This is a recap post from my recent trip to Seattle, Washington at the end of 2016. I hope it empowers you to take a solo trip somewhere and gives you guidance when keeping track of your finances for your trip.
You need to push yourself to do things that scare you and put you out of your comfort zone. That’s why I’m booking a flight to Seattle, for 4 days, alone. I’m pretty terrified, but also extremely excited. It’s only two days off from work and will (hopefully) only cost about $550-600 RT including everything. I want to end 2016 on a positive note, doing something that isn’t easy for me to do- travel alone.
I’ve done it before in a sense, but not completely. When I traveled to Spain and Australia, I was part of a program so the minute I landed in each individual country, I was swept up by the program facilitators and taken care of. Yes, there were moments of independence, but nothing like traveling to a new city, alone, with only yourself to rely on and no one you know there.
“My life is your vacation” -somebody’s bumper sticker, San Diego, CA
After living in San Diego for almost a year, this is my short, but comprehensive list of top things to do in San Diego when you vacation here. These are the places I take my friends and family when they visit and by the time they leave, they feel like they’ve seen a good amount of it. I hope this list does the same for you.
If you have any questions about specific places or San Diego in general, leave a comment below. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. Enjoy!
Downtown San Diego
Gaslamp Quarter: historic Victorian-era buildings transport you back to the city’s roots with plenty of modern day shops and restaurants; you won’t find yourself bored in Gaslamp. If you’re looking for good nightlife, Gaslamp will not disappoint. Check out Moonshine Flats for a fun sports bar where they have life size beer pong, Foosball, table tennis (ping pong), and many fun other games.
Seaport Village: not only is it located right next to the water, but it has many great shops and eateries along the way making for a nice adventure along the San Diego Bay. Check out Sinfulicious if you’re looking to freshen up after a long day of travel. I recommend trying their Mineral Body Scrub– it makes your skin feel amazing and fresh for hours! (I am SO picky about what I use on my skin too, so do not take this recommendation lightly, the product deserves it).
Walk along the San Diego Bay. The path winds along the outskirts of the city right next to the bay where you can see out towards Coronado Island (if you have time I definitely recommend taking the Flagship ferry over from San Diego Harbor).
Stop in for a drink on the docks of the San Diego Pier Cafe, located in Seaport Village; the drinks are great and the views are incredible. If you’re a fan of Bloody Marys, make sure to try their Pier Mary– it’s got a kick!
Little Italy Market on Saturdays has a plethora of samples you can feast on (better than Costco’s). This market has it all! If you’re looking for some local food or souvenirs for friends and family, this is the place you won’t want to miss.
See lobsters, fish and more in these awesome tide pools! Great pictures posted by a fellow blogger here!
Torrey Pines State Reserve: great hiking trails all along the water. A MUST do while you are in San Diego- the views are worth it. Also, if you pay to park inside the reserve you can drive your car to the top where most of the trails are instead of hiking the hill to get up there which will save you some time.
Blacks Beach great place for surfers as it is considered one of the strongest surf breaks in SoCal. It is known to be a nudest beach so don’t be surprised by the lack of clothing. Yelp review here.
Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial is a beautiful landmark located in La Jolla that gives you 360 degree views of San Diego. You will see downtown San Diego (and on a clear day Mexico) up the coast towards Carlsbad. This is a must see if you’re vacationing in San Diego. As a local, it’s my favorite place to take my friends and family who visit. Also, it’s free.
Barrel Republic in Oceanside and Pacific Beach. The cool thing about Barrel Republic is you have THE FREEDOM TO POUR as their slogan goes. Try as many beers as you want at Barrel Republic, it’s your choice to pour as little as a taster and as much as a pint. Their food is good as well.
The difference between the zoo and the safari park is that there are more options (at a higher cost of course) at the safari park to get closer to the animals in a natural-habitat setting. Depending on what you’re looking for, it might be worth while to check out one or both places.
Balboa Park: look for events to see what’s going on during your time here.
If you are driving to Balboa Park, I recommend parking outside of the park as it could take you over two hours just to get in.
