Travel without the planning- Top tour companies for all budgets

Standard

I remember my first time I wanted to travel Europe on my own, I had a list of places I wanted to go but I had no idea how to even begin planning my itinerary. After countless hours staring at a map, searching flights and trying to figure out the cheapest and quickest routes the excitement had been sucked out of me. Planning a multi-stop trip is exhausting and frustrating to say the least and although I had seriously thought about having a travel agent take over I soon realized that was way out of my budget. As I traveled throughout Europe that summer many people I met recommended tour companies specifically targeted for people like me; a solo traveler who wanted to meet new people and let someone else do all the planning. The next time I started planning a trip I immediately referred back to the tour companies and researched like crazy. Here’s 3 of the top tour companies for 18-35 year olds. All the trips offered by each company include accommodation, some meals and guided tours in the price. Sit back, relax and let someone else get gray hair planning your trip.

map

 

1.CONTIKI

This is a great company for a traveler that doesn’t want to think at all when it comes to planning. All you have to do is figure out what continent you want to travel to and then choose from the multiple tours offered. What’s even better is they offer tours of all budgets and all types. You have the choice of location, departure, accommodation, price and style. Based off your choices the trips will be narrowed down to your preferences and you can compare multiple trips at time if you wish. Contiki has a good reputation and offers over 200 trips around the world.

 

BUSABOUT

Busabout is very similar to Contiki in that they offer multiple guided tours with set itineraries. They are different from Contiki in that in addition to set itinerary tours they also offer hop-on hop-off tours. As explained by a happy Busabout customer, “One of the best things about busabout is that you choose how long you want to spend in a certain place and what you want to see there. You choose whether to stay in the hostels busabout recommends or you can go off and find somewhere different.It’s totally flexible and easy to change your itinerary as its all online.”

The “make your own itinerary” option allows you to pick a route that may include anywhere from three to ten countries and then you decide how long you want to stay. When you’re ready for the next stop you reserve your seat on the bus through the easy to use website. This option allows the more spontaneous travelers to go wherever the wind takes them.

 

3. TOPDECK

Topdeck is a more budget friendly company. It’s basically the same as Contiki offering tours off all types but most of the accommodation options are hostels, bungalows or camping instead of hotels. Topdeck also offers sailing options in Europe and Asia for those that would rather spend their time out at sea.

 

These three companies are the most popular and widely used. Based off my own experience I suggest looking at all companies regardless of your budget and see which tours give you the most for your money. Sometimes spending a little more may get you an extra few days or the chance to explore another country. Sometimes it’s worth it to choose a cheaper option if a route is more direct or if you don’t mind camping. Regardless, all companies offer exceptional tours and the perfect opportunity to make new friends.

 

Happy Travels!

 

Best festivals around the world

Standard

One of the many reasons people enjoy travelling is the excitement of being immersed in a new culture. Festivals are a great and quick (if you’re on a time limit) way to get the chance to experience a new country or city without having to stay for a long period of time or actually live there. I’ve gathered a list of some great festivals around the world, some I’ve been to and some are still waiting to be checked off my bucket-list. Click the pictures for more information about each festival

1. Mardi Gras, New Orleans USA- February

mardigras

 

2. Oktoberfest Munich, Germany- September

oktober

 

3. San Fermin, Running of the Bulls Pamplona, Spain- July

 

I attended San Fermin in 2014. One of the best experiences of my life, no running with the bulls though I didn't want to give my parents heart attacks

I attended San Fermin in 2014. One of the best experiences of my life, no running with the bulls though I didn’t want to give my parents heart attacks

4. Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil- February

carnival

 

5. Yi Peng festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand- November

latern

5 Places to Ring in 2015

Standard

With the holidays fast approaching many people are starting to lock in travel plans for New Year’s Eve. While spending time at home and avoiding all the craziness on December 31 is tempting,  many people relish in ringing in a new year and “fresh start” in a new city, state or even country! Here’s my list of 5 amazing places to spend you NYE. Click on the city names to see why these places are the perfect spot to start off your year!

1. Edinburgh, Scotland

edin

2. Vienna, Austria

vien

3. Sydney, Australia (my personal favorite)

Fireworks explode over Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House during a pyrotechnic show to celebrate the new Year

4. Las Vegas, USA

lv

5. Hong Kong

hk

If you’re not able to spend New Year’s Eve abroad here’s some great cities in America that do NYE exceptionally well.

Passengers’ Bill of Rights

Standard

Usually during the holidays the airline industries and travelers are inundated with flight and travel cancellations or delays due to various reasons, most of them pertaining to weather. However, this year the Ebola outbreak has caused heightened fear in the travel industry and could result in further cancellations or delays in travel.

One of the most important things to know as a traveler is your rights. Whether it’s airlines or cruises, domestic or international you have rights as a paying passenger and while it may be a rare case in which you would need to exercise your rights it’s important nonetheless. Below is a “roadmap” of what your rights are as an airline passenger and as a cruise-line passenger.Here’s a couple links to further elaborate your rights and what you can do if you’re ever in a situation where you feel necessary to exercise them.

Flying on Holiday weekends

Europe Passengers’ Bill of Rights

Child’s Passenger Bill of Rights

airlinerights

 

crusierights

You don’t have to be rich to travel

Standard

One question I get asked repeatedly is, “how do you afford to travel?” I’ve been fortunate to be able to afford to travel many places while living on a college student income. While this is not an easy thing and doesn’t provide the means for a luxurious vacation I’ve managed to make what I have work by cutting back on unnecessary luxuries and goods and also by, you guessed it, SAVING.

