travel tips

The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Vegas Vacation

Vegas is a large, eclectic, and fun city to visit, and that means if you want to get the most out of your vacation you will need to plan out your trip before you go carefully. Of course you don’t need to have a minute by minute schedule but instead, think about tailoring the places you visit and the things you do to the people that you are traveling with. Then you will be guaranteed to have the best possible time. Read on to find on more.

Your party

The first thing to consider if you are thinking of visiting Vegas is the people that you are going with. After all, a family of four with young children’s visit will have a very different audience to cater for, from those attending a bachelor party!

 

Season

Next, using this idea of audience, consider the season that you wish to travel. If you have a choice, those looking for party central are best picking the peak season from March (spring break so expect college students) through to August. You will also find that this is when Vegas is at its hottest as well, so that means all the pools will be open, and you can expect plenty of alfresco fun.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a more family-friendly vacation then heading there off-peak is a much better idea. This is because not only is it cooler and so much more pleasant to walk and drive around the city, but is less jammed packed with people as well.

Entertainment

Although many people think of Vegas as a place with casino and pools, it is probably one of the best location choices for any type of vacation that you could possibly imagine because of the variety of entertainment on offer. Of course, once again your activities will need to be customized appropriately to their audience to be successful.

What that means is planning things like visits to Circus Circus Midway, Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, and even hiking at Red Rock Canyon are best for a for a family group.

Alternatively, if you are traveling as an all adults party the casinos, pool parties, and even some of the raunchier shows like Zombie Burlesque shows can be a great bet. Luckily, you can get the best deals on Vegas show tickets online before you travel. Something that means you don’t have to waste time queuing for seats when you arrive.

Hotels

Finally, when it comes to planning your vacation in Vegas, it’s crucial that you pick the right hotel. Those looking for high-end, luxe vibe will probably suit the Encore Or Wynn on the North of the strip, while Mandalay Bay can be an especially good choice for those with kids.

It’s worth noting as well that some of the older hotels on the strip like the Luxor, often have great value rooms suitable for adult parties as well. A fact worth knowing if you are to plan, and enjoy a Vegas vacation that is well matched to those that will be going on it.

 

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Accommodations, Birthday, Books, Couponing to Travel, day trip, destinations, saving money, Travel Life, travel tips

February 2019 Update: Change in Plans and Change in the Bank

February may be the shortest month of the year, but these past 28 days were packed with more than I expected. I worked even more than I do in a typical month, I saved more money with couponing than I did in January, and a lot happened with my planned trip.

Wondering what this challenge is? Start here. 

Check out my progress report from January. 

Shall I start with the good news or the bad news? (Hint: always pick the bad news first.)

I’m Not Going to Germany

After waiting over a month to hear a response about my pending placement with Diverbo, I sent a follow-up email. They finally got back to me saying that both the program I wanted to be in as well as my back-up program were full. They didn’t even have room on the waiting list for my first choice! Since this was a big motivator (and money-saver) for going to Germany, I decided to defer my time there until I have a confirmed place in a Diverbo program and instead went back to the drawing board.

Mount Tibidabo, Barcelona, Spain, Western Europe
At the summit of Mount Tibidabo during my previous trip to Europe, shortly after my time with Diverbo

A few years ago, as I was about to make my first trip to Europe, I wanted to see it in three trips: one for the Mediterranean (check!), one for the British Isles, and one for Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Since I didn’t want to lose my momentum for going to England, I decided to go back to this original plan and add Ireland to the mix. (I also briefly considered Iceland, but since that’s so far away from the rest of Europe, it could be included as a stopover for just about any trip.) The switch from Germany to Ireland surprisingly came with some money-saving opportunities!

How I’ll Save Money In Ireland

Last week, I bought my plane tickets! I will fly into Dublin and out of London. I haven’t bought a flight between the two islands yet, but I’ve looked up the cost and it’s incredibly affordable.

While I was always planning to go in May, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in Europe for my birthday or celebrate in my hometown first and leave a day or so later. As I looked up Dublin hostels, I found a cool one that offers a free night on your birthday. That sealed the deal for me! My 28th birthday will be my first full day in Dublin.

Birthday Hot Air Balloon Selfie
What’s more exciting: this hot air balloon ride I took on my birthday in 2015, or being in Dublin for my birthday in 2019?

I’ll actually stay in two hostels in Dublin, and three in Ireland. After a couple nights in the first hostel, I’ll take a bus trip to see sights like Blarney Castle and Cliffs of Moher while spending the night in Cork. When I return to Dublin, I’ll stay at the hostel that partners with the same tour bus company. For spending two nights there, I get a free bus trip to Wicklow!

 

Overnight Greyhound Bus
I’ve taken many bus trips in the past, including exploring the breadth of the US, France, and Spain!

I wanted to take a third excursion to Northern Ireland and Giant’s Causeway, but decided to go with a different tour company this time. Although this one wanted to charge me an extra 5 euro for what would basically be the same trip, they included the admission for the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge when other tours did not. And because I started making a reservation but didn’t finish, they offered me a 5-euro-off coupon code to come back to their site. Score!

