TWP // Camper Vans Will Steal Your Heart

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So in the last TWP post Where To Sleep, I told you that in Iceland we didn't necessarily stay in a BnB. That is because what we did instead was 498363849 times better!!



Let me start at the beginning... Iceland is a relatively small country. They have a small population and a handful of cities. Their main city of Reykjavik is where most people find a hotel / BnB and is on the far left side of the country.


We decided we would rather explore the beautiful nature that Iceland has to offer instead of limiting ourself to the boring city of Reykjavik. Some people actually spend entire weeks here although you can see all the city sites in a day, I do not get it! Go see some waterfalls and wild horses!! There are so many beautiful things to see outside of that city! Ok.. rant over. Sorry bout that..

You can make the drive to all the popular nature spots (called the Golden Circle) in a day or so if you didn't do much stopping but there weren't too many affordable places to sleep along that route. There were day tours from Reykjavik to the spots we wanted to visit but they were a bit pricey and I did NOT want to be herded around like cattle with all the other tourists.

I wanted the freedom to stop if we saw something interesting or head to the next sight if we got bored with something. Plus the thought of a cookie cutter tour was depressing. I love finding hidden gems that no one else know about or maybe isn't the most popular site but after some exploring becomes one of your favorite memories from that place!

The best thing I could think of to fit what we wanted was to rent a camper van. I know the idea sounds crazy, but that's exactly why it enticed me! This is a pretty common thing in Iceland and the more I looked into it, the more I loved the idea. I could drive wherever I wanted, see whatever I wanted and sleep wherever I wanted!! PLUS that meant only ONE expense of a car/place to sleep combo instead of the price of a hotel plus a rental car. Score!

There are two main camper van companies in Iceland: Happy Campers and KuKu Campers. Unfortunately, they both have a 3 day minimum rental and we were only there for a day and a half.

womp womp.

I was determined. I emailed each company and asked if there was ANY way we could rent for just the 2 days instead of three (It's only one day less but hey thats like 100$!).

Happy Campers said sure! Just pay for the three days and keep it two. Umm.. what?! Really funny, Happy Campers. Really funny.

Well jokes on them because Big Boss from KuKu said "bring a bottle of wine and we will make it happen!". Now those are my kind of people. I asked Big Boss if he preferred red or white and we had our camper van reserved that night.

Can I be honest with you guys? I totally fell in love with Happy Campers. They have an adorable set up and the vans are super practical. The pictures of them seemed a little nicer than the ones over at KuKu and gave me more of a hotel vibe and less of a "I'm sleeping in my van" vibe... Even if that is what we would be doing.. But in addition to the main problem of the 3 day thing, they have a serious love for money. Their rentals are wayyyy more than KuKu. Decision made for me.

Plus KuKu has really awesome graffiti on the side of each of their vans! How awesome are these?!




Regardless of what company you go with, there are different models to choose from ranging from a very small but cheap 2 person to a big 4X4 model. Whatever your needs are or how many people you are trying to fit, there is a camper van for you!

Here are a few different models from KuKu (We had the first model):






 Also, you rent the extras separately from the van. You can rent sleeping bags, pillows, electric blankets, a little gas powered burner, a car adapter for your phone, chairs, ect. You can also rent tents if you have more people than can fit in the van for sleeping. I can't speak for Happy but KuKu includes plates, cups, utensils and even a frisbee in each rental at no cost.

IN ICELAND
Once we got into Iceland, we took a Reykjavik Excursions bus to a hotel in the city that is right before Reykjavik. Here, someone from KuKu picked us up and took us to the rental company. The folks from KuKu were wonderful! They gave us tons of pointers, a map with all the sites worth visiting marked on it and brought us back to reality when I told them which places I wanted to stop and see. Apparently a day and a half isn't enough time to see 25 sites throughout an entire country. Who knew?

We did all the paperwork and got our sleeping bags and car adapter and we were on our way! I was a little disappointed because we didn't get a graffitied van, but the one we ended up with was newer and safer and could handle all the dirt roads with runoff from the ice melting throughout the country.

The inside of the van was super clean and comfy and made me wonder why I ever doubted that Big Boss would deliver. It was perfect.