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing people say they don’t have money to travel, yet every time you see them they have a new outfit or a Starbucks cup in their hand. If you can afford these things then the problem isn’t that you can’t afford to travel it’s that you don’t make travel a priority. So before you continue reading make sure traveling is your #1 (or at least #2) priority, because no matter what advice anyone gives you about saving, you simply won’t have the discipline to do so if it’s not at the top of your list.

1. Decide where you want to go and for how long.

Be realistic with yourself in this regard.Some people travel and realize they’ve been missing out and some people travel and can’t wait to get back home. I always say start off small and then build to bigger trips. You don’t start off dinner with two plates, you eat your first plate and then if you’re still hungry go for seconds. The same applies to traveling.

travel1

2. Make a list of everyday expenses, bills, extras etc.

Look through your monthly statements and figure out what it is you’re spending your money on. Some people don’t realize they spend a lot of money on food or going out. Obviously the necessities like rent, phone, car are things that can’t be cut out, but you can definitely cut back on going out to dinner or coffee everyday. Little things add up. For me coffee was an everyday thing so I got a jar and everyday instead of buying coffee I would put that money in my jar. By the end of the year I had about $700 saved. ($3 coffee x 5 days x 4 weeks x 12 months= $720). I also completely stopped buying clothes for 6 months, I never realized how much I shopped until I cut it out. Find things that you can cut out, set a goal and stick to it.

travel2

3. Set a budget

One you’ve decided where you want to go and where you can cut back on expenses you need to decide on a budget. Your budget will be based on how much time you have to save money, how long you want to go and where you want to go.

  • When I’m planning a trip one of the first things I do is figure out approximate cost of a flight for my desired destination. This is something that can’t be negotiated and gives you a base cost to work with.
  • Next, figure out how much you might spend on accommodation whether it be hostels or hotels. This is another aspect of travel that is obviously a necessity; you need somewhere to sleep. Once you’ve done those two steps you have an absolute bare minimum of what your trip will cost.
  • Of course food and sightseeing also cost money but these are things that can be negotiated within your budget if need be. Once I’ve figured out how many days I’ll be traveling I’ll allocate a certain amount of spending money each day. Usually for Europe I’ll allow $50 USD per day, some days I’m way under, some days I’m over but like I said this is something that you can balance as you go. That might mean getting a very cheap dinner or having a small lunch one day. 5 destinations, $30 per day
  • Once you have figured out more or less what your budget will be, figure out how much money you’ll need to save monthly in order to reach your goal. Then, open a savings account specifically for this purpose. Having a separate savings account strictly for travel not only helps you save, but you can see exactly how much you’re accruing and won’t be tempted to withdraw money for other purposes.

4. A few other tips for saving travel money

  • Cook meals your own meals. Pack a lunch for work and make dinners at home.
  • Make a profile on CouchSurfing– this is a great way to save money on accommodation. Couch Surfing is a community of travelers who either stay with people or allow people to stay with them for free while traveling. Word of advice: always make sure you’re staying with someone who has ALL positive feedback and at least 10 reviews. I couch surfed my whole 6 week trip to Europe and I had great experiences.
  • get a credit card that doesn’t have international conversion fees and will earn you travel rewards such as Bank of America World Travel MasterCard

Here’s a link to some more useful tips on how to save!! 

Bon Voyage!!

 

Different Countries, Different Greetings

Standard

There’s one thing all travelers have in common and that’s our passion for learning about different cultures. While some expressions can have a universal meaning, like a smile or crying, there are countless ways in which people greet each other in different countries. In one country a kiss on the cheek would be appropriate, even welcomed, where in another country a kiss on the cheek would be offensive or taboo. No matter where you’re traveling it’s important to know the customs and norms of the culture, otherwise you could find yourself in a very awkward  situation.

Here’s a short list of some countries who have greetings that you might not normally see in America:

Europe (most of it anyway)

Usually a kiss on the cheek or both cheeks is the way to greet someone. Whether it’s a stranger or someone you’ve known for years. As an American, when I first traveled through Europe and met new people I would put my hand out to shake and introduce myself. Although most of my fellow travelers knew that this was customary in America I did get an odd look here or there or simply an unexpected kiss on the cheek.

euro

 

Brazil:

Like Europe, Brazil is also a place of cheek kisses. Although in this Latin country it’s mostly women who do the cheek kiss greeting. The greeting can be anywhere from one to three kisses and often single women favor the three kiss rule.

200436605-002

 

Thailand:

In this Southeast Asia country a kiss is not the typical greeting. What the Thai call a “wai”; in this greeting you place your hands together like you’re praying. The higher your hands are, the most respect being shown.

thailand

Japan:

Although most people have seen in movies or read in books that a typical greeting in Japan is a bow, there are variations in this type of greeting. There’s a bow appropriate for business interactions, a bow for gratitude and a bow for apologies. Make sure if you’re bowing to show apologies at a funeral you don’t get confused and bow for gratitude, I don’t think that would go over very well.

japan

For a more extensive list on greetings here’s an article published by Viator with pictures and explanations for various countries. Click the link below.

More Greetings

Best of Los Angeles from an LA girl’s perspective- Eat, Drink & Shop

Standard

 

I’ve traveled to 25 countries and probably a hundred or so cities throughout my 26 years of life. Although I love to get out of my comfort zone which is Los Angeles, where I reside, I don’t always have the time or money to leave. If you ask any well-traveled person what they do when they can’t get away for a real vacation they will tell you their favorite thing to do is to be a tourist in their own city or state. I’m a firm believer in exploring your own surroundings even if you think you’ve done a lot in your own city it’s amazing the things you can find when you ask around and pretend you’re a tourist. Even though I’ve lived in LA all my life my style, tastes and cultural perspectives are always changing and something that I may have found uninteresting before may seem interesting to me now. Here’s my Best of LA list with my favorite places to eat, drink and shop.