I was disappointed that I would not be part of a cultural exchange like I would in Germany’s Diverbo. (It turns out that people in England and Ireland are already great at speaking English!) But I did find out about another opportunity to connect with local Dubliners…

My Money-Saving Activities this Month

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve earned an additional $629.51 (through extra work hours and projects) and saved $772.41. This was a few dollars short of my goal (I wanted to be at $800 by now), but I’ll chock it up to being a shorter month. This doesn’t include the money I’ve saved by using the library. My library lets me know how much money I’ve saved on my receipts, and it’s been nearly $1000 this year alone. I’ve chosen not to include this since I probably wouldn’t buy the books, DVDs, and musical instruments I borrowed, at least not for full price. But this did lead me to other money-saving ventures.

Library Guidebooks, Movie, and Reciept
All the money I’ve saved with things like guide books. Even The Princess Bride movie was for Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher (Cliffs of Insanity) research purposes.

I’ve been borrowing a lot of Rick Steves books, and one mentioned an Irish program where you can meet a local. With City of a Thousand Welcomes, the organization will pay for me and a local volunteer to go out for a nice tea and chat. I’ve already reserved my spot for the day I arrive!

Europe Guidebooks
One of these guidebooks is so good, I read it like a novel. The other I’m allowed to tear apart and bring along with me. Both are FREE!

Since I can’t take the library’s Rick Steves books to Europe with me, I took advantage of my AAA membership and got their Europe guidebook for FREE! I plan to tear out the England and Ireland sections and just take those along with me, with a bunch of notes added from my other reading.

Wildlife Safari Guanaco
A guanaco at Wildlife Safari’s drive-through

Despite my focus on saving money this month, I was still able to take a day trip to Wildlife Safari. I celebrated World Hippo Day with their free hippo-themed activities, and even used a free carload pass I was given a few months ago (for donating blood) to get everyone in my car free admission to the drive-thru safari. So I got the whole trip just for the price of (discounted) gas! The rest of my recreation was free activities like local walking, hiking, and even snowshoeing on our snow day! I also experienced the snow and sledding for the two weekends I helped at camp, and filled a few more days with extra work shifts.

Looking Ahead

With dates set and airline tickets purchased, I know March, April, and May will be focused on this trip. I have a few coupon and other savings ideas set into motion, but I have a feeling that I’ll soon be scrounging for more ways to save.

February Couponing to Europe
My couponing spreadsheet thus far. The blank spaces are deals that I plan to use, but haven’t cashed in on yet.

As of right now, I have $772.41 couponed and $629.51 extra dollars earned (only half, or $314.75, of my extra earnings goes towards this trip). That’s a total of $945.02 saved for this trip, but I’ve already spent $1644.07! Most of this expense is for the overseas flights, but also includes trip insurance, The London Pass, and the Giant’s Causeway day trip. So this trip is technically “in debt”, but I am putting all these expenses on a rewards card so that I’ll get a nice cash back bonus in time for the trip. Since I have other necessary trip-related expenses like hostels, more out-of-city excursions, transit, and food, I’d better keep on couponing!

Have you ever experienced an unexpected change in plans that ended up saving you money? Let me know in the comments!

travel tips

Cool Things To See On A Trip Through Texas

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If, like the majority of us, you’re working long, hard hours through the week. You’re probably thinking every Monday morning about getting out of the current routine and taking a big, lovely break. You may not exactly despise your job – you might even love what you do, but sometimes you feel as though you need to get out and explore something new.

A good way to break the dull routine that you’re finding yourself in is to get out on the road and head on a big trip. After all, they say travel broadens the mind – whether it’s to an area reasonably close to your home or far away into entirely new and scary territory!

If you’re finding yourself attracted to the prospect, might I suggest a trip through Texas! They say everything’s bigger in Texas and with good reason. A huge surface area that is jam-packed with hundreds of things to do. Like the thought of it? Well, let’s have a little look at a few of the coolest sights and spots to visit while stopping by.

 

Visit The National Parks

If you love seeing the wilderness and the wildlife of the world, you’ll want to see the likes of the Big Bend National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains. Getting away from the hectic everyday life we live and seeing glorious nature such as these will put your mind at ease.

 

Space Center Houston

If you’re a stargazer, you may love the idea of visiting the Space Center. A place where you can learn all about the outer world above us and be amazed by all of the work that NASA gets through. There are areas for kids as well as museums and seminars for adults. An entire day can be made of it, so if you’re able to book a hotel in Houston, Texas, you can spend a long while having a blast. You don’t have to be a geek to enjoy this stuff!

 

The Sixth Floor Museum

The spot in Dallas where Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President John F. Kennedy. Understandable it won’t be for everyone, but people come to marvel at the historic building and surrounding area.  

 

The Alamo

The famous and legendary Battle Of The Alamo. You’ve probably heard of it because everyone has. The renowned spot from the Texas Revolution is located in the heart of San Antonio and is Texas’ most visited landmark. There are activities for families as well as a guided tour.

