How to Plan a Trip

Where to start.

Someone recently told me they wanted to travel, but didn’t understand how to begin. And I get it, that can be hard. There’s a lot of behind the scenes planning that goes into a vacation. Flight, accommodations, how to get to and from both airports, what to do once you’re there, piking a destination, requesting time off work, etc.

So I’m here to give you my learned tips and tricks and how I plan everything I do. First thing I do is book my flight. No, seriously. I book the flight before I do anything else. I usually use Skyscanner, Scott’s Cheap Flights, or Secret Flying. I usually type in my dates and I check the cheapest places to fly to out of Chicago, Windsor, Toronto, and Detroit. Once I settle on either a destination or date, I figure out the other. Cheapest time to fly to Dublin or cheapest place to fly to May 1st. It’s really that simple. Then book it. Great! Now we have times and places.

Okay, now, I do a little research. Where are the top places to see, top things to do, have any of my favorite travel bloggers been there, creep on them a bit, check the hashtag of that place on Instagram, now I have a list of everything I could possibly want to do/see in this place. I check some maps, find a central location, google that location real quick – make sure it’s not sketchy, then find a hotel, AirBnB, homeshare, hostel, VRBO, etc. I then book the place. So, main two parts, done!

Third thing I do is look back at that little list I made while researching. So let’s take Portland for example. I found out my list of things I wanted to do through Facebook recommendations, Instagram #portland tag, I looked through AirBnB experiences, checked my favorite travel blogger accounts, and asked for Oregon recommendations on Instagram. This narrowed me down to Mothers Bistro, the DIY bar, Multnomah Falls, Silver Falls, Revolution Hall, and the Pearl District. Once I made my Portland list, I made a rough itinerary and looked at what else I needed, aka a rental car.

And then, viola! Your trip, basically done. Little extras are just little things, packing, checking bag restrictions on the airlines, allocating funds for spending, you know, the easy basics.

Honestly though, everyone plans things differently. You might have a place in mind and aren’t flexible on dates, that’s a little more challenging to find the best prices. Or you might be dead set on going to Thailand but can go anytime. That is a little easier.

Comment below the first thing you do when planning a trip. I’m curious as to how others begin!

Solo in Oregon

Portland, Waterfalls, and DIY bars.

Oregon was one of my top states to visit, and now it’s on my short list of places to live. I am in love with the Pacific Northwest. I started out about a year ago with a goal to hit all 50 states, no timeline, but this is the first time I have verbalized this desire. This has made me track some flights, look at apps, and fantasize about all the places I have never been. Oregon has always been high up on that list but flights are always pretty pricey when coming from Detroit. I did some tracking and some research, as I do, and found a pretty good deal Valentines weekend. Happened to be the same weekend my favorite comedians were performing at a podcast festival so it was essentially a done deal. I snooped around the #Portland hashtag on Instagram and found some pretty epic waterfalls. Then, I looked around AirBnB experiences and found another waterfall hike, something I could replicate on my own – without paying the $85 transportation and guide fee. I decided that weekend, I was going to do a comedy show day 1, chase waterfalls day 2, and explore Portland day 3. So, that brings us to day 1 – travel day! I boarded my flight at an ungodly hour, hopped over to Dallas, quick layover, then popped on over to Portland. Checked into my cute as hell AirBnB, and took a nap. I got ready then lyfted on over to the comedy club. While in line for some titos and soda, I met a group of girls at the live taping of my favorite podcast that were there for some Portland Girls Meetup – they were super nice and I sat with them during the show. Seeing my idols on stage wasn’t so bad either. After this I had a drink and then went back “home” for some much needed rest. Day 2, my day to chase waterfalls. One of my favorite activities! I woke up bright and early to grab by $35 rental car, then headed up to Multnomah Falls. I got there early so there was basically no one there. Quick tip, if you go in the winter and want to hike to the top of the fall, you need crampons or spikes. Lots of ice and snow packed down by all the tourists! I woke hiking boots but it was a slippery trip. Honestly though, this waterfall is amazing and so worth it. After this I headed down that same trail to catch a few others then headed to Silver Falls Park to do the Trail of Ten Falls. (I didn’t get to do the Ten Falls hike but I got to do their Winter Falls hike which was 5 miles, lots of hills, and still plenty of beautiful falls). Here are some of my favorite photos! Day 3, I headed to downtown Portland to explore. I had brunch at Mother’s Bistro. AKA a large mimosa and a frittata. After this I went to Voodoo Doughnuts to grab a maple bar – so good. Then I went to an incredible, magical little place called the DIY bar. I had bottomless mimosas (for $10!) met some really cool people, and made my own custom passport holder! It’s so cute. After this, I got some cookie dough – what, so cool. Went shopping around the pearl district, got literally lost in a book store, and then saw a movie at the living room theater. Basically, Portland is a very cool place, with super kind people, and a lot of things to do. It is very solo friendly and I highly recommend this city. I can’t wait to be back in Oregon to see what else there is to explore!

