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Travel Guides

A Quick Guide to Amsterdam

I fell in love with Amsterdam as soon as I stepped out of Centraal Station. The city is picture perfect all around. The beautiful, and sometimes crooked, brick houses and canals are incredibly charming. Amsterdam is not just instagrammable though, it’s also a really cool place to explore. The thing that I thought was really cool about Amsterdam was that there were all kinds of tourists, all there for many different reasons. Amsterdam has raunchy attractions for the more rambunctious traveler like the Red Light District, Head shops, and Cannabis Coffee Shops but also has incredible museums like the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum.

Amsterdam combines the beauty of its 17th-century architecture with plenty of best museums and art galleries in the world. Dutch culture is also incredibly laidback, making Amsterdam one of the most offbeat and appealing cities in the world. 

Things to do.

things to do in amsterdam

This biographical museum is dedicated to telling the story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl growing up in Amsterdam during WWII and fell victim to the Holocaust. The museum is housed in the townhome where Anne and her family hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne recorded her experience in her now publicized and widely read the diary, The Diary of Anne Frank. I suggest buying your tickets well in advance, like two months in advance, online. You will have to book a particular time to visit the museum.

As per the name, this museum is dedicated to the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, a well-known Dutch artist. Here you can view his most famous works like; SunflowersAlmond Blossoms, and The Bedroom.

If you want to really learn about art and history in the Netherlands pay a visit to Rijksmuseum. Considered one of the best museums in the world, this is sure to be something you put on your list.

Biking.

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A common phrase I heard thrown around is that there are more bikes in the Netherlands than there are people. I say when in Amsterdam, do as the locals do. Rent a bike and explore the city. Just watch out, many locals do not have patience for amateur bikers clogging the streets.

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Just a short day trip from Amsterdam, Keukenhof Gardens attracts millions of people when its tulips are in bloom. The best time to see the tulips is in April-May. 

Red Light District.

The Red Light district possesses some of the city’s most rambunctious nightlife. It is home to a legal and regulated prostitution industry and a variety of sex shows, sex, and head shops. The streets are lined with glowing red windows indicating where an available sex worker is. In the evening, locals and tourists alike roam the streets, all visiting the Red Light district for different reasons. Some are looking for a good club to grab a drink, some are on their way to smoke at a local coffee shop, and others are there, for whatever reason, to take a peek at the ladies in the windows. The sex workers in the Red Light district act as their own boss. They pay rent for space where they conduct their business and set their own prices and standards for customers. The legalization of prostitution in the Red Light is one of the ways the Dutch are attempting to deter human trafficking in Europe.

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Canals.

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A system of gorgeous canals span the entire city of Amsterdam. There are plenty of canal tours throughout the city. I personally recommend an open top classic boat.

Cannabis Coffee Shops.

Legal marijuana is a huge industry in the Netherlands. Marijuana is sold only in licensed coffee shops. The coffee shops are easy to find despite there being a law against advertising in the shop windows. The shops typically have several strain options and the choice to buy by the gram or as a pre-rolled joint (pure or with tobacco). The vibe in many of these shops is very relaxed, for obvious reasons and many have snacks to help with your munchies.

Jolly Joker Amsterdam
Jolly Joker Coffee Shop Amsterdam

When to go.

Because of the tulips fields, I recommend visiting in April-May while the flowers are in bloom. The weather is best in the summer months but can be crowded. Even if you go in May-June, still expect some chilly days.

Where to stay.

As always I recommend getting a hostel when traveling solo. Hostel prices can vary depending on the time of year. I found most were about $35-50 a night.

Book your stay now with Booking.com

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Amsterdam Travel Guide

How to Kill Time During a Layover

How to kill time during a layover

So, you're on your way to your dream destination and you've made it to the connecting airport. But now you’re stuck with four or five hours to kill until you board your next flight. Luckily I have some advice for how to kill time during a layover. Let's bet airport boredom!

Explore the airport. Find a directory.

First things first, you need to be familiar with where you will be spending the next few hours. Find one of those airport directories and find something that interests you. You’re going to be at the airport for a while, so might as well see what it has to offer. Are there any cool stores you can check out? Any good food or drink options? Can you move between terminals to access different shops? You may be surprised by what you find. 

Freshen up.

Take advantage of the time you have freshen up. Splash some water on your face, reapply makeup, even brush your teeth. Sometimes I even change clothes if i want to look nice when arriving to my final destination. Taking the time to do this can help you feel refreshed and ready to go. 

People watch.

