Budgeting 101

“Tara, how do you afford to travel so much?”

IMG_2905The number one question I constantly get asked. Well, for starters, I work a full-time job. Okay, I lied. I actually only work 3 days a week, but they’re long days, so I’m still gonna call this full-time. Secondly, this might come as a huge shock, but I still live with my parents. And you can say what you want about a 26-year-old still living at home, but you’re gonna have to say it to my back as I’m hopping on that next plane to Europe.¬†Byyyeee, haters.

IMG_7851So think about that for a second. Then think about what you pay in rent for 2 months, and you’re gonna end up with all the extra money I have available for a trip. But when you add in an uncontrollable habit for shoe shopping, (like other people I know.. totally not talking ’bout myself here), a financial plan still needs to come into place.

Over time I’ve built a simple guide I use to create my budget as I’m preparing for my next adventure, and so far, it hasn’t failed me — aside from the time I overspent while buying shoes in Italy…I mean, the time¬†my friend bought those shoes.

Airfare: (Flight price + Round up to nearest 100) + Any connecting flights = Total

Hotel: $130 x (Number of Nights) / 2 = Total

Spending Money: $100 x (Number of Days Traveling) = Total

Phone Bill: $10 x (Number of Days out of country) = Total*

*This is based off Verizon Travel Pass. Check with your cell provider’s international coverage charges for accurate total.

Airfare:

If you’re taking more than one flight, list a price for each flight. The reason I round up is to cover any additional baggage or seat costs that some airlines charge. I do a super basic search of flights to find these prices. Meaning, I don’t do any of this, or try to find the cheapest airport, the cheapest flight time, or the cheapest day to leave. This way I have a starting base price to budget for, and if I find the flight cheaper when I actually go to book, then¬†score!

Hotel:

Over the years of booking hotels, I’ve found that $130 typically seems to be the average cost I’ve paid. I really don’t remember how I came to this number as a conclusion, but since I’ve started using it as the budget number, it’s worked, so I’m not gonna question it. I divide the total by 2 since I’m always sharing a hotel room with someone else, but even when I’m sharing with more than 1 person, I leave the budget the same. Better to save more than scramble for extra cash in the end.

Spending Money:

When I first started traveling, I would take all the cash I had saved with me to spend while gone, and this one particular time that I went to NYC, it averaged out to $100 a day. By the end of the trip, I came home with around $5 left, and with how expensive New York can be — and my spending included shopping and drinking every night — this seemed like a good amount to budget off of. Now,¬†disclaimer: this budget always fails me. I usually overspend by $200 – $300 depending on where I went and whether I shopped more or decided to add a skydiving ticket on to the trip — or both…¬†Hello, the summer I went to Italy and Croatia.¬†But having the majority saved before I leave takes a lot of stress off of me — and my credit card bill — for once I get home.

Phone Bill:

This one is pretty straight forward. Verizon charges me $10 a day to use my phone out of the country, so I save $10 for every day I’m gone.¬†Duh!

Here’s an example for reference from a recent trip…

Malaysia

Airfare: 1st Flight $500 + 2nd Flight $100 = $600

Hotel: $130 x 8 Nights / 2 = $520

Spending: $100 x 10 Days Traveling = $1,000

Phone Bill: $10 x 8 Days out of country = $80

Budget Total: $2,200

IMG_4955Typically, I’ll start planning my budget as soon as we start talking about the next trip — aka the day my plane lands at home from the last adventure — so I can divide up the total as much as possible throughout the paydays I have coming between now and the trip. In my case, this ends up being weekly (i.e. $2,200 divided by 10 weeks). In the end, I spent about $200 less than what I budgeted for hotels and airfare, allowing me to have extra money available for spending while away, on top of what I saved already.¬†Yasss!¬†(Side note: Malaysia ended up being so inexpensive that I had enough left over from my budget to cover my flight for a last minute trip to Hawaii the following month.¬†Are you starting to understand how¬†I do this so often? Always¬†staying 2 trips ahead.)

So I hope as you start to plan your next adventure, these tips will help make your dream vacations seem more obtainable, as they have made traveling for me. There’s a great beautiful world to explore, and I know I won’t be stopping until I’ve seen it all.

