Monday, October 29, 2012

Money, Money, Money by the pound... or Euro or whatever!

Over the years I've noticed that something first-time travelers are always hesitant about it is how they'll pay for things abroad. Well today's blog is all about money and how to use/get it overseas. Here are some key points to be aware of:

Exchange Rates: A fairly simple concept that often seems overwhelming, especially if you are crossing through multiple currencies in one trip. Example: US Dollar to Euro to Pound. Always try to exchange in familiar terms, so USD to Pounds and UDS to Euros. It will be much easier to understand the value, and BONUS, it keeps you from exchanging too much cash at once.

ATMs: NOT A UNIVERSAL ACRONYM. I was so confused the first time I went to Germany and asked where I could get money. They kept saying ETC, which I knew to mean excetera...The great thing about ATMs is that they're fairly common and they're always in logical place: Outside banks, near coffee shops, in the airport or mall.

Something I've learned on my own is that my credit card actually has 2 fees for international purchases, an exchange fee and a processing fee, it usually tacks on an additional 6% of the transaction! That's ridiculous and I didn't know or ask until I had done a lot of traveling. Once I found out, I asked my credit union about their rates and turns out my debit card is much more affordable. Now all I use overseas is my debit card, it's so much easier.

So what can you take away from this? Don't be scared, it's just money! And money is something every body wants, so if you have it and are in a foreign country- don't worry! Secondly, know your fees. Call your credit card provider and have them spell it out for you, that way you know all about that fine print. Finally, make sure to let your bank/credit union or credit card provider know you'll be out of the country and making purchases. It is so difficult to deal with "Fraud" claims which being overseas!
Questions? Let me know

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Vacation Rentals I HIGHLY recommend

So as I've mentioned previously, I stayed in this amazing vacation rental this past summer in the south of France. Well I found in on I'm a big fan of this site, but there are several like it and I'm sure they are equally reliable. Today I'm going to list a couple great deals I'm found in my research. The locations are going to be all over the world, so I hope you find one that will be perfect for that next big trip.

1. Mammoth Lake, California: $840 per week for up to 8 guests. That breaks down to just $15 a night!!!! Rental #957906, it's a beautiful 3bed, 2.5bath.

2. Beaucaire, France: A max of $980 per week for 8, so $17.50 per night. This rental is all about the balcony! The true bonus is that the little town has some amazing restaurants. If you like wine and mussels, you can't find a better place. Rental car is really required. Rental #309491

3. Killarney, Ireland: Max= $788, but a smaller rental only sleeping 5. That's a bit more expensive at nearly $23 per night. The bonus is that it's super charming. Rental #927397

4. Athens, Greece: $860 for 6 people, which is  $20.50. Bonus is that it's a mixture of City and Seaside, but you will want a rental car. The view is worth the drive. Rental #995499

5. Prague, Czech Republic: $700 for 4 people making it only $25 per night. The city of lights is a very affordable destination and the winters are pretty mild. I visited in January and only need a light coat and scarf! The city is full of history, and should be on any backpacker's list. Rental #63031

6. Monteverde, Costa Rica: $750 for up to 14 people!!! So $7.50 a night, AMAZING! You'll need a rental car, or I suggest a JEEP- the roads are bad. This is a great area, you have a ton of stuff to see: a volcano, a cloud forest, coffee plantations, ziplines... and it's only a 2 hour drive to the beach! Please check it out. Rental #170000

7. Sunshine Coast, Australia: $675 per week, but only sleeps 6 making it $16.50 per night. This is a condo, not a free-standing house like the others so far. I'm not as familiar with Australia's Public Transit, but according a friend who is local you do not need a car. It's just north of Brisbane, which is a fairly large city. Rental #404407629

Those are some of the great deals I've come across so far. There are just tons of them on the site, all it takes is a some research. Let me know if you need any advice on it!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tuscany 2013!

Hey friends,
Time to start planning my next big trip! I just received a wedding invitation in the mail for my friends who are getting married in Lari, Italy next summer. Congrats to Patty and Semio!!!! I'm so thrilled to be able to experience this joyous day with them.

Look forward to more posts about my steps of planning for this big trip. I'm hoping to keep it a short one, just a little over a week. I'll keep you posted!

~ Greet

Tools of the Wander

There are a few things a Vagabond should never be without. We've already discussed the importance of a travel guide, but there are a few other items that I never travel without.

1. Luggage- They’re big, they’re heavy, and even though they usually have wheels, they can still be a pain to cart everywhere. What’s worse, their size can fool you into thinking that any extra space after packing needs to be filled, prompting you to pack something else you don’t need. Condense your possessions into a backpack for a more flexible, less cumbersome trip. You’d be surprised how much they can hold, and provided you meet certain size requirements, backpacks can also help you avoid the headaches of checking your bags.
I, personally, never travel with more than I can pack into a carry-on luggage and I only purchase a specific form of suitcase. The dimensions are usually 29 in. H x 18 in. W x 10 in. D. Never black... ever. Finally, the wheels must be able to rotate a full 360.

