Too Thrifty Chicks

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Thrifty Travels: Traveling Light

The last two years of my life have been a whirlwind of travel that has taken me from the stark terrain of Afghanistan to the tall buildings and lights of Toronto. And the one thing that unifies those trips and all the places I’ve traveled in between those two trips is packing. IMG_7513

Packing is not my favorite past time, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it. So good in fact, that my friend Andria G. asked me, during our recent trip to Las Vegas, how I managed to get everything into the small tote that I brought. She asked me this while gazing at luggage that was hardly carry-on size.

There are a few simple rules that I live by and they haven’t failed me yet, even when I showed up for a business trip in Florida woefully underprepared for cold weather and had to make a few mad dashes to local Goodwills and a Walmart to get warmer clothes.

Rule #1: Checking bags is not an option. Real talk, airlines stay trippin’ with these bag fees. Some of them are now going so far as to charge for carry-on bags over a certain size. (I’m looking at you Spirit Airlines.)

Rule #2: Take only what you need. If you’re driving, this doesn’t matter as much, but I really hate over packing. Do you really need five pairs of shoes, or will two work? Why take up valuable real estate in your bag, or worse risk having to check a bag, because you think you’ll wear those shoes. Don’t do it. I’ve been known to overpack my make up supplies thinking I’m going to want to do a special face for a night out, I’ve learned this is a trap and have seriously streamlined the make-up I take.

Rule #3: Travel size everything. That clear, quart sandwich bag can hold a lot if you have nothing but travel size IMG_7535products. Even if you use fancy face and hair products, higher-end retailers like Sephora and Ulta typically sell what you need. Taxicab confession: I almost always take the travel size bath products that hotels provide and bring them home to stock my travel size products drawer. My dentist also always gives travel size toothpaste, so I’ve been stockpiling that for years.

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Rule #4: Mix and match. When it comes to packing I usually lay out outfits that go together and then I make sure that if I’m in the mood, I can mix every thing up and create entirely different outfits. Jeans can go from day to night by changing the top. A dress can be dressed up or down as long as it has a flattering shape and doesn’t require ironing. Jazz up an outfit with accessories, which you can bring a lot of without taking up too much space.

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Rule #5: Bring a cardigan or jacket. Airports and planes are notorious for being chilly. Bring a jacket. And if you don’t actually need to wear it, it makes a good travel pillow.IMG_7449

Bonus Tip: Get through security quick. I usually wear a jersey dress or leggings and a tank top to the airport because you usually have to get nearly naked to go through security these days.  Take off your jacket or cardigan before going through the scanner. Don’t wear any kind of metal jewelry or a belt because this is an automatic repeat trip through the scanner. Keep your plastic baggy full of travel size goodies in your hand so you don’t waste time taking them out of your bag.  And if you’re bringing your laptop go ahead and slip it out of its case too. I prefer slip-on shoes and toe socks because I want to take my shoes off quickly and I don’t really care for my bare feet touching the floor. Eww.

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Last but not least: Pack strategically. For me, packing is like playing Tetris. Every piece has its place and the more things fit together, the less likely you are to end up with footprints from shoes, or worse, hair product and toothpaste on your clothes. I prefer shoes in first, soles down or touching other shoes. Layer with make up bag, accessories bag, and night clothes. Layer everyday, walking around clothes and then follow with going out wear on top of the makeup/accessory bag layer, and just like that you’re packed and ready to go!

Hope this helps you lighten your load on your next trip!

— Ricks


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Tidbit Tuesday: Thrifty Travels to Toronto

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We’re back from Toronto, and can we just say we absolutely loved Caribana and the city?! The Caribbean pride coupled with beautiful architecture, walkable streets, and good food captured our hearts.

We arrived on Thursday evening, checked into our hotel and decided to stay in. Our 8 hour drive stretched into 12 hours due to construction and traffic, so we were pooped. Friday, we set out early to have breakfast at Sunset Grill (yummy local option), walked around downtown a bit, then settled into an evening of festivities as we enjoyed the music at a day party and then the live steelpan band performances at Panalive. Saturday  we  spent the majority of the day at the Caribana parade and spent the evening walking and resting. Sunday, we stopped at Niagara Falls before heading home.

20130803_125835We planned to travel with two other friends, but each had to bow out of the trip for different reasons. Of course having two other people share the cost would have saved money, but even photo (15)with the two of us we made the trip happen for $547 per person, which included hotel, gas, food, hotel parking (which was ridiculously expensive), tickets to the day party, tickets to Panalive steel drum competition, a little shopping, and souvenirs. We wish you could have seen the 15 second dance party we had when we realized we stayed UNDER budget! Woop Woop!

Costs add up quickly, and sometimes it may feel like you have little control over how much you spend…but don’t fret! Before you plan your next trip, consider these tips to keep you under budget.

  1. Use Hotwire to find hotels:  If you’re not familiar with Hotwire, you should be! The way it works is you search for hotels in a particular area. Hotwire will show you rates for anonymous hotels with different star ratings, and you pick one. Once you pay, they reveal the hotel. Yes, we know that’s scary for some folks, but have the thrifty chicks ever steered you wrong? So far, we have a 100% success rate with Hotwire.  We stayed at the Eaton Chelsea on Gerrard Street, which is right downtown. Total hotel cost with travel insurance: $298 for three nights.
  2.  If you’re close, drive: Full disclosure: driving can be a pain, and when we go back to Toronto, we’ll likely fly. With that 20130802_164826being said, however, it was a cheap way to get there and aside from annoying construction and a little traffic, it was relatively uneventful.  The good: driving gave us the flexibility to leave when we wanted to, which was a godsend because Ricks was sick the night before. The bad: driving takes a LOT out of you. Once we got to Toronto, we didn’t have the energy to do much the first evening.  But it was cheap…we drove to Toronto and back to Virginia for $180.
  3. Try walking before taking a cab: We probably walked about 20 miles while we were in Toronto. Besides the streets being walkable, we did our research and learned that Toronto is a really safe city, with crime rates lower than where we live. Because we were staying downtown, we were able to walk to nearly every place we wanted to be and only took a cab twice. Cabs in Toronto were really expensive, so we opted to walk instead, which gave us an opportunity to see more of the city, get some exercise, and save money.
  4. 20130803_195819When in doubt, ask about portion sizes: We didn’t spend a ton on food over the weekend, but there were definitely times when we wasted food because we ordered too much. For example, at Panalive, we each bought curry chicken and rice for $10 at the stadium, but ended up eating only half of it because it was so much. We definitely could have split it.  Consider ordering less and sharing. Worst case scenario? You’re still hungry and you order more food.
  5. Plan to splurge: The thrifty chicks love sushi, and we give mad side eye to sketchy looking sushi places. While in Toronto, we realized we have sushi on nearly every trip we take. This is our thing. We might eat fairly inexpensive meals for most of the trip, but we give ourselves room to splurge on a really nice sushi meal.
  6. If the forecast says rain, believe it: So, we knew there was a chance of rain. We also knew Toronto has a milder temperature than D.C. Ask us did we pack umbrellas or jackets….go ahead. ask. hmm? No, we did not. We packed cardigans, which worked well against the chilliness, but our trusty denim jackets would have been better. It rained during the day party, and with no umbrellas, we got a little wet. Wishing for sunshine might work, but you should be prepared if it doesn’t.

20130804_115317We’re going back to Caribana next year with umbrellas, rain jackets, and a crew of our sister-friends! We had a great time in the city and looking forward to even better times on the next trip.

Do you have thrifty traveling tips? Share with us!

Until next time,

R&R