Those of you who like to get up and get out of the house will know what to do with regard to travel. You will know the plans and the habits like the backs of your hands. Not everyone is so keen to leave the house and experience new things all of the time. The idea of ever travelling around London or visiting the other side of the planet seems very alien to a big chunk of the population.
Road trips are excellent for anyone looking to begin their travelling adventure. It’s a simple way of finding new places and making all kinds of discoveries. You don’t have to commit too much and you’ll have a wonderful time – whether you’re on your own or with friends. You will have to get a few things right if you’re to have a successful trip, however. It’s not too stressful, but you have to make sure you’ve got everyone on point. Here are five tips for a successful trip across the country:
Plan Out The Exact Route(s)
If you know exactly where you’re going, then it makes the entire trip so much easier to deal with. There’s a certain joy in just heading out and following signs/your instinct, but you’ll get there a lot smoother with genuine directions and knowledge. There will be a lot less stress too as one thing often leads to another and it can be very stressful.
Have More Than One Destination
Sure, you’ll have the main place that you’re heading to, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have other destinations along the way. During a road trip, you’re going to want to stop off at some pretty cool places and make even more memories. If you like driving then being on the road a lot is probably ideal, but not everyone wants to stay on the highway throughout the entire time.
Ensure The Car’s In A Good Place
If your vehicle is good to go, then it’s going to make the trip a lot simpler for you and any other driver that takes over the role. Any slight hitch and you could find yourselves in a spot of trouble. You won’t want to get halfway there and find out that your car is in ruins. Head online and check out cars that would be suitable – whether it’s Vauxhall Astra Offers or something a little more suited to larger families. Also, be sure to check things out with the mechanic before you move – you can never be too sure.
Keep Yourselves Energized At All Times
It can be quite tedious at times, so make sure that you have a lot of food and water to consume. When you’re cranky, it’s not ideal whatsoever. As a driver, you’ll need to concentrate, too, as a slight mistake could obviously be an issue.
Pack Absolutely All Essentials
Before you even think about luxury items, make sure that your packing list contains everything you absolutely need before anything else. A lot of people ignore this and then regret it later on down the line.
Do you think you are ready for that once-in-a-lifetime trip? Whether it is for studying abroad, a foreign internship, job experience abroad, or just a well-deserved beach vacation on an exotic island, the amount of planning you do before boarding the plane would make a significant difference in your trip. Take the time now to prepare and organize so that you can get the most out of your time overseas.
Meandering through the local streets, enjoying delicious food and making new friends and amazing memories sounds much more like the experience that you want – not worrying about little things like your phone connecting to the local network.
Here, we look at some of the things that you must do before heading abroad.
To leave the country and visit any other country in the world, whether by road, plane or sea, you must have a valid passport. Many countries require you to have six months left on your passport after the date you are due to arrive back. Some countries may also require you to have visas, or if you are planning on going to the United States, an ESTA – electronic system for travel authorization. You can find out more about this on their homepage. The last thing you want is to book everything, get hyped up, turn up and be refused entry because of a problem with your documentation. Do it in plenty of time so that should any issues arrive, you can get it sorted in time.
Pay a visit to your doctor
This is not necessary for every destination but plenty of places around the world require you, or at the very least advise you to have certain vaccinations before entering the country. These include things like malaria, yellow fever, zika, dengue and typhoid fever. Some of these require being done well in advance, others can be done close to your departure, but be aware that you could feel a little under the weather after some of them. As the world starts to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic, it may also become a rule to have tests or period of quarantine or vaccination prior to travel, so again, check online regularly for the most up to date news.
Make sure you have a way to communicate with your loved ones back home
Even if the purpose of your trips is to escape everything and everyone, you still need to make sure that you have a way to get in touch with family and friends back at home should there be a problem, or you begin to feel a little homesick. Your family would probably appreciate knowing that you are safe and sound wherever you are, too.
This is now simpler than ever before thanks to new technology. Try out free services that you can use from anywhere in the world if you have an internet connection, such as Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp. Check your mobile phone plan; some can be used in other countries, but many will not.
Make sure you have travel and health insurance
Hopefully, you will not need to call on this, but you can guarantee if you try skimping and not bothering, it is something that you will need and seriously regret not paying for. Find one that covers any problems with flights or having to miss the trip altogether and the most comprehensive health cover that you can afford. Always make sure that you read the small print to ensure any activities that you are planning on doing are covered. Many, for example, will not cover you for using a jet ski or going scuba diving.
Set a budget
This is especially useful if you will be spending a significant amount of time abroad as part of a study or volunteer programme. Investigate the cost of living in that country and determine where your monthly expenses will be spent: lodging, food, transportation, and entertainment. If you are only going on a personal vacation, estimate how much you will spend on hotels, jaunts, meals, and other expenses.
In any case, be reasonable about your expenses and bring more money than you think you will need. Not just because popping out for one drink and easily become an all nighter but also because emergencies and unforeseen opportunities are often happen. Make sure that you are fully prepared.
For bigger purchases, using a credit card is usually the most-cost effective option but make sure you have local cash on you as well.
Do your research into the location
You will probably experience some degree of culture shock no matter how trendy and open-minded you are. That is something that no amount of research will be able to alter. However, itis always a good idea to plan ahead so that you can spend your time abroad travelling and enjoying rather than scrolling through new guidebooks. Find out about the places you want to go and any events that are taking place during the period you wll be there.
It is also important to red up on particular cultural norms and traditions – are you expected to cover certain parts of your body or greet people in a certain way? Knowing this sort of thing before you get there can decrease your chances of embarrassing yourself and/or causing offence to the locals.
