A Travel Addict…

img_2647A well-known fact about me, that goes without saying to my close friends, co-workers, and family; I am a travel addict. To the readers of my page this will become apparent – it is not something I am ashamed of; rather proud actually. In a few days I embark on my 9th trip across the ocean – and my 10th in a few months. In this post I want to give advice about what I do to plan my trips from start to finish; more importantly how to save money without losing any part of the experience.

History Lesson…

Ever since my childhood I have been fascinated with travel. I was lucky to be part of a family that took long road trips every summer, so planning the tiniest details became second nature to me. The high of planning the route and picking hotels was a great learning experience (not to mention intoxicating) and I think that molded me for how I plan my trips to this day. Throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, out to Wyoming every few years, down the Mississippi River to Missouri and Southern Illinois, even as far as Florida; all by car – this was my childhood travel.  I remember my parents planning the route meticulously, including stops, hotels, points of interest, etc.; spending hours preparing before even getting in the car. This inspired me and made me have a thirst for the wider world, there is so much to discover and what seems like so little time. 

Now for advice:

I have many internal rules of thumb that I follow regardless of location when planning to go abroad – if I can’t do the trip within these guidelines I don’t go. I always say that travel is possible even on the smallest budget – which is why I’ve been able to cross the Atlantic going on 10 times since 2006. I will focus on my upcoming trip to Hamburg/Northern Germany as an example of how I plan out where I’m going, for how long, and what’s my budget.

Rule 1: If I can’t book everything (flight, hotel, local travel, sights, spending cash) for less than $3000 I don’t go. Now that is an upper bound which I have never spent or come close to, however it is an upper bound because flights to Australia for example are more expensive than let’s say Canada or Europe, etc. Either way that is my self-imposed limit.  

Rule 2: Time is important – the number of full sightseeing days must be at least 7. If I can’t go abroad for at least 7 days then it isn’t worth my time or money. Time is important in the sense that my travel dates must be flexible to get the best price. I never set myself up by only being available to go during a certain time (this is why I book months in advance if possible).

Rule 3: If I am required to book a hostel/hotel, it must be near public transport (prefer subway, tram, and rapid transit – but not buses!), and/or walking distance to a grocery store (I don’t eat out for breakfast and sometimes lunch – I pack my own).

Rule 4: I plan my itinerary after I have my flights booked not the other way around. For example if I fly into Munich and out of Brussels that leaves a wide range of possibilities for destinations in-between and that allows me to determine how many days I spend in each place. I book my flights first because that is usually the biggest expense, and I want the best deal possible. It adds a sense of adventure because sometimes the best deals are to places you wouldn’t think of going. 

Rule 5: Consider all costs before booking anything! The flight may be cheap, but the hotels not so much – always find a great deal on flights first and keep the tab open; then search for hotels during the same time frame. For example a recent search of flights from LAX to London (LHR) found with Virgin Atlantic a ticket for $430 round trip! However London in general (hotels, restaurants, etc.) can be very expensive. Do the research before you book anything that can’t be refunded or cancelled free of charge.

So let’s time travel a few weeks back to the beginning of January. I get the travel bug really bad for most of the year, and of course I am always scouring the web for flight deals. So picture me sitting on my laptop searching my favorite carriers which include Condor, Icelandair, WOW air, and Norwegian Air Shuttle. This doesn’t mean that other carriers do not offer great deals, but I’ve found flights for as low as $480 round trip to even $70 one way. Now granted departure airports are limited as are destinations, but either way great deals can be found among these airlines. My number one destination will always be Germany, and of course I am usually looking for the cheapest flight to Munich, Frankfurt or similar at any time of the year. After searching Orbitz, Kayak, etc. I went to Condor. Now at that time, Condor was offering one ways for a little over $200, and since I have never flown to Europe for less than $700 round trip, this was a bargain. I found my flight to Frankfurt am Main (FRA) from San Diego (SAN) via Seattle (SEA) for $490 with Condor. Departing January 30th, return February 9th. The flights with Condor are only on select days so to determine the trip length I picked flights that gave me at least 7 days of sightseeing (my biggest rule, I want to spend at least a week abroad, otherwise paying for the trip is pointless).

Now granted Frankfurt is not my final destination, so next I need to find where I wanted to go once I landed. I have family in the south of Germany that I could stay with, however that option didn’t work out. Next I asked a friend in Hamburg if I could stay with him. I normally seek out my friends/family first before I invest any money in hotels/hostels. If I didn’t have the friend/family option, I would have needed to find accommodation, which when I searched was around $120 total for 9 nights at a hostel/low budget hotel (I always figure it’s just a place to rest, as long as it is clean, near a grocery store, and public transport; I will be happy). Finding accommodation that is near the city center without going over budget is always tough. Consider looking outside the city center but with access to public transport. When you consider the price of the accommodation will be less, coupled with the cost of your ticket on public transport, there can be a huge amount of savings for traveling maybe 10-15 minutes each day.

Once I knew that I would be going to Hamburg and that I didn’t need to find any sort of hotel/hostel, I looked at the train tickets to and from Hamburg. With Deutsche Bahn and almost any rail company, booking a few weeks/to at least a few days in advance will offer savings. For my ticket from Frankfurt Flughafen Fernbahnhof to Hamburg Hbf (main station) I paid $35 with ICE (InterCity Express). From Hamburg Hbf to Frankfurt am Main Hbf I paid $40 with ICE. If you can afford to keep your travel plans tight and not worry about flexible-tickets then you are guaranteed a deep discount. Now on my return to Frankfurt I needed to spend one night in a hotel since my flight was very early on February 9th. I found an easyHotel near the main train station for $35. Had I looked for a direct flight to Hamburg my flight costs would have easily doubled, which would make trying to go on a budget worthless.

