15 Things to do in Dubai

By Sara | October 30, 2016

Dubai was on our bucket lists long before we planned a round the world trip. When the opportunity came about to add a week stopover before heading to India, we jumped on it. Nestled on the waterfront of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is one of the most modern cities in the world. World class service, bright skylines, white sand beaches, and luxury experiences await those who visit. Here’s our list of the top things to do in Dubai.

1. Visit the Burj Khalifa

A visit to Dubai is not complete without finding a good spot to admire the tallest building in the world. At 830 meters high, the Burj Khalifa towers over the rest of Dubai’s skyline and is a fantastic sight to see, especially at night. A ride to the top will cost a pretty penny, but the building can be viewed from almost anywhere in downtown Dubai for free.

burj khalifa

2. Lounge at the Palm Jumeirah

The Palm Jumeirah is a set of artificial islands extending into the Persian gulf. Designed by Nekheel, a company owned by the Dubai government, the islands offer fantastic beaches and are a beauty to take photos of. They are also an amazing place to skydive over!

3. Shop at the Dubai Mall

For the shopaholics and mall-goers, this is the mall to conquer all other malls. The Dubai mall is the largest mall in the world and welcomes more tourists every year than all of New York City. Make sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes, because with over 1,200 stores to choose from, the Dubai Mall can take an entire day to see by itself.

dubai mall

4. Watch the Dubai Fountain Show

After shopping until either your feet or your wallet hurt, head outdoors to catch the nightly fountain show. The show plays every 30 minutes each evening from 6pm to 11pm. Set to different soundtracks, water jets shoot streams from the water into the air while a light show plays. It’s truly a breathtaking sight and one of the top things to do in Dubai.

5. Understand History at the Dubai Museum

Dubai has a section of the city filled with museums, and the Dubai Museum is a great place to start. The museum begins in an outdoor courtyard with exhibits of how Dubai used too look and function, and continues to an underground (and air conditioned) area to dive deeper into the creation of the city that’s there today. Entry is only 3 dirham (75 cents) and the museum gives a nice overview of Dubai’s history.

dubai museum

6. Go on a Dune Bashing Desert Tour

Dubai lies directly within the Arabian desert, and many outdoor activities can be enjoyed just outside the city. A multitude of companies offer both day and overnight desert trips, with opportunities to ride camels, dune bash in 4×4’s, and sip tea while watching live entertainment surrounded by orange sand dunes. Be sure to check the reviews before booking, or ask your hotel for a company recommendation.

7. Splurge at the Burj Al Arab

Forget 4 and 5 star hotels – you’re in Dubai! The Burj Al Arab is the only 7-star hotel in the world, and guests can expect top notch services and amenities. Prices per night start at $1,500, and for those just wanting a glimpse inside be sure to book a reservation. Only those attending dinner or afternoon tea are permitted entry.

burj al arab

8. Ski Inside at the Mall of the Emirates

The Mall of the Emirates is a massive shopping center and one of the biggest malls in Dubai. In addition to having over 1,000 stores, it’s also the home of Ski Dubai. Visitors can ski indoors at the middle east’s first indoor ski resort, visit the Magic Planet entertainment center, or watch a play at the mall’s theatre.

9. Bargain at the Gold and Spice souks

Dubai wasn’t always an ultra-modern city, and remnants of the old city still remain. Head to Deira to browse the gold, spice, and perfume souks, and don’t forget to barter the price down!

gold souks dubai

10. Watch Movies under the Stars at WAFI City

Though not the biggest or busiest mall in Dubai, WAFI city is a fun place to stop by for a few hours. The complex was designed and built with an Egyptian theme in mind, and stays true to the concept with statues and even the pyramid complex design. Inside WAFI is a shopping mall, hotel, apartments, and a night club. On Sunday nights, head to the Rooftop Gardens to catch a free classic movie with bean bag chairs under the stars and desert sky.

11. Ride the Abra Water Taxis

Abra’s, or water taxis, are a great way to see the Dubai Creek. Hop on a water taxi from either side on the bank and ride across the river for 1 dirham. The views are beautiful and it’s way more fun than taking the metro.

abra water taxi dubai

12. Wander Deira City Centre

One of the top things to do in Dubai is explore Old Dubai. Deira City Centre leis in Old Dubai and is similar in size to the Mall of the Emirates. With over 370 stores and 58 restaurants, the City Centre is a good place to take metro to and then explore more of Deira and the old city.

13. Photograph the Skyline at the Dubai Marina

The Dubai Marina is a residential area and artificial canal city built along two miles of the Persian Gulf shoreline. Though primarily used as a housing area, the marina is a great spot to walk around, take photos, or shop at the Dubai Marina Mall.

dubai marina

14. Enjoy a Fine Dining Experience

Dubai is known to be extravagant, and delivers ‘above and beyond’ experiences when it comes to dining. Many of the over the top options also come with a hefty price, but for those who can pay its worth the experience.

Sip cocoa in a literal ice lounge, dine underwater surrounded by an aquarium, or order from a table who’s surface is a digital menu. Dubai has endless unique dining experiences.

15. Explore to your heart (or budget’s) content!

This list truly scratches the surface of things to do in Dubai, and with the right budget, one could spend quite some time exploring every experience the city offers. Dubai is a great place for a splurgy vacation, and a paradise for the uber rich. We definitely recommend a visit and can’t wait to hear about some of your favorite things to do in Dubai!

How Much Does it Cost to Travel Europe For 9 Months?

By Sara | October 13, 2016

Nine months. It’s crazy to think that we’ve lived and traveled in Europe for almost a year now, but incredibly exciting to look back on. When we started planning our trip around the world, Europe ranked at the top of our list. Our original itinerary of six months proved to be way too short, and even in nine we hardly explored everything. Europe holds many fond memories for us and has impacted our outlook on a number of life aspects. It’s one of those places you grow up hearing about, and if you’re lucky, travel to once or twice in a lifetime.The truth is, Europe doesn’t have to be as expensive as many may think, and over nine months we spent a grand total of $16,505. Split between two people, that’s $8,252, or $900 per month. That’s less than many people’s rent in the states! So, how did we travel so cheaply? Keep reading!

Everyone’s travel style is different, and you can easily spend thousands in a week by staying in fancy hotels, eating out for every meal, and paying for extravagant attractions. On the same note, you could also travel Europe for far less than we did by staying in hostels, cooking every meal yourself, and traveling in eastern european countries.

