Note: A version of this blog was also posted as a guest post on Femme Frugality.
Japan is a truly incredible place to visit. In 2016, my husband, Travis, and I visited friends who lived there, and we were struck by the proud history and majesty of this beautiful culture. One of the things that really stuck out to me about Japan is the low crime rate and the honesty the people showed. Let me give you an example. (more…)
It has been a crazy last few months with many big things happening in my little family, including new job for my husband, refocusing my goals when it comes to my career, and lots of things shifting. They are all ultimately good things, but sometimes change can be difficult. (more…)
Ah, the Holidays—it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Also the most expensive—especially when you don’t love near your loved ones. When I lived in England, I was privileged to fly home for the holidays. The best part was I didn’t/forgot to tell my parents and it was the best surprise of the year! There’s nothing quite like the presence of your loved ones to make the season bright.
Holiday travel can be awesome or awful. From inflated prices to the hoards of people also flying around the world, there is a lot to navigate when it comes to the adventure of flying during the holidays. Here are a few tips that can help when it comes to booking your travel:
Avoid Peak Days: Don’t travel on peak days. Guess what—Everyone is flying those days! They are by far the most expensive days to fly. For Christmas, those days are December 22, 23, and 24. For New Year, it is December 29 and January 2. Look at your schedule to see if you are able to tweak your travel days just a little to get the best price on flights.
Travel Early or Late in the Day: Another thing to keep in mind is that the cheapest flights are generally the first and last flights of the day. Don’t be afraid to adjust your sleeping schedule just a bit by flying super early or super late. These are going to be the cheaper flights.
Do your research: Use apps like Hopper to find the cheapest days to fly. They will even keep you alerted to when it comes time to buy at the cheapest rate. With Holiday travel, buying sooner rather than later is always advised.
Shop Around: When it comes to flying, use those dates you got from Hopper and plug them into a site like skyscanner.com, or go directly to airlines sites. Southwest only posts on their website—so make sure you check southwest.com for the prices they have on flights. Keep in mind, also, that though Southwest is not always the cheapest fare, your bags will always fly for free. That can make all the difference!
Send Presents Ahead: If you can get away with it, don’t check a bag. We know the holidays mean lots of presents. Think ahead—use Amazon Prime to ship directly to the people receiving them or the house you will be staying in, or send them ahead of time. It will save you headaches when it comes to sweating your connections or losing your bags. It will save you time, and sometimes it can even save you money!
Make the most of holiday travel with these simple tricks. There are still so many out there, so let me know some of your favorite tips and ways to save money when it comes to Holiday Travel.
When I started Wanderlust For Less at the beginning of the year, it was somewhat of an experiment. I was traveling around the country and the world teaching US military members about financial education and how they, too, can invest in experiences and not just things. Wanderlust For Less was, and is, a perfect extension of that mission. I love pointing the people I meet to this site for more information on the things I am so deeply excited about.
Since then, as many of you know, that same job has been keeping me very busy, and I have not kept up with Wanderlust For Less as much as I would have hoped. In all transparency, it is hard to write about traveling and saving money when you are out there traveling to make a living. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world!
These past few months have been mind-blowing, and after attending some awesome conferences and meeting incredible people in this space, I have gained so much clarity when it comes to the Wanderlust For Less brand. I am excited to share some awesome developments with all with you!
I have officially extended the blog to the Wanderlust For Less YouTube channel where we will be talking about the exact same things—living frugally so we can have the financial freedom to invest in experiences (like travel). Since I travel as a public speaker and emcee, video is a much more comfortable medium for me. Don’t worry, this blog will still be up, as well! It just has a younger brother to look after and play with.
Thank you to you, my Wanderlust friends, on hanging with me. I am looking forward to a bright future with you, my fellow Wanderluster!
These last two months have been full of traveling and seeing the world, but there is nothing like coming home to my Hobbit Hole, my routine, and my blog! Travis and I recently traveled to Oslo, Norway. It is an incredible place to explore and wander, and we had our fair share of learning experiences.
We flew into Oslo and rented a car for the 45 minute drive to the city. Pro Tip—If you are renting a car, make sure your hotel is car friendly. Life is all about adventures, and there is nothing quite like the adventure of navigating downtown Oslo’s myriad of one way streets, almost running over pedestrians jumping out in the middle of the street, or driving through tram-only stops in efforts to find a parking garage nearby to park your car for 3 days. Train might be the best way to go.
