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.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

1113180917.jpg

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.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!)

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

Advertisements
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!

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!

screenshot (5)

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!

Couponing to London.jpg

Note: This post utilizes affiliate links.

Accommodations, camp, destinations, Foodie, resources, travel tips

Caving, Camping, and Cooking

A few years ago, I took a camp cooking class at my local REI. The class instructor asked everyone what their cooking experience was at camps. As I thought back to the camping I had done, I realize I had mostly gone to restaurants or otherwise eaten cereal or other easy-to-make things. I had to tell him I didn’t really have experience, despite all the camping I had done.

Ever since then, I decided that I wanted to explore different ways I could cook at camp. My most recent camping experience was at Oregon Caves National Monument. While I had hiking, camping, and caving, I also got to enjoy delicious food thanks to Mountain House!

0629181538a.jpg

I arrived at Cave Creek Campground, the rustic campground that is part of the Oregon Caves National Monument, on a Friday. I spent the afternoon setting up camp and enjoying the camp amenities. My campsite was right next to the creek! After a few hours of exploration and relaxation, it was time to start making dinner, which turned out to be relaxing as well!

0629181359a.jpg

I decided to make chicken and rice. Now that sounds like it would be difficult to make at a campsite, but Mountain House made it super easy. Mountain House is a maker of freeze-dried camping food. They’re actually also based in Oregon, so it only felt right to use them on an Oregon camping trip! (Though I’m sure they’d be delicious no matter where you are.) Here’s all I had to do:

Step one: Boil water.

0629181648

Step two: Pour some water into the packet.

0630180820

Step three: Zip up the packet and wait a few minutes while it “cooks”.

0629181651

Step four: Enjoy! While this meal is tasty as-is, it’s also totally customizable. I decided to slice up a tomato and add that to the mix.

0629181701

After that, all I had to cook was the mandatory things that you have to cook for every camping trip: s’mores!

0629181834.jpg

Even the next morning, breakfast was simple, filling, and amazing. Mountain House makes breakfast meals as well, and I had those meals on both Saturday and Sunday morning.

0630180819a

I spent most of Saturday away from the campground. The main attraction of Oregon Caves National Monument is about four miles uphill from the Cave Creek Campground. I went up there and opened and closed the caves that day! I took the first tour of the day, which told of all the stories about the cave held. And then I took the last tour, which was candlelit!

0630181017

0630180922.jpg

In between those two tours, I went hiking, visited the visitor center at the Chalet, and took a guided tour of the Chateau.

0630181606c.jpg

Because there weren’t any fires allowed in this area, I enjoyed some of the snacks I brought, and I got a little meal at the 50s-style diner in the Chateau. However, after the last tour when I went back to camp, I was craving another Mountain House meal!

0630181216.jpg

As I was camping, I realized that it was a great way to save money. My campsite only cost $10 a night, which is only a fraction of the price of a room at the Chateau! Because of that, I was able to take two tours, and I still had money left over for future adventures. Cooking my own food is something that always saves me money, whether I’m camping or at home. Mountain House made that easy to do even at a basic campsite. All I needed was hot water. (If for some reason you can’t get hot water, I tasted it before it was cooked. Trust me, it’s still good!) Even though I was eager to devour all of the Mountain House meals that I brought, if for some reason I wasn’t able to eat them, no worries. They’re good until 2048!

0629181546a

(In case it wasn’t obvious, Mountain House provided me samples in order for me to write this post. No other compensation was made.)

0629181544

Have you ever camped at a National Park or Monument? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

0630181151.jpg

 

Accommodations, culture, destinations, Foodie, Hawaii, hike, resources, saving money, souvenir, Things to Do, tour, travel tips, Walk

How to Vacation in Maui on the Cheap

Hawaii is known as an expensive vacation destination, and the island of Maui is no exception. However, my sister and I recently returned from eight nights on this tropical paradise, and we did it on a budget! If you’d like to see Maui, Hawaii without the typical price tag, take a few of our tips.

