Category Archives: travel

What the Doctor Said: How to Prepare for Travel

Talk to your doctor about your health and any travel concerns prior to boarding your next flight.

This post is in collaboration with Nakturnal, and is contributed by an outside writer. While its tips are evergreen, note that now is a particularly important moment in history to consult with your doctor before embarking on any grand adventures.

You’ve planned your next big vacation and you can hardly wait! A trip to Thailand to explore Bangkok, visit beautiful beaches, and live like the locals — something you’ve been itching to do for years.

While you might be ready to jump on the plane now and head to your exciting destination, you’ll want to take a step back and consult your doctor first. There are a number of things you need to consider medically when traveling abroad.

From attending a yearly check-up to getting the proper vaccinations, you’ll want to hear what your doctor has to say. So once that once in a lifetime trip has been booked, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor and learn what you need to consider before packing your bags.

Here’s a quick look at what we’ll cover in this article: 

  • Visit your doctor ahead of your trip
  • Get any necessary Immunizations 
  • Pack plenty of medication
  • Know what your health insurance covers
Consulting with your doctor will provide you a clear picture of what your health looks like and prepare you for an upcoming trip. That could mean getting recommended immunizations, refilling prescriptions, or understanding your medical insurance in the event of an emergency. Image courtesy of Pexels

Reasons to Consult with Your Doctor Before Travelings

It’s always a best practice to talk with your doctor prior to traveling. This is especially true for individuals with underlying health conditions or people who are looking to travel abroad. You should listen to all the medical advice of your provider to ensure a safe and healthy trip.

Here are a few of the things you should do before your next big trip to keep you healthy and prepare you for an unexpected emergency. 

Schedule an appointment with your doctor prior to your trip. This will let you know that you are in good condition to be traveling and identify any underlying health issues. Image courtesy of Pexels

Visit Your Doctor Ahead of Your Trip

It’s a good practice to visit your doctor ahead of your planned schedule for a quick check-up. This will allow you to address any potential problems and discuss things you may need to consider when traveling.

For many people, this visit might just be your yearly check-up. But for people who have underlying conditions, it’s a time for them to ensure their health is in travel shape and refill any needed medicines.

A few examples of when you’ll want to talk with your doctor before traveling: 

  • You’re pregnant.
  • You recently had surgery.
  • You’ve experienced blood clots in the past.
  • You recently had a heart attack or stroke.
  • You have a fever or severe sinus, ear, or nose infection.

If you’re unsure about whether you should plan a doctor’s appointment prior to your trip, give them a call and they can provide you with the best advice. 

For many locations abroad, you’ll need to get immunizations to keep you healthy. Talking with your doctor will let you know exactly what you need and why. Image courtesy of Pexels

Get Any Necessary Immunizations 

Another important reason for visiting your doctor prior to traveling is to identify any immunizations you may need. When you leave the country, you may expose yourself to diseases that are not present in the US.

You may not need to worry about this if you’re just traveling across the US — but if you plan to travel to another country you’ll need to consult your doctor.

If you’re traveling to a location that requires vaccinations, here’s what your doctor may require:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Yellow Fever
  • Rabies
  • Japanese Encephalitis 

Leaving yourself exposed to these viruses and diseases could not only ruin your trip but leave you very sick. It’s best to address this issue early on to ensure you have plenty of time to prepare your body before travel.

Make sure to pack plenty of medication. Depending on your destination it might be very hard to find a pharmacy if you run out of the pills you need. Image courtesy of Pexels

Pack Plenty of Medication 

Making sure you pack all the proper medication is another very important thing you need to consider. If you forget to fill your prescription and are short on medications, you could find yourself in a sticky situation. 

While you might be able to live without Tylenol for a headache, you may not be able to live without blood pressure or diabetes medication for more than a few days.

That’s especially true when you are traveling internationally or small cities that don’t have readily available pharmacies. So make sure to check and double-check your bag to ensure you have the medication you need to get you through the entire trip. 

In the unlikely event that you have a medical emergency while traveling, knowing what your insurance covers is important. Don’t be surprised by costly medical bills when you return home and start feeling better. Image courtesy of Pexels

Know What Your Insurance Covers

Last but not least, it’s important to know what your health insurance covers for travel.

