How I Took A Super Cheap Vacation With My Friends This Winter Break

How I Took A Super Cheap Vacation With My Friends This Winter Break

A travelougue filled with lots of ideas to help all the other budget travelers out there.
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Several months ago, I happened to see an advertisement for super cheap flights through Frontier Airlines. Though I had no travel plans in mind, I clicked on the link and started searching. The first thing that stuck out to me was the fact that nearly every city had flights departing to Denver — and all for under $50.

I've been a passionate traveler since my early childhood, when my family began teaching my siblings and me that there are few better things to do with your money than travel. Ever since I began college and gained my independence, my desperate desire to travel as an adult has been eternally nagging in the back of my mind. Needless to say, when I saw super cheap flights to Denver, I messaged two of my best friends, knowing that they were my best bet for willing and excellent traveling companions. I sent them an unexpected message: "come to Denver with me" and, somewhat to my surprise, they agreed immediately.

The two things we knew when planning our four-day trip was that it needed to be culturally stimulating and incredibly cheap. In my opinion, we succeeded at both. Here is an account of how we made the most of our short trip, with suggestions for other budget travelers, coming from our experiences of making the most of a few days and a few dollars.

Flights

We booked our flight the same day that I found the sale on Frontier tickets. The tickets for my friend Anita and me from Milwaukee to Denver were $39 each way, with some small fees added on. Another friend, Carmel, joined us as well, flying from Portland where she lives, for a slightly higher plane ticket price. Cheaper airlines like Frontier are great, but be warned that they charge extra for almost everything. Anita and I decided to share one checked bag for all of our clothes and split the $25 fees. It was totally worth it and we had abundant space for all of our sweaters, as well as the extra food we took from our houses.

Food

Aside from the food we brought along in our suitcase (oatmeal and cereal for breakfasts, popcorn and pretzels for during the day), we went to the grocery store on our first day and picked up ingredients for the meals we'd carefully planned out. In the end, we only ate out twice, and both were delicious and fairly inexpensive meals that we stumbled across in our explorations.

Before heading to the grocery store, we made a list of all the meals we'd need to be prepared for, and all the cheap meals we could make for them. We bought a loaf of bread that was used in three or more meals, eggs, cheese, ramen, fruit, vegetables, and a couple of frozen pizzas. Knowing we couldn't afford to spend a lot at the supermarket in order to eat healthy, we bought a few simple produce items: onion, zucchini, tomato, apples. We added fresh fruits or vegetables to most of the meals we made. In the end, we split our grocery costs and each spent about $11 total at the store.

Transportation

Before even heading out on our trip, we did a lot of research. While I hope to someday take a spontaneous vacation with no plans and ideas, traveling on a budget was made much easier for us by being very prepared. We planned our transportation ahead of time, making sure we knew how to get anywhere we wanted to go. While we planned to use only the bus, we actually ended up using Uber several times as well, and only paid for one of our many rides. Of the three of us, I was the only one who had ever used Uber before. In the app, there is a code you can deliver to your friends which will make their first ride (of $15 or less) completely free, as well as give you a free ride, too. So, of course, when it was late or we were tired or cold, we used the app and our free rides without having to worry about catching a bus.

On other days, we did use public transportation, of course. And I don't know if this is just a Denver thing, but two or three times when we got on buses the ticketing machines were broken, and we rode for free then as well.

Housing

We were very lucky with our choice of destination. Coincidentally, one of Anita's cousins had a house in Denver that she wasn't currently using. She was extremely generous and let us stay in her house for free for our entire trip. It made the entire experience 100 times better. It was nice to have someplace to come back to where we could relax and cook our own food.

However, for those budget travelers who aren't fortunate enough to be going somewhere where they have a great lodging connection, there are a ton of options out there for cheap travel. One is Couchsurfing, a site and app where fellow travelers and explorers all over the world post when they have a couch, bed or room for people to stay in. Yes, you have to put your trust in the good of humanity, but tons of people really swear by this idea! There are hosts all over the world, many who are verified and have tons of reviews. You can sort by age, gender, location, amount of space available, etc. All totally free.

Another option is Airbnb, a website similar to Couchsurfing, where people post their available spaces. However, there are several key differences. First, these aren't free options. While the prices can be very low, you are usually paying for your own apartment/house/condo or bedroom for your trip. For the most part, these are unused living spaces that the owners rent out for cheap for budget travelers.

Activities

Research a ton ahead of time. There is a huge wealth of knowledge to be found on the Internet about any location. Search "free and cheap activities in ..." and start planning!

Take advantage of public art and interesting stores. This is an activity where there will never be a charge! We stopped at every mural and neat-looking shop, which was an awesome way to see the city without spending any of our money. Large, culturally exciting cities like Denver are filled with art and great unknown places.

Take advantage of free tours and events. There are websites that will tell you any free events for the upcoming weekend. We found one of these and ended up at a super serious and amazing all-day writer's workshop. It was held in a gorgeous old house, filled with tables and desks and staircases, all of which were absolutely packed with people silently writing. It was amazing. The event also offered free food and yoga classes in the basement, both of which we took part in. We didn't stay long, but this was one of our favorite experiences for the fact that it was both free and fascinating.

Appreciate the scenery. An amazing view is something you won't forget for a long time, and it's also totally free. Of course, Denver is incredibly picturesque, but any city will have it's fair share of beautiful natural sites or parks. We visited a park near where we were staying, and also climbed to the top of a parking garage to watch this sunset over the mountains.

Look for activities that are low priced, free, or "payment by donation." These can be hidden gems and, of course, great for your budget. One of the best things we went to on our trip was a poetry slam at the Mercury Café. This was an incredible venue and an amazing experience for all of us, and the entire event was by donation only. Of course, we donated a few dollars apiece, but it was a very cheap, but memorable, evening.

