travel tips

3 Important Tips For First Time Visitors To Thailand

Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for people that are on their gap year and that’s what people tend to associate it with. People have this picture of Thailand as being a place filled with 20 somethings that are looking to party, but that’s not all it is. Bangkok is a pretty hectic place and if you’re looking for a more relaxing trip, it might not be ideal to stay there for the whole time, but you shouldn’t write off Thailand completely because it’s an incredible country to visit. If you’ve never been there before and you’re planning your first trip, here are some great tips to help you get the best out of this amazing country.

tree water nature forest grass outdoor people growth plant field farm lawn meadow countryside sunlight morning flower young food green harvest autumn asia agriculture lifestyle rice season golf farmland thailand life farmer the country golf club rice crust sapa vietnamese cambodia hope culture beautiful pretty woodland tradition habitat harvesting labor mead laos traditional vietnam operator cultivate rural area jasmine paddy field myanmar burma the scene cultivating in the country for farming with growth pathetic aec in addition to the house natural environment grass family woody plant country malaysia outside of the house the job for pets

Image From Pxhere

 

Avoid Hostels

 

If you want the true gap year travelers experience then you’ll probably end up in a hostel somewhere, but if that’s not what you’re looking for then you should avoid them. They’re very basic and they’re not the kind of place you want to stay if you’re looking for a relaxing trip. They’re better suited to people that just need somewhere to keep their bag and catch a few hours of sleep before heading out again. A lot of people think that all of the accommodation in Thailand is going to be like that but that isn’t the case. In fact, there are some great hotels like the ones run by the New Nordic Group which offer a luxurious experience. According to their CEO Kurt Svendheim, Pattaya is the next place that they’re going to start renovations and new developments on their hotels. If you want to stay somewhere more comfortable than the classic hostels, that’s where you should head.

 

Always Carry Cash

 

You’re probably used to paying for everything on a card these days and a lot of people never carry cash at all, but that isn’t going to work out very well for you in Thailand. You’ll be fine paying on a card at your hotel and a few of the more high-end restaurants, but apart from that, everywhere is going to expect payment in cash. You can usually find ATMs in most places but if you’re heading somewhere off the beaten track, make sure you get plenty of cash out beforehand.

 

Watch Out For Scams

 

Thailand gets a lot of tourists and there are plenty of people out there that will try to rip them off. Most of the locals are very friendly which often means that people get careless and fall victim to scams. Before you go, you should read up on the most common scams in Thailand so you know what to look out for. Tuk Tuk scams are one of the most common. When you get in, they’ll ask you where you’re heading. Then they’ll tell you that the place that you’re going to is overpriced or not worth visiting and recommend somewhere better. The thing is, they’re getting paid to deliver you to an overpriced shop or underwhelming tourist attraction where you’ll waste money. Do your own research first and stick to your itinerary. This is just one of the many scams that you need to watch out for.

 

Thailand is a great place to visit and you’ll have a brilliant trip as long as you follow these simple tips.

Advertisements
travel tips

New Jersey Essentials: The Best Of The Garden State!

Of course, when in the Northeast of America everyone first thinks of visiting New York, the Big Apple! However, the city that never sleeps isn’t the only place worth a visit around this location. In fact, if you find yourself in this area then a trip to New Jersey, the Garden State is well worth your time as well. Just read on to find out how to get there, where to stay, what to eat and what highlights not to miss.

Places to eat

No matter where you visit food is always important. Happily, you’re in luck here as well, because folks from the garden state love their food, and that means they not only demand a high standard when they go out to eat but that they also make fantastic restaurant owners as well.

Of course, there are several places that you will not want to miss when visiting this area. In South Jersey, the location that you will not want to miss is Illiano Cucina Mediterranea, one of the best known Italian restaurants, serving authentic and delicious cuisine. In fact, there you can expect famous Italian favorites such as chicken cacciatore, and chicken Parmesan, as well as other dishes like black ravioli, and shrimp and veal Pavarotti that you may not have heard of, but will still find delicious. Oh, and don’t miss their desserts that change daily!

Another place that you just have to try if you find yourself in NJ is Cucharamama in Hoboken, a place that serves Latin American style tapas with a spicy twist. The service is excellent too, and it’s a pretty laid back place with a reasonably priced wine list, so it’s a perfection location for a relaxed family dinner.

Of, course if you find yourself in Hoboken, there is another food-related place that you just have to try as a well and its Carlo’s Bakery, made famous by the TV show Cake Boss.


