Adventure travel blog featuring advice, tips, and inspiration for world travelers seeking their next vacation destination. Ordinary Traveler follows the adventures of Scott and Christy, two photographers who spend a good portion of their lives in or near the ocean. We want to inspire everyone to travel the world, even if you work a full-time job.
Here are 20 of the best travel hacks I’ve gathered after 15 years of traveling the world. Use these to save money on your next trip!
20 Best Travel Hacks to Help You Save Money
1. Book In The Afternoon
Though it’s well known that flight prices are likely to fluctuate during the week, not many people know that they also change during the day. To save some money, book in the afternoon as prices tend to be higher in the morning when business travelers book most of their flights.
2. Check Prices On The Less Popular Booking Sites
Online Travel Booking Agencies allow you to search for the best price across a number of different airlines at once. Oftentimes, the less popular sites offer bigger discounts compared to the major OTAs. These are a few of our favorite sites to check prices: Momondo, Vayama, and Skyscanner. Tip: Be sure to read the change/cancellation fees carefully before you book.
3. Set Up Flight Alerts
If there’s a particular place you want to go, sign up for flight alerts with AirfaireWatchDog. You’ll get emails whenever there’s a drop in price from the departure location you set. Also, sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights offer deal alerts to your email for a small fee — these are often the mistake fares that you only have a small window to purchase but they save you hundreds of dollars. I’ve found some great deals with his service!
4. Choose Affordable Accommodation
Other than flights, hotels end up being the next most expensive thing when planning a trip, but if you’re willing to sacrifice homogenous roadside enterprises for something a little more economical, you can spend more on activities.
Hostels, both backpacker, and luxury are excellent alternatives that often provide the same quality of service as hotels. We use booking.com to find the best prices on hostels and hotels.
5. Earn Money While Traveling
In today’s market, there are a hundred different ways to make money while you’re on the road. Teaching English to children or adults or freelancing on platforms like Upwork are just a few of the options.
House-sitting is not something many people consider when traveling, but it’s a great way to not only get FREE accommodation, but you’ll also get a better idea of what it’s like to actually live in the destination you’re visiting.
Trusted Housesitters is the best website to connect with homeowners looking for people to house-sit and care for their pets while they are away. They have the largest selection of houses all over the world. I recommend becoming a member to get the best selection of house-sit gigs and have the opportunity to apply for the most popular locations as soon as they are listed!
7. Roaming Charges
After my first international trip, years ago, I came home to a huge cell phone bill. Luckily, nowadays, you can either switch out your SIM card for a local one to avoid international fees or purchase an international package with your current carrier.
If you’re based in the United States and you travel often, T-Mobile includes free international data on their basic plans, which has literally changed my life. I no longer have to worry about going without service or scrambling to find WiFi. I’m actually surprised at how many frequent travelers don’t know about this feature with T-Mobile.
When it comes to everyday items like fruit and coffee, find your local market and head there instead of the nearest supermarket chain. Especially in places like Asia and South America, you’re guaranteed to find everything you need at a reduced cost.
9. Make Use Of Your Carry-On Luggage
Virtually every airline offers you one free bag of hand-luggage, so if you’re in doubt about the weight of your larger cases, cram as much of it into your hand luggage as possible (within the dimensions restrictions) to avoid paying extra fees at the airport. Even better, travel with a carry-on only!
You’re bound to be busy in the weeks leading up to your departure date but make sure you leave yourself time to exchange currency at your bank. They’re notorious for giving the worst exchange rates and for a little extra effort you can save yourself a significant amount.
11. Don’t Pay For WiFi, Find It For Free
Lots of Open WiFi zones will ask you to purchase a set amount of data but when you’re traveling, it’s incredibly easy to find free WiFi if you’re surrounded by bars and restaurants. Where there are lots of people, there’s WiFi!
12. Use An 8-Week Rule For Flights
Studies have also shown that 8 weeks in advance is the perfect time to book your flights. Any later and prices will start increasing and any earlier and your plans could change due to unforeseen circumstances and you may have a worthless ticket.
13. Learn The Art Of Haggling
This applies to accommodation and, in many countries, items you’ll come across in markets and shops. You’d be surprised at how many hotels are willing to negotiate rates to keep their occupancy rate up — and street vendors will always be willing to arrive at a reasonable agreement with you!
14. Get Multi-Day Passes
One of the biggest money savers if you’re going to be in the same city or country for longer than a few days is to get an all-inclusive, multi-day pass. Use it as many times as you want to get around town and save money!
15. Use Public Transport, Not Taxis
Allow yourself the luxury of taxis or Uber to and from the airport when you’re weighed down with luggage, but otherwise, use public transport.
16. Make The Most Of Lunchtime Menus
If you’re willing to eat-in at dinner time, you can save a huge amount by uncovering some great value lunch menus around town instead of dining out in the evening. Many reputable restaurants serve world-class food during the day for a fraction of their dinner prices.
17. Rent An Apartment
With sites like AirBnb making it easier than ever to enjoy city breaks in comfort and style, you’ll find that renting an apartment can work out a lot cheaper than an extended stay in a hotel, plus you get the luxury of your own space and absolute privacy.
I rented an apartment through AirBnb in Cinque Terre!
18. Cook At Home
While most hotels won’t offer cooking facilities, the majority of hostels and rented apartments do — and something as simple as preparing your own meals (with delicious local food!) will make your trip a lot cheaper.
19. Find Free Things To Do
From free-walking tours to complimentary tastings at farmers markets — there’s an unbelievable amount of free activities on offer in metropolitan hubs as it’s a good way to attract people to visit the city. Simply Google “free activities + your location” and have some fun for free!
