Monthly Archives

August 2016

Lifestyle Travel

Before you go checklist

August 15, 2016

In addition to my own Europe planning research, my co-worker Angela bought me Rick Steves Planning Europe book, which was an amazing read. He is so on point with everything! THANKS AGAIN ANGELA!!

Rick says “Quite a few things are worth arranging while you’re still at home — lining up these details before you travel is a big part of having a smooth trip!”

 Check your passport expiration; you may be denied entry into certain European countries if your passport is due to expire within three months of your ticketed date of return. Get it renewed if you’ll be cutting it close. Take good care of your passport: Keep it in your money belt, and if you’re asked to show it, put it back in your money belt right away.

 Make reservations well in advance, especially during peak season, for accommodations, popular restaurants, major sights, and local guides. If you have read my previous post, you will know, I traveled during shoulder season so I did not make reservations in advance.

 Call your debit- and credit-card companies to let them know the countries you’ll be visiting, to ask about fees, and more. Get your bank’s emergency phone number in the US (but not its 800 number) to call collect if you have a problem. If you don’t know your credit card’s PIN code, ask your bank to mail it to you.

 Do your homework if you want to buy travel insurance. Check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowner’s, or renter’s) covers you and your possessions overseas. Flight Insurance, Trip-Cancellation or Interruption Insurance, Medical Insurance, Evacuation Insurance, Baggage Insurance,

 If you’re bringing the kids, make sure you have the right paperwork, including a passport for each, a letter of consent if only one parent is traveling, and documentation for adopted children.

 Make copies of important travel documents as a backup in case you lose the originals.

 Students should get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) for discounts throughout Europe. Hostelers who’ll be staying at least six nights in official HI hostels should get a membership card.

 If you’re planning to buy a rail pass, you’ll need to get it before you leave the US. Rail pass or no, it can also be smart to reserve seats on certain trains before you leave. Also know that reservation cost are not included in the rail pass.

 If you need to bridge several long-distance destinations on your trip, look into cheap flights within Europe. For the best fares, book these as far in advance as possible.

 If you’ll be renting a car, you’ll need a valid driver’s license. An International Driving Permit is technically required in Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Spain.

 If you plan to use your US mobile phone or smartphone in Europe, contact your provider to enable international calling or to “unlock” your phone. Consider signing up for an international calling, text, and/or data plan, and be sure to confirm voice- and data-roaming fees. I utilized unlocking my phone and purchasing pre-paid starting at €10 sim cards for each country. I also dropped my US phone plan down to the most simplest they had. For me it was $30 a month. I only did this to keep my number and allow my neice to have a phone. Otherwise, I would have just cancelled my entire plan. This would only make sense if you are traveling for an extended period of time, like me.

 Get a proper guidebook.

 Download any apps you might want to use on the road, such as translators, maps, and transit schedules. Check out Rick Steves Audio Europe for free, downloadable audio tours of Europe’s major sights and hours of travel interviews.

 Take care of any medical needs. Visit your doctor to get a checkup, and see your dentist if you have any work that needs to be done. If you use prescription drugs, stock up before your trip. Pack along the prescription, plus one for contact lens or glasses if you wear them.

 Attend to your household needs. Cancel your newspapers, hold your mail delivery, and prepay your bills.

 Give a copy of your itinerary to family or friends. This will help them feel a little more sane about your travels, especially if your traveling alone as I am.

 Make a list of valuables that you’re bringing (such as electronics). Include serial numbers, makes, and models, and take photos of your items to serve as a record for the police and your insurance company should anything be stolen.

 Because airline carry-on restrictions are always changing, visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website for a list of what you can bring on the plane, and for the latest security measures (including screening of electronic devices, which you may be asked to power up).

Featured Lifestyle Travel

Planning Europe

August 1, 2016

Thereafter, all the previous traveling I did I was ready and itching for something bigger. I had no obligations such as kids and I had saved enough money to do or go wherever I wanted. For about a year, I researched and read a lot of other travel blogs from people who started out similar to me. I also started researching “ways to travel Europe for cheap or for free”. I was very surprised by how many resources were available to help backpackers travel Europe on a very low budget. After about six months I became really serious about my plan to travel Europe for an extended period of time and the more I researched the more resources and discounts I was able to find.