View this post on Instagram

Cannoli for breakfast? 📷 @actualfoodie

A post shared by Carlo’s Bakery (@carlosbakery) on

Now, it’s not a place where you can eat in, but you can swing by and grab some cannolis, cookies, iced celebrations cakes, or other treats as well as some great coffee. You may even get to meet some of the stars of the show like Buddy, his sisters, and their husbands as they still work at the store.

Getting there

Of course, you can’t sample the edible delights of New Jersey without working out how to get there first. This will depend on the original location that you start in, but for many people, this will be New York. The reason being that international flights to the areas tend to get into JFK airport. In fact, there are several options to choose from if this is the case. The first is renting a car from the airport and driving to New Jersey. A trip that only takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Alternatively, you can take a flight from NY to NJ, although this can cost a lot, or even get the Greyhound bus for as little as $13 to Newark. The latter option being a sounder choice if you are an on a budget.

Where to stay

The best thing about the accommodation options in New Jersey is that, compared to the neighboring city of New York, they are super cheap. That means if you so choose you can afford to splash out on a smarter room or apartment and enjoy a little extra luxury during your stay.

In particular, you may like to stay at somewhere like the Hilton East Brunswick Hotel & Executive Meeting Center which is a four-star hotel will rooms at as little as $101 a night. There you will find an indoor pool, and the rooms are both clean and large. It’s just off the highway as well, which mean what you are planning to explore NY or NJ it’s easy to reach your desired destination.

Of course, not everyone wants to spend over $100 a night, or even stay in a hotel, but luckily in NJ, there are plenty of other options.

One of these is to go for a rental apartment close to the coast. Something that you can book through services like Airbnb. In fact, such accommodations are usually clean and well decorated in a coastal style, as well as being close to the beach and boardwalk, something that makes them the perfect choice for families wishing to stay in the area. Also at around $30pppn, it can work out a lot cheaper, while still have more space to spread out in your accommodation.

Sites to see

Of course, New Jersey isn’t just about the food, but about the wonderful places that you can cast while you are there as well. In fact, many of the sites are located along the east shore, otherwise known as the Jersey Shore which is a favorite hangout for a younger NJ crowd in the summertime.

In particular, you cannot miss the impressive Six Flags Great Adventure park in Jackson Township. This is mainly because they have some pretty fantastic thrill ride like the El Toro roller coaster and the Daredevil Dive. Although, those with less of an appetite for adrenaline or younger member of the family in tow will be pleased to note they also have some more sedate options such as Air Jumbo and a Carousel as well.

Also, be sure to check out the Adventure Aquarium in Camden too. A place where you can not only check out the underwater life in tanks but also get a bit more up close and personal and see them being fed as well. In fact, you can even attend the Hippo bedtime event where the animals come out of the water and walk to their enclosures behind the scene for the night!

Finally, when visiting NJ, you absolutely cannot miss the fantastic Liberty State Park in Jersey City. In fact, this is the ideal location for a stroll and a picnic, and as it also overlooks Ellis & Liberty island too. Something that means it’s a great place to take in the marvelous sites that both NJ and NY share and so should not be missed.

 

Books, News, writing

To the Writer Who Saved Notre Dame

Mediterranean Trek 042

I was just one of millions who were shocked yesterday at the fire that destroyed Notre Dame in Paris, France. But all the memories I had from nearly four years ago with this structure came rushing back. While in Paris, I loved walking to this city center and did so several times. I took a walking tour around the island that taught me a lot about the history and art. I climbed to the belltowers, found sanctuary inside the sanctuary, attended an evening service, picnicked in its shade, and even explored the underground crypt. I never imagined that this building that pointed to God for over 850 years would be destroyed in my lifetime.

Without the dedicated firefighters working hours upon hours yesterday, Notre Dame would be in worse condition than it is now, and for that I’m thankful. But we must also remember that it’s possible there wouldn’t be a cathedral to save today if a writer hadn’t saved it nearly 200 years ago.

Mediterranean Trek 029

Victor Hugo and The Hunchback

Notre Dame de Paris wasn’t always as beloved as it is now. After years of neglect, it found itself in a state of disrepair in the 1800s. At the time, a Parisian writer by the name of Victor Hugo decided to do something about his beloved city center. He wrote a book titled Notre Dame de Paris. It ended up being translated into many languages. In the English translation, it was titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

As the popularity of the book spread, readers spilled into Paris to visit the now-famed Notre Dame. This eventually pressured the government to restore the cathedral to its former glory. Why? If you haven’t read the book, the story might not be what you’d expect. Many of us think of the Disney adaptation, which, while I didn’t enjoy it much as a kid, as an adult it became one of my favorite Disney movies due to its unique themes. Victor Hugo actually spent more of his book describing the Notre Dame, with the storyline more as a selling point. It’s even darker than Disney’s darkest cartoon, and does not have a happy ending. But the point was made, and Victor Hugo got his real-life happy ending of a restored cathedral. I was able to visit Victor Hugo’s final resting place in the Pantheon in Paris, lying amid other famous French who shaped their culture.

