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No Money…No Problem

After spending my freshman year abroad in Florence, Italy, I think it is safe to say I am a travelholic.  At 20 years old, I have seen just about 35% of Europe with most of my own financing. In addition, I will be traveling back to study abroad in the United Kingdom, for an additional 4 months soon!

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The most common question I received after coming back from my year long adventure is: How are you able to support yourself, while having fun for a whole year in another country? Well, the answer is budgeting. The word we all hate, but have to do it. I have worked a multitude of jobs prior to leaving on my year long adventure, and lately I find that I am constantly working hard and saving all my money for my next adventure. Although it does get a bit expensive, here are my top 5 tips when traveling on a budget.

Planning

 

The most important part when it comes to traveling is planning ahead, especially when it comes to flights.  I would recommend planning at least 3-4 months in advance if traveling to Europe. But, before you even book a flight, do your research on the desired destination ahead of time. Some questions that should be asked when planning are?

 

  • Is the country safe?
  • What is going on in the news?
  • What is the currency and the conversion rate to USD?
  • Are their enough attractions/sights to see in the desired time frame?
  • What is their transportation like? Is it a walkable city?

 

After asking yourself those questions, next begin looking at flights. One of the most successful resources I found when booking flights is, Google Flights. One of the things I love about Google Flights, is the ability to choose your desired dates of travel and the website will show you all available flights for different airlines, as well as the next cheapest day of travel. It is extremely user friendly, and makes it easy to search.

Tip: Remember to clear your history when searching for flights. If you don’t, your computer will remember your recent searches and prices may jump!

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Paris!

 Hostels

Unlike the common misperception of hostels in the United States. Hostels in Europe are safe and fun! Out of the 16+ hostels I have stayed in across Europe, I have had one bad experience which was not even close to life threatening. My favorite resource to use, especially if you are a student is word of mouth.  Chances are someone you know has visited that country and stayed in a hostel that they can recommend.

These are my top three:

  • Palmers Lodge Hillspring in London (Willesden Green area, Approx 30 min tube ride into central London)

 

  • BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau in Paris (approx. 1 mile walk to the Arc de Triomphe)

 

  • Downtown Copenhagen Hostel in Copenhagen (5 min walk to City Hall Square)

If you do not know anyone who has been abroad or has stayed at any hostels, use Hostelworld as a reference. Some important things to look at when searching are location, safety, security, reception hours (most are NOT 24 hours), and room type (including people per room and gender). Although price is a factor, it comes second to safety in my opinion.

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BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau Hostel in Paris

 EATING

 

Anyone who knows me knows my favorite thing to do is eat. One of the perks of traveling is having the ability to try new food. There is nothing more upsetting than when someone tells me they ate at a McDonald’s abroad because they needed a “cheaper option”.  You do not have to go out to eat to get the full abroad experience, in fact most locals do not eat out every night.

My favorite thing to do prior to a trip is research top things to eat in that particular country. Then, I go to a supermarket and find them. That is where you will save money, and have a greater quantity of delicious snacks. What I like to do when traveling is to go out to eat one day in each country at a nice, but not to pricey restaurant. It is important to experience a different atmosphere when abroad and try a chef special, if you are not picky!

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Sooo good 🙂

FREE TOURS

Yes, if you are like me you never fall for the word FREE. There is always something you have to do in order for it to be free. Whether it be to sign up for an email list or agree to some survey.  But, the one thing I love about the free walking tours is it is an individual tipping service, meaning it is your decision what amount you would like to tip the guide. Personally, I found the majority of people tip about 5-10 euros each, which is about 3 times cheaper than a regular tour. After the tour is over, most guides will invite the group out to lunch where they have deals with local restaurants at a fantastic discounted price.

These free walking tours have been my best friend when studying abroad. The walking tours usually last approximately two and a half hours, and have different categories of diverse topics.

 

ATTRACTIONS/ SHOPPING

 

One of the things I like to do to manage shopping expenses, is to not buy anything the first day of arrival. After a few days walking around in a city, you often find vendors have similar items that you may be able to negotiate a fair price.  When negotiating, keep it friendly but stand your ground. Always say the lowest possible price first, and then settle on a reasonable amount.

