A New York City Christmas

My sisters and I decided to spend the day after Christmas exploring what New York City has to offer for the holidays. I mapped out the best route before we went. Here is the list of places we were hoping to go to.
1. Bloomingdale’s
2. Barneys- 660 Madison Ave
3. Bergdorf- 754 5th ave.  58th st
4. Tiffany & Co.- 727 5th Ave. 57th st
5. Henri Bendel- 712 5th Ave. 55th st
6. St Patrick’s Cathedral- 51st
7. Saks 5th Ave- 12 E. 49th st- stay for the show on the building
8. Rockerfeller Tree
9. Bryant Park Holiday Village
10. Macy’s- 151 34th st
11. Lord and Taylor- 424 5th Ave
I would definitely allot 5-6 hours if you would like to make all of these stops. I had to leave at a certain time so we saw the first 9 in 4.5 hours. We did not get to see the Macy’s or Lord and Taylor windows this year.
Seeing the windows is a magical experience. They are all beautiful! I recommend going to see the windows early. It doesn’t have to be dark to see those and it will be less crowded. As the day went on it was increasingly more difficult to see the windows or take pictures.
 Not only are the windows beautiful but the streets are looking festive too!

Some windows:

Bloomingdale’s

Tiffany & Co.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
Saks 5th Ave
Rockefeller Tree
Bryant Park Holiday Village

New York City can be magical during the holidays but also crowded. Be kind, be respectful and be patient. Enjoy your holidays and have a Happy New Year!

Check out my Christmas video from a few years ago:

Tis the Season

I absolutely hate being cold. In fact, as I write this I am bundled up in two blankets, drinking tea. Despite hating the cold, I love all the fun things to do in the winter for the holidays!

The following are my favorite places to visit for the holidays!

Last winter, my boyfriend and I hit up Destiny USA, one of the largest malls in the United States. It is located in Syracuse, NY.

A few minutes away from the mall there is an event held each year called Lights on the Lake. This is an adorable drive-through event. It starts mid November and runs through the first week on January. It’s open from 5-10pm and is $10 per car to get in.

We waited a long time to get in, about 45 minutes but it’s worth it. There is a station you can tune into for Christmas music while you drive through and enjoy the light displays.

Another one of my favorite spots to hit up in the winter is the Corning Museum of Glass. Check out their calendar and make sure you visit during their free Holiday weekend. It’s a lot of fun, not only because it is decorated beautifully but also because there is so much going on! There is a choir singing carols, there is free hot chocolate, cider and cookies as well as giveaway raffles. The glass making demo’s are holiday themed and there are endless holiday glass ornaments and decorations to buy. Each item is more beautiful than the last. I had a lot of trouble deciding what to get last year. I finally settled on a glass bulb ornament and a glass snowman.

Because there are limited spots and a highly sought out event, I have never been able to do the glass making, though I haven’t tried that hard either. To make the holiday themed glass, you need to make reservations in advance. I recommend it because it is a lot of fun! (I have done it outside of the holiday events.)

Though it is absolutely freezing and you feel like your face might fall off, I love visiting Niagara Falls, Canada in the winter. Though you aren’t able to ride the Horn Blower, it’s really quite magical! The Falls are always lit up at night but this time of year it feels even more special.

There was a cool option to write on the buildings and there was a light display in the park when I went two or three years ago.

If you live in New York, visiting Dyker Heights, Brooklyn is a must! There are several blocks that get absolutely decked out for the holidays! Bundle up and walk around this festive neighborhood.

Some of the blocks even have characters and Santa giving out candy!

These few blocks can get pretty crowded so beware of that. Everyone is trying to take pictures with their families. Go in with a positive attitude and a lot of patience! Be kind even if other people are being rude and also, do not go on the properties. These are people’s homes. They of course want you to take all the pictures you want but from a reasonable distance.

NYC- Duhhhhh!

There is nothing like New York City in December. The windows, the ornaments, the light shows on the buildings, and the Rockefeller tree!

A lot of people go to see the windows and Rockefeller tree but forget all about Bryant Park. I definitely recommend going there too! They have an adorable holiday set up, Bryant Park Winter Village. There are tons of shops, hot chocolate stands, snack stands, ice skating, and their very own large Christmas tree.

I have never ice skated near the Rockefeller tree due to the enormous line but I have in Bryant Park. The line goes pretty quick.

Check out my video from a few years ago.