Ready for takeoff? Find my favorite travel sites here.

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Baggage Check: My Favorite Travel Bags

The only kind of baggage I’m letting into my life, is the kind I’m checking or putting in an overhead bin —¬†Boy, bye — and through my travels, I’ve collected a few of my favorites to take along with me.

Personal Item

My current obsession: DIAPER BAGS!¬†This is what happens when all your friends are moms, and you start getting jealous of the amount of snacks those things can hold. As I’ve mentioned in my packing tips post, it’s best to make the most out of your personal item for on your flight, and I’ve found backpacks to be most useful. More specifically, diaper bag backpacks.¬†All the pockets, oh man. For starters, they are¬†twice as deep compared to a standard backpack.¬†Plus, the side pocket is usually significantly larger to hold a baby bottle, so your refillable water bottle can fit more easily without ripping the pocket as it has on all my previous backpacks. The spot for the changing pad? The perfect size to fit a laptop or iPad. Not to mention, since it is made for messy situations, the fabric is easy to wipe clean.

Left to right: Skip Hop Greenwich Diaper Bag (Dusty Rose) |Itzy Ritzy Boss Diaper Bag (Coffee and Cream) \ Parker Baby Diaper Bag

Carry on

This one can go a few different ways, and not gonna lie… I try to avoid a carry-on bag as much as possible. I’m too short to reach the overhead bins and am already embarrassed at the thought of me dropping my things on a stranger’s head.¬†Unless he’s cute. In that case, can’t wait to tell this¬†story at our wedding. For the few times I do take a carry-on for luggage, I have a couple I’ll rotate between.¬†Depending on my destination determines which I prefer. Mostly, I go with the smallest suitcase in my 3-piece set, though — Ain’t nobody trying to carry all that weight around an airport when you can roll it instead — but for the few trips that specify to not bring hard luggage (i.e. The Yacht Week), I’ll bring a sturdy duffle bag and just complain the whole time I walk through the airport with it instead. (Tip: Go with a duffle bag that has a shoe¬†compartment to keep things from getting your clothes dirty.)

Left to right: Herschel Supply Co. Novel Duffle Bag (Raven Crosshatch)| American Tourist Moonlight Spinner (Marble) | MyMealivos Canvas Weekender Bag

Checked Luggage

When I’m shopping for luggage, I¬†always opt for the 2- or 3-piece set. It just makes sense because you usually end up paying almost the same price for one piece when buying them separate. Plus, it’s always good to have the option to go bigger or smaller. I always aim for the smallest luggage I can take, but sometimes Iceland-in-the-middle-of-winter has a different agenda, and I’m thankful to have the bigger option to fit my 3 pairs of boots and 4 jackets. I also like hardside sets because it makes me feel like my things have extra protection as they get thrown around and stuffed underneath the weight of other 50-lb. bags.

Top to bottom: Coolife Luggage 3-piece Set (Ice Blue) | Rockland Hardside Spinner 3-piece Luggage Set (Rose Gold) | HyBrid Travel 3-piece Luggage Set (White)

Packing Cubes

I swear by these little things. They are so easy, and I don’t waste an hour every day I’m on vacation reorganizing my suitcase anymore. I love just about everything that has to do with organizing, so I was all about these as soon as I discovered packing cubes existed.¬†They were one¬†of the only things¬†I asked for on my¬†birthday even.¬†I like to keep underwear in one, tops in one, and bottoms in a separate one. And you’d be surprised how many outfits you can roll up and fit in them.

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Lonew 7pcs Packing Cubes

Traveling so much over the last few years, I’ve had a lot of trial and error with what works best for me, and I’ve finally collected a solid group of bags. So I hope some of my favorites can be as useful for you as they are for me. And if they’re not, we’ll just forget I ever wrote this then.

Ready for takeoff? Find my favorite travel sites here.

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‘The Yacht Week’ Packing Guide

As summer is quickly approaching — and as I’m pressuring friends into joining me another week at sea — it’s time to break down my The Yacht Week¬†survival kit¬†packing guide. Girls, you’re gonna need this for reference. Heck… I’m gonna need this for¬†reference.¬†

TYW Must-haves:

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A super Instagram-able floatie: Duh. Have you ever seen a picture from The Yacht Week that didn’t involve an inflatable pizza or flamingo? I didn’t think so. (Bonus: A huge floatie to fit your whole crew. It cost more to fly with this “checked bag” than the actual float cost, but being able to chill as a group with room for an ice chest full of drink refills, so worth it.)