Airports are filled with people from all walks of life, going to different places, speaking different languages. Every person has a story and trying imagining what that story is can be the best form of entertainment. Don't be rude and stare but it's is ok to glance around and take in your surroundings. Who knows, maybe you'll spot a celebrity! I once stood in line at security near Gigi Hadid.

Take a nap.

It can be hard to find a comfortable place to sleep in some airports but it can be done. Get creative. use your luggage to prop up your feet or your head. You can even try walking around to see if you can find a more comfortable gate to wait in. Not every gate has the same lounge area. When I had a connecting flight in Munich, I abandoned my flight gate to go relax at one a few gates down because that gate had reclining chairs. 

Exercise.

Feeling your muscles atrophy from your last flight? Do some exercise. Work your legs! I personally pop my head phones in and power walk while lip-syncing my favorite tunes. some airports even have fitness centers in them with day passes available for the public. 

Eat.

Most airports have restaurants, convenience stores or bars in them. I find food on the ground much more appetizing than eating an in-flight meal. Most airports have food courts with hosts of meal options. Airport food can get expensive though so, I always try to pack some snacks in my carry-on. 

Surf the web.

Check and see if the airport you're at has free Wi-Fi or; if a store, restaurant, or airline has a Wi-Fi public network in the airport. Use your layover to update your blog, check in with family or friends, or even check up on things to at your final destination.

Check out this list of Wi-Fi passwords for airports around the world.

Read or journal.

Many travelers like to download books to their phones, iPads, or e-readers to kill time while in transit. If you prefer a real book there are plenty of bookstores in airports. Buy a book or simply browse and read a couple select pages of a book every so often. 

If you aren't into reading, try writing. Use this time to journal your feelings about your trip. Pick up a blank journal from one of the many bookstores if you don't already have one. Keeping a journal is very therapeutic and can help calm you nerves if your anxious about your upcoming travels.

Got any more tips for killing time? Share them in the comments below...

How to Kill time during a layover

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10 Safety Tips from a Female Solo Backpacker

10 Safety Tips from a Solo Female Backpacker.

Concerns about my safety are always common from friends, family, and even myself before leaving for any solo trip. Safety concerns are one of the many reasons some woman avoid traveling alone. Remember though, just because something can happen to you, doesn't mean it will, especially if you use the following safety tips. 

Research. Research. Research.

Once I have an idea of where I want to go, I research practically 24/7, trying to find interesting things to do, toying with flight deals. While over-researching may seem like a waste of time for some who just want to pick up and go, I find it relaxing. It eases my fears about traveling in a new place. I believe the better prepared I am, the better can handle a bad situation. Moreover, it can keep you safe.

Some important questions you should be googling about your destination: What are the best neighborhoods and the ones you should avoid?  Is there a hospital near my lodging, just in case? How are the reviews for my lodging? How will I travel once there? What the public transportation? Do I need to have vaccinations before leaving?

Being prepared is step one to safety while abroad. The better prepared you are the better equipped you can be to handle unexpected situations.

Be Confident.

Confidence can be a subtle weapon. Theoretically, people are more likely to try to take advantage of someone who appears vulnerable. Holding your head high and carrying yourself as if you are comfortable and aware of your surroundings can be a deterrent for unwanted interactions. Even if you may not feel confident, fake it until you make it. Solo travel has the ability to boost your confidence, so let it.  

Be rude when you have to be.

Be comfortable saying no or turning down an invitation if you are getting a bad vibe. Even, if you think you are being rude.  Don't feel like you have any social obligation to put up with an uncomfortable situation. I know I can't be the only one who has gone along too long with a situation because I wanted to avoid conflict. Your safety always trumps politeness. Are you in an uncomfortable situation and unsure of how to leave without being rude? My advice is to be rude and put yourself first if your gut is telling you something is off. 

Use your common sense.

Aside from being in a different place and not being in your typical routine, traveling isn't any more different than your everyday life. You are able to get by in your own city you'll get by fine in another. Stick to the basics like; don't go down a dark alley at night, don't accept a ride from a stranger, etc. You don't always have to have your guard all the way up but do use your basic common sense to guide you.

Be Comfortable saying NO.

There are countless scams that target tourists all over the world. Whenever I was around a popular attraction, while in Europe, it seemed like there was an increased number of people asking for money, wanting me to donate to something, or stopping me, to read my fortune; before asking for payment. If you don't want to interact with someone or stop to give money, you have to be comfortable saying no. Now, believe me, I'm all for helping people in need but it's not feasible to stop and give money or converse with every individual that I come across. Many of the inquiries for money also seemed to be scams. If someone approaches you a simple 'no thank you' is all you need. You don't have any obligation to explain why. 