The next thing I like to do when shopping is look for items I can’t find anywhere else. I like getting gifts that are unique to that particular area or region, that is what makes something even more special.

Finally, if I don’t see myself wearing it or I am not ABSOLUTELY in love with it, I save my money and keep looking.

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No, we did not buy the apron.

I hope this was helpful and taught you new ways on how to travel on a budget.

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Love my travel friends 🙂

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Reliving History in Amsterdam

The Holocaust was one of the worlds biggest genocides which killed approximately 6 million Jews led by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. The killings took place all over Germany and other German occupied territories. The Frank family were one of many families that tried to escape the Nazis. They hid in a secret annex above Otto Frank (Anne Franks’s father)food warehouse. The family was able to hide from the Nazis for two years and then were forced into a labor concentration camp.

The Anne Frank Museum, in Amsterdam is one of the top destinations on many websites that you must do when touring the country. Traveling to the Netherlands this past October I was able to go into one of the worlds most famous museums in Amsterdam, Holland and relive a moment history.

We waited for over a hour to get into the museum, which is not bad at all considering the line can get up to 5 hours long with no reservations since there is only a limited amount of tickets sold online. You can feel the emotion in the air as people reflected about the horrible genocide of 1933 that lasted till 1945. One moment that I will never forget is seeing the moving bookcase and being able to walk through the rooms where the Frank family hid. It was a feeling that you are unable to put into words.

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The 9.50 Euro I paid to get into the museum was worth the amazing experience. You learn about these things in a text book in school but nothing begins to compares to the experience of feeling like you are reliving a event in someone else’s shoes.

There are no tours, given by the museum. There is no need for one. It is very self explanatory and easy to comprehend everything going on. They have quotes on the walls perfectly spaced out with large lettering throughout the Frank’s house that explains what everything. It was also very interesting to see the videos of family and friends of the Frank’s that assisted them in hiding.

It is hard for the majority of people to stay focused and become distracted in a museum. I am a victim of this completely, although I do love museums and history.   I had a different experience here, I was in the museum for a good two hours (the museum is not that big), and I can say I read every single word and description on the walls and displays while staying interested.

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In my opinion for anyone traveling to Amsterdam in the future it is crucial to visit the museum! You get a new perspective on one of the most devastating events in history. The museum was probably my favorite part of fall break!
You cannot take pictures in the museum and I would consider it to be disrespectful. But here are some pictures I took of Google, to try to put my experience into words.

 

 

Mother Daughter Day in NYC!

I never pictured myself as a city person until I spent a year living in Florence, now I can’t get enough of it. I think it has something to do with the excitement, and energy that comes with being in New York City, as well as the smell of the hotdogs and pretzels you find on every corner.

One thing that really fascinates me about the city is that you can visit the same area many times, and still learn something new. There is something for everyone, you just have to look for it. Recently my mom and I decided to spend an afternoon exploring Brooklyn, an area I had not yet explored.

Here are my top recommendations when visiting Brooklyn!

Transportation – If you are coming from Long Island, I recommend taking the Long Island Railroad and getting off at the Atlantic Ave -Brooklyn Stop, and take the number 2 subway to Borough Hall and then walking half a mile till you get the Brooklyn Bridge area. This will save you a little bit of money, as well as time compared to if you went into  Penn Station.

Dumbo– Dumbo stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, and is a great area to shop, eat and walk around.This vibrant area has many cute shops and surrounds a fantastic waterfront, the perfect place for a walk on a nice sunny day.

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Luke’s Lobster Roll– I am not a huge lobster fan, but this mouthwatering sandwich may have gotten me hooked. Such a cute shack like restaurant, with fantastic food. A little pricey, but big enough for two. Enjoy it with a view or as great grab and go snack!