Mediterranean Trek 057

What Writers Can Do

As I watched the live updates of Notre Dame burning, I couldn’t help but think of Victor Hugo and how he used his character Quasimodo to save the cathedral only to have it destroyed today. But if a writer could save Notre Dame once, could another writer save it again?

I’m not saying that writer is me. Although I have toyed with an idea of a story about a backpacker who visits places like Paris, it’s still only an idea in my head and not on paper. I did feel a personal connection to Quasimodo as I stood in “his” belltower, I actually have the same type of scoliosis that this character did. (Obviously, mine is a mild case where his was much more extreme.) As an urban backpacker, this can cause extra pain as I travel. Paris was the first place I visited in Europe, and while I was already starting to feel pain there, I couldn’t help but feel like it was a place of refuge and freedom.

But most of us are writers in some form or another. In this modern age where anyone can be published, maybe we all can work together in writing our way to save Notre Dame again. I’ve already been inspired by the news reporters saying that it will be rebuilt (though we don’t have a timeframe yet- hopefully in this lifetime!) and the people on social media who have pledged money and shared their own stories. If you’ve been to Paris, share your personal experience so that the Notre Dame’s memories will not disappear, even if its roof has. If you haven’t seen Notre Dame, I know its tales have still affected you in some way. Share what you’ve learned about the historic cathedral, or write about how excited you are to see it being rebuilt. Who knows? Maybe one of us will become the next Victor Hugo, writing a book that features the future Notre Dame.

Mediterranean Trek 026

Start now: What’s been your experience with the Notre Dame, whether in person or through books/movies/etc? How did you feel when you heard it caught fire? Share with the world in the comments below!

All photos taken by me, Jessica Lippe, July 2015.

Couponing to Travel, day trip, destinations, resources, saving money, Travel Life, travel tips

March 2019: How to Save Money with MORE Travel?!?

Welp, I’ve just about made it! I’ve wanted to save $2000 in coupons and sales in just over four months, and in March alone I couponed over half of that amount. Yes, I scored some super-big deals this month (two of them were each worth about $500), and well as several smaller ones. And yes, I will share how I did it with you.

But first, you may want to catch up on ways I’ve saved each month since the beginning of the year:

Here’s what I did in January.

And here’s February.

If you want to know what I’m saving all this money for, this post explains it. 

Spring Break Bucks

ScienceWorks rocks
Glowing rocks at the science museum… membership and admission covered by babysitting!

Like most adults, I don’t get a designated “spring break”. But kids still do. Parents often need to hire babysitters for longer hours during spring break and other school vacations. Since I babysit on Fridays, I made some extra money for the extra hours.

If you’re good around kids, school holiday babysitting isn’t even hard. In fact, we had some fun playing tourist around town. Since the kids’ spring break covered two Fridays, on the first Friday we went to the nearby town of Ashland for the Scienceworks science museum and Dagoba chocolate factory. The next week, we went downtown to the food truck food court and then toured Harry & David’s world headquarters. (The kids liked the sweets, and I had to agree!) So basically these gigs involved having fun. They did like sleeping in each morning and then playing video games before doing anything else, so I got to use that time to read guidebooks and plan for my upcoming trip. Win-win!

I also took on some extra shifts at my regular job. So far this year, I’ve made an extra $926.26 in additional income. Half of that ($463.13) is going to go toward my trip. While I’m happy with this amount, I was expecting to have earned a little more by this point, so hopefully I’ll have more moneymaking opportunities before I leave in May.

Preparing for Departure

Travelon Packing Cubes
Four packing cubes for the price of zero… now that’s a deal worth getting excited over!

I’m not leaving the country until the second week of May, but I did a lot in March to get ready for it. And I tried to save money everywhere I could!

The most important item that I need for this trip is a passport. Unfortunately, the US government isn’t too keen on offering discounts. (I did unintentionally get a discount on my very first passport, but that’s a different story!) But anyway, I applied for that so I should receive a new passport in time.

Another key element was getting a flight between Ireland and England. The plane ticket I bought last month flew into Dublin and out of London, so I searched Kayak.com and found a ticket for the short hop for just under $34. No couponing was involved here, but I think it’s the cheapest flight I’ve ever flown!