We prefer to have a nice place to sleep, cook, and feel at home when we travel, but we don’t need lavish hotels or takeout every night. Our costs reflect this, and go into more detail below.

Accommodation

There are a number of ways to book accommodation in Europe, and our favorite is Airbnb. Airbnb’s give us access to a kitchen, which then allows us to save a ton of money on food. Airbnb’s also are a great way to meet locals, and typically have more flexibility with checkin and checkout times.

Our nightly budget for Airbnb’s in Europe was $35. Every booking we made was under this price per night, with the exception of London, Dublin, Killarney, Bordeaux and Brussels, which are all known to be ‘bloody expensive’ places.

To offset the prices of expensive cities, we walked more, ate out less, and spent less time in the city. Occasionally we’d stay in a hostel to really slash our costs, but avoided them when possible. Many of our bookings in cheaper European countries came in closer to $20 – $25 per night, making the average cost per night balance out in the end.

During our time in Europe, we stayed in some very nice places for very affordable prices. At $35 or less per night, for nine months we lived in places like this:

When looking for an Airbnb, there are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Book in advance.

We found time and time again that we were able to get better places for a lower rate when we planned ahead and booked at least two weeks prior to arriving. The times that we waited longer either resulted in a higher price or a less nice place.

2. Read the Reviews

Reviews are on Airbnb for a reason. There have been times when the listing photos look great, but several reviews mention poor host communication or hidden charges. Look for listings with SuperHost status’s or that have several positive recent reviews.

3. Make a ‘Must Have’ Checklist

Airbnb has filters, and you should use them! Our priorities when booking a place are good wifi, a kitchen with an oven, and a table or desk to work at. If any of these three things are missing, we don’t book. Decide what matters to you in a space, and if you’re not sure that a listing has what you need, message the host first to ask. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

4. Get a Discount

First time Airbnb users should NEVER sign up straight from the Airbnb website. Airbnb has a referral program that give’s first timer’s $35 off their first stay, so find someone who’s already a member and use their referral code. If you haven’t signed up yet, our $35 off coupon is right here!

To get a better idea of how far your money will go, we’ve ranked the cities we visited by accommodation cost. Below you’ll find the 5 cheapest and most expensive cities we stayed in this year.

Top 5 Expensive Cities We VisitedPrice Per Night on a $35 BudgetTop 5 Cheapest Cities We VisitedPrice Per Night on a $35 Budget
Dublin, Ireland$74Varna, Bulgaria$18
Bordeaux, France$61Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria$22
London, England$49Valencia, Spain$28
Brussels, Belgium$48Prague, Czech Republic$29
Killarney, Ireland$42Madrid, Spain$29

Food

Sticking to a reasonable food budget took some time to get used to. For the first two months we ate out frequently, indulging ourselves in European delicacies. While eating your way through Europe sounds incredibly tempting, it is also incredibly expensive.

During our first month of travel, we spent over $1,000 on food. This was not sustainable and stemmed from eating out for every meal. After cringing at our mistake, we cut back substantially. Since then, we averaged $550 per month for two people in every European country except England, where everything just costs more.

We could have continued our lavish food patterns, but would have had to sleep in hostels every night to offset the cost. Instead, we opted to book nicer places to stay, cut back on eating out, and shopped at the grocery store.

In Spain, we ate a lot of patatas bravas (diced potatoes), because that’s what they serve in tapas bars! We bought pastries from grocery stores in France for a fraction of the price of what they cost at a bakery. In Bulgaria, we dined on banitsa (cheese-stuffed bread) and gyros for under a dollar because they are local cuisines.

Do a bit of research before heading to the store, and once there convert the prices to your local currency to see what costs the least. Our favorite currency conversion app is My Currency.

Transportation

Last but not least, traveling! Transportation is a big part of budgeting for Europe, but if done right doesn’t need to be super expensive.

Over the last nine months, we collectively spent $1,037 on metro tickets, taxi’s and busses inside each city, and $2,190 on flights, carpools, and trains to switch cities and countries. Added together, that breaks down to about $12 per day, or $6 per person.

We figured out every travel hack and cost cutting measure we could find and ended up having a reasonably low total cost for European travel. Our best transportation tips are below!

1. Travel Slow

Transportation costs quickly add up the faster you move from place to place. We kept a slow travel pace so that we only paid for city switches twice per month. Spending two weeks in each city also allowed us to learn more about the places we saw and understand them better.

2. Carpool

Carpooling is a transport method that we didn’t start utilizing until we were halfway through our European travels. Had we started sooner, we would have saved a ton of money! For example, we spent €40 to get from Bulgaria to Austria via carpool in 14 hours, when the comparable trains cost $90 and took 36 hours.

In Europe, the biggest rideshare service is BlaBlaCar. People who are driving their car long distances post a route and a cost per seat, and travelers can book to join them on the trip. The service works throughout the continent and is a great way to save money.

3. Walk

In most European cities, metro tickets will cost between $1 and $3 per ride. London and Ireland typically cost closer to $5 per ride. Either way you do the math, buying lots of bus and metro tickets gets expensive fast.

When possible, walk to where you want to go. Most cities in Europe are walkable end to end in an hour, or 15-30 minutes from the city center. It’s a great, easy way to save money while getting fit at the same time!

4. Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates

Flight prices vary based on how far advance you book and which days you want to fly. In Europe, don’t bother trying to fly in July, as prices double, triple, and even quadruple in price.

Generally speaking, Tuesdays are the cheapest day to fly, but it certainly helps to use Skyscanner’s search everywhere tool to find the lowest fares.

Keep your schedule as open as possible so that you can snag the lowest fares.

5. Use Budget Airlines and Pack Light

Budget airlines cost a fraction of what mainstream airlines cost, and do the same thing. In Europe, RyanAir, WizzAir, and Vueling are the cheapest airlines and frequently have fares as low as $5.

Watch out for extra hidden charges, but in general these options are a great way to save.

We didn’t take a traditional route through Europe, and instead jumped around a lot. At times, this hurt financially, and you can travel through Europe much cheaper than we did by going to countries that share borders.

Everything Else

Accommodation, food, and transportation are the biggest costs you’ll have when traveling Europe. If you’re very careful and conservative, they’re also the only costs you’ll have. However, most people (including us) incur additional expenses as well.

