My birthday this year was a big one. I turned 30. Eeek! I’ve been a little anxious about getting older, but George, my husband, softened the blow with a trip to Seattle. I didn’t know where we were going until a week before the trip, so I didn’t have much time to plan. And that was A-OK. In my everyday life, I plan like a squirrel on steroids, but I don’t like to plan every detail of trips. It takes the adventure out of it. Continue reading
One of the main reasons George and I live in an Airstream is so we can save money to travel. I’ve never been overseas and I wanted desperately to do some international travel before my 30th birthday. After much worrying about the cost, we decided that we could afford it and we booked a trip to Iceland.
Why Iceland? Well, it’s gorgeous! And flights, in comparison to many other countries, are relatively cheap. Iceland has it’s own airlines, Iceland Air and with the help of a connecting flight, we could fly right out of our home airport. The tickets were about $600 per person. That’s only $100 per person less than our flight to California will be this summer! Iceland Air even does this stopover program where you can stop in Iceland for up to a week before heading to another European country. It’s definitely something I’m going to consider if we ever make it to Europe.
We booked our hotel through Expedia because we stayed in Reykjavik, the capital city, for the entire week and simply commuted to various locations throughout the island. I like to check all the major booking sites using Kayak before I choose one. Our hotel was a budget hotel and we paid for 6 nights at $557.81. Not too shabby. It also helps that we visited in the winter when prices are cheaper. If we really wanted to cut costs, we could have stayed in hostels. We did stop by a few hostels for coffee or maps and were truly impressed with how clean they were! We stopped at this hostel on the way to Geysir and wanted to stay!
The one thing I really did cheap out on was a rental car. I found SAD cars online and I should have known it was almost too good to be true. We rented a car from them for about $300. The other rental cars from well-known companies were over $1,000 for the week! The car we rented never broke down, luckily, but to keep it from overheating we had to run the heat on full-blast the entire time. Not fun when you have on four layers of clothes!
Many of the sites we wanted to see in Iceland were accessible by car. By having a car, we were able to go out on our own schedule and we didn’t have to pay for a tour. We drove the Golden Circle by ourselves, visited a glacier and the black sand beaches in Vik— all without a tour guide. That being said, gasoline was very expensive. I knew it was going to be quite a bit, but it cost about $130 to fill up our tank. And we filled it up twice. Ouch!
We did splurge on relaxing in the Blue Lagoon and one tour with Arctic Adventures. There were a lot of awesome tours available– like snowmobiling, cave exploring, a Game of Thrones tour(!) and many, many more. We decided on snorkeling in Silfra. It’s an internationally recognized dive site and you swim between two tectonic plates. It was truly amazing and well-worth the $150 per person price tag. And it truly wasn’t cold. They put you in puffy, down suits and wet suits to keep you warm. Our tour guide was really lovely and and took great care of us.
The other pricey part about Iceland is the food. Much of the food is imported and every meal we ate at a restaurant cost over $100 for just us two. To save money on food we picked up dinner from the grocery store several times, ate breakfast at our continental hotel breakfast and brought snacks with us in our luggage. We also ate chips (or fries for us Americans!) for dinner one night and ate hot dogs for breakfast one morning when we needed to sleep in! Not the healthiest of meals, but hey, Iceland is famous for hot dogs and we were on vacation. 🙂
Prior to our trip, I did buy a few things that I considered travel costs, like a few pairs of long underwear. I bought a cheap pair and a more expensive pair. For snorkeling they recommended a synthetic fiber to wear under the suits, so I bit the bullet and bought some fleece CuddleDuds. They, of course, were more flattering and warmer than the cheapo $10 pair I bought. 90% of the time I wasn’t cold. The only time I did get chilly was when we went out to see a glacier and the Golden Circle. I was slipping and sliding everywhere. I even ended up falling once. Do’h! The one thing I did wish I bought were Crampons. Word to the wise: They are worth it if you decide to visit Iceland during the winter.
