50 Essentials for Car Camping: Checklist & Packing List For Car Camping

There’s nothing better than classic smell of a warm campfire crackling under a blanket of twinkling stars and waking up to a soft glowing sunrise as dawn breaks the horizon.

Camping is all about those moments of peace and serenity. When your pace for the day is slow and peaceful, and you truly embrace what it means to be a part of nature.

But, as my fellow campers know, not all moments are pure bliss and comfort. Sometimes you wake up to powerful thunderstorms that wipe your camp out, or you come back from a long hike and find your campsite has been invaded by ants.

But one thing is for sure, every trip is an epic adventure with hidden lessons that bring memorable stories for years to come.

As a very seasoned car camper,  I want to share with you my ultimate guide to car camping: checklist, essentials, packing list, tips, and more.

My guide includes everything from the apps I use for discovering campsites, products that I feel enhance your car camping experience, and of course the car camping essentials like cookware and storage. I have learned nature’s lessons and developed a love for the chaos and order that comes along with wandering into the great unknown.

What is Car Camping?

Home, sweet car!

For the purposes of this article, I will be focusing primarily on car camping. Which means you will be living and sleeping IN your car.

Your car becomes a fully functioning home on wheels. No tent setups, no breaking down campsites, just you and your car exploring all of what the world has to offer!

However, car camping can also be thought of as driving up to your campsite and setting up shop with a traditional tent — and I’ll cover that briefly as well, while I’ll focus more on the logistics of car camping and sleeping in your car.

The thought of sprawling out in your car, protected from the elements sounds simple in theory, right? Hold up!

Logistically, there are a few things to consider if you want to make your car camping experience as comfortable and convenient as you dreamed in your head. With a little bit of knowledge and advanced planning, your dreams of easily escaping into nature can come true!

Car Camping Checklist #1: Finding a Campsite

Car camping should be treated just like any other vacation or getaway.

First, you dream of where you want to go and then second, seek out accommodations.

Finding accommodations, or in this case, a campsite, is not quite as easy as you may assume. Take it from me! I’ve been kicked off public land, asked to leave rest stops, and have even had campsite reservations stolen from me.

But over the years I’ve perfected my system and discovered the best apps and maps for making accommodations easy. Below I’ve provided the names of my favorite apps and links to websites that I use regularly to find my next camping destination.

Best Apps for Car Camping

1) iOverlander. This app is the best kept secret for free dispersed overlanding campsites. iOverlander uses a simple topical map setup, loaded with a database of campsites that are updated by the users. Details are listed for each campsite including coordinates, pictures and amenities.

2) HipCamp. This is another wonderful app and great alternative for discovering campsites. HipCamp allows you to book unique camping experiences on farms, vineyards, and public parks across the country. It’s essentially an Airb&b for land. Owners “rent out” their land for campers so it gives you a more private setting.

Car Camping Essential Website Resources

1) https://www.blm.gov The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  is an agency within the United States that is responsible for public land. Campers can camp for free  on BLM land. This website is a great resource for finding maps that provide locations for public land.

2) https://www.fs.usda.gov Similar to BLM Land, National Forest Land is also public use land. Follow the link provided to download maps of National Forest Lands.

3) https://www.reserveamerica.com Reserve America is the Mecca for campground reservations in the states and federal lands. It’s packed with information including tips on outdoors adventures, searching for sites as well as reserving lodging.

Car Camping Checklist #2: Pack Your Essentials for Car Camping

Not sure what the most important parts of your car camping setup are? I’ll break down your car camping essentials section by section so you don’t forget a thing.

Here’s your complete car camping packing list!

Sleeping in Style

Now that you’ve got your dream location picked out and a sweet campsite to boot, let’s get into the list of gear you’ll need to have the perfect adventure.

We’ll start with the most important pieces of gear, sleeping! Sleep is often overlooked but it’s essential if you want to have a good time! Nothing ruins the next day like a bad night of rest. Here’s my list of essential bedding products that are tried and true.

I’ll present two options to my fellow campers. The first option is the traditional route of tent camping. Traditional tent camping still lets you enjoy all the necessities you have stashed in the car but also enjoy the novelty of sleeping in a tent.

The second option is for more of my “#vanlife”-ers, or the lucky few who have a truck or a large SUV that’s big enough to sleep in. I’d seriously advise those with a large car to fold down the backseats of your car or truck and turn it into a packable sleeping sanctuary!

 We’ll start with a tent set up for my novelty tent sleepers who want to drive into the campsite, unload and set up camp.

Tent

 For those who enjoy sleeping in the great outdoors, the REI Half Dome is a great starter tent.

It packs down small, weighs just under 5 pounds, and can lodge two people comfortably. It’s a great option that doesn’t take up much room and is very simple to construct.

Sleeping Pad

  If you chose to go the tent route, you’re going to need to invest in a good sleeping pad. A sleeping pad will act as your mattress and keep you off the cold, hard ground.

The NEMO Flyer is my favorite to use as it is easy to inflate, packs down nicely, and is relatively quiet if you’re the type that rolls around when you sleep.

Sleeping Bag

When sleeping in the car, most people overlook sleeping bags and opt for blankets. But I’ve learned that a sleeping bag is absolutely essential!

Despite being protected from the elements, your car can still get quite chilly and a good down sleeping bag will save you from a harsh, cold wake up. I personally use the Marmot Trestles Elite similar to this one. I love it because it’s super lightweight, comfortable, and keeps me warm.

Mattress

   If you’re one of the lucky few who has a truck or a large SUV, I’d seriously advise you to turn the back of your car or truck into a packable sleeping sanctuary. The best part about a large car is you can create a sleeping system that is more luxurious than your bed at home!

I’ve been through a plethora of air mattresses, sleeping pads, and foam rollouts. But I have finally settled on the ultimate camping mattress.

I LOVE this tri-fold memory foam mattress. I purchased the queen size for both my Ford Edge and F150. It fits perfectly in the back of both cars and folds up to a small enough size that’s perfect for road trips. It’s integrated with a bamboo covering for breathability and I’m able to easily take the cover off for washing.

Comforter

Yes, my sleeping arrangements are very luxurious for camping standards. Which is why I top my camping bed off with a good synthetic down comforter.

A comforter is the icing to my bed cake. I love cuddling up under a comforter and having that extra layer of warmth during the cold months. I use this simple comforter I got off Amazon. It’s an inexpensive option that provides the comfort and warmth that I need.

Pillows

 As for pillows, I just use regular bed pillows. I do have separate ‘camp pillows’ that are different from my home pillows.

The more of an established camper you become, you begin to realize that most articles of fabrics will begin to absorb a permanent campfire smell. So it’s best to have a designated camp bedding bin (below) to keep your linens at home fresh.

Bedding Storage

Bedding takes up the majority of space in my car. I’ve learned the best way to pack bedding is with these Ziploc totes. I throw my comforter, bedsheets, and pillows inside the Ziploc totes.

They are a good way to compact the bulkiness of bedding. They are sturdy, durable, and have a breathable mesh top so you’re able to air out your bedding as you travel.

Camp Kitchen

After a long restful night’s sleep, you’re going to want to wake up and enjoy the sunrise with a cup of camp coffee followed by a beautiful breakfast spread that’ll fuel your outdoor adventure for the day.

The beauty of car camping is that you’re not subjected to MRE meals or boring bologna sandwiches. When you car camp, the sky’s the limit when preparing food! If you’re worried about how to pack for camping and making magnificent meals, don’t worry! I have all the tips and tricks in the kitchen guide below.

Stovetop

Every good camp meal begins with a source of heat. Of course, the simplest answer to your source of heat would be a campfire. But sometimes you arrive at a campsite and find out there is a burn ban in place. That’s where the Coleman Signature Grill Stove comes in!

The Coleman Grill is the perfect answer to all your cooking needs. I love that one side of the Coleman is a grill and the other side serves as a stove. It’s the perfect combination for grilling bacon and eggs while using the stove to warm up your coffee. It’s one of the most necessary things for camping, so don’t forget it!

Cooler

 I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a well insulated cooler. A well insulated cooler is going to keep your food and drinks cold, thus in turn, keeping you safe and healthy from spoiled food. It’s no surprise that I’m a huge fan of the YETI coolers.

I own the Tundra 45 and it’s the perfect size for road trips and holds enough food and ice for at least a 4-day adventure. Plus, YETI coolers are bear-proof so you don’t need to worry about leaving it outside during your stay at the campsite.

Coffee Maker

Every camper knows there’s some magic in that morning cup of coffee. For some reason, being out in nature makes the taste of coffee significantly better. I’ve found that the easiest and fastest way to create a perfect cup of camp coffee is through a small device called a Jetboil like this one here.

The JetBoil is essentially a small cooking stove that can boil water in less than 3 minutes. It folds up to a size smaller than a deck of cards and only weighs .2 kg. I pair the JetBoil with a packet of instant coffee and I’m set for the day.

Utensils

So you’ve got your big ‘kitchen’ appliances out of the way.  Here’s a quick rundown of the small kitchen utensils that’ll make your camping experience more enjoyable.

