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.
Bags, upon bags, upon bags were packed. Plastic tubs filled and taped shut. Every inch of room in the truck was stuffed and the trailer was full. While water and caffeinated beverages filled all available cupholders, one hand was on the wheel the other was stuffing my face with all natural jerky. We headed one-way toward the east coast with plans to stop in: Burns Oregon, Las Vegas Nevada, Grand Canyon National Park, Albequercy New Mexico, and Charleston SC.
Yes, you read that correctly. We spent a night in Albequercy then hauled ass to Charleston. By hauling ass I have to say we had a top speed of 55 miles per hour. We took to switching drivers ever 2-4 hours and drove through terrifying epic downpours in Arkansas. It’s the road trip that rivals all road trips for us. I’ve tried and failed in my attempts to add up the number of miles we’ve driven over various road trips. Let’s just say it’s an ass-ton (keeping a theme going here). This one wasn’t the most scenic at times. We spent the second half of the trip on interstates. Smelling cow pies before we could even see the cows. Navigated our fair share of poorly placed construction cones, detours and one eager Texas Trooper that took a 5-minute interest in our trucks temporary tags. Why was this “the most epic”? Because it’s the mode of travel we chose to move across the United States.
Rural southwestern Oregon is a true wild west. It can feel as if time has stood entirely still. An entire day can pass without ever encountering another soul. Harney County was the place on a map of Oregon where you were more likely to find a legend than a useful geographic fact. It’s not because Harney County isn’t special. Harney County doesn’t need a large city skyline to make it beautiful; it’s lit up by the night sky. It’s weathered and rough due to its natural geography, not its poor politics. This place wasn’t somewhere I frequented. Actually, it’s somewhere I had really never been until we planned this road trip. My husband spent most of his time in the area as a volunteer archaeologist just outside Burns. Every summer for about a week he would pack up and set out to the dig site. He purposely planned this part of the trip so he could show me where he stayed. I had a first-hand view of this place he spent one-week every year for four years.
It’s what he had always described. A high elevation plateau, sparsely vegetated, sagebrush-covered landscape. The night-life was meant for none human life. Naturally beautiful and barren. The secrets of what this place holds lie with its locals, outdoor enthusiast, and road trip junkies. Driving through, I caught quick glimpses of the dilapidated buildings dotting a harsh landscape. At it’s highest elevation just under 10,000 feet the Steens Mountains stood sharply. Jetting out of the earth they stood in the distance as a farewell reminder. Driving down Hwy 205, I watched the last bit of this landscape fade in the distance; the exit from Oregon was official.
No Stopping ’til Charleston
Exhausted doesn’t begin to describe what it feels like to sleep in Albuquerque New Mexico one night then sleep again (officially) in Charleston South Carolina. After doing the classic Route 66 and Grand Canyon stop offs we headed to Albuquerque. If we were to repeat one part of this trip it would certainly be the southwestern portion. Like another world, it was without a doubt absolutely beautiful. Probably the most beautiful part.
The trip through the dry red-rocked southwest was too fast, but we had an agenda to maintain. After spending three nights in three different states we just wanted to make it to the east coast. Our surroundings didn’t go unnoticed. Texas smelled more then we thought – at least along I-40. Oklahoma City was bigger than we imagined. Arkansas was greener and wilder then we would have ever known. If not for this road trip, despite how slow and fast in parts it may have been, I may have never seen these parts of the country. Seeing it from the point of view of a passerby or tourist is, of course, a much different perspective then settling down and getting to know a place. But for me, this opportunity to “see” other parts of this country was just that – an opportunity.
From the small towns we blinked through to the larger cities we sat in traffic with, it was an introduction to a different perspective. A precursor to living a bit different. Why epic? Because I gained (we gained) so much more. A move, a road trip, opportunities, and a different perspective. Having been on my fair share of road trips, none gave me as much insight into how to think bigger than the one that propelled me into a new place.