Happy Holiday, fun travels, and have a great 2018!

Backpacking Costa Rica

I went to Costa Rica for 10 days and it was an absolute dream. I loved it so much. I knew I would like it but I didn’t realize how much I would love it. I loved everything about it, the food, the people, the weather, the scenery, the intimacy, the animals…everything! Lets break this trip down.

Communication:

I do not speak Spanish well at all. I know a few words here and there. I used the free app Duolingo to learn basic Spanish before I went. This was actually very helpful. I experienced a good mix of people knowing English and not knowing English. Most of the people we interacted with did have basic English words down and I had basic Spanish words down. This was enough to get me through without too much trouble. There were hiccups here and there but nothing major or damaging. What was consistent though was that everyone was extremely nice and even though we did not speak the same language, I found that anyone I met or interacted with was friendly, sweet and willing to help out with directions, etc… as best they could.

Transportation:

My boyfriend and I decided not to rent a car and instead use a car service that drives you from point A to your far away destination of point B. They come and pick you up and will drive you to your next destination, even if it is 6 hours away and it is usually around $50. It was so worth it to not deal with the stress of directions and the bumpy roads which would have made me nervous to drive on. There were a few times that I feared for my life because the driver was talking on his phone or not looking at the road but ya know…you get what you pay for I suppose. The two car services we used were: Desafio & Montezuma Expeditions.

Food:

As for the food, I have been trying to go vegetarian and I thought this would be an issue in another country but it wasn’t at all. I did have chicken here and there but there was endless supply of veggies and rice and a bunch of other yummy things. The plantains were out of this world and I swear Costa Rica has the best tomatoes I have ever tasted in my life. Look at all of this deliciousness! Everything tasted so fresh. I miss the food a lot.

First few days of the trip: Cabuya

For the first part of our trip we went to Cabuya, which was a 6 hour drive from San Jose airport. We went there for a wedding. I absolutely loved it. Cabuya had so much to offer…so much so, that I did not even get to do everything I wanted to! We stayed at my friend’s mother’s spa, Gentle Earth Retreats. This place was incredibly beautiful. I highly recommend it! My friend’s wedding took place on this property. It was a dream location for a wedding.

This is the adorable place we ate at each morning. It was a 5 minute walk from Gentle Earth Retreats.

The woman that helped us each morning was so sweet and the food was amazing.

The first big adventure we took in Cabuya was snorkeling on Toruga Island. Now this was a fantastic deal we got through Gentle Earth Retreats. We spent about 2 hours on a boat to the island. Went snorkeling for a few hours, spent a few hours lounging on the island with food provided for us and then the boat ride back. This was only $45!!! Incredible deal. This was one of my favorite days in Costa Rica.

Hard to see but we saw a whale shark!

I also highly recommend hiking at Cabo Blanco. We hiked 2 hours through a beautiful, monkey filled jungle to a beach. Because it is a 2 hour hike to the beach, there were barely any people on it. Warning, the 2 hour hike back after sitting in the sun for hours was pretty horrific. There were times I didn’t think I was going to make it but just pack plenty of water and snacks and suffer through because trust me, it was SO worth it!

Next stop…Monteverde!

We took Montezuma expeditions from Cabuya to Moneverde. This was about a 5-6 hour trip which included driving and a boat ride! They picked us up right from Gentle Earth Retreats and dropped us off at our adorable hotel, Las Orquideas.

We only stayed here one night. It cost us around $50 for the night. The two women that worked there did not speak good English and I do not speak good Spanish but that did not stop them from helping us out and trying to talk with us. They were super sweet and they cooked us a dynamite breakfast. There was a fantastic view in the back but it was so windy and up high that I was a little scared!

After checking into our hotel we went zip lining through Sky Trek. We had previously made a reservation. I was very afraid and was tearing up but our two guides were so nice and comforting. One of them told me to just try it once with him and if I didn’t think I could do it they would let me down at the next stop. I got on the zip line with him and he encouraged me to scream and just let it all out. I was screaming so much that I ended up laughing a lot. I ended up sticking with it and made some cool friends! (We still keep in touch on FaceBook!)

After Zip Lining we walked around on a path in the forest. It was beautiful. I saw so many gorgeous flowers and we heard a lot of birds chirping.

After Zip Lining we walked to town from our Hotel. We took a flashlight which was smart because it was very dark. It was only around a 10 minute walk. We went into cool shops and bought some souvenirs.

