1. Dress appropriately because walking around is a must. It’s cold, it’s beautiful, and you want to enjoy it so bring warm clothes and comfortable shoes.
3. Check out the tours that take you outside of the old city. Here’s what I did – Old Quebec Tour
4. Tour the parliament. It’s beautiful inside, very informative and FREE! Get there as soon as they open to check in and schedule a time. They offer tours in English and French. Just don’t forget your ID.
5. One of my absolute favorite things to do in just about any place I visit is checking out the local bookstores or libraries. A few (possibly more) gorgeous unassuming French bookstores are outside the old city walls in the less “touristy” part of Quebec City. In one bookstore I found a section of English literature translated to French so I picked up an old copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. A great memento to bring home or gift.
6. Canada also means poutine! An already delicious dish, add smoked meat and it’s calorie heaven. Yummy! I found that just about any restaurant serving poutine offered smoked meats. Try it then go for a long walk to burn off those amazing calories.
7. For a bit of an upscale unique experience get drinks and a small bite to eat at 1608 Bar in the historic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. The wait may seem a bit off-putting but its worth it. The price reflects the atmosphere of the bar as well as the care and quality of the food and drinks. It’s certainly worth every penny.
8. One of the most beautiful and enlightening experiences can be found at the Musée de la Civilisation. Check out the First Nations and Inuit in the 21st Century exhibit and learn about the 11 first nations of Quebec. Hear them tell their story and be immersed in an educational experience. The museum as a whole is wonderfully enjoyable.
Go camping at Leo’s Camp Ground. If you’re already heading down in RV or car the campsite is nice, clean and comes with friendly iguanas. It’s run’s about $60+ a day for a tent site. Bathrooms were relatively clean (it is a campsite) but it worked for me.
…Camp without a tent. Yes, this might seem obvious but it was a legitimate thought (or lack of thought), that we could camp sans a tent. The campsites are great and right next to the mangroves and water, clearly described on their website and pictures provided. Don’t be a hero or an idiot, bring a tent.
For as long as I could remember I’d always wanted to visit Paris. Although, like so many others, finances often got in the way. When I lived on the west coast and was a fresh-faced still in college 20 something, I experienced the harsh realities of the 2008 “Great Recession”. The opportunity to study aboard was an option if I took out loans to do so, but seeing how so many others fell during the recession I took a hard pass on any extra’s in life. When I did have the money to vacation it was done with cash I had saved. That time I went to Costa Rica was done with mostly cash and one travel credit card I paid off as soon as I could.
The United States has over 325 million people and only 36 percent of Americans have passports according to the State Department. This is probably for a multitude of reasons but I think for some people, people like me, it’s monetary. Until I was 26 or 27 (I really can’t remember) the only country outside the US I had been to was Canada. I held off my dream of backpacking Europe or living aboard in my 20’s simply because of money. I already had student loan debt and the last thing I wanted to do was amass anything extra.
Now, that’s the way I did things which means there are plenty of people out there that created opportunities for themselves and didn’t end up under a mountain of debt. Those people, I wish I knew them back then…haha. I’m precluding this post with this story because I am hoping these 5 ways to save may help you rethink travel. Travel doesn’t mean you have to rent a car every place that go. Or pay an arm and a leg to be on an overpacked tour bus. Or eat out for every meal every day. Just rethink even the smallest of things and you may find that you can save a little more and be a lot more at ease.
Walk everywhere. Or as much as you can. It’s free to look like a total tourist in one of the most visited cities in the world. It’s FREE! Who wants to spend their time on a crowded bus with more selfie-sticks and berets than a boulangerie has croissants? Not me and not you. Enjoy the uniform Haussmannian architecture, the 17th-century leaning buildings, and the many many beautiful bustling markets. Slow down and take it all in.
The metro is a wonderfully efficient way to get around. If the locals use it every day then as a tourist we can too. Study the metro before-hand and use the Paris Metro Offline App.
Tip: Mind your belongings. Be smart and keep an eye on your things including your phone when you enter the metro. Put your phone away and zip your bags.
Plan one major thing a day. The Effiel Tower, The Louvre Museum, and Sacré Coeur are just not a good idea for a Wednesday itinerary. Really, just don’t do this. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to see all three things during your visit pick one. People may say the Effiel Tower isn’t worth it and I get it, but if your dream is to see it, make that your one big thing for the day and do it.
