9 Things You Are Probably Forgetting to Pack in Your Carry-on

Packing for a trip can be a daunting task.  There are probably a number of things that you will wish you had packed once you take off, here is a list of some of the most common things you’ll wish you had remembered to pack in your carry-on.

1)      Eye Drops– The air in planes is very dry.  Especially if you plan to sleep on the flight, you will want to pack some eye drops to put the moisture back in your eyes when you wake up.

2)      Socks– I like to be as comfortable as possible when I fly.  Often I want to take my shoes off, but don’t want to freak other passengers out by sitting in my seat barefoot.  If you pack a pair of neutral socks no one will notice you getting comfortable and your toes will stay warm.

3)      Layers of clothing– Never underestimate how cold airplanes will be.  If you are going to a tropical location, you will probably want to wear shorts and a tank top.  Even if you are not, bring multiple layers to accommodate to the cabin temperature.

4)      Billow– Okay, so you can take a little pillow and blanket, but a billow (a blanket that is stored as a pillow) is more fun.  If it is cold on your flight or you just want to snuggle up, you are going to want to bring a pillow and blanket.

5)      Water and Snacks– Relying on the plane food is a terrible choice.  When you get bored, you typically get hungry, so even if you don’t think you will use it make sure to pack drinks and a snack to tide you over.

6)      Tylenol or other painkillers– Whether you experience muscle pain, back problems, headaches from the cabin pressure, or any other issue, you will be glad you packed a painkiller for a flight.

7)      Immune System Booster- Planes are known as breeding grounds for sicknesses, take Airborne or some form of vitamin C to protect yourself as much as possible from getting sick.

8)      Everything you will need if your luggage gets lost- many people only pack the things they foresee needing on the actual flight, but if your bag gets lost you are going to want things that cannot easily be obtained at your location.  Make sure you carry-on your prescriptions, phone charger, a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and anything else you wouldn’t be able to make it two days without.

9)      Hotel and transit directions in paper form- On a trip to Spain, I made the mistake of saving the address and phone number of the people I was staying with on my Iphone and Laptop.  When I arrived, both devices had died and I was without any way of locating where I needed to go.  Make sure you have exactly what you need to get to your final destination on a piece of paper or something that cannot go out of power.

If you think there is anything we are forgetting, let us know below!

Travel smarter, not harder friends.

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9 Tips to Make Your Hostel Stay More Enjoyable

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Staying in a hostel, especially for the first time, can be a very intimidating experience.  Here are some tips that many hostel veterans commonly employ to make their stay as enjoyable as possible.

  1. Bring your own towel.  Many hostels charge a small fee to use a towel that they provide.  Bring your own to not only save a few dollars but to ensure it is clean.

    my favorite microfiber travel towel

http://www.amazon.com/MICRONET-Microfiber-Towel-Blue-Large/dp/B001GXRXXC/ref=sr_1_5?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1350959997&sr=1-5&keywords=travel+towel

2. Bring an extra sheet.  There is one way to ensure you are sleeping on clean sheets, bring your own.  Travel Sheets are small when rolled but provide huge peace of mind for their price.  No matter how clean or sketchy the hostel, you know where the fabric touching your body has been.

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Awesome travel sheet, like a really thin sleeping bag.

Here is a link to my favorite Cocoon Brand Travel Sheet: http://www.amazon.com/Cocoon-Flannel-TravelSheet-Twilight-86-Inch/dp/B001DXC664/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1350959699&sr=8-10&keywords=cocoon+travel+sheet

3. Choose room style wisely.  All male? All female? Mixed? Big or Small? There are a variety of choices to be made when choose a room in your hostel.  If you are a female traveling alone, it is usually wise to bunk in an all girls room. Large rooms with lots of beds can be fun, but you are also more likely to encounter people coming in really late, rising really early, snoring, etc.

4. Bring an Ipod, earplugs, or noise cancelling headphones. You never know what type of roommates you will get. Bring some sort of device to hide or mask noise if you are not a hard sleeper.

