4 Truths About Real Travel

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Daydreams of world travel often feature champagne greetings, comfy first-class seats, romantic train rides with stunning scenery, moderate hikes to gorgeous vistas, and contemplative strolls through historic sites that connect your soul with antiquity.

But, yeah, you know where we’re going with this one, right?

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Our Top 5 Travel Destinations on a Time and Money Budget

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We love to travel as often and to as many places as possible. So we like to book trips for as cheap as possible without sacrificing too much comfort. After all, the less we spend, the more trips we can take. BUT we usually can only take one week off at a time (sometime a week and a half) so we will pay more for faster transportation, convenient flights and extra comfort on the road. We don’t stay in hostels, nor do we take long rides on the chicken bus—but those are great options for travelers who are on a tight budget and want to have an amazing adventure! We spend a little money for speed and comfort since we are vacation travelers rather than slow travelers at the moment. But we want to show you the experiences you can get by just saving a little bit each week.

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Travel Tip #7: Consider booking the room with a view

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I used to try to find the cheapest room in the best location. After all, the room is only where you sleep while your not out exploring and adventuring, right? Like this room in Thailand was just fine for me:

I recently changed my mind about booking the cheapest room, because I realized I can actually save money by booking the better room. Now, this is definitely because my circumstances have changed. I used to be a young solo traveler and now I’m an old(er) married traveler. And the hubby and I happen to enjoy each other’s company.

So we’ve found that if we spend a little more money on the room with the view, we are more likely to have our morning coffee in the room or get a meal and a bottle of wine later in the day at the market (for way less $ than at a restaurant) and relax and enjoy it and the view from the comfort of our room.

It definitely depends on the cost of the upgrade, but sometimes it’s as little as $10-$20 per night. If you’re comparing hostel beds, that may be too much, but if you’re generally staying in hotels, it’s worth checking out!

~ LiAnn

These are our 5 favorite airlines. Here’s why.

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We just had a challenging experience with two partner airlines that blamed each other for the many things that didn’t go smoothly on our round-trip flights. Check in was a hassle, seat selection was a hassle, and they had a “not my problem” attitude even though we didn’t make any changes or do anything other than book the darn flights. Flight attendants are almost always awesome on every flight for every airline. We give them so much credit for what they do! But the airline experience isn’t always great. So that prompted us to write about the airlines we love and why we love them. Here are our top five.

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Travel Tip #6: Consider booking transport in segments to save. Here are 5 recent examples from our own experiences.

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Airfare is one of the most expensive purchases for a trip. That’s why we do so much research before booking. Here are some of the ways we’ve recently saved a ton of money by doing more than plugging our starting and ending points into a search engine. Now we can take even more trips!

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Travel Tip #4: Book your trip directly through the airline because …

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You may have access to upgrades, online changes and other perks you won’t have if you use a third-party booking site. For example, we like to purchase upgraded seats and early boarding. We travel so much that the money we spend on this can save us a lot of time, provide a lot more comfort and eliminate stress. So when we flew Aer Lingus recently, we booked through Orbitz and the airline would not let us make online changes. We called Aer Lingus twice and were on hold for an hour each time without anyone answering. We tweeted our frustration, Aer Lingus immediately responded and got us in touch with a lovely customer service rep who upgraded our seats. We had a great experience with Aer Lingus and will 💯 fly with them again. The frustration would have been a nonissue if we booked directly.

We love Orbitz and the rewards points we get for booking through the site. If it costs less to book a flight and hotel together through Orbitz, we absolutely will. If we have trouble with navigating an international airline’s website, we will also use Orbitz to book. Otherwise, we go directly through the airline.

Travel Tip #2: Buy A Universal Adapter

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Don’t leave home without this universal travel adapter. I take it with my everywhere I go—domestically and internationally. Not only does it work in every country, but it also has two USB ports and a regular plug, so I can charge my phone, earbuds and laptop all at once. Sometimes it’s hard to find more than one outlet, so being able to charge 3 devices is great! And I don’t have to worry about hanging onto a bunch of international adapters.