Tip: A great view of the city that includes the Effiel Tower can be seen from the Arc de Triumph. Skip the lines to get you up there faster and the view is exceptional!
If you have the option to cook during your visit it’s a wonderful way to have a new experience in another country and culture. If you don’t you can still grab snacks in the form of local meats, cheeses, a nice bottle of wine or sparkling something. Wandering around a neighborhood marché will give you a unique visitors perspective.
France is an incredible culinary delight and grocery shopping is a wonderful way to learn about the culture. Gather yourself a picnic and sit in the Luxemburg Garden. Enjoy your delectables while you people watch. Or hang out on the Seine River. It may not seem like much of a savings but it’s more about doing slower simple things. Slowing down may seem hard in a place as stimulating as Paris, but it’s actually not. Force yourself to and you will be justly rewarded. Appreciate the local culture by slowing down and taking it all in.
Skip the lines! If frequent travel is what you do then this is something you already know. For those that don’t, I have two pieces of information for you. First, invest in skip the line tickets at major attractions. It is worth it. You don’t want to be the person that stands in line at the catacombs all day only to be told, “sorry rain check…come back tomorrow”, it’s worth the sanity you will have in the end.
Second, and this is the most important, please know that no matter what tickets you buy, skip the lines or not, there will still be lines. In 2018 some attractions like the Effiel Tower officially have two security checkpoints. One is managed at a federal level. Think of an airport security check. The other is inside after you’ve purchased your tickets and before you head up the famous structure. It is not worth it to get upset because security measurements are put in place. You are not going to change this by having an outburst in line, so learn the rules and respect them. Your trip will go much smoother. Plus making a dramatic anger filled scene will surely end poorly. Just relax.
Hopefully, these tips help you save on money, time, and sanity. Most important get out there and travel!
Let’s just get it out of the way and start with the thing everyone says to do but no one actually does; PACK ONLY WHAT YOU NEED! We all have the tendency to pack for every occasion. Going on vacation for a week doesn’t mean somehow we may end up at a black tie affair. Take out the ball gown and jewels and reduce your travel headache. Instead, use space saver bags. Seriously, use the bags they work! Or simply pack modestly and still use the space savers. Your suitcase and arms will thank you for it.
When it comes to makeup and hair keep it SUPER simple. Don’t pack things you don’t use on an everyday. That’s right. That new urban decay palate does not need to go vacation too. Leave the multiple hair tools at home. Most hotels have hairdryers. If you are staying somewhere that doesn’t then buy a small folding travel hairdryer. Personally, I have fairly curly hair and sometimes a flat iron comes in handed, but I much prefer a wand to keep my curls tight and manageable while on vacation. Plus it’s small and can usually fit into my case with little to bulk. Rarely will I take both. I realize everyone is different though so really when it comes to hair pack what is going to help you. If you feel you need several different products then downsize the bulk by using travel size containers. Refills are easy to find. I use rubber squeeze bottles for shampoo and conditioner, while also using smaller ounce plastic jars for any other hair products. Any leftover empty containers work great for small jewelry storage. Plus they are washable.
Be a SMART souvenir consumer.
Now that we have all that room in our suitcase we can fill it up with all the things, right? Not so fast! While I like to say it’s your money use it how you like, I will still insert my own two-cents here. Ultimately we want to get our money’s worth. For now, we will sideline that living in the moment of being in a beautiful place is your ultimate ROI and focus on things of material nature.
We made to Costa Rica and can’t wait to live brag, Pura Vida. Tempted by stores and stands offering “local art”. Cut to your next vacation in Hawaii and curiously Ticos and Hawaiians have similar, almost exactly the same “local art”.
Everything’s made in China, that’s who!
Look it’s true that in some way we are supporting locals when buying on vacation. Locals are employed by these shops and everyone needs to make a living. Just don’t be fooled into thinking that cute set of Maui wooden turtles for $19.99 was carved from an old fallen koa tree and represents an ancient Hawaiian tradition of turtle art. It’s not. Buy smart. Research and ask around.
Back to living in the moment. Do we always need to buy everyone something? I don’t think Johnny’s piece of the week will cry if you don’t include her on the wooden turtle buying. If she does…Johnny has big problems ahead. Enjoy why you are there. Take it all in and tell people about it. If you feel like bringing back something memorable think small, especially if you are on a budget. Locally made products are always a good idea and it doesn’t have to be a hand-carved ukulele. I mean, if that’s what you’ve saved for and dreamed of buying then, by all means, go for it. But grandma and cousin K don’t need or expect you to bring them back something. Send a postcard. No one does this anymore but honestly, it’s awesome! Make memories not more credit card debt.
