Tag Archives: Travel

This travel hacker paid $400 for a $52,000 round-the-world trip — here’s how he did it

Daniel Gillaspia is an attorney based in Houston, but in his spare time he’s a travel hacker. He has seen the globe and experienced some of the world’s best first-class cabins and five-star hotels.

His most recent vacation was a $52,294 round-the-world trip that took him to Tokyo; Cape Town, South Africa; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and other far-off destinations.

It was the trip of a lifetime, but Gillaspia isn’t a big spender.

So when it came to planning his trip, he employed every trick and some serious travel hacking to whittle his bill down to as little as possible.

In the end, he paid just $408.

After months of meticulous planning, he and his partner, Bradley Darnell, gamed the system and accrued 1 million air miles through various credit-card programs and deals.

We asked Daniel, who runs the travel blog UponArriving, to let us know more about how he managed to pull it off.

Read the full article here.

 

This article is from Business Insider and is available at the following link:

https://www.businessinsider.com/this-man-paid-400-for-a-52000-round-the-world-trip-heres-how-he-did-it-2016-11

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Awesome trip to Austin, Texas

I’ve heard a lot of great things about Austin so I was really pleased when a friend organised a trip there for three of us. We rented out an apartment on www.vrbo.com close to 10th street for three nights.

I was able to book return bus tickets from Dallas to Austin on www.megabus.com for a mere $4.50.

Before we got there, we had recommendations coming out of our ears for all the great places to eat and drink at. It was pretty easy to find places near the apartment and also by going to the popular areas like 6th Street and Rainey Street.

So here are some highlights…

Friday night drinks at 6th street

This street is lined with bars and some restaurants. We started the evening at Coyote Ugly, a classic dive bar with the addition of ladies dancing on the bar who were mildly abusing men, who volunteered to be abused. It was amusing to watch. Good bar with a good feel.

After a few drinks here, we headed down the street and found Pete’s Dueling Piano bar. This was loads of fun with a playoff between various musicians. Music included Backstreet Boys and some good old rap on piano. The atmosphere in here was great.

We drank a lot here… and the rest of the night is lacking a bit of details! However, when we headed out the street was alive, there were lots of food stands and plenty of bars to visit.

food-truck-bbq-austin-texas

 

Saturday visit to Rainey Street

We took Uber to Rainey Street and ended up in a fun bar called Unbarlievable. There was a big slide in the back as well people practicing with hula hoops. Food was also pretty tasty and they had cool live music.

unbarlievable-austin-texas

There are more bars and restaurants along this street, we did pop into some. I love that day drinking was completely normal and expected. It has a more mature vibe than 6th street. Both were awesome and they’re both worth a visit.

Tipster free walking tour

I always love a good free walking tour and my friend found this Tipster tour that started at the Capitol. No need to sign up in advance and you can leave a tip of your choice. Our tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. She covered a lot of the Austin history. I was surprised that the tour didn’t include any fun stuff like the nightlife, but fortunately my friends and I already had that covered. The tour was a good little walk in the centre of Austin and it was nice to see something other than bars!

matthew-mcconaughey-austin-street-art

We did see some cool street art, including this lovely picture of Matthew McConaughey!

Food recommendations

We ate very well throughout the trip. Plenty of bbq meat from food trucks and restaurants.

Here are some highlights:

  • Stubb’s BBQ

I was happy to check out the restaurant connected to one of my favourite meat marinade brands. Stubb’s BBQ was nice and busy. The food was good and meaty. The service was a little slow, but the food was tasty so they are forgiven.

 

  • Gloria’s Latin Cuisine

We found this using Google maps as it was close to where the walking tour ended. Gloria’s Latin Cuisine turned out to be a lovely little find. A classy restaurant with really great drink prices, including $2 mimosas! My friend even asked the waitress if it was a typo. It wasn’t… so we had a few. The margaritas were also tasty, as well as the food.

Glorias-latin-cuisine-austin

 

  • Walton’s Fancy and Staple

We were inspired to have breakfast here after hearing that it’s owned by actress Sandra Bullock. Walton’s Fancy and Staple is a really lovely quaint cafe-style restaurant, that also sells plants and flowers. I had the breakfast dish with eggs, toast and bacon that was tasty and filling. The mocha latter was pretty good too. We were all satisfied.

