How I Packed My 5 Day Trip…Into a Backpack?

(Picture courtesy of Go-Today)

With the looming deadline of my Dublin trip (T-minus 2 days!) I figured it was about time for me to quit procrastinating on packing, and start getting my life together (ha).

Normally I am the over-packer, the person who fits two extra outfits into the suitcase because there’s room (and who knows what could happen!) and ends up buying so many souvenirs on the trip I am forced to sit on the suitcase just to yank the zippers closed.

This trip will be the first of it’s kind for many reasons: Not only is it my first time in Europe, but it’s also my first time staying in a hostel. Due to my paranoia of things getting stolen since I have no idea who the 5 other people in my room will be, I was focused this time on bringing the bare minimum of goods necessary to both not wear the same things everyday, and make it easy to lock up my luggage under the bed while I’m out exploring.

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While I was packing, I divided my contents into things that I cannot lose, and things that can be replaced. All of my important items are packed into my Vera Bradley Hipster-style crossbody (Which is a godsend of a bag to bring on vacations, and has an outside pocket that fits my passport for easy access while I’m in the airport) and my replaceable items are in my Jansport backpack that I normally carry across campus at school.

The items in my purse are as follows:

  • Essentials: Passport, wallet, phone charger, backup phone batteries
  • Airplane Necessities: Earbuds, snacks, pens
  • Necessities For Where I’m Headed: Umbrella, outlet converter plugs

Overall a fairly light list, but once I’m past security at the airport, I will be purchasing water, coffee, and a few additional snacks for breakfast/dinner.

Dublin can be compared to Seattle: always misty and rainy. The umbrella is self explanatory.

Since I’m only charging my phone where I’m headed, I don’t need an outlet voltage converter (since phones & their respective chargers operate on dual voltage), but if I was bringing a curling iron or such, I would need it. Remember, wall outlets are differently shaped across the world, so if you plan to travel outside of the U.S., you must buy the adapters. The set I own can be found here, a fairly cheap set manufactured by CONAIR, that I purchased at Target, but is also sold at Walmart.

The items in my backpack are as follows:

  • My RN Exam book (Since I will be taking the test in February and need to study!)
  • A pair of jeans
  • Underwear, socks, bra
  • 3 shirts, 2 camis
  • A small makeup bag with my bare-minimum of makeup and toiletries
  • A Ziploc bag with my liquids (for airport security)
  • A bag of snack food containing: 5 granola bars, 4 bags of fruit snacks, 2 snack-size bags of almonds, a snack-pack of shelf-stable salami, and some chocolate
  • An additional Ziploc bag
  • An additional drawstring backpack

This is where my packing and airplane outfit build off of each other; I’m gone for 5 days, but since I will also be wearing leggings, a cardigan, my jacket, and a scarf on the plane, I have enough items to make outfits without being seen re-wearing something a second time.

As you can see above, my clothing is packed into Ziploc bags, rolled up. This is both to keep my clothes from any rain or insects I might come in contact with, and to conserve space while keeping everything organized.

My “snack food” bag doubles as my midday meals and/or light breakfast while I’m gone, which is a big money saver. Although I do plan on experiencing as much of the culture as possible (I’m only 2 generations removed from Ireland!) spending at least $10 each meal starts to stack up over time- this comes out to at least $150, if not more!

My snacks will account for about 4 meals, saving about $40. This may seem small, but that’s $40 more I can spend on souvenirs and clothes!

Speaking of clothes, the extra Ziploc bag and drawstring bag are for my travel home. I anticipate myself bringing home a lot more than I came there with, so I want to be prepared with something to stash it all in! Dublin is one of the more fashionable cities in Europe, so I plan to bring some of the European fashion home with me!

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And there you have it! I’m finally one step closer to leaving! All that’s left is hammering out the itinerary, and boarding the planes. Maybe some Duolingo of Irish along the journey so I can remember more than just uisce, the word for water?

Buille faoi thuairim mé beidh orainn a fheiceáil!

-C

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Locations, Locations: Picking the Best Hotel Lodging

As an avid traveler of the U.S. (and soon to be Europe!), where you stay can ALWAYS end up making or breaking your trip, whether from a chain-owned hotel in South Beach, or a family-owned business in NYC. Even though you ideally don’t spend much time in the confines of your room, staying somewhere where you feel like you have to sleep with one eye open at night can be a little unnerving!

On the flip side, I am known as the person who finds hotels for a bargain; usually ones that are high quality AND under $100/night!

SO in this post, I’ll be sharing a few of my tips and tricks to shaving off some extra $$ you can use for entertainment instead!

