#MOOYORK: Udderly Affordable Things to Do In New York City

It’s no secret that New York City is hands-down one of the priciest cities in the U.S. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t visit on a budget. Here’s six fun and FREE things you can do in New York, illustrated by pictures of me traipsing around the city in a cow onesie last week, because it was cold as hell and it’s the warmest thing I own. And it makes for some pretty amoosing photo ops.

(Amoosing = amusing. Get it? Yeah, if you don’t like puns, reading this might be hard for you.)

As always, unless otherwise stated, all pictures are my own.

1. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

The icow-nic Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River, connects Brooklyn to Manhattan, and looks like this.

You can start at either the Brooklyn side or the Manhattan side. Walking the entire thing takes about an hour. Expect it to be full of other tourists, and be mindful of the bike lane. A lot of non-tourists bike across the bridge to get home or to work, and there are constantly people wandering into the bike line to take selfies, which could easily end dangerously for everyone involved.

 

2. Walk the High Line

The High Line is actually dope. It’s a public park built on a train track that’s no longer in use. It starts at Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, and goes to West 34th Street. It takes about half an hour to walk, and is lined with art projects, dope views, and lots of photo ops. It opens at 7 a.m. each day, and closes between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., depending on the season. Check their website for schedule information.

3. Take the Staten Island Ferry

Tired of walking and want a different way to mooove? Okay, that was bad. Sorry, I’m just really trying to milk this for all its worth.

The Staten Island Ferry leaves from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan every half an hour between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Trips to Staten Island take roughly 25 minutes each way (so that’s roughly 50 minutes total).

From the ferry, you can see a decent view of the Statue of Liberty herself. Going at sunset is highly re-cow-mended.

Once the ferry stops at Staten Island, you are expected to get off and wait in the terminal for the next ferry to take you back to Manhattan. Don’t do like me and use the bathroom on the ferry right when it stops and then leave and wonder where everyone went.

4. Get lost in Central Park

Central Park is HUGE. Go. Run around. Use this map.

Two icownic spots to find:

  • Strawberry Fields – 2.5 acres of Central Park are dedicated to John Lennon! How cool is that! They’re referred to as “Strawberry Fields” and are marked by a giant “IMAGINE” mosaic. From the Mosaic, you can also see the apartment building he lived in. If you don’t know who John Lennon is, then I must kindly ask you to stop reading and spend the next 5-10 minutes of your life educating yourself via the wonderful world of the Internet.
  •  The Alice in Wonderland statue – This trippy bronze statue depicts Alice and pals kickin’ it on a mushroom, and can make for a cool picture, although I advise against trying to slide yourself up onto the aforementioned mushroom when you’re very sick with the flu because it might be a confusing ordeal to get back down. Tried and true.

5. Check out Times Square

Hold onto your stuff, be prepared to get run into, and brave the technicolor wonderland that is Times Square. It’s surrounded by shops, which aren’t free, and dudes hawking temptingly cheap tickets to Broadway shows, which is not free and also probably absolutely a scam. Trust. Been there.

But what is free is to stand in the midst of it, take in all the lights, and snap a few pictures.

6. Go look at the Flatiron Building

The Flatiron building looks like…well…a flat building. At 22 stories, it’s a New York landmark, and also currently houses several prominent publishing companies.

The Flatiron building is also a six-minute walk from the Museum of Sex, which is not on this list, since it costs $20 for entry, but it allowed for some hilarious Cow-dak moments, such as the following.

Did I forget your favorite free NYC activity? Lemme know in the comments! And remember, happy cows come from California. Cowlifornia? I’m really done now, I swear.

P.S. If you’ve ever wondered where I got my onesie, you can get your very own here and traipse around Moo York in style. Well, and extreme comfort.


Six Online Resources to Help You Make (And Save) A Little Money for Traveling

I’m part of roughly one billion (read: 12) travel-related Facebook groups, and at least once a week someone posts something to the effect of “what do you guys do to make money for traveling??? I’m super broke and could use some extra cash!!!”

