5 Days, 4 Nights in Lisbon

GETTING THERE

Getting from Porto to Lisbon was a lot less dramatic than my previous journey.   I listened to a few chapters of an audio book on the train ride.  Sidenote, long trips are the perfect time to sign up for free trials of music streaming services, audio books, etc.  I like to stagger the trials so that when one runs out, I can move on to the next.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

I stayed at We Love F****** Tourists.  To date, this was my favorite hostel! It felt like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.  The facilities are nice and the staff really goes out of the way to make guests feel welcomed.  Special shout out to Dale and Tiago, who were great hosts!  The hostel offers a day trip to Sintra, pub-crawls, dinner, and free breakfast.  The only downside was the amount of stairs you have to climb to get to the hostel.  Good for your heart rate, not so good after a pub-crawl.  If you’re in Portugal, I’d highly recommend checking out We Love F****** Tourists!

GETTING AROUND LISBON

Similar to Porto, you can Uber everywhere in Lisbon.  It’s also a very walkable city, which is a great way to take in the city!

WHERE TO EAT

When in Lisbon, you have to visit Time Out Market.  Traditional Portugese dishes, burgers, pasta, sweets, wine — it’s one-stop shopping.  The restaurants and bars were hand-picked by editors at Time Out.

Be sure to check out Pastéis de Belém for a Pastel de Nata.  I only had one and immediately regretted not ordering another.  The line was pretty long, so try your luck finding a table. 20170829_154820.jpg

THINGS TO DO

Lisbon was by far my favorite city in Europe! Good weather, great people, an awesome vibe — I just love Lisbon!  See the sites: Torre de Belém, Castelo de São Jorge, the view from the top of Senhora do Monte, and many more.  For a fun night out, make your way to Bairro Alto.  My favorite spot in the area was Park, a rooftop bar situated on top of a parking garage.  Need a day of relaxation after a late night? Head to Cascais for a beach day.  Or, you can visit LX Factory where you will find anything from surfboards to a quaint bookstore.  Whatever you decide to do in Lisbon, you won’t be disappointed!

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BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for five days in Lisbon.  

Item Cost
Porto → Lisbon 30 € = 36 USD
Accommodations 128 € = 154 USD
Getting Around 15 € = 18 USD
Food and Drinks 137 € = 164 USD
Activities Free
Total 310 € =  372 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

Next stop, España.  Ciao for now,

Marissa

5 Days, 4 Nights in Porto

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GETTING THERE

At this point in my European tour, the days blend together and creep up out of nowhere. Consequently, I completely forgot to secure transportation to the airport in Rome.  My Ryanair flight (more on that later) was scheduled to leave pretty early, and getting there by public transportation would be a headache because I’d have to wake up super early.  After weighing my options, I decided to book a private car with my host, for 40 €!!! If you have been following my blog, then you know I was not happy about that price. Nonetheless, I booked it and forced myself to be content with the decision.

I arrived at the airport in about 30 minutes and stood in the line to check-in.  This marked my first flight in Europe, so I didn’t know what to expect.  When I arrived at the counter, the Ryanair representative looked at my luggage and told me I didn’t need to be in this line since I only had carry-on bags.  She told me to head straight to security.  So, imagine my surprise when I got to the gate and I was told my luggage was too large and I’d have to pay 50 € to check my bag!! I was not a happy camper!! I don’t even want to look at the getting there section in my budget because it will reflect the cost of the private car, the flight, AND the baggage fee. Getting to Porto was definitely what my friend and I refer to as a #FinancialWomp.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

I stayed at an Airbnb in Vila Nova de Gaia, which is a quick trip to Porto.  My host was great and changed his schedule in order to pick me up from the airport. His generosity eased the pain of the aforementioned #FinancialWomp. My host was great and he provided great suggestions for ways to experience Porto like a local.

GETTING AROUND PORTO

In Porto, I walked a lot then took an uber if it was super late or when I was feeling lazy. Uber prices were super reasonable in Porto. For example, some of my rides were 10-minutes but only cost around 2 €.  So, I didn’t mind splurging on the occasional Uber.

WHERE TO EAT

Antigua Casa Ze da Guida.  I had some of the freshest salmon at this restaurant, which makes sense since it’s right by the water. I had an amazing salad, salmon, and sangria for 12 €. I visited this restaurant three times during my stay, so clearly I’m a fan.

Porto is known for Francesinha, a sandwich with layers of meat, topped with an egg, cheese, and special sauce.  I was told by several locals that Café Santiago makes the best Francesinha. When I went, it was pretty crowded; head to the bar if you don’t feel like waiting for a table.