We ate dinner at this amazing tree top restaurant. The food and atmosphere were amazing.

After our adventures in Monteverde, we were off to La Fortuna. We used Desafio ‘s taxi-boat-taxi service to get to La Fortuna. Not only was it easy and convenient for us but it was a fun experience in itself. We had a lot of fun on the boat and we caught such gorgeous views the entire way.

Baldi Springs was an absolute dream.

We had arrived on a Sunday so we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves. While Baldi Springs was super expensive ($200 per night! Yikes!) we only stayed one night. We checked in right at  check in time and checked out the next day as late as possible to get our money’s worth.

Breakfast was complimentary and it was delicious. Other meals were very reasonably priced. I was scared they would be super expensive but they weren’t. Phew!

The pools were gorgeous. We spent the day bouncing from pool to pool to pool. They even have cool water slides!

This was the end of our trip. By this time we were exhausted. We had plans to venture out and experience the natural hot springs around this area…they are everywhere! We also wanted to do a walking tour up Arenal Volcano but we were pooped! We ended up just lounging by the different pools all day at Baldi and going on the slides repeatedly, which was so much fun! I wish we had more time to spend in this area. We did not get to explore which I would have liked to do. Baldi Springs truly was a paradise. I wish I could live there. I highly recommend it!

Check out my video of our trip:

Niagara Falls

I’ve been to Niagara Falls almost 10 times now, maybe more. No, I am not obsessed with it. I have been there so many times because I live so close and friends and family have asked me to bring them there ’cause well, I’m kind of an expert by now! It’s easily a day trip but yes, I do love it!

What’s not to love?

I have gone to Niagara Falls on the American side, the Canadian side, in the summer, and in the winter. Here are some of my thoughts and recommendations for your trip to Niagara Falls:

My favorite place I have stayed when I visited Niagara Falls was The Knights Inn. Not because it was glamorous or anything but because it was nice and cheap and walking distance from the falls. It was so convenient to come and go as I pleased. You can park your car at the hotel and walk down.  It is up a killer hill though. Your legs will get a workout!  This was during the winter though. When I went to book this hotel in the summer, it was completely booked for months and the prices were sky high! If your hotel is not walking distance, no worries! There is tons of parking. I recommend the main lots to park for the day. It’s about $18 for the day. Well worth it in my opinion and experience!

This is my own personal opinion but I wouldn’t bother going to the falls unless it’s on the Canadian side. It’s a much more fulfilling experience. You get a much better view and can see it from all different angles. Don’t forget your passport!

I actually really liked Niagara Falls in the winter. Obviously it was absolutely freezing but it had it’s perks. It is much less busy, it feels like you have the whole place to yourself! There are no lines for anything. When you go in the summer everything has a long wait. But the down side is that you can’t ride the Hornblower (Canadian version of Maid of the Mist), which I recommend. It’s a lot of fun.

My absolute favorite thing to do is Journey Behind the Falls. The nice thing about it is that you pay and there is no time limit. You can stay as long as you want and you can get up close and personal to the waterfall! One risk of going in the winter is that the lower platform next to the waterfall may be closed. It sometimes freezes over. If so, it is still worth doing. I really like being in the caves and stay in there for a long time.

And make sure you stay to see the falls at night! They light up every night and it is gorgeous!

IMG_1389

There is an incredible aviary right near the falls, about a 5 minute drive. I highly recommend this, especially if you have kids! It’s called Bird Kingdom and it lives up to it’s name. Bird Kingdom is incredible. I would leave a few hours to be in here. I typically like to spend a few hours here on my last day before I travel home. This place is huge! And you will want to see every square inch. Not only does Bird Kingdom have incredible, exotic birds but the rooms are gorgeous! This place doesn’t only have birds. They have skunks, a crazy bat exhibit, turtles, snakes…I can go on about this place forever. A must see!

I hope you enjoy Niagara Falls as much as I do! Let me know in the comments if you have any other recommendations!

Birthday trip to Philly

Last year I decided to spend my birthday in Philadelphia. I wanted to see the sights as well as checking out a Broken Bells concert. I had never been to Philly but had heard so many great things about it. It was a lot of fun and there was so much to see!

As usual, we got in late Friday night. We spent the night at an airbnb. In the morning our first stop was Reading Terminal Market. I had great food there and I had an incredible smoothie. We also got some candy. I could have spent hours in here! There was so much to see and eat!