I recommend stopping at a grocery store and picking up some snacks and lots of water for the trip. Iceland is a SUPER expensive place to visit (THE most inflated place I have ever been to) so a meal from a grocery store vs. a meal from a restaurant will save you ridiculous amounts of money. We bought lots of cookies, chips, granola bars, self heating soups and teas (aka the best thing ever after a cold trip to a waterfall) and water. Because Iceland has such a small population, you can sometimes go miles and miles without seeing one gas station or town. So stock up on food and water and stop for gas way before you hit that "E".

If you do see a gas station, make sure you stop and try a pilsner.. Iceland's version of a hotdog and a staple of the country. Plus its the cheapest hot meal you can eat.

Have you asked yourself where we stopped to sleep? KuKu and Happy both recommend finding a spot on the side of the road and making yourself at home! The great thing about Iceland is there are hardly any people there. We once went 2 hours without seeing another car. They have a very very low crime rate and theft outside of the cities is a non issue.

Sooo.. we slept on the side of the road next to a field of wild horses. Sound lovely? It totally was! The Iceland sneak peek pic I posted a few weeks ago is from right outside our car where we slept!

Here it is again for those who missed it!


There are official campsites if you are nervous.. but thats more money spent and frankly is just unnecessary. Cmon, live a little! You'll like it I promise!

The only downfall to the camper van is that it was SO cold at night. And this was in the summer! We turned the car on at least 5 times throughout the night to get the van heated up and cozy. Next time we are definitely splurging on that electric blanket.

When I was doing my research, I had a hard time finding reviews or pictures of the inside so I knew I wanted to take a video to share with anyone who might be in that same boat! Sooo.. here is a quick video tour. Your'e welcome. Also, please don't judge my morning face or all our stuff shoved in the nooks..



After a fantastic time crammed into a day of driving and stopping (I won't get into all the absolutely stunning things we saw in Iceland just yet.. look for that in a future post) we returned the rental to KuKu and they drove us back to the hotel to catch the bus. You call the bus company ahead of time or ask the hotel desk clerk to call to request a pickup. It's not a common stop so they only stop on request. BTW.. set your pick up time wayyyy earlier than you think you will need. The bus was 20 minutes late and we thought we would definitely miss our flight. We didn't.. but you've been warned.

Camper van's are awesome and I will never travel in Iceland any other way!! Even my husband who can be a bit hesitant about things like this said that he would do it again in a heartbeat. If you are still unsure, visit their site and check each company out! There are videos on each site explaining how it all works to put your mind at ease.

We saw and experienced things we would only have been able to see by driving around Iceland, and I hope that if you are considering doing the same that you will take the plunge and just do it!! You will not regret it!

Sweet Little Somethings

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It's the little things that make life so sweet. Hopefully sharing what those things are for me will help you guys think about your sweet little somethings. Here are five things that are putting a smile on my face today:

1. This little cutie.



2. Cotton candy pink nail polish.


3. Fresh paint for the kitchen.


4. This song.

5. Five dollar flowers. 

TWP // Where to Sleep and Why AirBnb is Awesome

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Where you stay can seriously impact your vacation. Things normal people consider when booking a place are location, price, amenities, included meals, internet connectivity, ect. I'm a weirdo so in addition to those normal things, I also tend to choose a place based on how it will make me feel and what kind of memories I will make by staying there. I know, I'm strange.

Well for this trip, we decided to open our mind to an option that would meet all of our criteria. Enter: Airbnb. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a website that allows people from all over the world to list their property for short or long rentals. Properties range anywhere from a spot on someone's couch to a 5 star condo on the beach. Whatever kind of place you're looking for you can pretty much find on Airbnb. I know it sounds a little sketchy, hang in there a sec and I'll make you a believer.

I heard about Airbnb about a year and a half ago and I KNEW we were going to use them at least once. Being the research queen that I am, I spent quite a few days looking up reviews and making sure this was legit. If I'm going to rent out someone else's house, I don't want to get robbed or get there to find out it was all a scam and it doesn't exist. Well I'm here based on research and now experience to tell you that not only is it legit, it is the only way I will ever book lodging again.

I know you're doubting me.. I know you think the idea of renting from a complete stranger is crazy.