(Side note, the other type of post I see once a week in these groups is essentially the exact opposite:”help!! My husband and I have only $6K to spend on a honeymoon, he wants Tahiti and I want the Bahamas, and we just don’t know which one to take!!!!”

I’d just like to say, if this sounds like you, then your life must be filled with much strife and hardship, and I just don’t know how you cope with every new day, you brave, brave soul.)

But if you’re a normal person, and you’re looking for creative ways to make extra money instead of worrying about how you’re going to spend it, then this post is for you.

Because of the Internet, we now have a million resources available to us, which includes a million platforms on which to pick up a little extra work and a million platforms to help us save money on flights, hotels, etc.

However, since there are probably literally a million resources, some are more legit than others. Like, getting paid to create a PowerPoint presentation on Fiverr? Super legit. Doing a (clothed) photo shoot with a Craigslist photographer in which you get paid in drinks as well as cash? Maybe not so legit. But it made for a good story. Ask me about it if you see me.

Some of the photos came out OK though. Don’t try this at home, kids.

Below is a list of Internet resources that are 100 percent legit, and I know, because I’ve used them all.

Every app listed is available for both Android and iPhone.

1. Sell your skills on Fiverr

Are you an aspiring graphic designer? Maybe you’re a songwriter. Or maybe you can translate something from English to German in record time. Maybe you’re just really, really good at drawing trees.

No matter what skill you have, there’s someone on Fiverr.com who wants to pay you to do it.

Basically, decide which skill you want to market, and create a gig on the site. “I will draw you a very accurate portrait of a sycamore,” for example.

As the name suggests, lots of gigs on the site are sold for $5, but you can sell your gigs for $10 or even $60 if it’s a larger project that merits that. Browse the site first to see if anyone is already doing what you want to do, how much they’re doing it for and how qualified they are.

Keep in mind that Fiverr takes $1 for every $5, so if your gig is $5, you’ll make $4, if it’s $50, you’ll make $40, etc.

I’ve been Fiverr-ing for several months now and it’s decent side cash and super fun. Wanna give it a shot? Sign up for Fiverr here.

2. Get money back from the stuff you buy online with Earny

If you shop online a lot, you’ve probably heard of price protection.

(It’s cool if you haven’t, keep reading!)

Let’s say you’re a bridesmaid in your cousin Julia’s wedding in September. Julia’s being a bit of a bridezilla and wants everyone to purchase one specific dress that she found online for $300. You’re reluctant, but you buy it anyway, on Website #1.

Three weeks later, you see the exact same dress on Website #2 for $250, which obviously is a way better deal.

A lot of credit card companies and online stores will give you that money back if the same item is sold in another store within a certain number of days (usually around 90), but in order for that to happen, you have to do a bunch of paperwork and then find and submit the receipts for each item to the store or credit card company, and it takes forever.

However! There’s an app called Earny that will automatically give you money back when the price drops on something you bought online. No paperwork required.

After you set it up with your CitiBank or Chase credit card info, it then tracks all of your online purchases. If something you bought drops in price, it will automatically refund you the difference to the card you used for the purchase, without you having to do anything.

So, in the case of the bridesmaid dress for Julia’s wedding, you’d get $50 back. Except the company takes a 25 percent cut, so really it would be closer to $37.50, but that’s still $37.50 that, like, magically un-spends itself, so that’s pretty cool.

Want to start Earning? (Hehe.)

3. Let go of the past on Letgo

This is the only app on this list that sort of depends on where you are in the world, because if there aren’t a lot of people using it yet in your city or country, there will be less people to sell to and buy from. Also, as far as I can tell, Letgo only works in the U.S. and Canada.

Letgo makes it super easy for you to sell stuff you don’t want anymore, or buy stuff you need for a cheaper price than it would be if you just went to the store. You take a picture of the thing you want to sell – chair, lamp, Smashmouth CD, boots you never wear, etc. – through the app, assign it a price, post it and boom! That’s it. Super easy. The app uses GPS to display your posting to everyone else with the app in your area.

