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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.

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Amsterdam Travel Guide

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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10 Quotes That Will Make You Wanna Leave It All and Go Travel…

10 Quotes That Will Make you Wanna Leave it All and Go Travel...

If you were already wanting to say "F it all and go traveling," this list may further tempt you to escape reality...I know I am.

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Share now...

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Recap: My Trip to Europe (Part 2)

Recap My trip to Europe

Welcome to Part 2 of my European adventure.  Here I'll cover where I stayed, how I traveled and what i did in Paris and Amsterdam. Miss out on Part 1? Read about it here.

Day 4 - Paris

EiffelTower Agingeraway

Train
Thalys
Duration Approx: 1.5hrs
Cost: $60.53
What did I think? : Short train ride from Brussels Midi station to Gare du Nord station in Paris. Ride was comfortable and quick. Free but, terrible Wi-Fi connection. Gare du Nord Station is rather large and also serves as a metro stop making it easy for traveler to get around once arriving in Paris. I bought a 2 day metro pass for 21 Euro.

Hostel
St. Christopher's Gare Du Nord
Stay: 2 Nights
Cost: $74.12
What did I think? : The location of this hostel was great because it was a short walk from Gare Du Nord Station. You can easily get to your train or use the metro system in Paris. This hostel was large. I stayed in a 10 bed dorm. Each bed had it's own underbed locker and a curtain for privacy. The bathroom however, was quite a far walk from my room and the bathrooms weren't keep very clean. The shower was a push button that only allowed for a dismal stream of water for 30 seconds before you have to push it again. The hostel also made you rent a towel to use at a ridiculous price. there was a six euro deposit and a four euro rental fee. Feeling frugal, I opted to wait until heading back to Amsterdam to shower. Judge all you want.

What did I do?
Walk the River Seine 
River Seine A Ginger Away

Sunset Eiffel Tower Tower With Fat Tire Tours
What did I think? : The tour met about a 5 minute walk from the Eiffel tour at Fat Tire Tours office. Despite its name, Fat tire Tours offered a great introduction to the Eiffel Tower. My guide lead a group of about 12 and myself to the tower, each guest equipt with a headset so that we could hear our guide at all times. We were able to skip the line to the elevator and toured the 2nd floor. It was an extra 4 Euros to go to the very top. I booked this experience through Get Your Guide.

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Food
Gelato, Wine, and lots of baguettes. 

 

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Day 5 - Paris

What did I do?
Muse Du Louvre
Cost: $21.77
I overslept and didn't make it to my free walking tour of Paris with SANDEMANs, unfortunately. I did, however, take a late-morning  walk around Paris to see sights like the Arc De Triumph. I purchased Skip-The-Line tickets for the Muse Du Louvre which saved a lot of time. I spent about 2.5 hrs exploring this massive museum seeing things like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Great Sphinx of Tanis. 

 

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Tinder Date
One of the reasons I travel is to date. Why limit myself to dating people where I live? You never know, I could meet someone incredible I otherwise wouldn't have. I also was feeling a little lonely because I hadn't really made friends with anyone in my Paris hostel. I'm upfront with everyone I travel date. I'm looking for fun and little bit of a tour guide. Many guys are happy to have dinner and talk to someone from another country. In my case, it turned my entire Paris experience around. I was able to have a great conversation and a world-wind romantic night with a Parisian. We ate spaghetti at a little cafe, wine later on, then walked the street of Paris together. Finally, I can cross getting kissed in Paris off my bucket-list.

Days 6-9 - Amsterdam

I'm going to combine all four days of Amsterdam into one section because I did many of the same things every day, save a few scheduled activities. When I didn't have an experience/activity scheduled, I mostly just tooled around Amsterdam, hung out at coffee shops, walked aimlessly, and attempted to satisfy my munchies with street food.

Amsterdam Canals

Train
Thalys
Duration Approx: 3.25hrs
Cost: $88.60
What did I think? : Pleasant train ride. There was food service and comfortable seats. I do wish I had thought to bring something to do for the train did have free wifi which was nice, but spotty.

