Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

How I Afford To Travel The World

Probably the number one question I get asked when it comes to my travels is, “How do you afford it?!” Since I work seasonal employment, it’s not exactly the most profitable field, and therefore I shouldn’t be traveling as much as I do. But, the answer lies in the details. As a former travel agent, I have a few tricks of the trade that have helped me throughout the years and as I travel more, I have gained a few tricks of my own. 

RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. I scour websites like Momondo and Skyscanner and STA travel and Student Universe, and I’m not picky. When I bought my ticket to Japan, I originally had no idea of where I wanted to go. I used the “Take Me Anywhere” feature on Momondo, and found my $378 round trip ticket to Tokyo. I didn’t really have any interest in going to Japan, but at a price like that, I couldn’t say no.

Being flexible allows more doors to open and better flights to pop up. If you have one particular place in mind, chances of finding the “perfect” flight at a stellar price are pretty slim. But, if you go into it with no expectations of where you’re going, there are some absolutely phenomenal flights out there to places that are super up and coming.

Save. Everything. Since I work seasonal jobs, my bills are almost non-existent. Most of my contracts offer me food and housing, so I can save nearly everything I make instead of having to pay for rent and utilities and car insurance and car payments and and and…While this isn’t the case for a lot of people, when I worked a “normal 9-5”, I was putting 20-25% of my paychecks away for future travels.

Because I’m committed to traveling as much as I can, I was willing to sacrifice a few nights out with friends or going out to dinner or splurging on a new outfit if it meant that I could take a helicopter ride in Iceland or order an extra bottle of wine in Venice or stay in the hotel that I had been looking at for years online. While 25% is steep, you can always adjust that to whatever you’re comfortable with.

I have a Round-The-World trip planned for this September and just about everything I’m making is going towards tickets, hostels, excursions, food, drinks, etc. It’s sometimes hard to debate with yourself as to whether saving is worth it when there are so many things going on right now, but it always pans out well. 

Be Diligent. Once you’ve found an area or a location that has captured your heart, and clouded all your daydreams, sign up for fare alerts, check up on the price when you can, and check fare predictors. (Skyscanner and Student Universe both have pretty reliable ones.) Word of Caution: a lot of these third-party sites that offer lower rates usually use cookies, and if they see that you’re checking the same flight over and over, they’re likely to raise the price solely because they know you’re interested. To avoid this, turn off your cookies while browsing or browse in private mode. 

Travel on Tuesdays. If you’re traveling internationally, try to book your flight for a Tuesday and search for your flight Tuesday or Wednesday. Airlines tend to lower their prices to match competition on Monday nights, so you’re going to find cheaper flights on these days. Try to avoid searching for flights on weekends, as the prices are usually inflated. As for traveling on Tuesday, fares are usually less expensive than say, Sunday afternoon. 

Book Your Trip During The Shoulder Seasons. Shoulder seasons are the month(s) before and after peak travel times; think April, September, October. While you might miss out on the best weather, shoulder seasons are much cheaper both airfare wise and expenses during your stay. Hotels and exclusions are usually less too. And shoulder seasons tend to have less crowds, which is always a plus. 

Think Outside The Box When It Comes To Lodging. Hotels. They can be so, so expensive. Think about staying in hostels, Airbnb’s, or couch surfing. If you’re dead set on staying in hotels, try hotels.com, they have a fantastic rewards program where for every 9 nights you book through them, you get 1 night free. Which adds up so quickly. Plus, once you sign up, they “unlock secret prices”, which is usually $5-25 off the listed price. 

Pack Light. Luggage fees are getting more and more exorbitant. Airlines like Spirit and Frontier make a large majority of their profit from fees and last time inchecked, luggage fees for Frontier were upwards of $65. That’s as much as a ticket! Try to pack what you can into a carry-on and your personal item, not only are you saving on luggage fees but you’re also saving yourself from having to schlep around a ton of luggage. 

Don’t Be Intimidated By All-Inclusive. I have to admit, I was not at all keen on the idea of any trip I took to have the words “all inclusive” anywhere near them. I felt like it was cheating, or there had to be some sort of catch. But, when I found an all-inclusive trip on Living Social to La Fortuna, Costa Rica for $250, I was intrigued. It included lodging, food, drinks, and an excursion (I went ATV’ing on a volcano 💁) and it was so worth it. I didn’t have to worry about constantly having money with me, and I was still able to leave the lodge and walk around the town and get a sense of the local culture. 

Honestly, traveling is as much of a priority as you make it. If you’re bound and determined to see as much of the world as possible, you want to make it happen and you’ll do what it takes to see it come to fruition. If you’re okay with a vacation a year, that’s awesome too, we all have different priorities and it’s your life to live. 

I travel as much as I do because it’s probably my number one priority. It’s what I’m always thinking about, it’s what I save for, it’s my therapy and my escape. I’m so very lucky to have such an incredible and supportive family who lets my wanderlust take over and they’re there for me every step of the way. 

