People often ask how I save money on vacation and I give them a lengthy reply. So, I decided to write it all down and put it on the blog. I know, from experience, that it’s easy to blow your budget in areas you hadn’t even thought of.  So, here are my tried-and-true tips for saving money on vacation!

1. CREATE (AND STICK TO) A DAILY BUDGET

I cannot stress this point enough! It’s easy to blow your budget when you have no idea how much you can spend each day. For instance, if you have $2000 for a 4-day trip then you should determine how much you want to spend daily.

For example, with $500 per day for a family of 4 you have to think about 3 meals a day, transportation, shopping, and sightseeing. If you have a small budget then you’ll need to be creative to make it work but it can be done. *If you’re staying in a vacation rental be sure to budget for groceries. Just having a budget won’t do you any good if you don’t look at it, update it, and stick to it.

2. PICK A GOOD LOCATION

Saving $50/night on a hotel or vacation rental outside the city sounds great, right? Not when you factor in the cost of transportation to the city. You’ll probably go back to your apartment twice a day and if it’s far it could end up costing more than you saved on the location.

3. BOOK A VACATION RENTAL

I’ve written about this before and you can read it HERE. If you’re on a budget, the best thing you can do is rent an apartment through VRBO, Airbnb, Flipkey,  or Tripadvisor.  There are plenty of reputable companies to choose from.

4. PAY IN ADVANCE

It’s possible to save money on transportation and sightseeing when you buy your tickets in advance. We purchased train tickets from Venice to Rome 2 months before our trip and saved 25%! You can also buy tickets for museums and monuments early. Don’t forget to check with the local tourism board because they usually have tourist cards with big discounts. The biggest benefit for paying in advance is not having to factor those costs into your daily budget!!

5. PLAN AHEAD

You don’t have to make an itinerary that goes hour-by-hour but you should have one that goes neighborhood by neighborhood. What I mean is, make a list of all the things you want to do then categorize it by neighborhood so you don’t spend time/money going back and forth. Even if plan your activities over multiple days, it can still work by neighborhood.

6. USE THE ATM

I like using the ATM when I arrive instead of exchanging loads of cash – plus, you skip the hefty fees. If your bank does have fees, it’s still better than exchanging at a kiosk. However, most places (depending on the country) take credit cards with a chip. If you don’t have a credit card without international fees, consider getting one if you travel frequently.

7. GET INTERNATIONAL DATA SERVICE OR A LOCAL SIM CARD

Trust me, this will be worth every penny! The last thing you want to do on vacation is hunt for wifi. We have the T-mobile international plan and it gives us unlimited data and texts in over 140 countries. It’s the best thing ever!!! If you can’t get an international data plan, purchase a sim card in the airport when you land. They’re pretty cheap but your phone needs to be unlocked for it to work.

8. USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Don’t waste your money on taxi cabs and uber rides! Get familiar with the train, the bus, or use your feet to get around. Of course, if you’re going across town and you’re in a hurry then cab it. But, don’t spend extra money just because you’re afraid of public transportation. In most European and Asian countries, public transportation is clean and easy to navigate.  Also, not all but some cities in the U.S. have great public transportation.

san francisco street car

9. SPLURGE ON ONE MEAL A DAY

Don’t spend a ton on food! Don’t get me wrong, saving money is not more important than eating local fare. One of the main reasons my husband and I travel is to eat!! However, we usually stick to pastries, local bread with jam and coffee for breakfast. This can run you $5-7/pp depending on your location. For lunch, we try to spend less than $10/pp and eat portable, street food. Dinner is where we like to go all out. We order a bottle of wine, whatever main course we want and we even have dessert! We don’t have a budget for dinner.

This is where your vacation rental can save you money. We like to stock our place with wine, cheese, bread, various deli meats (which can work for any meal), snacks and coffee.

10. HAVE A POST-VACATION FUND

If you’re like me and spend every free penny on vacation only to get home to surprise/forgotten expenses, this is for you. If you have a budget, I’m guessing you’re not independently wealthy so be conscious of how much you need when we get home. You can easily work that into your overall vacation budget.


I hope my tips will save you money on your next vacation! I’m in the planning stages for my next trip and I’m taking my own advice. 🙂 Do you have any tips, tricks, or advice to save money? I’d love to hear about in the comments.

OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE:

5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Vacation

Funjet Vacations – Pay For Your Vacation Over Time

(Be sure to pin for later!)

I’ve been to Mexico plenty of times but this was my first time visiting Cabo San Lucas.  The hubby and I had been working hard for months without a break so we decided to take a short trip.  We flew from LAX to SJD on a Tuesday and returned on Friday.  I’m a flight attendant but for this trip we purchased a direct flight on Alaska Airlines and were able to upgrade to first class, for a small fee.

Once we arrived in Cabo, we walked out to meet our shuttle driver (we booked a one way trip online with the hotel’s recommendation for transportation).  I read a few reviews of Cabo and knew to keep walking past the people at the airport who try to sell you timeshares and excursion but one guy looked very official and said he was with airport tourism board. Looking back, that sounds pretty suspect and it was.  He said to talk the man at the desk to coordinate the shuttle pick up.  Unfortunately, they were trying to sell us an excursion and as soon as we realized it we took off. Moral of the story: DON’T stop on your way out of the airport in Cabo.

All the shuttle drivers are outside and have nothing to do with anyone inside.  Finally, we stepped outside, had a drink at the bar and boarded our shuttle to the RIU Palace (about 45 minutes from the airport). After the long drive, we arrived at our hotel, checked in and unpacked.

Our first order of business was to take a look around the resort and plan our attack for the next morning.  So, we hit the bar (I mean, it is all-inclusive) and took a short walk along the beach. Later that evening, we had dinner and watched the Michael Jackson tribute show.  This show, unlike the one on the Carnival cruise, was great!  The dancers looked like they were having a great time, the music was upbeat and the impersonator was pretty spot on. After the show, we went to bed so we could wake up early for breakfast and stake our claim on a chair at the pool!

Day 2: Most of our day was spent drinking at the swim-up pool bar, eating at the seaside grill and napping in between! At first we were worried about not knowing anyone at the resort but it didn’t take us long to make friends. We met 3 great couples who we laughed, lounged and took shots with.

After spending the day soaking in the sun and the stunning view of the Sea of Cortez, we all decided to escape the compound and check out Cabo Wabo! What a fantastic night!  Cabo Wabo is one of the most popular spots in Cabo San Lucas for live music and a good time and it didn’t disappoint. The band was amazing, the energy was great and the company was even better. Normally, it could be awkward when going out with a group of people you don’t know but this was not one of those times. We knocked back tons of cervezas and a few shots and danced to a mix of live music and a Dj playing old and new music! I highly recommend a trip to Cabo Wabo if you haven’t been.  Back at the hotel, we had a few more drinks and finally went to bed around 3 am!

Day 3: This one was a bit of a blur!  All the drinking and dancing at Cabo Wabo definitely left us a little worse for wear but not too much because we all went back again!  Even though our hotel was all-inclusive, it was nice to get out and see what the city had to offer.  However, I spent many, many hours looking at this view!

Day 4: Our last day – We woke up around 8am, had breakfast, and booked a water taxi to take us to the Arch, Lover’s Beach and Lands End.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get on the boat from our hotel and we had to take a 20 minute trek along the beach to get to the the water taxi.  Let me be honest, about 20 pounds ago this would have been a cake walk but I was huffing and puffing like crazy.  Plus, I’m sure all the food and booze I had in the previous days didn’t help my physical state. However, I’m glad we decided to do it and I’m glad we did it on the last day because it gave us something to focus on besides going home.  Seeing the Arch, Lover’s Beach and Lands End up close were definitely highlights of this trip.

After the tour, we had lunch overlooking the beach and hung out with our friends one last time. We had the most amazing time with this group and I’m convinced we made lifelong friends. We’re already planning our next group vacation! Next time you’re on vacation, be sure to meet new people and have new experiences because they last a lifetime!


Do you have any vacation friends that have become like family?  Tell me about it in the comments below

 

Happy 6 month Blogiversary to me!  Yeah, I know, in the grand scheme of blogs six months isn’t much but it’s a big milestone for me.  I tend to get these amazing ideas but after a week of “full steam ahead” I lose motivation and interest.  So, successfully blogging for 6 months is a HUGE deal!