It is also a good idea to try and learn just a few basic words or phrases in the language, if it is different. Even if you do not pronounce it quite right, the fact you have made the effort will not go unnoticed.
If you are going to the middle of the Nevada desert, you probably won’t need that big padded jacket. Conversely, you might want to pack a wooly hat if you are going to New York in December. Look at things that you can easily pick up there and things that you need to take such as prescribed medication (with a note from your doctor) and other essentials.
As Coronavirus-related travel restrictions ease, many people are eager to get out of the house and enjoy new sceneries and fun activities. The young ones are restless from staying indoors for months, while older family members can’t wait to have some exciting private time exploring dream destinations.
Everyone is itching to make their travel ideas come true. If you’re thinking of planning a vacation, first decide whether you want to include the whole family or a few members. If you’re going to take the children with you, consider safer and less involving activities that young children will enjoy. Here are a few suggestions
It’s time to let out all that energy you have bottled up throughout the lockdown. Although you might not be able to hike with your children or older relatives, pick a few of your family members or friends interested in a hike.
There are many options available for you depending on your preferences and travel destination. Many easily accessible trails and hikes are less demanding, making them a better choice when you have less experienced family members.
Road trips are great options for all family members because all you need is a destination and a good RV. You can go anywhere your imagination takes you, and everyone, including very young children, will enjoy the trip.
Road trips are excellent travel alternatives as booking flights is a complicated affair because of the Covid restrictions. When you have an RV, it’s not only fun, but you get to save a lot on hotel accommodation.
Additionally, road trips are safer alternatives because you only keep to yourself and don’t interact with other people as much. The risks of contracting Covid 19 are low.
When planning the road trip, use safer routes and pack everything required to make the journey comfortable and relaxed. Have enough water, food, and a map to use when you can’t access google maps on your phones.
A Beach Vacation
Beach vacations are excellent choices, especially when you have young children. They will love the water, building sandcastles, splashing in the waves, and searching for seashells. A beach vacation is not as energy-draining as a road trip or a hike. You can have lazy days basking in the sun and occasionally go for a movie, ice cream, or a dinner date.
How to make your time fulfilling
Once you choose an activity, you need to adequately prepare to make it enjoyable, safe, and stress-free. For instance, if you decide to go hiking, make sure you’re physically fit and you have the necessary equipment to make your hike comfortable and safe. Check the destination’s Covid 19 travel recommendations.
Also, understand how much the trip will cost and the duration of time needed to cover the itinerary. When traveling with friends or adult family members, choose activities or travel destinations everyone can afford.
Encourage everyone involved to contribute ideas when planning to make it more exciting and accommodating.
My website’s been on hiatus for several months. No worries, I didn’t die from an attack of bubonic plague squirrels leading an army of murder hornets with coronavirus. It’s just that when travel became discouraged for health reasons, I saw a drop in readers after sharing my story of almost getting trapped in Europe after the pandemic was announced. With no one reading here, it was best to divert my writing to other projects.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t busy. Since arriving back in the United States, I’ve…
Observed how travel-focused businesses are adapting in our changing world
Those last two things go hand-in-hand and I’m especially excited to share more about those topics with you. (Yes, I’m excited about the book news too. In August, I celebrated my first author anniversary.) As you can imagine, both moving and working in the travel industry have become more complicated recently. But neither are impossible, and they’ve become a lot more creative!
As you may have guessed, the motivation behind my moves were to get boots-on-the-ground experience observing what is going on with those whose livelihoods depend on other people going out-of-town. Armed with hand sanitizer and an arsenal of washable face masks, I even discovered ways to explore right now that are both safe and fun.
I just finished spending five weeks in Colorado, working at the only hostel in Colorado Springs. ColoRADo Adventure Hostel quickly made some adaptations to their hostel model, like turning some of their dorm rooms into private rooms and only allowing people to reserve bottom bunks in the dorm rooms to leave them at a roomier 50% capacity. I really appreciate those changes; I know I personally have not shared a bedroom with anyone since my time in Europe. (Okay, there were two nights in Oklahoma where I shared a room. But I was on the opposite side of a very large bedroom, and it was with people I’m living with anyway.) The hostel closed the big kitchen and living room to guests since there was too much that they would have to keep clean, and instead opened up a lounge with a kitchenette and small breakfast of individually-wrapped items.
I then went to work at a camp in Missouri, where I’m still at today. But during this time, I’ve also visited other camps in other states to see how they’re operating… and simply because it’s fun to visit camps. In all places, camper numbers have definitely dropped, but it’s been interesting to see how camps adapted for the valued guests they did get to serve. From temperature checks, to installing plastic barriers in rooms, to doing fewer activities indoors and instead using those spaces as more spread-out eating areas, to altering to day camps, weekend events, and other non-residential programs, these camps have set a great example for how to be flexible during trying times.
Besides working in Colorado and then Missouri, I’ve been to a total of twelve states in 2020, including my very first visits to Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. So although I don’t think I will be able to make it to my 30-before-30 goal of visiting 30 countries before my 30th birthday, I did reach another 30-before-30 goal of visiting 30 states! In all states, I’ve been practicing social distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, and other safety measures.
I’m excited to report more on the travel industry as it restarts in a new way. Whether you’re excited to be a part of funding the travel industry or are keeping everyone safe by remaining at home, I hope you’ll follow along on my adventures.
Located on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica, there is an awful lot to like about Quepos as not only a vacation venue, but also as the venue for the fishing trip of a lifetime. It is one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations, with plenty of bars and restaurants – along with great nightlife – making it a well-liked spot, as well as being the “gateway” to the Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s the perfect spot for your next vacation after lockdown.