Bring an Imaginary Friend.

By 'imaginary friend' I mean, pretend you are traveling with someone. You, obviously, don't have to pretend all the time but sometimes it's a good excuse if you have to leave a situation. You can say you're meeting up with your significant other, family, or friends later on. People may see you as being less vulnerable if they believe you're with someone. Some women even go as far as to make fake phone calls or wear a fake wedding ring while traveling. 

Be aware of how you present yourself.

Try to blend in as much as possible, if you can try to dress like the locals. Not looking like and obvious tourist can prevent you from getting some unwanted attention. Just as well, avoid wearing flashy jewelry or carrying expensive things around. 

Stay Connected.

Having and regular check-in with someone from back home is always a good idea. I would even go as far as to email someone your itinerary so they can better locate you in  case something were to go wrong during your trip.

Stash your cash in safe places.

Hiding your money and other important documents like your passport, and copies of it, in several different places can help you out if you happen to get robbed. If you keep all your money in one place and you get robbed all your money will be gone. However, if you stash it in multiple places then you'll always have a backup plan in case something like that were to happen. Want some tips on how to Stash Your Cash? 

Get Travel Insurance.

While traveling you are solely responsible for yourself if something happens. However, travel insurance can get you out of a bind if need be. Travel insurance can cover things like emergency hospital stays, lost baggage, theft, flight cancellation, etc. You may not have to utilize it on every trip but it's something you will be grateful to have had when you need it. I purchased mine through World Nomads.

Like this list? Pin this infographic to Pinterest and share with your friends.

10 safety tips from a solo female backpacker

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Going Solo: Tips for Surviving Your First Solo Adventure

Going Solo tips for surviving your first solo adventure

Why go solo?

Traveling alone can be one of the scariest and most rewarding experiences of your life. It can be scary traveling alone, especially when you’ve never done it before and especially as a female. But, for me, not experiencing everything I want to in life is much more unnerving. Fear of missing out, I guess. Although it can be daunting, traveling alone has the potential to change you. It can help you become self-reliant and build your confidence. It's also nice not having to compromise your experience with anyone else. There are no fights over where to eat or what sights to see. You are at your own whim. When you are alone you experience the world unadulterated by anyone else’s wants or desires. It is truly freeing. 

While traveling alone can be amazing, it can be hard to build your confidence up to make you trip just that. So, to help you calm your nerves I've got a few tips. 

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Don't worry too much about being lonely.

"Oh, you're going to (Blank) by yourself. Won't you be lonely?"

This is a regular inquiry I get when I tell people I'm traveling solo. Yes, every solo trip has the potential for loneliness but there are so many people out there to meet in the world, as long as you are willing to put yourself out there. Going on a solo trip doesn't mean you'll always be alone. You will be meet people along the way, especially if you stay in a hostel. You're highly likely to run into other solo travelers, just like you. On my last trip, I met upwards of ten solo travelers, in a week's time. You also might be surprised by how comfortable you will be when you are alone. You're new best friend might just be yourself.

Talk to strangers and be curious.

When you travel alone you must accept that you must put yourself out there to interact with the world. Experiences aren't just going to happen to you, you have to make them happen. Be outgoing. Talk to strangers. Ask lots of questions. You'll probably find that most travelers and locals are quite friendly and are happy to strike up a conversation. When I was in Germany alone at a music festival, I just struck up a conversation with a woman and ended up getting invited to join their group for the rest of the evening. Ended up being one the best nights of that trip.

I also believe, hostels are the best place to start with making friends If you need some tips on how to make friends while staying in a hostel, check out this guide.

Choose friendly accomodation.

Where you stay can be key to a good experience. Do your research to try to find a place that best fits your travel style. Read reviews for places, to see if other travelers enjoyed staying there or thought there was a friendly or lively atmosphere. I always recommend that solo travelers stay in a hostel because it is an obvious place to run into people like yourself. AirBnB and Couchsurfing are also great options because your host may be willing to chat or show you around. 

Sign up for group activites.

Lots of hostels host themed nights, tours, and pub crawls. Often times you just have to ask reception to see what events the hostel has going on. Don't be too shy to sign up solo for a day-trip or tour experiences You'll likely meet someone else in your group you identify with. I booked a canal cruise for myself while in Amsterdam with Get Your Guide, and by the end of it the whole boat was friendly and conversing with on another. Same thing happened with my Sunset Eiffel Tower tour. I'm glad I booked a place in a tour group rather than just seeing and walking around on the Effiel Tower alone.