 

Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock is a huge and beautiful pink granite dome that attracts people from all over the world. It’s a spot to sightsee but also has activities do to there.

 

Sports Stadiums And Arenas

If you like sports, then you’ll probably want to visit a few of the famous teams’ homes. Football teams like the legendary Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans, basketball teams such as the Rockets or the Spurs, or if you like Baseball you can see where the Texas Rangers’ do their stuff.

 

travel tips

6 Ways To Work Out While On The Road

Travel, whether it be for business or pleasure, is a great opportunity to recharge your batteries and break free from the routines that control your everyday life. However, that doesn’t mean that you should sacrifice your workout regime too. Whether you enjoy exercise or not, it is a vital part of life, helping you to keep fit, look your best, and manage the stress that travel can often cause. If you’re struggling to work out while you’re on the road, here are six things that you can do.

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Plan Time To Exercise

Finding the motivation to work out, especially when there are so many other fun things that you could be doing, can certainly be tricky. For this reason, you should plan a rough itinerary for your trip, detailing what activities you are going to do when, including times to exercise. After all, if you have nothing better planned, there’s nothing stopping you from hitting the gym now and then.

 

Pack Your Exercise Equipment

You’re not going to be able to pack your dumbbells or running machine in your hand luggage, but that doesn’t mean you need to work out without any aids whatsoever. There are plenty of smaller and lighter pieces of equipment that you could bring along with you, such as a skipping rope or resistance bands. You should also remember to pack your running shoes and gym clothes.

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Choose The Right Accommodation

Whether you’re just a few states over or halfway across the world, being in a new place means you don’t have access to the usual gym facilities you have back home. With that in mind, you should book accommodation that provides them. The Holiday Inn hotel in West Plains, Missouri, for example, is perfect. This has a fitness suite and an indoor pool to support any exercise plans.

 

Research Cheap Local Services

When there are no hotels available with amenities useful for your work out regime, you should research gyms, fitness classes, and other services in the local area. You may be able to purchase a cheap temporary pass, granting you access to the services that you need. If you forget to do this before going away, speak to someone at the reception of your hotel for help.

 

Take Advantage Of Technology

With so many other expenses to contend with, you may not want to pay to exercise when you go away. Thankfully, you don’t have to. These days, there are countless free apps available on the app store to support and guide your workouts. You could also pack a laptop and a few workout DVDs. As long as you have these essentials, you can work up a sweat in your hotel room.

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See Sights By Foot

Travel is all about seeing and doing new things, which means that you shouldn’t spend your entire trip locked away working out. Instead, take part in more physical activities, like hiking and watersports. You can also sign up for walking tours and see the sights by foot. This allows you to fit in a work out without having to sacrifice any of the time you want to spend having fun.

 

Travel isn’t an excuse to be unhealthy, so remember the tips above to stick to your work out regime.

 

Accommodations, destinations, resources, road trip, saving money, travel tips

The Best Hostels from My Oregon Road Trip

I hadn’t realized that I’d only seen a small part of my home state. After years of numerous road trips, I still missed so much that Oregon has to offer. This past November, I took a road trip to explore a town I’d never heard of as well as revisit a city I’d only ever had a glimpse of. To maximize my time and money, I stayed in centrally-located hostels. Road tripping to hostels isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to finding parking. But so far, all of the Oregon hostels I’ve stayed at have provided plentiful parking in a good area, as well as so many other unique amenities. Both hostels from this trip were great; I think you should stay there too!

Bonus: Be sure to click on the links to see my full reviews at Hostelz.com!

Mitchell, Oregon

Painted Hills Mitchell Oregon

To be honest, I didn’t even know this tiny town existed before I starting researching for my road trip. But I had heard of the Painted Hills, one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon. A short drive and several quick hikes took me through a sightseeing tour of awe-inspiring multicolored formations. Mitchell, Oregon is the nearest town to this national monument. While the Painted Hills are the most notable landmark, the entire drive from Central Oregon to Mitchell offered scenic views.

 

 

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Just eight miles away from the Painted Hills National Monument is Spoke’n Hostel, located right next to the city limits. Although I didn’t spend much time in the town proper, my fabulous night in Mitchell suggested that Spoke’n Hostel is the place to be in Eastern Oregon!

I was greeted by the owners, who have renovated their church to welcome TransAmerica cyclists and Painted Hills travelers in the most beautiful way possible. The sanctuary-turned-bunk room is the best I’ve ever seen. The big locally-made beds with privacy curtains offer a comfortable rest and personal necessities (like lamps and charging ports). Surprisingly, I was the only guest that night, so I was upgraded to a cozy private room. Down in the basement, I used the library, kitchen, games, and other fun activities. Even the backyard is picturesque!

Bend, Oregon

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In the heart of Oregon, you’ll find Bend, a city thriving with its city fun and outdoor adventure. I spent nearly two full days exploring just a sample of what Bend had to offer. I went for long walks, including my own alcohol-free version of the Bend Ale Trail. I followed the Deschutes River, ate delicious food, and saw unique sites like the High Desert Museum and America’s only remaining Blockbuster Video.