20. Use Downloadable And Digital Guides
For the latest information on great deals, free things to do and generally budget-friendly places to eat and sights to see, download a city guide to your destination of choice so you can refer to it while you’re on the road.
Boarding a train to take you from city to city is without a doubt the best way to travel through Europe. It’s romantic, magical and inspiring — not to mention the fact that it can save you a fortune on flying between cities or countries! That’s the best thing about European train travel: you can have breakfast in Paris, lunch in Brussels and dinner in Rome, all while enjoying the breathtaking views.
While it promises to be the trip of a lifetime, you do need to keep a few things in mind before you head off on your adventure. Unfamiliar cities, stations and languages could all potentially derail part of your journey, so I’ve decided to share some essential tips that will explain everything you need to know to confidently travel by train in Europe.
Essential Guide To Train Travel In Europe
Pack Light, Travel Light
Mobility can be a game changer when traveling on Europe’s rail network and your trips will be less stressful if you’re not battling to haul your luggage on and off unfamiliar trains every few hours.
Packing reasonably and using a small to medium sized suitcase will mean you can store your bags in the overhead racks on trains instead of at the end of the carriage. On a busy train with a short stop at a station, the last thing you want is to get trapped while trying to reach your bag on the far side of the car!
Packing light also means you’ll have more freedom to explore short layovers; whether it’s a charming village or bustling city, less weight equals more flexibility.
Even though it might already be a permanent item on your packing list wherever you go, this wouldn’t be a complete guide without including an E-reader (or cordless headphones if you prefer to listen to books on Audible directly from your phone).
The stunning scenery around European rail routes is famous for its mountain landscapes, especially around the Alps and in many parts of Norway and Sweden and this unfortunately means one thing…tunnels! The Gotthard tunnel in Switzerland can take up to 25 minutes to cross, so bringing something to occupy your time will make these trips that much more enjoyable.
This one depends mostly on which countries you’ll be visiting during your travels. However, you can still buy rail passes for just one specific country. For instance, if you’re only going to be travelling France by train and nowhere else, then opt for a France Rail Pass, but if you’re going to be covering 4 or 5 countries in Europe then think about getting a Eurail Pass.
These are hard to beat in terms of value, valid in 28 countries and can be stretched out for up to two months!
Though not every train asks you to pre-book your exact seat before travelling, it’s a good idea to do so in certain countries, particularly Spain, Italy and France. These are some of the most popular countries to travel in and their railways don’t always save seats for rail pass holders.
The last thing you want is to be asked to give up your seat because it’s reserved on someone else’s ticket and then find there are no more seats! A quick visit to the rail line website will outline reservation costs and requirements.
Although spontaneously grabbing tickets at the station and venturing off to a new place every day may seem like a romantic idea, it isn’t entirely realistic — or economical. Planning ahead should start with figuring out your route and which countries you want to visit.
Buying your pass online will save you money, time and most importantly, you’ll be confident that you’ll get to your destination rather than running the risk of tickets getting sold out and having nowhere to stay for the night.
There’s a certain magic to being gently rocked to sleep in a comfortable carriage and waking up to Europe’s fairytale landscapes. An experience in itself, booking a sleeper train is also practical for a number of reasons.
It will save you money on booking a hotel for the night and you’ll be rested for the next day. Make sure you decide whether you want a couchette setup, which are shared cabins, or a sleeper, which is a private cabin. Remember that some railways have exclusively male or female cabins and always check whether a night journey counts as just one or more than one day of travel on your rail pass!
Know Your Station
Although the same goes for airports and general city traveling, when it comes to European rail stations, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to get lost and miss a connection.
With one of the largest train station densities in the world, it’s always handy to place your station on a map so you know what is nearby if you’re going to explore, or run to another station to grab your next train. For instance, Basel in Switzerland has two stations of the same name in completely different places, so always know where you’re headed!
Be Aware of Your Luggage and Pickpockets
Again, this goes without saying wherever you are in the world but with all the excitement of rushing to catch trains on time in crowded stations, it’s easy to get distracted and lose track of your luggage or your other personal belongings. Europe is an extremely civilized place and the trains themselves are a dream, but it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your belongings.
South Dakota is without a doubt a state that has always been synonymous with adventure. From pioneers to Native Americans and all things Wild West, the state’s thrilling history is reflected in the unbelievable diversity of its breathtaking scenery.
From vast expanses of gently rolling prairies to majestic and wildly dramatic mountain ranges, South Dakota is full of must-see, awe-inspiring places that I’ve been lucky enough to explore. Here’s a guide to some of the unmissable sights I encountered!
10 Places To Visit in South Dakota
Badlands National Park
From fossils to star-gazing and 244,000 acres of nationally protected wilderness, rolling grasslands and towering mountain ranges, Badlands National Park is one of the most visually striking natural areas in the country.
The endlessly attractive scenery is best enjoyed on a scenic road trip where you can enjoy views of iconic rock formations like the Yellow Mounds or Sharps Formation. For a leisurely hike, head over to the Window Trail, or for a more challenging experience, try Saddle Pass.
Populated with limestone towers thousands of feet high and evergreen forests, Spearfish Canyon can be reached off Interstate 90 and is at its most beautiful during Fall when red and gold start to emerge in every direction. Spearfish Creek lies on the canyon floor and an endless network of waterfalls make it an irresistible roadside attraction — even in the winter!
Other popular stops on the route include the Spearfish Canyon Lodge and the Cheyenne Crossing Store where you can recharge your batteries in their award-winning café.