Hostel
St. Christopher's at the Winston
Stay: 4 Nights
Cost: $147.29
What did I think? : As I stated in my previous post, I really liked this hostel. I stayed for one night earlier in the week and then again for four nights upon my return to Amsterdam. The rooms are clean and not too big. Each bunk has their own underbed storage.  Each room has their own bathroom set-up. Oh and free towels to use (unlike St. Christopher's in Paris)! and the heat and water pressure in the shower is spot on. That sure felt good after two days in Paris without a proper shower.
The staff is also extremely friendly. I lost my key card and they replaced it at no charge. You also get free breakfast if you book your stay online. Popular amenities included a smoking room, patio, luggage storage, and vending machines.
The only thing I did not like about this stay was that there was no kitchen. Since I was staying four nights I was hoping to cut costs by cooking for myself, but I was disappointed to find out I'd have to buy all my meals.

St. Christophers at the winton hostel
8 bed Dorm at St. Christopher's
St. Christopher's at the winston Hostel amsterdam
Spot my Osprey Kyte 46 Pack?

What did I do?


A'Dam Lookout
Cost: $19.53
A'dam Lookout is a panoramic observation deck that gives you a great view of Amsterdam. I took the free ferry across the River IJ to make my way to the 21 story tower. Now, 21 stories may not seem like a lot, especially to a girl coming from Chicago, but you have to keep in mind that Amsterdam is not filled will tall buildings, so even though 21 stories sounds low, you still get a great view. At the top there is also a restaurant/bar and interactive exhibits showing the development of Amsterdam. On the Observation Deck there is even the option to do a swing over the edge. I was lucky enough for a local to take my picture while I went solo on the swing. I booked this experience through Get Your Guide.

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Luxury Canal Cruise
Cost: $16.77
Booked with Get Your Guide, this canal cruise offered both comfort and style. Forget touring with on of those enclosed tour boats! This one was a classic river boat equipped with pillows, blankets, and beverages for your pleasure. (oh yes, I'll have another glass of Rosé.) Our guide was hilarious but was also excellent at  explaining the history behind many sights we passed on our cruise. He even took us on a detour through the smallest canal in the city. All the passengers had to duck when we went under the bridge to access that canal. 

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Amsterdam Canal Cruise

Slightly-drunk-off-Rosé-in-a-boat-Selfie. 

Keukenhof Gardens
Cost: 29 Euro
One of the most beautiful and well known attraction in the Netherlands is the Dutch Tulips. Only open for 8-weeks a year (April-May) the Keukenhof Gardens welcomes thousands of visitors annually to show off it's iconic display of tulips and other flowers. The Keukenhof is comprises over 79 acres of land with over 7 million flower planted on it. I purchased my ticket directly from the Keukenhof website. My ticket included public transportation for central Amsterdam via bus to Schiphol Airport where I then was transferred to another bus toward the Keukenhof. This activity with travel time took up about half my Saturday. 

 

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Coffee Shops
Cost: Anywhere from 9 to 14 Euro for a pure pre-rolled joint
Aside for the Tulips, the Netherlands is also a popular destination for cannabis connoisseurs. Coffee Shops are where you can find and smoke legal cannabis in Amsterdam. The Red-Light district is riddled with them and tourists hopping in and out to try all the best strains. I, personally, loved the vibe at Babylon, the Jolly Joker, and Amsterdam City Hall.

Another Tinder Date
What can I say? I like to met new people and like boys. My second tinder date of my trip was with a expat living in Amsterdam. We met near the ferry at Centraal Station and took it across to the NDSM Werf.  This is an old ship building facility transformed into community space. There are restaurants, bars, and space for artists. We had great conversation hanging out at Pllek which is bar/restaurant with a sand beach along the River IJ. This date definitely wasn't a world-wind romance like my experience in Paris but we ate food, had great conversation, and went our separate ways for the evening, but we both seemed grateful for the company and the opportunity to learn about each others way of life.

Pllek
pllek Amsterdam
View from Pllek of River IJ

Have you traveled to Paris or Amsterdam? Share your experience in the comments below:)

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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How To Make Friends In A Hostel

how to make friends in a hostel

When traveling alone, staying in a hostel is a great way to meet fellow travelers. I've personally, made great friends with people I've met in a hostel and have even teamed up to explore a city or figure out the local transportation system. If your traveling a lone and worried you might not meet people where you're staying, this list is for you.

How to make friends in a Hostel

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Any more suggestions? Please share in the comments below.

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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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How I Save Money to Travel

howtosavefortravel

How can you best save for travel?