Remember to exercise a normal amount of caution re: stranger danger when meeting up with people from the Internet to sell them your stuff. If you get a weird feeling about the person who wants to buy your lamp, suggest to meet them at a nearby Starbucks with the lamp instead of them coming to your house.

4. Get cheap flight deals through TravelPirates

The folks over at TravelPirates are really good at finding “error fares,” which is basically when an airline screws up and posts a flight for way cheaper than it normally would be. If you download the app and set up their messaging service, TravelPirates will send you a Facebook message as soon as an error fare is posted. It’s also just a good resource for finding flight deals in general, error fare or not.

ExpertFlyer.com - Empowering the Frequent Flyer

5. …and then book said cheap flights on Skyscanner

Skyscanner is great because you plug in where you’re leaving from, where you wanna go to, and the dates you’re looking at going, and it quickly scours the Internet for the cheapest airlines and shows you good flight deals.

I know what you’re thinking: “Has this girl never heard of Kayak?”

Of course I have, and Kayak’s dope. I just end up using Skyscanner more because it’s the most flexible in terms of putting in a general date instead of a specific one. Most airline aggregators don’t handle “I want to go in July-ish very well, but that’s like Skyscanner’s specialty.

You can just click “cheapest month” if you know you want to go to, say, Thailand sometime next year but you don’t care when, as long as it’s cheap, and it can suggest flights for ya.

Skyscanner and Kayak also have this really cool thing called price alerts.

Say you’re going from California to Montreal in August for Julia’s wedding (her husband’s Canadian, I just decided) but you want to book the absolute cheapest flight. Go into Skyscanner and search for a flight out of whichever airport is closest to you (you can also just type in your city if the airport isn’t important. Airport-ant? Sorry too easy) and into Montreal around the weekend of the wedding. Then click “set price alert.” Whenever that price rises or falls, Skyscanner will let you know immediately via email or Facebook Messenger. If the flight suddenly drops by $40, get on it.

Skyscanner is not an airline, so once you find a flight you want, it then takes you to that airline’s site to book it.

6. Save money on accommodation with Airbnb referrals

Got a friend who hasn’t used Airbnb before? Send them your referral code. Not only will they get some money off their first stay at an Airbnb, but you’ll get some credit to use, too. Money off accommodation for everyone! It’s a win-win!

Side note, something really weird happened a few months ago when my Airbnb account got hacked and I was getting notifications send to my phone in Chinese. Then I checked and someone had used my credit card info to book a property somewhere in China. Airbnb customer service was super awesome and helped me fix it. Keep that password secure!

Speaking of, hey there, you want some money off your first Airbnb stay? Here ya go.

Yes, that’s me.

The #1 way to make extra travel money is just to be super resourceful.

A couple of months ago, I saw a Facebook post asking for outgoing people to be a mascot for something, and that’s how I ended up spending a whole weekend inside of a very hot mascot costume shaped like a blood drop, bopping around from room to room of a pharmacy convention, dancing inside my costume and posing for selfies with convention goers.

The convention’s main objective was to convince people to donate blood, as there was also a blood drive. I mean, if a dancing blood drop came up to you and told you donating blood saves lives, who wouldn’t want to donate?

Apparently, the blood drop costume’s been around and used for conventions for several years, and I’m the first girl to ever wear it, so that’s kinda cool. I’m like Amelia Earheart or Mulan. Except not really at all.

Is there a super dope money-saving app or site I missed? My bad. Tell me in the comments!


An Open Letter To Everyone Who’s Afraid to Travel Alone

Dear Individual Who’s Afraid To Travel Alone,

Hey! How are you? Your hair looks great today, has anyone told you that yet?