I recommend turning right at the stop light before the park entrance (which should be marked by a long line of cars, if not it’s you’re lucky day, but I still might not risk it) instead of going straight. You will be able to park along that road.
TIP: If you want to find a closer spot without walking, take that one-way road all the way to the end and follow it as loops back around. You’ll find a spot way closer to the entrance of the park and to the exit for when you’re leaving.
Journey: At 9:30 a.m. myself and two other friends started the 7 hour drive from Santa Barbara to San Francisco taking the 101 North. About 4 hours into our drive we made our first pit stop at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. This stop is definitely worth the while of any traveler, especially if you have a penchant towards eccentric architecture and mysterious tales.
Accommodation: We arrived in San Francisco a little bit after 5:00 p.m. and checked into USA Hostels San Francisco (our incredible hostel for the weekend) that was in perfect walking distance to everything you would want to see in San Francisco.
What we did:
Union Square: We walked the ten minutes from our Hostel to Union Square and strolled around. There was ice skating in the square and lots of shopping.
Night Out: We went to a club that was a ten minute walk from our hostel called The Cellar which was a lot of fun, but is temporarily closed at the moment.
Fisherman’s Wharf: This is a great place to start your day, especially after a night out on the town. We walked along the piers, saw the antique naval ships, spotted Alcatraz in the distance(didn’t make it there on this trip, but I would 5 months later, it is incredible).
The Golden Gate Bridge: No trip to San Francisco is complete without seeing its most iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. We got the bus out to the bridge from Fisherman’s wharf, you have to take two buses, and then walked the entire length of the bridge. This took us about an hour to do, who knew the bridge was so long?!
Chinatown and Little Italy: To get to Chinatown we first walked through Little Italy, which is absolutely stunning at night, with twinkle lights strung up on the buildings and the smell of Italian cooking floating through the air, you honestly feel as if you have been transported into Big Italy (i.e. the real Italy).
We did finally make it to Chinatown where our main objective was to eat food, which we most certainly did. The food we ate was definitely worth the long walk to try and find Chinatown, and we left the restaurant feeling very happy with ourselves indeed. On our walk back to our hostel we also saw the Dragon’s Gate, which is as cool as it sounds.
What we ate:
Lunch in the Chowder Hut: Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl which we got in Fisherman’s Wharf. So yummy. But to be honest, this was the first time I had ever had clam chowder and since then I have had the privilege of trying so many more versions of clam chowder and thus eaten ones that were a lot better quality for a lot less money. Cost, $8.29.
Dinner in Hunan Home’s Restaurant: I had the Cashew Nut Chicken which was mouth watering good, would definitely recommend this place to everyone looking for a meal in Chinatown. Cost, $10.95
Dessert in The Golden Gate Bakery: We went here just before it was closing, and got the last of their famous Dan Tats, and all I can say was I now know why they are famous. Cost, $1.60
*Our Hostel also provided us with a $5 meal of pasta and garlic bread, which was surprisingly good.
I’m convinced it is ACCOMMODATION! Whether you’re paying $50/night in a hotel or hostel while traveling or $1000/month in rent, there are other options for you!
Over the last few months, I started house sitting while my partner and I have been traveling Australia. This completely free-exchange service has opened up so many opportunities and exceeded all my expectations. House sitting has been a beautiful travel experience. We have lived in Melbourne, Sydney, and Cairns for free! They’ve all come with comfortable places to stay, cuddly pets and forming great, trustworthy relationships with the homeowners.
HOW IT WORKS.
There are various sites to sign yourself up as a house sitter and match up with house sits. This type of house sitting is a free exchange, but does require a yearly fee as a house sitter ranging from $20-$95 depending on the site. This fee is completely worth it as it pays off after even one night of house sitting opposed to staying in a hotel, for example. From there, the process is very similar to online dating. 😉 You set up a profile, then apply and talk with homeowners in response to their posted ad on the site. Ultimately, you are figuring out if you are good fits for each other. Ideally, you meet with the homeowners either in person or via Skype during this process. Then you stay in their home while they’re away, respectfully looking after their home and giving love to their pets.