Cast Iron Skillet. Cast iron skillets were made for the great outdoors! It’s the only material that I’ve found that can withstand the heat of a fire, stays warm after cooking, and requires little cleanup. Plus, it gets better with age! Lodge is the gold standard in cast iron cooking.

Spatula. I like using a metal spatula. If you’re cooking over a fire, it’s the best material to have as plastic spatulas tend to melt… plus, it’s easier to clean than wood. I prefer a fish spatula – perfect for flipping pancakes!

Trash bags. Don’t forget the trash bags! You’d be surprised by how much trash you accumulate during your time on the road. You’re responsible for leaving no trace and leaving campsites better than you’ve found them. Bring biodegradable trash bags if possible.

Reusable bowls and utensils. I like using reusable bowls and utensils as it saves space and decreases waste. I like this simple mess kit from REI. It’s the perfect size for two people, comes in a zippered pouch that’s perfect for packing for car camping and funky colors that make it exciting.

Cutting board and knife. I overlooked the use of a cutting board and knife for the longest time. I found myself cutting up food on random surfaces in nature. I’d advise against this and pack a small cutting board and camp knife, like this one.

Spices, oils and dressing. The best way I’ve found for packing and transporting spices, oils, and dressings is to use travel shampoo bottles. They are the perfect mini size and they have screw-top lids so they’re guaranteed not to leak. For a spice kit, this travel one is super cool for hardcore foodie campers.

Propane. If you opt to use a portable grill then you’ll need to pack propane. Always pack an extra bottle! Nothing is more disappointing than cooking your meal halfway and running out of propane. Buy in bulk to save.

Lighter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten a lighter. Put one in the car, put one in your utensils bag, put one in your pocket. Anything you have to do to remember a lighter! If you forget a lighter, you’ll have no ignition source for your grill or a campfire. Buy a 4-pack and stash them around.

Lighter fluid. I love campfires but the actual act of building a fire is quite complicated and is a skill that takes time to acquire. Lighter fluid speeds this process up and keeps a weak fire burning all night long.

Bandana. Bandanas are the quintessential campers rag. I use my bandana for everything! It comes in handy as a dishrag, an oven mitt, napkin, the list goes on! It’s a great environmentally friendly alternative to paper towels and napkins.

Dish Soap. You’re going to want to bring some dish soap for washing up your dishes and utensils. I personally love CampSuds dish soap. It’s biodegradable, has a clean scent, and can also double as a laundry soap in a pinch!

Shovel. I always pack a mini shovel for clearing out overused fire pits or digging a new fire pit.

I keep all the kitchen utensils organized in a large 12-gallon plastic bin. Plastic bins will become your best friend as you get deeper and deeper into car camping. They are a great way to store all your necessities, they’re super easy to clean after a long trip and they last for ages! They also double as ‘coffee tables’ when you’re ready to sit down and eat.

Making Camp Feel like Home

 So you’ve staked out some land to call home. You’ve made your bed for the day, dinner is cooked and you’re ready to relax by the campfire.

I like to compare this stage of the camping experience to relaxing in your living room. You’ll want some chairs, maybe a hammock, some nice mood lights, and a place to sip that well-anticipated whiskey as you enjoy the sunset.

Chairs. There are a million different options when it comes to chairs. What it really comes down to is what is most comfortable for you. What I’ve found that works for me are these steal of a deal chairs from Ozark Trail. The mesh back allows for a bit of airflow, an insulated cooler on the side lets you stash some extra ‘cold ones,’ and a nifty bottle opener is attached to the side.

Hammock. A hammock is the perfect alternative or addition to chairs. Hammocks are the ultimate way to relax. A brand I’ve used and swear by is Wise Owl Outfitters. Wise Owl hammocks are lightweight, easy to set up, sturdy, and they come in so many different fun colors.

Hammock Straps. If you choose to use a hammock, please consider hammock straps much like these. Hammock straps help in preserving the health of trees by minimizing bark stripping that traditional hammock rope tends to leave behind.

Lanterns. When the sun begins to go down in nature, it gets dark fast! I love these little mini lanterns from REI. They’re the perfect size for stashing around the campsite. They emit a soft light that’s perfect for hanging around the campsite or they can also double as a powerful flashlight.

Toiletries and Cleanliness

As you begin to immerse yourself in the great outdoors, you realize how difficult it is to keep everything clean. Including yourself!

As an avid camper, I’ve come to embrace the dirt and the days without showers. But with that being said, I do have a few tips for keeping your body and campsite as clean as possible.

Wet Wipes. Wet wipes will become your best friend! There will be times where you are nowhere near a water source and you can’t stand the thought of getting into your sleeping bag dirty. That’s where these wet wipes save the day! These wipes are great for your face, hands, and body. Not only do these wipes clean, they also moisturize your skin with a clean cucumber aloe scent.

Toothbrush and toothpaste. I like to use dry toothpaste tabs when I’m out in nature. These tabs are a great option as they are made with all-natural ingredients that are safe to spit out on the ground with no damage to the environment.

Soap. If you’re lucky enough to have a campsite next to water you’ll want to take advantage of the free bath. Grab your CampSuds that I mentioned above and use this as your body wash. I know, I know, it’s a little weird washing your body with the same bottle as you washed your dishes with but trust me! It’s an all-in-one product that’ll leave you feeling better and cleaner!

Towel. Regular bath towels take up a lot of room and tend to take forever to dry out. I prefer to use microfiber towels like these as they dry faster, are easier to pack, and tend not to absorb smells.

Deodorant. Please, for everyone’s sake, pack your favorite deodorant (this is mine)

What about my hair? Okay ladies, embrace that second and third-day hair! I’ve found that camping is much easier when you let your locks do their own thing. I like to wet my hair during a bath, throw it in a braid for the night, and be done with it. As soon as you embrace the ‘no poo’ method, the easier your life becomes.

If you just can’t take it, throw your favorite dry shampoo in your bag and call it clean! PS. Your hair is going to smell like campfire every night anyway so just embrace not having to mess with it.

First Aid and Campsite Survival

As you become more accustomed to camping, you’ll learn that accidents happen. No matter how careful you are, you’ll find yourself digging through your backpack for a bandaid or searching for that precious piece of paracord that could double as a spare shoelace.

Chances are, most items in your first aid survival kit will never get used. But these extra items come in handy the one time you’re in a dire situation.

First Aid Kit. Everyone should keep a comprehensive first aid kit on hand when traveling away from home. It doesn’t have to be some sort of mega kit. This kit from Amazon is perfect. It’s a great comprehensive kit for minor cuts and burns and is small enough to stow away in the smallest crevice of your car.

Bug Spray. I live in Texas, so I camp in and around the southern states a lot, which means BUGS! Tons and tons of bugs. I consider bug spray an essential survival tool because without it, you’ll feel like you want to die. I prefer to use a bug spray with natural ingredients like this one from ClimbOn. It has a clean scent and doesn’t leave a greasy residue like most commercial bug sprays.

Paracord. Paracord is a multi-use tool that every camper should have in their survival kit. Paracord has unlimited uses from acting as a tourniquet to simply stitching up a broken hiking boot. If you’re unfamiliar with Paracord, this site has a great guide on the many uses of paracord.

Matches. Even though you should have packed multiple lighters, as mentioned above (hint hint) it’s still smart to throw some extra matches in your survival kit.

Sunscreen. I put sunscreen in the survival section because I believe it is an essential survival tool! A bad sunburn is not healthy and can really ruin a fun trip. My favorite brand is the SunBum Mineral Sunscreen. It’s all-natural, safe for the environment ingredients make it a great alternative to normal household sunscreens. Plus, it has the signature SunBum scent that makes me smile.

Headlamp. You can never have enough light sources after the sun goes down. A good headlamp like this one from Black Diamond is a great choice. It’s lightweight, compact, and powerful enough to navigate through whatever dark situation you find yourself in. Bring extra batteries, too!

Compass and map. A compass and map sound like such an old school tool for survival. But it’s an absolute essential to have in your survival kit. Chances are you will never use it, but it’s a great back up to have if your phone dies and you become lost.

Add some sass to your site!

Now for the fun stuff. Ladies… and some gentlemen, this is your time to shine!

Nothing is more fun than having the best looking campsite in the forest. This comes in the form of unnecessary but totally worth it accessories that add flair to your campsite. I like to add some sass through fun lights, flags that represent your home state, and subtle splashes of color.

String Lights. I love these string lights from REI: they add the perfect amount of accent lighting, plug in through a USB port, and have several different brightness settings to create the perfect illumination no matter what time of night.

Tap lights. These small tap lights are fun to have scattered around the campsite where you need a bit of extra light. A little tip is to put these lights near your shoes at night, so when nature calls and it’s dark outside, you can make a quick quiet escape without waking up the whole camp with a flashlight.

Flag. It’s fun to fly a flag representing your home state. It adds a little flair to your campsite and opens the door to conversations with fellow campers. I’ve sparked a lot of friendships through flying a Texas flag.

Bluetooth stereo. I like this Bluetooth stereo because it’s waterproof, durable, and has a subtle LED light that makes it easy to see after dark. Always remember to be considerate of your camp neighbors and keep your music to yourself.