A question I see asked in the travel community quite often is, "How do you save money to travel?" The answer to this question can be extremely personal and not all money saving tips can work for everyone. That being said, I've come up with a few ways that I've been able to save up. I hope that by sharing the ways that work for me to save money, you can find some inspiration to figure out what saving methods work best for you.

How I save for Travel

I got into a routine...

After looking into my finances I realized that a lot of purchases could have been avoided if I had planned better ahead. Unexpected expenses can add up fast and if you aren’t one to plan ahead then they can happen more often than not. To combat unexpected expenses, I meticulously planned out my week and set alarms in my phone to prompt me to do different tasks.

I have three alarms in the morning that remind me its almost time to head out the door for work. The last alarm in the morning is the absolute last time I can leave my apartment without being late for work. I walk/take the El train on a typical day. But If I get out the door too late I have to get an Uber there. This is something I do occasionally but the cost can really add up. So basically my alarms are to prevent me from being late and occurring an unexpected expense of getting an Uber.

I also have an alarm in my phone to go off every Sunday at 5pm titled GO TO THE GROCERY. The logic is, if I make a consistent weekly trip to the grocery store the night before the work week, I’ll have fresh food for the week and less reason to eat out. After grocery shopping I then pack my lunch for the week. I have 5 lunch containers so that I can grab my lunch in the morning and head out the door.

 

I figured out a low-cost diet...

It can be surprisingly easy to trim down on your food budget depending on how your willing to eat. After doing some shopping I figured out a list of some low cost grocery items. Most of these are not only cheap but filling.

  • Chicken
  • Rice
  • Yogurt
  • Bread 
  • Peanut Butter
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Deli Meat
  • Potato Chips
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

A week's worth of this food costs me around $25.

As I mentioned earlier I go shopping on Sunday and then pack my lunch for the week while I’m unloading groceries. I’m sure to pack lots of filling things for snacks for myself throughout the day so I’m not temped to spend money on a coffee or bagel during the day.

 

I use an app to save money...

I use Qapital to save money. It’s a money saving app that transfers money from your bank account and into one or multiple savings accounts directed toward a goal. The money transfers into these accounts based on different rules you can set up and customize on the app. I have savings rules triggered for multiple things like hitting a certain step count during the day or buying a guilty pleasure item. For example; if Qapital sees that I spent money on Pizza Hut (my guilty pleasure) then $5 is triggered to move into a savings account on Qapital. I have multiple rules to trigger money to go into multiple savings accounts such as, ‘Get Outta Here,’ ‘Travel Gear,’ ‘Emergency Funds,’ and ‘Travel Insurance.’ Also have a fund for ‘Extra Rent Money’ just in case I ever feel like I might be short on rent. You can also earn some extra cash by referring your friends to Qapital.

Use my referral link here:

http://get.qapital.com/bzAc/geSj7d9SKB

I give myself a cash allowance...

Another way I save money is by limiting how much I allow myself to spend by taking cash out and leaving my debit card at home. Having my debit card handy allows me to feel as if there isn’t a strict limit to how much I can spend. If I go out with friends to a bar or something on the weekend I allow myself to bring $20. Just as well if I decide to go shopping for new clothes or something similar I’ll limit what I spend by bringing a cash allowance.

I regularly purge my closet...

I live pretty close to a Plato’s Closet. This place will give you CASH for gently-used, in-style clothes. I try to purge my wardrobe every few months and always try to see if Plato’s will by my clothes before I donate them. Want to see if you can get cash for your clothes? Use google to search for local consignment shops. Other chains I have use in the past to sell clothes are Clothes Mentor, Buffalo Exchange, and Snooty Fox.

I sell old stuff on eBay and at mom’s neighborhood yard sale...

So far, on eBay, I’ve sold old cracked cell phones for parts, an old backpack, gently used Vera Bradley bags, a camera I got one Christmas etc. I also try to go through all my belongings once a year before my mom’s neighborhood’s annual yard sale. If you are strapped for cash take a look around your room/home and try to see if there is anything your willing to part ways with.

YardSale

I work two jobs...

Work hard Travel Harder

Well, worked is the better term. I actually just quit my second job after a year of working 60+ hours per week. I am a Nanny M-F (50 hrs) and served at a brunch restaurant on the weekends for an additional 10 or more hours. I felt very accomplished knowing that I was doing something every day to make money. Plus, by working all the time I was less likely to spend money. Right now, I feel comfortable with my savings. I am leaving this job on good terms though, they are happy to have me come back to work there if I ever need to or want to make extra cash.

