vacation budgeting

Vacation Budgeting (No, It’s Not All About the Money)

It’s time to talk vacation budgeting. How much time off of work do you typically get? I know in corporate America, the typical is two weeks, maybe 8 holidays, and [almost] every weekend off. Having only two weeks of vacation myself, I realized that if I wanted to travel more, I would have to start vacation budgeting… no, not just money (although, yes, saving money for trips is super important), but I would have to start finding ways to utilize my time off of work.

Let’s do that math real quick. There are 365 days in a year within 52 weeks. So, while yes, you’ve got 10 days off of work, plus 8 days of holidays, that’ll get you to 18 days. Seems super low right? Well now take your weekend days so 2 and multiply by that 52 weeks… that’s 104 days, making a total time off per year of 122 days a year you are free to do whatever you’d like!

vacation budgeting santorini

Santorini, Greece

Vacation budgeting seems so easy now right?

Okay, don’t get me wrong, it’s complete BS that North Americans have to settle for 2 measly weeks off work a year, especially with the rest of the western world taking 5 or more, but rather than begrudging those two weeks off, throwing up your hands and deciding traveling is for the retired, think again! Taking advantage of the weekends, and long holiday weekends, can help you have more vacation than you even expected. Pretty awesome, right?

For example, you want to take a nice, long trip to Italy. Okay, well Italy is loads of fun to go to in May, it’s just before high season in mid-summer, so you may find some good deals. Also, almost everyone has Memorial Day off. Want to take a getaway to Italy for 10 days and only take off 5 from work? Take the Friday before the long weekend off and the whole following week and boom. From Friday until Monday of the following week: 10 days off, 5 actual days of vacation used. Which means you’ve got 5 more days left to spend… maybe you’d like to see Paris in the fall? Maybe you’d like to spend Christmas in the Maldives? Honestly, it’s up to you where you go, but know that you can travel more with less time off.

Another amazing thing to do? Even if you only have a weekend to spare, or maybe a long weekend, you can still have mini getaways to awesome places! That’s when you grab the ol’ atlas (or, like, Google Maps), and start seeing how far away cool, new places are. The potential for adventure is literally endless. You can even explore the cheapest flights for the weekend in the Google Flights tool.

When I first moved up to Cleveland, Ohio, I had no idea the travel potential the location held. I started searching Google Maps, determined to find a way to take some mini getaways. That’s when I realized there were amazing places within a reasonable drive away: Toronto- 5 hours, Chicago- 6 hours, NYC- 7 hours, DC- 6 hours, Pittsburgh- 2 hours, and seriously the list goes on and on. Even if you’re out west, the amount of national parks is unreal to drive to- take advantage of it!

Did I mention that even exploring your own town is a lot of fun? Explore your own city and find amazing, new places! Looking at your town from a tourist’s perspective can be a lot of fun and extremely insightful.

vacation budgeting

Where will you explore?

So start vacation budgeting and using that time off work!

Because it’s time to take back our time off of work. And trust me, I get it. I used to basically do nothing on my weekends. I figured if I expended my energy all week long at work, I should relax all weekend. So, I watched TV, I maybe exercised, and I sometimes went out. But when I realized it wasn’t adding to my passion for travel, I started reengineering my weekends. I stopped lounging on my couch for the entire weekend, either nursing a hangover or watching Netflix. Trust me, you need weekends of relaxation too, but now is the time to start getting out of your apartment and start exploring! You’ll feel way more fulfilled than you would finishing a pint of ice cream, re-watching episodes of Gossip Girl.

This year alone, I utilized my weekends to go to Chicago, Asheville (twice), Toronto, Lexington, and D.C.- and it’s only halfway through the year! Did I mention I still haven’t used my 10 days of actual vacation yet? Even just taking one weekend a month and starting to explore is worth it. A new experience will leave you feeling energized and ready for the week ahead! So start your vacation budgeting now! And take your well deserved days back!

Where will you go with all of your time? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to share and subscribe!

 

flight anxiety

5 Helpful Tips on Handling Flight Anxiety

You know the feeling: you sat in the window seat because it gives you a false sense of control. The pilot starts making announcements and the flight attendants review their usual instructions. For some, this is a mundane, no-big-deal thing. For others, like myself, we’re internally freaking out and hoping/praying we make it to our location safely. We’ve got flight anxiety.

It’s an irrational fear- one brought on my movies and tons of media blowing up our newsfeeds any time a plane crashes. But in reality, flying is the safest form of transportation. We understand this. It still doesn’t prevent us from slightly hyperventilating each time we hit turbulence.

I’ve flown thousands of miles across the country and world. I’m still scared sometimes getting on a flight. It’s been a fear of mine since I started flying. But I’ve learned some tips over the years that I hope can help you with your flight fears too.

flight anxiety

Conquer flight anxiety so you can have awesome adventures!

My Tips for Reducing Flight Anxiety

I. Create distractions. This seems simple enough, but challenging for those with flight anxiety. Most flights these days have in-flight wifi or movies in the headrest. Look up movie choices beforehand or purchase wifi and keep yourself distracted and entertained during the flight. I’ve noticed that when I have headphones in and get sucked into a good movie, the turbulence isn’t quite as terrifying when I can’t hear it.