Every month we pay $90 to T-Mobile so that we both have data automatically in every country. Our 5×5 storage unit costs $60 per month, and insurance for the car we keep in storage is $40 per month.

That’s an additional $1,500 give or take that we spent during our time in Europe, but is far less than what we were paying for bills and utilities back home.

Lastly, mistakes can and will happen. Losing or breaking equipment costs money. Buying medicines when you get sick costs money. Paying for an old speeding ticket that occurred before the trip costs money!

None of these are things you can plan for, so bring an emergency fund with you on European travels. In total, we’ve incurred around $500 worth of ‘oops’ expenses during our nine months in Europe, in addition to our regular spending.

The Total Cost for Nine Months in Europe

Traveling through Europe has been one of the best experiences we’ve ever had, and cost a fraction the price we thought it would. Here’s one last full breakdown of how much it costs to travel Europe for nine months.

Total For Two PeoplePrice Per PersonCost Per Person Per Day Over Nine Months
Flights from the U.S. to Europe$500$250$1
Accommodation$6,439$3,219$14
Food$4,849$2,424$10
Transportation$3,217$1,608$7
Bills and Misc.$2,000$1,000$4
Grand Total Once in Europe$16,505$8,252$36

As you can see, we’ve been able to travel through Europe for nine months on $36 per day, per person. We visited a mix of western and eastern Europe, which helped to balance out the costs. We freelance while we travel, and since leaving California last December have maintained our net worth.

You read that correctly – we haven’t lost a single dollar during our European travels, even though we lost our prior primary income sources.

Budgeting correctly can save thousands of dollars without sacrificing quality of life. Cutting necessary expenses, finding a little bit of consistent income, and being flexible on where you choose to travel are all factors in being able to travel Europe continuously.

We would have loved to stay in Europe longer, but feel that it’s time to experience life on the other side of the world. Next stop, India!

Israel Travel: When Plans Go Wrong

By Sara | October 6, 2016

I’m going to be honest with you: planning Israel travel was harder than planning for any other country so far.

We decided to plan a trip to Israel after being invited by a friend we met in Spain. Since we had a free month in our plans before India, we bought flights and prepared for the trip.

Within a few hours I had an Airbnb lined up with a great host. The trip was out of mind for the rest of the month until…

the host canceled due to an electric issue. This is the one downside of booking Airbnb’s instead of hotels, and the first time we’ve dealt with a cancellation during our travels.

Luckily, Airbnb has a great policy which refunded our money plus an additional $20 coupon for the inconvenience. I rebooked at another listing, and changed the address in my calendar. Thirty minutes later, I received a second dreaded email – the new host had canceled as well.

Trying not to get worked up, I booked a third, and then fourth listing. They both canceled within 24 hours!

Frustrated, I called Airbnb to explain the situation. They offered to pay the difference on a listing above our budget, and were overall very helpful. Customer service done right! I thanked the agent helping me and messaged the new host. By the next morning, our host once again canceled.

We had nowhere to stay, and our trip was four days away. I’m proud to say that I’ve become a much more patient and relaxed person during this trip, but I really struggled with five cancelled bookings.

I called Airbnb again, and this time they issued us a travel voucher coupon so we could book a place right away. They also proposed that I message several hosts before booking. Eight emails (four of which replied saying that their dates were also not correct) and three days of headaches later, we had a fully confirmed booking.

The next day we packed up and spent a long day flying to Israel. Upon arrival at 11pm, we went through the fastest border control we’ve ever had crossing into a new country. The worker’s questioning consisted of rapid-fire inquiries designed to trip people up. Luckily, our answers were satisfactory enough to grant us entry.

In Israel, they no longer stamp passports, and instead give a small card to keep inside your passport. The reason for this is that some nearby countries don’t want visitors from Israel. Don’t forget to take the ID out after Israel travel!

We found a taxi without too much trouble, and headed to our Airbnb. Unfortunately, we were dropped off at the wrong street by mistake. The driver had left, and by this point both of our phones had died. In a foreign country, at 1:00am, we were completely and truly lost.

We ended up sitting on a curb to charge my phone with Greg’s laptop, and finally arrived at our Airbnb. We then tried to go grocery shopping, and were met with a new challenge. The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, started the same day we arrived. The holiday is a family affair, and everything in the country closes for two days.

We found a corner shop that was open and grabbed enough food to hold us over, then spent the next two days working and resting.

We enjoyed the break after the week of crazy planning we’d had and are excited to finally explore Tel Aviv and Jerusalem! A word to fellow travelers – when planning a trip to any country over a major event, book well in advance, do enough research to know what’s going on, and have a backup plan!

9 Things to Do in Malaga, Spain

By Sara | October 3, 2016

Malaga is a port city located in southern Spain, and is a fun, warm place to visit during any month of the year. There are many things to do in Malaga, as well as many places nearby that are easily accessible. Whether using Malaga as a hub to explore the rest of Costa del Sol or as a destination in and of itself, travelers are bound to have a great time in the city that gets 300 days of sun per year!

1. Take a Day Trip to Mijas

Why is the first thing on the list outside of Malaga? Simple. Malaga is on the coast of Spain, and though it’s one of the larger cities, there are so many more beautiful places up and down Costa del Sol that deserve exploration. We spent a day walking around taking photos of this beautiful white city and in hindsight wish we took more day trips. Tickets only cost about €2.50 each way, so it’s incredibly affordable too!
Mijas Malaga

2. Gaze at the Malaga Cathedral

The Malaga cathedral was constructed in the 1500’s, and is the second tallest cathedral in Andalusia, Seville’s being the first. The cathedral is a stunning sight to see from both the inside and outside, so don’t miss it on your trip!

3. Wander Through Alcabaza

The Alcabaza is a big part of Malaga, and is worth the ticket price to see. The old fortress ruins are home to a number of beautiful spots, and there’s a fantastic view of the city from the top of the fortress.
Alcabaza Flower Malaga

4. Go Shopping on Marques de Larios street

For those who like shopping, Larios street is the place to be. During the day, all of the shops are open and visitors can find a number of European and American stores to poke around in. At night, several of the restaurants open their terraces for tapas and beers, and it’s a great place to people watch or meet new people in the pubs.

