Budgeting, Travel, Top 5

Top Five Friday #10

Tips for Travel Budgeting

Budgeting is a necessary step in the trip planning process.  It may determine the destination, or the type of accommodation, or set a goal for a trip in the far future.  Whatever the case may be, a solid budget is an essential travel accessory.  Below are my top five tips for budgeting for your next trip:

  1. Set a realistic number to start with and stick to it. Research how much the primary expenses will be, this would include your flight/gas/train ticket and your accommodations.  Factor in attraction costs and tours, then add in how much you would ideally spend each day on food and miscellaneous expenses.  The key is to not be stingy with your budget starting out.  If you have more than you thought you might need during your trip, that’s better than the alternative.  (For tips on saving money to add to your travel budget, see this blog).
  2. Add in buffer funds. Whatever you came up with tip #1, add a few hundred to it for emergency expenses.  Keep this buffer fund in a separate savings account, or in cash hidden in your suitcase somewhere.  In other words, somewhere you can’t readily get to unless you absolutely need it.  Hopefully you’ll never need to touch these extra funds, but it’s good to know you have them should anything come up.
  3. Check fees and extra charges before booking. If you have a set budget, you need to account for the fees charged with airline and hotel bookings that might exceed what you’ve budgeted for.  For example, budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier have fees and extra charges for pretty much everything.  $5 to choose your seat ahead of time, $35 for a carry-on bag… these things add up pretty quickly.  There are some hostels charge extra for luggage storage and linens and hotels that will charge for WiFi and parking.  Check all of this ahead of time and factor it into the budget.
  4. Budget for each day using cash only. You already know what you want to spend daily, so make it easier on yourself and have only that much cash on you each day.  It is much easier to keep track of where you’re at when you are using tangible dollars for each purchase rather than swiping a card for everything you buy.  This is a handy way to stay on budget, but you should certainly keep your credit/debit card on hand too in case you’re in need of those buffer funds.
  5. Leave room for last minute adventures. Yes, budgeting is very important for each and every trip, however, I’ve always been of the belief that adventure is nothing without a little spontaneity.  If there is something you really want to do or see, go for it!  Don’t miss an opportunity to do something you’ll never get the chance to try again just because you’re budget might be a little tight for it.  You’re on vacation after all, have a little fun.


What is your best budgeting tip?  What adventure would you splurge on?

Top Five Friday #9

Best Meals in Washington, D.C.

There are an undeniable amount of fantastic restaurants in Washington, D.C.  When I started planning my trip, I had a huge list of restaurants I wanted to try.  There was such a large range of cuisines and so many well-liked and much talked about places that it was very hard to choose which ones to go to.  If I could afford it and stomach it, I would have had at least eight meals a day.  However, that isn’t a realistic feat for me, so though I know there are many other great restaurants that very well could have made this list, below are my five favorite restaurants in Washington, D.C.:

