My article with tips on making world travel affordable

For those seeking to make world travel affordable, you might consider eliminating expenses at home, being flexible in your destinations, skipping the travel agent for flexibility in booking flights with discount airlines, securing large frequent flier mile sign-up bonuses with travel credit cards, and using certain booking services to save on lodging.

My article appeared in the Mount Holyoke Spring Quarterly, which is dedicated to international stories. If you care to read the issue, click HERE.

Funny ferries and border shenanigans

When our bus driver told us that we’d need to board a ferry en route to La Paz, we assumed we’d be on the same ferry as our bus – after all, when we’d traveled from Berlin to Copenhagen, the entire *train* boarded the ferry. But by now we should know not to make assumptions! In this case, the bus got its own big, flat gondola, and the humans boarded a separate fume-choked (but fast) motorboat. It was a riot watching the slow progress of our bus across the lake – it looked top-heavy and likely to tip over at any moment.

Speaking of surprising crossings, as dual US/German citizens, we wanted to enter Bolivia as Germans since Americans are charged an outrageous $135 for a visa and Europeans $0 (which, by the way, is hurting tourism in Bolivia). At the border, we got our exit stamps in our US passports, and then presented our German passports. Since Bolivian immigration officials would need to see evidence of our presence in a South America, we needed to get Peruvian stamps in our German passports. But the shady Peruvian immigration officials passed us a little handwritten note that said: “USA $135 Germany $65”. It was outright extortion, because Peru does not officially charge visa fees. But $65 each was better than $135 each, so I paid up, but was not happy.

Gearing up

Our entire lives will be on our backs while we travel round the world. As we are a mother-daughter team, we won’t have a strong guy to help carry the load. That means that each item we bring must not only be ultralight, but also multifunctional and high-tech. e.g. fabrics that breathe, dry fast, repel moisture, and keep us warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm, such as Merino wool and bamboo. We’ll also be trekking through Zika territory, so we need tops, pants and hats that are anti-mosquito. RE shoes, we each get max 2 pairs: a sturdy, but lightweight trekking shoe, and an everything-else shoe. I’ve already ordered mine – a surprisingly sleek pair of black Teva’s – which will be my beach, shower, and “dress up” shoe, lol. Besides my slim laptop and mirrorless camera, our camping gear will add the most weight to our packs. I tallied the weight of our existing ultralight gear to the ounce and discovered that I could shave off 4.93 pounds by replacing it with the newest (crazylight!) gear – but at a cost of around $431 per pound shaved. This means that, if you are a manufacturer of such gear, we want YOU to sponsor us! Here’s looking at you ZPacks and Englightend Equipment!

BIG credit card sign-up bonuses can get you around the world

There is no need to spend $100,000 – or anywhere even close – to earn 100,000 frequent flier miles with a miles credit card. The trick is to apply for credit cards with HUGE sign-up bonuses, and then use those cards to pay for *all* of your everyday expenses to meet the minimum spending requirements (usually around $3k in the first 3 months). A great place to find those offers is:

Choosing Travel Destinations for a Round-the-World Trip

If you were planning a round-the world (RTW) trip, how would you choose your destinations? For me, this is the most exciting part of planning for our upcoming one-year RTW travel adventure. But it can be a bit overwhelming – after all, you’ve got the whole world from which to choose.

Bucket List: It’s easiest, of course, to start with one’s bucket list, regardless of how difficult or expensive the places may be to reach. Currently at the top of my list are Madagascar, Tanzania, Peru, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Fiji – not exactly neighboring countries, but all doable on a round-the-world itinerary.

–>To connect the dots on your bucket list, you might try the easy-to-use flight tool at, which shows your path around the globe as you input your destinations, and then finds flights.

But what if you don’t have a bucket list? Or have only a very short one? Thinking about the following categories and criteria could help you identify contenders for your trip:

Worldwide vs regional focus: Is your goal to get a broad overview of the cultures and geographies of the world, or to explore a particular region in some depth? In our case, we plan to continent-hop from South America to Asia, Africa, and Australia to get a taste of those places so that we know where we might want to spend more time in the future.

–>To help gather ideas for our route, I’ve been using Google’s fun Explore Destinations tool, which shows a handy map of flight options and fares from any city you input.

Budget: If you have a limited budget, you could choose the places that allow you to live like royalty on what you’d normally spend in any given day back home. In Asia, these include places such as Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, and India; in South America, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru; and in Africa, Morocco and Egypt. Conversely, if you have a large budget, you could gather ideas in Afar, Global Living, or Elite Travel Magazine for the globe’s most luxurious destinations.

Interests: You could build an itinerary around your interests, such as food, nature, architecture, eco-tourism, beaches, and the like. In our case, seeing the places Elise’s late father spent his childhood as the son of a UN geologist is a key interest area. Another is animals, since Elise loves them so much she wants to be a veterinarian. So, I’m looking at Thailand’s elephant rescue center and countries with unusual animal life such as the Galapagos Islands, Komodo Island, and Australia. Also high on my list are places of insane natural beauty or charm and epic beaches and treks.

Best of Lists: Once you’ve identified your interests, you might try searching Best of lists to refine your choices, eg “Best Beaches in the World” or “Top 10 Hikes in the World”. I tend to look at the rankings from Lonely Planet, Trip Adviser, Rough Guides, National Geographic, and Conde Nast. When a destination appears on multiple lists – as do Matira Beach, Bora Bora and the Milford Track, New Zealand, for example – I earmark those places for closer review.

Seven Wonders: For the ultimate natural wonders, underwater wonders, ancient and modern monuments, and even cities and feats of engineering, you might take a look at the various Seven Wonders of the World lists. I’m considering places on the Natural Wonders list, such as Ha Long Bay, Komodo Island, Iguazu Falls and the Amazon Rainforest, as well as Monument Wonders, including Machu Picchu, Taj Mahal, and the Great Pyramids.

Holding Bin: You might also keep a separate list of places you’d love to visit, but which require monitoring due to safety concerns, logistics, weather, or expense. For us, as much as we would love to see Petra, Jordan is on this list, given ongoing unrest in the region, as is Fiji, because our window to visit may coincide with cyclone season.

As I went through this list, eight countries emerged as clear winners! Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Madagascar, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam and New Zealand all ranked high on nature, animals, and insane natural beauty. Ecuador and Argentina are also two of the places where Elise’s dad spent his childhood, Peru has Machu Picchu, and NZ the Milford Track. Japan, Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Australia also meet many of our criteria. Now I just have to figure out when the weather is best (i.e. mid-high 70’s, no monsoons) in each of those places, as we want to follow the summer. More on this topic in a later post!

2017 tips for saving on flights

save $ on flights keyboard

According to a new report from Expedia , you’ll save a lot of money on flights by following these tips:

  • purchase tickets on a Sunday vs Friday to save as much as 11% on domestic US travel and 16% on travel to Europe
  • book 21 days in advance to save as much as 30% over waiting until the last minute
  • include a Saturday night overnight for savings of up to 57% (particularly in Southern Europe)

The study also ranked the top destinations for 2017 based on growth in the previous year: #1 was Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba (53%); Da Nang, Vietnam was a close second, followed by: Zhuhai, China (41%); Cusco, Peru (39%); and Santiago, Chile (38%). Cities in Uruguay, Iceland, Panama,  Russia, and Mexico City were other mentions.

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