 

  • Voodoo Doughnuts

This was recommended to us and seems to be an iconic place. The line was huge when we got there on Sunday afternoon. We got a few different doughnuts between us, and I have to be honest, we were pretty underwhelmed. The doughnuts were very dry, bready and stodgy, there wasn’t really anything special about them. Fortunately they weren’t stupidly expensive, so we survived the disappointment. I’d say Voodoo doughnuts is pretty overhyped, but if you just want a doughnut with no expectations, then go ahead and join the line!

voodoo-doughnuts-austinvoodoo-doughnuts-austinvoodoo-doughnuts-austin

 

Conclusion

We all had a great time in Austin and I’d be happy to go back in a heartbeat. Getting around was really quick and easy (and cheap) by Uber, or if you felt like it there were plenty of electric scooters everywhere you looked. People were friendly and there was a really good vibe there.  Food and drink was easy to find and there are plenty of places to explore.  A great place to visit and hang out with friends!

 

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A weekend away in a luxury villa in Florida. With bowling alley.

An amazing friend of mine organised a long weekend away in an awesome property that she booked on Airbnb.  It came complete with a pool, jacuzzi, arcade room, home theatre, bowling alley, spa, gym, and squash court.

florida-airbnb-luxury-villa

The only agenda was that there was no agenda.  A large group of us (around 15) would just be chilling out there and spending time at the villa as we pleased.  I arrived at Orlando MCO airport on a Friday and met up with a friend who arrived around the same time.  We hopped in an Uber that took about 40 minutes to get to the property in Four Corners and cost about $50.

The house was absolutely stunning.  It was in immaculate condition and just so luxurious…

florida-airbnb-foyer

florida-airbnb-pool

So basically, we just ate well, drank lots, and had a great time together.  We spent a lot of time at the pool, lovely evenings in the hot tub, fun nights bowling together and we all managed to watch a movie in the theatre.  The house was big enough for it to never feel cramped, and there were enough things to do for all of us to be entertained.

There was something really wonderful about being able to relax and recharge somewhere beautiful with amazing people.  It was really good for the soul.  I loved the jacuzzi in my bathroom and pretty much made use of every amenity at some point.  Very grateful for the opportunity to share such a great experience with my friends.

florida-airbnb-pool2

If you want to check out the Airbnb listing itself, you can find it here:

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12783742

 

 

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Dallas Museum of Art

Free art museum in Dallas Texas

While perusing my Texas guide book, I came across the Dallas Museum of Art. It’s located close to St Paul station on the DART train and the added bonus is it’s free to enter.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art

I didn’t really know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. There are quite a lot of rooms, some are very small exhibitions and others are significantly larger. I was impressed by the array of art – from paintings to jewellery and bowls to books. I was also impressed by how global the art was. I saw the works of some very well known artists including Monet, Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art-Monet Dallas-Museum-of-Art-frida-kahlo

This was a really nice couple of hours of looking around at various and eclectic art. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something chilled out to do in Dallas centre.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art-japan

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Six Flags adventure park, Texas

I love rollercoasters so I was completely up for visiting Six Flags over Texas in Arlington. We bought tickets online on the same day to avoid queuing up. The car park seemed pretty full when we were trying to find a spot, but luckily there were hardly any lines for the rides when we got in.

The rides were pretty awesome. I really enjoyed the Batman ride, Cat woman whip and the Superman ride. Even the ‘kiddy’ rides were pretty cool! Spinsanity was also great – except we got stuck for 10 minutes on the way down. Luckily we weren’t upside down so it wasn’t too bad!

It was a hot day, but there is plenty of shade and water fountains around. We bought a refillable drink which was handy to stay hydrated throughout the day. And the Aqua man water ride helped to keep us cool!

