Saving Money While Traveling (yes, it’s possible!)

IMG_0019I love to travel, but the sad truth is that traveling can often be costly, no matter how much time you spend trying to do it as inexpensively as possible. It takes a lot of trial and error (including many costly mistakes), but I’ve learned that you can travel very nicely on a budget without having to stay in hostels or camp out in someone’s backyard to do so. I’m not made of money, therefore when I travel it usually takes most of my carefully saved earnings to do it and I have little left for wasting during my trips. However, with that caveat out of the way, I’m here to tell you that not only can you travel on a budget, you can do it without sacrificing the enjoyable things. There are little ways to save and there are big ways to save. I won’t bother telling you how to shop for cheap airfare (many have already done that, and very well) but I will share my frustrations and successes with hotels, restaurants, and packable items that are both nobby and within my budget constrictions considerations.

London: Big Ben, the Tube, and red double-deckers.
London: Big Ben, the Tube, and red double-deckers.

First, the items that will always travel with me. Please note that I do not believe in taking multiple bags on a trip. It is a money-waster unless you plan on being somewhere longer than a month. I take one carry-on and one personal bag wherever I go. You can easily pack enough into one bag if you know how. The key is in using items that serve multiple purposes. Clothing, toiletries, shoes – all must be usable and beneficial to your trip. (Quick side note: I tend to be an over-zealous packer and forcing myself to use only one bag keeps me focused and purposeful with my packing)

1. This water bottle. I bought it prior to a 2 week trip to Europe last year and now I wonder how I survived before I owned it. Not only has it saved me from having to purchase bottled water (it costs less than $10 and I saved at least $50 on my trip, and probably more than that because I.drink.lots.of.water), but it is helpful to have the extra hydration available during long flights. (Reality truth: because when you sit in coach, like I do, you have to wait an hour before the drink cart comes. Having water handy is helpful during the wait.)

2. A bar of soap. I like this one from J. Crew, but this L’Occitane one is lovely. Soft and gentle with a mild and pleasant scent, it is perfect for tossing into your toiletries bag. Bar soap is my friend because it’s one less liquid to pack and will do double duty on face and body.

3. This shave cream in a travel size (available at Target) or these shave cream sheets. Both stretch far and again, are one less liquid to pack into that little bag. Don’t forget, conditioner is also an all-purpose liquid. It can serve as shampoo and shave cream in addition to its more common usage.

4. Flat shoes. Or shoes that pack flat. Either way, you need to save space and look good. I have found that these J.Crew sandals are not only durable, but beautiful on the feet. Of course, I scored mine for less than $20. Also, Soludos espadrilles are amazing. I bought two different pairs last summer from Madewell (again, both on sale). I wore them to a Massachusetts beach last Fourth of July and also all over Europe last summer. They held up well and I never once got a blister. (Oh, and they look cute.) You can also benefit from the ugly shoes trend that is surging around the world. Travel with your Birkenstocks and you’ve never looked so fashionable and comfortable all at once. Score!

5. A summer scarf. Or two. Or four. They take up very little space in a bag and can add volumes of interest to an outfit. They also double up as scarves on chilly summer evenings or work as an extra layer of warmth on an airplane. I live by scarves. Don’t underestimate their usefulness! You can find inexpensive, attractive scarves anywhere.

6. Invest in a good suitcase. Mine is a Victorinox carry-on (similar one here) that was a hand-me-down from my sister, who had purchased it used on eBay and after a couple of uses decided to buy a newer bag. I took it off her hands and have never looked back. There is no overhead bin that will not hold it. It has pockets galore, inside and out, interior straps (which I never use, but hey, it’s a cool feature) and is so easy to wheel around. It is collapsible, expandable, durable. It has lasted for a gazillion years, passed through multiple owners, and still looks good and is wheeling strong. I don’t always recommend buying a brand name for the sake of having a certain brand, but in certain cases you get what you pay for. Cheap luggage will not hold up as well and you’ll just end up replacing it or being dissatisfied with it. Believe me, I know from experience. Splurge with the knowledge that with the right bag, you’ll never have to buy another one again. On the upside, you don’t have to pay full price. Ebay or places like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, or department store mega sales and outlets can provide you with a quality bag for less.

7. Pack a good reusable bag. One that folds flat and is lightweight, but durable enough so that you can use it to carry your items as you shop, or that can be turned into another bag should you buy too much while on your trip (um, yes, I know this from experience). This prevents the need to purchase an extra bag while on your trip. I took a collapsible, lightweight backpack to Europe last summer. It came in handy when I bought too many books and had to combine them with my purse in the backpack in order to stay within my two bag limit on the flights there.

