Ready, Set…How to Prepare!

She works hard for the money – Donna Summer

Saving was a huge component in the planning process of my trip. I took about $2000 with me and that was more than enough (I had $200 left upon my return). There is a currency conversion in Singapore; the U.S dollar is more than the Singapore dollar (roughly $1 Sing = $0.80 USD). You can workout your savings in whatever way works best for you; saving $50-$100 a week for about 5 months right up until the week of my trip worked out for me and allowed me to travel comfortably. Once you actually have your savings converting the money is relatively simple. I converted my money once I arrived in Singapore simply because my stop in Japan was very short and they accepted credit cards which automatically did the conversion calculations and charged me accordingly. My advice however is to use cash, keep your credit and debit cards for emergencies. Many banks charge a conversion fee per transaction which varies in price range but can definitely add up.

IMG_0658There are definitely a number of anxieties that come with taking a trip of this caliber. I’d never gone farther West than California so there were many things I had to consider:

Come & Talk to Me: Communicating While Abroad
Communication while abroad is key. I needed to figure out cost effective ways to connect with my loved ones while abroad. I would advise downloading an app called WhatsApp. This app is wonderful for international communication and texting. Additionally, WiFi will be your best friend. To get access to the WiFi in the Tokyo airport ( I had a layover in Japan) you need to have a code texted to you. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive these codes until I returned to the States. Ultimately, whenever WiFi was available I used Facetime on my Iphone.

Tasha Tip: Speak to your provider at least a few days before your trip. See if there are any international phone packages that you can add to your account temporarily. Sprint allows you to choose a start and end date and will charge you an almost negligible amount per text something like five cents a text and $1.20 per minute for calls.

Language Barriers
As for language barriers both the Tokyo and Singapore airports are international so there are plenty of signs in multiple languages including English which was a huge assistance to me. Also, many of the representatives speak fluent English so I didn’t have too much of a problem finding my way. I absolutely loved the service in both airports, everyone was super helpful and pleasant. I spent only a couple of hours in Japan waiting for my connection so hopefully on a bit more adventurous return trip I can delve deeper into navigating the language concerns for Japan. Singapore however is easy as pie! Why you ask? The national languages which include English,are Malay, Mandarin and Tamil (language of the people of South India and North-East Sri-Lanka). Although the demographic is made up of many different peoples including those from neighboring Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand the majority of the population speaks English fluently. The locals will almost automatically address you in English so you can always find someone to help you navigate your way around. The beauty of this trip was there was no need for those cumbersome English to (? language) dictionaries.

Bag Lady: Tips and tricks for packing

I HATE PACKING…but I’ve never had to pack for a two-week vacation (The Horror). Initially I was going to buy a new suitcase for my trip. I saw IT-Lightweight luggage at TJ Maxx one day and immediately fell in love. It was a measly 4pounds and meant that I could probably fit more clothes in my suitcase without going over 50 pounds. Eventually after much thought I decided against it; I spent too much money on the trip already and at this point I needed to focus on saving for it.

IT

When I got home I began to pack all my things in a large suitcase, yet it seemed like the suitcase itself was heavier than my clothes. I downsized literally 2-hours before my flight to a smaller version. It was probably the best decision I made for myself. In total I carried a:

  • Medium suitcase
  • Book Bag with Wheels
  • Purse-which was more like a second carry on

Switching my suitcase now meant squeezing all my clothes in by any means necessary. I had shirts inside of heels and wore two jackets on the plane. I basically packed all my clothes in large Zip Lock bags and poked holes in each of them to release the air (each bag was separated by the outfit I would wear in each country). The zip lock strategy worked out but to be honest by the end of the trip it was hard to keep up with. An approximate list of things I carried is below:

Suit Case

  • About 10 Day outfits
  • 5 Night Outfits
  • 3 Jackets (Winter, Rain coat, Leather)
  • 3 Sexy Shirts for the night
  • 2 Leggings
  • 2 Jeans
  • 1 Overalls
  • 2 Sweaters
  • 8 Shoes boots and sneakers

 Carry On

  • Ipad (A waste, I didn’t use it one time)
  • Passport holder and passport
  • A pen for documentation
  • ID besides a passport
  • Converter-London and Europe plugs are different
  • 2 Travel books
  • A journal
  • Maps
  • Make Up
  • Gum
  • Tooth Brush
  • Undies
  • Extra Pair of Clothes
  • Sneakers

To be honest I over packed. I packed two pairs of black boots and only ended up wearing one. I also packed three heels and ended up wearing two. My advice: less is more when it comes to shoes

Ky’s Travel Tips

  1. Pack light, in the words of Erykah Badu. Next time I travel to Europe I will be taking 2 bags instead of three. It becomes too much of a hassle trying to keep up with all that luggage…it’s just super annoying.
  2. Also invest in a Bungee for luggage which is a sort of elastic rope that allows you to hold in place any sized carry on, on top of your luggage.
  3. Iron clothes before you leave, as European hotels have a weird policy that doesn’t allow irons in the hotel rooms.
  4. I bought a lock for my luggage but didn’t end up using it. Don’t be like me and take that risk, use the lock because you never know who’s rummaging through your stuff.