We were surprised when all the rides seem to stop at around 6pm… turned out there was a thunder storm looming and I guess lightning and high metal rides are not a good combination. It did start raining and there was plenty of lightning and thunder, at which point nearly everyone started to make their way towards the exits. I’m glad we managed to fit in loads of good rides before nature forced us to leave. I’d go back 🙂

You can check out Six Flags over Texas by clicking here.

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How to travel on a budget

There are times when you have oodles of money to spend on a luxury trip.  Those are always great!

But there are also times when you really want to go somewhere, even though you feel like you can’t really afford it.  Fear not.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way!  From my experience, travelling on a budget is still worth the experience.  You might not be eating caviar everyday (who wants to do that anyway?) but you still get to visit somewhere interesting and build some great new memories.

The biggest costs for travelling tend to be for transport and accommodation, so if you want to save money, try to focus on these areas first.  Other costs like eating out do add up, but you can always try to find a balance of paying for nice meals and eating on the cheap.  This applies for touristy things to do as well.

Here are some tips to get you thinking:

  • Book early

From my experience, booking earlier has nearly always worked out cheaper.  From flights to hotels, it’s easier to snag a deal in advance.  I’d say at least three months in advance.  Also, there is maximum holiday anticipation by booking early!  It’s always nice to have a trip to look forward to.

  • Low cost airlines

These are great.  The purpose is to get you from one place to another.  There’s generally not much point in paying extra for that.  Low cost airlines are good for travelling within Europe, and also intra-country like in the US.  You can save a lot of money by travelling with Ryanair or Easyjet instead of British Airways.

You can save money on flights around the world with airlines like JetBlue Airways in the US and AirAsia in Asia.  You can view other airlines in this article about low-cost airlines.

air-asia-low-cost-airlines

  • Shop around for flights

Sometimes there is no low-cost option when you’re making a big trip, like from London to Thailand.  But you might find some cheaper options if you’re willing to make a stop-over (these tend to be cheaper than direct flights) or be flexible with your dates.

If you’re making a big trip abroad that requires a stop-over, it can work out cheaper if you buy the two parts of the flight separately.  For example, a friend of mine travelled from the US to Amsterdam with American Airlines, which required a stop in London.  It worked out cheaper to buy the US-London ticket with AA + a separate ticket from London-Amsterdam with British Airways, compared to booking the whole US-London-Amsterdam combination directly through American Airlines.  So she saved money by booking the two parts of her trip separately, without even looking at the low-cost airlines.

You may need to fly with a big airline to get you to the first country, then look for cheap flights on the shorter parts of your journey.

The best way to shop around like this is using a website like Sky Scanner that does the hard work for you.  Try changing some of the dates around, and make sure you check the time in between flights.  And make sure the agent they suggest is legitimate.  I’ve seen what looked like a bargain but had never heard of the agent and their reviews weren’t good – so I chose a more expensive but safe option.

You can also use websites like Kayak and the regular online agents like Opodo, Expedia and Lastminute.com to shop around for flights.  And the actual airline’s website!

Make sure you get the timings right if you book parts of your flight separately.  You will need to allow extra time to collect your baggage and possibly go through security or check-in again.  To avoid this hassle, see the next point…

  • Travel lightly – hand luggage only

There are lots of benefits to travelling lightly.  You carry less stuff around, you’re forced to be minimalist and you don’t have to pay extra on some flights for checking luggage in.  Low-cost airlines are notorious for charging extra if you want to check in luggage.  Ryanair charges £25/€25 for adding a checked bag, which goes up to £40/€40 if you add it after booking your flight/at the airport.

No checked luggage is especially useful if you have booked more than one flight through different airlines – you won’t need to wait around at the baggage carousel to pick up your baggage before going to your next flight.

Even if you don’t have another flight lined up, not carrying a suitcase around on foreign public transport is like a breath of fresh air.  Now, I can easily go away for up to five days with just a small rucksack – I used to take a suitcase with me!

And, if you are going to make maximum use of your hand luggage allowance on a flight, make sure your cabin bag is the right size.  Sometimes the maximum size varies from airline to airline, and you might be forced to pay to check in your case if it is too big.

See Ryanair’s new hand luggage allowance rules here.