If you partake in a Francesinha and need a break from the meat, check out Essencia for vegetarian options.  I had a three-course meal for 10 € and it was amazing!

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THINGS TO DO

Instead of official activities, I wandered around quite a bit in Porto.  The view from The Dom Luis Bridge is amazing.  São Bento Train Station also makes the list of beautiful things to see in Porto. After that, head over to Café Majestic, a beautiful café that’s been around for nearly a century.

Livaria Lello was highly recommended but I didn’t make it inside due to the long line.  It’s a bookstore that J.K. Rowling frequented when she lived in Porto.  I’m told it provided inspiration for her books. I’ve yet to read a Harry Potter book (blasphemy) so I wouldn’t get the connection anyway.  The trip wasn’t a waste because it was a quick walk to Clérigos Tower.

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BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for five days in Porto.  

Item Cost
Rome → Porto 222 € = 266 USD
Accommodations 90 € = 108 USD
Getting Around 20 € = 24 USD
Food and Drinks 92 € = 110 USD
Activities Free
Total 424 € =  509 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD

I’m off to Lisbon.  Ciao for now,

Marissa

4 Days, 3 Nights in Rome

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GETTING THERE
It took about 4 hours to get from Venice to Rome by train.  Actually, add another hour to that because I first took a bus from Chioggia to Venice.  If you’re in Venice and want to enjoy some beach time away from the crowds, check out Chioggia.  I digress. I took Trenitalia or Italo to Rome.  The trains are similar, so when traveling through Italy, I compared prices and went with the cheaper fare.

 

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW
The hostel I wanted to stay in was pretty expensive, so I opted for a private room in an Airbnb instead.  To date, it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in an Airbnb.  A private room with a balcony, your own table in the kitchen for breakfast, equipped with a special message on a chalkboard.  Feel free to send me a message if you’re looking for accommodations in Rome and would like more information about the listing.

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GETTING AROUND ROME
I got a 48-hour card for the metro and buses for 12.5 €. In hindsight, I would’ve been fine purchasing a few cards that are good for 100 minutes for 1.5 €. Once I got to a main destination or attraction, I just walked to the next place.  I only needed the metro a few times – to get to the Airbnb, the Spanish Steps for a tour, and The Colosseum.  Since I purchased the pass, I did hop on the bus a few times to feel like I got my money’s worth.

 

WHERE TO EAT
Honestly, I didn’t find any restaurants in Rome to write home about.  Perhaps it was my lack of research or the fact that this marked my third week in Italy and there are only so many times I can get excited about pasta and pizza.  Either way, I was sadly underwhelmed. I did find a restaurant that puts interesting spins on the traditional aperol spritz. Check out Bistro Coronari for a tasty spritz.

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THINGS TO DO
To get a lay of the land, I started with a free walking tour.  The tour included the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Square, and Piazza Navona.  After the tour, I made my way to the Trevi Fountain.  I went in the afternoon and it was super crowded.  I was hoping to get back at night to see it with the lights, but I didn’t make it.  Of course, a trip to Rome isn’t complete without visiting The Colosseum. A description won’t do it justice. I will say that once you step off the train, The Colosseum hits you; it’s truly breathtaking!

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BUDGET
Here’s a breakdown of my budget for four days in Rome.  

 

Item Cost
Chioggia → Venice → Rome 66 € = 79 USD
Accommodations 139 € = 167 USD
Getting Around 12.5 € = 15 USD
Food and Drinks 74 € = 89 USD
Activities 5 € = 6 USD
Total 297 € = 356 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD.

 

My three weeks in Italy are up. On to the next country.

 

Ciao for now,

 

Marissa

3 Days, 2 Nights in Venice

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GETTING THERE
It took a little over 2 hours to get from Florence to Venice by train.  Nothing too eventful on the quick trip, which I’ve learned is a good thing.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD
I stayed at an Airbnb in Mestre.  Staying in Mestre was cheaper than staying in Venice proper.  From Mestre, it took about 15 minutes to arrive at  Piazzale Roma, which is a main square for buses, trains, and water taxis.

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GETTING AROUND VENICE
I purchased the 48-hour tourist card, which covered unlimited travel on buses and water taxis.  Unfortunately, I didn’t qualify for the “Young Person’s Travel Card” for tourists up to the age of 29.  I attempted to use my student id, but it had to be coupled with a passport to verify my date of birth. So, no discount for me, womp. Still, 30€ for a two-day card was more cost-effective than buying tickets for individual journeys.