What will your plan cover if you have to take an unexpected trip to a hospital in another country? Are there any limitations to what you can and can’t do when traveling if you need a prescription? 

These are all good questions to ask — but you’ll want to ask them before that emergency arises.

Here are a few steps you can take to gain a better understanding of your insurance coverage before you travel. 

  • Call your health insurance and ask about your policy’s coverage outside of the US
  • Know what to expect if you need to be transported back to the US and what costs that may entail
  • Consider purchasing travel insurance to help fill in coverage gaps

Knowing these things before you board your next flight will help you be prepared in the event of an emergency when traveling. 

Enjoy your trip without the fear of something going wrong. Consulting with your doctor will let you travel with confidence. Image courtesy of Pexels

Follow the Doctor’s Orders and Travel With Confidence

While you may not want to think about these things when you’re in the process of planning your dream vacation, it’s best to be prepared. 

Talking with your doctor ahead of traveling will let you travel with ease knowing you’re in good health, have plenty of medication, and understand what expenses you could incur due to illness. These are worst-case scenario situations, but if an emergency arises, you’ll be happy you considered it. 

How to Stay in Top 2020 Destinations for Free

If you want to head some of the top 2020 travel destinations, but don’t have the money to shell out for hotels, I’ve got good news.

You might be able to score FREE accommodations while you were in town.

Stay in Top 2020 Destinations for Free

It’s true! You can travel to many of this year’s most popular destinations without paying for an expensive hotel.

The catch is there’s labor involved.

The beautiful thing is that the labor involves cuddling adorable animals.

TrustedHousesitters

If you’re a pet lover, traveling just got a whole lot cheaper for you.

That’s because if you’re willing to pet sit while you’re in town, you can use sites like TrustedHousesitters to score free accommodations.

Your host will be out of town while you’re in town, so you’ll have the place to yourself — and the pets. Remember, in exchange for free digs, they’re trusting you with the love and care of their furry family members.

How do I get a pet sitting gig?

Just because a job is available on TrustedHousesitters doesn’t mean it’s there for you to claim.

It’s there for you to apply to. It’s the homeowner who ultimately designates who they let into their home.

You can up your odds, though, by making your profile more attractive. You can do this by adding quality photos to your profile, along with completing an array of verification options.

Where can I get a pet sitting gig?

Without further ado, here are the top 2020 travel destinations where you can stay for free via a TrustedHousesitters gig.

Dubai

That’s the Museum of the Future being built!
  • Country: United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 16
  • Why is Dubai on the list? The World Expo, the opening of Museum of the Future, indoor skiing.
  • Know before you go: The UAE’s drinking laws are strict. Be sure to stay abreast of the most recent legal and cultural norms for the region in which you’re staying.

Find current pet sitting jobs in Dubai.

Courtenay, BC

  • Country: Canada
  • Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 1
  • Why is Courtenay on the list? Ecotourism, for all its problematic trends, is on the rise. Airbnb saw a 114% increase in year-over-year bookings for Courtenay in particular. Your stay is likely to be a bit less problematic as you’re presumably lending a hand to a local.
  • Know before you go: You’re going to need to take a plane or a ferry to get to the island.

Find current pet sitting jobs in Courtenay.

Aberdeen

  • Country: Scotland
  • Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 7
  • Why is Aberdeen on the list? Known for its biodiversity, including dolphin sightings on the regular! You’ll also want to visit the Medieval Crossing and soak in the city’s legendary architecture.
  • Know before you go: You don’t just drive on the left side of the road in the UK; you also want to make sure you keep to the left as a pedestrian.

Find current pet sitting jobs in Aberdeen.

Eugene, Oregon

  • Country: United States of America
  • Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 6
  • Why is Eugene on the list? This city is going carbon neutral in 2020! It’s also nestled in a natural wonderland, and is a foodie paradise.
  • Know before you go: Pack a light rain jacket. You may need it on-the-go when you’re least expecting it, so make sure it’s compact and easy to carry with you.

Find current pet sitting jobs in Eugene.