 

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Bend has history, too! And what better way to be a part of its history than staying in the city’s very first brick building? Bunk + Brew Historic Lucas House was an old building with a young heart. Just a block away from downtown, Bend’s only hostel offered a variety of dorm rooms (I stayed in the four-bed female-only dorm), make-your-own-breakfast, and adventurous employees who can make your time in Bend even more enjoyable.

Other Oregon Hostels

La Pine State Park Oregon

For the third night of my trip, I couldn’t find a hostel on the route between Bend and my home in Medford, Oregon. Instead, I stayed budget-conscious while getting a room of my own by renting a cabin and staying at La Pine State Park. While I enjoyed the miles of hiking trails and seeing the world’s largest ponderosa pine, I did miss the typical hostel amenities, such as breakfast, walkability, and getting to meet other travelers from around the world. (I think there were only two other campers on that below-freezing night!)

 

 

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However, the next week, I was on a shorter road trip on Oregon’s I-5 when I discovered that Wolf Creek Inn offers hostel rooms as part of their historic hotel. Here are a few other Oregon hostels I’ve stayed in:

I loved staying in the Eugene Whiteaker Hostel.

Ashland Commons is another good hostel choice.

Question: Which hostel would you most like to stay at? Do you have a favorite road trip route? Let me know in the comments!

Foodie, resources

VALENTINE GIVEAWAY: 6 Free Meals from Around the World

While I can’t always leave home to travel the world, I often try to bring the world into my home. I’ve recently been using Gobble, a meal kit delivery program that lets you pick your own food and brings it right to your door. Since everything is already measured out for the recipe, it makes cooking a breeze. I’ve enjoyed trying new dishes and selecting meals inspired from many nations around the world.

Now, I’d like to pass on a FREE six-meal box to you.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. You MUST be a follower of this blog.
  2. Leave a comment below telling me your favorite blog post from JessicaLippe.com. (Note: This contest cannot count as your favorite post- if this is your first time here, go explore and read and then come back here to comment.)

Once those two steps are complete, you’ll get one entry! For another entry, check out my Instagram post.

Can’t wait to win? Everyone who follows this link and makes a new Gobble account will get a free dinner kit for 2!


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Rules: Contest begins February 13th and will end on February 14th at 11:59pm. Winner will be selected and notified via email or Instagram within 48 hours. Winner must provide relevant information for Gobble invitation and create a Gobble account. Prize is one free box containing six meals. Winner must create a new Gobble account in a timely manner in order to redeem prize. This contest is not sponsored or endorsed by Instagram.

Couponing to Travel, travel tips

January 2019 Update: Where I’m Going and What I’m Doing

My first month of Couponing to London is officially in the books! January was a good month to get started with saving, and going to Europe now seems less like a dream and more like a reality!

Note: Affiliate links are used in this blog. They can help us both save more money for travel!

London: Coupons, Rebates, Passes, and Rewards

Originally, I thought I only ended up saving $179.15 from couponing and rebates this January. Although that’s a lot more than what I usually save, it was quite a bit less than my monthly goal of $400. But I also set some things in motion so I can get good deals down the line before I leave for Europe.

Those savings from this month allowed me to buy The London Pass! I’ll be using this for three of my days in London. For the one-time purchase of this pass, I’ll be able to visit as many fun and historic sites as I can fit in during those three days, free of admission! I’m excited to ride the hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus and cruise River Thames as well as see the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, The View from The Shard, The Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, and SO MANY other attractions!

London Pass Order Confirmation
I was so excited to get this email!

Even though I haven’t finalized dates for this trip, I decided to buy The London Pass now because prices increase in a few days! The London Pass is good for a full year from the date of purchase. There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so I have until March to make sure that I’m actually going to London.

The London Pass was also something that I couponed for! I was excited to find a promo code for 10% off a 3-day pass, but with an extra Swagbucks Search, I found a 15% off code! So I saved money buying The London Pass, and I’ll save even more when I use it!

I was trying to be content with my $179.15 savings when at the last minute, a $200 credit card bonus finally kicked in. I thought it would be another month or two until that reward would process, so that was a nice way to just about bring me to my January goal, totaling in at $379.15. I also recently opened another credit card that I’m putting all my travel expenses on, so I should get another bonus before I leave.

Gobble Ravioli
Enjoying a homemade Italian meal from Gobble while simultaneously adding to my England travel fund.

Besides The London Pass and credit card cash back, a lot of my rebates and coupons came from Swagbucks. I signed up for meal boxes from Gobble and HomeChef through Swagbucks, and the rebate turned out to be more than the money I spent. There was also a deal for Fabletics, which was great since I wanted some new athletic pants for my trip anyway (and it’s always great to get paid for something you want)! I also got some discount gift cards, and I’m doing my usual deal cycle for snacks and gas at Fred Meyer.

These coupon and rebate savings will go towards my flight there, hostel, food, and attractions I’ll be visiting before or after my three days of using The London Pass. I’d like to ride The London Eye, which isn’t currently part of the pass. I’d also like to spend a day in the Greenwich area and climb the O2. I may even take a day trip to Stonehenge and possibly somewhere else. (Stay tuned!)