Mt Rushmore National Memorial
Undoubtedly one of the nation’s most recognized and iconic attractions, the Mt Rushmore National Memorial is as popular as you’d expect, drawing in almost 3 million people a year. The 60 ft stone faces really are a sight to behold and represent 150 years of American history.
The best time to arrive is early morning, just as the sun is coming up and when the crowds are pretty much non-existent. For a closer look at the breathtaking sculpture, find the Presidential Trail, a half-mile of shaded pine forest with amazing views of the memorial.
Bear Butte State Park
Alive with Lakota heritage and history, Bear Butte State Park is nestled in the Black Hills and home to Bear Mountain, a 4,526 foot-tall summit from whose peak you can see 4 states — if you make it to the top! The State Park is populated with wild bison and an endless network of hiking and climbing trails, giving you the feeling of truly being in the wilderness, especially during low season between September and May.
Custer State Park
Another breathtakingly beautiful area of the state that used to be home to an estimated 60 million buffalo is the impressively vast Custer State Park, a charming expanse of prairies and grasslands where these majestic animals still roam free. Try to visit in September when you’ll have the chance to experience the annual buffalo roundup, an incredible feat, which sees a stampede of buffalo being herded across the plains.
Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is the Native American answer to the Mt Rushmore Memorial and is of equal importance in the course of American history to its presidential counterpart. The massive project still isn’t complete but you can take tours for $15 to admire Chief Standing Bear’s face — part of the monument which when completed will stand at over 500 feet tall.
Black Hills National Forest
This unimaginably vast 1.2 million acre expanse of forest is mixed between protected and logged areas that are accessible either by surrounding roads or by venturing on hikes into the center. With over 450 miles of trails to explore, your options are endless. A good starting point is the Iron Mountain Trail, where you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve and the Black Elk Wilderness.
Head down to the third longest cave in the world where you can spend hours exploring the underground tunnels and networks that spread over 194 miles of mapped passageways. Fragile but magnificent rock formations line the many cave walls and ceilings and the mysterious attraction of the subterranean maze draws thousands of visitors a year.
Like many places in South Dakota, Deadwood began as a gold mining camp and developed into the colorful and culturally rich town it is today, dotted with historical buildings and recognized as a National Historic Landmark. With guided tours available, you can do everything from learning about Deadwood’s fascinating past to witnessing shootout reenactments on Main Street!
Just north of Badlands National Park, you’ll find one of America’s favorite attractions in the city of Wall — the Wall Drug Store. Here you’ll find free attractions, 5-cent coffee, shopping and The Western Art Gallery Restaurant that seats 520 people!
With the new near underway, we’ve rounded up a few recommendations from our favorite trips over the last couple of years. From Alpine wonderland towns to tropical islands, here are 10 amazing bucket-list adventures to take in 2018!
10 Bucket List Adventures To Take In 2018
1. Lake Como & Cinque Terre (Italy)
Resting in the spectacular shadow of the nearby Rhaetian Alps with rich, green forests growing on its shores, Lake Como is a rare mix of warm, Milanese/Alpine luxury and enchanting history. The villas scattered around the shoreline are wonderful to stay in if you want to wake up to gorgeous views of the lake each morning, or simply a pleasure to visit if you want to marvel at the historical buildings. Don’t miss out on seeing the exquisite Duomo of Como, in the town of Como itself.
A few hours south of Lake Como, you’ll find the impossibly beautiful, pastel-hue perfection region of Cinque Terre, which, if you’re in Italy, is a must visit. Lose yourself in the clusters of brightly colored villages built into the rugged, windswept cliffs and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime sunset or two!
One of the most convenient ways to explore the otherworldly sights Iceland has to offer is to rent yourself a car and traverse the Ring Road that winds around some of the most spectacular natural formations imaginable. Think rainbows set against majestic waterfalls, dramatic plains of basalt tubes littered with diamond-blue icebergs and coastal headlands made of shiny black rock.
One or two absolute must-see sights are the hidden Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, where there’s no shortage of photo opportunities and of course the renowned Blue Lagoon where you can get your soak on in warm, natural, mineral rich waters.
The Croatian Coast is dotted with a seemingly limitless number of enchanting islands, some miniature and unpopulated and others enormous, majestic and home to charming ancient settlements. With so much to see, there’s a lot on offer when it comes to finding your way around the islands.
We recommend island-hopping to get a bit of variety on your trip. Hvar, for example is the most luxurious island, complete with verdant lavender and rosemary fields and full of charm. The Kornati Islands on the other hand are made up of uninhabited, wild islands and reefs where you can enjoy beautifully untouched nature and solitude.
4. Interlaken (Switzerland)
For us, Interlaken is the ultimate Alpine destination that is a hands-down a bucket list trip for 2018. Home to grand hotels and nature activities in equal number and both of exceptionally high quality, the beautiful town has something for everyone!
In between glacial lakes and snow capped mountains, Interlaken offers everything from mouth-watering Swiss chocolate and dining in castles, to paragliding at 4000m or hiking through unimaginably perfect Alpine scenery.
If anywhere was to give Iceland’s surreal scenery a run for its money, it’d be the dramatic, majestic landscapes of Utah’s National and State Parks. Literally millions of years in the making, the expanses of rugged, red rock and dusty plains have been the backdrop to some of the USA’s most interesting history and some of Hollywood’s most famous Westerns!
Be sure to stop by Arches National Park, home to the highest concentrations of arches in the world and don’t miss out on Monument Valley, located in the middle of Navajo heartland and so perfectly Western it’ll have you feeling like a pioneer.