IT’S A WIN-WIN.
Benefits for a home and pet owner:
Responsible person(s) to take care of their pet and keep their home secure while being away
Pet(s) get to stay in the comfort of their home
Save LOADS of money on paying a sitter or paying to kennel the animals
Benefits for a house sitter:
Comfortable and private place to stay, equipped with everything you need
Companionship of pets
Free place to stay, saving you lots of money on your accommodation costs
Homeowner gets free sitters and allows them to keep their pets at home. Sitters get free accommodation on their travels!
I’ve managed to get you all 20% off Trusted House Sitters! Just click here if you’re interested in using their service.
ESSENTIALS TO GET STARTED:
The right intention.As a house sitter, you need to be excited about this genuine exchange and treat the home and their pets as you’d like someone to treat your own home. Furthermore, you have to be able to commit to the dates required and not back out as the time gets closer. I have heard many stories of house sitters withdrawing from confirmed house sits, which creates lack of trust from home owners and a bad name for us all!
A complete profile, including photos and no grammar errors. This is the main way house owners initially get to know you.
A video! We put off posting a video to our profile just because we felt uncomfortable in front of the camera, but once we finally posted it the responses from home owners increased dramatically. They want to see that you are real people and can relate to you by your video. Our video was super casual and only 35 seconds long, basically introducing ourselves.
It is okay if you have never house sat formally before. There are still people you can ask for references and ultimately, references are essential to gaining a homeowner’s initial trust. We asked family and friends who I had pet sat for previously to write short references. Additionally, we gathered character references from past employers, landlords, friends, and mentors to further depict ourselves as reliable, respectful individuals.
Dedicated time. I can’t tell you clinching house sits is easy. It takes a bit of time both in setting your profile up and then reaching out to potential house sits. It’s free accommodation, so in some areas the competition will be high. For example, when we were applying in Melbourne, Australia the homeowners told me they were getting 30 messages in the first 24 hours of their ad being up. I had to be one of the first people to apply and also set us apart through my initial message, profile, references, and video. There were plenty of “sorry we’ve already found a sitter,” so don’t be too discouraged!
My Top Tip: Go the extra mile on all of your house sits. Once you have house sat through the sites, you have the very important opportunity to get reviews from the home owners that will set you above other house sitters. Imagine what you’d love from your perfect house sitters if roles were reversed and do that! We love to send updates and photos throughout the sits, and the homeowners always appreciate being kept in the loop. They usually miss their pets too! On the day of the home owners’ arrival, we always make sure they come home to a clean house, clean pets, manicured yard, essential household items stocked (toilet paper, etc), and a little dessert. 🙂 Nat and Jodie, two women who have been house sitting their way around the world for over three years and experts in this area, have an amazing House Sitting Academy that comprises of video series, guides, training, and international living advice. This is what I used to get started and still refer back because they’re always adding new helpful info! (They’re actually about to double the price because the Academy is adding much more valuable training, but you have until the end of April to snag a lifetime membership before they increase the price!
Travel. There are house sits literally all over the world! Visit some of the websites I mentioned and start planning your dream trips.
Save Money. After 14 weeks of house sitting, I have saved $3000 in accommodation costs! Think all of the things you can do with $3000! 🙂
Think outside the box. You could even utilize house sitting near home.You don’t have to be traveling internationally to take advantage of this opportunity. Browse for housesits in areas you already live or would like to live for a short time for a getaway. House sits span anywhere from three days to six months. You could potentially even stop paying $1000/month in rent and house sit instead, while still maintaining your day-to-day life.
I plan on using international house sitting for the rest of my life. I’m hooked! The free exchange has given my boyfriend and I the freedom to travel so much longer on our budget. It’s simply amazing. Rent-free is the way to go!
One way I am able to travel as much as I do is because I am constantly finding a discount. My goal is to never pay full advertised price for accommodation, activities, and even restaurants! Below are five of my discount tricks.