After a late breakfast we did our obligatory stop at the Liberty Bell & Independence Hall. I honestly thought it would be boring but it was actually pretty fascinating. I learned a lot and it was a beautiful place to walk around.

US Mint was fairly close by so we took a walk over but sadly it was closed. I think it would be pretty cool to see money get made. Hopefully I can go in the future.

Among our obligatory stops in Philly was none other than Rocky’s Road. I saw the Rocky movies when I was very young and don’t remember much of it but it was still cool to see where a world famous movie scene took place and what a beautiful view!

Elfreth’s Ally is one of the oldest roads in the United States. It dates back to 1702 and “As of 2012, there are 32 houses on the street, which were built between 1728 and 1836.” (according to wikipedia).

Elfreth’s Alley is a short walk but worth going to. Though it is only a 5 minute walk, I think we stayed close to 30 minutes just walking back and forth. It was just so stunning.

Once we got our fill of the oldest road, we headed to Edgar Allen Poe Historical Site. They say Poe lived in this house for a while and it inspired some of his most famous works. It was definitely a neat spot to check out.

We also went to Mutter Museum which was a trip! I have no pictures from here because we weren’t allowed to take them (lame!) but trust me when I tell you that it was worth the trip! “America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a nineteenth-century “cabinet museum” setting.” You will see crazy things here that you may have never even thought of. We spent hours here. It was so fascinating.

Our final stop in Philly was none other than the Magic Gardens. This is a truly magical place and my favorite out of everywhere we went! I just couldn’t believe my eyes. There was so much beauty! I was amazed! Totally recommend!

Something I loved about Philly was all of the murals and street art! Every piece was unique in it’s own way. I was fascinated by each art work and spent a considerable amount of time in front of each. Pictures don’t do it justice. Art was everywhere and it was all breathtaking! The murals make this city beautiful and unique.

I loved Philly and can’t wait to go again! We saw a lot in two days but I know there is so much more to discover!

Virginia Weekend

I went to Virginia last summer to work toward my goal of seeing all 50 states. We went for 2 days. I had always heard amazing things about Virginia Beach so I was excited. Well I lived in Florida for some time so I should have known it wasn’t going to float my boat. I was not too impressed with Virginia. There were parts of it that I liked but overall, it wasn’t one of my favorite states I have visited and I don’t see myself going back anytime soon. I thought it was going to have an amazing boardwalk. It did not. I thought the food would be amazing. It was not. I also didn’t like how dirty the beach was! It was pretty gross. It also didn’t help that it was a cloudy, windy day and the people next to us were feeding all of the birds when we went to the beach.

Our day on the beach:

The only thing that saved our Saturday on Virginia Beach was that I saw advertisements for Cirque Du Soleil everywhere. We decided to buy tickets last minute. We had an amazing time!

On Sunday, we checked out of our Airbnb and drove to Richmond, VA. This was a cute town with lots of sights to see and lots of history. I really enjoyed my time here.

After we hung out in Richmond, VA we decided to drive the Virginia Skyline. It took longer than expected but totally worth it. We had a lot of fun! Beautiful sights and a relaxing 109 mile drive. And the best part was that we saw a bear!

I definitely recommend Richmond and the Skyline if you are heading to Virginia. I would skip Virginia Beach if I ever come back to visit.

The Ultimate Packing List for Backpackers

Backpacking is a very different beast than vacationing, which means that packing can be a a huge ordeal!

Each time I backpack, I pack a little different but I have put together a comprehensive list to go off of each time. These are just my suggestions. Take with you as much or as little of these as you would like. It all depends on the length of the trip, the weather, and the destination. I have only backpacked for up to 10 days.

This is long and maybe a little intimidating, but I’m trying to be as comprehensive as possible and pass on everything I know from experience. Use this as a reference.

Before you leave for your adventure:
  • Check state department travel advisories http://travel.state.gov/
  • Make sure your passport is valid (some countries won’t let you board the plane if your passport expires in 6 months)
  • Check CDC health advisories. You may need some vaccinations.
  • Enroll in STEP https://step.state.gov
  • Advise credit cards of your travel plans
  • Print tickets, maps, itinerary
  • Back up your phone in case it gets lost/stolen
Backpack:
  • Carry on is limited to 22″ x 14″ x 9″
  • A frame backpack with hip straps will help you carry the weight comfortably. I prefer a volume of 40-60 liters. This may be different based on your body size and type. Try before you buy. Get one that fits and is lightweight. I totes recommend checking Eastern Mountain SportsREI, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

I bought mine at EMS and I LOVE it.