So let’s break it down:

$490 for flight

$75 in long distance rail travel

$35 one night in Frankfurt hotel

That’s $600 if I stay with my friend – add on the $120 for 9 nights in a hostel/hotel if I had needed to do book one – that’s $720 for 10 days in Germany – a bargain when compared with spending $700+ on the flight alone! Spending cash and extras (entrance fees, local rail travel, etc.) I’ve figure around $300 to $400. That’s a total of $900 to $1000 for 10 days.

Lastly I don’t plan on spending all of my time in Hamburg. I will be using Hamburg as my base and traveling out 2-3 days while I am there. My itinerary includes Hamburg itself spread over a few days/half days, Bremen, Sylt, and Neuengamme. Of course my friend and I have planned an extensive list of activities that we will be going to together; including theater shows, dining out together, and a few attractions. I usually plan all of my getaways the same using one city as my base and then traveling out – the only time I change this rule is if I am visiting an entire country in one trip/visiting multiple countries spread over a few weeks.

Look for an update when I get back from Hamburg – Hansestadt (Hanseatic City), Tor zur Welt (Gateway to the World), aus Wind und Wasser geschaffen (Created from Wind and Water)!

Thanks for reading!

Backpack – J.Crew Harwick Backpack

Messenger Bag – Tom Tailor

Boots – Clarks for Tretter München (Exclusive for Tretter – Wool/Fur Lined)

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Looking past the façade of San Diego…

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Having moved recently to the San Diego area from the Upper Midwest, I sometimes find it to be extremely difficult to be in this new place I call “home”. I like having four distinct seasons, I love having lush greenery and placid lakes around me, and I miss the slower paced life that was my hometown and surrounding state of Wisconsin. Oddly enough I never really think of the United States or American as my nationality and always seem to run away from being the typical American.

I am as I’ve mentioned a traveler; and anybody who can relate, all share the standard trait of wanderlust. I used to travel on average once a year to Europe, and this year I had to cancel my pre-booked trip a week before departure due to moving to California (ugh the disappointment).

So what does this all have to do with San Diego and this supposed façade? Well, when you not only have to cancel a vacation to a place where you feel most comfortable, and you leave your hometown and state, you are no longer surrounded with landscapes that you enjoy; the place you move to becomes your enemy and you no longer find it appealing. It seemed to me that everyone believed that San Diego is a piece of some glamorous SoCal life. In my mind I thought that this place was filled with people who are too busy and self-obsessed, the lifestyle is super exaggerated and overrated (and horribly expensive), the landscape is boring and brown (the palm trees are awesome I will say) and that I couldn’t come to terms with calling this place “my home”.  How could I relate to a place that I quietly disdained because of inner bias and judgement?

It finally came to me this weekend while at Balboa Park; and it seems to me that the façade I had placed on San Diego has been lifted. I realized that it is going to take more time to meet people and form bonds here, after all it is a huge city and I came from a town of 3,600. Second, the weather is great (still finding it hard to accept no snow or cold in November and onward through winter). Lastly, has anyone ever been to Nice, France? What about Valencia, Spain? It took some actual looking around for me to realize that I am living a semi-European life right here in Southern California. Take a moment to Google images of Nice and Valencia, and you will see a lot of similarities with San Diego. This is by no means a substitute for going abroad; if you are however trying to give a new place a chance and are struggling, then seeing the similarities to other places you would enjoy can help. Now mind you the south of France is probably just as expensive as SoCal, but it was a mindset that I would love to go there, but I’m living it right here and now.  If I could accept the south of France so easily, well then it could be twice as easy to accept Southern California.

Outfit:

Glasses: See Eyewear

Polo: Uniqlo

Messenger Bag: Tom Tailor

Pants: Gap Skinny Khaki

Shoes: Palladium

 

About the writer…

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Hey, my name is Wade; I am the guy pulling the strings behind The Blue Bow Tie Project. Let me start off with a warm welcome again to my blog and new project!

I recently transplanted to San Diego, California from a small town in Wisconsin, and since I feel like I’m starting the next chapter in my life (making new friends, adjusting to a new job, new city), what better way than to open up and share my passions with the world.

Let’s start off with some background…ok so I covered that I moved to California from Wisconsin (born and raised – lived there 25 years)…what else…starting the blog… I know, let me fill you in about what I do in my spare time. It would be understated to say that I LOVE travel. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a passion for other cultures and languages. You’ll find this out soon enough if you continue to follow my blog and what I’m doing. I also dabble in acrylic painting and interior design, speak German fluently, cooking, and if I can get near some snow; enjoy cross country skiing. One of my favorite activities is getting dressed for work or going out; planning outfits is a source of inspiration for me.

We’ve touched on hobbies and interests…next let’s talk about family. Most of my immediate and extended family is back in Wisconsin, all living within the same city/county. I also have family in Wyoming, Florida, a few extended relatives in Germany, the Czech Republic, and Canada. I’m a very family oriented person, and keeping those connections is now more important than ever since I am further away from them.

So there you have it, a little bit more information me and what I’m all about.

Thanks for reading!

Wade

Outfit: