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!

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!

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.

How to Eat Alone

Table for One.

Are you someone who cannot stand silence? I personally love my alone time but also love meeting new people and enjoying the company of my friends. Solo travel means sometimes, you will have to eat alone.

First thing you have to get over; weird looks. Honestly, it happens. I would love to say people don’t find solo travelers odd but that’s not true. Traveling alone and getting a table for one in a restaurant is still pretty taboo. But once you realize it’s going to file (1).jpeghappen, it’s easy to get over. I’ve never gotten any direct comments on my unattended restaurant adventures, however, I have heard one indirect comment. One couple said just within earshot, “Why isn’t she at the bar alone instead?”. I didn’t respond because 1. valid, 2. it may not have been about me. Traveling by your lonesome doesn’t mean you have to sit at the tiny tables in the back corner or the crowded bar if you don’t want to. While yeah, it makes sense to take up as little space as possible, you’re a valued customer with just as much right to be there.

When I’m alone I like to get light meals, maybe an app and a drink at the bar, maybe bring a book and sit in a back corner by request. This is all your choice. Sometimes, it’s fun to sit with a stranger at a coffee shop. I’m currently doing that because of a shortage of tables. Her name is Angie and she’s super nice and bought me a coffee because she saw I was applying for jobs.

If you’re uncomfortable sitting alone, bring a book, listen to a podcast, bring a computer and get some work done, scroll Instagram. You have options to keep yourself occupied. But also, take solo dining as an opportunity to be okay with silence. Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. Learn to find comfort in your own company.

Lolla in Chicago

The music festival to end all festivals.

While I have been to Illinois and Chicago many times – I have never been to Lollapalooza. In a turn of events, I ended up going alone, and I had an incredible time. Here is my experience plus some tips and tricks.

First things first – screenshot the map and schedule/lineup for all the bands. We bought tickets for Friday only and were able to see where the stages were and when our favorite bands were playing. Because I went alone – I was able to see my favorites and explore a bit more.

A photo of the entrance to Lollapalooza. A artsy cartoon boombox.

Plus, do some research for hotels in advance. I could see the main stage from my room. This photo was right inside the gate across the street from my hotel entrance. Also – I would highly recommend the Congress Plaza Hotel because it’s in Grant Park and there’s a ton of security because of the location meaning you feel super safe. Also, it’s an old hotel that is really ornate and interesting.

Okay, so you’ve got your hotel, you decided which day to buy or what pass works best, you know which bands you want to see. How do you make the most of your time?

Go early and make a plan of action. The two bands I wanted to see the most were at stages that faced each other so they rotated. I got to see James Bay and then The Neighbourhood started playing right as he finished. Once The Neighbourhood was getting close to the end of their last song, I left and beat the crowd out because the next artist on the opposite stage was Post Malone. I got to watch him from afar because I didn’t feel like getting trampled. After I saw the songs I wanted to see I made my way towards the main stage and got caught up at a small stage and watched an incredible band I had never heard of. THIS is why I love festivals. You get to hear so many artists you would have never heard of. Two of my favorite bands I found this way; Bad Rabbits (Warped Tour) and R. LUM. R. (Lollapalooza).

A photo of a moose with the Lyft logo and people waiting in line for tacos.

Make sure you have a full battery and possibly an external charger if your hotel is further away. You will need to take a Lyft, Uber, L train, cab, something back. I would recommend whatever ride share company is partnered with the event. For Lolla, Lyft was their main choice meaning they had a Lyft pickup lot that was close to the event and gave out free water, energy drinks, tacos and tamales, and small souvenirs while you waited for your driver. I was able to use the restroom, get some food, water, listen to music, and got free hand sanitizer, beer koozies, and keychains.

Thankfully, my biggest tip is back in style. FANNY PACKS! (or if you’re British Bum Bags). There are thousands of people here and I ended up wearing my small backpack backwards due to some missing items and opened pockets. (Nothing major, just a missing zipper string and oil blotting face papers).

Either bring money or pre-load it onto your wristband and make sure you have the essentials for being out in the sun. I had the best time here and I felt totally safe being alone. I made a ton of new friends because everyone there is super friendly. Lollapalooza is definitely not one to miss.

 

 

Global Entry

Plus TSA Pre-Check.

This is one of the best travel investments ever created. First things first – what is global entry? US Customs and Border Protection states it is a “program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low risk travelers upon arrival in the United States”. The benefits for this include no processing lines, no paperwork, access to expedited entry benefits in other countries, reduced wait times. Basically – skip customs. Yes, you can still be selected for additional screening, but it will save you a lot of time and hassle.

To get global entry you have to apply and pay a fee. You will fill out extensive information about yourself and confirm the start of a background check. If you are approved from here on, a few weeks later you will have to have an in-person interview where they ask you questions, take your finger prints, and let you know your acceptance or denial.

My friend did her interview with US Customs and Border Patrol at the airport. I did mine at the Enrollment Center under the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Canada. It was quick and painless and I got approved that day.

Another bonus with having global entry is that your known traveler ID gets you TSA pre-check. So basically all my domestic flights that were already booked, I just added my known traveler number and got TSA pre-check added to all my boarding passes. No taking off shoes, removing liquids, body scanners… It makes a frequent flyer’s life so much easier.

Not just US citizens can have global entry. If you’re a citizen of Argentina, India, Colombia, U.K., Germany, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, or a Mexican National – you’re in luck. You are eligible.

Reasons you may not be eligible; false or incomplete information on your application, having been convicted of a crime, being found in violation of any customs regulations, or if you’re part of any ongoing investigation.

Global entry is more prevalent than other services that offer similar expedited experiences. There is Clear, FastTrack, Nexus, etc – but I would recommend global entry. Your $100 fee gives you global entry for 5 years.

This is 100% worth it from my own personal experience. If you have the desire to travel, do yourself a favor and apply!