Back in the fall, I attended a local speed networking event for Entrepreneurs. While there, I met Nate, founder of Oyster World Radio & Travel Education. Oyster world Radio is an awesome podcast that interviews travelers about their experiences – whether it be an amazing adventure or someone who quit their job to travel, Oyster has found a fun way to teach culture around the globe.
While chatting, Nate asked me to be on his show to talk about my solo travels around the world. We recorded a podcast over the phone last year, and it finally launched this week! It turned out amazing – I talked about my trips, fears, and how traveling has changed me.
If you are at all on the fence about traveling, just getting into it, or already an avid traveler, this podcast is perfect to put on while driving to work or hanging out around the house (I listen to it while getting ready in the morning or driving to work!). It gives you a look into the minds & decision-making of people who travel – it’s really, really awesome… You will want to drop everything and plan a trip now!
You can find it on iTunes or Stitcher! If you listen, let me know what you think!
I have been asked by quite a few people how much my 10-day trip to Europe cost. I estimated the total to be around $3,000 total, including everything. However, I never really sat down to look at how much I REALLY spent – probably because I was too afraid to see the actual cost, and I know there are things I could have spent more wisely on! With it being my first trip to Europe, alone, I just wanted everything to be easy, so I kind of just handed over my credit card/took out cash whenever I needed something! The actual total ended up being $3,865. I know, I know, not cheap. However, I wasn’t super strict about my spending – almost half was on transportation (flight + train pass), and a LOT of which was spent on chocolate and beer! No regrets. This trip could have definitely been cheaper if I booked earlier than 2-3 months in advance. Anyways, below is the cost breakdown, including information on the credit card I used, and the timeline of booking my trip.
First things first: Credit card. This was definitely a year for spending money, for a couple of reasons:
1) I wanted to travel internationally
2) I wanted to cross a lot off my bucket list
3) I wanted to get my yoga teacher certification
With that being said, I got dinged with international fees when I was in Costa Rica last year & Belize earlier this year, so I needed a card that didn’t charge me fees every time I traveled out of the country. I researched a few cards, and decided to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Card. Since I’m not loyal to a specific airline, and I already bank with Chase, the Sapphire card seemed like the most logical card to get. Below are a few reasons why I chose this card:
- No foreign transaction fees when traveling internationally
- While there is a $95/year fee, the first year fee is waived
- If you spend $4,000 within the first three months of use, you get 50,000 bonus points – which, when booking any traveling through the chase website (super easy and amazing, btw), is $625 towards airfare or hotels. I booked an impromptu trip to Florida, my trip to NYC, AND my upcoming California flights for free with those points!
- $4,000 may seem like a lot to spend in 3 months, but I put everything on my credit card – bills, groceries, my trip to europe, and every single cost for my yoga teacher training. It’s definitely doable, especially if you add an authorized user to help you spend more money!
- Add an authorized user within the first 3 months, get another 5,000 points (I didn’t use this because, well, I am single and have no one else to use my credit card ;)). However, you could add a parent or a friend to help you earn points!
- 20% off travel when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- You book by logging into your chase account, then go into chase ultimate rewards and book there. The last 3 flights I booked through chase with my points was 20% less than if I had booked through an airline or travel site!
- As a side note – I had issues booking my last-minute flight to Florida back in October, so I called chase to book over the phone – they spent an hour on the phone with me, looking for the cheapest flight that fit my very limited schedule – seriously, the best customer service ever!
- If you are partial to a specific airline, you can even transfer your points to your frequent flyer travel programs! Ex: Transfer 1,000 points from your chase card to your southwest frequent flyer miles.(Participating programs: British Airways Executive Club, Korean Air SKYPASS, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®, United MileagePlus®, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hyatt Gold Passport®, IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards® and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®.)
This was the card that I used, so I am pretty partial to it. It all depends on what you are looking for in a credit card, what your travel frequency, etc is. So, I recommend looking at all your options and picking what works best for you. Nerd Wallet has a tool that you can use to find the most logical travel card for you based on monthly spend, credit score, fees, etc. Check out their comparison tool here.
Now – on to the more detailed part of the trip
Below is a breakdown by transportation, food, activities, accommodations, items bought for traveling, etc. I am going based off of credit card/debit card activity, as well as extra traveling items I purchased for the trip.
I also created a google doc beginning in June (I left the second week of September)to add misc information for my trip and to plan – I normally do this for any trip to a place I haven’t been before! It might seem a bit scatter-brained, but it was a great way to keep all of my information in one spot. I basically start out with a blank spreadsheet and add stuff as I go along – I think i edited this until the day I left! It took me a few weeks to actually create a solid schedule, and I estimated all of the costs, but that’s the fun of planning ;).You can check out what it looks like here!
I booked my flight less than 3 months before I left – so, my flights were definitely not the cheapest. I recommend booking sooner, if possible. I used google flights to find the cheapest flights based on my timeframe & where I wanted to fly into, then went through my Chase credit card rewards account to book the actual flights (it’s cheaper when booking with points!). Super easy, and all of my information is in one place.
Food: $111.07 (on credit card)
Misc (Food, Souveniers, etc): $862.38
Pre-Trip Purchases: $215.57
Total Cost of Trip: $3,865.80
You can find the actual spreadsheet here.
So that’s it! This is what goes on in my brain when traveling and planning my trips! Also, planning versus what actually happens is very different (in a good way!), so always be prepared for the unexpected 🙂
I hope this helps anyone planning a trip to Europe, Oktoberfest, or pretty much anywhere! There are a lot of traveler sites out there with much more information, ways to travel cheap, etc. I recommend taking a look at as many blogs as you can, and taking what you want from them. It’s your trip, so plan the way you want and do what you are comfortable doing! If you have any questions, shoot me an email or leave a comment below!