  • If you fly a lot, remember to collect and use miles

So using airline miles isn’t my strength, but it’s something I keep meaning to make use of more!  Many airlines have their own miles system and are associated with other airlines too.  So you can have an account with American Airlines and still collect points when you travel with British Airways.

I have used my miles to buy a flight from Costa Rica to New York for about $40, and I have also managed to lose about 20,000 points because I didn’t make use of them in time.  Oops.

  • You don’t have to fly

Depending on how big a trip you are planning, you may want to consider other options like coach, train or even ferry.  In Europe, there are options to take Eurostar between the UK, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  Returns can be as low as £60 (around US$80).

And remember, you don’t even have to go abroad to travel.

Megabus-travel

There’s probably a whole bunch of stuff you haven’t seen in your own country, so if you’re on a real budget, consider a trip to a city you haven’t visited before.  Coaches can be really cheap in the US and in Europe.  I’ve booked Megabus tickets for £1 before from London to Manchester, you can’t go wrong for that price!

  • Accommodation

Comparison sites: I recommend Trivago as a first stop to find accommodation.  It’s a hotel comparison site that compares hundreds of venues across different agents for the best price.  Mid-week stays tend to be cheaper.

Hostels: I’ve only stayed in hostels a few times – mainly when I was travelling alone and really couldn’t justify the cost of a hotel room.  Especially when it was literally for just a place to sleep as I planned to be out all day.  It can be a good way to meet people – make sure you have your ‘friendly hat’ on and be prepared to expect the unexpected!  I would recommend you check the reviews and the photos to make sure it is something you are happy with.

I’ve had a couple of great hostel stays including in Boston and Costa Rica.  And they were much cheaper than hotels.  There are often facilities to cook, saving you money when it comes to not having to eat out every day.

You can search for hostels at Hostel World, and sometimes they come up in the results on sites like Booking.com.

Airbnb: I’ve heard mixed reviews about Airbnb although all of my experiences have been pretty good.  It is generally cheaper than a hotel, but make sure you do some comparisons.  It can be good if there’s a group of you as there are options to have an apartment where you can hang out and eat together in a homely setting.  You also have the option of cooking.

My favourite Airbnb was staying on a houseboat in Amsterdam years ago.  It was much more fun than staying in a generic hotel room!

No frills hotels:  I’m a really big fan of ‘budget hotels’ that are part of a chain.  They tend to be simple, clean and you know what you’ll get!  In the UK, I really like Travelodge and in Spain I found Ibis to be great.

  • Things to do

It can be easy to spend lots of money on fun things to do when you’re exploring somewhere new.  I usually pick my favourites of the paid options, like shows or big tourist attractions, then make an effort to find free things.  There are plenty of options, like visiting free museums, looking at markets and even free tours.

I’m a big fan of the Sandeman free walking tours.  These usually last 2-3 hours and you pay a tip of your choice at the end.  This usually works out cheaper than any fixed-price tour.  They currently cover 19 cities around the world.  So far I’ve been to the tours in London, Dublin, Berlin and Amsterdam.

sandemans-walking-tour

  • Eating

I LOVE eating out.  Especially when on holiday!  But when you’re on a budget, it helps to plan out those meals a little bit.  Instead of pigging out at the expensive hotel buffet every morning, think about going to a local supermarket to buy some croissants, biscuits or fruits to have for breakfast.  If you have access to a fridge, then you can add milk and cereal to that list.  This will go nicely with the tea and coffee that you (hopefully) already have in your room.  And if there’s a kettle for that tea and coffee, then you might as well buy some pot noodles for the occasional meal or snack.

For lunches and dinners, I find it works to pick out a couple of places you really want to eat at (this should include national dishes/local food), then find cheap alternatives for the other meals.  This includes cafe style restaurants and, god forbid, fast food.  There’s nothing as exciting as having McDonalds in a different country!  (FYI the McFlurry in Morocco is the best I’ve tried so far)

If you have cooking facilities where you’re staying, like in most hostels or Airbnb, then make the most of the opportunity to buy some ingredients from a supermarket and cook some meals.