Country Pride: This is huge at The Yacht Week so bringing a flag to hang on the boat is a must. Throw in some flag shorts, bandanas, coozies, sunglasses, swimsuits, etc. If you can print a flag on it, you should bring it.

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Boat Decor: Think battery-powered and waterproof, so disco balls, lights, streamers, more flags, etc. Coming home drunk and trying to find your boat in a lineup of 30 boats becomes way easier when you’re the only boat with flashing lights hanging from the overhang. That is, if you remember to turn them on before heading out.

Custom Crew Memorabilia: Tank tops, another flag — seriously, you can never have enough flags¬†— we even had a custom stamp made with our boat’s name on it so we could leave our mark on everyone who passed by.

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Group Costume: The last day is a regatta where group costumes are more important than the actual boat speed. The more original and unique costume and the higher energy your group has, the better chances of winning.

Extra Party Swag: A few extra props never hurt nobody. Unless, of course, you’re out of room in your suitcase. Water guns, neon¬†sunglasses, inflatable beer pong tables, glow sticks and body paint will all come in handy throughout the week.

Clothes:

Swimsuits: I know what you’re thinking. 7 days on a boat means you’ll need at least 7, maybe 9, bikinis, but, trust me, this is far from true. Most days you’re sailing, and once you reach the marina, the last thing you’ll want to do is get in that dirty water. Instead, use the extra space for cute outfits to walk around and explore in. I probably only used 3 – 4 of the swimsuits I brought. 2 for the different big raft parties, and another 2 to rotate between tanning and swimming.

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Shoes: I read every blog I could before this trip, and every single one recommended bringing boat shoes, so, naturally, I searched high and low for a pair and ultimately borrowed a friend’s pair to take — Thanks, Reb!¬†But as useful as boat shoes might seem on a boat, I never actually wore them. Comfy sandals and a pair of sneakers should be on your list, though. Stick with cute sandals for at night, since most party venues are outside, and old stone paths won’t mix well with heels.

Clothes: Read through your The Yacht Week itinerary to prepare for any parties that require themed attire. Athletic wear came in handy for during the day when it wasn’t warm enough to be tanning as we sailed to the next destination and also at night for when we got back to the boat after parties and continued hanging out. A lightweight sweater for colder nights should also be included on your packing list, along with a beach coverup for during the day. With minimal space for luggage, bring outfits that can be interchangeable to save space while packing.

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Avoid Denim: You’re on a boat, and sometimes things get wet, so you don’t want to be waiting around on your denim pants/shorts to dry.¬†Stick with light weight and cotton materials that will dry faster and keep you cool.

Odds & Ends: A good pair of polarized sunglasses are recommended to protect against the sun’s glare reflecting off the water and some super trendy sunglasses¬†straps to save them from slipping off your nose onto the bottom of the ocean. A hat to shade from the sun, a refillable water bottle, and a beach towel — which can be purchased in the marina to save baggage space — are also handy items to have.

Duffle Bag:¬†A small boat and lots of hard suitcases don’t go well together. A duffle bag or collapsible suitcase is highly recommended. Don’t make the same mistake as I did because my suitcase didn’t even fit through the bedroom doorway.

For more help on packing check out my Packing Tips for Any Trip.

Beauty and Health:

Makeup: Waterproof mascara. Obviously!

Small mirror: Yes, there are mirrors on the boat, but it gets so hot in there that I could barely stand it long enough to change my underwear, let alone apply a full face of makeup before I sweat it off. A small portable mirror will be convenient for applying makeup on the deck with an ocean breeze to cool you off. (Side note: Some boats have AC. I was uninformed about how highly to prioritize that while choosing a boat, though.)

img_6435Showers: I wish someone had explained to me that there are¬†showers at The Yacht Week, but they are public showers in the marinas.¬†Gross. Take shower shoes and a small bag to carry your toiletries/clothes in to the shower. Towels are provided on the boat, but investing in a bigger towel might be worth it — I’m not sure who they actually expected to be able to dry off with the napkin-sized towel they gave us. Bringing a pack of wipes will also be useful for a refresher during the days spent completely at sea.