II. Meditate. Take a long deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. It’s crazy how many benefits meditation has for your health overall, but it is a miracle worker in reducing stress and anxiety. Put on some zen music from youtube and focus on your breath. Feel your feet on the floor. Relax into your seat, and slowly calm yourself down. Seriously, this helps like you wouldn’t believe.

III. Skip caffeine. This is such a challenge because if you’re like me, you NEED coffee. It’s my morning ritual. But one time I had a chai latte with a double shot of espresso right before a flight and oh baby- it was terrible. My heart was racing, I felt dread and was basically having a mini panic attack. Skip the caffeine of any kind before flying because it will only make you more alert and jittery. That and anxiety do not help you whatsoever before flying. Grab a coffee when you get to your destination, but not before.

IV. Say no to liquor. So if you have a cross-country flight, none of us really want to fork up the $15 for a glass of cheap house wine anyway. But intercontinental flights sometimes have free beer and wine- don’t drink it. I know, you think it will calm your nerves, but it doesn’t. You will end up out of it and terrified at the same time. Again, not a good combo. Also, alcohol dehydrates you faster and just all around isn’t good for you when flying. Save the booze for the tropical drinks at your destination, not the plane.

V. Research what causes turbulence. One of my best friends has a dad and brother who are pilots. When they feel turbulence, they get excited. They talk about how interesting it is. They may be insane, but they also know that turbulence isn’t a big deal because they’re well educated with it. This article really helped me understand it and why it’s not a big deal. Also, sitting above the wing is the best spot if you want to feel the least amount of turbulence.  

I know, it’s still a terrifying experience at times, but with these tips, I hope you can overcome your flight anxiety and travel more! Please let me know about your flight anxieties in the comments! Be sure to share and subscribe.

flight anxiety

Just keep focusing on the destination and not the flight!

avocado toast

Have Your Avocado Toast and Eat it Too: Why Experiences Always Beat Material Belongings

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the latest viral article about how millennials can’t afford houses because we’re purchasing too much avocado toast, but the real question isn’t why we’re not buying houses, it’s why we’re choosing experiences over material belongings.

Blame the recession. Blame the Internet. Whatever you’re choosing to blame, the fact is that millennials have decided to stop pursuing material possessions in favor of experiences. It’s probably because with high student loans and the fact that we may never be able to retire, we may as well enjoy what free time we have via brunching and traveling as much as we can. And with the Internet and apps, we’ve made travel more accessible than ever.

avocado toast travel

Experiences > Belongings

We’re more focused on living a happy life. And with studies showing we’re happier with experiences rather than things, it’s no wonder that we’re trying to explore more now and buy the house later. Not to mention the fact that we’re only this age once. We’ll never be this young and able again. Sure, we’ll have all the time in the world once we retire, but will we have the same energy? Will we even be able? Life isn’t guaranteed. You may as well make the most of it while you can.

The best days for me weren’t when I was buying material possessions. They were brunching with friends, hanging out with my family, or traveling with my fiancé. They aren’t when I bought my car or work clothes. Sure, I was definitely excited for those things, but after a while the newness fades. Experiences will always be a wonderful memory.

avocado toast for run

Experiences like running the DC half marathon with my sister and fiancé are much better than buying things.

Have Your Avocado Toast and Eat it Too

So have that avocado toast and eat it too! Because us millennials hardly do anything without getting rewards these days. We are either getting cash back, double miles, or coupons to get a discount. So while some see $11 toast, I’m seeing 22 miles towards my next trip. The experience of eating delicious toast is now helping fund my free business class flight to Asia. I’ll take that over a house payment anytime. The memories of traveling to Southeast Asia with my fiancé on our honeymoon? That’ll last a lifetime.

Millennials have started becoming experts in travel and life hacking, and we’ve had to. With the recession and with our high student loans, keeping costs down is our main goal so that we can have more life experiences. So we’ve found ways to get free airline tickets, get money back on purchases, and even score free hotel nights out. Not too shabby right?

So thank goodness we have become experts because now we can not only have that delicious avocado toast to munch on during our 2 hour long boozy brunch, but we also can eat it too.

Where will your avocado toast miles get you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Be sure to share and subscribe!

avocado toast wisconsin

Reward yourself after that avocado toast with a trip.

short-term travel on miles

Short-Term Travel on Miles: Why Non-Frequent Flyers Should Collect Too

I know, it sounds crazy. I used to hear about all these travelers going all over the world only on miles and thought to myself, “What about those of us who aren’t constantly traveling? Is it even worth it for us?” So I decided to start investigating and learning about frequent flyer programs. And, as some of you know, I started my miles collecting journey about 3 months ago. I’m currently at 126,276 miles. Just to put this in perspective, because number of miles collected does not equal number of miles you can fly, this is about the equivalent of two round trip flights to Europe OR a round trip flight to Asia (and then some) if flying from the U.S. Pretty awesome results for just two months right? Time to start that short-term travel on miles!