Camp Games. It’s also important to bring some fun things to bring camping. Playing camp games is a fun, interactive way to pass time. Cards, Uno, and Jenga are some of my favorite games to pack. They are small and compact and can host a variety of people if you find yourself entertaining your fellow neighbor.

Clothes

I won’t go into much detail on clothes as it’s pretty diverse depending on the location you choose. But there are a couple of staple items that I refuse to leave home without no matter what the weather is forecast to be.

Flannel. Flannel is the OG material of outdoorsmen and women everywhere. And if you’ve seen my Instagram, you know I don’t leave home without my one and only flannel. I’ll make a confession, I’ve had this Eddie Bauer flannel for over 10 years. In short, these flannels are indestructible! They are so soft, comfortable and wash up like new. A good flannel will offer a layer of protection from the sun as well as protection from the cold. It’s a great versatile option that should always be packed.

Rain jacket. You never know when the weather’s going to change. Small rain showers can sweep through the mountains or desert on a moment’s notice and it’s best to be prepared. I love The North Face Resolve Wind and Rain jacket. It protects me from the wind and rain and fits like a glove. It’s full of features that are meant to be tested outdoors and it has a lifetime guarantee!

Hiking Boots. Hiking boots are a camping essential. Whether you’re hiking or not, you need a good pair of boots that protect your feet from the landscape of a campsite. Campsites are full of rocks, logs, and possibly snakes and it’s best to protect your feet from your surroundings. I use the Ahnu SugarPines to conquer the world around me. If possible, I suggest going to your local outdoor store and trying on a pair that best fit your feet.

Leggings and Shorts. I always pack both! The night time will always be more chilly than you think so it’s best to have the option of having an extra layer on your legs. I opt for compression spandex leggings and shorts as I find this material to be the most comfortable and moves well as I build fires and tend to the campsite.

Final Essentials for Car Camping

There are always small tips and tricks I learn after every trip I take. Here’s a miscellaneous list of my lessons I’ve learned to pass on so you don’t make the same mistakes!

Campsite Shoes. Campsite shoes are comparable to house slippers. These are the shoes you wear around the campsite that are comfortable and easy to slide on and off. After a long day of hiking or wandering around outside, you’re going to want a shoe that relaxes your feet. I use the Teva Original Sandals. The foam bottoms feel great on my feet and they’re super lightweight, a nice contrast to the heavy hiking boots I wear all day long.

Clothes Pins. A great camping hack is using clothespins to dry out and hang up any article of clothing they may be wet or sweaty.

Eggs. Eggs are pesky when it comes to packing in the cooler. I’ve found the pre cracking them into a large mason jar is the best way to transport them.

Warm Water Bottle. If you’re sleeping in a place that’s colder than you anticipated, JetBoil some water and transfer it into a heat-safe water bottle. Then, place that water bottle in the bottom of your sleeping bag and voilá you have a heated blanket that’ll stay warm for hours.

Cash. Always bring an extra stash of cash. Some campsites require a small cash fee, or you desperately need that last-minute firewood coming into a park. It’s always a great idea to have a little bit of backup.

Notebook. Bring a notebook to write down some highlights of each camping trip. It’s a fun and funny way to reminisce about memories that you may have otherwise forgotten.

Car Camping Checklist #3: Learn How to Pack for Car Camping

 That completes the list of all your car camping essentials. Now that you have an idea of what to pack for car camping, you’re probably asking yourself how all of this is going to fit into your car.

Nothing feels worse than rummaging through your car, searching for that sacred item that you swear you packed but can’t find. To avoid the stress and irritation of having an overwhelming amount of stuff in your car, I’ll give you a breakdown of the easiest methods to keep your car clean, functional, and fun.

 The easiest way to pack your car is to break everything down into stations. Much like a house has different rooms, your car will have different stations. This is where plastic bins become your best friend! Every station has a plastic bin of its own.  Here’s a breakdown of my stations and where I’ve found the easiest locations to store each ‘room’.

Station 1: Electronics. I keep all the electronics in the glove box as I’m constantly charging phones, watches and computers. It’s easy to be driving down the road, plug in your dying phone without having to pull over and dig through weeks worth of camping essentials.

Station 2: Toiletries and Clothes. I keep my toiletries and clothes together as they both are my ‘clean’ items. I store them in pull out style bins behind my front seat. I store them here because It’s easy to create a changing room when both car doors are open and allows a small amount of privacy when brushing your teeth or removing makeup.

Station 3. Survival Kit. I keep my survival kit under the back seat. The survival kit rarely gets used so I try to keep it out of the way. I don’t want one more thing to rummage through if it’s not necessary.

Station 4. Bedding. My bedding is kept in the middle of the car. As mentioned before, the Ziploc Totes hold and compress most of the bedding so it doesn’t take up too much space.

Station 5. Kitchen and food. I keep the grill, cooler, and utensils bin in the very back of the car. I do this because these are the items that tend to be used the most and become the dirtiest. It’s easiest to keep them in the very back as you’ll be unloading these items once to several times a day. This way, when it’s time to eat, you simply pull the specific items out without having to unload your entire car for one meal.

You’ll quickly begin to find that your car fills up fast and every nook and cranny soon has some piece of camping equipment living in it. The best thing you can do is embrace the organized mess! As you become more accustomed to your campsite routine, the easier it will be to pack and create stations of your own.

Car camping is becoming the new way to see the world. Don’t get left behind by being clueless as to what and how to pack. I hope this comprehensive car camping checklist helps you locate, furnish, and create the campsite of your dreams.

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10 Creative Ways to Make Money While Living Out Your Travel Dreams

If you’re like most working people, the moment you go on vacation, you don’t want it to ever end. The end of vacation means that you’re ultimately having to return back to the reality of work… a reality that was hard for me to accept each time I returned to school as a teacher!

There’s nothing wrong with work… After all, it’s what funded your lavish vacation, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could work in an environment that felt like a vacation? Well, the truth of the matter is that you actually can do that. In fact, people do it all the time… myself included.

You can live a life of travel and make money while doing it. The key is to find the right job. Once you find the right job, you’ll be able to travel and make money during your travels. But the real question is that if you were presented with that unique opportunity, would you take it?

The ten jobs listed below all allow you to work from anywhere in the world, requiring nothing but good internet access, a computer, and possibly a headset. To finally start living your travel dreams, take a look at some of the most unique and lucrative ways to fund your travels.

10 Creative Ways to Start Living Your Travel Dreams

1.   Teach English Online

There are many countries in the world eager to learn the English language, and you could be the very person to help students in achieving that goal.

A lot of the online teaching jobs are focused in Asia, such as VIPKid which pairs teachers with Chinese students, but you can look at other countries of interest too.

Depending on the company you go with, they may require you to have a TOEFL, ESL, OR TEFL certificate and degree but not all companies require it.

2.   Rent Your House Out

Renting your house is a very popular way to make money while traveling the world.

It will require some work from you on the front-end with making home improvements and repairs and finding the perfect tenant or management company if you plan to be an Airbnb host, but once you’ve handled that, you can start living your dreams with monthly recurring income from rent payments.

3.   Copyedit

Copyediting is a position that’s perfect for the detail-oriented person. This line of work will require reviewing written materials and checking it for readability, grammatical errors, and factual information.

This is what I did before my travel blog started making money! (I wrote about how I did it here.)

Working as a copyeditor can be done in many areas including magazines and newsletters, as well as web copy, textbook editing, and marketing.

4.   Start an Online Retail Business

Starting an online business might be one of the easiest ways to make money while traveling the world. The key to success here starts in the very beginning stages of your business. The parts you absolutely need to get right first are the following:

  • Choosing the right industry to start a business
  • Setting up your online store
  • Marketing your business

Those three areas are the biggest areas to get right the first time to give you the best chance at success as an entrepreneur. The good news is that there are services that can help you with all three areas.

Maybe you know the niche you want but need help setting up your store… Shopify.com has a marketplace where you can shop experts by industry. This will ensure you get your entrepreneurial journey off on the right start.

5.   Work Locally

To be able to work locally during your travels will all depend on the destination you’re visiting.

Certain destinations have stricter working and immigration laws than others. Australia and New Zealand have great work visas available for younger people from a handful of countries.

If you can snag one of these working holiday visas, immersing yourself in local work will certainly give you a huge dose of the culture of your destination.

Whether you’re working on a farm or in a hostel, it’s important you know that it will most likely involve physical labor and little pay, but it’s the experience you’ll get that’s priceless.

6.   Become a Translator

Working as a translator is a skill-based position that many businesses have a demand for.

As a translator, you’ll be translating everything from audio recordings and videos to written documents, it just depends on the industry and setting you’re working in.

7.   Work As a Customer Service Representative

Working in customer service means your sole focus is to solve customer problems. If you’ve never worked in customer service before, you’ll quickly find out that there’s never a dull moment.

Everything from handling complaints and taking payments to fixing billing discrepancies and cross-selling products and services, this is the perfect job to help you with interpersonal skills.

Many customer service jobs are now remote, meaning all you need is an reliable internet connection, a headset, and the ability to keep to your schedule.

8.   Become a Social Media Manager

As you probably know, since the emergence of social media, everyone has been glued to their phones, businesses included. Social media has become a powerful tool in the world of marketing by increasing sales, building brand loyalty, and growing customer bases.