  1. Le Diplomate – Scallops Nicoise ($29): This was the first restaurant I visited in DC and it made such a great impression. This upscale French restaurant is gorgeous inside and has dining al fresco as well.  Because this place was a little pricey for my budget, I only ordered an entrée and stuck with water to drink.  They had a very fancy looking wine list though, and had my budget allowed, I would have certainly ordered a glass or two.  They brought out a basket of bread prior to my meal and I counted that as my appetizer; the breads were delicious, especially the cranberry walnut.  The scallops were so damn good, perfectly cooked and very flavorful.  They were served with orzo, tomatoes, onions, peas and pesto.  I could have that meal every night and be so happy.
  2. Ted’s Bulletin – Ted Tart ($3): Let me preface this by saying (again) I do not eat eggs, I don’t like them. So breakfast is always a little bit tricky for me: it’s usually a bunch of side dishes or pancakes.  At Ted’s Bulletin, I ordered hash browns, bacon and a Ted Tart, their homemade version of a poptart.  They had many different flavors (strawberry, brown sugar, lemon something, blueberry cheesecake…) but I chose the salted caramel tart.  It was everything I wanted it to be and more.  I wish I could take a dozen home with me, but I doubt they would have lasted more than an hour in my possession.  The restaurant was really cute and the coffee was decent.  Be prepared to wait for a table if you go on a Sunday morning (unless you go by yourself, like I did!).
    Ted Tart - Ted's Bulletin.jpg
  3. Mandu – Mandu Dumplings ($4 for happy hour) & Chap Chae ($15): I read about Mandu in a Buzzfeed article featuring DC’s best cheap eats. I was instantly interested.  They have a happy hour that’s available 7 days a week and has some great deals.  The servers were really great and capable of explaining any of the Korean dishes you might not be so familiar with.  I had dumplings for my appetizer, trying 2 of each dumpling: vegetable, shrimp and beef & pork.  Chap Chae was my entrée and it was very good.  I loved the Korean condiments (kimchee, pickles, bean sprouts…) that came with it.
  4. Founding Farmers – Strawberries and Cream Waffle ($8) & Pork Sausage ($6): Founding Farmer’s is on a lot of “best of DC” lists so of course I had to try it. It was pretty bustling for a Monday morning, but I was seated right away.  I ordered a latte straight away and was happy when it came in a big, cozy mug.  For breakfast I ordered the strawberries and cream waffle and sausage links.  The waffle was served with a small metal carton of syrup and a large dollop of dense, custard-y cream and fresh strawberries.  The sausage was good as well and balanced out the sweetness of the waffle.  It was a perfect meal and a perfect way to kick off a day of adventuring.
    Strawberries and Cream Waffle 2- Founding Farmers
  5. Momofuku Milk Bar – Crack Pie ($5.50): I knew I wanted to go to Momofuku Milk Bar, but arrived there completely by happy accident. It was my last day in DC and it was pouring and very cold, I rushed into what I thought was a cute bakery and didn’t realize until I was fully inside that it was THE cute bakery.  I ordered the Crack Pie, a treat they’re famous for, and stood at the counter to enjoy it with my coffee while I watched the rain.  The Crack Pie was mouth-wateringly good.  It was caramel-y and sweet and rich and was the cure for my rainy day mood.

Crack Pie - Milk Bar.jpg

I know there are a ton of other great DC restaurants that I probably missed, which are your favorites?

26th Birthday, Bucket List

Top Five Friday #7

My Writing Soundtrack

Music is always a great motivator for really anything you choose to do.  It inspires, influences, illuminates, and encourages.  I am, by no means, an authority on the subject (if you’re looking for one, check out my friend Adrienne’s blog – Nosferatune), but I do know that listening to music as I write definitely makes it that much more enjoyable.  Many ideas for stories or new viewpoints have occurred to me while listening to certain songs or albums.  However, I do play favorites with my records when I write, and without further ado, here are my top five favorites, in no particular order:Aretha Franklin

  1. “Soul ‘69” by Aretha Franklin – There really is nothing or no one better than Aretha Franklin to make you feel like a tough, empowered lady. This particular album is one of my favorites of hers because it has a beautifully covered Sam Cooke song (“Bring it on Home”) and my all-time favorite Aretha song “Tracks of My Tears”.  I honestly could listen to this record every day and never get sick of it because it’s so damn good.
    Must Listen to Track: “Tracks of My Tears”
    Sam Cooke
  2. “Sam Cooke at the Copa” by Sam Cooke – Does anyone have a more beautiful voice than Sam Cooke? I don’t think so. He’s been one of my favorites since I was a preteen and we listened to his greatest hits in the car on road trips.  This live album is extra fun because it has a great selection of songs and his banter with the audience is very cute.  Sam’s music makes me so nostalgic and puts me in a good state of mind to put my thoughts on paper.
    Must Listen to Track: “Frankie and Johnny”
    Fleetwood Mac
  3. “Rumors” by Fleetwood Mac – An essential classic for any record collection, “Rumors” is a fantastic album to write to. The melodies and lyrics are so smooth that they don’t distract from the task at hand.  It always leaves me with a calm, creative vibe that makes me much more productive.  The range of emotion throughout the album also serves as a great inspiration for stories.
    Must Listen to Track: “The Chain”
  4. “Beyonce” by Beyonce – Listening to this record gives me an instant confidence boost. I love love love this whole album for its perspective and girl power vibes.  I always feel very capable when I listen to it, like “yes, I got this”, so thanks for backing me up B.  Plus, you can’t really beat that voice.  Queen Bey could sing nonsense words for two hours straight and she would still have my full attention.
    Must Listen to Track: “Haunted”
    The Guess Who
  5. “The Best of The Guess Who” by The Guess Who – The Guess Who are honestly the most underrated band of the 1970’s. This is another one that I’ve loved since my mom still had to drive me everywhere.  She had this CD in her car, actually (and probably still does!).  All the songs on this album are classics and are so dang catchy.  I love writing while listening to The Guess Who because they just make me very happy, and happy writer is a good writer. Right? Right.
    Must Listen to Track: “These Eyes”