But the biggest excuse that I hear from people who aren’t constantly traveling is that collecting miles is for those who travel all the time… and to that I say that is absolute bull crap. If anything, we’ve got less pressure to collect as many miles as possible, because we don’t necessarily need a million miles in a year for travel. We probably only need about 200,000 if we’re really getting our traveler’s grove on after that 9 to 5.

So what does this mean? We don’t have to open 12 credit cards a year to achieve travel hacking like several who are constantly traveling. I mean if you’re pumped about the wizardry that is collecting miles then go for it! Because, why not? But I gained those miles above from 2 credit cards. One I now LOVE and use everyday and the other, I got my miles, paid off my card, and haven’t touched since. Either way, my credit is about the same as it was before I even opened my first travel card. Slow and steady miles collecting over here.

short-term travel on miles berlin

Discover quirky new places around the world with all your miles!

Short-Term Travel on Miles: Bonus in Business Class!

So why haven’t I started booking those trips and started using those miles? Because I’ve got a strategy I’m brewing. And basically, if you’re collecting miles, strategy is absolutely key. I’m collecting enough miles to send my boyfriend and myself to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam next year in business class-using miles! Yup. Because I’m not always flying as a short-term traveler, I can collect enough miles within a year or so to fly myself somewhere and be fancy enough to fly business class. And so can YOU!

So forget about the thought that you have to be rich or famous to travel in business or first class. Forget that you can’t afford to travel. With a cool 120,000-160,000 miles, you can fly yourself business class to Asia. The cost out of pocket? $50 a person in taxes. Mind=blown. Luxury travel on a budget is too good of a deal to pass up.

short-term travel athens

You do not need to be a frequent flyer to enjoy the perks of frequent flyer miles.

Why You Should Start Collecting Even If You Aren’t Flying All the Time

Like I said above, you don’t have the pressure of needing to open 30 credit cards to collect miles! This allows you to build up your credit score and slowly open credit cards to collect those miles. You also get to save up miles for amazing, literally first class trips to exotic destinations you thought were too expensive to get to.

But another great aspect of short-term travel on miles? The knowledge that even if you only have the time off to take a two week trip to Asia or a one week trip to Italy, you can easily save up enough miles to go again later on. So you feel satisfied knowing you can get the most out of your trip while you’re there. And you won’t be wasting money on another plane ticket. Because who needs to pay thousands of dollars when you can earn thousands of miles just by opening credit cards and spending on everyday purchases? Or taking surveys online? Or online shopping? It’s really all too easy.

So stop listening and thinking that only frequent flyers should collect frequent flyer miles. Maybe it worked that way before travel credit cards became a thing, but today anyone can be a savvy traveler. You just need the right card. So start that short-term travel on miles today!

Where will you take your miles? Let me know in the comments! <3

short-term travel on miles italy

Stop wishing you had more money for traveling and start collecting miles now!

travel more malta

The Biggest Reason You Don’t Travel More: Why It Shouldn’t Hold You Back

Now I know there are a bajillion reasons we can all come up with not to travel more. There’s no time. There’s not enough money. You couldn’t find a friend to go with you, so you decided to stick to a staycation instead. But none of these are at the true reason you don’t travel more.

I know because it has blocked me for years from traveling. It’s even blocked me from chasing my dreams and goals in general until now.

The real reason you’re not traveling more is fear.

Trust me, it’s not everyone’s first excuse they throw out when deciding not to travel more. Nobody wants to admit they’re scared. I didn’t want to admit it to myself!

travel more london

Almost not viewing this because I was afraid to fly? I still can’t believe it.

I remember my youth group was going to Colorado to go white water rafting. The trip included a flight. I had never flown before in my life and wasn’t about to start then. So, at 15 years old, I let my fear of flying prevent me from taking the trip, and missed out on all the fun!

At 21, I almost didn’t study abroad. I had never left North America and the prospect of going to another country (let alone another continent!) with only one other person I knew was daunting. I didn’t know the language. Did I mention I was terrified of flying (maybe still am)?? What if I didn’t blend in with the French culture? What if I didn’t make any friends? Honestly, if it weren’t for already having my student visa, a non-refundable plane ticket, and literally everything set-up to study abroad, I’m not sure I could’ve pulled myself together enough to actually go!

But then, the plane took off. I made it safely to France, made amazing friends, took trips all over Europe, and even learned some French. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. AND I ALMOST MISSED IT!

And while yes, I was tight on cash, time, etc., I’ve been short on those things before and still found time to go to concerts. I still had money to buy the newest Kate Spade purse. In other words, if you want something badly enough, you typically make it work. I can’t tell you how many strapped for cash college students (myself once included) who still make ends meet enough to go out Thursday-Saturday nights. Trust me, those aren’t the real excuses. Fear is the real excuse.

travel more chicago

Exploring the museums of Chicago by myself because 1) nobody could go with me, 2) I really wanted to go, and 3) because why not? Overcoming my fear to travel and explore alone makes me feel free.

Why should you stop letting it hold you back and start to travel more?

Because life is a journey. You don’t stop learning after college. It’s a continual process. Maybe you aren’t learning math or science anymore, but you’re learning about culture, about navigating the globe, and most importantly, about yourself. It’s the time to stop living in fear, because that isn’t living. Living is accepting the fear and your reasons for the fear and overcoming it.