For many businesses, something as simple as asking a poll question about a new product or simply thanking a customer for their feedback can undoubtedly increase brand loyalty in an instant. According to entrepreneur.com, social media is the most powerful source of marketing – so harness it!

So if you have a large following, know how to influence and inspire people, or are just creative and have a clever way with words, you may have a strong future as a social media manager.

9.   Start Writing

As a writer, you, of course, will need good writing, research, and grammar skills, but in addition to that, you need to determine how you can get jobs as a writer.

There are lots of writing positions out there, but there are also lots of people out there claiming to be writers when their skill level is mediocre. To stand out from writing “posers,” determine your skill level and industry niche and build an expertise there.

Once you’ve determined your area of expertise, sites like Upwork is a great platform to land writing gigs specific to your industry — it’s what I used to get writing gigs back before this blog made money, and it’s what I use now to hire local writers for this site!

10. Start a blog!

Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But one of the best things about blogging is that the sky is limit. You can scale your business nearly infinitely with some creativity and goal setting.

However, keep in mind that starting a blog takes years and requires a large time investment in order to gain the expertise required to become an authority on the topic.

I often compare starting a blog to “doing an unpaid internship for yourself” for a year. It’s possible, though difficult, to monetize earlier, but it will depend on how quickly you build an audience, your niche authority, and your monetization strategy.

You may think that you need to blog about travel to start a blog while traveling, but the reality and beauty of blogging is that you can blog about whatever you want from wherever you want!

***

In your efforts to live a life of travel, these are ten creative jobs that will earn you a sizable income to fund all your travel adventures.

Combined with saving money to travel before you leave, you can fund your travels for months or even years at a time.

Let me know in the comments — which one seems like a better fit for you?

Pin This Post on Creative Ways to Make Money While Traveling!

Want to earn money while traveling? This post is full of ideas to save money to travel as well as remote jobs for travelers. remote work | travel jobs | travel friendly jobs | travel while working | work while traveling | traveling jobs | remote working jobs | creative ways to make money | writing and blogging jobs

 

 

How I Saved $50,000 to Travel the World Full-Time

If I tell you that I saved up $50,000 to travel the world while living in New York City, what do you imagine that my job was? Perhaps an investment banker, or a lawyer, or maybe one of those consultants that no one actually knows what they do (themselves included)? Nope, the truth is, nothing so glamorous.

I was a public school teacher for 5 looooong years.

Learn how I funded my life on the lam!

You may wonder how on earth I managed this. Don’t public school teachers make next to nothing? Isn’t NYC expensive as hell? Yup and yup. Saving money without a fancy job is hard. But I’m here to tell you that it’s possible – with effort, strategy, and prioritizing.

Another thing: I didn’t pinch every penny for those 5 years. I actually traveled to 17 countries while holding down a full-time job and simultaneously saving up $50,000If I had really buckled down and focused on saving money and held off on the travel, I could have done it sooner.

When not seeing the Northern lights, dogsledding is a fun way to pass the time
I even went to expensive Sweden while saving to travel full-time. Financially questionable, yes. Insanely fun, also yes.

I also nursed a serious wine habit, because how else are you going to survive the Department of Education?

But in all seriousness, here’s how I managed that seemingly impossible feat. It’s not meant to be a step by step guide for you to do the same. I can’t know your salary, your debts, your cost of living, and your lifestyle.

Maybe your potential savings are smaller than mine, or maybe they’re much higher. This is just my story of how I financed my escape from the 9 to 5 — or the 8 to 3, as my case may be — in order to travel longer and further than I ever thought possible when I first started my career as a teacher.

Living the hard knock life in Belize… er, something like that.

I set clear saving goals

I used Mint to help me track my spending and set goals. My goal was to save $1,000 per month. For every month I saved, I’d gain about a month of future travel, using my benchmark of $1,000 per month for backpacking in cheap countries.

RELATED: 40 Cheapest Countries to Travel on $30 Per Day or Less 

My goal was $48,000, which would be enough for 4 years of shoestring traveling. Honestly, though, I’ve since started traveling a little more expensively – spending more around $1200 to $1500 per month – since I attained part-time freelance work on Upwork.

Best. Coworker. Ever. (even though he tried to steal my lunch, rude)

I had no debt

I know that this is easier said than done for Americans. Student loan debt seems to be a birthright for us. I’ve spoken about my privilege before and how my parents’ ability to pay for my undergraduate degree has given me a huge advantage. I later obtained a scholarship for my Master’s degree in Education, keeping me debt-free.

This is just to be honest and up front – not to tell you that having no debt is the only way to save up a large sum of money to travel.

But if you want to save up to travel, you’ll want to get rid of any “bad debt” — credit card debt and extortionary private loans — if you want to make any serious headway. Focus first on paying back that debt. As for your low-interest student loans, you can factor the cost of paying them off into your monthly budget for traveling.

Pay off those credit cards and see the wonders of the world!

I changed the way I socialized

When I was younger, I went out to bars — a lot. It’s kind of what happens when your college campus is literally New York City.

As I got older, I realized I had more fun inviting friends over for a home-cooked dinner and wine, or hanging in the park with cheese and wine (notice a theme here?), or meeting up at a museum. All these things are drastically cheaper than going out to a bar, getting hopelessly drunk, eating questionable amounts of fried chicken, and cabbing it home.

Do as I say, not as I do.

I took the initiative to plan budget-friendly outings rather than always waiting to be invited somewhere. When something came up that screamed massive money drain – like a birthday dinner (this cheap bitch’s worst nightmare) or a weekend trip I wasn’t really into – I wasn’t afraid to decline politely and offer an alternative later.

I streamlined my food, transit and rent spend

Rent is a huge drain in New York City. I opted for living in less hip neighborhoods to save a couple hundred bucks a month. I had my own studio apartment in Flatbush, Brooklyn for just over $1,000 a month, which gave me quite a bit of money to be able to save each month.

Being able to afford trips to Cuba make me less sad that I lived over a mile from the nearest hipster coffee shop.

I also lived with a boyfriend for a year, which cut my living expenses in half. While I don’t recommend moving in with a significant other just to save on rent, it did significantly help me save money.

To save on transit, I rode a bicycle 13 miles to work each day for 3 years, which saved me approximately $4,000 as opposed to taking the subway. Yes, even in the winter, because I’m a maniac.

A definite, though temporary, upgrade from my beater road bike

I also ate really cheaply by cooking most of my own meals or making sure that I split my takeaway meals into two portions, sometimes bulking it up with extra rice or bread. There were takeout places in Ridgewood, where I worked, and Flatbush where I could easily get two meals’ worth of Caribbean, Spanish, or Soul food for $6 — at $3 per meal, it didn’t break the bank to eat those meals out.

When I cooked for myself, the food blog Budget Bytes was my cooking bible. I learned so many amazing recipes from that website. I joined a food co-op, despite the insufferable hippieishness of its patrons, to save on fresh produce and ethically raised meat. I bought all my grains in bulk from the co-op or ethnic grocery stores.

I checked my local grocery store’s weekly sales circular and stocked up on canned, frozen, and dried goods whenever there was a sale. I froze all my leftovers and made my own chicken stock and yes, even my own beans. A bit obsessive, yes, but there’s no denying all the money I saved!

RELATED: 101 Ways to Save Money for Travel

Money saved now = more tacos later. Math you can believe in.

When it came to travel, I didn’t always go to the first country that struck my mind. I used flight comparison websites like Skyscanner (I also use Google Flights and Momondo – I usually try a variety of comparison websites before making a final booking to make sure I’m getting the best price!) in order to pick the cheapest country I was interested in, then made a plan from there. By doing that, I got deals such as Sweden for $400 roundtrip, Turkey for $500 roundtrip, and Puerto Rico for $200 roundtrip.

I took on every opportunity to gain extra work or pay

As a teacher, I took on a lot of paid after school work in order to have extra funds to travel. In NYC, we have something called “per session” work that nets you about $42 per hour — not a bad supplement to my less than stellar paycheck. I also worked two summers, which netted me $5,000+ each summer.

I also researched how to get a raise in the DOE and worked my butt off to attain 30 college credits by taking language aptitude tests and independent study courses. That earned me an extra $6,000 per year pre-tax, which made a huge difference. Of course, that won’t apply for everyone, but you can easily gain extra work on Upwork or other online freelancing websites. Hone a skill like SEO or editing and monetize that.

Not seeing the sun in winter working 10 and 12 hour days sucked ass, but the freedom it gave me is priceless.

I wasn’t perfect

I could have saved more, or spent less time saving the amount that I did. I saved that money over the span of five years. Had I canned the traveling temporarily and truly focused on saving, I probably could have done it in two or three years.

I had my vices: I spent far too much on artisanal cheeses and even more on my wine nerd habit. I planned my weekends around eating dumplings. I made impulsive decisions like buying a ticket to Belize or Puerto Rico to escape New York for three or four day trips. I did these things not out of weakness, but because I value my happiness.

fancy life in Puerto Rico
Taking a 3 day trip to Puerto Rico wasn’t smart financially, but it saved this California girl her sanity in a New York winter.