Before Leaving for Europe Remember:

  1. Remember to switch your phone to an international service or else you will have no way to contact your loved ones.
  2. Remember to download What’s App and MagicJack to call and text internationally

Kydee Williams

 

Style 101: Shopping

I did all my shopping before I left; it’s just too expensive to shop in Europe. Nevertheless, in this photo driven world that we live in, it was important for me to look the part while in Europe. I wanted each of my outfits to be reflections of my personal style and the countries I was visiting. To start, I researched the traditional and/or stereotypical looks of each country. I then tried my best to imitate:

When I think of…

  • London, I think preppy, I needed a trench coat
  • Paris, I think romance, I needed a beret, soft colored outfits and black
  • Venice, I think nautical, I needed stripes like the Gondola guys
  • Rome, I think of a historical metropolis, I was thinking something along the line of gaudy Donatella Versace
  • Barcelona, I think excitement and liveliness, I needed bright colors
  • Amsterdam, I think Kydee all the way…Boho-hipster

Kydee style boardFor fashion inspiration I resorted to magazines that illustrated European influenced styles, specifically Harper Bazaar magazine and clipped out tons of photos that fit the looks I was going for. Now I needed to shop:

Thrift Shopping: Thrifting was the best. I got a lot of European styled skirts and shoes that set the tone for some of my looks

The Fashion District: The garment/fashion district in NYC was my go to spot for D.I.Y projects I was attempting including a tutu skirt and tassels on my heels

Zara: If you know me, then you know my favorite store since I was 15-years old has always been Zara. I found some really cute things including leopard pants that were expensive ($70) but cute.

Forever 21 + H&M: I got a lot of accessories, leggings, shirts and sweaters from these stores. I also got my walking shoes.

Banana Republic: I found my trench coat and blazers here…perfect for the conservative looks.

Ky’s Style Tips

 

  • Take pictures of your outfits before you pack them. It’s great for memory and keeping track of what you are actually taking
  • No pictures? No problem…just use an excel document or the reminders app on your iphone as a check list

 

IMG_1201 IMG_1213

Kydee Williams Kydee Williams

All about the Benjamin’s Baby!

 

Kydee WilliamsSo let’s talk money. Back in 2013, I was told I could never plan a trip to Europe for under two thousand dollars. One of the things you have to understand about me is that you should never tell me what I can’t do, because I am probably going to do it.

I talked to a professional travel agent who told me the same thing…Europe for two weeks cannot be planned for under two-thousand dollars. It was then I decided I could plan this whole trip without any help.

Ky Fact:

Consulting with a travel agent is something I suggest all first time travelers do (even if you want to plan your own trip, see what they can show you). However, I used the advice and quotes of the travel agent competitively to find better prices than what they were giving me

See below the itinerary presented by the agent

Travel Agent Quotes

Budget: The trip’s budget was that magic number I keep bringing up $2,000. However it was a goal of mine to get that number down as much as possible. Now, we are all working women so between the time we booked and the time of the trip we were able to save up spending and food money for the actual trip which is not included in this budget.

What would our budget include?

  • Flights
  • Hotels
  • Intercontinental transportation

See below a database of our budget for the trip. On one side its estimated costs of the trip and on the other it was the amount we paid (give or take a few dollars). In total, out of my own money I didn’t spend more than $1450.

Europe Budget

Savings

I honestly saved for this trip in about 3 months. It just meant not going out as much and cutting back on a lot of things like shopping, unnecessary spending, no gym, no frivolous spending while out…matter of fact I barely went out.

Money$ Money$ Money$

In total I took 140 Euros with me. I didn’t have to take out British Pounds because my boss gave me some pounds he had left overs from his many trips. That helped me out a lot.