(Note: Although we did get good deals on our flights, airline tickets involve too many factors, such as season, origin, and personal resources. I’ve decided that, because all the variables that went into our flights probably can’t transfer to yours, to leave this expense out. If you want to save money on flights, there are plenty of articles out there dedicated to just that!)

Some links are affiliates. All links are personally recommended by me!

Gear

For the most part, I just used what I already owned to pack my bag. In Hawaii, you can wear shorts and swimsuits year-round, but I also packed a rain jacket for the unpredictable weather changes as well as leggings and a long-sleeve because I wanted to hike Haleakala with its cold summit. Since most of the clothes were compact, it was easy to fit everything into carry-on luggage and not have to pay for a checked bag.

One thing I did need to buy was razors. I ordered a starter pack from Dollar Shave Club, which included a handle, four blades, and some travel-sized toiletries, all for $5. Better yet, I took advantage of a Dollar Shave Club deal on Swagbucks, so I was paid back in rebates.

One item I knew I’d need, but didn’t have was a snorkel. I decided to just rent one in Hawaii. However, before going to the snorkel rental shop, we stopped at a grocery store. There I found snorkels for the same price as a one-day rental. Since my sister and I both knew we’d be snorkeling multiple days, we bought these and made our money back with our first swim. I snorkeled a total of three days and saw some incredible sea life, making it a worthwhile purchase.

Accommodation

We rented dorm beds at Maui’s Banana Bungalow Hostel. This was by far our biggest expense on the island, and one of the most expensive hostels I’ve ever stayed at. But the $51.40 per night was much more reasonable than any Maui resort or vacation home. I suppose the only cheaper option would be camping, but that is only available in remote areas, and I wanted to be close to the action. Plus, the hostel offered more than just a bed to sleep on. Banana Bungalow provided other money-saving measures that I’ll explain through the rest of this post.

Transportation

While most Maui vacationers rent a car, here’s our big money-saving secret: we didn’t drive at all! The main reason I chose to stay at Banana Bungalow was because they offer different tours to different parts of the island each day of the week. I ended up going with them to several famous beaches, Haleakala National Park, and even the Road to Hana. Of course, the drivers/guides work for tips, but these tours were worth more than pricey commercial tours.

Since Banana Bungalow is near downtown Wailuku, we simply walked to town to eat good food and see some incredible sites. Iao Valley is in the rainforest about three miles outside of the city, so we hiked there one day. For other excursions that we took on our own, we utilized Uber and Lyft. As it was our first time using these rideshare apps, we got registration bonuses, and I also used my Swagbucks to get a free $25 Uber gift card. We would just compare prices between Uber and Lyft and go with whatever was cheapest for our situation. (Use Uber promo code jessical42262ue to get a $15 Uber ride for free! For Lyft, use promo code LIPPE15551 for a special discount.)

Activities

Thankfully, most of Maui’s attractions don’t cost a dime. All beaches are open to the public. Swimming is free. Hammocking is free. Hiking is free. Most parks are free. With the Banana Bungalow tours, we didn’t even have to pay for gas or parking. The only activity expense I had with these tours besides tip money was the national park entry fee into Haleakala.

Since my sister’s birthday was in the middle of our trip, we decided to celebrate at Maui Tropical Plantation. We originally weren’t going to take the tour and instead enjoy the free botanical walking paths and my gift to her would be a meal at the restaurant. But then we changed our minds on the restaurant and decided to eat from the less costly coffee and ice cream shops, so then my birthday gift to her was paying for the tram tour. It was $20 per person and included lots of sights, information, and fruit!

Food

Admittedly, this was the most difficult category to keep on a budget, and I definitely made a few splurges. Most food in Hawaii is expensive, so I didn’t want to be paying exorbitant prices for the same food I eat at home. I also wanted opportunities to taste local cuisine. However, I did pack a variety of snacks so that I didn’t have to buy food in airports, and I used these snacks to supplement a couple of meals in Hawaii as well.

The hostel offered make-your-own pancakes every morning, so breakfast was covered. Often while cooking in the communal kitchen, others would make food and offer leftovers to everyone. There were even free shelves in the fridge and pantry, so that provided a few ingredients.