Overall it was an amazing/beautiful/unforgettable trip that was well worth the money. I’ve got the bug and I can’t wait to travel more in 2016!
Life’s been crazy lately. I’ve had too much work to do and not enough time to do it all. That’s why a couple of weeks ago, we took a much needed break to celebrate the birthday of a good friend. We traveled up to the mountains of my home state, stayed in a hundred-year-old cabin and took in all the colors of fall. Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, George, two friends and I boarded a plane for Buffalo, NY. About a year ago, a college friend had planned to get married that weekend. Fast forward about 6 months and that friend called off the big wedding and just had a small thing. That’s cool, no hurt feelings, but we had non-refundable plane tickets. Instead of moping about our used vacation days, we decided to make the best of it. And by making the best of it, I mean seeing something slightly more exotic than Buffalo. Toronto and Niagra Falls are nearby, so we hopped in a rental car and went looking for some adventure.
We stopped at a park and discovered the 237829371283 stairs it took to get a closer look at the whirlpool. Although my legs were burning on the way back to the top, the view from the bottom was worth it.
After the whirlpool, we decided to mosey on over to the American side of the falls. Most people had told us it was dirty and not worth it, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.
After the American Falls, we headed over the border to Toronto. We stayed in Hannah’s loft while we explored the city. She has a great view from her balcony. We ate a lot of food and visited the CN Tower.
Finally, we finished up the trip by visiting the Canadian side of the falls. We went “Behind the Falls”– it’s kind of self explanatory– and we rode on the boat that gets you up close and personal with the falls. We did a lot of touristy stuff on this trip, but we still had so much fun. The people you travel with can really make or break the trip.
Not only are my friends fun, they are also thrifty. Here’s how we saved some dough on this trip.
- We used Groupon* and Airbnb* for discounted hotels. We also shared a room and our Groupon came with free breakfast!
- We bought our plane tickets from Costco. Crazy, right? It helped us save a bundle.
- We flew into Buffalo and drove over the border. It was cheaper than flying into Toronto.
- We BYOB! (Read more about how I save money on booze.)
Thanks for letting me live vicariously through my travel photos. Ha-ha. Have you ever been to Niagra Falls or Toronto? Talk to me in the comments!
*Affiliate links, but the Airbnb link gets you $31CAD off your next trip!!!
Can we talk about the magic of Instagram for a second? I know it sounds ridiculous and a little over-exaggerated but Instagram has changed my life. It’s helped me keep in contact with friends, meet new people and it’s helped me get the word out about my lifestyle. It’s even helped George make money! And yes, Instagram does have a dark side. Sometimes I find myself getting jealous of other people’s IG lives or I’ll fall down a rabbit hole and won’t emerge for hours. But overall, it’s done more good for me than bad. Today I thought I’d share a few of my current favorite Instagram accounts, in no particular order. Continue reading
I’ve been under a lot of stress at work, so when I finished up the huge conference I was planning, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go on a little weekend getaway. I’ve been on a spending fast for a while, i.e. I only spend $100 per month on unnecessary stuff. I knew this would totally blow my budget, but I did it anyway. Travel is so important to me, but I also know that if I travel too much, I’ll never save any money. It’s a Catch 22.
We did a lot of things to cut costs for this trip. Charleston is only four hours from our home so we drove there in my fuel-efficient car. I found a budget hotel and used my credit card points to book it. We packed snacks, we participated in free attractions (we found a gorgeous park and visited the beach!), we had a continental breakfast each morning at the hotel and, although we ate at restaurants several times, we also picked up dinner from a local grocery store.
We even took Bambi with us! That was an adventure, but places were much more accommodating than I imagined. And after she got used to the hotel and not barking every time someone shut a door, she calmed down. By the end of the trip, she was a road dog. We even took her on a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city. Ha-ha. I’m sure we looked insane, but I love that little girl.
What are your favorite tips for budget travel? I want to hear all about it in the comments!