Travel Tip # 1: Pay in the Local Currency

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When using a credit card internationally, always have the vendor charge you in the local currency. The conversion rate the vendor offers for your home currency may be a lot more that you’d otherwise pay. If you have a credit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees, use it whenever you can. It will give you the best exchange rate.

4 Top Things to Do in Lisbon

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We overuse the word amazing on our blog, and that’s because the world is amazing! Lisbon was no exception … but it can be more aptly described as magical.

The old-school trams glide up and down the hilly historic district. Narrow alleyways open up to breathtaking views of castles and cathedrals. Small shops serve the most delicious local pastries.

We only had four days in Lisbon, so we had to make the most of it. Really, it was a love affair with food and wine. Here are our favorite things we did on each day:

1. When we arrived, we hired a private guide through Withlocals to take us on a tasting tour of the city. This was the perfect thing to do on our first night there. It was a walking tour, so we got the lay of the land, and we went to some of the best local spots that we would have never known about had we gone around on our own. The food and drink tastings were fantastic and our guide Camila was wonderful. It felt like a friend was showing us around her city. Later we were watching Anthony Bourdain in Lisbon and when he ended the show with the most delicious sandwich in the world, we knew it was true because we had a phenomenal experience there, too!

2. On our second day we just wandered around the city. It’s a great place to get lost and an easy place to get found again. That night we went to BA Wine Bar in Bairro Alto. If you’re into wine, this is a must. You have to make a reservation in advance (which you can do from their Trip Advisor page) because they only have a few tables and they give you an individualized experience. Keep in mind that for food, they serve only meats, cheeses, oils, bread, honey and tinned fish. This was plenty for us and absolutely delicious. Had we known the tinned fish would be so good, we would have ordered more of that and a smaller meat and cheese plate! This place is all about the wine. Portugal doesn’t export much of its wine, which is too bad for the rest of the world! At BA Wine Bar, they will ask you about your wine preferences and price range and bring you a few wines to sample. Then you pick the one you want by the glass. You can repeat this process as desired and don’t have to try the same wines as the rest of your party. I tried crisp whites, rosè and tawny port. All of it was amazing!

3. Our favorite thing we did on day three was check out Belém Tower. It was too far to walk from our hotel, so we hoped into an Uber (which is super easy to do in Lisbon). The old tower is breathtaking and a fantastic photo opportunity on the river. A lovely women sold local wines from a cart by the tower and provided a plastic wine glass you could carry around or just sit with and take in the beauty of the tower and the river.

4. Time Out Market is a must for any foodie. The place has a ton of food stalls with everything you can imagine. It’s pricey and crowded but absolutely worth it. We had some of the most delicious seafood we’ve ever tasted. O Surf and Turf was particularly exquisite! Go hungry and sample from several vendors. It’s sooooo good!

Before you go to Lisbon, you should know that getting around on public transportation is super easy. Get a reloadable metro card (Viva Viagem card) right at the airport and ride into town. The card also works for the trams, trains and ferries.

OK, now go to Lisbon!


How I Traveled to 3 Climates in Peru with Only a Personal Item and a Purse

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Here’s how I’ve mastered the art of packing light. I’ve included some of my favorite travel accessories, which are all available on Amazon. I do not get compensated for sharing these items (though maybe I should). I simply want to help travelers get around easier by packing right and packing light. It’s life changing!

Over the last few years I have traveled the world with only a personal item: a backpack that is smaller than a book bag (MARC BY MARC JACOBS ‘Pretty Nylon’ Knapsack) and sometimes an anti-theft handbag (by Travelon).

Theo carries one 20L waterproof bag (Aqua Quest Himal 20L Backpack).

It’s easy to pack a small bag for the beach: sun dresses, hats, swimsuits, some comfy lounging clothes and a toiletry bag. So what do I do when traveling in the winter or for an active adventure? Plan. Plan. Plan.