In anticipation of London, travel was limited to almost nothing this month. I didn’t even have to visit the gas station! There was only one weekend helping at camp instead of the usual two per month, and my only real entertainment day was seeing Mary Poppins Returns for free. I did plan a low-cost day trip for February, so I won’t go as stir-crazy next month. But this January, I did spend a lot of free time walking. I explored my town while trying to get back my “backpacker body”. I’m also continuing my tradition of giving up sugar for 21 days near the start of the year, so between no sugar and lots of walking, I can tell I’m getting healthier.

Germany: Extra Work and Volunteering

Two Euro
My savings for Germany so far. (Or just change leftover from my first Eurotrip.)

I also took on several extra work hours and projects to earn extra income. I’ve decided to put only half of that toward my Germany travel expenses. The other half will go partly to the government (yay taxes), partly to charity, and the rest to save for other endeavors.

Diverbo Certificate of Appreciation
Proof I spent a week speaking nonstop English in Spain

I also applied for what will probably be my biggest money-saver on this trip. I spent a week volunteering with Diverbo when I was in Spain, and I’m looking forward to doing it again, this time in Germany. I haven’t done much planning for Germany because the specific Diverbo session I get accepted into will determine if I spend additional time in Frankfurt or Munich. My preference would be Munich because that’s where the session starts that is held in the Black Forest. Can you imagine spending a week meeting people from all around the world while walking through the world-famous forest, eating delicious fine German cuisine, and staying at a resort for free? And they call that volunteering!

Although I haven’t finalized any dates yet, I think May might be a good part of the pre-summer season to travel. I have approximately another $800 worth of coupon and rebate savings that I’ve mapped out, so over the next three months, I’ll be looking for more ways to save at least another $800. Time to get creative!

Do you have any ideas for ways to save for travel? Share them in the comments!

destinations, resources, saving money, travel tips

How to Save Big Money in Rome

While planning a European trip to a different destination, I was recently contacted by a fellow magazine editor asking about money-saving tips for her upcoming trip to Rome. I realized I hadn’t shared much about my time in Rome. Although it was over three years ago, I spent nearly three weeks there and have a lot to say about it! So instead of just telling her how to save on her trip, I thought I’d share my tips with everyone!

See the Free Sights

You don’t have to pay admission to see beautiful and historic masterpieces. Rome has many piazzas, each worth exploring. Even for attractions you have to pay for (such as the Colosseum and Castel Sant’Angelo), you can still get pretty good views from the exterior. Here are a few of my favorite free sights:

Trevi Fountain Restoration, Rome, Italy
The Trevi Fountain was undergoing restoration while I was there, so they set up a little pool so we could still make our wishes and throw coins.

Trevi Fountain: Technically this isn’t entirely free since you’re supposed to throw two coins in. (I tossed in two one-cent coins to make it as cheap as possible!) But this is definitely one of the must-see Italian statues.

scala sancta rome italy
People praying their way up the Scala Sancta

Scala Sancta: This “Holy Staircase” was imported from Jerusalem and believed to belong to Pontius Pilate. Jesus Christ would have walked these steps several times on the day of his crucifixion. Tradition is to pray as you climb these steps on your knees, and anyone is invited to participate.

Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy
Just a few steps of the entire staircase… it’s huge!

Spanish Steps: No matter how exhausted I was, it was always worth climbing the massive Spanish steps. This is also a good place to sit, eat a snack, and people watch. Being a popular tourist area, you can hear many languages spoken and get a glimpse of all the stunts put on for tourists (“floating” people, rose selling, etc.)

Bocca Della Verita
Close call with the Bocca Della Verita

Bocca Della Verita: The “Mouth of Truth” is an ancient piece of art that supposedly bites off the hands of liars. When I stuck my hand in, I said: “you will bite my hand now”. I think it was too confused to know what to do.

Villa Borghese Map, Roma Italia
So much to do… and I love that the park is heart-shaped!

Villa Borghese: This giant park definitely has some fun things you can pay for. I ended up renting a Segway here. But it’s also a good place to have a picnic, overlook the city, and go up to the zoo entrance. (The zoo has an admission fee, but they have a few free displays before the ticketed area.)

Stay in a Hostel

You can get a downtown hostel for around 20 euro, depending on location and time of year. I ended up staying in three hostels during my time in Rome. I wasn’t thrilled with the first one. I loved the second one but it was small and only had a few days of availability. I finally settled into the third one. Since hostels can be so diverse, make sure to carefully read the reviews on a website like Hostelz.com. (Fun fact: I wrote the description for Italy and many of the Italian destinations on that website!)

Try to get a reasonably-priced hostel that includes breakfast to save even more money. Breakfast can include a lot of things, such as breads, spreads, juice, and croissants, but my favorite hostel breakfast treat was cookies. Yes, they have cookies for breakfast! While you’ll want to eat out at least a few times in Rome, it’s also an experience in itself to visit a grocery store like the locals. See what kinds of things the other shoppers buy, and then head to your hostel’s kitchen to try your hand at an authentic Italian meal!