When I initially planned my Euro trip, I only planned on hitting Switzerland & Germany. Luckily, I heard about some mountain called Mont-Blanc and a cool glass box you could stand in that looked like you were hovering thousands of feet above a snow-covered mountain. I mean, if I am going to travel all the way Europe, I might as well get some cool pictures. Out of all of the places I traveled, I loved Chamonix almost as much as my time in Switzerland. The mountains were gorgeous, and the town was so little and perfect. Below is a recap of where I went and what I did!
7 am: Took city bus to central bus station with Air Bnb Host (He was afraid I was going to get lost again!)
8 am: Grabbed breakfast at Starbucks (really regret this as I should have gone to some local cafe and ate some delicious baked good, but Starbucks has WIFI! I was such a travel newb on day 2.)
8:30 am: Departed Bus Station in Geneva, Switzerland to Chamonix Mont-Blanc (a (ski) resort area near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy), located at the base of Mont-Blanc. Why Mont-Blanc? Because it is the highest summit in the Swiss Alps, that’s why.
So something happened on the ride to Chamonix that is going to seem pretty craz y – I met not one, not 2, but THREE people from Ohio, who all happened to be staying in Geneva and bought the same exact tour package to Chamonix on this exact same day. Completely unbelievable, but absolutely amazing. I ended up meeting up with them (1 couple on their honeymoon + another traveling for work) in Munich for Oktoberfest the week after and had an absolute BLAST. Below is a picture of us in front of the Alps doing the O-H-I-O sign – one of my favorite pics from the entire trip!
Anyways, upon arrival, we all split ways and made our way up Aiguille du Midi – it is a 3,777 meter tall mountain next to Mont-Blanc, and it took 2 cable cars + 1 elevator ride to get all the way to the top. and it.was.FREEZING.
Luckily I was smart enough to wear 2 long sleeved shirts + a sweatshirt, a scarf, and fleece leggings… even still, I could not feel my body for about half the day. But the view… the VIEW. 100% worth everything. Why is Aiguille du Midi the mountain to go up? Because the terraces on top have a 360° view of all the French, Swiss and Italian Alps, and a lift brings you to the summit terrace at 3,842m, where you will have a clear view of Mont Blanc (source). Also, this is where that cool glass box thing was, and I could not NOT go. I waited almost an hour to take the elevator to the top… and it was worth it. I mean, just LOOK at the view!!
Also – there were several people coming up and down the mountain – you can see them as small dots in the picture below – total Respect for these hikers!
Handstands were necessary, although it was super icy, cold, and hard to breathe that high up. but I managed!
And now for the glass box… It is called “Step into the Void” – a big glass box that hovers over the mountains, making anyone that steps into it look like they are floating 3,800 meters high over the mountain. Since the box is made of glass, you had to put special slippers on, and a very helpful employee would take your pictures.
After all of the excitement, I could barely move I was so frozen and was feeling a bit dizzy from the altitude. So, down the mountain and off to meet back up with the group for lunch at Hotel Gustavia – and it was amazing. A warm Beet Root soup & salad with ribs, au-gratin potatoes, and a fresh salad. Absolutely amazing! I really, really do not like beets, but I have already bought ingredients to try and re-create this soup.. Europe has forever changed my taste buds!
After lunch, the group took a trolley to Montenvers – Mer de Glace to see the “Grotte de glace” (Ice Cave). A quick description from the website: The tour of the “Grotte de glace” (Ice Cave) takes visitors into the very heart of the glacier. Re-sculpted every year, it describes the life of mountain people in the early 19th century.
I took a gondola lift down, then another 400 steps down to the caves. Yes, it took a while to get there, but it was worth it. I basically sprinted down the steps in order to explore and get back to the trolley on time. I was expecting a huge maze in the glacier, but when I finally got inside, it was just a small loop that took about 1 minute to see. However, it was amazing. There were lights in the glacier that turned colors, which made everything look that much cooler. Pictures can’t even begin to describe how awesome it was!
After exploring the cave, I tried to run up the 400+ steps back up… tried. More like running up stairs, then stopping to rest at every level. But, I made it back in time for the trolley to take everyone back to Chamonix. I ended up walking around the town a little bit & taking pictures – I still cannot get over how cute this place was. There was an older couple that had spent a week there and were making their way through France, hiking and visiting wineries. Basically, life goals. Amazing and romantic place to visit – I will be back! I added on to my bucket list to come back and run the 23km race someday… I loved the area THAT much!!
Around 5 pm, we all headed back on the bus to Geneva. I stopped at a local store and bought copious amounts of swiss chocolate for my family before heading back to my Air Bnb… yes, I carried about 10 lbs of chocolate with me through Europe. Totally worth it 😉
After arriving back at my Air Bnb, my hosts cooked me an authentic Italian meal of spaghetti. The absolute perfect way to end the day!
Overall – Chamonix, I love you. I will be back to visit, for a longer period of time, and to run 14+ miles up the mountain 🙂
And BTW – if anyone is visiting the area, I highly recommend taking a tour through Viator – no, I am not getting paid to promote this. I just had such a wonderful experience, and the guide, Neil, was absolutely hilarious. So don’t think buying pre-planned tours is touristy – it takes the stress out of planning every single day of your trip, and you end up meeting some really, really, awesome people who are also traveling!