Well let me plead my case..


WHY I LOVE IT
The main reason most people will love it is because it is CHEAP! Or at least it can be.

An apartment in Manhattan on Airbnb is going to be more than half the price of a hotel. Trust me, I checked. Of course if you're going at peak season for that location or if it's a super classy place (there are many many mansions, top floor condos, beach houses, ect) they could be a little pricey, but it would still be a better value than an equally as luxurious hotel. Also, I find that in general most of the areas where these apartments are located are less crowded and less touristy (unless of course you book a place in a touristy area on purpose) since they are where real people live, not just hotels in the biggest parts of the city.

A big reason I'm a fan for life is that staying in an apartment makes you feel like a local. It gives you the true experience of living in that city, if only for a few short days, and makes you see what your life might look like if you lived there. Whether it's strolling through the local market, waking up and making breakfast in your kitchen, or sitting on the rooftop terrace having a glass of wine, there are more possibilities and more authenticity when staying in a local home or apartment. My heart is smiling just thinking about all the little things I got to experience because of the places we stayed.


WHY I TRUST IT
First of all, every renter and host must set up a profile on the site. That profile can then become "verified" by entering in on offline id (like a drivers license), linking to an online profile (Facebook, Twitter), adding a photo and giving your email and phone number. It looks like this on the hosts profile:


Verification is not required, but many hosts won't rent to you unless you are and most hosts are also "verified" to help the renter feel a little more at ease. Of course there's always a chance someone could have worked the system, but most people wouldn't go to that much trouble to fake a profile.

In addition to the verification, each listing comes with pictures. The host decides how many pictures to post, but I've found that there are usually enough to get a solid idea of what that place is like. There are also might be pictures that are labeled "Airbnb.com Verified Photo" which means they were taken by an Airbnb photographer and portray the rental as they actually are instead of just being staged to seem nice. Here is an example from the place we stayed in Stansted. (ps. It really is as amazing as it looks!)


REVIEWS ARE YOUR FRIEND
The biggest thing that puts my mind at ease is this: every listing has a section for reviews. This keeps the host accountable.

Reviews pretty much make or break the place for me. I've found that most people are very detailed and brutally honest in their reviews which is exactly what I hope for so I know what I see is what I will get.

In order to review a place, you have to have booked with that place through your Airbnb profile, paid for your room (also through Airbnb) and then actually stayed there. Only then will the option to leave a review be available. This means that every person who leaves a review is a real person who actually went through the process, not some fake profile by the owner. And the host can't just delete bad reviews, bc the reviews are managed by the site. 

Reading reviews is the number one way I decide if I like a listing. 

If I see a listing with no reviews, I generally move on to the next one. BUT if you realllly love that place, don't count it out just yet. If I love a place and there are no reviews, I will click on the hosts name and see if they have other listings. If so, I check out those places to see it they have reviews. If so, its my lucky day and I can get a feel for the host. 

Although it can be kind of risky, it could just be that a listing is new and hasn't been reviewed yet so by reading reviews on their other listings by the same host, you can see if this host seems legit and reliable. If so and your feeling frisky you could take a chance and book it anyway, sans reviews. 

I did this with the place we stayed in Rome and it turned out to be the best place we stayed on our entire trip! Crazy right? The host had 5 star reviews on his other listings but none on the one I wanted and the place was the exact price and location we wanted so I went for it! Turns out, this new listing was a new property he was managing and we were the first to stay in the room! 

We did the same thing in Venice because we were booking last minute and it was the only place with a balcony view of the canal and it turned out to be BEAUTIFUL and exactly what I wanted! Rick Steves is even staying in that room at the end of the month! 

So sometimes, risks pay off! Just use your noggins to make sure the place is safe, obviously.


ARE PAYMENTS SECURE?
Ok, so I know you might be a little worried about paying for your place. The last thing you want is to reserve and pay for a place and then get there and realize it isn't even a real place and your money is now gone. 

I've heard lots of horror stories about similar sites so I was a little nervous going into it. 

With Airbnb, its simple and secure. You make the payment to the company when you make the reservation and then they make the payment to the host. The host isn't paid until 24 hours after your stay, so if you get there and there are any concerns or problems, you call the 24 hour number for customer service and it is handled. You don't lose your money and this makes sure you get what you pay for. The hosts are bound to their word at the risk of losing the payment. 