I booked a couple of short tours to major sights outside of the city, and that was a good area to save a few bucks. I’m going on an overnight tour to Blarney Castle, Cork, and the Cliffs of Moher with Paddywagon Tours, and managed to save $11 there. I also used The London Concierge (exclusive to buyers of The London Pass) to book a Stonehenge and Bath tour with Golden Tours. I made my booking during a flash sale weekend, so I saved $15!

As far as gear goes, I’m trying to use what I have. But I did have an Eddie Bauer $10 off coupon. Combined with a 50% off sale weekend, I got a set of packing cubes for free!

Healthy Living

Medford Growers Market
Walking to the farmers market kills two (healthy) birds with one stone- plus I saved on gas!

The word “health” and “cheap” don’t normally go together. I had an unusual case of adult hand-foot-and-mouth at the beginning of the month. Because of the blisters covering my throat, I could only eat and drink certain items for a few days. To get a better deal on these foods and avoid spreading germs to innocent shoppers, I tried Fred Meyer’s ClickList for the first time. I ordered everything online, used digital coupons, went to the parking lot, and everything was delivered to my car. I still prefer shopping in-store so I can price compare and find clearance specials, but it’s nice to know that this option is available and cost-effective.

After I was back to my healthy self, I decided to get even healthier. My plan is simple: walk a few more miles and make sure at least 50% of what I eat is vegetable. This will get me in better shape so I can walk even more around Ireland and England (though I won’t necessarily follow the vegetable rule there!) This hasn’t directly saved me any money, but it will allow me to do more on my trip and save on health costs in the long run. And so far, it hasn’t cost me any more than my usual food.

Big Ticket Savers

Couponing Spreadsheet March Update
Look at all I’ve saved and earned! Just $100 left to coupon!

I’m so glad I got a reward credit card. My CapitalOne card offered a $500 reward for spending $3000 in three months. This was on top of its regular cash back. Normally, $3000 is a lot of money, but I put all my trip expenses on it, plus made a few other strategic purchases.

And Finally: How to Save Money with MORE Travel

Union Creek Oregon
The views from our snowshoe trip. But soon, I’ll exchange snow for sea!

At the beginning of the month, the only entertainment I had planned was seeing an advance screening of the movie Breakthrough. Entry was free with an invitation, and I bought a discounted Cinemark gift certificate from GiftCardGranny so I could get free popcorn. The movie was great and you should go see it, but I was in for a surprise at all the adventures the rest of the month would bring!

As I mentioned above, day trips while babysitting were a great way to get paid to adventure locally. Helping at camp two weekends this month was also a way to free fun. Meals, lodging, and activities are covered, so I’m spending less than I would need to spend at home.

On a free weekend, I went snowshoeing and sledding with my parents. By going as a group, I didn’t have to buy a sno-park permit just for myself. Plus, it’s not safe to snowshoe solo.

But the best travel deal I cashed in on this month won’t happen until November and December. Swagbucks recently added Carnival Cruises gift cards as an option for redemption, and they were extra discounted when they were first posted. Although that offer is no longer valid, I’d encourage you to keep checking on Swagbucks‘ rewards as they often offer some good ones, but long story short, I got the entire base price for a 5-day cruise to The Bahamas for just $30!

I also got a Carnival credit card to help pay for the taxes, fees, and excursion expenses for this trip. So I’ll soon be getting another credit card reward, this time for $200 plus FunPoints. And despite being in my 20s, I joined AARP Rewards for Good so I could get 10% off another cruise gift card. (I bought it with my CapitalOne card to help me reach my $3000 minimum.) I’ll still have to pay for my flight to Fort Lauderdale where the cruise departs, so maybe I’ll be doing these monthly couponing updates even after my Eurotrip so you can see how I’m saving for my cruise!

 

 

 

faith, News, Nonprofit

Prayers for Nebraska

Nebraska was on my mind a lot this month. I lived just outside of Fremont, Nebraska for two years. Even though my last visit there was in 2014, I still think about it.

Platte River, Camp Rivercrest, Fremont, Nebraska
The outdoor riverside chapel where I worked at Camp Rivercrest in Fremont, Nebraska.

At the beginning of the month, I was asked to write this blog post called Omaha After Five, part of a series for business travelers who want to explore the cities they’re visiting after work hours. I had to do a little research to freshen up and make sure my memories were accurate, but it seemed like time moves slower and nothing ever changes in the Midwest.

Then the flood hit.

Much of Fremont had to be evacuated, along with many other areas along the Platte River. Since I lived and worked on a property situated right above the Platte, it’s been crazy to see how what normally is a fairly calm river among the plains can cause so much damage.

