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The Do’s and Don’ts of Hostels

Oh hostels… how wonderfully cheap and wonderfully disgusting you are. Just kidding, but really… As a college student preparing myself for the imminent amounts of debt I’m looking forward to, I had to strategically plan out how I was going to cheaply sleep in Italy. I’ve heard of couch surfing, but my paranoid mind said NO, which I regret… but my budget still said yes to Hostels! Here’s a list of what you should and should NOT do when your booking hostels, approaching your hostel, determining features, and events at your hostel.

Please DO these things:

 

  1. Use the Hostelworld App to book your hostel. This app is soooooooooo easy to use. You literally look up the city you’re going to as well as the dates you need and it pops up like 100 options for places to choose from and they aren’t just hostels. They show you hostels, hotels and campsites to book with. With only 1-2 clicks later, your hostel is booked!
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  1. Please be PICKY when choosing your hostel. Just because it’s the cheapest option doesn’t mean its the best or worst.
  2. Look at the features: In the app it shows what the hostel provides for you under the “facilities” tab. It tells you what is offered for free like Wifi or maps, they’re general accommodations like AC and heaters, the services they offer like housekeeping, luggage storage and internet access, their food and drink options, and an entertainment section incase this hostel comes with a bar or restaurant!
  3. Read the reviews THOROUGHLY. Sometimes hostels will claim they’re close to downtown, and the reviews will say “I had to take a damn taxi everyday because this place is so far away!” or you will see a dozen reviews saying there’s no hot water. It’s because it’s TRUE. Listen to reviews.
  4. Pick a hostel close to downtown. You will save money by not having to get that “damn taxi” every day and be able to just step outside, walk a few blocks and see the Trevi Fountain. It’s a good investment.
  5. If your looking for a fun night life hostel check out the events and night life they offer. Some have bars and some do events like “Tuesday Night bar hopping for only $25 in Rome come join the fun!” I did something like this and it was a night to remember.
  6. Please bring your own towel on your trip. So many of the hostels I booked I had to buy a towel rental for the time I was there. Unlike the U.S. where every hotel you go to offers towels, I never read anything on something like this in Italy so I didn’t pack one. Hostels will charge you so bring your own.
  7. EVERY SINGLE ROOM I SLEPT IN HAD ONE PERSON WHO SNORED ALL NIGHT. BRING EARPLUGS. PLEASE. I BEG YOU.
  8. Bring your own cleaning supplies. Just some clorox wipes for your trip will change your hostel bathroom. These bathrooms can sometimes be soooo disgusting. Wipe down your toilet seat and don’t walk in their barefoot haha.

Please DO NOT do these things:

  1. Don’t leave your toiletries in the room. Bring your shampoos into the shower, and then put them back in your bag when your done.
  2. Don’t leave your bag unlocked EVER. Your roommates may be nice, but just for extra safety precaution, always lock it.
  3. Following up with the last one, don’t use their safety lockers. You don’t really need to if you have locks on your bag. It’s just a waste of money.
  4. Do not be disrespectful to your roommates. Silence phones and laptops. Don’t bring anyone in there to sleep with because well… you have an audience? And don’t take up all the space. Don’t throw your clothes and trash everywhere.
  5. Do not research what the free breakfast entails. Sometimes a free breakfast to them is cereal or toast. One hostel had cocoa puffs and bread with Nutella for their “free breakfasts”. I mean I guess it’s not that bad…
  6. Do not expect to pay with card every time. I had a couple places say “whoops cash only!” and I would have to use their stupid ATM that charged me an extra couple euros just to pull out some cash.

 

Using hostels on my trip to Italy was a one of a kind experience. I have some great stories that tells how I made friends around the world. Like the crazy Prague girls who I peed in the bathroom with and these New Zealand guys who we talked in the lobby with every night about the coolest things that are different in New Zealand compared to the U.S. I have some horror stories like my boyfriend puking all night and keeping everyone awake, this old guy who came into our room at 2am and smelled like death, and the hostel that had no A.C. so mosquitos came and bit us all night for having the windows open. Stuff like this are things we laugh about now, but in the moment we wish we did some things differently.

I hope all your hostel stories stay fun and safe! Happy travels xxx

 

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How To Get Cheap International Flights

Yes. The secret formula exists. It is true.

After researching and researching and researching a kajillion articles on Google, Pinterest and Facebook I read multiple different answers to the question “When are international flights the cheapest?” It was frustrating. So I tested it myself.

I used Expedia to help me with this – they compare hundred of flights to find you the cheapest and fastest route for you. All the articles said, “6 months before your trip! 2 months before your trip! 6 weeks before your trip!” I didn’t know who to believe. I didn’t want to risk to buy my ticket at the 6 month price only to find out it’s cheaper at 2 months.