Constantly questioning your decision to buy everything can be a bit of a drain on morale. Don’t beat yourself up on your past expenditures, and don’t be too stubborn to treat yourself when you know it’ll improve a difficult day.

The real trick is persistence. Saving money is a marathon, not a sprint. Work out where in the world inspires you most, and figure out how much it costs to get there. Start setting realistic goals. Hold yourself accountable to them. Over time, you’ll see your savings grow and grow, and you too can quit your job and travel the world. But you have to want to.

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Tips and budget ideas for how I managed to save $50,000 to travel the world full-time and live a life of constant adventure!

How to Find Cheap Spring Break Plane Tickets

As a former teacher, I had plenty of vacation time. Unfortunately, nearly all of that time fell under the most expensive times to fly! It can be hard to find cheap spring break tickets, as summer, spring break, and Christmas are some of the priciest times to fly. But if you’re a student or teacher – or the parent of school-age children – you may not have a choice in the matter.

Enter the amazing Skyscanner. Their “Everywhere” tool will allow you to find the cheapest options, including cheap spring break destinations. If you have an open mind, or a miles-long bucket list the way I do, this is an awesome way to travel!


Here, I’ll walk you through the steps to show you how I found a variety of warm yet cheap spring break getaways, all for under or around $300 USD!

1. Set your search terms to find a cheap spring break deal

Your ticket (ha!) to a cheap spring break

Set your departing city, set the to field to everywhere, your departing month (or if you have less flexibility, departing days) and then see which options you have. You may want to click “Add nearby airports.” I searched for NYC, which gives the three airports of the NYC area (Newark, LaGuardia, and JFK). Sometimes there are really great deals out of smaller airports (for example, the Westchester airport for some flights out of NYC, or the San Jose airport for some flights out of San Francisco). It’s worth a shot it scores you cheap spring break tickets.

2. Identify which flight options catch your eye

So many cheap spring break destinations

Here’s a list of all the plane tickets that popped up under or around $300 USD roundtrip! Quite a ton of options, including some surprises – who would have thought of Guadeloupe or Martinique as cheap spring break destinations? That’s why the everywhere feature is so good – because it opens your eyes to new destinations that you may not have considered that are friendly to your budget!

3. Play around with travel dates for cheap spring break deals

Here, I’ll pick the favorite but usually not cheap spring break destination, Cancún. Even though this destination is insanely popular, there are tons of great deals to be found!

Cancun is the ideal cheap spring break vacation
Who would have thought you could get a cheap spring break roundtrip flight to Cancún for under $250 USD?

Here’s another set of dates that work for under $300 USD:

Look how cheap spring break can be!
$256 ain’t nothing to sneeze at, either. Spring break, whoo! [/end Arrested Development reference]

4. Click “show flights” and cross your fingers

Now, here’s the one bad thing about Skyscanner. The calendar doesn’t show flight prices in real time. It shows the estimated lowest prices based on data found in the last 15 days.

What does this actually mean for you? The more searched your flight is, the more accurate the data will be. So, because plenty of people are searching for NYC to Cancun flights, you’ll find more up-to-date data than, say, San Francisco to Tajikistan. For some reason.

Let’s see what happens when I click. The cheapest spring break ticket option now jumps to $263, because only now do they pull the ticket prices in real time. Luckily, a $7 difference isn’t much of a dealbreaker for most people.

Cheap options for spring break in Mexico

From here, you can choose your ticket. Call me Mr. Monopoly, but I’m gonna splash out that extra $6 for a nonstop flight. But if you really want to be a masochist for the sake of saving a Lincoln and change, that’s on you! That is about the cost of one beachfront margarita on your cheap spring break trip 😉

One is much cheaper than the others

You then are given a list of a couple different online travel agencies (OTAs) which have those tickets. You’ll notice that Kiwi.com, which I’ve literally never heard of until I wrote this post, has the best price by a long shot. So let’s go with them!


5. Click through and book your cheap spring break ticket!


Skyscanner will redirect you to book through their partner website, and your price should stay stable. If it’s an OTA you’re not familiar with, you may want to do a bit of research on them first. Trust Pilot is a good resource for making sure your booking company is reputable.

I will caution you against booking anything with eDreams! They’re notorious for having some of the worst customer service in the industry. So while it’s not a “scam” per se, it can be a gamble to book with them, as if anything goes wrong with your ticket you may have trouble getting refunded. I have used Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz, and CheapOair all without issues so I can personally recommend those OTAs.

Still, book quickly, especially if there is one OTA that is dramatically cheaper than all the rest. They likely only have one or two tickets for that price, as they’ve usually bought them directly from the airline at a discounted price. So when you see a good price, do one quick search, then book, book, book!


 

Spring break doesn't have to be expensive! Learn my flight hacks for booking cheap planet tickets.

Note: I have no official relationship with Skyscanner and am writing this because I am a huge fan of their website and use it nearly every time I make a booking. That said, this post does contain affiliate links. That means that if you purchase a flight using one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no added cost to you. It’s a great way to ensure I can keep producing useful information!

 

13 Sustainable Travel Hacks For a Greener World

I know we all want to see the world – but in order for there to be a world to see, we have to keep thinking about our impact on the planet.

While there are some things we simply can’t avoid, like carbon emissions from air and bus travel (though you can buy carbon offsets), there are other sustainable travel choices we can make that dramatically reduce our impact on the globe.

Sustainable travel will allow you to have a world to enjoy

Fly less

Yeah, I know that EasyJet or RyanAir flight is cheap, but for the love of God’s green (for so long) earth, don’t zigzag your way through Europe by plane.

Planes are great if you have a short amount of time and need to get from point A to point B. But once you’ve flown somewhere, try to rely on ground transport as much as possible.

Check out BlaBlaCar if in Western Europe, trains and buses in Eastern Europe, and buses and minibuses in Southeast Asia, Central and South America. You’ll be helping make sustainable travel a reality and you’ll also be seeing the world the way the locals do.

Travel slower

Beyond taking fewer fights, slow travel is sustainable travel. It will help save you a bundle and save the earth some massive carbon output.

You’ll also get the benefit of knowing a place more intimately beyond just the tourist hot spots.

Slow travel can mean just taking in fewer destinations, but it can also mean taking longer to travel between destinations, such as cycle touring — when the journey becomes part of the destination.

Take a SteriPen or filtered water bottle with you

This can save tons and tons of plastic from landfill. I was carrying a Steripen, which I loved, until I left it behind in a hostel… whoops. I’ll replace it when I get back to the U.S. For now, I buy a larger water bottle (about 1 liter) and refill it at various hostels or restaurants.

I replace it about once a week to prevent bacterial growth. It’s not perfect, but it wastes way less than buying brand new bottles for the 2 to 3 liters of water I drink daily. This is one of the easiest changes you can make to make sustainable travel happen on a daily basis.

However, you can also use a water bottle with a filter like GRAYL or Lifestraw, or something with UV light like the Steripen which filters undrinkable tap water.

Take shorter, cooler showers

I’ve always been a bit of a cold water shower wuss but here in Nicaragua hot water is pretty rare and reserved for the upper echelon of travelers, namely: not me.

Since I squeal like bacon in a frying pan when the water hits me, I take short, quick showers when I only have access to cold water, and I’ve taken that lesson with me to try to take shorter showers at home, too.

While I miss luxuriating in a warm shower, remember that about 90% of energy use in all water-based appliances like showers, dishwashers, and washing machines comes from heating the water. Plus you already know that saving water is dope!

Sustainable travel will keep water sources for future generations to enjoy

Bring a small, packable tote bag or two

Keep one in each of the bags that you’re likely to use and use it whenever you’re at a grocery store or market. You may get a couple of weird looks as this isn’t exactly common worldwide yet, but it’s worth it.

Plastic grocery bags are some of the worst offenders when it comes to polluting our streets and oceans, and their impact on marine wildlife is horrible.

It’s really quite a simple sustainable travel alternative to bring a small reusable tote bag. They also make a great day bag when you want to carry around a little more stuff with you

Use your grocery bags for good

If you’ve forgotten your packable tote bag (it’s okay! It happens to me) or a stern Albanian cashier wouldn’t let you leave without a bag (it’s okay! It happens to me), you’ll end up with plastic grocery bags.

Don’t just throw them out, where they’ll likely blow into the wind and into an ocean. Use them to:

  • protect dirty shoes from the rest of your luggage
  • stash dirty clothes in until laundry day
  • keep in your bag and pick up some extra litter the next time you’re seeing somewhere you wish was a little more pristine, like a beach or a hikeEncourage sustainable travel by wasting less resources

Make the plunge (I promise this isn’t a gross pun — no wait it is) into a menstrual cup

I wouldn’t blame you if you stopped reading now…. but in case I haven’t lost you, let me rhapsodize about how amazing the menstrual cup is for female travelers.

You basically never have to worry about leaking. If you’re the lucky owner of a uterus, I’m sure you’ve felt that moment of panic at some point or another when you wonder if your tampon isn’t about to betray you and make you have a Carrie moment.