Julianna’s– One of the most popular pizza places in Brooklyn is Grimaldi’s, but a few locals told us instead of waiting on the long line to try Julianna’s, another pizza restaurant, next door at its original location. We arrived at this cute restaurant at 3:30 pm, the perfect time it seems, when there is a staff change and the wait that day was less than 30 min to try some of Brooklyn’s famous pizza.

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The Brooklyn Bridge- This was one of the highlights of our day trip. If you are planning on walking the bridge, start in Brooklyn and then walk towards Manhattan so you have the view in front of you, instead of behind. The mile walk provided us with some great scenic views of Manhattan.

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  After Exploring Brooklyn, we decided to continue our adventure and explored:

  • Battery Park – The two mile walk along the waterfront from the bottom of the Brooklyn bridge into downtown Manhattan was awesome. Every time I go into the city I always tend to stay more in Midtown, so it was nice to explore alternative areas that I have not yet seen. Recently, Battery Park has been known for the four foot statue of the Fearless Girl standing facing the bronze statue of the raging Wall Street Charging Bull, inspires all of us to realize the power we have in ourselves, the power women and girls have everywhere.

 

  • South Street Seaport– From Battery Park, we walked towards South Street Seaport. The Seaport has changed a lot since I last been there, which was approximately 7 years ago. A majority of restaurants, shops, and bars along the strip were closed due to upcoming summer renovations, but I am looking forward to coming back in a few months to check it out.  Also, there is an amazing Cuban place located a few blocks away from the strip that sells croquettas. Yes, if you know me this is a #gamechanger.6

The day was full of fun, laughter, and oh yes food! Good thing is we walked over 10 miles, so we didn’t punish ourselves to much for the calories we ate. Looking forward to more mother daughter trips to come!

The Mountains are Calling, and I Must Go!

After a long stressful midterm week, I was excited to start my Spring break off right, by snowboarding in Colorado! Having been interested in snowboarding since I was a little girl and after years of being on skis, I decided to finally make the switch during my Middle School years and even became a seasonal snowboard instructor. It wasn’t easy and took a year of traversing on my toe side, and falling downhill to many times to count, until I was finally able to get the hang of it. But, as I like to say if you are not falling, it means you are not trying and I definitely took some great falls on this trip. I could barely contain my excitement because I knew that on this trip, not only was I going to ride at some of best resorts in the United States, but I was also going to see some friends, whom I had the pleasure of teaching with at Hunter Mountain in 2013!

 

Day 1: Transportation, and the Town of Breckenridge

Distance to Breckenridge 103 miles: 1 hour and 45 minutes

After my 8am flight, I was thrilled to finally land in Denver! My flight arrived early, (thanks Delta) and I was a bit annoyed that my shuttle to Breckenridge would not be arriving for another two hours but thankfully, the Colorado Mountain Express was super accommodating and able to switch me to an earlier shuttle. Some people hate long car rides, but I on the other hand am the opposite and love them. For me, car rides are the perfect opportunity to look out the window and take in the landscape, diverse towns and scenery. After traveling through a portion of Europe by car, I feel this trip from Denver to Breckenridge wins in terms of scenery!

The town of Breckenridge exceeded all of my expectations. Expecting a medium sized resort with a couple of shops, I discovered a beautiful mountain town resort with numerous quaint shops, lovely boutiques and restaurants specializing in every culinary delight! Shout-out to Mary’s Mountain Cookies and Ollie’s Pub for some great tasting burgers and cookies (Thankfully, I worked off the calories during the rest of the week!)

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I love Breckenridge for the snow!
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Cute outdoor mall
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Sunset over the town of Breckenridge

Day 2: Vail, Colorado

Distance from Breckenridge, 38 miles: 1 hour.

There is an astonishing difference between skiing and snowboarding on the East Coast compared to the Mid-West, which I experience on my first day out in Vail. Vail, was one of my favorite resorts I visited during my trip. There was something about the openness of the terrain that really took my breath away. Having the opportunity to ride with my friends, Chris and Wendy, who are instructors at the Vail Resorts was also a huge plus, since they knew all the ins and outs of the mountain, as well as the trails with the best snow! I definitely learned a thing or two of ways I can improve my riding from watching some great snowboarders. I also learned tree riding is not as easy as it seems. At the end of the day, we were able to grill up some burgers on the top of the peak, while enjoying a beer. The view along with the weather made the burgers taste 10x better.