The cancellation policies are pretty awesome too! They have many different options that the hosts can choose from and the hosts choice is clearly noted on each listing. They range from "Flexible" a full refund up to 1 day prior to "Super Strict" which is 50% refund up to 30 days prior. Different listing have different policies so make sure to check before you book. For a description of the different policies, go here

Ok, so now you're seeing the light and you're saying.. this sounds amazingly awesome.. how do I get onboard?! Keep reading!


HOW IT WORKS
The website is super user friendly. Just enter in your location, dates and wether you want an entire place, a private room or a shared room. If you want to narrow it down even more you can choose specific amenities you want (internet, washing machine, breakfast ect.). 

It will bring up a map of the city you are searching for and you can sort through the results to find your perfect home away from home! 

I always research the city I am visiting to find out what part of the city fits my purpose and what I'm looking for and then go from there. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes you will only be in the room long enough to sleep. Like in London we did so much sightseeing there wasn't a lot of time to spend in the room. So sometimes having a super awesome and elaborate place isn't really important because you won't be there long enough to get your money's worth! Basic (and cheaper!) accommodations are can be the way to go in a situation like that!

Either way, the key is to start searching early because the best places get scooped up pretty quickly.

Quick tip #1: Check the calendar for that listing because some hosts have different prices for different days (ie more expensive weekends). If your schedule is flexible you might could save more money!

A cool feature that some hosts offer is a "Guidebook" of where to eat, things to do, places to see near that place. If you see a little globe at the top of the listing with "Guidebook" next to it, click it and see what they've got going on! It should show up on the map with little pinned locations!


You can message the host with questions, save a listing to your "Wish List" or book it! 

Just be sure that before booking, you know the cancellation policy and read all the details to make sure that the place has the amenities, cancellation policy, noise level, ect that you are looking for.

Some places will straight up tell you about issues they may have like being on a noisy street for example. This may be no big deal for a young traveler just wanting to enjoy the night life anyway, but for someone looking for a quite and relaxing stay, this might not be the right choice. Just don't wait until you get there to figure out something you could have already known.

Also, when traveling in the off or shoulder season, I always email the host to ask if they are willing to offer a discount or special price. Sometimes they just don't expect to have quests book during the slower season and so they don't bother to update the off season price on their calendar! I have gotten great deals this way!

Thats it! It really is that easy to book a place on AirBnb!


GIVE IT A CHANCE!
When you are choosing what type of place you want, challenge yourself to stay open minded. Going into it, I told myself, "self- you are only going to stay in an "entire place" because you don't want to get murdered". I know some of ya'll are thinking the same way. 

But as I was searching I saw some pretty awesome looking places for way cheaper that were a private room. So I talked to Jon about it and we decided, why not? We were going to Europe after all, home of the hostile, and we would be together so as long as we used a little common sense, we should be good. And you know what? Some of the best places we stayed were private rooms! That is what all bnb's are considered because it is one big place with a bunch of smaller private rooms for rent inside. We just made sure that wherever we were staying had individual locks on the private door and bingo, safe as can be. I don't know that I would ever try a shared room, but who knows! 

Just challenge yourself to push out of your comfort zone and live a little. Yea that host could be a serial killer.. but if you live your whole life scared of what might be, you will box yourself into a place that sucks the joy out of your life. Obviously I don't want you to go crazy and be wreckless, but most times if you use some common sense and good judgement, you can take some risks and experience something that could change the way you view yourself or life in general.


AIRBNB PLACES WEVE STAYED
Ok, now that you've gotten the scoop on how we booked, let me show you where we booked!! The pictures link to the Airbnb profile!

NYC- We stayed here. It got the job done, but I don't think I would stay here again. It was a great neighborhood but the apartment wasn't the cleanest. It did have a cool rooftop view though.

LONDON- We stayed at this lovely student apartment in London:


And this extravagant place (the same one pictured earlier) in Stansted where we flew out of:


VENICE- This was our breathtaking apartment:




FLORENCE- We stayed here because it was cheap, included breakfast and we were only staying one night. It wasn't a bad place and the host was nice, but I don't think we would stay here again. There wasn't a lock on the door which kind of made me uneasy and it was a bit outside of the city center (Although very close to the Accademia Gallery where The David is!)