Trust your gut.

Traveling alone is not necessarily any more risky than traveling with friends—but it does require extra awareness, especially for female travelers. Keep an eye out for potentially dangerous situations. I'm not saying that you will for sure find yourself in an undesirable situation but solo travelers and women can be at increased risk for scams, pickpockets, and sexual violence. That fact of the matter is, the way societies treat women in some parts of the world still have a long way to go. Don't be fearful of that knowledge though, be vigilant. If you ever feel that you are in an unsafe situation, try to remove yourself from it, if you can. Be confident in saying no to people who seem suspicous, and may threaten you with a scam or some other intentions. Safety always trumps politeness. Keep in mind though, you don't always have to be on guard. Most countries in the world are not anymore violent or dangerous than your own country. Listen to your instincts and they will help keep you safe but also allow it to guide you in your adventures. 

Go with the flow.

Take advantage of your freedom and be willing to change plans or tag along with a new friend. Say yes to experiences. My first night in Amsterdam, a few weeks ago, I was super jet-lagged and was just planning on going to bed early to be well rested for a concert the next day. I ended up groggily introducing myself to a girl in my dorm when she walked in during my early evening slumber. That introduction led to an invitation to get food and in an instant, my plans had changed. Even though I was tired, I said yes and it turned into an unforgettable evening because, for the rest of the night, I decided I was down for anything. Grabbing food turned into drinks, drinks turned into going out, and somehow my night ended at 6 am at a rave/music festival in a small village in North Holland.

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Stay connected.

Let friends or family know of your plans. Check in with someone every so often from back home to let them know you're ok. If you are a US citizen, you also have the option of signing up for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, this way the government can better assist you in the case of emergency.

Be Confident.

Be confident in the way you present yourself and speak to others. Hold your head high and walk with purpose as if you know what you're doing. If you don't feel confident; fake it till you make it, as the saying goes. Confidence can make you seem approachable to others. Confidence can also deter people you don't want attention from, like scammers or even some guy who won't stop hitting on you. Also, try to research your destination so that you can walk the streets or take public transportation with little issue. 

Solo travel is exciting, it's scary, and it's one of the best gifts you can ever give yourself. Have any worries about an upcoming solo adventure? Share in the comments below and maybe I have some tips.:)

Going Solo: tips for surviving your first solo advent

9 Useful Travel Apps

9 useful travel apps

Having your phone loaded with great travel apps can make your trip easy and organized. I have compiled a list of apps that I have found to be extremely useful while traveling. I hope you find these apps as useful as I did.

Lodging

This free app offers you the ability to search through and book 27,000 hostels in 180 countries. The app also features thousands of customer reviews so you now what your picking. The filters in the search setting are also very customizable, so you can find the right hostel for your trip.

iOS/Android

AirBnB

Want a home away form home? AirBnB offers travelers the ability to search through local hosts who will accommodate you for a fee in their own home. Accomadations range from a couch to sleep on to incredible vacation homes. The app allows you to search, book, and pay for your stay with an available host.

Flights

Skiplagged can help you find cheap flights and also allows you to book flights with multiple stops and then deplane at your connection before reaching your final destination. This can be cheaper and is sometimes referred to as hidden city ticketing and is sometimes looked down on by airlines. This is often less expensive than booking a flight directly to the earlier stop. The only catch is if you book a trip and don’t intend to use a connecting flight you cannot check a bag or else your bag will continue to the next destination without you. Recently, the Skiplagged added the ability to search for hotel deals as well.

Navigation

Maps.me Is a great navigation app that doesn’t require date or Wi-Fi connection to point you in the right direction. The way it works is something I’m still not sure about, but I do know that this app is easy to use and has thousands of addresses for different locations and attractions in a large number of cities.

Planning

TripIt is an incredibly easy to use itinerary planner. TripIt scans through your emails to find lodging, travel and activity bookings and will automatically add the details to your trip in the app so all your information is in one place. It is seamless. TripIt will even track your trip in real-time and send you notifications when an activity or check-in time is approaching.

Internet

Paying extra to your cell phone company to use your data abroad is often something everyone wants to avoid. Internet access is important if you need to rebook a flight, get directions, or contact family or friends. Thankfully, Free Wi-Fi Finder can show you where you there are free wireless connections around and, if available, the app will even have the Wi-Fi password that you can copy and paste.

Money and Organization

Apple Pay and Apple Wallet

Apple Pay and Apple Wallet are a great way to go cashless.