What’s your favorite album to listen to? What song inspires you most?

Top 5 Friday, Memphis Attractions

Top Five Friday #6

Memphis Attractions

As you could probably tell from my previous blog posts, I’ve just returned from Memphis. Though my boyfriend and I only spent four days in this Southern city, we enjoyed our time there immensely.  It truly is a magnificently musical city with  history to spare.  There were many aspects of Memphis that we really loved, but below are our top five favorite attractions:
Beale Street, Memphis, TN

  1. Beale Street: Beale Street is the epitome of Memphis’s Blues music scene. Every bar down this strip has music pouring out of it.  It’s one of the main attractions in Memphis and it certainly lives up to the hype.  The street is completely lined with bars, gift shops, restaurants and clubs.  We tried to stop into most places, and hit a lot of them.  Our favorites were: Club 152 (really good music and cheap drinks), Absinthe Room (great second-story dive bar with billiards), King’s Palace Café Patio (home of the Beale Big Ass Beers and amazing Blues music), Rum Boogie Café (we had an excellent lunch here and the staff were awesome) and A. Schwab (a kitschy gift store with three levels of souvenirs).
    Sun Studios, Memphis, TN
  2. Sun Studios: This recording studio/historic music icon was Mike’s favorite place that we visited in Memphis. A lot of amazing artists recorded here and add to its famous history; to name a few: Ike Turner, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Howlin Wolf…the list goes on.  It’s still currently an active recording studio where many big musicians stop by (U2, Bob Dylan…).  The tour is well worth the $13 and includes a history on the studio, information on its big musicians, and a glimpse of the actual recording studio, which still has all its original features.  Our tour guide was amazing and full of fun facts about the studio and the musicians.  The studio/museum is connected to a café and record/gift shop, which is worth a look around.
    Lorraine Motel National Civil Rights, Memphis, TN 2
  3. National Civil Rights Museum: Set in the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, this museum is too poignant to pass up. After you pay the $15 entrance fee, you start the tour with a short video outlining the purpose of the museum before heading through the exhibits.  Each exhibit is purposeful and intriguing, and most are interactive as well.  The museum is well laid out, taking you through the history of racial tension in America from the beginning.  It does take quite a while to make it through the entirety of the museum and the boarding house across the street, which focuses on the life and motives of James Earl Ray.  Plan to spend at least two hours here.
    Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis, TN 2
  4. Stax Museum of American Soul Music: It is no secret that I’m a big fan of soul music, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I instantly fell in love with this museum. The history of Stax Records is so rich, and the musicians connected with the company are too many to name (again, to mention a few: Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Booker T and The MG’s…).  The flow of the museum starts with a short film, and then moves through the exhibits, which range from the influence of Gospel Music in Soul to a video of Chaka Khan singing on Soul Train to Isaac Hayes’s custom gold Cadillac.  The old recording studio is still intact, along with the original mixing console, and is preserved for your viewing pleasure.  It really is worth it to check Stax out, I promise you’ll be glad that you did. (Entrance fee is $13.)
    Otherlands Coffee Bar, Memphis, TN
  5. Mid-Town: I really wish we could have spent more time in this hip slice of Memphis. We had two great meals in this neighborhood: breakfast at Otherlands Coffee Bar, and lunch at The Beauty Shop.  Both restaurants were a joy to be at, and both meals were phenomenal.  We walked past cute shops and boutiques in this area and I really regret not exploring it more.  We also heard from a couple of Memphis locals that this is the place to be for unique bars and restaurants away from downtown.  Unfortunately for us, we received this advice too late in our trip.  Oh well, all the more reason to go back, right?

If you’ve been to Memphis, what was your favorite place to visit? If you haven’t, what would be on your checklist to see there?

Travel Quotes, Top Five Friday

Top Five Friday #5

Travel Inspiring Quotes by Female Authors

I’ve already done the male version of this, so now it’s time to let my feminist heart soar.  Not only do quotes about travel make me want to go out and see the world, but they reaffirm my reasons for traveling.  Which are to broaden my knowledge of cultures and customs, to be independent and find my own way, and to write about all I experience.  There have of course been many before me who have paved the way, and I’m forever grateful for their inspiration and words of wisdom.  Below are my five favorite travel inspiring quotes by fellow female adventurers:

  1. “I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it.  To look at it.  To try to get the picture.  To live recklessly.  To take chances.  To make your own work and take pride in it.” – Joan Didion. I love JD.  She’s a marvelous writer and an inspiration to women everywhere.  This quote is a great reminder to do more than just move mindlessly from day to day.
  2. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”- Maya Angelou.  Travel can turn stereotypes and prejudices on their heads, and help the traveler understand new cultures and customs.  Maya Angelou perfectly captures that magic in this quote.

    Biltmore Gardens, Asheville, NC

  3. “Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women” – Nora Ephron.  You don’t always have to be perfect, made-up and on your best behavior.  This quote embodies what it’s like to be a woman on the road.  Be daring, be rebellious and do you – love, Ms. Ephron.  
    Nora Ephron - Female Travel Quotes
  4. “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” – Jane Austen.  This quote feels personal to me, as I’m from such a small town. Growing up where I did, I never would have dreamed I would have had the experiences that I’ve had.  This quote is a call to action to anybody who’s immediate realm  seems  minuscule compared to the great, wide world out there.
    Hometown - Female Travel Quotes
  5. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy’.” – Sylvia Plath.  Ms. Plath was such an amazing writer and poet, and each of her lines resonates with many of her readers.  This quote perfectly describes the feeling I get each time I arrive in a new destination and take it in for the first time.

What are your favorite travel inspiring quotes? What author has inspired you most?

Top Five Friday, Audiobooks, Road Trips

Top Five Friday #4

Audiobooks for Road Trips

Audiobooks are essential to road trips.  Not only do they make the ride go by faster, but they give you a reason to WANT to get back in the car and keep going.  A good audiobook needs to be enthralling, something that captures your attention from the get-go.  Below are my top five audiobook suggestions for your next road trip:

  1. “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling: Really any of these books will do, but if you’re going to start something, you might as well start at the beginning. All of the Harry Potter audiobooks are read by Jim dale, who does amazingly unique voices for each character.  Even if you’ve already read them, listening to it being read by Mr. Dale is worth your time, I promise. (Duration: 8.5 hours)

    Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone
    Image from Amazon.com
  2. “The Shining” by Stephen King: Stephen King is, without a doubt, my favorite author. Many of his books would be a great choice to occupy your time as you drive.  I chose this one because it’s a.) very scary and b.) very exciting and will make your road trip go by that much faster.  You will listen with bated breath, needing to know what will become of the Torrance Family.  Bonus points for you if your road trip ends with a creepy, historic hotel.   (Duration: 16 hours)