After you have picked your destination, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Flights, of course. “How much is my flight going to cost?” Well if you simply go straight to google flights or an airline website, a roundtrip flight to Europe would easily cost you $1,000. However, being that I had already flew to Dubai and Abu Dhabi and was able to cover my flight, hotel, all tours, transportation and food for under $2,000, I knew that it was possible to travel overseas for cheaper than most think. And thanks to some travel friends and research I was able to find fairly cheap flights to Europe under $600 roundtrip. Yes! Roundtrip!!

The trick to finding cheap flights is all about timing. For me, I knew I wanted to travel during the shoulder season. Shoulder season is  generally April through mid-June, September, and October. It combines the advantages of both peak-season and off-season travel, decent weather, fewer crowds, and a tourist industry that still wants to entertain tourist. I wanted to travel as soon as possible while also keeping a good rapport at work and giving my job ample notice of my departure for this extended period of time. I utilized www.secretflying.com the most and sometimes www.momondo.com, to look for error fares. You also have to shop around and compare many websites to find the best fare. Trust me its worth the time, when it saves you thousands of dollars.

Once my first flight was booked to Europe, which started in Amsterdam. I had to plan my route for the rest of my travels. I decided to go in somewhat of a logical order for me. Amsterdam-Belgium-London-Paris-Munich-Barcelona-Madrid. I had to end in Madrid for the second leg of my trip to Africa which I will discuss later.

In order to save as much money as possible, I decided to stay with host as much as I could, rather than in hotels. I used websites such as Couchsurfing and workaway.info to find host or families that would host me for free. I started contacting host months in advance to make sure my accommodations were set in stone, as that is probably the second most important thing next to your flight. Following your housing accommodations, I would say transportation is the next important. Again, I did thorough research on which routes would be cheaper for me to take within Europe. Plane vs. Train. You can also opt for the bus, however, I decided to splurge a little here because I wanted to be comfortable and get to where I wanted to go fast. Like I said I saved money for a while, so this was 1 thing I was willing to give on because I wanted to spend less time traveling between destinations and more time exploring. I researched the cost of each individual route by plane and by train as well as combined routes or days on the train. I found that, for me it was best to take the train to which shorter time intervals between origin and destination and to fly when the train would take longer. I decided to take the train to any destination shorter than 5 hours, and fly anywhere longer. Flying within Europe is fairly cheap and sometimes actually cheaper than the train. For example, a train from Paris to London is about 112 Euro vs. a flight from Paris to London on a budget airline started at 55 Euro.  The downfall to budget airlines are baggage fees, similar to Spirit Airlines if you live in the US (minus the bad customer service and airline service). I purchased a Eurail pass for my train travels which covered 5 days plus 1 day trip. It allows you to take the train as much as you want on any given 5 days, or however many days you purchase. That’s about $100 a day worth of train travel for half the price.  Remember, I said a train to London from Paris could start at 112 Euro. That does not include your train or tram to your accommodations, only to the main station. So the Eurail pass is worth the purchase, when you use it correctly to get the most out of your money. I like to travel early in the morning to make the most of my pass. You can do this by taking the train to travel from one country to another, travel to your housing accommodation drop off you bags, head out to tour for the day, take the train everywhere you want to go, and take the last train back to your housing accommodations. This allows you to really utilize the train a lot and get more than your monies worth!

Once I had my accommodations booked, I started researching and planning for all the sites in each location I wanted to see. I started with a google search on “points of interest” for every city, which gives you a pretty great breakdown of all the important, worthwhile, popular tourist sites as well as some small others. I did not book any tours in any countries I wanted to visit because I did not want to be tied down to a specific destination for a specific amount of time, if I wanted to venture off the beaten path. I’m a bit of a daredevil and can manage to find my way fairly easily. However, I wouldn’t suggest doing this for first time travelers or if you need every minute-hour of your itinerary planned out.

Now that the bulk of the most important things were done, I prepared a google calendar with all of my flight info, travel dates, contact name, address and phone numbers of my host to share with friends and family. This was really important considering I was traveling alone. It was great for friends and family to have to keep up with my journey but it was also great for me to be able to pull up the calendar on my Iphone when I needed to change or confirm anything.

This was a great growth to the birth of Chasing The Sun…