Stunning Kauai is especially known for its impressive mountain scenery and tropical jungle heart. However, on the North coast of the island, you’ll find the dramatically huge and grand Na Pali coastline, a fantastic formation of towering cliffs looming over the ocean that is truly a wonder to see.
One of our favorite activities of the entire trip was embarking on a Na pali Coast boat ride along the rugged and beautiful cliffs. The Na Pali Coast is a photographers paradise and one of National Geographic’s best destinations to shoot.
From whale sharks, to sea lions to Pacific bird colonies, the coastline of the Sea of Cortez is home to picture perfect coves, rugged rock landscapes and endless activities in between.
One of our favorite trips was heading out on an Un-Cruise island hopping experience where we had the opportunity to kayak, snorkel and paddle board in the crystal clear waters surrounding the many beautiful islands around Baja Sur. On land, we were taken on guided hikes, rode mules to desert oases or just kicked back with a cocktail on the pristine beaches!
8. Scuba Dive in Bonaire
A lesser known spot amongst the scuba diving destinations in the Caribbean, Bonaire is known for its abundant marine life below the surface of the warm, clear water. There are 86 different dive sites in total!
What I loved about Bonaire was that there was a little something for all different abilities and interests. Besides the diving and snorkeling options, there are also a number of sandy and stony beaches to explore, mountain hiking and windsurfing.
9. New Zealand
Another one for the photography lovers, New Zealand is best explored by road with the freedom to stop as you please and get those unforgettable pictures along the way. You could start with the Thermal Explorer Highway, a much-loved route that begins in Auckland and takes you past the island’s largest lake and the impressive Haka Falls.
Or for a change of scenery, try the drive between Queenstown and Glenorchy where you’ll be treated to towering, Lord of the Rings-esque mountainscapes and snow peaks.
Home to the best mojitos on the planet and sizzling hot salsa dancing, Cuba is one of those places that can steal your heart within the first day of arriving. If you’re travelling from the USA, we highly recommend booking a place on the newly approved Holland America Cuba cruise, where you’ll get treated to the best bits of Cuba.
With two days on the island — in two different ports — you’ll get to experience the buzzing culture of Havana as well as the history of Cienfuegos and its surrounding towns.
South Dakota is an undiscovered treasure of a state, especially in winter months when its wooded valleys and majestic waterfalls transform into a winter wonderland. I was lucky enough to take a roadtrip through some of South Dakota’s most scenic areas, and am happy to share a guide of where to see some of my favorite sights!
Road Trip Guide to South Dakota
Upon arriving in Rapid City, wander the quaint Main Street and check into the appropriately named Rushmore Hotel & Suites for a good night’s sleep before hitting the open road. While our itinerary took us east to west, you could easily rearrange stops to fit your own schedule.
Amongst South Dakota’s top attractions are the Badlands, where you can loop through the dramatic canyons of layered rock formations. Keep some cash handy, as there is a $20 entrance fee — but the stunning view of the iconic rock formations are well worth it.
On your way out, stop at Wall Drug for their famous maple donuts and five-cent coffee. This “restaurant” — practically large enough to be an indoor mall — is also chalk-full of historic paintings and artifacts, shops for souvenirs, and locally handmade Native American jewelry.
The town of Deadwood is rich with Wild West history — wild enough to be made famous by the hit HBO series. Explore the downtown area and grab a cold one at Saloon #10, where “Wild Bill” Hickok met his fate in the 19th century.
Enjoy the scenery of the Black Hills National Forest by snowshoe or snowmobile, or — if you’re brave — go backcountry hiking on the plentiful trails throughout the park. Terry Peak Ski Area is also a great spot to hit the slopes! I highly recommend staying at Deadwood Lodge for a night or two while enjoying the area.
The true treasure of South Dakota is Spearfish Canyon; rugged, forested mountains tower above you as drive through the canyon, with hidden waterfalls, streams and underground caves scattered throughout.
Make Spearfish Canyon Lodge your home, and wander from there. Just a short walk from the lodge is the Latchstring restaurant, from which you can take a short hike to Spearfish Falls — a magical, semi-frozen waterfall you have to see to believe. There’s also a completely frozen waterfall at 11th Hour Gulch just steps off the highway near mile marker 20 (wear boots with traction!).
Community Caves is known as the go-to spot to explore the area’s best caves, though it can be tough to spot. If you’re up for the challenge, see more information here on how to access the hike (it’s very hidden in fresh snow!).
Of course, you can always rent snowshoes and snowmobiles (or “sleds” as they call them) at the lodge if you have time to spare.
From Spearfish, head down to Mt. Rushmore to see one of South Dakota’s most iconic monuments! Weather permitting, walk the Presidential Trail and grab a quick coffee and snack at Carver’s Cafe — a pitstop with a monumental view.
Before you head back to Rapid City, be sure to keep your camera battery charged and head down to Custer State Park — a wildlife destination known for its herds of bison!
For decades, Cuba has been many of American’s most coveted destination — the beautiful time-capsule country has always been so far out reach, visiting only seemed possible in a dream. However, with regulations recently changing we’ve found it’s not only possible to visit Cuba, but it’s actually easy and affordable!
With Holland America, Americans — and travelers from all over the world! — now have the opportunity to explore this island stopped in time effortlessly.
The Easiest Way for Americans to Visit Cuba
When I learned of Holland America’s Cuba cruise I was immediately excited; the thought of going through the visa approval process always seemed daunting, but the process of obtaining the visa through the cruise line was shockingly simple and straightforward. I didn’t have to arrange my own paperwork, and allowing Holland America to take care of it all ensures everything is done right.