5. Explore the Roman Theatre

Just outside of the Alcabaza is the Roman theatre. This theatre was only dug up a few years ago, in the mid 1900’s. Estimated to be centuries old, the outdoor theatre is free to walk around.
Alcabaza Malaga

6. Stroll through Paseo del Parque

Right in the middle of two of Malaga’s busiest streets is a narrow park and walking paths. The park spans lengthwise and is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city or take a nice walk.

7. Soak in the Sun at Malagueta Beach

Travelers who visit Malaga shouldn’t leave without taking a photo at the Instagram famed Malagueta beach. This is the main city beach, and is easily accessible from the city center. Bring a towel and lay in the sun or under the many palm trees decorating the golden shore.
Malagueta beach Malaga

8. Eat Fresh Food at Mercado de Atarazanas

Almost every major Spanish city has a central market, and Malaga is no exception. Visit Atarazanas for fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, and of course, tapas. Be sure to come with an empty stomach and a full wallet!

9. Watch the Sunset at the Port of Malaga

Last, but certainly not least, the Port of Malaga is a must see. The port has a promenade with shops and restaurants and makes for a great evening stroll. It also has some fantastic sunsets along the water that shouldn’t be missed!

Malaga Port

These nine things to do in Malaga will give travelers a good flavor of the city, but don’t be afraid to explore more on your own! Malaga is a laid back, fun loving place to be with plenty to see and experience.

House Sitting: How to Get Free Housing Anywhere

By Sara | September 20, 2016

We just wrapped up a two week stay in southern Spain. Our days were filled with puppy kisses, long breakfasts, and nightly sunsets over a stunning view. The best part? All of it was free, thanks to house sitting. If you’re wondering how we scored such an awesome place on a travelers budget, and are interested in learning how to get free housing, read on!

What is House Sitting?

For many travelers, finding affordable accommodation can be difficult. Staying in hostels and using websites like Airbnb and HostelWorld can certainly lower the cost of accommodation abroad, but for those looking for free housing, there’s another option: housesitting.

We signed up with Trusted House Sitters at the beginning of our trip, and have used it several times throughout our European travels. The setup is simple: Home owners who plan to be away for an extended period of time list their home on a house sitting website, and travelers who need a place to stay apply for the job. Home sits vary in responsibilities but typically include locking up the house each night, maintaining the landscape of yards, and caring for any pets that homeowners have. In exchange for looking after a house, travelers receive free housing.

How Does it Work?

To apply for a house sit, travelers should first choose which site they’d like to go with. There a number of options at the bottom of this post that have good reputations, and we personally use Trusted House Sitters. Most house sitting websites have an initial sign up fee, but this pays for itself after two to three nights of house sitting, and is well worth the cost.

After signing up, fill in all the applicable profile details to show home owners who you are and what you can offer. If you have anyone willing to write you a review from previous experience, this is very helpful and should be added as soon as possible.

Once your profile is live, start applying for house sits! Make sure that each email is unique and clearly says who you are, what you can offer to the particular sit, and what experience you have that makes you the perfect fit. If it helps, think of each message like a job application. We’ve included additional tips and tricks to land your first sit below.

Landing Your First House Sit

1. Sign Up For Emails and Apply Quickly

When you sign up, allow Trusted House Sitters, (or related site) to send you daily emails. These emails contain the most recently posted house sits, and you should apply for any that suit you immediately. Most house sitters choose their sitter out of the first few people that apply, so it’s important to have your profile in that bunch.

2. Be Flexible

When it comes to applying for house sits in a certain location, it helps to be flexible. Most house sits aren’t in major cities, and the ones that are go incredibly fast. Try to be flexible with your location preferences to open a wider net of potential sits.

3. Practice Email Etiquette

Email etiquette is important, as this is the only impression outside of your profile that potential hosts will get of you before a Skype call. Double check for spelling and grammatical errors, include the names of the home owners and their pets in the email, and let your personality shine through in your writing. Imagine you are in a home owner’s shoes, about to leave your pets with a stranger. What would you want to see in an application message?

4. Have References

Having references on your profile boosts your chances of getting chosen immensely. Users gain references by completing house sits and having hosts write reviews for them on their profile. If you’re trying to get your first sit and find yourself getting declined even after following the rest of the above steps, try to get a reference another way. Most sites allow people to ask references about your work ethic, character, or past home and pet sitting experience outside of the platform. When we signed up, we asked our neighbor, whose dog we had watched several times, to write a review about our ability to care for pets. This review was enough to land our first house sit, and we’ve had no troubles since.

Which Site Should I Sign Up For?

The sites below are some of the best house sitting sites out there. Each of these sites has testimonials from travelers, and a decent variety of sits. Take a look and find one that suits you best.

1. Trusted House Sitters

  • World wide, most house sits are in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
  • Same cost for both home owners and sitters ($75 for 3 months, $120 for one year)
  • Take 20% off with this code

2. House Carers

  • World wide, most house sits are in the United States and Europe
  • Free for home owners, $50 per year for sitters

3. MindMyHouse

  • Smaller house sitting database, most house sits in the United States and Europe
  • Free for home owners, $20 per year for sitters

4. House Sit Match

  • Primarily caters to European House Sits
  • Free for home owners, has two membership levels (£35 and £75) per year for sitters

5. House Sitters America

  • Caters to United States House Sits
  • Free for home owners, $30 per year to be a sitter

6. Aussie House Sitters

  • Caters to Australian House Sits
  • Free for home owners, $65 per year to be a sitter

7. Luxury House Sitting

  • For luxury listings, smaller database
  • Free for home owners, $25 per year for sitters

House sitting is a great way to get free housing while exploring new places. It allows you to meet new people, see places you may not have otherwise, and often times, cuddle and play with adorable pets. Regardless of your motivation, house sitting is an experience worth looking into!

Some of the above links are affiliate links. This means that we make a small commission if you choose to sign up after clicking on some of the links in this post, at no extra cost to you.

9 Things to Do in Valencia, Spain

By Sara | September 8, 2016

Valencia is a sea-side city in southeastern Spain just 3 hours from both Madrid and Barcelona. While most known for its futuristic City of Arts and Sciences complex, Valencia also has some amazing beaches and shopping centers. There are plenty of things to do in Valencia whether you’re an outdoors adventurer or history buff, so here’s a list of our top suggestions.