If you are wondering how to fit all this and your clothing into one carry-on, here is the formula I use when traveling: take the days you’ll be gone and divide by two. That’s how many outfits you will need. Then, with that number, try to pick as many double-duty pieces as possible in order to keep your packing at a minimum. T-shirts that can be worn with a skirt or jeans. A simple black dress that can be worn when dining someplace nice, or paired with flip-flops when visiting museums. Be creative! And remember to save space for your amazing budget finds that you no-doubt will acquire while on your trip.

Next time: Sleeping and eating on a budget as you travel…

 

Advertisements

Liebster (like a hug)

Apparently there is an award to bring recognition to new bloggers. Thanks to blogger Wanderlust Nation (I love her blog, by the way – go visit if you haven’t already!), I am a recipient! Not only do I get to answer fun questions, but I get to ask some of other bloggers as I pass on the Liebster blog hug.

Acadia-8247

Questions Answered:

  1. What makes you so excited that when you talk about it your arms flap around like you were trying to imitate a bird? I’d like to think that something might make me so excited that I would do something crazy like that, but nothing that thrilling has ever come to me. I can only see myself doing it if someone dropped an all-expenses paid trip around the world. That I would look like a flapping bird for.
  2. What is the one food that makes you think of home the most? Hmm. Coffee. Does that count? I seriously get homesick for a good cup of coffee, fresh from the coffee pot, before I get dressed in the morning. I hate having to get dressed first and then find coffee somewhere when traveling.
  3. What is one place you could never go back to and why? Daytona Beach. I visited it once with my sister on a whim and subsequently regretted wasting a perfectly good day. Not only was the town insanely crowded, it was full of cheesy, junk-filled tourist traps and you couldn’t see the overcrowded beach due to the high rise hotels all around and the bodies strewn en masse on the sand (I assume there was sand. I honestly couldn’t see it though with all the people).
  4. Describe a time when everything went terribly wrong and it was the greatest thing that could have happened. I get lost a lot. It’s always the best thing to happen in the long run. One experience that stands out though is the time that my siblings and I were hiking in Acadia National Park. We got lost and didn’t have cell service (National Parks aren’t great for that, after all), finally someone got gps readings but it took us far out of the way of any place we even wanted to be. We ended up walking in the rain, starving (we had already consumed our snacks earlier in the day, before we knew we’d be lost), and then freezing as the temperatures began dropping (we had set out early in the day with minimally warm clothing, not expecting to be out so long). We finally dragged ourselves into Bar Harbor, only to watch the last bus park for the night. No taxis. No way to get to our Northeast Harbor home we were renting. We headed to a coffee shop and discovered that no one had brought wallets. One brother found some money in his pocket, and we shared scant food and drink. What did I get out of this experience (except some valuable life lessons on how to hike as a prepared and knowledgable person and not as a naive wanderer)?

Thunder HoleI saw some back trails that wound through wooded areas. Stillness broken only by the sounds of nature. Walking upon pastoral scenes that took my breath away and ignited my imagination. Seeing the fog roll across nearby water and over the path ahead of me. Encountering a doe and her fawn, who had thought they were the only ones around. Bonding with my siblings.

Acadia-1337

It was great, and was something that I’ve secretly wished would happen again on our subsequent hiking trips (alas, my siblings all learned our lesson only too well).

  1. If you could do anything on your bucket list what would it be? Go to Wimbledon. Take in every.single.match. Eat strawberries & cream and be an annoying American tourist who gets her tennis ball signed by the greats.
  2. If you could have anyone follow your blog who would it be? Oh, I’m not picky. I love anyone who is sweet enough to follow me and experience my random musings.
  3. Favorite travel song? It depends on where I’m going!

Okay, here’s the fun part: I now get to ask some questions! I chose a travel theme and can’t wait to see the responses. I nominate:

1. Sempre Dolce – cooking blog with a side of musical appreciation.

2. Take 4 Studio – amazing videography!

3. Landon Starnes Photography – stunning nature photography that will make you want to 1) grab a camera 2) leave your home and 3) find some wildlife to photograph. Easy enough, right?

Here are your questions, answer them when you can, and don’t forget to pass on the blog love:

1. What do you consider the most enchanting place you’ve ever visited?

2. What is your favorite travel accessory?

3. What is your worst airline/airport experience?

4. What is your favorite food to consume when on the road?

5. How many bags do you typically pack?

6. Hotel, hostel, B&B, tent, or a couch in a stranger’s home?

7. Coffee or tea?

 

A Favorite Author + My Best Travel Accessory

#StyleMeJuly, Dean Street Society’s Instagram style challenge, continued this week with some fun themes. Day 13 was a blush theme, so I pulled one of my favorite skirts from my closet. I remember shopping at H&M in France many years ago and wishing that it were available in the US. A couple of years later, I was in Connecticut with family for the July 4th holiday and discovered an H&M in a mall nearby. For a while after, visiting that Connecticut store was my only access to its clothing, and it was there on another trip that I bought this skirt on super sale. Since then there have popped up across the US a proliferation of H&M stores, but I still have this skirt in my closet because of its enduring wearability, despite its resemblance to tulle.