Romania

  • Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 1
  • Why is Romania on the list? It’s beautiful. It’s affordable for and welcoming to tourists. Dracula castles. Prince Charles has been obsessed.
  • Know before you go: The peak of Ceausescu’s madness happened before most of us millennials can remember. Steadily but slowly, Romania has been healing the wounds that era left behind. It’s a work in progress — but one people are increasingly looking towards with hope.

Find current pet sitting jobs in Romania.

Copenhagen

  • Country: Denmark
  • Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 2
  • Why is Copenhagen on the list? Copenhagen has been under major infrastructure construction for the past several years, but in 2020, it will be back open for business! The Museum of Copenhagen also reopened a couple weeks ago after relocating.
  • Know before you go: Denmark is one of the happiest countries on Earth. But if you want to catch Copenhagen while the sun is shining, traveling in June is your safest bet.

Find current pet sitting jobs in Copenhagen.

Galway

  • Country: Ireland
  • Number of petsitting jobs available at time of writing: 1
  • Why is Galway on the list? Galway was named a European Capital of Culture for 2020. As a result, there are a ton of innovative and thought-provoking experiences to be had across all the arts on Ireland’s west coast this year.
  • Know before you go: If you’re into nearly any given music scene, July could be an ideal time to visit this year.

Find current pet sitting jobs in Galway.

Where would you look for a pet sitting job? Let us know in the comments!

A Meaningful Visit to Hiroshima on a Budget

This past Fall, I had the good fortune of being able to travel to Japan once again for my friend’s wedding.

During that trip, I also took some time to explore parts of the country I had missed the last time around. One of those places was Hiroshima.

Why visit Hiroshima?

I only allotted a day for Hiroshima. It’s small for a Japanese city; arguably smaller than my hometown of Pittsburgh.

I stayed at an Airbnb in Hiroshima, and my host was super generous, sending me a guide to strategize my short visit — both for time and money. His tips are integrated with my personal experience throughout this post. I love staying with Airbnb when I travel, and love that I can get you a $55 credit off your first booking even more.

After my visit, though, I realize I could have easily spent far more time here. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so again.

Peace & History

This was what drew me to Hiroshima; its history of being one of the two Atomic bomb sites in Japan. It felt like it would be an uncomfortable place to visit as an American, but an important one. Too important to skip on this trip. I was in the West anyways.

Any discomfort I felt was of my own imagination’s imposition. When the Japanese say they are now dedicated to spreading the message of Peace around the world, especially in context of nuclear weaponry, they appear to really mean it.

While the memorials I visited were somber reminders of what we as Americans — nay, humans — should never do again, it was not framed in that context. There appeared to legitimately be no grudges or malice. Only a desire to remind people of what happened, to ensure it never happened again. Anywhere.

Okonomimura

Okonomiyaki is a flour-, noodle-, egg-based dish with sauce and other toppings. I really can’t think of an Western equivalent at all. Depending on which part of Japan you visit, the Okonomiyaki will have a different flair, flavoring or ingredient.

Hiroshima, in particular, is known for its excellent Okonomiyaki. In fact, there’s an entire building dedicated to it. It’s called Okonomimura. In this multi-level building, you’ll find stall after stall of Okonomiyaki restaurateurs, each putting their own spin on the dish.

My friend’s dad told me I had to eat there. So I did. I had to ask some locals how to get there; Google had me wandering in circles. You ride up this elevator that’s a little difficult to find if you can’t read Japanese.

It was amazing and if you’re in Hiroshima, you should go, too. The dining is not expensive, and you’ll be fine dropping in wearing whatever you may happen to have on.

Kagura Folk Theater

Kagura is hot right now. It’s experiencing a resurgence in popularity — especially in Hiroshima and the surrounding prefectures.

Kagura is folk theater, performed as an expression of gratitude for the harvest. In the area around Hiroshima, each farming community has their own Kagura performance.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t in town on the right day of the week to catch a show. There are two shows every Wednesday, and admission is currently 1,200 yen, which is roughly $12 USD at the time of writing.

Shopping

As I walked around Hiroshima on my history tour, I was surprised by the amount of shopping there was. It was reminiscent of downtown Osaka in some places, with covered streets lined with multi-floor shop fronts.