There was also the question of how I would qualify for a tourist visa — after all, the options for Americans are limited. Thankfully, the cruise’s organized day tours qualify for the United States’ “People-to-People” visa requirement. In short, attempting to legally (and correctly) complete this process on my own would have likely been a headache had Holland America not taken it off my hands.
Because the cruise departs from Florida’s Ft. Lauderdale port, U.S. citizens and foreign travelers alike abide by the same U.S. regulations — this includes a 6 hour (minimum) “People-to-People” experience. Fortunately, the cruise’s tour options all fulfill this requirement and are so colorful and immersive anyone would want to do them anyway!
Just after we pulled into Havana, we embarked on our American Classic Car tour by way of an awesome blue Chevy Deluxe. The tour itself was an all-in-one package full of history, dancing, and plenty of photo ops! Of course you’ll want to explore on your own for a bit, which you can do plenty of by taxi or walking around the Old Town area just steps from the port. You’re allowed to bring back cigars and one bottle of rum, so be sure to do your shopping here!
The following day the ship docks in Cienfuegos, where you can visit the botanical gardens, enjoy dance lessons, or take a day trip out to the colorful city of Trinidad as we did! The guided tour was highly informational, though it was talking to the overtly friendly locals that really brought this cobblestone old town to life.
The cruise also makes a final stop at Georgetown, Grand Cayman — the seaside city known for its plentiful stingrays! Coast through stunning turquoise waters until you reach the sandbars called home to more stingrays than I could ever count. You can swim with them, hold them and even give them kisses.
On Board Holland America’s Veendam
Even at sea, you’ll get a taste of Cuban culture before you even step foot on land; listen in on informative talks for every port, which cover everything from what to expect of your destinations to Cuban slang lessons to nightly story-times that tell of Cuban tales and history. Not only are Cuban-inspired dishes expertly executed and served daily, but there are also near-daily cooking demonstrations that demonstrate how to cook the chef’s Cuban cuisine yourself.
Choosing a cruise to Cuba means you won’t have to lug your suitcase around and you’ll only have to unpack once — even though you’ll get to experience two different cities in Cuba! With 7-day Cuban cruises starting at just $759, it’s easily one of the most affordable ways to visit this gorgeous country.
It’s also worth noting that the crew onboard is exceptionally warm and happy; it is very obvious the staff is like family, and treats the guests as such too.
Future Planning for Cuba
Holland America’s Veendam ship will sail to Cuba this Fall of 2018, as well as Fall of 2019. Next January and March of 2019, the Veendam will also sail multi-national expeditions — both to include Cienfuegos as a stop. If I had one piece of advice at the end of all of this, it would be to take advantage of this opportunity now as there’s no way of knowing if or when US regulations will change!
There’s simply no denying the otherworldly, visually-breathtaking aesthetic of the icy reaches of Southern Iceland. Home to some of the most stunning views on Earth, the sublime landscapes offer so many unimaginably unique views that dozens of our favourite Hollywood science-fiction alien worlds have been inspired by and even filmed here!
For beginner and expert photographers alike, traveling in Iceland provides an opportunity to capture some truly mind-boggling natural locations on camera. Here are the best photography locations in Southern Iceland!
The Best Photo Locations in Southern Iceland
Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik
Designed to mirror the basalt lava flows of the Icelandic landscape, Hallgrímskirkja Church is a spectacular, must-see piece of architecture that is the perfect introduction to some of the dramatic sights you’re likely to come across on your journey.
Standing at 73m high, the top of the tower is the ideal place to get some incredible city views if you’re not afraid of heights. Tilt shift photography can be fun at this height — giving the illusion that Reykjavik below is miniaturised!
The Golden Circle
Easily achievable within a day, the Golden Circle is a 300km route that will take you past some of Southwest Iceland’s most famed natural locations, each one just as spectacular as the last and all, without a doubt, perfect places to add to your photo collection.
Kerið Crater Lake on the Golden Circle in Iceland
Be sure to explore Thingvellir National Park, where you can photograph Iceland’s largest lake (Lake Thingvallavatn) and where you can get some smouldering shots of Gjábakkahellir — one of Iceland’s most fascinating lava tubes. Another site you don’t want to miss is the Geysir Geothermal Area, within the Haukadalur Valley where you can capture the steaming vents in action if you’re quick enough!
It’s no mystery why the Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular attraction. The luminescent, lava heated waters of the lagoon stay at a toasty, bath-like temperature all year round and the people who make the journey to bathe in these mineral rich waters come home with some amazing photographs!
The Blue Lagoon in Iceland
Easily accessible from the Ring Road, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall’s secret, when it comes to incredible photos, is hidden behind it! The water cascading off an ancient sea cliff into a pool below is impressive from the front, but when you walk behind it you get to admire the majesty of the Icelandic plains through the mist of the water and get the photo of a lifetime.
Keep in mind that you and your camera will likely get wet, so be sure to bring a poncho and camera rain sleeve!
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Southern Iceland
Also known as the “Dweller in the Gorge”, Gljúfrabúi plunges right through the hole in the ceiling of a covered gorge, for the most part hiding the cascade and keeping this location a relatively unexplored gem. The mystical falls are the perfect place to take ground-to-sky pictures with a wide lens so you can get the waterfall in frame as well as the backdrop of the precipice with the sky behind it.
Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck
Starkly contrasting the natural with the artificial, the Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck is one of the most iconic Icelandic photo destinations due to its haunting beauty and wild history. The 40-year old aircraft has begun to be reclaimed by nature, making it an epic spot to photograph. For an out-of-this-world shot, try and coordinate your visit with a Northern Lights appearance!
Possibly one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, Skogafoss Waterfall is one of those places where you nearly forget to take your camera out because you’re too busy marvelling at what you see. Standing proud at 60m high, the best view of the falls involves a 527m climb that is well worth the effort. On a sunny day, the mist from the falls forms rainbows against the cliffs — making for impossibly magical photos.
Skogafoss Waterfall in Southern Iceland
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
This volcanic beach gives rise to some truly spectacular basalt columns, lava formations and endless cliffs and caves. This rugged and wild stretch of coast is an absolute dream to photograph both in the early morning and at sunset when the light accentuates the jagged volcanic formations. Similar to much of Southern Iceland, Reynisfjara really does make you feel like you’ve stepped onto another planet.
At the risk of never being able to pronounce it correctly, a visit to Fjadrargljufur Canyon is more than worth the effort. A mere few hours from Reykjavik, the imposing canyon has the appearance from above of a jagged tear in the Earth, reminding us of Iceland’s tumultuous and ever changing landscape.
Fjadrargljufur Canyon in Southern Iceland
If you’re not into aerial shots, then take a walk through the canyon itself. The gently winding river and towering rock faces are perfect for daytime photography.
A small region of the larger Vatnajökull National Park, Skaftafell is home to a hugely diverse range of geological and natural features that promises variety in every single photo. From the woodlands in the valley of Morsárdalur, you’ll be able to capture the quiet but powerful beauty of the faraway snow peaks of the Öræfajökull Volcano, the highest peak in Iceland. Remember to be ready for a hike or two if you want the best shots!
Famed for its enormous and beautifully regal icebergs, Jökulsárlón (also known as Glacier Lagoon) is a glacial lagoon that could easily be mistaken for Antarctica. The black sand beach peppered with shocking white icebergs makes for the perfect location to play with monochrome photography.
Getting the ideal nature photo can be difficult with other tourists around, so try to arrive early in the morning if you want an isolated wilderness shot.
A stone’s (or ice-cube’s!) throwaway is Diamond Beach, one of the most breathtakingly photogenic beaches in Iceland. Huge chunks of smooth, dazzlingly blue ice are deposited on the beach and with the changing tidal waters, you never quite know what the layout of the beach is going to be until you get there. Appropriately named for their brilliance, the chunks of ice are almost perfectly transparent, making for some mesmerizing close-up photos.
A short detour from the Ring Road, the Dyrholaey Peninsula is a coastal photographer’s dream. Low tides create perfectly still reflective waters that you can use to capture surrealist images of the beautiful headland mirrored in the beach. A must-see at sunrise or sunset!
Whether you’re headed to Venice or Rome, wine country or the seaside villages of Cinque Terre, you’re sure to get wonderfully lost in the dreamy country of Italy. I’ve traveled all over this country — in all different climates — and gathered my best tips in this complete packing guide for Italy.
What to Pack For A Trip To Italy
Italians are stylish — it’s a fact. Don’t be that tourist walking around in bulky running shoes. Choose a pair of comfortable but cute shoes; take into consideration that many women in Italy wear heels everywhere, so bring block-heeled shoes or wedges as long as they are comfortable for you. I would caution against actual stilettos or high heels as most of the streets are made of stone.
If you prefer flat walking shoes during the day, a pair of comfortable flats are perfect for everyday wear. I also wear a cute pair of white sneakers (like these) with summer dresses if I know I’m going to be doing a lot of walking during the day.
The notion of wearing shorts is still up for contest (some say it’s fine, others disapprove), though to be safe and not be left feeling self-conscious I’d suggest leaving the shorts at home. A maxi skirt like this one is always my go-to, but I would pack a pair of skinny jeans or capri pants as well.
Especially if you’ll be staying near vineyards or water, I would highly suggest bringing along some bug repellent. Don’t love the smell of deet or the way it feels on your skin? Neither do I. Avon Skin So Soft is a great deet-free alternative which actually works in keeping the mosquitoes away and it also includes SPF 30 sunscreen!
Everyone always asks me where I got this skirt — here’s the link!
Electrical Plug Adapter
To use electronics in Italy, you’ll need outlet adapter type C (two round prongs) or type L (three round prongs in a straight row). Type L is specifically for Italy, while C works for most of Europe.
You’ll also want to make sure any devices you take, like laptops and hair straighteners or curling irons, are dual voltage. Most newer electronic devices — such as phones, computers and cameras — are dual voltage, but if you hail from the US or Canada and have items that are solely 120V, you’ll need a voltage converter.
If you’re staying at a resort or hotel, they may even have some available for you to use, but I would bring your own just in case. Don’t be that person that fries their electronics in a foreign socket!
If your phone carrier doesn’t include international data, but you know you’ll need to use the internet frequently while in Italy you may want to look into getting a wifi hotspot. Finding restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops that offer wifi will be rare in most places, and even if you are able to gain access to the internet it will likely be disappointed with it’s weak speed. You can ask your cell phone carrier about international data packages, but likely a wifi hotspot will be less expensive.
However, only indulge in wifi if you absolutely need to — for work reasons and the likes. Get off your phone and enjoy the fresh Italian air!
If you plan to visit any religious sites, bring a shawl or a pashmina that can act as a cover-up. Dressing modestly for religious sites is absolutely critical; shoulders and knees — for both men and women — should be covered.