ROME- Hands down one of the best places we stayed!! Such great hosts and the place was modern and close to everything!


PARIS- I LOVED this apartment. The view from each little balcony sealed the deal for me.




Quick note: Airbnb in no way compensated me for this review. I really do just love them!! I am SO glad we used Airbnb to find these gems and I hope you will break out of your little box and give it a try! 

If you have any questions (although how could you with that book I just wrote!) just ask in the comments!! Happy sleeping ya'll!

A Girl's First Prince

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Happy Father's Day to all the men out there!!

I am a true daddy's girl and am forever grateful for the influence my dad has had on my life!

No one is perfect, but he has done everything he could to show my brother and I how to live a full and meaningful life. He taught me how to work hard, be respectful, break the rules a little :) and seek out adventure. He always supported me in my dreams and pushed me to challenge myself to go further. He has always been there for me when I needed him and puts his kids before anything else.

He can be stubborn and hardheaded (I didn't get those traits at all....), but he is the best dad I could have ever hoped to have.


I love you dad! Thanks for being wonderful you!! <3 <3


Go hug a dad today!! If you aren't to be with your dad today you can still spend the day thinking about all the good things you love about him! If you don't have a father figure in your life worth celebrating, focus on those husbands or grandpas or other people in your life who have made you who you are! Inspirational people come in all shapes and sizes!


TWP // Trains!

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Evening lovelies! Riding the trains in Italy were such an experience. It was the convenience of a flight with a little charm thrown in. I like flying and enjoy looking at the clouds as we fly to our destination, but there's something about looking out the window and seeing the Italian countryside that really made the trip feel a little more authentic.

In Europe, the train can be a great asset. It is quick, comfortable and can be cheap if you book in advance! Before our itinerary changed, I had planned on taking the Eurostar from London to Paris. It's only a two hour ride and its 70 USD one way pp. The Eurostar is also a great choice if you are traveling through northwestern Europe (Amsterdam, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany). Since we didn't go that route, I didn't do too much research but this is a very detailed and helpful site called Seat 61 for any questions you might have about traveling by train in Europe.

We flew between countries, but took the train within Italy itself. Here is how it went down:

VENICE TO FLORENCE
We didn't have any scheduled plans and weren't sure what time we would want to leave Venice, so we decided to just buy our tickets to Florence at the Santa Lucia terminal once we were ready to leave. I was a little scared the prices would be super inflated, but they were pretty reasonable. We ended up spending about 63 USD pp and traveled on Trentitalia. I had heard some bad reviews but it ended up being a wonderful experience. It was roomy and comfortable, the seats had a built in outlet for charging electronics, and there was a on train snack bar that was decent but pricey.

Once we got on the train, I realized we should've stopped and picked up some meats and cheeses before getting on the train to save a little money. We sat in this quaint little arrangement where the seats faced another set of seats with a table in between. This woman and her young son sat in front of us. YOU. GUYS. Kids that speak another language are the most adorable things I've ever seen. The whole time we were on the trip I would eavesdrop on kids just to hear them talk. One time in an airport I even heard a little english kid say "Mummy, can I have some sweets?".  That was definitely a huge London bucket list item for me! (I know. I'm a little strange..) But anyway, this kid was Italian and adorable. Don't believe me? Check it for yourself. This is a mini tour of our seats on the train, a long train ride out of Venice and then me being a creeper on the little kid. Don't judge that or my poor videographer skills, prego.


This woman was so nice and spoke pretty decent english so we had a nice little chat on our ride. Jon befriended the little boy by sharing snacks which is international kid speak for friendship. I digress.. bottom line, if you are going to be traveling by train in Italy, I definitely recommend Trentitalia. They are even having a 2 for 1 sale right now on Saturdays so plan accordingly to sweep up this deal!!