I’m not saying eat like a pauper for the whole trip, just mix it up a little bit.  Try the whole array from street food to top notch.  You’ll save a lot of money compared to eating in ‘proper restaurants’ each time, and sometimes street food is the best.

You can also look at my travel tips by clicking here.

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how to travel on a budget.  Good luck with your travel plans!

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The mind-growing effect of living abroad

I’ve lived abroad a few times in my life.  The first time was when I was 21 years old and worked in New York for a year as an intern.  The second time, I went to live in Agadir, Morocco, for three months.  And the most recent time was in Costa Rica for six months.

The locations and experiences were very different, but there was one thing they all had in common.  The level of personal growth I experienced was phenomenal.  I changed and grew in so many ways that I never would have experienced if I stayed settled and working in the UK.  I’m grateful for all of these experiences that in some way shaped the person I am today.

Having lived in London already, the transition to New York was quite easy.  Especially because everyone spoke English.  Looking back, I realise the largest part of why this experience was so much fun was having a large group of intern friends who were just as curious and eager to explore and enjoy NY as I was.  Having friends to share adventures with is a wonderful thing.  I loved the buzz of life, and knowing my time was limited meant I made the effort to do as much as I could as quickly as possible.  Having to start a new life in another country somehow made me very assertive.  I wasn’t so worried about what others thought of me as before.

Morocco was a completely different experience.  It felt very ‘foreign’.  I didn’t understand any Arabic and I was forced to make use of my school French and develop my language skills.  I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of a less modern world, like buying all of your fresh fruit and veg from a market stall, and appreciated how everyone took the time to relax.  Agadir is based by the beach, a beautiful place, and it’s where I learned the importance of enjoying life, remembering to take things slowly once in a while and enjoy the beautiful views.

Costa Rica is a very beautiful country, and the experience of living there was nothing like what I expected.  Funnily enough, it’s where I learned to enjoy relaxing at the beach properly with friends.  I used to find sitting at the beach quite boring before, but I finally understood the joy of spending hours in and near the sea.  I loved living in Quepos, a little village near Manuel Antonio on the coast, for six weeks.  I adored being surrounded by tropical forests, humming birds and I even had a tear in my eye when I saw a flock of wild scarlet macaws near my home.  It makes me feel so awful when I think of how these beautiful red parrots are only seen in cages around the world.  Being immersed in nature was an amazing experience, as were the horrific thunderstorms I witnessed (from the balcony) in rainy season.  Truly magnificent!

Moving to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, made me appreciate all the things I’d taken for granted about living in London.  I kind of assumed that all capitals across the world were similar to London – international, full of work opportunities and great restaurants!  It turns out that’s not the case.  I found the language barrier to be a barrier in getting to know the locals, another reason to improve my Spanish skills.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to visit rainforests, waterfalls, beaches and volcanoes around Costa Rica.  One of the highlights was visiting Tortuguero and going kayaking for the first time… by myself… with a random dog that insisted on joining me!  It was amazing and I loved ‘adventure dog’, he was awesome.

I learned a lot from my time living abroad.  Living somewhere is completely different to just visiting a place for a weekend or a week.  You get a different feel for the place and understanding of the culture.  I learned that people are kind and helpful, but most of all, I learned that I can rely on myself.  That gave me a lot of confidence in myself – knowing that in a foreign situation you can and will always find a solution for what you need.

I also learned and realised that sometimes you can’t control everything.  Things happen in life, and you just have to go with the flow.  I learned to let go of a lot of my life expectations, and sometimes the distance from ‘home’ also helped me to accept and let go of the past.  Making the effort to step away from your everyday life helps you to see life from a different perspective.  Somehow, travelling and living abroad really helped me to grow spiritually and accept everyone and everything more than before.

Going to new places makes your senses come to life as you have to pay attention to everything around you.  It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and experience different ways of living.

I’m grateful that I’ve had these opportunities to experience personal growth, and I’m aware that this kind of growth would have been very limited if I hadn’t travelled and lived abroad.

I realise that living abroad is usually a huge step, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is considering it.  Most people actively manage their career growth, but I think personal growth is just as important in life, if not more.

 

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Filed under Costa Rica, Morocco, New York, Travel, Wildlife