As an added bonus, it keeps tampons and pads out of landfill. The average woman uses almost 250 tampons per year – that’s a whole hell of a lot of landfill. The impact is worse if you consider the plastic applicators that popular brands like Tampax Pearl often use.

Pack with care

Don’t pack more than you need, as trust me, you’ll likely get frustrated and throw it out when trying to Tetris-cram your backpack the morning before a bus ride. Bring less than you think you’ll need.

If you really miss something, there’s a really good chance you’ll be able to find it somewhere out there in the world. Yay globalization?

Read more on how I traveled for half a year, from summertime in the Sahara to winter in Denmark, carry-on only!

Embrace toiletries with less packaging

One of my favorite toiletries brands is LUSH because of their commitment to reducing waste and swearing off testing on animals. Their solid shampoo is a great purchase as it’s completely plastic free!

Just buy one reusable metal tin and the shampoo bar of your choice (I’m obsessed with Seanik for my fine, limp hair). Their conditioner, moisturizer, soap, and body wash all also come in packaging-free options for the sustainable traveler.

There are several reasons to go for solid toiletries – reducing plastic use, freeing up room in your liquid allotment if traveling carry-on only, and also just reducing the chances of leaks and spills along the way.

Bring a foldable Tupperware

This is great at reducing food waste, whether you eat out at restaurants or prefer to cook in the hostel.

Many restaurants use non-eco-friendly means of packaging up leftover food, such as aluminum foil, Styrofoam, or plastic containers — none of which you’ll likely ever use again.

A foldable silicone Tupperware won’t take up much space when not in use, and it’s great for saving extra food.

Bring a sustainable travel cutlery set set

Skip the plastic forks and sporks and bring your own travel cutlery set with you. I got this tip from Legal Nomads‘ advice on how to eat street food more safely, but it also has the added benefit of reducing plastic waste.

Buy secondhand or higher quality firsthand clothing

Thrift stores aren’t always easy to find overseas, but when they are and you need to replenish your wardrobe, consider perusing these stores rather than buying cheap clothing.

Everything you buy from a cheap street vendor means they’ll order a replacement, increasing the demand for crappily made mass-produced clothing that’s often made by people living in horrific conditions.

If I buy something firsthand, I usually pay a little extra for something well-made that I think will last longer.

Buy fewer souvenirs

I truly believe photos are the best souvenirs of a trip. But if you absolutely must buy souvenirs or risk the eternal disappointment of your grandmother, try to find ones made of naturally renewable, local resources.

Local ceramics and jewelry are far better choices than Made in China products. Also consider buying edible souvenirs, like chocolates or coffee!

13 simple, sustainable travel hacks to help make your travels green and eco-friendly!

8 Ways to Travel Like a Local in a City Full of Tourists

For someone who travels constantly, it’s funny how much I bristle at feeling like a tourist all the time. It’s not that I harbor any delusions that I’m not a tourist (and there’s nothing wrong with being a tourist, I should add!). It’s that I don’t like the idea that I’m getting a sanitized, pre-packaged idea of someone else’s city. I’m greedy. I want the real deal, man, even if I’m only there for a couple of days. Is that really so much to ask?

After months and months of trying to be a fly on the wall and blend into every city I visit (which is definitely easier for me in some places than others), I’ve learned a few travel tips and tricks about feeling more like a local than a tourist. Here’s what I’ve gathered along the way:

Stay long enough

You’ll never feel like a local if you don’t stay long enough. I’m talking at least five days, but that’s your absolute bare minimum, and even with that, you won’t really scratch the surface. It’s funny how much more I get from a city on that fifth or sixth day —  it sounds so minor, but that’s when you’re just starting to understand it. Two weeks is a much better baseline; two to three months is ideal. But I’m not one to preach as my wanderlust draws me away constantly — it’s hard for me to stay anywhere longer than a week!

As much as I loved Granada and settled into the local lifestyle quickly, I got itchy feet after a week! My next stay will be longer, as it’d be a great place to set up shop as a digital nomad for a bit.

Learn a bit of the local language

It’s natural that you’ll feel way more at home in a place where you speak the language comfortably. One of the reasons I chose to focus on learning Spanish was because it opened so many doors to different countries for me. Because I speak Spanish, I’m able to ask locals and get real recommendations rather than sanitized tourist directives. While I don’t speak any other languages nearly as well as I speak Spanish, I try to learn a bit of the language of most countries I visit.

You’d be surprised at how far some basic words can take you! I once haggled for local honey and inquired about the availability of different sizes jars of honey in Trebinje, Bosnia using only Bosnian (aka Serbo-Croatian) — a language I barely have any command over. But that interaction made me feel like a true local, even though I was only in Trebinje for four days.

Learning just a few words of the local language will take you quite a bit further to feeling like a local

If you want to learn a language, I recommend using Babbel if they carry your language! The way they teach languages is much slower and more methodical than say, DuoLingo, and the price is incredibly affordable. You can get three months of lessons for $20 USD. I’m currently learning Russian with them and I’m astounded by how much progress I’ve made in a short amount of time.

Shop where the locals shop

This will depend on where you are, but do your best to shop at the smaller markets for a taste of local life. In places like Latin America and Asia, outdoor produce markets are huge year round. They’re a great place to shop for fresh produce and other necessities.

In other places, especially in big cities like Madrid or Rome, it’s harder to find these sorts of places. Do a bit of research or ask around for the best place to buy fresh groceries. I know it’s a small little thing, but I swear that buying local as opposed to eating in restaurants and out of supermarkets makes a huge difference. Obviously, this may not work if you’re traveling during wintertime, but other than that, this trick is huge for me.

The market of the old bazaar of Prishtina, Kosovo – where all the locals shop

Stay in a place with a kitchen

Nothing will make you feel like a tourist more than having to stop in a restaurant every 4 to 6 hours. By staying in an Airbnb or a hostel with kitchen access, you can actually use that produce I strong-armed you into buying. Nothing makes you feel more at home than being able to cook your favorites. It’s also fun to explore whatever the local ingredients are and substitute them for what you’d normally use at home.

For example, in Mexico, where you’re hard-pressed to find zucchini but chayote (a roundish, green squash) is everywhere, try playing around with chayote the same way you’d prepare zucchini at home. It’s a really fun exercise and it’s incredibly wallet-friendly!

Join community events

Get involved in things beyond day trips and hostel-organized pub crawls. Join a local fitness studio, take some yoga classes, find a theme night at a bar (trivia night, etc.) and just show up.

I met some awesome girls when I took an acro yoga class in Granada, Nicaragua, and I kept running into them all around the city! This really made me feel settled into a city that I had barely even touched down in. Being able to run into a familiar face in a foreign city is a really unusual — but lovely! — feeling.

It’s a great feeling to run into friendly faces in a foreign city!

Seek out free and dirt cheap cultural events

Really want to find the locals? They’ll likely be at that free concert in the park, that open museum night, or the yearly festival in the streets. Try to find a local paper or online newsletter to stay connected with events, or ask someone if there is anything exciting going on that week. If you’re in a big enough city, Time Out is a great resource; if not, try asking people at your hostel. That’s how I found out about a free ballet at the National Theater of Kosovo and later a free blues rock show at a local bar/bookstore.

Always ask for fun, free, local events!

Get off the main drag

There’s always that one street in every city — that one where all the tourists congregate, comforted by English-language menus and pictures of inedible looking pizzas outside nearly every restaurant. In Barcelona, it’s Las Ramblas; in Rome, it’s Via Cavour; in New York, it’s just about every street within walking distance of Times Square. I forget where I heard this rule, but I like the “6-block radius” rule, where you make sure you walk at least six blocks from the nearest major tourist destination before you start looking for restaurants.

Listen for people speaking the local language or who look like locals, if you’re in a place where that kind of thing is easy to see (it won’t exactly get you far in London or New York or other more multicultural cities). Now THAT’S where you should be eating!

Food in Puerta del Sol Madrid
Delicious seared ahi tuna at an off the beaten path tapas restaurant in Madrid

Join expat meetups

Harness the power of the Internet (and no, I don’t mean stay in and watch Netflix, although no judgment here!). Couchsurfing is great not just for finding beds, but also for finding meetups around the city. If you’re in a really big city, there are often also Facebook groups like “Expats in _____” that you can join and see if there are any goings-on while you’re in town.

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Hate feeling like a tourist? Stop sticking out like a sore thumb. Here are 8 ways you can live like a local - even if you don't have much time. Hate feeling like a tourist? Stop sticking out like a sore thumb. Here are 8 ways you can live like a local - even if you don't have much time.

Long Haul Flight Essentials: What to Bring & Wear on A Long Flight

I’ve taken more long-haul flights than I can count at this point. My most epically awful travel day clocked in at over 36 hours of transit spanning 6 airports, all because I was trying to save a few bucks… an experience I really don’t recommend you try for yourself. Unless you enjoy rocking back and forth in an airplane seat trying to remain sane. Not that I’ve done that, of course.

The past several years have seen me taking flights all around the world, crisscrossing 6 continents to tally up more than 60 countries. I’ve been on flights as long as 14 hours in one go… on a handful of occasions.