There are plenty of locations that accept Apple Pay. You just load your credit/debit card details and you can then pay for purchases with a quick fingerprint scan on your phone at checkout. I find it convenient when paying for food at places like McDonald’s or Walgreens. There are also a variety of apps that will accept Apple Pay, like Groupon.

 

With Apple Wallet, you can store and use tickets, passes, coupons, and gift cards, all on your iPhone. Your wallet will display all important information; like the balance on your gift card, coupon expiration dates, your seat number, and more. It will even show your confirmation code to scan if necessary. For my last trip, I was able to store my Lufthansa ticket, my FlixBus ticket, and my activity confirmations from Get Your Guide.

iOs Only

Activities

Get Your Guide is an instant booking app for tours, sightseeing, and activities. The app allows you to search for activities by city and day and pay for your experience through the app. I’ve personally booked a Sunset Eiffel Tower tour, a canal cruise in Amsterdam, and 'skip the line' pass to the Musée du Louvre.

Translation​

Google Translate can instantly translate text and even spoken-word. You can simply say a phrase in English (or any other language), and Google Translate will, of course, translate it for you, but can even say the phrase for you in the desired language.

Know of any other great travel apps? Tell me about them in the comments below:)

9 Useful travel apps

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Recap: My Trip to Europe (Part 1)

recap my trip to europe

There's no way I can sum up this amazing nine day, four city trip into one post, so I'm going to do two. I'll try to give you all a simple breakdown of what I ended up doing, places I stayed, and things I can recommend trying. Have any recommendations for other things to do in these cities? Share them in the comments below.

Day 1 - Amsterdam

AmsterdamAGingerAway

Flight
Lufthansa
Duration Approx: 10.5hrs
What did I think? : Happy to report Lufthansa was a great airline to fly with. The seats were comfortable and each passenger had a touch screen that had a wide array of movies, audio books, games, and music to choose from. Bonus: Bottomless wine on the flight. Cons: The meal was not good.

Hostel
St. Christopher's at the Winston
Stay: 1 Night
Cost: $54.89
What did I think? : This hostel was great because it featured a smoking room for travelers needing a place to smoke the local cannabis Amsterdam is known for. The bar/restaurant, Belushi's, also had a discount for hostel guests. I also liked this hostel because there were lots of smaller dorms. Smaller dorms, with 6-8 people, I believe are ideal because they are less overwhelming than larger dorms and I find people tend to speak up more if there aren't too many people around.

Food:
Amsterdam has a lot of American food options. The Red Light district is home to a variety of restaurants, much appreciated by tourists looking to satisfy their cannabis-induced munchies. Many customers walked the street with their food. I saw very few that would stop in to eat food that could be eaten to-go. I  mostly saw Fry stands and New York Style pizza.

 

Fries Amsterdam

What did I do?

Coffee Shop
Legalized marijuana is one of the things Amsterdam is most well known for. The Cannabis industry appears to be extremely lucrative. Coffee Shops, where marijuana can be sold and consumed in Amsterdam can get crowded, especially if you go to more well-known ones, like the Bulldog. I purchased my pot there but then ended up taking it back to my hostel to smoke it on the patio.

Dance/Music Festival in North Holland
How I found/ended up at this concert/festival/party/not too sure what to call it, on the distant outskirts of Amsterdam is a long story meant for another time. Ruigoord is a small village-like place in North Holland. Ruigoord is a short walk down a path from a main road in the dutch countryside. In the middle of this small 'village', there is an old church turned into a concert/event venue which just so happens to host a rave-like party the last Saturday of every month. Luckily, It was the last Saturday of the month when my hostel friends and I stumbled upon this place. $20 dollars got us wristbands that allowed us into the party on the inside. Outside the church were scattered bonfires and locals enjoying each others company. The dancing and conversations lasted until sunrise, at which point, my hostel friends and I decided to call an Uber back to the city center.

Day 2 - Dortmund

MayDay Dortmund

Train
Deutsche Bahn
Amsterdam - > Duisburg 2hrs
Duisburg - > Dortmund 36mins
What did I think? : Typical train ride. There is no service for drinks or food, which I wasn't really expecting anyway since the train is long and short service between stops. The train wasn't crowded at all either giving me plenty of space to stretch out for a nap.

Hostel
A&O Dortmund Hauptbahnhof
Stay: 1 Night
Cost: $95.99 (included ticket to MAYDAY Dortmund)
What did I think? : A Good quality hostel. Had good facilities and a nice common room and bar on the first floor. There were a lot of rooms and honestly not too many people staying there. I was glad it wasn't crowded but not super thrilled about not having any roommates. No joke, I had a 6-bed room all to myself. It was great for privacy but I was really hoping to meet some people that were also going to MAYDAY Dortmund in my hostel.  The common room wasn't filled with lots of guests either so I ended up just heading over to MAYDAY alone. 