Of course, I haven’t done all that I want to do but it’s coming and I just want to say thanks to all of you who have read, commented on or even skimmed my posts!  I have so much to learn and such a long journey ahead of me but I’m getting there little-by-little.  This year, I’m trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone.  I’m planning to attend a few blogger conferences so I can learn the ropes, network and get a glimpse of where this incredible journey might take me! Please keep coming back because my little baby blog can only get better!

Thanks again for the love and support!

Sincerely,

Mia

 

October of 2014, I was in Greece, one of the most stunning, sun-kissed countries on the planet!  My husband and I had the pleasure of spending 2 days in Athens and 5 relaxing days on the island of Santorini.  Now, I’m sitting at my desk writing this post and wishing I was still there.  It’s times like these, I’m glad I keep a travel diary so I can reminisce.

Santorini:

After one night in Athens, we took the Blue Star Ferry to Santorini. The trip took about 8 hours but we were excited to slow down after a week of hustle and bustle in Italy.  We even booked a cabin so we could grab a few hours of sleep.  Once we arrived, we took a taxi from the port into Fira where we met, Yiannis, the owner of the house we rented from VRBO.  (Side note: This one was amazing!)  He drove us from Fira to Oia where we stayed in a pretty awesome two bedroom Cave House.  http://villasonsantorini.com/Earth-House.html  As we checked in and got the scoop on our rental, I couldn’t help but look at the ridiculous view just outside our door. I was sure this was the most beautiful place I had ever been.

Our plan for the 5 day trip was to relax as much as possible and disconnect from work, social media and America.  I admit, at first it was difficult but by the end of the 2nd day I had it down. Most of our mornings were spent lying on one of our 3 patios reading and soaking up the Mediterranean sun.

In the afternoons, we ventured out into the main area of Oia to shop and drink with the locals. Some of the most charming parts of Oia were the marble streets, the white-washed buildings and the colorful rooftops.

The rest of our days were spent eating fresh fish, crisp Greek salads (I assume they’re just called salads in Greece) and delectable desserts, most involving Greek honey! One of my favorite meals was in Amoudi Bay where we stopped for a lovely seaside lunch.  I even got my hubby, who loves sashimi but is super picky when it comes to shell fish, to try a few new things.

Each night, we witnessed phenomenal sunsets where the sun seemed to melt into the Aegean Sea. It was during our very first sunset that my husband and I deemed Santorini our spot and decided to come back whenever we needed to recharge our batteries. (Side note: in the first photo,  in the upper left-hand corner you can see the famous spot, the Fortress Ruins, where people gather in Oia to watch the sunsets. We’re relaxing on our patio with lots of wine and cheese!)

On our last night in Santorini, Yiannis, made dinner reservations for us in Fira. The atmosphere on the patio dining area was sweet and serene and the food was to die for. This was definitely the best meal we had during our two weeks in Europe and a great way to end our trip to this charming island.

This time next year, we plan to go back to Greece to relax, disconnect and eat! I’d love to hear about your favorite places to getaway from it all.  Leave your comments below.

Click to see the full gallery! Santorini 2013

Happy travels!

Mia

Everyone knows, Paris is the city of love and sometimes it’s referred to as the city of lights!  What you may not know is that it’s also the “city most likely to pick your pocket.” Now, let me clarify, I don’t mean the seedy criminals who prey on unsuspecting tourists at every popular location.  I mean the city will, literally, pick your pocket.  Expensive meals, transportation and sightseeing will drain your budget faster than you can down a bottle of French wine and if you’re anything like me, that’s pretty fast.

Here are my top 3 tips to keep your travel budget in check so you can enjoy your vacation and not feel like you’re pinching pennies.

TRANSPORTATION

Most people think taking a taxi is the quickest way to get around Paris and that’s absolutely not true.  The Metro (subway) is the best way to get from one end of the city to the other and it’s quick and cheap.  However, you have to be careful how you purchase Metro tickets because they can add up.

Tip #1: Buy a day pass/2 day pass/weekly pass for the Metro depending on the length of your stay.  Not only is the cost less expensive per ride but you’ll save yourself some frustration when you enter a station that doesn’t have a ticket machine or booth.  I found out the hard way and had to walk around looking for another entrance where I could purchase a ticket.  Save time and money, buy a Metro pass!

