan
10 pairs Underwear (packed in small packing cube)
10 pairs Socks (tucked into the boots to save space)
1 Make up bag
I can even fit a few souvenirs and my purse in here if need be.
The only thing I can't seem to decide on now is if I should risk taking my Nikon DSLR with me.
One one hand, really nice photos are my favorite travel memento...on the other...Italy is notoriously crawling with roma and pick pockets.
Pictured above are the things that will be occupying my purse during the trip. Starting clock wise from the Green folder:
Folder with hard copies of everything from bookings, tickets, copies of passports scans in case they get stolen, and all reservations and directions if need be.
1 TSA approved quart size liquids bag.
An eye mask to block light. I hear that your eyes are the biggest culprit for jet lag. Block the light and it'll be easier to adjust your circadian rhythm when you get to your destination. That's what Pinterest told me anyway, I'll report back on if it's bullshit or not.
Favorite Perfume. I just picked up the "My Burberry" scent at sephora and holy crow is it lovely. Stale airplane air isn't my favorite, so this definitely beats smelling icky.
Ear buds. I don't have room for the huge fancy BOSE headphones.
Sephora eye mask. (the pink package) Airplane air dries your skin out like crazy. Slip this on under your eye mask while you sleep and hydrate that sensitive eye skin.
ID and multiple cards. I don't plan on bringing my passport out to the bars in the EU, so I'm bringing my driver's license or the photo copy of my passport in the event we'll need ID.
Eagle creek silk bra sleeve. (the pale pink square above my glasses) Holds cash and multiple cards. Easily attaches to bra or underwear. I like that it's concealable.
Glasses, Phone, Deodorant
Moleskin (the skin colored squares under my glasses) This stuff helps your toes keep from getting blistered if you do a lot of walking. Just cut a piece to your desired size and it sticks to your toes like magic. I use it between my pinky toe and it really helps prevent pinching. Got mine at Rite Aid for about $4.
Passport, charger, ear plugs
Downy wrinkle releaser: because it's nice not to look like a hobo in Europe.
PENS. You need to bring pens to fill out the customs forms on the plane. This will save you loads of time because almost nobody remembers to bring them so everyone uses the ones at the immigration gate, resulting in very long lines to get into the country. Be smart, bring a pen and then waltz right past the seething idiots who forgot theirs.
International converter for your electronics. I posted about this last week. Get one.
It's not something most people, including myself, ever even think about when we need to charge our mini machines. Just plug it in right?
Well, The rest of world's outlets are not compatible with our US plugs. You need a handy thing called an adapter.
We bought a universal one from Amazon for $5.00 and it's been invaluable. It's been on two International trips and worked just fine in both locations. I love this one because it's small, light weight, and in one piece. I also like this one because even though it doesn't actually have a slot for a 3 pronged grounded plug, it still has a dummy hole you can put it in, which makes it easier to find a compatible power bar to plug into it.
Have more than one device needing to be charged?
Bring a power bar with you so you can keep all your devices in one place, reducing the risk of leaving one behind during your adventures.
We will be spending 10 days in Europe this October. My favorite time of the year to travel anywhere, but especially to Europe, is in the fall.
Here's 5 Reasons why Fall in Europe is better than Summer.
3. Way less crowded
But honestly, do you even need an excuse like weather to go to friggin Europe?
I didn't think so.
Until next time!
Maybe you've been wondering, how the hell do I actually plan for/afford the trips we go on?
This post is going to be a walk through of how I go about planning, buying and organizing everything for a trip.
The honest truth is that I have learned everything as I've gone along. There is no magic trick to getting the best deals. You have to be willing to do the leg work and to remember above all:
Value does not always equate to dollars and cents.
It's about the whole picture. Sure, I'll try to save us money anywhere I can, but if spending €8 on a museum ticket means waiting in line for 4+ hours, when I can pay for it online at €12, you bet your ass I'm not wasting 4 hours of my vacation. My time is more valuable than an extra €4 saved.
So with that in mind, we begin:
Step 1: Do Your Research
Start early and Research. the. fuck. out of your flight options.