The tours stopped at grocery stores such as Safeway and Foodland so we could load up on reasonably-priced food. These stores have local, grown-in-Hawaii produce sections, so I focused my shopping there. We also bought fresh fruit at Maui Tropical Plantation’s market and packaged goods at an Asian market down the street from our hostel. We even got food at Costco. The restaurant menu had some different choices from our local Costco, but still had $1.99 pizza and $1.50 hot dogs!

We did go out to eat several times, but not to fancy sit-down restaurants. We happened to be in Wailuku during their First Friday street fair, so we loaded up on all kinds of local cuisine from the various food stands and trucks. We ate at food trucks and stands a couple other times, like on the Road to Hana where we split a roadside meal served on a banana leaf. (We passed on the banana bread when we realized it was from a bakery a block away from our hostel. We walked there the next morning and got the banana bread for a fraction of the price!) We also ate at a few walk-up restaurants. We even ate at McDonald’s, but I only ordered off their unique local menu. Spam and eggs, anyone?

Shopping

I got a few mementos from this trip, mostly free. I wrote in my journal every day. I pressed a flower in its pages. I brought my National Parks passport so I could add a Haleakala stamp. And of course I took lots of pictures!

Toward the end of our trip we went to Lahaina, which was a good place for shopping. There were fairly good prices at ABC Stores, where I got chocolate covered macadamia nuts and a bracelet. Out of respect for preserving the natural beauty on Maui, I did not smuggle out any coral, sand, or rocks.

Maui did end up costing more than my typical frugal trips, but we were able to have a good time without breaking the bank. I hope you’ll be able to enjoy Maui on a budget, too!

How to Vacation in Maui on the Cheap

How do you lower the price of an expensive destination? Let me know in the comments!

destinations

Splurge On Exotic Vacations Without Breaking The Bank

Looking out of the window to see rain lashing the panes, frost kissing the roofs of houses and cars and hearing those winds howling can be depressing. Winter may bring the holidays and the festive season along with all the delicious comfort foods you could want, but having to brave harsh weather while you shop? Not so fun! Daydreaming about far-flung locations full of white-sugar beaches, crashing oceans and sunbeams that tan your skin to perfection is the favoured past time for most people. You may well have been to some of the most tropical locations across the globe. You may well have jostled for position in front of the Mona Lisa to get the best selfie. The thing is, that wanderlust that once dragged you around on your gap year hasn’t gone away. It’s very much there and yet heading to exotic locations full of beautiful sights and even tastier food is harder when you’re on a tight budget.

You want to book vacations in great locations but you want the best value for your money at the same time. Often, the best and brightest vacation ideas with the clearest oceans and softest sand are expensive. Long-haul vacations are always more expensive than short-haul, and the reason for this is purely distance. The further you travel, the pricier it’ll be to get there. Sure, you could save your cash and recreate your own exotic vacation from home, complete with a seafood order from citarella.com to get those fresh flavours you so crave. You could put in a tanning bulb and stick your feet in a bucket of sand while playing wave sounds – but it’s just not quite the same! This won’t get rid of the desperate need to travel and see new places, breathe new air. So, the trick is to find the best destinations with the cheapest price tag – and we’ve got some of those for you below.

Image Source

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

There is so much more to Mexico than the places that are splashed across the travel brochures. Sure, you’re looking for the beaches and the food and the culture, but going to the tourist traps often just gets you the same food in a different place, with a little sunshine on top. Puerto Escondido is a town that was populated by surfers and the prices you will find reflect the reality of life in Mexico, rather than the completely over-inflated tourist version you find online. There are plenty of places to stay on a budget, and the authentic Mexican tacos can be found inexpensively. There’s no need to go to a tourist trap to enjoy a Mexican experience!

Image Source

Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Bulgaria is a beautiful country that is well-known for its city break popularity. It’s one of the least expensive places to visit in Europe, and because of this it is vastly underrated. People bypass the cobblestoned charm and the tall, towering castles full of history and culture for the islands of Greece or the cities of Italy. Veliko Tarnovo, however, has so much to offer. Hiking for the adventure seekers in the hilly terrains edging the town, and there are places to see in the town itself that offer food and drink at amazingly cheap rates. There is so much history steeped here, that those looking for something more than just a beach and an ocean will find it. Nightly light shows that light up the ruins of a medieval stronghold would usually be expensive and really bust your budget. Not here. Not in Veliko Tarnovo.