So! You want to travel. You’re in your final semester of high school and planning to go to college, but don’t feel mentally prepared to start yet. Or, you’re about to finish college, and you don’t quite feel ready to be a real adult with a real job. Or, you recently got out of a six-year relationship and want to be somewhere else for a while. Or, nothing dramatic happened, but you’ve simply never been out of your home country and you just want to see what else is out there.

You have an O.K. amount of money in your bank account and an idea of where you want to go, but you don’t know anyone with whom you can imagine traveling, so obviously, that’s not happening, because you clearly can’t go alone. Right?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

And no, this isn’t going to be one of those “if you can dream it you can do it” blog posts, don’t worry. I’m aware that the Internet is filled with cute little Pinterest pictures of supermodel-looking girls sitting on a mountain at that place in Turkey with all the hot air balloons–if you’ve spent any time on Instagram, you know what I’m talking about–or gazing out on some landscape involving a waterfall accompanied by big, bold text about how to travel alone is to know yourself or how the world is your oyster or something to that effect.

Most of your “traveling alone” selfies will look like this–backpack, sweat, no makeup. But yo, the park behind me is pretty. (Parque El Retiro, Madrid, June 2016)

Most of what I’ve read online about traveling alone (especially for women, but this post is for everyone) either says that:

a) you’ll have the most amazing time and amazing Instagram pictures to go along with it

OR

b) it’s super dangerous and scary and you’ll be alone and sad and scared.

I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s both. You’ll most likely have an amazing time, and you’ll also most likely be sad and scared sometimes. The thing is, traveling alone is like everything else in life. Nothing else is either this thing or that thing, so why would this be an exception?

Even though you’ll have scary and sad and maybe even dangerous moments, what I want to make sure you take away from this is that, at least for me, it was 100 percent worth it.

Before you decide if it’s worth it for you or not, because everyone’s different, let’s rewind back six years for a second so I can tell you my story.

The year is 2011, I’m four months into 19 years old, and eight months past finishing an exhausting, intensive four years of high school, during which I struggled to pass every math- or science-related class I took, drowned daily in a pile of homework, barely slept, and almost never raised my hand. I had plenty of friends, and had no trouble making new ones one-on-one or in small groups, but public speaking was the scariest thing in the world to me. I was too anxious to even show up to a friend’s birthday party by myself.

I had known since the beginning of my last year of high school that I needed a break before starting college, so I applied to a bunch of colleges with the plan to defer for a year once I got accepted, but I didn’t really have a plan for what I wanted to do with my extra year.

I ended up staying home in Santa Cruz, California to work two jobs while all my friends went to colleges all over the country. I really wanted to go somewhere to get better at my Spanish–I had taken it in school for the better part of 13 years, so I could speak pretty decent textbook Spanish (“where is the bathroom in the library? The pen of my uncle is on the green table”), but I had always wanted to be fluent.

My stepdad had gone to Guatemala years before to take Spanish classes, and said it was one of the cheapest countries to do that in, but all the programs I found online wanted you to pay an arm and a leg to only volunteer for two or three weeks. And, I was afraid to go by myself.

One night, my stepdad’s friend came over for dinner and said he knew of a volunteer program in Guatemala called Common Hope, that didn’t make you pay to volunteer and allowed you to do so for 1-6 weeks if you met certain requirements. He also said that plenty of people went there on their own to volunteer, so that once I was there, I wouldn’t be completely alone. I applied for the program, and got accepted to work in their daycare unit. I also applied for (and got accepted to) a language school, which also set me up with a host family.

So, after two more months of working in Santa Cruz, I found myself on an airplane on February 6, 2011, heading to a foreign country by myself for the first time ever. I’d been on two family vacations to Mexico when I was younger, but aside from that, I’d never left the U.S., and definitely not by myself.

Fountain at Parque Central from my first day in Antigua

I arrived at my host family’s house at nighttime and in a daze and immediately fell asleep. The next morning I woke up super early, ate breakfast with my host family, and stumbled through Spanish small talk.