I think most people work out a budget first and then decide where they can go within that budget, but I don't quite operate that way.
I choose my destination(s) about 8-10 months in advance and then see what the bottom dollar option for getting there is.
I check 7-8+ websites when I am determining my best flight prices.
These sites include (in no particular order):
The Flight Deal
I check the entire years' flight prices on Google Flights as they have a handy price populated calendar that auto updates as you look through each month. This gives me a relatively good baseline to start from so I'll know what an unusually good deal will look like.
I then check prices in the "off season" (September - April) . I do this because I do not like to travel when everyone else and their mother is traveling. It will almost always be too crowded, too hot and way pricier than just waiting till the fall, winter or early spring. Europe is beautiful all year round. You won't miss anything significant by not going during the summer.
Once I've selected my dates, I then reference the prices found on Google Flights with the other sites I have listed above. I don't just look once and then purchase. I set up email and text push alerts over the course of about a week - month to monitor how the prices are moving. Prices can change drastically and at any moment so it's a good idea to keep an eye on them for a bit to get a good idea of when you want to strike.
I always advocate for keeping your eye out for mistake/super saver fares but they are very rare and unreliable occurrences.
I myself, have only ever managed to snag ONE deal and that is why we are going to Europe this October. I just happened to be awake one night around 3am in February when I got a text push to my phone letting me know that Student Universe had just posted a flight from PDX - Paris, France RT for $830 per person in October. That same route is usually in the $1300-1500 RT per person range. We jumped on them immediately.
If you find a deal you like, do not hesitate. Take it.
If you happen to freak out and have buyers remorse, you have 24 hours by law to get a full refund.
I have found that the best cities to fly internationally from (price wise) are: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, Chicago and Baltimore. I see a lot more deals from these airports than anywhere else.
Once you have your flights booked it's time for the next step.
Step 2: Make An Itinerary
You need a plan of action now that you know when you'll be there.
Once I know my dates, I can start planning things like: is it possible to jump to other countries in the time frame, should we stay in one place the entire time, What is there to do? What do we want to see?
This is the time to really think about why you chose your destination and what you want to get out of the trip. Travel is about experiences and ambiance for me. I'd be happy to just walk around in a new place all day, but decide what travel means for you and your family and make your plan. There is no wrong way to travel. It's your trip.
In the image above, you'll see an itinerary I made for our Euro trip this fall in excel. If you don't have Microsoft word, just use it's free cousin Open Office. It's exactly the same.
I highly suggest not micromanaging or over packing your itinerary. You will be jet lagged and tired when you get there, so take into consideration that you'll not be gallivanting off as soon as the plane lands. Give yourself the day to get the lay of the land around your accommodation and just soak it all in. Adjust to the new time/culture change.
I tend to plan one big activity a day and then let it unfold however it will while we're actually there. I find this is a good balance between structure and spontaneity.
Step 3: Figure Out $$$
Before I get into it: YOU NEED TO GET TRAVEL INSURANCE.
Once I've made the commitment and purchased the plane tickets and worked out what I want to do with our time, I do the grunt work on finding accommodations and fitting it into a budget.
I book plane tickets so far in advance so I can then, after an initial cash purge, focus on paying for our trip bit by bit until it's all settled.
This might freak some people out, but it has yet to bite me in the ass.
I start with researching and booking accommodation.
I typically check:
What usually ends up happening is I will make a free reservation on booking.com for the dates we need as a back up in the event that I don't find something cheaper in the 8-10 months before our trip. Booking.com allows you to make no down payment reservations on their website and most have free cancellation up until the day before your intended check in date.
Europe can fill up fast even in the off season, so it's nice to have the back up handy.
Once I've made my "back-up" reservations. I spend the next 2-3 (or more) months researching places to stay. My ideal lodging are centrally located, wifi enabled airbnbs or hotels in the $0-50 per night range.
Depending on what city you are traveling to, you won't find deals like this often, but they are out there. Just keep looking. For this last trip, I ended up re-booking all of our booking.com "back up" lodgings to cheaper, better lodgings except for Florence. We are staying in a mix of, 2 Airbnb's, 1 hostel, 1 apartment and 1 hotel on this trip. I started looking in February and solidified all reservations in July.