Maybe you’re afraid to ask off for more than a week at a time to go on the vacation of your dreams. Maybe you’re afraid to travel solo. Either way, asking your boss (and even yourself) for what you want is a step in the right direction. What do you really want that you aren’t allowing yourself to have?

It’s all about stretching yourself beyond your comfort zone. Are you afraid to ask for more time off of work for that big trip? Start taking steps to build yourself up to ask for the time off. Terrified of traveling solo? Start taking yourself to the movies alone. Or even go to dinner alone. It’s all about baby steps. They seem small now, but once you do these, they are huge milestones that lead you to start feeling comfortable doing bigger things!

travel more prague

Stretching that comfort zone isn’t one big leap, but rather tiny baby steps.

So with that being said, I challenge you. To stop living in fear. No, don’t jump on a plane tomorrow and go to Thailand. But say hi to someone you’ve never met at a grocery store. High five some strangers. Go grab dinner by yourself and enjoy it! Take the steps today to overcome your fear of travel so tomorrow you’ll be taking those once in a lifetime trips! And who doesn’t love to travel more?

Let me know what you’re doing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone in the comments! I’d love to know! And if you need someone to be that accountability partner for you, please reach out! My email is kat@katandabackpack.com or Facebook message me!

Have a wanderful day!
Kat

ultimate travel tip list

The Ultimate Travel Tip List For Europe: From Planning, to Packing, and Even Arriving

So you’ve booked your ticket. Then you day dreamed about lying on the beach, soaking up the sun in Greece, or riding your first double decker bus in London, or even watching the lights on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But before you even start packing, be sure to check out my ultimate travel tip list for Europe!

Before you leave: ultimate travel tip list for your pre-trip

  1. Consider travel insurance: I always weigh my options for this one. I’ve never purchased travel insurance for Europe, but if you’re planning on doing something more adventurous (i.e. skiing in the Alps for the first time, diving in the Mediterranean, bungee jumping off a bridge, etc.), I would consider purchasing it, as some insurance companies cover adventure travel. I purchased travel insurance for South Africa as we’ll be diving with sharks and going on safari. It’s relatively inexpensive, and covers other items such as if you get sick and have to cancel your plane ticket. World Nomads is the way to go. Fairly inexpensive, but full coverage.
  2. Also, this is a must: make sure to register yourself on the Smart Traveler Program through the US Embassy. It’s completely free and it lets the US Embassy know when you’re in the countries you’ll be in and your contact info. Therefore, if disaster strikes, they will contact you and tell you what to do to stay safe.
  3. Make sure your passport is up to date and will not expire for at least 6 months. Some countries will not let you enter if your passport will expire in less than 6 months. Also, obtain the proper visas if needed. Most countries in Europe typically do not need a visa to enter unless you’re staying for longer than 90 days. You can check online here.
  4. Create copies of your passport/visa. I would never recommend carrying your passport around with you, but rather keep it locked up in the safe in your hotel/airbnb/hostel. It is way less likely to get stolen there than get stolen via pickpocket.
  5. Call your credit card/debit card company and let them know which cities/countries you’re going to. You don’t want to be stranded in a foreign country with no money.
  6. Also, if you want to use your card, make sure it has the chip in it, as most places in Europe only have chip machines. I’ve seen a few with the swipe, but as most credit cards in the US use the chip anyway, you may as well use it. Maybe get a travel rewards card to use?
  7. Research places before you go! That’ll help a lot when deciding what to do when you get there. And it’s exciting to see what all you can do beforehand to get pumped for the trip! Also, learn some of the local language. Nothing too crazy, but at least know how to say “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Thank you,” and maybe ask for directions, for beer, etc.
ultimate travel tip list

Sightsee, not worry about what you forgot to pack.

Time to pack!

  1. I always recommend a carry on no matter where you go. You save tons of money in baggage fees and never have to worry about lost luggage. Just make sure you pack the essentials, and all liquids have to be equal to or less than 3.4oz/100ml and fit into a one quart-sized bag. Also, having a backpack is easiest when traveling along the cobblestone streets of Europe. I ruined a carryon suitcase (got a hole and lost a wheel), dragging it through the streets of Europe, but my backpack has now gone with me everywhere.
  2. Pack an outlet adapter. Something that blew my mind when I first went abroad was the fact that not all plugs are the same. They differ from country to country sometimes. Your best bet is to buy an adaptor that can be used worldwide, especially if you plan to go from, for example London to Paris, as even those outlets are different.
  3. Do NOT use a US hair dryer/curling iron/straightener, unless it has a voltage converter built in or you have a separate voltage converter. This is not the same as plugging the US hair dryer in to the outlet adaptor. Europe has much higher voltage and will fry that stuff. Either purchase one that can change voltages, don’t use one, or buy one over there. Your electronics like IPhones and laptops will be fine though (as they do not require much wattage to charge).
ultimate travel tip list

Explore Europe knowing you’ve got this.

You’ve Arrived!