A small cross-body bag that you can drape across your body not only deters thieves, but relieves shoulder pain caused by bigger purses — plus you can keep everything you need on hand all day. Don’t forget to bring cash, as most places — especially restaurants — will expect you to pay in euros!
Additional Packing Tips For Italy
Buy travel insurance
Let it be known that language barriers can often lead to confusion and miscommunications when booking your hotel, transportation and activities. It’s not uncommon for trains and transportation to be late (or even be cancelled altogether) and although Italy has socialized healthcare, this policy does not extend to foreigners. We use and trust World Nomads and their rates are competitive with other carriers.
Download the Google Translate app
Don’t arrive in Italy and be shocked if nearly no one speaks English. I’d highly recommend learning a few key Italian words and phrases before your trip. However, I’ve found the Google Translate app highly useful when having one-on-one conversations with those who speak foreign languages. You can even speak directly to the app and translate it in real time, making communicating so much easier! While I’d normally suggest bringing a phrasebook, this is much faster and will save you the carry-on space.
Consider where you’ll be traveling
When packing, it’s important to consider exactly where in Italy you’ll be headed to. The climate in northern Italy (say, Milan or Lake Como) is drastically different than hotspots in Southern Italy.
Let Google maps guide you around! The streets in Italy are notoriously chaotic, and often aren’t labelled or are hard to recognize. Rather than staring down at a paper map (dead “tourist” giveaway) or your screen trying to navigate yourself, plug in some cordless headphones and let the voice guide you to your destination!
“Find my purpose.” “Let go of attachment.” “Sleep better.” “Let go of judgements.”
I let out a sigh of relief as I settled in for our first evening at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. Hundreds of people had traveled here this weekend to work on themselves and these were just a few of the things we heard as the first presenter, Megan, asked the audience what they hoped to learn from this weekend within.
I’ve been a fan of Deepak Chopra for many years and have always loved his approach to life, meditation, and his ability to combine science and spirituality in order to help people live their best lives. Visiting his center in Carlsbad, California has been on my bucket list for a long time, but I had never made the time in my busy schedule. Although I came here with no expectations, I felt like this visit came at the perfect time in my life.
Scott and I have both practiced meditation daily for the past 3 years and have found it to be life changing. We take a very relaxed approach to meditation — we don’t use any mantras, music, or guided talks — however, I’m always interested in learning new techniques. This weekend we would be learning and practicing Primordial Sound Meditation — a technique rooted in the Vedic tradition of India.
What are the Benefits of Meditation?
Have you ever wanted to feel more peaceful and less reactive to the circumstances in your life?
In our daily lives filled with technology, social media, and a never-ending to-do list, many of us are stuck in a prison of conditioning. Meditation helps us break out of these habits that we lock ourselves into. Sitting quietly and practicing mindfulness makes you aware of your thoughts. Over time, it teaches you how to detach yourself from those thoughts and as a result, you become less reactive to your thoughts and your life’s circumstances.
Our weekend at the Chopra Center was a great opportunity for us to recenter and refocus our attention. Practicing mindfulness over our weekend at the Chopra Center has carried through to our daily lives at home and I’ve found myself remembering to stay present in each moment — even the uncomfortable ones.
This practice has completely changed my relationship to food as well. I’ve always used food as an escape from my feelings or I eat unconsciously when I’m stressed. Reminding myself to stay present while eating every meal has given me the opportunity to realize when I’m hungry versus just wanting to escape an uncomfortable feeling. I never realized how much my mind wanders while I’m eating food. It’s fascinating, actually. I don’t think I’ve ever really been fully present while fueling my body until now.
What is Primordial Sound Meditation?
In Primordial Sound Meditation, a mantra is used to help you slip into the silence between your thoughts — some people refer to this as “the gap” or “pure awareness.” Each person is given their own personal mantra, which is the vibration the universe was creating at the time and place of your birth.
If you’re new to meditation, repeating a mantra can be helpful because as your mind starts to wander (which it will do!), the mantra helps to bring you back to your awareness. In group meditations at the Chopra Center, someone will guide you through the first few minutes of your meditation with questions to ask yourself, which I found very helpful.
Meditating in a group can sometimes feel more powerful than meditating on your own and it’s a great way to get started if you feel like you don’t know how to meditate.
What to Expect at The Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA
The Chopra Center offers meditation classes, yoga classes, workshops, coaching, and massage treatments. If you’re not able to come for a weekend retreat, they offer meditation and yoga classes almost every day and you can enjoy some peace and quiet on the beautiful grounds at the Omni La Costa Resort.
They take an ayurvedic approach to their massage treatments — using herbal-infused oils, aromas, and massage techniques to balance your unique mind-body type. We both found our massages extremely relaxing and meditative. I appreciate that they hold silence during their massage sessions. It’s almost like an hour of meditation with the benefit of someone massaging you.
They also offer workshops and retreats on specific dates. We attended a weekend workshop where an Ayurvedic breakfast and lunch were provided each day. You can check their retreat schedule here.
You might even get to join a retreat with Deepak Chopra himself. He spoke at the retreat we joined and I definitely highly recommend trying to coordinate a visit while he’s there.
Whether you join a full retreat or just drop into a few classes, the Omni La Costa Resort is the perfect place for a wellness escape. The property is stunning and it felt as if everywhere I looked there were hummingbirds, vibrant flowers, and lush landscaping. You can easily find a quiet spot to relax or meditate. The staff were all very upbeat and friendly, which makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
Have you ever experienced a wellness retreat? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments!