Most people who go to Quepos describe it as paradise. Even if you’re not a keen angler, booking a fishing trip should be part of your vacation. Of course, checking out the wildlife and relaxing on the beach should be included too. Head to https://www.eyeglasses.com to get quality sunglasses before your travels so that your eyes are protected.
When it comes to Quepos fishing, it is a destination that really does stand out head and shoulders above all of the other surrounding areas. Quepos fishing charters organise daily trips for tourists and visitors. Quepos charters can be tailored to the specific needs of the individual group, meaning that all can have a great experience, whether they are experienced fishermen or novice anglers.
There is also a great range of different species of fish that can be found off Quepos boats. From the more commonly found Sailfish or Marlin, to Yellowfin Tuna and Dorado, and even the much less commonly found Roosterfish. If someone gets their hands on one of these, they know that their trip has been a success.
So, for a destination that offers great tourist spots, a favourable climate and top-class fishing activity, there is nowhere better for people to go than Quepos.
What factors should be taken into account for a great Quepos fishing trip?
As a country, Costa Rica is able to boast a wealth of world-class fishing locations. The country’s forte, as it were, is deep sea fishing, but there is something for absolutely everyone when it comes to trying to land a great catch and nowhere better to do it than with Quepos fishing charters.
For someone looking to book their fishing trip, however, there are certain factors that they should consider. Things like how reputable the company is and how much experience with fishing boats the crew have can be big factors in whether or not the trip is a success – it is wise to make use of people who know Quepos and its waters well and can offer their customers the best trip possible.
For some groups, it is also worth looking into what sort of Quepos fishing trips the company is able to provide. Many companies offering these charters now also cater to children, too, giving the youngsters a fantastic opportunity to enjoy their first sportfishing expedition in just about the best location possible, anywhere in the world.
Researching the available companies beforehand can be a massive part of making a Quepos fishing trip a great success, and looking for experience, helpfulness and a wide range of options is a good marker for how good a service they can provide.
What do you do when you want to travel, but can’t? A staycation, of course! But without a theme or a plan, a “staycation” can devolve into little more than a Netflix binge. With the government shutdown and no tourist places open right now, I had to take travel matters into my own hands. I ended up having a pretty fun camping trip in my yard. You can try these ideas while you’re quarantined, or come back to this post anytime for staycation ideas that won’t break the bank.
Pitch a Tent
What’s camping without a tent? Okay, you may choose to use an RV or camper instead, but choose something that will get you in a different element, at least for the night.
If you don’t have any camping equipment, you can post online and perhaps one of your local friends will let you borrow theirs. If not, get creative! If it’s warm enough, you could sleep in a hammock or on an air mattress on the lawn. If the back seat of your car folds down or you have a truck bed, that can make a great sleeping area- make it cozy by filling it with pillows and blankets. Even a living room camp out can be a fun experience for families.I remember years ago, some coworkers and I got really creative and saved a bunch of cardboard boxes that were destined for the recycling bin. We turned that into a makeshift outdoor village, and a couple of us were brave enough to spend the night in it! (You can read that whole story in my first book, Uncommon Adventures.)
If you have a large yard or property area, then you probably have several choices for a flat surface area that would make a decent tent space. Pick an area that will give you a scenic view. But if you live in an apartment, don’t despair. You can still pitch a tent on your porch or balcony if you have one of those, or perhaps a shared communal yard. Going back to camping in your living room, you could do that with just sleeping bags on the floor, but popping up a tent inside can add some extra fun.
Build a Fire
I’m lucky enough to be staying at a place with an outdoor fire pit and pre-chopped wood. But even if you don’t think you can build a fire where you are, you may be surprised! You can collect kindling from moss, leaves, pine needles, twigs, and other things that fall off trees. You can even order firewood online to be shipped right to you. While you’re ordering firewood, consider adding an outdoor fire pit to your basket. That makes for a safe and easy place to start a fire. Check your local burn laws if you’d prefer to build a fire ring, or make use of the charcoal barbecue you already have.
Indoors, you can use a fireplace, or make an imaginary fire. Back in first grade, my class had an end-of-year “camping party” where we decorated the classroom ourselves, and then sat around a “campfire” that one kid made out of paper to tell stories. If you’re lacking kids or creativity, just look up “yule log” on YouTube or a streaming service.
There are several ways you can build a fire. My two preferred ways are tepee and log cabin, both of which are built to look exactly as the name implies. If you build a tepee, put kindling in the center of the area that you plan to set up your logs around. If you build a log cabin, you can put kindling in the center after you’ve built the walls. (Note on kindling: this is a good opportunity to make use of that junk mail and other paper waste.) Once you light the fire, keep an eye on it. Feel free to tell stories and sing songs around the campfire!
Cooking outside can be as easy as roasting sausages and s’mores over a campfire, or you can turn it into a complicated craft. But before we get into food, let’s start with what to cook on.
If you can start a fire as aforementioned, that can be both a fun and challenging way to cook. Of course, if you have some sort of barbecue, that makes for an easier way to cook out. Also consider building a solar oven, which could be constructed using materials found around the house. (I made my last solar oven out of a shoe box, black paint, a thick piece of clear plastic, and some reflective shipping insulation.) Most camp recipes that you make outdoors can be modified for a standard kitchen, but if you’re camping indoors, it’s a fun novelty to roast a mini marshmallow on a toothpick over an unscented candle or a lighter.