Travel is as achievable as you want it to be. Go forth, my dears. 

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Seat Guru: My New Best Friend

My dad was in the Air Force for almost 25 years and did more traveling than I could ever dream of. He was off every week to some far away land, bringing back only small magnets or chocolate bars to satisfy my thirst for wanderment.

I’ve recently started as a Travel Writer/Marketing Director/Travel Representative and I was looking for some ideas for articles. My dad brought up this website that seemed like perfection; SeatGuru.

What it is, essentially, is a super in depth seat map that allows you to not only look at the airplane you’ll be taking on each specific flight but which seats recline the most, which seats don’t recline at all, which lay down beds have the most leg room, which exit row seat is the best, etc., etc.

It’s fantastic.

I’m not really picky about my seats, as long as they’re not middle seats, but I’m tall. I’m 5’9, which might not seem all that tall, but I’m all leg. So sitting in a confined seat with my knees in my chest for 8 hours isn’t always ideal. This helps me identify which seats recline a little bit more or have the most legroom so I can actually relax.

There’s was one flight that I took with my mom and we were flying from London-Heathrow to Philadelphia and I remember we literally had the best seats ever. Our flight wasn’t full and we had the exit row. In addition, no one else sat on our row for the flight. The way the airplane was set up was that the first exit row had two seats and the exit row behind it had three (which we were in) so we had even MORE legroom.

It was the best flight ever.

So all I’m saying is give it a look if you’re really picky about where you sit or how much room you’ll have,; SeatGuru is super informative.

Ireland Playlist

When visiting Ireland last summer, I knew that we would be doing a lot of driving from town to town so I packed my iPod full of songs that carried a similar theme. It was mellow, thought-provoking music that had stories to tell.

Like I’ve previously mentioned in my Belize Playlist post, I carry an iPod Shuffle when I travel because it’s super light, is only $49, and can hold hundreds of songs. Mine in particular is pink but I’m positive that they have multiple colors you can chose from.

When it comes to songs that I will want to listen to, I’m all over the map. So this playlist is a bit eccentric. I tried to stay within a general theme but it got a little skewed. It happens.

I know that “The Parting Glass” by Cara Dillon is an Irish song often sung at local pubs and it’s beautifully recreated every time you hear it. It’s often done in a slow, melodic whisper and there have been times I’ve heard it done in an almost thunderous way, showing jubilation. Regardless, it’s a beautiful song.

So, without further ado, here’s the 30 songs that composed my Ireland Playlist!

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Traveling As An Overweight Female

This is probably going to be one of the hardest posts I’ll ever write but I think that it needs to be talked about.

I’m not skinny, I never have been, I’m not making excuses for it either but I don’t let my weight interfere with my passion for traveling.walkingintikal

What I really want to address is how to travel as an overweight female. Little things that most people might not think about like; worrying if I had reached the maximum weight limit for ziplining in Costa Rica, the embarrassment of not being able to buy any kind of boots in Italy because my calves were just a bit too big or even having to almost over plan what you’re packing to go to the jungle because you know it will be hotter than Hades but you’re self conscious about the way your arms look in tank tops.

This will not be a self-depricating post. This will not be a pity party. This will be about how to empower not only myself but hopefully find other women who experience the same things.

Let’s begin with pre-trip. Packing is a bitch.

There’s always the “what do I want to wear?” question but sometimes I find myself double guessing my choices because of how I will look. I want to wear things that make the most sense like tank tops in tropical climates but sometimes I find myself putting in t-shirts instead because I’m self conscious about my arms. I’ll pack capris or even pants instead of shorts because I’m not ready to show the world my legs. I’ve found that in a way, I’ve stopped caring. I have to embrace how I look and how I’ll look in the things that I pack. I need to be comfortable and if that means I have to be uncomfortable about the way that I look a little bit, then maybe that’s okay.

Besides packing, there’s the actual flight itself. In all reality, airlines sell you 27″ of seat space, that’s all you get. So if your hips are a little bigger and you’re slightly pushing into the seat next to you, that’s not really their problem but rather, your super uncomfortable one instead.

I’m not hugely overweight by any means but I’ve noticed, especially as a female, that I get judged. Constantly. I’m not the norm of what people perceive travelers to look like. I defy that norm. Proudly. But there’s always that defeated feeling that comes along with traveling.487367_10151301257193222_2019882356_n

Every time I plan a trip, I always make a goal to lose weight before but it’s not always easy. I work a full time job, I write, I go to school and I try to maintain a blog. No, there are no excuses but I feel as though I go into the trip excited about the possibilities but sad that I didn’t reach the weight goal I had set myself. I’m sure we’ve all been there. “I want to lose 10 pounds by my cruise” or “I’m studying abroad for 3 months and I want to be super skinny!” But when departure date arrives, we’re not as close as we had hoped we would be. And to that, you kind of have to brush it aside and realize that we have all been there. And it’s okay. You’ll still have a great trip.