2. Camera- Lots of sites recommend bringing professional-grade SLRs (usually whatever model is new the month the article is published). Unless you’re a professional photographer or photojournalist and you make your living using a camera, you really don’t need a big fancy piece of equipment weighing you down. Pocket digital camera are very affordable these days, are portable, and literally fit into nearly every pocket. Plus the newer ones take really fantastic pictures.

3. Neck Pillow- As a vagabond, you'll never know where you may be forced to sleep ;) Still, there are alternatives to relying on the official neck pillow. Even rolling the soft sweater you brought along can be a suitable substitute. Now, some people do swear by these, and so if you really feel like this item is nonnegotiable, I suggest an inflatable model that can be neatly folded and tucked away when not needed.

4. Journal- This may sound so cliche, but I've found that recording one's thoughts while traveling to be a great read later in life. You'll be surprised what will cross your thoughts while out experiencing the world. When I'm on the road, my thoughts and feelings still flow better with pen and paper. 

Add to this list a travel guide and you'll have the 5 key tools of a wander. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lodging for your place in life.

Now I have experienced the whole gauntlet of lodging options that are out there, from Couchsurfing and hostels to Hotels, small budget to Luxury, to Vacation rentals. I've enjoyed them all, but I've come to find that specific lodging often matches a  specific time in your life. This applies both financially and emotional maturity. Here's the path of progression:

16-25: During your travels in this age, it's all about the experience and the people you meet. I highly suggest Couchsurfing or hostels. There's nothing like see a destination through the eyes of locals and meeting fun fellow travelers. If you're traveling alone, this might seem overwhelming, but don't worry- Life's not a horror film produced by Quinton Tarontino.

26-35: Vacation Rentals are usually the best way to go. You may be starting a family, or traveling with friends during this time of your life. The best way to full relax is to have a home away from home, and that's what a vacation rental provides. You have some much flexibility when you have a kitchen or laundry at your disposal. Here's an article about vacation rental from  USA Today. I have recently stayed at a vacation rental in the south of France and it was one of the most amazing lodging experiences of my life. If you're headed to the south of France check out My Beaucaire.

36-55: Hotels are great for short trips and during the peak of your career and family life, that's really what you're going to have time for. Hotels range from budget to luxury and I say that it's up to you and your preferrence to what is appropiorate for your trip. If it's romantic, splurge. If you're going for some adventure-driven weekend, it probably is just the place your going to pass out each night. Take these things into your consideration.

55+: Around this time most of your trips are going to be with family and friends again, so I woul again suggest Vacation Rentals... but there is still a great opportunity for hotels.

 This is all at your discression, so don't consider this the "RULES" for all your travels. It's all about what you're wanting from you trip.

Keep wandering.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Book Report

While I do enjoy mindless roaming and wander, I hate to get lost. That's why a travel guide book is so important when exploring a new destination. Now, if you've ever walked down the travel section of you book store you know that there is a huge selection for you to choose from. It can be overwhelming, but it's much easier than you realism.
Choose a book like you.
It sounds weird, but I mean that. If you're a visual learner who likes detailed maps and photos, get that. If you enjoy learning all about a location, the history and people, then buy one with all of that. It all depends on what you're looking for and comfortable with.
Now I'm not here to push one brand over another, but just to let you all know my preferred travel guide is Lonely Planet. I first borrowed a friend's Lonely Planet Scotland and read it cover to cover on my way to Edinburgh. It was filled with history and tips. It suggested a walking tour of the city and now I take one in every city I visit! Your travel  guide can really change the tone of your adventure, so choose wisely.
I have slowly started to embrace technology and this summer I downloaded a travel guide onto my KindleFire... I didn't like it. It helped me discover that I'm a physical book sort of traveler. I like being able to just reach into my bag and look something up. Charging my guide every night was NOT fun.
So there you have it, the importance to Travel Books. If you're still not sure which brand is right for you, just head down to the store and browse. I do it all the time. It's a great way to get destination inspiration!

Visual Stimulation

So like most 20something females, I am addicted to Pinterest. Today I found a few images that really need to be shared here. I hope you find them inspirational!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cruise: It's popular for a reason!