Switzerland, a country revered for everything from magnificent snow peaks to tantalizing chocolatiers and much else in between, hasn’t always exactly been synonymous with the idea of a “budget trip”. Between ticket prices for some of the most beautiful rail routes in the world and the cost of staying in bustling metropolitan hubs — a poorly planned vacation to Switzerland can leave your travel budget with more holes in it than a wheel of Swiss cheese!
If Switzerland is on your bucket list (it was at the top of mine for many years!), believe it or not, it can be a lot less pricey than you think. With a little planning, you can experience all that this famous European destination has to offer without breaking the bank.
Follow these simple money-saving tips when planning your trip and you’ll see how it really is possible to travel Switzerland on a budget!
Switzerland Budget Travel Tips
Research is Your Friend
Know where you want to go. It may sound like an obvious tip, but the kindest thing you can do for your budget is plan which cities you want to visit and then figure out the best way to get from one location to another. Some offer free public transport, others have cheap international flights – so decide which parts of Switzerland you want to visit first and structure your cost-effective itinerary second.
Budget Transportation in Switzerland
The usual frustrating volatility of international flight prices can actually work in your favor when looking for a cheap deal to Switzerland. Planning your trip for low-season (February to May) will guarantee cheaper flights. Also, when planning your international flight, don’t be afraid to fly into one city and out of another.
A beautiful train journey between two cities and the opportunity to explore both could be the most economical option. With budget airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir, it could even be cheaper to stopover in another European hub on your way in or out of Switzerland.
Home to some of the most famed rail routes in the world, offering cosy and efficient services with unbeatable views, there’s no better way to travel around Switzerland than by train. Travel passes can be a budget-friendly way to avoid budget-unfriendly ticket prices — just make sure its worth your while before you buy.
If you’re visiting only one or two regions, with a minimal need for train travel, then grab a Supersaver or Half Fare Card. If you’re going to be on the rails every other day, then look into buying a Swiss Travel Pass, Eurail or Interrail Pass.
Remember, booking online is almost always cheaper than buying tickets at the kiosk and it goes without saying that the more in advance you book, the better deals you’ll find — so be sure to set aside time for this early on!
It’s worth noting that some passes include a ton of freebies like discounted ferry and cable car rides, sightseeing experiences and more which gives you even more reason to research ahead of time.
Free Public Transportation in Switzerland
The wonderfully pragmatic Swiss actually offer free public transport in some of their most well-travelled cities including Bern, Basel, Geneva, Lucerne and Lausanne. To save a veritable fortune on expensive taxi fares and still have the freedom to explore a whole city, just pick up your free transport card when you check into your accommodation.
It’s worth noting that Bern, Geneva, Zurich and Neuchâtel offer free bikes too — another great way to save some money on transportation!
Budget Accomodation in Switzerland
While the idea of relaxing by a roaring fireplace in a luxury pinewood cabin high in the Swiss Alps, may be appealing – it’ll be a serious drain on your budget and you can definitely experience all Switzerland has to offer without having a potentially overpriced roof over your head.
Airbnb is a great way to save money on accommodation in big cities as well as in the country. It also gives you the opportunity to meet locals and have a more authentic experience. I’ve also had good luck finding affordable hotels on Booking.com throughout Switzerland. One of my favorite places in Interlaken was this hotel in the fairytale-like town of Lauterbrunnen which was surprisingly inexpensive!
If you’re keeping things metropolitan, then look to stay somewhere central to save time and money on getting around. Kitchen facilities are a blessing when it comes traveling on a budget, so be sure to pick up something affordable and local, like the delicious rösti, to save some francs on dining out.
For a truly picturesque experience, forget mountain views from a hotel window – stay in one of the many modestly priced campsites situated in and around the gorgeous valleys of the Swiss countryside. All include basic facilities and many provide cabins and mobile homes if you don’t want to sleep in a tent. With prices as low as 25 – 35CHF per person, you can wake up amongst mountains and meadows with stunning vistas for a fraction of the cost of staying in a hotel. Geneva and Zermatt are two beautiful, popular outdoor destinations with a range of affordable camping options.
Stray From the Beaten Path
Switzerland is home to world renowned hikes for all endurance levels, so skip the pricey tours and connect with nature for free. With lakes and waterfalls in abundance (the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen is a must see!), there’s no better way to immerse yourself in real, Alpine beauty.
Getting to know some locals is also a sure-fire way to get great recommendations on local entertainment or restaurants. Instead of heading to a tourist office, chat with locals in a cafe or bar to uncover some budget-friendly local secrets.
Admission to a majority of the museums, churches and historical centres in Switzerland is completely free. Towns like Interlaken, Bern and Montreux are charming enough to wander around for hours without getting bored.
Looking for some cheap eats? How about free? Farmers markets in Switzerland are renowned for offering unlimited, delicious free samples, so consider foregoing lunch one day and stocking up on mouth-watering local produce instead.
Though the mainstream tours and outings around Switzerland have a tendency to be pricey, you can most definitely avoid overpaying. If you’re by yourself, then try to book off-season, well in advance and refer to any benefits and discounts included on your travel passes. If you’re traveling with companions, then check out the Swiss Coupon Pass. At only 49 CHF, you only need to use a few coupons to start saving.
Spending a few days in Switzerland is undeniably likely to leave your finances looking a little lighter. That’s okay. All the world-famous chocolate, fondue and excursions are too irresistible to not try at least once, so you shouldn’t deny yourself the pleasure of indulging responsibly. These tips, however, will help with saving money where it can be saved, at no cost to experiencing everything about Switzerland that makes it such a beautiful and popular destination.