Image Source

Goa, India

The place to visit to find oneself has always been Goa. Popular for tourists, hippies and those looking to find their inner calm, Goa has grown up significantly over the past twenty years. The attraction of the area hasn’t changed, and neither has the rock bottom prices on offer here. However, you can still see the Arabian Sea in all its calm glory. You can still choose between ancient temples, casinos and beaches full of soft white sand. Nobody misses out when it comes to visiting Goa. You don’t have to be draped in sarongs and get high off of life to enjoy yourself – come as you are, everyone is invited.

Image Source

Transylvania, Romania

You’ve heard the stories of vampires and Dracula, but Transylvania is so much more than its stories. Ruins that date back for hundreds of years, hiking trails that are on offer to all those looking for a challenge and vineyards full of white wine that will literally have your taste buds dancing. Transylvania is a place for those who want authenticity, exotic food choices and something off the beaten track. It’s not somewhere that is thrust in your face when you are looking for a break, but it’s somewhere you should consider when you want a change. Not to mention, Transylvania is excellent value for money, meaning you can squeeze a lot of what you fancy into a vacation that won’t cost the earth.

Image Source

Selva Negra, Northern Nicaragua

If you haven’t heard of the cloud forest, you need to start doing your research. Selva Negra is a 300-acre nature reserve that is perfect for hiking. Unplug from life and start your vacation hiking the steep hills to the top to see the blanket of moist cloud laying just beneath you. There is a coffee plantation right at the edge of the forest, and that combined with getting stuck into nature are a brilliant way to simply unwind from the working week. You won’t have to pay through the nose for accommodation, either, with options at the Ecolodge starting low.

Getting away somewhere unheard of isn’t the difficult bit – coming home is. Once you get a taste of places that are new and budget-friendly, it’s hard not to be bitten by the travel bug all over again. Don’t worry though, with places being so cheap, you’ll want to be bitten so that you can get a different perspective of the world – wherever you choose to go.

destinations, travel tips

Beaches vs Skiing

Both have their pros and cons depending on what you’re looking for. But whichever one you’re travelling to, you’re in for a good time. A lot of people head for the traditional beach holiday not knowing what they’re missing with a skiing holiday. Yet a lot of people head to the slopes for an action packed holiday, but don’t realize you can have just as much fun on a beach holiday. So which one wins? Is it a beach holiday or a skiing one? Both have their pros and cons depending on what you’re going there for. If you know you prefer one over the other, then let this article open your mind to new possibilities.

Pixabay

Skiing Holidays

Beach lovers listen up, you’re missing a trick if you don’t at least once head to the slopes and experience the thrill of a skiing holiday. Let’s first talk about the destination. There are some really stunning destinations all over the world where ski resorts lie, but if you head to Andorra, Andorra ski holidays will give you an experience like no other. The accommodation is luxurious and so is the location. Imagine yourself in a wooden lodge, the fires roaring away, the snow is trickling down outside, and you’re cuddled up with the fluffiest blanket in front of the fire, drinking hot chocolate after a day on the cold slopes. Does it sound perfect? We think it does! We keep saying skiing, but you can also try your hand at snowboarding if that takes your fancy more. As you head up the slopes there will be a number of different restaurants along the way if you decide you need a break. A lot of people chose to go up on the lifts and stop off at every restaurant along the way. When you do get to the slope you want to go down, the adrenaline rush you’ll have will be insane, plus it is just so much more fun than you realize!