So you’ve just landed, made it through customs, and are at your first destination. You’re going to have so much fun! Be sure to continue to follow the ultimate travel tip list for arrival:

  1. Make sure your cell phone is on airplane mode while in Europe. Unless you have an international plan that doesn’t change crazy amounts for data roaming, I’d leave the data off my phone. Therefore, I just keep it on airplane mode and only use wifi when available. It also prevents you from checking snapchat every 5 seconds (or work email)- enjoy your vacation!
  2. Now time to get money. I don’t recommend bringing tons of cash over and exchanging at the airport, or even getting tons of euros before going. You’ll get a terrible exchange rate and lose money. Rather, just visit the most secure looking ATM (preferably attached to a wall and make sure nobody is watching you), and withdraw how much money you think you’ll need. The ATM fees are similar to the fees at home, so you will probably have to pay a fee of $3, but that’s way cheaper than losing money on the exchange rate at the kiosk.
  3. Getting to the hotel/airbnb/hostel: I always print off directions for where I’m staying before I leave and keep it in my carry-on. Therefore, I just read the directions and follow them to my destination (less conspicuous than a map).
  4. You’ve arrived at your hotel/airbnb/hostel. Now check in and put your luggage in the room. Leave most of your money, credit cards, and passport in your locker or safe to prevent it from being taken by a pick pocketer. Only carry copies of your passport on you and however much money you think you’ll use for the day. Also, carry an extra credit card just in case. That way, if it gets stolen, you’re only out about 50 euro and you can cancel your extra credit card.
ultimate travel tip list

Stay prepared, and with a full wallet, with these tips.

Bonus: tips to prevent pick pockets

I could go on about an ultimate travel tip list on preventing pick-pockets, but the truth is, they are typically better at it than you think. So the best thing to do is to be aware of your surroundings. Keep a cross body purse that can’t be easily snatched away. A lot of people do use money belts too, which can put your mind at ease more. I’ve found that with Europe though, it isn’t a necessity. Just watch your stuff and be wary of people bumping into you. Don’t leave your bag slung around your seat at a restaurant like you would back home. Always have it on you and within your sight. You’re far less likely to get pick pocketed than someone who isn’t paying attention and looks lost.

So there you have it. My ultimate travel tip list for Europe from planning, packing, to arriving so you’ll feel prepared and confident while enjoying your dream vacation!

ultimate travel tip list

With this ultimate travel tip list and some organization, you’re ready for Europe!

athens traveling alone

7 Tips to Stay Safe and Confident as a Solo Female Traveler

I stood in my empty hostel room while folding my laundry one day, speaking with an employee who was cleaning the room. He seemed harmless. He made natural conversation until he asked, “Why would a woman travel alone?” Aside from being completely offended and replying, “Why does a man travel alone? Isn’t it the same reason- to see the world?” I started to get uncomfortable. When he began asking what I was doing with my day and subsequently suggested that we hang out and have sex, I knew immediately that I had to get out of there. I gave him a hard no and got out quick.

While I was scared at the time, it didn’t make me pack my bags and go home. And it hasn’t stopped me from traveling alone since. I wasn’t going to let that moment take away from the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. Other than that moment, the whole trip was the most intense, wonderful, awe-inspiring, and liberating thing I had ever experienced.

Traveling solo as a woman sounds daunting. I get questions about safety all of the time. But it’s not any different than living in your own hometown. I don’t feel any less safe being abroad than I do at home in the U.S. Don’t let your fears prevent you from having an amazing experience abroad. Follow these tips and feel confident and stay safe on your solo trip.

stay safe travel solo

Embrace the freedom of traveling solo and traveling smarter.

1. Be aware of the culture.

Before you even get on the plane, research the culture. Is it more conservative? Do they dress conservative? Do they regularly look each other in the eye? Is eye contact weird for them? Being mindful of the culture will not only help you stay safe, but to avoid uncomfortable interactions in general with locals.

A pro-tip: Google fashion blogs of women from the particular cities/countries you’re going to. This will give you a big idea on what people tend to wear (and maybe give you some fashion inspiration for your trip)!

2. Don’t tell strangers where you’re staying.

This is probably common sense, but just like you wouldn’t give your address to a complete stranger at home, don’t do it abroad. They do not need to know where you are staying, and if they are asking, don’t give any specifics. It’s always better to stay safe and don’t bring strangers back with you either. 

3. Do tell your family and trusted friends where you’re going.

Before I leave for a trip, I give a full itinerary to my family and close friends. I list out everywhere I’m going, everywhere I’m staying, hotel phone numbers, etc. I also make sure to check in with them occasionally, whether via Imessage, Whatsapp, or FaceTime regularly. This helps them feel better about me traveling alone, and keeps them up to date on where I’m at.

4. Don’t get drunk.

I know there is all kinds of fun to be had abroad. Maybe it’s your first ever Oktoberfest in Munich. Maybe you are going to a music festival in Croatia. You may even be tackling the Full Moon Party in Thailand. As a solo female traveler, I cannot emphasize the importance of not getting hammered. Sure, have some drinks. But never have too many that you do not feel in control.

5. Do as you would at home (use common sense) and stay safe.

Like I said before: Traveling solo is the same as being in the U.S. or wherever you call home. Use your common sense and you’ll be fine. Don’t walk alone at night in the dark- call a cab instead. If you have a gut feeling something isn’t right, trust that feeling and get out of whatever area you’re in. 