Clothes:
    • Clothing takes up a lot of space. The strategy to pack everything into a carry on is to pack only a few items and hand wash your clothes at the hotel/hostel or just be dirty. I try to pack 3 pants and 4 shirts for my 10 day trips.
    • For materials, avoid cotton if you can. It won’t dry in time, you’ll pack it wet, and it’ll smell disgusting when you take it back out. Synthetics dry very quickly so you can wash them frequently. They can however retain odors. Linen works. Spandex clothes like yoga pants dry quickly but are easy for mosquitoes to bite through. Wool is great because it’s naturally odor resistant. You can get very lightweight wool suitable for tropical humidity and heat from Icebreaker or SmartWool. But wool clothing can be expensive so I like to buy wool socks off of Ebay  and Amazon (unused!). Some companies sell defected items for cheap. These are usually just spelling errors, etc. The product is still usable, durable, and effective. They are still pricey but much cheaper. I especially like wool because for a 10 day trip I can pack 4 pairs of socks and be set. You can re-wear them once or twice. Also, if you are doing a lot of hiking or walking around cities (which I recommend because it is beautiful and cheaper), wool socks will save you from blisters.
    • In regions with mosquitoes/malaria, it’s highly recommended you treat your clothes with permethrin. This is pretty cheap and easy to do. It’s safe for humans and very effective.
  • Pack:
    • Shoes – Don’t skimp here because you’ll be wearing these all the time, and carrying everything on your back. I recommend trail runners or hiking shoes. I love my Keens. I got them at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Like backpacks, try before you buy.
    • 2-3 pairs of socks
    • 2-3 sets underclothes
    • 2-3 shorts/pants – Hiking pants are good. Some zip off, which looks dorky but minimizes your packing volume.
    • 3-4 shirts
    • Sunglasses
    • Lightweight rain shell or poncho. I love This One from Columbia because it folds up tiny and is warm. It doubles as a pillow when you need to sleep on the floor.
    • Swimsuit
    • Watch
    • Sun hat
    • Flip flops
    • Cotton bandanna
    • PJs
    • Towels- towels take up a ton of space! When trying to pack minimally but also trying to pack everything  you can into a backpack, towels are a hassle. I like to use Packtowl’s because they fold up super tiny and take up almost no space. Now, these are not super soft and may even be annoying but I find them to be worth it to save space for my souvenirs!
    • Wallet – make sure you have your ID, credit cards, and enough cash
    • Water purifier- Some countries in Central and South America don’t have the cleanest water so you might want to clean it before you drink it.I like using Aquamira.
    • Passport
    • Tickets
    • Map
    • Schedule
    • Phone
    • Phone charger
    • Keys
    • Lightweight flashlight/headlamp. Some countries I have visited experience blackouts. A flashlight has come in handy quite a few times.
    • Water container/Camelback/daypack for walking around cities or hiking.
    • Ear plugs for the airport, planes, and loud hostel neighbors.
    • Snacks/gum (recommend 1 granola bar per day of travel. Sometimes you just don’t know when you are going to have your next meal or for the cases you are experiementing with local foods and it doesn’t go your way.
    • Earbuds
    • Camera
    • Kindle/books
    • Nail file (not metal)
    • Note pad, pencil- keep the memories alive by jounaling!
    • Sleeping pad/yoga mat (optional for sleeping in the airport)
    • Toiletries: read below
Toiletries:
  • The TSA limits liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes to as many 3.4oz containers as you can fit in a 1 quart ziplock. They’ll make you throw it out if it’s not in your ziplock.
  • In addition to toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc:
    • Bug spray (20-30% Deet)
    • Sun screen
    • Medications and Rx (bring in original containers)
    • Bodywash/shampoo (can be used for laundry, or you can pack detergent separately)
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Toilet paper (You would think everywhere you are going will have toilet paper. You would be wrong)
        • First aid kit

      Like I said, this is just suggested. Take it or leave it, but no matter what you choose to pack or no to pack ALWAYS pack a positive attitude and some flexibility!!

An Adorable Town- Hawley, PA

My boyfriend and I spent our anniversary in Hawley, PA. You may be thinking, “Why the hell would you spend your anniversary in Pennsylvania of all places?” Well, let me tell you! I heard from friends that it is a really nice, cute, relaxing area to explore. They were right. We had a really nice time!