Check out this excerpt I found from the blogspot.com blog I kept while I was gone to prove to my friends and family that I was alive–it perfectly sums up the minor breakdown I had while trying to unpack after breakfast that day:

after breakfast i kinda freaked out…everyone was at school or work and i had this moment like, what the hell am i doing, im all alone, im bad at reading maps and also directions, i dont have a working phone, i don’t speak fluent spanish, GOD I AM SO DUMB WHY AM I DOING THIS. but then i was like yo broski, this is what you’ve wanted to do all year. this is what they call “diving in headfirst,” and you’re here now, so put your big girl panties on and just dive. (yeah i talk to myself and yeah i call myself broski when i do it.)
so i dove!
and i got lost!
but im alive, hi.
and it was fun!

Once I pulled myself together, I spent a confusing but pleasant morning walking through the town’s cobblestone streets and stopping to look at every interesting statue, garden, or storefront.

From my blog post exactly six years ago

I’m not going to lie–my three months in Guatemala started out rough. Over the first few weeks, I dealt with getting ripped off, first while buying a phone to use while I was there and then while buying credit for my phone (multiple times), I fell ill to the point of being unable to eat or stand, and once I ended up on the wrong bus going to the wrong city with no map or phone credit.

When little emergencies happen in the comfort of your home country when your family is right there, they’re easier to deal with. When they happen to you when you’re completely on your own thousands of miles away, you have to deal with them yourself right then and there. And doing that made me way, way stronger.

After a month or so of being in Guatemala on my own, even though I had the best host family ever and a few housemates, I got pretty lonely. Everyone was doing their own thing, and I basically did the same activities every day–volunteer job, language classes–and read a lot alone in my room.

Two months in, my (incredible) Spanish teacher told me that there was another girl around my age from California at the same school who took Spanish classes in the morning (mine were in the afternoon), so one day I went to school a little early, and looked for a girl about my age.

I saw some girl reading by herself in the corner, so I walked up to her and said, “Hey! This is super random, but I’m from California, and I’m here by myself. My teacher told me there was another girl alone here from California, and that’s you, right?”

She said yes, and I asked if she wanted to hang out sometime, since we were from the same place and by ourselves, and she said okay.

24 hours later we were dancing at a club together making plans to climb Volcán Pacaya (one of the many volcanoes in Guatemala) the next morning.

The following morning, as I was ascending an active volcano with a girl I had met 48 hours earlier, she told me I had intimidated her when I first came up to her because I seemed so confident. She said she would have never just walked up to a random girl and asked if she wanted to hang out, and I realized that two months earlier, I wouldn’t have either.

Volcano climbin’

The chick who once had been afraid to go to a birthday party by herself and didn’t talk between 7th and 12th grades was now going up to people she didn’t know, asking them to hang out, and climbing volcanoes with them two days later. Whoda thunk!

The month that followed was my last one in Guatemala, and by far the best. While climbing the volcano, I met a bunch of people from all over the world, and for the next week, we all met at the same spot every night to hang out, play cards, drink wine and go to bars.

In my last two weeks in the country, I had my first experience staying in a hostel–and loved it (at Lake Atítlan), I rode horses at sunset on the most beautiful beach I’d ever been to (Monterrico), I went on a candle-lit cave tour despite the reviews I read online saying it was unsafe, and it ended up being amazing (at the Lanquin Caves), and I visited the beautiful, naturally turquoise pools of Semuc Champey–all with people I had just met.

At the Lanquin Caves – the only light we had was from the melting candles we were holding!

 

Hiking through the forests of Semuc Champey to get to the pools. It was too hot for clothes, so hiking boots and bikinis was the obvious choice.

I arrived back in California on May 5, 2011, a much, much more confident person. That confidence got me through five years of college, that confidence got me my bachelor’s degree in journalism, and that confidence got me to and from 13 more countries since then.

Since that first morning in Guatemala, arriving in a new country has always been exciting, and not scary, because I know I can do it–because I’ve done it before.