6. Walk with purpose and confidence.

Be confident while walking alone. Don’t carry your map around you in an obvious manner. Instead, download the maps on your phone or look up where you’re going ahead of time and memorize the route. Walk in areas you see other women. The point is, be confident and appear as local as possible.

7. Buy international data for the trip and have a personal safety app.

While you don’t necessarily need a data plan while traveling, I would recommend it as a solo female traveler. Get enough data that will cover your trip. That way you can use it for emergencies (or even if you just get lost).

Another reason to have data? To download a personal safety app. These apps are great whether home or abroad. Basically, depending on the app, if you either shake your phone or press a button, it will call your emergency contacts. Some great apps include bSafe and React Mobile.

stay safe solo travel

Conquer your next solo trip with these tips.

Don’t let safety concerns be a reason to skip the solo trip you’ve been dreaming of. Follow these tips, stay safe, and overall, use common sense. I cannot stress enough that traveling is not any more dangerous than being at home. Women travel alone because it’s empowering (and yes, we do want to see the world too). 🙂

Where are you going on your solo trip? Or what questions do you have about traveling solo? I’d love to hear in the comments!

20k miles

Collect 20k Miles in 2 Months (Without Even Trying)

If you haven’t noticed, I’m getting pretty excited about collecting airline miles. I started collecting about 2 months ago and am already up to 120,000. Yup. That’s enough for two roundtrip flights to Europe, or several US flights, or even a roundtrip flight to Asia (and then some)! Pretty awesome stuff right? Did I mention how incredibly easy this is? I used to think it would be impossible to rack up miles. Silly me. So today, I’d like to discuss how to collect 20k miles, without even trying!

What?! That can’t be right… but it totally is. Without doing anything really different than living my everyday life, I’ve collected an additional 20k miles on top of the 100k I gained from opening up just 2 credit cards. How did I do this? Read on to see:

20k miles bavaria

Extra miles and vacation selfies almost go hand in hand.

I . Adding an extra user to your account

Yea, this is super easy. Chase Sapphire Preferred gave me 5,000 extra miles just by adding another user to my account. The best part? It doesn’t increase my yearly fee and the extra card was free! So I added my boyfriend and boom. 5,000 miles (and he didn’t have to even use it!). So if you see offers like this, and you’ve got someone you trust (and is responsible), add them to your account. My biggest advice here is to only add family, a spouse, or serious partners onto these. You don’t want to add someone unless you know you can trust them 1000%. But if you’ve got someone you can add onto the account, get you those extra miles!

II. Eating

Another great way to earn miles? Eating food. I eat food. You eat food. And pretty much any animal on the planet eats “food”. Occasionally, we humans all go to restaurants too. Well, airlines want to reward you for eating food. They even have restaurant partners all over the country in which they give you a ton more miles for eating there! Just join for example, Delta or United frequent flyer mile programs (for free) and look up what restaurants they have partnerships with on the airline’s website. Then register your credit card, eat there, and get up to 5X miles per dollar spent! That’s pretty awesome!

Another thing? If you eat between 1-3 times at a partner restaurant within your first month of registering, airlines usually give you between 1-3k miles. Really! I ate 3 times at a place close to our house and got 3,000 miles through Delta. Only had to go once for United and got 1,000. 4,000 miles (in addition to the 5x per dollar) just for going out to eat.

20k miles

Collect miles and travel more.

III. Shopping

Some airlines have apps that allow you to search stores nearby and many offer you extra miles! For example, we noticed our cat Professor was in need of a new cat tree. So we went down to the closest Petco to us, but before we hit that register, I checked my United Mileage Plus X app to see if they were offering any miles. Turns out, they were offering 5 miles per dollar spent at Petco! So I bought the digital giftcard through the app, which is charged to my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, and badabing: 5 miles per dollar plus 1 mile per dollar spent through Chase, and got 6 miles per dollar! That was about 1,500 miles we gained in one fell swoop, just for buying Prof’s cat tree and some food.

Another aspect of shopping? Go online! You can go through the airline frequent flyer website and see who their shopping partners are. For example, if you go to Delta Skymiles and lookup their online shopping, you can shop online through their portal and earn extra miles! So if you need to update your work wardrobe… or if you want to gift yourself with extra miles around the holidays, this is a super easy way to earn miles. If you’re going to shop anyway, you may as well get rewarded right?

20k miles

Travel like you’re wealthy, while actually saving money.

IV. Surveys

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty bad about taking Buzzfeed surveys for like a couple of hours sometimes… Maybe not the best use of my time, but I still do it because yes, I NEED to know which Harry Potter House I would end up in! Anyway, if you’re like me and sometimes waste time on the interwebs doing ridiculous things like Googling “Is red wine better for you than running?” or taking quizzes on where you should live, this definitely applies to you. Most frequent flyer programs offer surveys you can take, often rewarding you with 60-80 miles in return.

Also, a lot of the time, your first survey rewards you with 300 miles! So one lazy Sunday, I took far too many surveys than I care to admit, and ended up with 1,200 extra miles. Super easy? Yes. When people ask what you did on your weekend will you tell them? No. But when you’re on a $50 business class flight to Asia because you saved tons of miles, do you really care?