Here’s what I learned: I stumbled upon some great information from an article on Pinterest one day. (I wish I could find it but it’s hidden somewhere deep in the internet haha) That the day you buy your ticket and the day you choose to fly out MATTERS.

They claimed that buying your ticket on a Tuesday and flying out on a Saturday is the most cheapest ticket you can get.

So I tested it. I went on Expedia that day (A Sunday I believe) and made it to where I flew out on a Saturday. It was still the same price.

The next day (Monday) I checked it again to fly out on Saturday and it was still the same price. When I checked it on Tuesday it was like $200 cheaper! I went ahead and did the rest of the week and sure enough Tuesday was the magic day that makes your tickets cheaper!

So knowing this information I kept an eye on my ticket price as the year went by. When it hit 6 months my $1400 ticket to Italy was still $1400, so I don’t know what that article was claiming. eye roll

I checked it once a month after that to test the theory: When is the best time to buy your ticket?

At 5 months it was the same. At 4 months it came down to $1100. I was skeptical to buy it… but I waited.

Ladies and gentlemen… At 3 months: In MAY, 2016 the round trip ticket price for Italy went down to $850!!! I immediately bought it the night I saw it. I didn’t want to risk and wait any longer and see the price go back up. I was so happy I saved $550!

So the secret formula is…

  • 3 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR TRIP.

  • BUY ON A TUESDAY.

  • FLY OUT ON SATURDAY.

You’re probably wondering… What if it’s cheaper at 2 months or 1 month? I tested this theory and the price sadly goes back up. At two months it goes up to $1000, and at one month it goes up to $1200.

Another factor is the time of year. I bought during high tourist season where Italy is super busy during the summer months of June-August. I just checked it again (for it being November) and flying out 3 months ahead in February and the price was $817! When flying internationally ALWAYS use this method. Save your money and spend it on more important things you can be doing on your trip. You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

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The REAL definition of the “Travel Bug”

Ahhhhhhhhh.. The “travel bug.” What an annoying analogy to compare to something so wonderful to have. Why must we criticize on those who lust for travel and seeing new places? I don’t see why we place shame in a name towards something like having the “travel bug” as if it’s some sort of phase the person is trapped in. “I’m not listening to emotional screamo music Aunt Petunia, I’m traveling the world!”

What does it mean to have the travel bug?

It means I want to overcome every language barrier. I want to listen to the #1 hit song teenagers are listening to in Nepal at the moment and I want to see animals in their natural habitats that aren’t from a magazine or Nat Geo Wild. I want to swim in every sea in the world, say I zip-lined the rainforests of Jamaica and that I danced all nights in the streets of Spain. I want to tell my kids, “you’re going to eat all the food on your plate,” not because of the starving kids in Africa but because of the time I witnessed a child beg me for money on a train in Italy. I want my life to be fully aware of what this world is full of and more importantly – what we are capable of.

It means I want the most out of my home country. I want to see racism disappear forever. I want to see stereotypes of other cultures completely die from society. When a picture is shown of a Chinese person, we see people of all skin colors, heights and body types. We don’t just see the person, we see their foods, their lands, and their history. I want to see this world change for the better as a first hand witness – a traveller!

Having the travel bug is like winning the lottery! You are one of the FEWEST people in the world who wants these things from our world. You want your life to be filled with stories no one else can repeat, see things no one else has seen, and become friends with people who others will never meet. You want the most out of life. You want the grandest adventure not everyone chooses to pursue. And that my friend… is something rare and valuable to have.

Imagine how much healthier our society would become if we all experienced each other’s cultures and learned the truths about ourselves instead of what society has vaguely labeled us as.If you have the travel bug, I urge you to chase that little sucker down and never stop. Encourage others. Inspire others. Change the world one country at a time.

How to Plan and Afford a Road Trip to California 🌞

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Trying to squeeze some vacation time into an already busy summer schedule? I feel you.

My summers include working 5-6 days a week and committing the one day off I have to a hike, the beach, or a night out with friends. Planning an extensive 8 day road trip requires proper planning in advance in order to make the trip possible and overall fun. If you’re interested in being a tourist in California for the summer – PLEASE do it! Here, I’ll show you what you need to think about ahead of time, how to map out your trip, and I give you a list of things to do while your there!

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First things first – Who’s coming?

It was me and my boyfriend who came up with the idea of the trip so it was already a convenient package deal. I invited my best friend from high school and she invited one of her friends from church.  After voting and considering between all of our cars, we decided my friends 2014 Chevy Sonic was our most reliable option to do a 1900 mile trip. Although it’s the size of your average small car we packed all of our stuff in a way to keep the drive comfortable and cozy. Read about how we packed our small car for the road trip here!

Second – How Long?

Seeing that we are all college students with a couple hundred bucks to our name living paycheck to paycheck with our part time jobs- we decided a week off work was enough to see everything we wanted to see in Cali. Plus you should also consider how far you are from California. We live in Salem, OR so it was just an 8 hour drive to our initial stop of Sacramento, CA.