My family has been celebrating with a “Fire Friday” every week of quarantining together. Since I don’t eat hot dogs, when they roast those, I’ve put chicken sausage on a roasting stick. We’ve also made “hobo meals” by putting meat, veggies, and seasonings into a foil packet and sticking that on top of the coals. If you get really creative, you can make almost anything. I remember some of my camp coworkers once stuck leftover personal-size pizzas on their roasting stick and cooked them over a campfire. I’m looking forward to a pizza cooked in cast iron. And don’t forget dessert! Last week I made an easy dump cake in a dutch oven over the campfire coals.
Get Immersed in Nature
A camping staycation may be just for one night, but you can include camping activities during the daytime too. Go for a hike, or at least a walk around the neighborhood. Look for wildlife around your home. (I’ve been seeing lots of lizards lately.) Just one look on Pinterest can give you lots of camp-themed ideas, such as:
Play board games (Doing this with my family recently led to a very interesting story that I’ll share someday!)
Read books or magazines
Create and compete in a scavenger hunt
Send out postcards (bonus if you make them yourself)
Play with glow sticks
Tie-dye shirts, pillowcases, or bandannas (especially fun if you use squirt guns)
Play yard games
Plant potted seeds or bulbs
Race in an obstacle course
Journal or write
Just take a look around your house and see what supplies you can creatively use for a fun and memorable camping experience. The other day, I got a delivery that was kept cool with dry ice. I decided to use the blocks of dry ice to make smoke, to make metal scream, and to flash-freeze a variety of foods. The point of a camping staycation is to have fun and take a break from the normal.
What is your favorite camp-themed activity? Share in the comments below!
Want more camping and staycation ideas? I’ve written a couple books on the subject that I think you’ll find useful:
For various reasons, many people are in need of extra money at this time. Workplaces have long-term closures. People are getting sick and need care. Essential items have become scarce, making prices of what’s available skyrocket. I personally had to spend a lot of extra money to come home from Europe early, and then spend two weeks without pay in quarantine.
This is a budget travel blog, but since “travel” is a concept that isn’t really available in the world right now, I’d like to take some time to focus on the money-saving aspects that can be applied to other areas of our lives.
Many governments are taking measures to help prevent this economic crisis from becoming worse than it needs to be. As an American, I will be getting a $1200 check. But don’t spend that entire check on toilet paper! Let’s go over some ways to use money wisely, grow money, and prevent further financial burdens.
Use Money Wisely
Have you made any cancellations recently? Make sure you’re getting a refund. Even with non-refundable deposits, many companies are being more lenient and offering a full refund or at least vouchers for a future date.
If you don’t have one yet, open a savings account. Unless you are secure in the fact that you currently have enough money to live on for an extended time, you probably won’t want to take advantage of long-term savings such as IRAs and CDs at this time. But a savings account will at least provide you with a little monthly interest, plus prevent you from spending your cash at hand.
If you do have money tied up in long-term savings, don’t try to cash out now unless you’re absolutely desperate. You’ll have to pay an early withdrawal fee, and you will likely get better earnings off of it once the economy starts to improve.
Determine what is essential. Look at your last billing statement or write down each item or service you buy. What can you stop buying, at least temporarily? Can you make cheaper substitutions for your essentials? With so many stores closed, many people are finding it easier to spend less on the non-essentials.
Enjoy life with a few freebies and super-discounts. I’m frequently running specials on my books during this time, and many other authors on Amazon are doing the same. When you do have to go to the grocery store, check the clearance shelf for some great deals on great items. Keep an eye out when you browse the web, as there are a lot of freebies out there, like in my G4C newsletter.
I say this a lot, but it seems even more important now: do some money-making activities on Swagbucks. Since it can be done from the safety of my own home, I’ve been doing my online shopping through the Swagbucks portal so I can get cash back on each purchase. Some of the shopping in the “Discover” section actually pays more than it costs, meaning you get free merchandise PLUS cash! Of course, if you are putting a total freeze on shopping right now, that’s great. You can still earn on Swagbucks through taking surveys, watching videos, and more.
Many people are using this time when they’re unable to work to invest in growing their own business. You can’t expect a lot of return at the moment, but it will likely provide a few extra dollars to help make ends meet. Plus, this could set up the framework for even more success in the future. Personally, I am using this time to work on publishing books.
How many times a day have you been unlocking your phone? Might as well make some money when you do so! When you download the free S’more app, it will install a new lock screen on your phone that occasionally shows ads. You’ll earn points every day that can easily be redeemed to places like Amazon, Target, Starbucks, and more! Use code GWG1XE for 25 bonus sign-up points.
Keep yourself and others healthy. The most important thing you can do right now is to stay home as much as possible. While at home, eat healthy foods, get your vitamins, drink plenty of water, and exercise.
Take inventory of what you have. Are you making use of all your belongings and resources? Some people have canned and packaged food in the back of the pantry that they forgot about, but it’s still good to eat. In case shutdowns or economic crises last longer than expected, also consider items that you only purchase occasionally, such as clothing or transportation equipment.
Learn a few skills that will help you save money. Learn to mend. Learn to cook (bonus points if you learn to cook without electricity). Learn home maintenance. YouTube and Wikihow are great for learning a variety of subjects.
Physical health is critical at this time, but mental health is at risk, too. Staying inside, being away from people you care about, and not knowing what the future will bring can take a toll on our emotions and well-being. Practice some breathing exercises, open the windows (or go outside if possible), read some helpful books, or do whatever it is that you know will be beneficial to you. Avoid turning to quick fixes like drugs, alcohol, or even junk food, as these can cause further health problems as well as create more of a financial burden. Be sure to check in on others regarding mental health, too.