20140719-113737-41857999.jpg

 T-shirt: J. Crew. Skirt: H&M

I missed Day 14: Urban Cowgirl. I had planned on getting a photo of my outfit but then a minor emergency happened and my picture didn’t. Which was really okay because, though I live in Texas, I really struggled to find something remotely cowgirlish in my closet. Oh, and I realized that I don’t own a hat or boots or even a bandana. Must remedy this, I guess. Day 15 was a Dancegram theme. No one needs to see me dance because there’s nothing to see as far as that goes (snickers would no doubt follow should you see me attempt to dance). Confession: I skipped that one.

20140719-113739-41859979.jpg

But Day 16 was Nautical by Nature, so I pulled this dress out to wear. I am holding a book by Monica Dickens that I finished shortly after this picture was taken. Book note: the granddaughter of Charles Dickens has never even remotely come close to achieving the recognition and fame of her grandfather, but her books are enjoyable in their own right. The ability to pen compelling stories must’ve been a strong trait in the Dickens family. My favorite book by Ms. Dickens is Mariana, published by Persephone Books. A surprising page-turner, given its simple storyline and straightforward prose.

Dress: Gap. Shoes: Steve Madden

20140719-113740-41860869.jpg

Day 17 was A Pucker with Punch. Confession: I don’t wear a lot of color on my face. I often go out with minimal makeup on, due to my no-fuss morning routine (I can’t be bothered to wake up any earlier than necessary). But if I wear anything more than lip gloss, it’s my Maybelline Baby Lips in Pink Punch. Just enough color without being too much and bonus! it’s a chapstick too. (If I’m going out someplace special, I’ll break out one of my MAC lipsticks. But it has to be someplace really special)

Sweater: Target. Skirt: DKNY.

20140719-113911-41951969.jpg(Ignore the tired face. It was the end of the week and I hadn’t caught up on sleep yet)

Day 18 was It’s a Wrap. Oh, this I’ve got. I have enough wraps and scarves to start a popup shop. I often throw one on to dress up otherwise drab outfits. It’s amazing how much color and happiness a scarf can impart. People often comment on my scarves and tell me they wished that they could wear them as easily. That’s a statement I don’t understand. Scarves look great on everyone!

I bought this one at Forever 21 last year and it has surprisingly withstood much travel and wear already. It is thin enough to be worn as a summer scarf and can easily be transformed into a wrap if necessary. In fact, here I am at the Vatican last summer where I entered wearing it as a scarf (see picture below) and then used it as an emergency coverup for my bare shoulders while inside.

IMG_0553Ahhh, Rome. How I miss you…

Musings on an American Pastime

Baseball: that creator of legends and the endurance of cultural tradition. Full of statistical power matchups that, somehow, defy statistics. Nine long innings of hitters facing pitchers, of fans alternately hopeful and despairing for their team, of crowds moving up, down, and around the stadium – but never staying in their seat for longer than a half-inning. America’s perennial summer pastime. 20140715-232609-84369135.jpg It’s been going on for well over a hundred years. There is no greater display of American history and culture in action than a baseball game. Everything from cotton candy and crackerjacks, to cheesy – but still crowd-pleasing tunes – being churned out on the ballpark organ, to eager fans jumping up and cheering for the home run that was just belted beyond the reach of the center fielder’s glove. 20140715-232606-84366927.jpg   It begins every spring, but becomes especially interesting in summer. Perhaps because it requires leisure time to attend a game (what else are you doing on a warm summer evening?). Maybe because by now there’s a drought of other sports to distract. Perhaps because going to a game on a summer night with family or friends comprises a plenitude of bonding time over hot dogs. Or maybe just because there isn’t much else going on. Whatever the reason, summer and baseball games are nearly synonymous for many people. 20140715-232508-84308527.jpg I am one of those people. Hello, summer baseball games. How happy I was to discover that I would be attending a game on a day I’d be wearing something denim for Hilary Rushford’s #stylemejuly Instagram photo challenge. This dress was a no-brainer for a sticky, hot July evening under the wide open summer sky.

Dress: Rag&Bone. Purse: Goodwill. Sunglasses: Target.   

Of Reading, Shoes, and Getting Lost

Another week of #stylemejuly and I’m still having fun! One thing I love about summer is the simple schedule that I enjoy; the break from teaching and studying gives me the opportunity to relax at last, enjoying the things I’ve missed all year.