1. Explore the City of Arts and Sciences

The City of Arts and Sciences is arguably the most important modern tourist spot in Valencia. It has become a central piece of Valencia in recent years, and is truly a work of art. With an entertainment and cultural center, opera house, ocean world, 3-D cinema, and park, The City of Arts and Sciences is a great place to spend a few days. For a sneak preview of what’s inside, check out this vlog.

vlcsnap-2016-09-08-17h04m39s555 copy

2. Delight Your Senses at Mercado Central

Much like Madrid, Valencia has a central market with a variety of food and fresh goods. The Central Market has Valencia’s famed horchata and fartons as well as fresh meats and fruits. In the center of the market is a sit down eating area with a bar.

3. Climb to the Top of Serranos Gate

Twelve gates used to form a city wall and entry point into Valencia. Today, only one gate remains. Visitors can view the outside of the gate from several places, or can pay a small fee to climb to the top of the tower.
Tower Valencia

4. Fallas Museum

Once a year, the people of Valencia commemorate St. Joseph by creating paper and wax figures. The figures are burned in the streets during a non-stop, 5 day festival in March. After the festival the museum saves the remnants to put on display.

5. Find the Holy Grail at Valencia Cathedral

We’ve mentioned in other posts that every major European city has a prominent cathedral, but Valencia’s is special. Christian historians from all over the world have declared that the chalice in the Valencia Cathedral is the true Holy Grail. The cup inside this church is widely believed to be the authentic cup used at the Last Supper. Many Pope have used the cup in ceremonious events, making this cathedral a must visit place.
Valencia Cathedral

6. Take a Stroll in the Turia Garden

Valencia used to have a river running through the center of the city, much like the Thames in London. In the 1950’s, a massive storm flooded the river, and much of Valencia along with it, so the city drained and reconstructed the river to route out of the city. A park was built on the newly dried river beds, and still remains there today.

7. Watch a Bull Fight at Plaza de Toros de Valencia

Bull fighting is a common event to attend in Spain, and Valencia is no exception to this.  Inspired by roman architecture, Valencia’s bull ring stands tall in the heart of the city.
Bull Ring Valencia

8. Go For At Swim at Malvarosa Beach

The beaches in Valencia are wide, clean, and sunny. One of the more frequented beaches is Malvorosa. With sun beds, sand bars, and plenty of places to play volleyball, Malvarosa provides the perfect escape from Spain’s summer heat. Head here for a fantastic place to kick back, surf, and relax for a day.

9. Treat Your Taste Buds at Horchatería Santa Catalina

Valencia is the birthplace of horchata, a milkshake-like substance made with tiger nuts, water, and sugar. Often served with fartons, a thin powdered sugar pastry, horchata is the perfect treat on a hot day. Located right in the city center, Horchatería Santa Catalina specializes in this pairing.

horchata valencia

While it’s not the most action-packed city we’ve been to, there are enough things to do in Valencia that make the city worth seeing. Not to mention, it’s just a short bus ride away from Bunol, where the tomato throwing La Tomatina festival is held every year. We’d love to hear your favorite things to do in Valencia, so leave a comment below with your Spain experiences!

Top Things to Do in Madrid, Spain

By Sara | August 26, 2016

Madrid is not only one of our favorite cities in Spain, but in Europe as a whole. It’s the place where we began our travels and a city we’ve dubbed our “European home base”. As the third largest city in the European Union, there are plenty of things to do in Madrid.

Sights to See

What we love about Madrid is that it’s a great place to travel slow. There’s always an event going on in the livelier neighborhoods of Lavapies and La Latina, and there are plenty of shops and places to explore after seeing all of the tourist attractions. However, if you only have a few days in Madrid, here are the staple places to see.

1. Plaza Mayor

Madrid has two major plazas, one being the Plaza Mayor. The Plaza’s original use was to host celebrations, executions, and bull fights. Now, it functions as a major tourist square with shops, cafe’s and an information center.

2. Puerta Del Sol

The other main plaza in Madrid is Puerta Del Sol. Most of the metro lines run through Sol because it is in the center of the city. In the square are many higher end shopping areas, and the notable statue of the bear and the strawberry tree. This is a symbol of Madrid and is a good place to snap postcard photos.

3. Retiro Park

Madrid isn’t known for its abundance of parks, but the ones it does have are pretty amazing. Our favorite, and one of the most well known is Retiro Park. The 350 acred park has dozens of sculptures, walking paths, and even a lake with row-boat rentals. Retiro is a great place to spend an afternoon relaxing and listening to buskers play music.
Retiro Park Madrid

4. Cable Cars

To get the very best view of Madrid, it’s worth paying the €5 to take a ride on the Teleferico cable cars. The cable cars run to Casa de Campo, which is a large park with a zoo, amusement park, and walking areas.

5. Royal Palace of Madrid

Right next to the Almudena is the Royal Palace of Madrid. Though originally made to house the royal family, they now opt to live in a quieter part of Madrid. Spain has many beautiful castles, but this one is the largest royal palace in Europe with over 3,000 rooms, but is primarily used for major events.
Royal Palace Madrid

6. San Miguel Market

Foodies, this should be your number one item for things to do in Madrid. San Miguel is an indoor gourmet tapas market filled with food stalls. Whether you’re craving desserts, olives, traditional tapas, or fish, San Miguel has it all. Be warned, this has become a major tourist area and there aren’t many locals here, but the food is good! For those looking for a more local experience, try visiting the San Fernando market instead.

7. Temple of Debod

Those who visit Madrid can also visit a piece of Egypt! The Temple of Debod is an Egyptian shrine dismantled and sent to Madrid for safe keeping in the 1960’s. As a sign of gratitude, Egypt permanently gifted the temple to Spain a few years later.
Temple of Debod madrid

8. El Rastro Market

Every Sunday, El Rastro Market stalls pop up and cover several streets in Madrid. Locals sell a variety of clothes, bags, trinkets, and souvenirs. The market is open for a few hours in the morning and then shuts down, so plan ahead for this one!

9. Almudena Cathedral

When the capital of Spain was moved from Toledo to Madrid, the need for a cathedral arose quickly. Thus, the Almudena was constructed. It took over 100 years to build the Almudena, and the modern cathedral is a must-see when visiting Madrid.
Almudena Church Madrid

10. Gran Via

Gran Via is the shopping mecca of Madrid. Row after row of shops line the street and this area of town is bustling at all hours.