Got any more money saving tips? Share them in the comments below.

How I save money to travel

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Travel Essentials: Important Things to Pack for Any Female Traveler

Like many other travelers, I'm guilty of forgetting some important things at home. It's often surprising how much small and seemingly unimportant things can make or break your trip. I've complied a list of things I think are essential for traveling as a young female. Many of these things are things I commonly forget to pack but can be extremely useful when you remember them.

This post contains affiliate links. While many links are purely informational, clicks on affiliate link help me to support my blog. Thank you for your support!

Travel Journal

You’ll never know when the inspiration to write will strike. I find that when I travel my mind is flowing with ideas and observations about where I am. I always bring a journal with me to jot down important things or give me the opportunity to reflect on my experience.

Here's mine ----->>>>

Inflatable Travel Neck Pillow

Travel Neck pillows can be essential for comfort during a long flight, however most neck pillows are filled with cotton or foam etc. This can make it awkward or difficult to store. I prefer an inflatable pillow because it takes up less room in my pack and I can adjust the firmness by releasing or adding air to it.

Polaroid Camera

I love taking polaroid photographs. They seem make an image or memory much more unique. I like to label my photographs and tape them inside my travel journal. 

Travel Document Holder

Sometimes it’s best to keep all your cards, documents, and IDs (or copies of these things) all in one place. These are nice so you’re not fumbling through your stuff trying to find your boarding pass or metro card.

Plastic Bags

This is something that you may not realize will come in handy until you have a pair of wet/dirty clothes/shoes you need to stow away in your pack. Any bag works great. I typically use old grocery store bags or you can opt to buy some nice large Ziplock bags.

Snacks

It can be hard to get used to local cuisine when traveling. Personally, I’m also a picky eater so I’m always sure to bring stuff to snack on while in transit and for when I get the midnight munchies in my hostel.

Pain Reliever

If you are prone to headaches like I am this might be a necessity. Traveling can be exhausting and mentally straining. Be prepared. A pain reliever can also be useful if your feet need relief from large amounts of walking.

A Pen

You never know when you’ll need to jot something down. Also handy to have a pen on the plane so you can get a head start on those customs/immigration forms.

An Envelope

For keeping Keep your receipts. I like to be able to track how much I’m spending. So I keep receipts and then when I returned figure out how much of my money went where so I can make adjustment for the future. Sometimes I’m surprised to realize that I spent a lot of money in unexpected places that I don’t think to budget for, like food at the airport, or that magazine I bought to read during a train ride.

Anti-Bacterial Wipes/ Hand Sanitizer

Traveling is stressful enough without wondering if someone drooled all over your tray table or propped their feet up on your armrests on the previous flight. While traveling you have the opportunity to be exposed to so many germs. Get rid of germs and bacteria from your seat, armrests, or tray table with some handy disinfectant wipes.

Hand sanitizer is helpful for similar reasons. I always like to sanitize my hands before eating.

Emory Board or Nail Clippers

It might just be me, but I feel like every time I travel I break a nail and low and behold I always forget a set of nail clippers or an Emory board at home. Save yourself the trouble of fussing over a broken nail snagging on your clothes by packing these thing with you. I typically forget and end up having to buy one or the other, ugh.

Diarrhea Medicine

Self-explanatory. Depending on where you go, you might not be used to the local cuisine. Be prepared, just in case.

Flip Flops

You’ll definitely want to wear these in the shower at your hostel, avoid athletes foot and other fungus in there. Also, handy for a day at the beach of course.

Cute Cross Body Purse

I like to bring a small cross body purse because I don’t need to carry much during the day and I also want to be hands free. I also find it awkward to carry shoulder bag when I want to be as active as possible exploring a new city. You can even use it lug your jacket around if it gets a little warm. I just drape my jacket over the purse and can carry them both around hands-free.

Tinted Lip Balm

To keep your lips moist on the go but with a touch of color

An Umbrella

If it rains where you’re going this is probably a good idea. Check out this compact travel umbrella to save space.

Lotion

You might be traveling to somewhere with a different climate or maybe just have dry skin.  Whatever the reason, lotion is always a must on my list. Lately, I've been obsessed with Udderly Smooth Hand and Body Cream. This lotion absorbs quickly onto your skin and is non-greasy.

What are your travel essentials? Share in the comments below

Travel essentials

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Travel Essentials
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