Traveling alone gave me confidence that I don’t think I could have gotten from any other experience. There’s nothing quite like showing up to a new country completely alone and having to learn how to navigate the city you’re in by yourself (especially if you’re directionally challenged like I am), getting sick, dealing with language barriers, etc. etc. etc.

Also, it’s waaay scarier thinking about traveling alone than it is once you’re there doing it.

If you wanna go, work work work, save up money for a plane ticket, put ya big girl panties on, and just dive.

Love,

Jessica

P.S. Here are some resources you can use to find people with whom to meet up and do things with once you’re there:

  1. Gapyear.com discussion board – membership to the site is free
  2. Tourlina – If you identify as a woman, this app helps you find other female travel companions (and no, I don’t work for them, I just think it’s a great idea)
  3. Backpackr – This app helps anyone find travel buddies of any gender

TL;DR: Traveling alone can be scary but also so worth it. 

Semuc Champey

Women Writers to Watch in 2017

Everyone and their mother has a travel blog these days, or at least an Instagram account packed with envy-inducing travel photos a-plenty.

With all the travel bloggers/influencers out there, it might be hard to pick which ones to keep up with and which ones to ignore.

Here are some of my favorite female travel bloggers and their online presences that are definitely worth checking out.

From www.blondeseashell.com

1. Nadine Rohner

Originally from Switzerland and now living and writing in Bali, Indonesia, Nadine Rohner covers all things Bali on her blog, Blonde Seashell: where to stay, where to eat, and everything else you might want to know about one of the most-Instagrammed tropical paradises.

Originally, Nadine said, her blog was just a way to keep in touch with her friends while she traveled, and was more about her personal traveling experiences instead of full of travel advice, as it is now.

Nadine said that several months ago, she decided to think of her blog as more of a business instead.

“I started writing about what to do and see instead of only writing about my personal daily life,” Nadine said.

Talk about an an envy-inducing IG account–Nadine’s Instagram is full of palm trees, tropical beaches, and the occasional pineapple that make you want to book a plane ticket to Bali ASAP.

Nadine said the #1 place she would love to travel to is the Maldives, the luxurious chain of tropical islands in the Indian Ocean.


Studio Classes without Studio Prices at 24 Hour Fitness!

2. Michelle Rick

Speaking of Bali, I featured Michelle on my blog in October when I posted her “Basic Bitch’s Guide to Bali.”

Michelle is currently based in California. On traveling, Michelle says, “The hardest part is going. You never really know what to expect, but that’s part of the fun!”

Michelle’s website also features a blog, full of advice regarding books, films, travel, and life in general.

“There are so many times I was nervous to board a plane to a place I’d never been, but it always turned out great,” Michelle said. “Not perfect, since there’s no such thing in travel, but great.”

High up on Michelle’s travel bucket list is Dublin, Ireland.

“When in doubt, just book the ticket and let life do the rest,” she says.

You can follow Michelle on Instagram here.

From travelhippies.in

3. Purvi Kamaliya

A self-described “travel addict,” Mumbai-based teacher Purvi writes her blog, Travel Hippies, to be more like a collection of stories than a blog. Most of her posts are to help readers plan trips to and around India. Reading her blog is like you’re talking to a friend who just got back from a trip.

“Traveling…is an adventure where you get out of your comfort zone,” she says.

Purvi would love to explore Croatia to see its “beautiful and secluded beaches, museums and cathedrals.”

Check out Purvi’s colorful Instagram here.

From www.memoriesabroad.wordpress.com

4. Lizzy and Eloise

Lizzy and Eloise are too mysterious to have last names. Like Madonna. Or Cher.

Or, they just didn’t tell me and don’t have them listed on their blog or IG, take your pick.

From Germany (Lizzy) and Australia (Eloise), Lizzy and Eloise decided to start their travel blog, “Memories Abroad,” when they were working as au pairs together in the U.S.

“We bonded over how much more we felt at home (in the U.S.) rather than in our home countries, so we decided to share this with others, along with our travel experiences,” Eloise said.

