Lets be real. If you read blogs or follow traveler accounts on Instagram or Facebook – you dream of living your life through them. You want the followers they have, the experiences they have – but, you are a real world human who has to go to work on Monday morning. I am that person too.
I work hard and spend my money on traveling and seeing the world. I am often asked by friends if I can help them plan a trip or how I save the money to be able to do this. Honestly, its not an easy going thing – but I enjoy every minute of it. I love helping others plan trips, find deals, ideas for what to see, and how much it is all going to cost.
What I have learned about planning a trip, funding a trip and enjoying are trip are all found here on my blog. I share valuable tips to make your trips more exciting and less work – and unforgettable. Below you will see me having fun, laughing, taking in beautiful views – world wide! I am a real human! Im not financed by some company looking to sell items – if I promote it, I use it.
How can I help you?
Are you looking to travel? Do you need some tips? Dont know what to do next? Reach out! I am here for you – I am NOT kidding – I love traveling! I get excited FOR YOU, when I know you are planning or thinking about traveling to somewhere new. Dont worry, Im not going to charge you, in fact, Im not going to do anything other than share with you what I would do if I were in your position.
No such thing as dumb questions – and Im not looking to get rich off of this. Traveling is the reason I work so hard and I love every part of it (TSA and all!) I hope I can inspire you to adventure out (even if its just to another state or city!)
Dont forget to follow the Instagram and Facebook page for even more travel tips!
As an inexperienced traveler – my dad helped me order Euro before I left on my first international trip. I thought – this is great, I have what I need to get by on this trip. I thought € 200 was the perfect amount of money for a month long trip in Greece and Turkey. Little did I know – my trip wasnt that cheap at all – AND I had overpaid for my Euro.
So what did I learn for the next trip? Well I didnt really. I decided against getting Euros before I left – and opted to get money at the airport. That seemed reasonable!! However, it wasnt and still isnt. I watched my classmates exchange USD for the Euro at the bank. While it offers a “Zero Fee” explanation – you get the worst exchange rate. But they get you – that “Zero Fee” gets everyone! I opted for the ATM near the exchange bank. Also – not a great idea – I paid a whole lot in fees! The international transaction fee from my bank at 3%, plus the ATM fee levied by my bank at $4, plus the ATM fee levied by the ATM at ~$3.50. All of that for $100. Needless to say – I was over that.
After my trials I decided to figure out the best way to get cash in a foreign country. Step 1: Get yourself a good bank! I ended up choose Charles Schwab. Charles Schwab offers ZERO international transaction fees. Most banks (Chase, Wells Fargo, local banks, etc) have a 1-3% international transaction fees on EACH and every transaction used with that card. If you use your regular bank – be ready to pay fees. Doesnt seem like much, but they all add up – and 3% is just mean! Using your regular bank is an option, you should first call the bank and let them know you are traveling internationally so they dont shut the card off on an assumption of fraud or theft.
if you need cash – get enough to make it worth your while. You will be paying the international transaction fee and an ATM fee. So taking out $10 could cost you $3.90 with ATM fees and transaction fees. If you want cash I recommend taking enough out for you to buy trinkets and snacks with for the time you will be using that currency. Say you are going to be in Paris, Rome and Munich for a week – then flying to London to end your trip for a few days. A week in those three countries (all on the Euro), I would recommend about € 200 for your snacks and trinkets. Some places only take cash (think side of the road trinkets) and small museums sometimes only take cash as well. That € 200 would only cost you about $10 in fees (transaction and ATM).
The final piece of advise on the debit card/ATM front? Cover your pin. This is actually the most common way of theft – a pick pocket will watch you and catch your pin, then steal your card from your pocket or wallet. Every ATM will instruct you to cover your pin, many now have a cover over the numbers to make it more difficult to have someone catch your pin being entered. If you are really worried about your cards/wallet getting stolen, I would recommend one of these: RFID travel money belt. Keeps your money safe under your shirt at belt level. You can also use it to hold your passport (though I would recommend the hotel safe for that.)
