With airlines constantly adjusting their compact carry-on size requirements and implementing higher fees for checked luggage, travelers have been forced to adjust and pack smarter.
Many U.S. airlines are following in the footsteps of ultra-low budget carriers like WOW and Spirit, introducing free “basic economy” fares that charge extra for carry-on bags. As a result, the most budget-conscious travelers have started taking packing light a step further and have managed to travel using only lightweight under seat luggage on their ultra-budget flights.
Even if not flying on a basic fare, many people have started avoiding checking luggage together through the combination of a personal item and a carry-on bag or travel backpack. Others have gotten tired of the Hunger Games-esque Battle Royale for overhead bin space every time that ensues every time they board a plane and now prefer to just pack carry on luggage that fits under the seat.
Whether you’re looking to avoid baggage fees or you’re just trying to make it home for the holidays without playing the terrifying game of dibs that is trying to nab space in a crowded overhead compartment, I’ve picked the best underseat luggage options for light-packing, savvy travelers who are tired of taking s(@* from airlines.
One important note on the dimensions of underseatcarry on luggage: every airline has their own rules about what constitutes a “personal item” and what you can bring on an economy or basic economy fare. Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to the question “how big is the space under an airplane seat” (that would be too easy, apparently) therefore the best place to start is by checking with the airline itself.
While I’ve done my best to pick only bags that fit under airplane seats, it may not necessarily pass the requirements of the most intensely strict airlines (WOW and Spirit are notoriously more strict than other airlines). Compare the specs of the bag with what your airline allows before deciding on what to buy, as every airline’s under seat size is different.
Winner: Samsonite Spinner Underseater with USB Port
The sleekest and most ergonomic of all the luggage on the list, this is the best under seat bag for the aesthetics-focused traveler who wants to travel comfortably and stylishly. Their colors are really rich and beautiful, especially the Majolica Blue, so if design and aesthetics are important to you, I think this is one of the nicest-looking options.
Another awesome perk is that it has a USB port… however, it doesn’t come with the battery, so you will have to buy an external battery pack such as this Lumina charger to actually take advantage of that functionality.
One of my favorite things about this bag, though, is that it is actually a spinner underseat carry on with four wheels! That means this bag can actually glide ahead of you or alongside you and you’ll feel like a supercool airport ninja while you stride through the airport at it, laughing at all the folish mortals with two-wheel bags (or is that just how I felt when I finally got a four-wheel spinner?)
Another plus is that the maximum extended height on the 3-height adjustable handle is designed to be longer for taller travelers, which is sometimes missing on other small underseat carry ons. Other perks include exterior side pockets perfect for storing your important documents within an easy reach, and the front zipper also has some additional slots for credit cards and change if you don’t want to carry another bag.
Finally, this is one of the few bags on this list that has both a highly organized interior as well as a separate laptop pocket. It seemed that most lightweight underseat luggage out there offered one or the other, but not both: Samsonite definitely fixed that with this bag, which is why I’m naming it the best underseat carry on luggage choice.
One point to keep in mind is that Samsonite has a 10 year warranty period, so if anything malfunctions with this bag, you can rest assured that you’ll get your money back.
However, there are a few negatives to note. For one, while this is one of the few rolling laptop bags that fit under your seat, the laptop compartment is still rather small. Some people with a 15″ laptop have reported having trouble getting their computers to fit. If you have a Macbook Air or similar smaller laptop or tablet, you will be fine.
A big negative is that this bag won’t necessarily fit on every single airline – one reviewer noted that it didn’t pass Spirit Airlines’ new standards and they were forced to check it for $65 — yeow. It’s also one of the pricier options on this list due to its extra features (4 spinning wheels, USB port) so if you are on a tight budget this may not be your bag.
If you are buying a wheeled underseat bag to avoid baggage fees, be sure to do your research on the specific airline that you are flying and their size limits, as you may not be able to do so with this bag. Unfortunately, airlines are constantly changing their requirements, and each airline’s dimensions are different from the next, so there is no one universal best under seat bag.
Best for: tall travelers, aesthetics-focused travelers, techie travelers, business travelers
Worst for: some budget airlines (Spirit) as it won’t fit their tightened restrictions on under seat bags
If you’re looking for the best under seat carry on luggage with hardside construction, the Delsey Cruise Lite Hardside is perfect. This underseater bag has an extending handle and smooth double-spinner inline wheels, which makes it easy to transport — perfect for traveling through the airport quickly to make your connection without having to carry a heavy bag with you.
This two-wheel rolling underseat carry on bag is specifically designed to fit under an airplane seat on anything from 2 x 2 configuration regional jets to the traditional 3 x 3 jets. It comes in three colors so it has some opportunities for personalization if that kind of thing is important to you!
The great thing about this underseat bag is that despite its small size, it offers some decent organizational features, with the front pocket and the two-side 90-10 construction. The front pocket is designed to fit laptops up to 14 inches in the widest dimension, so it’s well-suited for business travelers as the hard side ensures your important electronics will stay safe during the flight.
Inside, you’ll find a lined interior with tie-down straps that keep your clothes separate from your other odds and ends in your bag, keeping them in place and preventing wrinkling. This is another feature that makes it one of the better underseat bags for business travelers.
Made of 100% polycarbonate, which is impact-resistant and scratch-resistant without adding too much weight, this bag is in it for the long haul (pun definitely intended – I can’t help myself).
A few downsides worth mentioning: it has two wheels, not four, so you will have to drag it behind you rather than having the ability to push it in front of you or to your side, like you would with a four-wheel spinner. However, that’s one of the sacrifices you usually will have to make with even the best under the seat luggage choices – I was only able to find one (the Samsonite) with four wheels.
Another feature this bag is lacking is an organizer insert in the larger component, as all it has are the elastic straps that hold your clothing in place. More pockets would be welcome, or you could supplement it with travel organizers like an electronics organizer or toiletry hanging case.
It also doesn’t have a trolley strap, so that if you were trying to travel with this in additional to another suitcase, you would have to carry both. However, if you are looking for a hardside bag that can work as your only piece of rolling underseat luggage, this is a great option.
Best for: business travelers, weekend trips
Worst for: travelers looking for lots of organization, longer trips
Made of a combination of polyester and nylon, this Samsonite wheeled underseater bag offers the flexibility of soft-shell luggage with the durability of a hard-side suitcase.
With superior pockets, organizers, and compartments to any other underseater out there, this is clearly the best under seat roller bag option for maximizing space and neatness. The coolest thing about this underseat bag in particular is that one of the zippered compartments can be unsnapped from the rest of the luggage. Then, it can be hung in a closet or on the back of the door, which is pretty freaking awesome news for girly girls like me who travel with a metric #(*ton of toiletries.
Some other positives are that the wheels glide easily and if you have a larger suitcase that you are bringing as well, it fits on top using the trolley sleeve, giving you a free hand. Reviewers have said this bag fits even on budget airlines like Spirit, so it’s wonderful to use as your only bag as well if you are traveling light and want to avoid baggage fees entirely.
For a bag of its size, there is a good amount of interior organization, including WetPak lined pockets for toiletries and mesh pockets for loose items. Still, packing cubes would be ideal for maximizing your packing abilities in the main internal packing compartment. Using packing cubes plus picking lightweight clothing materials means that you can fit up to a week’s worth of clothes as well as travel-sized toiletries and more in this sleek underseat bag!
However, there is no separate laptop compartment, which is a downside for many travelers. For me, I use a simple neoprene laptop sleeve like this one, so it is not a dealbreaker, but others may prefer a separate laptop compartment, especially if they are traveling with a lot of liquid toiletries.
Another downside is that this is probably not the best under seat luggage option for tall people, as the bag is quite small and the handle height doesn’t extend that far. However, it does have handles, which means you can easily lift it up to carry it if you don’t want to lug it behind you.
Also, some people have complained about the fabric fraying, as even the sturdiest nylon can’t compete with polycarbonate that you’ll find in hard-side luggage. It does come with the standard Samsonite 10-year warranty against defects, though, so you can rest easy knowing that your bag will last or be replaced. Additionally, a benefit of the soft-side nylon is that you have a little more flexibility in making it fit in a tight spot versus hard-side luggage. One final con is that it’s also slightly on the heavy side, weighing in at over 6 pounds, mostly due to the organizational features.
Best for: female travelers with lots of toiletries, longer trips, highly organized people
Another highly organized bag better for longer trips, this bag from Travelon is thoughtfully designed like you’d expect from one of the leaders in the travel accessory industry. While generally Travelon bags have a lot of security features, this one is more stripped-down in order to maximize room in the underseat bag.
The bag has a large main compartment which you can maximize using packing cubes and the elasticized pockets, as well as a front organizer compartment that’s part of the main compartment. There’s also a separate zippered front pocket. The front pockets are well-organized and a great place to put things you need quick access to like plane tickets, identification, chapstick and toiletries, etc. There’s also a handy side pocket for a water bottle, a touch that I always appreciate but is often missing from underseat luggage.
In case you need to pack a little more than expected, there is a large “back-up bag” that takes up very little room but is rather roomy when it needs to be. You can easily strap the back-up bag to the main wheeled mini suitcase to make it easier to travel through the airport with both bags.
There is also a strap on the main mini suitcase, so that you could strap that to a larger, check-in size wheeled suitcase as well, which is really handy if you plan on checking a large bag but just want an underseat bag for the plane.
Note though that on airlines which require you to only have one bag or pay baggage fees, like Spirit, this will likely not work as they would be considered two separate bags.
If you pack smartly with lightweight materials, you could use this as your primary bag for a trip of up to one week, though you’d be more comfortable using it for shorter trips. Packing cubes would definitely come in handy if you are traveling for more than a few days with this bag, enabling you to compress. Hint: get the smaller packing cubes so you can better Tetris-cram them into your luggage.
One great thing about the design is that the sloped top makes the main compartment very accessible when placed under the seat, so you can get out what you need without too much trouble.
However, there is no separate laptop compartment, and the handlebars inside the bag are not padded, meaning that it could potentially scrape against a tablet or laptop if not contained in a protective neoprene sleeve like this one. This is one major con for me that keeps me from being able to name it as the best under seat rolling carry on.
Also, the add-on bag seems like a nice idea, but since the whole point of the underseat bag is to minimize what you pack and avoid baggage fees, it just feels unnecessary. Additionally, I’m not a huge fan of the quilted look, but others may enjoy it.
Best for: traveling with another large suitcase, highly organized travelers, use with packing cubes
So far, all the bags on this list have been wheeled suitcases, but perhaps you want something a little different, such as a duffel bag that you can carry through the airport. While not the most ergonomic option for long term travel, if you just want a simple bag that was specifically designed to fit personal item restrictions on American budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier, this may be a great choice.
The duffel bag has a trolley strap on the back, so that you can conveniently slide it down the handles of your larger suitcase if you are traveling with multiple pieces of luggage. This is a great perk if you have a main carry-on size spinner suitcase and want to also have an underseat bag without needing to use two hands to lug both around.
The bag has a dual zip design and mini padlock so you can lock it together for extra security if needed. You can adjust the strap so that it is either a. shoulder strap like a traditional duffel or you can use the top tug handles, or place it on another piece of luggage so that you don’t have to carry it at all.
It’s very lightweight so if weight is an issue this bag will come to your rescue at only 1 pound. It meets the strictest size requirements so if you are traveling on an underseat luggage only ultra-low cost ticket, this bag should be sufficient, so long as you don’t pack it completely bursting full.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this is the cheapest option!
It has some fun colors and patterns as well if you are looking for a little bit of personality and flash to your luggage and don’t want just another boring old black suitcase.
One big flaw in the bag is that it is not at all organized or protected: it is literally just one big open space, no padding or protection for your belongings. As a result, it’s not a good bag if you are traveling with anything that could be damaged easily, like a laptop or camera.
It’s best for clothes (add packing cubes to make up for the lack of organizational features) if you are really trying to maximize your clothing options. But other than that, it has pretty minimal features, especially when compared to other underseat bags on the list.
Reviewers have had trouble with the straps breaking and zippers coming undone, so the cheapness definitely can work against you. If you are looking for a long-term bag, this isn’t it. However, if you not a frequent traveler and are just looking for a cheap one-time solution to a problem, this should likely be the best underseat carry on bag for you.
Best for: people who want a no-nonsense bag that will meet all airline requirements, ultra budget travelers, minimal use
Worst for: people who need organizational features, people traveling with electronics, frequent travelers
If the idea of a duffel bag is appealing but you want something better constructed, more beautiful and more durable than the 5Cities duffel above, this may be the best underseat bag for you.
Made of genuine buffalo hide leather, it’s not a cheap option, but that’s because this bag is designed to last through the demands of air travel. The best part of leather is that it takes a beating quite well, getting softer and suppler with each use and gaining a beautiful wear over time, whereas other materials such as nylon end up looking ratty and worn over time.
The leather is handcrafted from buffalo hide by Indian artisans in accordance with Fair Trade practices. Buffalo hide produces a high quality thick leather then gets softer over time yet is much cheaper than other full-grain leather products. The bag also has break-resistant YKK zippers and a thick cloth lining to protect your clothes and valuables.
Whereas most duffel bags lack on the organizational front, this one has packing efficiency at the forefront of thinking, with 2 exterior zipping pockets, 1 interior zipper pocket, 4 card slots, 2 pen loops, and a mobile pocket. There is no dedicated laptop pocket, but it should fit a laptop of up to 15″.
A few negative things to consider: the bag isn’t the most ergonomic, so if you get shoulder pain from having weight distributed unevenly, this is not a good fit for you. If that’s a concern, you will be better off with one of the wheeled underseat bags mentioned above.
It has some organizational features like zippered pockets and card holders, but you would probably want to supplement it with packing cubes or other travel organizers if using this as your main bag over a long period of time.
Finally, many people avoid leather for environmental or ethical purposes. While this bag is made from buffalo hide from animals who are used for food and is therefore made with sustainable and traditional leather-making practices in mind, I understand that many people find leather to be a no-go.
Best for: Aesthetically-minded travelers, frequent travelers, male and female travelers with a timeless sense of style, people who want to support Fair Trade practices
Worst for: Vegans and people who avoid leather, budget travelers, people with back or shoulder issues who need a rolling bag that fits under an airplane seat
Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, I’ve found that I often spend less when I travel than when I spend a month at home in the US.
When thinking of the world’s cheapest countries to travel to, destinations in Southeast Asia probably immediately come to mind first. While that’s a great place to start, I wanted to go a step further and create a definitive list of the cheapest countries to travel beyond the usual spots.
To get the very best and most complete list possible, I asked travel bloggers to help me come up with some of the cheapest countries to visit in the world.
The answers I got span five continents and a multitude of regions, topographies, and cultures. And as commenters have noted — I still have yet to scratch the surface of some other amazingly affordable countries. So before you go saying you can’t afford to travel, take a look through this post and have another think.
Pro Tip: No matter what your budget, it’s crucial that you travel with travel insurance. World Nomads offers affordable plans and it’s the only company I personally use. Get your free quote here.
It’s funny; even though I considered myself a master of budget travel, I learned a lot while compiling this list. Some countries I thought were expensive – like Russia and Chile – ended up surprising me with their affordability and sneaking onto this list of cheapest countries to travel to.
With a strict backpacking budget of $30 per day, or $900 a month (excluding flights, visas if necessary, gear, and travel insurance), I collected the best destinations to travel on a budget. These 40 top travel bloggers rose to the challenge. Get ready for some serious budget-friendly wanderlust!
Travel in Thailand can be super cheap or you can even get a 5 star hotels for under $100. If you prefer to spend less and travel longer, then Thailand is definitely one of the cheapest countries to visit.
You can easily find a really nice hostel in Bangkok for $10 a night like Lub’d, my favorite hostel, or even much cheaper for a more basic hostel. If you are looking to go to the beaches you’ll realize fast accommodation can be pricey BUT did you know some islands have camping?
On Koh Adang you can rent a tent complete with bedding for 2 people for 200 baht a day — that’s less than $3 a person a night AND it’s even cheaper if you have your own tent at 30 baht (0.85 cents). The only accommodation on the island is in the National Park which offers a few chalets for 600 baht ($16.5) or camping.
Here’s a breakdown of traveling to Koh Adang, Thailand: $3 a night camping in a 2 person tent, $1 rent snorkel gear, $1.50 3 liters of water bought at restaurant on the island, $5.50 round trip long tail boat from Koh Lipe island, $8 for three meals at the restaurant on the island, and $5-10 snacks and beers bought at 7/11.
You could spend as little as $10 a day exploring Koh Adang. There are several waterfalls to hike, beaches with amazing snorkeling, and epic viewpoints. You could even spend less than $30 and stay in the really nice chalets on the island.
There aren’t many other islands in Thailand where there are very few tourists and you can basically have the beach to yourself!
Myanmar still falls under Southeast Asia travel budgets, but just tips the daily average price slightly while it still adjusts to a tourism level on par with its neighbors. But not by much – and by that I mean $5-$10 more per day, depending on if you are sharing a room and what activities you choose.
Myanmar costs on average of $35 per day, though it can be done for less, including food, drink and accommodation. Buses are between $10-$15, which is your only extra expense.
This is adaptable according to your type of travel. I shared rooms with fellow solo female travelers I met on buses, or other travelers in a small group.
If solo, your main cost will be on accommodation, where a single room can cost around $25+ per night when you can’t find a $10 dorm. You can choose to eat street food or head to local eateries, rather than dine in bigger restaurants. Nightlife is limited which lowers spend on alcohol.
However, most highlights of travel here are free or very cheap – Myanmar is one of the cheapest countries to visit in the world.
My top two budget activities? Riding the Yangon circle line train – a commuter route through the countryside, which for a few hours will count as the best $1 you’ve ever spent. And crossing the Goteik Viaduct – the highest railway bridge in Myanmar you ride from Hsipaw to Pyin Oo Lwin – is a hell-raising ride for $3.
Laos is definitely not one of the most popular destinations in Southeast Asia. This is the only country in the region without beaches, and hence tourists prefer to visit the neighboring countries.
Nevertheless, partly due to the lack of tourist hordes, Laos is a very authentic destination with beautiful landscape, inspiring culture and very friendly people.
In the North of Laos you can explore the dense rainforest and visit several communities with different ethnic groups. In Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Laos, you can admire the mixture of French colonial architecture and ancient Buddhist temples.
Vientiane is surely the calmest capital of the region, where you can visit the national monument of the country. In the South you can get lost between coffee plantations and picture perfect waterfalls in the Bolaven Plateau, and then take a rest on one of the 4000 islands on the River Mekong.
In Laos we spent as little as $20 per person per day. We spent around $7 on food, $6 on transport and $8 on average for double rooms ($4 per person), and the rest on other stuff. Laos is one of the cheapest destinations in the world, perfect for backpackers on a tight budget.
Besides being one of the most beautiful, captivating, and cultural countries in all of Southeast Asia, Vietnam is also one of the cheapest! Even without checking your budget every day it’s easy to live on less than $30 a day!
It is completely normal to find private, ensuite rooms in modern hotels for around $10 a night, even in the major destinations of Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Hanoi.
A typical meal can cost anywhere from $0.50 to $2, and in some places we were even buying banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) for as little as $0.20! A bia hoi (draft beer) is about $0.10-0.20 on the streets of Hanoi, and transport ranges from $0.25 for public transport up to $15 for overnight tourist buses.
One of the most popular ways to travel in Vietnam is by motorbike, and this can bring your costs down even lower. Alesha and I were living on about $10 a day each with our own transport, as fuel was so cheap and we could avoid getting taxis and buses everywhere.
You can buy a motorbike in Vietnam for about $250, and sell it for the same price when you are finished with it. This is also the absolute best way to travel Southeast Asia.
Some activities can be quite expensive, such as Halong Bay cruises, or trekking to Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world ($3,000 USD!), but in general Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries to travel to in the world!
To be honest, I thought China was going to be much more expensive than it actually was. We travelled around the country for one month in 2014 and our budget was an average of $30 per day.
Our trip started in Inner Mongolia, and then we moved on to Datong, Pingyao, Xi’an, Shanghai, Suzhou and Beijing, where we spent the final week visiting friends. We loved the Chinese capital – there are so many unusual places to see in Beijing that we never got bored!
We were able to keep our budget quite low for three reasons – accommodation was free for most of our trip because we stayed with friends or Couchsurfed (highly recommended!), we always travelled by train or bus and ate street food most days.
However, there are many hostels in China – accommodation ranges between $8-10 for a dorm and around $20 for a double away from the main cities. Simple street food like noodles or dumplings can be had for as cheap as $1, or even less, while a sit-down dinner would probably be around $5-10 in a simple restaurant.
Overnight buses and trains were also a huge help to keep our budget down, as they were usually comfortable. On the other hand, entrance tickets are quite expensive, usually around $15 or so – so be careful!
TIP: Transit can be expensive, so minimize stops to save when planning your China itinerary!
Peninsula Malaysia is often overlooked as a destination for long term backpackers in Southeast Asia.
Malaysia may not quite be as cheap as ‘the big four’, but still definitely possible to travel well under $30/day. The majority of hostels range from 20 – 30 RM ($5 – 7). The quality of these will range from city to city, but the popular tourist destinations will have something for your comfort.
The food, wow! Malaysia is known for its food scene with a heavy influence of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures ensuring you can try new dishes for weeks. Street food can be found for $1 – 2, and meals at local restaurants will go for $1 – 4. Each city has its own specialties to enjoy.
Getting around Malaysia is best done by the affordable buses that can connect you to everywhere on the Peninsula. Prices vary; for example, Ipoh to Penang (4 hours) is ~$6.
Alcohol is where the trickiest part of backpacking in Malaysia for less than $30/day comes into play. As a (mainly) Muslim country, alcohol is highly taxed, especially in bars and restaurants.
There are a couple of exceptions. Langkawi is duty free and in Penang, look to head to the shop ‘Cheapest Beer In Penang’ where you can get three cans of Singha for $3 and meet new friends in front of the shop.
Due to the vast size of the subcontinent, you could spend months there and still feel like you’ve not scratched the surface. Plus, you’ll probably find you’ve not skimmed much off your bank balance, either.
To experience the laidback, tropical vibes of India, head South to Kerala. Here you can hike for miles through tea fields, cruise the iconic backwaters and spot wildlife at one of the many vast, unspoiled national parks.
As a backpacker, you can live comfortably on a budget of between 1,000 INR and 1,500 INR ($15 to $22). Double rooms can be found in local guesthouses for as little as 300 INR ($4).
Dorm rooms in hostels are usually around 500 INR ($7.50), as this is a relatively new concept in India. However, the facilities are usually outstanding with air con, breakfast and luxurious hot showers included in the price
One of the best things about traveling in India is the food. Expect to pay around 100 INR ($1.50) for a “veg thali”- an Indian set meal consisting of rice, several curries, yoghurt and flatbreads. You’ll never go hungry with such amazing food this cheap!
Cambodia must be one of the cheapest places I have ever visited.
Siem Reap, despite being the ultimate tourist destination in the country due to its proximity to the complex of Angkor Wat, is very budget friendly.
A boutique hotel is as cheap as $15 USD per night, and a meal in an exclusive restaurant costs no more than $10.
But it is Battambang, which is a bit less explored, that is truly budget friendly. During my time there, I paid $3 for a bed in a 6 beds mixed dorm – and I even had air conditioning in the room. I added around $2 for breakfast, and $4 for a full meal.
When I took the Bamboo Train I paid $5 – I waited for someone I could share the train with; and a full day tour around the city and to the nearby villages and archeological sites costed me no more than $15.
Depending on one’s expectations and style of travel, the average daily costs for a backpacker are between $10 and $30 per day. That’s what I call being budget friendly!
Taiwan might get confused with a popular Southeast Asian country by many, but it is more similar to Japan in many ways.
Taiwan is one of the world’s most densely populated countries, but its high mountains and lush valleys are practically unknown to many that haven’t visited.
Southeast Asia is easier to travel on a $30/day budget, but here are three ways to explore Taiwan’s lush valleys and incredible mountains relatively inexpensively.
The easiest option is to use mass transit from the major cities to access incredibly lush places that unbelievably exist near the big city.
You’ll pay on average $10 USD per night for a nice hostel and $15-20 per night for the more stylish hostels. A meal will cost from $2-5, and transit will run you about $2-5 per day for MRT/bus fares. Luckily, most hikes and national parks are free.
Here are some ideas for great day trips: Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail and Shifen Waterfall (stay in Taipei or Ruifeng/Jiufen), Cising Mountain in Yangmingshan National Park (stay in Taipei), Guguan’s Seven Heroes and Hudie Waterfall (stay in Taichung), Taroko Gorge National Park (stay in Hualien), Wufengci and Yuemeikang Waterfalls (stay in Yilan or Taipei), Yunsen Waterfall (stay in Taipei).
There are two other great options for exploring Taiwan on a budget. The more adventurous (with international driver’s licenses) can rent scooters and others can get mountain permits and backpack to the numerous 3,000 meter peaks.
My favorites: Hehuanshan – Shimenggu – Maolin – Taiwan’s East Coast – Taiwan’s many islands – Yushan – Xueshan – Wuling Sixiu – Dabajianshan – Beidawushan – Jiaming Lake
The Philippines are one of the cheapest countries to visit, and it’s definitely affordable on $30 USD a day.
A dorm bed usually costs under $10, a simple roadside meal will only be a few dollars and as long as you don’t fly too much, or arrange your flights well in advance, transport won’t break the bank either. A 2-hour ferry booked on the day of travel will usually cost less than $10.
The Philippines are a perfect place to treat yourself – we paid less than $30 for a stunning beachside bungalow on Siquijor Island!
Even adventure activities are quite affordable – a dive can be as cheap as $25! To make matters even better, the stunning nature, beaches and sunsets of the Philippines are free for everyone to enjoy.
How does cheap transport, endless street food, and plentiful cheap sleeps (less than $7 a night) sound?
How about all of that, plus a country filled with people so excited to see you, you won’t have to pay for anything anyway?
Easily traveled for less than $15 a day, backpacking in Pakistan is a dream. It’s an offbeat country filled with the friendliest people you’ll ever meet in your travels. The chance you’ll meet someone wanting to host you for free— and show you around and pay for everything— is 110%.
Beyond being a cheap travel destination, Pakistan has something for everyone.
Whether you want to camp in the presence of the tallest mountains in the world, have entire Mughal-era wonders to yourself, or drown yourself in spicy delectables day in and day out for less than $3 per day, Pakistan is sure to be worth your while.
Armenia isn’t usually an instant hit with travelers, but I fell in love with Armenia at first sight.
Perhaps because of my propensity for unconventional places or my interest for places with a tragic past. Regardless, Armenia won my heart despite the short amount of time I spent there.
In comparison to its Caucasian neighbors, Armenia is truly unique in its culture and history. The country has its own alphabets and language family, own ethnicity, and cultural identity.
At times it feels like Asia and at times it’s very much European. The charming blend of East and West is very evident in this intriguing country. What’s more, it’s cheap and safe to travel, and easily accessible from most parts of Europe.
Some expected costs are as follows. The cost of hotel/hostel starts from $15 USD per night. An average meal costs $5 in a simple diner. A marshrutka, or mini bus, ride in the city is less than $1, and a day tour is around $15.
Oman is packed full of incredible nature. You can wake up in the morning on a beach, watching turtles laying their eggs, and by sunrise be walking through a desert surrounded by camels.
Hospitality is a big deal here, so expect to be invited, fed, and spoilt by any locals you make a connection with. Whilst most people think Oman is not doable on a budget, and with traditional accommodation and tours it wouldn’t be, there are a few ways to keep your costs low.
Wild camping is possible in most of the country, whether you are in the desert, on a beach, or high upon a mountain range – grab your tent and sleeping bag and you get nature’s best bedrooms for free.
Most attractions also cost nada, from beautiful wadis of crystal clear water, incredible beaches, desert treks, or exploring magnificent mosques; as of yet, tourism hasn’t attached a price.
Your biggest expense will be a car, 2WD start around $25 a day and 4WD $60 – A 4WD is essential if you plan on driving deep into the desert or true off roading. For those less adventurous a 2WD will suffice.
So, grab a few mates to split the costs, stock up on affordable food at a supermarket or enjoy cafe meals for a few bucks, then you can easily do Oman for under $30 a day, and trust me, it will be a trip like no other!
Bangladesh is not everyone’s first choice. It’s dangerous there, right? Women shouldn’t go there, right?
Well, I backpacked Bangladesh for a month straight, met other women who were doing it too, and if you’re looking for cheap, you’re going to the right place!
This is one of the poorest countries in the world but I cannot stress enough how kind and generous the locals are to make up for it. Their generosity is endless.
There are so many reasons to come here but the most famous are that Bangladesh has the largest mangrove forest in the world and the longest beach in the world. Cool huh?
To whet your appetite, literally, Bangladesh has some of the most amazing food I’ve ever tasted. Their curries are just so goddamn delectable and varied, starting from just $1 USD in a local restaurant.
Don’t even get me started on the tea! For just 7 cents you can have the most glorious milky sugary cup of chai ever. Watch out… you will get addicted to it.
Hostels/hotels can be as cheap as $4.50 USD for the night and taking a bus from one end of the country to the other (admittedly dangerous in terms of crashes, but the best way to mix with the locals) costs as little as $1 USD.
Unless you’re staying in the crème de la crème of hotels, spending $30 a day is going to be very difficult!
The biggest expense in Russia is the visa. Once you are in, it is very affordable to get around, eat, and enjoy the sights.
I have only spent time in Moscow and St. Petersburg but can only assume that the other parts are even cheaper.
Dorm room accommodation starts from $5 USD and is of a decent standard. Couchsurfing is also active and accommodating in Russia.
The Moscow metro is a tourist attraction in itself as the stations look more like museums and a ride will cost you just 50 cents for as long as you like.
There are also great free walking tours in both cities which will allow you to orientate yourself and see some of the major sights. We loved the Space Museum in Moscow and then wandering around the parks surrounding it which are filled with impressive statues and buildings.
Food in Russia varies and, despite the large scale of just about everything else in this country, portions can be small.
We applied the rules of budget travel (eat away from main attractions, check the prices before going in, ask locals for recommendations) and ate decent food for around $3-5 USD per meal.
Russia’s main cities are incredibly beautiful and impressive and can easily be enjoyed for under $30 USD a day.
Mexico is the ultimate destination for traveling cheap! And it has everything! Mountains, waterfalls, beaches, surfing, diving, deserts.
If you’ve never been to a cenote – that’s something you definitely need to try out. Even in the most expensive tourist areas you can get street food for cheap as chips and hostels for a steal.
If you want it to be cheap, easy, if you want to do something luxurious, well that’s easy too!
The average street food stall will cost you around $2 USD for a decent bit of food.
In the restaurants you’ll be looking at between $7 to $20 for food and drinks. Beers bought in the Oxxo general stores are around $1 USD a bottle and sometimes they even have lime to put in your Corona!
When drinking at the bars you’re looking at about $5 USD per drink. For backpacker hostels you can find some good ones for around $10 a night. If flashpacking you’ll be looking at about $20-30.
But if you’re into it, I highly recommend CouchSurfing around Mexico. I couchsurfed in both Tulum and Mexico City and I had the BEST experiences – one of the guys I’m still great friends with today!
As for getting around you have a couple of options… You can take taxi collectivos (shared taxis) between cities for really cheap (Playa del Carmen to Tulum, 2 hours is $4 USD) or catch buses.
If you can speak Spanish you’ll be able to catch the local buses, which are ridiculously cheap (Mexico City to San Cristóbal de las Casas, 12 hours is $15).
Alternatively you’ll be able to grab a tourist bus around most of the popular spots (same trip as above, $40).
Obviously the longer you stay somewhere, the easier it is to save money since traveling between places costs a bit. I spent around $10 USD a day while living on an island. But including travel and attraction expenses you’ll be able to do it on $30 a day as long as you’re budgeting.
There is way too much fun to be had when backpacking Nicaragua, and the best part is it won’t empty out your wallet, as Nicaragua is one of the cheapest countries to travel to in the Americas.
That is, if you do it right, of course. Doing it right would be on a budget of $25-30 USD a day with activities included.
Nicaragua has so many cool things to do, like boarding down a volcano, riding a motorbike on Isla Ometepe, diving on the Corn Islands, partying until you drop in San Juan del Sur, or catching a sweet wave at Maderas Beach.
Whatever tickles your fancy, I am sure you will find something cool to do there.
To give you an idea of what things cost in Nicaragua, a dorm bed can cost as low as approximately $6, and you can get a single room for $10 USD. Public transportation within the city (chicken bus) costs $0.30-0.50 USD.
A full meal can be had for $2 – 4 USD. Volcano boarding costs $25 USD. A local beer will set you back $1.30, and a mojito costs about $2.50 USD. A good quality hammock souvenir will only cost $20 USD.
The country’s vibrant and colorful culture and rich history draws thousands of backpackers each year.
After all, you can climb active volcanoes, walk the cobblestone streets of the UNESCO World Heritage city (Antigua), enjoy a boat ride on one of the world’s most beautiful lakes (Lake Atitlan), take a Spanish speaking course, or visit the most breathtaking Mayan ruins (Tikal) in the world on a budget of just $20 USD a day.
The amount of cheap things you can do in Guatemala is endless. On $20 USD a day, a budget backpacker can drink a few beers, sleep in a decent budget hotel, eat out twice a day, take local transport to and from their hotel and still have some change left over in their pocket.
It’s a backpackers’ paradise!
To give you an idea of what things cost in Guatemala, here are the average prices. A dorm bed will cost about $6-8 USD. Taking public transport within the city on a chicken bus will cost $0.40-1 USD.
A full meal is about $2-4 USD. The average attraction fee is about $13. A local beer will cost you $2, and bottled water will run you 50 cents. A one week Spanish course for five hours a day will cost $120 USD. No wonder Guatemala is one of the cheapest countries to backpack in the Americas!
If the “cheapness” of Guatemala doesn’t make you want to fly there now, we are pretty confident the vibrant culture, rich history, gorgeous landscapes, and unique attractions will.
Panama is one of the most interesting places to visit in Central America, and it is quickly getting an increasing flow of tourists.
From the Caribbean beaches with fine white sand and clear waters to the Pacific ones with waves galore; from the hiking trails of the Boquete region to the jazz festival and the beautiful sights of Panama City, there is something for just about anybody.
Panama isn’t the cheapest country to visit in Central America, and the fact that the US dollar is the official currency may have something to do with it.
But it can be done on a backpacker’s budget, even in the most touristy places such as Bocas del Toro. Here, a bed in a dorm costs around $10 USD, and a meal in a local eatery between $3 and $5 USD.
Using public transportation to get to the beaches helps keep the costs down, while organized tours that go around the archipelago to the places that are a bit more difficult to reach is a bit more expensive.
The most expensive thing to do in Panama is by all means the sailing trip to San Blas that then continues to Colombia.
It costs an average of $550 USD for around 5 days, and includes everything from transportation to food (but not drinks).
Many backpackers opt for the sailing trip to cross the border as there is no land crossing between Panama and Colombia and it is a good way to visit the San Blas islands. However, flying is by far the cheapest option.
Peru in Quechuan (the language of the Incas) means abundance and that’s what you will find on a trip here.
Abundant nature, culture, food, and warm weather. There are gorgeous coastlines, vast deserts, picturesque mountains, the AMAZON – really, they have everything!
One of the cradles of civilization – this exotic destination is just being re-discovered by tourism and the prices everywhere outside of Machu Picchu reflect this!
Peru is one of the cheapest countries to visit in South America. Dorm beds are around $6 USD per night and private rooms at $12 including basic breakfasts. Set menu lunch and dinners – common everywhere, look out for the blackboards – cost $2-4 USD including a drink!
An overnight bus for 8 hours is around $10 USD and about half the price during the day, and a taxi trip in most towns is around $2 USD. Traveling here for under $30 USD per day is easy.
For those on a true budget you could get by on $15 USD per day but $20 – $25 would be more comfortable with a few luxuries!
Before I travelled to Chile I heard from many, many travelers that Chile would be very expensive compared to other Latin American countries.
Therefore, I gave myself a higher budget for my month in Chile. When I arrived I was surprised that it was not so expensive as I’ve had heard. It isn’t the cheapest country to travel to in South America, but it can be done.
Dorms in hostels are found for $10 USD per night. Of course it’s cheaper to buy food in a supermarket and cook it in the hostel, but there are also cheap and tasty empanadas (but there are awful ones too, so be prepared!) for little money.
If you use long distance buses and take night buses you can save a night at a hostel. The bus from San Pedro de Atacama to La Serena took about 15 hours and cost me $22 USD.
Getting around for $30 USD is definitely possible in Chile, but you won’t make it for that money on Easter Island unless you camp somewhere (food is quite expensive there).
On the mainland, on the other hand, if you wish to do some of the adventurous stuff such as skydiving, rafting or volcano hiking, $30 USD a day won’t be enough. To save, you can still go hiking on the many other paths and enjoy the gorgeous landscape on your own.
Out of all the South American countries I have visited, Bolivia is definitely one of the cheapest countries to visit when it comes to value travel.
Usually, when you hear the word cheap you imagine something of low quality but trust me, hotels and hostels in Bolivia are so comfy that you won’t believe that a night in a private room can cost less than $10 USD sometimes.
Did I mention the $1 USD awesome huge meals? For less than $20 USD a day, you can enjoy Bolivia as much as I did.
Some of my best suggestions for Bolivia include the awesome Titicaca Lake which it shares with Peru, the photo-worthy Uyuni Salt Desert, and the isolated archeological ruins of Tiwanaku located just outside the capital La Paz.
While many people skip out on Ecuador for lack of a Galapagos budget, those who take the time to explore the mainland are in for a time.
With a jungle full of wildlife, a coastline blessed with perfect waves, modern cities, and culturally rich mountain towns, it seems there’s something perfect for any type of traveler.
So what makes Ecuador one of the cheapest countries to travel to in South America? A backpacker can get by on just $20/day without cutting too many corners!
With dorm rooms costing as little as $5 and private rooms starting at $12, it’s easy to stay as long as you want in the smaller towns, and easy enough to navigate the cities.
Menu del dia — the set lunch menu — will only run you $2-$3, and beer is even cheaper at $1 per big bottle.
While the busses aren’t the comfiest we’ve ever used, tickets come in cheap at about $1-2 per hour of travel. Adventures are easy to find with lots of free treks, cheap bike rentals, and full day trips starting at $20.
Even the most costly of endeavors (like a trip to the Amazon) can be had for as little as $60/day. If you’re looking for amazing nature and an altogether wonderful place to travel in South America, be sure to take the time to experience all the unique things to do in Ecuador!
Colombia is full of beauty, from the lush countryside full of coffee plantations to the Caribbean coastline.
Cartagena in particular is especially beautiful with its colonial charm. Hostels are cheap as can be in Colombia, typically about $10 for a dorm, and around $20 for a private room.
It isn’t the cheapest country to travel in the world, but you get a lot for your money, making it excellent value.
Meals are similarly affordable, with delicious soups like ajiaco, the national dish, only costing around $4 or so for a delicious and fulfilling meal.
Bogotá is a fun and young city, with cheap nightlife and plentiful street art. It’s definitely worth a visit, and easily done at $25 to $30 per day!
Ethiopia has something for everyone. It’s a diverse country with something for everyone such as culture, history, food and wildlife.
One of my favorite cities in Ethiopia is Gondar in the north near the Simien Mountains. It is often called the Camelot of Africa for what it used to be – the home of the Emperor and the Royal Enclosure and Castles. Entrance to the Enclosure is 100 birr ($4.50).
While generally Africa is not home to the cheapest countries to travel to, Ethiopia is a pleasant exception.
Traveling through Ethiopia is fairly cheap with accommodation in a two star hotel for around $10/night for two people.
Local food is especially cheap. I would start my mornings with a proper Ethiopian Coffee for 9 Birr (40 cents) and then move onto a healthy breakfast smoothie of mango and avocado with a splash of lime for 10 birr (50 cents).
Ethiopia also has fasting days which are fasting from meat so the vegetarian options are amazing. Most meals with meat cost about $4 and those without meat were less than $3. Most meals start with injera which is an Ethiopian bread which you will find has a slightly sour taste!
Halfway between Europe and Africa, Morocco is one of the most exotic destinations around the world.
A tangle of Berber, Arab, African, and European influences give this country a certain “je ne sais quoi” that makes people want to visit.
Apart from a great and vast history, Morocco offers unspoiled coastline with fabulous beaches, endless cedar wood forests, stunning waterfalls, desert landscapes with dunes as far as the eye can see, and high snowy mountain peaks above 13,000 feet.
What I love most about Morocco is the optimism, generosity, and friendliness of its population. Lively markets, everlasting blue skies, and a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies also get my attention.
Some expected costs for Morocco are as follows. A single room in a major city will cost $10-15 USD per night. Breakfast, such as a bowl of fava bean soup or an omelet with bread and tea, can be for 70 cents to $1 USD.
Lunch and dinner can be 60 cents to $3 USD, for options such as a fish sandwich, harira soup and pastry, or a meat tagine.
Transportation is cheap as well; a 4-hour train ride from Rabat to Marrakech is about $13 USD and a 4-hour bus ride would cost you about $8 USD. A backpacker can easily do Morocco ranging from $15 to $30 per day.
Despite recent civil unrest, Egypt remains an amazing travel destination and is very easy for budget travel even in major cities.
Hostels in Cairo start at around $4 USD in a dorm room and are even cheaper in the rest of the country. The easiest and most efficient way to get around is using Uber as it is cheaper than taxis and there are no language issues as you input your pick up and drop off locations.
There is no shortage of amazing activities to do in Egypt and almost all of them cost $5-10, including the Pyramids of Giza!
In Luxor there are a number of affordable tours which include the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Temple of Karnak. Every price is negotiable which makes it easier to find a bargain, especially with the low numbers of tourists in Egypt at the moment.
We felt completely safe travelling in Egypt and used the local trains and buses to travel between cities. An overnight train from Cairo to Aswan cost us around $10 and, although it was seats only, it was comfortable enough to get some sleep.
Food is incredibly cheap both on the street and at local and more Western style restaurants.
Overall a backpacker could be very comfortable on $20 a day including an attraction, making it easily one of the cheapest countries to travel to in Africa.
We LOVE South Africa — without a doubt, it’s in our top 3 favorite countries, just because it never fails to impress us no matter how many times we visit.
It’s full of so much diversity: you can go on safari, go wine tasting, or even ski in winter!
There are SO many unique and amazing activities you can partake in, cage diving, sky diving, canyon swinging, or for the more tame witnessing the third largest canyon in the world, which is absolutely breathtaking!
Because it is still a developing country, South Africa is still super cheap!
You can hire a car for under $20 USD a day including insurance, and stay in a rest camp in Kruger for around $10 USD a day. You can have a BBQ on site from the local shops to save a ton of money, and take in the local surroundings.
If you’re not into hiring a car, public transport is very cheap and easily accessible in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town. You can certainly get a lot for your buck in South Africa, and as long as you use common sense, South Africa is no more dangerous than most American cities!
Estonia – the best value destination for 2016 according to Lonely Planet. I have to admit, this country has exceeded my expectations by the quality of experience it offers.
In addition to fascinating scenic nature, the mix of architecture, and nice people, I love Estonia for its connectivity.
As Wi-Fi access plays an important role in choosing a destination nowadays, in e-Estonia you will find free Wi-Fi almost everywhere: from intercity buses to the streets of the cities.
Here’s a breakdown of expected travel costs. A hostel costs about 9-13€. The common price is 10€ even during the peak season.
My daily food budget was around 10€ (1-2€ breakfast, 4-5€ lunch, 3€ cooked dinner). The 2 course lunch in canteen-restaurants (e.g. LIDO) can come around 4€. You can also find nice business lunch deals within the price range of 4-6€ (outside Tallinn it will be a bit cheaper).
There are also ready cooked meals in supermarkets if you wish to decrease the price further.
In terms of transportation, in Tallinn you can buy a card for 1, 3, or 5 days. A 5 day card costs around 6€, so it comes to around 1.20€ per day. In Parnu, Tartu, Viljandi and other small cities everything is within a walking distance.
As for sightseeing, it starts from free up to 5€ per site entry with few exceptions. If you are a student, sightseeing and transportation fees will be discounted.
To sum up, accommodation, food and transportation can come around $20-22€/day (about $21-23 USD). Further on, you can add sightseeing according to your taste. Read this Estonia travel guide to better plan your journey.
Visiting Vilnius the capital is a nice first contact with the country. There are amazing beaches with white sand and warm water like Klaipeda, and my favorite place to visit is Trakai. It’s a quiet town with a castle inside an island, which is very nice and picturesque.
Lithuania can be visited on a budget for around $15-25 USD per day.
You can sleep in a hostel for $6-8 and you can get transportation for even less than a dollar. You can get a local meal for $3-4.
And if you want to hang out for beers, prices start from $1-2. The beer in Lithuania tastes so good!
On top of being able to travel on a budget, Lithuanian people are also very friendly. The landscapes are great and it’s very easy to meet locals.
If you’re a budget traveler headed to Europe, you might want to consider heading to the Baltic States.
Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are usually overlooked as holiday destinations. However, they happen to be some of the most beautiful locations in Europe.
A particularly key city to visit is Riga, Latvia. With a perfect climate, beautiful Old Town and plenty of culture, you’ll never want to leave.
Making your dollar (or $30) last is a piece of cake. There are dozens of hostels, all charging from $5-10 USD a night. Tourist restaurants will charge $10 for a plate, but the local shops and street food are more like $3 a meal.
Make sure to make it to the Riga Central Market. Or if you have a stable place to stay, you can get groceries for a whole week for $30. Attractions are $5-10, although the best attraction – the free walking tour – is, well, free.
There isn’t as much to do in Riga as some of the capitals in Europe, but realize that the Old Town is less than 1% of the city’s total size. You could easily spend a week there and not run out of things to do.
You’d be surprised to know that it is highly possible to visit Europe without breaking the bank.
I know it is a well-known fact that Europe is expensive but trust me, it is big with tons of places unknown to the masses which you can visit and stretch your budget that will truly blow your mind
Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, did blow my mind! I was not so sure how cheap or expensive the city would be as I did not previously research what to expect and boy, was I surprised.
A basic hostel will cost you between 9-15€ per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hostel, of course. However, I must say that the one I stayed at ran at a pretty good price of 10€ a night, and it was a good hostel!
Also, food is cheap, and you can buy a cevapi with beer for 5€ – what a steal I must say. Also, other activities such as visiting the bobsled site and the tunnels will cost you about 15€ for a private tour.
If you’re too cool for private tours, hiking to the bobsled track will take you about an hour or two and it is free, and the entrance to the tunnels are about a few euros.
If you’re interested in nightlife, Sarajevo won’t disappoint either, and you can go knock yourselves out with local brews for a euro a pop.
You have to see for yourself but all backpackers I’ve met were amazed at how they managed to stretch out their budget whilst in Bosnia. It is quite amazing.
I spent around 10 days exploring Albania this past summer, and I was completely in awe about how amazing of a country it is.
The people were some of the friendliest I’ve encountered, and every destination I went to was absolutely stunning!
Whether you’re looking for gorgeous lakes, massive mountains, or pristine beaches — Albania has got you covered.
The most important aspect about traveling Albania, is renting a car and exploring it on your own!
You can rent a car for pretty cheap, especially if you travel during the shoulder seasons. While I did enjoy the entire country, I’d say you definitely can not miss Sarande and the Albanian Riviera.
The average costs of hotels is only $20-$30 USD per night, and you can get a nice meal for less than $10! If you’re a backpacker, there are plenty of budget hostels to meet fellow travelers for only $8-$15 USD per night!
It’s one of the cheapest places to travel in Europe. It’s a gorgeous country with tons to do, and you definitely won’t be spending too much!
Portugal is one of the hottest travel destinations of the moment.
For a relatively small country, it has a vast and rich history of almost 900 years, interesting culture, countless beaches, and food to die for.
Plus, on top of all this, it’s one of the best value countries in Europe for travelers.
The hotspots are Lisbon, Porto, and the South coast, but if you’re looking for more there are plenty of places worth checking out such as Évora, Coimbra, Aveiro, Guimarães, Braga or the archipelagos of Madeira and the Açores. And this just to name a few.
Portugal is a perfect destination and one of the best places to backpack. Food is of excellent quality, diverse, and not very expensive, with a pretty decent meal costing between 5 and 10€.
Groceries are also budget-friendly. Lodging starts at 10/15€ for a hostel bed and 35/50€ for a basic yet decent hotel, depending on the location. Transportation, namely trains and buses, is punctual and not on the expensive side.
Greece has always ranked high among the destinations loved by budget travelers.
The capital, Athens, is an excellent place to explore during the low season, specifically between November and March.
The tourists are almost non-existent and thus the prices for everything are affordable.
The wealth of historical sites will keep you busy for a good while (days!). Make sure not to miss exploring the Acropolis. There’s a combined ticket (costing 30 EUR or $31.40 USD) which allows you to visit six archeological sites.
Book your hotel in advance you will pay about 20 EUR / $21 per night in a double, in a hotel located close to the heart of Athens (Plaka and Acropolis). If you don’t mind dorms, then you can find beds starting at 8 EUR.
Food wise, the cheapest option is the gyro (from 2 EUR), which is meat grilled on a spit and served in a pita bread, together with some veggies. Coffee starts at 1.5 EUR.
Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations; your best bet is to go in tavernas with no menu in English.
Serbia is one of the cheapest destinations in the Balkans – even Belgrade, one of. the most developed cities in the whole region, is ridiculously affordable to travel.
I stayed at the awesome Sun Hostel within walking distance of downtown, where I treated myself to a private room for around $18 a night in peak season. Hostels in Belgrade will run you about $7 or 8.
Meals are incredibly cheap, at about $1-3 for “Serbian fast food” which includes tasty options like pljeskavica, which is essentially a Balkan burger.
I even went crazy and got a fancy sushi dinner after having serious Asian food withdrawal syndrome (it’s a real thing, guys) – for two delicious, fresh rolls and a beer I paid about $11!
Bus transit is about 50 cents a ride within the city, and buses between cities are usually $10-15.
Be sure to check out cute, colorful Novi Sad an hour north of Belgrade — your buck will stretch even further there! Have a unique hostel experience at Varad Inn for luxury on a budget. For a European experience on a Southeast Asia budget, you can’t beat the Balkans.
Note: All prices in this article are approximate and will likely vary in the future, as exchange rates and average costs change over time.
Before donating and selling basically my entire life to travel the world like the clichéd blogger that I am, I had some 40 or 50-odd pairs of shoes cluttering up my New York City apartment closet.
You could say that I had a bit of a problem.
Since I was a teacher before I was a traveler, I often spent 6+ hours of my day actively on my feet, and so finding shoes that were comfortable yet not dowdy was one of my favorite treasure hunts. I may have had an obsession with shoes, but I was not about to sacrifice comfort for style points.
When I started traveling full-time, I had the problem of condensing my massive shoe collection down to just a few travel-friendly shoes. I’ve gone through a few iterations of my shoes – cycling some out and adding some new ones to my collection. Here are my top favorite women’s travel shoes broken down by category.
I was resistant to Birkenstocks for so long. I thought they were a clichéd stereotype, perfect for people who smell like patchouli and make their own granola. Turns out I was dead wrong. Birkenstocks simply makes one of the best women’s travel shoes — and one of the most comfortable walking shoes, period.
I can’t express enough how necessary it is for a women’s travel sandal to have appropriate arch support. I was driving myself miserable with flip flops that looked cute but offered no support. While my shoes didn’t actively hurt my feet the way heels do, after 5 hours of walking around I’d feel like I needed my feet amputated.
My friend suggested I borrow her pair — and I hated them. They felt insanely uncomfortable and I had no idea why people raved about Birkenstocks. Then she explained to me that Birkenstocks come stiff and the heat from your foot ends up “melting” the arch until it perfectly forms to your foot (I’m great at explaining science things, I know – can you believe I was a teacher?). So borrowing hers felt like trash, but if I owned my own, I’d fall in love.
After beating the pavement for 6 hours in a pair of shoddy flip flops in Budapest one summer afternoon, I decided I had had enough — it was time to invest and try out a pair of Birkenstocks. After a day or so of breaking them in, I was in love. And I’ll probably never go back. These shoes are so form-fitting and so comfortable, and they go with literally everything. I wear them with jeans, I wear them with dresses, I wear them with shorts. I have the taupe-brown color and they are just so versatile that I can’t think of a single thing I own that they actually look bad with.
And isn’t that the dream travel shoe?
To recap, here are the top perks of my Birks (sorry, I couldn’t help myself):
Form to fit your foot’s arch: Birkenstocks core warms up under the heat of your foot and “melts” to form the exact shape of your foot. Which basically means that you are getting a custom-quality fit for a mass-production price, which is pretty freaking awesome.
Insanely versatile and surprisingly stylish: Honestly, my Birks go with just about everything. I wear them with dresses with leggings, dresses without leggings, skirts or shorts, jeans or loose pants. Birks come in lots of fun colors but I prefer something in a neutral shade of brown if it’s your primary travel shoe. However, I do like the black and the silver pairs as well.
Hold up well in rain and bad weather: Birkenstocks aren’t technically waterproof but I’ve worn mine through some pretty gross surprising flash floods and they hold up well and don’t get messed up in the water. I bring mine to the beach and rinse them off afterward. I wouldn’t completely submerge them in water or like, walk through a river in them, but every surprise bit of water I’ve thrown at them – which has been a surprisingly high amount – they’ve taken in stride (HA)
These aren’t the exact Easy Spirits I own because they have been discontinued but they are pretty damn close. The main difference is that the ones I had before had a complete back whereas these have a strap back, but the style is the same and it’s the same brand.
Basically, I like having a pair of shoes that I can dress up, but are still decidedly sandal-y and insanely comfortable. That’s where comfort brands like Teva, Aerosoles, Easy Spirit, Clarks, etc. come in. While 90% of their selection will be too orthopedic and ugly for my tastes, there’s always at least one or two surprisingly cute options that will offer supreme comfort and awesome arch support while also not being aesthetically hideous.
I discovered these ankle boots in 2015 and have worn them obsessively for the last three years. They were fantastic when I was teaching and running around on my feet all day. I could literally run in these – which was important in my past life as a special ed teacher who was always corralling hyperactive kids.
I wear these shoes nearly all winter long, alternating them with my other top pick, the Blondo waterproof riding boot below. They’re so comfortable and low-key cute that I actually get a bit excited at the end of summer each year because it means ankle boot season is back.
These shoes have a slight heel (2″) but it’s offset by the 1/2″ inch platform so it’s not really much of an incline. The cushioning in the Danskos is so comfortable however that I never get that feeling like I’m standing on my toes like I do with most heeled ankle boots.
I wear these with black tights or leggings and dresses, black or blue jeans and a sweater, or occasionally on their own with bare legs in the transition between summer and fall for a chunky ankle boot look. They are super versatile and I actually used to own the taupe pair as well but I gave those to a friend when I started traveling full-time.
My top favorite features of these boots:
They’re scuff-proof and super easy to clean: Nubuck leather is amazing, ultra-soft and nearly impossible to scuff. They’re treated with a stain resistant material so they hold up well over time. They do occasionally collect dust and particles from all the walking around, but I simply brush it off with a lightly damp paper towel and they are looking good as new.
Rubber sole with a wooden look: I wanted a pair of Swedish Hasbeen clogs for years but couldn’t justify the expense – especially since when I tried it on, I found the wooden sole really clunky and unforgiving. The Dansko sole is made of forgiving, cushy rubber but has the look of a wooden sole which I think is super cute.
Insanely comfortable: The Maria boots literally have the American Podiatric Seal of Acceptance for being good for foot health. There’s a reason why Dansko clogs are beloved by teachers and nurses everywhere — basically, they’re shoes designed for people who live on their feet. I really liked how these are stylish and polished too, whereas their standard clog design is a little too orthopedic/medical looking for my personal taste.
While not quite as cushiony and pillow-soft feeling as the Dansko Maria boots, I’m equally obsessed with my Lucky Brand Basel Ankle Booties. These are another pre-travel shoe that I loved enough to bring with me on my first backpacking trip, and I wore them countless times in the 5-odd months I spend traveling through Europe.
They are roomy which is good for me as my feet tend to be wide and I often find the toebox of shoes to feel too tight. If you have super narrow feet these may not be for you. They have a padded insole and a rubber flex sole, two important features that increase the comfort of these shoes while they are still quite cute.
One word of warning, though – these don’t hold up that well in rain unless you waterproof them, so either treat them with a waterproofing spray or only wear them on dry days.
I don’t think I’ve ever loved any pair of shoes as much as my Blondo boots. I bought these for the first time in 2008, when I was new to New York City and desperately needed a stylish boot that was durable, waterproof, but sleek enough to not make me feel like a total loser in a city with a cruelly high number of models per capita.
I splurged on these Blondo boots in 2008 and it is probably one of my best clothing investments ever. I wore these boots nearly every day in winter for years and years, and despite all the abuse — all the long walks, all the rainy days, all the questionable slush puddles — I have only gotten the boots resoled once and they still are in fantastic condition. We’ve survived 10 years together and I imagine we’ll go another 5 or 10 more, easily.
The quality of the leather means that the boots age fantastically, weathering the leather without making it look scratchy or scuffed the way cheaper imitation leather often does.
These shoes are great for traveling in Europe in winter – I brought mine to the Arctic Circle, no joke, because I wasn’t about to invest in a brand new pair of snow boots for a weeklong trip.
Yes, I even went dog-sledding in them (though you can’t see it well in this picture – this was taken before I was a dedicated Instagrammer).
Their waterproofing is excellent and the soles are really grippy, making them great for walking on slippy surfaces and through snow (to a reasonable degree). The lining is thin which I personally like because I can wear them in fall and spring as well, but in peak winter, I pair them with a pair of warm wool socks otherwise they can let a bit of cold in.
A few of the best perks of these boots:
They’re sleek and classic: I hate feeling like a garbage monster when I travel, so having cute black boots that will never go out of style
They go with everything: Black leather is a classic combination for a reason. These boots go great with leggings (thin cotton ones in spring, warm fuzzy fleece-lined ones in winter), jeans, or just socks and a dress for lighter spring and fall days.
They’re comfortable as hell: Blondo boots have a fancy activated carbon foam insole (yeah, I don’t know what that means either) and a gel pad heel, adding cushioning and comfort so that you really won’t notice that you’ve been walking all day long
They withstand basically everything: My boots have seen it all: giant salty, slushy ice puddles every New York winter, bog-shoeing in the Estonian wilderness, dog-sledding in the Arctic Circle. They’ve withstood pretty much everything I’ve thrown at them with almost no maintenance (I did get them re-soled as a preventative measure about 6 years into owning them – for $60, it’ll at least double the life of my favorite shoes, so it’s worth it)
I used to hike in sneakers all the time and always had aching ankles and knees at the end of the day. I finally got a pair of hiking boots before my trip to Central America in 2017 and did a ton of research before settling on Ahnus.
I tested them pretty seriously with some volcano hikes in Nicaragua (one of the most annoying terrains to hike because of all the slippery gravel) and mountain hiking in the Balkans and they’ve always stood up well, basically eliminating my ankle pain and taking a lot of strain off my knees in the process.
If you do a lot of hiking, here are some of the perks of having these vs. another pair of shoes.
They’re waterproof: I’ve done too many slogs on what I thought would be dry hikes that end up being total mud pits. When your sneakers get wet and muddy, they become well and truly miserable to hike in and it pretty much ruins the rest of the hike for me. If you want to do outdoorsy things on your trip, it’s best to invest in a pair of waterproof boots, trust me.
The ankle support is clutch: I never knew that I needed ankle support until I tried it. It truly brings your hikin to the next level and makes you feel like a superhuman. I do a lot of hikes on loose scree and rocks that wobble under your feet – having your ankles be supported is a true gamechanger, trust me. Especially if you are doing volcano hikes like I did – you’ll want a pair of hiking boots, sneakers just won’t do the trick (plus it’s too easy for rocks to get stuck inside your sneakers, which is no fun)
Ahnus come in some fun colors: This is silly but I really love my combination of navy blue and magenta details – they make my hiking boots feel less “serious” and more fun and even perhaps a tad bit cute?
Ahnus are owned by Teva: Teva is one of the #1 travel shoe companies in the world, so you know they take comfort serious. Ahnu is a Teva brand so the same comfort you can expect in your sandals you can expect from these! They use Vibram soles which are some of the most comfortable in the hiking world (yes, Vibram makes those creepy toe-shoes, but truly, the soles they produce for hiking boots are awesome)
I usually don’t recommend products I haven’t personally tried but as I’ve only had one pair of hiking boots in my life – I’m going to borrow a recommendation from a friend. I’ve traveled with two friends who swear by Keen for their hiking boots, so I feel comfortable suggesting these as a runner-up with the caveat that I haven’t personally used them!
I love having a pair of black Nikes with me at all times – they’re great for light hikes where I don’t need my proper running boots, but they’re also just great city shoes. On any given day, there’s a 90% chance I’m wearing either my Birkenstocks or my Nikes when I’m traipsing around the city.
They’re so comfortable that I can wear them for hours upon hours while walking around a city and never once think about my feet. And my favorite thing about these sneakers is just how well they go with everything. I have a lot of dresses and skirts in my travel wardrobe and these sneakers actually play surprisingly nicely even with my girlier outfits.
Top perks of these shoes:
Super lightweight and easy to pack: These sneakers take up barely any space – they squash up to fit super well in my backpack without ruining their structure
Insanely comfortable and go with everything: These shoes can be worn for hours with just about anything – I even pair these with dresses, skirts, etc. because they’re just that versatile and give a nice city/urban vibe to girlier clothing.
Hiking-friendly: I summited a 2,600-meter mountain in these so they’re pretty badass. While they don’t have any ankle support, they’re great on your arches and lightweight so they’re actually a pretty good choice for light day hikes if you don’t have room in your bag for a traditional hiking shoe
So, funny story with these shoes. Greyhound had lost my luggage with my black Nikes inside it, and I had just come from the Nike store in Vegas where I had bought basically an exact replacement for the above shoes.
I then wandered into a Skechers with my friend Janet, not feeling particularly hopeful – I remember Skechers from my 13-year-old wandering around the mall with a flip phone days. But then I found these adorable red sneakers and pretty much fell in love immediately with how cute they were.
I tried them on and instantly fell in love – it was like I was wearing a sock, not a sneaker. The fabric was super soft and breathable and it hugged my foot in a super comfortable way. The sole is thick and sturdy but super bendy (again, how great at words am I? #crushingit), which makes it actually surprisingly great for hiking – and I should know as I took these shoes on quite a few surprise hikes, as I was road tripping around the Southwest at the time. They even took me up Angel’s Landing, one of the most notorious hikes in the U.S.
Sadly, I have since lost these shoes on a trip around Ireland – RIP – but they performed so well while I had them that I’m quite tempted to replace them. Also, I found that red shoes worked surprisingly well as a ‘neutral’ and I actually didn’t have that much trouble working my red shoes into my outfits, and I really liked the pop of color they gave my travel photos.
So, to recap, here’s why these shoes are the freaking greatest.
Colorful yet surprisingly neutral: I had underestimated how well red integrates with most wardrobes. It played nicely with maroon, purple, black, brown, navy – pretty much every color I threw at it.
Sock-like comfort: As someone whose favorite feeling at the end of the day is peeling off her shoes and throwing them dramatically across the room, having ultra-comfortable shoes that feel like socks while I’m wearing them was a delight.
Surprisingly ready for hikes: I did a handful of hikes in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks while wearing these sneakers and they held up to the challenge. While they are not hiking shoes in any way, shape, or form, they did the trick when Greyhound lost my proper hiking shoes and I needed to stock up on the road, and I never had any issues walking in these even on longer hike days.
Flexible and sturdy sole: These shoes can bend like crazy which means that they go with your foot, not against it. It’s pretty great.
I’ve been an avowed carry on traveler for as long as I can remember. I don’t know what I hate more, paying extra for my baggage or the extra steps of checking it in and then waiting what feels like an hour at baggage claim after my flight is over. That said… I’m not exactly the lightest packer. I have too many little items on my packing list that all feel so essential to bring.
The way that I’m able to get around carry-on baggage restrictions is by picking the best possible personal item bag. The trick is to find something that is roomy enough to fit all your in-flight necessities while still being compact enough to fitting under the seat.
The best personal item bag will be suitable for use both on and off the plane – I use mine as my daily travel daypack as well. This means, for me, I look for security features, comfort, and a sleek aesthetic in addition to the practical concerns of size and shape.
In this post, I’ve included my top favorite personal item backpack that I’ve used every day for the last year and a half of travel spanning multiple continents and 30+ countries — plus 5 runner up options in case my top pick doesn’t suit you.
What To Look For When Picking a Personal Item Bag
There are a few considerations you should have when picking the best personal travel bag. Obviously, because many airlines have size restrictions and can sometimes charge large fees for items that need to be checked at the last moment, size is the number one consideration.
But there are other things that should be considered, such as shape/style as well as aesthetics and design. Here, I break down a few of the things you should consider when picking your personal item
Consider what airline you fly the most often and their regulations. You’ll want to ensure your personal item bag is small enough to meet their restrictions. Generally, budget European airlines like Ryanair and Wizzair will have the tightest restrictions. If you fly budget airlines often, you will want to make sure your personal item meets these standards. If you tend to only fly on domestic flights in the U.S. or on larger international airlines, you can opt for a slightly roomier bag.
Here are a few airlines and their size restrictions for personal items, which must fit under the seat in front of them.
United: 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches (22 cm x 25 cm x 43 cm)
American: 8 inches x 14 inches x 18 inches (20 cm x 35 cm x 45 cm )
Ryanair: 8 inches x 8 inches x 14 inches (20 cm x 20cm x 35 cm)
Norwegian: 10 inches x 8 inches x 13 inches (25 cm x 20 cm x 33 cm)
Shape is another factor that should not be discounted when picking a personal item for carry on travel. My top tip is that the bag you pick should not be hard-sided, but rather soft-sided and malleable.
This helps in the event that you need to shove it under the seat in front of you and you’re in one of those unfortunate seats that have a strange configuration that takes away from your legroom. So skip the hard-sided mini-suitcase and go for something more like a backpack or duffel bag that can be squished to fit if necessary.
One more thing to note when picking a personal item bag is that it should be something that is actually useful for carrying around in your day-to-day travels, not just for flying. There is no point bringing both a daypack and a separate personal item bag – pick something that does both and does it well.
I prefer a personal item backpack as I can use it as my main travel bag when I’m out and about after the flight is over. For this reason, I prefer a bag that has some security features such as lockable zippers and slash-proof material, so that it is effective as both my plane personal item and my travel daypack. If you don’t carry backpacks when you travel, then I would opt for a large carry on purse or something similar.
However, you can also pick an underseat wheeled bag or larger duffel if you are truly packing light and want to only have one bag with you, or if you are flying on a basic economy or low cost fare. I’ve reviewed the best underseat bags here.
With dimensions of 15 by 11 by 6 inches, this backpack will do the trick for nearly all airlines. While technically, it exceeds the size limitation of Ryanair and Norwegian Airlines, I’ve taken this personal item backpack on Ryanair, Wizz Air, Norwegian, easyJet, Level, and several other budget airlines without ever having to check it or worry about it not fitting under the seat. It has always slid under the seat easily with no problems as long as I didn’t overstuff it.
This backpack is pretty much the Mary Poppins bag: it looks tiny, but I can fit an incomprehensible amount of stuff in it. At any given time when I am flying, this backpack usually contains my 13″ Macbook Air laptop, chargers, my Mavic drone, my camera and all its lenses, my carry-on toiletries, and a few other odds and ends that I ended up needing at the last minute. I’ve also used it as my only bag when traveling to London and Berlin for one week of conferences, where it fit my laptop, camera, mini toiletries, and 6 days of clothes for conferences.
But the most important thing: it’s actually a nice backpack that you don’t mind being seen with. For some reason, Amazon bills it as a “men’s backpack” but I actually think it looks quite trendy and feminine. I actually use this as my everyday bag for bringing my laptop to coffee shops and walking around a city with all my photo gear or on short day hikes.
How much do I love this backpack? Well, I’ve owned it for nearly two years and have taken it to over 30 countries with barely more than a scratch to the bag — despite generally being a careless, terrible excuse for an adult. Any bag that can last even a year with me is something special.
Even better, the bag has several security features that are awesome without looking like an actual security bag. The zippers lock together, and then you can loop the locked zippers through the clasp on the front of the bag for double security. It was hard for me to figure out how to open the clasp when I first got the bag — so imagine if a thief was trying! There is no way a thief could break into the main compartment of the bag without you noticing (the outer pocket even has a loop that the zipper can go through that makes it difficult to open, too).
The bag also has nice water-resistant material. While you certainly can’t submerge it under water, I have gotten caught in the rain in it several times and my stuff inside, including my laptop, haven’t gotten wet. I still recommend taking precautions if you carry electronics in it, but I’ve never gotten the insides soaked when I’ve been walking in the rain.
I do recommend bringing an additional laptop sleeve for your laptop as there isn’t a lot of padding in the backpack itself. I have never come close to breaking my laptop using this bag but I have had some close calls where my backpack has fallen and given me a bit of a scare. A simple laptop sleeve like this one will give you some peace of mind.
I’ve owned this bag for nearly 2 years and have put it through nearly daily abuse and have had no problems – not even a single stitch unraveling – so I can definitely vouch for the quality of the bag.
No, this post isn’t sponsored by Pacsafe, I just have been a paying customer of theirs for over two years and really love their products! I have never used this backpack, but if I wanted a slightly cheaper backpack that still fit nearly as much, I’d pick their 15L Metrosafe LS350. With dimensions of 5 x 11.6 x 16.5 inches, it will fit most airlines’ size rules (technically it is over Ryanair’s limits but I have brought the similarly sized 17L Pacsafe without issue on budget airlines several times).
This bag has a more standard backpack construction with a more unisex/masculine look, so if the other Pacsafe was too “girly” or trendy this may be a better fit aesthetically. It still shares a lot of the same perks, such as slash-proof straps and construction, lockable zippers, RFID blockers, etc.
With all the security features, it still manages to look like a normal backpack so it doesn’t arouse suspicion or make it look like you’re carrying a lot of expensive gear the way certain branded camera bags look.
This personal item backpack is super cute and comes in a fun variety of colors, plus it’s one of the cheaper options on this page. However, it is cheaper because it is lacking some of the security features of the other bags, so you are offsetting a bit of security for the lowered price.
Personally, I use my personal item as my main travel bag when I am going around big cities that have issues with pickpocketing like London, Lisbon, and Rome – so I enjoy having the security features of Pacsafe or other anti-theft travel brands like Travelon. This bag doesn’t have lockable zippers or anti-slash construction so it’s a no for me, but other people not require those features.
But if you just plan to use this bag for the flight, it’s a great option as it’s inexpensive and fits a lot of stuff. However, it doesn’t have a laptop compartment, so bring your own laptop sleeve if needed. There is only one internal pocket for things like keys and your phone, but other than that there is minimal interior organization — which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you prefer your bag to be. Check out more details and specs on the backpack here.
Overall, it’s a good option for aesthetics-conscious people who prefer a budget-friendly bag with minimal security or organizational features.
Best Personal Item: Purses I Love for Travel
#1 Pick for Purses: Pacsafe Slingsafe LX250 or LX200 City Tote
Another Pacsafe, this time in purse edition! While I don’t have this tote personally, I can vouch for the quality of Pacsafe products as a paying customer who has used them for years. I have a Pacsafe backpack RFID-blocking wallet and slash-proof camera strap and all have served me well and held up to the abuse I put them through.
I much prefer to carry backpacks to purses due to the fact that I have crappy shoulders and prefer the weight to be distributed evenly, but if you prefer to carry a purse when you travel then I highly recommend the Pacsafe LX250. At 12 inches x 16 inches x 4 inches, this bag has a capacity of 18L and generally fits all but the most stringent airline restrictions.
If space is a concern and you want 100% peace of mind when flying ultra-low cost carriers like Ryanair, you will be better off with the smaller 14L Pacsafe LX200 which fits basically every airline with dimensions of 13 inches by 11 inches by 4 inches.
While Pacsafe products are generally a little pricey due to their quality construction and security features, this is one of the cheaper Pacsafe options as it’s made of canvas rather than their typical nylon-like water-resistent material. Both totes have the standard Pacsafe security features of RFID blockers, mesh slashguard construction, security buckles, and lockable zippers.
If you want a personal item bag that you can be sure will pass even the most eagle-eyed of budget airlines, opt for this Bluboon Canvas Weekender bag. At only 10 inches by 8 inches by 3 inches, this fits even Ryan Air and Norwegian’s stricter limits so long as you don’t completely overstuff it.
It has handles as well as a shoulder strap so you can carry it in different ways depending on the situation and what is most comfortable for you. I personally like to use a longer strap when in the airport but would prefer to carry it like a regular purse outside the airport; having flexibility of options is great in this instance. Another perk is that it has internal and external pockets so you can organize it to your liking; however, there is no laptop sleeve (but most weekender bags tend not to have this feature, anyway). It also has a trolley sleeve so that you can place it on your rolling suitcase flight-attendant style.
However, keep in mind that it is a budget bag. While it generally has quite positive reviews, a few people have complained that the zippers and fabric don’t hold up over time, so be prepared to replace it eventually.
Runner Up: Lily & Drew Carry On Weekender Travel Bag
For a sleek but versatile travel bag, this Lily & Drew weekender is a solid pick. This personal item purse is also convertible into a shoulder bag, which is nice because you can toggle between the two configurations depending on what is more comfortable and convenient for the situation. The bag also has a trolley sleeve so that if you are traveling as well with a rolling suitcase (either carry-on or to check) you can place it on the suitcase so that you can roll rather than carry it – the trick that many flight attendants use!
It is 18″ wide by 14″ tall by 8″ deep (20 cm x 35 cm x 45 cm) so it is the perfect size personal item purse for domestic U.S. carriers like American and Spirit; it is a little too large for United’s specifications, but I’ve often found that as long as I don’t over-stuff my personal item I can usually squeeze it under the seat anyway. However, it would be a little too big for European low-cost carriers so if you plan to do a lot of Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air etc. flights with this bag, it is a bit of a risk in terms of fit.
While it doesn’t have all the security features of my favorite travel backpack or purse, it does have a laptop sleeve, water-resistant canvas-esque material, several internal and external pockets. If you prefer to carry a big purse when you travel, this could be an option, but one thing that subtracts from its usefulness to me is that the bag itself weighs 3 pounds so I wouldn’t want to carry it around the city I was visiting – it’s more of a ‘flying only’ bag. If that works for you it could be a good option but I prefer my bags to do double duty.
I remember my first time spending the winter in Europe. The year was 2009, and my semester living in Prague was coming to a close. The Christmas markets were in full swing, the snow coating the houses of the Old Town was straight out of a fairy-tale — and I was freezing my ass off, mostly because my California-addled brain had never learned to dress properly for the winter.
If it weren’t for the many cups of piping hot cups of svařák (Czech mulled wine) I was drinking at inappropriately early hours, I likely never would have survived.
Fast forward nearly a decade and several winter trips to Europe later, and I’ve finally mastered the art of packing for Europe in winter without wanting to die.
It’s a combination of not giving a crap if you look like a fat, fluffy dumpling and layering with actual winter-specific layers rather than what I was doing… which was piling some summery clothes on top of a pair of leggings and cute pea coat and wondering why I was still cold. California, guys. Growing up there does things to you.
After all that trial and error, here’s my full winter inn Europe packing list, detailing exactly what I recommend you wear for winter in Europe.
What to Pack for Europe in Winter
What to Pack Everything In
If you’re visiting Europe in winter, my number one recommendation is to travel with a backpack rather than a suitcase. While it is definitely possible to travel with a suitcase, and there are times when it is more convenient – I can also assure you that there will be times when you regret it hard, such as when you’re trying to lug your bag across snowy cobblestones and cursing your life. Take it from an idiot who brought a rolling suitcase to Finland in November.
I prefer to travel light with a backpack that fits carry-on restrictions because I hate paying for baggage fees and waiting at the airport. Even traveling Europe in winter, I’ve found that having a 44L backpack is perfectly fine, and there’s no need for a massive backpacker-style backpack unless you truly love clothes and want a jillion options. I’ve used and sworn by Tortuga Backpacks for the last three years – this is the one I’m carrying now. I’ve traveled around Europe in winter for the last few years and never truly needed a larger bag.
One thing that makes packing for winter in Europe so much easier is using packing cubes – having an organized system, especially with all the layers you need for winter travel – makes your life a lot easier, especially if you are traveling to more than one city or country. This packing list for Europe in winter includes a few of the things that I swear by all year round, not just winter, for helping me organize my clothes and belongings when I travel.
While rolling suitcases can be great for in summer and fall weather, they aren’t a great idea for winter travel. For one, there will likely be snow or ice on the ground – meaning that you will have to drag, not roll, your suitcase… which kind of defeats the purpose of having a rolling suitcase.
Trust me, you’re way better off with a travel backpack that you can easily carry across snow, cobblestones, and other various obstacles that are the hallmarks of traveling Europe in winter. I am a light packer, so the Tortuga Backpackis the main backpack I need. I’ve spent two 5 month trips through Europe with it, including winter months, plus I take it on all my short term travels.
Why do I recommend Tortuga so much? Here’s why: this bag is 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in – plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to.
It also has a water bottle holder on the outside as well as buckles so that you can strap something like a yoga mat to the outside. Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.
Does it pass European budget airline requirements? I’ve never once had to check it in on a budget airline flight, and I’ve taken probably 50+ Ryanair and Wizzair flights at this point. I just buy priority boarding so that I have a guaranteed spot on board for my bag (plus a second personal item bag), which adds about $5 onto my total flight cost instead of the $20-40 or so that a heavy checked suitcase or backpack would. This adds up massively over time – with a bigger bag, I would have paid $1,000+ extra in baggage fees over the past few years. That’s massive savings.
Need a bigger backpack? Despite these long term trips, I haven’t personally used a bigger backpack (mostly because I have the back of a 90 year old woman). That said, I’ve heard great things about the Osprey system. If I ever were to upgrade my backpack capacity, that’s what I would choose. But I’m cheap and hate paying baggage fees, even at the expense of having less clothing options, which is why I prefer Tortuga. When flying budget airlines, I never check the bag, but I just purchase priority boarding for a few dollars (usually around $5) so I can have this bag on board with me, plus another personal item.
Packing cubes will save your travel sanity. These easily zippable bags are wonderful when it comes time to pack and organize your clothing. It keeps everything contained when you open your backpack, so if luggage clothing explosions drive you half as crazy as they drive me, investing in packing cubes will save you some serious therapy costs down the line.
I use these packing cubes and love them more than a logical person should love a simple zippable bag. Especially when packing for Europe in winter, when you have tons of accessories and layers to organize, this becomes extra essential.
If you are traveling Europe in winter, your clothing will take a beating. Wet, dirty, covered in snow – basically, prepare to change your clothes at least once a day. I love having a laundry bag with me in addition to my packing cubes so I can keep dirty stuff separate and ready to go on laundry day.
You don’t need anything fancy – any bag will do – but I like having a cute one like this one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical and easily won over by a cute design. In a pinch, some plastic grocery bags will do as well.
Packing for Europe in winter means you’ll need a few special toiletries (hint: bring ALL the moisturizer). After struggling to find a good way to organize my toiletries, I stumbled across this hanging toiletry bag and purchased it on a whim to give it a try… and I promptly became a product evangelist.
It’s perfect for organizing your travel toiletries like shampoo, moisturizer, make-up, hairbrushes, tweezers, etc. It has a lot of organizers and seperators so you can really maximize your organization without taking up much excess space. It fits quite a bit – it’s like the Mary Poppins bag you always needed but never knew existed. It’s wonderful for girly girl travelers like myself who have a hard time leaving make-up behind when they travel.
It comes in a large size – I do just fine with the regular size, but those with lots of toiletries and odds and ends to organize will probably want to size up.
I always use a daypack rather than a purse when I travel because it’s so much more comfortable, especially because I often carry lots of camera equipment with me. That said, I don’t want to look like an American bum (though I often do anyway) so I splurged on this adorable PacSafe Citysafe backpack.
This bag is so amazing that I basically wrote a love letter to it here. My favorite feature about this travel backpack is that it has tons of awesome security features (locking zippers, slash-proof mesh on the inside of the bag, RFID blockers, etc.) but it looks adorable and not at all horrendous.
I use it pretty much every single day whether I am traveling or not. It’s one of the crucial things I bring with me on every trip, and it’s key when packing for a trip to Europe in winter because it’s the perfect size for squeezing in layer upon layer of cozy winter clothing.
5 Most Essential Things to Pack for Europe in Winter
When it comes to what to pack for winter in Europe, it’s best to bring all your essentials from home and try to minimize what you need to buy abroad. Most of the time, you won’t save any money by shopping in Europe. Prices tend to be a little higher than in, say, North America because 20% VAT is often rolled into the prices.
Also, depending on where you travel, in many countries the currency is currently quite strong compared to the US/Canada/Aussie dollar, so you won’t be at an advantage when it comes to shopping. For that reason, I recommend planning your winter in Europe packing list beforehand, and buying all your winter travel necessities before arriving in Europe.
A good, waterproof parka
While Europe’s weather can vary dramatically in the winter, it’s best to prepare for the worst and risk being overdressed than the alternative. I am a huge fan of The North Face because they guarantee all their products for life and will fix or replace literally anything you send to them — which I’ve tested by sending in a much used-and-abused down jacket that was returned looking like new.
Their jackets aren’t exactly budget-friendly, but they’re a great investment if you’re looking for a winter coat that will last a lifetime. This is the parka I own and I’ll use it for life (unless North Face cuts me off for how badly I abuse my clothing). If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a new jacket but still want to ensure warmth in the winter, try buying a down jacket liner like this one and layer it between your warmest coat and winter layers.
A good winter parka goes a long way, but unless you’re matching that down jacket with proper layers underneath, you won’t be maximizing your potential warmth. Everyone raves about wool’s warmth-retaining properties but I can’t tolerate it – it makes me so itchy that I want to tear off all my skin. If you can stand wool, something like these merino wool leggings paired with a cashmere sweater layer will serve you very well. Personally, I constantly wear these 32 Degrees thermal layers during European winters — I have about 5 tops that I rotate during the winter between laundry days. On bottom, I wear these fleece-lined leggings. I bring about 2-3 pairs of fleece-lined leggings on a winter trip since I can wear them several times before they start to feel gross. You’ll definitely want at least 2 pairs so you can change them out if they get wet from snow or bad weather. With thermal layers and a parka, you’re nearly set for any kind of weather in Europe.
Waterproof boots and warm socks
I’ve never really felt like snow boots are entirely necessary unless you really are planning on spending a lot of time in deep snow, like if you’re staying in a cabin in the woods or spending a significant amount of time in Lapland or ski resorts around Europe.
When it comes to packing for winter in Europe, if your trip is mostly in the cities, you just need two things in your boots: they need to be waterproof and have good traction. I first bought a pair of Blondo waterproof leather boots in 2008… making this my longest-term relationship ever, eek, and one of my favorite travel shoes ever.
Despite many years of abuse and New York winters, I only had to get them resoled once in the last nearly 10 years. I’ve worn these in every European winter and they’ve always held up great – even in the Arctic Circle of Sweden.
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking in the snow, you may want a proper snow boot. The Elsa snow boot by KEEN is waterproof, insulated, and looks super cozy, and comes highly recommended as one of my friend’s favorite hiking boot brands.
Finally, no matter how insulated your boots are, you need proper socks to match – sad, thin cotton socks won’t do the trick. I bought these excellent Smartwool socks after hesitating because of the price, but I’m glad I did. Although I generally hate wool, the skin on my feet is thick enough that I don’t mind wearing wool socks at all and can get all the lovely warm wool benefits without the itchiness. You don’t need that many pairs – two or three will do – because wool is really odor-absorbent and dry really fast, you can stretch out a few pairs whereas you’d need a fresh pair of cotton socks for each day.
Reusable water bottle
The tap water in Europe is drinkable almost everywhere so make sure you bring a reusable water bottle. I’ve been to nearly every country in Europe and it’s super rare that I can’t drink the water, even in the Balkans. The only major city I can think of where I wasn’t able to drink the tap water was Kiev, Ukraine.
If you don’t already have one, try one from Klean Kanteen. If you drink a lot of hot beverages like tea or coffee, I recommend bringing a Thermos that will keep your drinks (and hands!) warm during the cold.
Moisturizer with SPF
If there’s one thing you don’t forget to pack for Europe in winter, let it be this. The cold in Europe is brutal on your skin, especially when combined with super-drying heating systems. Make sure you fight back with a heavy duty moisturizer. For the daytime, I use Aveeno moisturizer as I have sensitive skin but also want SPF protection.
Remember you need to use SPF even – if not especially – only cloudy days as UV rays are always lurking, even in the winter, ready to prematurely age your skin. (I’m super melanin-challenged, so perhaps I’m a bit paranoid). I don’t want to wear SPF at night, so I have a thick Olay night cream that I use while I sleep to put some moisture back into my dry skin.
Finally, travel insurance
Yes, I know this isn’t something that you physically pack for Europe – but it is just as essential to consider during the packing process.
Personally, I think it’s extra important to have travel insurance in winter. European winter weather is hard to predict, so it is best to be prepared and protected in case of trip cancellation/delays, lost luggage, illnesses, or accidents. I recommend buying travel insurance as far in advance as you can, as I’ve found it’s always cheaper that way than booking shortly before departure.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for years and use them to cover me when I travel. The contract is very clear as to what it covers, the prices are affordable, the excess/deductible is very low, and if you find yourself extending your trip it’s very easy to modify your insurance on the go.
What to Wear in Europe in Winter (Quick Checklist)
In a word (well, three): Layer, layer, layer!
I went into more detail above, but basically, here’s how I dress for winter in Europe. I start with a base layer – for me, that’s my fleece-lined leggings and thermal top, but many people prefer wool base layers. On top of my thermal layers, I usually wear just a simple acrylic sweater and jeans.
To seal in all the warmth, I add wool socks, waterproof leather boots, a scarf, a hat that covers my ears, gloves, and of course – my ridiculously warm parka. That will usually keep me warm enough for just about any winter situation in Europe.
Here’s a quick packing list plus a few product recommendations for what to wear for winter in Europe:
2-3 thermal tops
I use these 32 Degrees thermal layers – I recommend having a few to swap between as they tend to get kind of sweaty during the day.
3 warm sweaters to layer on top
I love H&M for their non-itchy acrylic sweaters, but wool/wool blends also work great
Most hostels in Europe don’t provide towels to guests and charge you to rent one. This can add up quickly if you are staying in multiple cities throughout Europe, so I recommend just bringing your own. Make sure you get the largest size or risk flashing everyone!
I love Hearos — they’re the gold standard for ear plugs. Alternately, if you listen to music to help you sleep, noise-canceling headphones can work wonders at drowning out inconsiderate roommates
Most hostels don’t provide shampoo, body wash, etc. so make sure you bring your own. Instead of buying travel-sized toiletries, I recommend buying reusable GoToobs so you can pack your favorites from home.
I always check reviews of hostels to ensure that they have lockers available, as the risk of theft from fellow travelers is not something to take lightly. It’s really easy to just travel with a combination lock in case your hostel doesn’t offer their own locks so you can keep your valuables safe at all times.
Toiletries to Pack for Europe in Winter
Even though it is generally pretty easy for me to find all of my preferred brands in Europe, I do recommend bringing them from home if you can. For one, it’ll likely be cheaper. For another, it’s good to continue using the same products as back home as I find that travel and cold weather really stresses my skin and it’s nice to have continuity in the products that I use.
Here is a basic list of toiletries I typically pack:
ALL THE MOISTURIZER
Again, winter in Europe will destroy your skin. Even if you think you have oily skin, you will want moisturizer – the cold plus the overzealous heating in many cities means dryness, dryness, dryness. For daytime, I use Aveeno with SPF on my sensitive skin and Olay night cream for replenishing moisture overnight.
I seem to always get a cold when doing winter travel so it’s nice to have these on hand
LUSH solid shampoo
Great at reducing your liquid load when you travel and makes my hair feel amazing – just trust me. Buy online or in store from LUSH and you’ll save serious money over Amazon. As a bonus, it’s totally packaging free, so you reduce your plastic waste.
Menstrual cup or your favorite tampon/pad brand, if applicable
If you have a specific brand allegiance, you may not find it. I switched to a Diva Cup for travel and now I never have to think about stocking up on tampons, which is awesome.
I am not a huge fan of European deodorant. The options have gotten slightly better in the last decade, but I love Secret Clinical Strength and stash up on it every time I’m home… but then again, I am sweatier than most people are. Even in winter.
You will be able to find all this in Europe, but trust me — you want to have the basics on hand in case you need them on the road.
If you’re prone to getting sick in the winter. be sure to buy some cough or cold medicine – especially if you are traveling to Scandinavia or Germany. I’ve found out firsthand that they are really stingy with some of the ingredients over the counter in Northern Europe. You’ll want to have some as backup if you are used to being able to take cold medicine, as that is not necessarily the case in, say, Germany.
Electronics to Pack for Europe in Winter
The most important thing to remember about traveling in winter is that batteries drain extra quickly. You will want to bring extra batteries for everything — especially your camera — and a portable battery charger for your phone and other electronics. Trust me on this!
If you are serious about your photography, I recommend bringing a tripod as well. Since there are fewer daylight hours in Europe in winter, you’ll likely want to do a bit of night photography (especially if you are visiting around Christmas-time and are around a lot of photogenic Christmas markets!). I travel with a cheap tripod and find it works well enough for most situations.
Where it not for my tripod, I wouldn’t have been able to capture this!
Laptop, if necessary
I bring my 13″ MacBook Air everywhere but other people may prefer a tablet or an inexpensive netbook. I work on the road so a user-friendly, lightweight laptop is a must.
In general, I’ve found that it’s not too hard to find English-langage bookstores in Europe (or at least an English-langauge section), but still – I love having a Kindle so that I can buy any book there is just via WiFi.
For all my photos when I travel, I use a Sony A6000 because it’s lightweight for a professional caliber camera, inexpensive, and a HUGE step up from a smartphone. I’m hoping to upgrade to the Sony A7 III soon, but it’s outrageously expensive so I am struggling with making the plunge. But a few of my friends have this camera and their photos are nothing short of magical!
There are a few reasons why you might need a tripod for traveling in Europe in winter – if you are going somewhere where you may see the Northern lights or want to do night photography, such as lit-up Christmas decorations. I use a simple, cheap 50″ Amazon tripod and it works just fine and fits in my carry-on sized bag. If you plan to just take daytime photos, there’s no need for a travel tripod.
Your camera and phone lose battery like crazy when in the cold, so be sure you don’t forget a portable charger when you travel in winter. Anker is a reliable brand and what I personally use. I make sure I buy something that can hold multiple charges, so that if I forget to charge it one night it won’t be a big deal.
The UK, Ireland, and Malta use a different plug than the rest of continental Europe, and Switzerland’s plug is slightly different than the standard European plug. So do a bit of research about where you are going before you get there. I recommend buying it in advance because while adaptors are easy to find everywhere, it can be annoying to try to find one on your first day.
While this sounds like a lot of things on your winter in Europe packing list – and it is – I am typically able to fit it all in a carry-on sized bag by choosing thinner but warmer materials, wearing my heaviest stuff on the plane, and picking my daypack and backpack for travel carefully!
Is there anything I’ve forgotten to pack for Europe in winter? Is there anything else you’re wondering if you should bring? Let me know in the comments!
If you’re a coffee fanatic like I am, it’s probably important to you that you’re never far away from a good cup of coffee while you’re traveling.
There are some places around the world with fantastic coffee: I’ve been especially impressed with the coffee in Australia and Scandinavia. However, it’s also true that certain countries consider hot water and instant Nescafé to be an appropriate replacement for your morning cup of joe — I’m looking at you, Mexico.
As a former barista, I’m pretty particular about my coffee, and that’s no different when I’m traveling. Sometimes, I don’t bring a travel coffee maker with me and instead, I just enjoy the local brews, especially when I’m traveling to places with great, affordable coffee cultures like in the Balkans. But if I know I’m traveling somewhere pricy, like Sweden or Western Europe, I usually turn to my trusty Aeropress, which is far and away the best travel coffee maker in my book.
I’ve also reviewed a few other portable coffee making devices as I know we all have different ways we like our coffees (I, for one, can’t stand Turkish style coffee, and I’m not a huge fan of the French press) that would work well for digital nomads, frequent travelers, or anyone else in need of a portable coffee maker.
(To skip to different sections, use this Table of Contents)
If you’re the kind of person whose morning just isn’t right without a perfect cup of coffee (same), a portable coffee maker will improve your travels tenfold. I’m just a bit obsessed with coffee, so I’ve compiled this comparative review of all the best travel coffee makers on the market. I’ve focused on affordable options (nothing is over $50 and most are under $30). All my picks are also entirely sustainable and don’t produce plastic waste (I’m looking at you, K-cups!). Be assured that you won’t break the bank or the planet with these options.
What to Look for in a Travel Coffee Maker
Sure, the world’s best coffee will come from a 200 pound La Marzocco, but that’s not the kind of coffee maker you’re going to bring with you when you travel. You want a blend of convenience, durability, portability, and quality — otherwise, your travel coffee maker will be more of a burden than a treat.
This should be obvious, but it’s best to avoid breakable materials when it comes to picking a travel coffee maker. This means that metal and plastic options are generally a better bet. Avoid glass by all means – this is not the time for a Chemex or a fancy glass French press. If you don’t want to use plastic, ceramic is better than glass but is still quite breakable so you’ll have to wrap up your travel coffee maker in a scarf or sweater during transit.
Obviously, this is one of the most important factors when it comes to picking a coffee maker for travel. Ideally, you are looking for a small coffee maker no bigger than a bottle of water or coffee mug. It should also be lightweight and hopefully not have that many separate parts – if one gets lost during travel, you probably won’t be able to replace it and may just end up throwing out the whole thing.
Quality of Coffee
Of course, what’s it worth bringing around a coffee maker if it makes crappy coffee? Whether you prefer espresso or filtered coffee, you want the best possible brew if you’re going through all the trouble of purchasing and bringing along a portable coffee maker. The best choice will be a blend of all three factors.
Tips for Picking a Travel Coffee Maker
Set realistic expectations
Some types of coffee are easier to replicate when traveling than others. For example, it’s not so hard to make a simple cup of filtered coffee on the go. However, if you’re the kind of person who needs a perfectly foamy cappuccino, you’re not going to be able to achieve that in a hotel room — you’re better off just buying coffee on the road if that’s the case. Take it from a former barista – milk frothers don’t even come close to what a proper steam wand can do, so don’t even try.
Learn how to use it before you travel
Most of these are pretty simple to use (otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen them) but still, give them a test spin before you take it out traveling with you. Trust me, the last thing you want to do when you’re jet-lagged and desperate for a cup of coffee is to be crying as you try to figure out how to work an Aeropress. It took me a few times using my Aeropress to get comfortable with pulling a good shot from it. Other devices are a little simpler but still, it’s always best to learn first and perfect on the road.
Bring beans from home (unless you’re going to a great coffee destination!)
No point in working hard to make a good cup of coffee if the beans you’re starting with are crummy. I personally bring some of my favorite beans with me, pre-ground because I don’t want to waste space on a grinder in addition to my travel coffee maker (true coffee enthusiasts here will thumb their noses at me for this). Though you definitely could pack your own coffee grinder if you are a coffee purist! The exception to this would be unless you are going somewhere where you know you can get excellent fresh coffee beans, like Nicaragua, Indonesia, Colombia, etc.
The Aeropress is just short of magic. Honest to goodness, I used one as my primary coffee maker for 2 years while living in a small NYC apartment where counter space was at a premium. It makes delicious coffee and espresso and takes up virtually no room. Once you learn how to use it, it’s quite simple and is more than worth the slight extra bit of effort as compared to a French press.
When I travel with the Aeropress, I don’t bring all the parts pictured – just the Aeropress chamber itself and some filters. I find that all the other parts aren’t really necessary if you have a spoon and a kettle (electric or stovetop both work great).
– 4.8 by 4.5 by 11.8 inches
– 6.4 ounces
– Makes the best tasting coffee and espresso
– Affordable, especially given the quality of espresso made
– Incredibly easy to use – watch one quick video to get the hang of it
– Cleans up very easily. Just pop the compressed coffee disk straight in the garbage and rinse out the Aeropress
– Can make anywhere up to an espresso shot to a full pot of coffee
– Can be used back to back with no waiting time
– The filters are impossible to restock on the road, so make sure you have enough or buy a metal reuseable filter. Also, if you’re really into the crema on top of an espresso, it’s worth investing in this, as the paper filter will just absorb the oils that make up the crema.
– It’s easy, but it’s still not the easiest option
This was my default coffee setup before I replaced it with the Aeropress. In my opinion, the Aeropress is way better, but whenever I stay somewhere with a Bialetti stovetop espresso maker, I’m happy to use it.
It’s easy to use, makes great quality espresso (unless you really need a crema – in which case I recommend getting the Aeropress + mesh filter combo), and can be made directly on the stovetop so there’s no need to boil water.
– 4.3 by 3.7 by 5.8 inches
– 1.1 pounds
– Super simple to use and clean up
– Makes delicious espresso
– No extra pieces to lose
– Needs stovetop or direct heat – can’t use with an electric kettle
– Need to watch it carefully or espresso can burn. Be especially careful not to let all the water overboil or the pot can overheat!
– Makes a limited amount of espresso and you need to let it cool down between uses
– It’s a bit heavier than other options
This wouldn’t be my first pick, but for some people it will be perfect. If you’re the kind of person who needs coffee in the morning but then wants to immediately get going – this is exactly what you need. (Those who prefer a more leisurely morning coffee will be better suited with one of the above or below options).
This basically combines a French press and a stainless steel portable coffee mug in one go. But its strength is also its downfall – this means that if you don’t drink it quickly, the coffee grounds sitting in the French press will cause your coffee to get over-extracted and bitter. I’m not a huge fan of French press coffee for this reason, but if drinking coffee quickly is not a problem, this may be right for you.
– 2.8 by 2.8 by 8.1 inches
– 7.2 ounces
– Coffee mug and maker all in one
– Insulated so that coffee will stay hot longer
– Better mesh than most French presses to reduce grit
– Doesn’t require a stove, just hot water
– Easy to clean
– Can only make one cup at a time
– If you take too long to drink your coffee, it will get bitter
If you love French press-style coffee, you’re in luck as this is one of the easiest types of coffee to brew on the road. The main thing is finding a French press that is unbreakable and produces enough coffee for your needs while taking up as little room as possible.
This travel coffee machine is perfect for two people traveling together, although it also works for one if you’re a huge coffee lover like me.
– 7 by 7 by 9 inches
– 1.2 pounds
– Shatterproof construction
– Makes coffee for at least two at a time
– Easy to clean
– Doesn’t require a stove, just hot water
– Bigger and heavier than other options
– Handle is not so ergonomic for packing
If you’re a super light packer, I can’t really think of a better option than this. Collapsible so that you can pack it even in the smallest of bags, this little guy can still churn out a reliable cup of coffee. They even come with a carabiner so you can clip it onto the outside of your pack – making it a great camping coffee maker.
Keep in mind that with any pour over coffee maker you’ll also need to bring some paper filters (#2 only). They won’t take up much space but it is one extra thing to keep track of.
– 4 by 0.5 by 4 inches
– 4 ounces
– Easily the smallest and lightest option
– Most affordable option
– Produces a quality cup of pourover coffee
– Not the prettiest or most high tech option
– Can only make one cup at a time
– Must bring paper filters (#2) with you also – these are not the easiest kind of filter to find when you travel
I hope this guide has been helpful to you when it comes to prepping your coffee on the go! If you have any favorite travel coffee makers you’ve tested, feel free to share them with me below.
A new year, a new set of resolutions we’ll never keep. But dreaming’s most of the fun. And if you’re reading this page, you’re probably more excited about hitting the airport than the gym. Which means I like you.
It’s 4 days into 2018 and I’ve already booked a ticket to Azerbaijan with plans of traveling onwards throughout the Caucacus. It’s one of my dream trips and I’m finally making it happen this year. This year, I really want to focus on traveling to more unique places. Because the last thing the travel blogosphere needs is another Santorini sunset.
So move over, Insta-famous Mykonos, Morocco, and Barcelona. That’s so 2017. I asked 18 travel bloggers to share their unique, alternative ideas for 2018 travel that you probably don’t already have on your bucket list. And holy hell did they ever deliver – I’m practically frothing at the mouth with wanderlust. Need any more 2018 inspiration? Check out these other 37 unique destinations!
So tell me in the comments – did you add any new places to your travel wishlist?
If you’re looking for sun-soaked blue and white buildings, turquoise Mediterranean beaches, and fantastic ancient ruins, most will think they need to head to Greece. However, there’s a more interesting (and much less touristed) option: Tunisia!
Tunisia used to be a favorite beach holiday for Brits, but it declined sharply after the Arab Spring and a handful of terrorist incidents in 2015. Since then, the UK and Tunisian governments have worked together to combat terrorism, and there have been no incidents targeting foreigners during this time. However, the beaches have yet to fill up, making this an exotic and safe alternative to Greece, Morocco, and Egypt.
Beyond the beaches, Tunisia is an amazing destination for cultural travel. The country has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Roman cities, Islamic holy sites, and ancient medinas. For history lovers, the cities of Carthage is a must-see, along with the better-preserved Punic city of Kerkouane. One of the best-kept Tunisian secrets is the white-and-blue city of Sidi Bou Said. Located only twenty kilometers outside of Tunis (accessible via train), it has inspired artists, philosophers, and tourists alike.
Check out Tunisia before the rest of the world catches on to this Mediterranean gem.
Not many destinations evoke feelings of wanderlust quite like Bhutan.
Often hailed as “the last Shangri-La”, Bhutan is a unique destination that deservedly tops many travelers’ bucket lists.
Instead of only focusing on economic growth through GDP, Bhutan instead monitors Gross National Happiness (GNH). Basically, this means any Bhutanese policy has to be to the benefit of its people. Free education and free healthcare, both funded by money from tourism, are but two examples of GNH in action.
Bhutan is also remarkable in its determination to preserve its heritage, culture, and traditions. Buildings adhere to certain aesthetic codes, making driving through the countryside a feast for the eyes. Throughout the year, festivals are held to showcase and preserve Bhutanese traditions, such as the Royal Highlander Festival in Laya. Most locals still don traditional Bhutanese dress each day; gho (for men), or kira (for women). Add hundreds of well-preserved temples, forts, and monasteries, and you can get an idea about why Bhutan is so coveted as a travel destination.
Travelers to Bhutan can immerse themselves in rich Buddhist culture and history, but the country offers more than just pretty buildings and outfits. With more than 60% of its landmass covered in forest and many Himalayan peaks, Bhutan is a nature lover’s paradise. No matter what type of traveler you are, Bhutan is sure to strike your fancy.
There’s simply no other place in the world like Zanzibar. This archipelago off the east coast of Tanzania is a treasure trove of beauty, from the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean to the multi-ethnic influences found in the region’s cuisine and architecture.
Beaches like Nungwi and Kiwengwa are a tropical paradise, where snorkelers will find a spectacular, colorful underwater world of marine life. Then there’s Chumbe Island, a private nature reserve and the top snorkeling destination in Zanzibar and arguably all of East Africa.
Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Zanzibar City, is just as ravishing — in a different way. Between the cobblestoned streets and the waterfront, you’ll find a mix of African, Arab, Indian and European influences. You’ll hear the Muslim call to prayer and the chime of Hindu bells. You’ll marvel at the textures and details carved into the buildings, notably the famous giant Zanzibari doors. As for the cuisine, it’s just divine. Food in Zanzibar makes use of the abundant spices sourced from the region’s many spice plantations that make a worthy day trip for foodies.
I think a place that everyone should be putting at the top of their 2018 travel list is Kazakhstan. Finally shedding an undeserved, decade-long reputation from a movie filmed in Romania, this Central Asian country has dropped required visas for many nationalities, built a little tourism infrastructure, and even added flight routes that can take you from Budapest, Hungary to Astana, Kazakhstan for less than $70 round trip.
Interestingly enough, many people don’t realize how diverse Kazakhstan is when it comes to nature and its people. In this one country, the world’s 9th largest, travelers will find enormous mountains, deserts, steppes, canyons, lakes, and much, much more. In the cities, one will find a mix of modern and contemporary architecture mixed with the brutalism of its Soviet past. The people of Kazakhstan range from so many unique ethnicities, cultures, and traditions that travels there will leave you confused, and intrigued to return after you leave the country. Kazakhstan is definitely going to boom with tourism soon… and deservingly so. It is definitely my pick for a unique destination in 2018!
Whenever people ask us about our favorite places we’ve traveled, we struggle to narrow it down to a short, concise answer. But for adventure seekers with a passion for nature and wildlife, Rwanda offers a host of unique experiences, many of which are far off the mass tourism track. “The land of a thousand hills” is probably best known for the endangered mountain gorillas of Volcanoes National Park, which were made famous by late primatologist Dian Fossey (and the biopic of her life, Gorillas in the Mist). There are currently 10 habituated gorilla families open to tourist visits, so trekking permits are limited to a mere 80 per day.
Being surrounded by mamas, babies, and massive Silverback gorillas is definitely an experience you’ll never forget. But it’s hardly the country’s only wildlife-centered attraction. From tracking chimpanzees and several species of monkeys in Nyungwe Forest National Park to a more traditional Big 5 wildlife safari in Akagera National Park, Rwanda has numerous options for nature and wildlife lovers. And since the country is still emerging as an ecotourism hotspot, you’re almost certain to have some of these pristine attractions all to yourself!
Carretera Austral is a scenic road in the remote part of Chilean Patagonia. Everything that Chile has to offer can be found here – turquoise lakes, snow peaked mountains and countless glaciers.
The road starts in Puerto Montt and has a dead end in Villa O’Higgins. On 1247 km long gravel/paved roa, there are several little towns where you can base yourself while exploring the mountains. It is a popular place for local young Chileans who like to hitchhike along the road. It was also our first hitchhiking experience and where we fell in love with Patagonia. It is one of the few places in Patagonia where you can travel on a budget.
We spent two weeks on Carretera Austral and our favorite places included: Queulat National Park (pictured), Cerro Castillo and Villa O’Higgins for hiking, Coyhaique for mountain biking, Puerto Rio Tranquilo for visiting Marble Caves and glacier trekking. If you’d like to visit, read our Carretera Austral guide where you can find everything you need to know and more beautiful pictures of Chilean Patagonia.
By Nadine of Le Long Weekend
There are so many fantastic reasons to visit the Falkland Islands, but there are a few main things that make it stand out as a unique destination to visit in 2018! Animal lovers will adore seeing baby king penguin chicks at Volunteer Point, watching elephant seals wrestling for mating rights on Sea Lion Island, or spotting the elusive reindeer on Weddell Island. Photographers will have uninterrupted canvases to capture, from serene shorelines to dramatic cliffs and war-torn landscapes.
Walkers can explore wild headlands, climb tussock-covered hills, and discover hidden beaches. And outdoor adventurists can scale the islands stone runs or take to the seas in search of passing whales. The Falklands are still very much an undiscovered gem in the South Atlantic Ocean, one of the only places in the world where you can still roam without restriction – so long as you mind the ‘country code’. I’d recommend it to anyone in search of intrepid exploration, or simply wanting to get off the grid for a while.
There’s something special about Western Australia. It’s Australia’s biggest state, yet possibly its most overlooked – with many travelers favoring the Queensland coast, the southern cities of Sydney and Melbourne, and the Red Center.
But Western Australia is a unique travel destination that’s well worth spending some time in. It’s home to some of Australia’s most spectacular national parks, such as Karijini and Kalbarri, it’s on the edge of the Ningaloo Reef – Australia’s other coral reef that arguably has more life than Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef – and is home to charming outback towns.
Road tripping around Western Australia will give you the amazing opportunity to relish in its natural beauty, see some incredible native wildlife and camp under the stars every single night – in Western Australia, shooting stars are pretty much a nightly occurrence!
If you don’t want to do an independent road trip, you can see the best of the state on an organized tour. There’s no public transport outside of the towns of Western Australia, which somewhat adds to the mystery and intrigue of this lesser-explored land.
Western Australia is still a relatively off the beaten path place, but news of its breath-taking beauty is traveling fast – so be sure to get there in 2018 before the rest of the world!
Majestic waterfalls, beautiful canyons, colorful cities, jaw-dropping ruins: these are just a few of the reasons to visit Chiapas. The state of Chiapas, Mexico is often overlooked by tourists coming to the country, but this southern state offers unique experiences at rock bottom prices, all taking place in an incredibly gorgeous location.
During our time in Chiapas (we based ourselves in the largest city, San Cristobal de las Casas), we went horseback riding through the countryside, visited the most unique house of worship we’ve ever seen, took a boat cruise through a dramatic canyon, hiked to waterfalls, and visited what have become our favorite ruins in Mexico, the city of Palenque. The running cost of a day trip to any (or even several) of these places in Chiapas? $10-20 USD/person.
After sustaining damage in a powerful earthquake in the fall of 2017, the people of Chiapas need your tourism dollars now more than ever. Chiapas is open for business again, and would love to welcome you with open arms to experience all it has to offer in 2018.
Located in the Bohemia Region of Czech Republic, Bohemian Paradise is a place that is not on everyone’s radar but should be. With incredible rock formations, castles, outdoor sports, and views for days this area really has a lot going on.
Considered a UNESCO Geo Park, this area has also inspired artists and painters for centuries. One glance at the Prachov Rocks and you’ll understand why. The unique sandstone rock formations have created a labyrinth through a dense forest for some of the most mesmerizing views from both below and the top of the rocks. These aren’t the only interesting rock formations you’ll find in the area. There’s also Besedice Rocks in Mala Skala which offer another maze of rocks with dramatic drops and unforgettable views.
If you want to step back in time you can visit the ruins of Trosky Castle which are the symbol of Bohemian Paradise and are placed on the summit of two volcanic plugs. From the top of Trosky Castle you also are rewarded with another 360 rewarding view. Trek through the forest from Vranov Rock Fortress, more castle ruins perched on a cliff that look more like an old church than castle ruins, to Frydstejn Castle, even more majestic castle ruins nestled in the forest.
More incredible sites include Castle Hruba Skala perched on a cliff surrounded by a beautiful forest and Castle Kost, a historical and mesmerizing castle out of a storybook. Castle Kost was also the filming location of the US movie Hanibal Rising. Bohemian Paradise will enchant you with its unrivaled beauty, outdoor activities from kayaking to hiking, and gorgeous castles.
Dominica is known as the Nature Islands and for good reason. The beautiful Caribbean island is located between Guadeloupe in the south and Martinique in the north. I reached the capital of Roseau via ferry from St. Lucia.
Dominica was one of the more laid back, naturally beautiful Caribbean Islands I visited with lots of hiking, snorkeling, and diving around the island. I took a day trip from Roseau to Champagne Reef which is the premier diving site in Dominica. It is named Champagne Reef because of the constant bubbling of gases that are coming out of the ground, which look like champagne. It is also the number one snorkeling site in all of the 25 different Caribbean Islands. I was able to see parrot fish, lobsters, and turtles while diving there.
On the other side of the island, near the airport, you can find Rosalie Bay. This is one of Dominica’s longest beaches with black sand fringed with palm trees. Better for sunbathing than swimming due to the rough seas, but it’s secluded and the eco-friendly Rosalie Bay Resort is nearby. This area is one of the prime locations on Dominica for sea turtle nesting.
To really discover the beauty of the island you must go hiking on the Waitukubuli National trail which covers 115 miles north to south on the island. It takes you through several national parks and through the Trois Pitons which are a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a unique eco experience of the Nature Island and there are several waterfalls to visit as well!
When I tell someone we’re traveling to Greenland their face usually does one of two things: stays blank or contorts in confusion. Greenland, more ice than green things, is a massive, unforgiving island which sees more snow and ice than you care to imagine.
But to many, the sparse population, vast, barren landscapes, and hard life are the very reasons to visit. Culture-wise, you can explore and learn about the Inuit people, who’ve lived there for thousands of years. Their culture is beautifully paired with the natural beauty of the area: icebergs, glaciers, ice mountains, and arctic wildlife.
Greenland isn’t the most hospitable travel destination but it certainly one of the most unique. The views and experiences are unlike anywhere else in the world, making Greenland a must-see in 2018 for those brave enough.
The country of Lebanon might not be on everyone’s bucket list. Nevertheless, it has tons of great things to see and do. After experiencing the hustle and bustle of Beirut, its war-torn buildings and the glitter and glamour of the modern shopping malls, it’s time to explore further.
Rent a car and drive up north to the small but wonderful fishing village of Byblos and further up to Tripoli. From here, you have access to the Bekaa Valley with its Temple of Bacchus. What makes Lebanon so special is the mix of new and old, modern and traditional. Once back in Beirut, definitely have a night out — the city is a go-to place for the young Lebanese. Expect a long night!
2018 will be an important year for the Russian tourism industry, as the country is hosting the FIFA World Cup. Thanks to this event, it will be easier for tourists to enter the country. From June 4th to July 15th, any foreigner can come to Russia without visa, just with a valid passport and fan ID (which you get when purchasing a ticket).
Most people coming to the World Cup will go to four main cities; Moscow, St.Petersburg, Sochi, and Kanaz. If you want to explore more of Russia and skip the crowds, there are some amazing natural attractions to see here. Mt. Elbrus in the South of Russia near the Georgian border is the highest peak in Europe and one of the Seven Summits (highest mountain peak in each region). To conquer Elbrus doesn’t cost a lot of money. You can do it on your own, with no special permit or guide needed. You can stay in a tent on the mountain and cook for yourself. It’s probably one of the most affordable highest mountains to climb.
Why not go even more off the beaten track and visit the Altai region? It is one of the hidden gems in Russia: not many tourists come here, but those who come fall in love with it. Stunning turquoise-colored lakes, emerald mountain slopes, crystal clear rivers, waterfalls and untouched nature: all these you can find in Altai. Or maybe take the famous Trans-Siberian railway and go to the heart of Siberia region to Baikal Lake to see the deepest lake in the world. Here you can find plenty of outdoor activities like diving in the lake, visiting one of the lake’s islands, or hiking in the nearby forest.
If you’re looking for a paradise beaches, with white sandy, crystal clear turquoise water away form the crowds, Sardinia will give you just that. A short 45-minute flight away from mainland Italy, Sardinia couldn’t be more different from the rest of the country. Here people are even more relaxed and take everything really slowly, while it might drive you a little crazy at first it will give you the opportunity to really relax and enjoy the island vibes of your holiday.
What is so special about Sardinia? If the amazing beaches aren’t enough for you, Sardinia is also a great place for any kind of water sports. It’s a very windy destination, which makes it perfect if you want to try sports such as windsurf, sailing and kitesurfing. If you’re a fan of snorkelling or scuba diving the exceptionally clear water makes Sardinia the perfect destination also for that. Find out more about exploring the beaches of Sardinia here!
The Faroe Islands are a group of 18 windswept islands that you most likely have never heard of. They are located in between Iceland and Norway and are one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.The islands are a self-governing region of Denmark that are very far away from the traditional tourist path. They make a great addition to a trip to Iceland, although in my opinion, they are far more exotic and unique than the tourist-ridden Iceland.
The Faroes are full of countless waterfalls at every corner, as well as 80,000 sheep, and winding roads. The homes and building here are famous for their traditional grass roofs, which have kept homes insulated for years.One of the most popular things to do here is go hiking! The islands are mostly wild so you’re free to explore as you please, and with almost 350 mountains it’s tough to get bored. Just make sure to take care and plan your hikes as it can get dangerous in the Faroe Islands.
I would recommend heading here in 2018 before the secret gets out about this little paradise!
Malaysian Borneo should be on your bucket list for 2018. After watching way too many National Geographic videos, I loved the idea of seeing the nature itself. 2018 is a great year to visit as the Malaysian government is stepping up their conservation efforts and trying to slow down deforestation in Borneo after realizing the tourism potential.
Despite having an unbelievable amount of ecosystem diversity, people don’t flock to Borneo in the same way that they go on an African safari yet, so be sure to visit Malaysia for some wildlife adventures in 2018. If you’re visiting Malaysian Borneo, be sure to visit the Kinabatangan valley and Bako National Park.
By Megan of Why Wait to See the World
The perfect destination for someone seeking adventure is Kyrgyzstan in 2018. This Central Asian country is full of beautiful mountains, true nomads with yurts ready to welcome you in during a multi-day trek, serene lakes, and more. The people of the country are extremely kind and won’t hesitate to feed you after a cold night in the mountains.
The World Nomad Games return to Cholpon Ata in 2018, making it a great time to visit Kyrgyzstan. These games are like the Olympics on steroids. Teams from countries from around the world descend on this northeastern region to compete in mental, strategic, and extremely physical events. Don’t miss Kok-Buro, a game similar in rules to soccer except it’s played on horseback — and the ball is a 70 pound decapitated goat carcass. The goals are 5-meter wide “pits” that a player must dive off their horse into carrying the carcass.
2017 was a whirlwind of a year: overwhelmingly busy, mostly positive, with some serious low points. Despite my insistence in my last recap that I was “slowing down,” my FOMO had me barreling through 22 countries (13 of them new ones) and 9 U.S. states (4 for the first time).
2016 had ended on a bit of crap note: I had ended my trip a month early, facing the worst resurgence of my depression since 2008. I took two months at home trying to get myself started on the hard work of self-care, which, surprise surprise — I’m still no good at. My time at home was good at pressing the “reset” button and starting to screw my head on straight, but I quickly became restless and ready for my next trip. So I packed my bags for 4 months in Central America, crossed my fingers, and got on a plane on January 10th, hoping for the best.
Here’s how it went, month by month:
Countries Visited: The U.S., Nicaragua
Getting back into my old self in Nicaragua. I had spent months fighting off my depression, which hit me janstrong in Italy last October. When I got to Nicaragua, something about me just felt like it clicked into place. After having had virtually no energy for three months straight, I suddenly had a motivation boost and was doing tons of sightseeing, hiking volcanoes, and improving my long-dormant Spanish.
I almost missed my flight to Nicaragua due to surprise traffic despite having left the house at 5 in the morning. Since going to the airport is already a major trigger for me (I know, the irony of being a travel blogger who’s afraid of going to the airport), I was hyperventilating and on the brink of a near-panic attack. My poor dad luckily was able to navigate around it using Waze and we got there on time, but not until I had nearly barfed with anxiety several times.
Countries Visited: Nicaragua, Costa Rica (briefly), Cuba
It’s a toss-up between getting SCUBA certified in Little Corn Island, Nicaragua, and meeting up again with Janet of Journalist on the Run (who I had met in Albania the year before) and two of our friends in Cuba. Despite some heinously bad food and a near-broken foot that had one of our friends ending up in a Cuban hospital, we had an amazing time exploring the West side of Cuba for two weeks.
After having had an amazing five weeks in Nicaragua, I was literally on my way to the border when I encountered some really upsetting and violating harassment on the bus from San Juan del Sur to Rivas. I was packed three to a seat with two tourist girls, sitting on the outside seat. It was a super packed bus, but this man was standing with his dick thrust in my face, pretty much straddling my face and looking at me with a sickening shit-eating grin.
I’ve traveled on crowded forms of transit hundreds of times and never felt violated or humiliated like I did. Something just felt off, but I felt like I was being too sensitive, so I was completely frozen. I asked the girls sitting next to me if this was all in my head, or if the guy was being fucked up and gross. They agreed with me. The girls I was sitting with were lovely and asked if I wanted help in telling him to fuck off, but I was just so frozen inside and terrified to escalate the situation, so I didn’t.
Honestly I always thought I would react so differently in that situation. I remember reading about subway gropings and masturbators and thinking that how I’d fucking take them down and shame the shit out of them. Once I was put in that situation, it felt entirely different and I was surprised at how voiceless I became.
Getting cheated by our casa owner in Cuba and being put in a 14-person shared taxi with horrible diesel fumes streaming for 5 hours instead of the private taxi we had paid extra for. We were all feeling really ill from the fumes afterwards, but at least we were at the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen when we finally arrived, so the bad mood didn’t last long.
Devouring a plate of cochinita pibil tacos hours after arriving back to Mexico from Cuba might have been one of the happier moments of my life. Cuba was amazing but I’ve never been more happy to leave a country — when you’re addicted the food the way I am, Cuba is fucking rough. Belize was also amazing — staying at the amazing Victoria House was probably one of the nicest hotel stays yet in my career as a travel blogger.
Besides the vomit-filled ferry ride from hell crossing to Cozumel which has forever triggered a Pavlovian nausea response every time I hear Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” — it was a fairly smooth month.
Countries Visited: Guatemala, the U.S.
While seeing Tikal was my best travel highlight, I’ve got to say the best was reuniting with my close friends in New York and visiting all my old coworkers after 9 months away. While New York was bad for me in so many ways, it’s also the place that gave me my independence, my determination, my stubbornness, and some of the best friends I could ask for. It was truly “the best of times, the worst of times” and I’ll always be grateful to New York for giving me what I needed when I needed, and for equipping me to leave it when I did.
I got severe food poisoning from the food at Zephyr Lodge in Lanquín, Guatemala. I know for a fact I got my food poisoning from there because the “lodge” is so cynically run that if you bring outside food or beverages inside you can literally get kicked out for not eating at their overpriced, unhygienic restaurant.
After alternating between vomiting and crapping my guts out for about 6 hours straight (oh, also! climbing down a precarious ladder every time I needed to shit my brains out), I had two options: get on the bus that I had already paid for that would take about 8 hours to get to Antigua, or stay at this god-forsaken place yet another day and be subjected to the same food that had given me food poisoning. I doubled up on the Imodium and got the fuck out of there.
My epic Southwest road trip with Janet! We started in Las Vegas, looped through Arizona where I met up with one of my best friends from high school, then headed through all of Utah’s Mighty 5. We then visited Janet’s American family, then drove allll the way back to Vegas in basically a single long day of driving. Pretty much every minute of our road trip was epic and full of amazing views and memories. It really cemented that I have so much more of the U.S. to explore.
I had a great time at TBEX Huntsville and made some great friendships there with some lovely ladies, in particular the wonderful Crystal and Taylor.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: if you want to see the dregs of humanity in America, take a Greyhound. I witnessed a Latino man getting verbally abused for talking on the phone in Spanish by the bus conductor who proceeded with such racist gems such as “hang-o up-o el telefon-o”, to the cheers of pajamas-wearing meth heads everywhere. It didn’t feel like a safe space for me to intervene (read: pajamas-wearing meth heads) so I filed a customer service complaint later, which unsurprisingly went unanswered.
But that was just the amuse-bouche to the fuckery that Greyhound was about to rain down on me. Somehow, on an overnight bus that included one “cleaning stop” and zero transfers, they managed to lose my suitcase with pretty much the last of everything I owned in it. I was bringing the last of my belongings home from New York, so this bag literally was holding all my most precious possessions. And it was gone by the time I got off the bus in New Orleans.