Third: Accommodations and Food?

To be able to afford a trip like this, we used the best of our resources. This included grocery shopping for snacks to put in the car during our drive (snack list ), and calling up family and friends in California and asking if all four of us could crash at their houses during our trip. Luckily they all said yes! This is a good way to catch up with old family and friends so definitely consider seeing someone you miss, this could be a win-win for everybody!

Fourth: SPLITTING THE BILL

How are we going to split gas? The groceries? The hotel?

What we used was this app called “Venmo” You register your debit or credit card (do debit, because credit cards gets charged 3% transaction fees) and you can send anybody in your contacts that have this app. When you install the app it already has an ongoing public list of transactions of people you know using the app so realistically assuming you have everyone’s number that you’re going on this road trip with, you’re going to see them.

When we did this, gas at every stop was only around 4$ per stop! Seeing that we stopped for gas around ~10 times for this trip, thats $40 bucks for gas! LIKE WHAT?! Awesome!

We only got groceries prior to the trip which ended up being around a $50 dollar bill. That split between us was only $11 bucks per person for all the snacks of the trip.

Going out to eat of course was essential to get the California experience, but doing just groceries could save even more cash if you needed to.

Lastly – Make a Skeleton Outline of your drive and the places you want to hit

The weeks leading up to the trip, the four of us had a group chat where we sent each other ideas on where we wanted to go and what activities we wanted to do in Cali. This is what our itinerary ended up being:

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We left Monday afternoon and drove to our initial stop in California where it took us 8 hours. We were only there to stay at our friends uncle’s house to get rest before doing another 3 hour drive to Santa Cruz. We didn’t see Sacramento at all sadly it wasn’t a part of our itinerary. 

Here is an dated outline of our trip with hours drove and how long we spent at a destination:

  • Salem, OR —> Sacramento, CA = 8 hours

crash at 2 am in Sacramento, leave at about 10 am for Santa Cruz

  • Sacramento, CA —> Santa Cruz, CA = 3 hours

Spend the day in Santa Cruz (Walked the Santa Cruz Boardwalk)

Asked a local for a good restaurant for dinner and they suggested: Betty Burgers!

“Amazing food and milkshakes, it was a little busy and the place is so small we had to wait for a table to open up, so that was rough but overall the food was delicious! ”

Spend one night at a Motel – leave in the morning

  • Santa Cruz, CA —> Los Angeles, CA  = 6 hours 

First stop: Kayaking

Second Stop: El Matador Beach

Third stop: IN N OUT burgers for dinner!

Then go to our family friends house to sleep

Next day we conquered:

  1. Spent the entire morning on Melrose Avenue taking pictures at the Instagram walls
  2. Spend the afternoon walking Hollywood Blvd.
  3. Spend the evening at Venice Beach swimming in the ocean.
  4. Walked to the Santa Monica Pier for pictures.
  5. Spend the last couple hours of your night walking through Universal Studios
  6. Ate at Bubba Gump’s to be a true tourist 😉

3rd day in LA:

  1. Eat breakfast with our friend’s family
  2. Drive to Malibu Beach and spend the day swimming
  3. At night go to the Griffith Observatory to see the city lights of Los Angeles before we leave
  4. Start driving back
  • Los Angeles, CA —> San Francisco, CA = 6 hours overnight

Get there in the morning in time to see the sunrise over the San Francisco Bridge!

Then, go out for some breakfast

  • San Francisco, CA —> Glass Beach, CA = 3.5 hours

keep in mind this was a huge detour to our trip

Filled a glass bottle up from the beach – took about an hour since the glass were these super tiny shards you have to hand pick individually

  • Glass Beach, CA —> Salem, OR = 9.5 hours 

 

Starting from left to right: 1. El Matador Beach, 2. Paul Smith Wall, 3. In N Out, 4. Kayaking

What we conquered in our week road trip!

  • Santa Cruz Boardwalk
  • In N Out Burger
  • Kayaking
  • El Matador Beach
  • Malibu Beach
  • Venice Beach
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Bubba Gumps
  • Universal Studios
  • Griffith Observatory
  • Took pictures in front of IG walls on Melrose Avenue
  • Saw the hollywood stars
  • Drove on the San Fransisco Bridge
  • Filled a bottle of glass at Glass Beach

What more to do?

  • Black Sands Beach in Whitethorn, CA
  • Hike at Big Sur National Park
  • Explore downtown Santa Barbara
  • Rent bikes down Venice Beach
  • Walk the San Francisco Bridge
  • Explore downtown San Diego
  • San Diego Zoo

This trip was a dream come true, and now looking back at it we conquered SO MUCH in a week! We made the most unforgettable memories and I became so much closer to my friends this way. We have tons of funny stories from this trip and some not so funny stories – haha. Please please please, see California in your lifetime if you haven’t already, it’s a whole new culture of sun, surfers, seafood, and rich city vibes with street performers, music and outdoor activities. You won’t regret it!

