What’s up! Are you looking for a Travelers adventure or are you the type to read travel blogs on end and scroll through the picturesque Instagram feeds of inspiring vagabonds, tagging their posts to your ‘Bucket List’ Collection archive like I do? This year, I took that leap. I gave up on the wishing, dreaming and vision boarding this year, partly because I just didn’t make the time to complete my board and mostly because all the things I envisioned started to manifest as soon as the new year began. Guys, I am here to tell you, skip that step and just do it already! Yea I know it’s easier said than done but because I love you all so much, I am going to give you some tips and tricks that I applied that got me all the way to Prague, Czech Republic.
While this opportunity was by total luck, the budgeting and preliminary steps for it was planned and the most important part. So do you want to know how I traveled through Europe for only $582? Keep reading.
First, I have to shout out my cousin Jazz a.k.a my Travel Buddy for sharing her awesome and scholarly news in the family group chat and asking if any of us would be down to accompany her on a week long Euro-trip free of lodging charges. (I told you it was by total luck).
1. Get a Passport
Okay for the preliminary steps of how this whole thing kicked into gear started by getting a passport of course. This little blue book can take up to 6 weeks and depending on where you are going, your passport may need to be in active status for at least 6 months! There are lots of locations to choose from when you apply for your passport like the post office and the tax collectors’ office. Make sure you have a lot of patience, 2 forms of ID- a birth certificate and a drivers license, $150 and more patience. You can set an appointment if you have enough time before your trip and this may save you from the long wait.
2. Get an International Data Plan
Check with your cell phone carrier and inquire about an international data plan. There are alternatives if you want to save a few bucks. You can get another sim card, download WhatsApp but you will need a reliable wifi connection everywhere you go for this option or just simply unplug. The international data plan came in very handy because not every place in Prague had wifi. Not to mention it was pretty spotty at times and irritating when I wanted to “facetime” my family the city and post on the gram.
Verizon offers the Travel Pass for just $10 a day. After turning your phone on roam it will send you a text noting when your time expires (24 hours). It draws from your existing data plan so keep in mind not use all of your data before your trip or you will be stuck connecting to the spotty wifi like all the other tourists wherever you go if there is a hotspot at all.
Which brings me to my next preliminary tip!
3. Get an adapter and/or converter.
What’s that you ask my fellow clueless first time vagabonds like myself. Here is a very simple run down. The outlets are very different abroad because of the voltage. Here in America the standard voltage is 120V whereas in most of Europe it is about 200V+. Unless you want your devices blowing up, you need a CONVERTER to CONVERT our voltage from 120V to a higher voltage. You then will need to hook that converter into an adapter that has prongs to fit the outlet of wherever you will be, hook your phone charger up to the contraption, plug it into the wall and voila you’ve got power! Luckily most devices have a built in converter so all you will need is the adapter piece which will cost you way less than having to purchase both the converter and the adapter. I’m a bit of a techie but my frugality supersedes all of that so I searched for some good ones and found a very inexpensive adapter on Amazon for less than $8! You’re welcome =)
4. Budget Budget Budget!
This part is probably my favorite. It truly speaks to that dorky accountant in me. I can literally crunch out calculations all day for no reason at all. But it served a purpose for me this time. Can you believe I traveled through Europe for a week with only $582? The timing for the trip was impeccable that I was able to use my tax refund for the airline ticket and my passport so all of the $582 was used towards spending money for the entire week. To be more precise I converted 454 USD for 125 Euros and 6,100 Czech Koruna prior to leaving to avoid any crazy currency exchange charges. I probably could have gotten away with exchanging less because I did go back with some cash but those made some nice souvenirs. But, here’s how you can make that money stretch. In the beginning, I used my Czech cash for whatever but as time went on I started to use my credit card for points! lol no but to save my cash for street vendors and some dope ass souvenirs. My credit card charges totaled $128. Combined with what I exchanged before I left, my entire trip came to $582! That is one hell of a deal. $582 may sound like a lot but I had no idea what to expect for my first time and TripAdvisor gave me some solid advice to budget at least 1,000CZK per day which was about accurate. Between the site seeing, eating and tipping 10% on top of every 600CZK meal, and the fact that they charge for water and a to-go box (lmao), it’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, you can always hang on to the money and get it converted back to USD when you return. I’d still like to challenge myself to travel for less than $582 next time.
Bank of America ships your currency the same day if ordered by 2pm. For a small shipping fee, it can take 3-7 days to arrive to your mailbox or to a Bank of America facility near you. Mine arrived in about 24 hours max. You can also notify your bank that you are abroad via the app in less than 2 minutes so that you can begin using your credit/debit card right away.
5. Register with the U.S. Embassy
This last step is optional, I didn’t do it but you can notify the U.S. Embassy of when you depart and arrive. Signing up for the STEP program allows you to stay abreast of any current issues happening around just incase some crazy shit goes down. Also it is helpful to download a translator app just so you’re not completely lost communicating in the native tongue. Plus its always respectful when you try to recognize another culture that is not your own. Learn a few catch phrases like “Thank you,” “Yes,” “No,” before you arrive because the second you’re off that plane, the culture shock is real.
Now that you’re ready to go, check back in next week for part two where I’ll list some exciting activities, food (mmm… European pastries) and the overly dope air bnb that we called home for the week right in Old Town.