The New Orleans staff, I will say, was awesome at trying to help me locate my bag, but no luck. It mysteriously appeared back in Montgomery where this whole shitshow started a month and two days after it disappeared… despite me having called there several times. Of course, by the time it was back in California, I was out of the country again. They also had the audacity to charge my mother a $10 a day “storage fee” when she couldn’t pick it up the day it appeared at the Greyhound station 30 minutes from my house. Seriously, never again, Greyhound, never again.
One of the hilariously odd outfits I had to scramble to put together after losing virtually my entire wardrobe:
This was a pretty low-key month, most of it spent at home in California and in New York, where I went to my best friend’s wedding, which was beautiful and touching and theoretically should have been the highlight of my month but…
I got stood up by my date at my best friend’s wedding.
Falling in love with Budapest! If I had a valid EU passport, I’d be living in Budapest right now. The ruin bars, the delicious food, the beautiful Danube, the cafés, the cheap AF wine, it’s pretty much heaven. Even during what should have been peak season, the city never felt crowded or overrun.
Getting the worst flu I’ve ever had in Switzerland, which I can say is probably the worst developed country on earth to be sick in. For some inexplicable reason, virtually every hotel or hostel in Switzerland is completely closed between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. Which, y’know, is super inconvenient when you’re barfing in the tiniest hostel bathroom on earth with no lock on the door.
But let’s kick it up a notch. Now, imagine the bathroom is on the second floor of the building and you nearly faint with every step on the stairs you take so you have to keep sitting down on random stairs in between. Meanwhile, the only place you have to rest is the awful faux-leather couch in the common room, which could practically be a water slide for the amount of sweat you’re drenched in. Meanwhile, concerned looking tourists keep popping their head in to see if you’ve died yet.
When it came time to check in at 4 PM (YES, 4 PM), I was so faint that I literally sat in the line of people waiting to check in because I couldn’t even stand.
To make matters worse still, I was working on an important campaign for Swiss Travel Pass so I felt compelled to go out and still take photos, videos, etc. despite feeling deathly ill. I was able to rally and get what I needed, but I was pretty sick for about two complete weeks.
Falling off my mountain bike in Switzerland not once but twice, then thinking it’d be a good idea to ask out the devastatingly handsome mountain biking guide. He was decidedly not interested despite my creative pick up line that I was rather proud of (“I promise I’m better on two feet than two wheels” … *CRICKETS*)
Finally taking a rest and testing out getting a base. I ended up in Sofia, Bulgaria, and fell in love. I don’t know what it is about the city, and whenever someone raises their eyebrow and goes “Bulgaria, huh? How’s that?” I still don’t know how exactly to put it into words… despite being a travel writer. I guess I just love the up-and-coming feel of the city, the funky bars and cafés, the delicious restaurants where you can get an amazing meal with drinks for under $10, the way everyone gathers after dark to drink in the parks and hang out, the mountains just on the perimeter of the city, the history everywhere from the subways and streets. Yet it’s still a bit rough around the edges and it’s a city that doesn’t go out of its way to please or accommodate you – but makes you feel welcome all the same.
I initially forgot to make a worst, which I guess is a good sign! On the whole this was a pretty productive and good month. Not at all a bad moment, but funny all the same: I got a bit too tipsy enjoying craft beer and good conversation with Megan in Plovdiv to remember to go home (or eat dinner, for that matter). This led to me missing the last bus home to Sofia, and I had to check into a random hostel in Plovdiv in my clothes from that day and catch the bus in the morning.
Countries Visited: Turkey, Maldives, Ireland
Getting completely surprised by being invited to a conference in the freaking MALDIVES of all places. Honestly, I couldn’t believe my luck the entire time I was there. I didn’t even feel weird being solo in the world’s honeymoon capital because I was so busy the entire time.
Diving, snorkeling, doing sunrise yoga, eating my heart out 3 times a day, chilling in my own private overwater bungalow jacuzzi… yeah, who needs a man? Especially when you have the lovely Miss Tourist as your Instagram wife.
I almost feel bad not talking about Turkey, which is one of my favorite countries… but it was so great to get to be back in Istanbul, one of my most-loved cities in the world, and I finally got to visit Cappadocia and take a hot air balloon ride at sunset like I had always dreamed of! Especially given the current situation, I’m so glad I managed to visit before the visa standoff.
I can’t get into too much detail here as my dad/mom/stepmom/etc. read this blog, but let’s just say that I invited a crush of mine to Cappadocia with me and it was the most excruciatingly awkward “romantic experience” of my life. And then we still had to ride in a freaking hot air balloon together the next morning and pretend like nothing was weird. FML.
This was a great month for friends — I got close with a bunch of bloggers at TBEX Ireland and on my FAM trip, and I got to stay with my friend Janet’s lovely parents in Cork. I also finally got to meet one of my blogging BFFs in person in Bucharest (hey Kate!) and even though my time in Romania was a bit, uh, complicated, I met so many lovely lovely people whose friendships will always be near and dear to me (I’m talking about you, Polenta Posse!)
I was in an incredibly uncomfortable situation where I was both a witness of and victim of sexual harassment in one night… but felt it impossible to speak up about what was happening. I felt deeply frustrated by what I saw one older man doing to another much younger woman who was his subordinate. I also was touched without my consent by a man nearly twice my age who felt it was appropriate to remove my glasses from my face, stare deeply into my eyes, and tell me he wanted to “see me.” I quickly got away from him but felt disgusted and embarrassed by the encounter. He proceeded to act inappropriately towards other women on the trip.
I didn’t reach out to talk about this incident with anyone in a leadership role because they were either A) the ones being shady or B) deeply unsympathetic to other more basic human needs… like needing to use the bathroom. I and others were repeatedly made fun of for needing to use the bathroom – being told to “cross my legs” and being called “a little child” – that didn’t exactly make me feel like I was in a safe enough space to discuss the need for a sexual harassment-free working environment. At one point I was told — jokingly, I was later told (this would happen a lot, bullying being gaslit after the fact as “joking”) — that I would need to “bring proof” to use the bathroom.
In the midst of the #MeToo movement, it was especially frustrating by how powerless I felt. I consider myself a feminist who wants to work towards equality in the travel industry. It’s hard when things are not necessarily illegal but are, in my mind, clearly inappropriate and dehumanizing to women, reducing us to objects of desire rather than equals with so much to contribute professionally. But given the unique organizational makeup of this program, where there was no neutral party or supervisory figure to discuss this with, I felt like there was nothing I could do.
I want to put a little caveat here that the many of the people organizing the trip were lovely and that I would have enjoyed the country quite a bit had it been in other circumstances. The last thing I want to do is discourage travel to Romania (after all, Eastern Europe is my favorite region to travel in the world) but I also don’t want to continue being silent about my experience.
Countries Visited: Romania, U.K., Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, the U.S.
I reunited with my oldest friend, Michelle, who I’ve now known for over 15 years and seen on 4 continents. We explored Estonia with the tourism board and had an amazing five days there, despite the cold weather and short days. I left falling deeply in love with the Baltic states and desperately want to come back in the near future.
The bad from the month before continued into this month. By the time I left Romania for the UK, I was completely depleted. I spent three days in London with extreme anxiety, barely able to participate in the World Travel Market conference that I had spent a bunch of money to attend.
Countries Visited: The U.S., Indonesia
I spent a lovely couple of days at my aunt’s house up in the Russian River Valley, which after my chaotic travels in October and November was super therapeutic. I also reunited with a bunch of my favorite blogger buddies in Bali.
(My friend Janet’s awesome villa in Bali, as I’ve been so lazy with taking pictures lately!)
The horse ride from hell on Gili Air. I’ve ridden horses a lot (in fact, I used to be able to jump horses and ride bareback) and never thought of it as a life-threatening activity… until a few days ago. The horses there are completely untrained and basically feral: they spook at anything and will not hesitate to try to buck you off. I spent the better part of what was supposed to be a relaxing sunset ride on the beach clutching onto my horse’s mane for dear life, as my cousin nearly got bucked off several times. Needless to say, I won’t be riding horses in Indonesia (or anywhere, really) again anytime soon.
Looking Forward to 2018
I’ve always been a bit of an overplanner, and I’m excited to say I’m kind of going with the flow for most of 2018. I have plans for the month of January (continuing to be in Bali, then visiting Taiwan for 2 weeks).
I’m most excited for setting up a part-time base in Sofia, Bulgaria, the city I loved so much in August. After a year and a half of near-constant travel, I’m looking for something a little more stable and predictable.
I’m planning on traveling around Europe quite a bit and correcting some of my oversights, since I can only stay in Bulgaria for 90 days out of every 180 visa-free. I’m hoping to visit Ukraine, Moldova, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Belarus so I can safely say I’ve visited all of Eastern Europe, and Portugal is a must-visit for me as well.
Also on my bucket list: Russia during the World Cup and several of the Stans. This has been on my wish list for a long time and now that I’ve been studying Russian I’m dying to put it into use.
I’m also hoping to visit a bit of Africa but that remains to be planned!
Now it’s your turn to tell me! What were your best & worst travel moments? Where are you hoping to go next year?
For someone who loves making lists far in advance of when it’s appropriate to, it’s kind of weird that I haven’t already made a mega-post of travel gift ideas yet.
That’s probably because I’m a bit of a self-admitted Grinch. The stress of Christmas gets me every year – I hate the obligation of buying presents and often wait until noon on the 24th to run out to the department stores, grab a few scarves, and call it a day.
But you’re probably a better person than I am, and maybe you’ve decided that you’re looking for some unique yet useful travel gifts that your intrepid traveling friend, daughter, or sister could use. So, without more of my needless rambling, here are my top ideas for gifts for female travelers that they’ll actually use (written by a former carry-on only traveler – so I know how much usefulness and portability matters).
NOTE: This list was created by a female traveler with women & femme travelers in mind — but I’m sure men and nonbinary people will enjoy the majority of items on this list as well!
I’m a huge fan of LUSH solid shampoo and have tried a few different ones (Seanik wins out, though). I have fine hair that easily gets greasy: LUSH shampoos are not only great for travel, they’re just great period — I’d use them even if I wasn’t traveling all the time.
Plus, they’re packaging-free, and any reduction in plastic is a great thing in my book. Don’t forget to grab a reusable metal tin!
Note: I have to mention that if you buy this in-store at your nearest LUSH it’s almost half the price – this Amazon link is for convenience.
Whether it’s sore muscles from lugging around a backpack, mosquito bites from leaving the windows open on a muggy night without AC, a persistent cold, or a wicked headache from last night’s ill-advised drinks, tiger balm will always help out with aches and pains.
Guys. This sleep mask is seriously a game-changer. I’m actually on my third one because I keep leaving them behind but can’t imagine living without one anymore.
It’s contoured, meaning that the sleep mask doesn’t press down on your eyes while still shutting out all the light. It’s perfect for anyone who has trouble sleeping or is light sensitive. A good night’s sleep is one of the most useful travel gifts you can give!
Let’s talk realness: having a place to store your dirty laundry while you’re on the road, while not exactly sexy, is super important.
You don’t want your loved one to resort to doing the sniff test on everything, right? Uh, not that I ever do that. A cute laundry bag keeps dirty clothes separate and will be used basically every day on the road, which is what you’re aiming for when you’re picking out a practical travel gift!
While I’m a fan of just your average U-shaped travel pillow that you’d find overpriced at any airport store, it doesn’t exactly make the most thoughtful travel gift. This adorable travel pillow, though, actually converts from a stuffed animal to a neck pillow! It’s unique while still being a useful travel present.
This is a great gift to give a first-time international traveler or even a frequent traveler. After all, we’ve all lost an adapter from time to time — it never hurts to have a spare, especially when they’re compact like this one.
This adapter will cover virtually every country. I especially love having multiple USBs so I can charge 3 devices simultaneously (#bloggerproblems).
Note: my friends Katie and Geoff over at Wandertooth created this, so I may be a bit biased!
If your traveling friend or relative is into adult coloring books, I can’t think of a better gift than this coloring book. Each page was hand-drawn from a photo they took along their travels, so this makes a great and unique present.
If your friend has a DSLR, mirrorless, or any kind of nice travel camera — you’ll want to grab them this cheap and super useful gift. Even if they already have one, it’s useful to have a spare so you can keep one in every bag.
I’ve seen firsthand how smudges and bits of dust can ruin otherwise beautiful travel photos and videos. A LensPen is a great way to keep that from happening.
Thinking of what to get an eco-conscious traveler or someone’s who traveling a bit off the beaten path?
There are now reusable filtered water bottles which get rid of nasties (bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals) in tap or standing water. This lets you drink the water in places like Mexico, Thailand, etc. where you normally have to rely on bottled water. Multiple clinical trials guarantee this gets rid of over 99.99% of parasites and bacteria. It can be used 1,000 times before the filter needs to be replaced and can save a fortune on bottled water.
This is the perfect gift for a solo traveler or really any traveler who’s getting serious about their photography. Good for “selfies” or long-exposure photography.
This tripod is great because it’s extremely small and easy to fit in most bags while still being versatile enough to help you get the shots you need. It’s rugged and great for taking photos on unsteady terrains (traditional tripods need flat ground), and you can set the JOBY to grip trees, railings, etc. if you want a different perspective.
If you’re looking for a good gift for a light or first-time traveler, one of the best gifts you can give is the gift of organization. There’s nothing more frustrating than having your clothes be a jumbled mess when you’re trying to pack or get dressed quickly.
An external hard drive is essential for travelers, especially those who like to take lots of photos. But it’s not exactly the most thoughtful or sexy of gifts.
What I’d recommend is buying an external hard drive, then finding a few movies, albums, e-books, photos, etc. to stick on it so that there’s a sweet little surprise when they open it. Both thoughtful and super useful!
For the discerning coffee snob and travel fiend in your life, there’s probably no better gift than the Aeropress.
This isn’t just a “travel coffee maker” – the Aeropress was my primary coffee maker when I lived in my tiny NYC apartment, because the quality of the coffee it makes is first-rate. It’s also super compact and easy to travel with, and I’ve brought it with me on many a trip.
Goodbye, ugly money belts that should have never been a thing.
This cute infinity scarf – created by a travel blogger, so you know its useful – will hold things like your keys, money, ID, and a few essentials near and dear to you where it’s almost impossible to lose. Great if you’re worried about pickpockets or theft, or if you just don’t want to carry a purse.
Okay, this present might be a bit personal for some, so it depends on the closeness of your relationship.
However, my little sister got me a Diva Cup for Christmas two years back and I’ve never looked back since. The Diva Cup is AMAZING for travelers (and pretty much everyone, in my opinion). It severely cuts back on waste, saves you money, and can come in handy when you’re trying to find tampons in places where they are hard to find, like Southeast Asia.
While a small backpack is one of the most convenient ways to carry around your daily essentials while you travel, the fact that you can’t keep your eye directly on it means that you are at an increased risk of theft.
After nearly getting pickpocketed (pick-backpacked?) in Hanoi — luckily my savvy friend noticed what the man was doing and slapped his hand away — I swore to not wear a daypack unless it had some theftproof features, like locking zippers. Mine is from Pacsafe but it’s out of stock. This backpack from Travelon has RFID blockers, locking zippers, and slash-resistant materials.
Useful Travel Gifts (Splurge)
Tinggly Gift Experiences
One of the best gifts you can give a picky travel-lover is the opportunity to treat themselves to any one of a variety of adventures on their next journey! From tasty food tours to cave kayaking, there’s a Tinggly gift experience for every type of traveler.
Their Superwoman package lets your favorite female traveler pick from one of 560+ experiences in over a hundred countries — and you don’t have to worry about it expiring, because your gift recipient has five whole years to redeem their experience. Check out experiences & buy your gift box here!
If you know someone who’s a huge reader, but hasn’t invested in a Kindle yet — this is a super useful travel gift.
I used to think that I’d never want an e-reader, that I loved books too much to help contribute to the death of print culture. Then I backpacked around Europe for 5 months and changed my mind entirely. No matter how much you like physical books, it can be hard to find a good variety of English-language options in other countries (plus, books are heavy). Load up the Kindle with one or two favorite travel-related (or not related) reads, or perhaps a PDF of a Lonely Planet to whereever they’re going on their next trip, to make the gift a little more personal.
If you know a yoga-lover who’s also a frequent traveler, a portable yoga mat is a great idea. This one literally folds up to the size of a newspaper!
Of course, the YOGO mat won’t replace a perfectly squishy roll out mat, but it’s great for yoga on the go. I’ve used it personally and the mat is “sticky” like you want it to be, and is a big improvement over doing yoga without a mat – though it doesn’t provide the most cushioning.
I personally bought the DJI Spark and it’s a fantastic starter drone.
The Mavic is wayyy more powerful and to be honest, I’ll likely upgrade in the future. But if you’re looking for a powerful yet compact and affordable drone, nothing can beat the DJI Spark at this price point, or for a bit more, the Fly More combomore than doubles the range of the Spark.
Easily one of the most powerful cameras in this price range, the Sony A6000 is the only camera I personally use (though I’ve upgraded from the kit lens).
It takes super detail-rich photos and performs great in low light. It has all the power of a DSLR camera in a camera that weighs less than a pound. Plus, you can upgrade it as you go with different lenses, meaning it’s the kind of camera that can grow with you for years. I personally don’t like fixed-lens cameras — their usefulness is limited and I got rid of my Fujifilm X20 after less than a year.
Great for the video lovers in your life, the DJI Osmo Mobile is one of my favorite pieces of equipment.
It elevates standard iPhone footage to a professional quality — I’ve made some fantastic travel videos using just an iPhone and the Osmo.
Note: This post contains sponsored content from Tinggly,who reached out to me about their Tinggly gift experiences. I genuinely think it is an awesome gift for female travelers, which is why I included it, but I’m disclosing this for transparency.