Walk

Walking by Tiber River, Rome, Italy
Carrying a backpack meant I could spend the whole day out and about, like walking along the Tiber River

Rome has a subway system, but not one worth getting excited over. Due to the buried historical artifacts under Rome’s surface, it would require too much expensive excavation to build a subway that takes you everywhere you want to go. I only rode Rome’s subway once (and only because someone handed me a free ticket), and it was overly crowded. Street traffic and taxi prices are even worse.

What’s a better solution? Walking! Most Rome sights are all within a few miles of each other. As you walk from one place to another, you’ll likely find dozens of other interesting stopping points along the way. Some ancient artifacts and ornate architecture are just casually located throughout the city.

Go to Church

Pope Francis in the Vatican
The closest I got to meeting Pope Francis

When in Rome, it doesn’t matter if you normally go to church. Going to church here is a must-do. Of course, you’ll have to visit the Vatican, the world’s smallest country and headquarters of Catholicism that just so happens to be encased inside Rome. When the Pope is in town, he speaks on Wednesdays and Sundays. Go to both if you can, as they are different experiences. When the Pope’s not speaking, go inside St. Peter’s Basilica. You could spend hours there! Vatican City also offers admission-based activities such as climbing to the top of the Basilica (take the stairs to save on the elevator fare) and the Vatican Museums (plan an entire day here and don’t just visit the Sistine Chapel!)

Outside of the Vatican, there are still plenty of other churches that are worth stepping into. They’re all open most of the day to visitors, and can be a welcome cooling-off point during warm months. I made a point to stop inside every church I passed, and I was never disappointed.

Although most churches in Rome are Catholic with services held in Italian, I did end up attending a Sunday morning Protestant service held in English. In fact, it turned out that the pastor was from Oregon like me! Rome Baptist Fellowship is a centrally-located international gathering of travelers, expatriates, and even locals gathering together, which was a fun experience.

Stop at the Palatino

Palatino, Rome, Italy
I spent at least as much time at the Palatino as I did at the Colosseum- so much to walk right up to!

This is more of a time-saver than a money-saver, but you want to make your time in Rome count! Don’t wait in a long line to buy a ticket at the Colesseum. Instead, head over to the Palatino, an attraction in its own right lurking in the shadows of the more famous attraction. Buy a ticket and enjoy the sights there, and then head over to the Colesseum and skip the line there. Tickets are good for both attractions, but for some strange reason, many people skip the Palatino.

Tour with Rick Steves

Rick Steves Audio Tour, Jewish Ghetto, Rome, Italy
With Rick Steves coming through my ear buds, even this street sign in Rome’s Jewish Ghetto had an interesting history behind it!

If you like guided group tours, Rick Steves probably has the best ones out there. I prefer to travel solo, but Rick Steves still played a major role in much of my European travel. If you download the free app, you can access tons of audio tours and more advice for your travels. In Rome, I took audio tours through places like the Jewish Ghetto, the Colesseum, Heart of Rome, and Trastevere, just to name a few. I discovered a lot of interesting things I would never have noticed on my own.

At night, I would often fall asleep in my hostel dorm with my earbuds in, listening to Rick Steves tell a story about one of his European adventures or interviewing another travel expert. It made me excited to wake up the next morning and explore Rome more!

Eat the Lunch Specials

Italian Pasta in Trastavere, Rome
Course 2…

I was told by multiple people to go to the Trastevere area for lunch. Or, if you like eating dinner at an American time (like 5) instead of an Italian hour (like 9), lunch specials can still apply. At most of the restaurants in this part of town, you pay a fixed price and then get to choose what food you want for each of the three courses off a special menu.

Trastevere is an interesting part of town not for its famous attractions, but because you can get a taste of what life in Rome is really like. Burn off your lunch calories with a walk around these cobblestone streets. Since it’s located on the Tiber River, walk along there too. There are sometimes special events along the river, such as a Nutella street fair that I happened to find there! That resulted in a free Nutella snack that I saved for another meal!

To save money at nearly any meal, drink water! And not the bottled kind. Rome has safe drinking fountains throughout the city where you can fill up for free.

Eat Gelato

Fassi Gelato, Rome, Italy
Move over, Baskin Robbins with your 31 flavors… there were so many unique flavors at Fassi!

You can’t go to Italy without indulging in gelato. It was a great snack, dessert, or sometimes even a meal-on-the-go! My favorite gelateria was called Fassi. It’s a little ways away from most tourist attractions, so the price is lower and you know you’re getting the real deal. A hostel roommate introduced me to this place, and in return, I introduced several more roommates. Now I’d like to introduce everyone to Fassi!