Eloise’s dream destination is Greece.

“As a child, I would always talk to my Nan about going to see the blue water and white buildings, and we plan to go together someday,” she said.
Lizzy said she wants to visit Australia so she can “make my childhood dream of walking up the stairs of the Sydney Opera House come true.”

Give ’em a follow on the ‘Gram.

Know any badass babe bloggers I missed? Lemme know in the comments!

 



7 Travel Mistakes I Made–And How You Can Avoid Them

I skipped my university graduation to spend a week in Colombia, and then went on to spend a few months in Barcelona. None of that was anywhere near the disaster that I (and my mother) thought it would be. However, I did mess up a little, and I’m going to tell you all about it so you don’t do the same things.

1. Make sure you know the visa requirements for wherever you’re going way before you go.

As romantic and adventurous as it sounds to semi-spontaneously book a one-way ticket to another country without any concrete idea of when you’re going back home, the friendly people over at Customs At Any Airport In Any Country Ever don’t like that very much. This is why I almost couldn’t board my Madrid-bound plane in Panama.

People travel without return tickets and/or a visa all the time, and not everyone gets in trouble, but you never know. It’s just a good idea to look up each country’s rules regarding visa and length of stay before you go. (That rhymes, by the way.)

A lot of countries require that you apply for a visa several months before you go, and that you do so in your home country. If, for example, you’re a non-European citizen planning a longer trip to Europe, read up on the Schengen Zone and its various rules about where in Europe you can go and how long you can stay there.

2. If you know for sure you are going to be gone for a long period of time, you don’t have a guaranteed place to live when you’re back, and you have a lot of stuff, sell it.

Since May 21, I have been paying for a storage unit in San Francisco every month to store my bed, dresser, desk and miscellaneous other items. It’s taking a toll on my bank account. I wish I had sold my stuff instead. Don’t get a storage unit! You’ll have more money for traveling!

3. Keep track of everything you spend. Little things add up, big time.

I had been working almost every day for four months, so when I went to Vitoria-Gasteiz in early October, I was able to bring a sizable wad of cash with me. I stayed with friends in Vitoria and my friend and I were mostly splitting 80 cent bags of pasta to cook for dinner so I didn’t think I had spent much. After staying there for six days, I booked a €7 bus to San Sebastian, three €13 nights in a San Sebastian hostel and a €44 bus back to Barcelona, which by my calculations shouldn’t have made a dent in my cash wad.

However, about a week after returning to Barcelona and resuming my normal practice of purchasing €1 beers from the dudes selling them in the streets, I realized I was in financial trouble.

I sat down, counted up everything I had spent in the 10 days I had been gone, and realized I had spent way more than I thought I had. (Beer, snacks, a spontaneous surfing lesson in San Sebastián…)

Write down everything you spend as you go along instead of doing it after the fact so you can keep yourself in check. I’ve done this before and it worked–I should take my own advice, geez.

Speaking of money:

4. If you’re planning on doing Workaway or another work exchange program, make sure you have another source of income or enough money saved up to get by.

Workaway and similar programs are a great way to stay in a new city for free. Basically, Workawayers agree to work for a certain amount of hours each week in exchange for a bed to sleep in and, usually, a meal or three every day. Workaway situations range from reception at a hostel to “come help me with my organic arugula farm in the South of France while I endlessly complain to you about my midlife crisis and my ex-husband just because I want someone to talk to.”

However, many people (read: me) may underestimate the amount of money in the bank (shawty what chu drank) it actually takes to be able to live comfortably (read: afford to eat more than once a day when the hostel you’re working at has free dinners) without another source of income. If you have enough money saved and/or you have another way of making that skrilla, Workaway away. Maybe avoid the arugula farm, though.

5. Before your trip, thoroughly read each airline’s carry-on luggage requirements and follow them as well as you can.

The setting is Berlin Schönefeld Airport at 5:30 a.m. on a weekday in mid-June, 2015. Our protagonist, Jessica, had been on a bar crawl until an hour and a half previously, had made the mistake of napping for half an hour, and now felt like absolute hell.