11. Santiago Bernabéu Stadium

Soccer, or “futbol” is very big in Madrid. The Real Madrid football team practices and plays at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. If you can plan a trip overlapping a game, it’s is an experience worth having.

Cool Cafe’s

Madrid is in the process of creating a coffee scene, and has many grab and go cafe’s that line the streets of Madrid. We did discover a few gems during our month stay there, and frequented the following cafe’s.

1. Bicicleta Cafe

This is the place to be for anyone who is working and traveling. Visitors can expect designated work tables, free water, free wifi, and a great menu of hot and cold drinks. Many people work from their computers while snacking and conversing.

2. Chocolateria San Gines

For a staple restaurant in Madrid, head to Chocolateria San Gines. This place is known for having amazing churros and chocolate, and is open 24 hours. Lines are long during mid morning, so come early or late to avoid a queue.
Chocolateria San Gines

3. Paneria

Mornings in Madrid are a little slow, and most shops and cafes don’t open until after 9am. An exception to this is Paneria. Close to Retiro Park, this cafe is the perfect place to go in the early morning hours before the city wakes up. Paneria’s croissants are perfectly fresh, and they have a nice breakfast menu with coffee and pastry combos.

4. Celicioso

Gluten free people, this cafe is for you. The cafe has an abundance of cakes, cookies, pastries, and of course, coffee. As one of the few all gluten-free places in Madrid, Celicioso does a great job catering to those with a gluten intolerance while still delivering excellent food and a nice atmosphere.

Tasty Tapas

One of the best things to do in Madrid is enjoy the tapa experience. Tapas are small plates of food served with beer or wine, and are the major cuisine in many Madrid restaurants. Quality and prices of tapas vary, and we’ve listed some of the ones we like below.

1. Taberna Las Brasas de Vulcano

This place rocks because of the size of their plates. A tapa and a drink only cost €1.50, and the portion sizes make the deal even sweeter. With cozy, rustic decor and more food than many can eat, Las Brasas is a great place to start an evening of tapas.

2. 100 Montaditos

Montadidos is a chain in Madrid and can be found almost anywhere throughout the city. Known for their inexpensive tapas, Montadidos has an easy order system. Visitors write down which tapas, desserts, and drinks they’d like, then turn it  in to the waiter and pay. The food is brought out all at once for an enjoyable tapas feast!

3. La Latina

For a more spontaneous and authentic experience, take the metro to the La Latina barrio. Those walking around La Latina at night will be hard pressed not to find an enjoyable tapas restaurant. La Latina has a bustling nightlife scene and plenty of streets lined with tapas restaurants. Come with a hungry stomach and try anything that looks good!

There are many places to eat and things to do in Madrid, and visitors on all types of trips will enjoy their time in the Spanish capital. Madrid’s main sites can be seen in a few days, though our biased opinion says to stay as long as possible! This list should give visitors a great starting point to understand the city, but the best way to explore is to try new places! What are your favorite things to do in Madrid?

Travel Makeup Bag: What To Pack

By Sara | August 23, 2016

Every traveler packs a little differently, but most travelers need some sort of travel makeup bag in their pack. We posted a robust packing list already, but didn’t delve into what female travelers should pack in a makeup bag. Packing light is hard, and I struggled to find posts on what to bring when I initially packed for my trip. Now, I travel with a small sized packing cube that I keep all of my “girl stuff” in, and know what my must-have items are. Here’s what I brought on my round-the-world adventure, and what I regretted not packing.

1. Ponds Face Cream

Keeping healthy skin is very important to me, and I’m sure to many other women. I’ve used Pond’s face cream for years and re-packaged a large tub of it into 100ml tubes for this trip. TSA compliant!

2. Norwex Face Towel

This was a christmas gift from my Mom and an item that I use every day. Norwex is a product line aimed reducing chemicals in the home. Their towels have microfibers in them, which pick up dirt much better than regular towels. In a pinch, you can even use these without soap; the fibers will grab the dirt from your face!

3. Vaseline or Chap Stick

I always carry some mini cocoa butter vaseline cubes with me, and they’re great for travel because of their size. Carmex lip balm also does the trick to keep lips from cracking, and both of these items are so small that you can easily fit them in a travel makeup bag.

4. Acne Remover

Particularly in hot climates, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to prevent breakouts. Though drinking enough water, eating well, and washing your face every day helps, sometimes skin just has a mind of its own. For breakout situations, I carry one small tube of Clean and Clear topical gel to put on my face at night. Though it’s a strong solution, it clears most problem areas up by the next morning.

5. Q-Tips

I didn’t bring q-tips initially and regretted it every time I had water in my ears after a shower. Luckily, they’re an incredibly common product and super cheap, so you can buy them pretty much anywhere. I put a handful in a plastic ziplock and keep them in my travel makeup bag.

6. Foot Exfoliator

This is another item that I neglected to bring and had a hard time finding later in a compact size. Travelers walk a lot, and there’s no helping the dirt and dead skin that’s bound to accumulate. Having a small exfoliator makes the hugest difference in how your feet feel, and makes the beach more fun!

7. Deodorant, Toothbrush, and Toothpaste

Obviously, please pack these.

8. Razor

The girls I’ve met while traveling all do this a bit differently. Some prefer to go au natural and just let their leg hair grow. Power to ya. I have a pet peeve of hair on my legs, so before the trip I began using the most generic razor brand possible. I’ve been able to find the same style razors around the world and keep a few in my travel makeup bag. This gets me through several months at a time, but everyone has their own preference. Find what works for you, whether it’s skipping shaving, buying disposables, or getting detachable blades.

9. Feminine Products

Again, everyone does this differently. In most countries, standard pads and tampons are easy to find, so I wouldn’t worry too much. I have met a few female travelers who swear by the Diva Cup, so if you don’t want to worry about finding products in another country, it may be worth looking into.

10. Small Travel Makeup Bag

There’s a reason I put this last. I stopped wearing makeup almost a year ago and really, you don’t need any to travel. However, there are still times where it’s nice to dress up a bit to go out, so having a few of the essentials in your travel makeup bag can be beneficial. The only products I brought with me were:

TLC Foundation – I like this foundation because it’s oil-free, doesn’t clog pores, and has light coverage

Bobbi Brown Concealer – I love all things Bobbi Brown, and all of the skin products that they make feel light and moisturizing. This corrector is good for under eye and problem spots.