993337_10152125797348135_1286637229_nIt’s not so much the big things when it comes to traveling as an overweight female but it’s the culmination of little things that seem to fester. On my most recent trip to Belize, we climbed ruins. A LOT of ruins. Ruins that were 50 stories tall and ruins that had more stairs than I could count. Of course, wanting to experience the view from the top, I climbed them all. But I could feel myself trying to prevent myself from breathing hard because I didn’t want people to think I was that out of shape. Granted, even the skinny mini’s were huffing and puffing but I felt like there was a stigma because of my weight. People expected me to huff and puff. Which, looking back, wasn’t true at all. We were all just happy to get to the top.

But here’s the thing. They’re not judging me. They’re more focused on not falling off the ruin, not dying, on just being able to breathe. So this silliness about everyone staring at me is just nonsense. But it’s hard to push those thoughts away.

Now, the epitome of uncomfortable. The bathing suit.
I love going to the beach. Absolutely love it, but I loathe having to wear something that makes me feel like I’m constantly having to suck in or wear extra layers or whatever. Luckily, I’ve found a suit that makes me feel awesome. I’m totally happy with my body in it and I’m not always so worried about how I look. swimsuit

But, it’s not always that easy. So here’s my advice. Find a suit that you feel stellar in. I know it will take some time to find and you’ll have to battle those fitting room demons but just do it. Don’t be afraid to go a size up. Don’t be afraid to try something on that you don’t think will look good. To be honest, the suit I love is one that my mom picked out and I literally made a face at her for picking it up. Shows how much I know.

No matter what, try to love the body you’re in. I know it’s not always easy and sometimes it’s just downright hard but I promise you that you’ll be so busy on your trip, it won’t really matter.

I know that someday I will be comfortable in my own skin and I’ll be able to take on the world headfirst but until then, I’m completely content with having a few reservations. I know I’m not the skinniest, nor will I ever be, but I’m happy with who I am. And that’s all that should matter.

Buffalicious.

Buffs are awesome. I’m just gonna put that out there.

They’re literally so useful and they’ve saved my sanity more times than I can count. While in Belize, I stayed in rooms that had thatch roofs. Now, I had heard that there MIGHT be thatch spiders and thatch cockroaches but we probably wouldn’t see any. Wrong.

Every night, I felt like I had to sleep with one eye open because I would stare above me in horror at the palm sized spiders weaving in and out between the cracks in the thatch. The cockroaches would scurry on the wood beams and disappear into the black darkness above me. It was terrifying.

That’s where my buff would come in. I would sleep with it covering my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, everything. I didn’t want any creepy crawlies thinking any of my orifices were a good place to take a rest. No thanks.

I actually own two different buffs. One is from the TV show Survivor that my parents got me when I was about 11 and I had never really had any uses for it until I started traveling. My other one I recently purchased because it’s a little more appropriate and plain-looking. You can get it here. It’s a green pattern but both are exactly the same size, same material, same thickness.

Since I’m leaving in three weeks, I’ve started making packing lists in my head and buffs are definitely at the top of them.

How I Spent $60 For Five Days In Costa Rica

The more that I travel, the more I notice how expensive it can be if you aren’t careful. Fees here, taxes there and that chocolate bar at the airport that was just calling your name. But a quick glance at Groupon and LivingSocial showed me a whole new side to budget travel.

In January, I was perusing Groupon when I noticed the “Getaways” tab. I figured I’d check it out just to see what it was and I was shocked at how steep the discounts were! Trips to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, England, for less than half of the retail price.

Everyone has their little tricks to save big but I kind of stumbled onto this opportunity. I told my friends about a 2 room deal for 4 nights, 5 days in Costa Rica that was being offered for $320 and jumped on the chance. 6 of us ended up going and splitting 2 rooms so we each only paid $60 including taxes.

When I looked at normal prices for our hotel, it was being advertised at $165/night. So, we saved $340. Crazy!

View From Back Porch

I had honestly expected a complete dump of a hotel but was pleasantly surprised at the stunning hotel that we stayed in. Living Social in particular has a personal agent that travels to all of their listed hotels offered (wish I had that guy’s job!) before advertising their deals.

Now I’m checking every week for new deals, I’m hooked.

Ear Pain on Long Flights? Me too.

I’ve always had terrible ear problems; I’ve had tubes in my ears, too many ear infections to count and I blew my eardrum on a transcontinental flight last summer (no bueno). Needless to say, as much as I truly love flying, I hate my ears on flights.

On my most recent trip to Costa Rica, I was wasting time in the airport and saw a small package that offered relief for built up pressure on long plane rides. I figured I would give it a try and boy howdy am I glad I did.

You put them in your ears 10 minutes before take off and take them out once you’ve reached altitude then you put them back in on the descent and take them out as soon as you land.

I can safely say I had no pain the entire flight. Not only that, but they are noise cancelling so the crying baby two rows behind you who is feeling your pain (literally) is nothing but a soft whisper. Fabulous.

I use Conair EarPlanes and love them.

HIGHLY recommended.