Beach Holidays

Convincing an adrenaline junky to go on a relaxing beach holiday is hard, but we think we know how to do it. Sometimes in life you just need a little relaxation, which a beach holiday does give. But this isn’t all the offer. If you head to islands like Tenerife, you’ll have plenty of action packed things to do to keep you occupied. There’s the buggy experience up Mount Teide which sees you out all day racing round the winding mountain road, or there’s plenty of watersports on the beach to keep you occupied. If you get there and realize the relaxation life is for you, then there’s plenty of beautiful beaches where you can catch some rays. The nightlife in Tenerife is amazing, especially if you head to Playa De Las Americas. There’s tons of amazing restaurants. Some of the beach front hotels are stunning and offer incredible views to wake up to. Whether you head there and still want a bit of adrenaline, or realise you need to relaxation time, Tenerife has it all for you. 

destinations, faith, holiday

The Best Destinations For A Christmas Holiday Getaway

Not everybody enjoys spending Christmas at home. For personal or practical reasons, many people choose to spend the festive season away. You can get some incredible deals if you book early enough, whether you want to enjoy the Christmas spirit in a faraway land, or want to forsake festivities altogether and enjoy sunnier climes away from the snow. 


The following are the holiday destinations that we think are perfect for anybody wanting to holiday this winter season.


Rome

(image)



Rome is perfect for those who enjoy the religious aspects of Christmas. With Midnight Mass at the Pantheon on Christmas Eve, there is the opportunity to stand with the hundreds of people who celebrate Christ’s birth. Then stand under one of the biggest Christmas trees you will ever see at St Peter’s Square, and listen to the Pope give his traditional Christmas Day speech from this very location. However, Rome is also great for the people of any (or no) faith. There is a giant Christmas market at the Piazza Navona, with mulled wine and hot food to keep you warm. There is a giant outdoor ice skating rink at Castel Sant’angelo, and then there is the wonderful Christmas light display lined across many of Rome’s famed shopping streets.

Lapland

(image)


You may have already read our article on things to do in Finland, but if not, know that is the holiday destination to visit if you have a young family. You will need to wrap up warm, but the trek to see Santa Claus at his Christmas Village is worth the winter chill. Tour the area on a dog-pulled sleigh or snowmobile, and catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights which are greater than any Christmas light display. Lapland is one of the most popular Winter destinations, so you will need to book early to avoid disappointment. Don’t worry, Santa will still visit you at home if you don’t make it!

The Gold Coast

(image)

Can’t stand the cold and the snow? Then head to warmer climes and book one of these

Elite Holiday Homes on the Gold Coast. If you are a bit of a Grinch and want to get away from anything to do with Christmas, you can sunbathe on one of the many beaches, with endless stretches of sand and sea. However, if you still want to celebrate the season, there is much to do. Visit the seaside resort of Surfers Paradise and catch the unusual sight of Santa’s sleigh being pulled along by kangaroos, visit the Sanctuary Cove Christmas Carnival at the Marine Village, and keep up with the Joneses by heading to suburbia for the annual Christmas Light competition. You won’t even need to don your hat and gloves, unlike your poor relatives at home.

New York

(image)


Home to many of the best Christmas movies… Home Alone 2, Miracle on 34th Street and.. erm.. Die Hard… you are guaranteed to have a magical time in this, one of the greatest cities in the world. Walk down Fifth Avenue and check out the iconic window displays at Bergdorf Goodman. Take the Holiday Train Show through the Botanical Gardens, and marvel at the miniaturised versions of The Statue of Liberty and Grand Central Station. Go and see the classic Christmas tale The Nutcracker, performed by The New York City Ballet. Ice skate at Central Park. Then gaze in awe at the festive light display on the Empire State Building. Absolutely magical!

Over to you

So, what are you going to do this Christmas? You don’t need to stay at home with your bickering relatives if they drive you up the wall. Fly away to one of the destinations we mentioned, and enjoy the season celebrating the season the way you want to.





destinations

Things To Remember For Your Trip Down Under

Source

There’s no better feeling than seeing the world, and I mean with your own two eyes and not through a computer screen. For one reason or another, a place that is on most people’s bucket list is Australia. Perhaps it’s the warm weather, the magnificent beaches, the wine or the food, but whatever the reason, if you are planning to travel to Australia anytime soon, there are a few things that you have to remember.