Long haul flights are never fun, but they can be slightly less hellacious depending on how you pack for a long haul flight. What you bring and what you wear on a long flight both make a huge difference in your comfort, ability to sleep, and ability to not lose your f#(*ing mind on the plane.

What to Wear on a Long Haul Flight

Am I the only one who gives people the serious side-eye when I see them dressed to the nines on a plane? While you won’t see me in my onesie on a plane (that’s a treat for my mom when I’m home in California), I always wear soft and comfortable pants or leggings, a T-shirt, a comfy sweater, and a scarf that is big enough to double as a tent.

What I wear on a long haul flight doesn’t change much depending on the destination, because no matter where I’m going, I can guarantee that the plane will alternately be boiling hot and freezing cold. I can also guarantee that even in the most hellishly hot of climates, I’ll end up using my scarf or sweater at some point when faced with some particularly aggressive air conditioning.

There is no one perfect outfit to fly in. The trick to putting together the perfect long haul flight outfit is choosing something with layers you can easily add and subtract. Bonus points if they’re lush and cozy and make you feel like you’re nestled in a pillow fort (while crammed into a seat with 30 inches of pitch)

Warm cardigan or hoodie

Even if you’re flying to a warm weather destination, trust me: you’re going to want to bring at least one warm cardigan or hoodie for the flight. The airplane cabin’s temperature will fluctuate a ton throughout the flight, especially after take-off when all the air conditioning seems to roar to life.

There are a few requirements for my perfect flight hoodie: 1) a soft cotton blend that won’t wrinkle, 2) floaty and loose enough that it can hide the plane bloat I get from the sodium overdose that is airplane ‘food’, and 3) stylish enough that it makes me forget that I look and feel like death and will actually wear outside the plane. This one from Ninedaily ticks all the boxes and is pretty much my perfect plane hoodie.

I tend to prefer a hoodie when picking what to wear on a long haul flight because it also is helpful when it comes time to sleep, providing a sort of pillow-like barrier between me and the outside world and shutting out some of the light, but a soft cardigan will also do.

Even if you’re flying to a warm weather destination, trust me: you’re going to want to bring at least one warm sweater for the flight. The airplane cabin’s temperature will fluctuate a ton throughout the flight, especially after take-off when all the air conditioning seems to roar to life.

Comfortable cotton T-shirt

Underneath my hoodie or cardigan, I like to wear a simple and comfortable short-sleeve cotton T-shirt just in case the cabin temperature gets really hot (which, in all my flying experience, I’ve noticed tends to happen on take off and landing).

Basically, I like to have a comfortable T-shirt that I can strip down to if needed if the plane gets warmer than expected. I choose black or navy because it shows pit stains less (long haul travel ain’t glamorous, guys). I don’t have anything fancy, just a bunch of Hanes T-shirts that I’ve had for forever.

Comfortable pants/leggings

I’m going to get a bit controversial here and say that leggings as pants are a perfectly acceptable answer to the question of what to wear on a long haul flight. If it covers your body and keeps your skin from touching me as we’re squeezed in together unnaturally close quarters, I really don’t give a flying f(*# what you wear.

I prefer jean-look leggings aka jeggings – make sure they’re actually leggings that look like jeans, and not jeans that look like leggings (this makes sense in my head – basically, one is soft and lush AF, the other is scratchy demon material). These denim-look leggings from HUE, my favorite leggings brand, fall into the heavenly former category.

That said, just regular matte black leggings work too. I used to buy a ton of leggings in bulk from H&M each season until inevitably each pair would end up in the trash as my thunder thighs ripped the seams to shreds. I’ve since invested in higher quality leggings, also from HUE, and they last for ages. At just twice the price of H&M leggings, they last at least 10x longer, so it’s a no brainer for me.

Slipper socks

I always bring some fuzzy slipper socks so I can take off my shoes, as I can’t fall asleep with my shoes on. Sorry if this is a major plane faux pas, but we all gotta make sacrifices, y’all. As I once said to my friend regarding the indignity of flying coach, “you can’t hurdle through the sky on a throne”.

I bought my house socks at a German Christmas market, but I’m ridiculously tempted by these cute panda socks.

The question is do you need compression socks for a long haul flight? I’ve never in my life worn a pair and I’ve never had a problem, especially because my clinically microscopic bladder means that I get up to use the bathroom every few hours so that I give my legs a stretch. If your legs get achy and sore on shorter flights, I’d definitely invest in a pair of compression socks but it’s not something I use personally.

Slip on shoes

I can’t fall asleep when I’m wearing shoes, so I have my fluffy slipper socks, but I definitely don’t want to step foot into a plane bathroom in those – yikes. Planes are basically flying germ boxes and you need proper shoes (or perhaps a hazmat suit) to brave the toilet there.

Therefore I try to make sure that the shoes I bring on the plane are easy to slip on and off as needed without needing to zip or lace much. I love these Skechers pull on sneakers (I have them in red) for flying – they’re super simple to take on and off without any fuss.

The biggest freaking scarf possible

My other biggest long haul flight essential is an enormous scarf that you can practically build a shelter with.

Basically, anything that goes under the search term ‘blanket scarf’ will do you good. I have something similar to this blanket scarf that I bought at Zara.

Not all airlines give you a blanket anymore – and those that do come wrapped in plastic. Which I understand, because ew bedbugs, but also I feel like it’s so wasteful…. says the person emitting carbon out the wazoo on a long haul flight.

Anyway, bring your own scarf/blanket/pillow combination. Armed with this and your travel hoodie, you’ll feel cozy as hell and ready to take on an awful flight.

Long Haul Flight Essentials to Pack

A carry on bag

I travel carry-on only 90% of the time for a few reasons: the primary reason being that I’m cheap as hell and typically fly lost-cost carriers long haul like Norwegian or Level whenever possible. They don’t always include a bag, so I pack carry-on only to avoid the extra $40+ that can get added onto each ticket price.

The other reason is that I am impatient and hate lines, so I hate checking in my bag at the airport when I arrive. The few occasions that I checked a bag, I found it extremely rare for an airport to have seamless bag drop processes – though god bless the Copenhagen airport, that bag drop was heavenly. I also just want to get the hell out of the airport as soon as the wheels hit the ground, so I love not having to wait for my bag or worry that it got lost. Side note, I may have some trust issues after having my bag lost a handful of times, the worst being a 32 DAY DELAY courtesy of freaking Greyhound. How you lose a bag on a bus, I have no idea, but they tried it and boy did they ever succeed.

So, for those reasons, I recommend investing in a good carry-on bag. I estimate that traveling carry-on only saves me about $300+ per year as a frequent flier, so investing in a higher quality bag is a no-brainer for me. I’ve been a paying customer of Tortuga Backpacks for years. They recently sent me their newest edition, the 45L Setout, to try, and I love it to pieces — except not literally because it’s insanely well constructed and I expect it to last the better part of a decade.

Why do I love it so much? It’s 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.

I also carry a personal item sized bag because as much as I pretend I’m a light packer I actually always find more ways to squirrel things away. I have a full review of my favorite under-seat bag here.

A change of clothes

Having fresh, clean clothes I can change into once I finally get off the plane makes me feel human once again. And just in case you didn’t heed my advice to only pack a carry-on and your luggage gets lost, you have clean clothes waiting for you at your destination, no matter what.

Snacks

I’ve nicknamed myself the Queen of Snacks because I always have a ridiculous amount of snacks on my person at all times for every possible contingency – they’re my number one long haul flight essential. Don’t stock up at the airport, where they tack on about 200% to the price.

A few of my favorite snacks? Trail mix (make sure it’s peanut free as a lot of people have really serious and sensitive allergies and you don’t want to be that asshole), granola bars, pretzels, and fresh fruit like apples. Side note, please don’t be that asshole who brings a banana on a plane, they stink like hell and make me queasy 🙂

Entertainment

There are few things worse than settling into your seat on a long haul flight only to discover that your in-flight entertainment system is broken (or, in the case of a recent 6 hour Sofia to Doha flight, just plain doesn’t exist).

Stock up your phone, laptop, or tablet before you fly with a ton of podcasts, music, and movies or TV episodes (Netflix actually has a selection of shows you can download on your phone, no streaming required). I also bring a Kindle loaded with e-books (I love the Kindle Paperwhite, as it’s gentle on my sensitive eyes).

Lip balm + moisturizer

I really don’t know what they do to the air on long haul flights, but every time I get off the plane I feel like every cell of water in my body has been replaced with sand. I am constantly reapplying heavy-duty lipbalm. Generic chapsticks actually make my lips worse somehow, but I am obsessed with the ultra-cheap yet ultra-effective Aquaphor Lip Repair which have rescued my lips from oblivion on many a long flight.

I also moisturize every few hours – I love this pricy but ridiculously hydrating matte moisturizer from Shiseido. It’s expensive, but you only need a tiny drop at a time to get your skin back to baby soft.

Neck pillow

I’ve trialled many different travel pillows over the years and now I’ve finally found the best neck pillow for long haul flights – the TRTL. Yes, you look and feel like a total doofus using it but it is by far one of the most comfortable pillows I’ve used, PLUS here’s the clincher for me – it actually travels well.

