Where to next?

Hola!

I am in love with Madrid!

Yesterday, I went with a friend while he looked for a “flat” (apartment for all you Canadians), and I got so excited thinking about looking for a place when I move back to Ontario! The woman who showed us the flats was, how should I put this, crazy! Seriously! I may not have understood 99% of what she said, but even I could tell she was loco.

Anyways, just an update to say hello! I am safe, and starting to get the hang of this traveling thing. I bought groceries as well! I bought enough for the next few days and it only cost me 12 Euros! One meal usually costs me that much! So, note to self: buy groceries!

Today I am going to decide where my next destination will be. Any suggestions? I was thinking Porto, Portugal.

Eurail Pass – What a headache!

The countdown is on! Only ten days until I start my 3-month journey.

I’m not a procrastinator, but I waited longer than I should have to purchase my Eurorail Pass.

Why? Because it’s not as easy as the online-world makes it sound! Seriously, what is simple about picking a pass? Okay, I admit, if I had an itinerary in mind, I’m sure buying a pass would be simple. BUT, I am going with NO plan.

I’ve been on a few sites, including Rick Steves, for advice, but couldn’t really decide on the best course of action.

So, I headed onto the Eurail site and started comparing prices. Are you ready?

(Note: These are youth prices).

Eurail Global Pass: 10 days in 2 months – $548

Eurail Select Pass: 8 days in 2 months (3 countries) – $384

Eurail Regional Pass: 8 days in 2 months (France-Spain) – $364

Eurail One Country Pass: 8 days in 2 months (Spain) – $384

Alright. Do you see what I see? Let me break it down for you.

Why not the Global Pass?

I am going to be in Europe for a total of 3 months. A 3-month unlimited pass (not shows) is over $1000! No thank-you! I only plan on visiting 4-5 countries max, and the countries I am going to be in aren’t connected as well as Eastern Europe. Sure, if I were going to be in Eastern Europe,  a global pass may have made sense. But, Ireland I plan on traveling via bus or one-way train tickets. France I only plan on traveling through, and maybe stopping for a night or two. Portugal is also a country not that well-connected via the rail network. Global pass (for me) is out!

One Country Pass – I think not!

I think this is fairly self-explanatory: why would I pay the same for a one-country pass (same amount of days) as I would for a regional?!

Regional vs Select Pass

I wasn’t sure if I was going to travel in France. I may decide to fly instead from London to Spain (<$40), but I don’t know. But I figured for an extra $20 I’ll have peace-of-mind. That’s the same for portugal: I’ve tried looking online for tips on getting around this small country, but haven’t really stumbled on much. A friend of mine who visits there frequently told me that the bus system is the best option. But, if I decide to train into Lisbon for a few nights, nothing is stopping me. Also, what if I decide to do the Mediterranean tour in France and over to Italy? The options!

Cost: $401 (including shipping and insurance) for the regional pass.

I chose France, Spain and Portugal.

How did you decide on the amount of days?

This was a tough decision. Do I choose 7 days in 2 months or 10 days? I opted for 8 because I figure I will be spending a lot of time in certain areas. I love to stay in one place for an “extended” period of time (more than 3 days) to really soak in the culture. Honestly, it was a total guess as to how many days I might need. I’ll be kicking myself if I realize I need more.

So, for those of you looking into buying a Eurail Pass, I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy. It’s not! Even if you have an itinerary, spending a lump-sum like this is never easy to do, and what happens if your plans change? Do yourself a favour, and RESEARCH. I wish I would have seriously looked into this a lot sooner.

“Top Secret Hotels” – Planning Family/Friend days in Toronto

Hey all! I’ve been so stressed out about my impending departure that even the enjoyment of writing in my blog is gone! Sure, I’m excited for my trip. Really excited, actually. But that’s not the part that is stressing me … Continue reading

Tips for using your iPhone abroad (with pictures)

Since getting my iPhone and raving about the ability I’ll now have to talk to friends for ‘free’, tons of people have been warning me about roaming charges. So, I did some research. And, what kind of travel blogger would … Continue reading

The pre-planning to your plan!

I had a day off this week and decided that it was time to be productive. A while ago I wrote down a list of questions I had regarding insurance, car rentals and coverage along with all the phone numbers so that all I had to do was find a few minutes of free time and dial.

But of course, I am the queen of procrastination.

So, during my day off I left my house (and my computer) and headed to a local coffee shop and got to work.

First I phoned TD Insurance. I wanted to know how much it would cost for me to purchase medical insurance through them.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about managing money. I went to see a Financial Adviser at TD and he helped me put away money into my savings (TFSA) as well as gave me a crash course on the importance of RRSP and credit.

Now, because I had already saved over $5000 by this point, I was eligible for the TD Infinite Travel Visa. What does this mean?

Well, let me preface this by saying that no matter what credit card you have (and yes, you NEED one), you should call them and ask questions about coverage.