Bobbi Brown Blush – Same as above, the blush from Bobbi Brown shows up very light and looks natural. The colors look much more vibrant in the case, so don’t be afraid of choosing a bright shade!

Maybelline Waterproof Mascara – I’ve used this mascara for years, and it’s great even when swimming.

NYX Nude Eye Palette – This palette rocks because you can choose a shade as light or as dark as you like and play with the palette to create different looks. I use the darker shades as eye liner as well, rather than carrying a pencil.

Lip Gloss – If you’re going to bring lip coverage, choose a darker shade. The lip balm from the list above works as a nude gloss, so I keep a darker lip gloss for when I want to dress up to go out.

With these six items I’ve been able to look ready for night out, a job interview, and every day exploring. Unless you’re a luxury or beauty traveler, makeup really isn’t a priority, and outside of the U.S and the U.K., girls don’t wear much, if any makeup anyways!

That’s It!

Travel quickly teaches that you don’t need much to feel well. Again, every traveler packs differently, and the most important thing to bring is what makes you feel the most comfortable and confident. My hope is that for those lost as to what to pack, this list will help make things easier, while keeping you feeling clean and pampered on the road.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase any of the items from a link in this post, we get a small commission to help keep this blog running at no extra cost to you.

How Traveling As A Couple Changed Our Relationship

By Sara | August 17, 2016

It’s been almost a year since Greg and I traded our Silicon Valley apartment for two backpacks and a pair of one way tickets. We left everything we knew and began an adventure that we knew would change our lives, but had no idea how much. Over the last eight months I’ve learned more about Greg, and he about me, than we knew was ever possible.

After spending a year and a half of our relationship doing long-distance, we thought that we’d talked through everything we could possibly talk through. Boy, were we wrong. The only thing harder than sustaining a long distance relationship is sustaining a 24/7 relationship.

We travel together, live together, explore together, and now work together. As two strong, opinionated individuals, this has not been without its struggles. Our relationship has changed and evolved and continues to do so as we travel and adapt to new ideas and surroundings. For all the traveling couples out there, we’d like to share some tips to keep things going smooth(ish) on the road.

1. Know When to Be a Best Friend

All that glitters is not gold, and all parts of travel are not watching sunrises from mountaintops. Traveling has its hardships, and having a best friend who is there no matter what is often times more helpful and beneficial than having a romantic connection. Know when to be the best friend cheering each other on and making each other laugh, and when to bring the romantic spark out.

2. Find Time For Romance

At the end of the day, though traveling is great, the relationship has to take priority. If you’re determined that you’re traveling with your forever person, your relationship needs to come before everything else. Make time for date nights once in a while, and don’t forget about the little things throughout the day; they make the biggest differences.

traveling as a couple

3. Apologize Often

When spending every single day with any person, whether it be a significant other, family member, or friend, eventually you’re going to step on each others toes. Greg and I have both had our fair share of moments when we said some things we shouldn’t have, or picked an argument that was pointless. Always remember to apologize and forgive as quickly as possible while still being genuine so you can move on and enjoy the rest of your day. We’re only human after all!

4. Eat Often

If I had a dime for how many arguments were started because one of us was hungry, tired, hot, or sore from carrying our backpacks, I’d buy a really big cup of cocoa. It’s never a good idea to argue or have an important conversation when one party is not on their ‘A-game’, so carry snacks and try to have big conversations after a nice meal.

5. Establish a Piece of Home

Whether traveling as a couple, solo, or in a group, there are going to be times that are difficult. Everybody misses home or the idea of home at some point, so establishing a sense of home in some small way can make the biggest difference.

When Greg and I travel, I bring store bought coffee grounds and make a cup for both of us every day. This way, no matter where we are in the world, our mornings start the same. Greg’s sense of home comes from his over-ear headphones, which was his “can’t leave without” item during packing. Having a small item or daily routine helps keep a sense of home while traveling.

traveling as a couple

6. Ask Yourself the “Is It” Questions

When frustrations arise, it’s easy to say what’s on your mind without thinking about how it may come across to the other person. After spending so much time together, couples may become too comfortable and say things on accident that are hurtful. Recently, we started working on a new thought process that’s been going well so far. Before speaking, we ask ourselves, a) Is it kind? b) Is it necessary? c) Will it add value to our relationship/project/etc? If the answer to these questions is no, don’t say it.

7. Share Common Goals

Traveling with someone who has drastically different goals than you will almost never work. Unless you find a way for your schedules and goals for travel to align, be prepared for a bumpy road. Figure out what works best for both of you in terms of when you go out, what you enjoy doing, and when you have work and relax days. Once this is established, everything will move more smoothly.

traveling as a couple post

8. Find Time For Yourself

At the end of the day, everyone needs some alone time. Greg and I learned that he enjoys experiencing nightlife, while I’m more of a PJ’s and Netflix kind of girl. We balance this by having Greg go out with travelers and explore the evening scene in different countries while I get some time to relax and just ‘be’. Everyone we’ve met handles alone time differently but agrees that it’s a crucial part to traveling as a couple. Don’t be afraid to take small breaks from each other!

9. Laugh A Lot

So many absurd, frustrating, surprising, crazy, and just “out-there” moments have happened during our travels, and we quickly learned that the only thing to do is laugh about it. As soon as we learned to make fun of ourselves (and each other) when things went wrong, traveling became even more fun. Take a breath, get some perspective, and just laugh!

traveling as a couple

10. Make New Friends

Whenever we meet other people traveling as a couple, Greg and I throw a mini geek fest. Making friends on the road is one of the coolest parts of travel, because you get to have a first hand look and fresh perspective into someone else’s way of living.

For those traveling as a couple, meeting other couple travelers is even better because of how many things you have in common right off the bat. It also gives you both space to hang out with someone new on your own. Don’t be afraid to attend events, walking tours, or online groups to meet new people on the road.

11. Never Stop Trying

Greg is a wise man, and my favorite belief that he holds, and that I share, is that any relationship can succeed if both parties commit to keep trying. This means from day one, both people are doing everything they can to be the best partner they can be. Both parties go out of their way to make the other smile, and both people never, ever stop trying, even when they’re mad, sad, upset, or hurt.