Even before the stock market crashed, I was watching financial videos on YouTube from people who had a proven track record of knowing what they’re doing when it comes to money. If you watch these videos and read financial articles you find on Pinterest, you’ll gain a lot of insight for what to do in your own situation. If you can make it through during these tough times, you’ll be set to have a fantastic financial future.
Backpacking Europe on the brink of a pandemic sure brought on a lot of interesting travel experiences! I think the most unusual was what was supposed to be a week-long trip to Salzburg, Austria: home of The Sound of Music.
My original plan was to start in Bavaria, Germany, then go to Salzburg, Italy, Switzerland, and back through Austria on my way to seven other countries. When I realized that Italy was no longer a possibility due to safety concerns, I restructured my time in Switzerland and Austria, including adding a sixth night to my five nights in Salzburg. A week later, the seven other countries I wanted to go to were no longer an option due to border closures. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would go to a different part of Europe, explore Germany, Austria, and Switzerland more deeply until the borders started reopening, or fly home early, but since Salzburg was next on my schedule and still available, I would head that way and figure out what to do from there.
I had literally just checked out of a Munich hostel and was headed to the bus station for Salzburg, but decided to check my email while still connected to the hostel WiFi. I’m glad I did, as the Salzburg hostel sent me an email at that exact moment! It read:
How are you?
Unfortunately we have to cancel your bookings from the 16th of March till the 14th of April 2020.
So that means that you just can stay two nights with us!!
The hostel and actually all of the accommodations in the county of Salzburg have to shut down due to safety precautions. The parliament decided to take stricter measures to combat the spread of the Coronavirus.
We are very sorry that we can’t accommodate you this time.
Thanks for understanding.
We hope to see you another time here in Salzburg.
I considered turning around and checking back into the Munich hostel. But what good would that do? I decided to make the most of the two nights I would have in Salzburg. After the bus left the Munich station, I reconnected to Flixbus’ WiFi and started researching what to do.
With all the museums in Salzburg closed, I wouldn’t need the three-day museum pass that I was planning to buy. That meant I could do everything else I’d been planning to do in two nights, or three days. I decided to stay as long as I could on the last day and take the last bus back into Munich unless I could find another destination from Salzburg. Flixbus ran the Munich-Salzburg route back and forth several times throughout the day. So once I talked with the hostel about how late I was allowed to check out on March 16th, I would figure out which bus to take then.
Flixbus actually dropped us off a few miles outside away from my hostel. I asked a young, English speaking local how to take the city bus to Mirabelle Gardens, which was the bus stop closest to the hostel. She told me the bus number to take and even saved me money by telling me to buy a ticket from the kiosk instead of from the bus driver.
As I rode into town, I enjoyed the scenery. The scenery on the ride from Germany into Austria was beautiful the few times I looked up, but I was so busy stressing out and researching ideas that I hadn’t had much time for viewing then. But now on this short ride, I saw the mountains, the castle, and people filling the streets. When I got off at my bus stop, I walked in the opposite direction from Mirabelle Gardens, knowing I’d go back there as soon as I checked in and dropped off my suitcase. And that’s exactly what I did.
The Hills Are Alive
While many Austrians hate “The Sound of Music”, it sure does a lot for the tourism industry in Salzburg. That’s because it’s the setting for the classic movie, and some scenes were even filmed on location. There is a Sound of Music Tour that seemed to be the only tourist activity that was still running during my weekend there, but in order to practice social distancing (and save some money), I decided to see the sights on my own.
Mirabelle Gardens, just a short walk from YoHo Hostel and thus my most-visited site in Salzburg, can be seen toward the end of the famous “Do Re Mi” song. Julie Andrews and the seven Von Trapp children run through a garden tunnel, march around a fountain featuring a pegasus statue, and then hop up the famous unicorn-guarded Do-Re-Mi Steps before finishing the song on a literal high note. I got to see all these filming locations, plus step inside parts of the Mirabelle Palace.
The Hills surround Salzburg. Although I didn’t hear the sound of music while hiking them, I enjoyed spending several hours walking around the city from this height. I found some art pieces, churches, and even a green grassy hill that looked similar to the opening scene of “The Sound of Music.” (The real location for that scene is on private property in Germany.)
The Castle makes a couple appearances in establishing shots of the film, but its history and magnificence are so much more. While home to several museums that were all closed during my visit, I did get free range of the castle grounds, including walking around inside its walls. It was my final destination uphill, but I walked down to a fabulous area.
Saint Peter’s Cemetery, just downhill at the foot of the castle, seemed oddly familiar, even though I knew I hadn’t seen it before. It turned out that it served as inspiration for the cemetery where the Von Trapp family hid before escaping to the mountains. However, that scene of the movie was played out on a film lot instead of on-location. The real site is even more beautiful, filled with miniature gardens tended by the survivors of the departed. While the cemetery is clearly named after the adjacent Saint Peter’s Church, it is surrounded by a total of three churches.
Downtown Salzburg was an interesting place to take a Rick Steves audio tour. Naturally, most attractions in this area were closed during this time, but even the shops that were open were closing down as the sun set. Still, lots of people were walking around just because it’s such a fun place to explore. The Von Trapps enjoyed exploring this area too. In the movie, just before the kids learn how to sing, the explore their town in their play clothes made of curtains, including buying produce from the downtown open-air markets.
Toscanini Hof is the festival hall where the Von Trapps sang “Edelweiss” before escaping the Nazis. I should use this moment to point out that “Edelweiss” is not a true Austrian song and was made just for the musical. But this festival hall is really real and really historic.