Ky Tip’s

  • Exchange your money before you leave. I went to my bank which is TD Bank and they only charged me $7 to make the exchange.
  • Get a list from your bank of the banks overseas that they are affiliated with so you won’t be charged a fee to take money out of the ATM.
  • Call your credit card/debit card/bank company and tell them you will be overseas and let them know where you are going so no funny business happens to your card while you’re away. When I say funny business, I mean your bank assuming that your card was stolen because of the international charges.
  • Currency Exchange: BEWARE! Please avoid these booths by all costs. They are crooks. I did end up needing some Euros while in Italy in which I had $100 cash on me that I wanted to exchange. I went to the booth desperate because I couldn’t find an ATM affiliated with my bank and they literally gave me back 49.50 EUR in return. I hate telling this story because I’ve never been so ANGRY in my life, however I want you guys to learn from my poor mistakes. An ATM is way better than a currency exchange.

Dealing with Anticipation…Ahhh!

I don’t know many first-time to Europe travelers who wouldn’t be anxious about their upcoming trip. I couldn’t wait. I counted down the days, and did many things to distract myself including hosting two events and becoming completely involved in my projects and work obligations in hopes that time would pass by faster. I just wanted to go already!!!! Anyway, in true Kydee fashion I did some “corny” things to prepare for my trip which I share below:

  1. Watched “Mahogany” with Diana Ross in preparation to sing Do you know where you’re going to do you like the things that life is showing you…” while in Rome
  2. Watched Sex and the City-American Girl in Paris Part I and Part II. Carrie was so miserable, but it didn’t take away from how beautiful the city of Paris is. It actually illustrated to me the importance of being in Paris with the right person or people.
  3. Watched Spice World just because the group travelled all over London and I wanted to get a feel for it too…#dontjudgeme
  4. Read an excerpt of A Belle in Brooklyn by Demetria Lucas which told a story of chance encounters while in Paris.
  5. Spent my Sunday afternoons in Barnes and Nobles reading about all the countries I would soon be visiting.
  6. Google Maps became my best friend. Did you know you could discover the make up of a country or city using this? It gave me the exact feel for where I was going.
  7. Fashion for this trip was important, like Carrie from SATC said going to Paris (or Europe for that matter) meant bringing out those once in a lifetime outfits. I literally created a fashion collage on my walls.
Kydee W
I eventually started dressing like a parisienne, imitating their style and love for hats…this was about 2-wks before I finally left

Hotel. Motel. Holiday Inn…Say WHAT?

One of the hardest parts about planning a trip to Europe is finding the right hotels. I can’t even begin to count the amount of hours spent on hotel research to ensure that the accommodations were just what my friends and I wanted. We didn’t want to stay in hostels and although hotels are expensive in Europe, I felt I could find some well within our budget (and modern as per my friend’s requests).

Ky Facts

  • Airbnb is great, however I feel like this site is best for people who are staying in a certain place for an extended period of time (more than 3-days) and unfortunately we were only in each city for 1-3days so it didn’t make sense.
  • Google Hotels started out as my source to finding hotels but they weren’t giving me totals on prices so I didn’t really use this once I found other websites.
  • Booking.com, is where I found all the hotels we stayed in because it’s reliable and gives the total price of the stay. It’s very accurate and although I booked all of our hotels on the actual hotel website, it equipped me with the information I needed to move forward with the reservations.
  • Tripadvisior, was excellent when I wanted to see the actual pictures of hotels that guests took.
  • GoogleMaps, is excellent. I found our hotel in Venice via GoogleMaps. I was using the site to look at the area by the Santa Lucia train station when I discovered Hotel Papadopoli.

London
Tune Hotel Westminster
Kydee Rating: 6.0

I liked Tune hotel but it’s quite small. There was construction going on outside of our hotel room door which was a bit distracting but what can you expect for the price? They charge for everything including television and towels. There is also no daily housekeeping service. We requested the handicap room/bathroom but the shower was terrible. Water would leak out of the bathroom and into our room at times. If I was to ever stay here again, I would definitely get a regular room with a regular shower and toilet. Although it sounds like a terrible hotel, it really wasn’t that bad. The location was great, right across from the Lambeth North tube stop and 3-4 blocks away from the London Eye. It was very easy to get around, as buses were also within close vicinity to us and we were able to get from Picadilly Circus to our neighborhood in about 7mins. We also walked from the London bridge and Buckingham palace back to our hotel which proved our hotel was in an awesome area.

Tune hotelParis
Hotel De La Place Du Louvre
Kydee Rating 7.5

The Hotel De La Place Du Louvre was a small but gorgeous boutique hotel, located in front of the Louvre museum. I can’t begin to describe how close this hotel was to the Louvre and to the Rivoli Metro. The hotel itself is petite. The elevator is the equivalent to what Polly Pocket might use; two people at once would be pushing it. However the rooms are decent; very simple but cozy. The shower is the best part of the room and almost feels like it shouldn’t be in the room. The hotel offers breakfast and the service is awesome.