We got a private tour Oslo Highlight tour from the Oslo Guidebureau. It was incredible to walk around the city with an expert. Our guide was very personable and we were able to ask questions about what we were interested in. June was the perfect time to go because the streets were lined with Lilac trees and so many other types of flowers. It is a very walkable city with so much to see, including the Norwegian Parliament Building, the Royal Palace, and the Grand Hotel, which is the annual venue for the winner of the Nobel Peace prize.
The highlight of our Oslo walking tour was hopping on a boat and heading across the waters to the Viking Ship Museum. It was the ONE thing Travis wanted to do more than anything else on our whole vacation. It was absolutely fascinating to see these ships and what life was like for the Vikings. These ships were excavated in 1880 and 1903 and were found to be burial ships. The clay soil they were buried in kept them beautifully preserved. Similar to the Egyptian pyramids, respected individuals would be buried with their possessions and anything they would need for the afterlife. There were quite a few artifacts on display, but the majority of them are in storage beneath the museum. It is a smaller museum, so it didn’t take much time to see it in its entirety. They have plans to expand in the near future in order to put more items on display.
On our third day in the Oslo, we decided to make good use of the car we rented and take a little road trip outside the city. We ventured south of the city to Tønsberg, which is the home to the Saga Oseberg—a successfully replicated, sea-worthy Viking ship. It is also a pleasant scenic walk along the docks and through the town. After a few hours wandering, we hopped in the car again to explore the fjords and Norwegian countryside. It was gorgeous.
We only had a few days to explore the beautiful country of Norway, but as always, there is so much left to discover! Here are a few things that are on the bucket list for next time we visit:
—Norway in a Nutshell: This tour was highly recommended by quite a few sites I researched. We didn’t have time this trip, but I want to go back JUST to do this! You are able to explore the beautiful fjords of Norway. Like, we are talking Lord-of-the-Rings-epic fjords. You take trains, boats, busses to see some of the the coolest, most picturesque parts of Norway.
—The National Gallery: There are so many awesome pieces of art on display. Of the most notable, The Scream is one of the most famous paintings by Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch. There is also an entire (separate) museum dedicated to him and his works. in another part of the city.
—The Vigeland Sculpture Park: This park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, Gustav Vigeland. There are hundreds of sculptures around the park made from so many different mediums: plaster, marble, wrought iron, and several more. I am so bummed we didn’t get a chance to explore it while in Oslo, but it will be one of our first stops when we go back one day.
Ah, airplanes. The glorious whales of the air that magically transport us from one destination to the next. It is crazy to wrap your head around the fact you are darting through the sky 500mph, 30,000 feet above the earth below, unaffected by the elements directly outside your window.
Now think of being in the belly of that beast for 10+ hours while soaring over oceans and continents. It can get a little—constrained? Cramped? Muscle-achey?
International flights are actually my favorite. I have gone over the Atlantic and Pacific more times than I can count. Along the way I have picked up a few essentials that make that sky darting experience a little more bearable. Besides drinking lots of water and having a good pillow, here are eight more things to put on your checklist:
No JetLag—I heard about this homeopathic supplement when I flew to Thailand and Myanmar. It is originally from New Zealand, and it really helps with jet lag. A whole pack can last you about 2 round trips. The instructions are pretty specific, so make sure to read them beforehand. You used to be able to get them at a local vitamin shop, but I just order a bunch from Amazon these days.
Sleep mask—Yes, you know those cute little lacy, satiny, frilly things girls use at sleepovers. But I am telling you—these things are essential. Not only do they block out light, but they help keep my eyes closed and relaxed when you are fitting in crucial shut-eye. They also sell super manly black ones at Target if the frills aren’t your thing.
Socks: Okay, there are lots of different opinions floating around on this one. I
generally wear flats or shoes that I can easily kick off, but I am a firm believer in a fresh pair of socks for every flight. Once, I didn’t have any socks and I could barely feel my toes halfway through the flight. Ever since that chilling moment, I have thrown in a pair of socks into my carry on and have them easily accessible. Because, please, for the sake of everyone, NEVER walk around the plane bare
foot. And a steadfast rule to live by—always wear shoes to the bathroom. Cuz nothing ruins your happy warm feet like wet socks. Yeah, let’s move on.