The most important thing to remember is in industrialized countries – is that their security on using credit and debit cards is actually better than the US. So, dont panic using a debit or credit card at a small restaurant or shop. Over a DECADE ago, Europe (and actually most of the rest of the industrialized world) switched over to the chip. Ya know the fancy little chip that causes you to stick your card into the machine and have it yell at you to take it out? Yeah, that one.
So use your credit card (with ZERO fees) with the chip and your debit card with the chip and feel pretty safe doing so. If you are hesitant, use your bank app to verify your transactions – but in all my international travels, Ive never been hacked or had my information stolen – that has only happened in the US.
I often get asked how I can travel so much. As much as Id like to say I just go pick money off my money tree – I dont. I work hard, save lots and focus on my goals (traveling, duh!). So, how do I save? Where do I cut my corners? Im going to start by saying I am not preaching, I am not judging. This is just how I live my life.
First step. Choose my battles. Luckily I do not have a caffeine addiction, so that right off the bat saves me bundles. Many of my friends do, but knowing they like a good cup of coffee gives me the first starting point – you can afford $5/cup X amount of days a week/month. So, since you realistically can afford that cup of coffee, you can Digit. Digit is an app that automatically saved based on your spending habits. You securely log into your bank account through the Digit app and the fancy algorithms work their magic to figure out how much you can save and when. It is USUALLY less than a cup of coffee. That being said, some days you may have more money in your account and no bills coming up – so it may save more. You can choose specific goals – when you need the money by, what its for and how much you need to save. And you always have a rainy day savings as well. It never takes out when your budget is tight or your checking account is low. I have saved over $17,000 in the last three years using this account. Below you can see my recent activity in my rainy day account.
Ok, but what if you cant afford a cup of coffee? You can round up, snowball save or more! Qapital is an app that allows you to save in so many different ways! Again, you hook up to your checking account – but this app has a bit more control over how and when its saved. You can choose a “guilty pleasure.” Basically anytime you spend money at a certain place you then also save a certain amount of money. For me, my guilty pleasures are Target and Amazon. If I go spend money at either of those places I automatically save $10. When I indulge, I save. It doesnt matter how much I indulge – $100 or $5, I save $10. Another way I choose to save with Qapital is with the “round up” option. I choose the $2 round up, which means it rounds up to the even dollar amounts when I spend money. I spend $5.39 – I save $1.51.
If you have more fluidity with your income, my third way of savings is another super easy one, just requires a bit more cash availability. I set up a separate bank account online through Ally. By setting up an account not related to my daily bank, it gives me less visualization on it, allowing the money to kind of “stack up” without me noticing. I get paid weekly (one of the lucky few), so each week I have an automatic withdraw from my checking account into my Ally savings account. Each Thursday a set amount of money leaves my checking account and goes into that Ally account that I dont have a lot of visualization on. It adds up much more quickly when you dont see it – when you dont notice it. The automatic withdraw is money I dont even see – dont even know is gone. And when I log into Ally I see a lot more money that I ever realize I have saved.
Thinking about this last option, you could set up weekly withdraws for like $5 which would be $260 a year – may not seem like a much, but you are SAVING! And that is what is most important for your goals – EXPLORING THE WORLD!
One of the funnier ways I choose to save money is to save my singles. No, no dont get any weird ideas. When I have cash and get change, I sock away the singles. I put them in a jar and every once and a while take them to the bank and deposit them into a “Holiday Account.” If you arent familiar with the Holiday Account system – it is a savings account that you can deposit all year round, but you cannot remove money unless you close the account. On November 1st they transfer the money from your Holiday Account to the general savings account you have. Its a great way to save money without having an option to pull it out at other times. And savings singles is an easy way to stash away some cash that arent worth a whole lot on their own, but adds up pretty quickly. Clearly you dont have to use the money in this account for holidays, but they often bombard people and cut into savings for something else you may have wanted (TRIPS! TRAVEL!), so this type of account helps with that as well. I use the remainder of the Holiday Savings to kick off my savings for the following year’s trip.