FLORENCE TO ROME 
We booked the train from Florence to Rome in advance through Italo for 42 USD pp. I knew what time we would be heading to Rome so this was easy to book in advance. I was pretty excited for this train ride because I had read excellent reviews about this train company which was supposed to be new and modern. I was a bit disappointed because we got put in seats that weren't laid out how I had chosen. I had booked two seats facing each other similar to the ones from Venice but we got stuck in seats laid out like an airline.  This wasn't a huge deal, but didn't have the same magical feeling as the first train. If this had been our only train, I would have felt like we missed out. This train also had the plugs in the seats and were pretty comfy, so it wasn't a complete bust. But if you get the chance, choose seats facing each other! Trust me! I know this was the most basic of train reviews, but we just didn't have a ton of experience with them. Hopefully you were able to get something out of this review that can help you plan your trip! Even if you didn't, you got to see an Italian kid say "Ciao, Venezia!" and that is a gem in itself. :)

Until next time!


TWP: Airfare! // Airports We Used

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This is the last post in the "Airfare" portion of TWP! Booo, I know. But now its time, my little baby birds, to spread your wings and fly! (Forgive my pun loving self..)

Check the first two posts here and here for more on airfare money saving madness.

I mentioned in this post that flying into alternate airports can sometimes save you mulah, so I want to give ya'll more info on what airports we flew into and out of and logistical tips on how to make it a smooth trip if you use the same airports we did. 


London: Flew into London Heathrow and out of Stansted

From Heathrow- You can take the Heathrow Express or the Underground into London. The Heathrow Express only takes 15 minutes to the first stop but is nearly 10x more expensive than the Underground if you use an Oyster card. The Oyster card is a reload-able card that you can put money on and then continue to use it during your stay in London. If you go this route, one journey costs between 2.20 and 4.50 euros depending on what zones you are crossing and the time of day. Most people will only cross one or two zones so they should get the cheaper fare. If you travel multiple journeys in one day, it will only charge you up to the daily rate for the Oyster card which is between an average of 8 euros. See this chart for current prices.


To Stansted- We took a bus from Liverpool station that cost 8.50 euros pp and took an hour. This is the official site for the Stansted airport where you can book a bus to or from London. You can also buy a ticket at the station.


Venice: Flew into Treviso
 

From Treviso- We took the ATVO which is the airport bus system from Treviso to Venice Santa Lucia Railroad. This cost 10 euros pp for a single ticket and took about an hour. If you do this, make sure you take the bus to Santa Lucia and not Mestre. Venice S.L. is actually on the island in the city of Venice and Mestre is on the mainland. If you end up in Mestre you will have to buy a train ticket to S.L. Once to Venice S.L. we took a Vaporetto to the bus stop near our BnB. This essentially a public ferry boat and cost €6.50. per journey. Don't get fooled into a water taxi which is a private boat from the station to your stop. These babies can cost between 40 and 70 euros! Ouch!


Rome: Flew out of Ciampino

To Ciampino- We flew out at 6am so the bus system wasn't an option for us. If you aren't flying to early or late, see if the buses will work for you. It might be a pain if you have lots of luggage, but it's so much cheaper. We took a taxi from our BnB to Ciampino which cost 30 euros. This is a flat rate set by the city for all taxi's to charge to from Rome to that particular airport but some sneaky cab drivers try to pull one over on tourists... so don't get swindled!! Our cabby actually tried to charge us 45 euros but we knew better and only gave him the flat rate. I will say that was the scariest, fastest car ride I have ever been on in my entire life. So rider's beware- try not to die if you take a cab.


Paris: Flew into Paris Beauvais and out of Charles de Gaulle
From Beauvais- We took a shuttle which drops off at a mall where the Maillot metro stop is. It cost 17 euros pp and took 1 hr 15 min.

To Charles de Gaulle- We took the metro from our BnB to the RER B. This line will take you to CDG and you can either get off at Terminal 3 or 2. If you need to go to Terminal 1 like us, you will have to get off at 3 and take another shuttle to Terminal 1.  This takes about an hour total and cost 10 euros. PSA: This was one of the most stressful and confusing airports to get to for us. I didn't do as much research in advance as I should have and man did I pay for it. If our flight hadn't been delayed there's no doubt we would've missed our flight. So learn from our mistake and give yourself plenty of time to get there!! This website has an absolutely amazing break down of this journey as well as prices, maps and breakdowns of the Paris metro in general.