I learned that this is the place you’ll want to buy Kumano brushes, which are some of the best in the world for painting, calligraphy and makeup. It’s also the best place to buy the Maple-leaf-shaped sweet, Momiji Manju and the best sake.

I didn’t actually buy any of those thing. Because I’m me and I hadn’t planned the spending.

But I learned that is what you’re supposed to do.

Save money with the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass

If you have the JR Rail Pass, you’ll be able to get to Hiroshima for free. You’ll even be able to ride some buses for free.

But if you’re staying for more than 24 hours like yours truly, you’re likely to find yourself paying for transportation around the city itself. In these situations the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass may save you money.

You get access to all the Hiroshima Electric Railway lines, almost all the bus lines in the area and the ferry to Miyajima — a UNESCO World Heritage site — for 3 days for 2500 yen, or roughly $25 USD. If you want to travel throughout the entire prefecture, you can pay 3500 yen — roughly $35 USD — for the same three-day time period.

Like JR Pass eligibility, you can’t get the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass unless you’re in the country on a tourist/temporary visitor visa. However, you can actually buy the pass once you’re in Japan.

You can pick up your Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass at the Hiroshima airport or as soon as your arrive at Hiroshima Station. At the station, you can purchase a pass at the Transportation Information Center near the South Exit or at Swallow Travel on the second floor.

Peace Memorial Park

As soon as I got off the train, I locked up my suitcase and headed to Peace Park. I only had 24 hours, and I wanted to see as much as I could before the sun went down.

Everything I did and saw at Peace Memorial Park was free, moving and unforgettable.

Take the Meipuru-pu bus line to Peace Memorial Park.

The Meipuru-pu line is designed specifically for those looking to visit Peace Memorial Park. If you have the JR Pass, you should be able to ride for free by showing your pass to the driver the same way you show it at the train station. The only localized JR Pass that would also potentially work is the JR West Pass.

Otherwise, it’s 200 yen — about $2 USD — to ride. If you’re good at planning ahead and frugal, you’ll splurge on a 400 yen all-day pass. If you plan on riding the bus there and back anyways, it can only save you money.

The walk to Peace Memorial Park is doable. I took a bus almost to the edge of the river on my way there. I wanted to walk across the bridge as I approached the sites.

On my way back to the station, I walked the entire thing. I ended up walking with my suitcase all the way to the Airbnb, too. It was a beautiful night, and I wasn’t staying too far outside of Peace Memorial Park. The trek from station to park and visa versa took about half an hour each way.

It’s about half that when you take the Meipuru-pu. You can catch this bus right outside the entrance to Hiroshima station.

Hiroshima Municipal Girls High School Memorial

As I crossed the bridge for the first time, I happened upon a memorial for Hiroshima Municipal Girls High School. On the morning of August 6, 1945, 541 preteen students and 7 teachers were helping clear fire lanes in preparation for bombings. Japan mobilized many students into child labor during the war because of the shortage of working-age men in local municipalities.

At the moment these girls were pitching in for the war effort, the Americans dropped LIttle Boy from the Enola Gay over their heads. They died instantaneously.

Some of the teachers were cognizant of the planes overhead. There were efforts to save the girls. Efforts afterwards to save the dignity of those who had lost clothing along with their lives. Exposed bodies were covered. During the blast, teachers died trying to shield the young girls in cisterns or with their own bodies.

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One of the most heart-wrenching stories of Hiroshima is the storyof a girls' school that was in the blast zone. So many innocent daughters lost. . . At the time this memorial was constructed for them, American forces were occupying Japan under its reconstruction. Using "Atomic Bomb" or variants thereof would have been too inflammatory. So instead, they used the formula for Einstein's theory of relativity. . . Full info by scrolling all the way left. Sorry it's not the easiest to read. Couldn't get around the sun's reflection. . . #pathofpeace #hiroshimajapan #hiroshimabombing #onethousandcranes #1000papercranes #peacecrane #hiroshima #abomb #abombmemorial #hiroshimagirlsschool #theoryofrelativity #einstein #eequalsmcsquared #hiroshimagram #hiroshimacity #visitjapan #visitjapanus #peaceonearth #japangram #japan🇯🇵 #fbf #flashbackfriday #restinpeace #sheisnotlost #travelgram #instapassport #girlslovetravel #nofilter #travelgirlsgo #travelphotography

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The love and righteous mourning of the mothers is on display at the memorial. Visitors can leave their chains of 1,000 cranes and pay respect.