So I spend some time booking a hotel here, buying a ticket there, and generally paying for everything for the trip before we leave so we won't have to worry about it on arrival.
Then, all you'll have to worry about is spending $$$. I always recommend bringing more money than you need and less stuff. Inevitably you will always wish you had done one or the other.
Also tl;dr: Get Travel Insurance.
Step 4: Do Some Reading
Because I have a horrible habit of booking our trips so far in advance, I get to agonize about it for months.
I generally reserve this time for reading up on my destination(s) to try to pass the time and ebb my excitement a little.
What do other travelers recommend? I read travel blogs and browse r/travel on reddit.
Are there any travel guides? (Answer, hell yes and I highly recommend Rick Steve's travel guides.) I usually wander around a travel section and pick anything that catches my eye to thumb through. I also look at the travel section of Pinterest.
Are there any tourist scams I should be on the look out for? YES. Please educate yourself and don't let yourself be a victim.
Above All, Have Fun!
If you made it this far (seriously, it's like planning a freaking wedding) congratulations and enjoy your trip.
Bonus: Helpful Europe Links
Ryanair (Irish based very low budget intra-Europe carrier)
Norwegian Air (Swedish based low budget carrier)
Aer Lingus (Irish carrier)
Easyjet (British carrier)
I know what you're thinking.
Well I was born and raised there, friends. It's a hidden gem.
(less hidden, more gem...a really really hot gem)
I hadn't been back to my lovely dry desert home since 2009 and I am extremely glad that we made the trip. Han had never seen my hometown.
Arizona has actually gotten more rain this summer than good ole' Portland, OR. See the green in the picture above as proof or it didn't happen.
Aside from visiting my grandparents, and seeing the backwater I hail from, we decided to go seek out Antelope Canyon.
We had always assumed it was in a remote part of Utah and we weren't far off. It's pretty close to the border in Page, AZ.
Antelope Canyon is about 6.5 million years old and a very popular tourist attraction on the Navajo Reservation.
If you decide to go, BOOK A TOUR ONLINE.
I cannot stress that enough. You can't go into either the North or South canyon without a guided tour and you should book it ahead of time or you'll experience what the poor people in the photo below did.
The photo above does not show you the 60+ people waiting behind these guys who did not make a reservation for a tour time.
The navajo man in blue is yelling at the tourists. It was very unpleasant and hectic and everyone was upset but
because we made a reservation, we breezed right by and into the waiting room.
We booked our tour through Ken's Tours for a pretty reasonable price and we liked our tour guide. Would recommend them.
Entrance to the South Canyon
Wear grippy shoes and even then, be prepared to play slip and slide with your feet on the slope down to the staircases.
As a geology nerd, this place fucking rocks.
(See what I did there?)
I took 100+ pictures down in the canyon, so I'll show you a few highlights. Not a single one was edited in Photoshop.
The tour was maybe an hour long and a 1/4 mile walk through the windy canyon. We went around 11:40am which is apparently one of the better times to take pictures in the canyon.
We can now cross it off our bucket list and it was completely worth the 8 hour RT drive from Pinetop.
Onto the next adventure!
Airlines screw up and we get to reap the benefits.
Some of you have heard about the "mistake" fares that get scooped up by lucky and savvy buyers and the airline is required to honor them, most of the time.
These mistake or great deal fares usually get snatched up before I ever even hear about them, but NO MORE friends.
There is a nifty new website called IFTTT.com
The website is basically your own personal assistant/secretary. It follows a simple formula for you to set up alerts to be sent from deal sites to your phone, email, twitter, facebook etc.
The websites I chose to have send me alerts are from the RSS feeds of The Flight Deal and Fare Deal Alert. I also recently discovered the site Mighty Travels which I can't have alerts sent to me as it is not an RSS feed, but I can still check it often.
To see a detailed walk through of how to set up ifttt, go here.
He does a better job of explaining it than I ever could.