YoHo didn’t come along until long after everything else I saw in Salzburg, but it’s worth mentioning since it was where I was staying. This hostel offers a free apfelstudel shot, free salad in the evening, and free toast in the morning. But they’re best known for probably being the only accommodation in the world to show “The Sound of Music” every single night in their theater. I settled in to watch the 3-hour movie while stress-eating a chocolate bar and casually researching what to do once I got back to Germany, which was where I decided I was going to go when I got kicked out of the hostel. But it was fun to watch the movie with a new perspective, noticing all the locations I had been to earlier, and getting ideas for where else I still needed to go. When the movie ended, I went to bed. I was in a six-bed female dorm, but it turned out that I was the only one staying that night. Maybe that should have been a sign to leave sooner.
Nonnberg Abbey involved another hike up the hill first thing in the morning. But since I decided to better practice social distancing on this day, I wanted to go to more out-of-the-way attractions. While this wasn’t the abbey used in “The Sound of Music”, this is the real-life abbey that the real-life Maria was a novice at, but then left to go live with the Von Trapps. It was the perfect place to social distance: the entire time I was there, I only saw one nun who came into the sanctuary, set up some things, and then promptly left. And this was a Sunday morning! I considered joining this abbey like Maria did, just as an attempt to get away from all the crazy going on in the world!
Schloss Leopoldskron was one of the mansions used in the movie. The Von Trapp mansion from the movie is actually three different locations: one for the front, one for the back (which is up against a lake), and then the interior which was actually just a soundstage. This mansion is the one used for the front exterior shots, making it our first view of the Von Trapp property in the movie’s runtime. It was a nice, sunny walk out there, but the property was only open to guests of the hotel.
Hellbrunn Gardens is pretty far outside of the main part of town, but I enjoyed the nature path to get there. Although the gardens and palace are not featured in “The Sound of Music” there is a very important movie prop located there. The song “16 going on 17” takes place in a gazebo that the movie producers gifted to Salzburg. The city of Salzburg decided to place it in Hellbrunn.
Villa Trapp was the final Sound of Music-themed location I visited, but it was not featured in the movie at all. Even the star, Julie Andrews, hadn’t seen this location until just a few years ago. This is the mansion that belonged to the REAL Von Trapp family. It’s not as big and flashy as the other mansion was, but this one is also a hotel now, and I was able to sneak onto the grounds for a few minutes. The movie took a lot of liberties when compared to what happened to the family in real life.
More Music with Mozart
Salzburg was a musical city long before the Von Trapps came to town. Globally, Salzburg is even better known as the birthplace of the classic composer Mozart. Mozartplatz is a big centrally-located pedestrian square with a statue of the namesake’s likeness. I walked by his birthplace downtown, though with the closures all you could really see was the place where you could normally buy tickets. I also went to another house where he lived until he left Salzburg. Unfortunately, he left his hometown in bad circumstances. Come to think of it, the Von Trapps left under bad circumstances too. And as it turned out, I also left Salzburg under bad circumstances.
After a long day of walking, I settled back into YoHo for the evening. I was trying to decide what Austrian food to order from the hostel restaurant when it opened, and looking forward to another night featuring “The Sound of Music.” While I waited, I figured this would be a good time to schedule my return trip to Germany.
There were always several buses between Salzburg and Munich, and my double-decker ride there only had seven passengers. But when I opened the Flixbus app, there weren’t any buses scheduled for the next day. Or the next. Or the next. In fact, there was only one ride available at all, scheduled for that evening.
I quickly searched the news to see what was going on. Germany was closing their border with Austria with only a few hours’ notice. I had to get back that night, or else I’d be a homeless refugee!
The Flixbus app was having some issue where I couldn’t book a seat on the remaining bus. I tried on my phone’s browser, and I had the same issue. I even tried using the hostel’s desktop computer, but the problem was with the website itself. When I finally could get through, even that one remaining bus ride had disappeared. I would have to take the train, for more than five times the price of a bus ticket. I’d also lose out on what I spent on that night’s booking and have to pay for an additional hostel back in Munich, but it was a small price to pay to escape the crazy situation.
I hadn’t been to the train station yet, but it wasn’t too far from YoHo, so it was easy to walk there even with my luggage. A receptionist at the hostel had told me the best kind of ticket to buy to get back to Munich, so after entering the large, modern-style station, I found a kiosk and did as he told me. But I was confused by the ticket and where to go to catch my train. I found two cute Germans who also spoke English to help me out. After a while of waiting and worrying, I was soon on the train and zipping out of Austria, just in time.
I had already stayed at two different hostels in Munich, but that night, I checked into yet another hostel. I only booked one night, but in reality I had no idea what I’d be doing the next day, or if I even could extend my stay. But I knew that it was time to start figuring out how to get home early, even if it cost me a lot extra in buying a brand-new ticket. It turned out that many of the guests at this hostel had also just rushed back from Austria and were stressing out about what to do. Instead of figuring out how to rearrange our travels as we had previously done, we were now focused on getting back to our home countries.
Relating to the Von Trapps
On the train ride, I realized that my experience escaping Salzburg was similar to the Von Trapps. Now, the real Von Trapps and the movie Von Trapps both escaped Austria in very different ways, but somehow I related to both of them.
In the movie, when Captain Von Trapp is hiding his family in the cemetery and speaking with the nuns about what to do, he looks out to a distant mountain, and declares that his family will climb over it to get to Switzerland. Unfortunately, Switzerland is pretty far away from Salzburg, and you can’t see the Swiss Alps from this city. If that was the mountain they climbed, they would be headed right into Germany! That would be a terrible idea for them at the time, but escaping to Germany was the best option for me. (I had to cancel the Switzerland portion of my trip that day since Germany was also closing borders with them.)