Sunscreen: Lots of it, and for your lips. Can’t be having cracked burnt lips when that foreign cutie goes in for a kiss.¬†Know what I’m saying? And if you forgot to apply — and reapply — bring a bottle of aloe vera for after sun care. Ouch!

Medicines:¬†Advil is completely necessary, even though I’m convinced that hangovers are non-existent while sailing the Adriatic, and if seasickness is a thing for you, look into motion sickness medicines or patches. Clorox wipes aren’t a medicine, but I always keep some in my bag while traveling, and they were perfect for wiping down tables after a hungry crew devoured whatever Savannah and I made for breakfast and dinner.

img_6457Travel Insurance: Get it. I, thankfully, didn’t need it, but alcohol and slippery boat decks could have ended badly, and I couldn’t imagine having to pay for a foreign medical bill. I luckily made it out of The Yacht Week with nothing more than a few hundred bruises that I’m still trying to figure out where exactly they came from.¬†Allianz has an affordable plan that’s good for a whole year, so you’ll have protection for any other daring adventures you embark on in the near future. Plus, certain plans will reimburse you for any flight or baggage delays too!

Electrical Essentials:

Outlets: I can’t speak much on the outlets inside of the bedrooms, but in the kitchen where my bed was, there wasn’t a standard wall plug. A car charger or USB plug were available, though. It seemed everyone was always charging here, so either the plugs in the bedrooms were non-existent or they didn’t work, so a car charger with multiple USB outlets would be the most efficient.

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Waterproof: Things happen, and if you’re someone who takes pictures of everything, then highly consider a lifeproof case for this trip. You’re near water all week long, and you can’t predict when or prevent water from destroying your phone or camera — which reminds me. Don’t forget to charge the GoPro, and don’t forget to bring an extra battery. I’m still crying that I only have footage from the first day.

Music: Don’t show up disappointed when your boat isn’t equipped with an aux port but, instead, a CD player. Prepare a few mixed tapes beforehand, so you’ll never miss a beat.

Extra, and still very important:

Cash: Always cash. Many places on the islands won’t accept cards, so cash is important. There are ATMs all over, but I paid $20 per withdrawl when I needed extra, so exchanging currency through your bank back home prior to arriving would be more cost-effective.

Valuables: Leave them at home. People are constantly passing through your boat, and you don’t want to risk damaged or stolen valuables putting a damper on the rest of the trip.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This is such a long list, Tara, and you’re expecting me to get this all in a duffle bag?” Honestly, I haven’t tried yet, so I’ll get back to you all at the end of summer, but spending another week like this, is worth at least trying… And if all else fails, I’ll just shop when I get there.¬†Bon Voyage!

Ready for takeoff? Flights | The Yacht Week

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Fly High for a Low Fare

Traveling so often, people question how could I possibly afford all of it.

Am I secretly¬†rich? Far from it. Do I work more than one job? Nope.¬†Do¬†I still live at home with¬†my parents? Well, yes, that one is true, and¬†it helps tremendously that I can put my “rent” into my travel savings account. But, no, my parents don’t give me money either, no matter how hard I give my dad puppy dog eyes while asking for extra cash. Puuuhhh-leeeeeeeze.

So now here I am, finally explaining to everyone how I’ve managed to keep my trips so inexpensive by sharing tricks on where to find the cheapest flights.

Picking a destination:

The first step, obviously, would be to pick a destination. On the off chance that¬†you have no idea where you want to¬†go, or if you¬†want a¬†last-minute, cheap getaway,¬†Skyscanner¬†has the¬†option to “search everywhere.” It’ll bring up the cheapest destinations from¬†any selected departure airport.

But…. If you have a long bucket list of destinations like I do, then you’ll want to spend less time finding cheap destinations and more time finding the cheapest¬†flight to reach¬†those destinations.