WHERE TO EAT
My trip to Venice was so quick, and I didn’t do much research on restaurants before arriving. I did stumble upon a place called Timon where you can eat on a boat, I guess that’s cool. Personally, I chose a table by the water because I have enough trouble balancing stuff on land.

THINGS TO DO
For me, a trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete without a gondola ride.  A 30-ish minute trip has a set price of 80€ per vessel and increases to 100€ after 7:00 pm. Up to six people can ride in a gondola.  I met up with 2 friends that I met at the first hostel, so we were able to split the cost.  We considered asking others to join (actually, I jokingly did ask) but a lot of people were enjoying a romantic ride, so that would’ve been awkward.

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If you visit Venice, check out Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a department store near Rialto Bridge. Tons of shopping and there’s a free viewpoint from the top of the building.

BUDGET
Here’s a breakdown of my budget for three days in Venice.  

 

Item Cost
Train from Florence to Venice 40 € =  48 USD
Accommodations 98 € = 118 USD
Getting Around 30 € = 36 USD
Food and Drinks 34 € = 41 USD
Activities 27 € =  32 USD
Total 229 € = 275 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.2 USD.

 

Ciao for now,

 

Marissa

5 Days, 4 Nights in Florence

GETTING THERE

It took about 3 hours to get from Sorrento to Florence by train, which was a nice break from my previous trek.  It was just enough time to watch Creed, which I’d downloaded before I left for Europe. Glad I did because I haven’t been able to download any movies or tv shows since…so please, no Power, Insecure, or Game of Thrones spoilers.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW

Somewhere with an A/C.  Florence was extremely hot and I was in an Airbnb without an A/C or fan.  My host attempted to buy a fan, but the stores were sold out.  According to the locals, they’d never seen a summer so hot. So, I guess there’s a reason the fans were out of stock. It was so hot I considered getting a little propeller fan that I could attach to my phone.  But trying to use that while sleeping didn’t seem like the smartest idea.  All that to say, look at the forecast and check the amenities before you book.

GETTING AROUND FLORENCE

I was able to walk pretty much everywhere I wanted to go.  I didn’t feel like rolling my bag on the cobblestone streets when I arrived, so I hopped in a taxi. Other than that, I relied on my feet to get around. So happy a few friends convinced me to invest in some good sneakers before I embarked on this journey.

WHERE TO EAT

Since being in Italy, I’ve been searching for a good aperitivo. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s like happy hour 2.0.  You pay for a drink then get free food.  So my plan to save money was to find aperitivos where I could purchase a glass of wine then eat for free. Most of the aperitivos I found offered potato chips. Now I love chips, but not for dinner. After traveling in Italy for two weeks, I finally found a solid aperitivo in Florence.  Golden View Open Bar has a great view of the water and an actual aperitivo spread. They offered cheese, meat, potatoes, tomatoes, you name it. So I purchased a glass of wine and went back to the spread several times. I decided to sip slowly.  Luckily, I didn’t order a beverage with ice, so my drink didn’t get watery.

THINGS TO DO

The highlight of my trip was a cooking class. Initially I wanted to take a wine tour under the Tuscan sun. Due to last-minute planning, that wasn’t an option. Luckily, there was one spot left in a cooking class. It was pretty expensive, but it was actually worth it.  The class started with a drive to Tuscany where we met our chef for the day.  If you take this class, try to book with Chef Isak, who is both knowledgeable and entertaining. We made bruschetta, pasta from scratch, roast pork, patata al rosemarino, pizza, and tiramisu.  Plus the wine was flowing. If I return to Florence, I’ll take this class again.  Perhaps I should say “when I return” because I visited Il Porcellino and rubbed the boar’s snout, which guarantees a return to Florence.

Chef Curry with the pasta

BUDGET

Here’s a breakdown of my budget for four nights in Florence.  

Item

Cost

Train from Sorrento to Florence

54 € = 64 USD

Accommodations

145 € = 171 USD

Getting Around

10 € = 12 USD

Food and Drinks

98 € =116 USD

Activities

89 € = 105 USD

Total

397 € = 468 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.18 USD.

I’m off to my next stop! Did you click the subscribe button so you don’t miss a moment? You can also follow me on Instagram to see more travel pics. 