The only problem with this hotel is that no more than two people can be in the room. If you say you are going to have 2-people in the room make sure it’s 2-people. We tried to act like we didn’t understand english when we were questioned by the mean concierge as to why so many of us were in one room (as you may already know it was four of us). After 11PM the hotel completely shuts down and it’s almost impossible to get back in without waking up the mean concierge. However that doesn’t take away from all the positives of this hotel which was the location, location and the location. It’s right by the Rue Rivoli which is filled with amazing parisienne shopping and also within close proximity to the Seine River and the love lock bridge; Hotel De La Place Du Louvre is truly a gem.

Hotel De La Place Du LouvreVenice
Hotel Papadopoli Venezia-MGallery Collection-Accorhotels
Kydee Rating 8

Since we weren’t staying in Venice for long, I decided it would be best to find a hotel in Cannaregio or Santa Croce which is within the vicinity of the Venezia S. Lucia train station. Believe it or not I found Hotel Papadopoli while looking at the area surrounding the Santa Lucia train station and Hotel Carlton which is another hotel on the Grand Canal. I probably wouldn’t have discovered it because it’s a relatively new hotel and up until the Google Maps discovery I didn’t see this hotel anywhere. It is a beautiful and rich hotel. The elevators were small but our room and bathroom were to die for; traditional Venice with a modern feel to it. Each of us received a robe from the hotel. The décor was that of a royal and decadent mansion. The service was exquisite. The free drinks at the bar were amazing and the candy that they keep at the front desk is still being craved by my sweet tooth. In terms of the location, it was perfect for us. We walked just about everywhere, and in the morning when it was time to catch our train we just walked across a bridge to the station.

VeniceRome
Kolbe Hotel
Kydee Rating: 10

When booking for Rome, I wanted to make sure I found a hotel that was in the midst of the Roman Ruins and the coliseum. Although I now know that Rome is a booming and fast-paced city I still wanted to feel like I was in Rome, and ancient Rome at that. Kolbe was about 15 minutes from the Rome Termini train station and 35minutes from the Airport. It was probably the most amazing hotel I’ve ever been to in my life. The front looks like a regular hotel, decked in brick seemingly archaic architecture. However when I got inside the room I was awe-stricken by its massive interior. The room had 2-stories. The first floor has a pull out couch, beautiful bathroom and a desk that was decked with a welcome present which included sparkling water and a basket of fruit. On the top floor were two twin beds . The walls were brick and the furniture was a mixture of cloth and leather. In the morning, we were treated to a buffet breakfast which included eggs, bacon, sausages croissants, cupcakes fruit and so much more. I was in utter awe and didn’t want to leave Rome. Our hotels were just getting better and better

Kolbe HotelBarcelona
Hotel Barcelona Princess
Kydee Rating: 8.5

Hotel Princess was a great hotel however it’s location…not so much. I was doing so well on our hotel choices in Europe but I didn’t do enough research on Spain to know that Diagonal was not the area we wanted to be in…DARN! But, I can’t take away from the hotel. It was a nice hotel with 2-pools and a cute girly common area where we spent one night drinking wine and having girl talk. Overall the hotel stay was pretty cool and cheap about $413 total for 3 nights however, it wasn’t in the lively part of Barcelona which took away from the experience. After a day there we learned to maneuver the train system to our advantage and were in Las Ramblas and Barceloneta in no time.

Hotel PrincessAmsterdam
CitizenM Amsterdam
Kydee Rating: 9

CitizenM hotel in Amsterdam Schiphol is amazing. The décor is so weird and funky. The colors seemed like it shouldn’t be together but it worked. Everything is high tech. Check in and check out is done by a computer. The room is controlled electronically by a single remote. The colors of the room changed with my mood. It would go from pink to green to blue…so cool. The shower and bathroom is pretty futuristic as well. To get into the city, I took a bus because the trains were out of service, it was pretty simple. I would definitely stay here again. The price didn’t hurt either 88 Euro for a night.

CitizenM amsterdamIf you want exact prices for each hotel email me at travelbyky@gmail.com I’ll send over the break down. Nevertheless each hotel per night was between 88-185 Euros

Finding the PERFECT Flight

People are so afraid of the Multi-City option and it’s probably because it seems frightening. You can easily make the assumption that it would be more expensive than a one way option or a round trip. However with the last 2 international trips that I’ve taken, the multi-city option has fared to be the best option.

