Tag Freunden! I’ve decided to tell you all my secrets for packing and dirt cheap travel. In one week, I will be sitting in an airport for 12 hours- yikes- but once the plane takes off, I will be adventure bound! I get asked pretty often how I manage to go to Europe so often! This trip will mark the third time I’ve been in the last two years! I can’t believe it myself. I remember when I went for my first time in 2007. I did a summer abroad with my university and remember gasping for air upon returning to the states at the staggering amount of money it had cost me! In my heart of hearts, I just knew I would never be able to go back. That was my one trip. I would never see Stonehenge again. I would never walk the halls of Versailles again. I would never swim in the crystal clear oceans of Crete again. And I honestly believed that until 2015.
One day, after my husband listened as I complained yet again about how miserably cold Chicago is, and about how much I missed Europe and just really wanted to go back and was so sad I would never see it again, he said two words I never thought I would hear from him- “Why not?”
Clearly, I explained to him, it was too expensive, we had other things we needed to take care of, we had bills to pay and rent to pay and I could logically not expect to be able to return ever again. And that was that. I told him why, and I left it alone.
Until that evening, he said “Nelly, you can go to Europe for $127.”
My mouth flopped open, clearly my husband was off his rocker. I then picked my jaw up off the ground and he showed me the website for Norwegian Air (and I HATE that I’m mentioning my secret now! Don’t you go taking up all my airline seats, people!) and that I could literally fly from NYC to Oslo for less than I would spend to fly to Texas. I could fly ROUND TRIP for less than what I would spend to fly to Texas, in most cases! So, there you have it- Part 1 of my secret!
Part 2 consists of another airline- WowAir. They’re amazing as well, and in fact, I’m flying them this time since they allow you to layover in Iceland for a few days for free before continuing on your journey. The downside of WowAir is they don’t have in-flight entertainment like Norwegian does. However, this doesn’t bother me too much. I always try to sleep on the flight and will set my watch to wake me up at about 8 a.m. in the timezone we are flying to in order to kick Mr. Jetlag’s butt. This way, when we land in the next country, I am good to go for the day!
And lastly, for getting around Europe, you can’t forget about the little guys- Ryanair, EasyJet, and Vueling (haven’t flown them myself yet). These are great for getting you cheaply from one country to another, and as long as you have headphones, you can ignore all the in-flight perfume they try to sell you. The downside of these two airlines is that especially during the winter, it can be very hard to get from one country to another specific country- hence the great 7 country excursion of 2015. “Well, we can go to Dublin for $10! Oh, but the airline doesn’t go to Paris from there! It goes to Rome though! And it goes from Rome to Paris! Let’s do that!” etc. On this trip, I will also be taking an overnight train from Amsterdam to Munich. It costs a whopping 36 euro, and saves me from having to rent a hostel room for one more night! I believe it’s a 12 hour train ride, which is more than fine. The majority of it will be overnight, and then few waking hours I have can be spent eating and editing photos!
Downside #2 of these airlines, is that you are VERY limited in how much you can carry. For instance, most of the airlines will allow you to carry on a bag weighing up to 22lbs. The dimensions are very particular, of course, and while these bags are the not greatest quality in the world, they are cheap and do the trick excellently. In an edit to the video below, the bag pictured is NOT the Tallin, it’s the Nettuno (Adam’s bag), and I own the Oxford myself. WowAir lets you carry on a small handbag, which is definitely convenient, except that once you are in Europe, a lot of the smaller airlines will strictly limit you to one bag, which means somehow, your purse or laptop has to fit in your suitcase without making it bulky or overweight (yikes!).
A few things to note before you watch the video:
A) I travel with just the USB and plug which came with my phone. Instead of packing things with the prongs on the end, I typically just pack the USB to a device and that is all I need. With the plug and USB (and of course the adapter for the country), I can charge my tablet, my cell phone, and my Pebble. Always be sure to check the wattage on your devices!
B) Don’t judge my video! Our house is a ‘fixer upper’ to quote Tucker & Dale, and
might possibly probably -okay! it does not- have any closets in the master bedroom- well actually, there is one on the entire main floor!
C) My Haeger and my Meister like to nap on top of the bag, so disregard the animal hair! I don’t travel with the hair, I promise!
D) I get asked frequently how I can afford to go so often. I am not kidding when I say that my trips have been ridiculously cheap. By watching our spending, not taking any other yearly vacations, and knowing when the cheapest flights will be, we have been blessed to be able to make these trips for equal to or less than what most people will spend to go to Florida for a week.
E) UPDATE: New shoes! I should clarify something I said in my video- I don’t ‘hate’ my Vasque Breeze boots. I simply hate traveling in them. I hate going to the airport and having to unlace and relace them, and then I hate having to traipse around beautiful cities in my boots instead of looking cute. However, I do normally require them for some point of my trip- whether it’s because there will be snow/rain/hiking/unknown conditions, etc. However, during a stop over at T.J.Maxx, I found an adorable pair of Merrell Dewbrook Zip Snowboots in a low style, and decided they would be excellent to replace my Breeze boots! They have great looking traction, are waterproof, and look cute enough for city walking. Plus, they will keep my feet extra warm with the heat reflective sole and 200 mg of heat insulation.
F) I use the Pebble when I am traveling and forgot to mention it in the video! With it, I can easily convert currencies at the touch of a button, and even have walking directions pop up on my wrist, which keeps me from looking like a tourist, and being distracted by my phone. Always be sure to download offline maps for the cities you will be visiting. Google Maps allows you to do this and has been a lifesaver! Not to mention, it gives me a silent alarm clock on my wrist and tells me how many miles I have walked that day. I normally average around 15 miles per day when I travel. I love seeing everything by foot! (UPDATE: I have a new Pebble arriving today! After receiving a free gift card for upgrading a cell phone at Best Buy, I am able to return the Original Pebble to Adam and take my own Pebble Steel with me on trips!)
On my next post, I’ll try to touch on the beauty of hostels and AirBnB/VRBO, give you a few more tips on my cheap travel skills, plus maybe a bit more detail on why I pack like I do.