Even through our toughest times, which we’ve certainly had, Greg and I always come back to this point and it’s a big part of what has kept us going the last 4+ years.

12. Remember Why You Started

At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to travel. There’s no blogger, traveler, YouTuber, or luxury vacationer who does it “better” than anyone else. Never forget that initial pull to see and experience the world, and how buying that first plane ticket was the best feeling in a long time. Remember why you decided to travel, and keep going until it feels right to come home.

Traveling as a couple is not easy. It tests relationships in ways I never thought possible and both parties need to be fully committed to making it work and embracing change. Traveling as a couple requires patience, forgiveness, and an understanding that travel changes everyone in different ways.

For those who can talk through the issues, forgive the mistakes, and make the most of the reality of life on the road, traveling together can change your relationship in so many positive ways and you’ll become a stronger couple than when you left home.

traveling as a couple post

**Photo Credit in this post goes to April Zelenka, who was so kind to meet up with us during her trip to Ireland to shoot these pictures at the Gap of Dunloe!**

12 Things to Do in Budapest

By Sara | August 11, 2016

While not originally on our list of places to visit, we traveled to Budapest to meet family and ended up staying an extra week. Budapest is a city packed with history and culture, and visitors could spend months here without discovering all of its gems. With a heavy World War 2 influence, fantastic food and nightlife scenes, and one of the prettiest skylines in Europe, Budapest is a great place to experience. Here’s our list of the top things to do in Budapest.

1. Gaze at the Hungarian Parliament Building

The Parliament Building in Budapest can be seen from almost everywhere, and is most prominent along the Danube River. It is one of Budapest’s oldest buildings and remains the tallest building in the city today. The incredible structure of the building is stunning to view from the outside, and visitors who desire a more in depth experience can purchase tickets to tour the premise.

Parliament Budapest

2. Soak in the Széchenyi Thermal Baths

One of the most relaxing things to do in Budapest is to visit a thermal bath house. Budapest sits atop of over 100 thermal springs, making it one of the best places to have this experience. There are many different types of baths to choose from, and each vary in atmosphere and variety of bath types. The Széchenyi Thermal Baths is the largest medicinal bathhouse in Europe, and is a great place to spend a few hours relaxing.

3. Sip Soup at Bors Gasztrobar

For those looking for a hole-in-the-wall establishment, Bors is the place to be. Located in the Jewish quarter among a number of great places to eat, Bors is unique on many levels. They specialize in soups and panini sandwiches, and have a huge variety to choose from. The guys working in the shop know what the best soups are and keep the atmosphere fun and fast paced.

bors budapest

4. Stuff Your Face at the Great Market Hall

Near the end of Budapest’s well known shopping street, Vaci utca, sits the Great Market Hall. Spread across three floors is a large variety of street food, clothes, souvenirs, and other goods. The ground floor holds all of the food stalls and is a great place for hungry travelers to walk around. With countless stalls of pastries, meats, spirits, and fruits, there’s a bit of something for everyone.

5. Drink a Latte at Madal Espresso and Brew Bar

Coffee lovers, get excited. Budapest has an exceptional coffee scene, and there are so many different cafe’s to visit that one could spend their entire trip tasting coffee. One of our favorites was the Madal Espresso and Brew Bar. With two locations in Budapest and a brilliantly classy cafe design, Madal is a great place to chat with a friend or work for a few hours. The latte’s look and taste amazing and the fresh croissant sandwiches are some of the best we’ve ever had.

madal budapest

6. Take Photos at Fisherman’s Bastion

On the Buda side of the city, Fisherman’s bastion is a white clad seven-tower structure that towers over almost everything else. The large terrace is one of the best spots to get views of the entire city. In the middle ages, Fisherman were tasked with guarding this section of Budapest, which is how it got its name. Today, the bastion is typically flooded with tourists checking it off their list of top things to do in Budapest.

7. Experience the Shoes on the Daube Bank Exhibit

Shoes on the Danube is one of the most vivid World War 2 memorials that we’ve seen. The memorial honors and remembers Jews who were made to stand at the edge of the Danube and were then shot into the water so their bodies would float away. The bank is lined with sculpted shoes and is a sobering and effective sight.

shoes on the danube budapest post

8. Eat Art at Gelarto Rosa

Gelato Rosa was a fun extra that we didn’t expect to find in Budapest. This ice cream parlor scoops their ice cream orders into edible flower petals. Visitors can choose to have two, three, or four layers of flower petals from a wide array of unique ice cream flavors. Located right across from Saint Stephen’s Basilica, this is a great place to pop into during a day of sight seeing.

9. Tour St. Stephen’s Basilica

Situated in one of the cities main squares is the roman catholic church, St. Stephen’s Basilica. Named after the first king of Hungary, this is the country’s most important church as well as a primary tourist destination. Entry to the Basilica is free.

st stephens basilica budapest

10. Meet a Local at the Chef Cafe

When looking for things to do in Budapest, one of the best ways to understand the city is to eat with a local. The Chef Cafe is a Hungarian family owned restaurant with top notch service. The owner creates an exclusive dining experience for all who visit and is incredibly knowledgeable about the cuisines and wine options. His family prepares the food and the meals are brought out in a beautiful presentation. We left Chef Cafe feeling very full and in high spirits based on the outstanding service provided.

11. Wander the Dohany Street Synagogue

Walking up to the Dohany Synagogue is an experience of its own, and visitors will need to tip their heads back to see the ornate gold capped domes marking the entrance way. Dohany is the largest synagogue in Europe, seating over 3,000 people. In 1998, the synagogue underwent a $5 million restoration project. The synagogue features a museum, temple, memorial, and cemetery.

synagogue budapest

12. Party at Szimpla Kert Ruin Pub

The old Jewish quarter is home to several ruin pubs, which are a big part of the nightlife scene in Budapest. This neighborhood was abandoned and left to decay after World War 2. A group of people had the idea to repurpose the abandoned buildings into a bar scene, and filled them with vintage furniture, graffiti, and drinks. One of the first ruin bars created was Szimpla Kert. It’s a great place to meet other travelers and enjoy an atmosphere unlike any other.

Budapest is a fantastically fun city with so much variety. This list provides an introduction to the different flavors that Budapest offers, but don’t be afraid to wander around and explore new places! What are your favorite things to do in Budapest? Comment below!