5. Bring shower shoes.  Since most hostels have shared bathrooms, you are never quite sure what you are going to encounter.  Bring a pair of sandals to wear in the shower to be cautious.

6. Prepare for all conditions.  No matter what climate your hostel is located in, bring something to sleep and lounge in for very hot and cold conditions.  Sometimes places overcompensate for the outside conditions, so it is nice to have options.

7. Leave valuables behind.  When possible leave anything you would miss if it got stolen at home. Most of the time, if you don’t touch other people’s belongings they won’t touch yours, but why take the risk.

8. Bring a lock.  Better safe than sorry, lock up your valuables when you are out of your room.  Some hostels offer lockers, but make sure to pack a padlock and/or computer lock if you bring expensive items.

9. Make friends.  One of the best parts of hostels is the social aspect.  Get out in the common room and get to know your bunk mates! They usually have great advice.

Hostels vs. Hotels

So you are considering a hostel instead of staying in a hotel, but why choose a hostel? Are there any benefits over staying in a hotel? There are a few differences that can help you decide whether it is a better choice to book a hostel or a hotel.

What is a hostel? When you book a hotel, you book a room. When you choose to stay in a hostel, you book a bed.  You are literally reserving the spot in which you will stay instead of the room.  This typically means that there will be other people in your room that reserved the other available beds.

What are the benefits of  staying in a hostel?

  1. Cost. The number one selling point of hostels is the price. I have stayed in multiple hostels for under $15 a night, which is significantly cheaper than many hotels.  There is often the misconception that hostels are dirty and much trashier than hotels.  This is not necessarily true.  Hostels are rated like hotels on sites such as hostelworld.com.  I have stayed in 4 and 5 start hostels that are as nice as some of the best hotels.  Since hostels are aimed toward the budget conscious traveler, they often include things such as guest kitchens where you can cook and discounted tours or attractions, especially for students.
  2. Social scene. If you stay in a hotel, you are isolated in your room.  Hostels are social settings and you are bound to meet other travelers that are sharing your room.  Additionally, almost every hostel has a common room or some type of lounge to encourage social interaction between residents; many even have bars attached.  I have met some amazing people in hostels who are usually like minded travelers ready to share stories.
  3. Hostel Staff.  The majority of the staff members I have talked with in hostels are younger people who love to travel.  They almost always have great advice, both on the local area and other destinations.  Particularly perfect for people who want to experience local culture, their suggestions are usually more off the beaten path than a concierge who often names the top tourist spots.
  4. Location.  Since hostels typically house a fewer number of residents than hotels, their location options are greater.  There are many hostels situated in restored historical buildings, big houses, old prisons, campsites, castles, etc.  

What are the cons of hostels?

  1. Bad roommates.  There have been a couple times when I have had to share a room with a particularly stinky guest, someone who snores, etc.  I will say these times are outweighed by the times I have met awesome people, but keep in mind you have no say in who is in your room, it is just the luck of the draw.  One night my friends and I returned to our hostel and found a guy that had crawled into my friend’s bed instead of his own. Awkward.  These usually make for good war stories though.
  2. Amenities.  It is common for a hostel not to provide towels for guests without an additional fee. Likewise, they may give you sheets when you check in to make your own bed.  If you are looking for added amenities and special treatment, hostels are probably not your best choice.
  3. Privacy.  Hostels are created to form a community.  The atmosphere is often much more relaxed and less formal than a hotel.  With this in mind, guests may stay up late talking loudly, you will be sharing a community bathroom, and you better get used to changing clothes in front of strangers.

Hostels can be an excellent option especially if you are looking for location character and travel buddies.  Just be cautious to do your research first. Below are some pictures from hostels I have stayed in, both costing a little more than $20 USD a night.

Awesome hostel in Marrakesh, Morocco we stayed in.

Adorable hostel in Budapest, there were also stuffed animals around the bathroom.

Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Prices for flights and hotels can be daunting in themselves, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank on every other expense.  Here are four ways to help you save money on your next vacation abroad!