1. GOOGLE SEARCHING DISCOUNTS/PROMOS:
It’s always worth a quick google search for a certain hotel site, restaurant, or activity promo deal. Sometimes you get lucky! Recently, I found a 10% discount on my travel insurance. Check out MRae’s Favorite Things for some promos that I offer to my readers.
2. FOLLOW COMPANIES’ SOCIAL MEDIA
Following some of your favorite companies on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can also score you some great deals. For example, Island Air’s Twitter revealed a 15% discount for me when booking my Hawaiian flight from Maui to Oahu.
3. UTILIZE MEMBERSHIP DISCOUNT PROGRAMS
In the United States, AAA (American Automobile Association) offers almost endless discount opportunities. In Australia, they have similar automobile membership cards, such as RACQ in Queensland. I got in the habit of always asking if there was a AAA discount while touring the U.S. after randomly asking at Universal Studios Crazy Golf Course – my whole group got an easy 10% off. Even if you are not a member of these programs, still ask – they do not always ask for your card. Or ask a friend who might have the membership. We scored $13 off our Australian Zoo tickets from my friends’ RACQ account booking online.
4. GROUPON AND LIVING SOCIAL
These deal sites can be a bit dangerous in the sense that, if you just go browsing Groupon or Living Social without something in mind, you might end up buying a random facial you never needed. I suggest searching these sites while looking for a specific activity, gift or restaurant. For example, I really wanted to go stand-up paddle boarding in Hawaii so I found a Living Social deal for half the price of anywhere else in the area. These sites have pretty good friend referral programs as well.
5. SIMPLY ASKING FOR A DISCOUNT:
You’d be amazed at how easy you may receive a deal on activities or excursions if you just ask. Depending on who you are and how you travel, you can ask about specific student or backpacker discounts. Even just asking if an establishment has any specials going on has great outcomes! The worst they can say is no.
Don’t let sickness inhibit your long-awaited travel plans. Use these tried and true tricks for staying healthy on any continent.
Bring the medicines you normally use.
If you’re prone to the occasional migraine, bring plenty of Advil. Succumb to
sinus infections? Bring your Sudafed. Other countries don’t always carry the brands you are used to, and it can be daunting to find the foreign equivalent –especially when you’re under the weather and need relief fast. If you experience seasonal allergies, bring those antihistamines just in case. You never know what allergens you will encounter (if you’re in Granada, Spain, in Spring, you won’t be able to escape the pollen…).
Find out what the local drugstores are called.
In Italy, they’re called “Apothecaries”—so Shakespearean! Others just have a symbol of a green cross on the overhang. One name you definitely won’t see is CVS. 24-hour drug stores are not as commonplace in some countries, so it is important to find out where you can purchase medicine. Many overseas pharmacies are like mini doctors offices—you can tell them your symptoms and they will choose the appropriate medicines from behind the counter (note: this is a definite perk, but requires that you can explain your symptoms in the native language).
Get the 9-1-1 equivalent for the country you’re in.
In the unlikely and unfortunate event that your symptoms progress and you need immediate medical care, it’s essential to have the emergency number memorized or saved as a contact in your phone. (Tip: when traveling to a new country, it is a good idea to add this number to your contact list as soon as you arrive).
Check your insurance plan before you go.
See if you are covered by your insurance plan when you travel abroad. If not, look into global insurance plans if you intend to stay longer than a month. This is a great safety net to have—otherwise, if you end up getting ill or breaking a limb, medical expenses could drain your precious travel budget. Another thing to keep in mind is if you purchase global insurance, do not cancel your insurance back home. If you have a serious medical emergency and have to be flown back, you won’t be covered in your home country.
Pack your vitamins.
Traveling to new places exposes you to people, water, food, air…and germs…that you might not have encountered before. Even if the location you’re staying in is known for its clean water, you don’t know how your body will react to it until you try it yourself. Same with food—some countries have different methods for storing and preparing meat and dairy products, so don’t assume you won’t get sick just because you’ve had something similar before. Taking daily probiotics will help your stomach transition from your old diet to the array of new flavors your destination has to offer. Taking vitamin C while traveling is a good way to protect yourself from anything you could pick up while crammed in close quarters on a plane. Any regular multivitamin you take is also a must-bring.