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Hunter 2013- Vail 2017

 

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Had to do a group selfie!

Day 3: Loveland, Colorado

Distance from Breckenridge, 25 miles: 40 minutes

Besides the cute name, one of the things I loved about Loveland Resorts was the size. Loveland was not as big as the Vail Resorts, which made it very easy for an East Coast rider like myself to follow the trails. Loveland can be seen as a more residential mountain, so it is quieter compared to other mountains in Colorado, and quite inexpensive compared to the Vail Resorts. A full day of skiing at Loveland will cost $70, which is a bargain compared to the $180 lift tickets, when visiting mountains such as Vail, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Breckenridge.

 

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Entrance to Loveland Resort
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Wendy and I having some fun!

Day 4: Breckenridge, Colorado

Walking distance to gondola from the center of town, there are also shuttles that pick up from various locations in town.

Waking up in the morning was definitely a challenge since I was so sore, even after going in the hot tub the night before. But, I was not going to give up and pushed myself to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and snow. Breckenridge is a huge mountain with 5 skiable peaks and I was definitely a little intimidated because I was going to be riding by myself, since both my friends were teaching that day at the Snowboard School. It was a great day of riding, even though it took almost 2 hours for me to find Peak 10, where most of the advanced terrain is located. One thing, I definitely recommend is when going to Breckenridge, pack your own lunch. A small lunch at Breckenridge will cost you about $20!

 

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Top of Peak 10
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A great end to a day of riding
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Ten Mile Station for a quick snack

Day 5: Departure back to Denver International Airport

Distance to DIA 103 miles: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Overall, I had an amazing time in Colorado, and consider it one of the most beautiful states in the United States that I have visited thus far. This was a great trip and taught me a lot before I go on other snowboard trips internationally and in the United States. One thing that I would like to do is purchase a season pass the next time I go on a major snowboard trip, to make it a bit more affordable when going for a longer period of time.

Epic Pass Information

The Epic Pass typically costs around $850, and gives you access to some of the top resorts in the United States including Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb, Breckenridge, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Wilmont, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, Perisher, and Arapahoe Basin. Purchasing this pass also gives you access to some international resorts in countries such as France, Austria, and Switzerland! This pass would definitely be worth it, if you are skiing in the Vail Resort area for more than 5 days.

Pictured above: Epic Mix Application that tracks runs, lift rides, and vertical feet completed.

An exciting weekend in Troy, NY!

After taking a road trip to Hunter Mountain to ski and ride on Friday with my sister, we decided to drive an extra hour to Troy, NY to visit her college roommate before returning home. Funny story about my sister and her roommate. They met freshman year at SUNY Potsdam, where they were going to be swimming together for the next four years. My sister’s roommate’s name is Jacqueline, and she has blonde hair, swam her entire life, and is part Cuban. If you know me, this is about to sound crazy, because my name is Jacqueline, I have blonde hair, swam my entire life, and my mom was born in Cuba. Now to make matters more bizarre, my sister’s roommate Jacqueline, has a sister named Alexandra. I can promise you, I am not making this up, but my sisters name is also Alexandra. From freshman year in college, their mom started to actually believe we all had to be related in someway, because this had to be too much of a coincidence.

Since Jacqueline knew we were going to be near her sister’s hometown, she invited us to stay the weekend with them. I had met Jacqueline before, but had not met her sister yet. Her sister Alexandra and I, immediately clicked within minutes… you would think we had been best friends. While talking to Alexandra, she began to tell me  story, that last year she had gone to visit her friend in Puerto Rico, who was best friends with a girl she believed went to Marist and had spent her whole freshman year abroad.  Well funny story, that friend happened to be one of my roommates last year. We were both in shock, because this whole thing was insane. At this point, I’m sure you must be thinking they are crazy, but I promise you they are not!