So now anytime a new deal comes up featuring Portland/Seattle. I will immediately get an email, which in turn gets sent to my phone so I will never miss a deal again.
Happy bargain hunting!
So I was thinking to myself one day, what skills should I really have before I make travel a full time deal after I graduate? What advice would I give someone and what would advice would I want given to me?
I'm not gonna sit here and pretend that I am the be all, end all authority when it comes to traveling. I am not. I am SOOO far from that.
There is no right or wrong way to travel (unless you spend more money than you feel comfortable, when you could have easily saved it instead.) Everyone has different opinions on traveling and how they want to do it and that's fine.
My husband is the one who is really good at figuring out foreign transit systems. It looks like fucking hieroglyphs to me, but he has been able to navigate us around several cities when I couldn't even figure out what part of the city we were in on a map.
It's really important to be able to navigate foreign mass transit, because that's how most of the world does it outside of the good ol' USA. Google can only help you so much. Before we left to go anywhere, we always made sure to at least look at a transit map, get our bearings and then go. Figuring it out along the way might work for some people, but I personally find that to be stressful and inefficient.
Save some basic maps of the area in your phone before you leave. Like go to Google maps, find some decent views, and then just do a screen shot. You might not have reliable data access and as long as your phone has power it beats pulling out a paper map and looking like a tourist.
You will never remember how much that cool thing you want to do cost, but you will always remember the cool thing. Travel is about experiences. You can buy them but it's not the cost that you'll remember.
Take twice the amount of money and only pack half of what you need. As a girl, I have a serial disposition to over packing. I need to stop. Like, really, but my brain attempts to justify it as preparing for "maybe" events.
This is a dirty trick. Don't fall for it.
Oh man. There are so many scams out there, guys.
You're not going to be familiar with all of them but keeping a level head and a watchful eye out will be your biggest asset. A big one is the use of child beggars.
It's a very common one is Paris, unfortunately. I witnessed it mostly on the metro. They usually don't say a word and try to hand you a piece of paper claiming they are collecting money for charity.
WATCH YOUR BAGS AND DON'T GIVE THEM ANYTHING. DON'T TAKE THE PAPER, EITHER.
All you are doing is perpetuating child abuse and thievery. I really wish I could help all the kids of the world, but this is not the place to do it.
If you relent once, they will swarm you.
There are so many that I can't count them all. I check reddit.com/r/travel frequently as people post new ones quite frequently. Just being aware of or doing a quick Google search for scams in the area you will be traveling to is immensely helpful.
The only piece of advice that I am 100% comfortable enforcing and or insisting upon is that you do not check a bag when going overseas.
Maybe 9/10 it will be fine, and that's great
Your flight will get delayed in Paris, and when you get to your destination the next day, they have no idea where your bag is. All they now have to go on is your name and a description of the bag. Maybe you'll get it back. Maybe.
We checked a bag once and will never do it again. We now travel exclusively with everything we need packed into backpacks for easy mobility. They aren't even the big cumbersome backpacker back packs that weigh like 30 pounds. They're just regular ruck sack looking canvas bags. I can fit 2 weeks worth of military rolled clothes and all of my electronics if necessary.
If you ignore me and do it anyway,and if you're traveling through countries where you don't speak the language, take pictures of your bags before you go. That way if they get lost, you can show the picture to the airline / train attendant rather than trying to remember the local words for "burnt orange with purple highlights duffel bag".
Unless it is truly first world or drink bottled water, don't eat food unless it is thoroughly cooked.
Which means no ice or no salad (they wash veggies with the water). I've gotten travelers sickness once in London and it was absolutely horrendous. I was sick for over a month and recovery took a few more months.
My best advice is don't over prepare, don't know too much, don't obsess over the details and itineraries and schedules. Just go and experience it.
A big part of the benefit of traveling is having to think on your feet, readjust, adapt, and forge new paths. If you already have the entire trip planned out and everything goes as expected, does that really seem like a life-changing experience?
Until next time,
I am an artist currently living in Portland, Oregon with my artist husband and this is a blog about our travels as a young couple fresh out of college and starting our lives.