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Will you be using any of these airports in a vacay you've got planned? If you've used them in the past, do you have any tips to add??


TWP: Airfare! // Airlines to Love (Or Hate)

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This is the second of three posts on how to book airfare like a boss. Check out the first one here. Go ahead, we all love saving a little mulah. 

I am an airline snob. There I said it. I'm all about saving money but if I see a Delta flight for 20$ cheaper than Jetblue or Southwest, I'm gonna skip over that Delta flight every time. There's just something about a friendly staff, in flight movies or free wifi that make my heart smile. And yes, I am saying Delta has none of those.

Here are the airlines we used on our big trip and why we did or didn't love them.

Jetblue- I am a lover of Jetblue. Knock on wood, they have never let me down. I am always warmly greeted and the flight is always comfortable. Our flight was a 6am flight direct to NYC but it wasn't as miserable as it sounds thanks to this airline. In addition to their wonderful in flight services and amenities, their booking process is pretty fantastic too. The website is easy to use and as I mentioned in this post, they offer credit back if your flight's price drops. Whats not to love!

Icelandair- This is the best kept secret of european airlines! Icelandair was literally half the price of its competitors. That alone was enough reason to use them. They also offer free stopovers in Iceland with no additional fees or charges. Obviously you are still responsible for lodging, food, ect. I won't get into it here, but Iceland is definitely worth visiting.

Truuuust me. Iceland is the most beautiful and unique place I have ever visited. I got a little nervous when saw the very mixed reviews on the quality of the airline. It only had 3 stars on most review sites. Yikes. I don't know what those reviewers were on, but Icelandair is a solid 4 1/2 star airline.

From our experience I will tell you that I LOVE Icelandair. The customer service is good, the seats are super comfortable, there is a USB in every seat for charging your devices, there are numerous movies you can watch in the headrest in front of your seat (Jon definitely loved this!), you can buy onboard wifi (or get it free if you are a Saga member!) and you get a good quality blanket.. not some thin sheet like other airlines (Hey! Comfort is important!). Overall, I loved Icelandair and would fly with them again in a heartbeat.


RyanAir- RyanAir sucks. This is a well known fact. The seats are cramped, there are no complimentary drinks or snacks in flight, and when you land they play a ridiculously loud and annoying bugle recording. The biggest reason everyone hates them is that they charge you a ridiculous amount for luggage and are super strict on the size and weight requirements for that luggage.

BUT (here's why we booked them-->) they have some of the cheapest flights in Europe. Price wise they beat out every. single. airline. Like on every flight we checked on. They fly within Europe and are known for their 10 euro flights. Our BnB host in Rome even said she has flown with them 3 times for only one cent. Are you kidding me?? ONE CENT?! This is reason enough to suck it up, pack light and book your flight with them. If you know what you're getting into up front, it eases the pain.

Have you ever used any of these airlines? Do you have an airline that you swear by?? Share in the comments!

TWP: Airfare! // How to Find a Cheap Flight!

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Happy June ya'll!! Today is the first of many posts for The Wander Project. The goal of TWP is to give you tips and tricks on how to vacay without breaking the bank. You may not think so, but it is definitely possible. This will be the first of three posts specifically on how to find hella cheap airfare .

Since getting back, we've gotten a lot of questions about how much everything cost and who we booked the trip through. Well I am very proud to say that we did all the planning ourselves!! This can be pretty stressful but in the end it saved us thousands of dollars. Plus, we were able to customize the trip into exactly what we wanted.  I am going to share with you how we did it so that you can do it too! I am also going to break down how much we spent on everything to help you if you are planning a similar trip. For those of you looking for city reviews, they are coming soon!