 

#travelblog #instatravel #instatraveling #travelblogger #girlslovetravel #festivaltravel #dortmund

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What did I do?
MAYDAY Dortmund
MAYDAY is a music festival that happens every year around May 1st. The line-up featured some extremely popular European techno artists like Chris Liebing and Neelix. 
It wasn't too hard to find people to hang out with once there. The venue had several performances going on at once and had areas to eat, shop, or get your face painted. I just sat down to eat a pretzel and was able to strike up a conversation with another woman my age who asked me to join her group. I ended up hanging out with those people until about 8 am when I decided to go back to my hostel for a quick nap before my journey to Brussels. 

Day 3 - Brussels

Bus
FlixBus
Duration: Approx 5 hours
Cost: 20,26€
What did I think? : I would definitely use FlixBus again. the bus was clean and on time. The driver was nice and the bus wasn't crowded so I had room to stretch out to sleep. Which is what I did for the entire journey. Thankfully, a woman woke me up when we arrived in Brussels.

Hostel
Brussels 2GO4 Quality Hostel at Grand Place
Cost: $24.85
What did I think? : The hostel was in a great location, on a small side street right next to Grand Place. This made it easy for me to drop my stuff and head out to do some sightseeing. There was a newly updated kitchen for hostelers to cook and eat their own food as well as a quaint lounge area. The rooms felt spacious though the hostel was at fully capacity. I would definitely stay here again. Unfortunately, I only planned less than a day in Brussels or I would have been able to meet more friends and make myself comfortable there.

What did I do? 
Walked Around/SANDEMANs tour
In the late evening, I took a long sightseeing stroll just to get a feel for the city. I basically just walked around and strolled into a few souvenir shops and took pictures of the beautiful buildings.  I ate at Pizza Hut, which is not unique or exciting in the least, but it hit the spot. Technically, I did my SANDEMANs free walking tour the morning of Day 4 but feel like I should dedicate my writing for that day to Paris as that's where I was most of that day.I felt like I was able to see several main attractions like Mannequin Pis and the shops and buildings around Grand Place. I made sure to also stop by the Godiva store to pick up some Belgian chocolate for my mom.  

Made it to #brussels #grandplacebrussels #bruxelles #solotrip #backpackingeurope #femalebackpacker #followmyjourney

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What I’m doing in Amsterdam, Dortmund, Brussels, and Paris

I'm heading to Europe... What should I Do???

In one day, I will be boarding my first flight to Europe. I will be traveling to Amsterdam, Dortmund, Brussels, Paris, and then back to Amsterdam. While, I know where/when I'll be in each city I haven't really sat down to figure out what I'll do while I'm there. Once I'm there, I plan on playing each day by ear but figured it would be best to compile a list of things I'm interested in doing and how much they will probably cost. This way I can easily plan my day each morning. Currently, I only have concert planned to go to and SANDEMANs Free Walking Tours scheduled in Brussels, Paris and Amsterdam.

Hopefully, this list gives you some ideas of what you can do on your own European adventure.

Why am I going to Dortmund, Germany?

MAYDAY Festival

The reason I'm traveling to this more obscure german town is because there is an annual electronic dance music (EDM) festival on April 30th. I will be landing in Amsterdam but have to take the train the next day to Dortmund. The festival, MAYDAY Dortmund, is housed in the city's Westfalenhallen concert venue. This event is held every year in late April/early May. Not for the weak at heart, this event will go from 7:00pm till about 9:00am the next morning.  So, I'm sure I'll be a zombie the next day. 

I'm big on EDM and music festivals. After booking my ticket to Amsterdam I did a search on Festicket to see if there were any festivals going on while I am there and luckily enough MAYDAY is happening, is only a 3 hour train ride from Amsterdam, and happens to be a quite affordable. My package (ticket and hostel) only cost me $95 USD. 

 

What I'm gonna do in Brussels...

Sandeman's Free Walking Tour (In Paris and Amsterdam as well)

I actually don't have much time planned in Brussels. I will be arriving in the late afternoon via bus and will be leaving about 24 hours later to take a train to Paris.  Luckily, I was able to schedule a free walking tour thru SANDEMANs. SANDEMANs is a free tour company that does walking tours of many European cities. Simply sign up online for a free walking tour in the city of your choosing. I have already signed up for my tours in Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris.

Visit the Godiva Store...