We stayed at The Settlers Inn. What an adorable B&B! The room was beautiful, it had a jacuzzi in the bathroom, and we were welcomed by a cheese platter with crackers and wine!

The garden was lovely to spend the evening in. It had a nice little pond with frogs. We arrived Friday afternoon. We spent a lot of time in the garden, soaking in the beautiful day and scenery.

We then went and had a late lunch/early dinner at Cocoon Coffee House. The food was delish!

After our delicious meal, we walked around the quaint town. After touring the cute little town, we had dinner at The Boathouse. Oh, Em, Gee was this place good! Everything we ate was amazing! Highly recommend. We already had a full day so we headed back to the B&B for some jacuzzi time!

We knew that breakfast was provided at The Settlers Inn but we had no idea it was a feast! The amount of food we had for breakfast was shocking as well as a very welcome surprise! It made our stay even more pleasant! After breakfast we took a walk on a walking trail at Riverside Park. The brochure said that it was a good place to see birds. They weren’t kidding! We saw tons of birds! It was beautiful!

After all the relaxation it was time for adventure! We rented jet skis through Rubber Duckie Boat Rentals.

What a perfect weekend! Relaxation, good food, nature, and adventure. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend!

 

A Dream Coming True

Growing up, I never had the desire to travel. I was content with staying in my home state…at home in my bed.

I don’t know what changed but now I want to travel everywhere. So much so that it is overwhelming. I really just started traveling outside of the U.S. in 2014, besides Canada.

In 2014 I traveled to China (Shenzhen, Guilin), Hong Kong, Costa Rica (Cabuya, Montezuma, Monteverde, La Fortuna, Alguien, San Jose), Spain (Torremolinos, Málaga, Mijas, Frigiliana, Gibraltar, Nerja, Ronda, Granada, Tarifa, Cádiz, Sevilla, Córdoba, Madrid, Toledo, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Segovia), and France (Paris). In the U.S: Maryland, Vermont, and Pennsylvania.

I know I won’t be able to travel as much as I want to each year in the future, but I am hopeful I can hit up a few U.S. states and a foreign country each year.

I don’t know if it is realistic for me to live in another country for a year but this article is amazing and I would love to live in each of these countries for a year! I would at least love to travel outside of the U.S. every year for a few weeks.

8 Amazing Inexpensive Countries to Live in for a Year

It is my life goal to travel as much as possible. I want to visit other countries and every single state in the U.S. Now I need to find creative ways to make my dream come true!

Travelling on a Budget

One thing that is interesting about travelling is other people’s comments about my travels. While some are meant as compliments and praise, others are a tad judgmental. Here are some comments I get often, the good and the bad, “You are so lucky”, “I wish I was able to travel like you do”, “You are so blessed”, “I wish I had time to travel”, “I wish I had money to travel”, “You must be rich”, “Travel while you are young and don’t have any responsibilities”.

I have gotten these comments from many different people, numerous times. I want to kind of set the record straight about my traveling because I don’t think people realize how I do it and the hard work and saving I put into it. It is easy to make assumptions and quick judgments when you see the photos posted on FaceBook and not the sweat and tears that took place behind the scenes. Maybe these tips can help others realize that they can travel too, if it is their priority.

I do not consider myself to be lucky or blessed, but I do consider myself to be determined and hard working. Traveling, especially planning trips, is exhausting and takes a lot of time and even more patience. It is easy to make assumptions when all you see is the end result, the pretty pictures. Planning trips, abroad or even just a weekend trip can take me hours, days, even weeks.

The number one important ingredient to traveling is that traveling is a priority in my life. Because it is a priority, I have taken on a kind of lifestyle that allows for frequent travel. While this lifestyle works for me and makes me happy, it may not be for everyone.

Traveling can be very expensive but I do it the cheapest way I know how to. Here are the things that help my traveling be cheap.

I do not travel luxuriously or conveniently.

I travel to cheap countries first. While I am starting out my career and making entry level salaries, I am hitting up cheap countries first; like Costa Rica, Belize, Nicaragua, etc… I will travel to other counties that are known to be more expensive at a later date but for now I am sticking to South and Central America

If I am traveling out of the country, I buy cheap plane tickets that fly at inconvenient times. My last flight was at 3am at JFK airport. I live upstate. I took a bus down to the city for 4 hours then I took a 2 hour train ride to the airport. After arriving there at midnight, I slept for a few hours on the cold, hard tile until my 3am flight. Not luxurious.