Atomic Trees

I stayed at the girls’ memorial longer than most people would, I suppose. It felt like if I left, I would be breaking with the respect they deserved. I needed to spend time with their memory.

Eventually, though, I crossed the street. That’s where the bulk of the memorials and museums were.

Before I crossed paths with any museums or memorials, though, I ran into one of Hiroshima’s atomic trees. Miraculously enough, dozens of plants survived the blast and are still growing today. Eleven of them are inside Peace Memorial Park.

Cenotaph at Peace Memorial Park

Next I wandered over to the cenotaph. It was built so that those who bring offerings and prayers to lay in front of the sculpture’s feet will look out over the peaceful pond, over the Flame of Peace, and have their eyes drawn directly to the destroyed frame of the Atomic Dome.

Before it was destroyed, the Atomic Dome was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The bomb went off almost directly above it, pushing down into the building and igniting it and everything — and everyone — inside. Because the impact came from almost directly above, the walls and large parts of the structure largely survived the ensuing fire.

The Japanese decided to preserve the destroyed structure as a stark reminder of the destruction caused by atomic warfare.

It’s an impressive reminder, inspiring reverence every time it pops into your field of vision.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

I walked through the lobby of the Peace Memorial Museum. Grabbed a couple stamps for the passport.

It was getting closer to close, though, and there was a line for headsets. My Japanese is remedial; I wasn’t going to get as much out of the tour as I wanted to, and I was going to feel rushed.

I took note of the hours, fully intending to return the next morning.

Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims

I wandered over to the National Peace Memorial Hall for Atomic Bomb Victims. It was a quiet, somber place, and everything was printed in a myriad of languages, including English.

You walk in and go down this ramp lined with cement walls on either side. You feel like you’re walking down a nautilus’s shell as you read the story of everything that happened not just on August 6, 1945, but also beyond.

a room with circular walls depicting ruined buildings, rubble and dead trees after the bombing in hiroshima

When you finally arrive at the center, you find yourself in the middle of a circular room, with 360 degrees of Hiroshima surrounding you. Hiroshima as it looked immediately following the atomic bombing. It’s a place that calls you to sit and show respect for the sanctity of human life.

In the next hall, known victims are listed along with their photographs when available. The number now exceeds 290,000, but the list grows longer every year.

At the end, you’ll be able to tour the library where manifestos of mourning mothers and other family members tell the stories of those who lost their lives. You’ll be able to view some of the possessions that survived the blast, and listen to video testimony from survivors.

This testimony doesn’t just tell you what happens. It tells you how Japan’s spirit transformed and survived. Hiroshima’s mothers chose to ascribe meaning to the loss, allowing them to push forward. Allowing them to push for peace at a global scale. It was through this meaning that any semblance of healing was born.

Because of my short timeline, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it, but you can listen to live readings from parents, survivors, etc at the Hall for free. Some times slots are even read in English.

Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students

The girls memorialized just over the river’s edge weren’t the only mobilized students to lose their lives. In fact, a ton of students were out working on the fire lanes that day.

As you cross the river once again via the northern bridge, you’ll run into another memorial for mobilized students. This memorial honors not only the 6,907 that died in Hiroshima’s Atomic Bombing alone, but all those who died helping the war effort both in mainland Japan and across the Pacific Theater.

Folding Origami at the Atomic Dome

I was standing there contemplating the twisted metal and lives lost in the Atomic Dome alone when I caught someone out of the corner of my eye.

He was an older man. He tried a couple languages before he got to my native English, inviting me over next to his “FREE” sign, motioning for me to sit on this tiny little portable stool so we could fold origami together.

My American backside spilled over both sides of that stool, but it did not break. My origami teacher pulled out his papers to show me he was 8 months in utero when the bomb went off. He was born during the black rains that followed the bombings. His medical records showed that he had survived many lung diseases as an infant.