When I called them this is that they told me:

(at no extra cost, these are just the perks of having a card)

  • I have up to $1000 in trip cancellation insurance
  • Up to $5000 in trip disruption/lost baggage insurance
  • Up to $2 million in medical insurance for 15 days of my trip
  • Automatic collision/loss/damage insurance on any car rental I pay for with my Visa

Crazy right? So, after finding all of this out (5 minutes on the phone well spent), I decided to purchase my medical insurance with TD as well. The cost? $201! Not bad! That’s $2 million in medical insurance coverage for the entire duration of my trip.

Next I called Budget Car Rental. I know that while in Ireland, and possibly while in Spain/Portugal,  I’ll want to rent a vehicle for part of my trip. I read that in some countries it is mandatory to purchase insurance with your rental, so I wanted to find out if my Visa coverage would be enough in such a case.

The answer:

I’m covered with Visa! I won’t need to pay any extra for that type of insurance, anywhere! Phew! I love saving money!

Don’t forget too, whenever I purchase anything with my card I earn points which I can then use to pay for part of my trip. It’s a win-win for me!

So, my advice is do your research! Find out all the benefits you have through your credit card company, your bank and any other company you may belong to. If you’re still a student you must get an ISIC card as it will save you loads of cash! Are you an AMA or CAA member? They have tons of perks too! Call them, find out what they can offer you! It will save you money and give you piece of mind.

Random Ramble

To finish this otherwise serious post, I though I would share a few pictures with you from my time spent at Block 1912.

Do you see my friend?

I used this photo in this week’s Photo Challenge.

I really wanted to pet him. Yes, I know that’s weird, but he just looked so lonely all by himself. Perhaps he just wanted some company? Well, anyways, I was on the phone with Kim and she told me that I can’t pet a bee because chances were I would get stung. Wouldn’t that be a hilarious story?

“How did you get stung on your finger?”

“I was trying to pet a bee.”

“…”

“Yeah, maybe I should’ve come up with a better story”

Managing Money

You have more money than you think.

Ok, maybe not all of you have more money than you think, but I am going to assume that the majority of you do.

When was the last time you went to the bank and spoke to someone about managing your money? It had been at least 5 years for me. All the saving I was doing for Europe, and paying of my visa-debt was purely self-managed. Well, here’s a wake-up call for all of yous self-savers out there: there is a better way to save your money.

Now, if you are a certified accountant, or your Dad schooled you on Mutual Funds and the importance of RRSP’s, then this post is not for you. Read along if you want a good laugh because of how clueless I really am when it comes to money.

Check out this post by The Young Investor (RRSP VS TFSA) for a crash-course on what I learned yesterday.

So, back to my story.

Yesterday I had every intention of writing a super-awesome blog post, but I was at the bank for two hours! I’m not complaining though–because in those two hours I realized that if I continue to manage my money well I will be able to save my $10,000 sooner than I thought and have some funds left-over! It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders! Also, I got a line of credit so ifI have to pay rent while I’m gone I don’t need to stress!

Phew!

I put my RRSP’s into a long-term Mutual Fund (High Risk) and set up a payment plane to contribute to them every month. My TFSA is currently put into Mutual Funds as well (Mid Risk) and I opened up a super-fancy everyday account which I can use without penalties in Europe (they won’t charge me $5 to withdraw money at a +Plus ATM) and I got myself the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card. No, I’m not super rich (remember, I’ve saved $7,000 since January), so if I can do it so can you!

The Travel Visa makes sense for my life right now, but as soon as my goals change I just need to head back into the bank and rearrange my accounts one more time to fit whatever goals I decide on in the future!

So, have you been saving for something? Do you have an RRSP that you contribute to on a regular basis? If you haven’t talked to someone lately about your funds I highly recommend that you do–especially if you’re as clueless as I am!

Travel Update

  • I have a new Visa (it won’t expire while I’m away)
  • I still need to look into traveler’s insurance
  • Cell-phone!? (I want to instagram!)

Tomorrow is inspiration Thursday then I’m off to Calgary for the weekend. This week’s Instagram Weekend post may be later than usual because I don’t return until Tuesday but expect some really awesome photo’s because I’ll be exploring with my BFF and possibly heading to Banff!

xo

 

Progress Report

As of today I have $5000 in my Europe Savings Account.

  • Passport Renewal 
  • Visa Renewal
  • Flight to Ontario
  • Flight back to Canada
  • Suitable bag
  • $2000 in rent money for while I’m away

I still have a lot to get done for my trip, and the list of things I need to get done in general is even longer (i.e. switching the tires on my car etc).

Getting my passport renewed was fairly painless.

The most frustrating part of the process was parking! This goes for any of the government buildings downtown. Parking close to the building is next to impossible, and any parking within 5 blocks costs a fortune! The traffic is horrendous, there are one-way streets everywhere (yeah, I drove the wrong way, oops!), and there are pedestrians galore.

By the time I made it into the building, I was so frustrated that one glitch with my passport renewal, and I may have lost it. I now understand why there is so much security in these buildings: people’s tempers are already flaring before they even have to deal with the bureaucracy that is our government.

I was thinking about it, and what they should really do is have valet parking. Wouldn’t that be awesome? You just drive up to the building and someone else handles the traffic. I would rather pay $10 for that service than the $5 I pay to park myself. Just sayin’.