Finding the cheapest time to fly:

IMG_9785With my job,¬†I’m lucky to have the perk of being able to leave whenever, so I’m able to work with when flights are cheap, rather than being limited to a certain time frame. This does mean that I’m sometimes traveling during the off season, though. Was trekking across Paris in the pouring rain ideal? No. But those will forever be my favorite memories.

The first stop on my cheap flight search engine checklist is Skyscanner (again…). They have a variety of different explore options, including being able to use “cheapest month” as your dates of travel. If you already have a specific time in mind, it’ll be good to know that it’s typically cheaper to fly on a Tuesday or Saturday, but if you choose “whole month,” Skyscanner will provide a day-by-day price comparison¬†for your destination, so you can see the high and low days during that time of year.

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Once I have a timeframe in mind,¬†I always “fact-check” with Google Flights. What I like most about Google Flights, that other search engines don’t do, is that Google will suggest¬†changes in your flight plan to make it cheaper. Sometimes, leaving the night before or flying into a nearby airport will produce cheaper flight prices, so I always like to be aware of these options before making a final decision.

Tip: Southwest’s¬†flights¬†aren’t shown in search engines, so don’t forget to check their website for prices.

I was typically booking with Google Flights in the past, but I recently discovered JetRadar. When I compared a search between the two, JetRadar produced results up to $150 cheaper for my upcoming trip. This is because of the “self-connect” option, meaning that not only will I switch planes on a layover, I might also have to collect my baggage and switch airlines as well. For long flights that¬†are broken up by layovers regardless — since I can’t afford a $2,000 one-way ticket for a non-stop —¬†this option was super useful. However,¬†I did notice it brought up flights with an unnecessary amount of stops for¬†shorter flights, turning¬†6 hours of travel into 20.

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If I plan on making multiple stops on a trip, I’ll¬†take all the destinations I plan to stop at along the way, and search¬†for one-way tickets to and from each location, making the cheapest two options my starting and ending point. Flights within Europe are typically cheap (like I flew from Ireland to Paris for $14 cheap), so I never do as much research for all the little connecting flights. Instead, I refer to a good ‘ole map and plan those flights off the route that makes most sense geographically¬†rather than¬†cost.

Usually, I’d be the first one to¬†urge you to make that purchase, don’t waste any time, what are you waiting for? Go. But it may be beneficial to wait a few days to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

When to buy:

Flight prices change often, so before you hit “purchase,” make sure you’re not buying during the high. Flights are often cheaper when purchased at the beginning¬†of the week, opposed to being bought closer to the weekend. i.e. The same flight that was $600 on Friday, might only be $400 when you search again on Monday.

Other tips:

IMG_9792[1]Don’t wait too long to buy, though. I’ve never actually tested the theory that the Tuesday 6 weeks before the trip is the cheapest a ticket will ever be, but I do always book all my flights at least 6 weeks in advance.

And if you’ve chosen to fly on¬†with a¬†budget airline, be sure to read all the fine print. If you make sure you’re aware of the extras beforehand, even with add-ons, your flight can still cost less than with¬†other airlines. It’s cheaper to add/pay for a checked bag¬†online rather than at the check-in desk, and¬†some airlines will¬†require boarding passes to be printed prior to arrival at the airport to avoid additional fees.¬†I¬†strongly encourage¬†to also pay¬†to reserve a seat. Not because it matters if you’re seated next to your travel buddy, but flights are almost always overbooked, so reserving a seat will guarantee that you will get on the flight¬†over a passenger who opted to not pay for reserving one, saving you from an unexpected sleepover at the airport. (Of course, in the event of flight vouchers being offered, though, you know I’m the first one running off that plane to claim one. Free flight? Yes, please!)

Ready for takeoff? Check out my useful packing tips before you go.

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Packing Tips for Any Trip

I’m often asked by everyone how I’m able to always pack¬†so effortlessly, and by “everyone,” I really just mean my mom. I do have a few tips that I always follow when it comes to packing, though, whether it’s to fly halfway across the world or¬†a drive down the street to my best friend’s house¬†for the night. So to make your suitcase¬†troubles a little less stressful, follow some of my tricks below:

1. Don’t wait until the last minute.

My friends will ask me before a trip if I’ve packed, and I’m pretty sure it’s so they can make fun of me when my answer is not only yes, but that¬†I’ve been packed for a week, maybe two. Waiting until the last minute means you’re going to forget things, and I’m the queen of forgetting things…. Seriously, I’ve forgotten to pack underwear before. I’m not saying to be as¬†dramatic as I am, but pack at least a few days prior to leaving. This leaves you with time to remember items you may have missed during a rushed last-minute job…. or you can continue to pack as you’re walking out the door. If that’s the case, then¬†use my favorite checklist to help make sure you remembered everything (or download the digital version¬†here.)