I was given the portrayal of a long, vibrant life, not letting anything slow him down or defeat him. He married a Portuguese woman, and now spends a portion of the year giving Hiroshima tours in Portuguese, largely to European and South American tourists.

Later, I realized that he had shown his papers to me to tell his story. But the real reason he had them was to show to the cop that stopped over about halfway through our visit.

I love that the Japanese cop was watching out for me as an obvious gaijin, and it made me even happier to see he probably wasn’t going to try to scam me in the next ten minutes as the paperwork more than assured the police officer of the origami teacher’s legitimacy and apparent right to be in the park spreading the message of peace.

1,000 Paper Cranes for Hope and Healing

Because ultimately, that’s what he was doing. He was teaching people how to fold origami cranes — specifically the red-headed kind that migrate to Japan from mainland Asia. He was impressed that my friend’s mother had taught me the art before, and took the opportunity to teach me a more advanced method.

I’m always getting rewarded by my Japanese teachers like a little kid. And I love it. This time, my origami teacher rewarded me with the tiniest paper crane I’ve ever seen. He must have used tools to make it; there’s no way any human fingers are that nimble.

Hiroshima Epicenter

My final stop for the day was actually outside Peace Park. The epicenter — the site where the Enola Gay dropped Little Boy all the way back in 1945 — sits about a block into the city, down a smaller street.

The plaque lies in front of what appears to be an apartment building. As ordinary as could be.

But 600m in the air above this building, the Atomic Bomb went off and changed the course of history.

Like the Japanese, I hope we remember the lessons of history, allowing the massive shift that happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be for the better. For denuclearization. And beneath it all, a current of genuine and healing peace.

Making Accommodations Affordable in Japan

At the beginning of this year, I had no concrete plans to travel except to DC for FinCon.

As I look back, I pause for a moment of gratitude. I was a little ping pong ball this year, bouncing all over the place. Getting work done and catching up with some of those people who have meant so much to me over the years.

In 2019, I visited:

I promise I’ll cover all of these trips, as they were all made pretty frugally. But today I want to spend some time on the accommodation situation in Japan.

Affordable Accommodations in Japan

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you’re probably worried about the cost of accommodations–especially if you’re staying in one of the big cities.

While it’s true that Japan can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. While I did stay with my friend for three nights (I was there for her wedding!) most of the time I was away I was able to score low-cost accommodations without even feeling like they were low-cost to begin with.

Tokyo Hotel

Sliding door with woman's lips on it, between her teeth insider her mouth it says "Play on Moxy Tokyo moxy"

I booked my flight through miles, and apparently getting from Pittsburgh to the Western side of Japan is darn near impossible via rewards. So both times I have gone, I ended up flying into Tokyo.

This time, I decided to take a little time in Tokyo before the wedding to catch up on sleep and adjust to all the shifts that come with traveling to the other side of the planet.

I managed to get out a little, too, between naps. Those adventures are currently being logged on Instagram, but I’ll write about them here, too, in the near future.

I had points built up through the Marriott Bonvoy program. The Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho was affordable, available and in a great location, so I booked. I had enough points that I was able to get half of my nights in Tokyo for free.

If you don’t do the rewards points thing through specific hotel chains, another method I use to get free nights is booking through Hotels.com. Your tenth night is free, regardless of the hotel chain you use. You can book the Moxy here. I’d also recommend this method because they have killer discount prices.

Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho

My stay here was great. The room I booked was small; while I had two twins, there was only about a foot between the end of the bed and the wall.

This is Tokyo, though, and the layout of the room was so smart that the size wasn’t even noticeable. There are collapsible tables, chairs, luggage racks and more hung along the wall in the entrance way. The shower room in the bathroom is a good size, allows for American- or Japanese-style showers, and even has a stool if you need to sit down.

The decor was adorable and trendy. This place markets itself as a party hotel, though I largely stayed during the week so everything was pretty quiet. I met a lot of other gaijin guests in town for different world events; there was no shortage of socialization opportunities. It just might be louder on the weekends.