So there you have it- super easy ways to earn 20k miles in 2 months without even trying. I mean really, adding someone to your account, eating, shopping, and taking surveys. Requires little effort, but the rewards are endless. Where are you taking your miles? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

traveling alone

Traveling Alone: Why You Need to at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Traveling alone is a scary thought. I had packed my cheap backpack that I purchased for my first ever solo-trip abroad, and realized that I was scared. I had plans to take a 5 week backpacking trip across Europe the summer after I graduated college. It was after asking all of my friends and subsequently learning they could not come that I realized I had a choice to make. I could either let the fear of going alone get to me, not go, and regret it forever, or I could buy the ticket, get on that plane, and push myself outside of my comfort zone like I never had before.

I chose the latter. And I haven’t regretted it once. Here is why you need to travel alone at least once in your life:

I. It pushes you outside of your comfort zone.

Getting on a plane by yourself is scary. It is scary not knowing all of the cities you’re going to, the languages everyone is speaking, or if you’re going to be bored and lonely the whole time. For me, it was an unknown. And after years of staying on the path of getting good grades in high school and college, getting a top internship, and landing that top job, I was full of the comfort that comes with being certain. But being certain doesn’t challenge you. It doesn’t teach you. You stay on a path of routine and same old same old. What I didn’t realize was that it is so important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Get lost in a big city, find your way on your own, and learn that you got this after all. It makes you grow. It makes you learn about the world and the issues that it faces. And it makes you more independent and confident in your ability to navigate anywhere.

athens traveling alone

Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and into the blissfulness of travel.

II. You meet the most amazing people.

I worried about not meeting people. About being lonely and having no friends. I chose to stay in hostels because I was a poor post grad kid and thought the community that comes with hostels would help. I’m so glad I did, because I met the most amazing people! Interesting people from all over the world. They all had such unique stories and reasons for traveling. I met an Aussie who saved up money for a few years, quit his job, and decided to travel alone for the next year because life’s too short not to. There were a few Brits during their gap year, exploring the world for the first time. I even met former Miss Singapore, traveling on her way to go to Harvard for her Masters degree. All of these lovely people, and new friends, through travel. People I maybe wouldn’t have met if I were with a bigger group. They had so much perspective, so many different ideas that were far from what I heard growing up. It was truly fascinating.

III. You conquer your fear of being alone and love your own company.

Maybe you’re totally fine with being alone, but it was a weird thing for me. I had lived with my family until college. Then I lived with roommates. I had never really been alone. And I was uncomfortable being by myself because I hardly knew myself. I had never sat in silence, with my own thoughts in broad daylight at a cafe by myself before. It turns out, it’s a glorious feeling that I now treasure. Traveling alone allows you to figure out what you want, because there is nobody else to make the decision for you. You can do what you want to and it’s amazing.

traveling alone

Learning to reflect on myself and be happy with that was a truly wonderful aspect of traveling alone.

IV. You learn that cultures vary, but people are the same.

I’m proven wrong all the time when I travel. The stereotypes you hear about places are completely wrong, and what you see in the news doesn’t reflect the whole country. I was there during the Greek financial crisis, just as they were about to vote whether to exit the EU. I watched the news and was afraid, but then showed up in Athens to the most friendly, helpful and kind people. My original fear was completely unfounded. Travel makes you realize that while cultures vary, people want the same things: their basic needs met, loving and healthy family and friends, and to be happy. Always remember that.

V. You learn how to be free and present.

When I was traveling alone, I had a cell phone with no international data. If I didn’t have wifi, I had no communication. I also only had so much storage for photos. This seems like a huge problem, but in reality, it kept me from taking tons of photos, being on social media and not being present in the moment. It made me stare in awe at the Acropolis when I accidentally found myself there one day. It made me explore the castles of Bavaria with curiosity and wonder. I have never felt more free than when I had nowhere to be but in the moment, traveling the world on my terms.

traveling alone be present

Not having the option to snap away at my heart’s content, I was forced to be present and enjoy the scenery like in Bavaria.

VI. You gain a new perspective.

Before I traveled, I thought that the only way to be successful was to go to college, get a job, work said job for several years, make lots of money, retire, and then travel. Then I met people along the way who saw success in happiness, in adventure and by living life on their terms. You don’t have to fit a mold to be successful. Just enjoy life to be successful. You don’t have to play by everyone else’s rules, you can make your own, and define your life the way you want.

VII. Traveling alone: you’ll probably get the bug, and keep coming back for more.

I thought my solo backpacking trip would be it. For me, I thought I would come back, refreshed and ready to settle down into my job and occasionally travel. I was so so wrong. The travel bug that developed was so severe that I constantly plan new trips in my spare time. I came back with more items on my bucket list than when I left. I wanted to go to Asia, Africa, South America, and see everything else in the world you could possibly imagine. Traveling alone teaches you so much that it becomes addicting. You want more perspective. You’ll want more adventure. You want more people who are truly amazing to meet. Travel is such a special gift that you can give yourself. Now get out there, travel alone, and see the world!

traveling solo mastering it

After a while, you feel like you can do anything once you’ve mastered traveling alone!

airline miles

5 Easy Steps to Earn 100k Airline Miles in 2 Months!

It sounds way too good to be true, right? I used to read about how collecting airline miles was the magic ticket to flying for free. I had my doubts. If I don’t travel all the time, how in the world could I collect these magical, unicorn miles? Then I started doing the research, and found out how easy it truly was. Here are my 5 steps to start racking those up (without flying)!