If you have any other medical travel advice for readers, please let us know by leaving us a comment!
If you’re scared to take the plunge and apply for a study abroad trip, these are a simple 7 reasons to push you to hit that ‘APPLY’ button.
Your perceptions of the world and of yourself will change. Once you live in another country and are immersed in their culture, you begin to see how big this world is. You unknowingly will start contemplating your part in it, the one you will choose to play and carry out in this world.
The people you meet will forever change your life- in the best way possible. I’m sure you’ve heard the classic, “I met some of my best friends while studying abroad”, statement, but you don’t just meet some of the most amazing people who will change your life forever, you meet people who you now share some of the most fantastic memories with. Friends who become family, people who you don’t know how you survived this long without knowing (promise I’m not being dramatic), and individuals who challenge you to be the best version of yourself. You meet people who have similar interests in exploring the world, growing, pushing the limits of what is ‘the norm’, and they will be forever the reason you are thankful for studying abroad.
You’ll learn things about yourself that you never would have, like if you’re fantastic at planning trips or are really good at handling tough situations. You’ll be surprised how much you learn about yourself over the course of your study abroad trip, that no one in a classroom could have ever taught you- only the world could.
Your heart will be placed all over the world. With everyone you meet on your trips a piece of your heart stays with them in that place forever- a beautiful reminder of everything that once was, but a painful reoccurring ache to fly across the world to be reunited again (no one said having friends in other countries would be easy!).
You’ll have a new appreciation for coming home, a place to unwind and take a step back to examine all the wonderful places and people you met.
Your current major is temporarily put on the back-burner, as your new major becomes: ‘Exploration of the World: Becoming a Global Citizen and Local Cuisines, Artisan Craft Beers and Wines Connoisseur’ – best. major. ever.
It’s only the beginning of realizing all that life has to offer you, if you just take the first step and apply yourself, to whatever it is, and in this case to study abroad.
What are or were your reasons for studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself and about this world?
The first six places that should be on your Dallas checklist
Credit for the Adventure: My Aunt Candy (the best Dallas local if there ever was one)
Deep Ellum: Known as the art and design district of Dallas. Fantastic boutiques, artistry shops and thrift shops. Also, if you’re into beer, try the ‘Deep Ellum IPA’!
Pecan Lodge: If you’re a BBQ fan- which if you’re in Texas you should be- you need to checkout this place located on Pryor and Main in Deep Ellum. It is DELICIOUS- my mouth is watering thinking about it. Trust me, it is worth the wait- and there will be a wait even on a rainy day.
Steel City Pops: Amazing assortment of popsicles for any sweet loving popsicle fan. I’m not the biggest sweets person and I still recommend a visit to Steel City Pops.
I especially recommend the Banana Bread Pudding Popsicle if they have it- so good.
Truck Yard: (Featured image) One of the coolest beer gardens I’ve ever been to. It is exactly how it sounds- it is a truck yard made up of all types of junk and it is
fabulous. They have a plethora of beers on tap and depending on the night (and weather) they have food trucks and live music.
Make sure to check out their website to see who’s playing and who’s cooking.
Klyde Warren Park: An amazing urban design making use of a plain overpass in the center of Dallas and turning it into a gorgeous community park. This park is a testament to the good we can put into this world- putting green back into our man-made spaces (yes I am conscious of our environment and the impact we have on it… are you?)
It is a one of a kind park and I can’t wait to start seeing more like these in all of our cities- worth taking time out of your day to experience its futuristic wonder.
Check out their website for daily and weekly activities like movies in the park or fun events for kids!
Mckinney Avenue Trolley: This historic trolley is free of charge and lets you explore Uptown Dallas with a bit of the past vividly in your present.
I did not have the opportunity to take the trolley myself, but was able to capture this photo of it! Next time I am in Dallas however I will be making a point not to miss it!