**Throughout this post, I will be using example pictures from Pod 51 Hotel in NYC, a recent stay of mine in August of 2016. I would recommend this place for anyone looking for a budget price in a safer neighborhood of NYC! I also will be using an example from the South Beach Hotels group, which I also booked through in August of 2016!**

1. Be Obsessive!

This may be the tip that comes more naturally to some people than others. When it comes to travel, I love to leave room for spontaneity, but I ALSO like to be extremely thorough and structured with my planning. Truthfully, I probably spend an upwards of at least 4-5+ hours looking at hotels before I find one that I feel will be the perfect fit. Psychotic? Probably! But it hasn’t failed me yet!

It’s important to know the area in which you are trying to stay. Is it a safe neighborhood? Is it known for being expensive? Is it very touristy? Depending on your level of comfort and experience traveling, you have to find parameters that meet what works for YOU.

Since I do a lot of solo traveling, I tend to opt for spending a few extra dollars a night in exchange for having a little more piece of mind in a safer neighborhood; it’s always good to be cautious.

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Location is also a big factor; in NYC, I chose a more centralized location so it would be easy to get to many different destinations easily & in the same amount of time!

2. DO Use Sites like TripAdvisor and Expedia-but Avoid Booking Through Them!

This tip I had to learn through my travel-savvy mother. TripAdvisor and Expedia are EXTREMELY handy for finding hotels and hostels that are within your price range, while getting to read REAL reviews and see pictures of the building taken by people who have stayed there in the past. I prefer TripAdvisor, as you can view more content and it is much easier to navigate and compare deals.

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On the contrary, it is usually better off to book through the actual hotel site than these travel sites, even though it tends to cost a few bucks more. Why? Because when you book through the hotel, you are guaranteeing a room will be reserved for you. When you book through one of these 3rd party booking sites (Especially during peak travel times such as Spring Break), they have the ability to double-book rooms, meaning you risk the possibility of showing up to your hotel and having them turn you away because their hotel is already full.

If you are comfortable with running the (albeit slim) risk of this happening, by all means book through them!

3. Play With the Hotel Site to Unlock Deals, But Not too Many Times!

This is an easy tip that could take anywhere from a few seconds, to a couple of minutes of browsing. Many hotels have specific “deals” pages on their websites, while some have a deal that toggles once you go to exit out of the hotel page itself.

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My one precaution would be to try not to exit and re-enter the hotel site if at all possible, and/or go on the site as few times as possible prior to booking. All of the sites use cookies on your computer to track how much you’ve been on their site, and if they notice you’ve gone into the site more than a few times, they may start to raise their prices because they know they have you at least a little bit interested in what they have to offer.

4. Find Hotels With All-Inclusive-Type Deals

The picture above is a good example of this. South Beach Hotels Group is extremely good at offering lots of reduced price/free deals if you stay at their hotel. I took advantage of the free shuttle that ran between Miami Int’l Airport and the hotel I stayed at, a drive that easily could’ve cost $20 one-way in a taxi. Half of the hotels in the chain also offered “Free Happy Hour” between 6-8pm in the lobby’s bar, among morning yoga sessions, etc.

Most, if not all hotels do have small incentives like such for their guests, but they usually are hidden in the hotel’s site and you have to find it yourself. For someone like me who is [usually] not of the age to legally rent a car, I always look for hotels that offer free/reduced price trips to and from the airport I fly out of.

5. Know Your Budget Before You Even Begin to Look

Of all the tips and tricks, this one will end up being the most applicable. Your budget may depend on how much money in your bank account, but remember the hotel price will be affected by the location as well; For example, a hotel in NYC is going to cost a LOT more than a hotel around your hometown, simply because more people are booking hotels and traveling to that destination.

For my budget, I usually stick to the formula of $90 +/- $20 for hotels (hostels differ), meaning I expect to pay about $90/night for a hotel, but I would be okay spending $110/night. Anything less than $70/night is a bargain, but investigate why it’s a bargain. Are they that cheap and have relatively good reviews, or are they in an unsafe area/do they have poor reviews?

Sometimes, you do just end up striking gold and finding a really, really good deal on a great hotel. Pod 51 is a great example of this, as most stays hover around $80/night, but the hotel was extremely well kept and the shared bathrooms (yes shared, by about 6 rooms) were ALWAYS clean.

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Overall, the best advice I can give is to have a budget, stick to it, and take a lot of time to find the hotel that works for you. In the long run, it’s much better to feel safe about the choice you have made, than it is to cut corners on cost and end up somewhere dangerous!

¡Buena suerte!

-C