Ear plugs: Invest in a few good pairs of disposable earplugs—they’re are a lot cheaper than noise-canceling head phones. I buy a big box of 3M yellow earplugs (which, fun fact, fighter pilots use) and throw several pairs into a bag. The reason I like disposable is because I throw them away when I am done and it cuts down on the pollen and dirt and nasty stuff that can get in my ears if I reuse them! That’s just me, tho. Clean ears are happy ears!
Zquil and EmergenZ: I have a ritual when it’s time to go to bed. I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, clean my face (see below), get comfy, ask the flight attendant for a small cup of water and prepare my EmergenZ. This is a double win because: 1) It has melatonin to help you naturally fall asleep, and 2) It keeps your immune system healthy on that germ invested vehicle. I then take a dose of Zquil to aid in a good night’s sleep, and put on my sleep mask, cuddle up with my pillow, and settle in for the night. Grab them together at Target in the sleep aid section.
Moist facial wipes: When I wash my face, I really like the hypoallergenic face wipes Yes to Cucumbers. I use one before I go to bed, then another again in the morning when I want to wake up my face. It is also a good idea to moisturize because planes are super dry! Which leads me to my next point…
Chapstick and lotion: Planes aren’t exactly known for their moisture and humidity, and I’ve had moments with cracked knuckles and blistery lips whilst sitting helpless at 30K. Oh that the chapstick on my dresser at home were with me now! It will help keep those things in your carry on at all times so you don’t forget, and it will be there when you really need it!
Fresh clothes: I always travel with a set of clothes to change into either before we land or when I get to the airport. It was something I hadn’t considered before I had gone on my first trip to Asia, where I traveled with someone who suggested it. I changed the next morning before landing and felt like a new woman. It all helps in the jet lag, long-travel-days’ process.
Growing up as an Air Force brat, I remember my fighter-pilot dad having a big, green bag packed at all times. It sat in the corner of my parents’ room ready at a seconds notice. I remember it being packed after 9-11 should he be called into action in the F-117 Stealth Fighter. This big green was his “Go Bag.” It had everything he needed ready to go at a moment’s notice.
I travel a lot for work and have a little Go Bag of my own going on. And though I am not waiting to fly a jet into enemy territory, I have my carry-on checklist down to a science. And my bag isn’t army green—he’s mostly blue and white.
In fact, I still remember the day I met my R2D2 suitcase. I first spotted him at Disneyland for $160. I was so tempted to drop the cash right then and there blaming my allotted splurge impulse. Instead, I looked it up on Amazon and found the exact American Tourister suitcase for literally half the price. We have been together ever since. He is often grouped with my hedgehog patterned briefcase carrying all my hand bag essentials that I need to grab on the go.
Carry-On Luggage 101:
—Liquids bag: I travel with a bag designated just for liquids meeting TSA requirements. This is awesome since I don’t want to pack massive bottles of shampoo/conditioner that have been known to explode all over my clothes in my bag, and they leave space in R2D2. I also can pull out one neat little bag when it comes time to security and not worry about what other liquids are floating around in my suitcase.
—Detergent pods: I keep these guys with my liquids. I seriously love that they make individual servings of detergent. I pack a few in a plastic bag just in case I want to wash something in the sink or there happens to be a washer/dryer where I am staying. I have hand washed in the sink certain clothes I need cleaned, or my hotel has a washer dryer that I can use. And I don’t have to pay for their overpriced detergent!
—“Tacos” and “Burritos”: These little handy dandy contraptions help keep your cords in an organized, de-tangled dream. I have all my charging cords and headphones wrapped up and put in one bag. No more searching my hedgehog briefcase when I want to plug in at the gate before my flight—I have my handy dandy go-to cords bag!
—Snack bars: As a Whole30 veteran, I always make sure I pack my own snacks to hold me over when I am stuck on a plane at lunch time. My favorite healthy snacks are Lara Bars and Epic Bars. Whatever suits your fancy, always have a stash in your carry on just in case your tummy is a’rumbling.
When You Have That Annoying Cold:
I cannot tell you how many times I have had to fly with a head cold. It is not a pleasant feeling for your ears or face. Or your happiness levels. So beyond a stack of tissues and a bottle of water, here are just a few more ideas:
—Airborne: Around my busy season of travel, I take an airborne every day. If I am sick or not, I want to avoid it at all costs.