 

SIGHTSEEING

So, you’re in Paris and you want to do all the cool things you see people doing on Facebook and Instagram.  That’s cool but be warned that $h!t isn’t cheap. Visiting the Louvre will set you back 12 euro, Eiffel Tower (summit access) 15 euro, the catacombs 10 euro, and a boat tour/dinner cruise along the Seine River anywhere from 40-100 euro.  I think you get the picture.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should skip the cool sights and experiences.  I’m just saying you should be prepared by knowing how much things cost and how to minimize those costs.

Tip #2: purchase a Museum pass (2-day 42 euro; 4-day 56 euro; etc…) and it will give you access to many of the sights on your list.  For example, the 2-day pass allows you to visit the following (click to enlarge) :

(Disclaimer: this photo was borrowed from the website below)

As you can see, if you were to purchase each ticket separately it would run you ~ 103 euro instead of 42 euro!  Check out this website for more information on museum passes.  http://en.parismuseumpass.com/

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD

Let’s be honest, we all want to go to Paris and drink fabulous wine and champagne, eat fresh baguettes, sumptuous cheeses and macarons by the truck load.

Well, let me be the bearer of bad news, that costs money too.  Luckily, there are a few ways to save money on certain meals so you can splurge on the good stuff at least once or twice a day.

Tip #3; If you’re renting an apartment or staying in a hotel, hit the market and buy fresh croissants, baguettes, meats ( if you have a fridge) and delicious jams for your morning snack.

It’s much less expensive to people watch from a sidewalk cafe if you just order coffee. Breakfast, like every other meal, can add up quickly so have a bite at your place then head out for a coffee or two.  (Side note: at some cafes a can of coca-cola costs 5 euro, that’s close to $6.50)  Also, grab a few bottles of wine at the market because they’re good and super cheap… don’t forget the corkscrew!

(Left) 5 euro (Right) 3.5 euro

(Left) 5 euro (Right) 3.5 euro

Tip #3 – Part two: For lunch, skip the sit down, fancy restaurant and grab a panini or a savory/sweet crepe from of the many street stands.  To be honest, when I lived in Paris, my favorite meal was a caprese (tomato, basil and mozzarella) panini and it only cost 3 euro!  Or, if you’ve been on your feet all day, find a small cafe off the main street (these are usually less expensive) and have a croque monsieur or croque madame (super yummy grilled cheese sammy  – the madame come with an egg).  These sandwiches tend to be more affordable as they’re considered snacks.

Tip #3 – Part three: Happy Hour!  Yes, happy hour is always a good idea!  In Paris, happy hour tends to have more drink specials and less food.  (Side note: at one happy hour we ordered two divine 5 euro cocktails and a 6 piece order of microscopic samosas that cost 15 euro – no joke, but damn good.)  So, go for a drink or two before you splurge on a fancy dinner since you saved all that money on breakfast and lunch!

If you’re smart with your money and you have an idea of what you want to do during your stay it’s easy to stay on budget.  I hope these tips will help you enjoy your next trip to Paris, or anywhere for that matter.

Happy travels!

Mia

In 2003, I traveled to Paris, France for a month and ended up living there for nearly a year.  So, when my husband suggested Paris for our next getaway I was stoked (do people still say that?).  In the weeks leading up to our vacation, I told him stories of all the fun we would have and the places I would take him and, this being his first time in Paris, he was eagerly awaiting the trip as well.

Finally, the day arrives for us to take off to France!  We arrive at the airport, board our flights and arrive in Paris without a hitch.  We were even lucky enough to fly first class!  And that pretty much ends our streak of excitement, at least for a good 24 hours.

The Lows:

We’re no strangers to renting vacation homes through online sites like VRBO and Airbnb and so far we haven’t had any issues.  We’ve rented apartments in Venice, Rome, Santorini and Barcelona so we know what we like and how to tell the good from the bad.  However, this time I was tricked, bamboozled, led astray.  From the moment we walked in, the apartment didn’t meet our expectations.  1. It smelled like the Indian restaurant downstairs. 2. The furniture was stained/soiled (not sure from what but I don’t want to know.) 3. There was mold/soap scum/dirt in the bathroom.  4. I could go on but I won’t.