Picture 1: The jar we filled up from Glass Beach

Picture 2: Went into a Photo Booth as we waited our turn for laser tag at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Got any more suggestions for things to do in California? Comment Below!

 

 

 

Starting a Travel Blog?!

“Wow”

My reaction to everything. I absolutely can not believe the amount of stuff I have learned since wanting to start this blog!!! I have read so many articles and blogs about how to start one and what I’ve learned is that blogging is pretty much a second job.

I got to dedicate this for the long run! I definitely want to travel my whole life. First as a college student, then after college, then travel with my future kiddos, so having a place to record the adventures I go on will be amazing for me to see but also everyone else like my family, friends, and coworkers. More importantly though, one day I hope I can reach out to a big enough audience to teach other americans how to leave our dang country!

Part of why I started this was because after I traveled to Italy, I have accomplished something that majority of americans haven’t done in their entire lives! Most of us haven’t left the country, and a handful of them have never even left their states!!! I want to show everyone how traveling can impact your life in such a positive way. It teaches you to be more in tact with your soul spiritually, it challenges you physically, it forces you to master interpersonal communication, it demands a lot of mental skill in planning and being organized, and overall it transforms you into a more positive person. Experiencing just one other culture than your own gives you so much insight about how big this world is!

Although the next few years in college will be spent at home in Oregon, every summer and school break will be an opportunity to go somewhere new. I am so excited to start this journey of traveling the world and to meet all the new friends I’ll make on the way.

 

How to Pack Your Small Car for a Road Trip

It’s easier than you think!

 

 

 

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This last summer, my friends and I all took a week off work to drive down to California and well… DO WHAT THE CALIFORNIANS DO! Isn’t it sad to say that I’ve lived in Oregon (the state RIGHT ABOVE Cali) my entire life and I’ve never seen California? IT IS REALLY SAD let me tell you. So planning this trip and actually making it happen was such a fun experience!

The two weeks following up to the trip though were super crucial in figuring out who’s car to take and why. We had to consider gas mileage, how much space we have in the car, how much we can fit into the car, if it had a good working radio, an AUX CORD (Probably the most important thing for us 20 year olds) and the car amenities like how many cupholders it has, the side door storage space, the trunk space, working A/C and heater, etc.

What we ended up taking was my friend’s 2014 Chevy Sonic. For being a newer car, everything was in excellent working condition and was ultimately our most reliable option to travel 1900 miles. The only thing was probably the size. It’s about the size of your average Honda civic so we definitely considered our comfortability with the car.

 

When our friends picked up my boyfriend and I in Salem we started packing that car with the best essentials we can think of! The trunk of the car held all of our duffle bags and a cooler to keep snacks cold. From there we packed the actual room of the car with things we need for it’s convenience unlike the trunk. These were, the middle seat in between the two people in the back, the car door storage space, the pockets behind the seats, the rear deck, the floors, and the glove box.

Here is a list:

  • Snacks (See seperate list below)
  • Personal books to read
  • Baby wipes
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • A Paper towel roll
  • a plastic bag to keep trash in
  • Phone Chargers (luckily she had a usb port and a car port to charge 2 phones at a time!)
  • Adult Coloring Book (can buy at any grocery store)
  • Pencil pouch (It was big enough to carry pencils, pens, coloring pencils and markers)
  • Small thin blanket (Each person brought their own)
  • pillow (Each person brought their own)
  • headphones
  • bug spray
  • hand sanitizers
  • GPS (incase your phone doesn’t have Wifi)
  • Waterbottles (hydroflasks are perfect)
  • Deck of cards
  • A tote to hold dry snacks in
  • Cooler in the trunk to keep cold snacks in

The cooler in the trunk held cold snacks while the tote in the backseat carried our dry snacks. The tote I used was one from Target I bought to keep my bathing suits in. It’s small square, and did the job just fine. It was able to hold a couple bags of chips, the coloring book and the pencil pouch. From time to time I would throw my phone in there.

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Here is a list of snacks to bring for your trip!

  • Berries (any kind that comes in a sturdy container)
  • Pretzels
  • Hummus
  • Chips
  • Popcorn
  • Lunchables (our favorite for those long drives)
  • Granola Bars
  • Trail mix
  • Bagels w/ cream cheese

Utilizing the space of your vehicle is crucial for road trips. You don’t have to go out and buy specific organizing pockets to fit more stuff at all. The more room you have in the end leads to a more comfortable car ride especially when its 10+ hours long! Don’t lead your trip to a bad experience just because you didn’t have enough leg space! It’s all about the memories and the crazy stories you’ll have to tell when you get back.