2. Keep a travel-friendly toiletries bag packed.

img_9270I always keep a toiletries bag packed. There’s nothing more annoying than getting somewhere and not having a toothbrush or deodorant, and who wants to do that awkward let -me-put lotion-on-my-armpits-and-hope-that-works thing. To save myself the trouble of forgetting anything, I keep a makeup bag full of my favorite everyday products, but travel-sized (Tip:¬†Take advantage of free samples from Sephora to¬†fill this bag). It’s easy to grab and throw in your luggage, and it leaves more time to worry about the real important things that need packed, like shoes.

Don’t forget to keep your liquids inside a plastic bag to prevent leaks, or screw a piece of plastic between the bottle and cap.

3. Use shower caps to cover shoes.

Covering the bottom of your shoes will help prevent the soles from causing any unwanted dirt marks on clean clothes, and it will especially come in handy if your trip involves any sort of hiking and mud. *Flashback to those muddy boots in Iceland.* 

4. Don’t take the large suitcase.

No matter how long¬†the trip is¬†or if there’s the need to pack huge coats, I always try to fit everything in a medium-sized suitcase or smaller. If you’re travelling to multiple destinations, you won’t have to worry about dragging a heavy oversized suitcase to each stop (or up three flights of stairs when you find out your¬†Air BNB doesn’t have an elevator.) Here are¬†a few¬†ways I¬†save space:

Roll clothing instead of folding it¬†and place vertically in your suitcase. Since everything you have packed will be visible, this will also keep¬†your luggage organized throughout your trip¬†because digging for items won’t be necessary.

Choose items that can be mix-and-matched. You were probably wondering how a fashionista like myself keeps her¬†clothing¬†packing to a minimum. Well,¬†I’ll pack clothing items that all fall into the same color familythink all neutrals or cool tones – so I’m able to turn 5 items into 10 different outfits. Plus, if it’s a cold weather trip, no one is going to see anything besides your jacket anyway. So instead of packing an extra sweater, grab a scarf for¬†a pop of color. Be sure to pack garbage bags to keep smelly socks and dirty underwear separate from clothes that will be worn again.

If there is the need for some extra layers this trip, wear your coat on the flight. Airplanes are cold, so skip packing the heavy jacket and carry it on with you to double as a blanket.

Use the space inside your shoes to pack a curling iron/flat iron, umbrella, socks, snacks, etc. You get the picture.

Leave the giant vitamin and prescription bottles at home. Instead, take the exact amount of daily vitamins/medicines you’ll need in a plastic bag. This will help¬†keep track¬†of how many days¬†you’ve taken them if your regular schedule is thrown off by a time change.

5. Use your personal item wisely.

img_9271Instead of bringing a small purse as your personal item, opt to take a larger tote or backpack. I like to move my wallet and essentials into my backpack, pack the empty purse in my¬†suitcase¬†and switch back over to my purse once I reach my destination. If you’re flying on a budget like I do, chances are your flight doesn’t come with wifi, so use the extra baggage room to bring along your iPad, a book to read, coloring books, or, my favorite pastime, snacks. A pen will also come in handy for any customs forms that need to be filled out¬†on international flights.

If you are headed overseas, make sure you keep an adapter easily accessible too because you’ll need it to charge your devices during those long layovers while abroad.¬†I like to use this one here because you can charge 3 devices at once, and it’s universal, so you won’t have to buy a different one for each country you visit. (Note: You cannot plug your curling iron/flat iron into this. You will need a voltage converter for that.)

Now that you’re all packed, hopefully you’ve saved enough room to bring home some souvenirs. So make sure to keep¬†a luggage scale handy to help prevent any surprise overweight fees at the airport.

Ready for takeoff? Find my favorite travel sites here.

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