What are your favorite places in Dallas? What did I miss? Can’t wait to hear what y’ll have to say!
An easy how-to-guide on making the most of your quick trip to Catalina Island
Credit for the Adventure: Kyle
On Catalina there are only a certain amount of cars allowed on the island, so everyone drives golf carts instead of cars. It is essential you rent a golf cart to drive around the island to experience it like a true local. It is filled with gorgeous scenic views (like the featured story photo) and a fun ride!
If you’re under 25, and don’t want to be ripped off, rent from Island Rentals- it’s cash only, but the guys are awesome and funny.
Go zip-lining (and ask to be put in Sam and Justin’s group). It has some breathtaking views of Catalina and is so much fun!
Don’t let your fear of heights stop you from participating! You are securely strapped in and nothing but fun awaits you!
Get Kona coffee and breakfast/ lunch at Original Jacks Country Kitchen. It is delicious and you won’t regret it. They are known for their eggs benedict, so if you’re an eggs benny fan you have to try them.
Go see the Botanical Gardens at Wrigley Park (you known the guy who created Wrigley gum? Yeah, this is his park and basically his island too).
If it is your birthday (or near your birthday) you get in for free, or if you are a student you get 1/2 priced tickets, otherwise it is $10 a person.
Make sure you find the Dragon Tree.
Even though Avalon (the town in Catalina) is rather small, there is more than plenty to do there, especially in two days!
Hope you enjoy your trip to Catalina Island! Don’t forget to look for dolphins on the ferry ride over from Dana Point!
Have more fun local activities to add to the list? Put them in the comments below! Can’t wait to see what local tips you have for fellow travelers like me!
If you’re in Melbourne make sure you stop by one of the many markets this beautiful city has to offer! For each one has it’s own charm (and taste!). It’s an experience you won’t forget.
Credit for the Adventure: Maddy
Queen Victoria MarketThe most notorious market place in Melbourne. Known not only for its food and goods, but festive night markets as well. Open everyday except Mondays and open Wednesday after 5 pm.
For shopping Victoria Market is a great place to stock up on local fresh produce.
Tip: (From a wise local Melbournian named Madeleine) If you go just before the daily market (around 2 or 3pm ) is going to close, you may not get the most attractive looking produce, but you will get it for dirt cheap or even free.
Summer Night Market Filled with live music, fantastic eatery stands, sangria and lots of gorgeous mini pop-up shops. The summer market on Wednesday nights from 5 pm-10 pm is perfect for a mid-week meet up with friends or the perfect start to your Wednesday night out.
Winter Night MarketA wonderful night market as well, however filled with a bit of
a chill, but plenty of mulled wine to keep you warm inside. It is less crowded than the Summer Night Market, so it is more of a peaceful experience rather than a tourist hot spot. It runs the same day and hours as the Summer Night Market.
South Melbourne MarketOpen Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the South Melbourne Market has a lot to offer not only for the traveler, but for the local as well. It is very similar to Queen Victoria Market, however with a smaller selection of stands for produce, meat and fish.There are a lot of shops/ traders inside the market that cater to the arts and imagination.
Night MarketFor a limited time from January through March, South Melbourne Market hosts its very own night market with food, art and drink on Thursday nights starting at 5:30 pm.
ToursFor just $5.00 a person, you can schedule your own market tour with a local along with free tastings. Quite the bargain if you want a quick look into a local experience.
St. Kilda Esplanade MarketThe arts and crafts market of Melbourne. Fantastic place to pickup some unique pieces for your flat or gifts for friends, family or yourself! Located next to Luna Park, it can be a fun-filled day for all with some theme park adventure and artistic inspiration to fill your soul.
Night MarketSt. Kilda’s Night Market, called Twilight Market, is hosted every Thursday in the summer from 5 pm- 10 pm in the O’Donnell Gardens right next to Luna Park. Filled with wonderful jewlery, clothing, art and food stands for the perfect summer night out, especially after spending the day at St. Kilda Beach!