I'm not a huge gourmet chocolate lover, but my mother sure is. Godiva is her favorite, I'm always sure to stop by my local shop for her Christmas and birthday gifts. Since my mom isn't coming with me on this trip, I'm going to be sure to bring her back her favorite Belgian chocolate from their flagship shop on Grand Place, which opened in 1926. If you're a Belgian chocolate lover, like my mom this might be up your alley.

Eat some Belgian Fries...

belgianfries

Now, let me just get this out of the way. I LOVE FRIES! Belgium is known from being the origin of frites(fries). So, I'm super excited to go to a local friterie (a place that sells fast food particularly, fries) to order one on my favorite foods. I'm not much of a foodie so this is about as excited as I get for a local dish. Here is a list I found of the best friteries in Brussels.

Things to do in Paris...

Balloon Generali...

With the Hot-Air-Balloon being a French invention I thought, there could be no better way to get a great view of the city. Balloon Generali is the worlds largest hot-air-balloon and is located in Parc André-Citroën in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. The Balloon operates everyday from 9am to 8pm and is first come first serve. I will be trying to go early in the morning to avoid a long wait. And the best part is, this experience is only 12 Euros person.

Have a Parisan Picnic...

Now, I have heard some conflicting things about whether or not it is illegal to consume alcohol in public in Paris. I've found that I basically just depends on where you are. I'm going to ask the staff at my hostel if they can give me some guidance. Once I figure that out, I plan to bring some wine and a baguette to a local park or by a river for a quiet picnic. Sounds instagram worthy, right?

Visit bouquinistes along the River Seine...

Bouquinistes (used book sellers) are a fixture in Paris. These sellers line the River Seine and the area around Notre-Dame. The River Seine is often referred to as the river between two book shelves. Might be a good place for a walk and to find souvenirs. 

Try Berthillon ice-cream...

Located on Île Saint-Louis, Berthillon is home to world famous Parisian ice cream (glacier in french). I hear the line can get long so, depending on what it looks like that day I may or may not get some of this ice cream, but it's definitely on my list. If I have to I can always buy a tub of it from a local store and take it back to my hostel for later. 

Wander around Montmartre

Montmartre is one of the trendier neighborhoods in Paris. This picturesque hilltop neighborhood boasts great restaurants, local art scenes, and cobblestone streets. This part of Paris will likely be a great place to wander and explore.

Pleasure Cruise on the River Seine...

While exploring my hostel's website I discovered that they offer tours as well. After looking through my options, I decided to take the Pleasure Cruise (18 euros). This cruise comes with a with a glass of champagne, a spirit or a fresh made authentic French crèpe with a beverage. The cruise tour will begin near the Eiffel Tower and will end toward the city center. This cruise also comes with audio guides in multiple languages. When traveling you might want to look and see if your accommodation offers tours or other special perks as well. You can often find some good deals this way. I'm excited about this cruise because it's possible other people from my hostel will be joining me, which will help me try to make a few friends while there.

What I am doing in Amsterdam...

Checking out the local coffeeshops...

Amsterdam is home to over 200 coffee shops, not to be confused with a cafe. Coffee shops in Amsterdam are where you can buy your weed. As this is one of the main reasons I'm visiting Amsterdam, I'm beyond excited. These coffee shops are where weed can be legally sold and consumed in the city, a true pothead paradise. Here is a list I found of the most famous Coffee shops in Amsterdam. 

Visiting the NDSM Wharf...

While researching off-beat things to to in Amsterdam I came across the NDSM Wharf. NDSM stands for Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij (Dutch Dock and Shipbuilding Company) and wharf means a structure on the shore of a harbor where ships dock. Basically, this thing is an old shipbuilding facility located in Noord, just a 15 minute free ferry ride across the River IJ. The space has been converted by local artists into a cultural hub. Seems like a cool place to check out and I wouldn't mind taking a free ferry to get there.

Taking a cruise...

Amsterdam is known for it's beautiful canals that connect throughout the entire city. The city has so many cruises to offer; theres a pizza cruise, and cheese and wine cruise. I'm cheap so I'm going with the 1 hour cruise thats about 18 euros.

Biking the Dutch Tulip Fields...

My last day in the Netherlands I plan to visit the famous dutch tulip fields and go to the Keukenhof. April and early may are when the flowers are in bloom. I'm thankful my trip happened to coincide with this gorgeous display of flowers. A roundtrip bus ticket and entrance to Keukenhof is 29 euros. There are apparently several bike rental locations near Keukenhof, once there I plan to rent a bike and enjoy the scenery.  Bike rental is 10 euros with this company. They even have route planned out for tourists. (Note: you cannot bike in Keukenhof, only on the roads around the tulip fields.)