That Hawaii trip is insight. We scored on a deal and we aren’t passing on it. January on the North Shore of Oahu must be better than January in Minnesota, right? Not so much. Okay so it’s a definitely not freezing cold and the weather is still gorgeous, but research will tell you the North Shore of Oahu between the months of November and March can have some very rough surf. Major surf competitions can be held during these months, due to the fact that the surf is in prime form. This also means it’s dangerous for the average swimmer. So Susan from the midwest you may want to rethink getting your snorkel on for the first time in Waimea Bay. Maybe go check out the surf competitions during the day (warning: traffic is crazy!) and get your beach on somewhere else on the island.
Pack smart = pack less
Buy smart and make memories not debt
Research. Know before you go and don’t be disappointed. Nature doesn’t give a shit about how much money you spent on your tropical vacation.
A couple of years ago, I took a work trip that brought me back to the west coast. I decided it would be a good time to catch up with my mom doing one of the things I absolutely love, visiting a national park. She met me at our car rental, we fueled up and headed off to Joshua Tree. It was the middle of July so triple-digit temperatures were expected. The nights were not much cooler. To me, I booked a unique “off the grid” rental and did not consider my mom’s thoughts on showering outside. We spent the car ride catching up. Me complaining about the things I’m not satisfied with, while simultaneously bragging about the things I am proud to be part of. She caught me up on the happenings at home. Lots of deep conversation coupled with hilarious anecdotes and small talk, “so how’s the weather been?” And of course her Del Taco experience. Simply put, it was nice.
After arriving, very late, to our rental we unloaded the car and both took wonder at the sparkling night sky. Once we got the AC working and mom discovered the shower was outside (oops) we sat in the living room talking. I was beyond tired barely coherent but I do remember her neat trick about how to catch pesky bugs inside (a lamp and a bowl of water – it worked). I can’t and never will forget one of the best things of all, her obsession with trying to capture on video the bats flying around outside. As I tirelessly mumbled away about my new job, she sat in a chair at the big picture window tablet in hand bifocals positioned just right, snapping away. I fell asleep to the sound of her on the job wildlife photography training and woke the next morning to her excitement that somewhere in the 200 plus photos and videos of the small fruit and bug-eating bats she “got one”.
I kid you not, I sat through her rifling through an endless digital archive of reflections of her self off the big picture window, “Oh I figured out, turn the light off, yeah.” Then more photos of the flash off the big picture window, “oh yeah forget to turn that off.” Then finally photo 200 whatever, “here watch this. I’m going to go get ready.”
A 5-minute video until I finally saw a light-colored flint across the screen and moms voice say, “GOTCHA!”
“Ohhh that’s what you took 200 plus photos for!” I said.
It makes me laugh, it made my sister laugh as she drove my mom home after the trip and was subjected to the same show and tell presentation. I am sure it made my bother think, “where the hell were you staying?”
While I love our national parks and love spending time with my mom, what I didn’t at all expect to take from this trip, was to miss her. It was a truly strange feeling for me and not because my heart is made of ice. I missed her for the first time in a very long time because I knew things I had going for me 3000 miles away were going to keep me away for a long time. I actually still don’t know exactly why. It may be easy for some to reckon with but for me it’s different. My mom raised her children to feel secure in their decisions to never let place hold them back, to never let anything or anyone, especially ourselves hold us back from the goals we’ve set. She has always and always will be our support system. It what moms do, it’s what parents do. It’s what people that work hard to see something through do.
I don’t think, actually I know, I did not fully appreciate this until I only had a few stifling hot days and bat photo nights with her in the desert.
Today as I still work on figuring myself out. Figuring out what keeps me going, what gets me down, and how I will reach my new goals, I can pick up the phone and get to know my mom a little better. I can get to know the person that was also a kid dreaming of other places in the world. An artistic person with so much love to give. I can listen to the voice that once told me I could move mountains and chuckle at the amateur bat photographer voice that says, “GOTCHA!”
The importance of listening to Her voice has taken me farther than I could have imagined. Over this last year, built up over a lifetime of wins and losses, I’ve learned from the first voice I heard in my life the importance of listening to her. Of trusting that voice.
Thanks for being a mom. Thank you for being my mom!