Ciao for now,

Marissa

4 Days, 3 Nights in the Amalfi Coast

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After visiting Como, I changed my itinerary to go to the Amalfi Coast.  In my original plan, the route made much more sense as I wasn’t traveling from Northern Italy to Southern Italy so abruptly.  But I met some cool people at the hostel and decided that I’d have more fun with them than I would solo. Plus, I was able to afford a place in Sorrento as opposed to my original stay in the boondocks of the Amalfi Coast.  Though the route was not ideal, I’m confident I made the right choice.

GETTING THERE
This was a trek to say the least.  By “trek,” I mean a 13-hour journey — 12 hours to travel to Naples and another hour to get to Sorrento.  Taking an overnight train helped to maximize time and save money on a night of accommodations.  I didn’t get too much sleep, however.  In case my Mom is reading this, I don’t want to go into too much detail and freak her out.  I will say, if you take an overnight train book a window seat. If you’re lucky enough to travel with a friend, take turns sleeping.  There were some shady characters on the train, arrests were made by plain-clothes officers upon arriving in Naples. I made it safely and with all of my belongings, which is all that matters.

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW
We stayed at an Airbnb in Sorrento.  It was walking distance to public transportation, and a 20-minute walk to the beach.  The proximity to the bus made it easy to beach-hop. If you’re new to Airbnb, you can use this code to get $40 off your first trip of $75 or more. If you’re not new, we’re in the same boat and I’ll let you know if I come across any codes for existing users.

GETTING AROUND THE COAST
To get around the coast, I relied heavily on the bus.  If you’re prone to motion sickness, you might want to consider popping a Dramamine before the ride.  A beautiful view, but curves galore…so plan accordingly.  To reach Capri, it was a smooth ferry ride from Sorrento.

 

WHERE TO EAT
In the Airbnb, we had access to a kitchen so we went to the grocery store to stock up on food and wine for our stay. The area is known for Baba, a dessert that reminds me of rum cake.  It’s not as easy to find in other places in Italy, so try it there and thank me later.  And, be sure to try some Limoncello …don’t be like me and attempt to take it as a shot.

 

THINGS TO DO
Similar to Como, day trips are the thing to do when visiting the Amalfi Coast. In 3 full days, I was able to get to Positano, Amalfi, and Capri.  For the most part, my activities during these day trips consisted of lounging on the beach.  

In Capri, I switched it up and did a boat tour of the island.  Honestly, I wouldn’t do it again.  Perhaps I was bored, or maybe it was the sleep debt catching up with me….either way, I fell asleep during the tour.  I did wake up here and there to snap a pic then go back to sleep.  I didn’t make it inside the Blue Gratto, as boats were waiting in a 45-minute queue.  Only two people on our boat of at least 30 chose to hop on another boat and wait it out. Hope they made it!   

BUDGET
Here’s a breakdown of my budget for three nights exploring the Amalfi Coast.  I was with 2 other people on this leg of my journey, so the prices reflect my share.

Item

Cost

Overnight Train from Como to Sorrento

73 € = 86  USD

Accommodations

157 € = 185 USD

Getting Around

43 € = 51 USD

Food and Drinks

58 € =69 USD

Activities

18 € = 21 USD

Total

349 € = 412 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.18 USD.

I’m off to my next stop! Make sure you hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss a moment. Ciao for now,


Marissa

5 Days, 4 Nights in Lake Como

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Located in Northern Italy, perhaps Lake Como is best known for George Clooney’s home. Admittedly, I didn’t know this tidbit until I arrived and was asked by numerous people from around the globe if that’s why I chose to visit.  I chose it because I’d seen beautiful pictures, it was a quick trip from Milan, and made sense in my route (which changed after visiting Como).

GETTING THERE
I arrived in Milan at Malpensa Airport and took a quick train ride to Como. The ride is around an hour, but it took me a bit longer since I was initially confused by the number of trains at Milano Central.  The number of options coupled with the language barrier made my trip a bit longer than expected.  What I should’ve done was just hopped on a train as they display the route on a screen once you’re on the train. Then I could’ve hopped off and on until I found the right one.  Next time…

WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD ON A PILLOW
Lake Como has a bunch of small villages, perhaps the most famous is Bellagio.  I chose to stay in Como proper at Ostello Bello Lake Como because it had great reviews on Hostel World, Trip Advisor, and Hotels.com (I like to cross check). I made the right choice; I was comfortable, had a good time, and met some great people.

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GETTING AROUND LAKE COMO
You can get around Lake Como by bus, train, ferry, or my favorite because it’s free – your own two feet.  Plus, I’m averaging about 16,000 steps a day, which is about 15,000 more than my normal average. The bus I needed only ran about once an hour, so look at the schedule and plan accordingly.