I used to buy those big beanie-filled U-shaped neck pillows that you buy for $20 at the airport, but always got frustrated carrying them on longer trips and ended up tossing them out eventually having been used once. I then bought an inflatable U-shaped neck pillow and absolutely despised it. I had kind of given up on finding the ideal travel pillow when my dad gifted me a TRTL travel pillow for Christmas a year ago and holy crap, this pillow rocks.

It’s perfect for side sleepers like me who need pillow support to feel comfortable, it keeps your neck in an ergonomic position to avoid the cricks in your neck which prior to owning this pillow always struck me after a long haul flight, and it packs down relatively flat or easily dangles off your backpack so that it’s not heinous to carry around when you’re not flying.

Baby wipes

For everything from taking off makeup to refreshing your face to cleaning your tray table (which are literally never ever cleaned) and wiping down the seat in the bathroom after a man who had a few too many mini bottles of wine went to town in there… you’ll want to BYOB(W).

Most baby wipes contain plastics that take hundreds of years to break down so I recommend these biodegradable ones instead. Yes, they’re wrapped in plastic, but it’s a huge improvement over the alternative (plastic wipes wrapped in plastic). You can buy them here.

Pen

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been surprised that I don’t have a pen in my carry-on and I have to fill out a paper customs or immigration form. It’s annoying every single time – so make sure you bring a pen.

Also, make sure it’s a simple crappy ball point pen and not the lovely, glide-y inky pens that will immediately burst upon pressure in the air. I’ve definitely lost quite a few of my favorite pens (and had some really inky hands in the process) to this.

Reusable water bottle

I try to reduce my single use plastic intake, so I bring my own water bottle. I bought mine from IKEA but this one from Klean Kanteen is great. If you don’t want the extra weight and want something that packs down light, I recommend this Nomader water bottle which folds up when not in use.

I fill up my water bottle before a flight and make it a point to drink it throughout the flight. For refills, don’t use the plane water in the bathrooms as it’s not potable and is barely fit to wash your hands with. I’ve never had a problem with a flight attendant filling my water bottle up with water rather than using a tiny, wasteful single use plastic up.

Portable charger

My Anker portable charger (I have the PowerCore 13000 has saved me from tears and near disasters many a time. This portable charger can charge a phone nearly 5 times, plenty for even the longest of long haul flights. More and more planes these days have USB charging ports, but since I recommend a portable charger for travel anyway, it’s a no-brainer to have it in your long haul flight essentials kit.

Once I lost my portable charger and didn’t replace it, and trying to coordinate my arrival to my Airbnb with no way to contact my host with a completely dead phone and a screaming taxi driver was one of my worst travel moments of 2018.

A high-quality sleep mask

I hate, hate, hate those fake satin airline sleep masks they give on long hauls more than I hate most things, except maybe bananas and itchy wool sweaters.

I purchased this amazing Bedtime Bliss sleep mask for my 5 month Europe backpacking trip and was so obsessed. For one, it rests gently on top of your eyes with its contoured shape, not squishing your eyelids so that you constantly feel pressure. It blacks out light completely, which is great when you’re trying to trick your body to adjust to a new time period and there’s still sunlight out where you are.

Not only is it great to combat jet lag with, it also blocks out light in hostels and on buses. I’m so obsessed with this eye mask that I quite literally had tears in my eyes when I realized I left it behind tangled in a hostel bed sheet. When I returned to the US, I made sure I bought two on Amazon for my next trip, that’s how in love I am.

Comfortable wireless headphones

Am I the only one who wakes up with shooting ear pain if I fall asleep for too long with plastic earbuds in my ears, or am I just a baby? I need comfortable wireless earbuds that don’t have an annoying cord to get in the way and catch on things, jarring me awake as they get yanked out of my ears.

I love to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, meditation recordings, and that sort of thing to help me drift off to sleep on long haul flights. A tip for helping you sleep on long flights: be sure you’re not staring at your phone or even your Kindle within an hour or so before you want to sleep- the blue light will mess with your sleep cycles and make it hard to sleep, thus forcing you to be conscious for more hours of your flight.

Sleep medications

As a citizen of the overly litigious United States and the daughter and niece of lawyers, lemme just say: I AM NOT A DOCTOR AND THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. This is just my experience. I always take some sort of sleep aid during my long haul flights. Usually, this is one of my sleep medications prescribed by my psychiatrist, as I have chronic insomnia unrelated to travel.

Over the counter pills like Benadryl, Dramamine, or Tylenol PM will work for people who, unlike me, do not require the human equivalent of horse tranquilizers to sleep. There are lots of herbs I like that help me sleep: valerian root (may cause problems for some, but works for me), passionflower extract, kava kava (may cause funky dreams, you’ve been warned!), hops, and California poppy.

The best sleep medication for long haul flights for me is something that combines herbs, amino acids (like trytophan, the protein in turkey that makes you sleepy), and natural hormones like melatonin. Jarrow has an amazing sleep aid that works virtually as well as my sleeping pill, which is quite literally a low-dose antipsychotic (I’m sure my pharmacists are terrified of me). It’s called Jarrow Sleep Optimizer and it is literally one of the best things I’ve ever spent money on.

If you just want the melatonin, be aware that most melatonin is dosed way too high according to recent research. My psychiatrist told me that 0.1 mg of melatonin taken 2-4 hours before sleep is ideal (most melatonin pills are 3-5 mg, which is 30-50x the ideal dosage!). Each Jarrow pill has 0.15 mg, which is close enough for me (I take 1 pill instead of the recommended 2 so that I don’t take too much melatonin).

If you don’t want the other herbs in the Jarrow pills, try liquid melatonin as it’s easier to get that small amount than from a pill which you have to break into tiny pieces. I recommend taking just a few drops to get the ideal effect. More won’t really hurt you, but it’s apparently not the ideal, as your brain produces melatonin naturally in nanogram amounts, and having a full few milligrams will overwhelm your brain. Science!

Fiber supplement

This may seem weird, but it’s one of my top long flight essentials, and here’s why. I’m going to get a little TMI here, but I’m here to tell it like it is. One unfortunate but common side effect of jet lag induced by long haul flying is constipation. For example, once I flew from Toronto to Tokyo in one go, and the subsequent jet lag totally wrecked my digestive system. It got to the point where I  still couldn’t go to the bathroom even after day 8 of being in Japan. I felt like what I imagine a woman in her third trimester feels like. It was wretched.

Since I didn’t plan for this contingency and my Japanese was limited to “konnichiwa” and “sumimasen” and I was embarrassed to visit a pharmacy without knowing the language (I somehow failed to study the Japanese word for “laxative”, clearly a rookie mistake), I improvised. So I chainsmoked a pack of cigarettes and speed-drank a venti Starbucks light roast coffee, which tasted like garbage to me… but basically worked like a colon cleanse.

Don’t try this at home, folks. It worked, but I felt totally cracked out the rest of the day, which is not a cute look for me. A better choice would be to bring along a fiber supplement to easily add into my water and keep me regular despite the flying. Learn from my mistakes. Don’t let your butt get jet lagged, too.

101 Simple Ways to Save Money for Travel

I’m gonna be brutally honest: it’s like some bloggers who publish guides on how to save money for travel aren’t even trying.

They tell you to cancel your landline as if that’s even a thing these days. They say, “stop ordering $5 coffees every day!” as if that’s something everyone does on the regular and that’s the only thing holding you back from travel. “5 x 365 is almost $2,000, enough to travel for four months in Vietnam!”

They parrot some ridiculously blown-up figure at you, assuming it’s a necessary expense that every “real person” faces, when in reality, only a small percentage of people spend that amount on coffee to begin with. And, let’s be real — those people aren’t the kind of people who really need to scrimp and save money to travel to begin with.

Well, guess what? I saved up enough money to quit my job to travel the world for the next four years or so, and I didn’t give up coffee or my social life to do it. I wasn’t an investment banker. No rich relative died and left me a fortune (though I’m candid that I’ve been afforded plenty of opportunity and privilege).

Nope. I was just a public school teacher. What did I do? I tracked my income and spendings, prioritized my spendings, identified non-negotiables and things I could do without, developed alternate income streams, and was a little bit creative when it came to planning things with my friends. 

And the fact I’m most proud of? I did this all while living, traveling as much as I could, and working full-time as a teacher living in one of the most expensive cities in the world: NYC.

Not including my untapped retirement fund, I was able to save money for travel — approximately $50,000 over the course of five somewhat frugal years — while still affording to travel to 17 countries in that time alone! Here’s how:

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How to Travel with Friends – And Still Have Them After the Trip

Travel is amazing. It opens doors to cultures you never knew existed. It inspires creativity and passion in avenues you’d never imagine. It’s also incredibly difficult. Language barriers can frustrate. Hungry stomachs can make moody travelers of the best of us. This goes doubly so when you’re traveling with a friend, as your moods often play off of one another. Even if you’re not feeling hungry or anxious or lost, and your friend is, suddenly conflict can arise.

Honestly, I prefer solo travel most of the time as I’m pretty independent (read: stubborn) and like to pave my own way. But sometimes I just want to travel with someone I know and make memories with a dear friend. As of writing this, I’ve traveled to 38 countries, about half solo, the other half with friends or partners.

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