My friends know that they can tell me their budget, preferred destinations and travel style, and I’ll find them the trip of a lifetime that’s right for them.
Being able to travel is definitely a privilege. For many though, cutting back on a few frivolous expenditures each week can fund an amazing trip. Also, knowing what travel tools to use is key to saving money without sacrificing luxury.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
We overuse the word amazing as a descriptor, 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. Take a Walking Food Tour
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. You must, of course, taste the pastel de nata—a delicious custard pastry—and Ginjinha cherry liquor, as well as the cheeses and wine and sardines. Later, we were watching Anthony Bourdain in Lisbon and when he ended the show with the most delicious sandwich in the world—the Bifana pork sandwich—we knew first-hand how amazing it really tastes.
2. Wine Tasting at BA Wine Bar
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. Wonder at Belém Tower
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. Arrive Hungry at Time Out Market
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!
Bonus Tip: Use Public Transport
Before you go to Lisbon, you should know that getting around on public transportation is super easy. Get a reloadable metro card (Viva Viagem zapping card) right at the airport and ride into town. The card also works for the trams, trains and ferries.