The real Von Trapps’ actual escape wasn’t quite so dramatic. They left their mansion with backpacks and went to the train station. It wasn’t the same train station I went to. In fact, I saw where there used to be a stop very close to their house. That train thankfully didn’t take them into Germany, nor did it go to Switzerland. It went to Italy. Italy was originally going to be my next stop, but in my situation, going into Italy would lead to more danger instead of taking me away from it. I probably relate to the real story more because even though it’s urgent, scary, and stressful, it isn’t too dramatic. So you’ll probably never see my Salzburg escape on the silver screen. But at least I didn’t have to climb every mountain!
I had to start this post over and over again. Every day, there were new developments announced in the news, and what I had previously saved in drafts was no longer applicable. But here’s what happened: I started what was supposed to be an extended European trip in late February.
Just a couple days before leaving, I heard that the coronavirus, which previously was only really an issue in China, was now infecting parts of Northern Italy, particularly the two cities I was going to visit: Milan and Venice. Thankfully, I was landing in Munich, where at the time there had only been a few cases that were already treated. I left on my trip, knowing that I would need to keep an eye on the news to see if I needed to rearrange my plans with Italy. But since my time in Northern Italy was a month away, I was hopeful that the coronavirus outbreak would be taken care of by then.
I wasn’t even one week into my trip when I cancelled all my plans in Italy. The numbers kept on growing every day, with no sign of an end. But I was only going to be there for one full day, so it was easy to rearrange my plans
I continued traveling Bavaria, Germany. There were no signs of an epidemic there. No one was wearing gloves (other than winter gloves on cold days) and the only ones wearing masks were extra-cautious foreign travelers. But obviously they were still traveling, and so was I. I spent a week seeing so many of the open museums in Munich. Then I went to Fuessen, where I walked right up to the ticket counter and got tickets to see the famous Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. (It should have been a clue that the ticketing office was set up with really long queues, but I just figured that I arrived early and it was still off-season.) I went back to Munich for two more nights before heading to the Bavarian countryside near the little town of Eichstatt to volunteer with the Englischhausen language immersion program.
Before the program, the director e-mailed us all asking if we had any of the common symptoms of coronavirus. During the program, we chose to bump elbows instead of hug or shake hands. But we weren’t really concerned with catching it from our small group or the staff at our hotel, so even though it was an intense immersion program, it was fairly relaxing compared to everything that was going on in the rest of the world that week.
Since the native English speakers’ job at Englischhausen was simply to speak English all day, we started the week out by talking about our jobs, our families, and topics like that. While the WiFi was spotty, I and much of the rest of the group made sure to read the news each day, and in the middle of the week we found out that the virus was now considered a global pandemic. By the end of the week, every conversation, no matter how many times we tried to change the subject, always went back to the coronavirus. When Trump announced that the US would close their borders to Europeans, I knew things were going to be different for the rest of this trip. However, since I am a US citizen and could still return for as long as planes kept flying, I thought I could still continue on my journey. I started making back-up plans; perhaps I could go to Eastern Europe or maybe even the UK if my original route didn’t work out.
On our last night there, someone announced that the Czech Republic closed their borders for a month. I was bummed; that meant I couldn’t visit the Prague Easter markets. I figured maybe I could extend my stay in Slovakia, or maybe go from Slovakia to Hungary instead. But with a Google search, I found out that Slovakia was no longer an option either. I didn’t know what to do for the rest of my trip, but my next stop of Salzburg, Austria was still open.
Arriving back to Munich seemed eerie, like it was just a shell of the city I’d seen six days prior. When I checked into the hostel, the receptionist recognized me from when I had stayed there two weeks ago. “Nothing is different,” he told me. While not much had changed within the hostel, the city definitely was different. People were still out and about, but none of the tourist attractions were open anymore. There were government notices on all the church doors saying that individual prayers and visits were okay, but services were discouraged. A couple chain stores were closed, and for the first time ever, I saw hand sanitizing stations in Europe. But no worries for me; I was headed to Austria and then Switzerland.
Going to Salzburg was actually the second time going into Austria on this trip. Since Fuessen is on the border of Germany and Austria, while I was there I enjoyed a lovely hike across the border. I saw where the border checkpoint used to be, and at the time thought how awesome it was that the European Union has such open borders between countries.
But as I headed to Salzburg, I got an email from the hostel there saying they could only host me for two nights instead of the original five. On Monday, all of the accommodations in their county had to close. I stressed out the entire bus trip there to figure out what to do after this shortened time in Salzburg, but I was determined to make the most of the time I had.
I have an upcoming special post that describes my adventure in escaping Salzburg much like the Von Trapps had to, but long story short, I ended up having to leave even earlier to avoid becoming a homeless refugee. But by this time, with all the countries that had announced border closures, in addition to all events cancelled and attractions closed, I knew it was time to start planning how to cut my trip short and go home early… if that was even possible.
I definitely didn’t expect half of this trip to be spent in Munich, but I ended up there yet again. I spent two nights there figuring out a game plan. I compared flights going out of both Munich and Frankfurt, and Frankfurt seemed to have more reasonable options. Through a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend connection, I contacted someone who lives in Frankfurt just to see what they recommended about traveling there. In turn, they offered to let me stay in their guest room for as long as I needed! While I had already cancelled all my bus trips out of frustration, I now had hundreds of dollars worth of FlixBus credit, and used some of that for a day-long trip to Frankfurt. Little did I know that the day I chose to take the bus ride was the last day that FlixBus would be operating in Germany.