Our original plan was to stay for 6 nights and we paid for 4 nights up front and would pay the remaining balance the night before check out.  The first day was rough as all I could talk about was how disappointed I was.  I even spent a good hour looking for a new place stay.  After realizing we had nowhere else to go we unpacked and decided to get out of the apartment to soak up the September sun.  We made the best of the first day/night and woke up early the next morning to hit the town.   Our stops included the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysse, Pont Alexandre III bridge, Arc de Triomphe, Palais Royal, Montparnasse and so much more.  You know, all they stuff they say you have to do in Paris.

After  zipping around the city for at least 10 hours we returned to the apartment only to find it more disgusting than we remembered.  Long story short (too late!), we booked a hotel online, threw our crap in a bag and checked into a hotel at 5:00 in the morning.  We’re still negotiating our refund for the 2 nights we didn’t stay.

The Highs:

After shaking off the apartment debacle, we decided to leave a couple of days early since we had to pay for a hotel in addition to the $500 we had already paid for the apartment.  I’m happy to say that days 3 and 4 were the best two days we spent in Paris.

Overall, we had a great time in the city of love and we will certainly go back. We were a bit bummed that we had to cut our trip short and missed out on Versaille and Provins but that’s just another reason to return.

Come back next week for a more detailed account of our Paris experience.

Happy travels!

Mia

 

 

This summer, my husband and I took off to Barcelona, Spain to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary.  We had no agenda before we left but we figured we’d catch all the main sights during our 5 day trip.

On day 2, we found ourselves looking for an affordable way to conquer they city from one end to the other.  Luckily, we stumbled upon the “Hop On, Hop Off” bus tour.  I’ve never been interested in bus tours because they seemed a bit cheesy but after doing this one, I’m a big fan.  Some travel sites will tell you to skip the bus tours and see the city by foot and in most cases I agree. However, we had 4 more days to walk around and really see the city, so I was game.

One of the main reasons it’s a good idea to book this tour is because you can take the bus all around they city from 9 am to 7 pm (roughly).  So, technically, this can be used as your transportation for the entire day.  You can hop on in one part of the city and hop off in another and see whatever sights you like. Granted the bus doesn’t always stop close to the desired sights but they’re all within walking distance (except Tibidabo… it takes a lot of effort to get there).  But, if you add up the amount of money you would spend on train tickets and taxis getting from one end of the city to the other, you’re definitely coming out ahead.

THE TOUR:

There are two options for the tour, one line covers the west side of the city and the other covers the east.  So, you can choose which is more interesting and hop on (you can do both for one price but we only did one).  Check out our sweet view from the bus!

bus view

The first place we hopped off was Barceloneta Beach.  This stunning beach is the closest beach to the city and just about a 15-20 minute walk from our apartment in El Born.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk and we even stopped at the W Hotel for a drink!

barceloneta

Another must see stop on our tour was La Sagrada Familia.  This magnificent church has been under construction since the 1800’s and will not be completed until sometime in the 21st century.  The tour bus lets you off right across the street from the ticket office.  Once inside, you’ll be instantly struck by the ornate beauty of this church.  We spent ample time admiring every inch of Gaudi’s design.

LSF 1    LSF 2

Our third favorite spot was Park Guell located in Passeig de Gracia.  The bus stop is at the bottom of the hill and it’s a bit of a hike to get up to the park but it’s well worth the trip!  As we walked around the park, we took pleasure in the unique architecture and thoughtful design concepts.  Don’t forget to take photos (from one spot you can see all the way to the ocean)!

park guell

One of the last stops on the tour was Casa Batllo, another Gaudi masterpiece within the city.  This facade is one of the most iconic images of Barcelona.  On any given day, you’ll see photographers (amateur and professional) across the street taking photos of Casa Batllo.  Don’t be afraid to whip out your camera. Also, you can go inside to have a look around or grab a drink during certain hours.

casa batllo edit

Plaça Catalunya, Catedral-Barri Gòtic, Barceloneta, La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Tibidabo, and Casa Batlló are just a few of the sights you can visit on this bus tour.  There were so many things to see and do that we couldn’t possibly fit it all into one day (we should have gotten the 2-day pass).  Next time you’re in Barcelona (or any city) check it out because you might get more than your money’s worth!

Check out our Flipgram video with highlights from our entire trip!

Happy travels!

Mia