Cruises have really made an impact in the last fifteen years or so, with all the major cruise lines adding new ships to their fleets. But what makes cruises so popular and why might you consider choosing one for a vacation? Well, let's take a look at what all they offer:
Worry-free multiple destination travel.
     Wouldn't it be wonderful to go to bed in one place and wake up somewhere new and exotic? Of course it would! Well that's what cruises offer. Long gone are the days of dad driving while everyone sleeps through the night. Dad, you need a vacation too!
No cooking, cleaning or even reservations. 
     The all-inclusive nature of cruising is very attractive in this economical climate. With all your main requirements (food, lodging, and the cruise itself) included in the ticket price, you won't have a heap of expenditures to worry about once you're on board.
A cruise for everyone.
    In the early days, cruises tended to be most popular with the retired and the wealthy, or as I refer to them: Gray-hair cruises. While many of those folks still enjoy cruising today, there really are no stereotypes about your average cruiser any more. There are cruises that are great for families with children, others that cater go couples, some with special events for singles or gay and lesbian passengers, some that are perfect for active adventurers, and some that are low-key and cater to those who just want to relax. While demographics vary from ship to ship, there really are cruises for any kind of person who's looking to see the world and have a good time. If you're not sure you want, try one of the mainstream lines. They are known for having a Vegas vibe, where there are entertainment options for just about everyone. If you prefer peace and relaxation to constant entertainment, choose a small ship or a luxury line.

So you're interested, but how do you get started? Well take some advice. It's highly unlikely that you don't know someone who has cruised before. Your friends are the best critics out there! However, if you are one of the unicorns our there, try Cruise Critic. They'll help you find the perfect cruise for you. 

International Gateways

So traveling aboard is expensive, right? Well, DUH! And that's not going to change any time soon, but you can dampen the cost by know some important tips. Tips like it's cheaper to fly into some airports than others. Today's blog is all about the importance of International Gateways.

Dublin- The capital and most populous city of Ireland.The English name for the city is derived from the Irish name Dubhlinn, meaning "black pool". Dublin is situated near the midpoint of Ireland's east coast, at the mouth of the River Liffey and the center of the Dublin Region. It is also one of the most affordable airports in the EU. It's a great access point to the UK and Western Europe. There is this wonderful little gem of an airline called Aer Lingus who travels from major US cities to Dublin for a decent rate.
              Another great thing about DUB is that they also service the smaller, cheaper airlines that are great for traveling around Europe. Airlines like Ryan Air and Jet Blue, often use smaller, more remote airports to save on taxes and fees so you the traveler will save as well, but Dublin is one of the few LARGE hubs. This makes it very easy to fly in on an affordable roundtrip ticket and then hop to your final destination for a steal.

Barcelona- the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain. I have NO IDEA why it is so affordable to fly here. It's a city filled with amazing art and architecture. Plus some beautiful beaches! Either way, it's the traveler's gain, so take advantage. Especially if you're looking to hop down to Morocco, which can easily be done.
                Now BCN is as large of a hub, but it does offer another alternative: Rail access. If you have always dreamed of roaming the trains of Europe, this is a great jumping point. From Barcelona it is just an overnight trail to amazing destinations like Paris or Roma.

Frankfurt am Main- I know what your thinking ("WHAT?! How?? and No way!"), but read me out! While it is only the 5th largest city in Germany, Frankfurt is the economical mecca of this strong EU nation. With all this financial business going on, it makes sense that flights are easier to find and may cost a little less. The airport connects directly to the rail system and the city is a great launching area for the romantic countryside.

San José- The capital of Costa Rica is a great link into the Central American jungles. Travel through central and south America can be spotty at best, but by flying over some of the more hostile areas you can easily link up with a more reliable bus system. Flights here can very throughout the year, but most affordable is during rainy season. Don't let a few sprinkles dampen your thirst for adventure!
As far as Asia goes, it gets a little more tricky. The single largest market for Asia-USA service is to/from/via Tokyo/Narita, followed by Hong Kong. Depending on time and cost, you can also price out travel to  Canada. Air Canada has an extensive network of Asia-Canada service including numerous Toronto non-stops aside from their Asia gateway city of Vancouver. Taipei also offer some attractive carriers who are generally seen as budget friendly: China Airlines and EVA Airlines.
Please add comments if you have related tips of your own!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Welcome to all who wander!

Welcome fellow travelers. I greet you warmly and thank you for reading. This blog is something I've been wanting to undertake for a while. For those of you who don't know me, I'm a  recent graduate in the field of Hotel & Restaurant Management who is breaking into the tourism industry. But what really gives me the experience to write a blog about traveling is that at the age of 25, I've been to 49 of the states and 22 foreign countries.
The best part of all these trips has been that I rarely travel with an itinerary. The best experiences happen when you allow yourself to be free to roam! And anyone can afford to travel. I have traveled around the world and each trip has cost less than $2500.00.
So what you can expect from this blog? Advice about travel locations, tips on how to wander with a purpose, and what's new in the realm of tourism. I'll also be updating travelers on some great deals going on at specific times of the year.
I hope you all enjoy this blog as much as I will!