My original schedule did take me through Frankfurt toward the end of my trip, but I wasn’t planning to spend too much time there. So I definitely didn’t know how I would spend several days there in the wake of the coronavirus. The recently-implemented laws in the state of Hesse definitely weren’t tourist friendly. Museums were closed. Stores and bars that didn’t sell food or other essentials were closed. Restaurants closed by 6 pm (that rule became even stricter the day I left). But I still enjoyed my time there seeing the architecture, going into the churches that were still open, and going on long walks and bike rides.
Finally, the day of my new flight arrived. I was impressed by the Frankfurt airport, except for at a security checkpoint they didn’t have a place for me to empty my reusable water bottle, and thus I had to chug the entire thing! I was trying Condor Airlines for the first time. This one-way ticket home cost me more than my original round-trip ticket with Delta. While the no-contact guidelines meant there was limited food and beverages, it still had the amenities of seatback entertainment screens and, the always hoped-for but especially appreciated when everyone’s concerned about a contagious virus, my own row with empty rows in front and back of me! I finally knew that I would make it home.
I had a six-hour layover in Seattle. I heard that the health screenings for European travelers the previous weekend took at least seven hours, but now with fewer travelers, I got through both the health screening and immigration in just minutes. The health screening seemed kind of like a joke. We just had to fill out a couple forms with our contact info and checking off where we’d been, and then someone asked me how I was feeling. They didn’t even take my temperature. So I had several hours to wait around in an airport where half the shops were closed until I could finally take my late-night flight home.
Now I’m approaching the middle of my two-week quarantine in what I call the plastic bubble, named so because there’s plastic sheeting separating my bedroom and bathroom from the rest of the house. I’m taking quarantine seriously. I even drove my own car home from the airport by myself. I went from being able to explore an entire continent to only being allowed in two rooms. But I have been keeping busy with a variety of things, including thinking about how I’ll finish my original itinerary when I get to go to Europe again!
I Didn’t Get to…. BUT
I didn’t get to see the 11 countries I came to see… but I got to see two countries that I hadn’t before.
I didn’t get to go to Milan and Venice… but I had a delicious authentic Italian pizza made by Italians at a restaurant in Fuessen. Plus, I’ve been to Italy in better times.
I use travel prep as an opportunity to do some minor upgrades in my life. I just ordered a new phone. (My current one cracked on my first day in Dublin and I haven’t replaced it for the past eight months.) And I typically get a new credit card too. Prepaying for transit and accommodation for my trip allows me to easily reach the minimum spend to get sign-up bonuses.
I signed up for my first Capital One card on my trip to the British Isles. That was a Savor card, and I really enjoyed the sign-up bonus, free currency conversion, and cashback, among other benefits. But that one was Mastercard, which isn’t quite as widely accepted as Visa. It also had an annual fee.
That’s why I was excited that Capital One Quicksilver (which is a Visa card) had no annual fee and 1.5% cash back for every purchase, plus a signup bonus after you spend $500. It also has the benefits you can find in every Capital One card, like not freezing your card just because you’re in a different country. My experience has been that Capital One is very traveler-friendly.
I’m not as deep into the rabbit hole as many credit card-hacking travelers, but I do take advantage of the perks when I can. Unlike others, I typically prefer cards that have cashback bonuses instead of airline miles or hotel points. With cashback, you know exactly what you’re getting. With “miles” or “points”, the values of these pseudo-currencies can change on a whim. Plus, with cashback, I can use my reward to pay for whatever I want. I can use cashback for bus trips, meals, gear, or even paying my bills when I’m back at home. This allows greater freedom than being tied to a certain airline or hotel chain.
I try to get more than 1% cash back on every purchase I make. That’s why I like how Quicksilver gives 1.5% cash back across the board. While making purchases for this trip, I’ve been using the Swagbucks shopping portal for their partners at online stores like Tracfone and Hotels.com. Then I get a percentage of cash back from Swagbucks in addition to the cashback offered by the credit card company. It’s like getting a 3-10% discount without having to clip coupons or scour sales!
Nowadays, it’s so easy to sign up for new credit cards. I remember when I had to go to my bank every time I was interested in changing my spending medium. Just go to the website and sign up! This is a big advantage when you want to use a bank that doesn’t have a physical location near you. I’ve done all my Capital One banking exclusively online, which makes it simple to keep tabs on how much I’m spending. And by monitoring my spending and saving, I can redirect funds to things that are more important to me (like trips).
It only took me a couple minutes to apply for Capital One Quicksilver online. The hardest part was deciding which credit card I wanted to get next, but I guess I already did that legwork for you!
Making Your Credit Card Work for You (and not the other way around)
As our society becomes more and more cashless, I’m assuming most people reading this already have at least one credit card. And it’s obvious that I’m encouraging you to sign up for another one. (You should always travel with at least two credit cards in case one gets lost, stolen, or frozen.) I think credit cards have a lot of benefits that paper money doesn’t, like theft protection, spending reports, and, of course, cashback and bonuses.
However, I don’t think EVERYONE should get a credit card. If you’re in debt or struggle to pay on time or in full, then, by all means, get rid of your credit cards! Cashback and bonuses are only useful if you’re not paying late fees and interest. If you’re not in a place where you can be smart with a credit card, go all Dave Ramsey and focus on managing your money in more physical ways.
If you have a track record of being responsible with money and paying bills on time but don’t yet have a credit card, this might be a good time to consider building your way to an excellent credit score. Apply for a credit card and you can literally fund your next trip or any big monetary goals you have!
Do you use a credit card to help you travel? What do you think are the biggest advantages/disadvantages?
Disclosure: This is not a paid ad. I do get a signup bonus for the first five people to use this link and qualify for Quicksilver card, but no other compensation has been or will be made. I just get excited about credit card benefits that travelers can take advantage of!