Creative Ways to Save Travel Money

Dust off that Piggy Bank.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Saving money for travel, the age old dilemma. “How can you afford to travel so much, you’re so lucky!” First of all, it’s not luck. Here’s how I do it.

Apps!

The first way I save moola for my explorations is by using different apps geared towards saving money. Digit and Acorns are my favorites. They are different apps, same premise. They round up money or take out a recurring amount of your choosing, and put it in a separate account. Acorns invests it into low risk or high risk stocks, etc – depending on what you choose. Over time, you will have some extra funds to put towards whatever you choose!

A literal piggy bank

Second way I save money, my piggy bank. It’s in the shape of a French Bulldog, but you get the point. I’m a bartender and I always pay for everything with cash, once a week I empty my change out into this little dude. I also have an empty candle jar I cleaned and I put all my tips in here. Every two weeks, I go to the bank. If I don’t see it, I don’t spend it!

Credit and rewards cards

To find the right card for you, I would highly recommend doing some research. Best way to find the card for you is without a doubt is through The Points Guy. I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred and I love it. I use my points to either pay off my balance or book more travel. You get 3x the points on travel and your points are worth more when you book through the site. It’s kind of free money. I booked four flights from Detroit to Jordan for my friends and I on my brand new card and got roughly $600 in cash back. That was basically my flight paid for.

NEVER PAY FULL PRICE

If you’re paying full price for a flight, you’re helping people like me score it for cheaper. I check different sites and different airports before I book anything. Check out my resources page for more information.

Side hustle

I put this one last because realistically, people don’t want to do this. No one wants to pick up a second job, work online at weird hours, or work odd jobs for extra funds. But if you have the heart for it, there are endless opportunities. There are so many freelance sites to check out if you have any skills. Fiverr, Upwork, Freeelancer, Craigslist, PeoplePerHour, etc. If you don’t have any marketable skills you can easily pick one up by taking some free online courses or you can apply for little jobs online. Teaching English, ghost writing, etc. If you need help, shoot me an email and I’ll help you find something.

Saving money for travel isn’t as hard as everything thinks. I also still have a social life even though I save my money. I still go out, just don’t drink a lot (or at all). I still have a gym membership, I just make sure to get the most out of it. I make my coffee at home, I cook a lot, and I grocery shop the cheapest way possible.

Everyone deserves to travel and I’m here to help you find a way.

How to Hike Like a Pro (ish)

Don’t Just Fake it.

You probably won’t make it. I was very tempted to not workout before going to Iceland. Blame stress, blame how busy I was, blame depression, it’s all excuses. Should I have prepared more? Yes. However, I did enough to get by on some decent hikes and I have picked up a few tips and tricks since then. I hope some of my advice gives you more of a head start than I had.

Tip 1: Invest in high quality gear.

Cheap hiking boots will fall apart and give you blisters. Cheap socks will fall apart and give you blisters. Cheap coats and pants will fall apart and hey, maybe you can get blisters from those too. I made sure to bring multiple pairs of high quality ATHLETIC leggings and sports bras, WOOL socks, WATERPROOF boots, and GORE-TEX outer layers. Plus, gaiters can help too if your climate is rainy!