Last year, I went from New York to St. Maarten, St Maarten to Atlanta and Atlanta back to New york for $700. This year, I went to Europe for a little over $800 (JFK to London Heathrow; Barcelona to Amsterdam and Amsterdam back to JFK). Multi-City is excellent for extensive travel and usually way cheaper than any other options I’ve found recently. I love it.

Ky Facts
• Google Flights should become your best friend. It gives you an extensive list of current flights and prices for your destination.
• I love Delta Airlines. Ever since I started flying with them, my flight experiences has been a breeze. You never go hungry on their flights as they are constantly feeding you and the service is just exceptional.
• All my multi-city flights have been booked through Delta (FYI).
• I don’t like booking on travel sites although I use them as an aid. It’s too much of a liability in the sense of having to work with a third party if anything goes wrong, I much rather work with the airline itself.
• If you’re fickle like me, Delta gives you a 24-hour grace period to cancel your flight or make changes without penalty. This is how I was able to add the layover in Amsterdam to my flight a day later.
• Before I booked, I was super excited. After I booked and it became a reality, the excitement dwindled because I had to wait until the end of March to actually travel…ugh I hate waiting.

Kydee Travel

The Blueprint-Planning Europe

Traveling to Europe was a figment of my imagination until January 2014. I had a blue print of how my trip would go, but flights and hotels were not booked, so essentially it was just a dream. Finally, during the last week of January, I decided to purchase my $827 multi-city ticket that took me from JFK to London Heathrow and from Barcelona El Prat to JFK 11-days later. However I still wasn’t completely satisfied with this trip. I wanted to go to Amsterdam! After much thought and careful consideration, I managed to find a 21-hour layover there for the same price of my original ticket. Thus, I changed my flights and booked the layover. In hindsight, it was the best decision I made.

Below is the first ever outline or blueprint of how the trip played out. We originally had plans to travel to Morocco once we landed in Spain but we realized it would be quite over ambitious of us, since we were already planning to tackle 7-c0untries.

Blue Print for Europe Draft Jan 2014

I planned Europe with 2 of my friends from Penn State. I later asked one of my friends from High School if she was interested in going in which she obliged. Now it was four of us going to Europe which initially sounded like a terrible idea because of  our princess personalities but it ended up being another amazing decision (more on that later as well).

We were visiting the following cities in less than 2-weeks:

  1. London
  2. Paris
  3. Venice
  4. Rome
  5. Vatican City
  6. Barcelona
  7. Amsterdam

I soon became the point person of travel. Researching for Europe became my life. I couldn’t sleep knowing that I would be in Europe in 2-months. I sat in Barnes and Nobles for hours every weekend, surrounded by travel books. I wanted to know everything possible about each of the countries I was going to. I also wanted to make sure we could have a fabulous trip on a budget.

Ky Facts

  • We booked 2 months before departure, which was great because I really didn’t have the patience to wait any longer…Europe was calling my name!
  • Perfect Timing: We went to Europe during off-season, just missing the price hikes during the European Fashion Weeks.
  • Four’s A Charm: Going to Europe with 3 other people was a great decision. We split everything four ways including: hotels, cab rides, and food which cut the actual costs of our trip immensely.

See below my final Europe 2014 itinerary for your reading and planning pleasure:

Europe Itinerary 2014 Kydee (click the link)

The World

Almost Quarter Life Crisis

In November 2013, I was a miserable mess. All of these awesome things were happening for everyone around me and I felt stuck, in the same spot, not progressing at all. After church one Sunday (which did nothing to change my mood), I went to Barnes and Nobles where I sat in an obscure corner,surrounded by books that represented the many directions in which my life could take. To the left of me, were study aids for masters degrees and law school; In front of me were self-publishing books; to the right of me was the travel section and in back of me was all about weddings and relationships. What was God trying to tell me?

I picked up a book from each section and was immediately captivated by the travel books. Europe seemed like a distant dream but I reveled in how sweet it could be to smell the air of this historical haven. My nose quickly became stuck in a 300-page First Time Traveler to Europe guide and I wouldn’t leave Barnes and Nobles until I finished it. My spine tingled as I read about all of these European countries and their famous attractions; so rich with culture. I yearned for the day to experience traveling the world.I prayed to God that he would begin opening doors for me.

Just then, my friend Danielle found me in the literary sanctuary I created for myself. When I saw her I just cried in her arms. I was so vulnerable and confused about my life and it’s next steps but I felt like God sent her there to pick me up (literally and figuratively). I left Barnes and Nobles that night with a renewed sense of purpose. I knew that I wanted to travel. That was the next big thing I needed to do.

Two months later, I officially booked my flight to Europe.

I wrote this November 2013 and placed it on my computer at work
I wrote this November 2013 and placed it on my computer at work