—Benedryl: This awesome antihistamine, allergy relief medicine available at any drug store is awesome not only for those struggling with allergies, but it also helps when you’re stuffed up and are about to fly! I have had serious head colds and take one before I board my flight, and it really helps. Just a suggestion!
—Earplanes: I heard about these little guys from a flight attendant on one of my flights. They are designed to help with cabin pressure pain that comes with the joys of a sinus cold, or if your ears are uncomfortable flying in general.
What are your favorite things to pack in your carry on? Come back next week to read part 2 in our carry-on series—what to pack for an INTERNATIONAL flight.
I remember booking my very first flight to England. I had never gone anywhere outside North America, and the feeling was enthralling. Granted, I was also packing up my entire life in Chicago into two 50-pound suitcases and moving my life to another continent—so that might have also added to the slightly euphoric feeling. Nonetheless, I was hooked.
I love that feeling of turning dreams into plans, goals into reality, and starting the countdown to the next adventure. I love saying to a friend, “I am going to visit you on the other side of the world,” and actually DOING it.
Wanderlust is contagious.
Flashback to about 2 years ago when my friend/roommate Kristen and I were sitting on a couch in the loft of our rented house searching for an Adventure. My previous roommate from England was working in New Zealand, and I wanted to see her (and trek to Hobbiton). There was a lot of dreaming, researching, planning, and saving. Using all the strategies I outline below, we found a deal that got us to not only New Zealand, but Fiji and Australia as well. It included airfare AND hotel AND travel insurance for less than $1,900 a person. With these strategies I outline below, I bet you could probably get trips around the globe for even less than that.
Today, let’s talk about saving money on airfare. There are a few strategies when booking cheap flights. There is a lot of really good “travel-meat” (aka, a ton of apps and websites) in this post, so here we go:
Dream a Little (or a LOT):
This is a big step in the planning process. Think about where you want to go, what sites you want to see around the world, friends you want to visit in other countries, etc. I have several countries in the back of my mind I want to visit one day, so I keep an eye out for those deals when they come my way. I am subscribed to several different sites/blogs that make me dream about the places I want to go to next. One of my favorites is Conde Nast Traveler. I love pretty much anything they put out travel related. I also follow TravelZoo’s Top 20 to see what is going on around the web.
Fly in the OFF-PEAK or Shoulder Seasons:
People think traveling is expensive because they look at the most convenient times to travel. The only problem with that is that everyone else is ALSO going to travel at that time–i.e. summer vacation, spring break, etc. These are the peak seasons, and also the most expensive time to fly. When it comes to traveling, there are actually 3 seasons: Peak, Shoulder, and Off-Peak. Your life will change when you discover how reasonable prices are during the Shoulder (times close to but not quite yet Peak) and Off-Peak. Here is another great resource outlining the five tips for off-peak travel.
Let’s face it, if you have to fly at a certain time on a certain date with no wiggle room, you’re gonna pay more. When it comes to travel dates, you will get a better price when you are flexible. One of my favorite apps to find the best dates WHEN to buy and WHEN to fly is Hopper. The thing I love about Hopper is it gives you a color coded calendar of the trip you want indicating which are the best days to fly out, and it gives you an option to watch the trip to alert you of the best ticket prices. A couple quick disclaimers about Hopper: there are certain airlines (like Southwest) that only show up on their own website, so be sure to check there, too. Additionally, there is an option to purchase through Hopper, but I actually only use it to find the best dates to fly. I take all that information and go to step four…
Please please PLEASE shop around. I use several sites and apps to compare prices. Once I check Hopper, I look at what their flights are going for, I plug those dates into Skyscanner, Kayak or TravelZoo and see what the best fares actually are. The thing I love about TravelZoo is that there are deals for the whole traveling package airfare, hotel, sometimes a rental car. These are my favorite to book because they are a super great deal and saves me some hassle! When Kristen and I went to Fiji, new Zealand and Australia, TravelZoo was running a sale through TripMasters. They were a great resource and we had a great trip with no hassles!
I also like following Secret Flying or All The Flight Deals to look at spontaneous deals from my area. Sites like these catch error fares or just super cheap tickets to places all round the world. The dates are usually specific, so it helps to be spontaneous during these times. I totally get that not everyone can do this (heck, I can’t drop everything and travel world sometimes either), but it is fun to think, “What if…”.
What are some of your favorite sites or strategies when it comes to flying? Let’s hear them!