Today I want to give ya'll a few tips about the most expensive part of our trip- Airfare. Warning-- This is a bit long, but that just means you've got a better chance at a cheap flight! :)


BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT
I spent literally months researching airfare. Three of the best websites I found were ITA Matrix,  Skyscanner.com and Kayak.com. All help you find the cheapest airfare for the locations and dates you are looking for. ITA Was the most useful tool because it lets you get as specific or broad as you want. It also lets you search only certain airline alliances and lets you use coding to find really awesome deals. Anytime I see mistake fares or cheap fares on big travel deal websites, they always direct you to ITA Matrix. It can be a little daunting if you aren't familiar with the lingo, so this is a great post by Million Mile Secrets on how to use it. One of my favorite features of the ITA Matrix is that you can download the app and through it save your favorite flights you are considering. The app will track if the price is going down or up for that flight so you can strike while the iron is hot! If that just sounds too complicated for you, I would use Kayak. I found that Kayak was more user friendly because if you are doing multiple searches, it saves the first search and creates a tab at the top for the new search. Although I preferred Kayak, Skyscanner showed way more results.

After finding the best prices on these sites, I chose to book directly on the airline's website for two reasons. First, its safer and more secure. There's no chance of you paying money for a ticket just to find out its a scam like I've heard has happened on sites like edreams and opodo. Second, some airlines offer certain incentives for booking direct.

One way that second point has helped us- Jetblue offers reimbursement as a credit for any flight you book directly through them that drops in price. So if you book a 200$ ticket that drops to 100$ next week, you just call them and they will give you that 100$ back as a credit. Cool huh? But this only works if you book through their site, not travelocity or expedia or whatever. Of course if those sites offer a significant deal- take it! It's all about doing what saves the most money!


PLANNING
The first thing I did was made a list of each place we were going and how many days we wanted to spend in each place. This was not easy, lemme tell ya. To help, I made a list of things to do in each place and researched how long that would take. We ended up deciding on London- 2 days, Paris-2 days, Venice- 2 days, Florence- 1 day and Rome- 3 days. I then tried to figure out the best way to get from one point to another. Obviously I would need to fly from the US to Europe. Once in Europe there are two options- fly or take the train. We ended up deciding to fly from London to Venice, take the train within each Italian city and then fly from Rome to Paris. I'll go into why we chose this layout in the next few sections.


STAYING FLEXIBLE
Being flexible with your dates and airports will save tons of money. In the US, bigger airports tend to have better prices. Prime example is our flight over to Europe. The flights from Jacksonville to Europe were uber expensive, even though Jax is an international airport. Knowing it would be too expensive to fly direct, I looked at flights from the one of the biggest hubs on the east coast- NYC. Flying out of NYC gave us a bigger list of airlines to choose from, which will made it much easier to find a cheap flight. Plus, what better excuse to pit stop in one of my favorite cities?! We ended up finding round trip tickets from Jax to NYC for 180$ pp through Jetblue (so good!).

After searching from NYC to each location we would be visiting (London, Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome), I saw that it was cheaper to fly into London and out of Paris. Originally I wanted to set up our itinerary in geographical order (makes sense, right?) but flying home from Rome was several hundred dollars more per person than from Paris. Even after adding in the cost to travel from Italy to Paris, Paris was still the cheaper option. Decision made. So we booked from NYC to London with a free stopover in Iceland (more on that in this post) and from Paris to NYC both on Icelandair.

When searching airfare I always search one day before and one day after. In some cases there are flights that are significantly cheaper if you leave the night before or the morning after the date you originally planned. Sometimes, even being able to move to completely different days saves tons. I wanted to start our Italian portion in Rome and end in Venice but it was 200$ cheaper pp to do it the other way around. If I hadn't checked, I would have never known! Being flexible with times can help save money too. We took three 6am flights and 3 late night flights although they were a little rough, they saved us a bunch. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little beauty sleep to save a buck. This could mean the difference between visiting an extra museum, eating a fancy meal or maybe even throwing in an extra city to your itinerary!

Choosing airports that are a bit outside city center can save you money also.  I always clicked on "all airports" when searching to make sure I wasn't limiting myself. Sometimes this means you have to take a bus from the airport into the city. Always add the bus fare to the cost of the cheaper ticket to make sure its still cheaper than flying into the closer airport. This trick really saved us money in London and Venice!

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Hopefully you now realize that your airfare can be the biggest expense of your upcoming trip, but it doesn't have to break the bank!!

So now that you know all the super secret tricks to flying cheap, where will you be headed next?! Do you have a tip or secret to saving money on airfare that I didn't mention?? Tell me all about it in the comments!

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