My flights usually have a ton of stop-overs for hours and hours and hours. Direct flights are awesome and convenient so they can be more expensive. I do not take direct flights if I can find a cheaper one that is less convenient.

I do not stay in hotels. I stay in hostels or stay in people’s houses that rent out a room via airbnb.com. Hostels and people’s houses are less luxurious than a nice, fancy hotel but they are also much cheaper. But! You would be surprised. I have stayed at phenomenal Airbnb’s! Some even nicer than hotels.

I also like this option because you have the opportunity to meet other travelers and locals! It is usually local families that own the hostels.

I don’t drink. You would not believe how much money I save by not drinking alcohol!

I do a lot of hiking. Hiking is mostly free! Sometimes you have to pay a park fee but it usually isn’t much.  I also enjoy walking around cities or towns. This is also free but you get to meet locals, try local foods, and experience the culture of the country you are traveling to!

In other countries, I don’t rent a car. I figure out public transportation or use shuttles.

I think people also don’t realize how frugally I live. My lifestyle is as follows:

Once again, I do not drink.  This saves me a ton of money. Conveniently for me, I don’t like drinking.

I don’t usually eat out. I will with friends once in a while but most of the time I cook and bring my own lunch to work each day.

I do not own a TV so I don’t have a cable bill. I also don’t pay for HBOgo or Hulu or anything like that. I used to splurge on Netflix for the $9 a month DVD plan but I don’t even do that anymore.

I was never one to workout, but this year, working out and getting into shape was my new year’s resolution. I didn’t want to spend money on a gym membership so I workout to videos on Youtube. I also like this because it is more convenient and takes less time. I love the Youtube channel, FitnessBlender. They have diverse videos you can workout to in the comfort and privacy of your own room!

I just recently got a smart phone. For years I had a pay as you go, cheap, crappy phone. And I will have this phone for as long as it works. I will not be paying for the newest version. I have a basic version through Cricket Wireless. It is $40 a month for unlimited talk and text and limited data. Limited data also helps me to be more productive!

I don’t own a car. I use public transportation or carpool.

I keep a budget to keep track of what I spend my money on. At this point I spend most of my money on traveling and fun things. For a while I was spending a lot of money on eating out. I saw that and began cooking.

I pick out recipes every Sunday and go shopping for those specific ingredients. This eliminates a lot of wasted food. I save money by buying what I need for the week.

I buy used clothes. I don’t shop at the mall or clothing stores (only for bras, underwear, and shoes). I buy used clothing and accessories from thrift shops or used clothing stores. My favorite is Plato’s Closet! My friends and I also have trading events. Once or twice a year, my friends and I gather all of our clothes and accessories we don’t want anymore. We make this a party and trade all of our stuff.

For the most part, my boyfriend and I don’t exchange gifts. We only exchange gifts on Christmas and we don’t spend a lot of money. We usually spend under $50 on each other for Christmas. For Valentine’s Day we go out to dinner, which is such a nice treat for us because we don’t eat out a lot. This makes Valentine’s Day memorable and special for us. We like to save up our money so that we can travel together.

My friend’s and I don’t exchange birthday or holidays gifts unless we do secret santa. We will have a holiday party or all go out to dinner or have a party for a birthday. Not only does this save all of us money, it gives us time together and also relieves us of a lot of stress.

I don’t go to the movies and if I do, I go to a discount theater. Luckily they have one in my area.

We spend a lot of time outdoors. This is free.

I don’t have kids. This helps a lot but I do foster and rescue cats which takes a good chunk of my income.

I live very minimally. In the past few years I have been getting rid of a lot of items in my apartment that I don’t use. I sell these on Craigslist, Ebay, and even have garage sales.

I don’t buy books. I borrow them from the library.

I am trying to grow my own herbs and vegetables but I am failing miserably. I was not born with a green thumb.

Of course it is absolutely, perfectly fine for people to eat out everyday and buy each other expensive gifts and have cable. These are normal things in life. I choose to live a different way to save money for my priority.

This may all seem extreme and a dramatic way to live but it has become so natural to me and I find that I am happier. Also, I am a Social Worker. Look up Social Worker’s average pay and you will see that I am in no way rich. Living minimally allows me the freedom to do all the things I want to do and to travel to new and exciting places with a limited budget.

Do you have any awesome ways to save money that I missed? Let me know!