You need athletic leggings, tops, and undergarments because they are moisture wicking. When hiking somewhere cold, if you sweat, you’re done for. One bit of moisture will cause you to freeze. Double check your athleisure is moisture wicking. Also, dress in layers. Nothing worse than being too hot or too cold.

Wool socks are probably the most important thing you will need. Wool socks are made for hiking specifically because they prevent blisters and, you guessed it, prevents moisture. I have an issue with seams in my socks so I prefer Bombas – plus they give a pair of socks to someone who is homeless.

Waterproof boots and Gore-Tex outer layers, does this need to be explained? Don’t get wet in cold places. My boots were amazing and I would recommend to anyone at anytime for any reason. So comfortable and kept me dry and warm.

Tip 2: Water.

Make sure you bring water and high protein snacks so you can beat any kind of workout induced fatigue. My favorite is a tube of almond butter and my reusable water bottle. I keep them on hand and close.

Tip 3: Prepare.

Make sure you have a flashlight, extra batteries, map, extra layers, external phone charger, etc. If it’s long or short, best to have the essentials. And trust me, these are essential.

Tip 4: Workout.

Like I said, before Iceland I didn’t do as much as I should have. I am making 2020 my year to tackle some mountains so I have been working on cardio and strength training. Bring a backpack to the gym with some weights while you’re on the stair stepper. Increase your endurance and you will be fine!

Tip 5: Research.

Do you need crampons? Do you need hiking sticks? Where does your trail begin and end? Do you have enough time and daylight? It’s best to be over-prepared. Research for a 2 mile hike will be different from a 14 and different from a multiple day hike. No matter what the trail, you need to know what you’re getting into.

What are your favorite hiking tips or gear? Comment below!

Barcelona on a Time Crunch

Is eight hours enough?

There’s never enough time in a city, but here is how to make the most of it.

First things first, are you here on a layover? Do you have bags? Check them in somewhere! They will slow you down. Nannybag is what we used in Barcelona, but there are plenty of services similar.

Cabs aren’t too expensive in Barcelona, so we made sure to check our bags in somewhere we wanted to go anyway, no wasted time! Then first thing we did? Beach. (We stored our bags in this surf shop and headed straight there, it was so perfect).

We had been traveling through Amsterdam and Paris, which was chilly, so beach it was. We looked for sea glass for probably 30 minutes then had lunch at a tiny restaurant. AKA nachos and sangria. After that, we decided to walk to the Gothic Quarter and picked up gelato on the way. If you don’t know, this beach is famous in Barcelona for it’s sea glass. It’s a must sea!

We got to walk around and see some of the best architecture Barcelona has to offer. We did shop in a few little boutiques and I got a really pretty turquoise ring. We decided our number one in Barcelona, was getting lost. We didn’t want to rush this city because there is something beautiful on every corner.

Our game plan was basically walk as far away from our end destination as possible, then make our way back slowly. We did decide to head to our cruise ship early, which was the best decision because we got on quickly. But, we did have time if we wanted to go to La Sagrada Familia. We got an incredible view of it from the ship, but we decided against up close and personal.

Plus, I know I will be back to Barcelona one day, needed something special waiting for me.

Plane Fashion

Plane travel. But make it fashion.

Back in the day, people got dressed up for flying. Think about it, it’s a huge metal container propelling people through the air from one destination to the next. It’s kind of a big deal, so I understand making this an event. Now, I’m not saying you need to go to this extreme. Because, really, it was an extreme. But cute and comfortable travel fashion looks have been all the rage. I’m an advocate for looking your best while traveling, mainly because I have activities planned the second the plane lands, but also you see a lot of people and putting your best foot forward isn’t the worst idea.

The one day I decided to look like garbage for a quick hop from Spain to Portugal, my flight was cancelled and we ended up staying a night in Lisbon. AKA we got ready in the airport bathroom… Travel cute my friends.

Anyway, my plane “lewk” consists of a few basic things. A scarf, boots or sneakers, leggings, layers, and a light jacket.