WHERE TO EAT
Since my hostel provided free breakfast and dinner, I didn’t worry about food too much.  To get a break from pasta, I visited La Vita e’ Bella for a salad. The number of salads was almost overwhelming, but again, it’s a healthy alternative to pasta.

Then, to balance my healthy choice, I made room for gelato. As you can see from the line, Gelateria Lariana is a hit.  My favorite flavor was cherry, which tastes almost like Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream.

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THINGS TO DO
Day trips, day trips, day trips.  While in Como, I visited Bellagio, Nesso, and Varenna.  While Bellagio is the most popular, Varenna was my favorite because it was less touristy.  I spent a lot of time on the beach in Lake Como.  The one that stands out in my mind the most is Lido di Faggeto, not because of the views (which were amazing) but because of the trek to get there.  There were so many stairs that climbing them took the same amount of time as the 20-minute bus ride!! This is an exaggeration, but seriously, there were a lot of steps!! To give your legs a break, I’d recommend taking the ferry at least once.  While more expensive than the bus, the views were amazing.  There’s a normal service and a fast ferry.  I took the fast one, which got me to Varenna in under an hour.

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BUDGET
Here’s a breakdown of my budget for four nights in Como.  The night before I was scheduled to leave, I added an extra night to my stay.  That extra night was more than half the price of my first three nights combined since it was so last-minute. Also, I considered the one-way ferry to Varenna an activity in the budget.  I digress, here’s the breakdown.

Item Cost
Train from MXP to Como 18 € = 21 USD
Accommodations 100 € = 118 USD
Getting Around 28 € = 33 USD
Food and Drinks 62 € = 73 USD
Activities 17 € = 20 USD
Total 225 € = 266 USD

*I used an exchange rate of 1 € = 1.18 USD.

I’m off to my next stop! Ciao for now,

Marissa

Hostel Review: Ostello Bello Lake Como

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If you’ve been following my blog in the time leading up to my journey, then you know I was considering hostels to help save money.  I was super skeptical about the hostel life. I like my own space, definitely my own bathroom, it’s not like I’m back in college. Well, I did it. I stayed in my first hostel, Ostello Bello Lake Como. Here’s my take on it…

When I arrived, I was greeted with a welcome drink of my choice, so I was already a fan. Then, I heard all the free perks, like wifi, bike rentals, computer rentals, renting a modem so you can stay connected even when you leave the hostel.  Free breakfast and dinner were the real MVPs. For breakfast, think continental. For dinner, think pasta. Then pasta the night after that, and the night after that. Still it was free, so you only had to pay for lunch or go next door to the supermarket.

After the welcome spiel, it was time to see the rooms, dun dun dun.  My room had 6 beds — 2 sets of bunk beds. Luckily, I wasn’t on the top bunk because that was a bit of a climb. Each bunk bed had an outlet that included a reading light and a charging station with a usb port, so I didn’t have to break out my universal charger. The sheets were clean, and free. The rooms also included individual lockers for your belongings, and you could rent a lock for free. Working A/C was another plus. My only issue was the bathroom. The showers were pretty small. Before traveling to Europe, I’d read reviews for numerous listings that often mentioned the small showers. Still, I wasn’t mentally prepared to not be able to comfortably maneuver when taking a shower.  Enough of the rooms, now for the vibe.

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This particular hostel was a hybrid between a hostel, a bar, and a club for visitors and locals alike. So, one can chill in the common area listening to music or opt for some quiet time in the secret garden, equipped with hammocks. The people who worked there also added to a vibe. I was surprised to learn that after the first day, some of them knew my name.  They were super helpful when it came to providing recommendations for things to see, places to eat, and where to shop.  One guy at the front desk even invited a few of us out on a boat.

To me, a hostel is like an overnight summer camp for adults. From the bunk beds, to who am I gonna sit with for lunch, to foosball tournaments. The only difference is, instead of a medal for participating, you get a shot from the 24-hour bar.

I extended my trip by a day, so I guess it’s safe to say I’m a fan of the hostel life. I am nervous, however, that perhaps my first experience was too good of one. Ostello Bello Lake Como set the bar high.

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At summer camp, you write in a memory book and promise to keep in touch.  At hostels, you follow people on ig or snapchat.

Now, I’m off to my next spot with two new friends I made in the hostel. Click the follow button so you don’t miss a moment from my adventure.