-Budget airlines and travel websites

When I most recently traveled from Oklahoma City to Paris (France, not Texas), I didn’t want to pay $1000 so I found a website called studentuniverse.com – a website that caters to ANYONE (student, teacher, employee, etc) with a college e-mail.  I ended up paying $624 for a round-trip airfare.  Pretty amazing, right? Generally speaking, the longer you go, the cheaper it is, so keep that in mind. But if you want to take a short trip within your trip, check out budget airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet.  Some flights can cost as little as TEN AMERICAN DOLLARS, such as the one I took from Nice, France to Marrakesh, Morocco.  Not even their asinine baggage policies can put a damper on that price.

Better get in line at the airport early – budget airlines lines are notoriously long!

-Unconventional lodging

There are so many different ways around pricey conventional hotels.  For the daring traveler, try couchsurfing.com , a website that pairs you up with a local who hosts people from different parts of the world (normally these people are also globetrotters who love to meet people from different cultures . The idea is that this is a reciprocal exchange, meaning you need to host some people too and tell them the best spots in your hometown, so keep that in mind beforehand.  Also, if you’re traveling in a large group, look into renting out someone’s apartment.  In Amsterdam, seven of us rented a chic little apartment in a great location with more than enough space that ended up costing everyone less that $30 Euros a night.  We had free reign to do what we wanted, when we wanted, and in style.

This apartment in Amsterdam was a steal for the price.

-Internet booking

This might sound like a given, but when you add up the amount of attractions paid for during a trip, each dollar makes a difference.  Almost all attractions have discounts for booking online, such as the London Eye.  If you do this enough, you will definitely see a difference in your bank account.  Also, look for deals online such as Livingsocial- most people don’t think about it, but these deals are offered abroad too!

Booking online can save you money on everything from attractions to trains.

-Free Tours

Finally, the culmination of the of free – free tours!  Most people have the misconceived notion that these are not of the same quality as paid tours, but that’s entirely not true.  These guides make their living off tips and it shows in their presentation.  With the best historical anecdotes, the funniest personal accounts, and lots of information, free tours are among the favorite for most travelers. Plus, you can tip based on how you think they did.  It’s  a win-win situation for all.

You’ll always meet a very diverse group of people in your tour groups.

Travel smart my friends.

7 Tips to make the most of your carry-on

With stringent luggage rules, you aren’t left with much room to pack clothing and other goods in your carry-on.  Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of that space.

  1. Wear layers of clothing on the flight.  A great way to get some extra outfits in for your trip is to wear layers of clothing.  Throw an extra plastic bag or reusable shopping bag in your suitcase to put the extra clothes in later.  Always wear your bulkiest shoes and fluffiest sweater or jacket since they won’t condense well.
  2. Pack small objects such as socks and underwear in your shoes. If it is small enough to fit in something, put it there.
  3. Pack your biggest and least moldable objects first, then squeeze softer objects around those items. Pack shoes, bags of toiletries, and anything else that cannot be forced into an odd shape first, then bend your t-shirts and pajamas around them.
  4. If you don’t need it, leave it.  Europeans are known for wearing the same outfit for days in a row, no one is going to notice if you are wearing the same pair of jeans.  Trust me.
  5. Pack dark clothes and plain clothing. If you pack dark jeans and plain clothing, your friends are much less likely to notice you wearing the same shirt in all 300 photos you upload.
  6. Pack accessories. A great way to trick people in to thinking you are wearing a different outfit is by changing something simple like a scarf.  Especially in winter months, focus on packing more of what people will actually see than shirts that will end up hidden under your coat.
  7. Spacebags are a lie, and piss all fellow travelers off. One girl I have traveled with a few times carries the travel version of spacebags with her for short trips.  I guarantee I fit 3x more clothing in my backpack than she did, the hard plastic bags do not optimize space in any way.  Plus they are loud and take way longer to pack in than just rolling your clothing. The only thing spacebags are truly useful for is pillows or other incredibly fluffy items with tons of excess air in them.

Travel smarter, not harder friends.