The final way I stash cash is to save my “savings.” When I go to Target, the grocery store or anchor store (JCPenny, Kohls, etc) they always have a little spot on the bottom of the receipt that says how much money you spend. Target is usually where I do most of my shopping – and I try to save as much as I can when I shop – because I then transfer what I saved into my Holiday Account to bank roll that account even faster! Last year I saved over $385, just off my savings alone!! This may sound tedious, but since my goal is to figure out how I can get on more trips, quicker – this is a well worth the time investment for me.
The best way to save is to figure out what works for you, what your budget is, how much you can afford to save and the best way you see that. These are just a few of my dorky travel savings tips – but it allows me on average one getaway every 6-8 weeks and 2 large international trips a year.
What are some of your savings strategies? Feel free to share below – there are no bad ideas!
Looking to head to Iceland – to see what the hype is all about? Here are some things you should keep in mind!
Almost everyone speaks English (but you should get the Google Translate App just in case to read signs, packaging, instructions, etc)
They take American Express! Random fact, but it can be difficult to find an Amex accept-er outside the US. And here they take it! (Check your credit cards and debit cards to see who has the best/lowest international transaction fees)
Their gas stations only take debit card or cash – or a credit card with a pin! Many gas stations are unmanned, but the system is pretty much self explanatory. Keep in mind, it works exactly like the US – it verifies you have enough to cover a FULL tank (or you can pick a smaller set amount) and then you only actually pay what you use.
Many gas stations have a grocery store or restaurant in the parking lot or very near. Utilize them! Food is very expensive here – your best bet is to stock up on snacks and food that you can cook at your Airbnb or Hostel.
Bringing your own reusable bags will come in handy as well. Iceland is actually very green (reusable energy, recycling, minimal waste, etc) Lauren recommends these. They are silicon, water resistant (think phone in wet situations), and perfect for holding sandwiches, oatmeal (bowl on the run), cut veggies, etc. They also take up like no room in your luggage to get here!
The weather really can change every 5 minutes. It may sound crazy, but the weather there can be unpredictable and random. From snow to sleet to rain to sun – expect it all and expect it all in an hour.
Bring gloves in the winter – the amount of times your hands spend out them taking pictures is almost equal to the amount of time your hands are in them – but your little fingers will thank you for the warmth.
Get out of Reykjavik. In most cases its actually cheaper to rent a car than to take the day tours out of the city. There is so much more to see outside of the city (like the rest of the entire island) so get out and explore the hidden gems of this beautiful country.
If you rent the car, get at least the gravel protection – they offer a million different plans, but the gravel protection is the most useful. This is especially true if you go North in the country.
Make a list of the things you want to see and on your way to see them you will end up seeing even more than you planned. Be prepared to have your plans altered due to weather.
Many of the attractions here are free – unless you do a tour – so take advantage of that and see all you can!
Unless you do tours, I would recommend about $75-100 a day for budgeting purposes once you are on your trip. You will probably come home with money (unless you drink a lot or do tours) but this would cover food, gas and souvenirs.
I would budget about $50-100/night for housing. Using Airbnb gives you options – but if you are traveling solo you are looking at $100-150/night for Airbnbs. In that case I would use hostels (they have many) to save some cash. If you can really splurge on your trip stay at FossHotels – primo properties with modern flare!
You can really only find true more, American style hotels in Reykjavik – otherwise they are more like guest houses. They may call themselves hotels – but they may only be 6-8 room quarters, some you even have communal WC.
Stores close pretty early here, usually between 6-7pm. Restaurants are open later usually until about 10pm. If you want groceries or to shop, get out early!
No need to tip! Another nice benefit of leaving the US is not needing to tip – there is a service charge in your price, so just swipe, sign and walk!