Another Italian treat you must try in Rome is tiramisu. For both gelato and tiramisu, I’d recommend seeking out a dessert at least once a day and trying a new flavor each time!

save big money in rome

Thinking back to my time in Rome is making me realize that despite spending a few weeks there, I left so much of it unexplored! Do you have any money-saving suggestions that I missed? Help my friend out by leaving them in the comments!

travel tips

San Diego Fun: The Best Places To Visit

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If you fancy a break somewhere a little warmer during these cold months, you are likely looking to go anywhere with some lovely beaches and a pool to lie beside this winter. In the USA there are tons of amazing spots for a winter getaway and they all have some amazing features and merits. But today we are going to look at San Diego and some of the things you can enjoy here.

San Diego is often associated with comic con, and although this does happen here every year, it’s not the only thing you can enjoy in this beautiful part of the world. Here are some of the top places you can visit in San Diego this year.

La Jolla

For those of you who are looking to books a few hotel rooms in San Diego and spend a week lying in the beach, this is the ideal spot for you. California is always somewhere which is great for beach holidays and La Jolla is a beautiful spot for you to enjoy with your friends or family this year. You’ll be able to look over the ocean from the top of a cliff and it is a place to really relax and be calm for a moment.

USS Midway Aircraft Carrier

For those of you who are looking for something a little bit different to enjoy this year, a great idea would be to see the USS Midway
Aircraft Carrier
for yourself. This amazing specimen is 972 feet long and it is somewhere you definitely want to take a tour around during your stay. You’ll feel like an agent from the marvel movies walking through here and it can be a fascinating place to spend a day.

Balboa Park

For those of you who enjoy getting away from the city for a little while, Balboa Park can be a great spot for a walk and a relaxing picnic with your family. When you visit this park you will be able to enjoy some stunning flora and fauna and enjoy a host of different activities too. You can ride a bike, ride the carousel, visit San Diego zoo or do nothing at all. You could easily visit here day after day and not run out of things to do with your time!

Coronado Island

This random piece of land is between the bay of San Diego and the Pacific Ocean, and it is a peninsula which is popular for a lot of tourists from all over the place. It’s only a small place but ta filled with fun and life and you will be able to enjoy a walk on the beach, a browse in the town and some bike riding too.

San Diego Zoo

We may have already mentioned this briefly, but come on, there are animals! One of the most fun places for anyone to visit during the year has to be the zoo because you get to come face to face with some of the most incredible creatures on the planet. San Diego zoo has pandas, koalas, snakes, pigs, and a whole host of other creatures. It is definitely somewhere for the bucket list!

Couponing to Travel, destinations, film, resources, saving money, travel tips

Couponing for Mary Poppins Returns (and a Visit to Her Hometown!)

London skyline and pigeons
Despite the song from the original movie, please don’t feed the birds. I heard a Parisian tour guide describe the overpopulation of human-dependent pigeons as “winged rats”.

I may be a little late to the game, but yesterday I finally got to see Mary Poppins Returns.

With all the adventures Mary Poppins has with the kids, it got me thinking about my own travels. Especially about London.

But wait, I haven’t been to London yet!

However, England is on the itinerary for my next international trip. (The other potential destination on this trek includes Germany.) Consider this my official announcement! Now that the word is out, here are the two questions I know I’m going to be asked:

  1. When are you going?
  2. How can you afford it?

The answer to number one isn’t set yet, as it mostly depends on the answer to number two. And that brings me to the point of this post…

But First Let’s Return to Mary Poppins Returns

Movie Ticket and Popcorn
The ticket says it was $5.25, but it wasn’t really.

Although I saw the movie during my theater’s “Discount Tuesday”, I still didn’t want to pay that price. I noticed that Fandango had an offer for this particular movie. If I bought $8 worth of Ivory soap, I could get up to an $8 discount to see Mary Poppins Returns. Although I didn’t really need the soap, I decided to buy it anyway and try to find something useful to do with it. (I ended up selling it all for the same price I bought it.) I uploaded my receipt to Fandango, and they gave me a promo code. Even with Fandango’s reservation fee, the total of the ticket was still just under $8, so I got to see the movie for free.

But wait! That’s not all! Last month, there was a similar Fandango promotion with Chex cereal. For buying three boxes of cereal, I could either see The Grinch or get a $5 concession credit. There was no minimum spend for this deal, so I found some valuable coupons that made each box of Chex just over a dollar each. Since I’d already seen The Grinch with another free ticket promotion (disclosure: I’ve found discounts or free tickets for the last several movies I’ve been to), I decided to get the concession credit, which I finally used yesterday. I was disappointed to find out that there was a small price increase in concessions since I last went to Tinseltown, but I decided to still buy the junior popcorn. The posted price was $5.40, but I used my $5 off coupon.

I didn’t even pay for gas. I live just over a mile away from the closest movie theater. By choosing an afternoon movie time, I was able to safely walk there and back during daylight hours.

My grand total for this complete movie theater experience? Forty cents!

And since Mary Poppins Returns is a Disney movie, I’ll be uploading a picture of my ticket to Disney Movie Rewards. There I’ll get a small rebate that I can use toward a variety of Disney merchandise, tickets, and more. I also scanned my Cinemark Connections so I earned points for future movie-related discounts. And the forty cents was paid with my rewards credit card for cash back. Once these three rebates are used, I will have made money from this excursion!