Have any suggestions for things I should do? Comment below>>>

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Stashing Your Cash: Clever Ways Women can Carry Cash While Traveling

As I prepare for my next big trip, I have been researching ways to safety carry money around with me. Carrying money while traveling has to be a balance of safety and ease of access. You want all your money to be secure but you also don't want to be playing hide and seek with it. You also want to be able to get to it without having to unload your entire pack or strip off all your clothes. 

Below, I've complied a list of tips and products I've found that can help you keep your cash and credit/debit cards safe but accessible while traveling.

Divide your money up

Whenever possible, divvy up your travel cash and even credit/debit cards into multiple safe spots in your pack or luggage. If you've got all your money in one place, it only takes one time for a thief to totally wipe you out. If you have your money hidden in multiple spots though, you'll still have a fall back. I also think this is good idea when you are out sightseeing with just a purse or small bag. Keep some on your person (stashed in your bra, in your shoe, etc.) and also in your bag. That way if you fall pray to a pick pocket you'll still have back up cash until you get back to your accommodation. 

Clean out your wallet

Chances are, you're not going to need your library card or that high school ID you've been carrying around with you forever. Keep anything that isn't a necessity at home. If your wallet is clean and organized your better be able to access your cash.

On Body Storage is Recommended

Almost every blog/travel resource site I used while researching this topic insisted that on body storage is the safest option. I, personally, don't recommend carrying anything valuable in your purse, which can be easily snatched, or a backpack, which can be opened without your noticing. Some may feel silly wearing a money belt but under-clothing/on-body storage accessories have come a long way since neck pouches and money belts came onto the scene. While the classic money storage option are still very popular there are other products that you can use.  Though those classics are still in favor, newer options include bra stashes, scarf stashes, as well as underwear, and undershirts with built-in pockets for safe storage.  Below are some suggested on body-storage products. On-body storage accessories can be particularly useful if you're sleeping somewhere that doesn't have a secure place for cash and other valuables during the day.

Note: Do not take your money out of your on-body hiding place while out in public. Use your wallet during the day so you aren't advertising where you stash your cash. If you need to move money from a hiding spot and into your wallet go use the restroom and make the exchange in there.

On Body Storage Products

Smart Travel Scarf

This scarf, in my opinion, is one of the most fashionable ways to stash your cash. The pockets are big enough to hold your passport, wallet, or phone. You will have to do some adjusting though so that you don't have a passport sized lump visible around your neck.

Travel Tank Top with Secret Pocket

This tank makes for a very discreet hiding spot. Like the scarf, you may need to adjust or wear a shirt over it so that it's not obvious that you have cash in your shirt. 

Boot Wallet

This one is perfect for girls who wear knee high boots.

Boot with a secret pocket

These boots have a super discrete pocket. No one would ever guess that where your stashing your cash.

Small money pouch

The bra pouch is a pretty common tool women use to keep their money safe while traveling. I, personally, don't think its comfortable to have a pouch dangling from your bra but to each their own. If it works for you go for it.

Pocket Socks

An even more discreet option than that boot or boot wallet.

Bangle Cuff with -- Secret Pocket

Bangle cuffs with secret pockets are a super fashionable way to hide your money. Here's a link to make one yourself.

 

Hiding cash in plain sight

Whether you're taking your money with you or wish to stash some back in your accommodation, here are some ways you can cleverly hide your cash in plain sight.

In your Pad or Tampon box

Store in in the box or in a tampon or pad wrapper, either way. Unless your thief is experiencing their time of the month they probably won't look in your tampon box.

In a tube of chapstick

You will have to first remove the chapstick inside to make this work. Then just roll up your cash and stick it in there. 

In your water bottle

This one has a storage compartment!

In a pack of Gum

You can fold your cash and stick it inside a pack of gum or if your really ambitious wrap it up in a the gum wrapper as well to be extra safe.

In empty toiletries

Stuff your cash and valuables in an old lotion or shampoo bottle to be super sneaky. or purchase a diversion safe that looks like one of your toiletries.

In your Hair Brush

In your old Snack container

Store your money in an old Pringles container or even inside an old chip bag. Just be sure that YOU remember that its not trash. Or you can invest in a diversion safe that looks like a old snack container.

In the book your reading

Stowing some cash or documents in a book can make it easy to access, keeps everything flat, and isn't an obvious storage spot. 

Got any more tips? Share in the comments below...

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