Check out free art galleries or free days at local businesses. Most museums and zoos have one or more free days every year or every month. There are also plenty of galleries that are free to the public. We visited a few during our trip. One of the highlights of the entire experience was the insanely unique art gallery we visited on the morning before we left. We had the place to ourselves and got to walk around, checking out the amazing art and even interacting with a lot of the sculptures.

Take advantage of student discounts or any other discounts offered. Lots of places have them and they can make for much better deals. We went to an interesting art museum for only $6 just because we were students. We also planned to go while the museum was having a special event, so there was a live musical performance during our visit.

Don't stress about not seeing or doing all of the "touristy" things. Just because most people do them, doesn't mean they're necessary! Feel free to skip boring, expensive museums or experiences that are way out of your budget. Be a cheap traveler and be okay with it!

Overall, our trip was an amazing experience. Yes, this was partly because we managed to keep it super cheap and still see a ton of Denver, but there were plenty of other even better reasons.

The beauty of traveling is in every part of the trip. For me, the beauty was in the companionship, the camaraderie, the art and every time we got lost. It was in the homemade meals, fascinating conversations with strangers, and the feeling of being immersed in a new place as a grown-up traveler. By the end it felt like, in a small way, we had conquered the world. And that's exactly how traveling should feel.

Cover Image Credit: Anita Durben

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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​10 New York City Brunch Restaurants I Love A Waffle Lot

Trust me, breakfast is overrated, even if it is at Tiffany's!

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You guys knew it was coming! If you know me personally or follow me on Instagram you would know that the thing that I love most in the world is brunch. My life motto is "Mimosa es su mosa" or maybe "On Sundays, we drink mimosas." Just kidding! However, there is nothing I love more than having waffles, poached eggs, and a latte on a Sunday with my girlfriends. Brunch is a long-held tradition for us, it's a great way to relax and it honestly just brings everyone together. So I thought I'd share a few of our go-to spots!

1. Dudley's

This is my favorite place of all time to get brunch. Dudley's is right on Orchard Street, it has a quaint little interior great for dinner, as well! However, I suggest going during the summer to enjoy their outdoor seating. The food is just so delicious! The first time I went was actually at the end of August with my best friend Alexia. She had just gotten back from traveling and we wanted to brunch, go to The Met, walk the Brooklyn Bridge and go thrifting all before we went back to school the next day. We got brunch and were full pretty much the whole day, it was insane. It was also really fresh. Alexia even says when she comes home from Greece no meal ever compares to the food she eats back home, but this really hit the spot. The cuisine is American with an Australian twist. I normally get the chia muesli, a burger with a salad on the side instead of fries. Also if it's later in the afternoon, I'll just do cauliflower tempura with green aioli! For drinks, I suggest a latte or their cold brew.

2. Buvette

I literally just went last weekend with my friend Emily, so if that doesn't tell you how much I love it here, I don't know what does! Buvette has extremely friendly staff and great food, the portions are a tiny bit small but they are super filling, definitely try the specials! I suggest the Belgian Waffle with berries and a latte. My friend Emily got a lemonade and avocado toast!

3. Victor's Cafe

Best croquettes and burger to date. I also got yuca fries on the side. Best brunch ever, oh my gosh! Of course, I got a latte with that, too! The paella de vegetales and platanos are to die for, as well. Victor's Cafe has my heart!

4. Your Mother's House

I actually just went to Your Mother's House on Sunday. It's not the best brunch ever, but they have such a great menu with tons of variety. I even had this Groupon for bottomless brunch if you are of legal drinking age. The Groupon definitely makes it worth it!

5. Sarabeth's

This has been a long-standing tradition between my friend Sara and I. The first time we went was actually when I was like 13, I want to say. It was December and at the time Sara was like 17 and she bought me tickets to see the Radio City Rockettes. However, the only reason I took the train at that point was for work so I wasn't going to be allowed to go. So we devised a plan to convince my mother that her mother was going and it all turned out quite splendidly.

We went to Sarabeth's, I got the lemon ricotta pancakes, and Sara got the crab cake benedict. I would recommend both. Then we saw the Rockettes. However, the reason this is a funny story is that a month later on Christmas Eve, she and her parents came over and our mothers are extremely close because Sara and I have been friends since I was five years old. Sara and I went to my room to hang out and left our mothers to talk. After a few glasses of Chardonnay, Sara's mom told my mom that we went alone. I was grounded for three weeks. Well worth it though, not only did I see the Rockettes, but I found a regular brunch spot!

6. Chat Noir Tea

I know I'm a coffee girl, but I needed some tea to spill it at this brunch! Chat Noir Tea has an amazing Croque Monsieur and a great English breakfast tea. I suggest getting the tea service for two!

7. Juliette

I've told you guys once and I'll tell you again, all great things reside in Williamsburg! I'll be back here with my girlfriends in two weeks. I recommend the french toast at Juliette if you have a sweet tooth like me!

8. The Cheesecake Factory

This is probably one of my favorite places to eat, for dinner here I usually get the crusted chicken romano but for brunch, at The Cheesecake Factory they have plenty of sweet things, so I'll normally order a few things and split it with whoever I'm with!

9. Milk & Honey Cafe

I know this one is a throwback to the "10 Instagram Worthy Cafes" article I wrote but the Milk & Honey Cafe does have some great brunch options and come on, you can try one of the best cafes and brunch places in New York all at once! (Fun fact: My Odyssey profile picture was taken here!)

10. Cafe Mogador

So I wanted to include Cafe Mogador in this because it was actually recommended to me and will be my next brunch stop, so I figured why not leave this here as a little surprise for us both!

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