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The weekend was filled with a lot of wine, laughs, board games and barbeque. If you have not yet played Pokemon Monopoly, I highly recommend it. I was never a huge monopoly fan because I felt the game never ended, but it was one of the best editions I have ever played. While staying at their apartment, we also had the opportunity to tour Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which is where both, her sister and brother go. The campus was gorgeous, with great facilities, and just a little bit bigger than Marist. During our time at RPI, I had the opportunity to check out their brother’s Robotics Competition -which was pretty cool stuff.

The highlight of my trip had to be the Dinosaur Barbecue. If you know me, you would probably say my favorite thing to do is travel. But my second favorite thing to do is eat… and boy did I eat! We had heard the place was good, but I was not expecting it to be fabulous. This was one of the places where you go to eat, and cannot leave a crumb on your plate. I had a pulled pork sandwich, with a side of mac and cheese and another side of sweet potatoes (Sorry Mom, I know that’s not exactly healthy). Every bite was heaven! I was even more impressed when the person who delivered our food, knew exactly whose dish was whose without even asking, and he was not even our server. I can go on and on about my love for this place, but I will leave you with this, if you are in Troy, GO!

Before we headed home, we were able to stop at the New York State Museum. If you are on a college budget, like all of us, you will love that there is no entry fee. The gallery within the museum was incredible and filled with tons of abstract and expressionist pieces.  They even had a piece by Jackson Pollock, a renowned artist known for his splatter paint pieces. Along with the artwork, the museum also has a section of gems and crystals, from all over New York State. The museum also featured a special 9/11 Memorial Exhibit, the most comprehensive collection of artifacts from the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.  This exhibit included many objects, videos, and interactive stations documenting the tragedy of 911. It really hit home for me!

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I had such a fun on this  road trip, and I am looking forward to more in the future!

New Year… New Me!

I’ve always had a desire to create a personal blog, so with 2017 approaching, I thought- hey why not! As the 2016  year comes to end, I wanted to take a step back and reflect on some of the things I have not only accomplished throughout the year, but set some new goals for the upcoming year!

I remember last year, when I sat down in Rome, and started thinking about my New Years resolutions for the upcoming 2016 year.  Although I did not get to accomplish all of the goals I set for myself, looking back I am proud of all the ones I did  and everything else that I had the opportunity to do. So far, I have not only completed a year and a half at Marist College, but I was able to spend two of my three semesters living and studying in Florence, Italy with some of the best professors in the world. During those nine months in Italy, I was able to embrace my new found passion for culture, language, travel and of course art. I was also fortunate to have made the Marist College Deans List, receiving over a 3.7 GPA for the past two semesters…all the while making friends and memories that will last me a lifetime.

My many accomplishments also taught me life long lessons. Some of the things 2016 taught me is to always be true to who you are and that sometimes you are going to need to take a step back and breathe. One thing that probably kept me sane throughout the year was the saying “If everything was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it”. I constantly reminded myself that those who work hard will achieve success, and if I was not challenged both academically and physically I probably would have been bored (HAHA).

One of the most common New Year’s resolution that people often desire usually pertains to health. Yes, it would be nice to loose fifteen pounds, but lets face it, that’s pretty hard to do. This New Years, instead of feeling self conscious or disappointed whenever I step on a scale, I thought of a great idea. Don’t feel bad about having that cupcake during Cupcake Tuesday (my favorite day at Marist), as long as you have a healthy lifestyle and eat the salad and veggies with your main course! I also plan on getting my butt out of bed at a reasonable hour (let’s stick to 9 am), and try to hit the gym at least 4 out of the 7 days in a week. In other words, I will try and be kind to myself but stay motivated.

The final thing I want to accomplish, which can often be the hardest, is to strive to be the absolute best person I can be. Don’t let someone else change who you are, because that is what makes you special and unique. Spend every minute wisely, and never think of anything as a waste of time. If it comes with failure, well… remember sometimes you need  to fail in order to reach success.This year has definitely been a roller coaster, but I am excited for 2017 and can’t wait to see where the journey takes me!