    The Shining
    Image from Amazon.com
  3. “Bossypants” by Tina Fey: Read by Ms. Fey herself, her accounts of her life thus far will make your drive so much more amusing. You’ll be laughing out loud and not caring if you look crazy to your fellow highway drivers.  It’s a good mix of interesting life experience and hilarious anecdotes to keep things entertaining.  (Duration: 5.5 hours)

    Image from amazon.com
    Image from Amazon.com
  4. “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn: This book, penned by the author of “Gone Girl”, will definitely keep you on your toes for its entirety. The complex characters and plot twists ensure that it will have your full attention.  “Dark Places” is a dark thriller that you won’t want to stop listening to until you know whodunnit.  (Duration: 13.5 hours)

    image from amazon.com
    image from Amazon.com
  5. “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris: This compilation of short essays is so relatable and funny. It’s read by the author, and will have you crying with laughter.  My only advice would be to keep a pack of Kleenex on hand to keep the tears from obstructing your view of the road.  (Duration: 6 hours)

    Image from Amazon.com
    Image from Amazon.com

What are your favorite audiobooks to keep you entertained on a road trip?

Carry On Essentials, Travel Tips

Top Five Friday #3

Carry-On Essentials

I like to think of myself as a pretty organized packer.  I make lists, I pack ahead of time, and I have a straight forward system for the morning of the trip to pack up my last minute items.  I always strive to only pack carry-on when flying, due to my impatience with baggage claim and fear of having luggage lost.  However, when I’m forced to check a bag, there are a few things that absolutely need to be in my carry-on for the flight.  I’m a pretty low-maintenance traveler, but I do get a little cranky if I forget to pack any of the following items:

1. Make-Up Remover Wipes: I absolutely need these for every trip.  I always feel so greasy after a flight, and it makes me feel infinitely better to be able to wash my face.  These wipes are an easy way to freshen up without much hassle.  I prefer Simple Brand, but any kind will do.

2. A Good Read(s): I refuse to travel without a book to keep me company. And while I love actual paper books more than I love electronic ones, my iPad is more space-friendly when I travel.  I tend to burn through books with that much time on my hands so my iPad allows me to bring back-ups without bringing an extra carry-on full of paperbacks (yes, it’s happened before).

3. A Scarf: It really is one of the more versatile and useful things you can bring with you on a flight. You can accessorize with it, use it as a blanket, put it up as a makeshift curtain between you and your seat mate…whatever you want.  I like wearing a scarf on the plane because it jazzes up my usual travel outfit of leggings and an over-sized t-shirt.

4. Concealer: Like I said, I’m not all that high-maintenance, but I do prefer to step into a new city with the confidence of having hidden under-eye circles and pimples. I like to have a good concealer on hand to handle these problem areas, which somehow always seem to worsen after a flight.  I prefer Benefit Erase Paste, but again, any brand will do.

5. Empty Water Bottle: I think this is a pretty well-known airport hack, but it’s definitely worth over-mentioning. Bringing an empty water bottle in your carry-on allows you to take it past security and fill it up by your gate to avoid overpaying for an airport bottle of water.  The water fountain is free, people, take advantage of it!  I won’t bore you about the importance of staying hydrated while traveling, so just think about it on your own.
Carry On Essentials

What are your carry on essentials? Do you have any baggage/airport hacks you stand by?

P.S.- Things that didn’t quite make the cut: headphones (an obvious choice), ZZquil (only necessary for the really long trips), snacks (another obvious choice, for me anyways), Notebook/pencils (duh) and Nivea Crème (no need for more emphasis on the importance of hydration).