The location is perfect, too. Walkable from the Kinshicho station–even with luggage in tow–you can easily get to everything in the Sumida City neighborhood. Probably the biggest attraction is the Skytree, which is the second tallest structure in the world. But that really is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you’re travelling using the JR Rail Pass, the proximity of the station makes it easy to get everywhere else, too. I used it as a jumping off point for Odaiba, Roppongi Hills, Nakano and Shibuya, but also spent time exploring the neighborhood itself.

Airbnb in Hiroshima & Kyoto

Airbnb is one of my favorite ways to travel on a budget. Not only is it often more affordable than a hotel, but you also usually get a better travel experience, too.

Affordable Private Apartment in Hiroshima

After the wedding, I headed to Hiroshima for one night. It is something I highly recommend everyone do if they have the opportunity to visit Japan. I’ll write about the transformational experience soon, but right now I’ll just cover accommodations.

While I was in Hiroshima, I booked a private apartment. It was the best experience. I had access to laundry so I could prep my clothes for the next leg of the trip. The bed was like sleeping on a cloud — a true rarity in the land of the rising sun. I had privacy and space and slipped into sleep easier than I have in years.

My host was amazing, too. He knew I was staying for just one night, and sent over this guide prior to my stay to help me maximize my time and money while I was in town. It was incredible.

The room itself cost about $70, which was cheaper than a cheap hotel. On top of that, I had enough Airbnb credits to get more than 50% off.

If you want to use the same method, you can sign up for Airbnb as a new member and get $55 in credit towards your first stay. Then, when you refer your friends you’ll get more credit when they complete their first stay.

Hostel Kyoto Gion

As a solo traveler, I have booked hostels in the past. I’ve found that the fears I had in the past are overblown, and that being a safe traveler in a hostel is easier than you’d think. In fact, it can be good to have other people there to notice your presence or absence when you’re in a big city by yourself.

When I went to Kyoto, I also booked on Airbnb. The last time I was in Kyoto I missed one of the key attractions: Gion. The older-feeling part of the city (so much relativity here) known for its geisha.

Much to my delight, I found the Hostel Kyoto Gion. It would have been under $100 to book for 3 nights had I not had had enough Airbnb credit to cover the stay 100% free.

I was a little nervous about it being a co-ed hostel, but I figured if there was anywhere to give it a shot, it was the ultra-safe Japan. I felt 100% safe the entire time. Most of the co-ed people staying there were couples in two separate beds, mixed in with one pair of male friends and a few other female solo travelers.

There were cameras. I never felt unsafe, but it’s always nice to have that little extra layer of assurance there — to know that there is accountability even in an ultra-safe environment. Each bed was spacious and had curtains and outlets and a light and earplugs so you could have complete privacy.

Perhaps the best part of this stay, though, was the hosts. My Japanese is not great, though I have studied it through my local library sporadically in preparation for my trips. While my hosts’ English was limited, it was way better than my Japanese and they were so adept at using interpretive technology that communication was not only never a problem, but so warm and sincere that at times you forgot you were in a hostel rather than doing a home stay.

I mean, on top of free coffee, printed travel guides and local tips from the hosts themselves, I was offered a meal in the spur of the moment one day. We talked about my kids and the host ended up buying them their favorite souvenir from Japan: Japanese candy. I know one of them ended up taking another guest to some type of festival when she asked about things to do.

Oh, and for the first time ever? I got the bottom bunk.

It was my best hostel experience yet, and it was 100% free thanks to those Airbnb credits. Here’s where you can get started with yours.

Affordable Narita Hotel

I did end up staying at a hotel in Narita my last night. It was near the airport and there was a free bus and because of a combination of the booking platform and points, it was crazy cheap.

But they tried to nickle and dime you for everything once you’re there. No free breakfast. No water bottles waiting for you in your room. Literally the only dirty carpets and hotel bathrooms I’ve ever seen in Japan. The shower room was in with the toilet without any separation between the two.

So I wouldn’t highly recommend this particular place.

But I would recommend finding a place near the airport for your last night if you’re flying out of Narita. It’s not close to Tokyo — depending on where you’re staying it can be an hour or two ride by train. By staying near the airport that last night, you have a way easier commute when your flight does take off. Plus, if you do a hotel, most of them have free shuttles.

Have you ever been to Japan? How did you manage the costs of accommodations?