Platte River Fremont Nebraska
The Platte River during my last visit to Fremont, September 2014

While there is danger of the flood returning, the water has mostly subsided. However, the damage has been done. Families have been displaced. Roads have ruts bigger than the cars that can’t drive on them. Structures have been swept away. Farms have been ruined. So what can we do to help?

There are two things that need to be done: help for the people and restoration for the state. I’ve made two donations to different organizations that are each helping with one of these aspects.

Help People

My heart really goes out to the people. That’s why I’m so glad so many people and organizations are stepping up to help those in need. I made a donation to the Salvation Army who has been doing a lot in Fremont, Nebraska, but other relief organizations and churches are involved as well.

I first signed up for the Operation Blessing’s volunteer alerts when I was living in Nebraska myself. I’d just heard about another flood, though this one was in New York. I wanted to be in the know in case any nearby disasters struck and I could get involved. This charity organizes work projects for disaster-affected areas. Although I no longer live in Nebraska and am unable to make it there at this time, I still get Operation Blessing alerts for all over the country, and they have one for Fremont right now! As with any relief effort, make sure you register ahead of time and follow all of the guidelines instead of just showing up at the worksite. You don’t want to contribute to creating more of a problem than they already have!

Restoring the State

When I first stepped foot in Nebraska, it was also a pretty stormy day! It was raining and thundering while I was still in the air. While the plane was landing, the guy in the window seat next to me told me to look at what he was pointing down to: a farm covered in water. When a coworker picked me up, before we even left the airport, we thought someone threw a baseball at her windshield. It turned out to be the first drop of a softball-sized hailstorm that ended up totaling her car. But the next day, all was clear. My northwestern upbringing left me in shock at the view of endless corn and soybean fields.

Since Nebraska provides much of the country with beef, corn, and soy, this flood could affect all of us. Obviously, helping the farmers will help restore the economy, which will ultimately help with the roads, buildings, and everything else that needs repair. That’s why I donated to Nebraska Farm Bureau’s Disaster Relief Assistance.

004Have you ever felt personally connected to a disaster? Share in the comments so we can support each other!

travel tips

How to Truly Relax While You’re On Holiday

ethan-robertson-134952-unsplash.jpg

Image Credit; Unsplash

You’ve been on a plane all cramped up and a bit on the chilly side for a few hours. You’ve made do with the plane food and tried hard to ignore the grumpy toddler behind you. Then you land on the tarmac, the warmth hits you and you think: now, surely I can relax.

But though we all go on holiday to take time out of our hectic lives, how often do you end up checking your work emails while sitting by the pool? As a culture, we are becoming less adept at switching off and tuning out of the pressures of everyday life. And we need to find a fix.

Whether your idea of a relaxing holiday is at a Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Club, taking a long hike into the middle of nowhere or cuddling up in a cabin with a good book, here are a few ways to slow down and unwind.

Switch Off

Here is a shocking stat for you: American adults spend around 11 hours per day looking at screens. But the shock isn’t the amount of time, it’s that you’re probably doing it without even realizing it. Because so many jobs now rely on us to work at computers, most of our days are spent sorting through emails, analyzing data, reading reviews. And then we come home and watch TV and scroll through social media.

When you are on holiday, it is easy to feel the lure of screens all the time. Since you spend most of your time either working or being entertained, this is a natural response. But if you truly want to relax and take a break, you must give your brain a chance to switch speeds. Avoid taking your electricals everywhere you go; learn to enjoy the moment.

Meditate

If you are struggling with the pull of your phone, meditation could be a good way go. You don’t need to be a monk for this to work, you just need to find a quiet spot where you can sit with your thoughts for a while.

Meditation is a brilliant way to give your brain a chance to process your thoughts and destress. As you get better at it, you will find that you are more in tune with your emotions, less anxious and even feeling better physically.

Explore Other Avenues

Though going to sit in the sun by the pool with a magazine is certainly an appealing way to relax, sometimes, you need to get out of your routine completely. They say that a change is as good as a break so instead of lying down for a fortnight, you could try going on a physically active holiday instead.

Working out releases endorphins, stretches out your office-cramped limbs and completely fills your attention. You really can’t check your phone while you are SCUBA diving or riding horseback along a mountain path. Getting out and about, even if it is just stepping outside your resort to find a bar that does exceptional mojitos, is highly recommended!

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.

 

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

glen-carrie-66914-unsplash.jpg

https://unsplash.com/photos/dR77em3nyJY

 

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.

running-573762_1920

Source

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.

fun-1850709_1920.jpg

Source

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.

architecture-backpack-backpacker-346824.jpg

Source

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.