As she squinted in the sunlight starting to filter in through the windows, a lovely (Easy Jet) airline worker announced to the line of passengers that they would only be allowed to carry one item onto the flight with them-which means not a small backpack and a small suitcase, which were the items Jessica had with her, since most of the flights she was taking on her eight-week European jaunt were with Ryanair, and Ryanair was OK with two carry-on items if they both met the height and width requirements.

Jess and her five travel companions had read Easy Jet’s baggage requirements online previously, and four of her companions had decided before they got to the airport that they would check their bags, so they just threw them onto the conveyer belt when they went through security. Jess and her friend Elena, however, had been determined not to pay to check a bag, so they decided they would just “figure it out at the airport.”

So, here they were in the airport very shortly before their early-morning flight suddenly having to open their suitcases and see if they could also squeeze their backpacks in there and still meet the weight requirements for carry-on luggage.

(Spoiler alert: they could not.)

After a solid ten minutes of squishing and cramming, Jess and Elena were told they had to check their suitcases, which would cost them €70 and, from the looks of the line of others waiting to do so last-minute, would absolutely ensure that they missed their flight.

As Jess and Elena’s companions began to line up for boarding (hidden bulletpoint 4.5: don’t be this late for a flight), in a burst of panicky genius, our protagonist asked the airline worker if she and her friend could take out all of the clothes they had in their suitcases and wear them on the flight on top of the clothes they were already wearing, so their suitcases would be lighter and they could bring them on the plane.

The worker chuckled and said “sure, if you really want to.” So Jess and Elena began to pile on jacket after shirt after dress after shorts after skirt while both lines of passengers watched in amusement. Jess and Elena were each wearing four layers and sweating profusely when the attendant, who hadn’t quite stopped chuckling, said the suitcases were fine now and they could board their flight.

So wearing almost all of the clothing they had packed with them, and Jess holding her toiletries in a straw hat she’d picked up in Ireland, the two arrived safely in Amsterdam with their friends, without having to pay an extra cent for luggage.

That’s dedication right there.

A less dramatic verson of the same story happened, at the time of writing, roughly 20 hours ago, in which Jess straight-up did not try to find out WOW Airlines’ carry-on requirements until she was at the airport and had to pay to check her suitcase, which was eight kilos over the maximum. (Although that one was going to be hard to get around, as she had crammed the past six months of her life in there and it’s hard to make six months fit into five kilos, especially if a large part of those six months was a fluffy cow onesie).

Moral of the story: know each airline’s requirements and be prepared.

6. Don’t carry all of your cash AND your debit card AND your ID on you!

Seems obvious, right? Yeah, you’d think. I went through the wonderful experience of being mugged by three dudes in a park in Barcelona at 3 a.m. three weeks ago, and they took my purse, which contained 60 euros, my ID, my debit card, my iPhone, all my makeup, my headphones, and three colors of UV paint. Why did I have all those things with me, you ask? Because after traveling through 15 countries (16 if I include my own) without anything like that ever happening, it’s easy to get a little cocky. Don’t.

Carry a copy of your ID and not your actual one, carry your card OR cash, and absolutely do NOT carry all the cash you have in your life. As for the iPhone, I know I knocked Hank from Massachusetts before, but this might be where the tourist pouch comes in handy.

Or, don’t walk through parks late at night. Take your pick.

7. Bring airplane snacks-always!

No matter how late you think you might be to your flight, if it’s more than four hours, stop at a store and buy snacks! Airport food is expensive and there’s something about traveling that makes everyone hungry.

All of the those things being said, I am in one piece, and I have been having an amazing time. Traveling alone is awesome because you can do whatever the hell you want and not have to worry about what anyone else wants to do. Just use common sense and you’ll be good.

Got any solo travel shitshow stories? Hit me with ’em in the comments, I wanna hear!