Skip The Hotel

If you don’t know already, things in Australia cost a lot more than they do back home. This is likely to be because workers in Australia are paid a lot more per hour than they would in most other countries. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll need to take a lot of money with you on your trip. To cut costs a little, skip the hotel, and book a room or apartment using Airbnb instead. This means that you can also save on food, as you can cook your own meals, instead of eating out.

Rent A Car

If you’re planning to visit Perth, the capital of Western Australia, then you will likely need to rent a car during your stay. This is because Perth is incredibly spread out, so it takes a while to get anywhere. Public transport is great, with some bus and train systems even offering free rides, but is also often overcrowded, which won’t make for fun mornings if it’s really warm. Click vehicle hire Perth if you need to hire a car for your trip.

Book Travel Insurance

You should take out travel insurance whenever you leave the country, just in case anything happens, but when travelling to somewhere like Australia, it’s absolutely essential. For starters, you’re travelling a much longer distance, which means there’s a much higher chance for your airline to lose one of your suitcases. There are also a lot more dangers in Australia, especially if you intend to do any adventure sports, like scuba diving.

The Climate’s Opposite

A lot of people think that Australia is hot all year round, when there are four seasons a year, just like most other places. In fact, the seasons are opposite to those in the Northern Hemisphere, with summer being from December to February, and winter being from June to August. You can even get snow, as long as you visit the southern mountain regions. If you are visiting Australia throughout the summer, you have to remember to keep in the shade as much as possible and be sure to slap on sunscreen. You can burn to a crisp in under thirty minutes if you’re not careful, so be careful.

There is a lot to see and do in Australia, but if you want to make the most out of your trip, and stay safe, then be sure to remember the advice above. In particular, be sure to be safe with the sun, and book your travel insurance. Other than that, have lot’s of fun and take plenty of pictures to remember your time away.   

destinations

Making the Most of a Cotswolds Trip

Image source

The Cotswolds is one of those places you can’t help but love. Stunning landscapes, exciting attractions, great food and historical monuments – it has everything you could want from a holiday destination and more! In fact, there’s so much to do in the area, that it could be difficult narrowing your itinerary down! Let me help you with that by telling you about some things you absolutely MUST do and see when you’re in the area…

Cotswolds Wildlife Park

Image source

If you’re an animal lover, you simply must take the time to visit the Cotswolds Wildlife Park, which is probably the biggest and best family attraction in the area. While you’re there, you’ll get to see lions, giraffes, monkey and even penguins – you’ll be in animal heaven!

The Wood Norton

If you’re a fully paid-up member of the foodie club, then you’re really going to want to stop off at Evesham around dinner time. Why? Because that’s where you’ll find The Wood Norton – a luxury local hotel with an even more luxurious restaurant. Try the 7-course tasting menu, and you won’t be disappointed by the fine award-winning food on offer. Oh, it’s all locally sourced too!

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham is one of the biggest and best racecourses in the country, so if you like a little flutter, you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to put on your glad rags for a day at the races. Who knows, you might even win big and have an even better time than you imagined!

The Slaughters

Despite its rather macabre name, The Slaughters, which is made up of Upper and Lower Slaughter is a beautiful place with some of the most spectacular views in the country. If you love looking at landscapes, and you like to stay active, it’s a great place to spend some time walking.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Image source

If you’re looking for a romantic place to spend some time with your beau, look no further than this stunning arboretum, which is populated with more than 600 acres of trees from all around the world. It really is one of the most stunning tree gardens you’re ever likely to see, and the perfect spot to steal a kiss or two from the one you love!

The Birthplace of William Shakespeare

Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, you can’t deny Shakespeare’s talent nor his lasting influence on modern culture, which means that a visit to the home where he was born and grew up is a must if you’re in the Stratford area. You might also want to visit the theatre and see one of his finest, too!

The Model Village

If you have the time, take a trip to the quaint little village of Bourton-on-the-Water, where no matter how old you might be, you will be delighted by The Model Village – a one-ninth scale replica of the village which is it’s home. The detail that has been put into its creation, right down to the tiniest flowers, will really blow you away.

If the Cotswolds wasn’t already on your ‘To Visit’ list, add it right now!