Plan to mix and match. Plan to wear basic color schemes. Plan to dress things up with scarves. Plan when you can do laundry (or wash things in the hotel sink). Plan to bring shoes that can be worn for trekking around and dressing up.

My trip to Peru presented a unique challenge: three different climates. We traveled for 10 days in the city, mountains and jungle–and had a lot of flights, boat rides, train rides and bus trips the whole way–including a 32 hour trek home from the rainforest.

Lima was about 68F, rainy and foggy. Cusco was a crisp and sunny 50F. Puerto Maldonado reached 96F with jungle humidity. And since this was an active trip with lots of hiking and exploring planned, I brought a little more than I normally would.

Inevitably on every trip, some of the things I want to bring get left behind. I have a large and a small packing cube (eBags Packing Cubes) and a small toiletry bag. When those are full, I’m done packing (even though I’ll squeeze a few more items in the bag, like a brush, a neck pillow and a small evening handbag).

Here’s what made the journey:

– 👖 4 pairs of pants. No jeans. They should be light and dry quickly. I like Prana brand. I also have plain black and brown pants with no zippers or buttons, so they don’t take up much room. And I added a pair of yoga pants to the mix.
– 👚 4 long sleeve Coolibar UPF 50 t-shirts. I like these because they are sun protective, can be dressed up and dry quickly.
– 🧦 4 pairs of socks
– 4 sets of undergarments (ex officio quick dry).
– 🧣 3 scarves (to dress up the long sleeve t-shirts)
– 👗 1 long sleeve dress
– 👒1 hat
– 👚1 short sleeve quick dry shirt and shorts set for the jungle or if I want to go for a run
– 1 sarong. I can’t live without my sarong when I’m on the road. It serves as a beach cover up and lounge wear. I can twist and tie it around my neck and add a pair of yoga pants for ultimate comfort.
– 🌂1 rain coat
– 👟1 pair of teevas (the cute ones that can be worn with dresses or active wear, not the ugly ones: Teva Women’s Northwater Sandal).
– 👛 1 small toiletry bag (including a 3 oz bottle of laundry detergent)
– 🕶 1 eye mask.
– 1 neck pillow. (This one is the greatest ever because it works really well and is flat for storage in your bag: Trtl Pillow).
– 📱1 iPhone
– 🤳 1 selfie stick (yup)
– 🎧 1 set of ear buds
– Univeral adapter and cords.

Wearing on plane: Black long sleeve t-shirt, black yoga pants. Lem’s Boulder Boots. Columbia fleece jacket (which doubles as a blanket on the plane and can easily be tied to the top of my backpack for transport when I’m not wearing it). Always wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes on the plane and travel days so that they don’t take up all the room in your bag.

Of course, I had more on my wishlist that didn’t fit: sun dress, one more outfit, another hat, kindle fire (my iPhone really has all I need for travel: e-books, audiobooks, notes app for writing, social media and photo apps, Uber, camera, apple wallet for boarding passes and Viator passes, TripIt).

The rest fit! I didn’t miss anything I didn’t bring. In fact, I usually find that I didn’t need everything that did fit.

We did a full load of laundry once during the trip to Peru—our Airbnb had a washer and dryer, so that made it convenient. At other times, we washed a few things in the sink when we were in the dry climate.

A lot of times, the things I’m able to pack for a week would do for months, as long as I can do laundry each week. I understand that some people don’t want to be bothered with laundry on vacation, but I’d much rather wash my clothes than lug around a suitcase.

Traveling with only a small backpack and a purse that both fit under the seat on the plane is liberating!

Light travel was especially important for this trip to Peru, as we had 8 flights (including connecting flights), two bus and boat trips, two train rides and numerous Uber/taxi trips.

For each flight, we checked in online, saved our boarding passes to our apple wallets and breezed through the airports.

On our last day, we traveled by boat and bus out of the jungle and then took two flights to Lima. In Lima, we had a 10 hour layover before our final two flights home. It was great not to lug a bunch of stuff!

~ LiAnn