20140712-110035-39635236.jpg

Perhaps the one thing I miss most during the school year is reading. No one is too old to let their imagination take flight, to be carried along in a fanciful world, to take delight in the turn of a phrase, reading it over and over again because something is beautifully and perfectly said and it resonates in your soul.

20140712-110036-39636224.jpg

I started this week’s #stylemejuly photo challenge (after missing Sunday – oops) in keeping with the day’s theme of Black, White, and Chic all over. I used a lovely little French book in the photo as my something white, and a pile of books as props because this is essentially what I’ve been doing this summer: catching up on my “to read” book pile!

Dress: H&M; Bandana: Madewell; Shoes: Madden Girl (found recently at Ross)

Day 8: Hair with Flair

20140712-110036-39636711.jpg

Tuesday was an easy day, as I just had to style my the hair the way I love most to wear it during the hot summer and take a picture for the Hair with Flair theme. I simply braid along both sides of my head and then twist into a low bun, securing with a hairband. I added two cute bobbypins for the flair part. I often get compliments when I wear my hair like this, which is nice since it keeps me cool and looks good at the same time. Oh, and added bonus is that I only do this when my hair is dirty, so that I can go an extra day between a hair wash and no one can tell how filthy my long locks are!

Bobbypins: H&M.

Day 9: Blossoming Beauty

For day thirteen of the style challenge, I had a wardrobe fail because I wore the wrong outfit! Had I been completely put together this week, I would’ve worn this adorable vintage top that I found at Goodwill several years ago.

IMG_9727

See the sleeves? And the colors are just plain fun! I think this top is from the 60’s or 70’s, judging by the designer. I am a 40’s and 50’s style loving girl at heart, but sometimes I can’t resist the interesting and colorful designs from later eras.

Day 10: Celebrity Style Icon

20140712-110038-39638206.jpg

For Thursday’s theme, I had a difficult time trying to decide how best to emulate my style muse, Audrey Hepburn, for the day’s theme. My favorite Audrey movie is Roman Holiday, and while the wardrobe in that film is limited to a few outfits (due to the fact that the story takes place within a 48 hour period), Audrey stuns in everything from a nightgown to her ballroom dresses. My favorite, though, is the white blouse and full skirt that she wears for most of the film as she explores Rome with Gregory Peck (side note: why don’t men and women run around looking so chic anymore? Our comfort-oriented culture is missing out). Being Audrey, the kerchief she has around her neck and her gladiator sandals complete her outfit in a way that transcends time – she could walk down a street today in that look and still be as stylish now as she was then. I have a vintage full skirt that I wore with a white blouse and brown sandals as a homage to that outfit.

Perhaps the thing that most impresses me about Audrey Hepburn was the ease and grace that formed her demeanor; she carried herself with dignity and always with an elegant confidence – something that I feel is missing from most celebrities today. (And lest you think there are no differences in self-confidence, let me tell you: there are. There is obnoxious, self-absorbed, screaming-at-you confidence, and quiet, dignified confidence. Just compare Jackie O., Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn to modern day celebs like Lady Gaga.).

Skirt: Vintage, found at Zola’s Vintage in Dallas. Blouse: I’ve had this so long I don’t even remember where it’s from. Sandals: thrifted.

Day 11: From the Feet Up

Yesterday was especially fun as I was able to wear one of my favorite summer shoes and take a picture of them for day eleven’s theme.

IMG_3287

I.love.these.shoes. I used to run around every summer in flimsy flip flops, thinking that was the only way to keep my feet cool and comfortable at the same time. Nothing against flip flops (I’ve since upgraded to more grown-up lovelies from J. Crew and Anthropologie), but espadrilles have become my summer staple. No wonder people have been wearing them for centuries. The woven fabric and interior help to keep my feet dry and cool, and the shoe-like aspect of espadrilles allows for day-long wearing, from work to after-work activities. My favorite feature, however, is that they are light and pack flat, making them beyond perfect for summer travel. I wore them all over Europe last summer (and a trip to Boston as well), and I loved that I was able to pair them with a dress or pants and look far more put-together than I would have with my usual flip flops. In fact, here I am at the Trevi Fountain in Rome – if you look closely, you can see my Soludos on my feet:

20140712-123455-45295914.jpg

Sorry for the weird crop. I was with a friend and needed to cut her from the photo for privacy/security.

If I look tired, it’s because I was. I had walked all over Rome that day (not kidding), mostly lost. One thing I’ve learned, however, is to not despair when lost. Truly, I almost look forward to not being able to find my way when traveling, as I often discover amazing places I wouldn’t otherwise find. That day in Rome I wandered in a massive park, around a neighborhood, and had a hilarious gelato experience. In fact, I had gelato twice that day. No guilt, either. One isn’t in Rome every day, right? Right.

Shoes: Soludos from Madewell.