So What Will I Do With the Savings?

As I just demonstrated, seeing a movie like Mary Poppins Returns in theaters doesn’t have to be expensive. Going to the real London doesn’t have to be either, although I guarantee that it will cost much more than even a full-price movie ticket! Starting at the beginning of 2019, every discount I score will be logged onto an Excel spreadsheet titled “2019 Couponing to Europe”. Although I’ve couponed before, I’ve never couponed with the goal to save for a trip!

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I have seven different categories for coupons and deals:

Swagbucks: This is my main online way to save and earn. Since doing things like taking surveys and watching videos takes time kind of like work does, I’m only counting rebates and discounts on this spreadsheet to make things simpler. Check out the “Shopping” and “Discover” sections of the website to find good deals- so will even give you a bigger rebate than what you initially spent!

GiftCardGranny: This is my other go-to online savings place. It’s a search engine specifically for finding discount gift cards. Over the past year, I’ve already saved lots of money by buying gift cards to places I normally shop anyway. Although I still have several of those gift cards waiting to be used up, I look forward to refreshing my gift card stockpile this year. By having an account, I also earn “Granny Points” that I’ll eventually redeem for free gift cards!

Other Online: This covers any online deals I found that aren’t through Swagbucks or GiftCardGranny. The one item I have in this category so far is an Amazon gift card I received through a nonprofit I helped to sponsor.

Fred Meyer: This is where I typically shop in town. (For U.S. residents outside of the Northwest, this store is called Kroger in your region.) Most weeks they offer a “Freebie Friday” deal, where anyone with a free shoppers card can download a coupon for a completely free item. Fred Meyer also accepts manufacturer’s coupons, which I’ve already taken advantage of. In addition, I use their gas station because I’ve found ways to get discounts on Kroger gas, too.

Other In-Store: This is the category my movie deals went into. It’s basically the catch-all for any coupons or discounts not mentioned above unless it’s related to my trip or my bank.

Travel-Specific: Over three years ago when I went to Europe on my Mediterranean Trek, I got two free nights in a Venice hotel since I’d made so many other bookings on HostelsClub. I still have some credit on that site, which I plan to use. While researching for my trip, if I find any discounts or free hours for attractions I was planning to visit, that goes in this column. Any freebies or specials for food, lodging, airfare, and transit will go here too.

Banking: I used to use a credit card that gave me 1% back on all my purchases. I recently got a new credit card where I get 1.5% back, plus a $200 bonus for spending $1000 in the first three months. I’ve transferred all my expenses to this credit card except for my rent, which I pay in cash. All of my credit rewards will be saved for travel, plus all of the interest I earn from my savings account. I also recently opened up a new account at a credit union that is separate from my bank where I’ll be depositing the sum of all my travel savings each month. (It currently has a little more than what I’ve saved so far since I wanted to start earning dividends as soon as possible!)

What Are the Caveats?

The problem with couponing and other discounts is that you can get caught up in such a good deal it is, you forget that it’s not even something you would normally buy. I am trying to be very conscious with only couponing if it falls into one of these three categories:

  1. It’s a discount on something I would normally buy anyway
  2. It’s something I would like for free
  3. It’s a deal that will end up making me money (this is the best kind!)

I’ve also already run into some situations where I wasn’t sure if something actually counted as a discount. For example, I made two returns to stores this year. I wasn’t sure if I should put them on my spreadsheet since that would open the door to “hacking” by just buying and returning purchases. But both of these purchases were things that I thought I truly needed at the time but the course of events changed that. I am trying to buy only what I absolutely need for the time being, so this shouldn’t be much of an issue in the future. However, I plan to start selling some of my old belongings soon, and I can’t decide if that is something that should count on my couponing spreadsheet.

Am I Saving in Other Ways?

Of course! My couponing goal is $2000, which I’m hoping covers the overseas plane ticket and most of my time in London. In Germany, I plan to spend one week volunteering, so I won’t have any expenses during that time. For other Germany expenses, possible England side-trips, and pre-trip costs (I need a new passport, etc.), here are some things I’m doing:

  • I’m currently doing an eat-out-of-the-pantry challenge to see how long I can make meals using only food I already have (or things I get for free with couponing). Since I also get free meals at work, I imagine that my pantry will last me awhile.
  • I’m taking on extra work when it’s offered for hourly or per-project pay. I currently work several jobs, which is great because I typically don’t spend money while I’m working. So more work means more pay AND less spending!
  • My spending’s on a diet. For the final three weeks of January, I’m not spending any money unless it’s my regular charity donations or I get a rebate that’s greater than my purchase price. After that, I know I’ll be more conscious about my spending and saving habits.
  • I’m finding other ways to earn through Swagbucks.
  • I’m walking a lot more, whether to run errands or just for recreation. This is partially to save money on vehicle expenses, and partially to get my “backpacker body” back!
  • $2000 isn’t the cap for couponing. If I find ways to save even more before I leave, that means even more money for fun!

With just a spoonful of sugar, saving for England and beyond can be a fun challenge!

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