I. Do Your Research: Where Do You Want to Go?

Research is key. Are you an avid fan of Delta? Do you strictly fly Southwest? Or do you pretty much fly whatever airline is offering the best deal? I am usually the latter, but with collecting miles, sometimes having a destination in mind, and the airlines that fly there, will help immensely. For example, Delta doesn’t tend to charge hefty fuel surcharges with their airline alliances for Europe, whereas United does not for Asia. So if I was going to fly to Bangkok, I wouldn’t typically try to collect Delta miles for that.

So now is the time to make the tough decision: where the heck are you going to go? Will you lounge on a beach in Thailand? Or would you prefer to stroll along the streets of Paris? Wherever you go, it will be an adventure and you’ll be glad to get there with a super cheap airline ticket.

airline miles flying

Stop paying full price for plane tickets today!

II. Know Your Credit Score

I cannot emphasize this enough. As a CPA who frantically checks her finances on an almost daily basis, I used to think opening travel cards would wreak havoc on my credit score. It turns out it does not- just don’t keep lots of debt on those credit cards! A lot of banks these days have a credit score check for free, but I also recommend downloading Credit Karma or Credit Sesame on your phone to check your credit. It’s free and doesn’t affect your credit score.

Knowing your credit score is extremely important whether you want to open travel credit cards or not. So be sure to check your credit and see where you can improve. This will lead to better financing for future purchases like cars, homes, etc. Typically, to open these travel credit cards, you need a score of 700 or higher.

III. Find Travel Credit Cards with Airline Miles!

It makes sense that if you want to collect airline miles, the easiest way by far is through opening a credit card with airline miles associated with it, meeting the minimum spend, and raking in those miles. So it makes zero sense to open a Chase Freedom card, as it offers none of those benefits.

Almost all national banks in the US have rewards credit cards, so it can be overwhelming determining which card is best for you. For this round of credit cards, I ended up choosing Gold Delta Skymiles American Express and Chase Sapphire Preferred. I chose Gold Delta Skymiles Amex because I already had a few miles from flying for work through Delta, and they offered me 50,000 miles if I spent $1,000 in 3 months. Easy enough! So that was a huge deciding factor for me. Delta also offers your first bag checked free, priority boarding, and double miles on purchases through Delta. As my airport has a Delta terminal, I figured why not?

I chose Chase Sapphire Preferred because it has a wide variety of airline partners you can transfer miles to, from British Airways, to United, and even Korean Air. They also offer 2 miles per dollar for all travel and dining purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. So each time I use that Uber? 2 miles per dollar! Their offer was 50,000 miles if I spent $4,000 in 3 months.

A huge reason for these cards as well? They both waived their annual fee for the first year. As this was my first time opening travel rewards cards, I decided to ease into the water.

airline miles collect

Collect those miles and start flying on the cheap.

IV. Open 2-4 cards in one day: the App-O-Rama

After I settled on the cards I wanted to open, I applied for them on the same day. This is called an App-O-Rama. It typically will allow you to open several cards and have less chances of getting rejected. Again, as this was my first time, I only opened 2 cards. However, I wouldn’t recommend opening more than 4 in a day because then you need to think about the following step:

V. Meet that Minimum Spend! Don’t Bite off More than You can Chew

If you perform steps 1-4, they will all be meaningless unless you can meet the minimum spend. You won’t get those 50,000 miles for just opening the card- you have to actually use it. For the Delta card, this was easy. I sent my boyfriend a Paypal payment for $1,000, where I paid with my Delta Amex, and he sent me a Venmo payment for the money back. Super sneaky, but got 50,000 miles in less than a week. The only downside is the 3% charge Paypal uses, but $30 for 50,000 miles? Worth it. I now have enough miles for a free economy class flight to Europe. I’m not mad about it. From now on, though, I would only recommend this if you can’t meet the minimum spend and you’re in a pinch to meet it.

For Chase, this required more work. I had to spend $4,000. Luckily, I was planning my friend’s bachelorette party in Asheville, and decided to pay for the Airbnb, Biltmore tickets, etc., and have everyone Venmo me. This, along with adding my electric bill, phone bill, all groceries, everyday spending, etc. allowed me to meet the minimum spend in 2 months. Way before the deadline!

Basically, to meet the minimum spend, you can offer to pay for things and have your friends pay you back, put all of your utilities, automatic payments, etc. on the card, and spend like you usually do. Don’t treat this like free money and DO pay your balance in full every month. If you still can’t meet it, just shoot someone you trust a Paypal payment from the card and while the 3% fee sucks, at least you got the miles!

With these easy steps, you will be raking in airline miles in no time.

fly with airline miles

Where will you fly with those miles?