Ciao for now,

 Marissa

 

What’s In My Suitcase

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One of my friends recently got back from a year of exploration, so her packing list was extremely helpful. I ended up buying a lot of things that she suggested even though she was gone for a year, and my trip is only a few months. So here’s what I squeezed in my carry-on bag and personal item:

Clothes:

  • 3 sundresses
  • 1 maxi dress
  • 1 jumper
  • 1 skirt
  • 4 pair of shorts
  • 4 tops
  • 2 sweats…probably will be used for athleisure
  • 2 sports bras…again, we’ll see if I workout on top of all the walking I’ll be doing
  • 3 bras
  • All the undies (in case I’m not able to do laundry as often as I’d like)
  • 2 shorts and 2 tanks for sleeping
  • 2 sleep shirts/dresses
  • 2.5 swimsuits (.5 because the top of one matches the bottom of another)
  • 1 cover up

Shoes:

  • 1 pair of Sandals
  • Flip flops for showering
  • Flats…happened to pack with a color scheme, so just bringing 1 pair of flats
  • 1 pair of sneakers

Day bags:

Toiletries:

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste – 2 of each because I’m that person who will drop a toothbrush then be forced to get creative
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Face Wash
  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick
  • Soap
  • Comb
  • Brush
  • Shampoo
  • Leave-in conditioner
  • Curling cream
  • Shea butter
  • Flexi-rods
  • Mascara
  • Eyeliner (in case I’m feeling fancy)
  • 5 lipsticks/glosses..though I’ll probably only use 2

Other:

  • Travel towel
  • 2 travel face cloths
  • 1 blanket for the plane
  • Cocoon for sleeping…wish me luck in hostels
  • 2 luggage locks
  • 1 lock – for lockers in hostels
  • Universal charger
  • (Below) basic first-aid kit
  • I-pad mini
  • Fitbit – to keep track of my steps so I don’t feel guilty about not working out
  • Notebook
  • Journal

Okay, that’s it…by “it” I mean a lot.

Happy Travels,

Marissa

 

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No Income? No Problem! How I’m Traveling on a Budget

As you may know, I recently decided to take a break from teaching to engage in some self-care, mindfulness, and exploration.  I found a flight deal to Europe and booked a ticket without too much thought.  As a (former) teacher, I’ll be balling on a budget.

About a year ago, I applied for a credit card with a great sign-up bonus.  Check out these sites to compare sign-up bonuses and  rewards that fit your needs.  After paying my car insurance in-full for the year, using the card for everyday purchases, and even asking friends if they had any huge purchases (one of my friends bought a couch), I met the spending requirement to earn a ton of points.  All that to say, I used points for my flight, score!  So, I’m already off to a good start.  Figuring out where to stay has not been so simple.

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I’m not a fan of baggage fees, so I plan to stick to a carry-on and a personal item.

I’ll be in Western Europe for two months, which can easily add up.  So, my big debate remains hostel vs. hotel vs. Airbnb.  Hostels seem to be the most cost-efficient option but not the most appealing (to me).  As I look up hostels, I’ve come to terms with the fact that perhaps I’m a little bad, a little bougie.  I like my own space, especially when it comes to bathrooms.  I learned from my friend who recently got back from a year abroad that there are some good hostels.  She suggested I use hostelworld.com and not book any hostels with a rating below 8; I’ll soon find out just what that rating looks like, sounds like, and feels like.  

So far in my planning, I have a combination of hostel and Airbnb reservations.  With my credit card, I get 3x points for every dollar I spend on travel.  I can use points to book travel accommodations directly on the credit card’s portal at a value of 1.5 cents per point.  Unfortunately, they do not offer hostels or Airbnb, womp.  With my points, I can purchase Airbnb gift cards at a 1:1 ratio.  After thinking about it, that didn’t seem like the best use of points because it wouldn’t allow me to earn points for the travel.  Perhaps I’m being difficult, but I want to maximize my points.  So, here’s what I did to work around my dilemma:  

Using my credit card, I booked an Airbnb that was roughly $200, which means I earned 600 points on that transaction.  Since I can’t use points to book directly with Airbnb, I then used points to get cash back to cover the cost of the Airbnb.  So, I used 20,000 points for cash back, applied the $200 directly to my credit card, and now (in my mind) it’s like my Airbnb was free.  

It appears that the best way to maximize points is to book flights and accommodations directly through the portal or transfer points to a travel partner.  However, since booking with Airbnb was not an option, I had to make it work for me.  What about you all…any tips on how to use points?  Tips to travel on a budget?  Also, any and all Europe tips are greatly appreciated.

Happy Travels,

Marissa