First, lets talk about things to avoid…

  1. Heels or backless shoes
  2. Anything constricting (tight jeans, etc.)
  3. Only shorts and a tshirt
  4. Lots of jewelry

Heels and backless shoes are kind of an obvious one but I still see it every time I travel. Think worst case scenario. Plane is going down and you have to go out the emergency exit or a slide into water. Are heels comfortable or efficient in a split second escape? Do you want to take your shoes off, or have someone step on your feet and you lose a shoe, and have to walk on who knows what? It’s better to be prepared. Plus, on long haul flights your feet can swell and if compressed in a shoe and socks, it’s gunna feel a lot better than if you were wearing flip flops.

This is similar to why you would avoid anything constricting. Free movement is essential if this worst case scenario occurs. Also, you can get blood clots in your legs if you’re not moving them for an extended period of time. Wearing leggings or something with compression that is comfortable, promotes a bit of wiggling.

Now, only shorts and a tshirt? What if you get cold? What if the plane catches on fire? Add a layer of protection people.

Lastly, lots of jewelry. I got stopped behind someone in security once that had on 10 Alex and Ani bracelets. While they’re cute, she had to sit there and take all of them off to go through the metal detector. Before you go through security, think, how can I make my life easier? Then do that.

Now, for my average plane “lewk”, I consistently have a few basic things. A scarf, boots or sneakers, leggings, layers, and a light jacket.

As you can see, Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf, leather jacket, and layers. And you can bet your butt I’m wearing leggings and sneaks. My scarf, as I’ve said before, is my one must have. It’s so soft and comfortable and can be a blanket or a scarf or a wrap or a pillow. I easily get hot and cold on planes so layers is my best friend.

See, looking cute doesn’t mean an hour of hair and makeup and wearing high heels. It’s comfort and practicality that will save your sanity. Now remember, next time you’re getting ready for a flight, think, is this making my life easier or harder? If you have to really think about it, ditch it! You’ll thank me later.

Why Paris Should be on your Bucket List

The city of love.

And amazing food. I honestly never had any interest in going to Paris, until somehow, the flight was booked. Long story short, the cheapest way for my friends and I to get to Europe for our cruise starting in Barcelona, was flying to Paris. Another long story short, we ended up going to Amsterdam first, then Paris. So after an overnight flight to Amsterdam, spending a full day there, and a *late arriving* overnight bus to Paris, we made it. And then after an amazing Parisian breakfast, we fell asleep in the hotel lobby.

file2-6After also getting ready in the hotel lobby, we headed out for a self guided walking tour of the city. We walked around the Louvre buildings and gardens, strolled alone the Seine looking at little boutiques, and obviously looked for the best macaroons and crepes.

We made our way to the train with some mini bottles of wine and spent the rest of the day exploring the Palace of Versailles. Let me tell you, Versailles was unbelievably beautiful. Go there if you have the chance. And make sure to look up, my favorite part was the ceilings.

After our long day of walking through Marie Antoinette’s former place of residence, we ended up at Notre-Dame at night. The detail on this building was also incredible. When you see a new place like this, you almost get lost looking up. The sheer detail and intricacies and the age, it makes you fall in love. You feel that deep aching sensation in your chest because of it’s beauty and you feel just so lucky to be able to see this other side of the world. That’s how I felt in all of Paris. Every corner we turned, every monument we saw, every single second of exploration felt like bliss.file-10

Our second day was filled to the brim with Parisian delicacies, champagne, and gorgeous architecture. In the morning I roamed by myself and toured museums. After a few euphoric hours, I met my friends at the Arc de Triomphe while drinking amazing espresso. We got to eat bread and macaroons under the Eiffel Tour, we drank champagne around the city and on a cheesy tourist bus, and played bubble soccer on Tour Montparnasse. (Tip: Tour Montparnasse is the best view in the city and of the city. I’m sure the top of the Eiffel Tour is beautiful, but nothing beats being able to watch the Eiffel Tour sparkle from afar. And pro tip: go for sunset!)

We did eventually have to go, an early wake up call and a cold uber ride to the airport, and Paris was in our rear view. For a city I had no intention of ever visiting, I’m glad I went. Sometimes the places not on your list turn out to be your favorite. Je t’aime, Paris. I’ll see you soon.