7 Pocket-Friendly Ways to Explore Australia

by Britt Sharman

Australia has a lot to offer during the summer between beaches, deserts and mountain ranges (come back for the snow in winter, we’re not joking it’s amazing!) However, you might have heard it is super expensive.

Well, after plenty of years as broke students we know all the best budget things to do in Australia! Here are some favourites!

Some Sweet Treats

You don’t have to shell out restaurants to try Australia’s best food! Just head to the bakery. Bakeries are pocket-friendly and full of treats you will have never seen before!

The next two are best to get from a bakery. First is the lamington. It is basically a fist-sized piece of sponge cake filled with jam, rolled in chocolate and then coconut, sounds like a mess, and it is, so grab a napkin! 

Next, grab yourself a vanilla slice. The name might seem unassuming; however, the Vanilla Slice is an iconic treat. The slice has a crispy pastry bottom and top of thick, vanilla custard filling. Simple yet life-changing, again thank us later!

Last but not least (and not from a bakery) is a classic Tim Tam. Now, this is something that will most likely be life-changing. Grab your Tim Tam and bite off two opposite corners. Grab a cold glass of milk, please don’t use anything hot! Dip in one corner, then use the other corner like a straw and suck. What you have is a delicious chocolate milk drink, then the biscuit turns into a fudgy chocolate bar.

Hang Out in Byron Bay

Byron Bay. You might have heard of this idyllic town that is now home to many famous people. But its reputation is well-deserved; it is bloody beautiful! Azure blue water, the softest sand you’ve ever touched and a a beautiful beach-side village. While it can normally be pricey in these types of spots, lucky there are many house sitting opportunities!. It can be competitive so find out the best tips to getting started.

How About Some Shopping? 

Melbourne is famous for its shopping. If you’re after cheap boutique finds head to Smith St in Collingwood or Greville St in Prahran. Both streets are full of treasure troves of designers.

If you come at Christmas time, you have to head to Myer. They are famous for their beautiful window displays as well as stocking all the best brands!

If you’re looking for some bargains, head to DFO. You wouldn’t believe the location. It’s set on the side of the Yarra River, with lovely restaurants overlooking it. The perfect place for an afternoon espresso martini. You can pick one up at happy hour for around $4. 

Master the Art of Surfing

Surfing is more than a sport in Australia. It is a lifestyle. Take a surf lesson during your travels. It may not be budget, but once you master it, it’s free for life! Trying to stand, fall, and trying again… the attributes of perseverance and persistence create grit which is a necessary personality trait for any Australian. Nothing beats the sense of achievement when you succeed. 

Swimming Under a Waterfall 

The Blue Mountains in rural NSW has some beautiful waterfalls. There are many tracks, so enjoy the bushwalk to a beautiful waterfall then strip down to your togs and jump in. The walking tracks are endless here so make sure you grab a national park map! 

Get Lost on a Road Trip

Australia is best seen from the road. If you fly you miss out on all the best beaches and parks. Head off on a road trip, you can find looks of cheap/ free cars and campers by searching for relocation cars. 

 Eat Fish ‘n’ Chips 

Having a ‘feed’ of fish ‘n’ chips is about as Aussie as you can get. However, these fish ‘n’ chips are not the kind that comes served in an ironic serving basket for $35.99 at your local fine dining restaurant. We’re talking about the real fish ‘n’ chips!

This is going to your local fish shop, ordering a $20 family pack and heading down the beach to eat it with your hands while watching the sun go down. Every fish ‘n’ chip shop has a $20 family pack. However, what is in the family pack can differ from place to place. You will usually find they contain something along the lines of 4 pieces of crumbed fish, 2 scoops of chips, a couple of hot dogs & a small army of potato cakes.

This delicious pack of deep-fried goodness will always come wrapped in last week’s newspaper, which is used as your table at the beach! Always remember your can of tomato sauce and lemon to get the full experience.

There you have it, all the best things to do in Australia just like a local. Not only that, they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. So what are you waiting for? 

Brittnay is one half of the Travelling House Sitters. They are professional house sitters, who have looked after homes in over 10 countries including Italy, France, Greece, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia & The UK. If you want to become a house sitter, they have just released a brand new course.