If you know me or have read my first blog, you may have noticed I am a low-key nerd. I think I might even call myself a highly functioning nerd. I have an R2D2 Suitcase that travels the world with me, and I was drinking from an R2D2 french press I actually requested for Christmas. I am so much a nerd, I convinced my husband, Travis, to let us walk down the aisle to the Star Wars theme once we were announced husband and wife. He is a good husband, everyone laughed, my nerd heart soared as we set off onto one of our greatest life adventures yet.
I attribute a lot of my nerd-dom to growing up with four brothers and a Star Wars/Tron loving fighter pilot dad. I still remember when my mom found us a bunch of old keyboards at a thrift store. We took whiteout to the keys and made our own Star Trek stations and we would pretend to be on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. My oldest brother, Daniel, was the captain. My baby brother, Joshua, was the expendable crewman.
I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series for the first time when I was in middle school. I read them again when I was in high school freshman English, and a third time when I took a course in college on LOTR taught by an actual wizard.
When I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in theaters for the first time, I cried.
Don’t judge me.
It was at the part where Bilbo came back at the end to help the band of dwarves go onto Misty Mountain to reclaim their homeland. He says,
“I know you doubt me, I know you always have, and you’re right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my arm chair, and my garden. See, that’s where I belong; that’s home, and that’s why I came, cause you don’t have one… a home. It was taken from you, but I will help you take it back, if I can.”
I had tears streaming down my face at that point thinking, “I am a dwarf! I am a DWARF!”
And at that time, I was indeed a dwarf (metaphorically speaking).
I have moved about 17 times in my life, lived in 9 different states and 2 different countries, and in too many houses, apartments, and flats to remember. For a long time, I was a wanderer—and I loved it. I thrived on it. It made my heart beat stronger, and my blood pump faster.
Now I am in a different time in my life. I am part Hobbit and part Dwarf. My wandering days are gone, I actually live in a house with a husband and possibly a dog soon (PLEASE TRAVIS!!). And like Bilbo, I have my arm chair, and I have my books, and I have my home. I don’t have to wander to find it. Sometimes I feel as though I lead a double life—content to be at home, yet yearning for adventure.
I know we are all at different spots in our lives. Some of you are dwarves, still finding that place to call home. Some of you are certifiable Hobbits, possibly looking for an adventure. Everyone is welcome at this table. I think it is time we have a little DTR (define the relationship), just so we are all on the same page as we explore this beautiful world together.
These are things you can expect from me:
Coffee-fueled, wanderlust-loving blogs about saving money and traveling this globe.
Zero discrimination. Not only in the things all humans should know, but I don’t travel-discriminate. If you haven’t traveled but want to, no problem! If you have packed up your life and travel full time, dude—awesome. Again, we are all Hobbits and Dwarves and we can find common ground no matter what, cuz we all live in Middle Earth… you get what I am saying.
I have the right to refuse service to anyone—meaning I want to promote healthy and edifying conversation about saving money and blogging. If I feel like you are not on the same page, I will exercise my right to eliminate you from the conversation. Cool? Cool.
A wise woman once said to me: “Just because you can’t do everything, doesn’t mean you can’t do something.” I love those words of wisdom and refer to them often when I look at my budget, or traveling, or saving money. I don’t expect you all to be financially perfect because I certainly am not, but we are all doing something to work our way towards financial health. This may even mean not taking that trip until things are sorted. It may not, the choice is yours.
Just like the saying above, I will take it further and say, “Just because you know something, doesn’t mean you know everything.” I know a lot of things, but I don’t know everything. We are all just trekking together, so let me know if you have ideas or tricks up your sleeve. I love hearing all of them!
Glad we are all on the same page living long and prospering.
Until next time, friend.
Bethany, Resident Adventuring Hobbit at Bayless End
P.S. If you are into podcasts and awesome things like Star Wars or other mythical epics, I just listened to an incredibly inspiring episode of The Ted Radio Hour called The Heroes Journey. It explores the reasons behind why we follow heroes and what we can learn about ourselves in the process. It also gives massive shout outs to my beloved Star Wars, as well as other great talks/fandoms. Seriously, SO good.
It is that time of year again—time for the RE-solutions, RE-starts, and RE-dos. It is also that time to RE-evaluate the things that are important to you, time to RE-visit your priorities, and perhaps a time to reWARD yourself for all that hard work (see what I did there?). (more…)