P.P.S- The products are linked for your convenience, not for my benefit. 🙂

Top Five South Korean Foods, RebeccaWanderlusting

Top Five Friday #2

South Korean Foods

Apparently, its South Korea week, and I’m totally okay with that!  One of my favorite parts of traveling is trying new cuisines.  Sampling dishes the destination is known for is a great way to literally take in the culture of a new place.  Seoul opened up a whole new world of delicious treats for me.  That trip instilled a deep love of South Korean foods that I now actively seek out whenever I can.  It was hard to narrow it down to just five favorites, but here they are, listed in no particular order:

  1. Korean BBQ, as a whole: I could eat Korean Barbecue every night and be happy.  The process of cooking the meat and snacking on pickles, fish cakes and potatoes as you waited is so satisfying.  The banchan (side dishes) are perfect compliments to the grilled meat, and good on their own too!  Every restaurant that I had barbecue in Seoul, I was not disappointed.  Wash it down with some Cass Beer and Sprite and you’re set for a beautiful evening.
    Red Bean Bao from Nami Island
  2. Red Bean Bao/Donut: An ode to the red bean: Oh how I love you so. Sweetened and encased in dough.  Wherever you are, that’s where I’ll go.  But seriously, I wish there was a red bean bao vender on every corner in Chicago.  Fried or steamed, I don’t care.  The red bean pastries were my favorite sweet treats from my time in Seoul.
  3. Bibimbap: It’s the perfect bowl of rice with sauteed vegetables, meat and possibly an egg or some spice. What more could you want?  I have been practicing the art of bibimbap at home, despite the six pans the process dirties, just so I can enjoy it whenever I want.  I like mine a little spicy, with some Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang).
  4. Kimchi: I can eat Kimchi out of the jar with a fork, because I love it. But it also compliments mostly anything.  I love the spice of it, and the vinegary delicious crunch.  I had never even tried it until I went to Seoul, but now I am so happy to have it in my life.
    Dak Galbi, Korean Specialty
  5. Dak Galbi: This dish is very popular in Chuncheon, which is where I first had it after we returned from Nami Island. This spicy rice cake and chicken dish is absolutely amazing.  They mix the ingredients in a pan at your table and after you feel like you can’t possibly eat any more, they mix the leftover sauce and scattered vegetables with white rice to make a delicious fried rice.  It’s perfect.

    NOM. Top 5 South Korean Foods

Have you tried any of these dishes? What did you think? What type of cuisine are you obsessed with?

Top Five Friday #1

Travel Inspiring Quotes (Part 1)

Welcome to my newest weekly feature, Top Five Fridays!

For my first edition, I wanted to quote some of my favorite writers speaking about my favorite subject: travel.  Some of my biggest travel inspirations have been found in books and essays.  And, in my humble opinion, travel and tales go hand in hand.  Whether it’s been a book that I’ve read on the road, or a book that has inspired me to get on said road, most of my travel memories have been paired with good books.  So with that, I give you my Top Five Travel Inspiring Quotes, the Male Author Edition:

  1. Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.  It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451: The original and more eloquent “YOLO”.  This book gets truer and more poignant with each passing year, and the quote itself is a serious call to action.  Get out there! See the world! Adventure awaits!
    Midwest is Best
  1. “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”Roald Dahl, The Minpins: A whimsical and thoughtful reminder that you don’t have to travel far to find the beauty in the world. Some of my favorite trips have been short excursions to explore my own city and state.
  2. “Wandering is the most addictive drug there is, I think, and every hidden road leads to a dozen more.” – Stephen King, Wolves of The Calla (Dark Towers Series, Book 5): This is an accurate statement that all travel addicts know to be true. Once the travel bug bites, it’s hard to shake.  Luckily, the only thing that is harmed with this addiction is my savings account.
    Jean Lafitte National Park, New Orleans, LA
  3. “So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” – Hunter S. Thompson: A simple answer, really.  And one that leads me to another great, travel-inspiring quote: “Do not wait for your ship to come in, swim out to it.”
  4. “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Keruoac, The Dharma Bums: This quote is perhaps the one that inspires me the most at the moment, as I attempt to balance my travel writing with a corporate 9 to 5 job. But! It’s also a great reminder to make no excuses.  Desk jobs are a dime a dozen, but travel experience is irreplaceable.
    Climb that goddamn mountain.

Stay tuned for more Top Five Fridays!

Share your favorite travel quotes in the comments!